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Warren Launches Bid; Polls For Presidency; Interview With Julian Castro; Possible Impeachment; Northam Plans Reconciliation Tour; Bezos Cites Saudi Connection in Blackmail Accusations; Acting A.G. Testified on Capitol Hill in Contentious Hearing; Evan McMullin Talks Howard Schultz's Possible Independent Presidential Run; A Preview of This Year's Grammy Awards. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 9, 2019 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Senator Elizabeth Warren making it official a short time ago, on a sunny, but frosty, morning in Massachusetts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENT CANDIDATE: Our fight is for big, structural change. This is the fight of our lives. And that is why I stand here today to declare that I am a candidate for president of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Senator Warren laying out her goals, her vision, her campaign theme in front of a historic place in Massachusetts, at a cotton mill where women and immigrants led a labor strike more than 100 years ago. Warren trying to move past an earlier controversy over claims of native-American heritage that have dogged her. Claims that she's since retracted several times. In fact, it came up again just a few days ago. She apologized for listing her race as American Indian on a legal form in Texas in 1986.

Now, no mention of that today. Her message was all about shrinking the gap between middle-class Americans and those she calls the wealthy and well connected. And she took aim at one particular billionaire by name, the man occupying the White House today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN: The middle-class squeeze is real and millions of families can barely breathe. It is not right. The Trump administration is the most corrupt in living memory. But even after Trump is gone, it won't do just to do a better job of running a broken system. We need to take power in Washington away from the wealthy and well connected and put it back in the hands of the people where it belongs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Warren now joins several other presidential hopefuls making appearances in early voting states this weekend, including Senators Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand and others. Let me get to CNN Political Reporter Rebecca Buck. She is with Senator Booker at an event in Iowa. So, Rebecca, what kind of reception is Cory Booker getting there today, there in Des Moines? And what are people asking him?

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Ana, we are more -- roughly one year out from the Iowa caucuses. But, already, we have an overflow crowd here today in Des Moines for Cory Booker. That is including this room behind me and an overflow room down stairs. More than 500 people are here at this event. I'm told the sixth event on this tour, during his first visit to Iowa as a presidential candidate.

So, he's been introducing himself, really, to many of the voters or prospective voters here in the state who maybe haven't been paying attention to him or his campaign. The first impression very important in this key caucus state. Lots of questions about his biography, his policy positions.

There was an interesting question, though, at an event earlier today in Marshalltown, where one woman asked him, how are you different than the other candidates running for president? Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why should I caucus for you instead of the others?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENT CANDIDATE: So, I'll give you two quick reasons. First of all, I'm going to say this, even if it's against my interest. We, as a party, whoever becomes the nominee, have to unite behind that nominee. And I want to see how the nominees treat each other. Because if we start trash talking between each other, I hope everybody here turns away from that candidate. Because how you campaign is how you govern. I'm friends with these folks. I've written legislation with these folks.

But I want to tell you what you -- some of the things that are unique about me so you just know. I had to run something. And it wasn't just something. It was a very challenged city.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BUCK: By the way, the woman's verdict, the woman who asked that question after Booker's response was, well, that's pretty convincing. So, just to give you a sense of the grueling schedule that he's been keeping here in with a wash, Ana. He is losing his voice. Cory Booker can barely speak, at this point. Yesterday, he started his day at 9:00 a.m.; ended his day well after midnight. And, from here, he goes on straight to South Carolina for more events tomorrow and Monday.

Back to you, Ana.

CABRERA: I don't know how any of these candidates do it. We're looking at live pictures as he continues to talk powering through. Rebecca Buck, thank you so much.

Now, the Trump campaign certainly took notice of Senator Warren's official entrance into the race today. For the first time, issuing a formal statement as the candidate entered the 2020 race. This is what we got this morning. The Trump campaign sending out a fund-raising e- mail with a statement. That is not it. We'll get the right one. But let me read it to you. There it is. Elizabeth Warren has already been exposed as a fraud by the native Americans she impersonated and disrespected to advance her professional career and the people of Massachusetts she deceived to get elected.

Let's discuss, all things 2020, with Van Jones, host of "THE VAN JONES SHOW" and S.E. Cupp, Host of "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED."

[17:05:00] So, Van, as we mentioned, Trump campaign wasting no time blasting Warren. She's now the eighth person, though, to officially enter this race. It's the first time they've done that. How would you rate her campaign kickoff, and do you think she has put the native American heritage controversy behind her?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL STRATEGEIST: I think that gum is sticking to her shoe, and it's going to stick to her shoe for a while. It's just a hard thing to get past. I think most of the press feels that they have a responsibility to mention it every time, as you just did. And I think that's going to continue to dog her.

What I do -- what I am excited about, though, is that, you know, she represents, for a lot of progressive Democrats, a fresh take on the Bernie Sanders phenomenon. In other words, Bernie Sanders has moved this party in a much more progressive direction. Some people, though, are not big Bernie fans. Some of those people really like the way that Elizabeth Warren talks about the middle class and talks about that middle-class squeeze.

You know, she is one of our better storytellers. When you -- you know, it's hard to sound bite her, because she, often, is telling the story of an American.

CABRERA: Yes.

JONES: Telling the story of a mom. Telling the story of a worker. And so, these sound bites don't really capture the way that she really does connect with her audience. And there's a big bunch of people in our party who love her message and who love her policy agenda.

CABRERA: Well, we're hearing from sources that Trump's fund-raising e-mail was designed to really boost donations. They see her as somebody who can do that. She's polarizing in her eyes. But do you think that's all it was about or do you think Trump really sees her as a threat?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, no. I think Trump really hopes that she ends up being the nominee.

CABRERA: Really? CUPP: You can disagree with the framing of her, as someone who's

impersonated a native American, tried to use race to connect. You can think that that's an inaccurate framing. But it's been a very successful framing. And as, sort of, a marketing trick, Trump has really turned that into gum on her shoe. Really hard to get away from. And, you know, by her own admission, there could be more of this stuff to come out and resurface and keep reminding people that this was part of her past.

I think the most generous way to see it is that she's not authentic. And this is a -- that's damning for voters. Voters see right through that. And so, that's something she's going to have to deal with for as long as she will be alive in this primary.

CABRERA: I have to wonder, though, if it's something voters care about, or it's just something that we're just talking about.

CUPP: Well, the polling -- I don't know if the polling drills down on that. But in Massachusetts, she does not do well in the polls. Among Democrats, she's beat on a list of possible 2020 candidates by Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders. The list goes on and on. I just saw the last Washington Post-ABC News poll. Donald Trump beats her among Democratic voters.

CABRERA: And I want a little bit more about that in just a second.

CUPP: Yes.

CABRERA: But, as you point out, there's so many people in the Democratic field already and more who could be entering any day --

CUPP: Yes.

CABRERA: -- now, Van. How do people differentiate themselves and who do you think has been most successfully about doing that so far?

JONES: Well, I think Kamala had the best start.

CABRERA: Yes.

JONES: I mean, she -- I mean, and I've known Kamala Harris for 20 years. I was not surprised. It was -- it was a button-down smart operation. No glitches. No stumbles, really. People didn't like her answer on Medicare for all, but that's, really, the only criticism that you've heard.

And the thing about Elizabeth Warren, if she could get past this, she does have a track record of having gotten things done for working class people. I mean, she stood up to Wallstreet. She actually got -- I mean, she got a real agency stood up which is hard to do. And that agency has been, if she could ever talk about it, has done real good stuff to help -- you know, if people got credit cards, not get ripped off. She -- unlike a lot of the people, she really does have a track record of success. And I just don't know if she's going to get a chance to talk about it. The challenge, I think, for all -- everybody is, early on, you get put into a different camp. You're the black woman, the black-girl magic candidate. You're the African-American. You're the Latino.

Elizabeth Warren, right now, is the fake Native American candidate. And I think that that is really hurting her. And, also, had she chosen to run four years ago, she might have won because it was clearly a hunger for somebody not Hillary Clinton in our party.

CABRERA: Right.

JONES: Bernie Sanders got 47 percent of our vote in the primary. That's a huge, huge chunk of people to break away from the presumptive nominee. Had she had her in there, she could have gotten some of those women and some of those progressives. Now, you have to wonder, did she miss her opportunity? You just don't know. We've got a whole other year before anybody votes for anything. But she's got a challenge.

CABRERA: Well, "The Boston Globe" thinks she missed her opportunity. They came out with an editorial against her candidacy not too long ago.

But let's move bigger picture because one person who seems to be resonating who's not even in the race yet is Joe Biden. He's leading the pack in the most recent polling, and we put it up there, with 50 percent of Americans saying they would likely support him for president. Not only ahead of other Democratic candidates, but he's also beating Trump in this poll.

[18:10:03] There's, obviously, a lot of energy, Van, on the left. And more candidates we're seeing trying to, really, highlight the progressive credentials. Moderate Joe Biden, somebody who has a history of bipartisanship from his work in the Senate, is not that person on the left.

JONES: Yes.

CABRERA: So, what does that sort of polling tell us about what Americans, Democrats in particular, really want?

JONES: It says that if you know somebody and you like somebody, you don't care that much about their policy agenda.

CUPP: Yes.

JONES: In other words, some of these other people who are brand new, you know, they have to jump up and down and say, listen, Medicare for all 27 times in their speech. And green new deal 97 times in their speech. Because they're trying to say, look, look, I'm in step with the party.

When you're Joe Biden, you could say, hi, I'm Joe. And you had me at, I'm Joe. Because he is a beloved figure in our party. He was Obama's very loyal and very effective vice president. He's had his gaffes and his stumbles, so he's humanized to us. CABRERA: Authenticity, right?

JONES: Authenticity. Yes ,he lost his son --

CABRERA: Yes.

JONES: -- and that was a part of the heart break for us.

So, the thing is, you know, when you know somebody and you love somebody, you don't really care as much. And so, I think he can defy gravity in this party in a way that others can't.

CUPP: I think, I mean, look, he's -- you're right, he's a moderate. The energy in the party is going to the far left. He's someone who's lost a number of times. It almost defies logic. But there is a nostalgia not just for Joe Biden and the Obama era. There is a nostalgia from a guy who seems to accept and get people. And even when I disagree with his policies, there is a lack of condescension. There's a lack of judgment that, frankly, other progressive candidates can't unaffect.

CABRERA: Is he somebody that --

CUPP: That's authenticity. And that really reaches a lot of people.

CABRERA: -- I mean, is he somebody anti-Trump Republicans would consider --

CUPP: I know a lot of -- I won't say a lot. And this is anecdotal. This is not scientific. I know a number of Republicans who have said to me, I could -- I could vote for Joe Biden.

JONES: I keep hearing that about Joe Biden. The other thing that I was surprised was to see Sherrod Brown, who's, you know, probably the best Democrat you've never heard of, be polling at -- he was at 21 percent. Nipping on the -- you know, on the heels of a Cory Booker even. That shows you something else that's happening in our party. Sherrod Brown is a working-class champion.

CUPP: Midwestern. Yes, right.

JONES: Midwestern, working-class champion for the Democratic Party. I mean ,this guy, he'll bring you to tears talking about a waitress. I mean, who does that kind of stuff?

CABRERA: And you had a great conversation the other day --

JONES: I had a great conference with him last week.

CABRERA: -- on "THE VAN JONES SHOW." This week, you're talking to Julian Castro. Let's listen to what he had to say about Biden real fast.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I get the sense out there that people want a new generation of leadership. And I travelled a lot over the last few years, and especially during these last two years, supporting candidates in the 2018 cycle. And I don't -- I don't say that as anything personal against one person.

But the sense that I get is that people want a new generation of leadership. And, in this race, you know, just speaking for myself, I believe that I'm going to bring a vision for the country that represents the future.

JONES: Do you think that Biden should maybe sit it out?

CASTRO: I wouldn't say that.

JONES: Why not?

CASTRO: Because if he wants to run, he certainly has a track record of accomplishment. He served as a vice president. And I think so many people respect him. He would be a fantastic candidate.

JONES: Yes.

CASTRO: So, if he wants to run, he should.

(END VIDEOTAPT)

CABRERA: That was a very humble answer.

CUPP: No, no, no, no, no, I'm not saying --

JONES: I don't want -- I don't want that sound bite.

CABRERA: Here's the question that I have for you. But why hasn't he seen the boost in the polls that others who -- I mean, he was one of the first to enter the race, right? Well, now, you mentioned Kamala Harris. She entered the polls. She got a big boost. He hasn't. Why isn't he resonating?

JONES: You know, it's all about timing. I mean, some people may later on say, Kamala peaked too soon. You never know. He's going to have to get out there and really work for it in Iowa. He's an incredibly appealing human being. His interview, I -- you know, he could be a little, you know, stiff. In the interview, he opened up. He talked about his family. There's -- he's got a story to tell.

But, Honestly, we've never had a Latino be successful in either party. I do think that that's something in the back of people's minds. And you think, well, you know, can a Latino versus Trump? Is that a nightmare for Trump or a gift to Trump? We just don't know. I asked him that question, he has an amazing answer for it.

But I just think that you've never seen the Democratic Party rally yet around a Latino candidate. And so, he's going against that kind of gravity. Is it possible? I tell you, with him, it's possible because of that earnestness that he has. The same thing is his weakness, of being, like, maybe a little bit -- like, he doesn't light up the room. There's a trustworthiness that comes through in this interview. CABRERA: OK.

JONES: That I think, could, over time, as all these stars jump up and down and get all the attention, you could have a little engine that could, named Julian Castro.

CUPP: He could get his bump after your hour.

JONES: It's possible.

CABRERA: Yes, so, you don't want to go anywhere because you've got S.E. at 6:00. You've got Van at 7:00. You've got S.E. coming back at 8:00. We've got great T.V. for you.

JONES: Yes.

CABRERA: Again, Julian Castro is on -- with "THE VAN JONES SHOW" coming up at 7:00 tonight.

[17:15:00] You guys are sticking around with me because we've got much more to discuss. I want to get your thoughts on this bombshell of a story that just continues to evolve out of Virginia. The top elected leaders there -- I don't want to say dropping like flies. But the story and allegations around them are coming at it so quickly. Some of the 2020 candidates are now calling for them to resign. There are now threats of impeachment for Virginia's Lieutenant Governor after a second accuser says she was sexually assaulted by him. We'll talk it over just ahead here in the newsroom.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Virginia's governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general are mired in accusations and calls to resign. A second woman is now accusing Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of sexual assault. Fairfax denies the accusations and says he wants a full investigation to clear his name.

Meredith Watson is her name. She claims Fairfax raped her when they were in college together. And she wrote this in a 2016 e-mail to friends. Justin raped me in college, and I don't want to hear anything about him.

[17:20:07] CNN's Kaylee Hartung joins us live from Richmond, Virginia. Kaylee, what are Virginia Democrats saying about this?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, Virginia Democrats, leaders and lawmakers, they are very roundly calling for Justin Fairfax's resignation. Though, a joint statement by the Democrats in Virginia's legislature, they are saying that he is owed due process. They say that with an investigation, and given the serious nature of these allegations, he can no longer fulfill his duties as lieutenant governor. And he should address all of this as a private citizen. We're also hearing, for the first-time, from Virginia's Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, who is weathering a controversy of his own. He is, really, via name, the only Democrat we can think of who is not calling for Fairfax's resignation. He spoke with "The Washington Post" today. His first interview since that controversial racist photo was uncovered. He said to "The Washington Post," quote, "It must take tremendous courage for women to step forward and talk about being victims of sexual assault. These allegations are horrific. They need to be taken very seriously." Lieutenant Governor Fairfax has suggested and called for an investigation. I strongly support that."

And that's right, Fairfax is calling for an investigation, saying that it will clear his name. But if he does not resign before Monday, there's one member of the Virginia House of Delegates, a Democrat, who says he will introduce articles of impeachment on Monday. Now, by no means does that mean a vote that his impeachment would be imminent. But it's certainly a threat that Fairfax would hear. Fairfax, though, continuing to deny all of these allegations. First, the ones by Dr. Vanessa Tyson. Now, these by Meredith Watson, saying they are unsubstantiated and demonstrably false. He says he will not resign. But, Ana, the way this story continues to twist and turn, it's unclear what the next hour could even bring.

CABERA: All right. Kaylee Hartung in Richmond, Virginia for us.

I want to get back to our conversation with Van Jones and S.E. Cupp. So, initially, Democrats stopped short of calling for Fairfax's resignation here. But now, it was a second woman to come forward with allegations that triggered this, really, snowball of resignation calls for Fairfax.

How do you think Democrats have handled this?

CUPP: It's tough. It's tough. There has been a cacophony of scandals in Virginia. I think, you know, some caution when you have one story. Uncorroborated is understandable. When you get two, then I think you have to open your ears real wide. And you have to do maybe some digging of your own and make some hard calls.

And if you're asking me, I don't think that Justin Fairfax can survive this. These are very serious allegations of criminal behavior. And that should be taken very seriously.

CABRERA: Your thoughts on this?

JONES: Yes. Look, I mean, the Democratic Party has a higher standard for itself. And, you know, as even when you look at Al Franken, this is a party that says, listen -- you know, like you said, maybe if there's one, you look at it. Once you start having multiple, I think this is a party that says, you know what? You need to get out of the way and deal with this as a private citizen.

CABRERA: Do you think it made sense to, sort of, hold off initially?

JONES: I think -- look, I think you have two values that always compete here. And I think not just Democrats, as Americans, we have two things. We don't want someone to -- a woman to be dismissed out of hand just because, well, we don't want to hear from women. So, you don't want that. You also don't want someone to be thrown out of office without -- CUPP: Or falsely accused.

JONES: Or falsely accused. And so, you have these two different values that are both American values. Frankly, in both political parties, you want fair process and a presumption of innocence. But you also want women to be taken seriously. And under the old status quo, what we had was, guilty under proven innocent. It meant a lot of guilty men were never even charged, and a lot of innocent women were hurt.

And so, now, we're trying to figure out, what is the new standard? How do we deal with this? And I think that this party has -- I think, if you can see, once you're dealing with multiple allegations, I think there's a sense in this party, that's the time to step away and let the investigation go forward. But you don't want to be representing the party with those kinds of allegations hanging over your head in -- from multiple accusers.

CABRERA: Look, it's complicated. I mean, we talk about the Me Too Movement involved here. But then, there's this other issue that's going on in Virginia and this reckoning is the words you used earlier, S.E., when we were discussing what's happening with the governor.

JONES: Yes.

CABRERA: With Governor Northam, the attorney general also admitting this week he had put on blackface previously. And now, Northam, today, is in an interview with "The Washington Post," talking about going on a reconciliation tour. He's digging in his heals. He said he's not going to go anywhere. But he does want to make this right. This is what he told "The Washington Post." It's obvious, from what happened this week, that we still have a lot of work to do. There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia and especially in the area of equity.

[17:25:06] And he plans to go across the state, engage in conversations about race and healing. He's going to dedicate the rest of his term in office, he says, to the matter of equity. Is that enough?

JONES: Well, listen, I think that there are two different cases here, when it comes to this, sort of, like, blackface allegations. You know for the attorney general, when he's a 19-year-old kid who tries to dress up like a rapper, and as a grown person takes full responsibility and says that was dumb and I learned something. I think his job should be relatively safe because teenagers do dumb stuff all the time. And nobody wants to be held accountable for dumb stuff they did when they were a teenager, especially if they take full accountability as a grown person and apologize.

The problem that you have with the governor is that it wasn't just the blackface. It was a blackface and the Ku Klux Klan, which is a terrorist organization. And then, he says, I don't know which one I was. Was I the Klan person or was I the blackface person?

CABRERA: And now, he's saying, no, those -- neither of those were me. JONES: And then, he said he wasn't either one and I just didn't notice it for a couple decades. Oh, and, by the way, I did dress up as Michael Jackson and his wife has to tell him not to moonwalk at a press conference. OK, look, this guy is --

CABRERA: So, you have a problem more with how he handled it?

JONES: -- you know, at that point, you probably should have any number of things going on in your life. But being the governor of a state is not one of them. So, I understand why the call is for him, not because of -- and also, the attorney general was a 19-year-old kid. In this situation, the governor was a 25-year-old medical student.

CABRERA: So, you're saying age matters?

JONES: It does matter because --

CABRERA: There was a snowball of other admissions or discoveries of people who put on blackface this week. Not just in Virginia but in other parts of the country. It does, sort of, open the big -- the broader question here, S.E.. And that is if you have this as part of your past, at some capacity, that somebody could dredge up at some point, should that exempt that person from ever serving in public office?

CABRERA: I think to Van's point, this is case by case. How you handle it matters a lot. But, look, public service is a privilege. It's not a right. And you cannot argue that just -- I'm sorry, that Ralph Northam staying is in the best interest of public service right now. He might think it's incredibly unfair that his life's work, sort of, goes away in an instant over something that happened long ago. And he might be right. Maybe that is unfair.

But if you've been the victim of social injustice or racial injustice, I'm not sure you care about what's fair for Ralph Northam. And I think that's a factor in this conversation, too. It has to be, well, I'm sorry you no longer get to be governor. But move on with your life and do your reconciliation in private. Have your meetings in private. Read "Roots" which is, apparently, something he's been doing in private.

You don't need to be the leader of your party and your state right now while you're doing it. That's a -- that's a privilege. It's not -- it's not a right.

CABRERA: All Right. S.E. Cupp, Van Jones, always good to have you both. Thank you so much. "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED" right after this show at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. And Van Jones again at 7:00 p.m.

We'll be right back.

[17:26:50]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:32:54] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: We're still trying to sift through all the stunning accusations that surfaced with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' online post accusing the "National Enquirer" and its parent company, AMI, of trying to blackmail him. Bezos suggests this alleged effort may have been politically motivated. He repeatedly flagged a possible connection between "The Enquirer" and Saudi Arabia.

In his blog post, Bezos writes about "The Enquirer's" David Pecker bringing a guest with ties to the Saudi royal family to dinner at the White House. And he wrote, quote, "Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is apoplectic about our investigation. For reasons to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to have hit a particularly sensitive nerve."

Bezos owns the "Washington Post," which has doggedly covered the murder of one its columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, pointing fingers at Saudi Arabia and the crown prince.

A lot to discuss now with CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem.

Always good to talk to you.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: You're here with me in New York today.

What do you make of this connection that Bezos is drawing a tie between the "National Enquirer" and Saudi Arabia?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Just to be clear, this is only coming from Bezos, but -- a lot of buts. Professionals in the space, in VIP protection, have told me that Bezos and a security team would not be so careless by throwing out Saudi Arabia out there. First, it undermines what actually may come out. There's also -- a likelihood that there's an insider, someone with a girlfriend, the girlfriend's brother, whoever it may be, that hacked the phone. I think we do, and the investigation should look at the possibility that a foreign entity hacked the phone and provided that information to AMI. Now, it didn't have to be directed by AMI. It may just have that information and you should just view AMI and the "National Enquirer" as a repository that exists to defend Trump and undermine his enemies, whether it's Catch and Kill to stop the porn stars from speaking or 30 cover stories of Hillary Clinton with voodoo dolls, whatever it is. They basically, AMI basically got that information from the Saudis. And that would suggest why they don't want the "Washington Post" investigating the Khashoggi murder or who, in fact, got Bezos' photos.

[17:35:10] CABRERA: Again, we don't know. There's no evidence that suggests any of this at this point. You are making the point that somehow AMI got its hands on these photos.

KAYYEM: Yes.

CABRERA: And Bezos had hired a private investigator to look into this?

KAYYEM: Yes, the interesting thing about that, I learned from people in the space, former friends of mine who are in the VIP security space, two interesting things on that. One is, it was interesting that Bezos named the guy who's heading the security review. In VIP security, you don't want any names out there. You want to protect these guys. You don't want their families to have blackmail or anything. That was unique, in suggesting he wanted people to know who was hired.

And secondly, the mention of Saudi Arabia is not to be taken lightly. Bezos is too smart. His security team is too smart to, oh, let's just conjecture out there, there's something there. Whether they have the forensic evidence or have enough sufficient evidence to lead toward a foreign entity, we don't know yet. Two things have happened since then. One is the Trump administration fails to answer questions about the Khashoggi murder. And the Saudi royal family goes ballistic today with all of their statements on Twitter and publicly that our existence is the red line. Anyone who wants to question us, you know -- I don't even know what those are, those threats or whatever. So someone -- the royal family is uncomfortable.

So back to --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: There was a nerve -- somebody hit a nerve.

KAYYEM: Yes.

CABRERA: I want to talk about the fiery testimony with Acting A.G. Matt Whitaker we all witnessed live here on CNN yesterday. He testified for nearly six hours.

KAYYEM: Yes.

CABRERA: He was adamant he had not talked to the president about Mueller. He could not offer the same assurances when it came to the SDNY investigation into Michael Cohen. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TED LIEU, (D), CALIFORNIA: Did you communicate to Donald Trump or any White House advisers about investigations from the southern district of New York concerning the Trump Organization, the Trump Inaugural Committee, Michael Cohen, or investigations that relate to Trump entities or potentially president?

MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: Congressman, I mentioned that -- I said other investigations in my opening statement. I really don't have anything further to add to that answer.

LIEU: When you said other investigations, you mean you communicated to the president about this?

WHITAKER: No, no I didn't (CROSSTALK)

WHITAKER: That's not what I said in my opening statement. I'll refer you back to my opening statement. I was very clear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Juliette, what do you make of the different responses to the different investigations?

KAYYEM: I would say it was anything but clear. And I think his failure to be able to answer on whether Donald Trump talked to him specifically about the SDNY has something to do -- confirms a belief out there that it is the New York case that worries Trump more. Why? It hits his family, his money, and it can't be excuses, oh, everyone runs campaigns like this. So that -- the fact that he may have talked to the attorney -- acting attorney general about that is consistent with Trump's own fears about his greatest exposure.

We've also seen reporting that suggests that Trump yelled at the Acting Attorney General Whitaker about those cases and how they're proceeding forward.

I will say one thing about --

CABRERA: Which he was also asked about.

KAYYEM: Yes.

CABRERA: And he said, no, he didn't lash out at me.

KAYYEM: Look, I worked at DOJ a long time ago. I haven't practiced law for a long time. I'll let the lawyers comment on this. This was so embarrassing for him. I know everyone says he has an audience of one. What these people don't realize, this era, too, will end and Whitaker will always be remembered for the arrogance and the snideness. Whether you're a lawyer, whether for Trump or against Trump, that he showed not to Congress, but to the role he was playing. We used to -- the attorney general was a big deal. I left that sort of thinking, I could be attorney general. Just the way he treated his role was an embarrassment mostly for him.

CABRERA: Thank you, Juliette, for being here.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

CABRERA: Good to have you.

[17:39:08] The former CEO of Starbucks says he's seriously considering running against the president as an Independent. Just ahead, I'll speak to the man who already did just that in 2016. Does he think an Independent candidate has a chance in 2020?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Welcome back. Howard Schultz is still seriously considering a run in 2020 as an Independent in 2020. If he runs, he has some serious work to do. And 44 percent of Americans are not likely at all to vote for Schultz.

He took on his critics at an event this week in Indiana at Purdue University. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD SCHULTZ, FORMER CEO, STARBUCKS: There are critics who condemn me for even thinking about running outside of the two-party system for fear it would lead to President Trump's re-election. Respectfully, here's my response to that: Trump must not serve a second term.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Schultz, a former lifelong Democrat, has not officially announces his bid, but he is on an exploratory media tour, which includes a special CNN town hall next Tuesday night.

Let's discuss with Evan McMullin. He ran as an Independent during the 2016 election against President Trump.

You have some great insight for us, Evan. As a conservative, who is staunchly against President Trump, does a third-party candidate like a Howard Schultz appeal to you?

EVAN MCMULLIN, (I), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER CIA OPERATIONS OFFICER: It depends what the options are, if it's President Trump as the Republican nominee again -- I hope that's not the case, but it seems like it probably will be -- and if the Democrats nominate a divisive leader who is incapable of beating President Trump and offering more unifying effective leadership. President Schultz could be a good option. I believe that most likely given the rules and regulations that govern our elections still, which I think need to be reformed, given the reality as it is, I think our best chance of unifying the country, replacing Donald Trump with such a leader who's more effective and honorable and capable, I think lies through the Democrats most likely nominating such a leader, a unified leader. But there's a question as to whether the Democrats will do that. And I think that question mark is creating this path which is pretty wide and I think will be wider even during the primary season, given those dynamics, and that I think is what Schultz is responding to.

[17:45:52] CABRERA: A lot of criticism has come from the left at Schultz, saying he's going to hurt Democrats chances against Trump. An interesting thing we found in our polls at CNN is that Schultz is most appealing to groups that have supported Trump, men, white Americans, those who approve of the job Trump is doing as president. They're most likely to support Schultz if he runs in 2020. Who do you think should be more worried if he runs? Republicans or Democrats?

MCMULLIN: Well, you know, I think it's very early to answer that question. That's interesting polling. It depends where Schultz, what lane he chooses to run. Does he run in the center-right space? Is he smack dab in the middle or is he center left? I mean, it matters. And who he pulls votes from, I think will depend on his policy positions. Right now, they appear pretty centrist, maybe a little bit center left, which is why I think the Democrats have responded the way they have, especially.

The polls you mentioned are interesting. I do think that he can attract center-right voters. Especially with his positions on the national debt. He's giving voice on that issue that no one else is giving voice to. Also on trade and keeping our alliances strong. So that will appeal to the center right and to potential Trump voters from 2016. I think that's true.

CABRERA: Given your own experience running as an Independent in 2016, you've touched on this, but help all of us understand the hurdles. Why systemically it's hard for a third-party candidate to win the presidency.

MCMULLIN: There are serious hurdles. Of course, those hurdles are much shorter when you're worth $3 billion or $4 billion. That wasn't the case for me. Nor is it the case for most third party or Independent candidates. But Howard Schultz will have that advantage. It's very difficult to get on the ballot in all 50 states quickly or at all. In some cases, the laws that govern ballot access for third party or Independent candidates are really designed to keep them off the ballot, to prevent their participation. And so -- but if you have enough money, frankly, you're able to do what you need to do, hire the people to go out and get signatures, and do the things you need to do, the legal work to make it happen. I think Schultz will be able to get past that if he decides to run.

But then you face the challenge of getting on to the debate stage. Republicans and Democrats control who gets on to the debate stage. And, of course, they don't want an Independent or a third party there. So it's still possible that he'll get there. Ross Perot did, if you remember. Schultz may very well do it as well.

You have a third issue, which is more cultural, but it's related to these regulatory barriers. That is that people understand there are these challenges for Independent and third-party candidates, so they discount the chance they can win by quite a lot. And in an election like this, where you have so many people so concerned that Donald Trump will be re-elected, or in fairness, so concerned he won't be elected, re-elected, that people say, well, gee, if I support this Independent candidate who I actually really like, I like his or her message the best, I may end up helping to elect my least favorite candidate, the one I'm most worried about, and so then they don't. There are cultural and regulatory barriers that make it difficult.

CABRERA: Yes, I hear you.

Evan McMullin, good to have your insight. Thank you so much for being here.

MCMULLIN: Thank you.

[17:49:39] CABRERA: Don't forget to watch a special CNN presidential town hall with Howard Schultz, live in Houston, with Poppy Harlow. That's Tuesday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: It's music's biggest night.

CNN's Stephanie Elam has a preview of this year's Grammys.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From Cardi B. and her monster jam --

(SINGING)

ELAM: -- to Brandy Carlisle and her evocative vocals --

(SINGING)

ELAM: -- women are front and center in the big Grammy categories.

JEM ASWAD, SENIOR MUSIC EDITOR, VARIETY: There's momentum behind them based on what happened last year, the lack of female representation. In the winners, the lack of female representation in the industry.

ELAM: While the main categories were expanded this year from five nominees to eight, the most nominated artists are still men. Kendrick Lamar is up for eight Grammys.

(SINGING)

[17:55:01] ELAM: Followed closely by Drake with seven nominations.

(SINGING)

ELAM: The four of them are up against each other for album of the year, along with her, Janelle Monae, Casey Musgraves and Post Malone.

ASWAD: Hip-hop, R&B and pop are so big, it seems like those categories are going to carry every major award.

(SINGING)

ELAM: Post Malone's "Rock Star" is also up for two Grammys, including record of the year.

While Post is expected to perform, he'll likely have to do it without 21 Savage, who was featured on the hit song. British-born Savage was taken into ICE custody a week before the Grammys. Officials say he is in the country illegally.

(SINGING)

ELAM: Other contenders for record of the year are Zed, Marin Morris (ph) and Gray for "The Middle," Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's "Shallow" from "A Star is Born, and Childish Gambinos --

(SINGING)

ASWAD: I feel like, if there's one song that captured the zeitgeist for 2018, in both the best and the worst ways, it's "This Is America." You've got that incredible video with so much meaning.

ELAM: Posting this year, a woman with 15 Grammys of her own, Alicia Keys.

ASWAD: She's exactly the right person. On the one hand, you very much have the establishment but, on the other, she's got hip-hop in her blood.

ELAM: More women on stage and among the nominees and perhaps more female Grammy winners.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Thanks for being here. I'll see you two hours from now, live, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

"S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED" is next.

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