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Dowd on Mueller Report; O'Rourke and Trump Hold Dueling Rallies; Protesters Flood Venezuela's Streets; Cuomo Talks Taxes with Trump. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired February 12, 2019 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:03] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's former lawyer is now saying, in his view, Special Counsel Robert Mueller will not issue a report on the Russia probe. And he went on to call the entire investigation a waste of time.


JOHN DOWD, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FORMER ATTORNEY: I don't think there will be a report. The rules of the department say no report. I would be shocked if anything regarding the president is made public other than we're done.


SCIUTTO: Joining me now, former federal and state prosecutor Elie Honig. He's also a CNN legal analyst.

So, Elie, you heard John Dowd there. He says no report at all. In other words, we'll never know. Do you agree?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No. He's wrong. There will be a report. The regulations that Robert Mueller is operating under require him to file a report with the attorney general.

The question, though, is, what will happen to it from there? William Barr has been questioned about this at his confirmation hearings and he's left himself, I think somewhat appropriately, some wiggle room because the regulations then say the attorney general has fairly wide discretion to decide what to provide to Congress and the public and when to do it and how to do it.

So there will be a report. The big question is going to be, will Congress see it and will we, the public, see it.

SCIUTTO: Now, when you listen to John Dowd, he said -- he said that he's going to find no evidence of Trump's specific involvement in any collusion or conspiracy with Russians during the interference in the campaign. If he doesn't implicate the president, if the special counsel has not found sufficient evidence to do so, does that change whatever even internal report he files, you know, or can he -- can he issue a report that looks at other players other than the president? HONIG: I would suspect that the report should touch on everything,

right? It certainly matters a lot, the most, if Donald Trump was directly involved in criminality. And if he was or wasn't, then I would hope and expect Mueller to lay that out in his report.

But we also want to know, were people around him involved in criminality. We know about Manafort. We know about Cohen and Flynn, et cetera. Were there others? This is important. President or not, we're talking about the top layer of officials in this country.

I also somewhat discount what John Dowd says for the following reasons. A, he was Trump's attorney. B, he's been out of this case for almost a year now. He was -- he was off the team as of March of 2018. And he says in the interview, well, I'm still talking to Trump. OK, you're getting a filter there, though. You're not getting full information.

SCIUTTO: Right. And -- fair point. I mean Giuliani spins all the time, right, when supposedly offering legal analysis.

Interesting comments there before we let you go by Dowd about how Trump would react to questioning from the special counsel.

HONIG: Yes. Yes, it's not great for his client. Dowd essentially says he's incapable of telling the truth. Dowd tries to play it off to faulty memory or he's got too much on his mind, but he basically says, the reason I never walked Trump in to an interview with Mueller is he wouldn't be able to remember and then he would just make something up. Not a ringing endorsement of your own client.

And also, by the way, if you don't know but you make something up, that's a lie. But I do think ultimately that's why they've resisted so hard a subpoena and an interview.

SCIUTTO: You could believe it.

Elie Honig, thanks very much, as always.

HONIG: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: The race for 2020 may have just kicked off at the Texas border as President Trump and Beto O'Rourke pushed very different messages just a few hundred feet from each other.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Walls save lives. Walls save tremendous numbers of lives.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), FORMER TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: We know that walls do not save lives. Walls end lives.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:38:46] SCIUTTO: Did we just see a preview of a potential 2020 match-up? President Trump and former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke dueling rallies in El Paso near the border last night. O'Rourke blasting the president over his demand for a wall.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), FORMER TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: We stand for America. And we stand against walls.

There is no bargain in which we can sacrifice some of our humanity to gain a little more security.

We know that we deserve and will lose both of them if we do.


SCIUTTO: Well, people in the crowd started chanting, urging O'Rourke to run for the White House. Could he take on President Trump and win?

Trump, mocking O'Rourke, says flat out, no.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Beto O'Rourke had a wonderful rally of about 15 people.

We were all challenged by a young man who lost an election to Ted Cruz.

And then said, you know what, hey, you're supposed to win in order to run.


SCIUTTO: Here with me now, Gilberto Hinojosa. He is chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.

[09:40:00] Mr. Hinojosa, thank you for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So, Beto O'Rourke versus Trump last night. We saw it on the wall issue. A key issue.

Whose message is resonating along the border?

HINOJOSA: Well, in Texas, congressman -- or former Congressman O'Rourke is the one that I think is resonating. I think people here in -- especially along the border -- do not believe that a wall is necessary to provide any additional security.

I live in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas. I live in Brownsville, Texas. I live eight blocks from an international bridge. And I've been there 19 years in the same place. In the middle of the (INAUDIBLE). Never had a single problem where I live.

This is a community that has very, very close ties to their neighbors in the south. People interact with each other every day. They visit relatives. They shop. They conduct business. Walls are not necessary to protect each other. We are in this together in every sense of the word. You know, when one of us gets a cold, the other one sneezes. This is a community that has close ties and walls will only divide us.

And I think that's a consensus among almost everyone down here, including Republicans. I mean you've seen Congressman Hurd take the position that he's very much opposed to a wall. And I think that is something that you hear from Brownsville, all the way to El Paso.

SCIUTTO: Yes. We spoke to the El Paso mayor, a Republican, yesterday, who made the point, particularly about the economic ties across the border.

Of course you heard the crowd yesterday cheering for Beto to run. Our Jeff Zeleny caught up with Beto O'Rourke last night. I want to play what he had to say about 2020.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: After all of this, how can you not run?

BETO O'ROURKE (D), FORMER TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: Oh, I don't know. I -- I just want to make sure whatever I do next does the greatest good for this country. And, you know, I want to make this town proud. This town has given me everything that I've got. So I'm just focused on supporting El Paso tonight.

ZELENY: How close are you? How close are you?

O'ROURKE: I -- before the end of this month I'll -- I'll make a decision and an announcement.

ZELENY: It sure looks like a yes.

O'ROURKE: We'll see. We'll see.


SCIUTTO: In your view, should he run? Would he be a credible contender for 2020?

HINOJOSA: Of course he should run. I mean he showed in his last U.S. Senate campaign that he is capable of drawing a broad base of support, especially among millennials. I think -- and millennials, we all know, will be a key factor in this presidential race in 2020. They were something that was significantly strong in this Beto O'Rourke campaign and got him to draw these huge crowds all over the state of Texas.

I was there when he was campaigning. And I saw the number of people who were attending rallies, not just that were set up a few days ahead of time, but that were instantaneously set up at polling places during the early vote.

And you had people that were just motivated by the message of hope, the message that he -- that he gave that, you know, where he spoke truth to power, where he spoke about the issues that were important to Texas families. The kitchen table issues. Whether or not your kids are going to have a good, public education. Whether they're going to be safe. Access to health care. All the things that are important to Americans. And people heard him loud and clear.

And that's why he got closer in this U.S. Senate race during a midterm election than any Texas politician has in the last -- I mean Democrat in the last 35 years.

SCIUTTO: But he lost.

HINOJOSA: So I think he would be a great candidate for president.

SCIUTTO: But he lost that race.

HINOJOSA: Well, he lost in a midterm election. But -- well, he lost that race in a midterm election at a time when Democrats turned out at the lowest point. Now he's going to be -- if he runs, in 2020, an election where we're going to have numbers that are unprecedented in the history of Texas. People of Texas don't like Donald Trump. They're going to go out and vote for a candidate that is credible and that speaks to the issues that are important to them.

And I think Beto, just like Secretary Julian Castro, has that message for people across the state of Texas and they're longing for that kind of a message. And you'll see that. I think that message will be a message that you will hear in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, in Chicago. People want to hear people that are speaking honestly about the important -- the issues that are important to them. And Beto does that, just as much as Julian does when he's out campaigning.

SCIUTTO: Mr. Hinojosa, thanks very much for walking us through the situation along the border.

HINOJOSA: Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO: Tonight on CNN, remember not to miss a presidential town hall with the former Starbucks CEO and possible independent candidate for president, Howard Schultz, moderated by our own, my colleague, Poppy Harlow. It starts at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time tonight only on CNN.

[09:45:05] And, right now, mass protests kicking off in Venezuela. Students from across the country are rallying in support of the opposition leader, Juan Guaido.


SCIUTTO: Right now protesters are gathering in the capital city of Venezuela to demand the resignation of embattled President Nicolas Maduro. The protesters led by student leaders and young activists are expected to grow substantially this morning. The crowds there, as you can see, already large. CNN's international correspondent Isa Soares is on the ground at the

border in Colombia. This is where people have been coming across just to buy basics.

[09:50:05] Explain what is shaping up today and where you are is really one of the reasons that those protesters are protesting. They want aid to be able to come into the country.

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sot on, Jim. Yes, what we're seeing in Venezuela is what we've been seeing as well later on here in Cucuta, just the border town between Venezuela and Colombia is mass protests. Positive. There have been people waving flags. Very peaceful. It's very different from what we saw, if you remember, several years ago where we saw 120 plus people died.

But these people have taken to the streets in support of the self- declared interim president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, are there to back him, to support him and to try and get the international aid in to Venezuela. Worth remembering, of course, that that aid has been sitting roughly 20 minutes from where I am on a bridge. It's never been opened. It's never been inaugurated (ph) to try and get that aid in. And, of course, Maduro is blocking that aid, Jim, and that is where we're at right now. Push for the aid to come in, but so far they haven't had much luck.

SCIUTTO: Folks acting simply out of desperation.

Isa Soares, thank you for being on the ground there for us.

We also have Sam Kiley. He is in the capital of Caracas, right by those protests that you're seeing there now.

Sam, if you can hear us on the phone, tell me what you're seeing there and how big the crowd is.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, the crowd is growing. It was scheduled for 10:00 but nothing happens on time in Venezuela, least of all in this uncertain age. But there are many, many thousands, I'd say tens of thousands of people gatherings steadily in central Caracas. There's a great sea of colors of the Venezuelans flag. Everybody's wearing it on their hat and they're carrying it. They're carrying mockups of Mr. Maduro. And really it's a celebratory atmosphere.

And this is really all about the gesture politics at the moment. They are all delighted to hear about the level of international support that Juan Guaido has been shown on the international stage but really critically here is the future decisions made -- taken by the military. And, at the moment, they are solidly behind Mr. Maduro. There are 2,000 generals in the Venezuelan army and they have a lot to lose if they were to flip.

But there is a constant pressure, constant international pleas for the military, from world leaders and indeed from Juan Guaido, the self- proclaimed president here, for them to abandon Maduro, but there's no real sign yet at all that that is likely to happen. But there is a much lower level of tension, much less of a threat of violence, at least at this stage, in comparison to the sort of demonstrations we saw at the end of January.

SCIUTTO: Well, we know you'll stay on it.

Sam Kiley there right in the middle of it in Caracas, Venezuela.

If you are filing your taxes early this year, good on you. You may not, though, be too happy with the numbers you see. Could your lower refund be due to the president's tax cuts and jobs act? We'll be right back.


[09:57:21] SCIUTTO: Right now millions of Americans are filing their tax returns and learning that they will get a smaller refund than last year or even owe money. And today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is heading to the White House to push President Trump to repeal part of the new tax law that the governor says is hitting people in his state, here in New York, hard.

So what is happening?

Let's bring in chief business correspondent for CNN, Christine Romans.

So the key issue here is what for people -- residents of New York state and other states?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, California. These big, high taxed states. They used to be able -- people there used to be able to deduct their state and local taxes, right? Now that's capped at $10,000 under the new tax law.

And Governor Cuomo actually says that you have a new tax regime, that there's a red state, blue state divide, that the tax law -- the new tax law helps red states and hurts blue states. There's even real estate data that show that big earners in some of these states are moving to places like Florida, in Miami, low tax states, because they don't have the tax advantage anymore of living in a really high-tax state.

So Cuomo's going to meet with the president today, this afternoon. The two businessmen -- the politician and the businessman from Queens, both of them from Queens, to talk about something that really is going to hurt some people in New York state.

SCIUTTO: I mean, but is there any chance that the president moves on this because this is a key part of this tax law? It's one reason they got money to -- that money went to the corporate tax cuts.

ROMANS: (INAUDIBLE) is. To pay for it.

It's -- look, the president, last week, talking to some reporters for some -- local reporters, seemed open to the idea of revisiting this. But this would have to go through Chuck Grassley. It would have to go through -- it would have to go through basically the Senate and Congress has -- and there's no move to change any of this.

SCIUTTO: And how has that kind of stuff worked out in recent days?

ROMANS: Right. Right.

SCIUTTO: On other issues, just quickly, though, many people are going to see smaller refunds this year. Why is that?

ROMANS: So we've got these early -- now, these are early numbers from the IRS that show that the size of the tax refund this year for these early filers, and good on you if you're one of them, down about 8 percent from last year. That works out to about $170 less this year than last year. And the IRS is cautioning people, don't make a big deal about it. You know, it's more in line with what had been maybe in 2017.

But I think this has caught people by surprise because most Americans are going to have a lower tax rate. Eighty percent of Americans have a lower tax rate here. So why is their refund check smaller? Well, it's smaller, Jim, because they were working under new withholding tables during the year and so your company wasn't withholding as much from you maybe as you thought. So you might have been relying on that tax refund for savings, but really you got the money in your paycheck during the year and maybe --

SCIUTTO: Each pay period prior. Eight percent of Americas, though others will see their tax rates (INAUDIBLE).

ROMANS: Right. And especially if you live in New York, New Jersey, some of those big, high tax states, there will be a reckoning for you this year.

SCIUTTO: And there's reasons there were consequences in the midterm election.


SCIUTTO: Christine Romans, thanks very much.

ROMANS: Nice to see you, Jim.

[10:00:08] SCIUTTO: A good Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim