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Democrats Ramping Up Oversight of Trump Administration; El Chapo Guilty on All Counts; Trump Likely to Sign Deal to Avoid Another Shutdown. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired February 12, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:02]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: But the deal was just the first hurdle. Coming up next is the vote.

And, already, key voices on the right, both within the media and on Capitol Hill, say the deal isn't good enough. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, a close Trump ally, tweeted that the deal isn't serious and that -- quote -- "Congress is not doing its job."

And while the president says another shutdown is not likely, that does not mean that he approves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Sir, will you sign Congress' border deal?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to study it. I'm not happy about it. It's not doing the trick. But I'm adding things to it. And when you add whatever I have to add, it's all -- it's all going to happen where we're going to build a beautiful, big, strong wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN's Abby Phillip is live at the White House.

And, Abby, the president is grumbling about the deal terms, but what's the White House saying about his next steps?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Brooke, this is the most important part of a process that has taken many weeks of negotiation between Republicans and Democrats. Will the president actually sign this compromise that has been come to as of last night?

And what we're hearing from a White House official, and even from some of the president's allies on Capitol Hill, is that they believe the president is likely to sign this bill. What else he might do is not exactly clear, and whether or not he will make his decision known publicly is also not clear.

But the president is clearly unhappy with what he's getting out of this. It is less than he would have gotten about a month-and-a-half ago had he taken what the House in the Senate had agreed to in past, but he rejected at the last minute, and it is less than the $5.7 billion that he originally wanted.

But what has been happening behind the scenes here at the White House for several weeks now are preparations for President Trump to potentially declare some kind of national emergency or use executive action in other ways to find money in the federal government to build the wall without Congress.

Now, that is, for a lot of conservatives, the better option. And they don't think that this bill is enough. But if they add it to money that the federal government has in other areas that the president can use to build the wall, then that might be a better outcome for President Trump.

But, for now, it seems that the president has yet to make this decision final, but it seems that many people close to him believe that he's likely to go forward and sign it, though they, of course, caution, as they always do with President Trump, that nothing is final until it's final -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Until he signs the deal. Abby, thank you very much for the update.

The review, though, is mixed among Republicans on Capitol Hill. Some conservatives are trashing it. Others, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are saying this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: First of all, I hope he signs the bill. And, second, I think he ought to feel free to use whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his effort to secure the border.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN political director David Chalian is live in Houston for me.

And, David, we all saw the influence of the right-wing pundits and the lawmakers on the president the last time, but the White House you just heard Abby report it out, saying that he will likely sign this bipartisan deal.

Do you think that the political risks of a second government shutdown would just be too much for the president to take?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think that's clearly the calculation, Brooke, right?

I mean, he had to make a risk here, go out there and say, yes, I'm going to sign this, but I'm not happy about it. Will that be enough to convince my conservative base that I'm really not happy about this, but there would be a greater risk at sort of offending -- or less of a risk offending them than there would be in actually engaging in another government shutdown?

This is what I find so fascinating. If you go back to December, when he sat there with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and said he would own the shutdown and it was worth shutting it down over getting his border wall promise in place, look at the evolution of Donald Trump in that time.

I feel like what we're seeing now, it seems to me, is a realization of the new world order in Washington, with Democrats in control of one branch, and the political pain that he clearly saw in the polls from the 35-day longest shutdown in history. He does not want to revisit that.

BALDWIN: He mentioned -- or he -- certainly he doesn't, but the president is considering other options, right, to get this full funding for his wall.

We heard Mick Mulvaney calling them pots of money. What other options with the president even have now?

CHALIAN: Well, I think they're looking at various executive actions, up to and including potential declaring a national emergency.

You're starting to see some Republicans in Congress who were very alarmed about that just a few weeks ago maybe a little less so now, seeing it perhaps as an only option left at this stage of the game. But you're right. He could -- the president continues to say every options available to him.

[15:05:00]

What is crystal clear, I think, from these moments -- and again until he signs it and that ink is dry, we remain in a fluid situation. We always have to caveat that here. But if it is indeed moving towards his signature, what I think it's is, he sees zero more option for getting actual appropriations out of Congress for his proposed wall.

BALDWIN: OK.

So as he's talking to the press about how he's feeling about this bipartisan deal, he also talks about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. And so I wanted to ask you about this. He weighs in, weighing about her anti-Semitic tweet that earned her bipartisan criticism.

So here was the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Congressman (sic) Omar is terrible, what she said. And I think she should either resign from Congress or she should certainly resign from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

What she said is so deep-seated in her heart that her lame apology -- and that's what it was -- it was lame and she didn't mean a word of it -- was just not appropriate. I think she should resign from Congress, frankly. But, at a minimum, she shouldn't be on committees, certainly that committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, again, the whole grab them by the hmm-hmm and the S-hole countries, and the Trail of Tears tweet, and the good people on both sides in Charlottesville, and the Muslim ban, I mean, is this the messenger to deliver this sort of message?

CHALIAN: Well, as you know, Donald Trump is never going to be afraid to be the messenger on this score when he's going to go after a political opponent here.

But I think there's probably some evidence to suggest he may be helping the congresswoman a bit here by doing so. Yes, she was completely rebuked by her party's leadership. Yes, she had to offer a statement of complete apology for this and said that would go on to learn more about this.

And, of course, we wait to see further actions and rhetoric from her to see if that is true. But now to have the president say she should resign, that's only going to help embolden her to her supporters. She's going to be able to utilize that politically to fortify her own base of support as she goes through this process with her party leadership.

BALDWIN: I have got to ask you about why you're in Houston, pivoting to 2020 here. Tonight, Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz will go directly before the voters in a CNN town hall.

But recent CNN polling shows that while millions may love Starbucks coffee, a whopping 46 percent have never even heard of the man. So aside from name recognition, what is his biggest challenge this evening?

CHALIAN: Well, I think the biggest thing everyone's curious to see is when you leave the C-suite, when you when you were a CEO, and you enter into the political fray, or potentially -- he says he's actively considering an independent bid at this time -- how -- without that sort of protection of the executive suite, how is he one-on-one with voters?

And I think that that is going to be one of the big questions. We have seen him do a bunch of interviews. We have seen a lot of the criticism, especially from the left, and Democrats concerned that his presence in this race as an independent could potentially make it easier for Donald Trump to get reelected.

He refutes that talk, of course. But what we haven't seen yet is, what is it that a Schultz candidacy, if one were to come to be, would animate the American public, would allow people to sort of grab on and build a force of support behind him?

I think tonight's going to be one of the real first opportunities for America not only to meet him and get introduced him -- as you said, a lot of people don't know him -- but also, what is this independent bid about, if it does come to be? What is the animating force for it?

And I think that's his challenge tonight, is to show what that would be.

BALDWIN: All right. Let me remind everyone the town hall is tonight with Howard Schultz live from Houston, Poppy Harlow moderating. It is 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

David Chalian, my thanks to you.

Just in, in perhaps the latest sign that congressional Democrats are preparing to dig into every part of President Trump's life, the House Judiciary Committee just hired two high-powered attorneys who have not only been very critical of Trump. They have previously advocated for his impeachment.

Manu Raju, CNN senior congressional correspondent, is on the Hill for us.

And these men have serious legal chops. Who are they, Manu, and what role will they play?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Norm Eisen is a longtime ethics watchdog who helped co-found the left-leaning group CREW and former Obama administration lawyer, is one of the hires.

The other, Barry Berke, a high-powered criminal defense attorney, also hired by the House Judiciary Committee. These two men generating a lot of interest for one reason, because in the past they have written about and they have advocated for the impeachment of the president, and even suggested the possible indictment of this president for obstructing justice, even recently writing of the president, even before the final report, the Mueller report has been issued.

[15:10:08]

They wrote in the past the president likely obstructed justice, a conclusion even more strongly supported by the evidence now.

This is not, we're told, the reason why they were necessarily hired by this committee, which, of course, would have oversight of any impeachment proceedings. Sources on this committee say they are not being brought in to begin impeachment proceedings of this president, but they are being hired to oversee the special counsel's investigation and the Justice Department's investigation, because there could be a fight in particular about releasing the Mueller report, particularly if the Trump White House or the Justice Department decides not to provide this to Congress or the public.

These two individuals could have a role in this regard. Now, this committee, of course, Brooke, as you mentioned, planning to be one of several key committees in the House to investigate all aspects of the Trump administration. And we saw this committee bring in the acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, last week to question him about why he was hired. He's handling the Mueller probe. Expect that to continue. Expect

Matt Whitaker to appear again, this time behind closed doors, to answer questions. Among the number of things that this committee wants to do, these two individuals will help do, to oversee the Justice Department, the Mueller investigation, and anything else that comes from it -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Got it. Manu, thank you very much, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Meantime, breaking news, back in New York, Mexican drug lord El Chapo guilty on all counts -- the reaction inside that Brooklyn courtroom. And why did it take the jury more than 30 hours to reach the verdict?

Also, still ahead, days ahead of their second summit, what a top U.S. general is revealing about North Korea's nuclear program and why the U.S. is now asking Pyongyang for a list of its scientists.

And we are getting our first insights into Bill Cosby's first five months in prison. A spokesman for the comedian says that he is having -- quote, unquote -- "an amazing experience."

Hmm. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:16:25]

BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

The world's most notorious drug lord found guilty on all counts. After 200 hours of testimony and six days of jury deliberations, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman now faces a mandatory life sentence.

The jury finding him guilty of 10 counts, including engaging in criminal enterprise, the international manufacturing and distribution of cocaine, heroin and other drugs, money laundering, this trial capping off decades of pursuit for law enforcement.

And we will get to a reporter who was actually inside the courtroom for that in just a moment.

But, first, here's CNN' Brynn Gingras reminding us what led up to today's major verdict.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the last two months, jurors have listened to tales of bribes and bloodshed, heard testimony about notorious Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, and saw rare images of the drug lord with his diamond- encrusted pistol by his side.

Government witnesses testified how Guzman allegedly smuggled drugs through tunnels, cars, narco submarines, even inside cans of chili and fake bananas. Details from his former associates now cooperating with the government

included explosive testimony from fellow Sinaloa Cartel member Alex Cifuentes. He testified about his former boss's bribes allegedly paid to Mexican officials.

Cifuentes claimed that Guzman once paid former Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto a $100 million bribe in October 2012, when he was president-elect. Pena Nieto's former chief of staff called the allegations false, defamatory and absurd, adding that it was Pena Nieto's administration who located, arrested and extradited Guzman to the United States for trial.

El Chapo's former I.T. expert, Christian Rodriguez, whose photo is shown here, was obscured by prosecutors to hide his identity. He revealed how the Cartel communicated through a system of encrypted phones. He used spyware to capture conversation with members of Guzman's criminal organization.

Guzman is facing multiple counts, including firearm and drug trafficking charges, and faces life in prison. Though the list of charges does not include murder, testimony took a graphic turn when Isaias Valdez was called to the stand. The former-security-guard- turned-pilot recalled when Guzman was involved in the gruesome murders of three rivals.

Former Colombian drug lord Juan Carlos "La Chupeta" Ramirez also called to court, testifying he started working with El Chapo in the early '90s. Ramirez went to work with Guzman for 18 years and was eventually captured in 2007. He was so hotly pursued by authorities that he underwent several plastic surgeries to try to evade capture.

One constant fixture in the courtroom has been Guzman's wife of more than 10 years, former beauty queen Emma Coronel. Coronel helped her husband escape from a Mexican prison in 2015, according to testimony from a former-prison-guard-turned-Chapo-associate. She is not facing charges at this time and her lawyer had no comment about those allegations.

In their final move to convince jurors of Guzman's guilt, prosecutors showed images of the tunnel that provided his escape. A government expert described it as being just under a mile-long, complete with a motorcycle track said to have been used by El Chapo and an associate for the ride to freedom.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: And it was CNN's Sonia Moghe who had been inside the courtroom for this trial.

Sonia, you have to tell me, first and foremost, how did El Chapo react to hearing guilty on all counts?

[15:20:01]

SONIA MOGHE, CNN PRODUCER: Well, Brooke, it was completely silent in the courtroom as that district judge, Brian Cogan, read out those jurors' verdict form, but the jurors kept their eyes down. They did not look up at Guzman, who was able to see them.

There's nothing blocking, obstructing his view of these jurors. But he was completely emotionless during the reading of those 10 counts. It was 10 guilty counts. His wife, who's been, as you just mentioned, a constant presence in the courtroom, also emotionless.

In fact, just minutes before the judge and the jurors were brought in to hear the verdict, a member of the defense team walked up to her and tried to hand her some Kleenex, and she politely declined.

She really, really remained strong during that verdict. And I asked her how you're feeling in Spanish just moments after the verdict, and she said: "I'm good. Thank you."

You know, this was really a huge victory for prosecutors, who, by the way, worked without paychecks for much of this trial, seven days a week, pulling these incredibly long hours during this three-month trial. Because of the shutdown, they weren't getting those paychecks for quite some time.

The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York was in court today as that verdict was read. Now Guzman is facing these life sentences. And the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York said it is a sentence of which there was no escape and no return.

Again, Guzman notorious for having escaped from Mexican prisons twice. So, not only a victory for the U.S. governments who have brought him to the U.S. to have him tried and kept him secure here, but also to get these guilty counts.

BALDWIN: Wow.

Sonia Moghe just on the color inside the courtroom, and just thinking of these witnesses, talking to a lawyer last hour saying they will likely get lifetime protection, all the security just to come and go. How extraordinary to cover.

Thank you very much, Sonia, in New York for us.

Meantime, just in, with a second summit scheduled this month, why the U.S. is now asking North Korea to hand over a list of scientists involved in its nuclear and missile programs and what information that could reveal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:26:51]

BALDWIN: The top commander in charge of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula says that there is little evidence that Kim Jong-un is willing to give up his nuclear arsenal.

General Robert Abrams told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that he considers a second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a positive sign, but warned that the rogue nation remains a serious military threat to the United States. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. ROBERT ABRAMS, COMMANDER OF U.S. FORCES KOREA: I remained clear- eyed about the fact that, despite a reduction in tensions along the DMZ, and a cessation of strategic provocations, coupled with public statements of intent to denuclearize, little to no verifiable change has occurred in North Korea's military capabilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Kylie Atwood is CNN's national security reporter. She's with me now.

A treat to have you in person. Welcome.

(CROSSTALK)

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Good to see you.

BALDWIN: How does this development impact their summit in Vietnam in the coming weeks?

ATWOOD: Right.

So we're learning from a source very familiar with the U.S.-North Korean negotiations right now that the U.S. has asked for a list of North Korea's nuclear and missile scientists. Why does this matter?

It matters because these are the guys that are the brain trust on this nuclear program. They are the ones that have developed it and have continued to develop it over the years. And even though there has been a pause in missile testing and nuclear testing over the past year, while there's been U.S.-North Korea diplomacy, they're still working on this nuclear program.

BALDWIN: How is North Korea to react to that?

ATWOOD: That's a good question.

They have said that they are going to be very skeptical of any ask like this from the U.S. Why does the U.S. want this list? What actually are they going to do with this list?

Well, one thing to consider is that there are countries around the world, there are rogue regimes, rogue groups that would want these scientists. It's not just North Korea. It could be terrorist groups. It could be Iran and Syria that would potentially try and recruit these scientists if it looks like the U.S. and North Korea are indeed going to enter into negotiations, which would make their jobs no more applicable.

They'd be kicked out. So do you pay them? Do you keep them on? The U.S. wants to know who they are, so they can figure out what to do with them to prevent a nuclear program from budding up somewhere else.

The other thing is, they have been hard at work over the last year -- a report just out from Stanford University yesterday said that in 2017 they think that North Korea had about 30 nuclear weapons. Now, 2019, they think it's closer to 37. So these guys have been hard at work, despite the fact that U.S.-North Korea negotiations, diplomacy, has been slowly moving along.

BALDWIN: Continuing forward.

I know you're heading on that trip. Kylie Atwood, thank you very much. Good to see you.

Back to the other breaking news, though, a White House official says the president is likely to sign an agreement on border security, preventing another government shutdown. But could the president still declare a national emergency?

Also, pushups. Bill Cosby apparently had a pushup routine in prison. The spokesperson for the comedian says that he is having a -- quote, unquote -- "amazing experience" behind bars.

More on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)