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Stone Summoned to Court; Democratic Field Begins to Sharpen; McCabe Told Lawmakers about Probe; Trump Asked Whitaker about Cohen Case. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired February 19, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Brianna Keilar stars right now. Have a great afternoon.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, Bernie Sanders returns for a 2020 sequel, but this time he's got a lot more competitors to share the screen time.

Get me Roger Stone says the judge presiding over his case after Stone appeared to threaten her on social media.

Plus, the revelations from the fired deputy FBI director are getting even more surreal. He says the FBI and Justice officials feared the president was working for Russia. And he told top leaders in Congress at the time.

And the oversight of President Trump just took a new turn involving cash, the Saudis and sensitive nuclear technology.

Roger Stone being ordered back into court after a post on his social media account appeared to threat the judge in the case. This is the image on Stone's Instagram account, now deleted. It shows a picture of Judge Amy Berman Jackson with a set of crosshairs behind her. The post appears to be in defiance of a gag order imposing in the case just last week. Now Stone's attorneys filed a letter of apology with the court Monday, and eventually that post was taken down.

CNN political analyst Sara Murray here with us, along with Jack Quinn. And we have former White House counsel -- or he is the former White House counsel from the Clinton administration.

So this is going to be an interesting court appearance. When is it going to happen?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's supposed to be back in court on Thursday afternoon, and the judge basically said, OK, if you want to, you know, behave like this, be up to these shenanigans on Instagram, you can come to my courtroom, you can answer to me, and you can explain to me why you should continue to operate under this pretty lenient gag order. I mean he's not allowed to speak in and around the courthouse, but he's allowed to continue to be out there publicly talking about the case. But also you can explain to me, Roger, to the judge, why we shouldn't

change the conditions of your release. Also, you know, Roger is released. He's out. He's able to travel when he noifies the court. He's able to stay at his home in Florida and show up in D.C. for court appearances. But you can tell that the judge is pretty peeved and she wants to see him in person.

KEILAR: So it does -- because the lawyers have more restrictions, right, on what they can say than Roger Stone actually can?

MURRAY: Exactly. The gag order was actually harsher to the lawyers than it was to Roger.


So what might happen to Roger Stone? What might the judge decide as he does have this rather lenient arrangement for his movements and what he can say even under this gag order?

JACK QUINN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, if stupidity were a crime, he'd be in jail for a long time. It's not. So I expect the gag order will be tightened in light of this. It's questionable whether the gag order has, in fact, been violated. Threatening a federal judge is a crime, but I'm not sure that this, frankly, violates that statute. It's not clear that it's a threat as that was meant. You have to take into account there are some First Amendment considerations. He's able to speak his mind.

But clearly here this was -- this was really bad, really stupid, and I expect that Judge Jackson will express her displeasure, tighten the gag order on him and give him fair warning that anything like this in the future is going to put him behind bars.

KEILAR: That's going to be difficult for Roger Stone if it's tightened, Sara, because he likes, obviously, to be out there.

MURRAY: He does. And, you know, I think that when Judge Amy Berman Jackson was grappling with this idea of putting a gag order on the case, she thought first to what happened in the case of Paul Manafort. She put a gag order on that case very early and got some criticism for it.

But, secondly, Roger Stone and his attorneys made it pretty clear that if there was some kind of very tight gag order they were going to try to fight it because he said it's his livelihood --


MURRAY: To be out there, to speak publicly and also he has a First Amendment right, you know, to speak, and then to defend himself. And I think that she really did take that into consideration when she was fashioning this.

But then, when you have him going out there -- and he didn't just post, you know, this image of her once with the crosshairs, which he denies are crosshairs behind him, then he put up another photo of the judge. Then he proceeded to post two follow-up posts sort of explaining the initial two photos. So he didn't handle this well a number of tries.

QUINN: And I think the -- you know, Roger may be dangling bait here.

MURRAY: Right.

QUINN: And I think the judge won't take the bait. I mean he probably would like her to come down really hard on him so that he can convince people that she's biased. You know, an Obama judge, a Clinton friend and so on, all of which is not true. But I think he would like to posture it that way so that he can really paint her as someone who's antagonistic to him and his cause.

MURRAY: And I think it is worth noting that even though, you know, he sounds very apologetic in the note he wrote to the court, he's still back on Instagram today saying that this is a fake news story, that the media is ginning up all this controversy. So he may be taking responsibility with the court, but he's certainly not doing it on his social media.

[13:05:05] KEILAR: Maybe his lawyers helped put that apology -- Sara Murray --

MURRAY: It's possible.

QUINN: I think his lawyers had a lot to do with -- a lot to do with it.

KEILAR: Had a lot to do -- maybe all of it to do.


KEILAR: All right, Jack --

QUINN: I think they're apologizing for themselves, too.


Jack Quinn, Sara, thank you so much.

Senator Bernie Sanders is now officially jumping into the presidential race. The Vermont independent will join the Democratic field for his second presidential run. A source on his campaign says they've already raised a million dollars in online donations since he declared this morning. Sanders, who is now the ninth declared candidate on the Democratic side, pointed to the current president as part of his reason for running.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know as well as I do that we are living in a pivotal and dangerous moment in American history. We are running against a president who is a pathological liar, a fraud, a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and someone who is undermining American democracy as he leads us in an authoritarian direction. I am running for president because now more than ever we need leadership that brings us together, not divides us up.


KEILAR: So while this is Sanders' second attempt, the political landscape has shifted dramatically since 2016. Sanders is joining a diverse field of Democratic candidates. And while some lean heavily to the left, candidates such as Senator Amy Klobuchar are taking a more moderate and pragmatic approach. At a CNN town hall last night, she laid out her positions.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, I believe this is unconstitutional, what he is doing, OK?

I will, as -- first day as the president, sign us back into the international climate change agreement. That is on day one.

I think that they are aspirations. I think we can get close. I don't think we are going to get rid of entire industries in the U.S.

DON LEMON, MODERATOR: What do you mean by aspirations?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, there's going to be compromises. It's not going to be exactly like that.

LEMON: So no Medicare for all?

KLOBUCHAR: I -- it could be a possibility in the future. I'm just looking at something that will work now.

I always look at every proposal and say, would this hurt my Uncle Dick in the deer stand?

To paraphrase Martin Luther King, if you -- you can do all you can to integrate a lunch counter, but if you can't afford a hamburger, what good did you do?

Am I tough boss? Sometimes, yes. I have pushed people too hard? Yes. But I have kept expectations of myself that are very high.

I am not for free four year college for all, no.

If I was a magic genie and could give that to everyone and we could afford it, I would.

LEMON: We're on a college campus. So you know many of the questions --

KLOBUCHAR: I know that. I know that.

LEMON: Many of the college --

KLOBUCHAR: But I've got to -- I've got to tell the truth. I mean we have this mounting --

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Network April Ryan here with us, along with CNN political analyst David Gregory.

So what -- this was pretty stunning because normally -- you know, we've seen a lot of candidates who are promising the world to voters and she's saying, look, I'm going to keep this very real with you about what we can and cannot do.

What did you think, April, about this approach and whether it's going to be received well by voters?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, she's practical and that's what she was trying to convey. And, you know, I've talked to some people who have live in Minnesota and they're like, look, that's what we deal with. We deal with practicalities.

But at the end of the day, being practical is one thing, but people want to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel for their pain. Politics is personal. And, you know, you heard some people clap when she said something about, you know, I believe it's too costly for a four-year college -- to pay for a four-year college. But then she's thinking about possibilities of paying for two-year colleges. You know, associate's degrees. You know, but she's looking at the practicality of it all, but she's going to -- she's going to find that she's going to some -- at some point have to break out of looking at things with the glass half empty versus the glass half full because you're going to have more people coming up talking about hope, what we can do and what we -- how to find ways to do it versus being, this is what we have this and this is what it looks like here and this is what it could look like down the road.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's an interesting point I think, actually, because you are going to find that she's going to be up against people who are -- who are movement politicians, like say a Beto O'Rourke is in the race and he has a lot of what Obama had, which is people projecting their hopes and expectations on to him separate from what he came -- what he's offering.

I think Amy Klobuchar, Senator Klobuchar, is a very serious person. She's a very good senator, very highly regarded in her state. You know, to start applying labels, I mean, as a moderate, she is pragmatic, and I think what she was saying there is, look, I'm not going to sell you everything. I'm not going to overpromise you. We have certain things we have to deal with. I think that's very appealing.

She also knows that right now in this ever-crowded race we have all these lanes of voters that you're trying to appeal to. And Amy Klobuchar is clearly a progressive, but she's also -- but she's probably not going to appeal to the most left wing voters in the party. And I think she knows that. And I think that's partly her -- why she gave those answers.

[13:10:10] KEILAR: She's in a different lane than Bernie Sanders, who I want to ask you about. GREGORY: Right.

KEILAR: OK, so I have heard a lot of people say, look, Bernie Sanders now has a lot more competition, which is true. He's got people who are closer in his lane for, let's say, policy prescriptions. But I also think that in 2016 he had this chance to build a brand and a real cultivate (ph) personality around him. So I wonder, as you look at what is different in 2020 compared to 2016, I mean what do -- what do you think is going to be different for Bernie Sanders or won't be different?

GREGORY: Well, I -- what's different is that he's perceived differently. And a lot of what he represented in 2016 is what has fueled the changes in the Democratic Party. And I think you look back at 2016 and say, oh, the way the establishment, you know, the empire struck back and Hillary Clinton kind of stomped on him, that has left a real bad taste in a lot of voters' mouths.

And you have more progressives now who are saying, yes, Bernie was right. And Bernie was really the tip of the spear of where we need to go as a party. Now, whether he can manage that being the standard bearer of all those ideas, more of a frontrunner now, more establishment within that progressive wing, that's what we're going to have to test. What's clear is that he's going to get a lot more attention, a lot more scrutiny and his lane is now a lot more crowded with people with similar ideas.

RYAN: Well, you know, the test of Bernie Sanders, we have the results of the test. When he ran the first time, Democrats in the party were very concerned, particularly Hillary Clinton's camp, because they did not know who he was, what he was really about because he was not a true Democrat. Now we know who he is. He's still an independent. Independent thinking.

I mean just look at what he did when the Democrats had their official response for the State of the Union Address with Stacey Abrams. He said, no, I'm going to do it my way. And that's how he's going to do it. The ground has been laid.

But you have to remember, Bernie Sanders may be older. It's not necessarily about the age, though, for Bernie Sanders, it's about the message. He's got young people.

KEILAR: That's right.

RYAN: The life blood. You know, but he's going to have a problem with the black community now versus when he ran against Hillary Clinton. You've got -- and he brought this up. You've got two black candidates right there that's in there now. There could be another coming in very soon. And he's concerned about that. And he didn't do so well in dealing with some of the issues in the black community when he ran for president. He had -- they had -- there was a coming to Jesus moment, if you will, with Black Lives Matter.

So Bernie Sanders is going to again try to find his way in a different way in this crowded field. We know what he's talking about, but how can he navigate the message through these different group of people he's trying to get (ph).

KEILAR: I can't get enough of you guys, so stay with me because there's more April and more David ahead.

We do have a programing note. Wolf Blitzer is going to moderate a presidential town hall with Senator Bernie Sanders on Monday at 8:00 p.m. You don't want to miss that. How is Bernie from 2016 going to bring in Bernie from 2020? Maybe we'll get a sense.

House Democrats sounding the alarm on the White House pushing to give sensitive nuclear technology to the Saudis. An effort backed by Michael Flynn.

Plus, the fired FBI deputy director today saying agency investigators feared the president may have been working for Russia. Hear who Andrew McCabe warned in Congress.

And, as states sue President Trump over his national emergency, he dares the courts to stop him from building his border wall.


[13:17:48] KEILAR: Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe is giving new insight into the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into President Trump. He says that investigators' concern built for months before FBI Director James Comey was fired. Here's what he told NBC about this probe.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you order a counterintelligence investigation into the president?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that tantamount to saying you felt there was reason to suspect that he was a national security threat? Is that what that means?

MCCABE: It is saying that we had information that led us to believe that there might be a threat to national security, in this case, that the president himself might, in fact, be a threat to the United States national security.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you suspect the president might actually be working for Russia?

MCCABE: We thought that might be possible, yes. We thought it might be possible. If you believe that the president might have obstructed justice for the purpose of ending our investigation into Russia, you have to ask yourself why. Why wouldn't any president of the United States not want the FBI to get to the bottom of Russian interference in our election?


KEILAR: Phil Mudd with us now, back with April Ryan and David Gregory.

So, Phil, you were a CIA counterterrorism official, an FBI senior intelligence adviser. Do you think that this counterintelligence investigation was justified?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: And let me be clear, I worked with Andy McCabe as well. I used to know him when I was at the bureau.

I think we're confusing two stories. One I think is appropriate, one I think is not.

If you're looking at what happened in the lead-up to the election and you have questions about, for example, was there inappropriate Russian involvement in the election that might have included campaign officials, that is a perfectly appropriate counterintelligence investigation. We've seen some of the information about Roger Stone, for example, that tells us there's some smoke there, you've got to look at it.

If you transition that to say, I want an open investigation on the president that might include a conversation about a wire in the Oval Office from the deputy attorney general, I haven't seen stuff that takes me there yet. So let's make sure we distinguish between a counterintelligence investigation on Russia and walking into the Oval Office with a wire.

Yes, a, no on b.

KEILAR: So when there is no on b in your mind --

MUDD: Yes.

[13:20:00] KEILAR: Does that undercut what you hear from Andy McCabe as he sort of makes the case and talks about his concerns for, a, the counterintelligence investigation?

MUDD: I think it raises --

KEILAR: Is he undercutting himself?

MUDD: It raises questions like Comey raised questions about the Hillary Clinton investigation. Are we looking at people who are stepping back calmly and saying, what are the facts of the investigation and where do the facts take us? He is absolutely right, obviously, in retrospect on opening the counterintelligence investigation. The facts say that Russia was all over the election and that they were engaged in conversations with people connected with the campaign.

But when you go to say, wow, like the Comey comments, for example, wow, in the midst of that we sat around an office and discussed the 25th Amendment, slow your roll on that one.

GREGORY: See, I think what -- what this goes to is, what is the president arguing against? He denies a lot of these claims, but then says that there was some animus against him -- MUDD: Yes.

GREGORY: That was political, or, you know, when he talks about the deep state. I don't think those have legitimacy. But when you hear, as you're saying, OK, let's -- we have real questions about this, let's investigate. And then to hear that a deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, is then raising, they say, well, we distrust him so much that, you know, let me wear a wire and go talk to him, or let's think about whether he's fit for office, that really does seem to go beyond the pale and I think he's going to undercut the investigation anyway.

Are you trying to get (INAUDIBLE).

KEILAR: OK, we're going to get a water and -- so here's what we're going to do. We're getting a water for April, but I actually want --

GREGORY: This is an ongoing pattern (INAUDIBLE) April.

KEILAR: No, I actually want to play a -- I want to play a sound bite and hear what you guys think about it because we also heard McCabe confirm for the first time that he told the gang of eight. So these are the top lawmakers, bipartisan in Congress, about the counterintelligence investigation into the president. Here's what he said.


ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: The purpose of the briefing was to let our congressional leadership know exactly what we'd been doing opening a case of this nature. Not something an FBI director, not something that an acting FBI would do by yourself, right? This was a recommendation that came to me from my team. I reviewed it with our lawyers. I discussed it at length with the deputy attorney general --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you tell Congress?

MCCABE: And I told Congress what we had done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did anyone object?

MCCABE: That's the important part here, Savannah, no one objected. Not on legal grounds. Not on constitutional grounds. And not based on the facts.


KEILAR: David Gregory, no one objected. So what's your reaction when you hear that?

GREGORY: Well, I mean that's surprising that nobody would object. It's just not clear how much, you know, was known at the time. And -- and I think -- I think what is so alarming about his interviews and about this book, the reaction that Jim Comey had, that there was sufficient fear about what was going on and questions about what the president or those close to him might have been involved with that they felt a counterintelligence, you know, investigation would be warranted. And I think as inappropriate as other activities may have been, as people think they may have been, the fact that they had those deep of concerns, I think should be -- is really telling as well.

KEILAR: All right, we're going to have you all stand by. See -- are you OK now?

RYAN: I love you.

KEILAR: I love you, too, April Ryan. I'm so sorry that -- I'm sorry that you coughed through that, but we --

GREGORY: We're nursing her back to health.

RYAN: Yes, you're nursing me back.

KEILAR: We're nursing her back to health.

GREGORY: This wasn't an attempt to just take more air time from me.

RYAN: I love you though.

KEILAR: But David was happy to do it. He took one for the team.

All right, April, hang in with us.

We're going to talk about this ahead. House Democrats launching another investigation into the White House, this time over a deal with Saudi Arabia that Michael Flynn once promoted.


[13:28:06] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: We have breaking news now. "The New York Times" reporting that President Trump spoke to his acting -- then Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker shortly after he came on board at the Department of Justice and proposed this idea on getting the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, an ally of Trump's, to unrecuse himself from the Michael Cohen investigation.

Joining me now to talk about this is Mark Mazzetti from "The New York Times," who broke this news, along with his colleagues.

Mark, this is a pretty stunning reveal here. Tell us about -- tell us about your reporting and what you found.

MARK MAZZETTI, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: What we -- we found was that back in November, Trump called Matt Whitaker and he broached the subject of having a new person put in charge of the Southern District of New York investigation. Now, recall that's the investigation going on in Manhattan that is investigating the Trump Organization and the role that the president played in hush money payments to women before the 2016 election. And what Trump did was he asked whether the U.S. attorney, who had to recuse himself in that investigation, could be put in charge. The real implication being that he needed an ally put in charge of this investigation because it was, from the president's point of view, spiraling out of control.

KEILAR: So this is important because Mark Whitaker just testified before Congress, and he said that he had not been pressured by the president when it came to various investigations.

MAZZETTI: That's right. A lot of his questioning was about conversations he had with the president about the different investigations going on. One of them being the Mueller investigation and, of course, there is the Southern District investigation. Whitaker said he had not been pressured. And as we say in the story, House investigators are now examining Whitaker's comments and investigating whether he might have committed perjury.