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McCabe: "I Think It's Possible" Trump Is a Russian Asset; Gang of Eight Quiet After McCabe Claims He Warned About Trump; GOP Maryland Governor Larry Hogan Considers Presidential Run; Interview with Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE). Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired February 20, 2019 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:00] GREG BROWER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF NEVADA: I know he's trying to sell a book but the last 24 hours or since the "60 Minutes" interview, I've been surprised at how much he's saying about the ongoing investigation, about the Gang of Eight briefing that he has described, and he's taken shots at the Department of Justice inspector general in a way that I would not have expected.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Knowing the man as you do, any ideas as to why he'd be doing this?

BROWER: Well, he's clearly trying to sell a book and he's on a book tour. He's also trying to restore his reputation that was damaged significantly by the inspector general's report. He's reportedly the subject of an ongoing grand jury investigation into his conduct and this would be a strange strategy for avoiding an indictment to talk like this, but that might be part of it. And he's trying to restore his reputation so maybe all of that is leading him to talk as much as he is but it's surprising.

BALDWIN: Let me play one other clip, this is when he was asked about the Trump family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Was the president's family being looked into before the appointment of Mueller or after?

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: That's something I don't feel comfortable talking about as it could go to ongoing investigative matters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: It was noteworthy, he paused. He didn't quite go there on the Trump family and investigations, ongoing investigations, yet he's -- he feels free to speak of other investigations. Why is that?

BROWER: It's hard to say, Brooke. I think a lot of current and former FBI and DOJ officials are watching these interviews and wondering why that last answer you just played hasn't been the answer he has given for more questions relating to the ongoing investigation. I'm surprised. BALDWIN: I was talking to Sunlen about how these -- the Gang of Eight

members of Congress, they don't want to talk about this. McCabe saying they, including the Mitch McConnells and the Nuneses and the Paul Ryans of the world, knew for months about this investigation into the president but it didn't raise any concerns at the time. And, yes, it was classified but that knowing that, is it interesting to you that no one object e objected at the time?

BROWER: I'm not sure it's that interesting. I've been in many Gang of Eight briefings, there are sober affairs. Questions are asked sometimes but the Senators and House members, for a change, are in listen mode more than anything else. And I think, though, that based upon my experience with such briefings and the general understanding that operates is that -- I'm not surprised members like Leader McConnell are saying I can't comment on this. Again, I am surprised McCabe is talking so much about.

BALDWIN: It got it.

Mr. Brower, thank you so much. Good to have you on, sir.

BROWER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: We have more on our breaking news. A United States Senator weighing in on CNN's reporting that the special counsel report may be delivered as early as next week. And we now have the president's response to that.

Plus, Senator Bernie Sanders shattering money records on his first day of round two. Van Jones joins me to talk about what this means for his candidacy in an already crowded field.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:38:04] BALDWIN: Senator Bernie Sanders is a record-breaking fundraising machine. A day after joining the increasingly crowded fund-raising race for president, he's already joined $6 million, $4 million of that came within hours of his announcement. His closest competitor, Senator Kamala Harris, followed by Amy Klobuchar, who has raised one million in two days, and other candidates haven't released their day one numbers.

As we're talking about this, Wolf Blitzer will moderate our next town hall with Senator Sanders at his next Monday night Eastern.

Van Jones, CNN political commentator and host of CNN's "THE VAN JONES SHOW."

My friend, good to have you on.

So $6 million, $6 million, blowing past the other folks, does that amount of money tell you there's legit support for this man to become president?

VAN JONES, CNN HOST: Absolutely. In some ways, Bernie Sanders never stopped running for president even after the campaign was over. He worked hard to elect Hillary Clinton, though some of his followers didn't support her the way he maybe hoped but then he immediately pivoted. Nobody noticed this, he built a social media powerhouse focused on Medicare-for-All.

There's one reason why every Democrat has to talk about Medicare-for- All, because he joined forces with nurses and others and relentlessly went out there and built a massive machine around that issue and that machinery is now capable of turning on a dime into presidential campaign. Number two, you saw the benefit when those numbers came in.

BALDWIN: I hear you on the never really stopped running piece. But here's what I want to know. Does he want to win? Does he want to become president or does he want all of his progressive policies out there?

[14:39:56] JONES: If that's what he wanted, he would haven't to run. I've never seen anything like this in the history of the country and I've looked for it. He's not a member of the Democratic Party, not a member of the Republican Party but now the Democratic Party from the top to the bottom seems to have taken on almost all of his ideas.

When he started talking about this stuff four or five years ago it was considered outlandish, incredible, Medicare for everybody? Free college? What are you talking about? If you fell asleep four years ago and woke back up you would think all of these people were Bernie Sanders wearing different outfits because they all sound like him so he's already won the battle of the ideas I think he looked at the field and wasn't confident that an Elizabeth Warren or any other progressive could get the job done, could win the nomination and beat Donald Trump.

And I think he's trying to go for it. By the way, why not? He was almost an unknown half a decade ago. Now he's got almost universal name recognition. Why not take one more shot at the brass ring?

BALDWIN: How about someone whose name maybe not all Americans know but he's out there. Larry Hogan, on the Republican side, the second- term Republican governor of Maryland, he's been flirting with challenging President Trump. This is what he said to CBS News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY HOGAN, (R), GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND: The issue I'm concerned about is he has a very low reelect number. In the high 30s or low 40s so the chance of him losing a general election are pretty good. I'm not saying he couldn't win but he's pretty weak in the general election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Pretty weak in the general election. And fun fact, Larry Hogan's father was the first Republican member of Congress to call for President Richard Nixon's impeachment. And here Governor Hogan potentially walking that same walk of his father, standing up perhaps when other Republicans aren't. What do you think of him?

JONES: He's interesting. He beat my friend ben jealous who ran against him and beat him soundly. Ben Jealous is a popular and beloved NAACP head and couldn't pull it off because this Republican governor is that popular with Republicans, with Democrats, with Independents, with blacks and whites. So he's the kind of Republican that I think Paul Ryan and others were praying for back when they did the autopsy, when Mitt Romney and John McCain were defeated by Obama.

The question is, could he win in his own party? It's not clear he can. He doesn't have the name recognition but he is somebody who -- he is one of the few Republicans left that Democrats, Independents and Republicans like and respect and he won a reelection in a blue state against a strong blue challenger in the middle of a blue wave. That gives you the strength he might be able to bring to a general election. I don't see how he wins the nomination in his own party, though.

BALDWIN: Got it. Gosh, bringing up the autopsy. Doesn't that feel like so long ago, Van Jones?

Van Jones --

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: Long memory.

BALDWIN: Van Jones, we watch you on Saturday nights here on CNN, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. His guest this weekend, Congressman Joe Kennedy and Hasan Minhaj. So that's only here on CNN.

Thank you.

New twists in the investigation involving "Empire" star, Jussie Smollett, including our first look at a threatening letter sent. And why investigators want to look at his financial records.

Plus, after "The New York Times" reported the president wanted to put someone new in charge of the investigation coming out of the southern district of New York, would this constitute obstruction of justice? We'll ask Democratic Senator Tom Carper, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:47:29] BALDWIN: Back to breaking news, in the clearest indication yet that Robert Mueller is nearly finished with his almost two-year investigation, CNN has learned Attorney General Bill Barr is getting ready to announce the completion of Mueller's Russia investigation, perhaps as early as next week. Besides the timing, the biggest question remains the scope of what exactly Barr will release publicly and share with Congress.

Senator Tom Carper is a Democrat from Delaware. He sits on Homeland Security and Finance Committees and is a ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committees.

Senator Carper, thank you so much for coming on.

REP. TOM CARPER (D), DELAWARE: Thank you so much having me. BALDWIN: The A.G. is only obligated to tell you that the

investigation is complete and whether Mueller was prevented to act on investigative efforts but that's it. Bill Barr has no obligation to tell you anything. Do you have any concerns once Barr gets the Mueller report?

CARPER: I do. The American people deserve to know the truth. Thomas Jefferson said, if people know the truth, they won't make a mistake. And there's Democrat and Republican support in the Senate that Bob Mueller will be allowed to complete his investigation but it's not the conversation that will be put up on a shelf and gather dust so we need to know what it says.

BALDWIN: If he has no obligation to Congress, how will you learn? What will you say? How will you push for that transparency?

CARPER: The -- over the House of Representatives, which the Democrats are in the majority, as you know they have subpoena powers and the ability to in this case with Matt Whitaker to call him in, to subpoena him if they need to. To get truthful answers out of him. They can do that with other members of the administration. Apparently Mr. Barr believes that presidents are above the law.

I came back from a congressional delegation, a delegation of hundreds in Guatemala and El Salvador where a bunch of us tried to explain to the leaders of those three countries that presidents are not above the law, that attorneys general don't work for the president, and the way that the system is supposed to work is supposed to be checks and balances to make sure we do the right thing.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPER: Kind of ironic to come back to the United States and see maybe we're talking to the wrong president, I don't know.

[14:50:10] BALDWIN: I want to ask you about this "New York Times" piece reporting that the president asked his acting ag Whitaker whether Geoffrey Berman, the United States attorney for the southern district of New York, could be put in charge, to unrecuse himself to be put in charge of this Michael Cohen investigation. This question divided a lot of minds. Do you believe this is obstruction of justice?

CARPER: I'm not a lawyer, naval fighting officer, retired Navy captain, studied economics, so I don't -- but I know when something is wrong and this is wrong. We have to race to do the right thing, not what's easy and expedient. By the way, the attorney general of the United States doesn't work for the president. He works for the people of the United States. He's our lawyer, not the president's.

BALDWIN: Do you think the president understood that?

CARPER: No. If he does understand it he's ignored it. Afraid not.

BALDWIN: Congressional leadership didn't object when McCabe informed them the FBI opened this counterintelligence investigation into President Trump and, yes, it was classified but knowing this, is it interesting to you that Leader McConnell and Chairman Nunes and Speaker Ryan did not object at the time?

CARPER: Well, I'm not intimately a familiar with what you're talking about in this instance.

BALDWIN: The fact that Andrew McCabe -- if I may, that Mr. McCabe had to brief the then Gang of Eight on this counterintelligence investigation because of the belief that potentially the president was a Russian asset, et cetera, so they had to give the Gang of Eight this heads up that the FBI was investigating. Are you aware of that?

CARPER: Not really.

BALDWIN: Andrew McCabe is doing all this press, he's on this book tour --

(CROSSTALK)

CARPER: I understand he's written a book and is on a book tour.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. And he's revealing a lot.

(CROSSTAWLK)

CARPER: I know him a little bit. Let me say, I knew Andrew McCabe a little bit. You know who I knew better? I know James Comey a lot better, Bob Mueller a lot better. And when I was chairman of Homeland Security Committee in the United States Senate I had an opportunity to work with both of them and they are two of the finest people I've ever worked with.

I'm a retired Navy captain, Vietnam veteran. I admire Robert Mueller, not just for the leadership he provided for the FBI, but for his service to our country in uniform, heroic service. And when I think of our president's service to our country, I don't think it was heroic, though it was not in uniform.

BALDWIN: Do you think it's appropriate, given everything you've said and Mr. Comey and McCabe, do you think it's appropriate for them and specifically Mr. McCabe to continue to talk about ongoing investigations?

CARPER: At this point in time, I would say the less said the better. If you'll notice, Bob Mueller has been admirably very --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Tight-lipped?

CARPER: He's kept his own counsel. They have not leaked. That's probably the better path to follow. Hopefully, he will be able to disclose to us what they've learned and let the pieces fall where they may. But I have to go back to what I said earlier. It's incredibly important we know what they've learned and that we'll see where the truth takes us. BALDWIN: I think many people in America would agree with you, Senator

Carper.

Last question, I want to take you back to your recent trip to Central America because now you have these 16 states challenging Trump's authority for declaring this national emergency to build this wall. And meeting with presidents of Guatemala and Honduras and El Salvador, what did you see?

CARPER: We put in place something called Alliance for Prosperity, a Central American of plan for Colombia, developed by Joe Biden. It was very successful and it worked in Colombia. We've tried to create a Central American version called Alliance for Prosperity on Economic Opportunity, to focus on the rule of law, to focus on the corruption.

And what I saw was good works being done. We're putting up money for it but other countries are helping out as well. It's an encouraging situation. We're seeing a transition in leadership. A 38-year-old centrist was elected as president of El Salvador three weeks ago. He'll be replacing a leftist guerrilla, 75-year-old leftist guerrilla leader from long ago.

It's a new day. We'll see a woman elected in a couple months I think, as the former attorney general, she'll be elected as the next president of Guatemala. So we'll restore of rule of law and respect for law and continue to fight corruption in that role.

[14:55:09] BALDWIN: Senator Tom Carper, thank you so much.

CARPER: Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

We are just getting word about when former Trump fixer, Attorney, Michael Cohen, will be reporting to prison. And the timing may impact possible testimony. We'll talk about that.

Also, a new twist in this whole Jussie Smollett case. Chicago police now working to obtain the actor's financial records. We'll talk about what they are hoping to find there.

Stay with me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:00:05] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.