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Interview with Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA); McCabe: "I Think It's Possible" Trump is a Russian Asset; Gang of Eight Quiet after McCabe Claims He Warned about Trump. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 20, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: There are two different parts. One is the Army Corps of Engineers' civil works project. And, yes, I do have a bill on that. And, yes, we would try to do both lawsuits as well as pass legislation. There's another way in which the Congress will be dealing with that in a very short order. Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, will be working on a resolution to disapprove the emergency declaration that the president made. So all of these things are in play. The lawsuit deals with some of this.

But there's an underlying constitutional issue here that we have to pay attention to. The Congress of the United States for more than a year debated what to do with the wall. To build a wall and not build a wall and how much to spend on border security and the wall came to the conclusion, both Houses, a bill that provided $1.37 billion for border security, including some money for walls, and some very specific places where a wall could not be built.

The president signed that bill. It became law. No sooner was it done than the president immediately said he was going to usurp the power of the Congress, Article I, Section IV of the Constitution, and appropriate money on his own using an emergency declaration that had never been used in that way before, literally to go around to usurp the power of Congress. That is a major constitutional issue.

If he's allowed to do this, he not only has the current power to wage war virtually anywhere in the world, but also the power to appropriate money and literally, we have lost one of the pillars, one of the three pillars of our democracy and that is the congressional authority to appropriate money and to determine whether we're going to go to war or not. It is fundamental and it is appropriate. The lawsuits deal directly with that and Congress will deal with it also.

BRIANNE KEILAR, CNN HOST: I want to ask you about our breaking news that we have in here.


KEILAR: The Justice Department is preparing to announce as soon as next week that it has received the report from the Mueller investigation. This is the clearest indication yet that the special counsel's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election is finally, after a couple of years now, coming to an end. What are your concerns once this is in the Attorney General Bill Barr's hands about what you, Congress, will be able to see and won't be able to see?

GARAMENDI: Well, it's not just me, it's not just the Congress, it's the American public. This issue has to be displayed fully and public. Undoubtedly, there's some classified information in there and maybe some ways in which the information was gathered and that can be redacted. But a full report needs to be available, not just to Congress, but to the American public.

This issue has totally consumed America, consumed the presidency, and obviously, the Congress. We need to know and we need to conduct our own public hearings based upon whatever information -- I hope it is almost all of it, if not the entire report made available to the public -- and we'll need to review it in Congress. It is extraordinarily important. The elements in it are pretty well known.


KEILAR: He doesn't have to do everything in there, though. He doesn't have to.

GARAMENDI: Well, he should give us everything except those very, very specific things that talk about how the information was gathered and that is the secret techniques that were used to gather the information. But the information that was gathered must be made public, all of it. This is --


KEILAR: Do you have any indication --


KEILAR: I'm running out of time, but I just want to get a sense because we're curious, of course, what will be made available to the public. Do you have any indication or is it just this open question that you will not receive all of the information minus the sources and methods?

GARAMENDI: Sources and methods, OK, you can leave that out, but what was discovered from those sources and methods. The total report, the conclusions, and those issues that are still open must be made public not only to Congress, but to the American public. And Congress must take that, whatever there is -- and hopefully it's complete -- take all of that information and conduct public hearings on it, calling in witnesses, and doing whatever is necessary.

Think about the Watergate period. It was those public hearings by Congress that illuminated the issues that Nixon had and similarly it will illuminate the issues of Donald Trump and his obstruction of justice, collusion, or whatever else is in that report.

KEILAR: All right, Congressman John Garamendi, thank you so much.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

KEILAR: Next, Bernie Sanders hauling in nearly $6 million in the first day of his presidential bill, far outpacing his competition. We will break down how he compares with the other 2020 contenders on key progressive issues.

[13:34:49] Plus, the former acting FBI director says he still thinks it's possible that President Trump is a Russian asset, as Vladimir Putin threatens to attack the U.S.


KEILAR: Senator Bernie Sanders is kicking off his campaign for president with quite a bang. Within 24 hours of announcing his bid, Sanders pulled in nearly $6 million from 225,000 donors. And that has set a new record for first-day donations in the 2020 race, surpassing Senator Kamala Harris, who had previously held this title with $1.5 million on her first day. A distant second there now. And that has Sanders feeling pretty good, as you can imagine, and even thinking about possible running mates.


[13:40:07] SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We would look for somebody who is maybe not of the same gender that I am, and maybe somebody who might be a couple of years younger than me, and somebody who can take the progressive banner.


KEILAR: So this time around, Sanders is facing a more crowded progressive field of candidates. And while the dynamics of the primary race are still taking shape, there are early dividing lines that are forming.

And CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us now with the key issues that we should watch to understand that -- Ryan?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, there's no doubt that Bernie Sanders' 2016 race pushed the Democratic Party to the left in a big way, but he is a standard bearer for progressive politics. We've taken the key issues that the candidates are talking about and showing you where they stand on the liberal to progressive spectrum.

Keep in mind, these aren't all of the candidates running and this isn't how they feel about the issues. We're looking at it in more general terms to give you an idea. The graphics we will show you are from the most liberal, down closer to the moderate part of the political spectrum. And we talk about health care, no doubt that Bernie Sanders was a leader in this respect.

He's the first person to talk about Medicare-for-All and he's been specific in his desire that the U.S. will eventually get to a singer- payer system. And Elizabeth Warren is with him in that. The other candidates, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand have signed on to the Medicare-for-All plan, but they've been more nuanced in their desire to get to that point. But maybe pushing gradually to singer payer but keeping open a private insurance option. Candidates like Michael Bloomberg and Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, talk about reforming Obamacare but keeping the option for private insurance still available.

Let's talk about another issue, free college tuition. And this is a big one for Bernie Sanders. He has brought so much of the Democratic Party over to his way of thinking. Look at these other candidates who have jumped onboard with the idea of free tuition at college universities. Warren is there, Kamala Harris is there, Gillibrand is there.

Amy Klobuchar, in the town hall on CNN, she talked about how the United States just can't -- simply can't afford that big of a price tag. She's talked about free community college for two-year schools and expanding grant opportunities to other students. Cory Booker has been more focused on the debt side of college tuition and finding ways to reform that process and making college more affordable on that end.

Finally, let's talk about the minimum wage. And this may be the best example of the Sanders push to the Democratic Party. Look at all of these candidates who have signed up for a $15 federal minimum wage. That would mean basically the floor for minimum wage across the entire country would be $15 an hour. Harris, Gillibrand, Booker, Warren, Sanders, all of them in the Senate have signed on to his bill pushing for that. Klobuchar does think it should be increased but she hasn't put a specific number associated with it.

Meanwhile, Michael Bloomberg -- who is not officially in the race, but we used him as part of this exercise to kind of demonstrate just how far and broad the Democratic Party can be on this -- he has said that he doesn't think putting a federal minimum wage this high at this stage would be such a good idea because each state has a different need and it should be left to the states.

Brianna, this conversation will continue. There's a lot of nuance within each one of these issues and the candidates' Web sites illustrate that a little bit more. But there's no doubt that this party is a lot further to the left than they were four years ago.

KEILAR: And a lot because of Bernie Sanders in the last four years.

Ryan Nobles, thank you so much.

Sanders is going to join CNN for a town hall hosted by our Wolf Blitzer. That's going to be Monday night at 8:00 eastern, right here on CNN.

Next, a former acting FBI director insists he told the Gang of Eight lawmakers about his investigation into President Trump. Why Andrew McCabe thinks one of them may have leaked that information to the White House.


[13:48:37] KEILAR: In a revealing new interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, former acting FBI director, Andrew McCabe, is defending his decision to open an investigation into the president, saying that Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey raised real questions about whether the president was actually working at Moscow's behest. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: Ultimately, when the director is fired, the president makes the comment about thinking about Russia when he fired the director, we were in a position to say this is so clearly an articulatable factual basis that a federal crime may have been committed and that a threat to national security exists. We are obligated to open up a case under these circumstances.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": At the time that, in the book, that Rosenstein offered to wear a wire to a meeting with the president -- and you consulted with the attorneys at the FBI about that -- at that moment, did you think that was a good idea?

MCCABE: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.


MCCABE: I felt like it was an incredibly invasive and potentially precedent-setting thing to do.

When the president and his supporters continually perpetuate this false narrative of corruption within the FBI, that makes their job harder every day.

COOPER: Do you know, was the president's family being looked into either before the appointment of Mueller or after?

MCCABE: That's something I don't feel comfortable talking about as it could go to ongoing investigative matters.

COOPER: Do you still believe the president could be a Russian asset?

MCCABE: I think it's possible. I think that's why we started our investigation. And I am really anxious to see where Director Mueller concludes that.


[13:50:04] KEILAR: CNN Political Analyst and Congressional Correspondent for "The New York Times," Julie Davis is here with us now.

It's stunning to hear Andrew McCabe say that, that it's possible the president could be a Russian asset. But do other officials share that view?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's interesting, in the sound you played, he tried to be careful on what he would and would not comment on because it went to investigative matters. The fact that the Mueller investigation is still going on, it leaves open a lot of those questions. And the fact that he is unable or unwilling to say now that he thinks it's a settled question, that it was the suspicion on which the investigation was opened.

But it was ruled out or doesn't seem likely, is significant. It's the reason everyone is so interested and eager to see what Mueller has produced. And, in fact, the fact that we know that it's one of the questions that the special counsel has been weighing makes all of those sort of unanswered questions a little bit more -- a little bit sharper now that McCabe is out there openly talking about them.

KEILAR: He says he briefed the bipartisan group of congressional leaders, known as the Gang of Eight, so the top leaders, the top intel folks, in both the House and the Senate, about the counterintelligence investigation into the president. He said, quote, "No one objected." That's something the former chair of the House Oversight Committee, Trey Gowdy, finds hard to believe. Let's listen.


MCCABE: It was my expectation that it likely would be --

TREY GOWDY (R), FORMER CONGRESSMAN & FORMER CHAIR, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Devin and Paul knew about it and had no problem with it, that's exactly what he's getting at. And the reason he's doing it this way is Devin and Paul are not allowed to discuss anything that is said in the Gang of Eight meeting, and McCabe knows that, so he can level the accusation and Paul and Devin cannot refute him.

I find that stunning that they would know about a second one and not say a single, solitary word. And I will continue to not believe they knew about it unless one or the other contradicts it.


KEILAR: So CNN -- it's protocol not to say anything, that's the thing, these Gang of Eight. So we reached out to them and they haven't contacted us. Devin Nunes, who McCabe wondered did he leaked something to the White House about this, said, "Andie McCabe was fired from the FBI for lying and leaking, and many of the stories he's telling on the book tour are transparently self-serving. Although I cannot comment on the Gang of Eight briefing, it's preposterous to deny that the FBI was investigating Donald Trump from the moment it opened its investigation in mid-2016."

How do you square that with what Gowdy said?

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: There's no question that Nunes has a point that McCabe is an unreliable narrator. There was an I.G. report that said he had credibility issues. There's questions about whether -- what he's saying, whether it's appropriate for him -- he says it's protocol not to comment on Gang of Eight briefings. So whether it's appropriate on it and whether the substance of what he's saying is true.

I think Gowdy is saying that he's put the members of Congress in an untenable position because they're unable to deny what he said. But the other point Nunes is making is that, from the beginning, whether or not they opened a separate investigation into the president himself, the basis of the counterintelligence investigation that was going on was essentially about Donald Trump, and that McCabe is trying to put a spin on it that members of Congress were briefed at another level later in the process after Director Comey was fired and that that's absurd.

That it was clear they were after Donald Trump and that this is sort of spinning the facts in a way that members of Congress are not going to be able to refute because they're unable to comment on what happened.

KEILAR: It's a tough spot.

Julie Davis, thank you so much.

[13:53:55] Back to our breaking news that the Mueller report could be delivered as early as next week. What we know about the chances that it could be made public.


[13:57:43] KEILAR: The North Carolina elections board is investigating what happened to what may be more than a thousand absentee ballots in the state's ninth congressional district race. Many were unlawfully collected in a scheme by a Republican operative, according to the State Board of Elections, which has put the Republican victory in the election on hold.

On this program yesterday, Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of North Carolina's Republican Party, called CNN's reporting on the story into question.


DALLAS WOODHOUSE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NORTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN PARTY: I contacted that CNN reporter weeks later and told them I thought they needed to work to retract that story. His actual allegation in the story was that --


KEILAR: Let's talk --


KEILAR: Let's talk about what you said.

WOODHOUSE: Ma'am, I'm answering the question.

KEILAR: You didn't talk about numbers of ballots. You said if there was fraud.

WOODHOUSE: Ma'am, I was referring to his story. And his story -- the quote was, if your story is correct. His story turned out not to be correct.


KEILAR: CNN takes these claims very seriously. And our initial story that Woodhouse was referring to was accurate. We found no evidence he called for a retraction. So we reached out to him after my interview, at which point he admitted he was not questioning our reporting. And he apologized for using the word "retraction."

This is what he later tweeted: "I want to apologize to Drew Griffin over a misstatement I made in a live interview. I never asked him or CNN to retract the story. I informed the producer that I questioned the allegation itself. He reported on that over 1,000 ballots may have been destroyed."