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Second Trump-Kim Summit Set in Vietnam; Deadly Clashes Along Venezuela's Border; Subpoena Mueller if Necessary; Public and Private Hearings on Michael Cohen; Strategy of Chaos and Division; Cross-Exam with Elie Honig; Hollywood's Red Carpet Night at the Oscar's. Aired 5- 6p ET

Aired February 24, 2019 - 17:00   ET



RYAN NOBLES, CNN HOST: You are live in the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Ryan Nobles, in tonight for Ana Cabrera from New York. Summit number two, the next historic face-to-face meeting between President Trump and leader of North Korea. It is happening in just a few days and officials on both sides are setting the scene and the mood before the two leaders even arrive.

The man taking the longest scenic route to the summit site will be the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. He's on a train that left Pyongyang yesterday. That's a two-day ride through all of eastern China. President Trump, meanwhile, will take Air Force One, the destination, Hanoi, Vietnam.

The plan is for the two men to meet privately on Wednesday, then with more people around on Thursday. The two leaders met before last June in Singapore and they made some promises to each other, most notably to work towards erasing nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula. The top American diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told CNN today that despite the goodwill, North Korea's nuclear threat remains.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do you think North Korea remains a nuclear threat?


TAPPER: But the president said he doesn't.

POMPEO: It's not what he said. I mean, I know precisely what he said.

TAPPER: He tweeted that there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.

POMPEO: What he said is that the -- what he said was that the efforts that had been made in Singapore, this commitment that Chairman Kim made have substantially taken down the risk to the American people. It's the mission of the Secretary of State and the president of the United States to keep the American people secure. We're aiming to achieve that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Now for his part, President Trump is clearly feeling confident ahead of the summit, lashing out at detractors without naming them, tweeting today, "so funny to watch people who have failed for years, they got nothing telling me how to negotiate with North Korea. But thanks anyway."

North Korean officials in a state media commentary today accused U.S. Democrats and intelligence agencies of "chilling the atmosphere for negotiations." Let's go live now to Hanoi, Vietnam. That's where CNN correspondent Will Ripley is standing by. Will, the first summit last year was really huge on that historic moment of the two men meeting face to face. That's already happened now. So what are your sources in North Korea telling you about the expectations for this next meeting?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey Ryan. Yes, if the Singapore summit was heavy on symbolism and made-for-TV moments, I think the North Koreans and the Americans frankly are keenly aware that here in Hanoi, it needs to be about results. Kim Jong-un is on the way. His bulletproof train should be arriving in Vietnam in some 24 hours or so.

And he's bringing with him a large and very diverse team. A larger team of negotiators than he brought to Singapore. Everything from seasoned diplomats to economic experts, people who will help him sit down across the table from President Trump, and from the North Korean point of view, try to hammer out the very best deal that is most favorable for the North Koreans.

And what my sources have told me is that North Korea really feels that they need to walk away from this meeting with results that they want in terms of economic relief, in terms of moving the dial towards the normalization of diplomatic ties.

The kind of things that the North Koreans say will help build trust with the United States, trust that they still don't have, despite the vaguely worded statement that they signed in Singapore, pledging among other things to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Ryan.

NOBLES: All right. Will Ripley, live for us in Hanoi, Vietnam. It seems pretty clear that this time around it is going to be about more than just handshakes. Will, thank you so much for that report. For more now, I want to bring in someone who's been to North Korea and actually negotiated with the country himself. Few people can claim that. And that is Bill Richardson.

He served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He is of course the former governor of New Mexico. Governor, thank you for being here. I mean, from your perspective, how dangerous is it for the president to not necessarily be in sync with his Secretary of State? It seemed as though what Mike Pompeo had to say this morning was much different from the rhetoric we've heard from the president.

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, unfortunately, this is typical of the president. He doesn't listen to his advisers. This is what worries me right now with North Korea. Kim Jong-un wants to deal only with President Trump. And at the lower level, ambassadorial level, Stephen Biegun, the North Korea agent who is negotiating for us, I think has done a good job.

But the president I think wants a headline, wants a big splash. He's not big on substance. And my worry is that he's going to make big concessions he shouldn't make.

NOBLES: Right. And I would imagine this interpersonal dynamic between Kim and President Trump as such an important part of it, the driver in all these negotiations. If there is a sense between the lower level officials that perhaps what Mike Pompeo is saying is not the same as what President Trump is saying.

[17:05:01] Could that mean that in the room they come up with a deal but then afterwards the whole thing falls apart?

RICHARDSON: Well, my worry is that Kim Jong-un, he's prepared. He is ready. He wants to stretch out negotiations. He wants a one-on-one with the president. He doesn't want to give up his nuclear weapons. And my worry is that the president is going to say, OK, what is it that you want? And Kim Jong-un is going to say I want a peace treaty for the peninsula.

The president gives him that and doesn't get an exchange, substantial dismantling of nuclear weapons, missiles, weapons of mass destruction, and settles for something less than he should. And this is where Pompeo and Biegun, and here I'm also rooting for John Bolton, you know, he's a hard-liner.

NOBLES: Right.

RICHARDSON: But he -- I hope is saying to the president, don't give up on the arms control side, the nuclear negotiations. That's the substance of the relationship. That's what affects American security, Japan, South Korea. Don't let him off the hook.

NOBLES: Right.

RICHARDSON: And my worry is that the president with his troubles with Mueller and the shutdown and the wall that he's going to make concessions on his own in the room one on one that he shouldn't.

NOBLES: Right. Now, the president tweeted about this situation this morning. In this one he said, "So funny to watch people who have failed for years, they got nothing, telling me how to negotiate with North Korea. But thanks anyway."

You may be one of the people he's talking about, given the fact that you have negotiated with North Korea. I mean, does he have any kind of a point here? I mean, there has been progress made in these negotiations. We're certainly not all the way there, but he has made breakthroughs that others in the past have yet to make.

RICHARDSON: Well, I've always given the president credit for taking the one-on-one meeting with Kim Jong-un. In other words, from the top to the bottom. In the past, the bottom up haven't failed. I have succeeded, I've got prisoners out, American servicemen, the remains of our soldiers, a lot of other stuff.

So I hope he wasn't talking about me, but he probably was. He doesn't like advice. He doesn't listen to his own people. That's the danger. I want him to succeed. He is my president. But, you know, Kim Jong-un knows what he's doing. He wants to have a one-on-one with the president so he gets prestige with his own people around the world. He's getting two now. He's got two.

NOBLES: Right;.

RICHARDSON: And he wants to -- he doesn't want to give up his nuclear weapons or his missiles. So he is extending that. He may give up something but it has to be verified. It has to be inspected. And the president has to realize to listen to his Secretary of State and his special negotiator, who's been negotiating with the North Koreans for the last year. He can't go in on his own and say OK, what do you want? I want this and shake hands and that's it. That's the worry.

NOBLES: Do you think that's part of kind of the president's personality here and where his businessman negotiating skills don't necessarily translate to a diplomatic stage? I mean, these are not the same things, are they?

RICHARDSON: That's right. I mean, when you negotiate diplomacy, it's totally different especially with somebody like Kim Jong-un. I have negotiated with him. They're tricky. They don't believe in making concessions. They delay. They want you to make the first deal, the first concession.

Like we did in Singapore when the president said, OK, I'll reduce troops, military exercises with South Korea. And Kim Jong-un said oh, OK, that's good. What else can you give? So, it's different. You know, the president has a unique style of diplomacy. You know, on trade, maybe with China, that may be working.

NOBLES: Right.

RICHARSON: But I want China to keep the sanctions on North Korea and I worry that China and Russia are going to ease up on the sanctions, less pressure on North Korea to make concessions on nuclear, on weapons of mass destruction, on missiles, that's the key to our security and the region's security.

NOBLES: OK. All right. Well this no doubt a lot at stake this week. Governor Richardson, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it.

Now, to the worsening humanitarian situation in and around Venezuela. Trucks carrying food and medicine into the country were stopped this weekend, some of them set on fire. And reports say at least five people died in clashes with Venezuelan troops.

The president there, Nicolas Maduro, is in a standoff with a growing opposition movement and he says American efforts to help his people are just a plot to boot him from power. The U.S. Secretary of State predicts that Maduro's time is running out.


POMPEO: America's policy has been very clear. We have supported the Venezuelan people. We will continue to do that. There'll be a meeting of the Lima group on Monday where further action will be contemplated. There are more sanctions to be had. There are more humanitarian assistance I think that we can provide. I think we will find other ways to make sure that food gets to the people who need it.

TAPPER: But it seems as though Maduro is not going anywhere near this plan, that he's holding on to power and the military seems to be staying with him, at least the military leaders.

[17:10:02] POMPEO: It always seems that way until the day it doesn't. I remember when I was a young soldier patrolling the then East German border. Nobody predicted on that day in 1989 that that wall would come crumbling down. Predictions are difficult. Picking exact days are difficult. I am confident that the Venezuelan people will make sure that Maduro's days are numbered.


NOBLES: CNN's Nick Payton Walsh on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. Nick, we saw you there in the middle of a terrifying scene yesterday. You and your crew in the middle of those violent clashes. Are things any calmer there today?

NICK PAYTON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Significantly calmer but really, Colombian authorities have got an ongoing problem at these border checkpoint areas were to go between Colombia and Venezuela. We saw today skirmishes continuing much lower level.

But the same opposition protest that tried to get aid across yesterday and were fought back by volumes of tear gas and rubber bullets, fired by Venezuelan security forces, having another go at it again today. But still, here are the scenes we saw yesterday that has sparked such strong international reaction.


WALSH (voice-over): It had been billed as a new dawn when the opposition planned waves of Venezuelan refugees would simply take aid back into their homeland across the busiest border bridge with Colombia. But it was closed, blocked physically by Venezuelan riot police and behind them violent pro-government gangs.

The young police taunted or begged into changing sides. "I'm Venezuelan" she says, holding up her I.D., "and my father was a sergeant. How will you stop me crossing?" That they are Venezuelans too and also knew its collapse, its hunger, and here the heat and thirst. "The water you're drinking, she says, it's Colombian because your

president doesn't give you any. Bring him out here to us." "I eat or drink soda whenever I want here," he says, "but the hardest pain is how my grandfather died because he didn't have medicine."

For a brief moment, the anger dissipated. The police lowered their shields, talked calmly. But down the road, the promised aid convoy arrived and a huge crowd intent on pushing through.

(on camera) Tension mounting here. The shields have gone back up again and the protesters are recommending people start to move back.

(voice-over) This was why -- a slow march of opposition protesters. Peaceful in as far as they would not take no for an answer. It fast collapsed into tear gas. The day's lofty goals soon lost in a routine exchange of hatred. Rocks against rubber bullets and rocks thrown back.

Did you expect to have blood on your shirt today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This were -- other guy with the shirt.

WALSH (on camera): Did you expect that to happen today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) It's the blood of the freedom.

WALSH (voice-over): And as they lost staff (ph) from the bridge, the protesters took their fight underneath. They are many, but Maduro's police are mightier. They have only whatever they could make. None of this chaos get any aid across here but it showed the uncompromising ferocity of the Maduro government.

And it led throughout the day to Venezuelan soldiers giving themselves up. One here carried out, the mobs both cursing and cheering. The opposition have promised defectors amnesty. But this will only get uglier seeing the mobbing of pro-Maduro militia here, battered by the crowd and spared only by Colombian police. And if the symbolic bid to get aid in peacefully failed, then these scenes are what Venezuela is left with.


(on camera): Now, you saw some defections there. There were 60 in total yesterday that appears to have grown now to a total of over 100. That's Venezuelan soldier surrendering to Colombian migration officials frankly to get a bit of food, you might possibly argue. And we're told that number would grow.

That might have been the big takeaway from yesterday's events. Perhaps the military's control is possibly eroding to some degree to the low- level ranks but also to those scenes. I think cynics perhaps say that this may have been the point to show the Maduro government is pretty intransigent, doesn't want to let food in.

Now we have to see what the next stage actually is going to be and bring it over to the White House and the meeting in Bogota with Mike Pence, the vice president and regional presidents here too. Ryan?

NOBLES: All right, Nick Payton Walsh, live for us in Colombia. Nick, thank you so much for that report.

[17:15:02] As Robert Mueller is reportedly close to wrapping up his investigation, there are questions whether the full report will ever be made public. From a top Democrat on the House Intel Committee says he will press the issue if it comes to that. What he is promising next in the "CNN Newsroom."


NOBLES: As the president gears up for his summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un overseas, the Russia investigation is coming to a head back home. This week, Michael Cohen, the president's former lawyer and fixer will testify publicly in front of a House panel and privately with two other panels.

The Justice Department tells CNN the Special Counsel's report into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is not expected to come this week, but when it does drop, whether the American people will get a full look at that report, remains unknown. Democrat Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, has a plan if Attorney General William Barr decides to keep the report under wraps.


[17:20:04] REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, we will obviously subpoena the report. We will bring Bob Mueller in to testify before Congress. We will take it to court if necessary. And in the end I think the department understands they're going to have to make this public. I think Barr will ultimately understand that as well.


NOBLES: Joining me now, "New York Times" politics editor and CNN political analyst Patrick Healy and former CIA counterterrorism official and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd. Patrick, let's start with you. How does this fight play out on Capitol Hill if Schiff does take this dramatic move of subpoenaing Robert Mueller?

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, the onus is really going to be on the Justice Department to decide and the new attorney general, William Barr, to decide how much information they're going to be putting out.

Are they going to be transparent after almost two years of an investigation, millions of dollars spent, and give the American people and Congress basically what I think a lot of us expect, which is what has Robert Mueller found? Who did he talk to? Or is the Trump administration willing to risk sort of this edited version and the possibility of just putting things out piecemeal?

I mean, I think that that's step one and Schiff knows that right now putting pressure on the Justice Department to either look transparent or to look like they may be, you know, heavily editing something is the pressure to go to.

Ultimately, it feels like to matter what happens, either side may end up going to court, in terms of either protecting issues of either presidential privilege or, you know, trying to bring some kind of leverage to bear on Mueller and his team.

NOBLE: Yes. I doubt the drama will end once the report is issued. It will only be -- just begin. Phil, the president was asked this week about Michael Cohen's upcoming testimony. This is what he said. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any concerns about Michael Cohen's testimony before Congress this week?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. No. No. Its lawyer/client but, you know, he's taking his own chances.


NOBLE: Patrick's colleague over at "The New York Times" reporting that Cohen has given prosecutors new information about the president's family business. I mean, could this even be a bigger risk to the president than whatever comes out of the Mueller report?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think it could be. I mean, the president has tweeted so much about Michael Cohen, you have to ask, if you weren't concerned or if you haven't been concerned about what he's saying, why do you tweet so much about him? But look at the contrast between the cases.

A relatively -- that is the Mueller case and Cohen involvement with Trump family money for years. Mueller's been looking at a couple years of activity, especially leading up to the investigation -- pardon me, the election. About a fairly narrow set of questions, did people cooperate inappropriately with Russians? What did Russian intelligence agents do?

If you look at the -- and what Cohen's involved in talking to Feds about, he's talking about years of family money that go back maybe a decade or more. If I were the president, I would say narrow investigation, broad investigation, Russia, family, I would be a lot more worried about Cohen than I have been about Mueller if I were the president.

NOBLE: Congressman Schiff was also asked about Cohen's testimony. Let's take a listen to what he had to say about that.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Michael Cohen's going to appear before your committee behind closed doors on Thursday. What do you hope to learn from him that you don't already know? SCHIFF: Well, a great deal, starting with why the false statements

before our committee when he first appeared, and did they go beyond what he told us about Moscow Trump Tower into other areas as well. Who would have been aware of the false testimony that he was giving?

What other light can he shed now that he's cooperating on issues of obstruction of justice or collusion? What more can he tell us about the Trump Tower New York meeting or any other issues relevant to our investigation. We think he has a lot to offer.


NOBLE: So, Patrick, the anticipation of this Michael Cohen hearing is beyond what probably any of our imaginations will allow. I mean, how revealing could it actually be?

HEALY: It could be pretty revealing. The big question and Congressman Schiff got at was, you know, who else is aware of the false testimony that Michael Cohen has given? And, frankly, whether President Trump or those around him were aware, questions had been raised about whether President Trump directed or asked or encouraged Michael Cohen to make false statements to Congress.

That is a question that has hung out, and Cohen, I assume, will be asked that and we will see what he says. For the president -- and this goes to Phil's point, the president has always been so much more concerned about Michael Cohen than probably any other figure. Michael Cohen knows where, for lack of a better term, all of the bodies are buried in kind of the Trump world and the organization.

He knows where the money has gone, what those financial documents and financial deals have looked like over the years. Using the word fixer about Michael Cohen is not done gratuitously. He was a person who was brought in for some of the biggest problems that businessman Trump faced to fix them and solve them, and that clearly wasn't always done above board as we've seen.

[17:25:08] So, it could be pretty revealing.

NOBLE: yes, and perhaps one of the reason the president has focused so much on collusion and Russia and saying there's no collusion in Russia is because what he's actually worried about is what Michael Cohen knows, not necessarily what the relationship is with Russia. Phil Mudd, Patrick Healy, thank you both for being here. We appreciate it.

And we are a year away from the first primary vote being cast, only a year, folks. But there's new CNN reporting on President Trump's 2020 strategy. We'll tell you who and what he's focused on next, live in the "CNN Newsroom."


NOBLE: Cause chaos and sow division, GOP aides telling CNN that is President Trump's strategy for the Democratic primaries and caucuses, and that inside the White House, President Trump is closely watching Democratic candidates' interviews, rallies and town halls. As CNN Jeff Zeleny reports, the president is looking for ways he can "cause chaos from the left and the right."


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One presidential candidate is following the Democratic primary fight far closer than you might imagine. His name is Donald J. Trump.

TRUMP: Bernie Sanders is running. That's right. Personally I think he missed is time.

They will say they know O'Rourke. That's his last name, right. O'Rourke?

I'm not impressed with their group.

ZELENY (voice-over): The president is not only watching the Democratic race --


ZELENY (voice-over): Praising Kamala Harris' crowds and Amy Klobuchar's ability to connect with voters. He plans to play an active role in his opponent's primary. He's already working to brand Democrats as too extreme, seizing on Bernie Sanders' announcement this week to fire up his own supporters.

TRUMP: America will never be a socialist country.

ZELENY (voice-over): The president has directed his team to sow divisions among Democratic rivals CNN has learned, and find opportunities to cause chaos from the left and right. In the words of one adviser, "Never mind the first votes of the primary are nearly one year away." Trump is increasingly fixated on the race, both in private conversations and in public.

I guess they're looking at 2020. They think, gee, if we can hurt Trump, we'll have a better chance of winning an election.

ZELENY (voice-over): One top Republican who talks to Trump frequently telling CNN the president wants to get in the game. At the White House, he's holding regular meetings with a small circle of advisers led by his 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale. A power struggle has already emerged between the re-election campaign and those who helped him win the White House in 2016.

Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, two central figures in the first campaign were not invited to a meeting on Tuesday. With the wide-open Democratic contest where the ultimate nominee is literally a guessing game, the president and his advisers are trying to make the race anything but a referendum on him.

TRUMP: A radical left. It's a radical left.

ZELENY (voice-over): Yet it's Democrats in the middle who worry Trump more. Former Vice President Joe Biden is at the top of that list.

TRUMP: He ran two or three times. He never got above 1 percent and then Obama came along and took him off the trash heap and then he became a vice president. And now he's probably leading.


ZELENY (on camera): So the president certainly has his eye on Biden. One reason he believes he may be tough to beat in Pennsylvania or other states that went from blue to red. But I am told that the president does not necessarily have an opinion on who he should or shouldn't run against. But one sentiment is unwavering, he does not plan to sit idly by and watch the Democratic primary, he intends to have a hand in it. Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Washington.

NOBLE: Let's dig deeper into the president's mission of chaos for the 2020 Democratic primary fight. Joining me now, Republican strategist Alice Stewart. She is a former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz's 2016 presidential campaign. She's been on the other side of President Trump's chaos at a different time in her life.

Democrat Bakari Sellers, an attorney and former South Carolina house member. Bakari, let's talk about this plan to sow division among Democrats. Does that sound vaguely familiar? I mean, isn't that what Bernie Sanders did to Hillary Clinton in 2016?

BAKARI SELLERS, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINE HOUSE MEMBER: Well, I can't just put all of the blame on Bernie Sanders. In fact, I think that there were a few parties that were at fault. Of course, you had Russian meddling which we know to be a fact. We had the sanders campaign which was amplified many of the bots and things and the messaging, so the discourse and division was amplified by that Russian meddling.

You also had Democrats who, to our own fault, came to a lot of disinformation when many times we should have just gone out and found out this information for ourselves. We also had Facebook and twitter, these institutions, these social media sites that did not do a good job of vetting the news that they were purveying on their sites.

So there was a lot of fault to go around. It's not just Bernie Sanders. As much as I want to put some blame on Bernie Sanders, it was not just him.

NOBLES: So Alice, you know, usually presidential re-election bids are about the incumbent in office, a referendum, if you will, on the president. I mean, isn't there an argument to be made that President Trump should be concerned more about uniting Republicans instead of dividing Democrats?

ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, he tweeted out this morning and the polls show the GOP is united behind him -- 93 percent of Republicans support this president, and he has the GOP rallying behind him. And there's no disputing that. Look, we do hear from those that are not supportive of this president in the GOP, but those voices just because they're loud, does not mean the numbers are large. And look, President Trump is not the one sowing division in the

Democratic Party. They're doing that very well all on their own.

[17:35:01] Moderate Democrats are becoming extinct in the Democrat Party in exchange for those with far left radical socialist policies. We have a large wing of the Democrats, specifically those running in 2020, who are racing the costly green new deal. They support government-run health caring, government-funded education and these policies that are far left.

And they want to embrace around those and do away with the more moderate Democrats, they are sowing division amongst themselves and it's not as a result of President Trump or Republicans.

NOBLES: All right. To that, Bakari, let's listen to what Senator Kamala Harris had to say to John King this morning. Take a listen.


HARRIS: It's important to distinguish between where someone is on a policy issue with a label with name-calling. All of those are different points. And I certainly think that we should all want that our leaders do not engage in name-calling because that's really just a very low level of discourse and we should expect more from leaders. In terms of where I am, who I am, I'm a progressive Democrat. I'm a Democrat. I'm a proud Democrat. I'm not a socialist.


NOBLES: This is not the first time that she's made a point to make sure her voters know that she's not a socialist. Bakari, do you think that she's basically telling everyone, listen, I am not Bernie Sanders. I am someone else as she draws that real distinct line between what it means to be a progressive and be a socialist? And is that a smart political strategy considering that Bernie Sanders has raised $6 million and seems to be off to a good start in this race?

SELLERS: Well, Bernie Sanders has been raising money since his defeat in 2016, so I don't think that's a good metric. But I do think that it's been evident by Alice's talking points, which are not necessarily accurate.

And you're going to see those talking points emerge from the GOP on a daily basis now and kind of beat that drum that somehow there's this large swath of left-leaning individuals are far out of touch with mainstream America, and that's simply not the case.

First, I have to remind people that Hillary Clinton got the most -- the third most votes in the history of the United States, behind two individuals, named Barack Obama. She also beat Bernie Sanders in a primary by 4 million votes.

We do see Democrats are doing extremely well throughout the country, even Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams and Beto O'Rouke in Texas, Georgia and Florida, which are not traditional Democratic stumping grounds. And if someone wants to say that they had a problem with making climate change a priority, then so be it.

I'm going to be on the side of history and making sure that we combat climate change. If someone wants to say that they don't believe that all Americans should have access to quality health care, then so be it. I'm going to be on the right side of history of that issue as well. I think the American public will see that.

But yes, I think Kamala Harris is doing a great job having to beat back that rhetoric that is Bernie Sanders, but that's what the primary is for. Donald Trump won his primary with pure insanity. We hopefully will win ours with someone who is sane who can appeal to all Americans.

STEWART: Let me just say this, Bakari is correct on those numbers, the problem for Democrats is that presidents are won by Electoral College and not popular vote. And those numbers were correct in 2016, but look at the shift we have seen in the Democratic Party in 2018. We had more moderate Democrats like Claire McCaskill or Joe Donnelly. They're no longer there.

Democrat voters did not come out and support them. In exchange, now we're seeing the party shift further to the left, and Kamala Harris may not like the title but if the shoe fits, wear it. And the policies that many of them are embracing and supporting and not running away from are the socialist policies that don't work in other countries and if they want to push those here, it's not going to be a winning formula in 2020.

NOBLES: Well, all right. We'll have to see what the voters have to say about this. We do have about a year to talk about this so I'm sure we'll have this conversation many times more between now and then. Alice Stewart and Bakari Sellers, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it.

SELLERS: Thank you, Ryan.

STEWART: Thank you.

NOBLES: At a quick programming note, don't miss Wolf Blitzer's town hall with Senator Bernie Sanders live from Washington, D.C. That happens tomorrow night at 8:00 right here on CNN.

And new this hour, Virginia's embattled lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax talking about lynching and due process. Fairfax staunchly defending himself against allegations of sexual assault during today's impromptu speech on the state's senate floor saying, "The truth is on my side. I have lived 40 years accusation free." Take a listen.


JUSTIN FAIRFAX, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, VIRGINIA: If we go backwards and we rush to judgment and we allow for political lynching without any due process, any facts, any evidence being heard, then I think we do a disservice to this very body in which we all serve.

And I want to stand in this moment in the truth, not only which has tested my constitution personally, but is testing the constitution of the commonwealth of Virginia and of the United States of America.


NOBLES: Now, one woman says that Fairfax assaulted her in 2000 when they both attended Duke University. A second woman says that Fairfax assaulted her during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

[17:40:03] He denies both claims. Friday, House Republicans announced a plan to hold public hearings where Fairfax and the women can testify publicly.

And as the Mueller investigation seems to be nearing a close, top Democrat Adam Schiff warning he will sue the White House to make sure that Mueller's report is public. But can Congress ensure the report isn't kept under wraps? We're answering your questions when we come back.


NOBLES: Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee say they're ready to compel Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify before them if his full report on the Russia investigation is not made public by Attorney General William Barr.

Chairman Adam Schiff saying the Democrats are ready to sue the administration if that's what it takes. And that brings me to our weekly segment, "Cross-Exam" with Elie Honig. Elie, of course, a former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, and he joins us now to give us his take on the week in big issues like this.

[17:45:04] Now Elie, you know, it must be that our viewers can see the future because they had this exact question for you about this potential development and then Congressman Schiff talk about it tomorrow, but the question is, can Mueller compel -- I'm sorry -- can Schiff and Congress compel Mueller to testify in front of them to say what he knows about the Mueller report?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Our viewers were on this all week and then today Adam Schiff proves them all right. Good work by the viewers.


HONIG: The answer is yes. The house can subpoena Mueller. He would, I believe, have to testify, but people need to understand, he would not be an open book. It would not be, Mr. Mueller, tell us everything that you've learned throughout your investigation.

He could not talk about for example national security sensitive information, classified information, grand jury information, meaning information that he got through subpoena, typically is supposed to be secret.

But there are ways to go to a judge and ask for permission to disclose it. Ken Starr did that back in the '90s. So, there are going to be limits on what Mueller can say. So it's an important failsafe in case the Mueller report is blocked. He won't be an open book, but it's better than no book at all.

NOBLES: And it could lead to more court proceedings, right. I mean, what could President Trump do? Could he invoke executive privilege to try and keep Mueller from revealing some of this information?

HONIG: Exactly. Another question that was on our viewers minds is what is the scope of executive privilege? Where can we see this arise? Executive privilege basically the idea that conversations between the president and his close adviser's certain conversations are secret, they're not for the public to know about.

People need to be able to speak freely without worrying about whether this will come out. So, where might we see that raised in response to the Mueller report, right? Giuliani has said in the past that he might raise executive privilege to object to certain portions of the report. This page needs to come out because it has to do with a secret conversation between the president and one of his advisers.

In response to subpoenas, there are various contexts where it could be raised. Now, people should understand, executive privilege is narrow. The main decision we have on it is from the Richard Nixon case in 1974. In that case, the Supreme Court said unanimously, yes, executive privilege exists but it is designed to protect national security and military secrets. It is not designed as a general shield for the president against potential criminality.

NOBLES: OK. So let's -- what's the thinking behind the Justice Department counseling against indicting a sitting president? We had one of your viewers ask, "I thought no American was above the law."

HONIG: People do not like this policy. One thing I've seen clearly from our viewers because it does put the president above the law a little bit.

NOBLES: Right.

HONIG: If you look at the actual policy, which it goes back. It's not something new. It was most recently updated in 2000, so it's been around a while. What the policy itself says is the fear is throwing the entire executive branch into chaos and dysfunction. Imagine if a sitting president was indicted and tried.

The report even says, well, could we perhaps indict a sitting president and hold off his trial until he gets out of office. And DOJ concludes event that would be too disruptive. But look, the president is candidly a little bit above the law but he is not entirely above the law. There is always impeachment. The president could be indicted after impeachment. He can be indicted when his term of office ends naturally.

NOBLES: OK. So, there is going to be a very interesting weekend. Just quickly, what are some of the things you are looking for?

HONIG: What a week. First of all, we know Mueller is wrapping up. His report we're told is not coming this week but what should we look for him to do? Think of this more as a transition than an ending. He's going to be sending the open threads of his work to the U.S. Attorney's offices, to other DOJ components.

Let's watch Roger Stone -- what's going to happen. It took him all of one business day to threaten the judge after she put the first gag order on. Is he going to be able to abide by this one? I'm not betting on it. And then the big event of the week is going to be Michael Cohen's testimony in Congress on Wednesday. What a show this is going to be.

I would look for him to be testifying about who did he commit the crimes that he has already pled guilty to along with? The hush money payments, the lying about the Moscow project, who else was involved in that? Remember, this guy was by the president's side for many years. He knows a lot. This is going to be a show.

NOBLES: yes. Pop your popcorn for that hearing for sure.

HONIG: You know it.

NOBLES: All right Elie, thank you so much, for being here. We appreciate it.

And tonight, of course, Hollywood's biggest night as the stars hit the Oscar's red carpet. Films taking on the issues of race and class are the ones attracting the most buzz. So, who could expect tonight's top honors? The details are ahead, live in the "CNN Newsroom."


NOBLES: Hollywood's biggest stars are hitting the red carpet tonight at the 91st Annual Academy Awards. Films that are taking on issues of race and class may bring home Oscar gold. CNN's Stephanie Elam has more on what we can expect tonight.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the immigration debate, to views on the racial divide in America, some of the pressing issues facing the country could be on the minds of Oscar voters when they cast a ballot.

MATTHEW BELLONI, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: A lot of people end up voting not just for what they enjoy the most but for what a movie represents.

ELAM (voice-over): "A Star is Born" may no longer be the frontrunner, pushed aside by "Roma," now considered the one to beat.

BELLONI: "Roma" is not an overtly political film but it's certainly of the moment right now. This is a story about a Mexican woman in the 1970s. She's a domestic worker and it really resonates with the debate that's going on right now in America about immigration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think you might be the man to open things up around here. ELAM (voice-over): A pair of films tackle race in America. Spike

Lee's "BlacKkKlansman" even includes video footage from the attack in Charlottesville, Virginia. "Green Book" takes a more populous approach to racial tension, but that has divided Hollywood.

[17:55:04] BELLONI: The criticism of the film is that it subscribes to this theory of the "white savior, the white character who comes in and, you know, makes it OK for the black person to love or to accept.

ELAM (voice-over): But the movie is a box office hit and the Producers' Guild's best picture, a sign more traditional Academy members still have influence.

BELLONI: The kind of voter who went for "Driving Miss Daisy" 30 years ago.

JODIE FOSTER, ACTRESS: "Black Panther," Yes!

ELAM (voice-over): With its big win at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, "Black Panther" can't be ruled out. It's nearly all black cast elevated the superhero film and to the cultural conversation.

BELLONI: Is it the best picture of the year? We can debate that. But is it the most meaningful picture for the future of Hollywood? Probably.

ELAM (voice-over): Stephanie Elam, CNN, Hollywood.


Pope Francis is calling priests who abuse children, "tools of Satan." But with this new tough talk, many critics are asking what exactly the church will do to stop the abuse.