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Chairman Nadler to Probe Trump on Abuse of Power; 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates Join Bloody Sunday March; Stephon Clark's Killers Not Charged; Venezuelans Cross River Border; Trump Criticizes Critics with Speech at CPAC; Elie Honig and Legal Questions on Cross Exam. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 3, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Ana Cabrera in New York. Great to have you with us. One of the most powerful members of Congress, the head of the House Judiciary Committee said today he believes President Trump committed a federal crime. New York Democrat Jerry Nadler says his committee will in just a few hours start collecting material to present a case of obstruction of justice, of corruption, and of abuse of power against the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Do you think the president obstructed justice?
REP. JERRY NADLER, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Yes, I do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If that's --
NADLER: It's very clear that the president obstructed justice. It's very clear -- 1,100 times he referred to the Mueller investigation as a witch hunt. He tried to -- he fired -- he tried to protect Flynn from being investigated by the FBI. He fired Comey in order to stop the Russian thing, as he told NBC News. He's dangled -- he's intimidated witnesses in public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Nadler says his committee will demand documents from more than 60 people from the White House, the Justice Department, the president's son, and officials from the president's business empire. The legal process is on the president's mind today too.
He tweeted this earlier. "After more than two years of presidential harassment, the only things that have been proven is that Democrats and others broke the law. The hostile Cohen testimony given by a liar to reduce his prison time proved no collusion."
And he added, "I'm an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted, and corrupt people in a witch hunt that is illegal and should never have been allowed to start." Let's get to the White House and CNN's Boris Sanchez.
Boris, this bombshell from Congressman Nadler isn't the only piece of, shall we say, frustrating news for the president today. We also learned something rather important about who is not going to support his emergency declaration. Tell us.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. It appears at this point that the president's national emergency declaration on the issue of immigration is going to be challenged by Congress. Senator Rand Paul was speaking to a group of Republicans in Kentucky last night and he made clear he is going to vote for a measure of disapproval against that declaration.
Rand Paul effectively saying that he does not want to give the president unconstitutional powers. Paul joins three other Senate Republicans in Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins and Thom Tillis that are voting for this measure of disapproval.
Rand Paul effectively is making the argument that this sets a dangerous precedent in taking away the power that Congress has over the pursestring in government and giving it to the president. It is largely a symbolic gesture. Keep in mind the president has said that he would veto this kind of measure, and there isn't a veto-proof majority for lawmakers to overturn that veto.
Still, it is notable because Republicans in this case are turning against something that the president has pushed for, even at times against the advice of the senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Ana.
CABRERA: Boris, any reaction from the White House to those comments today from Congressman Nadler? He says he is convinced President Trump committed obstruction of justice and that tomorrow he's going to start seeking the documents to support that.
SANCHEZ: Yes. Other than those tweets from President Trump, we haven't seen a direct response from the White House. I asked them about the comment that Chairman Nadler made about that request for documents from some 60 entities or people, they have yet to respond. We will likely hear from the president on this, possibly more via twitter. Keep in mind, his family is involved.
Nadler made clear that he would be requesting documents from Donald Trump, Jr. So this is personal for the president. And it's not just Donald Trump, Jr. We're also learning that Nadler is going to request documents from former chief of staff John Kelly as well as former White House counsel Don McGahn. This is going to be a large and thorough investigation. Nadler effectively said this morning he wants to make a case for impeachment to the American people, Ana.
CABRERA: Boris Sanchez at the White House for us. Thank you. Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He sits on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees. Congressman, good to see you. Do you agree with Congressman Nadler that it's very clear the president has obstructed justice, and if so, do you believe Democrats should begin impeachment proceedings? REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening, Ana. Yes, we have
strong evidence of obstruction of justice. Of course, evidence is not a conclusion, but that's why we conduct investigations, seek bipartisan buy-in, and make sure the American people know why obstructing justice is a problem.
When the problem is, of course, that the rule of law is the long pole in the tent of our democracy. And if the president keeps taking a wrecking ball to it, everything else we enjoy is destroyed. And so, yes, we're going to pursue this.
We're going to take an MRI to the organs and tissue of the Trump organization, the Trump campaign, and the Trump administration. We have good reason to look and that's what you're going to see over the next few weeks.
CABRERA: So if you have evidence of obstruction of justice, should that lead to impeachment proceedings?
SWALWELL: Well, he's not above the law. If the evidence and the witnesses and the documents that we bring in show that he has obstructed justice or, you know, look, this is not the only problem that he faces. There's problems of financial compromise, you know, collusion with the Russians, cashing in on access to the Oval Office.
[17:05:05] There's a whole list of things that he has done that we will be looking at, but yes, he's not above the law. And if that's where the evidence takes us, that's where we have to go.
CABRERA: But I'm hearing you say you're not there yet.
SWALWELL: No, not there yet.
SWALWELL: And again, we're not going to give Donald Trump, Donald Trump justice because if we gave him Donald Trump justice, he'd be impeached by now. We're actually going to follow the rule of law that he throws aside so often.
CABRERA: OK, let me ask you about the Michael Cohen testimony. Obviously, he came before your committee this week in private, but something he said in public, and I want to get your reaction with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: Questions have been raised about whether I know of direct evidence that Mr. Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. I do not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: He doesn't know if Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia. He was one of Trump's closest aides. He didn't hold back on a whole slew of other things. If there's anyone who would be aware of conspiracy, wouldn't it be Michael Cohen? Do you see that as a major blow in the case that conspiracy may have existed?
SWALWELL: No, Ana, because he told us a number of times, and he also said in his statement there that he had suspicions of collusion. And in the law, direct evidence and circumstantial evidence are treated exactly the same.
So if someone walks in and they have an umbrella in their hands and they're wearing rain boots that are wet, it may not be raining outside anymore, but you can conclude circumstantially that it was raining outside.
And so we know from hearing Roger Stone tell Donald Trump that WikiLeaks was seeking to help him, hearing Donald Trump, Jr. talk to his father about a meeting that was being set up around the same time the Trump Tower meeting took place, and also knowing that Donald Trump kept asking Michael Cohen so often about, you know, this Trump Tower in Moscow project during the (inaudible) of the campaign. That's circumstantial evidence of collusion.
Our job is to put that into context with all the other evidence out there. But this, I think, put more color into this picture here, and we're going to keep doing our job to secure the upcoming election and hold accountable anyone in America who worked with a country that works so hard against our interests.
CABRERA: You talked about using sort of this MRI analogy, taking that to all of Trump's connected entities. The president used part of his speech at CPAC yesterday to attack you and fellow Democrats for investigating him, including your committee. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They fight so hard on this witch hunt, this phony deal that they put together, this phony thing that now looks like it's dying so they don't have anything with Russia. There's no collusion. So now they go and morph into let's inspect every deal he's ever done. We're going to go into his finances. We're going to check his deals. We're going to check -- these people are sick.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: What's your response to that?
SWALWELL: Well, the days of presidential immunity are over, and that may be uncomfortable for him, but it's very comfortable for Americans who went to the polls last November and wanted to put balance of power on so many abuses of power. And that's what this looks like.
CABRERA: Former Governor Chris Christie told us here on CNN that more than the Mueller probe, the president should probably be worried about the Southern District of New York. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: What they're doing, I'm confident, is building a case for two things. One, to go after those around the president who may have committed crimes, and two, to build a case, if they have one -- I don't think they have one at the moment, but I think if they were trying to -- trying to build one against the president for when he leaves office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Do you agree with him?
SWALWELL: Certainly. His problems extend beyond just the Mueller probe. The Southern District of New York has its own equities and, you know, potential money laundering. You heard potentially an insurance claim fraud that Michael Cohen alluded to publicly to Ms. Ocasio- Cortez's question.
So yes, there are a lot of problems out here. No president has faced more investigations. And we just have to make sure that in the United States of America, more does not become less, and that's what the president tries to benefit from is, that the more that's out there, the more distracted we become. But again, we cannot lose the rule of law. If we lose that, we lose free markets, free ideas, and the freedom to dream.
CABRERA: Let me ask you, since you were there in Iowa, are you running for president?
SWALWELL: I'm getting pretty close. I'm here in Blackhawk County. I was invited by Vicky Brown, their chair here, to help a local candidate. But yes, I'm getting very close. And it's because I think our country, to solve the issues of education and health care and gun violence, we need an agenda of going big, being bold, and doing good.
And I've seen that that helped me as the son of a cop who was the first in the family to go to college. I saw them chase their dreams all over the country.
[17:10:00] But in too many places, like right here in Waterloo, that's not reaching every American and I think I'm a connected candidate to the every day experience that could help make sure that's true.
CABRERA: It sounds like you're planning to announce you're going to run for president.
SWALWELL: You're trying to get me pretty close here, Ana.
CABRERA: You said you're close. But you just explained why you think --
SWALWELL: We are close.
CABRERA: -- you will have the case to make. When do you make a decision? Final decision.
SWALWELL: Yes. You know, it's -- one, I think I can make a difference. Two, I think I can win it. It's a steep mountain with a lot of experienced climbers, but most importantly, we're just sorting out childcare. Two kids under two, that most families, I think, can appreciate and understand and, you know, once we get that piece together, we'll make our decision.
CABRERA: All right. Congressman Eric Swalwell, good to have you with us. Thank you very much.
SWALWELL: You too. Thanks, Ana.
CABRERA: A number of 2020 Democratic hopefuls are in Selma, Alabama, today commemorating the 54th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march. We'll bring you their message. Plus, protests after Sacramento's district attorney says the two police officers who killed an unarmed black man won't face charges. What the family wants supporters to do to make sure this never happens again, live in the "CNN Newsroom."
[17:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: Happening today, key 2020 Democrats gathering in Selma, Alabama to mark the solemn anniversary of 1965's Bloody Sunday. This week marks 54 years since that historic Selma to Montgomery march. Black civil rights activists were trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge when Alabama State Troopers attacked and beat them.
Each year, activists and political leaders march across that same bridge in commemoration. And here are some of today's marchers. Senators Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders, plus Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. Hillary Clinton is also in Selma, opening up about her 2016 loss and unleashing this warning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a time, my friends, when fundamental rights, civic virtue, freedom of the press, the rule of law, truth, facts, and reason are under assault. And make no mistake. We are living through a full-fledged crisis in our democracy.
(END VIDO CLIP)
CABRERA: CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson is in Selma for us. Nia-Malika, explain why this is such an important stop for any 2020 candidate.
NIA-MALIKA HANDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, easy to know that in two words. Black voters, right. I mean, if you think about the 2016 campaign, you think about 2012, you think about 2008, the path to victory for any Democratic candidate runs through states like Alabama, states like South Carolina, Georgia as well.
So you had candidates here, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, as well as Cory Booker, trying to make inroads and connections with these black voters. The person who did it the best, at least last to go around, was Hillary Clinton. And you could tell that she had a real connection with a lot of the folks here.
She essentially got a standing ovation when she came out at a breakfast this morning. So, the folks who are running this go round really need to match that kind of enthusiasm among African-American voters not only in the primary but also in the general election. You think about that general election in 2016, 2 million fewer African- American voters voted in 2016 than voted in 2012 and that likely made a difference.
So you heard folks from the pulpits and from breakfast podiums this morning talking about the urgency of the vote, the need to really kind of strengthen the Voting Rights Act, which took a hit in 2013 with that Supreme Court decision so, a lot of energy here.
I ran into one woman who said she's not necessarily angry about some of what's going on in the country at this point, but she's ready to fight and ready to fight to win. Those are the kind of voters, if you're a Democrat, you want to reach.
CABRERA: Nia, I understand the Selma march has a very special meaning for your family, especially your father.
HENDERSON: Yes, that's right. You know, my dad -- there were three Selma marchers. He wasn't at Bloody Sunday, but he was at that final march, March, I think, 21st it was. What had happened was there was essentially a call for ushers to come down and march alongside Dr. King.
And so there he was -- if you look at a lot of the old footage of that third and final successful march, you see my father in those clips with his chunky black glasses and this very thick brown corduroy coat that hung in his closet for many, many years.
My father died many years ago, when he was about 47. He would have turned 75 this week, in fact. He was about 21 when he was there, marching next to Martin Luther King, somebody he idolized for all of his life, and got a chance in this historic fashion, in these Selma marches, to be next to him.
And as a kid, one of the things he wanted to do was commemorate Martin Luther King. So we organized our neighborhood in small town South Carolina to name the street I grew up on after Martin Luther King. It was just a rural road back then and we organized a petition.
My father did, and spearheaded that and renamed our street after Martin Luther King. He was certainly inspired by him from his whole life and spent some time with him 54 years ago down in Selma.
CABRERA: Nia-Malika, so glad you could be there for us reporting this important day. Thank you for sharing your personal story as well. Always good to have you on our show.
HENDERSON: Thanks, Ana.
CABRERA: Thank you. Now, we're hearing from the family of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man shot and killed by two Sacramento police officers. The district attorney announced his decision this weekend not to file criminal charges against those officers. [17:20:00] The 22-year-old was killed in his grandmother's backyard
nearly a year ago and CNN national correspondent Brynn Gingras joins us now. Brynn, what lead to this decision?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN: Yes, really it was a 61-page report. It was over an hour it took for this district attorney to release the results. So there was a lot of detail. We'll get to that in just a minute. But really, the family says that they waited for nearly a year to find out if this district attorney in Sacramento County was going to press charges on these two officers.
And obviously, the results were not what they were wanting. They basically said even though no charges were filed, that's not what they wanted, but even worse they feel, that she smeared Stephon Clark's name.
SALENA MANNI, FIANCE OF STEPHON CLARK: Breaking my family's hearts again.
GINGRAS (voice-over): A tearful response from the fiance of Stephon Clark after learning no criminal charges would be filed against the two Sacramento police officers accused of fatally shooting clark in his grandmother's backyard last year.
MANNI: My boys, Aiden And Cairo, have to grow up without their father.
GINGRAS (voice-over): Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert defended her office's decision in a 61-page report saying, "the evidence in this case demonstrates that both officers had an honest and reasonable belief that they were in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury."
ANNE MARIE SCHUBERT, SACRAMENTO COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: When we look at the facts and the law and we follow our ethical responsibilities, the answer to that question is no.
GINGRAS (voice-over): Schubert described clark as a troubled young man, worried about serving jail time after being accused of domestic assault. Schubert referenced surveillance footage, body camera tapes, text messages noting a fight between Clark and his fiance a few days before the shooting, and she detailed the drugs that Clark had in his system at the time of the encounter.
SCHUBERT: We judge what happened in the two days leading up to it because clearly he was heavily impacted by what happened on March 16th.
SEQUETTE CLARK, MOTHER OF STEPHON CLARK: She wants to go on a smear campaign about his character and his actions and make public things that him and his significant other were going through to justify or condone her officers' actions. Whatever he was doing -- whatever he was doing or on, whatever his character is or his actions prior to those police gunning him down is no one's business. That's not justification. That's not a permit to kill him.
GINGRAS (voice-over): Faith leaders from congregations throughout the community protested the decision.
PASTOR LES SIMMONS, SACRAMENTO ACT: We don't believe the D.A.'s findings represents what justice is for this community, for this city, for this state, and for this nation.
SAAD SWEILEM, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY, CAIR: Stephon clark was murdered twice. First by the police officers who murdered him in his godmother's own backyard then again today by the district attorney.
GINGRAS (voice-over): The California attorney general has recommended an overhaul of force related policies in the police department, and its office is conducting an independent investigation into the shooting. The city's mayor upset by the decision called for immediate change.
DARRELL STEINBERG, MAYOR OF SACRAMENT, CALIFORNIA: The current hundred-year-old standard defining officer-involved shootings needs to change.
GINGRAS (on camera): And the family hopes that independent investigation by the attorney general will give them the justice that they're wanting. But Ana, they also in the meantime have filed a civil lawsuit against the city and those two police officers.
CABRERA: Brynn Gingras, thank you for the latest there.
To Venezuela now, a country spiraling out of control and no sign of a breakthrough coming any time soon. We'll see you what some desperate Venezuelans are turning to now in order to survive.
[17:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: Opposition leader Juan Guaido is expected to return to Venezuela tomorrow and he's just announced he will address the people of Venezuela tonight via social media. Guaido burst into the spotlight more than a month ago declaring himself the country's interim president amid escalating protest, but some still remain lisle to loyal to embattled president Nicolas Maduro.
Now, this give you a sense of the desperation in Venezuela right now, a crucial bridge at the border with Colombia is shut down, but even so, starving Venezuelans are managing to find ways to cross into Colombia, including defectors from Maduro's own government. Five hundred soldiers defected this week alone. We have more now from CNN's senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRRESPONDENT (voice- over): A lifeline crossing, barricaded, formerly closed. But here at the Colombia-Venezuela border is still bustling. And in the distance, people seem to be getting across. How?
On camera: Clashes exactly a week ago closed that border. It's now almost fortified, but people desperate to get food back to their loved ones inside Venezuela, well, they found another way.
(voice-over): Down we follow the tide as Colombian police stand calmly by. These are steps of necessity, of desperation by people in need of everything. Endless in number, down to the riverbank, but these don't seem to be steps of just salvation, helped as they are at first.
Across the water, past the tree line, we are told, are sometimes Venezuelan soldiers but mostly gangs who charge for each crossing. Fifty cents per person and $2 equivalent if you're carrying goods. "Cars and trucks wait for me over there," he says. It's mostly just guys, not soldiers.
[17:30:03] "It's pesos they ask for," Another adds, "it's not soldiers. I don't know who gets the money." The dead go back to be buried in their homeland, and the living feel the slow collapse of their homeland bury them. Traffic both ways but with one shared Venezuelan burden.
(On camera): If you leave, it's more or less empty handed. Yet, those who go back, well, they do so with pretty much everything they can carry. Up on the bridge where thousands once crossed daily are the pellets fired last week to keep opposition protesters back who below still carry on with their skirmishes and defenses, a people whose world is measured in varying degrees of nothing and whose suffering here finds only further exploitation. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Cucuta, Colombia.
CABRERA: Twenty-eight months after winning the presidency, Donald Trump, again took the opportunity yesterday to remind an adoring crowd that he alone emerged victorious from a field of 17 Republicans. This time around, an enormous field of Democrats is taking aim at the president in their battle for the White House. But what about the Republicans looking to stand in Trump's way, the group dubbed Never Trumpers. What role will they play in 2020? I'll ask one, next live in the "CNN Newsroom."
[17:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: On the heels of a bruising week of headlines, President Trump was ready to regain his footing at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend, CPAC. He ended up delivering the longest speech of his presidency in front of a fired up crowd of supporters. We saw vintage Trump, and he pulled no punches.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Unfortunately, you put the wrong people in a couple of positions, and they leave people for a long time that shouldn't be there, and all of a sudden they're trying to take you out with (BLEEP), OK. With (BLEEP). Robert Mueller never received a vote and neither did the person that appointed him.
And as you know, the attorney general says, I'm going to recuse myself. And I said, why the hell didn't he tell me that before I put him in? If you tell a joke, if you're sarcastic, if you're having fun with the audience, if you're on live television with millions of people and 25,000 people in an arena, and if you say something like, Russia, please, if you can, get us Hillary Clinton's e-mails. Please, Russia, please!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Please get us the e-mails. Please!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Let's discuss with former GOP Congressional Communications Director Tara Setmayer and "Washington Post" columnist Catherine Rampell. Tara, you heard the reaction there to the president at CPAC. He was, of course, one of many speakers. Let me point out a few other things.
At least two others brought up the ghost of John McCain in their speeches. The CPAC chair, Matt Schlapp, people claim the president doesn't lie, that he's not a dishonest political leader. The next most popular name by the way after Trump that came up was Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. So I'm wondering, what did this year's CPAC tell you about where the Republican Party is right now?
TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It just reconfirmed the fact that the Republican Party has completely bent its knee in a corrosive way to Donald Trump's ilk. And as someone who's been to probably, I don't know, over a dozen CPACs over my political career, and it was something I used to look forward to as a conservative because it was never a circus like this until the era of Donald Trump.
It's really sunken into a place of embarrassment. Watching Republicans clap like seals to that lunacy of a speech yesterday by the president of the United States is just disheartening in a lot of ways. This is where the party is going. You know, the fact that -- but it was also very indicative of where President Trump is going and how he plans to run in 2020. It was very revealing.
So, for those who are going to run against Donald Trump, study that and look at it because what he did inside of all of those one-liners and just, you know, trying to normalize a lot of the fact that he's gone against so many norms and institutions and constitutional ideals and decency.
[17:39:58] 0He also injected some pieces of the, I will protect you and I'm the only one. And that's what got him elected in the first place, fear mongering.
And Ocasio-Cortez represents this new progressive target that he's going to use to fear monger. So, where he maybe right about some of those things on that side, it's so muddied with all these other horrible things that, no, we don't need him to protect us. We need someone else that actually respects the constitution and the office of the presidency.
CABRERA: OL. And I want to get to you about that piece in just a second, but let me come to Catherine here with something else the president said yesterday, as he was feeding his base, painting the left as a party of socialism. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Right now we have people in Congress that hate our country. And you know that. And we can name every one of them if they want. They hate our country.
Democrat lawmakers are now embracing socialism. They want to replace individual rights with total government domination.
This is the new Democrat platform for -- and I don't want to talk them out of it. I don't. I don't, I swear, I don't. This is a killer. I've got to get off this subject. I want them to embrace this plan. I want them to go and sell this plan. I just want to be the Republican that runs against them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Catherine, do you think Democratic candidates are getting pulled too far to the left?
CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that is a risk in this primary, particularly since there is a large portion of the country particularly older voters who when they hear socialism, they run for the hills, right. Socialism to them means the Soviet Union. It means all sorts of scary, repressive communist tactics.
Younger voters, socialism means something completely different, right. When they think of socialism, they think of Sweden. They think of socialized medicine. They think of Medicare or social security, lots of other things. I mean, socialism is one of these words that is kind of an empty term. It can mean whatever you want it to mean.
And I think there is a risk within the Democratic primary that as candidates gain steam who have embraced that brand, that could hurt them in the general. And you see candidates already, even if they're not embracing the brand of socialism, they are sort of trying to appeal to the very energized, left-wing base of the party.
And how they're going to reconcile that with an appeal in the general election assuming that that strategy is successful, will be quite difficult. So that's why I think you see a lot of candidates both trying to run in the progressive and moderate lanes, right.
They're claiming the Medicare for all brand which again is another one of these terms that means different things depending on who you are. But they're also trying to brand themselves as pragmatists, as moderates as well. So, it's --
CABRERA: And when you look at latest polling, socialism is not a popular word, is not a popular idea, even among Democrats. But Tara, there's all this middle ground, I know you find yourself in that space. In a recent op-ed in the "New York Times," questions of the vitality of the NeverTrump movement. I want to read you something from Liz Mair.
She writes, "But in most politically meaningful ways, the NeverTrump movement has disintegrated. It's now the political equivalent of a doomed exotic species, attracting a lot of stares from bystanders but no longer playing much of a role in the actual biosphere." Do you agree? I know you're part of the NeverTrump movement. Is she right?
SETMAYER: All right. With all due respect, I would say no, we're not facing extinction species. I think what we are we are the conscience of the Republican Party. We're the conscience of a large part of this country who has to look at themselves in the mirror and justify and rationalize the fact that they've supported someone who they never would have supported in any other way if they were a Democrat or any other Republican.
They've completely sold out their principles. And they're trying to figure out ways to continue to justify that. We are the conscious telling you none of this is OK. And when this is over with, we need to rebuild so many aspects of our political system.
But somebody has to do it. So no, I mean, people have been trying to write off the NeverTrump movement or those of us who are Trump skeptical Jonah Goldberg likes to say for a long time, but yet, we're still here and we're still given --
CABRERA: I know, but when you look at influence -- I think what I'm talking about is the influence because you have people in power, in positions of power on Capitol Hill that have not been successful in standing up to this president. Yes, you have some people who don't always vote with him all the time, Justin Amash, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski.
But a lot of the "NeverTrumpers" didn't even run for re-election because they didn't think it was possible to get re-elected in the current environment or you have people like Mike Coffman who got unseated in Colorado. So I think that's sort of what I understood or my interpretation of what Liz Mair said. Let me really quick come to Catherine.
SETMAYER: So, yes --
CABRERA: I want to get Catherine back because --
SETMAYER: OK, that's because they're cowards though.
CABRERA: -- I'm running short on time, Tara. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. You know, the bottom line here is say what you will about, you know, the criticism that this president has faced. [17:45:00] His poll numbers, Catherine, are actually going up, if you
look at least this latest poll from NBC News and the "Wall Street Journal." Look there, 46 percent approval. Is that a warning sign for Democrats? I mean, he has some momentum here, even though the majority still don't like his emergency declaration.
RAMPELL: Well, look, he does and he doesn't. I mean, the truth is that if you look at the rolling poll numbers that he's had since he took office, he's been underwater since day one. There's not a single point in time during this presidency when he has been viewed as more favorable than unfavorable by the general public.
And beyond that, I mean, the other thing to keep in mind is that what's bizarre about the fact that his poll numbers -- well, so you could say it's strange that his poll numbers haven't fallen or maybe some polls, I guess, suggest they might be rising a little bit, maybe within the margin of error, given all the scandals, that seems odd.
It's also a little bizarre when you look at how low his favorables are compared to the economy. Normally in an economy this strong, you would expect a president to be viewed much more favorably, to be much more popular. And that suggests to me that it is probably only the economy that's keeping him afloat at this point, to do at least as well as he is.
And if you look at predictions from economists about where the economy is heading, you see that this is now one of the longest expansions on record. Business cycles turn. At some point, I'm not saying it will be Trump's fault, but at some point if the business cycle turns --
CABRERA: That could change the game.
RAMPELL: -- that could really -- that copuld really change the game for him.
CABRERA: Catherine Rampell, Tara Setmayer, thank you, ladies. Good to see you.
RAMPELL: Thank you.
SETMAYER: Thank you.
CABRERA: The list of investigations swirling around the president and his organization is still growing. And the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee now says he believes Trump has obstructed justice. But is the president above the law? We'll answer your questions next.
[17:50:00] (COMMERCAIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: Welcome back. The president today clearly thinking about all the ongoing investigations involving the Trump orbit, tweeting in part that he's just an innocent man being persecuted by bad people. This as his former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, is headed back to Capitol Hill this week to finish his testimony with the House Intel Committee. That's scheduled for Wednesday. He already spent three days testifying last week to different
committees including several hours with the eyes of the nation watching. So what did we learn from his testimony and where do the multiple probes into President Trump go from here? Well that brings me to our weekly segment "Cross-Exam" with Elie Honig.
He's a former federal and state prosecutor and CNN legal analyst and he's giving his take on the legal news and answering your questions. I know you received, again, hundreds if not thousands of questions from all around the world this week, especially about the Cohen hearing. And so let's start with this, what do you think was the most serious revelation that we heard?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So three big ones, Ana. First of all, the campaign finance violations, the case on that now is really strong. I would feel comfortable going to a grand jury tomorrow if I had to. We have Michael Cohen's testimony. We know that Allen Weisselberg has been given immunity. He's cooperating with the Southern District.
We have the tape, remember the tape of Cohen discussing this with Trump and now we have a signed check from Donald Trump when he was president to reimburse Michael Cohen. The second big take who I think is the most explosive one is the WikiLeaks revelation. Michael Cohen testified and this is the first time anyone has said this, that Donald Trump knew about that WikiLeaks dump of hacked e-mails from Roger Stone in advance.
If that's proven, that could make, depending on the specifics, could make Trump a co-conspirator or what we call an aider and abettor, meaning somebody who encourages criminal activity of others. My final take away though is I think a lot of people looked at Cohen's testimony as sort of this grand finale to what Mueller had done.
I think it was much more of an opening act. I think it gave us a sense of how much is to come, look for Congress and (inaudible) office of the Southern District of New York to really lead the way.
CABRERA: This next question, we really get a lot but given all of the different entities surrounding this president that are under investigation, we list in there for you, his businesses, his campaign, his inaugural committee, his foundation, on and on and on, it's worth revisiting this question. Given the DOJ policy that a sitting president can't be indicted or maybe shouldn't be indicted, is the president above the law?
HONIG: So, our viewers really hate this policy. I've learned that, I mean, understandably because it puts one person a little bit above the law. And now there is this catch 22. Can't indict and DOJ and remember William Barr during his confirmation, said a policy is also we will not release negative information about someone who has not been indicted, so where is the accountability?
There is an answer to that. First of all, there's precedent. If you look at the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, the Ferguson police department investigation, in both of those cases, DOJ did not indict people but released detailed fact findings, why? Because there was such intense public importance and interest and I think we have at least that level here.
The other thing is know that Congress is going to fight like mad here. Earlier this week, the House Intel Committee, the committee chairs, sent a letter to DOJ saying, look, if your policy is you won't indict, it's all the more important that you send us all the information so we can do what we need to do here in the Congress.
CABRERA: With the Mueller probe reportedly coming to an end, one viewer in California asked, how can that be if one big player in the campaign and someone we know had communications with Russia, hasn't been interviewed, Donald Trump, Jr.?
HONIG: Donald Trump, Jr. is one of the big mysteries here because Mueller has not subpoenaed or interviewed him apparently. There's only three possible scenarios. Scenario one, he's not a witness. He doesn't know anything. Why would Mueller speak with him? Hard to imagine, right, given how central Donald Trump, Jr. was to the campaign, the inauguration, et cetera.
Number two, he could be a target. A normal prosecutorial practice is, you do not subpoena, you do not interview a target. Look at Roger Stone. Never subpoenaed, never interviewed, just indicted and arrested.
[17:54:58] The third scenario is maybe Mueller hasn't quite decided yet and this could be part of what he hands off to other DOJ components including U.S attorney's offices for them to figure out.
CABRERA: Do you have one scenario that you think is more likely than the other?
HONIG: Look, I think number two. I mean, he can't not be a witness, right.
CABRERA: Given all we know that is public about his connections and involvement and what has happened.
HONIG: Totally. And they've spoken with everybody under the sun so, I think -- it's two as most likely, could be that he's going to send it off to a U.S. attorney.
CABRERA: We just don't know yet. Thank you so much. Elie Honig, as always, I appreciate it. And if you want to learn more, ask your own questions, make sure to check out "Cross-Exam" on cnn.com. It's cnn.com/opinion.
Some developing news we're following this hour. Reports of dozens of tornados touching down in the southeast and now reports of two people dead. We'll have details just ahead.
CABRERA: Breaking news, dozens of tornados reported across Alabama and Georgia. [17:59:59] You're looking at the satellite there. This is the scene in
Lee County, Alabama right now. So much destruction.