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House Judiciary Committee Requests Documents from over 60 Individuals to Start Trump Probes; Number of Investigations into Trump Associates Grows; John Hickenlooper Announces Presidential Run in 2020; John Kasich Criticizes Trump on North Korea/Otto Warmbier Balancing Act; Interview with Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI). Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired March 4, 2019 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": That is an abuse of power. And that's something that Democrats will want to investigate. There has been concern on Capitol Hill among Democrats about how the president may have tried to interfere and now giving new evidence to be followed up on. Let's see what Gary Cohn says. Will Gary Cohn or John Kelly backed this up on the record now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: What Gary Cohn says and the White House will say. It is uncomfortable to report on something so close to home. That is exactly what you have to do.

STELTER: CNN doesn't want to be in the middle of the story but CNN. Just last week, the government gave up and admitted defeat. It is notable that it took a very long time. If the president did try to interfere he did not succeed.

BOLDUAN: Brian, great to see you.

Sarah, thank you so much as well. Really appreciate it.

We have this just also coming in. We were just talking about, before the break, talking about Democrats launching sweeping new investigations into President Trump. We are now learning that the list of Trump associates that are being asked for documents as they are getting ready to launch the investigations, that number has grown. We are also learning more detail about what exactly Democrats are looking into.

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill.

Manu, what do you have?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just moments ago, the House Judiciary chairman announced the sweeping investigation into allegations of obstruction of justice involving the president, allegations he abused his power in office and allegations that he used his office for financial and personal gain. Just moments ago, the Democratic chairman announced he is sending 81 letters to all aspects of Trump's inner circle, his family members, Trump Organization, former aides, officials with a wide range of knowledge about a number of activities that the president has been involved with as a candidate and while in office. The list spans, including Donald Trump Jr, his eldest son, his other son, Eric Trump, his current campaign manager, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner and senior adviser, former aides, Hope Hicks and Don McGahn, Trump Organization chief, Allen Weisselberg. They want to know a number of issues, everything from details about the James Comey firing, details about any contacts with the Russians during the 202016 campaign, as well as the efforts to buy the silence of at least two women who are about to go forward about allegations of having an affair with the president. One person on the list is David Pecker, who is the head of the parent company for the "National Enquirer." They want to know about the so-called catch-and-kill scheme in which they attempted to silence the story before the elections. They are demanding the documents within two weeks. They want to get this information.

Afterwards, we'll see if they move forward with subpoenas. If they don't get requests for information, they ask the White House for further details, as well. I talked to some of the staff members this morning who said they have not gotten any indications that they should not go forward with this probe from the Mueller team as well as the U.S. attorney from the Southern District of New York. They had talked to them and they said they can go forward with the current line of inquiries. There has been some coordination there.

This is paving the ground for a very long series of hearings and investigations that this committee plans to launch in the months and weeks ahead. They want to know a lot of questions. We'll see what answers they get. One big question, too, is whether or not the president dangled any pardons to people who flipped like Michael Cohen. They want to know everything about those details. We'll wait and see. A big investigation announced moments ago by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: And 81 document requests is what you are talking about. That is definitely more than the 60. They said more than 60. That is this long investigation. Also, as you lay it out, Manu, this is looking into almost every facet of Trump world from Trump Organization to before being in the Oval Office to being in the Oval Office. This is a vast investigation that is getting underway.

Manu, thanks so much for bringing that to us.

Coming up for us, a new candidate and a new pitch. The race for 2020 gets more crowded as the former governor of Colorado jumps in. What he says makes him stand out from the pack.

[11:35:49] We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: Add another name to the ever-growing field of Democrats running for president. Today, John Hickenlooper announcing his candidacy this morning. The former Colorado governor releasing a video to make his pitch to voters. He is also calling out President Trump and the gridlock in Washington. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HICKENLOOPER, (D), FOMER COLORADO GOVERNOR: As a skinny kid with Coke-bottle glasses and a funny last name I had my fair share of bullies. I'm ready for president because we need dreamers in Washington. We also need to get things done. I have proven again and again I can bring people together to produce progressive change Washington has failed to deliver.


[11:40:07] BOLDUAN: You can't beat that Colorado back drop.

CNN's Scott McLean is in Denver for us.

Scott, how is Hickenlooper trying to carve out a path for himself here?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a great question. It's one of his biggest challenges is standing out from the crowd because he does not have a lot of national name recognition. What he does have is a record as a moderate who can work across the aisle. Here in Colorado, some of his big supporters are actually Republicans themselves. The problem seems to be that the Democratic Party is moving further and further to the left rather than the center. Because of that, one well known pollster told me he thinks Hickenlooper will get a tough time getting on the debate stage. He said he has an easier time if this primary were of Independents rather than Democratic voters. Hickenlooper does have a strong resume to run on. He was governor for eight years and mayor of Denver for the eight years prior to that. He is also a successful entrepreneur. He says the big problem facing America is political divisions. He thinks the country is more divided now than it has been since the Civil War but he thinks he can fix it.

Here is what he said on "Good Morning, America" this morning.


HICKENLOOPER: I think I'm the one candidate out there that has a very strong record of bringing people together and getting things done. We have the work at the environmental community to create methane regulations, almost 100 percent coverage in health care.

One thing I have shown I can do again and again is create teams of amazingly talented people and address the critical issues facing this country.


MCLEAN: So you hear him talking about accomplishments on guns, health care, environmental regulations. What you did not hear is him talking about legalized marijuana. He still doesn't exactly consider him a proponent of legalization in other states.

BOLDUAN: Scott, thanks so much. Really appreciate it. It wasn't so long ago that Hickenlooper was rumored to be considering

a unity ticket with my next guess, the former Republican governor of Ohio, former presidential candidate, John Kasich.

Good to see you, Governor. Thank you for being here.


JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, you couldn't put Hickenlooper and Kasich on a bumper sticker. It's too long.

BOLDUAN: That is the only reason you guys didn't make a run for it. What do you think of his chances here?

KASICH: Look, he is a terrific guy. I know him very well. I love him and I wish him the best, but he is kind of having the same problem I think that I had. When I talked about the need for medication expansion and help people who were mentally ill and drug addicted. I talked about immigration. I talked about the experience I had in balancing budgets and bringing everybody together. It was to some degree a yawn until later on because I hung in there and then I began to talk to people about the things they really, really cared about. But you are in a business now when they are running for president. It is like sound byte central. People go to debates and say the most outrageous things so they can go on morning news and people say they have momentum. The other problem that governors have is that reporters who cover things don't go out to where governors are. They flop out of bed in the morning and go up to Capitol Hill and cover a Senator and then go home.

BOLDUAN: You can flop out of bed and make it to Denver.

KASICH: People don't want to go to Denver. They want to go to ski. They don't want to see Hickenlooper.

BOLDUAN: I will go to Denver anytime. Skiing will definitely be happening.

KASICH: He is a very good guy.

BOLDUAN: Do you think he would make a good president?

KASICH: I think he would be able to bring some unity to the country. He is a person that I could look at and say he would be a good president, but I have to tell you, you have to get there in the same place that I was. I love John. I worked with him on health care. We worked on a lot of issues together. And Governor Sandoval, from Nevada, we said repealing Obamacare without a replacement so people don't lose health care is not acceptable. He was really easy to work with. I'm excited he's in the race. I know that the odds are formidable because he is more moderate and the Democrats frankly all the energy is on the hard left.

BOLDUAN: Let's see how things shake out. You know what I tell everybody, I say we are way too early to count anybody out. Just hold on. KASICH: Exactly. You're exactly right.

[11:44:59] BOLDUAN: Let me ask you something. I want to ask you about North Korea. You have criticized the president for saying that he took Kim Jong-Un's word when it came to Otto Warmbier. You were governor of Ohio when this happened to Otto. You were part of the effort to try to get Otto home. I want to play for you what the president said about this this weekend.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm in such a horrible position because, in one way, I have to negotiate. In the other way, I love Mr. And Mrs. Warmbier and I love Otto. And it's a very, very delicate balance. He was a special young man. And to see what happened was so bad.


BOLDUAN: Do you see it that way? A delicate balance?

KASICH: There's no such thing as delicately balancing when somebody is tortured and essentially sent home brain dead. I mean, that's a point where I understand negotiations. I understand how you have to talk, but there's no negotiating here. The leader of North Korea knew exactly where Otto Warmbier was. They used him as a pawn. For the president to say I was in a negotiation, that is milestone bologna. I have another word for it, too, but I won't use it on the air. It is nonsense. It is kind of done. The Warmbier family are in deeper pain as a result. There are lessons we can all learn from the standpoint that we can't want something so much that we are willing to give up some basic principles. The reason why the North Korean summit failed is because he went over there thinking he could swoop in and sign an agreement which both sides were a Grand Canyon apart. To think you can show up and pressure somebody or convince somebody, it doesn't work that way. That represents exactly what I called out on the debate stage a lack of experience. You need to be experienced to be president.

BOLDUAN: Governor, I always appreciate you coming on. Thank you so much.

KASICH: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a sweeping new investigation into President Trump as Democratic lawmakers are ramping up the pressure on his inner circle now in a very big way. Are Democrats laying the groundwork for impeachment? We'll ask a member of a key committee, next.


[11:50:57] BOLDUAN: House Democrats expanding their investigation of President Trump for possible obstruction of justice and more, laying the groundwork for possible impeachment down the road. Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, this morning announced a sweeping probe of Trump's administration, campaign, transition and his business. And 81 people, as Manu Raju told us this hour, including his sons, getting letters for information, wanting it all back within two weeks.

Joining us now is Congressman Stacey Plaskett. She's the Democratic delegate from the Virgin Islands. She's on the House Government and Oversight Committees. that heard the testimony of Michael Cohen just last week.

Congresswoman, thank you for coming on.

DEL. STACEY PLASKETT, (D), VIRGIN ISLANDS: Thanks for having me, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I want to get your reaction to what Jerry Nadler just announced. We heard it was more than 60 people he would be asking for documents from. Now it's 81 people and entities reaching from his businesses to work in the administration. Now, this impacts your committee, too, it will. What's your reaction to this?

PLASKETT: I think it's an inevitable movement on the committee and the House on how they're moving on their mandates for this particular committee. On the Oversight Committee, as you know, the eight and a half, nine-hour hearing that we had really unveiled a lot of information. We really didn't talk at all about the Russia investigation. Our discussion was about the actual enterprise of the Trump Organization as well as criminal culpability of individuals within that organization as well as Michael Cohen and potentially the president of the United States. So that's where we're going to be looking, and how that affects government operations and government -- the government itself.

BOLDUAN: I want to get your gut here on this. The investigations are going to be -- are expanding. This is going to be a wide net that is being cast from multiple committees now. Should Americans expect just an endless investigation into the administration through 2020 and beyond?

PLASKETT: Well, I hope not. I mean, I think that what you're seeing is the delay from the Republican-controlled Congress of two years ago, that there have been requests, subpoenas, discussion among the House as well as the public, requesting that Congress do its job. The delay was that individuals like Chairman Gowdy and others refused to investigate much of this. So now what you're having is just the doors have opened and the flood, the water is rushing in on all of the things that have been kept back and kept out of the public eye for much of the first two years of this administration.

BOLDUAN: So if there are dozens of investigations happening from multiple committees around kind of Trump orbit, where is it that you want to focus most on your committee?

PLASKETT: I think the Oversight Committee is really going to stick to what we do, which is government operations. You know, we have a large, incredible breadth of ability to look at almost anything in the government reform committee, but I think as you've sign from the subpoenas that chairman cummings has issued, we're really trying to stick within a certain framework and really not trying to get beyond the scope. We're not trying to step on the toes or get in the lane of judiciary and the Intelligence Committee. I think you saw that in the hearing. Because that committee hearing could have gone on even longer based on so many other directions or so many other paths that we could have taken. But we really stuck to one.

BOLDUAN: Is there one issue that you think is most pressing that you would like to see --


BOLDUAN: -- that you would like to focus most on? I know there's a lot of questioning around Jared Kushner's security and such.

[11:54:55] PLASKETT: Sure. We should not ignore them, such as the security clearance. Myself and many members from my side of the aisle in Congress started a lawsuit because GAO was unwilling to give us the lease the Trump Organization has with the government for the Trump Hotel. You know, we're very concerned about the Emoluments Clause and the finances from that. Is the president getting interest based on foreign contacts, based on foreign entities and that's something I'm very interested in and think it's a direct violation of the Constitution, and that we should look into that?

BOLDUAN: President Trump is blaming your committee for hurting his talks with North Korea by holding the hearing with Michael Cohen at the very same time. What do you say to that?

PLASKETT: I think that's nonsense. You know, I think that the reasons that he outlined that he was unsuccessful were not working in the press, and so now he's had to pivot and try to find a scapegoat. He said he backed away from it. The "Art of the Deal" is if you don't get what you want, sometimes you have to walk away and let them know you're serious before you come back. That doesn't seem to be flying in the public opinion, so he's trying another tactic, which is the Cohen hearing. You know, many things go on at multiple places and multiple times, and as I've said, that's the way it's going to be for quite a period of time. We were able to have the Cohen hearing while at the same time passing gun control laws. So if he as the president can't do multiple things at the same time, shame on him.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

PLASKETT: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, we'll have much more on the breaking news. We have been following the expanded investigation by Democrats and Congress into President Trump for possible obstruction of justice and more. This after the break.