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President Trump Pressured John Kelly And Don McGahn; Former Aide Refuses To Comply House Committee Request; Rep. David Cicilline (D) Rhode Island Was Interviewed About People and Entities Who Were Asked To Submit Documents; Michael Bloomberg Rules Out Running For President; Did Trump Commit Crimes Before He Was President?; Former Federal Prosecutor Who Fought Russian-Organized Crime Joins House Intel Committee Staff; Former Trump White House Lawyer Ty Cobb Calls Robert Mueller An 'American Hero'; House Democrats Set to Vote on a Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism. Aired 11-12a ET
Aired March 5, 2019 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[23:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: And unlike what was just argued to you, just because you have the power doesn't mean you can exercise it any way you want, right?
If he pressured people to give clearance to Jared Kushner, isn't it a legitimate question to ask why? We'll see you tomorrow and I'll see you as well. Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with Erin Burnett, a.k.a., the upgrade in for D. Lemon, starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: It is so true. And sadly, he's probably not even watching to know what we're talking about.
CUOMO: He passed out long ago.
BURNETT: He's a lightweight. All right. Have a good night.
CUOMO: You, too.
BURNETT: And to all of you, welcome to tonight. This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Erin Burnett in for Don Lemon.
We begin with the breaking news this hour. Multiple sources telling CNN that President Trump put pressure on two former top aides, Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn. Put pressure on both of them to grant security clearance to Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and senior adviser.
So now it's not just Jared Kushner, it's also Ivanka. Now, Kelly and McGahn were against the move so the president granted the clearance on his own. By the way, keep in mind that he said he had nothing to do with it, didn't know anything about it, so that was a lie.
Also breaking tonight, "The Washington Post" reporting that Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign aide, will not cooperate with the expansive investigation launched by the House Judiciary Committee with a two-week deadline for documents. Caputo is one of 81 individuals and entities to receive a letter
requesting documents and testimony about the administration, the campaign, the transition, and the Trump family and its business. The president's red lines. President Trump, himself, digging in his heels today in the wake of the House Judiciary action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The witch hunt continues. The fact is that I guess we got 81 letters. There was no collusion. There was a hoax. There was no anything, and they want to do that instead of getting legislation passed. It's a disgrace to our country. The people understand it. When they look at it, they just say presidential harassment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: President Trump long warning that investigators would be crossing red lines if they started looking into his finances and his family. Well, we're over that red line. Trump not only has to deal with the, you know, the very broad set of requests for information from the House Judiciary Committee.
Tonight, we are learning that a New York State government agency is opening an investigation into the Trump Organization's insurance practices as subpoena, nine-page subpoena, sent to the company's insurance broker looking into the possibility of fraud and asset inflation.
Last week, during his congressional testimony, Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen said, he accused Trump's company of doing just that, and now Michael Cohen, he's back again tomorrow, he'll be answering more questions behind closed doors before the House intelligence committee.
The chairman of the committee responding tonight to the president's tweet accusing Democrats of overreaching and obstructing justice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: The president has had two years of Republican Congress that did no oversight whatsoever. So, he doesn't know what oversight looks like.
There are all too many serious allegations of impropriety in the administration, you know, they have multiplied every day. So, I'm not surprised he doesn't like the idea of oversight because I think he's all too conscious of the corruption, large and small, in the administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. There's so much happening and breaking late this evening. I want to turn straightaway to Elie Honig, Shimon Prokupecz and David Cay Johnston, author of "It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America." So, let me start with you, Shimon. Look, we are at a place that the
president hoped we would never be. The entire Trump world seems to be under investigation, right? And you have the family as part of that, the president's finances. Now, you've got insurance as another level of that.
We understand that the House Democrats could be about ready to get formal -- formally request those tax returns from the treasury secretary, and now you've got this whole, the president giving Ivanka security clearance, overriding security concerns, Jared Kushner, too, and he lied about it. All of his red lines seem to be obliterated now, Shimon.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, absolutely. And when you look at it, it's every aspect now of the president's life pretty much is under investigation in some way.
A lot of it now centered in Congress, and obviously, New York, where you now have multiple investigative bodies, for lack of a better word, that are really looking at every aspect of the president's life, his business dealings, his personal dealings of people close to him, his family.
He's now opened himself up to issues at Congress within Congress, with the security clearances.
[23:04:55] So certainly, when you think about what the president said to "The New York Times" in that interview about the red line, I mean, we are far beyond that, right? We are at a point where everyone was so worried about what Mueller was going to do.
Well, if you look at everything that we've learned really through today and the last few days, we're so much farther ahead than we ever thought with every, every aspect of the president's life under investigation now.
BURNETT: I mean, Elie, it's incredible. We don't even know what Mueller does or does not have, right? I mean, this is all full speed ahead. The Southern District of New York, we know the president is more concerned about that than anything else. Now you've got all these investigations.
When it comes to the security clearances, obviously the new reporting tonight on Ivanka Trump that he overruled security concerns on that. He also did so, of course, for Jared Kushner and today the White House counsel is fighting -- you know, all these documents related to that.
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure.
BURNETT: How long can they drag this out? Will they lose on the document fight?
HONIG: So, I think they can drag it out quite a while. I think they, the White House, ultimately will lose. I think what we're about to see is a sort of strategic chess game that we're going see played out several times over the next couple years. Here's how it goes. It starts with the request from Congress, request for documents. Not a
subpoena. They're holding that back strategically. Today we saw the response from the White House objecting on technical grounds. It's too overbroad, that kind of thing.
The next step from Congress if they want to push the issue, now here's a subpoena, now you have to hand over the documents. It's compulsory. It's not optional. And then the ball goes back over to the White House, and I think what they may then do is invoke executive privilege. Say, these are inside communications --
BURNETT: They want to get through this term, obviously --
BURNETT: -- he hopes to win a second term. But they're trying to drag this at least through the first term.
HONIG: It could be. Yes, it could be. Ultimately when they invoke executive privilege, then they're going to end up in the courts. This could take months.
BURNETT: Wow. You know, David, here's the thing, though, when you look at it, with the new reporting on Ivanka Trump specifically, right, I think it's worth playing, again, what she told ABC News just last month, specifically, about the issue of security clearances and whether her father, the president, had anything to do with her and her husband getting them. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANKA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: The president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. Look, David, it's possible that she didn't know what he was doing. Totally possible. It's also possible she's completely lying. Will we ever know which it is?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: I think so. Interestingly, she didn't say, I don't know anything about that. She offered an affirmative action. The president had nothing to do with it. Now, how would she know that?
So, I think it's more likely that she's lied about this and, of course, President Trump, himself, said he did not intervene in any way. And we have these two memos written by Kelly and McGahn that pretty clearly are designed to make sure that if this all goes south, they don't end up living in Leavenworth.
BURNETT: Right, they have -- there's a record, right, that they somehow made that record.
BURNETT: You know, it's interesting, though, Ivanka's name coming up in this. Because I know that the chairman of the House judiciary, Jerrold Nadler made it very clear to me, OK, her name is probably going to be on the next list. But she wasn't on the first 81 and everybody else in the Trump family was.
And I just wanted to play something Rudy Giuliani said about Ivanka last year because I'm wondering if this is relevant. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: If they do to Ivanka, which I doubt they will, the whole country will turn on them. They're going after his daughter.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: What about his son-in-law? They talked about him.
GIULIANI: I guess Jared is a fine man, you know that, but men are, you know, disposable. A fine woman like Ivanka? Come on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: David, just putting aside those many offensive things, just about the tine --
BURNETT: -- what he said there, but what do you make of that? Is that the way it is?
JOHNSTON: Well, I think this is strategic. One of the things that you're going to want to do here is split up the family and get them to not be with each other. And if Ivanka gets in a position choosing between her husband and her father, what is she going to do?
So, I think this is just part of the strategy of how you approach these things, and part of that is, you know, they're not being overly tough handed here. At the end of the day, Congress can literally send the sergeant in arms out to arrest people and bring them before Congress to testify.
BURNETT: That's just --
JOHNSTON: I don't think you'll see that.
BURNETT: You're pretty incredible if it got to that point. Shimon, all right. So, you know, we talk about all these lines being crossed and now the family, you also have all of the money. Right? The money that's being investigated. Tax returns about to be requested. On and on.
Now, of course, reporting that an agency in New York, a subpoena to, nine-page subpoena to the Trump Organization requesting information on an insurance brokerage after Michael Cohen when he was asked directly by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez if the president had inflated the value with the Trump Organization inflated the value of assets for insurance purposes.
By the way, I want to be clear, that would be fraud. He said, yes, categorically he answered the question, yes, that had happened. Shimon, what else do we know?
PROKUPECZ: Right. So, this nine-page subpoena was delivered to the Trump Organization, to actually the insurance company for the Trump Organization on Monday.
[23:10:03] What's interesting about this, is that the subpoena goes back 10 years. They're looking for information from 2009 forward. They want to know about communications, they want documents relating to the insurance company and their business dealings with the Trump Organization.
The one thing that is interesting about this, right, so this organization is the New York Department of Financial Services. It's not well known, but certainly, you know, they oversee a lot of lenders. They oversee insurance companies. They oversee banks that deal with business in New York.
PROKUPECZ: And one of the things they look for is financial fraud and also, obviously, fair business practice. They are not a criminal body. So, they can't necessarily, themselves, pursue criminal charges. But if they find some kind of fraud, they can refer it to a state prosecutor.
That is much different, obviously, because the state prosecutor, there's no pardon for the president or anyone who may be involved in this. So, it could present potentially different challenges, certainly these charges could be either if there are criminal charges, they could be referred to the attorney general in New York which has already launched its own investigation, but then we may also have a new opening here for the New York County D.A., the Manhattan D.A.'s office which could begin looking into something related to this.
BURNETT: And of course, you know, again, it would be fraud which, Elie, leads to the point if Michael Cohen is going to be testifying again tomorrow it's behind closed doors. So they didn't finished in the first closed-door session House intel. They're now going to have another one.
This is one thing that certainly they would want to drill down on and would I presume he would be cooperating with any other authorities who are asking questions. But what else do you think is going to be of utmost focus tomorrow behind closed doors?
HONIG: Sure. So, remember, that what we saw last week in public from Michael Cohen was seven hours or so. And the reporting is that he spent -- and according to Mueller and southern district, he spent 10 times that amount of time with them.
HONIG: So, I think they're going to dig deep into a lot of things that we heard about just in a sort of superficial level next week. The hush money payments. There's still so much more to that story. I think they're going to want to hear about that. I think they're going to dig deep into the Trump org, into his false testimony, how did he come about this false testimony to the Senate?
You know, these behind closed door sessions are much different, the questioners are not limited to five minutes. The TV cameras are there. So, I think you can get a lot deeper into the substance in these closed-door sessions.
BURNETT: All right. And David, you know, then we've got new reporting because Elie just mentioned the hush money payments. "The New York Times" tonight says they have six more of the checks that Trump, or his trust, wrote to Michael Cohen.
Oddly, you know, the president started doing this himself via his trust. You know, his name on every one of these. And, you know, the Times did a really good job on this because they go through each of these checks that you see on your screen, and they show the date that the check was written. And then they check against the public schedule of what the president was doing that day.
So, you know, on one day, he makes a condolence call to a soldier's widow and then he writes a check on that same day. On another day, he has a meeting with Netanyahu and he meets with President Abbas in Bethlehem. He flies to Rome. He writes a check. Another day, he hosts the prime minister of Malaysia. He hosts a check. Another day, two days before Thanksgiving, he pardons to Turkey. He cuts a check.
It does -- it does, David, the way they do it, make the point, right, in the midst of all of these other things he's doing as president of the United States, he is every single month writing a check for Stormy Daniels. Related to Stormy Daniels.
JOHNSTON: And there are, I'm sure, going to be -- I'm sure there's going to be more checks. But what was significant to me about the checks is the initial ones were written from his trust account, which, and those checks were signed by Allen Weisselberg and Don Trump, Jr.
All of a sudden Donald Trump is personally signing the checks. What that suggests to me is that when Allen Weisselberg was approached by the FBI, he suddenly realized he could be culpable and said I'm sorry, you're going to have to sign your own checks, Donald, going forward. And I'm sure that is a question that will be pursued behind closed doors.
BURNETT: Yes, and certainly you to see that shift on these checks. All right. Thank you, all, very much.
And a lot more to get to this hour. A former campaign staffer for Trump, or adviser, says he will not cooperate with the House Judiciary Committee despite being on the list, initial list, as they emphasize, of 81 people they want to speak to.
A member of that committee, Congressman David Cicilline, reacts, next.
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BURNETT: Breaking news. Former Trump adviser Michael Caputo says he will not cooperate with the House Judiciary Committee. He was on that list of people and entities getting letters. Two-week deadline for information. Says no way.
Joining me now, Democratic Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island who sits on the House judiciary and foreign affairs committees. I appreciate your time, Congressman.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: My pleasure.
BURNETT: So, Michael Caputo says he is not going to cooperate with the request for information from your committee. What will you do?
CICILLINE: Well, I think with respect to all of the document requests that we've made, we intend to get the materials that we need to conduct our oversight. We sent out correspondence requesting these documents, particularly documents that have already been furnished to either the special counsel or the Southern District of New York.
To the extent that individuals refuse to provide those documents, we obviously have other mechanisms including a subpoena --
CICILLINE: -- to force the production of the documents. But we have oversight responsibility and that is contingent on our ability to collect information, to collect evidence, both documents and testimony. And we intend to do that. It's an important responsibility we have. We expect most of the witnesses will cooperate and produce the documents. But to the extent that we have to use court process or subpoena --
BURNETT: Subpoena you'll do it.
CICILLINE: -- we will do it.
BURNETT: All right. So Caputo told "The Washington Post" that he's already begun coordinating with four other Trump associates who received requests from the committee. And they're going to be working on some sort of a joint strategy to resist request. You know, they think it's a perjury trap. What do you say to that? When they say you're just trying to impeach the president?
[23:19:56] CICILLINE: Well, look, these investigations, which really center on three principle areas, corruption, obstruction of justice, and abuse of power. They involve a whole range of activities of this administration that we have a responsibility to conduct oversight for. That's one of the duties of the Constitution that requires us to
engage in. The Republicans have refused to do it for the last to s. We have a 500-page document with all of the times we attempt to persuade them to conduct oversight. They never did it. So, I understand this may feel new.
But this is the responsibility of the judiciary committee and we intend to do it and witnesses, if they testify truthfully and produce documents as requested, won't run into a perjury trap. Just tell the truth.
But, you know, simply to say because the president was the subject of a special counsel investigation that the judiciary committee is precluded from investigating anything else is an absurdity. We a number of serious allegations that have been made and we have a responsibility to find the truth and reveal the facts to the American people.
BURNETT: There is more new reporting at this hour, Congressman, and that is that President Trump pressured staff to grant his daughter, Ivanka, not just his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, but his daughter, Ivanka, a security clearance. Your reaction.
CICILLINE: Well, this is very, very disturbing. We should remember that a security clearance is required before some of the most secret information can be shared with an individual that is essential to protecting the security of the American people and of our country.
And so, you want to be sure that before information is shared that that person has been vetted, and that they can't be compromised. That they don't have some other reason that they might be willing to share that information with someone they shouldn't.
So, this is important to protecting our country. The president has a right to order someone to get a security clearance, but you have to wonder when the CIA, the FBI, and the intelligence community raised objections --
CICILLINE: -- the president overruled those objections and then lied about it. That's of great concern.
BURNETT: So, when we're -- our understanding at CNN here is that the concerns about Ivanka Trump's security clearance were separate from those raised about her husband which, of course, you know, concerned as we've reported the fears of manipulation by, you know, four specific countries, among other issues. Do you have any sense as to why they were worried? What was their hesitation on Ivanka Trump?
CICILLINE: I don't know that. I think one of the things we will certainly attempt to learn by both requesting documents and bringing witnesses before the judiciary committee is find out what their concerns were because these are central to our ability to defend our country from threats and from terrorism and from all kinds of dangers is to protect the sharing of confidential and highly classified information. We need to know that.
BURNETT: So, is she going to be added to your list, Congressman? Because she wasn't on it. I was surprised. Both of his sons were on the list. But of the initial list of 81 people and entities, Ivanka Trump's name wasn't on there.
CICILLINE: Yes, I think it's important to remember this is our first round of document requests. I expect we will have additional requests that will go out. We haven't generated those yet. We'll certainly look at the materials we get to make determinations as to other individuals that should be the subject of document requests.
BURNETT: Before we go, I want to ask you about your colleague, Congresswoman Maxine Waters. She said today, she had actually an extensive tweet rant, one of which she said "For the faint of heart who've been waiting for every t to be crossed and every i to be dotted, now is the time to demonstrate your patriotism. Support impeachment." Exclamation point. Do you support it?
CICILLINE: Look, Chairwoman Waters has been clear about her view on this for a very long time. I think it's particularly important for the members of the judiciary committee to make sure that we are gathering all of the facts before we proceed with an impeachment. Obviously, there are a number of things which are of tremendous concern to me, to the public, and to members of our committee --
BURNETT: But you are not there yet, the facts are not there yet as far as you see them?
CICILLINE: Well, I think there's lots of evidence. We have one opportunity to proceed with an impeachment proceeding. So, I think it's very important that before we do, that we have all the evidence, all the facts and we're just at the beginning of gathering that information through the document requests.
You know, the special counsel's been at work for two years. We're just starting our oversight responsibilities, but we're going to get to it as quickly as we can to get the facts so we can make determine determinations how we proceed from here.
BURNETT: All right. As you say just from the beginning. All right. Congressman Cicilline, thanks for your time tonight.
CICILLINE: My pleasure.
BURNETT: And an overwhelming majority of Americans say they think Donald Trump committed crimes before taking office. It's according to a poll out just tonight. We'll dig into the numbers and so what this could mean for Trump's re-election bid.
[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BURNETT: After months of speculation, the former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is ruling out a run for the president. Everyone else seems to be getting in. He has chosen not to.
The fourth person this week to say they're sitting out now. That does not mean the list of Democratic candidates isn't getting longer and longer. John Hickenlooper got in this week. While there are some big names still, we are waiting news from.
I want to bring in Frank Bruni and Ryan Lizza. So, you know, Frank, Michael Bloomberg writes this op-ped which was detailing the reasons, and in part, he wrote, quote, "I am clear eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field."
And he made it clear that he thinks, OK, I could win the general, but I cannot win the Democratic primary. The field is just way too far left. Is he right?
FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think he's exactly right, and I actually think there you have a very honest assessment. I think he's being honest. I also think, I really want to tip my hat to him.
I mean, a lot of politicians have trouble restraining their egos, you know, and finding any kind of limits to their egos. And I think Mike Bloomberg did a whole bunch of research here. The people around him did a whole bunch of research. They looked hard at the facts and they said am I really going to make a positive impact if I run for the Democratic nomination?
Now, he's getting out of the race for that nomination. He's not getting out of this campaign. And what I think is interesting here, is he's saying I'm going to be very involved in helping to make sure to support Democrats and to ultimately support whoever gets the nomination because I want to see an end to Trump. And I think it's --
BRUNI: -- it's a good thing here. I think we have to pause and say he's decided to do what he thinks is best for the country. He believes Donald Trump must be limited to one term and must be out of there, and what he is saying is I'm not the person because of the contours, the dynamic of the Democratic nomination process.
[23:30:07] I'm not the person who is going to be able to do that, but I'm absolutely going to continue working to make that happen.
BURNETT: Ryan, is -- I don't know, but is there another way to interpret this? Obviously he doesn't believe in the Howard Schultz view of things, which is go ahead and run in the middle. But what he is saying is if he can win the general but he can't win the Democratic primary -- because I'm playing a little bit of logic games here -- is there also the risk here that someone who can win the Democratic primary cannot win the general?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Maybe. I'm not sure I agree with his -- his logic that he was, you know, such a clear winner against Trump in a general election.
LIZZA: You know, he cares about two issues these days more than anything else. That is gun control and climate change. Very, you know, admirable to care about those issues, but running a general election campaign against Trump emphasizing those two issues above all else, and on the other hand, a sort of religiously sort of centrist on the size and role of government and economics, I'm not sure that is where the sweet spot is against Trump in a general election, right?
It seems to be slightly more populist candidate who is a little more left of center on the -- on the welfare state and is not highlighting climate change, frankly, and gun control which as important as those issues are, are not the front-burner issues of the public right now.
Anyway, I'm not sure I agree with his analysis about how he'd stack up against Trump. But he's got a ton of money, he cares a lot about politics, and I think his decision was, should he run for president or should he just pour that money into these issues he cares about, which is what he's decided to do.
BURNETT: All right. So, you know, all of this comes when you talk about the field, right, Frank, as we've got a new poll. And, you know, all these polls are going to come out and ask various questions. This is a Quinnipiac poll. It had some very interesting ones in it, of which one was 64 percent of registered voters saying that Donald Trump committed crimes before becoming president.
That includes 33 percent of Republicans. And keep in mind, Republicans are less than a third of the electorate right around a quarter. So you've got 64 percent of Americans saying that the president committed crimes before he got into office. That's an astounding number.
BRUNI: Yeah, and that is not good for the president or for his re- election prospects. I mean, it suggests that all that we've seen, you know, over recent weeks and months, Michael Cohen's testimony, the revelations that have come from Mueller's investigation, from people testifying in the Hill, Americans are paying attention and they are, some of them, belatedly waking up to Donald Trump's character.
But it's hard to know just how much this is going to hurt him because part of the deal with Trump, part of the dynamic has always been that people have very low expectations for his morality. They understand that his character isn't sterling. Even as he was elected president, most people said they didn't find him trustworthy.
BRUNI: So that makes it hard to know just how much this is going to hurt Trump.
BURNETT: And Frank, you know, I find it interesting in the same poll, right, 22 percent of Americans say he's a good role model for the kids, down from 27. I'm wondering what suddenly caused the drop, Ryan, to be honest.
BURNETT: I don't know what more is needed for that if you still think he's a role model.
BURNETT: But this point of trustworthiness which Frank just raised, 30 percent of voters think the president is honest, 39 percent think he cares about average Americans. What do those numbers say to you, Ryan? Are those significant at this point?
LIZZA: What they say to me, you know, given how polarized the country is and how roughly equal the two parties are, any time you get a lopsided result like that, it makes me think, wow, there are a lot of Republicans with really, really dim views of Trump's personal character, whether he's committed crimes, whether he's trustworthy, and a good role model, and yet, he has, you know, anywhere from 80 percent to 95 percent support among Republicans.
So you have this enormous chunk of the Republicans who know everything, all the bad stuff about Trump, and they do not care.
LIZZA: And I think it's important for Democrats to realize that as they go into these investigations in the House, to realize the bar is so, so high to convince --
LIZZA: -- folks on the other side of the aisle that there should be anything -- that no matter how -- whatever they uncover, no matter how bad it is, that you're going to change minds.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you both very much. Always a fair point to point out, yes, the approval rating among Republicans is so very, very high. When you talk about Americans and you define yourself as a Democrat or a Republican, Republicans are what, only 27 percent or 28 percent of the overall electorate. So it's not like you're looking at --
LIZZA: That's true.
BURNETT: -- half of Americans.
BURNETT: You're looking at --
LIZZA: Good point, Erin, absolutely.
BURNETT: -- 80 -- 90 percent of 27 percent. Just to give people a sense, when we talk about re-election.
BURNETT: You know, numbers don't necessarily add up.
LIZZA: And you got a lot of people who no longer identifying as Republicans.
LIZZA: They're taken themselves out of that pool.
BURNETT: That's right. OK, thank you both very much.
BRUNI: He needs to do better among independents.
BURNETT: And a former Trump White House lawyer is calling Bob Mueller an American hero. What's behind his praise of Mueller? And who is it? That's next.
BURNETT: House Democrats right now are staffing up with all of this broad massive investigation into President Trump. Intel Chairman Adam Schiff in the meantime is hiring someone to helm it, a veteran prosecutor who will lead his committee's investigation. This prosecutor is a person with a hell of a lot of experience and a lot of it on fighting the Russian mob.
[23:39:59] I want to bring in Asha Rangappa and Garrett Graff, author of "The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror."
Asha, when we talk about the former SDNY prosecutor, Daniel Goldman, Russian mob expertise, money laundering, racketeering, successfully prosecuted the Genovese crime family. That also involved murder. This guy knows what he's doing.
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely. You know, in DOJ, you know, prosecutors will focus on specific kinds of violations and gain expertise in how to investigate and gather the evidence to prove that kind of activity. And when you're dealing with the mob, you are looking at organized crime. You are looking at RICO violations, which I know Garrett just wrote an amazing op-ed about.
And so he is going to have the strategy that will determine exactly what this committee is going to look for and how they are all going to put it all together in terms of documents and gathering witnesses.
BURNETT: So, Garrett, that piece that Asha just referenced in "The New York Times", you make the case that prosecutors should investigate the president's businesses like they would handle the mafia. What exactly are you saying, implying?
GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah. I think anyone who has organized crime expertise as an investigator or prosecutor who listened to Michael Cohen testify before Congress last week, what they heard was not the story of a businessman and a lawyer. They heard a racketeering enterprise. They heard a corrupt organization.
They -- you heard references to money laundering, wire fraud, back fraud, tax fraud, charity fraud. All crimes that are sort of part of this specific law that the U.S. government has, specific tool that they have, to go after organizations that have a corrupt core and center to them.
In part, this racketeering -- these racketeering laws, the RICO law, is used specifically to go after sort of the godfather figures, the mob bosses or mafia chieftains, who are a step or two removed from the day-to-day crime because the -- in the 1970s and 1980s, the government really struggled to sort of figure out how to take down these mafia cases because you have mob bosses who speak in code, people who sort of talk in abstract terms or sort of give phrases that their associates know how to translate into action. That's again exactly what we heard Michael Cohen saying --
BURNETT: So, let me just jump in, Garrett, because I want to play it, because he was, like, you know, someone was asking him about how Trump would tell him to do something. He said he never told me to do it. Instead, he gave this whole example about a tie. Isn't that tie look great? Don't you think my tie looks great? You think it looks great? Let me just play part of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That's not how he operates. He doesn't give you questions. He doesn't give you orders. He speaks in a code. And I understand the code because I've been around him for a decade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And Asha, then he did, he did talk about the tie. He said Trump would say, you know, you think this is a beautiful tie, don't you? That would be, you know, you better go say it's a nice tie. Does this sound like organized crime? Does it sound like racketeering to you, Asha?
RANGAPPA: It does to me and for everyone who specialized in that. That is what it's echoed. And I just want to add here, Erin, you know, Congress has a lot of advantages that even prosecutors and DOJ don't. In the FBI, you follow a very methodical path. You gather evidence, you're able to take the next step and then the next step and you're gathering evidence.
You know, we've already seen that these committees have sent out 81 document request all at once. They can bring these people in. They can start to put this together. And also, we already know that history here for Trump is not good. There was a "New York Times" article about the pattern of fraud that the Trump family had been engaging in for a while. That's probably well past the statute of limitations.
There's the Trump Foundation which was dissolved in December for engaging in a pattern of shockingly illegal behavior and using the charity as a slush fund. And then there was the Trump University which was a RICO civil suit which was ultimately settled. So, you know, I do think that this is the way that they are going to approach the Trump Organization itself.
BURNETT: Garrett, you know, one thing about all of this is, of course, these investigations are coming on the heels of Mueller. Heels, we don't even have Mueller, but we presume the heels. And it seems from the way everybody's treating this that nobody thinks there's going to be very much in it or they wouldn't be pushing ahead with their own investigations.
[23:44:57] Former Trump White House lawyer Ty Cobb had this to say about Bob Mueller on ABC today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I think Bob Mueller is an American hero. I think the world of Bob Mueller. He is a very deliberate guy. But he's also a class act and a very justice-oriented person. I don't feel the same way about Mueller. I don't feel the investigation is a witch hunt. I wish it had happened on a quicker timetable. But it didn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Garrett, what do you make of that? This was a former attorney for the president for a long time on this investigation. And now saying, I don't agree, it's not a witch hunt. He's a man of integrity, a man of honor, an American hero.
GRAFF: Yeah, and this is, by the way, very consistent with what Ty Cobb has said or, and acted as, throughout his time representing the president. Remember, it was Ty Cobb who said that the White House should cooperate fully and was very cooperative in that sort of first year of the Mueller investigation, something that will probably have some big downstream ramifications.
I mean, it was Ty Cobb and sort of that cooperation that led to Don McGahn, the White House counsel, spending 30 hours with Bob Mueller as part of this investigation. Now, you know, Ty Cobb for all of this very kind words and cooperation with Mueller has been stunningly wrong about much of his view of the probe. He was the one, after all, saying that this would be over by Thanksgiving 2017 --
GRAFF: -- which we just barely missed. But, you know, this is -- I think Ty Cobb is sort of saying the truth.
BURNETT: Well, yeah, and maybe back then he was saying what a certain person wanted to hear. Thank you both very much. And we'll be right back.
[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BURNETT: House Democrats set to vote this week on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. It is a rebuke of Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar who recently said pro-Israel groups are pushing an allegiance to a foreign country. The resolution does not mention Omar by name, but it will include language condemning anti-Muslim bias.
I want to discuss with Dean Obeidallah, Peter Beinart, and Tara Setmayer.
Peter, what do you think? I was talking to the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who's one of the -- Eliot Engel obviously intimately involved with this. And he's very, very careful to say that maybe what was said was anti-Semitic but not to say that Congresswoman Omar was an anti-Semite.
PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. My view is that Ilhan Omar made a mistake by diverting a conversation that really needs to happen into a conversation that really doesn't need to happen and treads on a lot of real sensitivities. We don't need a conversation about the fidelity and loyalty of American Jews or AIPAC.
What we really do need is a conversation about Palestinian human rights. And I think one of the roles that Ilhan Omar can play, which is crucially important, especially of people who care about -- who oppose all bigotry, is to talk about the enormous suffering and human rights abuses that take place for Palestinians in the West Bank.
That's what she should be shining a light on. I think unfortunately by turning this conversation and those comments to the question of who may be -- you know, have allegiance to a foreign government, she's actually diverted from the conversation we really need to have.
BURNETT: And that of course -- and it plays in, Dean, to a lot of anti-Semitic things, right? You know, as Peter says, there's a conversation that needs to be had and then there's a conversation that is sort of a dog whistle to certain groups that should never be encouraged.
She has said in her defense, "My Americanness is questioned by the president and the GOP on a daily basis, yet my colleagues remain silent. I know what it means to be American and no one will ever tell me otherwise."
You know, OK, look, she has spoken out very, very strongly on Palestinian rights and human rights.
DEAN OBEIDALLAH, HOST, SIRIUSXM: Sure.
BURNETT: And yet her answer is to say, well, you're picking on me, so what? I can do it back? What do you --
OBEIDALLAH: You know, what I can speak to is more about that Congresswoman Omar -- and I watched the entire speech that was released from "Busboys and Poets," and I don't think it had been released until today because I had not seen it. In that, she talks about speaking to Jewish constituents and trying to find common ground. It was not an anti-Israel diatribe.
This line about allegiance is extremely troubling because herself as a visible Muslim, myself as a visible Muslim, we've been accused by the right of not being loyal to this country, being more loyal to Islam than our own nation that we love. So, it's extremely troubling to even touch on that by Congresswoman Omar.
But I think her heart is to try to raise the issue that Peter said, about Palestinians and we're losing that. And ironically in that speech, she talked about we can't have this discussion because of this other issue and this is what happened.
BURNETT: So, Tara, let me play what Eliot Engel, the chairman, said earlier tonight on this question of whether something that was an anti-Semitic comment meant someone is anti-Semitic, and we're talking about Congresswoman Omar. Here's how he answered it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: I'm hoping that she'll grow and she'll change. I'm hoping. Some people change their beliefs. I'm hoping she'll change hers. I think what she said was wrong and hurtful. I think she should understand that. And I've been very vocal about it. And I feel very, again, strongly, certainly against anti-Semitism. But I think these tropes are not to be washed away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, Tara, what do you make of that response? Is he dancing around the issue? You know, I kind of think back to sometimes when we talk about some of the things that the president says or when we're talking about can someone say something racist and not be a racist, for example.
[23:55:04] I mean this sort of, you know, game of semantics we are playing now about anti-Semitism.
TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We just had this last week during the Michael Cohen hearing with Mark Meadows and that display and, you know, what happened with him with Representative Tlaib. Look, this is what I think is going on here. It's clear that Representative Omar knows exactly what she's saying. It's clear that is wading into these issues in a way that, you know, out of the heart, so does your mouth speak.
I see the same thing about Donald Trump and Trump supporters. And the Democrats are in a tough spot condemning her as much as they should and taking action the way they should because they're pressured by the fact that you have what are considered rock star freshmen coming in. She's one of the first Muslim women ever elected to Congress.
You know, she's on the cover of "Rolling Stone" magazine with Nancy Pelosi. You know, the old guard Democrats are trying to balance out this progressive new wing coming in without upsetting that part of the base.
But enough is enough. How many times does this woman have to say things that are anti-Semitic before she pays a real consequence? I'm tired of the apologies over and over and then she turns around and does it again and doubles down on it, doesn't take responsibility, and then engages in whataboutism. If you're going to condemn Donald Trump and his supporters for the things that they have said and trafficked in, then you have to do the same thing for Omar. And she, in my opinion, does not deserve a seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Enough is enough. She should be kicked off that committee.
BEINART: Can I respond to that?
BURNETT: Yeah, quickly.
BEINART: I really feel like there's a false equivalence here. While I think --
SETMAYER: How so?
BEINART: -- what Ilhan Omar said was really unfortunate, Ilhan Omar -- again, if you look at the full text of her statement that she gave at Busboys and all of the statements she's made about Israel and Palestinians, Ilhan Omar, unlike Donald Trump, in dramatic contrast to Donald Trump, is a believer in human rights and equality for both Jews and Palestinians. The vast majority of members of --
SETMAYER: How do we know that for Jews?
BEINART: The vast majority -- because I've seen her entire record --
SETMAYER: She supports BDS. She supports BDS which doesn't allow Israel's right to exist. How is that supportive of Jews?
BEINART: Sorry. I am an American Jew who opposes the BDS movement. But Ilhan Omar's statements have consistently been about recognizing the humanity and suffering of both Jews and Palestinians. And the vast majority of members of Congress in both parties --
BEINART: -- are entirely comfortable with --
SETMAYER: Except she's making anti-Semitic tropes.
BEINART: -- an occupation in the West Bank that is premised on bigotry against --
BURNETT: All right, I have to leave it there.
SETMAYER: That's a different issue. That's a different issue. Talk about what's going on in Palestine.
BEINART: It's the heart of the issue.
BURNETT: I have to leave it there. I will say -- I will say Chairman Engel said that he's not going to request for her to be removed from his committee. So at this point, that's where that stands as of tonight.
SETMAYER: Too bad. BURNETT: Thanks to all of you and thanks to all of you for watching. Our coverage continues.