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CNN NEWSROOM

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) Maryland Interviewed About House Democrats' Investigations Into President Trump's Business and Political Life; Democrats Launch Sweeping Trump Probe, Demand Documents from 81 Players; David Axelrod: Democrats Documents Request "Plays into the Witch-Hunt Meme"; North Korea Hackers Targeted the U.S. During Trump-Kim Summit; Investors Pay Close Attention to U.S.- China Trade Negotiations. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 5, 2019 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:02] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: I just felt that today was the day for the red pantsuit. You don't disagree. But tomorrow red pajamas.

BERMAN: Nice.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BERMAN: That's a tease.

CAMEROTA: "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto starts right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. No red pantsuits here yet.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Or pajamas.

SCIUTTO: I'm Jim Sciutto.

HARLOW: Or pajamas yet.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. To save time this morning we are going to list every aspect of President Trump's business life in politics that is not covered by a sweeping new investigation by the House Judiciary Committee. Got it? That's it. Nothing.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: And while the president himself said he's prepared to cooperate, quote, "all the time with everybody," he still says, quote, "it's all a hoax." This morning he writes the Democrats are, quote, "stone cold crazy." Why? To order 81 people, groups and offices including the Trump Organization, the Trump Foundation, even the Justice Department and FBI to hand over documents in two weeks or risk a subpoena for them. SCIUTTO: Now to be clear, these are organizations and groups that

already handed over documents to the special counsel and other investigators.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Watching all of this from a distance however now after 10 months at the president's side Ty Cobb who as a lawyer, as a White House lawyer urged real cooperation with the special counsel and who now tells ABC News that he has a very different view of the probe from the president's view.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TY COBB, FORMER WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I don't feel the same way about Mueller. I don't feel the investigation is a witch hunt. A lot of things, you know, distracted him from focusing on the president. From Manafort's, you know, decade-old issues to, you know, the Papadopouloses of the world, and the Carter Pages of the world and the Roger Stones of the world. So it's not my view that it's a witch hunt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Very different from what you've heard of the president. And Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill.

So this is quite a wide net cast by the Democrats here. But to be clear, these are all folks who have already been subpoenaed, given up documents, testimony, et cetera to for instance the special counsel's investigation, right?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Some of them certainly have, Jim. And that's notable here. There are incredible amounts of boldfaced names in this list of 81 people and entities. People who we have been talking about for years in Donald Trump's inner circle starting with President Trump's own family members. You have people like both of his sons, Eric Trump and -- both Trump sons and you also have his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Then you have people that are in the campaign world and the White House world. There are Hope Hicks, Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon. Then you have people who might not absolutely recognize but people who have been in Trump's life for so long. Rhona Graff, she is his long time executive, assistant. Allen Weisselberg, he is the CFO of the Trump Organization. His name came up so many times and was singled out by Michael Cohen up here on Capitol Hill last week.

Notably someone who is not on this list is Ivanka Trump. That has been raised up here on Capitol Hill. And certainly many Democrats is not ruling out that they potentially could do a second tranche essentially of document requests from additional people. So that's certainly in the mix as well.

Now these recipients, these people and entities will have about two weeks to respond back to the committee. We have certainly heard the White House response to all this. Sarah Sanders being clear. She called it a fishing expedition. She said Democrats are not after the truth. They are after the president. And certainly we have heard from President Trump tweeting out this morning specifically about the 81 letters sent. He calls to innocent people. He said they won't get anything done for our country.

Back to you, guys.

HARLOW: And Sunlen, before you go, talk to us about the general topics that are under scrutiny because the list is broad.

SERFATY: It is, Poppy. This is a broad scope of this investigation, hitting President Trump nearly in every aspect of his life. We're talking about his businesses, his campaign, his inaugural committee. Here are just a few of the topics in which we're talking about. The Russian collusion, the firing of former FBI director James Comey, Stormy Daniels' payment, and both hush money payments of course that we heard so much about during the Michael Cohen testimony.

And the chairman of the committee Jerry Nadler has been very clear that he's really honing in here on three things, obstruction of justice, abuse of power and corruption.

Back to you, guys.

SCIUTTO: Sunlen Serfaty on the Hill, thanks very much.

When asked whether he will cooperate with the investigation, the Hill investigation, the president says that he cooperates with everyone.

HARLOW: Right. That's a quote. But the reaction from the White House and the press secretary specifically, Sarah Sanders, more pointed. She called the House Judiciary investigation a, quote, "disgraceful abusive, a fishing expedition into tired and false allegations." But what former White House employee, former White House attorney Ty Cobb had a different warning.

Let's bring in Joe Johns at the White House with more. Good morning.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. You know, Ty Cobb was Mr. Cooperation over here at the White House.

[09:05:03] But now he's gone. He was a Justice Department insider, went to private practice, and then found himself here at the White House trying to keep the lines of communication open between the Mueller team and the legal team that was here in place at the White House at the time.

He was very much seen as a moderating influence, essentially trying to keep cooperation going as opposed to the legal team we see in place now that's much more adversarial, even with some political tinges including, of course, Rudy Giuliani who occasionally throws a political firebomb out there for media consumption.

Well, during this interview with an ABC podcast, he made it pretty clear that he has a certain view. If you will, a window into the way the president views this investigation and just how long it could stick with the president. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COBB: He's found this very frustrating. It's particularly frustrated him in foreign affairs. He doesn't like the timing. You know, wants this over. But it's never going to be over. I mean, this is going to go for -- this will go through 2020 and if the president is re-elected it will go beyond that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: And the other thing I think that's important about this interview is he's made it pretty clear that he believes, as you said right at the top, that Mueller is essentially an honorable man running an honorable investigation. He even pointed to the Bronze Star Robert Mueller won as a Marine in combat in the Vietnam War.

Jim, Poppy, back to you.

SCIUTTO: Yes. That can't be forgotten. He was a volunteer.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: And a volunteer for some of the hardest duty in the war.

Joe Johns at the White House, thanks very much.

Let's talk about this more with former federal prosecutors, both, Jeffrey Toobin and Laura Coates.

Jeffrey Toobin, lots to talk about here, Ty Cobb and the Hill investigations. Just for a moment on the Hill investigations, because Nadler says that he's only asking for information from these 81 individuals and it's a long list, and groups I should say, that have already turned over to either the special counsel or the Southern District here in New York or someone so it could be done quickly and without questions of privilege.

I wonder if the way we could read this here, Jeffrey, is House Democrats preparing for the post-Mueller report period and perhaps the possibility that the Mueller report does not give them, you know, the clarity that they wanted on this investigation or the result of this investigation that they wanted.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I certainly think that's part of what's going on here. You know, given what Attorney General Barr has said about perhaps not releasing the full Mueller report, not knowing what is going to be in the report in the first place. The congressional Democrats are trying to replicate a lot of issues that Mueller has been investigating that we know.

You know, people he brought in the grand jury, cases he's brought. But also, I think, they are trying to do their own independent investigation. This is, as we have said many times over the past day, a very wide net. But we'll see how Nadler and the Democrats narrow it down, what they want to hold hearings on. It's one thing to ask for 81 people for documents. It's another to ask 81 people to testify. They are not going to do that. They're going to have to refine their public presentation to something that they think the public will be interested in. We'll see how they do that and whether it's effective.

HARLOW: Although, Laura, what was interesting to me is when Erin Burnett last night pressed Nadler on this. He made very clear that this list is just the beginning that more people including Ivanka Trump could be added to it. So I think Jeffrey is spot on that it's -- you're not going to bring 81 people to testify. But this list could grow. And I'm interested in your read, Laura, on what names or groups jump out at you the most.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, of course names that we have already looked at, people who have been prosecuted, Michael Flynn, Michael Flynn Jr., Michael Cohen, of course Julian Assange is an interesting choice, Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions is one person on this list as well. All these different groups of people have hit or touched the president's life, administration, his organization or the campaign or even the inaugural committee at different points in time.

It's important to think about the overall context here. This may seem like an overwhelming list. There are so many people involved and more yet to come. Remember for the last two years, there were over a hundred letters at least that were sent out hoping to try to get information from the Democratic side that was frustrated by the Republican control of the House. And so much of this has been building up and building up over time.

Not because it's a kitchen sink argument. Because over the past two years there's been so many different investigations that have been frustrated. A lot of this is going to be about asking the question why and information gathering. And finally, the idea of them doing it separately from Robert Mueller makes a whole lot of sense.

The only reason they waited in the first place is because many people who were going to testify in front of the House said, I'm sorry, but the person who could put me in jail is more important. I may have an issue in terms of the Fifth Amendment.

[09:10:03] I want to have that all come to a conclusion before I talk to you. Now we're at a time that makes sense.

SCIUTTO: All right. Ty Cobb, Jeffrey Toobin, the president's long time lawyer here directly, publicly contradicting the president's continuing message. He was tweeting again this morning that the only collusion with Russia was done by crooked Hillary and the Democrats. So here's his lawyer saying no, this is not a witch hunt. And he goes further about Bob Mueller personally. Have a listen then I want your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COBB: I think Bob Mueller is an American hero. I think Bob Mueller is a guy that, you know, even though he came from a arguably privileged background, you know, has a backbone of steel. He walked into a firefight in Vietnam to pull out one of his injured colleagues and was appropriately honored for that. I have known him for 30 years as a prosecutor and a friend. And I think the world of Bob Mueller.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Of course, Jeffrey, the president doesn't say that. I mean, does it matter that you have folks like this coming out publicly after they served in the White House to contradict the president's message?

TOOBIN: Well, even when Ty Cobb and his epic mustache were in the White House, he was talking that way. I mean, he was not a confrontational person with regard to Mueller.

HARLOW: Right.

TOOBIN: The entire mindset of the White House has changed since he left. Remember, he was replaced by Emmet Flood who comes from Williams & Connolly which is the ultimate scorched earth law firm. Rudy Giuliani has taken over the public face of Trump's personal defense who says exactly the kind of things about Mueller that the president does. You know, it's just a complete sea change. So --

SCIUTTO: But not from the president's position. I mean, the president has been the same throughout regardless of --

TOOBIN: Well, actually, you know, one of the things that Ty Cobb says in that interview is that, you know, I kept the president under control about Trump for many months.

HARLOW: Nine months.

SCIUTTO: Sort of.

TOOBIN: He did not talk that way about Mueller until later.

HARLOW: So, Laura, just to that point, put a button on it. Do you think that the president's change in tactic, Ty Cobb, et cetera, all of what Jeffrey just laid out, actually might benefit the president because it appears more and more, at least for right now, his peril is more political than it is legal?

COATES: Yes. In many way, this idea -- I've been talking about impeachment as the only way to remedy what has been thought to be an overwhelming number of abuses. You need to actually have his popularity go down for Republicans to say, we're not going to repeat what happened in the Clinton years. Nobody wants to be the Newt Gingrich of this particular administration or this congressional body. And to they have to have this idea to decrease his popularity to go there.

Having said that, it's quite a gamble to assume that there is absolutely nothing in all of the farmed out cases that are seemingly on auto pilot that Mueller has given to other U.S. attorney's offices. So it's a gamble. But I think it's one he has to make in the political arena.

HARLOW: Laura Coates, Jeffrey Toobin, two smart minds for us this morning. SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Thank you both.

Still to come, are Democrats laying the groundwork for impeachment? I will talk to a member of the House committee going after the president. He sits on the Judiciary Committee. Also, the United States facing continued attacks from North Korean hackers even while President Trump was attempting this high stakes deal with Kim Jong-un last week.

SCIUTTO: Questions about the actual state of that relationship. Plus a teenager who got vaccinated against his parents' wishes is testifying today on Capitol Hill. This all started when he made an online post asking where do I get vaccinated saying, God knows how I'm still alive. We speak with him. It's a really remarkable conversation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:00] HARLOW: Right, the heat is on, House Democrats are now launching investigations into pretty much every aspect of the president's business and political life. The Judiciary Committee alone requesting documents from Trump business contacts, employees, campaign workers, and some family members who all fit all of those descriptions.

Joining me now to talk about this new investigation, a member of the House Oversight and the Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland. Good morning to you, sir, we appreciate your time.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D), MARYLAND: Good morning, thanks for having me.

HARLOW: Let me begin with this, why go down the same road that federal prosecutors, Bob Mueller's team, a very experienced prosecutors have already gone down before they've even released their results?

RASKIN: Well, the first reason is that Mueller's team is looking very specifically for federal criminal offenses and specifically those that may have been committed by anybody except the president of the United States. As you know, the Department of Justice takes the position that the president himself cannot be indicted. And so that's --

HARLOW: That's true, congressman, but that does not mean that the Mueller report will not outline things that they believe the president has done.

RASKIN: Yes, well, the basic issue here is that we've got an independent constitutional oversight responsibility. That's what we're charged with doing as the Congress of the United States, the representatives of the people. So we've got a responsibility to oversee the executive branch to make sure that public integrity has been respected. And what we've instead seen is a series of scandals emerging from the

executive branch and very serious allegations of public corruption, obstruction of justice, abuse of power, violation of the emoluments clause, and so that's a mandate that goes much broader than just violation of particular --

HARLOW: OK --

RASKIN: Criminal statutes.

HARLOW: So let me read you some of the push-back that is not just from the president who just 52 seconds ago tweeted in all caps, "presidential harassment". It also comes from some Democrats who point to this.

[09:20:00] David Axelrod, for example, former senior adviser to President Obama makes the point about your committee's wide-ranging document requests by writing "maybe I'm missing something, but the hazard of an omnibus document demanded by the House Judiciary versus discreet, serial ones is that however legitimate the areas of inquiry, the wide-ranging nature of it too easily plays into the witch-hunt meme."

Are you concerned about that? Are you concerned about playing right into Republicans who can say this is a fishing expedition?

RASKIN: Well, look, for two years, the GOP has controlled the House and done no oversight at all. So, we're catching up for lost time. Most of these are requests that we made over the last two --

HARLOW: That's not -- that's not totally -- that's not totally accurate, congressman. And my question is --

RASKIN: Really? Well, wait, tell me about --

HARLOW: Are you concerned about -- are you concerned about --

RASKIN: Which investigations do you have in mind --

HARLOW: Hold on. I would like for you to answer --

RASKIN: And I think it is accurate.

HARLOW: Congressman, the question I have --

RASKIN: Yes --

HARLOW: Is whether you're concerned at all that this can be viewed as a fishing expedition, that's all.

RASKIN: Well, obviously, that's what they're going to say, but the people who spent more than two years on the Benghazi investigation or Hillary Clinton e-mails are -- make very bizarre champions for the idea that we've gone too far, when all we've done is send out document requests and the vast majority of documents have already been turned over to other prosecutors and other investigations already. So -- HARLOW: What --

RASKIN: I'm not quite sure I see what the problem is.

HARLOW: I'm asking you about the Republican criticism. You heard it from the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins of Georgia. And one thing that stood out to me last night in the interview that Representative Nadler did with my colleague Erin Burnett is that he made pretty clear that this list may grow, right?

That other names may be added to this list. She asked him specifically about Ivanka Trump, he didn't rule it out. Are there names or entities not on this list of 81 that you think should be added?

RASKIN: Perhaps undoubtedly. Look, the investigative inquiry should be commensurate with what the underlying criminal offenses or allegations are. So if we have serious allegations that the president himself engaged in corruption, for example, by paying off mistresses in violation of the campaign finance laws, we already have documentary evidence to that effect.

That is an investigative lead that we've got to follow. If there's evidence that the president's lawyers cooperated with Michael Cohen or encouraged Michael Cohen to misrepresent the facts in his testimony before Congress, that's an investigative lead --

HARLOW: Right --

RASKIN: That we've got to follow --

HARLOW: And we --

RASKIN: And so on.

HARLOW: And to that point we heard what Michael Cohen said under oath about Jay Sekulow. So that I hear that, that may be a thread that you guys are following. Let me get you on two other topics.

The first one is Representative Ilhan Omar, the freshman congresswoman from Minnesota. House Democrats leadership will bring a resolution against anti-Semitism to the floor tomorrow, given her most recent comments and a series of comments some of which he's apologized for and not all that many see as anti-Semitic. Will you vote in favor of that resolution?

RASKIN: Well, I didn't see the exact terms of the resolution, yes, and I voted for the last one, and I fully expect to support any resolution that denounces and deplores racism in the form of racism that attacks the Jewish people which is anti-Semitism.

And look, we're in a situation where anti-Semitism, racism, authoritarianism, fascism are on the march all over the world. We've got to be very clear to stand against it and to stand against the specific charges of imputing double loyalty to Jews. But we also have to say that Representative Omar herself has been the

target of a real slander recently in West Virginia where they associated her with the 9/11 attacks and with terrorism, and that obviously needs to be denounced and repudiated just as well.

HARLOW: We will see how that vote goes tomorrow, we appreciate your time this morning, thanks, Congressman Raskin.

RASKIN: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: You've got it.

SCIUTTO: Key questions here. It's a big challenge for Democrats. Do they take this too far? While President Trump was meeting with Kim Jong-un in Hanoi last week, North Korean hackers according to a new report were attacking the U.S. in cyberspace.

We're also just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street right now. Futures are flat, that does not mean investors are not on the edge. All eyes on any developments in the U.S. trying to trade negotiations. We will be watching.

[09:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: All right, a new report says a group of North Korean hackers is actively targeting U.S. businesses and critical infrastructure right now.

SCIUTTO: The cyber security firm McAfee says that the hackers have also tried to infiltrate businesses around the world in critical sectors such as energy and defense. And hacking continued while President Trump was meeting with Kim Jong-un in Vietnam last week in a sensitive nuclear negotiations.

Let's discuss now with David Sanger; he's national security correspondent for the "New York Times", also author of "The Perfect Weapon" which dives into the battles in cyberspace. David, good to have you on here. We know North Korea has attacked the U.S. in cyberspace for years now, I mean, perhaps most famously the Sony hack.

Is it surprising and is it worrisome that, that hacking continued -- it might have even reached an inflection point during these Trump-Kim negotiations?

DAVID SANGER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: You know, Jim, I don't think it's at all surprising. In fact, the two are really deeply related. It's pretty clear at this point that Kim Jong- un has calculated that he needs to keep this freeze on missile tests and on nuclear tests going even while he's producing more nuclear material.

But he's got to show that he can continue to exercise some degree of influence and power and the power of disruption. And so cyber is the natural way for him to turn. And this is not just true for him, it's true of course for the Russians, the Iranians in a different form for the Chinese.