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Adam Schiff Hires Ex-Prosecutor Who Fought Russian Organized Crime; White House Official Hints Trump May Assert Privilege in Document Demands; Cohen's Lawyer Talked Possible Pardon with Trump Team; Democrats Call for Criminal Investigation into Kushner's Clearance; Did Roger Stone Just Violate His Gag Order?; Trump Response to Democratic Probes Expanding. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 5, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Best friend and a father figure ever since their dad died when they both were young.


BRETT STRAPPER, BROTHER OF AMERICAN KILLED IN CRASH: Everything that Brandon did was at the highest level, so loved by so many people. It's crazy.


KEILAR: David Mark Baker was the fourth and final victim to be identified and the cause of this crash is still under investigation.

That is it for me. Erica Hill is in for Brooke Baldwin and "newsroom" starts right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Hello, and thanks for joining me. I'm Erica Hill in for today for Brooke Baldwin. We begin this hour with new signals of where House Democrats may be focusing their investigations into President Trump. Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff announcing he's hired a veteran prosecutor with experience in going after Russian organized crime. Daniel Goldman worked as an attorney for the Southern District Of New York, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is here, so who is Daniel Goldman and why is he seen as the right person to hire in this role?

JEFFERY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: He was a decade long prosecutor in the Southern District Of New York, the distinguished U.S. Attorney's office here in Manhattan and he had a specialty in organized crime but specifically he supervised and tried himself cases involving Russian organized crime. So, the way the Congressional committees are dividing up the investigations is the Schiff's Intelligence Committee is really dealing with Russia. All of the pre- election stuff either dealing with the issue of collusion and the Trump Tower/Moscow, that's all under his purview so you want someone that knows something about Russia.

HILL: That gives us a sense into his play book, obviously. It also is yet another signal that Democrats are not waiting for Mueller. TOOBIN: And yesterday we saw the House Judiciary Committee ask 81

people and entities for both documents and testimony and that's all related to issues since Trump became President. Intelligence is largely dealing with before Trump became President. Jerry Nadler is talking about abuse of power and obstruction of justice, corruption regarding the Trump presidency. Now the lines between these committees are not entirely clear and you can anticipate the turf conflicts may arise but for the moment at least, that's exactly -- that's how it's being split up.

HILL: Could make for an interesting Venn diagram. We have this new poll out that says 64 percent of registered voters say Trump, President Trump, committed crimes before becoming President. Now if you divide that, that's 89 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents, 33 percent of Republicans. 64 percent of registered voters overall, one would imagine, Adam Schiff, also paying attention to that polling.

TOOBIN: You know what's interesting about that poll is that 33 percent of Republicans think he committed crimes, but 90 percent of Republicans approve, so basically you've got 25 percent of Republicans, saying, yes, he's a crook but he's our crook, so it's all good which is a remarkable way to look at it, but, you know, so many polls of the Trump presidency all come out the same way. Basically, a third of the people think he's great, little more than half think he's terrible, no matter what question you ask, all the polls shake out the same way. They've been remarkably stable.

HILL: Which is fascinating. Michael Cohen and Donald Trump asked directly whether they believe Cohen or Trump more, 50 percent chose Michael Cohen, 35 percent chose Donald Trump as who they believe more.

TOOBIN: That's just the same percentage. Every question you ask whether it was about Charlottesville or Helsinki or the kids in the border, any issue related to the President, 30 percent stand by him, 55 don't like him and then there's a don't know percentage in there, but it is remarkable. It used to be that President's approval ratings went up and down a lot. The Trump presidency -- essentially, we pay attention to these little changes, it's been unchanged for two years.

HILL: Interesting to see. We'll continue to follow it. Always good to see you. Thank you.

TOOBIN: Nice to see you.

HILL: One day after nearly everyone in the President's orbit became a potential witness for Congressional investigators, the White House is pushing back calling the 81 letters of inquiry sent by House Democrats, a quote, fishing expedition that is harassing and shameful. All those names were given two weeks to respond to the judiciary committee. If they try to assert executive privilege, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler says he won't hesitate to issue subpoenas. Kaitlan Collins is at the White House and I know you have some new reporting about how the White House is preparing behind the scenes.

[14:05:02] KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they were expecting an onslaught of investigations since the Democrats won the House, but they were not prepared for just how broad that scope is. The White House is saying publicly they're going to cooperate, but behind the scenes, Erica, they are getting ready to push back on this. They believe the President has a right to confidentiality and especially related to those documents that have to deal with the President's time in the White House, they are going to try to limit the production of those types of documents, which could include potentially his conversations with people like former White House Counsel Don McGahn who Chairman Nadler made several requests of yesterday. White House officials say essentially, they feel the Democrats have made a misstep here, that this is too broad, too expansive and that they feel like if they had gone after targeted lines of inquiry, they could have been more successful, but now that they've essentially gone after so many people. You can see there on the screen the President's son, his son-in-law, so many people that they believe they're going to be able to successfully argue that the Democrats are on a fishing expedition here. The Democrats are not after the truth said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, they're just after the President.

HILL: Kaitlan Collins with the latest. Thank you.

Robert Bianchi is a former prosecutor in Morris County, New Jersey and now host on Law and Crime Network. CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers is a former federal prosecutor, good to see both of you today. We just hear the reporting from Kaitlan about what the plans are at the White House and we hear the term executive privilege thrown out there. Jennifer, I'm curious, what is the standard in this case? We look at these 81 different people and entities, where could executive privilege honestly be applied?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's a great question, because unlike attorney/client privilege, executive privilege hasn't been litigated very much at all so we don't really know the outer bounds of it. It's supposed to be something that protects advice between the President and his closest advisers. We want the President to rely on people in these areas where others have more expertise than he might. The problem is here, we don't really know what the outer bounds are because it hasn't been litigated yet and I suspect that if they don't like the looks of the Mueller report or where things are going, that's where we'll see a broad blanket approach to executive privilege with, if nothing else, we'll at least delay things for a while that is litigated in the courts.

HILL: That has been a tactic we have seen -- delayed in the courts?

ROBERT BIANCHI, FORMER PROSECUTOR IN MORRIS COUNTY, NEW JERSEY: Actually, to Jennifer's point, there's only been two cases, one in the George W. Bush administration and the Obama administration where for the first time they pushed back on Congress's right to issue subpoenas and said, we claim executive privilege and those two cases, while they were in favor of Congress's right to issue subpoenas, got so Bolloxed up and tied up in the court and that's even before it went to the appellate process, eventually Congress and the President came to an accommodation but if Donald Trump who is known to push the areas of constitutional boundaries and separation of powers, decides to say, I'm going the full route, Jennifer, this could go on for years before a court makes a final decision.

HILL: Wouldn't that be fun? Speaking of the things that are still going on, there's new reporting in "The Wall Street Journal" that Michael Cohen's attorneys did want to discuss a potential pardon. That in and of itself, not illegal, right, to have that conversation, perhaps not surprising, but is there anything -- is there anything that's fishy or wrong here or is this just an attorney doing their job for Michael Cohen?

BIANCHI: We know as prosecutors -- we use cooperating witnesses all the time that don't come from the best past or backgrounds, but we also say when you sleep with dogs, you can catch fleas. When you go in there and rely upon him, he has to be pristine from this point forward with regard to all the data and information he gives. If he makes a bald face lie, and we don't know if that's true yet, substantially compromises the rest of his testimony especially in my mind, most importantly, when he said there was a phone call that went on that I listened to with Roger Stone speaking with the President about Julian Assange and the email dumps that were come f that can't be substantiated and we find out that Cohen lied again, then I think pretty much substantially undermines the value of his testimony.

HILL: When you're looking specifically at the pardon issue, in that reporting "The Wall Street Journal" said that the attorney and I'm quoting here left the impression that in Michael Cohen couldn't rely on a pardon, he might cooperate. Did that also undermine what we've heard from Michael Cohen?

[14:10:00] RODGERS: Well, listen, there's no question that when you get yourself into criminal trouble as Michael Cohen clearly was after the FBI executed search warrants against him, they look at all of their options. That's what people do. You think should I cooperate? Should I fight it? If I fight it, how far should I go? You do all of those things and in this case, there was an extra wild card thrown in, which is, I could get a pardon here because the President of the United States is my former client and I would be testifying against him. That is the situation were no other cooperator -- except Cohen and all of these other folks are facing, it is not at all surprising that he would take stock of all of these options. I think that is completely normal.

I don't even think it's a big deal if his lawyers in those early days poked around a little bit to see whether pardon was in the option. Did he lie about it? I don't think he committed perjury but even if he was misleading in the sense of saying, no, no, I didn't go for that then he has a real credibility issue.

HILL: He said specifically, I never asked for a pardon, which, you know, could be 100 percent truthful because if his attorney asked, he wasn't the one doing the asking. Representatives are calling for criminal investigation into Jared Kushner's security clearance and what's interesting is they note in their letter, we know that lying is not a crime, however, they point out if you did lie on your questionnaire, your application in that sense for security clearance, that's an issue. Is this something that has legs do you think? RODGERS: I don't think it has legs as a criminal issue. Congress has

an oversight role here. It's entirely appropriate for them to look into this decision-making processes, what impact the President had on it, whether he interfered, all of that is fair game. I don't think we're going to see a criminal case here, even if they do find that Kushner misled people on his forms. That's typically not a criminal issue either in the normal case, so I don't think it'll go that far. I think the inquiry is fair.

HILL: What's your take on it?

BIANCHI: I kind of agree with that, but I also look at it from a more pragmatic standpoint. That would have to go through the Department of Justice in order to be prosecuted if they were going to do that which Donald Trump has complete authority over the Justice Department. I think it's something we really need to look at as a country. I filled out lots of applications and I was concerned about making sure that I was exactly correct in everything I said because I file those applications under penalty of perjury. In this particular situation, it just wasn't a one off, it's over and over and over again --

HILL: It's not like I forgot that one thing. There's more to it.

BIANCHI: Sometimes you got to make a statement, sometimes you got to say these forms have meaning, these oaths have meaning and if they're continually repeatedly violated, I need to make a point of it even if it successfully doesn't come to an ultimate guilty decision.

HILL: Is Jared Kushner the right one to make that point? That's a tougher one.

BIANCHI: He could be because this is something that's gone on and on and on and he's had a lot of involvement in foreign affair and a lot of this has do with the disclosure of --

HILL: Or the lack of disclosure.

BIANCHI: And one of the big things our founding fathers were concerned about was the idea that our government officials could be corrupted by the influence of outside foreign influences. To me it goes to the core of the concern of the founding fathers and why there's a separation of powers in order to make sure that does not occur. There's a lot of serious issues here.

RODGERS: The other thing is, there are a lot of these other people that we're talking about as having potential criminal liability, Don Junior and others and the President's family, Kushner wasn't involved in many of those things. He's not implicated as far as we know in the campaign finance violations as far as we know. To the extent they want to make a statement against Kushner, this may be the easier way to do it.

HILL: Thank you, both.

Up next, Roger Stone may be going to jail. Testing the limits of that gag order and, yes, the judge is taking a closer look. Plus, an old prejudice in new tweets. Disturbing comments made by

lawmakers in both parties. Why one columnist says Ilhan Omar's comments are actually a page out of the President's play book?

Another men's championship teams visits the White House, where are the women? They're winning titles but not scoring invites. We'll talk to WNBA coach, Sheryl Reed.


HILL: The man who describes himself as the dirty trickster may be on borrowed time. He was posting a picture with the words, who framed Roger Stone? A post that may violate his gag order. He's under a strict gag order from the judge. The judge imposed the order after Stone posted another picture which showed the judge's face and gun carrot hairs. This is the judge also looking into the Stone's book which he failed to tell her back. The book attacks Mueller. Kevin Sharp a former federal judge and joins us now. Based on what you've seen here, did Roger Stone violate the gag order with this latest Instagram post over the weekend?

[14:20:03] KEVIN SHARP, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: The first time he came out with the cross hairs setting aside the foolishness of even doing something like that, there was a question on whether or not it violated the order. She fixed that. This order, this last order was pretty clear, don't do it and he did. I don't see how you get around that. I can't see an explanation that makes sense.

HILL: It's also -- in terms of the explanation that makes sense, it leads you to wonder why, why would -- just pull from your experience here if you can, a defendant who was told not to do it very clearly as you point out and yet would continue to push and really play with fire like this, have you ever run into someone like this and did you ever get any of those answers?

SHARP: You know, not exactly in his situation, but you do run into defendants like this and that was my first question of, you know, why? The judge put down a clear order, why do you come out so quickly after that and do something like this and I have seen it before with defendants in front of me. There is a motive, right? It could be some mental illness but I don't think so. So, what is he trying to do but test the judge? Is she serious? Am I testing her if I'm Roger Stone, am I saying go ahead, you know, hold me in contempt or revoke my pretrial release and is there a motive for that? Does he think that this helps him raise money? Does this make a point? Does it increase awareness of what it was that got him punished to begin with? There's a motive behind it. What it is? And it makes it difficult for the judge, because you can't let this go. You've got to keep control of your courtroom, but you also don't want to fall into the trap that a defendant might be trying to set for you, but at the --

HILL: What kind of trap would this be for the judge?

SHARP: One that makes her look bad. One that let's him say to the world someone's trying to infringe on my first amendment right or my right to protect myself or my right to defend myself, rather. And so, does this make her look like she's trying to tilt the scale, right, put her thumb on the scale? That may have had some likelihood that that was possible earlier but you really left her no choice.

HILL: Stay with us for a minute, if you would. We're getting new reporting in and I want to go to our Sara Murray who has more on that in terms of the gag order. What are you learning?

[14:20:17] SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The judge is telling that Roger Stone that her gag order -- at least when it comes to this release of the book where he wrote this new introduction, it's very critical of the investigation, excuse me, that that shouldn't have been out there but she wants a lot more information from Roger Stone about communications he had with his publisher and also about ways he has tried to abide by this gag order. She also runs through the fact that he had a number of opportunities to bring this book up before, he didn't do it, he failed to do it in a hearing and she points out that the only reason she's under this district gag order is because he violated the first conditions that she set out. She originally said, you know, you are free to be out there to talk about the news, you're free to be out there to talk about the case and he decided to post a very incendiary picture with cross hairs over her shoulder and that's how he lost that right. She is saying, I want more information.

HILL: Sarah, thanks for that. Kevin Sharp, quickly, as you weigh in on that -- let's go to the President now who's speaking at the signing for an executive order.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They want to do that instead of getting legislation passed. 81 people or organizations got letters. It's a disgrace. It's a disgrace to our country. I'm not surprised it's happening. Basically, they've started the campaign so the campaign begins, but the campaign's -- their campaign's been going on for the last two and a half years. It's a shame. And the people understand that when they look at it, they just say Presidential harassment, but that's OK. No administration has accomplished probably you could say this with absolute certainty in the first two years anywhere near what we've accomplished, whether it's the tax cuts, whether it's regulation cuts, whether it's the veterans administration what we've done with the veterans administration with choice and so many other things that nobody thought would be possible to get passed. No administration has done in its first two years what the Trump administration has done, so what the Democrats want to do, they cannot stand the loss, they could not stand losing in 2016. I see it all the time. I see people getting on. I saw a certain person get up yesterday, the anger, the anger and they just haven't gotten used to the fact that we won a lot of states that haven't been won by Republicans in a long time, but essentially what they're saying is the campaign begins -- instead of doing infrastructure, instead of doing health care, instead of doing so many things that they should be doing, they want to play games. President Obama, from what they tell me, was under a similar kind of a thing, didn't give one letter. They didn't do anything. They didn't give one letter. Many requests were made. They didn't give a letter. It's too bad because I'd rather see them do legislation, we negotiate out legislation -- things we agree on like infrastructure, but they want to focus on nonsense, so I just want to end by thanking all of the people that are in this room today, very special people, the job you've done for the V.A. is incredible and just keep up the good work and second, you've been fantastic. Thank you very much.


TRUMP: Thank you all.


HILL: President Trump speaking there. He was talking -- mentioned the veterans in the room because this was a signing for an executive order on the national road map to empower veterans and end veteran's suicide. He did not take any questions at the end but he did weigh in on those letters sent to 81 people and entities from the House judiciary committee yesterday. According to the President, he said it's a shame. It's Presidential harassment. He said over and over again, he believes this is Democrats in his words, starting the campaign, that they can't stand losing, they want to play games in his estimation, but again saying, he thinks it's too bad. He'd rather work on legislation. We will continue to follow this as we move forward. As the President spoke, we were getting word from the Oversight Committee, they're not happy with the White House's response to their demands, so stand by for more on that.