Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Organization's Insurance Broker Hit with Subpoena; Graham Says Trump Thinks Dems Want to Take "Wrecking Ball to His Life"; Will Trump Fight Demand for Translators form Putin Chats; Beto O'Rourke Call for Nationwide Legalization of Pot; California Attorney General Won't Charge Cops in Stephon Clark Shooting. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 5, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: CNN legal analyst, Elie Honig, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. So Elie, when we see this, it comes to the New York State Department of Financial Services and it's important to point out this nine-page document -- according to the "New York Times" -- is asking for information back to 2009. But this department doesn't necessarily or can't conduct a criminal investigation but they can refer whatever they find, of course, to prosecutors?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST (via phone): Exactly, right, Erica. So this is the New York State Department of Financial Services. They are primarily a civil agency. What they are able to do directly is to levy fines and revoke licenses and that kind of thing. But what they also can do is refer cases to criminal prosecutors whether at the state level or perhaps indirectly to the federal level. When I worked at the U.S. attorney's offices, we would commonly get referrals from state level regulatory agencies like this. In fact, a lot of times some of our best investigations were started by regulatory level investigators.

HILL: And what specifically -- we know nine pages according to the "New York Times." And they're looking back through 2009, what do you think, based on what we know, the little we know at this point, what do you think they're homing in on?

HONIG: I think it's exactly what we saw Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioning Michael Cohen about quite skillfully. She was very specific in what she asked for. Inflation of assets in acquiring or cashing in essentially an insurance policy is sort of a garden variety financial crime under federal law. It could be insurance fraud, it could be mail fraud or wire fraud. It's not that uncommon of a thing for a corrupt organization to do. I'm not saying the proof is there yet, but that's the fact pattern that jumps out at me -- Erica.

HILL: We will be looking to see what happens out of the subpoena. Elie, appreciate it, thank you.

HONIG: Anytime, thanks.

HILL: Also just coming into us here at CNN, Senator Lindsey Graham speaking about his meeting with President Trump today. CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill with more of those details for us -- Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. I just talked to Lindsey Graham who met with President Trump earlier today along with Doug Collins. He's a ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Graham's the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He told me as part of their meeting that was about immigration and border security, the issue about the Democratic investigations into the President came up and compromised about 10 percent of the meeting, according to Lindsey Graham. And the President was concerned about the, quote, harassment stuff according to Graham. Graham said to me that the President was concerned because he just believes they are out to take a wrecking ball to his life. He's referring to Democrats. He said, they'll go nuts referring to Democrats. Graham said he told the President to put his head down, to fight back and govern the country the way that Bill Clinton did. He said to challenged Democrats to fix problems.

And he also said that he believed the President should consult with his attorneys about whether to comply with some of these requests, but ultimately, they'll have to try to move forward on some other issues.

Now I asked Lindsey Graham, is there anything the President directed you to do to fight back? He said that it's not really clear what he could do on his part, but he wants to investigate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, what he believes are abuses under that law, something that conservatives in particular have criticized during this whole Russia probe. That's something that Graham plans to pursue going forward.

And he also said that the President discussed his emergency declaration at the border, something the President is facing bipartisan opposition over here in the Senate, which is about to rebuke him over his effort to try to build the border wall after declaring a national emergency and moving around money in that. He said that the President said that, Republicans who are opposing him, are quote, playing with fire here. Because he said, most Republicans see the border as in a state of crisis. And he said -- I asked him, well is he going out and calling -- singling Republicans out? He said that's his observation, but he's not out there calling individual Republicans out. So an interesting meeting here but nevertheless interesting point the President is making complaining privately about these Democratic investigations what it could mean for him and his administration going forward -- Erica.

HILL: And it seems things are just getting started. Manu, appreciate it. As always, thank you.

We have more too on the big news from the White House rejecting Democrats demands for documents over security clearances in what is a clear first sign that the battle is escalating and doing so quickly.

Plus we'll be joined by a translator who was in the room with some of the world's most powerful leaders. What he thinks about the Democrats new push to interview the interpreters who were in the room with President Trump and Vladimir Putin?


HILL: Three Democratic leaders are now demanding the administration make President Trump's interpreters available for interviews. The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Intelligence and Oversight Committees say they want to talk to anyone who, quote, in any way listened in on President Trump's in-person and telephone meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Barry Slaughter, also is an interpreter and translator whose been in the room with some of the world's most powerful leaders and joins us now. There have been concerns raised on both sides of the aisle about this and you have your own concerns saying it would set a bad precedent, why?

BARRY SLAUGHTER OLSEN, SERVED AS INTERPRETER FOR G20, WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM: It would set a bad precedent. And the basic reason is that it will undermine our ability as interpreters to do our job in these settings and other settings.

[15:40:00] And it can also hamstring the State Department and other parts of the U.S. government to be able to carry out foreign policy and to interact with foreign counterparts.

HILL: So you're saying they wouldn't be as free to speak. You know, there's also in this letter that we saw that was put out yesterday after the White House -- according to, failed to respond -- it was sent to secretary Pompeo, part of the case that was made by lawmakers was the fact that there's reporting that the President actually seized some notes and may have taken some of this documentation. So just give us a sense, "A," has anyone ever taken your notes before and "B" what kind of notes would an interpreter take and hold on to out of a meeting like Helsinki?

OLSEN: So, I guess, the short answer to the first question is, yes, I have had people take my notes. I would say that it was something that we had agreed upon. For example, after some sensitive negotiations that were classified, my notes were then turned over to those who would organize the meeting and we both walked to a shredder and those notes were put into the document shredder so they were completely destroyed. And I finished and walked away from the job knowing that I had absolutely nothing on my person that had anything to do with the meeting that had taken place. So it is not unprecedented to have that happen.

HILL: Let me just tone in on that for a second. Number one, is there a difference when it's the President who's taking the notes versus and taking the notes if it was perhaps not agreed upon prior?

HILL: Well, I think as you just explained it, that's definitely a difference. If it hasn't been agreed to prior, but it's important to understand that interpreters are bound by the strictest secrecy in our code of ethics and that has to do with people who are in meetings and the information that is divulged during any meeting or gathering where that is not open to the public.

HILL: So in terms of those notes as you said, there have been occasions where your notes have been taken, you have walked over together with those involved to put them in a shedder. Has there ever been a case where it's been agreed upon that your notes would be taken at the end of the meeting and they were not walked to a shredder? That they may have gone with that leader or that very important person somewhere else. And if so, would you have your own copy that you keep?

OLSEN: No, I would not have my own copy of those notes. There would only be one. In my own professional practice -- and I have to say I'm speaking from my own professional practice -- I have never had my notes taken away in that fashion and never seen them again to know what has actually happened to those notes. It is not uncommon to have others who may be in a meeting afterwards speak with the interpreter to make sure that they have all of their facts correct as they are taking notes for a possible memorandum of conversation that could be filed somewhere after that meeting takes place.

HILL: Would you ever hold on to notes that were not taken? Just for your own personal -- just so that you have them in case something comes up again?

OLSEN: No. Do I hold on to some notes, afterwards? Yes, not necessarily from classified meetings. I'm very circumspect about that. It doesn't matter if I'm working in a one-on-one meeting, working in consecutive like the meetings that are being called into question or working in a meeting where I would be working simultaneously with a number of other interpreters. If I received documents or I have made notes and this has been a sensitive classified meeting, I'm going to turn all of that over to my contact and not hold on to it at all because I don't want to have anything to do with it afterwards. Because once I walk away from that meeting, the information that I heard there stays there.

HILL: Barry Slaughter Olsen, really appreciate your insight and your perspective today, thank you.

OLSEN: My pleasure.

HILL: Up next, an S-word being thrown around a lot lately as the 2020 race heats up. Are politicians, though, trying to make socialism a dirty word? Those that are trying to do so are they actually missing the mark?

Plus, Beto O'Rourke says he would support legalizing marijuana nationwide. He's not the only 2020 contender to get behind the idea. So how is that playing with voters?


HILL: Beto O'Rourke wants people to be able to smoke pot legally in every state in the country. The Texas Democrat who lost the Senate bid to Ted Cruz, making the call for a federal law to legalize marijuana in an e-mail he sent out Monday to his massive mailing list of supporters. This comes as O'Rourke is expected any day now to jump into the pool of Democrats who have also tossed their hat in the ring running for President. CNN national political reporter, Maeve Reston, joins me now. So, Maeve, is this really a sign that Beto O'Rourke is rolling out his 2020 platform? MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I think it absolutely

is and, you know, that is what our sources have been telling us as he gets ready for this bid. And one of the reasons that it's really interesting is because there still is a lot about Beto's record and what he thinks on certain issues that we really don't know. He's in many ways a blank slate when it comes to positions on foreign policy, for example. And so it was really interesting that he laid out his positions on criminal justice reform this week.

[15:50:00] Obviously, he knows who he's talking to, a lot of those younger Democratic activists. This is the top issue on their agenda. And he was in part endorsing a proposal that Corey Booker has put forward. So he is joining the ranks of other Democrats who are really pushing these issues to the top of the agenda -- Erica.

HILL: It would be interesting to see if anybody else joins them as well. Both he and Corey Booker. We're also seeing from the President, from Republicans, there's a lot of focus on socialism. It's being thrown out there as probably more of a scare tactic. Our colleague Zach Wolf writing in his column that in my ways though this may be missing the mark and even missing a generation. Explain that for us.

RESTON While you know, what Zach was writing about in that column is this really interesting divide between the older generation and younger generations in their perceptions of socialism. And he talks about how the younger generation has embraced to some extent a sort of softer version of socialism. But I actually think that this has been a really interesting and possibly effective technique by President Trump to kind of call this out and call out AOC all of the time.

Because traveling on the campaign trail over the last two months, I have talked to a lot of more centrist Democratic voters who really do feel that the Democratic Party has gone too far to the left on some of the issues. They had reservations about Medicare for all. And also, you know, AOC's Green New Deal. So the more that Trump kind of hits this socialist agenda the more he potentially could kind of work his way back in with some of those independents and centrists who might stick with him if they think the Democrats are going too far left.

And interesting to hear too, directly from voters that that question that we talk about so much as to how far left can Democrats go? How what do they need to take into account? They might want to listen to what you have just heard from voters. Maeve, good to see you. Thank you.

RESTON: Thank you.

HILL: We have much more ahead on our breaking news. We have confirmed the Trump organization's long-time insurance broker was issued a subpoena. We'll take a look at what that means in terms of the investigation. All of this coming as the White House rejects demands to turn over documents regarding security clearances. Stay with us.

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HILL: This just into CNN. California's Attorney General agreeing with Sacramento county's prosecutor. Charges will not be filed for the officers who shot and killed Stephan Clark. Just to remind you how we got here, a year ago this month, Clark died in his grandmother's backyard following a police chase. He was unarmed. Officers those said they believed he had a gun. Turns out he had a cell phone. The DA's decision over the weekend setting off angry protests.

More than 80 people were arrested last night including several clergy members. CNN's Dan Simon is in Sacramento where the state AG just announced the results of this independent investigation. So, Dan, what else did they determine here?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Erica. The protests will continue but now you have two major investigations into the shooting. One by the district attorney and the seconds by the attorney general of the state of California. And both now have concluded this was in fact a justified shooting despite the fact that 22-year-old Stephon Clark did not have a weapon. He was unarmed. In fact, he just had his cell phone.

In the Attorney General made that determination based upon the fact that he did not comply with officers demands. At one point he is seen advancing towards the officers. And he said that officers could make the reasonable determination that the object in his hand was a gun despite the fact that it was a cell phone. Take a look. Here's what he said just a short time ago.


XAVIER BECERRA, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Clark had an object in his hands which we know to have been a cell phone. And during the encounter the officers repeated spontaneous shouts of gun. And third, at the time of the shooting Mr. Clark had moved from behind the picnic table in the backyard where he was first seen and advanced to a point within 16 feet.


SIMON: Well in a sense you now have two stories here. You have the investigations into the shooting and you have the protests and these protests will still continue. In fact, there's one scheduled for later today. But last night things did get a little bit heated. You had 80 people who were arrested. Police determined that this was an unlawful assembly and people fail to disperse. I know that there are lots of questions about the tactics that officers used. The mayor says that he wants to hear from the public about what happened. At the City Council meeting tonight you can expect that City Council meeting to be heated. But in the meantime as far as the officers are concerned, they will not be facing any criminal charges -- Erica.

HILL: And Dan, just real quickly, what about the family?

SIMON: Well the family I could tell you they have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Sacramento. They're seeking at least $20 million. Often times these cases settle but we are not sure where things stand exactly with that suit -- Erica.

HILL: All right, Dan Simon with the latest for us in Sacramento. Dan, thank you.

I'm Erika Hill. Thanks for spending your afternoon with us. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: If you had bet that the new "Game of Thrones" trailer would drop before the Mueller report congrats. You're a winner. THE LEAD starts right now.

Ready for political war the President today on the attack.