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Michael Cohen Testifies Before House Intelligence Committee; Trump Under Fire over Ivanka Trump's Security Clearance; White House Refuses to Give House Democrats Info on Jared Kushner's Security Clearance; New Evidence North Korea Rebuilding Missile Facilities; 1000 Workers to Lose Jobs as General Motors Closes Ohio Plant; Sen. Rob Porter (R) Ohio is Interviewed about G.M. Plant Closing; N.Y. State Regulators Target the Trump Organization's Insurance Broker. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 6, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:04] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone.

I'm Kate Bolduan. A lot happening today on Capitol Hill. It is all about the president, his policies and his administration. Right now, four different committees are scrutinizing President Trump's approach to immigration and his policies on the southern border.

And in the spotlight for the first time since the Democrats took control of the House, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is in the spotlight there.

And behind closed doors, the president's former attorney, Michael Cohen, is back on the Hill for his fourth day of testimony, this time with the House Intelligence Committee.

Manu Raju is there.

This is the fourth day that Cohen is on the Hill to take questions. What are you hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrats in particular want to know exactly what happened the last time that Michael Cohen came before this committee back in 2017 when he later admitted to lying to this committee about the Trump Organization's pursuit of the Trump Tower Moscow Project and the time, of course, he contended there was not much of an effort during the 2016 campaign season. He said the talks ended in January of 2016. He later admitted it went much longer. He also testified that the president was more involved than he initially let on. The questions that Democrats are planning to push today is exactly why he made those statements. Now, he of course said in his public testimony last week that attorneys close to the president had edited that statement. That's something the attorneys have denied but Michael Cohen has promised Congress to provide documentation to back up his allegations. They're also going to push him on whether or not the president's legal team was in discussions in any way about dangling any pardons to Michael Cohen or discussions about any pardons with Michael Cohen after his office, his properties were raided in the aftermath of the last year. There was a discussion that occurred between Michael Cohen and the president that Cohen would not discuss last week in his public testimony because it was under investigation, he said by the southern district of New York. Those questions are still going to be fleshed out behind closed doors. Cohen on his way in would not discuss any of this. I tried to ask about the documents he provided to the committee today. He would not talk about that, but he said he'll make a statement afterwards.

BOLDUAN: Let's see how long he's behind closed doors today.

Manu, thanks so much.

At the very same time the president is facing new questions after CNN has learned he pressured officials to grant his daughter and senior advisor, Ivanka Trump, security clearance against their objections. This also comes after the "New York Times" reported that the president did the very same with his son-in-law Jared Kushner's security clearance, something Ivanka Trump has previously denied very directly to ABC's Abby Huntsman. Listen to this.


IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: The president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance.

ABBY HUNTSMAN, ABC CORRESPONDENT: So no special treatment?



BOLDUAN: CNN's Pamela Brown has much more on this.

Pam, you and Kaitlan Collins broke this story overnight about Ivanka. What happened here?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We have learned that President Trump demanded John Kelly and Don McGahn to grant his daughter Ivanka Trump a security clearance against their recommendations. While the president, as you know, as a legal authority to grant clearances, most decisions about clearances are left up to the White House personnel security office. But after concerns were raised by that office, President Trump pushed Kelly and McGahn to make the decision on Ivanka's clearance so it didn't appear as if he was tainting the process in his family's favor. Now, after both of them refused, Trump granted the security clearance. But this development comes on the heels of the "New York Times" reporting that Trump ordered Kelly to grant Ivanka's husband Jared Kushner a top- secret security clearance. We should note White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says the White House could not comment on security clearance issues, Kelly could not be reached for comment and McGahn declined to comment. We should also note that several sources tell CNN it is feasible that Ivanka was unaware of the red flags raised during her background check process as well as the president's involvement. A person familiar with her process says no issues were ever raised.

BOLDUAN: Also House Democrats are asking for more detail about all of this security clearance process when it comes to especially Jared Kushner. The White House is refusing right now to give them the information and. cooperate. What happens next?

[11:05:08] BROWN: They're at a standoff. The White House counsel sent a strongly worded letter to Elijah Cummings, of House Oversight, saying it's not going to turn over all of the documents that Cummings has requested, saying that the request was premature and that it was invasive. And so Elijah Cummings responded to that letter. Take a listen.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D-MD), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: It's clears reluctant and that's probably being kind, to give us the information that we need to do our job. And under the constitution, we have a duty. It's not some witch hunt. It's a duty.

RAJU: Are you prepared to subpoena that?

CUMMINGS: I made it very clear, I am very careful in what I do.


BROWN: So it appears that he is not going to give up this fight and the subpoena could be next.

BOLDUAN: That definitely seems like that might be the next direction this is headed. Thank you for that.

There's new evidence that North Korea has started rebuilding a missile facility. Noteworthy any time, of course, but especially just after the nuclear talks between the president and the North Korean leader have fallen coming out about these talks broke down.

Joining me now, CNN national security reporter.

Kylie, first talk about these images. What do the images show?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: They show that the North Koreans are starting to rebuild a portion of a long-range missile engine facility that they had once used to test those engines. So this was a site that actually President Trump said that North Korea had agreed to destroy in the near future. That was back after the Singapore summit. So the fact that now there's rebuilding happening there's raising a lot of eyebrows. Are the North Koreans actually committed to the diplomacy which President Trump and his administration have fully committed to here? Now, we don't know exactly when this rebuilding took place. It could have been right before, during or right after the summit. So it's hard to determine if it was an actual reaction to the summit itself, but still it demonstrates that they are taking actions and moving forward, not backwards toward destroying their nuclear program.

BOLDUAN: Interesting.

What are you learning about the talks at the summit and what really forced them to break down?

ATWOOD: Yes, we have some new details that demonstrate just how fickle and unpredictable the North Koreans have been in these diplomatic conversations with President Trump and his negotiators. Secretary Pompeo, when he landed in Hanoi was hoping to have a meeting with his North Korean counterpart. That never manifested. He was never able to connect with him. He was waiting actually for a few hours and left quite frustrated because he never was able to meet him. It left a sour taste in the secretary's mouth, of course. And then North Koreans when they came to the table with President Trump weren't able to strike a deal. As we know, there was nothing that was agreed to. But North Koreans in the final hour, the 11th hour, came back to some of the U.S. negotiators with something they deemed was sort of a Hail Mary, their last approach, their final offer. And there was some back and forth between the U.S. and North Korea. Ultimately the U.S. decided it was too little and too late and it was at the end there. They were over. This was not going any further. That offer also had to do specifically with the nuclear complex. Trump told reporters after his meeting with Kim Jong-Un that he needs more than that if they were going to move forward toward a deal. But it's striking, these details demonstrate to us just how challenging it has been for the U.S. team as they have negotiated with the North Koreans, both a snub and a Hail Mary in the days around and during this summit in Hanoi.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Kylie, thank you for that.

Coming up for us, more than 1,000 workers out of a job today as General Motors idles a plant in Ohio. This is a plant there's been a lot of discussion about in the last few months. That's just one of several bad economic headlines that President Trump is facing this morning.

[11:09:46] Plus, New York State regulators issue a subpoena to the Trump Organization's insurance broker. What are they looking for now? Where could this go.

Stay with us.


BOLDUAN: This morning President Trump is facing tough numbers when it comes to his economy. New government data show that is the budget deficit has soared 77 percent in the first four months of the fiscal year to $310 billion. This morning it was announced the trade deficit last year was the worst in a decade. That, despite promises from candidate and President Trump to turn all that around and do it quickly.

Today, General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, is pushing out its final Chevy Cruze sedan, which means the plant is shuttering and more than 1,000 workers lose their jobs. This is the first of four U.S. plants that G.M. will be shuttering over the next several months. It is something that the president, especially this plant in Ohio, something the president made the case wasn't a big deal because he's got it covered.


[11:15:16] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't really matter because Ohio is under my leadership from a national standpoint. Ohio is going to replace those jobs like in two minutes.


BOLDUAN: In two minutes.

Joining me the Republican Senator from Ohio, Senator Rob Portman.

Senator, thank you for coming in.


BOLDUAN: You have been fighting this closure since it was announced. You teamed up with your Democratic colleague, Sherrod Brown, to try to come together to find some resolution to. Stop it. Its closure today means what for your state?

PORTMAN: It's a punch in the gut for that area. Those workers, that community has worked hard to be productive for General Motors and now General Motors is turning on them. Our goal is very simple, which is we need a plant there that is making automobiles and General Motors ought to put a new product there. If the Chevy Cruze isn't selling, they ought to give us a new product. I hope this will still happen. They say they're going to make 20 new electric car models in the next five years and the rumor is those may be in China. Let's make sure one of them at least is in Lordstown. This would be the first time in almost 100 years that General Motors was not assembling vehicles in Ohio. Think about that. They have other plants in Ohio. They make transmissions in Ohio, but this would be the first time we don't have an assembly plant in the second biggest auto state in the country. I think it's about 10 percent of the payroll in the Youngstown area. This is a big deal.

BOLDUAN: When the president down plays the impact and he says the jobs are going to be replaced in Ohio in something like two minutes, I venture to guess you don't see it that way?

PORTMAN: Well, certainly not for that valley. There's no replacement because there's no employer that pays those kinds of wages and has those kinds of benefits that's that large. It is impossible to replace that particular plant. I will say that our economy in Ohio is generally good. Unemployment is relatively low. We're seeing wages going up for the first time in about a decade and a half in Ohio. Even in Youngstown there are some interesting new innovations that are resulting in actual commercial businesses coming out of the incubator there. There are some positive things happening, but this is a really tough one for the valley. We've got to get General Motors to look at this differently. Yes, I understand this particular one small car is not selling, the Cruze but it doesn't mean they can't put another product in there and give the plant and the workers an opportunity to prove themselves, which they will.

BOLDUAN: The Senate's going to be voting next week on the president's declaration of a national emergency to get more money for a border wall. I've heard you say in the last couple days that you're looking for an alternative way to deal with this, a third way. What could that alternative be?

PORTMAN: Kate, I've been consistent from the start in saying that I thought the president's plan on the border was a good one. I do think it's been mischaracterized by the other side. The Democrats agree with everything except one part of it which was the number of barriers that would be put up. I think it's a reasonable plan. It's 234 miles, mostly fencing in Texas where there's very little fencing. I think that's needed and the border patrol thinks it's need. The question is how does he fund it? I want to help secure the southern border for all the right reasons, including the influx of drugs we're seeing in Ohio, particularly crystal meth coming over that border but I also want to do it without creating a bad precedent.


BOLDUAN: So what is it? What's the option?

PORTMAN: Well, the option I've been working on is to not pass the resolution to pass the House but amend that resolution. It is amendable. And to send it back to the House with providing alternative ways to get to that level of funding. The president wants to use existing funding that he has authority to use for three-fourths of it. It's that last quarter that requires the national emergency. It has two problems. One is the courts are likely to look at the use of the national emergency in this case but also the source of the funds for military construction is likely to be tied up in the court. For those of us who do care about the southern border, we should actually have a more secure way to secure that funding and not rely on this. That last 25 percent is certainly going to get tied up in the courts.

[11:20:34] BOLDUAN: Assuming an amendment doesn't happen and you do need to vote on this resolution, how are you going to vote?

PORTMAN: Again, I have strong concerns about the national emergency part of it. I don't have concerns about the border security plan. There's one that's very obvious that Congress could easily authorize.

BOLDUAN: The question is important because you share the concerns that I've heard a lot of Republicans say, which is it's about the precedent. It's about the way the president is trying to go about this not the fact that he wants more money for it. Is it a bridge too far with presidential powers? Are you a no if this has to go to a straight vote?

PORTMAN: It is about the powers between the executive branch and the Congressional branch. I've been on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. I used to work for both president Bushes. I get that that sometimes the executive branch says Congress has too much say and vice versa. But the founders made it very clear. It's Congress that appropriates every penny. I don't like the use of national emergency for this purpose because there are other ways to do it and that's what I'm trying to make happen.

BOLDUAN: Right now it sounds to me that you're going to have to be a no unless you guys can change this because of the precedent that it sets. We'll wait and see how you vote. I want to ask you about North Korea. You were with Otto Warmbier's family when his plane finally landed back in the United States when he was finally released from being held in North Korea. When the president says he takes Kim Jong- Un's word for it that he didn't know about Otto's condition, do you believe him?

PORTMAN: It's not plausible that he didn't know about it. Kim describes himself as the supreme leader. Otto Warmbier was the only American prisoner detained at the time this horrible thing happened to him. He was terribly mistreated. He was sentenced to --


BOLDUAN: What does it do to you hearing that from the president?

PORTMAN: You know, I've expressed myself clearly about it saying this guy, Kim, cannot be let off the hook and he can't be trusted. Now, it doesn't mean we shouldn't be talking to North Korea. I have not said that, Kate. In fact I have said we should talk to them. One of the problems we had with trying to get Otto out -- I worked on this for a year and a half and I'm very close to the family. They're terrific and incredibly resilient, taking their grief and using it in constructive ways. It's not plausible to think that Kim didn't know about it. So we should be talking to them, of course, but we should do it knowing full well that this is a regime that has a history of human rights abuses and that has not been trustworthy whether it's from the Clinton years, the Bush years, the Obama years where they have made commitments and not kept them. We have to go in with our eyes open.

BOLDUAN: Senator Portman, thank you for coming in.

PORTMAN: Thanks, Kate. Always good to talk to you.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, state regulators are now targeting the Trump Organization's insurance broker. What could this mean for the president right now? That's next.


[11:28:34] BOLDUAN: Opening a new front in the investigations into President Trump, New York regulators have now issued a subpoena to the Trump Organization's longtime insurance broker. This is just days after the president's former attorney Michael Cohen's bombshell testimony before Congress during which he suggested that very same Trump Organization had inflated the value of its assets for insurance purposes.

CNN's Kara Scannell is following this. She joins me now.

Kara, what are you learning?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Kate. Within just days of Michael Cohen making that allegation that the Trump Organization may have inflated assets for insurance purposes, the New York top insurance regulator, the Department of Financial Services sent a subpoena on Monday to the Trump Organization's insurance broker. They have confirmed they received a subpoena but declined to comment beyond that. The subpoena is looking for information going back a decade around the relationship. Now, of course, this regulator cannot bring criminal charges but they can make referrals to state prosecutors if they do find that there's something wrong. But as you say, Kate, this opens up a new investigative hurdle for the Trump Organization potentially as regulators dig into what these policies were and what kind of claims were processed.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. At least a huge new headache for everyone involved.

Kara, thank you so much.

Joining me right now, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu, is here.

Shan, as Kara just laid out, the New York State regulator is asking for information going back a decade.