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Tucker Carlson Refuses to Apologize for Misogynistic Remarks; Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D) of California Discusses Schiff on Mueller Not Having Trump Testify, Cohen Lying about Pardon, White House Denying Cummings' Request to Question Passantino; Fierce Battle for Last ISIS Stronghold in Syria; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Refused to Say if Syrian President A War Criminal Despite Evidence; "Wonder Woman" Actress Gets into War of Words with Israeli Prime Minister. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 11, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST & CNN HOST, "SMERCONISH": To say I'm repentant about misogynistic things I said, even though they were a decade ago.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: It went unnoticed all this time. Why wouldn't the network be monitoring more closely what their anchors are saying or is it possible they were monitoring them?

SMERCONISH: If I'm correct, and if memory serves correct, it was at a time when he was not on FOX but was on MSNBC. And, Brianna, I would also submit to you --


KEILAR: Very important to note, I should say.

SMERCONISH: Yes. The use of the "C" word has always been taboo. But I think it's important to note that there has been a sea change in attitudes in just the last few years, much less in the last decade of time. So very easily that could have flown under the radar screen because at that time it just wasn't guarded in the way it obviously is being regarded today. I think it's also a little inappropriate to say, well, if you'd like my response to this, come watch my show. I mean, he's essentially seeking to gain ratings out of the controversy based on something that he said, which was wholly inappropriate.

KEILAR: Yes, he is.

Michael Smerconish, thank you so much.

You can catch more of Michael Smerconish, which we all need in our lives, Saturday, at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, on CNN.

Still ahead, why the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says Robert Mueller has made a big mistake.

Plus, new today, the White House rejecting a demand from Democrats to interview a former White House lawyer. I'm going to speak to a member of that committee, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:35:59] KEILAR: Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, says he believes it would be a mistake if Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not subpoena President Trump to testify under oath in the Russia investigation. He says this is so important because President Trump, quote, "feels it's perfectly fine to lie to the public."

Here's why he thinks the president's written answers are not enough.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yes, I think it is a mistake, and I've said all along that I don't think Bob Mueller should rely on written answers. When you get written answers from a witness, it's really the lawyer's answer as much as the client's answer. And here you need to be able to ask follow-up questions in real time.

I think the constraint that Bob Mueller is operating under is he had an acting attorney general, who was appointed because he would be hostile to a subpoena on the president, and now he has a permanent attorney general, who was chosen for the same hostility to his investigation, who would likely oppose that step.


KEILAR: California Democratic Congressman Jimmy Gomez is with me now.

Sir, you're on the Oversight Committee. Safe to say you agree with Adam Schiff. Why?

REP. JIMMY GOMEZ, (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, first, thank you for having me.

KEILAR: Of course.

GOMEZ: One of the things I recognize is that Robert Mueller knows more about this investigation than any other person on the planet, right? He's seen the witnesses, he's seen the evidence. So I do trust that if he sees that it's necessary to bring in the president that he would do that. The second person that knows the most is Adam Schiff. He's really done a real thorough job and he's asked the questions, But I understand where he's coming from. He wants to hear from the president one on one to really get that information. And there's nothing like in-person testimony that does it. But you know what? I think we also have to take everything that the president says with a grain of salt. Everybody has a witness that this president can't stop lying. The "Washington Post," CNN, everybody has shown it. So what --


KEILAR: But you're OK with there not being -- I just want to be clear on this. Should -- you think there should be a one-on-one interview. Should Robert Mueller subpoena the president to make that happen, if needed?

GOMEZ: Yes, if need, yes. But that's really up to, I believe, Robert Mueller to decide. I think he's the one who has the best information. The second person is Adam Schiff.


GOMEZ: I haven't talked to Adam Schiff about it. But if Adam Schiff pushes for it and he makes an argument, I think that I'll definitely get behind him. But I don't think it's necessary to achieve the objective of this investigation.

KEILAR: So your colleague, Congresswoman Katie Hill, says she believes House Oversight chairman, Elijah Cummings, will end up referring Michael Cohen to the DOJ for alleged perjury in regard to the testimony that he never asked Trump for a pardon. Do you believe that Cohen lied and do you think the alleged perjury should be looked into? Should there be a probe?

GOMEZ: First, Chairman Cummings was very clear that if Michael Cohen lied under oath that he would pursue it and he would hold Michael Cohen accountable. So I think if it is proven that he has lied, Chairman Cummings should take the necessary steps. And if that includes referring him to the DOJ, that's exactly what he's going to do.

But at the same time, listen, I don't trust anybody that's really associated with this White House. They have consistently lied over and over and over again. You know, Secretary Nielsen about family separation, Wilbur Ross about, you know, the citizenship question on the census. Now you have Michael Cohen. Did he lie? Was he completely truthful? I'm not sure. But he did provide corroborating evidence that backed up some of his claims. Now it's up to the Oversight Committee and the Ways and Means Committee to follow through on these lines of questioning.

I care about the taxes. Are we going to get our hands on these tax returns? Are we going to be able to compare them to the financial disclosure statements that Michael Cohen provided to the committee? Are we going to be able to compare them to what we know in the public? I think really asking those questions is necessary. But I don't trust anybody associated with this administration to begin with.

[13:40:09] KEILAR: You're on the Ways and Means, where the chairman can request those tax returns, we should note.

GOMEZ: Sure.

KEILAR: So the White House just denied Elijah Cummings's request to interview former Trump counsel, Stefan Passantino. Cummings wanted to question Passantino because he may have provided false information to federal ethics officials about the hush money payments to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels. What happens from here?

GOMEZ: I think Chairman Cummings should subpoena the attorney for the White House to come in and testify. We're playing nice. We're asking people to come in voluntarily. But if they don't, I think the chairman should issue a subpoena and force them to come before the committee.

KEILAR: Congressman Jimmy Gomez, we appreciate you being with us.

GOMEZ: Thank you for having me again.

KEILAR; Brand new. CNN video from the frontlines in Syria as U.S.- backed forces try to claim the last territory from ISIS.

Also, a Democratic presidential contender, Tulsi Gabbard, is digging in a claim that has haunted her for years.


[13:45:40] KEILAR: A fierce assault on ISIS' last stronghold in Syria is underway as we speak.

CNN's team, CNN senior international correspondents, Ben Wedeman, and Photographer Scott McGuinney, Producer Kareen Potter (ph) and team member, Adam Dobbie (ph), are there in eastern Syria. They are on the frontline as U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces are making their final push to defeat ISIS. And here is what they have witnesses.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You can see here gunfire is hitting around the corner from us because there's a sniper in an ISIS building just 200 meters from where we are. So if we were to go around this corner here, we would be exposed to that sniper.


WEDEMAN: Now, Scott McGuinney is holding the camera around the corner but not going around the corner himself because of the possibility of getting hit by that sniper.


KEILAR; Hundreds of thousands have died in the eight years of this Syrian civilian war. A U.N. investigation concluded that Syrian President Bashar al Assad was behind an April 2017 chemical weapons attack. Amnesty International has accused Assad's regime of crimes against humanity and anti-war crimes.

But despite the evidence and firsthand accounts of torture and mass killings in Syria, Democratic presidential candidate, Tulsi Gabbard, during last night's CNN town hall, refused to say whether or not she thinks Assad is a war criminal.


REP. TULSI GABBARD, (D), HAWAII & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that the evidence needs to be gathered. And as I have said before, if there's evidence that he has committed war crimes, he should be prosecuted as such. DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But you're not sure


GABBARD: Everything that I have said requires that we take action based on evidence. If the evidence is there, there should be accountability.


KEILAR: We have CNN political analyst and columnist for the "Washington Post," Josh Rogin, here with us now.

You've written a lot about this, Josh. So she says if there's evidence, he should be prosecuted. There's evidence.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's a ton of evidence, overwhelming evidence. I mean, not just of chemical weapons attacks but mass torture, mass starvation, mass murder in Assad's prisons over eight years, ongoing today, 55,000 pictures brought out of Syria by a defector named Caesar. They're on display at the Holocaust Museum. Just go there, to the Web site, you'll see them. These atrocities were described by the Stephen Rapp, the former war crimes ambassador for the State Department, as the worst war systematic machinery of death since the Nazis, OK?

On the one hand, to be fair to Tulsi Gabbard, her campaign is based on a principled opposition to U.S. intervention in the Middle East, and that's to the awareness of the American people of the mistakes we've made in that region over the last decades, and I think that's a legitimate political argument. But to deny the fact that Assad is a war criminal is to turn a blind eye to mass atrocities, and that is beyond the pale and I would argue un-American.

KEILAR: Why do you think that she will not say, like, what we all know, right, about Assad and still make her point that the U.S. maybe should not intervene or just have maybe a more nuanced approach? Look, she served in Iraq --

ROGIN: Sure.

KEILAR; -- so she will use that as an example about the things she learned and she'll say the U.S. shouldn't have been there. But why doesn't she make a more nuanced argument about it?

ROGIN: In 2015, Tulsi Gabbard tweeted support for Russian airstrikes in Aleppo that were widely regarded as war crimes. In 2016, she was the only Democrat to vote against the resolution to hold Assad accountable for war crimes. She says she thinks any discussion of war crimes by the Assad regime is a thinly veiled effort by Neo-Con warmongers to justify an Iraq-style invasion. That's what she thinks, OK? I've argued that's a false choice. We don't have to invade Syria, and I don't know anyone who is arguing for invading Syria at all, in order to hold Assad accountable for war crimes. You can do both. You can say Assad is a war criminal and you can say a military invasion of Syria is wrong, but Tulsi Gabbard doesn't seem to agree with that. [13:50:04] KEILAR; Is it a harder argument for her to maintain,

especially as the president has made it clear, he has no desire to be in Syria and he's pulling troops out, except for 200 of them.

ROGIN: Yes. I mean, her position on Syria is closer to the president than many people in Congress, which would be an issue if she were to get into a one-on-one race with President Trump. But well before we ever get there, the Democratic Party is going to have this internal foreign policy fight about what is the U.S. role in the world. And you know, again, military intervention, very unpopular in a Democratic primary. This may play to Tulsi Gabbard's political advantage. But there's a greater issue here. The fact is that the Syrian war is ending. The Syrian people are struggling for dignity, accountability and justice. Atrocities are still going on today. Thousands of people being tortured in Assad's prisons today. Again, when I say un- American, I mean there's an expectation around the world that America, as a leader in the world, will take a moral stance, opposed to the worst ware crimes and the worst atrocities there are. Dark war, Cambodian killing fields. Yes, they're horrifying. Yes, we were wrong. We don't always live up to that moral example, but in the case of Syria, we have another opportunity to either state facts or to deny facts. And Tulsi Gabbard is entitled to her own opinion but not her own facts.

KEILAR: How do you see her looking at and talking about other dictators? Is there something specific about Assad? How does she talk about authoritarian regimes in general? Does she condemn Vladimir Putin and others?

ROGIN: Again, I think Tulsi Gabbard comes from a place that in our politics that's found on both the left and right that believes that sovereign nations should have power over their own territory, over their citizens, that we should be involved in these places. I think that's not so far from what Donald Trump believes and what Bernie Sanders believes. A lot of Americans believe that. That's a legitimate foreign policy view. It doesn't happen to be one I agree with, but that's fine. If we're going to have that discussion and say, OK, dictators can do whatever they want in their countries, we have to realize the cost of that. The cost of that is what they want to do often is torture and murder their people. We have to be honest about that trade off, OK? There's a reality, and the reality here is that when we look at a war crime or atrocity that's happening on our watch, and we look the other way, that's a signal to all of the other dictators, whether they're in Saudi Arabia or Iran or in Russia or North Korea, that it's open season. OK? So there's one position that says, oh, America should get involved and save all these people from their dictators, and then there's one that says we shouldn't do anything. Somewhere in the middle is where the actual policy should be. We can't ignore mass atrocities, fight every war out there, but what Tulsi Gabbard is doing is denying the atrocities or at least the evidence of the atrocities. And that erodes our ability to have a fact-based, reasonable discussion about what's going on. I also think the American people see that and perhaps they see that, that her denial of these atrocities calls into question her judgment.

KEILAR: All right. We will see. Josh Rogin, thank you so much.

ROGIN: Thank you.

KEILAR; For the first time in more than a month, Sarah Sanders will be briefing the media, trying to sell the president's budget the Democrats have declared dead on arrival. Live pictures there as we are waiting.

And why "Wonder Woman" actress, Gal Gadot, is in a war of words with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


[13:58:19] KEILAR: "Wonder woman" is taking on the Israeli prime minister. Gal Gadot, the actress who portrays the heroine, jumped to the defense of a top Israeli TV host who criticized Netanyahu over his campaign stance towards Israel's Arab minority and stressed Arabs are citizens, too. Netanyahu shot back on Instagram saying, quote, "Israel is not a state of all its citizens. Israel is the state of the Jewish people and belongs to them alone." Gadot responded on her Instagram page, which has more than 28 million followers, "Loving your neighbor as yourself is not a matter of left or right, Jew or Arab, secular or religious. It's about dialogue for peace and equality and our tolerance for one another."

We have CNN international correspondent, Melissa Bell, joining us in Jerusalem.

And tell us, Melissa, what prompted these remarks from the prime minister about the Arab minority?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That initial post, Brianna, which was saying to politicians on the part of this Israeli Act that's fairly well known and a fried of Gadot saying, look, we're fed up with you guys speaking only for Israeli Jews. It's time you spoke for all their citizens. Bear in mind, nearly 20 percent of Israeli citizens are Arab. They're Palestinians who found themselves here, became Israeli citizens back in the war of 1948. That is what Benjamin Netanyahu pounced upon, not only with a social media post, but with an on-camera statement, saying something much further than he said before, saying that, in fact, although he respects all the rights of Israeli citizens, Israel is essentially a nation-state only of the Jewish people. Extremely divisive. We're in an election period, which is probably why he did it. It's something he's done before. A well-worn strategy, but something a lot of Israelis reflected by the post of Gal Gadot in the wake of it simply don't want to hear, election period or not.

KEILAR: Melissa Bell in Jerusalem. Thank you and that is it for me. "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.