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Fmr. Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) Texas Joins Crowded 2020 Democratic Field, Senate Set To Rebuke Trump On National Emergency Declaration, Soon: Stone Could Face Consequences In Court For Book Release, November 5th Trial Date Set For Ex-Trump Adviser Roger Stone. Aired 10-10:30 ET

Aired March 14, 2019 - 10:00   ET




[10:00:56] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Top of a busy news this morning, I'm Jim Sciutto in New York.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Poppy Harlow in Washington. And it has been a busy first hour. And Beto O'Rourke, what about him, the former democratic congressman almost captured Ted Cruz's senate seat last fall is officially in, in the race and in attempt to unseat President Trump in 2020. If you want proof, he just wrapped up his first campaign event in Keokuk, Iowa. Here he is.


FRM. REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D), T.X.: Keokuk, is the first stop in our campaign to be president of the United States of America.


HARLOW: O'Rourke has the cover of the latest Vanity Fair. It's such a coincidence on the timing there. But in the field of democratic presidential hopefuls, he is one face in a big, big crowd. We'll weigh in his chances this hour. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Also this hour, this is important. We are watching the Senate where, in just a few hours, republicans are expected to help pass a repeal of the President's national emergency decree aimed at funding his desired border wall. If they do, he promises to issue the first veto of his presidency. Also, something we're watching this hour, Roger Stone, the President's long time adviser, back in the D.C. federal courthouse this morning, once again in danger of having violated a gag order. And this time it could mean jail time.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is there too. Judge Amy Berman-Jackson, we saw yesterday with Paul Manafort. She does not hold punches in the courtroom when she feels defendants have not behaved well or violated the law. What do we expect today?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. And, certainly, we've seen that with Roger Stone, when he appeared here last him. She gagged him. She told him that he was not to talk about his case. Today was supposed to be just an ordinary status hearing and to set a trial date. As with Roger Stone, there is nothing that is ordinary. And the big question right now is whether or not the judge is going to jail Roger Stone.

On the last court date, she gagged him after he posted what appeared to be threatening messages on Instagram. It was photo of the judge with what appeared to be crosshairs over her shoulder. And then after that, the judge said to him, stop it. You are not to talk about this case. You are not to post anything.

Well, short time after he left court, information came out that he was about to republish a book that he had written. And in the introduction, it was a new introduction in the book, which was going to be information about the Mueller investigation. And the judge then ordered him to explain how did this happen?

And so today, we're going to hear more about that. His attorneys have been arguing that the release of this book, the re-release of this book, I should say, was planned before she instituted the gag order. But we'll see. What the judge certainly has had an issue with was that Roger Stone and his attorneys never told her on the day he appeared in court that this book was coming.

So, now, she wants to know who was he talking to about this book and when exactly did he plan to publish this book. And she said to him -- she warned him, I am not going to give you a third chance here. You have already had two strikes. And possibly with a third strike, she would jail him for violating this gag order.

So while we saw Roger Stone walk into court this morning, the big question is will we see him walk out later today?

HARLOW: Will we? Yes. No, it's a huge question for him. Shimon, thanks. I know you'll be there through it.

Let's get to Iowa now where the presidential caucuses are less than 11 months away. Think about that for a second. Beto O'Rourke says he was born to be there. He just, moments ago, made his announcement. Leyla Santiago was there. And this is classic, Leyla. I think we have -- look, this was classic Beto O'Rourke, right? No notes, totally off the cuff, a lot of energy. What struck you?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. There was no script. A lot of the things he said and the way he sort of took the questions was very representative of the town halls that we saw during his run for the Senate when he went up against Ted Cruz in the midterm, so an elections he lost but it was very close.


It was a three-point loss. He talked about that today about how he believes he can get people on his side, energize those young voters and get people on what he believes is needed in terms of change for the White House. You know, one of the things I specifically asked him when he finished and wrapped up after talking to voters, I asked him, how do you plan to differentiate yourself among such a crowded field? And he said, I'm just going to be me. So I think he thinks that that's enough to connect with the voters.

There were questions about healthcare. There were questions about education. Let me let you listen to some of what he had to say.


O'ROURKE: We cannot make this democracy work and we're not going to be able to call forth the genius of every single one of us. And so running a campaign in the most democratic small way possible where you show up everywhere, and no one is taken for granted, no one is spoken for, no one is left behind, everyone is important regardless of your party affiliation or geography. That's the way not only to campaign, not only to win the nomination, not only to win the general but that's the way to govern is with America. No one person, no one president can meet all these challenges on their own. It's going to take all of us coming together.


SANTIAGO: Now, this is what he said in what is his first stop here in Iowa, Keokuk, Iowa, in the southeastern part of the state. As I have been talking to folks here, they're talking about how they have not seen a candidate in quite some time, make this the first stop. This is an area that feels strongly about education, about rural living. And they asked him about those things. This is expected to be a three-day visit here in Iowa.

And then later this month, he announced in his video this morning, which he officially announced his presidential bid, he said he will have an official kickoff launch party in, as you might expect, El Paso.

SCIUTTO: Hometown. Leyla Santiago, thanks very much.

Joining us now to discuss, Jackie Kucinich, CNN Political Analyst and Washington Bureau Chief for the Daily Beast, and Kirsten Powers, CNN Political Analyst and Columnist with USA Today. Thanks to both of you.

Guys, listen, if I can begin with you, Kirsten. So we know Vanity Fair loves him, we know Oprah loves him. I used to joke Poppy, because during his Texas Senate race, there were fundraisers in Brooklyn. So, you know, Brooklyn loves him. But he polls 5 percent in Iowa, the first caucus state, and 6 percent nationally. Is he really that viable a national candidate?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, it's still very early. So I think, yes. I think he is definitely viable. I think there is a lot to like about him. He is obviously very charismatic. And I think sometimes people can say that that's not that important, like, they're just charismatic. But I actually think that a person who can really communicate high level issues and ideas -- I heard Poppy really zoomed in on the fact that he wasn't getting specific about a lot of things, which has been a criticism about him.

But at the same time, I think it is important to be able to really talk about a vision for the country. And that's really the role that a president traditionally plays, is somebody who people look to to kind of explain the big issues, give you a big vision for moving forward. And then as we go along, then I think he is going to have to get more specific.

HARLOW: Jackie, he is very self-aware, something that is very evident to everyone, and that is that he is a white man. What I found interesting is the way he addressed it in the Vanity Fair article, saying, I get it if you are not going to vote for me because I'm a white man. That is pretty much what we have had as president with the exception of President Obama. But here is what I can tell you. If you are in my camp, my team will be very diverse. Well played?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that is the only answer he can give in that way. I mean, that's the right answer. What he is up against are a whole field of candidates that have not only said they do things, they have done things. They have long records that back up some of the promises that they've made, someone like Kamala Harris, someone like Cory Booker. There are -- Cory Booker has legislative achievements, like criminal justice reform. So he kind of needs to prove that he is not sort of a human urban outfitters t shirt right now, something that's new, kind of cool, but after a couple of rounds in the wash kind of falls apart.

HARLOW: But, Jackie, he didn't take off his third shirt to get to the t-shirt. That did not happen.

KUCINICH: It's true. It's early yet, Poppy.

HARLOW: It's definitely going to be an SNL skit, like for sure.

SCIUTTO: Kirsten, looking at the big race, the national race, and O'Rourke made this clear. He said that democrats have to kind of stick together, that their focus is on beating Donald Trump and they shouldn't be fighting and so on beyond all the talk of how charming he is, et cetera.


But democrats and republicans acknowledge that this 2020 race is looking tighter than anybody acknowledges and likely to come down again to those key swing states, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, et cetera. Is that -- should that be the focus for democratic candidates? And who is going to win over those districts? Not Brooklyn, right, but who is going to win over the districts that turned the race in 2016 and will likely turn it in 2020?

POWERS: Well, I think you have to be focused on that but you also have to be focused on turning out base voters, people who didn't show up, who showed up for Obama but then didn't show up for Hillary. And so I think that, ideally, you would have somebody who could appeal to both of those groups of people. And, you know, it's not clear to me exactly what Beto's plan is. It seems like he is more on what you are talking about there. But I think that that's shortsighted.

Can I just say one thing though about what's bothering me about this isn't so much about what he is doing, it's what the media is doing, so the fact that he gets this Vanity Fair cover. And I feel like he is getting kind of this special treatment that is not proportionate to what he has done. He has had a big accomplishment, but so did Stacey Abrams. And as was just pointed out there a lot, other candidates who have accomplished a lot, like it is not clear to me why he is on the cover of Vanity Fair and Kamala Harris isn't. And I think that that's something that democrats --

HARLOW: Well, Kirsten, can you answer that? I am so interested -- I am fascinated by that too. And I want to know why do you think it is?

POWERS: Well, because I think that there is still an issue in this country where people just get very, very excited about white men. I mean, I don't know what the other explanation is. Or I shouldn't even say white men, men. Because I think we saw the same thing with Barack Obama. And so the question is, I actually -- Kamala Harris is an incredibly charismatic, obviously, I think, brilliant woman.

And it's not clear to me why Beto O'Rourke, like I said, is getting this kind of royal treatment that she's not getting or frankly Stacey Abrams who is incredible, right? Really, like the first time I saw her, I thought, wow, this woman should run for president. So I just think that the media can help create a lot of this. So I think people have to be conscious of that.

HARLOW: And she may jump in this race too, which she made very clear earlier this week, right, with that Tweet from Stacey Abrams. Ladies, thank you both, Jackie and Kirsten. I really appreciate.

We have some breaking news to tell you about. CNN is learning Senator Lindsey Graham and two other republicans met with President Trump last night, this is ahead of the Senate vote, to rebuke the President's national emergency declaration. We'll have more on that ahead.

SCIUTTO: It'd be interesting to know what the message is they delivered to him, perhaps a warning.

Also, investigators in France are preparing to examine the black boxes from the Ethiopian airlines crash as experts discover similarities, shocking ones, between that crash and the one just five months a involving the same type of Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft. We'll have more.



[10:17:19] HARLOW: All right. Just moments ago here in Washington, D.C., the hearing for President Trump's long time political adviser, Roger Stone, started again. A federal judge will decide if Stone violated a gag order not to speak at all about his case. SCIUTTO: Also this morning, and this is key, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, says that the former acting Attorney General, Matt Whitaker, did not deny when he was asked if President Donald Trump called him to discuss Michael Cohen's case while he was sitting as the Attorney General.

Let's discuss with former federal prosecutor Shan Wu and Elie Honig. Shan, you've been around a long time. So you look at this. So Whitaker does not deny that the President called him to discuss Cohen's case. Of course, the President is his boss. He also -- we also know that Whitaker acknowledged he raised concerns then with prosecutors in the Southern District of New York about the handling of the Cohen case. You are a lawyer. Does that look, sound, smell to you like an attempted obstruction?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It smells very bad to me. First of all, you'd have to really get into details of the conversation, but it makes very little sense that he would ask them to revisit the scope of recusal. I have seen some statements that you mentioned something like you can't revisit a recusal. I don't know what he would be talking about. That is an instance where Berman, the U.S. attorney, based on his own conscience, his own sense of integrity, says I have a conflict. I can't do this. So what is anyone else doing revisiting that decision? So that, in and of itself, I find to be very eyebrow- raising.

HARLOW: Elie, let's talk about Roger Stone today and, A, what he should glean from the language and behavior of Judge Jackson yesterday to Paul Manafort in the sentencing, and, B, whether you think that Judge Jackson is actually going to be a little bit wary about throwing Roger Stone in jail because of how he could play it in the court of public opinion.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Poppy. I think this going to be an interesting and difficult decision for Judge Jackson. On the one hand, she has given Roger Stone quite a bit of leeway and every inch she has given him he has taken advantage of. And her language just on the last conference was pretty clear. She said, I have the right to revoke your bail and send you into jail if you violate this again. She said this isn't baseball. You are only getting two strikes. You are not going to get a third.

But I do think she would be reluctant to put him in jail because there will be concern about making him a martyr, about having -- giving him the ability to say, look at me, I'm behind bars because I exercised my first amendment right. That's an uncomfortable position for a judge to be in and I don't know if it's good for anybody if Roger Stone sort of gets to wave that first amendment flag.


HARLOW: Interesting.

SCIUTTO: Shan, a lot of questions have been raised about Michael Cohen's credibility on a number of charges he made on congressional testimony and elsewhere. In one of them -- except where he has brought corroboration. And here, you have one because Michael Cohen provided emails in closed-door testimony on the Hill about pardon discussions with the President. And what he says seemed to be indicating that. And provided this email and this is the email, and this is from an attorney who said he was speaking with President Trump's own lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. And it reads, sleep well tonight. You have friends in high places. I spoke with Rudy, very, very positive. You are loved.

Again, back in this category, does that read to you like a signal going to Michael Cohen from the President's camp that he'll be okay, don't cooperate, the President has your back?

WU: It certainly does. And Rudy Giuliani acting in that capacity, he has no pardon power. He is not acting on behalf of the government. So it can't be anything except some sort of message in that way. And even though they were under, I think, at that time, a joint defense agreement, it does not dissipate the smell of an attempt of witness tampering or corruption. I mean, this whole idea that you can speak in code, like you see in mob boss movies, is going to protect them. Actually, it doesn't work because it's the circumstantial evidence, it's direct evidence. That's still going to show the kind of obstruction that went on. Just speaking in code doesn't do it. Ask all the mafia bosses that are in jail.

HARLOW: Elie, I mean, on that, how big do you think this email revelation is? Gloria Borger, our colleague, exclusively obtained these emails. Members of Congress have now seen it from Michael Cohen. And who is this guy, Robert Costello?

HONIG: So, first of all, I want to be clear. Dangling or offering pardons with the motive of dissuading somebody from cooperating, I think, is obstruction in and of itself. At a minimum, it is part of what Carl Bernstein just phrased last hour, the matrix of obstruction. Some people disagree. Some people think the President has the authority to pardon people for any reason. I disagree and I think the law would find that that is obstruction.

Look, these emails look potentially explosive. As Shan said, they use code language. They talk about establishing a back channel. Those are things, I did mob cases, that we saw in mob cases quite a bit. With that said, they remain ambiguous. There is some ambiguity to the language.

And I think this Costello, who is this middle man, essentially, communicated between Cohen and Rudy Giuliani, they have this other story which is I don't find it particularly plausible but it's possible that, well, Cohen was just worried that the President was mad at him and all that is being communicated is don't worry, the big guy, the boss loves you, he is not mad at you.

Which version do I think is more credible? I think it is the pardon scenario but it's not impossible given the ambiguity and the email that is the other way.

HARLOW: You know, what Warren Buffett always says, if you don't want it on the front page of a newspaper, don't write it at all. I think everyone -- yes, good lesson for all of us. Thanks, gentlemen, very much. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Well, in just a few hours the GOP-led Senate is expected to hand President Trump his second embarrassing rebuke this week, this time over his desired border wall. How the White House is planning to tackle this latest public rejection by his own party.



[10:27:51] SCIUTTO: There is breaking news just now out of the Roger Stone hearing. Our Shimon Prokupecz is outside the court. Shimon, what did we hear from the judge just now?

PROKUPECZ: Yes. Big news here certainly for Roger Stone, and that he will be able to leave here today. The judge is not going to take up the issue on his gag order. She says she has not had time to review the matter. There was a filing that his attorneys filed recently. She has not had time to review the filing so she is not taking up the issue on the gag order today, which means that Roger Stone will be able to leave. There was always concern here coming into today that the judge would jail him because of him violating this gag order. That is not going to happen today.

The other thing we just learned is that the judge has set the trial date here. It's going to be on November 5th. She says she expects it to be about two weeks of trial. So we have a

trial date that is going to take place on November 5th and Roger Stone is going to able to go home today.

SCIUTTO: Shimon Prokupecz at the court, thanks very much.

HARLOW: All right. Right now, President Trump is ready to issue his first veto of his presidency, if necessary, in just a few hours. The Senate is set to deliver him a pretty embarrassing rebuke over his declaration of national emergency of the wall funding at the southern border.

SCIUTTO: That's right, his own party voting against him. Kaitlan Collins is at the White House. And, Kaitlan, CNN has just learned that three Republican Senators visited Trump last night to discuss the emergency declaration, including Lindsey Graham, a close friend of the President, adviser. What was their message to him?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of drama happening behind the scenes right now ahead of this vote that is happening today that would overturn the President's national emergency, which, of course, as you pointed he has said he'll veto.

Now, yesterday people like Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Ben Sasse wanted to come to the White House to talk to the President because they have been trying to talk to the President about striking some kind of deal here where if they did vote to not overturn that national emergency declaration, that the President would agree to some kind of limit or change to his executive power to call for the national emergencies in the future. [10:30:00]

Now, yesterday during the Senate GOP lunch Mike Pence went and the President called in on speakerphone.