Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Says Public Should See Mueller Report; Trump on George Conway; GOP Senator Berates Trump; Rosenstein Staying On; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi is Interviewed about the Mueller Report and White House Documents; New Polls for 2020 Democrats. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 20, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:17] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, Democrats say give us documents. The White House says, nah. So now the defiance sets up a showdown with Congress.

The president deserves a whipping for insulting John McCain says one Republican senator, while most of his colleagues remain silent.

Plus, President Trump weighs in on the marriage of one of his top aides, saying publicly that Kellyanne Conway's spouse is, quote, the husband from hell.

And with one of Boeing's newest models of 737s still grounded, chilling new details in the first of two crashes, including how pilots raced through the flight manual even as the plane was going down.

President Trump says let the public see the Mueller report when it comes out. He was asked about the report just moments ago.

And we have White House correspondent Abby Phillip in Lima, Ohio, where the president will be speaking next hour.

So, Abby, what more did the president say?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, the president continued his attacks on the Mueller investigation, the special counsel probe, but he did say that he doesn't know when it's going to come out and he doesn't have a problem with the public seeing that report when it eventually does come out.

Now, this is coming at a time when the president is facing a number of different inquiries, not just from the Mueller report, but also from Congress. He's getting requests from the Oversight Committee, from the House Judiciary Committee, for documents on a number of different issues, some of them related to the same issues that the Mueller investigation is probing, Russian interference in the 2016 election, and others related to other things, like the security clearance process at the White House. And so far, you know, according to the House Oversight Committee chairman, the White House hasn't provided a single document in response to their request for documentation. Now, that is an extraordinary escalation for this White House and it

seems to signal that they are aggressively trying to slow down these investigations, trying to put the brakes on what the president has considered to be Democratic overreach. He's called it presidential harassment.

But I think it sets us up for at least another several weeks and months of combat between the president and the House committees, even after -- potentially after this Mueller investigation wraps up. It seems, Brooke, that the president is waiting, just like we are, for that report to come out, but he's taking -- I'm sorry, Brianna, but he's taking -- he's waiting -- he's waiting for that report to come out, but he's taking a combative approach to it -- to the House and to the Mueller report on both of those fronts because this is about to be, I think, a pretty difficult period for him and for his presidency, Brianna.

KEILAR: And he has been attacking a lot of people, but he's also been attacking one of his top aide's husband. Kellyanne Conway's husband. Tell us about this.

PHILLIP: Yes. Speaking of escalations, I think this has gone from being George Conway tweeting his thoughts about the president and his fitness for office, to it being really kind of a window into the marriage of Kellyanne and George Conway with the president smack-dab in the middle. President Trump, this morning, tweeting that George Conway is a loser and then saying this on the lawn as he was leaving the White House this afternoon.




TRUMP: Yes, I don't know him. He's a whack job, there's no question about it. But I really don't know him. He -- I think he's doing a tremendous disservice to a wonderful wife. Kellyanne is a wonderful woman. And I call him Mr. Kellyanne. The fact is that he's doing a tremendous disservice to a wife and family. She's a wonderful woman.


PHILLIP: So, Brianna, all this drama is playing out in public. And, you know, I have to say, White House aides haven't really been addressing George Conway. The president hasn't really addressed him. He's called him Mr. Kellyanne Conway in the past. But today, and yesterday, I think we're seeing the president changing his strategy. He's going on the attack. And he's defending his top aide, but in the process he's kind of getting in the middle of their marriage as well, which is an extraordinary thing to happen on the world stage here, Brianna.

KEILAR: Especially in that tweet where he said it was actually -- he said, the president, that it was with Kellyanne Conway's help that he denied George Conway a job. George Conway has said that he -- PHILLIP: And, of course --

KEILAR: Didn't want the job.

Go on, Abby.

PHILLIP: Exactly. That's exactly right. George Conway has disputed that version of events, saying he turned it down. But, again, I mean, this is -- the crux of the problem here is that there is now a breach, not just between George Conway and the president, but it seems George Conway and his wife. I'm not sure if Kellyanne would even agree with that version of events about denying her husband a job in the administration that she currently works in as well.


[13:05:01] KEILAR: All right, Abby Phillip in Lima, Ohio, where the president is headed. Thank you.

And in the meantime, Meghan McCain is firing back at President Trump for his repeated attacks on her late father Senator John McCain.


MEGHAN MCCAIN, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW"/SEN. JOHN MCCAIN'S DAUGHTER: I'm just surprised because I do think this is a new, bizarre low. I will say attacking someone who isn't here is a bizarre low, but my dad's not here, but I'm sure as hell here.


KEILAR: And she is not the only outspoken voice, though, possibly the most outspoken voice. Senator GOP Senator Johnny Isakson is speaking out in a new interview. He's the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and this is what he said, quote, I just want to lay it on the line that the country deserves better. The McCain family deserves better. I don't care if he's president of the United States, owns all the real estate in New York or is building the greatest immigration system in the world. Nothing is more important than the integrity of the country and those who fought and risked their lives for all of us, end quote.

We have columnist and associate editor for RealClearPolitics, A.B. Stoddard, who talked exclusively to Senator Isakson.

So you broke this story. And this -- I mean this is what he told you. But he's also going to be speaking publicly. When will we her from him?

A.B. STODDARD, COLUMNIST AND ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "REALCLEARPOLITICS": Todd between 2-2:35 he's appearing on Georgia Public Broadcasting Channel on a show called "Political Rewind," where he'll be talking about this subject.

KEILAR: And is this what you expect or you expect him to say more than what he's told you? STODDARD: I don't know.

KEILAR: You don't know. We should listen.

STODDARD: I know he'll -- I know he'll likely be asked about several things he voted with the president on, the emergency declaration last week. I think he'll be answering a lot of questions from some members of the Georgia press and he might elaborate on what he told me. We'll be listening with great interest.

KEILAR: He made it clear back in August that the -- that John McCain should not be insulted, and it bothered him that the flag was lowered to half-mast, almost reticently, and put back up rather quickly at the White House. But he's now making good kind of on what he said in the summer, which was, this is not appropriate. However, there's not a lot of Republicans that are. Why do you think that is?

STODDARD: The president has put the Republican Party in a very bad place where they cannot defend a dead war hero that the president is fighting with. You've seen Mitt Romney come out and say things like -- he defended John McCain in very clear terms, but he said, I wonder why the president is doing this. Lindsay Graham gave a meek tribute the other night on Twitter with people urging him to come to the senator's defense, but he did not say anything about President Trump.

What Johnny Isakson is doing, he's the chairman of the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, is trying to speak out about how damaging this is to the integrity of our country and to our veterans who risk their lives for us. And that that is a part of our national fabric and our pride, and that this is an attack, really, on all veterans to sort of ignore this and normalize it in silence. And a lot of people are staying silent for political reasons, but it's -- I think it's a very strange world, Brianna --

KEILAR: Wait, and that's --

STODDARD: When it's news that the Veterans Affairs Committee chairman is the only one who's coming out and telling the president that this is damaging.

KEILAR: Well, you say he's putting them, Republicans, in a bad spot. They may be in a bad spot, but they have a choice to make.

STODDARD: They do. They do. But the president has decided that, you know, you're with me or against me. You've seen the way he treats members of his own party in Congress. He doesn't work to protect them. They will be asked about this on the campaign trail next year, no question. It's really -- he sort of considers himself a party of one and you need to fall in line and follow. And that includes his list of grievances and his perceived political enemies. And he, you know, obviously believes that John McCain is one.

KEILAR: All right. The late Senator John McCain.

Thank you so much, A.B. Stoddard. We really do appreciate the scoop.

STODDARD: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: And so we're learning now more about why Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is sticking around the Justice Department just a little while longer than he had originally planned. A source tells CNN that he's staying to act as a heat shield to absorb any of the fallout from the release of the Mueller report. We have political reporter Sara Murray here with that part of the story.

So there's this delayed departure by Rod Rosenstein and members of Mueller's team also who are suggesting that this is a busy week for them. They've asked for a continuance in releasing some documents and that was their justification for it. Tell us where this investigation stands right now.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, we're reading the clues to try to figure that exact thing out. I mean, you heard the president say he doesn't know when this report is coming and count all of Washington in the same boat on that.

But we are getting a couple of clues here and there. I mean one of them is that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, was slated to leave essentially any day now. He's now going to be sticking on for a little while longer. What that time line is, we don't know, but he wants to be there when the Mueller report is actually released.

[13:10:04] You mentioned, you know, a source told us he wants to be the heat shield. That essentially means he wants to be the guy who's out there taking the punches, taking the bullets to the extent that they come, that criticism comes when the report is released because he's been the primary guy who's been overseeing this investigation.

Now, separately, prosecutors were facing this deadline to respond to an effort to unseal some documents in Paul Manafort's case and they wrote to the judge and they said they have a press of other work that they are dealing with. They're very, very busy this week and so they're asking an extension of the deadline. Unclear if that means it's because they're working on the Mueller report or perhaps some other investigative matter. So we continue to wait, Brianna.

KEILAR: It is interesting to hear them say that. Of course, they're still like holding the details close to the vest, so we'll have to wait and see, as you said, what it means.

Sara Murray, thank you so much for that.

Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois is a member of both the House Oversight and the Intelligence Committees and he's with us now from Chicago.

Sir, thanks for being with us.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D), ILLINOIS: Sure thing, Brianna. Thank you.

KEILAR: So, first of all, what is your reaction to Rod Rosenstein's decision to stay on longer because, according to sources, he wants to be around to absorb the punches if there's any fallout from the Mueller report?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think a lot of us on Capitol Hill have been glad that Rod Rosenstein has done everything to try to protect the Mueller investigation from outside interference. So his continued presence is a good thing, in my opinion.

KEILAR: I also want to ask you about something the president just said. He said he doesn't mind if the public sees Robert Mueller's report.

How do you square that with the White House expecting to see the Mueller report before Congress as they look possibly to exert executive privilege?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I -- they might be trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, they want to, you know, have people review the report potentially with an eye toward concealing parts of it from the public, but on the other hand, he knows that saying that hiding the Mueller report is his policy is a loser in terms of public opinion.

You just saw this the other day. Four hundred and twenty members of the House voted in favor of releasing the report and that unanimous sentiment in the House, I think, also mirrors what the public want, too.

KEILAR: That was held in the Senate because of Senator Lindsay Graham, we should point out.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, unfortunately.

KEILAR: Which some folks read into because he has been supportive of the president in many ways.

So when you look at this, the White House, having this report before Congress, do you think that part of it is prepping a PR message to combat whatever is in the report or are you worried that they are going to successfully argue that some or a lot of the report should be redacted?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, in my humble opinion, aside from national security concerns or classified information, which obviously should be withheld from public consumption, the rest of the report should be turned over, along with the evidence supporting the report. If it's not, obviously, folks like Adam Schiff and others on other committees can also subpoena the report, as well as the underlying documents, as well as Robert Mueller to come forward and explain any gaps that might exist in William Barr's recounting or summary of that report to Congress.

KEILAR: Do you trust this Justice Department to make sure the White House doesn't get in the way of Congress getting the full story here? Because you're talking about subpoenas. It sounds like perhaps you do not.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I hope it doesn't come to a subpoena, Brianna. I think that, as I said, the House voted overwhelmingly the other day to have the public see this report. I think the American people deserve that and they're demanding that. So anything less is something that I hope people on both sides will object to. Certainly we will. And I think that's why the American people wanted us to be in the majority, to serve as a check and balance on the White House, especially with regard to this Mueller investigation.

KEILAR: So you are on the Oversight Committee. Your chairman, Elijah Cummings, says the White House hasn't turned over any requested documents for any investigation and there's a number of them. You've got the review of White House security clearances. There's an investigation of the president's hush money payments to women he allegedly had affairs with. White House officials' use of personal e- mail in violation of federal law. That's a question that your committee is looking into.

What are Democrats prepared to do to get those documents?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think Chairman Cummings is one of the most reasonable, patient members of Congress you're ever going to find. He has been patiently requesting voluntary compliance with document request over a number of months, and yet the White House refuses to turn over documents. And they did this, by the way, with the Republican committee chairman as well.

[13:15:11] Now that we're in the majority, we know that we're in the majority because the American people want us to serve as a check and balance. And so if --

KEILAR: So what can -- what can you do?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: If they don't turn these documents over as Chairman Cummings says within the op-ed, they should not be surprised to receive some subpoenas at this point because we need answers to serious questions about serious controversies.

I'll just point out one. The security clearance process is messed up. The fact that Jared Kushner could have access to top-secret materials despite the fact that every law enforcement official who's looked at it says that he should not is a serious problem.

KEILAR: But if they sweep aside the subpoena, if they don't comply with the subpoena, what options do you have?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think that we would probably try to enforce a subpoena in court. Unfortunately, it could go to litigation. I would just respectfully say that the White House would be better served through voluntary compliance with document requests than actually meeting with a subpoena, which could ask for a much more sweeping set of documents and materials and witnesses. And, therefore, I think voluntary compliance might be the best course for them.

That being said, we are not going to wait for voluntary compliance to get access to the materials.

KEILAR: So is that -- is that the strategy -- is that the strategy to tell them if they're not going to volunteer some materials, the scope is going to be much broader and you're going to work to compel them to reveal even more and for this to be even more painful for them?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, it's not about pain, it's about having access to more documents and materials potentially in scope because we may not be able to trust the White House to actually answer the voluntary requests as honestly and in the spirit of good faith that we would want them to show. And, therefore, I think it would be best -- in their best interest to answer the voluntary requests right now, and allow us to review the materials and then, obviously, we would want to question witnesses as well.

KEILAR: All right, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thank you, sir.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Brianna.

New CNN poll numbers on the 2020 race show that one candidate is making a big jump as others are seeing their popularity sinking. Plus, chilling new reports on the Lion Air crash. Pilots scrambling for manuals as the plane went down. And another pilot saving that same doomed jet from crashing a day earlier.

Also, a source tells CNN, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft will reject a plea deal that would have dropped charges against him.


[13:22:11] KEILAR: From the polls to the fundraising, it's all about the numbers in the race for the White House and today's big figure is a record breaking $6.1 million. That is the amount that Beto O'Rourke raised on the first day of his presidential campaign.

CNN political reporter and editor-at-large Chris Cillizza is here to put that number and a few others into context for us.

So I guess let's -- it's important to compare this one to Bernie Sanders --


KEILAR: Who was sort of the lord of bringing in a lot of small donations that added up to a lot of money.

CILLIZZA: Exactly right. So let's run through that quickly, Brianna, because, you're right, it's important.

OK, 6.1 versus 5.9. That's a ton of money to raise in 24 hours. Now, Sanders, more donors. And, of course, that means his average donation, $27 versus $47, lower.

What does this mean? It means that Sanders can go back to more people and say, hey, you gave me $27 can you give me another hundred or another 50. It means that O'Rourke probably is a little bit more dependent on some people when maxed out, meaning they gave him the most, about $2000 (ph) that you can give, Brianna, to a campaign.

But in truth, these are hugely impressive numbers by both men. I would say especially by Beto O'Rourke. Candidly, he was a congressman from the border that no one had heard of two years ago and now we're talking about in the same sense as is Bernie Sanders, who re-defined what it means to raise money online.


KEILAR: So that is the fundraising. Now, take us through the latest polls.

CILLIZZA: OK, I was an English major in college. This is a lot of numbers for me. But, yes, OK, here we go.

Now, there is a lot of good news for Bernie Sanders. But one thing that I would note from our most recent poll that's a little bit of bad news here. OK, here's his favorability numbers in our December poll and then now. OK. His favorability dropped marginally, 51 to 46. This is your bigger concern, I think. His unfavorable number went from 35 to 43. A lot of this is, you know, this is about the same.

This number is important. And the reason it's important, Brianna. Remember, when Bernie Sanders ran in 2016, very few people had heard of him until he got into the race and got some traction. He got very little negative press. There was not a lot of opposition research done on him. Hillary Clinton, despite what the Sanders people will say, Hillary Clinton didn't really attack him that much. Very different race now.

Now, let's go to the overall race. OK, and, as I said, there's still some good news here for Bernie Sanders. He's in second place. He's up six points. Joe Biden is still in first. Sort of, this is statistically insignificant hovering the same.

Here's the number that's the most important, from four to 12, Kamala Harris. She is -- Harry Enten and I do rankings every month on the people most likely to win the Democratic nomination. Harris has been number one in our rankings for the last five months. And the reason is because although she was at four, it was clear the excitement and energy for her, her -- she's the first Indian-American and African- American senator from California. There was a lot there to like and Democratic voters are starting to like her as they get to know here.


[13:25:02] KEILAR: Chris, an English major.

CILLIZZA: I did it.

KEILAR: I'm learning -- interesting. All right, Chris Cillizza, thank you so much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

KEILAR: Why was it allowed to fly? A stunning new report says that an off-duty pilot saved that doomed Lion Air jet from crashing just the day before its deadly nosedive into the sea. We're going to have details on that. Plus disturbing messages of hate. Senator John McCain's widow sharing the disgusting insults that she's getting in the wake of the president's new attacks on her late husband. Where is the GOP?