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White House Braces for Release of Mueller Report; Democrats Call for Public Release of Mueller Report, Evidence Underpinning It; Poll Shows 12 Point Drop on Democrats in Favor of Impeachment; Hope Hicks Cooperating with Special Council on Obstruction of Justice; Boeing Under FBI Investigation after 2 Deadly Crashes; Defense Inspector General Investigates Defense Secretary; Trump Slams McCain at Military Tank Plant in Ohio. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 21, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for being with me today. I'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

"AT THIS HOUR" starts now.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Ryan Nobles, in for Kate Bolduan.

Washington braced for impact. From the White House to Capitol Hill, all eyes are on Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his final report that could be completed and submitted to the attorney general at any time. While the Trump administration wants to see what is in the report and anticipation builds, President Trump says he is open to the public seeing it.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does the public have the right to see the Mueller report?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't mind. Frankly I told the House, if you want, let them see it.

Let it come out. Let people see it. That's up to the attorney general. We have a very good attorney general. He is a very highly respected man. We'll see what happens.


NOBLES: Remember, it was just last week that the president tweeted that, quote, "There should be no Mueller report." What happens next?

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Sarah Westwood is at the White House.

Sarah, let's begin with you.

How is the White House preparing for the Mueller report?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House is bracing for this report to drop just like the rest of the country. But what is going to happen next is Special Counsel Robert Mueller will deliver his conclusions in a confidential report to Attorney General Bill Barr. Barr will decide what information he will pass along to Congress. So sources tell CNN that the White House expects to review that version of the report, the version that Barr is sending to the House and Senate to see if there are opportunities to claim executive privilege. The White House strategy is going to depend a lot on what's inside the report. Right now White House aides are mostly in the dark. If it is damaging then there's incentive to try to prevent the public disclosure. If in the eyes of the White House it exonerates the president there will be an effort to get it out to the public. The shift in tone from the president who said there shouldn't be a Mueller report now saying perhaps this report should get released to the public.

Of course, here at the White House there are mixed emotions among aides. Some of them expressing a level of anxiety because they don't know what Mueller is going to conclude about the president. And there's also among officials waiting for this report a sense of relief that perhaps a two-year legal cloud over this White House could be lifted. But, Ryan, folks here at the White House holding their breath waiting for that report to be delivered to the attorney general.

NOBLES: They're not the only ones holding their breath.

To Capitol Hill.

Manu, let's talk about what the top Democrats investigating President Trump, like House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, are saying about the report. What's their view of all this?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are bracing for a fight with the White House. They expect some effort by the White House to withhold information. They don't trust Bill Barr to release this report to the House and Senate. They don't believe that that information will be provided to the public. Democrats are not just calling for the public release of the report, but they are also calling for the public release of the underlying evidence that will under pin this report and the decisions that Robert Mueller makes to prosecute, the underlying evidence leading to decisions not to prosecute. They want to see all of that. Bill Barr, when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not make any commitments to do any of that. Democrats are making it clear they plan to fight very hard for the release of this report and they plan to push hard if the White House tries to exert executive privilege.

Last night, Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, made very clear that, if he believes there's an expansive view of executive privilege to cover up wrong doing, he will push back.


REP. JERRY NADLER, (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: It's fundamental law that executive privilege cannot hide misconduct. You cannot use the executive privilege to hide misconduct by the president or anybody around him.

Whatever evidence was given to the special prosecutor, any claim of executive privilege is waived by the act of giving it to an investigator.


RAJU: The House Democrats to investigate going forward depending on what Bob Mueller finds, doesn't find, will essentially inform all of these House Democratic investigation over the next several months. At the moment the next fight they expect to be a process fight, a fight overseeing the documents and seeing the underlying evidence, and potentially a fight to call up Bob Mueller to Capitol Hill to testify about what he found -- Ryan?

NOBLES: It's beginning to seem more and more likely that once the report finally comes out that it will create even more uncertainty and not necessarily the resolution that many in Washington are looking for.

Sarah and Manu, thank you so much for setting the table for us.

Let's talk more about this now with CNN legal analyst, Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, and CNN political commentator, Mia Love, a former Republican Congresswoman from Utah.

[11:05:13] Renato, let's start with you.

We have been waiting for this report for such a long time. How exactly will this play out? And could it be a while before we really know what is in the report?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it will take a little bit of time. What I would expect is that when Mueller delivers the report to Attorney General Barr he'll say publicly that the investigation has ended and receive the report. He is going to take time to review it. He is going to prepare a summary that doesn't include classified information, sensitive information and information that was derived from grand jury materials, in other words, documents and testimony that was obtained via grand jury subpoena. Under the law, you can't disclose that to the public. Then, the question -- one question that we don't know the answer to is whether or not he will transmit that to the White House to give them a heads up and give them an opportunity to redact additional -- as you alluded to a moment ago there have been reports and CNN reported last week that White House lawyers expect to have that opportunity if they are there's going to be quite a battle and you mentioned there's going to be legal fight over that.

NOBLES: Congresswoman, to you now, President Trump claims he wants the report to be made public. He is framing people's perception of it before we get a chance to read it.

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm saying to myself, I just won one of the greatest elections of all time in the history of this country and even you will admit that. Now I have somebody writing a report that never got a vote. Explain that because my voters don't get it. And I don't get it. It's sort of interesting that a man out of the blue just writes a report. I got 306 electoral votes. I think it is ridiculous.

NOBLES: What is his game here?

LOVE: Well, this rush for instant certainty and this rush for this report, we have been waiting for this report for a long time. Mueller has been close to finalizing the report for over a year. This is just going to cause more uncertainty. Obviously, the White House is concerned about what may or may not be in the report. I think transparency is important. I think we need to just take a breath and wait for the final report and get accurate information. I think we need to make sure that if there's any misconduct or if there's anything criminal that we are able to address that in the right manner.

NOBLES: Does it concern you, Congresswoman, at all that it appears through the president's -- the way the president talks about this Mueller report, that he is trying to color people's perception of that information and perhaps accurate information may be viewed differently depending on your political point of view or support or lack of support for the president?

LOVE: The other side is also doing the same thing. They are saying the White House is going to block us from seeing this report. There are fights that are happening before the report has actually come out. Just take a breath and wait. Special investigator Mueller has a job to do and he has to make sure that he does it correctly more than quickly because this is very serious.

NOBLES: To that point, Renato, doesn't this emphasize this kind of back and forth that the congresswoman is talking about that even though there are specific legal arguments that come out of the Mueller report, this is essentially a political process and not only about politicians making decisions about how the Mueller report should be used.

MARIOTTI: I agree that impeachment is a political process. In other words, if there's wrong doing regarding the president, that will have political implications and ultimately impeachment is in part a political calculation by the House and the Senate. That I agree with. I don't believe that Mueller's findings and Mueller's conclusions and the investigation that Mueller has conducted is political in any way. I find the president's comments offensive where he is suggesting that, as a prosecutor, the fact that Mueller didn't receive votes means she shouldn't be investigated. He is doing the job that he was tasked with doing. He appears to be doing it in an appropriate way. There will be some legal implications to things that he found. Those are purely legal. There will be political wrangling. I think that should be separate and apart from the work that he did.

[11:09:55] NOBLES: Congresswoman, on the point about impeachment, there's a new poll, had a pretty interesting result in terms of what Democrats think about the question of impeachment. On that question as to whether or not Trump should be impeached among Democrats that number has gone down by 12 points. What do you think the motivation is behind Democratic voters and their

view of impeachment?

LOVE: They see this I think as I do and a lot of Americans see this as a political game, a political process where there's so much work that Congress has left to do. The thing that I would implore the Congress to do and implore Republicans to do and implore the president to do is to talk about how well the economy is doing and what we can do to keep people at work and keep wages rising. There's so much that needs to be done and it is being taken away by this report and waiting for this report. There's still a lot of work to do before the final report comes out. Congress should focus on doing the work that they have that they have been voted to do by the American people. There's so much that they still have to do and they should really focus on that.

NOBLES: The Mueller report just one investigation that is taking place surrounding the White House. There's also a number of congressional committees looking into the president, his potential ties to Russia and beyond. Jerry Nadler confirmed CNN's reporting that former Trump communications director, Hope Hicks, is cooperating with their investigation into obstruction of justice. What do you think Hicks could possibly provide to the committee?

MARIOTTI: Well, by all accounts, Hope Hicks was somebody very close to the president and in close communication with the president speaking with him on a regular basis, seeing him on a regular basis. So she is like a walking tape recorder. She knows what he told her. She knows what actions he was taking, what other people were meeting with him potentially what some of them said. So really the way I would look at her is somebody who can talk about what she saw, what she heard and to the extent that Congress wants to get to the bottom of what happened regarding the firing of James Comey or pressure put on former attorney general sessions to un-recuse himself, she can for example talk about what he told her, what the president told her and so on.

NOBLES: Renato Mariotti, Mia Love, great conversation. We appreciate you being here. Thank you very much.

As President Trump continues to blast Robert Mueller, he is launching new attacks on two other military veterans, the late Senator John McCain and former Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis. But is it starting to backfire?

Plus, the FBI starting a criminal investigation into Boeing after two MAX 8 jets crashed within months. What are they looking for?


[11:17:17] NOBLES: Boeing is now under criminal investigation. Justice Department prosecutors have issued multiple subpoenas of Boeing's FAA certification and marketing of 737 MAX jets. That's the model involved in two deadly crashes just five months apart in Ethiopia and in Indonesia. CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, joins us with the


Jessica, what are investigators looking for?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ryan, this seems to be centering around the certification of the Boeing 737 MAX jets. So we are learning that prosecutors have issued multiple subpoenas to get information from Boeing about that process as well as its safety procedures including the training manuals that it used for pilots plus the subpoenas relate to the marketing of the 737 MAX jets which of course we know came through with urgency since Boeing was racing against Airbus to get the newest models on the market. It's still not cheer what criminal issues could be front and center in the probe. We know as part of the safety analysis of the aircraft, Boeing itself was required to present the FAA with the procedures used to certify the aircraft and really overall here this criminal investigation is an ominous step here because criminal probes into the aviation industry is really rare. These issues are typically handled at the administrative level, which is also happening with the Department of Transportation inspector general. Now we have learned it is on the criminal side, as well, here -- Ryan?

NOBLES: How is Boeing responding to all of this?

SCHNEIDER: Throughout this whole process with the two crashes and the investigations, Boeing has repeatedly refused to comment on any ongoing legal matters or mitigation. Boeing is trying to make some amends here. They are finishing up a software patch and a pilot training program. The only problem is these fixes were being developed to deal with issues that were discovered after the Lion Air crash back in October so it might not actually fix whatever issues are discovered in this ongoing Ethiopia airlines crash. So that might be another issue that Boeing has to face here.

NOBLES: Everyday there's something news in this saga.


NOBLES: Jessica Schneider on top of it for us from Washington. Thank you, Jessica.

Meantime, there's another Boeing-related investigation underway. This one involves President Trump's Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who worked at Boeing for decades. The Defense Department's inspector general is trying to determine if Shanahan violated ethics rules by promoting Boeing products while serving in his current role at the Pentagon.

CNN Pentagon reporter, Ryan Browne, joins me now.

Ryan, what are you learning about this investigation into the acting secretary of defense?

[11:20:08] RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Ryan, the investigation was sparked in part by a complaint from an independent watch dog group which issued this complaint questioning whether or not acting secretary Shanahan had become involved in Defense Department decisions with Boeing who is one of the major defense contractors. Just yesterday the Pentagon awarded Boeing a $4 billion Navy contract. Secretary Shanahan had pledged to recuse himself from all decisions involving Boeing while he was serving at deputy secretary. This complaint comes as multiple reports question whether or not he has been involved in decisions with Boeing. Officials say he has not talked about Boeing specifically and talked about his experience, but the I.G. determining there's enough credible information to warrant a full investigation into Shanahan.

NOBLES: Ryan, is Mr. Shanahan responding to these reports of this investigation yet?

BROWNE: He was actually asked about this while he was testifying before the Hill. He said he welcomed it. When the official word of the investigation came out, his spokesman did issue a statement saying that, "Shanahan welcomes the inspector general's review of the complaint and that he is at all times remaining committed to upholding his ethics agreement." This is a statement from his spokesman.

But the investigation will play out. It could not come at a worse time for Shanahan, who is in the acting role but is rumored to be -- that President Trump plans to name him as his permanent secretary of defense. There are questions whether or not the reports could influence President Trump's decision as well as name him to the permanent post.

NOBLES: One of many cabinet secretaries with the acting designation as the president tries to firm up those that report to him.

Ryan Browne, live from the Pentagon. Ryan, thank you very much.

The counter puncher takes new swings at a man who can't respond. President Trump ramping up attacks on the late Senator John McCain. Now complaining that he didn't get a thank-you for approving John McCain's funeral. That's next.


[11:27:00] NOBLES: Swinging at a ghost. The president's one-sided fight with the late Senator John McCain not limited to tweets or comments to the media. He is now taking his grudge on the road. President Trump ripped into the Vietnam veteran and war hero before an audience at a military tank plant in Ohio.


TRUMP: -- received the fake and phony dossier.

He got it. What did he do? He didn't call me. He turned it over to the FBI.

McCain didn't get the job done for our great vets and the V.A. and they knew it.

And the other thing is, we are in a war in the Middle East that McCain pushed so hard.

I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president, I had to approve. I don't care about this. I didn't get a thank you.


NOBLES: He doesn't care about it, but he is talking about it. McCain has no choice but to be silent. The silence from fellow Republicans on this topic is deafening.

Joining me now, CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, and back with me is former Republican Congresswoman Mia Love.

I want to point out, President Trump repeated this claim about Senator McCain's health care vote, which bothers the president quite a bit. Take a listen to what he had to say.


TRUMP: He said two hours before he was voting to repeal and replace and then he went thumbs down, badly hurting the Republican Party, badly hurting our nation.


NOBLES: So this is something that he has said quite a bit over the past couple of days talking about in some respects revising history as it relates to Senator McCain's vote on health care. I covered the health care vote very closely. I was by the elevators when the Senator made his way to the floor of the Hill and we didn't know how he was going to vote. He told us he was undecided.

Congresswoman, you were there, as well. You were a member of the House, not the Senate. Do you recall knowing whether Senator McCain was going to vote yes and then change his vote to no?

LOVE: I think there was no certainty one way or the other. I was frustrated with that vote. This was something that was really frustrating. He wasn't the only Republican member who voted against that bill. I was frustrating with my own Senator for voting against the first -- my experience with Senator John McCain is this. When I was running for Congress the first time, he came out to Utah. He helped me, invested a lot of time in that election. When we lost, he called me personally and said, Nia, I want you to run again. I invested in you as a person, not in this election, not even in the party but you as a person.

I remember going into the GOP retreat for the very first time and I went up to him and I said, Senator McCain, thank you for your help. He opened his arms and jumped up and down and said, you are finally here.