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White House Braces for Impact Over Mueller Report Release; Ex- Trump Aide Hope Hicks to Cooperate with Democratic Probe; Justice Department Issues Subpoenas in Boeing Investigation; FAA: Boeing 737 Max to Get Software Update; Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan Under Investigation Over Boeing Ties; New Zealand Proposes Assault Weapons Ban in Wake of Massacre; Victims in Mosque Shooting in New Zealand Identified; Hickenlooper Under Fire After Flipping Question on Gender Expectations; U.S.-China Trade Talks Set to Resume Next Week. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired March 21, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:01] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: After repeatedly calling the entire investigation a hoax, President Trump changes his tune and now says the report should be made public.


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

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't mind. I mean, frankly, I told the House if you want, let him see it. Let it come out. Let people see it.


HARLOW: Well, the vast majority of Americans certainly want to see it. Look at those numbers in CNN's polling. 87 percent believe the Mueller report should be made public.

With me now, Joe Johns at the White House.

That's interesting.


HARLOW: Full transparency here.

JOHNS: Well, it is pretty interesting. And you know, you also had that vote in the House of Representatives which was unanimous. 420 people voting in favor of transparency, releasing that report. So it's pretty clear which way the wind is blowing on this issue. The president clearly deciding that he's not going to get in the way of it, at least right now. In fact, over the weekend on Saturday the president even tweeted out essentially that all Republicans ought to do that. He said he urged the congressional leadership to get behind it, the Republicans. And he said, among other things, play along with the game, which I think tells you that you ought to at least view this position of the president with a little bit of skepticism for a variety of reasons.

We do know from CNN's own reporting, Pamela Brown suggesting that the White House wants to see whatever information gleaned from that report that is put together by the attorney general which is to be sent to the House of Representatives. And that of course lends itself to the possibility that this administration might want to in some form assert executive privilege. That of course will be a big problem because the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, has already said there ought to be no assertion of executive privilege in this situation.


JOHNS: Especially if the president of the United States is implicated in any wrongdoing.

Back to you, Poppy.

HARLOW: It was a big fight for President Nixon all the way up to the Supreme Court. We'll see where this goes for this president.

Joe Johns, thanks very much.

A woman who spent 14 critical months and a spokeswoman, strategist and sounding board for President Trump has now agreed to cooperate with House investigators. We're talking about Hope Hicks and the fact that she may be the closest of the current or former Trump insiders to promise to hand-deliver and hand over, I should say, documents to the House Judiciary Committee which put out requests to 81 people, groups and organization earlier this month.

A member of that committee says Hicks is, quote, "critically important" and that she's seen things. The president has called her smart and thoughtful and a truly great person.

Our Kara Scannell joins me from Washington.

This is interesting. I mean, how big of a get is this, Kara, for the Nadler probe and the overall response it's getting?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, it's a pretty big get. I mean, as you said, Hope Hicks is one of Donald Trump's closest aides. Not only was she with him during the campaign transition into the White House, but she also has worked with him back at the Trump Organization.

Now Nadler has got a team. The Democrats have asked Hope Hicks for her diaries, her journals, the notes that she's taken about a range of topics including the firing of FBI director James Comey and the statement that the White House drafted on Air Force One when the "New York Times" was about to break the story about Donald Trump, Jr., meeting with a Russian lawyer at the Trump Tower during the campaign.

Now Hicks has said that she -- her attorney has said that she is willing to cooperate with this investigation but the White House is still asserting executive privilege over many of the people who have had administration positions. Now the White House itself has not turned over and responded to the congressional request. But last night on Anderson Cooper Chairman Nadler said that the wrongdoing -- I'm sorry, that executive privilege is not a shield for any wrongdoing.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D), CHAIRMAN, 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 by anybody around him. In the Nixon case which was decided nine- nothing by the Supreme Court was very dispositive on that point.


SCANNELL: And Nadler said that they have received substantial responses from a large number of people. Of those 81 individuals and entities that the committee has asked to provide information, one entity that has not provided responses to congressional committees is the Trump Organization -- Poppy,

HARLOW: Yes. Very important point. Before you go, Kara. Rick Gates will not be cooperating right now with Nadler's probe? Is that right? And why?

SCANNELL: That's right. So Rick Gates' attorney has told "Politico" that they are not cooperating at this time with the requests for documents and testimony because based on conversations that the attorney has had with multiple prosecuting offices.

[09:05:11] Now this follows the development last week with the special counsel's office that they weren't ready to sentence Rick Gates. They asked the judge for two more months saying that he was still actively cooperating with several ongoing investigations. So Gates' attorney now telling "The Hill" that he expects he'll be able to cooperate in the next couple of months but for the moment saying that he's not going to cooperate in the best interests of his client based on these conversations that he's had with prosecutors -- Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. Kara, great reporting. Thanks very much.

With me now is former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Elie Honig. Good morning to you.


HARLOW: So the president now says he wants the public to see the Mueller report. Didn't he also want to give a sit-down to Mueller and want to release his tax returns?

HONIG: Yes, I'm not buying it. There is an obvious pattern here of I want to do the right thing but my lawyers are telling me that I can't. Right? Going back to the sit-down with Mueller, the tax returns. I think this is going to fall into that category as well.

Look, it was just a week ago that the president said there should be no Mueller report. And his attorneys have made clear they intend to review this for executive privilege and assert that, which could lead us into the courts. So I do not believe the president. And look, he's the boss of his attorney so you can take your attorney's advice and say, I hear you, but this is what we're doing.

HARLOW: Right. Right. Yes.

HONIG: I don't think he's going to do that.

HARLOW: No, I hear that.

HONIG: I think he's going to hide.

HARLOW: I hear that point. So we just heard Jerry Nadler, the Democrat who runs House Judiciary Committee now, saying executive privilege cannot hide misconduct. But it sure can drag things out, can't it?

HONIG: Yes, absolutely. Look, we could have a legal fight here. If the way it plays out is the president's attorneys see the report and say we object to these pages, these passages, executive privilege. It's conversation between the president and his close advisers. Hope Hicks being a good example.


HONIG: You can't put it in there. Then it could end up in the courts. We could go all the way to the Supreme Court. There's a way to go directly to the Supreme Court which I expect would happen here.

HARLOW: Why would you do that?

HONIG: Because if it's -- there is a rule in the Supreme Court Rules of Procedure, rule 11, which allows a case of sort of huge importance to go directly to the Supreme Court.

HARLOW: Interesting.

HONIG: I think this could happen here.

HARLOW: Was it a guarantee they hear it?

HONIG: No, it's up to -- it's always up to the court what they hear.

HARLOW: But they would hear this?

HONIG: They would almost certainly hear this.

HARLOW: So -- I mean, there is precedent with things like this. Executive privilege claims going to the high court under, you know, the Nixon administration. A little bit different in terms of documents, et cetera.


HARLOW: But could the outcome be different here for President Trump? HONIG: If you strictly took the Nixon ruling from 1974 and just

transported it to today, it should be no different. The only real difference is there were tapes there. Here we might be talking about other forms of evidence. But that's not really a meaningful difference. It was unanimous in the Nixon case. And the holding was executive privilege is meant to protect national security, military secrets, but not as a generalized shield against criminal liability. But of course we have nine different justices on the court now. So people change decisions --

HARLOW: I mean, this is a very different court.

HONIG: Yes, 100 percent. And two of them are Trump's own appointees. I should note, though, in the Nixon case, three of the justices who voted against him were Nixon's own appointees.

HARLOW: How interesting.


HARLOW: So what do you make of why Mueller's team of prosecutors would, according to Gates' defense team, not want Rick Gates to cooperate at this time with the House probe?

HONIG: Yes, that's the right move. If I was in the prosecutor's position, absolutely what I'd do. It tell me something very important, which is Mueller or the Southern District but the prosecutors intend to use Rick Gates in a big way going forward. They intend to use him really I think as a trial witness, as someone you're going to bank charges on. Because when you have a cooperating witness like that, you will get demands from other prosecutor's offices, other entities who want to talk to him. And the response I would use to give, the prosecutors typically give is no, we're going to be using him. We don't want him out there being exposed, cross examined, questioned publicly until we're ready to use him on the big stage of the trial.

HARLOW: Hope Hicks.


HARLOW: Saying that she will cooperate with the Nadler probe. One of the few of the 81 folks that they want documents for who's going to turn them over. Does that tell you she probably thinks she doesn't have any criminal exposure here or that she will selectively cooperate?

HONIG: Yes. I don't think that they can or should accept selective cooperation. You can't have a witness who says I'll tell you this but not that. I think she's probably taking care of her liability. If I was representing her, I would go to the prosecutor and say, look, she has information that's going to be -- and to Congress, that's going to be very valuable to you but she needs immunity. She needs to get covered. And look, she could have really important information. She's really inner sanctum.

HARLOW: She was on Air Force One, part of drafting that statement about the Trump Tower meeting.

HONIG: Yes. Specifically on obstruction of justice. She's there when these big decisions are getting made. She helped draft that statement with the president and apparently in text communication with Donald Trump, Jr. So she could be quite explosive.

HARLOW: Elie, thank you. Good to have you.

HONIG: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Also this morning, President Trump's attacks on the late Senator John McCain. Here is the president slamming the now deceased war hero at a tank factory in Ohio yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I endorsed him at his request. And I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted which, as president, I had to approve.

[09:10:02] I don't care about this. I didn't get thank you. That's OK. We sent him on the way, but I wasn't a fan of John McCain.


HARLOW: That's just a small sample of the president's latest attacks on McCain, especially during that speech.

Jeff Mason is with me. White House correspondent for Reuters.

You were there, Jeff. What was it like to hear that and what was the reaction of the people in the crowd?

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: I think for starters I would say that it did not go over very well in the room. And this was a group of people who largely appeared to be Trump supporters. Worth mentioning, though, that this was not a campaign rally. This was an official White House sponsored event. It was meant to talk about the economy. It was meant to emphasize the fact that President Trump played a role in saving this tank factory.

But then he just went off on this pretty long tangent on John McCain. And there were quite a few veterans in the room. And despite the fact that there were other times during his speech where they would cheer and applaud, it was pretty silent when he went off on this bit about the former senator.

HARLOW: Can I just ask you why you think he did it? Because there's so much to tout in Ohio when it comes to the economy at least right in that part. Different story in Lordstown. But I mean, and the jobs brought back because of this factory and the Trump administration policy there.

MASON: Sure.

HARLOW: It's just sort of, like, full of good news that he could have touted instead of going here.

MASON: Yes. It's a great question. And I don't have the answer. I'm inclined to think that part of it may be that the fact that he's been criticized for criticizing John McCain has just forced him to double down. It came out of nowhere really yesterday. It was in the middle of that speech. He didn't need to talk about John McCain.

It's also to some extent kind of off-brand for him. I mean, he's a president who is proud of his own record with veterans. It's going to be hard for him to convince a group of veterans that one of the most famous veterans of modern history was not for them. And that's one of the arguments he made yesterday was that --

HARLOW: Right.

MASON: He didn't feel John McCain did enough for veterans. It's a hard sell.

HARLOW: Look, Johnny -- Republican congressman, very conservative, Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia slammed this and then he did it again yesterday. Listen to him.


SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R), GEORGIA: It's deplorable what he said. That's what I called it on the floor of the Senate seven months ago. It will be deplorable seven months from now if he says it again. And I will continue to speak out.


HARLOW: Could this, Jeff, hurt the president politically?

MASON: Well, it's a great question, too. Yes, it could. But I think if you look back at the 2016 campaign when the president first started criticizing John McCain and he of course was still alive then, a lot of people thought, whoa, this is going to be the moment that ends this upstart campaign. And it didn't. So I'm the last one who's going to say that this is going to hurt the president. But it certainly could.

I mean, there are a number of people in the Republican Party, certainly in Congress both Democrats and Republicans who were very fond of Senator McCain. There are people on the electorate who feel the same way. Whether or not this continues to be a feud, whether it starts playing into the 2020 election, it's probably too early to say.

HARLOW: You know, and just before you go, just remind people of the facts here because one of the other things he said is that, you know, blamed McCain for pushing, dragging out wars in the Middle East, et cetera. Just remind everyone of where the president was on this in the early, early, early 2000s. What he said to Howard Stern about the war in Iraq and then of course he subsequently changed his tune.

MASON: Yes, I mean, he's had back and forth positions on that. I think it's also worth mentioning that the president did not serve in the military. And despite having a lot of supporters now in the military and wanting to sort of court that group of voters, that's not service that he offered. But he's very happy to criticize somebody who did and who served as a prisoner of war.

HARLOW: What a great point. Jeff Mason, appreciate you being here. Thanks so much.

MASON: My pleasure.

HARLOW: Still to come, Boeing taking new steps to make fixes to their 737 Max airliners in the wake of two deadly crashes in a matter of months. This as we learn the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation. We'll have more on that next.

And Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper says, yes, he would choose a female candidate for vice president. But then asks, shouldn't women presidential candidates be asked to choose a man? Those comments have a whole lot of folks scratching their heads this morning.

And New Zealand proposing major changes to gun laws in the wake of the Christchurch massacre. An assault weapons ban. Victims there being laid to rest there today. We're live.


[09:15:00] POPPY HARLOW, HOST, NEWSROOM: All right, prosecutors with the Justice Department have issued multiple subpoenas as part of their criminal investigation into Boeing in the wake of the Ethiopia aircraft. This is according to sources briefed on the matter. The investigation began last year after the first Boeing Max 8 crashed in Indonesia.

Sources say multiple investigations are looking into Boeing's FAA's self-certification, training, marketing of this plane. Our justice correspondent Jessica Schneider has been following this. This is really significant. What are you learning?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is Poppy, because this is now moved into a criminal probe. So we know that the Justice Department prosecutors issuing those multiple subpoenas, really as part of this potentially wide-ranging investigation into Boeing's FAA certification and the marketing of the 737 Max airliners.

You know, this, as you mentioned, this began after the Lion Air crash back in October. So there could be continued investigations, more questions after this Ethiopian Airlines crash just about a week and a half ago. So these prosecutors so far, they want to get information from Boeing about its safety and certification procedures for this 737 Max.

[09:20:00] That really includes the details on its training manuals for pilots, plus how the company marketed this aircraft. And of course, Poppy, this is sort of an ominous step because criminal investigations into the aviation industry are really rare. And instead, issues are typically handled on the administrative level. So now we have this criminal probe stemming from the Justice Department in conjunction with the FBI office in Seattle. That is in addition of course to all these inquiries from the Department of Transportation's Inspector General. So we'll see what comes here, Poppy.

HARLOW: So in terms of, Jess, what Boeing is doing to remedy the immediate issue here, what do we know?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, so far, Boeing has developed a software patch as well as a new pilot training program. But really, the problem with that is that was all to address the issues that were discovered after the Lion Air crash back in October. So there could still be lingering questions and problems about this Ethiopian Airlines crash just about two weeks ago.

And until we know more about that crash, it's possible that this software-fix might not exactly solve this whole issue, Poppy. So even though the software patch is expected to roll out in the coming weeks, April 2019 is their estimate, it doesn't really mean that those 737 Max jets will be back up in the air because there's still a lot of question with this second crash that happened --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCHNEIDER: On March 10th.

HARLOW: Of course. Also, former Boeing employee and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan now under investigation by the DOD.

SCHNEIDER: Right. So the DOD's Inspector General launching this investigation and looking into whether acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan violated any ethics rules. And by doing that, by promoting Boeing over other military contractors.

So of course, Shanahan, he was an executive at Boeing and worked there for than 30 years. So his advocacy to use those Boeing products instead of other military contractors, it's now drawing scrutiny, and Poppy, it is being investigated now by the DOD's Inspector General.

HARLOW: Wow, all right, Jess, keep us posted on all, thank you for the reporting. Six days after 50 worshippers were murdered in two Christchurch mosques, New Zealand's Prime Minister has announced a sweeping change proposal to the country's gun laws.


JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER, NEW ZEALAND: Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country.


HARLOW: That is Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, first proposing these tightening gun laws on Saturday, just one day after the attacks by a white supremacist. Now this proposal. Martin Savidge is with us live again from Christchurch this morning. So when does this go for a vote? And I mean, do you get the sense that this has overwhelming support?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, there's no question, Poppy, that this does have the public support. I mean, they are still very much in shock here. And of course, the public wants to see dramatic changes being made. And that's what's being outlined now by the Prime Minister.

She hopes that this will be on the books as of April 11th. So it's been a lightning fast time frame in which you've seen all this change, it was just the day after the horrific attacks. She said the gun laws in this country would change. Then it was Monday when she outlined what was the proposal and now yesterday, our time, she has come up with what is the specific plan.

And it's not only that the public is supporting her on this, it appears that the primary opposition party has come forward and said, they too like the plan. This bans what they call MSSA; that's military-style semi-automatic weapons. It would of course impact semi-automatic rifles, the military types that have been so profusely used in the United States in mass murder attacks.

It also would seem to have a significant impact on many semi-automatic handguns, and it would outlaw those large capacity magazines and it also changes the licensing laws as far as who could have these kind of weapons on and on and on.

They've also put safeguards in place to make sure that people don't try to rush out and stock up on these weapons in the interim before it become the law of the land. They immediately changed the kind of license you'd have to have. It's much more difficult to get, in fact, many would say it's impossible to get before the 11th.

So you effectively stop people from buying those weapons. It is a big change, but remember in this country, gun ownership is considered a privilege, in the United States, it is considered a right, and that's why you look at something --

HARLOW: Yes --

SAVIDGE: That moves so quickly here and yet has not happened in the United States. Poppy?

HARLOW: Yes, look, it's an important fundamental difference. Also, Martin, today, funerals have begun for the 50 victims, 50 murdered and of course many others injured. What can you tell us about those being laid to rest?

SAVIDGE: There have been growing frustration because of how long it had taken authorities here as part of their investigation to identify all those who had died in the attack. And they wanted to make sure they had specifically done so. Muslim tradition would ask that those who have been killed and died would be buried as soon as possible within 24 hours.

[09:25:00] That hasn't happened. It has taken longer than authorities thought it would take, but the bodies have now been released which means the funerals begin, they are heartbreaking to even learn of all of the victims, in many cases multiple people from the same family.

Later today, because it is now Friday, they will mark one week. It will be a very solemn two minutes of silence, on top of that they will also play broadcast on radio and on television the call to prayer. It is expected the Prime Minister will take part as gatherings outside of the affected mosques will be public, Poppy?

HARLOW: Martin, I'm so glad you're there reporting this, thank you for those updates. Back here in the U.S., Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper raising more than a few eyebrows this morning, questioning whether female candidates should always be asked if they would choose a male vice president. That's next.

And we're moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. The U.S.-China trade talks top of mind for investors right now. A U.S. delegation set to go to Beijing next week, and a Chinese group will come to the U.S. in early April.