Return to Transcripts main page
White House Bracing for Release of Robert Mueller Report; Trump Says United States to Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over Golan Heights; Elijah Cummings Says Senior White House Officials Using Personal Email to Conduct Government Business; The Risks and Rewards of Biden Revealing A Running Mate on Day One. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired March 21, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching CNN on this Thursday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me. It has been looming over the Trump presidency even before the man took office. Now the Russia investigation may be coming to an end. We don't know when, we don't know what it'll say but we do know this that the White House and President Trump are bracing for this probe to be over, for the Mueller report to be complete and for its findings to be released. The President now says he wants the public to see the report by the special counsel, even though he has called the probe a witch-hunt many, many times. Just last week he tweeted, quote the special counsel should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller report. Let's start with our senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown. So, Pamela, what are you hearing about what the White House is doing to prepare for this report coming out?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN senior White House correspondent: Brooke, White House officials are on high alert with really the rest of the country as they wait for all of this to wrap up and for Robert Mueller to hand over his confidential report to the Attorney General and inside the White House there's a mix of anxiety and also the sense of relief that will soon come of this cloud lifting that's been with the President since day one of his presidency, but there is still anxiety about what could be next, what could be in this report, what will Bill Barr hand the Congress, a lot of unknowns. White House officials are just reading the tea leaves like we all are, but I can tell you in talking to officials in the White House or close to the White House, there's also the sense of victory in that it appears that this is all going to end without the President sitting down with Robert Mueller. That was always a big sticking point from the very beginning and it appears that that is not going to happen, that Robert Mueller is wrapping all of this up without that sit-down interview with the President. That is looked upon as a victory. Now inside, there has been some planning and strategizing about how to respond when the report is handed over and when all of this comes to an end. Emmet flood within the White House has been meeting with a small group of officials gaming out different scenarios in terms of whether some of the information that comes out is skull tri, they're outlining it, it's a wait and see approach in the White House right now, Brooke.
BALDWIN: What about it's wait and see, a lot of places outside the White House for this report, that is certainly not the end of the speculation, Pamela. So, what are some of the other key questions that still remain?
BROWN: That's right. Even as the investigation wraps up and ends that's not the end of the speculation. One of the big looming question will be was there any derogatory information relating to Russia collusion and obstruction of justice. We know there weren't any charges that directly related to that, so is there any other information and will Bill Barr share information with Congress having to do with that or will it just be a very simple, hey -- letting Congress know the investigation is over and leave it at that. One thing he has to tell Congress is whether or not the Department of Justice denied any requests from special counsel Mueller and so that is going to be something that we're all waiting to see, were any requests from Mueller denied by Rod Rosenstein the deputy Attorney General in the course of Mueller's investigation. That's something else and also, what is the White House ='s role going to be in the interim between the Attorney General announcing the investigation is over and sharing information with Congress, will the White House weigh in and is exert privilege?
BALDWIN: Thank you, Pamela. Let me bring in Garrett Graff, he is a CNN contributor and author of the threat matrix, inside Robert Muller's FBI and the war on global terror. With me here in New York former prosecutor, Robert Bianchi who's now the host of the law and crime network.
As we wait, Garrett Graff, to you, when this report is complete, what are the three things you will be looking out for?
ROBERT BIANCHI, HOST, "LAW AND CRIME NETWORK":
GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, AND AUTHOR OF "THE THREAT MATRIX, INSIDE ROBERT MULLER'S FBI AND THE WAR ON GLOBAL TERROR": Well, I think that there are three things that we haven't seen yet that could demonstratively move Republican opinion on Capitol Hill. One is direct Presidential involvement in a specific crime which leaving aside the campaign finance violations and the hush money payment, we haven't actually seen the President tied to specific crimes by Mueller's investigation itself. Second is a pattern of obstruction of justice. Not one or two instances where there's debatable circumstances, you know, was the firing of Jim Comey within the President's power, yada, yada, yada, but something where Mueller paints a picture of months or years of discrete actions that make clear the President's motive, the third is any instance where the President himself has taken action to advance a foreign power's interests at the expense of the United States.
[14:05:00] Any time we see the President taking action to help Russia or Middle Eastern country over the objections of the United States' government or in conspiracy with a foreign power, that's something that would make the Republican wall on Capitol Hill untenable.
BALDWIN: OK. Those are three things. Bob, to you, with those three things in mind, when Mueller is finished with this thing, he hands it to Bill Barr, the AG, you're the White House counsel, what's the first thing you do? ROBERT BIANCHI, HOST, "LAW AND CRIME NETWORK": Well, first thing I do
is I review the report, look at the damage that's going to be in there and, Brooke, I predicted there's going to be at least be some significant damage. There are so many data points pointing to either the President or Trump Jr., Ivanka and Jared Kushner and you'll have to start do messaging here and do the best you can to deflect against some of this bad data. You have both a political issue here and a criminal law issue here, and I'm also -- Brooke, I say this all the time to you. Be wary of the southern district's power here and state crimes. Over and over again, pass the pardon power, no DOJ memo and as White House counsel that's the first thing I'll be looking at because people are not taking this seriously enough. Do these guys face exposure where the President cannot get them out of trouble?
BALDWIN: I'm curious, if you see the same way just having Pamela Brown fresh in my head from her reporting saying the White House as a victory, that the President didn't actually have to sit down with the special counsel to do this in-person video, they're already seeing that as a positive thing. If you're the White House counsel, what are you doing?
GRAFF: Well, if I'm the White House counsel I'm not worried about the report itself. I'm worried about whether there's going to be another set of indictments that come either parallel to the report or just before the report comes in. I think we're placing too much emphasis on the idea that the only thing Bob Mueller has left to do is turn in his report card to Bill Barr. I think he has been saving the final round of indictments, because that's the only thing that he controls what gets made public and when. Anything he hands over to Bill Barr is not clear when that becomes public, what of that becomes public, who makes that public. If Robert Mueller who has been speaking through these highly detailed court filings, these highly detailed indictments all the way along, if I'm bob Mueller I'm saying the only thing I control is the final round of indictments. That's when I have the opportunity to make public whatever I feel needs to be made public at whatever moment I feel it needs to be made public.
BALDWIN: So, to that point, what can and can't Bill Barr reveal publicly?
BIANCHI: He can reveal very little which I find to be impossible given the spotlight that's on this from a public point of view and the Congressional oversight. The leaks that are invariably going to happen. If I were him, I would have to know inevitable that it is going to come out and that's only going to make it look bad for us. I predicted there's a lot more coming out but to the point that's just made, don't forget there are about two dozen sealed indictments and that is -- you take the bad targets, the most high level targets and you put them in sealed indictments and that was the bypass any funny business that may have gone on with the firing of Mueller during --
BALDWIN: Firing of Comey --
BIANCHI: Firing of Comey and the potential firing of Mueller, all those gyrations tactually as a prosecutor, I would be getting indictments for, sealing those indictments so in the event Mueller was removed, you can't get rid of those indictments at that point because now they're court documents. I think you're going to see a roll out of indictments that are going to happen after this report.
BALDWIN: So many things we just don't know yet and tell this thing fully comes out we can just opine and guess based upon the bread crumbs left so far. Gentlemen, thank you both so much for that.
There is more breaking news this afternoon involving President Trump overturning long-standing U.S. policy regarding Israeli occupied Golan heights. He made this announcement via tweets, "After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights which is a critical strategic and security importance to the state of Israel and regional stability."
And keep in mind this comes just two weeks before Israel's elections. The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Israel right now meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, so let me go straight to CNN global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller.
[14:10:00] Aaron, before we get into your reaction to the President's tweet, can you give us -- reminding all of us the relationship between the state of Israel and the Golan heights?
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: The Israelis during the 1967 war attacked by Syria and Egypt ended up occupying the Golan and maintaining control over it. In 1981 as a consequence of a basic law, Israel doesn't have a formal constitution but as a consequence of a basic law, which essential is a series of basic laws extended Israeli law and administered jurisdiction over the Golan Heights. There was some ticktock at the time about whether the Israelis had effectively annexed it or not. Most of the residents most of whom are not citizens of the state of Israel, so the security political
Golan is of critical importance more or less wall-to-wall for most of the Israeli public. During the '90s under both the baker -- Bush/Baker and Clintons, I was part of the very small group of individuals that tried to facilitate at the request of Israeli Prime Minister s an effort to negotiate with Assad's father and we came pretty close to actually concluding a deal which by Israel would have surrendered the heights in exchange for normalized relation with Syria. I wonder if what happened in the Syrian civil war what the implications would have been today had the Israelis actually concluded a peace treaty with Syria and the Syrian government faced the challenges they face today. I think it would have been a very fraught situation --
BALDWIN: So -- in brief, the significance -- it's important for everyone to be on the same page before we go in two weeks out from this election, Netanyahu facing charges, close with President Trump. Your take on the timing of the announcement and the announcement in and of itself.
MILLER: I've been around negotiations most of my professional life. My head is exploding. After the President of the United States in less than 280 characters presumably, I didn't count them, basically overturns six decades of American policy and the reason? The logic? The rational, the justification? Is to directly and willfully intercede in an Israeli election campaign very close with the Prime Minister now under preliminary indictment for the first time in his career facing a credible challenger.
This was an effort and I would argue gratuitous to essentially do everything President Trump can to make sure that Benjamin Netanyahu becomes the next Prime Minister of Israel. There is precedent for this. I was apart of a couple administration that's played favorites with respect to Israeli Prime Ministers, but reelecting Benjamin Netanyahu is not a compelling national interest of the United States. So, I wonder why -- I know why the President chose to do this. It's pure and unadulterated domestic politics.
BALDWIN: Domestic politics, so says Aaron David Miller as his head is exploding. I have never heard you utter that phrase. My goodness. We'll keep an eye on it. Thank you very much as always for all your expertise especially when it comes to this part of the world.
MILLER: Take care, Brooke.
If Joe Biden former Vice President announces his running mate on day one, what's the risk? What's the reward? Van jones is on set with me next to go through that.
Plus, the President once again politicizing the U.S. militaries on his attacks on the John McCain.
Also, just in, top Democrats in the House alleging that some senior White House officials have used their personal email to conduct government business and we're now hearing specific names. I'm Brooke Baldwin and you're watching CNN.
[14:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: Just in from Washington now, senior White House officials facing questions about their alleged use of personal email to conduct government business at the White House. Senior Congressional correspondent Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill. Where is this coming from and who does this involve?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Elijah Cummings is the chairman says that he has obtained new information saying that several White House officials two current officials, two former officials have been using -- have used personal email to conduct official government business. Now he's referring to is Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, two current officials, what he says about Jared Kushner is that they had a meeting with both Jared Kushner's attorney and Ivanka Trump's attorney Abby Lowell in December and in that meeting Abby Lowell revealed that Jared Kushner has used the messaging application What'sApp to communicate with people in foreign countries, foreign leaders and what Abby Lowell apparently told Cummings according to this letter, he could not rule out that Kushner may have discussed classified information on this what's app application.
[14:20:00] He also says that Lowell told the committee that Ivanka Trump has may be in violation of the Presidential records act because of the way that she has been using her personal email to communicate on some level official business. Two other officials that he signals out cummings does in this letter, Steve Bannon and K.T. McFarland who no longer work at the White House, he raises concerns that their use of personal email may be in violation also of the Presidential Records Act. We've reached out to all of these individuals. We have not received comments that the White House has said that they are just reviewing this letter but this comes after, Brooke, the White House, President Trump has continued to attack Hillary Clinton's use of a
private email system when she was Secretary of State now cummings says that there's evidence, at least from senior officials currently in the White House who may be employing practices somewhat in a similar fashion to Hillary Clinton and may be in violation of the law and he's asking for a range of questions he wants answers to. We'll see if they decide to answer that in the coming days.
BALDWIN: How about this other piece of news that you're also breaking, Manu, on the White House rejecting Democrats' request regarding documents regarding meetings between President Trump and Putin?
RAJU: Yes. They sent letter demanding information about those communications saying there have been really no records about that and asking for transcribed interviews with the translator who was at the Trump/Putin meeting. He wanted to understand exactly what Trump and Putin talked about in those interaction that's occurred over the last two years. Now what the White House just sent in a letter to Capitol Hill according to this letter obtained by our colleague Pam Brown, it says that while we respectfully seek to accommodate appropriate oversight's request, we are unaware of the precedence supporting such sweeping requests. They've gone to say they will not provide this information. They say that it's important to have these communications between foreign leaders without providing this information to Capitol Hill, so they are not going to provide this information that the Democrats have been seeking, the White House is essentially saying no here so the question going forward is, what do Democrats do? And again, ratcheting up the tension between Capitol Hill and House Democrats are ramping up their investigations, the White House is not complying with a number of these requests which leads to the question, will they issue subpoenas? How will the White House respond when they issue subpoenas? And will this lead to a prolonged fight? Probably so. Just the latest in an escalating tension between the White House and House Democrats in just a third month in power.
BALDWIN: Yep. Manu Raju, thank you for both of those stories. Now to this as former Vice President Joe Biden is preparing for what would be his third Presidential run, he also may make an unprecedented announcement. His choice for Vice President. Sources are telling CNN that aides are discussing the possibility of unveiling a joint ticket from day one, a strategy no major candidate has tried in modern times. Who Biden would select has everything to do with this and we know Biden has met privately with Stacey Abrams whose political star has been on the rise ever since she narrowly loss her race last fall. Van Jones is host of "THE VAN JONES SHOW" and let's start on -- good to see you, my friend.
VAN JONES, CNN HOST: Good to see you too.
BALDWIN: On this potential Biden/Abrams ticket. Let's look at it first Biden's report.
JONES: He's trying to accommodate the fact that people may be -- do we really want to have another straight white guy, can't we have more diversity so maybe he's trying to put on a diversity jacket. You have a diversity beard for himself. I think, though the downside for him is, this is very, very risky. First of all, we don't know enough about the country yet. You got to get through the primary. We're going to be surprised by who responds to what arguments, which states go which way. This early -- the fact you know who's going to be the best help for you as Vice President is very premature. The other problem is -- the other part of this is his demographic profile is his age. Whoever he picks to be Vice President because of his age, listen that person could be President in 20 minutes.
BALDWIN: Heartbeat away.
JONES: And you're talking about an older guy. Guess what? Now you've got two targets, not one, but you've got two targets with people having a real reason to say I'm going to go after both of these people and do you really want a year and a half out, almost two years out from the election to subject your Vice Presidential choice to that beating? Usually you want to save that and have a person come in and refresh you in the home stretch. It's very risky for Biden.
[14:25:04] BALDWIN: I'm hearing -- I'm catching what you're throwing down, the risks outweigh the rewards. If you're Stacey Abrams, star, rise, rise, rise, do you want to, a, be so incredible complemented that the Vice President wants you on his ticket? Do I want to box myself in?
JONES: If you're Stacey Abrams today, you're happy. Everybody's talking about her. She is just an extraordinary human being. To come within a whisper -- a whisker of winning the governorship in that state and honestly, the guy that she ran against some people feel like he didn't run fairly and then most people do not survive when they come out -- I'm going to be the Democrat who speaks after the President's state of the union. That's usually when people's careers end. She did great. I think it makes a lot of sense for her to bask in this adulation from the party. I think it keeps going forward. For her as well, in some ways it's the worst of all possible worlds. You're not the candidate but you'll be getting scrutinized and beaten up as if you are and for so long. This is not a great idea. I think it's a good signal from Biden that he cares about diversity, et cetera, but, you know, most of the people say, look, I'm going to pick a diverse VP choice. Cory booker says he'll pick a woman. That might be far enough.
BALDWIN: We'll tune in. You've got a big guest coming up this weekend with 2020 Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg and his plans to break out of the crowded Democratic field Saturday night 9:00 eastern on CNN.
JONES: Thank you. BALDWIN: Thank you.
In his latest attacks on the late senator John McCain, President Trump hitting a new low when it comes to politicizing the U.S. military. Let's talk about that with the veteran and just six days after the terror attacks on mosques in New Zealand, they are now announcing bans on military style weapons just like that. Why the U.S. reaction is the complete opposite?