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Trump Politicizes Military; Mueller Report Coming Out Soon?; Biden Already Set to Name V.P. Candidate?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 21, 2019 - 15:00   ET



POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anti-Semitism has raised its head again. He promises that the Jewish community here in Western Massachusetts will persevere, and, yes, they will restore those -- those monuments.

So, really, that's just the latest anti-religious incident in the country, as we have seen here in New York, for example, authorities monitoring an uptick. So, it'll be interesting to find out who's responsible here, authorities on that case, Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Had the head of the ADL in that seat just a couple of days ago saying, it is up and up and up, these kinds of things. It is despicable.

Polo Sandoval, thank you.

All right. We continue on. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We begin with new developments today on the Democratic investigations into President Trump. So, we have learned that the White House has now rejected Democrats' request for information about communications between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill for us on this.

And the obvious question is, why?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're saying that the White House and the president should have latitude to conduct foreign policy without, as the White House points it, interference from Congress.

And Pat Cipollone, who is the White House counsel, this letter today to three Democratic chairmen who've been investigating exactly what happened in those interactions between President Trump, Vladimir Putin. Democrats are concerned that the president took steps they believe to conceal the nature of what exactly occurred.

They want to know what they talked, about any assurances that he gave, the president gave the Russian president. And this is what Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, says in this letter. He says: "The president must be free to engage in discussions with foreign leaders without fear that those communications will be disclosed and used as fodder for partisan political purposes."

He said -- goes on to say: "Foreign leaders must be assured of this as well."

In addition, the argument from the White House is that courts have recognized that the executive branch has the authority to conduct this kind of foreign policy without having to brief Congress or give details to Congress on these matters.

Nevertheless, the Democratic chairmen have made this one point of focus going forward. Expect -- we're waiting for a response from these chairman, Adam Schiff, Eliot Engel, Elijah Cummings, three committee chairmen.

But expect potential subpoenas to come and then how will the White House respond afterward,just the latest in a growing list of fights between the House and the White House over oversight, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You also have new details, Manu, on this other House investigation into senior White House officials, including Trump family members and their use of personal e-mail. What do you know?

RAJU: Yes.

Elijah Cummings, the House Oversight Committee chairman, said today that he has obtained information that suggests that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, and Ivanka Trump, his daughter and also senior adviser, may be in violation of the Presidential Records Act in the way they have been conducted government business.

He says that Kushner has been using the application WhatsApp to communicate directly with, in Cummings' words, foreign leaders. And he says that in a meeting he had with Kushner's attorney, Abbe Lowell, Lowell did not deny that he may have passed -- Kushner may have passed along classified information through WhatsApp, which Cummings says would be a major security breach.

He also -- Cummings also says that Lowell revealed to him that Ivanka Trump did not forward e-mails to her official account from her personal account, as required from the Presidential Records Act.

Now, Brooke, we just got a response from Abbe Lowell, the Kushner attorney, who disputes Cummings' characterization of a number of those allegations in that letter. He says that Kushner has been following the law. He says Ivanka Trump has been following the law. He says that he did not disclose that Kushner spoke to foreign leaders through WhatsApp.

There's a dispute on the interpretation, but nevertheless Cummings is asking for a lot of information. He has questions. We will see how the White House ultimately responds, Brooke. BALDWIN: All right, Manu, we will look for that. Manu Raju, thank


Meantime, President Trump and the White House are also preparing for the release of the Mueller report. It has been 600-some days since Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel and what his report says, anyone's guess, but the president now says he wants the public to see it, even though he has called it a witch -- the probe a witch-hunt countless times.

In fact, just last week, he tweeted -- quote -- "The special counsel should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller report."

Let's go straight to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

And, Jim...


BALDWIN: ... whenever this whole thing is completed and it becomes public and we go with that, what is the White House planning to do in response to the release of the report?

ACOSTA: Well, Brooke, we have been talking about March Madness all this week.

There's Mueller madness here in Washington, as everybody is anticipating this report to drop and waiting on the edge of their seat. And that includes people over here at the White House. We have been talking to a number of officials over here at the White House, including sources outside the White House, advisers to the Trump campaign.


And I will tell you, Brooke, from what I am hearing from sources close to the president and White House, in addition to people who are familiar with a lot of these legal conversations, there's a growing optimism that this Mueller report is going to be somewhat good news for the president.

Now, whether or not that is ultimately the case, we're all going to find out together, aren't we? But I talked to a source close to the White House who advises the Trump campaign who said that they believe that this report is going to clear the decks, was the way this person put it, for the president heading into the 2020 reelection campaign.

And it couldn't come at a better time for the president, because obviously they don't want this report to hang over their heads for, you know, the next several months as this campaign heats up.

Now, I talked to another source familiar with some of these discussions, and this person also said, yes, it's starting to look like the president is not going to be implicated in any crimes or so on in this report. A lot of this is a guessing game, a lot of that is reading the tea

leaves. And this other source that I spoke with, Brooke, said there needs to be the caveat that we don't know everything that Mueller knows.


ACOSTA: And that the special counsel has surprised us at times.

BALDWIN: Of course.

So, as we wait, the White House waits, the public waits, you know, the rest of the world waits for this thing, I want to ask you about this incredibly significant tweet from the president of the United States just this afternoon.

ACOSTA: Right.

BALDWIN: Tweeting this: "After 52 years, it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the state of Israel and regional stability."

Jim, I was talking to Aaron David Miller last hour, who knows a heck a lot about this part of the world. He said that his head is exploding over this tweet from the president.


BALDWIN: Why is he doing this?

ACOSTA: Well, part of the reason why is, this is just a White House that is and a president who is making Israel a very big part of his reelection campaign.

He wants to, you know, bear-hug as much as possible Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from now until 2020.

BALDWIN: Netanyahu.

ACOSTA: Now, we should mention Prime Minister Netanyahu is facing a reelection battle right now. That election is coming up on April 9.

And, you know, he really wanted the president, the Israeli government really wanted the president to do this. This has been a hotly contested issue over the Golan Heights since 1967, when Israel seized this and annexed it and has essentially been in control of that territory ever since.

The U.N. has not really recognized Israel as being the sovereign country over that part of the world. And so this has been something that's been talked about and contested over for a very long time.

For the president to do this, from a geopolitical standpoint, and Aaron David Miller is exactly right, this has the potential to send shockwaves throughout the Middle East, but at the same time, Israel and its embattled prime minister certainly is receiving this and has already talked to the president about this today.

They had a phone call, according to White House officials, and, you know, this was very warmly received in Israel. The prime minister wants the president's help, and it seems as if we're getting very close to this election battle in Israel, he's getting the president's help, and they're obviously going to be people who say, Brooke, that the president of the United States is intervening in a domestic political battle in ways that we haven't seen from a president before.

Now, obviously the White House is going to disagree with that, but no question about it, this is a very significant development in that battle over the Golan Heights, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

We were talking a moment ago about this Mueller probe.

So, let's go back there and talk about what to expect.

Michael Zeldin is a CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor who was Robert Mueller's special assistant over at the DOJ.

So, Michael Zeldin, good to see you.


BALDWIN: Let's play the when this happens game. When the Mueller report drops, which could be any day now, what specifically will you be looking for?

ZELDIN: So what we will be looking for, we won't be able to see, because the Mueller report is a confidential report to the attorney general.

So we will not actually get to see the Mueller report. What we could get to see is Barr's transmission of a summary of that report to Congress. So in some sense, we're making a lot to-do about Mueller's report contents, but we may never really see it.

What I think we want to see is, is he, in fact, done? Has he report to submit? And is he telling the attorney general my investigation is over? So, that's what I'm mostly looking to see. Where are we in the life of the Mueller investigation?

BALDWIN: Let's say, when it drops, you are the White House counsel. What's the very first thing you do?


ZELDIN: Well, again, you're not going to get it if you're the White House counsel. It's going to go to Barr.

If Barr is going to then release any portion of it, and that portion contains stuff as to which the president could assert executive privilege, the president's lawyer, the White House counsel, should be advised of that and given an opportunity to respond to those specific parts of the report that implicate executive privilege.

And so you are going to be waiting from -- as White House counsel, to hear from Barr about whether there's anything in there that he's going to make public or transmit out of the executive branch that implicates executive privilege. And then you're going to make your stand on whether it's something you want to stand on or give up.

BALDWIN: OK. I have about a gazillion more questions on this, when this happens, but I'm going to hold them until that very moment.

Michael Zeldin, we will talk again. Thank you very much.


BALDWIN: Coming up next, sources tell CNN that the former Vice President Joe Biden is considering a rather unorthodox move to roll out his presidential bid, naming his vice president on day one.

We will discuss who that could be and whether that's actually a smart move.

And any moment now, President Trump is expected to sign an executive order dealing with free speech on college campuses. We will be watching to see if he takes any questions there. Could make some news over at the White House.

And, later, the Kentucky governor says he intentionally exposed his children to chicken pox and comes to the defense of anti-vaxxers. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me for a fact-check.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: Democrats in Congress and those running for president are already getting a lot of attention for proposing big overhauls of American policies, Green New Deal, eliminating private insurance, guaranteed minimum salaries.

But some Democrats are taking a more comprehensive approach, suggesting ways this country should rewrite the way the federal government works altogether.

Chris Cillizza is our CNN politics reporter and editor at large.

And, Chris, how much of these changes have to do with Democrats gaining an advantage?


And let me nod first to the piece by Zach Wolf, which really lays this out in more detail. But I'm going to run through the basics. Some of it is, without question, aimed at taking some advantage, but this is about big changes, Brooke. The Democratic Party, this is a lot of what we have seen from people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, make big change. Don't make incremental change.

Let's go through some of the things they're proposing. OK, this map in front of me, you're very familiar with, the reds and blues, right?


CILLIZZA: What if we abandon the Electoral College altogether, which means get rid of it. This was from the 1787, from the Constitutional Convention.

It was decided on that it wouldn't be a straight national popular vote. Why get rid of it? Well, twice in the last 20 years, Al Gore in 2000, Hillary Clinton in 2016, the Democratic candidate has gotten more votes nationally, but lost because of the Electoral College.

So, Democrats arguing, well, it's fairer to get rid of it. Now, Republicans say that would disenfranchise all of this area in here, rural, less populated, but let's keep going, because there's a lot of changes.

OK, expand the Supreme Court. So, Pete Buttigieg, one of the candidates for president of the Democratic side, South Bend mayor, has said, what if we made the Supreme Court 15 people? It would make it more likely that they would actually compromise, because right now it's sort of here's the conservative end and the liberal end.

That's tough. The Supreme Court -- conservatives care more about courts than anything else in the country. It's why Donald Trump won, I think, candidly, and rallied the Republican Party, because he promised to put conservatives on it.

Some of that is based on the fact that it's a 5-4 majority for conservatives at the moment.

OK, make D.C. a state. This is another thing that has been percolating for a long time, but getting more attention now. Why would that matter? Well, because D.C. is a very Democratic place. So you would be giving more electoral votes, if we kept that system, to Democrats. It would benefit Democrats in Congress. They have another voting number.

OK. Republicans probably wouldn't go for that either. I think we have one more. OK, lower the voting age. Again, this is -- if you're a Democrat, you say, why shouldn't we lower the voting age to, let's say, 16? You can drive a car. More people involved in the process, that's a good thing, right?

Republicans say, not necessarily. At 16, do you really have the -- are you -- should you be someone choosing a president? Who knows? But, again, politically -- now, how? How would we do all these things, Brooke?

We would do it by -- this is my favorite graphic, the last one. This is this is not a modern picture, a constitutional convention.

So the way that the Constitution gets amended, I will do it quickly, two-thirds vote in the House and the Senate and then three-quarters of the states at constitutional conventions would have to approve the amendment.

It's why the Constitution doesn't get amended all that often. And it's why a lot of what we ran through is more meant aspirationally than it's meant practically. It's meant to say, this is what we would like the world to look like, not that there's going to be legislative measures to make that happen in the near feature -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Would you have voted if you could have at 16?

CILLIZZA: No. I was mostly playing basketball and video games at 16.


BALDWIN: Had a feeling.

Chris Cillizza.

CILLIZZA: Deeply irresponsible.

BALDWIN: Yes, yes. So much has changed. So much has changed.


BALDWIN: Thank you.

Will he or won't he? And now might not be alone? Sources tell CNN and that, as former Vice President Joe Biden prepares his likely presidential bid, aides are discussing naming his choice for V.P. on the very same day.

This is a strategy, keep in mind, 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 certainly been rising ever since she narrowly lost her gubernatorial race in Georgia last year.

Robby Mook is a former campaign manager for Hillary for America.

Robby, let's get into it, because, I mean, you know a thing or two -- you know a thing or two from team Hillary.

First of all, just when you guys were trying to figure out who would be on her ticket, can you just talk me through how challenging that time is and what you contemplate, and if you think this would be a good idea to name one so early?



Well, first of all, I have talked to some people in Biden's world today. And I guess I would just say let's believe this when we see it.

BALDWIN: OK, duly noted.

MOOK: I don't know that this is a baked idea.

But, look, this is a hard thing to do, because I remember, for us, in the in the summer, actually even into the spring of 2016, where do you start, right? Literally, any -- virtually anybody can do this.

And it's about, first and foremost, in my view, the presidential candidate picking someone that they think will be a great partner, because at the end of the day, this -- you're hoping to be president. This is someone you need to be able to work with.

But then, of course, other considerations start to come in. Is this someone who might help with electoral advantage? I think one advantage to what Biden supposedly is considering is that you have a partner who can go out and campaign in more places, help you raise money, help you do other things on the campaign that people are feeling stretched already doing.

So I think there's an advantage there. But the big caveat I would give on this is, I think we always tend to exaggerate how important this decision is. These candidates have to win on their own. You vote for the top of the ticket, not who is second.

And so, like I said, I think there's reasons that this would be a benefit. But I think we shouldn't overcalculate on this. It doesn't make that much difference at the end of the day, I think.

BALDWIN: I hear you. Your scoop, isn't this fully baked, but let's play through with Stacey Abrams, because, I mean, I'm thinking about her as well, right?

MOOK: Yes.

BALDWIN: I mean, she has been blowing up on the national stage since she lost in Georgia, giving the rebuttal of the State of the Union. Do you see it -- does the risk outweigh the reward for her?

MOOK: She is a fantastic choice.

Look, I don't -- I think we need to be talking about her more as a potential presidential candidate, not just a potential V.P. pick. We talked a lot about Beto O'Rourke. He decided to run. Her race was even closer than his, if I'm remembering correctly.

So, I think she has every right to run. And I think she would bring a lot to the table in terms of helping Biden. So, again, I don't really see a downside. Maybe the only downside you could point out is to say, well, if there's a long primary, and let's say that second candidate who loses out in the primary, maybe bringing them on board helps create some synergy and some energy going into the convention.

But, again, I think that's often overstated.


Let me play this clip, because this is from last night's CNN town hall. You had John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor. He was on. And he was asked if he were to become a nominee, would he consider rounding out his ticket with a woman?

Here's his response.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Governor, some of your male competitors have vowed to put a woman on the ticket. Yes or no, would you do the same?

JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, again, of course. But I think that we should -- well, I will ask you another question. How come we aren't asking...

BASH: But I'm asking the questions.

HICKENLOOPER: I know. I know.


HICKENLOOPER: But how come we're not asking -- not asking more often the women, would you be willing to put a man on the ticket?

BASH: When we get to that point, I will ask you that question.


BALDWIN: Is he missing the point there?

MOOK: Well, I appreciate what he's saying in terms of the fact that it's very likely that our next nominee is going to be a woman. I'm proud obviously that the Democratic Party was the first major party to have a woman nominee last time.

I think it is very hard not to have a ticket this time that represents both genders. And, frankly, we're seeing a diverse array of candidates. This time, if the nominee happens to be a white man, I think it's very hard not to have a person of color.

Frankly, I think we should be asking this question in both parties right now. I think President Trump should be asked why he doesn't have a more diverse ticket on his end.

But, look, I'm excited. Years ago, we used to talk about the woman candidate. This is the first time we're talking about the women candidates. This is the most diverse field we have ever had in history. I'm very confident we are going to have a diverse ticket in terms of gender and everything else.

BALDWIN: Preach, Robby Mook. It's time. It's time. Thank you, Robby.

MOOK: It's great.

BALDWIN: It is. It is.

MOOK: It is time, 200 years too late.

BALDWIN: Now -- sorry about that.

Moving on, not many can understand why the president keeps attacking the late Senator John McCain, but this is for sure. This president continues to politicize the U.S. military. A retired Marine colonel will join me live with his thoughts on what this is really about and what kind of position this puts the military in.

Also, the governor of one state says he intentionally exposed his children to chicken pox and is defending all these anti-vaxxers. We will talk about this coming up.



BALDWIN: It is this one-sided feud President Trump just can't quit, his grudge, now into its fifth day, with the late Senator John McCain.

And on top of insulting the name of a war hero who died last summer, the president has now entered politics just where it doesn't belong, the U.S. military.

This is what he told a crowd in Ohio.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: McCain didn't get the job done for our great vets and the VA, and they knew it. That's why, when I had my dispute with him, I had such incredible support from the vets and from the military.