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Mueller Report Release Imminent?; New Information on Boeing Crashes; Trump Makes Claim Dems are "Anti-Israel and Anti-Jewish". Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired March 22, 2019 - 16:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Not a dry eye in that room. I can attest to that. You can nominate someone. Go to

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Is Robert Mueller about to ruin happy hour at Mar-a-Lago?

THE LEAD starts right now.

March madness. President Trump firing off new rage, as he tries to discredit Robert Mueller and as the president's lawyer says waiting for the report is like waiting for a baby.

President Trump buying into the buzz about the B-boys, Biden, Bernie and Beto, but which one is his dream opponent?

Plus, training for a Boeing jet that's now crash twice in six months required a few hours and an iPad -- the latest on a mess so big, it could actually shrink the economy.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Jake today.

We begin with the politics lead, President Trump continuing his campaign to try to discredit the special counsel investigation, all as we await the completion of Robert Mueller's report after nearly two years of his investigation.

The president today using his familiar and false rhetoric, calling the probe a witch-hunt and a hoax, and now suggesting -- quote -- "People will not stand for it" if the Mueller report is negative for the president.

CNN's Abby Phillip starts off our coverage today from the White House.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the wait for special counsel Robert Mueller's report continues, President Trump isn't letting up on his attacks. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a deputy

appoints a man to write a report on me to make a determination on my presidency? People will not stand for it.

PHILLIP: As he left the White House today, Trump told reporters he doesn't know what will be in the report. But that didn't stop him from repeating this familiar refrain:

TRUMP: There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. Everybody knows it. It's all a big hoax.

PHILLIP: The decision about what,if anything, will be released to the public will be left to Attorney General Bill Barr, who Trump praised today.

TRUMP: I know that the attorney general, highly respected, ultimately will make a decision.

PHILLIP: Meantime, Democratic oversight on Capitol Hill is moving forward. But lawmakers say their requests for documents from the White House are getting stonewalled. Asked if he's telling White House officials not to comply, Trump wouldn't say.

TRUMP: It's just a continuation of the same witch-hunt. They know it and behind closed doors, they laugh at it. It's just a continuation of the same nonsense.

PHILLIP: The president adding he will gain the upper hand if oversight ends in impeachment.

TRUMP: There won't be. And if there is, it will only play to our advantage.

PHILLIP: Meantime, from his resort in Florida, Trump is taking on his own administration's plans to maintain pressure on North Korea. A day after the Treasury Department announced new sanctions on two Chinese companies that helped Pyongyang evade sanctions, the president promptly tweeted that he ordered the withdrawal of those new sanctions, contradicting his own national security adviser, John Bolton, who called them important actions.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders offering this explanation for the whiplash: "President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn't think these sanctions will be necessary."


PHILLIP: So more than two hours after President Trump sent that tweet, there is still a scramble under way in this administration to try to figure out exactly what he meant.

Now, weeks ago, when President Trump was meeting with Kim in Vietnam, he said he wasn't giving the North Koreans anything, he wasn't giving up anything. But this certainly seems like a concession, not just to North Korea, but also to China -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Sure does.

Abby Phillip at the White House, thank you.

Let's talk about all of this. First off, the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, telling "The Washington Post" today -- quote -- "It's like waiting for a baby. If the report is good, I will give out cigars."

So the question is, will Rudy Giuliani, Bill Kristol, be giving out cigars?

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: It's up to Rudy. Given Rudy Giuliani's behavior, who knows?

It doesn't look like we're getting a report today, unless the special -- unless Robert Mueller just really wants to torment all the employees of CNN, MSNBC and everyone else to make them stay at work until midnight or something like that.

KEILAR: When it does come out, and at this point, this would just be a delivery, this would kind of be the beginning of this process.

The indications at this point in time, do you think the president has a lot to worry about?

KRISTOL: Yes, I think he has a lot to worry about because they have had a very capable group of people looking into stuff, which the president has seemed extremely determined that it not be looked into and extremely worried about what might come out.

Now, what's going to come out in -- quote -- "the report," as opposed to in a whole bunch of different legal cases from Southern District of New York and stuff, that's another question. But does Trump world, does the Trump administration, does the Trump family, does Trump himself have a lot to worry about from the set of investigations that I do think are beginning -- have gone pretty far probably in unraveling what really happened in 2016, what really happened subsequently?


Yes, President Trump has a lot to worry about.

KEILAR: Anyone think he does not?


It's just a matter of what degree. And I do think Rudy Giuliani will probably be handing out cigars when that report is transmitted to the Department of Justice, because we're not going to know.


KRISTOL: Well, plus, just that will the spin, right, hey, great for us.


CARPENTER: But the biggest question is what the attorney general does. This is where the real wrangling begins.

And I think it will be historic, because, look, we look back and see what Department of Justice guidelines were regarding indictment of a sitting president. But when the attorney general gets that report, he is going to have to create a whole new set of guidelines over what he redacts, what he gives to Congress, how Congress reacts.

And so we will be in a whole new world. Giuliani may be smoking those cigars. He may be very happy, but he will have to wait to see if those will be good or not.

KEILAR: And go on.

MEHDI HASAN, THE INTERCEPT: I was going to say, I don't know what Giuliani has been smoking for the past year.


HASAN: He's been talking a lot of nonsense on this network and elsewhere.

It's interesting. The quote you used was, if the report is good. We know that, whatever the report is, he's going to say it's good. We have seen this president, even when he's found guilty as sin -- this is a guy who's found with a knife over a dead body, he says, I didn't do it.

He was -- he walked over to reporters the other day just muttering no collusion, no collusion, no collusion. They will say that same line, witch-hunt, hoax, no collusion. Doesn't matter what Mueller says.

Now, whether it's actually damaging, who knows, as Democrats now briefing that it could be a dud, which could be bad for them. But we know that, no matter what it says, Trump's response will be the same it's been for the last two years.

KEILAR: He is setting up this idea of what would happen if this doesn't go favorably for him, even if it is going to be spun as, oh, it's good. This is what he said.


TRUMP: I have a deputy appoints a man to write a report on me to make a determination on my presidency? People will not stand for it.


KEILAR: "People will not stand for it."

When you hear him say that, Jen Psaki, what do you think?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's talking about his base and he thinks about this through the prism of his reelection campaign. He knows impeachment is a political process. And he's thinking about how he talks to his base, says to them, you're with me, be with me. This is a witch-hunt. This is a hoax. We have cigars, as you were just saying, don't worry about this, don't look up at what's behind the curtain.

Now, the important piece here is that, when this does go to Congress, from Barr, and if it's heavily redacted, which it likely will be, given where Barr stands and where he's written on a lot of these issues as he was auditioning for the job, as we all know, Congress isn't just going to take it, especially the Democrats, and accept it and say, oh, no questions. We're good now.

This is the beginning of the process. So, for Trump, he's beginning a public campaign as well that will continue and will escalate about what a witch-hunt and hoax this is, even after we have the Mueller report.

KEILAR: And it's interesting, because if anyone has overruled Mueller's request to do something, we know at this point he hasn't interview the president, and it was written answers that he got, if he's been overruled by Matt Whitaker, by Barr, by Rod Rosenstein, it's going to be -- there will be a notation.

Congress certainly will know, which is to say the public will then know. That's going to be part of this debate.

CARPENTER: I think the biggest question for Congress and the American people will be regarding obstruction of justice and abuse of power.

We know that Robert Mueller's mandate was to investigate crimes associated with the Russian interference and the election. OK, we have seen indictments go out. Maybe there will be more. Probably not, according to reporting from CNN.

But then what happens over these larger questions? I would argue we have seen obstruction of justice happen in real time on Twitter.

PSAKI: Publicly.

CARPENTER: Does Robert Mueller want to make a federal case out of that? Probably not. That is where the real debate will go on probably for the next two years.

KEILAR: He's saying -- he's making the case, the president, that it's not obstruction, he's defending himself, right? That's the narrative. Of course, these are -- things about me are not true. I am defending myself.

HASAN: And that's just been his entire political, personal life, isn't it? Counterpuncher. I will attack anyone, even if they have been dead for a while. I will go off after them.

And so, of course he was always going to go after Mueller. And remember when Mueller was appointed -- how short memories we have -- Newt Gingrich and others are saying, great guy, what a respected FBI guy. And then slowly it, became he's a corrupt Democrat, et cetera, et cetera, angry Democrat.

So, yes, he's the great counterpuncher. The irony of Trump is, his counterpunching is almost always self-destructive outside of his base. He's harmed himself so much over the last two years.

KRISTOL: I wish I agreed with that. I mean, I don't. I think he has held onto his base basically without doing much harm.

I mean, he's alienated some swing voters maybe who are gettable. But he's also moved the whole terms of debate over. The Barr -- has moved from -- is it lifted or gone down?


KRISTOL: What's the metaphor?

HASAN: I think, politically, you're right. Legally, though, he has said things he -- mad things.


KRISTOL: Well, but he assumes he can't be indicted as president and he can pardon people.

So he's not worried. He's always been worried about the political side. And in his thuggish way, he's not stupid about fighting -- turning it into a street fight. The point is you have a serious investigation, Robert Mueller, whole bunch of attorneys, a whole bunch of FBI agents, a whole bunch of people around the country, looking into serious things.



And instead of taking the attitude that every other president has, which is, I can't get involved in this, I'm not a defendant, I'm the president of the United States, and they should find out the truth, he's turned it a boxing match, in which a lot of people watching it think, oh, man, kind of them is a little bit overreaching.

And you even get Democrats sort of on the defensive, saying, well, it would probably better not to impeach him. Really? If he's committed impeachable crimes, they sort of have an obligation to impeach him, I think.

HASAN: But they have put all the impeachment eggs in the Mueller basket. And that has always been my problem with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, was, we will wait for Mueller.

We don't need to wait for Mueller. I mean, obviously, we need to know what Mueller says, but if you want to impeach the president, he does stuff in front of our face every week, from threatening Amazon, to witness tampering, to secret payments, to porn stars, to obstruction of justice, firing the FBI chief. Obama would have been impeached for 1 percent of this stuff. In fact, they wanted to impeach Obama for all sorts of things I can't even remember now.

Imagine if his national security adviser, his campaign chairman, deputy campaign chairman, personal lawyer had all been indicted or pled guilty. He would be finished.


KEILAR: And, Jen, you don't think the long run for impeachment -- do you think Democrats are sort of overthinking the risks of doing it?

PSAKI: I agree. And I think they have realized this late in the game that setting up the Mueller report as the moment is actually bad for all people in the Democratic Party who have different views of impeachment, because if it doesn't have what Democrats think should be in it to justify impeachment, they can't use it.

I was -- I will give credit where credit is due. And Philippe Reines wrote a "New York Times" piece about a week ago where he made a very interesting case, which I had never thought of before, about why impeachment is actually not bad politics.

And the case he made was that Republicans back in the '90s -- people -- we always talk about how it's terrible politics, but the reality is, Republicans held on to the House. They did lose some seats in '98, but they held on to the House until 2006.

They won the presidency in 2000. And they won the presidency in part because Gore had the challenge of dealing with Clinton's impeachment. So impeachment, it's not clear-cut politics. They have backed away a little bit. I think that's actually been smart, because they want to give themselves some room.

But you're absolutely right. If you look at the bar for impeachable offenses, he's violated campaign finance -- he's broken the law.

KRISTOL: And the one thing Congress can do that Mueller can't do is have public hearings.

And I remember being in college and watching the Watergate hearings. They had a huge effect. Witness after witness testified. There were attorney -- there were counsel on either side, interrogated them.

You really got a sense after watching this for weeks and months.


PSAKI: Democrats can bring Mueller, and they probably will, if they're not satisfied by the report.

CARPENTER: But you don't have to do impeachment to get hearings, and I would guess this is the line that Speaker Pelosi is trying to straddle.

Don't go to impeachment. Don't give President Trump that political weapon to say that they're just trying to overturn the election.

We're only a short time away from 2020. So you can hold all those hearings. You can drag people before the cameras and say it's not about impeachment, it's just about oversight. And that would be the smart play.

KEILAR: And we know that those hearings will be held. It is going to be a spectacle coming up.

Meantime, the secretary of state suggesting that President Trump is on a mission from God. What is this mission?

Then, a few extra hours of training on an iPad, the terrifying details of the sales pitch for the Boeing 737 MAX that may have had deadly consequences.




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats have very much proven to be anti-Israel. There's no question about that. And it's a disgrace. I mean I don't know what's happened to them, but they are totally anti-Israel. Frankly, I think they're anti-Jewish.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump making the bold and unfounded claim, the Democratic Party is anti-Jewish. At the same time, the Trump administration is now planning to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights territory for the first time in more than five decades. But the move looks openly political coming weeks before the election for Trump's embattled friend and ally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

CNN's senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski picks up the story.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stood beaming next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Trump's proclamation of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights referring to the long- disputed land as --


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Hard fought real estate.


KOSINSKI: He sat down with the Christian Broadcasting Network.


POMPEO: The task that I have is informed by my understanding of my faith, my belief in Jesus Christ as the savior.


KOSINSKI: But then came this.


QUESTION: Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from an Iranian menace?

POMPEO: As a Christian I certainly believe that's possible.

I am confident that the Lord is at work here.


KOSINSKI: Pompeo frequently makes references based on his religion. He's mentioned the rapture, keeping a Bible open on his desk and that he views homosexuality as perversion. But this comment now on such a sensitive foreign policy issue doesn't sit well with some.


REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET), FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: He's laughable on his face. But it is actually quite concerning. It gives comfort to extremists around the world who look at the West and want to look at the West as an upfront to Islam and as crusaders.

There is nothing wrong with a cabinet official, a government official, when asked, talk about their own personal beliefs system. What is wrong is for him to apply as he appeared to do, those Christian values, those specifically Evangelical Christian values to the task of foreign policy.


KOSINSKI: The U.S. and Israel right now are the only countries that have recognized Israeli sovereignty over Golan Heights which it seized from Syria in 1967. U.S. allies say this move by Trump is in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution that used the annexation as illegal.

And it all comes just as Netanyahu faces a tough reelection battle with Trump seen by critics as trying to help him. But Pompeo denies doing that.

[16:20:04] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POMPEO: I'm going to stay far away from the decisions that the Israeli people will make here in a few weeks.


(END VIDEOTAPE) KOSINSKI: But there he is -- in Israel, standing alongside Netanyahu right before an election. As Netanyahu calls this decision a holiday miracle.

Remember, President Obama wouldn't even meet with Netanyahu when he visited the United States because it was close to an election. So, how could this be seen as anything but a huge gift to him?

Also, some U.S. allies tell us that they are also confused by the timing of this. They want to know how this decision relates to broader policy. But they say the State Department isn't answering any questions about this right now. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, Michelle Kosinski at the State Department. Thank you so much.

And to hear the president talk about this it is as if he didn't even know there was an election going on in Israel. Bill, is there any -- I mean the motive here, is there any way that it is not to put a finger on the scale of this election for Netanyahu?

BILL KRISTOL, CONSERVATIVE WRITER: That's probably a key part of the motive. There is a reasonable -- I think it's a reasonable policy to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan for 52 years. It already --

KEILAR: But the timing?

KRISTOL: But the timing is unusual. And it was done the way that gotten Netanyahu wise on board ahead of time. And I think it is really unfortunate about the timing if you actually sit, think if you're pro- Israel is that it seems to discredit what is a legitimate - I mean you can make an argument that it is a bit of Israeli sovereignty of the Golan as this put a force for stability in the Middle East. They were never giving it back to Syria anyway. Syria is deeply problematic state to say the least at this moment with Assad, the Iranians on the Golan and near the Golan and so forth.

So that's as if a foreign policy debate. But Trump unfortunately, as with some of the other things, has taken what would be I believe a reasonable thing for a U.S. government to do after deliberation in consultation with allies not in the middle of an election season and made it look like a very cheap political gimmick to help his friend, the Prime Minister, who has an election coming up.

KEILAR: You're shaking your head.

MEHDI HASSAN, COLUMNIST AND SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, "THE INTERCEPT": Well I agree with Bill that it was a cheap political gimmick. There's no doubt about the timing three weeks from an election to do it in this way. There is also the factor of Iran. It's not just about for election. They have made it very clear - the administration. This is about saying to Iran we are going to stand up to you in Syria. We're not going to let you have roam freely.

I don't think it is a reasonable position. It's a violation of international law. Everyone in the world thinks that to be the case. And this is how far Donald Trump has move the U.S. on Israel. In 1981 when Israel annexed the Golan Heights illegally, the Ronald Reagan administration voted with every single member of the U.N. Security Council to say this is null and void. And yet, here we have Trump on Twitter undermining 52 years of settled U.S. foreign policy.

Look, previous president basically - Bill is right. It was a reality on the ground. But saying that quite part loud is a big deal. I mean it can - I guess sends another message again the international law - who cares. How are you going to go to Ukraine and tell Vladimir Putin you can't annex Crimea? And suddenly a Mike Pompeo tells that's bad in Crimea but in Golan Heights, oh, it's fine.

KEILAR: I wonder, Jen, you have been to Israel 20 times. You have been in meetings with Benjamin Netanyahu --



KRISTOL: No, Amy (ph) is more than me, I think.

KEILAR: Even as --

KRISTOL: Better received.

KEILAR: Even as an administration being clearly very pro-Israel and certainly very pro-Netanyahu, knowing that some of these things would be carrots at the table of a Mideast peace negotiation. What does this tell you about the seriousness with which this administration is actually approaching the possibility of peace in the Mideast?

PSAKI: Well, the important backdrop here is you've referenced is that Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, is supposedly working on a Middle East peace proposal. Now, if you're coming down on one side hard on a negotiation which is the Israeli side, there is no way you can be a fair arbiter. And the United States has tried many times and failed. And I have lived through that. I've been a part of that to do this. But this is really killing the role that the United States can ever really play in the immediate future in this and be fair to both sides. If you a good plan, both sides should be angry about it and they should both feel like they have things they are giving up.

But the other piece just to add to the political analysis here is that Trump is not doing this because he likes Bibi Netanyahu. He expects something in return. As we've seen him, he is out there touting how Democrats hate Jewish people. It's working. Every Democrats ask, do you hate Jewish people. And he wants to move the, you know, Jewish American vote towards his side. He wants a pack to be fully in the Republican pocket. And he wants Netanyahu to help with that. And that's exactly what he expects in return.

KEILAR: I want you to listen to something that Mike Pompeo is saying he is traveling through the Middle East right now. And this was something that perked up a lot of ears. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?

POMPEO: As a Christian I certainly believe that's possible.

To see the remarkable history of the faith in this place and the work that our administration's done to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state remains. I am confident that the Lord is at work here.


[16:25:04] KEILAR: There's also according of the Evangelical vote clearly. This is the Secretary of State though, Mehdi. What do you think?

HASSAN: I think it's madness. I think it's another reminder that the Trump phenomenon is a cult movement. It is amazing to see long- standing veteran politicians like Mike Pompeo signing up to the cult, saying this kind of stuff. You know we have a word that is used since 9/11 especially in recent years we talked about kind of politicized Muslims as Islamists which had a lot of issue with that word. But if we're going to use that word, let's talk about Christianists. I mean the politicization of religion in this way. I'm sorry. For an American politician to talk about the president being sent by God is absurd.

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SEN. TED CRUZ: If there are Democrats that have a problem with the vision that Donald Trump and members of his administration are articulating, there's a place they could go and give a big speech about their 2020 presidential candidate. All of the Democratic presidential candidates are boycotting AIPAC. Why is that?

Last time, Kamala Harris went. She had a talk with them. This time she didn't. Why? Because move on that org and code peak which are on the fringe told them to boycott that. I don't think that's a right answer.

If you disagree -

HASSAN: -- Trump was sent by God.


CARPENTER: No, I don't.

KRISTOL: But neither of those -

CARPENTER: If you want to have a debate about this, you people need to go --

KRISTOL: But you can't debate, Angela - Amanda, sorry about this. Well, you can't debate is that Trump is saying the Democratic party is anti-Jewish. That is really unbelievable. (CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: Sure. But why - the ground.

KRISTOL: Unbelievable thing. That is an unbelievable thing.

CARPENTER: I am not disagreeing with you. I'm telling you how people if they want to counter that kind of talk, they should show up into those spaces.

HASSAN: Why? Does any part own that space?



KRISTOL: That's not about Israel.


CARPENTER: I would be a great setting -

KRISTOL: AIPAC is not about Jews. AIPAC is a pro-Israel organization.

HASSAN: President agreeing with -

KRISTOL: For the president to say - that one of our two major parties is anti-Jewish is just way beyond any enormous - saying one of our two major parties dislikes one of the major --

HASSAN: It is also ironic coming from a president who is one of --

KRISTOL: Chuck Schumer is anti-Jewish and Nancy Pelosi, Bill Clinton, John Kerry -- it is unbelievable to say that. And people need to denounce that. If we are going down the road of politics. (CROSSTALK) When you get to say because of a policy. I totally agree with you on the left - Democratic Party. But if you go down the road where because there are more anti-Israel that we would like we get to say they are anti-Jewish. And then other people get to say that if you're tough in the war in terror, you're just anti-Muslim. Other people don't get to say - if you're against prayer in school, you're anti-Christian. (CROSSTALK) We are going to a terrible. We are going into a terrible place in our politics.

PSAKI: And there are a number of Democrats who are actually going to AIPAC. So, to be fair, on Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and a number of them are going.

KEILAR: Amanda -


HASSAN: -- Jewish are leading the field by the way.

KEILAR: Amanda. CARPENTER: They have an opportunity to go to AIPAC. Donald Trump is pinning the Democratic Party is being anti-Jewish because they're making it so easy.

PSAKI: But who cares about AIPAC? I mean there are a lot of Jewish organizations that are more fair arbiters that aren't wings of the Republican Party right now. And that's where -


HASSAN: And the guy leading the polls is Jewish.

KEILAR: All right. More ahead with this feisty bunch at the rate that he will be standing on the podium at the first debate. Beto O'Rourke keeps climbing on things. As President Trump says he won't stand a chance against him.