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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Pelosi Slams Barr's Memo; Prosecutors Drop All Charges Against Actor Jussie Smollett; Senator Kamala Harris Touts $315B Plan to Raise Teacher Salaries. Aired on 7-8p ET
Aired March 26, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN: ... and Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. You can tweet the show @CNNSITROOM. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, CNN: OutFront next, President Trump taking a Mueller victory lap now turning his sights to killing Obamacare. Plus, Mueller's report could be made public in weeks, not months. And tonight we're learning that the White House may not get a chance to see it before you do. And a Boeing 737 Max, the same plane involved in two fatal crashes just forced to make an emergency landing in the United States. Let's go OutFront.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett, OutFront tonight celebration, President Trump celebrating and trying to capitalize on his Mueller moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mueller report was great. It could not have been better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Of course, the President has not yet seen the Mueller report, but his definitive answer that it could not have been better. It's one heck of a change from the more than 1,100 times Trump attacked Mueller and the Russia investigation over the past two years. The New York Times actually counted all of his attacks through last month, all of those witch hunts and hoaxes added up to 1,100. Now, though, it's all great, and the President is trying to make sure this moment is not passing by.
His Justice Department tonight, backing a judge's decision to scrap the entire Affordable Care Act, pre existing conditions and all, and the President is loving it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of healthcare, you watch.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: You watch. Watch what? I mean, so far President Trump has
provided no plan and not one single specific. Even though since President Trump took office support for Obamacare has grown. According to the Kaiser Foundation, which has been tracking the views of Obamacare since the beginning, the unfavorable rating now at one of the lowest point since it was signed in to law, all the way on the 39 percent.
Taking this on is a big risk for Trump, because if he gets rid of Obamacare he gets rid of pre existing conditions and that would be extremely unpopular and it would also be going against his own word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Except pre existing condition, I would absolutely get rid of Obamacare. We're going to have something much better, but pre existing conditions. I want to keep pre existing condition. I think we need it. I think it's a modern age and I think we have to have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Just to be clear again, today, he backed a judge's decision that would strike down the entire ACA, including pre existing conditions coverage. So it is not just a promise he made there in the debates, it's a promise that the President made just a few months ago, again and again heading into the midterms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Republicans will always protect patients with pre existing conditions. I wish people would get that into their heads.
We will always protect patients with pre existing conditions always. Always.
The pre existing conditions and all of the other things we're with a hundred percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: A hundred percent, well, try zero percent of the President gets his way again, backing a judge's ruling that would get rid of Obamacare including pre existing conditions. That's a fight Democrats are loving. According to exit polling during the midterms four out of 10 voters said healthcare was the most important issue and, of course, Democrats won.
Now the president could try to eventually come around and say, "OK, now I want healthcare that covers pre existing conditions," again, but he's got to pay for it which, of course, is the whole problem to begin with on this one. And reality is not stopping trump from trying to seize his Mueller moment. Kaitlan Collins is OutFront live outside the White House. And Kaitlan, the President in a great mood on Capitol Hill today.
KAITLAN COLLINS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Certainly in high spirits, essentially taking one more victory lap as he went up to that lunch today, thanked those Republican Senators for sticking by him during this investigation and said, Erin, that he feels like he got a good clean bill of health from the Mueller investigation. Now he told those Republicans that he wanted to move on to other issues like healthcare, but as you noted, didn't provide any kind of concrete steps for that but also he made clear that he's not putting this Russia investigation behind him.
He wants to use it as a political weapon and right now the President and his aides and his allies are really enjoying the position they feel Democrats are in right now, straddling essentially calls to make this report public but also to move on to other issues like healthcare and education ahead of the next upcoming presidential election. Now just to give you a sense of how much the President is in a good mood and how much he's enjoying all of this, he doesn't often go to these lunches. Very rarely does the President go to Capitol Hill for this policy lunch, instead, it's something typically Mike Pence tends to do. But the President went up there and he wanted to make a point, Erin.
BURNETT: He sure did and enjoying his moment crowing from the mountaintops.
Thank you very much, Kaitlan and I want to go now to Democratic presidential candidate, Julian Castro who served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama as well. Secretary, thank you for being with me. Look, you heard the President say, "The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of healthcare. You watch." What's your response?
JULIAN CASTRO, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would say that I would add in no healthcare. The Republican Party is going to be known as the party of taking healthcare away from millions of Americans. This is stunning, Erin, that this administration is going completely against the will of the people, going against the will of Congress, and trying to pull the rug out from under millions and millions of American families.
People who have pre existing conditions who are only able to get health insurance, able to afford health insurance because the Affordable Care Act says, "You cannot consider pre existing conditions to those health insurers." So basically this administration of the Republican Party want to go back to the battle days where people couldn't get health insurance, if they had a pre existing condition where folks were not able to stay on their parent's plan until the age of 26. They got thrown off a lot earlier and generally where millions and millions of people less had health insurance.
I mean, the Affordable Care Act, at one point before this administration started to sabotage it, 20 million more people were able to get affordable healthcare coverage. That had been amazing and it is something else to watch a President and a party that get their kicks out of hurting people, whether it's with healthcare or those children that they're separating from their families at the border. It is just amazing to watch.
BURNETT: And, of course, when they got rid of the mandate but left the Obamacare options in place, premiums have surged. I mean, they are completely unaffordable for lot of people because you got rid of the mechanism for paying for the coverage. I mean you've been looking at this problem and I know you support Medicare-for-all.
Secretary, there's a new poll from Quinnipiac and it asked Americans if replacing the current system with Medicare-for-all, which is a good catch phrase that's thrown around, is it a good idea? Forty-three percent of people say it is, 45 percent say the opposite. They say it's a bad idea. Are you worried that the party is going too far left that Medicare-for-all may sound good, but it's scaring people?
CASTRO: Well, I grew up with a grandmother that had diabetes and before she passed away in early 1996 she had to have one of her feet amputated which is very common for diabetics, but that entire time she had Medicare. I want to make Medicare stronger for everybody that's on it and then make sure that everybody can have access to Medicare. I believe that if somebody wants to have a private insurance plan that they should be able to do that.
But what I don't believe is that anybody in this country should ever go without healthcare, not health insurance but actual healthcare and medication when they need it. When countries around the world have been able to figure this out a long time ago, so this is a debate that should see the light of day. I think that as people understand more and more about what this would mean for them and for their family and for families across the country, that a lot of Americans do support it because they recognize that the system that we have today is broken, especially, and this is a great example today, because this administration has sabotaged healthcare for millions of Americans.
BURNETT: Part of the reasons this is coming up today as the President went to Capitol Hill, he embraced it, he's probably backing the judge overturning Obamacare, including pre existing conditions, and he is doing so because he is vindicated. He feels by what we've heard from the Mueller report. Here's how we put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Mueller report was great. It could not have been better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Of course, look, the President has not seen the actual report nor have we, just the Barr summary. But so far, can you admit that he's right, it could not have been better for him?
CASTRO: Well, of course, we can't say that. We don't know what's actually in the report other than the summary from the Attorney General and with as much lying as this administration has done, why would we trust the summary of this report without actually seeing the report? I'm not saying that the report says, "Yes, he did it." I'm inclined to believe the Attorney General when he says that he did not find that there was collusion. However, I'm not prepared to say that I believe that the report did
not point out some facts that we don't know about, some actions that the President has taken or folks within his inner circle that suggests that they were trying to court or to benefit from Russian interference even though I wouldn't say that's collusion.
BURNETT: But you're not saying Bill Barr is a liar.
You're not saying Bill Barr lied in this summary.
CASTRO: I'm not, no.
CASTRO: No, and I'm just saying that I think people have seen plenty of times during this administration exaggerations, leaving information out, sometimes outright lies. What I'm saying is that the American people and certainly the United States Congress deserves to see the full contents of the Mueller report.
And if people will think back, folks will remember most of these reports, these blockbuster reports throughout the years have actually been made public. It would be precedent setting if this kind of report did not get made public and that's the only way that we're going to know that we're getting the full truth.
BURNETT: Before we go, I want to ask you about the green new deal. It's a concept you've supported. Our Jason Carroll spoke to Pennsylvania voters. These are all people who had voted for President Obama. They then voted for President Trump and they specifically now associate green new deal with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and here's what they had to say about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EILEEN SOROKAS, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: I think she's too bizarre.
JASON CARROLL, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Too bizarre.
E SOROKAS: Yes. Yes, I think that she's ridiculous and be more realistic.
RICHARD SOROKAS, PENNSLYVANIA VOTER: They want to get all this environment projects done in 10 years and it's impossible. You'll lose jobs and lose wages. You'll lose your economy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't agree with the way the direction they're gone even more now. They're more liberal. They're attempting to be socialists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Is Congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has highly publicized green new deal, Secretary, hurting your chances of winning the White House?
CASTRO: I don't think so. First of all, let me say that Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez has been a breath of fresh air for the Democratic Party. She's brought a lot of great ideas, new ideas. Not only that, she's lived a life with the ability to understand families that are struggling. And I'm a fan of the green new deal. I agree with the concept of it. Now between the time when it's proposed and if it were to be implemented, of course, there will be negotiation that's involved in that.
But here's the thing, this administration wants us to think that we cannot both protect our planet and create new jobs. We can see that by embracing renewable energy, embracing sustainability, that we can actually do both of those things. Here in Texas, for instance, the solar energy industry, the wind energy industry, in places like Iowa that, obviously, I've been visiting a lot, the wind energy industry.
So don't let anybody tell you that you can't both create new jobs, generate a lot of economic growth and also do what's right to protect our planet. We can do those things.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Secretary Castro. Thanks.
CASTRO: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, weeks not months until the public sees the Mueller report, so will the President be claiming victory when that happens? Plus, the House Speaker says, "Don't take the Attorney General at his work."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE SPEAKER: We don't need an interpretation by an attorney general who is appointed for a particular job, to make sure the president is above the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: A lot more aggressive than you just heard Secretary Castro, is she right? And 2020 candidate Senator Kamala Harris unveiling a $315 billion plan to give teachers raises, so who will pay for it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAMALA HARRIS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Multi millionaires can afford to pay more in terms of the estate tax and so that's where it's going to come from.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: New tonight, we will see the report in weeks, not months. A Justice Department official confirming tonight that weeks, that's how long it should take to release a public version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report. Now, obviously, version is a word that can mean different things to different people but that's still a significant development.
Also, we are told there are no plans to give a copy of the report to the White House in advance, which is significant. Forty-eight hours after our Attorney General Bill Barr released his summary of the report, there are still so many questions about the report, about Barr's letter about the report and the exact words because, gosh, words matter. I want to go through the letter in detail, the key parts of it and then go through a few of these crucial words that will matter so much for all Americans to see what it tells us and what it does.
And OutFront now former General Counsel for the Director of National Intelligence and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department Criminal Division Bob Litt, Author of The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror, Garrett Graff and former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Harry Sandick.
So Harry, OK, let's just start with the letter as we have it here, OK, and I want to go through this section on collusion, because it broke down into a couple of parts. So collusion first what Barr says about Mueller's decision. So Barr writes, "The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report state, "The investigation did not established that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
Now, Harry, Mueller uses this word establish, does the word establish open up the door to the possibility that there was evidence of collusion? In fact, there could have been quite a lot of it but it fell short of the final legal line of conclusion.
HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: That's how I understand it or at least that it's possible that there is that quantum of evidence. Something less than beyond a reasonable, doubt less than a prosecutor would require but still evidence. The letter also says early on that they obtained, they being the Mueller team, something like 500 search warrants.
To get a search warrant, you need to show probable cause that a crime has been committed. So probable cause isn't no evidence, it's some evidence. It may not be enough, no prosecutor would indict a case based on that. It may also be the wording of that sentence and other sentence. Russian national figures or could it be conspiring with other people who are not Russian government figures, could there be some involvement of WikiLeaks or --
BURNETT: Who could have had ties too, some derivative. OK.
BURNETT: And it's interesting when you say the 500 warrants. SANDICK: Yes.
BURNETT: I mean that there clearly was something to get there. I mean, Bob, let me just take a look more closely at the end of the two sentences from that part of the report. OK. The first one as I read Barr writes the sentence himself, right?
ROBERT LITT, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL FOR THE DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Right.
BURNETT: And then he quotes directly from Mueller's report, so just to be clear to the viewer the difference between the two when you look at the words between the two sentences is that Barr is definitive there was no conspiracy. Mueller though says in his exact quote, "He did not establish conspiracy." Why is this word establish important?
LITT: Well, I think it's interesting. If you look later in Barr's letter, when he talks about the decision that he and the Deputy Attorney General made with respect to obstruction of justice, he uses the same word. He said that he and the Deputy Attorney General concluded that the evidence is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction of justice offense.
We know from the letter that there was substantial evidence of obstruction of justice, enough that the Special Counsel felt he wouldn't even make a determination. So this suggest that the Mueller's report is at least consistent with the idea that there was considerable evidence but as Harry said not enough to warrant a prosecution. We won't know until we see the report.
BURNETT: No, but that's very interesting when you look at the word echo and in one case it means there was a lot doesn't mean that and the other as we point out here on this discussion of conspiracy and collusion. Garrett, that partial sentence that I just quoted where Barr quotes Mueller on establishing conspiracy, it's just one of a few places where Barr quotes Mueller.
There's about 65 words in total. I know you counted them, I went through them, I was trying to recount, it's about what I got 63 I think. None of them are complete sentences pretty much, what conclusions do you take from that?
GARRETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, THE THREAT MATRIX: INSIDE ROBERT MUELLER'S FBI AND THE WAR ON GLOBAL TERROR: So I think that it really is important to understand we don't know what the Mueller report says. What we've seen is the Barr report on the Mueller report. And the fact that he's quoting these partial sentences in many ways likely means that the total sentences are even more nuanced than what we are actually seeing in the letter, either potentially more nuanced or potentially even more incriminating than what we're seeing in the letter.
I think Harry is right to point out that there also appears to be sort of this very narrow definition of collusion and conspiracy in here where it's an agreement with the Russian government. Whereas what we know is that many of the officials who were meeting with Russians through the campaign and the transition were Russian business people, were Russian lawyers, were Russian developers, and we know, of course, remember from Michael Cohen's testimony that Trump likes to speak in code.
So it seems like there was a very high bar as there should be in a lot of federal prosecutions like this for something that might have actually been a much more nebulous series of conversations, hence the evidence that could point to something without actually establishing it.
BURNETT: Right. OK. So that is on the issue of conspiracy and collusion with the Russians. OK. On the issue, Harry, of obstruction of justice which would you are all three now alluding to, Bill Barr, of course, notes that Mueller did not make a conclusion and then a quote again from the letter because this sentence could be very important.
"Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel's investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed and obstruction of justice offense. In making this determination, we noted that the special counsel recognize that the evidence -" again, now, he's quoting Mueller, "the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference, and that," now we're out of quotes, "while not determinative, of the absence of such evidence bears upon the President's intent with respect to obstruction."
So first I want to play Rudy Giuliani in a moment but first let me give you a chance to respond to that. Basically, he's saying no underlying crime thus you can't have obstruction.
SANDICK: That really should not be a leading factor in my view in deciding whether to charge obstruction. Law, logic and experience all tell us the statute for obstruction does not require there to have been an underlying conviction or even an underlying crime if you line investigation. Logically, you wouldn't want to have that rule because it would mean that if you obstructed justice so utterly that no charges could be brought, you could then also not be prosecuted for obstruction. That would be an odd outcome.
SANDICK: And as everyone has pointed out, experience, the Martha Stewart case, Barry Bonds, Bill Clinton's own impeachment. These are all instances where people were prosecuted, so to speak, for obstruction and there was no underlying crime.
BURNETT: So that argument, Bob, is one that President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani tried to make to Wolf tonight here on CNN saying, "Look, there's no underlying crime, so nothing to see here. Who cares if he obstruct it?" Here is Rudy Giuliani.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: One of the things
the Attorney General picks up on, there was no underlying crime. The Attorney General says quite correctly it's very hard to find intent when there's not an underlying crime. You can but it's hard.
BLITZER: But Martha Stewart, she didn't engage in insider trading but she wound up in jail because she lied about it.
GIULIANI: Although there was a very close case of insider trading involving Martha Stewart. In this case, there's no case of collusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LITT: Well, I think what, Rudy Giuliani was my former boss in the Southern District of New York, what he said at the end there, I think, gives the issue away here when he says, "There was a very close case about insider trading against Martha Stewart." So somebody can be worried about the possibility that there's a case even if it turns out that ultimately there is not a case, and that for all we know, would have been what happened here.
I do think it's important to be fair to Barr and not over read his letter. He is quite clear that he doesn't think the absence of an underlying crime is dispositive. He thinks that it's relevant to the issue of motive and intent. And I think every prosecutor would agree that it is a relevant factor, whether it deserves the way he assigned to it here, again, as everybody has commented so far, we won't know until we see the report itself.
BURNETT: Now, of course, Garrett, the bottom line issue why we're talking about this is that Mueller did not reach a conclusion on obstruction, decided he wasn't going to do it. He essentially punted it. As Barr writes, "The Special Counsel ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment. The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion one way or the other as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction."
Now, obviously, Mueller could have made that decision or recommendation. You're saying there's a chance though, Garrett, that Mueller did not believe that he had to make that decision here ultimately on obstruction of justice. Why not?
GRAFF: Yes. This is a case where I think it's really important to see how Bob Mueller frames this question in his own report, in his own words, because if Muller is operating under the assumption and the policy that the Justice Department cannot indict a sitting president, which is the standing Office of Legal Counsel opinion and policy and guideline inside the Justice Department right now, then Mueller might have been sitting there saying, "I'm never going to bring in obstruction case. In fact what my job is, is to be the independent fact finder who can turn over the evidence to Congress, where this case is supposed to be settled according to the Constitution and the OLC opinion, anyway, which is this is a political impeachment question, not a criminal one."
BURNETT: Right. Which, of course, that you got this disintermediation that just occurred by the Attorney General Bill Barr. We'll see when we see the report what Congress chooses to do with it. Thank you all. And next, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi making it crystal clear that impeachment is not on the table but, wow, there are some in her caucus who do not agree even now. Plus, the actor who claimed to be the victim of a racist and homophobic attack cleared of all charges, but not for the reason you think at all. And tonight, city officials are outraged.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: When I see the report, we don't need an interpretation by the attorney general, who is appointed for a particular job to make sure the president is above the law. We need to see the report.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: She's also attempting to walk a line on the Mueller report, calling for a full release, and telling Democrats to move on to policy issues at the same time as they're pounding the table.
OUTFRONT now, David Gergen, former presidential adviser for four presidents, and April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks.
David, what do you make of this? The House speaker saying, don't take Bill Barr at his word. Yes, he's a political appointee. But that is a stunning statement to make. Is it going to play well or just look like sour grapes?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER ADVISR TO FOUR PRESIDENTS: Oh, I think to an awful lot of independents, especially Trump -- anti Trump voters, they're going to welcome that. I mean, both sides are trading, you know -- the Republicans are accusing journalists and Democrats of being treacherous in all of this -- traitors.
GERGEN: And so I think that's part of the normal give and take.
But I must tell you, overall, Democrats should thank their lucky stars that Nancy Pelosi is the speaker right now. She has definitely steered them -- this party, which can be fractious, away from going over a cliff on several issues, starting with this. But also on this health care, she seized upon it today in a very smart way.
BURNETT: So, April, you know, on this keeping them in line, okay, maybe she gives a nod to saying Bill Barr isn't being forthright or whatever it is, which seems a little out there, because she needs to give a nod to people like Rashida Tlaib, the congresswomen circulating to fellow Democrats. It reads in part, let me read it to you, April, quote, I firmly believe that the House Committee on Judiciary should seek out whether President Trump has committed high crimes and misdemeanors as designated by the U.S. Constitution, and if the facts support those findings that Congress begin impeachment proceedings.
OK, there's "ifs" in there. Is this the time? You've got people in the party pushing for impeachment after that letter from Bill Barr.
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, you know, Nancy Pelosi -- I'm going to say this, and David is absolutely right about how she is the calm in the storm to help people try to -- try to help people see clearly. What Nancy Pelosi is doing is trying to bring some peace, because if they overreach, this could be a gift for Donald Trump in 2020.
The elections are coming up. We've got a long time between now and 2020 elections. But this is playing in it.
And if you do go after this president at this moment, when there's still a contradiction, he was found not to have colluded or conspired with Russia. However, the issue of obstruction of justice is still lingering and we still don't know what's going on. So, you really theoretically cannot scream impeachment at this time.
RYAN: But at the same time, taking the politics away from it, Erin, taking the politics away from it. If you look at it, the people of the United States need to see this document from Bob Mueller, because there's so many contradictions already without the report coming out. The president is saying he's totally vindicated. But the Justice Department is saying, well, there is still the issue of obstruction. You were vindicated on collusion.
So, the people -- beyond the politics and the optics, people need to see it just to find out what's really there.
BURNETT: Right, right. And, of course, you know, even on the issue of collusion, David, as we talk about the word choice that Bill Barr uses, it leaves open the door for no evidence or a whole lot of evidence, just shy of a legal conspiracy standard. We just don't know, as April points out, until we see the report.
But, you know, David, Democrats are -- some of them, sticking their neck out. Denny heck on the intelligence committee, despite what we've got from Barr, he is not backing off, what he said specifically, which is that the walls are closing in on President Trump.
Here's Congressmen Heck.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DENNY HECK (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think it's hard to look at the accumulation of the number of people in and around him that are closest to him that are going to jail, and conclude anything other than the amount of corruption that associates with this president is beyond any modern historic precedent.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: I mean, David, here's the question. How risky politically is the stand that Democrats -- some Democrats, like Congressman Heck or even further to the left, Congresswoman Tlaib are taking, right?
[19:35:05] You know, they've got their base but have to worry about people in the middle and they've got to worry about turnout in 2020. Do comments like this turn people off or turn people on?
GERGEN: They -- that they cumulate, they turn people off.
I think we should go back to what happened in midterm elections for a political counsel. And, you know, in case after case, Democrats won hard districts by talking about health care and infrastructure and education and other issues like that, and talking occasionally about the Mueller investigation. But not making that first priority.
That is very good guidance for where they ought to be now and I think Nancy Pelosi sees that. That they are going to do much better in this election if they are not seen as piling on to Trump and spending their next two years looking at the end trails of the Mueller report but instead talking about the future and keeping an eye on and pushing forward some of the investigations. But not beating the drum. Not making it the lead story every night.
MADDOW: So, April, George Conway obviously -- well-known conservative lawyer involved with the Starr report, also, of course, married to Kellyanne Conway has an op-ed with "The Washington Post" that literally just posted.
And it says: Trump is guilty of being unfit for office. He writes of the Mueller report, quote, if his report doesn't exonerate the president, there must be something pretty damning in it about the president, even if it might not suffice to put a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Reading that statement together with the no exoneration statement, it's hard to escape the conclusion that Mueller wrote his report to allow the American people and Congress to decide what to make the facts, and that is what should, must happen now.
April, will Republicans in Congress back that point of view? That it is not some highly redacted bits and pieces, but all of the report which must be given to the American people?
RYAN: Erin, OK. On the first piece, President Trump, Republicans have said this behind closed doors and Democrats are saying it out loud in your face. This president is a flawed man. We know this. We know this.
We still have to wait for the report. We have to see -- and I hate saying that. But you cannot draw conclusion on something until we see the report. We thought that Mueller was goodbye to go like Ken Starr. Throw everything in there. He just followed the original mandate of collusion and left the rest to Southern District, and left the rest to Congress, Oversight, Intel and Judiciary. We have got to wait for that report. And we need to see that report.
I'm one of those. I hope want to see it. It's newsy. The American public needs to see it.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.
And next, Boeing 737 MAX, the same plane that's been involved in two deadly crashes, just forced to make an emergency landing right here in the United States. We have the latest on that as that just happened.
Plus, outrage after prosecutors drop all charges and not for the reasons you may think, against the "Empire" actor who claimed to be the victim of a racist and homophobic attack.
[19:41:43] BURNETT: New tonight, outrage after prosecutors dropped all charges against "Empire" star Jussie Smollett even though the state's attorney has made it very clear that they say Smollett is not innocent. The dramatic reversal coming two months after the police said the actor staged a hate crime against himself to file a false police report.
Ryan Young is OUTFRONT.
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: This is a whitewash of justice. A grand jury could not have been clearer.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Chicago officials furious.
SUPERINTENDENT EDDIE JOHNSON, CHICAGO POLICE: Do I think justice was served? No. Where do I think justice is? I think this city is still owed an apology.
YOUNG: Police not notified of a dramatic reversal that prosecutors dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett after he was accused of staging a January 29 attack on himself to look like a hate crime.
JOHNSON: We found about it when you all did.
YOUNG: Officials still charging that Smollette's claim, leading police on a citywide manhunt was a hoax.
The state sealing all the evidence in the case, no longer accessible to the public.
JOHNSON: It chose to hide behind secrecy and broker a deal. My job as a police officer is to investigate an incident, gather evidence, gather the facts and present them to the state's attorney. That's what we did. I stand behind the detectives' investigation.
YOUNG: Today, Smollett, who has always maintained his innocence, took a victory lap at the courthouse. JUSSIE SMOLLETT, ACTOR: I've been truthful and consistent on every
single level since day one. I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I've been accused of.
YOUNG: The state's attorneys office says the facts of the case and Smollett's record were used to make a decision to drop charges.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Also keeping in mind our resources and keeping in mind that the office's number one priority is to combat violent crime and the drivers of violence. The decision, I decided to offer this disposition in the case.
YOUNG: Smollett's lawyers earlier pointing fingers at Chicago police.
PATRICIA BROWN HOLMES, ATTORNEY FOR JUSSIE SMOLLETT: We have nothing to say to the police department, except to investigate charges and not try their cases in the press.
JOHNSON: Quite frankly, it pissed everybody off.
YOUNG: A nod to these strong words by Chicago's superintendent last month, when announcing charges against Smollett.
JOHNSON: And why this stunt was orchestrated by Smollett, because he was dissatisfied with his salary, so he concocted a story about being attacked.
YOUNG: Chicago's mayor livid over the outright absence of fault in the undetermined case.
EMANUEL: Where is the accountability in the system? You cannot have because of a person's position one set of rules apply to them and another set of rules apply to everybody else.
YOUNG: And, Erin, just think about this. The police department and the mayor's office pretty much finding out today the same time we did the charges were dropped, so many questions about this case that's played out in the public. Look, the charges are now filed away. We can't even go and look at the case itself to find out all the evidence police have.
The two men who are the center of this, those brothers, they may have the key, because they may have the text messages they could share with the world between Jussie and themselves. That might be the only way we see everybody that happened in this case.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Ryan.
A criminal defense attorney, Paul Martin, is with me.
Here's the thing -- you hear the headline here and people say, all charges dropped, does that mean he's innocent. Now, they're not saying that at all. They're saying he's guilty as sin, they have everything, but choosing to drop charges. How does this make sense? PAUL MARTIN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It makes sense in that if it
was some transparency in the situation, you would be able to understand. If they went forth before the judge and said listen, the reason we're doing this is for X, Y and Z, that's what happened.
You know, when you go in most courtrooms in this country, it says justice is blind. This is justice with a wink, if you have a notoriety, if you have money, if you have political connections. Cases will go away. And that's the problem in this situation. It doesn't give us confidence in the criminal justice system.
BURNETT: No, it doesn't at all. And Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is livid about it, as well. Here's what he just said a few moments ago on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL: You and I are both Jewish. If on your front door there was a swastika or mine, and found out weeks later after all the empathy that either you or I had put that swastika on our door, we would get off of two days with service at the Anti-Defamation League? Really? That's what would happen here?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN: Probably. That's probably what would happen. Listen, this case struck a chord because of the underlying tone of racism and homophobia in this country.
And I understand what Mayor Emanuel says by raising the swastika situation. But until we can in this country address racism in a real way, having conversations where we're not hiding from it --
MARTIN: -- things like this are going to continue to divide us instead of bringing us together.
BURNETT: But we're not going to know why they dropped these charges. They didn't drop them because they say he's evidence. The proof was pretty damning, no question about that. It's a matter of was he connected to somebody or who knows.
MARTIN: It may have been a back door type of thing. All we know is that the discharge minutes will not be presented so we'll never hear what really transpired in this case.
BURNETT: Wow, which is really frustrating and everyone should be frustrated by that. Paul, thank you very much.
MARTIN: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, the Southwest Boeing 737 MAX just forced to make an emergency landing, the same plane model after two deadly crashes.
Plus, Jeanne on what should have been a giant leap for womankind foiled because there are not enough space suits.
BURNETT: Breaking news, 737 MAX 8, the same plane involved in two fatal crashes forced to make an emergency landing in the United States tonight. Southwest Airlines Flight 8701 was traveling from Orlando, Florida, to Victorville, California.
Shortly after takeoff, the pilots reported an issue with one of the engines. Here's what they told air traffic control.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
[07:50:01] PILOT: Tower, Southwest 870, we just lost our right engine, need to declare emergency. Fly heading 020.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: That plane was headed to California. It was going to be stored after the grounding of the 737 MAX jet.
Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.
I mean, Tom, look, it's pretty scary. The plane was going to be stored. Tell us what you can with this incident with 737 MAX.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, no one was on board and it seemed to involve one of the engines having some kind of a problem. They're going to look at the engine takeoff again. All of this suggests has nothing, nothing, nothing to do with the issues we've been talking about with Lion Air or the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
Still, it's one of those consequences that Boeing really doesn't want right now when they're under such scrutiny, Erin.
BURNETT: Right. I mean, you have the FBI involved. Criminal investigations and people looking at certification of the 737 itself. Tomorrow, the FAA is going to be facing tough directions on the Hill as well.
FOREMAN: Yes, absolutely. The acting director, Dan Elwell, will be there, and yes, he's going to get a lot of pressure from Congress. One of the chief questions being about this relationship between the FAA and Boeing and other airline operations out there -- is it too close? Are they letting them the do too much of the testing and certification?
The indication is that they're going to move toward different standards, particularly in light of the advances that are technologically making planes so different in the past, Erin. So, the FAA is saying it's going to step more in that direction. We don't have a lot of details on that yet but that will be a lot of the questioning. Did you look closely enough? Were you representing the public enough and were you putting enough pressure on this airline to make sure that everything they were doing was safe.
BURNETT: All right. Tom, thank you.
And now to campaign news, $315 billion is how much Senator Kamala Harris wants to spend to boost teacher salaries across the nation. She is speaking directly to an important voting blocs.
Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From inside the Oklahoma state capital, to a sea of red surrounding lawmakers in West Virginia. Teachers on strike saying they're underpaid, schools underfunded, from North Carolina to Los Angeles, walking off the job during a deluge, demanding a livable wage.
LAH: Seizing that fury --
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The investment will be our future.
LAH: Senator Kamala Harris announced her first major policy plan to increase teacher pay with federal dollars if she is elected president. Harris's plan would give the average teacher a $13,500 pay rise or 20 percent increase in pay using federal funds with a focus of high need public schools often in minority communities. For every $1 a state contributes to increasing pay, the federal government chips in three until the teacher pay gap is closed by the end of Harris' first term.
To get the federal funding, states would have to maintain their share at a total cost of $315 billion over ten years. Who pays the bill? The very richest Americans.
HARRIS: Basically extend the number of people that need to pay a estate tax. Multimillionaires can afford to pay more in terms of the estate tax. So, that's where it's going to come from.
LAH: The proposal targets a key Democratic constituency. Most teachers are college educated women, often women of color, the very middle class voters the Harris campaign believes could help her win the nomination.
RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: I think when you actually grow up middleclass or you grow up poor or you grow where your parents may be working paycheck to paycheck or there is a vulnerability, you understand that public schooling is key to your existence.
LAH: Teachers say Kamala Harris would be her hero should this happen. Ross went on strike last year in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The $6,000 raise after the strike helped but it's still not enough for her to quit driving Uber or waiting tables. She told CNN how tough it was when a student saw her at her second job. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said you really work hard. You work a lot of places don't you? He said you must be rich. And I said I sure am.
LAH: Ross is far from the only teacher that has to work in order to make ends meet even after the strike. Now, this is a proposal that could pay off for Harris in a key early state, South Carolina, a state that is plagued by rural, underfunded schools. Erin, every time I hear her talking about taking care of teachers in that state, there's often loud sustained applause.
[19:55:00] BURNETT: All right. Something a lot of people I know would support.
All right. Kyung, thank you.
And OUTFRONT next, if they put a person on the moon, it happened to be a man, right? Why can't they make enough space suits for women now because there's women up there? As many as men. Jeanne has the story.
BUNRETT: Tonight they ran out of spacesuits. Here's Jeanne.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you ask, does my spacesuit make me look fat? The answer is yes, whether you're a man or a woman, but when it comes to two women --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houston, we have a problem.
MOOS: The problem being not enough size medium space suits on board for two women to take the first all female space walk. Anne McClain and Christina Koch were scheduled to go outside and change batteries on the International Space Station.
CHRISTINA KOCH, ASTRONAUT: I'm a geek at heart.
ANNE MCLAIN, ASTRONAUT: I'm still a total nerd now, but, hey, nerds get to go to space.
MOOS: And got her first walk in space march 22nd with a male astronaut. She's the one wearing red stripes.
But with both women scheduled to go space walking Friday, there weren't enough size medium suits to go around. That launches tweets like we can put a man on the moon but we can't put a woman in a space suit?
Even Hillary Clinton chimed in, make another suit.
Some fun facts about spacesuits. First, they're not actually custom- fitted to each astronaut. The ones currently being used were designed over 40 years ago. It
could cost as much as $250 million to create a new suit from scratch. Turns out they do have a second size medium suit on board the space station but prepping it takes time. They didn't think they would need it because Anne trained on the ground wearing medium and large suits. But when she went on her first real space walk, she thought the medium fit better.
Christina is now being paired to go space walking with a larger male astronaut. When you have the option of just switching the people, the mission becomes more important than a cool milestone, NASA told "The New York Times".
At least there's nothing wrong with getting caught wearing the same outfit.
NEIL ARMSTRONG, ASTRONAUT: That's one small step for man --
MOOS: One size medium for two women.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: Time for the Starliner. Thank you for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.