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Schiff & Republicans Square Off in Heated Confrontation; Sen. Bob Casey (D), of Pennsylvania Discusses Trump & Republican Calls for Schiff to Resign, the Muller Report, Extremism Online, Health Care; Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Stands Firm on Eliminating Federal Funds for Special Olympics. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 28, 2019 - 11:30   ET



[11:33:08] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It is a war of words and getting uglier between Republicans, the president and the House intelligence Chair Adam Schiff. The president started it off at least today on Twitter saying this, "Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowing and unlawfully lying and leaking" -- we don't have evidence of that, though -- "should be forced to resign from Congress."

A short time ago, Schiff faced off with Republicans on his committee in the middle of a committee hearing on this. Watch.


REP. MIKE CONAWAY, (R), TEXAS: Your actions, both past and present, are incompatible with your duty as the chairman of this committee, which alone in the House of Representatives has the obligation and authority to provide effective oversight of the U.S. Intelligence Community. As such, we have no faith in your ability to discharge your duties in a manner consistent with the responsibility and urge your immediate resignation as chairman of the committee. Mr. Chairman, this letter is signed by all nine members of the Republican side of the House -- of the committee, and I ask unanimous consent for it to be entered into the record of today's hearing.

I yield back.


[11:34:12] I'm going to turn to our witness today. But before I do, and as you have chosen, instead of addressing the hearing, to simply attack me, consistent with the president's attacks, I do want to respond in this way. My colleagues may think it is OK that the Russians offered dirt on a Democratic candidate for president as part of what was described as the Russian government's effort to help the Trump campaign. You might think that's OK. My colleagues might think it's OK that when that was offered to the son of the president, who played a pivotal role in the campaign, that the president's son did not call the FBI. He did not adamantly refuse that foreign help. No, instead, that son said he would love the help of the Russians. You might think it's OK that he took that meeting. You might think it's OK that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience of running campaigns, also took that meeting. You might think it's OK that the president's son-in-law also took that meeting. You might think it's OK that they concealed it from the public. You might think it's OK that their only disappointment after that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn't better. You might think that's OK. You might think it's OK that when it was discovered a year later, that they lied about that meeting and said it was about adoptions. You might think it is OK that the president was reported to have helped dictate that lie. You might think that's OK. I don't. You might think it's OK that the campaign chairman of a presidential campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian oligarch in exchange for money or debt forgiveness. You might think that's OK. I don't. You might think it's OK that that campaign chairman offered polling data, campaign polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence. I don't think that's OK. You might think it's OK that the president himself called on Russia to hack his opponent's e-mails if they were listening. You might think it's OK that later that day, in fact, the Russians attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign. I don't think that's OK. You might think that it's OK that the president's son-in-law sought to establish a secret back channel of communications with the Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility. I don't think that's OK. You might think it's OK that an associate of the president made direct contact with the GRU through Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks, that is considered a hostile intelligence agency. You might think it is OK a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile intelligence agency had to say in terms of dirt on his opponent. You might think it's OK that the national security adviser-designate secretly conferred with a Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions. And you might think it is OK he lied about it to the FBI. You might say that's all OK. You might say that's just what you need to do to win. But I don't think it's OK.


BOLDUAN: What does this have to do with the Mueller report? And what does it mean for what Congress will do now? We can see clear problems at least in that one committee.

Joining me right now Democratic Senator Bob Casey, of Pennsylvania.

Senator, thank you so much for being here.

What do you make of what's happening in the House right now? I mean, the president and some House Republicans say Adam Schiff lied so he should resign his position on the committee and even Congress.

SEN. BOB CASEY, (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Kate, I think it is a partisan smear job on Adam Schiff. I know him. I know him to be not only a very serious legislator who cares about the security of the country, but he was a federal prosecutor. He understands the rule of law. He understands not just what it takes to adhere to the rule of law, but also what undergirds our democracy. He is very concerned, as you can tell by that cataloging of troubling behavior, he is very concerned about what happened in the 2016 election. And he wants to make sure it never happens again. I hope that Republicans in the House and the Senate will at least make that commitment, that they will do everything in their power to never allow the Russians to interfere again and to never allow Americans to have that context. I don't care what it has to do with the element determination for this particular investigation. We should never allow the Russians to interfere in our elections. And the chairman understands that and he also understands the rule of law. He is not elected to be a partisan warrior. He is elected to be what he is, which is a legislator who cares about the security of the country, just as he did when he was a prosecutor.

BOLDUAN: When it comes to the Mueller report and what Democrats do now, Adam Schiff is saying -- had said that there's absolutely evidence of collusion. But the reality is no one knows because none of us have seen the actual Mueller report. We have the Bill Barr memo and his interpretation of it. We haven't seen it yet. Do you think it would be good for Democrats to slow down and pump the brakes on statements like that, though? Does it help you?

[11:40:13] CASEY: No. Part of the problem here is, I think, the terminology has gotten people off track. The investigation was launched to determine whether or not there was coordination or a conspiracy. Those are the two words. That other word has been used a lot but I will use coordination and conspiracy. Apparently, the finding is -- according to Attorney General Barr, that finding has now been made that there was no coordination and conspiracy. It is good for the country that that finding came out that way. We are a little safer if that's the case.

Here is the problem. We still have what is reported today, more than 300-page report that is sitting there that not only should members of Congress should see but the American people should see, to read every page and then make a determination. It might not have anything to do with criminal culpability or any kind of other follow-up actions. At least Americans need to know long before the next election what is in that report and then voters or citizenships as voters can make their own determinations. Got to see the report, though. We should see the backup evidence that undergirds any conclusion that was reached in the report, even if the conclusion doesn't speak directly to the coordination and conspiracy determination.

BOLDUAN: Much more to come, for sure, on that.

I want to ask you about another thing you are focused on, which is combatting -- it has to do with online, which has a lot to do with the Russia investigation -- but combatting hate and extremism online. You have a new bill out to study how these platforms are being used to fuel violence and hate. And understanding the problem is obviously important. Does Congress do you think need to do more at this point and go further at this point to put more pressure on the platforms like the Facebook, like Twitter to tackle hate?

CASEY: I think we can do this by way of this bill. All this bill does is two things. It asks for a study of these issues and it asks for recommendations consistent with the First Amendment. We did this way back in the early '90s, 1993 --


CASEY: -- where the Departments of Commerce and Justice worked together on the report for the then-telecommunications apparatus we had. Today, we have social media platforms that weren't around them. We are asking for another study, really an update because of the changes in technology, to study how this happens, where individuals go online and start literally planning attacks, started with hateful rhetoric. We need to study that, make determinations about what is happening on those platforms and then recommendations. I think we are starting to get some help on this. Facebook made an announcement yesterday about not allowing white supremacists to use the platform for that purpose. It is, frankly, overdue that we study this and make recommendations. And then we'll see where we are.


CASEY: This can be done to stop some of the violence we saw at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, as well as other places.

BOLDUAN: You are getting a lot of interest in it, especially amongst your colleagues. I noticed your bill has gotten pretty big interest from 2020 presidential contenders. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders signing on. Which has me wondering at this point, are you backing any particular candidate? It might hurt your chances with your bill, but would you like to share that today?

CASEY: I am always happy for co-sponsors whether they are 2020 candidates or not.


BOLDUAN: It does make me wonder, do you hope that fellow Scranton, Pennsylvania, native, Joe Biden, jumps in the race?

CASEY: I hope he does. I don't know the final determination but I hope he does.

BOLDUAN: So another big issue -- I've said it and I think a lot of other reporters, I don't know how you feel about it -- but it's mind numbing that we're back in this debate, albeit, a very important debate -- the focus on health care. Nancy Pelosi was talking about it in her press conference. The president announced he wants to focus on health care, saying Republicans are going to be the party of health care.

I actually asked Senator Lindsey Graham about that yesterday. And let me play for you what he said.


BOLDUAN: The president says you will be the party -- Republicans will be the party of health care.


BOLDUAN: Do you want to run on health care in 2020? GRAHAM: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: What are you -- seriously, you do? Really, Senator?

GRAHAM: What do you think? Yes. We think --


BOLDUAN: Do you?

GRAHAM: Because Obamacare is failing.

BOLDUAN: Right, but Graham-Cassidy failed, as well.

GRAHAM: Well, it didn't make it through but it is a good idea. They want Socialism. We want Federalism. How do we ignore health care?


[11:45:07] BOLDUAN: What is your take on that? Graham's bill, despite his efforts, did fail last time in the Senate. There could be a variety of reasons. Could have been timing, procedural, and the fact that it went around committee. Regardless, what do you think of this reigniting debate broadly?

CASEY: First of all, I don't think a family who has a child with a profound disability covered by Medicaid, which would be devastated under any Republican plan -- Medicaid expansion would end completely. I don't think those families think that this is about Socialism. They want the health care they have. They want to have the protections. There's no question. I hope that Senator Graham and other Republicans will join us in lowering the cost of prescription drugs, lowering the cost of health care. But along the way, they should not be supporting a lawsuit which will devastate the lives of not just 21 million people who will lose coverage, but a lot of people along the way.

Here is another number which we should talk more about, Kate: Seven million people have lost their health care since the Trump administration started. They should work on getting every one of those seven million back on health care right away instead of supporting an extreme right-wing lawsuit that will take health care away from 21 million people and take protections away from about 150 million, 160 million Americans. If they're going to be the party of health care, they have some work to do.

BOLDUAN: Now the next fight. Who is the party of health care on Capitol Hill? Do Republicans want to take this on in 2020? Lindsey Graham says absolutely. So does Bob Casey.

Good to see you. Thank you so much.

CASEY: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is doubling down on the administration's proposal to stop funding the Special Olympics. The move could impact thousands of athletes. Her reasoning, she has them. One of those athletes is joining me next with his take.


[11:51:35] It is a new political battle. And caught in the middle is something that is well above politics, the Special Olympics. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, she today is standing firm behind her proposal to eliminate all federal funding for the Special Olympics. It's part of the Trump administration's plan to slash $7 billion from the Department of Education's budget. Devos arguing before Capitol Hill that the Special Olympics doesn't need federal backing because it very successfully raises funds through private contributions.

Some lawmakers and many athletes, though, disagree, including my next guest, Special Olympian Derek "Tank" Schottle.

Tank, thanks very much for coming in.


BOLDUAN: What did you think when you first heard -- when you first heard of this news?

SCHOTTLE: Well, it's a bit of a shock for me. I have no words to say that, really. I mean, all I can do is pray for Special Olympics, and that's all I can say.

BOLDUAN: Yes. For anyone out there who doesn't know, what has -- what is competing in the Special Olympics? What has it meant for you? What has it brought to your life?

SCHOTTLE: Special Olympics means a lot to me because it's the biggest thing in my life for the last 18 years. I blessed to compete in six different sports. I got to communicate with people from around the world. I get to communicate with people in social network for people out there, and I'm blessed to participate with my dad in the unified sports.

BOLDUAN: And you've competed in a lot of sports, as you mentioned. What's your favorite event at the Olympics?

SCHOTTLE: I like softball because I like to catch fly balls, I like to run, and I like to be part of the team.

BOLDUAN: You've mentioned a couple times that it's -- you felt really blessed. Why do you think the Special Olympics have been such a blessing in your life? What do you think it would mean if the Special Olympics wasn't possible anymore?

SCHOTTLE: I think in my opinion Special Olympics is a wonderful organization. And I'm very thankful to be part of a great organization, and I wanted to share my story out there for those people that wants to join Special Olympics, and I want the world to know that I'm just thankful to join Special Olympics. It's a part of my heart, and I love it very much, and I will continue to inspire a lot of people to join Special Olympics, and I hope we can -- and I hope I continue to inspire more people out there.

BOLDUAN: That's an important message. For those lawmakers in Washington who are in charge of making this decision about how much money the federal government would give to the Special Olympics, what do you want to tell them this morning?

SCHOTTLE: I mean, the only thing I could tell them is just -- I don't know what to say about that. The only thing I could tell them is I hope it doesn't happen. And that's the only thing I can say, really. That's the only thing I could say.

[11:55:18] BOLDUAN: Well, the only thing I can say is thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it. It's great to meet you.

SCHOTTLE: Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Have a good day.

We'll be right back, everyone.

SCHOTTLE: You, too.