Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Says FBI And DOJ To Review Jussie Smollett Case; Chicago Mayor Says Trump Stay Out of Chicago; Adam Schiff Clashes with Republicans in Russia Hearing; Nancy Pelosi Says Congress Will Not Be Ignored on Mueller Report. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 28, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Sent to the nurse's station? We know that the other student has been suspended. No criminal charges filed, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Victor, thank you for that. That is it for me. "newsroom" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me. We begin with growing questions and outrage in the Jussie Smollett case over why the cook county state's attorney, the office there decided to drop all 16 felony charges and now you have the President of the United States weighing in on this announcing an FBI and Justice Department review into this case, and for the very first time we're hearing from the prosecutor who recused herself from the case and who's office decided to drop all the charges. Kim Fox admits there was enough evidence to find Smollett guilty. The radio reporter who conducted that interview is WBEZ's Rob Wildeboer.

Thank you for being with me. Let's listen to the sound. OK. I thought we had the sound. Let's go to your interview with Ms. Fox. You say -- she says there's a lot of confusion, the chance Smollett would have gotten a prison sentence if convicted was slim. How does she explain that?

ROB WILDEBOER, SENIOR EDITOR OF NEWS, WBEZ, CHICAGO: I think the bigger issue here is one of what happens I think what Fox and my own experience reflects this as well what Fox would say is disposing of cases efficiently and quickly in the criminal justice system. Our criminal justice system has gotten very, very good at pushing through these cases, and so, you know, Cook County courts which includes Chicago and then the Cook County suburbs, they put thousands and thousands and thousands of cases through the court system every year and many of those are disposed of relatively early. I think this case is earlier than a lot of them so this one went particularly fast, but Kim Fox said, look, a lot of them we know before the first hearing how we're going to dispose of this case and it's done before it even really goes to court.

BALDWIN: It is incredible, though, to think back weeks ago and even just a couple days ago when you think of the words of Eddie Johnson the police superintendent and the mayor and the anger. You asked this great question, which is if she's worried, if Kim Fox is worried at all about the effect this decision may have on that relationship between the cook county prosecutors and police. I'm curious what she told you.

WILDEBOER: Her argument was that, look, we work with police all the time, every single day on these thousands of cases every year that we're just talking about, tens of thousands of cases. Her take was that this should not kind of dictate the nature of the relationship because this is just one case in a very -- aberration in so many ways in our criminal justice system --

BALDWIN: Hang on. She says should not. You are there. You cover Chicago. How will it not? Do you think that's inevitable?

WILDEBOER: I don't think there's like, you know -- there's going to be a door slammed on this relationship because it just can't be. The fact is when -- when Kim Fox was running for office, she ran as a progressive who was going to implement criminal justice reform, who was not going to try to use the criminal justice system just to imprison men. We admittedly -- most of the country now agrees that we have a problem with mass incarceration in this country and so that's what she came into office promising and so there was already going to be some kind of tension between her philosophy and what you might call a more traditional law and order philosophy that you might find in a police department, so that relationship is always going to be -- there's going to be some tension there, and, in fact, historically in Chicago, there has not been enough tension in the relationship between Chicago and prosecutors. A lot of people believe they work too closely hand in hand where prosecutors have maybe taken cases that they shouldn't have or pushed forward on cases when they should've pushed the police department to do more investigation or most notoriously there was a torture scandal here in Chicago over the '70s and '80s involving 100 men who were tortured at the hands of police and that is welcome documented history now and prosecutors were in a lot of those interrogation rooms and didn't come out. Historically, that relationship has always been fraught and complicated.

BALDWIN: Noteworthy. I appreciate the response and we have the sound now. Hear is Kim Fox.


[14:05:00] KIM FOX, COOK COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY: The likelihood that someone would get a sentence for felony is slim. Mr. Smollett forfeited his $10,000 bond. Mr. Smollett completed community service and how he chooses to spin why he did those things, what I can tell you is that most people who come through the criminal justice system don't give up $10,000 of their hard-earned money or engage in volunteer services connected with an alleged offense without viewing that as a way of being held accountable.


BALDWIN: Again, the voice there of Kim Fox. When asked about President Trump's tweets, Smollett's attorney says, she isn't worried about another inquiry.


TINA GLANDIAN, SMOLLETT'S ATTORNEY: We have nothing to be concerned about because there was nothing on our end to request this, to do anything improper and nothing improper was done.


BALDWIN: And while Chicago mayor is among the officials pressing the review, he's not welcoming any involvement from President Trump and here's why.


RAHM EMANUEL, MAYOR OF CHICAGO: I've always said from day one this is a Trump-free zone the city of Chicago and I mean it. Let me be really clear about something. The only reason Jussie Smollett thought he could take advantage of a hoax for a hate crime is because of the toxic environment that Donald Trump created. My recommendation to the President, go to opening day baseball, sit on the sideline, stay out of this.


BALDWIN: Emanuel says the city of Chicago deserves an apology from Jussie Smollett. The mayor says he will send him a bill for wasting his city's resources if he doesn't show any remorse.

Matt Fakhoury is a criminal defense attorney and a former prosecutor for the very same counties there, Cook County. Cheryl Dorsey is a retired L.A.P.D. police sergeant. So, thank you for being on with me and Matt, just starting with you, Smollett is still -- saw him the other day in the courthouse -- claiming his innocence. Others, the other side points to evidence to the contrary. Why wouldn't both sides want this thing to go to trial?

MATT FAKHOURY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY AND A FORMER PROSECUTOR: A case like this with his type of background and what occurred is typical that a case like this wouldn't necessarily go to trial. A trial is longer, it's more expensive. There are many risks on both sides, so a resolution of some type is typical in a case like this, a trial isn't necessarily the common thing that occurs in a situation like this.

BALDWIN: But what about, you guess, a next step, you know, if you maintain your innocence and, you know, folks on the other side are pointing to a grand jury and the 16 felony counts, and we know those documents were sealed like that, if you're innocent, don't you want to say here, read it all, here's all the evidence, this is why I'm innocent?

FAKHOURY: Well, it's easy to say you're innocent when the documents are sealed, so I mean, the fact that it's sealed and not expunged, by the way, which means that the police and the FBI and other government agencies still have access to it. The fact that it's sealed does make it difficult for the public to access this and you could say whatever you want because you know that certain people mainly the public do not have access to sealed record. So essentially, he could make whatever claims he wants, but nobody's really going to be able to see those actual police reports at this point now that it's been sealed.

BALDWIN: Cheryl, on the police side of things, listening to superintendent Johnson's first press conference, he estimated that police spent 23 days on this whole investigation, more than 100 individuals will be sending him a bill. Can you just estimate ballpark it for me how much that would have cost the police department?

CHERYL DORSEY RETIRED LA POLICE SERGEANT: Listen, I couldn't tell you. Let's just say that, you know, police officers make about, you know, 55, $65 an hour times, you know, 12 hours, 24 hours a day times x amount of weeks, you do the math. It's a lot of money and so there's going to be a price to pay long-term with regards to this and I understand why they're upset and whether or not they'll have a complete recovery and a good relationship with the prosecutor going forward is questionable. They have a symbiotic relationship, they depend on one another. Prosecutors don't drop cases like this just cause. Jussie Smollett got the homie hook up because he had a defense team that did their job. They did what they were supposed to do. Because of his celebrity, joe q citizen, me if I had done that, I promise you I'd be sitting in court right now and if I were innocent as Jussie says he is, I would want to sit in court right now, forever more there is an asterisk after his name. There are people that will always believe he was guilty. And I think he was that's why he said keep that ten grand on your way out the door.

[14:10:00] BALDWIN: That is why people are saying there are two different justice systems in this country, for the more famous Jussie Smollett's of the world and for the folks that will never see that sort of justice. What about the brothers, Cheryl, those Nigerian brothers? They were a key part of this whole investigation. They finally broke in that 47th hour, they could hold them. They were never charged as conspirators. Why do you think we haven't heard from them?

DORSEY: They will let one go to get the bigger fish and that's what they did. Listen, there was a $35,000 payment made. We know that because we saw the check. The brothers say their training fees are only $20 an hour, so I think they've already been financially made whole, if you will. There's no responsibility for them to come forward or say anything. They're doing the right thing. They're out of it and sitting back and just looking and maybe shopping right now.

BALDWIN: Who knows? We have not heard from them, but a lot of people at the time thinking why wouldn't they have been charged in this whole thing. I want to thank the two of you very much for coming on this case. Now this --


REP. ADAM SCHIFF(D), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: 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.


BALDWIN: Fireworks today as House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee demand their Chairman Adam Schiff resign. We'll show you more of what happened and we've only seen what's the cliff notes but at least we know one thing, the mysterious Mueller report is 300 pages long. Hear what the Attorney General is refusing to do.

And new polls show, Mayor Pete Buttigieg just got a big bump. We'll tell you why. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: Just days after Attorney General Bill Barr released his conclusion from that Mueller report, the President's son-in-law and special adviser Jared Kushner just left a closed-door interview on Capitol Hill with the Senate intelligence committee. This meeting is part of the committee's work to interview witnesses. Jared Kushner first appeared in 2017.

To the other intelligence committee here where there were some fireworks today, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff is refusing to budge on his belief that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia and now Republicans on that same committee, along with the President say, he needs to resign now. President Trump said it in a tweet while House Republicans said it in a letter. All of it prompting a fiery response from the California Democrat, so here's how it all went down.


REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Your actions both is past and President are incompatible with your duty as 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 with your constitutional ability and ask for your easy rig nation. This letter is signed by all nine members of the Republican side of the House of the committee and I ask unanimous consent that it be entered into today's hearing. I yield back.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF(D), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: Without objection. I'm going to turn to our witnesses who are at the hearing today, 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's 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 had 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 that 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 in 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 they're 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's OK that the President has reported to have helped dictate that lie. You might think that's OK. I don't.

[14:20:00] 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 date 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 emails 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, 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 Guccifer 2 and WikiLeaks and that's considered a hostile intelligence agency. You might think that it's 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's 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.


BALDWIN: Carrie Cordero and there you have, chairman Schiff's response, his defense. My question to you is, do you think Republicans and this President are succeeding in trying to convince people that the Mueller report and the Barr report are one in the same?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There certainly seems to be a sustained public relations effort for them to take what the Attorney General did which was deliver a summary letter to Congress consistent with what he promised he would do, that he would be transparent when he could, letting them know that he received the report and including what he deemed to be the top level findings, but they haven't seen the report yet and the Attorney General has committed to be able to review the report, remove the information that needs to be reviewed given different legal requirements and Justice Department guidelines and then actually release as much of the report as he can and we need to see that process take place. It needs to take place quickly but they are seizing on these top-level findings that he's portrayed and they are using them, basically, as a political weapon.

BALDWIN: I want to come back to that point, the transparency point, but when you hear -- CNN has confirmed. Everyone's been wondering how long this report is. The Mueller report we've learned is more than 300 pages, so you have a roughly two-year investigation, 300-page report, does that sound about right to you, first and foremost?

CORDERO: It really does. The report needs to explain the prosecutorial decisions. What I expect it will do is explain the prosecutorial decisions made over the period of two years. As we saw there were substantial charges and indictments brought throughout that period of time, so I think that sounds right. I think the page number could go up if the additional exhibits or attachments are included with that, so I think it sounds about right.

BALDWIN: Now, you have the House Judiciary Chair, Jerry Nadler saying that Barr told them -- they talked last night -- saying they can't meet this deadline of April 2nd to release this report and I'm wondering because you talk about getting the report out and the transparency, but I was talking to a law professor the other day who I thought made a great point saying Democrats shouldn't they be patient and wait for Barr to really go through all of this and do all of this properly because if you rush, rush, rush, isn't the -- you're going to redact more if you're rushing, right, and we all want to see more therefore it should be done right even if it takes a little bit longer.

CORDERO: It needs to be done right. That does need to happen. I understand from a political standpoint the Democrats desire to get it out quickly so I think there's some period of time -- I think they need to give it at least a week or so to see what the Attorney General can do, but it really is being used politically, the fact that the Attorney General submitted this summary and what we just saw with Congressman Schiff and at the House intelligence committee, it was really having damaging political effects and I would argue national security effects. We are witnessing the House Intelligence Committee imploding.

[14:25:05] I didn't think that the environment on that committee could get any worse or any lower than it did in 2018 when Devin Nunes, the now ranking member, brushed the declassification of material over the objection of the FBI director and put out a misleading memorandum regarding national security information and now they have used these -- the findings from the Attorney General to now put this committee into an even darker place. The hearing today was supposed to be about Russian intelligence activities. Chairman Schiff's first hearing was on the rise of an authoritarianism. This committee is getting to the point where it's going to have no credibility based on the partisanship that the members are bringing to it.

BALDWIN: The politics of it all. Carrie Cordero. I know a lot of people are going to be waiting for that day. Thank you very much. We'll have that conversation when that happens.

There was another fiery hearing today this one involving Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. See what happened when she defended cuts to the Special Olympics after Democrats challenged her and another day another Democrat entering the race for President. What this means for the increasingly crowded field.