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Amy Klobuchar Announces Infrastructure Plan; No Trump Administration Health Care Proposal?; Jussie Smollett Under Fire. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 28, 2019 - 15:00   ET




BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Taylor then apologized.

TAYLOR SMITH, DEFENDANT: I would like to sincerely apologize to Jordan Holgerson, her family and friends for the pain and humiliation I have caused by my mindless action that occurred last summer.

Although it may seem like my intent was to harm, or even though I have moved on without putting any punishment on myself, this is false. Jordan has passed through my thoughts repetitively since the incident.


BALDWIN: The judge then sentenced Taylor to two days in jail and 38 days on a work detail. And, as Jordan looked on, Taylor was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom to serve her sentence.

We continue on. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

A tension-filled, emotionally charged hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives today, where lawmakers squared off over President Trump and Russia and the word collusion. You have in one corner House Intel Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who believes collusion did, in fact, happen between the Trump campaign and Russia, no matter what Attorney General Bill Barr believes, and in the other corner, this growing number of Republicans who want Chairman Schiff booted from his job.

The president taking to Twitter to express his views this morning and Intel Republicans followed up this afternoon with this:


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: We should not be used as a platform to spread false information and bizarre conspiracies. This committee was created to oversee the intelligence community, not serve as a tribunal launching frivolous accusations, investigations of one party's political opponent.

REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R), TEXAS: You further stated you will continue to investigate the counterintelligence issues. That is, is the president or people around him compromised in any way by a hostile foreign power?

your willingness to continue to promote a demonstrably false narrative is alarming. As such, we have no faith in your ability to discharge your duties in a manner consistent with your constitutional responsibility and urge your immediate resignation as chairman of the committee.


BALDWIN: Congressman Schiff fired back at the personal attack and also at how Republicans have responded to these collusion claims.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: 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.

But I don't think it's OK. I think it's immoral. I think it's unethical. I think it's unpatriotic. And, yes, I think it's corrupt and evidence of collusion.

I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is OK. And the day we do think that's OK is the day we will look back and say that is the day America lost its way.


BALDWIN: Let's go to CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Had a guest on last hour who said it seemed to her that the House Intel Committee is imploding. You tell me what leadership on both sides is saying.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's been -- this partisan warfare has been going on since the last Congress.

You will recall, at that time, Devin Nunes was chairman of the committee. Democrats were furious about the way he conducted the Russia investigation. He went off and did his own investigation the Democrats viewed as partisan grandstanding.

Now a turning of the tides, if you will, that Adam Schiff is now chairman of the committee. Now, Pelosi, defending Adam Schiff, called Nunes' behavior in the last Congress almost criminal, even as Republicans called Adam Schiff a disgrace, that he should resign from his chairmanship.

This back and forth just growing, as Democrats plan to move forward with an investigation into the president, into potential collusion that Adam Schiff believes still exists, as well as whether the president was compromised in any way.

But what we heard from the leadership just moments ago was a defense of Adam Schiff from the Democratic side and an attack against him from the Republicans.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I'm so proud of the work of Chairman Adam Schiff. What is the president afraid of? Is he afraid of the truth, that he would go after a member, a chairman of a committee, a respected chairman of the committee in the Congress? I think they're just scaredy-cats.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: All Americans should be concerned with a chairman of the House Intelligence Committee taking the position of judge and jury.

It's now up to Nancy Pelosi to remove Chairman Schiff. We need to restore the trust in the Intelligence Committee.


RAJU: Now, Democrats are saying they're not convinced yet that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government even after the letter from Bill Barr, who quoted Bob Mueller, saying that the Mueller investigation did not establish conspiracy -- conspiracy or coordination between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government as part of their interference effort in the 2016 elections.


I asked Pelosi directly whether or not she believes there was no collusion. She did not answer that, but she demanded the release of the full Mueller report. So we will see that fight come to a head in the coming days here, Brooke.

BALDWIN: We will. Manu, thank you very much.

In Chicago, the attorneys for "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett are doubling down on his innocence and now say that he is the one who's owed an apology, specifically from the mayor of Chicago.

Rahm Emanuel is among the officials pressing for an investigation into why the state's attorney general dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett. But when President Trump announced this unexpected FBI and Justice Department review via Twitter, Mayor Emanuel said, Mr. President, stay out of this.


RAHM EMANUEL (D), MAYOR OF CHICAGO: I have 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 about a hate crime is because of the environment, the toxic environment that Donald Trump created.

My recommendations to the president, go to opening day baseball, sit on the sideline, stay out of this.


BALDWIN: CNN's Ryan Young has been following the story, this ever- evolving story there for us in Chicago.

And so, Ryan, let's just start with Smollett's attorneys. What are they now saying?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they sort of are hitting back at all of this

I think they have been sitting here watching as everybody's been talking about this and they are sort of hitting back. Just take a listen to this. They say they actually feel it's the police chief and the mayor who owe Jussie Smollett an apology for dragging an innocent man's character through the mud. Jussie has paid enough.

There is from the lawyer for Jussie Smollett. So just imagine that. That is so much pent-up emotion when it comes to this story. People are still talking about it, especially on the streets of Chicago. And we found out that, apparently, the police union plans to have a demonstration.

They're going to have a protest outside the court Monday morning. So, now you see this action also happening as well. So a lot of people want to know how these 16 charges got dropped. So much emotion involved. And the mayor wasn't done with what he wants. In fact, take a listen to the mayor talking about the idea of sending a bill to Jussie Smollett.


EMANUEL: The police are assembling the cost. They will do that and then the Corporation Council of the city of Chicago will communicate to Jussie Smollett and his legal team about recouping that cost in that effort.

And given that he doesn't feel any sense of contrition and remorse, my recommendation is when he writes the check, in the memo section, he can put the word, "I'm accountable for the hoax."


YOUNG: I think people really feel a certain kind of way about the way Jussie gave that news conference after the charges were dropped.

Now, of course, today a lot of lawyers were in court trying to make sure those records weren't sealed. And now we're told that Jussie's team will not try to have those records sealed, so maybe soon we will get to see some of the evidence from the police department.

Of course, now you have this tweet from Donald Trump that's floating out there about the FBI and the DOJ maybe reviewing this case as well. We were talking to some of our sources and they say that actually might happen. We were told that last night before the tweet.

But the whole look here now might be on the Osundairo brothers, because we know they were the ones who gave police all this information that helped them come up with that 16-count indictment. Will those brothers ever talk, Brooke?

Will they ever give us the information about how this all unfolded? Will they tell us who maybe sent the letters to Jussie as well? They may be the key to this, because I think there's so many people in the public, myself included in this, who want to know exactly what happened that night.

We might not know all the information, but we want to get to a point where we know how did three men end up on a sidewalk, somebody toss a rope on somebody's neck and then it go from there to now being called a hoax?

That is the big question right now that people want answered.

BALDWIN: Maybe we hear from the brothers. Maybe to your point, they unseal some of that evidence, and that becomes a little bit more clear.

Ryan Young, thank you so much.

Let's have a bigger discussion.

Nischelle Turner is host of "Entertainment Tonight" and also a CNN contributor. And Scott Nevins, he is an LGBTQ advocate and a contributor to Logo's NewNowNext.

Good to see you both of you.

And, my friend, Nischelle, I want to start with you here, because I know you have come across Jussie Smollett in your job a few times.


BALDWIN: It's my understanding you talked to him shortly after the focus of the investigation shifted. What did you make of when he was standing there in the courthouse maintaining in front of the crush of cameras his innocence, saying that he wants to continue out speaking out for marginalized people?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That didn't surprise me to know that he spoke out.

If you know Jussie and his history, his family's history, they have a history of activism. He's always been an outspoken individual. And the fact that he's maintained his innocence from the very beginning, I didn't see him changing course at that point.

So I think that, after that hearing, his team honestly thought that was the end of it. They thought they could make a statement, it would be the end of it, the charges would be dropped, and they could go about the business of trying to gain his life and his career back.


But that didn't happen. We are now in almost a deeper hole today than we were when this whole thing first began

So I'm just not sure where they go from here, but -- because I think every time he zigs, someone else zags, and then we end up back in this spot where we're all asking what happened.

BALDWIN: Scott, what do you think about what we know of what happened and how is this case specifically resonating in the gay community?

SCOTT NEVINS, LGBTQ ADVOCATE: Well, to answer your first question, this whole thing is a mess. It's a disaster.

And I wish his legal team would just be quiet. I think they're making it worse. This is why you see Donald Trump tweeting and you see people coming out against him. I think they should've just stayed quiet and said, thanks, whatever happened, and ran away.


NEVINS: But now you have the LGBTQ community, which I can't speak for all of them, but I will say, the consensus is, we're angry. We're angry at how this was handled.

We're angry that this may be true that Jussie staged this. And people are terrified that this makes it much harder for real victims to come out and tell their story. And that's the bigger story.


BALDWIN: I want to ask you about that.


TURNER: Can I speak to that?


BALDWIN: Please, Nischelle, go ahead.

TURNER: I maintain still. And it really -- I got to push back a little bit, because I have been hearing people say that over and over again.

And I hear you, Scott, but I do have to think that if someone is not going to believe a victim because Jussie Smollett said something, you didn't want to believe those victims anyway.

NEVINS: I agree.

TURNER: And I think that we should really be careful when we attach that to this and say, now I'm afraid what's going to happen here, because if you don't believe someone that a hate crime has been committed against because Jussie Smollett said something, you didn't want to believe those people, you didn't want to be an advocate for them in the first place.

I think that's a bit of an easy out.


NEVINS: Yes, thank you.

I wasn't using it as an easy out. Actually, that was the second part of my statement. So, I agree with you.

And I think what is scary, though, is that, in this temperature that we're in with this country, we have seen a huge rise in hate crimes against LGBTQ citizens.

BALDWIN: Absolutely.

NEVINS: And that's what's terrifying. That's the larger issue here.

So, whether Jussie wants to be a spokesperson or not or say he wants to advocate, whatever he wants to do at this point, fine, but I'm saying the larger story is, we have LGBTQ people being attacked almost daily in America, and people are now thinking this makes it harder for victims to tell their story.

I agree. If you supported people and come from the school I come from, which is always believe the victim, until proven otherwise, you are still going to do that. But for those doubters, those people who side with, you know, the right, saying oh, this was a big hoax and it's not real, that's a problem.

So, I say to Donald Trump, sure, let's do an investigation because you're bringing more light on to LGBTQ hate crimes. And I love that, because let's talk about those more.

BALDWIN: What about, Nischelle, his career, next steps? We know he was cast out of those last two episodes of "Empire" for this season, but his co-star Taraji Henson told "USA Today" -- quote -- "I'm happy the truth has finally been set free because I knew it all along. We're all happy for him and thank God the truth prevailed."

Do you think Hollywood now, will Hollywood welcome him back with open arms?

TURNER: Well, Hollywood has forgiven a lot worse. I will just use Mel Gibson as an example, Brooke, and they have -- Hollywood has welcomed him back. He's now an award-winning director once again and making incredible movies and people are eager to work with him again.

So, I do think that there could be a path forward for him. In this environment where it is right now, it's very toxic. I do still think that a lot of his cast members support him. There are some that probably don't. We haven't heard them speak as loudly, so I think they're split there.

Where he goes from here, I think that Jussie has to worry about the legal part first and then worry about the career much later. Right now, I agree with Scott. I think that his team needs to be quiet. He needs to just maybe take a step back and just not be heard of and heard from.

BALDWIN: Lay low for a minute and then worry about career second.

Nischelle and Scott, thank you both.

NEVINS: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, the White House admitting it has no new plan to replace Obamacare, despite President Trump's plans to get rid of it entirely.

And 2020 contender Senator Amy Klobuchar rolls out a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. We will break down how she says she would pay to fix roads and schools and connect every home in the U.S. to the Internet.

And Puerto Rico's governor is hitting back hard at President Trump over disaster aid in this exclusive interview with CNN, saying that he will -- quote -- "punch the bully in the mouth."



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Just days after the Justice Department said it supports eliminating Obamacare, the White House says it does not have a fresh proposal to replace it, but a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence tells CNN that the Trump administration will send one to Congress this year.

For his part, President Trump seems to think it'll all work out just fine for the estimated 20 million Americans who would be affected.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to do great. We're going along with Texas. We're winning the case and we're going to have great health care. The Republican Party will be the party of great health care. You watch.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: And preexisting conditions and choices?

TRUMP: All included. We are going to have preexisting conditions, absolutely.

(END AUDIO CLIP) BALDWIN: But my next guest says the president's first step should be to understand how the U.S. health care system works, along with a slew of other policies, domestic, foreign, that are just part of the job.

His name is Brian Klaas. He is an assistant professor of global politics at University College London. And his latest "Washington Post" op-ed is titled, "We need to stop giving Trump a pass on his ignorance."

Brian, good to have you on.



BALDWIN: All right, so you say this president is savvy enough to never showcase his ignorance and that he dances around his blind spots.

I want to hear from you, what do you think this president's biggest blind spots are?

KLAAS: Well, it's -- there's a variety of them.

On health care, there's very basic questions that he can't answer. So his own aides in the campaign said that he frequently mistook Medicare for Medicaid. A Republican senator in 2017 went to meet with Trump about the Senate bill and said that he didn't understand basic components of it.

And at one point in a 2017 interview, Trump said that you buy health insurance for $12 a year and then eventually you get it when you're 70, which left everybody scratching their heads, because anyone who buys private health insurance knows it's not the same as the price of three lattes from Starbucks.

So, on the domestic front, there's that. Then, on the foreign front, when he talks about NATO, he thinks that there's some sort of fund that you pay into, 2 percent of your GDP, like it's this piggy bank, when, in fact, it's actually 2 percent of domestic -- sorry -- 2 percent of GDP is what these countries have pledged to spend on military budgets.

Whether it's foreign policy or domestic policy, he can't grasp basic facts. And so I think he needs to face harder questions that are simply fact-based that he can't wriggle out of.

BALDWIN: Let me -- on the foreign policy piece -- and you bring up a line that, oh, my gosh, it feels like forever ago, the whole what is Aleppo? This was a libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, and his whole infamous what is Aleppo when he was asked about Syria.

So, in your piece, you take it a step further, and you posit that Trump probably doesn't know what or where Aleppo is. So why do you think, though, President Trump gets away with not always knowing the facts? KLAAS: Because he's not asked questions that require fact-based responses. He's asked questions like, what are your thoughts on Syria?

And then he will say something like, oh, we will see what happens. I'm talking to a lot of people. And then he will move on to the next question.

I think he needs to be asked questions like, which countries border Syria, right, which is a basic fact that somebody making American foreign policy in relation to a country that's one of the biggest conflicts in the world should absolutely know. And some people might say that's a gotcha question, but it's only a gotcha question if you don't know basic facts about U.S. foreign policy.

The analogy I use in the piece is, if you have ever forgotten someone's name, you often pretend that do remember, but if they ask you, what is my name, you cannot change the subject. And I think Trump needs to face more questions that require him to provide direct factual responses.

BALDWIN: I will say, just for journalists, wanted to ask the tough questions, but when you have these not so-daily-press briefings or the president calls upon certain more conservative outlets, right, in those massive news conferences, or if he only goes on one conservative cable news network, the opportunity just doesn't present itself.

But, Brian Klaas, I hear you.


KLAAS: So...

BALDWIN: Go ahead, quickly.

KLAAS: Yes, I agree with you.

But I think there could be more work where journalists work together to say, look, whenever you call on me, if he deflects it, the next journalist will pick up that same question...

BALDWIN: Pick up the follow-up.

KLAAS: ... and asked a direct, yes, fact-based question.

BALDWIN: Brian Klaas, thank you very much.

KLAAS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next: one trillion dollars to fix your roads and rebuild your schools. That is the ambitious new plan from 2020 Democrat Amy Klobuchar, but is it enough to send her to the front of the pack?

And we are just getting word that the president is choosing a FOX contributor to replace the former FOX contributor who was the spokeswoman at the State Department. Stand by for details.



BALDWIN: Just into CNN, a senior administration official says President Trump is expected to select a FOX News contributor, Morgan Ortagus, as the new State Department spokesman.

She would replace Heather Nauert, who also had previously worked for FOX. Nauert left the position after she was slated to be nominated as the new U.S. ambassador to the U.N., but later withdrew herself from consideration there.

The official cautions, while Ortagus is expected to be selected, she has not officially been named.

Presidential candidate and Senator Amy Klobuchar did not land in the top five in a new poll on Democratic contenders here, looking ahead to 2020, but she could pull ahead with her monster proposal on a platform that is a favorite with President Trump. I am talking infrastructure.

Senator Klobuchar wants to spend a trillion dollars on this, building up roads and railways and airports, rebuilding schools, insuring clean water. And on top of all of it, she wants to connect every house to the Internet by 2022.

And the senator explained to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux why it is infrastructure that she's choosing.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's been so long neglected, and someone has to take the lead on infrastructure. And why not the person that lives a mile away from the bridge that fell down in the middle of the country? And that's my first answer.

The second is, of course, health care. I have come out strongly for bringing down pharmaceutical prices and have introduced a number of bills. I'm a leading advocate. You can do two things at once.

But this is something where that there's common agreement, and there always has been. You need commitment from Congress to be able to pay for this. And I want to lay this out as a marker.


BALDWIN: With me now, CNN political analyst Lisa Lerer, who's also a national political reporter for "The New York Times."

And, Lisa, this is -- it's a huge idea. We know that the senator plans to pay for this by increasing in -- the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, closing the tax loopholes.