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House Intel Committee Republicans Sign Letter Calling for Chairman Adam Schiff to Resign; Interview with Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) about the Russia Probe; Interview with Illinois State Representative Michael McAuliffe about Jussie Smollett Case; Puerto Rico's Governor Pushes Back Against President Trump. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 28, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] MATTINGLY: European autos. Pay attention to that. That's going to come up a lot.

All right. Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Brianna Keilar starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, the man who's holding the Mueller report won't commit to releasing more than just the cliff notes and Democrats are growing more impatient.

Nine years and still no concrete plan to replace Obamacare. But the president says kill it anyway, and we'll come up with something in a matter of months.

Plus, they dropped all charges but the prosecutors' explanations are not adding up and now the president says the feds will review the case of Jussie Smollett.

And the mayor on the rise. What to make of Pete Buttigieg's big bump in the polls.

We start now with fireworks on Capitol Hill, specifically inside the House Intelligence Committee hearing room where Republicans on the committee launched an attack Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff. They all signed a letter calling for his resignation and today they laid out their case.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: 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), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: 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 manner consistent with your constitutional responsibility and urge your immediate resignation as chairman of the committee.


KEILAR: Now Chairman Schiff fired back at his Republican colleagues with this.


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

But 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.


KEILAR: Senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill following all of this, and the chairman, Manu, just laid out the parameters of a new investigative focus for the committee looking at Russian influence on foreign policy. Take us through his position and the demands by Republicans on the committee.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Adam Schiff is not backing down in any way, despite the apparent finding from the special counsel, according to Bill Barr's letter, that he could not establish -- the special counsel's investigation did not establish the Trump campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government as part of its 2016 election interference here in the U.S.

Schiff has said all along that he believes that there was collusion that may not arise to the level of a criminal conspiracy that could be charged in court beyond a reasonable doubt, but he pointed out in that clip you just played a variety of meetings that have occurred over the last -- during the campaign season, other questionable activities to raise concerns about what the Trump campaign was up to back in 2016.

So Republicans have taken advantage and pointed to this letter to demand Schiff's resignation, saying that they do not have any faith in what Schiff is planning to do. And what he is planning to do is an investigation still into what Russia did back in 2016, also about whether there are any financial ties that the president may have to foreign interests, especially Russian interests. That's going to be a big focus of his committee. And when I asked him about that in the aftermath of the Bill Barr

letter, he made it very clear he plans to continue with that investigation. And just moments ago, Nancy Pelosi defending Adam Schiff, and attacked the former chairman, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes. She said Nunes' behavior in the last Congress was, quote, "almost criminal."

So you're hearing the rhetoric really intensify on both sides as Democrats are pushing to get the Mueller report and plan to push ahead in their own investigations even as the president calls Adam Schiff a disgrace -- Brianna.

KEILAR: We saw Jared Kushner, Manu, the president's son-in-law and special adviser, on the Hill today. What do we know about that?

RAJU: Yes. He came out of the room right behind me just about an hour ago.

[13:05:01] He met with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating also Russia interference in the 2016 election. Whether there was collusion is part of that investigation.

Kushner first met with this committee's staff back in 2017. This was pretty early on in the investigation. Since then, Democrats, in particular Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the committee, has wanted the senators to re-interview Kushner. They wanted -- the senators -- to sit down in the meeting, ask questions about developments that we have learned since that 2017 meeting.

This -- him coming today was not -- was a surprise. We saw him leaving this committee room, but he was not announced, this is not on the schedule, so it was a bit of a surprise this morning to see him on the Hill. But nevertheless, this is an indication, too, that this investigation coming somewhat to a close. It's been going on for two- plus years. Richard Burr, the chairman of the committee, said earlier that he expects this investigation to last weeks or months more in the aftermath of the Mueller investigation finishing.

For like everyone on Capitol Hill and everywhere else, they want to see the Mueller report so they know what else they may have to investigate -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Thank you.

And California Congresswoman Jackie Speier is joining me now. She is a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

And Congresswoman, you've been in this contentious hearing. Tell me what your reaction to Republicans calling for Chairman Schiff to resign.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: There is a viciousness in this hearing that I have not seen before on the level that it went on. I'm very glad it was a public hearing. The American people have every right to hear from experts about how willing Russia is to intervene again in our 2020 election. I think that what happened today was a scripted program by the president of the United States who tweeted this morning about Mr. Schiff, and then all of the members spent most of their time, rather than questioning the witnesses we have, trying to beat up on the chairman once again.

Ironically, it was the Republican chair of the committee who had to recuse himself. He willingly recused himself because his involvement with the White House during the original investigation was called out. So this is -- and we never asked that he be taken off the committee. So this was an overreach. It started at the presidency and I think pretty transparent.

KEILAR: This committee, the House Intel Committee, has become so politicized in an unprecedented way. And because of that, it's really lost its credibility as an independent arbiter of what American intelligence has found.

Do you worry that it makes it impossible for the committee to do its job and to be believed about anything as this committee -- it's become politicized on both sides of the aisle? Do you worry it can't do its job?

SPEIER: I actually think we can do our job. We must do our job. But we first and foremost swear that we will uphold the Constitution of the United States. What came out of this hearing today that was really important is that Russia is not giving up. That they will engage in the 2020 election. We have got to be much more savvy about the fact that we have a very porous election system.

As was reported in the hearing, all of the European countries have reverted to the paper ballot because they wanted to make sure that every vote counts. Those are the kinds of things that we should look at relative to Russia, and then, of course, we have much work to do around the world in terms of protecting our national security, and we will continue to do that.

KEILAR: I hear what you're saying about the former Chairman Nunes. He certainly politicized his role. Chairman Schiff has had a role, too. He led the American people to believe that there was direct evidence of collusion, taking them sort of on this cognitive leap that the Trump campaign colluded on these key points, the hacking of e- mails, the release of e-mails, and then on this online influencing campaign by Russia, which was spelled out in the Barr summary of the Mueller report.

After almost two years, what is spelled out in that summary is that that wasn't found. So how important is it for the chairman, as he pursues these questions, what he says is still evidence of collusion but has to do with not what I just described? How does he reconcile that?

SPEIER: Well, first of all, Brianna, I think it's really important for us to wait until we have the Mueller report. I mean, we're blindly accepting what the president says when he's already lied 8,000 times to the American people. He says he's exonerated. Well, let's wait until we have the report so we can review the 300 plus pages to determine what Mueller actually did find. [13:10:06] And I think what we're going to find is that there was

invitations -- clearly there were invitations by the Russians to share dirt on Hillary Clinton. We have e-mails to suggest that. We know that Don Jr. actually met with them along with other members of the campaign. We do know that then Paul Manafort, the chair of the campaign, met with Konstantin Kilimnik and handed over polling data to suggest that Donald Trump could win.

What we do know is that Vladimir Putin wants these sanctions removed, and he will do anything and everything to make that happen. And in the case of the 2016 election, he thought that Donald Trump was his ticket to get those sanctions removed.

KEILAR: It is really difficult, impossible even, to have a full conversation about the Mueller report when you can't see it or you can't see a large part of it. There's 300 pages, we've learned, to this report, and the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler says that he's spoken with the Attorney General Bill Barr and that Barr won't commit to releasing the report.

Why do you think that Barr won't commit to releasing the report?

SPEIER: So here's the question that's pretty obvious, I think, to the American people. If you've been exonerated, as the president says he is, why aren't you releasing the documents to prove that you have been exonerated. Why is the attorney general now talking about redacting large portions of it?

There is nothing really that should be redacted. There is no national security information that's probably going to be released. And then again, we have lots of cases that are being pursued around the country that came from the Mueller investigation. And it was very clear in the Mueller report that the Russian operatives attempted to engage in intervening in our election.

We have a report from then Chairman Nunes that basically said that the intelligence trade craft was ineffective, very inadequate or faulty. So you can see that there is a trail that is being pursued by the Republicans that doesn't necessarily jive with the Mueller report.

KEILAR: Congresswoman, you said that there is this collusion between the White House and the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell because Mitch McConnell won't allow this vote. Right? On releasing -- a measure that would demand the release the full Mueller report that passed the house 420-0.

When you look at Bill Barr's role in this, and the delay in releasing anything, the lack of commitment to release the report in its entirety, do you think that he is part of that? Do you think that he is part of this coordination?

SPEIER: I don't know if he is. But he certainly got his job because he sent a 19-page single-spaced letter to the president, unrequested, that basically said that he thought the Mueller investigation was wrong, and that there was no way that he could obstruct justice. And then he gets the job. So, you know, all you have to do is follow the bread crumbs. But what I will say is that there is an effort here to not let the American people see the results of the Mueller report. They paid for it. They have every right to be able to see it.

KEILAR: All right, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, thank you so much, from the House Intelligence Committee, joining us. We always appreciate you being with us.

And the mysterious case of Jussie Smollett. It's getting the president's attention now. Hear the new explanation from prosecutors after they dropped charges.

Plus, he has been careful with his words on President Trump, but all of that just changed. Why Puerto Rico's governor says he'd punched the president in the mouth.

And lawmakers grilling Education Secretary Betsy DeVos after she announces cuts to the Special Olympics. See what happened.


[13:18:23] KEILAR: President Trump making a surprise announcement in connection with the Jussie Smollett case. He tweeted this, "The FBI and DOJ to review the outrageous case in Chicago," adding, "It is an embarrassment to our nation."

When asked about the president's tweet, Smollett's attorney says she isn't worried about another inquiry.


TINA GLANDIAN, JUSSIE 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 to my knowledge nothing improper was done.


KEILAR: Prosecutors stunned the country on Tuesday with their decision to drop all 16 felony disorderly conduct counts against the "Empire" actor who had been charged in a hate crime hoax.

We have Illinois State Republican Representative Michael McAuliffe joining us now from Springfield.

Sir, thank you for being with us.


KEILAR: Do you agree with the president that the FBI and the DOJ need to review this case?

MCAULIFFE: Well, that's his prerogative as our chief officer, but I'm here today to talk about the legislation that I plan on filing tomorrow.

KEILAR: OK, so you have -- in that legislation is to withhold state film tax credits from any production that employs Smollett. And I certainly understand how you feel, and you have a lot of support, especially I know the area you represent. There are a lot of police officers there, and I'm sure they're making their opinions known to you.

I know that you may feel that the legal system here failed to do its job, right? Is this the way to get around that? I mean, it's a pretty unprecedented move that you're making, so explain this to us and tell us why this is a proper route to take, in your opinion.

[13:20:08] MCAULIFFE: OK. Well, let's go through the story. So two months ago, on a cold winter night when most all Chicagoans were at home, and home for many days watching on TV, we saw how Jussie Smollett said that he was a victim. As it turned out, through the police work, the hard work of the men and women of the Chicago Police Department, that get a very bad rap a lot because of the violence here in the city of Chicago, this perpetrator or Jussie Smollett, what he did was did a hoax, pretended he was a victim, orchestrated this whole hoax.

We lost many, many hours of manpower, man time, overtime, on other cases that we could be -- that the police could be investigating, like murders and shootings, and this went on for two months.

Also it made Chicago the laughingstock of the nation, because not only was it just a hoax crime, it was a hate crime. And he perpetuated that this crime was done for various reasons. So it made Chicago a national laughingstock of the nation. Going into a couple of days ago, he gets released -- and when he has a chance to say something, he shows no remorse. He says he's innocent.

The police say that they have all the video cameras, all the witnesses, that what he committed was a hoax. So as an Illinois legislator, the general assembly here in Illinois gives a very robust tax credit to any production company that plans on filming TV shows or movies. And I feel, and I believe a lot of Chicagoans feel, that someone like Jussie Smollett or someone else that would commit the same type of act should not benefit from this generous robust tax credit that is offered from the city of Chicago residents and the taxpayers of the state of Illinois.

KEILAR: The confusion here, at least part of it around this decision, is that the court filed the case is sealed, so there's so much we don't know. And Cook County state's attorney Kim Foxx says it actually wasn't supposed to be sealed and it may have been a clerical error.

Do you think that she's telling the truth? And also do you think that she should resign over how she has handled this considering she was in touch with associates and family of Smollett?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I don't know if she should resign, but it is -- I mean, she is the state's attorney, and whoever she gave the case to after recusing herself, that's up to their office to do that.

KEILAR: Do you believe it was a clerical error? MCAULIFFE: All I can tell you right now is --

KEILAR: Do you believe it was a clerical error? They were in court. There was a motion to seal this, and the prosecution in the case didn't disagree with that. Is that a clerical error to you?

MCAULIFFE: You know what, I can't answer that question because I can just tell you that people from the legal community have reached out to me and said this is totally unprecedented. State's attorneys -- prosecutors that have been in Cook County state's attorney for many years said they've never heard of -- they've never heard of this or seen this done. So this is totally unprecedented. But I'm going back to the fact that I don't think that someone like Jussie Smollett or someone else that plays a hoax on the city of Chicago, acts as a victim when in turn it was a total hoax, that he should benefit from that, through the taxpayers, from the city of Chicago or the state of Illinois.

KEILAR: Michael McAuliffe, Illinois state representative, sir, thank you so much for being with us today.

And coming up, a CNN exclusive. The governor of Puerto Rico clapping back at repeated attacks from the president, warning if the bully gets close, I'll punch the bully in the mouth.

And he's the small town mayor making big news on the national stage. The new poll showing Pete Buttigieg neck and neck with another big name in the 2020 race.


[13:28:54] KEILAR: Despite attacks, insults and threats from President Trump, the governor of Puerto Rico has been relatively diplomatic and careful about hitting back. Today, though, that all changed. He has apparently had enough.


GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: If the bully gets close, I'll punch the bully in the mouth.


ROSSELLO: Just like that. I -- don't -- it would be a mistake to confuse courtesy with courage.


KEILAR: So this comes after President Trump took another shot at Puerto Rico. During a closed door meeting with Republicans, he complained about the amount of disaster relief going to the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria. And he really messed up his numbers because actually a lot has not headed to Puerto Rico. So that's a key point to make. His numbers that he was quoting to the Republicans weren't right.

And we have CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta with us right now.

You got this exclusive interview. What else did the governor have to say?

ACOSTA: Well, Brianna, I mean, just to give some context in terms of what the governor was saying in that sound bite you just played a few moments ago, basically, you know, they've been trying to get a meeting with the president for weeks now.