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Trump Threatens to Close U.S.-Mexico Border; Undocumented Migrants Being Released in Three Cities; U.S. to Cut Aid to Three Central American Countries. U.S. to Cut Aid to Three Central American Countries; Technical Issues Cause Flight Delays for Several Major Airlines in the U.S.; Pete Buttigieg Says His Team Raised $7-Plus Million in First Quarter; Democrats to Authorize Subpoena for Full Mueller Report; South Carolina Woman Murdered After Ride-Share Mistake; House Judiciary Committee to Vote on Wednesday to Authorize Subpoenas for 5 Former White House Staffers. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 1, 2019 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:24] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. We're glad you're with us this morning.

We do have breaking news. It just crossed from Capitol Hill. The Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee drawing up a subpoena for the complete and unfiltered Mueller report. This is, of course, assuming the attorney general misses his congressional deadline which, by the way, is April 2nd, and that's tomorrow, a deadline to turn over the report and the supporting evidence voluntarily.

For his part with the special counsel probe seemingly behind him, the president is taking his war on immigration to new heights on multiple fronts -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: He is vowing to close large sections of the Mexican border, the U.S.-Mexico border, any time now. This regardless of the immediate, potentially staggering effects on trade and the economy. It is not clear if anyone in National Security including the Border Patrol or any border governor or lawmaker called for or made the case for such a step prior to the president's threat.

Is this genuinely about security or is it politics?

Separately, over the weekend, the State Department announced the total cutoff of U.S. aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, countries the White House is blaming for sending caravans of migrants through Mexico toward the U.S. border. The acting White House chief of staff insists that's not an unreasonable position.

CNN's Joe Johns is at the White House. The president making another trip to the border this week.

Joe, this is something that the president wants to draw attention to now. What evidence is there that his administration is being pushed to close the border for security reasons?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, one thing does seem clear. And that is what the administration continues to say, that there is a crisis on the border. And what also seems clear this morning at least is that the administration is sending the signal out on the airwaves and otherwise that this is not a threat. The president's lieutenants, including his acting chief of staff Nick Mulvaney on the weekend talk shows talking it up. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Mexico could help us do it. They need to do a little bit more. Honduras could do more. Nicaragua could do more. El Salvador could do more. And if we're going to give these countries hundreds of millions of dollars, we would like them to do more. That, Jake, I would respectfully submit to you is not an unreasonable position. We could prevent a lot of what's happening on the southern border by preventing people from moving into Mexico in the first place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: All right. So that, of course, is reference to the issues of the northern triangle countries and whether or not the United States ought to shut down the aid to those countries.

But back on this issue of shutting down the border, there is a lot of rhetoric. And number one, the question is what would be the logistics, how would the administration pull it off, when would it occur, before or after the president's trip out to California and the border later this week. And the other question of course is just what would be the economic effect. And that's very concerning because there's a lot of rhetoric out there about how much this would cost.

And I saw the president's chief economic adviser, Kevin Hassett, out here on the driveway just a little while ago and I asked him, is there any modeling, are there any estimates about how this would affect the United States economy? He wouldn't say anything. A lot of people say it would be very severe.

Back to you.

SCIUTTO: $611 billion in cross-border trade in 2018. A lot of it happens across that border.

Joe Johns, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Yes. It's a great point, Jim. Right? You got $1.5 billion in trade across the border every single day. What is the White House going to say about that and what it means economically if that were to happen? We will watch.

Right now border protection, facilities along the southern border overflowing and desperately short on resources. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say they have released approximately 2,000 immigrants from their facilities into three Texas cities, McAllen, Brownsville and Harlingen. And officials say to expect more people to be released in the coming days.

Let's go to our colleague Marty Savidge. He joins us in Brownsville, Texas.

Good morning to you, Marty. I mean, you're on the ground. You're hearing from the officials there, from the residents. How are they expecting to handle this?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, there's still very much not knowing how many eventually will be making their way through here. It's been a process that started last week, continued over the weekend. They processed about a thousand over the weekend. And I think we can show you some video of a new set of arrivals that has just occurred.

The way this happens is that you have a federal bus usually pulls up to the bus station here. They're unmarked. But you can tell because they have fencing on the inside.

[09:05:02] And then the migrants are met by the Brownsville Police Department who then escort them inside the bus station here which now has become the processing center for the migrants. And essentially what the community does now is accept them in, make sure they've got the right documents, try to make them comfortable and then begin the process of letting those migrants communicate by telephone with family members or whoever they know in the U.S.

And try to set up so that they can arrange to, either by bus or by an airplane, fly off to be reunited with those family members in the U.S. while they await the determination of their fate. Most of that is being done in one day, but a lot of that work is all being done by a community, a city, right now Brownsville taking on what is a very big federal problem. The mayor is frustrated. Here is what he says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR TONY MARTINEZ (D), BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS: You know, as long as Washington doesn't listen, this is the way we're going have to handle it.

SAVIDGE: But doesn't that seem outrageous or crazy?

MARTINEZ: No, it's totally outrageous. But kike I tell people all the time, you know, as a mayor, we have to walk the streets of our own town and we've got to make sure they're safe, make sure they're healthy, and they have to deal with anything that comes across our front door. OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: And they are dealing with everything right now. So far they said they can handle up to 1,000 migrants a day. But the biggest problem for this city isn't the numbers of people, it's the cost. And the cost continues to mount every hour -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Martin Savidge, thank you for being there, tracking all of it in Brownsville. We'll get back to you soon. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Let's discuss now with Roberta Jacobson. She's the former U.S. ambassador to Mexico. She is now with the All Bright Stone Bridge Note. A few note, you served under both Presidents Obama and President Trump in your capacity in Mexico.

Let me begin. During that time there, significant time as ambassador to Mexico, did anybody at the State Department, did anyone in National Security establishment or the Customs and Border Patrol ever call for or make the case for closing the border as a necessary step to controlling migrant flows?

ROBERTA JACOBSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MEXICO: I never heard that step made, that put forward. In fact, most of the people that we worked with in the DHS family of agencies, DOJ, understood that the border was important and critical for us to be working on for security of the United States, but that that cooperation had to start way before the border. If you're only doing it at the border, you've lost the fight. And that's on security grounds, let alone economic.

SCIUTTO: It's reminiscent to the decision to deploy active U.S. military there some months ago, which is part of the reason that Jim Mattis left his post at Defense secretary. I spent a lot of time at the Pentagon. Didn't hear anybody in the Pentagon making a case to deploy activate U.S. military there.

Does this give you the concern that the president is weaponizing security measures for political purposes?

JACOBSON: I am concerned. I think that this -- when the president announced that there was a national emergency at the border, I don't think there was a national emergency. Unfortunately the measures that are being taken, the rhetoric, the inflammatory nature of the calls for closure of the border, in fact, are driving migrants, and we may have an emergency that we didn't have before.

SCIUTTO: How so? How do they drive migrants?

JACOBSON: Because migrants are afraid that if the border is closed, something I don't even think is possible, but if the border is closed, they will not be able to get it. So they're saying, I better come now, I better come with a caravan.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

JACOBSON: And that wasn't necessarily the case.

SCIUTTO: You've made the point that by closing the ports of entry, you actually have a blowback effect, in other words, you -- you chase people, rather, to the other parts of the border.

JACOBSON: Right. Right. You chase them to between the ports of entry to try and come in illegally. We've already seen that begin to happen anecdotally with people who are a part of this migrant protection protocols to remain in Mexico while their asylum claims are adjudicated. And so what that means is you've got a very inefficient use of your resources because people are going to try and come where you aren't, right, and you're going to play whack-a-mole along the border.

In addition, it will make it much more dangerous for those people, and it makes it worse for the people on the U.S. side of the border who have never been in favor of either a wall or some of the more draconian measures.

SCIUTTO: Yes. We've looked to try to find border governors of either party or mayors, et cetera, or representatives who pushed for this. We haven't been able to find them.

JACOBSON: Representative Will Hurd who has the largest border in his district has always been against these. And that mayor that you had on, Tony Martinez, they know well that it's the lifeblood of their economy as well.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Let me ask you about the cutoff of aid to these three Central American countries that are the source of the migrants coming.

JACOBSON: Right.

SCIUTTO: Mick Mulvaney was on the Sunday shows yesterday. His line was, if aid was working so well, why are the people still coming? Those words struck me that I can imagine those coming out of Donald Trump's mouth as well, as he's discussing this.

[09:10:05] Your reaction to cutting off that aid, does that help or hurt?

JACOBSON: Well, my reaction is it hurts deeply. And if you liked the migration crisis as it is right now, wait until you see what happens when you cut off aid. First of all, I think we need to understand that U.S. foreign assistance is not a gift. We extend foreign assistance because it's in our own interests, not just in the countries' interest.

In addition, they're not checks we cut to governments. They're programs like the FBI's tag program, which is an anti-gang program in Central America against MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

JACOBSON: These are programs that are going to get cut under this kind of a cutback. When this program was initiated in Central America, it was clear it would take years to have some effect. But we know what works in keeping people home.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's interesting. I don't think a lot of folks know that some of that aid goes to fighting the exact gang the president is very public about.

JACOBSON: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: MS-13.

JACOBSON: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: Ambassador, thanks very much for taking the time this morning.

JACOBSON: Thanks for having me, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Poppy, back to you.

HARLOW: Really interesting -- really interesting conversation. Of course she had a key position.

Let's talk about the politics of this. Jeff Mason is with me, White House correspondent for Reuters.

And I should note that you were actually with the president doing reporting over the weekend when he made this announcement. So I'm just interested in your read on why, why the timing, you say, he sort of changed the narrative of the conversation away from the Mueller report and the Barr letter or something bigger.

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Well, it's a good question, Poppy. And it did change the narrative a little bit. I think, number one, it's an issue that the president cares a lot about. I think number two he's looking at moving into re-election mode. And immigration was a huge topic for him in 2016 and he's clearly making it a big topic for 2020.

And with reason. I mean, there are lots of reasons to continue talking about immigration, not only political. But one of the questions that we asked him, I was part of the press pool traveling with him as you said and on Friday, one of my colleagues asked him, OK, if you close the border, does that mean cutting off all trade? And he said yes, that could mean cutting off all trade. And that would have an impact on consumers here in the United States.

It could have an economic impact. It could also have a political impact for him. I mean, when people start not being able to buy their avocados, their blackberries, their tomatoes. Businesses that rely on that trade, hundreds of billions of dollars, that's a big deal.

HARLOW: Yes, it is. I mean, Jim and I were noting the numbers before. You've got the economic impact which is huge. You've got the fact that politically it would make it harder, you would think, Jeff, to get USMCA or NAFTA 2.0 through Congress.

MASON: Right.

HARLOW: You've got the concern that ambassador -- the former ambassador just laid out, which is, you know, does this just drive more undocumented migrants toward the border. Does anybody outside of the president, anyone within his own party, any of his biggest champions in Congress actually think this is a good idea?

MASON: Well --

(LAUGHTER) MASON: That's a good question and I don't have the answer to that. I mean, it's clearly something that the president feels very strongly about. The question is, is he serious? I mean, is it just a threat or is it something he's going to do? And he did give a deadline when he was speaking to us. He said that it would be this week. So you noted correctly that he's going to visit the border on Friday.

There could be an announcement then. Maybe there will be some action between now and then from Mexico that helps assuage the president's concerns. But it would be -- there would be so many things that would have to be put into place to make it work and also a lot of sort of mitigation efforts for the companies, the people who are doing legal crossings every day, Americans and Mexicans and others, for how to adjust to that move.

HARLOW: Here's the thing, Jeff. I mean, it was just last Wednesday. So less than a week ago that DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen signed this Regional Agreement of Cooperation with those countries, with Guatemala, with Honduras, with El Salvador. Let me read you part of the agreement. Quote, "We are united, we are committed, we are operating jointly." Until now.

MASON: Yes. And I thought the ambassador's point about the aid was really significant, particularly because she has the experience to talk about that. I mean there are --

HARLOW: Right.

MASON: Aid is a very controversial subject politically. There are certainly a good chunk of conservative Republicans who feel that we should not be -- we being the United States -- should not be giving this kind of money to those countries or many other countries. But as the ambassador said, the counterargument to that is that aid is done in U.S. interest. It helps support programs that help prevent some of the problems that are being addressed right here. So take it away and we'll see if that makes the problem even worse.

HARLOW: I mean, look, Jake asked Mick Mulvaney that yesterday on "STATE OF THE UNION."

MASON: Yes.

HARLOW: And I thought Mulvaney's answer was interesting because he said -- when Jake said, you know, these are State Department officials saying that this aid works to combat this. And he said, well, you know, career, career employees there. So of course --

MASON: OK. And that's where you bring --

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: Yes.

MASON: That's where you bring ideology -- excuse me, Poppy. It's where you bring ideology and politics into your governing.

[09:15:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Total, of course -- yes --

MASON: That's where you bring ideologies -- excuse me, Poppy, that's when you bring ideology into -- and politics into your governing. And listen, both Republicans and Democrats do that. But that is clearly a reflection of the ideology of Mr. Mulvaney and of the president.

HARLOW: All right, Jeff Mason, good to have you, thank you.

MASON: Thank you.

JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Good points all -- we have some news, this just in to CNN. A computer issue is causing flight issues nationwide this morning for several major airlines. Third party software, we are told, that helps with flight planning and fuel calculations, that's pretty important, they went down.

The FAA says the outage was short-lived, delays should be minimal, but we're going to stay on top of that story to see if it might affect your travel in any way. Well, a small-town mayor, big fundraising hall, 2020 contender Pete Buttigieg raising more $7 million in the first quarter of this year.

HARLOW: Yes, big number. All right, also Democrats ramping up for a showdown. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler set to authorize a subpoena this week to get the full unredacted report from the special counsel, we'll have the latest.

And police say a woman got into a car that she thought was an Uber, 14 hours later, her body was found. The latest on this tragic murder in South Carolina.

[09:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: All right, we do have breaking news. The House Judiciary Committee has just announced that it will vote on Wednesday to authorize subpoenas to get the entire unredacted Mueller report. Attorney General William Barr has said that he plan to release a redacted copy by mid April or sooner.

But top Democrats are demanding the full report without any redactions, and they want to see it. The deadline they've set is tomorrow. Manu Raju on the Hill with the latest developments. I mean, it's a whole argument here between, you know, the ranking Republican and Chairman Nadler about the legality of all of this and what happens and you know, saying this is an arbitrary deadline tomorrow or not. So what changes this morning with this announcement?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Democrats are escalating this fight, something they could potentially end up in court if the Justice Department resists. The Democrats are concerned in particular about the number of redactions, the categories of redactions that Bill Barr; the Attorney General said that he would seek as part of his review process for the full Mueller report, in particular, they're concerned about two out of the four. The two involved grand jury information that Bill Barr said they will

be ultimately redacted as well as information that could impugn the character of what Barr says are peripheral third parties. Those two rather broad areas Democrats are concerned could lead to a whole host of redactions in which the public and Congress itself would not be able to see the full Mueller report.

Now, Democrats have been saying that precedent is on their side. They argue that in cases like in the Ken Starr investigation into Bill Clinton as well as the Watergate information, grand jury information in particular was made available to the House Judiciary Committee.

So the committee says it is entitled to this as well. So that's why on Wednesday, you will see the committee vote to authorize subpoenas for the full Mueller report, the underlying evidence in addition to five White House officials, former White House officials whom the committee says has essentially waived executive privilege because of the cooperation between those officials and the special counsel.

So a really escalating of this fight, as you said, Republicans think this is arbitrary, it could force Bill Barr to essentially break regulations to release the full report. But nevertheless, this is the next step Democrats are moving forward on, Poppy, teamed up a rather significant fight with huge implications. Poppy --

HARLOW: Really interesting. Well, next hour, we're going to have on one of the prosecutors who worked on Ken Starr's team, so we'll ask him all about this. Manu, thanks very much. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Susan Hennessey joins us now, she's a former NSA attorney as well as CNN national security and legal analyst. So first question to you, very simple one, they issue these subpoenas, do those five targets have to abide by those subpoenas?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: Well, so it's like -- it depends on who they're going to issue the subpoenas to. It's likely that they'll actually issue them to the Justice Department. Now, the committee will vote to issue that subpoena.

The Justice Department is going to have some period of time to decide how to respond. If they decline to respond or don't respond by a sort of deadline proposed, then the issue would be litigated. And that's why this is a little bit of an empty threat in part because Barr has said that he intends to produce --

SCIUTTO: Right --

HENNESSEY: The report by mid April. So by the time we sort of resolve all the legal issues related --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

HENNESSEY: To the subpoena to actually compel the material, that deadline would have already passed.

SCIUTTO: But the real question is less the timing, because whether it comes out tomorrow or two weeks from now, the point is how much comes out, right? And Barr has set the standard of saying, yes, I'll release it, but I don't want to -- in effect, sully the reputations of anybody who hasn't been charged by releasing evidence of possible wrongdoing by them that was decided was not prosecutable.

I mean, that's the key here, right and who wins that battle?

HENNESSEY: Right, so there's a huge range of a sure discretion here. So on two categories, 16 materials, that's grand jury material and classified information. Barr doesn't have a lot of discussion there. It's actually a felony for the Justice Department to release 16 material without getting the permission of a court.

So the same for classified material.

SCIUTTO: OK --

HENNESSEY: But it's those other categories, those categories especially related to not wanting to disclose information about peripheral third parties. The devil is really in the details there. We're talking about limited redactions of people who are really just witnesses, people who were interviewed, they have nothing to do with this --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

HENNESSEY: Or sort of limited redactions in the sense of people's names being removed, maybe replaced with things like individual one --

SCIUTTO: Right --

HENNESSEY: Individual two, as we've seen in other cases. There will be less objection.

SCIUTTO: So the key question is, right, that Robert Mueller said according to Barr's summary that he found evidence that the president obstructed justice, could not make a decision as to whether that's prosecutable, left it to Barr, Barr decided not to prosecute.

[09:25:00] So there's evidence in his longer report apparently that the president obstructed justice. Will we see that evidence or is that something that Barr can make the case and say, well, he didn't charge him, I don't want to sully the reputation of the president?

HENNESSEY: I think that is evidence that Congress will ultimately see. And that's part of the question, whether or not Mueller actually intended for Barr to come in and make this determination --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

HENNESSEY: Regarding the prosecution or whether or not he essentially wanted that to go over to Congress, lay out the evidence on both sides, lay out the legal arguments and hand that over. And so that certainly is an area in which Barr might assert executive privilege.

SCIUTTO: Right -- HENNESSEY: The obstruction conduct all occurs after the president

comes into office. That said, those are the kinds of things that if Barr attempts to withhold that, Congress is really --

SCIUTTO: Right --

HENNESSEY: Going to fight for it.

SCIUTTO: And then you also have presumably -- I mean, well, there's some indications that he also found evidence of cooperation or just questions at least, because there was a legalistic kind of phrase of did not establish conspiracy, which may mean that he found some evidence. Is that evidence that would likely be seen if the report comes out?

HENNESSEY: Right, so we don't know. This Barr summary could be describing a report that more or less exonerates the president, did not establish because there's nothing at all --

SCIUTTO: Right --

HENNESSEY: Or did not establish could mean it just meets right below that criminal threshold. And so --

SCIUTTO: Right --

HENNESSEY: We have no idea based on Bill Barr's letter what the range of that information is, and that's where I think we're going to see really tremendous --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

HENNESSEY: Pressure from Congress to get every last detail --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

HENNESSEY: Of this report. Because otherwise, the questions just won't be answered.

SCIUTTO: And the big question will be, you know, is the narrative that the report was a DOD based on that Barr summary, is that true? Or is there more information in there and there may be a different judgment afterwards. Susan Hennessey, thanks very much.

HENNESSEY: Thanks for having me.

SCIUTTO: We'll be watching it, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes, we certainly are. All right, so to 2020 and the Democrats, Pete Buttigieg in the race, of course, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, says his team raked in $7 million in just the first quarter. Could this small town mayor make a big impact on the 2020 race? Ahead.

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