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Interview With Rep. David Cicilline; House Judiciary Committee to Vote on Subpoena for Mueller Report. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired April 3, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:08] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. Jim and I are excited to be coming to you today from the CNN home in Atlanta.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. We took the show on the road. Nice to be here. A lot of history in Atlanta for CNN. I'm Jim Sciutto.
The deadline is passed. The Mueller report still under wraps, cue the subpoenas now. As we speak, the House Judiciary Committee is gathering to vote probably along strict party lines, imagine that, to compel the attorney general to hand over the report that he received from the special counsel, remember that's 300, 400 pages, along with the underlying evidence the special counsel found.
And the president, who just days ago said he has absolutely nothing to hide, changing his tune. He now says that the Democratic push for full disclosure is, quote, "a disgrace."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a 400-page report, right? We do give them 800 pages and it wouldn't be enough. They'll always come back and say it's not enough. It's not enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: All right. And so to no one's surprise the attorney general rebuffed the Democrats' request that he produce the Mueller report by yesterday. Instead promising an edited version in a week or two. But in some of their starkest criticism yet two powerful House committee chairs tell CNN they are not prepared at this point at least to give William Barr the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the special counsel.
Let's going to our Manu Raju. He's on the Hill. And of course we heard James Comey say, look, Barr should get the benefit of the doubt until he, you know, proves otherwise, but we're not hearing that from Schiff and Nadler. Tell us how that plays into what we're about to see.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And Jerry Nadler made very clear that he could serve these subpoenas before Bill Barr even releases the redacted Mueller report. That's something that he has been saying for the last several days.
Now the question is going to be exactly when they do serve these subpoenas because just in a matter of moments this committee will authorize the subpoenas for the full Mueller report, the underlying evidence and the subpoenas to five former White House officials over records that they may have received from the White House in preparation with their testimony before the special counsel.
Now these essentially will be in Jerry Nadler's back pocket to issue at any time, but what Jerry Nadler has been saying is that he cannot trust Bill Barr in the aftermath of that four-page letter, as well as after Bill Barr has raised concerns about the obstruction investigation before he was confirmed as attorney general. They are saying that they may go forward with these subpoenas regardless of what he does.
So listen to Jerry Nadler from yesterday making clear why he won't give the attorney general the benefit of the doubt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The attorney general is an agent of the president. He auditioned for his job by saying that this kind of investigation was wrong. He deserves no benefit of the doubt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So the Republicans are saying essentially that Democrats are trying to find a new narrative after the Barr letter exonerated the president, that's how the Republicans view it, even though the letter said he was not fully exonerated on the issue of obstruction, but nevertheless that's going to be the argument today from Republicans on this committee. Give the attorney general a chance, the Democrats they believe are essentially sore losers in all of this. So expect a pretty contentious meeting in just a matter of moments here, guys.
HARLOW: It will be. You'll see a lot of it live right here on the show.
Manu, thank you very much.
SCIUTTO: Let's discuss all this now with Democratic Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island. He also sits on the House Judiciary Committee.
Congressman, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-R.I.) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: My pleasure. Good morning.
SCIUTTO: So first question, how soon do you expect to issue these subpoenas after this vote today? But also how do you plan to respond when presumably the White House fights them?
CICILLINE: Well, I'm on my way to the Judiciary Committee right now and we will this morning authorize the chairman to issue these subpoena for the production of the Mueller report in its entirety. Mr. Mueller then will have an opportunity to provide that report or will be the subject of this subpoena. I think the committee is very committed to making sure we get this report in its entirety. No one is above the law, we need to follow the facts. This was the practice that was -- that occurred in the Starr investigation that when that report was done it was delivered in its entirety to the Judiciary Committee along with 17 boxes of evidence and documents.
This is the same precedent we're asking for, is produce the report, produce the underlying material, let the Judiciary Committee do its job, but if Mr. Barr refuses to do it then Mr. Nadler will be authorized to issue a subpoena to require it.
It should be noted Mr. Nadler has the authority to do that unilaterally on his own. The reason we're doing it in committee is we're being fully transparent. We are hoping maybe our Republican colleagues will join us in this oversight work and it can be done in a bipartisan way.
SCIUTTO: Yes. As you well remember 422-0. That was the vote in terms of making the report public.
[09:05:06] CICILLINE: That's right.
SCIUTTO: And you don't often see unanimous votes in the House.
Let me ask you this, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, your colleague, Jerry Nadler, he described William Barr, the attorney general, as an agent of the president, questioning his impartiality in terms of his summary of the findings and his judgment on obstruction of justice. Do you agree with that?
CICILLINE: Yes, I mean, I think we should remember both Mr. Barr's statements and his conduct have raised real questions about his impartiality. Remember he prepared a 17-page memo for the president of the United States. His lawyers basically arguing no president could be accused of obstruction of justice because he or she is in charge of the Justice Department. That caught the attention of the president. He hired him to be his attorney general and he delivered on that promise when in a 48-hour period he came to legal conclusions about obstruction of justice.
There is a reason the attorney general should make that judgment because he is appointed by the president of the United States. That's why you have an independent counsel to make that judgment or Congress. So I think there is a lot of concern. His four-page summary, which I think was an attempt to set the narrative, the way he got the job, I think there's a lot of reasons to be concerned about his impartiality.
SCIUTTO: OK. Let's talk about the president here because, as you know, the president had said just a matter of days ago he has no objections to the full report being released, that he has nothing to hide, changing his tune somewhat. Have a listen to then I want to get your reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think it's ridiculous. We went through two years of the Mueller investigation. The attorney general now and the deputy attorney general ruled no obstruction, they said no obstruction. So there's no collusion, no obstruction, and now we're going to start this process all over again. I think it's a disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Why do you believe the president is hedging now on supporting the release of the full report?
CICILLINE: Yes. I mean, of course you wonder, does the president know the contents or some of the contents of the report? Mr. Barr has said that it hasn't been shared with the White House but there is something that's changed. The president was originally saying it should be made public, I have no objection to it when Congress voted unanimously that it should be made public and suddenly he's saying oh, we should just take our victory lap and say no.
So again it's not up to the president of the United States. This was a report that was done on behalf of the American people to find out what happened when our democracy was attacked, the American people have a right to know the truth and we have a right as Congress to see the report so we can take whatever steps are appropriate.
So this fight is not over. We are committed to making sure that we get the contents of this report so that we can do our oversight responsibilities properly.
SCIUTTO: Understood. And before I let you go, is it your belief that it was the special counsel's intention to leave the judgment on any possible criminal behavior by the president or others, to leave that judgment not to Barr, but to Congress?
CICILLINE: Yes, well, it's not just the special counsel's decision or view, it's the Constitution's view. We have the responsibility to decide whether the president engaged in misconduct. The Congress of the United States, not the attorney general. I think the special counsel lay out the facts, left that question for us to decide, and not expecting that Mr. Barr would use his position as attorney general saying even though Mr. Mueller couldn't make this determination in a 22-month investigation after reviewing millions of documents and interviewing hundreds of people, I'm going to make it quickly as the attorney general.
CICILLINE: That was, I think, not the special counsel's intention and it is certainly not his right as the attorney general to make that decision for members of Congress.
SCIUTTO: Do you believe based on what you've seen that it's still a possibility that the president broke the law?
CICILLINE: Well, I think -- of course it is a possibility. I think the special counsel said the report does not exonerate the president with respect to obstruction of justice which means it remains a question to be determined and I think Congress has the unique ability and responsibility to make that determination and we have to review the report in order to do that, as well as do our own work. But we fought hard to protect the special counsel so he could complete his work without political interference. The American people own the contents of that report, they paid for it, they have a right to see it.
SCIUTTO: Congressman David Cicilline, thanks very much.
CICILLINE: Thank you.
HARLOW: Really interesting. Let's talk more about that, especially Cicilline's last point, with national security attorney, Mark Zaid.
Nice to have you, sir. Just the last point we heard from Congressman Cicilline. The American people paid for that report, they have the right to see it. You, among your many specialties, one of them is Freedom of Information Act and I'm wondering if you were a lawyer arguing for the Democrats here, how would you make that case and how strong is that case for the public release of the full unredacted Mueller report?
MARK ZAID, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: I think it's a very strong case. Now the issue is to what extent do we mean full? Now the public should see the full report with appropriate redactions, classified information, grand jury information, privacy issues, maybe executive privilege if that's appropriate.
[09:10:06] Then the Congress should see the entire report and all the underlying evidence with the appropriate safeguards put in place to protect that same information.
HARLOW: But, so just, Mark, to that point, are you saying that the safeguards, i.e., the redactions in the report that Congress gets should be the same as the public? I mean, I think most Americans would think well, shouldn't Congress be able to see a lot more?
ZAID: No, I mean the safeguards so that the Congress would protect that information --
HARLOW: Got it.
ZAID: -- that would be redacted the public view.
HARLOW: Got it.
ZAID: Congressmen -- Congress persons can see anything classified and the appropriate staff who have the clearances.
HARLOW: So what's --
ZAID: And they can see the grand jury information, but not the public. HARLOW: What's the legal case, then -- what is the legal case then
for keeping redactions in for Congress? Because if you look back to, you know, Judge Sirica, and you look back to the Watergate time, and you look back to the ruling of that, you know, underlying evidence, grand jury info could be made public. How does that play in here?
ZAID: It's not a strong case. And it does -- we're seeing politics intertwined with law obviously here. And there is a little bit on both sides that is occurring. And at some point in time the appropriate oversight committees and every member of Congress if they so wish will no doubt be able to see the entire report, and the underlying information, and there are mechanisms for that to occur and there are mechanisms even for the American public at some point in time to see additional information like grand jury information.
The classified information would obviously need to be declassified and at no time from a privacy standpoint unless public interest outweighs the privacy of the individuals should we, you know, talk about, let's say, unindicted co-conspirators who were, you know, lower level individuals in the government.
HARLOW: I mean, you know, "Politico" points out this morning and I think it's a really interesting point that until the Nunes, you know, issue and memo and until he spearheaded this, really before we had not seen the House Intelligence Committee use that special rule where they can essentially release if they deem, you know, worthy highly classified information.
ZAID: Yes, that was --
HARLOW: Do you think -- yes.
ZAID: That was the first time ever. And in fact -- so the Congress has the ability to release classified information, not declassify, and they have protections in the Pentagon papers case back in the early '70s showed this.
ZAID: Where classified information was read into the congressional record through subcommittee hearings. And that was highly unusual that that happened, frankly, hopefully I don't -- we don't see it again because it reflected a great deal of partisanship. But there is a mechanism, I doubt the Democrats would pursue that, it would be somewhat hypocrisy since they objected to how Congressman Nunes was handling it.
HARLOW: Quickly, 30 seconds left, yes or no, do you believe that as we heard James Comey tell Christiane Amanpour in that fascinating interview yesterday, that he thinks William Barr deserves the benefit of the doubt? Representatives Schiff and Nadler don't think so. Yes or no, does Barr at this point --
ZAID: Well, so I go by --
HARLOW: -- deserve the benefit of the doubt? ZAID: Right. I go by the law so I go by former Director Comey on
this. I'd give him the benefit of the doubt until the time we see it doesn't merit it, and then Congress can take the appropriate steps to get it. Reality is they can subpoena the documents and they won't get them and they'll have to go through a lengthy court battle anyway. There is a process, we're talking a couple of weeks, let's see how it plays out, let's hope there's going to be adults in the room on both sides.
HARLOW: And that's what this is all about, live pictures, you have the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins of Georgia, and this is what it's all about, right? Subpoenaing all those documents and underlying evidence.
Mark Zaid, nice to have you.
ZAID: Anytime. Thank you.
HARLOW: Thanks so much.
SCIUTTO: Yes. He makes clear how many unanswered questions there are on this.
HARLOW: So many.
SCIUTTO: If you thought that summary was the end of the story, it clearly is not.
HARLOW: It's just the beginning.
SCIUTTO: Well, we are also getting more details this morning on another story we've been following closely, that is the Ethiopian Airlines crash. The "Wall Street Journal" reporting that the pilots on that Boeing 737 MAX initially followed emergency steps recommended by the manufacturer but still failed to cover the jet. All those people lost their lives. We will have the latest.
HARLOW: And the president punts on a healthcare vote until after the election, but that doesn't mean he doesn't want it to be a major issue for Republicans before the 2020 election. What does this mean for the party overall?
And history made overnight in Chicago, the first black woman elected mayor. We'll bring you that story.
[09:15:00] REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: On multiple occasions, I have asked Attorney General Barr to work with us to go to the court and obtain access to materials the department deems covered by rule 6-E.
He has so far refused. I will give him time to change his mind, but if we cannot reach an accommodation, then we will have no choice but to issue subpoenas for these materials. And if the department still refuses, then it should be up to a judge, not the president and not his political appointee to decide whether or not it is appropriate for the committee to review the complete record.
The resolution before us today authorizes subpoenas for two categories of information. First, the resolution authorizes subpoenas for documents in --
POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: All right, that is the Democratic Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee making it very clear that they're willing to fight all the way up through the courts as high as they have to go to get the full Mueller report and underlying evidence. Let's take you live now to this hearing under way on Capitol Hill.
[09:20:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cause and insert the following. That upon the adoption of this resolution, the chairman of the committee on the Judiciary is authorized to issue subpoenas for documents and testimony relating to the following. Final report authored by the office of the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III pursuant on to order number 3915-2017 and any accompanying exhibits, an exes, tables, appendices, other attachments and all evidence referred to in the report.
An underlying evidence collected, materials prepared or documents used by the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III and the investigation conducted pursuant to order number 3915-2017. In addition, the chairman at his discretion and as he determines necessary is authorized to issue subpoenas for documents and testimony to the following individuals or to agents who may have received documents from the White House relevant to the investigation on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III conducted pursuant to order number 3915-2017.
Thereby, affecting a waiver of potential applicable privileges. Donald F. McGahn II, Steven Bannon, Hope Hicks, Reince Priebus, Ann Donaldson. This resolution is adopted pursuant to rule 4 of the committee on the judiciary and clause 2 M of rule 11 of the U.S. House of Representatives.
NADLER: I recognize myself to explain the amendment. This amendment makes only technical changes to the underlying resolution. I would like to use my time to elaborate on the point made in my opening statement that there is ample precedent from other investigations involving allegations of wrongdoing by the president for the Judiciary Committee to receive not just the full report, but all of the underlying evidence including grand jury material.
The investigation of Bill Clinton, the independent counsel Ken Starr produced to Congress a 445-page report, several thousand pages of appendices and 17 boxes of underlying evidence and other materials. These boxes included all of the grand jury information protected by rule 6E of the federal rules of civil -- of criminal procedure.
The Starr report and the underlying evidence and materials produced to this committee fill up a volume after volume of the record in the Clinton impeachment proceedings. I am holding up only two of these many volumes that contain some of the evidence and materials underlying the Starr report that he produced to Congress. Here is just -- which is the volume? Here's volume 4, part 2 and part
3, that contains supplemental materials from the Starr report. All of these materials were delivered to the House immediately after Ken Starr completed the report. Looking at volume 4, part 3, it is filled with the grand jury testimony and other evidence from the Starr investigation that was produced to the House Judiciary Committee.
For example, on page 3,341, there is grand jury testimony of Stacy Desmond Porter. Here is a copy of it. There were boxes and boxes of such information produced by Ken Starr. Starr sought and obtained authorization from the court overseeing the grand jury to share the grand jury materials with Congress.
A similar order permitting Congress to receive the grand jury materials in the Mueller investigation can and should be obtained here. The materials produced by Congress -- I'm sorry. The materials produced to Congress by Starr also included the interview memoranda of the witnesses who agreed to be voluntarily interviewed by Starr's office during his investigation, all of which were produced to the House Judiciary Committee.
For example, on page 3,523, there is one of the many memorandum investigation interviews of witnesses by Starr and his staff. This one is of Deborah N. Schiff. Here is a copy of it. There were boxes of such information produced by Ken Starr. The same type of information has to be produced here especially when there were approximately 500 witnesses interviewed in the Mueller investigation as the Attorney General stated in his March 24th letter to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
In the Watergate investigation, the Justice Department did exactly the same thing after the grand jury, considering evidence issued a report describing potentially criminal acts by President Nixon. The Justice Department filed briefs fully supporting disclosure of the report to the House Judiciary Committee and made the point that, quote, "the need for the House to be able to make its profoundly important judgment on the basis of all available information is as compelling as any that could be conceived", closed quote.
And here are just two of the volumes from the Nixon impeachment proceedings that include some of the grand jury material, just some of the grand jury material, that was produced to Congress.
[09:25:00] Volume 7 and 8 from the hearings before the House Judiciary Committee. Looking at volume 7, it is filled with grand jury testimony and other evidence from the investigation that was produced to the House Judiciary Committee. For example, on page 688 of volume 8, there is the grand jury testimony of Rosemary Woods. Here's a copy of it.
There were volumes and volumes of such information produced in the Watergate investigation to the House Judiciary Committee. These examples of Congress receiving all of the relevant evidence and other analogous investigations help show how unprecedented it would be for Attorney General Barr to withhold from Congress potentially significant portions of special counsel Mueller's report and the underlying evidence and materials.
The same type of information can and should be produced here. I ask unanimous consent to include these materials in the record. This subpoena authorization gives this committee the ability to compel --
JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: You've been listening there to Jerry Nadler; the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee making the argument in effect that if you release the entire Starr report, you saw him hold up those two volumes there with all that detail, why won't the special counsel -- rather the Attorney General release the Mueller report.
We'll see, they're going to have a vote later this afternoon to give them the power to subpoena that report, although Jerry Nadler said, he's not going to necessarily issue that --
HARLOW: Right --
SCIUTTO: Subpoena, he's going to give Barr some more time.
HARLOW: Big warning.
SCIUTTO: Yes, it's a warning. Toluse Olorunnipa; he's the White House reporter for the "Washington Post". Was that a surprise, first, Toluse, that Nadler says they're not going to issue the subpoena right away, but give Barr a little bit more time?
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think he's trying to build the case. They're going through this very methodically, looking at precedent, looking at what's happened in the past. They're trying to build a case so that they have an air-tight argument for why Barr and why the Justice Department should put out the entire information, not necessarily to the public, but to this committee who can look at classified information, who could have access to grand jury testimony and then some sort of summary information could be put out to the public that does not have classified information --
SCIUTTO: Toluse, hold your thought if you don't mind because the ranking Republican on the committee is responding. Let's have a listen.
REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA) RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Also house representatives of any substantial credible information which may constitute grounds for an impeachment. Remember, it was the Janet Reno Justice Department after the Starr report was written that rewrote the regulations that we are under today.
Starr, Mueller, two different things. And if we understand this, then we can understand the problem we have here. I feel for the chairman, he's trying to make an analogy that just won't work. He's doing his good a job that he possibly can, it just doesn't work.
The other interesting issue in here is, he's used two precedents for getting this information both of which are impeachment. If the chairman truly wanted to get at this information, then he can go to what I believe many in their heart desire is, is open the impeachment inquiry. Maybe that's what we're going to get to today.
But if you lose the precedent of impeachment, not the precedent of subpoenas, then there's a problem. And we've got to understand this is nothing -- if this was simply about the Mueller report today, and we had waited until after we got the Mueller report, and we said we're still stuff we don't like, then I can see this happening, I can see why we come together and ask for subpoenas.
Any attorney on this -- that's what you do. When you don't get what you want, you ask for the subpoenas, not beforehand. When the cost -- Attorney General has already said I'm going to do this. So the problem is, look, it's a tough problem, I feel for him. But as long as you're trying to compare the full and the empty, and say they're both full, that's going to be a problem.
The problem also I have with this is, it just weren't about the Attorney General and the Mueller report. Is he went ahead and added five other individuals. Why were those five other individuals -- let's take a look at the names. The five other individuals, Don McGahn, Steve Bannon and Hope Hicks, Reince Priebus and Ann Donaldson.
All of which have either gave information or answered and responded to their initial letters. Why these five? They're close to the president. The closer you get to the president, the press writes about it. The press writes about associates of the president gets a subpoena.
Let's take this for what it is. We don't have our popcorn machine yet, we're getting it for our side because this is great political theater. But as long as they're trying to convince you that this one and this one are the same, then we're going to go down the same sad road. With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
NADLER: I thank the gentleman, I just want to comment on one thing. The argument is made that the prior history is irrelevant because Mr. Jaworski and Mr. Starr operated under a different law than Mr. Mueller is operating. That fact is true, however, we have the same constitutional rights as the committee did in those days, and we have the same constitutional duty as the committee did in those days. And we have the right and the necessity to get all the information .