Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Any Moment Now, Celebrities Face Judge in College Cheating Scandal; House Chairman Says, We Will Not Accept Redacted Report; Trump: We're Going to Lose If We Avoid Healthcare; Trump Mocks Biden Amid Allegations of Inappropriate Behavior; Despite Trump's Claims, His Father Was Not Born in Germany. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 3, 2019 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Here we go. You're watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me. We're following breaking news out of Boston this afternoon where shortly Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin will face a federal judge on conspiracy and mail fraud charges in connection to one of the biggest college admission scandals in American history.

Prosecutors calling for jail time for the wealthy and connected parents who are accused of gaming the system to get their kids into elite colleges and universities. So, we'll take you straight to that courthouse momentarily.

But first, we start this hour on Capitol Hill. Where a Congressional panel just voted to arm itself with a subpoena in case Attorney General Bill Barr does not hand over the full unredacted Mueller report. The A.G. told lawmakers he will give them some version of the report by mid-April latest and he may need to exclude certain portions, i.e. grand jury testimony and classified information and quote, "information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interest of peripheral third parties."

Today Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee put up a passionate fight to defend the President and his privacy. But it was Democratic Chairman Jerry Nadler who says, no way, we want every single page in full.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The Trump administration has an idea, they want to redact the Mueller report before they provide it to Congress. The Department of Justice said the proposal is a means to protect sensitive information that would not ordinarily be made part of the record. But we have reason to suspect this administration's motives. The Mueller report probably isn't the, quote, total exoneration, unquote, the President claims it to be.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: What the Attorney General tell us that the principal finding of the report were, no new indictment or no new sealed indictments or no collusion, no obstruction. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the gentlemen yield.

JORDAN: I've only got a little bit of time --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I only have a short question. You've made reference to the Mueller report. Have you seen it? Because we haven't.

JORDAN: I've seen the principal findings from the Attorney General.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R), MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I would suggest to the American people that what they're witnessing is the death rattle of the Democrat's Russia collusion lie. For 22 months my colleagues on the other side, many of them said there was actual evidence of collusion and so now clearly seeing that that is not true, we observe our colleagues moving through the stages of grief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is on this from Capitol Hill. You talked to the chairman after this contentious hearing. Does he feel like he may have to actually use the subpoena?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He said it could happen in very short order. I tried to push him about what that means, do you expect to -- this to happen this week? He would not say. He said I can't talk about time frame but I do expect it to happen shortly. And he also said they plan to go to court to demand the release of grand jury information as part of the Mueller investigation.

As Republicans try to prevent the grand jury information from going to Capitol Hill but that is -- but the Democrats rejected an effort to prevent that from happening so that is going to be another step in the days ahead. Now I tried to get clarity about whether or not the Democrats would be open in any way to compromise with the Justice Department over redactions and Jerry Nadler made clear, he's not open to compromise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Are you willing to negotiate any middle ground in terms of redactions --

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: No.

RAJU: You're not?

NADLER: No. The committee needs to see everything as in every brief instance. The committee is entitled and must see the material and make judgments as to what should be redacted to the public by ourselves and we're not willing to let the Attorney General who, after all, is a political appointee of the President, make that -- substitute his judgment for ours.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: So, in a way they are trying to pressure the Justice Department to comply with their request before deciding to go forward. But when they issue that subpoena, the Democrats are not necessarily expecting it to be turned over immediately. They're preparing for what could be a protracted fight in the courts for the full report, for the underlying information. So that could take some time.

But in the meantime, the redacted Mueller report could come out while the court fight is playing out separately. Brooke.

BALDWIN: Manu, thank you.

Let's talk about what Manu just discussed there. Former federal prosecutor Elie Honig is with me and chief political analyst Gloria Borger. And so, I have so many questions. Let me start with you, sir.

[14:05:00] Just on -- would this just be the subpoena, would this be more of a warning shot to the A.G., like hey, I have this in my back pocket and I'm not afraid to use it kind of thing, would that then pressure Barr to release it unredacted.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think the today's vote serves two purposes. First of all, there is a technical legal purpose. You have to get the report to cue up the subpoena and now it's like you said, it is in his back pocket.

And if he wants to serve it and that could tee up the issue for the courts but the second purpose pretty clearly is political and symbolic. For Jerry Nadler to officially make a statement, we are not having this, we are not having all of the various reasons that Barr put out there for why it must be redacted which I don't think hold up to legal scrutiny, he is making clear we're ready to fight for this.

BALDWIN: You mention the courts, if this is in fact where it goes, is it all or nothing or might someone rule partial redaction?

HONIG: We could see a partial type -- this is like civics class come to life. We learn about separation of powers --

BALDWIN: Welcome to our day every day.

HONIG: You have the legislative branch Congress fighting with the executive branch, the White House or DOJ, and that would be resolved in the third branch the judiciary. I think the judiciary will go through. We are going to have a fight over grand jury material and that is the big one.

We may have an executive privilege fight. There may be a fight over this idea of we don't say anything bad about third persons which is not really the case but Barr is putting it out there, and there seems to be a pattern of Barr coming up with every excuse to take that Sharpie and zip out as much as he possibly can.

BALDWIN: Gloria, the President has repeatedly said he doesn't mind if this report is released and it is up to the Attorney General and now President Trump said it is a disgrace, quote, "no amount of pages will satisfy the Democrats," well what is behind the Trump reversal?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in the Barr letter, let me just say, it makes it very clear that the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question of obstruction and leaves unresolved what the special counsel views as difficult issues of law and fact. So, what I am sure his attorneys are telling him is that, you know what, this isn't going to look terrific for you in every circumstance. And while the Attorney General may have said there is no case for obstruction, what Mueller laid out was both sides of the issue. So, it is probably going to talk about, you know, some bad behavior.

BALDWIN: Can you be specific? What specifically would the White House be worried about in this thing.

BORGER: They would be worried about, for example, the question of what did Donald Trump mean and what exactly did he say to James Comey about leaving Flynn alone, what exactly did he do to kind of undermine the investigation in any way, shape, or form and his interview with Lester Holt saying he fired Comey because of the Russia thing.

Now I believe that because Mueller is there, sitting next to Barr and I believe that Mueller probably wrote a report that doesn't need a lot of redaction in many ways because he's not new to Washington. And he probably presumed that a lot of this was going to find its way into the public view anyway. So, let's see what happens. But Nadler just decided to do these preemptive strikes today to sort of put pressure on Barr.

BALDWIN: And we should add that chairman Nadler said he would respect the redaction of a public report and Congress would make judgments as to what can and cannot be redacted at that time. Do you think the White House would be able to jump in and review whatever they deem necessary?

HONIG: That is a decision for William Barr. Is he going to give them a chance? I think there is a couple of warning signs that people in the White House and the administration are starting to get concerned. First of all, wasn't it two weeks ago the House voted 420 to zero for full disclosure and today we have all of the Republicans on the committee voting no. So, what is changing?

BALDWIN: That is a great question.

HONIG: And the other thing is, if this report is as wonderful as William Barr suggested, wouldn't he have it online and under everyone's windshield wiper. It is easy to make this whole thing public. He does have to go through a process they do have to take out classified information and they do have to take out investigative materials. We know there are ongoing investigations and that should come out too, but this grand jury stuff is a pretext as is this third- party stuff. There are easy ways around that if he wants to take them.

BALDWIN: OK, thank you guys very much. Also, today, the President just cannot seem to quit health care.

First in a surprise move he pushes to invalidate the whole Affordable Care Act and then promises a Republican replacement plan, then he punts and said wait, we'll do that after you re-elect me come 2020. And now he's prodding Republicans to embrace health care in the coming campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[14:10:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're going to get elected because of it and doing the right thing. It is a great incentive for the voters to vote for you. So instead of when they ask you a health care question, I would rather not answer that question, well what about pre-existing -- ah, ah, Alice, take me home, Alice.

Republicans should not run away from health care. You can't do it. You're going to get clobbered.

We blew it the last time. Man, I was fed a bill of goods, I want to tell you. Some of you, I'm still a little bit angry but not all of you. It wasn't even your fault. But we should have done it while we had the position. But we're going to get it back. You're going to get clobbered. We blew it the last time. Man, I was fed a bill of goods, I want to tell you. Some of you, I'm still a little bit angry but not all of you. It wasn't even your fault. But we should have done it while we had the position. But we're going to get it back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Kaitlan Collins is at the White House and what is this all about for the President?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well as he said last night during the dinner, he feels that Democrats have the upper hand on health care. But this is a fight that Republicans do not want to have. You heard the President saying there that Republicans need to be prepared to run on this in 2020 but actually Republican lawmakers were opening to run on that Democrat idea of "Medicare For All" in attacking it.

Not focusing on what their own party will produce for health care and that was something unexpected when the President suddenly started pushing for it last week. Now today the President said he did not have to be convinced not to have a vote on health care before the 2020 election but actually he kind of did based on our reporting. We heard from several sources that the President got a slew of phone calls from Republicans in recent days telling him that this is not a fight they want to have.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with the main message saying wait until after the 2020 election for something like this to become a fight in the Senate. We are not ready to have this fight right now. But with the President pushing this to 2020, Brooke, now Republicans are going to face questions about what their health care plan is and right now based on what we've heard from dozens of sources, there is no Republican health care plan. BALDWIN: Kaitlan Collins, thank you.

A lot of people are wondering what is going on with President Trump and this story he keeps telling about his father. Mainly because it is just not true. But also, because he keeps repeating it. Why the White House is struggling to explain this one?

Plus, Republicans calling on the President to stand down on his threats to close the southern border as Americans already start to feel the economic impact, a top Republican senator will join me live.

And as we mentioned, all eyes on Boston today where Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin will soon face a federal judge in connection to the massive college cheating scandal. Might they face jail time? You're watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin.

[14:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Here is just some of what the President said last week. Fix health care, fix the border. But in the days that have followed, a walk-back of sorts. Here is what the President said at the border last week and last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If they don't stop them, we're closing the border. They'll close it and we'll keep it closed for a long time. I'm not playing games.

I said I'm closing -- I wanted to close it but Mexico said, no, no, no, first time in decades, we will not let anybody get through. And they've apprehended over a thousand people today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: When it comes to health care, Republicans sounded the alarm warning this could be a gift to Democrats. Dana Bash is our chief political correspondent and good to see you. We've seen this movie before, the Trump reversal but might the whiplash on health care really be a problem for him?

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Maybe. But truthfully, every Republican I've talked to both on Capitol Hill and those who thought this was a big mistake in his orbit think that the bigger problem would have been to keep going down the road that he appeared to be going on, or at least the road that people on Capitol Hill thought he was going on, which is to reopen aggressively -- reopen the repeal Obamacare legislative debate right now.

Because they believe politically speaking that they could be in pretty good shape when it comes to the contrast that they could have in 2020. Depending on who the Democratic nominee is, Brooke, because so many of them, the candidates, are all about "Medicare For All".

And when it comes to that choice, Republicans feel like they are in much better shape to have that conversation, meaning what we have now or maybe fixing what we have now versus getting rid of private insurance and they saw what happened particularly in the House when they tried and failed in a very spectacular way to repeal and replace Obamacare legislatively. It didn't work and Republicans felt the burn big-time in losing the majority in the House.

Not just because of it not working because of Democrats getting on top of the issue and arguing that Democrats are going to save everybody from having the pre-existing condition problem. So short-term, yes, political problem. But long-term they're hoping that pulling back from the political brink is the best thing.

BALDWIN: How about another moment from the speech last night when the President hits former Vice President Joe Biden who has been forced to respond to some allegations that he made some women feel uncomfortable in his interactions with them. Here was the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[14:20:00] TRUMP: Our former Vice President, he's -- I was going to call him and I don't know him well but I was going to say, welcome to the world, Joe. You having a good time, Joe? Are you having a good time? I said general, come here, give me a kiss. I felt like Joe Biden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I mean, aside from the glaring hypocrisy of all of this, to me it is also totally making light of some of the women who have come forward.

BASH: Of course. Look this is classic Donald Trump. And, fortunately or unfortunately, it is something that people have become accustomed to. He's putting on a show.

He's speaking last night to a room of Republicans, of donors trying to give him the best Trump show he can and for him that means saying things that nobody else would or should say. And that is what that is about. You can see somebody like a late-night talk show host saying something along those lines but he's the President of the United States.

Never mind as you said the irony but that is classic Donald Trump. The notion of taking something that you should be frankly ashamed to talk about and trying to, and in many times with his history successfully, turning it into a political positive and it has had his opponents both Republicans and Democrats scratching their heads and I don't anticipate that to change any time soon.

BALDWIN: That was foreshadowing to what could be to come. Speaking of classic Donald Trump, during the spray with the NATO Secretary General, the President claimed that his father was born in a very wonderful place in Germany. While discussing the country's military spending, But Fred Trump was actually born in the Bronx.

BASH: He sure was.

BALDWIN: And that is wasn't the first time the President said that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: My father is German, right. Was German. And born in a very wonderful place in Germany, so I have a great feeling for Germany.

My father is from Germany. Both of my parents are from the EU

Both of my parents were born in EU sectors, OK. My mother was Scotland, my father was Germany.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So obviously we followed up with the White House and we've gotten radio silence when asking for clarity, a Trump adviser offered on background, quote, "Obamacare thought we had 57 states, sometimes mistakes happen." Dana?

BASH: Not the same. And this is kind of back to a version of what we were just talking about which is Donald Trump the storyteller and just kind of says things. And sometimes when he said them so much, when he's telling a story or sort of sowing a narrative about him or his family, he didn't tell the truth and this is something that doesn't make any sense because it is not like it is hard to follow up on and it doesn't get him anywhere.

His father is of German descent but he was born in the Bronx. I was talking to somebody in Trump world before coming on with you, Brooke, who was talking about the fact that -- admitted that this is the issue for Donald Trump. Not now, when he doesn't have an opponent, but if he gets somebody who he is running against who appears and comes across as genuinely Presidential and likeable, it is this kind of thing that will hurt him.

Not with the base who loves him, we know that and they love hearing tales and they don't care if some of the things he talks about are not accurate. But with the people he's going to need to win, who didn't really care as much necessarily about these things in 2016 because they like the idea of a disruptor and somebody different and they didn't like the idea of Hillary Clinton, that is where those kinds of moments, talking about his father being born if Germany, for no reason.

It doesn't get him anywhere. Only makes him look unpresidential, that is where it is going to get him. But this person I talked to said don't expect it to change. If it was going to change, it would change the day he came down the escalator four years ago.

BALDWIN: I don't think it is. You could hear the potential opponent be like Bronx and Berlin. Conflating this what else would he not? Dana Bash, perfectly put by you as always. Thank you. Keep scratching your head on that one, I guess.

We're keeping a close eye on the federal courthouse in Boston right now. Live pictures there. Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among the 15 affluent parents facing a judge any moment on charges they took part in the largest college admissions scam in U.S. history. We'll take you there live next.

[14:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Any moment now 15 more suspects in the massive college cheating scam will face a federal judge in Boston. The most high- profile defendants include Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and Loughlin's husband, fashion designer Massimo Giannulli. Huffman arrived three hours early and this is a preliminary hearing and prosecutor say they will ask for jail time. Brynn Gingras is our CNN national correspondent there outside that courthouse in Boston. So, what is happening?

[14:30:00] BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know that Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are inside of the courtroom right now, their hearing about to get started. They are among a number of defendants in this case. A number of parents. 33 were charged in all. A whole group of them were having their preliminary hearing last week. And they've been somewhat -- no fireworks really.

We don't expect anything major to come out of this. It is just a first time to get in front of the judge. But you're right, law enforcement sources tell us that prosecutors are really going to ask for all of the defendants, 6 months to almost 2 years in prison. It doesn't matter if you are an actress or not.

So really there is pressure on these defendants to have cooperation with the government. We've been seeing some court filings where we're seeing some parents may already be in talks with the government in order to not face some jail time. So, we'll see what happens. But if they do talk, Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, it is the first time that they've addressed these charges, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Brynn, thank you so much.