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Judiciary Committee Subpoena's Mueller Report; National Action Network Hosts Democratic Candidates; Democrats Try to Break Out of Pack. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 3, 2019 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: These cases as you read these indictments.

Thanks so much, Brynn. We'll see what happens today. Really appreciate it.

And thank you all so much for joining me AT THIS HOUR. "INSIDE POLITICS" starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Democrats demand the Mueller report in full and fast. The House Judiciary Committee authorizes a subpoena demanding the special counsel's report and his work product. That even before the attorney general weighs in on how much he thinks should be made public.

Plus, the president says Republicans blew it on health care and need to win the House back in 2020 to get a redo. He blames GOP congressional leaders, not himself.

And a little known businessman makes a splash in the 2020 Democratic race. Andrew Yang is raising lots of money and he vows to make his mark on the debate stage.


ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've raised millions of dollars, and the average donation is only $73.83. So my fans are even cheaper than Bernie's fans.


KING: But we begin the hour with a loud partisan fight on Capitol Hill over the Democratic demand for the Mueller report, the full report, and nothing but the full report. This morning, the House Judiciary Committee voting along party lines to subpoena the Russia special counsel's work and the materials that supported Robert Mueller's conclusions. Democrats say a scrubbed version promised by the attorney general, William Barr, is not enough and, they say, they're willing to go to court to get all of Mr. Mueller's work. The Democratic messaging crystal clear. They say the new attorney general cannot be trusted and he cannot be allowed to decide what Congress and the American public get to see.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This committee requires the full report and the underlying materials because it is our job, not the attorney general's, to determine whether or not President Trump has abused his office. And we require the report because one day, one way or another, the country will move on from President Trump. We must make it harder for future presidents to behave this way.


KING: That subpoena, another demonstration of what the new Democrat majority can demand and how far it is prepared to go to make the Mueller report public. But a Republican committee member today suggesting this novel idea, why not forget the attorney general, go straight to the source?


REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: If we're going to issue subpoenas today, let's not issue a subpoena for the Mueller report, let's issue one for Bob Mueller.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would the gentleman yield.

RATCLIFFE: Let's -- let's --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would the gentleman yield for a question (ph).

RATCLIFFE: Let me finish this thought. Let Bob Mueller come. And let's ask Bob Mueller whether or not he thinks that the report that he created should be disclosed without considerations for redactions of classified national security information or without redactions for grand jury information or other information relating to ongoing investigations.


KING: CNN Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. He's been tracking this contentious hearing.

So, Manu, the chairman now has his subpoena. Is he going to hold it or send it?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The question of the hour, John, I tried to ask that to the Judiciary chairman after this very contentious meeting. He would not say. All he would say that it would come out in very short order.

Essentially what he's trying to do is pressure the Justice Department to comply with his demands to provide the full Mueller report, to provide underlying evidence, and for those five former White House officials to provide records that they may have received from the White House as part of their preparation in their meetings with the special counsel.

Now, after the meeting, when I spoke to Jerry Nadler, I asked him, are you open to any sort of middle ground over redactions? Will you negotiate in anyway? And his answer was, no.


RAJU: Are you willing to negotiate any middle ground in terms of redactions of the Mueller report?


RAJU: You're not?

NADLER: No. The committee must see everything, as was done in every prior instance.

The committee is entitled and must see all the material and make judgments as to what can be redacted for the public release by ourselves.

We're not willing to let the attorney general, who after all is a political appointee of the president, make that judgment -- substitute his judgment for ours.


RAJU: Now, I asked him towards the end of there whether or not he'd be willing to go to court without the Justice Department to demand the release of grand jury information, people who testified before the Mueller grand jury? He said, absolutely. And that was one area of debate in this meeting today, John, Republicans tried to prevent the grand jury information from going to Capitol Hill. Democrats beat back that effort. But a real sign here that a court fight could be drawn out if the Justice Department does not comply with the Democratic demands.


KING: A court fight appears more likely by the day. Manu Raju live on The Hill. Appreciate the live reporting.

[12:05:02] With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Abby Phillip, Michael Shear with "The New York Times," Julie Hirschfeld Davis also with "The New York Times," and Molly Ball with "Time."

Contentious here. The chairman has his subpoena. Does he wait for Bill Barr and just see what he gets and say maybe we get a little better deal than we thought or do you just yield it and prove you have the power?

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": At this point I think they are waiting for some kind of response from the Justice Department. At least some kind of indication of whether there can be some cooperation on this. I mean there's a -- I think a couple things are getting muddled here, perhaps intentionally. There's the issue of releasing the Mueller report to the committee and there's the issue of releasing some version of the Mueller report to the public. The chairman here is talking only about having the full thing released to the committee. There is information, like grand jury information, that cannot be released to the public, but the Democrats are not proposing that that be publicly released. They are only saying we, on the committee, want and deserve to see that.

It is analogous to the Watergate road map is the analogy I think they would draw, which was produced by the grand jury that was convened by the special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation. That report went to the Congress. It did not go to the public. And, in fact, it remained under seal for 40 years, until just last year.

KING: And Republicans are arguing the law has been re-written, and it has been. The special counsel has been re-written from Watergate to Ken Starr to today and Bob Mueller. Democrats are saying, fine, but we still have a constitutional responsibility and obligation for oversight and we get to see it in private.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Right. Absolutely. And I do think there's an element here in terms of the timing on Nadler's part of sort of having this in his back pocket. I think there is potentially a thought that as -- if Barr knows that the subpoena is out there, that maybe the whole process of the redaction of this report, the release of this report, that the team is going through right now might come out a little bit differently because, in the end, Nadler wants it known that he is going to go after the entirety of the report, at least for his purposes and the purposes of the committee, if not for the purposes of a public release.

And that is an important, strategic move on his part because it's clear that they don't trust this attorney general to carry out this process in a way that is going to be fully transparent. They already think that the letter that he wrote overstepped his sort of mandate here and so they want to make it clear that they're not leaving this to him. Not that they left it to him before. But as their first step, they're going to say, you know, we -- we are insisting on our prerogatives here. So you should know that going in.

KING: Know that going in. In addition to the report, they also issued subpoenas for witnesses that included the former White House counsel, Don McGahn, the former White House strategist Steve Bannon, the former White House communications director Hope Hicks, the former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and a deputy, Annie Donaldson. All people who they say have information, turned over information to Robert Mueller. The Democrats want that -- them as witnesses. They want Mueller's work product so they can say, look, Robert Mueller had a focus. We might see something else we want to talk about and investigate.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, and, look, there's another element of timing here that if you want to be a little cynical in assessing the Democratic -- Democrat motives, you know, they -- it is in their interest to drag this out. So if there is a big, long court fight, if there is a -- if that takes it all the way up to the Supreme Court, if there's a fight over the grand jury information, you know, if there's a fight over whether or not these officials come before the courts to testify, or before the Congress to testify, it all drags out something that President Trump and his allies would love nothing more than to put behind them. And the Democrats recognize that to the extent that they can drag this out and push this closer and closer to the election, it gives Republicans headaches that they're going to have to deal with, both -- both the president and his re-election and the rest of his party.

KING: And so to that point, the Republicans say this is all politics. They say the Democrats were happy when Bob Mueller was appointed. They said Bob Mueller was the best guy for the job. Here's an analogy from Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the committee, a pretty colorful guy. Imagine he says, when Robert Mueller was appointed, they said, wow, that's the best guy. He's got a great fishing pole. If there's something there, he's going to find it. Now he says the Democrats want to cast a huge net.


REP. DOUG COLLINS (R), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: It reminds me of the old guys back in my home town when they wanted to go fishing and nothing was biting. They'd just take a big fishing trip and go out. Nothing was biting. And one day this old guy just got tired of it. Instead of catching anything the way he should, he just reaches in his back pocket, pulls out a piece of dynamite and throws it in the pond. I can't find anything, so I'm just going to blow up everything and maybe something will come to the top.

Maybe that's the new theme of this committee, the little train that kept looking for something that says I'll try, and I'll try, and I'll try. But at the end of the day, the president is still the president.


KING: This -- this is going -- this is to the campaign part of it, that every passing day we're closer to the 2020 election. That's not exactly the president's language, but that's the president's message.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and in some ways, I mean, I know that Republicans want to move past Mueller -- the Russia investigation and the underlying idea that the president, or his allies, colluded with the Russians.

[12:10:00] But, on some level, the campaign doesn't mind having this argument that Democrats are overreaching, that they're just trying to go on this crazy fishing expedition. They don't care what kind of damage that it does to the rest of the country. That they're just trying to hurt the president. I don't think they mind that argument.

And, in some ways, that's why the White House has gone from saying -- and the president has gone from saying, well, we don't care what is in the Mueller report. Let's release all of it. I have nothing to hide, to saying, that if you give them an inch, they're going to take a mile. They are pushing back on the Democrats at this point in part to try to make this argument that Democrats are going beyond their mandate. And I think the president, if he's going to have to deal with -- with the remnants of Mueller, he'd like to deal with it on those terms. He'd like for it to be a case of him being persecuted by the Democrats and not that Democrats are looking for legitimate potential issues that Mueller might have found that didn't rise to the occasion of the president being charged (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Important to note on that issue, the president says he would love full transparency. He often says things in public that he does not mean.



But the other question for me here is Bill Barr, because a lot of Democrats in the Senate, the all voted against him. But a lot of Democrats privately said they were actually happy that the president picked a veteran, experienced, trusted, establishment Republican guy. You're starting to see, from the Democrats, after reading that four- page letter, maybe not. Maybe this guy is more Trumpy than we thought.

DAVIS: I think that changed when the letter came out and they saw the degree to which he was willing to take whatever it is he saw -- now, they don't know what it is that he saw in the report -- and really draw a lot of conclusions that, at least in their minds, Bob Mueller never meant for Barr to draw.

Now, maybe he meant for his own team to draw. But Democrats, I think, really some of them changed their view of the way he was going to comport himself when they saw sort of the conclusive nature of that letter and then, of course, what the president did in response.

BALL: Although I think a lot of Democrats would tell you privately that it could be a lot worse, that you could have a potential pawn in there who would be going much, much further to try to cover up for the president if that was what they wanted to do.

KING: Right. And to that point, the attorney general says he'll give us an answer relatively soon about what he's prepared to put out there. We will wait and we will see. That will be the next big test.

Up next, some big, new policy proposals from the 2020 Democrats. They hint at a big dynamic in the race. How far left can most of the candidates go?


[12:16:18] KING: Democratic presidential hopefuls are at another cattle call today courting African-Americans and liberal activists aligned with an organization called the National Action Network. Criminal justice reform, drug enforcement and voting rights are getting a lot of mentions, like this form the former congressman Beto O'Rourke.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We put more of our own people behind bars per capita than any other countries on the face of the planet.

We will not be able to achieve real justice in this country by only ending the prohibition on marijuana, though we must.

There must be accountability for the enforcement of the law. There must be accountability for use of force.


KING: The other Texan in the Democratic 2020 fray, the former Housing secretary, Julian Castro, also spoke about immigration, health care, and education.


JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need universal pre-k for three and 4-year-olds in our country so that everybody gets a strong start in life. We need to improve our public schools, our k through 12 education. There are too many folks that are forgotten right now.

I grew up in one of the poorest school districts in Texas. I know that we can do a lot better. And I believe that we need to invest in our public schools.


KING: Jeff Zeleny's live at the conference up in New York.

Jeff, it's a big voting block for the Democrats. Also a little test run, if you will, as these candidates get ready for the spring and summer debates.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John, there's no question about it. It was head-to-head Texas candidates. And the former San Antonio mayor, Julian Castro, acknowledged in his remarks that he's not the front-runner in this race. He said he was not born a front-runner either though. And that inspired some people in the crowd here and they rose to their feet at the end of his remarks.

But there's no question over the next three days more than a dozen Democratic candidates will be here before Al Sharpton's National Action Network talking to African-American leaders from around the country. And there is not a more important voting bloc, at least in the Democratic primary, for these Democratic candidates. So it is a chance for them to introduce themselves and it's a chance for these leaders here in this room than to go back out to their smaller groups.

And when you talk about this large, Democratic field, but there are some themes emerging, of course. Voting rights, as you say. Also reparations. Al Sharpton, who, of course, ran for president himself back in 2004,

he's asking all of the candidates here if they would, indeed, support a committee to study reparations, that Sheila Jackson Lee, the congresswoman from Texas, is supporting. And Beto O'Rourke said he would indeed support a commission to study reparations. Julian Castro said he would as well. So that is not necessarily a litmus test, but something that certainly is a theme, a discussion point in this campaign that we've not heard in previous Democratic primaries. But, John, certainly a chance to get to know you.

We're also keeping an eye on Beto O'Rourke. He's flying to Iowa later today. A lot of candidates are scheduled to release their fundraising over the next week or so. We'll see if he does today, John.

KING: Be nice to get a look at those numbers. The first day was impressive. We'll see how the rest of the quarter went. Jeff Zeleny in New York. Enjoy the next couple of days.

Come back into the room.

Just start, more than a dozen, more than a dozen. So a lot of Americans are probably saying, dear God, it's April of 2019. But if you're in a race of maybe 20 Democratic candidates, and you're -- especially if you're the lesser knowns or the younger faces trying to break through, you're trying to make friends, you're trying to raise money and you're trying to test run these policy ideas.

One of the interesting things in the race, and we'll go through some of them, is that all of these candidates, maybe at home you don't like them, maybe at home you love them, but we're actually starting to have a pretty good policy debate.

BALL: Yes, well, you know, these candidates, as you say, are just desperately trying to make an impression. And so I think it is less about a particular policy litmus test as just trying to give people something to differentiating the candidates from one another.

What you hear when you go out, particularly to the early primary states, where people are quite engaged, I think Democratic voters aren't going, ugg, it's April, get away from me, especially -- in Iowa. They're going, yes, this is our role, we're excited, particularly for a campaign against the current president.

[12:20:16] So they're excited to hear from all these candidates. They like all of them at this point. A lot of the Democratic primary voters I've spoken to say, yes, there's a lot of good candidates to choose from, they just haven't really seen reason to go for one versus the other. There's a lot of uncertainty, a lot of ambivalence and so these candidates are still going to have to find some way to differentiating themselves from each other. Whether that means going negative, whether that means a breakout debate performance or a town hall performance, we shall see.

KING: Or all of the above in the sense that in a crowded field you're looking for space. This just -- I want to read you a little bit from an activist quoted in "The Texas Monthly" about Beto O'Rourke. So, Beto O'Rourke's running in the race. He's running as a progressive

candidate. He's running as a younger candidate. He's trying to take some away Bernie space. Bernie Sanders is, you could -- with Joe Biden at the top of the pack right now, a lot of folks got politically engaged as a result of Bernie's candidacy and threw that energy into the Beto campaign. Now that both are running, there's a split in where people want to invest their energy. Bernie undeniably influenced the conversation around a lot of issues that are dominating the president race, like healthcare, money in politics, prison reform, so that's not lost on a lot of people.

And so you're -- sort of your 2016 loyalties being tested as we move into this new campaign.

PHILLIP: And yet Bernie is still a major frontrunner in this race, even though there are a lot more people in the race pulling support from him. So it actually speaks in some ways to Bernie's resilience that he's been able to survive a Warren, a Beto and others who are basically trying to be in the same lane as him. But, yes, I mean I think that in some ways Bernie has changed the race -- I mean I think he's changed the race probably in more ways than not, that he's forced the Democratic Party to start thinking about energy and activism. He's changed the way they think about raising money and where this money should come from, which as you can see has like totally dramatically changed the dynamic. You have a lot of candidates now focusing on these small dollar contributions and eschewing large dollar contributions for now.

And -- but at the end -- but at the end of the day, I think Bernie is going to have to bring those people back into the fold if he's going to win this thing and -- and it might be more difficult than he thinks. And he's doing better now than he was doing against --

KING: Right, so --

PHILLIP: A Hillary in '16 at this point, but he has a long way to go.

KING: There are both blessings and curses at being at the top of the pack early. Often it's a curse. But it can be a blessing. But -- but, to that point, you know, ask the Clinton people, underestimate Bernie Sanders at your peril.

SHEAR: Well, that's true. I also -- I mean maybe it's just because I cover the president and I'm not out on the campaign trail as much, but it does seem to me that like ultimately, even the Democratic primary is going to come down to a sort of how people feel like these candidates are engaging with President Trump, right? Like right now, Trump is sort of absent from the -- from the conversation mostly. It's mostly about sort of differentiating among the Democrats themselves. But you have to imagine that as we get closer to some sort of choice that the Democrats are going to make, and as we get closer to President Trump realizing and engaging with that, that part of that differentiation is going to be the voters, the Democratic voters assessing, how do these people stack up against President Trump, how do they respond to the president's attacks? How do they -- how do they sort of deftly manage this guy that's sitting in the Oval Office that they want to take out. And that really hasn't happened yet. And that's what I'm going to be (INAUDIBLE).

KING: That's a good -- that's a good point. The last Democratic winner, Barack Obama, won in an open race. The campaign was about Iraq. It was about George W. Bush. But he was done. It was an open seat. It is different when you're running against an incumbent in the, do I love these policy ideas, yes, but can he beat Trump?

DAVIS: Well, right. And as Abby said, you know, Bernie Sanders may have like created a lot of space for some of these other candidates that we're seeing rising now. The big question I think is whether they actually come in and occupy that space and sort of -- and sort of get, you know, sort of freeze him out of it. And a lot of that I do think will have to do with how they engage with President Trump. How Trump engages with them. Do they get a nickname? Does he hammer away at them relentlessly? Does he feel like they're a personal threat to him? We've only seen him go after a few of these candidates by names -- by name, but -- but that will continue, obviously, as -- as -- as they rise and fall.

KING: One of our tests, if you get a presidential -- if you get a -- if you get a nickname, we can laugh, but if you get a nickname, that means he's paying attention --

DAVIS: Prominence.

SHEAR: Right.

KING: Somehow you've made his radar screen.

Up next for us, the aforementioned president gives House Republicans their healthcare marching orders.

[12:24:34] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're going to get elected because of it and you're going to be doing the right thing. It's a great incentive for the voters to vote for you. So instead of when they ask you a healthcare question, say, I'd rather not answer that question. But what about pre-existing? Uh, uh, Alice, take me home, Alice. They're asking me about pre-existing conditions. Alice, please take me home.


KING: The president, today, once again, trying to rewrite his healthcare history. Here's a tweet here. The president insisting he never intended for Republicans to develop and vote on a new healthcare plan before the 2020 election. The fact is, Republican leaders had to talk the president out of that idea, reminding him they don't have a consensus Republican proposal, not even close, and that the Democrats control the House anyway, so any Republican healthcare legislation would be a non-starter.

[12:30:03] So now a new presidential pitch, delivered last night at a fundraiser for the House Republican Campaign Committee.