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CNN NEWSROOM

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) Iowa Defends Trump's Refusal To Release Tax Returns; Rep. Katie Hill (D) California Interviewed Regarding Institutional Sexism; Rep. Jerry Nadler (D) New York Demands Communications Between DOJ And Mueller Office; Acosta Grilled For Role In Billionaire Sex Offender's Plea Deal. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired April 4, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00]

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But what Grassley is making here is his argument that democrats are trying to weaponize the tax returns to attack the President. He is trying to undercut what Richard Neal has been saying, that their argument, the democrats have been saying, this is a policy issue. They say that they are asking for these tax returns to determine whether or not the current IRS policy of auditing sitting presidents needs to be changed in any way, whether a legislation is necessary. They say they are well within their legal rights and it is part of their oversight responsibilities to demand this information.

But as you can hear from Chairman Grassley on the Senate side, you hear from republicans on the House and the Senate, they are standing by the President and his refusal to put those forward because they say this is all politics. Brooke?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN NEWSROOM: Manu Raju, thank you very much.

George Yin is waiting in the wings with me. He's a distinguished professor of law and taxation at the University of Virginia. And so, professor, obviously, what we're watching play out, this is politics. But you tell me, how can Chairman Neal do this?

GEORGE YIN, PROFESSOR OF LAW AND TAXATION, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Brooke, it's a pleasure to be with you. I've been listening to Senator Grassley, who is a responsible legislator and actually one of my former bosses. But with respect, I think he's wrong on this issue. Chairman Neal definitely has the authority to get the tax return information and he tied his request to an important function of the committee in Congress, which is the oversight roll over the auditing of the President's tax returns. There is a history of concern in that area.

Back in the 1970's, President Nixon was audited by the IRS and he received a complete clean bill of tax health with even a letter complimenting on the care with which he filed his returns. Questions continued, however, and they were then two subsequent audits of the same returns, one by the nonpartisan staff, the joint committee on taxation, and second by the IRS again. And those two -- the second and the third audits both showed that President Nixon actually owed almost half a million dollars in tax and interest.

So there is a history of problems in that area. There is kind of an inherent conflict of interest when an agency like the IRS has to audit effectively its boss.

BALDWIN: Quickly, a follow-up to you, professor, because we know the Chairman has given the IRS until April 10th to comply with this request. They want six years worth. Logistically, is that even possible?

YIN: Well, I thought Chairman Neal's request is pretty targeted and I think that is a smart move on his part. And so it's just a question of how difficult it will be to assemble the returns. I would think that if the IRS has some of the returns readily available and some not, I'm sure the chairman would be very happy to take a partial set since it's going to take some time for him and his staff to go through the material anyway.

BALDWIN: Sure. Professor George Yen, UVA, thank you.

YIN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, I will be joined live by freshman Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill. We'll get her take on the new details about the Mueller report and we'll ask her about her decision to speak up and out against the culture of sexism, some of what she has encountered in the last couple of months on Capitol Hill.

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[15:38:15]

BALDWIN: Much has been said about this freshman class elected this year to Congress, the most diverse in American history. Many of these men and women come from non-political backgrounds that are being applauded for applying real world logic to bureaucratic traditions.

My next guest says she was actually appalled to discover a Capitol Hill culture that tolerates sexism and misogyny. And now, she is speaking out about it. She is freshman Congresswoman Katie Hill. She is Vice Chair of the House Oversight Committee. And so, Congresswoman, a pleasure to have you back.

REP. KATIE HILL (D-CA): Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: I want to get all in to how you're speaking out now. But I do want to ask you about former Vice President Joe Biden. It appears all systems go on him running for president. And several more women have spoken up about feeling uncomfortable. He issued this big video Tweet yesterday saying that societal norms have changed but he didn't quite fully apologize. Do you think what he said just given the current climate in this country that that was enough?

HILL: I mean, I think we know this from our personal relationships that you can't just say, gee, I'm sorry you felt that way. You need to be apologizing for what you did. It doesn't matter your intentions. It matters how people feel and how you made them feel.

So I think this is an important moment where we are looking at things differently. The cultural norms accepted for generations and especially over the last several decades aren't there anymore. We're changing them and we need to be changing them. And I think it's really requiring a lot of us and especially men of a certain age to look back on the way they acted previously and reconcile some things.

So I'm glad that he's taking some kind of responsibility for it. I think he does owe an apology for the way that he made people feel regardless of his intentions and this is the time where -- I don't -- we're not trying to vilify people, right?

[14:40:04]

We're trying to have these conversations that need to be had, educate people and hopefully really move our culture change in the right direction.

BALDWIN: I mean, speaking of you, you have been this member of Congress for a little over three months and I'm sure it is an extraordinary honor. But you're speaking up about your experiences specifically with some male counterparts. Can you tell me about that?

HILL: Sure. I mean, it happens honestly most days you have something that is, you know, an inappropriate comment or a -- something sexist that happens in the hallway. And for most of my life, I just haven't really run into that too much. I grew up in Southern California. I worked in an industry in the non-profit sector that was largely dominated by women, especially in leadership positions. And so when I came into the field of politics, it was a totally different story. And once I got to Capitol Hill, oh, my gosh, completely different.

And there is a reason for that.

BALDWIN: Can you be specific? Be specific.

HILL: So when I -- the story that is most recently been covered is that I was talking with one of my colleagues on the floor. He was -- he gives a lot of these one-minute speeches and it is an opportunity to have to talk about any subject for one minute. And I was like, oh, you're Mr. One-minute Man or something referring to the speeches. And he's like, I can also be One-minute Man, Mr. Five-minute Man, whatever kind of man you want. And it was just like, ooh.

BALDWIN: Really? Really, bro?

HILL: And, again, look, I don't think he -- I truly don't believe that he meant anything by it except for just like, dude, you can't say that. But then just today -- was it today, it was today or yesterday, I had another one of my colleagues who said, I had a woman who is running against me who came out just recently and announced and he's asking me about her. And he's like, well is she a babe? And I'm like, what? And so, you know, I'm just like, what are you doing? And, clearly --

BALDWIN: It falls on us to say that's inappropriate as well.

HILL: You can't say that. And it's fine. I mean, I feel like I've -- throughout the course of the campaign and now being here in Congress, you take on a responsibility of educating people about a whole range of different things. And that's been something that I am raising.

BALDWIN: Yes. Kudos to you and to Congresswoman Lucy McBath. I know a lot of other ladies who are speaking up. We all have to, all of us.

HILL: Yes, absolutely.

BALDWIN: Congresswoman Katie Hill, a pleasure.

HILL: Thanks so much for having me.

BALDWIN: Still ahead, the Labor Secretary grilled on Capitol Hill over a deal he made in his former life as a prosecutor. Hear lawmakers demanding answers about why he let a convicted sex offender off so easy.

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[15:42:19]

BALDWIN: More breaking news on Capitol Hill where we have just learned the House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is now asking for all communications between Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office and the Department of Justice regarding the release of that 300 to 400 page full Mueller report. So Manu Raju is our go-to breaking news man up on the Hill. So, Manu, what more can you tell us about this?

RAJU: Yes. This is in the wake of the reports of apparent frustration among some on Robert Mueller's team with the Justice Department after the letter, that four-page letter, that Bill Barr, the Attorney General, sent out discussing the top line finding of the Mueller investigation, the concerns that did not adequately summarize what happened in the Mueller report. And those reports suggested that there were summaries written by Mueller's team that was not not released by Bill Barr.

Now, Jerry Nadler asked why those summaries were not released and the House Judiciary Chairman says he wants all communications between the Special Counsel's office and the Department of Justice over the release of the report, over the public disclosure of the report and any discussions about how to provide the report to Congress.

Now, of course, this comes also in the aftermath of the House Judiciary Committee authorizing subpoenas for Jerry Nadler to issue to demand the Department of Justice to provide this report. Now, Jerry Nadler has not yet served the subpoenas to the Justice Department.

But earlier today, he did tell me that the is -- they're essentially trying to accommodate the Justice Department to make sure that the Justice Department has -- gives them enough time to respond so in case they fight this in court, they can point to the court and say, we did everything we can to allow the Justice Department to respond and until they ultimately did not. And he said they need to inevitably hear from Robert Mueller in testimony before his Committee. That's what Jerry Nadler said.

But just moments ago here, sending this letter to Bill Barr, demanding all communications over the release of the report. We'll see how the Justice Department ultimately decides to respond. Brooke?

BALDWIN: Manu, thank you for the update.

Still ahead here on CNN, President Trump backtracks on his threat to shut down the border with Mexico, why he says he's now willing to wait an entire year to follow through.

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[15:53:59]

BALDWIN: Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta grilled by lawmakers about his role at a plea deal with billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Acosta was the U.S. Attorney in Florida at the time. A federal judge ruled in February that the 2008 deal was illegal because prosecutors failed to confer with Epstein's victims as required by law. Epstein got 16 months in jail while federal investigators reportedly identified dozens of underage victims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KATHERINE CLARK (D-MA): How, as Secretary of Labor, can you tell this panel and the American people that you can responsibly oversee this budget, the Department of Labor and including human trafficking? Is there no answer?

ALEXANDER ACOSTA, U.S. SECRETARY OF LABOR: Is that a question?

CLARK: That was a question.

ACOSTA: So, as I was saying, the Department of Justice for the past 12 years has defended the actions of the office in this case.

[15:55:57]

The facts in this case were presented to a grand jury that initially recommended -- not initially, that actually recommended a charge that would have carried no jail time at all. And at the end of --

CLARK: Do you regret making this deal in secret?

ACOSTA: At the end of the day --

CLARK: Do you regret making this deal in secret?

ACOSTA: Congresswoman, if I could finish. At the end of the day, Mr. Epstein went to jail. Epstein was incarcerated. He registered as a sex offender. The world was put on notice that he was a sex offender, and the victims received restitution. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: The Miami Herald reports Acosta met with Epstein's lawyers in a hotel room to cut the deal. The Secretary told lawmakers he doesn't remember the meeting but said records indicate it happened after the plea agreement was signed.

President Trump lashing out against reports that some on Robert Mueller's team are frustrated with him and Attorney General Bill Barr in his four-page letter, the summary of the Mueller report. We have those details ahead.

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