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Some On Mueller's Team Frustrated At Barr Synopsis Of Final Report; Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) Maryland Reaction To Unredacted Mueller Report; GOP Senators Challenge Trump's Confusing Claims, Flip Flops; Uganda Searching For U.S. Tourist, Gunmen Demand $500k. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired April 4, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:31:08] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has readied subpoenas for the full unredacted Mueller report still not yet public, and the supporting evidence in the investigation. This, as Attorney General William Barr is still in the process of redacting parts of the almost 400-page Mueller report a week and a half after briefly summarizing its findings in a four-page letter.
Now the fight is over seeing the redacted or this unredacted version. And Republicans like Lindsey Graham welcome redactions and they say that they're necessary. Democrats like Congressman Jamie Raskin want to see this thing cover to cover.
And Congressman, you're on both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight Committee. Your chairman on Judiciary, Chairman Nadler has these subpoenas now at his disposal. Why is he waiting to use them?
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D), MARYLAND, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, it's day 11 now of the Mueller report held hostage by the attorney general, and we authorized the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Chairman Nadler, to subpoena them whenever he wants at this point. We have tried to play nice with the attorney general, to do everything in our power to convince him just to turn it over. This is why --
KEILAR: Do you want the chairman to subpoena this now then if you're saying it's being held hostage and you want them to turn this over? Why not now?
RASKIN: Well, at this point it's within the discretion of the chair. And so, we've empowered him to do it, and he's going to do it when he thinks the time is right. I hope that the attorney general takes notice that we don't accept any more rationalizations or excuses on the 11th day of this interminable and ridiculous waiting period.
You know, Kenneth Starr turned over during the Clinton impeachment the entire investigative report with boxes of supporting materials, unedited and uncensored, unexpurgated to Congress and it was up to Congress to decide how to redact various kinds of information, and we just want to treated exactly the same way it's been done in every other case --
KEILAR: Well, but that's --
RASKIN: -- with an independent counsel, special counsel.
KEILAR: -- it's not the same though, right? The special counsel and independent, they're not the same thing. I mean, this is not governed by the same rules.
RASKIN: Well, I know that's a new talking point that the Republicans floated yesterday, but from a constitutional perspective it's exactly the same point because Congress has the constitutional oversight authority to get that material from the Department of Justice, whether it's under a statute or under a regulation. That's just a red herring. It's an irrelevant distraction from what we're talking about which is us vindicating our oversight power and doing the investigation that we need to do as the representatives of the American people. We are the Article I branch. We are the lawmaking branch of government.
KEILAR: Well, I just want to say there were Democrats years and years ago who felt differently about how much was turned over, and that's how important to note.
RASKIN: Oh I would lo love to clarify that. Brianna, thank you for raising that. Can I clarify that?
KEILAR: No, no, because I actually want to talk to you about something else.
RASKIN: All right.
KEILAR: So I want to talk to you about --
RASKIN: But then let me just say that's wrong. That point is wrong just so your viewers understand because this was raised by the Republicans yesterday and they said, for example, Chairman Nadler --
KEILAR: Well, this is -- I'm just going say, this is something I heard long before -- this is long before yesterday. This is just in the process of what (INAUDIBLE).
RASKIN: If I can clarify, it will take me one second. Basically, they are saying that the Congress didn't want to make everything public. That may or may not be true in different cases. But in every case the entire report came to Congress and Congress made whatever decisions were necessary.
KEILAR: OK. And there was a lot of supporting documents that were not necessarily released. Did not make it into the report to be clear that went to Congress. OK, so, there are these --
RASKIN: No, no, no. Everything came to Congress --
KEILAR: Serious -- I know, I know what you're saying but there was a lot -- there -- this isn't -- I want to talk to you about these reports about the Mueller team. I'm just telling you there were a lot of -- there were -- there was information that did not make it into the report that still did go to Congress to your -- this would actually make your point that --
KEILAR: -- just to be clear. It wasn't in the report, did go to Congress.
[13:35:01] RASKIN: I agree completely with that.
KEILAR: And it was accessible to Congress. OK. So there's -- you have these members of the Mueller team, and they think that the attorney general has mischaracterized their findings in that four-page summary that he gave.
RASKIN: According to the New York Times, yes.
KEILAR: According to multiple reports now.
So they also say that he ignored summaries. They had written these summaries. They were under the impression that these were summaries that could be released pubically. In fact, they wrote them with that in mind trying to keep sensitive information out of it. The Justice Department says actually there was still sensitive information on those summaries.
What do you think?
RASKIN: Yes. I think that we could be in the middle of a well- orchestrated, well-choreographed public relations ploy by the attorney general. And I suggested that at the beginning that every day that goes by leads us to the conclusion that there's an attempt to form public opinion and to make it harder in a particular way. And the only way to counteract that very clear impression we're getting is to release the report.
We don't want to read the cliff note versions of Macbeth written by the witches. We want to read it Macbeth ourselves in all of its lurid and gory detail. We can form our own conclusions. That's the way it works. Congress gets to decide.
So, you know, it doesn't surprise me that there are people from the Mueller team who have kept counsel for two years under the most ferocious attack by the Republicans who called them witch hunters and fascists and all these crazy stuff. And, now they're saying, you know what, we're not going to allow our work to be distorted by the attorney general of the United States. And you could tell from reading that four-page press release that it was not a fair and objective assessment of whatever is underneath.
If it's true as the president says that he's completely and totally exonerated, they would be sending hand-delivered copies to every member of Congress and every household in America. So we don't believe it's complete and total exoneration that's in that report.
KEILAR: If this were up to you personally, would you subpoena the full unredacted report right now?
RASKIN: You mean, this evening? I don't know exactly when I would do it but I would absolutely subpoena it.
KEILAR: Because you sound like you want it right at this moment.
RASKIN: Well, I think it was due to us before but obviously -- look, the chairman is dealing with a much broader canvas of questions in terms of dealing with the administration because the administration is stonewalling us.
KEILAR: Well, it was due to you by -- it was due to you by a deadline set up by Democrats.
KEILAR: Which -- just to be fair.
RASKIN: I would be doing it very soon. I think you're correctly intuiting how I feel about it. I think it's very important that Congress have it and then that we turn it over as quickly as possible after we do the appropriate redactions to the American people. This is a democracy. A democracy runs on truth and truth is the basis that unites us. But if we start running our government based on lies and deception and cover up and make that the normal standard operating procedure, we're moving into a very different form of government.
KEILAR: Are you telling your chairman, hey, let's get this moving?
RASKIN: You know, I love and trust Chairman Nadler, and I know that he's very eager for that information to be turned over to us. And so, I think he knows how I feel. I've been very emphatic about this, and I think it goes right to the question of the separation of powers. We are not a co-equal branch as people are saying. We are the primary branch of government. We have primacy. We are an Article I. We represent the people.
The president's job is to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. Right now, the president and his operatives are frustrating and thwarting the rule of law in America.
KEILAR: Congressman Jamie Raskin, thank you so much for joining us from Capitol Hill. We really appreciate it.
RASKIN: I'm delighted to come. Thank you.
KEILAR: So still ahead, why some of the president's biggest backers on the Hill are pubically criticizing his policies.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:43:20] KEILAR: President Trump threatens to slap tariffs on vehicles made in Mexico and to close the border unless Mexico stops, "The massive amounts of drugs coming into the U.S." He made the comments within the last hour, and he says giving Mexico a year to address the problem is his plan or else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only thing frankly better but less drastic than closing the border is to tariff the cars coming in, and I will do it. Just like you, you know, I will do it. I don't play games. We're going to give them a one year warning, and if the drugs don't stop or largely stop, we're going to put tariffs on Mexico and products.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: The president's threat follows days of confusing comments and policy flip flops and Republicans are pushing back on this. Senator Chuck Grassley says the president's claim that noise from wind turbines causes cancer is, quote, idiotic. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn warned about closing the southern bothered saying it would be, "devastating" "terrible mistake", respectively. Senators Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pushing back on the president's on again-off again healthcare approach.
And then following the Democrats' request to see President Trump's tax returns, Republican Senator John Kennedy says he'd like to see them, too.
Michael Smerconish is a CNN political commentator, he's also the host of CNN's Smerconish, and he's with us now. And, you know, listening to everything that Republicans are saying, I wonder if the president is saying et tu, Republicans? What do you think?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: I think it's newsworthy because it's such a rarity.
You know, there been so few instances in the two-plus years that he's been in office where Republicans, members of his own party have been willing to confront him. And so, when it does happen and when it happens in rapid succession, we all pay attention to it.
[13:45:13] I'm thinking of the executive order and the border, quote unquote, emergency being a significant exception to my observation. But he's real had free reign. He's been criticized, he the president, plenty by Democrats but so few times by members of his party. I think, Brianna, because of the concern that he excerpts such control over the base and over primary voters.
KEILAR: So I want to ask you about this reporting that we're seeing that a number of Mueller team investigators are frustrated because they don't think the attorney general's four-page summary of their report, which is almost 400 pages, accurately depicts the findings in the Mueller investigation. What do you think about this revelation? SMERCONISH: I think in the end we're going to get a look at it or at least be told exactly what's in the report. The question is how many Americans will care by the time that that moment arrives because I think that the president has been engaged in a very effective inoculation campaign.
I said it's the biggest inoculation effort since the world was rid of polio because he has laid such a foundation for the idea that not only was there a finding of no collusion, but there was no obstruction as well. We know that the latter just isn't true, that there was no finding in that regard. But I think that many have already moved on. And by the time that it comes out, I'm fearful, because I want to see it. I want to review the evidence. But I think that many will have already judged this entire episode.
One other observation, if I may, you know, Barr told us that this would be the case. In other words, Attorney General Bill Barr when he was going through the confirmation hearing process let it be known, as I recall he didn't reference Jim Comey by name, but that he found it inappropriate that someone would get hammered by the Justice Department in a scenario where they weren't being indicted.
And, of course, I took it as a reference to the whole handling of Secretary Clinton's e-mail and what Jim Comey had to say. So I don't know that I'm all that surprised. If there wasn't a finding that led to something about the president, I don't know that I'm surprised that Bill Barr wants to keep it under wraps.
KEILAR: All right. Michael Smerconish, the host of "Smerconish" here on CNN, always thoughtful, and we always love having you on that Saturdays at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
KEILAR: And next, an American is kidnapped while on safari in southwest Uganda. And now, there's a ransom demand.
[13:52:03] KEILAR: Ugandan police say an armed gang kidnapped an American tourist and her driver at gunpoint from a national park. This all happened on Tuesday evening on a safari through Queen Elizabeth National Park which is near the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo. And police say the kidnappers use the victim's phone to demand a $500,000 ransom.
For more I want to bring Kiron Skinner, she is the director of Policy Planning at the State Department. We're following this particular story of course with a considerable amount of interest, Kiron. Is there any more that you could tell us about this American who was kidnapped and how the State Department is helping with this?
KIRON SKINNER, DIRECTOR OF POLICY PLANNING, STATE DEPARTMENT: Out of respect for the family, we aren't saying very much about this evolving crisis. But there are a few things that I can share with your viewers. One, we would like those who are traveling or have loved ones in Uganda to go on our web site travel.state.gov for information about the travel status in Uganda. Also, we suggest that you can keep up with the developments there through that web site and always enroll when you are traveling abroad with the State Department using that site.
We do know that security forces are on the case in this unfortunate situation. And we will be talking about it as we learn more. But this is an active investigation.
KEILAR: The State Department is involved and/or monitoring this?
SKINNER: Say that again?
KEILAR: The State Department is involved? Is the State Department monitoring this? How would you characterize that?
SKINNER: The State Department is always involved with what happens with American citizens abroad and does monitor and actively engages with the foreign partners, yes.
KEILAR: OK. I want to ask you about something else which is, the president announcing that he's going to cut funding for aid for Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador for failing to address the issue of migration. There were observers looking at this and saying, how do you do this? How do you cut aid which could help the situation there if those immigrants are fleeing violence and poverty that may actually be stemmed by that aid? Does that just continue the cycle? How do you answer that?
SKINNER: It doesn't continue the cycle. The cycle is continued because of the weak governance in the northern triangle countries that you just mentioned. And the fact that the U.S. has given over many years to many countries something of a blank check in for assistance without strict requirements about improvements and in civil society, health and welfare of the people and stronger governance.
And I think as this migration crisis continues, the president has looked realistically at the facts on the ground which suggests that the U.S. has to make hard choices. Part of the issue of being a predominant power in the international system means that that state has to make hard choices on behalf of the system provide a signal of leadership.
[13:55:09] This is an attempt to really suggest to our neighbors on the southern border that they, in fact, have to do much more for their own people. U.S. foreign assistance cannot solve their local problems which are endemic to them over many, many decades, if not longer.
KEILAR: I want to ask you about NATO because in an address to Congress, the head of NATO says, the president's push for allies to increase defense spending is working. Has this relationship between the U.S. and NATO stabilized?
SKINNER: I think so. But I, you know, just your premise that it needs to be stabilized, I think it has always been stable. We're celebrating the 70th year of NATO. There have been periods, peaks and valleys where we've had disagreement that are just as significant as the one we've had recently about defense spending. But it was NATO countries themselves that agreed in 2014 to a pledge in Wales of 2 percent of GDP for defense.
It is significant that in the two years or more that Donald Trump has been in the White House there has been $41 billion additional from Europeans and Canada, NATO partners with $100 billion more expected in years to come.
The numbers just don't matter. But the commitment to collective defense and the deterrent effect that it has that we're putting more in collectively to work on our defense and in research and development to promote exotic technologies, to counter all of those who would challenge the 29 members and with North Macedonia possibly 30 in the years ahead. This is what Donald Trump has ignited.
And it was the NATO secretary general who in an unprecedented move talked about what an American president had done before the U.S. Congress.
KEILAR: Kiron Skinner, thank you so much for joining us from the State Department.
And ahead, the Attorney General Bill Barr defending his summary after members of the Robert Mueller's team say the findings of the investigation are more damaging than Barr revealed.