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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
White House Official: Willing to Fight Dems' Demand for Pres. Trump Tax Returns All the Way to the Supreme Court; Biden Jokes About Physical Contact In First Speech Since Allegations He Made Women Uncomfortable; President Trump Claims No More Room For Immigrants; Says "Our Country Is Full So Turn Around"; Pressure Building For Release Of Mueller Report; Battle Over Barr Summary Continues; Attorney General Set To Testify Next Week; President Trump's Picks: Competent Or Cronies?. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired April 5, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:20] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We begin tonight keeping them honest with President Trump retaining legal counsel and reportedly willing to fight all the way to the Supreme Court so no one can see his tax returns which is not what he seemed to say he would do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: Will you release any of your tax returns for the public to scrutinize?
DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): Well, we're working on that right now. I have big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approve and very beautiful, and we'll be working on that over the next period of time, Chuck. Absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, that was in January 2016. Tonight, we truly know that by next period of time, the president actually meant, with the guy in that next famous "New Yorker" cartoon meant, how about never? He says, is never good enough for you.
Except, that's not what candidate Trump said. He said he was being audited and that somehow made it impossible for him to release his returns, which is not true. And we've seen no evidence of an audit.
Now, there's no law saying a candidate has to release his or her tax returns, yet every presidential nominee since Gerald Ford has made his taxes public in one form or another. Some like Ford only give a summary, some put out more years than others. But it's a custom that they followed in part to reassure voters that the president of the United States would be acting in the public interest and not for private gain.
Well, now, the Democrats are in control of the House, they decided they should see the president's returns. So, Wednesday, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee sent the IRS a request for the president's last six most recent tax returns. Today, we learned the president has had hired lawyers to block the move. His attorney, in a letter to the Treasury Department, calling, it and I'm quoting here, a transparent effort by one political party to harass an official from the other party because they dislike his politics and speech.
He goes on to say: Even when Ways and Means can identify some legitimate committee purpose, it cannot request tax returns and return information to punish taxpayers for their speech or politics.
So, that's just a part of a densely packed, multi-prong legal argument, which will talk about more in a minute.
The president also weighed in about his taxes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Nothing whatsoever. I've nothing to say about it. I got elected. They elected me. Now they keep going.
I'm under audit. When you're under audit, you don't do it. I'm under audit.
Other people are under audit and nobody would do it when you are going through an audit. I always go through audits. They audit me all the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, that's the president making a less coherent version of the explanation he first begun using more than three years ago, namely, I'd love to do it but.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: As far as my return, I'd love to file it, except many years I've been audited many years, 12 years or something like that. Every year, they audit me, audit me, audit me. Nobody gets audited -- I have friends that are wealthy people, they never get audited. I get audited every year.
I will absolutely give my return but I'm being audited now for two or three years so I can't do it until the audit is finished, obviously. And I think people understand that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, keeping them honest, he says nobody gets audited not even his wealthy friends, but he also gets audited every year for 12 years, then he says it's two or three or something. In any case, he's suggesting by being audited, that precludes your taxes being shown, again, it doesn't. Richard Nixon disclosed his taxes during an audit. On top of that, President Trump has never produced any official evidence he is being audited not to the public, not to even his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, who was asked about it during his congressional testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you know whether President Trump's tax returns were really under audit by the IRS in 2016?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I don't know the answer. I asked for a copy of the audit so that I could use it in terms of my statements to the press. And I was never able to obtain one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So possibility one, there is or was an audit or audits, but the president didn't want to show one of his closest advisers the evidence of it, or possibly two there's no audit and the president doesn't want to show anyone his taxes, which is understandable for a host of possible reasons, they could show he's worth less than he claims or he doesn't give much to charities, with his actions with the now defunct foundation suggests, or he could be engaged in some sort of shady tax schemes "The New York Times" detailed in a massive investigative report last October.
We don't know. That's exactly the reason candidates release their returns, it's called transparency.
More now on the president's determination to fight this all the way to the highest court in the land, CNN's Jim Acosta joins us from the White House.
So, talk about how the president is reacting to all of this.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you heard the president say once again that was a good audit of his recent record on this question, Anderson. You know, he said once again today down at the border that he's under audit and he has no plans essentially of doing this. We talked to people at the White House, I talked to one administration official earlier today who said they're prepared to take this to the Supreme Court.
In the words of this official, we'll see you in the year 2023.
[20:05:03] That was a reference to just how long this court fight could take. This official said this is a hill and the Trump people are willing to die on it. That's how strongly they feel about this. They feel members of Congress have zero right in the words of this official to see the president's tax returns and they don't want to set a precedent for future occupants of the Oval Office.
But, Anderson, of course, by fighting it this hard, they're, of course, perhaps setting another precedent, you may never be able to dislodge a future candidate from his tax returns if he or she doesn't want to give them up.
COOPER: Have his attorneys been preparing for this fight? I mean, it's not like it was hard to predict.
ACOSTA: Right, we were asking that at the news conference right after the midterms. Officials inside the White House have been seeing this coming for a long time now and they've been preparing for this eventually for months, according to the sources we're talking to. They hired a legal team that specializes in this. They're not looking at this so much a tax issue, they're looking at it as a constitutional issue. They feel the president has a constitutional right to keep his tax returns secret from the American people and as we've said, Anderson, they're prepared to fight it to the Supreme Court.
And, you know, if President Trump is not re-elected in 2020, I know a lot of Trump people don't want to hear that, there is the possibility if you listen to what this administration official said to me earlier today that this court battle could go on longer than President Trump would be in office, Anderson.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
Last night on the program, "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman broke the news the president wanted priority action on confirming his pick for the IRS chief counsel. He wanted to give a higher priority then, even the confirmation of the attorney general nominee William Barr.
Maggie is back with us tonight. Also with us is "New York Times" investigative reporter Susanne Craig, who was one of three names on the byline of that very impressive Trump tax story we mentioned earlier, former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Shan Wu is with us as well. And Philip Hackney, former attorney to the IRS chief counsel.
Maggie, how did President Trump going from making the release of his taxes a campaign pledge at one point to a vow now fighting it all the way to the Supreme Court?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think the same way he handles everything, Anderson, that he changes his mind about when it doesn't sound as good for him from one moment to the next. I think it's no surprise that he's not releasing his tax returns despite having said he really wants to, he has claimed they're under audit, we have no independent verification of that. We may not know that for quite some time.
And what we have seen repeatedly is his legal team invoked this idea that he doesn't lose his rights as a private citizen just because he's president. They -- in the case of the obstruction of justice into the president suggested that he was simply voicing his opinions on Twitter when he did things that could touch on the investigation. They're making the same point now, that as a citizen he's being penalized their argument is for speaking his mind politically and this is a political attack.
I think this fight could go on for a very long time and indeed could go to the Supreme Court.
COOPER: Susanne, you were part of this incredible reporting by the "New York Times," broad investigation of the president's tax history.
In terms of what you learned, does it give you any indication why he would be reluctant to release his returns?
SUSANNE CRAIG, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think bottom line is he's reluctant to release because he does something to hide, there's something there that he doesn't want us to see or he would.
There's a lot of things you can think about. You can think about if we were to get his schedules you would find things like where are the origins of his income, where they're coming from? Both his businesses, and which businesses but and also which countries they're coming from.
There's a lot that could be in there that he doesn't want us to see and he's now a public official with a business and the hidden hand is in there somewhere.
COOPER: But you made the point that tax returns are often kind of the person making their best case to the U.S. government. It's not as if there's a line that says this is where we're committing fraud.
CRAIG: No, there's not. I think there's a starting point but I think there's a lot packed into tax returns that you can see. We did an investigation in 2018 and we learned a lot from -- we had in that case, a lot of Fred Trump's, his father's, tax returns, and you could see where his money was coming from in that case. He was a pretty steady Eddie guy in Queens and doing a lot of building. It was fairly predictable.
But that was just -- that was also, you know, I think an important data point and with Donald Trump we don't know where that income is coming from. Is it foreign? You know, he's had a lot of iterations in his career, failed casino guy, TV personality, now he's involved in golf courses and other resort stuff. Also, is there foreign income in there?
I think a lot we'll see from the schedules and sort of the back documents that we haven't so far seen, there's been pages here and there that have come out, it's going to be where exactly is the revenue coming from? Yes.
COOPER: Phil, what happens now? The Ways and Means Committee wants the tax returns. The president says, no, they're going to fight it?
PHILIP HACKNEY, FORMER IRS COUNSEL ATTORNEY: Yes, according to the code, they should provide the returns.
[20:10:04] The IRS would turn them over.
COOPER: No question about it?
HACKNEY: Yes, no question about it. The statue says they shall turn them over. There is no aspect that the Ways and Means Committee needs to bring forward to show any proof that they have a right to them. I think there's good case that the committee does have a right to them, given the reporting done that you just discussed regarding the "New York Times", but also the concerns regarding Russia.
So I think there's plenty of good reason for them to get it. But there is nothing on the face of the statue that requires any showing.
COOPER: Shan, in the letter from the president's attorneys, they're arguing that the Ways and Means has no legitimate purpose for requesting the returns and they talked about -- this is basically an attack on the president to punish him for his speech and politics.
SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's a weak letter, Anderson. It's like a grab bag of legal arguments in there. I mean, they start with saying there's no legitimate purpose and say even if it's legitimate, it's actually pre-textural.
And then if you don't buy that, we also think they're punishing him for his unpopular views. And then, lastly, towards the end, they throw in the idea and really this is an attack on the Constitution because it's a violation of the separation of powers.
So, usually, when you have lawyers making grab bag worth of arguments like that, they have a sense they don't have a single penetrating strong legal argument so they're throwing everything out there in a shotgun style, and it looks weak.
COOPER: Shan, in terms of how long this could go on for, if it does go to the Supreme Court, is one talking years?
WU: Theoretically possible, although I would look at it more optimistically in terms of speed, because these are very purely legal arguments and can probably be disposed of in like legal posture, summary judgment, et cetera. You wouldn't have to go to trial on this, and realistically, I mean, one of the problems with the argument that's pretextual is how would you show that?
I mean, you'd have to try to get evidence that maybe there'd be talk or e-mails that this is really fake, this is not a real reason. It's not a factual case, it's a legal issue. And I think it'll be quickly disposed of legally.
COOPER: Maggie, again the idea he's under audit, there's no evidence and even if you are under audit, you can still have people look at your tax returns?
HABERMAN: Of course. Look, we have no way of knowing he's under audit. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. There's no way to independently verify that.
But, yes, if you want to show your tax returns, yes, you show them. This is another norm you have seen this president shatter. When you think of Senator Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate in 2012, he also had a very complicated business filing and took him a very long time to get around to being willing to show his taxes. Even he did it, and it hurt him. There was a political cost to it, but it's what presidents and presidential candidates have done for decades.
Donald Trump decided he was not going to do that and he has resisted it consistently. I agree with Sue that it's not a surprise. I do agree if he wanted us to see what was in there, he would show us. It might be nothing nefarious, it might be embarrassing. But there's a reason they've shown them before, so that the public -- voting people that votes people into office know what potential conflicts are.
COOPER: Yes, Sue, it could be just -- as Maggie said, embarrassing like he's not as rich as --
CRAIG: Why doesn't he release the note from the IRS, the letter from the IRS saying he's under audit. The IRS is also -- that's one way through this. But there's also now subpoenas out to Deutsche Bank and his accounting firm.
COOPER: Yes, explain the importance of the accounting firm.
CRAIG: Well, I think it's really significant because there's an accounting firm that he deals with that has a subpoena he deals with the office on Long Island --
COOPER: And they've been doing his taxes from the beginning?
CRAIG: From the beginning. And they were dealing with a firm they bought, they were doing Fred Trump's returns. This is a firm that's been dealing with Donald Trump since he was born.
The amount of information that they potential have about him is huge. It's important to understand that tax returns are one piece of the puzzle. You've also got -- you know, there's potential to get bank records and other general ledgers to piece together what's going on with Trump and his finances.
And I think if you can't get it through the IRS, there's other avenues, including Deutsche, his main bank now, significant bank on Wall Street that he's doing business with, and the accounting firm, and potential other areas. But it's like air around a balloon and I think the IRS fight --
COOPER: Has the accounting firm said what they're going to do?
CRAIG: It's been represented that they'll respond to the subpoena. I think there's probably going to be potential lawyers involved in potential litigation on that. But they've -- or they've been told that they're going to be getting a subpoena.
[20:15:03] So, that's the one I'm watching to see exactly how that goes.
COOPER: Phil, how -- just in terms of from the IRS's standpoint, they have the counsel now that the president picked. What sort of influence does that person have in deciding whether or not the IRS turns this over and how significant do you think these returns are? Again, is this just something Democrats are grabbing at that you don't think will show something of significance? Or is this really critical?
HACKNEY: Sure. So first question, I've heard a lot of folks talking about Michael Desmond and Chuck Rettig. I happen to know them and respect them both as attorneys. I think they were both picks, both of them.
So, I don't see them as simply Trump's men. So, I think they will be thinking through this question as carefully as they can.
But is this significant? Yes. I think it is. I think it's important to the Ways and Means Committees exercising proper oversight over the executive branch, both the IRS in terms of how it operates and the president. So I think it's a significant issue, not just in terms of the information that is there, but in terms of the operation of our government.
When a statute says shall, it's important that the executive branch operate in the way to enforce that law. If it does not, I think we have a real problem.
COOPER: Shan, I'm wondering what you make of the reporting by the times, yesterday, Maggie and others, that as far as the president's push to have the chief counsel confirmed prioritized. Does that concern you?
WU: It concerns me. It's certainly unseemly, wanting to prioritize that nomination over the attorney general seems like there's a reason and tells us what the president is more concerned over. I also think it opens him up potentially to more of the suspicions about his obstructionist tactics. Now he's put that forward that's his priority.
I think he and his legal team have to be careful about what he's doing about that. If he makes public tweets suggesting the right thing to do -- all paths lead back to the Mueller report but we don't know the details that did not exonerate him in the obstruction action. I think his legal team would do well to say be quiet about this, we don't know what they're looking at. You don't want to do the same things again.
COOPER: He actually did say, I have nothing to say about this, and then talked about an audit. He wasn't adding new things to the mix.
HABERMAN: No, he was not. I think this is not a topic he's eager to spend much time talking about, although who knows how he tends to be quiet and then talk about these things later. But I think his lawyers have said he'd do more harm than good in this case. So, that's (INAUDIBLE) and he has not abided by it.
Look, I think that this is something that has caused him a lot of anxiety for a long time. For those of us who covered him for a long time, part of the reason we thought he wasn't going to want to run for president is he wasn't going to want to do financial disclosures, he did do those. And that he wasn't going to want to release his taxes and he didn't do that. So, we'll see where this goes.
COOPER: Yes. Maggie Haberman, Sue Craig, thanks so much. Shan Wu and Phil Hackney as well, really great to have you all. Thank you.
Coming up next, Joe Biden jokes about touching, and both his critics and defenders have plenty to say about it. We'll look at the latest of what he said. We'll show you that.
Later, the president's border visit, his claim that the country is full. Reaction from the mayor of the town he visited today ahead on 360.
[20:22:45] COOPER: In most cases, if you're a public figure accused of women of inappropriate touching, the last thing you want to do is make a joke about inappropriate touching. Joe Biden today made two, first when he was introduced at a union gathering in Washington and second a short time a little later at the same event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: You guys can sit at the edge. You don't have to stand -- by the way, he gave me permission to touch him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, speaking to reporters a short time after that, here's what he said unprompted on the subject.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)_
BIDEN: Wasn't my intent to make light of anyone's discomfort. I realize my responsibility is to not invade the space of anyone who's uncomfortable in that regard. And I -- I hope it wasn't taken that way.
But there was a -- you know, I literally think it's incumbent on me and I think everybody else to make sure that if you embrace someone, if you touch someone, it's with their consent regardless of your intentions, even if you're trying to bring solace, trying to welcome them. And it's my responsibility to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right. Well, joining us is "USA Today" columnist and CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers, CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and former senior Obama White House adviser, David Axelrod.
David, I mean, the vice president said -- he made two jokes on the stage and then clearly walked outside to the press and unprompted started saying he wasn't trying to make light of anybody's discomfort, obviously somebody had said something to him or he was aware it seemed to play well in the room, it might not be perceived that way widespread.
DAVID AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Yes, and the odd thing about it is that it took a while for them to get there. But I thought the video he put out was actually pretty impactful, it was genuine and believable. That's what most people that know Joe Biden believe that he's an exuberant guy. This is behavior we've all seen. It isn't lascivious in any way.
But, you know, having put that video out, you'd think he'd want that to be the last word.
[20:25:03] And he got in his own way again today. And so, you know, one of the questions here is the lack of agility with which he and the operation have handled the issue. The video was fine, let it be the last word, you've spoken. And instead, you know, he made a joke.
COOPER: Gloria, if you want a controversial to go away, and you have -- you know, I guess, I don't know if it's stumbled a couple days, figured out what to say, made a video, he's not making it go away.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he's not making it go away, and he's only reminding people of the gaffe-prone Joe Biden. I mean, this was a gaffe today. He shouldn't have done it. I'm sure his aides were cringing, which is why they sent him out there unprompted to talk to the press and started talking about it immediately.
And, you know, this is Joe Biden. So, they had ended it. They tried to end it with the video, they did a good job on that, Biden did a good job on that. Now he needs to get his campaign together and start talking about issues and he didn't do that today.
COOPER: Kirsten, you said in the program earlier this week, you kind of wanted a more fulsome apology. I thought of that today. What did you make of what happened today?
KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Originally, when he had said before he did the video, I didn't think it was a fulsome apology. I thought the video was great. I mean, I might have tweaked it a bit here and there, but overall it seemed sincere and genuine, and he got this was a problem and he wanted to change.
And what more can you ask of people, right? It's -- that's what you want. You want people to hear you and want to be able to change. And watching this today, you say, did he get it? I don't know. Because this is -- there is an issue that for so long in our culture, we just didn't talk about. Now we finally have had these conversations.
We talk a lot about me too, but there's also been a parallel conversation around the massive, you know, pedophilia crisis in the Catholic Church about touching children. So seeing him making a joke with a little boy is just like, are you paying attention to what's happening in our culture?
To me, I've never felt that he was too old in the sense that he's not capable. I think he's obviously very capable and I don't -- I'm not ageist, and I don't think he's too old in that sense. But he is more and more seeming like he's just missing out on these major cultural changes that we're having and not understanding them. We hear how he's from another era and, you know, maybe that's the problem, I don't know, but this isn't -- this isn't OK.
COOPER: David, is this a question of being from another era? I mean, there's plenty of people from another era who can read and be abreast of things that are happening now. AXELROD: Yes. Look, I think part of what's at play here, as he said
in his video, his intentions were not -- were not impure. That, you know, he's -- this is the way he's always been. It's the way he's expressed himself.
And I don't think he wants to associate himself with the notion that there was something wrong with it. So, I mean -- wrong in the sense that his intentions were not there. So he keeps trying to split that hair and it's not coming out right. Just say I'm sorry people were not comfortable, I learned my lesson and move on. That's what he should do.
I think, generally, you know, part of his strength is that he's well known, he's well-liked, he is a guy that's authentic. The gaffes are part of that authenticity. But he's been around a while and there are a lot of things that will be dragged back from other eras of politics that won't seem as comfortable to people in this era. That's just the flip side of what he brings to the table.
I think we all ought to recognize, though, that we judge these things in the moment and they often pass. I think this probably will as well. He's not going to prance to the nomination here, he has to fight for it, but he brings considerable assets to it, that shouldn't be forgotten.
COOPER: Gloria, I mean, it is -- there has been remarks about gaffes he has made and it does make one replay a lot of that stuff from the past and fits that narrative, which is a concern of people all along.
BORGER: It is. And it reminds people about Joe Biden, the gaffe- prone Joe Biden, remembering him as vice president and the things he said off mic that he shouldn't have said.
But as David were saying, there's also an authenticity about Joe Biden that people like. I don't understand why he couldn't say I'm sorry if I offended you to these women. I didn't mean to, as he kept saying today, it wasn't my intention.
And we know it wasn't his intention. Remember he's not accused like Donald Trump of sexual harassment. He's not paying off mistresses here. He made mistakes because he's a very tactile politician.
[20:30:04] So, you know, so it's a very different game here for him.
But why he couldn't have said, "Look, I'm sorry that I offended you. I'll try to do better in the future, it's a new world, I get it, and move on." Instead, as David said, he keeps trying to split this hair. It's not what I meant. And I don't really understand that. I can't get that.
COOPER: Kirsten, does this tell you anything about his ability to sort of compete face-to-face, head-to-head with President Trump if it ever got to that time? I mean, what seems so critical for any Democratic candidate is to know how to actually run against President Trump who is a formidable, obviously, candidate who destroyed a field of, you know, very capable Republican candidates? KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean I think that obviously -- there's a lot to like about Joe Biden, and I think that he would probably do well against Donald Trump just, you know, through having the experience that he's had. But because he is so prone to saying, you know, these -- what we're calling gaffes, I guess, I think it makes it more difficult to even get out of the primary.
And I think that he -- he's entitled. I mean, he's a former vice president. He's been around Washington since he was 29 years old, right. So this is somebody who I think is out of place in his career, where he feels like I've been here serving my country, I've done all these things and it seems like there's a part of him that doesn't necessarily want to say I'm sorry.
You know, I think the video was good but, you know, as we've discussed there's other things that he's going to need to apologize for, like Anita Hill. And I think that he, you know, is going to have a problem with that.
COOPER: Yes. Kirsten Powers, Gloria Borger, David Axelrod, thanks very much.
Before he went to the southern border today, President Trump upended his own nominee to be the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Then when he got there, he delivered a blunt message for all immigrants. We have details on that ahead.
[20:35:30] COOPER: Before he left for California today, President Trump pulled the nomination of his own pick to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It was although more striking because that nominee, Ron Vitiello, had been the acting director since last summer.
The President told reporters he wanted to go in a "tougher direction." Two White House officials tells CNN that reason was that presidential advisor, Stephen Miller, believe the nominee wasn't in favor of closing the southern border as the President has suggested.
Even more unusual, perhaps it shouldn't be unusual anymore, the President's action came as a surprise to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who apparently wasn't inform until after the nomination have been scrubbed according to a person familiar with the events.
Now, by the time Mr. Trump arrived at a round table discussion in Calexico, Mexico -- excuse me, in California, he had a blunt message on immigration into the United States, essentially hanging a no vacancy sign on the country's door.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The system is full. We can't take you anymore. Whether it's asylum, whether it's anything you want, it's illegal immigration, we can't take you anymore. We can't take you. Our country is full. Our area's full. The sector is full. Can't take you anymore, I'm sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining me now, the former mayor of Calexico, Maritza Hurtado. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us. You lived in Calexico for years. When there's talk of new wall being built, I'm wondering what you think of that?
MARITZA HURTADO, FORMER MAYOR, CALEXICO, CALIFORNIA: First of all, thank you Anderson for coming to Calexico and joining us here in this very, very important visit for the city of Calexico.
The first thing that we thought about was why us. Why does community of immigrants, community of good people, friendly people, where visitors here come and cross through into Mexico and enjoy the border life, we don't understand why we have to be in the rhetoric of today's news and we decided to take action today.
A grassroots effort here in Calexico we called it border voices and just a few of us, a grassroots effort. Sunday we got the call to action. We found out that he was coming and we decided to organize. And we had the support of our city, our businesses, and we came out here and brought quite a bit of people and really happy, really happy.
COOPER: So when the President said that the country is full, I assume you do not agree with that.
HURTADO: Well, as an immigration consultant, that's my day job now. I've owned a business for services of immigration here in the city for three years and I just think that there has to be a very, very comprehensive conversation about the true, true reasons of why we're in the position that we're in now.
I think that's what we tried to do today is to let him know that he needs to listen. He needs to listen to these communities of the true effects of what it is to live on border -- in a border like this.
We have other issues. We have the new river that's right behind me that is the most polluted river in all the United States. It carries so many different causes of cancer and other illnesses. We have the salt and sea that causes so much asthma in this area, and he's not looking at that.
And so we wanted to make sure to send him that message that, number one, we're united as one voice with our neighbors in Mexicali, Mexico, as one region, and that we also want him to take a look at what we care about, the issues that are very important to us.
COOPER: The notion of the border closing, which really means ports of entry being shutdown, now it's -- the President said, "Oh, we'll look at that in a year depending on how Mexico acts." If it was to shutdown, what impact would that have on Calexico?
HURTADO: I can tell you that ever since this started our community has been in panic, our schools, our businesses, the agricultural industry. And so when the -- the hearts and minds of the people of our community are being -- it feels it's being played with. We don't take that lightly.
This is our lives. We haven't heard anyone. We're law abiding citizens. And as a very friendly city, we feel that we need to have a discussion. And if you want to start with Calexico, let's start Calexico now.
COOPER: All right.
HURTADO: It's time to actually pay attention to us.
COOPER: Maritza Hurtado, appreciate it. Thank you very much.
As the weekend -- the pressure seems to build for the full release of the Mueller investigation. Just ahead, what's ahead on Capitol Hill and how likely is it the entire report will actually become public?
[20:43:32] COOPER: William Barr's stunt has backfired, that's the headline of an op-ed in "The Washington Post" tonight and whether or not you'd call it a stunt or whether or not it's backfired isn't entirely the point.
It's -- the fact that the Mueller findings have reemerged this week is something that has, again, gripped Capitol Hill if not throughout the country, it's pretty extraordinary case of whiplash after all it was less than two weeks ago that Attorney General Barr wrote his summary that said the President was clear of obstruction and that the case of obstruction was undecided. The White House -- excuse me, cleared of collusion.
The White House took a victory lap, even praised the investigators and Democrats were treated. That's now changed with reporting that members of the Mueller team were unhappy with the way Attorney General Barr summarized their conclusions.
So the White House has gone back to the attacking the investigation. Democrats are clamoring for the release of the full report, which they're expected to get as early as next week. Whether or not it's the full report, it's certainly not going away any time soon.
I want to talk about it now with what to expect with Robert Ray who is independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation, and Garrett Graff, author of "Mueller's War."
Robert, at this point the attorney general has essentially put -- sort of said that there's four criteria for redacting things. Do those four criteria make sense to you, because one of them that raised concerns is the idea of redacting things that relate to any third party who is portrayed in a bad light, but -- and since nobody is charged with a crime?
ROBERT RAY, FORMER WHITEWATER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Well. I think the operative word there, and it was one that I picked up on from the attorney general's letter was peripheral. So I don't think that applies to the President. [20:45:05] COOPER: You don't think that applies to him?
RAY: I don't. I mean, I think that's with regard to other people. So -- and then I guess the other thing that -- yes, I agree with that, that generally speaking the four criteria, and I think the executive privilege issue has been taken off the table because the President has said in effect that he would let that go to the attorney general to decide. And the attorney general I think is probably going air on the side of not asserting executive privilege.
RAY: So, you know, that still leaves, you know, a fair amount of material still to be redacted, from what I understand, which would include principally grand jury material and then, you know, any material that would relate to an ongoing criminal investigation that might be conducted or it may be conducted right now in one of the U.S. attorney's offices. So you can certainly foresee that.
And then, of course, the big one, which is national security information, which I think everybody, seems on both sides of the partisan divide seem to understand that that's not going to be in the report, that will be redacted.
COOPER: Garrett, I mean, what we're seeing -- you say that what we're seeing here is kind of a divide between criminal and the political. Explain what you mean by that.
GARRETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, "MUELLER'S WAR": Yes. You know, this is a case where Barr's letter appears to have just been answering the political -- I'm sorry, the criminal question, which he appears to have done accurately. Robert Mueller did not find criminal collusion. He did not find criminal obstruction. Although he did decline to make a traditional prosecutorial decision as Barr said in that first letter.
Now, what Mueller's team appears to be trying to say is, look, criminal isn't the only thing we were looking at. This is the President of the United States and he should be held to a higher standard, potentially, than just could we prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is an active asset of a foreign adversary.
And that there's plenty of material, there's plenty of evidence, there's plenty of activity that we, in our political system, in our Democratic process, would consider troubling and potentially impeachable even that falls short of a criminal charge.
And that -- that could be part of why Mueller declined to make a traditional prosecutorial decision on obstruction. That he saw himself as an independent fact finder who was going to be turning over this evidence to Congress, which is the body that it's constitutionally delineated to deal with presidential malfeasance.
COOPER: Robert, I mean, if that is the case, did Mueller make the right decision of sort of -- there being both the criminal and political? RAY: That's not his job, though, right? I mean, he's a prosecutor and prosecutors make prosecutorial judgments. Now, with regard to something as momentous as this, it's not surprising to me at least that it might have landed in the lap of the attorney general to make that call and I think -- you know, we'll find out more about that I think when Bill Barr testifies.
COOPER: Congressman Nadler makes the point that it's not the attorney's job to make that call, that is actually Congress' job.
RAY: Well, again, that's confusing, the political and the criminal, right? I mean, the job of the Department of Justice, whether you talk about it from the perspective of the attorney general or the special counsel or both, is to render a prosecutorial judgment about whether or not a crime has been committed and whether or not it's appropriate to bring charges against the accused. That's it. That's not a political judgment. That's a prosecutorial judgment, right? Now, yes, it is true --
GRAFF: But it's not clear that Mueller asked -- sorry. It's not clear that Mueller actually asked Barr to weigh in. That it seems potentially from the letter that Mueller --
RAY: Well, he doesn't have to ask him to weigh in. I mean, he's the attorney general.
GRAFF: Well, but there's no reason for Barr to have weighed in if Mueller was already making clear he wasn't bringing a traditional prosecutorial decision.
RAY: Well, that's his job, though.
GRAFF: That this wasn't a case --
RAY: I mean, somebody have -- it sort of reminds me of like the Supreme Court's decision in Bush versus Gore and they asked Justice Scalia after it was all over like, you know, criticizing why the Supreme Court stepped in. It was like, "Well, look, somebody had to decide the election. It was in our lap. We decided, get over it." It's the same thing here, the -- somebody had to decide. The attorney general decided it, get over it.
The fact that there are people now who are saying we're sort of unhappy with that, who apparently are talking to associates, who are talking to the newspapers is interesting. I've been through this drill before.
You know, with regard to matters like this is not a democracy, one prosecutor is the person who decides whether or not you bring charges or you don't bring charges. You can have a debate about whether or not that should have been Mueller or --
GRAFF: But that's why it's so important --
COOPER: Let him finish.
RAY: You can debate about whether you wanted Bob Mueller to make that the decision or the attorney general to make the decision. But the decision nonetheless had to be made and it's now been made.
COOPER: Yes. Garrett?
RAY: Now, that's different. Yes, acknowledged it is different than the political argument about whether or not impeachment proceedings may be warranted.
And there -- yes, there is wiggle room with regard to the disclosure of information in the report that might otherwise constitute grand jury material that would be withheld that Congress might have an interest in seeing, but that would require the Department of Justice to apply to a court to get a court order and basically for the Department of Justice to be on board with the Congress in anticipation of potential impeachment proceedings in order to do that. I don't foresee that that's going to happen.
[20:50:16] COOPER: Garrett, I just want to get your final thought and then we have to go.
GRAFF: Yes. But it's just not clear. This is why it's so important. We see how Mueller framed this question himself, because it's not necessarily clear that he intended for Barr to weigh in before this information made to it Congress.
RAY: Yes. I guess my answer to that would be it doesn't matter whether that's what, you know, what he thought. Ultimately, that's the attorney general's call.
COOPER: Robert Ray, Garrett Graff, thank you very much. We'll see you. I want to check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Robert Ray, clever fellow. The issue with the AG taking the decision from Mueller is that if he's just hewing to the guidelines, that's not in there. So, if you're going to call an audible while not illegal, one not necessarily a transgression, it shows he has discretion and that's the issue here.
Is he just sticking to the book or he is making judgment calls? And if he's making judgment calls, that's going to be more subjective, people are going to want more transparency.
So, tonight, we're going to take that on with Preet Bharara in the context of the taxes. The President says you'll talk to my lawyers. Says who? We're going to talk to a prosecutor about who has the say on that. We're also going to talk to Xavier Becerra. He's the AG of California. They're going after the emergency declaration. Will they win?
COOPER: All right. Chris, we'll see you in just a couple minutes, about eight minutes from now. The President vowed to hire the best people. Critics say he's trying to pack the Federal Reserve Board down with political allies. Some said they're not fit for the job. We'll dig into that next.
[20:55:34] COOPER: President Trump is stepping up his criticism of the Federal Reserve. Traditionally, President's really do this sort of thing when he's not in public. Here's what the President said this morning about interest rates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Fed should drop rates. I think they really slowed us down. There is no inflation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He's upset that the Fed has raised interest rates four times since last year. Critics fear another move by the President could threaten the Feds' independence. They also worry about his intention to nominate two political allies to the Fed's board of governors, Herman Cain, former GOP presidential candidate and CEO of Godfather's Pizza, and Stephen Moore, a former campaign adviser and conservative economist who in the interest of full disclosure has been a CNN Analyst. He's been on this program.
Joining me now is Catherine Rampell, a "Washington Post" op-ed columnist who is not a fan of either -- excuse, Rampell who is a not a fan of either, I think we can say. The headline says a lot, "Stephen Moore could inflict more long-term damage than any of Trump's other nominations." And of Herman Cain the headline is, "Trump's next possible Fed nominee can't understand basic policy issues." Ouch, Katherine.
So what is the -- what is your main objection, obviously, to both of them? That they're just not qualified?
CATHERINE RAMPELL, WASHINGTON POST OPINION COLUMNIST: There are a number of objections that I have and I would sort of put them into two different camps. There is personal baggage that both of them have had dredged up recently.
RAMPELL: For Herman Cain it was, of course, that he had been accused by four women of sexual harassment. Stephen Moore, stuffs that he do with his taxes and with his divorce.
COOPER: Right, which he blames on an accountant.
RAMPELL: Those are not my main concerns. I will say that the sexual harassment stuff should be disqualifying if it's true. But those are not really my main concerns from an economic perspective. They are -- that the both of them do not seem to understand fundamental principles of economics. They are both, for example, usually espousing the gold standard which has been roundly rejected by economic experts. I mean, like, every economist surveyed by the University of Chicago's IGM panel of economic experts said, "No, not a good idea."
Herman Cain, if you look at his 999 plan, not only did it not actually include nines or round numbers. In any case, it used lots of magic math and invisible taxes and lots of things that didn't make sense. Stephen Moore, quite similar. I mean, he's been running on this lie. The tax cuts pay for themselves for decades despite the fact that there is no evidence that that is factually true.
So it's partly, you know, how tethered to reality are they, but it's -- but more so, it's that the direction in which both of them have manipulated the truth is in a direction that is designed to make Republicans look good and Democrats look bad.
For example, if you look at their Fed recommendations, under Obama, they were both inflation hawks, meaning that they wanted higher interest rates, they want a tighter monetary policy despite the fact that we were dealing with a, you know, potentially another great depression.
COOPER: And what is the -- I mean, look, there's -- the Fed is sort of obscure to a lot of people.
COOPER: What is the danger of somebody with a very politicized view of economics being on the Fed?
RAMPELL: It's that the Fed needs to be politically independent in order to function. Just bar none, that's what it needs to be. And the reason for that is that you don't want the printing press either in the hands of politicians or perceived to be in the hands of politicians.
We have plenty of counter examples for what happens when that is the case, when people do not believe that the central bank is politically independent. There are places like Venezuela or Argentina, perhaps, you've heard of them, lots of hyper inflationary basket cases around the world and throughout history.
If the public does not believe that the Fed is willing to make politically unpopular choices, including raising interest rates when inflation might be near, where it looks like inflation might be near, then that can become sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy and they start raising prices in anticipation of that.
So that's why you want to make sure that central banks are perceived to not be within, you know, with being controlled essentially by the President or by any political party. And to be clear, Trump has already put four of the five sitting Fed governors in place right now. They are all Republicans. I don't have an objection to putting Republicans on the Fed. But those people are all qualified, competent people who have behaved professionally and a-politically. However, the fact that they behaved a-politically means that they've done things Trump doesn't like, including as you said, raise interest rates, which is why he is now trying to put people who he thinks are more pliant on the Fed.
COOPER: Catherine Rampell, appreciate you being with us. Thank you. To be continued. The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?
CUOMO: All right, thank you, Anderson.