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White House Vows Democrats Will Never See Trump's Tax Returns; Interview with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) about the Mueller Report; Abducted American Tourist Rescued; Trump's Lawyer Issues Letter Fighting Democrats' Demand for Tax Returns. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired April 7, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Now the White House is vowing Democrats will never see the documents. This follows Democrats' unprecedented request to the IRS for six years of Trump's personal tax returns.

Here is how acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is responding to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Keep in mind, they knew they were not going to get these taxes. They know what the law is, they know that one of the fundamental principles of the IRS is to protect the confidentiality of you and me and everybody else who files taxes. Not --

BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS HOST: To be clear, you believe Democrats will never see the president's tax returns?

MULVANEY: No. Never, nor should they. That is not going to happen and they know it. This is a political stunt by my former colleagues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Never is a big shift from this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I decide to run for office, I will produce my tax returns, absolutely.

I'm releasing when we're finished with the audit. I will release my tax returns against my lawyer's wishes when she releases her 33,000 e- mails. I'll release them when the audit is completed. As soon as that's finished, whenever that may be, and hopefully it's going to before the election. I'm fine with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: This comes as Mulvaney reveals the White House will release a healthcare plan before the 2020 election so Republicans can tout a counter to Obamacare.

And as pressure builds on the U.S. attorney general William Barr to release the Mueller report, as we near his mid-month promised release dare, Democrats are doubling down on calls for the unredacted report right now.

Let's start first with the fight for the president's tax returns. CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez joining me now.

So tell us more about this escalating fight.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred. The president and some of his allies essentially are saying that this is an illegitimate political stunt. Democrats trying to open up a new front in their battle against the White House, specifically for transparency on this one. The House Ways and Means Committee demanding six years worth of the president's tax returns and tax returns related to some of his business interests.

The White House knew this was coming. Sources indicate that they're preparing for this for some time. They immediately took a defensive posture. The argument from the White House is that the American people elected President Trump without ever having to see his tax returns, therefore, they say, that Democrats are trying to use this as a political weapon against the president that they do not like.

We should point out the president has talked several times as you just heard about potentially releasing his tax returns once an IRS audit is completed. That IRS audit has taken up quite some time several years now, and there's no sign that it's going to be completed any time soon. In fact, it's been difficult for reporters to confirm with the IRS that such an audit is taking place.

This will likely turn into yet another legal battle for the White House, one that the president is apparently prepared to take all the way to the Supreme Court -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: So Mulvaney also discussed this meeting, you know, held at Camp David this weekend about healthcare. What more are we learning about that?

SANCHEZ: Yes, the acting chief of staff hosting White House staffers and cabinet members at Camp David over the weekend to plot out a path forward for a Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. This would be the third such attempt by the administration to do so. Mulvaney said that he would have a plan for Congress before the 2020 election. Listen to what he said on one of the Sunday morning talk shows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MULVANEY: We spent the time this weekend saying OK, what have we done, what can we talk about that's a success, what do we need to work on going forward? We talked about the individual marketplace, we talked about how we're protecting Medicare, we're talking about getting drug prices down. And I do think you'll see a plan fairly shortly.

HEMMER: Will you see it before the 2020 elections? MULVANEY: Yes. No, we want to run on this. We're a firm believer

you can't beat something with nothing. We have -- Republicans have better ideas than Democrats. We should not be afraid to talk about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: You can't beat something with nothing. Mulvaney echoing what we heard from President Trump last week when he publicly told Republicans that they needed to come up with a plan to combat Obamacare.

Again they have tried to repeal and replace twice already. They haven't been successful. The president telling the world he wants Republicans to be the party of healthcare -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

All right. So now we're one day closer to U.S. attorney general William Barr releasing the redacted Mueller report, which he said he would do by mid-April. But Democrats are not willing to wait. They want the unredacted version and they want it as soon as possible.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If Republicans think that's perfectly fine because it doesn't amount to the crime of conspiracy, then we're going to part company, and I'm not going to stop making the point that we should hold our president, our campaigns, our elected officials to a higher standard than mere criminality.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And you have no regrets of anything you've said in the last couple of years?

SCHIFF: I don't regret calling out this president for what I consider deeply unethical and improper conduct, not a bit.

[16:05:05] REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): You can commit shameful acts, you can commit complete betrayals to the public interest without committing impeachable acts. And if you did that, the public ought to know that, too. And the standard here is not an impeachment. The standard is what was -- the standard is we have to protect the public from presidential misconduct from anybody else and the public has to know about it.

And we have to get all the evidence so we can -- subject to protecting certain classified information -- decision that the Judiciary Committee has always made in the past and can make now, the public ought to know all of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Joining me right now Democratic congresswoman from Texas, Sheila Jackson Lee, member of the Judiciary Committee.

Good to see you. REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): Thank you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: So members authorized Chairman Nadler to issue a subpoena for the full report and the underlying evidence. But as far as we know, you know, he hasn't actually, you know, received, you know, executed that request for the subpoena. So President Trump is already lashing out, he has all weekend, you know, about the investigation on Twitter.

In your view is this kind of an indication that the president is particularly nervous about that report as we approach that mid-April point, according to, you know, Barr, he would be releasing at least the redacted version?

LEE: Well, Fredricka, before I start, we are here in Houston under a tornado watch and heavy thunderstorms. After Hurricane Harvey, I just want to encourage all of those in the region surrounding counties to please be careful and safe. There are downed power lines and to pay attention to emergency notices that are going to come through.

Thank you for letting me do that. We have gone through a lot here in Houston and the surrounding areas.

But this is clearly a presentation or an effort by the administration that has gone very wrong and very bad. And it started with Attorney General Barr trying to interpret and distort and direct in another direction the straightforward report that was submitted, 445 pages, by Director Mueller and the summaries.

All Attorney General Barr had to do as the Starr Report was done -- the Starr Report, under an independent counsel, sent the report to the Congress, a Republicans Congress, and obviously I believe a slanted effort, but to Republican Congress with a message that said you have in here matters that may have relevance that are classified, sources and methods and also 6-E material, that's the criminal materials under the grand jury provision. And he said be careful of it and handle it appropriately. That's all General Barr needed to do.

WHITFIELD: And how --

LEE: He did not do that.

WHITFIELD: Right. And how is that precedent different from circumstances today in your view? Why is the attorney general interpreting the responsibility and the information differently?

LEE: I think the attorney general -- and in this instance the Starr -- Mr. Starr sent these directly to the Congress following the law, that a report should be rendered to the Congress and to the American people in the public interest. Attorney General Barr already indicated his bias that he didn't think a president could be indicted by a memo or an opinion that he wrote some years ago before he became attorney general, and so he -- what he did is he intercepted the report and the American people don't want his intercepting and his interpretation, and it made it worse because the investigators under Director Mueller told us the truth. They said there are summaries that should have been rendered to you

and Mr. Barr did not render them to us. So here's where we are. We want them immediately released. We've given him the time. He's talking about doing it in mid-April but he's also talking about redacted. We want the complete unredacted copies with the summaries, with the documentation and we in Congress who have the highest secret clearance, and Judiciary Committee that is a designated committee to do these investigations under the rule of law will appropriately handle all of this material and we will present it in the appropriate manner to the American people.

But it will allow us to go on with our version, particularly about the obstruction of justice, Fredricka, where the president was not exonerated, of which he indicates that he was.

WHITFIELD: And in the meantime this week Barr is scheduled to testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee and that would be, you know, Tuesday on the budget. Is it your expectation that he in some fashion might be asked about the handling of the Mueller report, content of Mueller report, his summary versus other summaries by the investigative teams?

[16:10:03] Do you see that that may happen and if it would be appropriate?

LEE: I can't project what the appropriators will ask. They have every right to determine how practices are utilized in the Department of Justice and as relates to their appropriations. In doing that, there may be those kinds of questions. As you well know, we intend to call General Barr and Director Mueller and a number of other individuals who we think have handled or are aware of the materials relevant to the Mueller report.

In addition you well know we sent out 81 letters of materials from others who we believe had some knowledge about the Russian interference in the election and as well matters dealing with the obstruction of justice that we believe has not been fully vetted under the Mueller report or at least it has not been -- there have not been conclusions on who obstructed justice or who did not obstruct justice and particularly as relates to the president of the United States.

So we want to, again, follow the rule of law. We want to adhere to our duties as an oversight committee dealing with the Department of Justice. We want to ask the questions about abuse of power, public corruption and obstruction, that's our job. And we want to do it without the attorney general interfering.

And you know what, I have been home in my district unsolicited people have come to me and said I want this report. 56 percent of Republicans want this report. 81 percent of the American people want this report, or at least 56 percent around that number of independents want that report, 56 percent of the American people believe that they're not satisfied by the initial conclusions not because they don't believe Director Mueller but they want to see it for themselves.

WHITFIELD: And now turning to the fight over the president's tax returns. What is your reaction to the acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney who says, you know, Democrats will never see those returns?

LEE: Well, it clearly highlights what Democrats have been going through with this administration. First as the minority party for the last two years of the beginning of his administration, not one single thing was done to hold the administration accountable. Not one single thing was done by the Republican majority.

They did spend a great deal of their time on Benghazi finding nothing. They've spent a great deal of their time trying to dig up again Secretary Clinton's e-mails which was well vetted and indicated there were no criminal acts occurring. So we had no rule of law proceeding under the past two years.

Now all of the issues before Democrats are simply what the responsibility of Congress is. It is not a foot stool for the administration. It's an Article One body. We have the responsibility to do our job. This is allowed under 6103, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee has the right to ask for the tax filing of any American, and he or she, in this instance, Chairman Neal, would hold it confidentially and he has a right to determine whether or not the IRS has been effectively reviewing and/or enforcing tax laws. And also --

WHITFIELD: So at the same time do you run the risk of looking --

LEE: -- to determine whether or not the president --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Sorry to interrupt, but do you run the risk of looking overzealous, that you're trying to make up for lost time?

LEE: Absolutely not. And I think that's a very good question. And what I was saying is that it will also determine whether the president was under audit. Remember he was saying that throughout the entire time.

WHITFIELD: The campaign.

LEE: That he was running his campaign. He wasn't under oath but he was making a statement to the American people. No, I don't think that is the case because I think in the instance of Chairman Neal and the Ways and Means Committee, they have been particularly deliberative in reviewing how the knowledge of his tax filings would help them in making the IRS more effective for all of the American people. I think that's important.

As relates to the Judiciary Committee, we have been studious in everything that we have begun to do. We have not had hearings that have been directly on the issues that we are concerned about. We are now investigating, studying, reviewing documents. If we were being reckless, we would immediately have hearings with no facts and make accusations against the administration.

We have not done that. Our committee under Chairman Nadler does not intend to do that but we intend to do our job. And this administration has just made so many blatant statements and blatant -- and taken blatant actions, all of that impacts the good welfare and health of the American people. We think we have the responsibility to let them know whether their government is being run correctly, particularly under the Article Two executive.

WHITFIELD: OK.

LEE: Because they have a lot of power.

WHITFIELD: We'll leave it there. Thank you so much, U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. And of course, we wish you and your constituents well with this impending storm. Thank you so much.

[16:15:04] LEE: Thank you for having me.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, new breaking details on the American found alive after she was abducted by an armed gang overseas. What we're learning about the paid ransom next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. We're following breaking news, an American tourist safe following a remarkable rescue overseas. President Trump tweeting just moments ago, "Pleased to report that the American tourist and tour guide that were abducted in Uganda have been released. God bless them and their families."

Kimberly Sue Endicott was abducted by an armed gang while she was on the Safari in a national park in Uganda last Tuesday but then today security forces rescued Endicott and her guide after their touring company paid the ransom.

I want to get right to correspondent Robyn Kriel in Ethiopia.

So, Robyn, what more do you know about this rescue and how it all happened?

[16:20:03] ROBYN KRIEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're hearing from the tour company is that it was quiet and peaceful, more of a handover than a rescue, Fredricka. But still Ugandan Security Services, police saying it was a rescue, saying that in a tweet earlier from the Ugandan Police Force. Police and its security agencies have today rescued Miss Kimberly Sue, an American tourist, together with her guide, who were kidnapped while on an evening game drive at Queen Elizabeth National Park.

The duo are in good health and in the safe hands of the joint security team so great news that they're both in good health but still a lot of outstanding questions such as who were these kidnappers, were they just an armed group? We do know that those exist in the DRC.

We also understand that there are terrorist cells that work in the DRC as well so we're waiting to hear more about who these kidnappers were, also how much the random was paid. We know that a $500,000 ransom was asked for Miss Kimberly Sue. And another question, Fredricka, was she targeted because she was an

American? And you mentioned four other people were also taken at the same time and later released. So important questions that I'm sure American diplomats are asking right now.

WHITFIELD: And do we know to what extent if at all the U.S. State Department or U.S. government may have, you know, facilitated anything, assisted in any way?

KRIEL: I mean, I would imagine that the embassy in Uganda would been extremely involved at least in monitoring the situation. Now they also do have most embassies at least in East Africa have military presence on the ground at least in an advisory capacity. We know that the U.S. military advises the Ugandan military and its fight against Al Shabaab in Somalia but again we're just not sure if that had anything at all to do about it or if this was just a ransom being paid in Ugandan People's Republic Force doing their due diligence in helping facilitate the recovery.

The State Department, though, putting out a statement just a short while ago, Fredricka, saying that they were aware of her recovery and that they didn't use the word rescue and for privacy issues that they're not commenting further at this stage.

WHITFIELD: All right. Robyn Kriel, in Ethiopia, thank you so much.

All right. Public right or invasion of privacy. The White House and Democrats are locked in a battle of wills over the release over President Trump's tax returns. In this fight, does anybody really win?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:27:02] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. After months of preparing for a fight over President Trump's taxes, Democrats are making their move. The House Ways and Means Committee has formally requested six years of Trump documents from the IRS. Democrats are demanding the return under a part of the tax code written in 1924 that says the Treasury secretary, quoting now, "shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request." The president's lawyers fired back by calling the request unconstitutional and an abuse of power.

I want to bring in Julian Zelizer. He is a historian and professor at Princeton University and "Washington Post" White House reporter Toluse Olorunnipa.

So good to see both of you. Julian, you first.

Thanks for having us.

WHITFIELD: Republicans are arguing that this move by Democrats is unprecedented but hasn't every president for the last 50 years released some or all of their tax returns?

JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORIAN AND PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: They have and candidates started doing this voluntarily after Nixon and the whole idea was to avoid the kind of conflict of interest issue which emerged and then presidents have continued to do it. It will be challenged in the court. It's unclear how the 1924 law applies to a sitting president, but I don't think it's insignificant that this is in the context of all the investigation going on into his business and his earnings.

WHITFIELD: Mm-hmm. And, you know, Toluse, the White House says they are willing, you know, to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, you know, with this fight. But when the president's predecessors as we just, you know, spelled out have all done so, have done that kind of -- you know, shown that kind of transparency, doesn't it begin to look more and more like, you know, the president is hiding something and that it could be significant?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, this has been a delay tactic from the president from the earliest days of this process. He's talked about saying he would release his tax returns but only after the audit is finished. That's been the line for more than three years at this point, and the idea of putting this argument to the courts and letting it kick around until it gets to the Supreme Court is a tactic that could cause things to string out for several more years and to continue the delay process.

But the law that you just cited does make it seem very clear that Congress does have some authority here to get the tax returns of any specific individual person. The president's lawyers are now sort of trying to argue about whether or not the political nature of things should supersede that and whether or not the idea that opposition party is trying to get the tax returns for a president from another party should basically nullify that part of the law and cause a court to weigh in and say that Congress does not have that authority and that will be very interesting fight to watch play out in the courts.

I think the president's lawyers do want to delay this as long as possible and potentially have this go to the Supreme Court, which could be several years down the road.

WHITFIELD: And so, Julian, Trump's attorneys, you know, are arguing that part of their argument will be about the intrusion of the president's personal privacy but we're talking about a position of the highest public office, you know, of the land.

[16:30:01] And is there any precedence for, you know, privacy -- protecting privacy for the president of the United States as it pertains to this kind of transparency?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this has been a central argument for the president on many investigations. This is different than other presidents. We're talking about someone who is a significant business figure who has not only offered a business enterprise that was in effect before coming president, but it's still going on. And his family is still involved.

So the argument that this is about privacy and a privacy matter doesn't really hold water. And obviously, we all remember, or many people remember the investigations into President Clinton in the 1990s, which revolved around his personal sexual relationship.

(CROSSTALK)

ZELIZER: Privacy went out the window then.

WHITFIELD: Right. So Toluse, you know, let's switch gears now, you know, to the Federal Reserve Board. President Trump says he's nominating former presidential candidate and businessman Herman Cain to a spot on the board. Trump also says he is nominating his former adviser, Stephen Moore. And critics say both of these individuals, you know, would be Trump loyalists and, you know, there goes the independence of, you know, the board.

You know, is the nomination of these two, you know, likely to potentially erode the FED's independence if they were to be confirmed?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, it could not be any more clearer that the president does not believe that the FED's should be an independent institution that is not subject to his own whims. The president even has talked about how he wants the FED to stop raising rates, to basically construct itself in a way that is fully in line with his own economic thinking.

And that's of the reason why he's put two very strong loyalists, people who are political figures, and who have made a name for themselves by trying to show how much support they have for the president and has economic ideology. And putting them on the FED would further erode the independence of the FED. We have already seen the president bashing his own nominated FED Chair and saying that the -- Jerome Powell should no longer continue to raise rates.

And we did see those rate hikes stop. Now, we can't put two and two together and say that that's why the FED dialed back on raising rates. But it does, for the public, make it very questionable as to whether or not the president is interfering with the FED. And now that he wants to put these two loyalists on the board, it does raise the question about whether or not the president believes the FED should be independent.

And if Republicans do confirm these two nominees, that would take things much further in eroding the independence of the FED.

WHITFIELD: And Julian, you know, it's about the timing, too. So many critics were saying, you know, is the president, you know, trying to make this political or re-election, you know, campaign issue for him, particularly trying to press for lower interest rates and that, you know, stacking the board with those loyalists would allow him to help achieve that?

ZELIZER: Easy answer, yes. That is what he is doing. Other presidents have tried to put pressure on the FED. This is unusual. Not only are they loyalists, but neither is clearly qualified for the position, in the minds of many observers. The president wants this economy booming. It's his best argument going into 2020.

And he doesn't want anyone or anything to interfere. And that's the strategy here, and we will see if it's blocked.

WHITFIELD: All right. Julian Zelizer, Toluse Olorunnipa, thank you so much to both of you.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

OLORUNNIPA: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still to come, the battle over tax returns isn't just about the president. Bernie Sanders has not released his yet, live pictures right now. So what is the holdup? We're live at his rally, next.

[16:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Twenty-twenty Democrats are spread out across the country today, making the case for why they should unseat President Trump. And it's been Bernie Sanders versus Beto O'Rourke all weekend in Iowa. Senator Sanders is back in the state after raising $18 million during the first quarter of the campaign, the most of any hopeful Democratic hopeful.

And right now, he is hosting a town hall, live pictures right now. And the topic of his tax returns could come up as he faces more calls to release them. CNN's Ryan Nobles is there in Malcolm, Iowa. So Ryan, what has been the message from Bernie Sanders?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, Fred, we should point out this town hall that we're in, in Malcolm, Iowa, which boasts the population less 300 people seems like it is right out of a Frank Capra movie. This definitely has all the feels that you get when you think about the Iowa caucus. And Senator Sanders bragged that he is the first presidential candidate to ever visit this small town.

And he's going to take questions from the folks that are gathered here today. And we wonder if this question of whether or not he's going to release his tax returns and when that could happen could come up. We've talked to voters over the past several days, many of the events that he has been at here in Iowa and when he was in New York City on Friday.

And many of these voters, even if they're strong Bernie Sanders supporters, say they do want to see these tax returns. And this is something that he has promised that he's going to release. He said that shortly after he announced his campaign to our Wolf Blitzer that it was going to happen soon. Well, Fred, it's been more than a month and we still don't know when these tax returns are going to come out.

The one hint he's giving us is that he's waiting to wrap up his 2018 return, which has involved his 2018 things. And we're hopefully going to see those tax returns sooner rather than later.

WHITFIELD: And then Sanders, you know was in Iowa yesterday, and went pretty far out on the limb on the issue of voting rights for convicted felons. What is his stance? [16:40:08] NOBLES: This is something that he's talked a lot about,

Fred, the ability for convicted felons to get their voting rights back after they leave prison. But it went a little bit further on the town hall yesterday. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand your home state of Vermont that incarcerated people are allowed to vote.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you commit to that on a nationwide scale?

SANDERS: I think that is absolutely the direction we should go. As you know, in Florida, they just had a very important referendum, where 65 percent of the people in Florida said that that is wrong. People who had felonies should be able to vote. And I strongly supported that in my state. What we do is separate. You're paying a price.

You committed a crime. You're in jail. That's bad. But you're still living in American society and you have a right to vote. I believe in that. Yes, I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: So that's an important distinction there, Fred, saying that the folks that are still in jail should have a right to vote. That's not something that all the Democratic candidates are talking about. And this is one of the biggest distinctions that Bernie Sanders is attempting to draw. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Nobles, thank you very much. All right, still ahead, the Trump administration is on the verge of officially labeling a branch of Iran's armed forces a terror group. But could the move help or hurt American troops?

[16:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Iran is vowing to call the U.S. military a terrorist organization. That's Tehran's response to the White House's expected decision to designate Iran's revolutionary guard as a foreign terrorist organization. Officials say that an announcement could come this week. CNN's Ryan Browne has been following the developments. So Ryan, what more do we know about this potential decision?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Fred, this has been a long, ongoing discussion within the Trump administration as to whether or not to designate Iran's Islamic revolutionary guard corps as a foreign terrorist organization. Now, there are more than 60 groups all around the world, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah that carry that designation.

But this would be the first time ever for the United States to declare an element of a foreign country's military as a foreign terrorist organization. Now, U.S. diplomats and military officers have accused Iran's IRGC of being behind a way of destabilizing activity from Yemen to Syria to Iraq. But again, this decision has been under discussion within the administration for some time.

Some of the Iran hawks in the administration believed to be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been pushing for this. Other officials have urged caution. But again, interesting to see that they're making the decision now, as early as next week we're being told.

WHITFIELD: So Iranian lawmakers, you know, have said if the U.S. does do this, they will reciprocate and designate the U.S. military as a terrorist organization. So how would that influence or play into the administration's decision making?

BROWNE: Well, officials have been telling CNN that the U.S. military has forces operating in very close proximity to the elements of the IRGC, other Iranian military units in places like Iraq, in places like Syria. And so there is this concern. In fact, CNN previously reported that the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, urged caution making this declaration because of this fear of reprisal, because of this fear of retaliation with U.S. troops in such close proximity to Iranian forces.

There is a concern that Iran could use this, retaliate, and possibly target U.S. forces in the region.

WHITFIELD: Ryan Browne, thanks very much.

BROWNE: You bet.

WHITFIELD: Let's talk more about all of this, joining me now to discuss is former CIA operative and now CNN Intelligence and Security Analyst Bob Baer. Good to see you, Bob, so your reaction to the administration's expected decision?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, this would be a huge step, Fred, because the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is effectively the Iranian state. It's more powerful that the Iranian army. It has troops in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon. You know, it has Hezbollah under it. So if we were to go to war against the IRGC, we would effectively be going to war against Iran.

This just maybe posturing and we better hope that it is, because there would be a general war. That is a certainty.

WHITFIELD: So you talk about these places in, you know, proximity, you know, Iraq, Syria, you know, Lebanon. So then given that, what's the potential risk for U.S. military forces?

BAER: Well, it's huge, especially in Iraq, where you have got these militias under Iranian control. They're surrounding U.S. troops. Our forces in Syria are facing off with Hezbollah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. And frankly, we don't have enough troops in the Middle East to take these guys on.

WHITFIELD: So this decision, you know, falling under the State Department's purview. Yet, we have not heard from the U.S. State Department officially or from the White House National Security Counsel. Does that make a difference if this message were to be conveyed by whom?

BAER: Well, it is. I mean if it's by the military and they start taking steps to enforce it as we do against Al Qaeda in the Islamic state, where we are stepping closer to a war with Iran. And it's unavoidable, because the commander of the IRGC is probably as powerful as the supreme leader in a lot of ways. So you cannot isolate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and not expect to draw Iran into a war.

[16:50:06] WHITFIELD: And what is even this dialogue do to be a real irritant, you know, for Iranian lawmakers.

BAER: Well, they may be posturing too, because right now, the Iranians are not bothering us. The Iranians are not engaged in terrorism like they were in the 80s. So -- and it is fairly quiet. And this would be really stirring it up. And I think this may be right now sort of a (Inaudible) support for to BB Netanyahu in the elections, because Israel's main enemy is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps with the missiles it has in Lebanon.

WHITFIELD: All right, Bob Baer, thank you so much. Appreciate that. Much more in the Newsroom straight ahead right after this.

[16:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. So when he's not pounding his gavel, this week's CNN Hero is pounding the pavement. Judge Craig Mitchell started this Skid Row running club for people dealing with addiction and homelessness in Los Angeles. And today, the groups includes runners from all walks of life

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Running is a mechanism for the participants to build relationships.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the one time I am at the front of the pack. Lawyers, social workers, people from all different walks of life, running with people who are recovering from addiction and homelessness. Good job. We affirm, we listen, we support. It shows what open-minded people who really care about each other, how they can treat one another, and it's a lesson in and of itself.

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WHITFIELD: To nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero, go to CNNheroes.com right now. All right, Saturday Night Live started off with Jason Sudeikis as Joe Biden last night. And in the sketch, his campaign aides are trying to get him to change his personal style. They bring in Democratic voters one by one and try to coach him. But they have their work cut out for them. Just take a look.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. I got to keep it neutral. Greet her like I am greeting a guy. OK, so come here, you son of a bitch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Joe, stop that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just messing around. OK. Let me tell why you you're going to vote for Biden, OK? Oh, well, you know, I have to say she's still on the fence. That's clear today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was going to save this one for last, but it's clear nothing is getting through to you. So our next voter is from Oakland, California. Yeah, she's the software engineer for Oracle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Love the Matrix, the whole trilogy. They get better as they go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And she's looking for a candidate who can beat Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You the guy who bragged about assault on tape?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes, but unlike his voters, your voters actually care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Let's bring in Mrs. Douglas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Show me Mrs. D.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, what are you saying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am sorry, miss, I didn't mean to overstep.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait a second. I know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god. You're Obama's grand daddy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, hey. How about low-five, boom, boom, boom, boom.

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WHITFIELD: Oh, man. OK, and then there's this. Is Mar-A-Lago a safe space from foreign spies? Our Jake Tapper has that in this week's State of the Cartoonian.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump says he's not concerned about the security breach at Mar-A-Lago, a Chinese national with a thumb drive containing malware.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that was just a fluke situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it's not difficult to imagine the president's properties as tantalizing targets for spies from around the world

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Pussy Galore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, I am plenty, plenty oh too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, the place to get the president's eye is on the (Inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible).

TRUMP: I actually said I was the best golfer of all the rich people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: National security experts have been saying for quite some time that the president's security situation at his private clubs leaves something to be desired.

TRUMP: I am sending and tweeting, bing, bing, bing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he stops tweeting and puts down his phone, might someone try to steal it? Of course, this whole controversy might miss the point. After all, this president invited Russians officials into the Oval Office where he reportedly shared classified information. So what's the worse than can happen in Mar-A-Lago?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's much worse.

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WHITFIELD: All right. And then there's this. Here's a quick sneak peek of a brand new episode of the CNN original series, Tricky Dick.

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RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (Inaudible)

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