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Trump Speaks Ahead of Attorney General Barr's Second Day On Hill; Attorney General Barr Faces Tough Questions About The Mueller Report. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired April 10, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Now, Stephen is an excellent guy. He's a wonderful person. People don't know him. He's been with me from the beginning. He's a brilliant man. And, frankly, there's only one person that's running it. Do you know who that is? It's me.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) the Mueller report or have you seen it?
TRUMP: I have not seen the Mueller report. I have not read the Mueller report. I won. No collusion. No obstruction. I won. Everybody knows I won. And the pros knew it was illegally started. The whole thing was illegal. I have not read the Mueller report. I haven't seen the Mueller report. As far as I'm concerned, I don't care about the Mueller report. I've been totally exonerated. No collusion, no obstruction. And I'm also dealing with China. I'm also dealing with North Korea. I'm also dealing with Venezuela and all the problems in this world. I'm not worrying about something that never, ever should have taken place.
TRUMP: I did not see what happened. I did not see what happened to (INAUDIBLE). Excuse me. I did not see what happened to (INAUDIBLE)
TRUMP: Well, I think that's a terrible thing. I think that's a terrible thing that he would do that. I find her to be a very -- I know her. I think she's a fine person, a fine young woman. And I think that's disgraceful that they could say that.
TRUMP: I don't hear you.
REPORTER: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Southern District has spoken to Keith Schiller, Hope Hicks --
TRUMP: I have no idea.
TRUMP: I respect him, I like him and he's somebody that I have a lot of regard for.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) up in New York. What do you think about that investigation?
TRUMP: My finances are very clean. I don't think there is an investigation. If you say it, I don't know. But I don't think there is an investigation. My finances are very clean.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) the DHS Secretary permanently?
TRUMP: Well, I like him a lot. He's doing a very good job. It could happen. We'll make a determination.
REPORTER: Are you looking at others like (INAUDIBLE)?
TRUMP: We have others. But right now, he's the man, he's doing a great job. Kevin, okay?
Thank you. See you in Texas.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: All right. There was the President just moments ago, speaking as he heads to Texas.
Now, let's flip over to Capitol Hill because -- let's listen to the Barr hearing in front of the Senate.
SEN. JERRY MORAN (R-KS): I told you I would like to see the Mueller report released to the public as expeditiously as possible and to the fullest extent possible as allowed by law. Will you, as I hope, release the redacted version of the report Special Counsel Mueller submitted to you or did you intend to indicate in your testimony comments yesterday that you will only provide a report of your own findings that are derived from the Mueller Report?
Now, the focus of this hearing, President's fiscal year '20 budget request. The department's FY '20 request is not based off of the department's FY '19 appropriation, and therefore does not contemplate the increases provided or the government-wide 1.9 percent increase included for federal employees, because the baseline of the FY '20 request is below the department's current appropriation. I encourage you to take time today to discuss any needs that may not be adequately represented in the President's budget proposal that's before us.
In particular, I hope you will discuss the resource needs as they relate to the First Step Act. I'm an original co-sponsor of that legislation and I'm concerned to learn that the FY '20 request --
HARLOW: Okay, we're monitoring. This is the beginning of the Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing of the Attorney General, Bill Barr, his second day on the Hill. That is Republican Chair of the Committee, Jerry Moran of Kansas. We'll get back to that in just a moment. Let me bring in our political experts. Gloria Borger is with us, Sabrina Siddiqui. And, guys, as we monitor this, let's also talk about what we have just heard from the President, calling the entire -- Gloria, the entire investigation and the Mueller probe illegal. It wasn't.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
HARLOW: Okay, let's put that aside. It wasn't. And this, as we head into this hearing where Barr is going to get a whole lot of questions about the Mueller investigation, the report and what conversations he may or may not have had with the White House.
BORGER: Right. And as we also know that Barr is opening an investigation into how this began, and that is something that the President talked about as well. But his language today was -- I mean, we've seen a lot of this on Twitter, obviously. But his language today was particularly rough, saying that this was done by people who were haters and calling this entire investigation -- and, remember, there was a counterintelligence investigation going on here, an attempted coup, saying that what they did, and that would include, I guess, the Mueller team in setting up the investigation, was treasonous, using that word, treasonous.
And then what I thought was most interesting, guys, was that he attempted to explain the whole obstruction issue by saying when they talk about obstruction, we fight back. And if you kind of look into that, what that means is that he is saying, you know, when I was talking to people or when I said maybe lay off of Michael -- General Flynn, et cetera, et cetera, we fight back. So anything that could be seen as obstruction, we now know that's Trump's answer. I was fighting back, something you might see as obstruction, I was fighting back an illegal investigation that I believe to this day was an act of treason.
JIM SCIUTTIO, CNN NEWSROOM: It's a great point because that had been not only the President but his adviser's defense in the midst of the story, right? Saying, if you attack the President, he's going to push back. It's only natural what a President would do, say fire his FBI Director, because he felt he wasn't protecting him. It's a great point.
And similar, Sabrina, because we had Kellyanne Conway on just before that, the administration sticking with this line saying, we're exonerated, this investigation is a waste of time. And that was the same answer Kellyanne gave with regards to what we learned today about the SDNY pursuing its own investigation separate on hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. So that's their response. Is it work, Sabrina?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, of course, it's important to reinforce that even in the letter that William Barr wrote, summarizing the findings of the Mueller report, he specifically cited the Special Counsel saying that while he did not reach a determination on whether or not the President had obstructed justice, he was not exonerating him. And I think that, obviously, the investigation being led by the Southern District of New York is ongoing. We know that democrats have their own plans to subpoena witnesses as well as other documents.
But I think that this is something that the White House is going to try and litigate in the court of public opinion. And they can do that to some degree because we don't expect the SDNY to break with guidance and actually issue any charges against the President while he is in office.
But I think a lot of the aftermath of the Mueller report has shown that the public opinion is very much undecided at this point. In fact, a majority of American public in a CNN poll said that they believe that the full report should be made public and that they also -- did also added to that that they did not affect how they would vote in the 2020 election.
So a lot of these questions are still unanswered and I think this is really just the beginning of what is going to be a long, legal battle for the President in the coming months in the remainder of his term.
HARLOW: Okay. Manu Raju on the Hill with us as well, Manu joining us. I know you're sort of popping in and out of that hearing. Can you hear us, Manu? Okay, there you are.
So what do you think is the most important pressing question that democratic senators are going to try to get an answer on from Barr today that perhaps their colleagues in the House couldn't get?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're going to press him a little bit further about whether or not --
HARLOW: Okay. Manu Raju, I'm sorry. Let's go -- hold that thought. Let's go to the ranking Democrat on the committee, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): -- on the Special Counsel's report as I believe this report has serious national security implications. We know that Russia interfered in our election. We know that the Special Counsel has brought nearly 200 charges against 34 individuals and three companies, including six former Trump officials and 26 Russian nationals.
I am concerned by recent media reports that those working on the Special Counsel's team believe your summary to Congress glossed over the severity of the damaging actions of those in the White House, including the President. The American people should be allowed to see the report in its entirety so they can make their own judgments about its content.
I am also troubled by the department's recent decision to support a district court decision that would completely invalidate the Affordable Care Act.
[10:10:01] I have questions for you as to why this decision was made. This recent action by the department will put millions of Americans, including 118,000 Granite Staters at risk of being unable to afford or simply not have access to their current healthcare coverage. The loss of protections for pre-existing conditions and soaring prescription drug costs for seniors will affect thousands.
And this includes vulnerable Americans like a young boy named Seth from Northfield, New Hampshire. He lives with hemophilia. It's a disease that requires hundreds of thousands of dollars of medication and treatment costs every month. Before the Affordable Care Act, Seth's father would have to change jobs because Seth's medical costs were constantly running up against the family's annual limits on the dollar value of insurance coverage.
Children like Seth, those living with pre-existing conditions, stand to lose the most if the Affordable Care Act is wiped out. They could be denied insurance coverage because of their medical condition and insurers would be able to jack up costs and cut off coverage after medical bills reach an arbitrary threshold.
I believe we need to work together, republicans and democrats, to improve the healthcare law, not unravel it. And I hope that we will be able to do that in the coming months and years.
I do acknowledge, as I said, that you are here today in your role as Attorney General to explain the department's fiscal year '20 budget request. The complex and often difficult work of the department is vast, ranging from national security investigations to operating a national prison system, to management of billions in grants to state and local entities.
Yet in fiscal year 2020, the department has requested nearly 2 percent less funding for its missions than the level provided and the omnibus we passed last month. The Bureau of Prisons is a large part of this reduction, cut of $188 million below what we just enacted in fiscal year '19.
It's disconcerting that the department would slash the budget for BOP in light of our direction in Congress to continue hiring, particularly so as not to rely on augmentation, which is the dangerous practice of using administrative staff, like teachers and counselors, as correctional officers, including expanding programming for inmates -- cutting programming for inmates at facilities across the country, including an FCI Berlin in my home state of New Hampshire.
It's also troubling that the department seems to have forgotten about meeting the requirements for prisoner re-entry as part of the recently passed First Step Act. There's only 14 million requested --
SCIUTTO: You're listening there to the democratic -- ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee there, of course, different dynamic. Yesterday, majority democrats on the House side, Senate side. But you see hard questions, no question.
Our Manu Raju, he's outside the briefing room there. Manu, what's the line of attack today from Democratic Senators as they face Barr?
RAJU: Well, you're probably going to hear more democrats raise concerns about the fact that the Attorney General has made clear that he does not plan to provide the full, unredacted report to Capitol Hill, despite the demands from democrats in both chambers. That's going to be a contentious line of questioning. And it's unlikely Barr is going to give any more than he did yesterday and expect more follow-ups to Bill Barr not answering the question about are whether or not he briefed the White House and all about the contents of the Mueller report, whether they can get him to reveal anything more. Perhaps Barr may want to clarify that remark after all the questions that were raised. That will be one of the things that democrats plan to ask going in.
But Barr is, we are told, unlikely to really reveal much about certainly the contents of the investigation. He has been willing to talk, to some extent, about the process underway to redact the Mueller report. Expect him to repeat that when he's pressed about exactly the process that he is undergoing.
But this committee is supposed to be focused on the Justice Department's budget as part of this oversight hearing. But a lot of questions still from members on both sides about exactly the process that's going on and expect sharp line of questions and criticism from democrats who are not satisfied with what Barr has been saying, that he will not provide both the underlying evidence as well as the full unredacted report to Capitol Hill. Guys?
HARLOW: Okay. Manu, stay there, stay close. Thank you so much.
We've got our players with us on the legal side, Elie Honig and Jennifer Rodgers are back. Jennifer, to you.
Well, we couldn't really get a straight answer from Barr yesterday, which, of course, will be asked today again, is what was the extent of contact with the White House since Mueller turned over the report, right, before the summary went out, before this redacted full version is going to go out. Explain to our viewers why that is important or what the most legally pressing answer is on that front or can the White House have any discussions with the A.G. that they want on this and vice versa.
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, one of the issues here legally is the 6(e) material, the grand jury material, that it is illegally to disclose publicly. So we've been talking about that, whether it has to be redacted. Can they go to court to get an order disclosing it? Yes, they can. But they haven't yet. And if they disclose that to the President, that would be illegal.
HARLOW: But they don't actually have to, as we saw with Nunes. For the first time, there is this house rule, this little used house rule, that they could, that the Chairman of the Committee could public -- if they do get that grand jury information, they can publicly release it, as we saw Nunes do. Does it mean they don't have a right to see it legally, even the Chairman of the Committee in Congress if a judge doesn't rule so?
RODGERS: Well, that's right. I mean, there are exceptions in 6(e) that could lead to its disclosure to Congress without going to a judge first. But it's not clear, given an opinion that just came down last week, whether any of those exceptions apply. The safest course of action is to go to court, get the order and then turn it over. And that's what I expect Jerry Nadler to try to do.
SCIUTTO: All right, standby. This hearing is going on. You see Senator Patrick Leahy there asking his questions -- actually, opening statements, I should say, as Barr sits and awaits his grilling. We're going to stay on top of this. We'll be right back after this short break.
SCIUTTO: Attorney General Bill Barr has just started speaking there. Let's have a listen.
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: That's what I've been working toward. There are four areas I intend to release the report with redactions made in four areas, and they were specified in my March 29th letter. The first area is 6(e) material because -- and I'm talking here, by the way, about the public -- a report that would be available to the public generally, and then I'll talk a little bit about the report available to Committees of Congress.
The report I'm working on now, I would like to make available with redactions that would enable me to make it public generally, and there are four categories. The grand jury material, which, by law, must be retained within the department, absent very specific circumstances, which I do not think exist here.
Second category is any material identified by the intelligence community that would put at risk intelligence sources and methods.
The third category is information that would impair existing prosecutions and investigations that are going forward right now, either by affecting the ability of the department to pursue them as effectively as we would like or being unfair to the individuals who are actually parties to that prosecution.
You will recognize that Special Counsel Mueller did spin off a number of cases which continue in progress and are being handled in the department. And so we have to make sure that nothing in the report impinges on those ongoing cases.
And the final category is information that implicates the privacy or reputational interests of peripheral third parties who are not charged.
Now, the people who are making these redactions and implementing these four categories are the department working with the Special Counsel Office, lawyers and those are the people involved in making their redactions. So as I mentioned yesterday, we plan to identify very specifically which redactions relate to which category and try to explain why that redaction was made.
I also said yesterday that when it comes to Congress, once I get this done and the public, everyone has the report, I'm willing to work with the committees, the regulation requires that -- doesn't require but it has my notification go to the judiciary committees and I intend to take up with the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, the Chair and the ranking members of each, what other areas they feel they have a need to have access to the information and see if I can work to accommodate that, as has been correctly said here, the fact that information is classified does not -- doesn't mean that Congress can't see it. So I'm willing to work on some of these categories.
The category I think is the most inflexible under the law right now is the grand jury material. But even there, once the redactions are completed, I intend to read the report and see if there are areas where it affects the intelligibility or really has an impact on the report. And I'm willing to work with the judiciary committees to see if there's a workaround that could address any concerns or needs that they have.
MORAN: General, under the assumption that your answer was of interest to my colleagues, I am going to continue with another question beyond my time. I want to talk about grant funding that's been delayed due to litigation surrounding sanctuary cities.
So, in the past, the department has tried to enforce federal immigration law by imposing special conditions or bonus points on recipients of federal grant funding. These conditions restrict grant funding --
HARLOW: Okay. We just heard the beginning of answers from the Attorney General, Bill Barr, there, I thought some interesting points.
SCIUTTO: No question. Did he say clearly -- I want to ask Evan Perez and our smart lawyers here that he's going to deliver different reports to Congress and to the public presumably with different levels of redactions? Did you take it that way?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's what I heard him say, yes. I think he said he's going to -- there will be different levels of redactions, and that could be really significant. The two things that I think that jump out of that might be able to go to Congress behind closed doors, but not the public, are ongoing criminal investigations and classified information. Those are two very important categories. And if at least Congress can have those, that will increase transparency. But, no, he still has drawn a line at grand jury and he's still pretending there's nothing I can do about it, when, in fact, he can go to a court and ask for permission but seems to have no interest in doing so.
HARLOW: What do you think?
RODGERS: Yes, I agree. And, actually, the third of the four categories he also can give to Congress, which is this derogatory information about peripheral people who were uncharged. Congress handles sensitive information all the time. There is no reason that they can't see that information too.
So three out of the four buckets, DOJ has control over whether they hand to Congress or not, and he seems a little more willing today than he was yesterday to give some of that over.
SCIUTTO: Yes, that's true. And we make the point all the time. Congress is briefed on intelligence all the time that they don't share with the public. And they're trusted to handle that with judgment.
Evan Perez, you were listening to the Attorney General there. Did you take that the same way, him saying that there's going to be different versions, perhaps a more fulsome version of the report going to Congress than to the public?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think that that is definitely a possibility. Certainly, I think, Jim, that the leaders of Congress, the gang of eight, should be able to see more of this report. They obviously have the ability to see classified information. They are clear. They have security clearances to be able to see this.
So I can't imagine why the Attorney General would make -- would set one standard for members of the general public and other members of Congress and then say that that is the only version that exists. I think they're still trying to work through this, because I think they realize how much pressure they're under and they realize that there might be some day that a judge will require them to perhaps provide all of it to members of Congress.
I think we know that members of Congress already handle very sensitive information, classified information. And so there's no reason why a select group perhaps could not have that information and handle it responsibly.
HARLOW: So, Evan, Jennifer brought up an interesting point to us a little bit earlier about a key question that should be asked today. And that is, you've read the full report, Mr. Attorney General. What if anything does It say in it, explaining why Bob Mueller declined to make a decision, make a call on obstruction and instead hand it over to you and to Rod Rosenstein to make that call?
Surprising, right, that it wasn't covered more in the House hearing yesterday. Do you think that's going to be key today?
PEREZ: Yes, absolutely. I mean, certainly, those of us watching the hearing yesterday were pulling our hair out, just exasperated that nobody asked that question. I mean, it is the big question, right? Certainly, Mueller has briefed the Attorney General and the Attorney General at least knows why Robert Mueller decided to leave that question pregnant essentially, right? And so the question for him today would be, you know, Mr. Attorney General, did Bob Mueller tell you he intended for you to make this final call or was this something that he intended members of Congress? Obviously, there's a lot of conjecture about that.
HARLOW: Okay, Evan, stand by. Let's get back to the ranking Democrat on the committee, Senator Jeanne Shaheen. Here is her first question.
SHAHEEN: -- does that mean that he will redact information to protect the reputational interests of the President?
BARR: No. I'm talking about people in private life, not public office holders.
SHAHEEN: Okay, thank you.
News just broke today that you have a special team looking into why the FBI opened an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. I wonder if you can share with this committee who is on that team, why you felt a need to form that kind of a team and what you intend to be the scope of their investigation.
BARR: Yes. As I said in my confirmation hearing, I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities.