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Nation's Top Law Enforcement Official Confirmed He Is Investigating Investigators Of Russia Probe; Trump's Inner Circle Questioned On Hush Money Investigation; Democrats Unveil Proposal To Change U.S. Healthcare. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 10, 2019 - 14:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you so much Susan Glasser, we really appreciate your perspective on this. And that's it for me. NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Brianna, thank you so much. Hi, everyone, I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. The nation's top law enforcement official has confirmed he is investigating the investigators of the Russia probe. That from Attorney General William Barr on his second day of getting grilled on Capitol Hill this time before senators.

What's more, Barr said, he thinks, quote, "spying did occur on the Trump campaign" without detailing the evidence there and then later he clarified his comment and we'll play that for you in just a second.

Now, the Attorney General repeated much from his testimony one day before over on the House side saying little on how he came to his principal conclusions about the Mueller report.

But Bill Barr did reveal today that he spoke to Robert Mueller about the special counsel why he didn't reach a conclusion on whether the President obstructed justice; that Mueller did not tell him he was leaving the matter up to Congress or the DOJ and that he does not know whether Mueller supported Barr's letter detailing the report's prime findings in drawing just as much attention as the Mueller report was Barr's move to look into how the Russia probe actually came about, which involved surveillance of a former Trump campaign policy adviser.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016. And a lot has already been -- a lot of this has already been investigated, and one of the things I want to do is pull together all of the information from the various investigations that have gone on, including on the Hill and in the Department and see if there are any remaining questions.

And I'm not just -- I'm not talking about the FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): So you're not suggesting though that spying occurred?

BARR: I don't -- well, I guess you could -- I think there is -- spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur.

SHAHEEN: Well, let me --

BARR: But the question is whether it was predicated - adequately predicated and I'm not suggesting it wasn't adequately predicated, but I feel I have an obligation to make sure that government power is not abused.

SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D-HI): I want to give you a chance to rephrase something you said because I think when the Attorney General of the United States uses the word "spying" it is rather provocative and in my view unnecessarily inflammatory. Do you want to rephrase what you're doing?

BARR: Unauthorized surveillance. I want to make sure there was no unauthorized surveillance.

I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I'm saying that I am concerned about it and looking into it. That's all.


BALDWIN: Let's start with CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill and Manu, you are getting strong reaction to Bill Barr's comments on spying and the Trump campaign. Tell me what people are saying.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: From Democrats who are involved in the issues saying that this is not what they have been told. Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman is demanding a briefing from the Justice Department after he said Barr's comments flatly contradict what Congress has been told and just moments ago, I had a chance to talk to Mark Warner, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The Democrats who sits in a lot of these briefings, he told me he has never been told what Barr said today.


RAJU: The Attorney General said this morning that he believes spying did occur on the Trump campaign. What is your reaction to that?

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): I'm amazed that the Attorney General would make that kind of statement. I think it is in many ways disrespectful to the men and women who work in the Justice Department, and it shows, I think, either a lack of understanding or willful ignorance of what goes into a counterintelligence investigation.

The idea that the FBI, with the evidence they had, wouldn't have launched a counterintelligence investigation. It would have been irresponsible, so I don't understand the Attorney General's comments. I don't understand what basis he is making them on and frankly, he almost seems to be endorsing one of these theories that has been debunked time and time again by the various even House Republican-led investigations trying to show some kind of these efforts.

RAJU: So you've never been told what he said today?

WARNER: Absolutely not.


[14:05:01] RAJU: So we tried to ask the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, Richard Burr, the Republican from North Carolina if he was aware or was he told about this allegation that Barr made today that the spying could have occurred on the Trump campaign. He would not comment because he wanted to look further into exactly what Barr said in that testimony.

But Lindsey Graham, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman said that somebody should look into these allegations. He said, "If someone was trying to get inside of the Trump campaign, I don't know. Somebody needs to look at it, and I hope we will."

So Brooke, he plans to use his committee to look into it so again, like almost everything else here, reaction divided pretty strongly along party lines -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes. Manu, thank you. Let's get perspective from an expert who knows firsthand about special Federal investigations, Philip Lacovara is a former counsel to the Watergate special prosecutors and a former Deputy Solicitor General, and so Philip, thank you so much, sir, for being on with me today.


BALDWIN: And when you heard Bill Barr, I mean, when he kept -- he used the word "spying" and then he was later pressed, "Well, what does spying mean?" And he said, it was unauthorized surveillance. What does that mean?

LACOVARA: Well, I think it was an astonishing statement to characterize the FBI counterintelligence operation looking into Russian surveillance and is linked to the campaign to characterize it as spying.

What I think he's probably doing is picking up the language from the Republican playbook which is to divert attention from the actual Russian interference in the election and make it seem as if the investigators are the bad guys. So it is a remarkably disheartening approach that the Attorney General is taking.

BALDWIN: So then did it seem political to you? And I ask you that with the caveat that not 20 minutes prior when the President was getting in Marine One, he said the investigation was quote, "an attempted coup and treasonous," as he was off to Texas this morning and then you have Bill Barr on the Hill saying that it was spying. LACOVARA: Yes, it's hard to imagine that this was an accidental slip

of the tongue. He has been very deliberate in saying that he was going to be organizing a team to investigate the investigators and as you mentioned, in addition to being counsel to the Watergate special prosecutor, I was Deputy Solicitor General in charge of among other things, national security cases in the Supreme Court.

So I know how professional the intelligence agencies are and I can predict how dismaying it is that the Attorney General is now directing his efforts toward reexamining the integrity of the people who are really on the front line of our national defense.

BALDWIN: But why would he be doubling down on those investigative efforts? If you have the IG, you already have Congress looking into it, why a parallel investigation?

LACOVARA: Well, that is what is so perplexing here because now he seems to be implying that he is not even going to trust the Inspector General investigation and as you and your viewers know, each agency by statute has its own independent Inspector General. The Justice Department has one. The Inspector General did complete an investigation and determined that there was no impropriety tainting the national intelligence investigation that led to suspicious links between Russian operatives and at least one or two representatives of the Trump campaign.

BALDWIN: One more for you, Philip, and that's on -- we were listening to Bill Barr today and he was asked whether he talked to Mueller about who Mueller wanted to decide the obstruction issue and Barr said that Mueller didn't say.

So my question to you have, sir, is who do you think Mueller intended to make that call and it seems that Barr already has when you look at his four-page letter, but can Congress still make that call on obstruction?

LACOVARA: Well, two parts to the answer. First, I think most of us were surprised that at least according to the summary and keep in mind, we haven't seen Mueller's own report.


LACOVARA: But it was surprising that in the summary, the Attorney General characterized Mueller as having punted on this issue, which would have left the matter, I assume, not to the Attorney General who was not supposed to have any role in this at all --

BALDWIN: But to Congress.

LACOVARA: But to the Congress and exercising its ultimate power to decide whether there are grounds to believe that the President engaged in an obstruction of justice, which is the issue left open.

The next question is what can the Congress do to get the underlying evidence that even the Attorney General's summary indicated does create some basis for believing there was an obstruction of justice by Congress and that is the issue that I've written about it and that is whether or not the House Judiciary Committee can invoke an exception to the grand jury secrecy requirement and that is a very difficult question.

[14:10:10] BALDWIN: So they can get that report and they can see every single word of that report and come to that conclusion themselves. Philip Lacovara, thank you so much. Appreciate your opinion there.

LACOVARA: Thank you.

BALDWIN: And from the campaign trail to the Oval Office, Hope Hicks was at Donald Trump's side as he made his improbable march all the way to the White House and now, Federal prosecutors are zeroing in on what Hicks knew about those hush money payments to a "Playboy" playmate and an adult film actress that are sending Michael Cohen, another former member of Trump's inner circle to prison.

This is according to the "Wall Street Journal" today which reports that Hicks along with Trump's longtime bodyguard, Keith Schiller were questioned by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office as part of this whole investigation into those payments.

So Rebecca Davis O'Brien is one of the reporters who broke the story, Elie Honig is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney with the Southern District of New York. So welcome, welcome to both of you. Nice to have you on. Tell me first just what you found. What were prosecutors looking for?

REBECCA DAVIS O'BRIEN, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, this is -- our article today gives more texture and detail to this investigation into the campaign finance angle which relates to these efforts to conceal the two women's alleged affairs with the President and what we wrote about today was Federal prosecutors in the spring of 2017 as this investigation was getting underway spoke with both Hope Hicks and Keith Schiller as part of the investigation.

And what they seem to be focused on, we don't know the entirety of their conversations, but what we heard about today is that they were interested in part in their conversations with AMI and David Pecker, the head of AMI which of course is the publisher of the "National Enquirer" which had an intricate or intimate role in efforts to conceal those affairs.

BALDWIN: And we know that looking to you on the legal piece of this, we know that you know, DOJ -- SDNY follows the DOJ belief that sitting Presidents can be indicted and it is unknown if they will actually even charge Trump when he leaves office, be it in the near future or four more years, what could the next steps be?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So there could be a couple of things. First of all, it is possible and I think your reporting goes to this, it is possible the Southern District would seek to indict the President once he is out of office. I think there is a big difference if that happens after the 2020 election or after the 2024 election. If it is 2024, you're going to have problems with the statute of

limitations, which usually is five years and it will seem like ancient history, but if it is in 2020, you'll still within the five-year statute because most of this conduct happened in late '16 or early '17.

BALDWIN: So they could wait until he is out of office, at least on the near end.

HONIG: They could. They absolutely could wait and do it then. I know there is not any indication either way, but it is absolutely in play. The other thing is, there could be other people, right? Everyone is very fixated on President Trump, but there are plenty of other people who seem to have been involved in making these payments and authorizing these payments and I think Hope Hicks and Keith Schiller would certainly have that information.

BALDWIN: I wanted to ask you, I mean, we've talked about Hope Hicks and also Keith Schiller. Keith Schiller, former security chief. He left the White House in 2017. He had been with Donald Trump for over a decade and so just remind us what role he played in the Trump orbit.

DAVIS O'BRIEN: Well, he was security chief, but also he's been described as the bodyguard. He was around a lot. He sort of -- he was at his side -- you know, when I covered his jury duty, I think, Keith Schiller was right there.

So this is somebody who had access to the President throughout the campaign and who was at his side and the same with Ms. Hicks actually. I mean, I think these are two people who were -- there's a reason that Federal prosecutors -- and Elie can speak to this more -- brought them in so early on in the public stage of their investigation. These were people who were not just people who had access to him, but in Hope Hick's case, were a primary conduit for his most -- you know, his public discussions and possibly his most intimate discussions.

BALDWIN: Great. Great scoop today out of the "Wall Street Journal." Quickly, Elie --

HONIG: President Trump does seem to have an inner circle that is very small, but very close and I think you're on to that.

BALDWIN: And very loyal, have been very loyal to the man himself. Elie and Rebecca, guys, thank you so much.

HONIG: Thank you.

DAVIS O'BRIEN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: It is the issue that could decide the 2020 election and today, Senator Bernie Sanders and a number of other Democrats unveiling a massive plan that would completely change America's healthcare system, but one of the questions we're asking is, is it realistic? Plus it is deadline day today. Will the IRS release the President's tax returns? We'll speak with someone who once held this top spot. And just in, we now know how Senator Elizabeth Warren stacks up

against her 2020 competitors in terms of fundraising. Stay with me. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:19:00] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Senator Elizabeth Warren just revealed how much she has raised in the first quarter as the 2020 Presidential race heats up. CNN national political correspondent M.J. Lee is covering Senator Warren's White House bid and so you just got the numbers. How much?

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So she has raised over $6 million in the first quarter, and I just want to talk through some of the data points that her campaign just released, including 135,000 donors in the first quarter, an average donation of $28.00 in cash on hand. So she's heading into the second quarter with $11 million.

Interestingly, she also says that $1.4 million of that $6 million was raised in the final weeks. So when they were making that final push to get people to donate, so obviously had a good week in the run up to the deadline.

And then just her -- how her number is comparing to the rest of the field. Obviously she's being outraised by Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke and Pete Butteigig.

[14:20:10] LEE: But, Brooke, I can guarantee you that the campaign is going to be reminding people over and over again that they are not going after high-dollar donations. As you know, she has said that she is not going to do fundraisers. She is not going to be calling donors, that that is not a campaign that she is going to run and she is drawing that comparison, whether it is implicitly or explicitly that while there are plenty of other candidates who are spending time doing fundraisers and trying to get these big checks and that she is not doing that.

BALDWIN: She is not.

LEE: And trying to say, that accounts for some of the difference and, in fact, her campaign manager in an e-mail just a few minutes ago basically said that he said there are other candidates who had similar number of donors or similar number of contributions, but were lagging behind them because they are going after the big dollar checks.

BALDWIN: Got it. So $6 million for Senator Elizabeth Warren. M.J., thank you for that update.

Let's move on and talk healthcare here because Senator Bernie Sanders wants to revolutionize the way you pay for and receive healthcare, and so today he unveiled this massive new plan that he will certainly be bringing with him on the road to 2020.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people are increasingly clear. They want a healthcare system that guarantees healthcare to all Americans as a right. They want a health care system which will lower healthcare costs and save them money.

In other words, the American people want and we are going to deliver a Medicare-for-All single-payer system. Thank you.


BALDWIN: Now, there is still a lot of missing details on exactly how Medicare-for-All would work. But this is what we know so far, let me run through this. It would be a Federally-sponsored plan replacing private insurance. No private insurance networks mean you wouldn't have to switch doctors.

The plan would cover pretty much everything including vision and dental and also no premiums and no copays and no deductibles, so if you are wondering what is the catch? Your taxes would go up.

But the senator points up, you would save thousands of dollars a year in out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Medicare-for-All had once been dismissed as too radical by a number of Democrats, but now four of Sanders' 2020 rivals have signed on as co-sponsors.

Julie Rovner is the chief Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News and Julie, I just ticked through some of headlines here of this healthcare plan, but what is the meat of what he is proposing?

JULIE ROVNER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, KAISER HEALTH NEWS: Well, he has been proposing this. I went to my first Medicare-for-All press conference where Bernie Sanders was as a House Member in 1993, I think sort of the rest of the Democratic Party have now caught up to where he's been for 20-some years. The question is, as you said, how realistic is this?

The Republicans are thrilled because they are running against what they call socialism. They love the idea that the Democrats are debating Medicare-for-All, but one thing I would add is that Democrats are at least debating how you would get there or if you don't get all of the way there, where would you go in the interim? They're having actually serious substantive debate about what to do about healthcare.

BALDWIN: But without more specifics, it is hard to predict how much this would actually cost Americans, but based on the studies I know you've been looking into, how much of a tax increase are we talking about here?

ROVNER: It is really hard to say because it depends what you end up doing. Obviously, taking away all premiums, all deductibles, all out- of-pocket costs and adding long-term care services which the new version of the Sanders' bill does would make it more expensive and so taxes would have to go up more.

There are a lot of assumptions about how much would we pay providers? How much would we pay doctors? How much would we pay hospitals? Hospitals are terrified that they would only get paid current Medicare rates, which they say are not enough that they would have to close. They wouldn't be able to keep their doors open.

So there are so many things that would go into how much it would cost and then you have to go back and say, "Well, then how are we going to finance it?" Obviously, when you look at public opinion polls, the public said, "Wow, free healthcare for everybody, that sounds great," and then they say, "You know, somebody is going to have to pay for it," and then support goes down.

BALDWIN: Well, what do you think the big pushback would be from big pharma and just the health industry overall?

ROVNER: Well the health industry is terrified of the government deciding how much it gets paid, and of course that is kind of the fundamental problem in the healthcare system right now, is that people and businesses and everybody who consumes healthcare thinks they're paying too much and compared to most other countries, we are definitely paying more as a society.

But how you're going to actually bring that into line and not hurt the ability of the healthcare system to actually provide healthcare is really the core of the debate.

BALDWIN: Julie Rovner, thank you so much.


BALDWIN: President Trump defying the Democrat's deadline to turn over his tax returns. The question is, will the IRS do the same?

[14:25:06] BALDWIN: Also just in, new details on Lori Loughlin's actions behind the scenes of that massive college admission scandal. Also, she faces more charges. Should she serve serious prison time? We'll discuss.


BALDWIN: Well, today is the day. This is the deadline for the IRS to hand over President Trump's tax returns, but Democrats are not hopeful it will actually happen. The Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee had given the IRS Chief until today to hand over six years' worth of the President's personal and business filings, and while the Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin says he is aiming for a response by the end of the day, President Trump is repeating the claim that, hey, he doesn't have to give them up because he is under audit.