Return to Transcripts main page


Barr Says He Thinks Spying Occurred on Trump Campaign; WSJ: Trump's Inner Circle Questions over Hush Money; Dems Unveil Proposal for Health Care; Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA) is Interviewed about Trump's Tax Returns. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 10, 2019 - 13:00   ET



[13:00:32] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, round two. Attorney General Bill Barr back on The Hill saying he does believe that spying occurred on the Trump campaign.

They know President Trump's secrets and now they're talking to prosecutors. Why two of the president's former top aides may be the biggest legal threat to his presidency.

Plus, as health care shapes up to be a deciding issue in the 2020 election, Bernie Sanders is set to unveil a plan that would abolish private insurance.

And, deadline day. Will the IRS turn over the president's tax returns? The fight's about to get ugly.

Attorney General William Barr back in the hot seat today. This is for round two with Congress. He's being questioned by a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee one day after being quizzed by a House panel, and a day after he announced that the Justice Department would start looking into the origins of the FBI's Russia investigation, something the president today declared was an attempted coup against him.

Our Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill.

And, Manu, tell us what we heard from the attorney general on this new investigation.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he said that he is looking into the conduct and the start of the Russia investigation back in 2016, and he made some rather stunning remarks by saying that he believes that spying did occur on the Trump campaign. But then he later walked it back on several occasions, saying that he doesn't have any -- he has no specific evidence that he could cite that there was spying. And then he said he didn't know if there was any unauthorized surveillance, but he said he had concerns about the way the investigation was conducted and that's why he wanted to look into it further.

But, nevertheless, those comments from this morning just generated a lot of attention here on Capitol Hill when he said this earlier today.


SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): Can you share with us why you feel a need to do that?

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I -- you know, for the same -- well, for the same reason we're worried about foreign influence in elections. We want to make sure that during an election -- I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal.

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

SHAHEEN: So you're not -- you're not suggesting, though, that spying occurred?

BARR: I don't -- well, I guess you could -- I think there -- 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.


RAJU: Now, key Democrats in Congress are pushing back rather strongly. Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, said that this directly contradicts what the Justice Department told Congress. And I just had a chance to talk to Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he told me that he has never been told that there was spying on the Trump campaign in all of the briefings that they had. He said, quote, absolutely not when I asked him, have you been told what Bill Barr said today? He also said that this sends the wrong message in Warner's view to the people in the Justice Department.

Nevertheless, the Republicans have been pushing for this kind of inquiry. Lindsey Graham, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, has wanted to look into the start of the Russia investigation. So Republicans are feeling good about what Barr said today, but it's generating a lot of sharp pushback from the Democrats at this hour.


KEILAR: Manu Raju on The Hill, thank you.

In the meantime, the attorney general tells a Senate committee that he's not redacting things from the Mueller report just because they would embarrass the president. He also told lawmakers that he's going to be probing the beginnings of the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russia -- and Russia in the 2016 election.

This is what President Trump said about that decision earlier today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And this was an attempted coup. This was an attempted takedown of a president. And we beat them. We beat them. We fight back. And you know why we fight back? Because I knew how illegal this whole thing was. It was a scam. And what I'm most interested in -- excuse me. What I'm most interested in is getting started. Hopefully the attorney general, he mentioned it yesterday, he's doing a great job -- getting started on going back to the origins of exactly where this all started, because this was an illegal witch hunt.


[13:05:08] KEILAR: Carrie Cordero with me now, legal analyst here for CNN, and Mike Rogers, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also one of our analysts.

What did you think, chairman, when you heard that? So he is -- it's not as he would characterize it a full-blown investigation into the FBI, but he's looking back at the origins and he says that he thinks spying occurred.

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, I was a little surprised at the term "spying." And I'm giving the benefit of the doubt. The question was couched in the terms of spying and he said, yes, there was spying. That is not a term that you would use for an FBI investigation domestically in the United States. It is a surveillance to determine criminal activity.

I do -- and I'm going to take a different tact on this. I think that a review of the underlying predicates is in order. I don't think this is crazy, I don't think it's out of line as long as it's a review, it's done thoughtfully. This was a pretty serious thing. You had an investigation into a presidential campaign. We should make sure that the FBI had done that correctly. And, if not, make those corrections and those changes. So that part I don't think we should get too spun up about.

As a matter of fact, I think the FBI should be pleased that they're doing this because I think it's either going to find, a, we did three things wrong, we need to improve that, or, there's nothing to see here, move along. They did exactly the right thing. Both of those would not be bad outcomes for the FBI (INAUDIBLE).

KEILAR: What I thought begged the question was, to your point of this term spying, where he uses the word spying and he's saying that it still may be accurately predicted. Well, if something is accurately predicated, then would it -- it seems like there would be a reason to do it. And then the term spying, it does seem like an odd choice.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a pejorative and so the --

KEILAR: Exactly.

CORDERO: And it's not a term that anyone who worked in national security and investigations and law enforcement would ever use in a professional context. So I think the problem with what the attorney general did in his testimony is he was imprecise.

What was he talking about when he was talking about spying? Is he talking about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the FISA surveillance application that was approved against Carter Page after he left the application? At the campaign, excuse me. Was he talking about overall investigation that the FBI was doing, looking into Russian interference and whether or not there was coordination or collusion with the Trump campaign? What types of investigative techniques was he talking about?

Professionals, national security professionals, would never say that in terms of, quote, unquote, spying, and that's why I think there are so many questions about why the attorney general put it into those terms.

KEILAR: He talked -- when he was talking about the Mueller report, he was talking about what he would -- and he was asked about redacted it. He said he wouldn't redact it on the basis that something might embarrass the president. What did you think about that?

CORDERO: I thought that that is an important clarification for him to make because one of the areas where he's going to come most under scrutiny is this derogatory information that he's going to withhold. And if that pertains to conduct of the president, that potentially could be an area that Congress would want to look at for impeachable behavior, even if it's not criminal -- evidence of criminal conduct. I think what he clarified is he's only talking about private individuals that potentially could be other members who were in the campaign or part of the president's family, though.

KEILAR: What did you think about that?

ROGERS: Same. And I thought he reiterated the private individual piece, which I think is really important. To me, that was an important piece of this to be redacted.

KEILAR: And when he said there's gag orders that -- what did -- he said there were gag orders that actually stopped some of these things from becoming public.

ROGERS: Well --

CORDERO: He might be referring --

KEILAR: I'm sorry.

CORDERO: Now, so that piece he might have been referring to -- I'll go back and listen, but he might have been referring to the 6-E (ph) information.

KEILAR: OK. CORDERO: So that would be grand jury information --

ROGERS: The grand jury information.

KEILAR: The grand jury information.

CORDERO: Which, by law, individuals involved in the investigation can't reveal. And that's the area where I think the judiciary committee, if the attorney general so-called color codes the report and marks why specific information is redacted, that's where they then could look at it and say, well, 6-E information, grand jury information, we're going to challenge that in court versus the derogatory information they probably might be interested in from not a challenge perspective.

KEILAR: Chairman, this is what he should -- he should be not redacting things on this basis of potential embarrassment.

ROGERS: No, I don't think he should. I mean, listen, this -- it is what it is.

Now, I do think it's wrong to bring out information that didn't rise to the level of a charge of a private individual, so they shouldn't get drawn into this. I don't think that's right. It's not fair to them because you -- the scrutiny of this will be intense, to say the least. So the information that they found that allowed them to leap to the conclusions, I think people should be able to see that, as long as it's not related to the counterintelligence investigation, sources and methods, or private individuals, or, in this case, 6-E information, which is that grand jury testimony information, then I think that it should go forward in some kind of a public report.

[13:10:00] KEILAR: Chairman, Carrie, thank you so much to both of you.

CORDERO: Thank you.

KEILAR: So we're learning that former members of President Trump's inner circle played a role in the investigation of hush money payments to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, two women the president allegedly had affairs with, something that he has denied. "The Wall Street Journal" reports prosecutors gathered more information than we knew from two of Trump's closest confidants. Hope Hicks, his former aide and White House communications director, and Keith Schiller, his former security chief. These are the two individuals that we're talking about.

Let's bring in Kara Scannell to talk more about this.

So, Hope Hicks and Keith Schiller, they know a lot. They were like flies on the wall around President Trump for years. How significant is it that they testify about these hush money payment?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, that's right, Brianna, they were very close to President Trump. They worked with him at the Trump Organization for a long time with Keith Schiller as his bodyguard essentially and Hope Hicks as his communications adviser. SO what we're learning from "The Wall Street Journal" reporting is

that last spring investigators interviewed both of them and they could have been helpful in a number of ways. As we've seen the investigation play out over the course of the year, yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the raid on Michael Cohen, is that, you know, investigators would have turned to both of these individuals to help explain what they knew about Trump's relationship with American Media, the publisher of "The National Enquirer," which was involved in one of the hush money payments.

And as we've seen over the course of this year-long investigation, that, you know, these interviews took place last year. That then possibly helped prosecutors leverage the information to put pressure on American Media and David Pecker, the publisher. Pecker had an immunity agreement and testified before the grand jury in the investigation of Michael Cohen, and AMI had reached a non-prosecution agreement. So these two individuals who know a lot about the relationship could have helped investigators leverage American Media, which ultimately led to Michael Cohen pleading guilty.

KEILAR: Kara Scannell, thank you for that report.

Now, health care is the issue that Americans say that they care the most about. And moments ago, Democrats, including Bernie Sanders, unveiled a plan that would change how a lot of people get their health care.

Plus, all eyes on the IRS as the Democrats' deadline to get the president's tax returns arrives.

And Benjamin Netanyahu on the cusp of possibly winning a fifth term to lead Israel. Did President Trump tip the scales?


[13:16:41] KEILAR: Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders unveiled his new Medicare for all plan just a short time ago. And as health care shapes up to be a huge issue in 2020, Sanders says universal health care is no longer a radical idea, it's something Americans want.


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


KEILAR: Four of Sanders 2020 opponents are co-sponsors on this bill. You have Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Our chief political correspondent Dana Bash is here with us to make sense of all of this.

So Sanders says Americans -- it's not radical, Americans want this. It's no longer radical.


KEILAR: Do they want this?

BASH: It depends what the they is. And that's really the whole debate. And that's what makes this whole notion of Medicare for all so incredibly murky.

We do have, as you mentioned, Senator Sanders putting pen to paper legislatively, or at least a proposal, which is what he did this morning, and make it more specific what he wants. And therefore is, you know, pulling over a lot of his competitors who want to make sure that they are in the Bernie Sanders lane. And you just put the four contenders up who are saying that they're going to co-sponsor it with him.

But once you get down to the nitty-gritty and start to really dissect what this would mean for people, what this would mean for people who have employer-based health care, what this would mean for people who, you know, want to -- I mean we had this whole thing with keeping your doctor during Obamacare. All of the realities of what people have now, whether it's good or not, is going to be -- kind of collide with this idea that he says is not radical anymore. And you know what, he is right about that.

KEILAR: If you like your employer-based insurance --

BASH: Yes.

KEILAR: Then reason would say you shouldn't like Bernie Sanders' plan.

BASH: Precisely.

KEILAR: Because his plan is to get rid of private insurance. And truly a Medicare for all, a single-payer system.

But there's, you know, I guess the devil is in the details that aren't quite there --

BASH: Exactly.

KEILAR: Because you do have these contenders. And some of them, I mean when you look at Cory Booker, he's not in favor of ending private insurance. Kamala Harris talked about doing it and then quickly backpedaled because it was controversial.

BASH: Right. And so that's the things is it's -- it is -- it is important politically these candidates obviously believe to get on this bill with Bernie Sanders, but it is -- it is very questionable whether or not, if you look at the details of what he wants to do, whether they would back it, which is why, frankly, the people who are running for president on the Democratic side, who have not jumped on this, are making a tougher choice because he tends to be so popular with -- Bernie Sanders, with these ideas, with the base, with the people who are running.

I mean the Amy Klobuchars of the world, even the, you know, John Hickenloopers of the world, the people who are trying to create a more moderate lane, or find a more moderate line, find those voters, it's going to be more difficult, but they're, I think, maybe being more transparent about the realities of this Medicare for all notion.

[13:20:14] KEILAR: That's right.

Health care is like a third rail, too, politically once you get into it. People --

BASH: Especially for the -- for Democrats, especially in this fight, because it sounds so good to have the kind of system that Bernie Sanders is talking about, where everybody has access to health care. But once you get into the nitty-gritty of private insurance, which is the key --

KEILAR: We know that covering health care reform together on The Hill.

BASH: Back when we were --

KEILAR: Yes, the overhaul. It was --

BASH: Back when we were babies.

KEILAR: Yes. It was a while ago.

Dana Bash, so much fun, though, thank you so much.

BASH: Thanks, Bri.

KEILAR: Today the Democrats' deadline for the IRS to turn over the president's tax returns, will they? And hear how the president just responded.

Also, as actress Lori Loughlin faces more charges in that massive college admissions scam, should she get serious prison time? We're going to discuss that.


[13:25:43] KEILAR: Today is the Democrats' deadline for the Internal Revenue Service to provide the president's tax returns. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal is one of only two people in Congress given legal authority to see those returns, asked for six years of them despite the president's past promises to provide tax returns. And the latest White House position is that, no, he never will.

Here's the president today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no law. As you know, I got elected last time with the same issue. And while I'm under audit, I won't do it. If I'm not under audit, I would do it. I had no problem with it. But while I'm under audit, I would not give my taxes. There's no law whatsoever.

Remember, I got elected last time, the same exact issue, with the same intensity, which wasn't very much because, frankly, the people don't care.


KEILAR: Virginia Congressman Ben Cline is a Republican on the Judiciary Committee. He's joining us now from Capitol Hill.

Thanks for being with us.

REP. BEN CLINE (R-VA): Brianna, thanks for having me.

KEILAR: So the president says he doesn't want to release these because he's under audit. And that's actually -- it's something that wouldn't preclude him from releasing his tax returns. It didn't preclude Presidents Obama and George W. Bush from releasing theirs. And he says people don't care, but, actually, Americans like seeing these returns. So should they be able to see them? The vast majority of them want to see them.

CLINE: Well, most presidents in recent history have issued their tax returns, and I think that if the president can do that, he should. But it's up to him. It's his decision. And, you know, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee is using a statute to try and access his tax returns. But those returns have to be in pursuit of some type of policy discussion. And to yet I haven't heard exactly what that policy debate is. It seems to me that Democrats are just engaged in another phishing expedition to try and get ahold of his returns, to try and come up with more things to just kind of get at the president about.

KEILAR: Do you want to see the returns of the Democratic candidates or eventually the Democratic presidential nominee?

CLINE: Well, it's my understanding that some of them have said they will release them. Some of them have said they won't.

KEILAR: Do you want to see them?

CLINE: I don't need to see them at this point. So it's up to the individual candidate.

KEILAR: Ever? Do you ever want to see them? Would you want to see a nominee's tax returns?

CLINE: I think it's up to them. And it's not on the top of my priority list. What's up on the top of my priority list is where these candidates stand on things like improving our health care, repealing and replacing Obamacare with something that actually lowers premiums and makes insurance more affordable and more accessible. You know these Democratic candidates are going the other way, the wrong way, the way towards socialized medicine, and that's not what we're about. So I hope we can talk about that some more and not, you know, about the Democrat candidates' tax returns.

KEILAR: No, those are -- those are very important issues for sure, and so is immigration. And so I want to ask you about that because that is -- that is ongoing certainly at this moment with the president. He's in Texas right now and he says he has no plans to reinstate the zero tolerance policy that led to so many family separations. He also said, though, he thought it was an effective deterrent to immigrants, which experts say you can't actually know that because it was only in effect for two and a half months, and that's not enough time to know if there was a trend.

Will you personally support reinstating the zero tolerance policy?

CLINE: No, I think the president made the right decision to do away with the policy that separated children from their parents at the border and I think that we need to keep that policy off and not reinstitute that policy again because there were children separated from their parents who still have not been reunited with their parents and we can't go down that road again.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about the attorney general because he's been testifying here now two days in a row, and he would not say whether he'd briefed the White House on the Mueller report. Is it -- is it OK if he did brief the White House on the Mueller report?

[13:29:53] CLINE: Well, I think that's a question that has not been answered one way or the other. There's a question as to whether the attorney general is allowed to talk to White House attorneys or whether he's not. That's something that hasn't been answered.