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Washington Braces for the Release of the Redacted Mueller Report; Democrats Give IRS April 23rd Deadline to Turn Over Trump Taxes. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 15, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:19] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello on this Monday. I'm Ana Cabrera in Washington, in for Jim and Poppy today. And the wait is almost ever.

Any time now Attorney General Bill Barr is set to release his redacted version of the Mueller report. And while it will fill in many of the blanks left by the AG's initial four-page letter of principal conclusions, it won't come close to satisfying lawmakers who want the whole story exactly as the special counsel wrote it.

It's not just Democrats, by the way. A whole month ago the House voted unanimously to make the full report available, not just to Congress, but to everybody.

Now the White House is said to be polishing a formal rebuttal. It started months ago, while the president keeps up the pre-buttal he started years ago. Just this morning he repeated the false claim that Mueller found no obstruction and he demanded the investigators now be investigated.

CNN's Joe Johns is at the White House. Joe, what's the anxiety level like there this morning?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I can't tell you about the anxiety level, but I can tell you that all eyes are on this attorney general's office as we expect that release of the Mueller report sometime this week. And, you know, we've been talking again and again about the release of the full Mueller report. That comes, of course, with an asterisk because we do not know how much of that report is going to be redacted for public consumption simply because Mr. Barr has several areas in which he says he won't be releasing information to the general public.

The president raised some questions about the release of the report over the weekend with a tweet. The tweet essentially indicating that Democrats -- he called radical left Democrats in Congress, asking whether they have a right to retry and examine the $35 million report. He said no collusion, what he called it, when the crime was committed by Hillary Clinton, the DNC dirty cops. And he also said the attorney general will make a decision.

Of course that raises the question of whether the president has changed his position on the release of the report. He said before that he's in favor of it. Now aides over the weekend not indicating in any way that the president had changed his mind. Nonetheless, the reporting from my colleagues over the weekend indicates that the president's lawyers are preparing already a rebuttal for the information coming out whenever it does, presumably this week, and also I think important to say that there's a big question about whether the administration might exert executive privilege. That's something we don't know. That privilege rests with the president. So presumably he'd have the final say.

Ana, back to you.

CABRERA: Thank you, Joe Johns, at the White House for us.

I'm Joined now by former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, and White House correspondent for Reuters, Jeff Mason.

Jeff, let me start with you. Sarah Sanders has said we consider this to be case closed. That is a direct quote. Are they justified in thinking that?

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Well, I'm not sure they're justified in thinking that. I think that's the position of the White House, but that's certainly not the position of Democrats. And I think that you're going to continue to see pushback from the Democrats on that, probably for some time.

CABRERA: So if the White House, though, believes it's case closed, why is Trump still hammering on the dishonest and treasonous, and fraudulent and illegal and phony Russian witch hunt?

MASON: Yes, well, I mean, that -- number one, he feels that the conclusions that Attorney General Barr laid out are the ones that he cares about the most. And though the rest of the world and no doubt the White House as well is curious to see what's in that report, he feels it's case closed because of the top line headlines that came out just a few weeks ago. So that's what he's going to continue to be focused on. That's what his supporters are going to be focused on. The rest of the world and certainly Democrats are going to be looking for the details in the report.

CABRERA: On one hand, Laura, he is talking about this witch hunt, on the other hand, I'm struck by a couple of words that he has written about the Mueller report. Great intelligence, he writes. When is the last time Trump had a good word for the intel community?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Before he was President Trump frankly, before you had this so-called witch hunt. The notion that he is now trying to say that they are this wonderful organization actually belies the last 22 months where he spent an inordinate amount of time talking about people like Andrew McCabe and James Comey and Peter Strzok, and the idea of how this actually began, the Steele dossier, the Carter Page associated FISA warrants and beyond. That the eternal echo, largely talking about the genesis of the investigation.

So it is shocking that he's doing it. However, I think we always believed that he would actually talk about the community when it inured to his benefit.

[09:05:02] It did here in the findings of no collusion. The second area, though, the no obstruction, it was not so clear. Remember there were close calls at play, Ana. And those are the areas the American people most want to know about. What was it that caused Mueller, the person who had the mandate to actually reach a conclusion to say I can't do it at this point in time and for Barr, who had a peremptory 19-page document saying, listen, you can't possibly find obstruction of justice.

Why was there such a disconnect in this court? The president I think is nervous about that dynamic and wants to try to explain it away. But he kind of has already cut off his nose to spite his face.

CABRERA: Laura, given this report and this investigation has become so politically divisive and heated, is Barr justified in making any redactions to the report that he sends to Congress?

COATES: Yes, he is. Because you have 6-E grand jury testimony. We do have a coveted interest in trying to keep that documentation secret to how the grand jury process work. However --


CABRERA: But isn't the precedent for that to be, I guess not overruled, but for a fudge to say that grand jury information could be revealed?

COATES: All the time, every single prosecutor who has a grand jury witness will go in trial and say, your honor, can we please have it based on the Rule 60? Yes, absolutely true you can. However, there is still an interest in trying to preserve certain elements of it if necessary for national security. Remember, this was a counterintelligence probe as it began. So there are areas of redactions deemed necessary.

The problem I have with redactions is they are over inclusive to suggest that, number one, that there are information that Congress actually could see. Remember, Congress also has a security clearance. Congress also is aware of Rule 60 in the quest to have the information public. And so if they are trying to shield it to say that Congress somehow is incapable of deciphering what is what, that's a problem.

Also in the area about whether there is prejudicial information to a tangential third party, I think that's going to be the most problematic because it's essentially telling Congress we are going to usurp your other rule, which is, Ana, they have a legislative function and a parallel investigation that should have gone on even without Mueller's actual probe. So I think that Barr is going to have some hurdles there, most which is self-imposed.

CABRERA: As we look at this waiting game, Jeff, "The New York Times" says President Trump's sanctuary cities again that he's planned now to dump detained migrants in sanctuary cities across the U.S. is designed to in part distract from the Mueller report. Do you think that's going on and will it work? MASON: Well, over the last two years people often start looking at

strategy from the White House or the strategy from the president to distract from various problems. I think there's some probably some truth to that sometimes. On the other hand I'm not entirely sure that there's ever really a major strategy there. I think it's genuinely something that the president cares about, it's something that he's putting a lot of emphasis on going into the 2020 election.

Sure, maybe it's partially to distract, but I think it's also coming from a place of, this is something that he genuinely believes in. That said, it's -- I think it's always very difficult to get inside the brain of this president, of any president for that matter --

CABRERA: Of anybody, right?

MASON: -- and to find out what the strategy is behind it.

CABRERA: Jeff Mason and Laura Coates, good to have both of you with us. Thank you.

MASON: Thank you.

CABRERA: Also this morning, congressional Democrats ramping up the pressure, giving the IRS a new deadline to hand over the president's tax returns. That deadline is now just eight days away. But White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says lawmakers won't understand those returns even if the president does hand them over.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think Congress, particularly not this group of congressmen and women, are smart enough to look through the thousands of pages that I would assume that President Trump's taxes will be. My guest is most of them don't do their own taxes, and I certainly don't trust them to look through the decades of success that the president has and determine anything.


CABRERA: Joining us now, CNN's Lauren Fox. So how are Democrats on Capitol Hill responding, Lauren?

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, over the weekend that letter from Richard Neal, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, basically just doubling down on that request for six years of the president's personal and business tax returns. Now in that letter, Richard Neal relied heavily on case law, you know, citing that he believes that Democrats have a clear objective here and he believes that they are fully within their rights to get the president's tax returns.

He also set a very clear deadline, April 23rd, he said by 5:00, he wants to have an answer by the -- from the IRS. And he said, quote, "I expect a reply from IRS by 5:00. Please know that if you fail to comply, your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request." Now this is a legal and a political showdown. But we should say

Richard Neal is not the only Democrat on Capitol Hill looking into the president's finances. We know the House Oversight Committee, the Intel Committee, the Financial Services Committee, they want information from Capital One about the president's finances.

[09:10:06] Today we expect House Oversight chairman Elijah Cummings to issue a subpoena into an accounting firm that he says prepared financial disclosure reports of the president. They want more information into how those reports were all put together. So a lot of showdowns here on Capitol Hill over the president's finances as Democrats seek to follow the money -- Ana.

CABRERA: Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill for us. We know you're going to stay on top of it. Thank you.

Still to come, Mayor Pete Buttigieg packing some punch. The Democrat launches his 2020 bid. But how does he change the race? And eight people are dead after severe weather ripped through southeastern U.S. And now that massive storm system is headed east with some major cities in its path.

Plus Tiger roars again. The comeback of a lifetime. We are live in Augusta. Stay with us.


CABRERA: Welcome back. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she wants to make sure Capitol Police are doing what's necessary to keep Congresswoman Ilhan Omar safe.

[09:15:00] Omar who is Muslim says she's received an increase in direct death threats after a tweet by President Trump over the weekend.

The tweet shows images of the 9/11 attacks mixed in with video of the speech Omar gave last month. Joining us now is CNN congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty. So what steps is Speaker Pelosi taking, Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Speaker on this says she has spoken to the House Sergeant of Arms about this issue, and she has offered and ordered a safety assessment to be conducted to look, of course, not only into the congresswoman's safety here in Washington, but her family as well.

And Pelosi in a statement that she released yesterday also called out President Trump and called for him to directly to take down this video that set off this controversy. She says in part, quote, "the president's words weigh a ton and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger. President Trump must take down his disrespectful and dangerous video."

And Omar's office says that she has faced a sharp increase in death threats to her own safety since the president posted this video on Friday night. In fact, she says that many specifically referred or replied to the president's video directly. Now, her allies, her friends, many 2020 candidates have come to her defense quickly over the weekend.

And interesting here, Ana, is the White House is really digging in on this one. The White House Press Secretary Sanders -- Sarah Sanders over the weekend denied that President Trump was trying to encourage violence in any way. She says he has no ill will, no violence.

But the president should be calling out the congresswoman, she says in their view for her anti-Semitic remarks. Ana?

CABRERA: OK, Sunlen, on Capitol Hill for us, thank you. Let's talk about 2020 now. There is a new entrant to this race, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has officially entered the 2020 race.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: This time, it's not just about winning an election. It's about winning an era.


CABRERA: Buttigieg is currently the fastest rising Democratic presidential hopeful after polling at less than 1 percent a month ago, he is now running third in the all-important states of New Hampshire and Iowa. So what is driving him upward and is that rise coming at the expense of his rivals?

Joining us now, CNN political commentator Patti Solis Doyle; former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign manager. So, Patti, just to clear the air with our viewers in case they weren't following as closely as we sometimes do as we're inside the bubble, our news bubble.

He had an exploratory committee. Since then he's had this big surge, now it's official. What do you think is behind Buttigieg's momentum?

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, Mayor Pete has definitely had an incredible month. He is surging in the poll, he came third in the money race. He had a very successful announcement yesterday, look, this is a very smart guy, he's a road scholar, he speaks seven languages, he is a mayor of a small town in the Midwest.

He is a vet, he is embracing his religion like really no other candidate thus far in the race has been doing. He's thoughtful and considerate when he speaks which is something that we're not truly getting from our current president. But I think more than anything else, he really represents generational change.

He has a fresh face, and more than generational change, he represents transformational change. It very much reminds me of the dynamic of the race in 2008.

It was a field that was pretty big, not as big as we have today, but filled with Washingtonians, people of Washington, I think combine more than a century of experience in Washington, and then along came Barack Obama out of nowhere, a fresh face, a transformation -- someone who represented transformational change. And he ended up winning the race and the presidency.

CABRERA: And people have compared what we heard from Pete Buttigieg's announcement yesterday to some of the same types of words that President Obama used when he was announcing his run for the presidency. I want to ask you about President Trump's campaign, now announcing $30 million in a fund-raising haul for the first quarter.

And that's as much as the top two Democrats combined. You see it there, Senator Bernie Sanders race, $18.2 million, Senator Kamala Harris race, $12 million in the first quarter. Do the president's numbers worry you as a Democrat to see that kind of enthusiasm behind him?

DOYLE: Of course, they do. That's a lot of money no matter who you are. It's a lot of money for a sitting president as well. But we are going to run a primary race first. Democrats are going to run a primary race first, and each of the people running have raised formidable money, you know, between Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris.

[09:20:00] They are going to spend all that money, yes, running against each other, and setting the -- putting forth their own case. But they're also going to be putting money against Donald Trump. So I think Donald Trump's 30 million, while impressive, he's going to have to combat all of the candidates that are currently running, and that's a lot.

But there is no doubt, given what happened in 2016, Donald Trump is going to run a formidable race, I believe that. But -- so we need to be very disciplined and stick to our guns and run a great race in the general.

CABRERA: Speaking of money, Senator Bernie Sanders, we've learned is a millionaire and he's come under fire for not releasing his tax returns. He promised to do that today. Will this hurt him politically?

DOYLE: You know, we'll see what his tax returns have to say. You know, we know what he's going to say. He is a millionaire as you said, and that's really rich, both figuratively, given that he has spent, you know, decades railing against millionaires.

And literally, he's a rich man. I don't think anybody begrudges him being successful or having money. This is America after all, and we value success and he has been successful. The notion, though, that he has been stalling in releasing his taxes, I think that's the real problem.

When you run for president, you release your taxes. And if you don't, the assumption is you have something to hide. That is why we want Donald Trump to release his taxes. We think he has something to hide, whether it's, you know, ties to Russian money or you know, he's not as rich as he thinks he is, whatever. So the idea that what he had to hide was that he was rich, you know, I

don't think it's really going to go all that far. But he'll certainly get some blowback to it. But I think it will blow over sooner rather than later.

CABRERA: Digging into the divide amongst Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw some shade at the more progressive wing of her party, saying socialism, quote, "is not the view of the Democratic Party." And she said this when asked about unifying her party. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have these wings, ALC and her group on one side --

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): No, except fat people --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, that's the progressive group. Is more than fat --

PELOSI: Progressive -- I'm a progressive, yes.


CABRERA: Patti, your reaction?

DOYLE: Look, I think she's right. We are having -- there are -- there are -- it's a large Congress and many of the women or people who won are on the progressive side. Many of the people who won are also more moderate. We're now having a primary race where candidates are going to run their race and the voters will decide where the Democratic Party is.

For us to be judging it now and saying, oh, we're very progressive, oh, we're more moderate, who can win? Let the voters decide. That's what the primary is for and we'll see. We'll see who wins.

CABRERA: Patti Solis Doyle, good to see you, thanks for being here.

DOYLE: Thank you. Powerful deadly storms cut a path of destruction from Texas to Alabama. We're live with the latest on the aftermath. Look at this, just destruction after this devastating weather, stay with us.


CABRERA: At least eight people are dead after severe storms ripped across the south and then took aim at the Northeast. This powerful system produced tornadoes, hail, heavy rains, cutting a path of destruction all across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, leaving nearly a quarter million people still without power. CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us now from Alto, Texas. Ed, what are you seeing there?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Ana, well, this is the deep east -- piney woods of east Texas. And this is where those initial tornadoes in the area, where the storm system started spawning off tornadoes. And what we have seen, four people killed over the weekend. There are also deaths in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama.

Three children killed in all, two children near where we are here in Texas, they were killed in the back seat of their car that they were riding in with their parents when a tree collapsed on the car. We're in the town of Alto, Texas, where the police chief tells us some 75 homes have been destroyed, that this is an area where some 200 people have been displaced because of the storms.

And this kind of gives you a sense of what we are dealing with. Trees, and I mentioned, this is you know, the piney woods of east Texas, trees splintered by this storm, this is one of the 75 homes here in this area that has been disseminated. The front porch there completely separated away from the rest of the foundation and the rest of the home.

As you look back in here into the wooded area, Ana, the tornado came back from west to east over here this way, cutting across the tree lines throughout here. So, as you can imagine, this is an area where it's kind of hard when all the trees are standing to kind of see your surroundings to get a sense of just where the tornado is coming from.

The police chief here tells us that there wasn't a great deal of warning, that there were no sirens that were heard in this area. And they say that an hour and a half, Ana, after the tornado touched down here on Saturday afternoon, a second tornado came through almost the exact same area.

So you can imagine the nervousness and the desperation that many of these people here in this area were feeling and the intensity of the storm I think is really evident. You know, you see here, obviously, this is the porch that I was talking about in the home and the foundation pushed away.

But look here towards the back, as you look back toward the wooded area where that storm came from on Saturday afternoon. Those massive trees, many of them simply toppled and cut and broken in half by this tornado that ripped through here.

Throughout the overnight hours, since we've been here, Ana, they have been working on the power lines.