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CNN NEWSROOM

Washington Braces For Release Of Redacted Mueller Report; Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) Says She Has Experienced Increase In Death Threats; White House Says Congress Is Not Smart Enough To Examine Trump's Taxes; Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) Is Expected To Release Tax Returns Today. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 15, 2019 - 10:00   ET

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


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: He seems like a changed guy and he's once again a champion.

[10:00:02]

ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM: It's a story of redemption that everyone can cheer. Thank you, Andy Scholes. Good to see you.

Top of the hour on this Monday, I'm Ana Cabrera in today for Jim and Poppy. Thanks for being here.

It's more than they have but less than they want and it is ready to drop. The Mueller report is set to be released to Congress and everybody else any time now minus material the Attorney General considers off limits.

Now, those redactions guarantee a continued fight with House Democrats. But democrats weren't alone in voting last month to make the full Special Counsel report public. Every house republican joined them.

The White House calls the Mueller probe case closed. And just this morning, the President repeated the false claim that he had already been cleared of collusion and obstruction.

CNN's Laura Jarrett joins us now from the Justice Department. Laura, what do you expect and when do we expect it?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Ana, Washington is on pins and needles waiting for this report, color coded redacted report, I should say, any day now. Meanwhile, as you mentioned, the President leaning in heavily on this narrative of the idea that he has been vindicated completely, while at the same time his Attorney, Rudy Giuliani, telling our Dana Bash over the weekend that the legal team is reworking their rebuttal report to the Mueller report, query what needs to be rebutted if the President has already been cleared.

But we know that the Mueller team, according to that four-page summary from the Attorney General, Bill Barr, has concluded that the Trump campaign did not conspire with the Russian government. And so the real focus is going to be on the question of obstruction of justice. And on that front, we really are going to zone in on two main questions, why did the Special Counsel punt in finding that he could not exonerate the President because of evidence on both sides and what exactly did the Attorney General, Bill Barr, mean when he said that there was much evidence which was already publicly reported, much conduct that was already in the public. So, in other words, what don't we already know about the President's conduct that was behind closed doors? But for now, we wait. Ana?

CABRERA: Okay. Laura Jarrett, thank you very much.

I want to discuss now with former Republican Congressman Ryan Costello. Ryan, let me ask you, what do you make of the fact that Trump is still going after the Mueller probe on one hand, at the same time, saying, case closed?

RYAN COSTELLO (R-PA), FORMER REPRESENTATIVE: It's a fair question. You're going to have to repeat that question because my five-year-old just walked right behind me.

CABRERA: And I know we asked you to be ready faster than you were expecting because as we had a quick change of plans. So let me repeat the question. You're a former republican congressman, here, we have the President, you know, going after he Mueller report on one hand, at the same time, this White House is saying this is case closed and the President has been vindicated.

COSTELLO: There's going to be dueling, if not, four or five or six different interpretations on the Mueller report once it ultimately gets released. I think even when it gets released, you're going to have the democrats suggesting that whatever is redacted needs to be released at that point in time.

Clearly, what the one or two sentences that were disclosed in the four-page Barr memorandum did indicate that there were difficult issues of fact and law and that it did not, in his opinion, give rise to an appropriate charging of the President. But, look, the President is going to say what the President is going to say and democrats, I think, will likely take issue with it.

CABRERA: Do you think the President has anything to be worried about?

COSTELLO: I'm sure that there's going to be some facts set forth in there that are not going to paint the President in a favorable light, I think, or actually I think it's more fair to say that some surrounding the President, some campaign operatives, whether they were on payroll or somehow loosely affiliated with the President probably will not be painted favorably.

But it remains to be seen really what level of involvement, I shouldn't even use that direct of a term, that the President had. I mean, my gut tells me that the President's statements in public rallies is probably where he had said things about WikiLeaks that will be read into.

CABRERA: Let me bring in former FBI Special Agent Asha Rangappa into the conversation, and, Ryan, please stay with us. Asha, my understanding is Barr hasn't consulted with the White House Counsel's Office, at least that's what Rudy Giuliani is saying. So the White House hasn't weighed in on executive privilege. Are you surprised by this?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I'm not surprised. I think that because -- remember that executive privilege covers conversations that the President has with his close advisers about policy decisions, things relating to national security, stuff like that and to protect the executive branch.

[10:05:06]

And in this case, we know that Don McGahn was allowed to talk to Mueller by Trump's lawyers, in other words, Trump actually waived his executive privilege to someone who arguably had some of the most extensive conversations with the President. I'm not really sure if what other context he'd be able to assert that privilege, things that happened during the campaign, for example, wouldn't be covered by it. So I think that it might be a harder privilege to assert in the context of this investigation given that Don McGahn, the former White House Counsel, was allowed to speak so freely.

CABRERA: Asha, I'm struck by a couple words in Trump's prebuttal endorsement of the Mueller report. He says, great intelligence. When is the last time this President had a good word for the intel community?

RANGAPPA: I don't know. He's called the intelligence community in shambles and he's compared them to Nazis. So, you know, the President tends to, as you know, Ana, when things are favorable to him, he has a lot of great things to say, whether it's the intelligence community or The New York Times. And when things do not reflect him favorably, he wants to discredit them.

Ultimately, this report will speak for itself if people are able to actually read it. And I think the question is going to be how much of this is going to be redacted and how much will the intelligence committees in particular be able to obtain with regard to the counterintelligence investigation, which I like to emphasize is very different from the question of criminal charges which until now is what Barr has been looking at in terms of the Mueller report.

CABRERA: Ryan, or I should say, Congressman, what's the biggest question you want the report to answer?

COSTELLO: I think that that reporting right there is directly on point in terms of where we are at the moment. I think that the real -- the question moving forward is going to be what do democrats do with the report? And so to answer your question directly, are democrats going to seek to supplant their determination on whether there was wrongdoing that gives rise to criminality or, dare I say, impeachment, or are they going to seek to illicit further facts but not pursue the impeachment path. Barr has already made his determination which he has the right. And frankly, he should have made that determination, that's why it was presented to him. And so the question moving forward is will democrats look at the report and say, this gives rise to criminality, it should be further prosecuted, or we should open up impeachment hearings. And that's why I think that the President has been so offering prebuttals and actually has really put this out and shined a light on the investigation even more than one might expect. I think he's already daring democrats to go down that road. That's what I would expect to happen moving forward in the coming days.

CABRERA: Congressman Ryan Costello and Asha Rangappa, thank you both for being here.

Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar says she has received an increase in death threats since President Trump tweeted a video of her giving a speech along with images of the 9/11 attacks. And now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is taking no chances. She is asking authorities on Capitol Hill to make sure Omar and her family are protected. And just moments ago, President Trump weighed in yet again.

Joining us now is CNN Congressional Correspondent Sunlen Serfaty. So what's the President saying, Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, well, he is clearly digging in here, really standing by as criticism of Ilhan Omar and singling her out again in a Tweet that's just posted in the last few minutes, in part, President Trump Tweeting that she in reference to Ilhan Omar is out of control except for her control of Nancy, that in reference to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

And Ilhan Omar over the weekend was very clear that she believes the President's singling out of her, the President's rhetoric and that video he posted really has put her life at risk. She says that there has been a sharp increase in death threats against her since the President posted that video on Friday night and those threats specifically mention the video of the President.

Now, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, she says she has talked to the House Sergeant-at-Arms and that she has ordered a security assessment to be done not only to protect the Congresswoman here in Washington but also her family as well. And Pelosi is calling on President Trump to take down the video. She says in part in a statement, 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.

Ana, back to you.

CABRERA: Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill for us, thank you.

Still ahead, the White House with a stinging attack on the democrats trying to look at President Trump's tax returns, why Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says they are not smart enough to see them.

[10:10:04]

Plus, Pete Buttigieg officially running for president now. Could he be the democrat to take on Trump in 2020?

And a rare bird with dagger-like talons kills its owner. This is just how dangerous this cassowary is. And what's going to happen to this bird now that has killed its owner?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: The White House is pushing back in a new way as democrats continue to go after President Trump's tax returns.

[10:15:02]

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says lawmakers wouldn't be able to comprehend the President's taxes if he turned them over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 guess 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Now, this comes as democrats set a new deadline for the IRS to give up President Trump's tax returns. That new deadline is now just eight days away.

Joining us now, CNN's Lauren Fox. How are democrats on Capitol Hill now responding to Sanders?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Ana, over the weekend, Richard Neal, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, sent a letter basically doubling down on his request for six years of the President's personal and business tax returns.

And in that letter, Richard Neal basically relied heavily on the case law that's come before him, also leaning into that statute that he believes gives him the power to get those documents, Trump's tax information, from the IRS. He also set that deadline, April 23rd at 5:00 P.M. And he was very clear, if the IRS does not respond, he's basically taking that as a no, they are not going to respond at all. He wrote, quote, please know that if you fail to comply, your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request.

And, of course, this all comes as democrats across the several committees, including the House Oversight Committee, the House Financial Services Committee and the Intelligence Committee have requested information into the President's finances both from banks that he has used in the past, accounting firms that have put together financial disclosure forms. Democrats are digging in here and they want to be able to follow the money into the President's finances.

Richard Neal's request, of course, is separate from all of those. He basically says he wants more information into how the presidential audit program at the IRS works, he says that that's very important, crucial to the legislative authority of his committee, but obviously a very political fight and one we expect to go to and through the courts, Ana, this morning.

CABRERA: Okay. That deadline, again, eight days away. Lauren Fox, we'll be watching. Thanks.

Let's break it down with CNN Contributor, Bianna Golodryga. Bianna, first, how do you think the democrats are going to respond to this? We know there are ten accountants in Congress, three democrats. Will democrats be emboldened now by Sanders' comments saying they're not smart enough?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I would assume most likely, Ana. I mean, going after somebody's intellect is not the best route at trying to smooth a situation which republicans now the democrats have wanted to pursue for a long time going after the President's tax returns. But this is going to be another issue, as Lauren said, that's going to wind up being mired in the courts. I doubt that we're going to be seeing them with then deadline comes next week.

CABRERA: Sarah Sanders also said about democrats seeking Trump's taxes if they can single out one, they can single out everybody. Does this sort of slippery slope argument work with the American public?

GOLODRYGA: Yes, sort of speaking for the nation, right, we are not here to defend the President, we are here to defend the nation. Look, this is something that Mick Mulvaney has said on this network repeatedly that the President was elected by the American public that is very aware of every past indiscretion that he has been accused of and they elected him without having seen his tax returns. That is something that's going to be a sticking point for this administration, they're going to repeat that line over and over again that the American public doesn't care and that this is a Democratic Party that's out on a witch-hunt to get them. The question is how much will the public care about the democrats focusing so much on this issue given that we know they have a whole array of other topics they want to investigate as well.

CABRERA: So kind of seems like the idea then for the White House is delay, delay, delay, see if this goes away. Democratic House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff put it this way after Sander's comments. There's an old saying, when the law is on the your side, pound the law. When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If neither the facts or law are on your side pound the table. And then there is whatever this is. What do you see? What is this?

GOLODRYGA: Well, this is where we are today. This is how we got a president for the first time in decades whose tax returns we had not seen, the American public, the voters had chosen to overlook that. And that is something that republicans and probably rightly so are going to be honing in on, the fact that this is a Democratic Party that wants to focus on something that the majority of Americans, at least in republicans' opinions, didn't care enough about. So going forward, this is going to be a pressing issue. I would also argue for the Treasury Secretary, he also was caught in the middle of this last week when he was asked about this and whether or not we would be seeing the President's tax returns.

[10:20:02]

We know that he has a close relationship with the President. The President will be focusing on his behavior as well not wanting to see any Tweets coming his way.

CABRERA: And it's not just on the President's taxes. I mean, Lauren Fox laid out all the different house investigations into the President's finances and the Trump organization's finances and how this, you know, really reaches a broad swath across many different aspects of their investigations. Can the White House just continue to stonewall Congress on document requests and subpoena requests, on everything from taxes to the Russia probes, to security clearances? Obviously, they think it is working for them.

GOLODRYGA: Well, in this case, I would say, it's almost an embarrassment of riches because it's a treasure trove the democrats want to go after. And as you just showed that graphic, republicans can say, look, they are more focused on attacking this president, look at a litany of issues that they want to investigate him on as opposed to trying to work together in a partisan way on a number of issues that the American voters and the American public care most about. This especially going into the 2020 election, I think, is going to be a big talking point for republicans.

CABRERA: All right. Bianna, thank you very much for being here.

GOLODRYGA: Of course.

CABRERA: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has promised to release his tax returns by today. Next, could the information in those returns affect his front runner status?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:25:00]

CABRERA: It's April 15th, you know what that means. It's tax day, the deadline for millions of Americans who still need to file their taxes. But it's also the deadline Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gave himself to release his tax returns. Will he do it?

CNN Correspondent Ryan Nobles is following the Sanders campaign in Pennsylvania. Ryan, what's the word?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana. We expect that he is going to do it. And, in fact, we expect those tax returns to be released at some point today. This is something that's really dogged the Sanders campaign since shortly after he made his announcement that he was going to make another run for the Presidency and said that he would release those taxes soon. Well, soon has become now a little more than a month-and a-half and we still haven't seen them yet.

Now, his campaign and Sanders himself insists that these tax returns are going to be boring, that there isn't going to be anything out there that's going to necessarily hurt his campaign and that he is actually filed his taxes himself over the course of his career as a lawmaker and the different activities that he has been involved in, and that's part of what the holdup has been. It's just collecting all that information over this ten-year span that he expects to release from the public.

We do know this for sure though, Ana. It is going to show that he has significantly increased his wealth since he became a candidate for president largely in part because of the fact that he had a very successful book that he wrote. It is expected to show that he is now a millionaire. And, of course, he has long railed against millionaires and billionaires and the economic inequality that he views as a big problem in the United States.

His advisers tell us what we're going to see in those tax returns is not at all going to move away from that message at all, it's not going to impact his policy positions in any way and, therefore, will not be hypocritical in any way, shape or form. Of course, Ana, we still need to see these documents before we can draw any conclusions about how it could impact his campaign. Ana?

CABRERA: Again, Bernie Sanders in Pennsylvania today. He has been making his way across a number of Rust Belt or Midwestern states. What's his message on this tour?

NOBLES: Yes, Ana. What's really interesting about these states that Bernie Sanders has visited, they include Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and now Pennsylvania, these are all states that Donald Trump won in 2016 and they are also states that are really not that on the front end of the primary calendar. But yet what Bernie Sanders is attempting to do here is show that he can win in a general election. He's making a pitch to the voters in these states which he hopes the voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina hear is that he can win here where perhaps some other democratic candidates cannot.

And he even went as far this week as to say that he understands why voters in some parts of these states actually cast a ballot for Donald Trump and he made the argument that Donald Trump has not fulfilled his promises to those voters. So we expect him to talk about that during an event in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania here later this afternoon.

Of course, Ana, the symbolism here is very important, Wilkes-Barre very close to Scranton, Pennsylvania, which is, of course, the boyhood home of Vice President Joe Biden who we expect to get into this race very soon. Ana?

CABRERA: Right, as soon this month perhaps. Ryan Nobles in Pennsylvania with Bernie Sanders, thanks.

Joining us now to discuss more about this and the whole 2020 race, CNN Political Director David Chalian, he is live in Washington. We know Bernie Sanders is a millionaire, David. He has come under fire for not releasing his tax returns, he promises he is going to do it today. Could this hurt him politically?

DAVID CHALIAN: Well, as you heard Ryan say, the campaign doesn't think there is anything sort of explosive in there. We'll have to wait and see and look what is inside the tax returns. He, of course, because he had not been releasing his tax returns until today, was a sort of flawed messenger on the democratic message of pressuring President Trump to release his tax returns, Ana.

[10:30:00]

And so he clearly, by releasing ten years' worth of tax returns today, can now sort of join the democratic ranks in applying that pressure to Donald Trump.