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Redacted Mueller Report Expected Thursday Morning; Democrats Give IRS New Ultimatum; Death Threats Spike after Trump Tweet; Loughlin Pleads Not Guilty in College Scandal; Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Fire. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 15, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Backlash she faced from Pelosi.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN COMMENTATOR: It's also a reason she's one of the best whips we've ever seen --


KUCINICH: On the -- in the House of Representatives.

KING: With everything, Nancy Pelosi, she can count.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow.

Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a good afternoon.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, as the drum beat grows louder over the imminent release of Robert Mueller's report, so do the preemptive strikes from team Trump.

High-risk hardball. Actress Lori Loughlin makes a surprising plea in that massive college cheating scandal.

Plus, a freshman congresswoman says she's received more death threats after President Trump's tweet prompting new security measures in a high-stakes war of words.

And despite the president falsely pushing his audit excuse, it's now the White House that says Congress isn't smart enough to understand his taxes.

Up first, the wait is almost over. Attorney General William Barr is expected to release a redacted version of the Mueller report to Congress and the public on Thursday morning. The release of the report may answer some questions, but it could also generate a lot of new ones.

We have Dana Bash and Kara Scannell with us. So, Thursday morning, now we know. Now we know. What else do we know?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, I mean, that -- that's all we know right now. I mean we know that they're still working on these redactions. We're expecting four categories of redactions. So that's something that the Justice Department is still going through. But as of now, we finally have a date. We finally know it's going to be Thursday morning. And we'll wait and see just how much of this is actually going to be redacted.

KEILAR: So what -- and what are the -- what -- what would account for those categories that they're pulling things out?

SCANNELL: Well, I mean there's the question of the grand jury material. That's all the information that they gleaned from their investigation. Then there's classified information. There's also all the information that exists about ongoing investigations. We'll be looking to see how many -- you know, it's going to be color-coded, so how many of those tabs are going to relate to ongoing investigations. And then there's also the information about public, you know -- not public individuals, private citizens and how much information about them where they haven't been charged with any wrongdoing and it just could be derogatory. It could just, you know, spur more rumors. So information about private citizens is also going to be redacted.

KEILAR: Which will lead to a lot of questions.

And the president has to figure out how am I going to respond. That's not something they're waiting for this report over at the White House and in his legal team to decide how to do.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's right. Rudy Giuliani and other members of the legal team have made clear from months and months that they had been preparing a -- what they call a rebuttal report. I talked to Giuliani yesterday who said that they are busily reworking that rebuttal report based on what they think is going to be in the Mueller report, obviously using Barr's letter from a couple of weeks ago as a guide post. So, you know, we'll see how detailed they get in there.

The big question is -- seems to be about obstruction. What exactly -- how far is the report going to go in the -- what is effectively kind of a hung jury within the Mueller legal team, meaning they couldn't make a decision. They were split on the notion of whether the president actually did obstruct. So how much of the information about their deliberations, about the evidence that they gathered about what their conclusions were will we see in this report?

KEILAR: Because unlike in that four-page summary letter from Bill Barr, at least the facts of the case, if not a conclusion, is laid out when it comes to obstruction, because Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein made that leap to say actually this doesn't establish that there was obstruction.

You guys have been covering this for so long. So this is -- it appears finally upon us here in a few days, what are you looking for? SCANNELL: I mean I think that is the key question because we'll see not only the public, you know, instances that have been under the microscope for the president with the firing of FBI Director James Comey, but we also know that he called back in -- Robert Mueller called back in Don McGahn multiple times -- that's the White House counsel -- to ask about all these other, you know, statements and internal conversations that the president was involved in, whether, you know, wanting McGahn to fire Robert Mueller. He also called him back in to talk about Jeff Sessions and McGahn being directed by Trump to go and ask Jeff Sessions to unrecuse himself. So I think it will be a very rich area to see just how many other behind-the-scenes moves there were that the Mueller team put under this umbrella of obstruction.

BASH: That and also even something we haven't talked about in a while is the -- not just the Trump Tower meeting, which is a question about collusion, which the conclusion was none, but more importantly the statements afterwards. The statement about the emails, when it finally came out, "The New York Times" got the Don Junior e-mails about that Trump Tower meeting, what happened on Air Force One when this whole thing was going down, did the president direct or misdirect? Will that be in this because that's something that we have been reporting on and trying to get information on for, you know, hours and hours, maybe even combined days of air time, and now we'll know, maybe.

[13:05:17] SCANNELL: And also --

KEILAR: Maybe.

SCANNELL: The president's written statements --

BASH: We hope.

SCANNELL: And the written statements and his answers.

BASH: And the written statements.

KEILAR: We may know maybe. And that's the question. What will we know? We're going to find out soon, though.

Dana Bash, Kara Scannell, thank you guys so much.

BASH: Thanks, Bri.

KEILAR: So it's tax day and the White House has come up with a new reason to refuse to release the president's tax returns. The president has repeatedly blamed being under audit, even though there's no proof that he is, even though an audit wouldn't actually prevent him from releasing those tax returns. Then he and his acting chief of staff said that the public doesn't care to see the returns anyway. And now Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says members of Congress, both Democratic and Republican, just aren't smart enough to understand them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think Congress, particularly not this group of Congress men 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.


KEILAR: Well, here is where I should probably point out this, that ten members of Congress are accountants, three Democrats, seven Republicans, and two of those accountants/lawmakers sit on the House Ways and Means Committee, the tax writing committee, which is asking for the president's tax returns.

Meantime, one of the president's personal attorneys has written a letter to the Treasury Department's general counsel arguing against the release of the president's tax returns. His arguments including likening the request by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal to harassing civil rights leaders in the '60s by asking for their taxes.

He also says, quote, Congress has no constitutional authority to act like a junior varsity IRS.

Our Abby Phillip is at the White House.

And, Abby, Chairman Neal has given the IRS a new deadline to release the president's taxes. That would be April 23rd. What more are you hearing about this fight?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: well, Brianna, it's all hands on deck right now for the president's advisers here at the White House and his lawyers on the outside to push back against multiple efforts from Capitol Hill to gain insight into the president's taxes. One of those you just referenced, which was this letter being sent from the president's lawyers to chairman -- to the general counsel over at the IRS, basically saying that Chairman Neal is coming to this debate basically pretending that there's a legitimate legislative purpose, but really what he wants to do is harass the president. They are pushing back and telling the IRS that there is no reason for them to -- to give into this, to give access to the committee, to the president's tax returns.

And we heard this basic arguments actually reiterated by one of the president's top aides, Larry Kudlow, one of his top economic aides, who also suggested that the IRS had absolutely no intention of being weaponized. That was his word, being weaponized in a -- by Democrats in an effort to hurt the president. So it seems that they're moving very strongly in the direction that this is not going to ever happen.

But then, separately, there's another effort being made by the House Oversight Committee to gain access to tax documents from a firm that has been a part of the president's tax preparation process. So the president's lawyers wrote to that firm warming them, do not comply with a subpoena if one comes from the House Oversight Committee. And if you do, we might take further legal action. So they are kind of taking no chances here, trying to really tamp down any possible ways that House Democrats can get access to tax information from the president.

And there's a small statement from Jay Sekulow, one of the president's lawyers, saying this. We have once again reiterated our objections to the unconstitutional demand for the president's tax returns. This is just an indication that this is going to go on for quite some time on multiple fronts.


KEILAR: All right, Abby Phillip, thank you so much, at the White House for us.

Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar says death threats against her have increased since a tweet by President Trump. This tweet included a brief clip from a speech where Omar said some people did some thing on 9/11, edited with images from the terrorist attacks. The president tweeted, we will never forget.

In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this, quote, the memory of 9/11 is sacred ground and any discussion of it must be done with reverence. The president shouldn't use the painful images of 9/11 for a political attack.

Sunlen Serfaty is with us from Capitol Hill.

And it seems the speaker, Sunlen, is criticizing both Omar and the president with that statement.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And that's an important point here, Brianna. That was absolutely a veiled criticism from Ilhan Omar coming from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the fact that she said the memory of 9/11 is sacred and any discussion of it must be done with reverence, essentially, i.e., you have to watch every word here very carefully.

[13:10:14] But certainly no doubt much of that criticism was directly directed at President Trump, Speaker Pelosi calling it hateful, inflammatory rhetoric, saying, of course, that it causes real danger.

Now, notable, President Trump, today, has not relented. He's essentially doubled down. He is out with a tweet in the last few hours calling out Speaker Pelosi, calling out Ilhan Omar again saying that of Omar, she is out of control.

And notable here, Brianna, President Trump will be in Minnesota, Ilhan Omar's state, very near her home district today and you already have members of Congress firing something of a warning shot in defense of that visit saying that hopefully he will not rev up this sentiment that he expressed against Ilhan Omar.


KEILAR: All right, Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill, thank you so much. And we have an update now on the celebrity college admissions scandal.

Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband are pleading not guilty to the charges against them, which including fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors say the couple paid a half a million dollars in this scheme that got their two daughters into the University of Southern California. Thirteen others, including actress Felicity Huffman, pleaded guilty.

We have attorney Scott Bolden here with us now to talk about this.

This is a plea. The plea is on a second superseding indictment, which means not much to the lay people out there. Explain this.

A. SCOTT BOLDEN, WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, so you have an indictment and then you have what we would normally call a superseding indictment, which is an amended indictment. The persons -- the individuals that pled guilty, you see, they pled guilty before a superseding indictment was put in place and the offer from the government, what it looks like from the outside, was that we will amend and add these two charges, conspiracy for money laundering and another conspiracy to bribe, or you can take a plea beforehand and get a better offer or get a better deal before the court.

Here, the half a million dollars that's at issue with Lori Loughlin and her husband makes it a little more difficult. They waved on that offer. They didn't accept it. And it looks like they plead not guilty to the superseding indictment that adds two charges.

KEILAR: Why did that make it more difficult, the money?

BOLDEN: Well, because, under the federal sentencing guidelines, the more money at issue, the number of years or the monthly count can go up. It doesn't in every case depending on if money is at issue. And so that's significant.

KEILAR: So as -- they won't be appearing for their arraignment for this -- with this plea? Explain how this happens.

BOLDEN: So several jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., and New York, where I practice, they have certain provisions on the criminal procedure that allow you to wave. The arrangement itself is a formal reading of the charges. You usually waive that formal reading. You enter a plea of guilty and it's over in a handful of minute. Here, some jurisdictions can have it done by waver, vis-a-vis the waiver to appear. You sign it. The judge accepts it and then he accepts what's written down and the lawyers agree on it basically.

KEILAR: The question here comes down to jail time and if these defendants deserve jail time and who may get it and who may not. When you look at say Felicity Huffman and the others who have -- they've pled guilty. What do you -- what do you think will be the outcome there?

BOLDEN: Well, the early in the better you are in, as we say. So that's why you're seeing these quick pleas. They -- in their part, they did not want additional charges to face if they were going to plead guilty later on, they might as well plead guilty now. And so now they're looking at federal sentencing guidelines that will sentence them.

But, remember, Felicity's different than Lori Loughlin and her husband. She paid $10,000 or $15,000 to -- for either the test to be taken or paid the recruiter or the bad actor, Singer. With Lori Loughlin and her husband, they paid a half a million dollars to a fake charity. But, in the end, they've got letters, they've got e-mails and they've got tapings of all of these bad acts and the conspiracy itself. So there's mounting evidence, at least preliminarily, that says that the government's got a great case against them.

KEILAR: Wow. All right, Scott, thank you so much for breaking that down for us.

BOLDEN: Thank you.

KEILAR: We appreciate it.

We have some breaking news out of Paris. We are getting word of what appears to be a fire that is either near or at the Notre Dame Cathedral. You can see the smoke there in these pictures. We are looking into this. We're going to take you live to the scene next.


[13:18:46] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: We have break news out of Paris.

We're getting word of what appears to be a fire either near or at the Notre Dame Cathedral. You can see the smoke in these pictures. You can see the flames shooting out of the roof.

Let's talk to CNN international correspondent Melissa Bell, who is live on the phone with us from Paris.

Tell us what you know, Melissa.

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Brianna, this has really come out in the last few minutes, these images that you're seeing come in coming out on social media. Huge crowds have gathered around the cathedral. And you can see not just smoke on those images coming through on social media, but also flames as well that appear to be coming through the roof, through the back end of Notre Dame Cathedral. We're hoping to get there in a couple of minutes time to go and see for ourselves.

The pictures are looking pretty dramatic clearly because this is happening even as we speak. We don't know yet what was responsible for the fire, how this began or how dangerous, how big it is or threatening to the structure itself. But, clearly, for the time being, the crowds that are already (ph) pretty substantial around that part of Paris, being one of the most touristic parts of the French capital, are getting pretty big. And those images appear to be fairly dramatic for the time being.

Again, Brianna, we have no idea what is behind this fire, what caused it, how it began, but it does appear to be coming from inside the cathedral itself.

[13:20:08] KEILAR: And when did you first get word of this? This is something that must be -- and here we have a photo where you can better see the facade of the cathedral, so this isn't a building that is in front of it. You can actually see the cathedral here.

When did you first get word of this and I -- I can't even imagine what people in Paris are saying, the idea that this -- this iconic building is -- is aflame.

BELL: Absolutely iconic. I think that's the right word, Brianna. This is right in the heart of Paris and the heart of the very historic central part of Pairs on one of the islands that sit in the middle of the seine (ph), in the very middle of the French capital. It is, of course, world famous.

This is what tourists come to see when they come to visit Paris. And it is clearly always surrounded by tourists, people milling around and a lot of people visiting inside even at this time of day. We're just coming up to the evening here in Paris and it would have been very busy, full of tourists.

We know for the time being -- what we can see from these images coming through on social media, and it really has just been a few minutes, this is happening -- word of this has just begun to spread in the last four or five minutes or so. And you can see those big flames coming out of the cathedral. And when you look at it from different angles, you can see it clearly seems to be coming from the cathedral itself.

I'm getting close enough now to see the smoke coming out over the top of the roof here in Paris, and it is pretty substantial amounts of smoke. No word for the time being yet what caused this -- this is just happening -- on what might have been behind it. But clearly that smoke and the flames that have caused it seem to be coming from inside the cathedral.

We're first going to get -- try and get as close as we can to try and find out more about how structurally damaged potentially the building could be and also, of course, Brianna, what caused such a massive fire and what allowed it to take hold as quickly as it appears to have done.

KEILAR: And the police there saying that the fire at Notre Dame is in progress. Avoid the area and facilitate the passage of emergency vehicles and intervention of the police.

Because, to be clear, Melissa, this is -- this is not at all under control, right? This is something at this point that they are in the process of responding to, let alone assessing.

BELL: That's right. This really has just become obviously a massive problem, and, as I said, the crowds are growing pretty big, even from here. Just slightly further away from Notre Dame Cathedral, they're crowding on to the bridges to get a sight of what is really this fairly spectacular amounts of smoke now coming out from the building. And to get it under control, one can imagine that it's going to take a lot of fire engines, a lot of order, a lot of manpower. So Paris is pretty congested at this time of day, especially around Notre Dame, in the middle. Clearly the police are hoping that police will allow them to get as close as they possibly can.

But the amounts of smoke that I'm looking at are really pretty big. And you can see there on those images that have already begun coming through on social media that those flames appear to be for the time being quite out of control. It's going to take -- it's going to take a lot of work to get them under control.

And, of course, these are flames, just to remind our viewers, Brianna, that are threatening -- that seem to be engulfing the back part of one of France's most historic cathedrals, one of its most famous, one of its most ancient. Whatever has caused this, this is likely to prove to be a tragedy, a catastrophe for the structure itself. The flames, for the time being, nowhere near under control.

KEILAR: Yes, it looks catastrophic as we look at these pictures.

Melissa Bell, if you can stand by for us, we are going to have more on this continuing -- on this special coverage, breaking news, the cathedral of Notre Dame is on fire. An out-of-control fire. We'll be right back.


[13:28:45] KEILAR: We're following breaking news out of Paris.

This is the cathedral of Notre Dame. It is on fire. This is burning out of control. There are many people gathered around, watching this right now in Paris. Police have warned that the streets need to be clear so that emergency responders can get there.

You can see the spire completely engulfed in flames. Much of the roof here behind the facade of the cathedral, this icon of gothic architecture, is on fire.

And I want to bring in Melissa Bell. She is there on scene.

Tell us what you can see from your vantage point.

BELL: Well, Brianna, the scenes are absolutely catastrophic. I mean the amounts of smoke that are billowing out of what is France's most famous cathedral, world renowned, world famous and, of course, all around the tourists and the locals have gathered to watch this unfolding situation. There's a helicopters swirling above.

[13:29:43] Clearly authorities, for the time being, don't have a handle on this, Brianna, because it's really only just -- the flames have only really, in the last 10 or 15 minutes or so taken hold. And the smoke is getting thick and thicker. You can see it's quite thick. It's sort of yellow colored. It's begun -- begun much -- much less thick than that. It's getting thicker.