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Barr Expected to Deliver Report on Thursday; Trump's Lawyer Argues Request for Returns; Trump Comments on Omar. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 15, 2019 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:20] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for spending the hour with us.

The big news this hour, Justice Department spokeswoman, just moments ago, telling us the attorney general now expects to release the redacted version of the Mueller report Thursday morning. The breaking news just moments ago.

Let's go straight to Laura Jarrett at the Justice Department for more.

Laura, why did they decide to tell us in advance and what else do we know?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I think Washington has been on pins and needles as the nation awaited the news of when this report would finally come. We had all been wondering. We knew that it would come sometime this week as the attorney general had testified on Capitol Hill last week, but we now have a date certain.

Thursday morning it's planning to go to Congress and to the public. We don't know exactly what time. But, of course, all eyes will be on the Justice Department that day.

And I should mention, this is the redacted report. Of course, lawmakers have been pressing the attorney general to see anything and everything about this report, but this is the redacted version as the attorney general, Bill Barr, has laid out. It will be color coded, the redactions, everything from grand jury information to ongoing investigations, of course, classified information and then information on peripheral third parties will all be redacted.

How exactly this will all go down on Thursday remains to be seen and how much will be redacted remains to be seen. But as the attorney general has said, we will see more than the gist and we will see it on Thursday morning, John.

KING: Thursday morning.

Laura Jarrett, stay with us throughout the hour. If there's more news, come back.

With me to share their reporting and their insights, Margaret Talev with "Bloomberg," CNN's Manu Raju, Jackie Kucinich with "The Daily Beast," CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero, and CNN's Shimon Prokupecz with us as well.

Shimon, we know the attorney general has been working on the redactions. He promised Congress in his testimony, it was testy at times last week, that he's doing the best he can. It will be as transparent as he believes he can be. Help us understand what that means.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. So the transparency issue is going to be on uncharged crimes, derogatory information, other investigations that, as we know, were started by Mueller and then farmed out basically to other U.S. attorneys, grand jury information, classified information. So anything along those lines. Everything that I just listed that the Department of Justice could view as essentially they don't want to violate their guidelines. The guidelines list all sorts of reasons as to why they can't release certain information on criminal investigations. So he's going to try to stick to that. But I think that he does understand that there's a lot of attention on this and that he needs to be a little more transparent than he would normally be in investigations.

So the big question, obviously, John, is going to be around the obstruction investigation and why did Mueller opt to not make a decision on that investigation and, instead, in many ways, punted to the Department of Justice, to the attorney general and to the deputy attorney general, who ultimately made the decision on that issue? Are we going to learn more about the various issues?

Barr's letter talked about there being facts and issues of the law on both sides, both sides of the issue relating to the obstruction investigation. Will we get a better window into that? Will we see exactly what difficulty did Mueller have in reaching some of these conclusions? What did he find but perhaps did not rise to the level of criminal charges. But, nonetheless, could still be problematic for the president from a political view. So all of that is what I think we're all going to be looking towards.

And, obviously, you have the collusion question. Where do they go with that? What other people were interviewed? And the big question is, the reach-out from the Russians to the Trump campaign, how significant was that? How much more detail can we learn about those contacts and exactly how did the Trump campaign interact with Russians? We know from the report that there were many contacts. The question is going to be whether or not we learned more, exactly who and how the Russians were going about and making these contacts.

And, obviously, it's going to come down to, you know, what is the -- ultimately surrounding the obstruction investigation, John?

KING: Right. And so, Shimon, stay with us throughout the conversation.

Carrie Cordero, to the point about defined transparency and who defines transparency. In this case, the first crack at it is going to be from the attorney general of the United States, who did say, I want to be as transparent as possible. I get the public interest, but he also said, I'm not going to a judge to ask to get clearance to include grand jury material. He said if Congress wants to sue, they can sue.

So, on the one hand, I'm going to be transparent. But on the other hand, I'm not going to push the limits here by proactively asking a judge. So will we get the president's written answers? Will we get testimony from other witnesses? Or will the attorney general say, you get what Robert Mueller concluded, but you don't get to see the actual words?

[12:05:02] CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think what the report is going to include is going to be the factual scenario that the -- and the factual investigation that the special counsel conducted. But you're exactly right, that the attorney general, while he's being transparent in terms of saying I'm going to release as much as I can, he's doing so according to the letter of the law. My interpretation is that he's doing so according to the letter of the law and Justice Department traditions. He is not going to push the envelope. So he is not going to try to stretch what that definition of transparency says. So that's why he's not going to the court to release the grand jury information based on some theory of what might be an exception. He's going to -- but I do think the coding that they're doing in terms of identifying the reasons behind certain information redacting is going to be really useful to Congress because that's going to tell them the sections that they might want to go to the court on grand jury or the sections that they might want to go to the intelligence community to push on classified information. It's going to give them some clues as to how they can approach what more they want to see.

KING: So it's likely to be a first report, and then a road map to try and get additional information.

We don't know what's in it. We know Russian interference in the election was part of the scope. We know the Trump contact with -- at least 16 contacts. Did that amount to collusion? Robert Mueller, at least in Bill Barr's letter, Robert Mueller could not prove collusion. The obstruction question is there.

We do know -- we do know this, even though we don't know what's in it, the White House is nervous about it. The president tweeting again this morning, investigate the investigators. He wants to turn your focus away from Robert Mueller and what he looked at and what he found to how Robert Mueller got there and how the FBI, even before Robert Mueller, got started on this investigation.

Here's the president's lead attorney, again, trying to convince you the Mueller report doesn't matter, it's what happened before.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I think you're going to get the full explanation of Mueller. I think you're going to see no collusion of any kind, which raises the question, why do we have this investigation in the first place? And that's a very good question, which I'm kind of working on the answer to. I don't think it just happened accidently. I think it was the product of a -- you want to call it a political dirty trick or you want to call it a crime, I don't know, criminal conspiracy.

But in any event, I think that collusion, we'll leave the collusion question. How did this come about?


KING: It's clever. You want to call it a crime. You want to call it a political dirty trick. He wants to call it a political dirty trick. That's the whole -- that's the whole MO here.

Once the report is out, it's harder. It's harder. But for the Trump base, they're trying to say, pay no attention.


So what we've seen over the last couple of weeks since the report's conclusion is the president and his advisers and spokespeople trying to use every opportunity possible to define the narrative, to define the event and to define the conclusions in the -- in the best terms possible for the president, trying to hammer this home so that the kind of talking point on this are already set in the public's mind and the bases mind before the time that as much of this 400 page report comes out as comes out.

The other -- there are two things I'd look for. One is, there will be sort of direct inverse proportionality, how much is released to how much steam Congress has to go forward. And the other is that normally you don't -- attorneys for someone do not get out in TV as much as possible and talk about things as much as possible. So when they do, you have to understand it's for messaging purposes, not for legal purposes. And I'll be looking not just for what Rudy Giuliani and other lawyers say, but for the areas that they're not talking about, because if they're directing you in one direction, it's probably because they don't want you talking about --


KING: And Congress is in recess, so I assume now that they've gotten the heads up from the Justice Department, Thursday morning, that the relevant members are booking their flights now.

RAJU: Potentially, or they're -- or they'll be quick to respond.

KING: Ready to work -- ready to work this.

But what are their steps? First, they have to see what Bill Barr gives them.

RAJU: Yes.

KING: But the Democrats, you could tell, are very skeptical.

RAJU: Yes.

KING: They think they're quickly going to be either demanding more from him, maybe going to court, maybe asking for stuff in a classified setting. What else?

RAJU: Yes. I mean Thursday's going to be the beginning of a new chapter, certainly not the end.

TALEV: It never ends.

RAJU: It never ends.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN COMMENTATOR: It's never going to end.

RAJU: You know, you mentioned, you showed Rudy Giuliani. They want to investigate how the investigation began and that's already clear that Bill Barr's open to that or he's moving forward on that. The Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Republicans, is going into that. House Democrats want to look into the allegations within the facts that Robert Mueller has uncovered. That's going to be a road map to their investigations. That's going to be split up under various committees. So that's one front.

The other front is the fight for redacted -- to see what's behind the redacted material. That's going to lead to a court fight potentially after the House Judiciary Committee drops a subpoena asking for the full information, the underlying evidence. There's going to be another court fight to get the grand jury information that Jerry Nadler is going to press forward with. And Bill Barr has said that he would be open to negotiating to show some of the information behind the redactions. That's going to be another area of discussion.

So on several fronts this fight is going to continue and it's going to, of course, lead to the political arguments on both sides about whether or not the president (INAUDIBLE).

[12:10:04] KING: Well, and as you jump in, let's just put it on the calendar, April 2019, as we start to escalate into the 2020 re- election cycle. So we have a legal analysis we need to make of the report, a legal and factual discussion about that, and then all the politics of which there's plenty and there's going to be more.

KUCINICH: Of course. And then -- I mean one of the things that's already sort of starting to happening, but to the extent to which the White House uses the things they like about the Mueller report to blunt the congressional investigations that are going to go on regardless and how they use that in 2020 to bludgeon maybe some Democrats who don't want to talk about this, who aren't -- who know how this plays at home and, you know, want to move on to other things. So we're going to see that both on the 2020 presidential level and also on the congressional level.

KING: The law is different from the Ken Starr days. The law is different from the Watergate days.

What is reasonable to expect and what is reasonable to expect fights about?

CORDERO: Well, the big difference between the current regulations is that the attorney general is making the determination of what gets reported to Congress.

KING: Not the special counsel.

CORDERO: And the reason that the regulations were changed was because so much information in the Ken Starr report had nothing to do with criminal culpability or even impeachable information, but was all this derogatory information about private individual. And that's the piece that's really going to be a gray area where members of Congress might want information that is derogatory or negative about individuals particularly in the Trump family or who are now in the Trump White House or were on the Trump campaign --

RAJU: And remember when --

CORDERO: But is not grand jury or classified. It's just this other category of information.

TALEV: It's just dirt.

KING: But so --

RAJU: Remember what Bill Barr said about that last week. He would not protect the president about redactions, but he did not ask about those other individuals, the president's eldest son.

KING: So I think Shimon is still with us.

Do we know anything about where the line will be in that regard? Robert Mueller had to look into the Trump Tower meeting. Why are people working for the United States presidential candidate, including the candidate's son, the candidate's campaign chairman, the candidate's son-in-law, in a room with Russians promising dirt? Why didn't they call the FBI? What about these contacts that maybe they were all innocent but that they all lied about it. Jeff Sessions meeting with the ambassador, other people meeting with the ambassador. They all lied about them. Maybe they were just knuckleheads having meetings with Russians during a presidential campaign. But is that protected or will that be laid out?

PROKUPECZ: That's the great question, John. We don't know how the attorney general's going to view that. You know, in usual situations, because these are not -- these are uncharged crimes and it essentially would be derogatory information, you would not see come out in any way from the Department of Justice. But we don't know how they're going to handle that here. It could be that we see all of this information, but we don't see names. You know, the names of individuals that were in these meetings that's not out there already publically in court documents. Maybe that's how they deal with this. It's not entirely clear.

Obviously, that Trump Tower meeting and how the Mueller team viewed it and what they learned about it from all the people they interviewed and all the intelligence that they gather and the sources that they spoke to about that meeting is important and relevant, but whether or not we see more information on that, that's going to be interesting because that's not something anyone was charged with. And so then you go into, well, do they violate any kind of guidelines by releasing information about that?

It is an important part of this investigation. So maybe, in the public's interest, this could be the argument that the Department of Justice makes, that in the interest -- the public's interest we need to put this information out there. And others who were in that meeting, you know, what their interviews -- or, look, we know that Mueller interviewed several people who were part of that meeting. Will we learn more about what they had to say concerning that meeting? That's a big question that I think everyone has on their mind.

And really, ultimately, how much more do we learn about the different people that went in to meet with Mueller from the president's team outside the president. All the intelligence that was gathered, all of the warrants that were served, do we learn more about the information that they obtained through all that work that they did.

KING: I know a lot of the people who worked for the president, some of them still there, many of them have gone, are a little bit nervous about whether their transcripts will be released because of some things they said, even in defending the president, about his work habits and his temper and things like that. Again, the courtesy from the Justice Department, I guess you might call it.

The Mueller report expected out Thursday morning. That gives the attorney general three more days to think through the questions we've raised here. It gives three days for Congress to prepare to fight for the documents. It gives you three days to set your schedule if you want to be here Thursday morning to watch us as we read through what we get.

Up next, a new tax day letter from the president's lawyer tells Congress, guess what, you're not going to get the president's tax returns.


[12:18:49] KING: Welcome back.

President Trump., today, more breaking news, resisting the release of his personal tax returns on this tax day, even as Democrats demand for that information gets louder.

CNN has just obtained a letter from one of the president's attorney's arguing that the Treasury Department can deny a request for the president's tax information.

CNN's Lauren Fox has been tracking this story. She joins us live on Capitol Hill.

Lauren, tell us what's in this letter and what else you're learning. LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, in this new letter, Trump's personal attorneys essentially say again to the Treasury Department that they should not turn over the president's personal tax information, that six years of personal tax returns, six years of business tax returns, to the House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal.

Now, Richard Neal had sent a follow-up letter over the weekend to the IRS commissioner essentially doubling down on his requests for the president's tax information. He set a new deadline of April 23rd at 5:00 p.m. saying that he needed to have that information in hand, and if they did not respond, he was basically taking that as a no. So clearly this fight is just heating up.

But, you know, Democrats have been arguing that the fact that the president's personal lawyers are writing to Treasury and making these kind of demands essentially is just, you know, inappropriate behavior. They've been arguing that, you know, Trump's personal attorney should not be having a stake in this, that the law, 6103, that statute that they say gives the Treasury Department the -- they cannot refuse basically Richard Neal's request. They said the law is very clear and therefor Trump's personal lawyer should not be weighing in at all.


[12:20:17] KING: That's what they say. But the norms in D.C. in this day and age, norms were made to be broken, I guess is the best way to put it.

Lauren, appreciate the live reporting from Capitol Hill.

Lisa Lerer from "The New York Times" joins our conversation.

They're not at all subtle in this letter. The first line of the letter from the president's attorney to Treasury, I wrote to you on April 5th about Chairman Neal's request for my client's confidential tax information is illegal and then it goes on to say the chairman is still wrong with his follow-up letter.

It's just not surprising the posture that the president is taking. He resisted during the campaign. He won the election. He thinks the American people made him president, therefore he never has to do this.

However, to the point Laura made, I'm making light of it, which is probably a mistake, but it just happens so often, that the president's personal attorneys are writing to the Treasury general counsel about a determination that the Treasury Department and the IRS have to make under the law, not under the president's wishes, but under the law. But this is the way it works nowadays.

RAJU: It --

KUCINICH: That -- go ahead.

RAJU: I was going to say, indeed it does and it also foreshadows just one in so many different court fights that are shaping up between House Democrats and this administration. We're going to have -- we're going to assume that very likely the IRS is going to take the advice of the president's attorneys, they probably are not going to turn over the tax returns. The Treasury Department has shown no interest in doing so. The White House has been very clear, they don't want to go that route.

But think about all the things that Democrats are planning to sue over to fight for information. The Mueller report, grand jury information, tax returns. This is going to be a legal fight that's going to carry out and domination the next two years. And we'll see if they even get any of this.

KING: Let me -- let me play devil's advocate, though, from the president's perspective. What is the rationale for the Democrats? What the lawyers are saying here is just because you're not happy that he didn't release them isn't enough. Just because you might think, you know, either he's not worth as much as he says he is or that there's some Russian money involved, which the president has denied, that that's not reason enough. What is your reason under the law that you want to see the president's taxes?


KING: Can't just be that you're Democrats and he's a Republicans and you don't like him.

LISA LERER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean this is always the problem with a lot of things, frequently the problem with things with President Trump that, yes, traditionally, every candidate has given their tax returns -- has made their taxes public, and, yes, that's, you know, something that certainly as journalists we all think is great. It's for the public. It's disclosure. It's all the things that we think voters should be able to see. But it's not a law. It's a norm. And that gets in real tricky terrain for Democrats when they're trying to enforce what's become the traditions of the office, what people thought was the politically smart thing to do, but isn't actually what the president is by the letter of the law required to do.

KUCINICH: But this is a law that the Democrats are trying to use to get these tax returns.

KING: Right.

KUCINICH: And one of the reasons that Chairman Neal took as long as he did, because he was being pressured to do this right out of the gate, is so they would have, as Democrats would say, a really tough time wiggling out of this at the Treasury. So it remains to be seen. I think we all assume this is going to end up in the courts. But -- like everything. But it is worth mentioning just how -- how careful they were in crafting what they were asking for --

KING: Because he knew this was coming.

KUCINICH: Because he knew that was coming.

KING: He knew --

RAJU: And they claimed there's a policy reason for this. They say that they want to try to change legislation to how presidents are audited. People are very skeptical about that. But, nonetheless, that's their argument they're going to have to make to the courts.

KING: All right, we'll see this one play out.

Up next for us, the president spending his tax day morning not messaging about his big tax cut but his words tell us about how he thinks he can win in 2020.


[12:28:34] KING: The president is on Air Force One en route to Minnesota this hour after giving us a window this morning into his 2020 calibrations. It is tax day. Talk of the economy and of a tax cut that put more money in most American's paychecks will be in the president's teleprompter later. But that theme absent from the president's morning and into the afternoon tweets. Instead, he's broadcasting big warnings about the Mueller report, scolding Congress on immigration and trying to make a first term Democratic congresswoman a household name. Ilhan Omar, the president says, is the new, quote, out of control leader of the Democratic Party.

Now, the president, and his advisers, view Omar as a useful foil. It helps -- she helps animate the Republican base. The latest example, the president tweeting a video last Friday night splicing Omar's words with images of the September 11th terrorist attack. Congresswoman Omar says threats against her life have spiked since the president posted that video. And the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, consulted with the Capitol Police and the House Sergeant of Arms to boost Omar's security. Speaker Pelosi says the president's words puts Omar at real risk and that he should take down the provocative video. But team Trump says the president is not at fault here.


MARC LOTTER, STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP 2020: I don't think it's the president that's putting her in danger. I think it's her ill thought out words that she used to describe the greatest terror attack on the history of the United States soil, that which killed nearly 3,000 Americans. The fact -- those are her words. That's what's putting -- making the threats.

[12:30:02] But make no mistake, no Congress person, no American should be threatened and no one is inciting violence.