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Notre Dame Ravaged by Fire, Money Pledged Worldwide to Rebuild; Redacted Version of Mueller Report to be Released Thursday; Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) Discusses the Upcoming Mueller Report, Democrats Subpoenaing Trump's Banks, Accountants. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 16, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN KFILE SENIOR EDITOR: But they're willing to maybe push them aside or down play them so they can get Trump to push the economic message that they want.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: So now the question is, will the president sort of just look and push these aside and continue to support them.

Andrew Kaczynski, thank you for being here. We appreciate it.

And thank you for joining us today. I'm Ana Cabrera.

"AT THIS HOUR" starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

It survived plagues, a revolution, the Nazis, and more over nearly nine centuries and, in just hours, it was almost destroyed. French officials there now assessing the damage from the fire that raged through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.




BOLDUAN: And a horrified crowd there left to do nothing but stand by and watch as the cathedral's iconic spire toppled in the flames.

This morning, the flames are out. The roof is gone. But some glimmers of hope. The cathedral's stone structure, it has been saved. Along with religious relics and many works of art. They have also been saved. When you see the images, it is very easy to understand that it will take a herculean effort to rebuild this iconic structure. Already, hundreds of millions of dollars have been pledged, coming in from around the world.

CNN's Melissa Bell is outside the cathedral with the latest. She joins us now.

Melissa, I was so struck yesterday listening to you essentially narrate as this went by minute by minute, the flames growing larger, the crowds growing bigger. And everyone standing by, just watching this play out. What is happening there today?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. There was a sense that Paris watched this happen live, in real time, in real life, since so many thousands of people had gathered around to watch what was happening. All that emotion again this morning for the people who have come back here and have spent the day here assessing that damage, trying to figure out what's happening.

On the question of the emotion, at 6:50 p.m. local time, so just over an hour and 50 minutes, cathedrals across France are going to be ringing their bells to mark the moment when the fire broke out.

Let me show you the iconic facade of Notre Dame behind me. You can see the doorway, there are people there. There have been religious leaders, people of the Protestant faith, the Jewish, the Muslims faith, the Catholics as well, have made their way to the entrance, not able to go inside because it's not safe for anyone other than firefighters, even as the work continues. You can see the crane there. We have been watching firemen milling around the front of the edifice throughout the day, Kate. And they're trying to get to the bottom of how structurally sound the edifice is. The news is fairly good, much better than it might have been.

But they're also trying to establish what started this extraordinarily intense fire that destroyed so much of the woodwork, in particular, those old beams, some of them 12th century oaks that were at the very top of the structure. That's where we believe the fire began. We don't know why yet.

BOLDUAN: And you're also getting more information kind of on the timeframe, Melissa, and how firefighters in Paris responded. Can you walk us through that?

BELL: That's right, Kate. We understand a fire alarm first rang out at 6:20 p.m. The building was evacuated. Hence, the fact this has not been a human catastrophe as well as an architectural one. There was no fire detected. It was not until 23 minutes later, at 6:43, that a second fire alarm rang out. This time, the fire brigade came in because fire had been detected. Then, of course, so much time was lost because of the difficulty for the fire services, for the emergency crews, of getting here in rush hour. We are in the heart of historic Paris. It was rush hour. Those crowds had gathered around, drawn by that black smoke, drawn by the spectacular flames that were coming out of the roof of Notre Dame. So very difficult for crews to get to it. Of course, the importance was trying to protect the structure as much as possible. An incredibly difficult task for emergency services. And they have proven to be the heroes in all this, and tributes have been coming through all day from politicians and ordinary Parisians alike.

BOLDUAN: Also pouring in are pledges to help with the rebuilding. What's the latest on all the pledges coming in to help with the effort? BELL: So much money already has been promised, Kate. We're looking

at the figures and compiling them. We reckon over $600 million has already been pledged. This, by some of France's best-known industrialists, some of its largest and wealthiest families, some of its most famous corporate names. Tomorrow, in Paris, there will be an official launching of a fund-raising drive that will be launched by the French president himself. Let's be clear. However fast the money is coming in, Kate, this is a reconstruction effort that is going to cost billions, and it could, say the experts, take decades.

[11:05:03] BOLDUAN: Wow.

Melissa, thank you so much for being there and your continued reporting. We really appreciate it. Thank you.

Joining me right now with much more on this is Caroline Bruzelius, an art historian who spent years studying the gothic architecture of the cathedral. She's a professor emeritus of art history at Duke University.

Thank you for being here. I really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

You have studied the construction of the cathedral for decades. You were up -- I saw that you said you were up actually in that scaffolding when the cathedral was undergoing work in the late '70s and early '80s.

I want to show our viewers some of what I really thought was some of the most startling video and pictures of really basically the entire roof engulfed in flames yesterday at one point. We'll pull that up and be able to show our viewers so they can see.

I know you have seen these pictures as well. So startling to see how massive and extensive the flames were. When you saw that, what does it mean for the extent of damage to the structure there?

BRUZELIUS: Well, let me say that what the tourists or the visitor to the cathedral does not see is the extraordinary wooden structure that supports the roof. And there's a space, about 50 to 60 feet, depending on the building, between the top of the vaults and the roof that is like a forest of wood, and that wood, as you mentioned before, is old, often oak. It's been there, baking in the summer, freezing in the winter, for centuries. So it is like a tinder box. It is ready to burn. And that fire, which was so horrifying and heartbreaking, was really making their point. You know, the top of a cathedral is very vulnerable to lightning, to electrical failure, to any number of things.


Stick with me, Caroline. Because I think joining this conversation is also Michel Picaud, the president of Friends of Notre Dame of Paris. It's a foundation dedicated to fund-raising and raising funds for the cathedral's renovation efforts and reconstruction efforts. That was, of course, all before yesterday.

Michel, thank you so much for being here as well.

I wanted to ask you, knowing how devastating the fire was, but also how many of the priceless relics and works of art have been saved, are you, Michel, more saddened or more relieved today?

Michel, it's Kate Bolduan. Can you hear me?


BOLDUAN: I think we might have the wrong connection with the wrong camera.


BOLDUAN: Wrong connection with the wrong camera.

Caroline, apologies for that.

Let's continue our conversation, as we were talking about all of the extensive studying you have done when it comes to this construction. I do wonder what your kind of general impression was when you saw the images and kind of, as Melissa Bell was saying, we all watched this play out live.

BRUZELIUS: Yes. Well, horror, horror and amazement, of course. Not only my own but everybody who happened to see the images as they were ongoing. And of course, huge fear as to whether the fire could be contained because of its difficult position, because we're well over 100 feet up, and many narrow streets that prevent fire engines from coming close. So I think from the photos I saw this morning that we're cautiously lucky. It will take probably many, many weeks before the damage can be assessed, and that's to many different parts of the building, the glass, the furniture, the sculpture, as well as the stone walls. I don't know if you know that stone is damaged by fire.


BOLDUAN: That's something a lot of people miss. It's not just wood. The stone could be damaged as well. Please go ahead.

BRUZELIUS: That's right, so the upper walls or surfaces of the vaults, which I think are still in a very fragile condition, because they have been badly burned from the upper side, and that is potentially dangerous and potentially will lead to some collapses.

BOLDUAN: Do you think that it can be rebuilt to look exactly as it was before? Obviously, that, of course, would be the goal, but do you think it can be? BRUZELIUS: Well, let me tell you this, a cathedral like Notre Dame

has been, as it were, renegotiated on many occasions, and one of the most important of those was in the middle of the 19th century under a famous architect, starting in about 1850. He rebuilt large parts of that building. So the question is, which past are we going to return to? Are we going to restore the iconic qualities of his cathedral, and I hope we will, but do we go back before him and restore the building back to something more like its 12th or 13th century appearance? These are complicated and even philosophical questions about what we do when we restore a building.

[11:10:27] BOLDUAN: Do you think this is something of a wake-up call for other historic cathedrals, other historic monuments like this, you know, to bolster or improve fire prevention systems within? I don't even know if that's possible.

BRUZELIUS: Well, I hope so. Every cathedral has a wooden structure above the vaults, and as I said, those are so vulnerable. I would hope that every cathedral or big building would review its fire prevention measures to make sure that, if something should happen -- I imagine here it was an electrical connection of some kind because they were removing statues from the spire last week. I hope everyone will check their protection systems.


Why do you think, Caroline, this tragic fire has been met with such an emotional outpouring the world over?

BRUZELIUS: Yes. Well, you know, Notre Dame is in such a spectacular picturesque building in the middle of the symbol. It's the symbol of Paris, the symbol of France. It has a major role in 19th century literature, thanks to Victor Hugo's extraordinary novel, which we know in English as "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." That book really stimulated the rescue and restoration of medieval buildings after the French Revolution. So this building is iconic in every sense of the word. Profoundly important for our identity, I would say, in Western culture, not only in France but everywhere in the world.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it. It's great to have you.

BRUZELIUS: Thank you. Bye-bye.

BOLDUAN: We'll have much more on the story and the renovation coming up ahead.

Plus this. Bracing for the Mueller report. It is coming. It is coming this Thursday, they say. And White House officials tell CNN what they're concerned about and what they're not concerned about at all.

Plus, it is not just the parents. Now we're learning that some of the students of the parents charged in the massive college cheating scandal are reportedly being targeted by investigators.

Stay with us.


[11:17:05] BOLDUAN: Just days to go, two days to go, to be exact, before the Justice Department releases the long-awaited Mueller report. At least as much as the attorney general has decided that the public can see. Rainbow-colored redactions and all. And even before then, the White House is preparing its response and saying they're confident that no matter how much is released, there's one thing they for not worried about, public opinion. Why is that? Where is that confidence coming from?

CNN's Sarah Westwood is joining me with much more on this.

Sarah, how is the president's team preparing for the report's release? What are you hearing?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHIT EHIOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, White House officials are hoping public opinion has crystallized around Attorney General Bill Barr's summary of the report, according to Barr, that Mueller found no evidence of collusion, and according to Barr, he saw insufficient evidence of obstruction where Barr drew no conclusion. But aides are worried the findings could potentially give ammunition to congressional Democrats who are investigating President Trump, such as House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler.

Emmet Flood, White House special counsel, is going to lead the White House's response to this report, and that will depend heavily on the contents of Mueller's findings that are still at this moment apparently unknown to the White House. Our colleague, Pam Brown, reports Flood will also be the one briefing President Trump after he's had a chance to get a feel for what's going to be in this report.

President Trump has been talking about the Mueller investigation, tweeting more than a half dozen times in the past couple days leading up, focusing on Barr's summary. You can expect, Kate, to see White House allies downplay any new evidence that comes out when this report is released as mere footnotes to the positive, favorable letter from Barr suggesting no collusion and in Barr's findings, no obstruction.

BOLDUAN: Stand by to stand by. This time, I really mean it.

Thank you, Sarah. I really appreciate it.

The wait for the Mueller report is not slowing congressional efforts to investigate President Trump. House Democrats have now issued subpoenas to several banks and financial institutions connected to Trump, including Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan-Chase, Citigroup, and an accounting firm that once works with the Trump family.

Joining me now to talk more about it, Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell, of New Jersey. He sits on the House's tax writing committee.

Great to see you. Thanks for being here.

REP. BILL PASCRELL (D-NJ): Kate, honor to be here.

BOLDUAN: Let's start with the Mueller report. We now have a date certain, at least we think, things can always change, but it's going to be released on Thursday. When it comes out, what is the first thing you'll be looking for?

PASCRELL: I would like to see how much is redacted. That will give me an idea or anyone else an idea as to what he was willing to put forth so that we know. The public should know this. Democrats and Republicans believe that this report should be made public. And when we say that, we don't mean every page blacked out. So we'll see on Thursday. I think there's more here than meets the eye. I think we're going to be very surprised. A lot of people think, yes, there's a summary, summaries are not intended to be the final note and it won't be the final note.

[11:20:05] BOLDUAN: When it comes out, if the redactions -- and I have heard this from many -- if the redactions are just of grand jury material, which that seems to be what is of most concern to the Justice Department and beyond, if it's kept only to grand jury material, are you OK with that?


PASCRELL: I think we follow the law. The law is very specific. If you want to get grand jury information, it's impertinent to what you're investigating, that's one thing. You can't just go in willy- nilly and take anything you want and make it public. The law is very specific, 6103, about this, whether it's the taxes, which is another issue, or whether it's the Mueller report. There's a way to do it. Those committees are well tuned. Jerry Nadler knows what he's talking about. He's an attorney himself. He studied this very well. As well as Elijah Cummings from Maryland. These guys know what they're doing. And I'm very proud of the way they have operated. They're not out to get anyone. They're out hopefully to bring the facts out to the public.

BOLDUAN: I have heard you call Bill Barr Trump's hand-picked bodyguard.


BOLDUAN: He has said he will work with the committees to get them more information after this comes out if needed. Where is the evidence that he has, to this point, inappropriately been withholding anything back from you guys when it comes to the Mueller report?

PASCRELL: Well, depends on how much he redacts up to this point. But his comment, his summary of what was done, he was not given the ability, Kate, to say, until the report came out, and he got it, that there was no instances of obstruction of justice. So he made the decision that there's no obstruction of justice. I don't know if he has that within his power, his authority. I'm very skeptical about that. I'm also very skeptical about us shoving away the possibilities of who did -- if there was collusion, if there was an investigation, if there was tampering into our elections, well, who did it. And who represented, if anybody, the administration?

BOLDUAN: So you have many more questions.


BOLDUAN: I know you're absolutely decided. How confident are you you're going to get the see the president's taxes?

PASCRELL: Very confident.

BOLDUAN: This something you have been on and you reminded me with a letter you brought to show me since February of 2017.

PASCRELL: That's correct. I think that "follow the money" is my motto. No one has accused the president of anything. But let's put the facts on the table. Every president, since Richard Nixon, and what happened to him. He refused. They investigated. They found he owned half a million dollars. I want to know if somebody is paying their fair share like you and I have to.

BOLDUAN: If Mnuchin or the IRS commissioner misses the next deadline Neal has set next week, what's going to happen?

PASCRELL: Well, I think the Chairman Neal has made it very clear he's not going home and taking his bat and glove. He's going to probably go to court, and there will probably be subpoenas. And I would look for contempt of Congress. Because he sent his letter to the commissioner of IRS. He didn't send it to Mr. Mnuchin. Mr. Mnuchin has been answering and now we have the attorneys answering in writing to the legal part of the Treasury Department. I want to see what the IRS -- that has never denied this request before, Kate, why do it now? Why are you stopping -- why are you obstructing justice?

BOLDUAN: So I spoke with a reporter who has done a lot of investigative reporting, especially when it comes to the tax realm, and has won many awards on it, yesterday. He told me that the tax code says if people like the Treasury secretary or the IRS commissioner refuse to comply, because he says the law is so clear, that they actually, the tax code says they shall be removed from their jobs. Do you think --


PASCRELL: That's 7214.


PASCRELL: Part of the quote.

BOLDUAN: Why -- do you believe that is true, if they do not --

PASCRELL: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: -- produce the tax returns --

PASCRELL: That's the law. BOLDUAN: -- you think the IRS and Steven Mnuchin should be removed

from their jobs?

PASCRELL: That's the law. That's the reason they don't want Rettig, the commissioner, to answer the question to the IRS. They want Mnuchin to answer it as the direct link to the administration, as part of the executive. Look, in five years ago, when they went after the head of the IRS, Ms. Lerner, if you remember that, and they investigated 50 individuals -- in fact, it was 51, I believe -- 50 individuals' tax returns because they were in a liberal organization, they thought the liberals were getting pumped up and the conservatives were being deflated. They found nothing. They exposed these names. They exposed the facts of their tax returns. And they didn't apologize when they found absolutely no collusion, as someone would say, in what they were doing. And you know what? They're hypocrites. I say it to their face. I don't wait until I get on television.

[11:25:22] BOLDUAN: And repeat it when you get on television.

All right. Please come on after next week when this deadline is met or missed because there's much more to come.

Congressman, thanks for coming on.

PASCRELL: I'll be glad to be here. Good to see you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it. Thank you for being here. Appreciate it.

Still ahead for us, as the investigation begins into how a fire almost destroyed Notre Dame, we're going to talk to a witness who said the cathedral was a disaster waiting to happen.

We'll be right back.