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Lori Loughlin's Backlash For Pleading Not Guilty; The Trump Administration Doubles Down on Its Do Nothing Defense Tactic When It Comes To Requests For Information From Congress. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired April 17, 2019 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: If the Attorney General Bill Barr deciding that asylum seekers who have established credible fear, and are subject to deportation cannot be released on bond by immigration judges -- and this is a major reversal from a prior ruling that could lead to immigrants being held indefinitely.

And so, isn't this just another example for folks who are questioning perhaps the AG's politics that yet again, here's another example of the politicization of Mr. Barr.

JACKIE ALEMANY, ANCHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: That's completely, 100 percent. I mean, Attorney General Barr is in the spotlight right now and there have been a number of questionable decisions, actions and rhetoric that he's put out there over the past few weeks that I think have lead to a degradation of trust.

Not just amongst house Democrats, who have obviously launched a slew of Republicans in to the -- slew of investigations in to President Trump, but also amongst federal judges.

I mean, there was a judge who was appointed by Bush who came out in court yesterday and said, "Actually Attorney General Barr we're going to need to potentially review your redactions to see if they were made appropriately," which came as a result of a Buzzfeed lawsuit in to a four year (ph) request for Mueller's report which is coming out tomorrow.

Between that and then Barr's comments and his rhetoric during hearings on the Hill last week using the terminology "spying," which is obviously a very (inaudible) term (ph) for investigating.


ALEMANY: Has left a lot of people scratching their heads at what Barr's trying to accomplish here other than providing the president with political tools.

BALDWIN: Yes, yes. And then lastly I wanted to ask you about -- twice in Mayor Pete Buttigieg's two day swing through Iowa her got tackled (ph) by these anti-gay protesters, here's an example.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Remember Sodom and Gomorrah."

PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D) 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Speaking of things -- hello again. Speaking of things that are at stake that do not belong to a single political party --


BUTTIGIEG: You know, the good news is the condition of my soul is in the hands of God, but the Iowa Caucasus's (ph) are up to you.


BALDWIN: Jackie, what do you make of how he handled that?

ALEMANY: Yeah, I think regardless of what side of the aisle you're on Mayor Buttigieg handled that really gracefully. But I think, obviously there is still anti-gay bigotry that exists in this world.

And it seemed like Mayor was -- is pretty prepared for that. But I think what this really illuminates actually, more broadly speaking is the -- really to see (ph) change that has occurred in politics, really generally with regards to gay rights, right?

You had -- it was difficult to miss over the past few weeks this tete- a-tete (ph) between Mayor Pete and Vice President Pence. Mayor Pete said that Pence was against supporting gay marriage when they were both serving in Indiana at the same time. And Pence came back at him -- firing back at him, not about his position on gay rights but rather his position on religious liberty.

And I think it's really illuminated this conundrum that the Republican party finds themselves in, which is that it might not be politically tenable anymore to come out against gay marriage. And that really the ground that they're comfortable speaking on here, is pivoting to issues of religious liberty.

I think this is also where Mayor Pete's storytelling skills really come in handy, right? He has made a topic that is potentially uncomfortable to a lot of evangelical people on the right, maybe even the left and has imbued it with values, with love, with faith, and with family. And this might be -- this might prove to be very effective.

I talked with a few progressive icons in New Hampshire yesterday, actually about a separate story I was working on and one of them made a funny comment to me that, you know, "Mayor Pete seems like the young gay guy who's able to go to Baptist church on Sunday and actually get asked back the following weekend."

BALDWIN: Really? Really? That's what somebody told you in New Hampshire? He is -- he is --

ALEMANY: Yeah -- BALDWIN: He is one that a lot of folks are watching, and especially

with -- you know, this back and forth makes the vice president his foe more and more people are talking about him --


BALDWIN: He's one to keep an eye on. Jackie Alemany, thank you so much -- you have been excellent, thank you.

ALEMANY: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Still ahead here, this incredible story, one of the heroes of the Notre Dame fire, we are hearing for the very first time from a priest who saved some of the cathedral's most precious artifacts.

And why actress Lori Loughlin is frustrated by criticism over her not guilty plea in the college admissions scam.



BALDWIN: Actress Lori Loughlin is feeling the backlash from her alleged involvement in that massive college admissions scandal. A source close to the star tells CNN Loughlin can't understand why she's being criticized for pleading not guilty in the case, and that she felt she had no choice. Loughlin and her husband are facing charges for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Chloe Melas is the CNN Entertainment reporter with me now who has the scoop, and defense attorney Randy Zelin is here for a little analysis. But Chloe, you are the one who talked to this source -- and this source tells you that Loughlin feels she had no choice, why?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: So from the very beginning she and her husband Mossimo have never wanted to plead guilty -- they never wanted to go down the route of what Felicity Huffman is doing. They really feel as though they really haven't done anything wrong.

Yes, are they embarrassed by the media attention that this is getting and how they've lost all these lucrative deals, and same with their daughter Olivia Jade. But they actually really feel, as though, from what I'm hearing that they want everybody to stop talking about it and covering it, because they don't even think it's newsworthy -- believe it or not.

BALDWIN: They don't think it's newsworthy.

MELAS: Even though they allegedly paid $500,000 in bribes to get both their daughters into USC.


BALDWIN: How do they not think this is news worthy? MELAS: That's a great question. I will tell you that I'm hearing from this source that they have plead not guilty now officially because they're hoping it buys more time because they were slapped with another charge just recently with those other 15 parents that didn't make any sort of plea and didn't make any sort of a - like a guilty, not guilty, and they're hoping that not only will this buy them more time hopefully but that they don't think that they're going to go to jail. And they - you know, I mean, they were surprised when they got hit with that other charge, but they just feel as though pleading not guilty is the right way to go now.

BALDWIN: All right, Mr. Lawyer.

RANDY ZELIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Spoiler alert. Everything that they are doing and saying, they're wrong. Maybe this is like backwards day and we eat dessert first and then we have dinner. Couple of realities here. First of all, typically someone feels like they've been boxed into pleading guilty, not boxed into pleading not guilty. You don't get boxed into say I didn't do it. You have an absolutely right to proclaim your innocence and go to trial, so that doesn't make any sense. Not news worthy? They may have a point.

If I did this, I don't think it would be news worthy, but when you are an actress, when you are an entertainer, when you are a celebrity, look, and argument could be made that why is this even a crime? Why isn't this being handled by the schools much like people complained about the NCA basketball scandal? Why is this a federal crime? Why are they making a federal case of it? Why aren't the schools being held accountable? The schools were in on this, but unfortunately what we are finding out, this is the systems way of getting back. It's not good to be rich and powerful. They're going to be punished to right the playing field.

BALDWIN: But on the punishment - hang on one sec, Chloe - because on the punishment you mentioned Felicity Huffman who has done (inaudible), right? Juxtapose her case and she's apparently if prosecutors want four to 10 months for her, what would this mean for Lori Loughlin who's doing the opposite?

ZELIN: In order to answer that, a quick primmer on how federal criminal cases work. Your life basically comes down to a series of mathematical computations. Each crimes carries with it points. What you do in furtherance of the crimes carries with it points. Here the difference between Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin is probably money. Felicity Huffman, $15,000. Lori Loughlin, a half a million.

BALDWIN: Half a million.

ZELIN: All of those carries points. Now, if you plead guilty, you accept responsibility, you get points off. You go to trial and you lose, you don't. You look at a piece of paper, it's a grid, and on the vertical axis are your points, horizontal axis is whether or not you've ever been in trouble before. Go to that chart and when you hear four to 10 months, 12 to 18 months, that's looking at the sentencing chart.

MELAS: And we're hearing that they could face 40 years in prison -

ZELIN: That's the statute, though. Forget that. That doesn't count.

MELAS: - if convicted on both counts. I will say, though, that the source close to Lori not only - I wanted to say this earlier, but you know that pleading not guilty not only buying them more time is that they hope that they're going to get a plea deal out of this.

ZELIN: Spoiler alert. It doesn't work like that. Federal cases work very, very differently. They don't get better with time. They get worse with time. Now, you may buy time, but what happens with a lot of defendants who think I'll buy time, by the time you go to trial and lose, your case would have been over and you would have been home and you would have saved yourself a lot of money and a lot of aggravation, and a lot of press.

BALDWIN: Well, we will keep talking about this. Let us know if you source has anymore to add.

MELAS: I will. Thank you.

BALDWIN: Chloe Melas, thank you very much. And Randy Zelin, spoiler alert, thank you very much.

ZELIN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Ahead here, the president's lawyers say they will fight, quote, "tooth and nail," as lawmakers push to get President Trump's tax returns and financial records, and now democrats are saying they aren't afraid to issue subpoenas. Be right back.



BALDWIN: The Trump administration is doubling down on its do nothing defense tactic when it comes to all of those requests for information from the U.S. House of Representatives, as you would well know is controlled by the Democrats.

At least half of a dozen House committees have sought documents on everything from Trump's finances to security clearances and the president's plan is to simply not give what is being requested and that is likely to lead to more subpoenas and a drawn out court fight.

So CNN's local analyst, Josh Dawsey he's a White House reporter for The Washington Post and he just co-wrote a piece about all this stonewalling, so Josh Dawsey nice to see you back.

You tell me your scope. What are you hearing about the administrations strategy regarding all these information requests?

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN ANALYST: Well the administration's strategy is simply to stonewall.

There are a number of disparate threats from the president's tax returns to conversations with foreign leaders including Vladimir Putin to Jared Kushner's conversations with Saudi Arabia - officials there, security clearances and how some key officials got them and the administration has given none of this information to Congress and doesn't plan to.

They plan to evoke presidential privilege to say these are internal deliberations of the President of the United States we're not going to give them.

They're planning to fight the subpoenas and still not give in and for some of these issues, particularly the tax returns, the president wants to take it all the way to the Supreme Court and has told advisors around him that by the time the Supreme Court rules the 2020 Election will have happened.

So, so far you're seeing a flurry of requests from the Democrats and not much movement form the White House other than to say we won't be cooperating with your investigation.

BALDWIN: So what can Democrats do about all that?

DAWSEY: Well that's a good question and that's what they're trying to figure out. Partially they're going to whistle blowers, folks who work inside the government and came give them information, going to form administration officials.


In the case of the tax returns they're going to outside accounting firms and banks like Deutsche Bank looking for information from entities the president doesn't control.

But the president's lawyer and (ph) Trump Organization are also trying to block that and are telling these outside financial institutions that if you are complicit - if you go along with the request then you will face legal action from us.

So on almost every front you're seeing a fight back from the president's White House layers, his outside lawyers, and you have democrats who are several months into having control of the House trying to figure out how to move forward.

BALDWIN: So flash forward with me. If President Trump wins re- election, could this continue to hang over his head?

DAWSEY: Well certainly if democrats have control of the House or possibly the Senate. Republicans when they were in control of both bodies up until the 2018 mid-terms did not really aggressively do oversight of the administration.

There were not the subpoenas that we see now. There were not the requests for documents. There were not the demands for testimony on the hill nonstop.

Now that you have Democrats in charge you're seeing a lot more loggerheads and should the president win in 2020 that could continue. However, if he won in 2020 that would also give him considerable momentum and it would be the American public speaking again and saying they wanted the president to stay in power.

So that would possibly mitigate some of these requests.

BALDWIN: Josh Dawsey, thank you so much.

DAWSEY: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Back to our breaking news out of Colorado this afternoon where this massive manhunt for this 18 year old woman who (ph) she was reportedly infatuated with Columbine with what happened there 20 years ago.

That manhunt has ended with her apparent suicide this morning. We are live in Littleton for you coming up.



BALDWIN: A daring rescue in this remote area of northern California. A TV reporter and a pilot on board a search helicopter spot these two hikers and their dog that had been missing for five days in this mountainous area. And you can hear the relief in their voices as they are getting rescued.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys doing all right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought we were going to die out here, swear to god.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure. You've been out here a while.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel way better, man. I feel way better. I thought I was going to die.


BALDWIN: TV crew also gave up their seats on that chopper so the hikers and the dog could get back faster. And now to the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. We now know 23 minutes elapsed between the first alarm and when security actually discovered the flames. We are also hearing for the first time from that hero priest who raced into the burning medieval building to save priceless artifacts.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As flames engulfed Notre Dame Cathedral, the world looked on in horror. But for Catholics, of most concern was what was inside. The crown of thorns, believed by Christians to have been worn by Jesus Christ during his crucifixion, a relic thought to have been brought to Paris from Constantinople in the 13th century and kept in Notre Dame, brought out every year on Good Friday for worshippers to kiss.

As crowds gathered on Monday night, many prayed for the safety of the priceless treasure. As they watched the firefighters battle the flames on the outside, inside firefighters were doing what they could to save the relics. One man who played a key role is the fire brigade chaplain, Father Jean-Marc Fournier, a man no stranger to tragedy. During the (inaudible) terror attack in 2015, he was on the scene helping to rescue the wounded in the Paris concert hall. This time he's again being praised for his heroism.

FATHER JEAN-MARC FOURNIER (through translator): We had to get the codes in order to extract the crown of thorns from the safe, but we couldn't get hold of the people who had the codes. By the time I got the keys to the crypt and rushed back into the cathedral, we realized the other team had got there before us. They had managed to get into the safe.

BELL: Thanks to Father Fournier, the crown and tunic worn by Louis IX when he bought it from Constantinople, are now safely being stored at Paris' town hall, along with some of the extraordinary artworks housed by Notre Dame. Also retrieved, the rooster that once sat upon the cathedral's spire, a symbol of France containing relics that are meant to protect Paris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to operate on the rooster to check that the relics are still inside, and we will restore it because it is an emblem. The French rooster is an emblem of France. The deeper the water he's in, the more he sings. Now we're going to rise from our ashes, and I think that France is behind the idea of this rooster, which we will lift back into position.

BELL: Without the heroism of so many on Monday night, the damage caused by the fire could have been catastrophically worse, which would have been made the sorrow of Paris and the world that much greater. Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


BALDWIN: Melissa, thank you so much for sharing that. And thank you for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York. Let's go to Washington. The Lead with Jake Tapper starts right now.