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Explosions in Sri Lanka; Giuliani Says Nothing Wrong with Taking Info From Russia; Pelosi Plans to Meet with Democrats on Monday on Trump's Impeachment; Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) is Interviewed about Trump's Possible Impeachment; Democratic Presidential Candidates Divided on Impeachment; Woman Killed in Axe Attack in Brooklyn; Elie Honig Answers Questions on the Mueller Report; Easter Sunday in Paris after Notre Dame Fire. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired April 21, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: You are live in the "CNN Newsroom." Happy Easter. I am Alex Marquardt in New York in this afternoon for Ana Cabrera. Breaking right now. An entire country shaken by fear, wondering whether more attacks may be coming.
Those scenes there in Sri Lanka, more than 200 people dead, hundreds more wounded after explosions went off, at least eight of them, one right after another. U.S. officials are now confirming that several American citizens are among the dead.
The targets on this Easter Sunday were places where people gather, high end hotels as well as several Christian churches during those Easter services. Sri Lanka, of course, is an island off the southern tip of India.
Most of its citizens are Buddhist, Christians making up only seven percent more or less of the population. Three of those explosions out of eight went off in Christian places of worship in three separate cities. Government officials in Sri Lanka are calling it terrorism.
CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is there in the capital of Colombo. Sam, great to have you there during this horrific -- in the wake of these horrific attacks. It's after 4:00 in the morning where you are. The island we now understand is under curfew until the morning. What has the reaction been?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the authorities as you say Alex, have imposed a nationwide curfew after this very complex series of attacks. It struck three churches, three hotels, one of which is just down about half a mile down the road from where I'm standing. That was the Shangri-la hotel were diners were attacked in the coffee shop.
The devastating blast, of course, did huge amounts of damage, 560 people injured at least and 207 killed. That's the death poll so far. Two of those dead were policemen who were attacked reportedly by an improvised explosive device when they were tracking down some potential suspects.
But just in the last hour, CNN has also obtained, Alex, some quite startling information relating to a memo put out by the deputy commissioner for inspector general of Sri Lankan police on the 11th of this month. Of course the attack happened just yesterday. Part of that memo refers to warnings that were put out by the deputy inspector general right across the country because of intelligence they received.
Let me read you a short extract of it. It says, "We would like to draw your special attention to information on pages 2 and 4 in the statement of the State Intelligence Service stating that information has been received regarding an alleged plan of suicidal attack by the leader of Nations Thawahid Jaman. And the name the leader as Mohomad Saharan.
Now, there has been, Alex, no claim of responsibility for these series attacks, but it clearly was highly coordinated. And at the very least, there is a strong feeling here in Sri Lanka that there was a lack of reaction from that (ph).
Indeed, none other than the minister for telecommunications, Harin Fernando, tweeting earlier on today with a copy allegedly of that memo, asking why if was -- there wasn't an increase in security if there was intelligence that would suggest that a violent group was planning an attack.
Now, this group is a violent Islamist group that has associations with the ideology of Al Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State. And of course, in this country, sadly due to the civil war that raged here until about 10 years ago, there's no shortage of the skills required to put together explosives.
On top of that, of course, large number of people particularly from Asia have volunteered, both from the ranks of Al Qaeda and latterly, for the so-called Islamic State. And Alex, as you well know, the so- called Islamic State pledged revenge following its collapse effectively on the coalition and Kurdish infantry and air strikes a few weeks ago effectively.
There is, though, no indication yet that this was a terrorist attack sponsored by Islamic militants. But this will be a source of some outrange right across Sri Lanka when people wake up tomorrow morning, Alex.
MARQUARDT: All right, still so many questions about who was behind these explosions. Sam Kiley in Colombo, we know you'll stay on it. We'll come back to you soon. Thank you. So let's dig deeper on what Sam just told us and what we're learning with two of our top national security experts, CNN's Peter Bergen and Josh Rogin.
Peter, first to you, the police are calling this a terrorist attack and when you look at the targets, churches on Easter Sunday, high-end hotels where there are lots of foreigners, it's got to be only a matter of time before there's a claim of responsibility, right? [17:05:04] PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, that's
true. And certainly the universal group with the capability and the intent to do these kinds of attack is not enormous. ISIS has certainly attacked churches in places like the Philippines, Egypt and Iraq.
And the fact that Sam is reporting that there is this Islamist group in Sri Lanka that had some kind of intent to do this. It's quite interesting. I will says that ISIS, you know, tens of thousands of militants from around the world joined ISIS, very few from Sri Lanka. A Sri Lankan official in 2016 said 32 Sri Lankans had joined ISIS.
So, it's not like Sri Lanka is sort of traditionally a hotbed of Islamist terrorism. But that said, the universal groups that would want to do this and would have the capability does suggest an Islamist group.
MARQUARDT: Well, Josh, let's talk more about that, of about when you look how well-coordinated these explosions were across a number of hours, a number of different cities, different types of targets, what does that tell you about how sophisticated this group or these group of individuals is?
JOSH ROGIN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it really indicates that these attackers had a lot of training, a lot of resources and that's why I think investigators will be looking for a group that has that kind of ability to perform a complex attack with lots of access to human beings that could be radicalized, a lot of access to these explosives.
And sort of the logistical savviness to pull off eight different attacks by eight different attackers in across cities in a short time frame without being detected, that's a level of complexity and sophistication that we haven't seen in previous attacks.
The group that was referred to, NTJ, does have a history of attacking Buddhists places of worship. That's another indication that perhaps this is along religious lines. It doesn't look as much as if it's directed -- a part of Sri Lanka's ongoing ethnic or political tensions.
Of course, Christians and Sri Lankans come from a variety of ethnic groups. And the hotels that were targeted are frequented largely by westerners and other international groups. So, this indicates a religiously motivated attack and also an attack in that, striking at Sri Lanka's economy and its international reputation.
MARQUARDT: Right -- right. Peter, Sri Lanka is not a country that we often see in the headlines these days certainly when we're talking about terrorism. It is of course a country that has seen decades of horrible civil war. It's been relatively quiet for the past 10 years. But even by the standards of the violence that we've seen in Sri Lanka, this is pretty horrific. So, why do you think that this took place now?
BERGEN: You know, I just don't know, but certainly this is one of the most lethal terrorist operations since 9/11, you know, with 207 killed and 560 wounded. Certainly the number of killed will go up when you think about the large number of injured. You know, why now, I just don't know.
It is interesting that five of the victims are Americans, which I think will allow the FBI to get involved in a more substantial way, then if that wasn't the case, we saw in the Mumbai attacks to which there are some kind of similarities where 166 people are killed, six of those were Americans.
The FBI got involved in that investigation a decade ago and actually indicted an American citizen for his involvement. So, the fact that we have Americans killed in these attacks I think suggests the FBI will get involved and be in part of this investigation, which can only be a good thing.
MARQUARDT: And when you -- we step back and take a broader look, Josh, we just heard Sam talking there about ISIS obviously when something like this happens. ISIS is one of the first groups that we think about. Of course, in the past few months, we've seen ISIS lose vast territory that it once held in Iraq and Syria. So, how likely do you think we are to see its followers and sympathizers try to step up attacks around the world to say we're still here?
ROGIN: Yes, I think that's a great point. We talk about the fight against ISIS as a territorial fight, but actually it's a worldwide fight. It's a fight against their ideology, a fight against their region. There are thousands upon thousands of members of ISIS and other groups that will, after being squeezed out of Iraq and Syria, spread around the world and with all of the capability and the intention to commit acts of terror, wherever it is that they end up.
It requires a different type of strategy, a different type of thinking and a different type of response, perhaps the type that our government and our system is not quite adapted to at this time.
MARQUARDT: Right, but no indication of course that they're going anywhere any time soon. Peter Bergen, Josh Rogin, thanks so much for joining me.
BERGEN: Thank you.
ROGIN: Thank you.
MARQUARDT: Today we are hearing a new line of defense from President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: No, no, there's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: There's nothing wrong with taking information --
GIULIANI: It depends on where it came from. It depends on where it came from. You are assuming that the giving of information is a campaign contribution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: Nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.
[17:10:01] Of course, many House Democrats don't seem to agree and are now calling for impeachment. A Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee will join me next.
MARQUARDT: Well, President Donald Trump spent his Easter Sunday at his Mar-a-Lago resort and going to church, his most high profile lawyer is going on the offense after the release of the partially redacted Mueller report. But Rudy Giuliani also made this rather head scratching statement in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union."
GIULIANI: There's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.
TAPPER: There's nothing wrong with taking information --
GIULIANI: It depends on where it came from. It depends on where it came from. You're assuming that the giving of information is a campaign contribution. You read the report carefully. The report says we can't conclude that because the law is pretty much against that. People get information from this person and that person --
TAPPER: So you would have accepted information from Russians against a client -- against the candidate if you were running in the presidential election?
[17:15:01] GIULIANI: I probably wouldn't. I wasn't asked. I would have advised just out of excess of caution, don't do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: For more on all of this, I am joined by our White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez, who is down near President Trump's Mar- a-Lago resort. Boris, great to have you with me. Not only did Giuliani say that there's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians, but he has also said that they had planned a rebuttal of sorts to the Mueller report. So what's going on with that?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alex, we had heard that the White House was working on this rebuttal for quite some time, but in that interview with Jake Tapper on "State of the Union," Giuliani revealed that the president's legal team feels that they don't have to put that report out, that it's not necessary.
He actually told Jake that it wouldn't be coming out tomorrow or the next day and then we would see after that. He did leave the possibility open of that rebuttal from the president's legal team emerging if ultimately comes Congressional testimony, that the White House feel that they would need to rebut. He specifically named Robert Mueller as somebody who could testify
before Congress and the White House, the president's legal team would want to answer some of the statements that Mueller may potentially make through that rebuttal. We should point out, Giuliani also stated during the interview that there were several falsehoods in the report. Jake pressed him on that. Listen to this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Well, a lot of what Cohen -- they recite what Cohen said as if it's the truth. Cohen is incapable of telling the truth.
TAPPER: What specifically is in the report?
GIULIANI: I'll tell you what specifically in the report. That Cohen -- that we dangled a pardon in front of Cohen. We did not dangle a pardon in front of Cohen. It was not a fair report. It wasn't like the normal prosecutor.
When you find that a person didn't commit the crime, you then go look at the hypothesis of how did it come about? How did it start? No examination of -- how could the FBI have started an investigation of a presidential candidate based on those 10 words that were said to Papadopoulos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: So it appears the White House is simply going to continue the strategy that they had before this report came out, essentially questioning the credibility of multiple White House officials, usually former White House officials.
Giuliani also called out Don McGann, former White House counsel during the interview, suggesting that he was confused in some of the recollections that he gave to Robert Mueller. And Giuliani, of course, sort of suggested that the investigators should be investigated, this line that we've repeatedly heard from the White House, sort of hinting a deep state that's out to get President Trump.
Overall, I'd say that the White House is accepting the conclusions in this report but refuting some of the details in it that shine a negative light on the president, Alex?
MARQUARDT: All right, Boris Sanchez down there in Florida with the president. Thanks very much.
Now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is holding a conference call among Democrats tomorrow. She has called the Mueller report findings a grave matter, and from Congress to the campaign trail, there's a handful in her caucus, fellow Democrats, who are openly supporting impeachment proceedings.
So for more on that, we are joined by Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who sits on the Judiciary and Oversight Committees. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Thanks for having me.
MARQUARDT: Congressman, on Thursday just after the Mueller report came out, your attitude on this question of impeachment seemed to be something like, let's wait and see. You wanted to see where the evidence that was pointed out in that report leads. Now that we've had a couple days to digest all of that and for the dust to settle, are you ready to say whether the president should face impeachment?
RASKIN: Well, let see. What are the main conclusions we get from the report? One, a sweeping and systematic campaign by the Russian government and Russian intelligence to interfere in our election to sabotage our election, not criminal conspiracy. The Trump campaign was not in on the origins of this campaign, but they gladly received the benefits of it.
And as Rudy Giuliani is saying, they're not apologizing for the fact that, you know, they got the benefit of all the e-mails being hacked into at the DNC, at the DCCC, Hillary's office, and then released to the public. And so, that's quite brazen and remarkable to me that that's their position, but so be it.
Ten different episodes of obstruction or attempted obstruction when I read through them, not all 10 to me seem to be real obstruction or attempted obstruction, but at least six or seven of them do appear to be pretty definitive evidence of attempts by the president to interfere with the ongoing Mueller investigation.
And we still haven't acted sufficiently to try to protect the 2020 election. And we've got a president in charge who seems to think there's no problem and continues to beat around the bush and say that we have real problems in protecting our electoral system.
So, maybe they weren't involved in the attempt to go in and break into the house, but they certainly left the door open and open the windows and said come on in everybody. So, I think this is a very serious matter.
[17:20:03] Obstruction of justice has been the cardinal impeachment offense when you look at it historically.
RASKIN: I mean, certainly, that was the main cause of action against Nixon and it's what the Republicans impeached Bill Clinton over with respect to one lie that he told about a private act of sex. What we're seeing in the Mueller report is far more sweeping and serious than any of that.
But still, whether or not it rises to the level of an impeachable offense that we want to act upon, it remains to be seen. And we want to hear from those witnesses. We know the Republicans impeached Bill Clinton just based on the Kenneth Starr report, and I don't think we're going to do that.
MARQUARDT: Right. OK. So, you're still waiting to see, you're still waiting to get more. Let's take a look at what Speaker Pelosi said in March. Of course, this is weeks before the Mueller report came out on Thursday. She said, "I'm not for impeachment. Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don't think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he's just not worth it."
So congressman, given all the details that we now have from the report, do you believe that that threshold has been reached? Do you think that your fellow Democrats -- the chorus will grow louder among them?
RASKIN: Well, first of all, I think that Speaker Pelosi probably articulates the right standard, which is that in terms of sentiment and feeling, that none of us should be for impeachment as an abstract proposition because it's very divisive for the country. It's a tough thing to go through.
On the other hand, impeachment hearings have also been unifying as I think that they were after the Civil War with Andrew Johnson. But in any event, the legal standard she articulates is right. We want to see very compelling evidence and we want to see at least the signs of bipartisanship because we know that it's a majority vote in the House, but it's a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict.
RASKIN: So, we want to see that there are enough Republicans like Mitt Romney, who have an open enough mind to say this is very serious business when the president is trying to interfere in an ongoing criminal investigation that affects him and his immediate staff.
MARQUARDT: Yes, Mitt Romney who of course said that he was appalled and sickened by what he learned in the report. But as you point out, there's very little indication that two-thirds of the Senate would actually vote to convict the president.
Congressman, when we look at the 2020 field of Democrats growing larger by the day, we have Beto O'Rourke on the campaign trail saying that of the hundreds of questions that he's fielded in various campaign events, only a few of them have actually been about the Mueller report. So, do you think that this -- the apprehension that we're seeing, that we're hearing is based on the law or really how impeachment would play politically for those candidates in 2020?
RASKIN: Well, look, we have serious issues facing the country and Democrats are focused like a laser beam on them. We've re-authorized the Violence Against Women Act. We're waiting for the Republicans in the Senate to take that up. We passed the toughest gun safety legislation in more than two decades to close the internet loophole, to close the private gun show loophole.
Again, we're waiting for the Republicans to act. We're focused on lowering prescription drug prices by giving the government the power to negotiate in Medicare or with big pharma. So all these things we're waiting for the Republicans to act and to follow our lead. At the same time that we're on offense on policy, we do have to defend
the constitution and the rule of law. That's the balance we have to strike. Impeachment has always been a mixed question of law and politics. The legal part of it is the requirement that we find high crimes and misdemeanors before we impeach. Those are offenses against the character of democracy.
On the other hand, it's not reposed in the courts under Article III. It's reposed to Congress, which means we have to make a judgment about the impeachment in the general context of everything we're trying to accomplish in terms of public policy for the people.
MARQUARDT: Right. All right, well, fascinating and dramatic days ahead. Congressman Jamie Raskin, thank you so much.
RASKIN: Thank you for having me.
MARQUARDT: All right, so is impeachment a winning issue for Democrats on the campaign trail or would it backfire and spell doom in the next election? We're going to discuss that ahead.
[17:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MARQUARDT: Well, the Mueller report is now out. So, the big question is, what are Democrats going to do with it. The 2020 candidates are facing pressure to take a stance one way or the other on impeaching President Trump. Listen to what 2020 candidate Congressman Tim Ryan told CNN's Jake Tapper earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So you do not support impeachment as of right now, but you want the process to begin, is that -- the investigation process to begin, is that correct?
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's correct. That's correct. Not -- yes, let the process play itself out, and let's educate the American people too, Jake. This is a very nuanced document. Let the American people really see what's going on here. It paints a terrible picture of the president's interactions.
The blatant lying that happens and directing people to lie to the public, to lie to lawyers, to lie to the Congress. I mean, it's very detailed and the American people through this process will get up to speed with how this administration has been behaving.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: Ryan's approach there stands at contrast with his 2020 rival, Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is one of the frontrunners and is now stating her views a little more bluntly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's my responsibility to speak out. I took an oath to the constitution of the United States and the constitution makes clear that the accountability for the president is lies through Congress, and that's the impeachment process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:30:01] MARQUARDT: And all of this comes as House Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are planning to get together tomorrow to figure out their next steps after the Mueller report. So joining me now to discuss all of this are Lynn Sweet, the Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun Times, Siraj Hashmi, a commentary writer and editor for the "Washington Examiner" and of course, our own Mark Preston, CNN's executive editor of political programming.
Mark, let's go to you first. We have Ryan in that clip there with Jake, taking really a wait and see approach to impeachment. There's Elizabeth Warren who is really going full bore, saying that impeachment should happen. And then of course, Bernie Sanders actually is rather silent, apparently ignoring the topic right now. So Mark, when you look at this 2020 field, why are they so divided on the subject of impeaching Trump?
MARK PRESTON, CNN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF POLITICAL PROGRAMMING: Well, in many ways, if we look, Alex, at the 2020 field and we look at the divide right now in the Democratic Party, this seems to be something that encapsulized it in crystal clear terms. We have strong hunger on the left, the liberal left, who is demanding that Democrats impeach President Trump. Demanding that is going to happen.
Now, Elizabeth Warren comes from that wing of the party and she's certainly playing to that wing of the party, but look, she probably believes it as well because she is no fan of Donald Trump. When you talk about Tim Ryan though, his campaign is being run a little bit differently. He's not playing to that moderate centrist Midwest type of Democrat or rather he's playing that. He's not playing to the liberal left.
So, you're going to hear the likes of Tim Ryan, perhaps even Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, folks who are playing the middle lane being a little bit more careful. Bernie Sanders though, he is going to have to answer, I'm sure he would love to see President Trump impeached.
But there is something to be said about letting this play out in Congress because in some ways, if you do let it play out in Congress, Alex as you know, we could get to impeachment, you just got to do some more investigating certainly from the House committees.
MARQUARDT: Right, and those proceedings can go differently in the House and in the Senate. Siraj, what do you think the point of Warren calling for impeachment knowing as she does that even if it made it through the Democratic-controlled House, that the president would not in all likelihood, get convicted by the Republican-controlled Senate. Is she going after the financial boost here from donors? What's her strategy?
SIRAJ HASHMI, COMMENTARY WRITER AND EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, absolutely. And she's going for whatever grabs headlines in a crowded 2020 Democratic field such as this. You know, Warren is not really a front-runner. I know that you said that before, that she is a frontrunner.
She's really tanking in the polls. She's around one or two percent. And by calling out for the impeachment proceedings of President Donald Trump, you know, she's looking to boost her fund-raising and try to get some traction on the ground knowing very well that it's not a bipartisan, let alone popular within the Democratic Party to call for impeaching Donald Trump.
Specifically because Democrats actually see a way of getting Trump out of office that doesn't require Congressional intervention. And so Elizabeth Warren just seems to be playing politics rather than playing what's right.
MARQUARDT: Right. Switching gears a little bit, Lynn, to the Mueller report. We now have Senator Mitt Romney who's one of the loudest Republican voices saying that he is sickened and appalled by what was revealed in the report. Why don't you think other prominent Republicans are coming out to speak in the wake of the investigation's findings?
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN TIMES: Well here's a few theories in why that might be. That Mitt Romney has political security. He was just elected. He's in a six-year term in what seems to be a safe seat for as long as he wants from Utah. Certainly Republican senators who might be up for re-election in 2020 have political reasons for staying silent.
And the Mueller report may just be something other senators want to just avoid if they can. See, Democrats running for 2020 can't really choose to ignore the Mueller report or eventually the question of impeachment. Republican senators don't have to engage if they don't want to. So, this was an issue that Romney wanted to take a leadership role on.
He can. He has a very prominent platform. He stands head and shoulders beyond what usually freshmen Republican do because he has more stature than -- and just more ability to get attention when he makes a call. So, he had this platform and he used it.
MARQUARDT: Right. It is a very loud platform, of course, as a former nominee for president. Siraj, touching on impeachment again, how much do you think that the chatter helps President Trump, not just in terms of rallying his base, but with Republicans who may not like him, but could get fired up when they hear Democrats talking about this so much?
HASHMI: Look, at the end of the day, when it comes to the 2020 presidential election, what helps Trump the most is that he is able to play himself in many ways like a victim, because he is able to be basically Donald Trump versus the world.
[17:35:02] And when you have Democrats who are calling for the impeachment proceedings of his presidency, you know, you're getting the point where, you know, Democrats are all about the witch hunt. In many ways they are. They're seeking this for political gain.
And when Donald Trump is, you know, going back to his supporters and say, hey, this is all political, don't believe it, you know, there are many things in the Mueller report that he can actually gain from and say, you know, there was no collusion.
That was the main thing that Democrats were pushing for throughout the entire Mueller investigation. And so when he comes up to the election, you know, there are a lot of things that he can say to his base that will just re-invigorate their support rather than detract anyone away.
MARQUARDT: Right, right. Mark, we've seen a new poll from Monmouth University that shows that a clear majority of Americans believe that it's time for Congress to move on from the Mueller report. You have 54 percent saying Congress should move on, 39 say we should keep investigating, two percent saying that it depends. Mark, what do you make of those numbers?
PRESTON: I mean, I think everyone is tired, right? I mean, it was a very long fought -- hard fought election through November of 2016. It's been a brutal couple of years for President Trump, not that he hasn't put it upon himself, but the American public feels that.
And right now, I think there is this exhaustion level. That's why in many ways Nancy Pelosi is hoping to take care of this just through the House committees because that way, she cannot only be critical of President Trump, but she can also provide cover to her members who are running in 2020, whose constituents don't want to see impeachment.
MARQUARDT: All right. Well, Lynn Sweet, Siraj Hashmi, and Mark Preston, thank you very much.
HASHMI: Thank you. Happy Easter.
MARQUARDT: Thank you, as the same to you. Don't miss the first major candidate event of the 2020 presidential campaign. Senators Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and South Bend, Indiana mayor, Pete Buttigieg.
They will all be on the same stage for a back-to-back CNN town hall event. That's tomorrow night starting at 7:00 p.m. eastern time live from New Hampshire right here on CNN.
Now, police in New York have arrested a man after a gruesome and deadly attack on two women inside an apartment. The latest details on that, next.
[17:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MARQUARDT: New York police have arrested a man in what they are calling a vicious brutal attack. A 20-year-old woman was found dead and partially decapitated in a Brooklyn apartment. She had been stabbed several times and a bloody axe was found in the building's trash compactor. A second woman is in the hospital with critical injuries from the same attack. CNN's Cristina Alesci has been following those developments. Cristina? CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alex, police have arrested a 34- year-old man in connection to the brutal killing which happened inside an apartment at a Brooklyn housing project. Jerry Brown is facing the following charges, murder, attempted murder and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon. He's being held at an area hospital.
This after NYPD found a 20-year-old woman's body partially decapitated with severed fingers and several stab wounds. A second woman was also injured in the attack. Now, during a press conference yesterday, NYPD said it believes the two female victims and their assailant, who is male, all knew each other.
But the official declined to provide any other details on the nature of their relationships to each other. As some background here, NYPD discovered the body after the other victim of the attack left the scene at approximately 1:30 in the morning on Saturday and stopped a car in the middle of the street.
Now, the driver noticed the woman was injured and called 911 reporting an intense amount of bleeding. That 20-year-old female suffered lacerations to her head and body and is in critical but stable condition at an area hospital.
Now, at that press conference, a law enforcement official said authorities found an axe in a trash compactor at the housing complex. And while the axe is part of the investigation, officials have not determined it's the murder weapon. The good news here, police found a 4-year-old child at the scene inside the Brooklyn apartment. The child was unharmed and in good medical condition. The child is currently with family members according to the police. Alex?
MARQUARDT: Thanks for that, what a horrible story. Cristina Alesci in New York.
Now, after boasting of total exoneration, the president is back to singing his old tune on the Robert Mueller report, calling it a total hit job. Our Elie Honig answers your questions next about the Mueller report.
[17:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MARQUARDT: So, the Mueller report painted a, you could say, less than flattering picture of President Trump. His personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani says that his team is ready to release a rebuttal, in his words, when we have to.
The president meanwhile seems to be launching an informal rebuttal as he does on twitter, back to slamming the Mueller investigation, calling it a total hit job. So that brings me to our weekly segment, "Cross-Exam" with CNN and legal analyst, Elie Honig. He's here to answer your questions about legal issues. Elie, is a former federal and state prosecutor.
So, Elie, we have a number of questions from viewers from your readers. The first one is pointing out that the Mueller team spent two years on this investigation. So why do we need a summary? Why did we need a summary that was presented by Attorney General Bill Barr?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Alex, so we got the Mueller report this week. We got a lot of questions answered but somehow even more questions have now risen and our viewers had plenty of them. So the viewer refers to Bill Barr's summary as meaningless.
HONIG: Meaningless I think would actually be a step up from what we got because I think looking back at it now, now that we've seen the Mueller report, Bill Barr's summary in his press conference were actually in a lot of ways misleading and distorted and I'll give you a couple examples.
First of all, obstruction of justice -- Bill Barr told us in his four- page letter Mueller didn't decide, which leaves it to me, the attorney general, and I vote thumbs down.
HONIG: Then we see Mueller's report and it really seems like Mueller was trying to send the obstruction question over to Congress. He talks about Congress' inherent authority to deal with situations like this. Bill Barr we now see gave us selective quotations where he chopped off the back half of the sentence and gave us half of the sentence.
HONIG: He gave us the good part for Trump but not the bad part for Trump and the campaign.
HONIG: And then there were several just misstatements. For example, Barr told us that he got -- that Mueller got full cooperation from the White House --
HONIG: -- but then you look at the Mueller report and Mueller says that Trump's answers were "insufficient and inadequate." So, overall, I think William Barr did a lot of damage to his own credibility and to DOJ's independence.
[17:50:02] MARQUARDT: And he was widely criticized notably by Democrats for being a spokesman for the president rather than a lawyer for the American people.
MARQUARDT: So we have another viewer who is asking how can there be no collusion found in the report when we know that there was the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians that was aimed specifically to get damaging information from the Russians on Hillary Clinton.
HONIG: So one of the important things I think that Robert Mueller reinforced for us in his report is that collusion is not a legal term. It's not a criminal term.
HONIG: And he says this in his report. Now, (inaudible), I think it's that much more suspicious that Bill Barr at his press conference right before the report came out said no collusion five or six times. No real prosecutor has ever said collusion, no collusion, whatever.
HONIG: Now, Mueller did conclude there is no chargeable criminal conspiracy, but he also established two very important pillars. One, Russia absolutely hacked the election in order to help Trump win. And two, in Mueller's word, the Trump campaign expected to benefit from those crimes. Not necessarily a crime to expect to benefit, but still important.
Now, Mueller also notes dozens of Russian contacts in his report, and in many cases, lies that followed. The Trump Tower meeting is one of the most problematic ones and Mueller gives us a really interesting legal analysis in the report where he says that meeting could implicate -- "could implicate foreign election laws."
It's a crime for campaign to accept campaign donations from a foreign national or a foreign country. And what saves Donald Trump, Jr. from getting charged with a crime, the main thing, is that for that specific crime, you need a heightened level of intent and knowledge.
HONIG: The person really has to have some understanding of the campaign finance laws and Mueller goes through that and says, "We couldn't quite show that Donald Trump, Jr. had that level of specific understanding."
MARQUARDT: Couldn't tell what he was thinking essentially.
HONIG: Yes. And it's a close call.
MARQUARDT: All right. Well, another viewer asks if Trump was unsuccessful of obstructing justice because his top aides refusals to carry out his orders, could he now be charged with attempting to obstruct justice?
HONIG: Right. Well, let's start off with this. Trump can't be charged with anything while he is in office. That's DOJ policy, right. So, he's not going to be charged, but theoretically could have made a crime of obstruction of justice.
So Mueller does tell us, and it's one of the most interesting details of this whole story, that there were several incidences where Trump gave orders to people to do things that would have been obstruction, but they refused or ignored it.
MARQUARDT: Right. HONIG: James Comey refused to shut down the Michael Flynn
investigation. Don McGahn refused to fire Mueller. Corey Lewandowski refused to tell Jeff Sessions to scale back the investigation. One of the things I don't quite understand, is it better ultimately that these things didn't happen, sure.
But in terms of criminal law, an attempt telling somebody, hey, do, this is the same thing as a completed crime. It's still a crime. So, I think if Congress does take a look at this and is asking itself the question of was there a crime, an attempt is still something that is very relevant and important.
MARQUARDT: OK. Well, we obviously, we've had a lot of time to digest this since the report came out on Thursday. Dust is setting, but still there is a lot of questions on Capitol Hill. Democrats are calling for a lot. So this is a story that is going to dominate this coming week as well.
MARQUARDT: So what are you asking yourself?
HONIG: Yes, my three big questions, first of all, will Congress call Bill Barr and Robert Mueller to testify. I think our answer now is absolutely on both of those, in particular I think, William Barr is going to be called to task for a lot of the things that he may have misstated.
Second of all, will Trump's team issue the rebuttal that you reference right off top here? They seem to go back and forth on that. It seems to change by the day, right. At one point, Trump was saying the report was complete exoneration. The next day he is saying it's a hit job or he said complete B.S. -- he said the full word in his tweet.
So, depending how they feel on a given day, that will probably dictate whether they issue the rebuttal. And finally, what are the 14 cases? Robert Mueller said there are 14 offshoot cases that he referred out. We only know two of them right now, Michael Cohen of course, and then Gregory Craig, the former White House attorney. What are the other 12? We don't know. But I think we do know that there is more to come.
MARQUARDT: Lots more to come. And we know that you'll be on it.
HONIG: You know it.
MARQUARDT: Thanks as always for your expertise.
HONIG: Thanks, Alex.
MARQUARDT: Elie Honig. All right, well coming up, Easter amid the ashes. After the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Parisians are coming together to celebrate the resurrection and to pray for their beloved cathedral.
[17:55:00] (COMMERCAIL BREAK) MARQUARDT: In Paris today, Easter came without the famous sunrise services at Notre Dame Cathedral. Worshippers packed a nearby church where the mass honored those firefighters who fought Monday's blaze that consumed the cathedral's roof and collapsed its spire. CNN's Melissa Bell looks at the fire and how Paris has been reacting.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first signs of smoke were captured by the amateur footage of tourists. Crowds gathered to watch in horror as the flames took hold of the roof of Notre Dame. Firefighters were on the scene within 10 minutes of the second fire alarm, 23 minutes after the first.
For hours, they took on the flames in an operation they described as the most challenging they'd ever faced. To the horror of onlookers, the cathedral's 19th century spire collapsed. As night fell, the flames reach one of the belfries. It took 20 firefighters of the several hundred involved in the operation risking their lives to push them back and save the structure.
Outside, the faithful had gathered to pray and sing -- as the fire raged on through the night for nine hours. By morning, almost miraculously the cathedral still stood. Crowds gathered to take stock of what had been lost, like the (inaudible) oak beams known as the "forest" for the number of trees involved, some felled in the 1160s.
[17:59:55] But amidst the damage, much to be thankful for, like the saving of some of the cathedral's priceless art and its relics. Among them, the crown of thorns believed by Christians to have been worn by Jesus as he went to his crucifixion. I