Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR

Trump Files Suit Against House Democrats over His Financial Records; Trump Speaks at White House Easter Egg Roll; Today House Democrats to Hold Conference Call on Mueller Report; Giuliani: "Nothing Wrong with Taking Information from the Russians"; US Intelligence: Sri Lanka Bombings Appear to Be Inspired by ISIS. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 22, 2019 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:00:32] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me.

Any moment now, we expect to see President Trump as he hosts the White House's Annual Easter Egg Roll. The family friendly tradition is now set against the backdrop of anything but family and friendly. The president is wrestling with two sources of frustration. He's always frustrated, but here are two of them today. This morning, filing suit against Democrats in the House over his financial records. And also, his seething anger continuing over the Mueller report. And if there was any question if it's top of mind for him still today, the president then just tweeted this, "Only high crimes and misdemeanors can lead to impeachment. There were no crimes by me, no collusion, no obstruction, so you can't impeach."

Like many things in the day following the report's release, that is not exactly what the report said.

Let's get over to Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us today.

Kaitlan, let's begin. What is this legal battle now between the president and House Democrats?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a big new development. It's essentially the president and his businesses are now suing the House Oversight Committee chairman, Elijah Cummings, because they want to block his efforts to get the president's financial records.

Now, at the center of all this is Mazars. This accounting firm the president used for several years to prepare his financial statements. The House Oversight Committee sent them a request saying they wanted roughly 10 years of the president's tax information. Now, Mazars responded and said they would need a subpoena if they were going to respond to that, so Cummings did issue and authorize that subpoena to them. So now in the next --

(CROSSTALK)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is 141 years we have been doing this. I don't remember --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Let's listen in to the president.

TRUMP: For the last three years, we had an awfully good time.

I have to thank our first lady. She worked so hard on this event, and without her, it would not be like it is.

(CHEERING)

TRUMP: It's as beautiful as I have ever seen it.

So, Melania, thank you very much. Fantastic job. Thank you, honey.

I also want to thank the White House Historical Association for the incredible job they do. They work with the first lady and all of us on just making the White House and keeping the White House a special place. It is, to me, the most special place. There can't be anything like it. And we take it really very seriously, and it's in great shape. That I can tell you. It's in great shape.

Also, our incredible Marine Corps Band. Thank you very much.

(CHEERING)

TRUMP: Beautiful. Wouldn't be the same without you.

And a group of people that do a wonderful job. I love them. I know they like me, too. It's the egg farmers of this country. The egg farmers.

(CHEERING)

TRUMP: And they brought thousands and thousands of eggs. I don't know if you can use them all, but I have a feeling, with these young, very ambitious children, they'll find a reason. They'll be gone. They'll all be gone.

And maybe most importantly, I want to wish everybody a happy Easter. Our country is doing fantastically well. Probably the best it's ever done economically. We're setting records on stock markets. We're setting records with jobs. And unemployment numbers are the lowest they have ever been. And 50 years in many groups, historically, the lowest numbers we have ever had. Regulations, low taxes. Our country has never done better. And do we love our military? Our military is literally being completely rebuilt.

(CHEERING)

TRUMP: We are completely rebuilding our military. It was very depleted, as you know. A lot of the military folks can tell you. And it is being rebuilt to a level that we have never seen before. All with great product, the best product in the world. And you know where it's made? In the USA. That's where it's made. All made right here. (CHEERING)

TRUMP: So again, happy Easter. Enjoy yourselves. And I'm coming down right now to be with you. First lady is coming with me. Maybe I'll get this great Easter bunny to come with us.

Thank you very much, everybody. Happy Easter.

(CHEERING)

TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: President Trump speaking at the kickoff of the 141st Easter Egg Roll with the remarkable bunny next to him.

Let's get back to Kaitlan Collins, who is standing by.

So sorry I interrupted you to get to the president, but please continue with what the president is dealing with the backdrop of the Easter Egg Roll today.

[11:05:00] COLLINS: Kate, he's all smiles, but behind the scenes, there's this fight over his financial information. What we were talking about is this new lawsuit filed today by the president and his business against Elijah Cummings, the House Oversight chairman, who is trying to get the president's financial information. In particular from this accounting firm the president has used that the Oversight Committee issued a subpoena to get roughly 10 years of the president's financial information last week. The president and his business responded by filing this lawsuit. They're saying the Democrats in the House are going with overreach here, that they don't have a right to get the president's financial information. So what we're essentially seeing, Kate, is an escalation in this legal battle that we have seen happening so far or starting to brew on Capitol Hill.

And of course, it's not the only fight. There's also that deadline tomorrow from the House Ways and Means Committee because they want the president's tax returns from the IRS. They had a deadline of two weeks ago. They extended it until tomorrow. But it doesn't seem likely it's a deadline they're going to meet because the president's attorneys are fighting it.

Kate, what it really shows you is, even though the Mueller investigation ended and the president is continuing to fume about it, privately and publicly on Twitter, there are all these other battles going on that House Democrats are focusing on, while some of their counterparts are debating whether to punch for impeachment. This is still going on as the president is continuing to fume behind the scenes because he's newly furious at the aides who sat down with the special counsel and detailed a chaotic look inside the West Wing -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: And, Kaitlan, your reporting over the weekend about the president's reaction, how he's fuming over the cable news coverage of this is fabulous. Go to CNN.com to take a look.

Kaitlan, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

So what are Democrats in Congress going to do now and do next, as Kaitlan was alluding to?

Let's get over to Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Manu, the speaker is holding a call with all House Democrats later today. The top Democrats have already had a lot to say in the post- Mueller report world. They sure seem to be struggling to decide what to do next.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a divide within the caucus about exactly what to do because there are some folks on the left, particularly younger members who -- and some more veteran members like Maxine Waters, who have pushed for impeachment proceedings to begin. They're alarmed by what they see in the report. But Democratic leaders who are also alarmed about what they saw from the Mueller report and the president's activities don't think impeachment is necessarily the way to go right now. They want to focus instead on the investigative aspects about looking into exactly what Mueller laid out as it relates to obstruction of justice in particular.

What you can expect on this conference call tonight is for Pelosi along with our top lieutenants like Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary chairman, to lay out their concerns with what's in the report, how they plan to proceed in the days and weeks ahead, namely, hearings that they plan to have. That includes hearings with Bill Barr, the attorney general, who is going to come before the House Judiciary Committee in May. As well as their efforts to bring in Bob Mueller and other individuals highlighted within the report.

Recall, also, there are five subpoenas that were authorized for former White House officials, including Don McGahn, who, of course, was mentioned throughout that Mueller report about efforts the president had, including to fire Bob Mueller, which Don McGahn resisted. Those are individuals this committee wants to see, wants to talk to, wants to get records for. The ultimate question is, will that be enough to satisfy some folks on the left who are pushing a much more aggressive approach. Right now, the Democratic leaders are saying impeachment talk premature. The investigation still needs to move forward -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Manu, thank you so much.

This is a wonderful encapsulation of the juxtaposition that is our lives as we're talking about the Mueller report and subpoenas. I always love beautiful children running around the White House South Lawn with the Easter Egg Roll.

Joining me right now, CNN political commentator, Joe Lockhart. He was the White House press secretary under President Clinton. And also veteran Republican congressman, Charlie Dent. He represented Pennsylvania for more than a dozen years, retiring last year.

Joe Lockhart, offering his most important advice ever, saying any speech you give with a bunny standing next to you should be a short one.

I appreciate that, Joe.

Let's talk first about the lawsuit that was filed earlier this morning. So the president, he's filing this lawsuit to stop his financial records from being released from this accounting firm. Not surprising the president is going to fight this, but it does escalate it.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It does. And I think the context here is important. Every president going back over the last 40 years has made their tax returns available. And as well as most of the candidates have made their tax returns available. It's a simple gesture to the public to show that the president or a candidate is not using the office to further their own financial gain. And that there's nothing in their financial background that would give pause to the voters. That's been a tradition. The president has resisted it. He's been hiding behind this so-called audit, although he's never been able to produce an audit letter. This is not a winner for Trump. But it will continue to escalate.

[11:10:13] BOLDUAN: Except, and it is true, and we always hear it, this was a fact and this was known during the 2016 election. He was elected regardless. But now it is a different situation.

Congressman, let me ask you this. On the Mueller report more broadly, there was something that Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, and he has said a lot over the course of time. And he's said a lot since the report came out. But he said one thing in particular, to Jake Tapper yesterday, that deserves more attention, about Russia's interference in the election. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: There's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.

GIULIANI: It depends on where it came from. It depends on where it came from.

TAPPER: You would have accepted information from Russians against a candidate if you were running in the presidential election?

GIULIANI: I probably wouldn't. I wasn't asked. I would have advised, out of excessive caution, don't do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Just what do you think when you hear Rudy Giuliani say that there's nothing wrong with taking information from the Russians when you're trying to run for president?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's a real head scratcher to me. I tell you what, in any normal functional campaign, had some Russian approached the campaign staff and said, we have information for you, that would have immediately prompted some kind of meeting with the top levels of the campaign, and certainly lawyers would have been brought in. I think likely, they would have turned around and called law enforcement. That's how a normal campaign would react. They wouldn't say this is great, let's set up a meeting and accept whatever they have.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Even after the fact, even now after the fact, I mean, in the Mueller report, one of the things that was so very clear was how extensive they were able to pinpoint the attempts and interference of the Russians, down to like the social media domain names of who were spreading misinformation and interfering in the election. The fact that even at that point, even though it was -- the report and the investigation did not find coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, the fact that Rudy Giuliani is still saying it's almost fair game, I just don't understand.

DENT: Well, I don't either. And I guess what I have always said, if you think about this Russia issue in a broader context, what the public is focused on, they were more appalled by the Helsinki performance of the president, and the things the president says and the embrace of Putin. I think that's what really bothers Americans. This Mueller report is very complex. Most people get lost in the weeds. At the end of the day, I think Russia is going to be a very big issue, but not the way we think. It's about the president and talking about getting out of NATO and, you know, precipitous pull-out of Syria and bad mouthing the E.U., all things Vladimir Putin wants. I think that's what's so mystifying to me, and the fact that the campaign staff and its chairman, in particular, Manafort, was so hip deep in it with the Russians should have set off all sorts of alarm bells for the campaign.

BOLDUAN: Joe, you were with President Clinton -- with the White House during Clinton's impeachment process. What do you think Democrats should do now? They're going to jump on this conference call later today. There's a divide Manu laid out clearly of what they think the next steps should be. What do you think the next steps should be? The shoe was on the other foot the last time.

LOCKHART: The first thing is to try to get the caucus to agree on one position and not have Democrats --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: I'm not sure they will.

LOCKHART: But there's two things here. It really is right now a false choice between impeachment and -- to impeach or not to impeach. There are a lot of investigative steps you can take before going to impeachment. I think that's where they'll end up, where they'll keep going with the Judiciary Committee, with Oversight, with Adam Schiff and the Intelligence Committee and make a decision somewhere down the road. I want to pick up on something Manu said.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

LOCKHART: He said something about the younger members being for it. I disagree with that. It's not the age or the progressiveness of a candidate. It's whether you're in a safe seat or not. So people like Maxine Waters, Ayanna Pressley, and AOC are in safe seats. They can push harder. The bulk of the pickups in the House, something like 33 out of 40, were moderate Democrats. They got elected because they said, we don't do all this nonsense in Washington. We do health care, we do immigration, things, economy. So those are the voices that really need to be heard in the caucus, even though some of the other ones. So I think that's the divide. The divide is whether the prize is -- everyone wants to hold the president accountable, whether the prize is removing him or retaking the Senate, extending the majority in the House, and pushing through a progressive agenda.

[11:15:04] BOLDUAN: Still, the questions are not going to cease all the way up to that point.

LOCKHART: Absolutely not.

BOLDUAN: That's why I think today is crucial to see if they get on the same page, if they can on message --

LOCKHART: Yes. Right.

BOLDUAN: -- if not on principle, kind of going forward. We'll see.

Until then, the Easter Egg Roll.

Great to see you, Joe.

Thank you so much, Congressman.

It's great to see you. Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, a series of deadly bombings rips through churches and hotels on Easter Sunday. Now, U.S. intelligence says the attacks were inspired by ISIS. What does this say about the terror group now? What does it mean for the rest of the world?

Plus, Democrats are struggling to get on the same page, as we discussed, after the release of the Mueller report. To be on the right side of history, must they move toward impeachment as one top Democrat suggests? We'll ask a member of the House Oversight Committee.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:20:07] BOLDUAN: It's one of the deadliest terror attacks since 9/11. Nearly 300 people killed, spread out over three cities. And U.S. intelligence is saying it looks to be an attack inspired by ISIS. The horrific series of bombings in Sri Lanka has the government there now apologizing, having to admit it received several warnings of possible attacks ahead of this weekend's tragedy. Bomb blasts ripped through three churches, four luxury hotels on Easter Sunday.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Sam Kiley, is in Sri Lanka's capital joining me now.

Sam, what is the latest you're hearing on the investigation?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, there has been a great deal of recrimination before they have even managed to get to the end of this investigation or even halfway through it. There's, as yet, still no identification of who might be behind it. Other than hints coming to CNN from American intelligence sources saying they believe it was an ISIS-inspired group. Here in Sri Lanka, all the government spokesman will say is he doesn't believe they were simply local actors and that there's a supposition it was part of an international plot, given the scale and coordination of what went on.

Of course, the police dragnet continues with the destruction earlier on today, Kate, of a van that's believed to have explosives onboard in what was called a controlled explosion. But a pretty spectacular explosion it was, too. And earlier on today, I was at the St. Sebastian Church where 122 people were killed by a single suicide bomber who was, we believe, captured on CCTV. There was an individual at the front of the church who got densely packed people and detonated himself.

There's now the first indication, the first named victim from the United States, Deter Kowalski (ph), a tourist who arrived just moments before he was murdered on an aircraft. He was from Denver, Colorado. Sat down to a breakfast here not far from where I'm standing in a local hotel, one of the five-star hotels struck, and was murdered by a suicide bomber, in an act that has taken a very large number of Sri Lankans and, according to the government, 38 foreign tourists with them, too -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Sam, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Joining me now for more on this is Paul Cruickshank, a CNN terrorism analyst and the editor-in-chief of the CTC Sentinel.

Good to see you again, Paul.

U.S. intelligence, as we have been laying out, sees indications that this is inspired by ISIS. But in terms of jihadi activity, has Sri Lanka been on your radar?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This really has come out of the blue. There hasn't been much jihadi activity at all in Sri Lanka. There haven't been the kind of groups operating there that you would have thought had the capacity to launch something like this. Therefore, Sri Lankan authorities believe this might have been a local group acting in concert with an international network, a network like ISIS or al Qaeda.

When you look at al Qaeda, there's a regional affiliate of al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent that has been responsible for attacks in the region. But just a few weeks ago, al Qaeda's general command told their followers around the world not to launch attacks on places of worship. That takes you much more in the ISIS direction. I think that's why I think U.S. intelligence believes this could be ISIS inspired. ISIS has a track record of launching attacks on churches, whether it's in Egypt, from their supporters in Indonesia, in Europe.

This has the hallmarks of an ISIS type of attack. This was an attack of significant sophistication on both sides, a very large country, simultaneous. You would have had to have a degree of planning, coordination, and terrorist know-how to pull this off. Sri Lankan authorities at the end of 2016 said about 30 Sri Lankans had gone off to fight with ISIS. Perhaps some of them may have been able to come back. Perhaps they were able to get in touch with individuals within Sri Lanka to plan this sort of attack.

We have seen that before, that kind of type of attack where you have a local group acting in concert with an international organization. We saw that with that attack in July 2016 in a cafe popular with Western tourists in Bangladesh where there was a strong ISIS role in coordination with a local group.

BOLDUAN: Because it does lead you to wonder, then, if ISIS, the caliphate, the territory they held has been defeated and largely wiped out, what does this mean then? Is this a sign of the next chapter? You talked about what happened in Bangladesh, and here. Is this the next version?

CRUICKSHANK: Yes, it may well be the next version. We have to see how it shakes out, who was responsible. The fact it came out of the blue and surprised people like me --

(CROSSTALK)

[11:25:08] CRUICKSHANK: -- nearly 18 years after 9/11, that's a worrying thing, indeed, because where is the next attack going to happen, the next big attack? Nobody, really nobody saw this coming. Of course, there were these warnings but nobody expected an attack on this scale in Sri Lanka, one of the deadliest attacks in the entire history of the planet.

BOLDUAN: Even with the warning, seeing the sophistication and how it played out is one of the many scary things about it.

Thank you, Paul. Good to see you.

Coming up for us, hours from now, House Democrats will be holding -- this is a big moment for House Democrats -- a major conference call, all to talk about the Mueller report and, really, next steps. Is impeachment on or off the table? A member of the House Oversight Committee is joining me, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)