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AT THIS HOUR

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) Discusses White House Stonewalling on Trump's Tax Returns, Mueller Report; Kushner on Mueller Report, Russia Probe: "Just a Few Facebook Ads"; 5 Democrat Presidential Candidates Lay Out Policy Issues at CNN Town Hall; Supreme Court Debates 2020 Census Citizenship Case. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 23, 2019 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D-PA): So that way we can lay out the evidence for the American people. So to a certain extent, I know impeachment is kind of the big and exciting word, to some degree, it's a bit of a moot point because, either way, we need to have hearings and to show for the American people the evidence that has been found.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: So to that end, a bit of a moot point on your end. I see what you're saying in terms of hearings, but this is going to continue to come up.

BOYLE: Yes.

HILL: Obviously, a big discussion point in our town halls last night. We can expect more of that on the campaign trail. Is it also a bit of a political hot potato here? We can't discount that there's a certain amount of 2020 calculation that is going to come into play with any discussion of impeachment, correct?

BOYLE: Let me be clear, I don't think we can rule out impeachment, but what I'm saying is the appropriate point right now, and the appropriate way to proceed is holding these hearings. Let's see what they find. Let's see what additional information comes out. Because something that surprised me in the report, and I think surprised a lot of the American people, on page two, Robert Mueller explains that he, somewhat to my surprise, as I mentioned, didn't look into the matter as to whether or not there was collusion. He explained because collusion involves things that are both criminal and noncriminal, and he stuck to only what was criminal. To me, that's one of the most important matters that can be looked into. Now in those hearings, we have the ability to go a little bit further. So again, I don't think we can rule anything out and what will come out in those hearings. Remember, it was -- back to Watergate, it was evidence that was found in the hearings that revealed the tapes. Not actually the work of the independent counsel. Let's not lose sight of just how important these hearings are that will now happen beginning in a few weeks.

HILL: Congressman Brendan Boyle, appreciate your time today. Thank you.

BOYLE: Thank you.

HILL: Jared Kushner speaking out on the Mueller report, Russian election interference, suggesting it was just a few Facebook ads. His comments, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:36:43] HILL: Just in, senior adviser and son-in-law to President Trump, Jared Kushner, speaking out on the Mueller report and the investigations into the Trump administration. The comments coming during the Time 100 summit just moments ago. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: One of the first things I wanted to do is just you make a lot of appearances in the Mueller report in the 400 pages. And just to kind of recap a few of those. One, you were at the storied Trump Tower meeting on -- in June 2016, with a Russian lawyer. And you took a meeting with a Russian banker in December 2016 after the election. You also had meetings with the Russian Ambassador Kislyak during the transition, had discussions with him about establishing a channel with Moscow. And also, you received a U.S./Russia reconciliation plan from a friend of yours that you then passed on to Tillerson -- and to Secretary of State Tillerson and Steve Bannon. The main question here is, through all of this, were you concerned about the image that you were setting, that Russia was clearly trying to run people at the Trump campaign, and do you think that in retrospect, you were a little naive to take some of those meetings, especially during the transition?

JARED KUSHNER, ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Sure. First of all, thank you for having me here today.

And thank you for opening with the soft stuff.

(LAUGHTER)

But when the whole --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I'm a reporter, that's my job.

KUSHNER: That's OK. That's OK.

When the whole notion of the Russia collusion narrative came up, I was the first person to say, happy to participate with any investigations. I thought the whole thing was kind of nonsense, to be honest with you. We ran a very untraditional campaign and we had a lot of outsiders coming in. In the beginning, we couldn't get a lot of people from Washington to work with the campaign. Normally, in politics, you have people who are known by all the different entities and we were very unknown to everybody.

Our focus during the campaign was on the candidate, the message. We built a very entrepreneurial campaign and made a lot of good decisions along the way, which is what enabled us to be successful.

I think at this point I have done three House interviews. I did about nine hours with the special counsel. And if you look at my statement from July, I put out about a 12-page statement explaining all these different things. I think everything I said has been proven to be true and it's been thoroughly investigated.

Just going back to this stuff, too, you take a lot of these things in retrospect and look at it, Lindsey Graham said I had the best text messages in the history of text messages when I was in Trump Tower and said, get me the hell out of here, basically. If the meeting had never come up and never been done, I would have never thought about it again, but now the media spends so much time focusing on it. And quite frankly, the whole thing is a big distraction for the country.

You look at what Russia did, buying some Facebook ads to sow dissent, it's a terrible thing, but I think the investigations and all the speculation that's happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple Facebook ads. I think they spent about $160,000, I spent $160,000 on Facebook every three hours during the campaign. If you look at the magnitude of what they did and what they accomplished, I think the ensuing investigations has been way more harmful to us.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:40:11] HILL: Let's bring in CNN politics reporter and editor-at- large, Chris Cillizza.

It was just a few Facebook ads, wasn't really a big deal.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, that's what you call spin, Erica. The reality here is that this was -- look, I recommend that people look at the Mueller report, too, just as Jared Kushner suggested they do. This is a pervasive, broad, deep effort, concerted, coordinated, strategic effort by a foreign power to interfere in our election, to help one candidate, Donald Trump, to hurt another candidate, Hillary Clinton, because they believed Donald Trump would be better for their interests. You're talking about thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Facebook ads, reaching tens of millions of people. Again, not my conclusion. Look in the Mueller report.

So this is drastically downplaying it. You have heard this out of the Trump White House, whether it was Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, well, we won, Russia didn't win the election, we won. Was Russia in Wisconsin? No. But the broader point is we need to make sure foreign powers don't work to interfere in our elections to try to hand pick who they want. Quite clearly, everyone agrees, with the possible exception of the president, that Russia did this. And we, as a country, should say this is a uniform bad. We need to stop this, not try to downplay it and say a few Facebook ads. Read the Mueller report, folks. Don't blame me.

HILL: Foreign entity trying to interfere in the elections not good, full stop.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

HILL: Moving on, though. We have another election coming up. You may have heard, 2020 going to be a very big year. And in advance of that, CNN hosting five town halls last night. And that really offered a lot of insight into these five presidential contenders, laying out their differences on key policy issues in that marathon last night.

Let's start with student loan debt. Senator Elizabeth Warren really rolled that out. Good timing on her part, uh?

CILLIZZA: She's clearly trying to stake out some clear policy ground and clear liberal ground as well.

Let's play a few bits of sound, Warren and a few others talking about it and talk about it after.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We say that we're going to roll back student loan debt for about 95 percent of students who have debt.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I support anything that is about reducing the debt of student loans.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have fought hard with some success to move toward making public colleges and universities tuition-free.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wish I could staple a free college diploma under every one of your chairs. I do. Don't look. It's not there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CILLIZZA: Oh, I'm sorry, I was just looking to see if a free college diploma was under my chair.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: Eric, I was hoping.

What you see there's the difference. Elizabeth Warren saying, look, we're going to find ways not just to make public colleges free, we're also going to work on debt. Then you say Harris and Sanders say, that's a good idea, would like to hear more about it. Klobuchar, the realist, take the most pragmatist ground, saying, I would love to do this for you but I can't.

HILL: So we see all of that. Another thing that came up, we were expecting education, because Senator Warren released that plan yesterday in the morning. This, I don't think anyone saw coming. Talking about voting rights for felons.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

HILL: And this is still getting a lot of attention. This is not the last we will hear of it.

CILLIZZA: No. And will continue to get a lot of attention. It started with what Bernie Sanders said. Let's play that and then some of the reaction to it. Go ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy. Yes, even for terrible people.

But I do believe that even if they are in jail, they're paying their price to society, but that should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our democracy.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Should people convicted of sexual assault, of the Boston Marathon bomber, should they be able to vote?

PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D), SOUTH BEND MAYOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: While incarcerated?

COOPER: Yes.

BUTTIGIEG: No, I don't think so.

HARRIS: I agree that the right to vote is one of the very important components of citizenship, and it's something that people should not be stripped of needlessly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CILLIZZA: So a lot of Kamala Harris' answers, as you heard, with the exception of on guns, a lot of her answers were like, I'm interested in talking more about that, which is sort of she doesn't want to take a position. Pete Buttigieg clearly saying, no, I don't think that felons who are currently incarcerated should be voting. Bernie Sanders, look, give the guy this. This is not a politically savvy point to take, which is to say, yes, the Boston bomber should be able to vote. I mean, that's not something that a political consultant would tell you to say. Well, in certain cases, we need to make exceptions, et cetera. Sanders even acknowledged that, Erica, in the town hall where he said, I'm probably writing a 30-second ad for my opponents. He's definitely writing a 30-second ad if he's the nominee, to your point, that this isn't going away any time soon.

[11:45:18] HILL: You pointed out, Senator Kamala Harris, she needed to study a lot of things last night, wanted to have conversations about a lot of things, but not, as you point out, when it comes to gun control, to gun safety legislation.

CILLIZZA: She was clearly ready on this one. Obviously, knowing what the 20th anniversary of Columbine passing, she would get these questions. Let's go to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: We need reasonable gun safety laws in this country starting with universal background checks and a renewal of the assault weapon ban. But they have failed to have the courage to act.

So, Ben, here's my response to you. Upon being elected, I will give the United States Congress 100 days to get their act together and have the courage to pass reasonable gun safety laws. If they fail to do it, I will take executive action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CILLIZZA: Right. So if you didn't watch the whole town hall -- I'll just assume everyone did -- that is in direct contrast to a lot of her answers, which were much more fuzzy. She clearly wants to stand out on that issue. We do know, if you ask Democratic voters, they want more gun control. That includes reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. Obviously, it hasn't happened in Congress. I wonder if they vote on it. That's always been the issue, is, how much salience does it have as a voting issue? Kamala Harris betting it has a bunch, particularly with Parkland, with the 20th anniversary of Columbine. An interesting place. She's taking a stand and a hard stand there while being relatively fuzzy about a lot of the other issues we just ran through.

HILL: Chris Cillizza, always a pleasure, my friend. Thank you.

CILLIZZA: Thank you, Erica.

HILL: Joining me now, CNN political commentator, Mia Love, former Republican representative from Utah, and Joe Trippi, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist.

Good to see both of you this morning.

Joe, as we look at boat of this -- and I want to pick up where we left off with Chris Cillizza. In terms of Kamala Harris coming down strong and saying, listen, I will in fact issue an executive order if that's what it will take to get this done. Talking about guns. We were talking about Bernie Sanders writing an oppo ad for Republicans. Is this one also a give to Republicans, Joe?

JOE TRIPPI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We don't know yet. What's happening here is we're seeing candidates take strong positions where they want to and try to lead the party in their direction. That often works. It often doesn't. I was with Howard Dean in 2004. I was his campaign manager. We led on opposing the war on civil unions for gay couples, which was very controversial. We led. We started raising more money than anybody. We took a lead in the polls. But in the end, the party turned to John Kerry, somebody they thought was safer, who was for the war, against all the things that had created our candidacy in the first place. So when you see Kamala Harris, when you see Elizabeth Warren leading on student loan debt and on free college tuition and these kinds of things, it doesn't necessarily mean that the party is going to go there. It's definitely salient. It's definitely got a lot of energy. We'll see where it goes from here.

You saw Mayor Pete Buttigieg immediately slap down where Bernie Sanders was going on giving felons the right to vote while they were in prison. So we'll see these fights continue, but you're seeing a very diverse field actually come up with a lot of diverse ideas, and some of them will emerge. Some will be duds, but we'll see.

HILL: In terms of ideas that are emerging, obviously, a lot of the conversation driven by the proposal we saw from Senator Warren released yesterday in the morning.

Congresswoman, I'm wondering, as we look at that, while this may not be a plan Republicans want to get behind, there's a real desire in this country for a frank discussion about the soaring student debt, how it is crippling young people in this country, and what can be done about it. Will this push Republicans to talk about their solutions?

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Now, here's a place where I think they can actually get some sort of footing, especially with people who are Republicans who don't necessarily like the president but they're trying to get some of those votes. The problem is, it's in the how. People want to see how you're going to be able to get more students away from this crippling student loan debt. I would say the best thing you could do is find a way to lower the cost of higher education. Thereby, giving as many people as much access to higher education as possible.

[11:49:58] If you're saying, I'm just going to make it free, the next question is, show me the plan on how to pay for it. Because I'll tell you right now, what's not working is imposing a 70 percent tax to the American people. That's not going to work. You've got to figure out how are you going to pay those institutions to make sure that they can actually give education. And by the way, how are you going to hold these institutions accountable for the money that they are getting, the unlimited flow of federal dollars that they are getting, to ensure that these students are graduating in an area where they can actually work and they are not completely indebted with student loans? Those are the types of conversations that I think will actually stick with people that are looking for somewhere else to vote.

HILL: As we look --

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: Go ahead. Sorry, Joe. Were you going to say anything?

TRIPPI: Yes, I was going to say the interesting think of this entire conservation, all these conversations are going to happen in the Democratic race for president right now and in the House on the Democratic side, a debate within the party. There's absolutely no -- almost no debate on any of these things within the Republican Party whatsoever, not in the presidential race, not in the Senate, not in the House. It is just --

(CROSSTALK)

LOVE: That's --

TRIPPI: There are no answers.

LOVE: That's not true.

TRIPPI: Well, it is true. I think most people can see that.

LOVE: It's not.

TRIPPI: That you're not seeing the kind of debate --

(CROSSTALK)

LOVE: No. I've talked about this more years as a member of Congress.

TRIPPI: I'm not talking about you.

LOVE: I talked about it all the time.

TRIPPI: I'm not talking about you. You're not in the House anymore. I'm talking about, within their campaigns, there's almost no debate about many of these issues --

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: -- and the way that you are seeing the diverse debate on the Democratic side, which is a great conversation for the country to be seeing. I'm not making a hit on the Republican Party, but the big spirited debate seems to be happening on the Democratic side. I think that's good for them.

LOVE: That's because you've got a lot of people that are trying to set their place in the Democrat party. They are trying to differentiate themselves from somebody else. Right now, you only have one Republican nominee, or whoever is presumed the nominee, which is the president. So --

TRIPPI: The Trump Party, yes.

LOVE: -- the reason the debates are happening is because you have so many different Democratic presidential candidates out there, and they are trying to set a spot for themselves, a place for themselves so they can differentiate themselves from somebody else.

HILL: Well, they are certainly giving us a lot to talk about. And the good news is we can hear from all kinds of people on this program, and we'll do much more of it in the coming days and months.

Thank you both for being with us.

TRIPPI: Thanks for having me.

LOVE: Thank you.

HILL: Coming up, a critical question, or is it actually a veiled attempt to find non-citizens? The Supreme Court hearing arguments on whether the Trump administration can add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. We're live outside the court, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:57:08] HILL: Today, Supreme Court justices are hearing one of the most important cases of this term. At issue, whether every person in the United States should be asked about their citizenship status for the 2020 census. The Trump administration says the question will strengthen federal voting rights laws, but critics say it could actually intimidate non-citizens and also Hispanics and affect response rates.

CNN's Ariane De Vogue is outside the Supreme Court.

Ariane, set the stage for us here. What are justices saying?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right, Erica. With this deeply divided Supreme Court really wrestled with the question of whether or not the Trump administration can add that citizenship question to the census. And it really seemed like the conservatives, at the end of the argument, seemed like they were going to side with the government here, particularly Justices Alito, Gorsuch. Chief Justice John Roberts didn't say a lot but, at one point, he did have a question that was sympathetic to the government. And then Brett Kavanaugh, who sometimes head fakes during oral arguments, but today, he noted, look, other countries have similar questions here, and he said that the secretary, Wilbur Ross, has broad discretion in this area.

And, of course, Erica, this question has not been asked of all recipients since 1950. And the data that comes out of the census is critical. It goes to the allegation of seats in the Congress as well as billions of dollars of federal funds. And these half dozen states came to court to argue that this was going to hurt turnout for minorities and that it was going to intimidate them from coming forward. But the government said, look, we think that this was important to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

One more thing, Erica. It's important to know that three lower court judges have ruled against the administration here, particularly looking at the justification. Because Secretary Ross said, look, the Department of Justice in 2018 asked me to add this question. But in fact, through the discovery at trial, it's revealed that, all the way back in 2017, Ross worked with other hardliners in the administration trying to find a way to get this question in. So this is going to be a big test, Erica, for this newly solidified conservative majority here on the Supreme Court.

HILL: All eyes.

Our Ariane De Vogue, outside the Supreme Court, thank you.

And thanks to all of you for joining me today. I'm sitting in for Kate Bolduan.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

[11:59:57] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

The Supreme Court hearing arguments today in a big fight over the 2020 census. The Trump administration wants to ask the question about citizenship. Three lower courts have said no.

[12:00:00]