Return to Transcripts main page


Update On AJ Freund, A Missing Five-Year-Old Boy; Donald Trump Plans To Block All House Subpoenas Seeking More Information About Him; Chaos In Pennsylvania Republican Party. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 24, 2019 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thanks for being with me. Just a heads up to all of you, any minute now, police in Illinois will be giving an update on the case of AJ Freund. He is that five-year-old little boy who was reported missing by his parents nearly a week ago now.

In a call to 911 last Thursday, AJ's father said that they discovered that he was missing after putting him to bed just the previous night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, tell me exactly what happened?

ANDREW FREUND, SR., FATHER: Umm. We have a missing child. Umm. Woke up this morning and he wasn't ... he wasn't ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How old is the child?

FREUND: Yes, a missing child.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, how old is he.

FREUND: He is five.


BALDWIN: Here is the but -- police say their focus is on the little boy's home because they believe it was unlikely that AJ was abducted or that he simply walked away. Today, investigators could be seen taking evidence out of the home which had been the subject of multiple visits by officials after reports of neglect.

On at least one of those visits, an officer reported unlivable conditions including dog feces and urine on the floor in the home. CNN's Ryan Young is at the news conference there in Illinois. CNN law Enforcement Analyst and former FBI Supervisory Special Agent, Josh Campbell is live for me in LA.

So Ryan, just starting with you, where are they on the investigation? You have any details on where we're police are on the search?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that's the big thing everyone's waiting for right now. We're in this room for this news conference and it's pretty quiet in here. I want to show you something. This doesn't really happen like this.

Often, when we have a news conference, you have so many people from the public who appear here to hear exactly what police are going to be talking about. Because over the last week, I think there's a lot of people in this community who invested a lot of time and their effort hoping that AJ would be found.

And of course, that is the hope and the guiding light for a lot of people. They wanted to know what happened to this young man. You're talking about a five-year-old. And then you have the idea that this Police Department has been working nonstop to try to find him.

Over 15 agencies have been working together, in this case, Brooke to try to figure this out. They've used sonar teams at the lake. They've gone through that lake, they didn't find anything there. They've used canine teams to go through that, but this I really think shows the difference in terms of a community of this size.

The people here really do care about exactly what happens here. They want to know the information at the same time that we get it. So we do know that about an hour ago, they postponed this to right about now. We've been told investigators are working through the night on this case. And in fact, the State's Attorney was here through the night.

So you can only expect they were doing some interviews at some point. There were early reports that the mother was here at the police station. I was told about an hour ago that she was no longer at this location. So we're not sure if she was transported to the jail or somewhere else.

We were trying to get in contact with her lawyer, but then you talk about the calls that came from the Crystal Lake Police Department that they released, the seventeen 911 calls that went out from that home. The fact they found feces. The fact that there appeared to be drug use there. All of this has sort of bubbled up in this community, people wanting to know how long, why this happen? Where is the other child who's been putting protective custody? So many questions have been unanswered at this point.

BALDWIN: Incredible that members of the community that are there sitting with you, waiting for the new. Well, we will take it live, we'll listen to police and FBI and will analyze all of it. Ryan Young, don't go too far for me. Pretty please.

Let's move on, though to the other big story of the day and we'll come back to that as soon as we take that news conference.

None of the President's multi-front assault on accountability. A short time ago, President Trump declared himself and I'm quoting him, "the most transparent President ever in U.S. history." Only 10 minutes later to declare he plans to block all House subpoenas seeking more information about him.

As this is happening, just as the administration is rejecting another House subpoena, this one involving the census, a synopsis and all the recent stonewalling in just a moment, but first here was the President just before departing for his event today in Atlanta.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The subpoena is ridiculous. We have been -- I have been the most transparent President and administration in the history of our country by far. We just went through the Mueller witch hunt, now we're finished with it and I thought after two years, we'd be finished with it. Now Mueller, I assume, for $35 million checked my taxes, checked my financials which are great, by the way, you know, they're great. All you have to do is go look at the records. They're all over the place.

[14:05:09] TRUMP: But they checked my financials and they checked my taxes, I assume. It was the most thorough investigation probably in the history of our country. I think I read where they interviewed 500 people. I say it's enough.

We're fighting all the subpoenas. Look, these aren't like impartial people. The Democrats are trying to win 2020.


BALDWIN: And just remember when it comes to the President being the most transparent ever, the Mueller report itself found the President's written answers to be, quote "inadequate." As for the House seeking answers, here are the ways the President is stonewalling.

The Justice Department won't let the House question an official about how a citizenship question was added to the census. The President is considering preventing his former White House Counsel Don McGahn from complying with the subpoena looking into the issue of obstruction of justice. The Trump Organization has sued to stop the release of the President's financial records.

The IRS just missed a second deadline now to hand over Trump's tax returns. And the White House directed its former Personnel Security Director to skip a deposition where he would be asked about White House security clearances. So those are those concrete examples.

Let's bring in Dana Bash, Our CNN chief political correspondent, and CNN Legal Analyst, Ross Garber who teaches impeachment law at Tulane Law School.

So Dana, to you. I mean, we know that Trump's MO was that he was a litigious businessman.


BALDWIN: But does it work the same way in politics?

BASH: That's a great question. We don't know the answer to that because what is so fascinating, we'll talk about the truthfulness of what he said in a second. But what is so fascinating is that long list that you just put up there of issue after issue subpoena after subpoena that the House Democrats are demanding from the White House. Each of those could potentially be a fight that goes to the Supreme Court.

So we're going to see probably some precedent setting answers on the power of being litigious. And the difference between being litigious as a private citizen, and especially in the real estate business, where that can get things tied up and that is beneficial to someone like Donald Trump in many a case, the difference between that and the constitutional separation of powers and the constitutional obligation that Congress has of oversight of the executive and how the third branch, the judicial is going to view each of these cases and so, that is why it's fascinating.

On what he said about being the most transparent, I mean, come on, it is our job to just lay out the facts and the facts are that is not true. And I will only give one of many examples. Why don't he release his taxes to the public?

BALDWIN: Boom. Mic drop done. There you go. I know. I hear you loud and clear. And to your point previously, about cases and potentially going all the way to Supreme Court speaking of the Supreme Court, Ross, this is for you, because the president tweeted this about the Mueller report, quote, "If the partisan Dems ever tried to impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court," so Ross, that's not how it works.

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So a couple of things. That is true. The odds of the Supreme Court taking up the issue of the impeachment and removal of a President, you know, based on the substance of it are vanishingly small.

The Supreme Court has noted that impeachment is within the sole purview of the House. And removal is within the sole purview of the Senate. The Supreme Court doesn't act as an umpire in those situations.

I do want to point out, though that the notion of sort of an Executive Branch presidency clash with Congress, it's not that unusual. It happens in virtually every administration. President Obama's Attorney General was held in contempt of Congress and that resulted in litigation. President Clinton, you know, very famously had litigation with his White House Counsel, so that the notion of disputes between Congress and the presidency aren't that unusual. But normally, they get resolved through negotiation.

So we're at the beginning of a process here. I think, you know, Dana and I, and I think most other people saw this coming, you know, where it winds up and when it winds up because litigation can last a long time. Those are open issues.

BALDWIN: With those examples that I gave and all the stonewalling and we know that these cases will go before a court, but Ross, what if he wins just one? Just one? What kind of precedent would that create?

GARBER: Yes, you know, there are potentially very big issues on lots of different issues. I mean, when we talk about sort of winning just one, you know, the President has raised executive privilege. He has raised issues of legislative authority. [14:10:06] GARBER: There are lots and lots of issues in play, sort of

a law professor's dream. And both branches of government have a lot at stake here, which is why these issues usually don't wind up in court.

If the President wins one, then Congress winds up getting hurt in terms of their authority. If Congress wins, one the presidency gets hurt. And that's why these are political branches of government, and usually, they work things out politically. That's sort of how it goes.

BASH: It's so true Brooke, if I may, Ross is right. I mean, I remember covering the Congress during the Obama years, there were fights over Fast and Furious, for example, I think it's probably what you're talking about, Ross.

GARBER: Exactly.

BASH: And then, of course, in the Bush years, both Bush years, but especially 43, over even things as simple as whether the National Security adviser could go and testify before Congress. But the difference between then and now to state maybe the obvious is how brazen the President is about this, because he sees it as a political plus, to give the you-know-what to Congress, the single finger salute to Congress.

BALDWIN: The middle finger.

BASH: Yes, he does. He sees it as a political benefit. And you know what, he might not be wrong. But at the same time, the people who are now running the House, the Democrats ran on doing exactly this, and they also might not be wrong about the importance, maybe not as much of a political benefit, but the importance of doing the oversight duties of Congress.

BALDWIN: I think a lot of Americans elected him to give said finger to Congress, but I think people weren't sure how much of a finger he'd be giving and stonewalling. If I may continue that metaphor.

Let me ask you about this Dana Bash, because the speaking of being brazen, the other big news out of "The New York Times" today, one of the President's top officials for protecting the homeland, wanted to warn the President about Russia's looming attacks in the 2020 election, but his Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney told her, "No, do not bring it up with him."

And Mulvaney said this in a statement to CNN, let me just get this in, quote, "I don't recall anything along those lines happening in any meeting. But unlike the Obama administration, who knew about Russian actions in 2014, and did nothing, the Trump administration will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections. And we've already taken many steps to prevent it in the future."

So he says it doesn't didn't exist, yet, they're blaming the Obama administration for not doing anything, how can you have both? BASH: Which is blaming the Obama administration for what's happening

now or for what their responsibility is now was like, F3 on the computer. I mean, that's just the go-to, which is understandable, that that's what they would do, because it plays well. There are criticisms to be had to be made at how the Obama administration handled particularly the end of their term and the President himself on what they heard about what happened in 2016.

And we've heard about that from people who are real players like James Clapper at the time. But that's not about what's happening right now and in the future. And what Maggie Haberman and our friends at "The New York Times" reported is totally in keeping with what I have heard, I'm sure you've heard, Brooke, time and time again, for people who are around the President.

You talk about Russian interference, and there's a trigger, and it goes off and it says to him, somebody is telling me that I am not a legitimate President, and he just shuts down. And that is another data point for that dynamic.

BALDWIN: Dan Bash and Ross Garber, guys, thank you so much on both of those topics. We're going to -- speaking of on the byline with "The Times," we will talked to David Singer at the top of the next hour. I want to move on because just in in an odd development on Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal attorney is now denying on some of the crimes that he pleaded guilty to.

So just days before heading to prison, he now was saying it's a lie. Plus, just in from Iran the Foreign Minister there says he's now ready for a prisoner exchange with the U.S. The question is why? You're watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:18:15] BALDWIN: Call it the panic in Pennsylvania, today key advisers to the Trump 2020 reelection campaign are huddled in the keystone state to talk strategy. Yes, Donald Trump won the state, but it was less than one percentage point and since then, Democrats have claimed victory after victory, starting with a special election to put Connor Lamb into a congressional seat formerly held by Republican and then came the midterms, Republicans lost three more House seats and there was additional bloodletting on the state level.

Alex Isenstadt just wrote about all of this for Politico and so Alex, nice to have you on.


BALDWIN: Just diving into your scoop. So Trump aides say that there will be a series of visits to battleground states, but this is the first -- Pennsylvania. What does that signify to you?

ISENSTADT: It signifies, first of all, the Trump campaign understands just how important Pennsylvania is to getting the President reelected in 2020. But it also signifies an acknowledgement of a level of concern on the part of the White House about where things stand in Pennsylvania for them.

As you referenced, Republicans lost a lot of seats in Pennsylvania in the midterms, and there's also a lot of chaos in this the Pennsylvania State Republican Party. And so what you have is a situation today where Trump aides are being dispatched from Washington to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to talk things over with Pennsylvania Republicans who are on the ground in the state.

BALDWIN: So you talk about where things are. This is a quote you got from a former Pennsylvania Republican Party chair, "The party is not in great shape. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that." So what is going on there and how could it cripple effects to get Trump reelected?

ISENSTADT: Well, there's been a lot of chaos in Pennsylvania Republican Party and this has been going on for months. There's been problems with fundraising. There's been problems with overall organization, and all this stuff really matters when you're getting ready for a Presidential campaign.

[14:20:10] ISENSTADT: AS you noted, Pennsylvania was won by Donald Trump by less than one percentage point. And you can bet that it is 20 electoral votes are going to be really hard fought over in the months to come. And so the Trump campaign doesn't want to leave anything to chance in the state as the 2020 campaign gets underway.

BALDWIN: But Alex, how about the timing? Because we know tomorrow, Pennsylvania's favorite son, Joe Biden is expected to jump into the race. So how much of today's strategy session is really about combating Biden if he wins the Democratic nomination?

ISENSTADT: Well, well, it's a really good point, and it's something that some of the folks I talked to for the story brought up, they're well aware that Joe Biden could make a really strong play if you were the Democratic nominee in Pennsylvania. And he would definitely complicate Trump's path.

If you if you look at the fact that Trump is trying to win over the blue collar voters that he won in 2016, Joe Biden, Trump's advisers understand could complicate Trump's ability to win those voters back again in 2020.

BALDWIN: Alex Isenstadt on this sort of APB among Republicans for the State of Pennsylvania. Alex, thank you so much.

ISENSTADT: Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: You've got it . In an odd development involving Michael Cohen, the President's former fixer, he is now walking back parts of his guilty plea. Hear why and how this whole thing involved comedian, Tom Arnold. Plus Republican Congressman Steve King has already been censured for his racist remarks. And now I have something new to say, about Jesus. Stay with me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [14:26:06] BALDWIN: New details on a possible motive involving a

disturbing crash on a sidewalk in California. A driver crashing into a crowd of pedestrians sending eight of them to the hospital. Police say it was intentional. We know the FBI is involved. So let's go straight to Josh Campbell, former FBI and current CNN law enforcement analyst and Josh, what are you reporting?

CAMPBELL: Hey, Brooke, so this happened about 6:40 p.m. last night here local time. Authorities were called to the scene of this crash where a driver went into a crowd, pedestrians injuring eight people. Obviously, investigation going throughout the night. We were told the FBI was on the scene along with local law enforcement to investigate.

We're told by an official familiar with the ongoing investigation that they have not yet identified a nexus to terrorism. And in fact, the investigation in their words continue to trend away from that conclusion. We are told that they continue to talk with the subject. He has obviously been taken into custody. We also hope to get an update this afternoon on the status of the victims, which of course we'll bring you.

BALDWIN: All right, Josh Campbell, thank you very much for that. Let's get to new reporting from "The Wall Street Journal" out today. Michael Cohen, the President's former fixer captured in this reported phone call with comedian, Tom Arnold denying some of the crimes that he's pleaded guilty to.

According to Arnold, Cohen did not know he was being recorded. So here's a small portion of their conversation.


MICHAEL COHEN, DONALD TRUMP FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY: I lost my business. I lost everything. My insurance, my bank accounts, all for what? All for what? Because Trump, you know, had an affair with a porn star. That's really what this is about.


COHEN: There is no tax evasion. And the HELOC? I have an 18% loan to value in my home.

ARNOLD: Right.

COHEN: How could there be a HELOC issue?

ARNOLD: That's right. That's right.

COHEN: Right?

ARNOLD: That's absolutely right.

COHEN: So it's a lie.

(END AUDIO CLIP) BALDWIN: This recording is now surfacing as Cohen prepares to begin

his three-year prison sentence. He goes in May 6th, CNN Legal Analyst , Paul Callan is with me and CNN Reporter, Kara Scannell is with me as well.

And so Kara, just starting with you, so all right, he didn't know he was being recorded, can you -- and why is Tom Arnold involved? Tell me about the circumstances around this call?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, those two sort of became a little bit chummy when they were both staying at the Regency Hotel last year, but they seemed to have stayed in touch over this time period, and Tom Arnold recorded this conversation without Michael Collins knowledge on March 25th. It's about a 30-minute long conversation according to "The Wall Street Journal," which has first posted it.

And over the conversation, you hear, you know, Michael Cohen saying essentially that, you know, he didn't commit these crimes. They caught him on the campaign finance violation. You know, why is he the only person being prosecuted here? You know, that he's a man alone, you know, as this realization that he is going to be going to prison. He's tried multiple times to get that delayed.

You know, he went around and asked several of the Chairmen of the Committees in Congress who he testified before to reach out and ask for, you know, an extension another delay before he would go and report to prison.

He already had a 60-day delay from when he was supposed to originally report in March. But this seems to be Cohen's kind of innermost thoughts of why is he the only person having to pay for these crimes, and it's important to remember he pleaded guilty to nine crimes.

Three of them had to do with President Trump and five had to do with tax charges. He was prosecuted and pled guilty to not paying taxes on $4 million in income, that's about $1.4 million that he didn't pay in taxes, and also to lying to a bank and his lawyer made the point about this at sentencing pushing back saying, it wasn't really bank fraud, and the judge didn't buy it and the judge sentenced him to three years in prison.

BALDWIN: So why would someone plead guilty and then lie about it?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, we're dealing with Michael Cohen here, the bag man for the President. And so when I -- you know, he's very whiny. He is not ready to go into prison it sounds like the crimes that he pled guilty to, many of them more personal crimes. They weren't even crimes involving the President. Some of them were obviously, but not all.

BALDWIN: It was the tax evasion that he said he lied about it.