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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Dems Look to Courts to Fight White House Stonewalling on Subpoenas; Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) is Interviewed About White House Stonewalling on House Subpoenas; North Korea Presented U.S. With $2M Bill for Warmbier's Care. Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired April 25, 2019 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. You could tweet the show @CNNSITROOM. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, Joe Biden is off and running for president and already going head to head with Donald Trump. Plus, somebody's lying. President Trump claiming that he never ordered the firing of Robert Mueller. But that's the opposite of what the Special Counsel uncovered. And Democrats launching a new investigation into trump, this time into the firings of top officials at the Department of Homeland Security. What is Trump's response? Let's go out front.

Very good evening to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in tonight for Erin Burnett. And OUTFRONT tonight, Biden off and running. Former Vice President Joe Biden hitting the campaign trail and joining the already crowded Democratic field for 2020. You're looking here live pictures from Philadelphia where former Vice President Biden is holding his first fundraiser just hours after announcing he is officially running for president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: But if we give Donald Trump 8 years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are, and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: As you heard there, Biden taking Trump head-on. Also, slamming the President for his response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is Biden's third run for the White House and he is the 20th candidate to enter the race. At 76 years old, he is also the second oldest in that field, just behind Bernie Sanders.

But as Biden looks forward to 2020, some of his past coming back to haunt him today. Day one in the controversy over the 1991 Justice Clarence Thomas hearings back. Today Biden's team revealing that he had a conversation with Anita Hill, but tonight she is firing back telling The New York Times that she would not qualify that call as a full apology. Jeff Zeleny is out front tonight. And Jeff, big day for the former

Vice President, of course, kicking off in a key battleground state, Pennsylvania. How did it go for him?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORREPONDENT: Well, Jim, good evening. There's no question that Joe Biden, he will have a big focus on his record, on all of his record on some nearly a half century in public life. And as you were saying there, the controversy over Anita Hill from 1991 certainly was mentioned today. When his campaign, let it be known, in fact here on CNN with Brianna Keilar saying that the former Vice President had called Anita Hill recently and they sort of left it at that.

Well, Anita Hill told The New York Times that she in fact was not satisfied with that phone call, so this is something that the Vice President has yet to respond to. Watch this play out in the coming days. And this is basically framing the debate to come, Jim. No question that the former Vice President tried to shake up this race and indeed did shake up the race by trying to focus the conversations squarely on President Trump in a searing and serious video message urging Americans of all stripes to reclaim the soul of the nation in his words.

But Jim his long record will be scrutinized. We can look at it in a couple ways, before vice president and after vice president. And before vice president is nearly 40 years in the Senate. When Mr. Biden was on sometimes a different issue, a different side of this issue than may be acceptable now in the Democratic Party on school busing, on the crime bill and indeed on Anita Hill.

He, of course, wants to focus on those eight years in the White House, but interestingly he received some kind words from former President Barack Obama but no endorsement. The reason for that is I'm told Jim that they came to this sort of agreement together. Mr. Biden did not ask for an endorsement because he knew that he wouldn't get one because they both believed that this would not necessarily help him in the end. He has to win this one, at least, the primary on his own, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And he's got a lot of competitors. We know that. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

ZELENY: Nineteen of those.

SCIUTTO: Out front now former Democratic Senator Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois. She is among those who has endorsed the former Vice President Biden. Senator, we appreciate you taking the time tonight.

FORMER SEN. CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN (D-IL): It's my pleasure to be here. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: So a field of 20 candidates and counting perhaps. Tell us why Biden is your choice.

BRAUN: Well, to begin with, you know that there's that old Will Rogers joke about I don't belong to no organized group, I'm a Democrat. So the fact is we've got a huge field and that's actually good news. It means there will be conversation from a lot of different perspectives and a lot of different inputs into the primary, defining the future of the Democratic Party. I'm with Joe Biden and I - go ahead, I'm sorry.

SCIUTTO: Go ahead. Go ahead, please.

[19:04:46] BRAUN: I'm supporting Joe Biden because I worked with him. I was a colleague for six years with him in the Senate. I've seen up close and personal how he operates. He gets things done. He's inevitably on the right side of history.

Again, things do look different in hindsight but the fact is his heart has always been there for working Americans. He's always on the right foot on civil rights or whatever. You name the issue, whether it's civil rights or women's rights, he's been on the right side of the equation and I've seen them up close and personal. So I'm very happy and proud to stand with him and whatever I can do to help him get elected to win this primary and then to go ahead and win the election, I'm happy to do.

SCIUTTO: OK. Well, you're talking about being on the right side of the issues. As you know members of your party saw him through his career at times in their view on the wrong side of the issue, busing decision, the Anita Hill hearings and I wonder how you answer those questions about him and his record as you endorse it.

BRAUN: Well, remember I got elected in large part because of the ire of American women, Illinois women over the way Anita Hill was treated and not to mention the Clarence Thomas nomination. And so I went to the Senate really as Anita Hill on the other side of the table. Joe Biden was keen to have me serve on the Judiciary Committee. I'm a lawyer to begin with. I've been on judiciary here in my state legislature.

And so even though it had been that kind of a fractious and a knock- down drag-out battle, the fact is that he moved quickly to try to change, to flip the script, to make it better and to fix it. And that's Joe Biden's way. He finds something and if it winds up being not what he expected or - and keeping with his values, he will correct it and he did.

SCIUTTO: A lot as you know has been made of this being the year of the woman, perhaps the year of the person of color, the year of a younger candidate for president. But I want to ask you this, because voters you speak with, does identity matter to them, identity politics, or is it something else as they're looking for a candidate this year?

BRAUN: Well let me say this, again, back to my original - back to Will Rogers joke, the fact to the matter is if you want somebody to get a job done, you don't go to somebody who doesn't know what they're doing. You go to somebody who has the experience. And the only way that you cannot be open to attack is not to do anything for anybody.

Joe Biden has been helping people as long as I've known him and even before. And that leaves him vulnerable and so you will get people nitpicking and finding some way to come at him and at his record, but the good news is he has one and he has one of actually working for working people. And I'm so proud to stand with him for that reason.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, President Trump has paid a lot of attention to Joe Biden. We saw that in between today. CNN is reporting that he's asking a lot of questions about him. I wonder if in your view that reveals that President Trump sees himself as vulnerable to Biden candidacy that Biden can beat him particularly in the battleground States that turned the last election Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania.

BRAUN: I can't begin to tell you what goes on in bozos' head. OK, I mean, I'm sorry that's the President of the United States but the fact to the matter is that this guy is unpredictable in every way. And so why he would pick on Joe Biden when we haven't even had our primary yet on the Democratic side is a mystery to me. But however his calculus comes out, I'm confident that the American people will reject the politics of division and hate and the kind of separating families at the border that sort of thing.

The people will - American people will reject that and I think will choose a better qualified candidate which is Joe Biden.

SCIUTTO: Final question, in his announcement video he took aim directly at the president, mentioned him by name and at the issue of Charlottesville, really a defining one from many in terms of the Trump presidency. Other candidates, as you know, have not taken that path deliberately avoiding, not focusing on policy ideas, et cetera, I wonder if you think that the former Vice President is taking the right tack here.

BRAUN: I do and I'll tell you he's got the courage to say what he thinks, what's on his heart and he's always done that. And that's why, again, I think a lot of this nitpicking ought to stop and people - it's OK to have a policy debate. And in fact, that's the important thing that we do have the debate about policies and positions and issues and not just identity.

And the Vice President I think has got a record he could be proud to stand on and proud to run on and I think we should all be proud for it for the fact to the matter that he has been out there, trying to help people in so many different ways for so long and has been successful with it. So I'm proud to stand with him.

Should he have come out and said the Charlottesville thing was just an embarrassment and a disgrace, that the president would say that they were, quote, fine people on both sides, there's no equivalency. How you can make equivalent some clan members with some students is just absurd to me, but again that's what this race is about and that's why, again, I hope that we can come together and support Joe Biden as the Democratic candidate for president.

[19:10:09] SCIUTTO: And we know that Charlottesville was very personally important to the former Vice President as well. Senator, it's a pleasure to have you on the show. BRAUN: Thank you. My pleasure.

SCIUTTO: Out front now, Dana Bash, CNN Chief Political Correspondent and David Gergen, former adviser to just four U.S. Presidents. Dana, launch day, we've been waiting for this for months. First controversy right out of the gate, Anita Hill. In your view, did he fumble the apology here?

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It's certainly not enough, but this is always, was always going to be a top, top, top tier issue for him, having been the Senate Judiciary Chairman back then, having dealt with - being in charge of dealing with Anita Hill and fumbling that back then was always going to be something that he had to deal with if he were going to run for president as you know is in 2020 through the prism of 2020 norms and what needs to be done in terms of society.

And the fact that he's running against people for whom the notion of the way things went down back then with Anita Hill is just anathema because they're just of a different generation. They don't think that way. They don't approach it that way. So it was always going to be an issue, but I think broadly the things that he did in the video, the themes that he hit were the right position for him being Joe Biden, saying I'm the guy who should and could and would beat Donald Trump.

SCIUTTO: And that really, David, is it not, the number one issue for many Democratic voters going into this primary is a simple one who can win in the general.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. It's a big issue for many independents as well. So the video was generally well- received today, Jim, especially his argument that 2020 will - the campaign will be a battle for the soul of America. I think that did resonate with a lot of Americans.

At the same time once he got past the video, the rest of the day turned out to be pretty rough for him as a candidate. It's just inexplicable why his own campaign coming on CNN would raise the issue of Anita Hill in that phone call just a few hours after the video and create a whole new story with a lot of people saying, if he really meant it why did he take 28 years to call her and why did you do it just before he announce.

And then to go from there, his first event of the day is a private fundraiser. It's just emphasizing that the need for money as opposed to the message for America. So I would say he had a rough start but I think he's still in a very good position. He opens with about an eight point lead according to the latest poll over President Trump and he's doing well among women still as well as Millennials and others.

And so he's strong but I think it puts a lot of pressure on him for these rallies that are coming to show that he has a message, that he can drive the narrative.

SCIUTTO: And energize those crowds. I mean, Dana ...

GERGEN: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: ... as David mentioned, he's ahead in every single national poll right now. He's also doing well in a lot of those early state polls. What is going to be the toughest thing for him to do to keep on top of this very crowded and, let's be frank, very talented Democratic field? There are a lot of comers in this field.

BASH: Everything. Everything he is going to have to do is going to be tough to stay on top. I mean the idea that he is the idea and the expectation of him that is what is driving him to be on top right now, not because of what he has said or what he's done in the campaign trail because he hasn't done anything until today, and that is really the key.

And so every step of the way is a potential minefield for him going against all of these other candidates for all of the reasons we just talked about and I think what David just said about this fundraiser he's doing tonight, it is exhibit A. Anita Hill is a big one on a different issue, Exhibit A of how his approach is old-school. He wants to raise as much money as he can because he wants to show that dollar sign at the end of the quarter which is understandable, but he is just ignoring the fact that these other candidates are saying, "We're only going to do these small dollars. We're not going to do these big ticket fundraisers." And he's basically banking on the fact that it doesn't really matter for him.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I talked to one of his former advisors earlier today this morning. He made that point. I said, "Can he adjust from an old-school race to a race in the social media age?"

BASH: Yes.

[19:14:53] SCIUTTO: David, CNN's reporting is that President Trump has been asking his advisors a heck of a lot about Biden's strengths and I wonder if in your view that reveals the President sensing he's vulnerable to a Biden candidacy.

GERGEN: Sure. Well, we know the President is very insecure anyway at his core, so I do think he's uncertain. He reads these polls voraciously and sees the numbers are right now not with him and he just went through midterms when the numbers turned against him and indeed the voters turned against him. So I think everything in Donald Trump touches right now and everything he thinks about is through the lens of does this help me or hurt me in 2020, and he's trying to figure out the best thing. I'd be interesting in Dana's view on this, but I think the best thing Joe Biden can do is ignore his tweets.

SCIUTTO: All right.

BASH: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Maybe that advice will --

BASH: Good luck with that.

SCIUTTO: Exactly. Try that. David and Dana, thanks very much. BASH: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Out front next, President Trump contradicting a key account from Mueller's report claiming that he never ordered the firing of Robert Mueller. Why is the President trying to rewrite history? Plus, Democrats digging deeper into the inner workings of Trump's White House now investigating Trump's decision to pull out top officials at the Department of Homeland Security, but is Trump about to shut them down? And after 45 days, Sarah Sanders was finally back in the briefing room but taking questions only from kids. What's the White House afraid of?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:19:55] SCIUTTO: Tonight, Trump rewriting history or perhaps making it up. President Trump now disputing a key finding in Mueller's report, tweeting in part, "As has been incorrectly reported by the Fake News Media, I never told then White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, even though I had the legal right to do so. If I wanted to fire Mueller I didn't need McGahn to do it. I could have done it myself." A lot to unpack there, but let's look at the facts.

The Special Counsel's report says the following, quote, "McGahn's clear recollection was that the President directed him to tell Rosenstein not only that conflicts existed but also that Mueller has to go. McGahn is a credible witness with no motive to lie or exaggerate given the position he held in the White House." And Mueller wasn't just taking McGahn's word by itself according to the report, again we're quoting, "Substantial evidence supports McGahn's account that the President had directed him to have the Special Counsel removed."

Remember, that testimony by McGahn under oath. Kaitlan Collins is out front tonight live outside the White House. So Kaitlan, I almost want to stop asking this question because the President will often make up his own facts on Twitter, but who is he speaking to here? Who's he trying to convince with this?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we have seen really, Jim, is this theme emerging from not just the President and Twitter but also his aides and allies is that they accept the broad conclusions of the Mueller report but then they're attempting to poke holes in other aspects of it, like whether or not the president tried to fire Muller even though as you laid out the Mueller report actually leaves little doubt that the President tried to do so.

Now several other aspects in the President's tweet are just simply not true, including that Mueller was respectfully allowed to do his work because actually the President was attacking him repeatedly and publicly, but also the president claimed once again insisting that Mueller was conflicted even though Justice Department lawyers cleared him of any kind of conflicts of interest or ethics issues. The President also stated that the Mueller investigation was illegal even though Jim as you know several judges held up this mandate. Now, we reported that the President's allies are urging him to drop

the Mueller investigation and to move on to essentially declare victory and stop talking and tweeting about it so much. But what you're seeing with the president disputing this today is not only airing his grievances toward McGahn which is someone he's targeted several times in recent days but also he is latching on to this report as an attack on his presidency and Jim even though these allies are urging him to let it go, the president does not seem to be anywhere near that.

SCIUTTO: Yes. He also says the fake news made it up when we were quoting directly from the Special Counsel's report but anyway. Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much. Out front now John Dean, former Nixon White House Counsel during Watergate, Dana Bash back with me as well. So, John, who do we believe, the Mueller report's sworn testimony under penalty of prison time from Don McGahn or the President's tweet?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I think to state the question answers the question, Jim, is pretty conspicuous here. McGahn is not going to go out and lie. He did go under oath, so it really was - it's a tweet against under oath testimony.

Also, it's clear from the report there's substantial evidence to support him. What's that mean? It means that he probably came back to the office and told others in the office who have now testified about it. He may have made a memorandum for the record. There's probably lots of cooperation. So I think the president's in trouble trying to push this one too hard.

SCIUTTO: Dana, McGahn, he's mentioned more than 150 times in the Mueller report, I'll quote again from it here, Mueller writes, "When this Office first interviewed McGahn about this topic, he was reluctant to share detailed information about what had occurred and all he did so after continued questioning." And the information didn't just come from McGahn, Mueller writes again quoting here, "The president made clear to (then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus) and then (Chief strategist Steve) Bannon that the President was considering terminating the Special Counsel."

So two other people spoke to Mueller, Priebus and Bannon, also seem to believe the President was trying to fire Mueller here. I just wonder who's the President trying to convince here when the evidence is so clearly stacked against him.

BASH: I mean that's really a key question. I was just talking to somebody in the Trump orbit before coming on with you, Jim, who was kind of trying to explain the President's thinking here and that is that when it comes to loyalty, obviously, we know he puts a premium on that, but even more so for his lawyers. He has had a lot of relationships with a lot of lawyers over his many decades in business and now obviously in politics and he considers that kind of an unbreakable trust.

But he's worked with lawyers who approach things differently also in the Mueller report. It says that Don McGahn told the investigators that the President was surprised that he was taking notes, so that kind of gives you an insight into his experience in the past versus what Don McGahn was doing as the White House Counsel who is responsible for taking notes for history not just for his client, the president, so that's really the key here.

He is absolutely adamant and whether or not he said explicitly go fire the Special Counsel or whether he said it in his very intentionally nuanced way that so many people around him say that he makes statements like that, that's up for debate. But the intention or at least the way that Don McGahn took it and as you just put out there, the way that others who were there contemporaneously took it was to get rid of him.

[19:25:30] SCIUTTO: It reminds me the Comey story of letting him go.

BASH: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: He took it as a direction there. John, you, of course, testified famously, publicly against then President Nixon. CNN is learning that the White House may try to cite executive privilege to stop McGahn from testifying on the Hill. He's now been subpoenaed by Congress, of course, let's set aside that the President is tweeting about these conversations, I wonder what that does to the executive privilege claim, but would that as a lawyer be a valid excuse here?

DEAN : It could be in some circumstances. I don't think in these circumstances for a couple reasons. First of all, there is no attorney-client privilege here because the client of Don McGahn is the office of the president and not Donald Trump.

BASH: Exactly.

DEAN: Which is a post Watergate resolution of that issue. The other thing is that McGahn is not employed by the White House, he's not employed by the government and he's a citizen. Only if he wants to hide behind executive privilege is that going to have any effect or if the President gets a court order enjoining him from testifying until the executive privilege question is resolved. That would be a very unusual circumstance.

And what it would do it would force the issue of whether or not this is a discussion of a criminal activity and if it's a crime it's an exception to the executive privilege. So I think he risk if he goes to court that a judge is going to say, "This is criminal activity. Go ahead and testify to the Congress."

SCIUTTO: Well, I suppose he might take it all the way to the Supreme Court if he can, I suppose. John Dean, Dana Bash, thanks very much. Out front next, Democrats demanding new answers tonight into Trump's firings, but are they about to run into Trump's stonewall again? And president Trump going after reporters while in front of their children.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I see these beautiful children, products of the media, and I actually like you much more than your parents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:31:01] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: New tonight, House Democrats investigate the firings of top leaders at the Department of Homeland Security. Three committees now looking into what roles President Trump and senior adviser Steven Miller may have had in decisions.

This after the White House refused to allow Miller to testify before the Oversight Committee on immigration policy. One of several people the White House is blocking from testifying. But Democrats are vowing to fight that.

Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT.

What options the Democrats have? Clearly, the exact is going to drag this out. He seems to think no is a good political strategy. I mean, do Democrats have tools to counter that?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly essentially what Democrats are weighing, trying to figure out, go back and figure out what exact options that they have, what tools they have, what power they have up here on Capitol Hill to try to counteract that White House strategy of stonewalling and defiance.

Now, that could take the form of holding people in contempt of Congress to try to enforce their subpoenas, many of which are already issued on Capitol Hill, potentially fines, potentially going to court, potentially leading to some people winding up in prison. And very likely though what we will see is the Democrats as they have been this week and previous weeks go very, very deliberately through the process. This will play out in the form of Democrats continuing to pushback at each and every turn of the White House's defiance, in essence, to highlight their defiance, to highlight the White House strategy of stonewalling and try to force them to turn over documents and information, try to force people on Capitol Hill to testify.

But certainly there is an acknowledgement among Democrats that very likely how this will all end is that they likely will have to wage a legal battle. And all of this will essentially have to be settled in the courts. And that's something that's going to take months, potentially years, a very long, very protracted court battle ahead -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Imagine that, a long court battle, over investigations.

Sunlen Serfaty on the Hill, thanks very much.

SERFATY: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia of Texas. She sits on the House Judiciary Committee.

Congresswoman, we appreciate you take the time tonight. REP. SYLVIA GARCIA (D-TX): Well, thank you for having me, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you, first, what are you hoping to find out from these documents involving the President Trump and his advisers Steven Miller? What would you say to your constituents as to what you're after here?

GARCIA: Well, you know, it's all about trying to get to the bottom of what really did happen, getting the facts, and just see exactly where that leads us. So, I think it's important that he appear. And it's important that he respond to the subpoena.

You know, he's got a -- a legal obligation to do that. It's a constitutional obligation. You know, ethically, he should appear. I just -- it's hard for me to imagine anyone receiving a subpoena from Congress and not appearing.

SCIUTTO: And, listen, it's part of your job, of course, to execute oversight of the executive branch. But I do want to ask you, are you -- are your fellow committee members ready to put someone behind bars to force them to testify?

GARCIA: Well, we hope it doesn't get to that. The first question everyone should ask themselves is what is it that they're trying to hide? Because if there wasn't anything to hide then they would cooperate.

But the very idea that the attorney general might order someone not to appear on questions about the citizenship requirement for the census, to appear at any of our hearings in the judiciary, for anyone to be ordered to not appear just doesn't make any sense to me as a lawyer, as an American. It just goes against everything that is a basis of our democracy.

So, we have to ask ourselves first, you know, what are they trying to hide? And secondly, you know, do -- what do we do to enforce our subpoena?

[19:35:05] Do we keep trying to work through this as we've been trying to just by asking them to appear? We issue the subpoena. Do we go to court to enforce that? Do we hold them in contempt?

And I can tell you this, that this is just not good behavior. It's not a good example for the rest of the country. It's not a good example for our children that are watching, because no one should be allowed to just totally ignore a subpoena.

SCIUTTO: Right.

GARCIA: The rule of law means something in this country.

SCIUTTO: Sure.

GARCIA: And it begin was the White House.

SCIUTTO: Gets to the functioning of government. But I have to ask you this. I speak to Democratic and Republican

lawmakers. They tell me when out on the trail, they are speaking to constituents this is not at the top of the constituent's mind. It's not even halfway down the list, that they're not asked about the investigations.

And I just wonder, do you find the political appetite for in, as you speak to your constituents or are Democrats as risk of going somewhere where their supporters don't want them to go?

GARCIA: Well, I think if you look at -- you know, this is not so much about the polls or the politics, it's about the president and what he can do and not do. It's about the separation of powers. It's about the Constitution.

So this isn't about the party or the president. It really is about, you know, the public trust. And I think once we lay it out, do were we do the hearings that are planned and we get to the facts, I think the public will become more engaged and will understand exactly what we're doing. I think there is a lot of support.

I'm asked the question as I've been traveling around this last couple of weeks, of course we don't forget that we're working on health care. We're working on lower prescription drug prices. We're working on equal pay for equal work.

SCIUTTO: I get that but that --

GARCIA: We're working on a number of other agendas.

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: That part of agenda which is part of the agenda that won you midterms.

GARCIA: We don't forget that.

SCIUTTO: It's not --

GARCIA: But we don't forget that.

SCIUTTO: OK. I know you don't. But it's not what folks are hearing most of the time. It's not what they're seeing most of the time on the Hill. They're seeing a lot of hearing not seeing legislation, not seeing legislation on prescription drug prices for instance.

So, I wonder if you're concerned that the party risks a political price by being seen as a party of investigations?

GARCIA: Well, we'll have to -- you know, we'll have to wait and see. But which is why we have to lay the predicate for it. I think just taking the report and immediately trying to go -- move forward on impeachment and doing some of the other things may put us in that dilemma.

But I think if we lay it out, people will understand -- and they will be with us. Because I think when you talk about obstruction, you talk about corruption, you talk about abuse of power, and how that may affect whether or not legislation is passed, whether or not there is side deals and self-dealing and favoritism, whether it's on the relationships with foreign countries having to do with the tariffs?

I mean, those things impact the bread and butter issues that people care about. So, we as Democrats have to make that connection so that the public can understand why we're doing it.

SCIUTTO: Congresswoman, I appreciate you taking the questions tonight.

GARCIA: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, 45 days and counting. That's how long it's been since Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, has held a press briefing. But today, she took questions, only for kids.

And North Korea billed the U.S. $2 million for the care -- the medical care of Otto Warmbier. Was that a ransom?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:42:22] SCIUTTO: New tonight, the White House's Press Secretary Sarah Sanders made her first appearance in the White House briefing room where you are supposed to brief reporters in 45 days, taking questions not from the actual press rather than from children for an off-the-record briefing during take your child to workday. Sanders has not taken questions from the reporters in the briefing room since March 11th, the longest stretch without an official briefing.

In fact, Sanders has only held two official briefing force 2019, lasting a total of 82 minutes impaired to 28 minute's for the kids briefing.

OUTFRONT now, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Network, April Ryan.

So, 45 days without official briefing for the press, question about the credibility of the White House spokesperson as well, some of which were revealed in the Mueller report. Do those briefings have a use at this point?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Jim, those briefings will always have a use, and it's not just about the president giving his statements or his words. When there is not a presidential moment with the press. There is a time that we need to flush out more concretely some item.

You know, today, we are talking about Otto Warmbier, you know, this $2 million that North Korea wants for taking care of him, allegedly, while he was in their custody. You have the sanctions that are being talked about for anyone who buys oil from Iran. The stakes are still high.

You know, you've got the conversation on Capitol Hill about voter suppression in these elections. You have so much going on in that place. Again, everything comes to the White House, from war to peace and everything in between, and we need to hear from them.

SCIUTTO: And people have a right to ask questions of the White House.

RYAN: Yes.

SCIUTTO: President Trump -- so he spoke to children of reporters earlier today at the White House, as you know, and said some things -- well, have a listen. We can talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, see these beautiful children, products of the media. And I actually like you much more than your parents. They give me pictures always my chin is pulled way in. I look terrible. But that's OK. They do that on purpose.

Often times they report correctly. All the time or most of the time, what do you? All right, all the time. See? I agree. For purposes of this speech, I agree.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: I see the kids standing up for parents there. I mean, why do that in front of reporters' kids? What's the point?

RYAN: He is the president. This is what he does. But, you know, all in all, he did say -- you know, I was shocked that he didn't go in harder on us.

[19:45:06] I mean, we have seen how he has dealt with us at rallies and at other places. But, you know, we are the parents of children. You know, you don't talk against the parent in front of a child.

But this is something that he does. So, I mean, which we expect.

SCIUTTO: Shake your head a little bit. April Ryan, always good to talk to you.

RYAN: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, North Korea demanding that the U.S. pay $2 million for the care of an American Otto Warmbier they held hostage. The man who got the bill will be my guest.

And presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg condemned by a famous evangelical. What happens when religion turns on some of those it serves?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIIFED FEMALE: You almost feel like your whole life is having the rug ripped out from under you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Tonight, CNN has learned that North Korea presented a bill for $2 million for what it says was Otto Warmbier's hospital care. North Korea insisted the U.S. sign a pledge to make the payment before releasing Warmbier who, of course, was in a coma and ultimately passed away six days after returning to the U.S.

The source tells CNN the bill for payment was given to Joseph Yun. He's the former State Department special representative for North Korea. However, a second source CNN that the money has not yet been paid.

OUTFRONT is the man you heard me mention, Ambassador Joseph Yun.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks for taking the time tonight.

I know you cannot speak about the moments in that room. It's classified information. But let me ask you this. Can you describe what your instructions were when you went there in terms of getting him home?

[19:50:05] JOSEPH YUNG, INVOLVED IN NEGOTIATIONS FOR RELESE OF WARMBIER: Well, thank you, Jim. Good to be here, and thank you for your understanding. Of course I cannot discuss any details of negotiations I took part as an active U.S. diplomat.

But I can tell you that I did go to Pyongyang. This was June 2017 under instructions from my then boss, Rex Tillerson, secretary of state, and his instructions were fairly clear. Get Otto out.

Now, Jim, before going to Pyongyang, I wasn't sure. They never told us we could get him out. So, you know, I was there for a few days. And during that time, I did have to negotiate a number of items.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. The president has vowed many times not to pay ransoms while criticizing his predecessors for doing the same. Have a listen. I want to get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We would not pay ransoms or anything else because that creates a terrible precedent.

Our country was blackmailed and extorted into paying this unheard of amount of money as ransom. And our president lied to us.

We paid $150 billion to get prisoners. You talk about a ransom? I'd say that's a pretty good ransom. So those things are not going to happen anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: In your view, was this in effect a ransom? YUN: This is a tough, tough issue, you know, how to deal with

prisoner situations. And, I mean, you look at our history or anyone else's history, and there have been cases where money was paid to national governments who have held American prisoners. And this is common throughout.

And so, I do think it is a tough question, and where you are really depends on particular issues.

What I can tell you, Jim, is that while I was special representative of North Korea policy and we had a number of American prisoners in North Korea, we did not pay any ransom.

SCIUTTO: Fair answer. Ambassador, good to have you on.

YUN: Thank you.

SCIUTO: Coming up next, when religion and political issues collide.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The church has created racism and sexism and ageism and homophobia and transphobia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:56:38] SCIUTTO: Tonight, one of President Trump's most outspoken evangelical supporters is slamming the Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg for being gay and Christian. Franklin Graham saying being gay is, quote, in his words something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized.

But in Dallas, Texas, the birthplace of the megachurch, there is a house of worship where being gay and Christian are not mutually exclusive.

W. Kamau Bell spoke with the pastor of that megachurch for the premier of his new season of his new series, "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know many church pastors who would never admit they know me, but I know megachurch pastors who say I wish I had the courage to preach what you preach. But if I do, I lose my pulpit, attendance falls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Kamau here with me now. So, Buttigieg here challenging the religious establishment in ways that we haven't seen before, not walking away from his religion at all, saying how important it is to him, but challenging the idea that somehow that makes being gay wrong.

On the ground, is that working? W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA": I mean, the

thing is he's doing it on a national stage. There are people who are doing that every Sunday when they're going to church that are challenging that. The thing that is so insidious what Franklin Graham is saying is you're actually jeopardizing the health and worth of the youth in your children who are LGBTQ in that community and feeling like you're telling them they're wrong.

We've covered in that later episode in Salt Lake City, you talk about a high rate of teen suicide and a lot that of is linked to LGBTQ plus youth feeling the Mormon Church is unaccepting.

SCIUTTO: And then they punish themselves in effect.

BELL: Yes. He thinks he's going after Buttigieg, but he certainly has gay members of his community in his church who are going to fell attacked this Sunday.

SCIUTTO: Graham, many evangelicals as you know, they embrace Donald Trump. Do they see any irony, any contradiction in embracing him despite his own personal shortcomings?

BELL: You know, the bible is an amazing thing. It kind of says everything and it kind of contradicts itself. If you're just going to look at the bible as words, you can find the words in the bible to justify anything you do. But if you're talking about the spirit of the bible, then it's clear the spirit of the bible is not in the actions of Donald Trump.

And so I think that's the thing. We talk about in the episode with Pastor Michael McBride, people are creating a Jesus in the image they want. They're not saying -- they're doing what would Jesus do instead of what did Jesus do.

So they don't think it's a disconnect because they are using the words to form the version of Christianity they want.

SCIUTTO: Generational change. Is that evident in the megachurch world, in the evangelical world, because young people have different views than their parents on these things?

BELL: Not every young person.

SCIUTTO: Not every young person. But many do.

BELL: The thing I learned, it's not every megachurch is the same. The face of Christianity is sort of the Joel Osteen version of megachurch. He claims to be little bit agnostic, you can tell where he is voting and what he is thinking about. Love the sinner but not the sin kind of thing, or however he puts it, I don't know.

Then there is the Cathedral of Hope which is very LGBTQ plus. There's Fellowship West which Dr. Freddie Haynes who is pushing the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. forward. So, if we made those the face of Christianity, we'd be fine. But that's not generally what the face of Christianity is. SCIUTTO: Kamau Bell, it's a great series. Great to talk to you

about. I'll be watching.

A new season of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" starts this Sunday at 10:00 Eastern Time, only here on CNN.

And thanks so much to you for joining us tonight.

"AC360" starts right now.