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Attorney General Bill Barr Threatens to Skip House Hearing Thursday; California Synagogue Shooting Leaves 1 Dead, 3 Injured; Hate Crime on the Rise. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 29, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:22] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington where Congress is back in session today. Poppy has the day off.

Lawmakers back at work which means a simmering dispute over House investigations of the president will soon be at full boil over the weekend. The Attorney General Bill Barr turned up the heat when he threatened to skip a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee later this week. And committee chairman Jerry Nadler turned it up again when he threatened to then subpoena Barr to come testify.

Congress has not been in session since before Barr released his redacted version of the special counsel report about which Nadler plans to grill him with help from committee lawyers. Seems a reasonable thing. Barr, however, the attorney general, is not having it.

CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill.

So the two-time attorney general, Washington lawyer for decades. Why is he unwilling to answer questions from lawyers on behalf of the Judiciary Committee regarding the Mueller report? Has he given an explanation?

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Jim. It's going to be a blockbuster week here on Capitol Hill. Like you said, Bill Barr scheduled to be before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. But that testimony before the House Judiciary Committee is still up in the air and that is because of the way that Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the committee, wants to structure the committee hearing.

He essentially wants to give each member on Capitol Hill an opportunity on that committee to question Barr for five minutes each, but then he wants to allow the committee's lawyers to have questions for 30 minutes. Republicans would get 30 minutes, Democrats would get 30 minutes.

And, you know, this is something that I am told is not unheard of but is certainly very unusual, and I want to just read the statement from the Justice Department. They're essentially saying that's not going to happen, Bill Barr won't come before the committee if that's the structure. They said, quote, "The attorney general agreed to appear before Congress. Therefore, members of Congress should be the ones doing the questioning. He remains happy to engage with members on their questions regarding the Mueller report."

Not surprising, Nadler says, you don't get to tell me how to run my committee. Here is what he said yesterday.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): And the witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What does it say if Agent Barr doesn't back down on his objections?

NADLER: Then we will have to subpoena him and we have to use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena.


FOX: And Jim -- Jim, you heard it there. You know, essentially this is just a further escalation of the fight that we have seen brewing between the White House, the Trump administration and Democrats on Capitol Hill. This, of course, isn't the only issue where they're facing push back. But certainly a lot to watch up here on Capitol Hill this week -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question. Active first week back. Lauren Fox on the Hill. Thanks very much.

I'm joined now by Susan Hennessey. She's former NSA attorney and CNN legal analyst.

So setting aside for a moment why Barr, you know, who's a lawyer for many decades, would be intimidated by attorneys for the House Judiciary Committee. Is there any -- does he have any recourse here to say, listen, now I'll come, but it's got to be committee members, otherwise I won't come?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly the attorney general doesn't have any authority to tell Congress how it should conduct its hearings. That said, he does have some leverage. So oftentimes the executive branch and Congress will clash over the manner in which individuals will testify. Oftentimes they'll threaten to subpoena one -- threaten to issue a subpoena, threaten to take it to court. And ordinarily what happens is they reach a compromised solution.

And so here, while Barr doesn't have any right to say I will only answer questions to Congress, really what he's saying is I'm willing to fight this out. The way it's likely going to be resolved, though, is the two sides coming to a compromised decision.

SCIUTTO: OK. Just to remind folks, Republicans, they used a prosecutor to ask Christine Blasey-Ford, of course, alleged misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh during his hearing. Just to play a short clip of that and then see about the hypocrisy here. We don't have the sound. But she -- you know, if you remember this,

I'm sure you remember, she was there and there was some controversy why couldn't the members themselves ask her these questions. I mean, this happens relatively frequently, does it not?

HENNESSEY: Well, it's a little bit unusual for the attorney general to be questioned by committee staff. It's not unheard of. I think the Ford hearings show why Nadler wants to use this format. And that's it's much more effective in getting actual substantive information. Whenever you have members questioning, it's divided up into five-minute blocks. They begin with sort of grandstanding, right?


HENNESSEY: They're speaking more to the cameras.

SCIUTTO: Speeches rather than questions.

HENNESSEY: Right. This is the situation in which the actual substantive information that the attorney general has is really important. The Democratic members want to get those answers. And so they feel that the lawyers are going to be better positioned to get that in that kind of format.

[09:05:03] SCIUTTO: Absolutely. Like a cross examination in court to some degree.

Now this is part of a bigger picture here because the Trump administration is sitting back and saying we're not going to talk to any of you at any time. Subpoena us. You know, we'll see what happens. What is going to happen here, right? You're going to have multiple cases here where it might go to court as to whether members of the administration in any context will answer these calls to come testify.

HENNESSEY: Right. So this really is part of a broader strategy that we're seeing out of the White House. It's not unusual for the executive branch to object to certain forms of oversight, certain types of subpoenas. But the president has said pretty much outright that they're going to fight any and all subpoenas. And so really what they're saying is we object to the notion of a congressional oversight.


HENNESSEY: The idea that Congress can bring our members of the executive branch in and get information, demand documents, that's something that we've never seen a prior president make that assertion before. Now a little bit gives the game away. Ordinarily the executive branch is making its arguments on very narrow legal grounds. They're saying there's a reason why we object to this particular subpoena.

SCIUTTO: Right. HENNESSEY: For the Trump administration to say we object to any and

all subpoenas no matter what, that shows that really this is not about a meritorious legal argument. It's just about sort of being obstructionist in general.

SCIUTTO: So how do the courts decide that? I mean, what would the precedent be? What's the law? Is it an easy call?

HENNESSEY: So, again, it would be pretty unusual for a court to actually step in here. It's more likely that this is sort of hardball between the branches and they'll come to a solution on their own. That said, there is some court precedent. The Supreme Court has held over and over again that Congress does have the inherent power of inquiry, that it does need to get this information.

The actual significant sort of precedent for this was a case involving a woman named Ann Gorsuch. Her son Neil Gorsuch is currently sitting on the United States Supreme Court and may well be one of the people who decides whether or not --

SCIUTTO: That is an interesting coincidence.

Susan Hennessy, thanks very much.

The San Diego sheriff now says that the 19-year-old man accused of shooting four people in a California synagogue acted alone. He is now sitting in a jail cell facing charges of murder and attempted murder after investigators say he killed one person, wounded three others during a Passover celebration.

Today as the synagogue prepares to bury the woman who witnesses say shielded her rabbi from the shooter, we're now hearing from one of two men who tried to stop him as his gun jammed.


OSCAR STEWART, CHASED ATTACKER: As he was discharging the rounds, I ran up to him and I yelled at him and he dropped his weapon and he ran out, and I chased him out of the sanctuary. I was in the military and I think that's -- that's what I just -- I ran to fire and that's what I did. I'm not -- I didn't plan it. I didn't think about it. It's just what I did.


SCIUTTO: That is bravery in action.

CNN correspondent Dan Simon live now in Poway, California.

Dan, tell us what we're learning this morning about this attack and how it was thwarted by a few people acting bravely in the moment.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, let's first talk about the victim who died here. Sixty-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye, funeral services are going to be held for her today. And she is being called a hero. She put herself between the shooter and the rabbi. In fact, the rabbi says she took a bullet for the entire congregation. And he says the only reason why he is alive today is because of what she did.

And some of the details here, Jim, are just absolutely chilling. I can tell you that her husband was also here that morning. And he happens to be a physician. He was tending to the wounded. At first he didn't realize that he was actually trying to revive his wife. And once he did, he just collapsed, just fainted. A very disturbing detail.

There were also some other incredible acts of heroism including from a 34-year-old Israeli native who took gunfire to the leg just after that. He ushered several children to safety and then, of course, we heard from this Iraq war veteran who actually tried to chase down the shooter and apparently the shooter dropped his weapon as he screamed at him.

And then a Border Patrol agent actually following the shooter out the door, firing several rounds as the shooter tried to escape. Now we don't know exactly what led the shooter to call police. But apparently he did so, identified himself and he was apprehended a short time later -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Tell us about the wounded rabbi and what he's saying. I mean, remarkable as well because he -- as it's happening, he got shot, he loses his fingers to these bullets. It's just a remarkable story.

SIMON: Yes. The rabbi was actually in the banquet hall preparing to deliver his sermon. And then he heard what sounded like a loud bang. He didn't realize it was gunfire. And then just moments later he was actually face-to-face with the shooter. This is the sequence of events from his point of view. Take a look.


[09:10:03] RABBI YISROEL GOLDSTEIN, CHABAD OF POWAY: A young man standing with a rifle pointing right at me. And I look at him. He had sunglasses on. I couldn't see his eyes, I couldn't see his soul. We need to battle darkness with light. No matter how dark the world is, we need to think of light, a little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness.


SIMON: Now the suspect is a 19-year-old college student. We don't know if he had any kind of weapons training. We also don't know how he obtained the gun. But apparently at some point during the shooting, the gun jammed. He was unable to fire any further. And if that is, in fact, the case that obviously prevented several more people from dying -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Not to mention folks acting at that crucial moment as well.

Dan Simon, thanks very much.

One of those wounded in the synagogue attack was an 8-year-old girl. She spoke to our Sara Sidner after getting out of the hospital. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So the piece of shrapnel went in your leg and came out the other side?


SIDNER: What were you thinking then? Did it hurt?

DAYAN: In the first place, when it was, like, gushing blood, I didn't even feel it and then after, like, they wiped it and, like, the blood was off and it was, like -- it felt like I had the giantest bruise ever. It was just hurting bad.


SCIUTTO: That poor little girl. Just happy she's alive.

Joining me now to discuss what the mayor of Poway is calling a hate crime, Brian Levin. He's the director for the Center of the Study of Hate and Extremism.

Thanks so much for taking the time today. You watch the news. You see incidents like this more often. And that's not just anecdotal. It's in the numbers. We'll put these up on the screen. Hate crimes increasing somewhat dramatically in the last four to five years.

What do you attribute that rise to?

BRIAN LEVIN, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF HATE AND EXTREMISM: Thank you for having me, Jim. Great question. And our hearts go out to the family of Lori Gilbert Kaye and the Congregation of Chabad in Poway. Thank you so much.

You're exactly right. We've been seeing this increase over the last four to five years. Nationally we bottomed out with regard to hate crimes in 2014. But the big cities, they turned a year earlier. So our latest data which we just have coming out showed that in 30 major American cities hate crimes are up for a fifth consecutive year. That portends to national increases when the FBI comes out with their 2018 data in the fall.

But our data shows that hate crimes in American cities went up for the fifth consecutive year, the steepest incline. And you know what? The second biggest rate of increase last year was anti-Semitic attacks. And we've seen a sea change. We've also seen a rise in 2018 in white nationalist homicides, rising from 13 to 17.

So -- and we'll see when the ADL data comes out probably later this week. I would bet that they're going to show similar data to ours with respect to increases not only in hate crimes but in anti-Semitic hate crimes. We'll see what their data says.

SCIUTTO: No question. And it's interesting, when you look at the manifesto that this shooter wrote before, it had a lot of similarities to the one written by the attacker in Christchurch, New Zealand. Of course, there attacking mosques, here attacking synagogues.

You see the increase. It's in the numbers. It's very clear. And it's a marked increase. What are the causes of this? What is happening to allow this kind of violence become more common?

LEVIN: Well, yes, and the data shows this again. Twenty percent, that's a mark that we rarely hit with regard to religion and hate crimes. In 2017, the FBI showed 60 percent of religion and hate crimes were anti-Semitic. So we've been seeing a trend towards increasing religion hate crimes, not just against Jews, but Jews are certainly the ones that are leading, unfortunately, that trend.

And some of the things that we're looking at are dramatic demographic changes that are taking place for which Jews are being blamed. In other words, and not just here in the United States. Our research from around the world shows that anti-Semitism has gone up in England and in other parts of Europe as well.

So this nationalism that is taking place with respect to fear of demographic change, not only here in the United States but elsewhere, when you couple that with two other things, one is a very splintered and polarized sociopolitical landscape and the fragmenting of social media, these fissures allow this anti-Semitism to bubble up and, indeed, one in nine Americans, ABC-"Washington Post" poll, one in nine say Nazi views are acceptable.

And our research and Andrew Thompson, thank you so much for doing this great job. And Jim Nolen in West Virginia, you -- we saw these increase in hate crime on the internet, but it wasn't just -- I'm sorry, hate speech on the internet.


But it wasn't just increasing, it was dissipating to more splintered and fragmented echo chamber platforms like --


LEVIN: Yab, Fortune, HN, where this particular assailant had some activity on.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and they had this kind of self-re-enforcing phenomenon within those silos there. It's just shocking numbers. Thanks for walking us -- walking us through it, Brian Levin. Let's just hope we don't have to be talking about this again.

LEVIN: Thank you so much, and you know, you just made one excellent point there at the end. And that is -- there's a chain of these people who are using social media. And what we've seen is propaganda of the deed -- in other words, in the past, years before we would see these folks commit acts of violence trying to encourage other violence by the act itself. Now --

SCIUTTO: Sure --

LEVIN: They're using past people and the internet to broadcast their crimes --


LEVIN: And their manifestos, a different time --

SCIUTTO: Well --


SCIUTTO: What does that sound? Sounds like Islamist terrorism as well, similar kind of --

LEVIN: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Phenomenon. Thanks very much, we'll speak again. Still to come at this hour, Joe Biden hits Pennsylvania to appeal to the key blue collar voters there while Beto O'Rourke launches his first policy initiative at Yosemite National Park. The race for 2020 certainly heating up, we're going to be live.

Plus, an NFL rookie was shot just hours after he was drafted by the New York Giants. How could this injury affect not only his career before it begins, what does it tell us about violence. And a billion at the Box Office, "Avengers: End Game" demolishes the competition, hauling in a historic amount of cash, $1.2 billion over just the opening weekend. Those are big numbers.


SCIUTTO: Beto O'Rourke is looking to rev up his 2020 campaign with a major policy announcement today on climate change. The former Texas congressman has faced criticism for running a campaign light so far on policy. CNN's Leyla Santiago joins me now from Yosemite National Park, that's the backdrop for his announcement. Do we know what he's proposing exactly?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he lays out details to the plan on a five-page fact sheet. And this is his very first major policy roll-out. You can see we're in Yosemite where there are breathtaking views and scenery. But just driving in, it's also very much a national park that is scarred by the wildfires.

So it certainly sets the scene for what he wants to talk about today which is climate change. So let's jump right into the bullet points here. He says day one, he wants to get executive action on cutting down on pollution and get the U.S. right back into the Paris Climate Agreement.

He's also saying that he wants to send, in his first bill to Congress, something that commits to $5 trillion over a ten-year span. He also wants to work with Congress to make sure that he sets up some sort of standard that will get the U.S. to net zero emissions by 2050.

That chunk of it, in talking about emission reductions is very much in line with the green new deal, something that we've heard a lot of the Democratic candidates talking about on the 2020 campaign trail. But here is the big question that we hear from a lot of folks when plans are sort of rolled out, how is he going to pay for it?

Well, in his plan, he says he wants to make structural changes to the tax code, and that the revenue that will come from that will be enough to pay for this. You know, this is his first major rollout. And as I've been on the campaign trail, I've heard a lot of voters who say we want more specifics, more policy.

I always think about one man in South Carolina who said I love how he's identified the problems. Now, I want him to identify the solutions. Here is his first big attempt as a 2020 presidential candidate to give what he believes are some of the solutions to tackle climate change. Jim?

SCIUTTO: And that's a big driving force for a lot of his young supporters. It'd be interesting to watch, Leyla Santiago with the candidate there. In just hours, Joe Biden, he kicks off his 2020 presidential campaign in a crucial swing state, Pennsylvania.

Biden will host a meet-and-greet at a union hall in Pittsburgh. This after already nabbing a big union endorsement. Just this morning, the International Association of Firefighters. Biden's team also reporting big fundraising numbers, $6.3 million in just the first 24 hours of the campaign, that's the highest of all 20 Democratic candidates so far, in fact, just beating Beto O'Rourke by a nose there.

Joining me now, Dave Urban, former senior adviser for President Trump's 2016 campaign and former Democratic mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter. Thanks very much to both of you, gentlemen.



SCIUTTO: Pennsylvania, obviously battleground state. And then within Pennsylvania, blue collar voters which of course President Trump was able to bring to his side in 2016. But we know Joseph Biden has those in his sights now. First, to you, David Irvin, does he pose a threat to Donald Trump in that key voting bloc?

URBAN: Look, Jim, as I've said before many times, winning Pennsylvania as a Republican in any statewide race isn't easy, and it won't be -- it wasn't easy in 2016, it won't be easy this time. I do think that President Trump's record so far speaks for itself.

In Pennsylvania, "AP" just had a report out last week, that in March, Pennsylvania reported the lowest unemployment rate since they've been keeping records, Jim, since they've been keeping --

SCIUTTO: Right --

URBAN: Records, 6.2 million workers in Pennsylvania, historic all- time low, you know, have now found work, unemployment is at the lowest level since they've been keeping records. Real wages have increased, just in March, real wages increased 3 percent to hourly working rates at about $19.50 an hour, $19.50 an hour.

[09:25:00] So, I think as long as those numbers keep going strong, Jim, this president is going to be pretty tough to beat no matter who the candidate is.

SCIUTTO: But Michael Nutter, you can't argue with the economic numbers. How is that resonating in the swing district. I mean, we can say in 2018 in the midterms elections and statewide races, Democrats even with good economic numbers did pretty well.

How does this go in 2020 because economy seems only to be getting stronger.

NUTTER: You know, well, Jim, you know, those overall statewide numbers, as interesting as they are, there's a different story on the ground in places like Pittsburgh up through Allegheny Valley and certainly in Philadelphia and even the Philadelphia suburbs.

Where we see still in many neighborhoods, especially for African- Americans and Latinos, black and brown people, exceedingly high unemployment numbers, challenges with economic insecurity, the trade policies, having a significant effect on agriculture and our farmers all across Pennsylvania.

Agriculture, of course, being our number one industry and because of blockages by this administration, our ability to trade across the world or even in nearby country like Cuba impeded, if not almost impossible because of policies by Donald Trump.

SCIUTTO: But do those -- hey, listen, I hear you and you know, I'm sure there are some people aren't doing as well as others. But Mayor Nutter, does that argument really work with the vast majority voters who --

URBAN: Jim, that goes to say --

NUTTER: Well, the president --

SCIUTTO: Are better off, right?

NUTTER: I don't know anyone who thinks that the current occupant of the White House is a blue collar guy. Probably, the last blue collar he saw was on probably one of his polo shirts. And so --

SCIUTTO: Well, that's a different --

NUTTER: To Joe Biden --

SCIUTTO: That's a different argument --

NUTTER: Knows how to --

SCIUTTO: And a fair one, that's a different argument --

URBAN: Yes, but you know, Jim --


NUTTER: Yes, Joe Biden also have a thought for people --

URBAN: Yes, Jim, and the fact that the mayor -- the fact --

NUTTER: All across Pennsylvania.

SCIUTTO: David, go ahead because it -- because on --

URBAN: Listen --

SCIUTTO: The flip side though, it is a fair argument to say that Joe Biden can appeal more as one of them than a Donald Trump can.

URBAN: No, look, that doesn't -- that doesn't bear itself out like the past -- the past races the vice president has run for president, he's performed anemically. You know, the mayor overlooks the small fact. You know, you can't argue with facts. That's the tough -- that's the tough part about him.

Hispanic unemployment, all-time low in history. African-American unemployment --

NUTTER: You guys weren't talking about facts --

URBAN: All-time low in history. And that's just not -- that's not in 49 states and not including Pennsylvania. That includes Pennsylvania, and I promise, this president is going to make a vigorous outreach for African-American votes in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, all across the commonwealth as well as Hispanic votes.

We're going to campaign in every ward, at every precinct, in every county --

NUTTER: Yes --

URBAN: In Pennsylvania for every vote. And I think -- listen, I think that earlier, in the hour before that preceded this, Democratic strategists said Democrats lack a coherent economic message across the spectrum in 2020. And without that message, they're going to fail.

And I agree with Celinda Lake who was on earlier or --


URBAN: On earlier, you know, and I agree --

NUTTER: Yes, but --

URBAN: I agree with that quote --


SCIUTTO: Well, let's give Nutter a chance to respond --

URBAN: They're going to fail. SCIUTTO: What is the economic --

NUTTER: Yes, David, if he wants to talk about facts --

SCIUTTO: What is the economic message that might come up?

NUTTER: Well, if we want to talk about facts, David, you should at least be honest and acknowledge the fact that those numbers, many of which you cite were already going down when the Obama administration was transitioning into the current administration.

You know those are actually the facts.

URBAN: But Paul Krugman --

NUTTER: Some people may be doing well --

URBAN: Everybody, Obama said this president is going to wreck it --

NUTTER: Not everyone is doing well --

SCIUTTO: Let him finish.

NUTTER: I'm sorry?

SCIUTTO: No, I'm saying, let you finish, but let the mayor finish.

NUTTER: Yes, I didn't hear what he said. But -- so, I mean, those are actually the facts. And again, everyone is not doing that well. And a lot of people could be doing a whole lot better. So, you know, let's see how this campaign develops out. You guys know for a fact that Joe Biden is a person of the people.

People know that in Pennsylvania, and certainly with his Pennsylvania roots, he is the working class, middle-class Joe.

SCIUTTO: David, that's a fair --

URBAN: Jim --


SCIUTTO: I want your response to that because as you know --

URBAN: Let the mayor tell us what his economic argument is.

SCIUTTO: He's Scranton Joe, he's Amtrak Joe. He does have the ability to connect with these guys in a way that a New York billionaire cannot. How does Donald Trump beat him --

URBAN: Well, let me just --

SCIUTTO: In Pennsylvania?

URBAN: Let me just -- let me just tell you, Joe Biden left Pennsylvania in 1952. He was born in Scranton, stayed there for nine years, but had left --


URBAN: The Commonwealth. It's a nice image, it's of course is convenient when Pennsylvania is a very important state in the presidential election --

NUTTER: David, do you know why he left -- do you know why he left the Commonwealth? Do you know why he left the Commonwealth?

URBAN: For a better job.

NUTTER: His dad lost his job.

URBAN: His dad -- his dad left for --

NUTTER: Yes --

URBAN: A better job --

NUTTER: For a better -- so they had to move --

URBAN: I understand, I'm not --

NUTTER: Because of the economic conditions --

URBAN: I'm begrudging the guy --

NUTTER: So he knows -- he knows --

URBAN: Mr. Mayor, I'm not begrudging the guy --

NUTTER: What people feel.

SCIUTTO: Well --

NUTTER: He knows what people -- well, you brought it up. So he opened that door. So he knows, in fact, as a person, as an individual, as a child and a young man, what it feels like to be economically insecure, and there are still many Pennsylvanians who are economically insecure.

SCIUTTO: All right, guys, we're going to have to leave it there --

URBAN: I don't dispute that, Mr. Mayor, I just need -- I just think the party needs a message.

SCIUTTO: All right, we're going to save the conversation --

NUTTER: We're going to hear a message from many of our candidates.