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William Barr Threatens To Skip House Hearing On Thursday; The Washington Post Says Trump Surpasses 10,000 False Or Misleading Claims; California Synagogue Shooting Leaves One Dead, Three Injured. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 29, 2019 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:00]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And for the first time since most of the Mueller report has been made public, Congress is not off today. House, Senate, both reconvening after the two-week Easter recess and a brand new constitutional showdown looming on the Hill. The Democratic Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is threatening to subpoena the Attorney General if Mr. Barr makes good on his threat to back out, almost likely to be an explosive hearing set for Thursday.

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. So, Manu, Barr doesn't want to be asked questions by lawyers, just members. I mean, Barr has been a lawyer for a few decades, twice Attorney General. I mean, what's the issue here?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Talks broke down over the weekend before that highly anticipated Thursday hearing with Barr is expected to answer questions from the democratic-led committee about the Mueller investigation, his handling of the Mueller investigation.

But the format that has been proposed by Jerry Nadler is something that the Attorney General is objecting to specifically what Nadler wants to do is allow for staff attorneys to question the Attorney General after members are done questioning. He wants to allow for 30 minutes from each side with all the staff attorneys to question Barr.

Also, what Nadler is proposing is to go into a closed session to allow the members to look at the unredacted Mueller report, the portions of the report that are behind black lines. Barr, so far, has only allowed a limited number of members to see a less redacted report. Both those ideas are being objected to by the Justice Department, but, in particular, allowing staff attorneys to question Barr.

Now, the Justice Department put out a statement yesterday after we reported on this saying this, saying 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.

And when we caught up with Jerry Nadler in New York yesterday, he made clear that the Attorney General is not going to be one making the commands.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

REPORTER: What does it say if A.G. Barr doesn't back down on his objections?

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Now, Jim, the other subpoena that the Judiciary Committee has issued has been for the former White House Counsel, Don McGahn. And what Nadler said yesterday is that we expect him to obey his subpoena. We have been told that that he will testify. We expect him to testify.

The White House, as you know, has threatened to invoke executive privilege to prevent him from answering certain questions. But Nadler said, since McGahn cooperated with the Mueller probe, he can't just -- they can't just waived executive privilege and then reassert it, so at least some piece of news that they expect McGahn to come forward. We'll see if the Attorney General does as well. Jim?

SCIUTTIO: Interesting. Manu Raju, thanks very much.

Let's speak to Eliana Johnson, she's White House Reporter for Politico, and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig.

Elie, first, to you. You said that Barr's refusal to be questioned by lawyers would be, in your view, sending a terrible message. Tell us why.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I think it's embarrassing for the Attorney General of the United States to say, I refuse to show up and be questioned by congressional staffers for follow-up questioning. He is the top prosecutor in this entire country and he seems to be afraid of questioning from some congressional staffers.

Look, any prosecutor, Jim, can tell you that the key to any questioning, the key to any examination is the follow-up. It's easy for any witness to dodge and delay for the first round of questioning. But where you really get the pedal to the metal is on the cross- examination. And the fact he is dodging that suggests he's either hiding something or he's afraid of something.

And I think it all comes down to how reliable has William Barr been during that almost month-long stretch where he had seen the Mueller report but nobody else had and he was describing it to the American public and Congress. I think he was quite unreliable and misleading and now he's going to get called to task for it.

SCIUTTO: I mean, it's odd for a lifelong lawyer to be reluctant to answer questions from other lawyers on the Hill. And, Eliana, as you know, during the Kavanaugh hearings, republicans, and I believe we have a video of this, they called up an experienced prosecutor to ask questions of Christine Blasey Ford, a lot of criticism at that time. You might say it would be hypocritical here to have someone who's effectively a member of the administration say, no, I'm not going to answer questions from lawyers. I mean, is there precedent for this?

ELIANA JOHSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There is precedent. What I think Barr would say is that it's rare for staff members, congressional staffers, to question a cabinet secretary. It's not unprecedented but it's atypical. Normally when members go to the Hill, it is congressmen who question them. And that's what you hear the DOJ saying that it should be members of Congress who question a cabinet secretary, that their staffers are free to give them questions.

But, clearly, Congress wants to do more. They don't want the time constraints on questions. And as Elie said, they want to be able to press Barr outside of the five minutes that are granted to individual members of Congress.

SCIUTTO: I see. So you're saying this is a time play in effect by democrats.

[10:05:02]

JOHNSON: Well, as I'm sure many people have seen individual members of Congress are often not as skilled as attorneys, but some are attorneys in questioning. So I think it's both a matter of how skilled the members are at questioning but also getting out of those five minutes that each -- out of the time constraints of the five minutes each member is granted.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Elie Honig, this is clearly an administration policy here because they're refusing to have a whole host of officials appear before the Hill. Now, some of that has changed overtime. They reached an agreement on the Hill to allow the person in charge of security clearances in the White House to come answer questions. Legally, is there cause to say, listen, we're just not going to listen to that subpoena. We're the White House and, you know what, we don't have to work with you?

HONIG: There can be cause in certain instances, Jim. When you're dealing with the federal rules of criminal procedure in a criminal trial, like we're all familiar with, there's a very specific set of rules that say, here's how things go. But in Congress, there is no such specific set of rules or procedure. And so you have to ultimately find some sort of midpoint.

The question ultimately is, is Congress legitimately using its constitutional oversight power or are they overstepping and abusing? And I think it's an unwise course of action by the administration, by the White House, to just have this blanket no up there. Everything is no. If they don't ultimately make some reasonable accommodations, I think they're going to get smacked down in the court. And this is a great example. Is William Barr, the Attorney General of the United States, really willing to go to court if he gets subpoenaed and say, I Think it's unreasonable, it's an overstep of congress's constitutional oversight authority to make me answer 30 minutes of questions from congressional staffers. That's a petty and, I think, ultimately ridiculous position.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it seems a weak argument as well.

Eliana, politics here, set aside of the law, the President has clearly made a decision it works for him running into 2020, just fight the investigations, portray in his view democrats as just investigating and not doing anything else. Any sign he strays from that strategy?

JOHNSON: No. This has become a political issue for the President, who is taking his message out on the campaign trail. The democrats have become singularly obsessed with investigations. Now that the Mueller report is over, he is telling voters that he has been cleared of this and, nonetheless, democrats continue to investigate him unfairly.

So he's portraying himself as having emerged victorious from the Mueller report and is now continuing to be a victim of democratic investigations. And nonetheless, he's prevailing. And that's the message he's taking to voters on the campaign trail.

SCIUTTO: Well, there's the small issue of the constitution and congressional oversight, but we can forget about that, politics and always acknowledged. Eliana Johnson, Elie Honig, thanks very much.

The Washington Post says President Trump's lie count since entering office has now hit five digits. Newspapers' fact-checking team says that Trump has now told more than 10,000 lies or misleading claims. Washington Post fact-checker columnist Glenn Kessler joins me now.

Glenn, you've been doing Yeoman's work on this for a couple years now. This is a remarkable number for a U.S. president to reach.

GLENN KESSLER, EDITOR AND CHIEF WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, it is. And, you know, one of the remarkable things about it is how quickly it has exploded. About a year ago, I gave an interview where I said maybe at current pace, you'd get to 10,000 by the end of four years, and here it is, only 11 months later and we have crossed the 10,000 threshold.

SCIUTTO: To be clear, you say lies and misleading claims. How do you establish the difference here, at times -- I mean, journalists have been reluctant to use the phrase, lie, I mean, is this just get to intent, whether he's making a mistake or whether telling these falsehoods intentionally?

KESSLER: Right. We are pretty reluctant to use the word, lie. We used the word lie to describe his comments about making payments to these women that alleged that he had affairs with them because there, you could document the series of statements pretty clearly. We tend to say, we use Pinocchios, four Pinocchios. We have something we created called the bottomless Pinocchio, where if you say something that is rated as three or four Pinocchios and he said it more than 20 times, we can't necessarily get to intent, but he's been pretty much put on notice, these things are false and he shouldn't say it anymore, and he keeps saying them anyway.

SCIUTTO: He often accelerates the pace when he's in front of a friendly audience, particularly at campaign rallies. You noted he had a remarkable three-day stretch last week when you say he made 61 misleading claims in that stretch. There they are there. My question to you is, as we get closer to 2020, as he's doing more campaign rallies, statistically, do you expect him to get worse, not better?

[10:10:00]

KESSLER: Well, that's what the trend certainly indicate that. We found that, you know, about a quarter of these claims were made at campaign rallies and the list gets bigger and bigger. So I think about a year ago at a campaign rally, it would be like 30 claims.

The one on Saturday, I ended up counting 61 claims. And they range from -- you know, some are just outright false. And some are -- you know, he exaggerates the number of jobs that were created. Now, we maybe you call that a lie or not. Well, there's no reason to tack on 500,000 extra jobs to the number of jobs you've created because it's a pretty good number, but for some reason, he feels compelled to make it even larger.

SCIUTTO: He can't help himself at times. And what's been interesting is reporters, sometimes, when he tells some of the misleading claims, you watch other administration officials back them up retroactively, even then There's little truth to back them up. Glenn Kessler, keep on top of it. It's great work and it's an important work at this time.

KESSLER: You're welcome.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, a funeral set today for the woman who shielded a rabbi during the synagogue shooting in California. That's her there. Her act of selflessness is one of many we're now hearing about after the hate-fueled attack, moments of courage there.

Plus, Joe Biden holding his first campaign rally in the key swing State of Pennsylvania, we're going to be hear a lot about campaigning there in the coming months, what message does he plan to send to working class voters across the rust belt?

And happening now, Boeing's CEO facing shareholders after several whistleblowers say the 737 was plagued by issues, many of which they didn't tell operators about. We're on top of it.

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SCIUTTO: The San Diego sheriff now says the man who opened fire on a congregation in a California synagogue acted alone. That 19-year-old suspect now sitting in jail, as investigators look into an online manifesto, they believe he may have written, he is facing charges of murder and attempted murder after investigators say he killed one person, wounded three others during the Passover celebration.

Today, the synagogue will bury the woman who witnesses say stepped in front of her rabbi after he had been wounded. And we're now hearing from a man who says that his combat training kicked in when he heard that gunfire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 ran out and I chased him out of the sanctuary.

I was in the military, and I think that's what I -- I ran to fire. 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Small acts of courage. Our Sara Sidner spoke to the eight- year-old girl who was wounded in the shooting.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NOYA DAHAN, INJURED BY SHRAPNEL DURING SHOOTING: We go to pray. And then we're supposed to like supposed to feel safe.

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Eight-year-old Noya Dahan wasn't safe. It turned out no one was. A gunman entered their California synagogue on the last day of Passover and opened fire.

N. DAHAN: I don't even have any words for it. It was terrifying, scary.

ISRAEL DAHAN, SURVIVED SHOOTING, DAUGHTER INJURED: All over his body, he has full magazines.

I. SIDNER: So he's covered in bullets?

DAHAN: He came to kill us. He came to grind us. The amount of bullets that he got on him, he came to destroy this place.

SIDNER: Noya's father, Israel Dahan, was beyond worried. He was terrified for his children. He had no idea Noya had already been hit.

N. DAHAN: My uncle, he was holding my hand, and he was like grabbing me and stuff. And the person who was shooting, he was aiming at him. So it hit him, and the -- like it went like that. It hit me too.

SIDNER: So you got hit with shrapnel?

N. DAHAN: Yes.

SIDNER: Little pieces? N. DAHAN: Not like the knee one, it's pretty big, but these were little pieces. So this was like a pretty big piece. And then it went back here.

SIDNER: So the piece of shrapnel went in your leg and then came out the other side?

N. DAHAN: Yes.

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

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

SIDNER: Her uncle had been shot too.

ALMOG PERETZ, RESCUED CHILDREN AFTER BEING SHOT: He was looking me in the face, and he went to shoot me with the gun.

SIDNER: Yet, Almog Peretz managed to whisk more than a half dozen children to safety as the gunman blew off round after round.

I. DAHAN: And then I saw him shooting in our lady that she passed away, terrible feeling. What can I say? It's scary that we need to live like that. It's just unbelievable. Like there is no one really to protect us.

SIDNER: Dahan watched his friend, Lori Kaye, slump. She died of her injuries.

I DAHAN: We have a big loss in the community, a big loss for the community in Poway. She was an amazing woman.

SIDNER: The terror didn't end there. Their rabbi had also been hit.

N. DAHAN: I saw the rabbi, he like jumping from pain.

[10:20:02]

His fingers were cut off. He was like shot.

SIDNER: Bullets had shredded the rabbi's hands. Noya's father tried to help him.

I. DAHAN: He doesn't want to go to the hospital. He's still praying and he's still praying for everybody. And he wants to keep the community strong and tight.

SIDNER: So the rabbi was refusing to leave the synagogue.

I. DAHAN: Yes.

SIDNER: Even though he'd been shot? I. DAHAN: And even though he's been and even though he's bleeding and I told him, rabbi, please, you're life threatened (ph) right now, you're bleeding so much, you can die. No, I will stay here. I build it, I'm going to die here.

SIDNER: Rabbi Goldstein survived, but his index finger had to be amputated. The rabbi was one of the main reasons the Dahans had moved to Poway. The family left Israel because a rocket hit their home and wanted a safer place to raise their five children.

They moved to Mira Mesa, California, but hate found them there, too. Swastikas were painted on the family's house and car.

Did you leave there out of fear for your family?

I. DAHAN: Yes, of course. We were sleeping inside a locked bedroom with knives and with baseball bat because that's the only way I can protect my family. Then I met Rabbi Goldstein and he told me, come to our community.

SIDNER: They loved it and moved to Poway.

N. DAHAN: The synagogue is always a safe place to be. We're not supposed to be worried about anything.

SIDNER: Three years later, terror would find them once again.

N. DAHAN: I'm feeling scared, unsafe. I just feel like I want to be with my family and in a safe place where the whole family is there. And if someone gets hurt, there's like someone always behind us and like watching out for us.

SIDNER: How do you make them feel safe?

I. DAHAN: They don't. I cannot.

SIDNER: You have basically had to run from one place to the next because of anti-Semitism.

I. DAHAN: Yes. This is the right word to use, yes. And I might need to run again. It will -- I don't think it will stop soon. I might need to run again. And I need to prepare myself for the next run.

SIDNER: That's a horrible way to live.

I. DAHAN: It is horrible, yes, but that's the way we live, and it's happened.

SIDNER: Sara Sidner, CNN, Poway, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Just a terrible story.

Joining me now to discuss is Daniel Benjamin. He's director of the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College. Thanks very much for taking the time.

DANIEL BENJAMIN, DIRECTOR, JOHN SLOAN DICKEY CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL UNDERSTANDING DARTMOUTH COLLEGE: Thanks for having.

SCIUTTO: The numbers, it's not just anecdotal, it's not just that we're seeing more headlines like this on the news. It's in the number. Hate crimes are up, we'll throw the numbers up on the screen, particularly in the last few years. I mean, these are significant increases, 30 percent there. What do you attribute this to?

BENJAMIN: So there are, I think, three things going on. Number one is the internet. The internet has created a place where there are now communities of extremists and they're being affirmed and emboldened by this sense of community. That's clear. The app, Gab, where white extremists congregate has close to a million participants, which is striking, number two, there's a copycat factor going on now. We've seen the Poway shooting came exactly six months after Pittsburgh. There has been quite a spate of new attacks, anti-Semitic attacks, but also anti-Muslim and others. And the third thing is the Trump factor.

SCIUTTO: Explain that to me.

BENJAMIN: So the President is a norm-breaker, and we're all familiar with that. When he demonizes immigrants, when he calls Mexicans rapists, when he talks about really bedraggled refugees coming to our borders as terrorists, that opens the floodgate. It gives a green light to people who are haters and who feel emboldened themselves so that they can do something.

SCIUTTO: Well, you think of the Charlottesville comments. Remember David Duke and others, they welcomed those comments specifically as somehow affirming their message there. It's striking that the hate, that there's a commonality to the hate, right, anti-Jewish, anti- Muslim hate. You look at the manifestos, for instance, of this shooter and the Christchurch attacker, there's a similar white nationalist we are under assault kind of message, which, as you say, has come commonalities with what you hear from the President.

BENJAMIN: Absolutely. Some of that is the copycat element. These people are being weaponized in a way in the same way that ISIS weaponized a lot of extremist Muslim sentiment.

And, you know, one of the extraordinary things is that it comes against a backdrop of declining violence in our society. Homicides are at a historic low, relatively speaking, and yet, at the same time, we see hate crime going up. You know, anti-Semitism, societally, is at a historic low. More people would look more favorably on a Jewish president than ever before.

[10:25:01]

SCIUTTO: Right. When you say that, what strikes me is the commonalities with how terrorism happens, right? Online communities, hate, this is your mission, you're under assault, it's humiliating, et cetera. Is there anything to call this terrorism? BENJAMIN: Well, no, this is clearly a form of terrorism because it's being done to advance an agenda, and that agenda is maybe nebulous, but it has to do with evicting Jews from society, evicting Muslims from society. It's not how they organize yet. It's pretty nebulous. It's focused on websites and chat rooms, but I think it is terrorism in any case.

SCIUTTO: And a serious one. Daniel Benjamin, thanks very much for putting a time for us.

BENJAMIN: Thanks for having me

SCIUTTO: A healthy baby contracted measles and now his mother is warning parents, trust doctors and science. Elizabeth Cohen will share his story, it's an important one, after the break.

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