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Democrats Will Vote Wednesday to Hold Barr Contempt If DOJ doesn't Release Unredacted Mueller Report; Trump Reverses Course, Says Mueller "Should Not Testify"; Soon Former Trump Lawyer Cohen Reports to Prison; N. Korea Tests Rocket Launchers, Shaky Ceasefire Holds in Israel & U.S. Sends Warships Towards Iran; Bolton Announces Warships to Persian Gulf Due to "Urgency." Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 6, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:23] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks for joining me, coming to you from CNN's new home in New York. We'll promise to try not to break it on the first day.

Topic number one today, deadlines, deadlines, and more deadlines. Bill Barr, the attorney general, is now on the clock to face being held in contempt of Congress after ignoring another deadline from House Democrats to turn over the full Mueller -- the full unredacted Mueller report. That threat has been lingering out there, of course, but that threat got really real this morning. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler just announcing he has set a vote for Wednesday to hold Barr in contempt, setting up what is likely to be a lengthy legal battle as it would then move to the courts.

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Kaitlan Collins is at the White House.

Kaitlan, first to you, what are you hearing from there?

KAITLAN COLLING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right now, essentially, what you're seeing, Kate, is Bill Barr be put in the hot seat. Because up until now, the president has said he was going to leave this decision about Mueller testifying up to his attorney general, so when he's been praising privately for how he's handled the Mueller report and how it's coming up. And just on Friday, this is what the president told reporters when he was asked should the special counsel testify.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, should Mueller testify? Would you like to see him testify?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know. That's up to our attorney general, who I think has done a fantastic job.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: And now, that tone changed over the weekend, and now the president has reversed course and said he does not think that Robert Mueller should testify. In a tweet yesterday, he laid out his reasons why. A lot of this has to do with, behind the scenes, the president has been privately complaining about the way Democrats treated Bill Barr when he was testifying on Capitol Hill. The president feels Democrats are trying to relitigate the Mueller report, something he says has been conclusive. He wants to put it to bed and move on. Even though it's the president really focusing on this, especially on Twitter.

The question is, what is Bill Barr going to do? Is he going to allow Bob Mueller to testify? It's not just Democrats, Kate, who want to hear from him.


COLLINS: Some Republicans, including Doug Collins, have said the same. And a big thing to think about, Robert Mueller will not be at the Justice Department that much longer to where he's under Bill Barr's purview. After that, he can essentially make the decision, unless Bill Barr decides to put this in a court matter, about whether or not he can testify. Right now, all eyes are essentially on the attorney general.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. All right, Kaitlan, thanks so much for that.

You have that, Manu, and then the news you brought to us this morning having to do with Jerry Nadler and Bill Barr with this unredacted report. What does this mean?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a dramatic escalation in the fight between House Democrats and the Trump administration after Jerry Nadler setting a vote for Wednesday to hold the attorney general in contempt after the Justice Department did not comply with the demands laid out from a congressional subpoena saying that the full Mueller report and the underlying evidence should be turned over to Capitol Hill.

Now, in a 27-page report, they lay out their findings and the Democrats say this is what they want to move forward with. And they say, "The Attorney General -- William B. Barr, attorney general of the United States, shall be found to be in contempt of Congress for failure to comply with a congressional subpoena."

And they argue exactly why they need this information. They say that it's part of their efforts to oversee, to investigate, and potentially legislate, which is why they need to see what is behind the black lines and underlying information, including the grand jury information that the Justice Department has said is off limits. They say, "It's imperative that the committee have access to all of the facts contained in the full Mueller report, to the evidentiary and investigatory material cited in the Mueller report and other materials produced and collected by the special counsel's office. Access to these materials is essential to the committee's ability to effectively investigate possible misconduct and consider appropriate legislative oversight or other constitutionally warranted responses."

That last part, "constitutionally warranted responses," is code for impeachment. This committee would oversee any impeachment proceedings. Jerry Nadler, Nancy Pelosi, have tamped down talk of impeachment, but they say they need to look at all the evidence, including possible obstruction of justice to determine their own recourse on Capitol Hill.

Now, Kate, no response yet from the Justice Department. They have pushed back at that subpoena request, calling it overly broad, not a legitimate oversight request. The top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee has responded, calling it disingenuous and illogical, this effort to hold the attorney general in contempt. Nevertheless, Democrats moving forward, setting the stakes for what could be a long court fight over the full Mueller report and this effort to hold him in criminal contempt -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: In the world of uncertainty, that seems to be maybe the only certainty, it would be a prolonged court fight.

Great to see you, Manu.

So many moving parts on this. We'll get back to Manu with more reporting coming up.

[11:05:09] Joining me now, Rachael Bade, a congressional reporter for the "Washington Post" and a CNN political analyst, and Elie Honig, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.

Elie, prolonged legal battle, that seems to be the only assurance when we're talking about this move by Jerry Nadler and holding the attorney general in contempt. What does this actually look like? What are you looking at here?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: We have a battle of the branches here. The Congress is being challenged in its most fundamental oversight authority. And eventually, they're going to have to go to court. There's a lot of different issues that could bring it to court.


HONIG: Could be the taxes, could be the unredacted report, could be Mueller's testimony in front of Congress. But ultimately, you go to the court and the issue will be can Congress enforce its subpoena. Whoever is opposing it will argue it's too broad, it goes beyond Congress' authority to exercise oversight, it's biased, overbroad, harassing, something like that. But Congress has very broad authority to decide what it wants to look into and how it wants to do it. I think the courts -- unless the request is really out of line, I think the courts ultimately will back Congress here.

BOLDUAN: How long it will take? That's --


HONIG: It won't be quick. Our courts are slow. And there's really not much way around that.


HONIG: That may be part of the strategy.

BOLDUAN: Good, bad, or indifferent, that may be the way it is.

Rachael, do Democrats expect, do you think -- I want to get your kind of reporting on this. Do they expect this is going to get them what they want, which is, in the end, the unredacted report?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, there's an expectation that the courts are going to uphold their right to ask for a lot of this information when it goes to the courts. The problem they're seeing is that it literally could take months if not years. And there's some concern that this drags into 2020.

But when it comes to the Mueller report specifically, they would hold Barr in contempt of Congress and, from there, it goes to the civil court, and a judge will ultimately decide whether or not they have the right to the full report. We have a deadline for Trump's tax returns. Democrats have asked for that. They also expect that is going to end up in the courts and are hoping that the judge sides with them. So you know, it's really possible we're going to see multiple legal battles between the House Democrats and the White House. The question really is time.


BADE: Because, you know, the Republican House did this with Obama. They held Eric Holder in contempt, who was the attorney general at the time, because they wanted documents from him. It ended up taking several years for them to get those documents. And so that's the question that Democrats face right now.

BOLDUAN: Look, and if the idea is expediency in getting the unredacted report, I look to what Doug Collins put out in response to Nadler this morning. He said they -- the Democrats, "They know the Justice Department is working to negotiate even as they pursue contempt charges."

How real was that -- what are you hearing in how real that negotiation was in terms of trying to find some accommodation?

BADE: You just have to look back to last week. The Justice Department sent the committee a letter saying their request for the full report was not, quote, "legitimate oversight." And they made this argument that they didn't want the committee to go through the entire Mueller investigation again because it would be bad for the country. So it doesn't look like there's any negotiating that would be able to bring the two parties to some sort of agreement here. But Democrats argue that Mueller, he didn't answer the question of obstruction, whether the president obstructed justice, because he felt he didn't have the authority. So they feel it is their job and that he was kicking to them specifically to pick up this and relitigate these questions. And part of that is the Mueller report. Part of that is getting Don McGahn, former White House counsel, to come in and testify and get his documents. He has a deadline tomorrow. And we could see the White House assert executive privilege on that, too.

Again, it's all going to wind up in the courts. Trump just keeps saying no, no, no, so Democrats can either impeach or they can go the court route, which is going to take a while.

BOLDUAN: Pretty remarkable how many deadlines. It's hard to keep track of how many deadlines are coming to a head.

On the other side, you have Bob Mueller, Elie, and is he or is he not going to testify, when would he do that and what restrictions would be put on him.

The president's view on this did basically a 180 over the weekend. What would -- what is your guess, if you could, what would change the president's mind about Mueller testifying? At one point, he was whatever Bill Barr said, and Bill Barr said he had no objection to him testifying. Now he's in the camp of do not testify. Do you think this is Trump wanting to stonewall and take it to court if you want because it could work for him?

HONIG: I think that's what it is, a continuation of "you'll get nothing and like it" theory that the White House has put out there with some success so far.


HONIG: They're frustrating Congress at every turn. There's zero legitimate legal basis to prevent Robert Mueller from testifying. All they can do for now, in the remaining few days while he's a DOJ employee, is say no, because he works for DOJ.


BOLDUAN: Right. Because this is not a conversation about Don McGahn, who was White House counsel --

HONIG: Right.

BOLDUAN: -- for that period -- for quite a period of time. This was the special -- this is Bob Mueller, special counsel, soon-to-be- private-citizen, Bob Mueller.

[11:10:14] HONIG: Right. With McGahn, they have a different legal hook.

BOLDUAN: That's right.

HONIG: They can argue executive privilege. That's at least a legitimate argument. I ultimately don't think it will succeed in the courts. But as we have been saying, time is of the essence here. I think Congress needs to get tough. They need to, first of all, stop getting strung along and slow played with all these protracted negotiations. There's been no sign that the White House is acting in good faith here and really intends to negotiate anything. And there is a way to go directly to the Supreme Court. It's not used often. It's reserved for high-importance situations and for where time is of the essence. If I was an attorney for the Dems in Congress, I would think about trying to use that route because, otherwise, this is going to drag out forever.

BOLDUAN: When politics are at play with every move coming from the White House and Congress, I wonder if this protracted fight works to the benefit of both sides.

One interesting wrinkle, especially on the Mueller testifying front, is you have not just Democrats in Congress, but you have Republicans in Congress who have also said that they would like to see Bob Mueller testify because he is the fact witness kind of in this thing. So at the end of the day, now Republicans exhibit what, Rachael, X, Y, and Z, of being put in a tough position of the president changing his position, so let's see what Republicans say today.

It's good to see you guys. Thank you so much.

BADE: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: I also want to get to this. This is also happening as we speak. Any moment now, Donald Trump's longtime attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, is reporting to prison. He's set to begin his three- year prison sentence today. Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion, making false statements to a bank, making false statements to Congress, and campaign finance violations, you'll remember, tied to hush money payments he orchestrated on behalf of Donald Trump.

Here is what Michael Cohen, though, had to say leaving his apartment this morning.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I hope that when I rejoin my family and friends, that the country will be in a place without xenophobia, injustice, and lies at the helm of our country. There still remains much to be told. And I look forward to the day that I can share the truth.


BOLDUAN: I'm left wondering what more is there to be told? He testified before Congress for hours. But we will see.

Cohen will be serving his time at the federal prison in Otisville, New York, which is about two hours outside of New York City.

That's where CNN's Brynn Gingras is standing by.

Brynn, this has been a long time coming, and let's be honest, these are Michael Cohen's final moments of freedom for a long time.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a lot of drama building up to this point and even drama this morning when he gave that statement, sort of teasing his truth tour, which he's been on for the last few months, ever since he gave that guilty plea last year to all the crimes you outlined. But, yes, he made the statements and immediately from his Park Avenue home. He got into a black Cadillac Escalade and headed up this way. It's about 70 miles northwest of New York City, Otisville Prison. We expect him here within the next half hour or so, unless he makes stops along the way.

Once he does get here, Kate, I'll can tell, he's going to make his way up the driveway behind me. There's a makeshift checkpoint that was put in place this morning, presumably to keep the press away from the area, but he'll have to check in there before he heads up to the actual prison.

There's a reason Michael Cohen picked this prison. It's known for being sort of lax in its policies -- not necessarily policies, but sort of its atmosphere, I should say. It's been dubbed Club Fed. "Forbes" magazine named it one of the cushiest prisons in America back in 2009. And there's two separate campuses. One is a medium-security campus. One is a minimum-security campus. The Bureau of Prisons won't be able to tell us which one Michael Cohen will be housed at until he actually becomes an inmate. All that will happen soon once we see him -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Brynn, we'll check back in with you. Michael Cohen on his way to prison as we speak.

Coming up for us, the Trump administration sends carriers and bombers to the Persian Gulf while hot spots around the globe are flaring up today. What's behind this latest move against Iran?

Plus, worldwide markets are falling after President Trump threatens to increase tariffs on China, the week when everyone thought the China trade deal was going to be done. What does this mean for that deal? Is it off? Is it on?

[11:14:26] We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: Flash points are flaring up in multiple hot spots around the world today. A tenuous cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians overnight. A new missile test coming from North Korea. A potential trade war with China. And now a showdown with Iran.

President Trump now sending an aircraft carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to Iran's front door in the Persian Gulf. The dramatic move announced not by the president but by his national security adviser, John Bolton, citing, quote, in Bolton's words, "a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo then had this to say about it.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's something we have been working on for a little while. It's the absolute case that we have seen escalatory action from the Iranians. And it's equally the case that we will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests.


[11:20:09] BOLDUAN: CNN's Ryan Browne is tracking this for us from the Pentagon.

Ryan, what are you hearing about the show of force in the Persian Gulf?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Kate, we're being told the show of force, the deployment of this carrier strike group, its escort vessels and this bomber task force are in direct response to new intelligence that Iranian forces and their local allies could pose a significant increased risk to U.S. troops in the region. Now, we're not hearing much details about the nature of that intelligence, but we're being told that that intel was what drove this latest deployment, which is in reality a redirection of this carrier group, which was in the Mediterranean and will now sail through the Suez Canal. It will take some days before it arrives in the region.

But asked specifically about what the nature of the threat that intelligence was, Secretary Pompeo declined to go into any further specifics.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you give just a little bit, anything explicit about what escalatory actions you're talking about? I mean --

POMPEO: No, I can't.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it something that we would have seen but might not have interpreted as an escalatory action?

POMPEO: I don't want to I don't want to talk about it, what underlays it. But make no mistake, we have good reason to want to communicate clearly about how the Iranians should understand how we will respond to actions they may take.


BROWNE: Now, the U.S. military has assets already there in the region, including F-35 stealth jets and other military forces. But this increased presence that the U.S. is going to undertake is a significant message to Iran that it sees what it's doing and it doesn't want to avoid any additional confrontation -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: No kidding.

Ryan, thanks. Really appreciate it.

Joining me now is CNN military and diplomatic analyst and former spokesman for the State and Defense Departments under President Obama, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.

John, first off, you have new reporting on your own on why John Bolton made the announcement, not the Pentagon. Tell me.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: What I understand is that the threat that Ryan was talking about was so urgent and so tangible that it was important for the Central Command commander as well as the Pentagon to get these forces moving quickly, and that they wanted to increase the messaging to Tehran by having it come out of the White House rather than DOD or CENTCOM. So they specifically asked, DOD asked that the White House be the ones to release the statement.

Now, it's unusual coming from the national security adviser.


KIRBY: But also, Kate, you wouldn't necessarily want, I don't think, the president himself to announce a statement like this, the movement of an aircraft carrier. It makes sense it would be somebody lower than him. If you're in the White House, the only one who makes sense after that would be the national security adviser.

BOLDUAN: While unusual, you do think this makes sense

KIRBY: I, frankly -- if it had been me, I think it would have been just fine having the statement come out of the Pentagon. I'm not sure that I agree with the logic that it had to come from the White House, but that decision having been made, I do understand why it would come from Bolton rather than President Trump specifically.

BOLDUAN: So and then this additional fact of like the fact that Bolton didn't offer details about what the intel was and Pompeo then with reporters refusing to offer any detail on what actions on the part of Iran are kind of leading to this move. What do you make of that? Should they be laying out the case if they're making such a statement as they are?

KIRBY: I think -- and this is going to sound counterintuitive, but I think the fact they aren't talking tee much about the details tells you how serious this intel really is.

BOLDUAN: Really?

KIRBY: I have no reason to doubt that they believe there's a real tangible threat. And from -- again, military officials that I have talked to tell me that it was so urgent and so tangible that they wanted the statement out soon and they wanted the decision made soon, tells me about how significant this intelligence is. I don't fault them for not wanting to get into the details.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, and I know the universe of possibilities is enormous, but so urgent that CENTCOM wanted to go the route of getting the White House to kind of front this, what could that mean? Like, what level of urgency are we talking here?

KIRBY: I'm guessing here, because I haven't seen the intelligence, obviously, but I suspect they had very credible intelligence, probably from multiple sources, about likely attacks or planned attacks or even maybe just scouting of U.S. facilities on U.S. facilities or with U.S. facilities and U.S. assets in the region to include our personnel. As Ryan rightly said, we have already thousands of men and women in the Persian Gulf that are at risk.


Great to see you, John. Thank you.

KIRBY: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, worldwide markets fall after President Trump levels a new threat at China. What does that mean now for all of the high hopes that a new trade deal was going to be struck and the deal might be done by the end of this week?

[11:25:08] Be right back.


BOLDUAN: World markets are in turmoil once again this morning. And once again, it started with a tweet from President Trump over trade talks with China. Right now, the Dow is down more than 170 points. And fear is that it could keep going, of course. This started over the weekend when President Trump tweeted out.