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More Than 500 Prosecutors Believed President Trump Obstructed Justice; House Democrats To Vote On Holding A.G. Barr In Contempt; Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) Is Interviewed About Un-Redacted Mueller Report And Its Status; Trump Administration Stonewalling The Democrats; Presidential Medal of Freedom Awarded To Tiger Woods. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired May 6, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: This attorney general is telling you not to believe those 500 people. And the man who did the investigating, Mueller, clearly didn't want that to be that simple.
So, you have to take a look at the need for oversight. You have to let the process play out. I know I've been tough on Democrats about what the plan is. That's because I see too much posturing, not because they don't have a job to do. If they're kept from doing their job by this president, and any on all who helped them in the cause of evasion, what else might they choose to ignore? That's the argument.
Thanks for watching. D. Lemon, "CNN TONIGHT" right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: You just answered my question, I was telling the producers as you said that I'm like, 500, wait, is Chris, does he have that number right? And just as they were about to answer me you answered it.
Because I thought it was just like 400.
CUOMO: That's why I'm here, Don. That's why I'm here.
LEMON: No, but the numbers keep going up.
CUOMO: Keep going up.
LEMON: All day I've been watching and watching and watching as these numbers go up. Those go up -- are grow. These numbers and if you actually -- what we've been saying over and over. If you actually read the Mueller report, or you just read it, just read it as non-partisan, that's tough for people it does not say what the A.G. the -- it does not come to the conclusion that the A.G. came to.
It does not come to the conclusion that conservative media has come to. It especially does not come to the conclusion that the president and the people who speak for him come to complete and total exoneration. That's not what it is.
That's why he's afraid for all these people to testify. Because as I said to you, as we were having lunch the other afternoon, if you see those people on the stand testifying, Don McGahn, saying what he has to say, rather than -- and sound bites rather than being in a 448 page report, then that will be -- that will cement it in people's minds more so than reading the report.
CUOMO: Yes, I think you're a 100 percent right on that. And look, I think you need this for the closure.
CUOMO: You know, the president wants closure and you'll get that through clarity. Let Mueller explain why he left it the way he did. Is this something that he thought Congress -- not that it's his power to tell Congress what to do. But was that his expectation.
And then I think he's going to say yes. And then Congress should do that, not overreach but oversight, go through the steps, see if you can find something that's worthy of action and they will be measured on the basis of how they do that job and what their outcome is. Vote them out if you don't like the way they did it. But they have to do their job otherwise the institutions get flaccid and that's a mistake
LEMON: Listen, people are living high on the hogs now, those who are in power and in control and who are trying to block the rule of law. One day you won't be in power and you won't have control of the Senate, you won't have control of the Congress, you won't have control of the White House and then what?
Are you going to say well, all right, fine, go ahead and do whatever you want to do, ignore the subpoenas, ignore Congress's oversight, ignore that? You should always imagine what would happen if the tables were turned and I don't think that folks are doing that right now. It's going to be a rude awakening when it does --
CUOMO: Especially in politics.
CUOMO: I remember when Senator McConnell said to the Democrats when they blew up the filibuster rule, you know, made it a --
LEMON: Careful what you ask for.
CUOMO: Careful. Careful. Now look, with the emergency declaration, this president will be gone but you don't think some Democrat at some point is going to declare an emergency on something that all of us think is absurd.
CUOMO: Because they can't get through its Congress. Now you have precedent.
CUOMO: And these questions they're formative to the democracy. I know why Nancy Pelosi is saying what she says. I don't see any need from that kind of speculation about would the president do about an election. I mean, that would be such a horrible thing to do to the process. I don't think you should be prognostic about it.
CUOMO: But if you keep letting him say no to whatever the system demands, what do you think you're encouraging?
LEMON: Yes. Well, that is the issue that Democrats face. Do you do impeachment? What do you do? Are you -- are people going to think you're ignoring the rule of law?
CUOMO: Well, he's forcing them, Don.
LEMON: Or the Constitution if he doesn't do it.
CUOMO: I got to tell you something.
CUOMO: You push them back on these laws, you push them back on the subpoenas, you know what gives them more power than anything? Impeachment proceedings.
CUOMO: You're almost forcing them by playing with the process now and fighting everything to go down that road, the Democrats who want it are getting bolder by the minute. They're saying, listen to this guy, he's not going to do anything that we ask him to do.
CUOMO: We have to go down this road, he's asking for it.
LEMON: Rock -- they're between a rock and a hard place. Let's see what they do. It will all play out and you I will cover it.
Thank you, sir. See you later.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you so much for joining us.
So, the battle is raging tonight as this administration tramples all over the norms that make our government and democracy work. That's the truth and we're going to tell you why.
The latest, refusing to budge on the president's taxes. The Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin denying a lawful request by the House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal for the president's returns after missing two deadlines, two, which is no surprise.
[22:04:55] The president throughout the campaign first two years of his term has refused to release his taxes, even though that has been the norm going all the way back to President Nixon.
But this is just another page, right out of the Trump playbook and there's more, another deadline defied by this administration, the attorney general ignoring the deadline this morning to turn over an unredacted version of the Mueller report to Congress.
Now the House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler has set a Wednesday vote to hold the A.G., the Attorney General of the United States, in contempt. Committee staff and DOJ officials meeting tomorrow in a last-ditch attempt to avoid the contempt vote.
Where are we heading? Where are we going? When is all of this going to end?
All this is happening as a battle rages over Robert Mueller and whether he'll ever get the chance to publicly testify about his investigation. Well tonight, the Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham tells CNN that he's open to testimony any way Mueller wants to provide it but only, only about Mueller's phone call with Barr, not about anything else.
So that's actually not any way he wants to provide it, that's the way Lindsey Graham wants to provide it. Right? That as the House wants Mueller to testify there May 15th. So, we'll see.
Remember, it was only last week that the Attorney General William Barr said this about the question of Mueller testifying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I've already said publicly I have no objection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The president seemed to be fine with that telling reporters just a few days ago that he'd leave the whole thing up to Barr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's up to our attorney general who I think has done a fantastic job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, the president is doing a 180, which is getting to be his default position. Tweeting "Bob Mueller should not testify, no redoes for the Dems."
An administration official claiming that was just the president expressing his opinion, not saying he would block Mueller. In any case, Mueller's testimony about his own report is not a redo. It's answering questions about his work.
And as we have pointed out many, many times Robert Mueller is a registered Republican, not a Democrat. And anyway, what is the president afraid of? That's the question. What is he afraid of?
Remember the day after Barr's summary of the Mueller report was released, the president said Mueller acted honorably.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you think that Robert Mueller acted honorably?
TRUMP: Yes, he did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So why wouldn't you want Mueller to testify? To tell the world his conclusions? For weeks he's been cheering the report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There was no obstruction, and none whatsoever. It was a complete and total exoneration.
The Mueller report was great. It could not have been better. It said no obstruction, no collusion, it could not have been better.
The finding was very, very strong, no collusion, no obstruction.
The special counsel completed its report and found no collusion and no obstruction. I could have told you that two and a half years ago, total exoneration.
Beautiful conclusion. I haven't seen the report. But there was no collusion at all, there never was.
They said no obstruction. And so, there's no collusion, there's no obstruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So why wouldn't you want him to say that out loud? What are you afraid of? Maybe the fact that what you've been saying for weeks is not actually the truth. I know, shocker.
In a statement today, more than 500 former federal prosecutors said Trump's conduct, 500 of them, look at the names rolling on your screen. They said that Trump's conduct as Mueller described it in his report would have resulted in multiple felony obstruction charges, except for the fact that DOJ regulations say you cannot charge a sitting president. You cannot indict a sitting president.
I'm going to talk to some of those former federal prosecutors in just a few minutes here. But let's face it, it's no surprise that this president is trying to mislead you.
After all, this is the president who according to the latest count from the Washington Post fact checkers has made over 10,000 false or misleading claims since he took the oath of office. The president who today tweeted that he thinks they, whoever he means
by that, have stolen two years of his presidency, which is just ridiculous, victim in chief all over again.
Nobody has stolen anything from this president despite his false claims aimed at stirring up his base ahead of 2020.
[22:09:55] And this, it could be downright scary, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi telling "The New York Times" that she doesn't automatically trust President Trump to respect the results of a 2020 election.
She fears he challenge the legitimacy of a Democratic win. It sounds like he's already laying the ground work for that. Tweeting today about what he calls the Democrats state by state power grab and accusing them of playing dirty.
And the speaker is not the only one who thinks the president might not respect the results of the next election.
Michael Cohen, the president's former fixer who reported to prison today after pleading guilty to charges including campaign finance violations said this to Congress in his testimony earlier this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, is Nancy Pelosi right? Michael Cohen, is he right? Is there really a chance this president, President Trump could question the legitimacy of the 2020 election?
We're going to dig into that with Frank Bruni, Ayesha Rascoe, and Ryan Lizza, next.
[22:14:55] LEMON: So here we go, setting up a showdown with House Democrats. The Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is refusing to turn over six years of President Trump's tax returns.
Also, tonight, the White House trying to backtrack from President Trump's weekend tweet that Special Counsel Bob Mueller shouldn't testify before Congress.
A lot to discuss. Frank Bruni is here, Ayesha Rascoe, and Ryan Lizza. So good to have all of you on.
Let's start right here, you're on the studio with me, Frank. We all saw that tweet from President Trump, right? And we can put that up that "Mueller shouldn't testify." Well, now an administration official telling our Jim Acosta that Trump
is expressing an opinion, he's not issuing a directive to block Mueller. Do you buy that?
FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't know. We're going to find out in the coming days. But I mean, he clearly is rattled by the idea of Mueller testifying and he should be. Because when you put a face, a voice a bearing to the words in those reports I think it becomes very hard from that point onward for Donald Trump to say that this is witch hunt, to say it's deep state.
Because we all know that Robert Mueller as you mentioned earlier, is a registered Republican, I think he's going to radiate a kind of earnestness and sincerity that makes it very difficult to caricature him as somebody who is just kind of out in a vendetta.
And Robert Mueller can also be asked a question that isn't in the report. And I suspect he would be. Which is, if Donald Trump were not a sitting president should he be indicted? If the answer to that is yes, and I think the answer might very well be yes, buy, does that have a profound impact.
LEMON: If the person that was mentioned in that report and that you listed all those things in the report were not president of the United States, what would happen, would they be indicted?
BRUNI: Right. What do you think the chances are that someone won't ask that?
LEMON: Of course.
BRUNI: If the question will be asked and the answer of that I think will have great resonance.
LEMON: So, Ryan, I want to know what you say. Because we've talked about this, you know, during Cohen's testimony and other's testimony, he said the president or Trump doesn't necessarily ask for things directly, despite, you know, what the official is saying, Trump likes to send signals. Was this -- was this a signal, you think, this tweet, a signal to Barr or someone else?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, maybe. He obviously doesn't want Mueller to testify, which is somewhat ironic because he has claimed that the Mueller report itself completely exonerates him and is this great document that makes him look so wonderful and you would expect if he thinks that why not have -- why wouldn't he be enthusiastically endorsing the idea that the author of this allegedly exonerating report go up on the Hill and tell everyone about how he didn't do anything wrong.
I don't -- look, Trump's tweets do not -- they often don't have any relationship to his commands as president. That sounds odd to say that when the president says something it's sort of often meaningless.
So, I don't think it was necessarily -- I don't think it was a command. I think it's just Trump spouting off on Twitter which is what -- you know, what he does.
LEMON: So, Ayesha, can you take us inside the inner sanctum, as far as you can you because you're at the White House every single day. So, you cover this. You see it. Do you think this is some sort of damage control?
AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: I think there's definitely concern from President Trump about what Mueller might say, especially now that we know that there were these letters that Mueller wrote to Barr raising concerns about that summary and that -- basically saying that the public was getting the wrong perception of what the report said.
So, I think that President Trump is concerned about that. And I think when you look at Mueller and the fact that he hasn't chased attention, he's not out, you know, trying to do interviews, trying to, you know and during the whole time wasn't leaking, wasn't doing any of those things I think that it's harder to say, even though President Trump has said it, that Mueller is someone who's just kind of out to get him.
He has a very long reputation. And so, when you put -- if you put him on the stand to testify what he says could have some merit with voters.
LEMON: Well, as you mentioned, you said what Barr put out there, but there were, Ayesha, there were two letters and a phone call.
RASCOE: Exactly. And so, you have Mueller clearly very concerned about what was being said. And you have a president who was at that time and others saying that he was completely exonerated and that there was no obstruction when that was not what the report actually laid out.
And so when you get into the details of that and when you have all of these kind of former prosecutors writing in and saying that this wasn't a -- wouldn't have been a close call for someone else if this were -- to decide charges of obstruction, I think those are the sort of things that President Trump doesn't want to be brought up.
LEMON: Yes, interest -- 500, more than 500 prosecutors, former prosecutors now federal prosecutors and we're going to talk about that a little bit later on.
Frank, I've got to ask you, you know, there's -- the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is refusing to turn over the president's tax returns to the House Democrats, and they've requested that. Delaying, blowing through a few deadlines, tactical?
BRUNI: Well, yes. I mean, I think they're going to be able to hold this up until past November 2020. And I think that's the whole goal. They don't want these documents to be seen by the public until after that point.
[22:20:03] I'm not sure this is the best kind of battle for Democrats to wage. I think most Americans at this point in time have made or not made peace with what an unethical president we have. I don't think most Americans would be surprised by what's probably in those tax returns.
I would rather see the focus be on making sure Mueller testifies. I think that would have great resonance.
And to go to Nancy Pelosi's interview over the weekend I think Democrats need to really focus on not letting Donald Trump paint them into some false lefty corner as baby killers and Jew haters and socialists. Because avoiding that trap which Trump is trying to set for them is what's going to be key to what happened on November -- in November 2020.
LEMON: So how do you have control of the House, you have control over oversight, you have subpoena power, and then you don't let him, you don't make him or his folks do what your powers tell you --
BRUNI: Well, I think they're on the side, morally they're on the side of the angels and I think in terms of procedure and precedent they are doing the right things.
BRUNI: I just don't want to see all the energy go there. And if they think that's the way they're going to keep him from a second term, I think they're wrong. I think to keep him from the second term they have to do a whole lot else.
LEMON: Strategically, to keep him from a second term rather than prove a point about their power as oversight and the rule of law in the --
BRUNI: Right. And he's great at playing the victim and there are some Americans who after a certain point in time think like, why is this still going on?
LEMON: Hey, Ryan, I want to put up this because this is a recent poll from Gallup. Despite all this chaos check this out. President Trump he hit a new high, 46 percent.
I'm going to point out that the poll ended on April 30th, this was before Barr testified and before we saw the full Mueller -- Mueller letter, I should say, raising questions about Barr's handling of the report. How do you read this?
LIZZA: You know, the -- look, the positive way to read it is if you look at the -- inside the poll Republicans have been with Trump, you know, 90 percent for a long time. That hasn't changed in this poll. But there's some modest improvement among Democrats and independents. I mean, you know, modest, single digits.
So, what's explaining that, perhaps it's the Mueller report. You know, that first wave of news being about that this wasn't a terrible report for Trump, you know partly because of the way that Barr spun it.
But the overwhelming thing that drives presidential approval is the economy and we -- Trump is overseeing a very strong economy, very low unemployment, 3.2 percent growth. And presidents who oversee good economies and don't get us into, you know, wars where people are coming home in body bags, they generally have high approval ratings and get reelected.
So, you might ask why is his approval rating only in the 40s given the state of the economy? So, there's something about Trump that does not allow him to get over 50 percent. I think he's the only president that's never been over 50 percent in the Gallup poll. So, you know, he's an unusual case, strong economy, but can't quite get up where other presidents have been.
LEMON: Well, I've got to say and the answer, Ayesha, is partly in Frank's answer considering the economy that President Obama had. But I do have to say that President Obama was polling at 43 percent, 44 percent at this time in his presidency. So, Trump doesn't, you know, like his predecessor, but this is good news for him, no?
RASCOE: It is good news for him, and to be at 46 percent, to be at that level, that's great news for him because often he's kind of stuck in this very narrow range. And so, to get kind of to the high 40s for him, when you look at his record, that's good.
And he's banking on having a strong economy. When you talk to people who are working to get President Trump reelected that's what they're most concerned about, even more than whoever the Democratic nominee is, they're worried about something going wrong in the economy because they know that's what Trump has in his back pocket right now.
LEMON: That's why Frank's has --
BRUNI: Yes. And that's why Trump is so obsessed with the Federal Reserve.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, all. I appreciate your time.
LIZZA: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Over 500 bipartisan former federal prosecutors, I just talked about, they say President Trump obstructed justice and there's one thing keeping them or keeping him from being indicted. Two of those over 500 prosecutors will explain next.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: In a stunning rebuke over 500 former federal prosecutors from previous Republican and Democratic administrations say that President Trump obstructed justice and that he would have been indicted if he was not the president of the United States.
Some of those former prosecutors have upwards of 40 years of DOJ service, some work for the Eisenhower and the Kennedy administrations. The letter says, quote, "Each of us believes that the conduct of
President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting president, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice."
Joining me now, two former prosecutors who signed that letter, Paul Rosenzweig and Noah Bookbinder. Thank you both for coming on and I appreciate it. Good evening to you.
NOAH BOOKBINDER, FORMER FEDERAL CORRUPTION PROSECUTOR: Good evening.
PAUL ROSENZWEIG, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR POLICY, DHS: Good evening to you.
LEMON: Paul, you worked for Ken Starr, do you know the law and the politics of all of this? Why did you choose to sign onto this letter?
ROSENZWEIG: Well, for me there were two reasons, the first, as a matter of public policy is that much of the report has been obscured by commentary and summaries and summaries of summaries. I thought it was important to say what I thought the report itself actually contained.
On a personal level the virtue of intellectual consistency. It is consistent with the view that I took 20 years ago when I worked for Judge Starr in the investigation of Bill Clinton, and it seems to me important at this time for people who believe in the rule of law to maintain a consistent view of it.
LEMON: Intellectual consistency is something that is lacking. And I'm glad you said that term. Interesting. Noah, I want to talk to you right now. What about you? Why is it important for you to join hundreds of your former colleagues in this statement?
[22:30:00] BOOKBINDER: I think that there's been tremendous misperception, misinformation about what the Mueller report actually says. That Attorney General Barr got up there before the report came out with a version of what it said, which it turned out had very little resemblance to what the report actually says. And so then when the report came out, I think there was a lot of confusion.
And it's really important for people who can bring some authority and say we are prosecutors -- we are former prosecutors who brought these kinds of cases, worked in all kinds of different time periods and administrations. And as we look at this evidence that Robert Mueller laid out in hundreds of pages, it is extremely clear that there were serious misconduct.
And not just serious misconduct, but criminal misconduct that could be charged and would have been charged, but for the specific policy saying that a sitting president cannot be charged with criminal activity.
LEMON: Paul, after reading the report, do you think the Special Counsel believes the president committed a crime? And if so, why didn't he just say so in his report?
ROSENZWEIG: Well, I will have to be honest with you. I am a little critical of the Special Counsel for not taking that last step and saving us all the trouble of having to kind of guess at his motivation. I understand why he was hesitant. But it turns out in the end that perhaps he reposed too much confidence in the attorney general to be fair with his report.
I think it is abundantly clear if you read the report that he made out the elements of an obstruction offense on at least four. And in my reading, eight instances of conduct by the president. And that -- but for the policy against indictment of a sitting president, it is the type of conduct that would have resulted in the presentation of charges to a grand jury.
LEMON: So you thought that he should come to a conclusion. Is that what you're saying?
ROSENZWEIG: I think he should have and he would have done the American public a better service. I don't want to be too critical of him because he's in a very difficult position, obviously in a case where he can't actually bring the indictment he's offering what would turn out to be an advisory opinion.
LEMON: So should he have been clearer in that -- saying, listen I cannot bring an indictment, although I do think the president obstructed justice. You think he should have been clearer in that?
ROSENZWEIG: I think that that would have been much better for the American people and I wish he had done that. I think that in effect he tried to say that without saying explicitly, and it left room for the misinterpretation of what he was saying.
LEMON: What do you think, Noah?
BOOKBINDER: I agree with that. I respect the restraint that Special Counsel Mueller showed. That he felt like he didn't want to go beyond what he was allowed to do under department policy, and he felt like if he couldn't bring an indictment, that it wouldn't be fair to say that he would have brought an indictment, but then to be in a position where the president couldn't defend himself.
LEMON: So it's almost like Comey. It's like saying we're not going to prosecute Hillary Clinton, but she did act recklessly, or what have you. They're trying to avoid that?
BOOKBINDER: I think that's right. I think the problem is that the president and his attorney general have gotten out there with their view of it before people could evaluate the facts that Mueller put out there. And Special Counsel Mueller was very clear that if he felt like the facts and the law exonerated the president, he would have said so. He didn't say it. He laid out the elements of the crime and how those were met on multiple occasions, so all the pieces are there to draw a firm conclusion.
I do think it would have been easier for people if he had connected those dots. But it's all there. I think he had very good reasons for not doing so, and if we were in kind of a playing field where people were playing fair, people could have drawn those conclusions. But the problem is that kind of the well was poisoned before most people even looked at the report.
That's what this letter tried to do is to kind of come back and say no, no. If people who understand what these cases look like are drawing these firm conclusions that there was obstruction of justice, and that's due some deference in spite of the misinformation that has been put out there.
LEMON: Thank you. Listen. Maybe he should have read the political tea leaves. Maybe that's not his job because the country is so divided that as many have said all along this is going to be a political rorschach test, right, what was to come out of the Mueller report, unless it was very, very explicit. But still people think what they want anyways. Thank you both. I really appreciate your time.
BOOKBINDER: Thank you so much.
ROSENZWEIG: Thanks a lot.
[22:34:56] LEMON: Democrats are trying to get the un-redacted version of the Mueller report, but the Trump administration is stonewalling them at every turn. Well, how can they fight back? I am going to ask Congressman Ted Lieu. He's next.
LEMON: The House Judiciary Committee and the DOJ, DOJ officials will meet tomorrow to try to reach a deal on the un-redacted Mueller report. Barr missed the Monday deadline to hand over the report. Democrats are set to vote on holding Barr in contempt of Congress. Democrat Congressman Ted Lieu is here. He sits on the House Judiciary Committee. So let's get some answers from him, see what their next moves are, Congressman, good evening.
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening, Don.
LEMON: Is there any hope that your committee and DOJ officials can reach a deal on getting the full un-redacted Mueller report tomorrow?
LIEU: Thanks for your question. Let me first say the Trump administration is hiding information from American people and stonewalling Congress at every turn. And if they're going to bring a flame thrower to this knife fight, then my view is we have to do the same. We have to fight fire with fire, and have all our options on the table.
[22:40:06] One of them is contempt. I hope we don't have to use it this Wednesday, but we will if we must. And if Attorney General Bill Barr doesn't provide the un-redacted Mueller report, we're going to hold him in contempt this Wednesday.
LEMON: OK. So let's talk about that, because you said on Wednesday you're going to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress.
LIEU: That's absolutely correct.
LEMON: What do you do? Is that just symbolic, will it make a difference to an administration that is stonewalling you at every turn? I mean they're just going to say OK, fine, in contempt. What does that going to do? Now what?
LIEU: So it's not just symbolic, which is why you see the Department of Justice now trying to negotiate a way out of this. Once the Judiciary Committee holds Bill Barr in contempt, we send it to the House floor. If the House votes to hold Barr in contempt, it triggers two things. We can go to court and litigate the issue. And second, it also triggers inherent contempt powers Congress has where we can take actions against individuals without having to go to court.
LEMON: OK, so inherent contempt, which could mean a fine or even jail time for the attorney general. Do you think it will go that far?
LIEU: So you're absolutely right. In the past, Congress has imprisoned people for violating congressional subpoenas. I don't think we're going to go that far. But certainly, the matter of leveraging fines on people who disobey and disregard lawful subpoenas that would be a possibility. It should not be our first option, but we need to absolutely consider doing that if the Trump administration simply keeps ignoring Congress' subpoenas at every turn.
LEMON: So he doesn't want -- the president says he doesn't want Mueller to testify, but now an official is saying it was just an opinion, telling CNN it was just an opinion. Is the committee on track to bring in the Special Counsel on May 15th?
LIEU: So we are actually negotiating with Special Counsel Mueller's folks directly. You see the Department of Justice and Trump's advisers backtracking on what Donald Trump actually said, because they know there is actually no legal reason to keep Robert Mueller from testifying before Congress. Prior special prosecutors like Leon Jaworski, during Watergate, and Ken Starr during the Clinton administration, both testified in front of Congress, so should Special Counsel Robert Mueller as well.
LEMON: So can you just clarify this for us? Mueller is still a DOJ employee, right?
LIEU: That is my understanding. I am not exactly sure why he still is.
LEMON: I was asking rhetorical, all right. So then what will your committee do if the attorney general blocks him from testifying because he's still an employee of the DOJ, which means that Barr is his boss?
LIEU: That is correct. We could still issue a subpoena for anyone that's to come before Congress and testify, whether or not they are an employee of the Department of Justice or any other federal agency. We hope we don't have to do that. We believe that not just Democrats but also Republicans want to hear Robert Mueller testify. And in addition, the American people need to hear Robert Mueller testify.
LEMON: OK. So listen, the Treasury Secretary, and you know this, Steve Mnuchin refusing to hand over the president's taxes, do you think he should be held in contempt of Congress?
LIEU: So right now, Steve Mnuchin is violating the law. There is a statute on the books that very clearly says that the tax returns of the president shall be provided to the House Ways and Means chairman if he so requests, and our chairman has made that request. So there is really no way around this. This is black letter law. It's plain as day.
And I don't see how Steve Mnuchin can come up with this decision to violate the law. So Congress is going to litigate this, and we will win that court case.
LEMON: Congressman Ted Lieu, I always appreciate your time. Thank you, sir.
LIEU: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: President Trump awarding Tiger Woods the Medal of Freedom today. He is a great golfer, one of the greatest ever. He's got an amazing comeback story. Should the president be giving a medal to someone who is also his business partner?
[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: A huge honor today for golfing great, Tiger Woods, President Trump awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. And I want to talk about this now. David Swerdlick is here, Rick Reilly as well. Rick is a sports writer, and he is the author of "Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump."
So good to have you both on, this is fascinating, Rick, I am going to start with you.
It is no doubt that Tiger Woods is a phenomenal golf player. But President Trump and Tiger Woods have a long history of business partnerships. Should the president be using his power, his office to raise the profile of a business associate of the Trump organization?
RICK REILLY, SPORTSWRITER AND AUTHOR: Yeah. I think people might be surprised to know that Tiger has designed a course in Dubai for Trump. Trump's the operator. But Trump calls the shots on everything that happens at his courses. That's surprising. The thing that shocked me, really, was that Trump cheated Tiger Woods in a match in 2017. Hit two balls in the water, Trump didn't see. Hit it on the green.
Tiger said what are you putting for, and Trump said four when he was actually putting for seven. I wonder if he whispered that in his ear as they were slipping the medal over his head. LEMON: You said that Trump -- you meant Tiger didn't see him do it,
REILLY: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Tiger didn't see him take these two drops in the water. And the other thing that's surprising that Tiger would accept this award is that Trump believes golf, and he said this three times publicly, should only be for those who can afford country club memberships. He thinks it demeans the game of golf.
Don, Tiger Woods is all about the Tiger Woods Foundation, which teaches golf to underprivileged and at-risk kids along with education. So how does he explain that? How does he reckon that with his kids that look up to him? He just took a medal from a guy who doesn't think they deserve golf?
[22:50:08] LEMON: If someone said I want to give you the Presidential Medal of Freedom, I mean it would be hard to say no, but...
REILLY: It would be. It would be.
LEMON: You know, if you want to stand on principles, and plus, Tiger is an icon anyways. But David, listen, this award is typically given to someone at the end of their career. What message is the president sending by awarding it to a 43-year-old Tiger Woods now? I mean he's not at the end of his career that I know.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. That's right, Don. I mean the Presidential Medal of Freedom often goes to people who have a body of work that we think of as having made this major contribution to American culture, American life. Not someone who sort of making a comeback actively, who also has this business relationship with the president. But that's where we are in America with President Trump's presidency, that this kind of conflict of interest.
If you (Inaudible) it's nothing compared to potentially favorable treatment that his son in law, Jared Kushner, got with respect to his security clearance. It hardly rates with respect to foreign leaders booking at the Trump Hotels, to possibly currying favor with the Trump family. And so in the scheme of things, yes, I think it is worth pointing out. But at the end of the day, Tiger Woods, on his own, as Rick said, even though he's made career -- has made that contribution by bringing golf to a wider audience.
And I would argue, although some might disagree, that by being an African-American in a mostly white milia, and being a biracial guy in a mostly white milia, he paved the way in some ways for President Obama, at least in the culture when President Obama came along. You already had this black figure who had this white crossover appeal.
LEMON: Respond to that, Rick, sorry.
REILLY: No, I think he's exactly right. I mean Joey Cora, the winning -- World Series manager, has refused to come to the White House because he's from Puerto Rico and he's standing up for what he believes. I mean Tiger Woods...
REILLY: -- a very symbol of -- what's that?
LEMON: Alex Cora, right?
REILLY: Sorry. Tiger Woods is the very symbol of bringing golf to a new generation of people, people of color, people all over the world, and he's going to take this medal now? He's only 43. Nicholas Palmer, Charlie Sifford, the other three golfers that got it were much, much later in their careers. He could get this from any president he wants it from. I understand it's very tempting.
But to me, Trump put him in a tough spot. It's -- there's Alex Cora. He put him in a tough spot. How do you turn down the president of the United States? It's sort of a star-humping maneuver by Trump, like who is the hottest athlete we can get to make me look good. And, you know, it did work today. So I can see how Tiger would have a hard time turning it down.
LEMON: So what do you think about that, David, because Alex Cora, the team manager says that he is not going to attend. He's uncomfortable celebrating while his native Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria. What do you think?
SWERDLICK: Yes. So I think what we need to is look at this and get back to the idea that this is America and this is a free country. I think you can really see why Alex Cora and some of the other players of color on the Red Sox declined to want to come to the White House when you have a president who over and over again makes statements that denigrate African-Americans, has not been forthcoming and taking his responsibility seriously with regard to Puerto Rico.
And I think people need to look at that and say hey, these guys are making a principal stand, and that's part of their freedom. And at the same time, Tiger Woods has a different personal relationship with President Trump. It's not maybe what everybody would want. It's not maybe what I would want, but Tiger Woods has that right and that freedom to go up there and accept this Medal of Honor because he believes it's an honor that he apparently believes that he deserves.
LEMON: Seven black and Hispanic Red Sox players not going. Go ahead, Rick. What did you want to say?
REILLY: Well, I mean it's just -- Tiger always tries to dodge this question when we ask him. It's always -- you know, it's not about the man in the office. It's respecting the office. And yet, he went on Stephen Colbert, and Colbert asked him to run over and tell us about all the presidents you've played with. And he listed Bush. And he listed and Obama. And he listed Clinton.
And Colbert goes well what about Trump? And Tiger got this big grin on his face and said you said president. So he really doesn't respect Trump as president. But he doesn't have a whole team hide behind like the Red Sox. It's just him, and I guess he was in a tough spot. I just think Trump was just totally jumping on an occasion to get the most popular guy in the world maybe here and give him an award.
SWERDLICK: Yeah. I don't disagree with Rick. I think this ultimately is about choices. No one is looking to Tiger Woods to be a Lebron James or a Steph Curry, let alone Colin Kaepernick. But once you've made that choice and you're free to do that as Tiger Woods and accept this honor from this president or any other president, then you've kind of gone out there and said OK.
[22:55:06] I see this as more important than some of those other things that Rick was mentioning. And that's OK as long as we understand that other folks like some of these guys on the Red Sox, Cora and others, are saying no. It's more important to me to stand on this principle than to just have...
SWERDLICK: -- even though I am sure they want to go to the White House.
LEMON: I got to go. Listen. Go ahead.
REILLY: Republicans buy shoes too. That's what this is about.
LEMON: Yeah. But when I spoke to Lebron James last year, he sort of mentioned -- he spoke in terms of what David was saying, that at some point you have to take a stand, even as an athlete. Yeah, and it was -- you know, it was a fascinating conversation. And guess what? Then he got attacked by the president on Twitter for saying that during the interview. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. See you next time.
The president now says that Robert Mueller shouldn't testify before Congress. Why is he changing his mind? We're going to ask a former Watergate prosecutor and Nixon White House counsel next.