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Michael Cohen Reports to Prison to Begin 3-Year Sentence; Hundreds of Ex-Prosecutors Say Trump Would Have Been Charged With Obstruction Were He Not President; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) Discusses Mueller Report, Former Prosecutors' Letter on Obstruction, Pelosi Saying Trump May Challenge Election Results; Barr Contempt; Trump to Award Tiger Woods with Medal of Freedom Tonight; Red Sox Manager to Snub White House Visit Citing Puerto Rico Response; Owner of Disqualified Kentucky Derby Horse Plans Appeal Amid Uproar; Acting Defense Chief: We Call on Iran to Cease All Provocations. Aired 1:30- 2p ET
Aired May 6, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So there are a lot of interesting tidbits about this prison. But possibly we could hear more from Michael Cohen while he's behind these doors. For now, though, he is officially an inmate of Otisville -- Alex?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: All Right.
MARQUARDT: Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.
Now breaking news. In an extraordinary letter, more than 300 former prosecutors are now saying that, had President Trump not been commander-in-chief, he would have been charged with obstruction. Stand by. We will be discussing all of that, next.
[13:35:01] MARQUARDT: There's breaking news in the wake of the Mueller report. Hundreds of former federal prosecutors have concluded that the evidence against President Trump would have resulted in obstruction charges if he were not president at the time. Special Counsel Robert Mueller had declined to say whether Trump should have faced charges since a sitting president cannot be indicted.
Justice correspondent, Laura Jarrett, joins us now.
Laura, what more have you learned about this extraordinary statement?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's been something of a debate going on since the report came out about whether the president would have been charged if he was any other defendant. And this bipartisan group of nearly 400 former federal prosecutors, U.S. attorneys, other DOJ officials, are saying, in our view, he would have been charged if he was anybody else. And they looked to the fact that, according to the report, he tried to curtail Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He tried to have him fired. And he also tried to influence the testimony of other witnesses.
And in their letter, posted on the medium today, here's what else they write, Alex. Quote, "We emphasize that these are not matters of closed professional judgments ." In other words, this wasn't going to be a close call. They go on to say, "In our system, every accused person is presumed innocent and it's always the government's burden to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt. But to look at these facts and say that a prosecutor could not possibly sustain a conviction for obstruction of justice, the standard set out in principles of federal prosecution, runs are counter to logic and our experience."
Obviously, this is a group of former federal prosecutors, not anyone currently still here at the Justice Department. But it's notable that it includes people from the Reagan administration and also from former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's team -- Alex?
MARQUARDT: Laura, when you list everything that you just did about what was found in the Mueller report, how does that compare -- and, frankly, what the prosecutors are highlighting there, how does that compare with what we've heard from the Attorney General Bill Barr?
JARRETT: It's like night and day basically. Under Barr's understanding of this, because there was no underlying crime of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, plus the fact there was no other underlying crime, for instance, damaging witness testimony or destruction of evidence, because there wasn't that fact, for him the obstruction alone is actually not a crime and he couldn't deduce that the president had any corrupt intent so, therefore, no crime.
MARQUARDT: Right. Laura Jarrett, at the Department of Justice, thanks very much.
MARQUARDT: Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi is a member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee as well as the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us this afternoon.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Thank you.
MARQUARDT: Now when we look at this extraordinary letter of 370 former federal prosecutors saying that the president would be charged with obstruction were he not the president, isn't that, in essence, saying that the president is indeed above the law?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think that it's extraordinary that so many people from both sides, both Republicans and Democrats, would come out with this letter. But we have to uphold the principle that nobody is above the law, not even the president of the United States. That's why, right now, we are faced with obstruction of various subpoenas issued by the Judiciary Committee but also the Oversight and the intelligence and the Ways and Means Committee among others. And we have to enforce them, even if that means holding individuals and personal contempt at this time.
MARQUARDT: In this statement, the prosecutors did not say what should happen next. That's on you, on Congress. So what are you expecting to happen?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, certainly, the next step is we need to have Bob Mueller come to Capitol Hill and testify. I expect that's going happen this month, probably before the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee with regard to Volumes One and Two of his report. And, of course, we need to see all of the report, as well as the underlying documents. And I know that's going to be the subject of potential contempt proceedings this week in the House Judiciary Committee.
MARQUARDT: That's what the attorney general failed to submit this morning hand now we know the Judiciary Committee will hold a vote on contempt on Wednesday.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
MARQUARDT: Congressman, let's switch gears. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is issuing a warning to you and your fellow Democrats that if they don't win by a large enough margin in 2020 that President Trump might challenge the election results. This is what she told the "New York Times." She told the "New York Times" that it's a scenario she worried about during the 2018 midterms. She said that she remembers thinking, quote, "If we win by four seats, by 1,000 votes each, he's not going to respect the election. He would poison the public mind. He would challenge each of the races. And he would say, you can't seat these people. So as we go forward, we have to have the same approach."
Congressman, do you agree with Speaker Pelosi's warning there?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I agree that we have to win outright. There should be no question about us winning. But that requires doing two things. First, serving as a check and balance on the president, which we're trying to do right now in the various committees. And then, secondly, we do have to deliver on certain pocketbook priorities of the American people, whether it's trying to reduce prescription drug costs or putting together an infrastructure package or, you know, trying to get more access to higher education and public education for more people.
[13:40:24] MARQUARDT: Well, but back -- when you look at Speaker Pelosi's comments, they weren't said in isolation, and it wasn't just by Democrats. We have tweets and re-tweets from the president suggesting that he should have two years added to his presidential term. The president tweeted, "They have stolen two years of my -- our presidency -- collusion, delusion -- that we'll never be able to get back." And he re-tweeted this from Jerry Falwell Jr, "I now support reparations. Trump should have two years added to his first term as payback for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup."
Does that sound like bluster to you or are you actually worried? KRISHNAMOORTHI: Speaking of delusions, that sounds like the delusions
of a king or someone who thinks he's a king. You know, the president is -- Donald Trump is not a king. He's a president. He's accountable to the American people and to their representatives, namely the U.S. Congress. And right now, we're kind of in a situation where we are staring at a challenge right in our face, which is, do we do nothing and allow these subpoenas and various tools of our oversight to go un- complied with or do we try to enforce them. And I say we have to enforce them to the Hill, and we have to make sure that the American people are able to conduct oversight, not only of Donald Trump but of future presidents as well. This is not a partisan issue.
MARQUARDT: Speaking of oversight, what we were just talking about, Congressman Jerry Nadler in the House Judiciary Committee -- he's the chairman -- he scheduled that vote on Wednesday morning or on Wednesday for holding Attorney General Barr in contempt after Barr refused to turn over the unredacted Mueller report. Do you think that this is a risky move for Democrats to escalate this fight with the Trump administration or do you feel that this is really what Democrats should be doing?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: No, I think that Chairman Nadler is on absolutely solid ground. I think he'll have the support of his caucus on this issue. It just boils down to this, which is, you know, Mr. Barr came in to the Senate Judiciary Committee and -- and presented testimony which was absolutely stunning in terms of showing that he was not being candid. He was actually telling falsehoods before when he testified to Congress. Now he didn't -- he was no show before the committee, last week, the House Judiciary Committee. And today, he didn't produce the un-redacted Mueller report. So I think that the next step of contempt proceedings is entirely appropriate. And I think it's something that the American people support as well.
MARQUARDT: And another thing that many of your colleagues are calling for, President Trump is now saying that Robert Mueller should not testify before Congress, after saying just days ago that it was actually up to the attorney general, who had said that he was fine with that. What do you think is behind the president's reversal on Mueller testimony?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, he doesn't want Mueller to tell the truth. He doesn't want Mr. Mueller to come and testify as to his knowledge about the underlying document and facts supporting his report. I'll just tell but Volume One. In Volume One, in the appendixes, 11 of the 14 matters that have been transferred to other jurisdictions have been completely redacted. In other words, there are other jurisdictions investigating wrongdoing connected to Mr. Trump. We don't know the subject matter and we don't know who the targets are. We need to know the answer to these questions. Secondly, Trump administration officials or campaign officials had is 140 contacts with Russian officials. They may not have risen to the level of criminal conspiracy, but those contacts are deeply unpatriotic, in my opinion, and may have involved secret information or embarrassing situations that the Russians could use and exploit to the damage of our national security.
MARQUARDT: It's shaping up to be a dramatic week on Capitol Hill.
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, in Chicago, thanks very much.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you. Thank you very much.
[13:44:28] MARQUARDT: Now, Tiger Woods is headed to the White House tonight to receive the Medal of Freedom from President Trump. We'll take a look at their interesting relationship, next.
But, not everyone is excited to be honored at the White House. Why one member of the World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox, says he's not going.
MARQUARDT: Tonight, the president will present Tiger Woods with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. Woods' win at the Masters last month capped off a tremendous comeback story after he had problems with his personal life and battles with major injuries. In the past, he's also been one of the president's golf partners.
So with me here today is "USA Today's" sports columnist, Christine Brennan.
The president was quick to congratulate Tiger, Christine, after his win at the Masters. As did President Barack Obama. It's one thing that brought both past presidents together.
[13:50:15] CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Exactly.
MARQUARDT: But we haven't seen the same kind of love from Tiger for President Trump, have we?
BRENNAN: No, we have not. Though he's played golf with him several times. He certainly has not been critical when he's been asked by journalists, as you would expect he would be asked, why is he playing golf with President Trump. He's basically said, I've known him for a long time, he's the president, I want to play golf with him. Which, of course, it's Tiger Woods' right to do that. They do go back a long way. Obviously, Trump is so aligned with gold. I don't think, Alex, we've ever had a president who is this aligned with one sport, certainly, in memory. I mean, Gerald Ford was football, but that was a college player. He had nothing to do with the NFL, per se. Here you have a man who makes a business off of golf and here you have the most famous golfer over the last 20 years.
MARQUARDT: Three years ago, someone visiting the White House, an athlete, a victorious athlete, visiting the White House wouldn't have raised eyebrows. Now it does. Now it's always a question of will that person, will that team actually visit the White House. And now, we have the manager of the Boston Red Sox, fresh off their World Series win, refusing to. Why is that?
BRENNAN: Alex Cora, who is, of course, the manager of the world champions, the Red Sox. And he made the decision because he's Puerto Rican. As he said, he's been concerned about the way the president has treated Puerto Rico, the hurricane, what hasn't yet been done with Puerto Rico. And he made the point that this is important to him and he's going to make a statement by not attending the White House ceremony with the Red Sox later this week. A few other players will not be there as well. This is not entirely unusual. A couple of players from the Washington Capitols did not go. But the unusual part of this, Alex, is that this is the manager, the man -- the focal point of the team, the man in charge of the team.
And I think what it shows -- I covered these for 30 years, like two dozen White House ceremonies. We never thought, as journalists, we never thought about who the president was, other than the president was greeting the team. It was about going to the White House. What's happening in those two and a half years of Donald Trump's presidency, it's about going to see Donald Trump. And is, I think, why it has become such a divisive issue.
MARQUARDT: And has split teams. I mean, it's just not just entire teams that are refusing to go or agreeing to go. It's some members going, some members not. And it really is extraordinary.
Let's switch gears, quickly, to another sport, the Kentucky Derby. Ending in dramatic and then highly controversial fashion. How did that all unfold?
BRENNAN: Well, you had the winner at the time, "Maximum Security," who actually cut off up to three horses as he came across. And when you look at the replays, it's -- I was not at the Derby. Looking at the news like OK, you've got one winner. Now you have "Country House" declared the winner 22 minutes later. Someone said the Kentucky Derby is known as the best two minutes in sports. Now it's the best 22 minutes in sports. It took 22 minutes to determine the victor. But they made the right call, I think, even though it's -- of course, the first time ever the horse has crossed the finish line and, in a few minutes, been declared not the winner. I do think it was the right call because of impeding the other horses.
MARQUARDT: There's already a controversial sport. What does this do for the sport overall and what does this do for the next big race, which is the Preakness?
BRENNAN: The demographics of horse racing are really bad. A lot of older people have loved the sport. They're dying off. It's not necessarily the kids are necessarily involved with it, in part, because of the betting. These you had all these horses are dying, 23 at Santa Anita. An incredible number of deaths at Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby. There's unprecedented scrutiny on horse racing now. This certainly doesn't help on one level because of the controversy. On the other hand, it probably increases interest into people watching the next two events. The horse "Maximum Security," it's not -- the owner said, and the trainer said they will not be at the Preakness. But I think it does increases interest for the time being. But I think, for the long hall, horse racing is in trouble.
MARQUARDT: Quite a name. All right, Christine Brennan, thanks so much.
BRENNAN: Thank you very much, Alex.
[13:54:05] MARQUARDT: All right. More on our breaking news this hour. The extraordinary letter from more than three hundred former prosecutors saying that, had President Trump not been commander-in- chief, he'd have been charged with obstruction.
MARQUARDT: The acting secretary of defense is weighing in on the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Middle East. Patrick Shanahan tweeted saying, in part, that, "It represents a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces. We call on the Iranian regime to cease all provocation. We will hold the Iranian regime accountable for any attack on U.S. forces or our interests."
For more, CNN Pentagon reporter, Ryan Browne -- Ryan?
RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: This tweet by Secretary Shanahan clearly indicating that the U.S. does see a credible threat. It's received intelligence saying there's a threat against U.S. forces and interests in the region. And that this redirecting of the carrier strike group on the deployment of a bomber task force is part of a response to that threat. Now, of course the U.S. has thousands of forces in the region. Often, they operate in close proximity to Iranian troops and their local militia proxies. This is something the U.S. has watched for a long time, threat indicators from Iran. Now we're being told this deployment is in response to that threat -- Alex?
MARQUARDT: All right. Ryan Browne, at the Pentagon, thanks very much.
BROWNE: Thank you.
[14:00:08] MARQUARDT: And that does it for me.
"NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.