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White House Has Instructed McGahn to Withhold Records from House Committee; Jill Biden Speaks to CNN About Life Loss, Combating Attacks from Trump; Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) Discusses White House Instructing McGahn to Withhold Documents from Committee, Vote on Barr Contempt. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 7, 2019 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:26] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have breaking news coming in from Capitol Hill on the front of one of the subpoenas that former White House counsel, Don McGahn, was facing in a deadline today.

Let's get over to the Hill. Manu Raju is following this.

Manu, what do you have?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There was a subpoena deadline at 10:00 a.m. Eastern this morning in which the former White House counsel was directed by the House Judiciary Committee to turn over records related to the committee's investigation into potential obstruction of justice at the White House.

Now, just moments ago, the Judiciary Committee received two letters, one from Don McGahn's attorney and one from the White House. The White House instructs the former White House counsel, Don McGahn, to not turn over these records to the House Judiciary Committee. In this letter from the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, he says this, Kate: "The White House records remain legally protected from disclosure under long-standing constitutional principles because they implicate significant executive branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege."

Now, according to this letter from Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, has directed him not to -- has made it clear that Don McGahn is not to provide these records.

Now, in the letter from Don McGahn's attorney, he says there's really nothing he can do. He wants the legislative branch, Congress, to cut a deal with the White House about what records can be turned over. And he said he is essentially going to be listening to his former boss.

Now, the Democrats will say, look, the executive privilege question had been waived when Don McGahn had testified before Bob Mueller, when he went before him, spent 30 hours being interviewed. He was a central player, witnessed a number of things, including the president apparently directing McGahn to fire the special counsel. They're going to say that has been waived, you can't just come back and reassert it. But here, the White House is saying he should not turn over the records by this deadline today.

And, Kate, also in question is, will he testify before the same committee in public. He's directed to appear no later than May 21st. A major question about what he'll be able to answer if he were to come in to a public hearing. And a question still about how the House Judiciary Committee plans to respond. A possible contempt citation could be on the table. We'll see how they respond. Jerry Nadler, we do expect a response from him in a matter of minutes.

But a significant development in the escalating clash between the White House and House Democrats. The White House now saying the former counsel, Don McGahn, should not turn over documents despite being compelled to do so by a subpoena -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: One more example of stonewalling coming from the White House. And Don McGahn making the case his hands are tied here. It's going to be really interesting to see, to hear what Jerry Nadler says are the next steps for them and if they move forward with threats we have been hearing of holding officials in contempt.

Great to hear that from you, Manu. Really appreciate it. Thanks so much.

RAJU: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll keep an eye on that breaking news from Capitol Hill.

We're also watching this. Jill Biden, the former second lady, Joe Biden's wife, has been with the former vice president through so many ups and downs in his long political career. Jill Biden is back on the campaign trail and she's speaking to CNN in a new and revealing interview. That's next.


[11:38:19] BOLDUAN: Dr. Jill Biden, she's been at her husband's side for every major political fight of his career. And she's now signed up for one more round. Former Vice President Joe Biden is the current front-runner among the Democratic field. And he's campaigning today in Nevada.

But the former second lady is on the road as well, not only campaigning with her husband but telling her own story in a new memoir titled "Where the Light Enters."

She just sat down with CNN's Dana Bash to talk about her book, their campaign, and their family's very public journey through grief. Watch this.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Joe Biden proposed to you not once, not twice, not three times, not four times, five times.


BASH: The last time you got an ultimatum.

BIDEN: Yes, I did. I had to -- I had to be sure, you know. Beau and Hunt had lost their mother and sister in a car accident. And I had to make sure that they would not lose another mother because of divorce. So I had to be 100 percent positive. And I just couldn't hurt them.

BASH: They were the ones who came up with the idea --


BASH: -- that their father should propose to you.

BIDEN: Yes. Joe was shaving one morning, and they were all in the bathroom before school talking, and they said, dad, we think we should marry Jill. So they were the ones who came up with it.

BASH: We think "we" should marry Jill.

BIDEN: Yes. Yes. I think the boys, you know, they wanted a mommy. They wanted -- they wanted the family to be whole again, too. And it was important for the boys to remember their mother. And so her pictures were around, and so we kept her memory alive.

BASH: You write about Beau's death.

BIDEN: Mm-hmm.

[11:40:01] BOLDUAN: You say you still don't have words to express your despair, which is understandable. You write, "Since Beau's death, I'm definitely shattered. I feel like a piece of China that's been glued back together again. The cracks may be imperceptible but they're there."

BIDEN: Yes. They're there. I mean, you have a son. You probably -- when you probably read that part in my book, I'm sure you just thought to yourself, I can't imagine it. And I don't think any parent can imagine it. I mean, they can't even put their head in that space. And so you know, you just -- it's not something you get over. I don't think any mother who has lost a child is ever the same.

BASH: Let's talk about running for president.


BASH: One of my favorite stories in the book is, 2004, your husband is meeting with advisers about whether he should run. You're out at the pool in your bikini. You walk through the meeting and you write in sharpie on your stomach, your bare stomach, N-O.

BIDEN: They got the hint.

BASH: Subtle. BIDEN: Yes, it was subtle.


BASH: Why is this the right time for Joe Biden to run for president and be president?

BIDEN: Well, for the past two years, everywhere I have traveled across this country, people are coming up to me saying, he's got to run, he's got to run, Joe has to run. And I really have taken it to heart and thought about it. And Joe is such a unifier. He brings people together.

BASH: The physical way that your husband expresses himself has gotten a lot of attention. Some criticism from some women. I was struck that you, in the book, write about your own experience coming into the Biden family. You said that you are not someone who was used to public shows of affection. And that was an initially uncomfortable development.

BIDEN: Yes, he comes from a very affectionate family. They're always touching. And I think Joe is -- one thing I have admired about Joe is the way he makes connections with people. But recently, I mean, things -- times have changed. And Joe has heard that, you know, to back off and give people their space. And he has now taken responsibility for that. And someone asked me, did this ever happen to you. I have to say it has happened to me. And I -- like 20 years ago, and I did not have the courage to speak up then and say, stop that, you're in my space. Now, I would have the courage. But 20 years ago, I wouldn't. Times have changed.

BASH: Was there ever a time over the decades where you said, honey, I know this is your DNA, but maybe it's not the way that you should interact with people, especially when you're dealing with women, they might take it the wrong way?

BIDEN: No. I didn't say anything to him, I guess, because that's the way he -- I mean, that's just the way Joe was. But times have changed. And now things are different. And he has to back off a little bit and let people come to him. He shouldn't go to them.

BASH: On the campaign trail, there's no doubt that President Trump will start to attack the Biden family. What should your husband and your reaction to that be?

BIDEN: Well, I don't think we're going to address -- I mean, we're not going to take his bait. And --

BASH: That's going to be hard.


BASH: A lot of people have said that before and haven't been able to resist.


BIDEN: I know, it is going to be hard. And you know, but our family -- we have talked about it. Our family is resilient. Just think about our grandchildren have never known anything but politics in their life. Our children have grown up with it. And I think it's going to be tough, but we have talked about it. They're ready to run.

BASH: One of my favorite parts of the book, "fexting." What is fexting? "F," not "S," for the record.

BIDEN: Yes. Yes. So when you're in the car with the Secret Service, you know, they hear -- I mean, they're not supposed to listen to everything, but you're sitting in the front seat and back seat. So of course, I love Joe to death, but sometimes if he annoys me, you know, I start, you know, fighting over text and then he'll say, this is on text.

BASH: You're sitting right next to each other.

BIDEN: Yes, but you can't say something horrible or anything that you would say to a spouse when they annoy you.

BASH: Because the Secret Service is right there?

BIDEN: Yes. Yes. So I came up with that word, fexting, fighting over text.


[11:45:03] BOLDUAN: One, fascinating. Two, I appreciate your take on some of the tough questions she and Joe are going to face on the campaign trail. One thing we knew about Jill Biden when she was second lady is she kept working.

BASH: Yes.

BOLDUAN: I always appreciated that as well.

BASH: She made history as doing so.

BOLDUAN: That's right.

BASH: She was the first and only second lady to work full-time. She's a teacher. She taught at a community college in Delaware and then she took a job in northern Virginia doing --


BASH: -- the same thing. Yes.

BOLDUAN: What is she going to do -- I mean, it's far down the road, of course.

BASH: Yes.

BOLDUAN: But has she decided what she would do if she would be first lady?

BASH: I asked her that and she said, first reaction, is it could be hard with security, but she would love to. One of the reasons she was actually able to work full-time -- and by the way, she still is, even on the campaign trail. She's grading papers right now somewhere. But she was able to do it because, as second lady, she didn't have a Michelle Obama or a Melania Trump profile. And some of the people in her class, she writes in her book, didn't know who she was.

BOLDUAN: That's fascinating.

BASH: She was just their teacher.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating. Great interview, Dana.

BASH: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you for being here. Really appreciate it.

BASH: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a new act of defiance as the White House instructs former White House counsel, Don McGahn, to withhold documents being demanded by the House Judiciary Committee. There was a deadline to answer the subpoena. Defying the subpoena today. What is Congress going to do about it? A member of the House Judiciary Committee is with me, next.


[11:50:09] BOLDUAN: Back to the breaking news that just came in. A new escalation in the battle between the White House and Congress. Yes, a new escalation. The White House directing former White House counsel, Don McGahn, just this hour, to defy a subpoena and withhold documents that have been demanded by the House Judiciary Committee. In a letter from the current White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, he says that McGahn doesn't have the legal right to disclose these documents, which related to the Russia investigation, the Mueller investigation, involving Michael Flynn and others.

Joining me right now is Democratic Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, of Texas. She sits on the very committee that had issued that subpoena for documents, the House Judiciary Committee.

Congresswoman, thank you for being here.

So now we know the answer to this step. What is the next step? Do you think Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, should be held in contempt?

REP. SYLVIA GARCIA (D-TX): Well, we'll have to wait and see. Obviously, this is not surprising. It fits the pattern of the president ordering people not to follow the lawful subpoenas of Congress. And he -- he doesn't work here anymore. So it's a question of whether he can really issue an order to McGahn. It also is a question of what McGahn's lawyer may advise McGahn to do because, obviously, no lawyer would want to jeopardize their client. And certainly, we'll just have to wait and see because we know that they might exert executive privilege. We think they have already waived that. So we'll meet in committee and have a discussion and continue to try to get all the documents in the full unredacted Mueller report.

BOLDUAN: But the -- Don McGahn's attorney is, in this letter that I've been looking through, says that the White House counsel, the current White House counsel is going to be answering for it. I mean, they are saying that this has to do with executive privilege and that -- do you think Don McGahn's hands are tied here?

GARCIA: Well, it -- you know, without reading the letter and without getting all the facts, I can't tell you exactly what it means. But I can tell you this, that we will make sure that everyone does honor our subpoena. And if they don't, they force us in a position where we would have to consider a contempt or other alternatives. So, yes, I think if he doesn't give us all the documents, and later, if we subpoena him to appear and he doesn't come, we'll have to take that next step when it comes. And contempt would surely be at the top of the list.

BOLDUAN: Well, what if it was -- what if it was something of a combination of that? Yes, this is a hypothetical, but I want to get where you are on this.

GARCIA: Right.

BOLDUAN: If he wouldn't -- if he doesn't turn over documents, which it doesn't look like he's turning over documents as we're seeing right here, the White House says that he cannot and he doesn't have the legal authority to, but then agrees to testify, which is still a big question, would you be OK with that?

GARCIA: I might be because I think -- I think it depends on the line questioning and what -- what other privilege he may exert and see how much we get. But our goal is to follow the facts. Our goal is to get all the facts to get to the truth. And I think that McGahn is a key player in all this. And we deserve to visit with him, and we deserve all documents that he has in his possession. And if we have to go to contempt and then later litigation over a contempt citation, we'll just have to do that.

BOLDUAN: So speaking of contempt, let's talk about the attorney general. CNN's reporting overnight was that Justice Department staff were meeting with your committee staff to try and come up with an agreement around the unredacted report, which is what the subpoena was for.

GARCIA: Correct.

BOLDUAN: If you're still talking with the Justice Department, are you going to vote to hold him in contempt tomorrow?

GARCIA: Well, it's all together possible. The meeting was to happen, and it could be happening still right now. They were beginning to meet at 11:00 a.m. this morning. There are discussions. If there's a way to avoid contempt, we will -- we certainly would do that. But I can tell you that I and many of the committee members that I've spoken to will be in the committee room tomorrow at 10:00 a.m., and we're going to be fully prepared to discuss and mark up a contempt citation, and then, if necessary, vote on contempt. What discussions happened between then and now I don't know. But obviously, all of us -- you know, I'm a lawyer. I'm a former judge.


GARCIA: If you can avoid controversy, if you can avoid litigation, you do that. So the -- the discussion will be ongoing. And as long as the Justice Department is willing to play fair and willing to -- to sit at the table and have a discussion, I know the chairman and the committee staff would be -- would welcome that.

BOLDUAN: And as you mentioned, you're a former judge. I mean the reason -- how this kind of started snowballing, at least in part, is the reason he refused to testify publicly before the committee because he didn't want to face questions from staff attorneys, which was the format that the chairman wanted to go down.

[11:55:14] GARCIA: Correct.

BOLDUAN: To get him in the seat, are you OK with making that concession, to not have staff attorneys questioning him?

GARCIA: No, actually, I'm one of those members of the committee that -- that together with others that suggested that we do that, and can I tell you that I would be willing to --


BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, can you explain why? Because you're a former judge. I find it surprising that you don't think -- I mean, do you not think -- you know the law. You don't think you -- you can ask questions better than a staff attorney could?

GARCIA: No, I know I can. I just don't have the expertise that the staff attorney does. And I think any time that you can get more than one question -- it's always very frustrating. Let me tell you, as a person who sits there and is a junior member, if you will -- I get five minutes. Usually, I get to maybe ask one. Maybe with luck, two. And if you have a witness that seems to be the mode of operation for a lot of administration witnesses, that basically filibusters on the first question and doesn't answer the question, it would be much better to have someone question for a longer period of time. I, frankly, thought that an hour would have been better but we settled on 30. And it's a fair 30, not only for the Democrat side but also for the Republican side, because you want to be able to probe. You want to be able to follow up.


GARCIA: You want to really be able to zero in on the question that you're asking. So it's really not about me and my ability. It's about the expert's ability. BOLDUAN: I look forward to seeing what the next step is with regard

to Bill Barr --

GARCIA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: -- and with regard now to Don McGahn.

Thank you, Congresswoman. I appreciate your time.

GARCIA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll have much more on the breaking news ahead.