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House Prepares For Contempt Vote; School Shooting Rocks Colorado; White House Exerts Broad Executive Privilege Over Mueller Report. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 8, 2019 - 16:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: He declined to speak to reporters moments ago as he left the White House for Florida.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me today.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump asserts executive privilege to block further release of the very report that he claims clears him of all wrongdoing.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Trump blocking Congress from getting the full Mueller report, unredacted and all, as this hour Democratic lawmakers get set to hold Attorney General Barr in contempt of Congress for not turning it over. It's a widening partisan chasm that could lead to a true constitutional crisis.

Then, another week, another deadly school shooting, and another student killed when he rushed the shooter to stop the carnage. This is the reality of classrooms in America today. This hour, the parents of the young hero who sacrificed to save lives.

Plus, strange bedfellows, the private conversation, previously private, between actor and comedian Tom Arnold and President Trump's former fixer, Michael Cohen, candid talk from Cohen about the Democrats, President Trump, Kim Jong-un, even a Charles Manson cameo.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin today with breaking news in our politics lead. Any moment, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee will vote to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over the full, unredacted version of Mueller's report and the underlying evidence.

This comes amid an escalating showdown between House Democrats and the White House. President Trump today exerting executive privilege on the full, unredacted version of the Mueller report and all underlying materials subpoenaed by House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.

In a letter released today, the assistant attorney general wrote -- quote -- "As we have repeatedly explained, the attorney general could not comply with your subpoena in its current form without violating the law, court rules and court orders and without threatening the independence of the Department of Justice's prosecutorial functions."

That is an apparent reference to top-secret grand jury testimony and other materials that had been previously redacted. This all comes as the White House has made something of a stonewall strategy to refuse to comply with any of the requests made by House Democrats as part of their oversight responsibilities, including trying to get the president's taxes, trying to find out more information about his finances, and, of course, the attorney general's refusal to testify before a Democratic-led committee.

CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill.

Manu, what are the next steps here for House Democrats?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we do expect the House Judiciary Committee to vote sometime this afternoon or evening to hold the attorney general in contempt along party lines after a bitter partisan fight has consumed all day, Democrats and Republicans sparring over the meaning of the Mueller report, and Democrats engaged over the White House's move to cite executive privilege, and some Democrats now talking about impeachment.


RAJU (voice-over): A dramatic escalation in the war between the White House and House Democrats.

President Trump invoked executive privilege to prevent Congress from getting the full, unredacted Mueller report and its underlying evidence. The move came moments before the House Judiciary Committee scheduled a vote to hold the attorney general, Bill Barr, in contempt for defying the subpoena to turn over what the special counsel uncovered.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): This is unprecedented. If allowed to go unchecked, this obstruction means the end of congressional oversight. As a co-equal branch of government, we should not and cannot allow this to continue.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): If it weren't for him being president, he would be in prison with Michael Cohen today as Individual 1, and he obstructed justice.

RAJU: Some Democrats, in a move to defy Congress on all fronts, means the House should start to move towards impeachment.

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA): Do I think we're inching closer to it every day that the president has a blanket privilege or just saying that he's going to obstruct the congressional investigation? Yes, for me, we're inching towards it. RAJU (on camera): Do you think this committee should start talking

about another thing, impeachment?

REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): I think we have to talk about it.

RAJU (voice-over): In a letter to Congress, the Justice Department argued it could not comply with Democrats' request without violating the law and said the president has asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials, a position the White House strongly defended.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As long as Congress and this committee continue to ask the attorney general to commit a crime, the president and the attorney general will continue to actually uphold the law.

RAJU: House Republicans defended the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think -- I mean, it's an appropriate move at this point in time.

RAJU: And attacked committee Chairman Jerry Nadler.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): We're manufacturing a crisis.

RAJU: Saying Nadler acted in bad faith after refusing to review a less redacted report authored by the judge, which has already publicly released the vast majority of Mueller's report.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I think it's all about trying to destroy Bill Barr because Democrats are nervous he's going to get to the bottom of everything. He's going to find out how and why this investigation started in the first place.


RAJU: Now, after the committee votes to hold the attorney general in contempt, the full House will take up the matter soon, and then expect a prolonged court fight.

And, Jake, Democrats wondering what kind of chilling effect this effort to invoke executive privilege could have on their investigations going forward and also questioning whether or not Bob Mueller will come before this very committee, the House Judiciary Committee, this month, as Democrats had hoped -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Let's talk about this with my experts here.

Shan, you're a former federal prosecutor. Legally, now that the White House has exerted executive privilege, is it likely that's it for Democrats being able to get these materials?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, definitely not.

I don't think the courts are going to go with the idea that it's a complete blanket protection. First of all, it defies common sense. And, second of all, they're going to parse it down. They're going to break it down and look at, for example, any waiver issues and also in terms of the subjects.

So, like a no-brainer point would be issues that arose prior to him becoming president don't seem like they were be subject to executive privilege.

So there's a whole lot of parsing that's going to still go on.

TAPPER: And, Sara, Republicans argue, look, most of the Mueller report has not been redacted. Most of it is there.

And for people like the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, he can go to a private room and see almost all of it, not all of it, but almost all of it.


And it sort of raises the question of whether this was the best strategic decision for Democrats to decide to move forward on this contempt issue and essentially goad White House into pushing for executive privilege, because it is true, if you go through the Mueller report, there are very few redactions.

There are certainly more in the collusion section, but on the issue of obstruction, very, very few redactions. The committee can obviously see more of this. And some of it has to do with ongoing investigations, and so these things are redacted for a reason.

And the reason is not necessarily to protect the president. I mean, on the other hand, it is Congress' duty to do oversight. And if they want the underlying investigative materials for that reason, I think they're making the argument that they should see them. And ultimately this may be up to the courts to figure it out.

TAPPER: And take a listen to Congressman Hank Johnson, Democrat of Georgia, earlier today saying -- confirming for what a lot of Republicans, they think this is really all about.


REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): We have lawful responsibilities, constitutional responsibilities to engage in, one of which is possibly impeachment. How can we impeach without getting the documents?


TAPPER: "How can we impeach without getting the documents?"

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Wouldn't have been how I would have phrased it. But, look, I think the person who is leading this effort in determining the strategy is Nancy Pelosi. She's gotten a lot of criticism from the left wing of the party, people who want her to move more quickly, but she is listening to not just the American people, looking at the polls. She's also listening to her constituent -- or, you know, the members, many of which are hesitant about this, especially when they are in vulnerable seats.

But what they're also doing strategically is they are trying to make the public case. And they are trying to bring the public along with them for impeachment. If we were all sitting here with Nancy Pelosi and a glass of wine and chocolate or whatever, she would love to impeach Donald Trump.

Of course she would, probably more than almost anyone else. But she wants to do in a way that will be successful. And that's what I think she's trying to do. So, no, I hope that other Democrats don't repeat exactly how Congressman Hank Johnson said that.

I think, though, his intention and where he's coming from is representative of where, sure, a number of people are, even those who don't say it publicly.

TAPPER: David, the other context to this is that the White House has decided as a strategy to just not comply with anything that House Democrats are trying to do as a matter of oversight, which is a responsibility of the House of Representatives.

Take a listen to Congressman Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.


NADLER: The administration has announced loud and clear that it does not recognize Congress as a co-equal branch of government, with independent constitutional oversight authority, and it will continue to wage its campaign of obstruction.


TAPPER: What do you make of that?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, look, I think the administration's made the deal -- made the decision there's oversight, and there's overkill. And this is overkill, not oversight.

There's really -- I believe they think -- you started -- the president say this is harassment. And I think they have taken the political measure. They -- since the Mueller report came out and all these -- this ongoing investigation, the president's poll numbers have tracked upward. They have gone up, they have not gone down.

And at the end of the day, I think the Democrats make a marked political judgment of making this president actually look sympathetic.

(CROSSTALK) MURRAY: ... stonewalling is just happening with the Mueller report. And that's not true.

URBAN: No. No.

MURRAY: I mean, it's happening on all fronts.


TAPPER: It's with every...


MURRAY: And if it were a Democrat sitting in the Oval Office, and it was a Democratic president that was doing this to a Republican Congress, you bet you would be sitting on this panel and your head would be on fire and you would be singing a different tune.

URBAN: Since I don't have any hair, that'd be a feat in and of itself.


TAPPER: Well, that's an alternate universe.

But take a listen...



MURRAY: Yes, alternative universe, you have hair.


TAPPER: Take a listen to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders today.


HUCKABEE SANDERS: Chairman Nadler is again trying to violate the law. The president and the attorney general are the ones that are actually upholding it.

And as long as Congress and this committee continue to ask the attorney general to commit a crime, the president and the attorney general will continue to actually uphold the law.


TAPPER: This is her making the argument that the grand jury materials are not allowed to be released. But she's -- again, you talked about people going far.

She's saying that the attorney general is being asked to break the law by Chairman Nadler. URBAN: Yes.

PSAKI: I mean, my first reaction, as somebody who served in a White House for eight years, is how sad it is that you can go out there and be a serial liar and represent an administration, Republican or Democratic.

And we watch that every day. And I rooted for her from the beginning.

I will say, in this case, Nadler is -- I hope he's not following the rules, yes, the legal rules, but we need to be more rule-breakers on the Democratic side, and not play by the game that has always been played, because we're dealing with Donald Trump, and we're dealing with an administration that is not always playing by it.

He was pretty tough today, I think. And what he's trying to do is...


TAPPER: Nadler was?

PSAKI: Nadler was.

And he's trying to make clear that he is not going to stand by, as the chairman of this Judiciary Committee, and accept not sharing documents, not being transparent with information.

He's going to keep pushing. And he doesn't want to give any leg on it, because, otherwise, they're going to push back.


URBAN: So, I think -- look, I think, as Sara pointed out earlier, right, I think a lot of Americans see this and they say, you can read 92 percent of the report, a lot.

The chairman can actually see the entire report, select members of the Congress.


PSAKI: Almost the entire report.

URBAN: Exactly, the stuff that's not protected by grand jury or other ongoing investigations.


TAPPER: Right, 99.8 percent, Nadler can see.



And so I think a lot of Americans look at that, and the Republicans say, he hasn't even seen it. He hasn't heard from Mueller. Jim Jordan makes a good point. Mueller is going to come up there. Let's see what he has to say.


WU: Yes, but shouldn't you be prepared to question him?


URBAN: That's the counter, right?


PSAKI: And Nadler had a good comeback, when he said to Jim Jordan, you want this information too. We want to have this information before we interview Mueller. That's what he said.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We're going to keep talking about this.

The one thing President Trump is not doing today after new questions about his taxes come to light, what is it?

That's next.


[16:16:11] TAPPER: The politics lead now, President Trump moments ago left the White House headed for a rally in Florida this evening. It's the second time today the president shut down the chance to take questions from reporters. The president is usually rather chatty.

He faces a lot of questions about his personal finances today as House Democrats weighed their next move to try to obtain the president's tax returns.

"The New York Times" obtained printouts of tax transcripts belonging to Mr. Trump. "The Times" found then-private citizen Trump lost more than a billion dollars in a decade, more than any other American at the time, "The Times" says.

As CNN's Kaitlan Collins now reports, the president is pushing back, trying to protect his image as the ultimate deal maker.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm really rich. I assure you of that.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's a line President Trump used time and time again to win the White House. But, today, a devastating report in "The New York Times" casts doubt on his claims, years worth of previously unrevealed figures from his federal income tax returns reveal that when Donald Trump was a real estate mogul, his business empire suffered staggering losses.

Trump lashing out today, calling the report a hit job and tweeting that you always wanted to show losses for tax purposes. Almost all real estate developers did and often renegotiate with banks. It was sport.

The numbers from the decades before he was a candidate show he spent at least ten years deep in the red as his core businesses including casinos, hotels, and apartment buildings reported losses totaling over $1.17 billion from 1985 to 1994.

TRUMP: I built a tremendous business.

COLLINS: But in 1990 and 1991 alone, those business losses were more than $250 million a year, according to "The Times." In fact, Trump lost so much money he paid no federal income tax for eight of those ten years, and in multiple years Trump, quote, appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, "The Times" says.

The devastating report coming as the White House is locked in a standoff with House Democrats over Trump's tax returns.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): So, it tells me nothing. It does tell us, though, it would be useful to see his tax returns as the law says.

COLLINS: Trump is the first president since the Nixon era to not release his returns. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has refused to hand them over to Congress and the president insists he's still under audit.

TRUMP: While I'm under audit, I would not give my taxes.


COLLINS: And, Jake, the information that is in "The New York Times" report does not include the years of tax returns the administration is currently fighting over. Now people close to the president say one of the most sensitive things, things he's the most sensitive about, is when it comes to his financial information, especially when it's on the front page of "The New York Times." And today, the president closed a cabinet meeting to reporters even though they were initially scheduled to be allowed to come in for that. And then he did not take our questions on this report and other topics today when he was leaving the White House for a rally in Florida, Jake.

TAPPER: You're suggesting he's sensitive to the topic. I hear you. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks so much.

Let's chat about this. Jackie Kucinich joins us.

According to "The Times", Trump's businesses lost over a billion dollars over a ten-year period. Its analysis found, quote, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer.

Why does this matter?


I think this goes to the further debunking the narrative the president has built around himself even when he was running for president that he was this great deal maker that built this fortune himself, and that's what he can do for the country when in reality a lot of this was his father's money.

[16:20:06] He wasn't a great deal maker. He lost all that money. And it's sort of -- it's an emperor isn't wearing any clothes situation.

Now, do I think this will hurt the president with the people that love him most? No, I don't.

TAPPER: What do you think, David, as one of the people who love him most?


URBAN: Listen, I think it's very interesting that the people reading "The New York Times" and that's about it.

TAPPER: You think it will have no impact?

URBAN: Zero impact. I think it was baked in. People who live in the Philly suburbs, who got "The New York Post" during that time used to see the president's picture smattered on the front pages talking about how much money he lost. If you took a bus from the Philly area to one of the casinos he owned in New Jersey and watched the ride down, I mean, everybody knew that Trump lost tons of money during that time.

So, I don't think there's anything here other than, as Jackie points out, right, the people -- the president ran on the narrative he's a very successful businessman and the fact that he did lose tons of money.

TAPPER: Well, and that is the narrative part of this which is the president has cast himself as the ultimate deal maker. Here is a clip of that.


TRUMP: We lost, for many years now, $800 billion a year in trade. Who the hell makes these deals? You're probably saying to yourself, those are not good negotiators.


PSAKI: Yes. And when you're running for re-election as President Trump is, you are tested not just on what you are saying on the stump which people either obviously didn't care about or didn't disprove at the time, but also whether you delivered on things. So, I don't know if he's going to go out there and say I'm the best businessman and deal maker in the world. And then what will Democrats do? They will run ads that say he lost more money than any other American. By the way, he's delivered on nothing since he became president except for tax cuts for the wealthiest. They'll do that.

What I'm interested in, David, too, it showed that he paid no taxes eight of the ten years. I'm sure that trend probably continued. He gave no money to charity. I don't know that his base cares about that. He can't win with just his base. There are a lot of people in the middle.

TAPPER: One second, I'm sorry, because we have some breaking news right now. The House Judiciary Committee is voting on whether or not to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt. Let's listen in.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Stanton votes aye.

Ms. Dean?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Dean votes aye.

Ms. Mucarsel-Powell?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Mucarsel-Powell votes aye.

Ms. Escobar?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Escobar votes aye.

Mr. Collins?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Collins votes no.

Mr. Sensenbrenner?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Sensenbrenner votes no.

Mr. Chabot?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chabot votes no.

Mr. Gohmert?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Gohmert votes no.

Mr. Jordan? REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Jordan votes no.

Mr. Buck?



Mr. Ratcliffe?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Ratcliffe votes no.

Ms. Roby?



Mr. Gaetz?

Mr. Johnson of Louisiana?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Johnson of Louisiana votes no.

Mr. Biggs?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Biggs votes no.

Mr. McClintock?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. McClintock votes no.

Ms. Lesko?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Lesko votes no.

Mr. Reschenthaler?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Reschenthaler votes no.

Mr. Cline?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Cline votes no.

Mr. Armstrong?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Armstrong votes no.

Mr. Steube?

Mr. Steube votes no.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Has everyone who wishes to be recorded been recorded? Has the gentleman from Tennessee been recorded? Does the gentleman from Tennessee wish to be recorded?


CUMMINGS: How does the gentleman from Tennessee wish to be recorded?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Cohen votes aye.

CUMMINGS: We have two more people coming in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman?

CUMMINGS: The gentleman from Georgia.

COLLINS: After all the eloquent speech today, I forgot, am I recorded?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Collins, you're recorded as no.

COLLINS: Thank you. I consider to be a no.

CUMMINGS: Madam Clerk, how am I recorded?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Nadler, you're recorded as aye.

NADLER: I wish to be recorded as aye.


NADLER: The gentlelady from Texas?

LEE: How am I recorded?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Jackson-Lee, you are recorded as aye.

LEE: I think that's correct, thank you.

NADLER: The gentleman from Ohio? How is the gentleman from Ohio recorded?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chabot, you're recorded as no. REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Mr. Chairman?

NADLER: The gentleman from Rhode Island.

CICILLINE: Mr. Chairman, is it appropriate for us to enter into colloquy in a middle of a vote?

NADLER: We're in the middle of a vote.

[16:25:01] CICILLINE: Then how am I recorded? I was going to ask.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Cicilline, you are recorded as aye.

CICILLINE: Thank you. That is correct.

NADLER: The gentleman from Louisiana?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Richmond votes aye.

NADLER: The gentleman from Maryland.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Please tell me how I'm recorded?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Raskin, you are recorded as aye.

RASKIN: Thank you very much.

NADLER: Who seeks recognition? How is Mr. Johnson of Louisiana recorded?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Johnson of Louisiana, you are recorded as no.

NADLER: We -- for the benefit of members and everyone else present we have two members coming back from a hearing. We're going to hold the vote open momentarily. We're going to hold the vote open until they get here momentarily, hopefully momentarily. People don't have to keep asking --

TAPPER: As we wait for the other two errant members to show up for this vote, let's chat while they're taking it in.

Sara Murray, no surprises, this appears to be a strictly party line vote, Democrats voting to hold Attorney General Bill Bar in contempt of Congress. Republicans saying no.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: It doesn't look like everyone is having so much. They record votes and wait for members to show up.

Yes, this is a party line vote. It is yet another way for Democrats to show that the White House and this administration is trying to essentially obstruct them and obstruct their oversight.

On the other hand, it's kind of like, OK, what does this get you? Like how have you furthered your quest to get any information, you know, are you any further than where were you last week when we were eating fried chicken in the halls of Congress? And that's the part that they don't really know the answer to. If anything, it feels like they made their quest a little bit more difficult today by sort of goading the White House into exerting privilege.

TAPPER: Jen Psaki, we should say, it was seven years ago, June 2012, when the Congress, the House Oversight Committee then controlled by Republicans voted to hold then Democratic Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for not turning over to the Fast and Furious scandal. Such a thing might feel momentous in a moment but doesn't necessarily show up in the person's biography.

PSAKI: Probably not although that was a different circumstance and Holder testified 10 times and provided thousands of documents. And so, yes, it was partisan. That's probably only similarity. What was at stake then was entirely different from what's at stake now, which is foreign government intervening in our election and getting to the bottom of what happened and figuring out who knew what in the current administration. That is different than the Fast and Furious controversy I would say and I think most people don't remember the Holder piece, aside of you, of course, because you covered it.

TAPPER: The only thing is the exertion of privilege by the White House and President Obama, and the belief by Republicans at the time that it was their constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight over the Democratic White House and now the tables are turned. Agreed, completely different controversy.

KUCINICH: This will go through the courts and probably disappear, which is what happened with Holder. I think it took two years and it's kind of went away because by that time, it was a moot point. So, I think we're going to see that again here because it's not like the administration is going to rush to do anything with Barr.

PSAKI: It may, but Barr's not entirely the big fish here. I mean, I think the Democrats are very focused on McGahn, they're focused on Mueller, they're focused on pulling out things that they've already seen in the Mueller report that they want to question in a hearing. So, there is more leg to this, if even if that fish gets caught up.

KUCINICH: Well, but I think -- we talk about this before, I think one of the larger issues is just testing congressional authority and making sure Congress can do their job and conduct oversight. We're not just seeing it in this committee. We're seeing it in Ways and Means with the president's tax return. We'll see it in Oversight and Government Reform.

This isn't going to be an isolated incident. We're going to see this a lot.

URBAN: But there's the legal aspect to that, right, and the political theater of that, right? What you're talking about is very real but the part decided by the American people is the political theater portion of it, right? And do the American people care? Are they going to rise up and go and push for impeachment hearings? I don't think so.

You see it in the numbers. Numbers don't bear it down. People aren't hearing when they go for town hall meetings to impeach the president. So, I think you'll see a lot of smoke and light on people below the president like the attorney general and others. At the end of the day, they're doing it for political gain.

TAPPER: Senator Amy Klobuchar, Sara, recently said that when she goes to town halls, and when she campaigns, she's running for president.