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House Prepares For Contempt Vote; School Shooting Rocks Colorado; White House Exerts Broad Executive Privilege Over Mueller Report. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 8, 2019 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:01]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And what happens once -- you know, once they make a decision?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do expect a vote this afternoon. It has been taking some time because the voting process is sort of a freewheeling process.

Different members could offer different amendments. They can speak for as long as they want, as -- and we know members of Congress like to speak. So, we expect this to go on perhaps for another couple of hours before we get to the final vote here in the House Judiciary Committee to hold the attorney general in contempt for defying the Democratic subpoena that would -- that called for him to turn over the full Mueller report and the underlying evidence, after days of talks to try to find a middle ground that broke down and ultimately led the president to take the dramatic move this morning to invoke executive privilege and saying that information cannot be turned over.

Now, the question is, what next? The House floor -- the full House will consider the contempt citation in a matter of days. We don't know exactly when. Nancy Pelosi's office has not made that decision yet known publicly.

And, also, some Democrats are saying, we needed to be even tougher than contempt citation. And some, Brooke, are saying it's time to start talking about impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: But the Democratic leadership not quite where a number of their members in the rank and file are.

They, including Nancy Pelosi, say going through the impeachment process is divisive. It could eventually lead to the -- to the -- being -- to fail in the Senate, because it's controlled by Republicans. You need -- of course, you need two-thirds majority to convict a president, so why go through that process?

But, nevertheless, the White House's refusal to provide documents, to comply with subpoenas, to try to instruct people to not comply with subpoenas, like the former White House counsel Don McGahn, and this latest move today all feeding into the Democratic push to take a tougher line against this White House.

You will see this contempt citation play out, and then you will see legal action. Democrats will soon file lawsuits to try to compel the administration to comply with their requests, all part of this growing fight between the two branches of government that may require the third branch of government, the courts, to come in and resolve this -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: And, again, to go back to Laura Jarrett's reporting, with everything you're saying, still, the potential Mueller testimony would not be impacted by this invoking of executive privilege.

Manu Raju, thank you very much.

Back to Chairman Nadler, the head of the House Judiciary. He has just added a new a new weight to a term that he -- even he says is often overused, constitutional crisis. This is what Jerry Nadler told CNN's Alisyn Camerota.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): Certainly, it's a constitutional crisis, although I don't like to use that phrase because it's been used for far less dangerous situations. The phrase has been overused.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I hear you. But you feel that we are currently in a constitutional crisis or headed for one?

NADLER: No, no, we're in one. We're in one because the president is disobeying the law, is refusing all information to the Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali is a former director of the Nixon Presidential Library. And he's with me, as is CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero. She served as the counsel to the assistant attorney general for national security.

So, welcome, welcome to both of you.

And, Tim, just off of Chairman Nadler saying we are in a constitutional crisis, do you think he's right? TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, we're definitely in a

political crisis.

What I think Chairman Nadler has to do is explain to the American people what it was exactly that he couldn't get through these negotiations with Barr.

See, it's fairly important for the American people to feel that there was some effort to strike a balance and to achieve what the public needed to know to determine the president's -- the nature of the president's rule.

And I think the Democrats have not been as forthcoming as they should be to explain exactly why negotiations broke down. There is no doubt that President Trump overreacted today by asserting...

BALDWIN: This blanket...

NAFTALI: ... blanket -- there's no constitutional justification for what he did.

But I think, at this moment, a lot of Americans are just seeing the Republicans and Democrats screaming at each other. And the details which are so important are being lost.

I think, if Nadler and Pelosi can make the case that we needed this information in order to -- to understand this and that, it would be a lot clearer in American minds. Right now, the president is assuming that Americans don't care about the details and are going to see this as yet another partisan battle.

[15:05:05]

BALDWIN: So you want more of the details from the Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: And to this point, Carrie, about invoking this blanket -- blanket executive privilege, for people who are following along so closely, can you just remind everyone what executive privilege is and what it covers?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, executive privilege is a privilege that is asserted by the president that covers deliberations.

In other words, for close advisers, people in the White House and other executive branch senior officials to be able to give the president advice, it's a privilege he can assert, so that he can fulfill his duties and know that those deliberations and those conversations are in confidence.

And it's a privilege that can be asserted by presidents. It's been asserted by presidents of both administrations. Tim is exactly right that the details really matter here, and they have legal significance. And the reason is that, when privileges are asserted, whether it's executive privilege or another kind of privilege, what they are being asserted over is what matters, so the specific types of documents or the specific witness who is being requested to come speak to Congress.

And they're not -- they're not asserted in the abstract. It has to be about specific data points. And that's what's getting lost in this back and forth between Congress and the executive branch, is we have Chairman Nadler, who is saying that the executive branch is not being responsive, but we don't actually know what specifically it is that he's requesting.

Same with there are other requests that -- an outstanding request by the House Intelligence Committee. Both the chairman and the ranking member have made requests for information. And so -- and they're not being responded to.

So what the White House has done is overbroad, but they're preserving their ability to assert the privilege over specific things.

BALDWIN: Got it.

And I see you. You're nodding. And I just want to ask you, as there are few people who know more about history and President Nixon. She mentioned previous presidents have tried to assert executive privilege. He did.

NAFTALI: Yes.

But because the special prosecutor in the Nixon era and the House Judiciary Committee were so careful in what they asked for, Republicans supported them, not all Republicans, but supported them and felt the president was stonewalling.

Well, and that's why -- I mean, I think Carrie and I are in complete agreement.

BALDWIN: Yes.

NAFTALI: What you need to do is you need is nonpartisan, fair-minded elected officials to say, you know what, the White House needs to hand this stuff, this particular stuff over.

Right now, the coverage I have seen gives the impression that Chairman Nadler has asked for all underlying documents, which means potentially all raw investigative files.

BALDWIN: Still under way, yes.

NAFTALI: But let me tell you, Congress asked for all the raw investigative files from the Watergate special prosecution force after Nixon left office, and the Watergate special prosecution force said, we can't do it.

Even that group couldn't do it. So there's no precedent for actually turning over the raw files. So what exactly do they want? I suspect what they want is necessary for the public to know. But, at the moment, we don't know those details. That's how you make this argument to the American people. BALDWIN: Do you think, Carrie, that, legally, Chairman Nadler is

fighting this losing battle, but then, politically speaking, does he have to -- he and the Democrats have to appear that they are exhausting all efforts to then ultimately perhaps tackle the mountain that is impeachment proceedings?

CORDERO: Well, I mean, that's why this, of course, because -- does become a political question.

I actually tend to think that, politically, the contempt hearing for the attorney general is counterproductive, if their goal is to be able to get to impeachment proceedings. The Mueller report is about the conduct of the Trump campaign, and it's about the conduct of the president as it pertains to his pattern of obstructive behavior that is laid out in detail in the report.

This diversion to the attorney general really doesn't help answer the question as to whether or not Congress is going to open impeachment inquiry, which I and others think that there certainly is a basis, based on the report.

And, unfortunately, that's why I think, politically, this turning the attention over to the attorney general might be politically counterproductive.

BALDWIN: Counterproductive and a diversion.

Carrie Cordero, thank you very much for your opinion.

CORDERO: Thanks.

BALDWIN: And, Tim Naftali, as always, thank you so much.

NAFTALI: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next: a possible reason President Trump has been just so defiant about releasing his tax returns, "The New York Times" revealing he may have lost more money than nearly any other U.S. taxpayer during a 10-year period.

So we will see if he responds to that this hour as he leaves the White House to head to Florida. We will take you there live if he talks to reporters.

Also, yet another school shooting rocks the nation. One student has been killed, eight others wounded at a school in Colorado, as terrified children look on. The father of a sixth-grader who survived joins me live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: And I remember at the time, when he didn't release them -- and I was running against him at the time -- that all of us were kind of like, oh, well, he's dead after this. He is not releasing his tax returns. He's finished.

[15:15:03]

You know, we would all sit around the debate stage. And that was like one of 30 decisions -- discussions we had that, when he did something, he was done, you know? It just -- it just never happens, you know, whether it's the comments about John McCain, or the speech he gave when he entered the race.

We go through a whole list of them, and the tax returns is one of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Governor Chris Christie there speaking.

Speaking of tax returns, for decades, Donald Trump has styled himself as the ultimate businessman, a wheeler-dealer with bottomless pockets and a brand that couldn't be beat.

But how much of it has been an elaborate con? We know he started with daddy's money, but "The New York Times" is now exposing how he ran through that and so much more over the years.

According to federal financial records dating from 1985 to 1994, Mr. Trump was deeply in the red when his "Art of the Book" deal came out, and he appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual taxpayer during that period that "The New York Times" investigated.

In fact, the losses were so staggering, he was able to avoid paying federal income taxes for eight of the 10 years that were analyzed. Yet Mr. Trump continued to make millions in the stock market by posing as a corporate raider and suggesting he was taking over companies.

And one of the biggest questions coming out of this "Times" piece raises this, the $52.9 million that mysteriously showed up as interest income one year.

Got a lot of questions on this today. And I know I'm not the only one. We know House Democrats continue to push for the release of President Trump's federal tax returns from the past six years. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will not cooperate.

But the New York State Senate is making its own moves. Today, it approved a bill that would allow the state to release any state tax returns requested by Congress. And it's passed another bill that could have ramifications for President Trump. It would allow state authorities to prosecute individuals even if they get presidential pardons.

New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky is the sponsor of that bill. He is with me from Albany, New York.

So, Senator, we will talk about that in just a moment.

But, Gwenda Blair, I would love to start with you, journalist and author of "The Trumps," a biography of the president's family.

I know you did a whole lot of research on the president's father, Fred Trump, whose investments helped Donald Trump's early career and we have seen earlier reporting that Fred Trump transferred ownership of more than 1,000 New York area apartments to his children without incurring any gift taxes. That would have been hundreds of thousands of dollars.

How is that possible?

GWENDA BLAIR, AUTHOR, "THE TRUMPS": Clever guy and a really good accountant who is a cousin -- interesting that everything stays inside of the family there -- who helped him structure that.

I think that it's -- there are so many places to look, but one interesting one is how Fred Trump built up his real estate empire, which we have now learned helped shield Donald in those later years, when he was so underwater during the 1980s -- his dad helped bail him out a lot -- and how that empire came to be that would later bail his son out.

Fred made his money out of federal subsidies of -- over middle-income housing, federal mortgage abatements, federal subsidies of one sort or another and state subsidies. And those were based on cost estimates.

So, he would submit his cost estimate, and then the construction would take place. And what do you know? He would always have really overestimated those estimates, and he would bring it in for less, and he would get essentially to keep the difference.

That was known as windfall profits. And he got brought up in front of state commissions, in front of -- in fact, in front of Congress to testify about that, but he always was just at the edge of what the law allowed.

And Donald has in so many cases done exactly the same thing, right up to the edge, a place no one else ever goes there, but he does.

BALDWIN: But he does.

And as this is all coming out, more and more of it coming out today, Senator Kaminsky, the president is defending his financial maneuvering as sport.

What's your reaction to that?

TODD KAMINSKY (D), NEW YORK STATE SENATOR: Well, in the New York State Senate, we're trying to make clear that New York is its own sovereign entity, which has to look after the rule of law.

And so what we have said today are two important things. The first is that New York should join the 24 other states that give states the right to go after violations of state law, even if there's a presidential pardon. We have a strong attorney general here, Tish James, who's made clear she wants to look at all the evidence without fear or favor, and we certainly want to give her the ability to do that.

And with respect to the president's taxes, this is about transparency. And New York certainly may have a role to play in doing that for this and for future presidents. And we need to be able to follow the facts wherever they lead.

[15:20:01]

And New York, as a state, has a right to do that and protect its interests in doing so.

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm.

And, Gwenda, how do you explain -- back to what "The Times" found -- the $53 million? It was in 1989 that the president reported that $52.9 million in interest income. Where do you suspect that money came from?

BLAIR: Well, that was, of course, during that period he made all those takeover gestures.

It seemed as though most of his income was coming from threats to do hostile takeovers, and then selling them, and then selling the stock that he had -- the stakes that he had bought in order -- in order to make those threats, selling them, and making a tidy sum in a number of instances.

That was -- seemed to be the major source of income during those years. It wasn't even from real estate, real estate development. I thought that was really interesting.

BALDWIN: Hmm.

The numbers, Senator, they show that Donald Trump has been basically been running this con, you heard Gwenda say, just up to the edge, right? It's a con, for decades.

How -- how do you think he has gotten away with it for so long? As a New Yorker, how do you think he's gotten multimillion-dollar loans, when he is consistently in the red? Because, like, if we skip our cell phone payments, my cell phone isn't working anymore, but he's still, you know, living high on the hog.

KAMINSKY: Yes.

I mean, I -- look, I think what troubles normal, regular voters is that we seem to have two different sets of rules for everyone else and for some people in Washington, particularly the president, and maybe future presidents. And New York really wants to do something about that.

I was privileged to be a federal and a state prosecutor. And the goal was always to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, even if it doesn't lead to a result that you initially wanted or thought would happen.

But we have got to do that. And we certainly want to encourage and ensure our prosecutors in New York can continue to do that, and not have the president use the pardon power to get around that or to hide documents that may -- that may help investigations as well.

So this is all about transparency. And I think that's a basic rule of government. You don't get involved in government if you don't want people to obviously know -- to know every fact about your life, especially those that may impact your job in office. And that's the trade-off you make.

And it seems that he wants to have his cake and eat it too. New York Senate today has something else to say about that.

BALDWIN: Hmm.

Senator Kaminsky, thank you so much.

Gwenda Blair, nice to have you back as well.

BLAIR: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Any moment now, the suspect -- thank you.

The suspect in that deadly school shooting near Columbine will be in court. The tragedy is now the 35th school shooting in America this academic year. Coming up, I will talk to the father of a sixth-grader who survived.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:27:29]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BRAUCHLER, COLORADO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: And if you had suggested to anyone behind me or in this room that, within 20 years and 20 miles, we would have dealt with Columbine, the Aurora theater, Arapahoe High School, the shooting of Zack Parrish and four other deputies, we would have thought you mad.

And yet here we are again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Just seven miles from Columbine High School, authorities are investigating another school shooting, the 35th in America since last fall, the 35th.

It happened at a public charter school, the STEM School Highlands Ranch. Investigators say there are two suspects in this case, and one of them will be in court this hour.

Eight students were injured in yesterday's shooting and one student lost his life.

Kendrick Castillo was just days away from his high school graduation. Students tell CNN that, as they saw the gun, Kendrick lunged toward the suspect, saving the lives of so many.

My next guest is the father of a sixth-grader who was inside the school when the shooting started. He penned a Twitter thread that begins, "There was a shooting at my son's school today," where in real time he writes about the visceral, gut-wrenching process of learning that there has been a shooting at his child's school.

Steve Holley and his son, Nate, join me now from Highlands Ranch.

So, thank you two so much for being with me. And I can't even begin to imagine what this is like for you.

And, Steve, just I have to start with you, because, just being honest, I had reservations about you bringing your 12-year-old son on a day after the shooting.

And I just want you to tell me why you felt so strongly about him being on national TV. What do you want us to know about your son?

STEVE HOLLEY, FATHER: I mean, I honestly didn't feel strongly about him being here. I really completely left it up to him.

I asked him this morning. And I just said approached him and said: "Hey, buddy, I heard from CNN. And they asked if he -- if I might want to be on TV to talk about what happened at your school. Is that something you might want to be a part of?"

And he was like: "I will kind of think about it."

So, honestly, he didn't really decide to come up until just about literally when we pulled in the parking lot.

But I do feel it's important to not only hear from the adults from this, but also, maybe more importantly, to hear from the kids.

BALDWIN: All right, so, Nate, how are you doing?

NATE HOLLEY, SURVIVED SCHOOL SHOOTING: I'm doing OK.

It was incredibly scary during it. And at least half the kids in my class broke into tears when it started happening. It was incredibly scary.

And our teacher had us hide in the closet.

BALDWIN: Oh. Can you -- I would have been so, so scared.

And can I just say, you are so brave to be standing there with me today.

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