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GOP-Led Senate Intelligence Issues Subpoena to Don Jr; Democrats Ramp Up Efforts to Get Mueller to Testify; Pelosi Agrees with Nadler's Declaration Country in Midst of Constitutional Crisis; North Korea Launches Missiles for Second Time in One Week; Pompeo Cancels Trip for Urgent White House Meeting on Iran. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 9, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:31] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

So, swirling in Washington this hour is a chaotic showdown of power, loyalty, law, and family. Lawmakers from both parties are now sending a clear message to President Trump, executive privilege will not stop them from demanding more information from what the Mueller report has shown and has yet to show because of redactions.

In a surprising twist now, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee has issued a subpoena for the president's son, Don Jr, to come back and testify a second time. And it's still not clear though on what specific topic.

As for the Democrats, they're now ramping up to get Special Counsel Bob Mueller to testify. The Judiciary chairman in the House, Jerry Nadler, telling CNN he'll subpoena Mueller if he has to.

And at the very same time, Nadler declares the country is now in the midst of a constitutional crisis. And the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi just this morning backed him up.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Nadler said the country is currently in a constitutional crisis.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Yes, I do agree with Chairman Nadler. This administration wants to have a constitutional crisis because they do not respect the oath of office that they take to protect and defend the Constitution, support the Constitution of the United States. Three coequal branches of government, separation of power. They don't support that.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Kaitlan Collins is at the White House. Manu, let me start with you. We have the House Judiciary voting in

favor of holding Bill Barr in contempt. With all of this, where do things stand now?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On the contempt issue, we expect the full House to take up the matter in the coming days. Pelosi said this morning she plans to wrap this up into several potentially other people who are being held in contempt. That's a thing they're considering, so that could take time. Other individuals have been threatened to be held in contempt, including Don McGahn if he does not appear before the House Judiciary Committee.

At the same time, a showdown in the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena to Donald Trump Jr to appear to answer more questions after he testified first in 2017. Now, Trump Jr is fighting that subpoena. He's considering not showing up or even taking the Fifth if he were to show up. This all stems from a number of questions some Democrats have that perhaps he wasn't consistent in his first line of questioning, his first testimony, and also for more questions that have emerged in their investigation since 2017.

In an interesting development this morning, Kate, I had a chance to talk to a number of Republican Senators. And they're siding with Donald Trump Jr in this dispute he's having with their own Republican chairman of the Senate intelligence, Richard Burr, saying they understand why Donald Trump Jr is frustrated.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): I think the rational, to keep the Intelligence Committee investigation open, is wearing kind of thin.

RAJU: Do you think he should not come in?

CORNYN: I'm going to talk to the chairman and the committee staff and figure out exactly where we are. All I can tell you is he has cooperated extensively.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I'm over, I'm done. He testified before the committee, testified to the special counsel. In this environment, I would be very reluctant if I were a lawyer to let my client get back in this mess, but that will be up to Don Jr and his lawyer.


RAJU: Democrats have a different view. They're siding firmly with the notion that he should come in and listen to a subpoena. Richard Blumenthal, the Democrat from Connecticut, just told me moments ago that Donald Trump Jr should be, quote, "in jail," if he doesn't comply with the subpoena. We haven't had a comment yet from Richard Burr about this whole dispute. But at the moment, Donald Trump Jr taking aim at the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the Senate Intelligence Committee weighing what to do next as a showdown with the president's eldest son now looms in the Senate -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: I do think, and maybe nothing is surprising anymore, Manu, but I'm somewhat surprised how quickly you see some leading Republicans jumping to or sticking by their conclusion when it's not entirely clear what Richard Burr or what the committee, what they want Don Jr to come back and speak to. Obviously, there could be discrepancies in his testimony before them, but they don't know what Burr knows. They're jumping to a conclusion as they criticized others of doing, before Burr has been able to do the work. I find it's a bit surprising.

[11:05:16] RAJU: No question. And I think that the reason, one reason why, perhaps, could be the backlash Burr has gotten in the aftermath of the news of the subpoena came out. You see people from Donald Trump Jr.'s camp anonymously attack Burr. You have seen Republican lawmakers saying it's time to move on, including Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican Senator. And after Mitch McConnell said, quote, "case closed," a lot of Republicans want to move on. The last thing they want do is be on the receiving end of Trump or Trump Jr.'s Twitter feed -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: We'll see. Great to see you, Manu. Thank you so much.

Kaitlan, what is the White House saying about all this? Take the point on this one.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Members of the president's inner circle are frustrated by this, because as Manu was laying out, they felt Republicans were coalescing around Mitch McConnell's talking point of the case is closed and now they feel the Democrats have been handed a talking point, saying some members, even of the president's own party, aren't ready for the Russia related inquiries to end.

Some in the White House were surprised by this news. One was the chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who said he found out yesterday about the subpoena.


UNIDENTIFIED HOST: What you're telling me is there was no heads-up?

MICK MULVANEY, CHIEF OF STAFF: I didn't know about it.

UNIDENTIFIED HOST: Right. Do you think the president did?

MULVANEY: I have no idea. Actually, in fairness, I don't know because he left for Florida today before


MULVANEY: All I can tell you is I didn't know. And I know I didn't know.


MULVANEY: To subpoena the president of the United States' son and not at least get a heads-up was, let's say, bad form.


COLLINS: So, Kate, Mulvaney says he didn't get a heads-up, but we reported earlier, this subpoena was issued two weeks ago, and we're told the president was aware of it. He knew about it, but clearly not everyone in the West Wing did.

You were just asking, why are some of these Republicans coming out so quickly, backlash against Burr for issuing the subpoena against the president's son. At lot of it has to do with look at who is speaking out. Some are Senators who are up for re-election. They know the president's son played a pretty big role in coming out and campaigning for people last fall during the midterm elections and some of these are up for re-election and they're going to need his hem again or want his endorsement for that. That's going to play a role in it. And Donald Trump Jr.'s camp is feeling good about all the backlash coming out in the last 24 hours since this news broke of people siding with Don Jr here.

BOLDUAN: What I'm hearing you say, Kaitlan, at least in one part is, yet again, another example of me being naive to be surprised about anything and the motivations coming from how politicians react because it has to do with re-election.

Thanks, Kaitlan. Great to see you.

Joining me right now, CNN political director, David Chalian, and Shan Wu, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.

David, since it all comes down to politics, from the contempt vote to the president trying to block release from anything with executive privilege with regard to the Mueller report, now the threat of subpoena to subpoena Mueller if they must to get him to testify, now Don Jr. What are people watching play out right now on Capitol Hill?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I think they're watching two things here, Kate. I think the first thing they're watching, and you heard from Speaker Pelosi, you just alluded to it, there seems to be a new red line here that may trigger an escalation, which is whether or not Bob Mueller gets to testify. It seemed to me that Speaker Pelosi was making clear that if there's a real attempt to not allow Mueller to testify, I think things from the House Democrats could escalate pretty quickly. Even though as you know, she's been trying to completely tamp down because she understands impeachment to be a total political loser in her mind. That's her assessment of what it would be for her party so she's been trying to tamp that down. But you hear every day these Democrats are taking steps that beg the question, well, if nothing changes, what, at the end of the day, is the tool available to them, and it's that. I thought that was interesting.

The other point I would make is where Kaitlan ended, which is you asked about Don Jr, Kate. This is totally along political lines. Republican Senator from North Carolina, Richard Burr, chair of the committee, surprises Mick Mulvaney and others, obviously, with this, and his fellow Republican Senator from North Carolina, Thom Tillis, puts out a statement to say, oh, I stand with Mitch McConnell, case closed. The difference between the two? Thom Tillis is running for re-election. Richard Burr is not.

BOLDUAN: Does anyone else feel icky? I feel a little icky.

Thanks, David.

So, Shan, let's focus in on the Mueller element of this. Donald Trump asserting executive privilege over the Mueller report, even though privilege was waived already for the Mueller investigation. Can that impact what Bob Mueller himself can testify to if and when he testifies before Congress?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It certainly can. There's a threshold question, will Mueller still be an employee of the department when he testifies. But whether he is or isn't, I think Mueller is an institutionalist. He's going to want to defer to the department. He's not going to be at odds with their position on what he can do. He's going to let them fight out the executive privilege issue. It's interesting, some people have criticized the Democrats for starting with trying to get the Mueller report, but I actually think it's a good place to start. They need it. It's the foundational genesis document. They have to start with that. Secondly, there's a good argument that since, as the attorney general likes to say, so much of it is already public, what's the big deal with the privilege issue then? Whether or not they argue they retain some type of privilege and didn't waive all of it, it's already mostly out there, so what's the harm?

[11:10:43] BOLDUAN: Then there's this, Shan, not so small issue of constitutional crisis. That's where the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said the country has landed. That's where Nancy Pelosi also says this morning the country has landed. Let me play you how Jerry Nadler put it in this moment. Listen.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): There can be no higher stakes than this attempt to arrogate all power to the executive branch away from Congress and, more important, the American people. We have talked for a long time about approaching a constitutional crisis. We're now in it. We're now in a constitutional crisis.


BOLDUAN: Shan, do you think he is right?

WU: I don't think we're quite there yet. No question, I agree that the way the president acts, the way he talks, the way that the attorney general supports him, will lead us to that, because they're basically saying the executive branch answers to no one. They want to be a dictatorship. But right now, we're utilizing the processes in place, processes in place to handle that. There are investigations going on. There's a contempt citation that's been issued. And there's also impeachment. None of that means you're in the crisis. To me, as a lawyer, the crisis is when none of that is working anymore. If Trump, for example, refuses to turn over anything after the Judiciary says you have to turn over something -- BOLDUAN: Right.

WU: -- now you have -- you're at loggerheads. That's the real crisis.

BOLDUAN: The third guardrail, if that's ignored, then you're in the constitutional crisis.

Smart people like Shan Wu, David, are saying that. That means if legal say we're not in a place, we're not there yet, then it's an entirely political question. That leaves Congress drawing this line on constitutional crisis. That leaves Congress where at this moment?

CHALIAN: Well, Congress is a bit divided. By Congress, I mean the Democrats. Obviously, the Republicans would be opposed to this.


CHALIAN: But the House Democratic majority, they're not all singing from the same song sheet here, Kate. If you look in the polling, you understand why. A majority of Democrats are onboard with the notion of impeaching the president. And so being sort of responsive to their party faithful and to their base is something that you hear a lot of members giving voice to. But you hear from Nancy Pelosi and the leadership that she does not want to go there because she understands broadly with the American public the idea of impeaching and removing the president, it's not only in popular but it's been getting progressively less popular over the last several months. The trend is overall in the American public away from impeachment. That puts Nancy Pelosi in a real bind, which is why you hear her this morning --

BOLDUAN: A real bind.

CHALIAN: -- saying things like this is methodical, we have to go step by step by step. Steny Hoyer, her number two, saying if impeachment is where this all leads us, so be it. But nobody wants to jump to that right now because they understand how politically perilous that is.

BOLDUAN: Still, using hyperbolic language, I wonder if we get to the point is where folks are saying we reach the point of the boy and girl who called wolf about this constitutional crisis, looking toward impeachment. Again, it's not a cohesive message coming from the Democratic side, so who knows. But there's this kind of -- I think that question lingers, regardless.

It's great to see you guys. Thank you so much.

WU: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Programming note, tonight, a CNN special town hall with former FBI Director James Comey. CNN's Anderson Cooper is moderating. You can catch that conversation tonight right here on CNN at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up for us, North Korea launches missiles for the second time in a week. So they're trying to send a message. What is the message and what's Kim Jong-Un trying to tell Donald Trump at this moment? How will Donald Trump respond?

[11:14:33] Plus, when a gunman entered their classroom and started shooting, they ran towards the gunfire, tackling the shooter to the ground to try to save themselves and their fellow classmates. One of those brave students did not survive, as you no know. His parents are speaking to CNN. Stay with us.


[11:20:40] BOLDUAN: So if diplomacy didn't work, let the missiles do the talking. That seems to be what North Korea's Kim Jong-Un is thinking. This morning, the regime test fired more missiles. The second time in a week the regime has carried out a weapons test and the first since 2017.

If that's reaching another boiling point for that relationship, it's not the only one. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceled a trip to Greenland and is staying back in Washington for meetings on both Iran and North Korea. Iran announcing that it's withdrawing at least in part from the Iran nuclear deal in response to the recent moves by the Trump administration. And remember, the president has sent a strike group and a bomber task force to the Persian Gulf, citing imminent threats coming from Iran.

Joining me right now to discuss is former deputy secretary of state under President Obama, Bill Burns. He's also the author of a new book about his over 30 years involved in American diplomacy called "The Back Channel."

Ambassador, thank you for being here.


BOLDUAN: Let's start with the pressing issue of North Korea. Two missile tests in a week. North Korea's very clearly trying to send a message. Other than the message being give us attention, what is the message you think he's trying to send the president, and why now?

BURNS: I think the message that Kim is sending is that he's still interested in diplomacy, but he has no intention in the foreseeable future of fully denuclearizing. Essentially the message I think he conveyed to President Trump at the Hanoi summit a couple months ago. The practical question for the White House is, is there a way in which you can reduce the practical dangers posed by North Korea while preserving the aspirational goal of full denuclearization down the road. But in order to pursue that, you would have to do a couple things, I think. First, you would have to abandon a singular focus on summitry, kind of diplomacy as an exercise in narcissism and enable your negotiators. And second, you can set aside the irony of what I'm about to say, you would have to borrow a page from our nuclear negotiations with the Iranians. When we reached an interim agreement with the Iranians at the end of 2013, we froze their program, rolled it back in some significant ways, imposed some quite intrusive verification and monitoring procedures all in return for pretty modest sanctions relief, preserving the bulk of that leverage for the later comprehensive talks. That's one model that I think you could learn from. As I said, sitting aside the rich irony given the venom with which the Trump White House has given this issue.

BOLDUAN: I'm never good with irony, but I think it might fit the bill on that one.

Let us talk about Iran because it's another big question now. Announcing it's partially withdrawing from the nuclear deal, threatening more if countries don't move to ease sanctions that were put back in place by the United States. A lot of folks know, but just to remind everyone, you led those back-channel negotiations that led up to the Iran deal. How serious do you think this is in this moment?

BURNS: Well, I think there are increasing risks of collisions between us and the Iranians. I think the Trump administration is making a very risky bet, and that is that you can make coercive diplomacy work when it's all about coercion and not very much at all about diplomacy, in the sense that you're relying on maximum pressure but not connected at least as far as I can see to either realistic aims or any channels of diplomatic communication. So the Trump White House says it's interested in a better deal, but it appears that what it's interested in is either the capitulation of this Iranian regime or its implosion. I don't think either of those are very realistic aims. So there are quite real dangers of coalition in which the Trump White House and especially individuals like John Bolton and hardliners in the Iranian regime become kind of mutual enablers going up an escalatory ladder together.

BOLDUAN: I have heard from some Democratic lawmakers they're worried the Trump administration is pushing toward an unnecessary war, a collision with Iran. Mike Pompeo says the Pentagon has specific intelligence that attacks were imminent on U.S. forces abroad. That's what led to moving the strike force to the Persian Gulf. Do you believe him? And do you think moving a strike force to the Persian Gulf was warranted?

BURNS: I think I'm the last person who needs to be convinced this Iranian regime can threaten our interests, the interests of our friends in the Middle East. That's a reality we have to do deal with. I get concerned with the saber rattling in the absence of any effort of what I would think to be realistic diplomacy right now. That can create inadvertent collisions, which can be really difficult to control, even if you want to control them.

[11:25:19] Yes.

Ambassador, thanks so much for being here. I'm looking forward to digging into your book. I really appreciate it.

BURNS: Thanks so much, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Much to discuss. We'll have the ambassador back soon. Coming up, they're just kids faced with a decision that no one should

ever have to make, especially children: Run or fight when you're facing down a gunman who has burst into your school. We're learning more about the hero students in Colorado who decided to fight back and the price they paid.