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GOP-Led Senate Panel Subpoenas Trump Jr. Over Russia Probe; Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) Says We Are Now In A Constitutional Crisis; Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Speaks Amid Constitutional Showdown Over Russia Probe; Shooting Suspects Expected To Be Formally Charged On Friday. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired May 9, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: All right. Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Jim Sciutto.
We are watching one of several fronts in a constitutional showdown at least, with some recalling a crisis though, between the Trump administration and Congress. The Speaker of the House is about to face reporters, could tell us more about a coming a vote to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt for failing to hand over the unfiltered Mueller report, a report the President now claims is shielded start to finish by executive privilege.
HARLOW: So the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is now threatening to subpoena the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, himself if necessary. We have also now learned that the Senate Intelligence Committee led by republicans, and that matters, folks, has served a subpoena on the President's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. A source close to Trump Jr. calls the move a P.R. stunt and calls the panel's Republican Chairman, Richard Burr, a coward.
Let's go to our Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. So I'm interested in what do those senators, Burr and the republicans on the Senate Intel Committee want to hear from Don Jr., and how are other republican senators responding?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I just got a chance to catch up with some republicans who are siding with Donald Trump Jr. over the Committee Chairman, Richard Burr, who has issued a subpoena along with Mark Warner, the Committee's Vice Chairman, to get Donald Trump Jr. to come back to the committee to hear more from him after he first testified back in 2017.
We understand there's some questions about what he said before. There could be questions that members have about whether or not, about some of his initial discussions about the Trump Tower meeting that he took back in 2016, the Mueller report raised some questions about his initial testimony to a different committee. But the moment some republicans, including Senator Lindsey Graham, say he will be reluctant if he were Donald Trump Jr. to come back and testify before the Senate panel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I like Richard Burr. I just don't know -- to me, Mueller is the last word for me, so 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: And you haven't heard from Mueller back yet, have you?
RAJU: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: And the last question was about Lindsey Graham's outreach to Bob Mueller to see if he wanted to come back and testify before his committee about the dispute that any dispute he may have had with the phone call he had with the Attorney General, Bill Barr.
But also, I caught up this morning with a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, John Cornyn, a senior republican who is up for re-election next year, and he told me that it's time to wrap up the committee's investigation, decidingly not siding with Richard Burr, saying that he understands the frustration of the President's eldest son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): 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. I can understand why after the Mueller investigation is over, his frustration, thinking how much longer is this going to go on. I think that's a legitimate concern. But the committee needs to wrap up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So, as you can see, republicans are in a bit of a difficult spot on this because they don't want to say something that could upset the President or the President's eldest son. But at the same time, this is a republican-led committee that wants to ask more questions. A committee spokesperson said that, look, we can ask these witnesses who came in, we have made it clear, we may bring them back for additional questions, which is exactly what they want to do with Donald Trump Jr. here.
But as you can see, he is fighting this. He's warning that he could even plead the fifth or defy a subpoena, which could raise the possibility of contempt citation if the republicans decide to go that way, but this fight heating up republicans at the moment siding with the President's eldest son. Guys?
HARLOW: Okay. Really significant from both of those republican senators, Manu, thank you.
The White House caught off guard by the subpoena for Donald Trump Jr. especially since it came from that republican-led committee.
SCIUTTO: Well, it's their right. Chairmen have a lot of powers as chairmen of these committees.
CNN White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, joins us now with more. So, Kaitlan, what more can you tell us about the White House's reaction? It's CNN's reporting, Jeremy Herb, that this came two weeks ago so they have known about it for some time.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They may have known about it for some time, but there are some people in the West Wing, including the President's Chief of Staff, who did not know about this until yesterday when these news reports broke. Now, Mick Mulvaney was doing an interview, he said he had just found out about the subpoena.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJOR GARRETT, CBS CORRESPONDENT: So what you're telling me is there was no heads-up?
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I didn't know about it.
GARRETT: Right. Do you believe the President did?
MULVANEY: I have no idea. In fairness, I don't know because he left for Florida today.
GARRETT: It doesn't feel like it though?
MULVANEY: All I can tell you, what I know, and I know I didn't know.
To subpoena the President of the United States' son and not at least get a heads-up, I thought, was, let's say, bad form.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So, Mulvaney there is saying he didn't know personally about this, but we've spoken with people and they say they don't think it's likely the President himself didn't know about it because, of course, as Jeremy noted, this subpoena was issued more than two weeks ago. So, likely Donald Trump Jr. did tell his father about the subpoena. But it does show you that some key members in the West Wing didn't know about this.
Now, members of the President's inner circle are frustrated by this latest development because they essentially feel that this has given democrats a talking point here. Because before this, republicans in the Senate, especially the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, were trying to focus on a singular message, which was that the case was closed and it was time for them to move on. Now, democrats obviously didn't agree with that. But now that the republican here, the republican-led committee has issued this subpoena for the President's son, that gives democrats a talking point that even members of the President's own party aren't ready to wrap all these investigations up and that is causing some frustration in the President's inner circle and back at the White House.
SCIUTTO: Well, they do what they've done in the past and call him a fake republican as a result. Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much.
Let's discuss now with Jack Quinn. He's a former White House Counsel for the Clinton administration, and Josh Dawsey, White House Reporter for The Washington Post here.
Listen, Jack, you know, the White House clearly is not shy about just up and saying no to a whole host of congressional subpoenas here. It looks like Don Jr. may do the same. So what does Congress do in that case?
JACK QUINN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So Congress has some options here. One of them, I think, that should probably be off the table or at least won't get them very far would be to hold him in criminal contempt. It's unlikely at the end of the day, the Department of Justice would take steps in court to enforce that. It's entirely possible that the House could move to hold him in civil contempt, which would carry with it the possibility of stiff fines for as long as it takes to get his compliance.
The next step here, look, the thing that -- let me -- two important things to understand here. Number one, the Trumps expect special treatment in all of these investigations and in life, generally. You see that in this remarkable discussion about whether or not a heads-up was given to people about this coming. Other people don't get a heads-up, but the Trumps expect it.
The second thing, and most importantly, the Congress has very broad powers to investigate. And in particular, the House of Representatives, given that the constitution identifies only one body for the handling of the initial stages of an impeachment, the House of Representatives have enormous power. And if anything is sort of impedes that, it's a fundamental attack on the constitution.
So I think that they're not going to do well in court on this stuff. I can't believe they're making this executive privilege argument. There's nothing -- well, there's very little about the Mueller report that fits squarely in the concept of executive privilege, which is meant to cover presidential communications. I'm not aware that anybody is fighting over communications by the President as president, and, secondly, discussions among presidential advisers who are having conversations or other communications to help formulate policy.
The Mueller report is not about that. So this is just a phony argument.
HARLOW: Josh Dawsey, to you, how significant is it that someone close to Don Jr., our source, is calling Richard Burr a so-called republican? And on the flipside of that, how significant is it that Senator Richard Burr is subpoenaing Donald Trump Jr. to show up?
JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly seems Senator Burr is getting some backlash from republicans that are close to the President. You saw Rand Paul, Kevin McCarthy, lots of folks who are pretty powerful in Washington these days, are taking the side of the President's son over the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The disclosure of a subpoena the day after Mitch McConnell said that the case was closed was also interesting development. It's hard to know exactly why it was disclosed then.
But you have republicans who really want to move on, who have been kind of in the mud with the President on this Mueller investigation for two years and a Senate Intelligence Committee who obviously still wants to hear from Don Jr. It's kind of a puzzling move in a lot of ways politically. And you're seeing that a lot of republicans who are close to the President are coming out against it. I mean, you have to remember, the President's approval rating among republicans remains over 90 percent. So when you're going after the President's son, you're going to probably face some palpable backlash.
SCIUTTO: Josh, do we know what the Senate Intel Committee is after here? One, do they believe that he lied to them prior and want to check his testimony now? Or is it simply wrapping up loose ends on the broader Russia interference investigation, and perhaps with a focus on the 2016 Trump Tower meeting? Do you know?
DAWSEY: We don't know exactly. And the most interesting part is that, you know, the President's son has testified on several occasions, but on the Mueller report, you also saw that he did not voluntarily testify about the meeting in Trump Tower. He was one of the only witnesses who did not voluntarily testify.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has tried to project a more bipartisan feel than the House Intelligence Committee, that obviously there was a lot of sniping. So we don't know exactly what they want from him here. But it's going to be a controversial move among republicans.
HARLOW: Jack, to you --
QUINN: So may I just add -- can I just add one point to that? I think it is enormously significant that they moved to get whatever they want by subpoena. Clearly, there have been discussions going on, whether it's to clarify things he said in the past, whether they think he perjured himself. But the fact that a subpoena was issued, you know, a legal enforcement tool, that's a hammer. That is not just an idle way of gathering evidence. That is a hammer.
HARLOW: That's a very good point.
QUINN: So I think they're after something that's a big deal.
HARLOW: Do you -- switching gears a little bit here, just as former White House Counsel under the Clinton administration. We heard Nadler say this week that it's a constitutional crisis, okay? At the same time, in almost the same breath a little bit later yesterday, Nadler said that impeachment, quote, may not be the best answer in this constitutional crisis. I'm just wondering if, politically, you think democrats are taking a risk here of looking disingenuous by saying it's a constitutional crisis, but now may not be the best time for impeachment.
QUINN: Yes. Look, I'm not sure that the messaging here has been perfect. Clearly, you can't rule out impeachment. And I think they're trying to make sure that they're not dismissing that as something that may happen down the road.
The President has waged an all-out assault on the constitutional prerogatives of other branches of government unless they agree with him. I mean, he really is taking steps to, and this is not an exaggeration, to fundamentally deny the concept of checks and balances, the powers and prerogatives of other branches of government, whether it's criticism of courts whenever they disagree with him, or in this case, the Congress exercising its broad and totally legitimate investigative powers. This is something that the Congress is supposed to do.
And, you know, the more the President and his team are obstructionists, and that's what they're being, they are obstructing these investigations right before our eyes, the more that happens, the less possible it is for Chairman Nadler and others to just say, well, you know, we're not terribly concerned about that. They have to be concerned about this, because if they ignore it, they just invite him to misbehave in this fashion over and over.
SCIUTTO: Well, you wonder if it's a political strategy on the part of the president to draw them into that fight because he thinks it's politically advantageous though.
HARLOW: Okay. Thank you both very much.
QUINN: Absolutely. I think they think they're -- I think they're trying to play the Clinton playbook and, you know, they saw it didn't work against Bill Clinton. They're trying to see if impeachment would help them.
HARLOW: All right, thank you both ,Josh Dawsey, Jack Quinn, nice to have you.
Still to come for us, it's the text message that no parent ever, ever wants to even imagine reading, especially from their child, quote, it's a school shooting. We're talking live with the mother who received that.
SCIUTTO: Yes, I just can't imagine it. Plus, twice in one week, North Korea launching an unidentified projectile. Is Kim Jong-un trying to send a message to Trump?
Plus, negotiators scrambling today to try work out a trade deal between the U.S. and China. And if they don't, it could hit you, farmers, other businesses across the country, right in the wallet. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SCIUTTO: This is Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, answering reporters' questions now. Let's have a listen.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): -- be an obstacle to our finding out more about how it happened so we can prevent it from happening again.
And so, again, to look to history, the Nixon experience of non- impeachment, whatever you want to call that, was months of hearings and investigations before they got to a place where they had enough.
They had a compelling argument that even the republicans, the republicans had to go to the President and say it's over.
But you have to have -- as I say, we follow the facts. You don't know this. But for seven years, I was on the Ethics Committee and I really did pay my dues to the Congress of the United States. Everybody has to participate in some way, so we can have our Congress operate at the highest standard, but it is heavy lifting because it's -- you're making judgments about your colleagues, nobody wants to do that.
However, we were always instructed it's not about hearsay, it's not about politics, it's not about personalities, it's about the facts, the law, and in that case, the rules of the House. And that is the path that I am following. It's about the facts and the law.
Now, as I have said yesterday, the President is almost self-impeaching because he is, every day, demonstrating more obstruction of justice and disrespect for Congress's legitimate role to subpoena.
So, again, this is very methodical. It's very constitution-based. It's very law-based. It's very factually based. It's not about pressure. It's about patriotism.
REPORTER: Madam Speaker, a follow-up on the question, power of contempt. So we've had some of these exercises on contempt in recent years. Both sides have found it rather unsatisfying. I don't think the republicans thought they got very far with (INAUDIBLE) and Eric Holder. To your side, when you held Bolton and Meyers in contempt, they didn't get Meyers up for a closed-door interview until the next Congress and the Bush administration was out of office. So I want to clarify why you think that this, in fact, you used the term, has teeth if it's going to be just another civil argument like we had in those four instances prior?
PELOSI: Because I do. I just do.
REPORTER: Do you think the courts are going to --
PELOSI: Do you want to have a contempt of Congress against you? That is not a desirable thing for someone to have. And now, we're not even talking about isolated situations. We're talking about a cumulative effect of obstruction that the administration is engaged in and the President declaring that he is not going to honor any subpoenas from the Congress. So I support the path that our Chairmen are on. And I do believe that it will establish the case for where we go from here.
REPORTER: Madam Speaker, you also talked about --
PELOSI: Yes, ma'am? This will have to be the last question because of the funeral.
REPORTER: The President goading you into impeachment, how do you balance dealing with that impulse as you perceive it from the President and the kind of timing that you've talked about here about the methodical nature and knowing that the courts have their own time, and some of your members are quite anxious to see things moving expeditiously. How are you going to balance that?
PELOSI: We're going to do the right thing. That's just the way it is. And it is going to be based on fact and law and patriotism, not partisanship or anything else. Some I see in some of your metropolitan journals or other reporting that, oh, it's political. They don't want that. It has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with e pluribus unum, what our founders, the guidance they give us, from anyone. They couldn't imagine how many or how different we'd be, but they knew we had to be one. Impeachment is one of the most divisive things you can do, dividing a country, unless you really have your case with great clarity for the American people.
So what we want to do is balance -- you are always balancing equities. The equity of the truth being known made known to the American people. They are owed the truth. Uniting -- keeping our country united when is one in furtherance of the other or is one to the detriment of the other. That's a judgment we have to make.
And, yes, there is some enthusiasm. But, by and large, it's not -- you act as -- sometimes people act. I'm not saying you. But sometimes people act as if impeach or nothing. No, it's not that. It's a path that is producing results and gathering information. And some of that information is that 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 co-equal branches of government, separation of power. They don't support that. And that's what they are trying to -- that is what -- understand, because Chad (ph) used the right word, power. It's about power for them.
And for the republicans, as I said to you in a previous meeting, Barr, McConnell, Trump, their common bond, a special interest in our country, whether it's the gun interest, whether it's the fossil fuel industry, not to paint everybody in one of those categories with the same brush. But I do paint Barr, McConnell and the President with the same brush, that they are here because they're anti-governance of any governance role in addressing climate change, addressing the epidemic on gun violence in our country, to name just two.
So people have to understand what this means in their lives. Yes, it's an academic discussion in Washington, D.C. for some people, and we have the responsibility to protect and defend the constitution. That's the oath we take. But people also have to know that there's a policy agenda that goes with it, which says we don't want any governance that's going to have protections for you and your life, whether it's the air your children breathe or the fact that gun violence is so rampant in our country and becoming such an occurrence that it breaks your heart.
We passed our bill. We took action. It was an early priority. It was a promise we made. It's a promise we kept in the House. The American people support gun violence protection. And Mitch McConnell says, Grim Reaper, dead on arrival. I don't think so.
So, again, this is not something that is just about their behavior and their obsession with holding power. It's about what that power in their hands means to the American people. And that's part of our fight as well. But whatever we think about policy, just to understand where we are, the fact is our judgment has to be on the facts of what they did in relationship to the law. And we will go forward with that. And we won't go any faster than the facts take us or any slower than the facts take us.
Thank you very much.
REPORTER: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi there. Is there a constitutional crisis? She thinks so. She says that the administration has decided they are not going to honor their oath of office. Those are strong words --
HARLOW: Yes, they are.
SCIUTTO: -- from the top democrat in the House.
Another story we're following today, and this one is just heartbreaking, I think, for all involved. Two teens accused of carrying out a mass shooting in a Denver area school, they'll be formally charged tomorrow. The suspects made their first court appearance on Wednesday. We can only show you one of them because the other is a minor. The district attorney handling the case says first- degree murder and attempted murder charges are a certainty.
We are also learning more about one of the students' heroic actions during the shooting. Witnesses say that 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo threw himself at one of the gunman to help his classmates get away. That action cost Castillo his life but may have saved others.
HARLOW: True American hero.
Last night, friends and family and classmates all came together to honor Castillo's bravery and pray for the victims. We're also hearing some of the terrifying sound from inside of the school as this all played out. And before you listen to this, just a warning, it's really hard to listen to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERCOM: Attention please, lockdown. Lock (INAUDIBLE) out of sight. Attention, please. Lockdown. Lock --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Oh my goodness, Cami Brainard, whose son not only was there, victimized by all of this, but recorded that audio, is with us. I don't think words are adequate. There are no adequate words, Cami, for Jim and I to express our grief and our sympathy to you and to all there. But to have your son in there, just tell us your emotions, your feelings this morning.
CAMI BRAINARD, PARENT OF STEM SCHOOL HIGHLANDS RANCH STUDENT: Sorry, just listening to it again just is so hard. It's definitely still very surreal.
I don't want to be here right now. This is really hard for me, but I just feel like it's extremely important.