Return to Transcripts main page
House Ways and Means Committee Subpoenas President Trump's Tax Returns; Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) Interviewed on House Ways and Means Committee Subpoena of President Trump's Tax Returns; Gunmen Attack Hotel in Pakistan; Parts of Texas Experience Flooding; Former Friend of Suspect in Colorado School Shooting Says He Talked about Killing Fellow Students; Facebook Co-Founder Calls for Breakup of Social Media Giant; Analysts Examine Claims U.S. Government Faces Constitutional Crisis with President Trump Stonewalling Congress. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired May 11, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:20] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. So grateful to have you here. It is Saturday, May 11th, 2019. I'm Christi Paul.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. You are in the CNN Newsroom.
PAUL: Top stories this hour, the fight for the president's tax returns is heating up yet again. The House Ways and Means Committee has now issued a subpoena giving the IRS until the end of the next week to lift the lid on the president's financial records.
SAVIDGE: In the Middle East, the Pentagon responds to Iran with a warship and more missiles. President Trump says it's all coming with a message, call me.
PAUL: And back in the U.S., across the south, millions of you are at risk for flash flooding today, and Texas is already under water.
And this morning, the president's been on a bit of a retweet rampage, at one point retweeting more than 60 things in less than an hour.
SAVIDGE: At the top of the president's mind now and his Twitter feed, the subpoena of Donald Trump Jr., the FISA warrant and Steele dossier, and the Mueller investigation. Joining us live from the White House, CNN White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond. Boy, he is really on a tear when it comes to tweeting this morning.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: He is, 62 retweets in under 40 minutes, so that's what we saw from the president this morning as he got his day under way. As you mentioned, much of what the president was tweeting this morning was what has consumed much of his attention throughout this last week. One issue in particular which we know has unnerved the president is the subpoena by the Senate Intelligence Committee of Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, over the questions of the Mueller report. The president retweeting multiple tweets about that issue, and in particular echoing criticism of the Republican chairman of that committee, Senator Richard Burr.
We also saw the president do what he has done so many times since the Mueller report has come out, and that is both on one side of things, using the conclusions of the Mueller report to claim vindication, and at the same time attacking the investigators and the origins of that investigation. We saw that once again reflected in the president's Twitter feed this morning.
And just moments ago, another tweet from the president, this one from himself and about these tariffs that he has been focused on with regard to China. The president right now has left the White House. As you can tell behind me, the weather is fairly pleasant, 60 degrees or so, perhaps a good day for golfing. That is usually what the president is up to when he leaves the White House on a Saturday.
PAUL: All right, Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much. We appreciate it.
SAVIDGE: All right, so there is a lot for us to go over here. And joining me from California is California Democrat, Representative Judy Chu, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Good morning to you. Thank you very much for joining us.
REP. JUDY CHU, (D-CA): Thank you very much for having me.
SAVIDGE: So as you know, the chairman of your committee has issued a subpoena to basically try to get IRS, Treasury to turn over tax documents, not just his personal tax forms, but I understand business as well. This is something, of course, you could ask for without a subpoena. So what's the reason for a subpoena?
CHU: Well, a subpoena is one more tool in the toolbox, and it demands that those Trump tax returns be turned over. The subpoena's been issued to the Department of Treasury Cabinet Secretary Mnuchin as well as IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, and it says that the tax returns must be turned over by Friday. If not, then the House Counsel can request that we go to court, and then we can accelerate the court process even sooner, which may be a very good thing.
SAVIDGE: It looked like you were headed to court anyway, right?
CHU: That is right. But there is a difference between answering a court process on a subpoena versus the tax code provision that allows us to get the return. Regardless, both cases are very legitimate, and, in fact, the law says that we shall get the return of the president or of any individual if so asked by the chair of Ways and Means.
SAVIDGE: Yes, "shall" is one of those very tricky legal words. Do you expect that the White House is going to readily just turn all of this over, in other words, the IRS is going -- you're going to see these documents, do you really expect that before the timeframe of the subpoena wears out?
CHU: Remember, that this is interaction between the chair of the Ways and Means and the IRS, so it's not an issue of the president requesting it or saying that he wants to do it. It's between Ways and Means and the IRS.
Nonetheless, the pattern has been that they have not done it. However, we shall wait until Friday. If they still don't do it, then we go to court.
SAVIDGE: Why do you want to see the documents? What are you going to do with them?
CHU: The president is the most powerful person in the United States. The president has the sole ability to sign federal laws into action, and he is also having exclusive ability over an entire branch of government. It is important for us to have accountability. But besides that, four decades of presidents, both Democrat and Republican, have voluntarily turned over the tax returns to the American public because they know that the American public wants to see that our presidents are complying with the law.
SAVIDGE: I want to ask you something before we run out of time here. It's something that we put to a Republican counterpart we had on the air earlier. As you know, we've had another tragic shooting inside of a school this year. We've had so many heartbreaking episodes of this to the point where children are now having to fight back. And I'm wondering what are Democrats doing to focus on the issue of resolving this, whether it's background checks, whether it's gun control, whether it's mental health? What is being done now to prevent this from happening again next week?
CHU: Well, you know that we have been working very hard on this, and, in fact, one of the first things we did was to pass a bill that did, amongst other things, a universal background check that could actually encompass everybody, that could make sure that those that were selling guns at gun shows or online or in person also had to comply with a background check. That is the most effective way of making sure that people who have these guns but shouldn't have them indeed don't have them.
SAVIDGE: And why hasn't it happened?
CHU: The Senate has refused to take up this bill. We believe that there should be pressure on the Senate to take up this bill so that there can be finally commonsense gun reform in this country.
SAVIDGE: Representative Judy Chu, thank you very much for coming in and talking to us today. It's a pleasure to see you.
CHU: Thank you so much.
PAUL: Well, it's an about-face for Rudy Giuliani. Hours after he said he was going to Ukraine to push for an investigation into Joe Biden, the president's lawyer now he says he's not going to do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I will get out of it -- in order to rule out any political suggestion, I will step back, and I'll just watch it unfold. (END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Giuliani had originally said he wanted to convince Ukrainian leaders to look into Biden's call to remove a top Ukrainian prosecutor back in 2016. Biden was joined by other world leaders in making that call at the time, but his opponents point to the fact that the prosecutor had been investigating a Ukrainian natural gas company that was connected to Biden's son. The investigation was later dropped after the prosecutor was removed.
SAVIDGE: Breaking news this hour. Three gunmen have stormed a five- star hotel, and there are reports of gunfire inside the building. This is all taking place in Pakistan. And joining us right now is Ben Farmer. He is in Islamabad, Pakistan. And, Ben, what are you hearing about this attack?
BEN FARMER, JOURNALIST: Well, we understand that it's three gunmen who have attacked the Pearl Continental five-star hotel in the port city of Gwadar. Now, Gwadar is in southern Pakistan. It's on the Arabian Sea, and it's a very strategically important port for Pakistan. We understand there is gunfire. There are some reports of blasts, although these are not confirmed. And it seems the gunmen did enter the hotel. We don't know who they are, and there's been no claim of responsibility. The latest we have from the authorities is that they have evacuated guests from the hotel, but it's not clear if all the staff are evacuated yet.
SAVIDGE: And, Ben, do we know who usually frequents this hotel? In other words, what kind of clientele they would have? Would there be foreigners likely there?
FARMER: Yes, there very likely would be foreigners. It's the big hotel in Gwadar. Now, Gwadar is a very strategically important port, and it's the focal point of an enormous amount of Chinese investment in Pakistan at the moment. So there will be a lot of Chinese businesspeople there. There may also be tourists there. It's really a very, very important port city for Pakistan.
[10:10:00] SAVIDGE: And as you say, no one has taken responsibility here, and we don't know if this is a straight out terror attack, in other words, to kill as many as possible, or whether it's a hostage situation.
FARMER: No, we don't know what the motivation is of this attack, and we don't know who is conducting it. Gwadar is in the province of Balochistan, which is a province which has seen a lot of insurgency. There are separatist insurgents in Balochistan who in the past have attacked both government and Chinese targets. But as you say, we don't know who's responsible.
SAVIDGE: And was there any indication this might have been coming? Had there been problems or any threats?
FARMER: We don't know about particular threats to this specific target, but, yes, there have been attacks on government targets, on Chinese targets in Balochistan, and indeed, elsewhere in the country in recent months.
SAVIDGE: All right. Well, Ben Farmer, we'll continue to stay in touch with you to keep on top of the circumstances there. Thank you very much for that update.
PAUL: Well, the Gulf Coast is under a flash flood watch. Rain and thunderstorms are threatening to hit that area again, and there's already a lot of water there. We're going to tell you what to expect.
SAVIDGE: Right now the Coast Guard is dealing with an environmental hazard after a tanker collides with a barge in the middle of the Houston ship channel.
PAUL: And possible warning signs in the weeks and months before the Colorado school shooting. We hear from a former classmate now who says one of the suspects joked about killing his classmates.
[10:15:10] SAVIDGE: Severe thunderstorms and torrential rain have been pounding Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. And 20 million people are under a flash flood watch today.
PAUL: Look at what it looks like in parts of Houston. And there's more rain expected to cause even more flooding there. As you can see, those cars and trucks barely making it through. CNN's Ed Lavandera is live from Houston.
SAVIDGE: Ed, I know the rains have let up a little bit, but there could be more rain eventually coming at you, right?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are expecting a little bit more rain this afternoon here in the coming hours. That would be the third round of wave that has hit this area this week. Houston is the city that floods. It's a city that is used to this. Watching the floodwaters rise from the bayous and tributary systems that cut through much of the Houston area. So some concern about how much rain will fall here this afternoon and what exactly it will mean in terms of flooding.
The good news has been that we haven't seen any rain here in the last 24 hours, and that has allowed the floodwaters to recede substantially, which will make it a lot easier for this area to absorb the rainfall that is expected here in the next couple of hours. So that is some good news.
And also, emergency officials here are dealing with another crisis, a barge was almost cut in half in the Houston ship channel, dumping 25,000 gallons of what's been described as gasoline stock product there into the Houston ship channel. Emergency crews have launched about 1,600 feet of boom around that spill to try to contain it as best as they can. They have issued warning up and down the coastline there, urging people to stay away. There is around-the-clock air monitoring testing that's going on as far as we've been told.
As far as we know, no severe impact to residents in that area. The air monitoring testing, we're told, has come back negative and everything is OK, but that will continue. It is rather striking images coming from that Houston ship channel where two vessels collided and one of those barges almost being sliced in half. Martin and Christi?
SAVIDGE: Yes, we're looking at the images here now. One quick question. Houston suffered horribly under hurricane Harvey there and the flooding they had. Is the flooding occurring in some of those same neighborhoods, or is this a different area?
LAVANDERA: It's very widespread, so it's really hard to grasp. There are some areas that are just prone to flooding. People know where those areas are. And then it also just depends where the most intense rainfall drops. So flooding can pop up in other locations, and it's very quick. These are flash flooding areas. There are some areas that are prone to flooding, and it doesn't take much for those areas to rise up, but in some of these other areas, they pop up in various different places.
SAVIDGE: OK. Got it.
PAUL: Ed Lavandera, thank you so much.
SAVIDGE: One of the Colorado school shooting suspects, quote, always joked about killing his classmates. That is at least according to a former student at the STEM school Highlands Ranch.
PAUL: Remember two suspects were arrested this week after police say they killed one student, injured eight others at the school. Scott McLean is with us from Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Scott, I know that some people are even talking more about this today. And talk to us about what we've learned about what one of these suspects was saying before, sometimes months before this happened.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, years before, really, Christi and Martin. A lot of people here are wondering how this could happen here, including that former STEM student that you mentioned, Kevin Cole, who says he was stunned to hear about a shooting, but not surprised then to hear one of the suspects was his old friend 18-year- old Devon Erickson. He remembers Erickson as a guy who was always looking to get a rise out of people, a guy with a short-temper who was easily offended, especially when it came to his more liberal political views. But most concerning, though, are some of the off-color jokes or threats that he had made. One, for instance, he would whisper to Cole on several occasions, don't come to school tomorrow. He also said things like this. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN COLE, FORMER STEM STUDENT: He would walk into the classroom, and from time to time he would say just like -- we always thought it was a joke, but he would say when the pencil hits the floor I'm going to start shooting, and then he would drop pencils randomly throughout the class. Kids would hear this and they would go home and talk to their parents about it, or they would immediately after class go to the office and tell higher faculty, higher administration about the events that transpired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[10:20:05] MCLEAN: And so Cole says that at the time these things were sort of laughed off as a joke, but now they seem more like warning signs that were missed. He said that Erickson had actually harassed and bullied his brother during the years that he was at STEM, and that's what eventually soured their friendship. Martin and Christi?
SAVIDGE: Scott, there was apparently a parent who came forward, I believe anonymously, that somehow seemed to suggest that the high- pressure learning environment was going to lead to another kind of Columbine. And I'm wondering, what are people saying about that?
MCLEAN: Yes. So this parent described a sort of pressure cooker type environment. And she actually said that, yes, she was worried this could escalate toward someone getting seriously hurt or even killed. The school said that there is simply no basis for those allegations. In fact the school actually filed a defamation lawsuit against this anonymous parent. But there's a lot of parents pushing back on that, including Nikki Baird, whom we spoke with yesterday about this, and she said, yes, the school demands excellence of its students. But it is also an inclusive school, and a place where students are free to learn by trying things and failing. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI BAIRD, STEM PARENT: It's kind of frustrating to hear people characterize it as a super high pressure kind of place. The pressure kids feel at stem is either pressure that we parents are putting on them directly or that they're putting on themselves. It's not the school that is really pressuring them that I have found.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLEAN: So as for security at the school, on the day of the shooting, there was no school resource officer there, and the county sheriff's office explained yesterday why that was, saying that the year before there was a dispute between the sheriff's office and the school itself on cost and the responsibility of that school resource officer, and the contract was not renewed. So instead the school hired a private security guard, and according to the private security company that hired that guard, he was involved in apprehending one of those suspects. Martin and Christi?
SAVIDGE: Interesting. All right, Scott McLean, thanks very much. Good to hear from you.
PAUL: Well, we're told be prepared for sticker shock. The Trump administration making good on the threat to raise tariffs on Chinese made goods. Coming up, cellphones, toys, some of these everyday items that we use, we could be paying more for.
SAVIDGE: Plus, Facebook and its CEO under fire by its co-founder for unchecked power and influence. Is social media contributing to the political polarization in this country. An early investor in the company and close friend of Mark Zuckerberg joins us just ahead.
[10:26:27] SAVIDGE: Facebook's co-founder Chris Hughes is slamming the company and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg for contributing to the political polarization in society today. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HUGHES, CO-FOUNDER, FACEBOOK: I think that there's this thing about Facebook that is a question that I think a lot of people grapple with. It's unclear, is Facebook just showing us the way we've always been? Were people always screaming at each other about politics and now we can see it when we log in? Or is Facebook, and social media in general, actually changing the way that we talk about politics? For me for a long time, I thought it was more of the former, people will be crazy and people are often saying what they believe. And over time I've come to believe that Facebook is actually contributing to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: Hughes also said that Zuckerberg has, quote, "unchecked power and influence far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector," unquote. So now he's calling for the company to break up.
Joining us now is Roger McNamee. He's a technique investor and an early investor in Facebook, a former mentor to Mark Zuckerberg, and now an activist calling attention to the problems the social media giant is facing. He also authored "Zucked, Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe." Thanks for being with us.
ROGER MCNAMEE, EARLY INVESTOR IN FACEBOOK: Hey, Martin, it's a pleasure to be here.
SAVIDGE: So what did you think, first and foremost, of Chris Hughes and his comments and coming out to strongly as he did?
MCNAMEE: It's really important, Martin. The issue that we faced at Facebook is in many ways that the company has circled the wagon. And there's been almost no internal opposition to the issues that we've seen. So election interference, whether it has been the genocide in Asia in Myanmar, whether it's been the hate speech leading to terrorist acts in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, internally there's been no pushback. And so having one of the founders coming out this way and so forcefully pointing to what's really wrong with the company, and the clip you just showed, it's demonstrably true Facebook hat greatly aggravated polarization in this country and around the world. They're the most important voice in politics, and yet they're not elected. And there's really no one to control them. There's no accountability.
PAUL: So Roger, what's the answer? Do you break up the company, as Chris Hughes suggested?
MCNAMEE: So, Christi, I think there are a number of things we need to do. First, we need to recognize the problem is more than just Facebook. You have within Facebook's own empire, Instagram is every bit as great an issue. And so breaking those apart may, in fact, be an important part of the solution. Google is also a huge issue. YouTube is a terrible actor with respect to hate speech, with respect to election disinformation and the like.
My own belief is the business model of these companies is what creates all of the flaws in society, that the companies are really incented to promote things that either cause fear or outrage, which is to say hate espionage. It's disinformation and conspiracy theories, that's actually good for their business. They like that kind of stuff.
In their head they're not bad people. They're not sitting there saying let's promote hate speech. But they promote the stuff that gets people engaged, and sadly that's what does it best. And if you don't get data out of those businesses, which is to say, protect everything. Don't let banks and credit card companies sell data, don't let companies track you on the web, don't let Google scan your emails for information.
[10:30:07] The way it works right now is that these corporations essentially spy on us all the time, and they gather data. They make this data voodoo doll of us, and they use that to manipulate our behavior. And we're not even aware of it.
SAVIDGE: Let me stop you real quick, because we're going to run out of time. I know that. If short of breaking the company up, how confident would you be that if Zuckerberg and Sandberg can turn it around on their own, that they come up with --
MCNAMEE: None. Martin, there's no chance, none at all. But we need more than breaking them up is what I'm saying. We have to both break them up and break up the business model of not just Facebook but also Google. And it's a hard thing to pull. We're going to need to do it not just in the U.S. but around the world. But I'm very confident it will happen. We have a 2020 election. What I've discovered is that this is not a partisan issue, that people realize, wait a minute, we're being manipulated by tech companies without our permission and awareness. We need to stop it. And there are ways to do that, because some of the things they do, like scanning emails, should be illegal.
PAUL: Right. Let me ask you this. Do you believe a government agency should be created to regulate tech companies?
MCNAMEE: I believe there is a rising understanding. I'm working with the anti-trust division of the Justice Department, I'm working with the FTC. They're both focused on this issue. I'm working with members of Congress. So I believe the United States government is there, the state of California is very focused on it, a number of state attorneys general. And then outside of the U.S., you see a lot of work going on in Europe and now in New Zealand and Australia. So I'm very confident that over the next couple of years you're going to see very significant changes.
SAVIDGE: This is such an important conversation at this time. Roger McNamee, thanks very much for coming in and sharing. MCNAMEE: Thanks for having me on.
PAUL: Thank you, sir.
MCNAMEE: Thanks for having me on.
Well, the Democratic House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi both declaring that America is in a Constitutional crisis. The former FBI director James Comey disagrees with that. We're going to talk about that. Stay close.
[10:35:00] PAUL: So nice to have you on this Saturday morning. And this week at least two top Democrats have declared that American is in a Constitutional crisis amid stonewalling from the White House. Former FBI Director James Comey says that's not true, but admits democracy is feeling the strain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: A crisis would be if the United States courts say, no, Mr. President, you must comply with this demand, and he says no then. We're not there. Our system is being stress tested, but it's up for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: So we wanted to discuss this further. We've got two perfect people to do that. Joining me now is Republican strategist Brian Robinson and former South Regional Director for Obama in 2012 Tharon Johnson. Good morning to both.
BRIAN ROBINSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Good morning.
THARON JOHNSON, FORMER SOUTHERN REGIONAL DIRECTOR, OBAMA 2012: Good morning.
SAVIDGE: I'm going to read something to you real quick here, because Jeffrey Toobin, our CNN legal analyst, summarized the current state of things here. You may agree or disagree, which is what I'm going to ask afterwards. But he says "Our constitutional system never contemplated a president like Donald Trump. The framers' anticipated friction among the three branches of government which has been a constant throughout our history, but the Trump White House has now established a complete blockade against the legislative branch, thwarting any meaningful oversight. The system, it appears, may be simply be incapable of responding to this kind of challenge." Brian, what do you think of that?
ROBINSON: I think James Comey actually hit it dead on the head. This needs to go through the court system. And look, Toobin has been saying that Trump's presidency is a constitutional crisis for about two-and-a-half years now. And it has been a constant from Democratic leadership that he's going to destroy the nation. And here we are actually three year into the administration, and I think the administration is probably running better than it ever has before. He's kind of getting his groove on.
SAVIDGE: The administration run really well, that's isn't really a good answer. Congress has oversight. That is part of the whole Constitutional --
ROBINSON: They've always had oversight.
PAUL: But they don't feel like they have oversight right now.
ROBINSON: What about when Eric Holder wouldn't turn over documents?
ROBINSON: That didn't make it right. If one person did it, it doesn't mean the next person should do it, right?
ROBINSON: Was it a constitutional crisis then? No, because it was Obama. Whatever he did was fine. It's a completely different standard when it was Obama.
JOHNSON: No. So, wow. So this is the first time I ever heard him take up for Obama and say that it was a different standard. And it is.
ROBINSON: It is a different standard.
JOHNSON: But it's a difference because since day one, guys, this president, with all of his entanglements with his businesses, foreign and domestic, you look at how he basically saw in the report he encouraged his staff members to obstruct the investigation, the Mueller investigation. And you look how he really has just ruined the dignity of the White House with the tweets. I think even this morning he's tweeted almost 70 times attacking people.
So what I think what the Democrats are saying is it is a crisis because if you look at the three levels of government, they've never been this chaotic before in our history. When you have a president who is basically firing people because they don't carry out his orders, but you also have a Congress for a long time promised their Democratic constituencies and other people that they were going to go there and hold this president accountable, and he's not cooperating.
So there is a crisis building. Is it to the point where I think that the world is ending? No. But I think that you've got the put checks and balances on this president because he's just out of control.
PAUL: So here's my question, because Jeffrey Toobin also says the most obvious political response to Congress and thus of the norms of constitutional history is impeachment. Do you go there, Tharon?
JOHNSON: Look, I'm going to stay along the party lines. I think you've seen leaders in the party, Speaker Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and others have said, and some of the presidential candidates disagree. I don't think we're at impeachment yet. I think that there is a question of this president's conduct. And I think you have got to make him understand and make him answer to the American people, is he competent enough to continue to lead this country.
So I don't think you want to push for impeachment yet, but I do think hat there needs to be more oversight and checks and balances.
PAUL: It's on deck. It's on deck.
JOHNSON: It's on deck. And it's something that really is red meat to the left. But I'm a person who believes that in order to beat Donald Trump in 2020 we need a moderate candidate that can talk about some of the things this president has done and what he or she would do if they become president.
SAVIDGE: Brian, do you think the Republican -- do you think the president is trying to goad the Democrats into impeachment?
[10:40:00] ROBINSON: Absolutely. It would be a gift-wrapped Christmas present for President Trump if they would go toward the impeachment. You want to know why? Because middle America, those people in Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania who put Trump over the top in 2016 have investigation fatigue. They were told by the Democrats, some of whom voted for Trump, then for the Democrats in Congress two years later, that they were going to talk about infrastructure and education and college debt. No. All they're talking about is investigating the president.
Is there any well-intentioned Democrat out there talking policy? They're not getting any attention. They're being drowned out. And you know who else Jerry Nadler is drowning out? The 30,000 Democratic presidential hopefuls who are in this field. None of them are breaking through.
JOHNSON: But to be fair, the presidential candidates, they are talking about things like health care, they're talking about Medicare for all, they're talking about free college tuition, they're talking about eliminating student debt.
SAVIDGE: They're not talking impeachment, though.
JOHNSON: They're not. But when asked, some of them have to go there, because they've got to win a Democratic primary. And right now the majority of primary voters who are fed up with Donald Trump, who the one thing that gets them motivated behind any candidate is to really make sure that you put the right person in to beat him in 2020. But I do think, I agree with Brian that I think if we move toward impeachment right now, it doesn't help us and it makes us lose the middle. And we need middle-class Americans, particularly in the Midwest, to be with the Democratic nominee in 2020.
PAUL: You've got the House Ways and Means Committee, you've got the House Judiciary Committee both talking about subpoenas already. How do Democrats argue that these investigations are necessary in what seems to be, to your point, Brian, investigation fatigue?
JOHNSON: Well, listen. We have been saying since day one that this president, who at the time when he was a candidate for president, should turn over his tax returns. This is something that every candidate who has run for office has done. And so for him to refuse to do it, and then we're learning that there's a possibility of how he was basically almost a billion dollars in debt from bad business deals who basically ran on being this pro-businessman that can actually run the operation at the White House, and then also we've heard these rumors about how the charitable contributions were being abused, and he was the biggest beneficiary on the tax cut that he orchestrated.
And so I think if you want to put it to bed, just be transparent. And that's all that I think the Democrats are asking for is for this pretty to be transparent.
SAVIDGE: We're going to let you respond in just a minute.
PAUL: We will let you respond, I promise. We have to take a quick break, but we're not just talking about this. Brian and Tharon are sticking with us so we can talk about North Korea, we can talk about Biden some more. Stay close.
[10:46:34] SAVIDGE: And back with us once again, Republican strategist Brian Robinson and former South Regional Director for Obama, 2012, Tharon Johnson. Welcome back.
We were talking taxes when last we left. Brian, I'll let you pick it up here. Do you think this effort, especially on the part of Democrats House Ways and Means Committee, the subpoena is going to work?
ROBINSON: We'll have to see how it plays out, because the Trump administration has made it fairly clear that they're not going to play along with this. And you see the ranking member, Kevin Brady, of Texas, the leading Republicans on the committee, coming out and fighting the Democrats on this, saying there's obviously a political witch hunt. I think politically, outside the legal sphere, I'm not a lawyer, but politically I think the Democrats are playing with fire with this, because I think Americans --
SAVIDGE: How so?
ROBINSON: Because Americans see it as an overreach. They do see it as a political witch hunt. They do see it as fishing for dirt of some sort. The president is not obligated to turn over his taxes.
PAUL: By law, he's not. You're right.
ROBINSON: And Democrats argue he is obligated if they ask as a committee. Fine. Let the courts determine that.
INGRAHAM: He is, I believe.
ROBINSON: We'll let the courts decide on that.
PAUL: OK, You're right. You're right. ROBINSON: That's where it's going to go. But politically I think it
goes back to what we were saying in the last segment. Americans are tired of investigations ceaselessly going on.
JOHNSON: I don't think Americans are tired of it. I do think they want it to end. And the best way for it to end is for the president just to turn his tax returns over. If you have nothing to hide. If you have done everything above board. He said, hey, I've been one of the Americans who abused this tax system, this tax code. He said that on record.
PAUL: He's been transparent about that.
JOHNSON: He's been transparent that he's abused it, right? Just turn them over. And then the American people, we often take a deep breath and say, OK, either this man, it's true some of the things he's been accused of in the past, or maybe he's been this wonderful charitable contributor over the years and done a lot of great things. We don't know.
PAUL: I've got to get to the next topic, Joe Biden. President Trump yesterday in this interview with "Politico" said he basically equated Joe Biden to himself when they started this.
ROBINSON: Which is a compliment.
PAUL: He said "If you remember from the day I came down the escalator until the end of the primaries I was in the number one position, I was in center stage every debate. And you know, nobody came close." Here's the thing. It's not true. He was at that point in the bottom tier of the 12 that were working, but he kept pushing it up. Do you think he has some genuine respect for Vice President Biden, or does he fear him?
ROBINSON: I think he absolutely has some respect for him. Trump knows that, again, we just mentioned this, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, those are the states that he must win in addition to Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina, which are increasingly purple states.
But he knows that Joe Biden has got an appeal there that Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris doesn't. And so that's a distinct concern to him. And so you're going to see Trump begin to focus on him more and more.
Look what he did with Mayor Pete. He called him Alfred E. Neuman. And you hear that, and you're like, perfect, he's right. And now he's been able to already frame that young mayor. And that is going to live on because it works. It's going to be harder to do it to Biden because people have already formed opinions on him. They've known him for 30, 40 years. He's been a part of our life through our television all of this time. Much harder to define him negatively the way he was able to do to Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush in the primary in 2016.
[10:50:00] SAVIDGE: Real quick, I've got to change it on you. North Korea, we've just seen missile testing this week. The president said he was good friends, the threat is over, and now he seems to be really blowing this off and saying they're short-range missiles, it doesn't really matter. What are we to make of this?
JOHNSON: One of the pivotal moments in this presidency for Donald Trump was when he actually went to North Korea and he had the summit and came out and basically said we've got a deal and came back and taunted this meeting, Republicans were saying, look, he can actually conduct himself in a very good manner to discuss domestic policy and foreign policy.
What we've seen now is it didn't work. And you've got to get to the table and you've got to lay the groundwork to have these conversations with people who are building missiles, who are testing missiles, who want to bomb the homeland. So I think this president has got to get back to the drawing board.
But I think, again, if you also look at what's going on with China and tariffs and all that, I know we're not going to get to that today, I think that this president has shown an inability to really be able to cut the deals and negotiate deals that are going to protect us and really continue to have the open communications with these foreign leaders to make sure they trust them so we can actually protect our homeland. I think as an American, that's what I want to see from the president.
ROBINSON: The fact is the sanctions on North Korea are working. Kim depends on the elites in the military and in his government to support him, and they are hurting. Their perks are going away because the money isn't there. So he is being strangled to some degree. I think what you're seeing is a maturation of Donald Trump, really, because what has he not done? He's not tweeted about rocket man.
SAVIDGE: So you think holding it back --
ROBINSON: He's been holding back. I think he is sticking to a policy that's working, and I think you're seeing a more serious, thoughtful approach on Iran and China as well. You're not seeing the bombastic tweets. You're seeing good policy.
JOHNSON: But he can't get it done. When he's in the room with them, he comes back, and we never know what happens because a lot are closed. He cannot get the deal done.
ROBINSON: Better than bowing down.
PAUL: I wish we had so much more, a whole hour with you two. Brian and Tharon, thank you both so much.
ROBINSON: Thank you.
HOLMES: Happy Saturday.
PAUL: We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a special connection when your feeding people.
Let's do the veggie-burgers.
In the beginning our mission was feeding people living with AIDS, and now we have added people living with other chronic illnesses. A lot of them are bed-bound. Many times they don't have the money to shop. It's kind of a desperate thing when they don't have any food in the house. It's bringing that love, it's bringing that dignity to them. This is the assignment that I feel that I've been given.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: To nominate your own hero go to CNNHeroes.com. We'd love to meet them.
And thank you so much for spending your morning with us. We hope you make good memories today.
SAVIDGE: Fredricka Whitfield is up next. Have a great day.