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Barr Investigates Russia Probe Origins; Judge Hears Trump Suit against Democrats; Sen. Ben Cardin is Interviewed about a Plan for Iran; Migrant Children Sleeping on Ground; Biden Pushes Back on Ocasio-Cortez. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 14, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: See you back here this time tomorrow.

Brianna Keilar starts RIGHT NOW.

Have a great day.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, just in, the first big test in the standoff between the president and Congress. A court weighs in on the fate of his financial records.

As tensions rise with Iran, why the U.S. is reviewing a plan to send a massive army to the Middle East.

Plus, beyond freaked says one business owner as the trade war between the U.S. and China shows no signs of winding down.

And the freshman Democrat who Republicans love to talk about is teaming up with Bernie Sanders too take on Joe Biden. Now the front- runner is hitting back.

Up first, President Trump denying that he asked Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate the origins of the Russian probe. Listen to what the president told reporters just a short time ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I didn't ask him to do that. I didn't know it. I didn't know it. But I think that's a great thing that he did it.

I am so proud of our attorney general that he is looking into it. I think it's great. I did not know about it, no.


KEILAR: Joseph Moreno is a former Justice Department prosecutor.

And you hear, Joe, the president saying that he didn't ask him to do that, but he's happy he did it. And also, he made it very clear ahead of time where he stood on this. He was tweeting about this. He's been talking about it. He wanted this done. Does -- is this problematic at all with his assertion that he didn't ask this to be done?

JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE PROSECUTOR: This is the struggle with the way our system works, right, because, on the one hand, the president appoints the attorney general and the leadership of the Justice Department and all the U.S. attorneys and the president can set general Justice Department policy and priorities.

However, on the other hand, we don't want a president reaching into the Justice Department and telling them what to do, who to investigate, what to investigate, who not to the investigate, because that mixes politics and law enforcement, right? So the president is stepping right into this struggle because by broadcasting his wishes so publically in tweets and public statements, it's hard to then separate the politics from the law enforcement.

KEILAR: Absent the president's very clearly stated desires, do you think that Bill Barr would be, in addition to this IG investigation that we're seeing, working with the heads of the CIA, the FBI and the DNI to investigate the origins of the -- the Mueller investigation? I ask that because the origins are -- it's essentially -- it's a conspiracy theory that they are not -- it's not actually -- it wasn't a real starting point.

MORENO: I really hope the answer is yes. And Bill Barr knows this standard because at his confirmation hearing a few months ago, he discussed this arm's length relationship that should exist between the White House and the Justice Department. So he understands the danger here. So I very much hope that if when he is asked some day, why did you make this decision to look into this, hopefully the answer is, it had nothing to do with politics, it's not because the president or a surrogate or through a tweet made it clear to me he wanted this investigated. I had my own good reasons and here's what they are.

KEILAR: The president, his son at this point, is -- he's locked in a bit of a battle because you have the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who wanted him to testify and has now subpoenaed him, and sources are saying that Trump Junior didn't want to talk about that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that he had with the Russian government-aligned lawyer. He didn't want to talk about the Trump Tower Moscow project and then everything fell apart.

Let's listen to what the president said about the subpoena that was issued for Donald Trump Junior.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's really a tough situation because my son spent, I guess, over 20 hours testifying about something that Mueller said was 100 percent OK, and now they want him to testify again. I don't know why. I have no idea why but it seems very unfair to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: I don't recall quote 100 percent OK being in the Mueller report, I will say that. But what do you -- what do you make of this and the president weighing in?

MORENO: Well, look, this is one of those areas where it's not the president weighing in now on Justice Department policy, right? This is another branch of government. So he's free to sort of give his opinion about whether he likes or doesn't like this. At the end of the day, though, who -- someone who is not free is Don Junior. He is not free to ignore a congressional subpoena.

And, honestly, too, I see this as a bright spot in an otherwise pretty dark situation that we're in. That we actually do have a somewhat functioning bipartisan Senate working together to hopefully try to get to the truth. And I almost think it's a good thing that the president is angry about this because it shows Congress has at least some ability to stand up to him.

KEILAR: You think we'll see Donald Trump Junior testify before the Senate Intel Committee?

MORENO: This is going to be a tough one for the president or Don Junior to avoid. So, yes, I think the answer is yes.

KEILAR: All right, Joe Moreno, thank you so much.

And now to the first big legal showdown in the fight over President Trump's financial records. A federal court hearing in the case just wrapped up and this all started when the House Oversight Committee issued a subpoena to the accounting firm, Mazars USA, for President Trump's financial records. The president's personal legal team then sued Mazars in an attempt to block the subpoena.

[13:05:15] Let's get to Sara Murray. She is outside of the federal courthouse in Washington following all of this.

And, Sara, the two sides here were arguing over how fast this case should move forward. Tell us what's happened so far here.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And the hearing just wrapped up. And one of the things the judge made clear is essentially, you know, look, I have a lot of information, I'm fully briefed on this case, so we'll be moving on a relatively quick timetable.

But this is, you know, the first time we've seen both sides in court sort of laying out the arguments on each side. And the lawyer from the House is saying, look, we are not going to send the president to jail, but that doesn't mean we can't look at whether he violated the law. It doesn't mean that there are not legitimate constitutional or ethical questions that need to be explored here and that might necessitate further legislation.

And, you know, on the president's side, his attorneys were arguing that this is all just politically motivated. This isn't a question of whether Congress actually wants to create some legislation. This is about going, rooting through Donald Trump's personal finances, and it completely crosses the line.

But one of the things the judge made clear is that he was not going to make a ruling from the bench today. He did acknowledge this is, you know, a big -- a big question that he's face, and he didn't want to take it on very hastily. And, of course, Brianna, as you know, this is the first time that we're seeing the White House really tested on its belief that it doesn't have to hand anything over to Congress, that Congress is asking for.

KEILAR: Yes, it is a key moment, and we're watching it with you.

Sara Murray at the federal courthouse here in Washington.

Any moment now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pompeo and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, met earlier. They discussed a host of issues. That included Iran, Venezuela and North Korea.

But tensions seemed to rise when the discussions turned to Russian meddling in the elections. In their post-meeting press conference, Lavrov angrily claimed there's no proof of Russian interference in 2016 despite all of the proof of Russian interference in 2016. And he also accused the U.S. of interfering in Russia's domestic issues.

Secretary Pompeo responded with this.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: As we've made clear for the past months that interference in American elections is unacceptable. If the Russians were engage in that in 2020 it would put our relationship in an even worse place than it has been. And I encourage them not to do that. That we would -- we would not tolerate that.


KEILAR: As the secretary of state talks to Russia about Iran, "The New York Times" reports that the Pentagon has prepared a plan to send as many as 120,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East. We're talking Iraq War level military planning here. The plan reportedly is only on the table if Iran were to launch an attack on U.S. interests or the attempt to manufacture nuclear weapons. It's unclear if the president was briefed on the plan, but when he was asked about it today, he said this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully we're not going to have to plan for that. And if we did that, we'd send a hell of a lot more troops than that.


KEILAR: Let get to Maryland Senator Ben Cardin now. He's joining me now from Capitol Hill. You are a Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So is

there anything you can tell us about this plan? Have you been informed of this?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Well, Brianna, it's good to be with you.

I'm not aware of any member in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee having been briefed on this plan or members of the United States Senate. I think it's critically important that we get a full briefing as to what the president's intents are all about.

What I am very concerned about is there could be a miscalculation that could lead to some military activity. Congress certainly has not authorized that. To the contrary. There is no military authorization for the use of force against Iran.

KEILAR: Should there be a plan in consideration that includes this many troops? Is that appropriate?

CARDIN: I would hope that the president would reduce the temperature between Iran and the United States that could lead to a miscalculation. Clearly his withdrawal from the nuclear agreement without the support our allies has isolated America. One thing we need to do is isolate Iran, not isolate America. Yes, Iran was in compliance with the nuclear agreement, but we have other issues with Iran, and it's difficult for us to deal with those other issues while we have a division among our allies.

KEILAR: the president was asked if the U.S. was seeking regime change in Iran, and he said, quote, we'll see what happens. What's your reaction to that?

CARDIN: I think it would be a major mistake if we tried to deal with a military solution to the problem with Iran. Regime change would require us to get militarily engaged, something that I think would be counterproductive and could lead to a great deal of other problems in that region of the world.

[13:10:01] KEILAR: As we reported earlier, CNN has learned that Attorney General William Barr is working with the CIA director, with the DNI, with the FBI director as he's looking into the origins of the Trump campaign investigation. The president just said he did not instruct Barr to do this, but he said he's happy about it. Do you think that his tweets about this, essentially -- we knew where he stood on this, that he would want this. Do you think that those tweets and any public statements that he's made on this should be seen as instructions for the attorney general?

CARDIN: Well, it's very clear to me that President Trump has tried to influence the attorney general where the attorney general should be independent. But Attorney General Barr has shown during his short term as attorney general that he's the president's lawyer. He has not exercised independent judgment and he misled the Congress and the American people in his summery about the Mueller report. His testimony before Congress was certainly very disturbing. And now the fact that he's started an investigation that the president wanted raises additional questions as to whether he truly is an independent attorney general.

KEILAR: We have heard that Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intel Committee, subpoenaed Donald Trump Junior because he refused to answer questions about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting where there was this discussion of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton and also about the Trump Tower Moscow project.

Do you think that Burr should proceed with holding the president's son in contempt of Congress?

CARDIN: Well, I think Donald Trump Junior is an independent person. He's not part of the Trump administration. He clearly has a responsibility to respond to a subpoena.

This is a subpoena that was issued in a bipartisan manner by the Senate Intelligence Committee. He has a responsibility to comply. And the failure to comply has to have consequences.

Brianna, we really are talking about the importance of the separation of branches of government and checks and balances in our system and it's critically important that the United States Senate, their subpoenas and their oversight be honored.

So, yes, absolutely, we need to follow through and make sure that the Intelligence Committee can do its work.

KEILAR: All right, Senator Ben Cardin, thank you so much, as always, for being with us.

CARDIN: My pleasure. Good to be with you.

KEILAR: Next, a CNN exclusive. Heartbreaking images of migrant children and families sleeping on rocks on the ground outside a border patrol station. We're going to tell you the story behind these pictures.

Plus, why the president is calling the trade war with China a, quote, a little squabble.

And another Democrat jumps into the 2020 race, while another says, let me reintroduce myself. What happened when Beto O'Rourke pushed the reset button on "The View?"


[13:17:27] KEILAR: Heartbreaking pictures exclusive to CNN. Vulnerable children being forced to sleep outside on the ground. They're on top of rocks in some cases. This is the situation for migrant families who are being kept at the border patrol station in McAllen, Texas. The acting healed of Homeland Security and the acting defense secretary were at the facility this past weekend, and President Trump also toured the area earlier this year.

Our Vanessa Yurkevich is joining me now to talk about this. Talk about the people that we are seeing in these heartbreaking photos and what people there are saying about the situation, Vanessa.


Yes, I just want to set this up. This came from a source who has access to the facility, who was disturbed by what they saw this weekend. This is in McAllen, Texas, and these photos were confirmed from Customs and Border Protection as being at that facility in McAllen, Texas.

Now, this is what Customs and Border Protection has been saying for months, overcrowding leads to too many people inside, which is forcing people outside. And in some of those images, you are seeing children sleeping on the ground in the dirt with Mylar blankets around them. You see multiple children there in the corner of one of those images. There's a baby bottle with milk. You see a woman there sleeping with a child in her arms on rocks.

And this is -- this is a reality at this station in McAllen, Texas. You see there children under what are makeshift tents. Those tents, Brianna, are full themselves.

And now you -- you talked about the acting Homeland Security secretary visiting this weekend, along with the secretary of defense visiting this weekend. And I want to read a statement from the Department of Homeland Security, from an official there, who addressed these photos in a statement. I want to read that to you. It says, quote, border patrol agents are doing everything they can to protect and care for migrants in their temporary custody. Border patrol stations are simply not equipped to handle the number of families and children arriving along the southern border. And we need Congress to act to provide immediate relief.

Now, Brianna, the numbers of people coming across the border are just really staggering. This -- at this point in the year, almost half a million migrants have crossed. In 2018 alone, it was 400,000. So we're outpacing 2018 already.

[13:20:07] But you look at those images there, Brianna, and you just think, you know, this is happening in the United States of America. This looks more like a refugee camp than a processing center. But, you know, agents have told us and Customs and Border Protection has told us, they are simply overwhelmed, there's not enough staff and they cannot process people quick enough before they have to bring more people into those facilities.


KEILAR: Such an important look at what's going on inside there.

Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you so much for that report.

After lagging in the polls and failing to sustain the buzz around his campaign, Democrat Beto O'Rourke is doing a reboot. What he told the women on "The View," next. Plus, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez takes a veiled shot at

Joe Biden, questioning his commitment to climate change, and the front-runner fires back.


[13:25:38] KEILAR: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez taking shots at former Vice President Joe Biden, questioning his commitment to climate change during a rally with Senator Bernie Sanders. And now Biden is hitting back. Let's listen to this exchange.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I will be damned if the same politicians who refused to act then are going to try to come back today and say we need a middle of the -- a middle of the road approach to save our lives. That is too much for me.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I've never been in the middle of the road on the environment.

I made a speech in Florida back in 1987 and talking about why there's an existential threat to humanity if we don't move. So this idea that I haven't done anything, take a look at the record. That's what I'd say. I'm sure she will get time to look at it.


KEILAR: We know who she's talking about, Ryan Lizza and April Ryan, here with us to discuss this.

What do you make of this, especially considering -- I mean she was appearing with Bernie Sanders. It's not like he just got into Congress yesterday.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, I think he's got a story to tell on climate that she didn't really mention. He was part of the Obama administration. They tried very hard in his first term to pass a climate bill. It passed the House. It died in the Senate. And, you know, a good question for any Democrat pushing a climate change plan is, how is their climate change plan going pass in the Senate, which is not likely to be -- have 60 Democrats, even if a Democrat wins the presidency. And the Obama administration pushed and entered the Paris climate accord.

So I think Biden, even though he didn't say it in that exchange, a lot of his response to critics from the left is going to be, Barack Obama and I did "x."


LIZZA: Because Obama is the -- by far the most popular politician in the Democratic Party.

KEILAR: She's -- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she's more influential in this 2020 race than some of the 22 candidates in the race are, right? And is she going -- as she continues to make her opinion known, and she's -- she's got a lot of people paying attention to her, April, how do Democrats navigate this?

RYAN: Well, first of all, there's several ways you look at AOC. One, she's an activist who turned to be a legislator. And that clip that you just played showed the activism piece. And maybe a little legislation.

And she is popular. You cannot deny her Twitter following. And every time she speaks, she gets attention.


RYAN: Now, how do we navigate, how -- as the media. How does the -- these candidates and the party navigate?

What happens is, I think about what happened with Nancy Pelosi. She didn't want to support Nancy Pelosi at the beginning for her bid for speaker, but she fell in line later on, didn't she, for the sake of the party.

Now, look at this. She can be fighting with Biden all she wants right now, but if he becomes the nominee or whomever becomes the nominee, she will fall in line. But because she has this big following and because we, in the media, everything she says is like gold, we're on it, but what she will do is use that as leverage to get what she wants.

LIZZA: I think that's what she's doing right now. She's trying to push Biden -- Biden hasn't announced his full climate plan, right?

RYAN: But it's kind of early, but you're right.

LIZZA: And she's trying to -- she putting down a marker.

RYAN: Yes.

LIZZA: You better be where the rest of us are. And you can't -- I guarantee you, in the Biden campaign, they're paying attention to that.

RYAN: And that's what happened with Bernie last time.

KEILAR: OK, but we've got to talk -- we've got to talk about Beto, OK, because he was on "The View" and we want to check it out. Here's what he said.



BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, we have our work cut out for us in this country. I have my work cut out for me, to be a better person and ensure that I'm more mindful to the experiences that others have had different than the experiences that I've had. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So for those that you mentioned --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You were (INAUDIBLE) the "Vanity Fair" cover.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of those mistakes, would you say those are mistakes, being on the cover of "Vanity Fair"?

O'ROURKE: Yes, so -- so maybe --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It looks elitist? What? What's the --

O'ROURKE: Yes, yes, I think it reinforces that perception of privilege. And that headline that said I was -- I was born to be in this. In the article I was attempting to say that -- that I felt that my calling was in public service. No one is born to be president of the United States of America, least of all me.


KEILAR: What do you think of this reset, guys?

RYAN: Oh, he's going to have to -- he's going to have to take out that Etch-a-Sketch, like Mitt Romney did, and shake it real hard.

So, look, he was the one that everybody was waiting for --


RYAN: When he came out. And when he spoke -- I mean I felt like he was attacking me with his hands through the television. It was a bad camera angle. That was not the best opening for a candidate.

[13:30:06] And then to come out -- you can be on any magazine cover.