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Jerry Nadler Threatening To Impose Fines On Individuals Who Do Not Comply With Their Demands; British Knock Down U.S. Claims Of Increased Iran Threat; Rep. Chrissy Houlahan's (D-PA) Concerned On Overturning Of Alabama's Bill On Abortion. Aired: 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 15, 2019 - 14:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. All right, Scott. It's a very interesting read. You can learn all about it at "The Daily Beast." Thank you, Scott Bixby for coming on.

BIXBY: Thank you so much for having me.

KEILAR: And as it for me, NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Brianna, thank you. Hi, everyone, I'm Brooke Baldwin, you're watching CNN. Thanks for being with me. Let's begin with this huge move by the White House declaring in essence that will not cooperate with House Democrats investigating President Trump. This move coming in the form of a strongly worded letter from the top White House lawyer to the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler.

This letter, a sweeping rejection of congressional power to investigate President Trump for possible obstruction of justice and abuses of power. It indicates that Chairman Nadler's demands for White House records and staff testimony will be refused and now Chairman Nadler is firing back.


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): This is the White House claiming that the President is a king. This is the White House saying that -- the Justice Department says, they can't hold the President accountable because you can't indict a President and now they say neither can Congress.

So the President is totally unaccountable and above the law. No President, no person in the United States is above the law. This is preposterous.


BALDWIN: Manu Raju, is our senior congressional correspondent. He's the one who snagged the interview. And so, in talking to the Congressman, he also talked to you about how else they may respond to these continued denials.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's furious right now about the White House's move to reject them in all fronts. Namely, this latest effort to try to understand exactly what happened as part of their investigation -- the Democrats investigation into potential obstruction of justice.

Just moments ago, Jerry Nadler told me that they may impose quote, "Very large fines on individuals found to be in contempt of Congress." They may use powers that rarely use called inherent contempt powers to impose these hefty fines. And I asked him, are you talking about the Attorney General Bill Barr, who was -- the Judiciary Committee voted last week to hold him in contempt. And he said this, he said, it would be for anybody who is held in inherent contempt.

He's not saying one way or another, it would be for him, but he's suggesting that they may go this punitive route, in addition to civil litigation to try to get the information that they are demanding, whether it's from the full unredacted Mueller report, the underlying evidence, or in this case, all these document requests as part of their investigation into potential obstruction of justice.

And one thing that Jerry Nadler made very clear in my interview with him earlier, Brooke, is that their investigation will that will continue. The White House said they should not do this investigation. They said there's no legitimate legislative purpose to carry on this investigation. But he said that we are doing our investigation. We will get our information. Jerry Nadler said, we will subpoena whoever we have to subpoena. They're going to hear from Don McGahn, he said. They'll hear from Bob Mueller, the Special Counsel. He said that they will prepare to subpoena Bob Mueller if the Justice Department prevents him from testifying and other witnesses will come forward.

So, we're seeing a significant clash only escalating that could, of course, end up in the courts to sort all of this out. But today, Democrats, it's not happening. Jerry Nadler, threatening to impose fines on individuals who do not comply with their demands -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Tensions continue to rise and rise as you point out, Manu Raju with the latest there. Thank you so much. Great get with Chairman Nadler.

Let's analyze all of this from Manu. I've got CNN legal analyst, Jennifer Rodgers, with me. She's a former federal prosecutor. And Gloria Borger is our CNN chief political analyst.

And so, Jennifer, just starting with you on the legal piece of this. You heard the chairman saying that there is no legitimate legislative purpose for what the White House is refusing to turn over. Is what they're doing legal?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's what I would call hardball litigation tactics.

BALDWIN: What does that what does that mean?

RODGERS: So, the better of legal arguments is with Congress, for sure. They definitely have legitimate legislative purposes for what they're seeking.

BALDWIN: Oversights?

RODGERS: The White House -- oversight, I mean, the precursor to impeachment proceedings potentially -- all sorts of reasons. So if they go to court to try to enforce these subpoenas and get these documents and witnesses, I think they win. But it's a risky strategy, right, because it takes a lot of time.

So they have a couple of other choices here. They can continue to negotiate. You know, the White House counsel's letter was almost a play yard ton, right? You know, no do-overs and all of this stuff. So, you know, they're taking a very hard line position. They're probably willing to negotiate that a little bit. That might be one way to go to try to break this logjam and the third option is to go nuclear and say, "Okay, fine, we're starting impeachment proceedings," and that gives them unquestionable constitutional basis to seek what they're looking for.

BALDWIN: But it does seem like all these -- no take-backs, no do- overs, the escalating, it's like, you have to tick all those boxes before then, maybe - perhaps, get to the nuclear option.

Let me let me come back to you on that. But Gloria, when you listen to all of this, when you when you look at Chairman Nadler saying, "No President, no person in the United States is above the law," and saying that the President is like acting like a king. Your reaction to that?

[14:05:05] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's not surprising. Look they, you know, they want everything that they can get. And it is their constitutional responsibility, I would argue, to investigate any potential criminal activity in the executive branch, including some that may emanate from the Oval Office.

This is their job. That's what they're that's what they're trying to do, it's clear the President's attorneys and their letter said that this has to be, as you point out, about potential legislation and not harassing political opponents and they're trying to make the case. You're just trying to make this Presidential harassment, which is the phrase that we hear from Donald Trump all the time -- that this is personal, as opposed to being constitutional.

And members of Congress, particularly the Democrats would argue, don't take this personally. It's our job. If we did not do this, how will future Congresses behave potentially when there's a Democrat in the White House and there is potential wrongdoing there? I mean, we've got to do our job. The question is, and I think you raised it Brooke, is whether they will take this to the nth degree, which is impeachment.

BALDWIN: Right, impeachment. Right, and again, to reiterate now those words, if we were to agree to that, what the White House is demanding or saying that they won't do, then no President would ever be subject to any kind of investigation for misconduct of any type to glorious point. So, eventually we can't look into the magic eight ball political

fusion figure out if this in fact ends in impeachment. But the fact that they're stopping short of exerting executive privilege, but that the White House is telling Nadler they want Congress to essentially prove legislative intent. You prove why you want this and okay, maybe we'll hand something over. Is that what this is?

RODGERS: Well, it's very interesting and Gloria raises this point, you know, that they make a big point in the letter of -- you are not supposed to be law enforcement Congress. You have your purposes, but they're legislative, right? You're not supposed to enforce the laws because that's already been done. That's where the no do-overs line comes it comes in, right. That's Mueller's job. And it's been done. You can't have it again.

And that was an argument raised by the President's lawyers the other day when they argued for the to block the subpoena to his accountants that went out. And so, that was the first kind of scuffle we've seen go into court. And the judge was having none of it. He was saying, "So you're saying that anything that kind of looks law enforcement- ish, like Watergate and Whitewater is improper for Congress to do.

The President's lawyer was forced to say, yes, which I think caused a lot of people to burst out laughing. It's so unreasonable. So, you know --

BORGER: And ...

RODGERS: Go ahead, Gloria before I close this out.

BORGER: And, you know, just to add to that when Congress said, "We want the President's tax returns," they did say they had legislative intent. And they did that on purpose. They said we have legislative intent because we have to know exactly what Presidents are required to disclose once they're in office, so we can -- so we can adjudicate what they might be required to disclose before they take office, etcetera.

So they didn't come at the White House and the Treasury with legislative intent and the Treasury has still said, no.

BALDWIN: Well, we'll end with Manu's point, which is the clash continues to escalate and this -- may very well end up in the courts. Jennifer Rogers, Gloria Borger, Ladies, thank you so very much.


BALDWIN: And now to this, get out now. That is what the State Department is telling all non-emergency staff currently posted in Iraq. That warning comes amid escalating tensions with Iran. The department is also warning U.S. citizens to avoid travel to the region because of a quote-unquote, "High risk for violence and kidnapping."

A report in the "New York Times" says that National Security Advisor, John Bolton, has updated a military plan to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran attacks any U.S. forces or escalates its nuclear activities.

Yet, Iranian leaders insist, they don't want war and say that the U.S. is unnecessarily ratcheting up tensions with Tehran. And a senior British military official agrees. He says, he sees no increased risk from Iran or any of its allied militias in Iraq or Syria. Michelle Kaczynski is our CNN senior diplomatic correspondent. And so, Michelle, moments ago, senior State Department officials defended the decision to pull those non-essential diplomatic personnel out of Baghdad. What are they telling you?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Right. And you know, because John Bolton, the known Iran Hawk is at the helm of this. Because there's been so little detail out there, there have been all these doubts that are now being publicly aired and a speculation that the U.S. is possibly just hyping this up, especially when you heard that from the British commander in Iraq.

So clearly, the State Department today wanted to get out and push back on all of that. So multiple senior State Department officials spoke to reporters, saying that these threats are real that they have been imminent, that there are multiple threat streams involving multiple Iran-backed militias. Militias they say are controlled by Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard.

[14:10:06] KOSINSKI: They say that these threats are directly linked to Iran. And as one put it, it would be an act of gross negligence, not to act to pull U.S. people out of there. And they didn't want to get too specific on what the threats were targeting. Because, of course, we asked, you know, were they were they threats directed at the embassy?

So they didn't want to go into detail there. But they did repeatedly compared these threats to what they saw in Iraq from similar factions back in 2011, after U.S. troops pulled out on mass.

They said that there were threats of barrel bombs against us installations, rocket and mortar threats against diplomatic compounds, bombs hitting diplomats' housing at times. So, they characterize this as similar to that, and as I said, imminent. And they also clearly wanted to push back on the thought that this could be hyped up because to quote one of these officials just now, "Every single contact I have had with the most senior people in the U.S. government indicates there's absolutely no desire or interest in a military conflict with anybody."

And by the way, on that British official saying that he's in Iraq and he doesn't see any increased threat. The State Department official said that he is just wrong, that he's dedicated to fighting ISIS, and maybe he sees U.S. actions as interfering with that goal. But they push back hard on his dismissing the wording of these threats -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Got it. Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much.

The fate of Roe v. Wade in doubt today after Alabama passes the most restrictive abortion bill in America. And now, Alabama's governor, who is a woman by the way, has to make the decision whether to make it law.

Plus, the Trump administration is now sending TSA agents and air marshals down to the border. a white woman is accused of killing a black man she chased down after a traffic accident. Why some people involved in the case are now getting racist robocalls. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:15:00] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Imagine this, you are 11 years old, you're a child, and this most terrifying scenario becomes your reality -- you've been raped. A few weeks later, you learned that the worst moment of your life has resulted in a pregnancy and that by law, you will be forced to carry that pregnancy to term. Imagine your fear and your disbelief and your horror. And now I want you to understand that this, once the governor puts pen to paper, we'll soon become the reality in the state of Alabama.

Last night, state lawmakers voted to ban abortion at every stage of pregnancy, even in the cases of incest or rape. Doctors who perform abortions by the way could face up to 99 years in prison for doing so. And even if they try to do it, they would be locked up for 10 years. Before the vote, outraged Democrats took to the floor of the State Senate.


SEN. LINDA COLEMAN-MADISON (D-AL), ALABAMA STATE SENATE: Republicans, you guys used to say, we want the government out of our life. We want them out about business. We want them out of our bedroom. Now you in my womb. I want you out. You don't control this. You don't own this.

SEN. BOBBY SINGLETON (D-AL) ALABAMA STATE SENATE: You just said to my daughter, you don't matter. You don't matter in the State of Alabama. I have got to go home and tell her, the State of Alabama don't care about you, baby.


BALDWIN: Every single state senator who voted for this bill, look at your screen. A bill that restricts reproductive rights for women was a Republican man. After it passed, some of them along with the Republican women who first sponsored this legislation in Alabama's House spoke out about why this issue was so critical. The end goal here -- setting up a Supreme Court fight over Roe v. Wade.


SEN. CLYDE CHAMBLISS (R-AL) ALABAMA STATE SENATE: Life is precious. Life is a gift of our Creator, and we must do everything that we can to protect life.

SEN. TERRI COLLINS (R-AL) ALABAMA STATE SENATE: We'll never get a heartbeat bill to be constitutional until Roe versus Wade is decided and reversed. And so, I think everybody understood that and everybody's on board because of the mission of this bill.


BALDWIN: And now, the bill goes to another Republican woman. The highest elected official in the state of Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey. She has six days to sign it and while Ivey has not taken a public stance on the bill she has in the past, aligned herself as anti- abortion and Alabama is just the latest state to take this tough stance on abortion in recent years.

Over the last six years, at least 16 states have passed, introduced or had fetal heartbeat bill struck down. That is according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Those bills would ban abortions at six weeks.

Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan is a freshman Democrat from the State of Pennsylvania. And today, I should mention, too, she is helping launch the service women in women veterans congressional caucus which we'll get to, I promise in just a moment.

[14:20:10] BALDWIN: So Congresswoman Houlahan, a pleasure to have you on. We have to talk about what has happened in Alabama. Your thoughts, Congresswoman?

REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN (D-PA): Thank you so much, Brooke, for having me back. It is a pleasure to be on and this conversation is a serious one that we definitely have to have. It is disturbing to see the erosion gradually at the state level with an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade. I think that the people who were interviewed previously had it hit the nail on the head. This is a Liberty issue. This is an issue that is personal between a woman and her own body and her doctor and her family and it is worrisome to see the deliberate attack on Roe v. Wade.

BALDWIN: So much of this conversation has been around men, right? We showed all the men who backed this bill but it is important to remind everyone, a woman, Terry Collins sponsored it in the House last month. And last night, she said she was happy with the results of Congresswoman Houlahan to this woman in Alabama. What would you say?

HOULAHAN: Well, to me it's a personal decision. And what I would say to her or him or anyone is that this is an issue of personal liberty and personal freedom and it's a very, very private and personal choice. And everyone can make their own choices and that's what's so terrific about the law of the land, which is Roe v. Wade.

BALDWIN: Speaking of Roe v. Wade, Terry Collins says that her goal is to mount a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade. And last summer 45 percent of Americans said the Supreme Court should actually leave access to abortion as is compared to 30 percent who say access should be harder. How concerned are you about Roe v. Wade being overturned?

HOULAHAN: Well, you know, with the turnover in the Supreme Court, I think we should be concerned about that. I think there was a deliberate effort to put the court a little bit more on the conservative side -- arguably, a little a lot more on the conservative side. So I think I'm worried about that.

BALDWIN: To your big news today, Congresswoman Houlahan as an Air Force veteran, and we're grateful for you. You know, that you're launching the service women and women veterans congressional caucus. It is the first caucus that addresses, as you point out, the issues facing our women warriors. Tell me why this is so important and how you're going to help these women.

HOULAHAN: Thank you. And it is the first caucus of its kind and it's a caucus, now, it's 51 people strong bipartisan. It was started by four of us women who served in the military in one form or another, with the realization that this is the first time that we've doubled the number of women of service in Congress, which now is four.

So with that -- with that revelation, we decided that we really needed to think about all of the entire arc of a woman's career from recruitment to active duty service, to her reserve duty, potentially onward to being a veteran, because we do have some unique issues as women caught in the service and also we are 51 percent of the population in general and increasingly a larger and larger percent of the population in the military and then onward as we become veterans.

And so, we do have some unique issues that I think it's appropriate that this Congress takes a look at elevates and advocates for.

BALDWIN: Those issues include increased sexual assaults in the ranks, more women serving in combat, healthcare. Congresswoman Chrissy Houlihan, we are grateful for you -- for all four of you. We're grateful.

HOULIHAN: Thank you. I am involved.

BALDWIN: We're grateful. Thank you, thank you.

HOULIHAN: Thank you. Bye-bye.

BALDWIN: This just passed bill in Alabama and the new fetal heartbeat laws in several other states would wind up before the Supreme Court in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. As for how Americans feel. A Fox News poll conducted in February showed nearly six and ten registered voters said, it should remain in place. By gender, not a huge divide, 59 percent of women say Roe should stand, while 54 percent of men also feel that way.\

Irin Carmon, is a senior correspondent for "New York Magazine" and is a CNN contributor. So, a pleasure to have you.


BALDWIN: Roe v. Wade.


BALDWIN: Will it be reversed?

CARMON: In the short term, probably not. In the short term, we are looking at a lot of these small bore restrictions that have been the strategy of the anti-abortion movement for a long time. Restrictions on clinics that are designed to shut them down, ultrasound requirements, waiting periods. This has been the strategy of the anti-abortion movement for a long time to chip away at Roe v. Wade. But the court -- the Supreme Court has changed.

The Federal courts below the Supreme Court have been utterly transformed, thanks to Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump. And so, these kinds of all-out bans that we're seeing in states like Alabama, and effectively in Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Missouri, they are setting up for the next challenge, which is first make abortion really inaccessible, and then lower the standard that the Supreme Court uses to evaluate these laws to say whether they're constitutional and that is leading up to what we're seeing as the ultimate goal, which is an outright and entire ban.

BALDWIN: Before we get there, Irin, you and I were talking before you came on about liberal justice Stephen Breyer, seemingly issued this warning this week about overturning the pecedent and the line and your piece really jumped out of me.

You wrote that, only running down the court step shrieking would have been less subtle. We know both of President Trump's justices when they were being questioned about this.

[14:25:08] BALDWIN: You know, months and months ago, we talked about how they would respect the precedent when it came to Roe v. Wade, let me just remind all of you.


NEIL GORSUCH, JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: The Supreme Court of the United States is held and Roe versus Wade, that a fetus is not a person for purposes of the 14th Amendment. And the book explains that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you accept that?

GORSUCH: That's the law of the land. I accept the law of the land senator, yes.

BRETT KAVANAUGH, JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: It is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. by it. I mean, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood versus Casey, then reaffirm many times, Casey is precedent on precedent, which itself is an important factor.


CARMON: Okay, so to me. I listen to what they say and it sounds purely descriptive. I think it is quite clear. You had Donald Trump promising explicitly during the campaign that he would appoint supreme court justices that would overturn Roe v. Wade and the precedent Planned Parenthood versus Casey that Kavanaugh was referring to there.

I mean, this is what was promised to the base. So we're then supposed to believe that they are just going to turn around and not do that, when in fact, these are the signals that they had to give in order to be nominated both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. And I think that what you're looking at down the line is, you're constantly, constantly seeing the Supreme Court overturn precedent.

That is, in fact what just happened that led Breyer to issue this unrelated alarm in which he actually cited an abortion case where he didn't have to. He was sending a signal. Look, today, the Supreme Court is overturning a precedent. It already has overturned precedents when it comes to labor unions, when it comes to voting rights.

What we're looking at is both a slow chipping away and going down the line to 40 plus years of precedent being overturned, and these states are getting ready to lay the groundwork for it.

BALDWIN: And now, you have all these 2020 candidates being asked about it. And I wonder if Republicans are loving that they're being asked about it. That's a whole another segment. We will continue to cover it. Irin Carmon, thank you very much.

CARMON: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Help is on the way to the southern border. But is it the kind of help they need? Why TSA agents are being sent to deal with the influx of migrants and who proposed Zumba classes for the families in detention? And police say a white woman took the law into her own hands and she's now accused of killing a black man she chased down after a traffic accident. We have that for you coming up.