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It Wasn't Just Flynn's Phone Calls With Russians That Interested Mueller; Rep. Katie Hill Adding Her Voice To The Abortion Conversation; A Debate Erupts Over SAT. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 17, 2019 - 14:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN on this Friday afternoon. Thank you for being with me. When Robert Mueller's office recommended that Michael Flynn not serve any jail time despite lying to the FBI, the decisions stunned many in Washington and beyond.

At the time, Mueller's team said that the man who was fired from his job, as President Trump's National Security adviser provided substantial assistance in the investigation.

Well, today we're learning a bit more about exactly what those two words mean because it wasn't just Flynn's phone calls with Russians that interested Mueller. Listen to this. It was also contacts from people with ties to the Trump administration and to Congress.

Communications that Mueller says focused on how Flynn might cooperate with him. Contacts that had the potential to obstruct the investigation. CNN's Kara Scannell is in Washington for us.

And so Kara, a judge has ordered transcripts of these conversations released in a couple of weeks. What else do we know right now?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Brooke. So in a couple of weeks, we might actually see the transcripts of this voicemail recording and even possibly the audio of that. But what we've learned from this un- redacted portion of Michael Flynn's sentencing memorandum that was released yesterday was that Flynn was cooperating with a Special Counsel's Office in a much broader way than we knew.

That he was providing them information about contacts that he and his attorneys had received from people associated with the administration and Congress that occurred both before he pled guilty and after he pleaded guilty.

Special Counsel's and -- Mueller says that this was all going toward Flynn's cooperation and it was something that they were looking at as to whether it had influenced his decision or the breadth of his cooperation.

Now, there's this recording that is also referenced in the Mueller report where one of the President's personal attorneys contacted a lawyer for Michael Flynn and had a conversation with him just after Flynn told them that they were no longer going to be operating under a joint defense agreement.

And this voicemail, so one that we might actually get to see the transcript of, but it all factored into this obstruction question that Mueller's team was investigating.

They said that they did not talk to the President's attorney about this because of issues of attorney-client privilege. So they couldn't determine the President's intent here. Was he even aware of this conversation and was he involved in it?

And this leaves us with some still unanswered questions of -- did Mueller's team investigate any of these individuals either associated with Congress or the administration about whether they were trying to obstruct justice? Or could this possibly be something that is in one of those many 14 referrals that are still redacted from the report?

So, even though we've learned quite a bit of information here, there are still some open questions about how this factors into the broader picture of obstruction -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Okay, so on obstruction in this voicemail, I want to pivot forward, Kara Scannell. Thank you for the reporting. I've got Gloria Borger. She is our CNN chief political analyst and senior legal analyst Elie Honig. He is a former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Good to see both of you and Elie Honig, how was this not obstruction of justice?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I would argue that it is. Not surprisingly, given my prosecutorial background. But I think looking at this from any perspective, it has to be obstruction of justice.

Let's be clear, trying to talk somebody out of cooperating with prosecutors is obstruction of justice and this is textbook obstruction. And when you look at that voicemail and maybe we'll hear it someday that'll be really interesting -- when you look at it, you see Trump's team, his lawyers, using sort of both the carrot and the stick, right?

The stick here is, there's going to be trouble. There's vague national security concerns. At some other point, one of the lawyers said it would be construed as a hostile act. And then you also see the carrot, the enticement, the "Hey, the President still has warm feelings for you." P.S., this is the guy who gives out pardons. They don't say that part, but I think it's fairly well known.

So to me, it's pretty clear obstruction. And I think we also need to keep in mind, this is what we're talking about today. This is one puzzle piece in a much larger puzzle on obstruction. There are three different witnesses they tried to do this to. And that in itself is one of 11 different acts that Mueller lays out in the report.

BALDWIN: The carrot and the stick. And Gloria, we know that Flynn described multiple times, quote, "that he or his attorneys received communication from persons connected to the administration or Congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation," end quote. And my question to you is, when I read this, members of Congress?

[14:05:07] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, we don't know, you know, these could be people who were allies of the President. I think the big question here, and I think Elie touches on it is what did the President know about all of this?

BALDWIN: That's what we don't know, right?

BORGER: That's right. And as Mueller, you know, Mueller pointed out, you know, in his report. He said, this sequence of events could have had the potential to influence Flynn's decision about cooperating, as well as the extent of the cooperation, but because of privilege issues, they didn't pursue it. They couldn't pursue it.

So, these are questions right now that we just don't know the answer to and I'm not a lawyer. Elie is, I don't think you are Brooke, right? But I think ...

BALDWIN: I'm not.

BORGER: ... the question is, in a phone call in which you had a joint defense agreement, wouldn't it just be simple to ask the question -- are you now cooperating with Mueller?


BORGER: Thanks very much, please call me back. End of voicemail. Wouldn't that have been the way to do it?

BALDWIN: All right, so the JD?

HONIG: Yes. Well, I'll give you not only -- a common sense answer, which I think the lawyer was trying to be cagey here. I think he was not -- I think he was smart enough to not just come out and say, "Hey, you better not cooperate." I think, every lawyer knows not to do that. But look at that voicemail. That's the way real life people can --

BALDWIN: He was being intentionally nebulous.

HONIG: Yes, absolutely. And this whole privilege issue does not fly with me because anytime there's a privilege -- attorney-client privilege, in some states espouses if the conversation that's normally privileged goes to a crime, here, obstruction, privilege goes away. So, I'm not buying that. I don't follow that.

BALDWIN: Okay, Gloria here's the really rich tweet that we have to talk about. And you know where I'm going. Because moments ago, President Trump tweeted that he had no idea, Michael Flynn was under investigation and couldn't make a staff change because no one warned him.

And my response is -- no one? Not, Former FBI Director, James Comey, not former Deputy Attorney General, Sally Gates, not former President Barack Obama? I mean, go ahead, Gloria.

BORGER: Well, you're right.

BALDWIN: I'll wait.

BORGER: I mean, there are two parts of this. And let me add to your list. The part is, before he became President, which is I think what he might be referring to, during the transition. Of course, Barack Obama said to him, you know, he's a bad guy.

So did Chris Christie. Remember Chris Christie, before he was fired as head of the transition, didn't have a job from Michael Flynn, thought he was a bad guy and didn't want the administration to hire him in any way, shape, or form. But then he got fired. And guess what? He became National Security adviser.

I think Congressman Cummings also told Mike Pence, "Don't touch this guy. He's bad." Then of course, after Trump became President, that's when you have the Sally Yates involvement, rushing to the White House, meeting with Dan McGahn and then McGahn talking to the President directly about Flynn's lying.

So I think you have the before, and the after he became President. I think he knew, but he didn't want to listen.

BALDWIN: What do you think?

HONIG: Just those people, that's all that told him? Yes. It doesn't stand up to the facts. I think Gloria just knocked that argument right down.

BALDWIN: Mueller laid out 11 examples of potential obstruction of justice by President Trump. What do you make of, just separately before I let you all go of Chairman Nadler who's handling all of it?

HONIG: Not exactly a profile on courage or leadership? I think his leadership thus far has been weak and directionless. Mueller gave Congress --

BALDWIN: Don't hold back Elie, excuse, don't hold back.

HONIG: Mueller gave Congress this overwhelming quantity of evidence on obstruction. And here we are about a month out from the release of the report and Congress has really done nothing.

Nadler sent out this blanket requests for 81 different people for information, got nothing back, didn't stand his ground. Bill Barr walked out on the House, refused to show up. All we got was a committee member eating fried chicken.

So, here we are. He's got -- he's done -- he's brought in no witnesses. He has not backed up his subpoenas by going to court. He needs to take a stand and he needs to choose a direction here.

BALDWIN: Okay. Elie, thank you. Gloria Borger, thank you very much. All of that coming as the White House prepares to ignore a deadline set by Congressional Democrats again, over President Trump's tax returns, again, after his latest request for six years of returns was denied last week.

House Ways and Means Chairman, Richard Neal, has given Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin until 5:00 p.m. today to comply with a subpoena. Earlier this week, Mnuchin signaled that that wasn't likely to happen either.


STEVE MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: We haven't had an official response yet. I think we have a few more days. We will comply with the timing of it. I think you can pretty much guess how we're going to, but we haven't made a decision.


BALDWIN: For Congressman, Neal who has now asked for these tax returns three different times, tells CNN he isn't surprised by Secretary Mnuchin's actions and is ready to take additional steps.

[14:10:07] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RICHARD NEAL (D-MA): After the election, I indicated that I thought that this would end up in a long court case. I've not seen much in the last few weeks that would dissuade me of that position.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you view contempt as a potential option?

NEAL: I don't see what good it would do at this particular time. I think that if both sides have made up their minds, better to move it over to the next branch of government, the judiciary.


BALDWIN: Translation -- see you in court, Mr. Secretary. Now, to more on our breaking news. The U.S. sets to lift tariffs on Canada and Mexico. What this means for the economy in the middle of the China trade war?

Plus, Congresswoman Katie Hill sharing her own personal story of an unplanned pregnancy. With us here at CNN, why she says a group of old men should not be making abortion decisions for women.

And the company that administers the SAT test, making a major change to try to level the playing field, they say, how it's already facing backlash. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:15:59] BALDWIN: The State of Missouri is about to join the growing list of states restricting abortion. Just moments ago the State House there passed a bill that prohibits abortions after eight weeks. It now heads to the Governor's desk who has said, he supports it. From Missouri to Georgia to Alabama, this is sparking a wave of women to share their personal stories about abortion.

Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill is adding her voice to the conversation in sharing the story of her unplanned pregnancy and how she was confronted with such a difficult decision at age 18.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty spoke with her today, so Sunlen, tell me her story.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, she was just 18 years old at the time and she was dating the man that now is her husband. And she said that she was on birth control, but that she did end up getting pregnant and we spoke at length about the struggle that she faced in that moment as an 18-year-old facing the decision, "Do I get an abortion? Do I keep this child?"

She said that she was actually surprised at her feelings in the moment that she was someone who was always pro-choice, but that when she was actually there, having to potentially make that decision, it was much more agonizing than she would have thought.


REP. KATIE HILL (R-CA): In this particular situation, there's a -- there's a shame involved, right? There's this piece of, what did I do wrong? What -- you know, I felt like I was playing by the rules, but how are people going to judge me? How, you know, what does this -- and what does this mean for my life if I decide to do, you know, to do what I felt like I'm -- I might just need to do and how would that change things forever.


SERFATY: Now, she had not yet made up her mind before essentially the decision was made for her. The Congresswoman, then 18, had a miscarriage at six weeks pregnant. And today, she revealed to me that now that she's 31, she is unable to have children anymore and she talked a little bit about the regret that moment in that life and certainly some questions that she's feeling, did she miss the window to become a mother eventually?

And she wanted to share these personal details, Brooke, in the context of the national debate and the national discussion that we're having about abortion, given these abortion bill decisions in Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri. Here's more of what she had to say.


HILL: I'm sorry, but, you know, these old men who are the elected officials who are trying to impose this on women who have never been and will never be in that situation.

This group of people are -- they know that their window in time is closing. And they know -- they believe that they have a Supreme Court that could give them the ruling that they want on this and so they are pushing every possible boundary getting every possible court case lined up so that they can try and overturn Roe v. Wade.


SERFATY: This, of course, is just one view, one experience, one side of this overall broader debate, Brooke, but certainly very candid, very revealing, especially coming from a sitting U.S. Congressperson.

BALDWIN: I hear her on old men but it's just important to remind everyone, the original sponsor of the bill in the statehouse in Alabama -- a woman and the woman who signed the bill into law and Alabama -- the Governor. Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much and thank you Congresswoman for sharing her story.

A debate erupts over SAT giving students a quote, "adversity score" for accounting for their hardships. How does that even work? Is it fair? Let's discuss.

And a stunning video shows a four-year-old boy being snatched from a Los Angeles McDonald's. We'll tell you what happened next.


[14:23:54] BALDWIN: Disturbing video shows a woman's brazen attempt to kidnap a four-year-old boy while his family was just a feet away. We'll show you the video, you can see for yourself the woman walking into this downtown L.A. McDonald's scooping up the child, putting him on her hip, and carrying him out. This happened in broad daylight about three o'clock in the afternoon, Wednesday.

Los Angeles police say a witness stopped her from putting the child into a car and then she ran away. Police later arrested her for kidnapping. Her bond is set at $100,000.00.

The SAT -- the SAT is adding a third and new score student tests and it has absolutely nothing to do with the tester's math or verbal skills.

Students will be getting what they're calling an adversity score, which takes into account their social and economic background. So on a scale of 1 to 100 an adversity score of 50 is average. Anything above that denotes students who have faced more hardships, anything below a hundred means students have enjoyed a more privileged life.

It looks at several factors of a student's life including neighborhood crime rate, poverty levels, housing circumstances and parental education.

[14:25:01] BALDWIN: Keep in mind the formula here does not consider race. Students won't see their scores. Only the schools that they to attend will see them. Admission testing has always been controversial, of course, but it faces new scrutiny in the wake of that college cheating scandal involving parents paying millions of dollars to help their children get into prestigious schools.

And Colleen Ganjian is a college admissions expert and the founder of DC College Counseling. And Colleen, good idea, bad idea?

COLLEEN GANJIAN, FOUNDER, DC COLLEGE COUNSELING: I don't think it's a great idea. I think that all of us in this field are very concerned about access inequality and, you know, helping disadvantaged students succeed. But I don't think that quantifying information like this or attempting to quantify it is the way to go about it. BALDWIN: Does it -- does this system assume that a student from a

certain area is poor or privileged? And what would be the potential dangers in that?

GANJIAN: Well the truth is we don't really know what it assumes. We have a general outline of what it measures, but we don't know deeper information about how it's measuring.

So for example, say that you have a student -- a disadvantaged student who won a full merit scholarship to a New England boarding school, is that student going to list their home address as their school address where they receive mail, right, that they'd put on their college applications? Or are they going to list, you know, their permanent address that they're listening from, maybe their neighborhood in a disadvantaged area?

There's really no way to know more information until or -- I guess I should say, there's no way to assess the validity until we can get more information and the College Board is really not giving that out right now.

BALDWIN: So what do you say to the parent who says that their child is being penalized for coming from privilege?

GANJIAN: You know, I hear that a lot from parents. And I say that every student, whether they come from privilege or not, they all have their own story. And so my job when I work with students is to help them tell their story.

And we can only control what we can control. You know, I can't control policies, but I can control helping a student tell their unique story and every student has a story to tell.

BALDWIN: And how much -- just last question, because I know, it's been a while since I applied to college, but don't schools get -- how much information do schools get about one student's backgrounds? And how much are they already evaluating this sort of thing without getting an adversity score?

GANJIAN: They actually get a lot of information, both from the student themselves and the application. But you know, they also typically have an assigned representative that is in charge of a particular geographic region, who understands, you know, high school to high school and what the differences are, and you know, socioeconomic issues may be facing that area.

There's also a document called the School Profile that accompanies student transcripts and it gives lots of information, lots of demographic information about that student's school. And it was actually really interesting today, in Charlie Deacon at Georgetown, actually sort of said this in a in a quote, and he said -- you know, we're getting so much information already. Yes.

BALDWIN: He was basically saying, we get so much data.

GANJIAN: Right. Absolutely. And I think he's right. I do. BALDWIN: But if you, and it sounds like he goes to disagree with

this, and I know so much of this is about, you know, leveling the playing field for these students applying to schools, how can you help students who do not come from a more privileged background?

GANJIAN: Well, I think and I do want to make the distinction that I think that I and Charlie Deacon, and probably everybody, you know, we are all about leveling the playing field. So we don't disagree with that. We just disagree with this way to do it.

And I think that a holistic process is the right way to go. And in recent years, the numbers of applications, I'm sure you know this, but the volume is just exploding.

And so, part of what's happening is that the committees, you know, they have fewer people reading applications, and they can't go into to the depth that they used to be able to do.

And I think that, you know, one very simple way to, you know, handle the problem right away could be if colleges took maybe some of the revenue from all of the application fees they're getting from all of these kids that are applying, why don't they hire some more staff members to actually dig in and read all these files and more without the numbers.

BALDWIN: It's great idea. Colleen Ganjian. Thank you so much. I appreciate you.

GANJIAN: Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: You've got it. Now, to this two Florida counties, given nothing more than a heads up, that hundreds of migrants will be sent to their cities from the border. How local officials are responding to President Trump making good on this threat.