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New Worries Awaits President Trump; White House Sticks to Defying Subpoenas; Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) Interviewed About Don McGahn Saying He's Not Going to Appear Before the Committee to Testify; Justin Amash Doubling Down on His Statement; Donald Trump Facing a Huge Setback. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired May 20, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: -- goes back to the knight's watch. Devotees, you guys out there, hate it, you hate it. I don't care. But where else for the purest of heart and purpose to be then on the line between good and evil and that's where he winds up, literally on the wall.
Last takeaway, Jon worries about his decision to kill the queen. He says to the wise Tyrion was it right? Was it right? Tyrion says ask me again in 10 years, so true. Decisions, we're obsessed in the moment. We don't value them as a function of what comes next.
Remember, we're all so caught up in the now and what matters and seeing things in politics is so urgent, time is the teacher and the ultimate judge of what was winning and losing and more importantly who did the right thing when it mattered most. Will it stand the test of time?
Thank you for watching. CNN tonight with D. Lemon starts right now. I'd be the dragon.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I have no idea what you're talking about.
CUOMO: That's right. Just go with me as a dragon.
LEMON: No idea. That was -- I was sitting here saying do you watch "Game of Thrones." I have no idea what you're talking about.
CUOMO: Everybody watches "Game of Thrones."
LEMON: Not everybody "Game of Thrones."
CUOMO: Everybody watches.
LEMON: No, they don't. Don't make me come over there.
CUOMO: What are you going to do?
LEMON: In your new fancy studio.
CUOMO: What are you going to do?
LEMON: What are you going to -- you know what I would do. I kicked your butt this weekend.
CUOMO: My ear piece isn't working. It's coming across crazy.
LEMON: I have too much going on in my whole life to invest in what is it, Tyrions, Syrians, whatever. This is why --
CUOMO: It's a -- it's a great, great play.
LEMON: I'm sure it is.
CUOMO: On all this different morality, polarity, it's great stuff.
LEMON: I'm sure. Yes, anyway. Did you show off your new fancy studio yet?
CUOMO: Take a look.
LEMON: Can we look at it?
CUOMO: I'm all about sense of purpose and here it is.
LEMON: Wow, that is beautiful. It really looks amazing. You're going to be dancing on those tiles like John Travolta in Saturday night fever.
CUOMO: I can do all kinds of stuff.
LEMON: Don't fall down. That's amazing. It looks really great. Are you happy?
CUOMO: Sure. I got my own little staircase up here and a little balcony you can walk around.
LEMON: Did you got your little your Cuomo Prime Time, the thing that drops from the ceiling. Did you show them that? It fancy.
CUOMO: Yes. It's chain operated.
LEMON: Is it?
CUOMO: I didn't know it goes back up.
LEMON: Yes, it goes back up.
CUOMO: I thought it was always down.
LEMON: Yes, it's on a crane.
CUOMO: I'm just kidding.
LEMON: Make Ellie (Ph) put it up. (CROSSTALK)
CUOMO: Look, it's great. As I said tonight at the beginning of the show I apologize for my voice and I said we got new digs but the same sense of duty, brother, same sense of duty.
LEMON: What happened to your voice?
CUOMO: I don't know. I think it's allergies. Or maybe it was yelling at you to avoid the rocks when I saw you on the boat.
LEMON: I had to tease you at the park. Thank you for helping me. I all honesty, in all fairness, Chris was helping me back into my new story.
CUOMO: Who told you to get it? Who told you'd love it?
LEMON: You did. You did. You did. You did. But don't laugh, every time we're out with friends and even on your boat and we have the dogs and we don't have a life jacket on, on the dogs people get really upset with us on social media.
CUOMO: Ignore those people.
LEMON: I want the dogs to be safe.
CUOMO: I almost jumped in that boat and beat you up just to make a point.
LEMON: Nice show, nice set. I have no idea what you're talking about with "Game of Thrones." Maybe I'm binge-watching. You know what I'm binge-watching right now? I'm old school on Amazon prime I am binge- watching "The Rifleman" from like 1958.
CUOMO: Simple justice.
LEMON: With Jeff Connors.
CUOMO: Simple justice.
LEMON: "The Rifleman" with Jeff Connors. See you later.
CUOMO: Have a great show.
LEMON: Thank you, sir. I'll see you soon. Feel better. I hope your voice gets better.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. The president hitting the campaign trail in Pennsylvania -- in Pennsylvania. But he's facing some huge legal setbacks tonight and all the campaign rallies in the world. What won't make them go away?
So, what's happening? What's happening now could be the beginning of the Democrats counteroffensive on White House stonewalling and at least tonight they have the court and they've got the court of law on their side.
That's after a ruling today by a federal judge that the president's accounting firm has to comply with the subpoena, whether he likes it or not. And turn over seven years' worth of his financial records.
The judge citing Watergate, arguing, quote, "history has shown that congressionally exposed criminal conduct by the president or other high-ranking officials could lead to legislation" which puts this right in Congress's wheel house and disseminates the argument by the president's lawyers that Congress doesn't have the right to oversight of the executive branch. The president, predictively, reacting by trying to blame Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're trying to get a redo or a do-over and you can't do that, as far as the financials are concerned, we think it's the wrong -- it's totally the wrong decision by obviously an Obama-appointed judge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So always Obama's fault. And then there is the return of Trump's former fixer and keeper of secrets Michael Cohen. He is in prison now serving a three-year term but the House intel committee tonight released transcripts of his 15 hours of closed-door testimony to back up their argument that they need to further investigate the president, his businesses and his team.
In the transcripts Cohen alleges that the president's attorney Jay Sekulow, knew that Cohen's claim to Congress that the Trump tower Moscow project ended in January of 2016, he knew that was false.
[22:05:01] He also testified that Sekulow told him pardons were under consideration for him and others to, quote, "shut down the inquiries and to shut the investigations down."
And I want you to listen to this. In answer to a question about whether he believed Trump was an agent of Russia, Cohen said, and I quote here, "I don't think he's an agent of Russia, I think he likes Russian women. But I don't think he's an agent of Russia."
Cohen's lawyer replied that's not a crime, liking Russian women and Cohen responded, "no, actually it's funny. I have a document that he wrote on the Miss Universe pageant with a letter that he had sent I think to Vladimir Putin, Russian women are beautiful, with an exclamation mark. So yes, he does like Russian women, for the record." For the record.
Then there's the news that former White House counsel Don McGahn will defy a subpoena to testify before the House judiciary tomorrow and it's looking like Robert Mueller's testimony is very much in doubt. They're still negotiating. But at this point he's unlikely to appear before June.
And I want you to just look at what happens when someone speaks out against all of this, when a member of the president's own party says enough. When a member of Congress stands up for the rule of law, just two days after Republican Congressman Justin Amash tweeted that he believes the president should be impeached.
Just two days later, a primary challenger is stepping up. It looks like the president and his party really want to shut this down. A Michigan state Rep., Jim Lower, who once supported Amash, announcing today he'll run against the congressman in next year's Republican primary. And Trump ally Congressman Mark Meadows says this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): Anytime that you come out against the president of your own party makes it very difficult to support in any primary challenge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, but that's not stopping Congressman Amash. He didn't back down. He doubled down on Twitter today. And let's face it the best way to get the president's attention may be to tweet.
The congressman pushing back on Trump defenders who say an underlying crime would not -- would be necessary -- excuse me, to impeach him for obstruction. Tweeting that "There were many crimes revealed by the investigation. Some of which were charged and some of which were not." You've got to read the report. The president, as usual, taking the whole thing really personally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He's been against Trump from the beginning. He's been a loser for a long time, rarely votes for Republicans. And, you know, personally, I think he's not much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Again, go read the report, people. But the congressman sure doesn't seem worried about any of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, what about President Trump calling you a loser?
REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R-MI): OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel having a primary opponent now announce that since you're running after your tweets about impeachment?
AMASH: Yes, it's not serious.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you feel like you're safe for two more years after this?
AMASH: I feel very confident in my district.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Someone with a backbone.
In the face of all this, the president is sticking to his just say no defense, no, Don McGahn won't testify, no, Bill Barr won't turn over the full Mueller report. No, Steve Mnuchin won't hand over the president's tax returns. No, no, no, no, no. No complying with lawful subpoenas. Let's remember the president himself said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're fighting all the subpoenas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But it's beginning to look like there are cracks in the stonewalling strategy. The question is, will all these legal battles bring us any closer to the truth? The question is, are you going to read the report for yourself? Or are you going to believe the president and his mouthpieces, what they say?
The president facing some big legal issues tonight and what could be the beginning of Democrats counteroffensive. Will all this spell trouble for the White House? We're going to dig into that with Sara Murray, Matthew Rosenberg, and Elie Honig, next.
[22:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Three big legal issues tonight involving President Trump, the House intelligence committee releasing transcripts of testimony from Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer.
A federal judge ordering an accounting firm to hand over Trump's financial records to Congress, and the White House directing former counsel Don McGahn to defy a subpoena and refuse to testify tomorrow before the House judiciary committee.
So, there is a lot to discuss. Sara Murray, Matthew Rosenberg, and Elie Honig. So, basically, nobody is going to do anything. Everybody is defying everything. And so, we can all go home, there's nothing to report here. Is that right, Sara?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I guess it's done. You know, there's nothing more to do, there's no coequal branches of the government anymore, and the president is just going to do whatever he wants except for, you know, the minor issue of judges which is still a thing and they've been weighing in on this.
LEMON: But there's a lot of details, new details coming out about Michael Cohen's closed-door House testimony released tonight. And he says that Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow knew his testimony, Sara, his testimony about Trump tower Moscow was false, right?
MURRAY: That's right. And, you know, here is how Michael Cohen explained it for himself in this testimony. Here's a back and forth he had with Adam Schiff. So, Adam Schiff says, "So Mr. Sekulow told you that the president had read your written testimony, false written testimony before you provided it to Congress."
And Michael Cohen says "yes, that he, Mr. Sekulow said that he spoke to the client and that, you know, the client likes it and that it's good."
So, you know, by Michael Cohen's reasoning here the president had looked at this testimony, realized that it was inaccurate, signed off on it, that Jay Sekulow also knew it was inaccurate, signed off on it and then they sent it to Congress.
There are a lot of assumptions, sort of built into that answer, Don, but that's how Michael Cohen described it when he testified before Congress.
LEMON: OK, Elie Honig, let's bring you in now, because there's little more, there's a little more to the testimony about whether Sekulow knew that Cohen's testimony was false and I'm going to read something to you here from Representative Peter Welch. OK?
[22:14:59] Representative Peter Welch said "Did Mr. Sekulow know that it was June that was the right month, June that was the right month, not January, Michael Cohen, I believe if he took it to his client, which he stated to me that he did that he spoke to the client, that he would know that it would be false." What does that mean for Sekulow?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, first of all, Michael Cohen has to be regarded as only a starting point in an investigation. Looking at this from a prosecutor's lens Michael Cohen has some pretty serious credibility issues. He's been given several chances to testify publicly and behind closed doors. And his story hasn't always been exactly consistent.
Now the key here is going to be corroboration and there's two questions about, did two people know? One, did Jay Sekulow know that the testimony was false as to how far into 2016 the Trump tower Moscow went and then two is, did the client, meaning Donald Trump know?
Now, look if it's just Michael Cohen saying so, I don't think that's going to be enough to get anyone really anywhere. The big question is going to be, is there something backing up Michael Cohen, are there e- mails, are there drafts that Sekulow may have red lined or edited? And to me, is going to tell the ultimate story here.
LEMON: Interesting. So, Sara, the issue of pardons, let's talk about, Cohen told lawmakers that they were to shut the investigations down. What else did Cohen say under oath about that?
MURRAY: Yes, that's right. And again, this is Michael Cohen, so you know, grain of salt, there are a lot of assumptions build into it. But he is talking again in testimony with Adam Schiff and Schiff says "Is it your testimony that whatever discussions Jay Sekulow had regarding pardons was done with the knowledge and authority of the president?" And Michael Cohen says "I believe so." And this is all part of this
discussion about how Michael Cohen is saying, you know, these were conversations that were done with the president included, according to Michael Cohen's version of events that were done essentially to shut down the investigation, you know.
He wanted the president, the president's lawyers, wanted apparently people like Michael Cohen to know, look, you're on the inside, you're still in the president's good graces, you know, if you essentially don't cooperate, you'll get this pardon, there's nothing to worry about for you here.
Obviously, that's not how these things worked out, Don, and again, Michael Cohen, grain of salt.
LEMON: Well, there you go. Well, listen, Matthew, everyone keeps saying Michael Cohen, grain of salt. Yes, but again, as Elie said this is a starting point and if Jay Sekulow knew that the testimony was false, that this is just the beginning point, where do they go, where does the Congress, where does anyone, investigators, go from here?
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I mean, look, if they figure that out, they can corroborate that, pointed out, that's bad. And it brings it a lot closer to Trump. But how are you going to corroborate it? I don't know how you do that unless there are drafts, there are e-mails. But we don't know if there are. We have no evidence there are right now.
LEMON: What do you think of all this, then, give us your -- what do you think?
ROSENBERG: I mean, if I were Trump, I'd be much more worried about the financial records. That, you know, the other news today, that a judge ruled that his accounting firm has to turn over his financial records.
You know, all the reporting we've seen so far, looked like he was inflating values for his assets. It looks like a lot of issues, potential fraud. And I think if I were him, I'd be a lot more worried about that.
LEMON: Yes. We're going to talk a lot more about that in the next block. So, I just want to continue on with this vain with Cohen and Sekulow here. So, Elie, give me your legal expertise here.
Cohen told the committee that trump attorney Jay Sekulow told him that pardons were under consideration for him and others and they were about shutting down the investigations -- shutting the investigations down. How does this -- I mean, what does this sound like to you?
HONIG: So, to me, Don, this is more strongly corroborated than the first piece about the false testimony because this is not really news to us. Robert Mueller in the report has an entire section about the president dangling pardons and using pardons, or the promise of pardons, to try to dissuade people from cooperating. We saw some more detail about that last week relating to Michael
Flynn. We know that he tried the same thing with Paul Manafort. So, it's one thing if Michael Cohen says it. It's another thing if Robert Mueller has already put it in his report, and by the way and the president's tweeted about it. Right?
We remember the president's tweets where he praised Manafort and he praise Roger Stone and he attacked Michael Cohen for what, being a rat. So, this is an area that I consider more strongly corroborated with respect to Cohen's testimony.
LEMON: Just when I thought things couldn't get bizarre, more bizarre, we're talking about how much he likes Russian women, and on and on.
But Matthew, there's this whole thing about how Michael Cohen was pressed President Trump was an agent of Russia, right, and he said he didn't think so but Cohen added that he thinks Trump likes Russian women. Even noting how Trump sent a letter about Miss Universe, the Miss Universe pageant to Putin saying Russian women are beautiful. I mean, what do you even make of this?
ROSENBERG: I mean, look, I think at this point we know how the president talks about women. It's not a secret to any of us at this point.
Look, does it really matter if he's an agent of Russia or not? He has views, they're sympathetic to Vladimir Putin and to Russia on a number of issues, and you know, we have an election coming up. That's something Americans can decide if they want him in the Oval Office, or if do not.
ROSENBERG: You know, that's where it is.
LEMON: Does it really matter if he's an agent of Russia? I think it does matter.
ROSENBERG: I mean, it does matter, of course. But we don't -- we have no evidence of that, you know.
[22:20:00] LEMON: OK.
ROSENBERG: We have indications but we have no evidence.
LEMON: OK. So, I would just want to talk about Rudy Giuliani here. Rudy Giuliani, of course, Elie, coming to Jay Sekulow's defense. Tweeting this, "Jay Sekulow is one of the very most ethical lawyers and honest men I have ever known. Michael Cohen is a serial liar, he says Cohen should be prosecuted for his blatant perjury before the House committee. Jay should receive the most effective and ethical lawyer of the year award." He's the most effective and ethical lawyer. What does that make Rudy Giuliani?
HONIG: I'm not aware of that particular award, most ethical and effective lawyer. (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: You didn't get that award?
HONIG: I was never nominated for it. I don't know why. Look, I think what Rudy Giuliani is saying there is sort a more blunt version of what I was saying before. I mean, ultimately, if it's just Cohen says this, Sekulow says that, it's not going to be resolved in Cohen's favor.
HONIG: Right? I mean, Jay Sekulow, I guess I don't know him personally, there's varying opinions of him, he's certainly has been very aggressive in defending the president. But I don't see a way if it's just he said/he said, but again, it's all going to come down to where the hard proof is.
I imagine that there's got to be drafts out there, there's got to be e-mails. And I know people who work on this committee. One of them is a former colleague of mine at the Southern District of New York and I guarantee you he is not going to ride anything on just Michael Cohen's word. He's not going to step out there unless he's got something to back it up.
LEMON: Do you guys ever listen to Jay Sekulow's radio show?
LEMON: OK. You should, because maybe you'd have a different opinion. I was in Louisiana at -- when my sister died and we were driving in New Orleans and I found this radio station that Jay, a very conservative radio station, very pro-Trump that Jay Sekulow is on and I was actually shocked at some conspiracy theories that he was pushing on his radio show.
He's different when he comes on television, but the things he pushes on that radio show you would be surprised. You may have a different opinion of it.
OK. So, everyone, stay with me. Don McGahn defying a House subpoena and refusing to testify in front of the judiciary committee tomorrow. And the chair of that committee is warning about the consequences of not showing up.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Don McGahn is refusing to testify tomorrow before the House judiciary committee.
We're back with Sara Murray, Matthew Rosenberg, and Elie Honig. So, Sara, let's start with you with go around. Let's talk about Don McGahn. He says that he's not testifying but in a new letter tonight Chairman Nadler is telling him there will be serious consequences if he doesn't appear. So, what's this about?
MURRAY: That's right. You know, Don McGahn, his attorney essentially provided a letter saying our understanding is that Don McGahn is essentially immune from congressional testimony because of his role he had as a senior adviser to the president, the president is now asking him not to testify.
And, you know, as his former client his president -- the president was his former client and so, you know, Don McGahn will not be showing up and now Jerry Nadler is saying OK, well, we are going to proceed in essentially a hostile fashion. We are going to attempt to hold you in contempt.
Now we don't expect that that vote is going to happen until tomorrow, but I think it's not going to happen tomorrow, it's going to happen later down the road. But I think this is indicative of how the White House has approached all of these issues.
They're not going to give Congress what they're asking for at the first take and ultimately, I think this could again be another fight that's left up to the courts as with so many of this sort of subpoenas we've seen so far.
LEMON: Elie, did you hear what she just said? The White House argues that McGahn is exempt from appearing before Congress, that he has, they say he has immunity. You say this is nuts.
HONIG: I do say sometimes the legal words don't really do the trick and you just have to use the playground words. But yes, this is nuts. people need to understand how extreme and how potentially dangerous this new legal strategy is.
There's a new memo that came out and it's dated today from the Office of Legal Counsel that argues that no senior adviser to the president can ever be made to go in front of Congress and testify.
And here's how flimsy of an opinion it is. There's one case that's ever been decided on this specific issue, it involved Harriet Miers, a name people may remember he was -- she was briefly President Bush's White House counsel back in 2008 --
HONIG: And that case said the exact opposite, it says no, Harriet Miers does have to go before Congress if subpoenaed. The opinion that came out today also was issue -- was written by a guy name Steven Engel who is better known for writing the torture memos which cause the late Senator John McCain to oppose his nomination.
And think of what this position would do the balance of powers, if it was really the case that no senior adviser to the president could ever be made to appear in front of Congress it would completely throw the balance out of whack.
LEMON: Matthew, Chairman Nadler says the McGahn hearing will go on even without Don McGahn. Is this about theatrics? What is their goal?
ROSENBERG: It's absolutely theater but it's theater on both sides. I mean, if the White House really wanted to effectively shut this down, they would send Don McGahn and he would just refuse to answer questions, that he could cite his executive privilege for it. It's easy.
But they want to have -- they want a fight and now they want to keep fighting. So they're going to have a hearing tomorrow, it's going to be the theatrical. At some point there are going to have some serious consequences, whether that means, you know, sending the House people to go arrest somebody. I don't know what they'll do. But they keep talking about serious consequences we haven't seen anything yet.
LEMON: Yes. Sara, I wanted to -- did you want to weigh in, Elie, on that?
HONIG: Yes. I agree with Matt there. hat they -- that Congress has to stand up for itself and just having these contempt votes doesn't get anyone anywhere. They're purely symbolic. No one even cares, William Barr is out there, cracking jokes about being held under contempt.
What they need to do is get this case into a court in front of a federal judges as quickly as possible, like we saw with the Mazars decision that just came down today. They need to stop playing games and get this to a judge.
LEMON: Now speaking of joking about, because remember Bill Barr was, I think he made a joke about Nancy Pelosi or something that did you bring your handcuffs or something.
LEMON: Bill Barr spoke to the Wall Street Journal and here's what he says. He says he's fighting for the presidency, not Trump. Saying this, "I felt the rules were being changed to hurt Trump, and I thought it was damaging for the presidency over the long haul."
So, Sara, does that explain why he gave President Trump cover at every turn with the letter, with his presser before the report was even released or with his recent testimony?
[22:29:55] MURRAY: You know, I think that the problem for Bill Barr is that he obviously has a pretty dim view of how the Mueller investigation was conducted or whether it should have been conducted at all and he seems to be operating, you know, in a totally different political environment, an environment where he's decided that this, you know, investigation was not something that was worth doing.
And so he's very dismissive of it at every turn. I don't that that's reflective of, you know, what the report found. First of all, but also where the American population is. There are a lot of people who took this very seriously, who take the findings very seriously. And I think Bill Barr would probably be better off if his public comments reflected that. That being said, if, you know, you're going to conduct an origin -- an
investigation into the origins of how this investigation all began, why we started looking into, you know, why the government started looking into a political campaign in the first place. If everyone abided by the rules, if everyone went by the book here then, you know, I don't think transparency is the worst thing.
But I think people are obviously on edge about it because of the way Bill Barr has conducted himself in public, and because he has been so skeptical of the Mueller investigation. He's looked, you know, so friendly to the president at every turn.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Yeah. Matthew, this is what you wanted to talk about so let's do it now. You referred to this earlier, another legal battle, a judge ordering Trump's accounting firm to hand over records. I mean this is a big win for House Democrats.
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's a huge win for House Democrats. Let's see if it happens. I am sure they'll continue working its way through the courts. But, you know, we've had a lot of reporting in my paper and elsewhere that, you know, Trump regularly inflated values of his assets, that he basically, possibly may have committed fraud in dealing with banks.
Looking at his financial records is going to show us something, if that is accurate. We're going to learn things from that. And look, this is a president who didn't want to release his tax returns, who wanted -- didn't want to divest. He wanted to keep his assets whole and, you know now it's going to get a look from Congress.
LEMON: Let me read from this, the judge's ruling, OK, Elie? This is for you. It says Congress plainly views itself as having sweeping authority to investigate illegal conduct of a president before and after taking office. This court is not prepared to roll back the tide of history. So the judge referenced Whitewater. He referenced Watergate as examples.
What are the ramifications of this case because we have a White House trying to stonewall Congress at every turn?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Big picture, it's a huge win for Congress. Look, this is round one. This is the first judicial opinion that we've gotten on this standoff between Congress and the executive branch. And there are many more to come. And I think the judge today made a really compelling and strong statement that, first of all, Congress does have oversight authority.
Second of all, it's quite broad. And it's really up to Congress to say what they're interested in legislating in. It doesn't really matter if the executive branch says we don't like it or we don't believe them. The judge said that's not for us to decide. That's for Congress to decide. And then as you just pointed out, Don, the judge pointed to some really important historical precedents.
And he said not only does Congress have the ability to conduct oversight and to legislate, but also to investigate. And he pointed how much farther does anyone need to look than Watergate and Whitewater. So I think the judge had a really sound ruling. It will be appealed, as Matthew said, but I don't think the result's going to change.
LEMON: Here we go, and here we go, and here we go, on and on and on. Thank you, Matthew. Thank you, Elie. Thanks, Sara. Appreciate it. What will the House Judiciary Committee do about Don McGahn defying their subpoena? I am going to ask a member of that committee, Congressman Steve Cohen is next. There he is. We'll see him on the other side of the break.
[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: I want to talk more now about Don McGahn refusing to testify tomorrow before the House Judiciary Committee. Joining me now, Steve Cohen, the Congressman who sits on that very committee, Congressman Cohen, appreciate you coming on. Let's talk about Don McGahn. He says he's not testifying before your committee tomorrow. So what are you going to do about it?
REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Well, I suspect we'll have some type of a contempt citation, which has been disdained by the Trump administration. And they've basically thumbed their nose to us when we do it. I've inquired about the opportunity of doing inherent contempt, which is stronger. But counsel thinks that that takes too much time. It would go on forever and be challenged, because it's a rather novel and little used process.
But I say you throw the book at them. And I also think you probably need to start impeachment inquiries, at a minimum an impeachment inquiry that would have a lot of support in the Judiciary Committee members, if not outright impeachment. And the fact is this man has violated so many sections of our constitution.
He's run roughshod over the Constitution and he's disdainful of the American public and the rule of law. And he's engaged in a serious cover-up, a cover-up not known since Richard Nixon. And for the House to sit there and take it is wrong. If the Senate doesn't convict him, so be it. The Senate members will have to live with the history and the mark that it will put on them.
LEMON: OK. So they're arguing, though, at the White House that he has -- that McGahn has constitutional immunity. The legal opinion from the Justice Department says, in part, that Congress may not constitutionally compel the president's senior advisers to testify about their official duties. What do you say to that, Representative?
COHEN: Well, first of all, you can't believe anything out of the Justice Department anymore. Barr is a hired gun. He's not an attorney general. And he lied to the Congress. And he's done whatever Trump wanted him to do, talking about collusion when a lawyer would talk about conspiracy. And he talked about it over and over.
He's tried to step on the Mueller report and trash it and destroy it and (Inaudible) the public's opinion about it so it didn't have the effect which it should have had. And if you read the Mueller report, which I have, it basically is a roadmap to impeachment and says the man obstructed justice and that Mueller couldn't say that because he's a man of rectitude and refuses to put him on the spot where he can't defend himself.
[22:40:00] But he did say that there are congressional ways that this could be brought up and he could defend himself there. It is clear that Barr was doing whatever it took politically to help Trump. What we ought to do is go after him with everything we've got to defend the Constitution and the American public. This is a lawless administration. And we can't just sit back and be nice.
I mean, when McClellan was losing the civil war because he was playing too nice and was too weak, Lincoln got rid of him and we won the war.
COHEN: If McClellan would have stayed in charge, we would have lost.
LEMON: You said throw the book at them, every tool in the arsenal, and every, you know, weapon in the arsenal. But how many other Democrats are on board with that, because there's some hesitancy, especially from the House speaker to even talk about impeachment. Are there other Democrats who are on board with you with this?
COHEN: There are quite a few, and many of them are on the Judiciary Committee, which is a committee that gets people who are passionate about the Constitution and the law. The Judiciary Committee on both sides gets people that are pretty much in safe districts, generally, although we've got some front liners, but people who are passionate about the issues that are sometimes fiery issues, whether it's choice, whether human rights, whether it's impeachment.
And we can take the heat and we want to be there in the battle. And, you know, I know there's a lot of support. We had a meeting earlier today. And a lot of people are for opening up at least an inquiry. And I think that the Democrats will win on that. The public will win on it. You know, during Watergate, Nixon's -- people who wanted Nixon impeached was about the same number that want Trump impeached at the beginning of the hearings.
But as the hearings went on, it showed how reckless they were, how they were engaged in illegal activity and tried to obstruct justice and then got involved in a cover-up. They found the 23 minutes with Rose Mary Woods blocking the tapes and censoring 23 minutes of important material, redacted material on a tape recorder, then the public's mood changed.
It went from being 19 percent, which is where it is now, to being 58, 59, 60 percent in favor of getting rid of Nixon. If the public knows just what Trump did, which makes Nixon look like a choir boy, it'll go up to 60 percent too. We need to have hearings to let the public know what the Mueller report said and how lawless this administration is.
LEMON: Well, Representative Cohen, Chairman Nadler says that your committee is going to convene tomorrow as planned. I mean, you know, you took fire earlier this month when the attorney general didn't show up. Do you plan to handle this differently this time?
COHEN: Well, I believe that the chairman will make a statement, as he did the last time. The chairman's statement last time was strong. It reiterated our position of the committee. That we are -- want to respect the law, respect the rule of law. Stand up for democracy and protect our Constitution. And I think he'll do the same thing tomorrow. I hope he talks about contempt. But I don't have any plans tomorrow except to be there and listen and support my chairman.
LEMON: Representative Cohen, thanks for coming on, we'll see you back soon. Thank you, really appreciate it.
COHEN: You're welcome, Don.
LEMON: A Republican congressman said the president has engaged in impeachable conduct, but the rest of his party seems intent on shielding the president. I am going to ask a former Republican congressman who also stood up to Trump. Will this backfire on Congressman Justin Amash?
[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Republican Congressman, Justin Amash, doubling down on his case to impeach President Trump. But right now, he's the only Republican willing to go that far. Here's what President Trump had to say about Amash tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I've known him and he's been against Trump from the beginning. He probably wants to run for some other office. I don't think he'll do very well. He's been a loser for a long time. Rarely votes for Republicans. And, you know, personally, I think he's not much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: All right. Well, joining me now former Republican Congressman, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, joining us from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley. Thank you, Congressman. Good to see you. Give me your reaction to Congressman Amash coming out so forcefully for impeachment proceedings. You must understand the pressures that Amash is under right now.
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, interestingly enough, Justin Amash is considered very conservative. He's very libertarian, kind of like Ron Paul. He's had a primary challenge before. He has some challenges with establishment Republicans, and now obviously because of his impeachment statement with Trump Republicans. He's a very sincere, a very earnest man.
And I am not sure I understand his political calculation. He didn't do this for publicity. I mean it's clearly it's something that's not going to help him politically in his primary. So I think that he did it just because he felt he needed to say it.
LEMON: Do you think other Republicans agree with Amash, but just won't say it because it's not helpful to them politically?
DENT: I believe that many Republicans in the House feel that the president makes all sorts of statements that are very damaging and that they are very upset by. And they -- and look, of course, they're upset, because look at the 2018 midterm election. It was a disaster for Republicans, particularly in swing districts. And many of them blame the president for their defeats.
I mean, you were in Philadelphia for some time, Don. The Philadelphia suburbs were an utter killing zone for Republicans. And they will tell you that it was Donald Trump that, you know, really -- people were coming out to vote against him. So yeah, there are a lot of Republicans who are very unhappy with the president's conduct in office and his behavior because it's hurting them.
[22:50:01] LEMON: Yeah. So the president did say, I think he's, you know, considering a run for something else. You heard what he said. But Amash has admitted that he's considering a run for president as a libertarian. You compared to -- you said Rand Paul, not Ron Paul, right? You compared him to Rand Paul.
DENT: I said Ron.
DENT: I said Ron, the father.
LEMON: So even if he didn't take, you know, much of the vote nationwide, he's very popular in his home state of Michigan. How damaging would that be for Trump's reelection?
DENT: Well, my sense is -- what Amash did is I think psychologically damaging to the president and to many Republicans. He's not going to create any kind of ground swell in the House (Inaudible) Congress to go down the impeachment rabbit hole path. He's not going to do that. But it's damaging, and this is the state of Michigan. Amash represents Grand Rapids. Michigan is a swing state.
So if Amash were to run as a libertarian, you know, I suspect -- truthfully I think third-party candidates tend to accrue to the benefit of the incumbent. That might seem counterintuitive, but it would split the anti-Trump vote, even though many people, who might support Amash, could have also been supporting Trump. So it's counterintuitive, but I think a third part a candidacy would probably benefit Trump.
LEMON: Well, you're in Pennsylvania. The president campaigned in your home state tonight, talking up the importance of Pennsylvania of 2020. Does he have a shot at talking the state again, you think?
DENT: Well, my assessment of 2016 was not so much that Donald Trump won Pennsylvania, but that Hillary Clinton lost Pennsylvania. Her vote collapsed outside the Philadelphia region, particularly in places like Williamsport, Montoursville, where the president was tonight. Right now, I mean I think the president has a big problem in Pennsylvania. But the election is a long way away.
So he could pull it out. But he's got a long way to go. And if had the Democrats nominate somebody who can resonate, you know better than Hillary Clinton did up state in the tea areas, as we like to call them, up in the, you know, central part in the northern tier, then I think that, you know, that Democratic candidate could cut into Trump's margins up there.
Trump will win up there again. The question is by how much. And Trump only won by 44,000 votes in 2016. It was not a big win with in terms of the percentage. So he's -- I think he's in a bad place right now.
LEMON: -- challenger there, because both Trump polling, internal polling, Trump polling in this new Quinnipiac poll shows that Biden beats Trump in Pennsylvania. Maybe that's why the president said this tonight. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Never forget. Biden deserted you. He's not from Pennsylvania. I guess he was born here but he left you, folks. He left you for another state. Remember that, please. I meant to say that. This guy talks about I know Scranton. Well, I know the places better. He left you for another state. And he didn't take care of you because he didn't take care of your jobs. He let other countries come in and rip off America. That doesn't happen anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: You think that's why -- you think he knows that Biden would be a threat in Pennsylvania? You think that's why he's saying?
DENT: Yeah. I think the president is making an enormous mistake by attacking Joe Biden. All the president is doing is elevating Joe Biden. If the president was smart about this, he'd be attacking Elizabeth Warren or Mayor de Blasio or somebody who wants to run against him who is really not a threat. He'd be smarter to do that. He's just elevating Biden, and kind of it's unfair to say that because Biden left Scranton at the age of 10 that he abandoned the state.
I think his parents probably took him to Delaware for a reason. And I got to laugh at that one. That's just absurd. But he should worried about Biden, because I think Biden won't beat Trump up in those areas where the president was tonight. But he can cut into the margin, and he can do very well in the Philadelphia region and those collar counties as well as here in the Lehigh valley.
So if I were Trump, I'd be worried about Biden, but Biden's problem of course is the primary, and we'll see how well he does.
LEMON: Yeah. You did mention -- you said be attacking -- you know, if you were him, you'd be attacking Elizabeth Warren or someone else. You feel it doesn't really matter. But he's elevating Biden. So what other Democrats do you think will resonate in Pennsylvania?
DENT: Well, I think -- honestly I think that maybe Klobuchar, even Harris I think could resonate among Democrats. She can help put together the Obama coalition. I think Buttigieg, and maybe O'Rourke. Buttigieg, I say that because I think his tone and his style, you know, I think, are, you know, quite a contrast to the president's.
[22:54:51] And I think that would be reassuring to a lot of people. So I think one of those candidates. I think, you know, Warren would be a gift to Donald Trump, absolutely a gift. And I think Sanders would be probably a gift to Trump. But -- and I see a lat of these Democratic candidates are electable because the president's numbers, let's face it, are not very good.
LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, Charlie Dent. I appreciate it. Enjoy my former state.
DENT: Great to be here.
LEMON: Good to see you.
DENT: Great to be here from Bethlehem.
LEMON: Yeah, Bethlehem, not Bethlehem, but Bethlehem. Thank you, Charlie. The president facing a...
LEMON: -- setback tonight -- the president facing a huge setback tonight with a federal judge ruling that an accounting firm has to turn over his financial records to Congress. And the president has some choice words about that. We'll talk about it.