Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) Discusses Democrat Meeting on Trump Impeachment, IRS Memo on Turning over Trump Tax Returns, Pelosi Accusing Trump of a Coverup; Trump Speaks to Media as Pelosi Accuses Him of "a Coverup". Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 22, 2019 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I do want to ask you specifically about Ways and Means, and your efforts there in a second.

But it appears to me that you agree with the speaker that you think the president is engaged in a cover-up?

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): No question about it. Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: So if you think that, if you and Nancy Pelosi believe that, does it make sense that you are not ready yet to move toward impeachment proceedings? I'm trying to figure out where the line is for you.

KILDEE: I think we have to be reluctant to come to this conclusion. This is where I think the speaker is absolutely right. I have been very careful to come to these conclusions.

And when we use these -- this ultimate tool, we have to make sure that we have taken every effort to give the president and his administration the opportunity to get right with the law and not rush to the conclusion that we should only use this tool at our whim. I don't think that's the case for any of my colleagues.

But I do think we have to be careful. And I want to make sure we have exhausted every opportunity we have to force this administration to comply with the law. And assuming they continue to take the posture they have, I think that's when we have to come to the conclusion that the only tool left for us is the one in the Constitution.

But we're not there yet. But we're a lot closer to being in that place than we were. It's Donald Trump who is taking us there.

BOLDUAN: Do you know where that is?

KILDEE: It's not Congress.

BOLDUAN: Do you -- is there a standard? Have you set, yourself, a standard of, once they have done this, it's over for me? Like do you -- or is it one of those things where you're going to say, like, to use a phrase, you're going to know it when you see it?

KILDEE: I'm not quite sure. I think we will sort of know it when we see it. But I think there are instances where, if this president, for example, refuses to comply with the lawful order of a court.

I mean, there's a legitimate opportunity for disputes between --

BOLDUAN: Yes.

KILDEE: -- the executive and legislative branch over the interpretation of law. But it's the courts who make those interpretations. If they fail to comply with a court order, for me, that's a red line.

BOLDUAN: I spoke to one of your colleagues, Democrat Andy Kim, of New Jersey. He's freshman Democrat. He represents a district that had been a Republican district. When I asked him about where he was in terms of impeachment proceedings, he says he's not there yet because he's listening to his constituents and that's not what they want him to focus on. He said he's not getting questions about that.

What his constituents are telling him is keep your eye on your agenda. And his concern is that the focus is not then on the legislative agenda and trying to get things done if it's all about these investigations of the administration.

Do you think that he is right? Are you concerned that battles with the president are overshadowing your agenda?

KILDEE: I think it's a legitimate concern. The work that the American people want us to do is to improve their lives. If they don't see us focusing on that, of course, they have legitimate questions about what we're doing here.

But we swore an oath to the Constitution. When we were elected, we were elected to do the things that the American people need us to do to improve their lives but also to uphold the rule of law. And sometimes we have to do things that make us uncomfortable. And sometimes we have to do things that might not be particularly popular.

But when it comes to this question of impeachment -- and this works both ways. When it comes to the question of impeachment, the political implication needs to be set aside.

I've heard people say we shouldn't impeach because it's bad politics. I've heard people say that we should impeach because there are people who are clamoring for it.

Any member of Congress who takes their job seriously will only come to the conclusion that they need to pursue impeachment when they feel it's a responsibility in order to uphold the oath of office that they swore. And that, to me, the political implications for something like this are interesting but not particularly relevant to my determination.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about Ways and Means getting the president's tax returns and this memo that the "Washington Post" got their hands on that was written up by the IRS's general counsel's office. Did you know the memo existed before today?

KILDEE: I did not. Not until I saw the report.

BOLDUAN: Do you think -- and Steve Mnuchin says he had not seen it either. But he also said today that he doesn't think that he -- he still thinks he's following the law in saying that he's not going to be turning over the president's tax returns. He thinks he's on the right side of the law.

Do you think the secretary or the IRS commissioner, for that matter, should face fines if they continue to resist the subpoena from your committee?

KILDEE: The path that I think is the more appropriate path is to take that subpoena authority to court and have it enforced by a court of law. I think it's better for us to resolve our disputes by going to the judiciary. That's what the framers of the Constitution anticipated.

But on this particular point, the fact that it appears that the IRS commissioner or the secretary ignored what was the initial advice that was being prepared regarding this question, it reinforces the concern that many of us have as to whether or not there's undue influence being applied to the IRS in order to protect the president on other matters. That's one of the questions that caused us to seek the returns in the first place.

[11:35:11] So to see the IRS commissioner and, apparently, the secretary, apparently, take a tact that is against the initial legal advice that they were provided causes us to question whether or not on other matters related to the president and the IRS there may also be directives coming to protect the president as well.

So it sort of makes the case as to why we need to have access to these returns, to make an evaluation as to whether the IRS is properly enforcing the law on the president of the United States.

BOLDUAN: Let us see where this goes next.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.

KILDEE: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I came here for a meeting on infrastructure with Democrats, not really thinking that they wanted to do infrastructure or anything else other than investigate. And I just saw that Nancy Pelosi, just before our meeting, made a statement that we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.

It turns out I'm the most -- I think most of you would agree to this. I'm the most transparent president probably in the history of this country. We have given, on a witch hunt, on a hoax -- the whole thing with Russia was a hoax as it relates to the Trump administration and myself. It was a total, horrible thing that happened to our country. It hurt us in so many ways.

Despite that, we're setting records with the economy, with jobs, with most people employed today than we've ever had in the history of our country. We have the best unemployment numbers that we've had in the history of our country. In some cases 51 years, but generally in the history of our country. Companies are moving back in. Things are going well.

And I said let's have the meeting on infrastructure. We'll get that done easily. That's one of the easy ones. And instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk in to, look at people that just said that I was doing a cover-up. I don't do cover-ups. You people know that probably better than anybody.

[11:40:00] I was looking at a list of some of the things that we just did. More than 2,500 subpoenas qualified for. I let everybody talk. I let the White House counsel speak for 30 hours, 30 hours. I have 19 special counsel lawyers, 40 FBI agents. I said open it all up, let them have whatever they want. Nearly 500 search warrants. Think of that, a search warrant. Did you ever see a search warrant before? Neither did I. This was over 500 search warrants.

And of the 19 people that were heading up this investigation or whatever you want to call it, with Bob Mueller, they were contributors into the Democratic Party, most of them, and to Hillary Clinton. They hated President Trump. They hated him with a passion.

They went to her big party after the election, that turned out to be a wake. Not a party. It was a wake. And they were very angry. These are the people that, after two years and $40 million or $35 million -- it will be more than that after all the bills are paid -- this is what happened. No collusion, no obstruction, no nothing.

They issued 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers. Think of that though, 500 witnesses. And then I have Nancy Pelosi go out and say that the president of the United States engaged in a coverup.

Now, we've had a House investigation, we've had Senate investigations. We have investigations like nobody has had before and we did nothing wrong. They would have loved to have said we colluded. They would have loved it. These people were out to get us, the Republican Party and President Trump. They were out to get us. This was a one-sided, horrible thing.

The bottom line is they said there's no collusion, no collusion with Russia.

You heard so much talk about phone calls that my son made to me from this meeting that was set up by GPS Fusion (sic), it looks like, which is the other side for those that don't know. For a year, I heard about phone calls that went to a special number unauthorized. It would have been my son, Don, who is a good young man, who has gone through hell. And they were calls that must have been made by him before and after the meeting. Three calls.

After massive study, they actually found who made the calls. One was a friend of ours, a real estate developer. Great guy. Most of you know him. Nice guy. Loves our country. And the other was the head of Nascar. Two of them.

So, of the three calls that were so horrible, that he had a meeting and called me and then he had the meeting after and he made two more calls and they were written about like these little lines, couple of lines. No one wanted to admit it.

Even last night, we had a great election. I went there on Monday. We had an election for Fred Keller. It was a 50/50 shot, and he won in a landslide. We went and we did a rally. Hardly mentioned today. Yet, if he lost, it would be the biggest story in the country, even bigger than this witch hunt stuff you guys keep writing about.

Here is the bottom line. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. We've been doing this since I've been president.

And actually, the crime was committed on the other side. We'll see how that all turns out. I hope it turns out well.

But to my way of thinking, and I know a lot of you agree with me, the crime was committed on the other side. This whole thing was a takedown attempt at the president of the United States.

And honestly, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves for the way you report it so dishonestly. Not all of you, but many of you. The way you report it.

So I've said from the beginning, right from the beginning, that you probably can't go down two tracks. You can go down the investigation track and the investment track or the track of let get things done for the American people. I love the American people.

[11:45:12] Drug prices are coming down, first time in 51 years, because of my administration. But we can get them down way lower, working with the Democrats. We can solve the problem on the border in 15 minutes if the Democrats would give us a few votes.

So I just wanted to let you know that I walked into the room and told Senator Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than you want to do it. I would be really good at that. That's what I do. But you know what? You can't do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with.

The "Wall Street Journal" just wrote today, just a little while ago, I saw it, Mr. Mueller wasn't obstructed in any way. This is the "Wall Street Journal" editorial today. Mr. Mueller wasn't obstructed in any way.

His copious report, copious, 430 pages. Now they want to interview all the same people again. They want to interview -- Jerry Nadler, who has been an enemy of mine for many years. He fought me in New York, unsuccessfully, by the way. I've had great success against Jerry. But he was representing Manhattan and would fight me all the time, on the west side railroad, many times, very unsuccessfully. He failed. I come to Washington, become president and say, oh, no, I have Jerry

Nadler again?

So "Wall Street Journal," "Mr. Mueller wasn't obstructed in any way. His copious report was released for all to see. And there was no collusion." This is the "Wall Street Journal." "And there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign." That's it.

But they want to make this a big deal. Whether or not they carry the big "I" word out, I can't imagine that, but they probably would because it will do whatever they have to do.

I tell you, there's a danger here. If, some day, a Democrat becomes president, and you have a Republican House, they can impeach him for any reason, or her. Any reason. We can't allow that to happen. We can't allow it to happen.

So, when you look at all of the transparency, when you look at all I've done -- and I'll tell you, my lawyers say, you can use presidential privilege. You don't have to let your lawyers and all of your staff testify. You can use presidential privilege, sir. Would you recommend it? Well, you can be transparent or you be tight. If you've done nothing wrong, being transparent is better. So I said, I did nothing wrong, let's be transparent. So that's what you have.

All of these things. Look at that. All of these things. And 500 witnesses that I allowed to testify. It's a disgrace.

So when they get everything done, I'm all set to let's get infrastructure. Let's get drug prices down.

In the meantime, we're doing tremendous work without them. We're doing tremendous executive orders, a lot of work. We've had a great success. Most successful economy perhaps in our country's history. We've cut regulations at a level that nobody else has cut them before. The largest tax cut in the history of the country. So we're doing a lot of work.

Steve, yes?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you get any assurances that they won't -- the House won't --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: This is very sad. Because this meeting was set up a number of days ago, 11:00. All of a sudden, I hear last night, they're going to have a meeting right before this meeting to talk about the "I" word. The "I" word. Can you imagine?

I don't speak to Russians about campaigns. When I went to Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, I don't say, let's call Russia. Maybe they can -- it's a hoax! The greatest hoax in history.

Yes, go ahead. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. Do you view

Congress as a co-equal branch of government and do you respect their power of oversight?

TRUMP: I respect the courts. I respect, Congress. I respect, right here, where we're standing. But that they've done is abuse. This is investigation number four of the same thing. Probably number five. And it really started, I think, pretty much from the time we came down the escalator in Trump Tower.

[11:50:05] So I say to you that we're going to get everything done. We're doing a lot without them. Let them play their games. We're going to go down one track at a time. Let them finish up and we'll be all set.

Thank you, everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you read the Bob Mueller report? Mr. President, have you read the Mueller report?

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Wow! What you just saw was very important. We need to get into this. Because, first off, we can see how well infrastructure week is going this time around.

Secondly, the president of the United States just took to the Rose Garden --this was not an event that was scheduled. That's important to note. He took to the Rose Garden to say that he is not going to be working, it sounds like, on anything until Democrats in the House finish up, wrap up, end their investigations into the president of the United States.

Much to discuss. Let's bring in right now, first, CNN's senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, this day took a very big turn just now.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, it certainly did. You could tell the president was doing a premeditated Rose Garden strategy here. You couldn't see it on screen. In the Rose Garden, he had a printed placard of the cost of the Mueller investigation with big words saying, "no collusion, no obstruction." This was a planned ambush, if you will, of that infrastructure meeting that Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer were going to the White House to do.

So the president clearly, his state of mind just validating what we hear from advisers and others, that he is, indeed, consumed by this investigation.

And it's important to point out, Kate, this comes one day after Hope Hicks was given a subpoena. Hope Hicks is, of course, his former long-time aide, who now works in Los Angeles. He considers her like family. That's always been a red line that he didn't want to cross. So that is the president's state of mind here going into this.

And, Kate. It says one thing. Not one single issue will get done in Washington, the president said right there, until the Mueller probe is ending. So these are loggerheads. We've never seen anything like this before, the Rose Garden used like that -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Let's go back to the Rose Garden. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is there. She was there for this even.

Kaitlan, this is a very important marker. The president saying there will be no negotiating on anything with regard to any kind of policy until -- unless and until they wrap up their investigations into him.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Which Democrats have shown no sign of doing, wrapping up those investigations. And actually, they've only grown more infuriated as the White House has denied them having testimony from people who currently work here or worked here before or even document production.

But the president just made clear, he said he is not going to be able to work with Democrats as long as they're investigating him. That's a threat the president first made during his State of the Union address. Today, he followed through on it.

Because we saw Democrats, just minutes before reporters were called into the Rose Garden at the last minute, arriving at White House, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Steny Hoyer. We saw a group of Democratic leaders coming to the White House for what they thought was a meeting to talk about funding that $2 trillion infrastructure plan they agree to. And, instead, the president walked out to the Rose Garden and made his anger clear.

Kate, what he was the most infuriated about, the president said, was Nancy Pelosi's comment just an hour ago that she believed the president is engaged in a cover-up. That was the strongest language we've seen from the House speaker so far in relation to the president's activities. But it came after she held a meeting with her caucus, trying to tamp down talk of impeaching the president. But clearly that was a line too far for the president.

We're told by sources, he went into that meeting with Democrats here at the White House for about five minutes before coming out here to the Rose Garden at the last minutes with a poster on the front of the podium in front of him, talking about how much the Mueller investigation costs. You could see his fury. It was evident.

He said he does respect Congress as a co-equal branch of government. But, Kate, he made clear that he is not going to be working with Democrats on any legislative priorities while they are investigating him.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

COLLILNS: Now, we tried to ask the president, are you daring Democrats to impeach you, because they say, the more the president stonewalls them, the more their members were inclined to impeachment. But, Kate, that's a question the president did not answer. Instead, he turned around and walked back into the Oval Office.

BOLDUAN: Guys, is Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill?

I'd like to go over to Capitol Hill and go to Phil Mattingly.

Because, Phil, you have some important reporting about what else, what went down, how this went down in this five-minute meeting at the White House.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. I've been talking to some sources with direct knowledge of what happened in the meeting.

Just to kind of take you behind the scenes, Democrats were sitting in the room. The president walked into the room, these sources said. He did not shake anybody's hands. He made clear there were things he wanted to get done with the Congress, both House Democrats and Democrats in the United States Senate, whether it was infrastructure, the farm bill, the trade deal.

But he said, based on Speaker Pelosi's comments this morning, related to the coverup, as we talked about earlier, he said there was, quote, "something terrible to be accused of that."

[11:55:04] He then said that there not be two tracks, as he said publicly. As long as Democrats are investigating, they will not be negotiating on actual policy issues, despite his priorities that he has laid out. He then walked out of the room before Democrats could say anything to him directly.

I'm told, as he was walking out, Speaker Pelosi said something along the lines of, I knew you weren't serious about negotiating on infrastructure. And that was it.

Democrats have left the White House --

BOLDUAN: Wait. Phil, that's an important point. He walked out. He made a statement and just walked out? There was no discussion?

MATTINGLY: Yes, there was no discussion at all. Democrats were, I think, kind of dumbfounded that that was how he walked in. Didn't shake anybody's hands, didn't hello. Just walked in. Clearly was ready to say what he had to say, which was, as it currently stands, there will be no negotiations on infrastructure or any other policy issue so long as the investigations are ongoing.

And his key issue was two-fold. He talked about it publicly, the idea that Speaker Pelosi said, after that 9:00 a.m. meeting this morning with the House Democratic caucus, she believes there's a cover-up. And that the 9:00 a.m. meeting existed at all. He said that was a terrible thing that was said. You heard his rationale publicly as to why he believes that. He walked out before anybody was able to say anything at all. Democrats now on their way back to Capitol Hill where we expect to

hear from them shortly.

BOLDUAN: It's really amazing that even if he's -- both sides say how important infrastructure and moving forward on infrastructure is, that no matter what bad blood is between Democrats and the president, that he's willing to lay down this marker that he's serious now, that he's not going to do anything until they wrap up investigations.

But let's be honest, Phil, there's no sign, no suggestion that is going to -- I mean, it's holding legislation hostage until they finish an investigation.

MATTINGLY: Yes, and it's not just infrastructure. Infrastructure was the one bipartisan thing they thought they could get done.

There's also things they absolutely have to get done. There is a spending deal that they have to make to forestall over $120 million in automatic cuts by the start of October. They need to raise the debt ceiling. Negotiators in Congress, with White House officials, thought they were making progress on that yesterday. That is a legislative issue that they have to figure out.

There's a myriad of things that, even with all the partisan back and forth, even with all the investigations, they thought they could do something. Right now, apparently, they'll be doing nothing.

BOLDUAN: Nothing is exactly what it sounds like.

Let's get back over to the Rose Garden. Kaitlan Collins has more information for us -- Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes, Kate, we want to show you this sign. This is the view that reporters came out here to out here. We thought that the president was having this meeting with Democrats on infrastructure, which White House officials weren't optimistic about. But then we were unexpectedly called out here.

White House officials did not tell us why we were coming out here. But, Kate, it became clear the minute we entered the Rose Garden, because, if you see the podium behind me, it has the official seal. It says, "president of the United States."

And there is a sign in front of it on White House cardboard that says, "Mueller investigation by the numbers, over $35 million spent on Mueller's investigation, over 2800 subpoenas issued, it took 675 days, over 500 witnesses. And, of course, the president's mantra that he repeats so often on Twitter, "18 angry Democrats," and it says, "no collusion, no obstruction." That's what the president has maintained ever since the Mueller investigation ended.

We're told by sources, the president has been so furious about these investigations by Democrats because, for so long, he thought that once the special counsel's investigation was over, so was all of this. Instead, it only ramped up on Capitol Hill. Now you've seen, as we were noting earlier, not only so many subpoenas

and document requests but also for some of the people who are the closest to the president, including Hope Hicks, who was one of his closest confidantes when she was in the White House, and Annie Donaldson. That was Don McGahn's chief of staff. Very loyal, a meticulous note taker, which infuriated the president because that is really what painted the most damning portrait when the Mueller report came out.

You could sense the president's anger as soon as he came out here and this disdain for Democrats, and especially House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she came out here.

This is a huge difference from the last meeting we had on infrastructure three weeks ago when Democrats said the investigations didn't come up when they were in the meeting with the president. But clearly, that hour-long coverage of Nancy Pelosi's comment, that the president is engaged in a cover-up, struck at the heart of him. Because he came out here, he said, "I do not do cover-ups." He said that the reporters would know that better than anyone. And you can sense the president's anger over that remark.

But, Kate, the question going forward is, what happens with the president and these investigations? We know he has been angry. We know they've stonewalled and tried to block what they're going to do. The president has said their strategy is to ignore all the subpoenas. But the question is, how much does that get ramped up after what we just saw in the Rose Garden, which was not on the schedule and not planned? I cannot stress that enough.

BOLDUAN: Yes, that's exactly right.

But, Kaitlan, it seemed like he was lashing out. I mean, returning to some of the comments he has made, a lot of things that need to be fact-checked, which we'll get to in a second.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: But it just seemed like lashing out right now.

[11:59:57] COLLINS: It was the president airing his grievances.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

COLLINS: It's what you read on Twitter every single day from the president, multiple times a day. Except this time, he said it in person. And he singled out Nancy Pelosi, something we haven't seen that much from the president, essentially holding her responsible for these investigations.