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Pelosi to Meet with House Dems Amid Impeachment Revolt; Tillerson Quietly Meets with House Lawmakers about Trump; Flash Floods Grip Midwest, Dozens of Tornadoes Reported; Beto O'Rourke Makes His Case in CNN Town Hall; Lawmakers Split After Briefing on Iran Threat. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 22, 2019 - 06:00   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nancy Pelosi will meet with her members about opening up formal impeachment proceedings.

[00:558:57] REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We have to exhaust every other remedy.

REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D-KY): The impeachment process is just a question of when, not if.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are going after former White House officials in their sweeping investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They very worked closely with Trump. We just want to dig deeper into things that they are aware of.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: They know they're going to get turned down, but they're going to hope that something finally gives.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, May 22, 6 a.m. here in New York. Alisyn is off. Erica Hill joins me this morning.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Nice to be with you in your fancy new studio.

BERMAN: Yes. Welcome to the new digs. Not bad, right?

HILL: Very nice.

BERMAN: All right. So is it an impeachment wave? And is Nancy Pelosi about to get soaked?

In just a few hours, a critical meeting of House Democrats with more and more calling for official impeachment proceedings to begin, including some committee chairs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is against the move, so how will she convince her members to slow down?

We will speak to the House majority whip later in the broadcast.

The speaker will also have a chance to confront the president face to face. She heads to the White House for a meeting on infrastructure, because it's Infrastructure Week somewhere.

HILL: Always. It's comes as there's growing uncertainty about whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller will testify in public any time soon.

And also on Capitol Hill today, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is set to face tough questions at a House hearing. That will happen this morning. Those questions, of course, as "The Washington Post" has uncovered a confidential IRS memo that states tax returns must be given to the tax-writing chair in the House, unless the president invokes executive privilege.

Let's begin with CNN's Lauren Fox, who is live on Capitol Hill.

Lauren, good morning.


Yes, in just a couple of hours, House Democrats are set to meet with their leadership to discuss the next steps in their investigations. And that comes as there's a lot of heat on Nancy Pelosi to begin the impeachment proceedings.


YARMUTH: The impeachment process is going to be inevitable. It's just a question of when, not if.

FOX (voice-over): More than two dozen House Democrats are now calling for the House speaker to begin impeachment proceedings.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): You know, I think the case gets stronger the more they stonewall the Congress.

FOX: But Nancy Pelosi is still not convinced, standing by her cautious approach, even after a heated meeting with Democratic leadership behind closed doors on Monday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam Speaker, are you under increased pressure to impeach the president?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From your caucus?


FOX: Pelosi believes impeaching the president should be an evidence- based, bipartisan decision. A growing number of Democratic lawmakers disagree, saying the stonewalling from the White House leaves them no choice.

REP. MARY GAY SCANLON (D-PA): It would be terrible if the fact of protecting the Constitution by starting an impeachment inquiry somehow led to, you know, him being able to defy the law even more. And of course, that's a real fear. But you can't let political considerations get in the way of your duty and the truth.

FOX: Meantime, the House Judiciary Committee issuing two new subpoenas to former White House communications director Hope Hicks and the former White House counsel's chief of staff, Annie Donaldson.

Hicks speaking to Special Counsel Robert Mueller about key conversations with President Trump, including emails Donald Trump Jr. sent to set up the June 16 meeting at Trump Tower with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, and Donaldson, whose detailed notes are cited throughout the Mueller report.

Yet, there's growing uncertainty if Mueller will testify in public. A source telling CNN Mueller does not want to appear political after staying silent about his two-year-long investigation.

All of this comes as "The Washington Post" obtains an IRS confidential draft memo that directly contradicts the Trump administration's refusal to hand over President Trump's tax returns to lawmakers. The ten-page document says the agency must provide Congress with Trump's tax returns unless he opts to assert executive privilege. Mr. Trump has not done so.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin instead blocking the request, arguing it, quote, "lacks a legitimate legislative purpose."


HILL: So Lauren, at this point what is the next step in the fight over the president's tax returns?

FOX: Well, when I've spoken within Richard Neal, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He says there's essentially just one way forward, and that is going to court.

But there are some members on the House Ways and Means Committee -- Bill Pascrell among them -- who believe that they should exhaust more

of their congressional power, and that includes holding the treasury secretary and the IRS commissioner in contempt of Congress.

That's something that Richard Neal has said is not necessary. His plan to move this fight to the courts. He wants to move on. He has a lot of other priorities he wants to get through, including infrastructure, something that he's been talking about for several months now. He wants to get this fight, this partisan fight off of his plate so he can move on to some of the priorities of the Ways and Means Committee -- Erica.

HILL: Lauren Fox with the latest this morning. Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. This morning we're learning of an intriguing meeting behind closed doors that took place in relative secret. Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who had more than his share of issues with the president, sat down with the top Democrat and Republican in the House Foreign Affairs Committee for several hours.

CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House for us on what this meeting was all about, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, first, what's striking about this meeting is that, while the president and the legal apparatus here at the White House is spending so much time trying to stonewall the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives on the information they're seeking, the president's former secretary of state literally slips in the back door and spends hours on end having a conversation with Eliot Engel and Michael McCaul, the chairman and ranking member of the committee.

[06:05:04] What they talked about, among other things: Russia and the relationship between the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to United States foreign policy.

Apparently, they did have quite a lot to talk about. It went on, we're told, for about seven hours. We're also told members of the committee were somewhat surprised to hear about this actually happening.

Now the question will be what all did Rex Tillerson talk to these people about, simply because he had, at times, a stormy relationship with the president while he was serving as secretary of state, John?

BERMAN: Yes, I'm interested to find out what were the topics of discussion.

Another really interesting moment on Capitol Hill yesterday, Joe, Ben Carson, who's the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was asked questions about housing and had some real problems with them. What went on here?

JOHNS: Yes, well, this was a question that was raised by Congresswoman Katie Porter. She's a former law professor.

She asked Carson, who is the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, about things that are referred to as REOs. These are acronyms for real estate owned, which is how you describe a property that's gone into foreclosure and reverted back to the lender.

The secretary of housing apparently misunderstood the question. Listen.


REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): I'd also like you to get back to me, if you don't mind, to explain the disparity in REO rates. Do you know what an REO is?


PORTER: No, not an Oreo. An REO. R-E-O.

CARSON: Real estate --

PORTER: What's the "o" stand for?

CARSON: Organization.

PORTER: Owned. Real estate owned. That's what happens when a property goes to foreclosure. We call it an REO.


JOHNS: On Twitter, the secretary later made fun of that exchange. Of course, it's also important to point out that he is trained as a surgeon, nonetheless, the secretary of housing. And the congresswoman said she wanted a serious answer to a serious question, which she never got -- John.

BERMAN: Yes, secretary trying to make the best of a situation with that sight gag on Twitter. But I have to say, again, he is the secretary of housing, and he was asked a question about that.

Joe Johns, thank you very much -- Erica.

HILL: Flash floods continue to grip the Midwest. Folks in the region also reeling from at least 30 reported tornadoes on Tuesday. First responders working around the clock to rescue people stuck in rushing flood waters, including this woman hanging from a tree, hanging for dear life.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live now in Oklahoma City with more.


It's been a rough couple of days here in the central part of the country, and even though the rain has stopped for a good 24 hours now, the threat of the flooding is still a concern. One person died last night in Oklahoma after driving around a road barricade, getting stuck in flood waters, and drowned.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I spent 36 years here. It's probably as bad a flood as I've ever seen.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Historic flooding sweeps through the central United States, prompting dozens of water rescues over the past two days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's scary. Scary, especially when you've got grand-babies. When are they going to get here? You hear the choppers and you're like, come on. But I just want to go.

LAVANDERA: Vicious weather has dumped heavy rain onto the area, along with 30 preliminary reports of tornadoes on Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's the storm chasers.



LAVANDERA: Some in Texas were caught in the middle of a hailstorm, pelted with chunks of ice, some the size of baseballs. Others grateful they were able to survive the twisters and floods that followed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was freaking out. I am still freaking out. It was a nightmare. I was just worried about getting my daughter and I was worried about my best friend and her kids.

LAVANDERA: Rescuers in Oklahoma worked around the clock to save stranded locals from the raging waters, like this woman who grabbed a branch, hoping desperately not to be swept away. After some time, rescuers were finally able to pull her to safety.

Or this man, who had been clinging to a fence post for more than five hours before a passerby was able to call emergency crews to save him.

At least 200 people in Hominy, Oklahoma, had to be evacuated because of rising flood waters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as it's raining, as long as we see the flooding on this end of town like -- like we've never seen before, we'll be out here all night getting people out of these houses.

LAVANDERA: Roads turned into rivers, people stranded on top of cars. This home in Edmond, Oklahoma, now an island. The first floor was almost completely under water. Others also found themselves without homes anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I texted Brandon. I was like, "Brandon, I'm going to have to swim into the house."

He's like, "What do you mean?"

I was like, "Open the front door." It was already up to our porch.

LAVANDERA: But Oklahomans remain resilient --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can always replace stuff like that, but you -- a life you can't replace.

[06:10:05] LAVANDERA: -- vowing to rebuild what they've lost.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE; Our family is OK. My mom's OK. We're all right here together as far as family, and it can all be put back together. We have each other.


LAVANDERA: Most of the flood waters here in the central Oklahoma area that we've seen have really started to recede, but many first responders will tell you that you still need to be very cautious. They say that, as flood waters recede from most areas, it does tend to rise in some other areas as the water makes its way back into the creeks where it belongs. And that can cause problems in certain low- lying areas. So they still caution people to be extremely careful -- John.

BERMAN: Yes. Don't drive through standing water, as you well know. Ed Lavandera for us in Oklahoma City. Thank you very much, Ed.

And this threat of severe weather is pushing east today. Let's go to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers with the forecast -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And that's where the warm air is going, John, to the east.

Over the past five days, 132 tornadoes. That's more than 10 percent of the entire yearly supply of tornadoes just in the past five. In fact, yesterday, 33. More than the high risk day the day before.

So the weather moves through Indianapolis for today, all the way back down into Evansville. There will be some storms today from Tulsa back to Joplin. Some of them may contain more tornadoes, as well.

But as you said, this is going to move to the east. This is eventually going to slide all the way into Pennsylvania and maybe even into the I-95 corridor as we work our way into the next couple days.

And even for Indianapolis, St. Louis -- St. Louis had tornado warnings yesterday. They may have another one today. But here's the problem. For Thursday, that weather does move toward the northeast, even though there will be more severe weather in Oklahoma. Many more people living in that circle here than that circle back out to the west.

Yes, more flooding possible. Two to four more inches on top of the already saturated ground. But it does begin to warm up for Memorial Day.

Guys, back to you.

BERMAN: Just in time. Chad Myers, thank you very much.

HILL: Overnight, Beto O'Rourke holding his first national town hall right here on CNN. Why some analysts think this could be a turnaround moment for his campaign.

BERMAN: So plus, if you think this RV looks bad now, wait until you see the end of this wild chase. This is bonkers. We'll show you next.


[06:17:10] BERMAN: All right. A critical night for former congressman Beto O'Rourke. He made his case at a CNN town hall.

Our Leyla Santiago was there. She joins us now from Des Moines, Iowa.

Leyla, how did it go?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this was really where Beto O'Rourke was in his element. He has done more than 150 town halls. And you could really sort of see how that prepared him for our stage last night here in Des Moines.

This is where he says he feels good, and now he's using it, hoping to get that momentum to turn into dollars for fundraising. Already his campaign has sent out an email asking for money based on the performance at the town hall.

Let's go ahead and look at one of his really big moments last night.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We should begin impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. Not something --

I understand the political implications of this, but I think this moment calls for us to look beyond the politics and the polling and even the next election. It's the very sanctity of the ballot box and the very future of the world's greatest democracy. And if this is important to us, and I think it is, then we need to look past those short-term consequences.


SANTIAGO: And while O'Rourke has said before that he believes that Congress should begin impeachment proceedings -- excuse me -- this is a big deal, because he's sort of breaking with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a bit here, who is saying, "Let's be careful about this." She's concerned that this could energize Trump's base.

So this is him really sort of taking a stand, saying, "Let's not think short-term. Let's think long-term. This is where I stand."

He also had another big moment when it came to abortion, laying out his policy for that, saying he wants women to have access to legal and safe abortions, wants to get rid of the Hyde Amendment. And that really -- not only did the question in the audience get a lot of applause, but so did his answer.

Of course, he is from El Paso, Texas. So you should always expect him to talk immigration. That's something that he really, really is passionate about. You can really tell that that means a lot to him when he's talking to people in the crowd, be it in Texas or here in Iowa.

Here's what he had to say about that.


O'ROURKE: You ask what I would do differently. I would never again separate another family when they come here at their most vulnerable and desperate moment. Let's reflect our values, our reality. The best interest and

traditions of this country that is comprised of immigrants and asylum seekers and refugees. Free every one of the more than 1 million DREAMers from any fear of deportation by making them U.S. citizens here in their home country.


SANTIAGO: You know, he did get quite a bit of applause for his big moments last night in the crowd. The big question, though: will that resonate with voters outside of that town hall who were watching on home, and then will that be reflected in the polls -- Erica?

[06:20:11] HILL: All right. Leyla from Des Moines, thank you.

Lawmakers in Congress divided after a briefing on the threat Iran poses. Iran's foreign minister tells CNN he has no interest in speaking with President Trump unless President Trump shows respect.

CNN's Nic Robertson joins us now from Abu Dhabi live with more -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, what we heard from the secretary of state before he went into those briefings, he said that it was too soon to say what definitive role Iran had played in the latest rise in tensions here, but he did say those attacks on shipping just off the coast of the Emirates here was, most probability, quite likely Iranian-involved somehow.

And we heard from the acting secretary of defense also say that right now Iran is the threat. That threat is being managed.

Republicans, when they came out of that briefing, mostly the takeaway seemed to be that Iran, they understood that Iran had been responsible not just for the attack on those vessels but for an attack on an old pipeline in Saudi Arabia and for that attack on the Green Zone very close to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

Democrats critical of what they heard, saying that they believe that there wasn't sort of joined up, interdepartmental thinking and strategy about how to get Iran to the place the United States wants to get them to in terms of talks.

Two U.S. officials giving us insight into how this current rise in tensions with Iran began.

The U.S. base at Camp Taji just a few miles north of Baghdad, in April came under a rocket attack, but the concern was that this was from an Iranian-backed group, and this group was using a drone to overfly the base at the same time.

And that drone would give more precise details, a more aggressive attack, if you will, because they were using complex technologies to more precisely attack the U.S. base. So that was seen as a ramp-up, an aggression, out of the ordinary, new from the Iranian side.

BERMAN: All right. Nic Robertson for us monitoring the situation in the Gulf. Nic, thank you.

One of the wildest police chases you will ever see, ever, unfolding on the streets of Los Angeles. A woman driving a stolen RV. Look at this here. Hitting cars and trees. And parts of the camper just come flying off.

This video showed the RV hitting speeds of up to 60 miles per hour as the driver made her way through the San Fernando Valley. She also had two dogs on board. Look at that. Oh! One of them can be seen jumping from the speeding vehicle. Both dogs -- the only reason we're showing you this, both dogs are OK. That dog clearly knew it had to get out of the RV. In the custody of animal control.

Finally, the RV, with debris flying from it, stopped after hitting another car and trees. You can see that happening right there. That's how it all ended. Bonkers.

The driver then made a run, but she was tackled by police and taken into custody. Three people, including the driver, went to the hospital with minor injuries.

HILL: That part is remarkable, that it was minor injuries. You look even just at the way the RV slammed into that other car, I mean --

BERMAN: Yes, I just can't get enough of the dog, knowing --

HILL: I know.

BERMAN: -- that "This is not somewhere I want to be right now. I'm getting out of this RV."

HILL: I would like to adopt that dog.

BERMAN: I'm sure you're one of thousands --

HILL: I know.

BERMAN: -- of people lining up.

HILL: Get in line, Erica.

BERMAN: All right. More than two dozen House Democrats are now calling for an impeachment inquiry. Can Speaker Nancy Pelosi pull them back? One of the top congressional reporters on earth joins us in a second to give us the new details she's picked up overnight. That's next.


[06:28:10] BERMAN: All right. In just a few hours, there is a crucial meeting on Capitol Hill among House Democrats. Speaker Nancy Pelosi will meet with the full caucus. There are now more than two dozen House members calling for an impeachment inquiry to begin.

Joining us now, Rachael Bade, congressional reporter for "The Washington Post"; Margaret Talev, senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg News; and Joe Lockhart, former Clinton White House press secretary.

And Rachel, I promised our viewers you would have breaking news for them when you came on. You've been at the leading edge of the reporting on this groundswell inside the Democratic Party for impeachment. Where is it this morning as they head into this 9 a.m. meeting?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I got a bunch of texts from lawmakers last night who are greatly anticipating this meeting and think it's going to be rather ugly.

This is going to be Pelosi trying to tamp down these members who are increasingly calling for impeachment. And the reality is, you know, you have two dozen who have come out in the past, what, 28 hours who say it's time to begin an impeachment inquiry on the president, but there are a lot of people who privately support this, as well, and they just haven't come out publicly.

So I think we're going to see these impeachment cheerleaders press Pelosi. And she's going to do her utmost to argue back at them that, "Look, the courts are coming to our rescue. We got a good court ruling earlier this week. That, you know, bodes well for our other -- our additional subpoenas."

But it's going to be, you know, potentially ugly. And she potentially will have to give some ground to some of these people. I don't expect anything on impeachment. I don't expect her to embrace it coming out of this. But I think maybe we'll see her greenlight some of these other hardline tactics that these folks have been pushing for, like, say, fining Trump officials who are ignoring these subpoenas, which -- that list is growing longer and longer every day.

HILL: It is this delicate dance, though, Joe, as we're seeing. Right? And I know you've pointed out there are the Twitter Democrats, in many ways, and the more vocal. And then there are sort of the regular folks. And that is a balance that is being taken into account.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think a lot of the members who have called for.