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Democrats Back Impeachment Inquiry; Mueller Team Hesitant about Testifying; New Poll Numbers for 2020 Race. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired May 22, 2019 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: I know you've pointed out its -- there are the Twitter Democrats in many ways and they're more vocal, and then there's 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 impeachment, I'll put in -- and I don't mean it pejoratively -- but that are -- that are in the debate every day. Nancy Pelosi is interested in two groups. One is the rest of the Democrats out there, the Democratic voters who, remember, in 2018, didn't bring her back to the speakership because of Mueller. They brought her back to the speakership because of issues like health care. And it was a very focused, disciplined campaign. She's got that in her head.

The other thing is, if you look at the list of the 24, the most vocal people are people in safe seats, people who are going to win no matter what. I mean 85 percent, you know, they're going to get. And what Pelosi, as the speaker, is most concerned about is those vulnerable Democrats. The Democrats who came in and won on saying, I'm not going to -- we're not going to do the Washington, you know, political game. We're going to do kitchen table issues.

So I think she is -- it is a very delicate balance. And I think she is -- her -- overall, her strategy is, she doesn't think impeachment right now is a winner, but she's going to allow this to move to a place where if they do need to impeach, the country will see much more information before they make that decision and see that the president gave them no choice. This is going to be a, you know, kind of a victim contest of, you know, who's going to get cast in the role of the victim. The president wants to be the victim, but I think what Speaker Pelosi wants to do is to say, I didn't want to do this, but, Mr. President, you gave us no choice.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to have the number three House Democrat, Jim Clyburn, who's the House majority whip. It is his job to count votes. He's on at 8:00 here. And the very first question I'll ask him, if he's watching is, what's your vote count right now on impeachment? It's his job to know. And I'm fascinated if he thinks the number is higher than 24.

Margaret, I want to shift gears to another bit of news that CNN broke yesterday, which is that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, apparently is reticent to testify in public before the House because he's concerned about it seeming too political. Is this something you think he can avoid, or where do you think this debate is going? Because, I have to say, that plays into what will happen on Capitol Hill today, this discussion inside the Democratic caucus.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, you know, John, I think his kind of considerations are a little bit different than President Trump and his advisory team's considerations are, but you can understand why Mueller feels that way certainly. And if you look at polling, and I'm not saying he's poll driven, but if you look at polling, it's really striking to see the broad swath of Americans who believe he has credibility, who believe that Mueller handled this well.

Something -- somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters -- and that's a number that grew over time. So the longer that he worked the way he did behind the scenes and without leaking information, the longer he proceeded with his probe, the more his credibility grew. And he wants to be able to maintain that sense of integrity. But I don't think he's in the business of defying Congress in the same way that the president's current political playbook is proceeding. So I think my sense is this is much more a negotiation about how he would provide a response to Congress or how he would work with lawmakers than about if.

I think there's a separate question, which is, how would the White House and Justice Department handle those inquiries? So far we've seen the attorney general say that it would be up to Mueller. But when it gets down to brass tacks, you know, I think we'll see. And this kind of meshes with the way Nancy Pelosi's considerations with impeachment on the -- on the president's side are going because, to a large extent, she is urging her members to rely on the courts to take action. From the president's perspective, he's put all his eggs in this basket in the idea that either the courts are going to side with him or at least it's going to take the courts a long time to decide.

Now, again, for Mueller, he's not interested in court challenges and turning this into a drama. In fact, I think his inclination is just to try to avoid the drama as much as possible. But when the courts start kicking back responses, that is also going to help channel how all of this works and people's obligations to show up, whether it's in a public setting or behind closed doors to answer Congress' questions.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I have two quick thoughts on Mueller, if I can jump in real quickly.

The first one, you know, he has made it clear apparently to House Judiciary staff that he doesn't want to seem -- be seen as a political football. But you have to ask yourself, at what point does he have an obligation because, you know, he has done this nearly two-year-long investigation. And it's not just Democrats who want to hear from him. Republicans on The Hill have also called for him to come in. And a lot of people, because of his credibility, want to hear from him around the country.

The other thing I would say is, watch -- watch The Hill for another subpoena. A big question I have right now is, are Hill Democrats willing to subpoena him to appear in public? They have sort of treated him with kid gloves for the past few weeks, hoping to sort of work with him to get him in to have him appear publicly. But if he's not willing to do that, do they take a harder line against him? And, again, he's somebody they want to be a star witness for their party. And it's just going to be interesting to see if that -- if this -- the talks break down and things get contentious.

[06:35:22] HILL: We also want to get your take on this from "The Washington Post," this memo, this confidential memo that was written specifically in the fall that was written about how to deal with requests, right, for tax returns, which found that, in fact, there wasn't much that should stand in the way, that they need to be turned over, except in the case of executive privilege.

What's fascinating to me, though, too, is this memo goes on to say that even when it comes to executive privilege, the law might be read to preclude a claim of executive privilege, Joe, meaning it could be interpreted as saying this cannot be invoked to deny a subpoena. This is quite the little bit of information that we're getting, especially based on the reaction that we saw, of course, from Steve Mnuchin.

LOCKHART: Yes, this is a little bit of a gift for Nancy Pelosi for her meeting this morning, to bring all of this together, because the courts are saying now twice this week -- well, the one court is saying on his personal finances, and this memo is saying that the argument the administration is making is nonsense. It's not legally weak. It's not like debatable. It's nonsense. It's not based in the law. So I think she'll be able to go in and say, look at these two things. You know, have some patience. We're going to win this.

If I could just say one quick thing on Mueller. Mueller will testify. You know, I hate to be a clicheist (ph), but he's a Marine. He takes his obligations seriously. He -- I remember he did some work for the NFL. And I remember we went to him and said, you know, we want you to talk about it, and he said, I will talk -- I'll get on the phone once. I'll give it 30 minutes, and I never want to talk about this again. But I did this report. I need to defend it. We'll see -- we'll see him up there under some -- any circumstance, he'll be there.

BERMAN: That's important history to keep in mind there.

Margaret, on the tax story, "The Washington Post," which broke it, you know, they quoted from this memo, and it was coming from inside the building. This is the IRS counsel office, or a lawyer within, who wrote this. The disclosure of tax returns to the committee is mandatory, requiring the secretary to disclose returns and return information requested by the tax writing chairs. So it's not just that it was from inside the building, it's that this was buried for months and months. And somehow the Justice Department, under William Barr and the current IRS leaders, chose not to look at it when they were stiff arming Congress on this request.

TALEV: Right, draft memo being the keyword, draft, asterisk.

BERMAN: Yes. TALEV: Look, there are always, to some extent, internal divisions inside any deliberation about how to proceed, but I think it's instructive that this memo is being leaked or getting out there at this time.

And it, again, shows the importance ultimately of the courts in deciding these issues when the internal decision inside the administration was to set this recommendation or this analysis aside and move forward. So, again, all of these decisions now, the pressure is going to be on the courts to resolve them. And we'll see whether the Trump administration, you know, immediately follows court instruction or whether they press for appeals all the way up the chain.

BERMAN: Margaret, Rachael, Joe, thank you very much.

TALEV: Thanks.

HILL: A great white shark off the coast of Long Island just ahead of the Memorial Day weekend. This guy has the internet abuzz. And, of course, many people wondering, where is the shark now, this morning? We'll tell you, next.


[06:42:32] HILL: Breaking news.

For the second time in two days, U.S. jets intercepted Russian bombers and fighter jets off the coast of Alaska. After Monday's intercept, the Pentagon suggested Moscow was flexing its muscle while training its military for a potential crisis. The flights come just days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Vladimir Putin not to interfere in U.S. elections.

BERMAN: So we have an important update from the terrifying shark file. A ten-foot great white shark was tracked off the coast of Greenwich, Connecticut. It is not supposed to be there. Experts say it's very unusual for great whites to visit the area, which is inside the Long Island Sound. The male shark was given the nickname Cabot because, of course, Greenwich. And as a sub adult may still grow another one to three feet.

As of this morning, the shark has moved away from Greenwich, we are told. Perhaps it was the taxes. We understand it is now in the Atlantic.

HILL: Real estate not cheap there.


HILL: It's maybe looking for a better deal.

BERMAN: A smart shopper (ph).

HILL: There appears to be no stopping "Jeopardy!" phenom James Holzhauer. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX TREBEK, HOST, "JEOPARDY!": Hi wager, a big one? $31,010. Yes, indeed. A payoff today of $86,905 and now a 24 day total of $1,867,142. Wow.


HILL: Wow, indeed, Alex. So that was win number 24, smashing another record. Holzhauer has repeatedly broken the single-day record for prize money. Get this, his average winnings per day, $77,800. The previous "Jeopardy!" record for one day, $77,000 even.

So if he continues at this rate -- I did the math for you because it's early and I understand -- he could actually break the $2 million mark by the end of this week. And, if he keeps up that pace, John Berman, he will challenge Ken Jennings' all-time money record in about ten more victories.

BERMAN: You know, Ken Jennings wants him to win.

HILL: Yes.

BERMAN: Ken Jennings wrote a whole op-ed on it. And Ken Jennings makes the case, the average -- Holzhauer's average winnings are higher than the previous record day. That's how well he's doing.

HILL: It's amazing.

BERMAN: All right, so how many voters say they will definitely not vote to re-elect President Trump? A brand new poll is out with an historic answer to that question. An answer that might worry the president bigly. Harry Enten explains, next.


[06:48:49] HILL: A new national poll has Joe Biden with a commanding lead over the Democratic field, but there's a concerning number that President Trump should be watching.

There's something about Harry. Let's get right to "The Forecast" with CNN's senior politics writer and analyst Harry Enten.

OK, so, there's this new Quinnipiac national poll. What are we seeing?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICS WRITER AND ANALYST: Yes. So let's take a look. First off, let's take a look at the Democratic preference in the national primary. It's basically the same story as kind of we've been having this entire time since Joe Biden got in the race. Well ahead with 35 percent. Sanders in second place, 16. Warren, in third place with 13 percent.

This number is kind of interesting. And take a look at these trends, as I was pointing out that O'Rourke number. These are some key candidate trends I saw in the poll. First off, it's pretty clear that Elizabeth Warren's numbers are up.

In March she was only at 4 percent in the Quinnipiac University poll. In April and May, double digits. Versus Pete Buttigieg, this is a number that perhaps should be concerning to him. He got up between March and April, he got up to double digits, but then in May, back down to single digits, versus Beto O'Rourke, which is just -- look at this, 12 to 5 to 2. That's why the town hall last night.

BERMAN: We'll see if he gets some kind of a bounce out of the town hall last night. It remains to be seen.


BERMAN: One of the more interesting things, and we pay you to look beyond the top line numbers here.

[06:50:01] ENTEN: All right, I'm going deep in, deep in.

BERMAN: One of the interesting things here is among those who are paying close attention to the race.

ENTEN: Yes. So I think a lot of people who say, Joe Biden's ahead only because of name recognition. Once people get to know the other candidates, his numbers will fall.

Here's what's interesting here. Look at this. Among those who are paying a lot of attention to the race right now, Joe Biden actually gets his best number at 42 percent versus those who are paying little to no attention to the race, he only gets 23 percent.

But here's the person who really suffering among those who are paying a lot of attention in the race, and it's Bernie Sanders. Look at this. Among those who are paying a lot of attention to the race, he's only at 8 percent, versus those who are paying little to no attention to the race, he's all the way up to 28 percent. So if there's one candidate who's benefitting from name ID, it's actually probably Bernie Sanders because, look at this. Look at this one. What I put here was the first choice, who people are selecting in the primary preference ballot and then can form an opinion. Look, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders basically have the same name ID, 93 percent, 92 percent, but Joe Biden is well up ahead of Bernie Sanders at this point.

HILL: And that's definitely something to look at.

So there's a very important number in this poll that likely President Trump will not be all that excited about.

ENTEN: Yes, I would say so. Look at this. So they asked whether or not you would definitely vote against the president, definitely vote for him, or consider someone else. Fifty-four -- 54 percent, in this particular poll, said that they would definitely vote against Donald Trump in the next election. And I went back in time, at this point in presidencies, all the way back since Jimmy Carter, this is by far the largest number. It's not only the only one with a majority, it's the only one over 40 percent who, at this point, say they would definitely vote against the president of the United States in 2020.

BERMAN: That's historic. I mean and there's something obvious here. If you're losing more than half the vote before it even starts, you're in trouble.

ENTEN: That's exactly right. I mean you look at these. I mean there are a number of candidates who might be high up on this list who went on to win re-election, but they were all below 40 percent in terms of people who said that -- the percentage of people who said they'd vote against him. He's already so far high up.

And this, I think, is also kind of key, right? This is another kind of key facet. Remember, we've spoken about this. In 2016, the reason that Donald Trump won was because of this group of voters, they -- those who had a favorable view of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. He won that group by 17. They met at 18 percent of the electorate. Well, I had Quinnipiac crunched the numbers for me. And right now that's only -- their -- that group is only making up 10 percent of the electorate. It's a much smaller ship, a much smaller boat. If Trump is going to win, he's going to have to make this a choice between him and let's say the Democratic nominee, if it is Joe Biden, if the leader right now goes on to win. And right now he's not making it that choice because Joe Biden, not only does he have a higher favorability rating than Hillary Clinton had at the end of 2016 campaign, but it's also the fact that his unfavorables are much lower and this group is not a large slice of the pie.

BERMAN: All right, there was an -- actually elections in Kentucky and Pennsylvania last night. Pennsylvania might be a reason for Republicans to be happy.

ENTEN: Yes. I mean in the special elections during 2017, 2018, we saw Democrats outperform in the 2016 baseline by 12 points. Well, guess what happened last night in Pennsylvania. Fred Keller, the Republican, matched Donald Trump. So if there's one number, one number that we can take away from the last 24 hours that's good for the president, it's this one.

But I should point out, it's a small sample size of just one.

BERMAN: Harry Enten --

HILL: All right.

BERMAN: Fascinating. Learned a lot there. Appreciate it.

ENTEN: Well, you teach me every day, John.


HILL: Oh, this is a beautiful --

ENTEN: Isn't this beautiful.

HILL: This bromance never gets old.

BERMAN: He didn't say what I teach him. That's a whole other thing.

Thanks, Harry.

HILL: Well, we're out of time for this segment, and I think the viewers are happy about that. I'm kidding, you two.

Harry, thank you.


HILL: In just about two hours, Democrats will meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi behind closed doors. One congressman pushing for impeachment proceedings will join us, next.


[06:57:39] BERMAN: Ben Carson's testimony on Capitol Hill was in and of itself a late-night comedy show. Nevertheless, the late night hosts, they redundantly took it on.


REP. JOYCE BEATTY (D-OH): Are you familiar with OMWI and what it is?



CARSON: Amway?

BEATTY: OMWI. You have an OMWI director. And we wrote you a letter about it and -- OMWI.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Remember, we pinned a note to your suit about OMWI. The note also said, hello, my name is Ben and I am lost and --


CARSON: An Oreo?

PORTER: R -- no, not an Oreo, and REO. REO.

CARSON: Real estate.

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

CARSON: The organization.

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

TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH": I like how he wasn't confident as well. He reminded me of all of us in school. They're like, and what is the "o"? And he's like, (INAUDIBLE). COLBERT: Is it a mint Milano? Is it a doe-si-doe (ph), a pecan sandy, a snickerdoodle. Just, help me out, I'm not a rocket scientist, I'm only a brain surgeon.


BERMAN: Most of that not the comedians making jokes.


BERMAN: Most of that, Ben Carson doing whatever it is that Ben Carson does on Capitol Hill.

HILL: Doing his Ben Carson.

BERMAN: It was a -- we're going to talk much more about that because it deserves a serious discussion. Again, he's the secretary of Housing. One would think he knows about housing.

Thank you to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, the growing pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as more and more Democrats seem to be calling on impeachment. There's a big meeting just ahead. NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This morning, Pelosi will meet with members about opening up formal impeachment proceedings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we start proceedings. We're left with no other choice.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The case is closed. The House can do whatever they choose to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump's tax returns must be turned over to Congress unless he invokes executive privilege, that according to a draft of a confidential IRS memo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president's right, this is not a legitimate request.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mueller has made clear he is not going to go out of his way to testify.

[07:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a Congress potentially be preparing impeachment proceedings. Public testimony is a necessary component of that.


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