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Violent Tornado Slams Missouri's Capital, Three Dead In State; Rep. Nancy Pelosi Speaks After Feud With Trump Escalates; Judge Upholds Subpoenas For Trump's Financial Records. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 23, 2019 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: They want a solution.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: They want a solution. They want to be able to be competitive in the marketplace and get their market share back. That is consistently what we've heard from farmers.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: No signs of trade war ending, so you're going to have bailouts like this for a long time, if that's the only plan.

Cristina Alesci, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

All right, top of the hour, 10:00 A.M. Eastern. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. The story coming out of Central Missouri this morning is one of amazements, really, just harrowing, breathtaking damage from a so-called wedge tornado that made a direct hit on Jefferson City, yet amazingly, fewer than two dozen known injuries and so far no known deaths there, at least not in Jefferson City.

Elsewhere in Missouri, however, a twister did leave three people dead, this remarkably on the eighth anniversary of that epic tornado that claimed more than 160 lives in Joplin.

HARLOW: So what is a wedge tornado? Here's what it is. It is wider than it is high, just picture that, and the power inside is apparent.

Our Ryan Young joins us from Missouri capital. Good morning to you. It's devastating to see what you're standing amidst. And the National Weather Service says debris from this storm flew more than two miles into the sky. That really tells us a lot. What's it like on the ground there?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely. You actually see insulation all over this area. And, of course, some of this has been turned into almost like weapons, like you see boards like this actually have pierced through the windows of cars that have been nearby.

We're told that there's an apartment complex just over the hill that suffered some tremendous damage. But when you look back this direction, you can see the path that we believe the storm sort of came through, guys. Take a look at this because, obviously, all of us know what a sonic looks like. That is what's left of the sonic. It's tore down the power lines, and if you can see the convenience store that's just in the distance, it ripped that apart as well.

Now, just down the street, as we have started doing our survey, we also noticed there is a church that has been pretty much leveled down this direction. And every single car that we've seen has suffered some sort of damage that's been in this area. We do have emergency crews on the scene.

The good news though is we have been able to hear that maybe 20 people have been injured, not a lot of people so far what we have been able to hear. At one point, we thought people may have been trapped. Now, we know that that's not the case so far.

This U-Haul took a lot of damage. There have been people who have shown up to kind of do surveys on their businesses because, of course, that's what they have to do. But then, on top of that, there are the power outages that are affecting more than 10,000 people in this area. And you can see why there have been power outages, because, of course, the power lines have been knocked down throughout this entire area.

So you add all this together though, I think the one thing that sticks out to us, guys, because I'm going to take the walk right here. Jake, if you can follow me so I can show them. Look at the piece of wood that's sticking out of that windshield. Now, we're seeing signs like that, you can tell this area took a beating. So you have those projectiles that were almost like missiles in this area. As we got closer and closer to this area, you could see the officers shutting down the streets and the blocks in the box here where they believe the tornado moved through.

So, obviously, the survey is going on right now to figure out where the extensive damage is. But people are starting to come out now that light is coming up to tell their stories about what they were hearing. One gentleman walked by a few minutes ago, and, of course, the familiar noise everyone talks about, the freight train. He says he heard a freight train. He got low. The next thing you know, he said he looked over the hill and everything was gone. We're told there's a car dealership also nearby with cars flipped on their sides.

HARLOW: Ryan Young, keep us posted. Thank you for being there, and our heart is with everyone in Jefferson City, Missouri, this morning, of course.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely.

HARLOW: Thanks, Ryan.

Joining us on the phone is Mike O'Connell. He is Communications Director for the Missouri Department of Public Safety. Good morning to you, sir. I wish we had you on for better news but this is the circumstance that everyone is facing this morning. What can you tell us?

MIKE O'CONNELL, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Yes, Poppy, good morning to you. As you said, we have about 16 to 20 storm-related transports we can confirm. The good news is none of those injuries are considered serious. The other good news is no one is missing right now.

So there's been a search already conducted. But now, in a coordinated fashion, teams are going out, including a FEMA urban search and rescue team, and they're conducting a secondary search, marking buildings to make sure that everybody knows which buildings have been checked and so nobody is missed.

SCIUTTO: You have your own survivor's story here hiding in a closet. Tell us how you got through the storm.

O'CONNELL: Well, I was fortunate. Where the storm hit about a mile from me, but of course, there was numerous warnings, including what they call a tornado emergency.

[10:05:04]

And so when you hear that, you want to get -- put as many walls between you and the possible tornado. That meant getting into a closet, a tight small closet, which is even better. You leave the coats in there so that's extra protection for you and you sit and wait until you get the all clear. I was able to do that and then go down about a mile from where I live and see then all of the damage that Ryan was just talking about.

HARLOW: Oh, my goodness. So when you talk about the warnings that people had for a storm like this, what they're calling a wedge tornado, wider than it is high, what kind of advance warning do people have? Because it is remarkable that there, so far, no deaths reported. O'CONNELL: Yes, it's very fortunate. So as you know, the technology has gotten much better. And what we should all do is try to take advantage of that. So you want to have multiple ways of getting an alert or a message about a tornado warning.

Don't rely on sirens. Sirens are meant to alert people who are outdoors. It's called an outdoor warning system. So you want to have apps on your phone. You might want to sign up for the National Weather Service's Twitter alerts and get a tone when they go off. So that if one fails, you've got another means of getting them.

You also always want to know when the weather is like this, you want to be following it closely for updates. The National Weather Service did that yesterday. Late morning, they raised the risk, the threat of severe storms.

And then you always want to know where will you take shelter during storm season in the Midwest. If something happens and you have to take shelter, where are you going to do it in the building that you're in? And, of course, you never want to try to take shelter in a mobile home. If you're in a mobile home, you should know where am I going to go if there's a tornado warning because you do not want to be there. It's not a safe structure.

SCIUTTO: Folks need a plan. Listen, Mike O'Connell, we appreciate the work you're doing at the Missouri Department of Public Safety. When you have a big recovery coming and we wish you and the community the best of luck.

In just minutes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to speak as her very public feud with President Trump escalates here. The President vowing yesterday not to work with House Democrats who, by the way, have a majority in the House of Representatives, until they end all their investigations.

HARLOW: Let's go straight to our colleague, Manu Raju. He is live on Capitol Hill with more reaction from lawmakers.

It was about this time yesterday that she made a lot of news by saying publicly for the first time that the President is engaged in a cover- up. What do you expect today?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we expect the democrats to insist that they're moving forward with their investigations and they are not going to back down, and they can do both things at the same time. In fact, we're hearing that democrats are prepared to move forward, to hold individuals in contempt on the floor of the House.

We have not seen the floor vote happen yet. But in a meeting that just happened just right now, democratic leaders said that they plan to move forward on a floor vote to hold individuals in contempt, in the first week of June. Jim Clyburn, the House Majority Whip, just told reporters that that's what he expects, the first week of June.

Now, recall that Bill Barr, the Attorney General, has already been -- the House Judiciary Committee has voted to hold him in contempt. Don McGahn, the former White House Counsel, did not appear at a hearing. Despite facing a subpoena, he has not yet been held in contempt. The committee has not yet voted on him. But that could certainly happen soon.

And they're discussing how to allowing committee chairmen in the future to simply allow votes to happen in their committee to hold individuals in contempt without having to get back to the full house to have the vote as well, so those efforts still moving forward.

Now, at the same time, there are a lot of questions about what legislatively can happen. There's a major disaster relief package that is pending in Congress right now, and that there's squabbling is raising questions about whether they can actually get this through before lawmakers leave town for the Memorial Day recess.

I caught up with some republicans yesterday who are concerned about the stalemate and say both sides need to rise above this tension.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: What's the reaction to the President today telling the Speaker that they should drop all their investigations before even agreeing to legislate?

REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R-MI): I think that's irresponsible, but, you know, it's what you would expect.

REP. PETER KING (R-NY): I certainly understand why he says it, because these investigations are phony, number one. But number two, I think he should find a way to work with the democrats, but they have to tone down the rhetoric. You can't have the Speaker calling him a criminal as she's walking to the White House.

(END VIDEO ClIP)

RAJU: Pelosi hasn't gone as far as calling him a criminal. Last night, she put out a statement about what she meant about the cover- ups. She suggested it was a cover-up campaign of facts, essentially trying to cover up the facts.

[10:10:01]

The democrats have issued subpoenas. They have defied the subpoenas. They have not turned over documents. But nevertheless, Pelosi will not back down from those remarks when she briefs reporters in just a matter of minutes here, guys.

HARLOW: Okay. Manu, thank you very much. And, of course, you've got Justin Amash. No one else can get him to talk, and, of course, Manu got him. All right, thank you, Manu.

Meantime, the White House is weighing in this morning on the impasse between President Trump and the Democratic Party.

SCIUTTO: CNN White House Reporter Sarah Westwood joins us now. So, Sarah, is this -- was this political posturing for a day or is the President digging in here and saying he's not going to talk to democrats for the next several months, through 2020?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Jim and Poppy, President Trump is clearly still frustrated today about Speaker Pelosi's comments yesterday and about the ongoing investigations. He's been continuing to vent about the situation on Twitter, accusing the democrats of being the do-nothing party and just re-enforcing this idea that the White House, President Trump, cannot work with democrats while they conduct investigations. And White House officials and Trump, they are doubling down on that idea today.

Earlier this morning, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders reiterated that President Trump simply could not go into that meeting with congressional leaders here at the White House yesterday and look at Speaker Pelosi after she had accused him of a crime. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You can't literally have a meeting like Nancy Pelosi did yesterday just an hour before she got to the White House, where she accused the President of a crime, said he had engaged in a cover-up, and then show up and pretend like nothing has happened and let's just sit down and talk about roads and bridges. It just doesn't work that way. She knows that. Nancy Pelosi's problem is that she's totally lost control of her party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WESTWOOD: Now, Sanders made clear that the President is done negotiating not just on infrastructure but on all kinds of legislative issues, including the White House's own stated legislative priorities, like USMCA, the President's new trade deal, once a top priority. And looking ahead, the White House is saying that they're reviewing ways President Trump could try to pursue some of his priorities through executive action, making clear that this gridlock, Jim and Poppy, there's just no end in sight for it.

SCIUTTO: Well, the President has thrown a few bombs as well. I mean, it's a little bit rich to talk about how, you know, outrageous it is to accuse the President, you know.

HARLOW: And by the way, what you can't do through executive order, as you well know, is get USMCA or NAFTA 2.0 through Congress. And he needs that and he wants that win before the election, and he needs Congress to do it. So this cuts both ways.

SCIUTTO: Or spend money, I mean, at least according to the constitution. But anyway, Sarah Westwood --

HARLOW: Thanks, Sarah.

SCIUTTO: To the point we're paying attention to that anymore.

Still to come, under pressure, democrats tightening the screws on the President, this after a judge gives democrats another legal victory in their battle to see President Trump's financial records so that you can see them.

HARLOW: Also, the President taking shots at the man he hired to be Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, calling him dumb as a rock and ill- equipped for the job. This is after Tillerson this week told lawmakers that Vladimir Putin was more prepared than the President for mare meeting in Hamburg.

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will speak in just a few minutes amid this showdown with the President. What will she say today? We're on it.

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[10:15:00]

HARLOW: A second federal judge has now rebuffed president Trump's sweeping attempt to block House lawmakers from accessing his financial records. This hands him another defeat in a fight that has infuriated the President and emboldened democrats. The pressure is on the President, and the pressure he is feeling is growing two-fold.

In just a week, here's what's happened. Two federal judges have upheld congressional subpoenas for the President's financial records, not to mention the President's former aide and confidant, Hope Hicks, was subpoenaed.

SCIUTTO: On top of that, some additional documents related to the Mueller investigation have also been handed over, unsealed or released, that includes search warrants into the investigation of Michael Cohen. We know why the Special Counsel was interested in him, as well as transcripts of his congressional testimony.

Let's discuss with Anne Milgram. She's former New Jersey Attorney General as well as a CNN Legal Analyst, and Phil Mattingly, CNN Congressional Correspondent and knower of all things congressional.

Anne, let's begin with you. What folks at home, why this matters to them is will they see President Trump's financial records so they know where he gets his money from, who he borrows it from, and if there are questions there as to how that came about? Based on these rulings, is that imminent?

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there're a couple of things to say. One is that the second ruling is so important. We now have two courts that have struck down what the administration has been trying to do, which is basically to say to Congress, you don't get any information, you don't get access to people or this important financial data. And that is inconsistent with the constitution and the law. And so you have two judges coming out and saying it.

Whether or not the American public sees it, I think it's still an interesting question. For example, if we talk about the taxes, the taxes would go over to the committee. They would be held privately by the committee. Those would not be made public. A lot of the other financial information though, I believe, would be made public. So these are some of the conversations that I think we're going to continue to have.

HARLOW: So, Phil, Nancy Pelosi is going into this meeting this morning that she's in even more emboldened, right? If she felt strong enough yesterday before the second judge's ruling in democrats' favor to say, you know, the President is engaging in a cover-up, she's got to feel even more powerful in her stance today.

[10:20:09]

What's your reporting?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, there's no question about it. If you flash back to 48 hours ago where it seemed like momentum was moving, the caucus itself was moving towards impeachment or more willing to back impeachment against Speaker Pelosi's wishes. These two court victories are huge. They're ammunition for her position that playing the long game is effective. And that's what I'm told behind the scenes just occurred. A meeting of Speaker Pelosi's top deputies and the Speaker, she walked through the two recent court victories, talking about how this shows that the strategy they have deployed has actually been effective.

She also made something else clear, I'm told from somebody in the room, which was the President, quote, wants to be impeached. He said, make no mistake about that. Essentially saying that we don't need to go down that pathway when you look at what would have happened in the court side of things over the course of the last couple of days, because that's what he wants.

She also said the President's actions over the course of the last couple weeks, the administration's posture is, quote, villainous to the constitution. So she's doing kind of the split game there where she makes clear she doesn't want to go down the pathway of impeachment, but is still willing to rhetorically and verbally attack the President on very personal terms.

SCIUTTO: This is interesting because it's counterintuitive. What you're saying is that this blow-up yesterday, accusing the President of a cover-up, actually makes impeachment less likely?

MATTINGLY: Yes. I don't think it's necessarily the blow-up that makes it less likely. I think it's the court victories that make it less likely. But I do think one thing to kind of take a 30,000 foot view of, if you can flash back to the shutdown and all of those issues where Speaker Pelosi kept her caucus very much in line, the one thing that unifies the House Democratic caucus more than anything else is their general opposition and dislike of President Trump. When president Trump is taking on the Speaker directly, that will unify members. I think that combined with the court cases is why you see the caucus is in a different place now than maybe they were two days ago.

SCIUTTO: Interesting.

HARLOW: And, you know, Anne, on top of these two rulings from these two federal judges this week that are both a double-whammy blow to the President, you have here in the New York State, the New York State Assembly, passing a law to allow for the State, the President's state tax returns, essentially state financial documents, to be made public.

MILGRAM: That's right.

HARLOW: I mean, is there any chance that that will get overturned? Where does that go? How big of a blow could that be to the President?

MILGRAM: Well, I expect that the President's lawyers may file against it or try to oppose it. But, look, if the state --

HARLOW: On what grounds?

MILGRAM: Right. The State has the right, I think, to turn over the taxes if they pass a law saying so. And what's really interesting about that is that, you know, in your state taxes, you also declare all of your income, all of your liabilities, and so we could see a huge amount of the picture if that bill becomes law.

SCIUTTO: And then it could point us to why the President and his allies have fought so viciously, you might say, to block this from going public, right?

MILGRAM: Well, you know, some of the recent reporting raises a lot of questions. If the President truly has $300 million in loans and debts, that's a real question as to whether there are foreign countries that are involved, who is involved, conflicts of interest and potential self-dealing. And so it does become a really important question, I think, for the American public.

SCIUTTO: Well, there's a reason public servants file these financial disclosures. There's a reason why -- listen, I've had a security clearance. I mean, for security clearances, they want to know about your debts because debts conceivably, doesn't always, conceivably could make you vulnerable. And it's things that the American people have a right to know.

HARLOW: Hey, Phil, I just wonder, even though the dems are getting these favorable court rulings, et cetera, and they have this momentum, you know, the most recent CNN polling shows that about 70 percent of Americans don't want to see impeachment. Most democrats do. But when you look at the overall landscape in America, most don't want impeachment, and a new Monmouth poll came out yesterday showing the same thing. So, you know, they've still got to contend with that politically.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Look, they see the numbers, and they also see the math across the capital. The United States Senate is controlled by republicans, 53 republics, 47 democrats. They know that if they were to pursue an impeachment inquiry and make it to a vote, it would die over in the Senate. And I think that's part of the calculation as well. It's not just poll numbers. It's how far can we actually push this. And that's why the big question is, if we can get things without having to do impeachment, perhaps that's the best track.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Anne Milgram, Phil Mattingly, great to have you both on.

MILGRAM: Thank you.

HARLOW: Both knowers of all things.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still not ready to move forward on impeachment despite growing calls in her party, as we just discussed.

Up next, the lawmaker who, no joke, recently brought that bucket of chicken, you remember that moment, on Nay 2nd to that judiciary hearing hearing when Barr didn't show up, well, he's going to join us live, why he says it is time to begin an impeachment inquiry now.

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[10:25:00]

HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. There's the podium. Minutes from now, you will hear from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi there. She's holding a press conference. This as she faces what she has dubbed another tantrum from the President and, frankly, friction and division within her own party over the issue of impeachment.

With me now is democratic lawmaker Steve Cohen of the great State of Tennessee. He serves on the House Judiciary Committee. Good morning to you, sir. Thank you for being here.

So the President has said that's it, nothing is going to get done. Nothing will get through Congress while you are still investigating me and talking about impeachment. Never mind the fact that the Nixon administration got a whole bunch of stuff through Congress during that time. But, apparently, that doesn't matter here to this president.

[10:29:59]

I just wonder, because you are supportive of impeachment proceedings now, if you think it's worth it to do that, push forward ahead on that, if that means Zippo gets done --

[10:30:00]