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Democratic Candidates Court Women, Minorities; Rex Tillerson Questions Trump's Values; Interview With Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA); Pelosi vs. Trump. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 23, 2019 - 15:00   ET



CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Because that is the week that we heard Bob Mueller had sent a letter to Bill Barr saying that he was not happy with the four-page top-line summary Barr had sent to Congress, because he didn't think it fully represented the obstruction, I don't want to say charges, but the obstruction reports, all of which brings us to this week, May 20 through 24.

We're not through the 24th yet, but you know what happened. Circle this day right here. The 22nd, Donald Trump comes out, after a five- minute meeting on infrastructure with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, and says, well, we can't do this.

Happy infrastructure week from Molly Shannon. It really is -- it's become something of legend. Urban Dictionary has a whole thing about infrastructure week.




CILLIZZA: ... endlessly derailed by high-profile distraction caused by one's own ineptitude.

Now you know infrastructure week has made it, Brooke -- back to you.

BALDWIN: I mean, if it's in the Urban Dictionary, right?

CILLIZZA: It's official.

BALDWIN: Stamp it.

Chris Cillizza, thank you, my friend.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Let's continue on, hour two here. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. First, the most powerful Democrat in Congress said the president of

the United States was engaged in a cover-up, and now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says President Trump is in need of a family intervention and -- quote -- "not up to the task" when it comes to making tough choices for the nation.

Speaker Pelosi taking directing at President Trump on two things that matter most, his money and his manhood, as a feud between them enter a second day.

Here now is the speaker in her own words.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): He says it's because of cover-up. And I know that that strikes a chord with him.

He knew the one court decision was getting into a territory that he did not want touched, and they did not allow the Mueller report -- Mueller investigation to go into the president's personal finances.

The president has a bag of tricks and the White House has a bag of tricks that they save for certain occasions. They don't necessarily apply to the occasion, but they're a distraction, which is his -- his master of distraction.

He tried to say it's because I said cover-up. We have been saying cover-up for a while. The president again stormed out, and I think what -- first pound the table, walk out the door. What? Next time, have the TV cameras in there while I have my say. That didn't work for him either.

And now, this time, another temper tantrum.

Again, I pray for the president of the United States. I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.


BALDWIN: And that's just what she said in front of the cameras.

CNN has learned that, in a meeting with Democratic leadership, Speaker Pelosi described Trump's actions as -- her words -- "villainous to the Constitution of the United States."

We're going to talk about Pelosi vs. Trump in just a second, but also today, the president's fight to keep his finances out of Democrats' hands, and now out of the view of Americans, is running into a roadblock -- actually, make that three roadblocks.

The first two came compliments of the courts. In one case, a federal judge rejected Trump's request to block congressional subpoenas of his banking records. And now Deutsche Bank and Capital One could be forced to give them up. That is coming just a couple days after another federal judge ruled

that an accounting firm must turn over accounting records from before Trump entered the White House.

And there is the president's home state of New York, which passed a bill that will allow Congress to see the president's state tax returns if -- that is, if lawmakers ask.

But despite the setbacks, the president had nothing but kind words for the judiciary.


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

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I respect the courts. I respect Congress. I respect right here was where we're standing.

But what they have done is abuse.


BALDWIN: Jennifer Rodgers is a former federal prosecutor and a CNN legal analyst.

So, Jennifer, we know of these different cases. One appeal is in the works. What's the -- what's the likelihood any of these appeals go the president's way?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think they will go the president's way.

The problem is, they're going to take time. So even though when you have a dispute between the two branches of government and the third branch of judiciary has to solve that, and they really should move swiftly for that reason -- when you're in the appellate courts, you get a three-judge panel. So you have to get three judges to agree to handle it swiftly. It just takes more time.

So I do think that, ultimately, on the law, the Congress will prevail. The question is how long...



I want to read you something that Preet Bharara said. He was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District, until Trump fired him, reacted this way on Twitter -- quote -- "The courts are not just ruling against Trump. Courts are mocking his lawyers' arguments, as they should."


BALDWIN: Is Preet right? RODGERS: Well, mocking may be a little strong.

I think that the courts' opinions, the two we have seen from the district court judges, have been very strong opinions. They have been clear opinions. They have not given any credence at all to the president's arguments.

So I think Preet is using a little liberty there with the word mocking, but there's no question that those judges are saying, the president doesn't have a legal leg to stand on here.

BALDWIN: All right, Jennifer Rodgers, thank you very much.

Let's go to Capitol Hill.

With me now, Republican Senator John Kennedy. He is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

So, Senator Kennedy, welcome back. How are you, sir?

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I'm well, Brooke. Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

So, all right, Congress is at this standstill. Your colleague, Senator John Thune, a member of Senate Republican leadership, feels essentially like your hands are tied.

Do you think that the president's making a mistake by shutting the door on working with Democrats?

KENNEDY: Yes. And I don't think he means it.

I think the president is very frustrated. I heard the -- was listening to your show while I was waiting, Brooke. I heard the comments from Speaker Pelosi. I don't think those will help.

Now, Speaker Pelosi is entitled to her opinion, and I respect her opinion. I try to cut her some slack, because she's in a tough spot. She's -- I think her Democratic majority would like to impeach -- impeach the president.

I think the speaker is against it because she knows it wouldn't be very popular with the American people. And the other problem the speaker has, to be frank, she kind of has a shadow speaker in Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez.

So she's in a tough spot. But, having said all that, the right course of action is not for each side to go to its corner, respective corners and, as I said yesterday, not for both sides to act like 8-year-olds fighting in the back of a minivan, but sit down and work it out.

And here's why. If this ends up in court, it as it looks like it will, it becomes a zero sum game. One of two things are going to happen. If Trump wins, the oversight of authority of Congress is undermined. If the House leadership wins, then, in my opinion, anybody with a brain above a single cell organism wouldn't want to run for president, because Congress could take a look at everything, even the most intimate detail about your life, even before you were president.

BALDWIN: But, in the meantime, because of both the president and the Democrats and this -- the fact that nothing's moving right now, according to the leader of your party, the truth is, none of this -- we have got a whole list of things on the docket, pieces of legislation.

None of it's getting done now.


BALDWIN: This feud is having a real-world impact on America.

KENNEDY: But that is on us.

BALDWIN: It is on you all. It is.

KENNEDY: That's on us.

And I said yesterday. I went to floor of the Senate. And some of my colleagues are a little miffed at me, but I spoke the truth. We don't have to wait in Congress for the president's permission to legislate.

There are plenty of issues in the Senate on which the Democrats and the Republicans have more in common than they don't, prescription drug costs, reforming the National Emergency Act, net neutrality.

Now, since I gave that speech yesterday, today, we have already had one vote. So, I talked yesterday about the need for us to vote on spam robo-calls. Well, they did it this morning. And guess what? We only had one no-vote, one no-vote.

And I'm proud of my colleagues. This afternoon, we're going to vote on a disaster recovery bill.


KENNEDY: I think it's going to pass. We don't have to wait on the president. The Senate needs to -- we need to be senators.


KENNEDY: We need to debate and decide, not stall and re-stall.

BALDWIN: Yes. No...

KENNEDY: And I'm proud of my colleagues today.

BALDWIN: You are saying precisely what Americans want to hear, that...


BALDWIN: ... they elected you all for a reason, to do the job.

But let me take you back, Senator Kennedy.


BALDWIN: You mentioned Speaker Pelosi.


BALDWIN: And there seems to be this pattern. Speaker Pelosi sure can push the president's buttons.

And what do you think it is about Nancy Pelosi and this president? Why does she so get under his skin, do you think?

KENNEDY: I don't -- I really don't think that it's Mrs. -- or Speaker Pelosi in particular.


BALDWIN: You don't?

KENNEDY: I don't. I really don't.

I think the president's just very frustrated. I think he feels like the House leadership is in bad faith.

And I will give you an example. The House Ways and Means chairman said, I need to see Trump's tax returns. The press, doing its job, said, why? He said, well, it will help me evaluate how well the IRS is auditing people.


Now, nobody believes that. There's no American that believes that. That's very disingenuous.

And I think the president feels like the House is in bad faith. The House feels like they're in good faith and they're just doing their job.

The answer is not to hold everybody in the Western Hemisphere in contempt and go to court. The answer is to do what Bill Barr did with the House Judiciary Committee, sit down and try to work it out.

This is not a new circumstance we find ourselves in. What's different this time is that both sides seem to be a little too close and it's gotten a little too personal. And everybody just needs to calm down, take their meds, and try to work it out.

BALDWIN: OK. OK, Senator Kennedy.

And let me just also say, I haven't -- I haven't heard those remarks. But most Democrats say that they do want to see the tax returns -- back on your point about House Ways and Means, they do want to see the tax returns to see if the president is compromised. Senator John Kennedy, I thank you very much.

KENNEDY: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Minutes from now, President Trump is expected to announce $16 billion in aid to farmers who've been hurt by his trade war with China. We will take you there live to fact-check his claims about who's really paying for the rising tariffs.

Plus, the man known as the American Taliban walked out of a federal prison today, despite some concerns that he may still be radicalized. So, are the conditions of his parole enough?

And President Trump lashing out against former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, after new reports surfaced this week that Tillerson told Congress that Trump was unprepared for his meeting with Vladimir Putin.

You're watching CNN. We will be right back.



BALDWIN: Another day, another feud for President Trump.

And the latest person in his crosshairs is former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. We now know that Tillerson had a secretive meeting with House Democrats this past Tuesday. One thing he told lawmakers, that Russian President Vladimir Putin was more prepared than President Trump for their 2017 meeting in Germany.

The president reported on Twitter, terming Tillerson -- quote -- "dumb as a rock" and saying he didn't think Putin would agree. And the current secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, showed up on CNBC to second his boss' criticism.


QUESTION: He, meaning Rex Tillerson, was guided by -- quote -- "American values," such as democracy and freedom," but that he could not offer the same assessment for the president.

What do you make of that comment?

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It's pretty outrageous. And it probably explains why Rex Tillerson is no longer the secretary of state.



Meantime, frequent Trump critic George Conway lobbed his own Twitter missile, asking the president, could you find Crimea on an unmarked map?

Erin Banco is the national security reporter for The Daily Beast and was the first to report on Tillerson's meeting.

So, Erin, great to have you on.

And first just back on the American values question. Secretary Tillerson has questioned Trump's American values, which is what Pompeo was reacting to today.

Tillerson went there. What was your reaction to that?

ERIN BANCO, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, this was a really, really long meeting for Tillerson the Hill.

And I'm told that at least part of the meeting, the first sort of half of the meeting, focused on Trump himself, his individuality, what he was like. And a little bit of that part focused on Russia.

But in a broader sense, this seven-hour meeting included much more than Russia. But in terms of how Tillerson reacted to Trump while he was in office, that was definitely something he spoke about during the meeting.

And in regard to the comments he made about Trump being prepared or not being prepared for that trip in 2017 to Hamburg, Germany, Tillerson said that Putin sort of was -- outmaneuvered Trump, and that that comment was sort of put in a general context of the Trump administration just in general not being prepared and not taking the advice of experts on critical foreign policy issues.

BALDWIN: Well, let's jump to that, since we're talking Russia.

We know Trump insists he was fully prepared with that meeting in Hamburg with Vladimir Putin. But this is what he said ahead of his first meeting, the first extraordinary summit, right, between him and Kim Jong-un. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I think I'm very well prepared. I don't think I have to prepare very much. It's about attitude. It's about willingness to get things done.

But I think I have been preparing for this summit for a long time, as has the other side. I think they have been preparing for a long time also. So this isn't a question of preparation. It's a question of whether or not people want it to happen. And we will know that very quickly.


BALDWIN: Does that sound like a man who does his homework? Did the former secretary address that at all?

BANCO: Yes, so I think this touches to a couple of different comments that Tillerson made during this seven-hour meeting, which was that, in general, when he came into office, he said he really tried to follow the old guard.

He tried to set up an interagency process, whereby the president could be briefed and be prepared for these kinds of meetings via State Department experts and officials. And what happened during his time in the administration is that process sort of broke down.


And so it manifested itself in a way in 2017 where, ultimately, Trump wasn't as prepared as he should have been. And so part of this breakdown happened with Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, sort of interceding on different...

BALDWIN: He has had friction with him, right?

BANCO: Yes, yes.

And Tillerson said during the meeting, like, listen, I really tried to do my best to have a professional working relationship with the president. I tried to have a really smooth interagency process, but that was really difficult because Jared Kushner was sort of in the president's ear and undermining that process a little bit.

And I think that -- and he didn't just talk about Russia. The seven- hour meeting was about foreign affairs writ large. It was about the Middle East. It was about China. It was about a lot of different issues.

And, in general, I think what the committee was after was looking at, where's the State Department at today, and how are they dealing with these foreign policy issues, and are they sort of circumventing that interagency process that is supposed to happen?

BALDWIN: Of which there are many foreign policy issues currently facing this president.

Erin Banco, with the scoop with the former secretary of state, Erin, thank you so much for coming on.

BANCO: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next: President Trump trying to mitigate the damage from his trade war by announcing $16 billion in aid going to farmers in this country -- details on where that money is coming from.



BALDWIN: Well, they say a rising tide lifts all boats. And, if so, some of the 2020 Democrats must see Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio- Cortez as a potential political tsunami. Just in the past couple of weeks, two presidential candidates have

taken time to post videos with her. First, it was Senator Bernie Sanders, who teamed up with the freshman Democrat to talk about a plan that would cap credit card interest rates.

Then you had Senator Elizabeth Warren posting a video where she and the congresswoman griped about the finale of "Game of Thrones" and why HBO should hire some feminists to help with scripting.

Today, Warren and Ocasio-Cortez are back, this time to take aim at Steve Mnuchin.

Tiffany Cross is co-founder and managing editor for The Beat D.C.

So, Tiffany, nice to have you back.

And what do you think Senator Sanders and Warner are trying to get out of showing up on social media with AOC?

TIFFANY CROSS, THE BEAT D.C.: You know, Brooke, I have to say I think AOC has a long history with Senator Sanders, so that's no surprise.

But I think, with Elizabeth Warren, quite honestly, this is what she does. Like, the more serious message that she was putting out there with AOC was about the treasury secretary's questionable relationship with the former CEO of Sears.

But Elizabeth Warren has just this -- just this week, I wrote about her teaming up with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal to talk about how the justice system has been easy on billionaires and corporations. She's teamed up with Congressman Joe Neguse to talk about students and debt and bankruptcy.

So this is kind of her deal. I mean, she has a plan for everything. I don't know if it's necessarily her courting AOC. Elizabeth Warren drops plans like rappers drop mix tapes, so I think she's just really out there in front of policy.

I'm not sure that she's courting her, but, look, AOC is a political superstar. She has four million Twitter followers, but, quite honestly...

BALDWIN: Do you think that's what they're trying to tap into, just all of her younger followers?

CROSS: Maybe. Maybe.

But I have to say Twitter followers don't necessarily translate to votes.

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm.

CROSS: And I would give -- I would put a little more faith in the American voter that, just because AOC endorses somebody, that doesn't necessarily mean that four million people follow. That's not necessarily true. I think the voters are more focused on policy, and do you speak to me

and can you talk about something that's going to make my life better tomorrow, not necessarily -- the Twitterverse is kind of unreal.

BALDWIN: Am I getting a retweet? Totally. Totally.

CROSS: Exactly. Exactly.

BALDWIN: How about on the issues?

I want to talk about the fact that criminal justice, child care, gender pay equity, reproductive rights, right? You have all these Democratic candidates, and they're out and about talking about these big issues that obviously appeal to women and minority voters.

We will throw this up on the screen. You can see a couple examples. Kamala Harris, she is proposing to tax businesses that don't pay women an equal wage. You have Kirsten Gillibrand pushing a family bill of rights covering paid paternity leave and affordable child care.

And then, just today, Cory Booker announcing a huge initiative focused on reproductive issues, including protecting abortion rights, and all of these directly aimed at women and at minorities.

Tiffany, I mean, is this what candidates feel like they have to do at least right now to win that nomination?

CROSS: Well, I think women and people of color are impacted by all policies, not just policies that speak specifically to them.

But I do think it's a great sign in the country, the changing demographics of the country, that people know the path to the White House is going to cross through these huge swathes of communities of color. So, certainly, they should -- they should talk about it.

I -- look, I think, with some of the candidates, they're itching and fighting to get some screen time, because you do have this kind of chorus of media continuously promoting like three or four white men at any given time.

So I think, when they put out this policy, it's a good thing that we -- that you and I are here talking about it. And you have Julian Castro, who we didn't mention, who he's been the only person to put out a comprehensive immigration plan. He just unveiled an education plan.

So I think these policies don't necessarily -- they're not specifically designed just for people of color. I think everybody benefits from them.

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm.

CROSS: And I think, for anybody who's a serious candidate, they're going to have to make sure all of their policies are inclusive.

Andrew Yang, another presidential candidate, he has over 100 detailed policy proposals on his Web site. I mean, that deserves attention and some discussion as well.

So, I think we're going to see more of this on the campaign trail. And I think all Americans benefit from that, when you see 23 candidates in this crowded field put forth these types of policy proposals.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

Tiffany Cross, great to see you.