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Pelosi and Trump Conflict; False Claims Congress Hasn't Done Anything; Trump's Legal Losses Pile Up; Pelosi Pushes Trump's Buttons; Six Deaths of Migrant Children; Deadly Twisters Hit Missouri. Aired 1- 1:30p ET
Aired May 23, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Have a great afternoon. Dana Bash is in for Brianna Keilar. She starts RIGHT NOW.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Dana Bash, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.
Underway right now, in today's episode of season three, a president denies a temper tantrum, the speaker is concerned for his well-being, and their feud may signal the point of no return.
And accusations of a different cover-up, this involving the death of a sixth migrant child in U.S. custody, which the Trump administration kept a secret. Why?
Plus, he was the face of the enemy early in the Afghanistan War, and today the American Taliban walks free amid fears John Walker Lindh is still radicalized.
And Harriet Tubman won't be on the 20 dollar bill while President Trump is in power, but is the administration's excuse legit?
We begin with the speaker of the House riding the Trump elevator and pushing every single button. Lighting him up not just on his inability to work on bipartisan legislation, she says, but on his capability, even asking his family and aides for an intervention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): So -- so -- but the president again stormed out, and I think -- well, 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.
QUESTION: Your prayer comment almost suggests your concerned about his well-being.
PELOSI: I am. And the well-being of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: As you've likely heard by now, this all comes after the president walked out of a meeting with Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi, yesterday. It was a meeting that was supposes to be about infrastructure. Instead, he headed right to the Rose Garden, told reporters that he refused to work with Democrats until they stopped investigating him.
Now, behind the scene a source who spoke with the president about all this yesterday tells me that he was furious, saying privately he believes the Democrats are trying to ruin his life and the lives of his family.
Now, notable, this all comes on the backdrop of not one but two federal judges siding against him and with Democrats in their quest to get his financial records.
Let's get straight to the White House, to White House correspondent Abby Phillip, who is live there.
Abby, the president has been listening, I'm sure, to the House speaker. Before that he sent out a series of tweets. What are you hearing from your White House sources today?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, this is a White House trying to change the narrative around what happened yesterday. Yesterday unfolded in such a dramatic fashion that the president now seems irked by the perception that he was angry, that he stormed out of the room with Pelosi and with Schumer. And White House aides are now doubling down on that, saying that that is all false and that this was a calm, deliberative decision on the president's part to reframe the conversation on Capitol Hill, giving congressional Democrats an ultimatum.
Listen to Kellyanne Conway, counsellor to the president, downplaying the president's mood as it relates to what happened yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: It's nonsense and then think you're going to come here and get productive work done.
Let me just also say, as somebody who was standing right there, it is nonsense and inaccurate for anybody to say the president is fuming, temper tantrum, stormed out, he's in a rage. If you report that, you don't have your facts right. He was very calm, very deliberative. He walked in -- walked out the way he walked in. Never raised his voice. He wasn't the one, frankly, who looked shell-shocked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: Well, Dana, as you know, President Trump was, in fact, angry -- angered by what Pelosi had to say. But it has been building for some time. He started that day tweeting angrily about the Mueller investigation and the fact that Democrats seem to want to try to, in his words, have a do-over. And so all of this had been building until that comment really tipped him over the edge, our sources have been telling us.
And so, you know, the White House is trying to reframe this. But President Trump, this morning, also tweeting and doubling down at his ultimatum to Democrats. He says, when the Democrats in Congress refinish for the fifth time their fake work on the very disappointing Mueller report finding, they will have time to get the real work of the people done. He adds, move quickly.
The question now turns to, how far is the White House going to go with -- with this ultimatum? Are they really going to halt everything on Capitol Hill until these investigations end? And we kind of got mixed signals this morning. You know, the White House is also saying President Trump believes that Democrats simply can't do both things at the same time, but you also have some aides, including Kellyanne Conway, Marc Short, the vice president's chief of staff, saying they still want to do USMCA, they still want to do all these other priorities, including the budget deal. And so there is the possibility that they will absolutely need to work with Democrats on some of these things if they want to get them done.
[13:05:22] BASH: And that's absolutely key. It's one thing to find common ground on infrastructure, it's another thing to deal with must- do legislation, like the debt ceiling, never mind the budget, which is a basic function of Congress that the president is supposed to be working with them on. Thank you so much, Abby. Appreciate it.
And the president suggested that Democrats in Congress aren't getting anything done while they investigate him, as Abby just reported. It was echoed by his press secretary this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it's a complete lie that Democrats in Congress think they can do two things at once. So far we haven't seen them do anything. Nancy Pelosi has had the majority in the House for months and has yet to accomplish a single thing. They haven't gotten -- they literally haven't gotten anything done since she's taken over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: So, is the White House right about that? Well, let's bring in a man with the answers, CNN's Tom Foreman.
Tom, you have a fact check.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dana, you just heard that. Sarah Sanders says House Democrats literally having gotten anything done. And the president has echoed that thought, tweeting, it is not possible for them to investigate and legislate at the same time.
Let's ignore for a minute that history says, yes, it's absolutely possible. It's all, obviously, an attempt by the White House to shut down these
congressional probes into the president's actions, but here is the problem. While Democrats in the House are pursuing 11 investigations related to the president, they've also been plenty busy passing 235 pieces of legislation since January. Now, sure, some of these are smaller matters like naming post offices, but they've also taken on some major issues. Among them, sweeping bills to address ethics and campaign finances and government reforms and bands on discrimination, universal background checks, the Paris climate agreement, just to name a few trying to keep the U.S. in that agreement.
Now, grant, many of these items are things that the president and his Republicans do not want, and many of them ran into a stone wall when they went over to the Senate and they were met by the Republican control there under Mitch McConnell. But to say the Democrats did nothing with their control of the House is categorically not true.
What's more, 17 items approved by the House were also passed by the Republican-controlled Senate, including legislation to end the government shutdown, address a drought out west and deal with conservation issues. So a do-nothing Congress, hardly.
BASH: At least not at do-nothing House since they've had the majority.
Tom Foreman, thank you so much for that.
As we mentioned earlier, House Democrats are one step closer to getting a look at Donald Trump's financial records because for a second time this week a federal judge sided with Congress against the president. In the latest ruling, a judge in New York is upholding subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Capital One for financial records tied to the president and his family.
Meanwhile, Democrats in New York State Assembly passed a pair of bills that will allow Congress to obtain President Trump's state tax returns.
I want to bring in CNN's legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Laura Coates.
How are you? Thank you so much for joining me.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good. Thank you, Dana.
BASH: I want to talk about the legal argument or the legal ruling I should say that we heard from these two judges. Why legally have they said, no, the president is wrong, the Democrats are right, these subpoenas are legit and they should go through and be adhered to?
COATES: Why, because the Constitution and separation of powers, which essentially says, listen, Congress has oversight authority. They have to hold accountability hearings and testimony (INAUDIBLE) et cetera. And it would be antithetical to think that Congress, that has the right to remove the president of the United States for criminal conduct, high crimes, misdemeanors and other things, would not have the power to investigate to see whether there has been, in fact, this sort of conduct. They're saying, combined, they have the right to be able to have oversight. And, number two, they need not prove legislative intent to the very person they're trying to investigate.
What President Trump has asked, has said, listen, you want to interview me, you want to get my taxes, prove your legislative purpose. They're saying, not so fast, we don't have to, they're Congress.
BASH: OK. So you mentioned a little bit of this, the White House strategy that's to lengthen this. This is just the first stop. Do you have any sense, based on, you know, what you've seen in the past, maybe there isn't a recent precedent to this, I don't know, of whether or not this is going to get up to the Supreme Court, whether the Supreme Court will have to take these cases if it does?
COATES: Well, the Supreme Court's prerogative is they don't have to do anything they don't want to do.
[13:10:00] COATES: But if there is dissension around the lower courts to say may one is upholding it and the appellate court says, no, we think that that -- that this court got it wrong, it may go up to the Supreme Court faster. The issue here, of course, is that, remember, this happened before, where the courts had weighed in to say there's a subpoena for the member of the executive branch, you must comply. Operation Fast and Furious is one example of this. Of course, Harriet Miers and George Bush.
BASH: Which took a very long time.
COATES: It took a long time, Dana, until this next presidential administration.
COATES: Remember, it was Obama who handled the Harriet Miers issue. It was Trump who handled the Operation Fast and Furious issue. So we're talking about a delay tactic that actually makes a lot of sense to go to the next term.
Now, if you're a first-term president like Trump is, going to the next term would not remove it from your actual lap if you're actually voted in again, but that's the strategy there.
BASH: Laura Coates, always good to see you.
COATES: Thank you.
BASH: Thanks for breaking that down. Appreciate it.
OK, so here's where we are. The president's legal problems are piling up. We just heard some of it from Laura. That is despite and separate from the Mueller investigation, which came to an end. But, meanwhile, the House speaker is calling the president's mental stability a problem. She suggested his family stage an intervention and even kind of questioning his abilities, more broadly, saying she knows the real reason he stormed out of yesterday's meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I can only think that he wasn't up to the task of figuring out the difficult choices of how to cover the cost of what the important infrastructure legislation that we had talked about three weeks before.
He obviously did not -- was not prepared. By (INAUDIBLE) preparation, he was not prepared and so he used some excuse to go out the door. And I will not take responsibility for his irresponsible behavior because we are pointing out the truth to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Chief political analyst Gloria Borger is here with me now.
Gloria, I mean, it's -- there's -- there are no lines to read between here with the House speaker.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, not at all.
BASH: What she is trying to do on a political level, but then just on a raw strategy level with the president. I mean she's -- I'm just going to say it, she's questioning his manhood. And I don't mean that in the, you know, in the sexual way, I just mean in the -- in the -- you know, with the ability to man up and get things done. That is no accident.
BORGER: Right. She's not backing off. The president tried to -- clearly to get her to back off after he stormed out or walked out or however you want to characterize it in the meeting yesterday, and Nancy Pelosi is doubling down and tripling down. Not only is she sticking with the fact that she says there's a cover-up, but she's also saying we all ought to pray for him, implying, and, again, you don't even have to read between the lines, implying that there's something wrong with him and we all ought to pray with him and his family. I mean that's not delicate.
BASH: And part of this -- right. And part of this, don't you think, is also her trying to assuage her own caucus --
BASH: And the voters out there who want her to hurry up on impeachment. She's trying to make clear that she's -- she hears them by using that tough rhetoric to make them happy on that level.
BORGER: Right. Well, she wants to keep the left part of her caucus in line. She may also be trying to garner support in the country if impeachment were to occur because she has always said, you know, we can't get out in front of the American public. And right now under 40 percent of the American public wants impeachment. They have no appetite for it. I think the number's like 27 percent. So she's walking this fine line here and not -- and not backing down on her major premise, which is that he's not qualified to be president and that he obstructed justice and you ought to think about that.
BASH: OK, I want to turn to Rex Tillerson, remember him?
BORGER: Yes, I do.
BASH: So, of course, the president fired him in an unceremonious way. He's one of many that happened to.
BASH: He told lawmakers in a private session that Vladimir Putin was more prepared than Donald Trump for their meeting at the G-20 Summit back when he was around. He said that this put the U.S. at a disadvantage, and he also asked whether -- questioned whether the president was guided by American values.
What are you hearing from your sources about this?
BORGER: Well, I spoke with somebody who's close to both Tillerson and to the president, who said that Tillerson hasn't gotten over the way he was fired, unceremoniously, former CEO of Exxon isn't used to that, and hasn't gotten over the way, quite frank, he was treated inside the White House.
Tillerson was a complicated guy. We know he didn't get great rates as secretary of state internally from people who work at the State Department, but he felt that Jared was kind of freelancing foreign policy, and he let him do it for a while because he didn't want to get in a fight with him, but at the end it made it difficult for him to do his job. And so, at this point, Tillerson isn't giving major media interviews and all the rest. But when he was asked to come in, he sort of said, OK, I need to set the record straight. And that's what he's doing.
BASH: And you've been -- you've been working the phones, like you always do.
BORGER: You, too, dear.
[13:15:00] BASH: Working on another -- another issue, which is, the president's mood. I reported at the top of the hour that somebody who talked to him said that he was really angry that Democrats are coming after his family, but your hearing more broadly his mood is not anger.
BORGER: Well, I was told that he was on fire and that he was in good spirits. And can I say, both of these things can be true at the same time.
BASH: Yes. In the same minute sometimes.
BORGER: In the same minute with Donald Trump and that he believes, this source said to me, his frame of mind is bold is the way he put it. So I think you're going to see him continuing to take on Nancy Pelosi, continuing to take on the Democrats. He's thrilled he's got a large Democratic field that's going to go against him. And, yes, of course, he was probably furious at what she said yesterday, which is why he threw everything upside down, and there was no discussion about infrastructure because instead he wanted to talk about himself and how she had insulted him as somebody who doesn't engage in cover-ups, which we also know is not true, paging Stormy Daniels.
BORGER: So I think both of these things may be right, Dana. He changes from moment to moment.
BASH: Gloria Borger, thank you so much.
BORGER: Thanks, Dana.
BASH: Reporting, always.
Up next, the sixth migrant child died while in U.S. custody and now the Trump administration is accused of covering it up.
Plus, in the 2020 race, a second candidate is now making videos with freshman Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. How they're trying to get in on the AOC buzz.
And, devastation across the central plains as tornadoes rip through the region. We'll take you live to one state where families are seeing what's left of their homes.
[13:21:32] BASH: We are now learning about a 10-year-old migrant girl who died after coming to the United States. That makes six migrant children who have died in U.S. custody all within the last year. Her death was not reported publicly for nearly eight months. Now one Democratic congressman is accusing the Trump administration of covering up the death.
Let's get straight to Dianne Gallagher, who is here with me now.
And, Dianne, what do we know about the circumstances, not just about her death, but about why it took so long to find out?
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So why it took so long to find out first.
HHS says that they drafted and they had a statement about her death and they passed it along to the appropriate officials, and apparently that does not include members of the American media. They have said that, look, we did what we needed to do. This is how it was supposed to be handled. But, ironically, at this point, we have these six deaths and the first depth in September of 2018 is the last one we found out about when CBS initially report it late yesterday evening. Now, this is a 10-year-old girl. Her circumstances are quite different than the other children who have died after being in or in U.S. custody. She arrived to HHS care back in March of 2018. And she already had a congenital heart defect and complications from that. They say that she soon after had surgery. There were complications during that surgery. And she was comatose. She was then kind of brought around the country. She was in palliative care in Arizona. She then went to a children's hospital in Nebraska. And she died in September.
Now, again, we have a lot of questions as to why no one was notified. We've been notified about other deaths, including one in ORR custody just last month, a young boy who died, a 16-year-old, in the hospital. But, again, this is six deaths. Members of Congress, activist communities asking, what is going on? This is not something we have seen in years past.
BASH: And that's important.
BASH: Is that it's not as if this is a regular occurrence.
GALLAGHER: No, not at all. I mean it has been several years --
BASH: I mean it is recently, unfortunately.
GALLAGHER: Previous to this death, several years. Nancy Pelosi was saying before even today, almost a decade since we have had a death in ORR custody.
BASH: Oh, it's absolutely tragic. Thank you so much for bringing that to us. Appreciate it, Dianne.
And coming up, the death toll is rising after a tornado outbreak leaves jaw-dropping damage throughout the Midwest, and now massive flooding is making matters worse.
And, she might just be a freshman member of Congress, but two presidential candidates are jockeying for her endorsement. A look at the courting of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
[13:28:50] BASH: Parts of the central U.S. are reeling from devastation after getting hit by violent tornadoes, massive flooding and more severe weather is on the way. In Oklahoma, rising waters caused mandatory evacuations. The highway patrol is out on rescue missions, and you can see there a woman had to climb out of a window to get to safety.
And in Missouri, we're starting to see the aftermath of a tornado, which tore through the state's capital overnight. And this was part of a massive tornado outbreak of 171 reported tornadoes the central U.S. has seen over the past just few days. Storm chasers captured this eerie video of a tornado forming, and you can see it taking shape when the lightning lights up the sky. Nine people were taken to the hospital and now people are left assessing the damage.
Let's get straight to Ryan Young, who is in Jefferson City, Missouri.
And, Ryan, people say it felt like there was an earthquake when it was actually a tornado ripping through. What are you seeing there now?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. A lot of -- a lot of power in this storm. You can see there, people are already starting the cleanup efforts here. And despite the cleanup efforts, you can see the downed power lines that are also around this area. You're talking about some 10,000 people without power.
[13:30:05] Look, the real concern here was for people, in fact they thought people were trapped at one point.