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Barr Says Mueller Could Have Reached Decision on Obstruction; Pelosi Resists Impeachment; Toronto Takes Center Stage; Nurses in Same Unit Pregnant at Same Time; New Documents in Smollett Case. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired May 31, 2019 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:30:38] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Attorney General William Barr is now speaking out after Robert Mueller declined to clear President Trump of a crime. Barr says he believes Mueller could have reached a conclusion on obstruction.
So here to discuss we have Michael Smerconish, host of CNN's "Smerconish," Rachael Bade, congressional reporter for "The Washington Post," and Joe Lockhart, former Clinton White House press secretary.
Joe -- oh, let us play it first for everybody. So here is what Bill Barr now says about the fact that Robert Mueller did not reach or did not certainly spell out any conclusion about obstruction other than he did not exonerate the president. Here's what the attorney general now says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I personally felt he could have reached a decision.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, CBS NEWS: In your view, he could have reached a conclusion?
BARR: Right. He could have reached a conclusion. The opinion says you cannot indict a president while he's in office, but he could have reached a decision as to whether it was criminal activity. But he had his reasons for not doing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Joe Lockhart, do you agree with him?
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't -- I mean I think he takes disingenuous to a new level. I can guarantee you that if he had done -- he had taken that option and said, I can't indict, but he did commit a crime, Barr would be out on TV yesterday saying, that's unconstitutional, it doesn't give the president the right --
CAMEROTA: Maybe, but we'll never know.
LOCKHART: Well, we --
CAMEROTA: We'll never know because Robert Mueller didn't reach a decision. But do you -- just on that point --
CAMEROTA: Do you agree that Robert Mueller could have said, I don't have the power to indict, but I believe there -- I saw obstruction?
LOCKHART: Yes, he certainly could have. And as he said, it would have been -- it would have been unfair to the president, but he could have done that. And do I believe that Barr believes that? I believe that Barr is doing whatever he sees his job, as is defending the president.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, the fact of the matter, though, is, Michael, and there is a legitimate, legal debate about whether or not Robert Mueller could have. I think, Michael, you feel as if he should have, yes, just to be clear on that?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, "SMERCONISH": Yes, I agree with Bill Barr, respectfully disagree with Joe Lockhart.
SMERCONISH: I mean by the plain language of what will Robert Mueller's job was, it was, in the end, to provide a report to the attorney general and explain his prosecution or declination decisions. It was a binary choice. He was supposed to do one or the other and in the end he punted and apparently caught even the Justice Department by surprise because he didn't tell Bill Barr until, I think, November 5th, that he wasn't reaching a conclusion.
BERMAN: And it was March -- it was March 5th. It was -- just before the release -- a few weeks before --
BERMAN: A few weeks before the release.
The fact of the matter, though, and, again, there is a legitimate legal debate is, is that Robert Mueller did not see it that way. So at this point, it's moot. Robert Mueller did not make a determination. So it leaves it to someone else to make the determination. Robert Mueller seemed to indicate Congress. Bill Barr thought it was his own job to do it.
There was more news made in this, which I think gets to the intent of William Barr or where his head is in all of this. In this interview with CBS News, Bill Barr was asked directly about the president's comments that many people in the past administration and many people who worked inside the intelligence agencies committed treason. Listen to how he answered this question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, CBS NEWS: You don't think that they committed treason?
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: That is a legal matter, right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you have concerns about how they conducted the investigation?
BARR: Yes, but, you know, sometimes people can convince themselves that what they're doing is in the higher interest, the better good. They don't realize that what they're doing is really antithetical to the democratic system we have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Now, Michael, just on that point, there will be people who will say there were a hundred different ways to answer that question no without raising some kind of ambiguity with the word "legal." He said not as a legal matter, no. Why not just say, no, it's not treason any way you look at this, unless you're trying to leave this notion out there, well, maybe it wasn't somehow patriotic?
SMERCONISH: I don't know. Maybe he's got some tell from the upcoming Horowitz IG report, which I'm keenly interested to see. My suspicion is that perhaps there was information developed about what was contained in the dossier as the Carter Page FISA warrants were being renewed. My hunch is, that's where this is headed. Not something that will completely upend the way in which the investigation was carried out. I thought that Jim Comey wrote a pretty compelling essay earlier in the week for "The Washington Post" on that.
[06:35:03] But my hunch, John, is that there will be things uncovered that question the motives of some of the actors.
CAMEROTA: That is possible, certainly, Rachael. Or it's also possible that Attorney General Barr also noticed the script from which the president speaks and is trying not to veer too far from that.
RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Could possibly be. I mean that's what a lot of Trump allies took was his, you know, behind the scenes meaning when he used the word "spying" several weeks ago. I mean Trump allies feel like Barr has been great for the president. He has been a better defender than they could have ever expected. And just the way he used that language, I agree, he should have -- or he could have just said, no, this is not treason. But he was very careful about that. And you know who's listening very closely? The president. And Trump has said that he believes that these -- the FBI agents who started this investigation committed treason against him and were out to get him. So, yes, the president and his allies are -- this is music to their ears, for sure.
CAMEROTA: What's non-legal treason?
LOCKHART: Well, there aren't any.
LOCKHART: And I think the next part of it, you know, sort of, if there were irony bells that could ever go off, when he starts talking about people justifying their actions for a higher reason, which is exactly what he's doing. He's perverting the process at the Department of Justice because he wants to protect the president.
And to go back out, I don't disagree with Michael on what Mueller -- what I wish he'd done. I wish he had done it. But the incredible thing here is, Mueller decided he wanted to be fair to the president. Let me go on record as saying, I don't want to be fair to the president. Why would I want to be fair to the president?
CAMEROTA: You picked that up?
LOCKHART: Yes, you picked that up. But it -- but, you know, Mueller, you know, whether you agree or you disagree, his motives here seem pure, which is that it would be unfair to charge him, but not give him a forum to defend himself. Barr seems to shift around, to take the law and take DOJ to fit what the president has tweeted the day before. That's not what the attorney general is supposed to do.
BERMAN: Yes, again, just the way he says things that we now know he chooses his words so carefully. It reminds me of how he answered, you know, was this a witch hunt? He's like, well, I can understand if you were falsely accused why you might see it as a witch hunt.
BERMAN: Rachael, I've been dying to talk to you all week because you count -- you count votes on Capitol Hill. You look at trends on Capitol Hill. With all this happening with Robert Mueller speaking publicly, where are the impeachment numbers now in terms of the Democratic caucus and where might they be next week when they return?
BADE: They're certainly growing after Mueller came out and spoke publicly. We saw two new chairman, Democratic chairman close with Pelosi, back an impeachment inquiry after he did so. We saw a number of 2020 candidates who were not supporting impeachment are now doing so, including Cory Booker. But I just don't see Pelosi moving yet. And she's the boss.
You know, it's interesting, we were out in some swing districts, some swing districts that have a Democratic representative, but who also voted for Trump, right when this was all going down, and it was amazing to see this sort of split screen where everybody in Washington was talking about Mueller and impeachment and not a single question during a series of town halls and public events with Democratic representatives and their constituents. I even spoke with a number of Democrats who were at these events, and all but one of them told me they didn't want to do impeachment. And that right there is a big reason why Pelosi is so reluctant.
BADE: These swing districts gave her her majority. They're not there yet.
BERMAN: Michael, that -- very quickly, that's Smerconish country that Rachael's talking about right there. What are your callers saying?
SMERCONISH: It's a -- I'm so glad you asked. Totally in congruence with what Rachael just reported. And also Richard Tow (ph) and Richard Vague (ph), two guys who have run focus groups in swing states have been radio guests of mine recently, completely back up what she just said, which is, it's all about the economy and it's about health care, it's about job concern. They don't get questions, they don't get issues raised about the Mueller investigation.
CAMEROTA: Therein lies the rub for Nancy Pelosi, as you pointed out, Rachael.
CAMEROTA: Thank you all very much.
Be sure to watch "Smerconish" tomorrow morning. DNC Chairman Tom Perez will join him to discuss the upcoming debates and the qualifications -- the new qualifications to get on the stage for some of those debates. So it's 9:00 a.m. Eastern on CNN.
BERMAN: All right, the NBA finals underway and not going the way many people thought they would, but --
CAMEROTA: Certainly not how I thought they were going to go.
BERMAN: Right? A new star may be emerging for a different team than you might expect. The player would have a game of a lifetime. "Bleacher Report" is next.
[06:43:33] BERMAN: For the first time in NBA history, the finals tipped off north of the border and it didn't go like a lot of people thought it would.
Coy Wire has more on game one in the "Bleacher Report."
COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
Toronto Raptors entered the league in 1995, so the first NBA finals game played outside of the U.S. was a party 24 years in the making. Most teams get an entire city to rally around them, but Golden State is going against a team with an entire nation behind them. Fans gathering outside the arena in Jurassic Park, about 18 hours before tip-off, starting at 3:00 a.m.
And the Raptors gave them something to celebrate. Their star, Kawhi Leonard, made just five buckets. But Pascal Siakam was on fire. He -- his late father's dream was for him to play in the NBA. He said he did this for his dad. Thirty-two points as Toronto takes down the two-time defending champs, 118-109. Drake was sitting courtside, wearing a signed Dell Curry jersey. The ultimate troll job, as Steph's father finished his career with the raptors. And after the game he trash talked with Draymond Green and watch the Drake face right there. Game two Sunday night in Toronto.
Changing gears here, family of the four-year-old girl hit by a foul ball during Wednesday night's Cubs/Astros games is asking for privacy while she recovers. She's one of more than 1,700 fans injured by foul balls each year in the majors. The girl was sitting 10 feet past where the protective netting ends. MLB says it will look into extending more netting down the foul lines.
[06:45:06] All right, John Berman, I know you're going to be watching the super bowl of European soccer tomorrow. Tottenham's superstar, Harry Kane, might be a bigger Patriots fan that you. He has a dog named Brady and he dreams of becoming the kicker in the NFL in 10 to 12 years, he says. A huge Tom Brady fan. His team takes on Liverpool for the champions league title. Watch it tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. Eastern on TNT or stream it on BR live.
BERMAN: My kids and I, we all have our Tottenham shirts. We plan on wearing them during the game, Coy, mostly because Harry Kane is a Tom Brady fan.
CAMEROTA: Why don't you have a dog named Brady?
BERMAN: Well, I named my own name to Brady, I just don't use it.
CAMEROTA: Why didn't you name one of your son's Brady?
BERMAN: I named all of them.
CAMEROTA: Did you try to do that? Did you try to do that?
BERMAN: I named all of them Brady, it turns out.
CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh!
Coy, thank you.
All right, they all work together, but that's not all they have in common. They're also all pregnant! What am I suggesting? The hospital where 14 nurses in one unit are pregnant.
BERMAN: They all work together. Leave that hanging out there. Work at what?
[06:50:15] CAMEROTA: Nurses at one Massachusetts hospital have something in common. Fourteen of them in the oncology unit are pregnant at the same time.
CNN's Erica Hill has the story.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Guys, usually when we talk about a baby boom at a hospital, we're talking about patients. But here at Mass General, it's the nurses, lots of them. In fact, in one oncology units, nurses will welcome 20 new babies this year. Five have already arrived.
FARREN RICHARDSON, NURSE: I think there was a point in time every day that I would come to work, someone else would announce that they were pregnant. And we suspect a couple more.
JENNIFER KELLY, NURSE: On the elevator coming down here today, an older nurse said, oh, gosh, is it contagious?
HILL (voice over): Fourteen pregnant nurses, 15 babies on the way.
HILL (on camera): When you all took that picture, I mean, that's quite a visual.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But then when we took that picture, we were like, wow, that's when it clicked.
HILL (voice over): And a chance to spread some happy news.
KATIE DESMARAIS, NURSE: In our job we see a lot of sadness, we see a lot of death. So, I think for our patients, they enjoy being able to go through this journey with us.
HILL (on camera): What has the reaction been from some of the patients when they see you coming through? One pregnant nurse, two pregnant nurses.
SARAH O'MALLEY, NURSE: Lots of double takes. Lots of, wait, were you just in here?
HILL (voice over): While pregnancy has brought them closer --
HILL (on camera): For how many of you is this your first child? Oh, wow, lots of first time moms. And then other moms to help give you advice, right?
HILL (voice over): Their bond goes back year and extends beyond weddings and babies to Caring for a Cure, a charity started by their nursing unit to help patients and families.
RICHARDSON: And our patients are really our number one, and we do anything and everything we can for them.
HILL (on camera): What has the attention been like?
RICHARDSON: I was just in the cafeteria getting lunch before this, and someone's like, are you one of the 14?
HILL: What about your families?
JAMIEN BYRNES, NURSE: They love it. They think -- they ask me for my autograph.
TRICIA FERRANTE, NURSE: Well, there's several of us in the same carpool, so it makes for an interesting commute when you're all kind of battling for the front seat, because you want to throw up, and we're all jammed in there.
HILL: What have been some of the best moments so far?
KELLY: Just our boss' reaction. I mean when I walked up to her the day I told her, she just go, you too? And just shook her head. She just knew.
HILL: As for maternity leave, the nurses tell me their boss has already covered ten nurses to cover them when the real baby boom starts this summer.
CAMEROTA: I mean when do you think doctors will figure out what causes all these pregnancies?
BERMAN: You know what's amazing? I remember Erica covered a story like this in Maine --
CAMEROTA: I know.
BERMAN: At a hospital -- a maternity ward there where there were like 12 nurses were pregnant.
CAMEROTA: And at first I thought it was the same story.
BERMAN: No. No.
CAMEROTA: Because any time nine women or 14 or whatever it is are all pregnant at the same time it's notable. But, no, it's happened -- it's apparently breaking out at hospitals all over.
BERMAN: All over New England.
BERMAN: All over New England.
CAMEROTA: What's that about?
BERMAN: Well, I wanted to date it back --
CAMEROTA: That's where you're from.
BERMAN: I thought maybe it was like the Patriots Super Bowl victory. If you date it back to that night, maybe they're, you know --
CAMEROTA: Must everything go back to the Patriots?
BERMAN: Well, there could have been a lot of celebration, if you know what I mean.
CAMEROTA: Oh, I think I do know what you mean! So how did Jussie Smollett go from facing serious felony charges to being cleared in just two weeks? Some newly released documents reveal quite a bit. That's next.
[06:57:28] BERMAN: Newly unsealed documents show how "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett went from facing felony charges to having his charges dismissed. This is really interesting.
CNN's Nick Watt live in Los Angeles with the latest here.
And, Nick, what have you learned?
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, first of all, CNN and others fought long and hard to get these documents released. And, frankly, you can see why the defense wanted to keep them sealed.
First of all, at nearly 500 pages, you can see how much time and effort Chicago Police put into investigating what Jussie Smollett claimed was a hate crime. He said two men came up to him, shouted "this is MAGA country," shouted racist and homophobic epithets at him, threw a noose around his neck. Of course he was later charged with filing a false police report.
And also, John, the evidence looks pretty strong about those brothers. There was a text that Smollett sent to one of them just four days before the attack saying, might need your help on the down low. There was video of Smollett picking the brothers up that day, driving around the neighborhood, picking them up a couple of days later and taking them to the scene where the attack would take place.
We also have the brothers explaining to police that, you know, one of them began hitting Jussie Smollett, but being careful to pull his punches, pushed him into the ground and rubbed his knuckles into Smollett's face so that he would be bruised, but wouldn't be too injured. And also, Jussie Smollett, after the brothers were arrested, was shown photos of them. He identified them as his friends, trainer, one of them had worked on "Empire." Then when he realized that these guys were actually being held as suspects, he told police, it can't possibly be them because they are black as sin. Those are his words.
Now, having said all of that, let's just listen to a little of what Jussie Smollett had to say after those charges were dropped.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSSIE SMOLLETT, ACTOR: I've been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one. I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I have been accused of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATT: And another nice little nugget, a "New York Post" reporter actually found a crucial piece of evidence, which was a hot sauce bottle at the scene, which had apparently been washed out and filled with a soapy substance. The police say that is what the brothers threw on Jussie Smollett during this fake hoax attack.
CAMEROTA: Lots of interesting, new details. Thank you very much.
So, we also want to thank our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, we're about to hear more from Attorney General William Barr about his decisions following the investigation into Russia and President Trump. NEW DAY continues right now.
[07:00:03] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL: Under long-standing department policy, the president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office.