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Attorney General Barr Spars With Mueller Over Legal Analysis; President Trump's Tariffs Taking A Toll On The Trucking Industry; CNN Reality Check: Seth Moulton's Courageous Push For Mental Health. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 31, 2019 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- in a new interview. The attorney general says the Justice Department sparred with Mueller over the legal analysis in his report. Listen to this.


JAN CRAWFORD, CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, CBS NEWS: He said that he couldn't exonerate the president. You looked at that evidence and you did. I mean, what's the fundamental difference between your view and his?

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I think Bob said that he was not going to engage in the analysis. He was -- he was not going to make a determination one way or the other. We analyzed the law and the facts and a group of us spent a lot of time doing that and determined that both as a matter of law, many of the instances would not amount to obstruction.

CRAWFORD: As a matter of law.

BARR: As a matter of law. In other words, we didn't agree with the legal analysis -- a lot of the legal analysis in the report. It did not reflect the views of the department. It was the views of a particular lawyer or lawyers. And so, we applied what we felt was the right law.



BERMAN: Very interesting.

Here now to discuss, Laura Jarrett, CNN justice correspondent. And, James Baker, former FBI general counsel and director of national security and cybersecurity at the R Street Institute. And we should note -- and we'll get to this -- Jim Baker, part of this drama -- a character very much in the drama of the last two years.

Laura, first, to you. An analysis of what we are now hearing from William Barr -- and this is all his response to Robert Mueller's first public statement out loud -- what do you hear? Actually, one of the things I did hear because Barr chooses his words

so carefully -- he said many of the instances in this report would not amount to obstruction. He didn't say all. That was interesting to me.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's fascinating, just, first of all, to have him sort of talking about Robert Mueller in this way after the fact.

I mean, this is somebody who worked for him, essentially, under the Justice Department special counsel guidelines. So, to now have the attorney general come out criticizing him for his legal analysis, I think it's sort of just eyebrow-raising.

But as a separate matter, on the issue of the -- of the legal sort of fissure that you see between these two men, I think reasonable minds can disagree about that. For the attorney general, if there isn't an underlying conspiracy, then you can't get to obstruction because there wasn't some other kind of destruction of evidence or witness tampering. So, for Barr, he can't get there.

Obviously, Mueller lays out, I think pretty persuasively in chapter and verse, why he disagrees. So again, for Barr to say well, the position of the department is x or the department disagrees, I think is a pretty bold statement when some pretty talented and experienced lawyers clearly disagree with him on that.

CAMEROTA: So, Jim, is this a different interpretation of the law? Is that what we're seeing here play out between Mueller and Barr or is something else at work?

JAMES BAKER, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL, FBI, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL SECURITY AND CYBERSECURITY, R STREET INSTITUTE: Well, look, please -- like, don't fall over dead that lawyers disagree with each other from some time, right? I mean, that happens all the time.

And I think it's confusing for the public because you have smart lawyers throughout the department, especially on the special counsel's team, trying to analyze this and they just simply, it appears, had a different understanding of the law.

Look, I mean, I think the reality is when you read the obstruction chapter -- the obstruction volume of Bob Mueller's report, you come away, I think, with just an amazing sense of the pattern of corruption that existed in the administration, including the president, and it is -- it's shocking really. And whether it's criminal or not, as I've said, it should be unacceptable in America.

But look, lawyers disagree -- smart lawyers disagree. The attorney general is the one who has the last word on this but just because he's last it doesn't necessarily mean he's right.

BERMAN: You know, I want to move on to investigating the investigators in just a moment.

But, Laura, I know you had a question about the timing of this disagreement, right, because if William Barr feels this way -- dot, dot, dot -- what's your question to Jim on this?

JARRETT: Well, it's one -- it's one of the things that has never made sense to me. Barr is clearly irked in some way that at least -- or at least appearing that way -- irked that Mueller didn't reach a decision on obstruction. But he knew as of March fifth that Mueller wasn't going to reach a decision when they had that meeting.

And so, my question for Jim is, in your experience, what kind of communication breakdown could have happened here or even do you buy this because for this investigation to go on for two years and then for senior levels of the department to say oh, I was surprised that he didn't reach a discussion -- ultimate decision just doesn't seem to add up to me? But I wonder if Jim has a different take.

BAKER: Yes. I mean, I guess I wouldn't think that there was something amiss there. It's just that it's probably the Mueller team was crashing to try to finish the report and maybe they just hadn't sufficiently communicated it.

I don't know. It doesn't strike me as something that would set off alarm bells. I mean, I think they were trying to finish a very complicated, difficult report and maybe they weren't communicating and talking as much as they should. It was a lot to absorb for a lot of different people in trying to figure out what to do.

[07:35:12] So, I don't know. I don't -- I don't read anything super negative into that, I guess, to answer your question.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, could Bill Barr have pushed Mueller to do so? Could he have said it sure would make our lives easier if you would make the decision?

BAKER: Yes. I mean, I guess, in that -- he could have. Yes, he could have. He could have ordered him to make a decision. I think that would have had its own sort of negative implications and so on.

But my guess is he was trying to let Dir. Mueller decide on his own to maintain his independence, right? I mean, I think the attorney general would have wanted to keep a certain arm's length and let Bob decide on his own without too much pressure. That's my guess at what he was probably thinking.

BERMAN: All right. I want to play some more new sound that we're just getting in of what the attorney general said about, now, these three investigations going on about the genesis of the investigation. And, Jim, you were there for it, so listen to what the attorney general says.


CRAWFORD: What evidence -- what makes you think I need to take a look at this?

BARR: Like many other people who are familiar with intelligence activities, I had a lot of questions about what was going on. I assumed that I'd get answers when I went in and I have not gotten the answers that are at all satisfactory. And, in fact, I have probably more questions and that some of the facts that I've learned don't hang together with the official explanations of what happened.

CRAWFORD: What do you mean by that?

BARR: That's all I really will say. Things are just not jiving.


BERMAN: It's a like a 3-month tease now from the attorney general where he's saying he doesn't trust the genesis of this investigation.

Jim, you were there for it. What are you hearing from the attorney general there?

BAKER: Well, I mean, I don't know. I mean, part of the problem I think that he may be facing is that the people who were there at the start of the investigation are now all gone, right? We've all left in one way or the other.

And so, you don't have the -- he doesn't have the benefit of the context of being able to ask officials to explain why did you do this, why did you do that. The paper record will say one thing but to try to really understand what happened you have to talk to the people.

I mean, there are the multiple reviews that are going on. The inspector general and this other review that John Durham is conducting. And so, hopefully, through that process the attorney general will get his questions answered. It's legitimate for the attorney general to ask questions about something as important as this.

So, as I've said, I welcome the review. I'm happy to try to help. But I think part of the reason he's not getting the answer is that we're just not there anymore.

CAMEROTA: That's interesting but, I mean, he's launching his own -- his own investigations. So it's not just these two, I think, different investigations in Connecticut and Utah.

BERMAN: The Durham one is the one that he launched. There's the inspector general, which is already ongoing. And there's the Utah one, which really, no one frankly knows what the heck --


BERMAN: -- ever happened to that.

CAMEROTA: So -- but, I mean, if he came to you, you would explain -- I mean, would you say to him that there was nothing untoward in the way this was begun?

BAKER: We operated in a lawful, ethical, moral way. We didn't do anything wrong. We certainly didn't do anything that amounted to treason or spying or a coup attempt or anything of this nature. We were doing our best to follow existing and established procedures in accordance with the law, in accordance with the Constitution under extremely unusual and difficult circumstances. We were focused on doing what was best for the country.

We were doing all of this not in some anti-democratic way, but under the supervision of the acting attorney general and with notification to Congress. This was not some inside job that we were doing in secret.

We were -- I was certainly quite aware of abuses in the past that the government has engaged in under the guise of national security. There was no way in heck that I was going to let something like that happen. And so, I believe that we did things in an up -- in an upstanding way.

BERMAN: You brought up treason. Let's listen to what the attorney general very carefully -- how he very carefully answered the question about whether he saw treason.


CRAWFORD: You don't think that they committed treason?

BARR: Not as a legal matter, right.

CRAWFORD: 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.


BERMAN: I'd like both your takes on that.

Laura, first, to me, he chooses words so carefully -- not as a legal matter but treason is a legal issue. Why not just say no? It seemed to me that he was raising some kind of possibility there was some other type of treason out there.

JARRETT: The answer to that is no, period. Why he sort of -- kind of gave into that -- the sort of sentiment, even, is beyond me.

This is the attorney general of the United States. Whether he thinks people sort of went beyond their purview is for him to look into, certainly. But any intimation that someone was actually trying to take up aid or comfort to our enemies is a pretty serious allegation. I think he has an obligation to squash that pretty flatly

[07:40:14] And as the former FBI director Jim Comey has said in a recent op-ed -- you know, if this was a coup, this was really the worst coup ever because they didn't say anything about the fact that the president was under a microscope and actually under investigation all of that time. All of the time before the election when that would have been explosive news to all of us, none of us knew about it.

CAMEROTA: Jim, quickly, your reaction to treason not as a legal matter, no.

BAKER: Well look, I mean, it's -- to step back for a second, it really is outrageous that the President of the United States has accused American citizens of treason without any evidence whatsoever. I think that is in dereliction of his duty and responsibility under Article II.

I'm glad that the attorney general has said that in his view, as a legal matter, there was no treason. Of course, under the law, the president can overrule the attorney general, but subordinate officials cannot.

And I do find it odd, I have to say, given all the criticism that we took in connection with the Hillary Clinton matter about the attorney general commenting on what he thinks about our conduct, notwithstanding the fact that he's determined that there was nothing unlawful here. So, it's kind of along the lines of what we were accused so vehemently of doing wrong with respect to Hillary Clinton. So, I find that odd.

But look, there was no treason. It's outrageous and I don't know what else to say about that.

CAMEROTA: Enough said.

James Baker, Laura Jarrett, thank you very much for all of your expertise in this.

So, has the president's trade war impacted his support in Pennsylvania's Trump country with all of his voters? We're going to speak to members of the hard-hit trucking industry and their answers may surprise you, next.


[07:46:06] BERMAN: Markets around the world seeing a lot of red this morning after President Trump's threat to impose a five percent tariff on all goods coming in from Mexico. The president says he wants to force Mexico to deal with the flow of migrants coming to the United States.

This comes as the president's trade wars are taking a toll on the truck industry and its drivers.

Our Martin Savidge has more.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mark Zimmerman's in it for the long haul.

MARK ZIMMERMAN, OWNER, ZIMMERMAN TRUCK LINES, MIFFLINTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA: I am the third-generation owner of Zimmerman Truck Lines.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): He's got over 100 trucks and 140 employees in rural Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, deep in Trump country.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Who did you vote for in 2016?

ZIMMERMAN: I voted for President Trump.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Trump loves truckers. In 2017, the president parked a big rig at the White House and proudly proclaimed --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No one knows America like truckers know America.

SAVIDGE (on camera): How would you say the trucking business is these days?

ZIMMERMAN: The trucking industry is a challenge today. Every day we come to work is a fight.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Industry data shows the rates trucking companies charge down nearly as much as 17 percent. The reason, in part, the president's trade. With fewer goods, like steel and electronics, coming into U.S. ports, fewer trucks are needed to move them.

Zimmerman says his company's revenues are down eight percent from last year.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Do you, in any way, feel that he's the man responsible for the trade war and the setback you've been dealt?

ZIMMERMAN: It has an effect on our business, yes, but I don't blame him for it.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): This is probably a good time to point out that Mifflintown is in Juniata County, Pennsylvania, which voted more than 79 percent for Trump. Profits may be down at Zimmerman Trucking, but here in this critical swing state, the president's popularity is still high.

JOHN TOWSEY: I mean, he's been doing more for this country than any president we've had, probably since Reagan.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Just down the road at the Clubhouse Grill, despite the local negative impact, Trump's trade war and other policies are going over well.

PAMELA MURPHY: He continues to say I'm going to build the wall and he cares about the American people.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): In fact, almost all we talked to already know who they'll vote for next time, including Mark Zimmerman, who is currently feeling the pain of President Trump's policies.

ZIMMERMAN: I am 100 percent certain I'll be voting for President Trump in 2020.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Getting back to the issue of trade, it might seem counterintuitive but if the president's policies have a negative impact on his constituents that they would like him or perhaps, even like him more. Yet, that's the case here and it all comes down to perception. They don't see the president as failing, they see him as fighting for America and for them.

Back to you.


CAMEROTA: Great piece --


CAMEROTA: -- by Martin.

BERMAN: Really helpful perspective.

So, a Democratic presidential candidate just did a very brave thing, admitting something that has historically sunk other people's campaigns. And, John Avlon has it in our reality check. Hi, John.


So, look, pioneers and politics are rare but this week, Congressman Seth Moulton took a step where no presidential candidate has gone before. The decorated Marine veteran to Afghanistan and Iraq took the risk of admitting that he's suffered in the past from PTSD, making his campaign's mental health proposal very personal. And in a positive sign of the times, he's being saluted for his courage.

We've come a long way as a country in dealing openly with mental health issues. Suicide is the nation's 10th-leading cause of death according to the CDC. And, a majority of our gun deaths in America are suicides. It's a problem and skyrocketing among young veterans.

Check this out. By some measures, more Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have died from suicide than died in combat. But we only spend around one-quarter as much studying suicide as we do, say, prostate cancer.

Let's be honest. This is not a new challenge in our culture, even if it's become more prominent and public. The fact is that we've had several presidents wrestle with depression, including perhaps our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln.

[07:50:05] But, presidential candidates and depression don't have a history of mixing up well.

Perhaps the most notorious example came in 1972 when Sen. Tom Eagleton had to step down as George McGovern's running mate after 18 days when it was revealed that he'd been hospitalized several times for depression as a young man.

In 1998, there were politically-fueled rumors that Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis received therapy after the death of his brother, 15 years before. When asked about the allegation, President Ronald Reagan said he wasn't going to, quote, "pick on an invalid" and then had to apologize for what he admitted was an inappropriate joke.

Then, Tipper Gore, the former second lady, made mental health her signature issue after admitting she'd struggled with depression, telling CNN when her husband was running for president in 1999, quote, "I would hope that we would do away with the stigma. I would hope that people would not feel shame attached to this. If I had a broken arm, you would tell me to go to the doctor."

But, Seth Moulton is the first presidential candidate to proactively raise mental health as a signature issue, telling Politico, quote, "Occasionally, I'd have bad dreams or wake up in a cold sweat. It took me a while to appreciate that I was dealing with post-traumatic stress, an experience lots of other veterans have."

After connecting with a therapist, he says those thoughts and feelings subsided, though Moulton says he still talks with a therapist once a month "...just to check in, the same way that I go to the doctor for a checkup even when I'm not sick, just because I think it's healthy."

It is healthy -- far healthier than the alternative. And that's why Moulton's proposing making mental health part of basic health coverage in America, establishing 511 as a national mental health crisis hotline, making mental health checkups part of routine physicals for military members and veterans, and funding yearly mental health screenings for high school students.

Now, this is the kind of courage that should bring bipartisan applause, including from conservatives who increasingly meet the epidemic of mass shootings in our country with calls to address mental health rather than guns.

Look, we're always safest when we confront reality but that can require courage. And in taking a stance, Seth Moulton's making his candidacy about something greater than himself, which gives us another reason to say to him thank you for your service.

And that's your reality check.

BERMAN: John, thank you so much for that. Number one, good for him. Number two, this is a sign, I think, of progress in the country --

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh.

BERMAN: -- when a candidate feels like he can come forward.

CAMEROTA: He's doing all of us a favor. He is a pioneer John because he's doing all of us a favor by helping to remove the stigma of talking about it. Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. An Atlanta detective going beyond the call of duty to try to mend the relationship between citizens and police at local barbershops. We'll bring you the story, next.


[07:56:42] CAMEROTA: An Atlanta police officer decided it was time to do something about all the confrontations between police and the citizens that they serve. So, he went beyond the call of duty to create a program called "Clippers and Cops."


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In South Atlanta, the Cleveland Avenue Barber Shop really packs them in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You still young.

VALENCIA (voice-over): But when Atlanta Police Department investigator-detective Tyrone Dennis shows up, it's no longer just about a shave and a haircut.

DENNIS: Do I look like I have a gun on?


DENNIS: I have a gun on.


DENNIS: Could he have put a gun in here?


DENNIS: Do I know him?


DENNIS: No further questions.

VALENCIA (voice-over): This is "Clippers and Cops," a program started by Det. Dennis one year ago in Atlanta.

DENNIS: I reached out to other people that I know, possibly with former felons, former gang members -- different things like that -- and we basically came up with the concept to let's talk.

We trying to get them a gun.

VALENCIA (voice-over): This 15-year detective, now with the gang unit, partnered with other local police officers in an effort to mend gaps between citizens and police through open conversation and interaction.

They cover a wide variety of topics from politics to sports to current events. But his main objective is to create trust and empathy between law enforcement and the community. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The younger generation of police needs to be involved to the extent that the older generation of police is involved.

DENNIS: That's the goal because the goal is to try to get the officers to let down their window.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then you have to understand that if he has those twists, he's going to have to face what comes at him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't judge me by how I look. Judge me by my character.

VALENCIA (voice-over): As part of today's lesson, Det. Dennis explains what to do and not do when stopped by police.

DENNIS: Let your hands be visible. Spread your fingers, everybody. Spread them so we can see them. You can't get to no weapon if I can see your hands.

VALENCIA (voice-over): The program happens on the third Thursday of every month at a different barber shop in the city.

DENNIS: A barber shop is, in a black community, a sanctuary that anything and any type of dialogue goes. So, we're just trying to piggyback off that and have these same open discussions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dealing with people and relationships just isn't about communication. You know what I'm saying -- straight up.

VALENCIA (voice-over): The conversation is raw and realistic to what some experience when stopped by police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say you started this when?

DENNIS: Last year -- last March.



DENNIS: Last March.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was this after we saw kids get gunned down?

DENNIS: That's why I started it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't -- yes, but what I'm saying was how long did it take? It was last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to cut you off. He --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me get it. Let me get it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

DENNIS: The whole goal of this is trying to do something different. I want to change policing as we know it.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Detective Dennis hopes to take his community policing tactic of "Clippers and Cops" nationwide.

DENNIS: I want to take this model not only from Atlanta but across the country and basically, implement it for all police departments.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.


BERMAN: Good for them and good luck to them. Our thanks to Nick for that report.

We are following a lot of breaking news, so let's get to it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Friday, May 31st, 8:00 in the East.

And we do begin with breaking news. The attorney general, William Barr, this morning, is defending his actions in a new interview. The attorney general says the Justice Department sparred with Robert Mueller over the legal analysis in his final report.