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House Votes on Enforcing Barr and McGahn Subpoenas; Justice Department Agrees to Turn Over Key Mueller Evidence to House; Nixon's Lawyer Draws Parallels Between Trump and Watergate; Trump and Joe Biden to Campaign in Iowa on the Same Day; Deadly Helicopter Crash on NYC High-Rise. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 11, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:06] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. Jim Sciutto has the morning off.

"An existential threat to America." Those are the words this morning from the Democratic front-runner Joe Biden who says it is not China nor Russia, it is the man in the White House. And today could be a vision of what is to come in 2020. Both Biden and President Trump are crisscrossing the critical state of Iowa. They will be campaigning on turf that isn't just a 2020 battleground but a prime casualty in the ongoing trade wars.

Biden will hit Trump directly on that point, saying in a speech, quote, "Any beginning econ student at Iowa or Iowa State could tell you that the American people are paying for the tariffs. The cashiers at Target see what's going on. They know more about economics than Trump."

Joining us live from Iowa, CNN senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, he joins us. Also our senior White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is in Des Moines.

Good morning to you both. And Jeff, let's begin with you. I find this speech fascinating, that Joe Biden is going to give today. What's interesting is it's almost all about the president.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, good morning. No question about it, that's what Joe Biden exactly wants to make this trip about, about President Trump. Of course, Joe Biden wants to make this 2020 election a referendum on President Trump. He wants voters here in Iowa and elsewhere to consider the type of leadership they're seeing from the White House. And the former vice president is going to do something we've not seen many other Democratic candidates do so far, talk about trade and tariffs specifically.

Poppy, we do have an early look at the speech that the vice president -- the former vice president is going to give later today here in Iowa. Let's take a look at one part of it because it is interesting how he goes directly at the Trump administration. He is scheduled, expected to say this. "I believe Trump is an existential threat to America. I have said

many times that we can overcome four years of Trump, but if we give him eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation."

Those are the words that the former vice president is set to give later today in Iowa. But, Poppy, this is something that Joe Biden is going to be saying again and again. He is trying to show his strength, his electability, he believes, as a Democratic candidate, by taking on President Trump.


ZELENY: Of course, though, he has a Democratic primary campaign, a caucus campaign here in Iowa to get through first. But he's not expected to mention any of his Democratic rivals. Instead go after President Trump. They happen to be here on the same day, Poppy.

HARLOW: Just a little thing called the Democratic primary. You know, and they were all talking about him this weekend, even if not saying his name.

Jeff Zeleny, thanks.

And over to you, Kaitlan. You know, there are many that would argue that the president does best when he has a direct foil, and he has that in Joe Biden. And there are going to be less than 100 miles apart today.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that's exactly what Joe Biden wants. He wants to be in Iowa and for it to be framed of him versus the president, not Joe Biden versus any of the other candidates that are running against him in that Democratic primary.

Now we have seen these two men go after each other for weeks. Over their age differences, over their policy values, their character. And today they are going to be in the same state, but they're not even going to come face-to-face, Poppy, or within 100 miles of each other because Joe Biden will be on the eastern side of the state where Jeff is, and of course the president is going to be on the western side of the state before coming here to Des Moines for a fundraiser tonight.

And of course this comes as even though people have been telling the president he doesn't need to attack Biden by name yet. The president likes having a foil. Despite how far away the general election is. And he's been calling aides and allies early, early in the morning asking them what they think about Joe Biden because he sees him as someone who is a direct threat to his appeal to those blue-collar voters, more so than he does any of the other candidates.

Of course, that also comes after we reported that there were some internal Trump campaign polling that showed the president was lagging behind Joe Biden in key states that are going to be crucial to him being re-elected. And that's something that the president was infuriated about, we were told by sources, and even doubted those numbers, Poppy, even though they came from his own internal campaign. So of course, it's something that is going to loom over this visit

even though the president is talking about ethanol. He's doing a fundraiser for the state's Republican Party. Joe Biden is going to be looming over his entire trip here.

HARLOW: All right. Kaitlan, stay with us.

Let's bring into the conversation CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, a senior editor at the Atlantic.

Good morning to you, Ron.


HARLOW: Thanks for joining the conversation. It is so clear here in the excerpts of the speech that Jeff went through that Joe Biden is not holding back. This is all about the president. He goes on to say, you know, how much does the president care about American farmers? Here's the answer. Just as much as when he stiffed the construction workers and electricians and plumbers who built his hotels and casinos. Zero. Not my words, those are Joe Biden's words.

[09:05:03] No holding back. Is that what Democratic primary voters want?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I think so. Look, Joe Biden's biggest asset in this race, by far, by, you know, orders of magnitude over anything else is the perception that he is the most competitive, the strongest candidate against President Trump in the general election, specifically because he is seen as the best able to bring back some of those working class white voters who tipped the three blue wall states in the Midwest that the president won, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

So, you know, Iowa is not necessarily itself a first-tier battleground in 2020. Democrats lost it by more than they lost Texas in 2016, which is, you know, very rare in kind of modern politics, and of course, even though they did win two House seats in 2018, they did not win the governorship. So it's still a big hill for them to climb, but it is an important proxy because of the ability --

HARLOW: But Ron --

BROWNSTEIN: -- to recapture some of those voters there.


BROWNSTEIN: Is indicative of Biden's ability to do it elsewhere in other states.

HARLOW: I just wonder if you think it's different for Biden because if his camp sees what I think some saw in Hillary Clinton's campaign was that she didn't focus enough perhaps on --

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. HARLOW: Midwest, Midwest, Midwest, and he's a big rich guy from New

York who doesn't get you. I'm so different. You know, I'm Joe from Scranton. If he does that effectively.


HARLOW: Where Hillary Clinton didn't, couldn't Iowa be a totally different ball game for him?

BROWNSTEIN: It could be, but Iowa is never going to be in the first 270, Poppy, if you kind of follow that logic. I mean, if they win Iowa, they will have already won Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

HARLOW: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: It's harder for Democrats because it is so white, so blue-collar.

HARLOW: Got it.

BROWNSTEIN: So few minority voters. But the fact is even in Iowa, we did see the same kind of movement in 2018 where the president is going to be in west Des Moines in those white-collar suburbs that moved away from the Republicans.

But, look, I think, as I said, it is a proxy for Biden's ability to win back those Midwestern blue-collar white voters which I think is the key to his argument in --


BROWNSTEIN: In the 2020 primaries and thus I think it's important to watch what he says and how it's received today.

HARLOW: So, Kaitlan, I was really struck by his comments in the speech he'll give this afternoon, Biden's speech, on China. Because remember it was a few weeks ago when he said what are we worried about? China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man. They're not competition for us. He took a ton of flak for that. The president went after him on that. So he will say in this speech, I don't want anyone to misunderstand where I stand on China, we need to get tough with China.

Did he misread the bipartisan support for taking on China aggressively?

COLLINS: Yes, and I think you've seen the Biden campaign trying to reframe that because the president and his allies effectively wielded that against Joe Biden saying how does he not see this as a problem? And that's something that the president has made a priority of course during his time in office. So they're trying to lay out -- while Joe Biden is trying to lay out his contrast with morals and character with the president, you're going to see the president say that he's going to be someone who can more effectively deal with the Chinese, with the Chinese president over this potential trade deal that they've been working on than -- more effectively than Joe Biden could.

And you really see the Trump campaign be essentially delighted in recent days based on what our sources are telling us over these missteps you've seen from the Biden campaign, including that reversal on the Hyde Amendment, including not attributing his policy statements properly, and not even coming to Iowa this past weekend when all of the Democratic candidates were here because he was at his granddaughter's graduation.

Instead, they're going to try to use those against him today, framing him as someone who actually -- the president is someone who actually comes to Iowa, instead saying -- I believe the Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said we didn't know that Joe Biden was back from his hiatus.

HARLOW: Ron, let me just get a final beat from you on policy here, right, because Elizabeth Warren, one who came out the gate as like the policy woman, the policy candidate. But others are catching up. You have -- on the climate change front, you have Joe Biden's $1.7 trillion climate change proposal, compared to Elizabeth Warren's $2.7 trillion one.

What's -- you know, what's the difference when you're talking in trillions? And you argue one of the reasons that Democrats are going for these big moonshots, right, and throwing them out there is Donald Trump. Help us understand that.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, as I write on today, the magnitude, the scale of the Democratic proposals in this campaign are enormous. I mean, Elizabeth Warren, as you say, is setting the pace, but you have a wide variety of candidates who are making -- putting out proposals that would have been at the outer edge of political plausibility a few years ago. I mean, just to look at Kamala Harris' agenda, for -- for example, and the role it envisions for the federal government on a wide array of visions, from teacher pay to policing, gender equity in companies.

And basically, I think what Democrats have concluded is two things. One, that Hillary Clinton, although she had a lot of ideas, did not have any one big idea large enough to capture the public's imagination, and thus kind of failed what sometimes called the Ted Kennedy test. Why are you running for president? Couldn't answer it, you know, in 30 seconds.

And secondly, that Donald Trump and the disruption that he promised has changed kind of the window of what is plausible. And I think you are seeing candidates out there with very ambitious ideas that, you know, carry some opportunity to mobilize Democratic base but also some risk in that Republicans at the end are going to be there with a calculator adding up the cumulative price of all this.

[09:10:10] They think the cost of the Trump tax cut offsets that.


BROWNSTEIN: But nonetheless, they are betting that the public is ready for some big change in 2020.

HARLOW: And you have the, you know, the likelihood that the president says well, you're all just socialists anyways, right? And how do they deal with that?

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Right.

HARLOW: You know, how do they deal with that?

OK. Thank you both. Kaitlan, look forward to hearing from the president today and Joe Biden.

Ron Brownstein, thank you.

Here in New York, the helicopter crash that brought back horrifying memories is still very much a mystery about what exactly happened. Investigators want to know why a pilot took off from an east side heliport in really lousy weather then flew around the southern tip of Manhattan, up the other side before veering into midtown and crashing onto the roof of a 54-story building. The pilot was killed in that crash. He was alone on board. And though he was flying in restricted air space, authorities say there are no indications of terrorism.

My colleague Brynn Gingras is following this. It's still so much a mystery. Where was he going? Why was he going in that weather? And why the hard landing that took his life on the roof of that skyscraper?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, these are all major questions, Poppy, that the NTSB is looking to answer. I can tell you that they have investigators on the roof of this building behind me working right now. We also just learned that people who work in this building, it's closed, are allowed to just come back in, gather their belongings because they were rushed out of here, as you can imagine, and then they'll be able to leave for the day.

What we know, though, is that that pilot's name is Timothy McCormack. And by all accounts, he was a very experienced pilot. Having about 20 years under his belt, most recently working for American Continental Properties Group, which is a real estate group.

Now the plane -- rather, helicopter was registered in New Jersey. However, like you just told your viewers, it took off from a heliport in midtown on the west side and made that path down the lower part of Manhattan and then cut across when it came up the east side to right here in this building.

Now restricted air space because not far from here is Trump Tower, where, of course, the president stays when he is in New York City. So all those questions are major ones. Why did he take off when it was horrible weather, extremely foggy? Even Mayor De Blasio pointed out a video of a plane that was sort of hovering through the fog, saying it's believed to be that video of the helicopter that crashed.

And also, the NTSB at this point, as they're looking for answers, they're also looking for more video to help answer all these major questions that you posed, Poppy.

HARLOW: Brynn, before you go, I mean, this apparently was not the first emergency landing that this helicopter pilot had, right? He had one back just in 2014?

GINGRAS: Yes, exactly right. I mean, this is so interesting. He actually was giving a tour, a sightseeing tour. He had six women onboard with him when his helicopter was hit by a bird. It actually broke the front window and it was a scary scene for them, as he safely landed the helicopter at that point. So that gives you an idea of the experience behind it, but we actually have sound from him after that incident. Take a listen.


TIMOTHY MCCORMACK, PILOT: We got on the ground, everybody was happy. And you know, it's -- turned into an OK day. Everybody is safe.


GINGRAS: So this, again, a pilot that was certified back in -- rather, he got his license in 2004. He was a certified flight instructor. Tons of experience. Still lots of questions on why he took off in the first place in that weather yesterday, Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. Brynn, appreciate your reporting for us. I know you were on it from the moment it happened yesterday afternoon. Thanks for being there.

Still to come for us, House Democrats set their sights today on Attorney General Bill Barr. They are planning a vote today to enforce subpoenas against him if need be. This as the Department of Justice announces its investigation into the origins of the Russia probe will be broad and multifaceted. What does that mean? We'll dig into it.

Plus, Democrats still sharply divided on the issue of impeachment, but President Trump says he is not going anywhere. I will speak to a member of the House Ways and Means Committee coming up.

And baseball legend David "Big Papi" Ortiz flown to a Boston hospital overnight on the Red Sox private plane. We'll have an update on his condition. Stay with us.


[09:15:00] POPPY HARLOW, HOST, NEWSROOM: All right, welcome back. So the house is set to vote today on a resolution to enforce subpoenas on Attorney General Bill Barr and a former White House counsel Don McGahn. But House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler says the court fight is on hold at least for now, why? Because they struck a deal late yesterday with the Department of Justice.

The deal is that Barr, the A.G., will hand over some of the underlying documents of the Mueller report. What Nadler is calling some of the most important files related to obstruction of justice. Lauren Fox has the details from Capitol Hill. What's interesting, and maybe you know, I don't know, and I haven't heard of any member of Congress who knows yet, exactly what underlying evidence Nadler and his committee is going to get, right? Not all of it --


HARLOW: So do we know what?

FOX: Well, that's exactly the question. We're not sure precisely what they're going to get, but they're still moving forward with that vote today on the house floor to allow a future committee chairman to also enforce subpoenas. There's a few reasons that they're moving forward with that, Poppy, one of them is they still need to enforce the subpoena against Don McGahn.

They also want to get grand jury materials related to the Mueller investigation. So there're still some materials that they still want. And Nadler has been clear, if Barr continues to cooperate, no further action will be taken against him as long as he proceeds in good faith.

But Nadler has been clear, he said yesterday, quote, "if important information is held back, then we will have no choice but to enforce our subpoena in court and consider other remedies."

[09:20:00] Now, you know, this all comes as there's another vote tomorrow in the House Oversight Committee to hold Barr and Wilbur Ross; the Commerce Secretary in contempt for not giving any information related to an investigation into the -- how a question about citizenship ended up on the U.S. census. So, that all coming tomorrow.

So, while one committee seems to be having some success getting information from the Justice Department, another committee saying that they're not getting enough information from the Department of Justice and the Commerce Department, so they're moving forward in their committee tomorrow in the House Oversight Committee. Poppy?

HARLOW: OK, I'm glad you have it all straight for us, Lauren Fox, thank you so much. Let's talk about this, Jennifer Rodgers, our legal analyst and former federal prosecutor is here, and on the political side, Molly Ball; political analyst and national political correspondent for "Time". So, Jennifer, let me just begin with you on this deal. Do the Dems win here?

Did the contempt threat work or did it frankly just show that the White House delay, stonewalling tactics, at least struck this out is actually working?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, it's hard to tell exactly, but I think you're exactly right about what's happening here. Really, the Republicans and the White House win because it's been two and a half months since the Mueller report was issued, and the house has seen nothing. Literally nothing until yesterday.

So, even though the White House doesn't have a legal leg to stand on in holding back this material, and DOJ doesn't have a legal leg to stand on, they've managed to drag this out for two and a half months. So, they're winning here, and I think the Congress needs to be a little bit more aggressive.

HARLOW: Molly, I thought it was interesting what Republican Congressman, the head of -- the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins, said. He said after this agreement yesterday that the Justice Department's agreement with Nadler debunks claims that the White House is stonewalling Congress.

I suppose to an extent, he's right, but it's not everything Congress wanted. Who's the political winner?

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: Well, I think that remains to be seen. Look, it's true that if there was a blanket stonewalling strategy, we've now seen a crack in it because the Democrats were trying to -- they were using this threat of contempt to try to get the Attorney General to come to the table and hope that they could negotiate and work things out.

But at the end of the day, as I think as Jennifer was saying, we still don't know how this is going to end up. The Democrats, I think there's some angst about this idea that the administration is delaying, and even with agreeing to negotiate on a small part of one issue, they are still blocking all sorts of other sources of information that the Democrats are trying to get.

So, I think some -- these votes that Lauren was talking about today are an attempt to show the administration that they're not going to back down. They're not going to just because one crack has appeared in the facade, they're not going to stop pushing on all these other fronts with all these other investigations and all of the other information that they're trying to get about Mueller.

HARLOW: Jennifer, I'm interested in your take on the hearing yesterday the Judiciary had. Calling John Dean to testify for knowing full well what he was going to say. He's, you know, a contributor here on CNN. They've heard him on our network a lot. Calling him to testify and being slammed by Republicans for that.

Did they achieve anything in hearing from the former White House counsel under Nixon?

RODGERS: Well, you know, I think what they were trying to do, and I'm sympathetic because of course they weren't getting the witnesses that they really wanted --

HARLOW: Sure, the fact witnesses --

RODGERS: The fact witnesses, is they were trying to start educating the public about what impeachment is, how you can get to impeachment and of course the parallels between what's going on today and what happened in Watergate times.

HARLOW: Let's listen to that, let's play John Dean, a clip that stood out to us from yesterday.


Mueller report is to President Trump what the so-called Watergate road map officially titled the Grand Jury Report, was to President Richard Nixon. Stated a little differently, special counsel Mueller has provided this committee with a road map.


HARLOW: A road map for impeachment, he says.


HARLOW: So effective?

RODGERS: It's hard to say, I mean, there were good reasons to call him. I just don't know if you get through the noise. You know, I mean, one thing if people are focusing on this, all of the attacks on John Dean were about John Dean. They weren't about what he was saying about these parallels.

No one was really saying, oh, no, there's not a parallel because of X, Y, or Z --

HARLOW: That's true --

RODGERS: They weren't attacking the U.S. attorneys testifying, saying, oh, no, you're wrong about your analysis of the crimes committed by the president, right? So they weren't talking about the merits, and if people can kind of get through the noise of the personal attacks and see that, then maybe it will have been effective.

HARLOW: Molly, what do you think? Political stunt or effective for the Democrats?

BALL: Can I go with C, all of the above? No --


BALL: I think, look, there has been so much talk about the politics of impeachment based on comparing this push to what happened with Bill Clinton, which I think a lot of Americans remember as a sort of divisive national nightmare.

[09:25:00] So to the extent that the Democrats can reset this to a comparison with the Nixon impeachment, then I think most Americans remember as a good thing, that was necessary because the president was a crook, that benefits them if they can get people to believe it. So by having someone like a John Dean come forward and directly say to draw those connections between Trump and Nixon, if they can re-adjust that frame with the public, then I think that definitely helps them to make their case.

HARLOW: Fair enough because if those public opinion polls show a tip in the other direction of a majority supportive of impeachment, perhaps that is what Nancy Pelosi is waiting for. We'll see because guess what? Manu Raju is going to interview her live on this show next hour and ask all the important questions. Molly, Jennifer, thank you both.

RODGERS: Thank you.

HARLOW: Overnight, something pretty stunning. Michigan Congressman Justin Amash has stepped down from the Conservative House Freedom Caucus. This is a group he co-founded. He's the first and still the only Republican member of Congress to say that the president has committed impeachable offenses.

He said back in March that he'd stopped going to Freedom Caucus meetings because he'd clashed with members for months about the group's direction under President Trump. He told CNN, he's still on good terms with his colleagues, but left because he didn't want to be a distraction. He said his resignation is voluntary.

All right, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not ready to move yet on impeachment, but several Democrats in the house, more than several, are, including lawmaker who joins me after the break. I will ask him about the division in the party on that. We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street.

Investors will be watching the growing trade war between the United States and China. Talks are at a standstill, and the president is threatening more tariffs if he does not meet with Xi Jinping at the G- 20 later this month.