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CNN RIGHT NOW
Trump Won't Fire Kellyanne Conway For Hatch Act Violations; DNC Chair Tom Perez Discusses How Democratic Candidates Should Respond To Trump's Attacks, Trump Saying He Would Accept Dirt From Foreign Entities; Democrats Grapple With "Unprecedented" White House Stonewalling And Calls For Impeachment Grow; CNN's "WOMAN OF MYSTERY: MELANIA TRUMP" Airs Tonight at 9:00 P.M.; First Lady's Communications Director, Stephanie Grisham, Mentioned As Replacement For Sarah Sanders. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired June 14, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER PROSECUTOR, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: -- or support the candidates that you don't. And that's exactly what's happened here.
And it doesn't sound like it's an isolated incident or a close call. These are numerous and gross violations.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: Numerous. But the president says it was because she was asked repeatedly these questions and, therefore, she's just answering the questions, and then becomes a free speech issue. Does that argument hold any water?
MORENO: It's not entrapment and it's not a free speech issue. You can be a Hatch Act restricted federal employee and certainly have your First Amendment rights. You have to do it in the venue and at the time when it's appropriate. You don't do it while on government time or while on government property.
You have the personal capacity. And you can make a personal distraction if you're asked a question. Look, I can talk about policy as a White House official. You want to hear my political views, we can talk separately about that as a private individual. You can't blend the two.
MARQUARDT: And she's obviously not part of the campaign right now.
The president saying very clearly, at the end of the clip, he's not going to fire Kellyanne Conway. She's a terrific person. But he also said he'll look into it, which is a bit of a contradiction.
I want to read you part of the letter from the Office of the Special Counsel. They wrote, "If Mrs. Conway were any other federal employee, her multiple violations of the law would almost certainly result in her removal from her federal position. Never has the office had to issue multiple reports to the president concerning Hatch violations by the same individual."
So what happens next? Does the president have any say in this? And what happens if he declines -- if he essentially rejects their suggestion?
MORENO: Nothing. He has all the say. And it's so unfortunate because this exactly the kind of swampy behavior this president was supposed to get rid of. It's treating the powerful different than the ordinary. It's egregious. It's a shame.
Because, Alex, I think that, beyond the short term of what happens to Kellyanne Conway and President Trump in the next few years, it's in the longer term, we need to do a better job with our laws and our rules as far as how we police our government.
Because when you have a president who is willing to ignore decades worth of statute and ethics allegations and his own administration saying this person should be removed, and he's so flippantly says, I don't care, I won't remove her, the rules aren't tough enough.
MARQUARDT: The president always famously standing by his closest aides.
But what -- let's say he wanted her to fall back in line. And we're entering the 2020 race. It's going to get very heated. She is going to get asked again about Democratic presidential candidates. When she is, does she just have to say, no, sorry, I'm a White House official, not allowed to answer that?
MORENO: There's a right and a wrong way to do it. She knows how to do it wrong. Let's hope she can figure out how to do it right and then exercise that for whatever remaining time she has in the White House, which appears to be quite a long time, according to the president.
MARQUARDT: All right, Joe, thanks for breaking that down.
MORENO: Thanks, Alex.
MARQUARDT: President Trump rejects polls that show him trailing badly against Democrats in key battleground states. And he spent part of his FOX interview today insulting the man leading that pack, Joe Biden, calling him 1 Percent Joe and much worse. Does Trump fear a matchup against the former vice president? We'll ask the chair of the Democratic National Committee. That's next.
[13:37:35] MARQUARDT: We heard a lot from President Trump today on a whole range of issues. One of his favorite topics, of course, is the field of Democratic presidential candidates. Zeroing in on former Vice President Joe Biden, saying he was saved from the scrapheap by President Obama. He also again used a racially sensitive nickname for Elizabeth Warren and slammed both Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg.
Watching this closely is Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. I spoke with him a short time ago and asked how he and the candidates should respond to the president's repeated attacks.
TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: We respond by winning elections. All the candidates that you just mentioned that he attacked, what they all have in common is they are ahead of Trump in the polls. He understands that he's in big trouble.
I had the privilege of working with the vice president and I've had the privilege of getting to know virtually all the candidates and they are spectacular.
The reason he is doing this nonsense is that he understands that we've got a deep bench here, and he's scared. And, you know, when you're a bully and you're scared you -- you do more stupid things.
And -- and he can do that, you know. When he goes low, we go vote, when he goes lower we get more people out to vote and that's exactly what we've got to do.
We've got a great stable of candidates. Really looking forward to the upcoming debates this month and next month with CNN.
And -- and what the American people are going to see is that we're focused on the issues. In particular, we're focused on the issues that improve people's lives, making sure they can keep their health care and making sure we bring down the cost of prescription drugs. And he's focused on trying to find a nickname for everyone.
MARQUARDT: We did see the president again saying it's OK to get opposition research, as he called it, from foreign nationals. The White House also tried to flip that discussion to one about Hillary Clinton and the Steele dossier.
Do you think that the 23 Democratic candidates now running need to sign a pledge that they will refuse any offers of foreign assistance of any kind?
PEREZ: Of course, they are going to refuse any offers of foreign assistance because it is criminal behavior.
PEREZ: This notion that it's just opposition research -- oh, I'm sure -- if they haven't already said they are not going to take any help, I'm sure they will say it. Every candidate that I've spoken to, that's as no-brainer.
[13:40:01] This is not simple gathering of opposition research. This is committing a crime. This is going after the heart of our democracy.
And shame on all those Republicans, like Mitch McConnell, who have a sock in their mouth. Their appalling silence on this issue is another absolute indicator that they are just off the rails and have lost their understanding of what democracy is and what you must do to have a fair election. That's mind-numbing. And that's why we're going to make sure we -- our cybersecurity, we're going to work with our partners as best as we can. But we should have a partner in the federal government.
And you'll remember the former Secretary Nielsen, who was told, you can't bring up this issue of cybersecurity and hacking in a meeting with the president. It's forbidden.
When we are at war, as we are now in this cyber war, the commander-in- chief should be taking charge. But this commander-in-chief is compromised. And that is absolutely antithetical to our democracy.
And that's why I sent a letter to the RNC chair saying, you should never -- you should take a pledge with me -- and I was the first Democrat to do this. You should take a pledge that we will never use materials that are gained from foreign adversaries. And she wouldn't do that.
And, in fact, Giuliani said, sure, I'd do it. Boy, where is their moral compass? This is unbelievable.
And that's why this election is the most important election of our lifetime.
And that is why with our debate schedule and the format, we want to make sure that we create a fair process and make sure that everybody gets a fair shake and that we get our standard bearer. And then we are marching in unity towards victory so that we can stem this tide of nativism and divisiveness from this president.
All right. Tom Perez, chairman of the DNC, we have to leave it there. Thanks very much.
PEREZ: Thank you.
MARQUARDT: All right. As the battle between President Trump and congressional Democrats intensifies, some Democrats say it's time to take a tougher approach against the White House stonewalling, and the calls to begin an impeachment inquiry are growing louder and louder by the day.
Details now from Senior Congressional Reporter, Manu Raju.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Subpoena defied and record requests ignored, and witnesses know shows. Democrats saying the stonewalling from the White House has reached a new level.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: That's unheard of. That's unprecedented. RAJU: But they are divided over how to respond. And some are growing
frustrated that their leaders have not been tough enough with their new House majority.
REP. LLYOD DOGGETT (D), TEXAS: Well, I think that we need to be a bit more aggressive. Timidity w out there is an impeachment inquiry, and would I hope more members would get behind that. ill not be a policy that works with Donald Trump. One alternative
that stands RAJU: Behind the scenes, Democratic leaders are seeking to tamp down calls for impeachment. Just this week, holding a private meeting with the House general counsel to lay out their litigation strategy and passing a resolution expediting lawsuits to enforce their subpoena.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists her strategy is working.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: What we're doing is winning in court.
RAJU: The Democrats, indeed, have won two early court cases to obtain Trump financial information after the subpoenas were not complied with.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff agrees with Pelosi. But he is now calling for an even tougher approach, to levy heavy fines on those who defy their subpoenas.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I think a daily accumulating fine will get people's attention. If they lose, they are going to owe the Congress of the United States a lot of money. That may convince them to cooperate.
RAJU: There have been more than 200 Democratic requests for information with at least 28 subpoenas, including for Trump's tax returns, for records about his immigration policies, and about why the citizenship question was added to the 2020 census.
Democrats have taken some steps to retaliate, such as moving to hold two cabinet officials in contempt over the census probe.
CUMMINGS: They give you information that has been redacted, and then they send you blank pages.
RAJU: White House officials say they have taken steps to provide House with information, like the 17,000 pages provided so far on the census, but have resisted when those demands seek private and privileged communication. As was the case when they instructed former White House counsel, Don McGahn, to not cooperate with the House Judiciary probe into the potential obstruction of justice.
House Republicans say the White House approach is justified.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I think the president has reacted as any reasonable person would, given the unprecedent harassment that he's had to endure. RAJU: Plus, there have been some breakthroughs, including when the
Justice Department agreed to provide more information about the Mueller probe to two different House committees.
[13:45:08] REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: The Department of Justice blinked at the 11th hour in the face of a criminal contempt resolution.
RAJU: But they cut the deal after House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler, narrowed his initial request.
Some Democrats say that is not enough.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: It seems as though we're kind of sitting on our hands. So if now isn't the time, then I think a lot of folks would like to know, when is the time.
RAJU: Manu Raju CNN, Capitol Hill.
MARQUARDT: Our thanks to Manu Raju.
Ahead, a sneak peek at CNN's new documentary all about life inside the White House for first lady, Melania Trump. Our Kate Bennett has some eye-opening new details. She joins me next.
[13:50:42] MARQUARDT: She has been described as mysterious, unconventional and with an independent streak. Melania Trump has redefined the role of first lady in her own way.
And president today compared her to another celebrated first lady as he talked about the changing color of Air Force One to a red, white and blue motif.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, the baby blue doesn't fit with us. And people get used to something, but -- and it was Jackie O., and that is good. But we have our own Jackie O. today. And it is Melania. Melania. She gets no credit from the media but she gets credit from the people. When I go to speak in front of these big crowds -- we have tremendous crowds -- and so many people are holding up banners, "We love or our first lady."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: We have our own Jackie O.
White House Reporter, Kate Bennett, joins us live from New York.
Kate, you got rare access to the East Wing for a CNN special report on Melania Trump, airing tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. How many times have we all sat down with friends and colleagues,
wondering what the first lady is like and what she's thinking and what she's feeling? So what did you, with this access, learn from those who know her, what is behind that facade?
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I think it's interesting because there are two camps of Melania Trump readers. Those who think she's unhappy and trapped in the White House and those who think she's doing a phenomenal job and very graceful and stoic and traditional. So there are those two camps.
I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. She's very, very private. She does not do anything that she doesn't want to do, that is not true to who she feels she is.
If that means staying off the campaign trail, for example, or not standing by her husband and salacious headlines, for example, those are all things Melania Trump won't do because she feels like they're not in her personality or her want to do them. And I think that makes her incredibly unique.
The people who work with her, we sat down with her communications director in the East Wing, say that she's a lot of fun and she's very hands-on and comes to the East Wing each day. The staff at the White House love her and enjoy working with her.
It is very difficult, as you said, to get a read on what the personality is because, oftentimes, we see her quietly standing to the side of the president.
She's only ever done three on-camera television interviews and she has not done any real magazine interviews or deep dives. And we're not seeing her do things like "Carpool Karaoke" or push-ups on Jimmy Fallon, like we saw Michelle Obama doing.
So it is an interesting dynamic for this first lady. It's sort of like reading the tea leaves of what is going on, and that is what we look at tonight in this special.
MARQUARDT: And, Kate, you mentioned her communications director, Stephanie Grisham, who you spoke with. She's being mentioned as a possible replacement for White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, who announced she will leave the White House at the end of the month. How likely do you think that is?
BENNETT: Listen, I wouldn't be surprised if Stephanie Grisham was on the top of the president's list. Stephanie Grisham has been one of the original Trump workers. She started on the campaign more than three years ago. It is only she and Dan Scavino of the originals left in the Trump communications office orbit.
The president likes her very much. And the first lady likes working with her very much.
She's prone to these fiery responses that we sometimes see from the first lady on controversial topics. She is not shy about expressing herself or defending the president or the first lady.
I wouldn't be surprised if we heard her name on the short list.
MARQUARDT: And the president praised Grisham but did not commit to anything firm about her being the next possible press secretary.
Kate Bennett, thanks so much.
BENNETT: Thank you.
MARQUARDT: You can join Kate with a rare visit to the White House to meet those who know the first lady Melania Trump in a CNN special report, "WOMAN OF MYSTERY: MELANIA TRUMP." That airs tonight at 9:00 p.m.
As we look forward to Father's Day on Sunday, children in many military families won't be able to celebrate with their deployed dads.
Brianna Keilar spoke with seven kids from three different military families associated with Blue Star families. All of their dads are currently serving overseas. Here's what they're looking forward to on this Father's Day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: When you first see him, what is the emotion on his face.
[13:55:04] UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: He's very happy. And excited. And he's just going to squeeze us so tight. He's just going to squeeze us so tight that we feel like our heart is going to explode.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: It is very emotional because we haven't seen him in a really long time.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: If he came home from his deployment, I would be very happy and I can't imagine the look on his face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: You can see more of those touching interviews at CNN.com/homefront. And please share your stories and comments and ideas with Brianna at homefront@CNN.com.
And coming up, even as Red Sox legend, David Ortiz, recovers from a gunshot wound, the suspected shooter is speaking out, claiming he was confused, that he targeted the wrong person.