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Interview With Bill de Blasio, 2020 Presidential Candidate; Interview with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired June 16, 2019 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00]

FREDERICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone, thanks for joining us. I'm Fredericka Whitfield in New York. President Trump spending this father's day at his golf club in Virginia. And while the president works on his swing, he's also once again taking a swipe at the Russia investigation. In a new interview with ABC News, the president is defending his actions and says he could have fired special counsel Robert Mueller if he wanted to. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And has to go.

TRUMP: I never -- I didn't say that. Look, Article II, I would be allowed to fire Robert Mueller -- there was not -- assuming, assuming all of the things, I said I want to fire him. Number one, I didn't. He wasn't fired. Number one, very importantly. But more importantly, Article II allows me to do whatever I want. Article II would have allowed me to fire him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it sounds like you --

TRUMP: But I wasn't going to fire him. You know why? I watched Richard Nixon go around firing everybody and that didn't work out too well. So very simply, Article II would have allowed me to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: This comes as new polling shows growing support for the launching of impeachment hearings. The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 27 percent of Americans now say there is enough evidence to move forward with hearings. That's up ten points from last month. Let's check in now with CNN's White House correspondent Boris Sanchez. So what else are we hearing from the president today?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Fred, The president is partaking in a bit of revisionist history. Of course, if you read the Mueller report, you'll find that on at least ten occasions the president tried to interfere or intervene in the Russia investigation, at one point asking former White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller.

McGahn of course threatened to resign, at which point the president relented. That's not according to some unnamed source, that's actually from Don McGahn himself. The president was also asked during this interview about speculation out there that he may be prosecuted after he leaves office. Listen to his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not worried about being prosecuted once you leave office?

TRUMP: I did nothing wrong, George. Did nothing wrong. There was no collusion. You don't even hear Russia mentioned anymore. Russia is not mentioned. Now it's all about obstruction. Obstruction of what? They built up a phony crime. They hired a man that hated Trump. He hired 18 people that were Democrats that hated Trump. Some of them contributed to Clinton's campaign, a couple of them worked for Clinton.

I mean what kind of a rigged deal is this? And then on top of it after two years and after being the mo transparent in history, I gave them 1.5 million pages of documents, right? I gave them 400 or 500 witnesses. I let Don McGahn testify. He was the White House counsel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: And of course that's how we know the president tried to intervene in the investigation because that's what Don McGahn told the special counsel. As for calls of impeachment, the president still sounding pretty confident. He has reiterated the claim that he did nothing wrong. Even today on Twitter, he suggested that if he's re- elected in 2020, the public may demand that he stay on past two terms in office. So more than eight years, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, we'll check back with you from the White House, thank you. So all of this comes as former White House communications director Hope Hicks will testify behind closed doors to the House Judiciary Committee. This is the first case where a member of the president's inner circle will appear as part of its investigation into possible obstruction of justice.

Sources say Hicks will be asked about her time at the White House and in the campaign, and it's still unclear whether the White House will assert executive privilege to prevent her from answering questions about her time at the White House. Michael Zeldin is Robert Mueller's special assistant at the DOJ, and as CNN's legal analyst, gabby Orr is a white House reporter for politico, good to see both of you.

All right, Michael, we begin with you. The president says, you know, he wanted to fire Mueller and that Article II of the Constitution gave him the power to do so but ultimately he decided against it because, quote, "it didn't work out well for Nixon." So this contradicts what his former White House counsel, Don McGahn, told Robert Mueller, that he refused the president's order to fire Mueller. So could this discrepancy be at all a problem for the president? MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's been a public relations

problem for sure. Don McGahn testified that the president called him on two occasions and said that Mueller has to go. He didn't use the word "fire;" he said Mueller has to go because he has conflicts, which has been the president's mantra since the appointment of Mueller, that he has conflicts based on the golf course that he was a member of and other

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Small things. McGahn understood the "he has to go" to be, firing. So there's some semantical differences here but in the end it seems as if the president did want Mueller to go, but in the end also did not exercise his authority to fire Mueller.

WHITFIELD: Gabby, the president will officially launch his 2020 re- election bid on Tuesday in Orlando. Do you expect the Russia Mueller investigation will be part of his message as he rallies voters for re- election? I mean, judging from his Twitter feed already and some of the interviews he gives, he's -- he's really not ready to move on, put it behind him.

GABBY ORR, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: If past is precedent and President Trump's Twitter feed is any indication, I think he will absolutely talk about the special counsel investigation and its conclusions when he launches his re-election campaign in Orlando. He's -- he's not been able to sort of shy away from talking about this and his entire White House, his communications team and many officials on his campaign have sort of taken this report and said this is a stamp of approval for the president in terms of clearing him of any criminal wrongdoing.

And the president at least for now thinks that is a message that can help propel him forward in 2020. So there is an expectation that when he gets in front of voters in Florida, Tuesday evening, that he's going to continue to harken back to the conclusions of the special counsel investigation in a way that he feels will really give him a boost with voters.

WHITFIELD: And Michael, that ABC interview, the president says he's not worried at all about being prosecuted after leaving office, but we know that the Mueller team did make recommendations to other jurisdictions. Should the president be worried about how vulnerable he might be?

ZELDIN: Well, it depends on the circumstances of when he leaves office. If it's six years from now, there will be no ability to prosecute him because the statute of limitations will have run. If he loses in 2020 and then prosecutors -- new prosecutors come in and look at it, there are two or three areas in the report that Mueller indicated met the standards for obstruction of justice. I would think that it would behoove -- so, a new prosecutor not to prosecute in the same way that Ford chose not to prosecute Nixon. Sometimes it's just good for the country to put this stuff behind us, but that's up to the discretion of prosecutors that are asked to review new evidence. WHITFIELD: There's a new Fox news poll, Gabby, finding 50 percent of

registered voters think the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election. That's the highest number in two years of that poll asking the question. So given the president's recent comments about listening to foreign adversaries for any kind of dirt, not necessarily going to the FDA right away -- FBI right away, rather, is there any way the president can really recover from this?

ORR: It's a good question. I mean, it's one of the reasons why we've seen a number of Republican lawmakers say that this was not the best move for the president. I mean, politically it's disastrous for him to have to now be defending these comments, walking them back, trying to sort of couch them in terms that he believes are less controversial. Congressman Adam Kinzinger for example, said this morning that privately, a lot of Republicans were extremely concerned about the president's remarks about accepting any kind of dirt on a political opponent from a foreign government or foreign officials.

And that's not just Adam Kinzinger's opinion. There are a number of Republicans on Capitol Hill, a number of Republicans who are facing themselves difficult re-elections in 2020 who will be asked about this, presumably in the months -- in the months ahead and will have to either defend the president and make sure that he has -- he is supporting them in their own races or -- or put themselves at odds with him and risk having him endorse a primary opponent or go after them on his Twitter feed.

WHITFIELD: And Michael, the former White House, a communications director, Hope Hicks, testifying behind closed doors this week, being the first member of the president's inner circle to be before this committee. So is the White House in a position where it could assert executive privilege?

ZELDIN: Yes, it can. We have two things. The first is, she's showing up, so unlike McGahn, who asserted presidential immunity and refused to show up at all, she is at least showing up. Then she's going to show up with her own lawyer and a lawyer from the White House counsel's office.

So if a question is asked of her, as to which the White House wants to exert executive privilege, that White House counsel lawyer will make that assertion and then the committee will have to figure out whether it's a valid assertion or not and -- and figure out a way to move on from it. The good news is she's testifying, the bad news is we don't know how extensive the executive privilege assertions will be. And unfortunately, she's testifying behind closed doors.

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And as we've learned from the Mueller report, most Americans gather their information visually and not by -- watching it on TV and not by reading, so now we're going to be left with another multi-hundred page transcript for America to read, which it won't.

WHITFIELD: And Gabby, the president, you know, was part of this 30- hour interview with ABC News; much of the material we've been talking about coming from that interview. We know, you know, after his last network -- television network interview, it's the whole Russia thing, you know, quote, that came from him. Why would -- what would motivate the president to spend so much time, when he's been so reticent for so long to do this kind of extensive television interview?

ORR: Well, if you looked at his tweets earlier this weekend, he said that he wants to do more network interviews heading into 2020. And this is really reminiscent of his media strategy back in 2016 when he first announced his presidential run. He sort of built up momentum for his presidential run based on earned media and organic media.

He -- he got all of these television opportunities and sort of built a following through those interviews. And President Trump seems to think that that could benefit him in 2020 as well. But if you're a White House aide or a communications assistant to this president and watching the fallout from this interview that he just did, you've got to be wondering whether this is a wise strategy heading into a re- election.

WHITFIELD: All right, Gabby, Michael, thank you so much.

I've got some breaking news if you're sports fans. Hopefully yes for team USA soccer. Breaking news. Team USA is now one step closer to defending its title as world champions. This afternoon they beat Chile 3 to nothing, propelling the team into the knockout phase. The victory comes days after the ladies dominated a controversial 13 to zip win over Thailand.

And many criticized the Americans for celebrating goals late in the game, saying it was in poor taste. The point of view of many of the critics, of course the team's -- the USA team not at all apologizing for their behavior. The women's team will now play their final group play match against Sweden and that is June 20th. Good luck.

All right, still ahead, a counterpunch in the cyber cold war with Russia. The U.S. has reportedly deployed potentially crippling computer code into Russia's power grid without telling President Trump.

Plus, democrats jockeying for position and face time with voters ahead of their first debate as polls show a surge for some candidates. How will those at the bottom of the pack stand out?

And presidential candidate and New York Mayor Bill De Blasio joins me with a few of those answers, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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WHITFIELD: The 2020 Democratic candidates are set to take their message directly to the voters in about a week in the first round of debates and try to stand out in a crowded field of 23. Our latest CNN poll shows these candidates in the top six. Former Vice President Joe Biden taking the lead by 14 points, but keep in mind we are still more than 500 days away from Election Day.

With me now, one of the Democratic presidential candidates, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio. Good to see you. You in this first debate, you're going to be up against candidates like Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Cory Booker and if we show that graphic one more time of the standing, I hate to break the bad news, I know you already know, but you're at the bottom. So how do you rise? How do you distinguish yourself in this very crowded field?

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK CITY, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Fred, first of all, tallest candidate in the field. That's a good way to stand out, right?

WHITFIELD: 6'5"?

DE BLASIO: And look, polling, I learned a long time ago about polling. It's not where you start, it's where you finish; right now, I've nowhere to go but up. But I have started many a race as the underdog. In fact, if you look across American political history, so many times, it's the underdog that wins, and we have eight months until the first votes are cast in Iowa. The question is really what you stand for and what you talk about.

I say something very simple, working people first; and I have to tell you, wherever I go around this country, that's what people want to hear, the want the federal government to be on the side of working people. Right now there's a pervasive belief in this country it's on the side of the wealthy and the corporations. I've shown there can be a different way. In New York City, we have put working people first; we've put money back in the hands of working people.

Its changing folks' lives with free pre-k for all children, paid sick leave for working people so they don't have to choose between a day's pay and going and getting healthy, going to see the doctor. We're now guaranteeing health care for anyone who does not have insurance; we're giving them a health care card so they can get a primary doctor. Look, these are the kinds of things that change people's lives, and I think the more Americans and Democrats that hear about these changes happening right now in the nation, the more they'll think, this is what we want for the rest of the country.

WHITFIELD: So you feel like you really have to introduce yourself to the rest of the nation. New Yorkers know you and adding to those accolades, many have applauded you since coming into office as mayor here. You do want credit for raising the minimum wage to $15. You extended public pre-k to all eligible children.

You promised to curtail police officers' use of stop and frisk and actually participated in helping to settle that constitutional lawsuit. You've increased affordable housing by adding 80,000 affordable housing units, yet at the same time you have defiantly challenged President Trump, who has threatened to cut federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities. You have committed to advocating for immigrants. But then why is it your popularity here in the city is so low? DE BLASIO: I wouldn't call it low. I mean, I won the original

election for mayor with 73 percent of the vote. It's one of the all- time highest numbers for mayoral runs in the city. I won re-election just a year and a half ago with 67 percent of the vote. Polls reflect whatever is going on at the moment and there's always controversies. This is the biggest, most diverse city in the country; we have the most vibrant press corps. There's always going to be controversy.

WHITFIELD: So you underscore the diversity of the city and then look at the field of Democratic candidates, the most diverse ever.

DE BLASIO: Yes.

WHITFIELD: But how can you ascertain what it is that voters want? I mean, how did they

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Place value on that diversity in selecting their nominee?

DE BLASIO: I think that's a great question. It's a great field because it reflects all of America. But look, here's what I've been able to do is the nation's most diverse city, is form really broad coalitions. That's how I got to become mayor, that's how I was re- elected, that's how I govern. And I think the Democratic nominee is going to have to do that.

There's all talk about us as a divided nation, but when I talk to people, it really comes down to this, they care about the kitchen table issues, they care about being able to provide for their family, and I say we have to invest in working people, we have to invest in communities. And I say very bluntly, it's not a lack of money, there's plenty of money in this world, there's plenty in this country, it's just in the wrong hands. And I'll tell you, that...

WHITFIELD: How will you persuade voters you're the one to do that? Because that's -- similar messaging is coming from some of your competition on you know, addressing the economy, the disparities in the justice system, in housing, et cetera. But there are 23 candidates and voters have to decide. And in that first debate, you only have a few minutes to distinguish yourself, so how will you prioritize that in order to convince the American electorate that your vision of America is in sync with their vision of America?

DE BLASIO: First, I'm going to be able to say to Americans that the things I want to do, I've already done. I've already achieved them in a place that's really tough to get things done in. We've done it, and I think that's powerful to people. They don't want words, they want deeds, they want actions, they want proof. We've done it here. Ask any parent of a pre-k child, ask anyone who's getting a better standard of living because of that $15 minimum wage or paid sick days.

These are the kinds of things that change people's lives. So, Fred, what I would say is the differentiation I will make is to say, look, we need a chief executive to be the president of the United States, to run this nation. You need someone who has real executive experience. We need a progressive; we need someone who has really put working people first. I've done that. I've proven it can be done. And I think what folks are looking for is a belief that you can actually do the job and of course Democrats want to know can you beat Donald Trump? And here's what I say.

I'm a New Yorker; I've watched this guy for decades. I call him Con- Don because he has a very clever habit of baiting and switching on a whole host of issues, distracting. He doesn't faze me, he doesn't confuse me, I know how to go up against him. And I think if you think about what I've done, putting me up against him in a debate, I have a very aggressive, assertive approach. That's the very thing to unnerve and throw off Donald Trump. And look, I'm very sorry that the American people got to know Donald Trump so well, but I'm the New Yorker that can get rid of him once and for all. I really believe that.

WHITFIELD: All right, more of my conversation with Mayor Bill De Blasio coming up next hour.

All right, still ahead, the city of Phoenix taking action after this shocking video after the arrest of a couple accused of shoplifting. How the mayor is responding to the controversy, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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WHITFIELD: The mayor of phoenix is apologizing to the community after cell phone video captured a disturbing police encounter involving a couple and their children. The video showed officers shouting vulgar language and pulling a gun on the couple over an alleged shoplifting incident with their two young children looking on. The couple is now planning to sue the phoenix police department for $10 million. Several officers are now on desk duty while authorities investigate this controversial arrest. CNN's Stephanie Elam has been following this story for us. Stephanie, what else is the mayor saying?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, well there's been a lot coming out from the mayor as well as the police chief here, Fred. Just to give you some context for those of us who may not have seen the video here, let's just watch a little bit of it so you can get an idea of what this looked like when it transpired. Now, you can see in this video where there are two different officers, they are both engaged with the young woman and the young man.

This is a young couple; they're engaged, in their early 20's here. The video is about 12 minutes long. It's posted to the police department's Facebook page. They're saying here that you can see Ames being kicked to the ground, his legs swept from underneath him. It looks like another officer pulls what looks like a gun on the woman getting out of the car as she comes out with her two young daughters, one on her arm and one walking beside her. She also at the time was also five months pregnant.

This video is from the end of May, but the police are saying they did not become aware of this until June. Now when you look at this, Dravon Ames is the man in the car and the woman is Iesha Harper. They're saying -- the man said that there was no sirens, no lights when they got stopped here. They're saying that the profanities being yelled were extensive and excessive. That is part of their claims here. So all of this, they're saying how they were -- one officer is trying to yank the daughter -- the youngest daughter out of the mother's arms. All of that is what's at play here.

So this is what has people so upset about this video, because of this shoplifting claim, saying this was such an excessive response. To that end, the mayor coming out and saying that she is, "deeply sorry for what this family has gone through here." I'm quoting now, "and I apologize to our community. This is not who we are and I refuse to allow this type of behavior to go unchallenged."

I have spoken directly with our police chief city manager and our public safety subcommittee chairman, "I recognize that to get to the bottom of this issue and implement meaningful change, we are going to have some uncomfortable and painful conversations. These conversations must continue until every one of our residents feel safe in our community." Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK, and so Stephanie, the mayor's apology and acknowledgement would seem to then play into this $10 million suit that the family is pursuing against the police department. At the same time, are we saying that video was Phoenix police department video and they have released it. How is it that this release in their view is to clarify -- substantiate what happened or dispute what happened?

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ELAM: Well, there's a couple of things here. First of all, this is cell phone video taken by somebody in the apartment complex where this all happened. They are saying that they did not have body cameras. So one of the things the mayor is saying will change is they're going to excel and speed up how quickly officers in all of their precincts will now have body-worn cameras.

That will happen by August. Those officers that were involved are on desk duty and the mayor is now calling for this community meeting which is going to happen on Tuesday. Also worth noting too, Fred, that the police chief, Jerry Williams, saying that she was also disturbed by the language and the action of our officers. So they're having an internal investigation, which began immediately as soon as she became aware of this.

WHITFIELD: all right, Stephanie Elam, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

Still ahead, President Trump explains why he did not answer questions on obstruction of justice in the special counsel investigation, but will it be enough to ward off democratic calls for impeachment? I'll ask a member of the crucial House Judiciary Committee, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: For months the phrases no collusion and no obstruction have been President Trump's response to the Russia investigation. But in a new portion of his interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Trump was asked why he didn't actually answer any questions on obstruction, and the President dismissed the importance of it.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: You didn't answer questions on obstruction.

TRUMP: Wait a minute, wait a minute, I did answer questions. I answered them in writing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not on obstruction.

TRUMP: I don't know. I answered a lot of questions. They gave me questions, I answered them in writing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not on obstruction.

TRUMP: Look, George, you're being a little wise guy, which is typical for you. Just so you understand, very simple, it's very simple. There was no collusion. The big thing is collusion. Now there's no collusion. That means it was a setup, in my opinion, and I think it's going to come out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me right now, democratic Texas Congresswoman and senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, Sheila Jackson Lee. Good to see you, Congresswoman. So what's your...

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): Thank you.

WHITFIELD: ...initial reaction to these comments from the President?

JACKSON LEE: Well, first of all, Fredericka, may I say happy father's day to all the fathers and wish them a wonderful day. I think that is why the judiciary committee, in particular the House Judiciary Committee is proceeding with all due and deliberate speed to fully investigate the report that Mr. Mueller gave.

We should be very clear, what Mr. Mueller indicated in volume one is that he could not find a criminal charge of conspiracy. The word collusion is just one that has become part of the vernacular, but it's not an accurate definition of what happened. There are any number of contacts with Russian adversaries by the campaign of President Trump. And many conversations that were inappropriate.

And so the work of the judiciary committee and the intelligence committee, among others, is to pierce into that and determine whether or not the President was involved in misconduct. It is clear on the obstruction of justice, which the President does not respond to, the most telling words were that of director Mueller and his team that if they could have exonerated the President, they would have.

So our job is to continue. We'll have Hope Hicks this coming week. We expect to have Mr. McGahn, it is absolutely imperative that he comes before the Judiciary Committee. There is no executive privilege that he has, Fredericka, to block his coming.

And in the interview with George Stephanopoulos, the President looked like he was relieving him of the burden. But if he did not, still there's no reason for him not to come. And Director Mueller must come before the House Judiciary Committee.

WHITFIELD: so what are the questions, what is it you want to know from Don McGahn and even hope hicks?

JACKSON LEE: Well, frankly, the public expression of the President is that Don McGahn lied when he indicated -- and by the way, he had over 150 contacts with the Mueller team, the Mueller investigation, and it comes through that report that he said that the President asked him to lie about his firing of Director Comey and as well to write a letter or write a statement that it did not occur.

That is misconduct by the person who holds the highest office in the land. So I would clearly want to ask Mr. McGahn, did you lie? Did you lie when you said that the President asked you to not tell the truth about his firing of director Comey, or I think Director Mueller in particular, and did he ask you to write a statement that you did not or he did not tell you to fire or get rid of Director Mueller?

So it was between Comey, was part of the obstruction of justice, but it was also Director Mueller. And these are the points that Mr. McGahn made in the report, Fredericka. And now in the last 72 hours the President has said he's a liar. That is a conflict. That is a conflict.

WHITFIELD: And on Hope Hicks, what information do you believe she has that is salient, valuable to your -- to the beginnings of your investigation?

JACKSON LEE: Well, Hope Hicks has been a faithful and dedicated employee and associate of the Trump administration, the Trump campaign, and we just hope that she tells the truth. She was close to the seat of power around the Flynn circumstances. She probably had much information about the people who were hired and have since been fired or since left.

She certainly would probably have some information about the notorious meeting that was held in Trump Tower but more importantly about the very close contacts made by Russians and the involvement that they had in altering the 2016 election.

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JACKSON LEE: Just by being there and being a close associate, we believe that the information that she would have about many of the activities that would warrant a finding of misconduct, she would be able to comment. Now, let me be very clear. We're not trying to target anyone. This is not a target of the Trump administration or targeting the President of the United States.

But it is important that we as the Article I body of Congress, of the United States rather, and the equal branch with Article II, it is important on behalf of the American people that we follow the rule of law or we follow the trail of facts that will connote to us or tell the American people whether the rule of law has been upheld, whether the constitution has been breached. And it really is our job to do it in a deliberate and a straightforward manner, to tell the truth.

WHITFIELD: Is Congress getting closer to impeachment proceedings?

JACKSON LEE: Well, I think what we are closer to is, and particularly in the Judiciary Committee, I voted for impeachment before twice in the last Congress. I've been one of the few members of congress and few members of the Judiciary Committee that have actually been through an impeachment process. I know how much is needed to really be on the right side of the law.

Part of it is the support and understanding of the American people. So what we're doing and what the Judiciary Committee is doing who has the responsibility of impeachment proceedings and impeachment inquiry is that we're doing all of the work that will provide the American people with its road map. We have a road map from the Mueller report. We will get a road map from our proceedings.

And out of that I believe will come the sense of the American people that misconduct has occurred in the highest office of the land and we should proceed. As you well know I've introduced H.Res.396, that is a resolution of investigation, which is also an appropriate tactic to use which would allow us to have enhanced powers of investigation, and then if we found misconduct we could proceed under Article I, Section II, Clause V.

But we are doing a lot of things in the Congress. I know you know about my HR-40 reparations commissioned to establish a commission. We'll be holding a hearing on that this coming week and we're very excited about that as well.

WHITFIELD: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate it.

JACKSON LEE: Thanks for having me.

WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.

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[14:45:00]

WHITFIELD: Welcome back. President Trump is lashing out at "The New York Times" accusing the paper of virtual treason after "The Times" published a report claiming the U.S. has escalated online attacks on Russia's power grid and they did not tell the President about it, according to sources being quoted by "The New York Times."

"The Times" are also reporting that the stepped-up program was done under new legal authorities passed by Congress and it didn't include a detailed briefing for President Trump over concerns that he might put a stop to it or spill the secrets to a foreign power, according to its sourcing. So with me now, Bob Baer, a former CIA operative and CNN intelligence and security analyst. Good to see you, Bob. So this report says the U.S. has taken these actions, but without -- without full knowledge and consent by the President. How concerning is this to you?

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: You know, Fred, it's extraordinary. I mean he is the Commander in Chief and head of the intelligence agencies and everything else. A plan like this is normally cleared through the President. It's called a finding. And they didn't do it because they don't trust the President, because is he going to call up Putin and say, hey, I'm sorry, our guys just did this, I'm going to stop them. It just never happened in American history, period.

WHITFIELD: So according to the newspaper, and I'm just quoting from the paper, saying that Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations with Russia for concern over his reaction. But at the same time, according to this reporting, the President doesn't have to be briefed on this action. It was already approved by Congress.

BAER: It may have been, but I think "The New York Times" is wrong. You always -- something this sensitive -- by the way, it should not have leaked out. But something this sensitive you've got to run past the President, especially in a time like this with tensions with Russia. I mean the fact these people are putting this -- he doesn't read anyhow, but the fact their putting programs like this in footnotes and refusing to give him details tells me that the intelligence community and the military simply doesn't trust him.

WHITFIELD: Do you see that potentially the intent of this leak isn't to embarrass the President or is it to send a message to Russia that the U.S. is on top of these matters?

BAER: I don't think so. Look, the Russians have -- they're very good at this and they have probably seen the probes from the National Security Agency and Cyber Command. They know what's going on. They're doing it to us. This is sort of a shadowy world. So the fact that we've acknowledged it I think is a huge mistake, and the problem is this administration continues to leak inside details you rarely see. This President is not in full control of his administration, period.

WHITFIELD: All right, Bob Baer, we'll leave it there for now. Thanks so much and Happy Father's Day.

Still ahead, brand new faces adding to the border crisis in Mexico, African migrants, women and children, wailing at a detention center about the poor conditions and long wait times. What Mexico plans to do, next.

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WHITFIELD: The humanitarian crisis increases at the Mexican border near Guatemala where women and children migrants are being held at a Mexican detention center and they want answers, saying the living conditions there are poor and the processing times are long. But what makes these migrants different is most of them are from Africa and not Central America. Here now is CNN's Michael Holmes.

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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: At a Mexican migrant center near the border with Guatemala, frustration and desperation in full voice. This is an example of how desperate many of these migrants are. Many of these women are telling us they're from Africa. Many, many different countries in Africa and came up to Mexico from Colombia. There are also Haitians here.

They say that people are sick and they just want to get their pass -- be processed so they can get out of this facility. The vast majority of migrants entering Mexico are from Central America, particularly El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. An untold story, though, is about migrants like these who have come from Africa, headed, they hope, for the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cameroon, there are Ghanaians, there are Nigerians, there are Congo, Angolans, there are so many Africans; Bangladesh, there are Indians, there are so many people in there.

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HOLMES: This woman wouldn't give her name but said she was from Cameroon, flew to Colombia with the help of traffickers and trekked to Mexico, a journey that can take months. The women say they have been in detention for up to three weeks in what they claim are poor conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have access to nothing. They don't do nothing. They don't want us out. They just wanting us to stay here, we don't know why. We keep asking them what is the procedure for us to leave this place. They don't tell us nothing. They don't care.

HOLMES: CNN cannot independently verify those claims. The increasing presence of migrants from outside the region Haiti, Cuba, and even India, creates added pressures for Mexico's government, which in the next few days will send thousands of troops to its southern border to hold up its end of the bargain with the Trump administration to stem the migrant tide. It will be a tough assignment for those not trained to deal with a humanitarian crisis; Mexico says it simply cannot handle on its own. Michael Holmes, CNN, Tapachula, Mexico.

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WHITFIELD: Still ahead, President Trump compares himself to Richard Nixon as he explains why he never fired the special counsel. Why he believes he will not face any legal challenges out of office, next.

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WHITFIELD: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredericka Whitfield in New York. President Trump spending this father's day at his golf club in Virginia. And while the President works on his swing, he's also once again taking a swipe at the Russia investigation. In a new interview with ABC news, the President is defending his actions and says he could have fired Special Counsel Robert Mueller if he had wanted to. Listen.

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TRUMP: Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And has to go.

TRUMP: I didn't say that. Look, Article II, I would be allowed to fire Robert Mueller. Assuming I did all of the things, I said I wanted to fire him, number one, I didn't, he wasn't fired. Number one, very importantly, but more importantly, Article II allows me to do whatever I want. Article II would have allowed me to fire him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So it sounds like.

TRUMP: I wasn't going to fire him. You know why? I watched Richard Nixon go around firing everybody and that didn't work out too well. So very simply, Article II would allow me to do it.

WHITFIELD: So, this comes as new polling shows growing support for the launching of impeachment hearings. The new NBC News - Wall Street Journal poll found 27 percent of Americans now say there is enough evidence to move forward with hearings. That's up ten points from last month. Let's check in with CNN'S White House Correspondent Boris Sanchez. So Boris, the President seems unmoved about that.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, that's right, Fred. The President with a bit of revisionist history too, in that interview with ABC news. It's surely interesting to hear him reference the Saturday night massacre as his reasoning for not firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, even though if you look closely at the report, you'll see there are at least ten different instances in which the President tried to intervene or interfere in the Russia investigation.

And perhaps the most glaring one is when he actually told White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller. McGahn threatened to quit and the President ultimately relented. But that comes directly from McGahn himself. That's something he said during an interview with the Special Counsel. So, really surprising to see the President present this counter narrative now. He was also asked about the speculation that was out there that he might be prosecuted once he leaves office. Listen to his response.

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STEPHANOPOULOS: You're not worried about being prosecuted once you leave office? TRUMP: I did nothing wrong, George. I did nothing wrong. There was

no collusion. You don't even hear Russia mentioned anymore. Russia is not mentioned. Now it's all about obstruction, obstruction of what? They built up a phony crime. They hired a man that hated Trump. He hired 18 people that were Democrats that hated Trump. Some of them contributed to Clinton's campaign. A couple of them worked for Clinton. What kind of a rigged deal is this? And then on top of it after two years and after being the most transparent in history, I gave them 1.5 million pages of documents, right? I gave them 400 or 500 witnesses. I let Don McGahn testify. He was the White House Counsel.

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SANCHEZ: As for the growing calls for impeachment, Fred, the President does not seem worried. He's reiterated that claim over and over again, that he did nothing wrong and can't be impeached for making the economy better. The President sounding really confident too, he actually tweeted today that if he's re-elected in 2020 he wouldn't be surprised if the public demanded that he run for a third term, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, don't mean to laugh, but it made me laugh. OK, Boris Sanchez, thank you so much. With me now to discuss, former federal prosecutor Lis Wiehl, she was the Council for Democrats on the impeachment of President Clinton. Good to see you.

LIS WIEHL, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Great to see you in person.

WHITFIELD: So what do you make of the President's comments about, you know, Article II allows him to have fired Robert Mueller if he wanted to, he can do anything he wants, but he refrained.

WHIEL: Well, it does allow him to. But it's interesting that McGahn himself recalled Saturday night massacre, which of course is a Nixonian term, because that's what Nixon tried to do, fire his prosecutor, which led to the Saturday night massacre. President Trump really is his own worst enemy, creating this whole idea of intent. Remember, intent is part of obstruction. To prove obstruction, which is --

WHITFIELD: There were many instances of intent.

WHIEL: You have to show intent. At all of these comments, post the Mueller report, you know the comments recently about dirt. You know, the dirt comment that we've all heard this last week about he would take dirt for --

WHITFIELD: From a foreign adversary.

WHIEL: All of these things, post the Mueller report I would say go to the intent that he had then during the Mueller report as Mueller is gathering this.

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