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Hope Hicks Testifies In Congress; Federal Reserve Makes The Decision, Steady As She Goes; Lawmakers Are Considering Legislation That Would Create Reparation Commission. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 19, 2019 - 14:00   ET


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How are you going to fund it? No agreement yet and the clock is clearly ticking -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And it's needed. Jason. Great report. Jason Carroll, thank you. And that is it for me. "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. It is good to be back. You are watching CNN. Thank you for joining me. Let me take it back to 2016 as Donald Trump made his improbable, norm- busting, poll-defying march to the White House, there was one person who was constantly at his side. Her name Hope Hicks. The often seen but rarely heard longtime aide who went from the campaign trail to the White House Communications Director after Trump's election.

And today, more than a year after she left that job, Hicks has returned to Washington, but she isn't visiting her old boss. Nope. Instead she is back on Capitol Hill testifying before a Democrat-led Committee for the first time.

The White House claims Hicks has immunity. Democrats say, "No way." While Republicans say the whole thing is a political stunt.


REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): There is no such thing as absolute immunity. This is an ongoing effort of the President of the United States to obstruct justice, to prevent Congress from finding the facts and behaving as if he's above the law.

REP. STEVE CHABOT (R-OH): I really think this is such a waste of our time and taxpayer time. There are so many more important issues that we ought to be focused on.


BALDWIN: John Dean was the White House counsel for President Nixon. He is also a CNN contributor.

And Mr. Dean a pleasure, sir. Let's just begin with full transparency here. We won't know the full details of this hearing until a transcript is actually released. But just for now, what sort of information do you think Democrats are trying to get from her testimony today? JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, she was obviously an important

witness to the Special Counsel. I think they'd like to get some of that material and understand, you know, have an actual voice behind the thing she gave Mueller. So that's one of the things.

Obviously, she has been close to the President from the outset. They probably like to know some of the things from the campaign and the transition, and she still has ongoing contact with him.

And the concept that they're invoking to prevent her from testifying, Brooke, really is unheard of. It's just way beyond any norm.

BALDWIN: On the point about ongoing contact, we actually have new reporting that they are -- her attempts to distance herself seem to be happening lately, and I want to come back to that, but about privilege, John Dean. Privilege is not being asserted here.

Instead, the White House says that Hicks has absolute immunity regarding the time that she spent at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Does absolute immunity even exist? And if so, can you explain to me the difference between the two.

DEAN: There is no such thing as absolute immunity for anybody to appear before Congress. When the U.S. decided, excuse me, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Nixon case, they absolutely said that there was no absolute privilege. Rather, it had to be weighed in each instance, as to the needs for those who are asking for the information and the person who is resisting giving the information.

Absolute privileges are very rare in the law and there is always this balancing process. So this total immunity is part of the so-called executive theory, the unitary executive theory that will theoretically make the person immune to Congress, and that just doesn't play in our system.

BALDWIN: What about -- let's just keep -- keeping this in mind that Hope Hicks, unlike so many current and former White House aides, she has testified before Congress, you know, she did speak with Mueller, she has turned over documents. So what do you make of that?

DEAN: Well, I understand she didn't give very much testimony when she appeared, and she claimed some sort of privilege then as well. So we don't have that transcript either. But the fact that she went to Mueller, the grand jury has really established its ability to pierce presidential privilege that happened in U.S. versus Nixon.

But the court spoke in broader terms generally, while we've never had a case directly resolving the powers of Congress versus the power of the President over information. I think that's where Trump wants to go. He wants to stall as long as he can.

Brooke, there's nothing -- this is just clearly as many members of Congress are calling it, it's a cover up we're watching.

BALDWIN: And as we wait to get the transcript in some time, back to your point, you know, the President had considered her like a daughter, she was so close to Trump.

[14:05:02] BALDWIN: And now CNN has learned that the two actually rarely speak. Sources say it is Hicks attempt to distance herself from Trump world as a whole. But she still supports this President. Do you think that maybe she thinks there's a legal risk here in speaking with him?

DEAN: Let me give you a little history. I noticed after people left the Nixon administration, not very many of them had Nixon's -- their time at the Nixon White House on their resumes. It wasn't that good selling point.

And I think Hope Hicks is smart enough to realize that being too close to this presidency indefinitely is not going to be a career booster. So I think there's some of that.

BALDWIN: You would know that having lived that history, John Dean. Thank you so much as always for coming on.

I want to get to some news now, just in, the Federal Reserve makes the decision, steady as she goes. They will keep the key interest rate unchanged despite these multiple tax from the President. CNN Business Politics and Business Correspondent, Cristina Alesci is with me now, and so tell me more.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: So what's really important here is the forward guidance and the language that we're getting out of the Fed right now, just hot off the press.


ALESCI: The Fed is saying that it is remaining open, it's hinting to an interest rate cut. This is what the market and Trump wanted to see. And it also indicates that it's doing so, it is leaving that option open because of economic data, soft economic data.

They changed the language around economic activity from solid to moderate, and they also indicated that business fixed income investment has been soft. That means that they're seeing some troubling signs, perhaps in the economy, and they want to leave the door open for a potential cut to stimulate the economy.

But I want to make one thing clear here, the Fed is acting because of economic data, and the softness that we are seeing in the economy, maybe for two reasons. One, the stimulus from the tax cuts are wearing off. At the same time, the President is launching this trade war, which everyone believes is hurting the U.S. economy, and the President is simply looking for a scapegoat and blaming the Fed for it.

Meanwhile, his own policies are contributing to a slowdown in the economy.

BALDWIN: You were in my office earlier today and we were talking about how this eventually was going to come down. We just didn't know which way it would, and to your point about the President as he had opened the door to potentially firing Jerome Powell, and you so accurately said, "Well, no, he can't technically do that." And not only that, it's the FOMC, the Federal Open Markets Commission who has the power to cut the interest rate, not even Mr. Powell himself.

So the question to you is, does the President even fully understand what the Fed does? How it works?

ALESCI: Yes, I mean, we talked about this and you're right. I mean, it's a group decision from a group within inside the Federal Reserve that actually makes the decision.

So all of this, you know, discussion about potentially firing Jerome Powell or demoting him from his position won't really have an effect. So that leads me to believe that he really doesn't want to fire him, because if he fires him or demotes him, who is he going to blame for his failed - for Trump's failed economic policies?

And I'm not saying his economic policies have failed. But I'm saying that to the extent where he is out there saying the economy isn't doing well because of the Fed. If the Fed -- if Jerome Powell isn't around as the scapegoat, then who is the scapegoat?

And that's, you know, that's part of the equation here. So we don't know what's really in Trump's head as usual.

BALDWIN: And again, just quickly, we will be hearing from Jerome Powell himself.

ALESCI: Right.

BALDWIN: At the bottom of the hour.

ALESCI: And investors will listen to how concerned he is about these economic numbers. The thing that stuck out to me is this business fixed income, sorry, business fixed -- fixed investment has been soft. That's going to be a big thing for Wall Street to pay attention to.

BALDWIN: Well, listen for that. Cristina Alesci, thank you very much. Hot off the presses as she said. Let's move on to this. The issue of reparations for slavery front and center today on Capitol Hill. Massive crowds turning out for today's hearing before House Subcommittee.

Lawmakers are considering legislation that would create a Commission to study the consequences and impacts of slavery and make recommendations for Reparations proposals.

Democratic Presidential Candidate and Senator Cory Booker and author, Ta-Nehisi Coates who wrote "The Case for Reparations" five years ago for "The Atlantic" are among those who testified today. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee is pushing legislation today.


REP. SHEILA JACKSON-LEE (D-TX): I am clearly a child that has walked this path. No? I did not pick cotton. But I will say that those who picked cotton created the very basic wealth of this nation, for cotton was king. There was no other product.

And so I ask my fellow colleagues, that this is simply a constructive discussion that will lead to the practical responses.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I say that I am broken hearted and angry right now. Decades of living in a community where you see how deeply unfair this nation is still to so many people who struggle, who work hard, who do everything right but still find themselves disproportionately with lead in their water, super funds in their neighborhood, schools that don't serve their genius, healthcare disparities that still affect their body and their wellbeing.

We as a nation must address this persistent inequalities or we will never fully achieve the strength and the possibility. Hope is the active conviction that despair will not have the last word.

TA-NEHISI COATES, AUTHOR: Yesterday, when asked about reparations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a familiar reply, "America should not be held liable for something that happened 150 years ago, since none of us currently alive are responsible."

This rebuttal proffers a strange theory of governance, that American accounts are somehow bound by the lifetime of its generations. But well into this century, the United States was still paying our pensions to the heirs of Civil War soldiers.

We are in treaties that date back some 200 years despite no one being alive, who signed those treaties. Many of us would love to be taxed for the things we are solely and individually responsible for. But we are American citizens, and that's bound to a collective enterprise that extends beyond our individual and personal reach.

It would seem ridiculous to dispute invocations of the founders of the greatest generation on the basis of a lack of membership in either group.

DANNY GLOVER, ACTOR, ACTIVIST: Despite much progress over the centuries, this hearing is yet another important step in the long and heroic struggle of African-Americans to secure reparations for the damages inflicted by enslavement and post emancipation and racial exclusionary policies.


BALDWIN: We should also point out today's hearing coinciding with Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery. Next hour, I'll talk to a former NAACP President, Cornell Brooks and get his reaction to Leader McConnell and so much more. So stay tuned for that.

I just mentioned Senator Booker, just in, the 2020 candidate calling on Joe Biden to apologize for remarks he made about working with a segregationist in his past. Plus a new poll shows Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are tied for second behind Biden. What is behind the rise?

And breaking news on a plan to target migrant families in the United States that Trump may have previewed in his tweet Monday night. We will ask Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas for his reaction. Stay right here. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:18:05] BALDWIN: Just in to CNN, a new look at where the 2020 Democratic hopefuls stand and the big news right this moment is who is in second place? Now Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders are neck-and-neck for second place in this new Monmouth University poll.

Former Vice President Joe Biden still top of the heap with 32 percent, but this is just the latest poll showing Warren picking up momentum.

CNN Political Reporter, Arlette Saenz and CNN Political Correspondent, M.J. Lee are with me now and M.J., I know you have been in with the Warren campaign. You know, she's been standing out in this crowd for a while.

I know her campaign officials -- their official counts of policy proposals sits at 22, and the list on your screen isn't actually even all of them. How does this contribute to her rise in the polls?

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no question that there is something happening with Elizabeth Warren's campaign. Yes, we are seeing it in the polls. But even aside from that, I mean, you can tell that the energy is different when you go out to Warren campaign events.

I've been covering her since New Year's Eve when she launched her campaign, and you know, the energy is different. And some of that is expected because in the beginning, a lot of these folks that were showing up, they were undecided. They didn't know a whole lot about Elizabeth Warren and now they are hearing her talk about her ideas more.

BALDWIN: Which is something that's changed.

LEE: Well, okay, if you talk to say 10 people that are showing up to Warren's campaign events, you ask them what is it that you like about her? Almost to a tee, Brooke, every single person will say something to the effect of, "She seems to have a plan for everything. I feel like she has ideas for all of the problems that she says she wants to solve."

I think the whole "I am the ideas" candidate, I am a candidate with a lot of substance policy proposals.

BALDWIN: People are craving substance.

LEE: People are craving that. I mean, I remember at one of her first Town Hall events, an electrician got up and asked her a question about net metering, and I thought I don't really know what that is. But Warren responded to that without missing a beat and she does have this ability to talk about pretty complicated issues in pretty plain English. And I do think that's something we're going to see at the debates next week.

[14:20:15] BALDWIN: So she is moving up in the world, according to this Monmouth poll. Arlette, to you because you've been covering Joe Biden. You have new reporting that his advisers are warning him not to reference the segregationist senators like James Eastland, what are you hearing?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Brooke, our colleague Jeff Zeleny and I have learned that in the past, Biden's advisers have warned him against referencing these segregationist senators that he used to work with back in the Senate.

But last night, Biden did go ahead and reference to segregation; specifically, that was James Eastland and Herman Talmadge. And there's one quote has drawn a lot of criticism today. And that was when he was talking about James O. Eastland, and he said, "He never called me, boy, he always called me son." And bite and went on to say, "Well, guess what? At least there was some civility."

He was trying to argue that that was a time when there was more civility in the Senate. But those comments have drawn criticism from Biden's 2020 rivals.

One of those being Cory Booker, who has really refrained from, you know, directly engaging at times or taking on some of his colleagues and I wanted to read you a statement, a very pointed statement from Booker about Biden, he said, "Vice President Biden's relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people and for everyone."

He added, "I'm disappointed that he hasn't issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans. He should."

Our colleague Rebecca Buck has learned that that Booker is personally very disappointed in these comments. We're going to see -- we haven't heard directly yet whether there will be any further response from the Biden team, but we'll see going forward whether they will try to do that.

BALDWIN: Yes, you're right. It was a rare sort of fiery comment from the New Jersey Senator. One more question, and M.J., this is this is to you. Of course, this is after the full rollout last night in Orlando. President Trump and Andrew Gillum had tweeted at Hillary Clinton saying this, "She must be exhausted," because obviously referencing all the times he mentioned her last night because he says, "Cause you've been running through Donald Trump small mind for a long time."

And so she has just responded, so this is what she has tweeted. "I can handle it. Blessed with stamina. And thankfully, I didn't stay up late last night watching InfoWars." So this is not surprising shade from, you know, former presidential hopeful, but still, it's like, he can't quit her.

LEE: Right. I mean, if you were watching the Trump rally last night, we really were reliving 2016 and a lot of ways, right? President Trump talking more about Hillary Clinton than his vision for the country if he were reelected.

And I think in a lot of ways, we're seeing President Trump sort of revert back to the very messages that he felt like worked so well for him. Right?

We heard him talk about building a wall, draining the swamp. All the mentions to Hillary Clinton, as he talked about the sort of nationalist themes that he really feeds off of when he can see that the crowd is sort of loving it.

I think the big question, of course, for the President is, he now has a record to run on, too right? So are the people who were inclined to support him back in 2016, do they see what he has done since coming to Washington and feel like, yes, he didn't live up to his promises, or do they feel like he has not?

Bald That's the million dollar question. How can he -- how much does he look to the past which obviously got him in the White House versus moving into the future and what he can promise America? M.J. Lee, thank you. Arlette, thank you very much for your reporting, of course, on Biden.

I want to move on, America's air quality has gotten worse under President Trump. And now he's just rolled back another Obama rule on the environment that will make it even worse.

Plus, just call it the acting administration. Many key post still vacant despite serious situations, both domestic and abroad. Is this how the President prefers it? We will be right back.


[14:28:35] BALDWIN: The Trump administration just announced a major rollback of environmental regulations particularly when it comes to American coal mines.

EPA Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, who is a former coal industry lobbyists says that by reversing Obama era clean energy goals, it gives economic power back to individual states.


ANDREW WHEELER, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: We are gathered here today because the American public elected a President with a better approach, and today, we're fulfilling his directive.

The Affordable Clean Energy Rule, ACE give states the regulatory certainty they need to continue to reduce emissions and provide affordable and reliable energy for all Americans.

From 2005 to 2017, total U.S. energy related CO2 emissions fell by 14 percent. We owe much of this progress to the genius of the private sector and the free markets, not the heavy hand of government.


BALDWIN: Let's go straight to CNN's Tom Foreman and Tom we just heard the administration portray what was called this new ACE rule as good for the economy, but explain in more specifics what it eliminates?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What this is, is a direct shot at the Obama legacy. His was the Clean Power Plan. This is the Affordable Clean Energy Plan they're going to replace it with. What's the difference between them?

You mentioned one of them there a moment ago, the Clean Power Plan, Obama's plan, relied on Federal regulations to start squeezing what they considered the more dirty energy producing parts of the sector.

The Affordable Clean Energy Plan, as we just heard counts on the states to do that, not Federal regulations.