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CNN TONIGHT

Democratic Candidates Gathered in South Carolina for the Clyburn Fish Fry; Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA), Presidential Candidate Was Interviewed About His Standing in the Crowded Field of Candidates; New Sexual Allegations Pop Up Against President Trump. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired June 21, 2019 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: And grand theft of a firearm grand goes to number in value. She spent five nights in jail before she was granted bond. Her estranged husband with the allegations of domestic violence and trying to run her off the road

with a car, one night. Only in America.

Let's bring in CNN Tonight host tonight Laura Coates, in for D. Lemon right now. It's good to have you, counselor. I'm not saying they didn't apply the law the right way, but, boy, is this a window into how screwed up we are. I'm a gun owner. I get the individual right to the Second Amendment. That's not what this is about. It's not all or none. That's what I mean by only in America.

They can't enforce those orders. You can't own a gun. OK. How do they enforce it? Somebody has to tell them where the guns are, and they have to go and get them with the sheriff. That's what she should have done.

But the idea that you get more time in jail for giving the guns that you're afraid will be used against you about your allegedly abusive spouse than the abusive spouse.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, how is that justice, Chris? I mean, when I was doing a prosecution for domestic violence cases, the reason you actually have that plan that says you can't own a gun, Chris, is because violence comes after these sorts of crimes. I mean people are fearing for their lives.

So, her mind was to take the gun out of this person's hand and hand it to the authorities, and for that she's punished? I mean that doesn't make any sense to me. It's kind of that moment when common sense leaves the building.

CUOMO: Right.

COATES: And instead people say, let's follow the letter of the law as opposed to, come on. She didn't steal the weapons to put them on the black market. She said, I don't want to be shot by this weapon.

CUOMO: Right.

COATES: Here you go, officers. CUOMO: This is the same -- look, that's my issue about only in

America, which is where you'll have someone who is like, listen, I want a weapon. I'm a law-abiding person.

COATES: Right.

CUOMO: I want to protect my life, and that's what I want it for. They're in this existential battle with the right for someone who is telling someone that they want to kill everybody and they have a huge arsenal that they've gotten legally, and we're treating them the same way, and it's this contorted thing. but here could this be a defense?

Let me try this out on you as the certainly superior legal mind.

COATES: Sure.

CUOMO: How did I steal it, if I'm representing the woman, if I never had an intent to keep them? I brought them to the police station. How did I steal them? I'll give you the entry. I'll give you the entry. It was a trespass. But I argue emergency on that because I know him, and he was going to hurt me. But in terms of the stealing, I gave them to you. I didn't keep them for myself.

COATES: I mean, the idea you're saying, look, I borrowed it. I didn't steal your necklace. I borrowed it to wear it for a night, and then I was going to return it to the proper people --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: You brought it to the police.

COATES: That's what they are -- it's right, to the police but their argument is going to be, listen, you're really kind of undermining us here if you're saying to play devil's advocate. Look, rely on the officers to do the right thing. Rely on the courts. You went through the proper procedures to get that restraining order. Let the process unfold.

Now, of course that would mean that we all had to have so much trust, Chris, in the process, and we know unfortunately the process lets us down. Thank you, Chris. What a great show tonight as always.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Laura Coates sitting in for Don Lemon.

And you are looking right now at that Clyburn fish fry as it's wrapping up right now in the great state of South Carolina, where the Democratic candidates, more than 20 of them by the way, made their case to voters ahead of that state's key primary contest early next year.

They're especially, especially trying to reach out to African-American voters, who by the way make up 60 percent of the Democratic electorate in South Carolina.

Let's bring in CNN political reporter Arlette Saenz who's at the fish fry in Columbia. Arlette, you're there. What's going on, on the scene? You've got more than 20 Democratic rival who have descended on this world-famous fish fry. Fill us in. What's the headline?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, Laura. This is really such a unique moment in presidential politics. You have nearly every single Democratic candidate standing on that stage, taking a photo together, and they're here in South Carolina, which is such a critical state in the entire primary process.

As you mentioned, those candidates are here in part to courts black voters here that make up the majority of the vote of the Democratic primary electorate. And tonight, you had each of the candidates in their own ways make their small, short pitch to voters on why they should be the nominee. Take a listen to a few of the remarks that the candidates had to make tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We know that when everyone's story is included in our national story, it is only then that we can right the wrongs and set this country on the right path.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But eight years of damage will be almost impossible to get back. So, folks, I'm here to tell you I hope to be your nominee. I'm going to work as hard as I can to get your support.

[23:05:04] SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To put the indivisible back in this one nation under God.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we're going to bring our people together around an agenda that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we need to come together and win and every great thing my colleagues have settle up here, we need to get done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: Now, those candidate speeches just wrapped up and now they're going to have some time to mingle in the crowd. I was standing offstage from the majority of those speeches, and it was so unique to see those interactions between the candidates who so often are not in the same place together, but here they are making their pitch in South Carolina.

COATES: I love that Bernie didn't wear the t-shirt. I have the full shirt on anyway. But one candidate, Arlette, not there was Mayor Pete Buttigieg. What's that all about?

SAENZ: Mayor Pete Buttigieg was back in South Bend, Indiana, attending a march after there was that shooting back in his city. He decided that he needed to go back for that event. He may be making his return here so South Carolina tomorrow. There's going to be more events going forward as the weekend continues. Laura. COATES: Arlette Saenz, thank you. Now, I want to bring in David

Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Obama. Andrew Gillum, the former Democratic nominee for governor in Florida, and Aisha Moodie- Mills, a Democratic strategist.

All of you are very well aware of the power of the black vote, and it's importance in any election. But Mayor Gillum, I'll start with you. The black vote, this term that seems like there's a monolithic group of voters is a little bit off, but what does the candidates, what does a candidate have to do to try to appeal to this so-called black vote? What issues are the most important?

ANDREW GILLUM (D), FMR. FLORIDA GOVERNOR NOMINEE: Well, I mean you're right to point out that black vote is not a monolith. We don't all go in and make the same considerations and vote the same way. We just saw a forum down in South Carolina a week ago hosted by the Black Economic Alliance which focused very principally on how it is that we are going to create black wealth. What are those issues and barriers that stand in the way of entrepreneurship, access to lending and capital, particularly for black women?

Education remains an ever-present issue for so many in the black community, housing, criminal justice and criminal justice reform at a deeper level and not just topical. And so, the candidates really do need to be hitting on these kinds of issues.

COATES: So, what I'm hearing, David, is that black voters have the same issues that of course, all American voters do -- the economy and other issues around the kitchen table. But South Carolina is very unique in that black voters make up about 60 percent of the Democratic primary electorate. What does a candidate need to do in South Carolina to build up that base, and why is it so important to go there?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, you're turning the corner. It's the fourth contest in a series of primaries and caucuses. It's always been a very significant one, in part because it's the first one where there's this very, very significant African-American vote.

It was critical for Barack Obama in 2008, but I will tell you, Laura, he would not have done that well there had he not done well in the previous contests. One of the questions that voters in South Carolina had was, was America ready to accept an African-American as a candidate for president. When Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses, suddenly that activated all of this support in South Carolina.

COATES: Aisha, CNN caught up with Congressman Clyburn, and he gave Joe Biden some cover for his controversial comments about working with segregationist senators. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): I think it's a little bit ludicrous to blame someone for working with people you don't agree with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think he was celebrating a racist? CLYBURN: No. Come on. When you celebrate your ability to work with a

racist, you're celebrating the racist? That's like saying -- I enjoy being able to work with Republicans. I'm not a Republican. I don't celebrate anybody who is, but I work with them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: Aisha, I'm hearing a bit of perhaps a generational divide here between those who are saying, listen, what he was saying was far more nuanced. It was about crossing the aisle. Maybe a poor analogy to use about that particular segregationist senator, but is his message more being about tone deaf, or is it a generational divide between the newer wing of the Democratic Party and Biden's wing?

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think it's all of the above. So what's really remarkable is that Vice President Biden launched his campaign talking about how horrendous Donald Trump was for claiming there were good people on both sides of Charlottesville.

[23:10:01] And what is remarkably interesting about that is the way his remarks came off -- and let's be clear. I don't think that anyone would suggest that Biden is a racist. He has long relationships with African-Americans and has done some really great things on Civil Rights for sure.

But his comments about how the segregationist called him son and how he had some warm engagement with these people, who frankly were horrible people, gets to a tone to me that's very similar of, there are good people on both sides.

And I think that that's where we are, is we're in a place now where it's not OK to have empathy for racists and racism. There aren't two sides to that coin. And what you're seeing with black people -- you know, the conversation's already been had about how we are not monolithic and we care deeply about issues.

We also care about the depth of empathy and the depth of relationships and understanding that a candidate will have with our community beyond just the breadth of I've been around 40-something years and I marched with Martin and I know some black people.

COATES: Well, you know, it's interesting you bring that up, because the irony is that Biden came out talking about fighting for the soul of the nation based on Charlottesville. Of course, one person who may be able to clarify things and figure out his position and essentially where his heart would be was somebody who made him the vice president of the United States.

David, why do you think President Barack Obama has not weighed in on this, even to stick up for his former vice president?

AXELROD: Well, look, I haven't spoken to him about this. I don't know whether it is in his plans. I know that he has a lot of affection for Biden. He knows what's in Biden's heart. I don't think that Biden was saying that he had respect for racism or respect even for racist views. I think he was making a point, and he chose a terrible example. He was

making a point about the fact in order to get things done in a democracy, you've got to work with people even people you disagree with in really significant ways.

But the fact that he chose two kind of rabid, you know, segregationists was just a terrible decision on his part. And I think the real issue -- this wasn't really a window into his view on race. This was a window into his ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.

COATES: And of course, there's other windows to look into, one being that of Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has a new video out, Mayor Gillum, that shows a moment when the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is asked to confront that legacy of racism from the Black Lives Matter movement. There's a -- he's there for a march after a police shooting that left a black man dead this week. Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's not going to happen.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ma'am --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's not going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're running for president. If you want black people to support you and vote for you. That's not going to happen.

BUTTIGIEG: Ma'am -- I'm not asking for your vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are not going to get it either.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: Now things did calm down after this, but this clearly showed a tension that the South Bend mayor has to contend with. And of course, he ends, Mayor Gillum, by saying, I'm not asking for your vote. Mistake?

GILLUM: No. I mean I think what the mayor is trying to do is to show that he is there in his capacity as the mayor of the city to try to shepherd them through what is a difficult time.

As a former mayor, having to have dealt with crime in my own community and these kinds of complex issues, they aren't easy. There's a police union. There are lots of protections there. He doesn't frankly have a lot of power as it relates to what he's able to do in that process at this time.

So, the best thing he can do is by physically being back at home in his job as the mayor, trying to assure people how he would deal with these kinds of tragedies on a much larger scale.

COATES: It's extremely well said, Mayor Gillum. David, Mayor Gillum, and Aisha, thank you.

With more than 20 Democratic candidates vying for the support of South Carolina voters, especially African-American voters, how does any single candidate stand out in a crowded field? Well, I'll ask Washington Governor Jay Inslee what he's doing because he joins me next.

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COATES: We're going back live to one of the biggest political events of the summer, the South Carolina fish fry.

And joining us now, just off the stage, is one of the Democrats vying for the nomination. We're joined by Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Welcome to the show. I'm glad to have you here.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I wish you were here. Great fish.

COATES: Well, I am hungry. Thank you for rubbing it in, governor. I appreciate that. You made it to the debate stage, but it seems your campaign is having a little bit of trouble getting off the ground. Do you think that the South Carolina experience can be a turning point for you?

INSLEE: Yes, I got to tell you, as you know, I'm the candidate who is saying that we need to make defeating the climate crisis the number one job in the United States. I was just talking to the Mayor of Columbia, Steve Benjamin, who was telling me about all the damage his community is suffering because of the tremendous precipitation events that have washed out their canal. Millions of dollars of damage.

So, this is something that Americans across the country are understanding. People's homes are burning in California. Their fields are flooding in the Midwest. They're being inundated here in South Carolina. So, yes, I think it is resonating. I'm starting where Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter started, as a governor who has had some success, and I'm excited about the excitement we're seeing now.

COATES: Now here you are in South Carolina, and you know that the black vote is going to be very critical to your success in South Carolina. How are you tying the climate crisis discussion and platform to what is experienced in many communities across this country in terms of environmental racism?

[23:20:07] You've got lead in certain water. You've got the idea of putting certain plants and affecting the air quality. What are you going to do about it?

INSLEE: Well, not only do we need to defeat the climate crisis, we need to embed environmental justice in the mission to do so. And that means caring for the front-line communities that are frequently communities of poverty and color. These are communities that are living on top of the superfund sites.

I met Harold Mitchell, he is a black leader in Spartanburg, who has built a low-income facility on top of a superfund site. That's the type of investment we need to make. So, my plan to put eight million people to work embeds this idea of environmental justice. We can have a more just society at the same time we defeat climate crisis, and that's a plan I've got. It's a vision statement. We need to make a new national mission for the United States.

COATES: Well, you know, the latest data about greenhouse gas emissions, which is I think from 2016, suggests that Washington state's problems have somehow worsened in spite of the problems you've tried to implement -- and the policies you've tried to implement. If those -- if that data is true, does that hurt your message going forward?

INSLEE: No, because we're winning in Washington State. We fought the fossil fuel industry. They put in $32 million to try to stop us, but they have failed. We have now passed four of the best bills in the United States.

I signed the best 100 percent clean electricity bill a few weeks ago, the best energy efficiency bill, one of the best bills to outlaw super pollutants way for people to get access who are in the middle class to get electric cars.

So, we're winning in Washington State. We're showing a template in my state of what we can do across the United States. And you know, when you do this, you know what you get is the best economy in the United States. That's the State of Washington where we're putting people to work with the biggest wage growth, the biggest GDP growth.

And we're doing that not despite the fact that we are committed to clean energy but because we are committed to clean energy. Look, this is a can-do nation. When we have a can-do president, we're going to put eight million people to work. That's the destiny of the United States.

COATES: Governor Inslee, thank you for your time.

INSLEE: Thank you.

COATES: You know, an author is accusing the president of forcing himself on her in a department store in the 1990s. What she's saying happened and why the president's denial has at least one problem with it, up next.

[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COATES: New tonight, President Trump is issuing a strong denial against accusations that he forced himself on advice columnist E. Jean Carroll at a department store 20 years ago. Carroll makes the allegations in a just released New York magazine article. And in an explosive interview Friday with NBC News, Carroll described the incident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

E. JEAN CARROLL, PRESIDENT TRUMP ACCUSER: I had a run-in with the president in a dressing room in Bergdorf's. I fought. It was shocking. It was against my will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: In the article, she provides more details, writing, "The moment the dressing room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips."

She continues, "I am so shocked, I shove him back and start laughing. Again, he seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time. And as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coat dress and pulls down my tights."

She goes on to describe a graphic assault which does include penetration. The president says, "I've never met this person in my life, adding, shame on those who make up false stories of assault to try to get publicity for themselves or sell a book or carry out a political agenda."

Despite Trump saying they never met, Carroll published a picture showing her chatting with Trump during a holiday party in the 1980s. A New York magazine says they reached out to Carroll's two friends who corroborated that she did disclose the alleged attack at the time.

Trump says the story is made up and, quote, "should be sold in the fiction section." CNN has reached out to Carroll, but she has yet to respond. The editor who worked on this piece, New York magazine's features director, Genevieve Smith joins us now. Welcome, Genevieve. You know, did you have any hesitation about publishing this account by E. Jean Carroll?

GENEVIEVE SMITH, FEATURES DIRECTOR, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: I don't know if I would call it hesitation, but it was obviously something that we thought about a lot, we look at every angle, we did everything that we could to corroborate the parts that were possible to corroborate. It certainly wasn't something that we took lightly.

COATES: In what way did you try to corroborate the story or tried to vet?

SMITH: So, we did talk to the two women that she said that she told at the time. They were able to corroborate that she -- they do remember being told that at the time. They also provided details of the conversation that she hadn't written about that they remembered.

And we also reached out to Bergdorf to see if there was any possibility that they had preserved tapes or anything from that time. They hadn't which is a huge shock.

[23:29:58] But then the other thing is it's in light of many other similar accusations and we did consider it in the time line of those other accusations and it does come in a period in the mid-90s where there are several accusations around accusations around the same time

COATES: So why not publish the names of the women who corroborated her story?

SMITH: That's between E. Jean and her friends and it's their private decision. We know who they are, we talked to them, and that's up to them.

COATES: Now, of course, there are multiple accusations in this piece, not just -- you know, President Trump is one of the people who is named, she names a number of high-profile people as well. But would you have published this story had the lightning rod name of Donald Trump not been attached to it?

SMITH: I -- absolutely. I really think we would. I don't know if it would get the attention that it's getting, but it is a heart-wrenching and beautiful memoir that talks about her life in relation to men throughout her entire life.

When she tells this story, it's contextualized among all these encounters that she has had from the time she was a child. So I certainly think it would be worth publishing her account with or without this particular story.

COATES: Thank you, Genevieve.

SMITH: Thank you.

COATES: Democrats are scheduling all sorts of hearings related to the Mueller investigation. But are they making a mistake in holding them behind closed doors? And are they making their case to the American public? I don't think so. I'll make my case next.

[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COATES: Welcome back. Now it's time for me to present my case to you. Look, it's been about three months since special counsel Mueller wrapped up his investigation. It's been three months since the first Barr letter. It's been just over two months since the Mueller report was released for America to read, at least in part.

And for those of us who actually did read it -- I'm talking to you, Congress -- one fact was crystal clear. Robert Mueller was asking. He was begging Congress to take the baton and put the investigative facts in front of the American people. So what have congressional Democrats accomplished? Not much.

Why? Well, let's look at this week's comedy routine for a lesson in investigative incompetence. Today's star witness, Felix Sater, overslept and missed his hearing. No one went and got him. Earlier this week, Hope Hicks might as well have missed her hearing for all that we actually learned from her testimony. You know she even refused to say where her desk was at the White House?

For Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler's part, he repeatedly called her the wrong name. Her name is Hope Hicks. That's just two syllables. Maybe it wasn't the point he was trying to make. Look, I'm a federal prosecutor. The burden I knew was always on me to prove my case, to persuade the jury. Never would I have allowed a witness to make a fool out of me or the United States of America.

A witness overslept? It's not school. You didn't miss homeroom. You missed an actual hearing in front of Congress. Is Congress a courtroom? No. But Congress is ruled by the court of public opinion. It's up to Democrats to make their case to the jury, and that jury is the American people, especially since they really believe the president committed a crime. And so far, they have not made a strong case.

Take this newly released transcript from Hope Hicks. According to Democrats, the White House objected to her answering not one, not even 10, not even 50, 155 different questions. In doing so, Hicks asserted absolute immunity. But let's be clear about what absolute immunity really is. It's about as real as the word "covfefe," but she got away with it. No consequences.

Democratic House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler did push back a little on those assertions. Let me be fair. But did anyone truly take Hicks or the team of lawyers to task for stonewalling? No. Only after the fact Chairman Nadler said he could destroy the White House's immunity argument in court. But he could have done that in the hearing. Why didn't he try to fight harder?

In his own hearing, when the gavel belonged to him, why punt to the courts and let them have the gavel? This is your ball to carry. Listen to what Democratic House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings had to say about that testimony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): The president and the DOJ seems to want to hold back a lot of information, but this has been the pattern, making it almost impossible for committees to do their jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: Well, that's generous. They seem to be holding back with information? What also seems to be apparent is maybe it's not just the White House making it impossible for Congress to do its job. Maybe Congress has relinquished too much power by not demanding more.

I repeat, a witness overslept and missed a hearing today. Hope Hicks couldn't tell you where her office was in the White House or wouldn't tell you. All bark and no bite. And they're going to need to do a whole lot more if they actually want to make their case to the American people in the court of public opinion.

[23:40:05] I want to talk about all of this with my guest, Elie Honig.

(LAUGHTER)

COATES: Let me tell you what --

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL AND STATE PROSECUTOR: We're singing from the same sheet.

COATES: I'm over here like leaning back, Elie, thinking to myself, how would you grade the Democrats in this? I mean, you've heard my take about it. Are they actually doing the right thing? Are they making their case strong?

HONIG: D-minus, barely squeaking by. No, the Democrats have gotten steamrolled at every turn. They have not stood up for themselves. Here we are as you said about three months out from the Mueller report coming out. We have not heard from a single witness and we keep hearing these proclamations from Jerry Nadler and other House Democrats about what they're going to do.

We are going to hear from Don McGahn, we are going to hear from Mueller, we are going to go to court, but nothing. We are in the middle, end of June and still nothing. We've got the recess coming up in August and still nothing. And the Hope Hicks testimony yesterday was just a complete sham. They got nothing out of it. They struck a terrible deal and came out of it with next to nothing.

COATES: And today, someone said, oh, I overslept. They are actually reporting that the former business associate, Felix Sater, missed because he took a sedative last night apparently and couldn't bother to come up. What do you make of that?

HONIG: Yeah. My antenna, my prosecutor antennas are up on that one. Count me skeptical. I think you send the sergeant at arms out at that point. OK, you overslept, it's 9:30, get up, get dressed, we'll get you there at 10:00, right? You've got to play hardball.

The other side is certainly playing hardball. The White House is putting up a straight stone wall here and the Democrats haven't really done anything to come up against it.

COATES: And because of that, I'm wondering, Elie, I mean, what kind of credibility does the Congress have now? Are the American people just looking at them like they are jokes? What's happening? You had an interesting exchange on Twitter --

HONIG: Yeah.

COATES: -- with Representative Ted Lieu about this very issue.

HONIG: Yeah. So, I was critical yesterday after the Hicks hearing. I said Jerry Nadler got played. I said it was a mistake to let her testify behind closed doors where no one can see it. And that's what leads to 150 objections. No one is going to object to 150 times in front of the bright lights and cameras.

COATES: The power of television would have helped that.

HONIG: You got it. So, I put up a critical post and Representative Lieu, to his credit, responded directly. He essentially said, "Look, we did the best we could." It is better to get some testimony from Hope Hicks -- minimal. She wouldn't say where her office was, but some testimony than nothing. And what we did here, according to Representative Lieu, we set the stage to go into court because now we have this example of how ridiculous the objections were, which I kind of understand but I kind of don't.

Why do you need to do this whole display of failure where you have all these objections when the president has already said, we're fighting all the subpoenas. Isn't that enough? When they've already asserted this, as you said, this fabricated absolute immunity argument, go into court.

COATES: By the way, Elie, they've got about two volumes of Robert Mueller, special counsel, talking about all the reasons they can lay out in order to go forward with this. Are we ever going to hear from him? We keep hearing that he will, he might and he should. Are we going to hear from Mueller?

HONIG: It's another example where I think the credibility has come into question. We've heard a lot of big promises, we will, we will force him, we will subpoena him if we have to, soon, soon, soon, but when? When? What are we waiting for?

Look, that's going to be a game-changing moment. I think the three witnesses who will make the biggest impact here are Robert Mueller, Don McGahn, and Hope Hicks. They had their first shot at Hope Hicks and got next to nothing out of it. They say there's a bigger sort of long-term plan in place, but they've not taken any actual action towards that just yet.

COATES: Thank you, Elie. We will see what this long-term plan is. I guess we are all still waiting.

HONIG: We'll see.

COATES: Coming up, The Wall Street Journal reporting tonight the attorney general is looking into the Intelligence Community's unanimous conclusion about Russia's interference in the 2016 election. But first, here's a look at the new CNN film "Apollo 11" airing Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): We choose to go to the moon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is Apollo mission control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): We choose to go to the moon and do the other things not because they are easy but because they are hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is Houston loud and clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): There she goes. It's a good one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): The enormity of this event is something that only history will be able to judge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Good luck and Godspeed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Apollo 11 has been given the mission of carrying men to the moon, landing them there, and bringing them safely back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Beautiful. Just beautiful. Magnificent ride.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): "Apollo 11," Sunday night at 9:00 on CNN.

[23:45:00] (END VIDEOTAPE)

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COATES: New information tonight about William Barr's review of the origin of the Russia investigation. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that he is actually looking into the assessment by U.S. Intelligence Agency that Russia had a clear preference for then candidate Trump back in 2016.

Joining me now to discuss are Matthew Rosenberg and Samantha Vinograd. Welcome to you both. It is always good to see you. Matthew, I'll start with you. Here's the key part of the Intel agency's report in 2017 that Barr is now questioning.

[23:50:01] I'm going to quote this. "Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process. We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for president- elect Trump."

It couldn't have been more clear here. By the way, Mueller and the Senate Intel Committee came to the same conclusion. So, Matthew, why is Barr questioning this now?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's a good question. Look, I'm always for oversight of the CIA. I think the more, the better. But I feel (ph) something political about it. The Senate Intelligence Committee is led by Republicans. Its chairman is Richard Burr of North Carolina. He is a staunch Republican.

His committee has affirmed this and said unequivocally that we think this is an appropriate assessment. They reviewed (ph) it in detail. Robert Mueller's report, his investigation also found that this was the case. Why now? Why say there must have been politics involved? We have to triple check. It does raise questions. Are you looking to find fault with something because you don't like what it said?

COATES: Sam, this investigation to be very specific here is not just questioning the conclusion. It's trying to exploit the different opinions the agency held before they reached that conclusion. What's that about?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I just want to add one point to what Matthew just said. Vladimir Putin said publicly that he wanted Donald Trump to win the election. He stood in front of the world and said that he wanted Donald Trump to win. So Trump is actually doing something pretty unusual. He is disagreeing with Vladimir Putin on this point. He doesn't like to be on different sides of issues with Putin, but on this, he is willing to question it because of his own insecurity.

COATES: Let's hear Vladimir Putin. He talks about this very issue back in Helsinki. We saw what really happened there, but here he is then.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Yes, I did, because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COATES: Sam? Same thing.

VINOGRAD: Seems pretty clear to me. This might be the most honest thing that Vladimir Putin has ever said in front of the world. He likes to lie. On this, it seems like he was pretty honest. Let's talk about how intelligence assessments are made.

There was a January 2017 intelligence assessment and then Intel typically gets better over time. As Matthew said, the Senate Intelligence Community supported the coordinated assessment of the 17 departments and agencies that make up the director of National Intelligence. That was months after the report.

And then Robert Mueller several months, a year later, with even more intelligence available to him, also supported that point. So over continuum of time, the Intelligence Community all agreed that Vladimir Putin preferred Donald Trump.

The question coming out of this of course is, when Donald Trump feels insecure about intelligence assessment because of his personal insecurities, is he going to sick (ph) the attorney general on the Intelligence Community to try to get a story out that better suits his ego or better suits his interest?

That is a politicization of intelligence. By the way, it's wasting a lot of resources. It is part of the "investigation" that should be used for actually protecting our country.

COATES: Now the Department of Justice is involved somehow in this as well. I mean, Matthew, today a judge unsealed about 50 pages of text between Paul Manafort and Sean Hannity. There are a lot of them. I want to read this exchange to you, because Manafort says, "They would want me to give up DT or family, especially JK. I would never do that"

Hannity responded saying, "Understand. There is nothing to give up on DT. What did JK do?"

Manafort responds, "Nothing, just like I did nothing. They will want me to make up S on both."

So, Matthew, what do you make of this conversation, particularly in light of the fact that we know that Manafort was saved from going to Rikers just this past week from DOJ? What's happening?

ROSENBERG: It looks like Manafort is still in good graces. That whole conversation is just bizarre. This is a guy who ran a winning campaign for a while. He's on with a major TV host. They are sounding like a bunch of criminals there talking about like, ah, they want to make stuff up. I'm not going to give him up. I mean, what is this, good fellows? It's hard to believe that's where we are.

COATES: Sam, what do you think?

VINOGRAD: I don't think it's that bizarre. I think that they are both useful to each other. This was a mutually beneficial and perhaps parasitic relationship. Paul Manafort likely viewed Sean Hannity as a personal megaphone that could share these messages with the world. What's in that exchange is really no different than what Sean Hannity has said publicly.

It's also potential that he also viewed him as an intermediary with the president. We know that Sean Hannity speaks with the president regularly. So to an extent, it makes sense why Paul Manafort was communicating with Sean Hannity.

[23:55:01] From Hannity's perspective, as a member of the media, he was communicating with someone who potentially had inside information on President Trump, on Jared Kushner and on others. There's -- operationally speaking, I can see why they're in touch. Laura, you're the lawyer here.

(LAUGHTER)

VINOGRAD: It seems like Paul Manafort's legal counsel would have said, by the way, your text messages could be subject to --

COATES: They are crazy, Sam. You're right. I hear you. A mutually beneficial parasite is the theme of the night apparently. Matthew and Sam, thank you so much. Thank you, everyone, for watching. Our coverage continues.

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