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Robert Mueller To Testify Publicly Before Congress On July 17; House Passes $4.5 Billion Migrant Aid Bill Setting Up Senate Showdown; Kellyanne Conway Skips Hearing On Hatch Act Violations; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts Visits Migrant Facility Hours Before First Debate. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired June 26, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): -- and he will testify, and that's what's going to happen.
REPORTER: Can you say when the discussions went from voluntary to compelled?
NADLER: No, no, I'm not going to say that.
REPORTER: What will happened between now and the 17th? Will you be briefed by him or is that what he can talk about?
NADLER: No, no, no, I don't expect that.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you expect the White House to intervene and block this in any way, the Justice Department to block this in any way?
NADLER: Well, they may attempt to. I doubt that they would succeed because Mr. Mueller is an honest man and understands that you must -- that congressional subpoenas are not optional. And I suspect that whatever the White House says, they're not going to make this -- Mueller will not make this -- try to enforce a subpoena in court. And he said he would come in and testify. So --
REPORTER: Will they be allowed to have a lawyer in the room, a White House lawyer in the room?
NADLER: I'm not going to get into that.
REPORTER: Are you planning to hear from any members of Mueller's team?
NADLER: I'm sorry?
REPORTER: Are you planning to hear from any members of Mueller's team?
NADLER: That may be. REPORTER: Do you have any concerns that if you (INAUDIBLE) to answers in the report because he's here for so long and it might not be as compelling with the (INAUDIBLE)?
NADLER: I think that -- this will be the last question. I think that given the nature of what he has to say, given the nature of what was in the report, he will be a very compelling witness. Thank you very much.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: There, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, discussing the upcoming testimony by the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, July 17th, I believe 21 days away. He accuses the President and the Attorney General, Barr, of months of deception regarding the contents of the Special Counsel's report and says that he will be a compelling -- Mueller, I should say, will be a compelling witness because he'll be made to answer questions about his conclusions.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: I thought it was also interesting that Nadler essentially said even if all Mueller does is reiterate what he wrote in the report, that's helpful to the American people, because, of course, most Americans, I am assuming here, have not read the entire 448-page report.
So he thinks that Mueller just repeating what was written will be advantageous to the democrats' case here.
SCIUTTO: Might have power, no question.
We're joined now by Jeffrey Toobin, Laura Jarrett, of course, she covers the Justice Department, and we've got Manu Raju up there on the Hill.
Jeffrey, just to take advantage of your extensive legal knowledge here, as Adam Schiff made clear yesterday, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, this was not a friendly subpoena. Mueller did not want to come to testify. Now, he is coming to testify. So the question is what is he willing to answer? How often will he say, listen, hey, it's not report, I can't go there, I'll refer that to a private session? How much can the Special Counsel do that when he's in that chair facing these hard questions?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: He can do it a lot. There really is not an immediate mechanism that the democrats or the republicans for that matter can use to force him to answer questions once he's in that chair. I think they can rely on his good faith. I don't think Robert Mueller is perceived as someone who will misuse the law.
But it is a difficult position for the members of Congress to be in because it's not like there's a judge who will force a witness to answer the question. The only power they have is essentially the power of suasion. I mean, obviously, you can threaten to hold a witness in contempt, but I think, realistically, that is something that's not going to be on the agenda with Robert Mueller as a witness. So he's going to have a lot of leeway to decide for himself what questions he wants to answer.
HARLOW: Laura Jarrett, what's your read on how far Mueller is going to go here? Because he made so clear in that statement a few weeks ago on camera, this is it, my report says everything. But I did think that, you know, Nadler saying even if he just repeats what's in the report to the American public, that's helpful.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, that's what democrats are banking on, given that nobody -- at least the majority of the American people haven't read the report, so much that actors are now staging plays to try to get across this point to the vast majority of people who simply don't have the time to read the 448 pages like we all have.
I think that for robert Mueller, who's made it crystal clear he does not want to participate in what he thinks is going to certainly turn into a public spectacle, there's still -- you know, you can see hints of where he has said both in the report and in his statement last month when he says things like we couldn't exonerate the President. He didn't have to say that.
So I think there are opportunities there to press him, what did you mean by that? Or even just asking for different examples or pressing him on of all the ten examples of potential obstruction of justice, which did your team find most compelling?
I think there are opportunities there if democrats want to try to press him a little bit to give just a little bit more flavor or even things -- you know, he pointed out he didn't get full cooperation from all the witnesses.
Well, who in particular are you talking about? Who did you want to get more information from? Perhaps the President's son?
There are so many different opportunities that they could use if they wanted to, the democrats, I should say.
SCIUTTO: Manu Raju, here's a question. Because Mueller himself is already a pretty compelling witness, but there are a whole host of witnesses that the White House has blocked Congress from interviewing, Don McGahn being the prime one here. Can members, in effect, use
Mueller as a surrogate to some degree for those other witnesses by saying, hey, what did McGahn, for instance, say to you on this issue, what did he testify here? Was that in contradiction to what this witness said to you? Is that a line of attack for democrats when they have Mueller on the dock there?
RAJU: Yes, absolutely. They're going to question what he found, what these fact witnesses said to his team behind closed doors in their testimony, what was revealed in the report. And that is a question, I think, still in the days ahead. How does the White House handle that?
Because, yes, as you mentioned, Jim, the White House has taken steps to deny Hope Hicks' testimony about what he said to the Mueller team, about what she experienced and those allegations of obstruction of justice, preventing Don McGahn from coming to Capitol Hill by saying that he is covered by absolute immunity.
Will they try to prevent Bob Mueller from answering those questions and what the democrats will do about it? I tried to ask Jerry Nadler about that just moments ago, saying, do you expect the White House or the Justice Department to intervene in some way. He said he doesn't believe that they will do so. But he did warn that they would try to go to court and enforce a subpoena if Bob Mueller does not comply.
But, ultimately, to the big question for democrats is how much of an impact will this actually have? They're fighting an expectations game to some extent. Because this morning, a number of democrats are are saying this will strengthen their call for an impeachment inquiry. Jerry Nadler said that just reading the report could have a dramatic impact.
But Adam Schiff said people should have, quote, realistic expectations, when I asked him about that earlier today, about whether or not this could strengthen their calls for an impeachment inquiry. So a lot of members are essentially guessing on the impact that this could have.
But democrats, too, this is a risk for them because they're banking on a lot here. But what will Mueller actually say and will that move the needle at all, that's just a question we don't know, guys.
HARLOW: Toobin, if you got one question to Bob Mueller, what would it be?
TOOBIN: It would be why -- or what was the reason you did not reach a firm conclusion on whether the President committed crimes. He has a rather convoluted explanation in the Mueller report of why he laid out the evidence but didn't draw a firm conclusion.
And I think, you know, fundamentally, what the American people want to know from this whole investigation is did the President commit any crimes. And Robert Mueller is in the position to draw the clearest conclusion about that. The Attorney General took Mueller's evidence and said, I think there was no crime here, but what do you think, Robert Mueller? I think that -- pressing him on that question is probably the most important. But there are a lot too.
If I could just add one point, there are a lot of questions the republicans want to ask Mueller too. They want to ask about the fairness of the investigation. They want to ask about the composition of Mueller's team. They want to ask about how the entire investigation got started. All of that, I think, is appropriate and fair game and yet another reason why it's appropriate why Mueller is going to be giving testimony.
SCIUTTO: Listen, you can bet good money that the Page/Strzok testimony will come up from (INAUDIBLE) lawmakers, of course, the Special Counsel can answer. I took him off the investigation when those texts were revealed. But, again, a lot of this is about air time and how the various parties use that air time and the questioning.
HARLOW: Totally. All right, thank you, everyone.
SCIUTTO: Great to have all of you.
HARLOW: We know where you'll be on July 17th.
SCIUTTO: Yes, exactly. We might be as well.
As lawmakers gear up for yet another border funding battle, President Trump is expressing his discontent over a $4.5 billion aid package which the democratically controlled House approved on Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm not happy with it because there's no money for protection. It's like we're running hospitals over there now. You know, people are coming up. What people don't understand is you want separation. Separation is a terrible thing of the families. And I said, well, I'm going to put people together, but it's going to mean more people coming up. But it has, from that standpoint. And we've done a great job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Well, the families are still being separated because kids are being held alone. The aid package focuses on assisting with horrific conditions of migrants at the border. We had a witness to those conditions on this program earlier this week who talked about Lord of the Flies-like conditions, with children taking care of children, the worst that this lawyer had ever seen.
HARLOW: Yes. Since Congress is not in session next week, the House and the Senate really just have until the end of this week to try to get on the same page on this bill to give money mainly to keep these kids in some decent conditions, and they are not on the same page at all. If they don't, the President says he will move forward with those ICE raids in major U.S. cities that he had threatened last week but now delayed for two weeks.
And just look at this image. If you have not seen it yet, it says everything. It is heartbreaking. It is appalling. It is a father and his 23-year-old daughter drowned crossing the Rio Grande.
SCIUTTO: It reminds me of that little girl if you remember migrants coming into Europe from Syria, a little girl washed up on the beach. These are real people. Many of them are children. And for many of them, this trip is deadly.
CNN Correspondent Ed Lavandera is live along the border this morning. And, Ed, you know, sometimes photos can make a difference. Sometimes they don't. But this one is certainly grabbing people's attention. And it speaks volumes about the state of the crisis at the border.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the sadness that emanates from that photo is extremely powerful. And it's important to remember here that this has been going on for quite some time. These treacherous conditions that many of these migrants are facing have been going on. We've seen reports over the last few months of border patrol agents jumping into the river to save people who have nearly drowned trying to cross that river.
All of this comes, Jim and Poppy, as the Trump administration has cracked down for several months on people seeking asylum at the legal ports of entry. And critics of the Trump administration have been saying that essentially what that is doing is enforcing people who are desperate, tired of waiting, as perhaps this family was, to make the treacherous and dangerous attempts to cross illegally between the ports of entry and along the Texas/Mexico border, that means crossing the river.
And that is, I can't tell you how many times I've stood on the bank of that river. It might look peaceful and scenic in many of the video or image you see about it. But when you stands up close to it, that current in that river is extremely strong and it's very dangerous. And that is what we have seen play out here in a deadly way.
SCIUTTO: We had the former acting ICE Director on the previous hour who said that -- who made that point. When the legal points of entry are restricted, people take greater risks and they end up getting driven to those more dangerous areas.
HARLOW: Which is exactly what was reported happened with this father and daughter. Ed Lavandera, thank you for your report in Clint, Texas for us this morning.
All right, so back to Capitol Hill, happening now, the House Oversight Committee is holding a hearing that could end with Presidential Counselor Kellyanne Conway being subpoenaed.
SCIUTTO: That's right. Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill with more. This gets to something I think a lot of folks at home might not know about, but the Hatch Act. Explain what that is and explain what the violations, the alleged violations are.
LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, that's right. The House Oversight Committee, Jim, is meeting this morning. They expected that Kellyanne Conway should have attended. They wanted her to testify. On Monday, the White House sent a letter saying that she would not appear today.
And they are prepared to subpoena her testimony. They want to know more about these alleged Hatch Act violations. The Office of Special Counsel said they found that Kellyanne Conway should be fired for her repeated alleged violations of the Hatch Act. That, of course, bars federal employees or at least limits their ability to do campaign work. They say that Kellyanne Conway made multiple violations of the Hatch Act. So that is what members are meeting about today.
But, you know, one of the things that's really interesting about this hearing is it's just yet another example of democrats trying to get White House officials to come up to Capitol Hill to answer their questions. This time it's Kellyanne Conway, someone who's very well known in the public eye, someone who's very close to the President, and she will not be attending.
SCIUTTO: Lauren Fox, one of many denials from this administration to request, demand subpoenas from Congress.
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is set to visit a Florida migrant detention facility just moments from now. That just hours before democrats face off at tonight's democratic presidential debate.
HARLOW: Also, North Korea is lashing out at President Trump. This is just hours before the President heads to the G20 summit. The North Korean regime is now accusing the President's top advisers of hostile acts.
SCIUTTO: Well, immigration certainly in the news, and soon, Senator Elizabeth Warren will be touring an unaccompanied migrant child facility in Homestead, Florida. That facility is currently housing some 2,300 children.
HARLOW: So this comes just hours before she'll be on the debate stage tonight, of course, it is. if you haven't heard yet, folks, the first democratic 2020 debate is being held in Miami. Our M.J. Lee is in Homestead, Florida, at this migrant facility. It's interesting. The other candidates are laying low, debate prep, and then she spur of the moment yesterday, it seems, told her team we're going to this migrant facility and everyone should come with us.
M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. I mean, this was a last-minute change of plans for Elizabeth Warren. She announced this in the middle of her town hall event last night in Miami. Reporters were caught off guard. And even her staffers actually didn't have a lot of time to plan for this announcement. We are told that Elizabeth Warren decided she would come here after speaking to advocates backstage right before her town hall event.
And just to give you all a sense of where we are right now, we are outside of the Homestead detention facility here in Florida just about 45 minutes outside of Miami. This is where unaccompanied migrant children are held. They are held here until they can be placed with families and sponsors in the United States. The big reason politically that Elizabeth Warren is here is because this facility is contracted out to a private company, and she said recently that she worries that these children are being kept inside under prison-like conditions.
You can feel the tension even as you're driving up here. A lot of protesters holding signs, saying they want the children to be free. This is certainly going to be a dramatic day and visit for Elizabeth Warren just hours ahead of her debate performance. Poppy and Jim?
SCIUTTO: M.J. Lee there, thanks so much. It's going to be an interesting night tonight.
Let's discuss all the implications. CNN Political Analyst and National Political Correspondent for The New York Times, Alex Burns, and CNN Political Commentator Joe Trippi. Good morning to both of you.
Joe, you've got a little experience in the campaign here or there. Debates can be good for candidates. Carly Fiorina famously had a big jump after her moment during the 2016 election. But there are pitfalls, right. Think of Rick Perry, famously could not name the three agencies he was going to knock down or the Rubio/Christie exchange during those republican debates, damaging to both those candidates. I mean, high stakes either in the positive or negative direction for candidates tonight.
JOE TRIPPI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. Look, I think most of the memorable moments in debates are ones in which a mistake happens. Every once in a while, you get some momentum burst. That can happen, I think, in tonight's debate particularly for some of the lesser known candidates, Amy Klobuchar, the Senator from Minnesota, Tulsi Gabbard, the Congresswoman from Hawaii, Tim Ryan from Ohio, some of these candidates and Mayor de Blasio even from New York. They haven't gotten much attention. This is a big opportunity for them to finally get some.
And for Elizabeth Warren though today, this event that she's going to, this visit right now may be more important than the actual debate itself because, again, she's already got a lot of that attention.
HARLOW: Yes, it certainly got the cameras there, right, with her today. Alex Burns, What about Cory Booker? He got a bump, at least a lot of coverage from his spat with Joe Biden last week. But he's still lagging, especially when it comes to the number of donors. He's going to need to hit that 65,000 threshold to get on the debate stage at the end of July. How does he create momentum and give that some legs tonight?
ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the theory of the case in Cory Booker's camp is not to keep on mixing it up with Joe Biden. It's not to keep on drawing big, stark contrasts over a core, cultural and sort of ideological issues with the frontrunner. It's to talk about Cory Booker.
And I think that what you're going to see from a lot of the candidates, especially in this first debate tonight, where you have, frankly, a more mild-mannered set of debaters than we're going to have on Thursday, when you have these big combative personalities, Bernie Sanders. You're going to hear folks like Cory Booker, Beto O'Rourke, Julian Castro, Joe mentioned a couple of others, really try to introduce themselves to the American people in a pretty elementary way.
I think the challenge is a little bit different for Elizabeth Warren because she's clearly just in a totally different place in this race than the rest of them. SCIUTTO: And, Joe, I wonder, you do see this dynamic now developing with tiers, right? Because you've got a clear top five candidates here with Biden, Warren, tell me who I'm missing, Buttigieg. And you see Warren's numbers rising and narrowing the gap with Joe Biden. I wonder if a bigger focus tonight, even though Joe Biden is not on the stage until tomorrow, is whether Warren can keep that momentum and eat away at Biden's consistent lead here.
TRIPPI: Well, I think one of the problems for Warren tonight in the debate is she's likely to be looking over to the next -- to tomorrow's debate with Biden, sort of talking to that debate, whereas others in this debate may be using her to contrast themselves. I'll give you an example.
De Blasio can come in tonight and say you've got plans, I've actually had to implement them as a Mayor. You've got Tulsi Gabbard with her experience in the war and coming in as we're looking at Iran.
And trying to contrast with -- literally, with Warren, use her experience vis-a-vis, Warren to look at -- to sort of make the case that she's better prepared on foreign policy.
So what could happen tonight -- Amy Klobuchar could come in there and make the progressive versus we need a pragmatic centrist or something she couldn't do very well with Joe Biden on the stage with her or is not as effectively.
So what could happen tonight is some of these other candidates could use Warren as a way to contrast themselves and make themselves stand out, and she's in a position where the people she wants to contrast herself with upper tier candidates are in tomorrow's debate.
HARLOW: What should they not do tonight, Alex? What is the big no-no on the stage tonight?
BURNS: You know, I guess I won't say they shouldn't do this, but I think the biggest risk that they could take tonight would be attacking another democrat too harshly. I think Joe is absolutely right, that you're going to see contrast on that stage, but something we've seen in previous elections, especially in the early debates, is that voters are looking for just sort of a tasting menu of their options in this election. They're not necessarily looking for a blood bath at this point, right?
So I think that if you were to see another candidate, a John Delaney, for instance, running as a proud, unapologetic centrist in the race, if he were to go on stage and really take it to Elizabeth Warren, you're too far left, you're too hostile to business, you have too many regulations, I think there would be an enormous risk in the democratic primary, not just because it's a more liberal party but because you just don't know how voters are going to respond to conflict. And we'll see that obviously again on steroids tomorrow night when there's going to be a lot of temptation to attack Joe Biden, and Joe Biden remains a pretty well-liked guy in the party. SCIUTTO: Yes. I suppose there's the other risk, right, of just not being noticed, right? It's a big field, you know, boring or just being sort of off in the wings of this debate, not capturing attention.
HARLOW: But it's interesting though we got to go. But, I mean, Trump won by like attacking everyone around him in the primary.
SCIUTTO: I was just thinking that exactly.
BURNS: It's a different party though. They tune in for a different kind of show.
HARLOW: True story. Okay. Thank you, guys, very, very much. We appreciate it, Alex Burns and Joe Trippi.
North Korea lashing out this morning at the U.S., even as the two countries may be agreeing to a third summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. If that happens, what would be different from the last two?