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Robert Mueller Will Testify to Congress; Immigrant Man and His Daughter Found Drowned Trying to Reach America; Democratic Presidential Candidates to have First Debate; Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D- NJ) is Interviewed About the Humanitarian Crisis at the Border and Robert Mueller Testifying Before Congress. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired June 26, 2019 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: -- of this administration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way to look at this photo and not have your heart broken. Politicians have to talk about what they're going to do about it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day. It is Wednesday, June 26th, 8:00 now in the east.

We have several big stories that we're covering for this morning. First, the most anticipated hearing of the Trump presidency. Robert Mueller will testify in public in two back-to-back hearings on July 17th. Mark your calendars. Democrats say their questions will go beyond what was in the Mueller Report, though the Special Counsel has already said he will only discuss what was in that report. So how will that work?

President Trump tweeting only two words in response, "presidential harassment."

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also overnight, the House voted to approve $4.5 billion in funding to deal with the humanitarian crisis at the southern border. This human face of that crisis should weigh on the conscience of the world, this morning. This photo of a Salvadorian father and daughter drowning in the Rio Grande River while trying to reach Texas. They have names. Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter Valeria, she was just 23 months old. They died yards away from the United States.

And tonight, let the debates begin. Ten Democrats on stage making their case. What will they try to do to reach the American people? We'll talk about that in a second.

We begin, though, with Robert Mueller. He will testify. Shimon Prokupecz joins us now this morning. Shimon, he didn't want to do this.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: No, he didn't. And it was because of this subpoena, a subpoena to him from the Judiciary Committee, from the House Intelligence Committee. They have reached an agreement now. He's expected to testify in what will be a very long day for Robert Mueller on July 17th. First, he's expected to appear before the Judiciary Committee, and then at some point after that he will appear before the House Intelligence Committee. And then he's also supposed to have some closed-door meetings with member of the House Intelligence Committee.

So nonetheless very big day here for Robert Mueller, for this investigation. News of this breaking late last night, and here's how members of Congress reacted to the fact that Mueller is now going to testify.


JERROLD NADLER, (D-NY) HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Mueller is an honest, upstanding citizen, and he will testify in response to the subpoena that we issued. He's not going to let the White House or anybody else tell him to defy a lawful congressional subpoena.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA) CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Bill Barr has felt more than free as the attorney general to speak well beyond the Mueller report. And if he is able to speak beyond the four corners of the Mueller Report, then so too should Bob Mueller feel free to do so.


PROKUPECZ: And that is the big question, John and Alisyn, what exactly more can Mueller testify to that he hasn't said in that public statement and obviously that he hasn't said in the 443-page report. The big questions, there are not of course there are several, but one of the big key things in all this, did Mueller not indict Trump, Donald Trump, because he is the president, because the Department of Justice policy does not allow for a sitting president to be indicted? How will he answer those questions? Of course that is one of many questions that everyone has for Robert Mueller.

BERMAN: Yes, those are just some of the giant questions facing Robert Mueller. Shimon, thank you very much.

I want to bring in Mark McKinnon, former senior adviser to the George W. Bush and John McCain campaign, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief legal analyst, and Van Jones host of "The Redemption Project" on CNN, and so much else. Gentlemen, thank you.

Jeffrey, Robert Mueller has told us he will not answer questions beyond the scope of the report, and he will just refer back to the report. That won't stop Democrats and Republicans, frankly, from asking. What do you think they should ask about?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think the Democrats should ask about the president's legal culpability. There is this rather tortured explanation in the report about why he laid out the evidence of obstruction of justice but didn't come to a legal conclusion about whether the president obstructed justice. Attorney General Barr took that as an invitation to conclude that there was no obstruction of justice. What does Director Mueller think about that? I think that is the core issue.

And also, it would be important for Mueller himself to summarize the evidence in the report. The fact that this report exists in text is very different from hearing in video the evidence described. And I think that -- those two things, describing the evidence and describing what his conclusions were and why he reached them, those are the most important pieces of testimony, I think.

CAMEROTA: Van, Robert Mueller has said the report should speak for itself. It doesn't really answer every question. And as we all know the headline for many people from it was if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. Isn't the next question, so you saw evidence of a crime?

[08:05:10] VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: In other words, so many things here. One is, we know a lot of the wants. We don't know a lot of the whys. Why did he not go across the line? Was it only because he felt he was constrained by policy? If he says that, if Robert Mueller in any way says, had I been able to, I would have indicted, that takes the Democratic Party from being on the fence about impeachment over the line. So this is incredibly consequential moment, and he knows that. So he's going to be sitting there trying not to say what he needs to say, but he cannot. There's going to be incredible theater, but there will be a moment where he will either have to tell the truth about why he made that decision or he's going to choke. And if he tells the truth, I think we're on the march to impeachment.

BERMAN: Mark, what are the politics for the members who are sitting there asking these questions on July 17th?

MARK MCKINNON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO GEORGE W. BUSH AND MCCAIN CAMPAIGNS: Significant. Mueller is the one person in this whole scenario who is seen as an honest broker. He's the last Boy Scout in Washington. So of any of the witnesses who could testify, he's going to be most important. So I think it's going to be difficult for Republicans to indict him in his testimony.

BERMAN: They're going to try.

MCKINNON: I know they're going to try, but then they're hypocrites because they were saying earlier he's been exonerated. So then if they start attacking Mueller, he was the guy that the president said exonerated him. So which is it? So I think that's difficult politics for Republicans.

JONES: And for Democrats as well. In other words, this is a tough, tough moment. Usually these hearings are just theater and performance. Everybody knows what everyone's going to say. They've got they're little sound bites. You actually don't know what Mueller is going to say, and you don't know how he's going to answer these questions. I think that's why it maybe the most watched hearing.

MCKINNON: I think it is tough for Democrats as well. It's complicated on both sides because the one thing that Mueller will make clear is that there really was no conclusion, which is what Trump was saying all along.

JONES: And I think that's part of why Nancy Pelosi has been holding back, because the underlying claim that Democrats were making and were making very forcefully, Mueller does not back that up. And so now you're in a situation where it's the cover-up of a non-crime that you want to go after. At the same time, you can't just let the president of the United States just do whatever he wants to do and have no accountability.

TOOBIN: Can I just jump in here with a point about this no collusion argument. What Mueller said was that there was no proof of a criminal conspiracy on the part of Trump or his campaign to work with the Russians on the -- to elect him president. That is a different thing from saying there is no evidence. What he found was there was insufficient evidence to build a case. And I think that distinction, if he outlines it directly, I think that's a real point that needs to be made.

JONES: You're in the best in the world at explaining this. That took you 23 seconds.


BERMAN: You can ask Robert Mueller as a former FBI director, do you think Donald Trump, Jr., should have reported that meeting to the FBI. That's a question he could answer.

MCKINNON: John, I think what's most significant in all of this is that the one thing we know is that Barr framed the report. He framed it and Mueller didn't get an opportunity to really testify. So there's an opportunity to rebalance those scales.

JONES: At least reframe it.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about tonight.

MCKINNON: All right, we are so excited.

CAMEROTA: You guys are excited.

MCKINNON: Spring training is over. The regular season begins.

CAMEROTA: Why are you turning into a kid in a candy store?

JONES: This is exciting stuff. First of all, Elizabeth Warren written off. She slipped on the banana peel -- she comes climbing back, climbing back. And how does she do it? She says I'm not going to talk to rich pool, I'm not going to go to any rooms of rich people. I'm only going to listen to working class people. It could be she comes back in this thing. It may show tonight that if you campaign differently you sound different. I think a lot of these candidates spend a lot of time when you're talking to rich donors, trying to get money from them. She didn't do any of this stuff. So I think she's not somebody who speaks better than any Democrat, but she might listen better than any Democrat that you come across tonight. Tulsi Gabbard also written off. She's at like 0.001 percent or whatever, but now you're an a march with Iran. The young veteran, does she have a break out moment? There's so much, man.

BERMAN: This the wide world of sports open here.


TOOBIN: Debates matter. Except for the two times in a race where you have an opportunity to really run the dial is when you announce and kind of a get a free pass in the debates. So for the Ryans, the Inslee's, the Gabbards, the de Blasios which most of America has never heard of, this is their chance to make a mark and throw a rock in a pond.

MCKINNON: Can I raise the provincial point here?


MCKINNON: Why are there five moderators? Aren't there enough people on that stage?


BERMAN: When there are 20 candidates.

[08:10:01] CAMEROTA: Yes, they're going to have to swap it out. They'll be exhausted by all the candidates.

JONES: It's the baby-sitter rule. You can only have so many kids with one baby-sitter.


CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, you're not a terribly excitable person. Are you as excited as these guys are about tonight?

TOOBIN: I'm super excited. I'm like a kid in a political candy store. This is stuff -- I thought John Avlon's report earlier where he talked about these famous moments, we are now in a political universe where basically almost all the most famous moments from campaigns are in debates. Whether it was Donald Trump debating all the Republicans, and the famous FOX debate that's now going to be in two different movies, this is how we're going to remember this campaign. And when that moment comes, we don't know, but some moment is going to be memorable.

BERMAN: Who's got the most to prove, Mark?

MCKINNON: I think this is real opportunity for Warren to show that she deserves to have the momentum that she's got. But also she's got to maintain that momentum, but for others like Beto, it's like what happened to the it guy? JONES: It's really interesting, you have Cory Booker and Beto who

seem like guys with great futures behind them. There was all this buzz and excitement, buzz and excitement, and then once they announced, you just haven't seen it.

CAMEROTA: Cory Booker has had the whole thing with Joe Biden. He had the first slew of publicity around that.

JONES: I don't think it has affected his numbers yet. So that means you may have the opportunity for both of them to remind people what was all the buzz about, what was all the excitement about. De Blasio who is, outside, New York City, really a nonfactor. He could do something dramatic. He could do something -- I think he's got the most upside because he got in late, nobody's talk talked about him. he could do something dramatic, and people who have never heard of the guy might say who is that guy? I think for me I'm pulling for Tim Ryan. I am. I am. He's like Bruce Springsteen with no guitar.

CAMEROTA: That's a problem.

BERMAN: We're not going to hear --


MCKINNON: You've got to have the guitar, man.

BERMAN: I don't mean to take this down a notch, though, but there is an image which I think, again, should weigh on the conscience of the world this morning. And let's put this up. It's Oscar Ramirez and his daughter Velaria, 23 months old, who died feet away from Texas. Mark, I know you're from Texas. Family values don't stop at the Rio Grande River. You worked for a guy who ran a campaign talking about families and people trying to get --

MCKINNON: Immigrant friendly, George W. Bush. That's one of the things that attracted me to him in 1999, so we've been talking about this issue for 20 years and still no progress. I think it'll be interesting tonight. This picture is worth way more than 1,000 words. It's really torching this debate which has been going on for a long time. The question is, does it change the equation? So it's an opportunity for the candidates tonight to see if they can change the equation. Alisyn, you've been raising some good questions this morning. How do you talk about economic refugees versus political asylum? Democrats have yet to really put forward a clear, clarifying position on this debate.

CAMEROTA: There's broad brush strokes being used. Thanks, Mark, for that. Isn't that where you start, isn't that where the moderators start tonight with this?

JONES: Yes, though the policy pieces, I think, matter less than the people, the human part of it. I think where you are now is the American people accept that we should have children being treated this way, period. And I think for those of us who understand the policy, the nuance of refugee asylum, whatever, this is not right. And I think whoever can just say that as cleary as possible is going to get a big response from that crowd and the American people.

MCKINNON: I think we're going to hear the story of this father and daughter, and its' going to put a human story behind what has been a policy debate. So Van, I think you're right. I think this could be an inflection point.

CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you for arousing all of our excitement for what we're going to see tonight.

MCKINNON: Fireworks, bring them on.

CAMEROTA: There you go.

The Supreme Court may issue opinions as early as today on two cases that have huge political implications. So CNN's Jessica Schneider is live at the Supreme Court with a preview. Jessica, what might happen today?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, we are in the final few days of the Supreme Court's term, and of the eight remaining opinions, there are two in particular that could prove quite consequential. The justice could weigh in as soon as today as to whether or not the Trump administration can add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. This has been a fraught political issue. It has played out in the halls of Congress and also in the lower courts, all while the justices have been weighing what to do here.

And in particular the ACLU has recently come up with what they say is a trove of documents that they say proves that there was a political motivation behind this push to the citizenship question. The problem is they came up with these documents after the Supreme Court heard the arguments in this case.

[08:15:02] So, the ALCU has asked the Supreme Court to put their decision on hold until the fall so further fact-finding can play out in the lower courts here. The DOJ here has said no way Supreme Court, you need to make this decision by the end of June with just a few days left in the month because the DOJ has said the Commerce Department needs to print this census by the end of June. July 1st is the deadline here.

But the Census Bureau officials have said that, look, if there's a census question added, it could lead to an undercount by 6.5 million people. So, there are huge consequences for whatever the justices decide here.

Also another opinion the justices could weigh in on as soon as today, extreme partisan gerrymandering. When politicians go too far drawing congressional and district lines in states for purely political gain.

There's also a decision we're waiting on that concerns veterans disability benefits. That goes to actually the scope of agency power which has been a hot topic for conservatives.

So while the Supreme Court has continued to say that it is apolitical, it's mantra has been it is dependent. It is now face would a lot of decisions that could have huge political implications.

And what's noteworthy here is that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in a speech just a few weeks ago, she sort of foreshadowed what we might see at the end of the Supreme Court's term, and she said a lot of these closely watched cases could be very sharply divided.

Of course, this term for the first time, we have that 5-4 conservative majority. So, we will see what plays out in the court with these highly political issues these justices have to weigh in on, and those opinions will come down at 10:00 this morning -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Less than two hours from now, so please stay tuned. Huge decisions.

All right, also developing this morning, throw out the politics, throw out the policy and debates and just look at this -- a father and a daughter dead trying to reach the United States. What are we as Americans going to do about this?


[08:21:08] BERMAN: So, this morning a picture that tells a story about all of us. This is a Salvadoran father Oscar Roberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria dead, lying face down in the Rio Grande, trying to get to the United States. They had waited for several months in Mexico trying to get asylum here.

Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey.

Congresswoman, thank you very much for being with us.

I know the House voted last night on a measure to provide funding for the border to deal with the humanitarian crisis there. But when you look at that picture, when you see that father and that daughter trying to get to the United States and failing, how does that strike you?

REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): That picture is horrific. I don't think there is a parent alive who hasn't tried to take care and provide for their kids that can look at that without having your heartbreak. In fact, I first saw it last night as I was waiting in that cloak room to vote on that $4.5 billion for the border, and I think it reinforces how far we have to go to make sure that we are doing right by people across this country and people trying to cross in this country.

Evidently, you know, the border measures we voted onto make sure they're adequately clothed and not facing lice infestations, and influenza infestations, we passed all of that, but that would not have taken care of all of this. We've got to do more for asylum seekers and unfortunately the gentleman, Oscar, and his daughter Valeria were seeking asylum here and I guess had grown a bit hopeless and thought that it was not going to happen.

BERMAN: You've obviously worked as a prosecutor before, what should the law do? How can the law change to keep this from happening? SHERRILL: Well, we know what we need to do. We need more judges at the border. We need to hear these cases more quickly. We need to make decisions.

We have asylum law in this country, much of it put in place after the Jewish refugees from the Nazis came to our country seeking asylum and were turned away. So, we have to have the laws in the book, we can handle this, but we have to have a will in this country to start to address our concerns at our border.

BERMAN: Do you think the administration has the will to address the humanitarian side of it?

SHERRILL: You know, I hope so. We just passed a bill to deal with the humanitarian side of it. Congress has expressed -- I know that the Senate has a similar bill.

So, Congress has expressed its will of handling the humanitarian crisis at the border and I certainly hope that this administration begins to move forward on that.

BERMAN: So, you were work up later than I was because you were voting, but I woke up to the news not just that you passed this measure, but also that Robert Mueller is going to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and Intelligence Committees.

What do you want to see him answer?

SHERRILL: You know, as I've said for weeks now, I want a further understanding of the investigation. I want to know just what it is he did not go into his report. Are all the pieces of the investigation he did not get to, did they all go into the district of New York or the southern district of New York, are there more investigations that need to happen? Why didn't he interview certain people?

And if he had been interviewed people, he had interviewed the president, if he had been able to talk to other members of the administration, are there holes in his report? Are there holes in his summary that he would have liked to have filled with those interviews?

BERMAN: You know, up until this point, again, as I've noted before, you worked as a prosecutor before. So, you're looking at all this through a prosecutor's lens. Up until this point, you have not been calling yet for an impeachment inquiry, is that correct?

SHERRILL: That is correct.

BERMAN: Is there something that could come from this testimony on July 17th that might change your mind?

SHERRILL: Well, I think that's why I have been calling for Mueller to testify for so long now, just because we have got to have a greater understanding of the report, a greater understanding of his investigation.

[08:25:05] The more you understand of any sort of investigation and the people that were involved and the possible venues and the possible avenues for wrongdoing, the better you are when you make those decisions, when you make a decision in the federal case whether or not to charge, in this case whether or not to impeach. And I still think Congress is getting more and more information in, particularly now, Mueller agreed to testify, which I think is a critical piece of this.

BERMAN: Are you closer than you were to call for an impeachment inquiry?

SHERRILL: Well, I'm -- I certainly want to hear what Mueller has to say, and then we've certainly -- I've been holding hearings as well into how we protect our election system.

BERMAN: I want to ask you about that.


BERMAN: I want to ask you about that, because one of the things Mueller made crystal clear we have to take very seriously the severity on the Russian attack on the United States electoral system. You have been holding hearings on this, leading hearings in some cases.

I was surprised yesterday because the administration did brief some reporters about election security, and some of the supporters came out and said they heard nothing different.

SHERRILL: You know, I am concerned and that's why I just held a hearing yesterday on election security. I don't know we have taken the measures that we need to take to protect our 2020 elections.

That's why I've held hearings and that's why I've been having conversations with other national security members from both sides of the aisle to discuss how we ensure that the Russians don't hack into the heart of our democracy. I was a Russian policy officer, I know what their objections have been over time in other democracies. We need to make sure we protect our own.

BERMAN: What's the one thing that needs to happen?

SHERRILL: The one thing that needs to happen is to have people understanding where they're getting their information from. For example, are people in chat rooms with other people from Parsippany, or are those other people in Moscow? Are people going to protest in town with their neighbors or are those protesting instigated by the Russians? That's what people need to know.

BERMAN: Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, thank you for being with us this morning. We really do appreciate your time.

SHERRILL: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John, three Republicans voted with Democrats to approve a $4.5 billion aid package to help the humanitarian crisis at the border. One of those Republicans is going to join us next.