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Robert Mueller to Testify before Congress; President Trump Says He Disagrees with "Send Her Home" Chants at His Rally Aimed at Congresswoman Omar; Heatwave to Hit Large Areas of U.S.; Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) is Interviewed About House Dems Strategy to Press Robert Mueller. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 19, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- his efforts to fire Robert Mueller himself and tamper with witnesses like former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Also there's new reporting about what caused the president to try to distance himself from the anti-American "Send her back" chants at his rally in North Carolina. He claims he tried to stop it, but of course this video on your screen tells the real story. It appears some in the president's inner circle and senior Republicans in Congress spoke to him behind closed doors to get him to attempt to explain -- well, I should say to explain to him why that might not have been the smartest strategy.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And yes, we have a rematch. It's going to be in the CNN Democratic primary debates. Former Vice President Joe Biden will share the stage again with Senator Kamala Harris. Will he be ready this time? On the other night, Senators Elizabeth warren and Bernie Sanders, seen by many as it two leaning progressives in the race, they will go head to head. That too will be fascinating.

Joining us to discuss all of this, Anna Palmer, she's senior Washington correspondent of "Politico" the author of "The Hill to Die On," Kirsten Powers here with us, she's a "USA Today" columnist and a CNN political analyst, and Josh Campbell, CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI supervisory special agent.

Josh, I want to start with you because you among us is the one who has actually worked with Robert Mueller. You know what he is like. And now we're getting a sense from members on both sides of the aisle how they are going to approach him next week. The Democrats are going to try to dive into those five areas of alleged obstruction which have to do did with did he want to fire Robert Mueller, did he order McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, did he tell Corey Lewandowski to go pressure Jeff Sessions, they're going to push on that, and they're also going to push him on the idea of whether he would recommend charges on a private citizen if he or she had engaged in a similar fact pattern? Will that be effective with the Robert Mueller you know?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So they have to be very strategic, they being House Democrats, because I think what we're going to see, we've all seen a pattern in this age of polarization where you have a witness in a contentious hearing. It's the same old story, one side attacks the witness, and the other sides spends their time rehabilitating the witness. That happens time and time again. I think what might happen here and what will make this so interesting is that I suspect there will come a point, probably early on, where Robert Mueller is going to start to frustrate both sides. You're going to have the Republicans that are trying to tear him down. You're going to have the Democrats that are upset that he's not giving them what they want, because I know, as you mentioned, having worked for him, he loathes facing the press, he loathes facing Congress. I can never think of a time that he prepared for Congressional hearing where he went in trying to make news. And so that's the challenge they face, how do you get it out of him, someone who has that strategy that just wants to stick to his rapport, doesn't want to go in there making headlines.

CAMEROTA: Anna, you have your finger on the pulse of Congress. Do Democrats really believe that these moments will re-aminate the Russia story?

ANNA PALMER, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "POLITICO": I think they're tempering expectations early on this of doing this briefing, saying we know he's not going to want to go beyond the report, but we are going to ask him. The big question I have is, are the Democrats going to be disciplined? We all know these are the kinds of hearings where people love to showboat and they like to talk about themselves, or are they going to actually use this to press him to try to get the information.

BERMAN: They're doing these practice sessions, right. They're telling us they're doing these practice sessions. I imagine that's telling from aides, congressional aides who want to tell the members, look, you've got to draw within the lines here. Kirsten, I want to ask the question to you in a slightly different way. What could change the discussion right now in terms of the Russia discussion?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a great question. Josh and I were talking about that before we came on, because I think that I don't know that there is something barring Mueller saying something that he hasn't already said. Now, it's true having somebody on video with sound that you can play and that people can actually hear him talking about what's in the report does bring it alive for people who didn't read it, which is most people.

But if he doesn't say anything new, then I think a lot of people are going to look at it and think, well, we already kind of know this. If we follow the news, we know the basics of what was in the report. And by all accounts it doesn't seem like he's going to go beyond what he said. He seems like a disciplined person who probably isn't going to get pulled into making news.

CAMPBELL: There's so much in the report, too, I think just to add there. The volume of information is so overwhelming. And one strategy that the president employs, I would say he does very good at this strategy is if something happens on Wednesday, he will do something on Thursday that makes you completely forget the thing that shocked you on Wednesday. And so regardless of what happens here at this hearing which everyone is going to be watching, the Democrats have to have a plan what they do the next day. If there is some bombshell, if there's some soundbite, the one question we all want to know is in Robert Mueller's own words if anyone else had done what was in this report would they be indicted if they were the president, if the Democrats get that soundbite, then what? What happens the next day? That's what they have to be prepared for.

POWERS: And one of the things they really want to focus on is why he didn't interview Donald Trump. And so I'm interested, since you worked with him, what would be the answer that the Democrats would want to hear that is somehow going to help them?

[08:05:06] CAMPBELL: I don't think they're going to get a good answer because what he's actually probably going to say is, look, I was constrained by this legal opinion inside the Justice Department that I couldn't even go after a president. So, a, that's something of a hurdle he had to face. But secondly, if that were the case, if he would have gone that route and tried to litigate this, we would be sitting here for years trying to determine what's going to happen in the courts, litigation upon litigation.

And so I just think he just realized under these constraints, I have this report that I have to get out there, and I'm not going to be able to do anything with him anyway. Again, none of that is going to satisfy Democrats because at the end of the day this is the one branch of government, the Congress, that could potentially hold the president accountable.

BERMAN: Actually, that's a question in and of itself because Robert Mueller alluded to that but didn't flat out say it. So you could ask Mueller, were you talking about Congress?

CAMPBELL: Exactly. And that's the question. And we've all mentioned Barr, the attorney general, did he intercept the pass that was rightly meant for Congress? I'm not a Congressional expert here, but that would be interesting to watch. What does Mueller say? In his own words does he admit to that?

PALMER: And does it cause Democrats to say we are a step closer to impeachment? You had almost 90 Democrats now on the record saying they are for impeachment. Does this get kind of the water break measure of more than 50 percent of House Democrats saying, yes, it is time to impeach this president?

POWERS: Or what will he say if he's asked this was an impeachment recommendation? How will he answer that question?

CAMEROTA: How will he answer that question.

CAMPBELL: I'm not the Mueller whisperer, but I think what he'll probably say here --

(LAUGHTER)

CAMEROTA: Yes, you are. Yes, you are. CAMPBELL: I think he's going to be very conservative. We know he's

an institutionalist. I think that if they ask him questions that are open ended, and this runs counter to what we in the press do, what members in Congress usually do, if they ask Robert Mueller an open ended question like that about impeachment, he's going to pivot directly back to his report and stay within the four corners of that document. So when we talk about strategy, I think, and this runs counter to all convention, they have to go back to the yes, no. Because Robert Mueller, he answers very clipped, sometimes very terse in his responses. But if they ask him would you have indicted the president if he was not the president, that's a yes/no, question. If the answer is yes coming out of his mouth, that could be powerful.

CAMEROTA: Anna, let's turn our attention to this week, and what a week it has been, starting with the tweets on Sunday from the president that were racist of these four congresswomen, and reaching a crescendo on Thursday at his political rally with the chants. There's only one way to describe them, which is the anti-American chants of sending Americans back somewhere, I don't know, "send her back, send her back." And so this will be, in the history books this week will be written about it is safe to assume.

And we now have reporting that it was the president's inner circle and top Republicans who gave Mike Pence an earful about how this was unacceptable. They got the president to do something very unusual, and pretend that he didn't like those chants or claim that he didn't like them when his tweet is what started this whole week. Why was this the breaking point? Why was this the line where enough is enough? After all the convention breaking and a litany of things a shock to the system for so many people, why did Republicans finally after the "send her home" chant say get to the president?

PALMER: I think that this is one of those times where even though the Republicans hate going after this president. They clearly feel like it is a no-win situation for them back home, that the president could attack them. As we all know, most members of Congress are just looking to their next reelection. I think this was a step too far from them in the sense that they were having to answer personally and talk to their family and talk to the people, their constituents.

And so all of a sudden you had a few members, it was kind of like a tidal wave happening. A couple members went forward, and then all of a sudden you had Mitch McConnell, you had Kevin McCarthy and others saying this is not the tone we want to set here. And you had a lot of conservatives, which is where I think the breaking point happened. It wasn't just the moderate Republican saying this is too far. There were some really conservative members saying this is not the America that I live in, this is not what we're about.

CAMEROTA: You mean behind the scenes saying that?

PALMER: Right. And I think ultimately several of them did come forward, though. I think you had a handful that voted on the resolution. I do think you had more of a momentum publicly than we typically have. POWERS: I'm going to be a little more cynical. I think they're not

as offended by it as they are concerned about it politically, because this is something that could really harm them with Republican women, with voters that are actually in play. I think for people -- Donald Trump is regularly doing things that cross the line and doing things that are racist as well, and people are willing to sort of look the other way. And I think that the problem here is they recognize that this actually probably goes too far for some of their voters.

BERMAN: Does it show that -- we always hear Republicans feel like they can't do anything. The president tweets what he tweets and we just have to watch it. But does this show that there are times if they band together, if they speak up that they can get him to back off?

[08:10:05] POWERS: Yes. But the point is I think they're much more interested in getting themselves reelected, and they're not as offended by this as I, frankly, think that they should be. I think that there's so many things that he does that are so problematic separate from the race issue. It's the authoritarianism, the cozying up with authoritarians around the world, all the different things that he does. And they just decide what's more important is basically not pushing back against the president. What's important is me getting reelected.

CAMPBELL: Can I say also, and I stare at things not politically but through the lens of public safety, and I think that's one aspect of this as well that we should probably talk more about as a country, and that is the nature of the president's words and how that might incite people to violence. Our colleague Sara Sidner had a great piece this week how there are people out there using the president's own words to discriminate against people. And we know in the past that that's potentially an issue, when you have a commander in chief that tells people it's OK to hate people, listen to my own words and use them, that could be dangerous in this country.

CAMEROTA: We've already seen it. We've already seen it.

CAMPBELL: We have. But we have got to keep talking about it.

CAMEROTA: I understand. But I just want to remind people that the guy in the van that was festooned with all of the Trump stickers sent bombs that he thought were active. This wasn't a false alarm. He meant to send bombs that would go off to news organizations and to leading Democrats. And the guy at the Tree of Life Synagogue, the masked shooter, used the same terminology that the president had used and talked about how much he liked that.

CAMPBELL: Right. And after this happens the president will back down just a little bit for maybe a day or a week so, but then goes right back to it.

POWERS: It's also not much of a back down. The damage is done, and he's not apologizing. He's not saying that this was wrong, I shouldn't have said that, I was in a bad mood and I did some bad tweets, and actually this is un-American, and of course this is their home, and America belongs to everybody. That's not what he did. He just sort of pretended like, what, they were chanting, I didn't really hear that.

PALMER: This is strategy he's done several times, though. We have a story up on "Politico" today about this is not the first time the president goes really far and then gets some heat, and then takes a little step back.

BERMAN: And it's not the first that he takes a little step back and then un-steps the step back. He's on Twitter right now sort of equivocating the whole thing. People can go look for themselves.

CAMPBELL: But the more this happens, he makes the job of law enforcement harder. He makes the job of the Capitol police harder who have to protect these members of Congress that are now in his verbal crosshairs, hoping, God forbid, that doesn't turn into reality.

CAMEROTA: Such a great point. Thank you very much, Josh, and ladies, thank you also for the all the perspective.

BERMAN: A dangerous and potentially deadly heatwave will grip about two thirds of the United States with temperatures of 95 degrees or higher all over the place for days. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers with the ugly, I would say, forecast. Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No question. And it's important to remember, John, that the temperatures I show you are going to be in the shade. So if your dog is outside in the sun feeling these temperatures, it's going to feel 10 or 15 degrees warmer. So please take care of kids, elderly, and the pets today, tomorrow, and even into Monday. But it gets better from here.

Excessive heat warnings all across and up and down the east coast. Temperatures are going to feel over 115 degrees. That's warmer than it will feel in Death Valley. I know a dry heat and a wet heat is completely different. But still that heat, and your body will not adapt to it very well if you're outside working.

Temperatures in Chicago will be 108 with the feels like temperature, but get on the pavement. In downtown Chicago it could feel like 115. Same story in all the big cities because of that urban heat island that you have.

Here's the good news, cold front goes by on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, one, two three, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and cools down for next week. It'll feel like 107 degrees in New York City tomorrow afternoon. It'll feel like 67 by Thursday morning, and so temperatures are really going to take a drop. We're going to drop about a 40 degree temperature difference all across the northeast, right through Chicago as well. So at least some relief. But two days of being, maybe even three, being very, very careful out there, guys. It's just going to be that dangerous, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for the warnings on all of this this morning, Chad. We have another important story for you. The New York Fire Department

tells us the 200th firefighter has died from 9/11 related illness after working at the World Trade Center following the terror attacks. The FDNY says Richard Driscoll served the department for 32 years and was and cited for bravery five times during his career. Driscoll is the second 9/11 hero to die this week. Fellow retired firefighter Kevin Nolan died of 9/11 related cancer on Tuesday. Their deaths come as the Senate delayed a vote to extend the September 11th victims compensation fund. That vote is now expected next week.

BERMAN: John Feal, our friend, comes on and reminds us there are people dying every day.

CAMEROTA: And he goes to all the funerals.

BERMAN: He goes to all the funerals, every day. So when you delay something a week.

CAMEROTA: It has an actual life and death impact.

BERMAN: All right. There's a lot of stake for Democrats when Robert Mueller testifies next week. We're going to speak to a leading Democrat who will get to question Robert Mueller. What does he want to know? That's next.

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CAMEROTA: OK, CNN has learned that House Democrats and Republicans are intensely preparing behind the scenes for next week's Mueller testimony. They're trying to hash out a game plan for how to get the most out of Mueller and the moment.

So joining us now to explain is Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley. He's on the Intelligence Committee and will be questioning Robert Mueller next week.

Good morning, Congressman.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Good morning. Thanks for having me on.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you. What's your game plan for next week?

QUIGLEY: Look, what I tell my friends -- and I've been in Congress ten years -- is if you have low expectations for congressional hearings, you'll never be disappointed.

[08:20:00] I'd like to think this will be different. I know the members are treating this very seriously. And if the special counsel only hits on the high points of the conclusions of the Mueller report, then it'll be a victory because it is an extremely damaging report to the president of the United States.

CAMEROTA: But can you share with us your top question that you plan to ask in your five minutes allotted?

QUIGLEY: Look, I -- this is probably going to be more of a sequence of questions. I'd like to think the members will understand that and follow a flow. Again, the highlights.

And at whatever point during the process is my time, but we're going to continue with that path I hope.

And that is the Russians attacked our democratic process. The Trump campaign welcomed that, used that information. No one called the FBI. In fact, all they did was attack the FBI and then communicated with the Russians and coordinated this information they got from them into their campaign plans.

Anywhere along the line if we're following that line of questioning, that's where I'll be, and that's where I'll be focused on.

CAMEROTA: But, Congressman, hasn't that already been put to bed in the Mueller report. That's what Mueller concluded there was no known coordination basically.

QUIGLEY: Well, I think he talked about the facts that Mr. Manafort met with someone tied with Russian intelligence, Mr. Kilimnik, and exchanged polling data. Now, if you're the Russians and you are doing a coordinated campaign to attack us through social media, what better information to have than polling data?

CAMEROTA: Yes.

QUIGLEY: The heart and the guts of information from the Trump campaign. If that's not coordination, I don't know what it is. And it gets to my point that's exactly what the attorney general wanted people to think. And if we correct those misunderstandings, then this will be worthwhile.

CAMEROTA: Look, I agree you have zeroed in on the heart of the matter. That polling data does seem to be one of the most incriminating moments, OK? So, if you're trying to bring back to life, we'll watch to see if that works. But what's the upshot? I mean, as you know, Bill Barr has already concluded and Bob Mueller concluded there are no charges that are going to happen.

So, what's -- I mean, what do you hope to get out of this?

QUIGLEY: I think first, the American people are going to wonder why there aren't charges especially when it comes to obstruction.

And the final point, I think the American public also recognizes just because you can't prove something beyond a reasonable doubt to be a crime doesn't mean it's not horribly wrong. At first glance, the American public's view of this came from the attorney general who grossly misrepresented what took place. And I believe that's why the special counsel took his eight minutes and said that's not what I said, I did not exonerate the president of the United States. I left it to Congress to make up their minds on the obstruction issue.

He bent over backwards to be fair to the president of the United States following DOJ guidelines that he could not indict the president, which I disagree with. And even beyond that, stating he couldn't take the position that because the president can't be indicted, he can't go to trial to defend himself, then I don't want to take a stance because he can't defend himself. That's bending over backwards to a man who's never been fair, who's attacked the rule of law.

At least at this hearing we need the American public to understand what they haven't been told, and what they were told by the attorney general was absolutely a lie.

CAMEROTA: Congressman, I want to ask you for your take on the end of this extraordinary week. You tweeted during this week after the president's racist tweets, you basically said -- well, actually you didn't tweet. You told our Wolf Blitzer. And let me quote you.

You said, this makes me extraordinarily concerned about the president's mental health and his well-being.

Is that what you take away from this week?

QUIGLEY: The fact the president of the United States stoked the fires of racial tension in this country, which is an extremely dangerous thing to do beyond being horribly wrong, and the fact that he takes some joy out of that, this is -- I don't know how to describe it other than it is a sick personality. And that sick personality is leading our country.

Look, Abraham Lincoln, as you know appealed, to the better angels of our nature. This president is appealing to a much darker force. That is dangerous and the fact that he seemed to take joy from that should scare all of us.

CAMEROTA: So why didn't you vote for the impeachment resolution that your colleague Al Green introduced this week?

[08:25:03] QUIGLEY: Because I respectfully felt it was a reactionary emotional way to respond to a dangerous situation. I believe in impeaching this president. To me, it's not a question of whether he's abused his powers. To me it is not a question of whether he is fit for office. He is not.

But if you're going to do this, maybe you get one shot at impeachment. His articles he filed this week, Mr. Green, only talked about those racial tweets. There is a whole list of crimes and misdemeanors and a process.

Ms. Jackson Lee from Texas has a resolution that I'm a cosponsor of. I want that resolution on the floor this week. I'll vote for it because it details the crimes and misdemeanors. It talks about a path forward. It gives Congress the authority it needs to do this in exactly the same manner we did during Watergate.

So, sure, I support impeachment. But if you're going to do it, let's do it right, because if you get this wrong, that's all we have left.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Mike Quigley, thank you. We appreciate your perspective on all of this this morning.

QUIGLEY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: John?

BERMAN: The stage is now set for the next Democratic debates. What are the most interesting matchups, and where could we see the fireworks? That's next.

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