Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Neighbors Form Human Chain Against ICE Agents; Biden Unveils Criminal Justice Reform Plan; Mueller Set to Testify. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 23, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00]

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: All of this as President Trump has been preemptively attacking tomorrow's testimony.

CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins joins me now.

So, Kaitlan, you also have some new reporting about the conversations that are happening with the president's aides now behind the scenes. What are you learning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

And it's been a big subject of discussion, of course, with the president himself, who source are now telling us has spent the last several days on the phone and in conversations with aides, allies, old friends talking about this upcoming testimony.

But, Erica, these people who have spoken with the president say he sounds more irritated than he does anxious about Robert Mueller coming to testify on Capitol Hill tomorrow, because, essentially, he's viewing it as this man who has loomed over his presidency for the last two years is now going to be taking center stage once again.

Now, the president's aides and allies we have been speaking with have been downplaying the outcome of this hearing tomorrow, saying that they don't believe that the former special counsel is going to reveal any new information.

And you heard Lindsey Graham say as much on camera today, that he doesn't think that there's going to be a lot coming out of this hearing.

But that's not really enough for the president. He doesn't just want no new information, no unflattering headlines. He also wants Republicans to be able to turn this around on Robert Mueller while he appears on Capitol Hill tomorrow, and essentially be able to put the heat back on him.

And he tweeted that as much on Monday, saying that he wants them to ask all those deleted text messages between two of the people who worked on his team for a previous amount of time. He really essentially wants to change the narrative from focusing on just the president and instead back on the FBI and the Department of Justice.

Now, as far as what the president is going to be doing tomorrow, his schedule is pretty wide open, based on what our sources have been telling us, which is not what the White House was counting on, because they thought the president was going to have a chance to respond to this hearing last week, when he had that rally planned in North Carolina.

But now he's got a pretty wide-open schedule, until he goes to a fund- raiser in West Virginia tomorrow night, while his aides are going to be working behind the scenes, we're told, preparing to push back on whatever it is that Robert Mueller says.

HILL: Kaitlan Collins, thank you.

Also with us, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

So, Gloria, to look at that, a lot of executive time on the calendar apparently tomorrow, which could really...

(CROSSTALK)

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You think he is not going to watch?

HILL: He might be busy with something else.

BORGER: Yes.

HILL: What did he say yesterday, maybe, maybe a little? I'm not sure.

So he's reportedly irritated, not anxious. What is your reaction to that?

BORGER: I think he's irritated and anxious. I think he believes -- believed this was in the rear-view mirror. And I don't think he wants the American public to hear from Mueller.

He keeps talking about Mueller's conflicts, which are more imagined in the president's head than real. And those of us who've studied Mueller understand that he's kind of a straight shooter. And I think that he's going to answer the questions that are asked, but he's going to stick to the book, and the book being the Mueller report.

HILL: Right.

BORGER: And that could be a problem for Democrats, because he's not going to answer the what-if questions. What if the Office of Legal Counsel had said that you could indict a sitting president? Would you have indicted him? He's not going to go there.

HILL: Right. And he really reinforced that, sort of boxing himself even more by saying to the DOJ, hey, do you have any guidance for me?

(CROSSTALK) HILL: ... write this letter. We will be more than happy to give you our guidance.

BORGER: Right.

HILL: What's also fascinating too, though, is this last-minute request here that he wants his deputy Aaron Zebley sworn in, in case there are questions that Robert Mueller can't answer.

I mean, what are those questions going to be?

BORGER: Well, I think he wants him sitting next to him, so he can turn to him and say, am I allowed to answer that question? And then the answer will be, no, you're not allowed to answer that question. This is somebody from the Department of Justice, right?

This is somebody who worked with him and say, you're really not. And so I think it's kind of going to be so that Mueller doesn't seem the only target there, and that he's going to get legal advice from somebody who knows the story as well as he does and who will help him sort of navigate this, because, on the one hand, you have the Democrats who want to get more from him.

HILL: Right.

BORGER: And, actually, they really want him just to tell the story because people haven't read the book.

HILL: Yes.

BORGER: And on the other hand, you're going to have Republicans who are trying to discredit the entire investigation, as well as the entirety of the FBI, to which Bob Mueller has devoted most of his life serving.

So that should be interesting.

HILL: It will be, especially because we're hearing from both sides.

BORGER: Yes.

HILL: They have not decided yet on that question.

BORGER: No.

HILL: But the way that they are both approaching this request too certainly tells us a lot.

BORGER: Yes. Well, they're preparing, which usually doesn't happen in congressional hearings.

They're -- the Democrats are meeting to game this out. And they want to make sure that in the limited time they are given, that they don't waste it. And so I'm sure each of them is going to have a specific subject area they want to cover, so they don't fall over each other, and they want to use their time well. That's in the morning hearing, as well as in the afternoon hearing with the Intelligence Committee. And I think the purpose here is to let the American public know what was in this report, what the risk is from Russian interference in our elections.

[15:05:01]

And on the question of obstruction, they're going to try and have Bob Mueller tell you exactly what the president did, which he outlined in those 10 instances in the Mueller report.

HILL: Which would be sticking to the report. So...

BORGER: That's right.

And the president's answer would be, well, as he said, read the Second Amendment. I can do anything. I can do anything that I want. I mean, sorry, read Article 2 of the Constitution. I can do anything that I want.

And there's a big debate over that as well.

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: Gloria, thank you.

BORGER: Sure.

HILL: Always nice to see you in person too.

BORGER: Good to see you.

HILL: Democrats have been so eager to get more detail from the special counsel, they have been holding, as we just talked about, these mock hearings to practice their questioning.

So in the spirits of those mock questionings, we're joined now by two of our analysts who have been following the Mueller investigation, of course, since the very beginning. They are former FBI special agents Asha Rangappa, Josh Campbell.

Good to have both of you here today.

So, just to let everybody at home know, we have been talking about here before we came on the air today. We asked you both to give us your top questions, the questions you think lawmakers should ask tomorrow. So we want to go through each of these questions. And then one person can ask a question, and then the other one of you, predict a little bit how you think Mueller will answer that.

So, Josh, we will start with you. Question number one.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, tomorrow, all eyes will be on both style and substance.

And at the outset, it's important to keep in mind that we're going to have three different parties here with competing interests. You have Republicans, who will largely be attempting to discredit Mueller. You will have Democrats trying to dig information out of him, and a witness that both Asha and I served under in the FBI who is very reticent.

He doesn't want to be there. So let's look at the way some of the questions might be framed and how some of his answers might come as we watch tomorrow Washington, Asha.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: OK, Josh, so let's get to the big question that gets to the heart of the investigation against the president.

Did the president obstruct justice?

CAMPBELL: Yes, this is the big question that people want to know. And it's likely to come early in the hearing.

And I think here we're going to start to see Mueller's reticent style at work. I suspect what he's going to say at the outset is, I would refer you to volume two, page eight of my report, and leave it at that. And then the follow-ups are going to have to come.

Mr. Mueller, can you read that report for us? And as he digs into the substance, if he indeed decides to go that far, he's likely to say that, look, I didn't make a traditional judgment prosecutorially here in this area. I listed 10 instances of potential obstruction of justice, but I didn't go that far.

Lastly, the key thing which I assume that the Democrats are going to try to dig out of him is the statement in his own report that, if we had confidence that the president did not commit obstruction of justice, we would have said so.

Now, the second question we want to look at as well, Asha, is, do you believe the investigation was properly predicated?

RANGAPPA: Yes.

And, Josh, I think that this question could actually come from Democrats or Republicans, because there's been so much controversy over how it started. The key here is that he actually addresses this in the report here.

He does reference the opening communications of the investigation, the fact that Russia hacked the e-mails and had offered it to George Papadopoulos, and that this is what got the FBI's antennas up. So he may be able to articulate that for the public.

CAMPBELL: No, and as we move on to the next question, I think one that is likely to come is, is it true that your report exonerated the president?

And there he's probably going to do the same thing. He's going to point to his report and say, volume two, page eight, and as he digs in it. And it gets to that money quote, which we have heard that the Democrats continue to parrot as they have gone through this report.

And that is that line that, "While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

Whether he decides to go any further than that or simply report back and direct them to the report, I think, is yet to be seen.

Lastly, Asha, for you, were there any obstacles which prevented you from gathering evidence or testimony from the witnesses?

RANGAPPA: This would be a key question for Democrats to ask, because it hasn't gotten a lot of attention.

When Mueller describes the evidence that they gathered in the report, he mentions that, in many instances, they weren't able to get evidence because people claimed the Fifth or they gave false testimony. They sometimes even deleted communications.

If he's able to say this out loud, that could be very damning to the White House.

OK, last question to you, which could pit Mueller against the attorney general. Did the White House cooperate fully with the investigation, as the attorney general so stated?

CAMPBELL: Yes, this is going to be a dicey question for Robert Mueller, because the answer is likely to put him squarely at odds with his former boss, the attorney general of the United States.

Now, a lot of this is going to come down to what the term fully cooperated actually means. You're going to have a roomful of lawyers. No offense. You're a lawyer. I'm not.

A roomful of lawyers looking at this phrase trying to determine, how many different variations of the phrase fully cooperated are there? The attorney general said the White House fully cooperated. However, in the Mueller report, he actually gives several instances, one of which being their attempt to gather information on Michael Cohen and this infamous Trump Tower deal that was supposed to take place in Moscow.

Robert Mueller actually writing that they sent follow-up questions, did the Mueller team, to gather information about the president's own involvement. The president's counsel replied and said, we think we have answered that question.

So what that means, fully cooperate, I think is yet to be seen.

RANGAPPA: And don't forget, he never interviewed the president himself. So that's another big question that he could also explain.

[15:10:03]

CAMPBELL: Lots of questions.

And, Erica, again, we will be looking at style, we will be looking at substance. These are some of the questions. I'm sure there will be many more.

A lot of this will come down to Robert Mueller and how far he is willing to go beyond the four corners of that lengthy report.

HILL: Such a great way to cap -- to actually get us ready for tomorrow, I should say.

Asha Rangappa, Josh Campbell, thank you both.

And an important note. Josh's new book, "Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump's War on the FBI," is coming this fall. And you can pre- order it now.

Right now, 2020 front-runner Joe Biden is on a campaign stop in New Orleans, as he rolls out his new criminal justice plan. One of his opponents, Senator Cory Booker, already slamming it, calling Biden the architect of a failed system. Could this be a little preview of next week's CNN debate?

Plus, the family of an 18-year-old who was born in the United States says immigration officials have wrongfully detained him for nearly a month, despite their frantic efforts and documents that prove his citizenship.

We will be joined live by the reporter who broke this story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:15:54]

HILL: Right now, Democratic front-runner Joe Biden is campaigning in New Orleans, and coming under fire from one of his 2020 rivals.

That's after he rolled out his massive new criminal justice reform plan today. That plan includes $20 billion to shift incarcerating for nonviolent crimes to prevention.

And it comes just one week, of course, before CNN's Democratic debates, where Biden will be standing next to Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Both candidates have criticized Biden's support of the 1994 crime bill, which many believe led to mass incarcerations, especially of African-American men.

Today, Booker wasted no time attacking Biden's new plan and his long record, releasing a statement that says, in part: "Joe Biden had more than 40 years to get this right. The proud architect of a failed system is not the right person to fix it."

CNN political director David Chalian joining me now.

So, David, if you're in the Biden camp, there's the jab from Booker. Maybe you're a little nervous. Co-chairman of his campaign, Congressman Cedric Richmond, who was with us earlier in the last hour, he basically said, you know, not a problem. There's plenty of things I can point to on this.

But this is not going away.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's not going away, though it is probably the most expected and anticipated attack that Joe Biden knew was coming his way from the moment he decided to get in this race.

We have seen both -- as you noted, the people who will be standing on either side of him on that debate stage, they have been the most vocal critics on this score for Joe Biden. They both have said that that 1994 crime bill that he authored is a direct vehicle sort of responsible for mass incarceration.

Joe Biden disputes that point, but clearly putting out this robust criminal justice reform plan in advance of the debate to fortify himself against the attacks he knows are coming his way.

HILL: He clearly does know they're coming.

It's interesting, too. So we have this today. We're also hearing more from Kamala Harris, from Elizabeth Warren, both of them sort of bringing their campaigns to their day jobs, introducing bills to tackle some of the issues that we know they want to talk about on the campaign trail.

CHALIAN: Right. They roll out a whole bunch of policies, but, today, both Harris and Warren were like, oh, hey, yes, we have day jobs where we can actually like introduce some legislation on this.

HILL: Imagine the .

CHALIAN: So Kamala Harris doing so with Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on decriminalizing marijuana.

Harris actually wants to legalize marijuana as a goal, something Joe Biden does not want. So there's a difference there as well. But this effort that she's introducing today is about decriminalizing.

And then Elizabeth Warren is putting out a plan dealing with the student debt proposal that she's put about eliminating and eradicating student debt for millions of Americans.

HILL: Which be interesting to see where those go.

(CROSSTALK)

CHALIAN: Probably not to the president's desk for signature.

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: I think there's a good chance that may not that happen.

CHALIAN: Right.

HILL: Now, whether the budget will go to his desk, right, we hear there's confidence that it will, confidence that he will sign it, I should say. You look at this, though, I feel like all of this is getting lost in the sauce here. Is it just me or this is not a budget deal, very seriously. This is a massive debt deal. That's what they're agreeing to. Let's just dig a deeper hole. And everyone seems to be OK with it.

CHALIAN: Yes, there's no doubt that is what is going to happen as a result of this agreement that Senate Republicans, House Democrats, the White House have sort of come to terms on.

And you will notice that some of the usual suspects on the right, like the Club for Growth, outside groups that used to sort of excoriate their own fellow Republicans for voting for this kind of spending, they're out there railing against it, but it's now all of a sudden like a tree falling in the forest in some ways, because, as you noted, there doesn't seem to be a groundswell on either side of the aisle or at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue to actually rein in these deficits and the debt.

HILL: No, not at all. It's the death of the Tea Party we have been hearing as well, when we look at all of this.

We talked a little about all these bills that are coming in. We talked about the Biden plan. What else do you see? I mean, everyone's so focused on Mueller happening tomorrow. Even though we have seen a couple of things dropped, how much more do you think we will see candidates focus on that moving into the debate next week?

CHALIAN: On Mueller and what he has to say?

HILL: On Mueller, what we may hear tomorrow, because we haven't heard quite as much.

CHALIAN: No, it's not -- the issue of impeachment comes up in a lot of the Democratic town halls that you will hear from time to time, but not nearly to the level of health care, of student debt, of climate change, immigration. Those issues are far more dominant.

[15:20:03]

I would be surprised, unless Mueller has some bombshell, which would seem totally not what we expect and would be uncharacteristic, if he doesn't deviate from what was in that published report, I doubt that his testimony will completely inject itself into the 2020 race in a way that it hasn't already been.

Most of these candidates have been for impeachment.

HILL: Right.

CHALIAN: Joe Biden not quite there, but certainly Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and others.

And I don't -- what more? How -- do you just call for impeachment louder? So, to me, they want to stay on course with the issues that are animating the Democratic electorate the most. And they don't necessarily want to go back down into this hole of just Trump, Mueller, Russia.

HILL: Right. Right.

CHALIAN: That's not what delivered the Democrats the majority in 2018.

HILL: Well, I'm going to be watching it, though. Let me tell you that.

CHALIAN: Yes.

HILL: Yes.

David, nice to see you. Thank you.

CHALIAN: Sure. You too.

HILL: Up next, ICE confirms it only arrested 35 people in those raids the president was touting raids, which were supposed to target some 2,000 migrants. We have more details, 2,000 folks. We have more details on why there were 35, just 35 arrests.

Also, some really remarkable video coming to us out of Nashville, neighbors forming a human chain in an attempt to protect undocumented immigrants in their community from an arrest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:26:02]

HILL: The numbers are in now.

CNN has learned President Trump's sweeping immigration raid focusing on families with court-ordered removals netted 35 arrests. Last week's nationwide ICE operation was supposed to target about 2,000 people across nine states, but it was thwarted when the news about those planned raids got out.

ISIS' acting director told "The New York Times" the apprehensions fell short of its goal. And that is despite what the president has previously said about the operation's success.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The ICE raids were very successful. Many, many were taken out on Sunday. You just didn't know about it. In fact, I went to -- I spoke to the head of ICE. I spoke to a couple of people.

We had many people. It was a very successful day, but you didn't see a lot of it because it was done a lot. You will speak to them. And I'm not even sure they should be telling you, but it was a lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: A lot included 18 family members and 17 so-called collateral apprehensions.

An act of kindness and defiance unfolding in Nashville, when neighbors stepped in there to protect a father from ICE agents who had come to arrest him.

CNN affiliates WTVF and WZTV reporting the man and his son were locked inside a van when agents arrived and block them in. So their neighbors formed a human chain around the car to keep the agents away.

CNN national correspondent Dianne Gallagher joining us now with more.

So, Dianne, this standoff actually lasted for hours. How did it end?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erica.

For hours, those neighbors were doing exactly what you see there, crowded around that van. And you could hear them kind of counting in the background there. That was the countdown to allow that man and his son to run into their home while those agents were still out there.

They wanted to kind of give them a countdown, so they could be prepared. ICE left. So, in the short-term, the neighbors were successful. They were bringing food. They were bringing water. They even brought gasoline to keep the car running while they were inside.

Take a listen to what they said about why they did this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIEL AYOADE YOON, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: There were two immigration officials sort of bullying a family inside their own vehicle, telling them that they had an administrative warrant, which isn't the same thing as a judicial warrant, and trying to harass them, and fear them into coming out.

STACEY FARLEY, HELPED PROTECT FAMILY FROM ICE: I could see if these people were bad criminals, but they're not. They're just trying to provide for their kids.

The family don't bother nobody. They work every day. They come home. The kids jump on their trampoline. It is just a community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: And that community has said that, look, they made sure they got back in the vehicle, Erica. They drove away, the man, his children and another woman at that time. They said that they will be ready if they come back.

HILL: So what is ICE saying about all of this?

GALLAGHER: So, an ICE spokesperson said that they left in order to de-escalate the situation, but pointed out that they didn't want to talk about who they were targeting there, because they may need to make an arrest at a later time or a later date. They didn't want to tip anything off at some other place. But, again,

Erica, the people who live in that community say, now that they know that this is a possibility, that they will be ready and they will plan to do something like this again.

HILL: Dianne Gallagher with the latest on that first us, Dianne, thank you.

Up next, an 18-year-old born in Dallas has been in immigration custody for nearly a month, despite his ability to prove he's a U.S. citizen. He's got the paperwork. So what's he doing there? We will dig into how this could happen.

But, first, there is breaking news on those mysterious murders in Canada, why two missing teens are now considered suspects.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:30:00]