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CNN RIGHT NOW
Trump on Attack Before Mueller Hearing; Trump Attacks Congresswomen; Biden Releases Criminal Justice Plan; Booker Rips Biden's Plan; Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) is Interviewed About the Mueller Hearings. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired July 23, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Stay with us. Brianna Keilar starts "RIGHT NOW." Have a great afternoon.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.
Underway right now, stay in your lane, the Justice Department warns Robert Mueller ahead of his blockbuster hearing, but will Democrats try to push him out of it?
And talk is cheap suggests one senator who will stand next to Joe Biden at next week's debate, as the former vice president unveils a criminal justice reform plan.
Plus, the president of the United States talks about genocide as a way to win the war in Afghanistan, and now Afghanistan is demanding he clear it up.
Also, is today the day the Tea Party died? Why the concerns over the government's new budget deal are not as loud as before.
But first, we are less than 24 hours out now until former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress and President Trump distracting from that by renewing his attacks on the squad, four congresswomen of color.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have bad people, we have sick people. I watched just this morning this Tlaib, Tlaib from Michigan.
She's vicious. She's like a crazed lunatic. She's screaming.
This is not a sane person, folks, when you look at that. And this is what we're up against. You have some of that.
Now, the Democrats, I guess, are forced to embrace her. And I call it AOC plus three.
Her other friend from an incredible state, right, a state that I'm going to win, Minnesota. You know that one. And you know why I'm going to win the state? Because of her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Abby Phillip is live at the White House.
So, Abby, how concerned are the president and White House officials about this testimony from Robert Mueller?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, you can see from the president's own comments and from what he's been saying on social media that he is more than a little annoyed that this problem, the Russia investigation, seems to not be going away for him. His aides are calling this a Democratic attempt to have a do-over of that investigation. And they're pointing to the Mueller report itself saying that its conclusion of no collusion is the most important thing. And the president today reiterating that the attorney general, Bill Barr, who he praised effusively, also concluded that there was no obstruction of justice.
But listen to what he had to say earlier today at this Turning Point USA speech, once again renewing his attacks on the Democratic idea that they can have Mueller come down to The Hill and reiterate everything that was in the Mueller report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How about this whole witch hunt that's going on. Should I talk about it for a second? The Russian witch hunt.
No collusion, no obstruction. Oh, that's not good enough. Let's go more. $40 million. Interview 500 people. They got nothing.
Our great attorney general read it. He's a total professional. He said there's nothing here. There's no obstruction. So they referenced no obstruction. So you have no collusion, no obstruction, and yet it goes on. And they think this is helping them. I personally think it's hurting them. A lot of people think it's very bad for them. But it just goes on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: And the president's making a political argument there that he thinks that this is all going to backfire on the Democrats, but he also added that he thought that the ongoing focus on Russian interference in the 2016 election was actually making it harder for him to deal with Russia.
At the same time, he also spent a lot of time in this speech talking about the squad, continuing his attacks on those four Democratic congresswomen, singling out, as you played in the introduction, Rashida Tlaib saying that she was vicious in a speech that she had given recently. So the president's not backing away from that and in some ways trying to turn the attention away from Mueller to an issue that he's more comfortable about, one that has become part of his campaign where he tries to describe these congresswomen as socialists and say that the Democratic Party can't escape them.
KEILAR: Abby Phillip at the White House, thank you.
"New York Times" columnist and CNN contributor Wajahat Ali is here to discuss this.
So this is day nine --
WAJAHAT ALI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
KEILAR: Day nine now. It's like I -- you know, we're reading the same story almost every day that the president is attacking these four congresswomen. Clearly he thinks it's a winning subject.
ALI: I don't think it's day nine. I think it's a pattern. It's the feature of his presidency. Because if you remember, he ran on the Obama birther conspiracy theory, right? If you remember, he said Mexicans are rapists and criminals. He did the Muslim ban.
For the midterms, he should have talked about the economy. What did he talk about, Brianna? Tripled down on the caravan of immigrants and rapists and criminals, right? And now he has attacked four congresswomen of color, U.S. citizens, public servants, three of them who were born in this country and said, go back to your country, and led a nativist chant for 13 seconds, which we have forgotten about, but that nativist chant was frightening because that was used against Italians, Jews and Catholics in this country. So this is the feature. He's used -- he's using racial anxiety to motivate his base and to distract from the Mueller report, which I guarantee you has him spooked because if you read the report, there is actually ten instances of obstruction of justice.
[13:05:27] And the last thing I'll say is a thousand prosecutors, a thousand federal prosecutors, both Republican and Democrat, said if he was a private citizen, based on the Mueller report, they would have indicted him. Is he spooked? He is spooked.
KEILAR: This, though, these -- his criticism of the squad is certainly working with some voters for sure. And I want to listen to what Congresswoman Ilhan Omar said. She again spoke out against the president's racist attacks on her. This is what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): It's not that I'm going to allow it to distract me, but I'm -- I'm interested in unmasking it and taking it to task because if we don't fully confront it and push people when we're going to be stuck here for another generation or two.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: I think this works for her. Does it -- does it work for the Democratic Party? ALI: If the Democratic Party is smart and goes on the offense, it
does, because the battle of 2020 is not going to be about policy, it's about the soul of this country. It's about the identity of this country. Donald Trump told you, he said, those people chanting "send her back" were incredible patriots. And if you've heard what he's said for the past three years, his base, his America is white Americans who like him.
Now, the rest of us, if you see the rest of us, the people who came out in 2012 and voted for Barack Hussein Obama, it was a multi- cultural coalition. So, yes, we have to confront this because we're confronting white nationalism.
And, I just want to say this, everyone says it's the economic anxiety, right, Brianna, economic anxiety. Every single, sober study done of the 2016 election said that the primary motivating force of Trump voters was racial anxiety. But the problem is this, the majority is not with them. The majority is with us.
KEILAR: But for Democrats -- Democrats want to be talking about what they're doing. They want to be talking about what they will do. And this does not allow them to do that.
ALI: See, I disagree. I think if you look at that 13-second clip and if you're a smart Democrat who has the courage of their convictions, you say, America, what is your vision for this country and your children? Is it the vision of nativism and hate or is it this bold vision that we will tell you what it is at the Democratic debates. And not only this bold vision where everyone has a seat at the table, where anyone can have a chance at the American dream, including the white rust belt worker, the immigrant, the black woman, the Jew, the Evangelical Christian, the atheist, but here are the policies that we're going to implement that shows that we actually care about the rest of you. And I would say, go on the offensive because Democrats always get hijacked by the Republican base. And they let the Republicans, with this presidency, define what is moderate. That's like me saying, yes, Donald Trump, the insane person, is going to tell everyone who's sane. It's ridiculous.
So I think go on the offense. And I'll just give you one example. Health care, right? Oh, they say we're radical? At least we're debating ideas about how to make health care affordable for all. Donald Trump and the Republicans, after ten years, want to kill Obamacare. They have no replacement. Twenty million Americans will lose their health care and they've got a court case in Texas, Texas in (ph) the United States, engineered by Republicans to get to the Supreme Court to kill Obamacare. Who's the extremist?
KEILAR: Wajahat Ali, we know the -- we know what you think the answer to your question is for sure.
ALI: Common sense.
KEILAR: Thank you so much for being with us.
Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden rolled out his massive criminal justice reform plan this morning. This includes $20 billion for states to shift from incarceration for non-violent crimes to prevention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No one should be going to jail because they are addicted. They should be going into rehabilitation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: This comes just one week before CNN's Democratic debates where Biden will be standing next to Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. And both of these candidates have criticized Biden's support of the 1994 Crime Bill, which many believe led to mass incarcerations, especially of African-American men.
CNN's Jessica Dean is in New Orleans ahead of Biden's campaign stop.
Give us an overview, Jess, of Biden's plan.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good afternoon to you, Brianna.
You're exactly right, this is a comprehensive plan. He's been teasing out bits and pieces of this along the campaign trail since he launched his campaign. But this is the first time we're seeing all of the specifics all in one place. And important to note here as well that it includes recommendations from members of the Congressional Black Caucus within this policy.
So what's in here? Let's take a look at this.
First of all, it includes $20 billion in grants for states that eliminate mandatory minimums for non-violent offenders, again hitting on moving from incarceration more to prevention. And to that end, it also incentivizes the inmates to complete educational and rehabilitation programs while they're being incarcerated.
[13:10:03] There's also a program in here that addresses police misconduct. And what that does is it's through the Department of Justice, it uses a tool that the Obama administration used a lot during their time, but that the Trump administration has not employed as much.
It also creates a task force for prosecutorial misconduct outside the DOJ. It provides access to affordable housing for every inmate that's getting out of prison and it decriminalizes marijuana use as well.
And, Brianna, you notice that we're standing in what is an empty room right now. This is the Youth Empowerment Project in New Orleans. And it is a big part of Biden's plan as well. That's $1 billion to juvenile justice. That's what they think really sets this plan apart. This program here really invests in young people here in this community. You'll hear him talk more about that as well this afternoon.
But, Brianna, they know -- the campaign knows that Joe Biden is going to be attacked for his record on this issue, but they say he is proud of his record and he's ready to talk about it.
KEILAR: All right, Jessica Dean in New Orleans, thank you so much.
And Democratic presidential rival, Cory Booker, was quick to respond to Biden's criminal justice reform plan. In a statement he wrote, 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 reporter Arlette Saenz has been closely following the Biden campaign.
Biden has come almost full circle, right, when you consider his support of the '94 Crime Bill. His new plan essentially dismantles many of the previous proposals that were included in that comprehensive bill.
But I wonder, before we deal with Cory Booker's slam of Biden, how are voters paying attention to this? Do they -- do they care about this issue?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I think that's something that we're going to be watching going forward. At many of the Biden events that I've been to, there have been voters who have asked questions about his support for the 1994 Crime Bill. And I think right now what's going to be key for Joe Biden is whether he can convince people that he is capable of change and that he is about moving policies forward. He had a speech that I was at just a few weeks ago in Sumter, South Carolina, where he acknowledged that he takes responsibility for what went right with the 1994 Crime Bill but also what went wrong. And so you're starting to see him really kind of make those arguments, trying to show voters that he can move past some of these issues that were not great back in the 1990s.
KEILAR: How did the campaign factor in the timing of this being just before the next debate and knowing that he's going to be onstage between Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, and that issues of race and issues of criminal justice are sure to come up.
SAENZ: Well, these are issues that Biden has been talking about over the course of his campaign. And he and his campaign advisers have acknowledged that his past is being weaponized -- is the word that they used -- against him by these other rivals. But you have that debate coming up this week. Tomorrow he's going to be in front of the NAACP forum, on Thursday at the National Urban League. So those are audiences, largely made up of African-American voters, that he's also going to be trying to tout this plan to.
But there's no denying, I mean next week he's going to be standing in between Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, who have been incredibly critical of the former vice president on issues of race and criminal justice. And so this kind of gives him some -- he is putting some meat on the bones of what he's been talking about the few weeks -- over the past few weeks and he can talk about in the debate now.
KEILAR: How -- how do Cory Booker's criticisms of him play? How does this affect Biden? SAENZ: Well, I mean, I think -- Cory Booker didn't have the chance to
be on stage with Joe Biden last time around. And so now he is going to be able to throw some punches in person on the debate stage. Booker was very critical right after Biden had made those comments about working with segregationist senators decades ago. And I think that this is something else that you're going to see Cory Booker really hammer away at Joe Biden on.
But I think Biden is going to be up there defending his past positions and also, as I said before, just trying to show that he can move the ball forward.
KEILAR: He's going to have a tough job on debate night.
Arlette Saenz, thank you so much.
And don't forget to catch two nights of debates, July 30th and July 31st. That will be right here on CNN.
So who is playing Robert Mueller in these mock hearings that are going on, on Capitol Hill? I'm going speak with a lawmaker who will be questioning Mueller.
Plus, as Elizabeth Warren warns of another financial crisis, the president and Democrats urging their parties to support a budget bill that increases spending.
And Afghanistan now responding to the president after he said he could win the war there by killing 10 million people.
[13:19:39] KEILAR: By this time tomorrow we will have heard a lot from Special Counsel Robert Mueller during his testimony before two House committees, the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee. And if he hues to instructions from the Department of Justice, he will not go beyond the scope of the redacted special counsel report. The DOJ sent Mueller a letter in response to a request that he made for guidance on his testimony.
[13:20:01] And the Judiciary Committee is up first tomorrow with this focus on alleged obstruction by the president. Then afterward the House Intelligence Committee will dig into Russian election interference.
Congresswoman Madeleine Dean is a Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. Thanks for joining us.
REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): I'm pleased to be with you.
KEILAR: So Mueller asked for this guidance from the DOJ. Former White House Counsel John Dean says that this looks to him like Mueller wants to be limited. What do you think?
DEAN: Well, I think what we have heard from Director Mueller is that he will speak only to the four corners of the document, which doesn't concern me at all because, as you know, the four corners of the document contain damning information about Russian interference in our election, a campaign -- Trump campaign willowing -- willing to be welcomed to that interference by Russia, and then multiple 10, 11 instances of alleged obstruction by this president of the investigation.
So I understand that Director Mueller wants to do his job and do it well. I have every confidence he will. And by telling us and bringing to the American people the four corners the damning evidence within that document, we will be able to reveal a lot.
KEILAR: Is there a big unknown that you would like answered by Robert Mueller?
DEAN: Actually, I don't think so. I think the document is what speaks so loudly. But, unfortunately, that document has been blurred by this administration claiming no collusion, no obstruction. Of course that's not at all the findings of this report. By the attorney general, also claiming no collusion, no obstruction. Again, not the findings of this report. So that if we can just uncover the actual findings of the report for the American people to see that, as a result of this investigation there were 37 indictments. The Mueller team indicted 37 people or entities. Seven people have pleaded guilty or have been convicted. Multiple people in jail. In connection with the obstruction by Donald Trump -- the attempted obstruction by Donald Trump. So I think the information's right in the report.
KEILAR: Judiciary Democrats are holding a two-hour mock hearing this afternoon. Why is it so important that you all coordinate?
DEAN: Well, I won't speak to our preparation other than to say it's very thorough. I've had the opportunity to work with my team in my own office, with the team of the Judiciary Committee, with attorneys, so that we craft very careful questions. What I've shared with my committee is what I believe. My words are less important tomorrow. It is Director Mueller's words that matter. So that I hope that what I do is actually craft very concise questions, simple, understandable questions so that Mr. Mueller has the chance --
KEILAR: Is that the goal is all members, can I ask you? Is that the goal is concise questions? So often members of Congress spend a lot of time asking the question. Is everyone trying to ask concise questions?
DEAN: Well, Bianna, I too have been guilty of that. So I'm just schooling myself, that I want to make sure my questions are as tightly crafted and understandable for the American people as possible, not laced with legalese or multisyllabic words. I can't tell you exactly about the preparation of everybody else.
KEILAR: Then how, though, when it comes to everyone else, one of the other complaints of people watching some of these hearings, whether it's led by either party, is that it's -- everyone's siloed (ph) off from one another, they don't coordinate so that they can get all of the information out of a witness. How are you all coordinating to make sure that one member builds on the answers received by the last member's questions? DEAN: Well, the team inside the Judiciary Committee has been
extraordinarily able in identifying and scaffolding the arguments to put the narrative before the American people. So we are absolutely coordinating. The members have been working very, very well together because we have one goal in minding. It's not to showcase us, it's to showcase the facts, the evidence, the lawlessness. The American people deserve that information. And I'm proud to be a part of a committee that will bring that to light.
KEILAR: So who plays Robert Mueller in these mock hearings?
DEAN: Oh, I'm not going to tell you the behind the scenes, but we have a couple of very able folks.
KEILAR: So -- OK, so someone is --
DEAN: They're really good.
KEILAR: A couple able folks. Someone is playing Robert Mueller. Are these -- are these committee lawyers?
DEAN: I'm not going to tell you about the behind the scenes.
KEILAR: All right, but there's a couple very able bodies who are playing Robert Mueller you said.
All right, when -- when you are going through this process, is this -- are all members in the room together? Are you coordinating in that regard? Are you doing it in -- one member at a time?
DEAN: Well, again, I appreciate you wanting to know more about the process, but I like our preparation to continue really among ourselves.
DEAN: So I don't really want to shine a light on that. What we're really here to do is to shine a light on the facts of the report. A hundred contacts by the Trump campaign with Russia -- with Russians. Not one call to law enforcement to say maybe there's something wrong here. The welcoming and wallowing in the interference, the sweeping and systematic interference, and then a president who once he realizes he's under investigation goes to great lengths to ask people to lie for him, to document things that did not happen, to destroy documents of things that did happen. That's really what's more important than the behind the scenes.
[13:25:30] KEILAR: Well, Republicans have hold their own -- they've held their own mock hearing. They're preparing as well. They're going to question the origins of the report. They might question Mueller about his team, try to paint them as biased. How will Democrats address that? How are you prepared to respond, react to Republicans?
DEAN: I have a feeling Director Mueller will not need our response. Director Mueller speaks with such clarity and such credibility, I don't think he's going to need our team to defend him and his work and the work of his team.
You know, I was thinking about this, Brianna, as I was preparing these last two weeks, I guess, in particular. And thinking about how troubling it is that we have to have this hearing but how powerful it is that we get to have this hearing, that we have a special counsel regulation that allowed for the examination of wrongdoing by a candidate, by a campaign, and the wrongdoing and the evidence of wrongdoing of this administration. So while it's all very, very troubling, I do think the American people can be proud. We can uphold our democracy. We can say that we prize the rule of law and no one is above the law.
KEILAR: You said Mueller doesn't need your defense, doesn't need the defense of Democrats. That said, the president aired false claims about how he's conflicted, as he has done before.
So you don't expect Democrats will address that?
DEAN: I don't know what everybody else is addressing, so I don't know what the preparation is on that. The president's argument about conflicted was proven hollow. It's proven hollow in the report. It was proven hollow by the facts.
KEILAR: But that's not a part of -- that's not a part of your goal in the hearing, to deal with that?
DEAN: Well, you've got me there. You're right. No, that won't be my -- that won't be my area of focus.
KEILAR: But -- and you can't speak for other Democrats, even though you're all coordinating and building on each other's questions and answers?
DEAN: Yes, no, I think it's important that we lay it all out, as -- as much of a narrative as we possibly can, to put flesh to the words that are within this report, to show the actions and the behavior both of the Russians and the Trump campaign. The absence of calling out to anyone that there's terrible, serious, sweeping interference with our 2016 election, even though it's to the benefit of Trump, wouldn't you imagine that someone would have called law enforcement? So those kinds of things are the things we're going to be examining. And, of course, the behavior, the 10, 11 instances where this president attempted to interfere with the investigation of him.
KEILAR: All right, we are awaiting this significant hearing tomorrow. You are on the Judiciary Committee.
Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, thank you for being with us.
DEAN: Thank you for following this.
KEILAR: Is the Tea Party dead? Why the new budget deal isn't making as much noise as it used to.
Plus, Afghanistan wants answers after the president says he could wipe them, quote, off the face of the earth. And why the Trump administration's next move may take away food stamps
from more than 3 million people.