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Justice Department Warns Mueller to Stay in 'Boundaries' of Report; Demonstrations Turn Violent, Tear Gas Fired at Protestors in Puerto Rico; Trump & Congressional Leaders Reach Bipartisan Budget Deal; Biden Unveils Criminal Justice Reform Plan. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired July 23, 2019 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A letter from the Justice Department seems to be a warning to Robert Mueller that they do not want any surprises.
[05:59:36] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mueller, unlike Comey, is someone that may stick to the script, as opposed to seeking the spotlight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn't the first witness they've attempted to intimidate. It's just the one who has the most credibility.
GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: My effort and commitment is to follow through on efforts that I established for the people of Puerto Rico.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am fed up with corruption.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to fire tear gas. Here it comes, here it comes.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, July 23, 6 a.m. here in New York. John Berman is off today. David Gregory joins me. It's a big day, as we look at tomorrow.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's at least the eve of a big day.
GREGORY: This is -- right, I mean, this has been highly anticipated even in the middle of the summer. They get Robert Mueller finally to testify.
CAMEROTA: And things keep changing as they did last night.
GREGORY: What will he be able to say? CAMEROTA: Honestly. So we're just 24 hours away from Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifying before Congress about his investigation into President Trump, of course, and Russian interference in the 2016 election.
And then last night there was a development. On the eve of this high- stakes testimony, the Justice Department sent a letter, warning Robert Mueller to, quote, "remain within the boundaries of his report," end quote. Also, the letter warned him not to talk publicly about anyone he investigated but did not charge.
GREGORY: Yes, this red line. I mean, there's always a letter, right? There's always some kind of red line. And now, this is the question. Could it significantly affect how Democrats and Republican lawmakers try to get information, new information, really, for much of the public about why the special prosecutor drew no conclusion about whether President Trump should be charged with a crime.
Will the special counsel's testimony create momentum for impeachment, or will Americans be left asking why Washington is still talking about any of this?
We have a lot to cover this morning. We want to begin with Lauren Fox. She's live on Capitol Hill with more.
Lauren, good morning.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, David.
That's right. You know, Robert Mueller has testified on Capitol Hill 88 times since 1990 but, of course, never like this. Democrats are really hoping that tomorrow's testimony shifts public opinion.
Meanwhile, Republicans hope it will be the last chapter in that saga of the Russia investigation. And the Justice Department putting some guardrails on what the special counsel can say.
FOX (voice-over): Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller will testify tomorrow in two highly-anticipated hearings on Capitol Hill. The Justice Department issuing him this warning before he speaks, demanding Mueller, quote, "remain within the boundaries of his public report, because matters within the scope of his investigation were covered by executive privilege" and avoid discussing the conduct "with respect to uncharged individuals."
ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.
FOX: Mueller, a reluctant witness, will appear under subpoena in back-to-back hearings before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, facing questions about the ten episodes of possible obstruction outlined in the Mueller report and about Russian interference in the 2016 election. Some Democrats believe Mueller could help Americans understand his findings.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): For most people, this will be the first time they will hear what's in that report, was actually found in this investigation by Mr. Mueller and his team. It's a damming report with -- with really disturbing evidence against the president, and I think it's going to have a very powerful impact on the American people.
FOX: But Trump allies telling Democrats and the public it's time to move on.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think the apple is done. Most Americans were looking to Mueller to tell them what happened, not Nadler. Do you think any fair-minded American believes that Nadler is out to get the truth? He's already convicted the president in his own mind. This is all about impeachment.
FOX: Sources tell CNN congressional Democrats are preparing for Mueller's hearing seriously.
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): These are serious members who are on the Democratic side, treating this as the most important hearing that they've had so far in their lives.
FOX: President Trump downplaying the former special counsel's testimony.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I'm not going to be watching, probably. Maybe I'll see a little bit of it. I'm not going to be watching Mueller, because you can't take all those bites out of the apple.
We had a total no collusion finding. The Democrats were devastated by it. They went crazy. They've gone off the deep end.
FOX: And behind the scenes, preparations have been extensive. Democrats have held mock hearings, have scripted questions. Republicans have watched hours of past testimony from Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill, trying to get a sense of exactly how he'll answer questions. And Robert Mueller himself also preparing an unused office space at his law firm here in D.C. -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, Lauren. Really interesting background. Thank you for all of that.
Joining us now to success it, we have Elie Honig. He's a former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst. Seung Min Kim, White House reporter for "The Washington Post"; and CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell. He's a former FBI supervisory special agent and the author of a new book, "Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump's War on the FBI." The book is now available for preorder. It will be released in mid-September.
[06:05:05] Congrats on the book.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Thanks, good morning.
CAMEROTA: OK. So let's talk about what happened last night, Elie. The DOJ sent this letter to Robert Mueller, and in it, it said he must "remain within the boundaries of your public report, because matters within the scope of your investigation were covered by executive privilege."
How does that change what's going to happen tomorrow?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So it could change quite a bit. First of all, I think the letter holds no water legally.
What DOJ is trying to do here is take every objection known to man, and they just sort of list them end to end and say, "For all these reasons, you need to constrain yourself."
But executive privilege has no legal application here. What they're doing is piggybacking off of Robert Mueller's self-imposed limitation, that "I'm going to stay within the four corners of the report."
I think he's wrong. I think it's actually a little bit hypocritical of Mueller to say that, because subpoenas -- Robert Mueller knows better than anybody. He served 2,800 subpoenas. They are not optional; they're mandatory. Witnesses don't get to pick and choose.
CAMEROTA: Why -- why doesn't executive privilege apply to those?
HONIG: Because Robert Mueller is not an adviser to the president, for sure. Right? Executive privilege applies to communications between the president and his own advisers. There's no way Mueller is an adviser of his.
There's also this argument, well, Mueller learned about those communications. But if Mueller learned about them, they've waived; they're out the window.
GREGORY: So I think this talk about the third party, uncharged third party members is very interesting, Josh, because to me, this is the Justice Department saying to the special counsel, "Hey, remember where FBI director Jim Comey got into so much trouble by running aground -- running afoul of these Justice Department regulations? You can't render judgment about people who haven't been charged, like the president, like members of his family, or maybe opine about where he may have obstructed justice if you didn't reach a conclusion about obstruction of justice." That seems to be what they're saying, arguing at least.
CAMPBELL: It sure does. This is smart, both procedurally but also politically. Because procedurally, you want to stay within the bounds of DOJ guidelines. You don't want to go out and talk about someone, obviously, that hasn't been charged. I think what Comey mentioned there, there were such extraordinary circumstances.
But this is interesting and maybe good politics, as well, for Barr, because he's basically telling Democrats that, "Hey, the thing that you said that you didn't want to happen to your candidate back in 2016, we don't want that to happen to any innocent people today." Which I think, you know, that will be their line. I don't think that's going to fly.
I do think that Robert Mueller is going to do something that few statesmen have been able to do in the modern era, and that is unite the country, not around a uniting principle but around frustration and anger about Robert Mueller, because both sides are going to be angry with him by the time this thing is finished.
I think probably half hour in, you're going to sense a lot of frustration. You're going to have Republicans trying to tear him down. You're going to have Democrats trying to gather important information in the public interest that people want to know, again what was inside his thoughts, what was going on inside of his mind. If he stays within the four corners of those documents, I think both sides are going to come out of there very frustrated.
CAMEROTA: Well, I don't see how he's going to stay inside the four sides of this document, Seung Min, because the questions, the most burning questions are the ones that were not answered in the report.
For instance, the three questions that Neal Katyal, the acting solicitor general under Obama, suggested, I'll just read to you what his op-ed says. "First, did your report find there was no collusion? OK? That's what president has claimed. "Second, did your report find there was no obstruction?" That's what the president has claimed. "Third, did your report give the president complete and total exoneration," as he has claimed.
Those are really the three questions that everyone wants to know, and doesn't he have to answer those?
SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think he could also just kind of repeat what his report actually says, and I think Democrats on Capitol Hill are very cognizant of the fact that Mueller has these self-imposed limitations that he has said publicly, that if he were to testify, his report would be his testimony.
But I think what Democrats are banking on here, knowing and going into these high-stakes hearing, knowing that is really that power of the individual, and the gravitas that Mueller can bring by just even repeating and stating the conclusions of his report to the public. I think we saw just how dramatic that could be with a surprise statement at the Justice Department several weeks ago.
The dynamics of impeachment and whatnot in the Democratic Party had been stagnant. But then you suddenly saw at least a couple of presidential candidates watch that testimony or watch his statement and say, "I am now convinced with what special counsel had said that we must move forward ahead with these impeachment proceedings."
Nancy Pelosi pointed out that, according to CNN polling, only 3 percent of the public has actually read the Mueller report. So I think they're really banking on that visual, the audio, to really change the dynamics, change the politics of impeachment. GREGORY: So can we actually show some of the polling on this? This
is P-202. I feel so comfortable on this set, calling stuff out by number.
CAMEROTA: I know. I can see that. I can see that. You're just owning this.
GREGORY: And by the way, I'd like to order the number 7, as well, if that's possible.
But look -- look at the -- I mean, look, you have 76 percent of Democrats who say you move forward on impeachment. But then Republicans and independents, you've got 6 out of 10 who say, no, among independents. You've got more than 9 out of 10 Republicans who say don't move forward.
[06:10:04] So Elie, I feel like there's a two-step process here. that supporters of moving forward on impeachment would like to see, that somehow more of the narrative gets out. Instances of potential obstruction of justice that are in the report that people may not know about: the conversations between the president and his White House counsel, Don McGahn, trying to fire Mueller. People may not know that story, and to hear him say it in real time would be compelling, even if he doesn't go beyond it. But then there has to be enough fire that catches after that to really change this dynamic, which is very, very difficult.
HONIG: I think that's exactly right. I look at this at two levels.
First of all, there are still questions within the report itself that need to be answered. I'll give you one example.
One of Mueller's main conclusions is that members of the Trump campaign expected to benefit from the Russian election campaign. So the question is who? Who in the Trump campaign expected to benefit electorally, and how?
CAMEROTA: He can't say that.
HONIG: Well, he -- I think he can. Because he says in the report, senior members of the Trump campaign expected to benefit. I think you can say, "You wrote that in your report. Who specifically? It's -- arguably, it's still in your report."
CAMEROTA: This is really interesting.
HONIG: We're going to have a back and forth on this.
CAMEROTA: The names aren't spelled out, so is that allowed or not? That's one of the questions.
GREGORY: And other things, Seung Min. I mean, if he's asked -- "The New York Times" suggested this. Say, "You listed all these potential areas of obstruction of justice. What concerns you the most?" Does he bite on that? Or does he say, "Well, not really for me to assign a priority, one versus the other."
KIM: I mean, again, like we'll see tomorrow. I can't imagine, if he's asked that type of question, that he kind of ranks what of the ten concerned him the most.
I think that just -- he has stressed over and over that what he's going to say is what is already in there. And I think Josh is exactly right that you're going to have -- unless -- barring some major bombshell, like, you're going to have Republicans frustrated who are going to try -- going -- trying to be backing up the president anyway, and also Democrats who are probably going to get frustrated a little bit, even if the -- even if that visual of him testifying is pretty compelling.
GREGORY: Yes, but that's a good point, right? Because on the Republican side, getting him to say in front of God and everybody else, you know, that there was no collusion, that there was nobody worth charging with a crime, that's very important for the president. That's what the president wants.
CAMPBELL: Right. But I think there, too, he also adheres to what he -- what has actually been written.
I think the bottom line here, folks need to manage their expectations. Because the one question that I think Democrats want answered, and you talk about impeachment, you know, we have a document here. What's different, hearing him saying it, and what's different than actually reading it?
What people want to know is what does he -- what is he going to say that's not actually written in there? And the one question is, if this was anyone else other than the president of the United States, would you have indicted him? I will go on record now here, saying there is no way that Robert Mueller answers that question.
CAMEROTA: So what does he say? "Pass"?
CAMPBELL: He's going to say, "That's a hypothetical. I would, you know, refer you to my -- the document, what's been written there."
Again, this goes back to the frustration that people are going to be feeling after this hearing, because what's not in the document people want to know. But again, I don't expect that he's going to come out and have some grand moment where he starts dropping bombshells or sits back and starts editorializing on the state of the nation and how this impacts, you know, America politically. People going in wanting that, I think, are going to be disappointed.
CAMEROTA: Bottom line, Elie, you say that he needs to stop being so Yoda-like.
HONIG: Yes. Look, the time is here, and it's now. Let's drop the mystery, drop all the double speak, the double, triple negatives. Please. I know it's unlikely that he will give us a straight answer, but he should. He really should.
Because the problem is by being so careful and phrasing everything, "I would if I could but I can't," he's left this huge gap of misunderstanding in the American public. And who has jumped into that gap gleefully with distortion and mischaracterization? Bill Barr and Donald Trump. And as a result, we're in this netherworld where everyone sees things their own way.
So hopefully, Robert Mueller -- let me appeal to Robert Mueller. Let's have straight answers. I think -- I think we deserve it as the American public. I think Congress needs it. And frankly, look, this is Mueller's last act in public life. I think he owes it to his own legacy and to the work of his team.
GREGORY: I could see Mueller actually saying, "You know what?" Looking in the camera saying, "I'm doing this for Elie."
HONIG: That would be great.
CAMEROTA: That is great.
GREGORY: You know what I like about the cover of your book? Can we show Josh's cover again?
CAMPBELL: Thank you.
GREGORY: It's not out till -- it kind of looks like a Nelson DeMille novel on the cover.
CAMPBELL: That's what we were -- were were going for --
GREGORY: I'll buy it just for that reason. I'll buy it just for that reason.
CAMPBELL: We were going for the appeal. So, no, thanks for mentioning that. And I will mention also, for those who preordered it, I'm really grateful. I just learned it was No. 1 on the Amazon national security list yesterday in preorders.
CAMPBELL: So thank you so much for doing that.
CAMEROTA: It's only going to get better.
CAMPBELL: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: Elie, Josh, Seung Min, thank you very much.
David, we have some breaking news.
GREGORY: Yes, some breaking news. I can see that.
Demonstrations are turning violent in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after police fired tear gas at protesters outside the governor's mansion as calls intensify for Ricardo Rossello to resign. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live in San Juan this morning with the very
latest. Nick, what do you have?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, David, this is where it happened last night. This is where protests, which had started yesterday peacefully in the hundreds of thousands locking down the main expressway, Las Americas, into San Juan, fueled by Puerto Rican celebrities like Ricky Martin. Well, a number of them braved torrential rains and moved themselves here in the thousands.
[06:15:18] And they started out jovially, musically, and then a group of them began throwing water bottles at the police. There were a number of police warnings, and then the police fired tear gas into the crowds, causing them to scatter. And then a large number in heavy riot gear, police fanned out amongst the streets, sometimes in running battles with protesters there.
Now we're hearing from a police officer that some police were injured. I didn't see that myself. They're wearing a lot of protective clothing. And also, as well, down the street here last night, we saw blood on the pavement, suggesting perhaps some protesters, too, were injured.
But those scenes, the second time in just a week that this part of San Juan has been torn apart, really, by the damage that comes after clashes like that. Really, it's exactly what Puerto Rico is hoping would not occur. Those looking for a peaceful resolution to this.
Yes, the government will now say there's a hard-core rump in the protests that can only be dealt with using the law. And then the protestors will point at the scenes of police firing tear gas and being heavily, heavily covered in protective clothing, that they're dealing with a brutal police force.
We're in a much tighter position here now, because Governor Rossello made it absolutely clear yesterday that he wasn't going anywhere. Here's what he said in an interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEPHERD SMITH, FOX NEWS HOST: Five people who were on those chats, you got rid of all of them. They are out of the government, but you remain. Doesn't the buck stop with your office, Governor?
ROSSELLO: That's right, but I was elected by the people of Puerto Rico.
SMITH: And those people are on the streets of your biggest city --
ROSSELLO: Commitment is --
SMITH: -- saying, "We want you out." That's the headline in the main newspaper. And the politicians on both sides of the political aisle on your own island are saying the exact same thing. You're a man on an island by yourself. How long can you stay there?
ROSSELLO: My effort and my commitment is to follow through on some of the efforts that I've established for the people of Puerto Rico.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: A man a little detached, I think many on the streets felt. He wasn't even there when he gave that interview. Because it was raining here. It was sunshine where he was. Many think that echoes how far he is from what's happening here.
The question is does he go? He said no. He said he won't stand for an election again next year that he'd almost certainly lose.
Is he going to see these kind of scenes and think to himself, "I should step back"? Or has he really dug his heels in kind of permanently for the months ahead, and we're going to see volatile moments like last night -- Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: Nick, it seems as though things did not get better for the governor after that interview. So we'll see what happens there on the streets today. Thank you very much for covering it for us.
So Joe Biden has just released his new criminal justice plan. This, of course, ahead of next week's CNN debates. So he have the details. Next.
GREGORY: Also, later this hour, British lawmakers will select the new leader of the Conservative Party. Will Boris Johnson become the next prime minister? That big announcement is coming up, as well, this morning.
[06:22:50] GREGORY: Well, bipartisanship to tell you about this morning. he White House and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have reached a tentative two-year budget deal, raising spending by $320 billion, and suspending the debt limit, a bipartisan deal. Not something we talk about every day.
CAMEROTA: Did you say bipartisan?
GREGORY: Oh, I said bipartisan. As a matter of fact, we've said it three times.
CAMEROTA: That is breaking news.
GREGORY: Obviously, this could have been a big deal if they didn't get an agreement before Congress left, and you know, fighting over the debt ceiling. A lot of concern about what the impact would be on the market. So --
CAMEROTA: It's bipartisan.
GREGORY: We have a bipartisan agreement.
Joining us now, Daniel Strauss, politics reporter for "Politico"; CNN politics reporter Arlette Saenz; and John Avlon, CNN senior political analyst. So John, this is -- this is a big deal. I mean, the ramifications of
not getting the deal would obviously be severe. We've been down that road before with a government shutdown.
AVLON: We have played that game of chicken. Now that crisis has been averted. That's good news for the markets, good news for the country, really bad news for the long-term deficit and debt situation of the nation. Donald Trump campaigned saying he'd eliminate the deficit in eight years and take down the debt.
CAMEROTA: It's going the wrong way.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He is now Deficit Don. He does not -- Republicans are just making it clear that this has all been a con. That deficits only matter when a Democrat's in the White House. They're increasing spending dramatically by $300 billion, not you know, taking it down.
And -- and the tax cuts have added dramatically to the debt, around 1.5 trillion in his first two years alone.
So what you've got is a time of a massive economic expansion, deficits and debt increasing. That's a dangerous combo, people, and we're going to pay the piper down the road.
CAMEROTA: If it's all been a con, Daniel, I want those eight years back of the Obama administration, because I will never forget the drum beat that FOX News pounded every single day, where people's hair was on fire about the deficit and about Democrats' profligate spending.
And, you know, between Roger Ailes and Sean Hannity and everybody who would talk about how we are bankrupting our children, and where were -- I mean, listen, a bipartisan deal is great. Of course we can celebrate that. The reason there was a bipartisan deal is because Republicans have given up talking about the deficit and things like that.
[06:25:03] DANIEL STRAUS, POLITICAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": Yes, and look, I really don't see a dramatic shift in support among Republicans for Donald Trump.
You know, his approval ratings remain sky-high among Republicans, and they're going to hail the points in this budget agreement that they like. They're really not going to criticize the president on increasing the deficit here.
I -- I see no change on that front, no matter, really, how much Democrats crow about increasing the deficit. And I don't really think they will, because like you said, this is something that they also know Republicans are so lock step behind President Trump on.
GREGORY: Arlette, let's turn -- turn the subject a little bit to Joe Biden and a new policy proposal that he's unveiling about justice reform, which is something he's doing right before the debates, also a way to preemptively engage his -- his own defense of his record in the '90s. Lay out a little bit about what he's talking about and how it fits in
with the broader narrative of the campaign.
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, David. You've seen Joe Biden since he entered the 2020 race. He's come under criticism, under fire for his support of the 1994 crime bill.
And today he's unveiling that criminal justice reform plan that is focusing, in part, on reducing incarceration rates. There's a lot in this plan, so I'm going to try to tick through a little bit of it.
There is a $20 billion competitive grant program for states to move from incarceration to prevention to focus on things that have been proven to reduce incarceration rates, like addressing illiteracy and child abuse.
There's also a $1 billion per year funding for juvenile justice. That's a substantial increase from the current funding.
And additionally, they want to address systemic police misconduct by returning to an Obama-era policy of pattern or practice investigations and consent decrees.
And there are a few elements in this bill which are kind of reversals from what Joe Biden supported back when he was in the Senate. It ends mandatory minimums. It also eliminates the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine. Those were in bills that Joe Biden worked on while he was a senator.
And it also calls for legislation to end to the death penalty on the federal level. Joe Biden for many years was a long-time supporter of the death penalty, so that is a shift and change.
Biden is going to be speaking to largely African-American groups later this week in Detroit tomorrow at an NAACP forum and also the Urban League in Indianapolis on Thursday. So this gives him a chance to kind of tout his current positions on criminal justice as he's heading into that debate, where he's going to be standing right in between Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, who both have been very critical on him of issues not just relating to race but also criminal justice.
CAMEROTA: And there you have it, John. I mean, this is -- this is strategically, I would think, smart because anytime in the debate, Kamala Harris or Cory Booker brings up the crime bill from the 1990s, then he says, "Well, I'd like to -- may I refer you to my new plan for rehabilitation and criminal justice? Here's what I feel today."
AVLON: Yes, and look, it's a very detailed plan, and it does reform some of the excesses of that bipartisan crime bill that was passed in the 1990s. And that's the politics of it.
But substantively, it's pretty significant: to reduce mandatory minimums, to calling for ending the sentencing disparity between crack and cocaine, to call for decriminalizing marijuana nationally and making it a Schedule 2, there are a lot of things in here. But the one that I think is going to be a flash point for conservatives and Republican -- and Trump in particular is the flip-flop or shift in positions late in life on the death penalty.
AVLON: That's going to be a big deal.
GREGORY: Will he also engage in some kind of defense of his position in the '90s --
GREGORY: -- and argue that the landscape was different and necessitated some of the elements of that crime bill.
AVLON: Which he can make a very credible case that it did.
CAMEROTA: Thank you, one and all. We really appreciate you previewing all of that for us.
Meanwhile, Russia and South Korea at odds over a close call in the Sea of Japan. So why did a South Korean jet fire hundreds of shots at this Russian aircraft? We have all of the breaking details on this next.