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CNN RIGHT NOW
Democrats at Odds Over Impeachment; Trump Can be Indicted After Leaving Office; Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) is Interviewed About Impeachment; Epstein Hurt in Jail; North Korea Fires Missiles. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired July 25, 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: We do and watching for it in 2020, including not just reports, including people when you log online.
Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. 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, Democrats can't decide on impeachment, and America's under attack right now by the Russians, but is anybody even listening?
And, no more Mr. Polite Guy. Joe Biden's had it with attacks from his rivals, so he's changing his game plan.
Plus, the millionaire indicted for trafficking underage girls is found injured in his jail cell.
Also despite love letters and more summits, North Korea fires a, quote, new kind of missile.
And, why the ceiling at Notre Dame Cathedral may be on the verge of collapse.
We start with the day after the Robert Mueller hearing and the fallout on Capitol Hill. First, here is what we heard in the hearings. Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election. The Trump campaign accepted help from the Russians. The Trump campaign did not report contacts with Russia and lied about them to investigators. The president obstructed justice and tried to shut down the investigation. The president, who says that he cooperated fully with the investigation not only refused to sit down for an interview but failed to answer some of the written questions. He was also untruthful in some of the answers that he did give. And, finally, Robert Mueller said his report did not exonerate President Trump.
Now, Democrats must decide on their way forward, on investigations and possibly impeachment.
CNN's Manu Raju is live from Capitol Hill for us. And Speaker Pelosi, Manu, says that she's allowing members to decide
for themselves on impeaching the president. Is she starting to feel, though, more pressure from the caucus or less to get behind the impeachment herself?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Democrats I've talked to want to understand what exactly the game plan is in the aftermath of the Mueller testimony. Behind closed doors last night that was a key question that Democratic caucus (INAUDIBLE) raised to the speaker and to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, who at that same meeting proposed the idea of moving forward with articles of impeachment that would actually be drafted by the six different committees that are investigating the president.
Now, the speaker is not in line with that idea and Nadler is not moving forward with that yet, but the speaker wants to move forward instead with court action and see where that moves. But also the big question going forward is whether or not the Democrats who are calling for impeachment ultimately will persuade the speaker to move off of her opposition. But talking to members this morning, it's very clear they're still divided.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Are you going to discourage your members at all for announcing their support for an impeachment inquiry?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Never have done that. I've never, never have done that.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): I mean this is all an agenda that has to happen in 2019 if it's going to happen. So the clock is ticking.
RAJU: What's the risk if you don't move forward now?
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): The risk is ours. It's our -- I think the future of our Constitution and the division of power.
RAJU: Is the speaker wrong in her approach here?
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): Well, I want to encourage her to expedite this matter more than has been done in the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, at a closed door meeting this morning, I'm told that the speaker took some -- raised some concerns about the notion that people who don't move forward with the -- support moving forward with an impeachment proceedings are not honoring their constitutional duties that have been raised. Those remarks have been made by some members of her caucus. She pushed back and said that we're all honoring our oath of office, no matter where you stand on the impeachment question but members should feel free to get behind whatever they need to do, what's best for their individual districts. And, at the moment, the next steps here on Capitol Hill, House Judiciary Committee expected to file lawsuits to try to get information -- grand jury information related to the Mueller probe and to force the former White House counsel, Don McGahn, to testify and provide records to their committee.
KEILAR: Manu Raju on The Hill, thank you.
And Robert Mueller said he didn't even consider indicting the president because of the standing office of legal counsel's opinion against indicting a sitting president, which made this exchange even more interesting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): Could you charge the president with a crime after he left office?
ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: Yes.
BUCK: You believe that he committed -- you could charge the president of the United State with obstruction of justice after he left office?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Carrie Cordero is a CNN legal analyst and she's former counsel to the assistant attorney general for national security.
How real of a possibility is this for President Trump?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think there's a question in the abstract whether a president could be indicted after office, and so the answer to that is yes. Whether or not this president could, I tend to think, as a practical matter, that those who are waiting for Donald Trump to go away and be frog walked into jail is really fantasy, even if charges could have been brought.
[13:05:05] There's a real -- and let's say he -- he actually was tried and he was even convicted, I mean, I think something would be litigated. It would take a really long time. But let's say we got all the way to that point hypothetically and that happened, I think a future president would probably pardon him because it actually would be an appropriate use. And one of the historical reasons of pardon authority is to be able to heal the country. We saw that in the Nixon example where President Ford pardoned him and it heals the country, it brings it together.
So I think to the extent that political opponents have this idea that one day Donald Trump is going to jail, I think that's fairly ridiculous. But as a theoretical legal matter, if there was evidence and a prosecutor looked at the facts that are laid out in the report, the conduct that constitutes obstruction, and there are anywhere from four to six to up to ten potential acts of obstructive conduct described in the Mueller report, it is theoretically possible that a prosecutor could look at that and determine there was a prosecutable case.
KEILAR: Is there a statute of limitations on those possible crimes?
CORDERO: So, I think that there is. And it would be something that the U.S. attorney -- it would -- because the conduct, the obstructive conduct took place in D.C., so a U.S. attorney here in the District of Columbia, which is part of the Justice Department, the U.S. attorney reports to the attorney general, so you would have to have an analysis as to whether or not the conduct would toll at some point.
I think there is something to the argument that because there is a statute of limitations, if Donald Trump is re-elected, then potentially at the end of a second term that option could go away. I don't think Director Mueller was getting into those details in the hearing.
KEILAR: But that he could be protected by re-election, which is --
CORDERO: That is one possibility.
KEILAR: Which is very interesting.
KEILAR: So when asked if the president was untruthful in his written answers to the special counsel's questions, Robert Mueller answered, generally -- quote, generally. What did you think about that response?
CORDERO: Well, it was interesting because I think it's the first time that a member of the special counsel's team or the special counsel himself has made the allegations. In the report itself, there's an appendix, and that is what contains the president's written answers, which were written by his lawyers, of course, in consultation with him, and he would have had to approve them. This is the first allegation that those answers might have been untruthful in some way.
The special counsel, in his hearing yesterday, he didn't expand on that. And so we don't have more information about which particular answers might have been untruthful or in other ways that they might have not been precise.
KEILAR: All right, Carrie Cordero, thank you so much.
KEILAR: There are now more than 90 members of the House who support opening an impeachment inquiry of President Trump. Indiana Congressman Andre Carson is now among them.
Thank you so much for being with us.
REP. ANDRE CARSON (D-IN): What a pleasure. Thanks for having me.
KEILAR: You are a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. You said that impeachment shouldn't be ruled out back in May but you did not necessarily support it. This month you voted in support of Congressman Al Green's article of impeachment.
What changed for you?
CARSON: Well, of course, Mr. Green has always been a thoughtful member. I consider him to be a very dear friend. It did -- it failed this time, but I think that we need to have a broader discussion about the notion of impeachment. It's clear that the Russians had a coordinated and systemic -- systematic attack on our electoral process. It's clear that President Donald Trump and his cronies tried very hard and deliberately to impede this investigation. And so I think that looking at him being unfit to be president is the central point. That's where my motive comes in, in terms of supporting Congressman Green's legislation.
KEILAR: You questioned Robert Mueller. Did you think that this testimony that we saw yesterday before the Intel Committee, before the Judiciary Committee, moved the needle at all for Democrats on pushing ahead with impeachment?
CARSON: Well, what I think it did was it -- I think it reaffirmed what we already know, that the Russians tried to attack our electoral process, that Donald Trump and his cronies deliberately tried to impede a very important investigation, they tried to halt the investigation in many ways. And so I think Director Mueller, given his years of service for our country, I think that he presented himself quite well and I think that the American people have a decision to make in 2020.
KEILAR: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still holding off your caucus on moving forward with an impeachment inquiry. Do you want her to move the caucus forward on this?
CARSON: Well, I understand the speaker's instincts in this regard. We don't want to make Donald Trump an underdog. He thrives in that kind of us against them environment. It's interesting, he tries to make himself an outlier when in fact he is the ultimate insider. And so I think that we have to be very careful and delicate as it relates to the impeachment question because we do not want to make him the underdog going into the 2020 elections.
[13:10:27] KEILAR: If you want impeachment but you won't publicly pressure leadership to do it, how is that really a full-throated push for impeachment?
CARSON: Well, that's untrue. That's untrue. You're making assumptions, grave assumptions. I said in the beginning of the talk, I'm open to the discussion. I think the discussion is critically important about Donald Trump being unfit to serve as commander in chief of our country. And so one has to understand that a discussion offers the ability for all sides to present persuasive arguments and ultimately present this argument before our constituents, vis-a-vis the American people.
KEILAR: But the discussion meaning opening an impeachment inquiry, is that what you would consider having a discussion, that initial step?
CARSON: That's why I voted in favor of Mr. Green's legislation.
KEILAR: The -- I mean the -- the perception, and I think the speaker understands this, is even if you move forward with an impeachment inquiry, which is the initial step, you've crossed the Rubicon on impeachment. Americans consider that to be the beginning of impeachment proceedings. They don't make a distinction that that's just opening a conversation. So if -- I --
CARSON: I don't think most Americans -- I don't think most Americans even understand the impeachment process. That's why it's up to us and up to our friends in the fourth estate (ph) to educate them and walk them through this process because they're deeply concerned.
KEILAR: But she's holding back on this initial move, right, on this initial move to open an impeachment inquiry. So is this just demonstrative of what a difficult situation your caucus is in when on one hand you support moving forward on that, the speaker will not move the caucus forward on that and it's difficult for many Democrats like you to call on her to move forward with that initial step?
CARSON: Your words are difficult. I said delicate. There's a -- there's a distinction there. I think it is very delicate. I think we have different philosophical views. We're a big tent party. But we think quite differently. Our districts are different. Our sensibilities are different. And so it is very delicate because many members feel like we should be focused on other matters, like infrastructure, education, national security.
KEILAR: The Department of Justice is refusing to prosecute the attorney general, William Barr, Labor Secretary Wilbur Ross for contempt of Congress. Both have refused to testify due to what they said were executive privilege reasons.
What is the objective of these contempt votes if, in the end, you're just stymied by the Department of Justice?
CARSON: Well, I think that's unfortunate. I think that -- my hope is that the Department of Justice will act objectively in this matter. But what we don't want is for the Department of Justice to be an extended arm of President Trump's tyranny.
KEILAR: So -- but when you have a contempt vote, the expectation is that this is what the DOJ is going to do. That's the knowledge that Democrats are operating under. That's the practical knowledge. What's the point of having contempt votes if you just run into this wall?
CARSON: Well, I think it's important that we make the case before the American people. I fear that leadership in the Department of Justice are too protective of Donald Trump and they aren't critical enough. And you have folks in the Department of Justice who go to work each and every day with the motivation to serve our country in the highest manner. But they too feel threatened by the current leadership and so they can't be as precise and as bold and as aggressive as they normally would be under a different kind of administration. President Trump has shown himself to be very temperamental. He's shown himself to be very vindictive. And so I think we need a different kind of leadership in the Department of Justice that will hold President Trump accountable.
KEILAR: Congressman Andre Carson, thank you so much for talking to us today.
CARSON: Thank you for having me.
KEILAR: Jeffrey Epstein is found hurt inside of his jail cell and now he says he was beaten up.
Plus, as the president continues to compliment Kim Jong-un, North Korea fires more missiles in what's being called a new kind of threat.
[13:14:49] And just days before CNN's debate, Joe Biden says he's taking the gloves off after his rivals escalate attacks on his record.
KEILAR: Convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein is recovering from minor injuries after guards found him in his New York jail cell with markings around his neck. According to sources familiar with the matter, Epstein is on suicide watch, but he claims he was beaten up and called a child predator. The 66-year-old multimillionaire has been awaiting trial on child sex trafficking charges after he was denied bail last week.
[13:20:10] Shimon Prokupecz has been covering all of this.
This is a very unforeseen development. What are you hearing?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, it's a very unforeseen development. It's a very troubling development certainly for investigators. They don't want anything happening to him. The investigation is still very much ongoing. There's still a lot of work to do. And, you know, for them, they certainly don't want him escaping justice because either he's beaten up and dies in jail or because he kills himself.
So now he's on suicide watch. They're taking other precautions to protect him. And what we're hearing is I think the leading theory right now would be that this was an attempted suicide, but they're not 100 percent certain yesterday. He has said that -- he's made a claim that he was beaten up. There's another theory from investigators that maybe he did this to try and get some sympathy so that they could move him from the jail he's at in lower Manhattan, the MCC. The conditions there, as we would expect, are pretty rough. I think he's unhappy about being there. He fought like hell to get out of jail and to try to go stay at a $66 million mansion. That didn't work.
So there's concern that he may be doing this to try and get -- to try and be moved. But we don't know for sure. Investigators don't know for sure what's going on here. But, obviously, they're taking all sorts of precautions now to make sure that nothing happens to him.
KEILAR: Is he in -- has he been in the general population? PROKUPECZ: I don't think this -- the area that he's in is not
necessarily general population, but he's not with, you know, the other kind of prisoners, low-profile prisoners, because he's of a high profile, he's in a certain area that would give him more protection from general population. So that's what's not entirely clear, which wouldn't make sense that other inmates would have access to him. But I do think, just as a matter of a daily routine, he does have access and he does interact with other inmates at the jail. But because of his high-profile nature, there was already certain precautions that the jail took. So a lot of questions -- there's going to be a lot of questions about exactly what happened and how this all happened.
KEILAR: So the leading theory is that he hurt himself, but there would be a question, if that's the case, about what his objective was.
PROKUPECZ: Right, what was his objective. Certainly there is belief that he did this to himself, that he injured himself. You know, he claimed someone beat him up. Where that stands now, not entirely clear.
KEILAR: All right, Shimon, thank you so much for that reporting.
The president ignores Congress, vetoes a bill that blocks the sale of weapons to the Saudis. We have James Clapper to respond, next.
Plus, a Navy SEAL platoon kicked out of Iraq for drinking while deployed, but is there more to this story?
[13:27:21] KEILAR: Forget the love letters. North Korea is sending a new message to the U.S. in the form of two new short-range ballistic missiles. North Korea launched them off their eastern coast. The first missile traveled about 265 miles. The second, about 428. This is according to South Korea.
And this was just last month that President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un met on friendly terms at the DMZ and they later agreed to renew denuclearization talks. This missile launch threatening that effort.
We have former director of national intelligence, and CNN national security analyst, General James Clapper, here with us.
So when you're looking at the calculus of North Korea, why would they launch these?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, this is actually fairly typical of North Korea. When they feel they're being neglected and people aren't paying attention to them, they want to do something that will attract that attention. I think this is just kind of another manifestation that I don't -- I don't think it's some great leap technologically for the North Koreans, but I think the important thing here was the signaling that, hey, don't forget me here in -- in North Korea.
KEILAR: And so what do they want out of it, just some -- just some attention? More attention to a potential discussion?
CLAPPER: Exactly. Yes, exactly. And I think it's a reflection of a couple of things. They may have been messaging because of some forthcoming exercises between the U.S. and the South Korean military, or they don't feel there's enough progress being made towards relieving them of sanctions and negotiations. So it would be just messaging. Some -- kind of reminds me of my grandkids when they were young and they, you know, would sit in their high chair and beat on the tray with a spoon just to get attention.
KEILAR: I was going to say, you do seem to be describing a toddler.
I want to talk -- I want to talk about Saudi Arabia now because President Trump has vetoed three joint resolutions that prohibit arm sales to Saudi Arabia. Many lawmakers are worried that these are weapons that are going to be used in Saudi Arabia's war on Yemen. If that's the case, would this make, in your belief, the U.S. complicit in these mass atrocities that we've seen?
CLAPPER: Well, this has been an issue since when I served as DNI, and that is the Saudis' utilization of U.S. weapons systems and the supporting apparatus, like tankers, for their war in Yemen. And they've had issues from the get-go with perhaps I'll call it careless targeting. And this has resulted in a lot of casualties, civilian casualties, and probably unnecessarily so. So, yes, in a -- implicitly at least, yes, we're complicit when we aid and abet that.
[13:30:03] KEILAR: The chairman of the House committee on foreign affairs, Eliot Engel, he says, the president's veto sends.