Return to Transcripts main page


Puerto Rico's Governor to Step Down on August 2nd; Robert Mueller's Testimony Doesn't Provide Critical Moment for Democrats. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 25, 2019 - 04:30   ET


[04:30:22] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. He's out. Ricardo Rossello says he will resign as governor of Puerto Rico after more than a week of protests.


ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: It wasn't a single attempt. They're doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Robert Mueller's blunt warning on Russian interference put Democrats in a scramble after he said little to move the needle on impeachment.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour here in New York.

Breaking overnight, though, let's begin in Puerto Rico where the governor, Ricardo Rossello, announced he will resign.

And that set off wild celebrations in the streets of San Juan. The embattled governor releasing a video confirming he will step down on August 2nd.


GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO (through translator): Despite having the mandate of the people who elected me democratically, today I feel that remaining in this position represents a difficulty to continue the success that's been reached.


BRIGGS: The streets of the capital have been jammed with protesters for days. Puerto Ricans demanding Rossello leave office over a series of leaked group chats that included homophobic and sexist language and jokes about Hurricane Maria victims. For more, we turn to Rafael Romo in San Juan.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave, Christine, an explosion of joy, singing, shouting, dancing people here in old San Juan after they learned Governor Ricardo Rossello will be resigning his position effective August 2nd at 5:00 in the afternoon.

You can see how people have been celebrating after they heard the news and the reality is that they have been here protesting on a daily basis for the last 12 days because they said they have lost all trust in their governor and the reality is that Governor Ricardo Rossello didn't really have too many options.

He was facing what would have been a very embarrassing impeachment process. He had already lost many members of his cabinet and it was becoming very difficult for him to govern the island. In announcing his resignation he said that he had dedicated all his time in the governor's office to help the people of Puerto Rico especially when two hurricanes hit the island in 2017, that he had also worked for women's rights and also to improve the financial situation of the island, but the reality was that there was not a whole lot that the governor could do to convince these people that he should stay as governor of Puerto Rico.

Dave and Christine, back to you.

ROMANS: Just remarkable. Remarkable there. Thank you so much for that, Rafael.

OK. Here in the U.S. a lot of hearing in Washington, a lot of tense moments but not a lot to change the minds during Robert Mueller's appearance on Capitol Hill. But above all the impeachment talk the political spin and the legal battles the special counsel's most important message was clear, Russia interfered and the Trump campaign did not refuse that help. Moscow still trying to influence American democracy and Americans should be aware and concerned.


MUELLER: It wasn't a single attempt. They're doing it as we sit here and they expect to do it during the next campaign. I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is.


BRIGGS: House Democrats now plotting their next move. In a closed- door meeting last night they pressed leadership about impeachment. Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to let the legal battles play out but she says she's open to more detailed talks about impeachment. Something she's resisted thus far.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You have long said that there is no point in moving part with an impeachment inquiry because Republicans control the Senate. It's going to die in the Senate. Is that no longer your chief concern?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I have never long said that. If we have a case for impeachment, that's the place we will have to go. The fact that why I'd like it to be a strong case is because I don't -- it's based on the facts. The stronger our case is, the worst the Senate will look for just letting the president off the hook.


ROMANS: CNN legal analyst Laura Coates says the House Democrats already have the information they need to move on impeachment if they choose.


LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Let's just say it, the book was better than the movie today, OK? We all agree. It was better than the movie, but now we're putting form over substance.

[04:35:04] It was already there. All the information you would need to actually bring it to life, it's already in the actual report. The idea of kicking the can down the road to say, hey, will this be enough now? Essentially it's like a "Wizard of Oz" moment here, ladies and gentlemen. You already had the power to go home all along, Congress. Are you going to exercise it or are you not?


ROMANS: In his hours of testimony, Mueller rarely took the bait from Democrats. But he did have some damaging things to say about Trump. He reiterated, contrary to the president's claims, Mr. Trump was never exonerated.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): So the report did not conclude that he did not commit obstruction of justice, is that correct?

MUELLER: That is correct.

NADLER: And what about total exoneration? Did you actually totally exonerate the president?



ROMANS: Mueller essentially said the president lied in some of his written answers.


REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Director Mueller, isn't it fair to say that the president's written answers were not only inadequate and incomplete because he didn't answer many of your questions but where he did his answers showed that he wasn't always been truthful?

MUELLER: There -- I would say generally.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: The special counsel also objected to candidate Trump welcoming help from WikiLeaks.


REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): "This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove," Donald Trump, October 31st, 2016. "Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks," Donald Trump, November 4th, 2016.

How do you react to that?

MUELLER: Well, it's -- problematic is an understatement.


ROMANS: For weeks Democrats argued that having Mueller testify on camera would bring his drive 448-page report to life. Instead, there was an awful lot of this.


MUELLER: I direct you to the report. I rely on the report. I send you back to the report. I can't beyond what's in the report. I am not going to get into that. I can't get into the discussions on that. I can't get into it.


BRIGGS: Mueller deferred or declined to answer questions 206 times. That performance had President Trump declaring victory.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: I think Robert Mueller did a horrible job, both today and with respect to the investigation. The Democrats lost so big today. Their party is in shambles right now. They are a mess. This was a devastating day for the Democrats.


BRIGGS: "INSIDE POLITICS" anchor John King explains why Trump was so confident.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS: I think he's happy today because you do not have that viral movie trailer moment of Robert Mueller looking directly into a camera and saying something in 15 or 20 seconds that the Democrats can spread around the world about there's a case for you to impeach or I would have, you know, indicted if I could have but I was stuck. He didn't say any of those things.


ROMANS: All right, John King there.

All right. CNN's Marshall Cohen joining us live this morning from Washington.

Thanks for joining us. I mean, you are kind of our brain trust on every little development in the Russia probe. What did you hear yesterday? What is your headline, Marshall?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was exactly what was in the report, which was damning for President Trump. The Trump campaign expected help from the Russians, welcomed help from the Russians and didn't tell the FBI. That's the collusion-conspiracy part. And on obstruction, there were several episodes with substance evidence of obstruction of justice but for several reasons a sitting president couldn't be indicted.

But you wouldn't have really gotten that message if you watched the seven hours of proceeding yesterday because of the delivery and some of the questions weren't on the money and the guy answering the questions didn't even want to be there. I mean, don't forget that he told us two months ago, the report is my testimony.

ROMANS: Right.

COHEN: If you subpoena me, I'll show up, but he didn't want to be there.

ROMANS: Democrats wanted him to bring that report to life. And he was not playing ball with them on that.


COHEN: He did not bring the fire.

BRIGGS: Why did he refuse in your opinion to even read his own words from the report after pressed by Ted Lieu?

COHEN: I can understand why he would do that because I think there's a high likelihood that if he reads aloud those damaging parts, you may well see that cut into 30-second TV ads for Democratic candidates across the country or by interest groups like Tom Steyer or others who were trying to lobby for impeachment. And I think that he was deciding to refuse to be a tool of that. But at the same time, it's your own report. Those are your own words. It's already out there. So, you know, it's sort of trying to split the baby in a very, very frustrating fashion.

[04:40:01] ROMANS: It's fascinating, though, because he was clear yesterday and in the report but he was clear that he did not exonerate the president.


ROMANS: He was clear that Russia was not a hoax. The Russia interference in the election was not a hoax and it is going on again and every American should know about that. But where does that all lead us in the impeachment process here? I mean, are we one step further to embarking on impeachment or does this send us back? Because there's nothing new yesterday. Here's what Congresswoman Jackie Speier said yesterday.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): I think that the speaker is softening to the idea of an impeachment inquiry to begin. I don't know that the numbers of members are at a critical mass yet, but I do think it's growing.


ROMANS: Growing. Was there anything -- I mean, Jackie Speier says that the numbers are growing, but what was in that testimony yesterday that would bring new people on board?

COHEN: Well, you know, maybe in some of their closed-door meetings maybe there was some growth there, but public for all of us to see, I don't think the numbers budged at all yesterday. They're still very far behind what they need to be able to pass an impeachment on a party line vote. But, look, you know, they didn't get what they wanted. They wanted a show. They wanted viral moments, something that was going to get the attention of people that hadn't been paying attention. That did not happen.

BRIGGS: This in all likelihood will be litigated in 2020. And it was a Republican who may have provided the own goal here when he got Bob Mueller to say, could you charge a president with a crime after he left office and Mueller said, yes. That was an odd moment for a Republican to provide but beyond that let's talk about Russian interference that Romans mentioned there, and Mueller saying they're doing it as we sit here. Maybe the most important words yesterday.

Is there enough being done to stop it and why did that appear a partisan issue yesterday?


COHEN: Yes. So think about this from the Russian perspective. So if you look back at 2016, the year before the election, they were laying the foundation for their meddling. Come back to today, it's the year before the election. And Robert Mueller is sitting in that chair at this time around us telling us, pay attention. So, you know, some of the Democratic candidates actually have responded to this whole nexus of Russian meddling and they've actually said if the Russians or anybody puts out hacked material on my opponent, I will not use it.

Donald Trump, the president, has not said yet that he would do that. In fact, he seemed in recent interviews to invite that kind of help and yesterday Robert Mueller weighed in, which is very rare for him because he's barely issued an ethical or moral judgment and he said, you know, embracing WikiLeaks, embracing hacked materials, that's not -- that's not the right thing to do. It's beyond problematic I think were his words.

ROMANS: There's so much more than hacked materials we worry about. There are these deep fakes, there are these crazy things that people very freely spread on Facebook and on social media. BRIGGS: Ongoing.

ROMANS: And -- oh, my gosh. All right, Marshall, so nice to see you. Thank you for your analysis this morning.

COHEN: Thanks, guys.

ROMANS: Thanks for all your great diligent work over the past two and a half years. Thank you.

Forty-three minutes past the hour. The president's plan to force asylum seekers to apply outside the U.S., that's been put on hold by a federal judge.


[04:47:40] ROMANS: All right. As the Department of Justice begins its probe of big tech, the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, is condemning Amazon.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I think, as you know, if you look at Amazon, although they're -- you know, there are certain benefits to it, they've destroyed the retail industry across the United States so there's no question they've limited competition. There's areas where they've really hurt small businesses.


ROMANS: So lawmakers have increasingly focused on complaints of anti- competitive behavior of the big players like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google. The DOJ's review could increase calls for these companies to be broken up.

Now a spokesperson for Amazon told the "Washington Post" that small businesses actually are thriving with Amazon and that independent sellers, small businesses, make up more than 58 percent of sales on Amazon.

Mnuchin also told CNBC the DOJ's probe is the right thing to do and he looks forward to Attorney General William Barr's recommendations to the president.

BRIGGS: President Trump vetoing three joint resolution aimed at blocking controversial arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The congressional action earlier this month was a symbolic showing of bipartisan opposition to the administration's relationship with Saudi Arabia following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year. The president in announcing his veto said the bills directly conflict with the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States.

ROMANS: The death toll climbing to 15 following a huge landslide in southwestern China. Chinese state media reports rescue work still underway in mountainous Guizhou Province. The most recent word is that 11 other people have been rescued and an estimated 30 remain missing. Official media reports the landslide buried 21 houses.

We'll be right back.


[04:53:54] ROMANS: A federal judge blocking the Trump administration's effort to dramatically limit asylum seekers from Central America by forcing them to apply outside of the U.S. first. The California judge ordered the Trump administration to keep accepting asylum claims just hours after another federal judge in Washington declined to block the new rule. The rule would have required asylum seekers crossing through Mexico to apply for asylum there and potentially other countries before applying to the U.S.

BRIGGS: In Canada police have issued a nationwide warrant for 19- year-old Kam McLeod and 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky. The two teens, already suspects in a double homicide, now charged in a third killing. The father of one of the suspects does not believe his son will survive the manhunt.


ALAN SCHMEGELSKY, SUSPECT'S FATHER: A normal child doesn't travel across the country killing people. A child in some very serious pain does. He's going to be dead today or tomorrow. I know that.


BRIGGS: Hard. Investigations underway in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba after reported sightings of these two suspects.

[04:55:05] ROMANS: All right. A worldwide recall issued for breast implants that had been linked to a rare form of cancer. The company Allergan announcing its bio-celled textured breast implants and tissue expanders are being recalled as a precaution. Now textured implants represent less than 5 percent of breast implants sold in the U.S. but hundreds of thousands of women have this product right now. The FDA does not recommend removing the breast implant products without symptoms of a lymphoma known as BIA-ALC. They say women should check the area around the implants for any changes and if they experience any changes or symptoms, talk to their doctor.

BRIGGS: The fertility rate in the United States falling to an all- time low. The number of births nationwide has been on the decline in recent years. The study by the Centers for Disease Control says the general fertility rate dropped 2 percent among girls and women 15 to 44 between 2017 and 2018. That is the lowest number of births in about three decades and according to the CDC, the fertility rate is now below the level needed to replace the existing population.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. First a look at global markets. You can see gains in Asia markets. They've all closed higher. European markets have opened just slightly higher and futures are mixed here in the U.S. On Wall Street it was a mixed day for stocks here. Both the S&P and the Nasdaq hit record highs. But the Dow closed down, dragged down by weak earnings from Boeing and Caterpillar.

Cat closed down 4.5 percent, Boeing fell more than 3 percent. Boeing had a $3.7 billion loss in the second quarter, the largest loss ever. That's because of the MAX, 737 MAX crisis. And Cat feeling the pain of the U.S.-China trade wars. Its Asia sales falling 22 percent. The equipment maker said manufacturing costs were higher because of tariffs and labor expenses.

All right. Private equity is killing American retail jobs. New data shows more than 1.3 million Americans have lost their jobs in the past decade as a result of private equity ownership in retail. Ten of the 14 largest retail bankruptcies since 2012 have been at private equity owned companies. That includes Payless Shoe Stores, Claire's, Toys "R" Us, Sears. More than a million retail workers continue to work for private equity-backed companies.

All right. DoorDash is now changing after outrage actually, DoorDash changing the way its delivery drivers are tipped. It is going to drop this tipping policy after backlash from customers who thought their tips were going to the person who delivered their meal, right? You say, you give a tip, right?

BRIGGS: One would think.

ROMANS: You thought it was going to the driver, to the deliverer, no, it was just going back to DoorDash. DoorDash CEO tweeted the company did not strike the right balance, adding, "We did not launch our current model to pay drivers less, Dashers less." DoorDash has not released the details about this change but said that Dashers' earnings will increase by the exact amount a customer tips on every order. People were really --

BRIGGS: Let's be clear. That was not a tip.

ROMANS: A tip is a tip.

BRIGGS: All right. While you were sleeping, Stephen Colbert was not at all impressed with Robert Mueller's testimony.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": One goal for the Democrats was to get Mueller to make clear that Trump's claim that he was exonerated was not true.

NADLER: What about total exoneration? Did you actually totally exonerate the president?


NADLER: Can you explain in plain terms what that finding means so the American people can understand it?

MUELLER: Well, the finding indicates that the president was not -- that the president was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed. COLBERT: Come on. Come on. Exculpated? Did you not hear the guy

say so the American people can understand it? Did your granddaughter give you a word of the day calendar? Come on. Exculpated. Exculpated. Just use America talk, by which I mean emojis, orange, handcuffs.


ROMANS: Thumbs up. Thumbs down, cheers, smile. Also there were a lot of double negatives I thought yesterday. Questions --

BRIGGS: Of course that would drive you nuts.

ROMANS: It drove me nuts. Double negatives. And then exactly, was that a yes or a no?

BRIGGS: Always the grammar hawk.


ROMANS: All right. Thanks for joining us. I'm grammar hawk Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Yes, you are. I'm Dave Briggs. Short but sweet for us today. Here's "NEW DAY."

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, July 25th, 5:00 here in Washington where on Wednesday the city was gripped by the hearings with Robert Mueller's testimony. We will get to what is next and where lawmakers go from here in a moment, but first there is major breaking news.

The governor of Puerto Rico announced overnight that he is resigning. You can see the reaction. Thousands of protesters celebrating the news on the streets of San Juan. The cheers --