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Puerto Rico Governor Resigns Amid Massive Protests; Democrats Debate Next Steps After Mueller Testimony; House Panel To Hold Hearing Today On Family Separations. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired July 25, 2019 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: -- bipartisanship makes us unable to agree on basic facts.
As republicans resist addressing a real and still ongoing national security threat that would have been screaming for impeachment, the democratic president did it. And that's your reality check.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Even as we sit here, John, Robert Mueller said, Russia was intent on attacking the United States. John Avlon, thank you very much.
We do have breaking news coming from Puerto Rico overnight. The Governor there resigned. New Day continues right now.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is New Day. John and I are coming to you live from Washington, D.C. this morning, the day after Robert Mueller's long awaited congressional testimony.
But we do begin with some breaking news for you, because thousands erupted into cheers on the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico after island's embattled Governor, Ricardo Rossello, announced he is resigning. He made the announcement in a video that was played on loud speakers for these protesters to hear.
BERMAN: Yes. this is after weeks of protests there. Rossello had infuriated Puerto Ricans with offensive remarks that came to light in a leaked group chat. His administration is also embroiled in a corruption scandal, that Rossello said that caving to pressure after lawmakers said they would start impeachment proceedings. CNN's Rafael Romo has the breaking details from San Juan.
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Alisyn, it took 15 days from the moment the Governor apologized for participating in a private chat that contained messages that were racist and homophobic in nature that left a lot of people here in Puerto Rico very indignant, 15 days from that moment to his resignation announcement that came just before midnight. And when that happened, the crowds here, thousands and thousands of people erupted into cheers. They were incredibly happy. It was the moment that they had been waiting for. And let's remember, people had been protesting for 12 consecutive days here in Old San Juan in front of La Fortaleza, The Fortress, the Governor's mansion.
And since the Governor's Secretary of State had already resigned, now, presumably, the next in line, the succession line, is going to be Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez.
But it's not going to be an easy time for either her or whoever takes office as the next Governor of Puerto Rico. Let's remind our viewers that this island is still recovering from the effects of two hurricanes back in 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria. And also is in the middle of a deep financial crisis, a government debt, that the Governor was still working on trying to fix this kind of a problem.
There was a strike called for today that is now going to become a celebration of sorts. People, as you can imagine, who had been protesting for so many days are extremely happy that this finally happened. Not so much that the Governor chose to do a prerecorded message and to post it on his Facebook account, but in the end, that's what they wanted, the Governor to resign. The resignation, by the way, is effective on August the 2nd at 5:00 in the afternoon.
Now, back to you, John and Alisyn.
BERMAN: Rafael for us on the streets in San Juan. He will stand by there and bring us the very latest.
There is another story though this morning. Democrats are plotting their next move following Robert Mueller's testimony. Sources tell CNN that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did welcome discussing a game plan for impeachment with House Democrats in a closed door meeting. Mueller almost right away shut down President Trump's claims of total exoneration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The report did not conclude that he did not commit obstruction of justice. Is that correct?
ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: That is correct.
NADLER: And what about total exoneration? Did you actually totally exonerate the President?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So despite that, the President and his allies are claiming victory. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't think there's anybody who would say he did well. This is one of the worst performances in the history of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: All right. Joining us now to talk about all of this, we have Maggie Haberman, White House Correspondent for the The New York Times and CNN Political Analyst, and Jeffrey Toobin, former federal prosecutor and CNN Chief Legal Analyst. Great to have both of you here.
So let's just talk about the top line conclusions that Robert Mueller testified to yesterday. They were in the report, but he put a finer point on them yesterday, and here they are.
President Trump welcomed Russian interference and lied about it. Generally, President Trump's written answers to Robert Mueller were untruthful. That was new, Jeffrey. Trump encouraged WikiLeaks, as we know, and Robert Mueller found that problematic, to say the least, as he said. Trump was not exonerated of obstruction of justice. Robert Mueller fears that accepting foreign help in campaigns is now our new normal. And Robert Mueller himself was not seeking the job as the FBI Director, as President Trump falsely claimed.
So those are things that really can't go unfinished. I mean, having a president lie to a prosecutor who is investigating wrongdoing, that can't just stand. And so what happens now?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it can stand if Congress lets it stand. And, you know, this is a political problem now and the question is what, if anything, Congress is going to do about it?
Look, you know, the Mueller report -- this was sort of the books on tape version of the Mueller report. It was not a movie version. It was low key. It was not great theater. But the facts are the facts. And if you listened to what Mueller said and if you heard his ratification of the repeated examples of obstruction of justice, you could be outraged.
But, you know, was it riveting theater? No. And that's the question of, you know, how our politics evolves. Does it go on the substance or on theater?
BERMAN: You know, my friend Josh Gerstein of Politico notes this morning that democrats have looked to Robert Mueller to deliver them now three times really to tell them what to do. And he's just not going to do it. Democrats have always had a tough choice and this morning they still have a tough choice of how they want to address it. And the question is, you know, are they any closer to making that tough choice this morning.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I was literally just reading that piece as I sat down here by Josh Gerstein.
BERMAN: But it's right. I think it's --
HABERMAN: Absolutely, and he lays it out very clearly, which is, essentially, this is the third bite at the apple, with most of the same facts that a couple of new ones, as Alisyn laid out, but mostly the same fact set.
And Americans, after the report came out in April, have not really appeared to have moved beyond where they were. They were hoping democrats, there was going to be a pretty forceful move among their caucus toward impeachment, or at least some were, so this was not a choice they were making. There was one more democrat who moved toward impeachment last night. There's a lot. It's more than 90. But it's still less than half the democratic caucus.
And so they are proceeding with lawsuits to try to get testimony from reluctant or unwilling witnesses like Don McGahn. It sounds like they're going to go to court to try to get underlying grand jury information related to McGahn, the former White House Counsel, and other witnesses.
But they are still ultimately going to have to decide how they want to take on Donald Trump and trying to sort of leave it up to Mueller to figure it out for them or the courts to figure it out for them. I don't know how much longer they can do that.
CAMEROTA: And so, Jeffrey, that's what's next, either court battles or drumming up some more, I guess, enthusiasm for impeachment. But it didn't seem like that's what the upshot of yesterday was.
TOOBIN: I mean, I don't see how you could see Mueller's testimony and the reaction to it and think Donald Trump is going to be impeached. I mean, it just doesn't look like it's going to happen. Now, you can say that's a good thing or a bad thing, but you look at the politics.
Now, democrats do have a way forward, which is to continue the investigation. It is certain that if you listen to his testimony and read the report, you need to hear from not the prosecutor but the witnesses.
CAMEROTA: Right. But the White House is stonewalling it. So you mean a court battle?
TOOBIN: Yes. And there has to -- I mean, that's their only option. I mean, there is no excuse for Don McGahn not to be testifying, for Corey Lewandowski not to be testifying.
BERMAN: And there's a big difference between McGahn and Corey Lewandowski. For the life of me, I do not understand why they haven't put Corey Lewandowski before a congressional hearing who has no claim of privilege that could be adjudicated. There's not even a case there. So we have to --
TOOBIN: Because he was never a government official, so you couldn't have any sort of executive privilege issues. But they haven't done it yet.
And it is worth noting that, yes, the democrats have had a tough time with or objections and interference from the White House. But through eight months of controlling Congress, they have investigated successfully nothing, as far as I can tell. And that's pretty -- that's a pretty lame record.
HABERMAN: No, it's true. And it's also -- look. At this point, and you would know this better than me, if there is a recourse for defying these subpoenas, White House officials and non-government officials, like Corey Lewandowksi, they're not facing it yet.
Are there arrests that could be made? Are there contempt charges, huge fines, anything? None of that has been done.
And so what has happened is if anyone is surprised that Donald Trump and his associates don't believe that they need to go by normal procedure, then they haven't been paying attention for the last two- and-a-half years. And, basically, Donald Trump is going to do what he can get away with always. And if they can get away with not responding to these subpoenas, they're going to.
BERMAN: And, again, we are left this morning with the list of what he can get away with, because Robert Mueller, I think, put a point on that largely with yes or no answers. And Alisyn read it, he welcomed Russian interference and lied about it. He was generally untruthful in his written answers. The encouraging of WikiLeaks was problematic. He's not exonerated of obstruction. That it was -- honestly, it was out there in the Mueller report for anyone who chose to read it, but it may be out there in a little bit greater volume this morning.
HABERMAN: I don't know that I honestly think that this made a difference. And, really, it's hard for me to see how this, in the middle summer, after this report has been in existence for months, it has been, by the way, a best seller in (INAUDIBLE) forms. So people are reading it and it still isn't moving public opinion.
I thought it was very notable, the distinction between the two hearings, Mueller as we've discussed, you know, repeatedly here had a pretty halting performance in the morning. And it was hard to watch. He got better in the afternoon.
But it also struck me that he didn't really want to be re-litigating the President's conduct. He did want to talk about efforts by foreign entities and foreign governments to undermine U.S. democratic institutions. And he was sort of making a laser call for that. And that got a lot less attention.
And I have to wonder if the Intelligence Committee had gone first, would that have impacted how people looked at this? We're never going to know. But he seemed not to want to get into re-litigating various acts by the President that he had already decided not to make a decision about. CAMEROTA: And as has been pointed out, republicans, by and large, with the exception of Will Hurd, didn't bring up the Russian interference.
Now, Devin Nunes -- Congressman Devin Nunes, who has become a very close ally of President Trump, spelled out in his statement the entire alternate universe of that this is a witch hunt, that this was all smoke and mirrors. I don't even know -- or, I mean, that their whole argument that, obviously, Robert Mueller disagreed with.
However, some people have wondered is Devin Nunes the new DNI. Was that an audition? Was that to get the President's attention? And will he become the Director of National Intelligence?
HABERMAN: I mean, I've heard those rumors. There's also John Ratcliffe, another congressman, was in with the President last week. And he is rumored to be up for DNI and other positions, possibly.
I don't think you can attribute necessarily wanting a specific job to anybody's performance. These are people who have been pretty protective of the President over the last two years.
I do think it is worth noting that if a fraction of the behavior that was described by President Trump or his aides had been conducted by the Obama administration, the same republicans would have been correctly calling for investigations.
And yesterday, you know, to Jeffrey's point, if Congress isn't going to do anything, I'm not really sure what there is to do.
BERMAN: Right, and this a choice that they have.
Congress is not the only group of democrats with a high public profile right now. There's also the presidential candidates who will take the stage next week in two CNN debates, which we will carry live.
I'm curious, Jeffrey, about how they handle this.
TOOBIN: So am I. And they seem to be following, by and large, the pattern that the democrats followed during the midterm elections, which is talking about healthcare, which is talking about the issues that affect people's lives.
Joe Biden is somewhat different. I mean, Joe Biden has talked often about this sort of existential challenge that Trump presents to how the American government functions. But others, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, seemed to be talking more about issues.
Again, I agree with Maggie that I don't think Mueller's testimony changed the political dynamics in the country in any profound way. So I would expect, you know, ritual denunciations of Donald Trump but quick pivots from the presidential candidates to healthcare, jobs and sort of the more substantive agenda.
CAMEROTA: And, Maggie, for the President's part, now that this is over, I mean, certainly, the Mueller portion of this is officially over, the President goes back to attacking the squad, making racist Tweets? What?
HABERMAN: I mean, look, he's going to continue to try to elevate the squad as his opponent for a long time until there's a democratic nominee. And then he's going to try to tether the democratic nominee to the squad. And depending who the nominee is, they may have trouble distancing themselves from the squad.
But I have to say, one thing that strikes me, republicans should be careful what they wish for. Because if, let's say, Ilhan Omar ends up really damaged, if she ends up -- if any of their allegations against her prove true, that's actually going to be pretty easy for democrats to distance themselves from her. So at some point, this race is going to become Donald Trump versus an actual candidate.
I'm not clear that Donald Trump is helped by the end of Mueller the way that his folks think that he is. I think Mueller has been a pretty useful foil for him for two years to look like he is being attacked unfairly.
There are a lot of people, not just republicans, who think that, or not just, you know, the most committed Trump voters who think that.
Now, it's going to be a lot about his behavior and the economy and what people have done. And it's going to look at real issues. It's going to look at what he has done for the working class. It's going to be harder to obscure that. So I'm just -- I'm not sure, long-term, this is a huge benefit.
BERMAN: And I think what you might see is the President try to use Robert Mueller more. I think it'll be the President who refers to Robert Mueller's testimony yesterday. And as we have seen in some cases though, Maggie, and you're right about this whole time, sometimes he goes too far. Sometimes there's overreach. His glee or his purported glee, or the way that they were trying to portray the glee yesterday, he may go even further with that today to the point where he gets in some kind of trouble.
HABERMAN: Anger is sometimes glee with him. And that's, I think, what you saw yesterday when he was talking to reporters. He was described to me by everybody who interacted with him yesterday as happy and in a good mood. And he was enjoying watching. He was taking note of the trouble Mueller was having earlier. He watched more of the first hearing than the second hearing in real-time.
But sometimes he goes -- to your point, he goes overboard and he was extremely wound up yesterday. So we'll see how that plays.
CAMEROTA: Maggie Haberman, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much.
TOOBIN: Good morning.
HABERMAN: Good morning to you.
CAMEROTA: So what will democrats do now? Up next, we talk to a democrat who questioned Mueller. How's she feeling this morning?
CAMEROTA: This morning, the question for democrats after Robert Mueller's testimony is what now.
Joining us now is Congresswoman Karen Bass. She serves on the Judiciary Committee and she questioned Robert Mueller yesterday. Congresswoman, great to have you here in the studio with us.
REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Thank you.
CAMEROTA: Let me play the moment that you got to question Robert Mueller yesterday for everyone who may have missed it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASS: But your investigation actually found substantial evidence that McGahn was ordered by the President to fire you, correct?
BASS: Did the President's personal lawyer do something the following day in response to that news report?
MUELLER: I'd refer you to the coverage of this in the report.
BASS: So the President told McGahn directly to deny that the President told him to have you fired. Can you tell me exactly what happened?
MUELLER: I can't beyond what's in the report.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Were those satisfying answers to you?
BASS: Well, I would have loved to have heard him provide more context, but, you know, we were prepared that he was going to stick to the report. But even sticking to the report, we felt, was powerful for him to confirm things that were in the report.
CAMEROTA: I mean, what you were trying to get at was the obstruction of justice piece, the Don McGahn piece that people say is essential to the obstruction of justice. If you're telling your White House Counsel to lie, if you're changing documents, if you're providing a cover story, all of those things, that is the definition of obstruction of justice.
BASS: Exactly, to lie and then to cover it up. And so to have him confirm that that's what was in the report, because, remember, when the A.G. came out, when Barr came out and said the report completely exonerates the President, there's no collusion, no collusion, he really tainted public opinion in that respect.
And there are a lot of people -- I've run into people who didn't understand why they would even bother reading the report. And so to us, to be able to have him verify things that were in the report was significant in and of itself.
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, you've heard some of the reviews of what happened with Robert Mueller yesterday. He was circumspect to the point some people felt of being ineffective. You know, he kept saying, I refer you to the report instead of just saying yes. He could have answered you with a yes or no.
CAMEROTA: And so do you think that yesterday changed anything?
BASS: Well, I do think that it changed things. And we'll see in the coming days. I mean, I think it was illustrated for the American public. He said he was not exonerated. He said that he could not say that he didn't obstruct justice. We know that he's limited by the OIC report. We know that and he said that.
Now, when Representative Lieu was questioning him, he pretty much said that because of that, that was why he didn't say there was obstruction of justice.
Now, we know a couple of hours later, he pulled that back. But why did he pull that back? I think he told Representative Lieu what was actually the truth.
CAMEROTA: And why did he pull it back?
BASS: Well, you know, maybe he pulled it back because he's trying to stick to what came out of the White House. But I think with he was pretty clear the first time.
CAMEROTA: Look, as we know, the House -- the democrats in the House have been debating now for years whether or not to move forward with impeachment.
BASS: No, actually, not for years.
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, it feels like there has been impeachment talk almost since the President won.
BASS: January 2017.
CAMEROTA: Okay, January '17. And so did yesterday change anything in terms of that talk or the momentum?
BASS: Well, we'll see. But reality is that, yes, there was talk the moment of the inauguration. But what is true is democrats have only been in power for seven months. And two of those months were really dead. There was the shutdown the first month. The republicans were very late in making committee assignments. So we really didn't even really hit our stride until March. So you're only talking about a few months.
CAMEROTA: Okay. So where are you with impeachment?
BASS: Well, I mean, I think we have a lot further to go. We are going to go to court to enforce the subpoena over McGahn. I think there're several other witnesses. There're all of the committees that are involved in various aspects of oversight and investigation. We went two years with no oversight, no investigation of this administration. So I think we have a ways to go.
CAMEROTA: So you're staying the course, you're going to go to court and then you'll all decide what you're going to do?
BASS: Yes. I'm staying in the course. You know, there's many of my colleagues, especially on the Judiciary Committee, that feel we need to begin the inquiry now. But I think that we need to take it a few steps further.
CAMEROTA: I want to talk to you about what's happening on the Judiciary Committee today.
BASS: The other work we do.
CAMEROTA: Yes, the work that is, I mean, equally important certainly with what's happened with family separations at the border. So, today, you're trying to get answers, because the administration says that family separations have stopped.
BASS: They have not stopped. So what the administration is saying is that they have stopped because they have stopped, in most cases, taking kids away from their parents. But will as a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle or a sibling not be family? So there are cases of grandparents who have come to the border with infants, with toddlers. They separate those children and then call them unaccompanied minors. Tell me how a one-year-old, a two-year-old could be an unaccompanied minor? So they have just redefined family.
The other thing is that they have determined that some parents are not eligible to stay with their children.
CAMEROTA: Who? The criminals?
BASS: Well, somebody with a criminal conviction. But, you know, if you think about that, we have a child welfare system in this country. They make a determination whether or not a parent is an abuser or is neglectful of their child, that social workers are involved, a court is involved. Since when is a border patrol agent responsible for that?
So we have a humanitarian crisis at the border that is being dealt with like a law enforcement problem.
CAMEROTA: And to your point, some of the people who are being called criminals, they have perhaps a DWI in their past. Since when in this country do you separate a child from that parent?
BASS: Never. You never do that. And then also there are the children that were separated in the beginning. We don't even know how many children there are that are still separated.
CAMEROTA: So Congress does not know at this moment how many children are still separated from their parents?
BASS: No. And, I mean, frankly, I don't believe what comes out of the administration because we know they didn't track those children to begin with. But let me just ask you this. The children that they do know that are separated, where are they now? What is going to happen to them next year? Will they be put in our foster care system that's already inundated because of the opioid crisis? It is a completely inappropriate way to deal with the situation.
And I frankly believe it's state-sponsored child abuse. The idea that you would have babies who are supervised by an eight-year-old, a nine- year-old. If a parent did what is going on at the border, they would be arrested for abuse and neglect.
CAMEROTA: Well, we hope you get answers today. Obviously, we'll be following --
BASS: We're not going to stop.
CAMEROTA: Congresswoman Karen Bass, thanks so much for coming in with your insight into all of this.
BASS: Thanks for having me on.
BERMAN: All right. It is the Robert Mueller moment that could be overshadowed by all the questions about obstruction and conspiracy. Hear Mueller's warning about the biggest threat to America's democracy, one of the biggest threats he says he's ever seen, next.