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Any Moment Pelosi to Speak after Meeting with Ocasio-Cortez & As Dems Debate Impeachment; Pelosi Speaks as Democrats Debate Next Steps on Impeachment, Budget; Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) Discusses Impeachment, Pelosi Against Impeachment, Trump Alleged Crimes, Mueller Report. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

At any moment now, we will hear from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She will be talking to reporters after her first meeting with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez since their private feud went public. The speaker said earlier the meeting went well and tweeted out a picture of them together right there.

We expect Pelosi to also answer questions about the Democrats' path forward on impeachment after the Mueller hearings. At least 96 House Democrats are calling for it, but Pelosi is still hesitant to give it the green light and is leaving it up to other Democrats to do their own thing.

CNN's Lauren Fox and Jason Carroll are on Capitol Hill.

So, Lauren, let me begin with you.

What are you hearing this morning on the impeachment fight and the next steps Democrats are preparing to take to court?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler plans to go to court today to try to enforce a subpoena to get that underlying grand jury information related to the Mueller report.

Then next week, he said he could go to court again to try to enforce the subpoena to get Don McGahn to testify before Congress.

So clearly, the court is a very strategy for Democrats.

Here's what Nadler said earlier about what he hopes to accomplish.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): When we win -- and we will win the court fight because the legal excuses the White House has been using are extraordinarily weak, from a legal point of view -- when we win that, it will open up the flood gates to enforce all the subpoenas and get all the testimony because they're all the same nonsense legal arguments.


FOX: And Democrats still very divided over the question of impeachment with more than 90 Democrats supporting moving forward with opening an impeachment inquiry.

But of course, Nancy Pelosi holding firm on that position that she doesn't think it's the right time. And Democrats going home for a six-week recess.

Whether or not anyone moves on this issue, whether they can come back to Capitol Hill united, it's still an open question -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: And again, at any moment now, we are to here from the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Jason, you've been following Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. What more are you hearing from the expectations about this meeting. How does she go into this meeting?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ocasio-Cortez went into this meeting with a couple of goals. Namely, she wanted to make sure that there was an open line of communication. She also wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page when it comes to the major issues here.

In terms of what happened during that meeting, as soon as the speaker came out of it, she said it went well. She was also asked if the two were able to resolve some of their differences, to which the speaker replied I didn't know that we had that many differences. Clearly, they did. Otherwise we wouldn't have had the meeting that we saw here today.

The speaker, for her part, she also tweeted about what happened after the meeting and she said the following in her tweet, she said, "Today Congresswoman Representative AOC and I sat down to discuss working together to meet the needs of our districts and our country. Fairness is our economy and diversity in our country." She also tweeted out a picture that you see there of the two of them as well.

Ocasio-Cortez, as you know, Fredricka, is a prolific tweeter, but we haven't seen her tweet anything at all since this meeting. In fact, we've tried to run her down as we were here trying to get any sort of insight in how the meeting went. She sort of dodged our cameras.

So it's very clear that they want one message going forward and that message is going to come from the speaker when she gives her briefing in just a few minutes.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jason, Lauren, thank you so much.

In fact, House Speaker Pelosi is talking right now, particularly about election security. Let's listen in.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): -- and on other issues that Mr. Mueller testified to as well.

Yesterday, on the steps of the capitol, perhaps you were there, we celebrated the 200 days of progress that we are making for the American people, building on our promise to the American people for the people in the election. Lower health care costs. By lowering the cost of prescription drugs, we sent the Senate ten bills to lower health care costs and prescription drug prices, reverse the GOP's sabotage of the health care and strengthen the preexisting conditions benefits.

Lower health care costs, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green and modern way.

We secured paycheck fairness by equal pay for equal work, which we passed in the House. We're raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Over $30 million people will get a raise in our country. Over 20 million of them are women.

And as we again passed other initiatives in our appropriations process and the rest to build the infrastructure of America. Lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government, clean up corruption and reduce the role of big dark money in Washington. We passed H.R.-1 for the people.

[11:05:14] We will be passing the Voting Rights Act and that is part of that, as well as we did pass the Safe Act. And we really do call upon the Senate to pass a version of the Safe Act to protect our elections.

We go out now for our district work period. Democrats intend in own August to make so many of the bills we passed "too hot to handle" for the Republicans in the Senate, not to raise the minimum wage or end gun violence by common sense gun violence prevention measures. Equal pay for equal work. The list goes on and on.

But we're very, very proud of the work that our members have done. We will be across the country, a drum beat across America. Lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government.

And with that, I'll be pleased to take any questions.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When you were becoming speaker again for a second time, you once said that you want to show Americans that the power of the gavel. Some have been critical and said that, here you are, a San Francisco representative known as someone who is very liberal, yet not fully using the gavel for some of the top liberal priorities, starting with impeachment, and then some of the others. What we saw on the Homeland Security bill. What do you say to those who are critical of what has been done so far in the House?

PELOSI: Well, as you probably are aware, Republicans had 137,000 ads, in their view, criticizing me as a San Francisco liberal. In my view. That's an appellation that I'm very proud to have. Nothing is a bigger honor to me than to represent San Francisco in the Congress. And I say any of my colleagues, speaker, leader, whip, whatever it has been over time cannot match the privilege of walking on the floor of the House to speak for the people of San Francisco. And I do that for them.

As speaker, I have to bring unity to our caucus, and to do so with the boldest common denominator in our caucus. I say to the members, your job description and your job title are one and the same, representative.

And I consider myself a weaver, just at the loom, just making all of those threads come together in the boldest possible way. And I'm very proud of being the speaker of the House and in doing so in the boldest way. And what we are advocating is a progressive agenda for our country.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In the aftermath of the Mueller hearing, you said that you wanted to focus on what you're doing in the courts. Now, some of your Democratic colleagues believe you're simply trying to run out the clock on impeachment. Are you trying to run out the clock?

PELOSI: No, I'm not trying to run out the clock. Let's get sophisticated about this, OK. OK?


RAJU: How long do you think the court fights will take?

PELOSI: We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed. Not one day sooner. And everybody has the liberty and the luxury to espouse their own position and to criticize me for trying to go down the path in the most determined positive way.

Again, their advocacy for impeachment only gives me leverage. I have no complaint with what they are doing.

But I know, Mueller -- I keep calling him Special Counsel Mueller. Mr. Mueller said the other day, confirmed, confirmed in the public mind, that the president has obstructed justice. You know what he said. If he could have exonerated him, he would have. He didn't.

But he was not able to investigate the president's finances, personal business or otherwise, and that is what we are doing in the courts.

So I'm willing to take whatever heat there's there to say the decision will be made in a timely fashion. This isn't endless. And when we have the best, strongest possible case -- and that's not endless either. It may be endless in terms of the violations of the law that the president has engaged in. But that's what I say to you.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Madam Speaker, do you think you are able to bury the hatchet with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez in your meeting?

PELOSI: I don't think there was ever any hatchet. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: She called you down-right disrespectful.

[11:10:08] PELOSI: That's -- we're in a political arena.

Let me say this. I have some level of confidence and actually joy in seeing diversity in our caucus. We are the Democratic Party. Ever since I came here, we have been engaged in differences of opinion in our caucus, and that is a good thing. We are not a lock step, rubber stamp representation of anything except representatives of our district and what that means.

So in our caucus, we have our differences. Respect that. Instead of making a big issue of it, respect that. Those are our differences and how we express ourselves as representatives of our districts is our responsibility.

Actually, yesterday, we had 219 votes for the bill. Is anybody asking any questions about that? And 219, a very unified caucus in doing what we needed to do for the American people, even though it was a compromise. I certainly wanted more. But it was a compromise.

When we win the White House and we win the United States Senate and we continue to win the House of Representatives, then we'll have more leverage in that conversation.

But I don't think -- I would never even say that it was a hatchet. But I do think that we sat down today. We had a good meeting. And the congresswoman is a very gracious member of Congress, so we had a very positive conversation about our districts and how we represent our country and how we need to meet the needs, the diversity of America and the challenges we face in terms of issues and how immigration and people are respected.

So I feel -- I, again, referenced Ronald Reagan as opposed to the current occupant of the White House. So I feel -- I've always felt -- again, just like you're in a family. In a family you have your differences. But you're still family. Does your family always agree on everything?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And sometimes we have meetings to clear the air.

PELOSI: You do have meetings with your family?


Oh, my goodness. You may be a model for the rest of us.


We just had a meeting to clear the air.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What are your differences, though, with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez?

PELOSI: I'm not going to go into that. (CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You have a diverse caucus --


PELOSI: When I came to Congress, the fight was on how we deal with what was happening in Central America. Who would become speaker eventually -- no, he was speaker when I got here but he would then be the leader in the fight against giving aid to the Contras. Republicans went after him. Our caucus was divided on the subject. Shortly thereafter, it was NAFTA. Very big division in the caucus. Before your time, very big division on NAFTA. And then the war in Iraq, differences of opinion.

As you know -- you may not know, a ranking member. I was Adam Schiff at the time. But he's chairman and I was only the top Democrat. We didn't have the majority. And I said the intelligence did not support the threat. They said you're calling the president a liar. I said I'm not calling him a liar. I'm stating the fact. The intelligence does not support the threat that this administration is using as a justification for war.

People said to me then -- and I had been in Congress over 10 years by then -- you're never going any place in this party unless you vote for this war. Well, I didn't vote for it and a majority of our Democrats didn't vote for it, and Senator Graham didn't vote for it, who was the Senate leader on the Intelligence Committee. In the House, our members, by and large, voted against the war and they voted for it. There was a big division among Democrats. That list goes on and on.

Some personality issues and the rest, they're minor. We have a big schism in our country between what is happening, could happen in this Congress and what is happening in the White House. Everybody knows we have to keep our eye on the ball.

Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Some of your colleagues think leaving impeachment on the table heading into the August recess, some of them have said it looks in decisive and they think it overshadows the agenda. Do you think there's a drop-dead date on which the caucus has to make a decision?

PELOSI: I don't agree with what they say. I think I've spoken to what I think we need to have on the subject before we go forward. But again, I respect where they are on it with the breadth of knowledge that they have on the subject. And I respect where I am on it with my breadth of knowledge have on the subject.


[11:15:13] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Speaker Pelosi, one more on Congresswoman AOC. Do you think she better understands the challenges of your job to unify the Democratic caucus after this meeting today?

PELOSI: You would have to ask her.

Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Pretty significant GDP revisions saying we did not hit 3 percent growth the way that many people expected we would and perhaps --


PELOSI: And the president bragged that we would.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So I would love a bit more of your response to that. And specifically are there any underlying economic factors that most concern you? Is there anything there in the data that gives you pause.

PELOSI: I haven't seen all the data yet except a figure that is, what, 2.1, 2.1?


PELOSI: And the president had used 3 percent as the standard.

I do think that our GDP will rise when we have -- when we raise the minimum wage and people have more purchasing power, because these are people who will spend, inject demand into the economy, and therefore our GDP will rise.

I think if we had comprehensive immigration reform, where everybody is brought into the system in the way that is most productive -- economists tell me, you want to grow the economy, have comprehensive immigration reform. So and how we not just have trickle down to grow our economy, but how we have bubble up. And that is a difference of opinion between our two parties.

I think what you saw was that the tax scam that they put out there has not produced the growth that the president was boasting would happen and that it hasn't produced the revenue. Hence, we've had to lift the debt ceiling earlier than maybe people had expected. So that didn't work. It didn't pay for itself and it isn't growing the economy to the extent that the president said it would.

And so I think we have to -- instead of giving tax breaks to the top 1 percent, 83 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent, we should have a more compassionate free-market system which rewards work and brings many more people into the prosperity of our country. That consumer confidence, that spending, that injecting demand, I think will accelerate the growth of our GDP.

Thank you all very much. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Just ahead, a 46-day long August recess, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi covering a number of items. But really trying to conclude that there's a unity in her caucus. She says, "I have confidence and joy in the diversity of our caucus. They are a very unified caucus."

However, we know that there are differing opinions as to how to proceed on impeachment proceedings, particularly following the Mueller report and the Mueller testimony. We know that 96 Democrats want to proceed and the House speaker there saying, "We won't proceed until we have what we need to proceed. Mr. Mueller confirmed the president has obstructed justice but was not able to investigate the president's finances. And we will do that in the courts."

So let's talk more about all of this and her meeting with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Joining me right now, "Politico" reporter, Daniel Lippman.

So the speaker really trying to solidify a few things. Her position on the unification of the caucus, her meeting which she said was very good with the Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and then just saying it's too early to be talking about impeachment. Why is this so important for her to do this just ahead of this recess?

DANIEL LIPPMAN, REPORTER, POLITICO & CO-AUTHOR, POLITICO'S PLAYBOOK: I think she's trying to set the tone and put impeachment on the back burner as people go home and congressmen talk to their constituents.

And I don't think that there's going to be a great push on those Congress members in the Democratic caucus who have not endorsed impeachment to actually get on that impeachment train, because Mueller's testimony was pretty weak in persuading more Americans to support this. This is not something a majority of Americans support yet. And Nancy Pelosi knows that impeachment is not going to go anywhere in the Senate and could only hurt her party right now in the 2020 elections.

WHITFIELD: Daniel, we heard our Manu Raju who asked the question about whether or not House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was trying to run out the clock.

Manu is joining us right now.

Manu, she was quite defiant on the inference that she was running out the clock. Instead really trying to press that she's being thorough as the House speaker.

[11:20:10] RAJU: No question about it. I asked that question because I have heard that concern being raised bid her own members of the House Democratic caucus, that the current strategy will not lead to an impeachment proceeding.

Those are people who have been agitating to open up an impeachment probe because they are headed to a six-week recess and afterwards we get into the -- there's not much time left before 2020 when we get into the thick of the 2020 campaign season. And doing anything controversial is very difficult for members of Congress to do in the campaign season. So the belief on Capitol Hill is that the window is essentially closing. And the certain that some Democrats have is the current course is

investigate and have court fights and they could take some time and perhaps the term of Donald Trump's preps presidency. So I tried to ask her are you trying to run out the clock and she said no.

And you mentioned she did get irritated by that question, saying were there more sophisticated questions that can be asked. I want to get a sense from her how long does she anticipate these court fights playing out. She said she is -- is not endless. What does that mean for her? It's still unclear.

Another reporter asked her, do you have a drop-dead time to making a decision on impeachment. She said she did not go there. So she's trying to make the case that impeachment is not off the table.

Her current course of action is to try to get information. She even made a comment that folks who are pushing for an impeachment give her more leverage. So it was an interesting comment there.

But nevertheless, she leaves her current course is working. But some of her members believe if she does want to be more aggressive, want to pursue impeachment, the time is running short and there are moments in this country when the country is paying attention. Like in the aftermath of the Mueller hearing and after the Mueller report came out.

Jerry Nadler, for one, has privately made the case, I'm told, that those moments are there for you to essentially seize upon, which would give you a good argument to open up an impeachment proceeding. And some are worried they're missing those moments.

Pelosi is not there. She believes the current strategy is working but suggesting that perhaps impeachment could come but just down the line -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Manu Raju, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

So joining me right now, Democratic Congresswoman Steve Cohen, of Tennessee. He's on the Judiciary Committee that questioned Robert Mueller and wants to push forward on an impeachment inquiry.

And then, of course, your chairman said earlier today that he believes it's a winning strategy, they'll be able to through the courts get all the subpoenas that they want. So what is your reaction to House Speaker Pelosi's approach here in that she's not trying to run out the clock?

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): House Speaker Pelosi is a great speaker, a Zen master. I don't know exactly where she's coming from. I think --


WHITFIELD: What do you mean by that?

COHEN: She's just real good working with people and issues. She just knows how to bring it to the right spot. That's a good thing, to be a Zen master. I wish I were.

But I think we should go forward with impeachment, because I think as we bring out the facts in an impeachment inquiry about the violations and about what Mr. Mueller helped us see that was in the report about obstruction of justice and the other things he's done against the Constitution, the attacks on the press and attacks on judiciary and different racial groups, that the American public will warm to impeachment and be in favor of it.

But I think you have to have the hearings. And I think it will be helpful. And I don't think the Senate -- if the Senate doesn't vote for it that's their fault. I think the hearings were very good. It was six congresspeople came out for impeachment. The papers immediately wrote afterwards only one congressman came out, so it was a failure. Six finally did come out. That's pretty strong. That puts us over 100.

I think the hearings were important and positive and the American people saw their president as a lawless president who tried to obstruct justice and allowed the Russian to say interfere with our elections and didn't fight back or report it to the FBI.

WHITFIELD: Congressman, the House speaker says that this is a very unified caucus. However, you have some members who say, let's take a more aggressive approach, we have everything we need in which to proceed with impeachment. And then there are others, including House Speaker Pelosi who have a more passive approach who say, let's go through the courts and then gather more information.

I mean, how do you convince your constituents when you go back home that one method is better than the other?

COHEN: I don't have to convince my constituents. They're all - predominantly, they're in favor of impeachment. They come up to me on a regular basis and say stay on him, keep your foot on the back of his neck and don't ever let up.

They see Trump as being lawless and being having animus toward African-Americans and women and they don't like it.

[11:25:03] I think when we go home, there's two ways to look at this. One way is we're gone for six weeks and Trump has the stage and you let him come out of the White House and talk for 20 minutes with all of pablum, then he's going to say exoneration, no collusion, no whatever, don't like the Russians, I'm tough on the Russians. But that's lies.

The fact is, it's good for congresspeople to go back and be with their communities and in their districts for six weeks. And I think they're going to hear an ear full about the impeachment and about this lawless president. People wanting a check and balance on him. So I --


WHITFIELD: Are you also concerned that you will hear from your constituents who say, as members of Congress, you have sworn to oversight and you're not proceeding after a two-year investigation and after hearing from the special counsel about the assessment from Mueller that the president was untruthful, that there were matters of obstruction. Are you concerned that your constituents are going to say that you're not upholding your end of the deal?

COHEN: They'll say that to some people. But in November of 2017, I filed articles of impeachment and they're ready to go. But I've held off on introducing them because I'm working with Chairman Nadler. I want to work with the caucus and get more members on. We've got 17 co-sponsors last time. The other plans didn't have any co-sponsors. We plan to have a lot of co-sponsors this time. We want the water to boil and we're watching it -- the temperature rise. We're not quite at boiling point but we're getting close.

WHITFIELD: Congressman Steve Cohen, thank you so much.

COHEN: You're very welcome. Nice to be with you.

WHITFIELD: And still ahead, Senator Kamala Harris rolling out a new plan to spend more than $70 billion to help close the racial wealth gap. How will that shape the conversation with just four days now before the CNN debates in Detroit?