Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Trump Justice Department Secretly Obtained CNN Reporter's Phone, Email Records; Feds Zeroing in on Trump's Inner Circle, Giuliani and Weisselberg; Biden Approval Rating Remains Steady Since Taking Office. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 21, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: You could call it the real and actual deep state. New details are emerging about the Trump administration's secret use of the Justice Department. We're learning that prosecutors secretly obtained private phone and email records of our CNN Colleague Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr. Those records covered her conversations from June and July of 2017. Starr wasn't told though of this until last week.

In a statement, CNN President Jeff Zucker says this. CNN strongly condemns the secret collection of any aspect of a journalist's correspondence, which is clearly protected by the First Amendment. Jeff goes on to say, we are asking for an immediate meeting with the Justice Department for an explanation. What is unclear still is why this was done and why it was allowed to be kept secret.

Joining me right now is Democratic Congressman from Connecticut Jim Himes. Congressman, thank you for coming in.

You sit on the House Intelligence Committee. What is your reaction to this?

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Good morning, Kate. It's completely unacceptable, and it is a pattern, right? We saw a couple weeks ago that the Department of Justice had secretly sought the records of the Washington Post reporters.

And the reason -- you know, you read Jeff Zucker's statement there. The reason it is completely unacceptable is, yes, the Constitution, but even as importantly as the fact that, through our history, all sorts of skullduggery and fraud and deception from the Pentagon papers where D.C. was lying about the Vietnam War to low level corruption gets exposed because the media, the press is out there telling that story.

And if sources and the press believe that, as a routine matter, their identities could be disclosed, that all comes to a halt.

Now, let me be clear here, the passing on of classified information is, of course, illegal. But this is not a tool that we want in the tool box of the Department of Justice.

BOLDUAN: No. It has a real and true chilling effect on being able to keep government accountable. It really does.

HIMES: That is exactly right. I'm sorry, I was just going to make the point that -- I don't want to speculate as to the motivations of Attorney General Barr or Attorney General Sessions, but it is possible, it is in the realm of possible given what we know about those attorneys general that this was done because the president was angry about something that was critical of him. So, there's just a wide array of reasons why this is an unacceptable thing for the DOJ to have done.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And that Barbara wasn't even aware of it until now is really, honestly, terrifying.

I do want to ask you about the January 6th commission, because I was pretty struck yesterday when Speaker Pelosi was hopeful that despite the current math in the Senate that somehow she thinks that they could still find a way to pass the bill forming the commission through the Senate. Are you hopeful, Congressman?

HIMES: Well, I'm certainly hopeful. I'm not sure I'm confident but I'm certainly hopeful.

Look, what happened on January 6th, and I was there, I was one of the last guys off the floor of the House of Representatives, was a unique and historical moment in all the wrong ways for this country. And the idea that we shouldn't understand the details, that we shouldn't get at the motivations, that we shouldn't sort of tell ourselves, like the 9/11 commission did, what we could do to avoid that in the future is quite frankly a crime.

But the Republican leadership realizes that, as a purely political matter, if there are images out there of, you know, thousands of insurgents raising -- waving Donald Trump flags, as there were, that this is politically inconvenient.

So, the same party that demanded eight, nine, ten different commissions and investigative bodies for the Benghazi disaster is now saying, oh, I'm sorry, we just can't do this. And it's an outrage.

BOLDUAN: I will say, Congressman, more than one Senate Republican is openly admitting to reporters that at least part of the motivation to oppose the commission among Senate Republicans is because of the midterm election. I mean, Senator Thune said that it could be weaponized politically and, as he put it, drug into next year. If they're admitting this, they clearly do not think it hurts them politically to take this position.

HIMES: Well, you know, they are being honest about what everybody knows. Look, there is no justification. The idea that somehow an attack on the United States Capitol is equivalent to and should be examined by the same body that looks into riots in Portland is absurd on the face of it. Both acts are wrong. One was sponsored by a United States president, was a core attack on our democracy. And, by the way, Nancy Pelosi in the negotiations, Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, sends a letter saying, do these three things and I'll support it.


She does those three things. A Republican representative, John Katko, negotiates this with the Democratic committee chair and they say no because they realize that getting in the face of Donald Trump pushes that party towards extinction.

So they are in a terrible vise, right? They know that this is what we should be doing but they also know that Donald Trump is the very core, the very essence of the Republican Party today.

BOLDUAN: Hopeful, not confident. I think that could be a bumper sticker for kind of everything right now. It's good to see you, Congressman, thank you for coming in.

HIMES: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us, the investigation into Rudy Giuliani takes another turn, another one. What investigators took from his home during last month's raid and what prosecutors are now asking a judge to do with what they found.



BOLDUAN: the walls may be closing in on former President Trump's inner circle. There are brand new details this morning about the federal investigation into Rudy Giuliani. A newly unsealed court filing reveals the FBI seized 18 electronic devices, yes, 18, when they raided Giuliani's home and offices last month. It comes as CNN learns Trump's longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, is facing a second criminal investigation.

CNN's Kara Scannell has all of the details for us. There are a lot of moving parts, Kara. What more are you learning?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Kate, there are. And this new detail came out in a letter filed late last night by the prosecutors where they're defending the search warrants, multiple search warrants that were executed on Rudy Giuliani and his ally, a lawyer named Victoria Toensing.

Now, prosecutors had searched covertly their iCloud account in 2019 and then also the very publicized serach last month.

So here is what prosecutors write in their filing. They that Giuliani and Toensing are lawyers, to be sure, but the court found probable cause that their devices and accounts contain evidence of specified federal crimes. So, prosecutors really leaning in saying that they believe that there is evidence of crimes on these devices.

And so what did they get? They got 18 electronic devices from Rudy Giuliani, some of those devices belong to some of his employees.

Now, so far, prosecutors say they have processed 11 of those devices, they've downloaded the materials and returned them to Giuliani. Seven others are password-protected. They've asked him for their assistance in opening up the devices, otherwise they may be sent to Quantico for the FBI's team of code crackers to get into them.

Now, the other investigation that's ongoing, that touches one of Trump's allies, is that into Allen Weisselberg. He is involved in two criminal investigations, one of those involves investigation to his role as a chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, another one into his personal taxes.

Now, that investigation, the one into the taxes, has stemmed in part from information provided by his former daughter-in-law. She spoke last night to Erin Burnett and she said that Donald Trump and Allen Weisselberg are one and the same. And when she asked if she thought Weisselberg would cooperate against the former president, she said, without hesitation, yes.

Now, that is the big question for prosecutors, as they continue to dig into Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Organization. But we should be clear to say, Kate, that Allen Weisselberg has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Thank you so much, Kara. I really appreciate it, great reporting.

Up next for us four months in, how do Americans feel President Biden is doing? New poll numbers offer a remarkably clear picture.



BOLDUAN: President Joe Biden took office in what is arguably the most polarized political environments in recent American history or I would just argue in forever, which makes the findings of a new Gallup poll all the more interesting. The president's latest approval rating, sitting at 54 percent, remarkably steady, as you can see right there, since he took office four months ago. What does this mean?

Let me bring in CNN's Political Director and co-Host of the Politically Sound Podcast, David Chalian.

So, David, you drilled this into my head every time. Polling is never about a single survey, it is about the trend over time And the trends here seems to be clear. Biden's approval numbers are steady. So, what is behind it?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, steady and successful, right, majority support. You're right. Pollsters use the expression, trend is your friend. And it does tell you the larger story here.

You noted we live in polarized times right now. There's no doubt about that, Kate. We saw this when Donald Trump was president as well, where he was steady over time, remarkably steady. Now, he was steady with below never getting majority support approval from the country. Joe Biden's above majority support here obviously above 50 percent, so this is the kind of steady any president would prefer.

But it shows you in a world where you are not going to get much of the support from the other party, I think 8 percent in this Gallup poll of Republicans approve of the job Joe Biden is doing, it shows you how important winning the middle is and that is what Joe Biden is doing and Donald Trump had a hard time doing. Joe Biden is winning the middle now and independents and that is helping him stay above majority support.

BOLDUAN: And Joe Biden just spoke with David Brooks of The New York Times, and that convo really gets at his world view. And I want to read just one line of what he said in this conversation.

The risk is not trying to go big. If you stay small, I don't know how we change our international status and competitive capacity. I read this because you have pointed out, David, this conversation that Biden has here really gets at what we are talking about.

CHALIAN: Well, Biden's popularity right now, Kate, is because he is doing popular things. Obviously, nothing is more successful for him than defeating the coronavirus and getting the vaccine out. That is giving him a lift. There's no doubt about that. But also, his economic program, getting stimulus checks out to people. That was a popular thing. Even pieces of his infrastructure plan in the American jobs act and the American family plan, they're popular, broadly, with the American people, so doing popular things.

But in this conversation with David Brooks, I think we've got insight into what is driving that, which is that Joe Biden sees it as a mission critical to deal with some of the long held inequities in the American economy and trying to address that income inequality, racial inequities in the economy and really trying to address that because he believes that threatens Americans' competitiveness on the world stage. He thinks the only way to remain the world leader is to solve those economic inequities.

BOLDUAN: But it hasn't been smooth sailing completely since taking office. There is this a problematic surge of migrants at the border, you've had a series of mass shootings that he's had to face and deal with, the conversation of gun violence and gun rights again, a cyber attack that led to this gas shortage that we're just getting over. I mean, does this polling trend show these bumps in the road, like he's inoculated from this, it does not mean that he's not in political trouble for him yet?

CHALIAN: Right. I mean that is why we look at the trend, right, to make sure we take out the noise of momentary bumps and he isn't taking on water in his overall approval. You mentioned immigration and guns, Kate. Those are by far his two worst issues when you poll the different policy areas, he does not have anywhere close to majority support. He's upside down in those areas.

But it's not impacting -- he's not taking on water with his overall approval with the American public, even though those particular issue areas are a problem. And, again, when you see that steady successful approval line over time, it kind of answers your question that even those bumps along the way, as you said, they're not actually causing him real political damage at the moment, broadly with the American electorate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Set your calendar, David will be back for a check-in in four more months and we will see what happens. Thanks, buddy, it's great to see you.

CHALIAN: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, Prince William and Prince Harry are not holding back, why they say the BBC contributed to their mother's death.

But, first, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and many inmates face a new set of challenges once they're released. One man's mission now, to use fitness to help other former inmates find a path to freedom.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After surviving prison, you come home thinking you're able to start over. You want to be part of society but there's just so many layers of discrimination, boxes you have to get through just to get an opportunity.

Society thinks, oh, you should just go get a job, and it's not that easy. Once you have a record, nothing is set up for them to win.

And up with, good, one, right back under.

At A Second U Foundation, we give formerly incarcerated men and women national certifications and job placements in boutique gyms and corporate health clubs throughout New York City.

You've got to be thinking outside the box. You can't give someone a mop and say this is your future, take minimum wage and deal with it.

When you provide people with livable wages, they're able to be productive members of society.

Look at that belly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, almost there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's why we are a Second U, we want to give you your second chance at life.


BOLDUAN: To learn more, you can go to We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Prince William and Prince Harry pointing right at the BBC, drawing really a direct link from the broadcaster to what happened to their mother, Princess Diana. And in a new interview, Prince Harry is talking in a way that we haven't heard before about the drugs and alcohol that he leaned on to numb his pain.

CNN's Max Foster is joining me with more. There's a lot here, Max. William and Harry are essentially blaming the BBC for playing a role in their mom's death. Explain this.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there're two different elements to this, and each one of them is focusing on a different one, really. So, you've got the fundamental deceit that Diana was lied to, and then that led to the interview.

Prince William's concern is more about how the BBC was aware of that deceit, and covered it up so Diana went to her grave without knowing that she'd been deceived. And that's what's really infuriated him.

Let's hear what he said in his statement last night.


PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE: It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC's failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her.


FOSTER: Prince Harry more focused on the deceit itself, saying, the ripple effects of a culture of exploitation and unethical practice ultimately took her life, our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed.

He's not saying Panorama killed his mother, but the tactics used in Panorama, and are still used by other parts of the media, he says he's normally criticizing the tabloid media in this context, still having that effect.

And these two brothers, you can imagine the pain this interview and even more so the death, of course, had on them.

And Harry has been talking to Oprah Winfrey in a new streaming show about mental health, about how he actually turned to alcohol because he just wanted to escape the feelings after Diana's death.


PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: I was willing to drink. I was willing to take drugs. I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling. But I slowly became aware that, okay, I wasn't drinking Monday to Friday, but I would probably drink a week's worth in one day, on a Friday or a Saturday night.


FOSTER: In the same program, Harry has also talked about.