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Trump Ally Roger Stone Pleads Not Guilty in The Mueller Indictment; Critics Say Whitaker Should Not Comment on The Mueller Probe; Intelligence Chiefs Contradict Trump on North Korea, ISIS, Iran, Russia; Michael Bloomberg Says Democratic Medicare for All Will Bankrupt Us; Howard Schultz Says Warren's Tax Plan for Wealthy Is Ridiculous; Howard Schultz Speaks with CNN Amid Backlash Over Possible Run. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 29, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me. Roger Stone has been a friend of Donald Trump's for decades and today that friendship landed Stone in a federal courtroom in Washington, D.C. where he looked a judge straight in the eye and pleaded not guilty to seven criminal charges in Robert Mueller's Russia probe. False statements, obstruction and witness tampering make up those charges as well as the Special Counsel's claim Stone coordinated with senior Trump campaign officials about his outrage to WikiLeaks and that appearance comes after one day after Matt Whitaker stunned lawmakers by saying the Mueller investigation will be wrapping up soon. Let's start the hour with our political correspondent Sara Murray and attorney Seth.

Sara, just diving right in to it. The Roger Stone I have seen on tv is certainly the kind of guy who's never met a microphone he didn't like. When I saw him this morning and say nothing, I started to wonder, do you think this courtroom business is spooking him at all?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think he was solemn when he was going into court and when the actual proceedings were going on. I think he tried to be respectful of the setting that he was in and the fact that he was in front of a judge. I do think he probably hopes to make more of a show of it when he was departing. He flashes his Nixon victory vs on his way out, but it was such mayhem out there. Protesters out there. They were chanting lock him up. They had signs that said traitor, someone was playing the song, "Back from the USSR. "I think he was trying to get out of there in the midst of this mayhem. I have a suspicious that this will not be the end of Roger Stone's time in front of the microphones. The judge he was in front of today did not put a gag order on this case. I suspect that Roger Stone will be turning up in front of cameras perhaps even now and Friday.

BALDWIN: So, TBD. Seth, in the meantime, do you think he should be nervous? Might this be the first of many Roger Stone indictments? You laugh, but I'm asking a serious question.

SETH BERENZWEIG, BUSINESS AND COMPLIANCE ATTORNEY: It's a very good question as well and he should be very nervous. Roger Stone really is winning the award as the most clueless defendant in Washington. He arrived yesterday at Reagan National Airport looking like he was arriving to a Super Bowl party weekend. He seems to be giving a splash to the media talking openly about the case which is very unwise. His lawyers had to file three different times to try to actually learn how to get admitted into the court to actually appear for the hearing. He doesn't appear to have locally based white collar defense counsel and there really seems to be no settlement value for him to the Special Prosecutor's office. Yes, he should be very afraid and very concerned despite the way he's acting right now.

BALDWIN: OK. What about Matt Whitaker, Sara, the acting ag saying, his words, fully briefed on this whole Mueller investigation which he claims is close to being completed. We know the Special Counsel's grand jury just got a six-month extension, so why is this man talking and who do you think this message directed for? Is it for the White House, to soothe a nervous President or is it an attempt to pressure Robert Mueller himself?

MURRAY: It's very bizarre to see an official from the Justice Department come out like that and suggest an end to this investigation is near. We've been pointing out signals that Mueller might be wrapping up that's very different from the acting Attorney General coming out in front of the cameras and pronouncing we're finishing up this investigation. So, I don't know if this was just a product of him, you know, not being used to being in this environment in front of the cameras in front of reporters and being posed a question like that and feeling like he needed to supply some answer. I still -- I'm not sure if he realized that he was making as big of a headline as he was. It was a bizarre acknowledgement. Even as he is saying things are wrapping up, I will just remind you that that's relative. That may mean that we're not going to see a ton more indictments raining down and there could be some things still going on the edges here.

BALDWIN: What about when he said the Special Counsel's decision will be reviewed by the Department of Justice? Do we even know what reviewed means?

BERENZWEIG: Well, that was certainly a little vague. Certainly when the report is prepared it's going to be submitted to the Attorney General, so there is some process for review under the rules and regulations of the justice department, but I think Mr. Whitaker demonstrated yesterday while he was having a low grade nervous breakdown in front of the camera that he really doesn't have much control over this and he doesn't know what he's talking about.

[14:05:00] For example, it's impossible for this investigation to be just about wrapped up when you look at the fact that, for example, there were multiple FBI raids on Roger Stone's residences, they have additional documents and electronic evidence they have to go through. There are multiple transcripts still from the Congressional testimony that the prosecutors are going through and there's probably another couple of months left to go with other hats to drop. Despite the contentions that this is almost over, it will be done this year but it's definitely not done in a month or two and I believe within the next month, you'll see probably another indictment and at a minimum it will involve a violation of the false statement act for false statement and testimony to Congress.

BALDWIN: All this lying. Seth and Sarah, thank you so much.

America's top intelligence officials today offering a sober assessment of the chief threats facing the U.S. right now, and in the process, they are contradicting President Trump on critical fronts. The chiefs of the CIA, FBI and the Director of National Intelligence were front and center today at this hearing on worldwide threats before the Senate Intelligence Committee and they warn North Korea isn't likely to give up its nuclear weapons. They warn that ISIS will continue attacks on western forces in Syria and Russia is poised to strike again via social media in the next U.S. Presidential election.


LT. GEN. ROBERT ASHLEY, DIRECTOR, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: There's still a substantial military capacity that Kim Jong-un wields.

DAN COATES, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and its unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival. The group has returned to its guerilla warfare routes while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide. Isis is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Since our departure from the deal they have abided by the terms. You're saying they're considering but at the current moment --

GINA HASPEL, CIA DIRECTOR: Yes, they're making some preparations that would increase their ability to take a step back if they make that decision.

COATES: We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Not only have the Russians continued to do it in 2018 but we've seen an indication that they're continue to go adapt their model and that other countries are taking a very interested eye in that approach.


BALDWIN: CNN anchor Jim Sciutto is with me now. You saw whether it was Iran, North Korea, Russia, all these contradictions going against what we've heard from this President. Your reaction to that.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Many of the President's claims regarding the nation's principle national security threats are not based on intelligence provided by the senior most U.S. intelligence officials who I might add were appointed by this President. He's taken a lot of shots at the prior administration's intelligence but these were all appointed by him. They stood there together and ticked them off one by one undermining the President's claims without mentioning the President on North Korea being one. You saw him there saying, it's unlikely to give up all of its nuclear stockpiles, North Korea, the President said in June last year that North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat.

BALDWIN: And they're planning another summit.

SCIUTTO: Without any measurable change in North Korea's posture. Dan Coats also said their activities they're seeing right now inconsistent with denuclearization. That consistent with reporting we've seen. North Korea is continuing nuclear activities.

BALDWIN: What about the news on Russia and we talked so much about 2016 and when I heard the phrase, they will use new methods to try to divide and disrupt 2020.

SCIUTTO: This is the thing, election interference did not stop in 2016. It continued in 2018 and by all expectations and you heard it here again today, it will continue in 20. The reason is, the reason I'll hear is because in their view is it worked in 2016. Whatever their intentions are, if you believe, they were intending to help President Trump but even just to interfere and create disruption and to harden those divisive lines in the country from Russia's point of view, it worked in 2016, so, of course, it would make sense to continue it. The point they made today is that other countries were watching, China included, to say, hey, we could do the same thing.

[14:10:00] BALDWIN: They're also warning about is challenging the President's, you know, over and over that ISIS has been defeated. This is Mitch McConnell and this is what he said just a short time ago urging that U.S. troops stay in both Syria and Afghanistan.


MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Al Qaeda, ISIS and their affiliates in Syria and Afghanistan continue to pose a serious threat to us here at home. We've seen the cost of a withdraw before in Iraq and in Afghanistan, we've seen the downsides of telling the enemy they can just wait us out. We'll be gone on a date certain. So, my memo would also urge continued commitment from the U.S. military and our partners until, until we have set the conditions for the enduring defeat of these vial terrorists.


BALDWIN: That's not just the Senate Majority Leader standing there and saying this. He's introduced this amendment which is obviously a sharp, sharp rebuke of the President

SCIUTTO: And also, as he said there, ISIS not defeated. The President said they're defeated just a month ago. It's not true. The Director of National Intelligence says they have thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria and the group will exploit any reduction in CT pressure, that is counter-terror pressure. Removing those troops, he's saying, they'll exploit that and you hear the Senate Majority Leader say that as well. It is unusual as you know for Mitch McConnell to publicly go against this President and he's doing it very much so here, which is interesting. Now, what's happening as this is happening is this President is considering a further draw down in Afghanistan, perhaps the withdraw there. Is the President listening to those intelligence chiefs or even the Senate majority leader based on the actions in Syria and possible actions in Afghanistan, no.

BALDWIN: Jim Sciutto, thanks for hanging out. We appreciate it.

Just in, battle of the billionaires. Howard Schultz and Michael Bloomberg both blasting policy proposals from 2020 Democratic contenders including this idea of Medicare For All. Bloomberg saying moments ago, it would bankrupt the country. We'll have a live report for you from New Hampshire on that. Also, next, breaking news out of Chicago. What we're learning about a possible hate crime against one of the stars from the hit TV show "Empire." you're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: We're following breaking news involving one of the stars of the hit TV drama "Empire." Police say actor Jussie Smollett was beaten on a downtown street and even had a piece of rope wrapped around his neck. Let's go straight to Chicago to our correspondent there Ryan Young and Ryan, what happened?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Troubling details there when you think about this. Maybe that piece of rope and some sort of substance poured over him. This area of downtown Chicago's known as one of the most affluent areas. We don't really hear crimes like this happening. What we've been reporting so far, sometime early in the morning, he was walking back, he noticed two men behind him and all of a sudden, this attack happened. You heard about the rope being tied on to him. He took himself to the hospital but right now there's been such reaction to this because people are trying to figure things out. We've actually done a canvass ourselves. There are several security cameras in this area so the hope is police will be able to go through that security camera footage to find out who his attackers may have been. This is a shock. We've seen the buzz on social media surrounding this case. When you think about the idea on top of that, the idea that racial slurs and maybe even some of the homophobic slurs being used toward him, you can see how serious this crime is. A lot of the people that work in this industry live in this part of town so you can understand the concern even as we've been talking to people in this area. There's been a sharp reaction to this crime. Hopefully will learn more from police. Maybe a vehicle description or some sort of build. Don't have any of that information so far, but it'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

BALDWIN: Absolutely despicable. Hopefully the police run this down really quickly. Thank you for the update there in Chicago.

Coming up next, Michael Bloomberg on the attack. His take on what's wrong with Republicans and Democrats.

Plus, Howard Schultz, heckled at a book event, not exactly how you want to start things off. A look at why he's road is so rocky. Four police officers were shot in the line of duty in Houston. We'll

talk to the mayor in that city on what happened during that harrowing raid.


BALDWIN: Unphased. Howard Schultz says he's not bothered by the wave of criticism he's been receiving after announcing that he is seriously considering this run for President as an independent candidate. It's the independent part that has so many on the left fearing he could split the Democratic vote. That sentiment highlighted by this awkward moment with the heckler at a book event just last night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't help elect Trump. You egoistical, billionaire [bleep]. Go back to getting ratioed on Twitter. Go back to Davos with the other billionaire elite who think they know how to run the world. That's not what democracy needs.


BALDWIN: The criticism has done little to silence the coffee magnate who was taking direct aim at key policy politicians from a number of these Democratic contenders including Elizabeth Warren and her plan to tax the ultra-wealthy and this whole Medicare For All proposal being pushed out there by Kamala Harris that will involve eliminating private health insurance.


HOWARD SCHULTZ, EX CEO OF STARBUCKS, CONSIDERING A THIRD-PARTY RUN FOR PRESIDENT: That's not correct. That's not American. What's next? What industry are we going to abolish next? The coffee industry?

[14:25:00] When I see Elizabeth Warren come out with, you know, a ridiculous plan of taxing wealthy a surtax of 2 percent because it makes a good headliner or sends out a tweet when she knows for a fact that won't ever be passed. This is what's wrong --


BALDWIN: So, Senator Warren, tweeting today in part, "What's ridiculous is billionaires who think they can buy the presidency to keep the system rigged for themselves while opportunity slips away for everyone else."

So, with me now, CNN anchor Poppy Harlow who just interviewed Howard Schultz around his book, "From the Ground Up" so your fresh off this interview.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Like five minutes ago.

BALDWIN: Thanks for hopping on the set. Let's begin with -- the book event, online, scathing criticism from the left. Was he anticipating all of that?

HARLOW: Absolutely not. He knew there would be pushback from Democrats. He was ready for it, Brooke. But no way did he think it would be like this. This is a man for his entire life until a little while ago has been a, quote, lifelong Democrat. His words. I asked him, Howard, when did you stop being a Democrat? You voted for Hillary Clinton. You endorsed her. He said about two years ago. Because he thinks the party has gone too far left. Those issues you just highlighted that's exactly why. He does not think American can afford Medicare For All, Kamala Harris's plan and he scoffed at Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax. I wasn't even done asking the question and he was, like, no way. We can't afford that. But he's not being quiet at all about this. He didn't expect the blowback but he told me over and over again, which you'll see in our interview, he would never run if he thinks it would ensure a second term for President Trump --

BALDWIN: That's what so many Democrats are saying.

HARLOW: Even Bill Burton has jumped on with him. You so were David Axelrod said. All these Democrats.

HARLOW: Yes. He doesn't believe that that is what the numbers will show. He keeps pointing to the Gallup Poll, 42 percent of Americans associated with independents. I said it doesn't mean they vote that way. I said in the final analysis, Howard, if you run, and Donald Trump gets elected and it is shown in the exit polling that you pulled more from Democrats and Republicans, can you sleep with that tat night? He said, I will not do that. He's thinking about Elizabeth Warren running or the more progressive liberals. What about if a more centrist Democrat ran? What if Joe Biden got in the race? Would that stop you from running?

BALDWIN: Great question.

HARLOW: No clear answer on that.

BALDWIN: Stand by because he also commented on Bloomberg. I want to get to that also weighing in on this Medicare For All proposal being floated by Senator Harris. Here was Michael Bloomberg just a short while ago in New Hampshire.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Harris said last night that she would be in favor of eliminating -- and replacing it with Medicare For All. What is your position? Can the U.S. afford that?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), FORMER NYC MAYOR CONSIDERING A PRESIDENTIAL RUN: I think you could never afford that. You're talking about trillions of dollars. I think you can have Medicare For All for people that are uncovered, but -- because that's a smaller group and a lot of them are taken care of by Medicare already, but to replace the entire private system where companies provide health care for their employees would bankrupt us for a very long time.


BALDWIN: So, let's go to New Hampshire to our CNN politics and business correspondent who heard from the former mayor, it sounds like he and Howard Schultz have something in common when it comes to Medicare For All.

CHRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: On this front, yes, Brooke. He was very clear that he thinks a Medicare For All system would bankrupt us for a very long time. Now, that said, his position that some people could be covered by Medicare who aren't covered now is not without outside the realm of what centrist Democrats have been saying for a very long time. Now the party has moved to the left. His answer is not exactly centrist. It's actually more Democrat historically speaking. One area, though, that he still disagrees with Howard Schultz on and made very clear today was that he should not be floating an independent run, that he looked at it every way which way and he came to the determination back in 2016 that it would hand victory to Trump and he made a joke about it, saying, at least his obit won't say he's the one who got Trump elected, Brooke. So, it would be interesting to find out a little bit more as to whether or not I actually tried to follow-up with whether or not he spoke to Howard personally about this, but certainly interesting to hear him reiterate that today.

[14:30:00] BALDWIN: The battle of the billionaires, Christina. Thank you, Poppy, over to you --

HARLOW: That is not a title they're not going to like. It is. You're right. You are right. Yes, so I asked Howard Schultz about Michael Bloomberg because he offered it up to me. He said, you know, I think if Mike Bloomberg would have run two years ago, I think he could have run. Mike Bloomberg doesn't even think he could have run. Here's what he said and he disagrees with that. He also told me -- all right. So, if Mike Bloomberg who is more centrist agrees with you that America can't afford Medicare for all, they say, would you run as an independent if Mike Bloomberg jumps in as a Democrat and he said Mike Bloomberg running would not affect my decision?

BALDWIN: Bloomberg wouldn't affect, Biden, TBD.

HARLOW: I don't know. I didn't get an answer.