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Interview with Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired February 14, 2019 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY FBI DIRECTOR: -- an indelible fashion that were I removed quickly or reassigned or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace. I wanted to make sure our case was on solid ground, and if someone came in behind me and closed it and tried to walk away from it they would not be able to do it without creating a record of why they'd made that decision.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: All of this comes as a federal judge has ruled Paul Manafort's plea agreement with the Special Counsel is now null and void because the former Trump campaign chairman intentionally lied to investigators and a federal grand jury about his contacts with Russia.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now, David Gregory, CNN political analyst, former Republican member of Congress, Mia Love, now a CNN political commentator, and Jeffrey Toobin, former federal prosecutor and CNN's chief legal analyst.

Jeffrey, this is the first time we have heard from Andrew McCabe, and this is really the first time we have heard from someone speak out loud about those moments after James Comey was fired and the concern inside the justice and intelligence apparatus about the president of the United States. What does that tell you?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: That there was a lot of concern. This was a constitutional crisis really. This was a moment when senior people in the law enforcement community thought the president was committing crimes in real time. Think about that. They were watching the president obstruct justice in real time, they thought, and they had to open an investigation. That's pretty profound.

BERMAN: It's pretty profound, and it's a big deal.


HILL: It is a big deal. I'm just curious your take, Mia, as you listen to everything we are just learning, the fact that he was so intent on opening this investigation, in his words, that it be on solid ground, that nothing could happen to it, just your reaction to that. For you, Mia. Sorry. MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think one of the things

that is really concerning is how many people he had around him and the concern that everybody had and the uncertainty that everybody had. If we just even realize the judge came out and said that Manafort lied to the FBI, completely got rid of the plea deal. If there is anything said in there, it's just that Manafort is not a credible witness. I actually think that Manafort does nothing for the Mueller case now. So, at that time there was uncertainty. And now there is a little bit more uncertainty about who is telling the truth, who was lying, who could actually help with the investigation. So I think there is just -- it just gets more and more confusing.

BERMAN: It does. And it gets to the question, again, of how many questions they had and how many new concerns that were popping up in real time at Jeffrey was talking. And one of the things that comes out in this interview, David Gregory, Scott Pelley has this conversation with Andrew McCabe. There were this issue, and there's been some reporting about this, that there were conversations about the 25th Amendment, replacing the president, ways to replace the president. I want to pay for you, this is Scott Pelley recounting his conversation with McCabe about how serious these discussions were. Listen.


SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: There were meetings at the Justice Department in which it was discussed whether the vice president and a majority of the cabinet could be brought together to remove the president of the United States under the 25th Amendment. But they were speculating this person would be with us, that person would not be. And they were counting noses in that effort.


BERMAN: That's extraordinary.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is extraordinary. And remember the context Jeffrey was alluding to, Jim Comey was fired because, as the president said, he didn't like how the investigation was going into Russia. And at the time it was such a big deal that the president would take that step and try to sell the story that he was trying to do everybody a favor because of how Comey had conducted the Clinton e-mail investigation, which nobody believed that that was his real intent. A

And so here's the deputy after all that has transpired where the president has leaned on Comey, that Comey has written about and testified about to go easy on Michael Flynn and all the rest, that there was a real fear that this was going to go away.

There is another part of the story as well that cuts in the direction of the president's argument that what was going on in the FBI. There were a number of people who had this animus, political animus, including agents like Peter Strzok who were working on this case who had it out for me politically. And now they were witting around and talking about invoking the 25th argument and who is with me and who is against me. You can be sure this will feed that argument that there were a lot of people at the head of the FBI who had it in for the president and that this was a bogus investigation.

TOOBIN: Dave is right. But the other point is, was it justified? Was the president's behavior so far outside the norm, so far unethical, perhaps illegal, that it was the right thing to do to think about invoking the 25th amendment. And that's the question.

[08:05:09] LOVE: Here's what we know. Here's what we know. And we have to make sure that we keep things in context here. We know that there was involvement with the Russia investigation. We know that. We know that there are people that were around the president that are not helping and have lied. But what we are still trying to figure out is if there was collusion between the president and Russia.

And I think that that is the key there, because when you've got all this uncertainty, that's one thing. When you've got the judge saying that Manafort is lying, he's not a credible witness, he's intentionally lying to the FBI, lying with Mueller, that's another issue. But what we have to get down to is whether there was collusion between the president of the United States and Russia.

We know Russia was involved in the elections. We know that. The intelligence committee came out and found evidence of that. We have to find whether there was collusion between the president of the United States and Russia.

GREGORY: And let's just remind our viewers, too, that the big part of this FBI investigation, an obstruction of justice investigation, becomes fodder eventually for a report that if it gets to Congress, we'll see what the incoming attorney general --

HILL: And that's the question, right?

GREGORY: It becomes a big issue. And as we discussed last hour, we've got a likely incoming attorney general, Bill Barr, who is going to look very seriously about whether the president sought to obstruct an investigation by the FBI and to interfere in what the Justice Department was doing in this investigation. That's very serious, and that could very much become part of the political debate that we see after the Mueller report and the investigation is finished.

HILL: And I think it's already part of the debate even at this point leading into that final decision. There was so much coming out of this little bit of sound that was released by Scott Pelley and then his further conversation with his fellow journalists at CBS this morning, because he also talked about, we have heard, of course, about these rumors of Rod Rosenstein and a wire. At the time we were told that it's just sarcastic, it was joking. That's not what we are learning from Scott Pelley from what he learned from Andrew McCabe. And I think we may have that bit of sound as well.


SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, offered to wear a wire into the White House to record potentially incriminating conversations with the president. A statement was released after that that it was never serious, it was sarcastic, et cetera. McCabe in our interview says, no, it came up more than once, and it was so serious that he took it to the lawyers at the FBI to discuss it.


HILL: It was so serious, Jeff Toobin, he took it to lawyers at the FBI to discuss it.

TOOBIN: Again, how surreal this all is, that the FBI, Andrew McCabe, career agent, was thinking that the president was committing crimes in real time, and they are discussing wearing a wire like he's a mafia don to try to get him to make incriminating statements in the Oval Office. Even during Watergate there was nothing like this.

GREGORY: I also think it's important, in the political back and forth, the president wants to trash the FBI, trash all these agents, and argue that this was a bogus investigation. Chris Wray, his pick to run the FBI, has quieted this down, and you know what he's done? He's stood by these folks and stood by the integrity of the investigation. And I don't think people should forget that.

BERMAN: Not Andy McCabe. Andy McCabe was pushed out, and he is the one now saying these things. I do want to make that much clear. But it is interesting, David, because Jeffrey raised the issue here. Maybe it was unjustified. Maybe they were wrong that all this was necessary, but they thought that it was necessary at the time, including Rod Rosenstein, who is still the deputy attorney general.

GREGORY: Right. And there are questions, was Rod Rosenstein forced to write the memo that was the basis for firing Jim Comey? If that was the case, why didn't he resign? There's questions about all of that. But at the same time, he has been someone who has pushed hard to maintain the integrity of this investigation. And it was Jeff Sessions who put him in the position to oversee it despite some of his comments. And the White House had a chance when some of these revelations came out to push him out, and declined to do so at the time.

LOVE: There was a lot of distrust around there either way, because even on the campaign trail, if you think about it, the FBI was a point of contention there, and there was no trust there. So anybody who is claiming or wanting to put a wire to go in and see if they can get incriminating evidence, there is no joking around there. There's some serious mistrust on both sides there from the very start, the very beginning.

HILL: The other thing that's fascinating this morning that we have been talking about before we got these revelations from Andy McCabe is the fact that we learned yesterday from Judge Jackson, who said that Paul Manafort intentionally lied, intentionally lied.

[08:10:05] And lied about, among those lies, interactions Konstantin Kilimnik both as campaign chairman and after. And it begs the question, there's the three things the judge ruled Manafort intentionally lied about, as you can see. And it begs the question as we are looking at this, and it's been brought up by a number of people, why so many people so close to the campaign, so close to the president, have, Jeff, lied about their interactions with Russians.

TOOBIN: We are putting it on the screen. These are just the people who have been convicted or pleaded guilty of lying about the Russians.

HILL: Yes.

TOOBIN: There's also Roger Stone who is under indictment. There's Jared Kushner, there's Jeff Sessions, both of whom had to reword their statements about their dealings with Russia. It is this pervasive dishonesty, all on this one subject of interactions with Russians in connection with the campaign. Raises the obvious question, why were they all lying about it? Was there something they were trying to cover up?

BERMAN: Mia, did these lies bother the members of Congress, particularly Republican members of Congress, when you were there? The pattern of lying here is so pervasive now, is there an appetite to get to the answer of why?

LOVE: Well, I can tell you that being a member of Congress, a GOP member of Congress, is very difficult under the administration. I think that there is some legitimate concerns about the fact that -- the people that the president had around him during the campaign and the people that are lying, flat out lying now. I think there's some legitimate concerns there.

But again, I think that there are a lot of members of Congress that are saying, look, we want to see evidence of collusion between the president himself and Russia. And I think that that's what they are waiting for. This is -- he's not -- he wasn't a politician. He didn't come with all of the right people. And a lot of people that he came with are people that he dealt with in business dealings while he was taking care of all of his private issues. And he brought some of those people over. So the cover-up is always worse than the actual issue itself, and I wish that these people would just stop lying and allow Mueller to just do his job. I think we would be a lot further along than we are now if it weren't for the dishonesty.

GREGORY: And the dishonest and the lying raises such critical questions. And there is the underlying issue, right, which is, as the prosecutor's argued in court yesterday related to this, this goes to the core of what the investigation is about. Was there a quid pro quo between Russia and the Trump campaign for some kind of outcome, particularly regarding the sanctions against Ukraine? So we have a critical figure here and a critical piece of the puzzle.

BERMAN: David Gregory, Republican Party Mia Love, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much. Fascinating new interview to piece through over the next few hours.

So he is the mayor of a city best known for the fighting Irish, but now South Bend, Indiana's Pete Buttigieg on the national stage as a possible 2020 contender. He joins us next (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:16:52] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It is easily the most diverse field for president ever. The 2020 Democratic field is taking shape. One person exploring the race now is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Pete Buttigieg now with an exploratory committee looking into the race. He joins us now. He's a veteran from Afghanistan. He's also the author of "Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and A Model for America's Future."

You can look at the cover of the book. I'm looking at it here. I asked him before if they don't sell suit jackets in South Bend.

Thank you very much for joining us.


BERMAN: I want to show one poll number from the latest CNN poll. We asked voters, Democratic voters, what they think is the most important trait right now, or extremely important for the Democratic nominee. Number one is a good chance to beat President Trump.

So why do you think you have the best chance in the Democratic field to beat President Trump?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, coming from a party that seemed to have lost touch in the last -- I'm talking about my party, the Democratic Party, seemed to have lost touch in the last election with the middle of the country. Maybe it makes sense to have more voices from the Industrial Midwest.

You know, part of the story I tell in the book is how a community like South Bend which is basically characteristic of the Industrial Midwest. We were an auto industry town. We were characterized as a dying city at the beginning of this decade.

We found a different future. We embraced change. We were honest about some of the things that were not going back to the old way.

I think we are living proof that the formula for reaching the hearts of the Industrial Midwest doesn't have to be nostalgia, resentment or promises that can't be kept to find greatness in some impossible -- again, by turning back the clock.

BERMAN: So, is that the one thing you want voters to think of when they think of you? When they think of Mayor Buttigieg, you want them to think Midwest? You know, Elizabeth Warren, they think of income inequality. Kirsten Gillibrand, maybe the #metoo movement.

What's the one thing you want voters to think you?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think when you run for office at my age, to some extent, your face is your message. A big part of the message is going to be about generational change. Look, I belong to the generation that was the school shooting generation. I was in high school when Columbine happened. We're the generation

that's going to pay the bill for the unaffordable tax cuts for the wealthy. We are the generation that's going to be on the business end of climate change. And I think voters not only from my generation but my parents' and grandparents' generations want to see the world left in better shape than it is right now.

That means a different kind of decision-making than a current president who seems to regard all of these decisions on things from climate to international affairs and the consequences that they're going to bring as basically somebody else's problem.

BERMAN: Is younger necessarily better?

BUTTIGIEG: Not necessarily, but it give use a different perspective because you have a real personal stake in what's about to happen.

BERMAN: I want to ask you about the issues now that have been a big part or becoming a big part of the Democratic race. One is the Green New Deal which you have said you support.

Ernest Moniz, who was the secretary of energy under President Obama, recently said that he has concerns about one of the pledges in the Green New Deal which is to be carbon neutral, that carbon neutral within the next two years. He thinks that it's impractical and will alienate people at the same as being practical.

What's your response to that?

BUTTIGIEG: I don't think a goal should alienate people.

[08:20:01] And let's be honest, the Green New Deal is in its current form more a set of goals than it is a fully articulated set of policies or a road map. But I think our goals need to be more, not less ambitious. Again, I'm coming at this as somebody who is, God willing, going to be here when I'm the current age of the current president which is 2054.

A lot of these predictions will have come to pass, as they are already. You know, as a mayor, I have been in the position twice as mayor of having to use an emergency operations center in South Bend for what should be historic flooding. One was 500-year and one was 1,000-year. They happened 18 months apart.

That means that climate really is an emergency that's come to hit us right now. And we need to treat it as a national emergency that has the same destructive powers, something like the Great Depression or a World War. And if the seriousness of this issue is commensurate with those world historical moments, but the big difference is this time we see it coming. Shame on us if we don't act ambitiously, aggressively, audaciously to do something about it.

BERMAN: You can do that, and that can be your goal, but you're also saying it's unrealistic and you probably won't reach that goal?

BUTTIGIEG: No, I'm not saying that. Look -- BERMAN: If you're talking about being net carbon neutral in ten

years, though?

BUTTIGIEG: I don't think officials will devising all the technical measures to get there, any more than President Kennedy was calculating rocket trajectories when he said that this country should go to the moon by the end of the decade when he promised that we would do it.

But we need to set the goals and then figure how to do it. Leonard Bernstein said, to achieve great things, two things are needed, a plan and not enough time. We did something similar in South Bend where we didn't know how to deal with a thousand vacant houses in a thousand days. We just knew that we needed to act at a level that had never seen before in our city so that blight didn't overtake our neighborhoods and it became too late.

I think it's the same with climate. I do think on the greatest nation of earth, if and only if we are prepared to mount the adequate research and development investments to actually bend the cost curve on things like solar for example. I do believe that we can reach very aggressive targets and I think in many ways, what we really can't afford is to do otherwise.

BERMAN: You served in Afghanistan. I have read that you are supportive of with drawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. How does your plan or vision for how that withdrawal would work differ from the president's?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, for one thing, you don't surprise your own Pentagon with a tweet. Look, we need to be smart about how we do this. Obviously, the time has come to, at least it's obvious to me, to end endless war. I mean, you could be coming of age now almost old enough to be deployed and not have been alive on 9/11. Congress has basically abandoned the war power authorities not just on Afghanistan, but in a number of places around the world. And it's clear that we need a way out.

But I'm very concerned that what you have right now is a process of engaging the Taliban in peace talks that seems to be leaving the Afghan government, the legitimate elected Afghan government that we helped create the conditions for it to arise is leaving them off to the side. I don't see how you get a lasting secure peace without truly involving and engaging the Afghan government.

BERMAN: I'm moving very quickly here because I want to get your take on a lot of issues. Voters are just learning about you for the very first time. You wrote a high school term paper on Bernie Sanders. It helped you get a scholarship at one point.


BERMAN: Bernie Sanders, obviously, is an independent. He's a socialist. He calls himself a socialist right now.

And I read you one quote you said about socialism, because you think it shouldn't necessarily be a four-letter word. You say: Somebody comes along and says you can't do that, it's socialist. I think our answer is going to be, OK, is it a good idea or is it not?

What are some examples of good socialist ideas?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think the word socialism has begun to lose its meaning. I think that's a process that started when the right referred to the Affordable Care Act as socialism even though it was a market-based policy that was invented at the conservative Heritage Foundation. So, this is a word that seems more a piece of political rhetoric than a rigorous definition of a set of ideas.

When we are talking about socialism, are we talking about Venezuela that nobody wants or are we talking about a situation like what there is in Denmark where a child now enjoys more social mobility -- in other words, a greater likelihood of achieving the American dream -- than a child born in America. I think that should be unacceptable.

We need to make sure whether an idea is labeled as right, left, capitalist, socialist or otherwise, that we just evaluate whether the idea makes sense, whether it is good and whether there is evidence it will work.

BERMAN: You are mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Mike Pence was governor of Indiana for a big chunk of that time. You called him in fanatic. What do you mean?

BUTTIGIEG: I mean, that he genuinely believes things most of us consider really far out. I mean, he's written that he thinks that cigarettes don't kill. He seems to believe people like me just get up and decide to be gay.

His world view is one that is way out of step with the American mainstream. We saw that in Indiana when he really embarrassed our state with policies that both Democrats and Republicans in not just the political world but the business community stepped up and said, hey, you are making us look like a backwards place at the moment we are trying to advance.

[08:25:08] And, unfortunately, he now has a national stage for the fanatical social ideas.

BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE), we have to go, but very quickly, I didn't even ask about the fact that you are gay and you will be the first gay major party candidate. Does that matter?

BUTTIGIEG: That's not for me to say. I mean, I recognize there is a historic quality to this candidacy. But what I learned if and when we run, but I learned in the process in South Bend when I got re-elected with 80 percent of the vote is most people just care if you're going to do a good job or not. That's true of mayors and I hope that's true for presidents, and I really just want to be evaluated for the ideas I bring to the table.

BERMAN: You are also Maltese. And you'll be the first major party Maltese candidate --

BUTTIGIEG: That's true. First Maltese-American. Sadly, not a huge vote in America. But we'll take all the help we can get.

BERMAN: All right. Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it. Tell us when it goes beyond exploring.

BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe with bombshell revelations about why he ordered investigations into President Trump. The reaction from Capitol Hill, next.


HILL: Fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe speaking for the first time about why he ordered an obstruction of justice investigation --