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Israeli Military: New Airstrikes Against Hamas Targets In Gaza After Two More Rockets Are Fired Toward Israel; Sen. Kamala Harris (D) California Proposes Using Federal Funds To Raise Teachers' Pay; Giuliani: Mueller Should Not Have Punted The Decision On Obstruction To The Attorney General; DOJ Says, Weeks, Not Months, To Release Mueller Report; Admin Official: White House Still Hasn't Seen Full Report. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 26, 2019 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: Smollett walks.

After being accused of faking a hate crime, all charges against the "Empire" actor are suddenly dropped.

I will talk live with the mayor of Chicago, who is furious that Jussie Smollett is getting off scot-free.

Weeks, not months. We're learning more about the timetable for the attorney general to reveal more details about the Mueller report tonight. The president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani just told me that he's OK with Mr. Trump's written answers to Mueller being made public.

Eliminating Obamacare. The president talks health care up on Capitol Hill, as his administration reverses course and seeks to get rid of all of the Affordable Care Act. Is it a gift to his 2020 campaign rivals?

And Kamala Harris' plan. The Democratic presidential candidate joins us live to discuss her goal of giving teachers a big pay hike. It could cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Where will the money come from?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the stunning decision to drop all the felony charges against the "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett.

A top prosecutor involved in the decision is now acknowledging that he doesn't believe Smollett is innocent. The Chicago Police superintendent is standing by his very public claim that Smollett staged a hate crime and lied about being a victim.

And Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel is calling it a whitewash of justice.

But, tonight, Smollett is portraying himself as innocent, insisting he's been truthful since day one.

Also breaking, the Justice Department says it will take weeks, not months, for a more extensive version of Robert Mueller's report to be made public. Democrats are demanding to see it all by April 2, as the president continues to falsely claim he's been totally exonerated by Mueller on the issue of obstruction of justice.

I will talk about the breaking news and more with Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris.

And Mayor Rahm Emanuel, there you see him. He's standing by live, along with our correspondents and analysts.

Let's start with our chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, what are you hearing about -- from the White House, first of all, about its knowledge of the Mueller report?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at this hour, I can tell you that an administration official says the White House has still not seen the full Mueller report.

They're waiting for that to come over here to the White House. They're waiting to look at it, just like everybody else is. But, Wolf, as we saw earlier today, President Trump, he's continuing his post-Mueller report victory lap.

This time, he was on Capitol Hill. But the president is taking his win and twisting it, you could say, claiming the special counsel found he had not engaged in any of obstruction when that is not exactly the case.

But the Trump administration appears to be diving head first into yet another controversy, siding with an effort to overturn Obamacare without a clear health care plan of its own.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Soaking in the findings from special counsel Robert Mueller's report, President Trump marched up to Capitol Hill to declare victory. But he didn't stick to the facts.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Mueller report was great. It could not have been better. It said no obstruction, no collusion. It could not have been better.

ACOSTA: But that's not true. While Attorney General William Barr's summary of the Mueller report did state that the special counsel found the Trump campaign did not conspire or coordinate with the Russian government, the question of obstruction was left to the Justice Department.

And it was Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who decided not to prosecute. Democrats aren't taking the president's word for it and demanding to see the full report.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We don't need an interpretation by an attorney general who was appointed for a particular job, to make sure the president is above the law. We need to see the report.

ACOSTA: The president also accused unspecified forces of conspiring against him.

TRUMP: We cannot let it ever happen again. It went very high up and it started fairly low, but with instructions from the high up. This should never happen to a president again. We can't allow that to take place.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump has accused the Obama White House of wiretapping him, without evidence, and he's blamed the late Senator John McCain for the release of a dossier detailing the president's alleged misdeeds.

But one of the president's top allies, Senator Lindsey Graham, now says he urged McCain to give the dossier to the FBI.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: John got the dossier. He called me up. He said: "What do you think? You think I should it turn over the FBI?" I said yes. That was it.

QUESTION: How did the president respond to that?

GRAHAM: Never mind.

ACOSTA: One area where there is some agreement, impeachment appears to be off the table.

TRUMP: I don't think they're talking about impeachment.

PELOSI: Impeachment is not on the table until it is on the table.


ACOSTA: But new battle lines are being drawn, specifically over Obamacare, after the Justice Department sided with a federal judge's ruling striking down the Affordable Care Act, saying in a statement that: "The district court's comprehensive opinion came to the correct conclusion."

The president jumped into damage control mode.

TRUMP: Let me just tell you exactly what my message is. The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care. You watch.

ACOSTA: In the run-up to the midterms, the president vowed to take care of people with preexisting conditions, one of Obamacare's key protections.

TRUMP: I will always fight for and always protect patients with preexisting conditions. You have to do it.


ACOSTA: After running on protecting Obamacare during the midterms, Democrats are more than ready to resurrect the issue for the 2020 campaign.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Trump position ties a two-year anchor around the neck of every Republican for the next two years.


ACOSTA: Now, at least one target of the Russia investigation is seizing on Mueller's findings, in the hopes of a pardon.

Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos confirmed to CNN that his attorney is seeking a pardon from the president. Papadopoulos told CNN, if offered one, it would be an honor to accept.

The president has sounded open to the idea of pardon, though he has told reporters he has not given that prospect a whole lot of thought. But, Wolf, it seems pretty obvious at this point there are going to be multiple figures from the Russia investigation looking at that option of pardons from this president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, you're probably right.

Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Now to the decision, truly stunning decision, to drop all charges against the accurate Jussie Smollett.

CNN's Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Brian, so many people were blindsided by this. What do we know right now?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just moments ago, the same prosecutor who dropped the charges against was asked by a CNN affiliate if he believed the actor was innocent. And he said no.

This comes after the shocking announcement that has left Chicago's mayor and police chief furious.


TODD (voice-over): In a case that Jussie Smollett's lawyer says had spiraled out of control, a sudden, dramatic and bizarre turn. Prosecutors announced they have dropped all the charges against the actor.

Smollett's repeated his claims of innocence.

JUSSIE SMOLLETT, ACTOR: I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one. I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I have been accused of.

TODD: The announcement angered Chicago's police superintendent, who says he was taken by surprise.

EDDIE JOHNSON, CHICAGO POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: Do I think justice was served? No. What do I think justice is? I think this city is still owed an apology. It's Mr. Smollett who committed this hoax, period. I stand by the facts of what we produced.

TODD: Mayor Rahm Emanuel stood by his police chief.

RAHM EMANUEL (D), MAYOR OF CHICAGO: This is a whitewash of justice.

TODD: In late January, Smollett told police he was attacked on the streets of Chicago by two men shouting racist and homophobic slurs, who he claimed poured an unknown substance on him and put a noose around his neck.

Police spent more than 1,000 manhours on the case, interviewed more than 100 people, checked more than 50 surveillance cameras. Two Nigerian brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, who'd been extras on Smollett's TV drama "Empire," were taken into custody.

Police later said they believe Smollett paid the two brothers $3,500 to orchestrate the attack.

JOHNSON: Of course, it was staged. The brothers had on gloves during the staged attack where they punched him a little bit. But, as far as we can tell, the scratches and bruising that you saw on his face was most likely self-inflicted.

Prosecutors alleged Smollett was in contact with the brothers in the days before the incident, texting one of them -- quote -- "Might need your help on the low. You around to talk face to face?"

And they say the actor spoke to the brothers an hour after the alleged attack. Smollett always proclaimed his innocence and, in an interview with ABC, he vented his anger at how the investigation had turned.

SMOLLETT: I'm pissed off. How can you doubt that? Like, how do you -- how do you not believe that? It's the truth.

TODD: A week later, police arrested Smollett on suspicion of filing a false police report. He faced 16 counts. The key question tonight, why the charges were dropped, still hangs in the air following a murky explanation from prosecutors.

JOE MAGATS, COOK COUNTY ASSISTANT STATE'S ATTORNEY: This was a just disposition in the case.

TODD: Assistant Cook County state's attorney Joe Magats said prosecutors did not exonerate Smollett. Magats says prosecutors saw no problems with the police investigation or the evidence, that they simply don't see Smollett as a threat to public safety.

And he offered another explanation. MAGATS: We dropped all charges based on the fact that he did

community service and that he forfeited his bill.

SARA AZARI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is not sufficient explanation. Again, I don't think there's transparency. If this is all that got taken into account and it's as simple as this, then let us see the sealed document. Unseal it. Let the public know exactly what the evidence was.


TODD: But, tonight, the public court file in this case has been ordered sealed by the judge.


Smollett's attorney insists there was no deal struck with prosecutors -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, do we have any new information tonight on the community service that Jussie Smollett will serve?

TODD: Wolf, the prosecutor just released a letter from Jesse Jackson's Sr's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, which said that Smollett had performed community service at that facility in Chicago, but just for two days, this past Saturday and on Monday.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us, Brian, thanks very much.

We're going to have much more on this story later, including my interview with the Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel.

In fact, let's do that interview with Rahm Emanuel right now. He's joining us live.

Mayor, thanks so much for joining us.

EMANUEL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

So, you say that a grand jury could not have been clearer in its indictment of Jussie Smollett, having only seen a sliver of the evidence. So how do you explain this truly dramatic reversal today?

EMANUEL: I can't. It's that simple, and nor can anybody else explain it, because, if it was easy to be explained, the state's attorney's office would have been out explaining it.

And here's my basic anger. There is no sense from this person, who now the state's attorney said committed the actual crime here -- or actually the hoax -- there's no sense of contrite, no sense of remorse.

The fact is, Wolf, in this act, he not only -- obviously, all the resources of police to investigate and get to the bottom of an alleged hate crime that turned out to be a hoax, the financial problem, but then taking all the notions of what hate crimes and the reason we have those laws on the books is to protect people of faith, racial background, sexual orientation, so they cannot be a victim of a crime, a violent crime of any nature because of who they are, what they believe or how they -- who they love.

And he used that for his self-promotion. The state's attorney's office itself -- and I accept Ms. Foxx's that she has recused yourself. But the office says that he is wrong, he actually committed the crime, there is a hoax here.

But then he's walking around like he's exonerated, with no sense of remorse or contrite. And he's taken that law, turned it upside down, inside out, and used it for himself.

What happens to the young man who wants to in the future come forward because he has been a victim of a hate crime, or somebody at a place of employment where there's actually a noose left at their desk or at their locker? They're going to be not willing to come forward because they're going to be questioned?

All because of who he is that caught everybody by surprise. And he all of a sudden gets off with two days of service? So, Wolf, please, I want to ask you a question.


EMANUEL: You and I are both Jewish.

If, on your front door, there was a swastika or mine, and it found out weeks later, after all the empathy, that either you or I had put that swastika on our door, we would get off with two days of service at the Anti-Defamation League? Really? That's what would happen here?


BLITZER: So why do you the Cook County prosecutor then went ahead and dropped these charges?

EMANUEL: I cannot answer that question.

The state's attorney, the head of -- the state's attorney has recused herself. I cannot answer the question for what the office did.


BLITZER: Did they consult with -- did they inform you in advance that this was about to happen?


BLITZER: Because all of us know what's been going on over these past several weeks.

EMANUEL: No. I mean, not only did they not inform myself. The fact is, when we came off the stage after the largest police graduation and promotion, find out about what's happening here. It to me makes no sense. It makes no legal sense, no common sense.

And this is an abomination, in my sense of justice, the notion that they say he's guilty of this hoax, he's walking around, I did nothing wrong.

And you literally are taking the law, and all of us who worked on getting the hate crime legislation, the Matthew Shepard legislation, passed and signed into law, because it finally meant to the United States that the values we share that you cannot be a victim of a crime, a violent crime, to boot, because of your faith, your background, your race, or who you love.

And then he used those laws and those sentiments that bind us together as a community and as a society that say, we will stand behind it, and he used it to promote his own career.


EMANUEL: And then he's walking around as if he has done nothing wrong. And that, to me...

BLITZER: So, you clearly, Mayor, are calling out Smollett.

But Smollett didn't take responsibility because the prosecutor, the specific Cook County prosecutor, Joseph Magats, didn't demand it in order to drop the charges.

What do you have to say about this prosecutor, Joseph Magats?

EMANUEL: Well, I think the prosecutor's office, the office needs to explain the why. I can't do that for you.

But I can speak for the people in the city of Chicago. This person, the actor, used the city, came here from New York to perform, act, acted like there was a crime committed.


Our police went diligently. Our law enforcement work tirelessly to uncover a hate crime and find out who perpetuated it, when we find out it's a hoax.

Now, remember -- and I want to get back to this -- all the evidence -- or not all the evidence -- or portion of the evidence was shown to a grand jury, and they came back with all the charges, the same office that then dropped it. It makes no sense.


BLITZER: Let me ask you this, Mayor. Was the full picture painted -- was the full picture painted by the evidence perhaps not as compelling as what was presented to the grand jury? EMANUEL: Well, it was compelling enough -- it was compelling enough -- well, wait a second. The evidence presented to the grand jury is what brought the charges.

BLITZER: But did new questions arise in the subsequent weeks from more evidence that might be out there?


EMANUEL: That's not what the state's attorney just said today. They said, in fact, the police did a good job and the evidence holds up, and he actually did commit the hoax.

They're saying $10,000 and two days of community service is good enough. And I don't believe -- not only is it not good enough, especially when he's walking around, thinking that he is actually innocent, not guilty.

And, B, he's innocent, not only legally, in a criminal justice sense. He is also guilty, in my view, of a moral crime, which is to use the hate crimes to advance his own career for selfish reasons.

And that, to me, is where there's a moral violation and a rip, because he went out and spoke on ABC to the country, as an African-American and a gay man, about being a victim of a crime. And then what comes forward and what we actually now know to be the case, and even the state's attorney today acknowledged, is the fact that was all a hoax.

And there's a moral violation, let alone a violation of the code of criminal justice, that here's a person who now believes, with $10,000, two days of community service at operation PUSH, the slate is clean, that he did nothing wrong, in fact, his word is true.

And I'm just telling you, if he was anybody else -- and this is what is upsetting people in the city and around the country. He has one law or one kind of standard of accountability, and everybody else gets another. And that's wrong.

And the problem we're having today is, everybody thinks, if you're in a position of power or position of influence, there's two rule books, one for everybody else and one for the people of influence. And this is a horrible example of a -- if he wasn't an actor, do you really think this is -- two days of community service would be enough?

Do you really think that, Wolf?

BLITZER: The Cook County prosecutor, Joseph Magats, says the decision to drop the charges, in his words, is not all that unusual.

Let me get your reaction to that.

EMANUEL: I'm not a lawyer, thank God. I can't tell you if it's not unusual or -- unusual.

But let me say this. If it was so usual, why is everybody acting like it's unusual, and in your own reporting, leading up to this, in a bizarre turn and an unusual turn?

It is not unusual -- it is not usual. This is not a pattern. The fact is, if it wasn't for the fact that he is an actor with influence and capacity to have influence, you would not get off with two days of community service at operation PUSH.

And you wouldn't get off if we found out that -- or I would not get off if you found out I put on my front door a swastika, with all the symbolism of what that means to the Jewish people. And we found out, from my own career, I put that on the door or you, for your own career, put that up, you think two doors at -- two days of work community service at ADL, the slate would be clean, it would all be sealed?

The other thing is, let us not forget this, Wolf. He said he wanted his day in court for all the evidence to come forward. The grand jury only heard a portion of the day. If he wanted that, as he claimed, let's have that day. Let's unseal the documents. We will go to court.

And we will see what really happened here. But the fact is, he's walking away, no remorse, no contrite, doesn't believe he did anything wrong. And he used the laws of -- that are the hate crime laws to advance his own career, and he got caught at it.

And his entire penalty back to society is two days of community service. It's just not right. It's not right on any level.

BLITZER: Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a very, very dramatic day in your city of Chicago today. Thanks so much for joining us.

EMANUEL: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead, there's breaking news.

I will speak with Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris about the Mueller report, health care, and her own brand-new plan to boost salaries for the nation's teachers.

There you see her live. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: We're following the breaking news.

The Justice Department says it will be weeks, not months, until more of Robert Mueller's report is made public. Tonight, we're told the White House still hasn't seen the full report.

Let's discuss this and more with one of the Democrats running to defeat President Trump in 2020. Senator Kamala Harris is joining us. She's a member of both the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, very important committees, indeed.


BLITZER: Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

HARRIS: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right, so, as you know, the House of Representatives voted 420-0 to see the Mueller report. The president says he wants to release it. Rudy Giuliani in the last hour was sitting where you are. He told me he'd like to see it released as well.

Are you optimistic that you will get members of Congress and the American public an opportunity to see it, see it almost in full, maybe some grand jury testimony, classified info might be redacted, but everything will be released?


HARRIS: If everything goes as it should, if everything happens the way that it should happen, in the interest of transparency and also respecting the branch of government, which has the responsibility for oversight, which is the United States Congress, yes, we will see the report.

We will see the report in its entirety, minus whatever might be classified. And we will also, if everything goes as it should, receive the underlying evidence and information about the evidence that is the basis for whatever is in the report.


But you're not necessarily 100 percent confident that they will do that?

HARRIS: I mean, Wolf, look, we have an investigation that went on for two years.

And I am concerned that the attorney general produced a four-page summary of a two-year investigation in two days. I would like to believe and know that we -- when Congress receives this information that we have been told will receive, that it will be comprehensive, that it will not leave anything out, that there will not be any gamesmanship being played around what is redacted and what is not, because, listen, Congress has the responsibility, the ethical responsibility, the duty to have oversight over these processes.

And when we're talking about the subject at hand, it is a subject that the American people have a right to understand and know. What went on? What did Mueller find out? What did that investigation involve?

It's the taxpayer dollars...

BLITZER: We want to see the whole thing too, as much as you want to see it.

HARRIS: ... that paid for that investigation. Right.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the Affordable Care Act.


BLITZER: As you know, the Trump administration, the Justice Department last night filed a brief supporting a district court judge, a ruling that declared the Affordable Care Act completely unconstitutional, and that all of it should be gone.

What's your reaction?

HARRIS: My reaction is that one of the issues that keeps most Americans up at night, regardless of who they vote for, is health care, and whether they have access to health care that they can afford.

And the idea that people are playing politics yet again with the Affordable Care Act is the height of irresponsibility. Preexisting conditions. Tens of millions of Americans have benefited from the Affordable Care Act, including the removal of preexisting conditions as a barrier to receive care.

And the idea that we would turn the clock back because of some political purpose, instead of prioritizing public health, is irresponsible. And so we're going to have to fight against it again.

But we have been clear, I think, as a nation, that we value and we want all Americans to be able to have access to affordable health care, period.

BLITZER: And people who have preexisting conditions should be able to have health insurance. Kids should be on their parents' health insurance until the age of 26.

HARRIS: Absolutely right. Absolutely.

BLITZER: A lot of that -- unless there's new legislation, that could go away.

HARRIS: And folks should not forget that, when they last played this game, families from around our nation who could care less about the party with which they're registered to vote, descended, came to the United States Congress and walked those halls, reminding people, don't play politics with our health care.

And I would hate that those families would have to travel again throughout the country to see -- to be seen and heard. Hopefully, the people in leadership will understand that there are just certain things that should be done the right way and not play politics with people's health.

BLITZER: I want to get to your education proposals that you have just announced.

HARRIS: Great.

BLITZER: But, very quickly, because you're a former prosecutor, you understand the law.


BLITZER: What do you think about what happened to Jussie Smollett in Chicago today?

HARRIS: To be perfectly honest with you, Wolf, I'm completely confused. I don't understand.

I don't know -- I don't know the underlying evidence. I have -- there's a sealed document, obviously. I don't know. I'm at a loss. I think we're going to have to leave it up to the judgment of the prosecutor.

I think we should leave it up to the judgment of the police chief and the mayor, of course, to give us some better sense of what's going on. I don't know.

BLITZER: Well, if you're confused...

HARRIS: I'm confused. I'm confused, to be honest.

BLITZER: ... all of us are confused.

And you heard Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He's confused as well. And the Cook County prosecutor, he says, didn't even inform him or the police commissioner that they were to drop these charges.


But I think there's a point that the mayor made that is -- I would like to emphasize, because I'm seeing it around the country. And it is a very real issue, which is the seriousness of hate crime.

And over the last two years, we have seen a growth of hate crime, be it in terms of race, be it religion, anti-Semitic crime, Islamophobic crime, crimes against -- that are born out of homophobia and transphobia.

We have seen an increase around our country and, frankly, around the world. And we cannot play games with it. We have to take it very seriously, because it obviously can result in lethal consequences if we don't take it seriously.

BLITZER: Let's talk about your education plan.

And, as I like to say, nothing more important than kids' education...


BLITZER: ... their health care, national security.

HARRIS: That's right.

BLITZER: If you want to be president, you got to deal with all those issues. HARRIS: That's right.

BLITZER: Your plan, you want to raise teachers' pay across the country...

HARRIS: That's right.

BLITZER: ... by $13,500 a year, which is a significant pay increase.


BLITZER: The estimate is, the price tag, $315 billion...

HARRIS: Over 10 years.

BLITZER: ... over the next 10 years.

HARRIS: Right.


BLITZER: So, where's the money going to come from?

HARRIS: It's simple. We need to -- it basically extends the number of people who need to pay estate tax right now. The rule is that only people within estate of -- in excess of $11 million pay estate tax. Well, multimillionaires can afford to pay more in terms of the estate tax, and so that's where it's going to come from.

But I will also urge us, Wolf, on this issue in particular to ask another question, and which is probably the first question that should be asked. What will be the return of the investment for doing this? And I will tell you, as we all know, the investment will be profound.

Investing in the education of our children is one of the smartest investments we can make. And I'm meeting teachers around our country working two, sometimes three jobs. I am meeting teachers who over 90 percent of them are coming out of their own pocket to pay for school supplies. We are not paying our teachers their value.

There are two groups of people who raising our children. Parents and grandparents and aunties and uncles, and it's our teachers. And we have to recognize the benefit that we receive from their work, which is the work of really caring about children and caring about the future of our country.

BLITZER: Can you guarantee it won't add to the budget deficit, which, as you know, is approaching $1 trillion dollars a year?

HARRIS: Well, let me tell you. What is adding to the budget deficit? This tax bill that they passed that gives a tax benefit to the top 1 percent and the biggest corporations in this country. So when those same people start to talk about why we should not invest in our teachers, I actually am not sympathetic to their argument because I think their values are misplaced. This is a matter of what is the right thing to do. This is a matter of dealing with a teacher that I spoke with recently in South Carolina. And let me tell you. She is working full-time as a teacher and working full-time bussing tables in a restaurant. And she's shared with me a story. One day, she's there working bussing tables and she realized there were four other teachers also having a second job in that restaurant clearing tables to make their bills, to make their ends meet.

And when we pay our teachers their value, do we want our teachers to work two jobs or engage in professional development?

BLITZER: But can you guarantee it's not going to raise the budget deficit? Because you're going to need republican support to go after the estate tax. You're going to need republican support to support this pay increase for teachers.

HARRIS: I am talking about an incredible return on our investment. And when we look at the essential functions of government, there are three, public health, public safety and public education. And we are giving public education piece short shrift.

Meanwhile, we have a Secretary of Education who is talking about cutting the federal budget in terms of spending them on supporting public education, a Secretary of Education who wants to give teachers guns, no. You know what? Teachers don't need guns. They need a raise. They need a raise.

BLITZER: Part of the program that you're having that states would get money from the federal government, but they themselves would have to increase -- contribute to the pay increase for students right now. What do you say to those states who say, you know what, we don't want the federal government involved in the education in our states?

HARRIS: Well, I think that that theoretically is possible, but people are going to try and make this into a partisan issue. But you can look at Oklahoma and Arizona as two examples of states that are so- called red states that have actually addressed this issue. You can look at the teacher strikes that have taken place from around the country in red states and blue states.

This should not be thought of as a partisan issue. It really shouldn't even be thought as a bipartisan issue, it's non-partisan. It's about the education of our children. When I travel around our country, regardless of who people voted for, they know that our teachers are not getting the pay they they that they deserve.

And, Wolf, I'll put it in a broader sense. If we are a society that cares about children, we have to appreciate that one of the best ways we can express the love and care that we have of the children of our country is to invest in their education. And if we are going to invest in their education, we must invest in teachers. It's that simple.

BLITZER: Do other public service employees around the country similarly deserve a pay increase? HARRIS: Well, you'd look. We can look at what's going on in the country. In America today, almost half of American families are $400 unexpected expense away from complete upheaval. In America today, 99 percent of the counties in our country, if you're a minimum wage worker working full-time, you can't afford market rate for a one- bedroom apartment, which is why I am proposing we actually change the tax code and give a tax credit for families that are making less than $1,000 a year, that a tax credit of up to $6,000 that they can receive and up to $500 a month. Because you're right, wages have not kept up with the cost of living.

And I find it really pretty interesting when people want to tout about how the economy is doing so well and then you ask them, well, how do you measure that? Well, look at the stock market. Well, that's fine if you own stocks. Not everybody does.

[18:35:00] In fact, a lot of people don't. And then you ask them, well, how is the economy doing so well? What's the measurement? Well, look at the job rate, the jobless numbers. Yes, people are working. Wolf, they are working two is and three jobs. It's not right.

BLITZER: How is the presidential campaign coming?

HARRIS: I'm enjoying it.

BLITZER: You are?

HARRIS: I don't know. That says about my first salary [ph]. But I'm enjoying talking to people. And I think that there is no question that if this is a process that will have integrity, there's going to be as much, if not, more listening than talking. And I'm enjoying this process in that regard because it is my hope and belief that at the end of this process, one of the markers of success will be that we are relevant and i'm enjoying the process for that reason.

BLITZER: I'm sure people ask you a lot of questions about healthcare, education, all sorts of other issues, infrastructure, which is critically important when you're out there on the campaign trail.

HARRIS: But these are the things that keep -- but to your point, Wolf, these are the things that keep people up at night.

BLITZER: Less so the Russia investigation, right?

HARRIS: It doesn't come up as much.

BLITZER: Yes, that's what everybody says.


BLITZER: Senator Kamala Harris, good luck out there.

HARRIS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks so much for joining us. HARRIS: Good to be with you. Thank you.

BLITZER: Right, thank you very much.

Just ahead, more breaking news. More rockets launched into Israel from Gaza just, now as well as new Israeli airstrikes. We'll update you.



[18:40:5] BLITZER: We're following breaking news with from my interview just a little while ago with the President's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. While Mr. Trump is touting the Mueller report as great, Giuliani is taking issue with the way the Special Counsel handled his investigation. Let's discuss this ask more.

And, Laura, let me get your analysis on what we heard. You listened to the interview with Rudy Giuliani. And he doesn't completely agree with the President on the results.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's interesting, of course, because by all accounts, they are all shouting praises of joy over the actual Barr report that summarized the Mueller report. The interesting notion here is I actually think that the idea of the witch hunt scenario that Rudy Giuliani is still trying to promote is actually probably in the rearview mirror for the Trump administration at this point in time.

But I do agree a one aspect of it. If I am the President, I'm actually not completely satisfied that I have been fully exonerated. I don't know why he's saying he is. The notion of saying, well, as he called it a cheap shot, Giuliani said, adding that he was not actually exonerated, at least in the obstruction part of it, puts him in the same category as Hillary Clinton was when James Comey came out and said extremely careless, but not criminal behavior. It may not be a raining cloud on him, but it's a cloud over him.

BLITZER: Let me get Jeffrey Toobin to weigh in. You were watching closely. What do you think, Jeffrey?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think there may be also something else going on here. The report, in some form, is going to come out. And it's unlikely to be entirely laudatory about the President of the United States, especially on obstruction of justice. It's clear that Mueller thought at least there was a chance that the President committed this crime. So I think Mayor Giuliani is setting the stage to disagree with a good deal of what is coming because it is almost certain that there are going to be things in the report itself when it comes out that the President and his team are not going to like to see.

BLITZER: What about that, Joey?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is a pure public relations campaign at this point. The fact is is that if there is no smoking gun, the President will seize upon, as he has, as has Rudy Giuliani, to suggest, again, no collusion, no obstruction, complete exoneration, it's a matter of branding, it's a matter of having the American people think about that and having the American people.

Then if they view that, then, hey, it's presidential harassment if the Congress now goes and continues these investigations, et cetera. No smoking gun. The fact is there were no more indictments. The President not implicated in collusion. Public relations says to the President, we win.

BLITZER: Ryan Lizza, where is this all heading?

RYAN LIZZA, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, ESQUIRE: Look, I think it's very similar to the Hillary Clinton emails investigation, where, really, the best day for her was the day that Comey came out and said they weren't going to go forward with an indictment or any prosecution, right? The best day for Trump on this issue is when Barr gave his top line review of this report with the two best facts for the President.

One, no collusion, and two, he decided to take the issue of obstruction of justice off the table and said, that didn't exist. Everything else that comes out is going to question those conclusions. All the underlying detail that comes out will only be filled with obviously some positive information for the president, but lots and lots of detail that will be negative for him especially on obstruction of justice, where there was obviously a big debate in the Special Counsel's Office.

BLITZER: And it's interest that we're not only hearing it's going to take weeks, not necessarily months, but weeks for more of the Mueller report to be made available by the Attorney General, Bill Barr.

JACKIE ALEMANY, ANCHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST POWER UP: Yes, that's right. Although we know that the Judiciary Committee has requested that he make the full report public by April 2nd. But I think the core issue that we're seeing here, as everyone really has talked about but that I don't think we can stress enough, is a perception problem. Why a political appointee is making the ultimate decision on whether or not the President has committed obstruction of justice.

And the decision, I think, really nullifies the purpose of the Special Counsel to begin with, right, which was to make sure that an apolitical person, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, made the call on whether or not Trump should be indicted or committed any crimes. And by taking this unusual step by delegating that decision to Barr, it leaves a lot of room for questions and a lot of room for more discovery and debate, which I think is what is going to happen once the full report is released.

[18:45:02] LIZZA: Just quickly, that's an excellent point. But -- and I was confused about this. Did he delegate it to Barr or did Barr take it?

(CROSSTALK) ALEMANY: Exactly, that's exactly right.

BLITZER: And he's not exactly doing a whole lot of interviews right now.

ALEMANY: At the end of the day, Mueller did not make a conclusion himself.

BLITZER: What are you thinking?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, a couple of things. First of all, I think Barr took it pursuant to the statute, which weakens the power of the special counsel vis-a-vis the old independent statute. But I also think Jackie makes a good point. At some point, if the president is not above the law, how do you have a situation where you wind up with his appointees making a determination about whether or not he's culpable?

In terms of what you talked about with Mayor Giuliani, Wolf, I thought the thing that was striking to me was that he found a way, this goes back to what you were saying, he found a way to dodge your questions at a couple points, even though he made it sound as if he was saying, look, we're moving ahead, we're moving forward.

One particular point was when you pressed him a couple the times on whether he would want to bring out the questions that were asked of the president. And he kept saying, I don't see any problem with it. But I would be surprised if the legal team ultimately said, yes, we'll release them, absent a congressional --

BLITZER: He said that was about seven pages, the written Q&A that the president went through with Robert Mueller.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Why that's so frustrating is it goes to the question everyone I think has, which was, what was the decision that Mueller made was to not press for in-person questions and answer and interview with the president of the United State? I have never seen a prosecutor who was satisfied by written answers. I cannot follow up. I cannot assess your credibility in person. I cannot decide for myself whether or not you're telling the truth.

In a written answer format, a take home exam, when it's heavily vetted, that's what he's handing over, frankly, I wouldn't be satisfied by that right now as a member of the public. I want to hear it from the horse's mouth, no pun intended to the president of the United States. And the notion that Mueller decided not to press for that is as great of a question as to why he punted. Was it to Barr or was it to Congress?

BLITZER: Let me ask Jeffrey Toobin and Joey Jackson to weigh in on that as well.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I agree with L that it is a central mystery of what we know about the Mueller report and Mueller's investigation about why he didn't press for an investigation -- why he didn't press for an interview with the president and, you know, whether Barr himself took it upon himself to, you know, clear the president on the issue of obstruction of justice or whether Mueller asked Barr to issue a final opinion on that subject. I mean, that's why, you know, making final judgments on the basis of the Barr letter, which was informative but also raised a tremendous number of questions without resolving them is an unwise thing to do.

BLITZER: Joey, go ahead.

JACKSON: You know, to Laura's point, I think, which is a very good one, it always is more beneficial when you have the person before you, right? To assess demeanor, comportment, what they are doing, their movements, the cold transcript that is the written word it just doesn't do it justice.

That being said, it's the president of the United States. And so, perhaps either, A, he doesn't want to engage in a legal battle, which I think Mueller would put no stone unturned to move forward, or B, he was satisfied based upon corroboration or lack thereof with other information he was provided and said, let's leave it at that, let's not delay the report, let's move forward and get it done.

BLITZER: The Bill Barr letter, a big win for the president I think politically speaking by all accounts. But all of a sudden last night, the Trump administration, the Justice Department steps on that by announcing they are siding with a district court judge in repealing getting rid all of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act.

LIZZA: Which is a change from the administration.

BLITZER: It's a gift to the Democrats.

LIZZA: Absolutely. And, look, you know, it's been said a lot on the campaign trail. Health care on the Democratic side is -- far outweighs the Russia investigation in terms of what voters care about in these early states. And so, the idea that a judge might get rid of the ACA and Republicans and Democrats in Congress have absolutely no chance of getting together with a replacement is sort of shocking.

And just one more comment we'll be talking about with the obstruction of justice. The reason this matters and so much commentary now about the media getting it right or wrong, you know, the partisan against Trump, the reason this matters is we're setting a precedent for how future presidents can act when they are under a special counsel investigation, right? All of the things Trump did, a future president if there's no consequences would pocket that and be able to take the same steps.

So this is not so much about President Trump, but about the presidency itself and what's allowable.

BLITZER: The president today, you know, Jackie, he immediately came out and said, he tweeted this -- he said, the Republican Party will become the party of health care.

But if all of the Affordable Care Act is repealed and it's not replaced, millions of Americans who have preexisting conditions, for example, they're going to lose their health care.

[18:50:00] ALEMANY: Right. And just because the president says something doesn't make it so, as we have learned time and time again.

But, yes. I mean, we have sources inside the room today at the GOP luncheon, and the president thanked the room for supporting him and standing by him during the Mueller investigation. And then immediately said, let's focus on this 2020 campaign issue. You know, it is going to be important. And let's start getting to work on it.

But you had a number of senators who were pretty flabbergasted after the meeting and came out and told reporters right away, we don't have a plan. And, you know, as the way much of the Trump administration works, that's what happens when you don't have processes, when there's not clear lines of communications and, you know, as we have seen, this White House has a difficult time moving legislation forward in a way that makes Republicans on the Hill happy and productive.

BLITZER: We'll get some legal analysis from our legal analyst on a different subject. We're almost out of time. But the Jussie Smollett case, Laura, today, pretty stunning events. I don't remember ever seeing anything like this. But maybe you do.

COATES: I don't remember a prosecutor securing 16 grand jury indictments counts and then saying, never mind, but I'll take your bail. You forfeit that and everything is all fair in love and war.

That is astonishing to me. There is a dirty little secret, though, Wolf, that police officers and prosecutor are always in the same team. It is the prosecutor who has the discretion to charge or not to charge. They don't have to consult with officers to do so.

Having said that, if there was enough evidence to establish a grand jury could be empanelled and indictments to be secured and you actually have the two men who were allegedly involved in the hoax, actually testifying in front of the grand jury, what could have changed in the mind of the prosecutor to say, never mind? And also, why would there be a forfeiture in the sealing of the indictments if there was a complete profession of innocence? I have questions.

BLITZER: Well, what the answer, Joey? Or Jeffrey? Either one of you. Jeffrey, you go first.

TOOBIN: I just would like to respond to the Jussie Smollett case as a journalist, not as a lawyer. But I think the message here is, don't jump to conclusions. You know, all of us on television, you know, we respond to these cases right away and this is such a good example of why you have to wait and see all the evidence because -- I mean, think of how this story has bounced back and forth. I don't know what happened here to this day.

And I just think the message here is be careful about jumping to conclusions, because you -- we just don't know what happened until we see all of the evidence. I for one don't know what happened here.

BLITZER: Good point. Joey?

JACKSON: I think it's a little bit more complicated than that. I think we do know what happened in the case, and I think in this case, boy, is it nice to know people in high places. And that apparently is what happened in this particular case.

I would have had a lot more respect for the county attorney if we learned initially what we learned now. And that is that they felt this was an appropriate disposition. The fact is, they ran hard at him.

He is absolutely a person who is has done very good things for his community. He's adored, he's well-respected, he's done a good job, he's lived his life in the right way. Based upon that, we do not think it's appropriate to move forward with a felony disposition for a person for reporting a crime like this. Just say so.

Don't say, you know what, we're forfeiting your bail, he's doing community service, we're not going to let you know. That's problematic.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around --

TOOBIN: Well, what happened here?

BLITZER: We don't -- the answer is, the answer is, we don't know. Hopefully, we'll find out one of these days.

Everybody, stick around. There's more news we're following. There's more breaking news.

New Israeli air strikes after fresh rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. We're going to have a live report on the escalating attacks.


[18:58:10] BLITZER: Israeli's military says it's carried out new air strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza, after more rocket fire aimed toward Israel.

Let's go live to CNN's Oren Liebermann. He's joining us from Jerusalem.

Oren, what's the latest?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a 16-hour period of relative calm was shattered at around at 8:00 p.m. local time when a rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel. That was followed a few hours later, in fact just before midnight local time, when a second rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel. The Israeli military has responded with military strikes against Hamas military targets inside of Gaza, including a weapons manufacturing facility.

To give you an idea of where Israeli thought this was going before that first rocket, just a few minutes before that rocket was launched, Israeli announced that civilian restrictions around Gaza had been lifted, so it seems Israel thought this round of fighting was over. But, of course, that changed with the first rocket. Now, it's a question of what happens next. If it were only these two rockets, Israel would respond by targeting Hamas military targets. We have seen this before. And then the fighting would end.

But this comes less than 36 hours after that rocket was fired from Gaza, deep into Israel hitting a home in central Tel Aviv, or rather north of Tel Aviv. So, now, it's a question of what does Prime Minister Netanyahu who also serves as defense minister decide to do at this point?

He had told AIPAC via a video conference speech that he was ready to carry out a much stronger response to Gaza and against Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza. Does he carry out that response or is the fighting returning to another lull for now?

Wolf, that as much a military question as it is a political question with now two weeks to go until the elections here.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll see what happens in those elections, April 9th. But the tension, meanwhile, escalating is between Gaza and Israel right now. We'll stay on top of this story together with you, Oren Liebermann. Be careful over there, as I know you will be. Thanks very much for that report.

8And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNsitroom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.