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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump: Ridiculous To Subpoena Full Mueller Report; Trump Calls Dems' Nadler Hypocrite For Objecting To Full Release Of 1998 Starr Report On Clinton Probe; Rep. Jerry Nadler (D) New York Says The Attorney General Is An Agent Of The President; Interview With Rep. Adam Schiff (D) Ca. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired April 2, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.
Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks so much for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: House chairmen respond as House Democrats push forward with investigations and subpoenas. President Trump is personally attacking Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff and Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler. I'll speak with both committee leaders this hour.
Benefit of the doubt: In an exclusive interview with CNN, former FBI director James Comey said attorney general Bill Barr deserves the benefit of the doubt for his handling of the Mueller report but questions Barr's reasoning on whether President Trump obstructed justice.
Mar-a-lago breach: federal prosecutors charge a woman with illegally entering President Trump's Mar-a-lago resort in Florida while the president was staying there this weekend. The complaint says four cell phones, a laptop, a hard drive and thumb drive with malicious malware were all in her possession, along with Chinese passports.
And grave terrorist attack: after a month of silence, North Korea is calling the mysterious raid on its Madrid embassy a grave terrorist attack. We have new details on the raid and the shadowy group that apparently carried it out.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news: it's open warfare between President Trump and House Democrats. The Oversight Committee has voted to authorize a subpoena for the former White House official in charge of approving security clearances following a whistleblower's complaint the Trump administration officials overturned the denial of clearances for 2o dozen people.
And the Judiciary Committee is poised to authorize subpoenas for the full Mueller report and all the supporting evidence. As Democrats press ahead with investigations, President Trump is pushing back, calling the moves "ridiculous" and lashing out at Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff and Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, saying anything we give them will never be enough.
I'll speak with both chairmen, Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, and our correspondents and analysts. They will have full coverage of the day's top stories. But let's begin with our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, the president was already fuming over a number of issues today and he's unleashed dramatically on House Democrats.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Add a familiar topic to the list. President Trump railed against his chief Democratic critics, complaining that he will never be able to meet their demands when it comes to releasing the findings from the Mueller report.
The president also unveiled what could be the new GOP strategy for replacing ObamaCare. Now it sounds like repeal and retreat.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.
ACOSTA (voice-over): In his latest showdown over the Russia investigation, President Trump ripped into top House Democrats, who were insisting that the administration release the full report from special counsel Robert Mueller.
TRUMP: Nothing you give them, whether it's shifty Schiff or Jerry Nadler, who I have known -- he's been fighting me for half of my life in Manhattan and I was very successful, thank you. But Nadler's been fighting me for years and years in Manhattan, not successfully. I will tell you, anything we give them will never be enough.
ACOSTA: The president then accused unnamed forces of treason for launching the probe in the first place.
TRUMP: People did things that were very, very bad for our country and very, very illegal and you could even say treasonous.
ACOSTA: But Mr. Trump was circling the wagons on ObamaCare, confirming he's postponing any GOP plans to announce legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act, undercutting aides who said the White House would do just that.
TRUMP: I wanted to delay it myself. I want to put it after the election, because we don't have the House. ACOSTA: The president previewed the pullback on Twitter, saying a vote will be taken right after the 2020 election, when he predicted Republicans hold the Senate and win back the House. Democrats say that's because the GOP is all repeal and no replace.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Last night, the president tweeted that they will come up with their plan in 2021. Translation, they have no health care plan.
ACOSTA: On immigration, the president is amping up the rhetoric, warning he's prepared to close the border over the recent spike in asylum seekers.
TRUMP: If we don't make a deal with Congress, the border is going to be closed, a hundred percent.
ACOSTA: But the president left himself some wiggle room.
TRUMP: Or we're going to close large sections of the border. Maybe not all of it.
Mexico, as you know, as of yesterday, has been starting to apprehend a lot of people at their Southern border, coming in from Honduras and Guatemala and El Salvador and they have -- they're really apprehending thousands of people.
ACOSTA: Mr. Trump conceded shutting down the border could put a big dent --
ACOSTA (voice-over): -- in the economy.
TRUMP: Trading is very important. The borders are very important, but security is what is most important. Security is more important to me than trade.
ACOSTA: The White House is also busy answering new questions about granting security clearances to top officials like Jared Kushner, after an administration whistle-blower came forward to accuse the West Wing of making too many exceptions.
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, I can't comment for the White House's process, but what I can say is that over the last two years that I have been here, I have been accused of all different types of things and all of those things have turned out to be false.
ACOSTA: Democratic critics counter these are valid questions, given that some aides like Kushner have been accused of using private messaging to do government business.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: I mean, really, what is next?
Putting nuclear codes in Instagram DMs?
This is ridiculous.
ACOSTA: Now the president did make mention of an inspector general report earlier today that he hopes will reveal how the Russia investigation got started.
But the president keeps forgetting he's the one who fired FBI director James Comey, which led to the appointment of the special counsel. That's likely to be a big part of the release of the other findings from the Mueller report, as the president told reporters earlier today, he will live with whatever attorney general William Barr decides to release, Wolf. We'll have to see if he lives up to those words -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We will find out soon enough. Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.
Also breaking, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee voted today to subpoena the man who was in charge of White House security clearances. Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.
What are you learning?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Along party lines, the House Oversight Committee voted to subpoena Carl Kline, who was the director of personnel at the White House, overseeing security clearances, this coming after Democrats said they had a whistleblower by the name of Tricia Newbold, who currently works at the White House.
Kline was overseeing her and she was involved in the denials of roughly 25 individuals, security clearances over concerns about foreign influence, conflicts of interest and the like and Kline overruled those concerns.
Democrats say they want to understand why Kline did just that. Now we have learned that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were on the list of the 25 individuals that Newbold named. And I asked the chairman of the House Overnight Committee what he wants to learn about Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump from Mr. Kline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: What I do know is that he apparently got certain information that was contrary to the decision that was finally made to give them the security clearances.
And so I need -- once I know that, then I can figure out, well, whether this was a decision on his part, a decision on the president's part, but, more significantly, why that decision was made. I just don't know.
RAJU: Do you take any of those concerns seriously?
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: I think we take seriously the process that should be played out when we're doing an investigation.
And the idea the Democrats are going to interview one witness and then do a big press conference like they're getting ready to do, issue a big press statement yesterday and then subpoena someone who's already said they would come in voluntarily, I think that's a problem with an investigation that's -- that's being run in the manner that it's being run by the Democrats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now what Republican Jim Jordan was citing there is that Kline's attorney said he would be willing to come in voluntarily. But Cummings said that was not sufficient, because they said Kline was not indicating that he would detail specific cases about those security clearance denials and that's exactly what the Democrats are seeking in this interview -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Manu, separately, tonight was the deadline for the House Judiciary Committee to receive the unredacted Mueller report from the attorney general, Bill Barr.
Where is all of this going from here?
RAJU: Yes, Democrats set this deadline; Republicans said it was arbitrary and the Justice Department is not going to meet it. The Justice Department says it plans to issue something by mid-April with redactions. Democrats say there should be no redactions and they want the underlying evidence.
And tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee is expected do authorize subpoenas for the full Mueller report as well as the underlying evidence and define former White House officials who is may have received documents from the White House relevant to the special counsel's investigation.
Now, Wolf, they are not going to actually issue those subpoenas. They're just going to authorize Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the committee, to have those subpoenas essentially in his back pocket, to issue at any time, as an effort to pressure the Justice Department to give this information and also a sign, Wolf, of what could be a protracted court fight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Manu, thank you. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.
Also breaking this afternoon, we're getting word of an alarming security breach this past weekend at the president's Florida resort. Let's go to former FBI supervisory special agent, Josh Campbell, who's a CNN law enforcement analyst.
Josh, tell us what happened.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, a stunning development over the weekend. We've received word from the United States Secret Service filing a court document that charges a Chinese woman, Yujing Zhang, with unlawful entry at the Mar-a-lago --
CAMPBELL: -- compound, in addition to making false statements to Secret Service agents.
This stemmed from her attempt to gain access to the facility. She arrived at a U.S. Secret Service checkpoint and purported to be a guest of the club. She continued through a series of additional checkpoints.
And when she made her way to the reception area, she told the hotel staff she was there to attend an event they quickly realized did not exist and she was questioned by Secret Service agents. She became combative, she was detained and taken to the West Palm Beach resident office of the Secret Service where her story continued to change.
She eventually told them that she was actually sent by someone in China to travel to Mar-a-lago to attend an event, to try to make contact with the Trump family, to discuss economic issues regarding China and the United States.
Troubling, Wolf, is, as they detained her, they actually confiscated a series of telephones and they found a thumb drive, Wolf, that Secret Service agents are describing contained malicious software.
Now from a national security standpoint, obviously, Mar-a-lago is a key target for foreign intelligence collection, foreign intelligence services. It would only take one inserting a thumb drive into the system there to gain access to electronic records, for example. So obviously a serious security threat there.
It's worth noting that the president was in Mar-a-lago, he wasn't on site at the time. He was a couple of miles away whenever this happened. But nevertheless, he was in the vicinity. We're told, Wolf, that she made her initial appearance in federal court yesterday. She'll be back in court next week.
BLITZER: Josh Campbell reporting for us, thanks very much.
Joining us now, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic congressman Adam Schiff of California.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CALIF.), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You bet.
BLITZER: And this criminal complaint in the U.S. District Court specifically says a preliminary forensic investigation of the thumb drive that she had determined to contain malicious malware. You've had a chance to read this complaint.
What do you think?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, there's one issue about her being able to be on the premises and get through at least some rounds of security before she was stopped. But the other, you know, really perplexing question is what kind of malware is being referred to this in complaint?
Is this malware that she was even aware she had on the thumb drive?
Was it intended to be planted in some fashion?
We don't know the answer to those questions. We do have profound concerns about the security protocols that are being followed or not followed by the president and his family. We see those security concerns manifest in the granting of security clearances to people that may not be entitled to them.
But here, if there was an effort to somehow plant this malware, that would be the most serious thing from this complaint. We just can't tell whether that's what's going on here.
BLITZER: The good news is, if she was making such an effort, she was stopped by authorities in the process. And apparently, none of that planting took place.
SCHIFF: We should hope so, yes.
BLITZER: Let's hope that's the case.
Let's talk a little bit about your being in the news, as you know, the president is going after you personally. I'll play the clip, this is the president in the Oval Office earlier today. He was sitting next to the NATO secretary general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Nothing you give them, whether it's shifty Schiff or Jerry Nadler, who I have known -- he's been fighting me for half of my life in Manhattan and I was very successful, thank you. But Nadler's been fighting me for years and years in Manhattan, not successfully. I will tell you, anything we give them will never be enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, what's your response to the president?
SCHIFF: Well, the president seems to be changing his tune. Originally, it was, let everybody see the report; I have nothing to worry about in the report; the report must exonerate me. He seems to now be concerned about what's in that report and not want the public to see all of it.
But, look, we voted 420-0. There's little, as you can tell, that we agree upon in Congress about the Russia investigation but we do agree on this. After two years of investigation by Bob Mueller and his team, the public has a right to see what he came up with.
The president shouldn't try to hide it. Bill Barr shouldn't try to hide it. That needs to come out. And we're going to have to use whatever compulsion is necessary to make sure that happens.
BLITZER: What about his point, that nothing they release will ever be enough for you and Jerry Nadler?
SCHIFF: Well, look, every request we have made thus far, every request, out of any of the Oversight Committees, have been refused with a blanket refusal. They have given us no meaningful response to any inquiry, no matter how legitimate. Their strategy is basically to stonewall, as long as they can.
This is a continuation of that. We saw with his treatment of Bob Mueller, what we are now seeing with his treatment of Congress, and that is just attack people. He was attacking Bob Mueller, now he's attacking Chairman Nadler, myself and others, try to stonewall, prevent an interview with the special counsel.
He's trying to prevent providing Congress with information, as well.
BLITZER: When he calls you these names, what do you think?
SCHIFF: You know, I guess when he first started calling me names -- and I've had about eight nicknames now -- it was surreal that the president of the United States would be so childish. I've had to get used to it. The country has had to get used to it.
When you add up the amount of time he spends on this stuff, that he should be running the country, it's -- it comes as a great cost. Personally, I think he's losing a step here. The cardinal rule of nicknames is you pick one and you stick to it.
BLITZER: Well --
BLITZER: -- you've had several from the president.
BLITZER: You're one of six House Committee chairmen who have just signed onto a letter demanding the full, unredacted Mueller report be released by the attorney general as soon as possible. But I want you to listen to what the former FBI director James Comey told our Christiane Amanpour earlier today. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Bill Barr, our attorney general, deserves the benefit of the doubt. Give him a chance to show us what he feels like he can't show us. I have to imagine that former Director Mueller wrote the report with an eye towards it being public some day, so I can't imagine a lot needs to be cut off of it. But let's wait and see. The attorney general deserves that chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you agree that the attorney general deserves a chance? Let him release what he wants to release?
Then you can make some decisions?
SCHIFF: You know, Wolf, I'll tell you why I don't give this attorney general the benefit of the doubt. If he came to the job clean, without any history in this investigation, I would say, yes, give him the benefit of the doubt.
But he didn't. He wrote a 19-page legal memo, which was basically a job application, saying, if you pick me for your AG, I will have your back on the obstruction of justice case.
And that's exactly what he's done. During his Senate confirmation, he would not commit even to following the advice of ethics lawyers. You cannot blind yourself to that conflict of interest.
So, no, I'm not prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. I'm prepared to hold him to his commitment during the confirmation that he would be as transparent as law and policy allowed.
He's not doing that. If he were doing that, he wouldn't be saying, I'm going to redact all the grand jury material. He would be saying, consistent with my promise, I'm going to go to the court and ask for court permission to release this material. That's what he would be doing but he's not.
And I think it raises profound questions about what's in that grand jury material and why is there an effort to withhold it from Congress?
BLITZER: But does it really make much difference if you wait two weeks and see what he does?
SCHIFF: Look, I think their intention is to play rope-a-dope, to drag this out, along with every other request.
But the fact of the matter is, we can tell already, from the fact that he has given us his own summary, rather than a summary that may have been prepared by Bob Mueller, we can see where he's coming from.
The fact that he is not seeking court permission to release the grand jury material tells us what we need to know. He is not trying to be as transparent and, I think, quite the contrary.
BLITZER: But if you wind up having to subpoena to get all of this information, that's going to wind up in the courts and who knows how long that process can take?
SCHIFF: Well, it will be up to our leadership to decide when the time is right to subpoena and what that subpoena should look like.
But I do think that, ultimately, this is a fight we're going to need to have, because we cannot allow an attorney general that comes into the job with a clear bias to make a decision about what the Congress or the country can see. We should see all of it. The fact that he wants to redact classified
information, I would imagine -- I do agree with James Comey -- that Bob Mueller probably made an effort to segregate the classified information, knowing there was tremendous interest in making this public.
But the Congress gets classified information all the time. That is not a justification.
BLITZER: So you would be OK if the so-called Gang of Eight, the top leadership of the Intelligence Committees and the leadership in the House and the Senate, Democrats and Republicans, if they alone got to see the most sensitive, classified information that was not made public.
SCHIFF: I don't want the attorney general to hide behind the Gang of Eight and say, we're not going to show the country what we have but, trust us, we briefed the Gang of Eight. There may be a small category of material that goes to sources and methods, that goes to the Gang of Eight.
But I don't think that it's likely Bob Mueller would have put that in the main body of the report. That might be in an annex of some kind.
But if those are the concerns, as Chairman Nadler has said in his letter to the attorney general, talk to us about it. Work with us on it. But the attorney general's not doing that. And that has us profoundly concerned.
BLITZER: Because one of the other categories that the attorney general wants to redact, to black out from the final Mueller report, is information that could undermine ongoing criminal investigations being conducted now by other U.S. attorneys, whether in New York or Washington, D.C., or Virginia or elsewhere.
SCHIFF: Again, the Justice Department showed a ready willingness to provide that kind of information, even as to the Mueller investigation itself, while it was ongoing, to a Republican Congress in answer to subpoena.
So they've been willing to do that. In fact, the last category that Barr mentions that he wants to redact is information that reflects on people who are not indicted.
Well, they gave us 880,000 pages of material in the last Congress, to a GOP Congress, that was predominantly in the Clinton email investigation, in which no one was indicted.
So they seem to be adopting a double standard here. We will provide all of this to a GOP Congress vis-a-vis a Democratic candidate for president but when it comes to a Republican president that had the sense to appoint me --
SCHIFF: -- that is Bill Barr -- we have a different standard entirely.
BLITZER: As you know, the attorney general, Bill Barr, in his four- page summary of the 400-page Mueller report, he quotes this, the special counsel.
"The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
Do you have reason to believe that the full report, once we see it, assuming we're going to see the whole thing, will contradict that conclusion?
SCHIFF: I don't think it will contradict the conclusion that Mueller reached, presuming that's what he reached, that he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt all of the elements of criminal conspiracy with the government of Russia.
But whether it will itemize all of the interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and Russian nationals, their willingness to accept the help of the Russian government, as reflected in Don Jr.'s emails, all of the clandestine meetings, all the lies about that, yes, I would imagine that will all be discussed.
And that may be part of why the president doesn't want the public to see it. But it's all the more reason why this needs to be transparent.
BLITZER: Will your committee, the Intelligence Committee, subpoena Robert Mueller to testify before your committee?
SCHIFF: I think it is inevitable that Bob Mueller is going to have to testify. And I would presume that he may testify before multiple committees.
The Judiciary Committee will be predominately interested in the criminal side. We are interested in how this investigation began. And it may even be ongoing; we don't know. And that is, this began as a counterintelligence investigation over concerns that the president or people around him may be compromised, wittingly or unwittingly.
We don't even know if that is even going to be a part of the Mueller report. By law, the FBI are required to brief us on any counterintelligence activity. We will hold him to the law.
Whether that's Bob Mueller himself or others within the intelligence community or the FBI, I don't want to say at this point; that will be a leadership decision. But I think it's inevitable that he's going to need to testify before Congress.
BLITZER: And when you say, by law, they have to brief you, you mean the Gang of Eight?
SCHIFF: They have to brief Congress on any significant intelligence or counterintelligence. That's usually done through the Intelligence Committee; sometimes where there is select material, it's done to the Gang of Eight.
But we'll want to make sure those materials, that information, that report, if it exists -- but if it doesn't exist, those findings -- are briefed to the Congress.
BLITZER: You've said you would specifically also like to investigate the president's financial ties with Russia.
How's that going?
SCHIFF: Well, it's very important that we understand -- and, again, the counterintelligence portion of this investigation may go to this or it may not -- whether there is any financial inducement that is driving the president's Russia -- pro-Russia policy.
And probably the seminal example of that is Moscow Trump Tower. This real estate deal he was trying to consummate during the campaign, concealing from the public, something that might have been the most lucrative deal of his life. And they were seeking the Kremlin's help to make it happen.
That is such an egregious conflict of interest that, if that's driving policy, it's a problem. We do not know to this day whether the president still intends to pursue this.
He may very well have the same attitude he had before, which is, hey, I might not get re-elected, why should I miss out on these opportunities?
If that's the case, then the Congress will need to take additional steps to protect the country.
BLITZER: As you know, the Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee, your committee, they've rebelled now, openly, publicly, against your chairmanship. They sent a letter to you last week.
"We have no faith in your ability to discharge your duties in a manner consistent with your constitutional responsibility."
So how do you continue to lead this committee, which historically has been very bipartisan, nonpartisan, very cooperative, if almost half of the members are now openly rebelling against you?
SCHIFF: Well, this goes back a couple of years, really, to the decision by Chairman Nunes to make his membership mission to defend the president at all costs, act as the legal defense team for the president. That has continued, regrettably, into this session.
The president says jump and Mr. McCarthy says, how high?
And, unfortunately, all too often, the members of our committee on the GOP side have fallen in line behind whatever the president wants done. It's deeply regrettable.
I can tell you, Wolf, on the positive side of things, the non-Russia work continues to go on in a nonpartisan way. The meetings we have in closed session are not like what you saw in open session, where I think the Republicans want it to be theatrical with this device.
But it is deeply regrettable that they chose this tactic. And it can't help but have an impact on the committee.
BLITZER: When Devin Nunes was chairman -- he's now the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee -- you criticized him for demanding information related to ongoing investigations, as well as classified materials.
BLITZER: Now you're making very much the same demands.
How do you explain that?
SCHIFF: Well, because, as I told the Justice Department during the last two years, as they were providing these materials to Mr. Nunes and to the Republicans who, as I said, viewed their mission as defending the president, I said, look. You're setting a precedent here, which I don't agree with.
But you need to know you'll have to live with this precedent. You're not going to be able to tell a Democratic Congress, should the majority change hands, that we only provide this to Republican Congresses. But that is exactly what has happened here.
So, yes, I think they set a poor precedent. They reinforced that precedent with 880,000 documents. But now they do need to live with it. To do otherwise, I think, will only cause the public to have further skepticism about their impartiality.
BLITZER: Do you worry at all that the Democrats, with all of these investigations, may be overreaching?
SCHIFF: We're not overreaching at all. We need to do our oversight. It's our constitutional obligation. You can't have a situation where the president, for example, is countermanding the professionals and granting security clearances to people who shouldn't them.
You can't have a situation where the president of the United States is saying to Vladimir Putin, I believe you over my own intelligence agencies, and look the other way.
You can't hear allegations that the president is seizing notes from an interpreter about private conversations with Putin that affect our security and say, we're just going to ignore that.
We need to make sure that the president of the United States is acting in our national interests and not because of some hidden financial or other motivation. To do otherwise would be just plain negligent.
But clearly, we'll have to fight to do our oversight, because this administration had two years of no oversight and they're determined to stonewall us, just as they stonewalled Bob Mueller in allowing the president sit to down for an interview.
BLITZER: Clearly, elections have consequences, as we've seen in the House of Representatives. Congressman Adam Schiff, Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, House Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler is also joining us. His panel is poised to subpoena the full Mueller report. We have lots of questions for him. We'll be right back.
[17:31:27] BLITZER: Our breaking news, as House Democrats push ahead with investigations, President Trump is pushing right back, slamming key committee leaders.
Joining us now, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Democratic Congressman, Jerry Nadler of New York. Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for joining us.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), N.Y.: It's a pleasure.
BLITZER: The President just once again personally attacked you for demanding the full Mueller report. He's also calling you a hypocrite because you previously rejected to the full release of Ken Starr's report on former President Clinton back in 1998. Listen to the President. Listen to this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Jerry Nadler thought the concept of giving the star report was absolutely something you could never do. But when it comes to the Mueller report, which is different, on our side, that would be something that he should get. It's hypocrisy and it's a disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Are you holding President Trump to a different standard?
NADLER: Not at all. The President, as you can see, is a bully. The Mueller investigation looked into very serious allegations and very serious matters that we have a responsibility as the oversight body to look into. And we are asking that the entire Mueller report and all the underlying documentations be given to Congress so we can examine it and fulfill our responsibility of looking in -- of protecting the rule of law and looking into questions of obstruction of justice and personal enrichment and abuses of power.
The President apparently forgets that Ken Starr's report, all 400 and some odd pages of it, was -- had already been given to the entire Congress, which is what we're asking now, and the Congress already had it. The question was, should that report, with all the salacious personal sexual material in it, be given to the public after Congress already had it? BLITZER: Because this is what you said back in 1998. We went back and checked. If grand jury material -- you're referring to the star report -- it represents statements which may or may not be true by various witnesses, salacious material, all kinds of material that it would be unfair to release. That's what you said then. And I just want to give you a chance to explain what you're saying now.
NADLER: Well, then, remember, Congress already had that material and Congress could evaluate it. We were talking about giving out that private material to the public. Here, we are asking for Congress to get the material so that we can have it. And we can make judgments as to what privacy has to be protected and what can be given out. But, again, Congress already had that material. We're talking about Congress getting the material now. It's two completely separate questions.
BLITZER: The former FBI Director James Comey is urging Congress right now to be patient. He told CNN's Christiane Amanpour earlier today that the Attorney General, Bill Barr deserves a chance to release as much as he can. Listen to this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Bill Barr, our Attorney General, it deserves the benefit of the doubt. Give him a chance to show us what he feels like he can't show us. I have to imagine that former Director Mueller wrote the report with an eye towards it being public some day. So I can't imagine a lot needs to be cut out of it. But let's wait and see. The Attorney General deserves that chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So why not give the Attorney General that chance. Wait a couple of weeks before throwing out threats of subpoenas?
NADLER: Well, the Attorney General is an agent of the President. He auditioned for his job by saying that this kind of investigation was wrong and that the President could not possibly commit obstruction of justice, which is a rather extreme legal view. And he got the job in order to protect the President, who got rid of this -- the prior FBI -- got rid of Comey as the head of the FBI, got rid of Sessions as Attorney General, because they wouldn't protect him personally.
Barr was brought in to protect him personally. He's that political appointee and he deserves -- and he made that clear in his 19-page memo saying that the whole investigation was wrong to start with. And therefore, he deserves no benefit of the doubt.
But what we're seeing is we'll work with him, we'll work with him to get the entire report and the underlying documentation released to us. What we're doing tomorrow is authorizing the chairman, me, to issue subpoenas, which we will do as necessary. But, first, we'll work with the Attorney General to get that released. But we will get it released and we will get it before the committee one way or the other. BLITZER: So just to be precise, you're going to wait and see how transparent the new Attorney General is, what he releases to Congress, what he releases to the American public before issuing any subpoenas. Is that right?
NADLER: No. We're going to work with him to see -- I'm not committing to wait until he makes his decision and releases it before issuing subpoenas, but we'll use the subpoenas as necessary, as we see to what extent he's cooperating and to what extent he's not.
BLITZER: Well, I guess the question is, what difference does it make if you wait two weeks?
NADLER: Well, the two weeks is the minor question. The big question is, do we get the entire report in the documentation or is it redacted so it's meaningless?
BLITZER: So how long will you wait for the Trump administration to respond before going ahead and issuing subpoenas, which potentially, as you well know, Mr. Chairman, could set up a very lengthy court battle?
NADLER: Well, he has said that we'll have all of this material -- we'll have what we'll have by the beginning -- by the middle of the month, which is two weeks. So I don't think we're talking about a great deal of time. But the bigger question is what he's prepared to release and whether he's prepared to give to the Congress, as was done in every previous situation, in the Nixon situation, in the Ken Starr situation, in various other situations, Congress always got all of the material. And that's what we're demanding.
BLITZER: Because, as you know, the Attorney General has informed Congress he's planning to redact, to blacken out, to suppress some significant portions of the 400-page Mueller report. Do you actually believe subpoenas are going to change his mind?
NADLER: I don't know if they'll change his mind, but they'll change the outcome. We will get that material one way or the other, from him, if possible, by subpoena, if necessary.
BLITZER: The Attorney General also says that Robert Mueller is helping him and the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, with the redaction process. Does that give you more confidence in this report?
NADLER: No, because the Attorney General is in charge of it and Mueller can be giving advice and maybe that advice is taken some of the times and maybe it's not. But remember, Mueller ran a 22-month investigation in which he found considerable wrongdoing. The Barr letter itself says there were -- there was a wrongdoing that was not mentioned in his letter, that it was not public. And we have right -- we have a duty to know what that was. We have a duty to know what kind of obstruction of justice there was, what kind of non -- what kind of collusion with the Russians that didn't rise to a criminal conspiracy there was so that we can protect the public probably it in the future. BLITZER: The Attorney General has offered to testify before your committee, the House Judiciary Committee, on May 2nd, the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1st. Do you believe that Robert Mueller should testify first?
NADLER: No. I think that Barr should testify first and he should testify when we're ready and when we've seen all the material. And Mueller may or may not be necessary to testify afterwards.
BLITZER: You don't -- really? Because a lot of people really would like to hear from Mueller himself. You say that may not be necessary?
NADLER: It may or may not be. We'll see what we find in all the material and what we hear from Barr. Certainly, I assume there's nothing wrong with Mueller testifying, but it may or may not be necessary.
BLITZER: The Attorney General's testimony will be open to the public, right?
NADLER: I don't know. I assume so.
BLITZER: When he comes before -- well, you're the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
NADLER: Well, when he comes before our committee, it would be in a public session, yes.
BLITZER: It would be in public session?
BLITZER: So tell us some of the biggest questions the Attorney General right now needs to answer.
NADLER: Well, the one question the Attorney General needs to answer, and only one, is will he give to the Congress, to the committee, the entire Mueller report and all the supporting documentation? We have to make judgments, Congress has to make judgments, not the Attorney General.
For example, the Mueller report, we are told, reached no conclusion as to the prosecutability as to whether anyone should be indicted for obstruction of justice. Mueller decided no one -- I'm sorry, Barr decided no one should be. That is not his job. It's up to Congress to hold the executive accountable, not the Attorney General.
BLITZER: When you had a chance to speak on the phone with the Attorney General in the last few days, did he give you any details about the Special Counsel's decision to punt on the whole question of obstruction of justice?
NADLER: No, not at all.
BLITZER: Did you raise that issue with him?
NADLER: No, not really. All we discussed was how many pages were in the report and when we'd see it and basically those issues.
BLITZER: I'll ask you what I asked Chairman Schiff. Are democrats in danger right now of overreaching as you continue all of these investigations of the President?
NADLER: I don't think so. I think two things are true. Number one, we have to do what we said we were going to do. We have to act on healthcare. We have to act on all of these other subjects, on democratization, on the economy, and this, we are doing. We have to pass the Equality Bill. We had a hearing on the Equality Bill today. We are doing the Violence Against Women Bill on the floor tomorrow. We have to do all of these things, but we all -- in addition to the investigations.
But we also have a responsibility to see the investigations where they go, to make sure that the rule of law is protected, because they weren't over with. All we know at this point is that Mueller, with respect to criminal conspiracy with the Russians, and on the part of the Trump campaign, and Barr with respect to obstruction of justice by Trump or the people around him, declined to prosecute people. But we don't know a lot of things.
I mean, we do know certain things. We do know things that are admitted already. We know that there was, in fact, collusion with the administration, with the Russians, and addressing the fact that Trump Jr. and Manafort and company met with Russians to get, quote, dirt on Hillary, which was characterized to them by the Russians as rising from the Russian government's attempt, desire to help the Trump campaign. We know that happened. We know the President lied about it and directed a lie. We know a lot of other things.
We have to know where that came from. We have to know what other -- what obstructions of justice, there were not necessarily criminal obstructions of justice. Maybe we need new laws. But we have to know what happened. We have to protect the country in the future from interference in our elections. And these are very important subjects that we cannot let go by the board.
BLITZER: I want to get your thoughts on another very sensitive issue right now, the President's threat to shutdown the entire U.S. border with Mexico. Does the President, from your perspective, have that authority?
NADLER: I don't know. I'm not an expert on his authority to shut down the border. I know that any such action would be insane economically. It would be a gut punch to a large part American, not to mention the Mexican economies.
I just returned yesterday from a tour of Mexico and El Salvador and Colombia with the Venezuelan border. And I saw in El Salvador -- because he wants to cut off the aid to those three Central American countries, if you want to deal with the crisis of so many families trying to come here and apply for political asylum, what you have to do is shut it at the source. You have to do things to reduce the huge violence that's driving people out. People don't want to just pull up stakes and leave their families and their homes and walk a thousand miles and 800 miles unless they're desperate. And these people are desperate because of violence and because of lack of job opportunities.
And the aide that we're giving them have been used in El Salvador to greatly reduce the violence, to greatly increase the job opportunities. And the consequence is that the migration from El Salvador is way, way down. And all of a sudden we're going to cut that off? That's cutting off our nose to spite our face.
BLITZER: The House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for joining us.
NADLER: Thank you.
BLITZER: All right, now that we've heard from the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the House Judiciary Committee, let's ask our political and legal experts about all that we just learned. And, Gloria Borger, let's discuss these two interviews. The President was very bitter, lashing out against these two chairmen earlier in the day. Now, they've had their respective chance to respond.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And they are giving it right back to him. I mean, particularly when you hear Chairman Nadler talk about the Attorney General, he said, the Attorney General is an agent of the President. And that, you know, neither one of these men is giving the Attorney General the benefit of the doubt, that James Comey told Christiane Amanpour he would give him earlier today.
It's very clear to me. I mean, Jerry Nadler said that they're not necessarily going to wait until Bill Barr releases the Mueller report to issue a subpoena. It's going to be authorized tomorrow. So we don't know when those subpoenas are going to come. He's not sure if he's going to have Mueller before the committee. But also, you know, Chairman Schiff was just as adamant that the Democratic Party is not overreaching and that you have to -- this is part of their job.
And that he also felt that the Attorney General here, because he said that the obstruction charge was fatally misconceived in that June 2018 memo, that he is not the best person to judge what is obstruction or not, which is what we did in his four-page letter.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: In the face of these attacks from the President and other Republicans, these two committee chairmen, both Democrats, obviously, they are not backing down at all.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They're not backing down at all. And I think, you know, Schiff raised two points that I thought were very interesting. One is that he said that we don't even know yet if the Mueller report includes any section on the counterintelligence piece of the investigation. We know from Barr letter -- Barr's letter it talks about criminal
collusion and obstruction of justice. But the broader, just, what did the Russians do, that noncriminal counterintelligence piece that a lot of our national security analysts have been talking about -- and that's a very important question -- we don't know if that's in the Mueller report. And he is saying, if it's not in there, he wants a separate briefing to Congress on that point.
I think the second point that Schiff made that was interesting is he's very concerned about this story at Mar-a-Lago and potential penetration of Mar-a-Lago. I thought that was a very interesting response he gave you to that.
LIZZA: On Nadler, I think he made two points, one on the process and one on the big picture. On the process, they are going to get this report. They are going to use every tool in their power, in the Judiciary Committee and the House of Representatives, to get that full report.
And on the substance, what he said about collusion, I thought, was very interesting. There were -- he's summarizing Barr's finding. He said Mueller didn't find criminal collusion. Well, what about something short of criminal collusion? So this idea that Trump is totally free of this charge of collusion, at least from the Democrats' perspective, that's not over yet.
BLITZER: But, Laura, if it comes down to subpoenas, if Barr refuses to provide everything that these committee chairmen want, this could drag on in the courts for a long, long time.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And frankly, Barr would have the upper hand with respect to a number of the issues depending upon why he chose to not be fully forthcoming -- if it's a matter of grand jury, if it's a matter of national security, if it's a matter of interfering with ongoing investigations. We don't want to cut off your nose to spite after your -- sort of to spite your face in this context. That may be a reason for battle.
I will say two quick points. Thematically, both of them have pointed out something very clear. There was always intended to be parallel investigations, the Mueller probe and the legislative function.
The fact that they were actually playing second fiddle was precisely because if somebody is going to come before you, subpoena or otherwise, to testify, they're going to worry about the person who can put them in jail, not the person who can legislate away an issue. That's why they took -- they played second fiddle here. So they're always trying to have a role here, and now they're asserting it.
And finally, I was really shocked by the double speak out of Nadler, the notion of, well, this person, Barr, deserves no benefit of the doubt, an agent of the President, but I may or may not need to hear from Mueller, who is the person who has independence and the oversight that is actually contemplated in the special counsel statute. I was shocked by that. Of course, you want to hear from Robert
Mueller because he is the one who had the mandate to actually reach a conclusion, who oversaw it 22 months, and actually wrote the 400 pages that will be summarized.
BLITZER: I was surprised to hear that as well then. He's not sure whether they need to question Mueller.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: And it's interesting that Chairman Nadler said he wasn't sure it would be necessary for Mueller to testify. Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN's Chris Cuomo last week that he thinks it's inevitable that Mueller will have to come in and testify before Congress.
Now, they, of course, have different lines of inquiry. Nadler and his committee are a little bit more focused on the obstruction end, and you have Schiff's committee more focused on the counterintelligence with respect to the Russian interference angle.
But I think that some of the timing just depends on, one, when Congress has access to the Mueller report and the underlying evidence. There is some belief from -- between both Schiff and Nadler that there's not a lot they can actually question Mueller on without having seen the full report.
And then, of course, they first want to hear from Attorney General William Barr and really press him, one, on his refusal to make the full report available to members of Congress, and, two, just on the decision-making in terms of the letter he wrote and making his own determination about whether or not there are -- there's enough evidence to charge a president.
BLITZER: And, Gloria, you heard James Comey, the fired FBI director, tell our Christiane Amanpour today that, you know what, he has confidence in Bill Barr, let's see what he does.
BORGER: Yes. I think Comey was really being careful today with Christiane. I mean, I think he -- you know, he wanted to give Bill Barr the benefit of the doubt. He wanted to give Mueller the benefit of the doubt.
One thing, Wolf, that I think that Adam Schiff said that's very important to point out here is the shifting tone of the President and the --
BORGER: -- and the shift in what the President is saying. Before, he was saying, let the full report come out, I want everybody to see it. Congress voted. The House voted unanimously, release the report.
BORGER: And now the President is saying, well, you know --
LIZZA: Maybe not.
BORGER: -- maybe not because, you know, they're just going to -- whatever we give them is not going to be enough. The President has changed his mind on whether the Barr report -- the Mueller report should be released. It's very clear to us. And the question is, why is the President now saying this?
[17:50:10] LIZZA: Maybe somebody told him some of the details about what's in it.
BORGER: Or maybe he's sort of thinking --
LIZZA: Not every fact in this agree (ph).
BORGER: -- or his attorneys are saying, not so fast.
COATES: But he -- Nadler made a great point --
COATES: -- you know, issue as well to say, well, the Ken Starr report is distinct here because I'm a member of Congress. We have more right than maybe the public, initially, to see it. And so that's the distinction here.
BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. We've got an important programming note for our viewers. CNN will be hosting a packed week of town halls with five -- five -- Democratic presidential candidates.
First up will be New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday night, moderated by CNN's Erin Burnett. I'll moderate a town hall with Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Wednesday night. CNN's Don Lemon will host former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro on Thursday night. All at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
Then on Sunday, April 14th, CNN's Dana Bash will host author Marianne Williamson at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. And CNN's Ana Cabrera will host businessman Andrew Yang at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
Lots of presidential town halls coming up here on CNN. We're also following an ominous new string of complaints right now from North Korea. They're connected to the mysterious raid on the North Korean embassy in Madrid, Spain.
Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, what is Kim Jong-un's regime saying now?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for the first time, North Korea is acknowledging that that raid took place at its embassy in Madrid. Kim's regime calls it a terrorist attack. Tonight, we have new details on the raid and on questions raised by North Korean and Spanish authorities over whether the FBI was involved. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
TODD (voice-over): Kim Jong-un's regime is lashing out after more than a month of silence over a mysterious incident at one of its most important overseas outposts.
In a new statement, the North Korean Foreign Ministry calling the February 26nd raid at its embassy in Madrid a, quote, grave terrorist attack, and urging Spanish authorities to, quote, bring the terrorists and their wire-pullers to justice. The North Koreans say they're following rumors that the FBI was involved.
JOSH CAMPBELL, FORMER SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: That's something that the FBI would not condone. On the flip side, if they are now in receive mode, if someone comes to them and says, we have information that may be important, important intelligence information, the FBI would certainly, you know, welcome that information.
TODD (voice-over): Cheollima Civil Defense, the group claiming responsibility for the raid, says it did share information of, quote, enormous potential value taken from the operation with the FBI at the FBI's request. The FBI isn't commenting on any of this.
The North Koreans say the attackers, quote, extorted the communication apparatus of the embassy, and Spanish officials say they got away with thumb drives, hard drives, computers, and phones. Analysts say that could be a gold mine for Western intelligence.
COL. DAVID MAXWELL (RET.), SENIOR FELLOW, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: All North Korean embassies are conducting illicit activities around the world. They are laundering money. They are trafficking in methamphetamines, counterfeiting $100 bills, counterfeiting drugs, medicines, Viagra. And so evidence of those illicit activities could be very important.
TODD (voice-over): Cheollima Civil Defense is a dissident group committed to overthrowing Kim Jong-un's regime. The group denies claims by North Korean and Spanish officials that its members beat and tied up staff members at that North Korean embassy.
Tonight, there's still no word on the whereabouts of the Cheollima operative who Spanish authorities say led the embassy raid, Adrian Hong Chang, a Mexican living in the U.S. Spanish officials say, right after the raid, Hong traveled through Lisbon, Portugal then flew to the U.S. and got in contact with the FBI.
Analysts say the lives of Hong and the nine other Cheollima members allegedly involved in the raid are likely in danger. And they say the North Koreans have demonstrated with the killing of Kim Jong-un's half-brother at an airport in Malaysia, a hit with which the North Koreans deny ordering, that their intelligence operatives have the skills to hunt enemies down.
MAXWELL: I think they would pose as third-country nationals, or they would recruit proxies as they did in Malaysia to try to get close to somebody. But their network around the world and, of course, the North Korean diaspora that exists, they know where defectors are, and they keep track of them.
TODD: Apparently, none of the many questions about this raid are going to be answered publicly by anyone in the U.S. government, including questions about whether the alleged ringleader, Adrian Hong Chang, was in contact with anyone at the FBI or elsewhere on the government.
Neither the FBI nor the U.S. intelligence community is commenting on that raid, and a State Department spokesman says no U.S. government entity was involved in it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much. We'll stay on top of this story.
Coming up, breaking news. Federal prosecutors charge a woman with illegally entering President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida while the President was staying there this past weekend. She allegedly had four cell phones, a laptop, a hard drive, and a thumb drive with malicious malware, along with Chinese passports.
[17:55:11] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Vote to subpoena. House Democrats take drastic action to investigate the White House handling of security clearances after a whistleblower's warning. Tonight, more subpoenas are in the works and President Trump is fuming.
[18:00:06] Illegal entry.