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Interview with Representative Chris Stewart: Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe Under House Arrest; Menendez Jury Back in Court; Aired 10:30- 11a ET
Aired November 15, 2017 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- and officials say the site leaked hacked e-mails from the DNC and from Hillary Clinton's campaign manager. You saw the details of that when it broke yesterday.
Here to discuss all of this, taxes, a lot, Republican Representative Chris Stewart. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
It's nice to have you here. And we have a lot to get through. Let me just get your assessment on the Don Jr.-WikiLeaks correspondence because your Republican colleague in the Senate, Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, yesterday, when asked about it, called it, quote, "very innocuous," this correspondence.
REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yes.
HARLOW: WikiLeaks, the CIA Director Pompeo has, you know, called a non-state hostile actor, acting at the behest of Russia. Do you see this as very innocuous?
STEWART: I don't see it as something that's terribly meaningful. I mean, if you think this is going to lead to the impeachment of the president, I think that's very unlikely. And you know, Mr. Sessions, I just have to say, if you watch his performance, if you listen to him, I think most honest people think that he's very sincere when he defends himself. He was asked a question that he interpreted as being, you know, something related.
Did you -- in some type -- in some type of format of the campaign or talk with the campaign with Russian officials, and he very clearly said no. That doesn't mean he'd never met any Russian officials. I just think he's a very sincere man.
BERMAN: Congressman --
STEWART: And I think he convinced a lot of people of that.
BERMAN: That dealt with the meetings with Ambassador Kislyak. That was the first misstatement that he had to correct. The second one had to do with the meeting where he sat next to George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos said he'd been meeting with Russians and suggested a meeting between Trump and Putin. He had to correct that also. He said he just didn't remember that. And when he was told about it, it jogged his memory, and then it did remember. It's just a pattern is what some Democrats and analysts point to here
is that he seems to conveniently forget every point of contact that he's had with a Russian over the last 18 months.
STEWART: Well, look, maybe you and I will just disagree on that. I mean, I would ask -- you know, I'm asked about people that I meet, that I genuinely don't remember in the course of a campaign in all our work, we meet literally thousands of people. And I don't think Mister -- you know, the individual he was talking about was a terribly important figure in the campaign. I can really understand why he might not remember that conversation.
HARLOW: Why is it not -- to come back to the Don Jr. correspondence with WikiLeaks, why is it in your opinion, Congressman, quote, "not terribly meaningful" if Don Jr. or the fact that Don Jr. was having these correspondence with WikiLeaks? And then 15 minutes after WikiLeaks asked him, would you do something, would you put out our reporting, our information, stolen information, right, based on stolen information from the United States, that the president, then candidate Trump, tweeted what they wanted? 15 minutes later. Why is that not meaningful?
STEWART: Yes. Well, once again, I just don't think that taken in its totality, it leads to criminal behavior. It leads to conclusions that there was actual collusion, that there was actual efforts on the part of the campaign to collude with Russian agents.
HARLOW: Right. And I didn't ask you that. I just asked you, does it bother you? Does it matter? Should it happen?
STEWART: Well, I guess it bothers me in the sense that it's questions that we have to pursue, that we want to understand. It doesn't bother me in the sense that if I think that it's going to lead to the impeachment of the president. I just don't think it reaches to that level yet.
BERMAN: That's a pretty high bar. You keep saying -- not everything leads to an impeachment of a president. In fact, it's only happened twice in our history. That's a pretty high bar you're setting right there to be of concern.
STEWART: Well, you know what, it's something that I hear all the time, though. I mean, in the last few days we've seen examples of Democrats calling for his impeachment. And not just one or two. I read an article just yesterday by some of my Democratic colleagues saying that that was their goal. So --
BERMAN: But we're not the ones who --
HARLOW: We didn't ask you that.
BERMAN: All we're asking about is -- you know, is having a conversation back and forth with WikiLeaks was something that you, who, you know, a very interested member of House Intelligence, were concerned about that?
STEWART: Yes. And I think I've answered that. I said yes.
STEWART: That's some questions we should pursue and try to understand a little better. But once again I don't think that it's going to carry this narrative forward very far that the president colluded with Russian agents, which is kind of the heart of what many people have been looking at.
HARLOW: Let's talk about taxes or shall I say, health care reform or kind of both of them. and what's happening on the Senate side here, including a repeal of the individual mandate in their tax reform bill. Sort of at the last hour. You said to our colleague, Chris Cuomo, a few days ago, I think most members of Congress, we look at these as very different challenges.
Is it too risky for Republicans to be doing this? To be putting them together and hoping this thing passes?
STEWART: You know, I actually think there is some risk to it. And I think even if at the heart of it, it's something that we can defend, I think for a lot of Americans, it does kind of muddy the waters a little bit. If the Senate were to include that, I think most of the Republican colleagues would still support it.
Would I feel more comfortable separating them? Yes, maybe. But once again, it's important to note that this -- we're not changing any of the dollar amounts. We're not changing or affecting any of the subsidies that go to low-income people who need it.
[10:35:02] It's just simply saying, you're not compelled to do this and you don't have to pay a penalty if you don't. I think that's an argument that a lot of people would accept inside the tax framework. But once again, it is true that it does make it a little harder to explain and it takes -- it going to take a little more effort.
BERMAN: Congressman, can I ask you about something that just happened? We just heard from the president of the United States, he put out a statement, he wrote it on Twitter. He said, "Do you think the three UCLA basketball players will say, thank you, President Trump"? They were headed for 10 years in jail."
Well, look, it's almost definitely true, they should thank everyone they can possibly thank for the fact they're on their way home right now. But is it odd for the president to write that himself? Isn't doing your job thanks enough as president? And then a separate question is, I just read that, I'm like, huh. If these weren't athletes with whom the president has had a little bit of a back and forth the last month, would he be saying this?
STEWART: Yes, you know what, does it surprise any of us that the president, you know, tweeted that? It is, as I think one of your previous guests said, kind of classic Trump. I don't think it surprises many of us. And by the way, the last place I want to spend the next 10 years of my life is in a Chinese jail. So I think those athletes probably are very grateful. I think like you said, they're going to thank a lot of people, and I think that should include the president among them.
HARLOW: If we could, before we go, just to get you on the record on this. The last time you spoke out about Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate, was when you said, if the allegations are true about the sexual abuse and assault of a 14- and a 16-year-old, respectively, then he should step down. Have you changed your position at all or does it still include the if true?
STEWART: No. No. Well, you know, we made that statement within a few hours of some of these -- some of these accusations. And I think that was a fair thing to say at that time. We needed to evaluate and collect more information. I think Mr. Moore should absolutely withdraw his name. I don't see a pathway forward for him to be a successful senator regardless. I think he needs to step aside.
HARLOW: OK, thank you.
BERMAN: All right. Congressman Chris Stewart, thank you so much for being with us. Always appreciate it, sir.
STEWART: Thank you. Good to be with you. Thank you.
BERMAN: All right, what looks like an apparent coup in a key African nation. We're talking about Zimbabwe. The country's president confined to his home with troops at the door. Stay with us.
[10:41:34] HARLOW: Some really significant developments right now out of the key African nation of Zimbabwe. The military has taken control in an apparent coup of the government. Troops patrolling the street right now.
BERMAN: 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe and his family appear to be under house arrest. The U.S. embassy is telling most of its staff to stay home.
Our David McKenzie now joins us live from Harare in Zimbabwe.
David, what can you tell us?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John and Poppy, it certainly is a tense situation here in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. We were out on the streets. There are troops moving through the capital and also holding key strategic points. They've taken over the state broadcaster in a dramatic early morning statement. They got on national TV here and said this is not a coup, but, in fact, everything that we're seeing is that this is a de facto coup, a takeover of power.
The 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe, who's ruled this country longer than most people have been alive here, is holed up in his residence, we believe, under detention. This is all part of a factional basil within the ruling party. The U.S. embassy is closed today. They're asking for American citizens here to shelter in place. A very tense time and a lot of questions still remain unanswered -- John, Poppy.
BERMAN: All right. David McKenzie for us in Zimbabwe. David, thank you very much.
HARLOW: Also for us, following President Trump's to -- President Trump's visit across Asia, the time he spent in China with the focus on the tension in North Korea, China now says it will send what it's calling a special envoy to North Korea on Friday.
It is also on the heels of the time the president spent there urging the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, to do more to pressure North Korea, especially economically in order to try to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.
What that envoy looks like, what it will mean, we're waiting for more details.
BERMAN: All right. We are watching New Jersey very, very closely. A jury is deliberating. The same jury that said it was deadlocked over the fate of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. Can they reach a verdict in his corruption trial? We'll get a live update, coming up.
[10:48:13] BERMAN: Happening now the jury in the corruption trial of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez back deliberating after they told a judge on Monday that they were deadlocked.
HARLOW: Our Laura Jarrett is outside of the courthouse in Newark once again.
So they said they were deadlocked. The judge said, go home, think about this, come back, keep deliberating. What else?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, the big question right now, Poppy, is whether this jury is headed for a mistrial. The one person who certainly does not want that result is the judge in this case, who as you said has told this jury keep going, keep talking to each other, keep re-examining your thoughts here. And that's what they've been doing. We haven't heard a peep out of them since Monday when they reported that note saying that they were stuck.
But the defense counsel in this case has proposed that the judge should essentially instruct them that a hung jury is a legitimate outcome. Now he has not gone for that yet, and I have to tell you, this jury looks absolutely exhausted. They shuffle into court as they did this morning. No notes in hand, no questions, nothing. They look absolutely beat -- Poppy.
BERMAN: It's 11 weeks now that they've been at this, Laura.
HARLOW: Yes. BERMAN: So if there is a mistrial, what happens? You know, there's a
legal path there. There's also the political implication of what happens here, among other things. It just means that Bob Menendez stays a senator for a lot longer.
JARRETT: That's absolutely right. So if the judge officially declares a mistrial this week or wherever, the Justice Department has the ability to re-file the charges against him. They can choose to drop count or change the presentation of the trial, but they can certainly do this all over again. But as you mentioned, the political ramifications of that for Senator Menendez in an election year, next year, as he's campaigning with yet another trial looming over him, would be a tough road ahead -- John, Poppy.
[10:50:01] HARLOW: And one other -- one other thing, Laura, I believe it was the prosecution that came forward to the judge and wanted him to present once again to the jurors that there could be sort of a partial verdict here, right? Guilty or -- you know, guilty on some counts, not on others, et cetera. Is that right?
JARRETT: That's exactly right. And that's going to be a bit of a mess, given the number of counts that these two defendants are facing.
JARRETT: Menendez is facing 12 counts and what I think the prosecution is trying to say there is, look, if they're deadlocked on some of the counts, for instance, the bribery, but perhaps not deadlocked on some of the others, for instance, the failure to report these gifts on his Senate disclosure forms, then the jury should report what they can do. And then we'll deal with the rest later.
BERMAN: All right, Laura Jarrett for us in New Jersey, watching this very closely.
Look, I think it's reasonable to expect this jury to come back and maybe soon to tell us what they actually think.
Laura, thank you so much.
HARLOW: So three college basketball players back on U.S. ground after being accused of shoplifting in China. President Trump is asking them on Twitter this morning, will he be thanked for intervening on their behalf? We'll have much more in the "Bleacher Report."
[10:55:49] BERMAN: All right. So moments ago, President Trump asking to be thanked, or I guess wondering out loud if he will be thanked, for helping push China to release three UCLA basketball players arrested for shoplifting there. The three players did return to the United States overnight.
HARLOW: Andy Scholes joins us with the "Bleacher Report" this morning. They are back. I guess we'll see what consequences they face here. ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, guys.
Good morning, John and Poppy. The PAC-12 commissioner, Larry Scott, did thank President Trump for helping with the situation, speaking to Chinese President Xi about the UCLA players. But as you said, John, you know, apparently President Trump wants a thank you from the players themselves, tweeting this just this morning. "Do you think the three UCLA basketball players will say, thank you, President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail."
Well, the thank you may be coming later on this afternoon. UCLA is holding a press conference at 2:00 Eastern. The players won't be fielding any questions, but will likely just have a prepared statement to apologize.
Now the players returned to Los Angeles last night to a chaotic scene at LAX. The big question now is, what kind of discipline will they receive from the school and from the NCAA.
All right, there was a big game in college basketball last night. Number one Duke taking on number two Michigan State. The Blue Devils wearing shirts with the word "equality" on them during warm-ups. The Duke's senior guard Grayson Allen says they wore the shirts in response to the national anthem protest and that their program stands for a sentence from the "Pledge of Allegiance" that everybody knows, "One nation under God, with liberty and justice for all."
As for the game, Allen played every minute, scored a career-high 37 points. Duke remained undefeated scoring 88-81.
The College Football Playoff Committee releasing its latest ranking class nine. Alabama returning to number one. Undefeated Miami making its first appearance in the top four, coming in at number three. Their potential matchup with second-ranked Clemson in the ACC championship game looms large. Oklahoma ranked fourth right now. Undefeated Wisconsin, the first one out, followed by Auburn. The final playoff rankings come out Sunday, December 3rd.
All right. In the NBA, Celtics guard Kyrie Irving returning last night wearing a mask after suffering a broken bone in his face. He only missed one game with that injury. Kyrie said the mask is a little uncomfortable, but didn't stop him from scoring 25 points and the Celtics beat the Nets for their 13th straight win.
Kyrie, he was wearing these special shoes in the game that were dedicated to his mom who died when he was just 4 years old. We can see the pictures of the shoes, there they are right there. You can see, it's got the word "Mom" on the tongue instead of Kyrie's signature logo. And it's got big roses on the side.
And then in a really cool moment after the game, Kyrie took off those shoes and his jersey and walked over and gave them to two members of the United States Armed Forces who were at the game. Awesome deal there.
And this "Bleacher Report," it was presented by the new 2018 Ford F- 150. And John, those service members, they looked like they were as happy
as you would be if Kyrie walked over and gave you his shoes and his jersey.
HARLOW: He's the like jumping on the chair.
BERMAN: The guy broke his face and started last night and the Celtics won. And then gave his shoes away. You got to love him.
HARLOW: You got to hear his giddy laugh sometimes.
BERMAN: It was awesome.
HARLOW: What he would be like?
BERMAN: No, no --
SCHOLES: Boston sports, I mean, does anything bad ever happen to you guys?
BERMAN: Never. Never.
Andy, just quickly, is there any expectation that UCLA will sanction these players for what they did? Or will they be allowed to play?
SCHOLES: I got to think some punishment is coming down for them. Whether it's a three to five-game suspension. Some experts even think they could be suspended for the entire season. And you know, one of the questions is, John, we don't really know how bad the situation was in China. You know, there were reports out there that they were caught shoplifting in multiple stores. If that was true, you know, who knows? But I have to believe that some form of punishment is coming down, either from the UCLA and PAC-12, or the NCAA.
HARLOW: You've got to think, look, they're just happy to be home.
HARLOW: Thank you, Andy. Good to see you.
SCHOLES: All right.
HARLOW: We'll see you tomorrow.
Thank you all for joining us. I'm Poppy Harlow.
BERMAN: I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, John, thank you, Poppy. Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. It's no secret Republicans in Washington want Roy Moore out of the Alabama Senate race and nowhere near Washington. Senator Mitch McConnell even floating his own idea for who he'd like to see as a write-in candidate now.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The Alabaman who --