Return to Transcripts main page

WOLF

Republicans Are Not Ready To Commit To President Donald Trump Their Support On The Reelection; Michael Cohen Is In Very Serious Legal Jeopardy; Interview with Rep. Mark Meadows; Interview with Sen. Bob Menendez; Inspector General Over The U.S. Department Of Justice Have Sent A Criminal Referral To The U.S. Attorney's Office for Andrew McCabe. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 19, 2018 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:31:54] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Noncommittal when it comes to 2020. Several Republicans now say they are not ready to say if they will to back President Trump for reelection. Others say they are not sure the President will really be interested in running again. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I have no idea who is going to run for President in 2020. And I am not about to say who I would support for that happening. So we have no idea who is going to run. Whether the President runs again or not, I think, is very questionable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Joining us now, North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows. He is the Republican on the House affairs committee. He is also a chairman of the conservative House freedom caucus.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: Great to be with you, Wolf. Thanks do much.

BLITZER: Do you think the President is going to run for a second term? And will you support him?

MEADOWS: You know, I think not only is he going to run for a second term, but he is going to run strongly for a second term, already putting together his team to do that. So suggestions by some senators that they don't know or they are not supporting him really is not something that I'm hearing back home in my district.

I can tell you that, you know, when you have more money in your paychecks that bodes well for reelection. But my conversation with the President don't give me any indication that he is not running. And certainly, I will support him. And we are going to try to make sure that we continue to deliver on behalf of this administration to the American people what they have asked for. And so Senator Corker or any of the others weighing in, I think it's

-- normally it's the other way around. Senators are asking for his endorsement, not the President seeking theirs. But even with that, I think he will run strong.

BLITZER: Let's get to some other issues in the news right now. As you know, a lot of Republicans have been highly critical of the special counsel Robert Mueller, saying he has overstepped his bounds. But prosecutors are pushing back on that idea, saying he hasn't gone rogue at all. Why not just let him finish his job?

MEADOWS: Well, listen, we have been all about him finishing his job. I believe that he should finish his job and get it done quickly. You know, even director Comey said a year in to the investigation, you know, he into Hillary Clinton, he believed that he had all the information he needed to either have a guilty or not guilty verdict.

We are past one year on this Russia collusion narrative. I think he needs to bring it to a close and finish it. And when we talk about prosecutors are saying he hasn't gone beyond the scope of it, no one really knows. I mean, Bob Mueller is doing his investigation. Much of that is not leaked to the press. Kudos to him for that.

And the other part of that is, you know, everybody is opining on what should or shouldn't happen. I can tell you there is no evidence of collusion. At this point we need to bring it to a close and get serious about what matters to your viewers and certainly to me, and that's making sure the economy and jobs continue to grow and spending our effort there.

BLITZER: Yes. We don't know what, if any, evidence he has filed, Mueller and his team, as far as collusion. Other sensitive issues as well. Let's see what he comes up with. But I assume, congressman, you would oppose the President's firing of Mueller or Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general?

[13:35:14] MEADOWS: Well, I think those are two different questions, Wolf, and one of those really is with Bob Mueller. There has been no discussions whatsoever about this President firing Bob Mueller. I think he is frustrated with the fact this investigation continues to go on as most Americans are frustrated with it. And yet, at the same time, Rod Rosenstein, you know, he has issued a scope letter and has given Bob Mueller these directions that he sees fit in terms of that investigation. At this point Rod Rosenstein has a number of other issues, and that's really getting documents to Congress that we have asked for. And he needs to get serious about that. Hopefully he will be.

But I see those as two separate questions. I don't think Bob Mueller is in jeopardy of being fired or terminated. Perhaps, you know, Rod Rosenstein is a little bit more ambiguous in terms of his future with this administration.

BLITZER: So would you be OK with the President firing Rosenstein?

MEADOWS: You know, really, Rod Rosenstein's real problem right now is more with Congress than it is with the President. I can tell you that, you know, having really requested a number of documents, having subpoena deadlines that have come and gone without real response, having really the AG's office admit that they have been redacting things inappropriately in their sending of information to Congress, he needs to get serious about responding to congressional requests in days, not in weeks or months. And if he is willing to do that, I think it will bode well for him, bode well for our country and obviously we will take some of the pressure off of him that he's getting from members of Congress.

BLITZER: As you, of course, know the House Speaker Paul Ryan, he has already announced he will not seek reelection. Who do you want the next speaker to be assuming the Republicans retain the majority?

MEADOWS: Well, I would have been disappointed, Wolf, had you not asked that question and you are going to be disappointed in my response. Obviously, there is not a race that's going on right now. Kevin McCarthy is certainly the frontrunner. But really, there is a number of other people beyond the ones that have been reported that are talking about jumping into that race. So I don't see that race happening until after the November midterms. You know, there is a question right now whether we keep the majority or not. And so, whether you run for speaker or minority leader, maybe a decision we make in the coming months, not in the coming days.

But right now I can tell you there is no one who has 218 votes to be the speaker other than speaker Ryan, and so that's a case to be made. Whether it's made by Kevin McCarthy or Steve Scalise or Jim Jordan or anybody else that might be considering a run.

BLITZER: Congressman Mark Meadows, thanks as usual for joining us.

MEADOWS: Thank you, Wolf. Always great to be with you and your viewers.

BLITZER: Thank you. Thanks very, very much.

An important programming note to all of our viewers. Don't miss James Comey later today live here on CNN. He sits down one on one with our own Jake Tapper 4:00 p.m. eastern on "THE LEAD." You will want to see that.

Coming up, FOX News Sean Hannity being dubbed the President's unofficial chief of staff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is Hannity? Is he an opinion journalist? Is he an advocacy? I'm a talk show host.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The famed attorney Alan Dershowitz saying he is standing by live. He will weigh in on Sean Hannity's ties to the President. He will weigh on President Trump's longtime fixer Michael Cohen and other sensitive issues. Alan Dershowitz will join me live right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:47:21] BLITZER: President Trump is reaching out and calling on friends and former advisers for advice on the investigation into his personal attorney Michael Cohen. The advice: don't trust him.

Joining us now, the famed Harvard emeritus professor Alan Dershowitz. He is also the author of the book "Trumped up." There you see the book cover there.

Alan, thanks so much for joining us.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Thank you.

BLITZER: So do you think that Michael Cohen under enormous pressure is being investigated as part of this criminal investigation will flip and cooperate with federal prosecutors?

DERSHOWITZ: I have told ever client I have represented over the last 53 years, assume your best friend will flip. Prosecution has enormous leverage. They can charge you with a dozen crimes, even if they are relatively technical crimes, that accumulate with the guidelines and tell you, you are never see freedom again. You are going to serve the rest spend your life in prison.

That kind of pressure brings about, not only singing, but sometimes composing. And that is witnesses realize the better the story, the better the deal they get. So the risk is they will exaggerate or elaborate or even sometimes make up stories.

So I think the President has to assume that his closest friends, his greatest associates, the people he trusts the most, if exposed to the pressure, the risk of life imprisonment, will flip. That has to be his working assumption.

BLITZER: I just want to be precise. Michael Cohen has not been charged with anything, at least not yet, though he is under criminal investigation. Do you agree with the President's former lawyer, jay Goldberg, that the President should simply stop talking to him and assume he's going to flip and cooperate with federal prosecutors against him?

[13:45:00] DERSHOWITZ: Yes. Jay Goldberg is one of the great criminal lawyers of my generation. And his advice should always be taken very seriously. He should not be talking to him. And if he is talking to him, somebody should be a witness. And he should just be saying, hi, I wish you well. But people get into a lot of trouble talking to potential witnesses because then the witness can say credibly, well, he talked to me and there will be phone record that he talked to me but he can elaborate on what he said.

BLITZER: What do you think of the President's decision that phones Michael Cohen on the same day that the FBI raided his home, hotel room, his office, his safe deposit box, took his computers, all the electronic equipment? Was that a wise move on the part of the President to call his attorney and speak to him on that day? DERSHOWITZ: It was an understandable move. This is a man who he has

known for years and years and years, and he wanted to show that, you know, he still supports him. But no, it was not a wise move. It's far, far better not to speak to people who might be potential witnesses against you or even in your favor. If you speak to them and they are a witness in your favor, they can be cross-examined about the conversation they had with you.

So no, it was not a wise move. The President makes a lot of decisions about talking when he shouldn't talk, and they end up hurting him. My advice to him on television, I'm not his lawyer, I would never give him advice, was you know, would be don't tweet, don't pardon, don't fire and don't testify unless you have to.

BLITZER: Well, he is not listening to part of your advice, as you well know.

The President, though, he has the power of pardoning Michael Cohen or anyone else he wants. That's a very, very vast ability that he has, potentially, to convince individuals under criminal investigation, don't say anything ill of the President.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, of course, President Bush had that same power and he exercised it in relation so Caspar Weinberger and five other people. The problem is that states have become much more sophisticated recently. And there is state investigation. And he can't pardon people who are charged or convicted of state violations. In fact, New York is now thinking of passing a new statute which would permit double jeopardy, in effect, prosecution of somebody who has been pardoned by the President federally would be allowed to be tried on comparable or even identical state charges. This is a way of trying to eliminate the power of the pardon, at least as to some potential witnesses.

BLITZER: If the President hasn't done anything wrong, why should he even be so concerned about individuals flipping?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, of course, you always have to be concerned about that. Again, in so many years of practice, it's a mistake to say if you have done nothing wrong, why should you plead the fifth? Why shouldn't you allow a search? Why shouldn't you a, b, c, d? It's certainly possible for people who have done nothing wrong to be caught up. As I have said, you can be prosecuted or charged with perjury for telling the truth. If somebody tells a different truth and the prosecution believes that truth, that's what happened with Scooter Libby. Scooter Libby told what he believed to be the truth. Somebody came in and told a different truth. He was prosecuted. And now the President has pardoned him.

So we see examples of that Prudence requires that you always assume that anything you do and you say can eventually be used against you. You know, they say why shouldn't he cooperate with the prosecution and sit down and talk with them? Well, we heard Comey. Comey said the only reason they call somebody after an investigation like Hillary Clinton or like President Trump is to see if they will lie. They already have made up their mind tentatively whether or not to charge or not to charge, and then they call them in to see if they will lie. That's a very good reason why criminal defense lawyers like me tell clients never volunteer to speak to a prosecutor. They are not there to help you. They are there to hurt you.

BLITZER: I want to get your reaction, Alan, to some news that is breaking right now. The justice department's office of the inspector general has just sent a criminal referral regarding Andrew McCabe who is the fired deputy director of the FBI to the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C. What does that tell you?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, it tells me they think he committed a perjury or lying to government officials. Look, I think these criminal referrals should be used very sparingly. I think we use the criminal law far too much to attack our political enemies. And the criminal justice system has become too politicized on both sides, lock her up, lock him up. I think the criminal law should be last resort, not the first resort, if he is committed an obvious crime, there should be an investigation, but not to try to stretch the law to fit political opponents. I fear that.

BLITZER: One final question. Michael Cohen, how much legal trouble is he?

DERSHOWITZ: I think he's in a lot of trouble. I think the prosecution would be embarrassed if they searched the lawyer's office and took a treasure trove of material and try to turn it over to a taint team to go through if they in the end didn't find evidence of crime against him. So I think he is in very serious legal jeopardy.

[13:50:10] BLITZER: Alan Dershowitz, thanks so much for joining us.

DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, outrage after the President describes sanctuary cities as a breeding concept. Was that a racist comment? I will get reaction from Democratic senator Bob Menendez. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:54:35] BLITZER: Following the breaking news, the inspector general over the U.S. department of justice has just announced that they have sent a criminal referral to the U.S. attorney's office here in Washington D.C. Criminal referral for Andrew McCabe. Andrew McCabe, as you remember, the fired FBI deputy director. He has fired only a couple of days before he was supposed to receive his full pension.

Let's get reaction immediately from the New Jersey senator, Bob Menendez. He is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, what is your reaction to this criminal referral? Michael Horowitz, as you know, the inspector general at the department of justice, saying - presumably saying that he committed perjury, McCabe, and should be tried criminally. [13:55:16] SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ), RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN

RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, Mr. McCabe has asserted not only his innocence but had a different set of facts. Obviously, the U.S. attorney is going to have to evaluate the referral and what's been said and make a determination. And we will see where it goes from there.

BLITZER: Let's get your thoughts on some other sensitive issues right now.

As you know, we are expecting a close vote on your committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Mike Pompeo, the outgoing CIA director in line to become the next secretary of state. If he could get past the Senate - he is probably not going to be confirmed in the Foreign Relations Committee but presumably there will be still a full vote on the Senate floor. You oppose his confirmation, right?

MENENDEZ: I do. I think that director Pompeo failed to establish that he would be a robust advocate for diplomacy versus the kneejerk reactions of the President to military action. I think he was not transparent, both on the question of the Mueller investigation, questions that were placed to him about Russia, which is a critical issue before the committee. He certainly wasn't transparent about his visit to North Korea. And when we asked him on some of the critical hot spots in the world, Russia, Syria, Iran, Venezuela about what strategies would he envision advocating with the President, he really could enunciate none. So I'm afraid that he would not be someone who would seek to break the President's worst instincts but actually to facilitate them.

BLITZER: But do you think he will still be confirmed on the Senate floor even if he is rejected in your committee?

MENENDEZ: Well, look, you know Republicans have a majority in the Senate. If all of them line up and vote for him, he would be confirmed. I don't know what Democrats would seek to vote for him. But I think he is going to have a tough time in the Foreign Relations Committee.

BLITZER: In the committee he will. But I assume some Democrats, maybe some red state Democrats in the Senate, will vote to confirm him. We'll see where that goes.

I know you and your colleagues were briefed on the Trump administration strategy towards Syria. There is a lot of disappointment though in Lindsey Graham and others emerged from that closed-door briefing, very disappointed. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Everything in that briefing made me more worried, not less. This makes no sense to me. I am very unnerved about what I hear and what I see. And I think President Trump has been a good commander in-chief but when it comes to Syria, I think he's going down a very dangerous path.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What was your take away from that closed door briefing?

MENENDEZ: My take away is what I said in public before, Wolf, that one of the major challenges we have with President Trump as he deals with critical issues throughout the world is that there is no strategy.

You know, a military strike against Assad because of chemical weapons is not a strategy. He did at that a year ago. It didn't stop Assad from using chemical weapons. A strike now in and of itself is not a strategy as to how do you stop the civil war? How do you stop the humanitarian disaster? How do you end up defeating the rest of ISIL? How do you ultimately bring for a negotiating agreement that isn't the Russians, the Iranians and Turkey driving it and the future of Syria in the Middle East, but an international coalition at the United Nations where we have a role to play?

So all of the elements of that, getting our partners to isolate Russia and Iran, who are the one who is embolden Assad, getting our gulf partners to have some economic consequences on those countries as well, as countries that are critically interested in what happens in Syria. That's a strategy. But what I think Lindsey Graham is speaking to, as what we heard, without getting into specifics is that there is no strategy.

BLITZER: Well, you think that Iran and Russia are the big winners in Syria, that they are really in charge together with the Bashar al- Assad regime and the U.S. has lost?

MENENDEZ: Absolutely. I mean, look, Russia has now a major foothold. Iran has been building up sources, resources within Syria, ballistic missile, doing a whole host of other things, training, having troops, aiming it at Israel, our ally. So the destabilization of the region is created by Russia and Iran embolden Assad. Russia is now developing its base there is. Russia has a clear foothold. Iran has really created an opportunity for themselves. So I think they are the real winners so far.

[14:00:02] BLITZER: Senator Menendez, thanks so much for joining us.

MENENDEZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: That's it for me. The news continues on CNN right now.