Return to Transcripts main page


Sanford Falls in GOP Primary; Rosenstein to Call for Investigation; McCabe Sues DOJ; Government Weighs Appeal; North No Longer Threat. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 13, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: To the primaries and you look at what happened to Martha Roby, you look at what happened to Mark Sanford and you wonder if those who, you know, six weeks ago would have been much more outspoken against the president are thinking twice.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And you bring up that 78 percent figure. It's interesting because on substance and policy Sanford voted alongside party line --


GOLODRYGA: In what Trump proposed. Eighty-seven percent of the time he spoke out against the president's rhetoric, against his demeanor, against his tweets. But when it came to policy, you couldn't find a more conservative Republican than Mark Sanford.

HARLOW: That's a good point.

GOLODRYGA: And "The New York Times" makes a good point this morning when they say that voters are more eager to go against Trump's critics than to actually vote in favor of his supporters.

HARLOW: On the -- on the -- and that they're, you know, voting on someone calling out the president on rhetoric, even if they vote in line with the policies of those voters are supportive of.

GOLODRYGA: Right. But it addresses the bigger issue of people saying, why aren't we hearing from more Republicans who, behind closed doors, condemn the president's rhetoric.

HARLOW: But here's one we are hearing from very loudly, and that is Senator Corker, taking to the Senate floor late yesterday, going after, A.B., Republicans for not being supportive and vocal enough about this bill that he was trying to get attached as an amendment that would tie the president's hands on being able to just, on his own, impose these tariffs on our allies.

Listen to Corker.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: We might poke the bear is the language I've been hearing in the hallways. We might poke the bear. The president might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker amendment. So we're going to do everything we can to block it.

And, my gosh, if the president gets upset with us, then we might not be in the majority.


HARLOW: What he leaves out, A.B., is when you're not running again, you feel more free to say exactly what you think in such an animated way. But, does it have a point?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: You know, it is interesting, Republicans are pretty open about the fact that they're afraid of Trump and they don't want to criticize him. I mean it -- I spoke Friday morning with a long time Republican on the House side, very senior, knows the headwinds going into the election. The first thing he mentioned to me when I asked him about the tariffs and the G-7 was Martha Roby's primary. And he told me that he has 93 percent support for Trump in his -- in his district among primary voters. That is in spite of the fact that he is a free trader. So free trade Republicans are staying awfully quiet and the ones you've seen in the last couple days, either sticking up for Prime Minister Trudeau or speaking out against tariffs are all leaving, with the exception, of course, of Susan Collins and Ben Sasse, who are open about the fact that this isn't helpful to us with our friends --

HARLOW: yes.

STODDARD: And with our -- basically the bottom line of tariffs being a tax.

HARLOW: The quote of the week, I think, from Ben Sasse a few weeks ago was, this is dumb. That's what he put out there.

What do you think, Bianna?

GOLODRYGA: And if this had been a Democratic president who was in favor of tariffs, of course you would have seen Republicans up in arms because Republicans traditional are in favor of free markets. So you talk about the, I guess, hypocrisy going into Corker's speech and what he was saying yesterday that shouldn't be so controversial amongst Republicans. That's alongside Republican and party lines.


GOLODRYGA: But because the president has differing views and you see what happens when voters or any candidates go against the president, voters punish them and that's what you're seeing.

HARLOW: But we see -- I mean we saw House Speaker Paul Ryan speak out against it. It -- I think a difference, very quickly, Bianna, of what you say being in opposition to the president (INAUDIBLE) on tariffs, and then what you do and what votes you help move forward, right?

GOLODRYGA: Or how big of a deal you make of it, right?


GOLODRYGA: They sort of didn't diminish the magnitude --


GOLODRYGA: Of this shift in policy that's traditionally been Republican.

HARLOW: Bianna, thank you. A.B., nice to have you both. Appreciate it.

Ahead, a messy public feud pitting the deputy attorney general against Republicans. Why Rod Rosenstein wants the House to investigate its own staff. We'll explain, next.


[09:39:59] HARLOW: The battle between House Republicans and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is intensifying after Rosenstein said that he plans to ask the House to investigate its own staff, members of its own committee, the House Intel Committee. Now, this comes amid reports that some felt, quote, personally attacked at a meeting last month with Rosenstein, actually a meeting back in January, where he, according to them, allegedly threatened to subpoena these records. The Justice Department and others who attend that meeting dispute those claims. For months, Rosenstein and House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes have been at odds over the release of documents tied to the Russia investigation.

Our justice reporter, Laura Jarrett, has more.

Tell us.


Well, the divisions between the Justice Department and the House Intel Committee grow deeper by the day, but this one is a little bit different. And as you described, back in January, there was this heated meeting where the deputy attorney general essentially made it clear that if the House Intel Committee went through with their threats to hold him in contempt of Congress, that he would be entitled then to discovery on their communications on that issue.

Well, another network reported that the House Intel Committee felt threatened and that the deputy attorney general actually threatened them with a criminal investigation, but sources tell me that is false and the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is now coming to the defense of his deputy. Take a listen.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm confident that Deputy Rosenstein, 28 years in the Department of Justice, did not improperly threaten anyone on that occasion. Chris Wray, the director of the FBI, and our senior ethics attorney was there and others and it did not see it in that same fashion.


JARRETT: Sessions went on to note that clearly relationships have broken down here between the Justice Department and Capitol Hill. Of course, now all culminating in Rosenstein referring this matter to the top lawyer for the House of Representatives.


HARLOW: Right.

And also, Laura, before you go, the former FBI Deputy Director Andy McCabe, who was fired by Jeff Sessions not long ago, is now suing the Department of Justice and suing the FBI. Why?

[09:40:04] JARRETT: Yes. So for quite some time we've expected to see a civil lawsuit from the embattled former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe stemming from how he was fired just days before he was scheduled to get his pension after over 20 years at the department. But we're now learning that he actually hasn't been able to receive some of the key documents that he says were used to justify his termination, including key internal FBI policies and procedures. So he has now filed a federal lawsuit in federal court against both the Justice Department and the FBI to get those records, Poppy.

HARLOW: Laura Jarrett, thank you so much, at the Justice Department.

Let's bring in our chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, for more on this.

So, Jeff, let's just start with McCabe. His lawyers say, look, you've got to give us the reasoning here, you've got to give us the documents. Why? Because we are seeking to vindicate his reputation, restore his good name. Legally, what does the Justice Department have to hand over here, if anything, in terms of explaining itself?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is the -- a lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act, which has become this very complicated law about what people are entitled to and what they are not. And the short answer is, they are entitled to see policies, procedures in a general way, but they're generally not allowed to see how those procedures were -- were used in an individual case.

HARLOW: Got it.

TOOBIN: So I expect he'll get some documents out of this but probably not everything he wants.

HARLOW: And how likely, just quickly before we move on, is it that he is prosecuted, because we know that the department has referred this over to the -- for criminal prosecution to the U.S. attorney's office in Washington. How likely do you think criminal prosecution of McCabe is? TOOBIN: Well, you know, Andrew McCabe has suffered one of the great

falls in recent Washington history. I mean he was an enormously respected FBI agent, deputy director of the FBI, close ally of James Comey. Comey has sold him out.


TOOBIN: He's discredited by the inspector general. And now he's been referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

You know, Poppy, I'm going to give you the three words you're not allow today say on cable news, which are, I don't know. I don't know what his fate would be. What --

HARLOW: That is actually refreshing to hear, Jeffrey Toobin.

TOOBIN: Well --

HARLOW: And shows your confidence that you're willing to say you don't know.

TOOBIN: It's certainly -- it's certainly honest. I really don't know what the U.S. Attorney's Office is going to do.


TOOBIN: But consider how awful it is for him to be the subject of a criminal investigation after being an honored FBI agent for so long.

HARLOW: Right.

Well, and given -- given all that, that's why his team has asked, you know, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, Senator Chuck Grassley, if he's going to testify in front of you guys, we want immunity because of this, you know, potential criminal prosecution.

On Rosenstein --


HARLOW: This fight that has is escalated from Nunes-Rosenstein, even though they had dinner together with Sessions, remember that, not that long ago. But now this fight now saying to the House, these staffers will be investigated -- investigated. The House Intel staffer pushing back. How do you see this?

TOOBIN: Well, you have to remember, this is really a proxy fight. The president has been at war with Rod Rosenstein for months because he is the person who hired Robert Mueller and who protects Robert Mueller.

HARLOW: Right.

TOOBIN: So he has been a target of the president.

The president's allies in the House of Representatives, starting with Devin Nunes, are doing the president's bidding. They are attacking the Justice Department at every opportunity. They're trying to get information out of the Justice Department about the Mueller investigation and related matters. And this is a fight between Rosenstein and Nunes, but it's really a fight between Rosenstein and the president.

What Rosenstein is doing is basically saying, look, you know, you may fire me at some point, but in the meantime I'm going to do my job. And that involves protecting the Department of Justice from undue influence from Congress.

HARLOW: Jeff Toobin, stay with me. I want to get you on this next story as well, because, coming up, a major blow to the president as a judge approves a deal that the president railed against. How could this merger that is now on change the media landscape?


[09:48:46] HARLOW: Welcome back.

This morning, the Justice Department weighing whether to appeal a federal judge's ruling approving the AT&T and Time Warner merger. That would be the only way to try to stop this $85 billion deal that is expected to be a done deal by next Wednesday.

I should note, Time Warner, of course, is CNN's parent company.

Let's talk about this, the big picture. CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter is here. Our chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, is back with me.

And, Brian, you first.

The judge here, loved to use exclamation marks, which --


HARLOW: Throughout his opinion, but he made it so clear that this was not even a close case. I mean he knocked down the government's case against this merger at almost every juncture. You had a former DOJ attorney put it this way, calling it a defining antitrust enforcement case and a complete and total victory for AT&T. So why does it matter to everyone else out there. What's the big picture?

STELTER: Partly it matters because CNN and other channels will be owned by AT&T starting next week. That's unless there is some surprise stay that's done by the appeals court. That seems unlikely right now. So AT&T will take over CNN and other channels. And that's going to spark a wave of media consolidation. It also could affect other industries as well. A lot of business were waiting for this ruling to see what the climate was going to be like for more mergers and more acquisitions.

HARLOW: Right. Well, like Comcast and it's expected there for Fox.

STELTER: Right. And Comcast is expected to bid for Fox as early as today. You know, you say what it means for consumers. Here's -- this might be a silly example, but I think it rings true. When I'm watching HBO's "West World," which HBO, like CNN, owned by Time Warner. Right now I watch it on my phone, then I watch it on my TV. It doesn't know where I left off.


[09:50:15] STELTER: You know, there are those sorts of ordinary kind of flaws about our media environment.

HARLOW: Whereas Netflix does.

STELTER: That AT&T may be able to help improve.


STELTER: If AT&T owns both your phone service, your phone and more content, it may be able to improve the experience, at least that's what they're promising.

HARLOW: Jeffrey, the response from the government attorneys on this one, even though I should note the main prosecutor for the government in this one said not long ago, two years ago, you know, nothing looked wrong with the vertical merger like this. Now they're saying, after losing this case, that they still believe this is going to make the TV market less competitive, that it's going to cost consumers more. Is there merit to that argument?

TOOBIN: Poppy, I don't know. I can't really answer because I'm so emotional about Brian's problem, switching between "West World" and his phone.


TOOBIN: I mean, you know, how can he live in a world where he can't keep track of where he is?

HARLOW: How can he.

TOOBIN: And --

HARLOW: We love you, Stelter.

STELTER: I think it can be better. I think it can be better.

HARLOW: But, Toobin, is it going to mean, you know, for consumers it's going to cost more?

STELTER: Well, you know, the argument, that was a core issue in the case and the judge said, as far as he could tell, no. That, you know, the opportunity of choices and the fact that it is still a competitive market means that Time Warner, under AT&T, will not increase its prices.

And one of the real big issues in the case was that, you know, the definition of what is a media company is really changing now. You know, was there a time when Time Warner, you know, when we competed with NBC. And now, you know, FaceBook, Amazon, Apple, even Microsoft, are companies that are getting into the media business and they have more money than anybody. And so that was a big factor in the judge saying it's OK for these two large companies to combine.

HARLOW: Look, Anderson has a FaceBook show now, right? I mean everything -- everything is changing.

You know, I do think it's interesting, fascinating, Jeffrey, how the judge here warned -- Judge Leon warned against even trying to appeal this. Is that rare?

TOOBIN: Well, and that -- it is rare. But it also goes back to an issue that was not directly addressed in the case, but remains a big issue in this case, which is political influence.

HARLOW: Right. Yes.

TOOBIN: You know, Donald Trump, as we all know, opposed the merger from the very beginning.

HARLOW: Publicly.

TOOBIN: He hates CNN. And the question was, was this a real lawsuit or was this a political vendetta engineered by the White House? The judge excluded all evidence about any political influence. But, you know, I think we all can ask the question today, especially given the fact that this case was rejected so soundly by the judge, about whether it was part of the president's anger at CNN that brought this case rather than a legitimate antitrust issue (ph).

HARLOW: And you had Time Warner spokesmen Gary Ginsberg come out after this ruling and say that the case was clearly political in motivation, in his words.

Brian, there's a really interesting column by Andrew Ross Sorkin in "The New York Times" this morning exploring that.


HARLOW: And he talks about the fact that the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said a few weeks ago, quote, the president denied the merger. Giuliani said that. And then Giuliani said, he told me directly he didn't interfere.

So here's what Sorkin writes. Was it one of those or something in between? We still don't know and that's the problem. The calculus for companies considering mergers, or any decision, shouldn't be whether they think a president will seek to block or approve it on a whim.

STELTER: That is exactly right. And that's why this matters well beyond AT&T and Time Warner. When there is this sense of possible political interference, because of the president's own words and actions, it casts a shadow over lots of deals, lots of industries for lots of reasons.

You know, the president's on Twitter right now saying CNN and other networkers are the greatest enemy the American people have. That is absolutely disgusting.


STELTER: Disgusting.

But you know what's interesting? Checks and balances worked in this case.


STELTER: Right, the judiciary looked at this, a neutral party looked at this case and found it was not anti-competitive. So if there was interference, if the president's fingerprints are on this, it doesn't work.

HARLOW: Brian Stelter, thank you. Jeffrey Toobin, appreciate it. Nice to have you both.

Ahead for us, the president declares North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat. Premature? We'll discuss, next.


[09:59:06] HARLOW: Top of the hour. 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

And new this morning, a blanket guarantee or maybe just best case scenario from President Trump. The president writes, quote, there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea. And he also says, back home now after that historic and hotly debated summit with Kim Jong-un that we can all rest more safely now. He further claims that halting what he calls war games in South Korea will save the U.S. a, quote, fortune.

But it may be a hard sell for the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who is now trying to explain all of this and the snap decision to the South Korean government after the fact. Japan is dubious, as well. We'll get one view from Capitol Hill in a moment where House Speaker Paul Ryan will step before cameras. We'll bring that to you live.

First, though, let's go to the White House with our Joe Johns this morning.

Good morning, Joe.


[09:59:57] The White House message machine just a little bit disjointed this morning after the president arrived back at Joint Base Andrews after that long trip from Singapore.