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Trump Responds to Obama's Rare Rebuke: "I Fell Asleep"; Trump on Mueller Interview: Don't Want "Perjury Trial"; Georgia's Stacey Abrams Could Become First Black Woman Governor; John Dean Testifies at Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 7, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, Trump can take justifiable credit for how the economy has done under his watch. But he can't say that he was inheriting a disaster of an economy. The country was not anywhere near recession. When Obama came in, the world was in crisis. You can argue it wasn't a strong enough recovery and Trump can take credit for goosing the economy with regulations and corporate tax cuts. Not sure that he can credibly say that you can call low-energy Obama. I mean, I don't think that that will fly. But you see two major different world views combatting in really unusually personal terms for an ex-president and incumbent. Sign of a fascinating campaign to come.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: What do you think.

MORGAN ORTAGUS, FORMER INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, OFFICE OF INTELLIGENCE AND ANALYSIS, U.S. TREASURY: I think it is incredibly smart of the Democrats to put President Obama out there. Quite frankly, the number of Socialists and people that turn off Independent voters that were getting a lot of press coverage was probably not good to the effort to retake the House. So smart move to put President Obama out there.

Listen, you will see two President Trumps go at it. I think that is quite typical. But I think if you talk to anyone who is a small business owner in this country, any corporate CEO, they are loving Trump's economy and that is the one thing that I think frustrates Republicans is that the president often worries about a Woodward book or an anonymous op-ed when he should be touting the fact that he is about to get a second Supreme Court justice, that unemployment is at 3.9 percent, 200,000-plus jobs added. That should be the message --


BALDWIN: He was just talking about Kavanaugh. He was there. He was on message. He heard you somehow.


BALDWIN: Morgan and John, thank you so much.

More developing today. President Trump has just weighed in on a potential interview with the special counsel, telling a reporter he doesn't, quote, "want to be set up with a perjury trap."


[14:35:59] BALDWIN: Here is the breaking news on the Russia investigation today. Moments ago, on board Air Force One, President Trump told some reporters that he is willing to sit down with investigators, but he said he would only do it under certain circumstances. The president says he is worried an interview with Robert Mueller's team would be a perjury trap.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I don't want to be set up with a perjury trap, number one. Number two, there was no obstruction and there was no collusion.


BALDWIN: With me now, CNN legal analyst, Shan Wu. He's also a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor.

Shan, how about don't fall into a perjury trap by not lying?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST; That would be excellent legal advice, Brooke. What's ironic is people think of a perjury trap as one being set by the prosecutors, but the one setting the perjury trap is himself. And he is all over the board. And it is really obvious that his legal team is petrified of having him being interviewed. And it is important to remember that when you take the step of letting a client in a criminal inquiry get interviewed, you have to engage in an enormous amount of preparation. You spend hours and hours preparing them, going documents, making sure they aren't surprised. What they remember, don't remember. There's no way that he can do that kind of preparation. So the idea of walking him into that is a complete unmitigated disaster because he will have no idea what he is talking about and will say whatever pops into his head.

BALDWIN: And we've heard so many things from Rudy Giuliani, his attorney. Last night, he said that they would not answer obstruction questions. If that is the case, does that force Mueller into a subpoena?

WU: No, it is not the choice of the areas of questions that would force him into the subpoena. Even if he subpoenaed him, he might show up after they go up to the Supreme Court, and he might still try not to answer questions. The subpoena is really a way of forcing him to come on into speak with them and possibly to testify. And I still think Mueller will be reluctant to do that. And Giuliani wants to the try to spin that as they have somehow goaded Mueller into agreeing to questions. But I think most of that is posturing for his client. Giuliani is posturing to keep the president happy. Mueller just has to make a decision whether he feels that he can complete the investigation without getting to question the president. And what he might agree to do is agree to limitations and go ahead and ask him, and if he refuses to answer.

BALDWIN: Up to Mueller. Only Mueller knows.

Shan Wu, thank you so much. Good to see you.

WU: Good to see you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Moments from now, a former campaign aid, George Papadopoulos, will learn his fate from a judge as he is sentenced for lying to the FBI. We'll take you there.

And after months of not calling him out by name, former President Obama unleashing on his successor. We'll talk about the direct criticism next.


[14:43:04] BALDWIN: We're still sorting through all of the attacks in this extraordinary rebuke delivered just a short while ago by former Barack Obama against President Trump, calling his presidency a threat to democracy and accusing him of practicing the politics of fear and resentment, and cozying up to Russia, and for energizing Nazi enthusiasts. President Trump responded a second ago by saying the speech put him to sleep.

Let's talk this over with our CNN political director, David Chalian.

And David, just going back to Obama's speech, I mean we knew that it would be a rebuke, but what is your take on how hard he went after this administration?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, this is another break with tradition. In fact the former president Barack Obama referenced that he envisioned that he would be following in a long line of former presidents who sort of stayed out of the fray from commenting on their successors. But just like the tradition of the president's club has sort ever been broken with President Trump not really invited into it from his predecessors, so, too, is Barack Obama breaking tradition and going hard by name after the president. President Obama referred to what is going on in this White House as crazy. It doesn't get much more pointed than that. And, Brooke, you got to pay attention to what Obama is doing here I think. He is trying to make the argument of attaching President Trump to the Republican Party. Right? He sort of scolded, I thought, interestingly for the purposes of the midterm campaign season Republican members of Congress for abdicating their responsibility that the way the democracy is set up is not for an anonymous op-ed writer to try to be a check on the president, but that they are abdicating the responsibility of being a check on the legislative branch on the president.

BALDWIN: And here he was on this college campus and I'm wondering who is he really talking to? Is he talking to Democrats, to young people? Because he talked a lot about women. And he also I think was talking to Republicans.

[14:45:08] CHALIAN: No doubt. He was talking to the campaign audience. So he did a little bit of everything. One thing just by showing up and giving this speech, he was talking to Democrats no doubt because as you know, there have been a lot of Democrats who have been frustrated asking the question for months, where is Obama. They have been looking for somebody to come out who can really take the stage and make a forceful case against President Trump with a sort of singular voice. And a lot of Democrats have been missing him this fight. So he is answering that call by saying here I am, I'll be on the trail for 60 days and help Democrats win as best I can.

But you are right, not just talking to Republicans, but those critical Independent voters that really have drifted away from President Trump, who Barack Obama had his own troubles with at times throughout his presidency, Independent voters, but there's no doubt that he was trying to appeal to them as well.

BALDWIN: David Chalian, thank you very much.


BALDWIN: Coming up next, as President Trump hits the campaign trail ahead of the midterms, the odds appear to be stacking against the Republicans. A new poll suggests the Senate could now be in play. We'll show you the new numbers there.

Also, Georgia is on the verge of history, possibly electing the first black female governor in the entire United States of America. We spotlight Stacey Abrams in my new series, "AMERICAN WOMEN IN POLITICS." That is next.


[14:50:58] BALDWIN: Could control of the Senate being in play? A new Tennessee poll shows the Democrat, former Governor Phil Bredesen, holds a slim over the Republicans, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. As I said, the Democrats lead a slip but it's known Tennessee voters usually vote Republican.

And this just in, from a rare public speech from former President Obama, he is calling for more women to run for office.




OBAMA: But we have first-time candidates, we have veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan, record numbers of women. Americans who previously maybe didn't have an interest in politics as a career. But laced up their shoes and rolled up their sleeves and grabbed a clipboard because they, too, believe this time is different.


BALDWIN: Speaking of women, it sure is looking different in Georgia. Take a look at Georgia's poll numbers. The Democrat woman is tied with a Republican. And if elected, Stacey Abrams would not only be a woman this charge, she would become the first black female governor in U.S. history. And I wanted to put a spotlight on this history so it became the focus

of my series two of my series "AMERICAN WOMEN IN POLITICS." I spent a lot of my weekends over the summer traveling the country talking to so many of these female candidates about why they are running and for what.

Georgia's Stacey Abrams is a candidate who I spoke with and she told me about the one moment that changed her life forever.



Growing up poor, my mom and dad would take us out to volunteer because my dad's way of saying having nothing is not an excuse for doing nothing. They wanted the world to be better. For me, it was about policy, and the more I did policy, the more I realized you have to have good politicians that drive that policy. Telling myself in the quiet of my house was not going to solve the problem, so I started running for office. And now I'm ready for governor.


ABRAMS (voice-over): I'm Stacey Abrams and I'm an American woman because I reflect the diversity of our country.

BALDWIN: Why this election?

ABRAMS: I had intended to run in '18 regardless of what happened in '16. But what '16 put into sharp relief is how urgent the decision is. It was watching the most qualified woman to stand for that office not win. And to understand that the consequences of her not winning meant that their lives became exponentially harder. And I think for women at large this opportunity to own that power and now we'll do it ourselves.


BALDWIN: Going back to your high school days, you were valedictorian, you roll up to the governor's mansion to be honored. And someone standing there at the gate says no to you.

ABRAMS: We arrived at the governor's mansion on public transit because my parents couldn't afford to get us there any other way. And this guard saw me, saw my parents, saw the bus, and told us we didn't belong there. I don't remember meeting the governor. I don't remember meeting my fellow valedictorians. What stuck with me from 1991 to today is the man who told me no. He said, you just don 't belong here.

I'm the only candidate who has fought consistently on the side of education.

I don't want to run for governor because of him. But I know what it feels like to be told you're not enough, to be told you don't belong. And the role that the governor can play in Georgia and in America is to make certain every person believes they belong.


BALDWIN: The piece that you wrote in "Forbes" magazine, you talk about owing $50,000 in back taxes, $170,000 in credit card and student loan debt. That is $200,000 roughly. Your critics would say, my gosh, she wants to run the state of Georgia's economy and she can't control her own personal finances. To them, you would say?

[14:55:05] ABRAMS: I am responsible for my parents, for my niece and for my grandmother. Having grown up in dire straits, I understand how important it is to have a leader who can make the choices to make sure everything gets taken care of.


ABRAMS: What drives me is that I think poverty is immoral. I think that it is economically inefficient and I think it is solvable. And I think no matter what space you stand in to tackle those challenges, the opportunity to make things better is always there.




KEMP: -- I blow up government spending.


BALDWIN: Your opponent --


KEMP: I own guns that no one is taking away.


BALDWIN: -- white Republican male. I saw ads talking about big trucks, deporting undocumented immigrants, chain saws ready to rip up regulations. Is Georgia ready for you?

ABRAMS: Absolutely. I come to this race understanding that our diversity is its strength. And no, I'm not like what has preceded me. I look very different. But that difference is about my experiences and my sympathy and my empathy for the communities who need a voice.


BALDWIN: Stacey Abrams, thank you so much.

And if you want to meet the women who could be making history this November? Go to And now, John Dean -- you see him on this channel all the time --

former President Richard Nixon's White House counsel, he took the president down with his Senate testimony many years ago. And now he is testifying here in the Senate confirmation hearing of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: -- executive powers. That is no longer true. Judge Kavanaugh has a very broad view of presidential powers. For example, he would have the Congress immunize sitting presidents from both civil and criminal liability. Under Judge Kavanaugh's recommendation, if a president shot somebody in cold blood on Fifth Avenue, that president could not be prosecuted while in office.

Also it is not clear to me listening to the testimony that he really believes Nixon -- U.S. versus Nixon was correctly decided.

A second general point from my submission, a very vital, I think, process point, Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein stated on the morning of September 4 just before the hearings opened that after participating in nine Supreme Court confirmations, it had never been so difficult to get access to background documents relating to a nominee as in the current proceedings. Unsuccessfully the minority sought to postpone the hearings until all the requested documents were provided. The chair declined to consider the motion that would make review possible.

This committee is deeply involved in the final phase of vetting Supreme Court nominees. Based on personal experiences with the confirmation, for example, of William Rehnquist and studying the confirmation of Clarence Thomas, it is clear there was an across-the- board failure to fully vet the nominee nominees. And it has hurt the court and the American people. Because of the withholding of documents, Judge Kavanaugh may be traveling the same path as Rehnquist and Thomas.

When writing a book that I did several years ago, "The Rehnquist Choice," I explained how Rehnquist was selected by Nixon as one of -- for two openings that occurred in 1971. I also reported my sad discovery that Rehnquist had disassembled during his confirmation proceedings. He did however, notwithstanding false statements, become an associate justice. When Ronald Reagan nominated him to be chief justice in 1986, again he was not vetted. And in those hearings, he was confronted not only with his earlier fault statements, but new material that resulted in new false statements.

All the court historians that I have examined and court scholars find clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Rehnquist lied at his two confirmation proceeding. It hurt him and it hurt the court.

Because Justice Thomas was not fully vetted, his career on the court has been under a cloud as well. Thomas' truthfulness, vis-a-vis, Professor Anita Hill's claims of sexual harassment have never been fully resolved, nor has the controversy ever ended. A definitive study of this controversy was undertaken in 1994 by a journalists, Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, "Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas." They found a preponderance of evidence supported Anita Hill's claims.