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Interview With U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton; Interview With Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA); Interview With Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA); Interview With Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI); Sanders Emphasizing His Background In First 2020 Rallies; Biden Faces Criticism From The Left Over Praise For Pence; Michael Cohen On A Potential Movie Deal Is the Subject Of This Week's "State of the Cartoonion". Aired 9-10a ET

Aired March 3, 2019 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): No deal. President Trump fails to come to an agreement with Kim Jong-un.


TAPPER: And faces backlash for side with Kim over the death of an American.

TRUMP: I'm in such a horrible position.

TAPPER: Is this the art of the deal? National Security Adviser John Bolton responds next.

Plus: taking a stand. The president's former fixer flips.


TAPPER: And President Trump lashes out at the Russia probe.

TRUMP: They're trying to take you out with bullshit, OK?

TAPPER: The vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Warner, weighs in next.

And he's running again. Democrats' 2016 runner-up still wants the job.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will fight for a political revolution.

TAPPER: And says he will pass on any advice from Hillary Clinton. Can Democrats avoid making the same mistakes this election cycle?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't go back and relitigate 2016.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is recovering.

After a brutal week, President Trump spent Saturday unwinding, in his own unique way, delivering the longest speech of his presidency, two hours and two minutes, in front of an adoring crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Just days after the public testimony by his former fixer Michael Cohen, the president attacked the ongoing investigations of him, saying this:


TRUMP: So, they don't have anything with Russia. There's no collusion. So now they go and morph into, let's inspect every deal he's ever done. They are trying to take you out with bullshit, OK?


TRUMP: With bullshit.


TAPPER: It's actually difficult to think of a topic the president didn't mention in his speech.

He bashed his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, attacked the Green New Deal, complained about coverage of his crowd size at the inaugural, and he unexpectedly announced a new executive order to help guarantee free speech on college campuses.

The president also addressed his failed summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, defending himself against blistering criticism of his remarks that he takes Kim Jong-un at his word about the death of American college student Otto Warmbier.


TRUMP: I'm in such a horrible position, because, in one way, I have to negotiate. In the other way, I love Mr. and Mrs. Warmbier, and I love Otto. And it's a very, very delicate balance.


TAPPER: Joining us now, President Trump's national security adviser, Ambassador John Bolton.

Ambassador Bolton, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.


TAPPER: So, it seems as though President Trump doesn't have anything new to show for the summit.

Kim Jong-un got a second face-to-face with the American president, building his clout on an international stage. Now we're told South Korea and the U.S. are scaling back major joint military exercises.

Did this summit end up helping North Korea more than the United States?

BOLTON: No, I think it was unquestionably a success for the United States, because the president protected, defended American interests.

The possibility was there for North Korea to make a big deal with us, to do complete denuclearization, in exchange for the potential for a very bright economic future. The president wanted to make that big deal. He pushed very hard for it. The North Koreans were not willing to walk through -- through the door that he opened for them.

So, now we will see what happens. But, in terms of the outcome, the president has conducted this diplomacy different from prior administrations. All three prior administrations that addressed this question failed. So he's trying a different route.

Kim Jong-un himself said at the last meeting, we're going to go through many stations before we reach agreement. This is just one more station.

TAPPER: But there's no -- nothing new on the table. There's nothing new that's been achieved, right, except for now there's these major joint military exercises with South Korea, which is what the North Korea want -- North Koreans want. That's achieved for them.

What does -- what did the U.S. get?

BOLTON: You know, I don't -- I don't see that there's any real difference between -- on the exercise point between what the president decided in Singapore and now. It's not like some new decision has been made. The president made the decision on the exercises back in the summer of last year, and those continue.

I think what the United States gets from this is, we show again the potential for the opening of North Korea, if they are prepared to denuclearize. We will let the North Koreans evaluate what happened. We are going to take a look at ways of making sure that our maximum pressure campaign of economic sanctions continues, because, after all, it's the sanctions that brought North Korea to the table in the first place.

TAPPER: Well, nobody begrudges the president for trying something new. Nobody begrudges the president for trying...


BOLTON: I think some do begrudge him that, yes.

TAPPER: OK. Nobody reasonable begrudges the president for trying something new or for trying to achieve peace. But nothing came of the summit, other than further demonstrations that the United States wants peace, wants denuclearization.

Would you recommend a third summit without a tangible deliverable, as it's called, something on the table that the United States knows will be achieved?

BOLTON: Well, you're -- you're speaking in the -- in the terms of conventional diplomacy that, my goodness, there's no deal, how horrible.

I would say it the other way. If -- if you can't get a good deal -- and the president offered North Korea the best deal it could possibly get -- no deal is better than a bad deal. So the president's decided to shake things up in North Korean diplomacy, given the failure of the last three administrations to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea.

He obviously thinks it's -- it's worth trying. We will see now what comes next.

TAPPER: Well, I agree, obviously, that a bad deal is worse than no deal.

BOLTON: Not everybody agrees with that proposition, by the way.

TAPPER: But the North Koreans got something out of this. They got a big international propaganda victory. And I don't see any -- anything that the United States achieved.

And I wonder, without a concrete demonstration that something would be able to be achieved, would you recommend to the president a third summit?

BOLTON: Look, the president simply doesn't agree with the idea that Kim gets something out of these meetings. Others disagree with that. That's not the president's view.

Now, would he want a third summit? He said in his press conference in Hanoi none has been scheduled. Would he want another one without some manifestation the North was going to move? That -- that will remain to be seen.

The key decision-maker is Kim Jong-un. He's heard it directly from the president, the big deal that he could accept. He could walk through that open door. We will wait and see what his decision is.

TAPPER: I want to play what President Trump said about Kim Jong-un and the brutal mistreatment of the American college student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested in North Korea and returned to the United States in a coma, and he subsequently died. Take a listen.


TRUMP: I don't believe that he would have allowed that to happen. He tells me that he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word.


TAPPER: He's going to take Kim Jong-un at his word that he didn't know about it.

The Warmbier family put out a statement. They disagree. They say Kim Jong-un is responsible. Are they wrong?

BOLTON: Look, the president made it very clear he considers what happened to Otto Warmbier an act of brutality that's completely unacceptable to the American side.

I have heard him before the summit itself, before the press conference, talk about how deeply he cared about Otto Warmbier and his family.

The fact is, the best thing North Korea could do right now would be to give us a full accounting of what happened and who was responsible for it.

TAPPER: Do you take Kim Jong-un at his word?

BOLTON: The president takes him at his word.


TAPPER: No, I know he does, but what about you?

BOLTON: My opinion doesn't matter. My opinion is that...


TAPPER: You're the national security adviser to the president.

BOLTON: Right. I'm not...

TAPPER: Your opinion matters quite a bit.

BOLTON: I am not the national security decision-maker. That's his view.

TAPPER: Well, we saw Otto Warmbier in North Korean custody after his arrest at a press conference, February 29, 2016. There he is. He was alert. He was talking. He was physically OK.

So whatever happened to Otto Warmbier clearly happened after he entered North Korean custody, after Kim Jong-un knew that he was in North Korean custody.

Do you believe that somebody in the prison system in North Korea just went rogue and did something to Otto Warmbier, or do your years of knowing North Korea, and knowing the politics there, tell you that, whatever happened to Otto Warmbier, Kim Jong-un had to have known about it, because that's how that country is run?

BOLTON: Listen, nothing that happens in North Korea surprises me.

But I do think what North Korea would benefit from most is a full description of what happened, a full accounting.

TAPPER: I don't know one expert on North Korea who thinks that anything could have happened to Otto Warmbier without Kim Jong-un knowing about it ahead of time.

Do you disagree?

BOLTON: Good for them.

TAPPER: But what about you? You're a North Korea...

BOLTON: I -- look, you know, people in the media seem to have the impression that administration officials kind of comment from the distance, as if I were a FOX News contributor, as I used to be.

TAPPER: Used to be.

BOLTON: I don't do that anymore. I give my advice to the president. I give my opinions to the president. He makes up his own mind. That's why he's president.

TAPPER: So there is this context of President Trump taking the word of Kim Jong-un.

In the past, in Helsinki, he said he believed Vladimir Putin's denials of election interference over that of U.S. intelligence agencies. He has cited Crown Prince MBS' denials of his involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who lived in the United States.

Why does the president say publicly that he's willing to side with dictators over Americans?

BOLTON: He's not saying he's siding with dictators over Americans.

TAPPER: He believes them.

BOLTON: He has -- he has expressed his opinion about what they have said on these various points.


And let's -- let's just take Khashoggi as another example. As with what I just said on North Korea, the administration position expressed by the president and every other official who has addressed it is, we want a full accounting from the Saudis.

So I think that's entirely consistent with finding out, getting to the bottom of what happened.

TAPPER: I want to turn to another subject.

"The New York Times" reported this week that President Trump overruled career intelligence officials in order to give his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner a top security clearance.

President Trump said just last month he didn't get involved. Is the president telling the American people the truth?

BOLTON: Look, I have no idea what the -- what the story is on the security clearances involved there.

So you will have to -- you will have to ask the president. He's given his opinion on it.

TAPPER: Let's turn to some other events around the world.

The United States has been negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan, as you know, trying to broker a peace agreement that would ultimately, perhaps, end up with a withdrawal of all 14,000 U.S. troops and service members who are there.

Take a listen to the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives -- I think you know her -- Congresswoman Liz Cheney, in my interview with her last month.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (D), WYOMING: The Taliban will not live up to any negotiated deal that we set with them. The notion that we're somehow going to have a negotiated deal with the Taliban, that we can take their word that they won't allow al Qaeda to have safe havens again, is, in my view, irresponsible.


TAPPER: Why can the Taliban be trusted to hold up their end of any sort of negotiation?

BOLTON: Well, I don't trust them just as a matter of faith. They will uphold it if it's in their interest to uphold it.

What the president has decided is that it's going to be important to try and keep a counterterrorism presence in Afghanistan. That's a central part of these discussions. I can tell you that senior national security officials have been discussing this issue and how to try and bring it about, how to support the diplomacy that follow our counterterrorism objectives continuously.

We will be doing some of more it this week. It's a very important point. We're putting a lot of energy in it. But there's no blind trust in the Taliban in this administration. That's for sure.

TAPPER: Let's turn to another terrorist group.

On Thursday, President Trump declared victory over ISIS in Syria, saying -- quote -- "We just took over 100 percent of the land controlled by ISIS there."

Yesterday, there was still heavy fighting there. As you know, the president backtracked a bit to say 100 percent of ISIS land will be taken by today.

Has that happened yet? Has ISIS been defeated in 100 percent of the land in Syria?

BOLTON: I don't know, but let's be clear.

We're talking about an area roughly the size of Central Park in New York. And there -- the -- the negotiations have been under way to let some noncombatants out. Some of the ISIS fighters want to visit Allah. That's what they're there to do.

And I think the Syrian opposition is about to accommodate them. But we're talking about an insignificant piece of real estate here, and it will happen very, very soon.

TAPPER: Let's turn to South America.

You tweeted on Friday about Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro -- quote -- "Those who continue to support a dictator that violates human rights and steals from the starving should not be allowed to walk around with impunity" -- unquote.

Just as a matter of course -- and this didn't start with the Trump administration -- the United States supports any number of dictators who violate human rights, including the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE.

Should those who support those dictators not be allowed to walk around with impunity?

BOLTON: You know, I -- I have put out roughly 150 tweets on Venezuela. This is a new experiment in public diplomacy.

The fact is that we're trying to rally support for the peaceful transition of power from Maduro to Juan Guaido, whom we recognize as president. And I think since most of my tweets also come out in Spanish, because we want to reach the Latin American audience in particular, that a lot of people, especially on the political left, in the hemisphere and around the world, now understand that the failed experiment of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro needs to end.

So, I would like to see as broad a coalition as we can put together to replace Maduro, to replace the whole corrupt regime. That's what we're trying to do.

TAPPER: Well, certainly, Maduro is nobody that I would defend in any way.

BOLTON: Well, that's good to hear.

TAPPER: But do you not see that the United States' support for other brutal dictators around the world undermines the credibility of the argument you're making?

BOLTON: No, I don't think it does. I think it's separate. And I think, look, in this administration, we're not afraid to use the

phrase Monroe Doctrine. This is a country in our hemisphere. It's been the objective of American presidents going back to Ronald Reagan to have a completely democratic hemisphere.

I mentioned back in -- at the end of last year that we're looking very much at the troika of tyranny, including Cuba, Nicaragua, as well as Maduro. Part of the problem in Venezuela is the heavy Cuban presence, 20,000 to 25,000 Cuban security officials, by reports that have been in the public.

This is the sort of thing that we find unacceptable. And that's why we're pursuing these policies.

TAPPER: I only have a few more seconds, but I want to ask you about Venezuela.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio is sponsoring legislation to offer TPS status, temporary protected status, to Venezuelans in the U.S. who are at risk of being deported back to the political turmoil, and worse, in Venezuela.

Would you support that?

BOLTON: Well, we will have to take a look at that.


Our objective is to have Juan Guaido become the interim president, so we can get new presidential elections. And if that were to happen, we wouldn't need to grant TPS status.

So, I would rather focus on getting the transformation in Venezuela and getting them back on the road to stability.

TAPPER: I do want to ask you. "The New York Times" has reported that a dual American and Saudi citizen, Walid Fitaihi, told a friend he was in Saudi Arabia and not treated well after being arrested in November 2017.

The Saudis called it a crackdown on corruption. He's in prison now, with no charges, no trial.

What do you know about this? What is the U.S. trying to do to secure his release?

BOLTON: Well, as of this moment, my understanding is we have had what's called consular access, meaning American diplomats in Saudi Arabia have visited with him.

Beyond that, we don't really have any additional information at this point.

TAPPER: Ambassador Bolton, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

BOLTON: Glad to be with you.

TAPPER: The president's criticism of the Russia probe this weekend comes after an extraordinary public betrayal by his former fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen.


COHEN: I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat.


TAPPER: Democratic lawmakers are gearing up to launch even more investigations into the presidency.

The latest, the House Oversight Committee is demand information from the White House on the security clearances of top officials, including and especially the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

"The New York Times" reporting the president overruled concerns from career intelligence officials to grant Kushner a top security clearance.

Joining me now to talk about this and much more, Democrat from Virginia and the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Warner.

Senator, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Good to see you, Jake.

TAPPER: So, let's start with Jared Kushner's security clearance. Is this a threat to national security?

WARNER: Well, the president does have a right to give anyone a security clearance.

But what I think is inappropriate is, these security clearances should be given after the review of the national security officials. The fact that he, in effect, chooses to give a family member, overriding the recommendations of the community, bothers me a great deal.

As we saw earlier, there was also efforts by the president to try to take away security clearances -- I believe it was John Brennan -- when someone -- when he expressed some of his views.

Security clearances have not normally been used as political footballs. But, again, this, as in so many other areas, the president is not adhering to traditional procedures.

TAPPER: The former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, according to "The Times," wrote a contemporaneous memo outlining how the president demanded that he approve the security clearances, against the advice of both the White House Counsel's Office and national security officials. Should Kelly be called to Congress to testify?

WARNER: I think there needs to be further explanation.

Again, you have Mr. Kushner, who has at least tangentially been touched by a number of the investigations. He's clearly got a very strong relationship with the leadership in Saudi Arabia. And the whole idea that the president arbitrarily picks which family members to get security clearances, overriding the advice of the intelligence community -- but we shouldn't be surprised at that.

This president has consistently been willing to override the advice of the intelligence community. And, as you have seen from some of the earlier guests, instead, this president seems to choose the word of dictators over the words of our intelligence community, whether it was in the death of Otto Warmbier, whether it was in the question of believing Vladimir Putin about Russia's non-intervention, intervention in our elections, whether it was believing the leadership of Saudi Arabia about the death of Khashoggi.

TAPPER: Right.

WARNER: There's a pattern here that seems to be constantly repeated that I think all of us, regardless of party, should be very concerned about.

TAPPER: Let's turn to Michael Cohen.

Take a listen to this one key line from his public testimony on Wednesday.


COHEN: Questions have been raised about whether I know of direct evidence that Mr. Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. I do not.


TAPPER: That potentially seems like a big blow to those who are investigating and even hoping to find evidence of conspiracy between the Trump team and the Russian government.

WARNER: Well, Jake, there's lots of evidence.

The question is what kind of conclusion we're going to reach. I mean, the three pieces of evidence that came out of Cohen's testimony -- and let me be first to acknowledge Mr. Cohen doesn't have a great record of veracity. Matter of fact, he is going to jail partially because of lies he made to the Senate Intelligence Committee, although I would argue the president doesn't have a very good record on telling the truth as well.

But the three facts that I thought were new to the investigation, one, the fact that -- and I believe there's extra evidence on this -- that Donald Trump and Michael Cohen misled the American public for months...


TAPPER: About the Trump Tower Moscow.

WARNER: ... about the whole notion of trying to continue to get a Trump Tower project going in Moscow.

And, again, I would point out the fact, Donald Trump had been trying to build a project in Moscow for over a decade. Suddenly, he becomes a candidate for president, and he's got a very lucrative deal on the table. I want to find out why.

The second is the evidence that Mr. Cohen put out that he received -- was in the presence of Donald Trump when Roger Stone called, indicating that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange from WikiLeaks, indicating that WikiLeaks was about to drop a bunch of very damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: Is there any evidence of that, other than Michael Cohen's testimony?

WARNER: Well, the timing seems to be correct.

But, again, that's why we have got to dig in deeper.

TAPPER: But there would be phone records.


WARNER: Well, there are phone records.

And, clearly, Mr. Cohen is in the process of turning over to our committee and others a whole series of additional information.

TAPPER: There are phone records? You know of phone records between Assange and the president?

WARNER: Again, I'm not sure. What I do know...

TAPPER: I mean, Assange and Stone and the president?

WARNER: What I do know is that Mr. Cohen is supposed to be turning over additional records that we have been looking for, for some time.

And I will -- that's a fair question to ask, once we get a chance to look at those -- look at those records.


WARNER: And then, finally, we have this whole question where, again, Mr. Cohen put out the fact that he believes that Mr. Cohen -- or Mr. Trump knew about the meeting in Trump Tower that included Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, the campaign manager, Paul Manafort, clearly a meeting that was not about Russian adoptions, but what about the idea of turning over dirt on Hillary Clinton. You add that on top of Paul Manafort giving campaign materials.


WARNER: So, anyone that says there's no evidence of collaboration,, there's plenty of evidence. The question is, what kind of full conclusion do we reach? And I'm going to reserve my judgment on that conclusion until we finish our investigation.

TAPPER: Well, when you say anyone who says there's no evidence, the chairman of the committee that you're vice chairman of, Senator Richard Burr of -- Republican of North Carolina, he says there's no direct evidence.

And it sounds like he wants to put together and put out a bipartisan report, Democrats and Republicans signing on to it, detailing what evidence there is. But, also, his opinion is, there's no direct evidence.

You seem to be suggesting there's circumstantial evidence.

WARNER: I think there is.

TAPPER: He's saying there's no direct evidence. Could you sign off on that report, a bipartisan report?

WARNER: I'm going to withdraw my -- withhold my judgment.

We still not have seen many of the major figures, candidly, because they have all been involved with the Mueller investigation, and it's important that the criminal process proceeds first.

But we, as the Senate bipartisan counterintelligence investigation, need to see these people. I will reach my final conclusion once we see these people. But the notion that there's...

TAPPER: Who are you talking about? Which people?

WARNER: The notion that there's no evidence is just factually wrong.

Just in the public domain, there are literally reams and reams of evidence of Russian outreach to Trump officials and clear interest from Trump officials, including the president's own son, welcoming the opportunity to get dirt on Hillary.

TAPPER: Sure, circumstantial evidence, as opposed to direct evidence, is what -- you and Burr go back and forth on that.


WARNER: I think one of the things -- and I don't claim to be a legal expert, by any means.

But folks who I have talked to who have been in the prosecutorial business have said, when you're looking at conspiracies, it's almost always based upon a pattern of circumstantial evidence. TAPPER: So you tweeted this week that not only the full Mueller

report, but all of the investigation's records should be handed over to Congress.

The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, cautioned about having such complete transparency from the government more broadly this week. He said -- quote -- "If we aren't prepared to prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt in court, then we have no business making allegations against American citizens."

You disagree with him?

WARNER: Well, what I say is, there has precedents been set within the last few years, when Republican members of the House demanded all the underlying documents about the non-indictment of Hillary Clinton.

Now, the Justice Department and the FBI turned over all those documents. That precedent has now been set. Depending on what Mueller finds, I believe the Congress deserves to look at all the underlying materials as well.

And one of the things that I'm hoping, and that I'm going to be calling upon, is, when Mr. Mueller finishes his report and when he turns it over to Mr. Barr, I think it's incumbent upon the attorney general to brief congressional leaders, at least the Gang of Eight -- and that's appropriate for our role -- in terms of what his plan is on how he's going to distribute this information.

Matter of fact, I was actually pleased when Devin Nunes, the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee, put out just yesterday or the day before that he thought all of this underlying information ought to be made public.

I think the American public deserves to know, not only because we need to know what Trump and his organization knew or didn't know in terms of collaboration and collusion, but, also, we need to make sure we have as much evidence out there as possible on how we prevent Russia or others from doing this again in the future.


TAPPER: Senator, very quickly, before you go, your home state, the governor, Ralph Northam, who had the blackface incident, the lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, accused by two women of sexual assault, they are both still in office, even though you have called for both of them to step down.

How embarrassing is that for you, as a Virginia Democrat?

WARNER: Listen, as somebody who spent 20 years trying to build a brand about Virginia Democrats and, candidly, Virginia, where we most recently won the award of the Amazon headquarters, it's been very challenging.

But if the governor and lieutenant governor are going to continue, I think the lieutenant governor needs -- there needs to be a due process, where the accusers get a chance to make their case, where the lieutenant governor gets to make his defense.

And one of the things, if the governor is going to continue to stay, what he needs to do is get out and start to try to re-earn the trust of Virginians. When I called for his resignation, along with my friend Tim Kaine, we said the governor had lost the faith of the people of Virginia.

He has a right to try to regain that faith. But I believe that will involve him getting out and making that case directly to Virginians.

TAPPER: But just yes or no, you still think they should both step down?

WARNER: Listen, I think we have made our -- we made our call weeks ago.

Both of these gentlemen, if they're going to stay, there needs to be a process in place, so that they can go about trying to re-earn the faith of Virginians.

TAPPER: Senator Mark Warner, thank you so much.

WARNER: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Will the president's own party support his emergency declaration on the wall? We will talk to two Republican lawmakers who see it completely differently next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

House Democrats are upping the pressure on President Trump, but in the coming days, President Trump may face a challenge to his authority from an unexpected source, Senate Republicans, who could force him to grab his veto pen over their concerns about his executive authority on the border wall.

And joining me now, Republican from Louisiana, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator John Kennedy.


Senator, thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.


TAPPER: So, Michael Cohen testified under oath before the House Oversight Committee that the president directed him to commit a campaign finance violation and cut him reimbursement checks while he was president.

You're a lawyer. You sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Do you think that, if what Cohen was saying true -- and he did have that check as evidence -- you think that was illegal, unethical? Neither? Both? KENNEDY: Jake, I don't know.

I didn't listen to the testimony. I was in committee over in the Senate. But I read excerpts. Mr. Cohen has accused the president of violating our banking laws, of violating our campaign finance laws.

I feel pretty confident that he's given all that information to Mr. Mueller. We will see what Mr. Mueller has to say.

I think any fair-minded person would have to question Mr. Cohen's checkered past. He's an angry man. He's bitter. That much is clear. As I said the other day, I'm not saying he's on-the-pipe crazy, but he's a little unbalanced.

But, look, I don't know who is telling the truth and who isn't. But Mr. Mueller, I'm sure, will get to the bottom of it.

My personal opinion about Mr. Cohen is that he has an axe to grind. And I think most Americans will understand his checkered past.

TAPPER: The Southern District of New York, the U.S. attorney there, says Cohen, who is going to jail for election fraud and other charges, Cohen -- quote -- "acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election" at the direction of President Trump himself in these hush money payments.


TAPPER: That's the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. That's a crime. He's going to jail for it.

But what about the president's role in it, as asserted by the U.S. attorney?

KENNEDY: Once again, if it's true, if it's true.

TAPPER: Well, the U.S. attorney says it's true.

KENNEDY: Well, if it's true, then he will bring an indictment and...

TAPPER: Against the president?

KENNEDY: I don't know. But he will -- if it's true, he will prosecute it, if he thinks he can win.

But I will tell you this. I will bet, if anybody prosecutes any of the crimes that Mr. Cohen alleged, they won't rely solely on Mr. Cohen's testimony. I mean, to put it in commonsensical terms, I wouldn't take Mr. Cohen's check, and I will bet you wouldn't either.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about another item from Cohen's hearing.

Take a listen to this exchange between Cohen and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?



TAPPER: Should Congress investigate whether or not President Trump committed insurance fraud?

KENNEDY: Well, I think the House is going to investigate, regardless of what -- whether we should or we shouldn't.

We both understand, I think, that there's a political tinge to all of this. There's going to be two years of this. I hope we get something done, besides investigations aimed at impacting the next election.

We have got two years left. We can ride the anger, or we can try to solve some problems around here. I hope we do the latter.

TAPPER: You're on the record saying you are going to vote to support the president's declaration of national emergency on the southern border.


TAPPER: Not all of your Republican colleagues are on board.

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander took to the Senate floor to oppose the emergency this week. He said -- quote -- "There's no limit to the imagination of what the next left-wing president could do to harm our country with this precedent."

Do you not have similar concerns about the precedent this might set?

KENNEDY: Well, here's why I find that a specious argument.

The assumption is that a future president who happened to be a Democrat would not be smart enough or not have a staff smart enough to understand that there is a National Emergencies Act statute and there are other statutes, I think, over 100 of them, that give the president this authority.

Look, he's not using any authority that Congress hasn't already given him. Using -- using this authority is not and was not my preferred choice. But, unlike some of my colleagues, I don't think that the president doing this is going to end Western order. The sun will come up the next morning.

I do think he is probably rethinking the situation. As I understand it, he has the ability, without resorting to a national emergency. He can put together $4.5 billion, maybe $5 billion. I have been asked repeatedly, what's the vote going to be in the Senate? I don't know. But I will tell you this right now. I don't think the president has the votes on a straight-up vote to sustain his position. Now, if the Senate says, Mr. President, you don't have the authority, as the House did, I expect the president to veto it, and we will be right back to where we are now.

TAPPER: Congressman Justin Amash, the only Republican in the House co-sponsoring legislation to terminate the emergency, he's coming up next.


TAPPER: He says President Trump is -- quote -- "attempting to circumvent our constitutional system."


Now, yes, the National Emergency Act exists, but it's never been used before, as you know, to get funds for something that Congress will not allocate funds for.

KENNEDY: Right. Right.

TAPPER: Do you not have any concerns on constitutional grounds?

KENNEDY: Well, again, it wasn't my preferred choice. I would have preferred to have Congress do its job.

Now, not all my colleagues agree with me, but I do believe that we have a problem at the border. We have a crisis at the border. We have had, in my judgment, a 15-year bipartisan refusal here in Washington, D.C., by both big government Republicans and Ritz-Carlton Democrats to refuse to enforce America's immigration laws.

Trump's enforcing them. Now, you may like that or dislike it, but he's enforcing them. Some of my colleagues don't agree with him. To them, the border is kind of a nuisance.

TAPPER: You are talking about Republican colleagues, too?

KENNEDY: I'm talking about Democratic colleagues.


KENNEDY: So, to them, the border is a nuisance. To some of my Democratic friends, there's no -- they make no distinction between legal and illegal immigration, and, if you disagree with them, you're a racist.

I believe that legal immigration makes our country stronger. I believe that illegal immigration undermines legal immigration. I believe that illegal immigration is illegal. I mean, duh.

TAPPER: Right.

KENNEDY: And one way, one way you combat it, not the only way, is a border wall.

I don't see how any fair-minded person can conclude, particularly if he or she has border security experience, that you can secure 1,900 miles of real estate without a wall or a barrier. You can't.

And every other country that has used one, Israel, for example, with its 400-mile border wall with the West Bank, they have found success with it. Now, you can debate whether it's ethical or moral or the right thing to do, but that's a different debate, Jake, from what -- from the debate of whether it's effective. It's very effective.

TAPPER: All right, well, let's hear the other side of it.

Senator John Kennedy, we appreciate your time.

KENNEDY: Thanks, man.

TAPPER: And we appreciate your being here this morning.

Let's go to that Republican lawmaker who says it's not his job to support the president 100 percent, Republican Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, also a member of the House Oversight Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

You just heard Senator Kennedy explain why he thinks Republicans should support the president's national emergency. You are only one of 13 of the nearly 200 Republicans in the House who oppose the emergency.

What is your response?

REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R), MICHIGAN: Well, thanks, Jake, for having me on.

We have a system of separation of powers under our Constitution. The legislative branch, Congress, handles legislative powers. And this is something that we have had going through Congress for the past several years. There's been discussions about border wall or fencing.

We have passed appropriations bills. The president has signed the bills. He hasn't vetoed the bills. So, if he wanted to say that there was a crisis, he could have vetoed the legislation. He's never vetoed appropriations legislation.

And now he wants to declare an emergency to do something that Congress has already debated and discussed.

TAPPER: You have already heard Senator Kennedy say this -- and President Trump has said this many times -- that there is a -- quote -- "national security crisis" on the border. Is that wrong?

AMASH: I think there's a fair debate that there are big problems on the border. Some people would call it a crisis.

But that has to go through Congress. So, we have a legislative branch, Congress, that handles these issues. And the president doesn't get to decide that he can override Congress simply because Congress doesn't do what he wants.

I know that there are a lot of people in the country who agree with the president, and that's why we have Congress, so we can debate these issues. And if there were an emergency in the sense that the president is describing, there would be a lot more consensus.

When a house is on fire, nobody is debating whether they should go into save people or whether they should put out the fire. Everyone understands that's an emergency.

The fact that there's a debate going on here, and there is not consensus, indicates it's not an emergency in the sense that the president is describing, and he can't just go around Congress.

TAPPER: You tweeted this week -- quote -- "If you think my job is to support the president 100 percent, then you don't understand what it means to be a representative in Congress. My job is to support the Constitution 100 percent" -- unquote.

Do you think that Republicans who are supporting this national emergency are abdicating their responsibilities to the Constitution?

AMASH: I think so, yes.

I don't think that they are all intending to do that. I think many of them are making arguments. They're trying to make legal arguments. They say, well, Congress has passed legislation giving the president this power. So I don't think that they are thinking to themselves, oh, I just want the president to violate the Constitution.

But I think the president is violating our constitutional system. And I don't think Congress can grant legislative powers to the president by statute. You can't just pass a statute that says, the president now has appropriations power and bypass Congress.

I don't think that's -- that's allowed under our constitutional system. And the best check on the president's action is Congress. It's not the courts. Our system is not designed so that the courts are going to resolve these disputes all the time between the legislative branch the executive branch.


We have to protect our own power. And that's what I'm doing. And I'm hopeful many Republican senators will agree.

TAPPER: Well, let's turn to oversight, because it was part of the House Oversight Committee hearings to hear from Michael Cohen this week.

We heard a lot of your fellow Republicans attacking Cohen over his credibility, which is certainly ripe for attack. But you seemed to spend your time in the hearing trying to elicit information, trying to get to the core of Michael Cohen's motivations. Let's run a quick excerpt.


AMASH: You feel you are following a different set of principles now than you followed throughout your life?

COHEN: I do. And I'm trying. I'm trying very hard. I thank you for your questions. Some of the other ones really make it difficult to try to, you know, show some redemption, but I am -- I am trying.


TAPPER: Do you believe him?

AMASH: As I said at the hearing, I'm not sure we should believe him. He's had a very checkered past.

I do think that he deserves the opportunity to be believed. So that's why I asked those questions. I wanted to hear from him. I wanted to give him a chance to provide answers to more open-ended questions, rather than conducting a hearing where we're just yelling at him or trying to grandstand or make political statements during the hearing.

I think the purpose of an oversight hearing is to gather information for investigative purposes. And that's what I was trying to do.

TAPPER: You also asked him during his testimony -- quote -- "What is the truth that you know President Trump fears the most?"

It seemed to stump him. It was an interesting question. Why did you ask that?

AMASH: Well, again, I wanted to give him the opportunity to answer something in a more open-ended way.

And I felt like giving a question like that would give him the opportunity to speak freely and to give us something that was perhaps new, something that would be helpful to us as we conduct this investigation.

And it did stump him. I was surprised by that, actually, because I figured, with all of his history with the president, he would have something to say. It's possible that there is something he wants to say, but feels restricted because of the ongoing investigation in the courts.

TAPPER: Did you have a suspicion as to what it might be?

AMASH: I don't know, but I just wanted to give him that opportunity and see what happens.


You reportedly told Libertarians in an event in January that the ideal Libertarian presidential candidate needs to be able to bring Democrats and Republicans together and not just appeal to die-hard Libertarians.

You notably did not endorse President Trump in 2016. Would you be willing to run for the White House as the Libertarian nominee in 2020?

AMASH: Well, I would never rule anything out. That's not on my radar right now.

But I think that it is important that we have someone in there who is presenting a vision for America that is different from what these two parties are presenting. Right now, we have a wild amount of partisan rhetoric on both sides. And Congress is totally broken. We can't debate things in a clear way anymore.

Everything has become, do you like President Trump or do you not like President Trump?

And I think that we need to return to basic American principles, talk about what we have in common as a people, because I believe we have a lot in common as Americans, and try to move forward together, rather than fighting each other all the time.

TAPPER: Sounds like a platform.

Congressman Justin Amash, appreciate your time this morning. Thank you so much.

AMASH: Thanks so much, Jake.

TAPPER: Senator Bernie Sanders says he's not interested in take anything advice from Hillary Clinton for his 2020 campaign. So that might make things a little awkward while they're together today. That's next. Stay with us.




SANDERS: As we launch this campaign for president, you deserve to know where I came from. My experience as a child living in a family that struggled economically powerfully influenced my life and my values. I know where I came from!



TAPPER: Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont. But that Brooklyn is thick in his voice. And, of course, it was on display yesterday as he announced his presidential campaign. Our panel is here with us.

Senator -- I mean, governor, let me start with you. There's obviously a very conscious effort to show more of the story of Bernie Sanders here and who he is and not just the policies he stands for. Was that what was lacking in 2016? Is it working so far? JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I certainly think it was a smart move yesterday. Because I think in this age of craving for authenticity, people showing where they came from, especially if they have overcome something. If there is a challenge. And then they link their policies to it, it makes perfect sense.

So I think it was a really smart move. Otherwise, you know, you don't want to just hear the same old, same old policies again. You have to understand what drives somebody.

TAPPER: And he's also emphasizing his commitment to the civil rights movement way back in the '60s when he was at the University of Chicago. He was criticized last time for not connecting effectively with the African-American community. Is this part of what he needs to do to get the nomination? I know you're not necessarily rooting for it --


BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, I think -- I think that Bernie Sanders has a long way to go.


And I -- there's a certain part of me that believes that ship has already sailed. I mean, it's not the fact that Bernie Sanders marched with Dr. King in the '60s. I think that was one of the first things that he said. The question was, where have you been and what have you done since then. Where has your activism been since the '60s and show me your legislation as mayor of Burlington or why you've been in the United States House or United States Senate to positively affect change in the African-American community. And he wasn't able to articulate that answer.

A lot of the success Bernie Sanders had was the fact that he was the anti Hillary Clinton at the time. And he was a home for people who had a problem with Hillary Clinton. Now the field is vast. There are other people in this quote, unquote, "progressive lane" and I think that Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto, Biden and Sherrod Brown and a few others are really out there running magnificent campaigns. And Bernie Sanders' voice, which has had a huge impact on our policies is one that's going to be loud and resonates.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, every time I see Bernie Sanders and the attraction he is getting I think of him as the Rand Paul of the left. He is a protest candidate.

A septuagenarian. He speaks fondly of revolution and has traditionally operated outside the party structures. That said, he's doing pretty well in the polls.

TAPPER: He's ahead. Yes.

GRANHOLM: In some.

CARPENTER: Democrats have a huge opportunity to pick up (INAUDIBLE) Republicans. But if they latch on to someone who self-identifies as a socialist, that is going to drive Republicans back into the arms of Trump, especially when the platform has, you know, a $82 trillion tag on the Green New Deal, $32 trillion for Medicare for all. I mean, these are ideas that are popular with a certain segment of his base, but not --


TAPPER: I know you want to bash socialism --


DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I'm not bashing socialism. I'm just going to say they to that point -- right --


URBAN: If you look at the 40 members of the House who are elected, Democrats elected in the House, 33 of those members are new dems, centrist new dems. So you have AOC, Bernie, all these progressives in the party pulling the party to the left pretty strongly. And then you have these 40 people who are elected, 33 of them, new dem centrist and you see this past week there is a tug of war in the House between AOC -- I'm going to put you on the list if you don't vote for these progressive things. We're going to bash -- there is going to be a real battle in the Democratic Party for where the soul is of (ph) the (ph) party (ph).

GRANHOLM: Let's just say that 284 people identify as Democrats or caucus with the Democrats in Congress, 282 (ph) identify as Democratic socialists.


URBAN: But all the candidates -- interestingly -- but interestingly --


SELLER: If I can --

URBAN: Interestingly all the candidates are running --


GRANHOLM: I'm agreeing with you.


GRANHOLM: You don't need to argue with me.


SELLERS: I think that, you know, a lot of people fail -- they just fail to remember, as Republicans try to cause this divide that Hillary Clinton did win by 4 million votes. This was not a close race. TAPPER: Agree. OK.

URBAN: That's not how the game is played, that's not how the game is played though.

SELLERS: But, but, but, but, but --

TAPPER: Right.

SELLERS: But one of the points that you were bringing up when we talk about policies is, yes, Bernie and AOC and a lot of my progressive colleagues, those people on the left, are talking about these grand ideas. But the party is -- that's OK to talk about how we're going to insure people and how we're going to fix climate change. Nothing is wrong with that.

TAPPER: Bernie Sanders, I believe, at the next presidential election, will be -- I believe -- and correct me if I am wrong, 77 years old or thereabouts. There is a brand-new NBC "Wall Street Journal" poll out this morning, among all voters, how comfortable you are -- are you with the candidate being over 75 years old. Thirty-seven percent say that they are enthusiastic or comfortable, 62 percent of those polled say they have reservations about a candidate that old or very uncomfortable.

Now, only two candidates that I know of fit the category of will be over 75 at the time in the next presidential election.

GRANHOLM: Trump is pretty close.

TAPPER: He's close, but he's not there. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Now I recognize there's an ageist quality to all of this. What do you think of it?

GRANHOLM: Are you asking me for a reason?


TAPPER: I'm asking you because you're -- a former governor to my right.

GRANHOLM: I'm totally kidding. I think --

TAPPER: Dave's the old man at the table.

GRANHOLM: If you ask -- if you ask people -- if you ask people who are over 70 whether they're comfortable, my guess is they would be uncomfortable. So you have to --

TAPPER: Seventy-nine, I'm told in my ear. Bernie will be 79 in the next election.

GRANHOLM: Yes. I mean, that's getting up there. And so the question is, how are these individuals -- how are they? Are they sharp? I was talking to someone close to the Biden team this week. If he does jump in -- I mean, I think he's got a huge amount to offer. TAPPER: He'll be 78.

GRANHOLM: Right. And I say, how is he doing? They said -- the guy is exercising, he's sharp, he's not slowing down.

URBAN: But that's what motivates the base --


SELLERS: I want to run for office again so I'm not going to dare say that we shouldn't -- I'm not going to be ageist. I'm not going to walk (ph) that (ph) path (ph).


SELLERS: I will say, though, that Bernie Sanders biggest -- I mean, not Bernie Sanders, excuse me. Joe Biden's biggest problems are not his age. Bernie Sanders -- I mean, Joe Biden --

GRANHOLM: Joe Biden.

SELLERS: Joe Biden's biggest problem is what he's going to have to do one day is look into a camera and apologize to Anita Hill and he's going to have to address the '94 crime bill. He has substantive policy issues that he's going to have to address. Being 78, 79 is not at the top of the list.

TAPPER: Yes. So one other thing that happened with Joe Biden this week was really interesting. He called Mike Pence, the vice president, a decent guy.


URBAN: God forbid.

TAPPER: Kind of just a throw-away line when he was talking about the Munich conference. Progressive activist, Cynthia Nixon who ran for governor and lost in the primary to Governor Cuomo, tweeted, "Joe Biden you just called America's most anti-LGBT elected leader 'a decent guy.' Please consider how this falls on the ears of our community." She subsequently wrote an op-ed in "The Washington Post."

Biden responded, "You're right, Cynthia. I was making a point in a foreign policy context, that under normal circumstances a vice president wouldn't be given a silent reaction on the world stage. But there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ right, and that includes the vice president."

GRANHOLM: Can I just put a stake in the ground for graciousness? I mean, Joe Biden wasn't saying that his policies were decent. He was saying that he was a decent human being. Joe Biden is ahead of -- was ahead of Obama, on LGBT issues. So --

TAPPER: Much to Obama's chagrin. Yes.

GRANHOLM: At the time. Yes. I mean, my point is that I -- Joe Biden, who is just a good human being, let people be decent.

SELLERS: I know.

GRANHOLM: Let people be gracious. You don't have to -- I mean, I disagree with you on almost everything. I still think you're a decent guy.

URBAN: Thank you.

GRANHOLM: My dad is a Republican.

SELLERS: Your dad is a Republican?

GRANHOLM: My dad is a Republican and he's such a decent human being.


CARPENTER: But Biden did (INAUDIBLE) and kind of say he is indecent. This is the problem. When you say someone is indecent, you're are disqualifying them from the conversation. You're saying I won't even talk to you about your position on gay marriage. And when the conversation stops, that's when you get so polarized. Democrats down this route, you are shutting out all Mike Pence --


SELLERS: I know we have to do a better job. I agree with that. And it's not necessarily about Mike Pence's voters or anything else. But it's about basic humanity. I mean, wait until people find out that I actually consider myself friends with Strom Thurmond's (ph) son.


SELLER: I mean, I actually served with Paul Thurmond (ph). Like -- I mean, that's South Carolina politics. It's OK to say that people are decent human beings and wholeheartedly disagree with their politics.

I don't see anything wrong with that. In fact, I like David and Amanda.


GRANHOLM: And I would hope the president -- and I would hope the president would take that issue.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you just briefly, David, because the president yesterday said that there are members of Congress who hate America. I mean, that's --

URBAN: Listen, this is a red meat speech for the base at CPAC, right? This is a campaign event.

GRANHOLM: But that was not a decent thing to say.

URBAN: No, it's not decent. I believe that, you know, everybody who serves in Congress -- people who run for political office, love our country regardless of the (INAUDIBLE).

GRANHOLM: Of course, they do.

URBAN: You don't do it because you hate America. You do it because you love America.

TAPPER: OK. That's four decent people at this panel. Thank you so much.

SELLERS: Five. The host ain't bad.

TAPPER: Thank you. I wasn't going to include myself but I appreciate it. There is one thing Michael Cohen is not turning his back on a potential movie deal and that's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."


TAPPER (voice-over): Long-time Trump fixer Michael Cohen told Congress this week that he's not only considering a book offer but a movie deal. He even joked about casting.

COHEN: If you want to tell me who you would like to play you, I'm more than happy to write the name down.

TAPPER: How would Michael Cohen see himself in such a film. Obviously, he thinks he's the hero. Is it a courtroom drama? Say, a few "not so good men?"

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want the truth!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't handle the truth!

TAPPER: Or does he see himself as a charming rogue, using his quit wit to con unsuspecting victims. Catch me if you Cohen. Trump's former fixer will definitely need cash so he might favor a summer blockbuster. Maybe a mild-mannered lawyer comes in contact with radioactive Trump and it turns him into a monster.


TAPPER: There were times during Cohen's testimony when it sounded almost as though he was describing a love affair gone bad. Ala "Fatal Attraction."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what you're up to but I'm going to tell you it's going to stop right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it's not going to stop. It's going to go on and on until you face up to your responsibilities. I'm not going to be ignored!

TAPPER: Or maybe an action picture, joining other former Trumpers on a cross-country flight to prison. Welcome onboard, Cohen air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They somehow managed to get every creep and freak in the universe on this one plane.


TAPPER: Three generations, two presidents, one powerful family. "THE BUSH YEARS" premieres tonight at 9:00 on CNN. Take a look.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would like to introduce you to my family. The fact is, I would be nothing without them. Our four sons, our daughter, Doro, my own Barbara Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's hard to imagine any family that have been more significant to American politics.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can hear you and the people who knock these buildings down will hear all of us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Bush Family going back generations believe in public service and helping their fellow man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People referred to the Bush Family as a dynasty. That's what it is, and that's what it was.

W. BUSH: I'm running for president of the United States, there is no turning back and I intend to be the next president of the United States.

H.W. BUSH: That's my boy.




TAPPER: "FAREED ZAKARIA" starts right now.