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Julian Castro (D) Presidential Candidate Discusses the Mueller Report, Trump Misbehavior in Office, Possible Impeachment, Presidential Race; Calls for Sarah Sanders to Resign after Mueller Report Shows She Lied to Public on Comey Firing; Mueller Report Shows Bar for Trump's Conduct So Low It's Brushed Aside as Meaningless. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 19, 2019 - 14:30   ET



[14:30:59] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The core conclusions from the Robert Mueller final report prompted the president to declare victory but Democrats say they now have even more questions about the president's behavior while in office. Especially when it comes to instances where he and aides and lawyers lied or misled the public. While most Democrats are doubling down on their push to continue investigating the president, some lawmakers say it will be left up to voters to decide the president's fate.

Presidential candidate, Julian Castro, is joining me. He served as HUD secretary under President Obama.

Thank you so much for joining us.

Do you think this report, as the public sees it now, is making any 2016 Trump voters change their minds?

JULIAN CASTRO, (D), FORMER HUD SECRETARY & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I wouldn't be surprised at all if it is. It will give anybody who follows these issues pause. And one of the things that just as a regular person that somebody wants as a voter is when they put their trust in somebody as an elected official, they want to know whether that elected official is being straight with them. And this is the most compelling evidence we have so far that Donald Trump has not been straight with the American people, including with people who voted for him. So, yes, it wouldn't surprise me at all if there are some folks who voted for him in 2016 that thought perhaps at the time that he was going to level with them and they see in this report very clearly how much he's gone out of his way to lie and to try and put his interests above their interests.

COOPER: Although, voters have, if they are following events, that have seen that time and time again in terms of reporting and in terms of what has emerged and starting with the last two years, there's an argument that because a lot of this had been reported out and accurate, that it doesn't have the same impact now that there has been this kind of drip, drip, drip of the president lying, and being turned out by reporters. It doesn't seem surprising to people even though arguably you could look at everything compiled in the Mueller report and some would be stunned by it.

CASTRO: Well, I don't disagree with that. I do think, though, that the amount of attention that this report is getting is -- probably means that more people are paying attention than have necessarily to one bit -- or piece of information along the way. I think putting it together in the way this report did and all of the attention it is getting now, and it will probably get in Congress in the months to come, is going to permeate the American people's consciousness more than one single bit of information has over the last 18 months or something.

COOPER: What should Democrats do, particularly like yourself and others who are running to get the nomination for the Democratic Party, for the presidency? Do you think there should be impeachment proceedings?

CASTRO: I think it would be perfectly reasonable for Congress to open up those proceedings. And it is clear that Bob Mueller in his report left that in the hands of Congress. They're going to decide whether they go down that route. For me, I'm running for president and there's an election in November of 2020. And one of the things I believe the American people want is somebody that will restore honor and integrity to the White House. And I have a track record in public service of integrity. I'm going to go out there and argue to the American people what I would do for them and for their families. And so Washington, D.C., I think, will handle this Mueller report. I'm out there every day making my case to the American people of why I should be president.

COOPER: So that is what -- when you're out there, do you talk about President Trump, do you talk about this report, about the -- how the White House is run or are you focused squarely on tabletop issues on the economy and health care and things of that nature?

[14:35:05] CASTRO: Well, I talk about it when it comes up. And sometimes people ask about it. But mostly people are concerned about what they have to grapple with in everyday lives. Whether their kids are getting a good education and job opportunities and their health care. But the thing is that there's a lot of disappointment out there with how this president has performed on those issues. More than a million people have lost their health care coverage under this administration because they are trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. People don't believe that this president is doing the right thing when it comes to education out there. This president promised the sky when it came to job creation and in places like Wisconsin and, instead, we see employers are laying people off. So he's failed, not only in terms of whether he's honest or not, but also in terms of creating jobs and in terms of improving education, improving health care. There's a lot there to work with, Anderson, for sure.

COOPER: Just talking about 2020, today, CNN is reporting that Joe Biden will make his formal announcement this week. You have spoken -- he's your former boss. You have spoken to him or President Obama about what it would be like to run against the -- excuse me, you have spoken to your former boss President Obama, about what it would be like to run against the former vice president? CASTRO: I haven't. I had spoken to President Obama before I decided

to get into the race myself. I was very appreciative of his advice. We didn't talk about any other candidates though and --


COOPER: Does this change the race for you?

CASTRO: Not at all. I mean, we have, what, 18 or 19 candidates in this race. I'm going out there and I'm making a case for my vision for the country's future, that we need to be the smartest and the healthiest and the fairest and more prosperous nation on earth in the 21st century. And I'm laying out a blueprint of how we get there. And I'll do that and focus on what voters are concerned about in terms of how they could do better in this country. Regardless of how many candidates get in or who they are or what is happening in Washington, D.C., I'm going to get out there with a strong, positive, compelling vision for the future of this country.

COOPER: Julian Castro, appreciate your time. Thanks for joining me.

CASTRO: Great to be with you.

COOPER: Just in, we're learning about threats against several candidates and Democratic candidates.

Plus, Sarah Sanders admitting to Robert Mueller she lied to the press and now she's trying to spin her way out of it. That's next.


[14:41:38] COOPER: Just into CNN, charges against a man from Florida accused of making threats against multiple Democratic lawmakers. Court documents show he called and threatened California Congressman Eric Swalwell, Minnesota Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. The calls happened earlier this week they were vulgar, anti-Islamic and racist, according to documents. Capitol police have a case on him from February when he left profane and harassing voice mails for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Office.

Calls for White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders to resign or be fired after admitting she misled the public about why the president fired former FBI Director James Comey. The Mueller report reveals Sanders admitted in her statements about how the FBI rank-and-file felt about Comey were, quote, "not founded on anything." That is a quote from the Mueller report, not specifically from her. And were, in her words, quote, "a slip of the tongue."

Here is what she told reporters on the day after Comey was fired.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The rank-and-file of the FBI had lost confidence in your director.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So what is your response to these rank-and- file FBI agents that disagree with your contention that they lost faith in Director Comey?

SANDERS: We've heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.


COOPER: And now post-Mueller report, here is what Sanders is saying about the same remarks.


SANDERS: I said the slip of tongue was in using the word "countless." I'm sorry I wasn't a robot like the Democrat Party that went out for two and a half years and stated, time and time again, that there was definitely Russian collusion between the president and his campaign.

I said it was in the heat of the moment, meaning it wasn't a script the thing, it was something that I said.

The big takeaway here is that the sentiment is 100 percent accurate.


COOPER: Well, Jim Acosta is CNN chief White House correspondent.

Pretty stunning admission from a government official who is paid by Americans to tell the truth.


COOPER: And she would say this is under oath, and now in television she's no longer under oath.

ACOSTA: Right.

COOPER: What is the -- you deal with her and that office, what is the mood right now like?

ACOSTA: Well, Anderson, I think the press corps, I think lost confidence would be an expression that might be used by some of my colleagues. But then again, there have been concerns about what Sarah has been saying for some time now. I think that just goes without saying.

And in terms of the calls to resign -- for Sarah Sanders to resign, the White House is not responding to that. We've barely heard from the White House today. With respect to what the president is doing down in Florida, I could tell you right now that, according to the White House press office, he is playing golf with Rush Limbaugh and other friends according to the White House. We believe that to be true. Really all, that we're hearing.

For some time, we just haven't heard from Sarah Sanders in the White House press corp. She would occasionally come and talk to us in the driveway here after doing an interview on FOX News or that sort of thing. And typically she would take a few questions and then head inside. We've only had two White House press briefings in the last 100 days, which is a pretty staggering data point, I think, for somebody who is a taxpayer-funded public servant, somebody working on behalf of the taxpayers in the role of informing the public and the press. And I just think, at this point, what you're going to hear over the next several days, until Sarah deals with it, I think, in a more effective way than this morning, where she was just sort of shouting at news anchors asking legitimate questions, I think this conversation about whether or not Sarah should continue is just something we're going to be hearing about for the -- until she really deals with this forcefully and she hasn't done that at this point -- Anderson?

[14:45:22] COOPER: Her own contention that countless FBI agents were reaching out to her, A, would be highly unusual if serving FBI agents were calling up Sarah Sanders at the White House press office to vent their feelings about the director of the FBI.

But what is also interesting about this is that it wasn't just this. The press office, according to the Mueller report, they tried to get Rod Rosenstein to lie. The press office, specifically, tried to get Rod Rosenstein to make a statement saying that he was the one who came up with the idea and pushed the idea of firing Comey, just as the president tried to get Rod Rosenstein to hold a press conference to take the heat.

ACOSTA: That is right. And what this points to -- and it's something I've heard from Trump aides and associates and advisers going back to the campaign -- they do not view talking to the public, talking to the press in the same way that they view talking to the FBI or talking in a situation where they could perjure themselves. They don't view lying to the press as perjury. They view lying to the press as another day at the office. And I hate to put it in those terms because it sounds rather harsh.

But, Anderson, what Sarah Sanders is getting raked over for, over the last 24 hours, memorialized in the Mueller report. Sean Spicer was doing that before --


ACOSTA: Sarah Sanders became the White House press secretary.

COOPER: And that's also --


ACOSTA: The inauguration and crowd size and lie and so on. And that is also in the Mueller report. You're right.

And president -- the "Washington Post" fact-checker said, in the number of 10,000 false and misleading and half-truth statements since he came into office, and that doesn't even account for what he said during the campaign. And so we've been sort of battling up against -- and you have as well, Anderson -- this blizzard of lies. And it has, I think, shaken the confidence in the American people in terms of what they're hearing coming out of the White House and what should be said in that White House briefing room, which should be the truth. It should be reliable information because so much of that is said in that briefing room and what is said by the public officials is so very, very important.

And my guess is, Anderson, they'll have to do some soul searching as to whether or not they could continue in this capacity. They can't keep gaslighting the American people from their taxpayer-funded positions inside of the White House. I just think it is unsustainable.

COOPER: I'm not sure where you get the idea they may do soul searching or for them -- it seems like it is sustainable for them, thus far. They've been doing it for two years now.


ACOSTA: I think you have to have -- I think you have to -- Anderson, I think you have to have hope. And there are human beings that work inside of this building, and I know that they just went through a very difficult experience with this Mueller report because there's so much bad behavior is laid out in this report. But there are human beings in this building. We talk to them all of the time. We have sources that talk to us who try to give us the truth. But it is a very difficult environment in terms of ferreting out the facts over these days, no question about it.

COOPER: And we saw, in the Mueller report, Don McGahn and others either just ignoring something that the president asked them to do, which would be inappropriate, or just hoping we forget.

Jim Acosta -- or even considering resigning. Jim, thanks very much.

President Trump loves to talk about how he has one of the greatest memories of all time. Why were so many written answers, written by lawyers and looked over by him to Mueller investigators, quote, "I don't recall." We'll talk about the legal strategy behind all of that forgetfulness.



[14:53:27] SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): He doesn't have to say go lie for me to be a crime. You don't have to say, let's obstruct justice, for it to be a crime. You judge people on their conduct, not magic phrases.


COOPER: That was Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from the 1990s talking about Bill Clinton. It is interesting that many Republicans seem to be silent over Robert Mueller's findings on president.

In a new op-ed, one argues that the Mueller report should shock our conscious. As the headline writes, "And the idea that anyone is treating this report as a win for Trump, given the sheer extent of deceptions exposed, among other things, demonstrates the bar for his conduct has sunk so low that anything other than outright criminality is too often brushed aside as relatively meaningless."

Political commentator, Charlie Dent, is with us, a former Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania.

Charlie, do you agree? Is the bar set to low right now?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Anderson, I do think it is set low. I think it is safe to say, though, that this report is certainly a political loss for the president. It is very damaging. No question about it. And you could make the case that this is a legal victory for the president because there's no criminal conspiracy here, and he's not being charged by the attorney general with obstruction, and his family has not been charged either. So that is a win for the president on the legal side. But politically, this is, in many respects, quite devastating and would have been even more devastating if we had read this for the first time. We've gotten more granular detail about like Don McGahn refusing to fire the special counsel, that stuff we knew. But it is a shock --


[14:55:05] COOPER: We knew it but they lied about it.

DENT: Yes.

COOPER: We knew it because reporters said it and had sources telling them, but the White House denied it.

It is interesting that you believe it is a political defeat for the president because you could also just argue the counter, that he can say, no collusion, no obstruction, which is what he has been saying, even though the Mueller report does not say no obstruction. He can certainly use this as a cudgel against Democrats saying they've been perpetrating this hoax against me and this witch hunt and I was cleared.

DENT: Well, OK, look, there was certainly attempts at obstruction with Don McGahn, who, by the way, should be given a presidential medal for protecting the presidency and saving the country from a Saturday Night Massacre. And he's an honorable man. But I think, clearly, there was all sorts of issues that were damaging to the president in this report. There's no way around it. To say that you won and asking his subordinates to lie on his behalf, he's asking people to put themselves in legal jeopardy. Could you imagine if some of the people had gone to the special counsel and lied to protect the president. They would be the ones being charged with perjury right now. And for what? It is just -- I think it is --


COOPER: The idea that he would ask and try to get the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to hold a press conference and lie and the White House press office also tried to do that. And Reince Priebus screamed at some public-relations flack at the Department of Justice about it as well. It is -- it is unbelievable. And yet, as you said, it is been this drip, drip, drip of unbelievable things so people aren't as shocked all at once.

Congressman Charlie Dent, appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

DENT: Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead, the Mueller revelations put a new light on the anonymous op-ed from a Trump official.

Plus, why Mueller said he didn't prosecute Donald Trump Jr.