Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Unleashes Flurry Of Lies After Mueller Statement; Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) Interviewed Regarding Impeachment. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired May 30, 2019 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: All right, it has already been quite a morning. Good morning, everyone. We have breaking news this hour. I'm Poppy Harlow.


It has not been even 24 hours since the Special Counsel broke his two years of public silence with an extraordinary statement on the Russia probe, and President Trump has unloaded on the probe and on Robert Mueller himself and the prospects of impeachment now, and really unloading like we have never seen before, having called Mueller honorable when the report was first completed. The President now calls him, quote, highly conflicted and a never Trumper.

As for Russia --


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Russia did not help me get elected. You know who got me elected? You know who got me elected? I got me elected. Russia didn't help me at all. Russia, if anything, I think, helped the other side.


SCIUTTO: Well, there's no evidence of that.

Literally, minutes earlier, the President had Tweeted, in fact, I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. Those were the President's words. In fact, he Tweeted that twice.

HARLOW: Yes. All right, so believe what you will. Impeachment, the President says, is a, quote, dirty, filthy, disgusting word. He went on to say he, quote, can't imagine the courts allowing it. It's not a process for the courts. It's a political process for Congress. But I digress, even though, again, this is just not one for the courts.

Let's go to Abby Phillip at the White House. Abby, where do we begin? I mean, clearly, the President feels a need to attack the Special Counsel with blatant lies. I think the fundamental question is why. ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, so much going on here this morning in that gaggle. And, you know, as you pointed out, the President has kept this alive, even as the White House has said, case is closed. There's nothing more to talk about here. The President is talking at length about the Mueller investigation, about Robert Mueller, specifically saying that he's conflicted, that he's basically part of a never Trump movement.

And the President in this gaggle seemed to really unleash all of his attacks on Robert Mueller all in one, you know, less than 15-minute session. Take a listen to some of what he had to say.


TRUMP: I think he's totally conflicted because, as you know, he wanted to be the FBI Director, and I said, no. As you know, I had a business dispute with him after he left the FBI. We had a business dispute, not a nice one. He wasn't happy with what I did. And I don't blame him, but I had to do it because that was the right thing to do. But I had a business dispute.

And he loves Comey. You look at the relationship that those two. So whether it's love or a deep like, but he should -- he was conflicted.


PHILLIP: So a lot going on there, but let's take it one at a time. First of all, this idea that Robert Mueller is conflicted is something that was addressed in the Mueller report, and it was an accusation that even the President's own official said was unwarranted. Petty was how one former Trump official described it.

The President is referring to a small dispute over a golf club adieu. So that involved Robert Mueller and one of his clubs. And then there's also the issue of did Robert Mueller even want to be the FBI Director. We're not sure what Mueller wanted, but we know he was brought in to interview for the job, and the President is implying that he sort of begged for it. And there's no evidence to suggest that that is true.

And then there's also this idea that Mueller and James Comey are best friends. Interestingly enough, it is Robert Mueller and the Attorney General, Bill Barr, who are friends going back decades and decades.

And so the President is bringing up all of these things, but we just have to fact check a lot of them because not many of them are grounded in truth. And I think that's worth making clear to people as they listen to this.

SCIUTTO: It's worth it, and we'll keep doing it. That's our jobs. Abby Phillip, thanks very much.

With more on what's next for democrats, let's speak to CNN Congressional Correspondent, Phil Mattingly. So we waited a time for Nancy Pelosi's statement yesterday following Robert Mueller's statement. And she basically stuck to her line saying, listen, you know, we're going to keep investigating, but no rush to impeachment. I just wonder how much pressure -- how much has the pressure grown since hearing from the Special Counsel so definitively for the first time in two years?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So it's important to kind of put everything in context, right? I think the voices that were for at least opening an impeachment, or certainly very loud. You had a couple more voices join that group over the course of a few hours after Robert Mueller spoke yesterday.


But Speaker Pelosi and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler made clear yesterday that they were willing to resist that pressure.

One of the key reasons why is a numbers game. If you look at how many democrats up to this point have actually called in the House for an impeachment inquiry, it's about 39. You can add Justin Amash, a republican, the only republican in either chamber who appears open to the idea of an impeachment inquiry. So maybe you have 40.

The democratic caucus has 255. 39 members is about 16 some odd percent of the group. And Speaker Pelosi actually pointed that out yesterday when she made clear this is a very vocal group, this is a powerful group because they understand how to utilize the media, how to utilize social media, but this is not a group that's representative of the so called majority makers. The folks in 2018 who flipped republican seats often in districts that Trump won, and Pelosi is cognizant of those individuals, at least at this point, are not calling for that. And because of that, she wants to stay on the path.

Keep in mind, that path is a lot of investigation, sweeping investigations into the administration and of the President himself. So the pressure is there. There's certainly some growth to it, but at this point in time, Pelosi and the numbers belie the fact they aren't changing course, at least not yet, guys.

HARLOW: I thought her word choice, Phil, really said a lot. Even though she said nothing is off the table, the fact that she said we won't be swayed by a, quote, few people, even those who are running for president, even as much as I respect them, I think she has seen history and she's seen what happened to President Clinton's rating through his impeachment.

And she also knows that team Trump is saying, bring it on, that this will help us, right?

MATTINGLY: Yes, that's exactly right. Look, Speaker Pelosi is a lot of things. One thing she is not loose with her words. And I think what she said yesterday was very intentional, making sure everything kind of stayed in the box. I think everybody had the same feeling post-Mueller of like, whoa, okay, maybe the ground is shifting. You heard from a lot of outside democrats, a lot of outside activists saying this is the trigger. We need to move now.

The Speaker making very clear, no, not just for the democrats in her caucus that don't want to go in that direction, but because the United States Senate, which would need 67 votes in a trial to convict the President right now when it's controlled by republicans, you don't see 20 republicans coming and saying they'll join democrats. And until that's the case, Pelosi is not there yet.

HARLOW: Yes. Phil Mattingly, thank you for being on Capitol Hill for us this morning.

Let's talk more about the fallout from what we heard from Mueller yesterday, the President's reaction this morning.

SCIUTTO: We've got a team of experts here, a lot of smart people. Asha Rangappa, if I could start with you, there was something in the report that I think in Mueller's report that I think has not gotten a lot of attention. And Mueller highlighted again. You and I talked about this last night. Let me just give Asha credit here for bringing this up. So I'm asking you something.

In a statement that lying by witnesses, in this investigation, fundamentally impeded the investigation and he seems to say so not just possible obstruction of the justice by the President but even on the first question as to whether there was collusion, conspiracy, I should say, between Russia and members of the Trump team. Tell us the importance.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. So this is on page ten, volume one, right at the beginning, and it's on the collusion section. And what he says is, we have tried to paint as clear of a picture of what happened as we can, but there were many obstacles that got in our way.

Among these people claiming the Fifth Amendment, there were privilege issues, and in many instances, people gave false testimony or deleted communications or were talking on encrypted communications that we couldn't recover. And if we had all of that, it might have painted a different picture than what we are able to present there.

SCIUTTO: In the simplest terms for non-lawyers at home, so obstruction worked?

RANGAPPA: In other words, yes, that there were -- you know, it doesn't look like they charged any of those people with obstruction, but there were obstructive acts going on one way or another that prevented them from getting to the truth. And as a result, on the collusion question, they weren't able to give a fulsome account of what happened had they been to get all that information otherwise.

HARLOW: So, John, you were an Assistant Special Watergate Prosecutor, you're a former U.S. attorney. The -- it's clear Mueller doesn't want to testify. A lot of people, as Jeffrey Toobin points out, don't want to testify, but they're compelled to or they finally feel a moral obligation to for the American people.

I thought that Michael Zeldin, one of our contributors, who worked for Mueller a time ago, made an interesting point yesterday. And that is, he said it might be more important for fact witnesses to testify before Congress, like McGahn, et cetera, than for Mueller, because even if Mueller goes before Congress, he's just going to -- it sounds like, read from the report. Do you agree with that assessment that the real push for democrats should get Hope Hicks up there, to get McGahn testify.

JON SALE, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Yes. As a citizen, I would love to see Mueller testify. Mueller is not going to testify. If he gets a subpoena, he'll show up and he's going to say the report speaks for itself because prosecutors just should not be publicly talking about the deliberative processes amongst the staff and why they did things.

People on the staff, like McGahn, we have to remember that I think Mueller's office did a very honorable job, but remember, they're a prosecutor's office.


They're not a commission like the 9/11 commission or the Warren commission. And a lot of the factual assertions have not been tested by cross-examination, and I would love to see McGahn say what he says happened, see it cross-examined. But the President is going to resist it. He's going to assert executive privilege. I know that people are going to claim it was waived because he spoke to Mueller. But there is an argument in the Nixon case that, well, if you talk to one branch, it may not be waived as to another. And I think the courts are going to sort it all out.

SCIUTTO: Seung Min Kim with us as well. As you watch this, I mean, one point of contention, although the facts seem to make it clear, is that Robert Mueller said in no uncertain terms yesterday that Bill Barr had misrepresented the findings of his report, right? And let's remember, Robert Mueller already said that in two letters to the Attorney General, which we've reported on. But to hear it from his mouth in front of that same podium that Barr spoken from, how significant is that going forward?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's really significant for the democrats' efforts to really continue to put the pressure on in terms of the investigation and continue to criticize Barr for his handling of the investigation. We know for some time that democrats had not trusted how the Attorney General had, you know, laid out details of the Mueller report and its principle conclusions in advance. They were furious at kind of the pre-spinning at his press conference before the redacted Mueller report was released and he's going to continue to come under even more scrutiny by Congress.

I think the question too right now is how far do democratic leadership go in trying to summon, compel Mueller to testify in front of Congress. I thought what Jerry Nadler said yesterday when he was asked that question about a subpoena was really interesting, because, obviously, democrats want to hear from Mueller. They recognized yesterday just even the power of Mueller kind of saying what he had already said in his report. But when Nadler was asked yesterday about a subpoena and whether he would go ahead and do that. He said, well, I think we heard a lot what we needed to hear today. And some people are interpreting that as maybe Nadler won't go that far.

HARLOW: Yes. Well, maybe they're going to save that, you know, energy, et cetera, whatever, that fight for people like McGahn, Hope Hicks, who needs to turn over all these documents by next week, right?

Asha -- and we have Abby with us too. Abby, let me just get a sense from you at the White House, does the White House feel like the ground has fundamentally shifted toward impeachment? I understand that their public line is bring it on, but do they feel like yesterday actually shifted the ground more toward impeachment or not?

PHILLIP: From a political perspective, I think they do believe that democrats will take what Mueller said yesterday and use that as their impetus to go toward impeachment. But I also got the sense from talking to sources yesterday that, you know, White House aides didn't feel like the substance of what Mueller said will change public opinion about whether impeachment is actually necessary or whether impeachment is actually warranted. And I think those are kind of two different things.

And in some ways, we've actually seen that play out where you had yesterday several more democrats, maybe not a ground swell, or a majority even of democrats in the House, but several more coming forward and saying, well, Mueller has made it very clear, this is our job. And so, from a political perspective, it has made things a little more difficult for people like Nancy Pelosi who want to kind of put the brakes on that.

But White House aides don't think that public opinion will shift it in any way by what Mueller said yesterday. And in some ways, they're not entirely wrong that Mueller didn't change what he said in his actual report. He just spelled it out more clearly, and also made it clear that on this basic question of did he want Attorney General Bill Barr to make an obstruction determination about whether or not the President obstructed justice? Mueller, I think, made it very clear that that's not what his intention was. He believes that the only remedy for this particular dilemma that he faced was Congress. That's what was laid out in the constitution.

And I think that may have been the one thing that kind of threw the White House for a loop. And I think you saw the White House changing their language about whether or not Mueller found no obstruction. They're not saying that anymore. They're saying Bill Barr found no obstruction.

HARLOW: Yes, that's a good point.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. It was in their statement yesterday, not too subtle.

Listen, in our public opinion, if it's going to change, these things often change over time. They don't change in a day.

HARLOW: That's true.

SCIUTTO: So I don't think any of us can know for certain if, over time, that support doesn't build or go in the opposite direction.

Anyway, Jon Sale, Asha Rangappa, Seung Min Kim, Abby Phillip at the White House, thanks very much to all of you.

Are democrats getting more comfortable as we have been discussing with the very idea of impeachment?


Numbers seem to keep that camp still in the minority. We're going to speak to one of those democrats though, next.


HARLOW: Just hours after the Special Counsel formally closed up shop and the President declared case closed on the Russia probe, he made clear it's not really closed at all. Listen to the President answering a reporter's question on whether he expects to be impeached.


TRUMP: The word, impeach, it's a dirty, filthy, disgusting word, and it had nothing to do with me. So I don't think so because there was no crime. You know, high crimes and not with or or, it's high crimes and misdemeanors. There was no high crime and there was no misdemeanor. So how do you impeach based on that?

And it came out that there was nothing to do with Russia. The whole thing is a scam.


SCIUTTO: Our next guest is among more than three dozen house democrats out of 235 in the caucus who say the President has already met the constitutional threshold for impeachment. Adriano Espaillat represents parts of Manhattan and the Bronx right here in New York City and sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Welcome, Congressman, always good to have you on.

So, leader, the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, she said the following yesterday. She said, we won't be swayed by a few people who think one way or another who are running for president, as I respect all of them and they have the freedom to be for impeachment. So you're among those few people. Is Nancy Pelosi choosing politics over country here by refusing to pursue impeachment?

REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D-NY): No. I think she's being fair. She's being deliberate. She's listening to all members. There are members that don't feel we should go the impeachment route. Some of us do feel that we have to go that route. And I think her role as a leader is to listen to everybody and try to build consensus as we move forward.

Of course, I feel very strongly back some time that, in fact, we met that threshold with regards to the emoluments clause, which we haven't discussed, right? That's all tied into his taxes and -- SCIUTTO: But you don't feel dismissed at all here? I mean, The Speaker of the House, a democrat, is saying, we won't be swayed by a few people, just a few people here, three dozen democrats.

ESPAILLAT: No. I think she's being a leader. And she's not taking sides. Yes, among the caucus membership, I think she will listen to us. I think that needle has been moved in the last 48 hours more towards the impeachment discussion.

66 members voted on a motion to table presented by Congressman Al Green, which had to do with impeachment as far back as January of 2018. So there is a good number of people that speak on a regular basis about impeachment and feel that way about impeachment. Several senators have asked openly for the President to be impeached, to step down.

58 women wrote a letter back in December of 2017 asking for an investigation on the sexual harassment issue and asking for the President to step down. So all these folks, all these members of Congress in their regular language on a daily basis speak or feel about impeachment. I think impeachment is not a secretive word.


HARLOW: Let me ask you about what it would do to America. So you have the ranking republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, saying, quote, re-litigating the 2016 election and reinvestigating the Special Counsel's findings will only further divide our country. And it's not just him.

You've got a new poll out of Monmouth University. It shows a majority of Americans are just not there on impeachment, 56 percent. That's reflected in our polling as well. Are you afraid your party might experience significant backlash if it initiates impeachment and then it doesn't result in the removal of the President? I mean, you do not have 20 republican senators who will move over to your side on this one.

ESPAILLAT: I think good government is good politics and vice versa. I think we should not abdicate our responsibility as dually elected equal branch of government. If we see smoke, we have to follow and make sure that there's no fire there. I think that polls will go on one direction or the other. They may not hold. They may change in a dramatic way, one way or the other. But we must, as dually elected members of Congress, exercise our duties entrusted by the constitution of the United States.

SCIUTTO: Bob Mueller made clear yesterday he doesn't want to testify before Congress. He said let my report be my testimony. Interesting to hear Jerry Nadler, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, hint that perhaps maybe the statement is enough. Would that be a mistake and do you think democrats should hold the line here and subpoena Mueller if he does not accept the invitation?

ESPAILLAT: I think he should come before Congress. I think the American people want to hear from him. I think that there are some underlying facts or information that perhaps we don't have a full grasp on. I think people are still somewhat undecided because the language in

the report wasn't decisive, as you know.


He's clearly stated that he could not proceed with indicting or accusing the President, that it wasn't constitutional, but he did not exonerate him in the obstruction of justice charge.

So people are still somewhat confused, I think, they hear from Mueller himself, that will further help create greater confidence from the American people.

HARLOW: He couldn't take, Mueller made explicitly clear yesterday, that he reads it as being unconstitutional to move to indict a sitting president.

ESPAILLAT: That's correct.

HARLOW: What's interesting is when your fellow democrats in Congress who is running for president, Eric Swalwell, Jim will be hosting a town hall with on Sunday night, yes. He said in the last few days that if he were President, he would move to eliminate the Office of Legal Counsel memo, guidelines that says that a sitting president can't be indicted. Would you support getting rid of that guidance completely?

ESPAILLAT: No. I think that's a legal discussion that should be a broad and substantive one. It's not one that we should really have off our cuff. It may apply one way for this administration or the other way for another administration. So we should --

HARLOW: Do you think it's opening a can of worms? It sounds like --

ESPAILLAT: I think that we should have a full discussion about a host of things but not a very fast reaction given the state of the facts.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Adriano Espaillat, great to have you on the program.

ESPAILLAT: Thank you so much. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, emotional testimony from a father who tragically lost his son, like so many American families, to opioids.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard from so many parents across -- that have lost children under similar circumstances that --


HARLOW: Wow. He will join us. That was his testimony this week in the first trial questioning whether pharmaceutical companies should be held liable for all of these opioid deaths. This grieving father will join us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)