tv Inside Politics CNN April 9, 2019 9:00am-10:00am PDT
welcome to "inside politics". i'm john king. the attorney general tells congress a redacted version of the mueller report will be made public next week, but he dodges and refuses to answer some questions, including whether it has already been shared with the president and his lawyers. plus, the trump purge at the department of homeland security alarms republicans in congress, who worry about management of critical programs and also about the type of erratic presidential behavior that hurt the gop in the last election. the courts also push back at the president's border agenda. and remember that crowded 2016 gop presidential field? well, the 2020 democratic pack now even bigger, 18 and counting. the challenge for the latest entry, congressman eric
swalwell, begins at home. >> you've got republican parents. they've got a trump/pence magnet on their fridge. are mom and dad going to vote for you? do you have that guarantee? >> mrs. swalwell. >> yes? >> ma'am, your son says he's running for president of the united states. are you going to vote for him? >> well, uh, as long as none of his other brothers are running against him, i'll vote for him. >> back to 2020 in a few moments, but we begin the hour with the just-concluded capitol hill drama and what the attorney general will and won't say about the mueller report. today, william barr telling congress he does intend to deliver and deliver on time. >> my original timetable of being able to release this by mid-april stands. and so i think that from my standpoint, by -- within a week,
i will be in a position to release the report to the public. >> now, general barr said there will be redactions, but that he is ready to come back to congress and explain why some parts of the report need to be, in his view, kept secret. one source of conflict already obvious. barr says he has no plans, as democrats have demanded, to ask a judge to free him up to release sensitive and secretive grand jury material. now, barr is up on the hill, ostensibly, to testify about the justice department budget, but his handling of the mueller report dominated the questions from democrats. he said he wanted most questions to wait a week, until the review process is done and the report released, but he did concede, some of robert mueller's investigators are probably frustrated by the justice department's four-page summary. and he raised eye brobrows heren asked if the president has seen the full report. >> did the white house see the report before you released your summarizing letter? has the white house seen it since then? have they been briefed on the
contents beyond what was in your summarizing letter to the judiciary committee? >> um, i've said what i'm going to say about the report today. >> let's get straight up to manu raju on capitol hill today. the democrats pressing and pressing. i assume they're frustrated the attorney general was not ready to give and give. >> reporter: yeah, this is going to set the stage for what could be a drawn-out fight between house democrats and the justice department after the attorney general made very clear, he is not planning to provide congress with the full unredacted mueller report, as democrats have demanded. and he said that he has no intention of going to court and getting a court order to release the grand jury information, which democrats have also demanded. now, he tried to throughout the course of this morning's hearing, defend the four-page letter that outlined the conclusions of the mueller investigation.
he said it was not intended to be a full summary of the 400-page report, but he said it wasn't just done in 48 hours. he said there was roughly three weeks in which he had an initial meeting with mueller's team to get an inkling of what exactly mueller was going to conclude and nthat helped him draw -- write that four-page letter. he did reveal, john, that he gave the mueller team an opportunity to review that four-page letter, but he said the mueller team declined that offer. he said he did not know exactly why they declined, perhaps they were just deferring to him because he's the attorney general, but he did not know. but he also, what really frustrated democrats, sidestepped a number of questions about the investigation. why mueller said the president was not exonerated on the question of obstruction of justice, he would not explain that in any detail. and as you noted there at the top, not saying whether or not the white house was briefed at all about the full mueller report. he did say they were not involved in the drafting of that four-page letter, but wouldn't
say whether or not the president or the white house had any knowledge of the full report. however, john, one thing that will make the president happy, he did say he's undergoing a review of how the russia investigation started and said that there's an inspector general investigation about the surveillance process that has occurred during the 2016 campaign. the president, of course, has been demanding all of that, but nevertheless, a lot of questions still remain despite this hearing, when he revealed at least the redacted report will come out within a week, john. >> and it sure seems that we'll have the attorney general back up on capitol hill in a week or soon thereafter. manu raju, appreciate the live reporting. the hearing just concluded. with me in studio, cnn's abby phillip, cnn's shimon prokupecz, cnn legal analyst, shan wu, and cnn's kara scannel. i want to come back to the question that congresswoman louie ask. they often frustrate us by asking multi-part questions, but
the attorney general said, i've said all i'm going to say. she said, did they know about it before your summary? the attorney general did say in a previous, that the white house was not told, the white house has said he didn't have the report and the president has tweeted in recent days he didn't have the report. so was that just the attorney general saying, i'm not answering your question, or in the last several days is it possible that the president and his lawyers have been given the report? >> i think that is the question right now, because it puzzled me why he wouldn't be able to say even an answer to part of that question. because as you pointed out, both parties, both the white house and the justice department have been actually kind of clear about when or about the fact that there has not been a briefing on the full report, up until probably about a week ago. the question is, has that changed in the last several days? and it's possible that it has. and that might be why he wouldn't say that if he started to answer one part of the question, he would need to answer the second part. but i think it does raise some eyebrows. and you know, the white house hasn't wanted to talk about this on the record at all, but in private, off the record,
officials have been able to say, no, we haven't seen it. the president has even said it. the last couple of days is a different question. >> the easy answer there was, the president will get it when you get it. he didn't say that. >> that's right. >> i'm giving you what the president has been tweeting, "i have the right see it," i think barr may have been concerned about blundering into that area right now. >> yeah. >> you know, what we did learn, there was some confusion today, even up until today, whether or not the attorney general had notified the white house, read any parts of the march 21st letter. he did correct that later on, he clarified and said, well, actually, we did tell them that it was coming and we actually read it to them. they never had the letter, they never saw it, they were never able to edit it in any way. so we are learning a little bit more. there has to be some sort of communications between the department of justice and certainly the president and through maybe the white house counsel's office. they have to tell them what's coming. so you would think there has been some. how detailed have they gotten into some of the information
within the report, that we really don't know. evan perez, our cnn's evan perez has been saying, according to the president i's lawyers, they have been saying that they have not seen the report. it begs the question. >> and barr made clear today that the question of executive privilege was up to him and he had no intention of exerting it. that i think that tells us something, too. he doesn't want to be seen as if he's editing the report for the white house, while we're all going to be focused on the redactions and how broad they were and how much of the report is actually released. >> and part of the issue here, the question here, some would say the problem here, is the suspicions. nobody trusts anybody in this town anymore, in the sense that you have a man who even most democrats, when the president picked him privately said, wow, this is an adult. he was the attorney general 30 years ago in the george h.w. bush administration, not viewed as a trumpy, you know, ideologue, if you will. they're beginning to get more suspicious. if you just listen to the attorney general and if you didn't buy into all of those suspicions, he was very reasonable in his approach. he said, i'll get it to you in a week like i promised. yes, i'll have to keep some
stuff out. there are sources and methods here. this was a counterintelligence investigation. there's grand jury testimony. there were some people here that might have been investigated and we decided we don't have a case. i'll redact some of that. but he also said he would be very careful, give congress a road map and then they could talk about it. >> the special counsel is working with us on identifying information in the reports that fall under those four categories. we will color code the excisions from the report and we will provide explanatory notes, describing the basis for each redaction. so, for example, if a redaction is made because of a court order and a pending prosecution, we'll state that and we will -- we will distinguish between the various categories. >> and he said he would be willing to come back up and talk about that and he would be willing to meet with the two chairman. and i assume the ranking member, as well.
but he specifically mentioned the two chairman of the house judiciary committee, a democrat, the senate judiciary committee, a republican. that was incredibly reasonable, well laid out, in detail. and yet, in today's washington, it's, what, going to raise suspicions. >> absolutely. and the idea that he can have transparency by using a color code, i mean, it's just silly. it's like a grade school show. >> i've never seen the department of justice put out a report with color coding. i mean -- >> well, his point was, you know, i'm making up the colors, if it's red, it's redacted because of grand jury testimony. if it's purple, it's redacted because of someone's privacy and we're not charged with anything and we're not going to do that, at least to give them a sense of how much is "a," "b," "c," and "d." >> and that's their way of being transparent. he's going close to the line as he possibly could. he's going to put this in the report, but we're not going to be able to see it, and obviously, we're going to start deducing, and everyone is going to try to start to figure out what exactly all of this means. they're going to go as close to the line as they possibly could.
and torhe other thing, john, to your point about suspicion in washington. when you look at what they said about mueller, they gave mueller the opportunity to review this letter before it went out. what does that say about where mueller is? he sort of wanted no part of this in the end, it would seem. like, you guys make the decision what you want to do. i've done my job here. here's everything, now it's up to you. it will be interesting to see, obviously, they want mueller to come and appear before congress, whether or not that actually happens. it's going to be such a big day, because mueller has not said a word about this investigation. so if he does appear, it's going to be a big deal. >> so the question is going to be, and again, the attorney general presented himself as quite reasonable today, but here's the house judiciary committee chairman saying, i'm not so worried about what day of the week we get it next week. my question is, how much is redacted and then what happens after that. >> the timing isn't the question. if he releases it friday as opposed to next tuesday, i don't care. what is the question is what we receive.
do we receive a full copy of the mueller report and the documentation underneath it? do we receive most of it with a little redaction or do they completely extricate it. >> it's the documentation underneath it that strikes you, if you hear him say, no, i have no plans to go to a grand jury. if congress wants to go to a judge and ask for that, you can. does that tell you that barr's position out of the gate is, here's the report, here's the redactions, we can talk about that. you're not getting the files. you're not getting the work product. that's not the way that we do business. >> that does strike me that that is the case. there is a veneer of transparency in a lot of these other things, we're going to give you a color coding system and what have you, but when it comes down to it, the question is, is he going to do everything in his power to release as much as possible. it doesn't seem like going to a court and asking for grand jury information is that much of an ask. but he's saying he doesn't want to do that. and i think that's what's going
to raise -- >> it is for bill barr. because he is an institutionalist, he wants to stay as close to the line as possible, under doj guidelines. and i think what we heard from him today, certainly indicates that he expects there to be court action. he expects to get sued for this information. and if a judge decides to put this information out there, that's up to the judge. and that's up to the judicial system. and if that's how this goes, that's how this goes. but he himself, you can tell, does not want to violate any kind of of the guidelines. >> or set any precedent. >> as we talk, i want to tell our viewers, you're seeing live pictures of the president standing outside the west wing of the president with the marine guard. the president of egypt is arriving for a visit with the president. we'll keep the pictures up. you see the limousine pulling up. president el sisi will meet with the president. it's possible in the 45 minutes or in the hours ahead, we'll hear from the leaders. we'll keep the pictures up now as we continue the conversation. we'll pause if there are any comments that we need to listen to. more likely that will happen in the oval office. again, the president of egypt, el sisi, shaking the president's
hands. it's a nice day here in washington as you can see from those pictures. another thing, it was interesting, listening to the attorney general, the democrats wanted to push him on transparency. the democrats wanted to push him more on does the president know about this. why did you write that summary? did you give, you know, the special counsel a heads up? the republicans wanted to push on, now that mueller's done, are you going to look into how mueller began? and if you listen there, they stretch the truth sometimes about how important the fisa warrant was, how important the dossier was to the birth of the investigation, but that is one of the republican talking points. bill barr did say, number one, the justice ig is looking into it, and number two, i might. >> the office of the inspector general has a pending investigation of the fisa process in the russian investigation and i expect that that will be complete in probably in may or june, i am told. more generally, i am reviewing the conduct of the investigation
and trying to get my arms around all the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016. >> he said it calmly, but the republicans have pushed for this. the president has pushed for this. the question is, where's it going to go? >> i think that's pretty significant. and we've talked about this a lot whereby, you know, how did this investigation get going? and what we heard from the now former acting fbi director, andy mccabe, he's talked about how there was kind of a rush when they were seeing these signals of russian interference and then some actions by the then incoming president and then the president, that they jumped on this and they decided they needed to make some moves here in order to preserve this, in case -- you know, when comey was fired. and that was a really kind of moment that they made a lot of critical decisions here. so i think that's all going to be very much under scrutiny, and there will be a lot of lookback on that, of whether that was appropriate. >> i also think you need to look at what was going on during the campaign, you know?
we've done so much reporting about what the fbi was seeing, with the intelligence community, and i think this is something that hopefully bill barr and the current department of justice will look at, whether or not the fbi did enough at that time. whether or not they were aggressive enough. obviously, there was an obama administration who didn't want to do much more, because they didn't want to affect the election. and certainly, they didn't think trump was going to win. that had an effect. but i think you need to take a look at the fbi and how they conducted this investigation. hopefully, we'll get some answers from the inspector general and obviously we'll see what bill barr, what he sees in terms of what was going on during that time. >> is there a chance we get those answers from the former fbi director? is there any chance that he discusses the birth of all of this? >> i think it's possible, but he tends to be a guy who really stays just focused on his mission. and i -- overall, my impression today is that barr is really leaning into exercising his discretion about what he's going to show. i mean, one that i think thing
that struck me, he is as much as he could from mueller's report, but it was barely a sentence. did he run out of ink or something? >> but barr, though, he's damned if you do, damned if you don't. in some ways, the fbi and the justice department needs to sort of clear their name here, otherwise they're going to have this cloud of conservatives raising suspicions about their intentions in starting this investigation until the end of time. and in some cases, if an investigation into that is required, it might be the only way toll clear up what really happened. >> before rod rosenstein leaves the building, maybe the new attorney general wants to have one quick conversation about how that all works out with the soon-to-be former deputy. up next for us, the attorney general also made news on some other fronts. talked about the immigration policies of the president and a lawsuit his department now handling to wipe obamacare off the books. ancial advisor, i tell my clients not to worry about changing their minds in retirement. you may have always imagined your dream car as something fast. then one day you decide it just needs to be safe enough to get her to college and back. principal. we can help you plan for that.
answered the question with a question. >> do you think it's likely we are going to prevail? >> if you prevail, you are devoting scarce resources of your department towards that effort, are you not, attorney general? >> we're in litigation. we have to take a position. if you think it's such an outrageous position, you have nothing to worry about. let the courts the their job. >> joining that conversation, eliana johnson with politico, heather kagel also with p politico, and lisa leer with the "new york times". so how do we read that? he's the relatively new attorney general. the administration has decided to reverse course and now try to have all of obamacare declared unconstitutional. some read that as even the attorney general thinks they're going to lose, by his body language, so don't get worried about this. really, we're not going to win this case. is that the right way or are we reading too much into the body language? >> given that we at politico reported that barr advised the president against backing this
lawsuit, i think it made it easier to read between the lines that barr didn't support this move, he declined to tell the lawmakers on that panel about the internal administration deliberations and what his position was, but he said that nonetheless, the administration has staked out a, quote, legally defensible position. and it was a very lawyerly answer, in that i think that barr can see how to argue both sides. but i think it was pretty clear which side he himself came down on. >> and it's a case of enormous consequence, not just for the millions of americans who rely on obamacare, but as we head into a presidential cycle, we know in the rearview mirror, health care was a huge issue for the democrats in 2018. they view this lawsuit to them as in some ways a political gift, but in other ways, a policy challenge. it's the fifth circuit, am i right? the fifth circuit will get this case next, which is a more conservative circuit. so the attorney general seems skeptical, but they could possibly win here. >> well, they could win along the road -- the long road toward the supreme court. but, you know, after politico
first reported that about barr's position, sources told me there are a lot of lawyers, conservative lawyers in the justice department, outside of the justice department, who do not believe the merits of the case that underlie it are particularly strong. so there is -- while there might be a legally defensible position that they can take and that they can take as they go through the process and the courts, there are a lot of people who don't believe that they will win at the supreme court. and barr is basically saying, well, if we don't win, then everything is just going to go back to what it was. and in fact, the president's position seems to be that, too. that he's sort of like, what else do we have to lose? we have 18 months to kind of go through the courts and maybe we'll get a replacement plan. and maybe we won't. and at the end of the day, you know, this is still two years down the road. so they have time to sort of have this political fight in the meantime. it's sort of like throwing your hands up in the air and kind of position that they're taking. >> if you study the 2018 election and you're a
republican, especially trying to win in the american suburbs, i would take huge issue with the idea -- hey, let's just let this play out and not have a position. another issue, the attorney general, you're right, he did not want to talk about internal deliberations. listen here, we have reporting at cnn, the president is trying to push his team as part of this department of homeland security detail, to reinstate the family separation policy at the border. the attorney general was asked, whatdo do you know. >> according to an article in "the new york times" yesterday, president trump has been pushing to restart this practice of separating parents from their children. the term binary choice policy has certainly been getting traction. is that something that you support? >> i haven't heard that. >> you haven't heard that? >> no. >> so would you enforce and put forth policies of new discussions that have been happening about president trump wanting to restart this separation practice? >> all i can say, i personally, sitting here, am not familiar
with those discussions. >> would you support continuation of separation of families? >> i support the president's policy, which is we're not going to separate families. >> the current policy is to not separate families. but that's very telling. again, he did not say, i'm not going to talk about internal deliberations. he said, i'm not aware. he was on the record, under oath saying, i'm not part of that, which tells you, this is now a white house operation. this is stephen miller and the president and people at the white house, not agencies that have to go to court or go to the regulations or doing the business of issuing the regulations and enforcing the policies. >> yeah, i think we saw this with nielsen stepping down and the other purges at dhs, too. this is all coming out of the white house. republicans on the hill have been blindsided by these moves. they don't really know what's coming next. and you know, barr kind of illustrated that in the hearing here, saying, i'm not aware of these, even though cnn and several other outlets have reported multiple administration
officials have confirmed that this is where they want to go. >> and it also makes you -- certainly raises questions about whether the administration did their due diligence before shifting course here. they clearly weren't -- regardless of what was going on the hill, and we know white houses sometimes don't like to go to the hill, because they are sometimes as leaky as any sieve or pick your kitchen utensil, right, but they didn't talk to agencies who have jurisdiction over pieces of this policy what a shift would entail. and this is not surprising necessarily from this administration. >> it's not new. and to that point, when we come back, more details. a giant turnover at the department of homeland security. some on capitol hill worried both about the politics and the policy. wow. that's a lot of asparagus. yeah, you said get a bunch of asparagus. oh, you... a bunch. i... thought you kinda...
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should hear from the president any moment now. reporters were recently in the oval office. again, the president of egypt is visiting with president trump today. reporters were brought in. the president did take some questions, including about his purge at the department of homeland security, a purge that is being cheered by his anti-immigration base, but is causing alarm among republican leaders in congress. the scope of the upheaval is stunning. the dhs secretary and the secret service director both fired in the past 48 hours. at least two other top officials on a white house target list. the white house wants them to leave. the choice to lead immigration and customs enforcement abruptly pulled. and a new acting secretary is slated to begin work running this very complicated department tomorrow. the dizzying pace is alarming
key members of the president's party, who see both policy and political peril. texas senator john cornyn, for example, made a point of praising the outgoing secretary, kirstjen nielsen, and saying the problems at the border are not her fault. as for the president's broader purge, cornyn says this, quote, i don't know what his rationale is, but it is bound to create some more challenges. adding this to "the washington post" from iowa gop senator, chuck grassley, he is pulling the rug out from the very people that are trying to help him accomplish his goal. again, we're going hear from the president momentarily about this. but the concern on the hill is, number one, this is a giant agency, not just responsible for the border, cybersecurity, homeland security, domestic terrorism. they're worried about all the turnover. and a lot of republicans also see the kind of erratic behavior from the president that they think is the reason that they got wiped out in the 2018 midterms. >> yeah, i think there are a couple of questions here. one is operational, and the other is sort of tactical, strategic. the operational thing is, the
president and stephen miller is sort of decapitating this department. these are a lot of senior leaders at an enormous agency and i think there's a lot of concern on capitol hill that they are leaving this agency without senior leadership. how is this department going to run? i think the second question is, what are the policy goals of president trump and stephen mill miller? and how do they expect to accomplish them. if it's a reinstatement of the child separation policy, that didn't go particularly well last time. not only because there was bipartisan objection to it, but because there were a lot of practical difficultyies to instating that policy. beyond that, there are some legislative obstacles to the things that they want to do. so i think there are a lot of questions on the hill and among republicans in general about how -- about what the goals are and number two, how they expect to carry them out. >> right. and again, the president blames secretary nielsen for this, blames other people at the department, all of his enforcement people, if you will,
but not only legislative articles, but the courts weighed in on family separations. the courts weighed in on president trump's asylum policy. they say, no, you can't do that. we have a law that says if you present yourself at the border and i want to apply for asylum, there's a process, like it or not, and the president doesn't like it. but he has this push that tells you, number one, he doesn't like the people who work for him and number two, he views this as his calling card going into 2020. >> right. i think the president and the white house feel they need to show his base that they're doing things and it's the system, it's the courts, it's congress that are preventing him from fulfilling these campaign promises which was the central message of his 2016 campaign. now if you're a republican who's up for re-election, say in a state like texas or arizona or colorado, this looks a lot different. and this looks like a decision that puts a lot of things on the table that frankly you don't want to deal, you don't want to talk about. not only the immigration issue, but also, as you point out, the president's leadership style, his management ability, and, you know, i think there has been a
little bit of the flagging in the so-called resistance. there hasn't been as many protests, there hasn't been as much activity. this child separation policy really hits a chord with democrats, particularly activist democrats. so you could see this restarting that energy. and if you're running for re-election in one of those purple states, particularly a purple border state, that is not what you want to have happening right now at all. >> energy from the left on family separations and asylum. and anxiety on the right about these constant threats to close down the border, and affect not only the trade relationship, the economic relationship, but also hurt those individual states, arizona and texas. let's listen to the president of the united states. >> not easily impressed, he was very impressed. so thank you very much. >> mr. president -- >> you seem to be cleaning out at dhs. what would you like to achieve with the new leadership? >> i never said i'm cleaning house. i don't know bwho came up with that. we have bad laws. we have a judge that just ruled
incredibly that he doesn't want people staying in mexico. figure that one out. nobody can believe these decisions we're getting from the ninth circuit. it's a disgrace. so we're fighting the bad laws, the bad -- the bad things that are coming out of congress. you have a democrat congress that's obstructing. you talk about obstruction, the greatest obstruction anyone's ever seen. all they have to do is spend 20 minutes and they could fix this whole problem. we have the worst laws of any country anywhere in the world, whether it's catch and release of any one of them. i could name -- i could sit here and name them. but if you get rid of catch and release, chain migration, visa lottery, you have to fix the asylum situation. it's ridiculous. you have people coming in claiming asylum. they're all reading exactly what the lawyer gives them. they have a piece of paper. read what that is and all of a sudden you're entitled to asylum. and some of these people are not people you want in our country. so we are building a lot of wall, it's getting built. some of you saw that last week
when we went -- we had a great presentation of a new stretch, but we're building a lot of wall and we're being very strong on the border, but we're bucking a court system that never ever rules for us and we're bucking really bad things with congress, with the democrats in congress not willing to act. they want to have open borders, which means they want to have crime, they want to have drugs pouring into our country. they don't want to act. we have to close up the borders. we're doing it, but we're doing it -- i could do it much faster if they would act. so, it's -- it's a terrible thing. the democrats in congress, what they're doing and the obstruction. they don't want to fix it. and we have to fix it. they want open borders. they want to have millions of people pouring into our country. they don't even want to know who they are. these are people coming into our country with criminal records. we have murderers coming in. we have drug lords coming in. we have gangs coming in. and we're stopping them.
and if we don't stop them, i.c.e. is throwing them the hell out. we're getting them out. but our job could be so much easier. i think kevin is going to do a fantastic job. he's acting, but i think he's going to do a fantastic job. and we're not doing anything very big, as far as what we need. homeland security, that's exactly what we want. there's no better term, there's no better name. we want homeland security. and that's what we're going to get. thank you all very much. thank you. thank you. thank you. >> -- startinging t inthe child separation again? >> thank you very much, everybody. >> guys, we're finished! keep moving! let's go! make your way out! we're done! press, keep moving! let's go! >> obama separated the children, by the way. just so you understand, president obama separated the
children. those cages that were shown, i think they were very inappropriate. they were built by president obama's administration, not by trump. president obama had child separation. take a look, the press knows it, you know it, we all know it. i didn't have -- i'm the one that stopped it. president obama had child separation. now, i'll tell you something. once you don't have it, that's why you see many more people coming. they're coming like it's a picnic, because let's go to disneyland. president obama separated children. they had child separation. i was the one that changed it, okay? thank you very much. thank you. >> let's go! come on, let's go! >> thank you. we're not looking to do that, no. we're not looking to do that, no. thank you very much. >> you're not looking to bring it back? >> but it brings a lot more people to the border, when you don't do it, it brings a lot more people to the border.
we are not looking to do it. but president obama had the law. we changed the law and i think the press should accurately report it, but of course, they won't. thank you all very much. thank you. >> come on, press! let's go! we're moving. press! let's go! come on! >> it's a great honor to be with the president. it's a great honor to be your president. >> interesting comments from the president of the united states. those crossed arms at the end. the body language telling you that he wasn't happy with some of the tone at the end there. we're going to need a backup generator for the fact check machine, for part of what the president said, including his bid about blaming the democrats. the democrats now control the house, the democrats disagree with a lot of what he wants on immigration policy, but this president walked away from a deal when the republicans controlled the congress, that would have given him a lot more funding for his border wall than he has now, would have given some of the enforcement mechanisms that he wants now and could never get through a democratic controlled house. so when he keeps blaming the democrats, they have policy disagreements, but he walked away from a deal because he didn't want to give the dreamers status that was just about done.
that was one thing there. yes, president obama did have some family separation policies, and yes, some of those early images were from the obama administration. but the trump administration accelerated the family separation policy. he said "i stopped it." interesting in the end, he said, "we're not interested in reinstating it." the reporting in the last 24 hours has been that they are having serious conversations about this inside the white house. are they doing this without the president's knowledge or is the president not telling the truth there? >> it's entirely possible that the president hasn't been part of those conversations that are happening in the white house about this. but it is important that he said that on the record today, that they are not looking to do -- to reinstate this policy of separating children from their families. what he also said is really crucial, which is that he believes that not separating children from their parents causes more people to come into the united states. that is the opposite of what the administration continues to claim that this was not a deterrent policy. it's clearly in the president's view is a deterrent. i think that needs to be very
clear that that's what they're saying here. and the president's also not correct about the idea that somehow this is just something he continued from the obama administration. bill barr was on capitol hill today. he laid it out. he said, the administration had a zero-tolerance policy that referred families to the doj for prosecution, which caused children to be separated from their parents. that was a policy that was put in place last year by the president's attorney general. that was not the policy that existed prior to that. >> the zero-tolerance policy policy by jeff sessions amped up significantly anything that was done before when it came to the issues of family separation. it ended up in the courts. you're right. interesting, the president there. this is fascinating to me, because every president has a team of advisers who talk about things. and when they get to a critical point, they bring it to the president. we shouldn't expect the ceo of any organization to be involved in every conversation about what might happen. it's only when you get to, okay, it's decision point, you bring it to the boss. it was all over town today yesterday, reported by a whole lot of people quoting a lot of senior administration official saying the president, in his
anger, and he said hep didn't want to call it cleaning house. i don't know what else to call it. you're probably going to have to fire the deputy director, because the law says she should be boosted up. another official they say is part of the nielsen team, he has to go. i don't know what else to call that. call it a purge, call it a cleaning house. but is the president not looped in on what his own advisers are trying to do? >> i don't think we know that at this point. what we do know is that i think there was a struggle within the white house over who was going to run immigration policy and the president has told stephen miller that he is in charge of immigration policy. miller had been running a sort of smaller group of immigration hawks and trying to, i think, hijack the immigration policy earlier on, but now he's officially in charge of immigration policy. and so, that's what the president is aware of, that we know the president is aware of. on the deterrent point, which i think is an important one on child separations, i think the administration hoped this would be a deterrent.
i'm not sure the policy was in effect long enough really to know whether it was or it wasn't, but while the policy was briefly in effect, the numbers did not increase. so the president is not right when he says that. and i think the current counterargument would just be, we didn't see it play out long enough to know whether in fact it would deter people from coming. but trump certainly can't claim that right now. >> and when this -- if you have watched this, the majority leader, mitch mcconnell, going to the floor to praise kirstjen nielsen. he didn't criticize the president, but that's implicit. you're going to the floor, you're the top republican in the united states senate. you go to the floor to say great things about the woman the president just fired. we heard earlier before we got to the president from senator cornyn from texas on the ballot next year saying, war we doing here, mr. president, i don't know your rationale. chuck grassley say, you're running out of the department the people who are trying to help you. what is the mood in the president's own party on capitol hill? >> i think it's important here, whether the president was totally looped in on what is
being shopped around, or not. we have seen senior republicans raise alarm publicly, and in the past, recently, when they've kind of done that with the health care, he, the president backs off a little bit. and so maybe that's kind of what we're seeing here today, too. but, yeah, senior republicans, cornyn even yesterday called what's happening at dhs a mess, which is -- you know, that's a pretty big deal coming from a senior member of senate leadership, who is an ally of the president, who is on the ballot next year. you know, they're not willing -- i mean, they're willing to criticize him a little bit here. you know, in a kind of a roundabout way. >> the president's argument is, i wasn't on the ballot last year. i will be next year. this is all good. but a lot of republicans are very skeptical about that. >> right. we all remember the caravan and the president really pushed that messaging hard, that there was this caravan of migrants coming and they were going to storm the border and when you talk to voters, some republican voters would say, look, they're already
here. i don't know what you're reporting, but they really bought that messaging. and it resonated with them, but the problem is, in these suburban districts, these affluent suburban districts, concerns about the president's temperament, about his stone, about his style outweighed any fears people may have about immigration. and you know, a presidential race plays out differently. you can see why the president wants to energize his base in this moment, but, you know, those swing states and those swing voters are crucially important. >> and the question for the base is, will he follow through? we'll see. very interesting today. we'll continue to track what's happening. there are a lot of questions about the white house policy at the moment. up next, another member of the trump cabinet facing tough questions up on capitol hill. >> just down the hall, we have attorney general william barr. did you guys take the same cab over? >> we did not. but as i referenced before, i'm sure his is even more interesting. run with us on a john deere 1 series tractor.
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the treasury secretary steve mnuchin today frustrating house democrats by not answering two of their big questions. will the irs meet a wednesday deadline, that's tomorrow, to turn over the president's taxes, and will secretary mnuchin be involved in that decision. >> i want to acknowledge that we did receive the request and as i've said in the past, when we received the request, it would be reviewed by our legal department and it is our intent to follow the law and that is in the process of being reviewed. >> are they reviewing whether or not you should make that decision, as well, sir? >> it would be premature for me to comment specifically what they are reviewing on or what they're not reviewing on. >> learned a lot there, didn't you? democrats also pressed secretary mnuchin on whether the white house is involved in deciding how treasury and the irs decide what to do.
>> have you spoken to the white house chief of staff or the president about this decision? >> i have not spoken to the white house chief of staff or the president about this decision. >> our legal department has had conversations prior to receiving the letter, with the white house general counsel. >> and did they brief you as to the contents of that communication? >> they have not briefed me to the contents of that communication. i believe that was purely informational. >> he did say that congress will get an answer, is likely to get an answer by its deadline tomorrow, that's the house ways and means committee. anyone want to bet against me that the answer is going to be, no, we're not giving you the president's taxes, see you in court? but to the question about, does secretary mnuchin make that call, a political appointee, or does the irs commissioner make that call, also an appointee, he wouldn't say what he's been told.
>> i would say democrats have been preparing on the hill for weeks knowing that they're going to -- the white house or treasury is going to say "no" tomorrow, they're going to send another letter and then they'll have to issue a subpoena next month and then they're going to go to court. that's the case they are making. from talking to lawmakers on the hill, their understanding is that mnuchin is very involved in day-to-day decisions, not only on this issue, but a lot of things involving the irs. so they think even if he's not publicly playing a role, he is very, you know, hands-on, behind the scenes. so his answers today don't really tell the whole story to them. >> i think this reporting in the last week that the white house was keenly interested in the irs general counsel position, trying to make sure that they have an appointee in that role, as soon as possible, tells us a lot about how they are laying the infrastructure, even within the department, to have a sort of favorable determination of how this should all go. the fact that -- i think that's probably the most important thing that we've learned. if they're going to make a
decision by tomorrow, it probably means we're not going to see the president's tax returns and it's going to kick off this series of other events that will lead to a court fight. >> but for democrats, this is a good political issue, if it keeps going on through the courts, they're pushing for something. they can make the case that the president is hiding something, because, in fact, he is hiding something, he's hiding his tax returns, which nominees for decades and decades released. i mean, mitt romney, as we all know, didn't want to do it either, but he did it in the end. so that's a good argument for them as they head into, you know, this re-election cycle. and the fact that the president is so resistant to releasing them really bolsters their case. >> the president's team makes the argument he won the election last time and hillary clinton tried to make it an issue, he did lose the popular vote, he did win the electoral college. the interesting thing, it's a new york state law trying to get at the president's state taxes. listen to the governor of new york telling his own party, be careful. >> the question is going to be the legality, because there's
going to be a lawsuit in 11 seconds. and putting on my old ag hat, if it looks politically targeted, the courts will be more likely to strike it down. so as broad as you can do it, the better. >> they're not always on the same page, but andrew cuomo sounds closer to the president there than he does to some of the democrats. >> yeah, looks, tax returns are some of the most sensitive documents in our political system and courts have really, really protected them. one of the issues that house democrats are going to face is even if they do get these, they cannot discuss what is in them. and that's really tricky. so it may -- they may go in for a bloody political fight with not all that much return. >> good luck in this town keeping secrets. thanks for joining us on "inside politics." see you back at this time tomorrow. brianna keilar's up next after a quick break. have a good afternoon. ung galax0 and get a galaxy s10e free!
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visit xarelto.com. how janssen can help, visionworks can do more than the right pair of glassesat. can make you look amazing, too. get two complete pairs of single vision glasses for $59 or two progressives for $99. and choose from over 500 frames. visionworks. we're here to help you. i'm brianna keilar live from cnn's washington headquarters. underway right now, still no mueller report, but today the man behind the cliff notes testifies before congress and reveals when we'll finally see it. also, on the hot seat, the treasury secretary. will he stop the irs from releasing the president's hidden tax returns? plus, whether it's members of his cabinet or border agents, the president of the united states forcing them to choose between him and following the law. and with stephen miller pulling the strings on immigration at the white house, republicans lash out and a freshman democrat calls him