Return to Transcripts main page


Biden Expresses Regret over Anita Hill Hearing; Tonight's CNN Town Hall Features Cory Booker; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina Discusses the Mueller Report, Obamacare & 2020 Election. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired March 27, 2019 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All of together watching it play out together. Appreciate it.

Coming up for us, former Vice President Joe Biden regrets his role in the Anita Hill hearing decades ago. Why he says he wishes he could have done more. And why is he talking about it now?

Plus, Senator Lindsey Graham joins us live. What he's learned about the Mueller report, the full Mueller report, fresh from a dinner with the attorney general.

Stay with us.


[11:34:59] BOLDUAN: Joe Biden still not announcing that he's running. Just want to get that out there at the top. But he is already answering for his past, expressing regret over the treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in 1991. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Anita Hill came to testify, she faced a committee that didn't fully understand what the hell it was all about. To this day, I regret I couldn't come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved.


BOLDUAN: Biden was the chairman of the committee at the time. So if she didn't get the hearing she deserved, shouldn't the chairman of the committee be able to explain why she didn't? What does this say about his not yet announced bid? Not yet announced but always teased presidential bid.

Let's talk about it. Joining me right now is CNN political report, Arlette Saenz, and Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor- at-large.

Arlette, you were there last night. What do you think of that answer that he gave? How did it go over in the room?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: This certainly isn't the first time he's tried to address this Anita Hill controversy. But it comes in a new light because he's getting closer and closer to announcing a run for president. I think the reception to this was a little bit mixed. I was standing by two women when he started talking about it. They were like, oh, wow, this is something he does need to be addressing right now. Some people have said it's a good start to making sure he makes amends with Anita Hill regarding this incident. But there's also people who say he was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at this time. If anyone could have given her the hearing he says she deserved, that could have been him. Some say his comments yesterday ring a little bit hollow. It's very clear that he knows they need to clear some of this up because it is going to come under a lot of scrutiny, especially in the #metoo era.

BOLDUAN: This gets to what you've been writing about, Chris.


BOLDUAN: You wrote that you think the Anita Hill hearings are Biden's biggest weakness.

CILLIZZA: It gets to Arlette's point. The Anita Hill hearing is probably or one of the biggest moments of Biden's career in the Senate. He was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I would urge people to watch those hearings. It will feel like it's from the 1930s as opposed to 1991. You can see why it's a problem.

Joe Biden was elected to the Senate in 1972. He leaves the Senate after he becomes vice president in 2009. There's a lot of votes and a lot of things between 72 --


BOLDUAN: He's also run for president before.



CILLIZZA: Here's what's important about that. In '87, he drops out before the race really gets underway due to a plagiarism scandal. He doesn't get the scrutiny from other candidates or the media. Is he Don Draper in a Peggy Olson world? Is he a guy who thinks the ground has changed under him? He was once the perfect fit for the party, but no longer. How does he sort of meld that? He's trying to. He has apologized multiple times now for his handling of the Anita Hill hearings. He can't go back and change it. Question is: Does the party want someone who doesn't have that in their past?

BOLDUAN: Tonight, is a big opportunity for one of those potential people with a lot of potential. We've got Cory Booker with his big town hall tonight and a big opportunity to make a splash, to separate himself from the field. Is there something in particular you're looking for from Cory Booker tonight? SAENZ: I think he really wants to take this moment and build himself

and present himself to the American people. Right now, you look at the polling. He's kind of in the middle of the pack. He's going to need a break-away moment as he gets further and further into this contest.

CILLIZZA: Here's the issue with him. He does need a moment. Remember when he tried to create that moment with Brett Kavanagh?

BOLDUAN: You mean Spartacus?

CILLIZZA: "This is my Spartacus moment."


CILLIZZA -- it kind of fell --


CILLIZZA: Don't try to make fetch happen. Just see if fetch happens.

BOLDUAN: Maybe someone will ask him about his Spartacus moment.


BOLDUAN: Great to see you guys. Thank you so much.

[11:39:13] Coming up for us, when will everyone see the Mueller report and how much of it will you actually see? Senator Lindsey Graham just spoke to the attorney general. The Senator joins us next.


BOLDUAN: Weeks, not months. That is the word from the Justice Department on how long until the Attorney General Bill Barr will deliver the Mueller report to Congress. So when exactly will that be and how much will Congress and the public really get to see?

Joining me now is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Lindsey Graham.

Senator, thank you for being here.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: So you had dinner with the attorney general last night.

GRAHAM: Right.

BOLDUAN: We're been told it's weeks not months. But what is the timing?

GRAHAM: Here's the process. He's going through the report to make sure that grand jury information is taken out, because by law it can't be divulged. It would destroy the grand jury process and violate the law. He's going to go to the Intelligence Community to make sure there's no sources and methods or classified information that they're worried about. That would be taken out. He's going to talk to prosecutors who have cases associated with all of this to make sure it doesn't undercut them. When he does that, which will take weeks not months, he'll turn it over to the Senate and the House and he'll come before the Senate Judiciary Committee and tell us about it.

BOLDUAN: You're thinking mid-April?

GRAHAM: Sometime in April probably.

BOLDUAN: Before May?

GRAHAM: Yes, I think so.

BOLDUAN: How much of the report are we going to see, 50 percent, less?

[11:45:00] GRAHAM: I don't know how much grand jury material is in there. Mueller will be the guy to tell us about that. He says I'm going to go to Mr. Mueller and make sure anything that's grand jury related is taken out. And he's my guide because he's the one that did the investigation. So --


BOLDUAN: Do you get a sense that you're going to be able to see the majority of the report?

GRAHAM: I have no idea how much grand jury material is there. I don't know.

BOLDUAN: You said last night in another interview --

GRAHAM: Here's what I do know. You'll get everything that doesn't compromise national security or violate the law.

BOLDUAN: On that front, you said last night in an interview you spoke to the president.


BOLDUAN: Is he giving you any assurance that he will not be invoking executive privilege?

GRAHAM: That's right. He said just release it.

BOLDUAN: So there will no executive -- executive privilege is off. Is not a question?

GRAHAM: As far as I know. That's what they said yesterday.

BOLDUAN: Do you think the White House is going to see a copy of this before it's released?

GRAHAM: I doubt it. If they're not going to claim executive privilege, they told me. The president told me just release it. He reinforced that last night that, you know, just release it.

BOLDUAN: That's interesting. You said in another interview last night that, "There are some things in the report that will be interesting in terms of conversations."

GRAHAM: I'm sure there will be.


GRAHAM: I don't know what's in the report. But you know, he interviewed people that worked at the White House. Here's what you can say --


BOLDUAN: Yes, he interviewed people that worked at the White House.

GRAHAM: Yes, I imagine they'll have some interesting stories to tell.

BOLDUAN: Interesting in terms of that went look good for the president?

GRAHAM: I don't know. Time will tell. The point is the people who testified before Mueller must have done it in a credible fashion, in a way that Mueller believed them and did not find a crime so that's the bottom line.

BOLDUAN: Did Bill Barr tell you -- what went into his decision-making process? Well, I guess, him and Rosenstein in terms of not charging the president when it comes to obstruction of justice? Does he say he struggled with the decision?

GRAHAM: It's pretty simple. If the guy who looked at it for 2.5 years, spent $2.5 million, had 40 FBI agents, tells you three weeks before he gives it to you, I can't make a decision about obstruction --

BOLDUAN: He said he wouldn't make a decision.

GRAHAM: Well, if he can't, wouldn't -- I don't know, why wouldn't he. But the bottom line is, if I'm the defense attorney and my client's being charged with obstruction of justice and the guy who actually investigated the case said, hey, I can't decide, it's complicated legally and factually, that's the end of the discussion. How could you in good faith bring a case after Mueller says I can't decide?

BOLDUAN: Do you think that Barr in good faith looked at it, though? Often, the investigator presents the facts and then the prosecutor --


GRAHAM: He's not the investigator. He's the special prosecutor. His goal was to see if there were any crime there. DOJ was conflicted. Sessions --

(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: Do you think it begins and ends with -- there was no decision, you think --


GRAHAM: I don't know how -- how in the world could you, as the attorney general, move forward on a case -- you know, we're talking about a criminal matter here -- when the guy who investigated it for 2.5 years says it's complicated factually and legally? I don't know how in good faith you could do that. Again, if you're the defense attorney, your first exhibit to defend your client would be the Mueller report.

BOLDUAN: It's written this way, "While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

GRAHAM: That's the end of the criminal matter. The goal of a prosecutor is to bring a case or not. If you can't meet the "beyond a reasonable doubt standard," if you're confused about the law and the facts, then you don't bring the case. The goal was not to exonerate people. The goal is to find out whether or not a crime was committed.

BOLDUAN: It's also up to Congress then. Because Congress is separate from --

GRAHAM: That's the point here. Barr's job and Mueller's job is to look at criminality.


GRAHAM: Our job is to look at systems, oversight of the executive branch. That's why I'm going to look at the FISA warrant --

BOLDUAN: I'll get to that in one second.


BOLDUAN: Real quick, on this who question of exonerating, Giuliani called that last bit a cheap shot.


GRAHAM: I don't care what you call it. It means to me that, yes, he didn't say I find you not guilty. He says I don't have sufficient -- I'm not comfortable with the fact pattern and the law to recommend that you should charge the president with obstruction.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about investigating that you're going to be doing. You're going to be looking at FISA warrant process --

GRAHAM: Right.

BOLDUAN: -- and quite a bit more.

GRAHAM: The counterintelligence investigation. BOLDUAN: You tweeted right after the Barr memo came out that it's

time for the country to move on. How is it moving on the Senate Judiciary Committee is looking -- is looking --

GRAHAM: It's time for us to move on.

BOLDUAN: -- looking at the investigators?

GRAHAM: Well, it's time for us to move on in terms of Mueller. And 2.5 years, $25 million, a bunch of inquiry and look by a really competent guy. The Congress's job to find out was a FISA warrant issued against an American citizen based on a bunch of garbage. I think everybody should want to know the answer to that. How come it be the dossier was the central reason the warrant was issued? Was it the central reason? How come they would give it to the court if they couldn't verify whether it was legitimate? And did Bruce Ohr tell everybody in the FBI, you've got to watch out for this Steele guy, he's got a bias. I want to know all of that.

[11:50:26] BOLDUAN: So the president also indicated that he wants to know about that, as well.


BOLDUAN: I've heard people ask this -- and I want you to respond -- that you are now using the Senate Judiciary Committee as an instrument of revenge for the president.


BOLDUAN: What do you say to that?

GRAHAM: I say that's stupid. If the shoe were on the other foot, if the Republican Party had hired Steele to investigate Clinton, created a document that was a bunch of garbage against Clinton, and they got a warrant against a Clinton adviser, everybody would be up in arms. The media's coverage of Mueller was horrendous and missed a whole big story about how it got off the rails, I'm going to look and see how it got off the rails. It's not revenge to ask the question, did the Department of Justice --


BOLDUAN: It hasn't gone off the rails. You appreciate what Mueller did.

GRAHAM: No, no. The reason --


GRAHAM: The reason -- no, Mueller did this job fine.


GRAHAM: How did this whole Russia stuff start? Was there a corrupt intent when it came to the counterintelligence? Here's the question, why did they never go to Trump and say you may have some people in your campaign working with the Russians when they went to Dianne Feinstein and said there's someone in your office that we think is working with the Chinese.

BOLDUAN: So if the dossier is --

GRAHAM: Garbage.


BOLDUAN: If it is garbage, you've now said that you told John McCain when he received the dossier to give it to the FBI --

GRAHAM: Right.

BOLDUAN: -- to investigate. Do you regret making that suggestion now --

GRAHAM: Not at all.

BOLDUAN: -- now you're looking into what the FBI did with the dossier?

GRAHAM: In December, somebody gave the dossier to McCain.


GRAHAM: He didn't give it to the press. He said, I don't know, what do you think? I said, listen, I don't know if it's true. It could be a bunch of garbage, it could be true. It's not our job to figure it out. Hand it to the FBI. The FBI had the dossier months before, but we didn't know. But what do we know now? We know now that the information in the dossier is unverified to this day.

BOLDUAN: You surprise a lot of people, though, when you revealed that McCain talked to you about the dossier and that you told him to turn it over. The president has over and over again spread on misinformation, at the very least, and lied about that and said that the dossier, and spread the dossier around and that is a stain against him and --

GRAHAM: The people at the McCain Institute, the guy shopped it around all over town --


BOLDUAN: That is not what Donald Trump was saying. You talked to Donald Trump about it.


BOLDUAN: You talked to Trump about it.

GRAHAM: I don't know --

BOLDUAN: Did you set him straight?

GRAHAM: I know what happened, and I know that McCain acted responsibly and the people around John McCain didn't.

BOLDUAN: Did you set Trump straight on that one?

GRAHAM: Yes. I told him, yes. I mean, I don't care -- I'm not out to please the president about John McCain. He's my friend, John McCain. I love the guy to death. He's an American hero. I want to help the president and I like him. John McCain acted responsibly. Did the FBI act responsibly? Did the Department of Justice act responsibly? Did they lie to the FISA court? Did they set up a counterintelligence investigation against the Trump campaign that was a backdoor-way to infiltrate the campaign? I don't know the answers to this, but I do know somebody's going to look at it, me included, and I hope some prosecutor looks as to whether or not the DOJ and the FBI was corrupt.

BOLDUAN: Can I ask you -- about John McCain, though. The president has really relentlessly attacked him for months. You say that you had a conversation with him about it.

I want to play you something that Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries said about this, and it was just yesterday. Listen to this.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D), NEW YORK: Lindsay Graham spent years as a sidekick to John McCain. And then Donald Trump gets elected and Donald Trump continues to bash John McCain in reprehensible ways and Lindsay Graham, on the issue, is in the Witness Protection Program.


BOLDUAN: Do you want to respond to that?

GRAHAM: I could give a damn what he thinks about me and John McCain. The bottom line is that my relationship with John McCain was one of the highlights of my time as being in Congress. He was one of my dearest friends. And it's OK for John McCain and Donald Trump to disagree. It's not OK, in my view, for the president to go after John McCain personally. I've said that a thousand times. But the bottom line here is I'm going to help President Trump. I don't care whether Mr. Jefferies likes it or not. I'll honor my friend until the day I die. But this president feels like people around McCain were out to get him. John McCain wasn't.

BOLDUAN: Just square this -- I do want -- a lot of folks wonder and I've wondered it, too. How do you square this one? John McCain was one of your closest friends in the world.

[11:55:08] GRAHAM: Well, it's easy.

BOLDUAN: And Donald trump has attacked him relentlessly, even in his death.

GRAHAM: Well --

BOLDUAN: How do you work with someone with the capacity to attack someone like that?

GRAHAM: There are two sides to this story. President Trump is the president of the United States. I represent the state of South Carolina. They want me to work with this president. I want to have influence with this president because he is president. I think he's doing a damn good job, quite frankly, on national security and economic policy. And I will continue to help him.

To all those people who bring up this narrative, you just hate Trump. You don't really care about McCain and me. I know this -- this is a game. You're not offended about me and McCain. You're trying to use me to get to Trump. I'm not playing that game. If you think the only way to honor John McCain is to tell this president, I won't work with you, I won't ever help you, that's your agenda, not mine. My agenda is twofold, to honor my friend for the rest of my life in every way I can and to help this president be successful. And I'm not into this idea the only way you can help honor John McCain is to trash out Trump. President Trump has been good to me in the sense that he's allowed me in his world. He's made decisions, I think, based on some input I've given him. He's subject to changing his mind. I want him to be successful. I'm the Senator of South Carolina and I'm going to do what the people of South Carolina want me to do, help make this president successful.

BOLDUAN: One of the things on the table now once again is health care.


BOLDUAN: Very quickly. I -- I am surprised to sense excitement in your voice about this.

GRAHAM: I am very excited.

BOLDUAN: The president says Republicans will be the party of health care?


BOLDUAN: Do you want to run on health care?

GRAHAM: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Seriously? You do? Really, Senator?

GRAHAM: What do you think? Yes --


GRAHAM: Because Obamacare is failing.

BOLDUAN: Right, but Graham-Cassidy failed as well. GRAHAM: Well, it didn't make it through, but it's a good idea. They

want Socialism. We want Federalism. How do we ignore health care? If you are out there struggling, if you make $50,000 as a couple, you're getting Obamacare subsidies and your premiums go through the roof, you're losing your private coverage because companies are dropping coverage, I'd like to have an answer. And here's my answer. Take all of the money they're spending on Obamacare in Washington and block grant that.

BOLDUAN: You are also an astute politician. You think Republicans running on health care in 2020 --

GRAHAM: One-hundred percent.

BOLDUAN: -- is not a gift to Democrats?

GRAHAM: No, not at all. Because if you're in Pennsylvania, under the block grant, you get more money. If you're in Wisconsin, under the block grant, you get more money. You're giving money to California, New York, Massachusetts and Maryland under Obamacare.

BOLDUAN: Are chances any greater than zero that this Congress could come together on a replacement?

GRAHAM: You know, I doubt it, but what is the Republican Party for? Don't you think --


BOLDUAN: What's the Republican Party alternative?

GRAHAM: A block grant to take the money out of Washington, give to the state to spend on health care, cover pre-existing conditions, flexibility, innovation at the state level. If you don't like what they're doing with your health care at the state, you can vote them out of office. Under Obamacare, you don't even know who runs Obamacare in your state. You have no say, you have no input. And most states get more money under the block grant versus Obamacare. It's control of health care in your backyard versus Washington. I think that is a good thing to run on.

BOLDUAN: We will see.

GRAHAM: We will see.

BOLDUAN: Because it is now the next chapter.

Senator, thanks for coming in.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it.

All right, thanks for joining me.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with Phil Mattingly starts after a quick break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)