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Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) Is Interviewed About The House Judiciary's Action To Hold Attorney General Barr In Contempt Of Congress Over His Refusal To Hand Over The Unredacted Mueller Report; Don Jr. Subpoenaed By Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee; Jerry Nadler Said America Is In A Middle Of A Constitutional Crisis; Donald Trump Invoking Executive Privilege. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired May 8, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: The rest of us count events we don't counter. Why don't we cry every time? Cry it out. Been to dozens, look into the faces of their families begging that this never happens to someone else.
If only the reality was that the adults did the brave things to avert disaster instead of relying on the kids. The shame. We all claim we'd do anything to protect our kids. But look at these stolen souls and realize we've done nothing.
Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon starts right now. It breaks your heart, D. Lemon. It breaks your heart.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Listen. I know -- I feel you.
CUOMO: Those poor parents.
LEMON: you -- the kind of relationship we have, whenever I become emotional on TV you tease me about it, right, and I know that you are not one for emotion, to show your emotions in that way. This really hits you. You've got three kids all of whom I know and a family and I'm -- this hit you -- hit home for you.
CUOMO: Listen, you know, I stopped -- I don't go to as many as I used to go to. I've been going to these for decades. And, you know, the sameness, Don, the sameness. You know, I was talking to Mukasey, I said can you imagine if for 15 of the first 19 weeks of school some monster stole a kid and did disgusting things to them and left them out for the body to see we would go crazy.
The phalanx of protection that would be around the schools, the money, the incentives, the politicians, the laws. It would be all over. This, we don't even think about whether there's a problem. No law would have fixed it, Don. What law would you have done that would have made this not happen today.
Boy, that Riley (Ph) is a great kid. Well, I hope my son would do what Kendrick (Ph) did. Really. That's where we are. Gee, I hope my son Mario has the balls to run at somebody who's going to kill him to save the rest of his class. And now they've got to live with it, Natalie and Thomas, probably younger than both of us. Now they've got to live with it.
LEMON: Do you think about this when you send your kids off to school?
CUOMO: No, because I spend a lot of time suppressing things that I worry about and think about. I try not to think about it. I know what can happen. You pray. You do all the things you're supposed to do, except what you should do most.
You know, sometimes I think about this, as I was like, what I should do is only this, you should fight for this. But you know what? I know that nothing is going to happen and that's why I get so pissed off with people with the thoughts and prayers, I got attacked by other Christians.
CUOMO: What's wrong with praying, Chris? I'm saying that anything is wrong with praying. I'm saying that that's all that you do. That's the problem with it. They know it. And they're going to play to advantage, he doesn't believe in the power of prayer. Please.
LEMON: I've been there with the thoughts and prayers things. I've done so many takes of thoughts and prayers. People are saying, my gosh, you're against religion and you're not a Christian and you're going against God.
No, that's not it. I just -- I've got to say we regulate a lot of things, a lot of things we regulate because we come to the agreement that they're not good and they're not safe, not only for us but for the people around us.
I think we need to do that when it comes to this and think about how we -- as you and I talked about the other night, take the stigma --
LEMON: -- off of issues that deal with mental, psychological --
LEMON: -- and those kinds of things.
CUOMO: And you've got to look around the corners of this problem also.
CUOMO: You know, one of the things, one of the things -- well, listen, we've got to be careful about the rights of the mentally ill. True. People who are mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violence --
CUOMO: -- than they are to be perpetrators. That's the truth.
CUOMO: And, you know, there was a time in New York City where you had one in every 100 people in New York were in an asylum, you know, were in some kind of institution. So, you've got to be careful.
However, the idea that we can't do more to identify, to empower people, who have loved ones and family who they know are in a bad place and spiraling, we can't do better?
CUOMO: Come on. I just -- look, we all know, all of us who are in this business, we know. But I've got to just tell you, these families, at a certain point. I just don't know what to say to them anymore.
LEMON: You don't know what to say to them. Except for if you need me, call me, sometimes they do, more often than not they don't, they grieve alone and with the help of their own families.
But listen, keep fighting, I've got your back. I've been fighting, you've been fighting, let's continue to bring this some attention and give it a platform. And I commend you for the interview and for your emotion and for being so passionate about this, my friend.
CUOMO: Someday, we'll do better, Don.
CUOMO: That's why you keep doing the job. Journalism is an expression of hope in the future.
LEMON: Yes. You always tell me you love me. I'm going to tell you I love you.
CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon.
LEMON: See you soon.
This is CNN TONIGHT. Lots to cover tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you so much for watching.
[22:05:03] So, ever wonder what a constitutional crisis looks like? Well, open your eyes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: We've talked for a long time about approaching a constitutional crisis. We are now in it. We are now in a constitutional crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That is the House Judiciary Chairman, I'm going to talk to him, Jerry Nadler, in just a moment.
Here's what's happening to our government right now. The President of the United States is just blowing right through our
system of checks and balances, the very thing that is supposed to keep the Congress, the judiciary and the executive branch working, which means our country working.
He is engaging in an ongoing cover up by defying at every turn the representatives of you, the American people, the very people who are supposed to be investigating fact-finding, fact finding on our behalf.
His attorney general wrote a letter, misrepresenting the findings of the Mueller report. He kept that report under wraps for weeks, along with Mueller's letter complaining that the A.G.'s summary didn't fully represent his work or his conclusions.
And now he's refusing to turn over the unredacted report to Congress. So, the House Judiciary Committee voted today to hold the Attorney General, William Barr, in contempt.
A confrontation the attorney general set in motion when he asked the president to claim executive privilege over all 448 pages of the special counsel's report and the underlying evidence. And now the full House has to vote on this.
But you've got to wonder. Why is this president so determined to keep Congress from seeing the full report when he has claimed again and again that it totally exonerated him?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, if the Mueller report clears you why not let Congress see all of it, sir? Will you stop Robert Mueller from testifying, sir?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And tonight, he is back on the same old exoneration kick in Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Did you see what just happened by the way? No collusion. No obstruction.
TRUMP: No anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So maybe he wants to keep the full report under wraps because he knows it didn't exonerate him. Mueller didn't establish. He did not establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians. But he definitely did not exonerate the president on obstruction. Far from it.
Laid out evidence of multiple incidents that meet the definition of obstruction. Declined, though, to reach a conclusion. Seems like it would -- I don't know, it would be really, really helpful to hear from Robert Mueller himself, discussions continuing about having him testify before the House Judiciary Committee, possibly as soon as next week.
But since he is still a Justice Department employee that's really far from a sure thing. And a sign that not all Republicans are willing to just roll over for the president, the president's oldest son, his namesake, Don Junior, Donald Trump, Jr. subpoenaed not by House Democrats but by the Republican-led Senate intel committee.
Kind of hard to blame that on partisanship. Except that's not exactly what Trump Jr. is trying to do.
A source telling CNN the subpoena is -- and this is a quote, "an obvious P.R. stunt from a so-called Republican senator."
Well, so-called or not, Chairman Richard Burr and his committee they want the president's son to come back and testify again. Did he lie under oath? Will they ask him about that infamous Trump tower meeting and the effort to get dirt on Hillary Clinton? So much for this, huh?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The special counsel's finding is clear. Case closed. Case closed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Now a source says the president's son is considering defying the subpoena, which of course he is, or pleading the fifth, pleading the fifth. Where have I heard that before?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Have you seen what's going on in front of Congress? Fifth amendment, fifth amendment, fifth amendment. Horrible. Horrible.
The mob takes the fifth. If you're innocent why are you taking the fifth amendment.
[22:09:58] When you have your staff taking the fifth amendment, taking the fifth so they're not prosecuted, I think it's disgraceful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: One thing is clear in all of this, the White House is refusing to cooperate with our elected representatives, the people you elected, the people who are supposed to get answers on our behalf.
The attorney general won't turn over the Mueller report, the full Mueller report, the unredacted report, the treasury secretary refusing to hand over the president's tax returns, despite the law, the law that clearly says some members of Congress can see them.
House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal says he'll talk to counsel tomorrow about what to do next. And then there's the former White House Counsel Don McGahn who's been ordered not to cooperate with a subpoena from Congress.
Like I said there are real questions about whether Mueller himself will even be allowed to testify. Aides ordered to defy subpoenas, prevented from testifying.
So, what's a through line in all of this? The president thinks he's above the law. Whatever happened to his oath of office, his promise to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: I can only conclude that the president now seeks to take a wrecking ball through the Constitution of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So that is Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, I'm going to talk to her a little bit later on tonight. But the big question in all of this, in all of this, will House Democrats be painted into the impeachment corner? Whether they like it or not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Every single day, whether it's obstruction, obstruction, obstruction, obstruction of having people come to the table with facts, ignoring subpoenas, every single day the president is making a case. He's becoming self- impeachable in terms of some of the things that he's doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Self-impeachment is not a thing. But you can understand the speaker's reluctance. I mean, she thinks the president is goading Democrats into impeaching him.
I've said it before. Congress, and the American people, going to have to decide how they'll respond to this president and his stonewalling. At the ballot box or will it be impeachment? The answer will determine the direction of this country for years to come.
And you heard the House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler flat out say it, he said we are in the middle of a constitutional crisis. I'll ask him what Congress is going to do about it next.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The House Judiciary committee voting late this afternoon to hold the Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for ignoring a subpoena to turn over the unredacted Mueller report and the evidence Mueller collected.
Well, that vote coming after President Trump asserted executive privilege over the report and the evidence. So, he did so at Barr's request.
Joining me now, Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York, he's a chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Chairman, I appreciate you joining us. I know it's a very busy time for you.
Let me ask you this, you say that we're now in a constitutional crisis. Then what is the specific remedy to a constitutional crisis?
NADLER: Well, we don't know exactly what the remedy to a constitutional crisis is. Other than the application of law. We have -- we are faced with a lawless administration that is ignoring subpoenas and it's not just our subpoena for the Mueller report or for the underlying evidence in the Mueller report, the president came out and said that the administration should ignore all subpoenas from Congress.
So, they are trying to say that Congress doesn't have a role in holding the administration accountable. They are breaking the law as when the law says that upon request anybody's tax returns must be given to the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and they simply defy that.
They tell -- the president tells the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security don't worry about whether it's lawful or not just shut the border, I'll take care of it if you break the law.
So, breaking the laws six ways from Sunday. They're denying the American people the information needed to hold them accountable and that is the constitutional crisis.
LEMON: So why then -- I asked you, you know, what is the remedy, why is that remedy not impeachment?
NADLER: Well, it may come to that. If the president keeps up this conduct. But we'll see. We will first seek to enforce our subpoenas in court to get the information necessary for the American people.
And by the way, one of the things that's really a predicate for impeachment is that you have to have the support of the American people, and to do that the American people have to have the facts to make a judgment, and they're hiding the facts.
So, our first job is to get out the facts. The American people should know what's going on, what they've done, what crimes, if any, have been committed and what the story is.
LEMON: Yes. I want to ask you about the Attorney General, William Barr because your committee held him in contempt. What does it really mean? Because you're not going to apprehend the attorney general, I don't think, or fine him, are you? So, what's your next move?
NADLER: Well, the attorney -- the attorney general first has shown himself to be the personal attorney -- he first showed himself to be the personal attorney of the president rather than the attorney general of the United States when he misled the country twice about the contents of the Mueller report and when he's now just seeking to keep all information away from Congress.
Now, we will enforce the contempt citation in a civil contempt proceeding in which he can be fined. He's not going to go to jail but he can be fined severely by the court at the court's discretion in a civil contempt proceeding after the House votes the contempt that we recommended today.
LEMON: So, listen, this is all about getting that unredacted -- the full unredacted Mueller report.
[22:19:59] Tell our viewers why you're not taking -- why you are taking -- you are taking a stand on this when you can go -- you can go to the Justice Department you can look at a less redacted report, which only omits the grand jury material.
NADLER: Well, what they have said, they made an offer that I and the ranking minority member of the committee could go and look at a less redacted report provided that we told nobody what we saw and if we left our notes there, I couldn't tell any other member of the committee, Congress acts by committees and by majorities.
So, what good is that information if I can't tell anybody about it? We counter offered and we said, fine, let the members of the intelligence and judiciary committees see the underlying material and the unredacted report and when we made that offer, they broke off negotiations and we had to go through with the contempt.
LEMON: Well, the president did assert executive privilege over the entire Mueller report. Sarah Sanders today called you out on that. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You would think for an attorney Chairman Nadler would be a little bit more up on the law. I'm not and I actually feel like I understand it better than he does.
Chairman Nadler is again trying to violate the law. The president and the attorney general are the ones that are actually upholding it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So that is the Republican line that you are asking the attorney general to break the law. Go on.
NADLER: That is errant nonsense. We're asking for, in this case, the underlying -- the unredacted version of the Mueller report and the underlying evidence. The president is claiming executive privilege.
Executive privilege is only to safeguard advice given to the president so people will give him candid advice. In the Nixon case the Supreme Court ruled eight to nothing that even when it was the most personal advice, the personal advice of his advisers to the president it could not shield wrongdoing and President Nixon had to turn over the tapes. Second of all it is black letter law, very plain that once the
president has OK-ed giving out that information to anybody else, in this case the Mueller -- the Mueller investigation, Don McGahn's personal attorney, once he's done that, for that matter to me and to the ranking member, once he's done that he's waived the privilege.
Because once that information is public it is public. He can't pull it back. And by public, I mean anybody outside the presidential office.
Now they're trying to make a nonsensical distinction and say well, they didn't waive it because they gave it to Mueller and Mueller is part of the executive branch. But that's a ridiculous distinction that the courts have never recognized.
LEMON: Let's move on and I want to talk now -- talking about the president's son, Don Jr., Mr. Chairman, he's getting subpoenaed by the Republican controlled Senate Intelligence Committee. What do you think this is about?
NADLER: He testified in front of the Senate committee, in front of that committee last year, I think, that he only vaguely knew of the -- only was vaguely aware of the attempt by the Trump organization to negotiate to build a Trump tower in Moscow in 2016.
And of course, the president denied that he had any dealings with Moscow during the campaign. And Michael Cohen testified that he was negotiating on behalf of Trump a deal to build a Trump tower in Moscow right up through the campaign, right up through the end of the campaign and that he briefed Don Jr. on it at least 10 times.
So that's direct conflict of testimony and maybe that Don Jr. is guilty of perjury and I suspect that that's what they want to talk to him about.
LEMON: Chairman, listen, originally it sounded like Mueller was going to testify next week. Now that the president has asserted executive privilege, are we ever going to hear from Mueller?
NADLER: Well, we are still talking to Mueller. I certainly hope that we will hear from Mueller. And eventually -- by the way, yes, eventually we will hear from Mueller because we will, if we have to, we will subpoena him if we have to.
And the nonsense claim of executive privilege will be pierced by the court and he'll be ordered to testify. I certainly hope it doesn't come to our necessity to subpoena him.
LEMON: Yes. Why is Mueller still an employee of the Justice Department?
NADLER: I assume he's wrapping up things but he's not expected to be an employee for much longer, just a couple of weeks we're told.
LEMON: And if he's not an employee of the Justice Department can he decide for himself even with executive privilege asserted by the president that he, if he wants to speak? NADLER: Well, I think he can decide that whether or not -- whether or
not he's employed. He -- any American is duty bound to answer lawful questions of a court or of Congress, if that matters, state legislature pursuant to a lawful subpoena.
And asserting a nonexistent privilege, which this certainly is under these circumstances, doesn't get you out of that. And whether he -- whether you're an employee of the executive branch you still can't obey a lawless order which is what the president just issued when he told him not to testify.
[00:04:53] NADLER: The bottom line in all of this is what are they afraid of? Why are they trying to prevent everybody from telling anybody, from telling any investigative body, from telling the House Judiciary Committee, the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, anybody anything?
NADLER: That's stonewalling the American people. It's fit only for a monarch. And it's lawless. But what are they afraid of?
LEMON: The president also does not want his tax returns to be turned over and you heard that obviously they're not -- they said they're not going to do it.
"The New York Times" yesterday revealed that they got 10 years of his tax returns and that he lost a billion dollars or more within a decade. What do you -- is that even more evidence or reason that you want to see all this information from the president of the United States? What did you think of that report?
NADLER: Well, there are -- well, it seems to be very well sourced and it's very revealing. But of course, what it shows is that the president is a total liar and a two-bit conman. But those of us who knew him in New York knew that for many years, people wouldn't deal with him and knew that you couldn't believe what he said.
And knew that banks wouldn't lend him money, except for Deutsche Bank, which is an interesting question why there were an exception. But it doubles down on the reasoning for asking for his tax returns.
But it doubles down on the reasoning for asking for his tax returns. But again, here it's not a question of a subpoena. The law says that the Ways and Means Committee may request anyone's tax returns and when they do the IRS must, must supply it.
And Secretary Mnuchin by saying I'm not going to supply it is just breaking the law. And there's no excuse. He doesn't even say I'm breaking the law -- actually, he says they don't have a legitimate legislative purpose. But that's not for him to decide.
The law says he must supply it and another example of this administration simply being lawless and refusing to follow the law. And that is intolerable.
LEMON: Chairman Nadler, thank you for your time.
NADLER: You're quite welcome.
LEMON: And we're going to dig a lot deeper into why the Republican- controlled Senate Intelligence Committee is serving Donald Trump, Jr. with a subpoena. Do they think he lied under oath?
[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Sources telling CNN the president's oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has been subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee. Let's discuss now. Matthew Rosenberg is here, Susan Glasser, Jack Quinn, good evening. Lots to discuss, right to it.
Susan, you first, the question here is why is Don Jr. being subpoenaed?
Why is he being subpoenaed? We know discussions about his testimony began weeks before the Mueller report. Now that report is out, is this about perjury possibly?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, look. You're right to point out that he's already testified before the committee. And so it's interesting that they want to call him back. And, in fact, that's one of the reasons Don Jr.'s lawyers are saying we don't want to, that he already said he would testify just once. And so the question naturally arises.
Well, now that we see what's in the Mueller report, did he give testimony that is in conflict with that at all? For example, thinking about the statement that President Trump dictated, famously dictated in which they denied knowing anything about the Trump Tower meeting had anything to do with anything except for adoptions. And we know now that Trump dictated it.
Is that what Don Jr. testified to originally in the Senate Intelligence Committee? There could be lots of other examples of that. So, you know, I think it's fascinating that it's the Republican-led Senate committee that has subpoenaed him rather than the House. You see this talk of a constitutional crisis with Chairman Nadler in your interview just now.
It's probably worth noting in that respect that the Republican chairman has already said he's not running for reelection again.
LEMON: Interesting. So let's focus on some of the possibilities, OK, Matthew? So Don Jr. testified that he didn't tell his father about that Trump Tower meeting to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. And yet, in the Mueller report on page 115, there it is. It states that Michael Cohen recalled being in a meeting where Don Jr. and Trump talked about a meeting to get adverse Clinton information.
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, I think if you're Don Jr., that's why you don't want to go testify. There are things that you said, probably may have said even in your previous interview with the committee staff, and those may not line up with other statements and other information that's come out. We know that Michael of the Trump Tower Moscow project than he has previously let on.
It's interesting what's going on here, because you've got Don Jr.'s people saying look, he already came once and testified. What does he got to go back? You got people on the Senate Intelligence Committee saying, you know, he came once for a staff interview. The plan always was to get him on the record in public in front of senators.
So they don't really see what this excuse is about. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Is he taking the fifth? We don't know yet.
LEMON: OK. Jack, I want to bring you in now. And listen, Mueller declined to prosecute Don Jr. But we did learn new details about the lead-up to the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians. And I just want to read from some of the report here. It says Rick Gates, who was a deputy campaign chairman, stated during interviews with the office that in the days before June 9, 2016, Trump Jr. announced at a regular morning meeting.
A senior campaign staff and Trump family members that he had a lead on negative information about the Clinton Foundation. So it seems like that there are things that are ripe to be followed up on.
JACK QUINN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely. And I think, you know, as both Matthew and Susan indicated. The great likelihood here is that the committee has found conflicts in what Don Jr. that has said to different audiences. I think this is about his likely perjury. And I think that the fact that Chairman Burr, whether he's running for reelection or not, the fact that he is calling him back says a lot.
[22:35:03] I mean, the guy's a Republican. He's been a loyal Republican. He has not been in any way targeting the president, complicit with the Democrats. I think his involvement in this speaks volumes. And by the way, it would be hard for me to believe that the Senate Intelligence Committee acted on the basis of all the Democrats and Chairman Burr acting together. We'll see.
I don't know the answer to this. But I would imagine that there were some other Republicans who were involved in wanting him to come back again. And the most important point I want to make here is that Congress, contrary to what the Trump family believes or understands, Congress has broad authority to investigate wrongdoing in the government, achieving offices in the government.
And so the idea that they can just, across the board, say that they're not going to comply with these subpoenas is utter folly. At the end of the day, they will lose a number of these court cases. They're playing for time, I believe. And in an effort hopefully to rally troops, you know, with what they might think is sort of the Clinton plan of, you know, presenting the president as someone being prosecuted.
Get him reelected. Let the statutes of limitation run. In other words, make him not available for criminal prosecution. I think that's what's going on here. And I think -- by the way, that Bill Barr's complicity in all of this is just shameful.
LEMON: Well, it's interesting you say that.
QUINN: Trump should know better, but --
LEMON: Listen, it's important.
LEMON: It is a Republican-led committee. And I think that's unprecedented. The question is whether this is going to lead to a standoff. And let me say this, because this is what a source close to Don Jr. said in a statement, OK, to CNN. No lawyer would agree to allow their client to participate in what is an obvious PR stunt from a so-called Republican senator too cowardly to stand up to his boss, Mark Warner, and the rest of the resistance Democrats on the committee.
Listen. Susan, game this out for me. Does Don Jr. -- I mean does Don Jr. plead the fifth? Does he not show up at all? And then what does Congress do then?
GLASSER: Well, first of all --
ROSENBERG: I heard that remark -- I am sorry.
LEMON: That was for Susan, but go on.
ROSENBERG: I heard that remark, and I went looking through -- oh, I am sorry. I apologize. Go ahead, Susan.
GLASSER: No, no, no, no. We probably will say the same thing, which is that it is pretty notable that Don Jr.'s attacking a Republican senator in this way. I do think the definition that the president and his family have right now is that Republicans on Capitol Hill are owing him personal loyalty. And the question is, you know, has this definition of politics changed their view of their job and their institutional role?
Will he plead the fifth? You know there's some talk. I believe CNN has reported they're even contemplating to simply not showing up. And I'm struck by the fact that we are now having a confrontation across the board, not just about the Mueller report.
LEMON: All right. Thank you, all. I've got to run. That's got to be the last word. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
LEMON: The House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, while he says that we're in a constitutional crisis. Is our democracy in peril?
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler, flat out said it today that we're in the middle of a constitutional crisis. The committee voted today to hold the attorney general in contempt for refusing to hand over the full un-redacted Mueller report. The vote coming after the president claimed executive privilege over the report and the underlying evidence.
So how dangerous is all of this for our democracy? I am going to bring in Bruce Ackerman. He is a constitutional law scholar, Mr. Ackerman, so good to have you on. Thank you so much. You say --
BRUCE ACKERMAN, YALE LAW SCHOOL STERLING PROFESSOR: Pleasure.
LEMON: You said that we're at a crucial moment in our country right now, that this is a tragic situation. Do you agree with Chairman Nadler? Is it a crisis?
ACKERMAN: The -- Nadler's lawsuit will force the -- will be a moment of truth for the Supreme Court of the United States, which is now dominated by originalists. Crucial to the founding vision is that the president of the United States is not King George III. King George III treated, assaulted the independence of the colonial legislatures and the Parliament and made war without the consent of Parliament.
It is precisely the question brought by Nadler's lawsuit -- is the new Roberts Court serious in its originalism. And this will also be raised by another lawsuit that Nancy Pelosi should bring on behalf of the House of Representatives challenging President Trump's decision to make war against the explicit command of both houses of Congress.
[22:44:44] The self-conscious principle of the founders was that it was Congress that had the exclusive power to make war. And this was reaffirmed and a crucial decision by the Supreme Court in 1952, called the Steel Seizure Case. Harry Truman was faced with a real emergency there. He -- the steel workers had gone on strike and he could no longer supply the troops in the field with adequate ammunition and military equipment.
And so what he did was assert the right of the commander in chief to disobey the explicit commands of Congress. And the Supreme Court, in a decision reaffirmed as recently as 2015 in -- by the Roberts Court, held no. The commander in chief cannot disobey the explicit laws of Congress.
ACKERMAN: So this is a crisis of the --
(CROSSTALK) LEMON: Let me jump in here. I understand. You've established that
it's a crisis of the American system. And I am short on time here. But I just want to ask you.
LEMON: So the law -- it appears that you're saying, obviously, that the law is on Nadler's side and on Nancy Pelosi's side, and the --
LEMON: The conventional wisdom is that the president and his people know it. They're just doing this to buy time. At the end of the day, they're going to lose on the issue.
ACKERMAN: Look. This is going to move very quickly. The -- it's going to be expedited. Indeed by a tragic irony, it may well be that Merrick Garland's on the panel that is going to decide the case. But this will move very quickly to the Supreme Court of the United States. And at the same time, an answer to your other question, is this a crisis? Indeed.
What President Trump is doing is precisely the same thing that tin pot authoritarians are trying to do in Poland, Turkey, Venezuela, Philippines. All of these are leaders, are -- would be authoritarians who are trying to destroy democracy. And one of the -- I can't emphasize this too much.
I have just published a book called Revolutionary Constitutions, which tries to talk about the ways in which the American revolutionary tradition has been carried on in many other countries in the 20th century, and how they are being destroyed by authoritarian leaders who are assaulting congressional or legislative independence and the independence of --
LEMON: Mr. Ackerman, I appreciate all of your knowledge. But we've got to go. I'm out of time, unfortunately. You came armed with knowledge. We enjoyed having you. Thank you for all the information that you provided. We're indeed in a crisis, he says. We'll be right back.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump invoked executive privilege today over the entire Mueller report, and he apparently did it at the suggestion of the Attorney General, William Barr. Joining me now to breakdown some very big legal issues in all this is Matt Axelrod, a former senior official in President Obama's Justice Department.
Matt, so good to have you on, let's go. So I want to ask you about the attorney general's role throughout this process.
He's really the one driving this confrontation with Congress, and this is just part of a letter that he wrote to President Trump today. So listen. He said in these circumstances, you may properly assert executive privilege with respect to the entirety of the Department of Justice materials that the committee has demanded, pending a final decision on the matter. How significant is it that Barr is suggesting the president claim executive privilege, not the other way around?
MATTHEW AXELROD, PARTNER, LINKLATERS LLP: Well, I think that part is actually standard stuff. There's a lot of stuff that's extraordinary that's going on, but the way executive privilege works is that the attorney general makes a recommendation to the president, and then the assertion has to be made by the president personally which is what happened in this case.
LEMON: Yeah. So this is confirmed to you that William Barr is putting the president's interest above American people or do you think this is standard SOP?
AXELROD: Well, I -- look. I think the process by which executive privilege was invoked today is the standard process. I do think, though, you have to look at it not in isolation but as part of a much larger pattern by this administration and this president, which is to express deep hostility towards the institutions that constrain executive power.
LEMON: What is that pattern?
AXELROD: Yeah. So the pattern is attacks on federal law enforcement, attacks on federal judges, attacks on the free press, and now attempts to prevent Congress from getting information it needs to conduct its oversight. All of those are of a kind, which is attempts to push back on the normal system of checks and balances, which can result in the president being above the law and not being held accountable.
[22:54:58] LEMON: Hey, listen. I have about 20 seconds. And I just want to ask you about the Republican-led Senate subpoenaing Donald Trump Jr. One source says the president's son is considering invoking the Fifth Amendment, perhaps not showing up at all. How do you see it playing out?
AXELROD: Yeah. So look. I think what's important about it is that it's a Republican-led senator that sent the subpoena. This is not partisan. This is institutional. And I think Don Jr. has a real difficult choice to make about how he's going to respond.
LEMON: Matt Axelrod, always a pleasure.
AXELROD: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: As this White House continues to defy subpoenas and refuse testimonies, setting off a constitutional crisis, will Democrats be forced to impeach the president whether they like it or not?