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Interview with Representative Jeff Denham; Cleanup Underway in Houston Area After Hurricane Harvey; Tensions Between Mueller and Capitol Hill on Russia Investigations; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 5, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:31:50] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: In just a few minutes, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be at that podium. He's going to hold a briefing on the fate of the DACA program. The administration is expected to end that with a six-month delay for Congress to come up with a fix.

Also right now at the White House protests are under way against the plans to end the program. Officials are now telling the president doesn't want to take the lead on this issue. Might be why he's punting it to Jeff Sessions to make the announcement today. We should note, of course, Jeff Sessions remains on pretty shallow footing with the president.

Meantime, six Republican members of Congress signed this letter to the president urging him to keep DACA in place until Congress can come up with a fix. One of the Congress members who joined that letter and signed it is Republican Congressman Jeff Denham of California.

It's nice to have you, Congressman. So the president has made pretty clear today what he's going to do. You saw his tweet. He said it's on you guys. He said it's time for Congress to act on DACA. You say?

REP. JEFF DENHAM (R), CALIFORNIA: I say it's time for Congress to do its job. We've got to have a bipartisan bill that not only can pass the House, but House and Senate, working together to solve this problem once and for all.

The current executive order doesn't work. It doesn't include a pathway to citizenship, it doesn't include being able to serve in our armed forces. We need to have a congressional fix to this that solves the problem once and for all.

HARLOW: Tell me why you think that Congress can come up with a congressional fix in six months when, A, Congress has been unable to do what it promised for seven years, Republicans at least, with this repeal and replace Obamacare, and more importantly, the fact that in 2010, when the Dreamer Act was brought forth and you had Democrats controlling the House and the Senate, it failed to get enough votes to pass both chambers. It passed the House, not the Senate.

Why is this time different with more Republicans in Congress? DENHAM: I think it's different for a couple of reasons. First of

all, I believe we've got to deal with all reform. We need a top-to- bottom approach to fixing all of our broken immigration system. But that starts with the -- what should be the easiest in dealing with our Dreamers, having a plan, which we have in the House. We have a separate one in the Senate.

The two are very close together. And both of them are garnering bipartisan support. In my --


HARLOW: Do you have the votes?

DENHAM: The Rack Act as well as the Bridge Act in the Senate, both of them are bipartisan.

HARLOW: But do you think you have the votes?

DENHAM: And then I've got the Enlist Act which has --

HARLOW: Do you think -- do you think you have the votes? Do you think you have enough? Are the numbers there this time that weren't there in 2010?

DENHAM: I believe so. And I'll use my Enlist Act as an example. It's not only gotten the highest number of co-authors of any immigration bill but it has a majority-to-majority. We can pass this bill today. But obviously we want a much broader bill which is why we're looking at the Rack Act and the Bridge Act. Both of which includes my language as well.

I think that it has to be bipartisan. And it may get included in with some other bill. You know, not too long ago, the border funding was a bipartisan bill that Senator Obama, Senator Schumer and Senator Clinton all voted for.


HARLOW: OK. You're talking about --

DENHAM: So why wouldn't we be able to --

HARLOW: Because you're talking about something different. You're talking about the 2006 Fence Act, refers for 700 miles of fence along the border, which is very different from what the president has proposed and many Republicans are pushing now in the border wall.

[10:35:07] But to your state specifically, and your constituents in California specifically, I mean, you know that just over a quarter of those DACA youth that are living in the United States right now are in California. And you vehemently oppose, I read the letter, the president ending this program. Why?

DENHAM: I oppose ending it without a congressional fix. Congress has to do its job. We can't afford to wait for the attorney generals to sue on this nor can we wait for the Supreme Court to once again make a vote on this. We have to have Congress doing its job and actually solving these problems.

And we're going to get people back to work again. I mean, the numbers are there. The men and women that have signed up for DACA, 90 percent of them are working. 95 percent of them are working or going to school. So the numbers are there to improve our economy. We've got to have a congressional fix.

HARLOW: The Cato Institute, which you know, I know you've read this study, which is center, if not right leaning says it would really hurt the economy, that it would cost $60 billion over a decade to deport all these Dreamers, that it's going to cost $280 billion in reduced tax revenue, that growth is going to be hurt, which you know this administration wants to see 3 percent to 4 percent economic growth. Is the administration making a miscalculation on this one and underestimating the economic impact of deporting these Dreamers?

DENHAM: Well, I'm looking forward to hearing the announcement. But we are assuming there will be a six-month delay on this, which should give Congress more than enough time to get its job done. But we've got --

HARLOW: OK. But that's not what I'm asking you, Congressman. What I'm asking you is if Congress can't get it done and the track record has been since 2001 that it can't on this, is this going to hurt the economy?

DENHAM: If DACA were to just end automatically with no congressional fix, yes, I believe it will hurt the economy.

HARLOW: OK. So let me also get you on North Korea because you served in the Air Force 16 years and you have a unique perspective on this as someone who served this country. Looking at the president's responses to North Korea, looking at the rhetoric that's been escalated by the North Koreans on all of this and what South Korea says that it is seeing movement in North Korea, what's your assessment of the situation as it stands and how the president is handling this?

DENHAM: I think we've got to have more pressure on North Korea. We cannot give into the threats that they are threatening, not only the U.S., but making threats around the globe. We've got to have pressure. And that's not just pressure from the U.S. We need to have a coalition both in the U.N. as well as the partners in that region.

HARLOW: Could the president do anything better on this front?

DENHAM: I think we need stronger economic sanctions. I think that it starts there. But obviously, this is getting ratcheted up very, very quickly. There's enough concern there not only for the South Koreans, but for everybody around the world.

HARLOW: Nikki Haley called for those yesterday. We'll see if they happen.

Congressman Jeff Denham, thank you. DENHAM: Poppy, thanks for having me.

HARLOW: The major of Houston says the city is open for business today following Hurricane Harvey. Many of the residents, though, this recovery is just happening. We'll have a live report ahead.


[10:42:21] HARLOW: All right. Let's go to Houston now in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey because today many of those businesses there that were not destroyed in the hurricane are reopening for the first time. These are, though, just the first steps in what is going to be a very long and costly recovery.

Our correspondent Stephanie Elam is in Houston with the latest.

Look, it's dry, but the devastation cannot be overstated. What are you seeing? What are you hearing?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And it is true. You know, when you're in downtown Houston, it does look like business back to normal today after the long holiday weekend here. You see businesses are open. The highways were definitely more filled with cars heading to work this morning. That's true.

But for a lot of people, the work is at home. And if you take a look behind me, you can see here that there is just so much devastation in this one neighborhood where we are in north Houston. And you can see that these folks had major flooding on their house, some of them had, like, five feet of water in their home. And this is how it looks throughout this neighborhood. People here coming and just having to rip out everything down to the dry wall, Poppy, to try to get as much as they can out so that they can try to avoid that mildew and that mold from settling into their homes.

Most of these people, they don't have an option of going someplace else. This is where they're going to be. And so they need to rebuild. And they have done so far is do some demolition as much as they can and then reaching out for assistance from the federal government. And they're in the process of waiting for that. But at the same time, they still have to go to work, they still have things to do.

Take a look at this car, Poppy. This car here is indicative of the entire neighborhood. This neighborhood flooded in the middle of the night. So when the water was coming through their homes, they didn't have time to get in their cars and drive away. So they left their cars here and all of them are just no longer useful. They can't drive them anymore, but at the same time they still need to go to work and they need to get that paycheck. But at the same time, they need to be here working on their homes. And so all of that making for a very difficult situation that's not going to change for them for months on end.

HARLOW: -- that you're speaking with. I mean, this is such a nightmare. I was just thinking about all these families, many of them with young kids trying to, as you said, work, right, to be able to get the paycheck that they need because a lot of them don't have flood insurance. But they need to be at home fixing this, protecting it from the mold for their kids. What are these families telling you?

ELAM: Right. Well, one family I spoke to, the husband has lived in this neighborhood since, like, 1991. He says Allison was bad, Hurricane Allison, but this was much worse. But then combat that between his wife's family and his family, they have nine homes throughout their family in this neighborhood. And all of them are dealing with some sort of flooding.

So normally, when you were dealing with this, you would take your children to your parents' house so they could watch the kids while you work. Well, everyone is dealing with it. So if you think about what it's like for people who've entrenched into this neighborhood, this is home.

[10:45:07] It's a much more difficult situation. School is supposed to resume I believe on the 11th for a lot of these kids. How are they going to get there? Where are they coming from? These are all things that people need to figure out so that they can keep some normalcy for their kids and make sure they don't get behind on their education while at the same time trying to provide a roof over their heads.

HARLOW: Stephanie Elam on the ground in Houston. Clearly the cleanup just beginning. Thank you so much, Steph.

Straight ahead for us, there's new tension on Capitol Hill between members of Congress that are leading the Russia probe and the special counsel leading his own. Our exclusive reporting straight ahead.


[10:50:06] HARLOW: New exclusive reporting to CNN this morning. Exposing new separations and tension among the various Russia investigations on the Hill and with Special Counsel Bob Mueller's team.

Let's go straight to our Manu Raju who has more on all of this.

So as these investigations are ramping up, there seems to be a real divide, a growing divide between what congressional investigators want and are getting and what Mueller wants and is getting.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and perhaps this is inevitable, Poppy, because there are three investigations that are happening on Capitol Hill right now in addition to Special Counsel Bob Mueller's own investigation and there's little communication, if any between the committees on Capitol Hill and also from Robert Mueller's office.

While Mueller has tried to make sure that they do not conflict in certain way, he has mostly kept top lawmakers out of the loop along the top developments that are happening with his own investigation. And we've seen some signs of friction. Earlier this summer, Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman for Donald

Trump, the former campaign chairman, did meet with Senate Intelligence Committee staff to talk about that June 2016 meeting that he had at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. and Russian operatives where those operatives had promised dirt to Donald Trump Jr. on the Clinton campaign.

Now after that interview, Mueller's team actually tried to get a copy of that transcribed interview, get a transcript of the interview, but they were not allowed to get that because of a deal that was cut between Manafort's lawyers and the committee. And they are still searching for that -- those documents that Manafort also provided to the committee.

Just one sign of the tension that's only bound to grow as these investigations ramp up, as we head here into the fall -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Mm-hmm. And that raid that we reported a few weeks ago, Paul Manafort's home, they got the warrant for this raid, Mueller's team did, et cetera, took a bunch of documents, but some of them had to be returned, is that right?

RAJU: Yes, that's right. And some of them actually were covered by attorney-client privilege, and were not covered by that search warrant of Paul Manafort's Virginia home in July. Now we're told this is not entirely unusual. This happens from time-to-time during raids of houses, but there is raising some concern that perhaps Mueller's team may have seen some information that they were not allowed to see and maybe, as one person told us, you can't un-see something, so questions going forward about that as well. But clearly getting some information that they were not entitled to -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And what about these various three different congressional committees leading these Russia probes now on the hill? I mean, Manu, you practically live on the Hill. So what's next?

RAJU: Yes, that's right. Each of these committees has spent the summer really going through thousands and thousands of pages of documents that the Trump campaign has provided to them as part of the questions of any involvement with Russians during the campaign season. They are going to chase a number of those leads and they're also going to schedule some big names to come in for interviews, including Donald Trump Jr., Poppy, who's coming to the Senate Intelligence Committee this month. I'm told as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee as soon as this month as well.

HARLOW: Manu Raju on the Hill for us, thank you so much.

In just moments, we are expecting to hear from Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He will be behind that podium laying out the administration's move on DACA. As one White House official tells CNN, no one inside the West Wing including the president is happy about all of this. And we're waiting to hear from U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Yesterday you heard her live on this show telling the U.N. Security Council that North Korea is begging for war. What will she say today? We're on top of it. Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Poppy Harlow. We'll see you back

here tomorrow. "AT THIS HOUR" starts next.


[10:58:19] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Congress, get ready to do your job, DACA. The word from President Trump this morning in a tweet. Of course. Is it a warning? Is it a promise?

You're just moments away from finding out in a huge moment for this president and a huge moment for the country. But you won't hear it from the president himself, rather his attorney general.

A government source tells CNN Attorney General Jeff Sessions will announce the president's decision to gradually phase out DACA, leaving a six -- leaving six months for Congress to take action before he terminates it.

DACA, of course, is President Obama's executive action protecting some 800,000 so-called Dreamers from deportation. Dreamers were brought to the United States illegally as children by their parents. It is one of the nation's most politically and emotionally charged issues and is already triggering protests.

And it is not new, also. Congress has debated what to do about Dreamers for 16 years. And it's another issue dividing the Republican Party then and now. And what's also not new is a president looking to Congress to come up with a permanent solution. Watch this.


BARRACK OBAMA, 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus on resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people. Precisely because this is temporary, Congress needs to act.


BOLDUAN: That was President Obama when he announced the program back in 2012. Well, even President Trump has seemed to have a hard time making up his mind on this issue from the campaign to the Oval Office.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Always talking about Dreamers for other people. I want the children that are growing up in the United States to be Dreamers, also. They are not dreaming right now. We will immediately terminate President Obama's two illegal --