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Interview With Delaware Senator Chris Coons; Trump Sides With Dems On Debt Limit Increase; Before Trump Agreed, Paul Ryan Called Plan Ridiculous; Clinton Linens Sanders' Campaign Pitch to Magic Abs; Clinton Says She Misjudged State Of Politics In 2016; Trump's Mixed Messages on DACA. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 6, 2017 - 16:30   ET




SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: He is his father's son. And there may have been conversations between him and his father about the reasons for firing Jim Comey, about other actions that were taken, comments about the investigation.

There is a, potentially, trove of very valuable evidence that he could provide in the questions, whether he will cooperate, he will be fully cooperative.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And Jake, senator Dianne Feinstein, who is the top Democrat on the committee, told me earlier today that if Donald Trump Jr. does not agree to later come to a public hearing before her committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, they will be prepared to subpoena him for his appearance.

Senate Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the committee, declined to comment, but clearly there is the expectation that he should also testify publicly after this private interview tomorrow, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Manu, former Obama National Security Adviser Dr. Susan Rice met privately with the House Intelligence Committee today.

What can you tell us about that?

RAJU: Yes.

This was a lot about the Republican push on the committee to learn whether or not she improperly identified the individuals, unmasked individuals in intelligence reports, Trump associates as well, as well as if she leaked any information to the news media about some of these names that have appeared, Trump associates that have appeared.

I am told she categorically denied doing anything wrong, and it's uncertain -- it doesn't look like she's going to come back to the committee. It's the second committee she has answered questions from after talking to the Senate Intelligence Committee as well, Jake.

TAPPER: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

Joining me now is Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. He serves on the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, good to see you, as always.

What do you hope to learn when Donald Trump Jr. appears before your committee tomorrow?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Well, Jake, what I'm focused on is the future public hearing where we are going to be able to hear Donald Trump Jr. and potentially other witnesses testify under oath in public.

One of the areas that I hope to question Donald Trump Jr. about in that future public hearing is why he was utterly unsurprised, at least according to the e-mail records, when he was told that there was an effort afoot by the Russian regime, by the Putin government, to try and assist his father in winning the presidential campaign.

I would have expected that that produced a more surprised response or different actions than he took. His response, which was to look forward to the meeting and to welcome it, I think suggests he may have known more about the Russian efforts than he so far has let on.

TAPPER: Do you have any evidence for that, other than your supposition based on these e-mails?

COONS: No, at this point, the only evidence I personally have is the e-mails that were publicly released.

The Judiciary Committee is working well on a bipartisan basis. Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein and their staff have received I think roughly 20,000 documents over the last month. I haven't had the chance to review any of them.

There are summaries of that work product coming forward, so by the time we get to the public hearing, I hope to have the benefit both of the staff questioning of Donald Trump Jr. and some analysis of all the additional documents that have been produced.

TAPPER: We now know President Trump's longtime lawyer and business adviser Michael Cohen was working on a hotel deal in Moscow for the Trump Organization at the same time that then-candidate Trump was running for president. Cohen even reached out to President Putin's personal spokesman. Will Cohen be brought before your committee?

COONS: I don't know that for certain. Given the recent developments, he would certainly be a likely witness.

TAPPER: We have been covering these probes for quite some time now, the FBI, Comey, Mueller, House Intel, Senate Intel, Senate Judiciary.

At this point, other than tangential Flynn and Manafort business dealings and questions about those, do you know of any evidence of specific wrongdoing by anyone connected with the Trump campaign or Trump White House?

COONS: Well, at this point, the evidence that we have got in front of us on the Judiciary Committee is a subset of what's in front of the Intelligence Committee, which is a subset of what's in front of special counsel Robert Mueller.

I am not the person who would be in a position to say, yes, there is concrete evidence. But I will say this. It is very rare in a case where there is a crime committed that early on in an investigation, you get right to the finishing point, right to the definitive proof.

There is lots and lots of circumstantial evidence where public pronouncements have been made by folks about we had no meetings with Russians, we had no exchange of information, we have fully disclosed all contacts, and then subsequently it's been proven to be untrue.

There are dozens now of incidents where senior campaign officials or senior administration officials have had to apologize for or amend comments that they have made or in a few cases have been dismissed because they were untruthful about contacts with Russians.


I think we owe it to the American people, given that we know that Russia interfered in our 2016 campaign, to get to the bottom of this and to either clear any allegations of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia or find that there really is evidence there and take appropriate action.

TAPPER: Let's turn to North Korea.

You were just briefed on the ongoing threat by Defense Secretary Mattis and the Director of National Intelligence Coats. What can you tell us?

COONS: Obviously, I can't tell you what we were told in a classified briefing.

I will say this. Secretary Mattis, Secretary Tillis (sic), the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Dunford, and the director of national intelligence were all there and provided a lengthy, thorough, detailed briefing.

And I was really encouraged by the professionalism, the focus, the consensus between these four senior advisers. It is my hope that President Trump is listening closely to his seasoned team of national and diplomacy advisers.

We face a very real and very serious threat from Kim Jong-un and his regime in North Korea. He is an aggressive and unstable head of state, a paranoid man who feels himself to be under threat. And he continues to be successful, unfortunately, in advancing his pursuit of an ICBM and an advanced nuclear device. And I think we have a narrowing window of opportunity here to pursue

diplomacy along with others, South Korea, Japan and most importantly China to put pressure on North Korea to abandon their nuclear ambitions.

TAPPER: Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, thank you so much. Good to see you, sir.

COONS: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: President Trump is striking a deal, this time with Chuck Schumer and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. Yes, you heard me correctly.

Stick around.



TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead now.

President Trump is pitching his tax reform plan in North Dakota, just one of a slew of competing priorities the White House is hoping to pass through Congress. Earlier today, the president "blindsided" Republican congressional leaders, according to a Republican official, by quickly agreeing with Democrats on a plan to tie funding for Harvey recovery to a three-month extension on the country's debt limit and a stopgap spending bill, the Democratic proposal House Speaker Paul Ryan had just hours before called ridiculous, which leads us to another episode of is there a tweet for that?

Is there something in the vast reservoir of Trump tweet archives that has him criticizing the exact same thing he did today?

You already know the answer. Here's Donald Trump in 2013 -- quote -- "The worst negotiators in history, otherwise known as Republicans, have just offered to suspend debt ceiling for four months. Pathetic."

CNN White House Sara Murray has more on a move that blindsided the president's own party in Congress.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a lot to discuss, including the fact that there is a new, and seems to be, record-breaking hurricane headed toward Florida and Puerto Rico.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With another hurricane bearing down on the U.S., President Trump is reaching across the aisle to prove he can strike a deal on disaster relief for Hurricane Harvey and avoid a fiscal crisis.

TRUMP: We essentially came to a deal, and I think the deal will be very good. We had a very, very cordial and professional meeting.

MURRAY: Trump siding with Democrats today. TRUMP: We had a very good meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck


MURRAY: And ignoring the protests of GOP leaders and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as he threw his support behind bundling Harvey disaster relief with a three-month proposal to raise the debt limit and a three-month stopgap spending bill.

TRUMP: Everyone is favor, obviously, of taking care of that situation. So, we all very much agree.

MURRAY: Trump confirmed the deal just hours after House Speaker Ryan panned the Democrats' proposal on the Hill.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think it's ridiculous and disgraceful that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling at this moment.

MURRAY: Trump's move comes on the heels of a meeting with top congressional leaders at the White House on a day when Democrats had been fiercely critical of the president in the wake of his decision to end the so-called DACA program.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The president's decision to end DACA was heartless and it was brainless.

MURRAY: Hours after the Trump administration announced it was ending a program that protected young people from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, Trump appeared to be looking for some wiggle room, tweeting: "Congress now has six months to legalize DACA. If they can't, I will revisit this issue."

Today, Trump insisted he wasn't muddying the waters.

TRUMP: No mixed signal at all. Congress, I really believe, wants to take care of this situation.

MURRAY: And said he is hoping to sign legislation that protects the dreamers and beefs up border security.

TRUMP: I would like to see something where we have good border security and we have a great DACA transaction where everybody is happy.

MURRAY: As Trump navigates a jam-packed domestic agenda, he's also juggling escalating tensions with North Korea.

He spoke today with Chinese President Xi, who is holding out hope North Korea will back away from its nuclear weapons program.

TRUMP: He's very much in favor of the denuke of North Korea, and we're talking about different things.

MURRAY: As for President Trump, he's still not ruling out a military option.

TRUMP: We will see what happens. Certainly, that's not our first choice, but we will see what happens. Thank you very much.


MURRAY: Now, the president was speaking in North Dakota. He referred back to that meeting he had with congressional leaders earlier today and insisted that everyone left happy, not too happy, because you can never be too happy in those scenarios, but insisting that both Republicans and Democrats are fine with that deal.

Trump was in North Dakota to sell tax reform. We will see how eager Republicans are to work with him after the stunt he pulled at the White House today. Jake?

TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Sara Murray at the White House. Let's talk about the President agreeing with Congressional Democrats and how to move forward with our panel. Kevin, Paul Ryan this morning called the Democrats' plan to tie these votes together ridiculous and disgraceful. Fast forward a few hours, President Trump says deal. Shrewd, what do you think?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I think he was totally reflexive. I was joking around with Nia, it reminded me when Kramer went in with Jacky Chiles on the episode of Seinfeld and he was supposed to get $50, 000 and all the free coffee, and he accepts the deal (INAUDIBLE) says free coffee. And it just -- it seems very reactionary and was not very well thought out. There are a lot of people unhappy up on Capitol Hill but there's also a sense of resignation which is, that's the deal, that's we're going to go forward with. Let's see what we can do. At least maybe we can get some more floor time now so we can manage some of the efforts on tax reform.

TAPPER: And Jen, let's put up this photograph that was caught through the Oval Office window of President Trump and Chuck Schumer. There it is. It looks like they're goofing around after this deal was cut, and actually, you know, there are a lot of people who, before the President took office, who thought these two probably can work fairly well together. They're New York deal makers. Trump at one point was a huge contributor to Chuck Schumer. And we saw that side of Trump today, if only briefly.

JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, that's true, he's also probably also a better time than Mitch McConnell so perhaps there's a low bar. You know, he may not feel that way, President Trump, once he realized that he was probably rolled today by the Democrats who knew that having two votes in the debt limit means there's two votes that are must pass pieces of legislation, that they had opportunities to try to attach something like the DREAM Act 2. And they've been pretty vocal about that since this deal was cut, but we'll see if he has the same love and almost embrace for Chuck Schumer after he sees the coverage.

TAPPER: Now the spin that I'm hearing from Legislative Director of the White House is that this move by the President clears the decks for tax reform. There is a case to be made for that. NIA MALIKA-HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, it clears the decks. I mean, there's just legislative the logjam, right? And so, rolling all this stuff together just thought the decks for tax reform all --- a number of things that have to get done as well, chip, renewing of that, the defense bill as well, so the calendar is so (INAUDIBLE). So yes, and that's what you heard Mitch McConnell say too, essentially say, that's the argument that the President made and that's what they accepted. You know, I think some Republicans who I talked to said this is basically emblematic of the President's distaste for Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. He essentially went into the Oval Office and kicked them in the gut and Mitch McConnell -- and some ways he look like that when he was talking today like this was something very surprising to him.

And so here he is now, not only cutting this deal immediately with the Democrats but then flying off to North Dakota with Heidi Heitkamp and seeming to suggest that this might be sort of a new strategy, cutting deals with Democrats, perhaps on DACA as well. So I mean, we'll see if this is a new strategy from this President, but Republicans I talked to certainly not happy about it.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We got lots more to talk about. Plus we're just moments away from the next update on Hurricane Irma's path. Stay with us.


[16:50:00] TAPPER: We're back with our "POLITICS LEAD" and my panel. In her new book, Hillary Clinton references this scene from the classic film There's Something About Mary.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want this thing the eight-minute abs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sure, eight-minute abs, the exercise video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this is going to blow that right out of the water. Listen to this. Seven-minute abs.


TAPPER: Clinton writes that during the campaign. She would introduce a new policy, "And then Bernie would announce basically the same thing but bigger on issue after issue, it was like he kept promising four- minute abs or even no-minute abs, magic abs." That's a complaint you often hear from Republicans, the Democrats are offering people free stuff to get their support. How is this book going to be received in today's still fractured Democratic Party? Let's talk about it with our panel. Jen Psaki, a good time for Hillary Clinton to be re- litigating her fights with Bernie Sanders?

PSAKI: Boy, I don't feel like it is. You know, I feel -- Hillary Clinton is so much more than what happened in this campaign and so much more than what could have should have, would have been. There are lots of people who are litigating that. I don't think it needs to be her and I frankly wish it wasn't her.

TAPPER: But there's a big fight going on right now within the Democratic Party. There are still a lot of Bernie supporters who feel like they got screwed by the primary process with the super delegates and such and that the fix was in. The DNC hack showed that there were people at the DNC out to get Bernie Sanders. This airing of grievances feeds into that.

MADDEN: All of those -- yes, all those are grievances and most importantly they're all about the past. Politics is always -- and particularly the presidential campaigns are always contests for the future. This is a party -- and I think this happens in any party. Republicans had this after 2012 where somebody has to step aside, new leaders have to emerge, new voices have to come on the scene and articulate the vision of the party. And every time we have a re- litigation on this are revisiting what happened in 2016, it in some ways suffocates the party's ability to grow and bring out these new voices and a new vision.

TAPPER: Nia Malika, CNN bought a copy of Hillary Clinton's upcoming memoir. In it she said, she didn't realize how quickly the ground was shifting under her feet. "I was running a traditional Presidential Campaign with carefully thought out policies and painstakingly built coalitions while Trump was running a reality T.V. show that expertly and relentlessly stoked American's anger and resentment." What do you think?

[16:55:10] HENDERSON: Yes, I mean, this is her in some ways taking some of the blame for what happened. Not being in touch with how people were feeling, how voters were feeling and not really try to -- not figuring out how to get in touch with those and basically reflect them in a campaign in the way that Bernie Sanders did and the way that Donald Trump successfully did. You know, I do think there are so many calls for Hillary Clinton to be honest and be herself and everyone would you know, sort of criticize her for not being honest and being too robotic.

And here she is, essentially I think probably spilling her guts in this book from a lot of excerpts we've seen, and in some ways that's a different Hillary Clinton. It's a raw Hillary Clinton. I think a lot of people will want to hear from her, people who are still licking the wounds of this campaign and wondering how this woman gets out of bed every day, right? I mean, this sort of painful thing that she's going to have to deal with for the rest of her life. I think if you run for President, and we were talking about this before, you should never get over losing, and this kind of shock for her to lose in this way, I think it's something that will be painful for her and a lot of her supporters for years.

MADDEN: (INAUDIBLE) I think, one of the things that I was struck by is that Hillary Clinton -- people searching for with the sort of an emotional connection, she only really does it in a calculated way in the book that she never did personally or in person with people on the campaign trail. And I think that problem still exists for her. And I think it reminds a lot of people why she continued to lose. And I think the other thing is some of the questions that are being asked are probably wrong. It's not what was happening and how did she miss this anger, it's why. Why was the anger being directed at a lot of the elites in the establishment in Washington D.C.? How did this (INAUDIBLE) sort of come between people in Washington, D.C. who were trying to advance the policies and the priorities of the American People? And I don't think they're asking the right question. I think people who learn from those past mistakes and past campaigns always ask that question that why.

TAPPER: How do you think President Obama, Jen, as someone who worked on his '08 and '12 campaign, how do you think President Obama, who is of the elite, he was a law professor and went to Harvard Law and all that, how was able to win over those voters who had those anger issues with the elites -- I shouldn't say anger issues -- frustrations with the way the elites have been doing in terms of trade and more famously 200 counties voted for Obama twice flipped for Trump in 2016. How come he was able to get them?

PSAKI: Well, I think if you look at focus groups but even just anecdotally, people felt that he was conveying -- that he was fighting for them and that he had a very specific message to people who were struggling, people who felt hopeless, that he was going to be their guy fighting for them. And Hillary Clinton had plans and papers that would come out of her ears. She talks about it, of course, in the book. But she never made that direct connection with people. And part of that, I think, is probably not listening to people and hearing what was happening in the country, that it's not just her fault on that. It's certainly many democrats' fault. I'm not sure we've learned the right lessons. But what President Obama did consistently in 2008 and 2012 was saying, I'm fighting for you and you're the guy and the gal who when I go to the White House I'm going to fight for. People believe that and they bought it. And to a great degree, he delivered on quite a bit of that.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, what you did see in those eight years, support of Barack Obama among white working class voters started to erode a bit, right? And I think, finally you saw that with Hillary Clinton. I mean, that's the real problem that Democrats have, it's white working class voters. And you did see, I think, Donald Trump plays into this with a sort of white grievance politics and white identity politics. And I don't know, I mean if you're a Democrat, how do you deal with it? How do you talk to white working class voters in a way that resonates them in the way that Donald Trump does by, in some instances, playing sort of a race card? And I think it's a real challenge for Democrats.

PSAKI: But as the first African-American President or significant candidate, President Obama didn't run a targeted, demographic focused campaign. We certainly did ads that targeted African-Americans, but we had the same message for everybody, and it was about fighting for them. And yes, we saw some erosion among working class white voters, but he was still very popular among independents, he's still very popular among people living in suburban areas, places that he didn't campaign for Hillary Clinton in either. And you know, that told you something as well.

MADDEN: I would agree to that. You say, filing of a stage that the devotion to identity politics on the democratic side was what I think, led to a lot of that erosion. And it's going to continue be a struggle for the Democratic Party going forward.

TAPPER: All right, Jen Psaki, Kevin Madden, Nia Malika Henderson, thank you all. I appreciate it. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That is it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jake Tapper, I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He's in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.