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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

President Oprah?; Trump Administration Ends Protection for 200,000 Salvadorans. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 8, 2018 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:25]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with the politics lead.

Today, the Trump administration put some 250,000 Salvadorans in the U.S. on notice. These individuals who had been granted temporary protected status now have 18 months to try to find another legal way to stay in the United States or be sent back to El Salvador.

Many of them fled El Salvador because of violence during that country's civil war or after the 2001 earthquake, which devastated the country.

Joining me now to talk about this is Orlando Zepeda. He fled El Salvador in 1984. He was eventually granted protected status. He and his wife are at risk of deportation. They also two minor children, 12 and 14 years old, who are U.S. citizens.

Orlando, thanks for joining us today.

You must be disappointed by today's decision. We know that President Trump sometimes watches cable news. What do you want him to know about you and your family?

ORLANDO ZEPEDA, LOSING TEMPORARY PROTECTION STATUS: Well, first of all, I want to say that we are very devastated about this news, because this is something -- this situation is really bad because it's not only for -- it's going to affect me, but it's going to affect a lot of families.

TAPPER: And what are you going to do with your children? You and your wife, who was also granted protected status, would be required to leave. But what happens to your 12-year-old and your 14-year-old?

ZEPEDA: This is another thing, because they are going to suffer if they stay here, because that's going to mean separating the family.

If I take them back to El Salvador, too, our country is not ready to receive people, especially kids that have been born here that are U.S. citizens. They don't have the protection to give them there.

TAPPER: Why did you flee El Salvador in the first place?

ZEPEDA: First place, I left because of the civil war that was going on over here. And what I see now, when I was separated from my family -- I was only

17 years old when I left El Salvador. Now the same history is happening to my kids, too, because they are trying to separate us.

TAPPER: Can you understand the counterargument from the Trump administration, that this protection for people like you who fled the violence of El Salvador, it was always meant to be temporary and that conditions have improved in El Salvador and it's time to you to return? What do you say to that?

What do you say to that?

ZEPEDA: No, the situation I think is worse than when I left El Salvador, because now we have other problems, like the gang members that are doing bad things over there, especially with forcing kids to go to join them.

TAPPER: So you're -- are you worried about your safety and your children's safety if you go back to El Salvador?

ZEPEDA: Yes, that is one thing that is very bad about this decision, because they are -- they are in the age that they force them to join them. If they don't join them, they kill them.

TAPPER: Today's order leaves an 18-month window for Congress to try to find a permanent solution for those such as you and your wife who have this temporary protected status. Do you think Congress can solve this problem? What are you going to do in the meantime?

ZEPEDA: Yes, I know Congress can do the difference. We already have been in Washington, D.C., for a couple of times, and we are getting ready the third time, we're going over there. We're going to go in February and we are getting ready to fight that back.

TAPPER: You're going to get ready to fight back.

Orlando Zepeda, thank you so much. Good luck with you and your family, sir. Appreciate it.

ZEPEDA: Oh, thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: Has President Trump compelled another entertainment mogul to launch a presidential campaign? How real are the chances of Oprah 2020?

So much to discuss with our panel. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:33]

TAPPER: And we're back with our politics lead.

And for those of you who survived 2016, which I assume is all of you, you know that anything is possible. And today the buzz has exploded that Oprah Winfrey might be considering making a run in 2020. A close friend of the iconic star telling CNN that Oprah is actively

thinking about running for president, after Oprah turned her Golden Globes acceptance speech into something like campaign rally remarks.

Let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman.

And, Tom, like a decade ago, I might have scoffed at this, but I suppose after reality star and businessman Donald Trump, why not? But would she be willing to do what's necessary?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you mean to take on divisive issues and to attack other Democrats to get the nomination if she wanted to be a Democrat? That remains to be unseen, because the simple truth is, while it's easy to seem empathetic and sympathetic to many people while you talk about a lot of issues, actually taking positions, which is something that candidates have to do, is a lot tougher.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": A new day is on the horizon.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men.

FOREMAN: It looked like a political rally and sounded like one, too.

[16:40:00]

WINFREY: They have become the leaders.

FOREMAN: Now sources tell CNN Oprah Winfrey is actively thinking of jumping into the 2020 race, and already big-name supporters are buzzing.

Actress Meryl Streep: "I want her to run for president."

Country singer Billy Gilman: "Please run."

Former Obama White House staffer Alyssa Mastromonaco: "We can't stop. #Oprahforpresident."

The queen of daytime talk turned actress turned media mogul has always said no to the whole idea of trading her entertainment empire, adoring fans and super comfortable lifestyle for the frozen fields of Iowa and bruising world of politics.

WINFREY: There will be no running for office of any kind for me.

FOREMAN: But as far back as 1999, guess who thought she would be a strong running mate? DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love Oprah. Oprah

would always be my first choice. If she would do it, she would be fantastic. She's popular. She's brilliant. She's a wonderful woman.

FOREMAN: Oprah has brushed up against campaigning only occasionally and for Democrats, notably stumping for Barack Obama in his 2008 run.

WINFREY: For the very first time in my life, I feel compelled to stand up and to speak out for the man who I believe has a new vision for America.

FOREMAN: So, in 2016, when her name was floated as a possible Trump running mate...

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": If he did make the call, would you take the call?

WINFREY: I would say, "Donald, I'm with her."

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KIMMEL: I see.

FOREMAN: Still, Oprah could create a stir. She is hugely popular. "Forbes" puts her wealth at $2.8 billion, just under Donald Trump's $3.1 billion, and she has spent a lifetime talking about poverty, education, human rights, addiction, faith, fidelity, and the way powerful men sometimes treat women.

WINFREY: The time is up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: So will she actually do it? Boy, I just don't really know.

The White House says they would welcome her as a candidate, but, again, it's a lot easier to be very, very popular when you're not running. It is much tougher when you actually have to answer all of those hard questions and stare people in the eye and accept the fact you're going to make some people unhappy. It can't always be a car for you, a car for you, a car for you.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

I want to bring back my panel.

And as Tom notes, Kristen, the White House saying -- quote -- "We welcome the challenge, whether it be Oprah Winfrey or anybody else."

And before anybody scoffs, I remember in 2013 and 2014, when there was Trump buzz, and Bob Costa at "The Post" was writing about it, people were giving him guff. Why are you writing about this? I mean, who knows. KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I am not in the

business of saying anything is impossible anymore, but I do think the point is right that being a political candidate and running for office means you develop a lot more enemies than being a TV host, being someone who is a philanthropist, gets to do all of the nice and fun things.

Politics isn't just all of the nice and fun things. But if you take a look at -- Gallup asks every year who is the most admired man and woman, going back a number of years, Oprah is always in the hunt, always in the top three among most admired American women.

However, just by being admired doesn't always mean you will be president. The person who has topped that list for the last two decades, with only one exception, one year, was Hillary Rodham Clinton.

TAPPER: You're a Democratic operative, if you will pardon the expression. Don't you think if she entered the race she would jump to the top of the heap?

BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I do.

I have no idea if she's going to run. I don't know what her position is on most policy issues. I certainly don't think that the party needs to lurch for some celebrity answer to Donald Trump. I think we have a good stable of potential candidates.

So, we don't need Oprah. But if she got into the race, would she be a huge force to be reckoned with, perhaps even the favorite? Absolutely. I think it would be electric. I think there are a lot of sort of wise people in Washington today sort of scoffing at this and talking about, hey, the public usually likes somebody that is different than the previous president.

So, the Democratic primary voters not going to want to vote for a celebrity to answer a celebrity in Donald Trump. I think that does a disservice to Oprah. You can be a celebrity and be famous before entering politics without being Donald Trump. She is somebody that over 30 years has demonstrated an ability to uniquely inspire people, to relate to people.

She has showed an intellectual curiosity that Donald Trump just doesn't possess, a big-heartedness, that I think would make her a very appealing candidate if she decided to won.

TAPPER: Wow. Oprah, I think I found your campaign spokesman.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: What do you think? There are a lot of Democrats thinking about running in 2020. It's like half the Democratic Caucus in the Senate and a bunch of governors, even some members of the House.

JOSH GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. If you're somebody other than an a Bernie Sanders or an Elizabeth

Warren and you're thinking about running for president as a Democrat, that's got to worry you, because this is the kind of candidate -- if you remember what Trump did in 2016, he came into a field of 17 candidates, very well-qualified, admirable people, and essentially sucked all the oxygen out of the race. They couldn't get time on T.V., they couldn't get time on the debate stage because Trump was so all powerful. I imagine Oprah could have the same kind of effect. I think the person who would like it the most would be Trump himself. Who, you know, lives for these grand T.V. moments? I mean, what would generate higher ratings than Trump versus Oprah?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Let's talk electorally also. Trump is -- some of his challenges are with minority voters, with liberal elites, with liberal voters, with young people. He is starting to show real problems with Republican women. I mean, that kind of sounds like an Oprah coalition.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, that's why I believe that Oprah would be -- if she ran for President, would be quite formidable. But I do think she would face a lot of things that we haven't considered yet. She'd I think be asked about, you know, supporting folks like Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz. Suddenly they become, you know, in the same way, you go through everybody who is associated with Donald Trump and everything, that they have said, suddenly anybody who's had a book on Oprah's book club list, that they start getting vetted at a higher level of scrutiny. So I think it would be interesting. I would welcome her to the race. I thought her speech was very inspiring and I thought it struck the right tone. I mean, the idea of the Golden Globes sounding like a political rally makes sense in a moment when Hollywood is facing a crisis where they for so long have preached the importance of gender equality while not having it within their own industry in a very acute way.

TAPPER: I should note that Oprah hasn't really been involved in politics, you know, other than her big endorsement for Barack Obama in 2007, 2008. And then for a long time, she didn't even want politicians s on her T.V. show. Take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, AMERICAN MEDIA PROPRIETOR: I didn't want to delve into the world of politics because I felt that I lost control.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, on the other hand, her longtime partner Stedman Graham told a reporter from Los Angeles Times that she might absolutely run. So what are we to make of that?

BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that the fact she seems to have taken care to avoid politics throughout much of her career means that she's built up something of a reservoir of good will, where every move that she made if she became a candidate would not be greeted with the typical cynicism that you see voters greet a lot of politicians' moves with. So timeless saying that you know, she's have to take policy positions that will necessarily alienate people, that's true. But I think she'll be extended more of the benefit of the doubt based on her 30-year track record. And I remember during the 2016 campaign, her support for Hillary, you just played the clip from that late night show, it was pretty muted. She picked her spots. I think that would serve her well. I don't think she would be greeted as some kind of a political hack that was just trying to get into the race for her ego like Donald Trump has been viewed.

TAPPER: All right, everyone stick around. I want to circle back to an issue that will be huge in 2020 no matter who runs, and that's immigration. How Congress is using it as a bargaining chip as the threat of a government shutdown grows more real. We're going to talk about that next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:50:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to end chain migration. We are going to end the lottery system and we are going to build the wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That was President Trump just moments ago talking immigration during the speech to the American Farm Bureau in Nashville, Tennessee. Over the weekend, Mr. Trump insisted there will be no fix for the so- called DREAMers, those brought to this country when they were children illegally unless he has a guarantee that his border wall will be funded. This all comes as Congress is facing a spending deal deadline next week, otherwise, the government could shut down. CNN's Phil Mattingly is live for us on Capitol Hill. And Phil, where do things stand right now?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a mess. Those aren't my words, Jake. That's the -- or those are the words of a person who's actually directly involved in these negotiations to me just a short while ago underscoring right now that these negotiations, which are really kind of four concurrent negotiations, a disaster relief package, some type of health care stabilization bill, the spending deal as you were talking about and DACA just simply aren't in a good place right now. You listen to what the President was talking about related to DACA and right now, Republican leaders and Democratic leaders are looking at that as kind of a trigger mechanism to make some grand bargain by January 19th actually work in two of those issues, whether it's chain migration or whether it's wall or building the wall are two issues that Democrats have said, at least on their face, can't be on the table.

There was an expectation that at some point the White House would come forward with some type of negotiating asks. At this point based on what they've seen right now, Democrats say, they haven't seen anything that at least in their words means the White House is serious. Now, Jake, there's a bipartisan meeting at the White House tomorrow. It's now moved into a large group of lawmakers that were going to be there. I talked to members on both sides which said they don't necessarily think that meeting is going to reach any kind of deal. So the question now is given the timetable they're working on, is there any type of resolution that can happen in a week and a half? Right now, things don't look good. I ask, is this kind of the -- is darkest before the dawn moment? And right now I'm getting a lot more shrugs than we hope so, Jake.

TAPPER: And is this a strategy Republicans hope to use in the midterm elections in November?

MATTINGLY: You know, I think the big question coming out of Camp David right now is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy gave presentations. It's kind of what the math looks like, what the environment looks like. What I'm told is they were very reality-based in what they were talking about. They talked about the polling, they talked about historically a first-term president in that first midterm that is going to suffer losses. And they talked about the fact that they need to sell what has been up to this point an unpopular tax bill and other options that they've had up until this point in a much better, more effective way in the months to come if they want to stem those losses.

I'm told the President accepted what they were laying out and also accepted the fact that he might not be needed or wanted in every single district or state that's up for re-election. The reality for Republicans right now is that they recognize when it comes to the politics of 2018, they aren't in the best place. They believe there's time to get themselves into a better place but they need to start working now, Jake.

[16:55:14] TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly, thank you so much. I'm back with the panel. And Kristen, President Trump insisted he and the Republican leadership want to find a way to help the DREAMers. Do they really? I mean --

ANDERSON: Republican voters want something done about this. I mean, it's consistent in most polling that I've seen that while Republican voters are very tough on border security that there's not consensus on what you do about the vast majority of folks who have come here illegally. When it comes to the DREAMers, you have significant majorities of Republicans who will even say, OK, we should do something about these young people who came here, brought here by other people. So this is an issue where I think if Republican lawmakers are listening to their own voters, they would find that there's not nearly as much resistance to doing something on DACA as they might be imagining.

TAPPER: And yet, Brian, the President's right flank considers DREAMers, considers giving people who have this status any sort of legal status amnesty. They call it amnesty. Which is more important to the President, these Republican voters of which you speak or the35 to 40 percent of them that disagree and consider it amnesty?

FALLON: Yes, therein lies the problem because while it's absolutely true that a majority of Republican voters support action for the DREAMers, there is this slice of the electorate, Donald Trump's base, if you will, that is adamantly against it. And Republican --elected Republicans staring down the midterms seem more concerned with that base. And so, I don't sense that there's a collective will to act on the Republican side and that's why as a Democrat I wish that Democrats in Congress would sort of force the issue here and force the reckoning.

I'm concerned that we might be staring down another possibility where congressional Democrats will once again -- enough of them at least will once again surrender their votes in order to keep the government open to do the "responsible thing," and let this opportunity to exert their leverage pass and will end up a month from now with no action from the DREAMers. They've done it now twice, including just before Christmas. Each time there's just enough Democrats to vote with the Republicans to advance the funding measure, the do it again. The train may leave the station and the DACA kids will have no vehicle to get this action taken.

TAPPER: And yet Josh, the White House strategy, a source told me, is you attach the border wall funding, $18 billion, and the end to chain migration, bringing in your family members for legal status in this country to helping the DREAMers. The Democrats balk, walk away from the table and then the Trump White House blames it on the Democrats and says, we wanted to help them but they wouldn't do a deal.

JOSH GREEN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: You know, it sounds awfully familiar. The same thing with ObamaCare, it's the same logic that applied there. I guess we'll find out if the government shuts down whether they blame the Trump administration or whether they blame the Democrats. The fact that Republicans have unified control of government leads me to believe that voters are going to blame Republicans, not Democrats if there is a shutdown.

TAPPER: And then also there's this idea about whether or not Mexico is going to pay for the wall. The President was asked about it this weekend. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Yes, I believe that Mexico will pay for the wall. I have a very good relationship with Mexico. As you know, we're negotiating NAFTA to see how that goes. Yes, but Mexico will pay. In some form, Mexico will pay for the wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: In some form. Is this something the voters care about or was this all -- is this all an example of reporters taking the President literally and his supporters just taking him seriously but not literally?

ANDERSON: So I think this is the sort of thing that really is the thing that only matters to that 30 some percent that we were talking about earlier, the very, very, very intense hardcore portion of the Republican base. I don't think a majority of Republicans care deeply or even expect that what we're talking about is an actual solid concrete wall stretching across thousands upon thousands of miles. But I think for many Republican voters, they just want to know that the border is secure. They want to have a sense that there is less illegal immigration happening and they believe that Donald Trump is the guy that is going to get that done. And I think that when it comes to the details, voters are a little less concerned about who exactly who is paying for it if the rhetoric that Trump is using still sounds strong to them and makes them feel security.

TAPPER: Very quickly, Brian, I talked to a Democrat who said that's a deal, the border security, the border wall for the DREAMers is a deal that Democrats should do but Democrats don't want to give President Trump the political victory.

FALLON: Well, I think it depends on the makeup of the deal that you're talking about. In the scenario that you just described to Josh, I think Democrats are at the table right now with Republicans perfectly willing in good faith to come up with some kind of border security and enhancements to go with the DREAMer provision. The question is whether we're going to go on this expedition of building a physical wall. And I don't think that's a strong hand for the President to play to try to force a shutdown on it because, A, Republicans have unified control of the government and, B, it's going back on the promise. I think it's a weak hand for him to play. I said during the campaign that Mexico is going to pay for it but now I'm shutting down the government because I want to make the taxpayers pay for it. Democrats has got a winning hand there.

TAPPER: I guess we'll see. Thanks one and all for being here. I really appreciate it. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @JAKETAPPER or at Facebook. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That's it for THE LEAD today. I now turn you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. I can hear him, he's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.