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New Signs Mueller May be Closer to Trump Interview: North and South Korea to Hold Rare Talks Amid Tensions; Report Says President's Official Work Day is Shrinking. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 8, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Good point.

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: -- can come out and this woman out of nowhere seemingly can come and literally dominate the field before she's even said she's going to announce, the Democrat field is not as strong as they want us to believe they are.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'll tell you who that. I mean, the person that came out of practically nowhere. Oprah is not coming out of nowhere.

DENNARD: Politically, yes, she is.

BALDWIN: You're about to say Barack Obama and that speech. He kind of came out of nowhere.

Navarro: Barack Obama gave a unifying speech. He came out of nowhere and he was a little-known state senator from Chicago with no money and a weird name, and he blew everybody away with a unifying speech. I don't think you should underestimate the power of oratory that reaches people's hearts and Orpah Winfrey can reach people's hearts.

BALDWIN: All right.

DENNARD: Just like the President did and that's why he's the President right now.

BALDWIN: We're going go. You had me at the rock or a rock. That was a giggle moment. I appreciate both of you so very much and both of your perceptions.

Coming up next here on CNN, will President Trump have a face-to-face interview with the special counsel here, Robert Mueller? One of the key senators involved in the Russia investigation says it will happen and soon. We'll talk live to a former Trump administration lawyer about what that meeting might look like.


BALDWIN: New today, we are getting closer to knowing the answer to a central question in the Russia investigation. Will President Trump meet face-to-face with the special counsel Robert Mueller? One senator involved in one of the investigating committees says that interview will happen sometime this year. Here is Senator Richard Blumenthal.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, CONNECTICUT: Unquestionably, there has to be that kind of face-to-face interview. And the timing is important because the special counsel needs to have as many facts and as much evidence before he has that face-to-face interview with the President of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, when might that happen?

BLUMENTHAL: My view is it will probably happen sometime this year.


BALDWIN: With me now, someone with a really unique perspective on this. CNN legal commentator James Schultz. Former White House counsel from early in the Trump administration and he resigned back in November. James, nice to have you on.


BALDWIN: Do you think it's inevitable that President Trump will sit down with Bob Mueller face-to-face or is there a scenario where he can avoid it?

SCHULTZ: I think we saw this morning with Ken Starr talking about the same issue when he said, look, this is what he expects Bob Mueller to do in rounding out his investigation. And what that looks like there will be lot of lawyers in the room, obviously, and there will be folks from Mueller's team. Who knows whether Mueller even president might not be this showdown that everybody seems to think is going to happen between Mueller and President Trump. But I do think it's likely to happen. I think any lawyer who is worth anything will negotiate what that will look like in terms of topics and what's discussed. But I think the President himself has been bullish in saying, look, I have nothing to hide.

BALDWIN: What if you were part of the negotiations. Play this out for me. What would you be trying to negotiate? Would you want it to be Bob Mueller? Would you want it to be someone else? Would you want it to be this face-to-face sit down? Would you rather have written responses to questions presented to you? How would you want it?

SCHULTZ: Well, we saw in the Reagan years that they asked for questions first and then Reagan went before the grand jury. We saw a negotiation during the Clinton administration when Clinton went before the grand jury, and during George W. Bush's administration, the Patrick Fitzgerald who was looking into the leak of the CIA operative. He went right into the oval office for a 70-minute interview. So, I think there's a lot of options on the table in terms of how and what that looks like. I think it's mostly to make sure that the President is comfortable with the setting.

BALDWIN: What is ideal for the President? SCHULTZ: I think the President is someone who -- look, he's been

bullish on wanting to tell his story and saying that there's nothing here, and being transparent and wanting to wrap this up. And in order to wrap that up, I think part of that is going to be sitting down with Mueller's team. And he's obviously going to have his lawyers in the room and I would expect it's likely to take place in the Oval Office. Similar to what happened during the Bush administration.

BALDWIN: Let me play a little bit more sound, James, this is from Senator Blumenthal.


BLUMENTHAL: We're going to have more convictions. There are been to already and more indictments.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you know that there's going to be more?

BLUMENTHAL: I think that the evidence accumulating against individuals within the White House, within the administration. The mounting evidence of obstruction of justice that's public and we have no idea all of what is available for the special counsel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From where we sit today you believe that Don Junior and Jared Kushner could be facing indictment?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, I'm not predicting and I'm not saying what all the evidence may be, but certainly the evidence points to continued investigation. And there ought to be some very searching consideration of whether they face criminal charges.


[15:40:00] BALDWIN: James, the senator mentions Don Junior and Kushner specifically. Do you think he knows something we don't know?

SCHULTZ: I don't know because he waffles on the topic, and I think it's really a lot of that was just political theater and less about legal analysis. The only folks who know anything about what evidence they have is Mueller and his team. For the -- for the Congressman to make that statement --

BALDWIN: He's on the judiciary committee. I mean, he was asked point-blank about it and it didn't sound like he was waffling too much.

SCHULTZ: He began to speculate. He wasn't going to make predictions. It sounds like he's looking for a sound bite or a news headline more than something concrete.

BALDWIN: Last question. You just left the White House. Do you consider it at all obstruction that Trump urged the White House counsel Don McGahn, to stab Jeff Sessions from recusing himself?

SCHULTZ: Look, there is nothing wrong with the White House counsel being able to go in and speak with a member of the cabinet about a potential recusal. Nothing wrong with that at all. As a matter of fact, it's the responsible thing to do. I think with this whole Russia investigation and going back to what Donald Trump would want, Donald Trump wants to get back to talk about putting people back to work, talk about the deregulation, tax reform, welfare reform, transportation and the only way we can really move forward on that is for this to wrap up so that the crowd noise isn't consuming the West Wing.

BALDWIN: Right, but what about the independents, the DOJ and the White House. Isn't that important, too?

SCHULTZ: Sure, there's independence there, but again, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a member of the cabinet. The fact that he and the White House counsel to have a discussion, a discussion among lawyers, between lawyers on legal issues is not something that I find to be untoward. In fact, it's significant in that it's being well thought out.

BALDWIN: OK. James Schultz.

SCHULTZ: Let's not forget, though, that he did ultimately end up recusing.

BALDWIN: He did, which was precisely what he, you know, team White House didn't want him to do, right? If we're talking about Don McGahn, perhaps vis-a-vis Trump, trying to get Sessions not to do it, he did in the end. You're precisely right. James Schultz --

BALDWIN: Go ahead. Finish your thought.

SCHULTZ: No, no, I was going to say I wanted to finish my thought. And that we don't know what transpired between Don McGahn and Attorney General Sessions. What we do know is that a recusal came out of it. And what we do know is the two lawyers discussed that recusal.

BALDWIN: James, thank you very much. We'll talk again, I am sure.

Hours from now also, North and South Korea sit down for high-level talks for the first time in two years and President Trump is taking the credit for getting them together. We'll take you live to Seoul next.


BALDWIN: Today from what we can tell, North Korean dictator Kim Jong- un is celebrating his birthday. Tomorrow leaders from his regime will then meet face-to-face with South Korean officials for the first time. He's high-level talks happening in more than two years. President Trump is crediting his tough talk with bringing these two sides together. So, with that, let's go to Seoul to my colleague Ivan Watson. And so, there it'll be. I believe it will be in the Peace House right there along the DMZ. We've seen the pictures before. Take us inside, what should one expect from these talks.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're scheduled to begin a little bit more than four hours from now, Brooke. And it will be five-man delegations from North Korea and South Korea meeting in this Peace House along the very heavily fortified demilitarized zone. And sitting down at a table there where similar negotiations have been held in the past.

You've got a top official from what South Korea calls its unification ministry and his equivalent counterpart on the North Korean side. They're accompanied by officials from each other's sporting agencies as well as their Olympic committees and that highlights what the main thrust of the talks are. They're supposed to be talking about trying to pave the way for a North Korean delegation to attend the Winter Olympics which will kick off here in South Korea in about a month's time.

But the South Koreans have also made clear that they'd like to kind of lay the groundwork for other discussions, as well, including allowing reunions for some of the tens of thousands of people here in South Korea who haven't been able to see their relatives on the northern side of the DMZ since the Korean war. And also for a general de- escalation of the basically the military situation here on the Korean Peninsula which has been so tense. I mean, keep in mind it was just late November, that's the last time that North Korea fired a missile to the alarm of South Korea and all of the other countries here in the region -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: We'll be listening for your reporting to see how the talks go and what we're allowed to know. Ivan, thank you very much.

Coming up, is the President's White House schedule shrinking? New details next.


BALDWIN: New scrutiny over how much time President Trump actually spends working in the West Wing. The news site Axios is reporting, quoting here, the President has "Executive Time" in the Oval Office every day from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., but the reality is he spends that time in his residence watching TV, make phone calls and tweeting.

Chris Cillizza, our CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large --

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I spend a lot of executive time by that definition, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes, I here by your executive time, actually. How much does it matter how much time he actually spends in the Oval Office?

CILLIZZA: Ok, first of all, not much, except that Donald Trump has been insistent repeatedly that he does not watch TV because he is too busy reading documents. That's his words, documents. So, it doesn't really matter. Look, the President is the President 24 hours a day, OK? If something happens, they're not going to not go in if he's in the residence versus the Oval Office to interrupt him and let him know. The point is, this is like golf with President Trump. It's not an issue that he does it, it's an issue they insist he doesn't do it or that they won't confirm he does it. If President Trump wants to spend his time watching television for three hours in the morning, more power to him. It's his day to divvy up. He's the president.

BALDWIN: But the fact they're saying he's not.

CILLIZZA: Yes, we know he is. If you look at his Twitter feed, you know he watches CNN and Fox, I mean, it's very clear in his pattern and his whole life has been he is a cable tv addict. So am I. We need to just kind of band together. He needs to just accept that rather than trying to say, no, I'm not doing this. I'm too busy. You know, it's like when you pretend that you're -- trying to -- for me, trying to impress a girl, I pretend I'm reading the dictionary when I'm watching cable TV. You know, it's fine. Cable TV is a thing. We like it. I'm pro.

BALDWIN: You look like the kind of guy who likes to read documents as well, Chris Cillizza. You read a lot of documents.

CILLIZZA: I read many documents. Long, important documents, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Chris Cillizza, as always, a pleasure. I am out of time. Quick break. Back in a moment.


BALDWIN: More than 200,000 nationals from El Salvador who have lived legally in the U.S for nearly two decades now have fewer than two years to return to their native country, find another legal way to stay or face deportation. This happening after the Trump administration has just announced it will be ending temporary protective status for El Salvadorians. The move upends the status quo that has existed since 2001 after a series of major earthquakes there. The Trump administration also ended protected status for Haitian, Nicaraguan and Sudanese immigrants as well. I'm Brooke Baldwin, thank you so much for being with me here today. We're going to send things to Washington. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.