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Soon: Key Bipartisan MTG On Immigration, Spending; Gayle King: Oprah 'Intrigued' By Idea Of Run; North & South Korea Agree To Hold Military Talks. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 9, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:02] ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Poppy. Well, in just about an hour the White House is gong to sit down with congressional leaders to try to bring both sides to the table.

Now, they are still pretty far apart on the substance of this issue. Both sides saying they want a DACA deal of some form. But what are they willing to give up for it? It's still hard it to know what the White House is going to give up in terms of that wall and some of the changes to legal immigration and illegal immigration.

Now, one of the issues right now also happens to be who is going to be in the room today with the president? Some Democrats are raising concerns that the meeting is not -- the meeting participants are not the group that is going to be necessary to bring a deal to the table.

Right now, the White House has said that they're sending some staff members to those meeting including Chief of Staff John Kelly who we've learned is also taking the lead on these negotiations, Stephen Miller, who is a top aide to President Obama who has also been known to be pretty firm on immigration issues. Also Kirstjen Nielsen the new Department of Homeland Security secretary, and also Marc Short the director of Legislative Affairs.

But it's a group of lawmakers that also is a part of this meeting that some Democrats are raising concerns about. Principally folks like Tom Cotton who they view as opposed to the underlying idea of a DACA deal. But there are others including Democrats, Dick Durbin, Jeff Flake, who is a more moderate Republican from Arizona, Lindsey Graham, also someone who has been very favorable to trying to find a deal on DACA, and Levin McCarthy, and a Republican House Majority Leader and Steny Hoyer.

So a very, very large group raising some questions about whether this is a meeting about negotiation or a meeting about showing that the White House is involved in this process. It's unclear whether the aim of the objective here is to come out of it with an actual deal on the table. John and Poppy?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: That's a great question, Abby Phillip at the White House. Thank you so much.

And let's post that question to our Dana Bash. We are lucky to be joined by her. Because, Dana, I mean, Chief of Staff John Kelly is going to be at the meeting. He is going to take a central role. He is also taking in sort of unprecedented and central role in this immigration, negotiations as a whole. And as Abby just said, this is essentially going to be a photo op or is this going to be a meeting- meeting with actual stuff coming out of it.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's probably more the former than the latter. Although oddly, John and Poppy, right now this bipartisan meeting with all of those Democrats and Republicans that Abby showed, is not open to the press.

Sometimes these things change as we get closer to the event. But right now the cameras are not invited in. So if this is for imagery, which I am told by a Republican involved in the negotiations that largely is to show that president is sitting down with Democrats. He is willing to work across the aisle to get a deal on DACA and all these other things done. You know, I assume at some point we'll see a picture of it.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So the White House is one side of these negotiations. In some ways there is three sides, the White House, Congressional Republicans and Congressional Democrats. You are hearing from those two other sides Congressional Republicans and Democrats about how they feel going in. There was a meeting last night up on Capitol Hill.

BASH: That's right. Republicans on Capitol Hill who are still and continue to be negotiating amongst themselves, Abby talked about the sort of more conservative hawkish wing like Tom Cotton of Arkansas to Lindsey Graham on the other side of the GOP spectrum on this immigration issue. They are talking amongst themselves.

They had the new DHS, the Homeland Security secretary, Kristjen Nielsen come up, Stephen Miller from the White House, try to figure out ways to kind of crack the code and find a middle ground on some of the things that aren't as talked about as much like the wall. The things like how you deal with what they call chain migration for citizens. How the notion of American citizens will be able to get their family members into this country. A lot of conservatives want that changed, interior enforcement and other issues.

But at the end of the day, I have not talked to one Republican who says that -- who has not said -- Democrats too, this is all about the president. This is all up to the president. He is the one who's going to have to drag Republicans along if there is a deal and give them cover. Which is why having John Kelly as the point person was a break-through for many Republicans on Capitol Hill because they feel like there's a go-to guy with authority.

And as one source said to me today, he is more rationale than Stephen Miller. Maybe not necessarily, certainly not a dove on these issues, he's pretty hard line. But he is a more rationale negotiator according to this one Republican source I talked to involved in these talks.

BERMAN: All right. Dana Bash for us. Thank you very much for being with us.

HARLOW: Thanks, Dana.

[10:04:59] BERMAN: Other news from Washington, Oprah's best friend, Oprah Winfrey's best friend --

HARLOW: There is only one, although it would be President Winfrey, no President Oprah.

BERMAN: She could change that. She can do whatever she wants. All right, Gayle King, Oprah Winfrey's best friend not exactly quieting the speculation that Winfrey might make a presidential run in 2020. This is what King says, Oprah's position hasn't changed. But she is intrigued by this whole idea.

HARLOW: Brian Stelter got us all intrigued yesterday morning when he broke the news. And she was actively considering this and you have more.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That now we have even more friends confirming that Winfrey's listening to this idea. Her friends are calling her up, urging her to run. And she's definitely thinking about it. Here is what Gayle King herself said on CBS this morning.


NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS ANCHOR: Is she considering it?

GAYLE KING, OPRAH'S BEST FRIEND: No. I absolutely don't think that her position has changed. I don't. You know, I was up talking to her very late last night.

I do think this, though, guys. I do think she's intrigued by the idea. I do think that. I also know that after years of watching "The Oprah Show" you always have the right to change your mind. I don't think at this point she is actually considering it.

But listen, there are people who said they want to be her campaign manager, who want to quit their jobs and campaign for her. She loves this country and would like to be of service in some way. But I don't think that she is actively considering it.

JEFF GLOR, CBS ANCHOR: For the record that is a --

KING: I don't think she's actively considering it at this time.


STELTER: There's almost a little bit of a contradiction here. Gayle King saying Oprah is not considering it. But she is intrigued by the idea. She's thinking about the idea. I think we all know what King is doing here. We've all seen this with Hillary Clinton and other past candidates.

People want to be, they want to be coy. They want to play it cool. They want to be urged to run. They don't want to claim they're into it until they're urged to run by others. But I think what's notable today is that Gayle King, instead of saying, there's nothing to this. She's not tamping down the fire. She's actually adding more fuel to the fire.

BERMAN: You can say no. I mean you can say no. If the answer is no, definitive no, you say no, definitively no. And Brian, as Poppy was saying you have spoken to more people now. Now, yesterday was two people.

STELTER: Right. And now we have other friends who are confirming the same sense that for the past few months, Winfrey has been hearing from high-powered friends in business and other worlds saying you need to think about taking on Trump. Here's what a couple of those friends told me overnight.

One of them said she's listening to a lot of people who are saying you can do this. Another source close to Oprah said, I don't know what she'll do. She doesn't know what she'll do. But this will be a long game. Don't expect a decision next month or the month after.

You know, she's going to be out promoting a movie this spring. She has her "60 Minutes" deal. She doesn't need to make a decision any time soon. After all the Iowa caucuses are two years away. But just like Elizabeth Warren, just like Joe Biden, just like other potential 2020 contenders she's at least thinking about running for president.

HARLOW: You know what I was thinking about last night, the fact she did that "60 Minutes" piece on Criminal Justice Reform. She also did one of her first "60 Minutes" pieces bringing Trump voters and Clinton voters together. Remember that round table?

STELTER: She was trying to bridge the divide.

HARLOW: Like the ultimate --

STELTER: She was trying to unify the country. She was actually trying to act like a president.

HARLOW: Brian Stelter, thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

HARLOW: Our panel is with us, CNN Political Commentator former campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, Patti Solis Doyle and Republican Strategist Rich Galen, nice to have you both here. Rich --


HARLOW: Happy New Year to you, Rich, to you. What do you think? Oprah 2020, will she do it? Maybe more at the question to you is what does it mean for Republicans?

GALEN: Well, I mean it's not Republicans' problems. It's the Democrats' problems right now. And I haven't seen the announcement that Elizabeth Warren, for instance, has said she's closing up shop and clearing a path for Oprah. So the Democrats have to sort this out for themselves before Republicans think they need to weigh in.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting, you know, Patti that Rich called it Democrats' problem. Because is it a problem right now? Now that Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King is at least not shut the door completely to this possibility. Is this not the big question in Democratic politics, electoral politics, campaign politics, until there's a definitive answer?

And Brian Stelter just said, which I didn't realize that Oprah Winfrey will be out promoting a movie at some point. Look, if she's out promoting a movie, she's going to get asked this again and again and again.

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right, right, right. This actually reminds me of the Hillary strategy of running in 2008. She had a book coming out so she was on the road, promoting the book and hearing from people encouraging her to run. She said she was in a listening phase. It's very eerily similar to what Oprah is doing in terms of in her listening phase. Look, I don't know if she's going to run.

I could definitely get behind a, you know, Oprah Winfrey as the first woman president of the United States. I think the standard rules for politics to have, you know, just don't apply anymore. And part of the reason that Trump won in 2016 is because he was able to really, you know, tap into that anger that was in the country at the time that a lot of other candidates didn't realize.

[10:10:07] And I think Oprah could really sort of tap into the hunger in America right now for inspiration and hope. And I think, you know, I think she could be very, very formidable.

GALEN: Patti is right. I think -- let me just make one quick point, quick point Poppy. The issue that I think -- should Oprah win -- run. The issue that Americans are going to have to figure out is, A, do they want another person as president with zero experience in politics in negotiating with legislatures and all the other stuff that goes with it. Or B, has Trump opened a door that had never been opened before. And people are more accepting to someone like Oprah.

HARLOW: Which was the point I think that Nancy Pelosi was making yesterday, exactly. So guys, let's turn to DACA. This is very important. This is going to be a big part of the meeting today in just a few hours with the president and bipartisan legislatures.

Patti, your stance on this is fascinating as a Democrat. You say why not just go ahead and spend $18 billion on the wall and give them that, to protect these 800,000 Dreamers. That puts you in direct contrast with so many of your fellow Democrats. Explain it?

SOLIS DOYLE: It does. Let me be clear. I think the wall is stupid and useless. It's not going to do anything to secure the border. I think Donald Trump is one who ended DACA and put us in this situation. And also, Donald Trump promised in the campaign that if he was going to build a wall that Mexico is going to pay for it. And he is now asking the taxpayers to pay for it. But I got to tell you guys, I travel the country. I am privileged to travel the country and talk on college campuses. And I cannot tell you the number of Dreamers who come up to me with tears in their eyes, and fear in their hearts. And they don't know whether they may be able to finish their degree. They don't know whether they're going to have to leave their siblings and go to another country, their families. That they don't know. A country they don't know.

So if we are willing to spend $1.5 trillion on a tax cut for big corporations and for the Uber rich, I think $18 billion for a useless wall is worth it to keep these Dreamers here and to let them follow their dreams.

BERMAN: You know, Rich Galen, not every Democrat thinks that way. I mean there are Democrats here, Kamala Harris there were others saying that they would be willing to shut things down right now. Shut the government down unless there are protections for Dreamers. And they don't even want to think about a wall.

You have seen shutdowns. You know, you've been there in Congress when government shutdown before, working with people who were involved in such a thing. What are the risks here? Where do you think this is headed?

GALEN: Well, the risks of a shutdown are typically philosophical more than they are realistic. Because everybody ends up getting paid again and it's really just -- I mean everybody runs around with their hair on fire. If I had hair it would be on fire. But, let me go back to the wall thing for just a second about where that might get tied up in all this stuff.

NPR reported I think yesterday, maybe the day before, that border crossing arrests are at the 41 -- 46-year low, the lowest since 1971. And if I were an anti-wall guy, which I by the way am. Because I don't want to spend another $15 billion as every Turks has (ph) said real money.

But I mean I think that ought to be an arguing point by the Democrats and trust guys Republicans like me to say, what problem are you trying to solve? Because of Trump's tough talk, people are not coming here. I think they're stopping in Mexico, getting jobs there. So the -- I think tying these two things together is terrible policy. And it's just going to lead to more trouble down the road where people say, well, you did it for the wall. You did it for DACA. And now we want to tie these two things together.


BERMAN: All right. Patti Solis Doyle and Rich Galen, great to have you with us guys. Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Thank you guys.

GALEN: Thanks. Good seeing you.

BERMAN: All right, we have a breaking news on what could be a major development on the Korean Peninsula. Talks between the Koreas result in an agreement to hold further discussions, military discussions.

HARLOW: Also this morning, White House lawyers are anticipating a request for the president to be interviewed by the special counsel and his team. Now, they are trying to apparently limit the scope of what that interview would look like.

[10:14:23] And moments from now on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Paul Ryan will take reporters' questions. You know what he's going to be asked. Will he answer those questions? Next.


BERMAN: All right, the breaking news this morning, there are major developments in the face-to-face talks between North and South Korea. The headline is that the two sides have agreed to hold military discussions.

HARLOW: That's a very big deal. Also North Korea will be sending a high-level delegation to the Olympics one month from today. At the same time North Korea is pushing back hard at South Korean officials coming out after these talks and saying they have agreed to at least discuss denuclearization.

Let's go to our senior International Correspondent Ivan Watson. He is in Seoul with the latest. What else are you hearing?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, all -- it was all smiles at the beginning of this meeting. And clearly both the North and the South, their delegations wanted to make a deal here.

There was one area where publicly there seemed to be a little bit of friction. The North Koreans didn't like the fact that South Koreans brought up denuclearization at the talks which is something that the whole world seems to agree on, that North Korea should not have nuclear weapons that they tested as recently as September.

At the conclusion of the meeting the North Korean Chief Delegate Ri Son Gwon. He insisted that South Koreans didn't care about North Koreas nuclear weapons. And he went on to say this, quote, all state of art-strategic weapons, including atomic and hydrogen bombs, ICBM, rockets, are entirely targeting the U.S. It is not targeting our own people. It is not targeting China and Russia as well.

[10:20:11] Now, in addition to that there has been a lot of groundbreaking change here. We have the North Koreans, basically, in the span of a little more than a week saying, hey, we want to come to the winter Olympics which are starting in just one month's time here in South Korea. The South Koreans want them to come as well.

And check this out, only two North Korean athletes are really eligible and they've missed the application date. But the International Olympic Committee is probably going to waive that and let them attend their figure skaters.

But in addition to that, the North Koreans will send a high-level delegation, a cheering squad, an art troupe, a visitor's group, a Taekwondo demonstration team, and journalists. So it sounds like quite a big entourage that will be welcomed here in South Korea in the first sign of reduction of tensions really between these two neighbors in years. Poppy and John?

HARLOW: All right. Ivan Watson, thank you. Let's dig into this a lot more with our military analyst, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona and Balbina Hwang, Former Senior Adviser at the State Department. Balbina, to your first, this is big, military talk, let's begin with that. Where do we go from here?

BALBINA HWANG, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, U.S. STATE DEPT.: Well, let's not get too ahead of ourselves. What they said is they've agreed to possibly hold military talks. The military talks have not yet occurred. And we don't frankly know what they will include. The military issues are rather complicated because --

HARLOW: Well it actually say -- hold on Balbina, just looking at the statement it actually says Inter-Korean military talks will be held.

HWANG: Right. But this a date set? Is there any discussion yet, any announcement, any agreement yet about what those military talks will entail? Will they include the United States? Will they include the United Nations Command which is actually in charge of maintaining the armistice?

So, just announcing that they will occur, yes, that is great news. And indeed I think the military talks, is what should be emphasized above all other kinds of cooperation and talks. But again, we have to tamp down the enthusiasm a little for now.

BERMAN: And Colonel Francona, the North Koreans have made clear that they have no interest in discussing denuclearization.

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: So, how useful can military talks be without that even on the table, Colonel?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, well that's, you know, that's the big drill, that's what everybody wants to talk about, that's where we have to focus. But the fact that they're talking is a good thing. You know, I agree that they've agreed to talk for not work for the past 60 something years and where has that gotten us.

So as Balbina says, let's not get too over enthusiastic about this. But the fact that the two sides are actually talking is good. The fact that they're willing to discuss military topics is good. I think this is a North Korean ploy. This is good move on the part of North Korea. They're getting to set the agenda. They're going to say, we want to talk about nuclear -- we want to talk about military. But we will not talk about denuclearization.

And they -- this is a charm offensive. They're trying to make nice with the South Koreans because if they can make a common goal with the South Koreans, that's edging out the United States. They want to take the United States out of this equation. They'd rather talk one-on-one with Seoul.

BERMAN: Yes, I mean, in fact, I mean, Balbina, has North Korea given anything up here at all? I mean, it seems like they've gotten everything they've wanted to all down the line?

HWANG: Exactly. What we saw yesterday, this theater was actually a win-win for North Korea. And it's a win short-term for South Korea with potentially a lot of loose. And this is much, much riskier for South Korea.

Let's also be very clear, when we talk, say, military talks, that may or may not include the nuclear issue. We tend to combine those two and they really are distinct. And in the past 20 years, when the United States has engaged in some very, very serious talks with North Korea at the highest levels and even reached several agreements, those were about nuclear issues but not really about the conventional military issues that sustain on the peninsula since 1953.

HARLOW: Balbina, a quick follow-up to you here, you argue that it is only insecurity on the part of Kim's regime that will really bring them to the table. Explain that and explain, do you get a sense that they are feeling insecure right now?

HWANG: Well, it's very interesting. Insecurity brings them to the table. But also, North Korea also needs a little bit of confidence. And I think that is what we are seeing from Kim Jong-un. His strategy for the last five years has been very clear, it's been very predictable, which has been to isolate actually South Korea and then put himself in the strongest position possible to enter negotiations with South Korea to get maximum benefits in the short-term.

BERMAN: You know, Colonel, these discussions so far have between -- in between North and South Korea.

[10:25:02] HARLOW: No -- yes.

BERMAN: These proposed military discussions are between North and South Korea. Do the U.S. have any role in here? How should the U.S. involve itself if at all in what's going on?

FRANCONA: Well, I'm sure there's a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiations between, you know, the Korea government and the United States. We are very close allies and everything that happens on that peninsula affects our military presence there. So I'm sure we're going to have a lot of input, a lot of influence.

But, you know, the South Korean Government, this is a new South Korean Government, and they ran on the position of having better relations with North Korea and they're forging ahead in doing that. North Korea, as Balbina -- I want to add one thing with to what she said, not only as predictable, it's been very effective over the last few years.

The -- Kim Jong-un has been effective in his foreign policy, he's brought the United States to this position where the North and South are having bilateral talks. And the United States is being frozen out. And if the United States want to come to the table, they're going to have to recognize North Korea as a nuclear power which the United States will not do. So I think he's been very effective in driving this wedge between South Korea and United States.

BERMAN: And now South Korean and North Korean figure skaters will all be part of the Winter Olympics.

FRANCONA: This is fair.

BERMAN: Colonel Rick Francona and Balbina Hwang.

HARLOW: Thank you guys.

BERMAN: Thank you so much for being with us. I appreciate it. President Trump's lawyers preparing for him to talk to the Special Counsel in the Russia investigation, how will they try to limit the scope of questioning? That is next.