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Extraordinary Look Inside Trump's Bipartisan Meeting; Trump: I'll Sign Whatever Immigration Bill They Send Me; Feinstein Defies GOP, Release Fusion GPS Testimony. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired January 9, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right. Wolf, thank you so much.
Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me for what is shaping out to be quite a busy Tuesday here.
Moments ago, the president opened this massive bipartisan meeting to cameras for quite a while and it was a remarkable public showing. Republicans and Democrats sitting all around this table together, discussing the needs to solve the problem for Dreamers. Dreamers, the undocumented immigrants forced to enter the U.S. as children, who are on the verge of losing their legal status unless Congress does something about that.
But as this meeting revealed a sign of solidarity to solve the problem, it also unveiled the details that could derail a solution. The president insists any Dreamer or DACA legislation must come with border security improvements, aka, a wall. While Democrats may take a stand DACA must be dealt with if the government is to get the funding it needs to stay open, the current spending bill expires January 19th.
Here now what was discussed and what many could agree could be considered the very first bipartisan news conference of the Trump administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel having the Democrats in with us is absolutely vital, because this should be a bipartisan bill. This should be a bill of love. Truly, it should be a bill of love and we can do that. But it also has to be a bill where we are able to secure our borders.
And they are being requested by law enforcement officers. I had a big meeting with ICE last week. I had big meeting with border patrol agents last week. Nobody knows it better than them. As an example on the wall, they say, sir, we desperately need the wall.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: There are elements you are going to find Democrats support when it comes to border security. We want a safe border in America, period, both in -- when it comes to illegal migration but also when it comes to drugs and all these other areas. Now, I will say that there is a sense of urgency that's felt by many
of us when it comes to this issue. There are many of these young people who are losing the protection of DACA on a daily basis. As of March 5th, 1,000 a day will lose DACA protection, 900 of them are members of the U.S. military, 20,000 of them are school teachers.
In my state of Illinois and city of Chicago, there are 25 of them in medical school who can't apply for residency.
REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MINORITY WHIP: And American public are very frustrated with us. One of the reasons they're frustrated with us because we continue to couple things which we have large agreement with things on which we do not agree.
This is a perfect example of that. That we take that on which we agree, pass it.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MAJORITY LEADER: Yes, we've got to do DACA and I agree with you 100 percent. But if we do not do something with the security, if we do not do something with the chain migration, we are fooling each other that we solved the problem.
You know how difficult this issue is. So, let's collectively, we are here at the table together, I'll be the first one to tell you we are all going to have to give a little. And I'll be the first one willing to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's start with our CNN political director David Chalian.
David Chalian, just, you know, you have the president seated in between two Democrats. The fact that they allowed for cameras, you know, in on this meeting for as long as they did show of bipartisanship, and just the president's bill of love.
What did you make of that whole thing?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I can't think of an example of something I've seen like that in covering Washington. Just obviously whenever cameras are in a room, politicians are going to perform are the cameras. That is sort of the kabuki theater of Washington. No doubt that was happening a lot in here.
But what was so astonishing to me, Brooke, watching this, was that there were real moments of what that was like to be in that meeting in between those performance for the cameras. Yes, they get their talking points out, but then they are being exchange back and forth. Then, the president would be pressed by somebody.
Then -- I'm not suggesting that we actually saw the negotiation take place and that there's -- you know, we know what the end result is here. But we did get a really rare fly on the wall kind of a moment of how these people communicate with each other, talk to each other, about this very hot button issue. It was totally fascinating.
BALDWIN: Are you clear on what the president will agree to? Because my notes are all over the place.
[14:05:00] CHALIAN: No, I'm not clear on what he'll agree to except I am clear on this. He basically said he'll sign whatever they send his way. I mean, that was the basic bottom line. He wants a deal on this. And he's going to put his signature on sort of whatever Congress sends.
Now, he did reassert that he thinks a DACA deal should have border security, or as he sees it, a wall as part of that and pressed on that by reporters at the end you heard. And he reasserted that stance. So, I guess he's counting on Republicans up on the Hill to make sure whatever gets sent over has that.
BALDWIN: Let me hit pause, let me play that sound.
CHALIAN: Oh, sorry. Sure, sure.
BALDWIN: This is when he's saying I'll sign whatever gets sent my way. I'll take the heat, paraphrasing. Here's the president himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Ii do have people that are, let's just use to common term, very far right and very far left. They are very unhappy about what we are doing. But I really don't believe they have to be, because I believe this sells itself.
And, you know, when you talk about comprehensive immigration reform, which is where I would like to get to eventually, if we do the right bill here, we are not very, very far away. You know, we've done most of it. You want to know the truth, if we do this properly, DACA, you are not so far away from comprehensive immigration reform.
And if you want to take the further step, I'll take the heat, I don't care. I don't care. I'll take all the heat you want to give me, and I'll take the heat off both the Democrats and the Republicans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Just wanted to get that in there. And then, you know, jump in, David, but my other question is, should Democrats believe him?
CHALIAN: Well, I mean Democrats are not going to believe much of what he's saying, and there's such a trust deficit overall between him and the opposition party. So, I don't know they will.
But I think what you can believe is that Donald Trump had always envisioned himself as he was on the road to the presidency as somebody who can work in a bipartisan fashion. That ended up not being the strategy he went with in the first year of his presidency, quite obviously.
I do think there are a couple of things that are important to note here. One --
BALDWIN: Yes. CHALIAN: -- you heard John Cornyn, number two Republican in the Senate, and Lindsey Graham, both have to sort of push back on the president and remind him that he's in the driver's seat here. When he was sort of saying, I'll sign what you send me. John Cornyn said, remember, Mr. President, what Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell told you this weekend at Camp David, we really need to know what your parameters are, they want -- the Hill wants that protection, Republicans do, of this is what the president is willing to sign so that they don't feel they are passing something that falls apart. That's one.
Two, you heard also talking about that comprehensive piece and do it a second day --
CHALIAN: -- Jeff Flake the Republican from Arizona part of the gang that put together the last bipartisan reform effort in the Senate that went nowhere in the house, Brooke, he said, Mr. President, that took seven months of nonstop work and time between Republicans and Democrats every day, staff on the weekends -- which reminds you this is such an enormous issue, that the idea that you can just do comprehensive immigration reform in short order with the politics of it being what it is, because Donald Trump snapped his fingers, that's not a reality either.
And I think Jeff Flake was reminding the president of that.
BALDWIN: Yes, reality check.
David Chalian, you are excellent. Thank you so much.
I've got another David waiting on the wings with me on just this extraordinary look inside this bipartisan meeting there.
With me now, our senior political analyst, David Gergen.
So, good to see you, sir.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you, Brooke.
BALDWIN: What did you make of that meeting?
GERGEN: It was weird.
BALDWIN: It was weird.
GERGEN: But it was positive weird.
GERGEN: I think opening it up and letting us see them talk to each other, there was a positive feeling about that. I'm glad they did that. It was smart on the part of the White House.
And, by the way, I thought Trump seemed to be on message today and seemed to be with it. All this talk about his mental health, that little clip probably helped him a little bit. People are saying, think he seems to be OK, you know?
So, all that being said, I thought it was also true that the president left it totally confusing as to where we go from here.
BALDWIN: It was, you know, maybe I'll do DACA, will we do clean DACA, we can do clean DACA, or maybe down the road, or maybe the next thing is comprehensive and the wall, I was left a little confused as well. But I think you are right, and David also pointed out, it was a positive thing. And he seems to really enjoy bipartisanship.
GERGEN: Yes, it was smart. And they are trying to change the tone. Now, this year, they need bipartisan because they need Democrat votes to get their measures through.
GERGEN: So I reckon at the end of the day, though, the president is going to have to draw this back to the White House. He is going to have to say what exactly he's willing to sign and not sign.
BALDWIN: What are his parameters.
GERGEN: Yes. And he can sit down with Dick Durbin, (INAUDIBLE) in the House, Democrat in the House, what are his parameters, because he seemed to be going in a soft position, then he took a very, very hard position in the last two or three weeks, got to have the wall, got to have this, got to have that, which made it impossible to get there. I think he's going to have to back down.
BALDWIN: Isn't that part of the president's M.O.?
[14:1);03] He wants to, just listening to people who spent a lot of time with him, when he's got folks in a room who maybe they're not on the same side, such as Democrats, he wants to please, he wants to get on.
BALDWIN: And, you know, agree on something. But then once they are out of that room, things can change like that.
GERGEN: They sure can, especially early in the morning on a tweet. And, you know, they thought -- Schumer and Pelosi thought they had a deal on this some time ago and it all changed within a few days.
BALDWIN: Let me also, going back to the genesis of the wall, because it's important to remind everyone where this whole idea came from in the first place, right? This was the beating of the drum all during the Trump campaign.
And so, let me quote Joshua Green's book, author and CNN political analyst, who talked to former Trump adviser Sam Nunberg for his book, "The Devil's Bargain". This is what he writes: Roger Stone and I came up with the idea of the wall and we talked to Steve Bannon about it, said Nunberg. It was to make sure he talked about immigration. Initially, Trump seemed indifferent to the idea.
But in January 2015, he tried it out at the Iowa Freedom Summit. Quote, one of the pledges was I will build a wall and the place just went nuts, said Nunberg. Warming to the concept Trump waited a beat, and then added a flourish that brought down the house, nobody, he says builds like Trump.
That is how this all started.
BALDWIN: That became the sticking point for the campaign.
You know, that is what if you went to a Trump rally, people would, you know, get out of their seats and cheer on. And the notion that this wouldn't be part of this original deal with the Democrats, because they are all about clean DACA, how is that going to make all the people that filled those Trump rallies and the base feel?
GERGEN: I totally agree. But at the same time, I think he needs to get a deal done.
BALDWIN: You think it's more about a deal with him right now than policy?
GERGEN: I think he's going to find a way to drop the wall and sort of do that later. He's going to ask for some concessions for Democrats. I think it could be outside the realm of immigration. For example, he could say, look, I would go with you on this, against my better judgment, I'll come to it later. But in exchange for that, I want firm commitments on infrastructure. That's, you know, there are a lot of different deals you can cut.
GERGEN: What's odd about the way he does this is he seems to take any deal they'll pass. He doesn't seem to be a man that has strong principles. He throws things out there and gets all the response, he goes with it, and then suddenly he tosses it aside.
Is he going to die over this wall thing or not? I don't think he will. I don't think he's going to let this go down over the wall.
BALDWIN: So you think he may drop it and pick it up in the later date?
GERGEN: I think he may drop it and find out what he's -- come back and do radar and other things to cover up pieces of the wall and, you know, do a virtual wall. I just think -- I think it's -- I think he would be making a serious mistake, a political mistake as well as substantive mistake to let the Dreamers die here. I mean, force all those 800,000 people to go back. Look what they are already doing to the El Salvadorians, my goodness, I just think it's -- it's bad policy and it's politics. BALDWIN: He said he's willing to take the heat. So we'll see --
GERGEN: We'll see.
BALDWIN: -- if he means what he says.
David Gergen, thank you very much. Good to see you.
GERGEN: Thanks, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Breaking news involving the Russia investigation here. Moments ago, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee taking matters into her own hands, releasing key testimony involving that controversial Trump dossier, that Steele dossier, against the wishes of her own Republican colleagues.
Why she did this? What's to come of it? That's ahead.
Also, the 2020 challenge, President Trump weighing in for the first time on the possibility of facing Oprah Winfrey in a presidential election. What he just said moments ago.
And the White House press briefing set to begin moments from now. We'll take it live.
Back in just a moment. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
[14:18:09] BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
The breaking news now comes on this congressional Russia investigation. The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee has just unexpectedly released the interview transcripts of the co-founder of Fusion GPS. That is the private investigation firm behind that controversial dossier alleging ties between President Trump and the Russians.
This is Dianne Feinstein and her decision to release Glenn Simpson's testimony goes against the wishes of her Republican colleagues on that same committee.
So, I've got Manu Raju waiting to talk to me about this, our senior congressional correspondent. And I know we have teams, you know, peeling through these 400 pages of testimony which, you know, he and his, you know, cohort wrote the opinion piece in "The Times" last week about please release the testimony.
So, here it is. What's in it?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a significant move by Feinstein. As you mentioned, the Republicans did not want this to happen out of concerns that it could undercut the investigation. But as we're going through this, we're finding some interesting
details, most notably that Christopher Steele who was that British agent (AUDIO GAP) hired in order to (AUDIO GAP) Trump, then-candidate Trump's background with Russia and put together dossier looking that allegation of Trump and Russia connection, that Steele went to the FBI in summer of 2016 out of concern about what he was finding. He was so concerned that there could be a presidential candidate, presidential candidate Trump who was being, quote, blackmailed by the Russians that he had though alert the FBI about exactly what he was finding.
And in addition to that, he reveals in this testimony that Steele told him that there was a person inside the Trump organization, the Trump campaign, who had been communicating with the FBI whistleblower of sorts, a source, about some of this same issues.
[14:20:05] And an according to Steele's testimony, the FBI viewed what Steele said as credible, in part, because it also was consistent with what this Trump campaign source had been telling them separately.
Now, in addition to this, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson goes into detail, trying to defend Christopher Steele's work, said that he was longtime Russia expert, he understands the way that Russia works, the understands that there are some allegations that they may tell him that are not true. He's someone who would be full -- who is fully worked on these issues for a very long time.
He also noted about how this is funded, funded by Democrats, and Republicans, conservatives during the primary season. And that later, of course, we now know Clinton campaign and the DNC during the general election, that's when they hired Christopher Steele, Fusion GPS did, to investigate this further.
But they contend in this testimony that Fusion GPS did nothing to edit these documents, did not share this with the Clinton campaign. But Steele himself saw what he saw and was so concerned about the prospects of blackmail that he went to the FBI to alert them about what he had found.
And, Brooke, we know the Republicans have been very critical about Christopher Steele, two of them on that same committee last week referring to the Justice Department, asking them to investigate whether or not Steele lied to the FBI about his contacts with the news media in 2016.
So, this is undoubtedly going to spark more partisan infighting on this committee, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Manu, thank you so much for the set up and for all that reporting. And let's just go to Jim Sciutto for some context, our CNN chief national security correspondent.
Remind everyone, Jim, why, you know, what these Fusion guys publicly warned everyone about in that opinion piece in "The New York Times" last week?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And perhaps even go back further, right? Because it was almost a year ago today, I think a little more than a year ago today that the intelligence chiefs presented then-President-elect Trump as well as then-President Obama, with some of the fact that this dossier of questions about kompromat, compromising information existed. So, this goes back more than a year, right, in terms of knowledge of this within the Trump administration.
I think big picture, Brooke, what this does is if you believe Glenn Simpson, granted this is the account of Glenn Simpson of this whole story, is that it's a counter argument to the Republican argument that this was a purely political document, right? That it was produced by Democrats, directed by Democrats, from the very beginning.
In fact, here, again, based on Glenn Simpson's account, that Steele himself, who is a former MI-6 agent, that's British foreign intelligence service, a former MI-6 agent who served in Russia for years and knows Russia well and, in fact, had done research for the FBI in private cases, he does this research, he himself is so concerned about what he finds, about the prospect of Trump being blackmailed by Russia, that he himself goes to the FBI, sits down with an FBI attache in Rome in September 2016 and says, this is what I found. I see this as a national security threat, so says Glenn Simpson here.
And then when he goes to the FBI, according to Simpson, the FBI doesn't tell him he's crazy. FBI says they might find this information credible based on the possibility that they have seen other similar intelligence. So, I think that's the real headline here, Brooke, that this is a very different narrative of the origin, the background of the dossier, not just how it was put together but how it was distributed, how law enforcement in the U.S. became aware of it.
Then you're hearing now from the GOP, which is trying to discredit it in general. So, now, you see a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein, been someone around the longtime, she's been briefed on all the intelligence, you know, she's no wilting flower, saying this is something that should be made public.
BALDWIN: So, I'm with you that this goes far, far back. I was just rereading there, you know, Glenn Simpson's op-ed from the paper last week, says we told Congress that from Manhattan to Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, and from Toronto to Panama, we found widespread evidence that Mr. Trump and his organization had worked with wide array of dubious Russians in arrangement that often raised questions about money laundering. Likewise those deals don't seem to interest Congress, right? This was his whole plea to Congress, please release my transcripts.
How is this since Senator Feinstein is the one, who despite, you know, Senator Grassley's concerns, went ahead and released that, how is that going to complicate things?
SCIUTTO: Well, let's see. I mean, it's a subject of ongoing investigation. We know that. And our reporting is that Robert Mueller, among the many strands of the investigation he's looking at, including the possibility of collusion or some ort of cooperation between the campaign and Russia, that they are also looking into financial questions as well, financial entanglements of the Trump --
[14:25:00] BALDWIN: Yes.
SCIUTTO: -- of the Trump organization administration prior to the campaign.
So, you know, that's something we already knew they were looking at. Whether releasing Glenn Simpson's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee affects an ongoing special counsel investigation, I suppose you have to leave that up to the lawyers.
It sounds like the political motivation for releasing this is that, you know, you have a largely Republican-led, it's not all Republicans, but you have many Republicans who are trying to undermine the whole idea, not just of the dossier, but of the special counsel investigation in general.
BALDWIN: The investigation.
SCIUTTO: So now you have Dianne Feinstein saying, well, look at this, this guy has been involved with the dossier from the beginning. He tells a very different story.
BALDWIN: Yes. We are waiting more of those headlines. We got the team reading with transcript.
Jim Sciutto, thank you so very much --
SCIUTTO: Thank you.
BALDWIN: -- for the context of all this on the breaking news.
Ahead here, Oprah best friend fueling 2020 presidential talk, making surprising comments about conversations she has had with Oprah. This is happening as President Trump says that if the media mogul did run, that he'd beat her. That's coming up next -- the president's words from just this afternoon.
And we are standing by for that White House press briefing. There are major headlines today on immigration with the president saying that he will sign whatever immigration bill Congress sends him. More on that, next.