Return to Transcripts main page


Feinstein Defies GOP, Releases Fusion GPS Testimony; North Korea and South Korea Agree to Hold Military Talks; Obama's Iowa Director Tells Oprah Winfrey to Call Him; Ava DuVernay on Diversity in Media. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 9, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] CATLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: There is a reason why Republicans want the president to have buy in on this, to lead on this issue and provide some political cover for them especially in some of these congressional districts.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: David, just back to you for one more on the controversial Sheriff Joe, Joe Arpaio, who the president pardoned. I mean, you laugh, but you know where I'm going with this. The president pardoned him. The man is now officially running for the Senate in the state of Arizona. Was it interesting to you how the White House just handled that question choosing not to weigh in?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I did think it was interesting that there was not teen a mention of the president's relationship with Joe Arpaio. They have been very close. Joe Arpaio told me in my interview with him on Friday in preparation for his run for senate, that the president has periodically called his wife to check up on her health. So, he feels a kinship with the president no doubt and they share a sort of similar outlook on the illegal immigration and immigration generally.

So, I did think it was interesting that Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she wasn't going to weigh in. I think obviously the real question here is will the president weigh in? He tends to do these things on his own time whenever he wants without consulting staff. Are they though waiting to see Martha McSally, the Republican congresswoman from southern Arizona gets into the race? She is supposed to get into the race on Friday according to sources I spoke with today. And do they want to sort of play it close to the vest before picking sides in a very important primary that could determine how many seats Republicans hold after the 2018 elections.

BALDWIN: Sort of to Mike Pence's point in that "Wall Street Journal" interview about maybe not getting as involved in the primary process and waiting to pick a horse latter down the line which is different than we've seen so far. David and Maeve, and Maria and Caitlin, thank you all so much for talking with me today. Post White House briefing.

We want to move on. Just in here to CNN. The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee breaking with Republicans in a major way on the Russia investigation. Releasing key testimony involving that controversial Trump dossier. Republicans objecting to that move. And now responding.

Also, ahead 2020 challenge, President Trump weighing in for the first time on the possibility of facing Oprah in a presidential election. And would he win? He said what he thinks, coming up.


BALDWIN: Breaking news on the congressional Russia investigation. The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee has unexpectedly released the interview transcripts of co-founder of Fusion GPS. That is a private investigation firm behind a controversial dossier alleging ties between President Trump and Russians. Senator Dianne Feinstein decision to release Glen Simpson's testimony goes against the wishes of Republicans colleagues on the committee. Let's go to The Hill to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, who along with a team has been going through these 400 pages of testimony that we know Glen Simpson had wanted released. What are some of the headline so far?

MANU RAJU CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the big headline out of this is what Glen Simpson said about Christopher Steele. Who of course, is that British agent who compiled this dossier during the 2016 campaign. Who had gone to Russia, investigated the president, then candidate Trump's connections to Russia. And what he said is that steel was so alarmed at what he found that he went on his own volition, went to brief the FBI about his findings. Because according to Glen Simpson, Steele thought that this candidate, candidate Trump could be susceptible to Russian blackmail.

Now this is according to this rather lengthy testimony. Now, what Christopher Steele said during this testimony, during his interviews with the FBI, he said that there was an internal campaign source who essentially corroborated a lot of what Mr. Steele said. A lot of what he found about these Trump Russia connections. The one thing that we have now learned though, Brooke, is that point is not entirely accurate. A source who is close to Fusion GPS tells us that there was actually no internal campaign source who separately briefed the FBI about Trump Russia connections.

In fact, what Mr. Steele appears to have been referring to, was an Australian ambassador who had passed along information to the FBI after having discussions about Russia and Trump potential connections with that Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. Who, as we know, pleaded guilty late last year to lying to the FBI about these Russian contacts.

Now, according to this testimony from Glen Simpson, he goes really into length to defend Christopher Steele. He said he was hired as expert to understand exactly what happened during candidate Trump's past. Why he took trips to Russia? Why he had connections with Russia? And that's how Steele came across what he believed was rather concerning information. Now, Brooke, Republicans are very, very angry about this, particularly the Republican chairman of the committee. Because they thought this was done behind closed doors, in private, as part of larger investigation. But Chuck Grassley, spokesman, released a statement saying they were confounded by the decision by Feinstein to release this information. Said it would undercut exactly what they are trying to do moving forward. Including trying to secure testimony from other witnesses like the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. And some Democrats, too are saying this just shows this is a bipartisan impasse this investigation. Chris Coons telling me earlier that Democrats saying, this shows that this could be that the two sides are not in agreement.

[16:10:09] And that's what the Democrats had to take it this rather extraordinarily step in releasing the transcript showing the concerns that Christopher Steele had about president's ties to Russia and why he decided to talk the FBI last year -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: 400 pages. Worth keep going through it. We want to keep hearing the reporting we know Glen Simpson so badly wanted public. Manu Raju, thank you so much for that for now.

Coming up next here on CNN the U.S. says it welcomes the second round of talks between North Korea and South Korea. This time focused on the military. But if nuclear weapons are off the table, what's to discuss?


BALDWIN: We are getting breaking news out of Southern California where heavy rains have unleashed destructive rivers and mud and debris. Look at this. We know at least five people are dead. These pictures showing the power of these mud slides. Rescues as you can see are under way as homes in Santa Barbara County have reportedly been wiped away from their foundations by the mud flow. Survivors have described it like a dam breaking. And apparently the recent wildfires are to blame as vegetation that otherwise would holding these hillsides together has burned away.

How about this, a breakthrough on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea and South Korea have now agreed to hold military talks. Although no word yet that those military talks would include anything about nuclear disarmament. But North Korea is committing to one thing. Saying that we'll send a delegation to next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea. With me now, Barbara Demick, former Beijing bureau chief for the "Los Angeles Times," and author of "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea." So, nice to have you back. Why if nuclear is off the table here in terms of discussions, what's to discuss?

BARBARA DEMICK, FORMER BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well, I think it's actually a pretty brilliant move on the part of Kim Jong- un.


DEMICK: He gets to show that he's the states man, sort of ease his international isolation.

[16:15:00] The North Koreans are always trying to sow discord between the U.S. and South Korea. And I think it's a brilliant move for South Korea too because they want to have a successful Olympics. And they need to get out of this horrible place where they are squeezed between the U.S. and North Korea. And so, I think these talks and the participation in the Olympics, it's about North and South Korea, it's not really about the United States.

BALDWIN: So, on your part from North Korea, wanting to sow discord between the South and U.S. Is that because the U.S. isn't taking part at all? Is that what the North is thinking?


BALDWIN: Even though President Trump said I'm the reason why this is happening.

DEMICK: Yes, Yes, Yes, no. But the North Koreans sort of exist in the space between the U.S. and South Korea, and this has been their strategy for decades to get U.S. troops out of South Korea. To show that the relationship with North Korea and South Korea is more important than the relationship with U.S. It's a long running strategy. And so, I think it's quite smart on their part. And you know I think they'll use it as they have in the past to extract favors, money, from South Korea. This is a long running game.

BALDWIN: Do they still do this in the Peace House along the DMZ? I mean, just give me some color as far as, what the actual staring at each other in the eyes? What does it look like?

DEMICK: It's this joint security area, and you have this North Korean imposing building on one side that you've seen as the back drop. And just a really little house and actually tourists can go there and --

BALDWIN: So, there's blue houses and a couple of freedom houses.

DEMICK: Yes. And it's the same place where we saw the North Korean soldier in that amazing video running to South Korea. But that's the spot. This was pretty amazing. It was the first time you saw North Koreans and South Koreans together and they were smiling, which was something different.

BALDWIN: At least we know they know how. Thank you so much. I'm sure we'll talk much more North Korea especially ahead of the Olympics in South Korea next month and the fact that the North is sending a delegation. Thank you very much.

DEMICK: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, President Trump says he doesn't think Oprah will challenge him in 2020. But her best friend Gayle King says Oprah is actually intrigued by the idea. Her word. We'll discuss her chances with the Iowa political director that actually helped President Obama win the state in 2008.



[16:20:11] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oprah would be a lot of fun. I know her very well. I did one of her last shows. She had Donald Trump -- this was before politics -- her last week, and she had Donald Trump and my family. It was really nice. I like Oprah. I don't think she's going to run.


TRUMP: I don't think she's going to run.


TRUMP: I know her very well.


BALDWIN: He also said that he thinks he could beat her. President Trump weighing in on a potential challenge from Oprah Winfrey in 2020. And Winfrey's best friend Gayle King fueled the speculation even further today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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 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.


BALDWIN: Intrigued, so says Gayle. You be the judge on what intrigued means. Brad Anderson is with me, former Iowa state director for Obama's 2012 re-election. Brad, welcome. Nice to meet you.


BALDWIN: OK. So, we wanted to talk to you because you put it out there on the Twitters that you wanted Orpah to give you a call. So, look, let's play out a hypothetical, brad. Let's say Oprah Winfrey actually takes you up on that, calls you up. She says, you know, Mr. Anderson, what's your advice for me? What's your answer?

ANDERSON: Well, my answer would be to think long and hard before making the leap because it would require a pretty dramatic lifestyle change on her part. But secondly, I would say, you know, the thing she's going to have to work hardest at is shedding that bubble. Oprah's always had an amazing ability to connect with everyday people, but she would really have to shed that bubble and I would recommend coming, flying to Iowa, flying to Des Moines. But then taking a car and driving around the state and hitting some of the rural parts of the state, Fort Dodge, Marshalltown, other areas.

And, you know, the thing about winning in Iowa, and I only know Iowa, but the thing about winning in Iowa is it's not a guarantee, even if your name is Oprah Winfrey. You know, we're not going to hand anyone the nomination and she's going to have to earn it, but she would certainly be a formidable contender if she were to enter the race.

BALDWIN: If you are Republicans doing opposition research on her, I mean, so much of her is already out there from years of her own show and talking about herself. Where would you focus? Where would you hit her?

ANDERSON: Well, I would, you know, what Republicans would probably run in years past would be kind of a classic Hollywood elitist, wealthy out of touch person, but it's hard to see them having the ability to do that with Donald Trump in office. So, you know, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to give them any opposition research advice, but I will say one thing is that when it comes to Democrats, you know, Democrats more so than Republicans require a little bit of dose of inspiration to get out and get to the polls. And that is something that Orpah could provide in spades.

BALDWIN: What about, you know, her own brand? I mean, you mentioned Trump, right? Trump has done damage to his business brand by being president. Do you think she would be willing to risk any potential damage to her gazillion-dollar successful brand?

ANDERSON: I mean, that's the -- in my view, that's the biggest question for her is whether or not she would be willing to risk immediately alienating a third of the U.S. population by entering the race. But as she showed, you know, with her speech the other night, she is willing to take a moment that is really for her and be selfless about it and address bigger issues concerning the country. So, if she feels compelled to say, look, we've got some serious problems here, I'm the best candidate. I'm the one who can defeat Donald Trump. Maybe she will just put her brand aside and say, look, I'm going to do this.

BALDWIN: What about votes, though, Brad? How tough -- you have Iowa, but looking past Iowa, how tough would it be for her winning state after state after state?

ANDERSON: Well, you know, I know Iowa best. I don't know the rest of the country. But if she were to win Iowa and go on and go to some of those early states, New Hampshire and South Carolina, she is Orpah Winfrey. So, coming out of Iowa with a win being Orpah Winfrey, I would have to say that that would give her a tremendous advantage in a Democratic primary.

[16:25:00] But I will say this, I don't think Democrats are in the mood for a coronation. It is going to require a lot of hard work. She's going to have to do living rooms in Iowa with 50 people just like everyone else. We have a lot of very talented perspective candidates that are interested in Iowa, and you know, I don't think she expects and I don't think Iowans expect to hand her the nomination without her willingness to put in the work. And it's going to be a dramatic lifestyle change for her to get into this race.

BALDWIN: Sound like you would take her call if she is watching. Brad Anderson there in Des Moines. Thank you for the time. Thank you.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

BALDWIN: You know, one of the women with a front row seat to Orpah's stunning speech at the Golden Globes was director extraordinaire and friend of Orpah, Ava DuVernay. She was seated at Orpah's table Sunday night. And Ava is actually one of the eight women I interviewed as part of my project here at CNN called "AMERICAN WOMAN." And in a sit- down interview where I was in New Orleans with her at the set of her show "Queen Sugar," she explained how Orpah played a critical role in actually making the film "Selma."


AVA DUVERNAY, DIRECTOR, "SELMA": She invested in that movie. Part of that budget of that movie and the reason why it became a little bigger is she put in her own money.

BALDWIN: Is that when you connected with her, with "Selma."

DUVERNAY: She actually -- David had her watch "Middle of Nowhere." Which is a film that won Sundance and she tweeted me. She tweeted me. I thought --

BALDWIN: I can go now. I'm done. Oprah Winfrey has tweeted.

DUVERNAY: I grew up with Orpah Winfrey on the TV, Orpah Winfrey on the magazines.

BALDWIN: What did she tweet?

DUVERNAY: She tweeted something like this is a good movie. Go ahead, sister. She said sister. She called me sister. I thought -- I framed it. I just thought it was everything. I never thought I'd meet her, never thought I'd talk to her. Certainly, never thought I would work with her or --


BALDWIN: This "AMERICAN WOMAN" series is this idea I had after covering the 2016 presidential election. I had a hunch something significant was about to happen as women were speaking up and showing up in record numbers. Standing there just off-stage at the Women's March in Washington, I witnessed the collective strength of those who travel great distances to be seen and heard and it was overwhelming. And personally, it was crystal clear, the next chapter of my career would focus on women. Ava DuVernay, Sheryl Crow, Dianne von Furstenberg, Ashley Graham, Tracy Reese, Pat Benatar, Esa Ray, Betty White, they have all shattered glass ceilings. Whether in music or fashion or film, these are trail blazing women who shared with me very personal stories of success and failure who are not afraid to talk politics, frustration and hope. Here is an American woman, Ava DuVernay, from New Orleans.


DUVERNAY: Hi, I'm Ava DuVernay and I'm an American woman because my ancestors survived.

BALDWIN: How did you find Selma? Or did Selma find you?

DUVERNAY: Selma found me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, FROM MOVIE "SELMA": In the south, there have been thousands of racially-motivated murders.

DUVERNAY: I had come from independent film. So, I said, what is the budget? I'll just back into that number. Because ultimately this story needs to be told. The Selma marches were about marching from Selma to Montgomery. And my father was one of the kids on the side of the road. Just being a part of that community had a very powerful connection for him when he was watching his daughter on the bridge direct a recreation of what happened that day. Art has created some powerful moments for me. My father's gone on his to glory last year, but I just thank God that he saw that.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Her journey in film making hasn't been easy.

(on camera): Who is helping you? Do you have a woman like holding your hand at all?

DUVERNAY: No, through my films is how I met and connected with other women. On the film festival circuit. In the independent film scene, I started to see I was a part of a small tribe of women filmmakers, even a smaller tribe of black women filmmakers. I started to feel very empowered. Almost half of the women that are shooting on "Queen Sugar" right now, the directors that we hire, are women that I met on the film festival circuit, who I just vibed with. They were like me. They were just trying to tell their stories in an independent space because Hollywood wasn't checking for us. It's not even 10 percent of directors in Hollywood are women. Not even 10 percent that are people of color. That's 90 percent of everything that you watch on television and film being controlled, the images, those ideas, those scripts, the way the camera moves, the way the women dress, everything is controlled by men.

BALDWIN: How do young black girls grow up in a house like this and think, I can, and I will?

DUVERNAY: Well, because they see it. They see Isa, you know what I mean? They see me, Dee Rees, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Jill Soloway, Lynn Shelton. They see these women doing it in a way that might not have been as amplified as before. Now it's being amplified through people like you, through people like me, we're loud. We're not going to go quietly.

BALDWIN: We have a voice.

DUVERNAY: Yes, we have a voice.


BALDWIN: Love her. Please binge watch all of these interviews. They're all online right now. Go to And just one other quick ask, I want to hear how inspired you are. Go to my Instagram. I'm @brookebCNN. I want to hear from you. Tell me what defines you as an American woman. Upload your video to Instagram. Don't forget the #AmericanWoman. I've been reposting women. You will see @brookebCNN. Thanks so much for being with me. "THE LEAD" starts right now.