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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

President Trump Urges Republicans to Take Control of Trump- Russia Probe; Trump Still Calling Hillary Clinton "My Opponent" in 2018. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired January 10, 2018 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:01] GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And he's a performance artist, you know, to a great degree, which all presidents are, by the way, but that the truest things are when he is full of grievance and tweets in the morning or at night or whatever it is about his grievances.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Was it Walt Whitman that said we contain multitudes?

BORGER: We do.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

TAPPER: I mean, we are complicated. We are the sum total of our grievances and the sum total of us on our best footing as well.

JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Very eloquent.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: The question is whether or not the grievances are a part of us that -- I just can speak for myself. I know I have the grievances everyone else has. I try to suppress them. I try to hide them.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: You don't put them on your Twitter account.

TAPPER: I try to acknowledge they're not the best of me. And you would acknowledge that he -- that the governing part that you herald would go better if he exhibited perhaps a little bit more control.

HOLMES: Look, it's unconventional, to say the least, but I think where we in the media and punditry divert from where your average American is, is, they're much less interested in playing armchair psychologist about why the president does what he does or why he thinks what he thinks or who he is mad at or who he is not.

They're pretty interested in what that tax cut looks like and what it has to do with their family. And I think in that regard, the president has really scored some serious points over the last six weeks.

TAPPER: All right, stick around, everybody. You're not going anywhere.

For those of you just joining us, we just got a glimpse into President Trump's thinking on a variety of issues hovering over the White House. Top of the president's mind this afternoon, and he was asked about it, of course, was the Russia investigation. President Trump repeatedly insisting there was no collusion, there was no collusion.

He called the Russia probe a -- quote -- "Democratic hoax," or rather Democrat hoax, but he avoided a question about whether he himself would be willing to sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can only say this. There was absolutely no collusion. Everybody knows it, every committee. I have been in office now for 11 months. For 11 months, they have had this phony cloud over this administration, over our government, and it has hurt our government.

It does hurt our government. It's a Democrat hoax. And certainly I will see what happens, but when they have no collusion and nobody's found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you would even have an interview.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And with time running out to help the dreamers facing the risk of deportation -- those are the around 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to this country illegally through no fault of their own when they were children -- President Trump also tried to clear up some confusion that resulted from his 55-minute televised meeting with congressional leaders on immigration yesterday.

Today, the president said he would not sign any deal to help the dreamers if it doesn't include funding for a border wall.

Joining me to talk about this and much more is retired four-star General Michael Hayden. He served as a director of both the CIA and the NSA.

General Hayden, thanks so much for being here.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Really appreciate it.

So, you have served both Democratic and Republican presidents. What do you make of the president's claims that this is all a hoax and this is all just created by Democrats?

HAYDEN: It's not a hoax. It's not all created by Democrats.

There is now historical record on which we can all agree that there were contacts between the campaign and agents of the Russian Federation, that there was some cooperation, some synchronization of activities between the campaign, the Russians and WikiLeaks.

Now, whether it's collusion or criminal, a completely different matter, but there is some there there. And what struck me about the president's comments is, he needs, he wants, he should be pursuing closure.

And he doesn't get closure until he talks to Bob Mueller. And here he made that very ambiguous as to whether or not that would ever happen.

TAPPER: And one of the other things is, he tried to make it all just about collusion, where it seems clear from what we know about the Mueller investigation in terms of information he has sought and interviews he's conducted is that he is at least looking into whether or not President Trump obstructed justice, either through the statement he helped dictate in which Donald Trump Jr. was not forthcoming about the real reason for that meeting with the Russian lawyer or firing James Comey or whether or not he knew that General Flynn had lied to the FBI and on and on.

HAYDEN: Bob Mueller is very conscientious. He is very thorough.

And you can see the increasing concentric circles moving outward in the investigation from criminal collusion, whatever that might mean, to obstruction of justice, perhaps even to other ancillary kinds of activities like the transfer of money and with whom you cooperate or don't cooperate.

TAPPER: If you worked for President Trump -- well, you know what, let me rewrite this question. Do you think president politically can avoid sitting down with Robert Mueller if Robert Mueller insists on sitting down with him?

HAYDEN: Again, the president -- I'm really trying to speak here on behalf of the president's best interests.

[16:05:01]

TAPPER: Right.

HAYDEN: The president is served by closure. This is a cloud over the administration.

Whether or not he's responsible for it is a separate matter. The cloud exists. And the only way to get out from under the cloud is closure, that this has been as complete an investigation as possible. And I don't see how that happens if Bob Mueller wants to talk to the president and the president doesn't talk to Bob Mueller.

TAPPER: Today, President Trump tweeted that -- quote -- "Republicans should finally take control" -- unquote -- of the Russia probes.

He refused to answer a question shouted to him at the pool spray about what that meant.

HAYDEN: Right. TAPPER: We already have Republicans in the House Intelligence

Committee and in the Senate Judiciary Committee accused of doing too much to protect the president.

Things seem to be working OK in the Senate Intelligence Committee as of now. And then there is the Mueller probe.

How do you interpret that, Republicans should finally take control?

HAYDEN: Yes, there are kind of multiple tracks here. You have got the one going on, in the House, which I think was fatally compromised last summer with all the activity that took place with regard to unmasking.

The Senate cooperation seems to have been more bipartisan. It's got longer legs, it has lasted longer, but now we're seeing that beginning to fracture as well. And then you have got Bob Mueller's criminal investigation over here.

And that's going to go to the end, because I know Director Mueller, I know how he works.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: You have a lot of respect for him.

HAYDEN: Oh, I do. I do. I do. I worked with him for many years within government.

And so that's going to go to this point. But I think, Jake, that's going to be insufficient. I think the American public deserves more than just a legal resolution as to what went on here. There needs to be a political resolution. There is a difference between that which is illegal and that which is clearly inappropriate.

And that second category is the kind of thing that could be developed at the political level by the second political branch of government, the Congress. And I fear, with the events, particularly of the last 48 hours, we're not going to get that.

TAPPER: Yesterday, we learned that the British spy Christopher Steele who worked on that Trump-Russia dossier on behalf of this opposition research group that was being funded by Democrats, Steele went to the FBI in July 2016, not at the behest of this opposition research group or the Democrats, but because the research he was doing about any possible ties or compromising of Trump or the campaign by the Russians so alarmed him, he went to the FBI.

And here's is a quote from Glenn Simpson, who is the head of Fusion GPS, which is the opposition research firm -- quote -- "Chris said he was very concerned about whether this represented a national security threat. He thought from his perspective there was an issue, a security issue, about whether a presidential candidate was being blackmailed."

What's your reaction to that? HAYDEN: So, we have got a couple of examples now of genuine friends

of the United States, members of the Five Eyes alliance, an Australian ambassador and a retiree from Britain's MI6, having concerns about the well-being of American democracy.

And they followed their conscience and made their concerns known to the appropriate organs of the United States government. That's about as far away from a political motivation as you can get. And that was the instigation of what we're seeing now.

Now, has it been politicized since then? Oh, my God, yes. But the origin of it comes from these genuine friends being genuinely concerned.

TAPPER: And did you ever -- you were at the NSA. Did you ever work with Christopher Steele?

HAYDEN: No, I never have.

TAPPER: Do you know his work at all?

HAYDEN: I have talked to friends in MI6, and I have been told he was a solid officer for Britain's intelligence services.

TAPPER: So, Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, she unilaterally released this transcript, and she said today that she regretted not informing Grassley that she was going to do it, the Republican chairman.

And President Trump tweeted -- quote -- "The fact that sneaky Dianne Feinstein, who has on numerous occasions stated that collusion between Trump-Russia has not been found, would release testimony in such an underhanded and possibly illegal way, totally without authorization, is a disgrace. Must have tough primary."

Now, it is true, she is facing a primary challenge from the left, but I don't know that her release of this at all was in violation of the law.

HAYDEN: Look, I'm not a lawyer, but my instincts are not in any way.

And, frankly, Jake, what she did was a counterpunch to what two Republicans on the committee had done with regard to the referral to the FBI about Steele and potential criminal activity. I think her releasing the document was unfortunate, in the sense that she was forced to release it unilaterally.

It would have been far better if the committee had just made it public, as the testifier requested be done, because he was being accused in the press and by other parts of the American political process of at least untoward behavior. He wanted it out there.

[16:10:13]

TAPPER: Yes, he did. Requested so in a "New York Times" op-ed. Last question, sir. And I know this is an issue you care a lot about.

The top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, Ben Cardin of Maryland, he put out a scathing report today that accuses President Trump and the Trump administration of negligence when it comes to making sure there is not future election interference in 2018, 2020 in this country.

Quote: "Without leadership from the president, any attempt to marshal such a response will be inherently weakened at the outset."

It's been a year this month since the intelligence community has put out their report. Has anything improved? Are we safer?

HAYDEN: I don't know that we are. There is an awful lot of energy actually in the private sector and the think tank community around here that is looking at this question. And they are actually learning a great deal about what the Russians did and how they did it.

But, Jake, this was an unexpected attack against an unknown weakness in the American political process. It hit a seam. It hit a seam between public and private, a seam between law enforcement and intelligence, a seam before federal and local. And the only way you can come back from that is through an extraordinary effort.

Let me ask you a question, coming back at you. Who is the go-to guy in the U.S. federal government now to make sure we fix this? And let me answer my own question.

TAPPER: I don't know.

HAYDEN: We don't have a go-to guy.

TAPPER: Yes, OK.

HAYDEN: And so as we develop even more information, where does it go for action? And without presidential leadership, perhaps even extraordinary structures like we did after the terrorist attack with the National Counterterrorism Center, I fear, even though we learn more, we won't act more.

TAPPER: All right, General, it's always a pleasure. Thank you so much for coming in, sir. I appreciate it.

The House Intelligence Committee investigation is at an impasse and the Senate Judiciary Committee seems close to one because of partisan divisions.

Is President Trump in that tweet today saying Republicans should finally take control? Is he referring to the Senate Intelligence Committee? Is he referring to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation?

When asked what he meant today, the president ignored the question, but CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju joins me now.

And, Manu, how are Republicans on Capitol Hill responding to this call from the president?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Republicans on the Senate side say they're still moving forward with their investigation.

They're largely ignoring what the president had to say. Richard Burr, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, just saying earlier this afternoon that I don't pay attention to the president's tweets.

But in a lot of ways, that was geared towards the Senate Judiciary Committee in the aftermath of Dianne Feinstein's release of that transcript from Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson talking about that Steele dossier of Russia and Trump connections.

I got a chance to ask Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, about the president's call to take control of the investigation. This is how he responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I don't intend to have a discussion with the president on that point and I hope he doesn't call me and tell me the same things that you said he said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Grassley suggesting, Jake, that actually the release of this transcript will not undermine his investigation going forward. He said they have scheduled other witnesses to come forward.

And I asked him specifically about Jared Kushner, the president's son- in-law. I said, does this mean he is off the hook given the concerns that Kushner may not come forward now? He said, no, he's not off the hook -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Manu, Grassley also said he was disappointed that his colleague, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, released this transcript.

You spoke with Feinstein. What did she have to say?

RAJU: She's actually saying sorry. She's sorry to Chuck Grassley. She's apologetic that she did not inform him ahead of time over releasing the transcript.

She defended her decision to release the transcript, said the reason to do this is because it had been abused for so long, the questions over his testimony, Glenn Simpson, that the public just needed to see exactly what he said behind closed doors.

But, Jake, she pushed back on the president's tweet. She said she did nothing illegal, as the president alleged she may have done earlier today in his morning tweet. She would not respond to the president calling her "sneaky." She said she didn't want to discuss that specifically, but she pushed back pretty aggressively on the president's suggestion this was done to help her politically. She said that was absolutely not the case. She said she released for

the public interest, but she said, again, she did not do anything illegal, as the president alleged, Jake.

TAPPER: Interesting.

And there is this other story, Manu. Michael Cohen, who is the president's corporate lawyer, he is -- no, that's Gary Cohn. That's the wrong Cohn. Wrong, guys. Michael Cohen, C-O-H-E-N, Michael Cohen is suing Fusion GPS, which is behind the dossier, as well as BuzzFeed News, for publishing the entire dossier a year ago. But, you know, I've talked to some legal experts.

[16:15:01] This could be a risky move for Michael Cohen.

RAJU: Yes, no question. He presumably would have to sit for a deposition and perhaps his wife would to also agree to do that. And the standard for evidentiary standard in the discovery process is pretty low, Jake. That means a whole range of documents could presumably be requested from both sides as they investigate this further.

And, of course, he would be the closest person to the president to fight this in the legal system, fight the dossier in the legal system. And we could -- we just don't know what would come out, and clearly that's got a lot of people interested about what may emerge from these lawsuits going forward, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Don't go anywhere. We have lots more to talk about, including the president bringing up Hillary Clinton on his own just now, saying -- calling her his opponent.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: We're back with my political panel.

Folks, something that was very interesting that happened today in his press conference, President Trump kept on bringing up Hillary Clinton.

[16:20:03] He called an interview she did with the Justice Department during the campaign ridiculous and a serious breach. He even at one point referred to her as my opponent. The election's been over for more than a year. He can't quit her.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's obsessed. Oh, my goodness, Donald Trump is -- he's obsessed with Hillary Clinton.

And, you know, I'm sure Secretary Clinton would love nothing more than for Donald Trump to keep her name out of his mouth but he just can't stop because he's obsessed with her.

TAPPER: Why does he keep bringing her up? Here is my theory, it's because, you know, as they say, as Joe Biden used to say, don't compare me to the perfection -- he had a much better way of saying it, but compare me to my actual opponent.

President Trump beat Hillary Clinton. He beat Hillary Clinton. President Trump on his own having some troubles, but maybe when it's him versus Hillary, he feels like -- well, that's a fight I can win.

JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, you know, I think it's a little bit more like when you go to a favorite band concert and hear the new stuff and you're like, yes, you know, I like that. Then they break the greatest hits out, you know, I think this is his greatest hits, right?

TAPPER: His "Free Bird."

HOLMES: His 'Free Bird".

TAPPER: It's his "Free Bird".

HOLMES: It's Donald Trump's "Free Bird." Absolutely.

I mean, look, his supporters love the comparison to Hillary Clinton. They love contrasting everything that this president does with what Hillary Clinton would have done and he knows that. So, he brings it up. For him it's his best stuff.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There is also that he can't let go the fact that he lost the popular vote. Remember, he was trying to convince people that he didn't lose the popular vote. There are these -- I think you're right, he can't quit her. And she's also, to your point, this perfect foil, this villain that he can just keep on, you know, pulling out and punching at.

TAPPER: Yes.

The president began his day by tweeting his frustration about the Russia probe. He was still clearly feeling the frustration this afternoon when it was brought up by reporters. But, you know, it's interesting because the last week has been focused on issues having really not much to do with the Russia probe, having to do with the Michael Wolff book and "Fire and Fury" and the book in which the president cooperated and his team cooperated, raising serious questions, perhaps unfair and perhaps inaccurate questions, but raising questions about his mental fitness and yet he turns the subject back to the Russia probe. That seems like that's not going from a solid ground to solid ground.

SANDERS: Again, I think he is obsessed.

Donald Trump does not like these questions about the Russia probe. I was surprised that he took them with such ease actually today, because I thought he would get a lot more frustrated than he actually did. I think he goes back to the Russia probe because he thinks that's a fight he can win. He saw what he said about his -- that he was the smartest person and basically like a genius fell kind of flat, but he thinks he can win on the Russia probe. There are folks within his base that repeat the talking points that he frequently says. Again, not a smart place for him to be.

KUCINICH: It almost seems like someone has told him to not attack it to vehemently because in that "New York Times" interview he was like, don't worry about the Russia probe. I don't think about it a lot. No collusion. Did I mention no collusion?

It's how he's approaching it. I think you're right, it is a little different. The thing that was interesting, though, I believe it was "Washington Post" reported a day or two ago that he was behind the scenes amenable to a Mueller interview. And today -- and in June, he said he was 100 percent ready to talk to Mueller. And then today, he said we'll have to see.

So, where that change came from I think is interesting and I don't know that we know the answer to that yet.

SANDERS: The one thing that we didn't note, though, they haven't asked him. I do not think it would be appropriate if the FBI asked the president of the United States for an interview and he declined.

TAPPER: Do you think politically as a political matter this is something that the president could withstand if he refused to give an interview to the special counsel? Is that something -- I mean, President Clinton did an interview before a special counsel. President Reagan did one for Iran-Contra. Hillary Clinton did one during the campaign about the e-mails.

Can he avoid it?

HOLMES: Jake, think the most important thing here is closure, wherever it comes, however it comes. If Mueller can get to the end of this investigation, whether it's through a written set of answers, whether it's through an interview, not through an interview. If they can get to the end of this, that's what's good for President Trump and his administration, period. In what manner sort of is immaterial, I think.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around. The president's mixed messages on immigration and the DREAMers have thrown everyone for a loop, from conservatives to DREAMers themselves. That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:42] TAPPER: And we're back with the politics lead.

A federal judge's order along with the president's remarks have confused seemingly everyone about what might happen to roughly 700,000 so-called DREAMers. These are undocumented immigrants brought to this country illegally through no fault of their own as children.

A circuit court judge in California is forcing the Trump administration to keep accepting renewal applications for DREAMers to continue to have temporary legal status even though this program expires in March. Meanwhile, both DREAMers and their advocates and immigration hardliners are questioning how Congress can move forward after the president reiterated today, no immigration deal can happen without funding for his border wall.

CNN's Sara Sidner spoke with both sides.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELODY, DACA RECIPIENT: We are Americans by all means, except on a piece of paper.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Left behind in Guatemala by her mother, Melody came to the U.S. at age 9, a year after this picture was taken.

MELODY: Just thinking back to that 9-year-old girl who had so many hopes and who just hugged her mom for the first time.

SIDNER: Itayu was brought to the U.S. from Mexico as a baby.

ITAYU, DACA RECIPIENT: I came at 6 months. I wasn't even able to walk or talk.

SIDNER: Undocumented until 2015, they both became recipients of the Deferred Action for childhood arrivals or DACA, which allowed them to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

MELODY: We felt like we actually mattered, like I could actually go get a library card. I wasn't able to do that before DACA.