Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Vents on Court System After DACA Setback; Immigration Talks Continue After Bipartisan Meeting; Trump Brings Transparency to Key Immigration Meeting; Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley Disappointed Over Release of Transcript; Interview with Representative Chris Stewart; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 10, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And just moments ago, "broken and unfair." Those words from the president, reacting to a court ruling that blocks the administration from removing protections for some 800,000 Dreamers, people who were brought to this country illegally as children but have lived here, in some cases, for years and years, and have been protected up until now.

President Trump accused the opposing side of running to the Ninth Circuit, known for progressive decisions, in search of political victories destined to be overturned, he says.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We will see the president again next hour, holding a Cabinet meeting. Later today he'll hold a press conference, of course, we'll carry that live right here.

This as members of Congress maybe scratching their head this morning, as much as we are, trying to figure out exactly where this president stands on a deal for Dreamers and the wall.

Let's get to Kaitlan Collins at the White House because she knows everything and she will tell us.

Good morning, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Poppy and John. We could hear from the president on this decision in person after he weighed in on Twitter as he holds that Cabinet meeting here in the next hour, or potentially this afternoon at that press conference with the prime minister of Norway.

But we've already heard from the White House officially when the Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement earlier this morning saying that they, "find this decision to be outrageous, especially in light of the president's successful bipartisan meeting with House and Senate members at the White House on the same day. An issue of this magnitude must go through the normal legislative process."

Sanders adds that, "President Trump is committed to the rule of law and will work with members of both parties to reach a permanent solution that corrects the unconstitutional actions taken by the last administration." Now we know from that meeting, that remarkable meeting yesterday, that

the White House allowed the cameras to come in and watch the negotiations go back and forth between lawmakers and the president that the White House wants a few priorities for any immigration solution including protection for Dreamers, but also enhanced border security, which the president stated very clearly yesterday that he said he believes that some form of the wall on the southern border, along with ending chain migration where immigrants can sponsor members of their family to come to the United States, and ending the visa lottery program.

Now during that meeting yesterday, the president repeatedly expressed sympathy for these Dreamers, which is quite a break from what he said during the campaign when he promised to end DACA immediately, because he believed it was something that was illegal. But now we're hearing a very different story from the president on this -- John and Poppy.

HARLOW: We are. We'll see what he says today in that press conference, in just a few hours. Thank you, Kaitlan.

Let's go to Capitol Hill. Negotiations are ongoing.

BERMAN: CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is up there.

Sunlen, what are you hearing?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this just enters the next phase up here on Capitol Hill and the hard phase, I should say, after that extraordinary meeting yesterday at the White House. Lawmakers have backed off here on Capitol Hill and have to actually go through what this legislation would actually look like. Lawmakers, Kevin McCarthy, Dick Durbin, John Corbin, Steny Hoyer among the group who will sit down today behind closed doors up here on Capitol Hill with administration officials and start to go through all of that.

Coming out of that meeting at the White House yesterday, there was considerable statements, rosy outlooks of claims of progress made, but aides here tell us on Capitol Hill that there is considerable amount of this that needs to be sorted out. A lot of real questions and clarity over the actual policy that needs to get written. A huge divide between both sides. So certainly, behind the scenes, it's not as optimistic as those are saying in front of TV cameras.

And no doubt, a huge new dynamic thrown into all of this today is that federal court ruling. How will this impact the DACA talks? At this point, immigration advocates are worried that it could undercut the pressure for these negotiations to push forward.

But both sides, at least for now, John and Poppy, are saying that it won't slow things down, so we'll see, as these negotiations tick on.

BERMAN: All right, Sunlen, thank you very much. Keep us posted on the progress there. I put "progress" in quotation marks.

HARLOW: I saw you did. BERMAN: Optimistic that it might happen.

Here now to discuss, CNN political analyst Jackie Kucinich, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Doug Heye, and Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman.

And guys, look, you know, transparency, and enjoy the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat yesterday, right? We had cameras inside that meeting for 54 minutes. Then the White House doctored the transcript to remove the fact that the president seemed to be on both sides of a clean DACA bill, Jackie.

Do we know today if this bill is any closer -- a deal is any closer to being made after this meeting?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, we don't. Because there was a lot of confusion coming out of that meeting on both sides of the political aisle. And it's important to note, as Congress is hemming and hawing and trying to figure this out, there are Dreamers who are losing their status. It's not just happening in March. Those that didn't meet the early October deadline, which was kind of a hastily set deadline, they're already losing their status. So while there are real-life things out there happening, while everyone's still trying to get their act together.

[10:05:06] HARLOW: John importantly notes what the White House -- you know, part of what was not included in that transcript, but was on TV cameras, is here. Watch.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I'd like to ask a question, what about a clean DACA bill now with the commitment that we go into a comprehensive immigration reform procedure?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that's basically what Dick is saying. We're going to come up with DACA. We're going to do DACA. And then we can start immediately on the phase two, which would be comprehensive --


TRUMP: Yes, I would like -- I would like that.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Mr. President, you need to be clear, though. I think what Senator Feinstein is asking here, when we talk about just DACA, we don't want to be back here two years later. You have to have security as the secretary would tell you.

TRUMP: But I think that's what she's saying.


MCCARTHY: No, no, no, I think she's saying something different.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: Doug Heye, to you, I mean, the fact Kevin McCarthy had to jump in there, no, no, Mr. President, that's not what we mean, right? And he's like, yes, it is, no, it's not, Mr. President, what we mean. I mean, I don't know if concerning encapsulates enough for what that is for Republicans. Right?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, usually when we think of cleanup on aisle three with this White House, we think of Sarah Sanders or Sean Spicer, or somebody else within the White House. We don't think of the majority leader of the House of Representatives stepping in and saying, no, Mr. President, I think what you mean is, I think what we want here is. That's part of the challenge when you have something open like this, which I applaud the administration for some openness and transparency where there hasn't been a lot.

But I think we know two things with this president. One, we know that he wants a big and beautiful wall. And two is that he wants a big and beautiful deal. The challenge is going to be, what does that mean, what gets negotiated out, and can Donald Trump be that great negotiator that he's always told us he can be?

I think there's an opportunity for him to have a Nixon and China moment, to get a lot of credit on a big, beautiful deal. But it doesn't look that there's any closeness now or closer now than they were yesterday or the day before.

HARLOW: Right.

HEYE: It's going to be incumbent on Donald Trump to be the one who makes that deal happen, regardless of how Republicans and Democrats feel immediately afterwards.

BERMAN: You know, Robert, you're smiling through this because I think Democrats take glee when Republicans are struggling to come up with a coherent message. However.


BERMAN: However, when it comes to the wall, right, we've heard Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia saying, you know what, we can build a wall in one place, but it doesn't have to be 2,000 miles. The president himself yesterday said it was -- it doesn't have to be 2,000 miles. Tammy Baldwin, pretty liberal from Wisconsin --

HARLOW: Patti Solis Doyle --

BERMAN: You know, we've had people on, you know, suggesting that they wouldn't shut down the idea of calling -- you know, it could be called border security. But do Democrats need to give something, just a little bit?

ZIMMERMAN: First of all, let's be very clear. No one's smiling about the fact that Dreamers every day are facing the risk of deportation, even if they're not -- even if their number is not up. Even if they don't have to leave, they can't plan for education, they can't plan for a job, their lives are in limbo because of the recklessness of this administration. On the other front, yes, Democrats are smiling a bit, but also doing a very poor job of explaining their position because Democrats have voted in the past for fencing on the border.


ZIMMERMAN: For massive fencing, I might add. 78 miles worth. And they had -- President Obama put in record numbers of troops for border security. They've done a very poor job of explaining their position and showing that they are for border security. But the bigger problem we have here, and I am a great admirer of Doug and Jackie both, but I want to say that we didn't see -- whether the president gets a bigger or beautiful deal, I don't think is his priority. He wants to be called big and beautiful.

And frankly playing president is not transparency there. I mean, the idea that he can hold that live conference in the White House and then delete part of the transcript shows just how disconnected this White House is from really serious negotiations. And they reflected it yesterday.

HARLOW: Jackie, the president has just tweeted, this is about a different topic, and this is about the transcript from Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS, the -- you know, that commissioned the Russia-Trump dossier. That full 10 hours of testimony, the transcript released by the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary, Dianne Feinstein. We know Chuck Grassley, the chairman, not happy with that. We know that Simpson wanted it released, wanted it out there publicly.

The president tweeted and he's calling it underhanded. He's also calling it illegal, which releasing it I don't think is.


HARLOW: But what do you make of this?


KUCINICH: It's not illegal. You know, anything having to do with the Russia investigation, the president is not going to be pleased with. And Senator Dianne Feinstein has defied her own leadership in releasing documents last -- I believe it was last year on a different topic entirely. So she's going to -- if she thinks something should be released, she's going to do it. But the fact that the president isn't happy about this and it continues to fuel this conversation about Russia and whether his campaign is implicated in this, you know, of course, he's going to speak up on Twitter.

BERMAN: And by the way, if you're charting what Dianne Feinstein has said about collusion over time, since the president wrote about that back in May.

HARLOW: Right. Right.

BERMAN: She said she saw no evidence of collusion. But very recently she said, she believed there was an active obstruction investigation going on. [10:10:07] And she thought that was important. So you can pick which

side is better or worse for the president. But that is what Dianne Feinstein has said about this.

Doug Heye, I want to get you on something very important right now, in an article in which you are quoted, my friend. Jeff Zeleny and a cast of all-stars from CNN reporting on what could be an exodus of people from inside the White House. People leaving. The chief of staff John Kelly has told people, you need to tell us by the end of the month if you're going to stay through the midterms, because we need to plan for it.

And they're worried. They're worried that some of the departures might include the White House counsel Don McGahn. The White House departure could include the National Security adviser McMaster.

Why is it so hard for this White House you think to hold on to talent?

HEYE: Well, I think everything we've seen over the past year plus, it demonstrates why it's hard. This is a difficult job, regardless, but given the maelstrom of everything that we've seen from this White House from the daily tweets to the upheaval with staff people who've left already, these are problems for the administration. It's why people haven't just already left. And there have been a lot of staffers that have already left and even staffers that you haven't showed who left Capitol Hill and already returned back to Capitol Hill.

It's why more and more are leaving. I think the problem for the administration is, not just staff that's leaving, it's staff that's already there that doesn't really support Donald Trump. And what I hear every day or every week are people who are working in the White House or departments or agencies or even at the Republican National Committee who will privately tell you terrible things about the president, but they get to go to the White House bowling alley and they get to ride in motorcades, and they get to Instagram that.

And that may be for a lot of these folks worth getting those jobs, even if they don't support the president. And I have sympathy for the president here. His administration is filled with people who don't support him and that's a problem. That would be a problem for Barack Obama, that would be a problem for George W. Bush or any president. They need people who support their agenda. And this administration doesn't have that in the way that previous ones did.

ZIMMERMAN: But, Doug, I think when you examine why that is the case, why 34 percent of the senior staff have turned over in the first year versus, for example, Reagan at 17 percent or George W. Bush at 6 percent, why this -- I don't have sympathy for the president because it's really a reflection of the lack of leadership he has shown. It's not -- it's really about the lack of direction he has given his administration.

The only people he seems to be attracting right now are criminal defense attorneys on to the White House staff. But the talk I'm hearing, by the way, in Washington and New York circles, keep an eye on Gary Cohn. He's long rumored wanting to leave. And the only one I hear about who wants to get back in Anthony Scaramucci. I'm hearing that in New York and Washington so those are two individuals to keep an eye on.


HEYE: And John and Poppy, I'd say this administration has what I call a what-now problem. Every day White House and administration staffers wake up and they say, what now? Because we know by 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. that the president may have tweeted something that takes them completely off message yet again. It's a daily occurrence.

HARLOW: All these folk knew who the president was watching the campaign. When you agree to come into the White House, you know.


HARLOW: You know what you're signing up for.

HEYE: Sure.

HARLOW: Thank you very much, Jackie, Doug, Robert, nice to have you all here.

All right. Moments ago, new reaction from Senate judiciary chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley. This is a day after, as we just said, his Democratic counterpart, Dianne Feinstein, released that transcript of the Fusion GPS founder's interview about the Russia dossier totally against his wishes.

BERMAN: Plus, Steve Bannon gone from nearly every job that he held. So what will he do now? Could he be a threat to this White House?

And we're following breaking news. A race against time in southern California. Hundreds await rescue following mudslides that have claimed 15 lives already. Stay with us.


[10:17:47] BERMAN: All right. We do have some breaking news. The days where President Trump calls Robert Mueller fair, well --


BERMAN: That seems to be over. This was a statement he put out just moments ago. He says, "The single greatest witch hunt in American history continues. There was no collusion. Everybody including the Dems knows there was no collusion. And yet on and on it goes. Russia and the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing. Republicans should finally take control."

There's a lot to dissect here, which we will get to over the next several minutes. But this follows a key development where Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released this transcript of an interview with the founder of Fusion GPS, that group that backed the Russia dossier. She released that transcript. The committee chairman, Chuck Grassley, was opposed to it.

Our Manu Raju just caught up with Senator Grassley. Manu joins us now.

What have you learned, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chuck Grassley, yesterday his spokesman put out a statement saying they were totally confounded by that decision, saying it could undercut the investigation going forward and it could actually deny their ability to bring forward other high-profile witnesses, namely Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, who they have been trying to secure for an interview.

So I just had a chance to ask Senator Grassley whether or not Jared Kushner will not come before this committee and will it prevent him from coming forward. This is what he said.


SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: These transcripts would have been released eventually anyway. But I think it does create some problems. For instance, when you're getting people to voluntarily come to you, it may make a lot of people a little more reserved about whether or not they want to cooperate. And I think particularly in regard to Jared Kushner, that it could maybe affect our moving forward with that. Very high-profile person, as an example. But it will continue to move forward.

RAJU: So is Jared Kushner off the hook then?

GRASSLEY: No. No, not at all.


RAJU: So perhaps a key point in there, no, not at all, Jared Kushner not off the hook, at least according to the Senate Judiciary chairman. So, you know, as the president may want some of the Republicans to, perhaps, get back, take control of these investigations, Grassley suggesting that this is not going end to their investigation going forward, suggesting that Kushner is still within the committee's crosshairs, but also other witnesses, as well.

[10:20:17] He also said, John and Poppy, that they are discussing with the Democrats, bringing forward other witnesses to move forward. So Grassley, after this blow-up yesterday, suggesting that perhaps they can still move forward in this investigation.

Still, there's a lot of skepticism about whether they can do just that, given that this committee has been essentially stalled in this investigation for weeks now, guys.

HARLOW: Manu Raju on the Hill. Thank you very much. Always getting to the most important people.

BERMAN: Yes. HARLOW: And putting your microphone to hear from them at the most

important times. So we appreciate it.

Joining us now is Republican Representative Chris Stewart of Utah. He's on the House Intelligence Committee.

It's nice to have you here, sir. A lot to get to. But let's begin with the message just out from the president moments ago. And we're going to dissect it, because there are a few important parts here we want your reaction to. The first sentence, the president writes, "The single greatest witch hunt in American history continues." It's clear he's referring to the special counsel investigation of him on all things Russia.

Do you agree with the president? Is this the single greatest witch hunt in American history?

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH: Oh my gosh, my favorite thing to do, dissecting President Trump's tweets.

HARLOW: OK, but --

STEWART: How often have we been doing this?

HARLOW: But seriously, Congressman. Hold on. Seriously, Congressman, the White House has said these are official statement for the White House. This is the president once again attacking the independent counsel, the special counsel's investigation against him. And I'm asking you, as someone who sits on the Intelligence Committee --

STEWART: Yes, I --

HARLOW: Do you agree with him?

STEWART: I understand what the president is feeling. He's been accused -- not only him, but look at Mr. Cohn and a number of other people, who have been accused not of trespassing, not of, you know, stealing bubble gunman from the 7-Eleven, they've been accused for more than a year of treason. And we have no evidence of that and I think he's making that point. And I think it's a fair point to make.

BERMAN: Is it a witch hunt, Congressman?

STEWART: Well, no, I don't think it's witch hunt. I don't agree with that.


STEWART: I'm saying that because there are important elements to this investigation. I mean, my heavens, were it not for this, we would not know about some of the activities of the FBI and some of the activities of senior people at the Department of Justice.

BERMAN: Well -- STEWART: Those are very concerning to many of us. And so I think --

and by the way, there appears to be charges of some financial misdealings. Those are legitimate concerns.

BERMAN: We would not also know -- we would also not know that George Papadopoulos, you know, was told by the Russians that they had e-mails from Hillary Clinton.

HARLOW: Hillary's e-mails. Right.

BERMAN: And we would not have known many of the details about Russian election meddling, which a lot of people, I think, a lot of people think may be as important or more important than what you're saying.

Congressman, if we can, just to push you a little bit harder on this, he at the end of this statement he just released said, Republicans should take control. Does that mean Republicans should stop the special counsel's investigation? What should Republicans do?


BERMAN: Robert Mueller is a Republican. He is in control.

STEWART: No, I don't think that's what he means. But I don't know. But look, the Republicans are going forward with their investigations regardless. And I don't think -- I have never nor do I know anyone on the Intel Committee, both committees, House and Senate, who have ever felt like we couldn't do our job. Who have ever felt like we've been impeded in any way.

And I think what he's encouraging us to do is to look at some of these other elements that apparently, so far, Mr. Mueller is not looking at, which the American people deserve to have answers to, as well. And, you know, if I could, coming back to other things that we know, because you both make a good point of other things that we know, we now know that the dossier was paid for by Hillary Clinton and the DNC.

We now know that the dossier, which was so famous and really the foundation for many of these accusations, asking the FBI, tell me anything in that, that's true. And they can't --

BERMAN: Well, well, look, what was true, Russian election meddling, all of the intelligence agencies say is true.


BERMAN: Many of the meetings that the dossier discusses were corroborated, of course. And as a lot of people have noted now in the timeline here, the FBI was concerned about the dossier. They didn't pay for the dossier. The FBI was concerned about the dossier because they had people telling them that the Russians were peddling dirt to George Papadopoulos in May.

STEWART: Let me ask you then. Let me ask you two the same question I asked the FBI. Tell me anything in the dossier that you know is true.

BERMAN: The Russians meddled in the --

STEWART: Tell me anything --

BERMAN: The Russians meddled in the 2016 election.

STEWART: No, but we -- we already knew that. I mean --

BERMAN: That wasn't your question. Your question was, tell me something that's true. I just told you something that was true.

STEWART: OK, I'm talking about --

HARLOW: We should also note --


BERMAN: Number two, there are meetings between Russians, Carter Page, meetings with Russia. George Papadopoulos, meetings with Russia.

STEWART: Well, of course, U.S. citizens meet with Russians every day.

BERMAN: But that was in the dossier.

STEWART: That doesn't mean they're conspiring. Thousands of businessmen go to Russia every day and meet with Russians. That doesn't mean they're conspiring. And look, you just have to admit, and if you won't admit this, I don't know what to say to you. The dossier was given enormous voracity and now more than a year later, no one can tell us anything damning in that dossier that has been proven to be true.

[10:25:06] HARLOW: So if you think that's not the case, and John just clearly outlined them with you, a few things here. First of all, you said that Robert Mueller is not looking into some of the things you think are important. You don't know, unless you want to enlighten us, the scope of Robert Mueller's investigation. Everything he's looking into at this point and everything he's not looking into. And you also said, this was funded by Democrats, Hillary Clinton's campaign.

STEWART: Well, let's --

HARLOW: It was taken over by them. It was started by Republicans in opposition to President Trump earlier on.

STEWART: Two things. Number one is, you have a fair point. We don't know. We don't coordinate with Mr. Mueller. And then --

HARLOW: Then why did you say that?

STEWART: Well, I'll clarify it, if you want me to. There may be things that he's looking into that we're unaware of. But those things that we are aware of, and we have a fair degree of awareness, as to the direction he's going. From what we can tell, he's not looking at some of these things that we think are important. Now maybe he will. I hope that he will. I encourage him to. But his investigation isn't over. And we'll see where that leads. To your second point about the dossier, this is an important

distinction. There were many people who paid Fusion to look for dirt on a number of different candidates. Not just Trump. But it's very clear that this dossier was paid for by Hillary Clinton and the DNC. Not by other entities. Entirely this dossier was paid for -- I'm sorry -- by Fusion and by the DNC.

BERMAN: OK. Paid for by Fusion. I understand your point. Money is fungible. The dossier began after Clinton and the DNC began paying Fusion. I understand your point there.

STEWART: No doubt about that.

BERMAN: Congressman, because we're fond of you, we want to know about your future. So if we can, one final question on that. In the past, and we go back to -- when was this you made this statement? I don't know exactly. You said --

HARLOW: August.

BERMAN: August, you said, if Senator Hatch was retired, you would almost certainly run for Senate.


BERMAN: Senator Orin Hatch is retiring. Are you going to run for Senate?

STEWART: You know, let me say first, you said you're fond of me, it's the nicest thing you've ever said to me. Thank you for that.


STEWART: You know, we're looking at it. Obviously, Mitt Romney is an enormously powerful and enormously popular influence in Utah.


STEWART: And, you know, I'm not blind to that and I have enormous respect for Mr. Romney. But I think to be fair to our state and to be fair to the process, we owe it to the people to look at this -- look at the opportunities.


STEWART: And that's kind of where we are right now.

HARLOW: So you're open to a run for the seat and you're open to a run against Romney?

STEWART: Well, I am, as I said, I think to be fair to the process and fair to the state.


STEWART: I think that's something we should consider. Having said that, Mitt is a friend of mine and he's a powerful figure and we recognize that. So we'll see where we end up.

BERMAN: He'd be hard to beat in Utah, yes?

STEWART: He would be hard to beat, no doubt about it.

BERMAN: All right. Congressman Chris Stewart, we do like you.

STEWART: Thank you.

BERMAN: And that's why we like having you on the show.

HARLOW: And we appreciate your time. Come back. Come back when you make up your mind.

STEWART: Thank you both.


HARLOW: And tell us first.

STEWART: OK. Will do that. Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you so much. All right.

BERMAN: Breaking news, hundreds of people are awaiting rescue in southern California following deadly mudslides.

CNN's Paul Vercammen there following the latest for us there -- Paul.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John and Poppy. Coming up, we're going to show you the devastation first hand. This is what it looks like, vast debris fields after this enormous mudslide comes roaring through Montecito. And we'll update the death toll, coming up in just a few minutes.