Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR
Trump Slams Then Supports Key Surveillance Program; Lawmakers Seek Compromise Deal On Fate Of Dreamers. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired January 11, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- for joining us today. A lot of news. I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" starts right now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan. New this morning, President Trump unleashes an angry new stream of attacks on federal investigators, the Obama administration, and his favorite target of all, Hillary Clinton.
Today's Twitter siege also remarkable for potential self-sabotage. The president seemingly lashing out at the FISA act, a government surveillance program in his own White House has fought for and just as it faces a House vote at any moment now.
We have CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House on this. So Kaitlan, the president added to some of the confusion by trying to walk back his earlier attack. Explain this to us?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. That's right, Brianna. A contradiction and cleanup here at the White House this morning and it's only 11:00 and it all got started when the president tweeted, seeming to go against a bill that his administration had endorsed just hours earlier.
The president tweeted, "House votes on controversial FISA Act today. This is the act that may have been used with the help of the discredited and phony dossier to badly surveil and abuse the Trump campaign by the previous administration and others."
Now, that tweet came, it caused a stir because it came less than 12 hours after the White House issued a statement strongly endorsing the reauthorization of this law and strongly opposing an amendment that would limit its scope.
The White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders saying in a statement urging the House to, quote, "preserve useful role of FISA's Section 702 authority plays in protecting American lives."
Now, in this time period with between this -- that first tweet and the next tweet I'm about to read was about 90 minutes or so. Clearly, someone to spoke to the president about what the administration's position on this is, because his earlier tweet contradicted it.
So, then the president followed up his first tweet saying, "With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it. Get smart."
But Brianna, this is really just another example of the president undercutting something that his administration has said is the White House's stance and then the president goes on Twitter or on an interview and says something completely different.
KEILAR: Yes. It is a good example. Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Thank you. So, has the president thrown a wrench into Republican efforts to extend a bill that the White House as Kaitlan just reported has said is vital to keeping the nation safe.
CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill with this. The president's tweets this morning really couldn't have come at a worse time -- Manu.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes. And really forced Republican leaders to scramble to make sure that they had the votes in order to get this through. I just actually had a chance to talk to the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy about whether or not this tweet effectively -- essentially stopped this bill from going forward, and what McCarthy just told me is no, actually it won't.
He said, they're in good shape to pass this bill. They're starting to vote on one of the amendments right now, an amendment that Republican leaders and Democratic leaders were supporting the bill do not want to see passed, an amendment that supported by civil libertarians on the right and left that would propose new safeguards and much more oversight astringent requirements on this warrantless surveillance program.
But Paul Ryan, the House speaker on the floor just moments ago argued that this amendment would essentially scuttle this bill so they're trying, working very hard to make sure that this amendment that the president seemed to endorse in that early morning tweet does not get on the bill.
Now when I asked Kevin McCarthy whether or not these tweets had complicated things, McCarthy said, remember, there were two tweets, so seeming to suggest that second tweet probably helped on the Republican side.
The question, though, is on the Democratic side, there is significant Democratic opposition to the bill as well and earlier, Brianna, both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said this bill should be pulled from the floor, sent back to the committee.
Dealing with some of the privacy concerns even though they both support this bill, Schiff himself saying that he supports this bill, but the tweets this morning put a cloud over this bill and they say it makes sense to wait a little bit longer.
But, of course, the expiration date is coming up rather soon. They need to move pretty expeditiously and hoping the Republican leaders are they can get the vote off the House floor to the Senate but the president making things a little bit more tricky here in the final hours -- Brianna.
KEILAR: And should be starting soon, right, Manu?
RAJU: Yes. It should be starting soon. First the amendment that the leaders are trying to kill, the Republican leaders and Democratic leaders don't want to get on and then final passage of this bill. We should expect it momentarily to see whether or not they get this through the House -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Manu Raju on the Hill, thank you, sir, for that. Let's evaluate some of this, shall we? I want to bring in CNN legal and national security analyst, Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent.
[11:05:09] She's joined by CNN political reporter, Rebecca Berg, and CNN national security analyst, Shawn Turner. I'm picturing what we just heard Kaitlan describe from the White House, Rebecca, where the president tweets and knocks FISA in general and links it to the investigation of his campaign and the dossier. And you almost wonder if in that point in time there were advisors who, you know, face palming as they saw this tweet go out.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's no doubt about it. The president directly contradicted a statement that had been put out by the White House, their official position on this FISA reauthorization with that tweet, and it all happened because he was watching Fox News this morning.
They were doing a report on the FISA reauthorization, framing it as a controversy, and, of course, going back to some of these issues with the dossier, the president's fears about unmasking. He watched this report and then tweeted things directly contradicting his administration's policy on this reauthorization and the Republican leaders' policy on this reauthorization.
So, we've seen this movie before. The president has done this before, put votes in jeopardy that Republicans needed on Capitol Hill, but it doesn't make it any less extraordinary that the president is off on his own, has the ability to send out these tweets without any of his staff intervening.
KEILAR: It feels a little different, though, Shawn, it does happen all the time, Rebecca is right, something about it being this issue, it's so controversial. Proponents of this say this is so essential. You know, this comes down to keeping Americans safe.
SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely. I mean, this is such an important issue. We have to remember that Section 702 is not just about terrorism or espionage. Section 702 is one of the intelligence community's most important tools in order for us to be able to collect foreign intelligence on the threats that face this country.
It's one of the tools that we use for making sure that Iran complies with the 2015 deal, with making sure that North Korea is not trying to acquire the materials to move forward with their nuclear program.
When I saw the president's tweet this morning, it was really startling for the entire intelligence community. And as you indicated I talked to people who said that the president's national security team, leaders in the intelligence community, went into overdrive trying to get to the president to make sure he understood that this was not what he thought it was and we support this bill.
KEILAR: I want to get a fact-check from you, Asha, on what the president tweeted. He said in his accusation that FISA may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony dossier, so badly surveil and abuse the Trump campaign by the previous administration and others.
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: OK. So, let's break this down a little bit.
KEILAR: Yes. Break it down.
RANGAPPA: So, what the House is voting on today is a section of FISA. FISA is a statute that's been around since 1978. It covers how electronic surveillance can happen in the United States on U.S. citizens.
So, any FISA surveillance that would have happened on someone in his campaign, say Paul Manafort would have required a court order, for everybody in the states. The 702 is about targeting non-U.S. persons who are located outside of the United States.
It has nothing to do with anything that would have potentially happened at least with the people that he's referring to there and as far as the Steele dossier, I did FISA warrants when I was in the FBI, and you have to go into court and corroborate every fact that's in there.
So, I think he needs to be careful because if it were true that any facts in the dossier were used in the FISA application, it means that they were corroborated, and I don't think that's something he wants to really, you know, state out there.
KEILAR: You're nodding.
TURNER: Yes, absolutely. I mean the president has to separate the two of these things out. First of all, the dossier had nothing to do with FISA. OK. Absolutely nothing to do. And as Asha pointed out --
KEILAR: What did have to do with FISA was that there were members of his campaign who had previously and while on the campaign been under surveillance, with the FISA warrant, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, so that's what FISA has to do with this whole Russia thing.
TURNER: Two completely different statutes. The administration supports the idea that the intelligence community should be able to collect foreign intelligence on foreign individuals, reasonably believed to be operating outside of the United States. That's section 702. Now, obviously FISA has a statute that extends to the FBI and other authorities, but the president absolutely must make sure that he does not conflate those two --
KEILAR: That is correct.
TURNER: And that's what I think that initial tweet was about.
KEILAR: Rebecca, where does this leave -- is it Manu who was saying that he talked to Republican leaders and they seem to say it's going to be OK, but where does this leave everything with this vote?
BERG: Well, it certainly threw it into some chaos this morning, Brianna, and the president tried to clean up his mess with his subsequent tweet and it appears that that was effective if Republicans are, indeed, planning to bring this vote to the floor.
[11:10:06] They would only do that in the event they really believe they have the votes to pass this legislation, to pass this reauthorization. But the president did create a mess with his initial tweet and open the door for critics or people who were on the fence on Capitol Hill about supporting things measure to potentially say, well, maybe if the president has doubts I should have my own doubts about this.
So, there was that 90-minute period between the two tweets where I imagine there was a great deal of --
KEILAR: Lot of lost hair, people just ripping it out. I want to ask you, Rebecca, about the president meeting with Robert Mueller and this was something the president himself had initially been open to.
KEILAR: Then he kind of changed his tune. I want you to check out his evolution on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of the events?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: One hundred percent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Robert Mueller asks you to come and speak with his committee personally, are you committed still to doing that? Do you believe --
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Just so you understand, there's been no collusion. There's been no crime and in theory, everybody tells me, I'm not under investigation. Maybe Hillary is, I don't know, but I'm not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be open --
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We'll see what happens. I mean, certainly, I'll see what happens, but when they have no collusion and nobody has found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you would even have an interview.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: I mean, that's different, Rebecca. What do you make of the change?
BERG: Well, it's difficult to assess out whether he means that some likely Mueller would want to speak to him or unlikely if approached that the president would agree to such an interview, but it's possible he has had some conversations, Brianna, with his counsel who may have explained to the president some of the paths this could take.
It's possible that Mueller could agree to written questions and answers from the president. If he did want to compel the president to a sit-down interview, it's possible if the president didn't want to do it, that he would need to subpoena him and that could unleash a whole other sort of legal process.
So the president might now be aware he does have some options and so we don't -- we will have to see what Mueller wants from the president.
KEILAR: Keeping his options open. All right, Shawn Turner, Rebecca Berg, Asha Rangappa, thank you so much to all of you.
And you've probably picked this up, it's a pretty hectic day in Washington and on Capitol Hill. The nail-biting vote on a controversial surveillance bill is set to go down any moment as we watch these live pictures of the House floor, an amendment that's being voted on. We will bring the vote on the bill to you as soon as it happens.
Plus, House Speaker Paul Ryan is going to speak soon to reporters. You can see they're getting ready on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers right now fighting key battles over immigration and a spending bill. All of this is happening as we race toward the deadline for a government shutdown next week. Stay with us.
KEILAR: All right. So, minutes from now, we're going to hear from House Speaker Paul Ryan. He and his Senate counterpart, fellow Republican Mitch McConnell, face a monumental challenge, finding common ground on the polarizing issue of immigration and delivering a deal to a Trump White House that itself hasn't always seemed to know what it wants.
Hanging in the balance is the fate of some several hundred thousand undocumented immigrants, the so-called "DREAMers," who came here as children. One GOP group has unveiled its bill, another group is close, just like those -- and just like those folks, don't expect that these competing factions are going to neatly fall into line. Looming over all of this is the very real threat of a government shutdown. CNN congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, is following all of this, joining us now from Capitol Hill. What are we expecting to hear from the speaker later this hour, Sunlen?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I expect, Brianna, that he will be asked and will provide some sort of update on the status of negotiations. We know there are several working groups up here on Capitol Hill going through, trying to put pen to paper on certain proposals that they want to put forward.
The Senate side, there is a working group of members that met late last night and came out and said that they believe that they're making progress, they're inching towards an actual proposal they can put forward but they're not there yet.
Of course, that proposal as we've been talking about in recent days addresses DACA, it addresses family migration, the diversity lottery, and border security, what that means in terms of President Trump's desire for a wall, how much money would be sent through that.
Of course, in the background as these negotiations tick along up here on Capitol Hill, the clock ticks forward towards that deadline they have to get a spending bill, January 19th is when they need to get the spending bill by.
And Democrats, of course, have entangled these two issues DACA and the spending bill, but the talk up here on Capitol Hill, Brianna, is that they may be moving towards decoupling those two.
Of course, the big question then is, what would Democrats do to push this -- actually push this to a government shutdown over their demands on DACA?
KEILAR: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much for that report. Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal to talk about this, a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Congresswoman, thank you so much for making the time as you talk to us from off the House floor. We appreciate it.
REPRESENTATIVE PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D), WASHINGTON: Great to be with you.
KEILAR: So, on the table now in these immigration discussions, you have DACA, you have border security, but there's also as part of some of the pillars of discussion, chain migration or family reunification, depending on who you're talking to there, the idea of ending the diversity visa lottery. You have said that putting these other issues on the table is absurd, tell us why you think that?
JAYAPAL: Well, look, these issues are part of the larger conversation on comprehensive immigration reform. They were on the table when we were talking about legalization and a path to citizenship and when we were talking about the backlog and the family immigration system, which has been a central tenant of immigration policy in this country for families everywhere.
[11:20:11] And so now to add those two things to this discussion, I think is disingenuous and would lead to -- if you really were taking those issues up seriously, I think that would lead to this deal falling apart.
Now, I think that there are some -- some pieces of the DACA proposal that include what happens to the parents of DREAMers, a number of other things, that do need to be on the table. This idea that chain migration is real, is really only something that people who know nothing about immigration will say because chain migration doesn't for the most part exist.
It took me 18 years to get my citizenship. If I tried to get my parents to come here as a U.S. citizen, it would have taken many more years. So finally, they were too old to come over. So. that's the reality for a lot of people.
So, this is about family-based immigration staying strong, dealing with the backlogs. That needs to be part of comprehensive immigration reform and even the president agreed with that and said look, let's stick to DACA as the first step.
Obviously, he's going to be pushing for border security as part of it, but putting these other issues on the table complicates things and really that's a discussion for the next day.
KEILAR: There is some frustration by rank and file Democrats that this has been allowed to be part of the discussion. Do you think the Democratic leaders have let you down by allowing it to be part of the discussion?
JAYAPAL: This is a difficult conversation, but I absolutely think we need to hold strong to the idea that this is about DACA. It's about DREAMErs, something that 80 percent of the population, including in Trump districts believe should get done and should not be tied to other things.
And so, you know, I know negotiations get tough. I know people want things to get done, but we are pushing back and saying look, this needs to be about DREAMers. If we're going to have another conversation about family based immigration, that should go into the comprehensive immigration reform bucket.
And by the way, we have a plan, a bipartisan plan, that passed the U.S. Senate with 67 bipartisan votes back in 2013 around comprehensive immigration reform, we know how to reform the system.
And so, it's I think, you know, we just need to stick to what's on the table and not put other things on the list because we have a big list of things that include 11 million undocumented immigrants that we need to figure out how to allow them to stay and allow them to continue.
KEILAR: I want to talk to you about what we're seeing on the House floor right now. This is the prelude to the big vote on the FISA authorization or a section of FISA and this has to do with an amendment I believe you are part of this amendment, right?
JAYAPAL: I am. KEILAR: This amendment by Congressman Justin Amash, and this has to do with the unmasking, the revealing of the identity of Americans, is that right, who might be sort of caught up in surveillance. Tell us about this amendment and also with the knowledge -- you may not have heard of, but the speaker was on the floor arguing how if this amendment passes, it would actually kill the entire program.
JAYAPAL: Well, I don't think he's right and I think you have an interesting combination of, you know, Freedom Caucus members and folks who on the Democratic side who care deeply about civil liberties, who are coming together to say look this amendment is very simple.
It just says that you need to get a warrant if an American is caught up in this collection of data. There's a lot of stuff that gets collected. If there is a criminal investigation that is going to move forward based on the collection of the data for an American citizen, you need a warrant to move forward with that.
I don't think that's going to kill anything. I think that's going to protect civil liberties and it will be interesting to see what happens here. But we all believe that FISA has an important role to play that we do need to reauthorize FISA.
But this has been a problem, it's called the about collection without appropriate measures to protect U.S. citizens and the privacy of U.S. citizens I think is extremely important.
So, that's I think, you know -- we will see what happens, but I think the speaker is wrong when he says that this is going to kill the bill. I think there's a lot of votes. Whether or not there's enough votes, we'll have to just wait and see.
KEILAR: Yes. It seems like it is going to be tough, but it is worth noting that there is bipartisan support there for that amendment that you are a part of. Congresswoman, thank you so much. We do appreciate you being with us. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, thank you.
And any moment now, House Speaker Paul Ryan will take questions on immigration, a potential government shutdown and so much more. This is a live picture there on Capitol Hill as we await him. We will bring this to you once it gets going.
[11:25:12] And no job, no Medicaid, that could soon be the case in several states as the Trump administration takes a major step to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients. Details ahead.
KEILAR: New rules for Medicaid recipients, the Trump administration will allow states to enforce work requirements on millions of low- income people who receive Medicaid. This is a first and CNN's money -- CNN Money's Tammy Luhby is joining me now with details. Tammy, explain this to us, lay out the changes here.
TAMI LUHBY, CNN MONEY SENIOR WRITER: This is a significant change to Medicaid. For the first time in its 50-year history, states are going to be allowed to require people to work to get Medicaid.