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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview with Congressman Adam Schiff of California; Trump to WSJ: "I Probably Have a Very Good Relationship with Kim Jong Un". Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 11, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The only exception is when people refuse to answer questions because I don't let them hide behind a closed session and then leave the room and say, we cooperated fully.

[16:30:04] So, I don't -- I'm not surprised by Sarah Huckabee Sanders' attack, but at the same time, I applaud what Senator Feinstein did. She has the latitude that we don't have in the minority in the intelligence community to make that decision unilaterally. But I would also urge our committee to release those transcripts.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So just to be clear, she said that you leaked to the media witness interviews. False?

SCHIFF: Absolutely false. And if the White House doesn't know it, they should know it, but then the facts don't make much difference to Sarah Huckabee Sanders or to the president for that matter.

TAPPER: Do you want an apology?

SCHIFF: You know, they owe me an apology, but frankly, it would be a wasted errand to ask for one. And if Sarah Huckabee Sanders is going to have to give out apologies to everyone that she has criticized unfairly, she would be doing nothing else all day.

TAPPER: I want to ask you today, you briefed reporters and said there are additional witnesses who knew about that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Who are these other individuals and are you going to be able to speak with them?

SCHIFF: Well, there are individuals that were aware of the meeting and the purpose of the meeting that we would like to have come before our committee. We've requested they be brought before the committee and asked the majority to do so. They have not been willing to do that, and I don't think we can do a complete investigation unless we take that step, and a great many others.

It's also important, Jake, that we get phone records involving the participants in that meeting as well as candidate Trump's phone so that we can determine whether there were phone communications between these parties that were contemporaneous with that meeting. These are very basic foundational investigative steps that we have not been permitted to do by the majority. And I hope we will because there's no way we can represent that we're doing a thorough job if we don't.

TAPPER: Who are the individuals you want to talk to though? Are they Trump campaign employees? Are they Trump corporation employees? Who are you wanting to talk to?

SCHIFF: Jake, that the point I don't want to be specific, the majority is aware of the majorities we requested. It may become necessary down the road if they do try to shut down the investigation for us to publish a list. Here are the witnesses, here's what we're interested in talking to them about, here's why we know they have relevant information, but I'd rather not have to do that, but that step may be necessary.

TAPPER: Steve Bannon in the book fire and fury is quoted saying that the chances that Donald Trump Jr. didn't march the individuals who participated in that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting to his father's office one floor above, the odds that didn't happen is zero. Have you ever heard any evidence, at all, that president Trump himself then candidate Trump met with any of those individuals?

SCHIFF: You know, Jake, I don't want to get into the evidence that's been presented to us, but I can tell you, we are interested in speaking with Mr. Bannon. It's my expectation that we will do so. We'll be able to ask him the basis of those comments, as well as the basis of his concern over money-laundering and why this meeting at Trump Tower represented his view treason and certainly unpatriotic at a minimum.

So, we'll be looking forward to having Mr. Bannon there before our committee and asking those questions.

TAPPER: How are things going on the House Intelligence Committee? It seems like there are some deep divisions right now between you, the ranking Democrat, and the Republican chairman, Devin Nunes, are you cooperating on anything?

SCHIFF: Well, yes, and in fact, you know, we had the FISA bill come up this morning, that was a bipartisan work product of the very tough issue to wrestle to the ground. In terms of the Russia investigation, my day-to-day interactions are with Mike Conaway, those have been positive. But the key decisions as to what witnesses will be brought in to the committee, when they'll be brought in, who subpoenas will go out to, those are made by the chairman. Those are made completely unilaterally without any consultation with the minority.

We're often informed about it after the subpoenas have gone out. And that obviously is a continuing problem. In the minority, we're doing the best we can to run a credible investigation, notwithstanding those obstacles and we're learning a great deal but that certainly doesn't make it any easier.

TAPPER: Did the president's tweets this morning, or at least the initial tweet where he seemed to be lobbying against the reauthorization of the FISA bill that his administration had been lobbying in favor of, did that tweet because Nancy Pelosi asked Paul Ryan to pull the bill. Obviously she was concerned that it might not pass, did that tweet hurt the efforts of those who wanted that reauthorization bill to pass? Which it ultimately did?

SCHIFF: Absolutely. And earlier this morning when those tweets started coming in, I also asked that we hold off because it created so much of a cloud of uncertainty about, among other things, what was the administration's position on this bill.

[16:35:04] So, yes, he almost doomed the bill.

If I could make one national security recommendation, the president would be stop watching Judge Napolitano on FOX, this may be the only time where the country would benefit from the national security point of view if the president of the United States were watching cartoons in the morning instead of something else.

TAPPER: All right. Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, thanks so much. Appreciate it. We have lots more to talk about, including President Trump describing his relationship with North Korea's Kim Jong-un, what he said that might surprise you coming up.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:01] TAPPER: And we're back with breaking news.

President Trump saying he probably has a very good relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. That interview happening today in "The Wall Street Journal".

CNN's Sara Murray joins me live at the White House.

Sara, it's not exactly what I would expect to hear from President Trump who's constantly threatening and being threatened by North Korea.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and he's bashed efforts at diplomacy when his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has brought them up. Remember, he's taken to Twitter to call Kim Jong-un rocket man, to refer to him as short and fat, but it's a very different tone in this "Wall Street Journal" interview where the president says I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong- un.

And "The Wall Street Journal" reporters go on to ask him, well, have you spoke within Kim Jong-un? And this is a very interesting comment from the president. He says, I don't want to comment on it, I'm not saying I have or haven't, I just don't want to comment.

You know, the U.S. has no formal diplomatic registrations with North Korea. So, it is very telling to see the president playing coy on this question of whether he spoke to the North Korean leader.

TAPPER: Interesting. And, Sara, the president also weighed in on that demoted FBI agent who had sent anti-Trump text messages. What did he have to say about that? MURRAY: That's right. He was asked about these FBI agents and they

were FBI employees who are trading anti-Trump text messages. They were involved in the Mueller probe, and there isn't a direct quote in "The Wall Street Journal", just a summary of basically the reporter saying that President Trump compared it essentially to treason, a notion that these FBI employees would be exchanging anti-Trump messages.

And as you point out, Jake, one of those employees is removed from his post in the wake of those messages becoming public.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Murray at the White House for us, thanks so much.

My political panel is here with me.

Congressman Rogers, treason -- it's not the kind of word you throw out lightly, even if what the FBI agent did was entirely inappropriate, perhaps even a fireable offense, although he hasn't been fired. Treasonous?

MIKE ROGERS (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Yes, that's -- I don't see anything there that rises to the level of treasonous. The only thing where they may have gotten into criminal trouble, remember, they could still be fired. They're under administrative review, which means there's a whole panel looking into all of their activities. It was certainly inappropriate. It violated FBI rules, all of that, so they're not out of hot water, is if in fact they did leak purposely information on certain articles that they wanted to try to influence that was not authorized by the FBI. That might rise to a level of criminal, still not treasonous activity.

TAPPER: Yes. Let's talk about the Kim Jong-un part of it, why would the president say whether -- he wouldn't say whether or not he's spoke within President Kim of North Korea, Dictator Kim, whatever he is. I don't know the title. I don't want to say. I'm not saying I have spoken, I'm not saying I haven't spoken.

Why? Why be coy?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, it's one of those moments where Donald Trump has moments where he's been strategic, right, there's maybe a reason why he is being coy or not. And, you know, as we know, there are some really exceptional individuals at the NSC who are working day and night to ensure that our relationship with North Korea doesn't escalate to what could be cataclysmic.

And he may have gotten some very good guidance to speak along those lines, for whatever reason. But it did -- it does strike me though as something, like he was being intentional there. Like he was saying that for a reason.

TAPPER: Maybe. And what about the idea that he probably has a very good relationship with Kim? What does that even mean? JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, all evidence to the

contrary, I mean, look, it's, you know, the president will do the slap and tickle, and he's escalate on Twitter and then try --

HOOVER: Slap and tickle? What?

AVLON: We're actually good friends. Secretly, we've got a good relationship. I'm really a people person.

But this is a dictator of North Korea, and even floating the possibility that they've spoken. I mean, that's whoa, if true. But, look, I'm happy to see a situation deescalate, but I'd like to see it rooted in something like reality.

HOOVER: It's likely that his staff said cool off on the rocket man. They've been saying that probably for three months now since the U.N. speech. And so, this is his attempt to do that.

AVLON: He's been undercutting his staff with the off-the-cuff comments constantly on the (INAUDIBLE) strategy.

TAPPER: Yes.

Congressman, do you see a strategy here?

ROGERS: You know, here's -- bear with me -- in the beginning, there was lots of talk from the national security team about setting up the table to change the dynamic with North Korea. Meaning, we're going to tell you we are ramping up. We're going to put military troops on the border, more military activity, we're moving another carrier group over there and we're going to be very bellicose about saying we're coming to get you.

And the whole purpose originally and the conversation did happen, was could we get Kim Jong-un to realize he can't continue to be a bad actor and get what he wants and then go on to be a bad actor? Trump may have just -- I think had some semblance of what would be a policy of trying to get Kim Jong-un to the table so that we get a real negotiation. And that would be something I know that national security folks talked about before the president was inaugurated and after, about could we change this and knot that we're in with North Korea?

He may have just said, yes, I heard that, and I listened. He put his own special sauce on it with his tweets which I'm not sure were great. But he may, in fact, be telling us, that has been our policy, and it may be working. They've got Kim Jong-un to at least negotiate with South Korea on things like military exercises and other things. So if you're an optimist, you would look at it that way.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You seem very optimistic this afternoon, Congressman. Everyone stick around, we have lots more to talk about after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: We're back with more breaking news and parents if you're watching with children, you might want to mute for the next 35 seconds. The Washington Post reported minutes ago that today in the Oval Office President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers discussing immigration when they floated restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal. Here's the moment you want to mute. The Post reports that according to two people briefed in the meeting, the President asked, "Why are we having all these people from shit hole countries coming here?" Referring to African countries and Haiti. The President then went on to talk about how they needed to bring in more people from places like Norway. Margaret, your reaction.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is great. This is exactly how we're going to build a bigger tent in the Republican Party or the Senate. Keep each out to people in all different places, all different colors -- I'm sorry. It's inappropriate and it's not presidential. And this is why, you know, Republicans sort of wring their hands and dunk their heads in their hands because it's unbefitting of the president.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is beyond -- but this is beyond, you know, unbefitting of the presidency which it is. This is beyond presidential. This is beyond the big tent Republican Party dream. Instead, this is straight up racist. People talk about and they defend the President saying he's not racist, that's an unfair accusation. The left always is quick to play the race card. But according to two people who were briefed on this meeting, he referred to immigrants and people who've gotten asylum here from El Salvador, Haiti and African countries as living in shit holes, OK, and that we need more people from Norway instead. I wonder what the real difference is. Yes, wealth, also whiteness. And that's it, ugly underbelly that's been exposed and we need to confront it. We can't sugarcoat.

TAPPER: Congressman Rogers?

ROGERS: Yes, it's completely unpresidential. You know you don't have that conversation in the Oval Office. I have to tell you, I just met somebody from Africa that has three jobs and literally with tears in his eyes describing how his daughter got into college and his brother had it saved enough money for down payment on a house. If that isn't America, I don't know what it is. And if the President loses sight -- lose sight of that, I worry for the future of the country. I mean, we've got to get out of this notion about what you look like makes you an American. It is about what you do when you get here that makes you an American. He's somehow gotten that confused and I argue it's unpresidential. And again, hopefully, this President grows in office a little bit, and I'm a little discouraged that he hasn't got therein just yet.

TAPPER: Let me just say something, John, I know you want to weigh in so I'll come to you. But I mean, forgetting him calling those countries shit holes which is obviously a big part of it, but this was his immigration position. He wanted -- he was constantly talking about throughout the campaign how everything changed in 1964, '65, before that, that the United States preferred immigrants from Northern Europe, from Norway, from Ireland. And then it was the lobbying from people who were Italian and Greek and others that change - that got the Democrats and others to change immigration laws. But he -- this has always been the subtext of -- not just the subtext, the text of his immigration proposals. We need to go back to when we didn't let in all of these people from all of these countries.

AVLON: And that was strenuously objected, it was about race. And you know, my grandparents were immigrants from Greece, and it was the backlash against Southern and Eastern European immigrants that, you know, caused a lot of social discord and that rise the KKK in the 1920s. but they've always tried to sanitize and say it's about policy, it's not about race, that race card gets thrown too much in our debates, and then you got a report like this. You know, the Nixon tapes were an aberration of a presidency. We saw ugly statements from the Oval Office but we forget that the presidency is primarily an office of moral leadership and it's an office of global leadership, and this undercuts both of those concepts at its core.

TAPPER: And Margaret as somebody who I know cares dearly about the Republican Party, a party that when was -- it was your grandfather --

HOOVER: Great-grandfather.

TAPPER: -- great-grandfather was president, was not as nativist as the Democratic Party in many instances. This obviously frustrates you quite a bit.

HOOVER: It frustrates me quite a bit. I also hate it when my husband is right about things because he actually threw nails right out at me. I mean, this is a party -- this is a -- this is a situation -- this is a moment in our country where we have to put our country above our party and above partisanship. And these are the moment whereas a Republican, I, you know, I just, as much as I would want the Republican Party better, I would want the leader of the Republican Party, the President to sound better. He doesn't. And you have to -- you have to call it out as a Republican that this is not American and this doesn't represent the Republican ideals.

TAPPER: And Congressman, very quickly if you could. What are you saying the next time you meet an African immigrant and he asks you, how can you President say that about African countries?

ROGERS: You know, candidly, I've never had them even ask about it, they -- a lot -- the friends that I have that are from East Africa in this particular case are just talking about how frustrated they are that people aren't talking about the great opportunity that they have. You know, he was saying that the job that he had, which was not a great one but it was a really good one, he said I would have to pay in my country to have this job. It was parking cars and it was one of his three jobs. And he said, nowhere else in the world can you come here, like me, and make a go of it here and now have your kids do as well as they are. That to me is America.

So we're just talking about this wrong and we ought not to try to have those conversations, we ought to talk about all Americans enjoying this great opportunity that America provides. And when we -- when get away from that and we start isolating it and putting it back to one particular person's, I think, boneheaded statements, I think we're doing ourselves all a disservice. We all ought to re-engage in this conversation about how fortunate we are to be here and what a great country this is to have people from all over the world come here and make it even better.

TAPPER: Absolutely. Thank you so much. We're going to take a quick break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Well, it has been an action-packed hour. Thanks one and all for being here. John Avalon and Margaret Hoover, Congressman Mike Rogers, formerly the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee. It's great to have you on. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That's it for THE LEAD. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer. He's in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll be on Seth Myers tonight if you stay up late. Thanks so much.