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Trump Won't Commit To Meeting Mueller; President Trump To Revisit Libel Laws; California Mudslides: Frantic Search For Survivors; Trump Open To Talks With North Korea. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 11, 2018 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:30:15] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But we'll see what happens. Nobody's found any collusion at any level. It seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: President Trump suddenly noncommittal on meeting with the Russia special counsel. He is more than willing to remind us there was no collusion with Moscow.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: President Trump says it is time to revisit libel laws. This, despite his own rocky relationship with the truth.

BRIGGS: And, President Trump says he's open to talks with North Korea under the right circumstances.

We have reports this morning from the White House, Capitol Hill, Seoul, South Korea, and Montecito, California where, of course, those mudslides have been devastating. We'll check in there shortly.

Good morning. Thanks for getting an early start with us. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Nice to see you this morning.

BRIGGS: And, you.

ROMANS: Nice to see everybody. It is Thursday morning, exactly 30 minutes past the hour.

President Trump suddenly refusing to say whether he'd meet with the Russia special counsel. A potential meeting with Robert Mueller is hanging over the president. But asked at a White House news conference if he would sit with Mueller, the president was noncommittal.

What he is committed to, repeating this claim about collusion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There has been no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians -- or Trump and Russians -- no collusion. The bottom line, they all say there's no collusion, and there is no collusion.

I can only say this. There was absolutely no collusion. But it has been determined that there is no collusion. When they have no collusion and nobody's found any collusion at any level.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The president's eight denials of collusion came after he tweeted another of his greatest hits on this subject, calling it a witch hunt and adding that Russia and the world is laughing at the stupidity. He called for Republicans to finally take control.

ROMANS: It's worth noting Republicans have control. They run all of the investigating committees in Congress. Trump appointees are in charge of the Justice Department and the FBI.

But yesterday, Trump would not repeat his earlier statement that he's willing to testify under oath about his decision to fire James Comey, his FBI director.

For the very latest, let's bring in CNN's Jim Acosta. He's at the White House for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, President Trump dodged a big question as to whether he would sit down with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation.

The president was asked whether he would speak with Mueller to answer his team's questions, but instead of answering that question directly the president repeated his claim that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin.

Here's what the president had to say.

TRUMP: So, we'll see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, again, would you be open to it?

TRUMP: We'll see what happens. I mean, certainly, I'll see what happens. But when they have no collusion and nobody's found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview.

ACOSTA: But that's not what the president said last year when he told reporters that he is 100 percent willing to testify in the Russia investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of those events?

TRUMP: One hundred percent.

ACOSTA: Christine and Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: All right, Jim Acosta, thanks.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wants to apologize to Republican chairman Chuck Grassley. Feinstein says she feels badly about not informing Grassley before she released the transcript of the interview with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson. Feinstein still stands by the fact that the transcript should be public.

President Trump calling the senator "sneaky" on Twitter.

Republicans fearing her decision could undercut their investigation by discouraging future witnesses from cooperating.

Chairman Grassley says his committee will keep pursuing high-profile subjects.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: 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. A very high-profile person, as an example. But, we'll continue to move forward.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, is Jared Kushner off the hook then?

GRASSLEY: No, no, not at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: All right.

Joining us from Washington, "CNN POLITICS" reporter Tal Kopan.

Tal, to quote the president, welcome back to the studio. Good to have you here.

Let's get back to this immigration discussion which you cover so well for us. You write about a plan emerging in the House that might take this thing far to the right. But if we believe what the president said at that meeting on Tuesday -- that "before the cameras "negotiation -- it sounds like a relatively reasonable stance from Republicans.

Is there an inherent risk in Democrats strictly being the party of no here because of the world "wall?" KOPAN: Well, there's a lot in that question, Dave. I mean, it's very complicated and part of this is a bit of a semantic game.

[05:35:02] I mean, at the end of the day, the only way this gets done -- Democrats are going to say they didn't authorize a wall and the president is probably going to say they did, and they're going to find a way to both be right.

And, you know, a story I wrote last night about everyone on Capitol Hill right now claiming that they are channeling the president's sort of four pillars, regardless of the fact that they're all proposing very different things, I asked a Democratic member of Congress what do you think about sort of giving him those talking points? And the member of Congress said look, I'm focused on policy and I'm indifferent to how he spins it. So --

ROMANS: Let's remind people what those four pillars are.

KOPAN: Yes.

ROMANS: You're talking about a wall. You're talking about ending chain migration. You're talking about killing the visa lottery. Tell us.

KOPAN: Yes, that's right.

So, they came up with border security, cutting back on family-based migration categories, which is what they're referring to as chain migration, and ending the diversity lottery.

BRIGGS: (INAUDIBLE).

KOPAN: Right. And the -- there's a bipartisan group of senators who've actually been working on, basically, that structure for several weeks now and trying to figure out what trades they can make within it.

But then you have, as you -- as you alluded to, Dave, a group of House Republicans and there's a similar proposal from some folks on the Senate that came out before the new year that really goes far beyond that and includes, really, poison pills and controversial things that are very difficult to get done even with Republican votes, like mandatory worker verification. It cuts overall legal immigration by 25 percent.

And that's just a couple of the things that are in there. They claim all of those count as border security.

So, what you have now is even though the president, in the White House meeting, sort of seemed to be narrowing things down, what it really does is give people more sharp talking points and now everyone is sort of trying to fit their proposals into those bullet points, and the details really are yet to be worked out.

BRIGGS: And at the heart of all this is the president's communication because what he did on Tuesday with that 55-minute, on-camera immigration negotiation, fairly reasonable, was in Trump's language, in golf terms, that was like a golfer going out and shooting a 64 in the first round and putting himself in contention.

And then the next day he just blows it up with an 80 and undoes all the good, and says this about the media and about libel laws in this country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace, and do not represent American values or American fairness, so I want to take a strong look at that. We want fairness. You can't say things that are false -- knowingly false.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Yes, that's like a quadruple bogey -- Jordan Spieth a few years back.

Truth -- Jeff Flake, Republican senator, says the president has a flagrant disregard for truth. He's made more than 2,000 false and/or misleading statements in one year, according to "The Washington Post."

What does that statement do to the goodwill he built on Tuesday?

KOPAN: You know, I think -- I think the senators and members of Congress that are focused on reaching a deal moving forward are not going to be derailed by these comments. But certainly it's, once again, a distraction and it's something that people are going to be asked about and asked to weigh in on.

And it just takes away from the attention being paid to legitimate policymaking and to what lawmakers want to be talking about, which is their agenda moving forward. And their agenda moving forward does not include changing libel laws in this country.

And, you know, the First Amendment is something the courts have been working on for about 200 years. It was in the first draft of our -- well, not the first draft but the enacted version of our constitution --

ROMANS: Right.

KOPAN: -- from the beginning. These are very important principals that really can't be tinkered with cavalierly.

So, you know, it's noise, it's a distraction. It certainly could be concerning to --

ROMANS: A plot twist in the reality show presidency -- just a plot twist. It's not necessarily a whole storyline, perhaps.

Let's talk quickly about retirements -- Republican retirements. Darrell Issa will not seek reelection. What --

BRIGGS: Thirty-two -- ROMANS: Thirty-two now.

BRIGGS: -- Republicans will not run.

KOPAN: Remarkable.

ROMANS: What -- talk to us about the implications of this. What it means for Democrats, most notably, and what it means about the president's agenda, too.

KOPAN: The implications are massive. I mean, when you talk about -- you're right. It goes beyond the 2018 midterms into the agenda- making.

I mean, you're seeing a strong number of Republicans who are facing very difficult elections coming up who are just saying no thanks and moving on. And, in some ways, it empowers them to sort of vote their conscience in the remaining months before the 2018 election.

And in other ways, it allows Democrats even more of an opportunity to pick up the House as you open up some of these races. Once you lose the power of incumbency it makes those races only more competitive.

And --

BRIGGS: Yes.

KOPAN: -- it really is just a remarkable thing to see this many vulnerable Republicans heading for the exits or running for other office in their state. It's pretty incredible.

[05:40:06] BRIGGS: Democrats need 24 to flip the House. They could get a third of those 24 in Darrell Issa's state, alone, of California.

Tal Kopan, thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

ROMANS: Nice to see you at 5:40 a.m. in Washington, D.C. She gets up bright and early for us. We love it.

All right, 40 minutes past the hour.

The death toll, at least 17 now, from flooding and mudslides in California. That's a number -- unfortunately, it could rise. There are still people missing -- more than a dozen still unaccounted for.

The 101 Freeway, California's main north-south coastal route, buried under mud and debris. It's going to remain closed, Dave, until Monday.

BRIGGS: Wow. More than 500 emergency responders have been deployed in search and rescue operations.

A CNN affiliate spoke to Hayden Gower who was desperately searching for this mother after her home was wiped out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HAYDEN GOWER, SEARCHING FOR HIS MOTHER: I thought she'd be all right. She was in the -- in the voluntary evacuation. I've been calling out her name all night long and didn't get a response.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Fifteen hundred homes still being threatened. About 100 were destroyed.

CNN's Paul Vercammen has more from Montecito, California.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN REPORTER: Dave, Christine, when you talk about 100 homes destroyed in this flood, here's one of them. That is actually the remnants of a house mixed in with boulders, mixed in with trees and other debris.

And as we come over here, you can see where this flood that came cascading down from the Thomas fire burn range basically rocket- blasted this house right off its foundation. And this is widespread.

They went through houses like this one way in the distance. You see it? You can see where the mud level rose up on the white wall and then, a pink-orange marking -- that spray paint. That's where the search and rescue crews mark it so everyone knows they've been through there.

Same thing with that car that is up -- facing just slightly up. They marked that one, too. Looking in there, hoping that perhaps they would find somebody alive. We know there are people missing and that this death toll will rise.

A devastating flood. How it roared through Montecito and basically took with it everything in its path, including trees, boulders, and houses.

Back to you know, Dave, Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Paul Vercammen, thank you.

BRIGGS: And far too many people. All right.

After months of throwing rocket fuel on the fire, President Trump shifting tone, signaling he's ready to talk with Kim Jong Un. When would be the right time? Were there any concessions made?

We're live in Seoul, South Korea.

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[05:46:51] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: "Rocket Man" is on a suicide mission for himself. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That was then, this is now. The White House says President Trump is open to talks between the U.S. and North Korea under the right circumstances.

It's a different tone than we've heard from the president the last few months and it comes as North Korea prepares to take part in the Winter Olympics next month in South Korea.

Very pleased to have CNN's Will Ripley here with us this morning. He is live in Seoul where it's the evening, and he's got the latest for us on the state of play -- Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the state of play is that from the North Korean perspective not much has changed aside from the fact that they're getting an all-expense-paid trip to the Olympics and a potential thawing of relations with South Korea without giving up their nuclear weapons, at least at this point.

There was a phone call between South Korea's President Moon Jae-in and President Trump. They spoke for 30 minutes.

President Moon very diplomatically praised President Trump, saying that his leadership created the circumstances for the inter-Korean talks that happened this week that led to the agreement of North Korea attending the Olympics and the agreement of further discussions about easing military tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

President Trump even saying he's open to having a conversation with Kim Jong un under the right circumstances, and hopes that it would lead to North Korea's denuclearization.

A bit of a reality check. In North Korea state media today, an article talking about their nuclear weapons. I'll read you a portion of it.

It says, quote, "The nuclear deterrent of the DPRK is the life and soul of the nation that cannot be bartered for anything and the eternal foundation for a rosy future of the country."

This really gets to the heart of North Korea's mindset about their nuclear weapons. They believe that it will bring peace and stability to the region, although many critics of the regime say the nukes are simply there to ensure that Kim Jong un and his inner circle stay in power.

But nonetheless, no concessions for North Korea as they prepare to have their national athletics teams and spectators on the international stage marching alongside the rest of the world. Undeserved legitimacy, some say, Christine.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: And based on the global stage, a pause in those nuclear -- those drills -- those U.S. and South Korean drills, and nothing in return on the nuclear front just yet.

OK, thanks for that, Will.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, bipartisan uproar over the Trump administration's decision to exempt the state of Florida from offshore drilling. Other coastal state governors from both parties now demanding the same treatment.

The White House is proposing an increase in drilling sites off the coast of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, and wants to reinstate leasing sites in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

ROMANS: Now, after Florida was removed from this list, Republican-run states like New Hampshire, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, South Carolina -- all of them either objecting outright or voicing big concerns.

The only coastal governor, Democrat or Republican, supporting the plan is Republican Paul LePage of Maine.

The decision to grant Florida an exception could be viewed as a political favor, I guess, with Gov. Rick Scott eyeing a possible White House-backed Senate run.

BRIGGS: President Trump scheduled to host a listening session on prison reform today. The mission, to equip non-violent prisoners with skills and opportunities for an honest second chance.

[05:50:00] The White House sees prison reform as a bipartisan issue in the midterm election year. They plan to sell the measure as a concertive solution to reduce crime and save money.

ROMANS: All right. The state of NAFTA sent Wall Street tumbling yesterday but the Ford CEO says that trade deal needs an update and that the U.S. is taking the right approach.

"CNN Money Stream," next.

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ROMANS: Officials at Florida Gulf Coast University put police outside a sociology class where students are studying white racism. The course described -- description says it examines racist ideologies and practices that have operated for hundreds of years to maintain white racial domination.

[05:55:04] Professor Ted Thornhill was flooded with harassing e-mails and messages.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED THORNHILL, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, FLORIDA GULF COAST UNIVERSITY: People are going to get critical of the material in the course, in the title and description, and the individual teaching it, the institution that would offer it, the students who would take it, and I can't concern myself with that.

Those people are going to continue to do and say the things that they say and I need to continue to move forward and teach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The first white racism class was held Tuesday without incident.

BRIGGS: A former Louisiana "Teacher of the Year" speaking out after being handcuffed at a school board meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEYSHIA HARGRAVE, JAILED FOR SPEAKING OUT ABOUT SUPERINTENDENT'S RAISE: What are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you explain?

HARGRAVE: What are you doing to me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE OFFICER: Stop resisting.

HARGRAVE: I am not. You just pushed me to the floor. Stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: That incident unfolding after Deyshia Hargrave asked why the school district superintendent was slated to get a $30,000 raise while teachers continue to struggle. As she shared her concerns, video shows a city marshal escorted Hargrave out and handcuffed her.

ROMANS: In video posted last night, Hargrave defends her actions. She says she hopes she has inspired other people to speak out for what they believe in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARGRAVE: I'm hoping that you choose to speak out after seeing what happened to me and you don't let it become an intimidation to you. You let it be your strength because it's slowly becoming mine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: It is not clear if the marshal acted on his own or under the direction of a board member. He was hired by the school board.

CNN has reached out to the city marshal's office for comment.

BRIGGS: Something important was missing Wednesday from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas -- the electricity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine, $299, $399 prices that are company was built on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Whoops. CNN's Samuel Burke in the middle of an interview there when a power outage threw the world's largest consumer electronics showcase into darkness for about two hours. Attendees had to use flashlights to navigate the floor and check out the latest in tech.

Officials says it appears condensation from heavy rainfall caused a problem with one of the facility's transformers.

While it was fun for some, a lot of vendors paid a lot of money to showcase their tech. Lights are expected on today for today's sessions.

ROMANS: Most are using their cell phone cameras. All right, their cell phone lights.

Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.

Global stock markets are mostly lower right now. The new year's rally seems to have paused here. Wall Street closed down for the first time in 2018 on concerns over China and NAFTA.

U.S. stocks first fell after "Bloomberg" reported China, the biggest U.S. debt holder, could stop buying bonds. The market dropped further when "Reuters" reported Canada is increasingly convinced Trump will pull out of NAFTA.

Speaking of NAFTA, Ford CEO Jim Hackett says he is in favor of an update.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM HACKETT, CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: I mean, the early premise of NAFTA was really special and the right thing. But now, as we can see how trade has evolved, it needs a modernization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Hackett added that renegotiating is the right move. The thorniest issue of the NAFTA talks has been over car manufacturing. The administration wants more parts sourced in North America with half produced in the U.S., not in Mexico or Canada.

Two foreign carmakers are building a $1.6 billion plant in the U.S. Toyota and Mazda will construct a joint factory in Alabama. Four thousand people to be employed.

Toyota will use the plant to build Corollas. It had planned to build those in Mexico but changed its mind after announcing this Mazda joint venture in August. And, Diet Coke is getting a makeover. Coca-Cola hoping millennials will want to taste new flavors like ginger lime and zesty blood orange in a slim can reminiscent of a Red Bull.

Coke needs to lure these younger consumers as appetite for soda shrinks. Diet Coke sales fell four percent in the last three months of 2017.

When was the last time you had a soda?

BRIGGS: I love me some Coke Zero sugar --

ROMANS: Oh.

BRIGGS: -- but some mango Diet Coke?

ROMANS: You'd do that, wouldn't you?

BRIGGS: I'll give that a shot.

ROMANS: I knew you would.

BRIGGS: Indeed, I would.

ROMANS: I knew you'd like that.

BRIGGS: Yes, that's up my alley.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" in their cabinet room, next, with Christopher and Alisyn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There was absolutely no collusion. Everybody knows it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president seems to repeat this mantra as if he could simply wish it away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president said that he would speak with the special counsel and now he's pulling that back a little bit.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: He should be pursuing closure and he doesn't get closure until he talks to Bob Mueller.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's obsessed with Hillary Clinton.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: We don't care about her. Nobody here talks about her.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton had an interview where she wasn't sworn in.

Welcome back to the studio.

ROMANS: President Trump praised his own televised DACA meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have this cult of personality where the president is obsessed with performance.

TRUMP: I'm sure the ratings were fantastic. They always are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, January 11th, 6:00 here in New York.

Here's our "Starting Line."