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Trump: 'Seems Unlikely' I'll Give an Interview to Mueller; Trump Calls Clinton 'My Opponent' 14 Months after Election. Aired 6- 6:30a ET
Aired January 11, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was absolutely no collusion. Everybody knows it.
[05:59:23] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president seems to repeat this mantra as if he could simply wish it away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president said he would speak with the special counsel. And now he's pulling that back a little bit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 DONALD TRUMP: 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.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump praised his own televised DACA meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have this cult of personality where the president is obsessed with his performance.
TRUMP: I'm sure their ratings were fantastic. They always are.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, January 11, 6 a.m. here in New York. Here's our starting line.
President Trump changing his tune on giving an interview to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, now refusing to commit. It was back in June that he said he'd be 100 percent willing to tell Mueller under oath his reason for firing James Comey. The president did, however, say eight times yesterday there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia. He also demanded that Republicans should, quote, "finally take control of the Russia investigation," end quote, which, of course, they already have and have had all along.
CUOMO: President Trump has another idea for how to handle criticism and questions he doesn't like. Try to make them illegal. That seems to be the motive behind his review of the nation's libel laws after that bombshell book that's continuing to fuel questions about the president's mental fitness. We'll talk about how the former reality star turned president is trying to rehab his image.
And after nearly a year in office, President Trump cannot stop bringing up Hillary Clinton. That's just a fact. The White House insists no one is talking about her. That's simply not a fact. The question is, why is Hillary Clinton's name always in the president's mouth?
We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House with our top story -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.
Seemingly, contradictory conclusions from the president. He's making -- sitting down with the special counsel for an interview and open question, all the while repeating his premature conclusion that there was no collusion, raising the question of why he wouldn't want to sit down and clear the air if there's nothing there.
JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump refusing to commit to a possible interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
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'd even have an interview.
JOHNS: His remarks markedly different than this response last June after firing FBI Director James Comey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version?
TRUMP: One hundred percent.
JOHNS: The president, again, calling the Russia investigation a Democrat hoax and repeating this familiar defense eight times.
TRUMP: There has been no collusion.
There's no collusion.
I can only say this: there was absolutely no collusion.
JOHNS: Mueller and congressional investigators have not reached any conclusions in their Russia probes, but Mueller has obtained guilty pleas from two former Trump campaign advisers for lying to the FBI about their conversations with Russians. And two others have been indicted.
Earlier in the day, President Trump encouraging the GOP to take control of the investigation, despite the fact that Republicans already are in control of all three congressional probes and the Justice Department.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I don't intend to have a discussion with the president on that point. And I hope he doesn't call me and tell me the same thing that you said he said.
JOHNS: It comes after the president criticized Senator Dianne Feinstein, calling her sneaky for releasing the transcript of the Judiciary Committee's interview with the head of Fusion GPS, the firm behind the now-infamous Russian dossier, without telling her Republican counterparts.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: He tends to call people names very quickly, so I'm not alone. The one regret I have is that I should have spoken with Senator Grassley before.
JOHNS: Mr. Trump responding to negative media coverage by vowing to make it easier for people to sue news organizations.
TRUMP: We are going to take a strong look at our country's libel laws. Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace.
JOHNS: The president also insisting there will be no deal on the DREAMers without a wall, after sending mixed messages the day before.
TRUMP: It's got to include the wall. We need the wall for security. We need the wall for safety. We need the wall for stopping the drugs from pouring in.
JOHNS: Meanwhile, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are scrambling to put together immigration proposals ahead of next week's budget deadline. Today the president will sit down for a listening session on prison reform. And the president will also meet with his national security team ahead of Friday's deadline on sanctions for Iran.
Chris and Alisyn, back to you.
CAMEROTA: OK, Joe. Thank you very much for all of that reporting.
Let's bring in CNN political analysts John Avlon and David Gregory. Good morning. Great to see you guys.
David Gregory, now the president won't commit to being interviewed with Bob Mueller. What's that about?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, just bluster at this point. He's just speaking what's on his mind on a particular day when he seems to be, you know, pretty grumpy about all things Russia investigation.
[06:05:00] I think there's no question that his lawyers are negotiating the parameters of a sit-down. I suspect the president will ultimately do that, unless his lawyers think it's just way too dangerous, legally, for him to do that. But the president is not going to be judicious about his comments about all of this. I don't take it as necessarily a change of position. It is -- it is simply a stream of consciousness from the president on all things Russia which veers in so many different directions.
CUOMO: Well, he can have it both ways, right, David? Because it's both. He said that 100 percent, he'd sit down. Now he's saying he doesn't know. I couldn't even get Kellyanne to answer that question last night. She didn't want to go there. And that's a very high bar for her. So the question becomes, John, how does all the posturing about the investigation put at risk the reaction to any ultimate conclusions?
I think that's a question that we're not really looking at enough. So when Mueller comes out. And again, he doesn't have to come out to us. By mandate, he has to go to Rosenstein, he has to go to the A.G. But if those become public, and it's not just indictments, recommendations, this was this was done wrong. This was close to the line. This was over the line.
If the president of the United States is of the mind to reject all of the determinations, what does that set up for the country?
AVLON: Well, it sets up a potential conflict with Congress and the president. It sets up potential conflicts with the DOJ and the president. Only for the president. If the president wants to insist seven times in one minute that there's been no collusion.
AVLON: Eight depending on the framing, thank you very much. That there's no collusion. Then he should feel conscious free to sit down and give his account, to put this to rest for the American people, for American history and for our due process in government. But when he set 100 percent standard before, clearly he's trying to weasel out of it, because he doesn't want to be put in that position.
That's ultimately what's going to be required to put this to bed. We're going to have the Mueller investigation, but it's going to need to have a presidential, you know, conversation on the record, not written. And if he feels so confident, if this is more than just a, you know, truthful hyperbole in a reality distortion field, then he should feel comfortable, talking to Mueller and putting this to rest on the record.
CAMEROTA: Do you want me to prove that it was eight times?
AVLON: Go on.
CAMEROTA: Because we have a montage.
AVLON: Oh, yes. I love a good montage.
CUOMO: One was debatable. Right?
CAMEROTA: Let's decide. OK? You be the judge. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There has been no collusion.
They all say there's no collusion.
And there is no collusion.
I can only say this: there was absolutely no collusion.
It has been determined that there is no collusion.
When they have no collusion and nobody has found any collusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: That's a solid eight. That's a solid eight.
AVLON: That's a fine montage.
CUOMO: I think that they gave the president a pass on the first double.
CAMEROTA: I know. I think so.
CUOMO: The first double. When he said, "There is no collusion, no collusion." Give me the papers, the papers.
CAMEROTA: That's good. But here's the funny thing, David, which is that it sounds like Bob Mueller's investigation -- we don't know much about it. But from the indictments and the guilty pleas, has moved beyond the collusion. There's financial crimes that he's looking at. There's lying to the FBI. There's obstruction of justice. No collusion is like cold comfort at this point. Right?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, the president is working this very hard, which is not unprecedented, you know. I mean, go back to the Clinton playbook on impeachment, working over Ken Starr, it is similar. So we shouldn't act like this is out of the blue and something we've never seen in our history. He is working it. He is arguing against it.
And I think for the president, what he does feel very deeply is that, look, he in no way coordinated during the campaign to try to throw the election his way. And that is his bottom line position. Now, he's willfully disregarding everything else that could have happened, including the actions that he took that are the grounds for investigation of obstruction of justice of this particular investigation. So that's what he's willfully casting aside.
GREGORY: And of course, nobody can draw a conclusion about whether there was collusion at this point. That's why you have two things going on. You have a legal investigation, which is Bob Mueller and you have a political process, which is all the stuff that's happening on the Hill.
CUOMO: But I tell you, when you look at that transcript that came out, other than the Senate Intelligence Committee, I mean, it is hard to have a lot of confidence that these politicians are doing anything other than CYA and a gotcha game. Because that transfer for the Fusion GPS guy...
CUOMO: ... you know, we may be professional interviewers, but there were so many obvious questions. These were seasoned investigators, and they were only looking for ways to trip this guy up, make him seem that he should be put in disrepute and that this was all a frame to hurt the president.
AVLON: And that's a fundamental problem, because if they're focused on process and not substance, as they are, the CYA reason you lay out, it's a purely partisan investigation, they're not serving the national interest. You know, yesterday, the Senate foreign -- the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, unfortunately only the Democrats put out a report about the details of Russians' attempts to, over a period of decades, to undermine western democracies and institutions. This was part of a larger pattern. The Intelligence Committees are unanimous that Russia tried to interfere in our elections.
[06:10:00] We know it appears that Papadopoulos had information that the Russians had hacked the DNC early on. So we need to deal with this as a country. And I think it's also significant but little noted that Mueller has hired a cyber investigator. That that's something that came out yesterday. That could have real implications.
CUOMO: Vicky is his name?
AVLON: I believe that's correct. So that's an indication of where this may be going. But we're going to have to have to deal with this country in a way that transcends partisanship. But if the people in Congress currently can't get their heads against Vanderberg's (ph) partisanship on into the water's edge about a matter of national security, which is his ultimately, shame on them.
CAMEROTA: So the president now is calling for Republicans to take control of the investigation. Good news, Mr. President, they are in control. Here are our graphics.
As you know, the Senate Intel Committee headed by Burr, Republican. The House Intel Committee headed by Mike Conaway, a Republican. Judiciary, of course, headed by Chuck Grassley, a Republican. And then, of course, all the people in the DOJ are people that the president appointed from, you know, Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein. Mueller, a Republican, Christopher Wray, head of the FBI, Republicans.
CUOMO: Bob Mueller, a Republican, we have to remember, sat with the president that was ostensibly a job interview for working in his government, not a guy who was set up to be an enemy.
CAMEROTA: So David, I mean, he is not satisfied with what the Republicans are doing.
GREGORY: Look, I think the president has laid out such a clear strategy, right? He's -- if there are charges brought, ultimately, against anyone, he will argue that the fix was in from the start, that there was a rush to judgment. And this is the deep state within, you know, the government reaching out.
And if the investigation falls short, then he will feel vindicated in arguing that this was a witch-hunt from the very beginning. But ultimately, this is a political kind of street fighting strategy that he is pursuing here. Republicans are in control of Congress. They are in control of these investigations.
And I mean, I think to John's point, the danger here for critics of the president is overreach and it is, in a political process which is what -- anything that Congress does as a political process is going to be different than what the independent counsel...
CUOMO: There's risk -- there's risk for the zeal of the left who see action here just like we see with the 25th Amendment overreach as a common sin on that side of the ball.
But I don't think he's talking about who's in charge of the investigations. I think what he's saying is do more investigations of the other side. That's what the president seems to be encouraging. That's why we're back to the Hillary Clinton game with the president of the United States.
GREGORY: Right. But I also think he's also saying shut it down. I think he's saying that these Republicans need to cut some of these investigations.
CUOMO: Right. But he's been encouraging them. You know, to see Lindsey Graham and Grassley, recommend a criminal investigation of Christopher Steele, just read the transcript of the interview, and you'll have such a better context what that's about. That's why Feinstein put out the transcript. She's saying now, "I should have spoken to Grassley." You know, it's always easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
So she goes that way, it's fine. But what happens if they just keep investigating the left, because they don't like the investigation?
AVLON: That's classic deflection, but it's no longer rhetorical. It's actually procedural. It's actually...
CUOMO: They've got the FBI. The Justice Department.
So look, this is an example, this is the concrete example of the Trump administration's obsession with Hillary Clinton. Because they need to keep her as a villain for reasons of deflection. But it becomes incredibly dangerous, because that's outside our best traditions as a country when you investigate your political opponents.
CUOMO: What's to stop him for saying we need the FBI to investigate the media to see if this is really a setup just to hurt my poll numbers.
CAMEROTA: We've heard things that...
CUOMO: You could do it.
AVLON: The Nixon administration broke into papers and conducted -- I mean, not through official DOJ channels. So we have -- this is why history matters. This is dangerous stuff when you start threatening libel laws. Look, he's constitutionally unempowered to follow through. The standard he set out, actually, the actual malice, so we already got it. Thanks, Mr. President. You probably would have been sued for libel yourself, if you have the standards.
CUOMO: What he seems to want is a return to the sedition laws. He wants it to be illegal to criticize him.
CAMEROTA: Yes. We have a lot to talk about on that front. So if you both will stick around, that would be wonderful.
CUOMO: Hillary Rodham Clinton. Do you know that name? Of course you do. He defeated her 14 months ago. But for some reason the president of the United States can't keep his opponent's name out of his mouth. Why can't he let Hillary go? We discuss next.
[06:18:05] CUOMO: Hillary who? The White House insisting that President Trump has moved on from the 2016 election, that nobody talks about her in the White House. This after the president mentioned Hillary Clinton three times at a White House press conference yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Hillary, my opponent.
Hillary Clinton had an interview where she wasn't sworn in.
Hillary was not for a strong military.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Let's bring back David Gregory and John Avlon. This is not a fact question. Kellyanne did her best last night on this, saying it was all about us, that we want to keep bringing up. We don't want to legitimize the election. Let's play her take on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONWAY: I was the campaign manager for the winning part of the campaign.
CONWAY: And the idea that we would have to look any further than Hillary Clinton to beat Hillary Clinton itself is a fantasy. I don't need to talk to anybody in Moscow. I was talking to people in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, and in Macomb County, Michigan.
There's no reason to have gone anywhere outside of Hillary Clinton and how unattractive her policies are, how lacking in the vision, the connective tissue the forgotten woman she was. We beat her fairly and squarely in this country through this Democratic elected process. So many people still can't get over the election.
CUOMO: Says my friend who can't keep Hillary Clinton's name out of her mouth.
CONWAY: You can't -- excuse me, you can't -- I'll make you a deal, Chris. I'll never talk about her again, but then you can't talk about the 2016 election.
CUOMO: I'm not.
CONWAY: She lost that election. And you know...
CUOMO: I never mentioned the election once. I haven't mentioned the election once. And I never do.
CONWAY: I'm sorry, hold on.
CUOMO: Russian inference matters.
CONWAY: No, no, no.
CUOMO: And it doesn't delegitimize the president's victory.
CUOMO: You know, that's why you bring up Hillary Clinton. That's why you're having her investigated.
CONWAY: We don't care about her.
CUOMO: It's as obvious as it is is counterproductive.
CONWAY: Hey, Chris, nobody here talks about Hillary Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Oh, my God.
CUOMO: Except the president.
CAMEROTA: That is great.
[06:20:04] CUOMO: I don't remember that. But now that I see it, it's very stark.
CAMEROTA: You know, I've had that exact same exchange with Kellyanne, where I think that I suggested to her let's have an entire interview where we do not mention the name Hillary Clinton, and she couldn't -- she broke it. She couldn't do it, as you see.
CUOMO: Here's the problem. Here's the problem with it. The theatricality aside, the spin aside, the president can't separate, David -- and you've made this point, but it needs to be repeated. When he hears Russian interference, he hears "You didn't win square and fair." And that is the beginning and the end of the explanation. But what are we to do with that?
GREGORY: Well, we have to keep scrutinizing it, because you have, you know, Congress investigating this. You have a special counsel investigating this. And there is evidence that Russia tried to influence the election in Donald Trump's favor. That's -- these are facts. And they are disturbing facts, because it was a relatively small investment on the part of Russia that yielded great success.
And we have every reason to believe in this kind of new, you know, 19th Century great game of international politics that the Russians will absolutely be at again and that the Chinese would be at it, as well. And so I think there's lots of reasons to be worried.
The president is obsessed. He's insecure. He lets everybody know that on a daily basis about whether he's a legitimate president. And he uses the investigation as a cudgel to say, "Investigate Hillary Clinton. She was corrupt, and she got away with it."
Even as he would argue that the excesses of the investigation against Hillary Clinton was why he had to fire Jim Comey. So you have to work really hard to follow the president's line of thinking.
AVLON: Well, and the other thing you need to work really hard to do is insist on a fact-based debate. And Kellyanne is making two points. She's insisting nobody talks about Hillary Clinton. As we saw, except the president of the United States. So if the top of your government is talking about Hillary Clinton all the time, that argument is irrelevant.
CUOMO: And they're having him investigated.
AVLON: Of course.
CUOMO: It's just an issue of staying on her.
AVLON: And the other thing I'm going to say, nobody here talks about the 2016 election. We know Donald Trump talks about the 2016 election, the Electoral College, the results that night reflexively. It's the flip side of the point David makes, which is that he wants to talk about that high point of his life, understandably great achievement. He seems to be more focused on it than governing, because he doesn't want his legitimacy questioned.
But the fact is, we do have a foreign power and perhaps separately from the Trump campaign that was trying to influence the election on his behalf. And that's a threat to liberal democracy that we need to defend by insisting on a fact-based debate, by restoring trust in civic institutions, not undermining them.
CUOMO: Let's see another example of it. What happens is, you know, the old expression, falsus in uno, falsus in tuto. You lie on one thing, you're assumed to lie on everything. And that takes us to what happened with the wall.
The definition of the wall has changed. Period. I know the president is trying to have it both ways, because it was such a signature promise. But we're hearing double speak. Here's Kellyanne trying to explain it last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONWAY: After conferring with the experts who are involved in this process, Christopher, the president has discovered that part of it -- well, he knows part of it will be the physical wall. Part of it is better technology. Part of it is -- is also fencing. You know, there are rivers involved, I'm told. There are mountains involved. But there are -- there is terrain that isn't conducive to building an actual physical structure in some places.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: The president didn't know about geography. Yes, I mean...
CUOMO: There are rivers involved, John.
AVLON: Yes, exactly.
CUOMO: Have some decency.
AVLON: The president's discovered geography and maps. This isn't that he has listened to the policy experts on this, although that's effectively what it is. It's that there are rivers and mountains. And it put everyone...
CUOMO: Here's why it matters. You know, yes, he discovered a new thing. I don't believe that. This was a signature promise that he and Bannon came up with that really resonated with the base, David.
CUOMO: They liked this. They liked that it was different, that it was overt and strong and he's a builder, and he's going to build.
CAMEROTA: And it got a huge response when he would do his rallies. People would, as you know, cheer and call out for it.
CUOMO: With of course, the great couple, "And who's going to pay for it?" "Mexico."
All right. So that is gone and now dismissed as absurd and somehow, he gets a pass. But it's not that there's new information, David. But here's the bigger problem. We don't know if that's the truth either. We have Bernie Sanders on tonight. Do they know? Is that true? Is the president saying, "OK, fine, we'll go with the different kinds of security that you already offered to fund." Or is it the tweet where he said the wall really matters or the presser where he said, "No, we have to build the wall. It really matters."
GREGORY: Right. I push back on this a little bit in terms of this being a huge deal. The president, we know often says things that are not true. When he's talking about things that are true, he'll speak metaphorically.
Now, I don't think this is a good idea at any point, but I think this whole thing was a grand metaphor, which he was willing to deal on. And it was a great -- it was a great line to throw out there as red meat on immigration, which meant we're going to beef up security. It sounds ridiculous when they all of a sudden say, "Oh, but there's mountains and rivers involved," because they have always been there.
[06:25:17] The wall itself is a ridiculous concept. There is a mind- set here around what we're going to do is beef up border security. Now, this is, I think, where we have to a separate so much of the bluster. And beyond spin. I think real propaganda, which involves telling of untruths to the American people with the president looking, I think, pretty is seriously and perhaps creatively about how to get a big immigration bill done.
CUOMO: Normalizing. Normalizing. This was a signature promise. It was a bedrock principle for him, that he was going to build an actual wall.
GREGORY: No, I'm just saying why should we get so caught up? Fine, then tag him on that. But I'm saying, if the wall ends up being something different, that's ultimately a good thing so that we don't have big barriers we were putting on our Southern border. You could tag him on that. He says things and then reverses all the time.
CUOMO: Fair point. Criticism withdrawn.
GREGORY: No, no. Fair criticism. But I'm saying he could be, you know, onto something serious in terms of getting a bigger deal than people thought was possible.
CUOMO: Fair point, fair point.
AVLON: So he's built a big beautiful metaphor. That's all the wall was.
But to David's point, this actually shows potentially an opening to get something done with Democrats. Because if the issue is border security not a border wall, you've got room to work on something comprehensive.
CAMEROTA: Tell me, both of you, is this one also bluster or is this worrisome, what he's saying about libel laws and how he wants to beef them up? Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness. So we're going to take a strong look at that. We want fairness. You can't say things that are false, knowingly false.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: John Avlon, real?
AVLON: That just happens to be the current standard of libel law. You can't say something that's knowingly false. These are actually values rooted not only in the First Amendment but enshrined by the Supreme Court in Seldon v. New York Times.
And so, look, is he disturbing that the president keeps hitting this rift and his attorney general to look at libel laws. Yes. Are they empowered to actually unilaterally overturn the Supreme Court decisions. No. So it's both disturbing and bluster.
CAMEROTA: OK. We have to leave it there. You did both. That was a two-fer. Thank you very much, David Gregory, John Avlon. Thank you.
CUOMO: Quick assignment, Google sedition laws, 1798. We lived through this period before. It was ugly.
All right. Quick programming note. Senator Bernie Sanders is going to be on primetime tonight. Where does he see the debate going for DACA? What are the Democrats going to do to make things better for this country? He gets tested tonight, 9 p.m. Eastern.
CAMEROTA: OK. President Trump shifting his position on North Korea. Is he ready to talk to Kim Jong-un? We have a live report from Seoul for you next.