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GOP's Graham: Immigration Talks Turning Into "S-Show"; Booker Blasts DHS Chief "Your Amnesia is Complicit". Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 16, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:11] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right. Here we go. Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me here.

In three days, the government will shut down if Republicans and Democrats can't cut a deal on the spending bill. And the president's reported obscenity against African nations is getting in the way big time, so much so that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said this just moments ago on Capitol Hill.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This has turned into an s-show. And we need to get back to being a great country. Dr. King said something pretty poignant about us. He said we came on different ships, we're all in the same boat now.


BALDWIN: It also involved a pretty remarkable exchange between two people in the room last week when this profane language was reportedly used. You have Democrat Senator Dick Durbin who said the president said s-hole repeatedly. And so, he got to grill Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Neilson and we'll hear from Senator Durbin here in depth in just a moment.

But first to Secretary Nielsen and her word this is morning, she said under oath that she did not remember President Trump saying the profanity but she did admit to hearing a lot of tough language or curse words. Here she was.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: What I heard him saying was that he would like to move away from a country-based quota system to a merit-based system so it shouldn't matter where you're from. It should matter what you can contribute to the United States.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: How did he characterize those countries in Africa?

NIELSEN: In -- I don't specifically remember a categorization of countries in Africa. I think what he was saying is, as far as -- best I could tell and, as you know, there were about a dozen people in the room. There were a lot of cross conversations. There was a lot of rough talk by a lot of people in the room.

But what I understood him to be saying is let's move away from the countries and let's look at the individual and make sure that those we bring here can contribute to our society.

DURBIN: You said on FOX News that the president used strong language. What was that strong language?

NIELSEN: Let's see. The strong language? There was apologies. I don't remember a specific word. What I was struck with, frankly, as I'm sure you were as well, was just the general profanity that was used in the room by almost everyone.

DURBIN: Did you hear me use profanity?

NIELSEN: No, sir. Neither did I.

DURBIN: Did you hear Senator Graham use profanity?

NIELSEN: I did hear tough language from Senator Graham, yes, sir.

DURBIN: What do you recall the strong language had used repeated exactly what the president had said prior to that?

NIELSEN: I remember specific cuss words being used by a variety of members.

DURBIN: I'm not going to ask you to say those words here.


BALDWIN: So more on that in a second.

Meantime, Senator Durbin spoke at length with my colleague, Jake Tapper, today. He's our CNN chief Washington correspondent, anchor of "THE LEAD" and "STATE OF THE UNION". And so, he's fresh off the train from Washington.

And so, we've seen clips of this interview throughout the last couple of hours. But you have a new piece of sound which we're going to play in just a second where you're talking to him about whether or not he's speaking out, because we heard from him pretty instantly after this meeting where he was essentially saying it was the most vile and hateful thing ever uttered in the history of the Oval Office, and you asked him whether or not that was insane, that was breaking with the president's confidence?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, because President Trump had tweeted something against Senator Durbin and one things he tweeted was that because he came forward, Senator Durbin was violating the trust. And it's tough to come up with an immigration compromise if the trust of a private conversation cannot be relied upon.


TAPPER: Anyway, so I did ask Senator Durbin that. And here's what he had to say.


TAPPER: What do you make of the more substantive argument that you violated the trust of those in the room that day, and that there can be no trust if people in the room then go out and talk publicly about what was said in the room?

DURBIN: Listen, I didn't take an oath of secrecy when I walked into the White House at all. No one did. And there came a moment when the president denied the next morning that he said these things, that I felt duty bound to speak. What the president said was outrageous. I don't believe it represents the views of America. I don't believe it represents the views of either political party.

And the American people have a right to know. The president made a campaign promise. He made all sorts of things about immigration, always based on the security of the United States, losing American jobs.

Let me tell you, neither of those topics came up in that White House meeting. We talked about the color of the skin of the people coming to the United States.


TAPPER: And something that viewers might find interesting is that there was talk within Democratic Senate circles of Senator Durbin staying quiet because they have this interest in there being a deal.


TAPPER: And, obviously, Republicans hold the cards. They control the White House, the House and the Senate. Once President Trump went on Twitter and denied saying what people in that room say he said, using the term s-hole countries or s-house countries, whatever, that's when Senator Durbin decided to make public and go on the record with his concerns.

BALDWIN: But he also really complimented in that conversation his friend, Lindsey Graham, on the other side of the aisle, who -- can you just paint that picture of me of what Senator Durbin told you about that? It was actually Senator Graham who seated closest to the president and according to Senator Durbin repeated back the s-word comment he used to make a point.

TAPPER: Yes. What Senator Durbin said was, I asked him because Senator Graham, Lindsey Graham, had said that when that term was used, he objected to it. I forget the exact --

BALDWIN: Challenged him.

TAPPER: He challenged him. And I forget the exact language, because Senator Graham has also been careful not to confirm or deny that President Trump used that term. But in any case, I asked Senator Durbin, well, what did he say? BALDWIN: Yes.

TAPPER: And, essentially, what Senator Durbin said Graham said was, I come from -- my people come from one of these s-hole countries and America is not about where people come from. It is an idea that we all come from different places and he seemed upset. And you've heard Lindsey Graham say subsequent that Donald Trump, that President Trump that was at that 55-minute meeting a week ago where he was -- he seemed amenable to ideas and compromise and he was affable and the like, that that was the President Trump that he golfs with, that's the President Trump he knows and is trying to blame the rest of this on bad staffing.

BALDWIN: We have that. Let me actually play that because he makes a point that something happened between Tuesday and Thursday. Here he was.


REPORTER: When you say something happened between Tuesday and Thursday, do you mean that the president got bad advice from someone on his staff?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes, I think somebody on his staff gave him really bad advice between 10:00 to 12:00 on Thursday. I think the president I saw on Tuesday is the guy I play golf with. I actually like the guy. He's actually funny. I thought he commanded the room and the conversation at 10:00 on Thursday was pretty consistent with the guy I saw Tuesday.

Something happened between 10:00 and 12:00 and I like Secretary Nielsen, she's a nice person. And we'll get to the bottom of this.

But here is what's going to matter. How does it end? How does it end? Does it end with the government shutting down? We should all be kicked out if that happens.

Does it end with the 700,000 kids being thrown to the wolves? No. Does it end without any effort to secure the border? No.

So, it's not going to end poorly. It's going to end well.


BALDWIN: This is about policy. And we're going to have a whole conversation in a couple of minutes about that. But his whole line about the president isn't served well by his staff, how do you interpret that? Is that a punt at all?

TAPPER: In a way it is, but also Lindsey Graham, Senator Graham -- I mean, you have to look at how all these people deal with President Trump as under -- with the feeling and the understanding that President Trump is going to be president tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

BALDWIN: They have to work with him. TAPPER: They have to work with him. And that's why, you know, on my

Sunday show, on STATE OF THE UNION, Congresswoman Mia Love, who is critical of what President Trump had to say, that she wanted to emphasize that they need to come to a deal.

I think that one of the things going on is that there is the feeling among people who are in this bipartisan group, the Gang of Six, who are trying to come up with a bill that can pass the Senate, and, likely, by the way, with more Democrats than Republicans because most Republicans seem to have a position on immigration that would alienate any Democratic votes. If you need to get to the 60-vote margin the way that the votes are is a center bill that most Republicans wouldn't go for.

President Trump said that he wanted an immigration compromise. Durbin and Lindsey Graham and the others in the Gang of Six came up with something that they agreed to in principle, which includes a reduction in what's called chain migration, family reunification that Democrats call it, allowing more people -- allowing most of the immigrants right now who come in, who come to this country for family reasons.

To reduce that number and increase the number that come in because they have skilled jobs or skills to match with jobs here. And Senator Durbin said that that's very painful for him. He doesn't want that. He likes family reunification, as he calls it. But he was willing to go along with that compromise.

But the feeling was that some people on the president's staff, Stephen Miller, who's a senior policy adviser, the White House chief of staff John Kelly, perhaps, who has very strong opinions about immigration, especially having been the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, that they brought in conservative Republican hardliners, Tom Cotton, David Perdue, some members of the House, Bob Goodlatte from Virginia, and that that changed the president's --

[14:10:30] BALDWIN: Views?

TAPPER: -- desire, his views, his willingness to go along with this compromise. Which, to be completely candid, would pass the Senate likely with more Democratic votes than Republican votes. And the Republicans are saying, why would we ever do that? We need to pass a bill that would have more Republican votes than Democrat votes.


TAPPER: So, I think there is a suspicion that the Steven Miller and others, that the president's malleable about this and Steven Miller and others were bringing in people to bolster the conservative argument --


TAPPER: -- against the, you know, more centrist argument.

BALDWIN: Just listening to Phil Mattingly earlier though, and you could hear, he was saying within some Democratic circles on the Hill, they were hoping he would be malleable the other direction. But to your point, perhaps he's more on the right and where this stand and with this deadline on Friday, it's anyone's guess so far.

Jake Tapper, we'll look for you next hour -- not next hour.

TAPPER: No, 4:00. Close enough.

BALDWIN: Four o'clock Eastern, close enough, with your big interview with Dick Durbin. Thank you so much.

TAPPER: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Good to see you.

TAPPER: Good to see you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Coming up next here, Senator Cory Booker blasting what he describes as amnesia by some who are in that Oval Office meeting where some people deny the president made his vulgar remarks.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: You don't remember? You can't remember the words of your commander in chief? I find that unacceptable.


BALDWIN: Also breaking news, chilling details coming in about the so- called house of horrors, 13 children found locked up, tortured, starved in a California home. Police revealing moments ago how one child escaped through a window, which ultimately tipped them off.

And later, for the first time, we will hear from the physician who conducted President Trump's first physical. What will he reveal about the president's help? That's coming up next hour during that White House daily briefing?

Stay with me.


[14:16:36] BALDWIN: We're back with more on the breaking news. I'm Brooke Baldwin. This is CNN.

No apologies from the Trump administration over President Trump's reported vulgar and racist comments on African nations. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen getting grilled today before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the remarks. She has repeatedly said that she did not remember the precise words that the president used though Senator Cory Booker ripped into Secretary Nielsen, saying that her amnesia makes her complicit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COOKER: I hurt. When Dick Durbin called me, I had tears of rage when I hear about this experience in that meeting. And for you not to feel that hurt and that pain and to dismiss some of the questions of my colleagues, saying, I've already answered that line of questions with tens of millions of Americans are hurting right now because of what they're worried about what happened in the White House, that's unacceptable to me.

There are threats in this country, people plotting. I've received enough death threats to know the reality. Kamala receives enough death threats to know the reality. Mazie receives enough death threats to know the reality.

And I've got a president of the United States whose office I respect, who talks about the countries of origins of my fellow citizens in the most despicable manner.

You don't remember. You can't remember the words of your commander in chief. I find that unacceptable.

Mr. Chairman, I'm grateful to be on this committee. I'm more than ever today happy I'm here. Thank you.


BALDWIN: With me now, CNN political commentators Joan Walsh and S.E. Cupp. Joan Walsh is also national affairs correspondent for "The Nation", and S.E. is the host of HLN's "S.E. Cupp Unfiltered."

Ladies, all right. So, Senator Booker there clearly upset and I want to stay on the point of what Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was making earlier today. To you first, you know, we've had Senators Perdue and Cotton on the "I don't recall." And now, it sounds like that's changing and there's a dispute about s-house, s-hole, nevertheless, it doesn't change the sentiment.

Now you have this homeland secretary saying I don't remember. To me, I hear that and I think, oh, she's jumping on that I don't recall train.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: She is. You know, some Republicans, including I think Tom Cotton and David Perdue and clearly this cabinet member are making short-term calculation that, I guess, they think is worth it in the long run. I've heard some of them say to get an agenda passed. And that short term calculation is to put up with, ignore, deny, dismiss or explain away the president's very clearly racist comments.

This is not the first. He's made plenty of them on camera, at rallies for everyone to hear, the least of which is the one he made behind close doors, by the way, in front of some Democratic senators, he should have known better.

But that calculation, I think, is very immediate and short lived because the generation that that plays well with is dying. That generation is not long for this world. BALDWIN: Yes.

CUPP: So, when that generation is long gone and no one is around to applaud that kind of complicit, tacit acceptance of intolerance or exclusionary kind of commentary, what will Tom Cotton have left to show for it?

[14:20:06] What will -- what will David Perdue have left to show for it? Nothing.

The party will be shredded. Their ideals will be forgotten. The agenda overturned and my generation and generations before me will have long memories of what these people did and in defense of what?

BALDWIN: Well, here's what I remember from just seven days ago, which was that meeting which -- that involved the, you know, Democrats and Republicans. And there was the president sitting in the room and we know this because they allow cameras --


BALDWIN: -- like 55-some minutes. And the president saying, I'll sign whatever you give me.

WALSH: The bill of love.

BALDWIN: The bill of love, the act of love. What happened to that president?

WALSH: He got sand-bagged. He got taken over by the hardliners on his staff, John Kelly, Steve Miller. Basically, you heard it from Jake. We've heard it from other places.

Durbin was right. They had a compromise and it was a compromise that meant Durbin was giving up things and that chain migration was limited in a way he didn't care for, that there was more border security, but then in exchange there will be this protection for the DACA kids.

They also got into the question, I guess, of temporary protected status. What this government is trying to throw out people that have been here from Haiti, and from El Salvador, that's how they got into the miss, into the miss, throw them out, even though many have made lives here for no reason other than we think your country isn't an s- hole and we want you to go back.

What came out while we're all talking about s-hole, is that the president's view and his advisers' view of America is a white nation. That's how we got to the Norway example. Why don't we have more people from Norway? Now, Senator Durbin was saying there was more explicit conversations about Europeans.


BALDWIN: Let's bring more from European nations.

WALSH: This is the whitening of America and this has been the project of some people, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for a long time.

CUPP: Well, look, TPS, the visa lottery program, those are policies that are debatable and we should have those debates.


CUPP: It's hard to do it when this kind of language gets thrown into the mix.

BALDWIN: What about what's on the table now, or what's actually not on the table, it sounds like, right now? But still, it's like this deadline is Friday. You have the Democratic base all fired up, right? You have these Democratic leaders, many of whom who want to be re- elected, listening to the base, thinking, what's going to happen to me if I somehow try to make a deal with these Republicans, especially after all of this s-storm has happened?

CUPP: Well, yes, I mean, Democrats needed a Hail Mary to be honest, and they got one. When Trump said what he said and I believe the reporting, I believe Lindsey Graham, I believe Dick Durbin.


WALSH: Right.

CUPP: So, they got it, because, look, they were coming on this deadline. Republicans, regardless of what Donald Trump said that he was going to sign, were not going to allow this president to make the first immigration move he made, a clean Dreamer bill. That was never going to happen. Democrats were never going to get something for nothing.

So, Republicans had to come back and say, whoa, whoa, whoa, you know, let's slow down, you're not just going to get everything you want without us throwing some things in there too. So, some of this was just politicking, but it definitely got muddied up by these comments which come, you know, on the back of many, many other comments and general skepticism about, you know, the tolerance levels of this White House and this president.

BALDWIN: So, what happens if you have a Democratic base that's so totally fired up and this deadline is Friday and they want this clean DACA bill and pigs may be flying before any of that happens, would they be willing to not fund the government? Essentially to have the government shut down and we all remember that from a couple of weeks ago.

WALSH: Right.

BALDWIN: Are they willing to do that over this issue?

WALSH: I think a lot of them are. I don't know that all of them are, but a lot of them are. It still doesn't have to be that way, though, Brooke. I mean, Senator Lindsey Graham just today, just about an hour ago, said, we have a bill and we can pass this bill with Democratic votes. This is kind of what happened back in 2013, when the Senate had a

really good bipartisan -- lots of bipartisan support for immigration reform and then the house refused to take it up because they knew it would pass with Democratic votes. So, now, the burden is going to be on the Republican leadership of the House and the Senate to see if they're willing to bring a bill forward that could win, that contains compromise, some people want it -- some Democrats wanted a clean DACA bill, right? Then, they're going to have to put up with some border security and even a little wall funding in this compromise.

But I think that they would -- I think they would pass that.


WALSH: The question is, it would require a lot of Democratic votes and they would lose a lot of Republican votes.

BALDWIN: It's the question.

CUPP: But I think if "The New York Times" -- "The New York Times," "Washington Post" editorial saying, Democrats, take the wall -- give them the wall. Call it a wall, whatever, to get Dreamers protected.


CUPP: I think when you have those voices out there, it's going to be hard to win this if you don't do that, if you're Democrats.

BALDWIN: All right. S.E. and Joan, thank you both so much.

WALSH: Thank you.

BALDWIN: We shall see.

[14:25:00] Breaking news now, "The New York Times" is reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller is issuing a subpoena for Steve Bannon. This is first-known grand jury subpoena for a member of the president's inner circle member.

Also ahead, this house of horror in California. A couple has been accused of holding their 13 children captive. Really it was torture, some reports are indicating, right? Some of these young people shackled to furniture with chains. Their freedom coming at the hands of a sibling, who was brave enough to escape and call police. We'll talk to a neighbor of the family coming up.


BALDWIN: Breaking new details about the 13 siblings police say were held captive inside their California home and tortured by their own parents.