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Trump Denies John Kelly's Comments on the Wall; Trump Tweets to Leave Children's Health Care Out of Stopgap; Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 18, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:20] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


The breaking news, new reporting and new evidence that the president is fuming. He just directly contradicted his chief of staff and declared himself completely unevolved. At least on the issue of the border wall he wants to build between the U.S. and Mexico.

In an early morning statement the president wrote, "The wall is the wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived it." Now that is not at all what Chief of Staff John Kelly told FOX News. In fact, it is the complete opposite.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: He has evolved in the way he's looked at things.


HARLOW: Apparently Chief of Staff Kelly also does not think his boss is very informed when it comes to the wall. He told a room full of members of Congress that the president was uninformed, his word uninformed, on the issue of the wall during the campaign.

Now a source familiar with all of the fallout from all of this this morning tells our Kaitlan Collins that has left the president fuming after listening to all that John Kelly said, that he hated his comments.

Kaitlin Collins, the one who broke that news. What else are you hearing?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Poppy. President Trump spent last night fuming after his chief of staff was on FOX News saying that his views on the wall and immigration had evolved since the campaign now that he has taken off and clearly we saw the result of that this morning on Twitter when the president directly contradicted what his chief of staff said.

But I'm told by sources inside the White House that the president hated John Kelly's interview last night where he said that his comments -- his views on the wall had evolved after he made similar remarks during those meetings with Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill yesterday where he said that the president's views on the wall and on immigration had been misinformed during the campaign but now had changed that he's in office.

But the president directly pushing back on that saying his views on the wall have not changed. He still wants a wall, he still wants Mexico to pay for it. And we're certainly seeing the backlash of that.

Now this is surprising because we don't often see the president contradict John Kelly. He always says he has great respect for him, he hopes he stays as his chief of staff for quite some time. And though he's contradicted people like his secretary of state, his spokesman, he rarely does so with John Kelly, and the two men often on immigration. But we're clearly seeing a break in that right now -- John and Poppy.

BERMAN: Any sense, Kaitlan, that there'll be repercussions for the chief of state, General Kelly, here? We've the president, you know, Steve Bannon said stuff about the president, he was excommunicated from Trump world altogether.

COLLINS: Exactly. If you look at the pattern of behavior before, any time somebody speaks out against the president or contradicts him or undermines him, it's something that can turn the president's attitude toward that person. We've seen that with people like Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, all the light, the people that the president has turned on.

We have not seen him do that -- do so with John Kelly. This isn't a clear indication that that will happen with this. But it certainly could be the one thing that sets the president off for his chief of staff -- John and Poppy.

HARLOW: Indeed. And Kelly said a whole lot more in that interview that we'll get into this hour.

Kaitlan Collins, thank you for the reporting.

Let's get to the White House now. Abby Phillip is there.

Can you see the president fuming? Is it coming through the windows?


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Early this morning the tweets came loud and clear. And I think the message was clearly heard. I think this is not going to be the last we hear from the White House on this issue. And it comes at a really critical time when the White House is trying to sort out this issue over DACA, the immigration issue, and also the government funding issue.

We're hearing a lot from the president this morning on both things. I think the idea that John Kelly right now is in a little bit of the doghouse on immigration is critical because, remember, he was tasked by the president with taking the lead on this issue. He went to the Hill yesterday in order to liaise with congressional lawmakers. And now he's being undercut by the president himself.

On government funding as well, you're seeing the president tweeting this morning a little bit about what he thinks he wants from a short- term spending bill. But meanwhile, let me just play a little bit of what John Kelly said last night that prompted from the president a rebuke on social media this morning.


KELLY: He's very definitely changed his attitudes towards the DACA issue and even the wall. He has evolved in the way he's looked at things. Campaign to governing are two different things.


PHILLIP: Now we will hear more directly from the president later today. He's going to be going over to the Pentagon and then later to Pennsylvania. I'm sure we'll have plenty of opportunities to hear directly from him a little bit about, especially on the pending issues on the Hill, what he thinks about it and how he thinks those issues ought to be resolved.

[09:05:06] BERMAN: Abby Phillip for us at the White House.

There's a great deal of confusion about that all of a sudden this morning.

HARLOW: Yes. Huge.

BERMAN: But not only is he contradicting his own chief of staff, he seems to be undercutting an effort from the Republican House leadership to pass a temporary spending plan to keep the government open. Everyone is confused now where the president stands.

Let's go to Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill for the very latest on that -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Poppy. Could a president's tweet undermine essentially and blow up the negotiations for the short-term spending bill? Very possibly.

In the next 24 hours, the president reversing his position. And this is what Republicans have been worried about for days now, tweeting out this morning -- I'm going to read this to you -- that CHIP, that is the Children's Health Insurance Program, should be a part of a long- term solution, not a 30-day or short-term extension. Why this is so important. You had House Republicans crafting what they thought they could get support for on the House side and the Senate side by providing six years of funding to this critical program.

And it's something that Democrats are on board with, Republicans, meant to sweeten the pot to get people on board with the short-term spending bill to swallow this, if you will, along with delaying taxes, Obamacare taxes on medical devices and extending the government for another month. What do people do now? This is the big question. Is this going to

impact those that they were able to bring to their side to say, OK, we'll take the short-term spending bill, we'll deal with DACA later, because we've got this critical program that is very popular, bipartisan and so many people want. Hard to reject.

Now the president who once said that, OK, it's good for the spending bill, is now saying no, it is not. So how does this play out? House Republicans are going to be getting together behind closed doors trying to figure out how to get the 218 critical votes on the House side. There will be a vote as expected later in the day -- late in the day between 7:00 and 8:00. We'll see how that goes.

And then, of course, John and Poppy, it goes to the Senate side to see if they've got enough Democrats which they critically need for that 60 supermajority vote to push it forward on the Senate side. It is far from clear whether or not the spending bill, short-term spending bill is going to pass now, what the president actually is pushing for, what he wants and whether the government is going to shut down -- John and Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much. Especially if that six years of CHIP funding is pulled.


HARLOW: That's how they were going to get some of these Democrats as they were.

BERMAN: And who knows where else we're going to be this morning if the president is fuming as is reported right now.

Joining us, CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN political analyst Amy Parnes, and CNN political commentator Matt Lewis.

You know, Nia, the news from Kaitlan Collins from the White House, the president hated the interview that John Kelly did last night, hated being called uninformed ever on the issue of the wall. Woke up this morning, directly contradicts him. You know, trouble in paradise.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Trouble in paradise indeed. I mean, John Kelly was somebody that the president has obviously praised, wanted to be his chief of staff, comes with, you know, kind of the image of being a general and taking control.

My initial thought about this was that Kelly went out there to reach the president. Right? You go on television to talk to the president.

HARLOW: That's stunning. From his own chief of staff.

HENDERSON: Yes. Yes. And you go on FOX News particularly to reach the president. And it seemed like it was a trial balloon, to try to move the president and really get the president to reckon with this idea that there probably isn't going to be a wall in the way that he thinks it's going to be the wall, with the capital W and, you know, from sea to shining sea.

And it clearly backfired and backfired in a big way. This president is insistent on what he wants, he hasn't changed, he hasn't evolved, and the wish list is something that's just not going to go over on the Hill.

BERMAN: I will say the president isn't saying this morning he still wants a 2,000 mile wall.

HARLOW: True. He said part of it is see-through, which --


BERMAN: He's saying he always wanted this new wall that isn't the whole thing, which isn't true.

HARLOW: So, I mean, Matt Lewis, we can't ignore Kelly's background, right, leading DHS. And he knows what's feasible and he knows what's not feasible. I think Nia's point is a really fascinating one, that he would have to go on cable news to talk to the president rather than just walking into the Oval Office in the way that the president will hear him. But what are -- to John's point earlier, what are the repercussions here? I mean, Is this something that would get Chief of Staff Kelly Bannoned, if you will, from the White House?


HARLOW: Or is this not even close?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think we're there yet. And I -- actually I think John has a really good point. You know, if, in fact, the chief of staff went on FOX News to get the president's attention and to move him in the direction of accepting the fact that you're not going to have a 2,000-mile wall, that there are some areas where geographically it just doesn't make sense. There are borders.

Donald Trump is now conceding that. You know, so I think Trump has evolved. He says I'm not evolving, he has. Those tweets today concedes that John Kelly actually was right, you don't need a -- you don't need or want actually, it's not practical to have a 2,000-mile wall.

[09:10:07] So maybe what Kelly did actually worked. Donald Trump is moving. Now he has to save face. He can't admit that he's being -- that he has evolved. So I think if you're optimistic here, maybe something good comes from this. Maybe John Kelly has a rough day at the office today. But I don't think he's Bannoned just yet.

BERMAN: Yes. John Kelly has had rougher days than this.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes.

BERMAN: Let's just say that --

HARLOW: Perspective is everything. For him it matters.

BERMAN: Right. He can take this I'm sure.


BERMAN: But it probably isn't comfortable.

Amy, and this is just part of what the president is doing this morning, undercutting his chief of staff, but also undercutting House leadership. They're trying to get a stopgap spending measure through. And as part of this deal, they wanted funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, six years.


BERMAN: And now the president says no.

PARNES: Right.

BERMAN: To that all of a sudden. He's saying no, we think, to the deal on the table. You know, what's the Paul Ryan thought bubble right now?

PARNES: And people are blowing their minds -- it's blowing everyone's minds on Capitol Hill because this is the second time this week that he's done this. He did this on the Senate side, this bipartisan immigration compromise. He came in and said no, you know, they worked so hard to kind of get this deal together and they couldn't quite make it happen. And now he's doing it again.

And I think a lot of lawmakers are frustrated. They're saying, OK, we're actually doing the deal-making here, we're negotiating with -- you know, on a bipartisan way, in the way you want things, and you're not -- you're getting in the way. And I think this is frustrating a lot of people.

I know I've been hearing from a lot of people in the last few hours who are kind of frustrated by the way things stand right now and they want things to kind of move ahead and they think the president is kind of getting in the way.

HARLOW: So Mitch McConnell in what I thought and still think this morning is a stunning statement that he was messaging the president as well directly saying we don't even know what the president wants. Let's listen to Mitch McConnell.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm looking for something that President Trump supports. And he's not yet indicated what measure he's willing to sign. As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.


HARLOW: Not just spinning our wheels. Here is how the White House responded to Chris Cuomo last night. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJ SHAH, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has been pretty clear about what it will take to get us to the next phase. There's been plenty of discussion back and forth and we'd be happy to contact the leader's office another time about this.


HARLOW: So, Matt Lewis, our other panelist tweets, "Why does Mitch McConnell insist on waiting for Trump to define exactly what he wants on immigration." Matt have a point? Who has the best point here?

HENDERSON: Well, you know, I think we know what he wants. We don't know what he will sign. Right? I mean, he wants a very long wish list of things, right? The $18 billion for the wall, an end to what they call chain migration, and end to the visa lottery. But will he settle for something less? Right? I mean, that's what Mitch McConnell was saying, this whole idea of what he will actually sign.

It's still unclear I think what he will settle for. And you heard Lindsey Graham talk about this, like, that, you know, you're not going to get everything you want in this deal if you're the president. You're going to have to give a little and get a little, particularly if there's a phase two of immigration reform which is something that seems unlikely now at this point, even though Lindsey Graham keeps talking about it.

BERMAN: And Matt Lewis, he just gave Senate Democrats a reason to vote against this.


BERMAN: He gave those swing states, those 10 Democrats running in tight races, however you want to look at it. He gave them a reason to vote no if they were looking for one. I can't quite believe that that's what the president was trying to do. You know, but does this make things easier for the Democrats now?

LEWIS: Yes, it absolutely does. Republicans are in a tough spot. We were already in peril of a government shutdown. And, you know, if you're Republicans you have to worry about like the Freedom Caucus people who are worried about the budget, you have to worry about the sort of national security hawks who don't think we're funding defense enough. And then you have to worry about getting Democrats -- why would they do anything to help Donald Trump and Republicans? They have incentive for not cooperating.

So it's a very delicate procedure here. It's almost a surgical thing to negotiate a deal like this if you're, you know, Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell. You're trying to very delicately put together this coalition, and at the 11th hour Donald Trump comes in and sends out a tweet that I think invites more chaos and invites people to sort of have an excuse to say, no -- and here is my question.

What I don't understand is this. Does Donald Trump realize that this was actually a six-year extension for CHIP? This is actually not a short-term extension?

HARLOW: I was wondering that.

LEWIS: Or does he just want to keep it as leverage for bargaining for a long-term budget deal? It's unclear to me if he understands this even.

HARLOW: That's a really good point. Because even though it's included in a short-term continuing resolution, it still spans six years. It doesn't change what it's included in.

In May, May 2nd of last year the president tweeted this. Let's pull it up. "Our country needs a good shutdown, in September, to fix this mess."

I don't know. Is that what he's asking for this morning, Amie, by all of this, by giving Democrats a reason to say no? Would there be any world in which he would want a shutdown?

AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it's hard to say. The thing that really is mindboggling is that Democrats in the House would force Democrats in the Senate to force this and the dominos would have fallen, and it would have been much easier to pass this thing going forward.

Now he's kind of stopped that from happening. The whole thing is kind of up in the air. I think that's why a lot of people are throwing their hands up in the air going why are you doing this in the 11th hour right now?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Look, Matt Lewis brings up a good point. Paul Ryan might be on the phone with the president right now explaining this to him like Paul Ryan had to explain the FISA issue with him last week. Within the next hour, we may see the president soften his language or maybe the House Republicans continue to push this. If the CHIP funding is still in there, no matter what the president says, maybe it doesn't change the equation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It may get to the 2018. Maybe some Democrats come along and that's what we've heard from Democrats. Democrats don't want to shut down the government. It's not on brand for the Democrats to shut down the government.

They believe in government. It's more of a Republican idea of shutting down the government. So, I mean, him throwing in these wrenches and these sorts of tantrums on Twitter is leaving everything a mess.

BERMAN: A quick show of hands as we go to break, do you think there's more likely a shutdown now more so than 30 minutes ago? Raise your hand if you think the answer is yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'll do maybe a small one.

HARLOW: Amie, where did you hand go?

PARNES: I'm on the fence. Anything can happen. I think they're willing to put something together maybe.

HARLOW: Thank you, guys. Thanks for rolling it with us this morning. We appreciate it, Kimberly, Amie, and Matt.

All right. So, the president's private attorney says the president is, in his words, very eager to sit down with Special Counsel Bob Mueller. But has anyone told the president that? He said something pretty different last week.

BERMAN: Plus, what is being called Steve Bannon's blunder. His reported slipup during a meeting with investigators on Capitol Hill. What wasn't he supposed to say and the scramble to save the seat. The president tiptoes around a closely watched race in Washington, D.C. He's now diving straight in. Why this will be a major test on if there will be an anti-Trump wave.



HARLOW: New this morning, President Trump's lawyer says the president is, in his words, very eager to speak with Special Counsel Bob Mueller in the Russia probe. That is a far cry from what the president himself said just over a week ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We'll see what happens. I mean, certainly, I'll see what happens. When they have no collusion, and nobody has found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview.


BERMAN: If as "Axios" reports Steve Bannon had what they call a major slip-up when he faced the House Intelligence Committee. He refused to answering a lot of questions, but did admit to talking to top White House aides while inside the White House about the controversial 2016 Trump Tower meeting that involved Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.

HARLOW: Joining us on all of this is Susan Hennessey, our national security and legal analyst. Susan, let's begin with the stark contrast between what Ty Cobb said and what the president said a few days earlier. How do you read this? Is this a public dance, sort of a public negotiation over what the president will do and won't do in a potential interview with Mueller?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: All right. So, we've seen the president shift his story over time, you know, they're happy to cooperate and then taking steps to potentially limit that testimony. Look, it's really hard to imagine that the president is genuinely eager to sit down with special counsel, you know, who is excited to sit down with federal investigators to answer sort of sensitive questions. You know, at the same time even Ty Cobb himself has expressed a little bit nervousness. He said, you know, I hope that this isn't a perjury trap in terms of the interview with Mueller. And so I think that there is a lot of evidence there that they might be saying that they are ready to talk to Special Counsel Mueller, but they are feeling pretty nervous about it.

BERMAN: Also interesting from Ty Cobb in this new interview, he says now that he thinks the whole thing will be wrapped up in four to six weeks. This timeline keeps changing. Before it was Thanksgiving, then Christmas. Now it's four to six weeks.

But there's another key data point just over the last 24 hours. Robert Mueller's team and teams for George Papadopoulos have delayed in a check-in that they had to do with a judge that was supposed to be this week. They pushed it back three months at least at this point, Susan. So, what does that indicate to you about the timing of this whole thing?

HENNESSEY: All right. So, Ty Cobb has sort of been perpetually predicting that we're right almost at the end of an investigation. It's really hard to tell and there is some contradictory evidence. So, the fact that they're delaying George Papadopoulos' sentencing does indicate that they think that this is going to go in at least until the end of April.

It's a little bit more difficult to know what to make of the fact that Mueller's team does actually appear to be looking to interview the president. Usually you wouldn't interview the principal actor that way until the very end of an investigation.

So, that's one thing that Cobb's team has pointed to as evidence that, hey, they are write, this is wrapping up. However, that's not the only reason why the special counsel might seek to interview Donald Trump, right?

He might be preparing to indict someone that he expected to call President Trump as a defense attorney or he might be wrapping up a minor part of the investigation instead of the entire investigation. So, definitely contradictory evidence, but more likely probability at this point is that it extends at least into the spring.

HARLOW: So, Steve Bannon wouldn't say a lot during his 10-hour testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee.

[09:25:02] But one thing he did say that is now being characterized as a slip-up is that, yes, I had conversations with senior White House staffers about that now infamous Trump Tower meeting with Kushner, Manafort, the Russian lawyers.

First question on that, if you're Special Counsel Bob Mueller and you hear that, Susan, what are you thinking? Are you thinking Bannon is much more of an asset for me now, Bannon knows things? He clearly admittedly had these conversations? What more do you want to know about this then? HENNESSEY: Well, so, it does reveal sort of an interesting difference in the strategy between Steve Bannon and someone like Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski seemed to indicate I'm not ready to answer these questions, I don't know the answer.

You know, Bannon has indicated in a lot of different places, you know, interviews with journalists and interviews with the House Intelligence Committee that he actually does have that underlying knowledge. It also goes to sort of this broad executive privilege claim that he's asserted to not answer.

You know, he might have a claim, although, it's questionable, to not talk about, for example, the contents of his communications. There really is no legal basis for somebody under a subpoena. He's not voluntarily appearing at that point, to decline to answer whether or not he had a meeting.

So, eventually, you know, you can characterize it as a slip-up, but eventually he was going to have to provide that information.

BERMAN: Susan, the ranking member on the intelligence committee said there were some interesting similarities between how Steve Bannon would not answer questions and Corey Lewandowski. Listen.


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: One other note of comparison here between Lewandowski and Bannon, it's not just that they refused to answer a question here or question there. Both of them drew exactly the same line. I don't think that's a coincidence.

We won't answer any questions that took place -- conversations, events that took place during the transition or during the administration and many conversations up to the present day. That's not a coincidence in my view.


BERMAN: He's sort of implying there that Bannon and Lewandowski have been instructed by the White House not to answer or answer in a certain way. Is there anything inherently wrong with that, Susan?

HENNESSEY: Certainly, it's possible that Lewandowski and Bannon's own counsel have been talking to one another or talking to the White House. Now, where they drew that line is a little strange on the notion that executive privilege covers the transition period. Not only is that controversial, actually, a federal judge ruled just the other week in a case related to Kris Kobach that executive privilege does not apply to the transition period.

One of the more interesting things in terms of whether or not Representative Schiff is implying that they are coordinating with the White House is that the White House appears to not sort of have its story straight regarding their legal argument. At the same time, that they've apparently been counseling Bannon and Lewandowski to not testify or potentially claim executive privilege, they've been allowing sitting executive branch officials to testify to sort of openly and answer questions.

So, they aren't setting a logical or coherent policy. It seems like they're just deciding if they want an individual witness to answer, you know, based on what they're worried about they might say.

BERMAN: Susan Hennessy, great to talk to you. Thanks so much.

Democrats up for re-election facing a big decision. Should they try to force a government shutdown or get on board with the Republican plan? Of course, we don't know what the Republican plan is anymore. We're going to speak to a key Democrat about that coming up.

HARLOW: Ahead of that, we're just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Will it be a record for the Dow? Romans knows all and she is here.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, guys. We have futures pretty much flat right now. Global markets are mixed. But what a day for the Dow yesterday, it crossed 26,000 and closed above there for the first time in history, in a record time, racing from 25,000 to 26,000.

You know, a lot of people are calling this the FOMO market, fear of missing out. Investors have been looking for a place to get in and haven't seen it while all of these records have been smashed again and again.

But I will tell you this is rocket fuel in the market, tax cuts and that's really leading to momentum here. A lot of big companies will make a lot of money because of those tax cuts. We'll tell you more about it right after the break.