Return to Transcripts main page

NEW DAY

Congress Not Yet Voted on Bill to Avert Government Shutdown; President Trump Gives Interview to Reuters; Interview with Congressman Adam Schiff of California. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 18, 2018 - 08:00   ET

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


RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: She sure can.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And so can you. Ronna McDaniel, thank you very much for being with us. You're always welcome on the show.

MCDANIEL: Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: All right, be well.

We're following a lot of news. What do you say, let's get after it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody else in America has a budget except the United States government. It's embarrassing.

CHARLES SCHUMER, (D-NY) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: We want to do everything we can to avoid a shutdown. It will fall on the Republicans' backs.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What happens, I think you only have one place to look and that's to the Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's very definitely changed his attitude toward the DACA issue and even the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When they have no collusion, it seems unlikely you'd even have an interview.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: White House counsel Ty Cobb saying President Trump is very eager to speak to Robert Mueller.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve has had very, very little contact with the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm really frustrated when witnesses talk to the media but they can't talk to members of Congress.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, January 18th, 8:00 in the east. Big test today for House Republicans as they vote tonight on that short-term spending bill to keep the government open. Lawmakers have less than 40 hours to avoid a shutdown. At this hour, it does not appear they have the votes. But anything can happen. Republicans and Democrats still struggling to find some common ground. Conservatives want more funding for the military. Democrats want protections for DREAMers. Neither are in the GOP's current stopgap measure.

CUOMO: The president is focusing on his border wall this morning, he's tweeting about it. General Kelly says he's evolved, the wall idea has changed. He says it has not evolved and it has not changed. Again vowing that Mexico will pay for it, but offering no proof on how they will. Sources tell CNN the president's chief of staff told Democratic lawmakers that Mr. Trump's promises as a candidate on the wall were, quote, "uninformed."

So let's discuss where that leaves us. We've got CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN political director David Chalian. Let's begin with the state of play on the shutdown. David Chalian, what do you hear where do things stand as the numbers continue kick down right underneath your face?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I've been back and forth on this throughout the week of thinking we're careening towards a shutdown. And yesterday I thought perhaps they were -- right now, I think it is safe to say there is no clear path to avoid a shutdown at this moment. Still, the House Freedom Caucus, the conservative wing inside the Republican conference, says that they do not have enough votes to give to Paul Ryan for him to pass this on Republican votes only. Republican leadership disagrees with that, Chris. They think they are going to get there with Republican votes only.

What to watch for today, watch to see if the vote for this is getting delayed at all, if we see any sort of side meetings popping up, because that would indicate leadership doesn't have all the votes they need and their confidence may wane in the hours as they go by.

CAMEROTA: So David, what time is it supposed to happen so we can watch for that?

CHALIAN: I don't know that the vote has a scheduled time yet, Alisyn. But watch throughout the morning on the Hill to see if -- you'll be able to tell real fast if you start seeing the House Freedom Caucus going into leadership and that negotiating is happening. That means leadership is still looking for votes.

CAMEROTA: David, go ahead.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's also a separate compromise deal on immigration floated by Bob Goodlatte on the Republican side in the House that there's talk of getting more traction and Paul Ryan is trying to arrange a listening session for members. So they're trying to advance that. That kind of goes to David's point about all kinds of side negotiations trying to get Republicans in the House to yes.

On the Democratic side you see the split, too. So there's obviously concern among some senators that this isn't the way to govern. Sure the conventional wisdom is that Republicans catch the heat for this if there's a shutdown. But we are in the new year in an election year, and there is hell to pay on both sides for a shutdown when Washington is not working and not doing its job. The tension there on the democratic side is the resistance movement among progressive Democrats who say, no, this is really where we have to draw this line in the sand over DACA and immigration as we challenge the president.

CUOMO: Go ahead, David.

CHALIAN: I was going to say, there's a new poll out this morning at CBS, I think it showed 57 percent of Democrats say that the Democrats in Congress should indeed not vote to fund the government if DACA is not part of it. So a majority of the Democratic Party is in the position of, it's OK if the government shuts down if DACA is not taken care of. The reverse, a small majority, 51 percent of Republicans say it's worth not going forward with funding the government if a wall is not included. So this is what you see in this polarized moment in America.

[08:05:006] CUOMO: Another issue that you have here is the disconnect between the White House and the ruling majority. Mitch McConnell laid it out. He said I just need to know what he thinks about immigration and then I know what to give him. That's unusual. Then there's another layer of it. General John Kelly goes on TV and says this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: 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, and this president is very, very flexible in terms of what is within the realm of the possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Except Donald Trump then this morning, right when we were talking about this issue on the show, starts tweeting, "The wall is the wall. It's never changed or evolved from the first day. Parts will be of necessity see-through, and it was never intended to be built in areas where there's natural protection such as mountains, wastelands, or tough rivers or water. The wall will be paid for directly or indirectly or through longer term reimbursement by Mexico," sounds like a contract language, "which has a ridiculous --" then he goes on to talk about NAFTA. David, what's the plus-minus on this obvious disconnect?

GREGORY: It's so strange, I think David would agree, to have a president and a chief of staff publicly so disconnected. When I think that Kelly is channeling Trump in some ways to say, look, he wants to get to a place of getting a big comprehensive deal, that he's the only one who can do it, and he's evolved enough to understand what the practicality is versus what he thinks the need is on the wall, and then the president doesn't back him up.

What I think is so interesting about what David laid out in terms of some of this new polling is that this immigration issue, compromise, realizing who we are as a country of immigrants, being compassionate about how we look at immigrants, versus demagoguery, nativism, scare mongering and fear of the other, this is the proxy fight of the Trump presidency. And that's what's really playing out. And you even see it in the disconnect between those two.

CAMEROTA: David Chalian, just one second, when John Kelly says the president is very, very flexible, I mean, like clay that immediately hardens. This is what the problem is. Flexibility is generally seen as an asset, it's a good thing to be open-minded. But the problem is, as everybody knows, he's very agreeable with whomever he's talking to at that moment, be it Lindsey Graham on the phone or somebody in a meeting, and then it changes. And so lawmakers have no idea. We've talked to them today. They don't know how to deliver what he wants and what he'll sign.

CHALIAN: This is even before he's president. This is the history of Donald Trump as negotiator throughout his business practice as well, that kind of whatever room he's in, that's how people talked about negotiating with him. So you're right to notice that.

And to see the president brush back his chief of staff this morning so publicly to me indicates Donald Trump believes -- he understands his connection with his voters and his base better than anyone else around him. John Kelly is not the one out there in the rallies that was saying we're going to build the wall and who is going to pay for it. So the moment somebody not named Donald Trump starts communicating for him in a way that he thinks is building distance between him and his most ardent supporters, I think that is why you see Donald Trump inserting himself this morning and brushing back his chief of staff.

CUOMO: David, you say that what he wants is a big win and to be able to say, look, I got something done no one else could. I think he'd probably be right to be thinking that, but do you think there's an alternative that he may in the alternative be thinking small ball -- I need to win on this wall. I need to be able to say I got the wall. I don't care what else is in this bill, I need to be able to say this, it was such a big part of my campaign. They'll kill me if I don't get it.

GREGORY: Yes, but I think he's going to find a way to say he got what he wanted regardless of what it is. This flexibility point, Alisyn, I think you have to then leave room on the other side, which is right, the last person he talked to. I won't be surprised if in the next day all of a sudden there's a DACA resolution and the president signs on. And maybe he doesn't even tell Mitch McConnell that he's decided, because the truth is Kelly can be saying one thing, he can be tweeting another, and then he can find a way to compromise on the wall and still declare it's this big, beautiful wall and everything that he always talked about which didn't have to be a contiguous wall all along. He is going to redefine this in a way that his negotiating mind is going to figure out. But I do think, Chris, I do think that's important. I do think winning on security or however he defines the wall is something that's critical to him.

CAMEROTA: David Chalian, David Gregory, thank you both very much.

[08:10:00] Obviously the clock is ticking. So also there's this revealing new interview with Reuters. The president sat down with them and he in it has said a lot of things. There's a lot of headlines coming out of it. He accuses Russia of helping North Korea somehow evade sanctions. Russia is it fighting back this morning. Joining us is Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason. He is the person who interviewed President Trump on this range of topics. Jeff, great to see you.

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Great to see you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: What jumped out at you? Set the scene for the atmospherics of this interview with you.

MASON: There were a bunch of different headlines as you said that came out. It was an interview with me and a few other of my Reuters White House colleagues. And we talked to him about North Korea. We talked to him about immigration. We talked to him about his exercise habits and about Jerusalem. So there were a lot of foreign policy headlines that came out of it. But I think some of the standouts were what you were just mentioning on North Korea. He believes that Russia is sort of offsetting any helping that China may be giving to the United States in terms of sanctions with North Korea, basically by providing fuel which is an issue that North Korea struggles with and needs from foreign providers.

CAMEROTA: So let me tick through a couple of these. Let me read for people who haven't read it yet. So on that Putin-Russia moment that you're talking about, "Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea," the president said. "He," Vladimir Putin, "can do a lot. But unfortunately we don't have a relationship. I think it's too bad. But unfortunately we don't have much of a relationship with Russia. And in some cases it's probable that what China takes back, Russia gives. So the net result is not as good as it could be." Did he build on that, did he expand on that about why we don't have a good relationship with Russia, because he has not often said that?

MASON: I think the context there, he didn't build on it much more than what we had in that story. But the context there of course is his chagrin over the Russia investigation and the fact he has wanted to have a closer relationship with Russia and has often been very dismissive of the finding of the intelligence community that Russia intervened in the 2016 election. So this is sort of a constant theme with him.

But more broadly I think he is frustrated that he's not able to make more progress on North Korea, and even though he is partially complementary of China for having helped, he feels the little bit of help China is providing is being offset by Moscow.

CAMEROTA: OK, so whether or not in terms of North Korea the U.S. should engage in talks, here is what he told you, "I'm not sure that talks will lead for anything meaningful. They have talked for 25 years and taken advantage of our presidents, of our previous presidents." He also then, in terms of North Korea, did go on to blame the three immediate predecessors, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, for failing to resolve the crisis. And a day after his doctor gave him a perfect score of a cognitive test suggested he had the mental acuity to solve it. "I guess they all realized they're going to have to leave it to a president that scored the highest on the tests," he joked. He's the only one who took this cognitive test. They didn't. He asked to take it, but what else did he say about that?

MASON: That was certainly a dig at his predecessors. But it's not uncommon for him to dig at his predecessors especially on North Korea. But anything else that he feels he unfairly inherited in the policy world, he'll strike out at Bill Clinton, at Barack Obama, George W. Bush for not having handled it. So it wasn't unusual for him to go in that direction, but it was certainly a bit of a quip and a dig that he brought in the reference to his mental acuity test.

CAMEROTA: But in terms of the larger issue, that he doesn't believe the talks with North Korea would help, so what's his suggestion? Did he explain what he thinks will move the needle?

MASON: Well, no. This is an issue where he has gone back and forth. At some point he's been very dismissive of the idea that talks with North Korea would be helpful, including when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has suggested it. Other times he has left the door open to that. He did not want to be specific as to whether he had any contact with North Korea's leader, but, again, he just sort of interpreted it as something that maybe he would be open to, but probably doesn't think would be helpful.

CAMEROTA: Jeff, what is his mood during this? This is basically his one-year anniversary this weekend. How did you find him?

MASON: He was in a good mood. He was certainly excited about the positive reports from his doctor about his health the day before. He wanted to talk about that. He was excited about how well he had done. We talked a little bit about his exercise regime or the lack thereof.

CAMEROTA: What did he say about that?

MASON: Well, he said he gets more exercise than people think. And then when we asked him about that, he listed the fact that he will run from the White House to another building on the White House campus. And I think run in this case means walk.

(LAUGHTER)

CAMEROTA: That's how I run, also.

MASON: Yes, exactly. He talked about the fact that he golfs a lot, which he does. But he also conceded he doesn't spend a lot of time on the golf course walking. It sounds like he uses a golf cart because he likes to get through with his game and proceed with meetings later at the headquarters. [08:15:07] But he did say he understood that he needed to lose some

weight and was open to dieting and was hopeful that perhaps the White House chefs would reduce his portions a little bit and take out some of the fatty ingredients.

CAMEROTA: There you go. It's a fascinating interview. Everybody can read it at "Reuters".

Jeff Mason, thank you very much.

MASON: My pleasure.

CAMEROTA: Chris?

CUOMO: All right. So, both Steve Bannon and Corey Lewandowski are refusing to answer questions about Russia meddling in the 2016 election. Is the White House restricting their testimony?

The top Democrat of the House Intel Committee joins us live next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Sources tell CNN the White House is working behind the scenes to restrict testimony by former Trump associates to congressional investigators. Both former White House strategist Steve Bannon and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, they both refuse to answers questions about the transition before the House Intel Committee this week.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. He is the top Democrat on the House Intel Committee.

[08:20:01] Good to see you as always, sir.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Is Steve Bannon coming back today?

SCHIFF: Well, he's supposed to come back. Whether he will or not, I can't say. At some point, he's going to have to come back because this broad declaration that I won't answer questions, not just about the transaction, but anything that happened after the campaign, including up to the present date, is unsustainable. And so, he's going to have to come back. He's going to have to answer questions.

And it's interesting what the White House tried to do yesterday through Secretary Kelly, and that is to say, well, we never asked him to invoke executive privilege. Now, technically, that's correct. But they did tell him keep your mouth closed. We don't want you talking about what happened during the transition or what happened when you were in the administration.

So, a bit of a misleading impression from those answers yesterday.

CUOMO: Is there any reason other than executive privilege that could be exerted -- exercised by the White House, by suggestion to Bannon for him not to testify?

SCHIFF: No. I mean, there's no legal basis at all. Now, executive privilege isn't going to apply to the broad majority of these questions --

CUOMO: Right.

SCHIFF: -- even if they do invoke it, but they certainly can't have it both ways, which is what Sara Huckabee Sanders and Secretary Kelly are trying to do. They're trying to say, we haven't invoked executive privilege, but we are instructing the witness not to answer. And you just can't do that.

CUOMO: Well, you can unless somebody checks you on it, and that's why do our job (ph).

SCHIFF: Exactly.

CUOMO: Let me ask you something, though. Why don't you know if Steve Bannon is coming today? He's under subpoena, is he not?

SCHIFF: He's under subpoena. As is sometimes the case with witnesses that we have compelled to attend, we don't know until we see the whites of their eyes whether they, in fact, show up.

I do want to make one other note of comparison here between Lewandoski and Bannon. It's not just that they refuse to answer a question here or answer here. Both of them drew exactly the same line, and 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.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: You're saying they used the same exact language?

SCHIFF: Well, they drew exactly the same point in which they refused to answer questions.

CUOMO: OK. Let me ask you thing. Is there any chance that Bannon is once again communicating with the majority and telling them whether to come today and what the deal is through counsel and you just don't know because you're on the Democrat side?

SCHIFF: You know, look, it's certainly possible.

CUOMO: Because that's what happened, right? That the majority counsel knew he wasn't going to answer certain questions and you didn't.

SCHIFF: That is true. Now, it may be that many of the majority members didn't know that as well, because you have to understand, the staff works for Chairman Nunes who doesn't participate in these interviews, but does answer to Chairman Nunes. That's the staff that would have reached any kind of understanding with Steve Bannon's counsel or the White House. And we are not privy to any of that.

CUOMO: Corey Lewandowski said, I'm not prepared to answer any of these questions. I'll come back.

Do you buy that?

SCHIFF: No, I don't buy that at all. Of course they're prepared. It would be malpractice for his lawyer to bring him into an investigative hearing and not prepare him for questions and expect somehow the committee is not going to be interested in asking him, what have you learned about the issue of collusion or obstruction of justice since you left the campaign in your conversations with anyone involved in the campaign, your conversations with the president?

Of course, those questions were anticipated and, of course, they were prepared. What they were prepared to do is say we're not going to answer, and for some reason, they expected they would have a docile majority to go along with them. And sadly that's exactly what they had.

CUOMO: But they did different things in deference to Bannon -- words I don't say very often, is that -- you know, he said I can answer, I've just been asked not to, so I'm going to respect that for now. Let me work with my counsel.

Corey Lewandowski said he wasn't prepared.

What does that mean? He doesn't remember any of these things. He needs somebody to help him remember what he must obviously know?

SCHIFF: It was the same in both respects. Bannon said, hey, I'm willing to answer questions, I'm just operating on the instructions from the White House. Lewandowski said, I'm willing to answer questions, I'm just not willing to answer them today.

So, the reality was, both witnesses have the freedom to answer the questions. They were not under any kind of claim of privilege exerted by the executive office. So they both of their own volition said, I'm not going to answer and they both said I'm not going to answer the same categories of questions. So, in the case of Mr. Lewandowski, we tried to find out, was this as a result -- did you discuss your testimony with the White House, with the president. He would not answer those questions and certainly not completely.

CUOMO: You're going to have to see, if this continues as a trend, we'll pick up on the conversation we had last time we spoke, which is you're going to wind up in court, right?

SCHIFF: We could. Now, the interesting thing, too, Chris, we had another witness in yesterday, a current executive branch official who answered all of our questions.

[08:25:05] CUOMO: Right.

SCHIFF: Answered questions about campaign transition and current work in the administration.

CUOMO: How do you explain that?

SCHIFF: Well, the only way to explain it is the White House is clearly treating Steve Bannon differently, and perhaps Corey Lewandowski the same way. In the case of Steve Bannon, it may be because they can't trust what he's going to say.

With these other people in the administration, they know very well exactly what they're going to say but with Steve Bannon, they don't. Steve Bannon may have an interest in getting back in the good graces of the White House, which may explain why he's willing to cooperate answer instructions from the White House.

CUOMO: One message to the next, what is your vote tonight in the house continuing resolution?

SCHIFF: My vote is a no. If we're not going to fix the DACA problem that the president created, we shouldn't be passing this bill. We ought to insist on it. The Republicans control everything. So they can do it without us. If they're going to come to us and ask for our help, we're going to insist on their resolving this mess they created and the uncertainty they inverted into the lives of hundreds of thousands of these Dreamers.

CUOMO: Well, there's political uncertainty also because, sure, they control with the House, but with the filibuster rule, they're going to need 60 votes. That's why the Democrats have been drawn into focus. That's the Senate, not the House, it's not your problem specifically.

Congressman, thank you for updating us on what's going on. We appreciate it as always.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: I'm going to tell you about "CUOMO PRIMETIME". You have a very big, exciting show coming up. Look, what you have time, Tom Steyer, Chris, that's tonight at 9:00 p.m.

CUOMO: It sounds better when you say it.

CAMEROTA: I mean, you're right --

CUOMO: I wasn't that into it, but now I am.

CAMEROTA: I hope you show up for this because I want to see this.

CUOMO: Me, too. Me, too.

CAMEROTA: OK. Meanwhile, the House planning to vote on the spending bill tonight that would keep the government open, but it's not clear Republicans have the numbers. A member of the House Freedom Caucus joins us next.