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Schumer Withdraws Offer on Trump's Border Wall; Comey Interviewed in Mueller Probe of Russia; White House Press Briefing Lauds Companies Giving Back to Employees; Trump Will Travel to The World Economic Forum. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 23, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Congressman Gonzalez, nice to have you on.

REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ (D), TEXAS: Good to be here, Brooke. Nice to see you.

BALDWIN: Congressman, Senator Schumer had agreed initially to put Trump's request for a $20 billion wall, put all those chips on the table as part of negotiations when they met in the oval last Friday. Are you OK with a deal that includes a $20 billion wall?

GONZALEZ: Well, obviously, I'm not. I'm against the wall. I've been saying that from the beginning. My district borders on --

BALDWIN: Do you think Schumer made a mistake then? Do you think that was a mistake?

GONZALEZ: I believe that's something -- that's a little too much to put up as part of negotiations. Yes, I'm against any type of construction of a brick and mortar wall, which ultimately won't bring us real border security. When we talk about a border wall I've been telling the president and others in my party, we should be talking about a virtual border wall. A wall through arrow stats and videos, with cameras and sensors and maybe more boots on the ground, better infrastructure. That's real border security. The idea of a brick and mortar wall is a very simple idea that will be breached and $25 billion of our taxpayers' money will be spent on something that ultimately won't bring us the border security that we're looking for.

BALDWIN: On the other hand, I don't know how the president would feel about a virtual wall. I'm guessing that's a no go for him. But on the other hand, if leader Schumer is taking this wall now off the table, did that just blowup negotiations before it starts up again?

GONZALEZ: I certainly hope not. We have a bill called the Smart Act that was sponsored in the House that talks about a real border security through a virtual wall. I hope both Democrats and Republicans look at it as a good bill that brings real border security without an antiquated idea that ultimately won't bring security to the border. A brick and mortar wall -- it'll be a $25 billion investment that we'll look back on 20 years from now and think what crazy thing were people thinking back then? People will tunnel under it. They'll cross over it. It will be a waste of taxpayer dollars and I'm against that.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about DREAMers. I don't know if you heard or the people watching heard the director of OMB, Mick Mulvaney, on CNN this morning describing the president's stance on DREAMers. Here he was on CNN.


MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: We want a large agreement. We want a big deal that solves the reason that we have a DACA problem in the first place.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Just say what his position is on it. How do they get to stay? Who gets to stay?

MULVANEY: Again, depends on what we get in exchange. What do we get for our border security?


BALDWIN: His stance depends on what we get in exchange. Is that an acceptance answer, Congressman?

GONZALEZ: That's the problem. They've been wishy washy from the get- go. It's no difference than what Senator Schumer said, we're negotiating with Jell-O. We need somebody with a spine to talk to. We need to put something down on paper. We should have an agreement when we get together. When we walk out of these hearings I think we should have a memorandum of understanding of what we generally agree on. These negotiations have just been horrible. They've been very ineffective. And it's really a disservice to the American people. I hope we can get back and have real negotiations in good faith to try to reach a solution for DREAMers. I've been fighting for DREAMers since I came to Congress. I will continue fighting for that. I hope in the next 30 days we reach an agreement that finally gets them into a path to citizenship.

BALDWIN: 87 percent of the country agrees with you, Congressman. We wish you luck, and we will be watch very, very closely how you all come together in these next couple of weeks. Thank you so much.

GONZALEZ: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Any moment now, that White House briefing will begin. We know many questions will be headed toward Sarah Sanders, including the fact that we've now learned that the former FBI director. James Comey. and AG, Jeff Sessions, have both been questioned by the special counsel, Robert Mueller and his team. How they respond to that and so much more, coming up.


BALDWIN: White House briefing set to begin here at any moment now. Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders expected to face questions. Several major developments in the Russia investigation as we have learned just really in the last hour. That special counsel Robert Mueller's team has interviewed fired FBI director, James Comey. We just learned that a bit ago. We also have learned today that they also interviewed the AG, Jeff Sessions, last Wednesday.

So, I get to talk to David Chalian, our CNN political director, Shelby Holiday, business and politics reporter for the "Wall Street Journal." So, as we wait for Sarah Sanders, David Chalian, tee us up a little bit. I mean, on the Comey interview with the Mueller team from a year ago, and that does tell us that this investigation is certainly moving on along. Let's talk about those memos. Right, those contemporaneous memos that Comey kept as he was FBI director and the significance of those memos as it relates to an obstruction case.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I mean dramatically so in some cases. Right. The first one you remember after his Trump Tower meeting during the transition, get in the car and start banging out a memo. Listen, it's no surprise, right, Brooke, that Bob Mueller, would speak to Jim Comey. You wouldn't be able to sort of fully explore an obstruction of justice case surrounding Comey's firing if you weren't talking to Comey, especially with his keeping of those memos. So, I don't think anybody is terribly surprised that he spoke to them. But as you noted, it shows the sort of how far down the road we are with Bob Mueller in this investigation. Have the Attorney General into the mix. And just a larger point as we watch and wait for Sarah Sanders to take that podium there, you know, what government shutdown, right? You would think --

BALDWIN: So, 24 hours ago.

CHALIAN: It's like, amazing, right? This White House feels that they scored a victory over the Democrats. I'm sure they want to extend that as much as possible, over the shutdown issue. Putting together their priorities on immigration. Wanting to lay out what the next few weeks are like. Teeing up the state of the union address coming next week. And instead here we are again where they are going to be hammered with question after question. I'm sure Sarah Sanders won't answer them. She'll punt them but question after question about the Russian probe.

BALDWIN: What do you think? What do you listen for?

[15:40:00] SHELBY HOLIDAY, POLITICS AND BUSINESS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, I agree. And you know, I wasn't that long ago, maybe last week, that Sarah Huckabee Sanders called this probe a hoax. So, it'll be interesting to see what she says today you know legal experts say that usually investigations start on the periphery and move in toward --

BALDWIN: Smaller fish to larger fish.

HOLIDAY: Exactly. Inner circles.

BALDWIN: Comey's and Sessions'.

HOLIDAY: So very interesting but not surprising that Comey has spoken to Mueller. Sessions it is definitely a big one, we're sure he was questioned about two different things, obstruction of justice and the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia that he knew about throughout the campaign.

BALDWIN: That he didn't fess up to initially.

HOLIDAY: He didn't fess up to initially. That is a big one. We are also hearing reports that Mueller's team will want to talk to the president, presumably the next big news event here. How will that happen? When will it unfold? We heard the president's team wanted to do this over writing. Prosecutors say Mueller would never go for that. When that happens and how that happens would obviously be of great interest and also a signal that this investigation could be wrapping up as the president's lawyer said.

BALDWIN: What do we know about that, David Chalian?

CHALIAN: Not much. We don't have much insight room into Mueller's timeline here and it's all tea leaf reading. The not a real sense because he hasn't -- it's pretty opaque. He hasn't been updating us with progress reports or what have you.

It's pretty closely held. I will say though, if you watch, look at the fact pattern here. He did White House staff, closest staff inside the West Wing around the president. Now we are learning about the first cabinet member in Jeff Sessions being interviewed. It is likely, I think -- I totally agree -- that we're headed toward an interview with the president and how and when that happens, that is going to be a huge moment in this entire story.

BALDWIN: On that first cabinet member on Jeff Sessions who has, as we now know, been interviewed by the Mueller team, let's remind everyone what he sounded like when he went before those different congressional committees and his penchant for not recalling things. Here you go.


JEFF SESSION, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I do not recall such a conversation. I don't recall it. I don't recall. I don't recall. I don't recall. I don't recall it. I don't recall that. I don't recall how that exactly occurred. I do not recall. I did not recall this event. I don't recall. I don't recall at this moment, sitting here, any such discussion.


BALDWIN: In fact, he has had to return before the senate judiciary just to correct testimony. So, from the "I don't recall" Chelsea on Capitol Hill to Mueller interview behind closed doors what's different about it, do you think?

HOLIDAY: I don't recall is an easy way --

BALDWIN: Shelby. What did I say?

HOLIDAY: I don't know. BROWN: I had Chelsea on the brain. She wrote the segment. Shelby.

HOLIDAY: One thing that comes to mind is that Governor Christie gave an interview a couple weeks ago and she said Jeff Sessions is not a forgetful person. He's with it. He gets it. Those comments were weird time and time again. He had his own conversations with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. He knew about Papadopoulos' trip to Russia. Did he know about the Trump Tower meeting, did he know about the cover-up for the Trump Tower meeting? He was also directly involved in the firing of Comey. And perhaps some of the attorney general's --

BALDWIN: Special Counsel's questions?

HOLIDAY: Yes. He is involved in a lot of different things.

BALDWIN: He's a valuable target.

HOLIDAY: Makes sense he was questioned for hours. We don't know if that's the end of the questioning. That's the other thing. People say I know how you journalists love to speculate but we do not know.

BALDWIN: We don't know. We don't know.

CHALIAN: But I don't recall, Brooke, might work in Congress. But I don't recall is not going to work so well with Bob Mueller in his investigation.

BALDWIN: No, it is not. No, it is not. All right. Let me have the both of you, let's say pause on this conversation, let's get a quick break in and we are waiting for the White House briefing to begin hopefully any moment now. Stick with us, were back in a moment.


BALDWIN: We will get to that White House briefing as soon as it begins. But let's talk about this. Vice President Mike Pence, he is flat out denying reports that then private citizen Donald Trump had an affair with a porn star, and had his attorney pay her hush money. While this porn star, Stormy Daniels is capitalizing on her new notoriety, Daniels appeared at a strip club over the weekend in Greenville, South Carolina.




BALDWIN: The owner will not tell us how much he paid her or how much he made, but he said he booked her as soon as he saw published reports of this alleged affair.


JAY LEVY, OWNER, THE TROPHY CLUB: Called her agent. They said the only thing she has open is this Saturday night, I said done. At that point, I didn't even realize it was the inauguration anniversary or the other stuff that was going on. I'm not a showman. I'm a promoter. Tonight is a performance burlesque if you will, a strip tease show, whatever you want to call it. There's no politics involved. I happened to be dumb lucky with when it's happening.


BALDWIN: The owner claims there are no politics involved. He was quick to copyright this slogan for Stormy's appearance at his club. Stormy still staying silent on this alleged affair. David and Shelby are back with me. David Chalian, let's stick to politics here. And who is not speaking up.

CHALIAN: We're going to read the banner of the new slogan.

BALDWIN: You can if you would like to. Mike Pence is -- oh, here we go. Sara Sanders.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president, a couple of updates here before we get started. The president has been briefed on the shooting at Marshall County High School in Kentucky. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families there and we offer our sincerest appreciation to the heroic Marshall County deputy who apprehended the shooter. More updates before we bring up a couple of special guests.

I would like to leave no doubt where the White House stands on the Flake, Graham and Durbin agreement on immigration reform. In a bipartisan meeting here at the White House two weeks ago we outlined a path forward on four issues, serious border security, end to chain migration, cancellation of the outdated and unsafe visa lottery and a permanent solution to DACA. Unfortunately, the Flake, Graham, Durbin agreement does not meet these benchmarks.

In fact, it would not secure our border, encourage more illegal immigration, increase chain migration and retain the visa lottery system. In short, it's totally unacceptable to the president and should be declared dead on arrival.

[15:50:00] The president has been extraordinarily consistent on immigration and what his priorities are. His views are shared by the vast majority of the American people and have bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Moving along, we have some incredible economic news to share today. JPMorgan Chase announced this morning because of the Trump tax cuts, they will raise wages for 22,000 of their employees, create thousands of new jobs and increase small business by lending $4 billion. In total, these moves are part of a $20 billion investment plan for which JPMorgan Chase directly credits the passage of the tax cuts and jobs act, as well as the president's historic efforts to rolling back job- killing regulations.

Also, Disney announced that over 125,000 employees will receive a $1,000 cash bonus. And the company is investing $50 million into a new employee education program. Lastly, Verizon announced today that all of their employees, other than the top management, will receive 50 shares of restricted stock. This amounts to about $2500 per employee. Employees will further share in the company's success, Verizon said in the release.

We're only one year in and the president is just getting started. We're pleased to see that our great American workers and families are already feeling the positive effects of the president's policies. As you know the president will be traveling to the World Economic Forum later this week, so I brought in a couple of special guests to preview that trip. NEC Director Gary Cohn who played a major role in the tax reform effort and National Security Adviser, General HR McMaster will discuss the trip and answer questions specific to that topic and I'll be up with more information and to take your questions. Thanks. General?

GARY COHN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Thank you very much. Good to see everyone. Thank you, Sarah. It is great to be here with General McMaster my cohort in briefing you guys. As Sarah said, we're going to the World Economic Forum to share President Trump's economic story and to tell the world that America is open for business. We want the world to invest in America and to create jobs for hard working Americans.

President Trump's economic agenda has unleashed the U.S. economy and we are growing. His policies have led to a rising stock market, low unemployment and strong GDP growth. The administration's commitment to deregulation and our passing of comprehensive tax reform have helped level the playing field for our businesses and our workers. As a direct result, President Trump's tax reform and tax cuts, over 100 companies have announced policies that will create jobs, benefit our workers and grow our economy.

This story will only get better as we continue to invest and rebuild America's infrastructure. At the World Economic Forum, we will reiterate America's commitment to domestic and global economic growth and prosperity. Strengthen close ties with other world leaders and catalyze international business support for the president's business agenda. President Trump will reiterate that a prosperous America benefits the world. When the United States grows, so does the world.

The president will continue to promote fair economic competition and will make it clear that there cannot be free and open trade if countries are not held accountable to the rules. As the president has said repeatedly, America and his administration supports free and open trade, but it needs to be fair and reciprocal. We will now share a little bit about the president's schedule and the economic agenda and then I'll hand it over to General McMaster to discuss our national security priorities at the World Economic Forum and the president's meeting with world leaders.

The president departs tomorrow evening and arrives Thursday morning local time in Switzerland. On Thursday, he will have a variety of meetings with world leaders and a quick meeting with the Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum. On Thursday night, the World Economic Forum will host a reception with world leaders to honor the president. Later on that night the president will host a small dinner with select European companies to share our economic success story and to encourage them on continue to invest in America.

The attendees run companies that have sizable footprints in the United States. They have invested in our economy and we want them to continue to do so and encourage others to join them. The president looks forward to hearing from these CEOs and how his administration can help them continue to grow their businesses in the United States. On Friday he will have more meetings with world leaders, and then he will deliver his speech that will emphasize everything we've talked about today. Now I'll hand it over the General McMaster to talk about the meeting.

[15:55:00] GENERAL HR MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Good afternoon everyone. The president will use this travel to the World Economic Forum to reiterate his commitment to mutually beneficial partnerships, and as Gary said, to fair and reciprocal international economic systems. As the president has repeatedly said and has made clear in the national security strategy, economic security is national security. The president will also use his time in Davos to discuss other national security issues including the international effort to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. Our coalition to defeat ISIS. Our efforts to counter Iran's destructive agenda to perpetuate violence across the greater middle east as well as Iran's ballistic missile activity and the fundamental flaws in the Iran nuclear deal.

On Thursday the president will meet with Prime Minister May of the United Kingdom to discuss the conflict in Syria, Iran's destabilizing behavior, ways to address the short comings in that Iran nuclear deal, and our shared goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. He will also meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel to reiterate America's strong commitment to Israel and efforts to reduce Iran's influence in the middle east and ways to achieve lasting peace.

On Friday, the president will meet with the President Kagame of Rwanda who is currently the chairman of the African Union to reaffirm the U.S.- Africa relationship and discuss shared priorities including trade and security. He will also meet with the President Berset of Switzerland. The host nation for the World Economic Forum to discuss bilateral investment, economic growth and innovation.

In all his meetings the president hopes to increase economic opportunities for the American people, to build partnership to address common security goals, and to find new ways of reforming international and regional organizations to make them more effective and more accountable. The president looks forward to a very productive trip on behalf of the American people. Thank you.

COHN: He outranks me, so he said I had to come up here first. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First question. As far as economic growth. We just have a litany of businesses that are going to give back to the American people. Isn't it unfair to give the president credit for that? They had that money in their coffers, right? They would have not turned it loose otherwise? And then I had a second question for him. COHN: I disagree with your premise completely. Look. If they had

their money in the coffers, they could have done it last year or the year before or the year before. It seems like, not seems like, since we have passed the tax reform plan, all these announcements have been made and if you look specifically at the words in most of these press releases, all of them are talking about the regulatory relief which we saw in the JPMorgan announcement and we've have seen the tax plan mentioned directly, that companies now feel more comfortable about the economic position they're in. They feel better about the U.S. economy. They feel more confident about their earnings. And they feel like the lower tax rate allows them to share more of their potential earnings with their employees. So, I think there's a 100 percent correlation between what we've seen, almost close to 200 companies do, and what we have done from a regulatory standpoint and a tax policy standpoint.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And my follow-up question to General McMasters. You mentioned North Korea. They have said they're in talks with South Korea. Has the president's policy led to where we are now? And how big of a threat is North Korea now compared to the even three weeks ago?

MCMASTER: Well, as President Moon has said, it is the president's policy. His ability to rally international support behind the campaign at maximum pressure that has made a significant difference. What you see that's fundamentally different from a year ago is the common commitment across all nations that denuclearization is the only acceptable outcome on the peninsula. Second, that the international community and China in particular does have a great deal of coercive economic power to be able to bring to bear to this.

The third element is that everyone recognizes we can't repeat the mistakes of the past. To fall for what in the past has been the North Korean ploy, to create the illusion of success in talks and to use to it lock in the status quo as the new normal, while they continue to pursue these programs with undiminished vigor. So, the danger is growing. And I think it is important for all of us to recognize the North Korean regime for what it is and how grave a threat this is to the world.

COHN: One other thing. Let me follow up. On the wage increase, the hourly wage is going up that is obviously coming out of future earnings and the stock grants or obviously companies making an investment in their future. Go to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gary, I have one question for you and one for the general. So, the president is traveling to Davos to present his America First agenda. How can one square an America First agenda with goals of increasing trade? The president has spoken many times of trade deals and other international agreements in which the U.S. is being ripped off and other countries are laughing at us. Does he believe that all of these negotiations and agreements are inherently zero sum? And for America to come first do other countries have to take a back seat? Or can agreements be truly win-win?

COHN: Look, the president believes we can help truly win-win agreements. America first is not America alone. I said in my remarks when we grow the world grows. And when the world grows we grow. We are part of the world economy. And the president believes that. He is going to talk to world leaders about making sure we all respect each other, we all abide by the laws, we all have free, fair, open and reciprocal trade.

And if we live in a world where there are not artificial barriers we will all grow when we will all help each other grow. And the president truly believes that, you went to the G7, he went to the G20, he went to NATO, he went to APEC. He's gone to the UN, he's talked about these positions consistently, and this is exactly what the president is going to talk about at the World Economic Forum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One for the general, also. General McMaster, there have been reports I think it was recently that authoritarian leaders in other countries particularly in southeast Asia, are using one of the president favorite phrases, fake news, to describe reporting that is not flattering and reflects poorly on their country, reporting inconvenient truths. And President Trump has made a point of not publicly talking about things like human rights and freedom of speech, freedom of expression, is he concerned at all, or are you concerned that the president rhetoric combines with of silence on these issues --