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No Wall No DACA; Kentucky School Shooting; Pennsylvania Representative Denies Harassment Claim. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired January 24, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:32:24] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So where are we this morning on immigration? Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, has pulled his offer he says to provide money for the border wall that the president wants. The president responded writing this, crying Chuck Schumer fully understands, especially after his humiliating defeat, that there is no wall, there is no DACA.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Suzanne Malveaux is on Capitol Hill and joins us.

Am I missing something or are we back to totally square one?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really feels like we're back to square one, right, because you have Mitch McConnell saying that this is a fresh start. At the same time, you've got the White House saying that this is a dead on arrival deal when it comes to DACA, the bipartisan deal. And you've got Chuck Schumer also saying that the offer he had to fund the border wall has now been rescinded.

The folks I talked to here say it's going to get worse before it gets better. That the red-hot rhetoric just has to play its course here. But it's extremely frustrating that they are really not yet making progress here. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican who was co-author of that bipartisan deal, putting -- making this statement saying, one thing I would say to the White House, you better start telling us what you're for rather than what you're against. You've been all over the board. You haven't been a reliable partner and the Senate's going to move. Please be constructive as we move forward. Literally pleading with the members of the White House to get their acts together or get on the same page as the president.

Also had a chance to talk to Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat of West Virginia, a key person who negotiated the reopening of the government with Republican Susan Collins, and he, too, responding to this hot rhetoric saying, tone it down, cooling it down, having this message, delivering this message to the president about the issue of whether or not there is even going to be a DACA deal.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: The deal -- the deal of making sure that these DACA children can stay in the only home they know as America is very much on the table. That's very much the whole catalyst of what we're doing here. I don't think there's a Democrat or Republican. I spoke to the president two days ago. He's very much committed. He's very sympathetic. He wants this to happen. It's just all the things they want to put on. Everybody wants to go with the grand fix of everything behind.


MALVEAUX: John and Poppy, you should also know that the House is in recess. The Senate is also going to be in recess this afternoon. Many of them are going to be going home. I asked Manchin about that, why aren't people sticking around? You've got these deadlines here, of course. He says he doesn't necessarily think it's a good idea. He and a small group of bipartisan folks will be working together in the next couple of days.

John. Poppy.

HARLOW: All right, Suzanne, appreciate the reporting. Thank you very much.

Our panel is back.

Alex, to you first. Schumer says no wall. Funding that's off the table. Trump says no wall, no DACA. So now what?

[09:35:05] ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think we ought to be pretty skeptical of both of those hard lines.


BURNS: And Chuck Schumer's under a lot of pressure from his own caucus, from activists on the left. The president, obviously, always wants to maintain what he perceives to be the upper hand.

HARLOW: So they're like wiggly, gray lines?

BURNS: Right. This is a -- I don't want to say it's all smoke and mirrors, but this is a lot of positioning for an event negotiation. If we take a step back from just sort of the day-to-day, you know, trading of blows here, there are basically three potential outcomes here. They could strike a deal that trades DACA protection for some kind of ramped up border security and maybe some other changes to the immigration system. The president could bump the deadline for a deal past March 5th, you know, further into the spring, say we're making good progress but we need more time, or you could deport hundreds of thousands of kids who have been protected by DACA, right? Of those three possibilities, only one of those is widely regarded as a disaster by virtually all sides here. That's the third one.

So I think that we ought to be skeptical of anyone suggesting we will not strike a deal under any circumstances, or this is an absolute red line that we will never cross.


BERMAN: You know, Bianna, it's interesting, Lindsey Graham -- and, by the way, there's a legitimate question about what happens to Lindsey Graham in all of this.


BERMAN: But Lindsey Graham says to the White House, you better start telling us what you're for instead of what you're against here right now. But I'm not sure they're going to get what -- you know, he's going to get what he wants on that.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, and maybe we're going to see Lindsey Graham golfing with the president again and they will be buddy-buddy or not. But I think that sort of goes back to the heart of the issues is even Mitch McConnell said the president's got to tell us where he stands on this issue.


GOLODRYGA: When you talk about the DACA deadline, this is a self- imposed deadline that the president put forward. SO to not seemingly have a plan as to how he views this all playing out --


GOLODRYGA: I think is mind-boggling for many Republicans.

On the other hand, though, by him sort of sitting out and not being as involved, many say that's one of the reasons why, in fact, Democrats blinked, you know, and -- at least short-term Republicans can look like the victor.

HARLOW: It's really confusing, though, Matt Viser, for his deputies. I mean Kirstjen Nielson, DHS secretary, was on The Hill yesterday talking to lawmakers. Claire McCaskill is quoted as saying essentially it puts her in a very difficult position to lobby for something when she cannot tell me what the president supports and what she's lobbying for.

I mean how tough do you think he's making it for his own team? And if there's a strategy here, what is the strategy behind no clarity from the president?

MATT VISER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He's making it very hard on his team, much less the people he has to negotiate with. As Chuck Schumer sort of memorably said over the weekend, that it's like negotiating with Jell-O. And I think there's a case to that where it's hard to figure out where the president is on -- on these things. But he is a destroyer of legislation at this point, not a creator of it. And so that's a very important role in this.

And as these senators try to come to some sort of consensus, President Trump can certainly -- has the veto power and the ability to destroy whatever they come up with. So he needs to sort of be a little bit more proactive, I think, and sort of give people a sense on what are the things -- what does he want to see done. And he hasn't done that yet.

HARLOW: Yes. BERMAN: All right, a double dose of Matt, Bianna and Alex. Guys, thank you very, very much for being with us. There's a lot going on this morning.

There is a big question this morning in a very, very troubling development, why did a 15-year-old student open fire at his Kentucky high school? We're live.


[09:42:35] BERMAN: New questions this morning after a student opened fire in a high school in Kentucky, killing two students, wounding more than a dozen more. Today we know the names of those killed. Bailey Holt and Preston Cope, both just 15 years old.

HARLOW: So last night students and families all gathered for a vigil remembering the victims.

Our correspondent Nick Valencia is in Benton, Kentucky, with more details.

You know, Nick, as this was breaking yesterday on our show, you're thinking about this community, tiny community, 4,500 people, everyone knows someone affected.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, even the first responders, Poppy, that was mentioned last night during a very somber press conference by the local and state police. They highlighted one story specifically saying a first responder, a trooper that arrived at the scene, thought that the 15-year-old girl who died here at this high school yesterday morning was his own daughter. He had to be consoled. A lot of the first responders have to be consoled because some of them have kids that go to this school.

We got an update yesterday as well on the conditions of those who survived this shooting. We know there were 20 victims in all, two of those who were killed, 18 people injured, five of them still in critical condition recovering this morning from injuries from range in multitude. One of the injuries to a special needs kid. It's reported he may have to have his arm amputated as a result of this shooting.

But we're really hearing some really haunting details from eyewitnesses. One of them spoke to our affiliate KFSF.


JASON HALL, JUNIOR, MARSHALL COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL: When I went in, you know, I heard what I thought was banging on like a locker or something. I just thought it was a fight or something like that. Then I heard everybody else screaming and they all started running. And then I saw there was a lot of blood everywhere. And then people were getting shoved down. And so I just -- you know, I took off. I started running. You know, I was scared for my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VALENCIA: And what eyewitnesses describe to us is exactly that, hundreds of kids here, students running for their lives, in some cases sprinting 300, 400 yards across this country road right here behind this camera, trying to find shelter in local businesses.

And I spoke to one local business owner and he tells me the look of just sheer panic and shock on the face of these students after what they had just experienced, not saying anything to each other, just trying to process what they'd been through.

He highlighted the story of one girl who said she was in the commons area as this gunfire erupted just as school was starting. He said she was just inconsolable.

Poppy. John.

BERMAN: You know, Nick, so often when we see these things, Nick, there's the search for the why. Why did this happen? Is there any new information this morning on the events that led up to this?

[09:45:10] VALENCIA: That is the big question, John, here, why would somebody, a 15-year-old student, a boy who's not even old enough to drive a car, how did he get his hands on the gun, why would he do this? There are plenty of theories floating around this community. None of them have been substantiated or confirmed by the governor here. We do know that that 15-year-old, though, is expected to be charged with murder and attempted murder. One of the other big questions, though, however, is whether or not he's going to be charged as an adult. The state police tells me they're in consultations with attorneys here in the state to figure out what to do next.

John. Poppy.

HARLOW: Nick Valencia, thank you very, very much for being there, for your reporting. Our thoughts with all of those families.

So also moments from now a judge will hand down the sentence for former team USA Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar. One hundred and sixty- three of his victims of criminal sexual misconduct and abuse have addressed him in court all week.

BERMAN: Three more are speaking this morning. I believe these are live pictures right now as this continues.


BERMAN: Overnight, the NCAA opened an investigation into Michigan State University, questioning its role in all of this. This comes as some faculty members there have called for a no confidence vote in the university's president. There is a protest planned for tomorrow.

HARLOW: The sentencing's going to be live here any minute. So you'll see it.

BERMAN: It could happen. Yes, stay tuned for that. All right, a Pennsylvania congressman says he saw his former aide as a

soulmate. Is that a good explanation now that we've all learned his office taxpayer money paid out a huge settlement in a sexual harassment claim? Stay with us.


[09:51:14] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you pay her off using taxpayer money? That is the big question, why did you do that, congressman?

REP. PATRICK MEEHAN (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Because I wanted her not to walk out of the situation once it got engaged with attorneys in a way that was just going to be harmful. I paid a severance because I cared about her.


HARLOW: He could have used his own money, not taxpayer money.

But let's get a lot more on this. Republican Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Meehan admitting he used taxpayer money to settle a sexual misconduct complaint against him by a former aide. According to "The Philadelphia Inquirer," quote, the married 62-year-old expressed his romantic desires to his aide after she began a serious relationship with someone else, then grew hostile when she did not reciprocate.

BERMAN: But Congressman Meehan denies harassing her saying, as you will hear in a second, that they were soulmates. "The Philadelphia Inquirer's" Jonathan Tamari interviewed Congressman Meehan for 40 minutes yesterday. He joins us now.

This was a remarkable interview.


BERMAN: You know, read every word of it. That's my recommendation to everyone out there. He tried to explain his feelings for his aide. And this is what you write. He said, I was a happily married man and I was not interested in a relationship, particularly not any sexual relationship. But we were soulmates. I think that the idea of soulmate is that sort of person you go through remarkable experiences together.

He didn't see this as inappropriate?

JONATHAN TAMARI, NATIONAL POLITICAL WRITER, "THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER": Well, I think that it's -- it has not played very well with a lot of people who were waiting to hear his side of the story and that were -- had been responding to the initial reports of saying there are more facts to come out. I think quote in particular has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. And it was meant to be something to be exculpatory, to explain why this was not harassment, that this was innocent affection. But I don't think a lot of people are reading it that way today. HARLOW: So he felt that he had reacted poorly when she told him that

she had a significant other, a boyfriend. And so he writes her this long two-page letter which people can see in your story. And he talks about this moment where he goes to the Vietnam Memorial, Veteran's Memorial, finds the name of two soldiers, one with his last name,, Meehan, one with her last name, and here's what he writes in the letter. As I trace that moment with my finger, I wondered who they were and why their plans ended so sadly and abruptly. As we travel our paths together, I'm comforted there is more unwritten. What?

TAMARI: Yes, this is another one of those moments where I think that this was not the defense that I expected to hear when I knew that we were going to have the interview where it certainly sounds more of like a heart sick letter. If you look, the top of the letter does congratulate her on her new relationship --


TAMARI: But the rest of it certainly, you know, goes back to that claim that there was something more there.

BERMAN: So Speaker Ryan, you know, he's been removed. Congressman Meehan has been removed from the Ethics Committee, where he sat. You know, Speaker Ryan wants him to pay back the taxpayer money that was used to settle the claim.

HARLOW: Which investigates things like this.



BERMAN: He's still -- Congressman Meehan says he still plans to run for re-election. At least that's what he said yesterday. Given the reaction today, do you still think that's likely?

TAMARI: Well, he seems to be digging in. I think that, again, the initial response from Republicans was, well, let's wait for some more facts to come out and hear his side of the story. And now that they have, I think that is the next question is, how are Republican leaders going to react to this in Washington, in Pennsylvania.

What's ironic about this is that he was -- his district is a tough district for Republicans, but he was seen as one of the more stable or strong incumbents given his fundraising, given his presence in his district. And now this has really kind of -- could up ended things entirely over there.

[09:55:00] HARLOW: All right. Well, Jonathan Tamari, thank you very much. People should read your whole -- the whole transcript of the interview. It's fascinating and important. Thank you.

TAMARI: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: So a flurry is an understatement of new headlines on the Russia investigation. BERMAN: Yes.

HARLOW: Special Counsel Bob Mueller setting his sights on an interview with the president. The reporter who broke that story joins us next.


[09:59:54] BERMAN: All right, good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

Russia investigation followers don't blink because faster than President Trump can say no collusion it seems like another significant development drops. We now know what Special Counsel Bob Mueller wants to talk about and focus on with the president.

BERMAN: Yes. Sources tell CNN that the special counsel's interested in learning why.