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Trump Meets with British PM at Davos Forum; Trump Says He's Eager to Talk to Special Counsel Under Oath; DOJ Warns House Intel Against Releasing FBI Memo; Trump: "False Rumor" That British PM And I Don't Get Along. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired January 25, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:15] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning everyone. I'm John Berman.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow. At any moment we will hear from President Trump amid the scenic Swiss Alps.
The president is in Davos, at the World Economic Forum. It is a gathering of the business elite that businessman Trump never got invited to. He is there, though, for the first time as president.
If he's as talkative as he was last night at the White House, we may hear a lot more about the Russia probe, what he thinks obstruction is and isn't, a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and why it's supposedly not a, quote, "big deal," to ask the acting head of the FBI how he voted.
BERMAN: At this moment he is scheduled to be behind closed doors for the British Prime Minister Theresa May. The cameras will be allowed in any minute now, we believe. The question is, what more will he say about his legal strategy in the Russia investigation because he provides some major tells when he surprised reporters at the White House, even beyond saying that he is eager to speak to investigators.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to talk to Mueller?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm looking forward to it actually.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You want to.
TRUMP: Here's the start. Just so you understand. There's been no collusion whatsoever. There's no obstruction whatsoever. And I'm looking forward to it.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: To reach a higher standard, you would do it under oath?
TRUMP: I would do it under oath, yes, absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Again, the president went even further than that, raising even more questions. He is in Davos right now. Will he say more?
Our Jeff Zeleny is there waiting.
Good morning, Jeff.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Poppy. You're right. President Trump did arrive here a little earlier this morning and he is on his way into that first meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May. We should see some pictures and perhaps some words from those two leaders shortly.
We know, of course, their relationship has been fraught with some tension over the weeks. The president, of course, was scheduled to go visit London. He pulled back on that. But the two leaders are meeting right now. But it is still the words, the president's own words from the White House last night before leaving to fly here overnight that are still reverberating all the way over here in Switzerland, particularly on the Russia investigation.
Now the president has said he is eager to testify. He also was asked if he believes Mueller will be fair to him. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think Robert Mueller will be fair to you in this larger investigation?
TRUMP: We're going to find out.
TRUMP: We're going to find out.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you concerned about --
TRUMP: Because here's what we'll say, and everybody says, no collusion. There's no collusion. Now they're saying, oh, well, did he fight back? If you fight back --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What is collusion? What's no collusion means?
TRUMP: You fight back, John. You fight back. Oh, it's obstruction. So here's the thing, I hope so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So the president right there talking about fighting back, talking about, you know, any talk of obstruction of justice is just simply him defending himself, so trying to get ahead of what he could potentially see coming there. But again, the moment after the president left the White House again to fly overnight here, one of his lawyers at the White House, Ty Cobb, tried to walk back a little bit of what the president said, particularly that he was indeed willing to sit down with those investigators and prosecutors from the special counsel's office.
This is what the president's lawyer said, seeking to clarify a little bit, if you will. He said, "While Mr. President was speaking hurriedly before departing for Davos, he remains committed to continued complete cooperation with the OSC," of course that's the Office of Special Counsel, "and is looking forward to speaking with Mr. Mueller."
Of course, the point here is the lawyers are still trying to negotiate the framework around any of these meetings in terms of the scope of the conversation, the length of the conversation. So the president saying he would be eager to do so, the lawyers are saying not so fast, let's work out details before some of that would happen.
BERMAN: All right. Jeff Zeleny for us in Davos. Jeff, thank you very much. Keep us posted as to the president's movements in these meetings. Again we're waiting to see him any minute now with Theresa May.
We hear what the president wants. What exactly is the special counsel after now?
We have some new information on that front. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz with that -- Shimon.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, John. So there are a couple of topics certainly on the special counsel's mind, some of the things that we have learned that Trump's attorneys expected to be asked about is the Comey firing. Comey also asking him -- the president asking Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, reactions to some of Comey's testimony on the Hill that the president has said he had issues with, and also the outreach to intel leaders, you know, such as folks like Rogers, the former NSA -- head of the NSA, also Coates, other people at the head of the DNI, where he was asking them to sort of help kind of reassure people that there was no collusion, to put pressure on people to say that.
[09:05:05] Now meantime, you know, last night as the president surprised people, reporters, when he entered the chief of staff's office, we asked him, our Pamela Brown asked him about this "Washington Post" story where he asked the acting FBI director at the time who is now the deputy director, Andrew McCabe, about who he voted for in the last election. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you ask McCabe who he voted for? Did you ask him that?
TRUMP: I don't think so. No.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You don't think you did?
TRUMP: No, I don't think I did.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You did not?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You don't --
TRUMP: I don't know what's the big deal with that because I would ask you -- who did you vote for?
TRUMP: I don't think it's a big deal, but I don't remember that -- I saw that morning. I don't remember asking that question.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it possible you did?
TRUMP: I don't remember asking him the question. I think it's also a very unimportant question, but I don't remember asking him that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ: So, John and Poppy, while, you know, the president may think this is irrelevant or he's downplaying it, it is possible the special counsel and his investigators may ask him about that conversation with Andrew McCabe.
BERMAN: Yes. Remember that answer and how he said it. We're going to talk about that in just a moment.
Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much.
Also this morning, the Department of Justice said it would be, quote, "extraordinarily reckless" of House Intelligence chairman Devin Nunes releases the classified memo he wrote without letting the department review it.
HARLOW: The memo which is being pretty tightly held right now by Nunes and Republicans on that committee alleges that the FBI abused surveillance laws. This is all tied to the Trump-Russia dossier.
Our justice reporter Laura Jarrett has more on all of this.
This -- I mean, this is a really fascinating back-and-forth between the two.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: It really is, Poppy. It's a remarkable fight that's growing more and more heated every day directly pitting the intelligence community against the White House and certain GOP lawmakers as the Justice Department and the FBI, Director Christopher Wray have now both asked to see this memo and advise on any possible national security implications which is the normal case in this type of situation.
But they've essentially been rebuffed, as is members of the Senate Intel Committee and certain House Democrats, but Devin Nunes, the chairman of the committee, is pushing back through a spokesman saying, "The agencies that are under investigation by congressional committees typically don't get access to the committee's investigative documents about them. And it's no surprise that these agencies don't want the abuses we found to be made public."
JARRETT: So pushing back there on the DOJ -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Also the ongoing back and forth over these text messages between these two FBI agents who did have roles in the Russia probe and the Hillary Clinton e-mail, you know, probe as well. Now it's not just their thousands of texts that are missing. It sounds like it's from thousands of other phones as well, right?
JARRETT: That's exactly right. So we've now learned that thousands of cell phones, as many as one in 10, in fact, were affected by that same technical glitch that has prompted the inspector general to look at these phones from those two senior FBI officials who were formerly on special counsel Robert Mueller's team, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
Now Samsung is saying it's not their fault. But the Justice Department is saying the records search is going to still continue. And the attorney general has said he's going to leave no stone unturned on this, guys.
BERMAN: Yes. An important thing. Strzok and Page, it doesn't appear that it was just their phones. What about this idea that in the text between them they brought up the idea of a secret society which some Republicans in Congress --
HARLOW: Oh yes.
BERMAN: -- including Republican senators suggests, really, as some plot against the president?
JARRETT: Yes. Certain members of Congress are raising alarm over this so-called secret society at the FBI. But the messages themselves, which I -- you know, we've seen are cryptic at best. In one -- at issue here, the FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, says to Strzok the day after the election, "Are you going to even give out your calendars? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society." But it's unclear here what exactly she's referring to without more
context which we don't have. And now I've reached out to their lawyers for comment, as well as, you know, we continue to dig into what these officials meant. But there are many more text messages here sure to come out in the coming day, guys.
BERMAN: All right. Laura Jarrett for us. Laura, thank you very, very much.
Want to bring in our legal analyst right now, Paul Callan, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Samuel Buell.
You know, Sam, I want to start with you. Poppy and I both applied to law school. We're not lawyers like you but there were things that came out of what the president said in the White House yesterday that we really think shines a light on where their defense might be.
BERMAN: And how the president might answer questions. Number one, and we played this sound before, we don't need to play it again. On the issue of obstruction, the president used -- you know, people said obstruction because I was fighting back.
Samuel, you know, you're the lawyer here. Is there a fighting back exemption to the issue of obstruction of justice?
[09:10:06] SAMUEL BUELL, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: No. You know, if the president is talking about his public statements that there was no collusion or he didn't obstruct, fine, he's entitled to fight back in that sense and he has been. But that's not what the obstruction investigation is about. Nobody thinks it's about that.
It's about the firing of Comey, the demand for loyalty, the request to drop the Flynn investigation. That's not fighting back. That's tampering. And there's no gray area between those two things. So it's really just nonsense.
HARLOW: Then there was this moment that stood out to all of us yesterday in the White House briefing. Maggie Haberman, a great journalist as we know, asked such a pertinent question about the definition of collusion and how the White House sees it and got a pretty direct answer. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: He says collusion between the campaign. Does he mean himself or does he mean that no one on his campaign could have done anything?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I think he's stating for himself and anything that he would be a part of or know about or have sanctioned, but that would be something that, again, I think he's very clearly laid out. He and his campaign had nothing to do with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: So, Paul, now collusion is about what the president knew or said or did, not what happened, not big picture, not tying in his team. What does that tell you?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it does give us a real tell on what the defense is going to be. I mean, the president is saying I didn't know anything about collusion. I'm not aware of my campaign being involved in collusion. However, if Mueller has proven that there were lower level campaign officials who did collude with the Russians.
CALLAN: The president is trying to distance himself from that.
HARLOW: Isn't part of this legally sort of, if you didn't know, you should have known?
CALLAN: Well, that may be true in ordinary life. But in terms of criminal law, it probably wouldn't be sufficient --
HARLOW: It doesn't apply.
CALLAN: -- to tie him in to an indictable offense.
BERMAN: It is just so interesting that all of a sudden yesterday we saw these new lines drawn on obstruction and collusion.
And then, Sam, there was this third thing when asked about Andy McCabe. You know, again, we played that before. The president was asked, you know, did you ask Andy McCabe who he voted for, and the president said I don't think so, I don't really remember. You know, I don't remember, I don't know, I don't think so.
How far will that go behind closed doors when the special counsel's team is interviewing him, when your former colleague, Andrew Weissmann, is interviewing him? Is that going to satisfy the investigators?
BUELL: Well, they're going to have to take whatever answers he gives them. But then the question for them is going to be how does that compare against the other evidence they have? You know, what is McCabe's testimony, for example, likely to be on that? If it has the kind of rich detail that we got from Comey about his conversations with Trump and the sort of strangeness of those conversations and the weird almost creepy kind of pressured context, if that's the sort of story that McCabe is telling, then it's not going to be -- and it's a credible one, then it's not going to be very believable for the president to just say, oh, this was an off-the-cuff remark. I'd ask that to anybody. It's going to sound like it was something that was intended to, you know, kind of get a loyalty test again.
HARLOW: If the president had his druthers, Paul, it seems like he would go to coffee with Bob Mueller today. I mean, that is how he sounded last night. He's just sure, I'll talk to him, let's see what my lawyers say. Ty Cobb jumps in minutes later and he's like, wait, wait, wait.
You've just had a fascinating opinion piece on CNN.com about this and you say when Mueller is around, silence should be Trump's golden rule. Why do you think under no circumstance should the president talk to Mueller?
CALLAN: I just think it's very, very dangerous because the president has such a big ego, he thinks he can talk his way out of anything. And his lawyers are terrified that in his rambling discussions of these obstruction issues, collusion and other issues, he's going to incriminate himself. And the president, by the way, is one of the few people I've ever seen who's actually explained how he lies in a book.
The book, "The Art of the Deal," the president described his use of something called truthful hyperbole, when he would exaggerate and play to people's fantasies to try to sell them real estate. In other words, he was telling lies about the real estate to make it look better. But he said that's OK because it's truthful hyperbole.
If he tries to pull that off with Mueller, he's going to have a major problem because truthful hyperbole doesn't exist with the FBI.
BERMAN: Paul Callan, Samuel Buell, thanks so very much.
HARLOW: Thank you, guys, very much.
Take a look at this. Some new pictures of the president's son-in-law, one of his chief advisers. He's lost right now.
BERMAN: That's Mark Meadows.
BERMAN: That's the head of the Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows.
HARLOW: Right there, yes. Good point. And there's Jared Kushner. This is as the president is meeting with Theresa May.
BERMAN: It's fascinating to see the collection of people there. You have the guy in charge of the Freedom Caucus there. By the way, the Freedom Caucus very much involved with the PR over the Nunes memo in promoting that to be sure. And then Jared Kushner, of course, his son-in-law, involved with so many things foreign policy wise, but also part of the Russia investigation as well.
HARLOW: Absolutely. We're looking at -- also let's bring up the other video, guys, if we can. I think we have some new video of the president arriving in Davos, Switzerland.
There you see him at the World Economic Forum. He's walking up -- this is the main hall where all the CEOs gather, all of the world leaders in this one big building in the middle of the Swiss Alps in this tiny town.
The president is there for the first time, walking into this meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May. They will come out and we're expecting public remarks from both of them pretty shortly.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Cameras will be allowed into the end of their meeting. You know, very possible they will take questions. We know the president went up the stairs. He like the escalator. We know how much he loves escalators.
HARLOW: There are no escalators in that building. BERMAN: So much more including hearing from the president. Stay with us.
BERMAN: All right. Welcome back. John Berman with Poppy Harlow here. Let me tell you what we're looking at on the screen. On your left was moments ago when the president arrived for his meeting with Theresa May. Actually, on your right, we are going to these pictures right now, live pictures of the American president, Donald Trump, with the British prime minister, Theresa May. Let's listen in.
[09:20:14] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Thank you very much. It's been an honor to be with Prime Minister Theresa May. We've had a great discussion. We're on the same wave length and I think on every respect.
The prime minister and myself have had a really great relationship, although some people don't necessarily believe that, but I can tell you, I have a tremendous respect for the prime minister and the job she's doing. I think the feeling is mutual from the standpoint of liking each other a lot.
There was a little false rumor out there. I just wanted to correct it. We have great respect for everything we're doing, and we love your country because it's so good. And we're working on transactions in terms of economic development, trade, maybe most importantly military.
We are very much joined at the hip when it comes to the military. We have the same ideas, the same ideals, and there's nothing that would happen to you that we won't be there to fight for you. You know that. I just want the thank you very much. This is a great honor to be here.
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much, Mr. President. As you said, we had a great discussion today. We continue to have a great relationship between the U.K. and the United States. We face the same challenges across the world.
As you say, we're working together to meet those challenges and alongside that working for a great trade relationship in the future which will be to both our benefits. The U.K. and the U.S. both do well out of this. It's been great to see you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: It's great to see you. One thing that will be taking place over a number of years will be trade. The trade is going to increase many times and we look forward to that. The trade concepts and discussions, discussions really I think can say most importantly that will be taking place are going to lead to tremendous increases in trade between our two countries, which is great for both in terms of jobs.
We look forward to that, and we are starting that process pretty much as we speak. Thank you all very much for being here. Thank you.
HARLOW: There you have President Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May, very cordial, back and forth. The president saying, we have a great relationship and saying there's a false rumor that basically we don't get along. We do. You had an interesting note about that.
BERMAN: Theresa May, the British Prime Minister May went to great ends to say the respect the countries have for each other. You know, when the president says the feeling we like each other personally, you know, is mutual. She didn't go out of her way to say by the way, I really, really like you like the president.
HARLOW: Because they have had their differences very publicly. I mean, on foreign policy, Theresa May has urged the president in the U.S. to stay in the Iran nuclear, something he keeps threatening to pull out of. Him retweeting that video from this far-right anti- Muslim group, "Britain First," which she publicly rebuked the president on. So, there's been some tough words.
BERMAN: And the president went out of his way to talk about trade, which is I think what he wants so much of this trip to Davos to be about. At the end there, you heard reporters trying to shout questions. I think we're waiting for Admiral Kirby. You heard reporters shouting questions. I think they were asking are you going to go.
HARLOW: I couldn't hear any of them.
BERMAN: Are you going to go to the United Kingdom? There was no answer from the president. He canceled a trip there very recently.
HARLOW: All right. So, Rear Admiral John Kirby, who is our military and diplomatic analyst along with our Global Affairs Analyst Kimberly Dozier. I hope you two got to hear most of that. Look, I mean, this is what you expect, Admiral, in front of the cameras.
I wonder because you've been in this position in terms of being at high level meetings, advising at high level meetings like this. Despite the tension leading up to this meeting between these two leaders and their clear policy differences on a number of fronts, do they ever speak their mind behind closed doors?
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Sometimes they do, yes. I went to Davos with Secretary Kerry in 2015. So, I've been in rooms like that many, many times as he had bilats and discussions with foreign leaders.
[09:25:03] Often times, you know, when the cameras are in there, you try to get out a major message or two, something to sort of paper over the meeting, talk about the big issues, and he did that. He talked about trade and certainly tried to put the issues of tensions between him and Theresa May.
But usually, particularly with the brits, because they are such close allies and friends, when the doors close and the media is kicked out, you can have very frank, candid discussions. So, I hope they do. There's an awful lot to talk about.
Poppy, you mentioned the Iran deal. I suspect that Theresa May will bring that up. There's North Korea where I know the Brits certainly support the Trump administration's international pressure campaign, but they are concerned about the president's particular rhetoric on Twitter. So, there's a lot to talk about of substance. I suspect with the Brits you can do that.
BERMAN: You know, Kimberly Dozier, again, the president went out of his way to say there's this false rumor that the two leaders don't like each other. He says I like Theresa May, and he went to say, I think the feeling is mutual.
When it was her turn to speak, she spoke about the great respect between the two countries, but I didn't hear her exactly confirm the president's statement that the feeling is mutual. What do you make of that?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think she has decided that by keeping this strictly business, she has everything to win back home. I think she's enjoying being the adult in the relationship here, that Britain is, in general, that they can watch the spectacle of Donald Trump play out.
Think about British politics, they're used to big colorful characters. Theresa May has to handle parliament questions every week where she deals with tough back and forth. She can take somebody like Donald Trump in verbal gymnastics.
Instead, what she does is take the high road, stick to business, and think about, also, what Britain has to play for here. They're going through Brexit negotiations. They need better U.S. trade. So, she needs this relationship to stay on track.
But by not being all friendly as she was when she visited the United States and she was ridiculed back home for being seen holding Trump's hand as they walked past the Rose Garden, this way she can message back home, I am dealing with this on my own terms and I am handling this president just fine on the public stage.
HARLOW: That's a good point. They have their domestic presence, constituents to be worried about first and foremost, and the president playing to that America first policy, focusing on trade here, trade deals with the U.K.
Admiral to you, Theresa May was not happy when the president said there were effectively these no-go zones in London, right, because of terrorists. She fought that both privately with the president and publicly.
KIRBY: Yes, right. She was I think rightly concerned about that. This was an intrusion by Donald Trump into their domestic security concerns and procedures and something they absolutely have to take very, very seriously.
Yes, she was none too happy about that and I think rightfully so. Again, that adds to the tension between the two of them. I do think picking up on something Kim said, I think what they realize, certainly on the British side is this relationship is too important to let fail, and it's got to be bigger than personalities.
It has to be bigger than Donald Trump. I suspect that at least on their side, they're going to come into this meeting with a list of agenda items, very businesslike, trying to get a little reassurance from the United States that we, too, feel that way about moving the relationship forward in a healthy way.
BERMAN: All right. Admiral Kirby, Kimberly Dozier, thanks so much for being with us. It was fascinating to see the personal and you know, regional politics playing out there. Appreciate it.
Immigration negotiations heating up on Capitol Hill. A crucial meeting in one hour with a bipartisan group of senators. This after the president all of a sudden says that he is for a path to citizenship for DREAMers. A whole bunch of new developments.
HARLOW: A huge reversal. We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Stock futures shockingly up once again. The Dow on track to hit another record. We will have it all for you in just minutes.