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Path to Citizenship for Dreamers; America First Isn't America Alone; FBI Texts Released; Secret Society Comment. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 26, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:33:24] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we now have key details about President Trump's immigration proposal. This is all new. And the big takeaway is this number, 1.8 million. That is how many dreamers in this country and actually other young, undocumented immigrants who would have qualified for DACA, or the dreamer program, would be given a path to citizens in this new proposal.

Our politics reporter Tal Kopan broke it all late last night. She's with us now.

A few things to go through here. First of all, is this it? Is this the final word from the White House on dreamers, yes, path to citizenship for you, because it's been going back and forth and back and forth?

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, it certainly seems to be where they've landed. And it's a substantial move on their part to offer, as we said, an estimated 1.8 million, which includes everyone who participated in DACA, who would have been eligible for DACA, and more because they're going to set different eligibility requirements and that's how you get the 1.8 million number. Otherwise, it's very similar. You have to meet certain requirements to qualify, working, education, not having a criminal record.

But they're putting a pretty big ask on top of this as well. Another eye-popping number is $25 billion plus. So we're going to have $25 billion that they want in a fund immediately for the border, so wall, other elements like technology. They also want more money for hiring personnel. And they're including a few things in border security that actually may be sort of sneakily more difficult than they seem. They called it closing legal loopholes. But that could potentially mean a vast increase in enforcement powers and the ability to deport people quickly from the United States. So just that piece of this, and there's more, is a pretty big ask already.

[09:35:06] HARLOW: That's why you've got some, you know, on the left saying, we don't like this at all. But, look, if they want a deal for dreamers, if Democrats want a deal for dreamers, they're going to have to give some. And we know a number of Republicans want a deal for dreamers, too.

What do you see, Tal, as the biggest concession that Democrats are being asked to give here because, you know, it's clear this morning, and there's reporting, that the White House is saying there are some non-negotiables in here.

KOPAN: Yes, that's right, Poppy. And as I mentioned, some of those legal loopholes may be a lot trickier than they see at first blush, but we don't really have the details at this point to know. But there are two other pillars of this, as they're being called, what's referred to by the White House as chain migration or family-based migration and the diversity lottery. So on family migration, what the administration wants to do is they want to take away all of the family sponsorship categories besides spouses and minor children. So that gets rid of adult children, parents, brothers and sisters. That's a substantial cut to the number of legal immigrants to the U.S. every year.

Now, initially those numbers will be used to work through a backlog that is decades long for some people waiting in line for these green cards. And they're also going to cut the diversely lottery, which is much smaller, use that as well to work through the backlog.

But at the end of the day, that's going to be a massive cut to the number of immigrants allowed into this country every year. That's going to be very difficult for Democrats to swallow, as is.

HARLOW: We'll see what happens here. We do have an outline, though, from the White House, which is a lot of progress --

KOPAN: Yes. Absolutely.

HARLOW: From where we were before.

We appreciate the reporting, Tal. Thank you. Have a great weekend.

KOPAN: Thank you.

HARLOW: So, coming up, President Trump brings an American first message to the world stage this morning in Switzerland, warning that he's setting tougher terms for international trade. How as this speech received? We'll get a live report from Davos, next.


[09:40:59] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The world is witnessing the resurgence of a strong and prosperous America. I'm here to deliver a simple message, there has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest and to grow in the United States. America is open for business and we are competitive once again.


HARLOW: That is part of what the president said this morning, pitching his American first agenda at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Noting it's America first, but not America alone.

Let's go to our Jeff Zeleny. He is traveling with the president in Davos. Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here with me as well.

And, Jeff, let me begin with you.

Look, this is -- this is a club of elites, right? Unless you're a journalist, like us who gets invited to cover it, it's tough to get an invite to Davis, the World Economic Forum. The president, as a businessman, never got the invite before. Now he not only invited, he's on the, you know, world stage making a speech. How was he received with that message this morning?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, that is such a good point. I mean of course President Trump, Donald Trump, had such a well-known brand name, but not in this crowd, not at this level, if you will.

But I think I was struck by here just talking to people. They were curious about what President Trump indeed was going to say. Was he going to come here to Davos and essentially poke his finger in the eye of globalist, of people having conversations about the global economy? In fact, one thing that I was struck by was the president's tone. It was muted in one respect, but it was -- almost sounded like he was the head of a chamber of commerce, urging people to come to America to invest, to invest. Much less of what America can do for the world, what global partnerships can do for the world.

But, overall, I think any talk of -- there was some worry by the White House early on about protests and big demonstrations. That did not happen here at all. It was a very respectful reception for the president, not as much applause as perhaps we heard earlier in the week for French President Emmanuel Macron. But I think definitely a respectful audience for this president. And he seemed to enjoy also being now a member of this club, Poppy.

HARLOW: Christine Romans, to you.

Some of the numbers that the president threw out there. Wondering what you think of them. I mean, yes, the U.S. economy is doing very well. Some of the numbers he threw out, he says the U.S. has added $7 trillion in wealth since my elections, created 2.4 million jobs since my election.


HARLOW: And he talked about the tax cuts. The most significant reform for taxes in American history. What -- I mean what was your overall economic takeaway of this?

ROMANS: Look, the president has gone from the American carnage president to the American economic cheerleader president. And he really is taking this cheerleader role very seriously.

Some of these are numbers he didn't believe -- he didn't believe them when they were numbers under Barack Obama, but he believes them and actually touts them today.

What you also heard him say is, if he had not been elected, if his opponent had been elected, you would see the stock market down 25 to 50 percent. So taking credit for the stock market. And then he kind of, you know, using his crystal --

HARLOW: That was interesting.

ROMANS: Using his crystal ball here. The stock market has done very well. The people in those rooms at Davos are the biggest beneficiaries really of what the tax reform has been.

This is now -- this is now Donald Trump's economy. It is now Donald Trump's stock market.


ROMANS: And he's taking credit for it. The risk is, what if there is a pullback? What if growth isn't 3 percent, the way he wants it to be?


ROMANS: Does he own that, too?

HARLOW: We're looking at the president landing in Zurich Airport there, Marine One. He will disembark in just a moment. He'll get on Air Force One and fly back to the United States.

As we wait for the president, Christine Romans, you know, you also heard the president talking about trade in a tough way, but not the toughest way. He didn't call out China. He didn't call out any of these countries or leaders by name. He said, we are for free trade, but it has to be fair trade. I thought that was interesting. He danced on that a little.

ROMANS: So a lot of people who follow trade say this was the Gary Cohn President Trump, not the Steven Miller President Trump speech. And they're happy about that.

Yes, he did talk about intellectual property theft. He talked about -- he talked about some things that are very clearly China.

[09:45:05] HARLOW: Yes, but he didn't say China is raping us on trade, right?

ROMANS: But he didn't say -- he did not say China by name.

But he also talked about TPP and saying he would be open to talking individually or as a group to those TPP nations, which really got the people who are trade -- you know, the trade globalists --


ROMANS: In his camp excited.

HARLOW: What do you think of that, Jeff Zeleny? I think Christine makes a really interesting point, saying this was sort of the Gary Kohn version of the speech on trade and economics, not the Steven Miller sort of more extreme version. This was a president who clearly knew his audience this morning.

ZELENY: No question. That was the president who was prepared for this. Gary Cohn, of course, his chief economic adviser from Goldman Sachs, right before this administration. So certainly he briefed the president. It was very much in that spirit and tone the president was here.

And I was also struck by it. This had nothing -- no resemblance of Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist at the White House, who railed against Davos again and again and again. You have to wonder if Steve Bannon was still the chief strategist, would President Trump have come here to Davos? If he would have, would he have had more of a hostile speech or confrontation?

So definitely a different side of the president. The question is, though, about policies. On TPP, as Christine mentioned, the reality is these countries are moving beyond -- are moving on without the U.S. here. So it's hard to imagine, you know, with the current president, that he would actually reengage in a meaningful way.

One thing I've been struck by, as we've been traveling on all these foreign trips over the president's first year in office, as he talks about America first, more of an inward view, the country is moving on without him. China, first and foremost.

I have seen more signs for Chinese receptions, Chinese investments, Chinese business here in Davos this year certainly than American ones. And, of course, last year President Xi Jinping had the spot that Donald Trump had today. So all these questions here about America first, but the world is moving on as America is first in Donald Trump's eyes.


HARLOW: It's very true. Jeff Zeleny, appreciate the reporting, from Davos.

Christine Romans here.

We're watching the president as he walks up the steps there to Air Force One to fly back after his first visit to the World Economic Forum. What does he fly home to? A big fight over immigration and new reporting that he tried to get the special counsel in the Russia probe, Bob Mueller, fired. Two big things the president will face when he lands in just about eight hours' time.

Stay with us.


[09:52:01] HARLOW: So newly released text messages between two FBI officials who were central in the Russia probe and the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation are raising a lot of new questions this morning. The messages further fueling something Republican lawmakers' claim that there's an anti-Trump bias within the FBI.

Let's go to our Jessica Schneider in Washington with the developments.

So, what are the pertinent texts here that have now been released?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, these keep getting leaked out drip by drip, Poppy. So the latest batch or the latest few come from Senator Chuck Grassley. He's released a select few. And he's now imploring the Department of Justice to explain them.

So the text here that's front and center, it's from FBI lawyer Lisa Page to Agent Strzok, who, of course, was a lead agent on the Clinton e-mail investigation leading up to the election. And this text, it seems to suggest that maybe Peter Strzok should tread lightly in this Clinton investigation. So here it is.

Lisa Page writes to him, she might be our next president. Referring there to Hillary Clinton. She continues to say, the last thing you need us going in there loaded for bear. You think she's going to remember or care that it was more DOJ than FBI? And then Agent Strzok responds, agreed.

So now Senator Grassley is asking the Justice Department to explain that text because he says it implicates some bias here in the Clinton investigation. And Senator Grassley is also raising some questions about some other texts.

And, of course, this all comes in the midst of revelations that that five-month gap of missing texts, it has now been found by the inspector general. Now, these texts weren't on the FBI's server. The IG got them directly from the devices that Strzok and Page had. So, Poppy, we know that they'll be handing those over to the DOJ soon and then we might get another look at what would be a third batch here.


HARLOW: Right. So that takes away any sort of conspiracy theories about why those text messages might have been missing. They have them now.

All right, Senator Ron Johnson, who got a lot of these text messages, Republican, and released them earlier this week, he claimed potential corruption, bias at the agency, talking about secret society, talking about potentially off site meetings for a secret society. He's really backing off that claim this morning and he's got his Democratic counterpart, Claire McCaskill, demanding proof of some of the claims he made.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. So there's been backlash and now Senator Johnson is definitely backpedaling. You said it, Poppy, for days he talked about that text, that sort off the cuff mention of secret society. Senator Johnson said it proved corruption at the highest levels. He said he even said that he had an informant telling him that there were secret off site meetings with top FBI officials.

So take a listen to what he said on Wednesday and then how he sort of back tracked when our Manu Raju confronted him Thursday.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: I can't ignore these texts. I can't ignore this unvarnished narrative from two individuals, very high up in the FBI, that have contact with the director and Andy McCabe and Bill Prestab (ph). I have some very serious concerns. The American public should have some very serious concerns.

[09:55:06] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: This text message seems to be a comment about secret society was in jest. Do you agree that it appears to be it was in jest?

JOHNSON: It's a real possibility.


SCHNEIDER: And Senator Johnson's comments from Wednesday, Poppy, they're drawing the ire of his Democratic counterpart on the Homeland Security Committee. Claire McCaskill, like you said at the beginning here, she sent a letter to him. She said she wants him to explain that informant talk she said that's damaging and dangerous.


HARLOW: Jessica, we appreciate the reporting. Keep us posted as you get more of these.

We have a lot of news we're following on the Russia investigation. So we're going to take a quick break. Much more of that ahead.


[10:00:10] HARLOW: 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.