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Trump Grows Frustrated with Kelly; Citizenship for Some Dreamers; Trump Tried to Fire Mueller. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired January 26, 2018 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:30:00] A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "REALCLEARPOLITICS": Just naturally something that John Kelly would know would make the -- would really enrage President Trump.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So why is he doing it? I mean so it's the suggestion --
STODDARD: Right. I actually believe that he's doing it to push back because internally his pushback wasn't working and then that -- and they -- he has been really entangled (ph) to this -- and a great debate on immigration. And I think that it is a known fact that when people cannot convince President Trump behind closed doors, they take their argument to television to try to convince him that way.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, but who took this story that there's a rift that the president's unhappy with John Kelly to division, right? Because CNN is reporting this in the last 24 hours, on the front page of "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post." Someone wants to get this story out there, John Avlon, that there's a problem here.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Yes. And the chronology of it, the who benefits from it, you know, let's put that aside for this reason. If there's a rift between the president and Kelly, that's primarily for the president, because Kelly's actually been one of the best things to happen to this White House in terms of instilling a degree of discipline on a president who is -- doesn't like being constrained, but desperately needs some discipline and structure around him just for the country, just for the operation of the government.
And does that frustrate him? Does he want to free Donald and just be able to free wheel all the time? I'm sure he does. And you'll have some outside advisers saying, let Trump be Trump.
But there's also the just progress of the government that requires a degree of discipline and information the president doesn't have. And if the standard for spokesmen and advisers is that I'll be your best Baghdad bob, I'll tell you the sky is purple. If you tell me the sky is purple, and then I'll communicate that to the American people, that doesn't actually serve the president well at the end of the day.
Is the relationship complicated? Yes. Is it frustrating? Yes. But I think Kelly and McMaster have tried to impose a structure of decision making on the president that is constitutional, that respects the fact he won the election, but also says he needs to be presented with accurate information and then the decision he makes, we will do our best to execute.
CAMEROTA: OK, A.B., let's move from entry to policy. Let's talk about the immigration plan that the White House has now, it seems, gotten behind. And it's so interesting. I mean there's lots of developments in there that people didn't see coming.
Number one, yes, protection for the dreamers, a pathway to citizenship for not just 700,000, which is the number that we've all been using for the past weeks, but more than that, from people who hadn't even registered as dreamers yet. The 1.8 million people in that category.
Now, in exchange, they want $25 billion for -- to build the wall and other border security enhancements, infrastructure technology. Eliminate the visa lottery. We know the president is determined to do that. And eliminate the, you know, chain migration so-called and, meaning, nobody beyond the nuclear family, the spouse and children get to come. So, why are some Democrats, like Dick Durbin, not happy with this outcome?
STODDARD: Well, it's interesting. I'm fascinating by this because this is absolutely a true compromise. If both sides are furious, you have absolutely split this in half.
AVLON: That's right.
STODDARD: The Democrats do not like the concessions that were given to immigration hawks, these changes to family reunification, constraining that, ending the visa lottery system. They don't like that much money on a wall. And in exchange for a fix to the dreamers that they hoped Republican colleagues would join them in sort of, you know, getting rid of and resolving as soon as possible.
It's very interesting on the Republican side. Senator Cotton, Senator Perdue, those hawks that were pushing the president, along with his aide, Steven Miller, to the right to this issue are -- are approving of this compromise and saying it's the right path forward, while groups on the outside, your Breitbart crowd and your pro border security immigration groups --
STODDARD: Are absolutely livid. Ann Coulter is on fire over this. And this is going to get a lot of pushback from that wing.
STODDARD: Look, if Senator Dick Durbin, the Democratic whip, says that this is not credible and it can't move forward, we're not at a compromise. But the definition of compromise would be something that makes both parties mad.
AVLON: The broad outlines are impressive. It is definitely -- Tom Cotton supporting it is fascinating and obviously reflects his own interests to remain in Trump's good graces. But this is how a large deal is supposed to be done.
I'll say, they've come this far. One of the open questions then is comprehensive immigration reform. What happens to the 11 million in this country? And that's larger -- can he pull a Nixon in China. This is signature.
BERMAN: And it will be interesting to see if any of the Democratic senators, those moderates come forward and support this soon. They have not as of yet.
All right, John, A.B., thanks so much.
A reminder, we will carry the president's address at the World Economic Forum live. That's at 8:00 Eastern Time. And, remember, it's in the midst of the breaking news overnight about the fact the president wanted to fire Robert Mueller.
CAMEROTA: And another quick programing note. Be sure to watch "Cuomo" primetime, tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
[06:34:57] BERMAN: All right, the mother of one of the teenagers killed in a shooting at a Kentucky high school speaking out about her own daughter's final moments. Her heartbreaking words, next.
CAMEROTA: Breaking news right now. South Korea's deadliest fire in almost a decade has ripped through a hospital killing 37 people and injuring more than 100. Officials still investigating the cause of this fire. They believing it started in the emergency room. This comes less than a month after 29 people died in a similar tragedy, raising concerns over the country's lapse safety standards.
BERMAN: Embattled Republican Congressman Patrick Meehan announcing he will not seek reelection this year. This follows revelations that he used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment suit by a former staffer, despite services -- despite the fact that he serves on the House Ethics Committee. Meehan told reporters he viewed the woman as a soulmate, but contrary to her claims he says he never pursued a romantic relationship with her.
CAMEROTA: The Kentucky high school where two students were killed will reopen this morning as we learn heartbreaking new details about the victims' final moments. The mother of 15-year-old Bailey Holt, one of the students killed, says that she kept trying to reach her daughter as soon as she heard the news about the rampage. In one of the final acts of her young life, she says Bailey called her back.
[06:40:11] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SECRET HOLT, MOTHER OF BAILEY HOLT: All I could hear was voices and chaos in the background. And she couldn't say anything. And I tried -- I called her name over and over and over and she didn't respond. But I know he's probably having a hard time too, but --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He still took our baby. HOLT: They still took my baby from me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: The second victim, 15-year-old Preston Cope died at the hospital. Sixteen others were wounded, including Bailey's first boyfriend. Her parents say that he was shot in the face but has survived. The unidentified 15-year-old suspect is charged with two counts of murder and 12 counts of first-degree assault.
The point has been made, John, this was the 11th school shooting just this year alone. It's only January.
BERMAN: Look, I can't imagine the pain that that mother's going through, which is why I think it's so important that we hear it given what you just said, this is the 11th school shooting. Listen to that. Listen to the pain of that mother.
CAMEROTA: You know, we've been here too many times. It seems -- the answers seem obvious to lots of people and yet we don't seem to be able to get any movement towards stopping these.
BERMAN: Right. Our hearts go out to them, obviously.
Forty-one minutes after the hour.
The NBA all-star game taking a different form this year. There is no more East versus West. Instead, the two teams were drafted by LeBron James and Steph Curry. Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report."
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, John.
You know, the NBA was trying to find a way to spice up the all-star game this year and drafting the teams is a fun way to do it. LeBron and Steph Curry, they were leading vote getters, so they got to draft the rosters. They announced them last night. LeBron created some interesting storylines on his team. He picked Kevin Durant first then also got Russel Westbrook, reuniting the former Thunder teammates once again. LeBron himself also going to be reunited with his former teammate Kyrie Irving in the starting lineup.
Curry, meanwhile, picking his other two Warrior teammates on -- for his team, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. If you look at his roster, though, it kind of lacks the star power that LeBron has.
Now, Durant having some fun with the whole draft, posting a Photoshopped pic from the player's tribune (ph) of him wearing a shirt with LeBron's face saying, I'm coming for you, Steph.
And, guys, you know, the all-star game, it's been a blowout the last few years. So hopefully these drafted teams kind of give the players a new sense of pride and make it good game come February.
BERMAN: I think LeBron James knows how to produce drama right there. There's a guy who understands entertainment value to be sure.
SCHOLES: Like a director, yes.
BERMAN: Kyrie Irving on his team. I love it.
CAMEROTA: I really like that you looked at me for insight before deciding to just move on.
BERMAN: Because I want to know how you feel about this.
CAMEROTA: I know.
BERMAN: It matters to me.
CAMEROTA: Thank you. I'm going to come up with something soon.
CAMEROTA: All right, meanwhile, the bombshell news that President Trump has tried to fire Robert Mueller before then backing down. This raises new questions about obstruction. So we take a closer look at that, next.
BERMAN: And we're just over an hour away from the president's speech in Davos, putting a business friendly face on his America first message. We will bring you that speech live.
[06:47:26] BERMAN: A source confirms to CNN that President Trump ordered Special Counsel Robert Mueller to be fired last June. Now, it clearly did not happen, but does the attempt alone suggest wrongdoing, or what does it tell us about the president's mental state and intent?
Let's ask an expert.
Walter Shaub is a CNN contributor. He was the director of the Office of Government Ethics and is now the senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center.
Walter, thanks for being with us.
Look, part of this sorry is that the president ordered Robert Mueller to be fired and then Don McGahn, the White House counsel, you know, he put his body down on the tracks and said, if you do this, I will quit. Some people suggest he maybe even saved the presidency by that action. But you say, Walter, and you're laughing right now, you say be careful before you canonize Don McGahn. Why?
WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, let's keep in mind the history here. We had the Saturday night massacre back in Nixon's day that ended his presidency. And unlike President Trump, Don McGahn would understand that history and understand the significance that essentially firing the special counsel would be the third rail of politics. So it only stands to reason that he would want to prevent this from happening. But let's not forget who Don McGahn is. Don McGahn is the guy who sat
across from Sally Yates and challenged her when she came to report her concerns about Michael Flynn. And he may or may not be the one who communicated that to the president.
He also was the guy who contacted the Department of Justice and tried to get information about possible FISA warrants, which is something any White House counsel would no -- would know not to do. So -- and, of course, where was he when Comey was fired?
So this is -- this -- he's also the one who pressured Jeff Sessions not to recuse when he had a legal responsibility to recuse under a criminal conflict of interest statute. So this is not a rule of law kind of thing. I seriously doubt he thought it was a wrong thing to do. I think he thought it was a thing they wouldn't get away with.
BERMAN: It didn't happen, right? You know, Robert Mueller was not fired, obviously. So in and of itself the act, you know, isn't grounds for obstruction or anything else. But could the intent, how does the intent, what does it tell you about the president's mind-set and might that seep into other parts of the investigation?
SHAUB: Well, first of all, you don't have to succeed in obstructing justice to obstruct justice. So the fact that he didn't ultimately fire Mueller doesn't mean anything.
[06:50:08] Now, I won't go so far as to say in and of itself it's a conclusive piece of evidence, but it is one more piece in the puzzle as we try to discern what the president's motives were, what his intent was. And that's actually quite important because he does have the legal authority to fire government officials. And in this case it would be indirect. He'd have to pressure somebody at DOJ to do it. But he can't do it corruptly.
And so you have to look at intent to know whether there was a corrupt motive, specifically trying to prevent himself from being further investigated. Well, he certainly told us that was his intent in firing Mueller -- I mean Comey.
SHAUB: And so this fits with that.
We also have some consciousness of guilt in his August 2017 denial that he ever tried to do this. He said, I haven't even given getting rid of Mueller any thoughts. And the White House keeps asserting that that didn't happen. So that tells you they have some awareness that this is not a kind of thing that a president should be using his authority to do.
BERMAN: You know, as we're constantly told by our lawyers, though, Walter, you know -- our lawyers that we have on TV here, the president -- it's not illegal for the president to lie to the American people. It's not illegal for Kellyanne Conway to lie to the American people. Which, if these reports are true, they both did.
BERMAN: Kellyanne Conway says he's never talked about firing Robert Mueller. The president says out loud, I've never considering -- I've never considered firing Robert Mueller. If the reports are true, they lied about that. That's not illegal to say that lie in a press briefing or to the American people. But -- but it would be illegal if the president is questioned about this by Robert Mueller's team if he ever testifies, correct?
SHAUB: Yes, and that's true, whether he's under oath or not, because you're not allowed to lie to a federal investigator. And I think that's why his attorneys have been trying to negotiate some limitations on the scope of any interview. And -- because they can't trust their client to control himself. And he does have what appears to be a hobby of lying. Or maybe he's made it more of an avocation. And so we have a situation where you have your nightmare client, if you're a criminal defense attorney, going into an interview with a skilled and experienced criminal investigator. It's a worst case scenario for them.
BERMAN: And you think about these stories and the context of maybe being a message to the president or John Dowd, those making a decision about whether he will testify, maybe it's a message to them that they should think about it before making that decision.
Walter Shaub, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.
CAMEROTA: OK, joining us now is CNN political commentator Van Jones. He is the host of the brand-new "The Van Jones Show," premiering tomorrow on CNN. And we'll talk about that in a moment.
Van, great to have you.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good to be here.
CAMEROTA: We want to start with the news of the day. Democrats' worst fears almost came to pass. It turns out, from multiple sources, that the president did try to fire Robert Mueller --
CAMEROTA: And was stopped by the White House counsel, who refused to go along with the directive. Your thoughts?
JONES: Well, it's interesting. You know, you had grassroots organizations like moveon.org and others who had been preparing for the firing of Mueller, had, you know, protests ready to go, hundreds of thousands of people signed up ready to go assuming that this was going to happen because people's confidence in Donald Trump, very, very low. And yet it wasn't the people that saved him, it turns out it's a White House staffer that saves him. But, I mean, that's where we are as a country.
And also, you know, this is part of a bigger set of revelations this week of Republicans' apparently contempt for American institutions. I mean When you have liberal Democrats coming on to defend the FBI --
JONES: I mean something has gone way off the rails in America.
CAMEROTA: What's happening? Strange bedfellows there.
BERMAN: You know, I do want to get to that point because the context of everything that's been going on this week, I think this is part of it.
BERMAN: But there was some good staff work here. The point that Walter Shaub said, Walter Shaub doesn't want to give Don McGahn credit for stopping the president there, but isn't that what the White House Counsel should do?
JONES: Don McGahn -- I do think it's important to point out that there are people in the U.S. government who understand the Constitution, who understand checks and balances, who understand our norms and traditions and have been trying to stick up for them where they can. That's good. But the fact that they are holding back a freight train, you know, with dental floss half the time, that is not good and that's where we are, apparently.
CAMEROTA: But to your point, it has been remarkable to watch the president of the United States and his Republican supporters in Congress go after the FBI with all sorts of innuendo.
JONES: Innuendo? Just crazy talk. You know, innuendo is a very nice way of saying, this is some foolishness from you, sir, but this is not just like the random person on the subway saying weird stuff to you. These are senators and Congress people on the relevant committees. I'm like, what is wrong with the Republican Party?
[06:55:02] I'm going to tell you, when you spend eight years attacking Obama with crazy stuff, you build up a culture of crazy. And the culture of crazy has now taken over the Republican Party so that even when they're governing, they're burning down the house. It's one thing when you're burning down the house when the Democrats were running it. You are flying the plane and setting it on fire at the same time. There's something really wrong with this party.
BERMAN: Can we do a dramatic reading from "The Washington Post" editorial this morning that gets to this point.
BERMAN: I'll start. Republicans have embarked on a smear campaign of the FBI that can end only in a dangerous erosion of trust in law enforcement, the subjugation of law enforcement to partisan interests or both. For Republican leaders, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference Roy Blunt, to remain silent is to be complicit. CAMEROTA: Oh, is this where I pick up?
BERMAN: You pick up.
These men could tomorrow end this nonsense of secret societies, phony memos, missing text messages, and let professionals, such as Special Counsel Robert Mueller, do their jobs. Instead, they are allowing Fox News personalities, the president and loose cannons, such as House Intelligent Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, and Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson to turn the United States into a country where law enforcement becomes another pawn in the partisan war.
JONES: And, listen, again, when you have liberal Democrats having to defend the FBI, something that's really wrong. Let me just say this to you and everybody else. We're going to need the FBI this afternoon, tomorrow. The FBI is trying to keep us safe from terrorism. If you create a situation where somebody knocks on the door and says, I'm from the FBI, I'm trying to find out what's going on, we think there may be something -- and somebody goes, eh, you know, you guys are a part of the illuminati, some secret society, blah, blah, blah, that makes everybody less safe. You desperately want for something to be sacred in America. And if the Republican Party won't let law enforcement be safe because they want to protect Donald Trump, we are in deep trouble in America.
BERMAN: So, Van Jones, you say these are crazy times. I say they're exciting times. Why? Because you have a show debuting tomorrow night.
BERMAN: And I was saying to Alisyn, you know, as I travel the country, which is a humble brag, as if I travel the country and talk to people. No, but people are fascinating by you. I think both the left and the right love to listen to you and hear what you have to say.
CAMEROTA: And John.
BERMAN: What's the show going to be?
JONES: You know, the show is an opportunity I think to hear from folks who don't get heard from a lot in American society. We do this thing called "Van in the Van," where I got a chance to go to Charlottesville. And I put in the same van with me conservatives and liberals who were -- who were from Charlottesville. And we drive around. You know, of course that's where the Nazis marched. It's where you had, you know, unfortunately, Heather Heyer die. And we just have the conversation in the van.
BERMAN: It's a minivan.
JONES: It's a minivan. Maybe they'll give me a bigger van later. But, you know, we had -- we had -- and so -- and you get a chance to hear real people have the real conversation right there in the van. At the same time, you know, we're trying to bring in other people.
With the rise of Donald Trump, pop culture took over politics. And now politics has taken over pop culture. So we've got Jay-z --
CAMEROTA: Come on.
JONES: The superstar of all superstars is going to be on and we're going to have a couple segments talking to him about what the heck is going on from his point of view. So, you know, a little populism, a little pop stars.
The idea, though, is to take a step back on the weekend and really reflect on what's going on in a deeper way with voices you don't get to hear very often.
CAMEROTA: Are you going to have Jay-z in the van and do karaoke with him?
JONES: He, now, listen, if I did -- if I did that, I might get sued, because that's another show. But -- but, listen, I'm excited about this because I think, you know, right -- it used to be politics. You had to be a news nerd. You had to be off in the corner someplace now reading "The New York Times." Everybody's talking about politics.
JONES: I mean celebrities, athletes, ordinary people. So really from the unknown to the infamous to the world famous, we want to have a conversation with the American people on the weekend that hopefully gives people a lot deeper insight into what's going on.
CAMEROTA: I mean, and isn't that the silver lining. Love Donald Trump or dislike him, everybody's engaged.
JONES: Everybody is engaged. And so "The Van Jones Show" is going to give people a platform to put that engagement on full display.
BERMAN: "The Van Jones Show" is big. The van in the show is a minivan.
JONES: Tell Jeff Zucker (ph).
BERMAN: All right. We've got to get you more money for that show.
All right, Van, thank you very, very much. Really looking forward to this. "The Van Jones Show" premiers tomorrow night, 7:00 Eastern, only on CNN.
CAMEROTA: All right, thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, stay tuned. President Trump's speech from Davos and NEW DAY continue right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: The president is not discussing firing Bob Mueller. CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump ordered Special Counsel Bob
Mueller to be fired last June.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it would have been his own Saturday night massacre.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don McGahn saved the president from a major, major political crisis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's totally irrelevant because he actually didn't fire Mueller.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just because he didn't do it in June doesn't mean he doesn't want to do it in January. There is a crisis atmosphere hanging over the White House right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're talking about a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented people.
[07:00:04] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some Republicans not too happy about parts of his plan. They think the president is giving away too much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This quote/unquote compromise is a farce.