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New Reports Indicate President Trump Ordered Firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller; President Trump Speaks at Davos World Economic Forum. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 26, 2018 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We will discuss how important that is or is not. One thing that is crystal clear that if the reports are true, and we think they are, the president and White House aides have lied and lied repeatedly about whether the president ever discussed firing Robert Mueller. We want to begin our coverage live over where you're looking at right now in Davos, in Switzerland, where the president is getting ready to speak. Jeff Zeleny is there. Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. You're right. Those allegations of obstruction of justice now are the centerpiece of this potential investigation. And as the president takes the stage there, just a short time ago this morning he addressed the news reports overnight about his interest in firing Robert Mueller. This is what he said earlier this morning in Davos.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you speak to fire Robert Mueller?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fake news, folks, fake news. Typical "New York Times" fake stories.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you try to fire Robert Mueller?

TRUMP: Thank you. Fake news.


ZELENY: So we know that is what the president is thinking about in his mind as he begins to deliver this big address here shortly. I am told that he is going to be wearing his American salesman's hat. He's going to be talking about bringing business to the U.S. We have just received a couple of excerpts of the speech that we're about to hear. Let's take a look at those very quickly here before the president speaks.

The president we're told is going to say this, "America is open for business and we are competitive once again." He'll say "I believe in America. As president of the United States I will always put America first, just like the leaders of other countries should put their countries first. But America first does not mean America alone."

Of course, we have heard the president give different themes like that, similar themes in his first year in office. He's also going to say this, we're told, from an excerpt that we've just received. The president will say, "To be successful, it is not enough to invest in our economy. We must invest in our people. When people are forgotten, the world becomes fractured. Only by hearing and responding to the voices of the forgotten can we create a bright future that's truly shared for all." So again, those are just a couple of excerpts released from the White House.

I am told, though, the president is going to take a case for how he has turned around the U.S. economy. He's going to openly call for businesses to increase their investments there. I'm told this is not going to be a finger in your eye short of speech, if you will. If you consider our setting here at Davos, this is a place where the president would frequently go after and rail against globalization as he was campaigning, globalism, certainly on his populist agenda. I'm told he will not hear as much of that, but he will be talking about the U.S. and all the positive aspects of it. So we'll hear from the president here in a speech that should go about 15 minutes or so, John and Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Jeff, thank you very much for that preview.

Let's bring in CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza. So Chris, you just heard from Jeff. We have a few more details, messages that the president wants to hit. It's an America first message as we know. When America gross, the world grows. He will tout his tax cuts that he's quite proud of, the booming stock market that's hitting record highs, low unemployment, and his trade agenda. So it doesn't sound like there will be any surprises, but of course when it comes to President Trump, anything is possible.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, I think you're right on that, Alisyn. Planned remarks versus what he actually says, sometimes the news comes in what he doesn't have on the teleprompter.

I do think, and obviously he's going to address this in his speech at Davos. But I do think the fact that he is dealing with a massive controversy, no matter what he wants to dismiss it as fake news, that he fired or attempted to fire or ordered the firing of Bob Mueller and was only stopped when the general counsel Don McGahn refused to carry that out order despite assertions by Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Ty Cobb, John Dowd, that that did not happen, I mean, this is a massive firestorm that he is very well aware of is happening and sort of is paralleling this speech. This is the Trump White House. Donald Trump going to the globalist world economic forum to speak would be a massive story, typically still is a really big story, but there is another massive story that I don't think he gets to dismiss by just saying fake news, fake news. What is fake in it? What is wrong? These are deeply reported, deeply sourced stories. You can't just say it's fake news. I mean, you can, but we should not take that at face value.

BERMAN: Well, we're not, first of all, Chris. Rest assured. Let's me tell you what's happening right now. The president is being introduced by the founder of the World Economic Forum right now. So the president will speak any minute now. And I also want to note this is the third time that the president has been in a big overseas trip when some part of the Russia investigation has reared its head right in the middle of it.

[08:05:00] Chris, you have a piece that just came out this morning with things that you learned from this new development. What's number one?

CILLIZZA: That he does now have -- for all the talk, John, that he's sort of this political genius, he does not have a very well-attuned political ear, I would say. Let's remember, he ordered the firing of Bob Mueller in June of 2017. That was a month after he fired Jim Comey and weeks after Mueller had been appointed as special counsel.

And he was basically hanging that firing on the fact that there may or may not have been a dispute over membership fees at Trump National Golf Club in Virginia when Mueller left the club as a member in 2011. The fact that the White House counsel Don McGahn had to say this is a really bad idea politically as well as for other reasons and Donald Trump -- he was eventually talked off. But the idea that he considered -- not just considered, I should say, ordered it done, I think is telling that this is not the political genius of our time. Yes, did he tap into sentiments in the 2016 campaign? Did he come from nowhere? Did he beat real serious candidates? All true. But I do think that this should keep our expectation of Donald Trump's political abilities within check.

CAMEROTA: We want to bring in Christiane Amanpour. She joins us now live from London. So Christiane, tell us, how is President Trump being received at Davos? The president is walking to the podium. Just one moment, Christiane. He's doing one of his immutable handshakes. And let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. It's a privilege to be at this forum where leaders in business, science, art, diplomacy, and world affairs have gathered for many, many years to discuss how we can advance prosperity, security, and peace.

I'm here today to represent the interests of the American people and to affirm America's friendship and partnership in building a better world. Like all nations represented at this great forum, America hopes for a future in which everyone can prosper and every child can grow up free from violence, poverty, and fear.

Over the past year, we have made extraordinary strides in the U.S. We're lifting up forgotten community, creating exciting new opportunities, and helping every American find their path to the American dream, the dream of a great job, a safe home, and a better life for their children.

After years of stagnation, the United States is once again experiencing strong economic growth. The stock market is smashing one record after another and has added more than $7 trillion in new wealth since my election. Consumer confidence, business confidence and manufacturing confidence are the highest they have been in many decades.

Since my election, we've created 2.4 million jobs, and that number is going up very, very substantially. Small business optimism is at an all-time high. New unemployment claims are near the lowest we've seen in almost half a century. African-American unemployment has reached the lowest rate ever recorded in the United States, and so has unemployment among Hispanic Americans. 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. The American economy is by far the largest in the world, and we've just enacted the most significant tax cuts and reform in American history.

We've massively cut taxes for the middle class and small businesses to let working families keep more of their hard-earned money. We lowered our corporate tax rate from 35 percent all the way down to 21 percent. As a result, millions of workers have received tax cut bonuses from their employers in amounts as large as $3,000.

[08:10:00] The tax cut bill is expected to raise the average American's household income by more than $4,000. The world's largest company, Apple, announced it plans to bring $245 billion in overseas profits home to America. Their total investment into the United States economy will be more than $350 billion over the next five years. Now is the perfect time to bring your business, your jobs, and your investments to the United States. This is especially true because we have undertaken the most extensive regulatory reduction ever conceived. Regulation is stealth taxation. The U.S., like many other countries, unelected bureaucrats and we have, believe me, we have them all over the place. And they've imposed crushing and anti- business and anti-worker regulations on our citizens with no vote, no legislative debate, and no real accountability.

In America those days are over. I pledged to eliminate two unnecessary regulations for every one new regulation. We have succeeded beyond our highest expectations. Instead of two-for-one, we have cut 22 burdensome regulations for every one new rule. We are freeing our businesses and workers so they can thrive and flourish as never before. We are creating an environment that attracts capital, invites investment, and rewards production. America is the place to do business. So come to America where you can innovate, create and build.

I believe in America. As president of the United States I will always put America first, just like the leaders of other countries should put their country first also. But America first does not mean America alone. When the United States grows, so does the world. American prosperity has created countless jobs all around the globe, and the drive for excellence, creativity, and innovation in the U.S. has led to important discoveries that help people everywhere live more prosperous and far healthier lives.

As the United States pursues domestic reforms to unleash jobs and growth, we are also working to reform the international trading system so that it promotes broadly shared prosperity and rewards for those who play by the rules. We cannot have free and open trade if some countries exploit the system at the expense of other others.

We support free trade, but it needs to be fair and it needs to be reciprocal because in the end unfair trade undermines us all. The United States will no longer turn a blind eye to unfair economic practices, including massive intellectual property theft, industrial subsidies, and pervasive state-led economic planning. These and other predatory behaviors are distorting the global markets and harming businesses and workers not just in the U.S. but around the globe.

Just like we expect the leaders of other countries to protect their interests, as president of the United States, I will always protect the interest of our country, our companies, and our workers. We will enforce our trade laws and restore integrity to our trading system. Only by insisting on fair and reciprocal trade can we create a system that works not just for the U.S., but for all nations.

As I have said, the United States is prepared to negotiate mutually beneficial, bilateral trade agreements with all countries. This will include the countries in TPP which are very important. We have agreements with several of them already. We would consider negotiating with the rest, either individually or perhaps as a group, if it is in the interest of all.

[08:15:00] My administration is also taking swift action in other ways to restore American confidence and independence. We are lifting self-imposed restrictions on energy production to provide affordable power to our citizens and businesses and to promote energy security for our friends all around the world.

No country should be held hostage to a single provider of energy. America is roaring back, and now is the time to invest in the future of America. We have dramatically cut taxes to make America competitive. We are eliminating burdensome regulations at a record pace. We are reforming the bureaucracy to make it lean, responsive and accountable, and we are ensuring our laws are enforced fairly.

We have the best Colleges and Universities in the world and we have the best workers in the world. Energy is abundant and affordable. There has never been a better time to do business in America. We are also making historic investments in the American military because we cannot have prosperity without security. To make the world safer from rogue regimes, terrorism and revisionist powers, we are asking our friends and allies to invest in their own defenses and to meet their financial obligations.

Our common security requires everyone to contribute their fair share. My administration is proud to have led historic efforts at the United Nations Security Counsel and all around the world to unite all civilized nations in our campaign of maximum pressure to de-nuke the Korean peninsula. We continue to call on partners to confront Iran's support for terrorists and block Iran's path to a nuclear weapon.

We're also working with allies and partners to destroy jihadist terrorist organizations such as ISIS, and very successfully so. The United States is leading a very broad coalition to deny terrorists control of their territory and populations, to cut off their funding and to discredit their wicked ideology.

I am pleased to report that the coalition to defeat ISIS has retaken almost 100 percent of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria. There is still more fighting and work to be done and to consolidate our gains. We are committed to ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists who want to commit mass murder to our civilian populations.

I want to thank those nations represented here today that have joined in these crucial efforts. You're not just securing your own citizens, but saving lives and restoring hope for millions and millions of people. When it comes to terrorism, we will do whatever is necessary to protect our nation. We will defend our citizens and our borders.

We are also securing our immigration system as a matter of both national and economic security. America is a cutting edge economy. But our immigration system is stuck in the past. We must replace our current system of extended family chain migration with a merit-based system of admissions that selects new arrivals based on their ability to contribute to our economy, to support them selves financially and to strengthen our country.

In rebuilding America, we are also fully committed to developing our workforce. We are lifting people from dependence to independence because we know the single best anti poverty program is a very simple and very beautiful paycheck. To be successful, it is not enough to invest in our economy. We must invest in our people.

When people are forgotten, the world becomes fractured. Only by hearing and responding to the voices of the forgotten, can we create a bright future that is truly shared by all. The nation's greatness is more than the sum of its production. A nation's greatness is the sum of its citizens, the values, pride, love, devotion and charter of the people.

[08:20:00] Who called that nation home. From my first international G7 Summit to the G20 to the U.N. General Assembly to APEC, to the World Trade Organization and today at the World Economic Forum. My administration has not only been present, but has driven our message that we are all stronger when free, sovereign nations cooperate toward shared goals and cooperate toward shared dreams.

Represented in this room are some of the remarkable citizens from all over the world. You are national leaders, business titans, industry giants and many of the brightest minds in many fields. Each of you has the power to change hearts, transform lives and shape your countries destinies. With this power comes an obligation, however, a duty of loyalty to the people, workers, customers who have made you who you are.

So together let us resolve to use our power, our resources not just for ourselves but for our people to lift their burdens, to raise their hopes and empower their dreams, to protect their families, communities, histories and futures. That's what we're doing in America and the results are totally unmistakable. It's why new businesses and investment are flooding in.

It's why our unemployment rate is the lowest it's been in so many decades. It's why America' future has never been brighter. Today I am inviting all of you to become part of this incredible future we or billing together, thank you to our hosts, thank you to the leaders and innovators in the audience, but most importantly thank you to all of the hard working men and women who do their duty each and every day making this a better world for everyone.

Together let us send our love and our gratitude to make them, because they really make our countries run. They make our countries great. Thank you and god bless you all. Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: OK, you've been listening to President Trump speaking in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum. He, as expected, gave his America first speech. He touted his own economic success as he sees it. He gave all sorts of benchmarks for what he thinks has happened on his watch.

So we will fact check those momentarily. Let's bring in all of our experts. We have "CNN" Politics Reporter and Editor at large Chris Cillizz, and "CNN" Senior Economics Analyst Stephen Moore, "CNN" Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans and "CNN" Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

So we'll do the fact checking in a second but Christiane your there in London, so tell us what you heard in the speech and how you think it will be received internationally.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Well let's just take tone first. A completely different tone than exactly this time last year when at Davos President Trump was making his inaugural speech about America first in a much more dark and bleak fashion. And also it looks like he may be doing an Q&A.

CAMEROTA: Christiane, I'm so sorry to interrupt. Let's listen in for a second.

TRUMP: I knew but all of whom I've read about for year and it was truly an incredible group. But I think I have 15 new friends. This has been really great what you've done, in putting it together, the economic forum. The tax reform was a dream of a lot of people over many years but they were able to get it done.

Many people tried. Ronald Reagan was really the last to make a meaningful cut and reform. And ours is cutting and reforming. We emphasize cut, but the reform is probably almost as important. We've wanted to do it. It is very tough politically to do it. Hard to believe that would be, but it's very, very tough.

That's why it hasn't been done in close to 40 years. Once we got it going, it was going and the big, and I wouldn't say a total surprise, but one of the big things that happened and took place is AT&T and some others came out very early and they said they were going to pay thousands and thousands of dollars to people that work for their companies. And you have 300,000, 400,000, 500,000 people working for these

companies, and all of a sudden it became like a big waterfall, like a big beautiful waterfall where so many companies are doing it. Even today they just announced many more. But every day they announce more and more.

[08:25:00] Now it's a fight for who is going to give the most. It started at 1,000, now we have them up to 3,000. This is something we didn't anticipate. Oftentimes in business things happen that you don't anticipate. Usually that's a bad thing. But this was a good thing. This came out of nowhere. Nobody ever thought of this as a possibility even. It wasn't in the equation. We waited, we said wait until February 1st when the checks start coming in.

And people, Claus, have a lot more money in their pay check. Because it's not just little money, this is a lot of money for people making a living doing whatever they are doing. We really thought February 1st it was going to kick in and everybody was going to be - well we haven't gotten there yet and it's kicked in.

It's had an incredible impact on the stock market and the stock prices. We've set 84 records since my election. Record stock market prices, meaning we hit new highs 84 different times out of a one- year period. And that's a great thing. And in all fairness, that was done before we passed the tax cuts and tax reform.

So what happened is really something special. Then as you know and as I just said, Apple came in with $350 billion. And I tell you I spoke with Tim Cook, and said Tim I will never consider this whole great run that we've made complete until you start building plants in the U.S.

And I will tell you this moved up very substantially. But when I heard 350, I thought he was talking -- I thought they were talking $350 million. By the way, that's a nice size plant. Not the greatest, but not bad. They said, no, sir it's $350 billion. I said that is something. Well we have tremendous amounts of money, including my new-found friends from last night, great companies. They're all investing.

When one of the gentlemen said he's putting in $2 billion because of the tax cuts, I said to myself, wow, he's actually the cheap one in the group, because they're putting in massive numbers of billions of dollars. I think you have a brand new United States. You have a United States where people from all over the world are looking to come in and invest, and there's just nothing like what's happening.

I just want to finish by, I have a group of people that have been -- I have a whole lot of them, so I won't introduce because then I'll insult at least half of them. I've had a group of people that have worked so hard on this and other things. And we're really doing -- we had a great first year, so successful in so many different ways, and there's a tremendous spirit when you look at all of the different charts and polls.

And you see as an example, African-American unemployment at the historic low. It's never had a period of time like this, same with Hispanic, women at a 17-year low. It's very heartwarming to see. But there's a tremendous spirit in the United States. I would say it's a spirit like I have never witnessed before.

I've been here for a while. I have never witnessed a spirit that our country has right now. So I just want to thank you all and all of those that are pouring billions of dollars into our country or $10 into our country. We thank you very much, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: Mr. President, I will ask you maybe a personal question, but before doing so --

TRUMP: It sounds very interesting. I didn't know about this one.

UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: I would like to acknowledge the strong presence of your cabinet members who tremendously contributed to the discussions.

TRUMP: Good, I would like to do that. Steven, Wilbur, Gary, Robert even my General and my various other Generals, you know. We're making our military protection a little bit better for us, too. So thank you very much. Does everybody understand? I think so. Thank you all for being here.

UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: Now my maybe personal question would be what experience from your past have been most useful in preparing you for the Presidency?

TRUMP: Well, being a businessman has been a great experience for me. I've loved it , I've always loved business. I've always been good at building things. And I've always been very successful at making money. I'd buy things that would fail that would be failures and turn them around and try and get them for the right price, and then I'd turn around and make them successful.