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President and Jay-Z in rap battle over black jobs; The fight over the Nunes memo; Trump: Democrats do not want to solve DACA; Workers say they warned Amtrak before crash; Nation's Secret Society past is no secret. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 28, 2018 - 17:00   ET



[17:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Jay-Z was critical of President Trump's opinion of African countries. He talked about why black Americans usually vote for Democrats and discussed unemployment in the black community. The president on Twitter responded. First here's Jay-Z.


JAY-Z, AMERICAN RAPPER: It's not about money at the end of the day. Money is not -- it doesn't equate to like, happiness. It doesn't. That's not missing the whole point. You treat people like human beings.

And then, you know, that's the main point. You can't treat someone like -- it goes back to the whole thing. You're going to treat me bad and pay me well. It's not going to lead to happiness. It's going to lead to like you know, again, the same thing. Everyone is going to be sick.


CABRERA: The president who apparently saw Jay-Z on CNN tweeted, somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, black unemployment has just been reported to be at the lowest rate ever record.

It's not the first time through first time the president is taking credit for a lower unemployment rate among African-Americans. Let me bring in our White House correspondent Boris Sanchez. Boris, this is surreal. The president and a hip hop superstar butting heads over economic policy.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. Another surreal moment to add to in already long list of the president as he often does taking aim at a rival, this time, rapper-hip hop mogul Jay-Z via Twitter.

The president has said previously that he doesn't watch cable news. Apparently, he was watching last night and he heard Jay-Z's criticism about how this president approaches the African-American community and minorities. The president clearly took exception. We have heard from many of the

president's supporters, even officials here at the White House that this is something that they like about this president, that he does not bow down to criticism, that he fights back.

I have spoken to several staffers and we've heard from lawmakers publicly who have approached the president to try to change his Twitter habits and have him focus more on items on the agenda and oppress his message forward to the American people. But clearly, Ana, he's set in his ways.

CABRERA: Boris, given the high visibility of this back and forth of Jay-Z, will it have any effect on the president's first State of the Union address on Tuesday?

SANCHEZ: It's hard to say. Not likely. It seems that the president is going to give an optimistic speech, specifically a White House official told CNN that the president would be trying to reach across the aisle to people outside of his base to try to gain their support moving forward in 2018.

2Specifically the president is going to tout economic progress, a booming stock market, lower employment numbers and then shift, and ask Congress for a trillion dollars to fund his infrastructure plan before then talking about trade and national security.

But really the focus of his speech is going to be on immigration and it comes at a critical time for the debate about immigration, the president trying to sell his vision while simultaneously offering a path to citizenship for some 2 million undocumented immigrants.

He's going to ask for $25 billion to fund his long promised border wall and further for major changes to legal immigration. This plan does not have widespread major support in Congress right now.

But the White House is pushing back on that. You had the director of Legislative Affairs, Marc Short, on one of the Sunday morning talk shows saying that lawmakers need to get behind the president and follow his lead. Listen to more of what Marc Short has said.

It looks like we don't have that sound byte, Ana, but essentially, Marc Short, made the case that lawmakers should get behind the president. He also tried to put pressure on Democrats framing the issue this way, saying that the president has made concessions when it comes to allowing DREAMers to stay. Those 800,000 or so young...


CABRERA: We have the sound, Boris, if you want to listen.

SANCHEZ: Yes, let's go ahead and play that now.


MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR, LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS AND ASSISTANT: I think the president made an enormous appeal and showed enormous leadership in putting forward a plan to resolve the DACA situation.

An issue that has plagued our country for decades and yet, the outcry from Democrats when he went I think further than may people thought he would in providing not just permanent residence.

But also a pathway for citizenship for roughly 1.8 million people living in this country, and yet, so far, Democrats have continued to cry that they don't want to solve the problem. We are anxious to solve the problem.


SANCHEZ: So there it is, Marc Short, essentially saying that the president has offered concessions and now it's time for Democrats to offer concessions.

But specifically, when it comes to the issue of changes to legal immigration, Democrats have said that the White House's plan is inhumane, and that it is essentially a non-starter when it comes to hammering out a deal with the White House and with Republicans.

We should note all of this preview on the State of the Union is just what's on paper. That's teleprompter Trump. If he does, as he often does in the past and goes off script, we may get a whole other distraction.

Similar to what we are seeing now with Jay-Z, whether, you know, any range of topics might come up. A White House official has told CNN the president is going to speak from the heart on Tuesday night during his first State of the Union Address, Ana.

[17:05:04] CABRERA: All right, Boris Sanchez at the White House, thanks. I want to talk more about President Trump tweeting at Jay-Z, after the hip hop mogul criticized the president during an interview this weekend with CNN's Van Jones. Again, here's the president's tweet.

Because of my policies, black unemployment has been reported to be at the lowest rate ever recorded. So let's take a closer look. Just last month, the African-American unemployment rate did hit a record low of 6.8 percent.

Black unemployment is still significantly higher than other U.S. groups. The Hispanic unemployment rate is just under five percent. The white unemployment rate is at 3.7 percent.

And the Asian unemployment rate is 2.5 percent. So let's talk more about this with CNN's Van Jones and Paris Dennard, member of the Trump advisory council and also, from a White House director of Black outreach under President George W. Bush.

So then, I'll start with you because you had a conversation with Jay- Z. We played just a clip there at the beginning. Did the president sort of miss the point of what Jay-Z was saying because it sounded to me like he was saying money doesn't buy happiness. VAN JONES, CNN HOST, THE VAN JONES SHOW: Right. And you know, Jay-Z

just did something extraordinary. I mean, he came on, was confessional. He was deep, he really opened his heart up and talked about his marriage and talked about his kids.

But he also talked about the pain in the black community when you hear President Trump use, you know, s-hole nations. He talked about, you know, raising black kids in the face of that. And then I, you know, tried to point out, well, you know, what about some of these unemployment numbers that are looking pretty good.

And he said, as you heard, that's not enough. You know, you can't disrespect people and then just think they are going to be happy because they have money. It's about human dignity, that's the point he was trying to make.

He actually was addressing the very thing that the Trump then tweeted about. That the numbers aren't -- the numbers by themselves, good as they are, are not enough. And I think most people feel that way.

I mean, you don't have to be white or black. Of course, if somebody gave you $100 bill and then called you a name, you wouldn't be as happy about the $100 bill. That is all he is saying.

CABRERA: How do you say it, Paris?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the president didn't give anybody $100 bill and call them a name. What the president did just had a set of policies that he talked about during the campaign trail that has gone into him as president of the United States with campaign rhetoric to actual policies.

That are actually having a positive impact on all Americans. And when you look at the black community, it's having a positive impact with 6.8 percent unemployment. So the president was pointing out that fact.

That it's something that's a good thing for him to tout -- tout and it's something that's good for not just the black community, but for all of Americans because at the end of the day, the dignity of work is something that is a positive thing, and the president believes explicitly that there's a direct correlation between people having a job and people rising out of poverty. People not...

JONES: I think everybody with a functioning brain stem agrees with the president on that one. But I think what Jay-Z was trying to get to, and I think what a lot of people are trying to get to, first of all, that's 6.8 percent number is a number that everybody should celebrate.

And frankly, on a bipartisan basis, it's a continuation of a trend that's been coming down -- those number have been coming down stubbornly through the Obama administration. And the Trump administration did not do anything to make those numbers worse. They kept those numbers moving, so the...

CABRERA: Does he deserve some credit?

JONES: He does. The Obama administration did the lion's share of the work, but Trump has continued that positive direction. On a bipartisan basis work, we can celebrate those numbers.

Instead, it becomes I'm Trump, I did it all by myself and then anybody who criticizes him is just apparently can't look at the map. And I think that's insulting in two directions.

You didn't do it by yourself. It was a national effort in two administrations. And by the way, you can appreciate those numbers and still expect more from the president than the kind of demeaning comments he often makes.

CABRERA: What about President Trump's tone in his tweet? Because we have seen him attack other people of color, remember the SOB comment against black athletes kneeling during the national anthem.

There was of course, the LaVar Ball battle. Do you think Trump's tone is different this time because he sees Jay-Z as powerful, he is a mogul, doesn't actually want to pick a fight with him.

DENNARD: No, I think the president's tone is touting to all the rest of the tweets. He was very direct and he was very opinionated because he felt that he needed to get something out to the American people in response to somebody who I do believe he views as someone who is influential, somebody who has the mega phone, somebody who has gone from being a hip hop mogul and taken that mantle to entrepreneurship and business.

And so, he views him as somebody who is significant. And when he says something that he feels is wrong or should be corrected or should be responded to, he doesn't. I think his tone was correct. And I think that the president should do these.

And here's the interesting thing. What, Van, talked about, if the unemployment rate for the black community was 16.8 percent, all the blame would be cast upon this president. And we know every single president deserves the credit when credit is due.

[17:10:00] They get the credit and they get the blame. So this happened under President Trump's watch and it is part of what he has done as president and his policy.

It's going to increase and going to continue when it comes to February when we see more and more of these tax benefits and tax relief comes to the American people.

CABRERA: OK. But don't forget -- don't forget, Paris, this president also would say that the unemployment rate numbers were bogus back when Obama was seeing positive movement in that regard.

JONES: And that's one thing I was going to point out that these are the same unemployment number that he said that in reality, they were -- it was 30 percent or 50 percent, he was just, you know, lying. But I think there's an irony here that has not been pointed out. Jay-

Z as a hip hop artist, you think about hip hop, you think about the braggadocios, you think about that the accusatory, I'm great, you suck.

Jay-Z's most recent album, he has got eight nominees -- nominations tonight from this new album, the 4:44. And it's confessional. He's growing as a person. He's talking about mistakes that he's made.

He's talking about regrets that he has. You know, he has only one marriage and our president has three. One marriage, he's talking about fighting to keep that marriage alive.

And yet, it's the president who is the braggadocios one, not the rap star. It's the president who's accusing everybody, not the rap star. It's the rap who says, my wife is my soul mate. I'll do anything for here.

I have never heard Trump call his wife his soul mate. So it's interesting as a parent. I actually think we have crossed a threshold where a young hip hop star is showing more character and more praise worthy attributes than the President of the United States on these questions around confession and character.

CABRERA: Let me ask you this, Paris.


CABRERA: Should African-Americans just put up with the president's insults or derogatory comments because they have jobs?

DENNARD: First of all, I think that, Van, should give the president the grace to mature and to change in this role that he's in right now like he's given Jay-Z.

The Jay-Z album that we have today is not the Jay-Z album that he put out in the past, which a lot of people point to. There's been evolution.

I think that's what we're seeing in President Trump going from candidate -- well, businessman Trump to candidate Trump to President Trump. It is an evolution. And it is a growth period. And I think we're seeing more and more of that as the president comes into his own in this position. But to your point, Ana...

JONES: Where do you see the growth?

DENNARD: Excuse me?

JONES: Where do you see the growth? Besides the titles have change but where do you see the growth? What evidence do you see of growth so far?

DENNARD: The evidence I see in growth so far is the fact that he is the President of the United States, that he's decided to run for office and become a politician. The growth is if you want to talk about tone and tweet, which he

brought up, and she points out -- Ana, points out that that might have been a different tone in his tweet towards Jay-Z, well, then there's your one example.

In this example of tweeting to someone who happens to be African- American, the tone in her opinion was different. So that could be considered growth.

But there's a lot of things, but that's not the point of this conversation. The point of this conversation is going back to whether or not we can look at what the president says and ignore that, and look at what he does in terms of policies. And I think we can...


CABRERA: Here's the point of this conversation, though, Paris. Because I think it's a bigger picture issue that we're talking about. It comes back to the president's relationship with people of color.

And I think it's interesting when you look at who the president surrounds himself with. In fact, if you look at his cabinet right now, it's more white -- more male than any first cabinet since President Reagan. This is according to PolitiFact. Van, do you think that lack of diversity matters?

JONES: I think it does. I mean I think it hurts his ability to understand some of this stuff. Also you know, we talked about, you know, who he picks fights with. He does tend to pick fights unfortunately, with just bizarre people -- just, you know, black rapper or black football player, FBI agents.

But he doesn't pick fights with Russians who are messing up our elections. He doesn't pick fights with these white terrorist organizations that are gaining strength everyday, the Nazi groups.

So there's something weird there. And I think it does have to do with not having that perspective. You know, if, Paris, were sitting next to Donald Trump every day, I think Donald Trump would be a different president. But you don't have that. And I do think it hurts.


DENNARD: I think it's insulting to insinuate just because you don't have my skin color or then skin color that you don't have the capacity to advise or to give or care about the black community in the White House.

Look, when you look back at President Obama's term in office and the black people he had surrounding him, there was some decisions that many in the African-American community -- African-American community said, how could we do that?

You look at the change that he did to some of the loans that affected the black community and the education space or what look like, what he did with cutting edge funding or with some of the things that he did not do in terms of housing for the black community.

So it doesn't have anything to do with skin color. Jack Kemp was somebody who really cared about our community. And he was not black. And I think if you look at some of the people that are at all the people who are in this cabinet, just to say -- just because they are black, doesn't mean that they don't have the capacity to give solid advice to this president as it relates to our community is absolutely false.

[17:15:09] JONES: Well, you know, I see it differently and I'll tell you why. I think that skin color can sometimes be a proxy for a certain set of experiences. Maybe we should be more accurate about what we mean.

But I don't see anybody in the cabinet no matter what color who has deep ties with the African-American community or the Latino community, or the native American community, or the Muslim community, or frankly, any non-white community.

And so whether it's, you know, they are born and raised there, they have the skin tone as you said, maybe this is not the right way to say it.

But the ties and the perspective, I do think grow out of a certain set of experiences and commitments. I don't see that in the Trump White House. And the model color of it really underscores I think that deeper reality.


CABRERA: If it's not about whether the president cares about the black community, let's give him that. He probably does care about the black community, but does he understand these communities of color and what their needs are and how best to serve them if he doesn't have those people as part of his inner circle?

DENNARD: Once again, that's an insulting comment to think just because you -- look, the parent pus debacle happened under Barack Obama's -- President Obama's term in office. That was a horrible thing that happened to the lot of students that horribly impacted the black community.

That was under his administration. So when you look at just the makeup of the administration right now, yes, the president does not have a lot of black people in cabinet level positions.

But I think his policies -- look, the tax reform bill that came across, that was passed included something that was a bipartisan effort that was led by Senator Tim Scott that has the capacity to bring trillions of dollars into these -- what called the investing in opportunity act.

That's something that is a positive thing. And I think, Van, will jump on board. And I think it's something that Jay-Z would jump on board with. But that is something that...


JONES: I appreciate you raising -- it's also very interesting. Tim Scott is African-American. And he was the person who was the most passionate about getting that done and he got it done.

And so I appreciate your point but I think that part of the reason the Obama administration is certainly wasn't perfect and did make some mistakes, it didn't make more mistakes because I think they just had more different kinds of eyes on the situation.

The president we have right now makes the same kind of mistake frankly over and over, and over again annoying, and frustrating even his strongest supporters because I just don't think he has got that cognitive diversity, the view point diversity that he needs to learn fast enough.

And listen, I'm somebody when liberals would hate me because I will give him his credit where it's due. But I think on this point, I think it's hard to give him more than a D-minus when it comes to his growth curve and his learning curve on how to lead a multiracial democracy.

CABRERA: Paris, let me give you the last word and ask you this question. What could the president do to grow in this area?

DENNARD: What the president can do to grow in this area is to continue to put people -- bring people together, bring diverse opinions into the White House and find real common solutions to make America great again for the black community.

Let there be no doubt that the president cares about the black community, and he cares about the growth of the black community as well as the economic impact that his policies can have. That's what he should do.

He can grow in this area by continuing to bring people like, Van. Van, put your money where your mouth is. Go to the White House and have meetings with him and say what can I do. What can I do to help my president advance as relates to this community? What can we all do? And what can Jay-Z do?

JONES: You know, what -- I'll tell you what...

DENNARD: Jay-Z can pick up the phone and call these governors and say that investing in opportunity is something that we should get behind. Let's do it. President -- let's talk about Chicago.


JONES: You put my name in it.

DENNARD: You put my name in it, too.

JONES: Paris, I'm polite to you. You treat me like I'm a mean person. I'm not. Listen, I think that on criminal justice reform, which, you know, rumor has it that Jared Kushner is passionate about. DENNARD: That's facts, not rumor.

JONES: I'm just trying to go with what I can confirm.

DENNARD: And I just confirmed it for you. It's fact. It's not a rumor.


CABRERA: OK. Paris, Let him finish because we have to go.

DENNARD: I'm not being rude.

CABRERA: Let's be respectful.

DENNARD: I'm not being rude. I'm just pointing out something to you.

JONES: I am trying to agree.

CABRERA: OK. We have to go. Van, finish your thought and then we've got to go.

JONES: I think on criminal justice reform, to your point, Paris, that is an opportunity for us to come together and I hope that we will.

CABRERA: Thank you very much. Van Jones and Paris Dennard, we really appreciate your thoughts. Coming up, renewed interests among Democrats and Republicans to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

What they are proposing to shield him from the president and as the battle over secret memo continues in Washington, one committee could vote to declassify its contents as early as tomorrow.

[17:20:00] I'll ask a Democrat on that panel what he thinks, next.


CABRERA: The House Intelligence Committee could vote this week on whether to release a secretive memo compiled by Republican Congressman Devin Nunes. Here is what we know about it, the classified memo is four pages long.

Republicans who read it claims it shows how Obama officials improperly surveilled the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. The White House wants this memo released. It says it supports full transparency.

The Justice Department says releasing the memo would be, quote, extraordinarily reckless. I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.

He sits on this House Intelligence Committee and will vote on whether to release this memo. Congressman, have you read the secretive four- page document?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening, Ana. I have read it and I can best describe it as a brainwashing document that tries to put forward to the rest of the members of the House of Representatives a number of myths and, you know, at best conspiracy theories.

[17:25:00] I think to undermine Bob Mueller's investigation as he interviews more witnesses and gets closer I think to telling the American people just what happened.

CABRERA: As we describe what we have learned about it, if the Obama administration -- it is how it just been described again by Republicans, if the Obama administration did, in fact, improperly surveil the Trump campaign, shouldn't that be made public?

SWALWELL: Well, I can't go into comments on it. Of course, we should always have oversight over our intelligence officials, but this memo comments on classified materials that almost every person on the Intelligence Committee has acknowledged they did not read.

So it's essentially writing a book review on a book that most of the authors have not read. It's just using facts that we do know are inaccurate. So I think that's an effort to work with the White House to undermine Bob Mueller, who the president looks like so far has been prevented from firing by his own staff.

CABRERA: Do you think it will be released?

SWALWELL: I hope not. If it is, I hope the Democratic memo, which tells the full story, would be released. We're going to offer to do that if it does go to the public. And I hope my Republican colleagues would join us.

But Ana, the larger issue here is the rule of law. And it's being threatened continuously by the president and his, you know, co-counsel on the house intelligence committee who continue to try to undermine it.

And what they are doing is they are really I think devastating the moral of our law enforcement officers who have other non-Russia- related investigations and their credibility is being affected by these efforts that we continue to see every day.

CABRERA: So let me ask you about reports that the president tried to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller last June apparently. There are now two bipartisan bills, as we understand them in the senate to protect Mueller from being fired. Here's what Republican lawmakers said this weekend about these bills.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think Mr. Mueller is the perfect guy to get to the bottom of all of this and he will. And I think my job, among others, is to give him the space to do it. I intend to do that. And I have got legislation protecting Mr. Mueller and I'll be glad to pass it tomorrow.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You said in December that quote, you haven't seen the need for legislation protecting Mueller. Do you see the need now?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It probably wouldn't hurt for us to pass one of those bills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you support legislation to protect Mueller?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIFORNIA: I don't think there's a need for legislation right now to protect Mueller.


CABRERA: OK. So they're saying, they are ready to pass these bills. One, Kevin McCarthy, your colleague from California saying he sees no need. Do you think there's enough support from both parties in Congress to get these bills passed?

SWALWELL: We need action, not just words. There's certainly been the sentiment to protect him. But, Ana, if you wait until the match is lit to install the fire sprinklers, it's too late. We shouldn't wait for the president to fire Bob Mueller.

We can act right now and put in legislation that would require oversight on the president's decision to do something like this. And I think if he did do this, it would be clear obstruction of justice and the leaders of the country should move quickly to hold the president accountable.

CABRERA: Are you worried the president is still thinking about it?

SWALWELL: Yes, I am worried that he is still thinking about it. And I also don't give much credit for Don McGahn for threatening to resign. He did not come forward and the Congressional Committee, didn't apparently tell at least as far as we know, any law enforcement officials.

And attorney-client privilege does not prevent you from coming forward if your client attempts to commit a crime. And it's pretty clear that Obstructing Special Counsel's investigation would be a crime.

CABRERA: But don't you think it's possible he may have told that to the Special Counsel exactly what happened what the president asked him to do and not do, what -- how he responded given we know he went before Robert Mueller's team in December.

SWALWELL: Again, yes, if he did that, I would give him a lot of credit. Right now, it's not clear that's the case. And right now, Ana, Don McGahn is being represented by the same lawyer who was representing Steve Bannon and others in the Russia investigation, which creates other conflicts of interest that we have seen throughout our effort to get to the bottom of this.

CABRERA: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you for trying to get to the bottom of it all. And we welcome you back on the show in the future.

SWALWELL: Of course, thanks a lot, Ana. CABRERA: Thank you so much. The president will be giving his first State of the Union on Tuesday, don't forget. And we're learning immigration is expected to be one of the major themes of his speech. Where exactly does the president stand on this issue? We'll discuss, next.


CABRERA: Welcome back. The president says Democrats should take his deal to spare DACA recipients from deportation. I have offered DACA a wonderful deal, the president said in a tweet tis morning.

He says he wants to make a point to show that Democrats do not want to solve DACA, only use it. The president's offered a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants currently in this country in exchange for a border wall trust fund.

This plan has brought the left and right angry and has undocumented immigrants whose futures are in jeopardy wondering what's going to happen to them.


CESAR MONTELONGO HERNANDEZ, PROTECTED FROM DEPORTATION BY DACA: There has to be a lot of back and forth as to what the leadership in Washington, D.C. wants. And for myself as a person, it's very difficult to wake up every day and see the head lines telling me that my future may play out in a given manner in just having to think about what's going to happen every single day.


CABRERA: Here with us now is Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell and White House correspondent for the Washington Examiner, Sarah Westwood. So, Sarah, what do you expect the president to say about DACA in his State of the Union Address?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, President Trump is in a pretty tough position right now when it comes to DACA because on the one hand, he made certain promises to his base. He called this program, unconstitutional.

He promised to totally rescind it and now he's offering a complete path to citizenship, not just for everyone who is in the program right now, but for everyone who is eligible.

[17:35:04] And on the other hand, he's dealing with the Democratic Party that's potentially even less willing to negotiate than they were before the shutdown fight because their base perceives that potentially Senate Democrats engaged in a bit of a surrender by agreeing to reopen the government without assurance of protection for DACA recipients.

So President Trump during a State of the Union has to thread the needle to explain why his plan even though it satisfies neither side is the best middle way forward to strike that unifying tone. CABRERA: Catherine, I have spoken with some of the Democrats who were

planning to bring guest who may be DREAMers to the State of the Union Address. What do these Democrats want to hear from the president?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: I think they want to hear from the president that he's going to protect DACA recipients. He's going to protect DREAMers. This is the fundamental question for Republicans right now, including Donald Trump.

Does he want to help them or not? He has said he wants to. His voters say they it want to. If you look at polling data, something like three quarters of Republicans say that they think DREAMers should be allowed to stay here, which begs the questioning, why is he threatening to deport them?

If he wants them to stay, if his voters want them to stay, why is he threatening this? I mean, it kind of reminds me of that scene in blazing saddles where the sheriff is holding himself hostage. It just makes so little sense.

CABRERA: The president we know has inserted himself at times. It hasn't been particularly helpful on either side of this debate. We heard from Chuck Schumer in an interview with the Washington Pose in which he says, stay away from the negotiating table President Trump.

He says unless Donald Trump realizes that the kind of deal I offer is good for him, it's better than that he stays away. If he disappears, we still I think have a very good chance to pass things as long as he doesn't mess it all up, which could very well happen.

We have seen the president get involved and complicate things, but is it realistic to think the president wouldn't be involved in some way in these negotiations?

RAMPELL: No, of course, not. I don't think he can keep himself from being involved. And normally, when it comes to a major legislative priority like this, yes, the president would be involved.

The problem is, Trump doesn't exactly know what he wants on DACA in particular but in immigration reform more generally. And I think it's very difficult to negotiate with someone who does not know what he wants.

And Schumer has expressed frustration about this. Republican legislators have expressed frustration about this. So, yes, it would probably be more conducive to actually getting a deal if, in fact, Trump sort of let it play out without his involvement. But it's very unlikely that he would allow that to happen.

CABRERA: Sarah, in an exclusive interview with CNN this weekend during a trip to Central America this weekend, Republican Senator James Lankford said the White House frame work should now serve as the president's bond.

And I quote, obviously, he just put it on paper. This won't then just a statement out of press conference of hand, if he's putting it on paper, that means not only has he signed off on it, his team signed off on it. So, do you think Democrats will operate under those assumptions or not.

WESTWOOD: Well, I think Democrats will operate under the assumption that this is the opening offer from the right. It's not clear -- I mean, it's obvious that they are not going to accept it.

The Republican fear is that the policy that President Trump put forward looks more like what they hoped to negotiated compromise would look like.

Now they are opening for because there's nowhere really for conservatives to go from here if already the opening offer has a pathway for citizenship for 1.8 million of those undocumented immigrants.

And the plan will only get watered down from here to earn Democratic support, then I thin you do have a lot of nervousness on the right about where the negotiations go from here given that the plan put forward by the White House despite all the hysterics is actually fairly middle of the road for this administration.

CABRERA: I thought it was interesting, Catherine, that we saw people like Tom Cotton who have been fairly strict on the immigration issues saying, you know, DREAMers and giving them citizenship could be the same as amnesty actually saying the president may be on to something in this plan. What did you make of that?

RAMPELL: I think that that reflects the fact that there's a lot in this plan that is throwing a huge bone to Cotton and others on the far right.

Including what looks like reducing the number of legal immigrants who can come here, getting rid of family-sponsored visas of certain categories for family-sponsored visas, so there's a lot of stuff in this plan that would be very appealing to people on the far right much less so to people on the left or even in the middle for that matter.

I mean, lots of people even in the Republican Party have expressed concerns about getting rid of family-sponsored visas. So I think that this just reflects the fact that this is not a great deal for people on the left. This is not a great deal for people who are hoping to come to an agreement with a middle of the road policy.

CABRERA: All right, Catherine Rampell and Sarah Westwood, thank you both. Just a reminder to stay with CNN for the president's first State of the Union this Tuesday. Our live coverage kicks off at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, again on CNN.

Still ahead this hour, new details are emerging about what may have caused the derailment of an Amtrak train in Washington State.

[17:40:00] Workers say they warned superiors about the lack of training on this route. What they say was behind the rush to open this line, next.


CABRERA: New information this week that throws light on the safety of traveling by Amtrak. It's what investigators have turned up so far about the crash of that passenger train wreck in December.

Three people died, more than 100 were hurt when this Amtrak train going way too fast jumped off the rails near Tacoma, Washington. The new information, lots of mistakes and training that is nowhere near good enough. Here's our investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin. Drew.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN OUR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Ana, those engineers and conductors say not only were they not ready, but their supervisors knew it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amtrak 501, emergency.

GRIFFIN: Days before Amtrak 501 jumped off the tracks in a deadly crash, engineers and conductors for the brand new route warned their supervisors they did not feel adequately trained according to a dozen sources familiar with the training.

[17:45:06] The new route was nonetheless opened on December 18th, derailing on its very first trip. Those sources, including several who were part of the training, tell CNN they believe Amtrak managers rushed the training in order to open the new defiance bypass on time taking dangerous shortcuts.

Engineers and conductors who spoke to CNN say their practice runs were abnormal, six people in a car with three seats, some riding backwards preventing them from seeing landmarks and becoming familiar with the route.

The engineers and conductors also tell CNN the training runs were done at night to accommodate construction crews during the day. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, told CNN investigators are aware of the issues that have been raised regarding training of the Amtrak 501 crew members.

NTSB released details from its interview with the engineer behind the controls of the train. He missed at least two signs just before the crash.

The NTSB also said that engineer took seven to 10 observational training trips but just three operating the equipment and only one of those trips was in the direction the train was traveling when it crashed.

According to the NTSB, the engineer also said that he would not have gotten behind the throttle if he had any reservations about his readiness to operate train.

That engineer has not responded to CNN, but more than a half dozen lawsuits filed so far in the crash all raise questions about crew training as a possible cause. One of the lawsuits was filed by a conductor, who was training in the lead locomotive when the train crashed. Anthony Petru was representing him.

ANTHONY PETRU, HIKLEBRAND, MCLEOD & NELSON: The complaints were left and first challenged and then unheeded in the training program went on as Amtrak had planned it. At night with multiple employees the train at the same time, which I don't think is adequate at all.

GRIFFIN: The first trip of the new leg of the cascades route led Seattle's King Street Station the morning of December 18th. At 7:34 a.m. as the train was heading south from Tacoma on this new stretch, it derailed sending the engine and railcars tumbling on to Interstate Five below.

Three passengers were killed, more than 100 people injured. Initial reports show that train was barreling at 80 miles an hour on this stretch of track when it was heading into that turn. It should have been going 30.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are on the ground.

JOHN HIATT, INVESTIGATOR: This guy lost track of where he was at. It's a thing we call situational awareness.

GRIFFIN: John Hiatt is a former train engineer who has spent the last 24 years investigating train accidents for a law firm which is now suing Amtrak on behalf of an injured employee.

Amtrak has refused to respond to allegations its training was rushed and inadequate, directing questions to the NTSB. Amtrak did say in a statement, it is actively taking measures to strengthen the safety of our operations.

HIATT: Training is money. And in this case, it looks to me like they were worried about money and time, and safety was number three.

GRIFFIN: The accident is again raising concerns about what many are calling a failing safety culture at Amtrak. In 2016, an Amtrak train crashed near Chester, Pennsylvania, killing two and injuring dozens.

After a year and a half investigation, the NTSB released its final report finding that deficient safety management across many levels of Amtrak as the cause leading NTSB's chairman to conclude Amtrak's safety culture is failing and is primed to fail again. That warning and report were released on November 14th, just one month later, December 18th, Amtrak 501 crashed.


GRIFFIN: The NTSB says its investigation could take anywhere from 12 months to 24 months. In the meantime, the new president at Amtrak is promising to improve safety on all operations at Amtrak and especially on training for new routes. Ana.

CABRERA: Sadly a wake up call, thank you. Drew Griffin, thank you. We'll be right back. [17:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: One Republican senator raised a lot of eyebrows this week by highlighting FBI text messages he says point to a secret society within the bureau. Well, a great premise for a Dan Brown novel. Not so much for reality.

It turns out, it seems he misunderstood a joke. But secret societies among U.S. leaders is no secret. And that's the subject of this week's State of the Cartoonian.


TAPPER: There is no secret society within the FBI that we know about. But America's leaders do have a long history with very secret, very exclusive clubs. Both Bushes, for example, were tapped for Yale's cryptic and scary sounding skull and bones.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITES STATES: It's so secret, we can't talk about it.

TAPPER: Other notable bonesmen include former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who refused to give up even the tiniest of secret morsels.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish there were something secret I could manifest.

TAPPER: At Harvard, Teddy Roosevelt was a member of the secretive all male pork club. So exclusive that another president, that his distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt was rejected for membership. But President John F. Kennedy, no stranger to secrets himself condemned secret societies.

[17:55:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, the secret oath, and the secret proceedings.

TAPPER: Though we should point out he was also a member of an exclusive club while at Harvard. And think the American tradition of joining secret societies dates back to the very beginning.

George Washington himself was the member of the Order of Freemasons. As for President Trump, who knows if he is part of a secret society. He certainly has secrets.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to tell you a little secret. I shouldn't say it. Half of you will leave the room. Should I say it?

TAPPER: The first rule of secret societies, Mr. President, you don't talk about secret societies.


CABRERA: Coming up, the president won't be taking his State of the Union agenda message on the road. In fact, we're just learning that he prefers big rallies instead. The looming deadline on immigration, though, is this a missed opportunity for him? We'll discuss next.