Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's First State of the Union Comes Amid Russia Probe. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 29, 2018 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: ... Thank you so much. Our special coverage begins 5 p.m. tomorrow night.

[07:00:07] Thanks to all our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "NEWSROOM" is next. For our viewers here in the United States, stay right here. NEW DAY continues right now.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It is pretty clear to me that everybody in the White House knows that it would be the end of the presidency if he fired Mr. Mueller.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People from New York have a different way of talking. We blew off about some things. We shouldn't wait for the president to fire Bob Mueller. We can act right now and put in legislation that would require oversight.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I think the president would be best served by never discussing the investigation, ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I appreciate the president putting his plan forward and narrowing what he would like to see in a bipartisan solution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To solve this problem, we're going to have to have compromise. No one's going to get 100 percent of what they want.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: That plan is a campaign to make America white again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't need that type of rhetoric on either side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's perplexed Congress for decades. He is showing leadership that could finally get it done.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow joining me. Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Good to be here. CUOMO: Always good to have you.

President Trump looking to reset his presidency in his first State of the Union address tomorrow night. The president expected to tout tax cuts and the strong U.S. economy, while pitching the American people on a controversial immigration plan.

Now, ahead of the speech, lawmakers are divided over the need for legislation to protect special counsel, Bob Mueller. This obviously comes after reports that President Trump tried to fire him last June.

HARLOW: On top of that, the president's frustration with the Russia investigation may have Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the crosshairs. "The New York Times" also reports a House Intel Committee memo reveals Rosenstein approved an application to extend surveillance of a former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page, while the president was just beginning in office.

Now, the president wants that memo released. This has set up a big showdown between the president and those Republicans and his own Justice Department who's against this release. We have it all covered.

Let's begin with Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Good morning.


President Trump spent his weekend here at the White House, preparing for that first official State of the Union address tomorrow night, where aides say he will focus on building a stronger, safer and prouder America.

And those same aides also say that the president is going to set aside his typically combative tone for one of bipartisanship and compromise. But if we learned anything from President Trump's first year in office, it's that this is a president who rarely sticks to the script.


COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump gearing up for his first State of the Union address where he's expected to tout the economic progress of his first year in office while rallying support behind key legislative initiatives like infrastructure and immigration.

MARC SHORT, DIRECTOR OF WHITE HOUSE LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: I think the president is going to talk about how America is back.

COLLINS: The immigration plan unveiled by the White House last week would provide a pathway to citizenship for nearly two million undocumented immigrants in exchange for $25 billion to fund the president's border wall. The plan would also make major changes to legal immigration, a key sticking point that Democrats have called dead on arrival.

PELOSI: That plan is a campaign to make America white again. SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: We don't need that type of

rhetoric on either side. The president has laid out what he wants. That's a good starting point.

COLLINS: The president's high-profile speech coming amid controversy over Mr. Trump's reported attempt to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller last June.

SHORT: The president has never intimated to me in any way a desire fire Mueller.

COLLINS: Republicans warning the president against taking this step.

GRAHAM: Everybody at the White House knows it will be the end of President Trump's presidency if he fired Mr. Mueller.

COLLINS: But showing little urgency to take action on two bipartisan bills that would protect the special counsel.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (D), MAINE: It certainly wouldn't hurt to put that extra safeguard in place given the latest stories. But, again, I have faith in the deputy attorney general.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIFORNIA: I don't think there's a need for legislation. Right now there is not an issue. So why create one when there isn't a place for it?

COLLINS: The majority of Democrats arguing that Congress must take action.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: There's a credible case of obstruction of justice against the president of the United States.

COLLINS: CNN has learned that in recent weeks, Mr. Trump has been complaining about wanting to fire Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein, as well. Rosenstein oversees Mueller in the special counsel investigation.

The "New York Times" reports that the controversial memo, spearheaded by House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes, reveals that Rosenstein approved an application to extend to the surveillance of former Trump campaign associate Carter Page last spring, indicating that Republicans may be moving to seize on Rosenstein's role as they seek to undermine the special counsel.


COLLINS: Now questions over whether the president's moment in the sun will be overshadowed by the Russia investigation come as the president is facing a major deadline today to use the Russia sanctions power that Congress overwhelmingly voted to give him last fall -- Chris and Poppy.

[07:05:06] CUOMO: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much. Let's discuss. We have CNN political analyst David Gregory and John Avlon. Do you think that there is going to be any legislation to protect Bob Mueller in this environment?


HARLOW: Go. Go, gentlemen, go.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I -- I don't -- I don't see it right now. You see this division among House and Senate leadership already.

You heard Kevin McCarthy there, saying there's not much appetite to do it in the House. And even Lindsey Graham, who in the piece made clear that it's his view it would be the end of the Trump presidency, were he to try to fire Mueller, is not necessarily saying that there is no momentum to do it.

So you know, we talked about this last hour, and I think John's point about, you know, an unwillingness to take on Trump over this is still there. Ad it's been there throughout. But I don't -- I don't see them acting on it.

AVLON: Gutless wonders are a native species to Capitol Hill. We all know that. But people have new information, showing that the thing that the president's lawyers assured everyone would never happen, that the president would never think or dream of firing Robert Mueller, has been actively contemplated and had to be blocked by the White House counsel.

We also have new reporting about the president apparently wanting to fire Rod Rosenstein. Why would he do that?

So this is all very clear signs of a clear and present danger that could lead to a constitutional crisis. Congress has the ability to get ahead of it and do something. They backed it in the past. Now, based on this new reporting, even co-sponsors of bills like Senator Tom Tillis seem to be backing away from it.

That is just wishing a deeper problem on the American people and on the institutions. Step up, do the right thing, pass the legislation, and then we can all sleep easy. Otherwise, it's a fool's being masked by partisan expediency.

GREGORY: Well, and then what happens, were the o make a move and fire Mueller? You know, look at the chain reaction. You have an attorney general who is recused from the Russia investigation.

The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who selected Mueller in the first place, who would presumably resign. Who else is going to step up into that role? And then, to John's point, are you going to have, then, congressional leadership go down to the White House and say, "This cannot stand; this is unacceptable. You know, that's going to be an incredibly reactive step if that's ever taken."

CUOMO: And they've hurt themselves, Poppy, because they have never done it before.

HARLOW: Yes. CUOMO: So the idea of Ryan and McConnell and the leadership all of a sudden getting on their horse. Why would the president respect them? He knows he's been able to beat them time and again.

HARLOW: Well, as you pointed out last hour, too late, then. If you care that much...

CUOMO: It's the law.

HARLOW: ... to protect it, just do it now.

David Gregory, just to you on one more beat. There are more and more developments. We're learning more and more about this controversial memo from Devin Nunes, about what he alleges is abuse of the surveillance laws in this country to monitor some Trump campaign associates. Carter Page, "The New York Times," is reporting this morning that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy A.G., while the president had just taken office, extended the surveillance of Carter Page, right, believing that there was concern there tied to Russia.

The president wants this memo out. Nunes wants this memo out there. The Justice Department says it would be reckless to do that. Where does this go?

GREGORY: Well, I don't see the White House backing down on this. Because, you know, inside Washington, we're looking at this every day. We know how extraordinary it is that you'd have a White House arguing to have this released when the Trump Justice Department is saying, "No, you can't do this in fighting with Capitol Hill."

So -- but I don't see the White House letting down on this. The effort has been to undermine this investigation, to suggest that there's kind of a deeper conspiracy within entrenched forces in the government who are out to get him. And there's enough people who think that the -- that there's nothing to the investigation that will cotton to that side.

So I don't see that strategy being abandoned at all. This is why, whatever is happening in Congress, however that moves forward, you've got to look at the special prosecutor as the real game in town to see what he's able to come up with, if anything on all of this.

CUOMO: This is just a little fishy with the memo, though. Because, one, I hope it comes out. I mean, you don't want to see sources and methods. But they do this all the time, where they allow us to have information without compromising people. They redact. They selectively put things out.

You read the memo, but you don't get the supporting information. You know, these guys, if they were so righteous about this, John, members of Congress get immunity for speech and debate on the House floor. They can go and read the memo. The president, you know, in the categories of complete power, this is really up there, classification and declassification, information. Yes, there are procedures.

But if they want to box out the Justice Department, he could do that. He could declassify certain parts of this. Both the mechanism. Why hasn't it come out yet? We want it out. I think it's -- I want to see who was unmasked. Who were they looking at? Why were they looking? What do they have?

AVLON: Unless it's an utterly specious partisan document. Because none of the supporting information is there or is taken out of context. Look, but you're right. The president could do this. Nunes could do this. But instead, they're waiting on it. Why? Because I think this is a counter to any acceleration of the Mueller probe.

And again, you can't say enough. It is extraordinary to have the president's own Justice Department say that it would be reckless to release this, and still there is no sharing of information. That is stunning. Even in a surreal era like ours.

HARLOW: David Gregory, to Chris's point, do you think it is more politically advantageous, then, for the Republicans, for the president, for the Republicans like Nunes, to dangle and leak things like this -- I mean, someone leaks this to "The New York Times," I think more than political advantageous to that than to put the whole thing out there?

GREGORY: I don't know how to argue the political heads and tails on this. Either way, whether it's leaked selectively or whether it's released and then argued selectively, we're still in a kind of morass over what they're talking about. And the president will use this, and he'll do it himself. He won't rely on even allies to do it. He'll do it himself to trash everybody associated with -- with looking into Russia. And that's -- that's the sad reality. It makes it that much hard to get to whatever the bottom is.

CUOMO: But feelings can often outpace facts. I mean, look at the B.S. about the secret society and why the texts were missing. You know, an empty suggestion of the unknown. You can go anywhere with it. And then, when actual reasons and facts come out, you often wind up being much more limited. For instance...

AVLON: Feelings and basic facts, by the way, is the root of most of our problems right now as a culture. But that's a separate conversation.

CUOMO: Hence, why we need to be here all the more in these types of situations. So sanctions is a great example of this. OK? So the White House came out with some definition of what they should do with respect to the moves on Ukraine by Russia.

But this is something different. This is the deadline today...

HARLOW: Today.

CUOMO: ... to do the White House part of figuring out to whom these sanctions should apply. They have been slow in the regard to sanctions. And it fuels a lot of speculation. What do we think is happening here?

AVLON: Let's remember, first of all, this was a 98-2 vote. That kind of unanimity does not happen in today's world.

CUOMO: They sanctioned them for their interference.

AVLON: In the election. And the president was grousing about it even as he signed it. So the question is, has his administration been slow-rolling it. And now the deadline. Are they going to punt? Are they going to actually execute it the day before the State of the Union? They are high-stakes questions, because it's explicitly about focusing on Russia in retaliation for trying to influence our election.

HARLOW: So in a comical -- pretty comical response this morning, Dmitry Peskov, the mouthpiece for the Kremlin, this morning, David Gregory, I had to read it twice just to make sure I was reading correctly. They said, 'No, no, no, if the U.S. does this, we think it is them directly timing this and interfering in our election." What do you think?

GREGORY: You know, I think this is -- you talked about it a little bit earlier in == at the end of last hour, about whether the president can see the office as bigger than himself. And on Russia, he has not seen that. This is a threat to democracy. This was an attempt to influence and interfere. It doesn't -- we don't know that it was decisive in any way.

So it's not undermining the legitimacy of President Trump. But it was an attack on the country. And it can happen again with different results that could somehow put Trump on, you know -- on the wrong side of it that he'd want to retaliate. He's got to do the right thing to try to get to the bottom of it. We haven't seen him be able to separate his anger and the unfairness of the investigation in his mind, versus how do we deal with this threat?

AVLON: It goes to upholding the oath. This is basic.

HARLOW: We'll know by your show tonight whether Treasury has implemented these sanctions.


HARLOW: We should. So you have to watch. I'll try not to be in bed, 9 p.m. Eastern.

CUOMO: You have a good excuse.

HARLOW: "CUOMO PRIME TIME." And then tomorrow, NEW DAY will be live from Washington ahead of the president's State of the Union. Prime- time coverage begins 5 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.

CUOMO: All right. So Republicans in Congress, do they believe that they need to protect Bob Mueller? There's a split. So what are we going to do? We're going to test it. We've got a GOP congressman next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:18:02] CUOMO: All right. There are two bipartisan bills aimed at protecting Special Counsel Bob Mueller are being debated on Capitol Hill.

Now there's a question that's emanating mostly from inside the GOP as to whether or not any of this is necessary.

Joining us is Republican Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia. Always a pleasure to see you, sir.

REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: Good morning, Chris. How are you?

CUOMO: What do you think? Do you have to protect the special counsel?

TAYLOR: You know, I think if people have a problem with lawmakers politically calling for the firing of Mueller, then they should have equally, you know, a problem with lawmakers calling to protect him, politically.

So I just think we should let the -- let it take its course. You know, the president hasn't fired him. He's not -- you know, it's not happening. Just let it take its course.

CUOMO: How do you know it's not going to happen? That's the question here, right? Is that, if he did make a move on the special counsel, it would then be too late.

TAYLOR: Well, look, it's been -- it's been, what is it, over a year now. And look, if I was the president, I'd be pissed, too. You know, it's been a political hammer by Democrats on him, of course about this. And it didn't happen in over a year. Let it take its course. I think there's political folks on both sides. Some people calling for his firing. Some people calling to protect him. Let it take its course.

CUOMO: Hmm. Do you think that, if you just let it go now, everything will be fine? The answer seems to be yes.


CUOMO: Do you think that releasing the memo, similarly, because that's another point of intrigue right now. Do you think that that memo should get out there so the hype can stop?

TAYLOR: I do think it should get out there. Look, and I'm not into hyperbole. I think it's important whether you're a Democrat or Republican to not, you know, over-politicize this. I think that there are some facts in there that are very troubling.

CUOMO: Have -- you've seen the memo, Congressman?

TAYLOR: Yes, I have. I have read it. And, you know, what I can tell you is I believe -- because look, I'm not into trying to release top- secret information. But I think that it is -- the need for the public, the need for you to see this, to see the facts and report on it, outweigh any national security implications. I think that you can release what I saw, which I heard your -- the last editor-in-chief, I guess, of "The Daily Beast," has no idea what he's talking about in terms of what's actually in there.

[07:20:10] What I saw wasn't a political document. It has facts in it: who does what and all that stuff. I think you should see it. I think the public should see it and then make their own interpretations about it. I just don't think it should be over-politicized.

CUOMO: Especially after what we saw last week. I mean, one minute you had all of these big-shot members of your party saying there is a shadow organization inside the FBI that's trying to undermine justice, and we see the proof of a conspiracy. And there are hiding of text messages.

And then literally, 24 hours, they all had to eat their hat and say, "Yes, no, there's no secret organization. Oh, yes, they found the texts. Let me take that back." That's the scary stuff. Where, you know, the feelings that meet the facts, and they don't line up. That's why this memo needs to come out.

TAYLOR: Well, one second now. The memo obviously doesn't have the text message in it. That was a separate -- separate thing.

CUOMO: Yes, I know. But I'm saying, it's the same dynamic.

TAYLOR: Sure. I would caution folks in my own party to not, you know -- not over-politicize this. To let the facts, let the text messages speak for themselves. Just like I would caution folks like Adam Schiff, who gets on TV all the time, like, you know, with all of this hyperbole and with zero facts.

Let the facts come out, and then let the American people see it. I will tell you personally that me, reading this, I think it's troubling, very troubling. And I think that you should see it. I think you should see the facts.

CUOMO: Well, Congressman, one of the reasons we have you on the show is we respect what you have to say. So if you say we need to see it, that means something to us. And hopefully, we'll get it out, we'll report on it, we're deep -- we'll dig into it, we'll see what happens.

Now one other political point, and then I want to get to about immigration. I'm not going to talk about the State of the Union, because we don't know what it is yet. After he comes out and gives a message, we'll talk about that.

When Harvey Weinstein, the allegations against him came out, and they wound up being vetted and seemed to be plenty true enough, the RNC came out, and members of the political party came out and said, "Hey, you Democrats should give that money back." And you know what? There was a back and forth about it, but it was the right message to send.

Now, with Steve Wynn, who actually held a title within the party, you know, whether it's Ronna McDaniel or other leaders in the GOP, they're really quiet. He stepped away after a couple of days. But nobody is saying that you should give that money back. Is that hypocrisy?

TAYLOR: Well, the only thing I've seen is the reporting that he stepped away. So I haven't seen any -- any further details on it.

CUOMO: That's the point.

TAYLOR: Obviously, Harvey Weinstein, things were way out there, of course.

CUOMO: But sure. They spoke to 100 people, "The Wall Street Journal," and he hasn't really denied any of it. There was an employee letter put out there, saying that he's being unfairly attacked. But we haven't heard anything from the GOP.

TAYLOR: Well, what -- so what I'm saying is I don't know the details personally. So I'm not going to, you know, speak out on it.

But sure, if it's the same exact thing as Harvey Weinstein, and you said one thing about Harvey Weinstein, and you said one thing about Harvey Weinstein. Then logically, it should be the same for Mr. Wynn. But I don't -- I personally don't know any details. I just saw the breaking story, and that's it. So it would be irresponsible.

CUOMO: I got you. And look, there is no question that allegations need to be vetted. There's no question about that. There's no reason to start chopping people's heads off before you know the facts. I'm saying this seems to line up. But if it does, you should have commensurate action by both parties.

Let me ask you about immigration. Do you back the president's plan as we understand it today?

TAYLOR: Well, I think the president has -- the White House has laid out a pretty serious plan. Obviously, it's going to come to Congress, and we're going to look at it and figure out what we want to see in there.

But look, I've been on the record. I've had a statement since September that talks about getting more border security, getting more disincentives for future illegal immigration but also protecting this population. And I think that they will. I think his -- what he laid out is serious.

And we look at the Democrats who were willing to cause pain for the American people shutting down the government on this. If they don't step up and say, "All right. Let's look at negotiation, because he obviously has a willingness to protect the population,' then I think they've got a big problem with their base and DREAMers, quite frankly, because it shows that they're not serious.

CUOMO: Look, if you guys could get down there and cut deals, we wouldn't be dealing with this brinksmanship in the first place. So you're OK with the pathway to citizenship that's outlined in there? Would you back that?

TAYLOR: Well, you know, I want to -- I want to see what it is. I understand that, you know, it's broader than this DACA population. So, you know, I'm a conservative and I'm a national security guy. So we'll see. I'll see what comes -- comes out of this thing.

CUOMO: What is not conservative or contrary to American security interests to have a pathway to citizenship for people who have been here their whole lives and, in many cases, have contributed more to the country than I have?

TAYLOR: Well, look, as I've said, I'm on the record for this DACA population which, I -- yes, I think there are folks that have been here for since they were 2 or 5 or something like that, and they're just as American as you or I. And I can't imagine someone who -- you know, is from Somalia or something that speaks like you and I do, and we're going to send them back to Somalia. That makes no sense to me. So obviously, I'd be in favor of that.

CUOMO: All right. We'll see what the details are. Congressman, always a pleasure to have you on the show. Be well.

TAYLOR: Thanks for having me, as well.

CUOMO: All right. Now, tonight in "PRIME TIME," we're going to know whether or not the administration acted on these sanctions, and we are going to take that on in depth.

[07:25:00] HARLOW: All right. So the White House is going to sell, big-time, its economic accomplishments in the State of the Union tomorrow. Put a lot of numbers out there. We're going to break down what's fact, what is not in "Facts First," next.


CUOMO: All right. How about a little Monday morning dose of "Facts First"? As caffeinated as coffee.

So President Trump loves to point to the economy, specifically the stock market, as proof of his performance. And he says that the recent success is all because of him. His director of legislative affairs, Marc Short took that case to the Sunday show. Here's a sample.


MARC SHORT, DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: A lot of people who said the president couldn't create 2 million jobs in the first year, who said we wouldn't see employment at a 17-year low, who said we wouldn't see GDP at 3 percent. Who also said that, after the tax relief package in one month, 3.1 million Americans -- 3.1 million workers -- have either received a pay increase or a bonus.


CUOMO: All right. Beautiful example. Let's take it point by point.

The economy added 2 million jobs in 2017. Is that true? Yes. But that's not a great number. In fact, 2017 sticks out as a low point. Take a look at the facts. 2014, 3 million jobs. 2015, 2.7 million

jobs. 2016, 2.2 million jobs. You notice how they're going down?