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Immigration Plan Offers Citizenship; Trump's Trust of FBI; Trump's First State of Union Address. Aired 8:30-9:00a ET

Aired January 29, 2018 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:30:00] REP. PETE SESSIONS (R), TEXAS: Out on things that Congress sees or jumping out on things that the president said. Let's let Bob Mueller do his job.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, congressman, thank you for weighing in on that.

Immigration. The give on the part of the president, if he would allow that characterization, is that there will be a pathway of citizenship for dreamers. That is something that's taken as a foregone conclusion, but there's a big part of your party that doesn't like that. How much resistance is there to the idea?

SESSIONS: Chris, let me say this, we've been working for a number of years on the House side on this exact same issue. We looked at it differently. We looked at it in terms of DACA. We understand that these young people came to the United States not as legal adults. They -- if they registered and went through a process, they can work, they can have money, they can continue what they're doing. They live their life as long as they don't break the law. And it is an issue we need to deal with. About 75 percent of DACA people who are registered are from Mexico. Mexico is a close neighbor of ours and we know that they are here in this country.

But the question is, what process should they be involved in? I am for them receiving what we've called a long time as guest worker status. That is what Bob Goodlatte has. That's the bill that we are pushing in the House. I think it's important.

But the big question is, what happens when we bring in another million or so people into a system that's called Medicare and Social Security when we can't even pay for that system ourself? Why would we bring people into our system that would cause it to be a failure? Why would we allow people who are in this country to move ahead of the people who lawfully were attempting to do that?

So we want to give them a status that they can continue to work in this country, continue to follow the law and continue to work and be a part of what this country does, but we do not think that having a citizenship pathway is the correct way to do it. But addressing them, much like what other countries do.

CUOMO: All right.

SESSIONS: And they are welcome in this country but we should not extend citizenship as part of the DACA plan.

CUOMO: So no pathway to citizenship, permanent worker status with different kinds of qualifications and never any chance of getting benefits of citizenry, like Social Security and the like.

Now, the pushback on that, congressman, will be, these people were brought here through no fault of their own. They've children. They've grown here as Americans. They've gone to school. They've worked. They're productive. And serving in the military. Why don't they deserve to be rewarded for their efforts like any other American?

SESSIONS: Well, these are all legitimate questions. They're questions that we have dealt with in trying to work through this issue. The bottom line is, we need to change the systems that you're talking about where they're actuarially sound.

As you know, Social Security and Medicare are literally on the drink of failure. Why -- why --

CUOMO: But what if they pay in?

SESSIONS: Well, they probably are. Probably they're employer is paying in and we're still in trouble. But the facts of the case are that they ought to be given an opportunity to save their own money, to be a part of their own system if they would choose, and it's called 401(k) and other savings activities. We are having to look at every single entitlement program that we have in this country and I don't believe that we should add to that to help increase the demise of those systems.

CUOMO: Right.

SESSIONS: But the --

CUOMO: Although, congressman, as you know, this population isn't what's responsible for the entitlement problem. You know, you've had a problem with Social Security and Medicare that hasn't been addressed for many, many years, many different administrations.

SESSIONS: And that is that we're living longer. That is that we're living longer.

CUOMO: Right. But you guys don't really want to raise the age. You don't want to mess with cola (ph) adjustments. You don't want to mess with the cap on who gets, you know, how much of your income gets taxed for Social Security. I mean if you were to deal with those, you'd never have to worry about this population.

SESSIONS: Well, Chris, my wife and I pay over $10,000 a year into a system that is failing. And I would like to see that system be changed a bit. But we still, either way, have to move where it's actuarially sound. And the bottom line is, is that people who have come across, we have not thrown them out of the country. There is no plan to do that. They're allowed to work. They've been given free education through 12th grade. We've allowed them to have in-state tuition. I think we've been very good and we should be. And they're responsibility back is to come and be a great citizen and to enjoy the opportunities that come to them.

But this is exactly what happens when you go to any other country for whatever reason that you walk into it. All we're simply trying to do is to deal with the circumstance, how do we deal with it, and to simply say, we'll go and offer now an opportunity for citizenship, I think the votes do not exist because we do not believe that's the right thing to do.

[08:35:18] CUOMO: Well, it's important to know that because it's being talked about as if this is on the table and the party's behind it. It's good to know that there's division on this. You're saying the votes aren't there for a pathway to citizenship, so we'll have to see.

Pete Sessions of Texas, thank you very much for weighing in on this.

SESSIONS: You bet.

CUOMO: Appreciate it.

All right, Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right.

All right, so does the president trust the FBI? It's sort of remarkable that we have to ask that question, but we do. The White House insisting again this morning that the president's words are clear on this. It's just, they're not. A debate, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: Does President Trump trust the FBI? Moments ago, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said the president sides with the intelligence community over Vladimir Putin when it comes to Russia meddling in the 2016 election. His evidence, he cited this moment last November.

[08:40:04] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election. As to whether I believe it or not, I'm with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership. I believe in our intel agencies, our intelligence agencies. I've worked with them very strongly. There weren't 17, as was previously reported. There were actually four. But they were saying there were 17. There were actually four. But as currently led by fine people, I believe very much in our intelligence agencies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Here's what the president said, though, just last week about the FBI when speaking to reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Do you trust the FBI? Do you trust the FBI? DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I wouldn't -- well,

we're going to see. I mean I am very disturbed, as is the general, as is everybody else that is intelligent. When you look at five months -- this is the late great Rosemary Woods, right? With a step, right? This is a large scale version.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Here to debate, CNN political commentator Ana Navarro and former special assistant to President Trump and former press secretary to Vice President Mike Pence, Marc Lotter.

Appreciate you both being here.

So, Marc, let me begin with you, because it was a remarkable, important interview. They covered a lot of ground. But the evidence that Raj Shah is pointing to, to say, look, there should be no question, almost as if the president has never equivocated on Russia and meddling in the election and how he talks about Russian President Vladimir Putin. We just heard last week, he was asked, do you trust the FBI, and he said, we'll see. What do you make of the White House argument this morning?

MARC LOTTER, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I think we're talking about two separate issues. I mean I can go back all the way back to the very first news conference that President Trump had early in his term, I think it was in the East Room if I recall, where he said he believed that Russia and other actors possibly had attempted to meddle in the election. The question is, did it change the outcome? No. Also the other question is, is was there any collusion? And to this day we still have no evidence --

HARLOW: It's just that's never been what they're investigating, Marc. Marc -- Marc, it's not -- Marc, they have not been investigating and they have never said this is about whether they changed the outcome of the election or not. That's not the findings of the January 7th intelligence report, and you know that.

LOTTER: But what -- but what we're all saying is, is that --

HARLOW: It's about the meddling in the election. It has nothing to do with the president's victory.

LOTTER: But what we're all saying is that Russia -- that -- and the president's been very clear, Russia attempted -- he believed Russia, and possibly other actors, attempted to influence. He said it again in November. The difference is, is when you're talking about now allegations and investigations that involve, you know, collusion, where there's still been no evidence, that's where --

HARLOW: OK, two things.

LOTTER: That's where -- that's an entirely different issue.

HARLOW: Two things.

LOTTER: And that's what the president's talking about when it comes to trusting the FBI.

HARLOW: I have to -- Ana's waiting very patiently. See, looking lovely in red like that. Waiting.

But you say there's been no evidence. The investigation has not colluded. No report has been put out. Who knows? We don't know. You don't know. We're not inside Mueller's team. We have no idea if there's evidence of collusion or not.

Ana, to you.

Marc points out what the president said last November, which we just played for our viewers. That was a press conference cleaning up what he said on Air Force One. And let me read that to you. A reporter said to the president last November, this is on the Asia trip, did Russia attempt to meddle in the U.S. elections come up in the conversation with Putin? The president says, he said he didn't meddle. He said he didn't meddle. And the reporter says, do you believe him? And he said, well, I can't stand there and argue with him. So that's what he initially said.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, that's a recurring theme with him, right, where he attacks the U.S. intelligence community and then somebody reminds him that he is the president of the United States and what that means for those agencies and then he cleans it up. We see this over and over again.

But I think it's no coincidence that we have seen in the last several weeks a very coordinated effort by the White House, by right wing media, by some Republicans in Congress, to paint the FBI as tainted, as having conspiracy theories, engaging in secret societies and such conspiracies. Look, what he's doing is very simple. It's politics 101. It's called bracketing. He is -- you know, they are trying to preempt whatever Mueller may find or may not find so that if is not positive towards them, they can say it was a tainted investigation. It was -- it has no credibility.

HARLOW: So that -- so, Marc, Ana's argument here is, look, they're attempting to sew doubt, sew doubt in the minds of the American people before we know what Mueller's reports finds. Do you -- I mean how can you argue differently that this administration is not at the least trying to sew doubt?

LOTTER: I don't believe it's the administration trying to sew it. I think the facts that have been coming out over the course of the last few months are also very concerning.

HARLOW: So calling it a witch hunt, the greatest hoax, not sewing doubt?

LOTTER: It's -- it's very concerning when you see evidence that the -- that the -- that Comey had already started to write his news release exonerating Hillary Clinton before he even interviewed her. When you see evidence of text messages being exchanged between people at the highest level of these investigations that are questioning whether -- HARLOW: It sounds like you're saying -- Marc, let me just be clear. It sounds like you're saying this shouldn't even be investigated. Is that what you believe at this point?

[08:45:09] LOTTER: I'm not -- I'm suggesting that if there is any kind of evidence bias, of the FBI at the highest levels, not the rank and file, it should be very important to note that, but at some of the highest level, that they showed a predisposition to support or to change an outcome of a Hillary Clinton investigation or to launch a Donald Trump investigation, those are concerns that we have to take a look at.

HARLOW: So, Ana, Marc is talking about Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and these text messages that went before (ph) that even Democrats have said need to be looked at even further. But what he's not mentioning is that Mueller fired -- immediately Mueller fired -- not fired, excuse me, moved them off of anything having to do with these cases.

NAVARRO: Look, I think those texts are very disturbing. And I think Mueller, when he found out, took very swift action and did what he had to do.

The problem is that some of these folks in trying to help Donald Trump and Donald Trump's case actually hurt it. Those texts speak for themselves. But then they overplay their hand by taking a text about a secret society that was in jest, that was sarcasm, that was witty-ism in -- out of context and trying to turn it into some sort of actual secret society. I mean is anybody really stupid enough to think that trained U.S. intelligence officers would refer to a clandestine secret society as secret society in texts?

Listen, I was accosted by a secret society in front of my super market the other day. They were selling Girl Scout cookies. I mean, you know, what is a -- this is -- so then they sound like absolute cooks (ph).

HARLOW: I mean, Marc -- so, Marc, very quickly, to wrap it up, we can laugh about it and that Girl Scout analogy here, but in all seriousness --

NAVARRO: Those damn Samosas get me every year.

HARLOW: Me too.

LOTTER: I like Thin Mints.

HARLOW: Chris asked Raj Shah about this and Senator Ron Johnson, who went further than saying there could be a secret society. He said he had informants that were telling him about these off-site meetings that they were having. It comes out that it's a whole bunch of nothing and it's a joke. And the White House wouldn't weigh in on this. Again, do you agree with that strategy?

LOTTER: Well, I don't think anybody should try to overplay and I agree with what Raj and I even believe Chris was saying in that interview is that let's get all the information out, let it be transparent and let the -- and let the people decide in terms of what was overplayed. You always run the risk on both sides, especially in hyper political

times like now, of overdramatizing any situation. But what we have to do is get the information out there, do it in a responsible manner that does protect intelligence assets and methods, if that's necessary. But let's get the information out there. Let the American people decide if there was any kind of inappropriate activity at the highest levels in these investigations.

HARLOW: Yes.

All right, thank you to you both. Ana, I appreciate it. Marc, we're out of time.

LOTTER: Thank you.

HARLOW: But, Chris, they were throwing the information out there, with no context and not knowing what the secret society texts meant.

CUOMO: Yes, but that was the point.

HARLOW: Yes.

CUOMO: The point was that the mystery of it would be something they could make political hay out of. Didn't work out that time, but there will be more chances.

President Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address tomorrow. What is the message? How about the tone? That's going to be the trick. We get "The Bottom Line," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:51:41] CUOMO: All right, big night tomorrow night. President Trump delivering his first State of the Union Address. People are saying, no, you're wrong, he did last year. That was a joint session of Congress. It wasn't his first State of the Union. It wouldn't have made any sense for a president, in the first year, to do that. So tomorrow's the first one, OK?

So the White House insists it's going to be a unifying address. What will the president say tomorrow night to achieve that mandate?

Let's get "The Bottom Line" from CNN political director David Chalian.

David Chalian, do you expect unity and that type of talk and tone to dominate?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Donald Trump's tone is an impossible game to play because you don't know what is going to show up on any given day.

I am sure, as Raj Shah indicated to you in the interview, that the speech that will be scripted for him will be unifying and it -- he -- or at least attempt to be unifying and if he sticks to that script I imagine we'll see that. But, you know, you can already see a lot of Democrats out there trying

to pre-butt the State of the Union by suggesting that even if he is to read a unifying speech, if that is followed the next day by a dis- unifying tweet, does that really matter?

I mean I think, at this point in the Trump presidency, he's got a lot to prove day in and day out by his behavior, whether or not we can actually assess that there has been some sort of shift in his approach to the job.

HARLOW: You know, David, there are some Democrats, not a lot, a few, that are boycotting, not going. We had Representative Fredricka Wilson from Florida on earlier. She's not going. She said she's going to watch with her constituents.

Do you think that's an effective play for Democrats here when they're trying to hash out a deal for dreamers, an immigration deal?

CHALIAN: I think it's a pretty safe play for someone like Congresswoman Wilson --

HARLOW: Right.

CHALIAN: Who can just play to her base and that's really -- she's not in a district that she's got to try to woo the middle or what have you. So I think for certain members it can work for them politically.

You know, I'm a big believer of, you know, everybody should show up and hear what the president of the United States has to say.

HARLOW: Right.

CUOMO: Yes, Corey Booker said the same thing, senator of New Jersey. He doesn't see it as honoring the president the way Representative Wilson said.

HARLOW: Right, it's the office, right?

CUOMO: This is a constitutional duty. The president's supposed to come. What you're honoring and respecting is your duty to go there and listen.

Hey, the stakes tomorrow night, you know, the State of the Union, I've never seen it on any list of greatest speeches for anybody ever.

CHALIAN: Yes.

CUOMO: Isn't it a task for him to just stick to the prompter and not tweet for as long as possible afterwards?

CHALIAN: Oh, how cool would that be if he actually tweeted from the House floor when he's there addressing the Congress?

CUOMO: Yes.

CHALIAN: Yes, no, I think you're -- I think you're right, Chris. And, listen, if you go to the most recent slew of polls that came out

last week around his one year anniversary mark, you can see where he should focus his attention if he wants to start getting some response from the country rite large, right? It's the economy. That's where he gets his best mark. He has a lot to tout there of what's going on right now. He has a tax reform plan that he still wants to sell and turn that into a successful initiative this election year. So you can see areas where if he were to stick to it, he might have a really successful speech that way.

But if he's going to hammer away at his immigration plan, which we know is sort of met by the right and the left as not sufficient, then I think he heads into more controversial waters and it's tough to have that unifying message that the White House is looking for.

[08:55:02] HARLOW: So you bring up the economy and the president has touted it a lot, including the lower unemployment rate for African- American, the lowest in history. That's true. It's also twice what the unemployment rate is for white Americans right now.

So Jay-z, the super star, and the president sort of went at it this weekend over that, OK? And Jay-z said, look, essentially, and I'm paraphrasing here, on Van Jones' new show on Saturday night, it's not enough to just help us economically. OK, it's about respecting, et cetera. It's about what you do, you know, full circle here.

Here's what the president wrote back. Can we bring up that tweet on the screen, guys? Here's it. Somebody please inform Jay-z that because of my policies black unemployment rate has just been reported to be at the lowest rate ever recorded.

David, what's your takeaway from this?

CHALIAN: Well, first, I don't understand why somebody else has to inform Jay-z if the president just did so there in the tweet with the piece of information he wanted Jay-z to have.

HARLOW: Yes, fair point.

CHALIAN: But besides that, I -- I just don't understand the response -- I mean I understand, the president is trying to pivot and distract from what Jay-z was saying, which was in the context of the s-hole comments that the president was reported to have made in the White House, saying that that was hurtful.

It seems to me that the president missed an opportunity there to address. If some super star like Jay-z is on national television saying something the president did was hurtful, it may be beneficial for the president to try to address that comment. But, instead, he wanted to make a separate point and distract from what Jay-z was talking about.

CUOMO: David Chalian, appreciate it. Thank you very much, pal.

HARLOW: Thank you.

CHALIAN: Thanks, guys.

CUOMO: All right, so NEW DAY is going to be live in Washington tomorrow morning. That's, of course, the date of the president's first State of the Union Address. CNN's primetime coverage begins at 5:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.

HARLOW: And you'll be there tonight for your show.

CUOMO: I will be there. Lord willing.

HARLOW: No rest.

CUOMO: No rest.

HARLOW: No rest.

All right, thank you all for being with us. It was good to be here with you this morning.

CNN "NEWSROOM" with John Berman after this.

CUOMO: Who?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:00:06] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. John Berman here.

So who else connected to the Russia investigation does the president want fired this morning? This is no idle question.