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Standing By for Trump's First State of the Union; Trump Leaving White House; Trump Motorcade Heading To Capitol; Trump Arriving At Capitol Hill; Supreme Court Justices Entering House Chamber; Trump Arrives At Capitol for State of the Union; First Lady Entering House Chamber; First Lady in House Chamber With Invited Guests; Trump Cabinet Arrives. Aired 20-21P ET

Aired January 30, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:23] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening. Welcome. I'm Anderson Cooper with a special edition of AC360 as we await the president's State of the Union Address about an hour from now.

There are two new bombshells in the Russia investigation tonight. CNN has learned that the president's lawyers are arguing the special counsel Robert Mueller has not met the threshold needed to interview Mr. Trump in person. Another source revealing it's still a possibility that the president might try to fire Robert Mueller. We'll have more on those stories and reporters who broke them.

Right now, let's go to Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper who were standing by.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Anderson, thanks very much.

The president we're told doesn't want to talk about Russia tonight. We're told he won't even mention the investigation but you never know if he might veer off script. The polarizing issue of immigration, we're told, will be a centerpiece of his speech tonight. He'll promote his controversial new plan that includes a pathway to citizenship for nearly 2 million young undocumented immigrants. That's been blasted by the right and the left.

And we're also told the president will announce he's keeping the prison at Guantanamo Bay open, reversing President Obama's executive order to shut it down.

Jake, we were both over at the White House today. We heard directly from the president. How do you see his basic message tonight unfolding?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, he told us and the other reporters and anchors there this evening and he seemed to be in good spirits that he really does want to unify the country. But he's walking into a chamber tonight that is simmering with tension, some of which of his own making.

And in Washington, D.C., there is a brittle tension right now with a much of it remaining from the government shutdown and some angry and hostile fights about immigration. We expect the president tonight will talk about taxes and the economy, trade and infrastructure. We do not think he's going to mention the Russia investigation. That really is something that has cast a pall upon his entire White House.

And it's one of the reasons that investigation and, of course, his reaction to it that will make his goal of unifying the country such a tall order.

BLITZER: Let's try -- he's trying to do that, to have some unity. We'll see how much how -- whether or not he gets very far on that front.

I want to quickly go to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, what are you hearing especially as Russia hovers over this big speech?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the state of the omission is a big part of the story tonight. The president is not expected to address the rush investigation in tonight's State of the Union Address. But CNN has learned, Mr. Trump has made it clear to people close to him that he remains furious about the Russia probe and that he could still fire Robert Mueller, a source close to the White House told CNN, quote: anybody who knows Trump best knows that's a possibility. This guy is a street fighter and he thinks this Mueller investigation is B.S. That is a quote from a source close to the White House.

Now, after that memo from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes alleging abuses in the Russia probe, our White House team has learned that aides to the president are reviewing that memo and that Mr. Trump favors releasing it. And after the president's legal team, they are telling our Pam Brown and our Gloria Borger at this point that they don't believe that Mueller's team has met the threshold for questioning the president in the Russia investigation at this point.

And I'm told by a source familiar with the speech tonight that as you said, Wolf, the president is expected to stick with that teleprompter but Trump being Trump, all bets are off. If he goes off-script, this speech tonight could go off the rails -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens that we're standing by for that. Jim Acosta, we'll get back to you.

I want to go to Dana Bash. He's up on Capitol Hill.

Dana, you're speaking to lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans. What is the likely response that we're going to be hearing tonight?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Incredible tension. The partisanship I should say is as thick and as dense as I remember it, Wolf, I have to say.

But I think the other part of the story we have to remember is about the people who aren't going to be here. There will be more members of Congress boycotting President Trump's State of the Union than we've seen since Richard Nixon gave his address here.

And some of the Democrats who are going to be attending or going to make their displeasure known in various ways. Just one example, the Congressional Black Caucus the chair has told his members that he's OK with them walking out during the speech. We'll see if that happens.

On the flip side, of course, you have Republicans who are in the majority here, in the House in particular, every one of them is on the ballot this year. So, they are looking for the president to give them some political cover, to give them things to go home and campaign on. Having said that, you also see the sort of flip side of the of the boycott on the Democratic side and of the political statement you're saying on the Democratic side.

A lot of Democrats are bringing undocumented immigrants are bringing Dreamers. The -- one of the congressman on the Republican side, Congressman Gosar, he put out a statement, Wolf, today saying that he has asked the Capitol Police to look out for what he called illegal immigrants in case he would have they would have to arrest him.

[20:05:14] I can tell you, I've been talking to Capitol Police officers here, nobody has done that memo -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Dana, we'll get back to you. Tensions are clearly mounting up on Capitol Hill.

Anderson, let's go to you.

COOPER: Yes, let's talk to our panelists. Let's start with the anchors and analysts and reporters.

Gloria Borger, based on the reporting is this the final position of prisoners lawyers regarding him testifying?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it isn't. And as Pamela Brown and I are reporting I think what they're trying to do by saying to the special counsel, you haven't met this threshold. We think it's very high for a president to testify. I think what they're trying to do is get the special counsel to put his cards on the table a little bit and to say, OK, well, yes, we think we have met this threshold and this is why.

They are making a case to the special counsel that a president cannot testify unless he is the only one who can give you certain information, period. It has to be something that only he can do and they're saying, if -- if you can get this information from somebody else, get it from somebody else. So, I think they're trying to kind of suss him out and find out where he is.

COOPER: But the key to an obstruction of justice charge is the intent of the president of the United States.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Yes. I mean, the thing is they're trying to establish what his state of mind was and who can they speak to other than him? I mean, they obviously have spoken -- BORGER: I'm not saying they're going to win this.

AXELROD: No, I understand, I understand.

Look, if I were them, I would be looking for politically it is incredibly difficult not to testify and the country seems to you in large numbers believe he should legally which is their responsibility. He puts himself in great jeopardy by doing it.

COOPER: Robert Mueller can't subpoena.

NIA-MALIKA ANDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. I mean, in terms of him refusing or saying that he doesn't want to testify, he seems to be getting cover from a lot of Republicans. You heard Chris Christie this morning essentially say that he doesn't think it's a good idea for this president to testify. There's obviously some concern about this president's loose relationship with the truth particularly if you're talking about testifying under oath, to Robert Mueller, such an important investigation. So, we'll see what he ends up doing.

I mean, it's sort of a PR I think move that we have seen from this president and I think so far, we've seen Republicans are willing to give him cover.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And you have a collision between -- look, the president should listen to his lawyers. They know more than we do they know the evidence there's a legal track that the president should (INAUDIBLE) political track. He's on the record saying I absolutely want to do this, I'm willing to do it under oath, any time, bring it on.

So, he's got legal decision to make, a political decision to make, that's his decision to make.

At the same time though both from his perspective and from Bob Mueller's perspective, there's this campaign underway with the president's clear blessing to undermine Bob Mueller, and to undermine every institution supporting Bob Mueller.


KING: So, if you're Bob Mueller and the president's lawyers are suddenly saying, we don't want to talk to you, and I agree with Gloria, only the president knows why fired Jim Comey, only the president knows why he kept Michael Flynn on four days after he was told General Flynn had lied and fired him only after became public, but they're negotiating.

COOPER: Let's go back to Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, Kate Bennett, our White House reporter, is with us.

You got some news. This is an important -- very important night for the president of the United States, but it's also a very important night for the first lady of the United States.


And we've learned actually that in a break with tradition, the first lady is -- has driven separately from the president up from the White House to the Capitol. She's actually already there.

We got a statement as to why from her communications director, Stephanie Grisham, has said Mrs. Trump is honoring her guests for the troop here as they are. In addition to holding a White House reception and photo opportunity for them, along with their friends and families, she is accompanying them to the Capitol. Once there, the first lady and Mrs. Pence will host a more intimate meet and greet to engage with them on a personal level prior to the speech.

So, again this is a great tradition. We often see the president and first lady exit the south lawn doors, head to the limo, head up to the capitol together, this is not happening this year with the Trumps.

TAPPER: If this does happen, there's a context to this, which is the first lady was supposed to go with the president to Davos and she canceled that trip and went to Florida instead. And we can't help but notice that there have been reports of tension between the first couple ever since the story in "The Wall Street Journal" broke of the president's having a relationship, denied by both parties we should say, with the porn actress.

BENNETT: Correct. We haven't seen the first couple together in public actually since New Year's Eve at Mar-a-Lago. Since then, we haven't heard anything on the record from the first lady about what's going on in the relationship, of course. However signs like that not going to Davos, the tweets she did on the inauguration anniversary that didn't mention the president, no public celebration of their wedding anniversary on the 22nd -- these sorts of things and again, tonight, driving separately or just going to churn that that fire there for them.

But again, this is -- she was with the guests.

[20:10:01] BLITZER: It certainly will.

I want to go to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, I take it the president is still over there at the White House still over here at the White House?

ACOSTA: Still over here at the White House. He has not departed yet. We have not seen him emerge there on the south lawn of the White House to make his way up to Capitol Hill, but just to underline what you were saying there are a few moments ago with Kate Bennett, I think it is it is unusual to not see the first lady travel with the president on a night like this. This is arguably one of the biggest nights of the year for the president of the United States.

And as we've seen in previous administrations, president goes with the first lady up to Capitol Hill. It is worth noting as I think you were just saying a few moments ago that at sort of the last minute, she backed out of the trip to Davos with the president for the World Economic Forum. And so, it does appear at the moment that they are traveling separately on multiple fronts, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I've been covering the State of the Union Addresses for many years. I've never seen the first lady go up to Capitol Hill to receive her guests without being in the same limo, same automobile as the president of the United States. So, this is an unusual situation. We're seeing a lot of unusual development.

We'll take a quick break. Much more of our special coverage coming up.


[20:15:11] COOPER: And you're looking live picture of Pennsylvania Avenue. We are back with our special coverage of President Trump's first State of the Union Address waiting for the president to leave the White House and travel down Pennsylvania Avenue to make his State of Union Address.

Dana Bash is at the Capitol where lawmakers and other VIPs are already arriving, of course -- Dana.

BASH: Thank you, Anderson, so much.

And I'm here with Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey.

Thank you so much for coming out with me.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Thanks for having me. It's good to see you.

BASH: Thank you.

CNN is reporting that President Trump's lawyers will tell the special prosecutor Robert butler's team that the president will not agree to an interview. What's your reaction to that?

BOOKER: Well, I'm disappointed. He's himself -- it contradicts his own rhetoric, it contradicts what he said when he was not a president, and he said people should be sitting out, if you have nothing to hide then give an interview. And I'm very disappointed by that but I'm hoping that something will change his mind.

BASH: And why are you so sure that this is something that is necessary?

BOOKER: Well, we know -- what do we know for a fact? We know that the Russians have attacked us and are attacking us? This is ongoing right now. We know that there was -- now we have evidence that there were connections between Russian agents and members of his inner circle.

We now know that there have been indictments in his inner circle. We know 20 White House officials have been interviewed. I mean, there's enough to show that the president of the United States is relevant to this investigation and should if we're trying to get to the to the truth of this, should be giving his testimony. He's essential to his case.

BASH: Let's talk about tonight. The chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus has told his members that it might be OK to walk out of the State of the Union Address tonight. What's your reaction to that and how where do you stand on that notion?

BOOKER: Well, look, we're a free country. That's what I love about America. People can do what they want and creative protest has been seen from people on the Olympic stands, to people at NFL football game.

BASH: But this is different. This is State of the Union Address.

BOOKER: So, for me, I'm one that harshly criticized a Republican congressperson when they heckled Barack Obama. I thought that was something worthy of censure. And, as for me, I'm going to be in my seat giving respect to the presidency, regardless of what'd you think of the president. This is our institution that I respect.

But again I honor my colleagues whatever they may want to do. But the people of New Jersey, my own values, I believe it's important to be there.

BASH: A big part of this evening is people bringing guests to make political statements. Your guest is a Dreamer, undocumented immigrant who came here at age 7 to New Jersey. The Republican Congressman Paul Gosar has said that he wants the Capitol police to look for people like your guests and think about detaining them.

What's your reaction to that?

BOOKER: Well that's kind of the kind of despotism that is not America. This is not who we are.

The one woman I brought here is from our home county, yours and mine. She literally began a business that's employing about 800 people. She's a tech entrepreneur adding to our economy, no American wants this person deported. In fact, most Americans recognize that she -- like the hundreds to serve in the military, like the hundreds our first responders, these are people that are part of our country.

And so, we're not mean like that. This is just -- that's not the kind of we're of decent people and this -- that is just a menacing malevolent comment that is unbecoming of somebody who holds one of the higher office --

BASH: Before I let you go. The president is reportedly going to allow the Republican memo in the House on the Russia investigation to become public. What do you think about that?

BOOKER: I mean, this whole chapter is sort of shocking me to see what's going on and again, I'm not in the House. I'm looking in from the Senate side. But here we have something that is so clearly partisan -- Republicans voting to allow their member to be released but not the Democratic memo that would mitigate a lot of the conspiracy theories or any whipped up, the source documentation of the Justice Department talking about that we shouldn't be releasing this it might compromise sources and methods, which to me is outrageous insult to the intelligence community in this -- and what's best for America.

I mean, this is a chapter that is just crazy and being whipped up -- a conspiracy theories being whipped up that are damaging not just to our intelligence community but really to these committees.

BASH: Thank you so much, Senator Booker. Appreciate it.

BOOKER: Thank you.

BASH: Back to you.

BOOKER: Dana, thanks very much.

COOPER: The first lady is already at the Capitol. She's the number of guests tonight. We're waiting now for the president's -- President Trump's departure from the White House, looking live there at Pennsylvania Avenue.

Our special coverage continues after a quick break.


[20:23:49] COOPER: And we are standing by, of course, for President Trump to leave the White House, and head toward a Capitol. The First Lady Melania Trump has already left. That's live picture there from Pennsylvania Avenue.

Let's stand by. Let's go over to Jim Acosta, who is standing by at the White House.

Jim, I think you have a statement?

ACOSTA: Just a brief comment from Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, Anderson, as to why the first lady traveled to the Capitol separately. According to Sarah Sanders, she just gave me this comment a few moments ago. No reason for the first lady to go to the Capitol separately other than she can greet the guests and the president can go straight in.

That is a comment from Sarah Sanders on this very unusual development that the first lady traveled to the Capitol early to greet guests, and that is all the White House is saying at this point as to why the first lady and the president are traveling to the Capitol separately tonight, Anderson.

COOPER: Jim, there's also reporting by "The Washington Post" tonight about a meeting between FBI Director Christopher Wray, as well as Department of Justice official and John Kelly, the chief of staff, on Monday about a basically them appealing according to "Washington Post" to John Kelly for the White House not to release this memo. ACOSTA: That's right.

And, Anderson, we did report yesterday that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and the FBI Director Christopher Wray were meeting with the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, yesterday.

[20:25:09] Obviously, this was a very interestingly time meeting because this was all happening as the Andrew McCabe resignation story was coming down yesterday. But, Anderson, yes, "The Washington Post" is reporting this evening that Rosenstein and Wray were appealing to John Kelly during this meeting that this GOP memo, this Nunes memo alleging abuses in the Russia investigation should not be released.

And we have also heard from other sources over here at the White House that there were some concerns about releasing this memo. It's interesting to note, Anderson, earlier today, our sources were telling us that the president was inclined to release that memo and then late in the afternoon, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, gave my colleague Jeff Zeleny a comment that said at this time, there are no current plans to release that memo.

Anderson, my read on that is that there's a bit of a tug-of-war, there's a bit of a debate going on inside this White House as to what to do about that memo. And earlier this morning, the House speaker himself Paul Ryan was telling reporters and a breakfast with him that I attended and also told reporters later on at the Capitol that that memo should be released.

So, there appears to be some pretty intense debate inside the Republican Party right now as to what to do about that memo. Obviously, Democrats are howling that it would be inappropriate to release that memo that it could jeopardize practices and methods of law enforcement officials who are handling that very sensitive investigation, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta, at the White House, you're at a picture from the south portico. We expect the president to be leaving at any moment. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back. Our coverage continues.


[20:30:42] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And looking live picture the south portico, we expect the President to be leaving at any moment, otherwise (ph), obviously bringing that to you live, First Lady Melania has already made her way to the capitol with a number of her guests with her holding another meeting with Vice President Pence's wife. There were special reception for the guests of the First Lady and the Vice President.

A lot happening now. A lot swirling around. I want to go to our contributors. Van Jones, Rick Santorum, Jennifer Granholm, David Urban. David as a supporter of the President, if -- would you advise him to testify to Robert Mueller?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there's no upside in testifying. I think that I would -- he's got great stable very smart criminal lawyers. As John pointed out there is a legal case to be considered and a political case to be considered. If I was the president, I would presumably listen to my -- listen to my lawyers and then consult my political folks in the (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: Is it worth him being -- the danger of him being subpoenaed Senator?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well I think the political case and leave (ph) are the same. No, don't do it.

COOPER: Don't do it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think it's political case?

SANTORUM: I don't think this is political case to do this. I mean you answer questions which you do it in writing. The political case is Donald Trump should come clean. He can do that by responding in writing.


SANTORUM: But I don't want -- I think the political case of the President of the United States given his proclivities to answer questions orally is a political disaster. Legally, it's a disaster, politically it's a disaster, don't do it.


VAN JONES, CNN HOST: I mean this is a shocking confession I think on your part that you don't trust the President of the United States --

SANTORUM: I didn't say I didn't trust.

JONES: That you think the President of the United States is so erratic and it so unpredictable that he can't just to a lawyer about something --

SANTORUM: This is --

JONES: -- he's innocent. He said about I have nothing to say, except I did nothing. He can't say I did nothing to a lawyer?


SANTORUM: I'm a lawyer. I know lots of innocent people who say really not so innocent things when they get in front of a lawyer and --

URBAN: I think Van Jones --

SANTORUM: Don't do.

URBAN: -- are you about and sort of forming (ph)? JONES: Listen -- but yes. Look, talking to lawyers when your innocent with the President says he is, is a good way to stay out of jail unless you have something to hide.


COOPER: Jennifer Gran -- Jennifer Granholm?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean with -- with Van's point so that you guys acknowledge. If I were his lawyer I would say absolutely don't testify, because -- because on the legal side, as we all know, he has lied since the beginning of this office, 2,140 times? No, I mean that's the fact checker of the "Washington post."

COOPER: But politically doesn't it look bad?



URBAN: If your fault, does it you -- never said one thing, one day and something else the next day?


URBAN: Come on.

GRANHOLM: These guys -- I mean let's watch tonight, we'll count how many times he exaggerates, or lies or misleads.


GRANHOLM: No, no but not see -- you know, I mean come on as he breathes he lie --


SANTORUM: -- exaggeration --

GRANHOLM: OK, thank you for admitting that.

SANTORUM: And not just --

GRANHOLM: And that's why --

SANTORUM: -- not someone you put in front of a lawyer.


JONES: And this is terrible. I just want -- I just want, like and some ways it is funny --

URBAN: He can answer the questions on paper.

JONES: -- it's hearable. (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But on paper, he's not answer the questions his lawyer.


URBAN: He signs it.

JONES: Bill Clinton was accused of doing things that were awful. Things that he was ashamed of. He showed up, they put a camera in front of --

GRANHOLM: He went to the court. But he tried not to. He tried not to, Van.


JONES: I was in kindergarten sir, but all I'm saying is that he showed up and he did it. And the idea that you -- we weren't afraid that he was going to be so terrible and erratically, could --


SANTORUM: The best Cory Booker could come up with when why the President should testify is, he is quote "relevant to the investigation". That is not good enough.


COOPER: John, John?

GRANHOLM: He is the core of the information.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know what Bob Mueller knows. And we should also say again, the President's lawyers knows a lot more than we do, because they're getting briefed by most of the witnesses and no longer again be brief by General Flynn, they'll not get brief by Mr. Papadopoulos' lawyers, they probably don't get brief by (INAUDIBLE), but they know a lot more than we do.

To your point about Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton testified on video tape from the White House to a grand jury. I don't believe Bob Mueller has asked that the President's case, is he ask for a sit down interview with him one-on-one. If your Mr. Trump's lawyer, said and you're studying the Bill Clinton experience, yes. Bill Clinton testified on video, it was embarrassing. He had to admit that he lied to the American people, that he had to officers of the court and he was impeached and I don't want to -- agree that its debate about whether he should have been impeached for personal conduct, that's not the point.

But -- but again, back to the other witnesses including all the young people in the White House counsel's office, Bill Clinton was impeached, that we all remember, if by the House, then stay in the opposite side of the Senate now to convict. Those who gave up his law license. [20:35:11] One of the water cooler conversations in Washington among the young attorney is, do you get called before the special counsel's office, remember that, remember that. And, so if your -- the President's team, you know, Don McGahn has been interview by the Special Counsel. You know most of the deputies in the White House counsel have been interviewed. You know that the senior staff has been interviewed. You know that he's about to interview Steve Bannon. Have you know that he has all this information.

COOPER: So the level of detail he has you're saying?

KING: The witnesses coming out recount, essentially that Bob Mueller knows what they had for breakfast. And he -- he's recreating the meetings, in a few -- if you legitimately say I don't quite recall, it's a stressful jobs, people don't remember to deal. You say I don't recall, they fill it in for you. And then they continue the conversation. So if you're the President and you're prone to not being a detail person, I get the lawyers saying that's dangerous.

GRANHOLM: But Bill --

KING: The question is what would the political reaction of the country be? If you're President Trump and you think I only care about my 35%, then there is no political price. If you think -- the goal tonight, to reach out, year two is going to be different from year one, I'm going to try to reach out unify the country, refusing to testify then --



COOPER: There we see senators arriving here at the House Chamber. Go ahead Gloria.

BORGER: But, you know, Bill Clinton went to the Supreme Court over this in 1997, because he didn't want to testify in the civil case of Paula Jones. I don't know where the President's attorneys are on that year, you remember that. You remember that very well.

KING: And again, the big distinction is there was a legal case, there was a separate civil case against President --


KING: Is it very different legal --

BORGER: Exactly. But what the President's lawyers point to is Ronald Reagan and Iran-contra. And they say in Iran-contra, the President was allowed to do written answers to these questions. That's why they're trying to figure out what Mueller has. I mean what Mueller has on their guy. This is what this is all about.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think what John said earlier is really important. And I think there's a reason why there is this parallel campaign going on to impeach the investigation, to impeach the FBI. To create -- create out spied (ph) Mueller, to create a plausible reasons for the President not to want to appear before the Special Counsel and lessen the political blow of not doing that.

SANTORUM: Well look, there's a parallel investigation because there's evidence of problems in the FBI. There's evidence of problems in the Justice Department. This isn't made out of whole cloth (ph), I mean there's a legitimate reason that Republicans are pursuing this, and that yes, it's an undermining their case? Yes, why? Because there are people that undermine this case.

GRANHOLM: There are two people who exchanged text messages.

SANTORUM: Don't take one --


GRANHOLM: Oh, but I mean come one, you're impeaching this whole 30,000 body of people.


URBAN: One name, Ted Stevens.


URBAN: Yes, Ted Stevens. We all remember Ted Stevens, one of the most powerful influential members of the United States Congress was brought down by one bad actor in the FBI.

JONES: But let me just say something.

AXELROD: Hey Rick, did you vote for Bob Mueller when was appointed FBI director? I think you do.

BORGER: Was a hundred to zero.

AXELROD: Yes, I think you did.

SANTORUM: I don't know --


SANTORUM: Well, there's one President Bush took office --


AXELROD: I mean the point is that the testimonials for Mueller were overwhelming.

SANTORUM: I think I voted for almost every Clinton appointment. I mean, look I give the President great latitude in picking the people to surrounding himself in the cabinet.

AXELROD: Forget about that, the point is though, a lot of the people who were attacking Mueller now were also -- (CROSSTALK)

JONES: It's worse than that. Because, it's not just that, oh yes you were on one side, you got -- if in fact the Republicans are saying is true that there is malfeasance at the top, then you have to proceed in the way that respect the institution at the highest level to make sure that we wind up dealing with this properly. What's happening right now is a circus inside of the zoo next to a train wreck because you are trying to politicize this whole thing is wrong.


SANTORUM: You guys are saying after saying that we don't believe they should release the memo. So I don't agree with necessarily the political surface, but I do believe if there's a legitimate reasons for Republicans to investigate what happen --


JONES: A responsible way. And way was not design to bring down this.

COOPER: Is it disingenuous though for Republicans last night to be saying and we heard this from Paul Ryan as well, that look Chris Wray the director of the FBI, he looked at the memo and he didn't have any factual changes. So the FBI did have a chance to look out it. I mean reporting from the "Washington Post" is Chris Wray and Rod Rosenstein were at the White House Monday saying, look don't release this. Republicans seem to be claiming, oh no the FBI saw it because Chris Wray saw it, that just seem like not factually correct.

JONES: And there's also implying a sign off where there is no sign off. This is the kind of stuff that dangers. And listen, we thought when Trump came in, we were concerned that, you know, he might use the FBI to weaponize or go after the opponents. We never thought they would try --


SANTORUM: My organization was held --

JONES: That was mine.


AXELROD: It is impossible that the one memo can come out and that they can suppress the Democratic memo. And I don't think that was -- the Democratic memo to come out.

SANTORUM: The Democratic memo is going to come out.

AXELROD: All right.

SANTORUM: All we did was give it a week for members to look at it just the like the Republicans --

[20:40:01] AXELROD: Unless the Republican memo doesn't come out. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.


SANTORUM: Well, I think -- frankly I think if they're smart, if they were going to release --


BORGER: But Daniel had it -- OK, you have the Nunes memo, you have an inspector general report that is probably going to be very tough on the FBI and leaders there coming out and it will --

JONES: Well that's --

BORGER: -- and it will muddy

JONES: That's the right way to do it.

BORGER: Well that is the right way to do it. And to David's point and John's point, it does muddy the waters for the White House to say look, you can't trust these people at the FBI. My -- I have two questions, one is , does that mean you can't trust Bob Mueller at all and his investigation at all because the White House has been walking a very fine line on that saying we're cooperating, we respect the Special Counsel et cetera.

And number two, if they release the Nunes memo, what does this do to the new head of the FBI? Does he have to quit? He just went in and told the President please don't do this. He is the new guy on-the- job. He's trying to sort of defend the morale of his organization and every -- and protect his organization. What is Chris Wray do?


KING: It's the moment that requires grown-ups and they're in short supply at the moment. I hate to say about Washington. And don't shake your head on me Senator, in the sense that, if the Republicans really believe they have evidence that there is corruption in the FBI -- just stop for a second. Corruption at the highest level of American justice system. The agency were suppose to trust and respect the most.

If they really believe that, then they have to get some Democrats even in this environment in a quiet room, kick the reporters out and sit in the damn room until you figure it out until you agree on what it is. And then lead the country through the conversation. If this comes out especially in election year, especially after the year we just went through on Republican only letterhead, even if it's 89, 100% right, half the country is not going to believe it and you will not accomplish the goal. That's what I mean by grown ups.


URBAN: No, I think that's what -- that would be the best outcome, right having both the memos released at the same time, to sanitize sources of method --

KING: But why do a Democrat and Republican memo?


SANTORUM: Because it is dysfunctional.


URBAN: The committee themselves couldn't get together and that's a shame that they could get together an issue a single memo or any alternative, going issue any memo and wait for the IG report.

JONES: That's the right way to do it.


JONES: Yes, this is unprecedented territory, the idea that you would have an intelligence committee just flush something out there over the objectives of our intelligence committee. Listen, it's where I'm a liberal Democrat up here defending the FBI. That leads you now how crazy it is in the United States.

SANTORUM: I would just say that -- I think Republicans are frustrated that the media is certainly continuing to focus on Russia and is completely ignoring the -- this other story and this is a way that to get it out there.

JONES: Let the IG report come out.

SANTORUM: I understand their frustration that the summit (ph) -- we spent what 29 minutes before we start to talked -- we still haven't talked about the State of the Union speech.

KING: The State of the Union.

SANTORUM: I mean we have talk about anything. And so this is what the media is talking about. And Republicans are saying wait men, we get -- this is not the right narrative, we got to have our --


COOPER: But it is interesting that -- I mean from the reporting, it seems like the President's lawyers, or I don't know how Gloria and Pam got the story. But it seems like this came from the President side. So the fact that they were releasing this information in some way, on the same day of the State of the Union is pretty other politically --


AXELROD: I was stunned that they wanted this to be the story on the day of the State of the Union. It is political malpractice.

KING: Yes. And to the other point, Republicans control the Congress. If they believe they have something, call a hearing. And if they had to take them behind close doors for the classified party (ph), take them behind close doors, don't leak a memo. Leak a memo, call a hearing. If you have them, call them on the spot, make them answer question.


BORGER: We're about to see the President leaving the White House from the south portico 15 minutes, before the speech.

Just in terms of the speech tonight, I mean let's turn to actually what -- what he is going to be (INAUDIBLE) some excerpts, forget some word from the White House. What do you think the President needs to try to do? Because we're told this is going to be kind of bipartisan outreach, talk about 2infrastructure. Can he actually deliver that message and have Democrats listen?

KING: I don't think, given the boycotts by the Democrats, given the guests and by the Democrats and immigration, can the President wave a magic wand and make this a bipartisan America? Of course not. If he really wants his second year to be bipartisanship, then he has to take the protest, take the -- take the this appointment the, you know, the upset Democrat and at least make this a first step and keep trying to build and prove he actually means it. There's a lot of skeptics in the room. There's skeptics, we see the Democrats across the room, now -- a lot of people don't believe Donald Trump means it and he knows was publicly he has to give this big speech. It's a huge speech for him. He is at about 40% approval rating, that's the single biggest factor in mid-term election here. Republicans are worried about losing the House. And I think there's outside chance they can lose the Senate.

What the President wants to do most of all and needs to do most of all? People are more optimistic about the future of the economy they have in years.


KING: They don't translate that over to the President of the United States. Bill Clinton survive impeachment, because 22 and lay a new jobs because people were so happy about the economy. But they felt good about their president, he went there, they felt horrible about their --


COOPER: And there is he.

KING: Donald Trump does not have that symbiotic relationship that did a (INAUDIBLE). Can he somehow rip down that wall? I don't know.

[20:45:11] AXELROD: This is a critical point. If I were a strategist sitting in the White House, I'd be looking at this high approval numbers to the economy and the president's low numbers and I'd say why is there those delta and it has to do with things Rick Santorum has been talking about with, you know, the tweets, the jibes, the divisiveness. And this is an opportunity and this setting to look what it's like, what he hasn't been able to look like in so many other settings, which is President.


COOPER: I want to point out that President Trump about to drive to Capitol Hill, his chief of staff John Kelly riding with them. First lady Melania Trump already at Capitol Hill. She left earlier with her own convoys.

Go ahead.

GRANHOLM: I was just going to say. I think there's a sense that there is positive vibe about the economy at the top. But honestly, if he doesn't acknowledge that half of America doesn't invest a dime in the stock market that that all of that euphoria doesn't affect them. That half or 60% of America doesn't even have $500 in their bank account in case of an emergency. People don't have pensions anymore.

There is a lot of angst and anger out there that is not acknowledged by this president when he thinks this picture as though everything is hunky dory. When 83% of the tax dollars go to the top 80 -- their top 10th and 5% of the earners, that's just not what they're feeling.

SANTORUM: Well, lets just --

GRANHOLM: So one of the reasons why I think the President is not doing better is that perhaps people feel like he is riding a wave that was handed to him by Obama but has not come through on the promises that he made. Rick, you can laugh, you can smile. But there has been more outsourcing of jobs under this President than there was under the prior one. There he has not been --

SANTORUM: I suggest he just got back from Mexico.

GRANHOLM: No, but you can pick one off.

SANTORUM: The reality --

GRANHOLM: But the overall trend.


SANTORUM: Look, the tax cut has produced higher wages.

GRANHOLM: It has not.

SANTORUM: It sure it has. To me --

GRANHOLM: 2% of people --

SANTORUM: -- the company after company after company going out there --

GRANHOLM: 2% of people --

SANTORUM: -- talking about they're going to raised their minimum wage if -- GRANHOLM: No, doing buybacks.

SANTORUM: -- to the biggest. They're --

GRANHOLM: Rick. They're doing stock buyback.

SANTORUM: There is they're doing bonuses. They're doing all sorts -- no.

JONES: You know, one thing --

SANTORUM: You know, all sorts of companies talking about reinvesting America because of this.

JONE: That is the talk.


SANTORUM: The reality is if the regulatory breaks that Donald Trump has done to take -- to let this economy run has had huge impact on workingmen and women.

JONES: I heard that and I was excited about it --

SANTORUM: It's true.

JONES: -- because I'm like geez maybe we can be excited together whatever. And then I looked into it. And it turns out, yes, there are some anecdotes like that. But $90 billion of this tax stuff has just gone into buybacks and the out shoring is actually going out and even the wage growth is flatter than it was there's something that's going on here. You're doing a very good job of picking some anecdotes. My mom used to tell me, she's out at the hospital now, I love my mom. My mom use to tell me a half truth is a whole lie. We're not telling the whole story this --

URBAN: Van, 5 million Americans are getting bonus checks. That's not an anecdote.


URBAN: Those folks got money in their pocket. They're not an anecdote man.

JONES: 80% are not. And also --

URBAN: I'll go in the van with you.


JONES: You guys said we would get wage increase not one time bonuses.


JONES: That's a small number.

URBAN: Just giving one time bonuses. We are seeing (INAUDIBLE) into the tax cut.

JONES: All I'm saying is --


COOPER: Let's just focus --

URBAN: Complaining is not enough. It's still saying --

COOPER: Of tonight and what you're going to hear. Is it wise for Democrats in this environment to be boycotting there or to be talking about walking out?

JONES: Let me tell you what I think. First of all, I'm in an old school hip-hop frame of mind for some reason. There was a --

URBAN: For some reason.

JONES: For some reason. There was a public enemy song that will be playing in the background everybody's mind on the Democrat club, can't trust it. That's the problem, no matter what this president says --

COOPER: Really think public enemies --


JONES: You can't trust it. No matter what this president says now, nobody on the Democratic side can believe him because the last speech was great and get terrible for year. So here's the problem we have right now.

The Democrats who are leaving are not the problem. Isn't Democrats are going to be sitting there who are not going to be able to stand up and clap because they understand that they're going to be mislead, that's the problem. The one thing I'll say before I let you guys go is that -- is this.

I think what we can get out of this speech as liberals and progressives, you can't trust this president, but you can look at this speech and see how the factions are playing out inside that building. That speech is going to be the result of the faction fights between the Jared Kushners who had I some trust for, and the Steven Millers. How did the faction fight play-out? What winds up on the paper will let you know what may wind up in policy. But you cannot --


[20:50:00] AXELROD: Let me just say, I disagree with you on this point. I think that one of the things that disturbs me about the president is his late and disregards for institutions for norms, for the things that are so essential to our democracy. I don't think that you fight that by adopting sort of fundamental slotting (ph) of norms and institutions. I think you standby institutions and the State of the Union speech isn't institution. And that's the place where we gathered here the president, whoever the president is. You don't have to agree with them. JONES: But, and I don't want this --

AXELROD: I use to be --

JONES: I don't want this to become the norm so that every succeeding president --

JONES: Right.

AXELROD: -- now deals but walk out to this.

JONES: Listen. First of all just to be clear it was the Republicans the first time Obama got up there that shouted out you lie --

AXELROD: Yes. That's I was there.


SANTORUM: It's a huge difference between someone sitting there and get it in emotional reaction from someone something said, and then blurting out --

JONES: And then it was unprecedented in the history of our republic.

SANTORUM: -- and it's heard that something in an emotional moment than someone premeditated and then --


SANTORUM: People make mistakes in the heat of the moment.

JONES: First of all --

SANTORUM: It's very different --


SANTORUM: And look the bottom line is, this is a premeditated attack on an institution as opposed to somebody --

JONES: Yes. That's not there.

SANTORUM: -- who lost their cool.

JONES: Not fair.

SANTORUM: It is --

JONES: Listen, I am proud that the Congressional Black Caucus has taken this seriously enough. The majority of them are going to be there. Some of them are not. I think all of them are trying to send a signal that there is something desperately wrong with the way this president is handling this presidency. They are trying to be the moral conscience for the country.

SANTORUM: You know -- JONES: I'm not going to have --

SANTORUM: Don't you think its Republicans felt as much of a moral consequence as the way Barack Obama or Bill Clinton was handling --

JONES: Yes. And they were disrespectful in every way --

SANTORUM: Well, they were not --


URBAN: They showed up, Van. They showed up.


JONES: And here's what I will say about the way that President Obama was treated. President Obama was treated worse by Republicans for wearing a tan suit than this President has been treated for disrespecting the FBI. So, I mean I don't think that the CBC should be lectured by anybody about their --


URBAN: I think to David's point, this, you know, the constitution sets this event forth, right? This is a big moment in Washington, and the United States. Everybody at home, a great majority last year, you know, a large number of folks tune in.

Everybody kind of sits in at least for the first 15 minutes, right? And hears what the president says. I mean I know as jaded as we all are here, when the Senate -- when the sergeant at arms of the House says, now Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States, everybody kinds of yehey gets goose bumps.

SANTORUM: That is one of those moments.

URBAN: That is not lost on this president.

AXELROD: Listen. I was as angry --

URBAN: Right.

AXELROD: -- Van, as anyone about that outburst in the House and some of the ways in which President Obama was treated. But I don't think they did it, so we're going to do it --

URBAN: Right.

AXELROD: It's a very compelling answer.

BORGER: Right. And, you know, Nancy Pelo -- according to Manu Raju from the Hill, Nancy Pelosi has warned her troops to behave, not to walk out, you know, not to shout at the President.

COOPER: There's Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump.

URBAN: To your point, just from a political standpoint, if you're Pelosi, you don't want folks to go back --

BORGER: Of course not.

URBAN: -- to their districts and run ads.

BORGER: Exactly.

URBAN: That's the ad you run, right?

BORGER: Right. But -- And Paul Ryan has done the same to his folks.

URBAN: Everyone will be well behaved this evening, I assure that.

BORGER: Isn't that ridiculous you have to warn your people, though?

JONES: And why? It's because you have unfortunately a president of the United States. Listen --


JONES: You guys are ranting everybody. But here's what I'll say. The last time this President walked out there he started speech out and he said, he talked about black history month, and the fact that Jewish community centers were being destroyed.

And I was moved by that, and I was proud to see the President's tick up. And within months you had Nazis marching in the United States attacking black people and Jewish people, and he couldn't defend it. So you have people who tried to give him a chance who don't know what to do.

I don't think they should walk out. I think I'm proud of the ones who are going. I'm proud of the ones who aren't going.

We don't know what to do in America anymore because we see this unprecedented level of dysfunction and chaos and people are trying to find a way forward. I don't think we should be tough on those people. We should be tough on the president.

URBAN: Not participating Van.

COOPER: This is also just to point out Supreme Court Justices, I believe only four are in attendance tonight. The others said that they had pre-existing commitments.

AXELROD: This is the big question isn't? Yes, everyone will be well behaved tonight, I suspect, including the President. And he says in his speech he's offering an open hand. The question is whether tomorrow morning he offers the brass knuckle again, and that has been the problem is that there hasn't been a kind of sustained sense of decorum on his part, and that causes people to be somewhat skeptical about the speech.

URBAN: Everyone has to remember the backdrop. The government shutdown, a week away. All right. We're a week away from another crisis. [20:55:00] We have debt ceiling to race. We have supplemental for -- emergency supplemental funding coming up. We have, you know, an infrastructure bill to talk about DACA.


URBAN: There's an incredible legislative calendar here that nobody has been talking about, right? And we need -- And the president recognizes this, that he needs Democrats in the Senate to accomplish that. Otherwise we're going to be --


JONES: I'm telling what I'm looking forward that would be positive. Number one, criminal justice reform. We know that Jared Kushner has been in there fighting for that. That is something that people could actually come together and get done.

URBAN: If Van and the Koch brothers agree on that --

JONES: Exactly. Van Jones and Koch Brother, Van Jones and Newt Gingrich, so listen.

URBAN: I know.

JONES: There's something that could happen that would be positive. On the infrastructure side, there's something -- it could be done a bad way. It could be done a good way. That's a worthy conversation. The need to have the jobs of tomorrow, unfortunately, you know, we want to cut jobs about 40%, but the job of tomorrow with technology. That you could bring people together. The problem is you keep mixing in the toxic stuff with the good stuff, and you can't eat it.

URBAN: They're going to come to the Senate. They got a nice bill on DACA. Democrats are going to have to decide are they for keeping folks here, for a pathway to citizenship or against border security? First test coming up --

COOPER: The other question is, is there follow-through by the White House with whatever is spoken about tonight? Because we have seen plenty of times where there's an infrastructure week and the president seems to have another agenda on his Twitter machine.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: And that's the big question. What is the staying power of this speech? What is the staying power of the president? We'll see tonight who is going to be very well behaved, very much on message. Typically we see a president lay out an agenda, give a sense of what he wants to see over the next couple of months, then take that speech on the road and take it to different communities, different states. It looks like this president isn't going to do that. It looks like we'll have a State of the Union that might be overtaken by this House memo that we were just talking about.

BORGER: And Jim Acosta reported earlier today that perhaps the president will us surprise us on North Korea and on foreign policy. (CROSSTALK)

URBAN: I would say that, you know, normally State of the Unions, you get an embargoed copy someplace early. You know, we get an embargoed copy shortly before the speech. No embargoed copy shortly (ph) some text so -- I would say there's going to be something. Obviously they did it for a reason. It could have be some big surprise here during the --


URBAN: That's the normal course.


KING: It's always a laundry list and people at tables like this afterwards say the president -- you know, no matter who the president is, and we always find out the American people actually like it. They like to see their president, Democrat or Republican. So this is what I'd like to do. My biggest question going forward here, he's going to talk about a lot of things. Will he talk about criminal justice reform? I don't know.

Infrastructure, Democrats like that. A lot of conservative Republicans don't if it involves federal money because they're worried about the deficit.

This immigration deal, maybe they will get a nice bill in the Senate. Senator Santorum went through this on Obamacare last year are trying to get that through the conservative House. How many things will the President ask tonight, and what will he follow through on, and are those the things that divide Republicans in an election year? That's what they're nervous about on Capitol Hill. They're worried about the majorities and they're worried the president is going to keep pushing issues that divide his own party.

URBAN: The DACA folks in the audience, I'd like to hear what their perspective is, right? We should pull one of those folks and ask them, would you urge your congressman who brought you here to vote for it?


AXELROD: Just on this issue of infrastructure, there's a wholly different view of how it should work. Democrats believe there should be significant public investment. Republicans believe there should be incentives for private investment in infrastructure. But I just want to go over these. "The Wall Street Journal" had a poll in the last few days, and they rated qualities of the president, 19% --

COOPER: OK. Sorry. Let's go back to Wolf. Wolf?

AXELROD: OK. s WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, First Lady, there she is, Melania Trump walking down the stairs. And Kate, first of all, you've been reporting she did come up separately from the President.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: -- this evening from the White House to the Capitol. She accompanied the guests that were invited to sit in her box tonight.

We do hear from the White House whoever (ph) said they will be driving home together. The President and the First Lady will share the ride home. But it is, again, bucking tradition that she drove up on her own.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Is there anything you want to tell us about her outfit?

BENNETT: You know, she's wearing a cream-colored suit there, which I find interesting. Remember last year the female Democratic senators all wore white, a bunch of them to protest Trump's policies against women. So there was even a #womenwearwhite. Listen, it could be a total coincidence, but I just find a lot of the stuff she does these days to look at it twice.

TAPPER: Maureen Dowd called her the Slovenian Sphinx, everybody looking at her and trying to decipher the mysteries.

BENNETT: Exactly.

BLITZER: Kathleen Joyce the assistant Sergeant at Arms just announcing the president's cabinet, now walking in. The Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, you see Rex Tillerson there. Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin. The cabinet walking in, this is another tradition that has unfolded.

Jake, this cabinet pretty much in place since over the past year.

[21:00:03] TAPPER: Yes, with a couple of exceptions obviously. Dr. Tom Price resigned. He was replaced just yesterday officially, a swearing in ceremony of the new Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

BLITZER: To our viewers --