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AT THIS HOUR
Trump Has Five Days To Decide Controversial Memo's Fate; Trump Will Not Speak About Russia Probe Tonight; Speaker Ryan: Nunes Memo Should Be Released; Trump's Promises: Wins And Losses In First Year; Trump To Talk DACA, Markets, Tax Cut, Trade In Speech. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired January 30, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan. A major speech, a classified memo and a feverish controversy that is pitting Democrats versus Republicans and the White House against the Justice Department.
As Donald Trump prepares for his first state of the union address tonight, a four-page partisan memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI is threatening to steal his thunder. The memo by Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, the Intel Committee chairman who is also on the Trump transition team, is now inside the Trump White House we have learned.
The president has five days to decide whether to release it. Some Republicans say the public needs to know for the sake of transparency, but the Justice Department is warning against it. And Democrats say it is all an attempt by the president and his GOP allies to torpedo Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. By the way, the administration has declined to impose sanctions on Russia.
We're going to have much more on that later. Right now, I want to go to CNN's Kaitlan Collins live for us at the White House. Kaitlan, there's so much here. I want to start with the memo. What are you hearing about the release of it?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Brianna, we're told that the president is very likely to want to release that memo. We know that it was brought over to the White House last night after the House Intelligence Committee voted on it.
And though, it is unclear if the president has even laid eyes on the memo yet, we are told by a source familiar with his thinking that the president is very likely to release it. It's very interesting because we know that we found out last week that when the president was on Air Force One, he learned of Justice Department efforts to quash the release of that memo, that he erupted in anger.
So, this is certainly a thinking that has been his for some time now, not just since the memo was brought over to the White House last night. But he is very likely to advocate for the release of this memo -- Brianna.
KEILAR: And is there any indication that he's going to address Russia at all in his state of the union tonight?
COLLINS: No, there is not. We actually have a White House official telling my colleague, Jeff Zeleny, that the president is not going to bring up Russia tonight. He's not slated to because they say that's not what tonight is about.
Now, of course, this is a president who makes decisions on his own whims, he may decide to bring it up if he feels that it is necessary. But we'll likely see him stick with the teleprompter. It is interesting, Brianna, because overall the president's message tonight will be about his successes.
Successes here in Washington when really this whole speech is going to be overshadowed to some extent by the new developments in this Russia investigation. And though he's going to be painting a picture of success here in Washington, this comes after many developments in recent days that show anything but with the deputy FBI director abruptly resigning yesterday.
The government is a week away from running out of funding. There is no agreement on what to do with immigration, so certainly an interesting backdrop as the president addresses the capitol here tonight.
KEILAR: Certainly is to say the least. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you. Now to the political battle over the mysterious partisan and controversial memo. How Speaker Paul Ryan this morning defending the Republican memo and saying it should be released.
Manu Raju is live for us on Capitol Hill. So, Manu, the speaker just held a press conference. Tell us what he said.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right. He said that there were legitimate questions that were raised in this memo, suggesting that it may have been some American civil liberties that were violated.
He said that the reason they want this out there is to determine whether or not any rules or laws are broken, and to look at possible malfeasance at the Justice Department and the FBI.
And one thing he did do also, Brianna, is defend the decision by the Republicans to release the Nunes memo, the Republican memo, but not release a separate memo, a Democratic memo drafted by that top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff.
Instead the committee agreed to vote to allow the full House classified access to this memo, but not agree to release it at the same time as the Devin Nunes memo. Now during the press conference, I pressed him to understand exactly why they made that decision and why they didn't hold back and release both memos at the same time to give both -- give the American public both sides of the argument. Here is what Ryan said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: This memo, we just got popped on us yesterday, is now going through that process. I would tell you, unlike the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee, who voted to deny access to this memo to the broader members, Republicans supported (inaudible). Devin actually made the motion. Now it will go through that 11-G process like this other memo did. Let me just say a few things --
RAJU: Why not hold it back and release it at the same time?
RYAN: Yes, as Kevin was mentioning, the chairman went to the FBI to go through the memo, to make sure that we were protecting any sources and methods and confident that we are. None of that work has been done on this new memo that no one has yet read. The Republicans voted to allow the rest of the members to read it so that it can go through that process.
RAJU: Why not hold back?
RYAN: You asked enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:05:12] RAJU: So, not clearly saying exactly why they decided not to move forward with -- hold back on the Republican release at the same time the Democratic memo, but saying it is part of the same -- this process.
But the thing about this process, Brianna, this is the first time in the committee's roughly 40-year existence that this rule has been used to declassify this memo, declassify intelligence and give the president an opportunity to decide whether or not the release it to the public.
So, there is really no novel -- no common practice here. It was a decision by the Republicans to let this out first and not let the Democratic memo come out at the same time, a decision they made, they say it was completely within bounds, their decision to move forward.
He also tried to make clear, Brianna, this is not anything to do with the Mueller investigation, tried to keep it separate from Robert Mueller's, special counsel investigation, but a lot of Republicans don't see it the same way. They're trying to tie the two together to undercut what is happening with the special counsel's investigation -- Brianna.
KEILAR: What did he say, you've asked enough?
RAJU: You've asked enough. That was his response.
KEILAR: Might steal that, although never enough, never enough, Manu Raju. Thank you so much.
RAJU: Thanks, Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. I want to bring in my panel now. We have CNN's political analyst and Washington Bureau chief for "The Daily Beast," Jackie Kucinich, and former federal prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, Seth Waxman, he's with the Dickinson Wright law firm.
Also, we have CNN legal and national security analyst, Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent and a lecturer at Yale. Jackie, one of the things that makes it hard to separate politics from this Nunes memo at all is when you think about who Devin Nunes is and his role. He was on the Trump transition team. He has acted at times so much in the interest of the White House as he did this last March.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE DEVIN NUNES (R), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I have seen -- I have seen intelligence reports that clearly show that the president-elect and his team were, I guess, at least monitored and disseminated out an intelligence and what appears to be raw or I shouldn't say raw, but intelligence reporting channels. I'm not comfortable with it and I want to make sure that the White House understands it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Now, it turns out that he was able to see those intelligence reports because he was summoned to the White House in a very weird sort of secretive way that he went to the White House to view the reports.
The Ethics Committee ended up investigating him, which is why he temporarily stepped aside from doing Russia things, although that he was cleared of any wrongdoing. But suffice it to say he's not -- he's not objective. He's not an objective party here.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Especially when you are talking to Democrats, Democrats have painted him now as not an honest broker on this. When you talk -- you see Adam Schiff, the ranking member on that committee, they don't get along anymore, which is odd.
For the intelligence committee, back in the day, before all of this, they used to, used to be one of the few committees where partisanship was kind of set aside in the interest of national security. It seems quaint right now.
But as a result of Nunes being involved with this, some of his interactions with the White House that you mentioned, he's now kind of a figure head for the Republicans who are trying to derail the Russia investigation, and make it more about the DOJ and the FBI than about the kremlin.
KEILAR: And Asha, one of the things that Democrats are saying, one of the reasons for why this shouldn't be released is they say this is just unprecedented for something for classified information like this to be released this way. Is that true? ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, there is a reason that FISAs are top secret. Just to zoom back, the FISA process is essentially the foreign intelligence analog to the criminal wiretap procedure. These are basically very similar, but the FISA process is secret because there are very sensitive methods and sources.
These could include human sources, who if they're exposed, literally could be killed. They could include electronic sources that if they're uncovered could dry up the intelligence that the FBI or even the CIA and NSA are getting and could compromise other ongoing investigations.
So, you know, Congress should definitely exercise its oversight and function but there are channels to report abuse, the office of the inspector general, for example, there can be internal audits.
But putting this out into the public has severe consequences, not least that it allows Russia to see what state of the investigation -- what the state of our investigation is against them and be able to take countermeasures to avoid detection in the future.
[11:10:02] And we know that they are preparing to interfere again in our elections. So that is not good for America.
KEILAR: Seth, I want to ask you about the FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. We figured he was going in March, but now we know that he's going earlier. So, this was pretty sudden. The White House says look, the president had nothing to do with this.
But we know that he has attacked Andrew McCabe over and over. We know the special counsel is looking at obstruction of justice. Is this anything that could be a part of that?
SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I don't know his actual stepping down just yesterday could be an over an act that is directly evidence of obstruction, but clearly the acts leading up to that, the constant badgering, fitting into that pattern of dismissing Comey, of telling Jeff sessions, don't recuse yourself, you need to stay here to protect me, and then the attacks on Andrew McCabe. So, I think it fits that pattern and practice that the special prosecutor will be looking at.
KEILAR: So, it would be one data point maybe or it would speak to -- or would really the way the president has behaved when it comes to tweeting and attacking McCabe really be the bigger issue than him stepping down?
WAXMAN: Well, I think you're right on that point, but I think the way a prosecutor looks at this is it has to be proven circumstantially. You have to prove corrupt intent for an obstruction case. And while we would like to get into the mind of Donald Trump and sometimes we see, you know, inroads into that through his tweets.
At the end of the day, the prosecutor has got to build his case circumstantially and that's the way prosecutors think. They think of patterns, practices, how you can show over a period of time that step after step after step all points in one direction.
Andrew McCabe's attacks on him would fit into that as a piece of the puzzle and at the end of the day, you put it all together and submit it to a jury or potentially if there is impeachment in this case, to Congress.
KEILAR: I wonder, Asha, what is the effect here on the FBI's rank and file when you're talking about McCabe leaving and then Republicans accusing the FBI of abusing power.
RANGAPPA: Right. I think that it will have a significant effect on morale. You know, this is an agency that has 35,000 people, 14,000 agents. When you have a career agent like Andrew McCabe, that's something that is typically celebrated within the FBI.
It is a huge achievement, somebody usually leaves with a big party and speeches, they don't leave at lunch time never to be seen again. I think the unceremonious way in which he left and in which Comey left, they see themselves as a family and it would be a front to the family, you know.
It is becoming like a -- "The Apprentice" where someone leaves abruptly and gets sent home in a limo, but I think that, you know, it is sending a bad message also. It is -- the president and now Congress saying if you conduct an investigation that we don't like, we will accuse you of misconduct, we will investigate you, we will smear you in public.
And, you know, to kind of use the Harvey Weinstein words, we'll make sure you never work in this town again. I think that's really what's being heard and a really dangerous precedent to be setting for what should be an independent law enforcement agency.
KEILAR: There has been this question of whether the president is going to talk to Robert Mueller. I want you to listen, Jackie, to what Chris Christie said about this very thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I don't think there has been any allegations, credible allegations against the president of the United States and I don't think the president of the United States, unless there are credible allegations, which I don't believe there are, should be sitting across from the special counsel. The presidency is different. I don't think they should do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Trump said he would love to sit down. Christie is saying something different. Do you think that -- could you see a situation where Trump doesn't sit down with Mueller?
KUCINICH: Here is the thing about Chris Christie? If Chris Christie was Bob Mueller, Chris Christie used to do this, right. There is no way he wouldn't try to interview the president. That wouldn't happen. So, is Chris Christie trying to talk through the tv to the president? Perhaps. But, you know, at this moment, the president has signaled he's going to. Who knows what he'll say tomorrow, though, because (inaudible).
KEILAR: Jackie, Seth, Asha, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
Coming up, the Trump administration faced a key deadline to release sanctions on Russia last night for meddling in the 2016 election. They did not release sanction and what they did unveil, raising some serious eyebrows. We'll explain.
Plus, First Lady Melania Trump expected to attend the state of the union tonight and it comes amid a new report that says she was furious to learn President Trump's lawyer reportedly paid a porn star to keep quiet about an alleged affair. We'll have details on that ahead.
KEILAR: And we are counting down to President Trump's first state of the union address. It is now less than ten hours away. We know that in his speech tonight he's going to detail a new plan for immigration and infrastructure.
But you'll remember that a year ago when he spoke to Congress he made some pretty big promises when he stood before that joint session. So, has he done what he said he would do in his first year in office? CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look at the scoreboard -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brianna. When Donald Trump first spoke to Congress, he did the same thing most presidents do, he brought a wish list. Here are some of the big items he had one year ago. Listen to some of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm going to bring back millions of jobs, protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: We will get to immigration in just a little bit here. Jobs, yes, he added about 2 million in the past year. The recovery started under Barack Obama and has continued. Unemployment is very low. That's a win.
Republicans really wanted to have tax reform. It took them until late in the year, but they did manage to pass something. Who the winners and losers will be we don't know. But again, something they can say they accomplished that he wanted.
Through that program, they also managed to come up with something to give a little tuition assistance to people who want more school choice, a little more assistance through the tax plan too for people looking for some child care relief of some sort.
[11:20:03] And the president said he wanted to address violent crime. He set up a commission for this, we don't know if this is anything to do with the result, but preliminary numbers show the violent crime seems to have ticked down a little bit in the past year. But now listen to some of the other things he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Yes. This is something Republicans really wanted. They managed to take a few bites out of it, but repeal and replace, no, not really even close. His big plan for an infrastructure makeover, all those new bridges and dams and roads, that hasn't really happened.
His ban on people coming from many Muslim nations, that had all sorts of trouble in the courts as you can remember, and they have allowed it to go partially through after a lot of changes. That's only sort of a partial win for the administration.
And of course, immigration, yes, deportations are up, but there is no wall, Mexico hasn't paid for it and comprehensive reform still flapping in the breeze. So, what does all of this add up to, well, just look at the approval rates for the past six presidents at this time in their administrations.
Then you can see, for all of his wins and losses, he's certainly trailing everybody in that big number -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Thank you, Tom, so much for that. I want to talk to my panel of CNN political commentators. We have Alice Stewart, former communications director for Ted Cruz's presidential campaign, Jack Kingston, a former Republican congressman and a senior -- was a senior adviser to the Trump campaign.
OK, so, Jack, there was a gathering yesterday at the White House of loyal surrogates for the president, of the president's, learning about what would be in the state of the union. Were you there by chance?
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We're all very excited about the president, you know, he owns it now. He's been in office a year. He's going to have a great platform to talk to all of the American people and he's going to get to talk about taxes, going to get to talk about immigration proposals, infrastructure. He'll talk about trade deals coming off of Davos. Something important to me is military. He'll talk about building the strong defense.
KEILAR: So, I have to say, all right, so here's CNN's reporting, and I understand, Jack, if you have to be cagey about this. We have reported that there were a group of about a dozen surrogates. I also noticed you tweeted a photo yesterday, I think we have, of Jack --
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A thousand words.
KEILAR: It looks like it is at the White House, Jack. You're not going to come clean and tell me if you were there or not.
KINGSTON: I have the opportunity to see him here and there and I had a picture with him that I wanted to tweet and sometimes I'll do one with Brianna Keilar, and sometimes with Alice Stewart.
KEILAR: All right, jack, all right. Look, in this meeting, this is what we have in our reporting that he told these surrogates that he thinks he shocked Democrats with his offer of a path to citizenship for 1.8 million DREAMers, Alice. He also expressed uncertainty about whether Democrats will be willing and politically able to reach a deal with him. This is according to a couple of sources at the meeting.
STEWART: Sure. We already have been down this road before prior to the shutdown. I think it is going to be a difficult road ahead, but the president was right when this came up before the shutdown to stand firm and stand his ground.
And made it quite clear to Chuck Schumer and all the Democrats, look, I'm willing to talk about immigration, I'm willing to talk about provisions for DREAMers, I'm willing to make DACA permanent, but I want some things in return.
I want funding for the wall. I want to end chain migration. I want to end the visa lottery. These are things that he's going to use to stand firm on and it is a way to negotiate. If the Democrats want to help the DREAMers, Republicans are willing to concede and help with that. They also need to get something in return.
KEILAR: What else do you understand to be on his mind, Jack, about what he wants to achieve this evening?
KINGSTON: I think he'll talk about the importance of his economic vision in terms of less regulation, less job killing regulations, creates more opportunities for everybody. The fact that there are more women in the labor force than ever in 17 years.
Lowest Hispanic unemployment rate in history. Lowest African-American unemployment rate in decades. And so, you know, lots of good things to talk about. But the building of pipelines to bring down our energy costs, opening up the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve, things like that, I think are going to be very helpful.
I think if you listen to what he said in Davos, trade agreements, America's open for business, America first doesn't mean America alone. I think that's an important thing for all of us to hear.
KEILAR: So, I think we're expecting to see a president tonight who does stick to the teleprompter. The Trump that we saw in Davos, that we saw during his address to a joint session a year ago, which obviously very closely resembles a state of the union address.
But when teleprompter Trump talks about maybe a bipartisan solution to immigration, when he talks about how the economy is benefiting all Americans, you highlighted black unemployment, which is still up compared to white unemployment.
[11:25:03] when he talks about finding the solutions, I wonder if Americans will be remembering not just this teleprompter Trump they're seeing, but unscripted Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say, get that son of a -- off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President interrupted him several times with questions and in the course of his comments said things which were hate-filled, vile, and racist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Is it even possible, Alice, for him to really make a difference in a state of the union address when he has evoked such emotion with his off the cuff, seemingly from the heart comments over the last year?
STEWART: It is possible, and just like baseball, you're only as good as your last game. I think this, tonight, he will be on his game. He will be on his prompter. He'll be on message because he has been working on this for quite some time.
And also, another key component of the state of the union speeches, as you know, the personal and emotional component, he will have guests in the audience that have benefitted from tax reform, who -- a military hero, families that have been victims of gang activity.
And these will be opportunities for him to tout his accomplishments, tout his plans for the future, but also personalize it with people out there that really connect with what his message is, and if he does like he did last year, let it breathe, let the applause go, these will be heart wrenching moments that will add emotion to the policy component.
KEILAR: To play off Alice's metaphor, if you're judged by your last game, but in your last several games you punch the ump, went after the pitcher and did a bunch of stuff, you're probably not just going to be judged by what this one game is because you have a whole history of behavior that would be considered unusual.
KINGSTON: Well, I had the honor of serving with three different presidents and even before that have had the opportunity to meet Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. They're all charismatic and the point is that I've seen Democrats and Republicans who are critical of presidents of opposite parties all day long fawn all over him with the state of the union.
Because this is the president speaking directly to the American people, absolutely unfiltered, and I have seen the harshest critics run up to get a photo-op and you can watch on the Democrats side of the aisle, how many are leaning over, wearing bright red dresses or, you know, maybe red ties to get noticed on tv, and they're going to be hugging the president as if they're old friends. I think that is an opportunity for both parties to build on that relationship.
KEILAR: So, maybe boycotting, we should mention that, though, just to be fully clear about that. Jack Kingston, Alice Stewart, thank you to both of you. Really appreciate it.
Coming up, the Trump administration is refusing to enact sanctions on Russians for meddling in the 2016 election. But they did release a list of names right before a major deadline last night. A list of names that perfectly matches almost a "Forbes" list of Russian billionaires. The Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is now defending the administration's actions next.