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Interview With California Congressman Kevin McCarthy; Trump vs. Department of Justice; President Trump Set to Deliver State of the Union; Interview With Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 30, 2018 - 3:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin live from the nation's capital for CNN's special coverage of President Trump's first State of the Union speech.

Just a couple of hours from now, he will be speaking before a joint session of Congress.

And as soon as he's finished, the country may get to see the memo that has now put the president at odds with his own Department of Justice. According to sources, the president wants to go public with this memo as soon as possible, but not before his big speech. The memo is classified and slams specific work by the FBI.

Last night, the House Intelligence Committee approved its release, with Republicans winning on a party-line vote. The top official over at DOJ calls the move -- quote -- "extraordinarily reckless."

And Democratic leaders say the memo is an attack on special counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation in totality.

With me now, CNN's Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill and our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, let me just start with you.

What are you hearing from sources at the White House of what the president wants to do with this memo and other key notes you have ahead of his speech tonight?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, in terms of the speech tonight, Brooke, we are hearing that the president is going to make some tough statements about North Korea.

I talked to a source close to the White House who is familiar with the speech earlier today who said that the president will be making some -- quote -- "eye-opening remarks" about North Korea and the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear program, that he is going to be making some strong and serious comments about North Korea in this State of the Union address tonight.

And according to the source who is familiar with the speech, this is the portion of the speech that is expected to generate headlines tomorrow. That's something we're certainly looking to tonight.

In terms of this memo, this Nunes memo, what my colleagues over here at the White House are hearing is that the president is eager to get this memo released, that it's essentially consistent with what we heard from House Speaker Paul Ryan earlier today, that he feels that let's get this out there, let's make sure the public is aware of what's in this memo, but that may happen after the speech, that they don't want to distract the president and distract the public from his message tonight by getting that memo out there.

But it sounds like, from what we're hearing from our sources, the president wants to emphasize bipartisanship and unity in the speech at a time when obviously there isn't a whole lot of that here in Washington, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Despite some of that, Phil Mattingly, we're hearing that, what, at least a dozen Democrats will not show up, they plan to boycott the president's speech tonight?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's the current number, Brooke.

And, look, it's not unusual for lawmakers to use the State of the Union as a way to draw attention to their political or their policy causes. And tonight will certainly be no different. You have got a lot of lawmakers trying to point out sexual harassment victims, trying to draw attention to that, the flood-ravaged Puerto Rico, or Florida, or Houston, issues there.

A lot of DACA recipients will be in attendance tonight, Brooke. Even Miss America, who is constituent of the North Dakota senator, will be in attendance. But I think the difference here or at least the shift that goes back at least a couple of decades now is the number of legislators who will not be attending at all.

As you noted, I'm told right now more than 12 Democrats will not be in attendance. As to why, well, take a listen to California Congresswoman Barbara Lee.


REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: I will not attend the State of the Union because this president has not honored, nor respected the office of the presidency and has shown total disregard for our democratic institutions, from relentless attacks on the press to outrageous statements that undermine the intelligence community and the Russia investigation and repeated threats to our judicial system.

President Trump has launched an all-out assault on our democracy. And I did not make this decision lightly.


MATTINGLY: Now, Brooke, obviously, the congresswoman laying out a myriad of reasons why she won't attend. And I think if you go down the lawmakers that are not attending

tonight, their rationale is not necessarily homogeneous. There are people that aren't going because they believe their district doesn't support the president, because they're offended by certain things that have happened.

You have got like, Barbara Lee and other members of the Congress Black Caucus, who were deeply offended by what was reported the president said, his vulgar remarks in the Oval Office a couple of weeks ago.

So, lot of reasons there, but I think just to track back historically, again, lawmakers making the State of the Union and their attendance there a political point isn't new. But, at least by my count, this is the most lawmakers who have boycotted the State of the Union since 1971.

I'm told the number may grow even a little bit more in the coming hours. So, clearly, Democrats feel like this is something that they need to do, something that they want to do to point this out.

But I will tell you, Brooke, Democratic leaders have made very clear no stunts during the State of the Union. If you have a problem, don't attend. They would rather that than draw attention to some type of protest during the State of the Union, which, obviously, we will all be keeping a very close eye on tonight, Brooke.

BALDWIN: No stunts during. All right.

I'm going to talk to a senator who will be there. Gentlemen, thank you both so very much.

My next guest will be attending tonight's speech. He's going to be paying close attention to the president's buy America, hire American initiative.


She's Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

Senator Baldwin, nice to see you again. Welcome back.

SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D), WISCONSIN: It's great to join you.

B. BALDWIN: Looking ahead to the State of the Union tonight, Senator, sources are telling us this is a president who will be leaning in more to bipartisanship.

What could he say that will make you think he is an honest partner?

T. BALDWIN: Well, we have heard a lot of words from this president, both during his campaign and his early tenure, about buy America and hire America. But we haven't seen the follow-through action.

He endorsed my bill to create buy America policies in water infrastructure, but then has taken no action. Tonight, as he talks about infrastructure and our desperate need to work on a bipartisan basis to rebuild crumbling roads and bridges, I want him to make a sound and solid commitment to buy America provisions.

B. BALDWIN: From infrastructure to immigration, Senator Baldwin, we endured the government shutdown all together. Eight days from now with the next deadline, and Americans are watching. It comes down to these negotiations, the 1.8 million or the 600,000 dreamers. How close are you to getting something actually done?

T. BALDWIN: Well, obviously, we got the commitment from Mitch McConnell to have an open debate, a neutral debate where we expect that these bipartisan plans that are being put together will get a vote and that this will be an honest process.

We know from -- I know actually from my experience in the Senate, in 2013, a comprehensive immigration bill got 68 votes. Certainly, when we deal with a narrower topic of the dreamers and border security, we should be able to get there. And that's exactly what we need to do.

B. BALDWIN: I hear you on the promise from Mitch McConnell. And just from what we understand from the administration, John Kelly, Marc Short, Kirstjen Nielsen, they were all in talks up last night on the Hill.

They're there with leadership, and the update was candid, but no progress. Just on Friday, the president said, if we need a little bit more time, we will take more time.

Ultimately, Senator, but the country wants to know, are you going to come back in a week-and-a-half and be in the same situation as last time?

T. BALDWIN: Yes, I think the entire nation is frustrated with watching this president and the Republican leadership on kicking the can down the road, whether it's on the dreamers, whether it's on C.R. after C.R., whether this president's actions today on ignoring the sanctions law for Russia that passed the Senate 98-2.

You keep seeing things get kicked down the road. And people are frustrated with that, because, in Wisconsin, my constituents want to see action. They want to see Congress fighting for them. They want to see Washington committed to helping them with their struggles, which is the high cost of everything.

B. BALDWIN: As a woman in Congress looking ahead also to tonight, I'm reading some of your colleagues may choose to walk out of the president's speech in protest of a man who has not exactly been shy in making misogynistic comments in the past.

Senator Baldwin, tell me why sitting in that room this evening is more important than walking out or just skipping it all together.

T. BALDWIN: Well, you had an interview or just aired some comments by one of my great former colleagues when I was in the House about that approach.

I'm taking a different approach. My constituents are tired of seeing the finger-pointing, the blame game, the fighting in Washington, D.C. They want someone there working on their behalf. They struggle to get ahead, living sometimes paycheck to paycheck.

And given that this is going to be a speech, at least in part, about what I hope will be a bipartisan infrastructure plan, I want to give my all to seeing something that will help Wisconsin move forward.

B. BALDWIN: Let me ask you about this controversial memo that the House Intel Committee voted along party lines to release this memo that is highly critical of the DOJ.


B. BALDWIN: We heard from Speaker Paul Ryan today, and he said that this memo should be out there, I'm quoting him, out there in the light for transparency, but it's separate from the investigation of Mueller and he should be able to carry it out.

What's wrong with that?

T. BALDWIN: Well, I am so disturbed and troubled by this.

First of all, the administration's own Department of Justice says that it is irresponsible to be releasing this memo. But, beyond that, we have to take a step back and remember what this is all about.


The Russians attacked America's democracy. We have got to step back and let Mueller do the job. And it's just outrageous, in my mind, that this partisan political document is being released, and to see Republicans criticizing law enforcement, rather than stepping back and letting Mueller and the FBI do the job they need to do.

B. BALDWIN: You mentioned also a second ago just calling out the president, the White House move today, lack of sanctions in Russia. What do you really think that's really about?

T. BALDWIN: You know, I have no way of knowing. But it is very distressing to me when you see 98-2 in the Senate. I think overall, between both houses, it was 517-5 in favor of this legislation that has mandatory sanctions.

And I think there's a deadline there. The president seems to have missed this deadline. He seems to be ignoring the law. And there's too many occasions where we have seen this president act as though he's above the law.

B. BALDWIN: Last question, Senator. I wanted to get this in just about women who are running for office.

EMILY's List has reported that 25,000 women have expressed interest in running for some sort of office. And now we have some new numbers. The Center for America Women in Politics says, as of last week, 396 women likely candidate for the United States House, 50 in the Senate.

My question to you as you're sitting there up on Capitol Hill, what are your thoughts on the record number of women? Do you think that this is direct response to Trump or is it about something even bigger?

T. BALDWIN: Oh, I think it's even bigger.

I think we are much better governed when we have legislative bodies that reflect America. Certainly, with only 22 women out of 100 in the Senate, we're not there yet. And I see that in other legislative bodies.

But what I see, which is so heartening to me, is people understanding that they bring their life experiences to the job and their perspective needs to be at the table. And I'm seeing this in Wisconsin also.

We won a special Senate election and a House -- a state Assembly election in Wisconsin last week, women just doing an incredible job, running their campaigns, getting the training they need to do it, and bringing their values and their experience to jobs.

It will inform their job performance, and it's bringing about change. So I'm really heartened to hear the news from EMILY's List, as well as other grassroots organizations, helping provide women the chance to get the skills they need to run.

B. BALDWIN: It's interesting. You say it's about something bigger. We will be watching November very closely.

Senator Tammy Baldwin, a pleasure. Thank you so much.

T. BALDWIN: Pleasure, Brooke. Thanks.

BALDWIN: My panel joins me next to discuss how the Russian investigation and the attacks on the FBI will play into the politics of the State of the Union. That's ahead.

Also, we're going to hear from a soldier who will be sitting in that audience this evening who happens to be transgender -- what she wants the president to know about his attempts to ban her from serving her country.

And, later, Melania Trump appearing in public for the first time in weeks. We will discuss the first lady's role in hosting the guests invited by the White House and where she's been.



BALDWIN: We're back here in live in Washington. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.

Getting back to this memo that has now put the president at odds with the DOJ, with its allegations of surveillance abuse by the FBI, Democrats tried to issue their own memo to counter it, but Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee rejected that.

So, with me now, CNN chief security national correspondent Jim Sciutto, CNN political director David Chalian, Paul Kane, reporter for "The Washington Post," and CNN politics senior writer Juana Summers.

Welcome, welcome. Really, thanks for having me.


BALDWIN: Thanks for having me in D.C.

First just to you, sir, just on the fact that we're learning the memo is at the White House. It's in some classified room. I guess apparently folks within the White House, they want to keep the president to -- they don't want it to distract the president away from, of course, his important task at hand, which is this speech tonight, but what do you know?

Is the assumption that after the State of the Union he's going to release it?

CHALIAN: If not immediately after tonight, he's in a sort of five-day window where he has the opportunity to review this, but all indications seem to be he would like to release this, by the way, against the protestations of his Justice Department.


CHALIAN: But, to me, I just -- you say the White House doesn't want him distracted by this, they don't want to distract from the State of the Union.

And yet this is the backdrop upon which he will enter the House chamber tonight. The Russia investigation writ large, this memo story of the moment hangs over -- and so while he may not mention it in the speech at all -- and we're learning he wants to talk about immigration and infrastructure, but this is the backdrop upon which the president enters that House chamber tonight.

BALDWIN: And I want to follow up with you in just a second on your conversation with Adam Schiff, but it is live TV, and we roll where the news goes.

And that includes my friend Dana Bash, our chief political correspondent, who has caught up with the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy.

Dana, the floor is yours.


And thank so much for stopping by. It's what happens when I catch you in the hallway, I guess.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: That's exactly -- you told me I had to come here, so...

BASH: Well, thank you. So, first, let me just start with the memo. Do you -- is it your understanding that the president is going to approve the release of the memo as soon as, what, after the State of the Union address?

MCCARTHY: Well, no.

How the process works is, the Intel Committee, opened it up so all members can see it. They then took it to the FBI, walk through it. They then have to send it to the president. And he has five days to review it, to decide whether yes or no.


BASH: Right, but he doesn't have to take the five days.

MCCARTHY: No. He has up to five days. So, it's whatever time, whether he decides yes or no after reading it. And can't predetermine what he's going to do. He has got to read it, look at it, and...

BASH: Really? You don't think it's a fait accompli that he's going to say, OK, release it?

MCCARTHY: No, not at all.

I think his attorneys will look at it and others. Remember, we're separate but co-equal branches. And we should -- we have a responsibility and duty in that same place to walk through this.

So, we do our work. The executive branch will look at it now. We went beyond and reached out to the executive branch early, walked through what was in it, to see if there was anything they wanted redacted, anything they disagreed with.

And from then, they voted to move it forward. At the same time, Chairman Nunes made the motion. Now, the Democrats didn't want anything out. Now they brought something new out. So, they made the motion to open that up to members. I need to go down and read that one.

So, they have some report they want. And so members will now be able to read that, and the committee will get back together, decide whether to send that.

BASH: Let me ask you the same question that Manu asked the speaker earlier today, which is, since the Democrats now have a minority report, a counternarrative, why not wait until theirs is approved, sources and methods are all A-OK, and you can publicly release that, so that you have parity?

MCCARTHY: Well, the Democrats didn't even say they had a minority report until they went to the committee last night and why were moving what the Republican majority said.

BASH: Right. But now they do, so why not wait and have them released at the same time? MCCARTHY: Well, what we did was from, the whole standpoint, that's

why we voted for them or the committee voted to make sure so all the members can see it.

I think it's the responsibility and duty to put that information out there, one, as soon as possible. So, now that the Democrats have one, Republicans are actually the ones who made the motion for the members to read it. I think they will come back after reading it, look at it to see if that should be sent.

The executive branch has not been able to look at it, FBI, to see if there's things that should be redacted or others to protect individuals. And so it still has to go through that process.

BASH: If your goal, you say, is to try to do your oversight responsibility and shine a light on institutional problems, why not do it in a way that gets the trust of all American people, in a way that doesn't look so partisan?

Because aren't you defeating the purpose of what you say you're trying to do, which is have kind of adequate oversight and trustworthy oversight of other institutions?

MCCARTHY: Well, see, remember, separate but co-equal.

Remember how the Intel Committee was created, what was going on in the executive branch, where there wasn't a check and balance, what's happening in the CIA, FBI and others. So, that's how the Intel Committee was created.

BASH: I know, but the Intel Committee was also created with the understanding and the culture that it is a bipartisanship -- an oasis of bipartisanship. It's not like that anymore.

MCCARTHY: Look, I can go tit for tat with Adam Schiff every day on the television, Adam Schiff saying things that aren't even there.

But that's not my place. I think what the Intel Committee has a responsibility to do, if they have knowledge and have transparency, to move it out.

I think it is an open and honest process. That's why the Democrats had nothing before. They were voting to not let anybody see anything. And I think that was wrong. And that's why the Republicans are the ones who made the motion, so members now could read what the Democrats have.

And I don't see -- I don't want to predetermine what the committee will do. But it seems to me they're treating them very openly and honest and much different than reciprocal.

BASH: Just really quickly, I just want to ask one immigration question, but there was an unusual moment you whispered something in the speaker's ear at his press conference this morning. What was that about?

MCCARTHY: Oh, there was a question earlier about this take.

And he was answering it, but I wanted him to also talk about how he did go to the FBI before this was released, so they could see it, to make sure, because I think there was a question out there about that.

And just like your question before, you want to make sure there's transparency, you want to make sure you take politics out. Look, regardless of who wins the White House, there's a real concern -- and it's not about that, but when I look at something different, when I look at these texts and others, you want to make sure your government is honest.

You want to make sure your elections are honest in the process as well. And so if you uncover anything that is going to raise more questions, don't hide that from the American people. And that's why, when I'm talking about something different, not that memo, I'm talking about the texts and others.

BASH: OK. One last question. You are part of the team leading immigration negotiations right now.


BASH: Any breakthroughs on the horizon that you can talk about?

MCCARTHY: Well, we agreed to really focus on four areas.

I think we made some progress yesterday. We were last week, unfortunately, when we were shut down, we didn't have meetings, so we're back at it again.


The staffs are meeting again today. This is bicameral, bipartisan, with the White House and the secretary, Durbin and Steny's staff and Cornyn.

My talk is, from the very beginning, when we all came together. We are going to have ups and downs as we go through this. We're going to have difference of opinion. But let's make the commitment to each other that we stay at the table and solve the problem.

BASH: You going to have a deal by the time the February 8 deadline comes around?

MCCARTHY: Look, I know -- that's why I didn't want the continuing resolution so short.

This is a complex issue. And I know there's emotions are on all sides. So, I really want to do is not set a date. I know I got to get it as soon as possible. I want to get it right so we don't come back to it again.

If I get -- if we can get it together before then, I'm all for it. And that's why I'm pushing every single day to have meetings. Look, this is a problem all America knows has to be solved. BASH: Mr. Leader, thank you so much. Thank you for stopping.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.

BASH: OK. Thank you -- Brooke, back to you.

BALDWIN: Dana, thank you.

And thank Leader McCarthy for us as well.

And my panel is back.

Speaking of going tit for tat with Adam Schiff on TV, Jim Sciutto, you had him, the Democratic leader of the House Intel Committee, on a bit ago.

But before we go there, I think -- can we just big picture this for a second? For everyone tuning in, and learning about this memo, and votes along party lines, and what are the Republicans trying to do, and undermine the DOJ and the Mueller investigation, what is this really about?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That was a very noble description from Kevin McCarthy there talking about bipartisan interests and transparency.

BALDWIN: Very diplomatic.

SCIUTTO: You cannot separate this memo from a broader Republican and presidential attack on the Mueller investigation and the FBI. OK?

It's coming from multiple directions via Twitter, public comments, et cetera, the McCabe -- talking McCabe, Mueller, whatever. It's a deliberate and pretty coordinated effort undermine this investigation.

You got to see the FISA memo as part of that. What is the FISA member? FISA court approves special warrants to surveil intelligence targets. Secret court follows the law passed after 9/11. It's pretty easy to get a FISA warrant, I should say. Most of those warrants are approved.

And what Devin Nunes is alleging here is that when a warrant was issued for Carter Page, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, that somehow this famous dossier compiled by the former British spy was involved in that, and, therefore, it shows an abuse of the foreign surveillance law.

Now, the fact is we know the FBI would never seek a warrant based on outside intelligence. They just don't do that. In fact, I have spoken to people who have read these warrants and so on and they say, you have got to have your own intel to do it.

That's FBI practice. And you just wouldn't -- and a judge wouldn't approve that kind of memo. So, just keep that in mind.

BALDWIN: OK. SCIUTTO: Complicated issue.

But it's part of this broader thing. Now, that doesn't mean you can't have questions about the FISA process. I think normal people and Americans at home might want to know that something like several thousand FISA warrants have been approved in the last several years and 12 have been declined. That's a pretty good success rate in front of a judge.

Are there legitimate questions about it? For sure. Is this political effort that's going on right now the bipartisan, sober assessment of the way the FISA court works? I think you could pretty much say no.

And don't take my word for it. Filter out, if you can then, and I will shut up, but filter out, if you can, what you heard from Republicans, what I heard from Democrats earlier today.

The Justice Department run by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, appointed by President Trump, issued a letter to Devin Nunes last week, it said two things. It said, one, extraordinarily careless to release this, because it gets to classified information, but, two, more importantly, we are unaware of any misuse of the FISA process.

The Justice Department, we have not seen evidence of this.

So, I would listen to them and tune out the others.

BALDWIN: Isn't it also especially significant, just pointing you all, the fact that, obviously, this would be the president, if he does -- I know Dana asked, is this a fait accompli that the president is going to release this?

And there was the noble, diplomatic answer from Kevin McCarthy. But let's be real. He's going to release this. That's what indications are, correct? All signs point to yes?


BALDWIN: And that would be defying his own DOJ?

KANE: Yes, but if...

BALDWIN: Yes, but?

KANE: If tonight's reviews go well, this is a man who understands branding and good ratings. And once this memo is released, it's going to step on his good show.

BALDWIN: It's a great point.

KANE: So, I think he might -- if he thinks tonight's speech goes really well, he might stretch it out a day or so.

BALDWIN: He may want to sit on it.

KANE: Yes, until Thursday morning maybe. (LAUGHTER)

CHALIAN: I think it depends on, if FOX News, which he tends to watch, is very much still pushing a release the memo echo chamber kind of message, even if he does have a good speech, he may immediately feel the need to respond to that.

BALDWIN: Go ahead.

JUANA SUMMERS, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: I think it's worth keeping in mind the politics of this, that this is a president who repeatedly, time and time again, has said that this investigation is a witch-hunt.

He said over and over again privately that he has been mistrustful of Rosenstein. And, of course, when this memo is released, whenever that happens, whether it's tonight, tomorrow morning, what have you, there is going to be a pile-on on Rosenstein by Republicans, who time and again have tried to...

BALDWIN: Rosenstein will be in the crosshairs.

SUMMERS: I think that's exactly right, because people have been trying -- Republicans in particular have been saying over and over again they want to discredit this investigation.

They don't see it as legitimate. And he becomes, frankly, an easy target.

BALDWIN: WE have some wound. Let me toss to this.