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McCabe Abruptly Resigns; Russian Sanctions Declined; Trump to Pitch Immigration Plan; Protection for Pensions; Taliban and ISIS on Rampage; Kasich on Trump's Speech. Aired 8:30-9:00a ET

Aired January 30, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Be able to complete his work. You know the report about the president once expressing frustration, wanting him out. McCabe is gone. Comey is gone. Do you have any concerns about whether or not there may be an effort to stop this investigation?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It would be a devastating development if Mr. Mueller were in any way imped in completing his investigation. It is absolutely essential that he be allowed to complete it. He is a person of great experience, impeccable integrity, whose appointment was praised by both sides of the aisle. And he has to be allowed to finish his work.

CUOMO: So, Kellyanne Conway has never ceased to amaze me in her ability to answer questions. Yet she has no answer for why the president didn't execute the sanctions that you guys voted 98-2, a very wide margin in the House as well. Why? Why didn't the White House move on the sanctions that you voted on?

COLLINS: That is perplexing to me. That bill passed with only two dissenting votes in the Senate. It was not partisan in the least. Bob Corker, Ben Cardin, the leaders of the Foreign Relations Committee, worked very closely together. They came up with a bill that was balanced and needed.

The one thing we know for sure already is the Russians did attempt to meddle in our elections. And not only should there be a price to pay in terms of sanctions, but also we need to put safeguards in place right now for the elections for this year, because we know that the Russians have not given up on their disinformation campaign and their attempt to sew discord in this country and also to undermine faith in democratic institutions.

They've also tried it in western Europe and in Montenegro. So we need to act now to try to stop that.

CUOMO: Border security. They'll throw a little money at it in the world. Cyber security, nothing so far.

Senator Collins, as long as you're around, I feel we're going to get to the right place.

Thank you for being with us. COLLINS: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: I appreciate it.

COLLINS: Great to see you in person.

CUOMO: Very tall.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We have a studio full of senators.

President Trump plans to sell his immigration plan to lawmakers and the American people at tonight's State of the Union Address. Can he get Democrats on board?

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.


CAMEROTA: Great to have you here.

HEITKAMP: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for coming into the studio.

HEITKAMP: Not a problem.

CAMEROTA: We are -- we are flush with senators.

So --

HEITKAMP: But good ones. Good ones.

CAMEROTA: Yes, absolutely, the best.

So what can the president say tonight to get Democrats on board with his immigration plan?

HEITKAMP: Well, I think the one thing that everybody's forgetting, because there's so much talk now about what's happening with the FBI, so much talk about what's happening with the -- with the DACA kids and whether we're going to get this fixed, there's a whole world out there.

You know, I go to work every morning thinking about what we're going to do for rural America. So what I'm going to listen for is, what's going to happen for rural America? What's happening for working men and women? And, yes, these other issues are critical and important and we'll work through them, but this speech is supposed to be about the entire country. And I think there are a whole lot of people who feel like they're getting left behind here in these discussions.

I think, you know, we're working through with Senator Collins, the Common Sense coalition, is working through a lot of the issues that we have right now with how -- what do we -- what do we think we need on border security, what's going to happen with the DACA kids. That's going to work its way through. We're going to start the debate on the 8th. But at the same time, the State of the Union has to be a broader discussion.

CAMEROTA: But that's good to know because it's good to know that things are happening behind the scenes. Obviously I think that would comfort Americans in terms of getting to a solution because what we often see is the president put out something that the Democrats think is sort of inflammatory, that Democrats dig in and Republicans say nothing is going to happen. But you're saying that behind the scenes you think that you will reach a bipartisan approach or plan for immigration before the next government shutdown?

HEITKAMP: I think -- I think the discussion is -- there's a lot of people who want to do the whole immigration reform. That's not going to happen by the 8th. There's a lot of people who say, if we just, you know, kind of extend this program and codify this program, make it foolproof in the courts, that's -- that takes care of it.

I think there's -- there's a lot of room in the middle and there's a lot of consensus in the middle. And so one of the -- one of the things that I believe the Common Sense coalition brings to all of this is a willingness to sit down and not just talk about process, but talk about substance and how can we get from point a to point b.

And, you know, one of the things that we learned I think from the 13 (ph) shutdown where the Common Sense caucus didn't engage until the 13th, until like well into the shutdown, this time we engaged right away and had a -- had a better and more immediate result.

CAMEROTA: Well, we understand the president's going to be talking about tonight, and what they've previewed from the White House, is touting his tax cut, touting what he sees as the booming economy, how well the stock market is doing. And so from where you sit, do you think that all of those -- I mean the issues that you find most pressing and that you say people would want to talk about, are they feeling those successes?

[08:35:14] HEITKAMP: Well, I think -- I think that the reaction would be mixed, and a lot of times it's through a partisan lens. I like to look at facts. And, you know, just as --

CAMEROTA: We do too.

HEITKAMP: Right. I know it's really important --


HEITKAMP: Because they are fairly significant in public policy making, Alisyn. One of the things that, you know, they say, OK, Wells Fargo gave a big bonus.


HEITKAMP: But at the same time they also announced that they're going to dividend most of their tax break. You know, we just heard that Kimberly Clark is going to lay off 5,000

people and close factories. You know how they can afford to do that because that costs money? They said the tax cuts gave them the liberty to do that.

Moody's --

CAMEROTA: That's not the point of the tax --

HEITKAMP: Right. Right. Right.

CAMEROTA: That wasn't supposed to be the point of the tax cuts, you know.

HEITKAMP: But there's not -- sure, there's going to be positive things. Moody's, which analyzes this for a lot of states and for a lot of companies, basically said this is a watch. In fact, in terms of stimulus on the individual tax cuts, because the majority of it's going to very wealthy people, won't have much effect.

CAMEROTA: So that's not going to be the president's message.


CAMEROTA: I mean, obviously, the president and the White House are touting this as though it's all good. And so I mean you're here --

HEITKAMP: Well, that -- those things aren't bad, Alisyn --

CAMEROTA: Of course, but -- but -- but --

HEITKAMP: But it's not -- it's not like -- like -- and -- and then you go to, we're going to have 3 percent, 4 percent growth. Where's the proof that's going to happen? There's absolutely no economist in the country who said that of any legitimacy. We saw less than 3 percent in the last quarter. And so, let's be honest with the American people. And, at the same time, we have 58,000 bridges that are defective in this country. I mean, to me, that's a national emergency. We ought to be talking about it.

CAMEROTA: I think the president is going to talk about infrastructure. I mean those things do fall under that.

HEITKAMP: And how -- and is he going to fix 58,000 bridges with his infrastructure plan?

CAMEROTA: I mean it depends on how much of the plan he wants to spell out or what the -- if there is, in fact, a plan.

But you're bringing a guest, a special guest tonight, that I think does sort of personify a lot of these issues that you deal with in your home state. So tell us who you're bringing.

HEITKAMP: Well, I'm bringing Dennis Corn (ph), who is an organizer and a former UPS driver who had -- is going to have a substantial cut to his pension if Congress doesn't act. And, to me, when you look at rural issues and you look at the industrial Midwest, that feels particularly left behind, this issue of pensions is critical. We've got to fix it. We have a great bill designed by a group of us, led by Senator Brown from Ohio. It's called the Butch Lewis (ph), who is an amazing organizer and a patriot and advocate and veteran who died in this fight.

Butch -- this would fix the pension bill. We want this in the final passage of the bill that's going to basically fund government. Are we going to get it? Is anyone even talking about it? And that's why I think it's important for people like us to say, look, there are other issues that affect families. These are families that would be devastated by this level of cut in their pension. Let's talk about them. Let's let them see Congress actually looking at their problems.

CAMEROTA: And so when you hear the counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway, whom we just had on moments ago, say that, listen, look at how good it is. You know, all of these 275 companies -- I think was the number that she used -- are giving these bonuses. They're about $1,000 bonus for the year. I mean the math --

HEITKAMP: You know, Alisyn --

CAMEROTA: You're here to sound the alarm.

HEITKAMP: I wish you guys would turn around and say, if they were that -- if they were that comfortable, why don't they give them a thousand dollar boost in their salary, which would continue over the next years.

CAMEROTA: Something permanent?


And the other question that you need to ask is, of those -- of those, how many actually gave bonuses last year and what were the bonus amounts? I mean no one talks about that. And so we've got to look at this.

You know, it's interesting because my good friend, Barbara Mikulski (ph), just a whip that is unsurpassed in the Senate, she used to say, we need to care about the macroeconomic issues, but we need to care about the macaroni and cheese issues. And that's why Dennis Corn is my guest, because he represents where the rubber meets the road, where economic policy is not working today. And we need to fix it. And the president needs to -- I would love to hear him talk about pension reform. That's something that's on the mind of many, many Americans and they're not hearing it.

CAMEROTA: Senator Heidi Heitkamp, thanks so much. We'll be watching tonight.

HEITKAMP: Thank you. It's good to be here.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much for being here.


CUOMO: Senator Heitkamp, also known for giving Senator Collins the talking stick.

CAMEROTA: Oh, we know all about the talking stick.

HEITKAMP: I know. Well, you know, if -- you can't imagine this, a room full of 20 senators and everybody wants to talk. You can't imagine how much chaos that will engender.


CUOMO: Senator Collins says you came at her with the talking stick.

HEITKAMP: That's not true.

CUOMO: She disarmed you.

HEITKAMP: That's not true.

CUOMO: And you said, keep it.

HEITKAMP: The beginning -- the beginning -- it actually began this -- this tradition began with a lay that Senator Hirono gave me. But the men were a little uncomfortable putting it around their neck. So we --

CUOMO: They prefer each other's hands it seems.

[08:40:01] HEITKAMP: Not quite that bad.

CUOMO: Good to see you, senator.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.

CUOMO: All right, so we've been talking this morning about problems abroad. Deadly violence spreading across Afghanistan. Over 100 people killed in less than ten days. Why? We have a live report from Kabul, next.


CUOMO: Afghanistan is reeling. Four terror attacks in Kabul have killed at least 130 people in just the last nine days. The Taliban claiming responsibility for two. ISIS taking credit for two others.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live in Kabul with more.

What's the situation on the ground?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, really a city waking up every morning with a new sense of dread since that ambulance car bomb caused 100 of those particular deaths. And this spate of bloodshed in what used to be the secure sanctuary of Afghanistan's capital has caused the commander in chief, President Donald Trump, to make a bit of a tweak to U.S. policy here. He no longer thinks that talks with the Taliban are a good idea right now. And that's been backed up by the Afghan government who say these recent violence here in the capital have caused red lines and that peace must now be sought, quote, on the battlefield. And that's according to a spokesperson for President Ashraf Ghani.

[08:45:12] The Taliban say that just shows the war mongering face of the Trump administration. A bit of a reality check, peace talks were never about to happen, but they were a key plank of the U.S. military strategy. The idea being that you suppress the Taliban enough on the battlefield and they decide they want a political settlement. That was far off. Never realistic, frankly. The Taliban more extreme than ever and competing for sort of the low point of extremism with ISIS. You've got a foothold here as well.

But we may hear more about the Afghan strategy potentially in the State of the Union speech tonight. We may hear more about what hundreds of troops bound towards the front lines to train Afghan soldiers will actually be doing. And also, too, there are calls growing for greater transparency about how well this war is going. A key indicator of success, how many Afghan soldiers and police are dying on the battlefield has been classified now by the U.S. military citing Afghan requests and also, too, there's confusion about figures about what the Taliban controls in terms of territory.

But, still, really dodgy months ahead here potentially. Fear at a height I haven't seen in a decade of coming here in the Afghan capital.


CAMEROTA: Oh, Nick, stay safe. It's so good to have your perspective there on the ground for us in Kabul. Thank you.

So President Trump's first State of the Union Address through the eyes of a 2016 rival. What does Ohio Governor John Kasich want to hear tonight? And does he have his sights set on 2020? It's not too soon to ask. He'll tell us, next.


[08:50:37] CAMEROTA: President Trump will deliver his first State of the Union Address tonight amid a flurry of new developments in the Russia investigation. Here to talk about all of this is Ohio governor and former Republican presidential candidate John Kasich.

Good morning, governor.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Hi, Alisyn. I'm in your studio and you're in Washington.


KASICH: I'd rather be here than there, though, I must tell you.

CAMEROTA: Is that right? Why? What do you have against D.C.? KASICH: Well, you know, I did 18 State of the Union Addresses. I -- I

-- you know, that's really an amazing time. But this one's going to be much different because even though there's, you know, if you go to a speech, you get the -- if there's a Democrat president, the Republicans sit on their hands and the Democrats clap and vice versa. But now the country is so divided with people on the hard right and people on the left who have reacted to President Trump, you know, I think there's going to be very few people in the middle who are going to actually listen to this.

And, then, Alisyn, one speech doesn't make a difference. It takes a heck of a long time. And whatever speech you make has to be followed up with policy. And so we'll have to see how it all shakes out. But this is a -- this is a whole different time in our country and it's concerning.


Well, governor, I want to get your perspective on that. I mean as one of Donald Trump's rivals, obviously during the campaign, now that we're a year in, what do you make of it? I mean what is your perspective from the outside of what you think is happening in the White House?

KASICH: Well, I've seen -- I think we've seen a hardening of where the American people are. Again, you have the far right, and you have the far -- and you have the hard left who are reacting to Donald Trump, and neither side will listen to the other side. And so the fight really -- or the action, I think, is really in the middle. Who are people that are willing to watch CNN and Fox and try to decide what they really think and try to work through things, worried about our country. I'd put my hope in the millennials and the gen xers. You know, it may even take a generational change to get this country united again.

So if you take just a couple issues. You know, the issues of DACA, the dreamers. I absolutely do not understand why the Congress cannot just go ahead and pass something to take these people off the razor's edge. But when it comes to immigration -- you know, I don't want to shut all immigration down. Of course we have to protect the border. But I also get very, very concerned about the type of people we want to have, you know, just people with PhDs coming into the country. That's not what's on the Statue of Liberty about give me your tired and your poor. I mean my grandfather couldn't speak English when we came.

So this whole notion that we're not part of the global -- the global activity is not healthy for us. So I'm -- I'm extremely concerned. And the attack on basic institutions. The attack on the press.

Now, look, a lot of people out there on both sides say, oh, the press is bias. OK. Everybody has their point of view. But what if you didn't have a press? Or even now the attacks that we see on the FBI and the Justice Department. I mean these are -- it concerns me.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I want to ask you about that. I hear you and I want to ask you about that. So everything that you've seen happening with the FBI, you know, obviously Andrew McCabe has stepped aside now. Do you think that there is damage being done to the FBI? I mean do you think, as the president would say, that this is sort of an important clearinghouse -- I mean, you know, a cleaning house of people who have bias, or do you think that there are -- Americans' trust in the FBI will be impacted by this?

KASICH: Well, that's what I'm concerned about. Look, I -- you know, the FBI is an institution that's been above politics. Now, there have been people inside of it who have done inappropriate things. OK, then they have to pay the price. They should leave or be sanctioned or whatever.

But the institution itself, the FBI, the Justice Department, this is a very important part of the fabric of the United States. So do I have concern that these institutions are being eroded? I do have concerns about that.

So, look, I hope tonight the president's going to be positive. I hope he's going to make every effort to bring the country together. You know, you see economic growth. He deserves some credit for that. No doubt about it. But at the end, can, in fact, you bring people together by considering the other person's point of view and -- because it's critical for the future of our country.

CAMEROTA: So, governor, are you running for president in 2020?

KASICH: I have no clue what I'm doing in the next -- in the next day. I know I'm going back home tonight. I don't know, Alisyn. Look, you -- we don't know what's happening in politics today. We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. But I --

[08:55:04] CAMEROTA: I know.

KASICH: I just don't know. I couldn't say that (ph).

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, governor, listen, I mean -- but you have long talked about bipartisanship and how important that is. And just now you're talking about how you don't like how hardened each side has become.


CAMEROTA: How polarized. And so, is there possibly a split ticket in your future? Is there a way that you -- I mean this is the message that you want to get out. Why -- why not say, yes, I'm going to try it again and I'm going to run in that middle ground that you like to talk about?

KASICH: Right. You know, Alisyn, look, I've served my country and my state and my community for 30 years. And I ran for president and just did everything I could possibly do. I didn't win. And I'm not bitter about it. I'm having a great life.

As to whether I would do something like that again, if I felt my country called me and it was practical, I'd have to very seriously think about it. But right now, you know, I'm not out there, you know, trying to create delegates in states or anything like that. I don't know what the future is going to bring. I just -- I want to be a voice to help our country to come together, because that's when we're strongest.

So I'm not trying to give you a political answer. I mean, honestly, I don't know exactly what my future is. You know who -- it's in the hands of the Lord.

CAMEROTA: On that note, Governor John Kasich, thank you very much. We always appreciate getting your perspective. Great to talk to you.

KASICH: Thank you. Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: CNN's primetime coverage of the State of the Union begins at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

CUOMO: We will be live here again in Washington tomorrow morning. One of our guests, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

So, our coverage of this very big day and big developments continues right now with CNN "NEWSROOM" with John Berman.

Let's take a break and then you get JB.

CAMEROTA: See you tomorrow.