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Trump Wants Nunes Memo Released ASAP But Not Before SOTU; Trump to Make "Eye-Opening Remarks on North Korea" During SOTU; White House Decides Not to Impose New Russia Sanctions; Speaker Ryan: Nunes Memo Should Be Released; Trump Gives Off-the-Record Update on Speech to News Outlets. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired January 30, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-IN- CHIEF: If you used an economic message, and only did that from now the next 280 days until the election, and that's the only thing you talk about --
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: We're going to come back to you, Chris.
But quick, final word from Maria before we come back.
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's interesting that you say economic growth because this past year of Donald Trump being at the helm has been the lowest economic job numbers we've had since 2010. By the way, he was handed an economy already in an upswing. Thank you, President Obama.
SCIUTTO: I do want to talk more about the economic message. I'm certain we're going to hear more about that tonight.
Everyone stay with us. A lot more.
And this just in from the president. President Trump telling aides that he wants the Nunes memo released as quickly as possible, but not before the State of the Union.
[13:34:53] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Officials telling us just now the president will give, quote, "eye-opening remarks on North Korea" in tonight's State of the Union speech.
Also, a controversial memo alleging abuse of FBI surveillance powers now in the hands of President Trump. And we're just learning that President Trump has told aides that he wants that memo released as quickly as possible, though not before his State of the Union speech.
Joining us to talk about that is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, of Illinois.
Congressman Kinzinger, this memo causing quite a stir among Republicans and Democrats. Should the public really see this? And based upon what you've seen, is there anything disturbing in this memo?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER, (R), ILLINOIS: I'm very cautious. A lot of people have said a lot of things on this memo. It's top secret at this moment. I have read it. There's concerning things in it that people will have an opportunity to see, and then they can make their own judgments. One of the things we need to be very careful of is disparaging the FBI, for instance. They are a great organization with fantastic Americans. But if there is something that comes out, if it does, that deserves concern or a second look, we should do it.
I think the good news is the American people are going to have an opportunity to make a determination for themselves instead of right and left fighting in front of the cameras.
SCIUTTO: You're very aware the president himself is in the midst of an ongoing attack on the FBI, portraying it in very strong terms as being in tatters, as being biased. Very public comments. Other Republican lawmakers, your colleagues, are supporting him in those charges. This memo, it appears, part of that broader assault on the FBI. Is it your view that this memo somehow gives evidence to that charge, that the FBI as an institution that's biased against this president?
KINZINGER: I want to wait until the memo is declassified because I'm very sensitive talking about anything that's classified or secret or top secret. I will say, if this is in fact declassified, people will have an opportunity to read it and come to a conclusion on their own. There are some that say this is the end of the world and some that say this is nothing. It's probably somewhere in between that. And it seems like people will have the opportunity to read it.
One of the things that I wish we could get back to is to where, you know, we could just talk about these issues, have a good discussion without necessarily arguing it without anybody knowing all the details. Hopefully, we'll know something soon.
SCIUTTO: You know as well as me that we're nowhere near that place you're describing.
SCIUTTO: Let me just ask you, because these are issues close to your heart. Do you believe that the FBI is institutionally biased against this president?
KINZINGER: No, I believe the FBI is made up of great people. Just like, for instance, in the military, somebody could express a like to Donald Trump, that doesn't mean the military is there to support Donald Trump. It means people within an institution can have political opinions. We're Americans. We all have political opinions. So I think we have to be careful to say there may be individuals associated with certain things and should be held accountable, absolutely, versus saying a whole institution. I have a good friend I flew in the Air Force with that's an FBI agent now, and great folks in the FBI, doing the lord's work every day. SCIUTTO: We're learning more about the president's speech tonight.
And one of those is that he's going to make, in the words of an administration official, "eye-opening remarks on North Korea." Do you expect that there will be a threat issued from the president? What is your view of the president's posture towards North Korea? And he has, as you know, in public comments, threatened military action.
KINZINGER: Well, when I hear "eye-opening" -- and I don't know, I haven't heard the president's speech or talked to him about it. But I think maybe in terms of showing the American people exactly where North Korea is and the reality of the threat. And the fact that if we accept a nuclear North Korea, you, by definition, will have to accept a nuclear Iran and any other regime at that point that decides they're going to get nuclear weapons. You've thrown out the nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty, in essence. This is an awful moment. There's no doubt about it. This is kind of like 1938 Europe where we're sitting here making the decision of are we going to confront this evil. Hopefully, we can do it peacefully. I imagine the president is going to talk a lot about what North Korea is really doing. So we'll see.
SCIUTTO: The CIA director, you heard in an interview with the BBC, say today that Russia continues to interfere in U.S. elections, and he expects very much that they will do so in the 2018 midterms. Do you believe that this president, President Trump, has done enough to prevent future and ongoing attacks by Russia on U.S. election systems?
KINZINGER: Well, I think we always need to do more, and that includes the president. Part of the way to inoculate against this outside interference is to make people aware of it and to admit it. So if you get on a social media platform and you see a news feed or a news story that appears outrageous, you now learn to accept that it probably is outrageous and not real. I think there is a lot more we can do. I know Mike Pompeo well. I served him on the Energy and Commerce Committee. I know he's on top of this and very concerned. And I think the administration is very concerned about it. But I think talking about this in the open in public is really the first step in defending against it.
[13:40:09] SCIUTTO: But I have to ask the question, you have a president who is accusing our network and other networks of fake news when there is actually real fake news being planted by Russia for political effects. How can the country mount a credible offense when the president is, in effect, mixing charges with Russia against charges of the American member media?
KINZINGER: He says what he says. I believe there is legitimate fake news out there, and legitimate fake news is stuff like what you see on R.T., "Russia Today," Russian television. You see these KGB or FSB farms basically retweeting and posting on Facebook these stories. It's a real problem. There's a lot of things the president tweets that I wouldn't tweet. I'm very open about that. But the first thing we need to do as Americans is be aware that when you get on Facebook or something and you see a story that is too crazy to be true, chances are it probably is.
SCIUTTO: Congressman Kinzinger, thanks very much.
KINZINGER: Anytime. You bet.
SCIUTTO: There's a lot, certainly, to unpack with our panel. That will be right after this break.
SCIUTTO: New developments in the Russia investigation, both on the congressional front and inside the Intelligence Community, creating a stormy backdrop for President Trump's first State of the Union address tonight.
Back with me now, Shannon Pettypiece, the White House reporter for "Bloomberg News," Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor-at- large. And let's welcome in CNN legal analyst, Laura Coates.
Laura, if I can begin with you, I mean, the legal ramifications of releasing what was a classified memo, based on classified intelligence, are interesting, particularly because you have the Justice Department telling the White House and telling Devin Nunes, don't release this, don't release this, and yet both the president and Republicans are going forward.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It seems extremely reckless to do so, a word that was used oftentimes with another person we know. But the idea you would try to undermine the investigation of Robert Mueller by releasing this memo, that's what it's for. The intent is to say there is some reason to doubt, to cast aspersions on it.
SCIUTTO: The whole Russia investigation.
COATES: In doing so, you cut your nose off to spite your face. You're undermining the FISA system. You're saying it's inadequate. You're saying there is no need to have anything more than innuendo, evidence, or showing of evidence is not relevant any longer or necessary. What does it say to the American people that you are willing to release one interpretation of the set of facts but not the other side of those facts, and kind of a wink and a nod to "trust me." That shouldn't work. We should demand more objective.
[13:45:21] SCIUTTO: Shannon, it's interesting, Laura mentions Paul Ryan here. Paul Ryan attempted to sort of straddle the fence here. He said, yes, release it, but please don't attach this to the special counsel's investigation, which is a little rich, is it not, because that's exactly what the Republicans are doing?
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: On every issue, Paul Ryan is trying to thread the needle between the divide of the Republicans and the House and bring them together. It's gotten to a point where this memo is almost a circus atmosphere. You had Republicans talking about this for weeks, talking about this was going to blow the lid off of everything, Democrats trying to make this counter move, the White House involved, the Justice Department. It is just --
SCIUTTO: -- release the memo.
PETTYPIECE: Right. It is just a circus now at this point.
And to go back to real underlying issues you were pointing out, this is about American intelligence gathering and how we gather information. And now, all of a sudden, there is this desperate dying need for the American public to know about this in a four-page memo before a full report can be released from the House Intelligence Committee. It's just one more bizarre turn of events.
SCIUTTO: Chris, if I told you a year ago or two years ago that a Republican president would defy his own Justice Department -- I don't like using the possessive there -- but anyway, the Justice Department, his political appointee, that he would betray the FBI as off the rails and biased against the president and in tatters, et cetera, and would go around the U.S. Intelligence Committee, which is raising alarms, saying don't release this, this is sensitive intelligence, as Shannon was saying, the way we gather evidence on foreign targets.
CILLIZZA: I would not believe you.
CILLIZZA: I man, also if you told me Donald Trump was going to be president two years ago, I would also be surprised.
CILLIZZA: Yes. He was someone who was elected to break the status quos and norms. The people who voted for him like the idea that the Intelligence Community, as they perceive it, is freaking out about this memo. I would say there are some status quos in place, whether you know it or not, for all of our good. You don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Sure, there are some arcane ways we conduct our politics and our policy that Donald Trump can get through. But there's real danger here just saying we're going to lop off everything that people say we can't do. He's done that time and time again. And just one last thing, Jim, that laundry list that you had, one thing to add to it, the president of the United States has, via Twitter, not subtly, but directly, suggested there is a deep-state conspiracy working against him within the law enforcement community, led by the FBI, that is aimed at undermining his victory.
PETTYPIECE: -- deep-state conspiracy --
CILLIZZA: Where do you go from there?
COATES: By the way, this belies the whole narrative that he's a law- and-order president, when he disrupts the way in which you conduct law and law activity in an orderly way.
CILLIZZA: It impacts well beyond -- Shannon mentions -- well beyond just this one memo. You're setting precedent going forward.
SCIUTTO: This is the same Intelligence Community, law enforcement tried to prevent terror attacks, Intelligence Community that's reporting back on North Korean nuclear progress, et cetera.
PETTYPIECE: It's not like there was a good place to have an intelligent discussion on intelligence questions. But a four-page memo, however-many-page memo that's created a bipartisan divide and a circus is not the place to have this conversation.
SCIUTTO: Thanks very much to the panel, as always.
Thanks very much to all of you.
Wolf Blitzer has news on the other side of this break.
[13:53:11] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Our Wolf Blitzer is at the White House. He joins us now with some new information about tonight's State of the Union speech.
Wolf, I understand you had lunch today with a very important official.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The president invited the actors from the major TV networks to lunch. This is something that traditionally happens every State of the Union going back to the Obama years, Bush years, Bill Clinton years, invited to these luncheons.
It's always off the record. Today's luncheon was off the record. The president wanting to give us some background on what he thought, what he's thinking, where he's coming from, in terms of his speech tonight.
Although, at one point, he did want to go on the record and did make an on-the-record statement. And I want to be precise and tell you what he said his goal is, looking ahead not only this year, but in the years to come. This is the president saying, "I want to see our country unified." He said, he wants to see our country brought back from all the divisiveness going on right now, the bitter infighting between the Democrats and Republicans. And he said he's not only talking about the Obama years, but he says he wants to go back to the Bush years.
Then he told a story about how he was, at one point, speaking with a Democratic Senator who mentioned that he thought the divisiveness was even worse during the year 1998, the impeachment year of Bill Clinton, when he was impeached by the House of Representatives. "That was a worst period," the president said, "of divisiveness. There was tremendous divisiveness that's been going on," he said, "for many years." He would see it as a great achievement if he could make the country more unified, try to bring the country together. "I would love to bring back our country from all this divisiveness," the president said. And he hoped he could achieve that, he said, without a major event, an awful event like 9/11, which would bring the country clearly together. He hopes he could achieve that without a major event, which would almost certainly be a bad event for the United States. He hopes to avoid that. That would be one of his major, major achievements if he could do that. That's what he said on the record. Clearly, a lot more was said totally off the record as the news anchors were there during the course of the luncheon.
I will say this -- and I can't quote the president or anything like that. Don't anticipate, Jim, that we'll hear anything in the State of the Union address tonight before the House and the Senate. Don't expect to hear anything at all about the Russia investigation. Clearly, the president, from his perspective, doesn't want to, quote, "dignify" that by even discussing that in an important forum like tonight. That is something that clearly came though.
[13:56:01] SCIUTTO: Wolf, I have to ask you, he wants to unify the nation. Did he make clear to you and the other anchors there how he would accomplish that goal?
BLITZER: Now we're getting into areas that are off the record. Just as we honor those off-the-record commitments during earlier luncheons with presidents and other senior administration officials, I don't necessarily want to get into that because I want to honor the commitments that all the TV anchors made in terms of that. But that would be his goal, to try to achieve some sort of unity, if he could do that. He has ideas, clearly. We'll see if that will take off.
SCIUTTO: Wolf Blitzer, at the White House, thanks very much.
And that is it for me today.
Brooke Baldwin is up next with more of CNN's special coverage of the president's very first State of the Union speech.
[14:00:07] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We're live in the nation's capital today for the CNN special coverage of President Trump's first State of the Union speech.