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Trump Calls for Unity in State of the Union Address. Aired 6- 6:30a ET
Aired January 31, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There has never been a better time to start living the American dream.
[05:59:33] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: What you saw was President Trump with one hand reaching out his hand to Democrats, and with the other hand, holding up a fist.
TRUMP: My duty is to defend Americans. Americans are dreamers, too.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: The president has offended his base deeply with this path to citizenship to all the DREAMers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are part of our story. We will fight for you.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He did highlight what is his biggest asset, the strong economy.
TRUMP: We enacted the biggest tax cuts in American history.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We've seen the worst of this epidemic. He didn't lay out any real plans to deal with it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president very effective using his guests.
TRUMP: Let's embody the goodness of our nation.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, January 31, 6 a.m. here in Washington. And here is the starting line.
The theme of President Trump's first State of the Union could be "Divided We Stand." President Trump's hailing the start of a new American moment, calling for unity, calling for bipartisanship. All of it were mixed with policies that kept half the audience and Congress literally frozen.
Now, with the threat of another government shutdown looming next week, the president brushed over spending issues that will be very real. The focus was on the four pillars of his immigration plan. His offer of a path to citizenship for nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants is upsetting conservatives.
However, the trade for that pathway has Democrats on edge because of billions for a border wall, ending the visa lottery, and limiting family unification. The president also raising eyebrows by saying, "Americans are dreamers, too."
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Then, in other key moments, President Trump used the stories of everyday Americans to put a human face on his policies through his 80-minute long speech. Mr. Trump also issued a start warning that North Korea could very soon threaten the United States with its nuclear-tipped missiles. And we have a new poll on how speech watchers felt the president did last night. So we'll show that to you.
Absent from the president's address: any mention of Russia's election interference or the ongoing Russia investigations. And President Trump seemed to offer a clue last night about the release of that controversial and classified Republican memo that alleges surveillance abuses by the FBI.
So we have all of this covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Abby Phillip. She is live at the White House -- Abby.
PHILLIP: Good morning, Alisyn.
Well, President Trump tried to strike a pretty optimistic tone, which is a little bit different from what most Americans see from him on social media. And at about 80 minutes, that speech was among the longest ever given as a State of the Union. The president used his time to tout the dawn of a new American moment.
TRUMP: I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people. This is really the key. These are the people we were elected to serve.
PHILLIP: President Trump striking a conciliatory tone urging lawmakers to move past the deep divisions that have defined his first year in office.
TRUMP: This in fact, is our new American moment.
PHILLIP: Mr. Trump also utilizing the same polarizing language that has fomented the divide.
TRUMP: Americans are dreamers, too.
PHILLIP: Appearing to draw a line from DREAMers to the dangerous MS- 13 gang members that killed two teenage girls, their grieving parents guests in the audience.
TRUMP: For decades open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities. They've allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans. Most tragically, they have caused the loss of many innocent lives.
PHILLIP: Mr. Trump pledging to work with both parties to strike a deal on immigration. But his plan to restrict a program that allows immigrants to bring their family members to the U.S. provoking boos from Democrats.
TRUMP: Under our plan...
PHILLIP: President Trump devoting much of his speech to touting his economic successes and signature legislative achievement.
TRUMP: Just as I promised the American people from this podium 11 months ago, we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history.
PHILLIP: A claim a CNN reality check deems to be false.
Mr. Trump calling on Democrats to work with him on an ambitious list of agenda items, including infrastructure, trade, opioid addiction, prison reform and lowering the cost of prescription drugs, while boasting about rolling back a number of Obama-era policies, including the individual mandate and announcing plans to keep the controversial military prison in Guantanamo Bay open.
The president also revisiting another divisive issue he's been focused on this year, taking an apparent swipe at NFL players while honoring 12-year-old Preston Sharp for his compassion toward veterans.
TRUMP: Preston's reverence for those who have served our nation reminds us of why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the national anthem.
PHILLIP: Sharp was one of a number of emotional stories the president highlighted during his speech, honoring guests like Otto Warmbier's parents, the American student who was held in prison in North Korea and died shortly after his release, along with a North Korean defector who lost his leg while fleeing the regime.
[06:05:14] President Trump issuing a stark warning about the North Korean threat and calling on Congress to bolster U.S. defense.
TRUMP: North Korea's reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland.
PHILLIP: And calling on Congress to bolster U.S. defense.
TRUMP: As part of our defense, we must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and so powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression.
PHILLIP: Mr. Trump made no mention of Russia's interference in the 2016 election but was overhead on camera with conservative Congressman Jeff Duncan, talking about releasing a classified GOP memo that alleges surveillance abuses by the FBI, a move Democrats say is meant to undermine the Russia probe.
REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Let's release the memo.
TRUMP: Don't worry. A hundred percent.
PHILLIP: Now, with that out of the way, the president is expected to make a decision about that controversial GOP memo sooner rather than later, sources tell CNN.
But what he won't be doing is taking his State of the Union policies out on the road as previous presidents have done. The president has no plans to go out giving speeches as prior presidents have done in order to reinforce some of the messages that he pet out last night, Alisyn and Chris.
CUOMO: All right, Abby, thank you very much. So what did he say? What did it mean last night? What will it mean going forward? Let's discuss with a couple of big brains: CNN senior political analyst and executive director of political programming -- I hope we qualify -- Mark Preston. And CNN Politics reporter and editor at large, Chris Cillizza.
So Chris, what were your big takeaways?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: No. 1, Preston has an awesome title.
CILLIZZA: Director of political programming.
CUOMO: It changes every time he's on the show. Boss.
CILLIZZA: OK. In a vacuum, an effectively delivered speech.
CUOMO: Forty-eight percent said high marks.
CILLIZZA: I mean, the people who watch it generally react pretty well to these things, because you have the entire focus of everything. It was 80 percent about what he had done effectively, 20 percent about what he wanted to do. The thing is, fool me once last year with his speech, which was, I thought, maybe even better. Don't fool me twice. Because the last year suggested that what Donald Trump says, whether it's in the State of the Union or anywhere else, it's just not borne out.
And I think you're going to see that in the next few days when he releases -- I'd be stunned if he didn't release this Nunes memo, which we -- a lot of senior FBI and intelligence have urged him not to do for a number of reasons.
He says what he says on one day. I think we have a tendency, because of sort of the past presidents we've covered to try to draw a narrative arc, to try to create a story line, is this the pivot to the presidency? No. Who he is is a guy who is unpredictable and impetuous. He will continue to be unpredictable and impetuous. But as a speech for him, well-delivered.
CAMEROTA: He started by recognizing people in the audience with heroes, firefighters, Hurricane Harvey helpers, and that was effective. I mean, obviously, that gets the whole room flapping. You know, so as you know, there are always those moments of Republicans standing and cheering.
CUOMO: Never had more than we did last night. That's for sure.
CAMEROTA: There were a lot -- there was a lot of that. But he started with that moment, the moments, you know, of applauding heroes and things.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He did. I mean, first of all, he walked into a room where half the room was divided. So he had half the room against him. So to your point, to be able to point out American heroes, you know, the couple, the police officer who adopted the baby who was addicted...
CUOMO: Who will be on later this morning with us.
PRESTON: Fantastic. What a great American story that is. I would go one step further, though. He had very sad stories. The Warmbiers, the two families that were there whose daughter was killed by MS-13 gang members. And I think that just reinforces his narrative of fear.
I mean, he does play this -- this idea that he's going to -- he's going to come in and fix the American carnage, that he's going to clean up the streets. Look, it was terribly moving. My wife and I were watching it last night. And she had a tear in her eye when she was looking at those families.
But, again, I didn't find the speech to be very uplifting. It played to his base. He's pretty solid at 40. But for -- but for all talk of conciliatory rhetoric...
CUOMO: There was a lot of dark talk. There was a lot of manifestations of threat. Here's a signature moment from last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[06:10:08] TRUMP: Struggling communities, especially immigrant communities, will also be helped by immigration policies that focus on the best interests of American workers and American families.
For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities. They've allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans. Most tragically, they have caused the loss of many innocent lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: So you had him laying out there. It's a fact challenge, no
question about it. But it was certainly something that was a salvo politically. Van Jones kind of captured how people on the left felt about it with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He was selling sweet-tasting candy with poison in it. What he said -- no. What he said about those young people, he implied -- and he did it deliberately -- that DREAMers are gang members. I mean, when you look at the numbers, facts matter. Facts matter.
RICK SANTORUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Facts member that some DREAMers are gang members. That's a fact.
JONES: You want to know what the numbers are? What his numbers are? Thirty-nine kids. This is according to the U.S. government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Keep saying picking on the DREAMers and using that group as a villain base is a mistake statistically. Last night, there were some really sad couples in the audience. They were demonstrating amazing strength just by being here. African-American families whose kids had been killed by MS-13 members. The president described the people who killed them as minors who had come into the country illegally.
And obviously, there is a direct parallel to DREAMers. So thematically, what do you think of this? This is a song I hear you humming all the time.
CILLIZZA: So true.
CUOMO: Demi Lovato's sorry, not sorry.
CILLIZZA: I celebrate all of her work.
CUOMO: If you get the lyrics to that song, it is spot on what was happening during the speech last night. He was literally looking at the Democrat side. He didn't even use the prompter on the side of the room where they were. He was looking to his left almost the entire night. That's where the Republicans were. He would like, and he'd be like, you know, things are tough, sorry, to the Democrats. And then he'd look right to the Republicans and say, not sorry.
CUOMO: And he went on all night with a little bit of a revenge tour, painting dark pictures of American reality and what he's going to do about it.
CILLIZZA: Yes. I mean, his rhetoric, his policies have been all over the place. But his rhetoric, this is to Mark's point, hasn't changed all that much. It is a -- based in fear. It is dark. I mean, there's no question. It is a "only I can protect you from these things." He uses -- we've become a little bit normalized to the rhetorical excesses he uses. Some of that language in here. "These people will -- these people will come into your country, and they can murder your kids, just like those people in the audience."
CUOMO: Hence this rift: "Being so bad got me feeling so good."
CUOMO: "Showing you up like I knew that I would."
CAMEROTA: You actually did print out Demi Lovato's song.
CILLIZZA: But so this is who the guy is. Right? And I think that he knows that it worked. It is -- it is -- fear is one of the most powerful motivating factors in politics. I think lots of people voted out of fear in 2016. They believe he and he alone was the -- Most State of the Unions are, like, 50 percent victory lap, 50 percent "Here's what I want to do."
That was 80 percent -- literally by time, over an hour of just...
CUOMO: One of the longest.
CILLIZZA: And then I did this, I did this. He wanted you here clapping for him. He did some of his own clapping for himself. And he did. But it doesn't change anything, though I'm not sure there's a speech that could be given by Donald Trump that would change anything.
CAMEROTA: Here's something else unusual. There was not one Democratic response. There were many. Most unofficial. So there were, like, four unofficial and one official. So here is the official Democratic response from Joe Kennedy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Bullies may land a punch, they may leave a mark, but they have never, not once in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: What did you think, Mark?
PRESTON: I thought he was very effective. You know, I know a lot of people said on Twitter, you know, that his lip gloss, you know, was too bright. It looked like he was drooling a little bit out of his mouth.
But look at -- look at the setting that he was in. He was in a town that has been racked by the economy. He has his jacket off. He seemed very every man. I can tell you, you know, for the Democratic Party who's been looking a lot their bench right now, and they're look at possible 2020 candidates, and I'm not saying Joe Kennedy is running in 2020. But Bernie Sanders is not the future. Elizabeth Warren is not the future. Joe Kennedy is the future. CAMEROTA: Yes, but what does it say about the Democrats' message that
they had so much unofficial, official sponsors, not just one coherent.
PRESTON: The biggest unreported story of 2018 -- 2017, now 2018 is the division in the Democratic Party because Donald Trump has -- has sucked up all the oxygen.
CILLIZZA: And Mark has mentioned is Joe Kennedy was fixing a car before he gave that -- see, the car literally was opened. He fixed a car. He popped in, you know, gave a speech.
CAMEROTA: A rap on...
CUOMO: Demi Lovato knows. Look at the lyrics. "Better walk that walk, baby. If you talk -- if you talk that talk, baby." And that was the message for both sides last night.
CILLIZZA: Talk about that.
CUOMO: ... got to deliver, and the Democrats have to figure out what they can do to work on the passion.
CAMEROTA: Next up, a poetry slam. We will talk about the State of the Union with White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. She'll be here, as well as Congressman Joe Kennedy, who gave that Democratic rebuttal. And other lawmakers from both sides.
CUOMO: All right. And we're also going to speak exclusively with one of President Trump's guests, Officer Ryan Holets. You know his story by now. We brought it to you at CNN. He goes, he sees a couple of addicts. And what does he do? Does he condemn them? No. He winds up adopting the child that one of them is pregnant with at the time. Opioid-addicted mother. What he took from last night, big story.
CAMEROTA: Can't wait to talk to him.
So no mention of the Russia investigation, of course, in the State of the Union address. But after the speech, the president did reveal what he plans to do with the Devin Nunes Republican mystery FBI memo. Details next.
CAMEROTA: Immediately after the State of the Union speech, President Trump was caught on an open mike, telling Republican Congressman Jeff Duncan that he will release the controversial Nunes memo, which alleges surveillance abuses by the FBI. Watch this moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUNCAN: Let's release the memo.
TRUMP: Don't worry. A hundred percent. Can you imagine?
(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMEROTA: "Don't worry. A hundred percent," he said. So let's bring in CNN legal analysts Carrie Cordero and Michael Zeldin. Michael worked with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Great to have both of you in your expertise with us this morning.
So of course he's going to release it. He wanted to release the memo. He then said last night that he 100 percent will release it. We don't know when. Obviously, politically, it would be possibly unwise to do it today if it were going to step on his State of the Union message. But he's going to release the memo. What's interesting is that the Department of Justice and the FBI don't want it released. They want it vetted first to see if it's classified. Where does that leave this memo.
Where it leaves this memo is that it is going to be released and the president made a decision to essentially take his personal political interests further than national interests. When you're the Department of Justice and the FBI don't want them to release this memo. They want to vet it first to see what's classified, whether or not we're in danger or something. But where does that leave this memo?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Where it leaves this memo is that it's going to be released and that the president has made decision to, essentially, take his further his personal, political interests further than national interests. When your Department of Justice and your intelligence agencies and your FBI say, "Mr. President, please don't do this. This is not in the national interests of the United States," and he says, "I'm going to do it anyway," then you know it's personal and political over national security. And that's sad.
CUOMO: Stretching the plot a little bit. You had Rod Rosenstein. There are rumors that he is mentioned in this memo, about what he did with respect to surveillance. And yet, he came to the White House, we're told, and lobbied the chief of staff, John Kelly, not to release it. That's according to the "Washington Post," because they're concerned.
People are playing off the concerns of the DOJ as defensive and as political. But you have so much experience with this FISA process and this kind of intel. Are there legitimate concerns or no?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, so he would be arguing not to release this memo, because obviously, the memo is classified. We don't know what level it's classified, whether it's secret or top- secret, which changes the assessment of how much damage can be done by its release. And so he has a responsibility to protect that information.
What's amazing about the reporting right now is that the president is saying he's going to release this document without having been briefed on it and without having read it. He should be receiving information not only from the deputy attorney general and the FBI director but from his director of national intelligence, giving him advice as to what the harm to national security would be if his memo is released in his current format. And what the Justice Department is concerned about is, No. 1, that the
memo may be not accurate, that it doesn't reflect the rigor with which they pursued the FISA application. It makes a -- as far as we understand publicly, it makes an allegation that they were not truthful or forthcoming with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. These are very serious allegations.
CUOMO: The memo has to do that. The memo has to -- just for them to have this enthusiasm politically. It has to suggest that the dossier, the Trump Dossier, whether Russian or whatever you want to call it, was being a heavy part of getting the surveillance. It has to be here.
CAMEROTA: That is -- as well.
ZELDIN: We talked about this yesterday, which is this is an effort to undermine the credibility of the Steele dossier. Because the Steele dossier, if proven true, is very damaging to Trump's personal liberty interests. And that's what they're about. That's why Carrie, they don't care to read this stuff, because they made a political decision. This is more important to them than the national security interests that you properly raised.
CORDERO: It is. And the difficulty is that a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act application that goes to the court has a number of facts in it that would establish the probable cause.
And so what I suspect they are concerned about, the deputy attorney general and the FBI director, is that this memo focuses, perhaps, on one fact when they know that they made a fulsome court. A FISA application is not a three-and-a-half-page memo.
CUOMO: You've done this.
CORDERO: It would be -- I presented many of them to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
CUOMO: You said they're always, like, this thick, and there's, like, several different levels.
CORDERO: They are finished intelligence products. They are extraordinarily vetted. And if the reporting is correct, again, it's never been declassified that there was a FISA application.
So if the leaks and the public reporting was correct that there was a FISA application on an American who was affiliated with a campaign, that would garner the most amount of scrutiny. It would be considered highly sensitive. It would have been really scrubbed very carefully, and they would have been very cautious in terms of the representations that were made to the court.
[06:25:17] CAMEROTA: OK. Next topic. Robert Mueller and whether or not President Trump is going to sit down with him. President Trump's lawyers seemed to be making the argument yesterday that Robert Mueller has not met the threshold for a presidential interview. Tell us about that. And what -- what happens if President Trump refuses to be interviewed by Robert Mueller?
ZELDIN: Taking your second question first, he should be subpoenaed. I think that the case that they're trying to make, that he hasn't met the level for overcoming executive privileges is a spurious one.
First of all, executive privilege is a communication privilege. It's the president getting advice from his top policy advisers. There's nothing about this case, obstruction of justice or collusion, that has to do with policy advice. And a lot of it has to do with before he even became the executive.
So the notion that this is an executive privilege overcoming the need by a grand jury for information is silly. But the standard...
CUOMO: This is from the Espy case, right?
ZELDIN: The standard is...
CAMEROTA: This small brick (ph) you've got here.
ZELDIN: ... important to the investigation and potentially unavailable elsewhere. That's the standard that Mueller has to overcome. There's no credible, I think, argument that this evidence can be obtained anywhere else other than out of the mouth of the president.
ZELDIN: So in the end, I think he's going to have to sit down. And if he fights a voluntary interview, if I were Mueller, I'd send him a grand jury subpoena and let him try to deal with the ramifications of that.
CUOMO: Right. But that is -- that's a very heavy-handed political move. And even though Mueller's not political, he's got to be thinking a little bit about that stuff. But it does tell us, if nothing else, that the constant calls from the president that he's excited about this, he wants to do it, that's not 100 percent true, at a minimum. Because his lawyers are going to be scrubbing back to the Clinton days, for this Espy case, when he was a cabinet member, and he had his own investigation against them, and this text was there, which is of dubious legal value. But they wouldn't be scrubbing that hard for a rationale. You really want to sit down.
CORDERO: Well, there certainly is a public messaging piece here going on. Right? So the president is publicly saying, "I'm willing to sit down with the special counsel."
CUOMO: "I'm looking forward to it."
CORDERO: "I'm looking forward to it." And you know what? That might be the right public message to have. And at the same time, his lawyers are doing the job that they should be doing, which is looking at precedent, looking at situations where there previously was executive privilege asserted. There is a precedent for sitting presidents to be interviewed by investigators. So there is a history that they can turn to on that point.
CAMEROTA: Carrie, Michael, thank you.
ZELDIN: My pleasure.
CUOMO: Hillary Clinton expressing regret for not firing a campaign ad accused of sexual harassment in 2008. When she claims she would do if it happened today. Next.