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Vote To Release Dem Memo Could Happen Tomorrow; GOP Lawmakers Defend Mueller Probe After Memo Release; Two Dead, 100 Plus Injured In Amtrak Train Derailment; Zuckerberg: Recent Tweaks Reducing Time Spent On Facebook; President Says "No" To Long Super Bowl Tradition; Sen. Durbin: DACA Deal Unlikely Before Feb. 8th; U.S. Advisers Suggest First Strike Against North Korea; Eagles and Patriots Set To Clash In Super Bowl LII. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 4, 2018 - 17:00   ET



[17:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: ... to the controversial Nunes memo. The House Intelligence Committee is expected to vote as early as tomorrow on whether to release the Democrats' version. It directly rebuts alleged abuses at the FBI and the Justice Department.

Now, if the vote passes, because it adds classified materials, the rebuttal will be sent to President Trump's desk, where he'll have to decide whether to let you see it, like he did with the Republican memo.

Now, the president may not like what he sees with this second document. We have told you how he wanted to release the Nunes memo, because he thought it would undermine the Mueller investigation.

He seemed to confirm that yesterday, when he tweeted that it totally vindicates him in the probe. But Republicans and Democrats say that's not true. Here's a top Democrat sending this warning.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), MINORITY WHIP: To say that that's the end of the investigation, that this is all that Donald Trump needs to fire Rosenstein or to fire Bob Mueller, I'll just tell you, this could precipitate a constitutional crisis.

If the House Republicans believe they've set the stage for this president to end this investigation, they are basically saying that in America, one man is above the law. And that's not a fact.


CABRERA: We continue to cover the fallout. Let's go to Boris Sanchez. He is in West Palm Beach, Florida, where the president has been spending the weekend. And, Boris, the president says he's in the clear. What are we hearing from members of his own party?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Ana, some Republicans have outright contradicted what the president has been saying this weekend over Twitter, as you noted, he tweeted that the Nunes memo vindicates him. That it proves that the Russia investigation is a hoax.

At one point last night, he actually tweeted a portion of a Wall Street Journal editorial that supposes that there are political actors at the Department of Justice and the FBI that are anti-Trump.

We also saw his son, Donald Trump Jr. on Fox News last night saying that the release of this memo is sweet revenge for him and his family.

Despite that, you had a number of Republican lawmakers come out on the Sunday morning talk shows and draw the line much closer in than the president did, saying that the memo doesn't go as far as he's claiming that it does. One of them, South Carolina Representative Trey Gowdy, really had strong words. Listen to what he and some others had to say.


REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The dossier has nothing to do with the meeting at Trump Tower. The dossier has nothing to do with an e-mail sent by Cambridge Analytica.

The dossier really has nothing to do with George Papadopoulos' meeting in Great Britain. It also doesn't have anything to do with obstruction of justice. So there's going to be a Russia probe even without a dossier.

REP. BRAD WENSTRUP (R), OHIO: I support the mueller investigation. Now, I hope that he does it fairly and honestly. Of course, we would always expect that.

REP. MIKE TURNER (R), OHIO: No, this memo isn't about special counsel's investigation. It's not about Trump.

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH: It would be a mistake for anyone to suggest that the Special Counsel shouldn't complete his work. I support his work. I want him to finish it. I hope he finishes it as quickly as possible. This memo has, frankly, nothing at all to do with the special counsel.


SANCHEZ: now, Ana, I mentioned Trey Gowdy by name, because his perspective is especially significant. Even according to Devin Nunes, Trey Gowdy is the only Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who has seen that raw underlying intelligence that led a judge to approve those FISA warrants to surveil Carter Page.

So if anyone has perspective, not only on the validity of the Nunes memo but also on the surveillance of Carter Page himself, and the implications of that on the Russia investigation, it is Trey Gowdy.

As you noted, Democrats may vote tomorrow to try to declassify the so- called Schiff memo, their answer to the Nunes memo. We got a chance to speak with deputy press secretary raj shah on Friday and we asked him if he felt the president might approve the declassification of the answer to the Nunes memo from Democrats.

He said that he believed that the president would be inclined to do so, even though we should point out the president has put a lot of stake in the Nunes memo and it's unclear why he would declassify something that contradicts it. Ana.

CABRERA: Boris, of course, the Super Bowl is about to get underway in less than two hours. Our program is naturally going to be much more entertaining, but worth noting, the president opted out of doing that traditional Super Bowl interview. Do we know who he is rooting for?

SANCHEZ: Yes, the president breaking with tradition there, one of many occasions on which he has done so. We don't have a clear indication of who the president is rooting for, which is kind of surprising, because he has this bromance with Tom Brady and the owner of the Patriots, Robert Kraft.

He did put out a statement that I think is noteworthy and here it is. The president writing, quote, as many Americans come together to watch the Super Bowl, Melania and I extend our greetings and appreciation for those who make occasions like this possible, particularly the brave men and women of our armed forces.

Their sacrifice is stitched into each star and every stripe of our star spangled banner. We hold them in our hearts and thank them for our freedoms as we proudly stand for the national anthem.

[17:05:04] So the president again using the Super Bowl as he did with the State of the Union as a moment to push this sort of culture war stance that he's taken, that people should be standing for the national anthem.

We should make note that Tom Brady kind of broke with the president on his stance regarding players standing or sitting during the national anthem, so that may be why we haven't seen a prediction from Donald Trump.

But again, he's using the Super Bowl as a political tool to either rile up his base or to call out people that he sees as enemies, Ana.

CABRERA: Or maybe he's trying to distract from other things we're talking about today. Boris Sanchez, thank you very much. Let's bring in our panel, Bloomberg political reporter, Sahil Kapur, CNN legal analyst, former special assistant to Robert Mueller at the DOJ, Michael Zeldin, and CNN political analyst and congressional reporter for the Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian.

So, Karoun, we just listened to four Republicans that, Boris, talked to in that sound bite as they were defending the Mueller investigation. Do you think this is how Republicans and the president expected this all to play out after the memo's release?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, you've got different camps of Republicans who are looking at the memo in different ways. The GOP leaders, Paul Ryan included, have all been saying, this is not about Mueller -- this is not about Mueller, this is about cleaning House at the FBI for the few bad eggs there might be there.

But there's another faction of the GOP, which is a lot more the conservative Republicans who are in the party, that have been saying, oh, we have to do a much deeper House cleaning, this you know, infects the entire agency.

And some people who have been saying now the foundations of Mueller's probe are also suspects, because now we don't trust the intelligence that we had that led to the subjects that are addressed in this memo.

You've got that divide going on in the GOP right now. And I think what you're hearing when you're hearing from the intelligence committee, Republicans who are running this probe into allegations of ties between Trump and Russia, and the leaders is trying to kind of quote that and hold that swell for their party who are saying, this is about Mueller, too, at bay.

But it's an ongoing conflict point basically between members of the GOP as to whether they think this should rise to the level of affecting Mueller's probe or not. And they just put...

CABRERA: Sahil, why wasn't Devin Nunes out doing a victory lap on the Sunday morning talk shows?

SAHIL KAPUR, POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Well, Ana, I think one of the reasons is that, this memo was hyped up by a lot of President Trump's allies to be something that its content don't seem to reveal.

There were several weeks of this hashtag Release The Memo campaign which kind of took on a life of its own in conservative media, alleging essentially that there was a deep state conspiracy involving the FBI and DOJ against the president of the United States, against their own government.

It spun a little bit out of control as people got carried away with it. And the contents of the memo don't entirely live up to that. I think the central allegation in it was that the so-called Steele dossier, which was paid for by Democrats, written by a former British spy, was the fundamental basis to get a warrant to spy on Carter Page, the former Trump campaign adviser.

Democrats dispute that. They say there would have been a FISA application and there would have been probably a warrant given without this information. Democrats are sort of approaching this with one hand tied behind their back.

They're saying the information in this memo is incomplete, it's distorted. But there is other information that is currently -- that is currently classified, that they cannot discuss. And that is where we're seeing the debate in the next few days, starting as early as tomorrow, as pointed out Ana.


KAPUR: Democrats are going to try to release their memo. We'll see what the White House does, but the president views this as a vindication of himself. A number of members in his own party don't see it a as that way.

CABRERA: Not so fast. Michael, hearing Republicans defend Mueller, does that give you confidence that he'll be protected if the president did move to remove him?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I would love to see it from Republicans who are still running for office as opposed to Trey Gowdy, who has announced that he is going to resign.

So we see in some of these Republicans, like Jeff Flake and Trey Gowdy, different conversations than those who are still running for office. So I'm not sure that one should be so sanguine that they've already decided that this is something that has to go forward and fulsomely. But, you know, it's a good start, if you will.

CABRERA: Michael, I'm wondering how the president's reaction -- what he tweeted out after the memo's release, essentially, saying, see, this is vindication in the Mueller probe, does that now be used, is that now going to be used as evidence in some capacity in the Mueller investigation? That he was doing this with a political intent by releasing this memo?

ZELDIN: So we have reported that the president is alleged to have spoken to friends after the -- or just before the release of the memo. And he said to them, allegedly, I am going to release this memo, because it is going to interfere with or impact negatively the Mueller investigation.

That is what gives us a window into his intentions. And that is something that Mueller may take account of when he's trying to assess whether east actions that the president undertook were undertaken with corrupt intent, that is to violate the obstruction of justice statutes or can be evaluated in terms of an abuse of office.

[17:10:11] So it's not necessarily a criminal act in and of itself, or something that is a step in the further direction of obstruction, but it is a window into the president's thinking and that's what Mueller needs in order to evaluate whether he's acting with corrupt intent or benign intent.

CABRERA: Karoun, John Brennan, the director of the CIA has some choice words about Congressman Nunes' efforts in drafting and releasing this memo. Let's listen.


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I think it really underscores just how partisan Mr. Nunes had been. He has abused the office of the chairmanship of HPSCI. And I don't say that lightly.

You know, if there are issues related to the process involving FISA and if there are concerns about how forthcoming the bureau is, and I think the bureau, from what I've been able to tell, was very forthcoming, this was a renewal of FISA.

But if he had concerns about that, he could have hearings. He could bring in members of the FBI and others. And to really seek what is -- you know, needs to be done differently. But he didn't do that. He just put out publicly one side in a very selective cherry picked memo.


CABRERA: So he says, this clearly was a partisan, politicized effort. Can Republicans afford to not release the Democrats' document, Karoun?

DEMIRJIAN: Well, if Republicans are saying that they are doing this minimal transparency, they're kind of hard-pressed not to also vote to release the Democrats' document.

And you heard, Devin Nunes, did an interview on Fox News Friday night which he said, yes, he would vote to release it. He just didn't say when he would vote to release it.

So you may have the Republicans or enough Republicans on that committee joining with the Democrats to get their memo released. But there's two backstops to that.

One, is that the Democrats have already said, we're going to be more responsible with this, we're going to involve the FBI and the intelligence community and let them redact whatever they want to redact.

So we may not see the full context that Democrats have been saying is there that they want to prevent to everybody, if those redactions are made to preserve the classified nature of information that's currently classified.

And then there's the question of the president. The president has said that he feels vindicated by the Republican memo. He may not feel so vindicated by the Democrats' memo when he reads it. And he has five days in which he can block any action by the committee to try to release it.

If he does that, and you know, there's a mechanism for the full House to vote on it and try to override him, but it becomes politically more tricky at that point, because then you're involving all as, Michael, was referring to, these Republicans who have said that they believe that the Mueller investigation, you know, may fall under the substance of this memo.

And who are running for office. And who may not want to let that rebuttal out into the same sphere, same debate as the GOP memo is right now. Because that's right now all we're able to discuss, because we haven't seen the text of the Democrats' rebuttal.

CABRERA: Sahil, what do you make of how House Speaker Paul Ryan has handled all of this?

KAPUR: So he's taken the interesting position where he says, this is not about an attack on the FBI or the DOJ, even though some of -- you know, some of the attention may be there, at least from other pro- Trump forces who wanted this released. He said this is all about civil liberties and he has made the point

that if there was a political documentary that formed the core basis for surveillance of an American citizen and that the courts were not told full context of that, then that's troubling.

He's made that point and I think, frankly, a lot of civil libertarians would agree him, if that is the case. The point is, we don't know that that is the case, because Democrats have not been able to tell their side of it.

They have not been able to release so far the full context, you know, of the information that they say will paint the full picture and tell the full story.

The politics going forward, Ana, I think are extremely important, because how this gets portrayed, how voters perceive the impact of this memo will probably be as important as the contents of the memo, if not more important.

Because a number of legal experts believe that it's doubtful, if best, that Bob Mueller lend up indicting President Trump for obstruction of justice or any other crime. The bar is very high to do that with a sitting president of the United States.

And the final verdict could be through a court of public opinion, through the people's elected representatives in Congress, should it be censure, should it be something drastic like impeachment?

Should the president be vindicated or should be voted out in 2020? And how the Republican base feels about that question is going to impact how Republicans in Congress handle it.

Right now we've seen indications that many Republicans do believe this is politically motivated, because that's what, you know, a lot of their preferred media sources have been telling them. So, the impact of this going forward a very important thing, I think, to keep our eyes on.

CABRERA: Very quickly, Michael, as far as the timing of when we might actually see what Mueller has found or not, do you have any better sense of where he's hat in his investigation, given we know that the Flynn hearing was pushed now down the road to say, may.

ZELDIN: So, it seems to me that Mueller and I haven't spoken to, Bob, and I wouldn't speak to, Bob, has a couple of work streams that are simultaneously ongoing.

[17:15:04] One is this obstruction of justice, abuse of office. One is the overarching notion of collusion, which is really coordination with foreign nationals to impact the election, in violation of federal election commission regulations.

The other one is conspiracy to violate the computer fraud and abuse act by receiving stolen e-mails and further distributing them. That's what we're calling collusion broadly. And then there's financial crimes, the allegations that are similar to

those of Manafort where it is alleged that the president while private citizen, Trump may have received money from abroad that was illegally sourced.

It seems from what we can see in the public domain that the -- that Mueller is moving most rapidly on the coordination and the obstruction of justice. We haven't seen any indications of where he is on the financial crimes.

There are rumors that there were subpoenas issued to Deutsche Bank, which is one of the banks that banked the Trump organization before he was president.

That's a more complicated investigation. So that might be a little bit further behind. So it's hard to tell whether these things are all going to come forward at the same time or we're going to see them in a staggered timeline.

CABRERA: All right. Michael Zeldin, Sahil Kapur, and Karoun Demirjian, thank you all. Coming up, we're following the latest out of South Carolina where a train collision killed at least two people and injured more than a hundred earlier this morning. Investigators have some clues as to what happened. We'll tell you what, when we come back.


CABRERA: The train was on the wrong track -- this new information coming in from the scene of a deadly train collision in South Carolina.

The engineer and the conductor were both killed when an Amtrak train from New York to Florida crashed into a parked the freight train. More than a hundred people were injured.

The NTSB held a briefing just last hour and a spokesman says investigators are now looking at how this Amtrak train got diverted to a track where that freight train was sitting. CNN's Kaylee Hartung is joining us live from the scene. Kaylee, what more have you learned?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, we've learned answers to that question of how this fatal crash happened with the help of NTSB chairman, Robert Sumwalt, as he explained a switch on the track was locked with a padlock, sending that Amtrak train colliding into the freight train, thankfully, with no one onboard in. Take a listen to his description.


ROBERT SUMWALT, CHAIRMAN, NTSB: For whatever reason, the switch -- and when I talk about a switch, I'm talking about a rail switch that can actually switch how the track goes from here to here.

For whatever reason, that switch was, as they say in the railroad industry, lined and locked, which basically means it was a-lined -- aligned, for the train coming down this way to be diverted into the siding.


HARTUNG: So we're better understanding, the how, but the why remains the big question here. Why was that switch lined and locked in the wrong position, especially if other trains were scheduled to come down this path just as Amtrak train 91 does every day?

Now, that is a question to be asked of the CSX Corporation. That's the railroad company that operates, owns, and maintains the stretch of track where this crash occurred.

CSX issued a statement saying they would cooperate fully with the NTSB's investigation. We've also learned that at the time of the crash, 2:35 this morning, well, the signaling system on this stretch of track was down because of scheduled maintenance.

I'm told that's not an uncommon practice to shut that signaling system down. But, so you have to wonder if the signaling system had been working, would that Amtrak train and its operators have gotten a heads up that that switch was lined and locked in the wrong position?

Another key, as this NTSB investigation moves forward will be a forward-facing camera that's been recovered from the Amtrak train. It's already in a D.C. lab being analyzed.

But investigators continue to look for the two black box-like recording devices on both trains, but with the catastrophic damage to both trains, as the NTSB chairman told us, that's been a difficult process. Ana.

CABRERA: And hard to believe this is now the third deadly train collision of sorts in the past couple of months. Kaylee Hartung, thank you for that reporting. Coming up, for the first time ever, users are spending less time on Facebook. What's behind it? That's next.


CABRERA: For the fist time ever, people are spending less time on Facebook. And it's not a small amount of time, either. The CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, says that in the last quarter of last year, the amount of time people spent on his website each day dipped 50 million hours when you look at combined use by everyone.

You might think that would cause a bit of a panic at Facebook, but Mark Zuckerberg says he's OK with it. Our media analyst, Bill Carter, is here to discuss.

Bill, this is all about a bunch of changes at Facebook that they made last year, changes to the things people see when they initially log on. Why do you think Facebook isn't too afraid that people are spending less time on this site? Because that's a lot of ads that people aren't seeing.

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, you've hit the right note there, because ads are very important and obviously they've been a growth story all along and this does change the growth story. But they've had a rough year.

They've had a really rough year with an awful lot of criticism, and obviously, they have to get that whole, you know, the control back in their own hands and not be criticized for allowing, you know, people to misuse it.

And obviously, this is a whole investigation with Russians, you know, taking over and trying to influence the American election, so they've had a lot of negative publicity.

And I think they have to at least send a message that they're getting control of this. And I think that's what Zuckerberg is trying to do. He's trying to say, OK, well, this is an adjustment. It's not really a, you know, setback. I think he's trying to cast it as an adjustment.

CABRERA: Now, Mark Zuckerberg has said his goal for 2018 is to fix Facebook's many issues, hoping to stop abuse and hate, to make sure time on Facebook is well spent.

[17:30:05] What exactly does that look like?

CARTER: Well, I think, you know, he's trying to control the -- some of the news feeds that have been out there. I know he's trying to do that. But I do think it's sort of an indictment that they allowed this to happen, you know, the way they did. And let's face it.

He went for a year saying that this is not happening, that the Russians did not have any influence. And then he had to backtrack very significantly on that. I don't know if you can really get complete control over a social network that you want to be open and free for everybody.

But the amount of hate and negativity and false stories and everything that's been on there, it cries out for some, you know, element of control.

You know, if you're going to be a news media, some sort of media outlet, you do need an edit function somewhere along the way, so it's just open range, where anybody can do what they want.

CABRERA: Let me change the subject here. It is Super Bowl Sunday, after all. President Trump said no to the traditional Super Bowl interview, which of course breaks with past presidents. What do you think that's about?

CARTER: Well, it's not hard to just -- the NBC has the Super Bowl this year, so NBC would have been sending a journalist, presume apply Lester Holt or maybe Chuck Todd to interview him and they would have asked him serious questions.

They wouldn't have been, you know, sycophantic, which is the only interviews he wants to do right now. And right now, you know, lighted with the memo story just breaking, and all of the attacks on that credibility, et cetera, he would have been really grilled on that.

And I don't think he's in a position to answer that. Plus, I think his lawyers don't want him going forward. Remember, when he was questioned by Lester Holt last time, he came out and said he fired James Comey because he was investigating the Russia episode.


CARTER: So, I think he's very uncomfortable with the notion of literally having to answer, you know, objective questions. I don't think he's comfortable with that notion at all.

CABRERA: He obviously wants to control a message today, because he put out a Super Bowl message and we read it at the top of the show with, Boris Sanchez.

We managed to get a dig in about standing for the national anthem. You and I both know how divisive that issue has been. So does he. What are your thoughts on why he decided to go there?

CARTER: Well, because that's where he always goes. He always reaches for, you know, the low blow. I mean, he goes low when he has to -- you know, he would think, in this case, it's very safe to just celebrate this day, when all Americans are watching this big football game.

But he has to get a dig in. I mean, that's just his way. And I think it's always about him. Remember that. So if he's made that point, he wants to use this platform to make another point about him.

So that's one of his causes, so he's going to use that platform to make another, you know, outrageous claim about somebody not standing up and how that is somehow unpatriotic. But, you know, I think for most Americans, that issue is pretty much in the past now. So it's sort of surprising for him to dig it up again.

CABRERA: Bill Carter, good to see you. Thank you for spending part of your Sunday with us.

CARTER: Nice to see you, Ana. Thank you.

CABRERA: The battle over immigration taking center stage yet again. Still ahead, why one top Democrat says it's unlikely a deal will be reached time soon.


CABRERA: The ticking clock growing louder as the March 5th DACA deadline inches closer and a deal is still nowhere in sight. More than a week after President Trump released his four pillars immigration plan, the number two Democrat in the Senate says talks are moving in the right direction, but just how imminent is a deal? Well, here's Senator Dick Durbin on CNN's State of the Union.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DURBIN: There's not likely to be a DACA deal, although we're working every single day on telephone calls and person-to-person to try to reach this bipartisan agreement. I think we're making real progress.

I want to salute the moderates in both the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the Senate. They have really been a positive voice, Democrats and Republicans sitting in the same room, working to try to solve this problem.

I don't see a government shutdown coming, but I do see a promise by Senator McConnell to finally bring this critical issue that affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in America, finally bringing it to a full debate in the Senate. That's what we were looking for when there was a shutdown. We have achieved that goal. We're moving forward.


CABRERA: Now, if the March 5th deadline seems fast approaching, try February 8th. The government is set for yet another shutdown this Thursday, if they don't pass a spending bill.

Let's bring in Bloomberg political reporter, Sahil Kapur, who's back with us, and historian, Princeton professor and CNN political analyst, Julian Zelizer.

So, Sahil, we just heard Senator Durbin say he doesn't see a shutdown coming. How are things going to play out differently this time around?

KAPUR: Ana, I think the difference this time is that Democrats don't really have the appetite for the kind of confrontation that led to a three-day shutdown last time.

They have extracted a promise, as Senator Durbin alluded to that in clip from Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, that there will be an immigration debate.

That means floor considerations, that means amendments, that means votes. It's not guaranteed, it's far from certain anything is going to pass, but Democrats just want a shot at it.

Now the two big obstacles I see for immigration once we clear the government funding deadly and pass yet another short-term bill is that on the Democratic side, they firmly object to President Trump's plank and his immigration plan that would cut legal immigration through family sponsorship of sibling's parents and adult children.

And on the Republican side, President Trump seems to be getting impatient, saying he's willing to walk away from a deal if Democrats don't accept his premise.

In the House, that is where immigration legislation has gone to die for about 12 years. It's far from clear you're going to get a significant number of Republicans to support any kind of legal status, especially for DREAMers. CABRERA: So, Julian, if a shutdown is off the table, which most

Americans are thankful to hear that.

[17:40:02] Do Democrats have any leverage when it comes to DACA?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, they really don't. The president has boxed them into a difficult position. DACA was in place. He dismantled it.

And now he's saying he wants to put it in place in exchange for some pretty restrictive immigration measures, including overturning much of the 1965 reforms.

So Democrats are in a position of either saying, no, to DACA, which is very difficult for the party, or entering into an agreement which will be a huge victory for President Trump. So really, it's a difficult position for the party.

CABRERA: You talk about President Trump and victories. You have a new op-ed on titled, Trump Maybe Making a Comeback. How do you see it that way?

ZELIZER: Well, I think it started with the tax cut that was very appealing and rewarding for the Republican Party. I think he has done a good job in terms of his own measure at creating confusion and doubts about the investigation, including with the memo that was released.

And finally, if he does get an immigration bill, that will be a very big victory for him. He will say he delivered on the campaign promise. Take all of that and combine it with a pretty robust economy, he is looking much better than he was just four months ago.

CABRERA: We have seen his approval rating tick up slightly. We are also seeing the approval of the tax reform legislation going up, as well, Sahil. They're getting more popular, when you look at the polls.

But Speaker Paul Ryan might have made a little mistake this weekend. This is what he tweeted. A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week.

She said that will more than cover her Costco membership for the year. Well, he saw a lot of backlash for that tweet. He deleted it, Sahil. Do you think he was being serious?

KAPUR: Well, I certainly think Democrats are going to try to use that every day between now and the November election that validates their premise that this tax cut gave big breaks to corporation and very little to the middle class.

Republicans for their part have done, I think, a very good job of citing all sorts of good economic news that has come after that as a result and painting that as being a result of this tax bill.

Some of this is some big corporations using some of the money they've gained from the txt bill to give bonuses and raises to people.

Look, the Republicans I speak to recognize that this tax law is going to be the, be all and the end all of their midterm prospects. President Trump's approval rating is going up and the economy is doing well.

In order for them to shield what is likely to be -- shield themselves from what is likely to be a very difficult election year for them, just historically, based on where the fundamentals are and based on where excitement, and enthusiasm is on the left, they're going to have to convince Americans that this tax law is good, that it's benefiting them and that it's going to make a meaningful difference in their lives.

And that is not an easy thing to do. I'm going to cite one little statistic. President Obama and his stimulus in 2009 gave 95 percent of working households a tax cut. The following year, only 12 percent believed they even got a tax cut.

So this is going to be through these withholding tables, a little bit in this paycheck, a little bit in that paycheck. Americans have to believe it and Republicans are very determined to make them believe that this tax bill -- this tax law is going to be good for them.

CABRERA: A lot of us have taxes on the brain right now as we work through our 2017 taxes. Thank you both for being here. Sahil Kapur and Julian Zelizer, I really appreciate it.

KAPUR: Thank you.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, the president promised fire and fury on North Korea, but now a test to the U.S. missile interceptors have gone wrong, sparking new political concerns ahead of the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Will this failed test embolden Kim Jong-un?


CABRERA: South and North Korean athletes played together today on the same team under one flag -- a unified flag. It was the women's ice hockey team, 23 players from both south of the DMZ and 12 players from North of the DMZ.

This was a friendly match against Sweden, just a practice match. The only competitive workout, the combined Korean team will get before the Winter Olympics open on Friday.

Sweden won today's friendly match, 3-1, but really not a bad result when you consider that the combined Korean team only started playing together about a weak ago. North Korea, by the way, is sending 22 athletes to compete in the Winter Games.

The spirit of the games has not led to such goodwill between the leaders of North Korea and the United States. Officials in both countries are still staring each other down over Kim Jong-un's threats over a nuclear attack.

And CNN has now learned that some people close to President Trump are floating the idea of hitting North Korea first. More on that from CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a worrisome misfire in the middle of a high-stake standoff with North Korea. The Pentagon today confirming that in a live fire test on Wednesday, similar to this one, an American missile interceptor in Hawaii missed hitting its target.

A medium-range intercontinental ballistic missile fired from a plane. The system is designed to protect the U.S. from any missiles launched by Kim Jong-un.

U.S. officials say despite the failure, they still learned crucial information about the system. But analysts worry about how North Korea's aggressive young dictator who's rapidly advancing his nuclear missile program might read the failed American test.

FRANK JANNUZI, THE MANSFIELD FOUNDATION: All it does is emboldened them. It just encourages them that as long as they continue to advance their missile program, maybe someday they'll accomplish the ability to evade those defenses.

TODD: The failed defensive test comes as sources are telling CNN tonight of a growing division inside the Trump administration about going on offense specifically over whether to hit North Korea with a pre-emptive first strike, trying to get Kim to stop his weapon's build up.

[17:50:00] Sources familiar with the dynamics say, on one side, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are urging caution, warning the president of the dangers of a first strike.

On the other side, National Security adviser H.R. McMaster and one of his top deputies are insisting the Trump team should at least consider a strike and prepare for one.

The man Trump reportedly once wanted to be his ambassador to South Korea, former NSC official Victor Cha had his name pulled in recent days because he warned the President's team. And a first strike on North Korea could lead to a disastrous war.

PETER BECK, ADJUNCT INSTRUCTOR, DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: The conflict and confrontation that he had with the Trump administration underscores that he was not hawkish enough for them, and the fact that he expressed concerns about the blame (ph) strategy shows just how serious the Trump administration is considering it.

TODD: The apparent choice of Cha had drawn widespread bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Prior to his name being floated, he spoke often to CNN about the North Korean threat. VICTOR CHA, FORMER NATIONAL FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR: A pre-emptive strike is by far the most risky of all the different alternatives we're dealing with this missile threat.

TODD: Cha turned down CNN's recent request for an interview. But in an op-ed published Tuesday in the Washington Post, he again argued that a pre-emptive strike could lead to carnage on the ground.

A view sometimes at odds with the president and some members of his team who have argued that diplomacy, sanctions, and other measures, simply haven't worked to stir Kim from building his arsenal.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation.

TODD: But now, some analysts and generals are echoing Cha's warning that Kim might retaliate if the U.S. launches a strike.

GEN. ROBERT NELLER, MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT: It will be a very, very kinetic, physical, violent fight.

JANNUZI: The potential casualties in the first hours of a conflict could be tens of thousands. And that's a conventional North Korean artillery response. Obviously, a nuclear response, we'd be talking about millions of casualties overnight.

TODD: Another warning from analysts about a bloody nose strike that it would likely undermine America's crucial alliance with South Korea and could bring China into a conflict if the Chinese fear that their troublesome ally in Pyongyang is on the verge of collapse. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CABRERA: Thank you, Brian. Less from an hour now, we've got Tom Brady and Nick Foles going head to head, hoping to lead their teams to victory in Super Bowl LII. We will take you live to Minneapolis where it's just three degrees, by the way, and the Patriots and Eagles are getting ready for kickoff.


CABRERA: Countdown is on to kickoff for Super Bowl LII and as CNN Coy Wire says thank goodness the game is inside because outside they're seeing the coldest temperatures ever for a Super Bowl. Coy, take it away.

COY WIRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: kickoff is just around the corner here in Minneapolis and it can't come soon enough because that means where I get to go inside where the players are at about 70 degree temperatures.

This is set to smash the coldest Super Bowl ever below zero degrees with the wind chill. Fans bundled up, layering up for the first time ever though, the NFL is allowing a remote check-in about 11 miles away at the Mall of America. They can get scanned and shuttled to the game, that way they don't

have to stand out here in these long lines in the cold. That's also though an added security measure. Not as many as large crowds gathering.

Super Bowl LII rated a level one national security event, the highest level possible. The FBI, local police leading the efforts, hundreds of National Guard troops on the ground, bomb sniffing dogs.

Also, you may hear Black Hawk helicopters flying by enforcing a 32 mile radius no-fly zone around the stadium. Inside the stadium the Eagles hope to fly their city to a first ever Super Bowl title. Yesterday, fans making their way through the air here to Minneapolis. They're hoping the same listen to this.


CROWD: Fly, Eagles, fly on the road to victor victory. E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!


WIRE: Ana, this is Philadelphia's third Super Bowl appearance. They have never won one. The Patriots, on the other hand, going for an NFL record time sixth Super Bowl title led by Tom Brady who last night became the oldest player to receive the leagues, MVP award at 40- years-old.

It's his third time winning it. Now listen to this, the last MVP quarterback is playing in the Super Bowl have lost the big game, Kurt Warner was the last to win both back in 1999. And, Ana, Brady's looking to become the first player in NFL history to win a six Super Bowl title despite people wondering when he's going to hang up the cleats. Listen.


TOM BRADY, 2017 NFL MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Why does everyone want me to retire so bad? I don't get it. I'm having fun. The team's doing good. You know, I know I'm a little bit older than most of the other guys but I'm really enjoying it, I obviously enjoy the experience of playing in this game.

This has been -- I mean, obviously a dream come true, you know, many times over. I'm not thinking about retirement. I'm thinking about the Super Bowl and trying to win the most important game of the year and it's going to take a lot to do it.


WIRE: Ana, when I played for the Bills I had to play against Tom Brady twice a year every year for six straight seasons and I have to say he's a relentless competitor.

No one is better prepared just like his head coach Bill Belichick. He has one sign hanging in his facilities it's from Sun Tzu's, The Art of War. Every battle is won before it's fought.