Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Slams "Little Adam Schiff" as Dems Push for Memo Vote; WH Rejects Bipartisan Memo Plan; Senate Bill gives Dreamers Path to Citizenship. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired February 5, 2018 - 10:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Erica Hill in for John Berman and Poppy Harlow.

Today the House Intelligence Committee may vote to release the Democratic rebuttal to the so-called Nunes memo, alleging partisan bias in the FBI's Russia investigation. President Trump has already, though, apparently heard more than enough. That much is clear in an early morning tirade that begins by calling the Intel Committee's ranking Democrat "Little Adam Schiff" one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington and ends by warning Schiff, and I quote here, "must be stopped." Schiff clearly not stopped, this morning he's ridiculing the president's TV and tweeting habits.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has that and much more for us. She begins our coverage on Capitol Hill. Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. Yes, just a remarkable back and forth already this morning between President Trump and Adam Schiff. And Adam Schiff hitting right back, as you said, really mocking President Trump for his tweeting habits. The way he watches TV, how much he watches TV.

Adam Schiff responding directly to President Trump with his own tweet saying, quote, "Mr. President, I see you've had a busy morning of executive time instead of tweeting false smears, the American people would appreciate it if you turned off the TV and helped solve the funding crisis, protect the Dreamers or really anything else."

This Twitter spat aside, Erica, today we will see the House Intelligence Committee at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time move to likely a vote on that Democratic memo, that Adam Schiff, one of the writers of that memo would like to see released in conjunction with the Republican memo that was released last week. Now, if it gets through in the committee, it will be sent to President Trump, he will have five days to decide whether he releases it or not. And certainly many top Democrats up here on Capitol Hill are putting political pressure on Trump to do that. We heard from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer over the weekend saying it is a matter of fairness here that the American people need to see both sides of the argument. Erica?

HILL: All right, Sunlen Serfaty for us on Capitol Hill. Sunlen thank you.

Let's get now to the White House where we expect to see the president in the next hour as he departs for a speech in Ohio. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is there.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good morning, Erica. The president spent this weekend insisting that that Republican memo released last week vindicates him in the Russia investigation, calling it, quote, "an American disgrace" and saying that -- repeating again there was no obstruction, and no collusion. Now, that certainly is not the position of many members of the president's own party on Capitol Hill who actually spent the weekend separating the memo from the Russia investigation, saying it doesn't undermine the special counsel's investigation.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR, "THIS WEEK": So you don't agree with President Trump when he says this vindicates him in the entire Russia investigation?


REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This memo has frankly nothing at all to do with the special counsel.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: 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 have meeting in Great Britain. It also doesn't have anything to do with obstruction of justice. So there is going to be a Russia probe even without a dossier.


COLLINS: Now, the president departs the White House here, Erica, in the next hour or so. And he could take questions on this. He may speak to reporters. We'll be waiting to see what else he has to say about this memo and anything on the Democratic memo that could be released this week.

HILL: Kaitlan, he's also expanding a bit this morning, not just tweeting about this, but also tweeting on another burning issue and that is immigration.

COLLINS: Yes, that's right. We just heard from the president a short while ago, he tweeted any deal on DACA that does not include strong border security in the desperately needed wall is a total waste of time and then he went on to add, March 5th is a rapidly approaching and the Dems do not seem to care about DACA. Make a deal.

Now, the president seems to be referring to an immigration deal, bipartisan immigration deal that actually has not even been formally introduced yet by Senators John McCain and Chris Coons. Though this deal would grant legal status to some undocumented immigrants that have lived in the country since 2013, it doesn't include some of the White House's priorities that they said must be included on immigration deal like chain migration and does not immediately authorize the $30 billion that the president says he needs for his border wall.

Now, that tweet from the president comes shortly after a White House official was also very dismissive of this latest bipartisan immigration effort saying that somehow it was worse than the last one that was brought out by Senators Graham and Durbin.

HILL: We will continue to watch for more on that. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you.

Joining me to discuss, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor at "RealClearPolitics" and CNN political commentators, Doug Heye and Bakari Sellers. Good to have all of you with us.

Let's -- good morning. Let's first talk memo, quickly, because we can't ignore the memo even if the president is starting to move on. A.B., as we look at this, we're hearing from Chairman Nunes there could be more memos. We know of course there will be that move later on today by Democrats to release their own memo. How much of Pandora's Box have Republicans opened up here?

[10:05:07] A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "REALCLEARPOLITICS": Well, it is a good question. I think Devin Nunes, the Congressman, realized that his memo was not received as a blockbuster and is trying to move on, so he has a lot of investigative work going on and he intends to talk about other wrongdoing or malfeasance, I guess, at other departments within the executive branch. And the Democrats, I think, I hear a lot of support starting from House Speaker Paul Ryan and others for the release of the Democrats' memo.

So I expect at the vote tonight, we'll get all the Democrats and a number of Republicans and it is likely that there is a bipartisan vote to release the Democrats memo. That puts the onus on President Trump for from his tweet this morning. It doesn't look good, but for him to say no to the release of that memo would create quite a political firestorm and put all the pressure on congressional Republicans to defy him and join Democrats in the Congress to release it. And that's a showdown that they're not interested in having.

HARLOW: How much, then, to your point, Bakari, do you think there could be some discussions happening behind the scenes perhaps, possibly between Democrats and Republicans, about we need to make sure that this happens and we need to make sure that the president doesn't put perhaps you in that position. Could Democrats be using that language to try to make sure it doesn't happen?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think what you saw this weekend led by individuals like Trey Gowdy, for example, to distance themselves from the president when it comes to the memo and this memo being the end all, be all to the Russia investigation. What you're beginning to see is that people understand that the Russia investigation led by special counsel is something vastly different from this memo and this memo was not a blockbuster. So, yes, Democrats and Republicans are likely going to come out this evening, hopefully, and say release the memo and then I expect Donald Trump to sit on his hands and say we won't release the memo and then maybe we'll have some bipartisan support.

But I'm a Democrat and I think there are many out there who believe that what Devin Nunes did last week was not much of anything. And Democrats that, actually just sit back and relax and wait on further indictments coming down from the special counsel. I think let those indictments of Carter Page and others speak for themselves.

HILL: We will see if that happens. I do want to shift to immigration. The president tweeting as Kaitlan just mentioned for us, just in the last little bit, about this bipartisan deal that -- bill that is supposed to be proposed later today by Senators McCain and Coons and before it's even out there, Doug, we're seeing the president shoot it down. A, is this surprising at all based on what we expect to be a force in that bill? And, b, what does this mean for any future immigration?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, no, I don't think it is surprising that Donald Trump torpedoes immigration legislation before it is even been introduced. I think it would surprise us if he didn't do that. But the reality is, you know, I go back to 2014, we just had the House Republican retreat in West Virginia, when I worked the House Republican retreat in 2014, Republican leadership spent about an hour and a half going through what we called our Republican immigration principles. And that bill and those principles were basically dead on arrival as soon as that meeting was over, which tells me that even in this environment with the Republican House, Republican Senate, Republican White House, that getting anything done on immigration is going to be hard to do.

You have sides that substantively don't agree with each other. You have sides that politically don't agree with each other. So trying to find a way to get to yes has been hard over the years, I think it's even harder with some of the positions the administration has staked claim to, but also Senate Democrats who find their feet held to the fire in the same way Republicans did in the past with the previous shutdown in 2013 and so forth. Chuck Schumer is being held hostage by part of his base as well, it means that getting to yes say very, very hard thing to do. Not just on immigration, but keeping the government open here over the next week.

HILL: Which, of course, is this going to be dealt with in the next couple of days, obviously. A.B., given what Doug just laid out there, it begs the question of is there anything that can get done at this point in Washington?

STODDARD: Right. That's the problem. If you look at the statements of -- talking about the immigration plan, Senator McCain talks about the need to fully fund the military and he and others believe that there is going to be an impasse on a long-term budget as long as this DACA fix problem is still on the table and there is no resolution to it. And so that's why they're trying to get to a deal as quickly as possible because they know that if the Democrats don't shut the government down this week, you're just going to have another short- term funding bill that both sides will scream about, but vote for, and be back where we are in another month.

The immigration situation is tough for both sides, but it is -- you saw at that retreat last week when Senator Thune and others were talking about going to a one for one compromise, instead of an overhaul of the entire immigration system, which is what the White House is proposing, that is comprehensive immigration reform. And what Senator Thune and others were talking about was just do some border wall for a DACA fix, so that they can get past this issue and move on. They don't want this to linger all spring into summer and be a midterm issue at all.

[10:10:11] HILL: I'm just getting word that we just have a new tweet from the president. I'm not sure if we can get it up yet. I think it is -- give me a second to call up my own Twitter here, to make sure that we can get this to you. So the president just tweeting, and allow me to read it to you. "Representative Devin Nunes, a man of tremendous courage and grit, may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero for what he has exposed and what he has had to endure!"

Bakari, I know you're laughing there. I'll let you weigh in first.

SELLERS: Yes. And I think this is why a lot of people have confidence that the Russia probe and Mueller -- excuse me, are going to go unimpeded by the White House or anyone else is because this whole offensive is led by Devin Nunes and what we say in South Carolina is bless his heart. It appears that he's in over his head. I mean the memo that he put together was much of nothing. The leadership that he's displayed is even less than that.

And so there is not a lot of confidence that he has the fortitude or Intellectual capacity to up end this investigation with anything of substance. And, listen, if Donald Trump and the Republican Party and Devin Nunes want to die on the proverbial hill that is Carter Page, then so be it. That just doesn't sound like sound political strategy or sound legal strategy at all.

HILL: This comes back to -- it is interesting to see the president tweeting this out, because it comes back to the bit of buyers' remorse that we definitely saw over the weekend from people like Trey Gowdy, Doug. So when we see the president continuing to drive this narrative, that in fact Devin Nunes is a man to be celebrated. He is a man who is a hero for this country, and we're hearing others who in the case of Gowdy helped to -- knew exactly what was in the memo, helped with it, how do you square those two?

HEYE: Well, certainly Donald Trump is going to tweet positive things about people who are on his side and negative things and people who are not on his side, which is why a tweet against Adam Schiff. As Bakari knows, we also say bless your heart in North Carolina too. But I can tell you, you know, I spent six and a half years working in the California delegation with the House of Representatives. And the California delegation is the most poisonous politically that exists. And Devin Nunes is from California. Adam Schiff is from California, as are Eric Swalwell and Jackie Speier both are also from the Intelligence Committee. The House process was blown up almost as it started. And that's one of the things that we should keep in mind. Every day the people have been -- questioning Devin Nunes' credibility has also been a day that Adam Schiff has been attacking the process.

Meanwhile, again, being from North Carolina, I have to point out my old boss Senator Richard Burr is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that committee has preceded a pace as it should has, it's moved slowly and methodically and it is also been largely free of controversy and I think we sometimes forget that.

HILL: And A.B., how important will that be when we do get the findings from both committees, the way that all this has played out publicly, House versus Senate, how much could that potentially impact the way those findings are viewed?

STODDARD: I think Doug is right. And Senator Burr is to be commended for the fact that he has really not been tainted by this process. He has not engaged in street fighting partisan, you know, struggling, power struggles here. He has been fair, a totally fair broker and Senator Mark Warner, his ranking Democrat, has said that all along. And I really think that they're findings, Senate select committee on Intelligence, when their report comes out, it will be weighed much more heavily than the one coming from the House Intelligence Committee. That's unfortunate, but will be taken more seriously because it is more credible because it will be bipartisan.

HILL: A.B. Stoddard, Doug Heye, Bakari Sellers, appreciate it. Thank you all.

The president calling out the top Democrat on the House Intel Committee, as pressure mounts for the release of the Democratic response to the Nunes memo. We'll get new reaction.

Plus, Super Bowl Blunder, CNN has found some sensitive documents about a Super Bowl terrorism drill, documents left in the seatback pocket of a plane. We're on it.


[10:18:14] HILL: This morning, President Trump is attacking one of the top ranking Democrats in the House, calling Adam Schiff one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, saying he must be stopped. Does the president have any proof of these claims and just what does he mean by stopping the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee?

Joining us to respond to that tweet, Democratic Representative Gerry Connolly. Sir, good to have you with us.


HILL: So just out of the gate there, your thoughts on both the president's tweet and Adam Schiff's response?

CONNOLLY: You know I had two reactions. One was this man is unhinged. That kind of tweet, from the president of the United States, makes no sense at all, if you have nothing to worry about. If you already feel that the Republican Nunes memo was exculpatory, what are you worried about? And secondly, to actually use those chilling words, he must be stopped. That's the kind of language you hear in an authoritarian regime, somewhere overseas. It is not the kind of language we use in Democratic discourse in the United States Republic.

HILL: Not the kind of language that is used, but does it concern you that there could be any action there?

CONNOLLY: Well, that is what is so disturbing. What are you inviting people to do? Remember, you know, when the president tweets like that, that's a broad audience. And it is almost incitement. And this is a pattern, right? Let's still the voices of criticism whether they be at the FBI, the Intelligence Community, the -- even the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, and now the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.

[10:20:00] This is a systematic attempt to go at the institutions, Democratic institutions that are gate keepers. They watch over us. They protect us from excesses and abuses. And this president is trampling all over those protections, including ad homonym attacks such as this.

HILL: Let's look at the memos. Obviously, as we know a vote today to release later today that memo from Democrats, ultimately if it is approved it will end up in the hands of the president. How confident are you that that memo could ultimately be released?

CONNOLLY: I don't have any confidence in the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee after their actions released one memo, but not both.

HILL: Not even after the pushback that we saw over the weekend? I mean, we saw - we actually saw a number of Republicans come out and shoot down some of what we had heard, not only from the president saying he was vindicated, but even what we heard prior to the memo's release.

CONNOLLY: Well, apparently even for them excess is excess. But they all were enablers in releasing that memo unilaterally over the objections of the Intelligence Community and the FBI. And, frankly, while still sitting on the Democratic memo. If you favor full transparency, why wouldn't you release both memos? There are two memos, not one. And that was designed to shape the narrative. It failed because, of course, the Nunes memo didn't do what it purported to do. And in fact contradicted itself with respect to George Papadopoulos and Carter Page. It was Papadopoulos that triggered the FBI interests, not Carter Page, the FISA surveillance warrant for Carter Page occurred three months after the initiation of the FBI investigation.

HILL: In terms of Devin Nunes, the president also tweeting this morning that he's a man of tremendous courage, grit and calling him a great American hero. You have accused him of an assault on U.S. intelligence agencies. Obviously I don't expect you and the president to see eye to eye here, but that is a pretty big chasm between the way the two of you are characterizing it. CONNOLLY: Yes, I don't think anyone upon objective examination would share the president's view. Obviously from the president's point of view, he's a great American because he's protecting him. He's enabling behavior that ought not to be enabled. He's willing frankly to eschew his role and -- as chairman of the Intelligence Committee become protector in chief for the president, who apparently has a lot to be afraid of. I think that's a shameful role. And that's why our leadership has called for him to step down or be removed by Speaker Ryan. I echo those concerns. I don't think Mr. Nunes is fit to be the chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

HILL: And we'll see where that goes. I do want to get your take on a couple of other issues because the memo not the only thing that is still being talked about in Washington today. We know Senators McCain and Coons set to introduce this bipartisan immigration bill which the president has already shutdown essentially over Twitter. And part of the issue there is that the president has said if it doesn't include the wall, it is quote, "A total waste of time."

Are Democrats willing to give a little bit here on the wall to help Dreamers? I know this is very important to you - brought Dreamer to the State of the Union.

CONNOLLY: Well, some Democrats are willing to negotiate on the wall. Obviously Chuck Schumer, the Democrat leader in the Senate was Luis Gutierrez here in the House has indicated that he's willing to compromise. I'm frankly reluctant to do that because having the wall is a symbol of everything that is wrong with Trump's approach to immigration. But it is on the table now.

So the president's going to get something of what he wants in exchange for protection for the Dreamers. That's a deal to be had, if the president wants it. The problem is we're dealing with a very erratic persona in the Oval Office. One day he's in favor of it and his heart bleeds for Dreamers, and the other day he takes a hardline stance and aligns himself with the likes of Tom Cotton, actually wanting to restrict further immigration and protection for the Dreamers. So which Donald Trump are we dealing with on which day is really a big question that you know overshadows these negotiations to try to get a deal.

HILL: And influences as you point out there, your own decision. We also are dealing -- that of course -- we have to deal with Dreamers in a matter of weeks. In a matter of days there is the issue of the government shutdown looming yet again. And this is a major issue obviously for lawmakers. So here we are, in terms of a short-term funding bill to keep the government open, are you willing to support another CR at this point?

CONNOLLY: I'm not willing to shut down the government. I voted to reopen the government. And I made it clear that if my vote were the decisive vote, I would not vote to shut down the government for any cause, however noble that cause, even though I support certainly the Dreamers cause. I thought it was a mistake to link the two, and I'm glad we reopened the government in record time and I think we don't want to go down that road. [10:25:02] So I want to keep the government open and I want to keep negotiations flowing. We do give up some leverage by voting to keep the government open, absent a deal on the Dreamers. But I think we lose public support if we shut down the government and link it to any particular cause including the Dreamers, which most Americans support.

HILL: Representative Gerry Connolly, appreciate you time. Sir, thank you.

CONNOLLY: My pleasure, thank you.

HILL: Two dead, more than a hundred people injured following a train crash in South Carolina. Investigators now trying to determine what went wrong.