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INSIDE POLITICS

House Intel Committee Vote; Schiff Responds to Trump's Tweet; Deadline Approaching on DACA; Shutdown Deadline Drawing Near. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 5, 2018 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:00:04] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash. John King has the day off.

President Trump and the first lady are about to board a plane together to go to Ohio. But they'll go their separate ways when they hit the ground to sell different parts of the Trump agenda.

And if you thought the memo drama was over, think again. Tonight, the House Intelligence Committee is facing another big vote, this time it's the Democrats' memo. And Republicans are pushing back on the president's claim that the GOP memo undermines the special counsel's Republican -- excuse me -- Russian probe. But how far are Republicans willing to go to challenge Trump?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I wonder when the Republican leadership in the Congress is going to come to their senses. I had a lot of respect for Paul Ryan. I thought he was taking these matters seriously. But the things that I've heard him say and do over the past several months really question -- makes me question whether or not if there's going to be a removal of Rod Rosenstein, as well as Bob Mueller, what will the Republicans do? Will they allow that to happen? It cannot because, to me, that clearly would be obstruction of justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: We begin this hour counting down to a vote in the House Intelligence Committee on another potentially explosive memo, this one from Democrats hoping to discredit Friday's Republican memo. Democrats say Republicans cherry-picked facts to fit a narrative, that the FBI acted in bad faith when seeking a warrant to spy on a former Trump campaign official. Democrats are arguing that their memo puts the underlying evidence into better context and knocks down GOP talk of a bias-driven conspiracy at the upper levels of the FBI.

Test one, likely today, a vote inside the House Intelligence Committee, making the Democrats' memo public. Test two, whether the president will sign off. And that may well be the stickiest of sticking points. And the reason is because the president insists that the Republican memo vindicates his argument that the Russia investigation is a partisan witch hunt. The only problem he has is Republicans on Capitol Hill spent the entire weekend on TV saying just the opposite.

Well, here with me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Manu Raju, "The Daily Beast's" Jackie Kucinich, John McCormack of "The Weekly Standard" and "Bloomberg's" Margaret Talev.

Hi, everybody. Happy Monday.

Manu --

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

BASH: What's your sense of -- give me the latest. I know you've been doing reporting all morning long on this vote -- impending vote.

RAJU: Yes. We expect it probably will get approved tonight. 5:00 the House Intelligence Committee meets behind closed doors. It will be the opportunity for them to send Adam Schiff's memo, the one rebutting the Nunes memo, to the president's desk.

We've been talking to Republicans all morning. We expect the Republicans to vote in favor of its release.

This after last week Republicans opposed doing just that because they said they had just been presented with the Schiff memo. They needed time to review it. And they moved ahead with the Nunes memo, allowing for that to go ahead publically. Democrats, of course, complained about that saying, why not wait for the Nunes memo, to send this out at the same time as the Schiff memo, so both -- the country gets both sides of the argument.

So after the vote tonight, the question is going to be, what does President Trump do? He'll have five days to decide whether or not to agree to its release, redact anything he may want to redact, or object to its release. And if he objects to it, then the full Republican House could vote to override him. We'll see if it gets to that point, though.

BASH: Wouldn't that be unbelievable.

Jackie, Manu's talking, of course, about the thing they're waiting for, the president and whether he will say, OK, fine.

This is something that Democrats on the committee are already expressing their concern over. Listen to Mike Quigley of Illinois and what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: My concern isn't with what the Republicans will do at a business meeting that I'll be part of this afternoon, it's what the president will do. This is a president that we have seen would do anything to obtain power. I can't imagine why anyone would imagine that he won't do anything to retain that power.

Yes, I'm concerned he won't sign off. I'm concerned that he will try to redact or change the memo. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: What are you hearing from your sources, Jackie?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": Yes, I wouldn't be -- I mean these are -- these seem to be valid fears. I mean look at what the president was doing today, he was attacking Adam Schiff, who is the Democrat on the panel, as someone who isn't telling the truth, who is saying -- who is saying as is leaking information -- classified information. So it seems like he's already setting up kind of an adversarial relationship to give himself an excuse to say, well, listen, this is classified information and he was trying to put it out there. This is not beyond the realm of possibility when you talk about this president.

BASH: Which, you know, so was the Republican memo based on information that was previously classified --

KUCINICH: Sure.

BASH: Which is why he personally had to declassify it, but maybe I'm getting to far into the facts.

KUCINICH: Well, and I think --

BASH: Never mind the (INAUDIBLE).

KUCINICH: I think what this does, I mean take a step back from it, having both these -- if the other memo comes out, you do have these two opposing viewpoints, and it makes this -- it muddies the water and it clouds the Russia issue even further, particularly when talking about the House probe and how they can move past that. It doesn't seem like they're going to be able to.

[12:05:12] BASH: So you mentioned the president on Twitter this morning. Let's look at some of what he was doing and the response that the got. Here's what the president said this morning.

Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper. Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally break confidential information. Must be stopped.

Then Adam Schiff had a response.

Mr. President, I see you had a busy morning of executive time. Instead of tweeting false smears, the American people would appreciate if you turned off the TV and helped solve the funding crisis, protected dreamers or really anything else.

Now, this is, you know, kind of the 7th grade side show that I say happens with a lot of very important things in Washington these days, but it does expose a very real question that Jackie and Manu are bringing up about what the president is going to do and whether he's going to use Adam Schiff and the partisan nature of how the Democrats are acting in some ways as an excuse not to release this memo. JOHN MCCORMACK, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": You know, I

don't know exactly what he'll do. I think that we probably will get the Democratic memo. We've got the Republican memo.

What you'd really like to have is the underlying FISA application, because people on part -- on both sides do tend to leave certain facts out or they do mislead at times. So what you'd really like to do is, if it weren't -- if it wouldn't compromise sources and methods in a significant manner to actually let the American people see for themselves --

BASH: Can you imagine if that happened? I mean already what we saw with the Republican memo, giving information about a FISA application, was unprecedented.

KUCINICH: Right.

MCCORMACK: Well --

BASH: Do you think that's even really possible, to get the underlying FISA application?

MCCORMACK: I think that, you know, in general, you want to protect sources and methods. And if that could be compromised, obviously you can't do that, but, I mean, we're already past such a point where I think that is necessary. Transparency is necessary that you actually get this out.

I mean the Republican memo doesn't even allege wrongdoing, I don't think, because it says that, you know, the dossier was essential to getting this warrant. We don't know if that's true. But it also doesn't say whether the specific information in the dossier about Carter Page was true or not. And that's the most important question in my mind, is this information true? The fact that it comes from a partisan source raises concerns. But, again, if, you know, if the Republican National Committee dug up true facts of criminal wrongdoing among Democrats, I think that people would say it's OK to investigate as long as the information was substantiated. And we still don't know that.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "BLOOMBERG": This is about the court of public opinion in a really difficult midterm year. There are already, obviously, processes in place if there are real concerns inside Congress about the FISA process. And as half a dozen or so Republicans now have pointed out, certainly not a majority, but it is an interesting minority because they all have ties either to military service or to having worked in intelligence or having been prosecutors. But as they've all pointed out, this actually has no bearing at all on whether or not the Mueller investigation goes forward and how it goes forward.

KUCINICH: Right.

TALEV: So to a large extent, I'm not sure it makes a difference whether or not the Democratic memo is released intact or with some redactions or with the whole preface on Twitter because, really, it seems to be, at this point, about shaping the way voters perceive all of this and perhaps applying a little bit of pressure or support if President Trump decides he wants to make kind of like a hail Mary move on justice and FBI officials. But, for the most part, this is about shaping public opinion.

BASH: I totally agree with you, it is about shaping public opinion, but it just was really striking this weekend how -- the way that Republicans who were on television were at odds with how they wanted to shape public opinion with the president of the United States.

TALEV: Absolutely.

BASH: And you mentioned it, that Republicans who came on television said, this has no bearing on the Mueller investigation.

Let's listen to some of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": Do you agree that it -- that it vindicates Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is a separate issue.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Does the GOP memo vindicate the president? Does it end the need for the special prosecutor's investigation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it doesn't.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The memo has no impact on the Russia probe?

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: No -- not to me it doesn't, and I was pretty integrally involved in the drafting of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: But when you have the president of the United States, who has a bigger megaphone than all of those people combined saying the opposite, even again today, does it matter?

RAJU: I mean that's -- this has been the common theme throughout his presidency, him saying one thing and oftentimes his party on Capitol Hill saying the opposite. But the members are correct. I mean the -- what the Nunes memo does is it goes after one specific FISA warrant, one specific effort to get -- surveil one Trump campaign foreign policy adviser when the Russia investigation is much broader, when the obstruction probe is completely separate from how the Carter Page surveillance warrant was obtained. So it doesn't vindicate him in any way because we know the investigation is much, much broader and any fair reading of that, even if you agree with the facts of the Nunes memo, which we know have been disputed by the Democrats, if you agree with the facts, it still says that there's a lot more to this investigation.

KUCINICH: Right.

[12:10:20] BASH: And are the Democrats going to run into the same buzz saw as Republicans did, releasing a memo that is partisan, that was put together just by one party?

KUCINICH: Sure. And we've seen this pattern, right? And they're going to dispute -- this is what I mean. I think it devolves. I don't think it matters what's in their memo, frankly, at this point. As Margaret said, this is about shaping public debate. I mean there could be facts in them, but partisans will look at that and dismiss them. Not that that matters. But, you know, when -- as things have been going back and forth in Congress, it seems like once you go down this path where it's Republicans versus Democrats, the information sort of gets lost in the shuffle.

TALEV: But the Democrats' view has always, I think, has been that they didn't see the need to release it anyway. But if it was already going to be released and if the sensitive information was going to be considered declassified, they might as well get a crack at the same information.

I'm not aware of entirely different trenches of classified information that would have to be declassified in order for the Democrats' version of this to be released. So I think like on the merits, you're looking at the same fact basis and two different memos.

But the point is that the water -- the waters already have been muddied, as we say.

KUCINICH: Right.

BASH: And as we discuss this, I just want to point out to our viewers what they're looking at on the screen. The president and the first lady departing on the South Lawn of the White House to board Marine One. They're heading to Ohio today. Certainly a very standard scene of a president and a first lady walking together. It's just not something that we've seen in a while, in a month or so, the two of them together. And we're actually looking at a live picture, that they are actually at Joint Base Andrews and the two of them are going from Marine One about to board Air Force One to go on to their -- to go on to their trip to Ohio.

John, you were about to say something and I interrupted you.

MCCORMACK: Oh, on the -- on the memo, I think that one important point is that the memo itself undermines this claim from the president, that it discredits the entire Russia investigation.

BASH: Right.

MCCORMACK: I mean the last point is that the investigation began back in July with Papadopoulos, and we're talking about a potential allegation of FISA abuse that took place in October. So I think that's the biggest point to make on the Schiff memo.

BASH: OK. Everybody stand by as we watch the president and soon to be the first lady going up the stairs. Actually, let's just take a beat and wait for him to give the wave before we go to break. The president and the first lady getting on Air Force One, about to go to Ohio. The president will be making a speech to promote the tax reform legislation, now law, that the Republicans have been begging him to go out and tout. And, meanwhile, the first lady is going to go and talk to people at a children's hospital in Ohio about the opioid crisis.

Up next, another month, another deadline to fund the government or risk a shutdown. That's just a few days away.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:17:46] BASH: Is all the arguing over the Nunes memo diverting lawmakers' attention from the most important issue on their plate, or is it actually giving Congress some running room to work more quietly than usual on a spending deal to get -- to keep the government running and also to do so, looking at that calendar there, all those red x's and then the big red circle on February 8th. That just means three days from now is the next deadline for the government to be funded or the government will shut down once again.

And then there's the critical question of what to do about DACA recipients. The deadline for them to stay in the U.S. legally is a month away. The president tweeted this morning that any deal on DACA that doesn't include strong border security and the desperately needed wall is a waste of time. And he blasted Democrats saying, next month's DACA deadline is fast approaching and they don't seem to care.

Let's get straight to CNN's Phil Mattingly from Capitol Hill.

Phil, you are watching the ins and outs. You know what's going on behind the scenes as everybody maybe is talking about intelligence and the work that is or isn't getting done. Can you let us in on it?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, I think one of the interesting elements -- so take DATA. One of the interesting elements today, and you can kind of sense that this is where the president's tweet came from, is there's a new bipartisan proposal that's being introduced today by Senator Chris Coons and Senator John McCain related to DACA, trying to find a resolution. What this would be is actually pared back proposal. It would allow a pathway to citizenship for undocumented children who were brought here by their parents before the end of -- December 31, 2013. And in exchange for that, by 2020, there would be a border security system in place.

Now, here's what that doesn't have and why the president probably tweeted what he tweeted this morning, there's no money for a wall and there's no immediate, large-scale funding for border security. In fact, a White House official told our colleague Kaitlan Collins that, quote, it would be tough to be worse than the Graham-Durbin proposal, also a bipartisan proposal, but this is actually worse.

But let me explain kind of the context of why this bill was put out there.

Dana, the reason why aides in both parties expect the government to remain open beyond Thursday is because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a couple weeks ago, said that if the government is open on the week of February 12th, the Senate will take up immigration on the floor. Some type of DACA resolution.

[12:20:05] Here's how you need to view this bipartisan proposal. As one of the proposals that senators are trying to put on the table, lay down some markers to service as either a base bill or some type of amendment to that process on the floor. Now, there's a lot of open questions going forward, most notably, no matter what the Senate does, what are House Republicans are going to do and, obviously, will the president bless whatever the Senate does? But that's why you're seeing work right now.

There's also another bipartisan meeting this afternoon behind closed doors on this issue trying to figure out some pathway forward on the Senate floor. These are kind of the dynamics that are in play that lawmakers expect will allow the government to stay open for a couple more weeks starting on Thursday. But the big question obviously is, will there be any kind of DACA resolution? Obviously the president doesn't believe the Coons-McCain proposal is the answer, but does it set a baseline for type of debate dynamic next week? That, right now, is at least the goal, at least as far as I'm being told, Dana.

BASH: And so, before I let you go, isn't it the case that part of the deal to reopen the government a couple of weeks ago was that the Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said that no matter what they would start debate on immigration on February 8th? Or is that now being pushed back?

MATTINGLY: No, it will be the week after, right. The basic -- the tenant of the deal was, if the government remains open past Thursday, that next week will be the week that they start immigration on the floor. So expect the week of February 12th, that will be next week, that will be immigration on the floor and it will be no holds barred. They're right now trying to figure out what the base bill is.

But, Dana, you and I know this place pretty well. You haven't seen a lot of floor debates where everything's really open-ended. You don't really know the end game. That, at this moment, is what next week is going to be.

So, for immigration nerds or wonks, it's going to be a pretty interesting week. We just don't know, whatever they do on the Senate, if that will actually fly over in the White House and fly across the Capitol in the House.

BASH: Well, meeting behind closed doors has not worked so far --

MATTINGLY: Sure. BASH: So why not do it the old-fashioned way, put it on the Senate floor and see what gets the vote. Thank you so much for that reporting, Phil.

Back around the table here.

Let's start with this sort of new wrinkle in the Senate. Chris Coons, a Democrat, John McCain, obviously a Republican, coming together to put forward what even Senator Coons is says he understands would be just the base bill possibly for the debate this is going to start next week. Listen to what Senator Coons said about it this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: It needs more border investment. It lays out a plan, a pathway toward securing control of the border by 2020. And I expect that in order for this to be embraced by Republicans as the solution that will get us moving forward toward fully funding domestic and defense spending, we will need to add some border funding to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So even he's admitting that it's far from perfect.

I also, just as a side note, think it's interesting that John McCain, who hasn't been in Washington yet this year, my understanding has called Chris Coons last week and said, let's do this together in a bipartisan way. So he's working it on issues that he cares about, which is a lot of issues, from home where he's getting treatment for cancer.

RAJU: Yes, it's interesting. Yes, that's fascinating. But we also remember that John McCain's position on immigration is different starkly from a lot of Republicans --

BASH: Very.

RAJU: Particularly Republicans in the House. This bill is, obviously, being met with a pretty cold reception from the White House. I'm not even sure this is going to be the underlying bill that will start the floor debate next week in the Senate. That's the ultimate question is, what bill are they actually going to put on the floor to use as part of the effort to move this forward?

There is, as Phil was noting, this separate group that is meeting behind closed doors, a bipartisan group, to come to some sort of consensus. There seems to be some talk about a narrow deal dealing with DACA and dealing with the border wall. But, still, the White House has suggested that is not enough. They want changes to so-called chain migration, the visa lottery system, among other things, just to agree to something with the dreamers.

So there are a lot of questions on how they deal with it. My expectation is they're going to do what they do best, which is punt -- punt the issue until much later to do (INAUDIBLE). KUCINICH: Right.

BASH: Well, but they don't have that much later, right? I mean March 5th is the deadline.

RAJU: They may not have -- right, unless the president maybe agree to extend the deadline, which they're not getting any indication that he will, but that's part of the fun (ph).

BASH: Which would fly in the face of everything that even immigration reform --

TALEV: Right.

BASH: Republican supporters in the Senate and the House, meaning those who want citizenship for all undocumented immigrants in this country, because they think that the president doesn't have the constitutional right to do that. But that's a different story.

Democrats -- I just -- as you -- as you talk about this, I also just think it's noteworthy that we went through all of this drama last month and the Democrats forced this shutdown because of DACA and here we are getting close to the actual deadline of March 5th for DACA, young people, or maybe not even young people anymore, and, more importantly, a shutdown this week, and it just doesn't seem as dire in terms of the politics from the Democrats' side.

[12:25:01] KUCINICH: They are -- the closer we get to this deadline, and, frankly, the closer we get to the midterms, the Democrats' base is going to get louder and going to pressure them, which is kind of how they got themselves in this position in the first place with this first shutdown. They were listening to the base, telling them to fight, fight, fight, and then they realized, oh, gosh, this isn't going to end well for us.

But on the Republican side, I mean, as much as they're working on this bipartisan basis in the Senate, the House, again, the midterms loom large here, particularly Republicans have more challengers to the right than Democrats have to worry about. So just looking at their primary races. So there's -- there is a lot at stake. And the closer we get to the summer, the harder it's going to be able to get anything done. Immigration's hard normally. But in an election year, it's hard to think -- it's hard to see what's going to get done (ph).

BASH: It's true. And, unfortunately, we have to take a quick break.

But as we do, I just want to remind our viewers that it's not just immigration and the government funding that we're talking about, it's also health care spending, disaster relief, the debt ceiling increase, budget caps, which is, of course, what we were talking about, and DACA. So there is a whole host of very important, very controversial issues that really matter to people back home that Congress is still not dealing with.

Up next, increased scrutiny, partisan attacks and accusations of bias by the president. Why one FBI agent now says enough is enough.