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GOP Lawmakers Face Angry Crowds Back Home; Pres Trump Welcomes Japanese PM to WH. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 10, 2017 - 16:30   ET


[16:30:00] MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER AT THE FEDERALIST: Democratic lawmakers at the time called them Astroturf or extremist mobs, un-American brown shirts. I would argue Republicans not use that kind of terminology. It's not good for debate.

But, you know, take the questions, this doesn't seem like Chaffetz was particularly productive meeting. So, I would suggest less yelling and you could actually hear his answers.

But here's the question I think and whether it's a Tea Party is, where do those electoral victories come? Where are the constituents more liberal than their conservative representation?

We know there are stories on the other side of the Obamacare issue as well. We saw them in the town hall here on CNN. And then there's also the issue of, I remember how an atmosphere of constant protest turned Wisconsin blue forever. Oh, wait, it did not.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Right. Not so much.

HAM: So, this actually can be counterproductive if it is, you know, at this height for a sustained period of time.

TAPPER: So, let's -- I want to show this footage of the new education secretary, Betsy DeVos, she was trying to visit a D.C. public school earlier today, but she was blocked by protesters. Here she is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should be so proud of yourself.


TAPPER: Later in the day, her predecessor, Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan actually said people should bring Secretary DeVos into public schools. She should know as much as she can about them, kind of a backhanded compliment or backhanded protest because he was suggesting she doesn't know much about them.

But this is going to be a problem for her, I think, potentially.

MICHELLE COTTLE, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: She is going to face a lot of controversy and protest. I do agree that it's not that productive to bar her from public schools. I mean, later she went in any way. I think more productive is, you know, the Washington teachers unions

were out there. They were not barring her from coming in. They were just trying to talk to her and try to get their message across to her as to what they do and what they're hoping to see from her and get the message across they want everybody to succeed.

But when you have something like this where they're physically blocking her from going in, that just leads to backlash and it doesn't accomplish anything. But she is going to have this problem.

TAPPER: Mary Katharine, one of the issues, of course, is she is the only, to this day, the only Trump nominee who has gotten any votes against her by any Republicans.

HAM: Right. So, I think, look, Democrats ran into a problem of their own making with not having the filibuster, but there is all this emotion that sort of needs to work its way through. They unfortunately keep running into a buzz saw of demoralization and every nomination keeps going through. So, I think there is a need to have an outlet for this kind of thing. Angry white dude yelling at a powerful lady for doing her job and physically blocking her maybe not the right message that you're trying to send and there are more productive ways to do that.

MOLLY BALL, POLITICAL WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: But the Betsy DeVos phenomenon is a really good example of this groundswell catching even Democrats by surprise. You know, again, I talked to a lot of Republicans who say this is just the teachers union. They're using their money to protest.

This caught even Democratic leaders by surprise, that this was the nomination that most inflamed their grassroots. This was the one that jammed the Senate switchboards. This is the one where a cabinet secretary is getting followed around by protesters and this is the kind of thing, if this is really ordinary middle class moms, again, reminds me of the Tea Party, people who were never engaged in politics before, but something about this has inflamed people, that's where potentially the danger is.

TAPPER: Very interesting. Also suggesting that the grassroots as with conservatives now with progressives, way more in touch than their supposed leaders in Washington, D.C.

Molly, Michelle and Mary Katharine, thank you so much as always.

President Trump welcoming the prime minister of Japan, a nation he once said potentially should have nukes and, of course, he dropped a hint about his next move to keep this nation safe with the travel ban on the shelf. That story next.


[16:38:07] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Turning to our world lead now, President Trump welcoming Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House today. The two leaders are on their way to Trump's Mar-a-Lago report for a series of meeting and golf diplomacy this weekend. Accompanying the president to Florida will be First Lady Melania Trump who is flying on Air Force One for the first time.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta joins me from the White House.

Jim, Japan, obviously, a critical ally. What was the primary focus of the president and the prime minister's conversation today?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, the president and the prime minister talked trade and security today with North Korea and China being a big part of the conversation.

Following their news conference, the two leaders issued a statement saying both the U.S. and Japan are committed to protecting Japanese control of some contested islands in the East China Sea and remain opposed to China's militarization of manmade islands in the South China Sea.

As for North Korea, there was also a determination expressed by the president and the prime minister to confront the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear program.

Here's what was said during the press conference earlier today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will work together to promote our shared interests of which we have many, in the region, including freedom from navigation and of navigation, and defending against the North Korean missile and nuclear threat.

On the economy, we will seek a trading relationship that is free, fair and reciprocal, benefiting both of our countries.


ACOSTA: Now, both leaders are on their way to Florida right now for a weekend at the president's ritzy resort at Mar-a-Lago. The White House made a point of saying that the prime minister will be staying at Mar-a-Lago on the house, you might say, and that the rest of the Japanese delegation is staying at nearby hotels, Jake. That's to make sure no foreign money is going to the president's businesses which some government watch dogs say could be in violation of the Constitution.

[16:40:03] TAPPER: And, Jim, Prime Minister Abe was asked today whether the decision by President Trump to withdraw from the trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership --

ACOSTA: Right.

TAPPER: -- was a smart decision, what did he say?

ACOSTA: Yes, they were asked about TPP. The prime minister did not indicate any great disappointment with President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Trade deal. That was notable. The prime minister said his country is basically fine negotiating trade deals unilaterally, just as the president has in mind for his administration. Remember, he does not want these big trade deals brokered by several different countries all at the same time.

So, we should point out trade experts caution the absence of a trade deal in the Pacific could strengthen China's hand in Asia, but the prime minister had a good poker face today. He did not indicate any problems with that whatsoever.

TAPPER: He is really doing a lot, Prime Minister Abe to cozy up to President Trump as much as possible.


TAPPER: On the subject of China, which you just brought up, take a listen to President Trump just a few weeks ago talking about the one China policy, that's the policy that China demands that the United States has honored for decades, which recognizes Taiwan not as an independent country, but as part of China.

Here's what President Trump had to say a few days ago.


TRUMP: I fully understand the "one China" policy, but I don't know why we have to be bound by a "one China" policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.


TAPPER: Now, we're told, Jim, that last night he talked with Chinese President Xi, President Trump, and is honoring the "one China" policy. Is there some deal that the United States made with China that we don't know about?

ACOSTA: That was fascinating, and the president we should point out, you're right, he has tempered his rhetoric on China in recent days, at least if you look at that statement. And as you said, telling the Chinese leader Xi Jinping in that phone call that the Chinese government also confirmed that President Trump now supports this "one China" policy, making Taiwan part of China. That is something, as you know, Jake, that the White House has held out on as an open question for several weeks now, and the question we should also point out if Chinese currency manipulation came up today, the president vowed the U.S. and China will be on a level playing field, he called it, but he didn't say how the two countries will get there.

So, it sounds like, Jake, the president would like to wrap all these issues together and deal with them as one large deal between the U.S. and China. It's not clear at all whether President Xi is going to go for that, but a very big development that the president is now acknowledging the "one China" policy. That is obviously going over very well in Beijing, Jake.

TAPPER: And also, President Trump told voters that he would declare China currency manipulator on day one. That didn't happen.

ACOSTA: That didn't happen. That's right.

TAPPER: Either.

Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

Coming up, a father so desperate to save his daughter he agreed to death so she could live. The brutal civil war that has more than a million people fleeing with little hope in sight, that's next.


[16:45:00] TAPPER: Welcome back. Now, it's time for our buried lead. That's what we call stories that we think are not getting enough attention. South Sudan is on the brink of a cataclysmic event according to the United Nations. The Republic of South Sudan ravaged by a three-year civil war, and unthinkable violence is creating's Africa -- creating Africa's largest and the world's third largest refugee crisis. Since December 2013, 1.5 million people have been forced to flee their country. Among them, hundreds of thousands have fled to Northern Uganda. Another serious warning from the U.N., South Sudan is also on the brink of genocide, perhaps another Rwanda. CNN's Farai Sevenzo, reports now for us from Nairobi, Kenya.


FARAI SEVENZO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A simple bridge, separates South Sudan's war from neighboring Uganda's peace. This is one of the largest refugee sites in the world, and they keep coming. They're fleeing targeted ethnic killings, forced recruitment of child soldiers, burned villages, and rape, as a weapon of war.

IDINA TABOO, SOUTH SUDAN REFUGEE: In my house. My mom's house is here.

SEVENZO: Idina Taboo, now, has a new home in the town of Bidi Bidi in Uganda. Three months ago, armed men entered their house in South Sudan demanding food and much, much more. Hers is a difficult story, but she wants to share it.

TABOO: He groaned asking my father. Do you agree to rape your daughter? Father say, no. You leave my daughter. Because I've lost five children. You have seen also their graves are here.

SEVENZO: Soldiers killed Idina's father in front of her. The U.N. is now talking of genocide. And the serious concern is that this could turn into another Rwanda, where genocide occurred as the world did nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: South Sudan stands on the brink of an all-out ethnic civil war, which quite frankly, can destabilize the entire region.

SEVENZO: Five years ago, the future seemed brighter for Africa's youngest nation. After achieving independence. But a power struggle followed by more violence resulted in burned villages and thousands of deaths. A peace deal broke down in 2016, and the U.N. Security Resolution failed to impose an arms embargo. Many wonder now, if the new U.S. administration will prioritize this war-torn nation.

In the meantime, it is nations like Uganda who are welcoming refugees from South Sudan, giving them land and the right to work. The gamble of their lives is over. Signs of normality, and joy, have returned to these refugees. But the old, know only too well, the fear they have left behind. Farai Sevenzo, CNN.


[16:49:45] TAPPER: And our thanks to Farai Sevenzo for that story. Coming up a CNN exclusive, new information on the status of the investigation into those allegations raised about Russia in the 2016 election. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We have some breaking news now. CNN has learned new information about that ongoing investigation into those allegations raised in a collection of memos, created by a former British Intelligence Agent at the time he made the memos for political opponents of then, candidate Donald Trump. Jim Sciutto, and Evan Perez have been working the story. And Jim, let's start with you. What precisely have investigators learned?

[16:54:31] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, for the first-time U.S. investigators say that they have corroborated some of the communications, detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British Intelligence Agent. CNN was first to report last month that then President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of the memos prior to the inauguration. Until now, U.S. officials have said that none of the content or allegations have been verified. But now, multiple current and former U.S. Law Enforcement and Intelligence Officials, tells CNN that an intelligence intercepts of foreign nationals confirmed that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals, on the same days, and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier.

We should be clear, that CNN has not confirmed the content of the calls or, whether any of the content relates to then candidate Trump. And none of the newly learned information relates, I should say, to the salacious allegations in the dossier. The corroboration, based on intercepted communications has given U.S. Intelligence and Law Enforcement, "greater confidence" in the credibility of some aspects of the dossier as they continue to actively investigate its contents, these sources say. Reached for comment, this afternoon, White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said, "we continue to be disgusted by CNN's fake news reporting." Spokesman for the FBI, Department of Justice, the CIA, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence had no comment.

TAPPER: Fake news is what they call any news they don't like. Let me go to you, Evan. What is it precisely that investigators have corroborated here?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the dossier contains 35 pages of claims and allegations. And when U.S. investigators first started looking into it, they were trying to see whether there was any truth to the allegation that Russians were seeking to compromise President Trump. Now, to start the investigators looked into -- looked for information, they could verify easily, to give them a sense of the credibility of the author who was already known -- someone they were familiar with as having credible sources. The dossier, details about a dozen conversations between Senior Russian Officials, and other Russian individuals. So, that was one of the starting points. One thing that the U.S. has, is a collection of foreign call intercepts so that they have information to seek, to verify some of the alleged conversations described in the dossier.

Now, sources would not confirm which specific conversations were intercepted or the content of those discussions, due to the classified nature of U.S. intelligence collection programs. U.S. intelligence officials emphasize, that the conversations they have now verified were solely between foreign nationals including those in or tied to the Russian government. Intercepted during routine intelligence gathering. But some of those individuals involved in the intercepted communications were known to U.S. -- to the U.S. Intelligence Community as, "heavily involved" in collecting information, damaging to Hillary Clinton, and helpful to Donald Trump. Sources would not confirm which specific conversations were intercepted or the content of those discussions due to the classified nature of those programs.

TAPPER: OK. And Jim, let's underline this. The sources that you two spoke with, said there's confirmation of some of the conversations detailed. All the conversations were between foreign individuals and there's still a ton in these series of memos, in this so-called dossier, that investigators cannot yet verify as true.

SCIUTTO: That's exactly right. We want to be very clear about that. To begin, as we said, one of the officials we spoke to stressed to CNN that they have not corroborated, "the more salacious things alleged in the dossier." And I'll remind our viewers that CNN from the beginning, has not reported any of the salacious allegations included in the dossier. However, when we first reported the story, U.S. Intelligence and Law Enforcement Officials have said, they could not verify any parts of the dossier. They're now saying, they indeed corroborated, some of the communications contained in the dossier.

None of the officials we spoke to, for this story, would comment or confirm that they have proof of any alleged conversations or meetings between Russian officials and U.S. citizens, including associates of then candidate Trump. Officials who spoke to CNN for this story cautioned, they have not reached any final judgment on whether the Russian government has any compromising information about the President. President Trump and his staff, you may remember, had repeatedly dismissed the entire dossier as, "phony".

TAPPER: Well, first, they denied that he'd been briefed on it. Of course, he had been briefed on it, the existence of the dossier. Evan, you reached out to the White House to get a comment. They said the comment that, Jim read earlier of fake news, blah, blah, blah, but the White House has reached out again?

PEREZ: Right. We did hear again from Sean Spicer and he called us back to emphasize his displeasure with this story. He said, "it is about time that CNN focused on the success the President has had, bringing back jobs, protecting the nation and strengthening relationships with Japan and other nations. The President won the election because of his vision and message for the nation." Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Well, we did just report on his meeting with Prime Minister Abe in term of jobs. It's a bit early yet, but OK. Jim, this is a story that we're going to continue to work. Obviously, with intelligence gathering there're a lot of falsehoods, there are some things that turnout to be true, somethings we're not able to determine.

SCIUTTO: That's exactly right. As we emphasized here, this is not a final judgment but that they have confirmed at least some of the details contained in those files.

TAPPER: All right. Evan and Jim, thanks so much. Keep it up. Appreciate it. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".