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Ryan Says Trump Should Hold Off On DACA Decision; NYT: Mueller Has Early Draft of Trump Letter On Comey; Firefighters Rescue Family and Pig in Flood-Ravaged Houston. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 1, 2017 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:01] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: -- and this has been a quiet conversation still going on and keep on heating up over the past week or so. With people inside the administration who don't want -- who agree with Paul Ryan, who don't want the president to have this on his hands. Despite the fact that his base very much wants him to do this.

And I've been talking to key members of Congress about finding a legislative way out of it. And it seems though maybe they've at least been able to kick the can a little bit. The goal being ultimately to kind of, you know, do a deal.

OK, if we can deal with this legislatively, then we'll give you something that you want in terms of border security, wall, you know. But we'll see if they even can get that kind of deal.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: And the goal to being the -- ensure that they do not create another uproar that causes a lot of the elders in their party to get upset, to scream and what the White House is doing, clearly, this is an effort right now that people are focused on Harvey. Keep the administration focus -- keep the Congress --

JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: But where's the president on this in the sense that during the campaign, he was unequivocal. As you mentioned, I'll do it on day one. Since then, he has said, I want to have some heart here. As I learn more about this issue, I want to have some heart and compassion.

Where's the president on this? Is he willing to accept -- if Congress sends him a bill, here's your wall money. There's some increased border security. Let the dreamers stay?

Is the president willing to take on his base essentially? Take on the Breitbarts of the world out there, will say you broke a promise, sir?

RAJU: I don't know. That's hard to know. I'm skeptical that any wall money will ever pass Congress. I'm also skeptical that any dreamer legislation will also pass Congress. Ultimately, they may have to decide what to do administratively.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: I mean, the problem has been for every episode of this. This is not the first time that Congress has grappled with the dream act or some sort of version of it. And it is very hard to pass any stand-alone part of immigration reform.

People get -- want to add other things to it. And then people who are in the GOP right now, who are in charge really don't want to give up this idea of border security first. And of course, DACA is the next thing down the line that we would address.

But to change that calculus, specially at the time when they're dealing with budget and now the hurricane emergency situation and they have to do (INAUDIBLE) and everything else like that. They really -- a kind of easy way taking this down the road. And also I just -- I don't see how you can come up with even a combination bill that is that pristine and not -- doesn't get fatter and gummed up.

KING: That's one of the things that drives people watching around the country a little bit crazy because they have to deal with challenges every day in their life including surprises in here in Washington. They say we only have a few legislative days left. We can only deal with one or two things, we can't do five things. That's why people don't like this town very much.

Quick break. When we come back, more on Harvey's path. New tropical storms gathering perhaps out at sea and the week that was in the Houston area.


[12:36:51] KING: Some breaking news now into the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and the broader investigation into Russian election meddling and whether or not the Trump administration was somehow involved in any collusion or if the president was somehow involved in any after the fact obstruction.

The New York Times just reporting the Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained a letter that President Trump and a top political aide drafted in the days before the president fired Mr. Comey. Now, that was not the letter used publicly to rationalize that firing.

One of the reporters involved in breaking this news, Maggie Haberman joins us now on the telephone. Maggie, talk to us about the letter that Bob Mueller has and why it's important.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES (via telephone): Sure, John. Thanks for having me, and sorry that I'm not with you in person. There was an early draft, at least one, of this letter that was ultimately the justification for firing Comey. At least this is the -- it's almost like the Rosetta Stone of Donald Trump's thoughts on what had happened, you know.

At some point, I anticipate, you know, we will -- that the public will know what the contents were. It's not clear that it is massively different than what ended up in the final draft, or the final letter, that went to Comey, from the president. And we certainly know that the president was frustrated that Comey refused to publicly clear him in the Russia investigation and would not say, you know, he's not under investigation, which the president was adamant Comey had said to him. Comey testified to that fact. But, you know, this was a raw, you know, sort of furious burst of sentiment from the president. Stephen Miller's main role, I think educationist (ph) but, you know, this was a raw. Look at what the president was thinking before what has turned out to be an incredibly momentous decision in his presidency.

Robert Mueller as Special Counsel, who was appointed after that firing is looking into this, has a copy of this letter. We will see whether it ends up mattering, but it was -- the letter was, you know, sort of specific enough or explicit enough or raw enough (INAUDIBLE) the White House counsel, whose job it is to, you know, to protect the White House and the president, had flagged concerns in sending it out as was.

KING: Right. And in reading that part of your story, I don't over simplify this but it seems like the President was venting. Stephen Miller, a political aide, not part of the legal team at the White House. I was working with the president on this and the president's attorney said, no, sir, this is not the way to do this. And so then they went for a plan B. Is that a fair way to put it?

HABERMAN (via telephone): I think that's right. And I think that, you know, again, this happened between what was in the initial draft and what ended up being printed, I think remains to be seen. We certainly know that the president, you know, has been considering firing Comey basically since day one of his presidency.

The timing of this, remember, was right after Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee describing that he had felt -- I think his words were slightly nauseated at the knowledge that he had play a role in the election in influencing it. President Trump interpreted that as saying he was nauseated that they had talked about President Trump that not Comey said but that is how the president took it. And I think that it expedite that matters.

[12:40:13] KING: Maggie Haberman of the New York Times joining us this breaking news. Maggie, thank you very much.

Let's discuss it in the room here. One of the key questions here for Bob Mueller, the Special Counsel is, what was the president's mind set? Was he firing James Comey because he was mad at James Comey for six, nine, 10, 12 reasons or was he firing James Comey because he came to the conclusion I don't like what he's doing with this Russia investigation and I am going to shut it down. That's obstruction.


BASH: That's right.

KNOX: -- of the president, his mind set, his intent, why he did it. This is what this letter could shed some light on.

RAJU: You know, as we know also the president has been meeting -- his legal team has been meeting with Bob Mueller's office trying to say that he's totally within his constitutional rights to fire Bob -- James Comey. This was something that he can do as president. There's nothing wrong with that, even questioning his credibility.

If this letter says anything different about why the president actually fired him, of course, that's an issue that will go to this obstruction case that Mueller's clearly investigating. The one thing that of course the president now is pointing to is this new revelation from the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Republicans releasing transcripts from FBI officials saying that Comey made a decision early on not to go after Hillary Clinton before. And that at least gives them some cover, but that's not exactly what the rationalization is.

BASH: And that was the big problem and the huge miscalculation in firing Comey in the first place. That the president had people around him who convinced him that there would be such unanimous praise for firing Comey from Democrats, and from others, that it would be no problem. Huge miscalculation.

To point where somebody who really likes the president told me that this will be go down as the single biggest political miscalculation in modern history. And when I say this, I mean, firing James Comey. I mean, Mueller wouldn't even exist to get this --

KING: That's right.

BASH: -- had Comey not been fired.

KING: Mueller would now exist and this will all be still in Comey's jurisdiction. And it's interesting because the New York Times story obviously changes the dynamic and the sense of breaking news that Mueller has this version of a letter, and a political aide involved in it. The White House counsel saying don't do this Mr. President. That all adds to the complexity of how and why this happened.

Otherwise, there were several other important developments in the Russia investigation, whether it's the Trump Tower story. While he was a candidate for president, his personal attorney reaching out to at least explore the possibility of building a Trump Tower in Moscow. While he was a candidate for president, that was out there, Donald Trump Jr. agreeing to give a transcribed interview to investigators on Capitol Hill happened this week. A lot of that was obscured by Harvey this past week and understand what we saw.

The headlines should be on people of Texas. But just a few headlines, just this past this week, Trump return his layout arguments against obstruction of justice probe to Mueller. That's the Wall Street Journal saying Trump's attorney have met with Mr. Mueller to try to explain, no, this wasn't obstruction. Here are the reasons.

"Mueller teams up with New York attorney general in Manafort probe. Trump's business sought deal on Trump Tower Moscow while he run for president."

So, we're going to come to work in a few days for Congress. And again, the priority will, should, be overwhelmingly an aid package for Texas. But as a reminder, the conversation we just had about this New York Times story and these other things that happened during the week at least isn't going anywhere. DEMIRJIAN: And the investigations on the Hill are kicking into a new phase. Now you have (INAUDIBLE) your comment to talk to the Judiciary Committee behind closed doors. You have the inner circle now approaching the senators which -- and some came up for staff interviews before. But now you're going to be able to have, you know, members getting access to them as well potentially.

And it's a question of, you know, all of these different new stories, all of these different things that we learn are clues of the puzzle that they're pulling together and as they get more and more information, these inquiries are becoming more and more pointed. So that's going to continue. It didn't really stopped over the summer but it's going to continue on unabated and potentially benefit from the facts the headlines will be focused elsewhere on the budget crisis and everything else, because these are --

RAJU: And not only that this loom over this presidency, it also, we know, it affects the president's mind set this infectious focus. Clearly, focus now is on Harvey but more and more leaks coming out. More and more allegations coming out. How the president is going to react.

KNOX: But who's focus? Because one of the interesting stories, there's a very small audience for some of these Russia stories and that includes potential witnesses. Potential people mixed up in this.

What's the message to Don Jr. when you have a piece that says, you know, they were exploring this Trump Tower in Moscow? What's the message to Paul Manafort when it says, look, we're partnering up with state A.G. and the president can't get rid of state charges. There's a message to ever player in this controversy through these disclosures.

KING: Important point. And now, if you read this New York Times story, Stephen Miller, welcome to -- an interview from the Special Counsel, what did the president say to you, what didn't make the letter. We know what you put in the letter but what didn't make the letter. Take us inside that conversation.

[12:45:05] Then the president's lawyer, Don McGahn has attorney/client privilege to a degree but if he's involved in this conversation, they're at least going to want to talk to him about it. If you're expanding the circle of people, we're going to come into the scope of at least an interview if not a more, higher ranks conversation with the special counsel.

BASH: And the point is that when they go and have the interviews, maybe less so for Congress, and more so if they do with the special counsel, then they're asked questions that maybe are directly related. Maybe tangentially related but could produce answers that give a whole new line of inquiry and investigation.

KNOX: Most importantly in the sense in American politics in the last six months, is the line in the appointment of Bob Mueller that says, he's going to investigate this but he can also pursue things that arise out of this which is you're making -- BASH: Yes.

KNOX: -- super important. He can chase these down as far as he wants.

DEMIRJIAN: Which then get every witness into -- I mean, not every witness, but could get many other witnesses into other areas of legal trouble, if they're not --

KING: And plus we just know from history, these financial investigations take forever.

RAJU: Yes.

KING: They just take forever especially involving overseas, Russian witnesses and the like of that. And the point came up about the president's mind-set. In a week where he has, you know, an opportunity, I don't make so much politics out of Harvey. But the president, to his credit, took a trip down there, sent the vice president down there.

They've been working on this well. A potentially unifying moment although his critics has been, you know, out there anyway, potentially unifying moment for the president. And even he, this morning, was tweeting about this Comey -- know, did Comey already have his mind made up before he said that? Tweeting in response to probably I think to a Washington Post story about continued turmoil in the White House and some of the Trump chafing, it says, at the restrictions put on by his new chief of staff.

Now, the president decides to tweet about that. And people would say, why? Why would you do this in the middle of this where you're largely getting positive reviews about being a president in a moment of crisis.

BASH: It's proving the Washington Post story right. He is chafing. He needs an outlet. He needs a release valve.

We know that from covering this guy for two years and the release valve is Twitter. And there's -- even Kelly who is desperately trying to, he believes he's trying to save the Trump presidency and help the Trump residency with order. You know, some times if your boss is Donald Trump, maybe that order goes a little bit too far. You have to know your client.

KING: And to the point about the continued turmoil. We know how stories about the Russia investigation get under his skin. You're right. The story in the Washington Post clearly he wanted to vent about that, about General Kelly, who he praised.

And I think that's how Trump works. Yes, he likes some of it but then let's off steam sometimes. Why he was in Missouri on tax reform the other day.

We know he's been frustrated with the Secretary of State from time to time, other members of the cabinet. His chief economic adviser was publicly critical of what the president said and did after Charlottesville. So when in Missouri the president did this?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also want to welcome the many distinguished guests who are here with us for this very important event. Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, Linda McMahon, Senator Roy Blunt, Governor Greitens is here.

Lieutenant Governor Parson, Representative Sam Graves, Representative Vicky Hartzler, Billy Long. Where's Billy? Blaine Luetkemeyer. Where's Blaine? Representative Jason Smith, Representative Ann Wagner. Hi, Ann. Good job, Ann. And I don't know, we have so many more. Anybody I forgot?


KING: There's someone --

DEMIRJIAN: Broadcasters.

KING: Gary Cohn, the chief economic adviser, someone who's been a critically key player in a tax reform debate is right there and the president knows it.

RAJU: Yes. And it shows any criticism really gets under his skin, particularly from his own people. And, you know, that reporting suggests that one reason why he's not getting rid of him is that he needs Cohn right now for the tax reform push in Congress. But doesn't mean he's not -- that it doesn't mean that the president's happy with his chief economic adviser.

KING: Karoun, Manu, Olivier, Dana, anyone I forget? Thanks for coming.

BASH: You thank Gary Cohn if you want.

KING: Thanks Gary. Thanks everyone.

All right. Up next, we turn back to this devastation in the way, the recovery efforts back in Texas. Thousands of people fleeing the rising waters in Houston. We talk to one woman whose unusual pet was saved from the floodwaters.


[12:53:18] KING: As you've watch our coverage in the past week you know many families fleeing the Houston floods refusing to leave their pets behind. One woman now praising firefighters for treating Penny the pig as a member of the family and helping to haul her off to safety. Lisa Eicher calls herself Penny's mother joins us now.

Lisa, thank you for spending the time with us and I see some of your family behind you. Your husband, four children.


KING: Pip the dog and Penny the pig. Take us through your ordeal.

EICHER: Yes, thanks all for having us.

KING: So tell me how all of this played out, and how you --I guess made the call and had the help getting first the children but then your pets, including Penny?

EICHER: Yes. Well, s no one expected -- our house filled up pretty high and -- for about 13 feet up, so no one expected the water to rise just as fast and hard as it did. So, we were kind of told (INAUDIBLE) few months ago and neighbors who have been through this before just kind of told us, you know, get plenty of food and water and be prepared to be inside for a few days and -- but that we should be fine, and so we did that.

Got the food and water and stayed here for a few days. And then Monday morning, woke up and the water was just crazy rushing, you know, like coming up our stairs faster than we imagined. It was scary. So we -- I started to panic. I knew we can't probably get out but, you know, we have Penny the pig and our family is pretty unique. So, I was just nervous about how we were going to get out.

[12:55:08] And, anyway, we -- the fire department happened to pull up just a few minutes later, and -- just kind of showed up at the right time for us, and we're just so thankful that they that they pulled up when they did. And you know, I told them right away, we've got pig, we've got two children with Down Syndrome, we got legged dog and kind of crazy in here and they just said, perfect, let's go and they got us out.

KING: Everybody looks like they're doing great right now. We appreciate everybody step in out to stop by and see how everybody's doing. It's a little hard for me on Skype. There's Penny. Penny looks very calm throughout all this. How is she handling?

EICHER: Penny's been amazing. She really handled it so well. And the -- you know, she's never been in water before, and just went through quite a bit of water. The firefighters helped carry her out, and she did awesome. She's been calm and cool throughout the whole thing.

KING: Were the firefighters a little surprised when you went through your list there of what you had to rescue?

EICHER: I think they were, but they played it cool and they, you know, they made it so easy for us and -- but they, you know, they admit that that was quite an adventure and they'd never done that before. So, it was pretty cool for everyone.

KING: To many you make wrinkles for your fed and the good and heartwarming stories of this past week. Lisa Eicher, thank you so much for sharing your story with us and showing your family with us here, and good luck. Best of luck in the days ahead. Appreciate it very much. And thanks for joining us on --

EICHER: Thank you guys so much.

KING: Thank you, thank you. Good luck.

Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS. I'll see you back here 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Hope you can get up early with us. Jim Acosta continuing our breaking news coverage after a quick break.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Jim Acosta in for Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us.

We start with the first steps on the road to recovery in Texas and it is coming for desperate residents who have lost their homes and businesses --