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Congress has Six Months for DACA Fix; Trump Ends DACA; Hurricane Irma Strengthens; Tension on Russia Investigations. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 5, 2017 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us. Major breaking immigration news. The attorney general puts 800,000 so-called dreamers on notice, their legal status will soon be revoked.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers, and prevents human suffering. Failure to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and terrorism.


KING: Plus, Hurricane Irma now a dangerous category five. Puerto Rico in her short-term path. Cuba and Florida on notice, they best get ready.


GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: This morning the National Hurricane Center upgraded to a category five with winds up to 175 miles per hour. It's a big storm. I talked to the president last night. The president promised me all of the federal resources that we might need.


KING: And Congress is back with a parked and consequential month ahead. One overriding question, can the president do business with leaders of his own party after spending the summer attacking them?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I said, Mitch, get to work and let's get it done. They should have had this last one done. They lost by one vote. For a thing like that to happen is a disgrace. And, frankly, it shouldn't have happened, that I can tell you.


KING: We begin, though, with the major breaking immigration news and talk about passing the buck. Candidate Trump promised bold immigration changes, including ending Obama administration protections for so- called dreamers. But he took more than seven months to make his decision and then left it to his attorney general to break the news.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm here today to announce that the program known at DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded.

Our nation is comprised of good and decent people who want their government's leaders to fulfill their promises and advance an immigration policy that serves the national interests. We are people are compassion and we are people of law. But there is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration law.


KING: That was last hour. The attorney general announcing the end to DACA. That's the program that granted work permits to undocumented immigrants brought here illegally by their parents. Democrats call it a shameful and a heartless decision by the president. A lot of Republicans are unhappy too.

A lot of ground to cover in the hour ahead, beginning with the giant asterisk in today's announcement, enforcement won't happen for another six months. That's what the administration terms a wind down. That does give Congress six months to act. But if it won't or can't, then what happens on March 5th, 2018, six months from today?

CNN's Juan Carlos Lopez was just on a call with the Department of Homeland Security.

Tell me, how do they say this is going to play out?

JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN EN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: We're going to have, John, six months for people to renew their permits. Permits will be honored. Nothing will change. They will not take any new applications after today. But those who have these current permits that last two years will be able to renew them by that October 15th deadline.

Now, I did ask the question, what happens when the permits expire and these beneficiaries become again fully undocumented immigrant? They have no type of protection. Will they go after them because they have all their information? They said, no, they are a low priority. So there really is no answer.

What we know is that these are going to be six months for people to renew permits and for the involved parties to be able to clean house.

KING: And six months of uncertainty for those who think at the end of that period they're going to have to leave, many of them going home to a country they never knew. The president promised compassion on this, as you know. But you got a

pretty good sense of this, Juan Carlos, last month when you interviewed the vice president where this was going, right?

LOPEZ: Yes, I had the opportunity to asked the vice president about what was going to happen with deferred action. And, John, elections have consequences. We're seeing it today. But this is what the vice president told us.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And when he makes that decision, he'll make it, as he said, with big heart. What the American people want and what the American people supported in the last election was a president who was committed to the principle that a nation without borders is not a nation.


LOPEZ: Congress has tried twice and they haven't been able to do it. The question is, will they be able to do it in just six months?

KING: Juan Carlos Lopez, appreciate the reporting and your insights there. Thank you.

Here with me to share their reporting and insights, "The Atlantic's" Molly Ball, Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times," CNN's Jeff Zeleny, and Julie Bykowicz of "The Associated Press."

I want to get to what the administration just did, but I want to start with how. This was the president's signature campaign issue, especially in the primaries. Immigration, immigration, immigration. Now the White House is telling us the president was somehow tormented by this decision. Sorry, he's the president. Why the attorney general? Why -- if this is so important, this is 800,000 people, plus the domino effect on their families, plus the domino effect on the economy, as you see the reaction coming in from the business community, which is not happy with the president. Where's the president?

[12:05:11] MOLLY BALL, "THE ATLANTIC": He's not the one making the announcement because clearly he doesn't want to be the one to take ownership of this. And, you know, to your point, if this was something that they had deemed clearly unconstitutional and wanted to fulfill this promise so badly on day one, the president could have done it or he could have sent Jeff Sessions out to do it after Jeff Sessions was confirmed.

Instead, there was this long period, this Hamlet act, the hemming and hawing. And the only reason anything was done at all, you know, I think the president would have liked to just have the status quo continue. And the only reason anything was done was that this deadline was imposed by the conservative attorneys general threatening to add DACA to their lawsuit.

Otherwise, you know, this administration issued 200,000 DACA permits. If they thought it was unconstitutional, they didn't have to do that.

KING: That's a very important point. And if you're a Trump supporter out there and immigration is one of your issue, which is entirely your right, listen to what Molly Ball just said. The president would have preferred to leave this in place. He was forced to do this and the attorney general is one, we are told, who said, Mr. President, I'm not going into court to defend the Obama administration policy. So you need to tell me what to do because those court cases are coming up.

But sending out Jeff Sessions sends a signal. The president, on the one hand, you say he preferred the policy stay in place. He wishes he had a magic wand. Apparently, right, now indication from this White House that if Congress, as big an "if" as you can get because they can't even type the word immigration on a piece of paper, but if they did something, the president conceivably would sign it. And yet announcing the resending of the policy is the attorney general who comes out and this is -- this is a signal to the Trump base, uses the term illegal aliens on a couple of occasions.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And executive amnesty. And he said that they -- you know, it's a national security threat. Taking the jobs of Americans.

Completely at odds and discordened (ph) with what Republican leaders, many of them in Congress are saying. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, he said it was a well-intentioned loss.

So what has just happened today is, you know, the immigration rift in the Republican Party is split open once again here. And the big question is, will this basically non-action by the White House force Congress to do something? They haven't yet, in the Bush administration on immigration, in the Obama administration on immigration. Will Donald Trump be the unifying factor on immigration?

We don't know. He could. There's a fascinating press conference this afternoon between Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, if there is going to be some type of immigration bill on the House, it has to be bipartisan. But the House of Representatives is still the biggest problem here.

So the White House, we'll see if the president speaks on this later today. But by having Jeff Sessions go out there, someone the president is basically out of favor with, it is a copout in one respect and it's also a sign to his base that, you know, this is --

KING: I just -- what is -- what is the sign to the base, that --

JONATHAN MARTIN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it's a reminder that --

KING: Yes, we're rescinding this policy, but we really didn't want to. And if Congress steps in and does something, we really don't mean it?

MARTIN: Well, it's a reminder once again that this president, more than any principle or ideology, is driven by one overriding factor, the coverage. He does not want to receive bad press coverage. That's what is his overriding impulse and he knows that the coverage is going to be brutal of this. And, you know, especially on cable TV. And so he does not want to be the face of this. That's why Sessions went out there today.

But I think there's real peril here for the Republicans if they don't pass something. And if they do pass something. If they don't pass something, then they're going to motivate a lot of folks who don't typically show up in the mid-term elections. If they do pass something, think about this next year for conservatives. You're going to be asked to go to the polls to support a party that did not repeal the Affordable Care Act but that did give amnesty to thousands of undocumented kids who came to this country. I mean that is a real problem for the right next year if they have not fulfilled one of their biggest promises but they do DACA. That's a -- that's a real challenge.

KING: If things -- excuse me one second. If things are easy and clear, you issue a short statement on it. This is two full pages just released by the White House, the president of the United States, who would not go on camera to announce this policy. He left it to his attorney general.

What he says off the top is perfectly understandable. He is saying, the legislative branch, not the executive branch, writes the laws. That is a -- there are many people who think what the Obama administration did is unconstitutional. There's a debate about that in the courts, but there are many people who think the president should not do this. That's the Congress' job.

But then the president goes on to say here in this, Congress now has the opportunity to advance responsible immigration reform that puts American jobs and American security first. He also says, I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents.

So the president of the United States is leaving the door open here to signing legislation that lets the dreamers stay. In the meantime, he's saying, in six months you have to go and he's punting it to the Congress, which is the giant "if."

JULIE BYKOWICZ, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": And the fascinating dynamic to watch will be if Congress does come up with something, how does the president play into that? Is he going to go out and publicly encourage people to back lawmakers who back this change? Is he going to sort of be in the background? His next move on this, he's clearly punted to Congress, but when they do some sort of package, he's going to have to weigh in one way or another and that's a difficult position for him to be in again.

[12:10:22] And the question is, again, if they just brought a clean bill that said, these 800,000 people can stay, you could get overwhelming support for that. A lot of conservatives would vote no. But if it was open -- if the Democrats went along, you --

MARTIN: If he went -- if Trump got behind it, it would pass easily.

KING: Right. So if the president came out and said -- MARTIN: A clean bill.

KING: I view the Obama policies unconstitutional. I'm going to delay this for six months. Send me a clean bill. You could get that done. But the question is, what will he do now? Because there are so many competing proposals in Congress. Some people say that's the way for the president to get his border wall money. The Democrats say, no, we will not -- we will not attach those two issues. Others say that's the way to get quotas on illegal immigration. Democrats say, no, we will not join those issues. How do you get this done? Can you get it done?

ZELENY: If past is prologue, he will not take a leadership role on this at all, as he really didn't with health care or other things. So that is the issue here. And this is just one of the things on an extraordinarily huge list of agenda items.

And Microsoft just issued a statement just a short time ago saying that immigration should take priority over tax reform. So you're going to hear the business community saying, do immigration.

So to Jonathan's point, the president didn't want to be the face of bad news here, largely because CEOs and others, his crowd, if you will, are largely against this. The business community is against this.

BALL: And I think that's a really important point, actually, because the Republican-controlled Congress is coming under very, very heavy pressure from the business community. That's a voice that they care about a lot. And you have heard Paul Ryan starting to go out on a limb on this issue. We've always known sort of where his heart was on it, but he has never wanted to take ownership of it publicly. And if you remember, when comprehensive immigration reform passed the Senate, it was the House of Representatives that wouldn't put it on the floor, where it would have passed with mostly Democratic votes.

KING: Right.

BALL: That's still the case today. You put the Dream Act on the floor. It passes. Albeit with mostly Democratic votes, which violates a stated principle of the speakership. But it would happen and with this pressure from the business community they stand to lose thousands of workers every week if DACA suddenly goes away. And they -- and they care about that.

KING: Yes. And the timing is important to note. We're going to continue the conversation in a minute.

The timing is important to note because they need to raise the debt ceiling, quicksand for Republicans, pass a spending bill, always controversial for Republicans. Now you drop immigration on their lap with a deadline. If they don't get it done this year, and there are only 12 legislative days left, I think you could actually work a little harder to if you wanted to, Congress, but 12 legislative days left, then you get into next year where there's an election year. Good luck. It's not going to happen.

MARTIN: And two hurricanes.

KING: Two hurricanes coming. We'll continue the conversation in just a moment.

Up next, more on DACA.

Plus, still recovering from Harvey and bracing for Irma. Emergency declarations in place as a dangerous category five storm now approaches land. Puerto Rico first. Florida could be in the path ahead.


[12:17:09] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREISA MARTINEZ, DACA RECIPIENT: If this is the way that Donald Trump shows his love, I don't really want it. That means that like people like myself today, it doesn't matter if it's in six months or today. It puts people like me and stuff into the pipeline for deportation. And that is something that is owned not only by him but by his party.


KING: That's Greisa Martinez. You see the White House behind her there. She's the voice of one of the many of the 800,000 young people who will be impacted by today's decision on what is known at DACA. The Trump administration now says it's up to Congress. House Speaker Paul Ryan, as we discussed in the last bloc, among those saying this is wrong, Mr. President. But hopefully he says Congress will step up.

The business community is mad. I think you mentioned Apple, the Chamber of Commerce has said, wrong way to do this. I've got John McCain here. I have other Republicans here.

What does this tell us about the president, number one? This is -- I keep wanting to say it's keeping a campaign promise, but I'm not sure that it is. It's at least temporarily keeping a campaign promise?

BALL: Well, he also had a way, as a candidate, and he still does, of sort of promising both sides of every issue. So promising to do -- to take care of the dreamers and to rescind DACA. So if the dreamers end up getting taken care of by Congress, he will have, I guess, gotten both sides of that.

He also seems to have a way of getting the worst of both political worlds, right, because he is now setting himself up to be blamed for ending DACA, which is an unpopular thing to do. You know, we keep talking about pandering to this base. But even among Trump voters, the vast majority think that the so-called dreamers ought to be able to stay in this country.

And the president, by putting out the narrative that he was personally tormented, that he emotionally cared about these people, he has then portrayed himself as heartless for seeking to end this program.

KING: And as Molly talks, you see pictures. That's Denver, Colorado, a protest there. A relatively small protest but important to watch these demonstrations around the country against the president's decision to rescind in six months the protections for the so-called dreamers.

We saw some arrests outside of Trump Tower a short time ago. Other protests. There's a large one -- you just saw Greisa Martinez -- that's across from the White House, as this plays out.

My question now is, every time -- we can go back to McCain, Kennedy, Bush, the George W. Bush administration. Every time the Congress has tried this in the last 10, 12 years. No, quicksand --

BALL: Yes.

KING: Quicksand, off the rails, can't get bipartisan agreement. Is there any indication -- as the speaker says it's important, Democrats are saying we'd love to work with Republicans on this one. Is -- but for all of those words, is there any indication, any hope given what we've seen on this issue for the last decade plus than what we've seen out of this Congress the last seven months that they can do this?

BYKOWICZ: No, I don't think so. I think -- just going back to what Molly said at the beginning, it's so true, we wouldn't even be talking about this if it weren't for that lawsuit. It really put this deadline on the White House to do something about an issue that they clearly didn't want to touch right now. And then if you look over to Congress, they've got this long list of things that have to be done and then you pile on tax reform and tax cuts and still getting back to health care at some point. I don't think Congress wants to touch this until the last minute possible. Then you get into next year, the last moment possible, and we're already talking about mid-term elections.

[12:20:13] ZELENY: The president wants the House and the Senate to own this. I think the only different dynamic here among those immigration debates from the Bush era and the Obama era is President Trump. If someone does prevail on him, you know, that he should lead on this, if the business community prevails on him or if his other advisers, the West Wing is split on this toward leaning toward him doing something. That's the only different dynamic here. But we have not seen him as of yet want to get involved in the, you know, the duty of legislating here. So I think I'm skeptical as well that he's the only different dynamic here for -- a piece of the puzzle.

KING: And he would -- and he would have to not punt it to the attorney general. He would have to look the American people in the eye and say, during the campaign I called this amnesty. Now I've changed my mind.

ZELENY: So there's not much sign that he will do that, but he's the only different dynamic.

MARTIN: Well, he would have to look House conservatives in the eye and say, I'm going to come campaign for you and I'm going to have -- I'm going to give you air cover if you vote for this. And if you have a primary and they beat you over the head with tis, guess what, I'm going to come in and I'm going to help you win your primary because I'm going to sign this bill and I'm going to stand with you. That's how this gets done. It gets done if the House conservatives, who fear a primary more than anything else in their lives, have cover from Trump. The Senate can pass this easily. It's the House conservatives.

KING: But I'm still not sure with the president, at 30 something percent approval rating, even that, even if he promised that, even if he invested in it, that they would take -- think he has the strength to do it. Everybody sit tight. We'll continue the conversation though.

But we want to turn quickly to another story we're closely following. Forecasters now watching every move of Hurricane Irma. It's now a dangerous category five, approaching the Caribbean. Whether it hits the U.S. is still unclear, but Florida already declaring a state of emergency. FEMA may be asking -- may have to -- may be forced to pivot and help other states, even as it deals with southwest Texas.

Meteorologist Chad Myers with us now from the Weather Center.

Chad, what's the latest on where Irma's heading?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Irma's heading towards south Florida. Whether it makes that right-hand turn before it gets there is anybody's guess. But that's truly our only hope for a miss to Florida is a big right turn.

Now, it would still be a devastating storm if it hit Cuba and then Florida, but maybe only a cat two, not a cat five.

Let me give you an idea. Category five begins at 157 miles per hour. This storm is 180. So if there was a category six, we'd be pushing it. It doesn't exist, but you get the idea.

This is a major storm. There have only been six other storms this strong in the Atlantic Ocean or the Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico since the Hurricane Center has been tracking this stuff. Six. So this is somewhere up there.

We're going to see Antigua, we're going to see Barbuda, we're going to see Anguilla get damaged tremendously from this storm as it moves directly over those islands at about 160 to 180 miles per hour. If the storm stays to the south and hits Cuba, that will be a devastating effect for Cuba as a 150 mile-per-hour storm and then turning up this way. If it misses Cuba, it will stay strong and then turn to the right and possibly miss America. Those are our two best guesses. Those are our two best options.

Now the models have been going right towards south Florida, right toward the Florida Straits, right toward (INAUDIBLE) and then turning to the right and hitting south Florida. The latest brand new model that is just out is now taking this storm and brushing Miami Beach, missing east coast of Florida and then turning it back toward Georgia on Tuesday.

So could there still be some hope? So you're telling me there's a chance.


KING: We'll keep in touch, Chad, over the next several days. We'll keep an eye on Irma. We'll keep in touch with Chad.

Appreciate it, Chad.

Up next, President Trump, Mitch McConnell meeting face-to-face today for the first time since that contentious phone call as Congress gets back to work facing a big pile of controversial and controversial issues.


[12:28:08] KING: It's like the first day of school here in Washington. Summer officially over for Congress. Today, lawmakers coming back to Washington facing a huge legislative lift. Among some of the big ticket items, approving Harvey relief fund, a budget bill, dealing with the debt ceiling. That's not all. There's also three separate Russia investigations, at least three, going on in Congress right now as the special counsel, Robert Mueller, leads the criminal investigation.

CNN's Manu Raju has some exclusive new CNN reporting about those investigations. With us live from Capitol Hill.

Manu, tell us about this new phase. What you have learned, along with Evan Perez, is signs of growing tension between The Hill investigations and the special counsel.

MANU RAJU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and perhaps this is not surprising given that there are three investigations that are happening on The Hill and there's little communication between the three different committees on The Hill that are doing this investigation, as well as Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office, who has really kept top lawmakers out of the loop during some of the key developments of his own investigation.

Now, we have learned that after Paul Manafort met privately with the Senate Intelligence Committee in July to talk about that Trump Tower meeting from June 2016 with Donald Trump Jr., where Donald Trump Jr. was promised dirt from the Russians, after that meeting Mueller's team tried to get a copy of a transcribed interview -- get the transcript of that interview to review as part of their own investigation. But because of a deal that was worked out between Manafort and the committee, he was not allowed to get that transcript. And they're still asking for those documents.

Now also Mueller's team employing some rather aggressive tactics in the raid of Manafort's home in late July. Actually obtaining some documents that were covered by attorney/client privilege. They were required to actually return those documents that raised the question if they saw any evidence they were not entitled to.

And, John, this comes as The Hill committees are bringing in some big named witnesses this month, including Donald Trump Jr., expected to go to the Senate Intelligence Committee this month. And we know Bob Mueller also interested in talking to him as well.

John. [12:30:00] KING: Very interesting fall (ph) on all matters, including those investigations. Manu Raju, appreciate the reporting. As Congress enters this crucial stretch, President Trump will meet today with the big six, including GOP Senate and House leaders McConnell and Ryan. The topic, tax reform. That means today marks the first