Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Corker Aide Disputes Trump's Endorsement Claim; White House Demands Deal With Dems on DACA; Russian Lawyer: Trump Jr. Meeting Not About Clinton "Dirt". Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 9, 2017 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Corker responded calling the White House an adult day care center. We should note Corker's spokesman tells us the president's claims are not true and in fact, the president called Corker to urge him to run again and even offered his endorsement.

Believe who you will, but the administration has also just released its list of immigration priorities, late last night. These are its priorities in order to strike a deal with Democrats on so-called Dreamers and on DACA legislation, topping the list, funding for a border wall on the southern border and a crackdown on sanctuary cities, more on that in just a moment.

First to the White House, our Joe Johns is there with more this morning. So, it's just sort of unbelievable to see this all playing out in public.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: In public is the word. It's very extraordinary Poppy. A prominent senator from the president's own party, the powerful Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, just recently announced he will not seek re-election.

Now, appearing to take off the gloves in this very public spat with the president of the United States, a couple other quotes from "The New York Times" interview, "He concerns me," "He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation." And this, "I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it's a situation of trying to contain him."

You know, the significance of this is that this is a Republican senator from Trump country, from Tennessee, where Mr. Trump won with 60 percent of the vote, an individual who has been described as one of the closest senators to the president of the United States. Now, taking off the gloves, articulating some of the biggest grievances from Congressional Republicans that often are expressed in private. Bob Corker taking it public. Now also, showing the president for sure that he's not the only one in Washington who can be a counterpuncher. Poppy, back to you.

HARLOW: Joe Johns at the White House, we'll see what is next in this feud. Thank you very much. Meantime, new signs of trouble when it comes to protecting hundreds of thousands of so-called "Dreamers" living in the United States. Democratic leadership is crying foul this morning when they look at the demand list from the White House on gives in terms of what they will need to give to get a DACA deal done.

Our Sunlen Serfaty is on the Hill with more. And look, Democrats are going to have to give and that's a reality. What they're willing to give they haven't been very clear on but the White House is now very clear on what it wants.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. They are. Because they came out with a laundry list of demands which really reads like a list of hardline immigration policies from front to back and it certainly isn't going over well among Democrats up here on Capitol Hill. Many of these action items demanded by the White House really are deal breakers for many Democrats including funding and constructing a border wall, cracking down on sanctuary cities, putting greater restrictions on illegal immigration and cracking down on unaccompanied minors entering into the U.S. among many other items.

This list essentially is a nonstarter for many Democrats and a point we can say look how far we've come in just a short amount of time. It was only a month ago where Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, were over at the White House and they expressed a lot of openness and optimism at potentially brokering a deal with President Trump.

Now, in response to this list from the White House, Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, singing a much different tune. They say in a statement, quote, "We told the president at our meeting that we were open to reasonable border security measures alongside the DREAM Act, but this list goes so far beyond what is reasonable. This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise. The list includes the wall, which was explicitly ruled out of the negotiations. If the president was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so."

The demands of the White House, though, stop short of issuing any sort of veto threat for any item on this list. So, clearly, the White House really laying in a very firm and aggressive marker at the start of these negotiations. But looking at this list, you can certainly imagine that many Democrats, this has really made them move a little farther from the negotiating table rather than closer. And of course, all of this on a very firm time limit -- six months, the president has given Congress to broker a deal on this. Poppy?

HARLOW: Sunlen Serfaty on the Hill, thank you for that reporting.

Let's talk about all of this, now with me, CNN political analyst, Ron Brownstein and Abby Phillip.

Abby, let me just get to the Corker stuff first and then we'll talk about DACA and we'll talk about the vice president walking out of the football game yesterday. But one of the other things that struck me that Bob Corker said in this astounding interview with "The New York Times" last night is he said that he is speaking for, quote, "The vast majority of our caucus." Who he went on to say, quote, "understands what we're dealing with here."

The thing is, when you look at the polling among Republicans in this country, the president polls better than establishment Republican leadership in Congress. Should the president be worried about this or not really?

[10:05:09] ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think for the time being, it's not a worry for his personal political future, but I think Bob Corker was essentially saying that the people who work with the president on a regular basis, members on the Hill, agree with him by large that the president is -- needs to be managed by his staff on a regular basis. That he can be impetuous and sometimes dangerous. And that, I think, is not good for the president long term.

Look, he needs these Republicans in order to do the things that he needs to do on the Hill, and there's not a whole lot of confidence. Now, you know, when it comes to voters some of the Republicans are in states where the president won big, some of them are in states where the president did not win so big. So, it just depends on who they are.

And I think Corker is in a unique position. He's worked from the inside for many, many months. You know, several months ago when he first made some muted criticisms of the White House, essentially saying, you guys need to get your act together. That really shook up a lot of White House staffers because they listened to Bob Corker. They think that he is an honest broker.

And so, the reality is that for a long time, people within the White House cared about what Bob Corker had to say because he was trying to hold their hand. He's no longer doing that and that just reflects how bad the situation has gotten in terms of whether or not people on the Hill think that the president is up to the job.

HARLOW: And to Abby's point, I mean, this is a guy who stood next to the president during the campaign, campaigned with him, has had so many phone calls with the president, so yes, it did certainly shake the White House.

Ron, to you, let's talk about why this matters policy wise for the American people. As Abby rightly pointed out, he's an important Republican vote on a number of things including right now with the president and then his tax reform. He's going to need Corker likely. Also, he chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and you have the Iran deal that now is likely going to be punted back to Congress this week. If the president decertifies as he's reportedly going to say he will. So, what does this mean for the American people, aside from the bickering, why does it matter to them?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's vastly more important than bickering. I mean, in the call this a feud is to kind of understate the importance. And the uniqueness of what we are seeing, certainly we have had other examples of a chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee criticize policy positions of a president from his own party.

William Fulbright in the 1960s was an early and leading critic of the Vietnam War under Lyndon Johnson. But I am not aware of a precedent of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair of the same party basically saying the president of the United States is so reckless, so volatile that he is a threat to the security of the nation and the world. I mean that is an extraordinary charge that goes beyond any policy -- specific policy disagreement. It certainly speaks to what I think is the greatest political vulnerability of the president.

I mean, there are policies of the president that draw majority disapproval, building the wall, withdrawing from the climate change agreement, repealing the ACA. But the core problem he's facing in public opinion are the doubts about whether he is personally up to the job and his values, his qualifications, his experience, his judgment. And Senator Corker, I think, is pushing right at that button and validating it.

And as you correctly pointed out, one of the most explosive things in what he said was essentially virtually all Senate Republicans agree -

HARLOW: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: -- with his assessment even though they won't say so publicly.

So, yes, I mean, there will be potential policy implications of this on Iran, maybe even more on taxes where Senator Corker has already sent up a warning sign about raising the deficit. But I think it goes to a much larger question about whether the nation and the world can trust the stability of the commander in chief of the United States. And that I think as I say is pretty unprecedented for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair of the same party to question.

HARLOW: And as Errol Louis pointed out last hour, he needs Corker. He needs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to approve some really key positions, ambassadorships, et cetera, that are still vacant.

Let's move on to the vice president, Abby, walking out of the Colts and Niner's game yesterday after some of the 49ers knelt during the national anthem. You can argue about that. America is pretty divided on whether players should kneel during the national anthem or not. But something else really significant happened over the weekend. And that is more white supremacists rallies and protests in Charlottesville. And the president has tweeted twice applauding his vice president for walking out of that game because of the kneeling and the White House has said nothing, not a single tweet, about what we saw in Charlottesville over the weekend.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, I think, it's really telling and its part of a longer pattern that we've seen over the last few weeks where this White House is much more concerned with prying open this culture war wedge that is created by some of these issues and really leaning into it, creating a whole new news cycle around the NFL.

[10:10:00]I mean, frankly, Poppy, there are probably as many NFL players kneeling for the national anthem as there were white supremacists in Charlotte marching. And so you -- I think a lot of people are looking at the situation and wondering, why isn't the White House sort of establishing what's really wrong which is unequivocally that white supremacists and neo- Nazis and so on are wrong. And that, you know, perhaps reasonable people can disagree about whether the national anthem protest is an appropriate thing. That being said, I mean, I think, there are also just a lot of other questions about the propriety of setting something like this up and acknowledging that it was kind of a setup.

I mean, I think, that that kind of undermines the whole message here. It doesn't seem very much like it was a spontaneous thing. I think the president's repeated tweets about it seem to indicate that he asked for this to happen. And that he was happy that it did. And that I think undermines their entire message around this episode.

HARLOW: Ron, we got 30 seconds and I'm being told we have to go. But just your final thought on this to put a button on this.

BROWNSTEIN: I think Abby is right. I mean, the president has turned sharply toward I think cultural divisive issues in particular in the aftermath of the failure to repeal the ACA which hurt him significantly with his older and blue collar white base. And he has found a series of wedge issues to try to rally back on cultural grounds, voters who he alienated through his economic agenda on health care and potentially may do so again on taxes.

HARLOW: We'll be watching. Ron Brownstein and Abby Philip, nice to have you both, thank you very much.

Ahead for us, a lot this hour was the meeting between Donald Trump, Jr. and the Russians about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton or not? Pamela Brown has our CNN exclusive reporting coming up. And inside the mind of a future killer, CNN gets more information about what he was thinking before he carried out the Las Vegas massacre. Plus, Steve Bannon's war on the Republican establishment is growing, adding more GOP targets to his list.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:16:15] HARLOW: This morning we are getting new reporting on the Russian investigation. CNN has obtained new details about the setup to the meeting that took place at Trump Tower between Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and that Russian lawyer.

Joining us in Washington with her exclusive reporting, CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown. All right, it is complex but important walk us through it.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So, Poppy, new documents have provided to CNN show how some of the meeting participants about infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting planned to make their case about why the meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. did not amount to collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. An attorney for the Russian billionaire, Aras Agalarov, who allegedly pushed for that meeting between senior members of Trump's team and a Russian lawyer, provided CNN with e-mails and documents to make that argument. And the new information is intended to contrast with that initial e-mail pitching the meeting to Trump Jr. which as you know promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

The e-mail we obtained between the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and publicist Rob Goldstone the morning of the meeting asked for a Russian American lobbyist we're not of mentioned to be added because of his knowledge of the adoption issue. And a five page talking point memo also provided to CNN shows Veselnitskaya's case to repeal the Magnitsky Act to improve U.S./Russia relations with just a passing reference to a possible financier of Clinton's campaign. And these documents were provided to us by Scott Balber who represents Aras and Emin Agalarov the billionaire real estate developer and his pop star son who requested that meeting. Poppy?

HARLOW: So on top of that help us understand why the e-mails and the documents that you received from that attorney, why do they help make this case?

BROWN: Well, if you'll recall the June 2016 meeting was pitched by the Agalarov's publicist to Donald Trump, Jr. as an opportunity to get damaging information on Clinton. Trump seemed receptive to hearing them out on that and he subsequently said that Veselnitskaya did, indeed, start the meeting talking about, quote, "individuals connected to Russia" funding Clinton. But he said, ultimately, she provided no details to support her claims. She then moved on to focus on the U.S. sanctions under the Magnitsky Act and the adoption of Russian children.

Now, Balber who went to Moscow to obtain the documents from Veselnitskaya said in an interview with us that the e-mails and the talking points show that she was focused primarily on repealing the Magnitsky Act, not providing damaging information on Clinton. The message was muddled he said when it was passed on, like a game of telephone from Veselnitskaya through the Agalarov then finally to Rob Goldstone who e-mailed Don Jr. And he also suggested that Goldstone, quote, "probably exaggerated and maybe willfully contorted the facts for the purpose of making the meeting interesting to the Trump people." We should add, Poppy that Goldstone declined to comment for the story.

HARLOW: And before you go, Pamela, you do have some new reporting that's interesting on the question of what -- so what exactly did Donald Trump, Jr. do ahead of the meeting?

BROWN: That's right because as you'll recall in the e-mails between Goldstone and Don Jr. there was an indication that he was trying to get in touch with Emin Agalarov. So Balber provided new details that, in fact, Don Jr. was trying to talk to Emin Agalarov before the meeting and Trump said as you'll recall, he could not remember if they ever talked and might have just exchanged e-mails. But Balber says that according to his client the two did end up talking. There was a conversation. Emin describes a brief call where he urged Trump to take the meeting but says he doesn't remember anything substantive discussed beyond that.

As you'll recall, Poppy, initially when there was the insinuation in the e-mails, both Don Jr. and Emin Agalarov said they didn't recall a conversation taking place.

[10:20:06] Then we find out that there were three calls that the phone records showed. And now we're learning that Emin Agalarov does remember a phone conversation he had with Don Jr. just before that meeting.

HARLOW: OK, Pamela Brown great reporting as always. Thank you for walking us through it.

Let's get some reaction now from Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He sits on the House Intelligence Committee. Thank you for being here, Congressman. And hopefully you heard Pamela's reporting. As someone who sits on the Intelligence Committee, what's your reaction?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: Good morning, Poppy. Thank you for having me back.

Well, look how far we have come. You know, just about six months ago, we heard denial after denial that anyone in the Trump family had ever met any Russian. And now we know that not only had they met Russians but they were taking meetings when the subject of the e-mail was Clinton, Russia, private confidential, we got dirt on Hillary Clinton and Don Jr. saying, great can we hold it until the end of the summer recognizing the political timing and how much that would help them. So there's a lot --

HARLOW: But Congressman -

SWALWELL: Yes. Go ahead.

HARLOW: Pamela's reporting is interesting because it is signifying that there was some knowledge among the Trump team that this was going to be about the Magnitsky Act and not about dirt on Hillary Clinton. Does that change your perception at all, politics aside?

SWALWELL: No. The Magnitsky Act actually was about sanctions. So they clearly had an interest in working to ease Russian sanctions. But I don't think anybody believes that in the peak of a presidential campaign that the Trump team was interested in working on adoption issue in a foreign adversary's country. This was about getting information about Hillary Clinton. It also may have been a dangle on behalf of the Russians to see and probe what the interest was from the Trump team. But I'd say, Poppy, bring them all before the Intelligence Committees allow us to question them and test the stories against each other and then we can tell the American people what is the truth.

HARLOW: Let me get your reaction to the president's new message this morning to North Korea. He wrote on Twitter, as he often does, about North Korea. Here's what he writes, "Our country has been unsuccessfully dealing with North Korea for 25 years, giving billions of dollars back and getting nothing. Policy didn't work!"

Now, he has a point. I mean, as you know, diplomacy has not worked in the long term with North Korea. But this is coupled with Republican senator Bob Corker saying that the president is being irresponsible. That he could lead us on the path to in Corker's words, World War III. Too far?

SWALWELL: No, not too far at all because we're dealing with a nuclear armed country and that the president continues to make threats to an individual who I think is being pushed into a corner. And Poppy, I'm rooting for the president here, though, you know. Just as I root for the pilot in a plane. You know, we need him to succeed. So, he has an opportunity to first unite the world and I think when he goes to Asia the best thing he can do is to sit down with the Japanese, the South Koreans and the Chinese and show that we will not tolerate a nuclear North Korea. But also, to be up front with the American people about every option he has exhausted that would require us to have military action. So, I don't believe that we've fully exhausted diplomacy or sanctions or having the Chinese put pressure on the North Koreans. It's a very erratic foreign policy right now that he's exercising.

HARLOW: Clearly, Congressman, you're not happy with what word you used, I think, barstool diplomacy, the tweets from the president. But let me put up a tweet of yours that struck me from last week, quote, "An arsonist President. Set fires all over the world, and hope the smoke obstructs everyone from seeing what little has been accomplished."

An arsonist president, do words like that help the perception of the United States overseas? Do words like that help Americans and America? Or are you playing into what you're criticizing the president for?

SWALWELL: Poppy, what we have seen is that time and time again, this president whether it's commenting on African-Americans, football players, exercising their right to speech, or stirring the pot in North Korea while his Secretary of State is trying to negotiate peace, or whether it's picking a fight with a mayor who is, you know, wading in water as her city suffers from a hurricane.

He just seems to want to, you know, create these little fires all over the world, all over our country. And I think it's to obstruct people from seeing that he has very little to show here in the United States. People aren't doing better. Paychecks aren't growing. Health care costs are not coming down. All the promises he's made are not happening for the American people.

HARLOW: Congressman, I hear you. I hear you. But I'm just asking about your words. I mean, you're critical of the president's words and his use of Twitter and then you take to Twitter and you call him an arsonist president.

SWALWELL: Yes. Well, I think we need to call this bully, you know, what he is. And hopefully, more people like Bob Corker, who -- just like myself, I don't think is prone to wanting to, you know, make such bold statements is also starting to speak up because America has had enough.

[10:25:02] We're in anxious times right now and we have a leader who has failed to unite us. And the only other option is for its legislative leaders to put a legislative straightjacket on this president. And restrict his ability to hurt people and harm people. Because otherwise Poppy, he's leading us into World War III. He's going to be putting in place very, very hurtful immigration policies and it's time for people who know better to step up because we're not helpless.

HARLOW: Quickly before we go because we are running out of time. On immigration, you bring it up, the White House outlined its priorities to make a deal with Democrats on DACA, right, for these hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, topping that list funding for a southern border wall, 10,000 more I.C.E. officers, cracking down on sanctuary cities, stopping catch and release of undocumented immigrants. Democrats are going to have to give something and your leadership and the party, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, say this is a nonstarter. What should Democrats give?

SWALWELL: Well, we should, you know, hold the president to the deal that he agreed to in the Oval Office. And now, it sounds like the art of the deal means crossing your fingers behind your back. He promised that - the 800,000 Dreamers --

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: What should give Democrats give, Congressman? He never said it would be for nothing.

SWALWELL: Well, he needs to help the 800,000 Dreamers who are going to be leaving this country in the next six months because he has failed to help them and he told Democrats that he would sign the DREAM Act. So, he should sign the Dream Act. -- What we are giving is that we will make sure that this country is still a diverse one that has 800,000 kids who only know America as their home. That is what we should give. We should not, you know, use them as bargaining chips so that he can have, you know, a wall on our southern border. We're not going to go for that.

HARLOW: All right. Let's have you back because there's more to dive into there.

SWALWELL: I would love to come back. I love coming on.

HARLOW: Please come back.

SWALWELL: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Thank you, Congressman.

All right, chilling new details about the Las Vegas killer, for years before the massacre he spoke about his mindset, his money, his gambling, the question now is, will this help police determine a motive? Next.