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House Intel Chair Holds News Conference; Probe Into Obama-Era Uranium Deal; Trump Speech at White House; Corker Speaks Candidly; Trump on Chaos. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 24, 2017 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We were waiting for Mr. Gowdy because this announcement today involves both the House Intelligence Committee and the Oversight -- Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Mr. Gowdy, however, can't get pulled away from the meeting that he's currently in.

But with me today I have Mr. King from New York, who chairs the -- our subcommittee on emerging threats, and then Mr. DeSantis from Florida, who chairs the Oversight Committee's subcommittee on national security.

So what we're here today to announce is an inquiry into Russia's involvement into the Iranian deal that was done several years ago. This is just the beginning of this probe. We are -- we're not going to jump to any conclusions at this time. But one of the things, as you know, that we're concerned about is whether or not there was an FBI investigation. Was there a DOJ investigation? And, if so, why was Congress not informed of this matter.

So that's -- that will be the start of the probe. It will be a joint -- two different committees who will be looking into this. And we will keep you posted with further details.

Let me go to Mr. DeSantis, who's filling in for Mr. Gowdy today.

REP. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

We do have a witness who was a confidential informant who wants to talk about his role in this. And we're in contact with the Justice Department to release him from a nondisclosure agreement. If that doesn't work out in timely fashion, then we obviously would be able to subpoena him.

And on the Oversight Committee, particularly my subcommittee, we'll be focusing on how the interagency process worked in this. We don't -- we don't think that it worked out very well. So we have jurisdiction over the various national security agencies and we want to get as much information as we can and -- so we can see what happened.

NUNES: So next we'll go to Mr. King. Mr. King is of particular relevance, not only because he chairs the subcommittee that oversees FBI and DOJ and Treasury from our committee, but also because he was a chairman back at the time and sent a letter in opposition questioning the sale of this company. He sent that letter to Secretary Geithner at the time, the Treasury secretary. So we are happy that he's still here and will be the point person from our committee on this investigation.

Mr. King.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, chairman.

It's back in October 2010. Actually, I was, at that time, the ranking member in Homeland Security and myself and three other ranking members sent a letter to the Treasury Department raising very, very real concerns about why we would allow a Russian owned company to get access to 20 percent of America's uranium supply. There are any number of reasons -- objections we raised, questions we raised and it was brought to the highest levels.

I got a letter in response from Treasury Secretary Geithner, who was on the CFIUS Committee, and -- saying that this was getting full scrutiny. So this was brought to the highest levels of the Obama administration, including the Treasury secretary.

So it's important that we find out why that deal went through and certainly in view of recent allegations that have been made, or recent questions that have been raised, it's essential that this investigation, this inquiry go forward.

It will be done in full coordination with Government Oversight. There's not going to be any conflict here. We're going to go forward together in a cooperative way. And, again, specifically the emerging threats subcommittee of the Intelligence Committee has jurisdiction over the FBI's counter intelligence efforts, also at the Treasury Department. So it really fits in uniquely here.

And, again, in view of the fact that seven years ago -- in fact, seven years ago this month, I raised these objections with the Treasury secretary, who said they were being fully investigated. And, obviously, we want to see what happened to that inquiry, what information was brought to their attention, what they knew then, why they acted or didn't act and put it in context with what's come out since then.

So, again, this will go forward and, again, we look forward to working with Ron DeSantis, who is an outstanding member of Congress.

DEVIN: Thank you. So, with that, we'll take a couple of questions. We'll be happy --

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're going to drop out of that event on Capitol Hill. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, some other key members -- Republican members of Congress, announcing investigations into one particular case, the uranium deal back in the Obama administration. This has been a focus of President Trump as well. He tweeted just the other day, why isn't Congress looking into this? It involves Hillary Clinton. It involves the State Department. To some Republicans, Bill Clinton took a big money for a speaking fee. They want to know how that works out. With me to share their reporting and their insights this day, CNN's

Dana Bash, Sahil Kapur of "Bloomberg," Michael Warren of "The Weekly Standard," and Jenna Johnson of "The Washington Post."

But the big drama going on in town today, we're going to get to it in just a minute, but the Republicans surprised us with this. They have every right to have aggressive oversight of things that happened in any administration. Correct me if I'm wrong, there was a Republican House during this part of the Obama administration. If this was a big deal that needs to be investigated, why are we starting it late in 2017? Why didn't we start it several years ago?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: : I mean, it's a great question. You just heard the beginning of his remarks, Devin Nunes, the chair of the Intel Committee, suggest that Congress wasn't informed about a potential FBI investigation. We just don't know the answer. That's a really good question. We don't know the answer to it.

[12:05:11] What we do know is that the president tweeted about it a couple of days ago, on the 19th of October. Sean Hannity, Fox News, the conservative media, from Breitbart to talk radio, they have been aggressively pushing this story, saying that the mainstream media is ignoring it, that this is an example of how the Russians funneled money into American politics, they claim. Whether or not that's true, we don't know, but to try to help the Clintons and it's, you know, sort of the shoe is on both feet.

You know, we don't know, but, obviously, the fact that the -- all the Republicans, not the Democrats, but just the Republicans on the House Intel Committee gathered to announce that they're investigating this, you know, means that there is -- that there is -- that they're listening to their base.

MICHAEL WARREN, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": There were indications, maybe not of an FBI investigation, but two years ago. This is something that Peter Schweitzer wrote a book about called "Clinton Cash" that was exploring this. In fact, "The New York Times" took his book and his book's findings and explored it even further, wrote about this back in 2015. So this was something that we -- that we did know about, that members of Congress knew about, the public knew about. And, in fact, I would say that it's certainly worthy of exploring more if there's -- if certainly there's any kind of, you know, tit-for-tat here, pay for play.

But a lot of this -- these issues were dealt with during the presidential election. And it was, in fact, one of the big reasons why I think many Americans -- many Americans viewed Hillary Clinton as suspect. That there was this long trail, this long history with the Clintons of maybe not outright corruption, but really shady money situation, particularly with the Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Foundation. Politically, I would say, this has been played out. I wonder if Republicans are looking at their difficult political position going into the 2018 midterm elections and thinking, maybe some of that anti-Clinton magic will do us good. KING: Want to take a quick break and get you to the White House. The president of the United States speaking at a minority outreach event at the White House. Let's listen.

[12:07:10] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Deals that have treated our country very unfairly for many years and nobody even understood it. They didn't know what was going on. And those days are over. So we're renegotiating certain trade deals and we started the process for others. It's actually a long process, as you probably know. You have statutory requirements and lots of other things. But the bottom line is, step by step, and we're getting it done and we're way ahead of schedule, I would say.

ROSS: Yes we are.

TRUMP: We started with NAFTA. We'll see how that turns out. It may not turn out. And if it doesn't turn out, we will have to do a new NAFTA or a new deal. But we'll see how it turns out.

Thank you. I'm honored and thrilled to be with you this morning. The White House and the Oval Office is a very special place. I assume every one if you have been in the Oval Office many times, right?


Well, it's an honor to have you now, I can tell you that.

I want to congratulate every one of the businessmen and -women in this room, and all that you have achieved. Incredible stories. Each of you has just a remarkable past, and I think an even more remarkable future. I feel that.

Does everybody feel that, by the way? I think so. Especially with Trump as your president.


Each of you represents a critical American industry, from construction to technology to manufacturing. But you all share in a common will and drive to succeed, and I salute you for that. You need that drive to be successful.

Minority-owned businesses employ 8 million people and generate more than $1 trillion in annual economic output. The work you do and the products and services you bring into this world generate new prosperity across America. For that, we are in your debt.

You inspire our children to develop their talents and to always chase their dreams. You carry on our nation's proud legacy of innovation, and you breathe new life into the American spirit.

A recent Department of Labor report showed the fewest jobless claims since 1973. Think of that: 1973. We just had a report, we have the fewest jobless claims.

My -- I don't think the press -- I tell because the only way I'll get the word out there is if I say it, because they'll never say it.

My administration is deeply committed to empowering minority business owners. We are working to lift government barriers so that you can thrive, prosper and grow.

And speaking of growing, our stock market just hit another record high. It's the highest it's ever been in history, by far. We've created about $5.4 trillion only in stock market value -- $5.4 trillion. And we're very happy about it. And a lot of jobs.

We have the lowest job numbers since I believe 16 to 17 years, Wilbur, right?


TRUMP: Lowest unemployment. We're doing really well. We're doing well, which makes it better for you.

As a candidate for president, I pledged to fight to deliver opportunity for every community in America. All American children, from the Rust Belt to our inner cities deserve great schools, safe neighborhoods and access to high-paying jobs. And I talked a lot about the inner cities on the campaign. And there's tremendous potential in the inner city, and we're working on that very, very hard.

Critical to creating this future is reforming our tax code to produce new investment and development in our country. We must bring back our jobs and rebuild America's cities and towns. That's what we're doing. It's time to take care of our country, and fight for our families.

At the center of our America First agenda is our commitment to ensure every child in America has a future of security and a future of hope.

We are one of the highest taxed nations in the world -- anywhere in the world, one of the highest taxed -- costing us millions of jobs and trillions and trillions of dollars. Our tax cuts will restore America's competitive edge and lower the crushing tax burden on the American people.

It's also going to bring back -- if we get this passed, which I believe we will. I think we have to as a country -- it's going to bring back, I would say, $4 trillion back into this country, which right now cannot come back. It's being spent in other countries.

Money that wants to come back into the United States cannot come back, but under our plan, that money will flow back in. It'll be very quick, and it'll be very easy, and it's a lot of money. Nobody even knows the amount. It was $2.5 trillion a few years ago, so I would say now it's got to be close to $4 trillion, or maybe above that number. We'll find out soon, because it's going to come back very, very rapidly.

Under our plan, more than 30 million Americans who own small businesses will get a 40 percent cut to their top marginal tax rate. This will be the lowest rate in more than 80 years. So this will be the lowest rate you have in more than 80 years. That's 1931 is the last time there was a rate this low. We're going to massively reduce the corporate tax so the companies stay in America, move to America, and hire right here in America. In other words, they stay in America and they don't fire their workers. That's what we're about.

Our plan can be summarized in three simple words: jobs, jobs, jobs.

The award-winning business leaders here today represent the best of America, and our determination to succeed and to grow. Together, we're going to ensure that more American citizens can unlock their potential -- of which they have tremendous potential -- provide for their families, and live out the American Dream.

[12:13:16] Again, congratulations to all of the awardees. It's a tremendous achievement. A really tremendous achievement. I have great respect for you. And thank you. God bless you. And God bless America. Thank you very much.


TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, everyone.


KING: The president of the United States at the White House. A busy top of the hour here.

First, an investigation announced on Capitol Hill by Republican leaders. They were looking at some Obama administration dealings. Then the president there, a minority entrepreneur event at the White House. The president thanking his guests, greeting them in the Oval Office. Also promoting his economic record in his first nine months as president, saying things are going great. He's very upbeat about the economy.

We're going to take a quick break. When we come back on INSIDE POLITICS, family meal or family feud. The president's now headed to the motorcade, up to Capitol Hill. He's supposed to have lunch with the Republicans on tax reform, but he's fighting with them again. And they're fighting back.


KING: Welcome back.

The big meal this hour for America's most dysfunctional family, the Republican Party. President Trump is the guest of honor. In just a few minutes, he'll make the short trek from the White House up to Capitol Hill, joining the weekly Senate GOP luncheon with the goal of talking tax reform. Now that's the GOP's last hope to deliver on a big promise this year. And Republican lawmakers believe failure could cost them both their House and Senate majorities.

Yet, that urgency not enough to quiet the constant and now intensifying GOP family feud. Senator Bob Corker spent this morning appearing on just about any network news show, any cable show, any TV show that would take him, heaping both policy and personal scorn on the president, urging him to leave the tax reform debate to, quote, the professionals.

The president, of course, fired up his phone to respond. From the commander in chief on Twitter, 8:13 a.m., Bob Corker, who helped President O give us the bad Iran deal and couldn't get elected dogcatcher in Tennessee is now fighting tax cuts. Minutes later, Corker dropped out of the race in Tennessee when I refused to endorse him and now is only negative on anything Trump. Look at his record.

Now those presidential tweets would flunk the fact check on several counts, something Corker felt compelled to note in tweets of his own, to which he added his new favorite take on the Trump White House hash tag adultdaycarecenter.

When not tweeting, Senator Corker was roaming the halls, happy to chat with reporters, including this wow moment with CNN's Manu Raju.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think he's a role model to children in the United States?


RAJU: You don't?

CORKER: No, absolutely not. I think that -- you know, the things that are happening right now that are -- that are harmful to our nation, whether it's the breaking down of, we're going to be doing some hearings on some of the things that he purposefully is breaking down relationships we have around the world that have been useful to our nation. But I think at the end of the day, when his term is over, I think the debasing of our nation, the constant non-truth telling, the -- just the name-calling, the things like -- I think the debasement of our nation will be what he'll be remembered most for. And that's regretful.


[12:20:32] KING: Manu Raju joins us now on Capitol Hill.

Manu, you know Senator Corker well. He knows the big event today is the president coming up to talk tax reform. He decided to book himself on all three network morning shows and to pick this fight. Why?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. In fact, the reason initially for doing those interviews this morning, John, was really to try to rein the administration in on tax reform. He had -- was concerned with the approach that they're moving on, which is the topic that he initially planned to discuss, but some of his sharp-edged criticism really set the president off on Twitter this morning and Corker is in the point right now in his career, John, where he is not going to hold back, particularly since he's retiring this year and he -- next year and he really has nothing -- no -- nothing to lose by voicing his concern. But what is particularly incensing Corker, John, is the president continually saying that he refused to endorse him and that he's not running for re-election because the president refused to endorse him. According to Corker and other people that I've spoken to, that is just flatly not true. The president did, on multiple occasions, say that he would endorse him. And Corker thinks that this is really just one of many examples of the president frankly not speaking the truth and he would not say "liar" but he essentially called the president of the United States a liar. Also said that he would not -- he wouldn't say if he trusted the president with the nuclear codes, in addition to saying that he's not a role model to children. A rather remarkable moment. One that few Republican senators can say publicly, but one he can because he's retiring, John. We'll see if others echo any of those concerns.

KING: You have an interesting few hours ahead up there as the president makes his way to Capitol Hill. Manu, keep wandering the halls. Give us a shout if you get anything good or if Senator Corker's still making the paths up there.

Let's come back in the room.

You know, we make light of this because there's great theater and great drama in these personal relationships and the personal dysfunction in the Republican Party. We make light of it. But this is the president of the United States and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, an establishment guy who was known, until this feud erupted, as a pretty serious guy in Washington, D.C. Not a guy who books himself on cable TV every day. Not a guy who likes to get involved in every single conversation in Washington. The president's debased the nation? He's a bully. I couldn't vote for him again. I don't trust him with the nuclear codes. It's an adult day care center. Why?

BASH: Because that's the way he feels. And as Manu got to with Senator Corker when they talked, he is not running for re-election. And he admitted that he has more independence and feels that he has more freedom because he is leaving the political sphere to say what he really thinks.

And so that is already putting a lot of pressure on people who are not done with politics, who do need the Trump base if they're -- if and when they run as a Republican in their home states to say these kind of -- the question is whether they are willing to say these kinds of things. Probably not.

The thing about Bob Corker also is just that he isn't the kind of guy who books himself on TV. He's the Foreign Relations chairman. And the job of the Foreign Relations chairman is to have oversight of the executive branch on national security issues. When you hear him talking about the fact that he's glad that he's -- that the president has people around him since he has access to the nuclear codes, when you hear him saying world leaders don't believe the president when he says something, I mean, that is earth-shattering. I mean you could almost feel the ground shake here in Washington when Bob Corker said that. KING: Right, we get so used to these things --

BASH: Exactly. It's a big deal.

KING: Right, we get so used to it sometimes we don't stop a take a breath ourselves --

BASH: Yes.

KING: Let alone try to do a service to our viewers to say this is -- you know, yes, there's everything about this presidency is highly unusual. But this is taking it to a new level.

And, again, we all talk to people privately in this town. There are a lot of senators who say similar things. And there are also some who disagree with Senator Corker. Let's be fair to the president. There are also some who say he's taking this too far. That they have concerns about the president's behavior, but they don't think he's going to start World War III, or they don't have as much concern about him.

But -- so we know this. This is -- this is part of a Republican civil war. President Trump, since he launched a hostile takeover last year of the Republican Party, that continues. It will play out in 2018. It may play out, if he has a primary challenger, in 2020. What about today and tomorrow? When the president's up there trying to talk tax reform, do these personal disagreements, the lack of trust, do they impact their ability to pass tax reform? I guess they certainly did their ability to come together on health care.

JENNA JOHNSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I mean, here we are talking about everything but tax reform. I also think it's very interesting that very few Republicans have been jumping at the opportunity to defend the president on this. He's done very little to build relationships with Republicans on The Hill. And in a lot of cases, he's burned them on things.

[12:25:07] You know, he makes this broad promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. They come up with a plan. He calls it mean. He says that he's going to get rid of the health care subsidies that go to insurance companies. They come up with a bipartisan plan to get around that. He seems to agree with it, but then he doesn't agree with it.

In thing after thing, he doesn't always seem to be fully communicating with them what he wants and what he'll publicly support, and sometimes he'll support something and then totally turn around and change his mind. And that's really frustrating to a lot of people on The Hill who really want to get things done. It also doesn't help that he's blaming them for the fact that there's been so little that has hashed happened on The Hill.

KING: To your point -- to your point, Seung Min Kim of "Politico" is often here on the program. Asked his position on CSR deal -- that's the health care subsidies -- at John Cornyn, the number two Republican for the United States Senate response, I'm with the president. I asked where Trump is. Cornyn throws hands in the air. You know, that is part of the (INAUDIBLE).

Listen here. This is the president on Fox Business this past weekend, asked a pretty simple question, don't all these personal conflicts, all this day to day combat on Twitter and elsewhere, don't they undermine your ability to get things done. He says no.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you worry that this bickering and feuding gets in the way of your agenda?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. And sometimes it helps, to be honest with you. And so we'll see what happens in the end. But I think actually sometimes it helps. Sometimes it gets people to do what they're supposed to be doing. And, you know, that's the way it is. I just want what's right. And I think, for the most part, they want what's right, too.


KING: Where's the proof that it helps?

SAHIL KAPUR, "BLOOMBERG": that moment with Cornyn, I thought, was so revealing because it -- Republicans are not going to do anything that could lead them to be accused of propping up Obamacare without cover from President Trump. His voice is extremely important in this. He has been all over the place on this, which is why it's giving Republicans pause, even though they realize that keeping these cost sharing subsidies out, not making these payments, is the rare example of a lose, lose, lose on policy. You spend more money, the deficit goes up, premiums go up and you insure fewer people. So the president absolutely does matter.

On the issue of taxes, the relationships matter a lot when you're trying to get from 48, to 49, to 50 votes. We saw that with health care. Poor relationships did not help him twist arms and gain those final few votes.

I don't think Senator Corker is going to vote yes or no on a tax bill based on his relationship with President Trump. I think he's a meticulous policy person. But he has serious misgiving with the 1.5 trillion deficit number that they've put out there on the table. If that isn't dealt with, he's talking about raising $4 trillion in, you know, new revenues for this. Republicans aren't close to that number and even the stuff they have on the table, like ending the state and local tax deduction is facing pushback from the members of the House, it's facing a lobbying blitz, the real estate industry doesn't want that, charities don't want it, things like that. So, you know, it's a long way to go.

WARREN: But I think if you look back at what Bob Corker said today, what he said recently, what is the -- sort of the base of his criticism of Donald Trump? It's about character. It's about his fitness for office. It's not actually about any sort of policy issues. He criticizes sort of the tax reform push, but we don't even know what tax reform will actually look like.

These were things that conservatives in the party were saying back in January, February, March 2016 when it actually mattered. When a senior senator coming out and saying something like this, that this president -- or, excuse me, this candidate is not fit for office. Instead, what was Bob Corker saying at the time? Bob Corker was saying, you know, we've got to listen to this voice of the people. I don't like these people coming out and saying we shouldn't support Trump because of his character. So I think a lot of Republicans hear this from Bob Corker today and they think, why now? Why are you coming out with this now?

And the other thing I'll say about this is, in the practical, sort of political situation, Republicans need to pass tax reform. They believe that it's extremely important for them to go into the 2018 elections with some kind of legislative win. With bob Corker sort of throwing that, you know, in flux with this, they're looking at what he's doing and they're saying, it's not just that you're not running for re- election so you're sort of standing out and free to say what you want, it's that you're throwing the rest of us, who do have to run for re- election, who do want to get something done, under the bus.

BASH: But you --

KING: They get forced to pick sides.

BASH: No. But, you know, I think you're right about Bob Corker changing. He argues that he was hoping that after the president got in the job that he would -- he would rise to the occasion and, in his view, he hasn't.

WARREN: Right.

BASH: But I think that it is important to separate Bob Corker from the Republicans who are up for re-election and are trying to run the Senate and figure out -- and House and figure out how to get things done. And I -- it's not just John Cornyn who was sort of throwing his hands up at things like fixing the health care subsidies. I interviewed Mitch McConnell on Sunday and he also explicitly said, I'm not going to even talk about whether to put this up on the floor until the president decides what he wants to do. And I think that we've -- what we've seen is after nine months these Republican leaders finally kind of understanding the way that they have to shift their approach and to fit it into Trump's world, which is, this is your problem, dude. You figure out what you want to do and then we'll act.

[12:30:08] KAPUR: They're in a very awkward place there because on one had they need President Trump's base.