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Sources Close To Oprah: She's "Actively Thinking" About Run; Trump, Allies Defend His Mental Fitness; Report: President's Official Work Day Is Shrinking. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 8, 2018 - 11:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan. We begin with breaking news, Oprah Winfrey, quote, "actively thinking about running for president," according to sources close to the media mogul speaking to CNN. Winfrey's powerful speech at the Golden Globes last night sparked widespread calls for a 2020 bid. She fired up the room with her declarations that a new day is on the way for women. Check it out.


OPRAH WINFREY, AMERICAN MEDIA PROPRIETOR: What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I'm especially proud and inspired by all of the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.

Each of us in this room, are celebrated because of the stories that we tell and this year, we became the story. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men, but their time is up.

I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon and when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men! Fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, "me too" again.


KEILAR: CNN's senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, the host of "RELIABLE SOURCES" with us now. Brian, you have some new reporting on where Oprah's head is in all of this. What are you hearing?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Some of her close friends have. Urging her to run for president to really take this possibility seriously. These conversations have been going on for at least several months, and I'm told by these sources that Oprah is actively thinking about the possibility, not that she's made up her mind. And certainly, lots of people think about running for president and don't, but it is very significant to know that she's taking this idea seriously and that her friends are urging her to take this on.

You know, in the speech at the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey did not mention President Trump by name, but there were several moments where she alluded to Trump and other powerful men. She is someone who is said to be motivated and energized by the Trump presidency, perhaps thinking about her place in history and how to respond to the Trump presidency.

So, that's what we know for sure, that yes, she's thinking about this, she hasn't made up her mind. I've reached out to Oprah Winfrey's PR people for comments, they have not responded. They're letting the speech speak for itself.

We've seen this speech go viral overnight, Brianna. Transcripts and videos of the speech being shared widely all across social media. Some of her fans hoping she will run for president for 2020. It is a lot easier said than done.

We don't know who her political advisors could be, if she's thinking about fundraising and issues like that, but she is a -- she has a lot of fame, fortune, someone that would certainly be a contender if she decides to take -- to seek the Democratic nomination.

KEILAR: All right. Brian, stay with us. I want to bring in April Ryan, one of our political contributors, and Chris Cilizza, CNN Politics editor-at-large. April, as you hear Brian saying that questions of who would her political advisors be, where might some of the funding come from if she wasn't going to self-fund?

Are those the kind of things that you think would maybe take care of themselves if she's interested in this? Do you think that the political community would be receptive to an Oprah run?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's the question. Oprah Winfrey is no novice to this. She has been around politics for a very long time. She's been around politics locally in various places from Tennessee, Nashville to Baltimore, to, you know -- and on the national level, Chicago, and on the national level.

She's also worked with President Barack Obama behind the scenes on different issues. Oprah Winfrey knows the players. But the issue is, and someone who is very close and knows Oprah and knows the situation said to me, you know, yes, she could definitely win. She would be outstanding.

[11:05:06] But the question is, would this current environment really be something she would want to tackle. This is a very new environment and that's the issue more so than getting political backers or reaching out to people, funders, that's not the issue. The issue is the climate, and does she want to do that? That's the issue.

KEILAR: What do you think, Chris? What did you think of the speech? CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: So, the speech, I guess I was a little taken aback in how -- you could close your eyes and imagine that speech being given in Iowa, let's say, right --


CILIZZA: -- or as a campaign kickoff. That's not to say that was -- but you could close your eyes, there's going to be a moment when --

KEILAR: Crescendo into it.

CILIZZA: She's speaking to Hollywood. She's not speaking to Iowa, but still that messaging right now very powerful. What I thought of this speech, Oprah is Oprah for a reason. OK. She doesn't -- this is not someone who blunders into things. This is not someone who doesn't think of what her words and her actions will mean.

It doesn't surprise me at all, although I'm glad we have it first that Brian reported that Oprah's friends are saying she's actively interested or thinking about it because you don't give a speech like that in that moment with those expectations unless you know that there's going to be some talk of it.

I think before we get to political advisors we get to all that stuff, I don't know if it takes care of itself, but I think what you need at root is this something that she wants to do. She has said many times in the past, she's not interested in public life.

I would say, Trump has changed lots of things, including, I think, who thinks of themselves as someone who could be president? Oprah in the past said I don't have any experience in politics. Well, neither does the guy who is currently the president.

KEILAR: It turns out you don't need it to win.

CILIZZA: So, I do think that that changes the calculation, not just -- you know, who thinks they might be running, whether that's her or not I think we'll see, but she will have to say I think something more because this will not go away, given the cultural figure she is.


CILIZZA: And the fact that Donald Trump is in the White House.

KEILAR: Brian, I'm struck by her long-time -- sorry, go on, April.

RYAN: I was going to say going to Chris's statement, Oprah is very keenly aware of moments. She was getting the Cecil B. DeMille Award last night. She played upon the moment and understand those moments are history making. She wasn't just going to walk out and say something.

You know, like when she was at the Oscars, she makes sure she stands at the moment and her words are strategic and reverberate. That was a soaring speech, presidential speech, that grabbed the entire crowd, black, white, Jew, Protestant, Catholic, men and women, and she was soaring, and she saw the moment as the problem.

She saw the victim, she saw the possibilities of hope and a better day, and she used herself as also an example talking about her mother was a victim. She was every person in this. This is what is lacking, I guess, in the last year and people stood up because they felt it again.

And those moments aren't wasted on an Oprah Winfrey. Oprah Winfrey has a moment that really could catapult her into the stratosphere of politics. This is -- it's not -- this is one of those defining moments. She makes moments everywhere, but this is one of those moments that could be her defining moment to possibly run for president.

KEILAR: Brian, it struck me that Stedman, her long-time partner, who he's a pretty disciplined person, but he put it out there that this was on her mind. How do you read that?

STELTER: Yes. The quote to the "L.A. Times" was "it's up to the people." She would absolutely do it. She would absolutely do it meaning she's going to run if the people want her to. That is a news worthy quote there in and of itself.

You layer on top of that, these friends who are urging her to run and it makes me wonder what Gayle King is going to say. So, Gayle King, her best friend is a host on CBS, she was not on the air this morning, but she will be on the air tomorrow morning.

She will be asked about this. The last time Gayle and Oprah talked about this on tv Oprah said, quote, "There will be no running for office of any kind for me." I think we've all seen the games that will normal politicians play, denying and running until they decide to run.

Oprah Winfrey not a politician so she might be looking at this a little bit differently, but I think we have to view this possibility, only a possibility, in the context of the movement of women trying to run for office in 2018.

That last year started with the women's march, now there's a record number of women, mostly Democrats, running for office as a response to President Trump, and you'll wonder if Oprah Winfrey sees herself as a part of that, possibly as a part of that movement to bring more women into office across the country.

[11:10:08] KEILAR: I wonder, can I ask you, because I think of Donald Trump trying to break in and certainly I think he's a more controversial figure with some of his language than Oprah, but trying to break into this political club he managed to kind of pry the door open, how is the Democratic --

CILIZZA: Knocked the door down.

KEILAR: How is the Democratic political machine, let's see if this is a real consideration of Oprah's, all of these Dems, who are jockeying for position for 2020, what are they going to say if Oprah seems like she might really get in?

CILIZZA: They're not going to be happy about it because she brings for the political -- the lack of political experience, which it didn't matter in Trump's case, broadly I think it helps if you've been there before. It's like being a playoff team in the NFL. It helps if you've made the playoffs before.

If you haven't it's not determinative. But if you were someone who was a senator or a member of Congress or a governor who is looking at this, she's just a culturally large figure. She is someone who everyone --

RYAN: No, no, no.

KEILAR: April?

RYAN: Chris, no. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Chris, this is a person -- she's not just a cultural person. I understand you say that Donald Trump doesn't have any governance experience, she doesn't either, but guess what, just like you, just like Brian, just like me, we are reporters. She was a reporter. She was an anchor, she knows issues.

STELTER: In Baltimore.

RYAN: She knows the basics. In Baltimore, in Nashville, and, you know, I was -- I was a kid when she was here. So, I mean, she understands the dynamics of different issues --

KEILAR: Isn't it a different, April, than knowing the levers of government?

RYAN: -- leaders and politics. Excuse me.

CILIZZA: April, I'm not arguing with you there. I'm saying that struggle if you're a normal politician who is in office is significant. Yes, knowing the issues is one thing, but running in your own right is different. I think it is.

But I think that would be a challenge for lots of people running against her because she's just a different -- in the same way that Jeb Bush struggled with Donald Trump because Donald Trump was not governed by the same rules that Jeb Bush was playing under.

STELTER: Oprah Winfrey know how to perform on television. She knows how to stand out on television. After all she hosted the best-known daytime talk show in America for decades. I would just add to this, remember Oprah is not going to be the only name that comes up like this.

Today, we're talking about Winfrey because of the Golden Globes. Other stars and celebrities will try to put their hat in the ring, Mark Cuban, Howard Schultz at Starbucks, who knows what other A- listers will think about the same idea. It will be a crowded playing field.

KEILAR: Quick final word, April. RYAN: And I think everyone, Chris and Brian are hitting it, the goal posts have been moved. We are now as a nation we're not just looking for a politician, we're looking for a rock star. Once Barack Obama left, I knew there with was going to be a rock star because no one else could fill the position.

We're not just looking for a politician, we're looking for someone who has got that "it" factor. Oprah has that it factor, and we've spun out of politics and now looking for excitement as well as our politics.

So, we have to remember that the goal post has been forever moved. So, it's not just about a politician. The standard politicians have to bring something else to the table for people to say wow, I'm going to throw it all behind you and stand by you, ride or die.

This is a different day. And I think that's why we are so into this Oprah-esque possibility of being running for president and I will remind you, the first black woman to ever run for president in 1972, was the late great Shirley Chisholm. Let's see what happens here.

KEILAR: We will see. April Ryan, Chris Cilizza, Brian Stelter, thank you to all of you.

Coming up, White House officials are out in full force to defend the president's mental health. That's after his tweet calling himself a very stable genius.

Plus, will President Trump meet with Special Counsel Robert Mueller? The president appears to have opened the door to sitting down for an interview. We will dig into possible legal strategies for the White House.



KEILAR: Now to the Trump White House launching a full-throated condemnation of "Fire and Fury," and one of the more scathing claims in the book that 100 percent of the people around the president question his intelligence and fitness for office.

Trump allies dismissing the book as trash, garbage and a work of fiction. The president also pushing back with the somewhat awkward declarations he's, quote, "a very stable genius." The White House offensive keeping the debate alive much to the glee of the president's detractors.

CNN's Abby Philip is at the White House with the story. So, Abby, you know, a lot of administrations would ignore a book like this. They don't want give fuel to the fire, but this is sort of true President Trump fashion that he and his aides are confronting it head-on.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. Not this president. When he is attacked he fires back. He had not only his aides out there, but he himself went on social media and as you pointed out defended his own sanity as a result of some of the questions raised by this book.

But over the weekend, a slew of aides had to go on television to really push back on the notion that the president was unprepared for the job, that perhaps he was, you know, his mental state was deteriorating.

And you heard strong words from a White House aide, Stephen Miller, on CNN yesterday talking directly about the underlying notion of this book and really trying to hammer home the president's point of view that there is nothing of truth in the account from Michael Wolff. Take a listen.


STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: The book is best understood as a work of very poorly written fiction and I also will say that the author is a garbage author of a garbage book.

[11:20:12] And the tragic thing about this book and there are many things about it that are unfortunate, but the trail of the president in the book is so contrary to reality, to the experience of those who work with him, to my own experience having spent the last two years with him.


PHILLIP: Well, those comments there definitely aimed at an audience of one and the president was clearly watching. He responded praising Miller's performance on Twitter shortly after that aired -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Abby, tell us about this report that president's schedule is shrinking.

PHILLIP: That's right. This report comes from Axios showing according to some documents that they received the private schedule of the president of the United States shows that he has an extended period of time in the morning from around 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. that's been labeled executive time.

But Axios is reporting that time is, in fact, dedicated to the president watching morning television, which he often does and tweets as we can see in the public and makes calls to friends and confidants.

Now it's important to note that many presidents come up to the west wing from the residents around 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning and that it is possible for the president to make the calls that he needs to make in the job well into the morning from the residence.

That being said the White House's pushback over the last couple weeks about this notion that President Trump is watching large amounts of television. This reporting seems to indicate that time is not just being spent throughout the day but carved out in his official schedule and being labeled as this executive time. It's quite extraordinary -- Brianna.

KEILAR: It sure is. Abby Phillip at the White House. Thank you for that report. We have Doug Heye, CNN political commentator and also former communications director for the Republican National Committee with us, along with Rick Santorum, CNN senior political commentator and former Republican senator from Pennsylvania.

Angela Rye also joining us, CNN political commentator and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus. So, Senator, this idea of executive time that hours of time could be carved out for the president so that he can do something, which I mean we knew he did -- we knew that he was obsessing over television and he does a lot of tweeting, but what does that tell you? That he's getting this time blocked out.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, every president has time, down time, or time just for him to be able to, as was mentioned by Abby, talk to people, I know talking to several members of Congress he does stay in frequent -- more than I've ever heard of a president in talking to members of Congress, developing relationships there.

So, to suggest that's all just tv time I think is probably overstating the case. Yes, clearly the president watches television. I don't think there's any question about that but --

KEILAR: This is different. This is -- I mean, you can see that this is different from other presidents?

SANTORUM: No. I would suggest that most of the time presidents spend a lot of that time up in their residence doing that, you know, more informal activities. The fact that he does it in the oval I don't think is big deal.

KEILAR: Apparently, it's not in the oval. Apparently, it is in the residence and blocked out.

SANTORUM: OK, either way. I don't think it's a big deal.


DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, we knew that Donald Trump was going to approach this presidency differently than Barack Obama or either George Bush or Bill Clinton. This is part of what we're seeing it.

It's what we see in how he tweets and consumes news and dominates and propels news cycles forward. I don't think this should be a surprise to anyone. For Donald Trump's detractors, would you rather have him watching tv or getting into policies that you don't like.

KEILAR: Angela Rye, what do you think?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that this goes to what we all have been talking about all morning and I think certainly since yesterday's Sunday programming that is the president's mental fitness.

I remember bringing the same issue up on this very program, Brianna, you were not filling in that day, talking about whether or not Trump was actually capable of serving as the president. I still ask that same question. If we have to undergo character fitness exams for being able to pass the bar --

KEILAR: On this issue of executive time you find that disqualifying?

RYE: I find it very disconcerting and hard to understand that someone who is a working professional would need three hours in the morning to do whatever. If he needs down time here's how I suggest he use it. Put down the remote, put down your phone and stay off of Twitter. Put down other things besides human beings, put down everything that you're doing to make this office a disgrace. That's what he should do in down time.

SANTORUM: This is the kind of -- I think disqualifying commentary that we see from the left which is the president --

RYE: That's not disqualifying because you don't like it.

SANTORUM: What you're saying is whatever the president does it's wrong.

RYE: That's not what I said.

SANTORUM: Because it fits into what he's been doing. Look, this is -- the president has a right to have down time to do whatever he wants to do.

[11:25:09] RYE: Three hours during a work day?

SANTORUM: Of course, I mean --

RYE: Come on.

SANTORUM: I don't know if you know, but the presidency is a pretty stressful office --

RYE: I don't know if you know it, but you don't --

SANTORUM: -- watch television or to confer with people is perfectly fine.

HEYE: Yes.

RYE: Former Senator Santorum, let me -- excuse me, former Senator Santorum, let me give you also a recommendation. Speaking of down, what you should not do is talk down to another fellow commentator on the same network.

You don't have to agree with my commentary at all, but it is not disqualifying because I disagree with you and it is certainly disqualifying if there's any working professional that spends the first three hours of the work day spending time relaxing when they need to get abreast of foreign policy issues, domestic policy issues.

Making sure that they can manage their team instead of them wreaking havoc all over the country and certainly in the White House. I don't think that it's right for you to talk down to a fellow commentator because you don't like what I said.

SANTORUM: I wasn't talking down to you. I was talking down to the comments which you made.

RYE: I disagree with that.

SANTORUM: What I was saying is that having executive time as was suggested is not nap time. The president's allowed to have his own time to do things that he believes are important for his presidency and I don't think we should be questioning him.

KEILAR: I want to ask you, Doug, about some of the tweets from the president. His tweets always get attention, but this weekend they got a lot. Check this out. He said, "Actually, throughout my life my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being like really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and as everyone knows went down in flames.

I went from very successful businessman to top tv star to president of the United States on my first try. I think that would qualify as not smart but genius and a very stable genius at that."

I mean, that was so eye opening but more than anything, the question was why is he amplifying claims from Michael Wolff's book and I mean, he's creating a best seller of a book that is ticking him off.

HEYE: Yes, absolutely. And what's amazing is you talk to the most ardent Trump supporters what they will say is Donald Trump's a counter puncher and that may be true to some extent, but he's also somebody who constantly and proactively takes the bait.

There is no better example than this than with frankly bizarre tweets about being a genius or you know, whatever he's saying yesterday that only amplifies and only sells more books of a book that he doesn't like.

If they had ignored it and they're constitutionally not able to within their own constitution, but if they ignored it to some extent the book sales would lessen, and they have less of a problem on their hands.

KEILAR: But I mean, so if you were managing a candidate, a politician, your advice to them would be to what, Doug?

HEYE: Sure. Kind of what Angela said, put down the phone, put down the tweets, do less of that. The reality is Donald Trump is not going to do that, and his team knows that. That's unfortunately why they go on tv and have to defend him in a glorious leader does everything good and wonderful in a way more reminiscent of North Korea than the United States of America.

SANTORUM: The reality is, Donald Trump likes talking about Donald Trump and he likes hearing other people -- and even if it's negative. I mean, the fact is we've been spending now, what, 24, 48, how many hours talking about Donald Trump. That -- and I think in the president's mind that's not a bad thing.

KEILAR: Rick Santorum, Doug Heye, Angela Rye, thank you so much to all of you.

And coming up, no deal on the DREAMers without a deal on the border wall. The president laying down a red line could trip up negotiations with Democrats to keep the government open.