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Trump: Congress Must Fund Border Wall for DACA Deal; Trump Opens Door to Meeting Special Counsel Mueller; Trump Takes Credit for North/South Korea Meeting. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 8, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:32:53] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: CNN has just learned that the Trump administration plans to end protections for certain immigrants from El Salvador, and this could mean more than 200,000 people who have lived in the U.S. for more than 15 years without legal status could be affected here. So we are expecting to hear more about this today from the Department of Homeland Security.

And in the meantime, Congress is facing a deadline to avoid a government shutdown. But despite bipartisan budget negotiations, a deal is far from settled. During a retreat at Camp David, President Trump drawing a line in the sand, saying he would work with Democrats to help so-called DREAMers, but only if they agree to pay for his proposed border wall.

CNN correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, is live on Capitol Hill.

Is the budget deal now in jeopardy because of this, Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're at an impasse, Brianna, as that big government shutdown deadline of January 19th looms large over these negotiations. You have Democrats saying, look, we're not going to agree to any spending bill that doesn't include DACA, extending provisions for so-called DREAMers, and then you have President Trump and many Republicans who are saying, you know, really trying to capitalize on one of his campaign pledges. President Trump saying look I'm not going to agree to any spending bill if it doesn't include funding for the wall along the border. He's pushing for $18 billion in funding. This is something that he talked with over the weekend at Camp David when he huddled with many Republicans. And it certainly really ramps up the pressure on a big meeting that the White House will be having tomorrow, a bicameral, bipartisan group of congressional leaders to talk about not only DACA but the spending bill and the entanglement of the two issues. And going into that meeting, Brianna, you have at least one Democrat, Dick Durbin, who is saying essentially that the government could very well shut down over the demands that President Trump is making on immigration. That said, both sides, of course, are making their own demands. A lot to get settled in a short amount of time -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Certainly is. The clock is ticking.

Sunlen Serfaty, covering it all on the Hill for us.

I want to bring in political director, David Chalian, to talk about this.

Do you think, David, a shutdown is -- where would you put the likelihood or is it too soon to tell?

[11:35:10] DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is too soon to tell but you can't take it off the table. This is a real impasse. This is sort of DREAMers versus the wall, two totally different priorities from the president's side and the Democrats' side. And we know that you're going to need a bipartisan solution here, right.

KEILAR: Do you see Democrats giving on a wall at all? We've heard from some Democratic Congress folks who say, no, we're not giving on this, but is it possible they might give something that is wall-like enough that President Trump might say, yes, I've held up my side of the bargain.

CHALIAN: Remember when they worked on comprehensive immigration reform in 2013 the last time, Democrats did vote for a final product in the Senate that included more fencing, right. I think 700 miles of fencing was --


KEILAR: Politically loaded then, though, right.

CHALIAN: Exactly. Here's the issue, right, is that wall equals Donald Trump and the Democratic base does not want to give Donald Trump any kind of a win. So yes is the answer to your question. Perhaps there's going to be some way for Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to allow Donald Trump to be able to get something across the line where he says that's a down payment on something without the Democratic base seeing it as the Democrats caving on the wall, but it's a tricky, tricky path here. That's a tough needle to thread.

KEILAR: How much pressure is on Democrats? They're squeezed here to deliver for undocumented, young people who know no other home than the U.S., and these are folks who -- you have many of them day by day running out of protections.

CHALIAN: Without a doubt. And part of the energy that is inside the Democratic Party that we see is on this issue. And so I don't see any way in which the Democrats can walk out of this process, having caved in some way that does not protect these DACA recipients. Their base will start revolting against them if that's the case.

KEILAR: There are many things on the president's agenda, on Congress's agenda. The question of whether infrastructure is going to be tackled is one of them. But when you listen to President Trump and then Gary Cohn, his top economic adviser, how are you going to pay for this, they are not on the same page. What does that mean?


CHALIAN: The president, all of a sudden, sounded like public/private partnerships could not be part of the funding scheme around an infrastructure plan. Gary Cohn, the next day, points to the plan, and it has public/private partnership in there.

Here's what we know. Donald Trump has said he sees infrastructure as an easy thing. That's why he wanted to wait until this year do it, to get through the hard stuff, like tax reform, getting rid of the individual mandate. He sees infrastructure as easy. You see right here why it's not easy at all because, especially after the sort of hit that the deficit will take because of the tax reform plan, you have to come up with a "how are you going to pay for this" and the administration right now is on two different pages about that. Until they get a plan that shows this is how you pay for it, I don't see infrastructure going far.

KEILAR: Speaking of a bumper sticker, Washington, D.C., where we make easy things difficult.



KEILAR: David Chalian, thank you very much.

President Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, could they meet face to face? Well, the president appears to have opened the door to sitting down for an interview. We'll have more ahead.


[11:41:38] KEILAR: There's a major question swirling around the Russia investigation: Will President Trump meet face to face with Special Counsel Robert Mueller? The president said he's open to it. Ken Starr, the independent counsel from the Clinton era, tells CNN it probably will happen, and that Mueller needs to interview the president to complete his work.

And a Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee says it's not a matter of if, but when.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D), CONNECTICUT: Unquestionably, there has to be that kind of face-to-face interview. The timing is important because the special counsel needs to have as many facts and as much evidence before he has that face-to-face interview with the president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: So when might that happen?

BLUMENTHAL: My view is it will probably happen some time this year. We will have more convictions -- there have been two already -- and more indictments.


KEILAR: And joining me now to discuss, defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, Seth Waxman, and Robert Mueller's former special assistant at the Justice Department, Michael Zeldin. He is a former federal prosecutor and a legal analyst at CNN.

When I hear Senator Blumenthal talk, Michael, I think, because he does bring his legal background, it's more than he's just a Senator, this is what he expects from his professional background.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He was the U.S. attorney in Connecticut.

KEILAR: That's right. How do you see this playing out?

ZELDIN: They're going to work out a deal by which the president of the United States offers oral testimony to the Office of Special Counsel. It will probably be like with Clinton, deposition-like format, sworn in the White House itself, not in the grand jury room. But I can't see it happening any other way.

KEILAR: Is that what you expect, Seth?

SETH WAXMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY & FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. I expect Bob Mueller's team to relish this opportunity. For me, the question is timing. It's likely we're just hearing. Like we were just hearing, the question is, when is Bob Mueller's team prepared to go forward. Have they conducted all the witness interviews, collected all the documents and, especially and most importantly, have they flipped other people within the Trump administration and campaign that allows Mueller to be properly prepared? He wants to control that interview. When he has Donald Trump in the room, he wants to know as much, if not more than Donald Trump knows. For two reasons. One, just briefly to call him out if he's wavering from the truth, but also to potentially set up false statements charge in case Donald Trump lies.

KEILAR: Take us inside that room, Michael. Who would be there? If you expect this is at the White House, you expect it is sworn, a transcript would be your expectation. That's interesting.


ZELDIN: And probably, videotaped like Clinton.

KEILAR: OK. Who would be there?

ZELDIN: In my independent counsel investigation, we took the sworn testimony of President Bush, out of office at the time, and President Clinton, in office at the time. In our October Surprise investigation, we took it of Jimmy Carter and written interrogatories to Ronald Reagan. Four presidents that have been involved in the testimony of. The most relevant to us would be what we did with Bush. In Bush's case, we went to his office, the presidential office he has in Texas. We had a court reporter. We didn't videotape it. He had his counsel. We swore him. It was myself, Joe DiGenova, who was the independent counsel -- I was his deputy at the time -- two other lawyers, the president, and his one or two counsels from his law firm. And we said, Mr. President, thank you very much for appearing. Now we're going to start asking you questions.


[11:45:02] ZELDIN: And it was the -- to Seth's point, it was the last witness essentially in our investigation because we wanted to know everything we could possibly know because we thought we probably would only get him one time. Ken Starr interviewed Mr. And Mrs. Clinton almost nine times during the course of their investigation, but that's abnormal.

KEILAR: You said that Mueller's team is relishing this prospect, although, you do expect it to come near the end of this investigation for them. If you are the president's legal team, knowing that, that this could be -- there could be pitfalls for the president, even though we know he's done depositions before, how do you prepare him for this?

WAXMAN: Well, there's two questions there. One, do you allow it to happen at all? If it gets to a point where there are senior operatives that have flipped and cooperating with Bob Mueller's team, in addition to Michael Flynn, you may get to a point where you don't want to put your client, the president, in this case, in that situation. Now I have to acknowledge that --


ZELDIN: He would have to take the Fifth, right, Seth? The only way he can avoid a subpoena --


WAXMAN: If he's subpoenaed. My understanding right now is this is a voluntary process. To your point, you're correct. If he were to be subpoenaed, then that is his only option to plead the Fifth. But assuming he gets into that environment, then what do you do? How do you prepare the president? I mean, you have to have him be truthful at all times, and that's the key, because what you don't want to have him walk into is a Martha Stewart situation. As we know, infamously, she was convicted not of the underlying securities fraud but for sitting in a room with a federal prosecutor and FBI agents and making false statements. And the president could be in the same peril. So, yes, you have to make sure whatever he says, it is 100 percent the truth or he's in legal jeopardy on that point alone.


ZELDIN: The one thing, I was going to say, the president himself has said, on June 11th, 100 percent, I will testify.


ZELDIN: Now he has this public relations problem if he chooses not to.

KEILAR: He has his way with words of getting around things. I mean, we'll see.

Michael Zeldin, thank you so much. Seth Waxman, really appreciate your expertise.

Still ahead, officials from North and South Korea set to meet for the first time in years ahead of the Olympic games and amid growing nuclear tensions. We will tell you why President Trump is taking credit.


[11:51:41] KEILAR: Representatives from North Korea and South Korea are set to meet face-to-face tomorrow for the first time in more than two years, and these talks will begin with discussions on the North sending a delegation to the Olympic Games next month in South Korea. Movements towards getting back to the negotiating table began last week with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, saying that he wanted to ease tensions with the South. But President Trump is trying to take credit for this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I weren't involved, they wouldn't be talking about Olympics right now. They would be doing no talking, or it would be much more serious. He knows I'm not messing around. I'm not messing around. Not even a little bit. Not even 1 percent. He understands that.


KEILAR: Joining me to talk about the new discussions is CNN military and diplomatic analyst, John Kirby.

John, it's interesting because you think Trump does not get some credit, but maybe not in the way he thinks he does.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes. I think he think he feels like he scared Kim Jong-Un, but it's the opposite. I think he frightened the South Koreans into wanting to have these talks. This is keeping with President Moon's desire to have some sort of dialogue with the North. I think Kim Jong-Un is taking full advantage of it to see if they can drive a wedge between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea. The only credit he gets is moving the South ever more stringently to try to find a way to talk.

KEILAR: What -- I guess just manage our expectations for what could come out of this.

KIRBY: I think we need to keep our expectations low. I think everybody on their side is doing the same thing. This is about the Olympics and about possibly sending a delegation and the mechanics of that, what that looks like. It's possible, the South has said they wouldn't mind raising the issue of family reunifications. And they maybe --


KEILAR: -- the North and South -- KIRBY: Particularly, they are getting very old and want to see their loved ones again. That's a valuable thing for them to do and they should take advantage of it, but we need to keep our expectations low. I don't think you can look for any serious discussions about future negotiations about the nuclear future of the peninsula there.

KEILAR: Really? But even these sorts of issues that may be adjacent to that or happening at the same time, there can be some pay off, right?


KEILAR: That they are talking about things and agreeing on things?

KIRBY: Certainly. Sports can be a great equalizer, as the old adage says. These talks can at least maybe help forge some personal relationships that might not exist yet. Just discussions, just being able to talk, even if it is something like sports, is enough to get the dialogue moving. It's a healthy thing.

KEILAR: Is it good that this is North Korea and South Korea, that this doesn't involve the U.S. or doesn't involve China, or is it bad?

KIRBY: It would be better if we were at the table, too, even for something as benign as sports, just so we can help have an influence on the dialogue. Obviously, that's not going to happen. Part of the reason is because President Trump has been so unpredictable and so bellicose in his rhetoric. He's not making it easy for the South to want to have them there. It would be better. Frankly, look, especially when it's about sports, I think dialogue is a great thing. If we're not at the table, we shouldn't worry too much about that.

KEILAR: There is a possibility that North Korea and South Korea, in the midst of a crisis on the peninsula, could field a joint team for -- I think it's women's ice hockey. I am fascinated by this, this idea that you can have some show of unity when there is so much opposition when it comes to the nuclear standoff. What are the chances of that?

[11:55:01] KIRBY: I don't know. I have seen the reports, too, and I'm as hopeful as you are. It wouldn't be the first time that they have unified in the name of sports. They marched together in the 2006 Winter Games and the 2004 Athens Olympics. They marched together as a unified team back in the early '90s in table tennis and soccer. But what is significant is doing it now, with the current tensions as high as they have been, that's a big deal. This could be very exciting.

KEILAR: Just quickly, why would Kim want to do that with things as they are between the two nations?

KIRBY: I think the current reasoning by a lot of analysts that are smarter on this than me is that he wants to drive a wedge. He wants to show South Korea that they don't need the alliance with the United States. So we need to be mindful of that. He has an ulterior motive.

KEILAR: Very interesting. John Kirby, thank you so much.

KIRBY: You bet.

KEILAR: And still ahead, President Trump is traveling today with one of his critics, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker. We will look at whether there has been a reconciliation or just a ceasefire.