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Trump and Allies Defend Mental Fitness; Funding for Border Wall and DACA; North and South Prepare for Talks; Broken Pipe Floods JFK; National Championship Game. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired January 8, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:26] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: The president hitting the road today after a full weekend of hitting back at reports questioning his stability. You saw all of his tweets on that. Congress is back in Washington. Is this going to overshadow the agenda that they're working for and pushing for in the new year?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now, Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Illinois.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

I don't think it's too late to say Happy New Year. So Happy New Year to you.

HARLOW: No. Happy New Year.

BERMAN: Now that we have said that --

REP. RODNEY DAVIS (R), ILLINOIS: Happy New Year to you too, John and Poppy.

BERMAN: Now that we're beyond the niceties, Congressman, a simple question, is the president a genius?

DAVIS: If the president wants to consider himself a genius, yes. You want to talk about somebody who stepped off an escalator a few short months ago and nobody gave him a chance to become president of the United States? I mean that's -- I don't know what your definition of political genius is, but that was something that none of us expected. And now I get a chance to work with him and, frankly, I think his administration doesn't get enough credit for some of the positive things that have happened.

HARLOW: Do you think this is a conversation, talking about mental stability, though, that helps the president, that is good to have his aides all over TV and his surrogates being asked the first five questions about the president's stability?

DAVIS: You know, I think it's -- I think it's tragic as to where the political climate is right now. I mean I think back to when I was growing up in the '80s and I would watch MTV videos that made Ronald Reagan look like a buffoon. And I'm sure there would have been -- there was a lot of screaming and gnawing and gnashing of teeth when he told Mikael Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. But when I went to Berlin this summer, there's a statues of Ronald Reagan there.

You know, it's very frustrating -- and I have to agree with my colleague Tom Cotton -- that it only seems that this mental stability question comes with Republican presidents. In my meetings with President Trump, in my meetings with his administration, are clearly showing and demonstrating something different.

BERMAN: I will say, if I could find -- if I could pull it up right here, I don't have it in front of me, but there is a tweet from President Trump from when President Obama was in office directly questioning the mental stability of President Obama. So Democratic presidents are questioned too. And someone who happened to do the questioning there was President Trump. Just one point to make right there.

Look, there was this meeting at Camp David with the Republican congressional leaders over the weekend and the president. We're told it was a very frank discussions about the challenges facing Republicans going forward. How tough of an election do you think this will be for your party?

DAVIS: Well, you know, it's always a tough election cycle. You know, we don't take anything for granted. I represent one of these -- you know, one of the competitive districts in the nation. And I don't take any election I have for granted. And I know my colleagues will not either.

But I'm -- I'm excited to run on some of the successes that we've seen over the last year. We've got historic Veterans Administration reforms. We're getting the care to the veterans who deserve it and need it the most. We've got tax reform, putting more money in the pockets of middle income and lower income families. They're going to see more in their paycheck. And the Dow is at 25,000, historic. Their 401(k) statements are continuing to go up. I think when we look at November of 2018, these are great issues for Republicans to run on.

HARLOW: So on those notes, you're also running in the midterms, you party, with a president whose approval ratings is in the mid to high 30s, which is very difficult historically. And also you say, look, we're going to run on tax reform. You've got to sell it to the American people first. I mean less than 40 percent of the American people like the tax bill that was passed by Republicans, think it's actually going to help them and they see what is fact, that more of the benefit goes to corporations and wealthy Americans.

DAVIS: You know, that's just not the case, Poppy. The majority of the tax benefits, when you look at a higher percentage of income coming back into the pockets of families is going to middle income and lower income families throughout this nation. The highest percentage are. And I'm introducing a bill to make the individual rates permanent.

HARLOW: That's not the case. Eighty percent of Americans will get a tax cut -- eighty percent of Americans will get a tax cut that is temporary, you're right, but it's temporary, it's not permanent, like the corporations, and a bigger piece of the pie is going to corporations and wealthier Americans.

DAVIS: And we could have made it -- we could have made it permanent with eight Democrats in the Senate, Poppy.

No, we are talking about people seeing wages already growing in their workplace. A million Americans have gotten bonuses they weren't expecting. Ten thousand AT&T employees in my home state of Illinois have gotten bonuses from their company that they weren't expecting because of this tax bill.

You're going to see wealth grow in this country. Wages are going up. African-American unemployment is at an historic low. The economy is booming. A 25,000 point Dow right now.

[09:35:13] BERMAN: Congressman --

DAVIS: This is huge. This is crucial.


BERMAN: Congressman, I know we're running out of time, and I know you have to catch a plane, but I wanted to get you on the record on the discussion about dreamers. You know, we are facing a deadline in March about what to do with these people who have lived in the country, came to this country through no fault of their own. Do you think that funding for the border wall is a necessary component to any deal to protect these dreamers?

DAVIS: We have to have border security measures. And, frankly, you talk to law enforcement --

BERMAN: The wall. The wall. I'm -- I'm --

DAVIS: Some structure, some places along the southern border is essential -- some wall, some structure, some form of security along the southern border is essential to stop the influx of heroin and ICE and other opioids that are killing our small towns and rural communities throughout this country. And I would hope that my colleagues on the Democrat side of the aisle will want to look at border security as a whole rather than just focusing on a phrase.

HARLOW: But just on -- to John's point, because you said in a recent interview with a local news reporter in your home state, you said that we have to be frank about the fact that most illegal immigration to this country is not coming over the southern border. So are you willing to give up on a solution, a protection for dreamers, to fund the wall, like the president is saying has to happen?

DAVIS: Unlike many of my Democratic colleagues right now who are quoted as saying they're not going to vote for a bill that includes any funding for border security to protect dreamers, I want to protect the DACA recipients. I want to protect those 800,000 kids who came here through no fault of their own. And I think we ought to look at border security as a whole.

And you are absolutely right, the majority of illegal immigration in this country comes through our airports, not through our southern border. But the majority of illegal drugs that come into our communities come through our southern border, and we need border security at all levels.

HARLOW: OK. A lot of the Democrats come on this program, as you know, and they say they'll fund some sort of border security, not necessarily a wall.

BERMAN: But not a wall.

HARLOW: There's a difference there in the words.

We're out of time, but we appreciate you coming and we hope you make your flight.

DAVIS: Well, that's --

HARLOW: Thank you, congressman.

All right, so face-to-face, North and South Korea are prepares for talks, face-to-face, for the first time in two years tomorrow. Stay with us.


[09:41:29] HARLOW: This morning a "New York Times" report says senior U.S. intelligence officials admit they misjudged how quickly North Korea could develop its nuclear weapons program. They count that failure as one of the worst in the history of American intelligence.

BERMAN: Now, this is happening as North and South Korea meet tomorrow for talks. The first high-level, face-to-face contact between the two countries in more than two years.

Joining us now live from Seoul, CNN's senior international correspondent Ivan Watson.

The big question about tomorrow, Ivan, is what to expect.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are just hours away from these historic talks. The first in two years.

What to expect? Well, this is not nuclear diplomacy, John and Poppy. This is essentially Olympics diplomacy. That's the reason these two countries are getting together for the first time. It's to try to hammer out a way for North Korean athletes to attend the upcoming winter Olympics, which are due to start in about a month's time here in South Korea.

That said, the South Korean delegation has announced that they would also like to set the stage for discussions about other issues here that are also of importance to the South Korean government, such as allowing separated families to reunite. There are tens of thousands of South Koreans separated from their relatives in the North since the Korean War in the 1950s and they'd like to let these people see each other as they're getting quite elderly. Another thing that they'd like to discuss is try to de-escalate the

military tensions here on the Korean peninsula, which have been sky high for months and months now.

Now, we've seen a positive sign, if you're interested in that, coming from Washington, where the U.S. is, of course, agreed to postpone joint military exercises until after the Olympics. The South Korean government really wants those North Korean athletes here at the upcoming Olympics because of the symbolism of that, because the whole world is going to be watching these events, and just the message of inclusion and potential peace will be really important for the government here, which has so much invested in those games.

John and Poppy.

HARLOW: A big day ahead tomorrow with those face-to-face talks.

Ivan, we appreciate the reporting in Seoul. Thank you very much.

Also this update for you. You know this man because he was held by a Taliban-linked terror group in Afghanistan for five years. This morning, though, he's going to be in a Canadian court. He's been charged with assault and sexual assault. That is him, Joshua Boyle. He's appearing this morning in an Ottawa court room for his bail hearing. The charges are based on things that happened after he returned to Canada. Boyle and his family freed by Pakistani forces and returned to Canada in October. All of this has apparently ensued since.

OK, were you trying to fly into JFK this weekend? It was --

BERMAN: You might still be.

HARLOW: You might -- you probably still are. It was a complete nightmare after an already sort of horrific few days at the airport. That water is because of a broken pipe that forced travelers out into 13 degree air and hours and hours of delays. Next, a check on how things look this morning.


[09:49:07] BERMAN: All right, new delays at JFK Airport here in New York City this morning as that airport struggles to get back up to speed after a genuine nightmare of a travel weekend.

HARLOW: True nightmare. Canceled flights, stranded travelers, then a flooded terminal. Look at the water gushing down there in the terminal at JFK. It sent many, many passengers out into 13 degree temperatures last night.

Alison Kosik is live at JFK.

I walk through that terminal all the time. Seeing the bags there in the pools of water. Is it somewhat back to normal this morning?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is somewhat back to normal. The exits are a little different. The entrances as a little different right now as everything is being dried out. But I did walk in a short time ago and saw still hundreds of pieces of luggage still sitting unclaimed, dozens of people still waiting for flights that were either delayed or canceled.

But as far as Terminal Four goes, it's back in action. With some delays, flights are coming and going. But what a chaotic scene it was yesterday when that pipe, that is -- that feeds into that sprinkler system broke, sending that cascade of water just tumbling into the terminal and into the baggage area.

[09:50:19] And the reason that that's so significant is because sitting there were hundreds of pieces of luggage that had been sitting there already because of all the canceled flights because of that big winter storm that we had just a few days ago. Not helping the situation, putting more bags in that area, was a broken baggage handling equipment that was actually frozen because of the bad weather. So this is sort of a calamity of errors that all sort of became this perfect storm that came together.

So what's happening now? The Port Authority, which oversees the airports here in New York and in New Jersey, is investigating, trying to figure out how this happened, why the pipe wasn't water protected -- wasn't weather protected, especially since it was an interior pipe, and trying to figure out if any other -- if any other factors factored into the chaos that we saw here yesterday.

Poppy and john.

BERMAN: All right, Alison Kosik for us at JFK. Alison, stay warm.

A fire at Trump Tower to tell you about here in New York City. It is now under control, we are told. You can see the pictures here. Smoke seen coming from the roof. The Secret Service actually called in firefighters. Eric Trump tweeted that the firefighters responded within minutes. He said there was a small electrical fire in a cooling tower on the roof of the building. There were two minor injuries reported.

All right, this morning, speculation growing, Oprah Winfrey, will she consider a run for the White House for 2020? We are getting brand new reporting on this. You're going to want to stick around.


[09:56:36] BERMAN: Countdown to kickoff. Georgia, go Dogs, and Alabama square off tonight for college football's National Championship.

HARLOW: The president will be there. President Trump is going to make an appearance. Coy Wire is live outside the stadium in Atlanta this morning with the "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, my friend.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Poppy and John. Just about 100 yards from Mercedes-Benz Stadium where it's all going

to go down in the National Championship. We're at Smoke Ring Barbecue. The Sean Spencer Band's over there strumming on the strings with their blue grass, doing their thing. if you want to hear more of them.

But I'm here with some very special guests. Super fans Ricky Smiley, famous comedian host of "The Ricky Smiley Morning Show," representing the Tide (INAUDIBLE) and the Atlanta Falcons and Alabama National Champion Mike Johnson. And you might remember this guy, Hines Ward.

What a matchup this is. One hundred thousand people have descended upon this city. Twenty-six million watched it on TV last year. I wonder what it's going to be this year. Ticket prices, $1,500 for the nose bleeds, and that's for one. $90,000 if you want to sit in a suite. Good luck with that.

We have bang, bang defense. We have great ground game on both sides. We also have some great personalities. I caught up with some of the players and played this little game called the "5 Second Rule" to get to know them. Check it out.


WIRE: Three things that scare you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Water. Well, being in a big body of water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like ghosts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Snakes. I can only think about snakes.


WIRE: You are a grizzly bear.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spiders, snakes and women.


WIRE: If these personalities are any indication of how the game is going to go, it's going to be a fun one to watch. But, hey, we're not going to let these guys off the hook. Rickey, you got a quick -- super fan, Alabama --


WIRE: Three Bama players currently in the NFL?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, gosh. Oh. Oh, gosh.


WIRE: Yes, you knew, Ralph. Ralph knew. All right. Here we go. Hines Ward, here we go. Let's go with three

Georgia Bulldogs in the NFL?

HINES WARD: Thomas Davis, Matthew Stafford and -- AJ Green (ph).

WIRE: There you go. Bulldogs 1-0. I don't know (INAUDIBLE) going to pan out, but it's going to be a fun one.

All right, we have to talk a little bit of NFL playoff action that happened yesterday. One of my former teams that I played for, the Bills, unfortunately didn't advance to the next round, but they are still blazing trails. One of their former assistant coaches went on to become the first female full-time coach in NFL history.


KATHRYN SMITH, FIRST FEMALE FULL-TIME COACH, NFL: You know, you don't set out to be a trailblazer and I didn't know that that's where my path was going to lead me. So it's still -- it's surreal almost.

HARLOW: Where do you think this is leading us?

SMITH: Well, I hope it's leading to honestly to it not being a conversation. I hope that it just becomes -- this is the next coach of this team, but that's what, you know, that's the announcement, not that it's a female coach.


WIRE: Now you may have recognized that interviewer. That was our very own Poppy Harlow interviews Miss Smith. And if you want to hear this full interview, Poppy's podcast, "Boss Files," you can subscribe today on iTunes. I know you've been working this a long time, Poppy. I can't wait to see the full thing.

[10:00:08] And I can't wait for some barbecue for breakfast.