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Interview with Representative Gerry Connolly; North Korea and South Korea Prepare for Face-to-Face Talks Tomorrow; Women Win Big at Annual Awards Show; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 8, 2018 - 10:30   ET

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


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[10:30:53] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: One of the key questions surrounding the special counsel's investigation into possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, will the president have any kind of face-to-face meeting with either Robert Mueller or attorneys in this investigation?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Maybe. Because he was asked it this weekend. Is he willing to sit down and talk to Robert Mueller and he appeared to say yes.

Joining us now, Congressman Gerry Connolly, a Democrat of Virginia.

Nice to have you here. I'm sure you heard that over the --

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Good to be with you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Over the weekend as we all did, and I just wonder, are you encouraged hearing that? Do you think maybe this White House is being more transparent than perhaps some of your fellow Democrats give it credit for? The president says, yes, I'll talk to Bob Mueller.

CONNOLLY: I wouldn't get overly excited about that. I'm glad he's willing to meet with Mueller if he is. We have learned the hard way that you can't trust this president's word so the fact that he says it one day doesn't mean he means it the next. But we can't be distracted by the fact that there's been a full-press onslaught on the FBI, of the Department of Justice and Robert Mueller specifically in order to try to discredit and distract public attention from the ongoing Russia investigation. And that's really the fundamental thing I think we need to deal with.

BERMAN: Right now. Lately the president says he thinks Robert Mueller will be fair but certainly people who are close to the White House, his allies in Congress, have not said the same thing.

Congressman, there's some breaking news that has to do with immigration right now. We're just learning that moments ago the Department of Homeland Security said it will end the temporary protective status for people who came to the United States from El Salvador. They're going to have an 18-month winding down period. This could affect 200,000 people. 200,000 people in the United States who came from El Salvador, many of them more than 15 years ago and lived here now.

Now presumably they have to get out in the next -- sorry, 18 months. Wonder if we get your reaction to this news, sir?

CONNOLLY: I think that's a tragic development and it's a part of a broader assault on refugees and immigrants by this administration. The people who came from El Salvador were fleeing a civil war that was particularly brutal and violent.

I went to El Salvador over 30 years ago to look at that civil war and I couldn't believe the level of violence. And that persisted for a long time. And so there are a lot of people who fled that violence and sought protective haven here in the United States. They have since resettled, established their families and their lives here in the United States, most of them see themselves much more as American citizens than Salvadoran citizens.

And so to end that protection, to end that program is going to disrupt many communities across the United States, but maybe more importantly it's inhumane and it's not consistent with American values.

HARLOW: Congressman, on the immigration point, DACA, so-called Dreamers, and protection for them, that's going to expire in March. So pretty soon. Now the president has been very clear in the last few weeks, no DACA deal unless you give me wall funding, Congress, to the tune of $18 billion. The wall that he said Mexico was going to pay for.

Here is what your Republican colleague in the Senate, Tom Cotton, said just yesterday. Listen.

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SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: I hope the Democrats will come off their unreasonable negotiating position and be willing to compromise. The Democrats want to shut down the government because they can't get amnesty for illegal immigrants, then they're going to have to defend those actions to the American people.

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HARLOW: He says you and other Democrats are coming from an unreasonable negotiating position, says they'll blame you if the government shuts down over this. What do you say?

CONNOLLY: Well, I find that a remarkable statement from Tom Cotton who certainly compromises a new word in his lexicon, but what is there to be compromised about here? We need to protect 800,000 Dreamers from being subject to deportation because of the action by Donald Trump in revoking an executive order that protected them under President Obama.

Now Cotton wants us to agree to conditions to protect those 800,000 individuals including the phony promise of building a wall along the Mexican border, which by the way, as you pointed out, Poppy, Trump said repeatedly, it's on camera, Mexico would pay for it, not us. [10:35:14] So Tom Cotton, a great conservative, now wants the American

taxpayer to foot the bill to $18 billion and going up for a wall none of us wanted and that the Mexicans were supposed to pay for as a precondition to protecting 800,000 young lives. I find that really repugnant. I don't call that compromise at all.

BERMAN: Congressman, if I can, the breaking news this morning we learned moments ago, our Brian Stelter reporting that Oprah Winfrey actively thinking about a possible White House run in 2020. She was a big supporter of President Obama. So one can presume she would run as a Democrat. You, sir, as a Democratic congressman, what do you think of this news?

CONNOLLY: I'm delighted that all kinds of people, including Oprah Winfrey, might be interested in the Democratic nomination, but right now we've got a job to do in 2018 and that is to restore the checks and balances of the Constitution by winning the midterm elections. That is the only check and the only balance we're going to put on this orange haired president in the Oval Office who as we know through "Fire and Fury" is not up to the job but is a danger to the republic.

HARLOW: Right.

CONNOLLY: So I'm focused in 2018.

HARLOW: I don't think anyone cares what his hair looks like.

BERMAN: Yes.

HARLOW: But beyond that, Congressman, just before you go --

CONNOLLY: Well, he cares what his hair looks like.

HARLOW: On a serious note, you know, what does it say, though, about the Democratic Party and can you name a Democrat who would beat Oprah?

CONNOLLY: I'm not going to speculate on 2020, Poppy. As I said, I'm focused on 2018. We'll get to the 2020 election after this November.

BERMAN: All right. Congressman Gerry Connolly, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

CONNOLLY: My pleasure.

BERMAN: And Happy New Year to you.

CONNOLLY: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. A key diplomatic development just hours away. North and South Korea meeting face-to-face.

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[10:41:07] HARLOW: So this morning North and South Korean officials are preparing for a very big face-to-face meeting set for tomorrow. BERMAN: Yes, columns in the "New York Times" reporting what officials

are calling one of the worst failures in the history of U.S. intelligence, senior U.S. intelligence officials say they misjudged how quickly North Korea could develop their nuclear weapons program.

Joining us now live from Seoul, Ivan Watson.

Really just hours away, Ivan, from a significant meeting.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: What to expect?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's the first of its kind in about two years between North and South Korea, both countries sending five-person delegations at the cabinet secretary level to sit down and talk and it's been pushed through basically to try to get North Korean athletes to be able to participate in the upcoming Winter Olympics which are going to be hosted here in South Korea in a month's time.

But how quickly things change in just a short period of time, it was just in late November that North Korea was firing one of these missiles that's banned according to United Nations Security Council resolutions, and now suddenly you have a possible thaw or at least a diplomatic opening between these two neighbors, these two long-time rivals.

South Korea says it also wants to lay the groundwork for possibly setting up reunification meetings between relatives on both sides of the Demilitarized Zone who have been living apart now for more than 60 years since the Korean War, also trying to ratchet down military tensions which everybody agrees probably the Korean Peninsula could use, especially since you have President Trump just a couple of days ago tweeting about how his nuclear button is bigger than Kim Jong-un's button.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, she responded to questions about that tweet in a recent interview. Take a listen.

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NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I know it's something that makes people nervous but if we didn't do it we would be in a more dangerous --

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS' "THIS WEEK": So you think that tweet was a good idea?

HALEY: I think that he always has to keep Kim on his toes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: Well, it's worth noting that the U.S. government has agreed to postpone joint military exercises with South Korea until after the Olympic Games. This after the talks between both sides began. So there is a sign at least for the time being of a slight de-escalation here on the Korean Peninsula -- Poppy and John.

BERMAN: All right. Ivan for us -- Ivan Watson for us in Seoul, thank you so much, Ivan.

HARLOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: Joining us now, John Park, director of the Korea Working Group at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Thank you so much for being with us, Professor. Look, what do you think we can expect from this meeting tomorrow? You say it's important to manage expectations here?

JOHN PARK, DIRECTOR, KOREA WORKING GROUP, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: Absolutely, John. This is a positive development in the sense that we are seeing some diplomatic movement here but if you look at the big picture, North Korea has been making pretty far advancements with their nuclear programs. 2017 was a period where we're all on our toes. We're very concerned about these developments and in the New Year's speech that Kim Jong-un read a few days ago he mentioned that the next step for North Korea when it comes to the nuclear program is mass production of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

So against that backdrop it is very important to have this type of diplomatic pause, but it's important to again manage those expectations and view it as a pause, hopefully it can lead to a freeze and something more substantial. But those would be the results of a process and the meeting will have some indications if this is the beginning of a process. But right now we're treating it as a one-off meeting for the time being.

HARLOW: Do you believe the president deserves credit for these talks happening? That's what he said over the weekend. If I weren't involved they wouldn't be talking right now. Is he right?

PARK: Well, the signs that we've seen actually a lot of diplomatic efforts in the region, the Chinese have been making a lot of these types of concerted efforts with something called the freeze-for-freeze proposal. The Chinese as well as the Russians have been advocating this idea that North Korea would freeze its nuclear weapons development activities in return for the United States and South Korea freezing their military exercise.

[10:45:08] We're seeing some of those pieces take place and from the Chinese side there is an effort there to frame what's happening now as the beginning part of their process of the freeze-for-freeze. But right now, as we see this diplomatic opening, I think we're going to see a lot of different parties saying that they're the catalyst for it and that's fine. But again the eyes are on this idea of can we turn this into a process.

BERMAN: I don't think the Trump administration would ever want to admit the freeze-for-freeze. It's not something they'd certainly embraced.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: At least proactively. Look, there was this reporting in "The New York Times" over the weekend. David Sanger, a terrific article about U.S. intelligence about the North Korean missile program, nuclear program, over the last several decades and said they made two key assumptions about North Korea that were wrong. Number one, they assumed that North Korea would need about as much time to develop their nuclear weapons as other nations had and they misjudged Kim Jong-un, frankly, just flat-out. They misjudged his ambition and his competence at really leading that program forward. What's your take on that?

PARK: You know, the North Korea field is one where there is instances of under estimation, other instances of over estimations. So we swing to the polar extremes here. But one thing that is important is that Kim Jong-un in the Asian context was viewed as the third generation of essentially a family business and from that perspective the third generation is usually seen as the one that kind of peers away all of the gains and successes of the previous generation.

But Kim Jong-un, as we've come to see, is acting a lot like the founder of a family enterprise as opposed to a third generation of it. And so with his activities particularly of the 2017 period it caught everyone by surprise. So I think it's a sample of activity that these advancements were projected to take many years, you know, five to seven was the traditional ballpark, but the fact that he did it in some instances, matters of weeks and months, took us all by surprise.

HARLOW: Yes.

PARK: But one thing that you have to keep in mind is the North Korean nuclear weapons program in the earlier stages was a military industrial complex but later on they were able to source through the global marketplace a lot of these high-end electronics and circuitry that gave them something of a leapfrog that other precedent nuclear weapon states didn't have.

HARLOW: It's a good point. They didn't do it alone.

Quickly, we have 30 seconds left. You know, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley says look, these tweets are not a bad thing. They keep Kim on his toes. CIA director Mike Pompeo says they're entirely consistent with what the U.S. is trying to communicate. Do you believe the president's tweets on North Korea, button size, you know, rocket man help?

PARK: Well, there's a lot of media attention here on, you know, this side of the ocean here and certainly a lot of friends and allies and others are watching it very closely across the ocean. But when you look at the activities, this is a program, this is many years in the making, and I think when it comes to the different types of overtures there's a lot to be said about the technical timeline and try to overlay some aspects of interpretation of what's the catalyst. That's becomes a little trickier. But we are seeing the ongoing program on the North Korean side and that hasn't stopped.

HARLOW: All right. John Park, thank you for the expertise. We appreciate it.

Ahead, the Golden Globes, Oprah stole the show for sure. Women were center stage across the Golden Globes. The big winners, the message of Hollywood last night is next.

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[10:52:26] HARLOW: It was not just Oprah who -- well, she did steal the show last night.

BERMAN: It was a lot of Oprah.

HARLOW: So many women did at the Golden Globes. The 75th Annual Golden Globes, it was a night about so much more than celebrity and movies.

BERMAN: Our Stephanie Elam, our own celebrity, joins us now from Los Angeles to tell us what happened.

It was quite a night, Stephanie.

HARLOW: Yes.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was. I mean, obviously there was a lot of talk about everything that you guys have already been talking about, a lot about Oprah, a lot about everyone wearing black and the #metoo movement but there are also some awards and since that's the part we haven't talked about, I will go into that a bit.

Let's talk about first of all "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." That's a show on Amazon that maybe a lot of people don't know so much about but it was a show I'm told is addictive. Those are words that were used for me. Well, that's a show that went ahead to win for comedy and also its star, Rachel Brosnahan, also winning for her role on that show as well.

You have "The Handmaid's Tale" winning for drama. Obviously a lot of people feeling like that is a timely show because of the way it's discussing what could happen in the future perhaps. Also "Lady Bird," this movie here also a big win for the fact that it won for the film, it also won for just the star of the movie as well. All of that showing that there was a lot of female-driven roles that were being very, very well received during the night.

And then the movie that won for best picture, "Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri" won and you also saw Frances McDormand win for her role in that movie as well. So all of that playing into the night last night. And then there were some firsts as well. You've got to take a look at Sterling K. Brown. He is the first black actor to win for a role, a drama role on TV. His speech also giving a nod to that.

And Aziz Ansari, the first Asian man to win for his role there on "Master of None," a show that he created as well. So you did see some firsts there last night at the Golden Globes. But a lot of it definitely people are paying attention to the fact that Oprah's speech really had the whole room electrified, no doubt.

HARLOW: And Steph, I mean you were there. What was it like? What was the energy like on the red carpet? We saw all the black but what was it like to be there and what did you feel?

ELAM: Well, you know, that's the thing. You might think that it might have had a more dower energy level on the red carpet, but that's not the case at all. I have to tell you, though, I didn't see one major star who didn't have on predominantly black. It seemed to be a real shift. And I was asking stars about that, asking them if this was a real change and several of them did say that they do believe that this is a change, that this is something that has changed now in these post-Harvey Weinstein days, that Hollywood is changing and this, in fact, will show that it's across other industries as well and so they are hoping that this really is a turning point.

[10:55:04] BERMAN: I can see Claire Foy -- I think we're looking at the actress from "The Crown" right there.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: Which is a terrific show and that Amazon show I had not heard of until last night but now I am going to binge watch because as you said, Stephanie --

HARLOW: Have you seen it?

BERMAN: No.

HARLOW: No?

BERMAN: But people are talking about that as well.

HARLOW: Yes.

ELAM: People are talking about it. It's a bit hit. Yes.

HARLOW: All right.

ELAM: I think more people will watch it now.

BERMAN: Stephanie Elam, thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate it.

All right. This morning, new questions about the president's fitness and new defense from the president's aide and this new news, the breaking news, from Brian Stelter, Oprah Winfrey thinking about a possible presidential run. Stick around.

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