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Positive Results from North & South Korea Talks; Will Oprah Run in 2020; Arpaio Considers Senate Run in Arizona; Trump, Congressional Leaders Discuss DACA; Lawmakers Grill Trump's HHS Secretary Pick. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 9, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:32:50] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The first high-level talks between South Korea and North Korea actually resulted in some positive movement. North Korea is going to send a delegation to the Winter Olympic games in South Korea next month. And the North agreed to a proposal by the South to hold military talks. There was, though, some disagreement about what the military talks could cover.

Joining me now is CNN senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson.

So what came out of these first face-to-face talks today, Ivan?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Clearly a deal, at least when it comes to the Winter Olympics with the opening ceremony just one month away, both sides sat down at the table and within a short period of time they announced that not only would North Korean athletes be attending but also what sounds like a pretty big entourage including a high-level delegation a cheering squad, an art troupe, visitors group, a Tae Kwon Do demonstration team, and North Korean journalists as well. The South Koreans went into these negotiations saying there were other things they hoped to discuss and they made some progress on re-establishing some contacts between the military on both sides of the demilitarized zone, reopening a line of communication on the west side of the peninsula.

And, of course, the hope there is that if you have these kinds of lines open, if there is a miscalculation or miscommunication, this is a way to diffuse tension instead of having what is the worst-case scenario blowing up. They've agreed to have other types of discussions going forward. This has been welcomed by the Japanese, by the Russians, by the Chinese as well, and a lot of South Koreans will say we're happy both sides are talking.

It's stunning if you consider that it was just late last November that North Korea fired a missile and last September conducted its largest nuclear explosion to date. This has been described as a step forward. And here's I think the key thing for the South Koreans. There is much less fear that North Korea could fire a missile or conduct a nuclear weapons test during the highly anticipated Winter Olympics that will begin here in just one month's time -- Brianna?

[11:35:03] KEILAR: Very reassuring for them. Ivan Watson, in Seoul, thank you so much.

Joining me to discuss is Michael Allen, a former member of the National Security Council under President George W. Bush. He's managing director of Beacon Global Strategies.

Michael, on its face, to hear that some of these things were discussed, since there were key points of agreement, that seems like a positive outcome. What's your reaction as someone with so much expertise in this area?

MICHAEL ALLEN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, BEACON GLOBAL STRATEGIES & FORMER MEMBER, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Brianna, I think if you look at it on its face it seems like a pure, uncall ter rated good, but when we look at our larger aims in North Korea the ultimate, verifiable, denuclearization of the peninsula, we believe and our policy is the only way we will get there is those of us that are against North Korea are allied together and so the cynic in me say this is the North Koreans pandering to the South Korean public and trying to meet with their leader in order to put a split in the alliance so that people will be less likely to support military exercises and/or new sanctions. They'll say listen, we're talking now, except I don't think we're making progress toward our ultimate goal.

KEILAR: They are -- North Korea wanting the North Korean public to sort of soften on North Korea, is that what you're saying, soften on wanting to have a show of force with the U.S. and work towards that actual end goal of denuclearization?

ALLEN: I think that's right. Listen, president moon in South Korea his policy is the sunshine policy, the way they describe we need to get along with the North and that sounds fine, that sounds great and get they are very close to artillery and the rest in North Korea, but I don't think it gets us closest to the ultimate goal because what North Korea wants is for South Korea first and then Japan and then the rest of us to sort of recognize them as a nuclear power.

And to the degree that we're talking about other things and while it seems like ok, great, we're lessening tensions, it's not getting us closer to what everybody agrees is the most dangerous thing and Ivan mentioned it, it's their ICBMs and when are they going to be able to put a nuclear warhead on an ICBM that will survive re-entry as it comes into the atmospheric end. These are big issues and big problems. It's a very complicated diplomatic situation and I worry this is just sort of a feint by the North Koreans to split our alliance.

KEILAR: They don't have meetings to be nice.

ALLEN: They don't. They have an agenda.

KEILAR: They do.

Michael Allen, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

ALLEN: Thank you. KEILAR: Coming up, is Oprah really considering a run for president? The billionaire media mogul's best friend isn't exactly pouring cold water on the idea. We'll talk about that next.


[11:42:09] KEILAR: So if anyone knows for sure if Oprah 2020 is going to happen, it would be her BFF, right? So here's what Gayle King said this morning about the possibility of Oprah Winfrey running for the White House.


UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: Is she considering it?

GAYLE KING, OPRAH'S BEST FRIEND: No, I absolutely don't think that her position has changed. I don't. I was up talking to her very late last night.

I do think this, though, guys, I think she's intrigued by the idea, I do think that. I also know that after years of watching "The Oprah Show" you always have a right to change your mind. I don't think at this point she is actually considering it.


KEILAR: So, you're saying there's a chance.

Let's talk about this and the other big political news of the day with CNN commentator and former Democratic member of the South Carolina State House, Bakari Sellers. And with us, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, Alice Stewart.

All right, Bakari, Gayle King is not slamming the door there?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: She's not. But I do -- I don't know the last time there was a more widely admired speech that was so fundamentally misunderstood. I don't think that was a campaign speech for Oprah Winfrey. In fact, I think Oprah Winfrey was imploring the rest of us to become more active, particularly women in the Democratic process.

So I think that if Oprah decides to run, she should run, I want everyone on the Democratic side to run, because for a long period of time we've been freezing out certain individuals and I want to bring as many people into the process as possible and just have a battle of ideas, one of which Oprah can win, she just has to commit herself to doing it.

KEILAR: Do you think she feels like her speech may have been misunderstood?

SELLERS: I think that there is a lot of us who believe that her speech was misunderstood including herself. I don't think she was using that as a launching pad to her candidacy to the White House. I think it was an amazing speech that I showed my daughter, so she could hear the fact that she could be anything she wanted to, to be. In fact, reminded me of Hillary Clinton's speech on human rights in Beijing not long ago. I think this is not about Oprah Winfrey being president of the United States, but about more Democrats and Republican women taking back control of their narrative and becoming a part of the political process.

KEILAR: But that speech, I wonder what you, Alice, that Hillary Clinton speech was long -- when Hillary Clinton was first lady.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITIAL COMMENTATOR: Right. So much about that speech, it wasn't as much as what Oprah said as the way she said it. I think it was a phenomenal speech, very inspiring, women empowerment, it was about praising people for standing up against sexual harassment which was so important, but to say -- but the way she said it and so powerful and so meaningful and saying the time is now, I think that is what led people to think this may be a trial balloon for a possible presidential run.

But to take that as any kind of opening up the door for a political venture, I think that is kind of a stretch. But just when we thought Donald Trump was the king of teases, this is the grand tease we'll see for the next two, maybe three years.


[11:45:13] KEILAR: What about Sheriff Joe Arpaio? We learned this controversial figure, who was pardoned by President Trump after being convicted of contempt of court, has just told the "Washington Examiner" that he's going to run for Senate in Arizona. What do you think about that?

STEWART: I think it's exciting. I'm a fan of him with regard to what he's done on immigration. I've sat at many round tables with him in Arizona and I think he is strong on law enforcement, clearly someone that wants to continue the president's message with regard to border security and being tough on immigration and tough on crime. He'll certainly have a lot of people --


KEILAR: He's a lightning rod.

STEWART: He certainly is. But no doubt will have --


BAKARI: He's --


STEWART: -- support of the president and many of those on the right, but it -- I think was probably destined to be when the president pardoned him he may have a political future, and this is his venture into it.

KEILAR: Bakari? SELLERS: I'm as excited as Alice is, probably for a different reason.

Democrats need pick-ups we need Arizona and Nevada. If there's anybody -- you take -- sheriff Joe Arpaio is Roy Moore. Roy Moore, prior to the pedophilia, was an unqualified person to be in the United States Senate. That is where Sheriff Arpaio fits. There is this narrative and this line that is driving Mitch McConnell crazy because he does not want to go down this path of having lightning rods who envelope themselves in xenophobia and bigotry and these other things. Democrats have an amazing opportunity if sheriff Joe Arpaio is the nominee in Arizona. Just like we did in Alabama, we can shock the world in Arizona as well and that makes this a much more difficult map for what we thought would be Republican pick-ups.

KEILAR: Alice, I want to talk about immigration, as this is on the table as we speak right now. Bipartisan members of Congress meeting with the president at the White House, Democrats want to fix the process for DREAMers, they want to give them protections. The president wants the wall, he wants border security. How does this shake out and are we headed for a government shutdown?

STEWART: I think, first and foremost, everyone can acknowledge that CNN polls and others, virtually 80 percent of Americans want to see some kind of relief for DREAMers. Republicans and Democrats in washington understand that. Democrats have to understand this needs to be the spending bill needs to be a clean spending bill and don't tie it to DACA. If they want to shut down the government over DACA they have explaining to do to their constituents back home.

I think it's important let's focus on the spending bill and not get down to the last minute, but it is critical for Republicans to stand firm on what the president wants. If we're going to negotiate on DACA and providing relief for DREAMers there must be some type of border security or doing away with chain migration, doing away with the visa lotteries. Democrats have to give if they want to get somewhere with DACA.

KEILAR: Bakari, what happens if Democrats are very possibly blamed for a government shutdown?

SELLERS: Well, I don't see how that's possible. I think the president of the United States, the last check was a Republican, or has an "R" beside his name. There's a Democratic leadership in both -- Republican leadership in both the House and Senate and so I don't see -- I mean I think that's wishful thinking for any Republican strategist or any Republican elected official to think that when the government shuts down, somehow Democrats will be blamed. Listen, the fact is, Democrats aren't going to roll over on DACA. We need to have relief there. If the president wants to pass a spending bill that spending bill will be tied to making sure an American citizen, DACA citizens, have the right to citizenship. That is a no-brainer and we're not budging on that at all.

KEILAR: Bakari Sellers, Alice, thank you so much to both of you.

Alice Stewart, really appreciate it. And the battle to replace Tom Price is heating up on Capitol Hill

today. The White House's next pick for Health and Human Services secretary is getting grilled over his past work as a drug company executive and decisions made there. Details ahead.


[11:53:30] KEILAR: President Trump's nominee for Health and Human Services is on Capitol Hill answering questions for his confirmation hearing. These are live pictures coming to you. Alex Azar is a former pharmaceutical company executive. He has experience at HHS under George W. Bush. And Democrats are asking pointed questions about his time in the private sector.

Joining me with more on this is CNN government regulation correspondent, Rene Marsh.

Safe to say he can really get grilled.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's already happening. We are about two hours into this confirmation hearing for Alex Azar. He is President Trump's pick to replace Tom Price for HHS secretary. An incredibly important position. He will be the policy driver for all things HHS, everything from health care to the opioid crisis to sky high drug prices.

Republicans are really praising him because of his experience. He worked at HHS during Hurricane Katrina. He also worked there post 9/11 during the anthrax attack. But Democrats are critical of his ties to the pharmaceutical industry. He was president of U.S. operations of Eli Lilly.

Take a listen to this exchange with Senator Wyden.

SEN. RON WYDEN, (D), OREGON: Did you ever lower price, ever, of a Lilly drug sold in the United States?

ALEX AZAR, HHS SECRETARY NOMINEE: Drug prices are too high, Senator Wyden. I said that when I was at Lilly.


WYDEN: That is not the question.


[11:55:07] WYDEN: Did you ever lower the price?

AZAR: I don't know -- I don't know that there is any drug price of a branded product that has ever gone down from any company on any drug in the United States because every incentive in the system is towards higher prices.


MARSH: It hasn't come up yet, but likely will, this report that while Azar was at Eli Lilly they tested Cialis for erectile dysfunction on children. Many saw it as a way, a strategy to extend the patent, which was about to expire on this very lucrative drug. It hasn't come up yet, but I'm sure it will.

KEILAR: Would have made the company money, for sure.

Rene Marsh, thank you so much. We will be looking for that.

Right now, the president is meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers behind closed doors. The goal is to come to an agreement on immigration while avoiding a government shutdown. Can the White House close the deal? That's next.