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Trump Eyes Approaching Midterm Elections; Trump Attends National College Football Championship; Gayle King: Oprah Intrigued By President Run; Trump Holding Bipartisan Meeting On Immigration. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 9, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:02] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Consider it what you will.

JONATHAN MARTIN. THE NEW YORK TIMES: You know, it's a little bit (INAUDIBLE) there. I mean that's how he rolls. And the crowd loves it. And they're with him and, you know, that sort of the farm bureau at this, it's not a Hillary crowd to say the least. So, those are his folks.

The challenge though is that the people who are not in that room sort of broader electorate in the state, they kind of middle and even a little bit of the center right. They are uneasy about this President, not because of his policies, they're -- lots of them probably are for the tax reform bill, it's because of his conduct and how he treats the office.

And, you know, all of us here who are on the road talking to voters hear the same phrase time and time again. I wish he wouldn't tweet. I don't like the tweets, right? But it's -- that's a euphemism for a larger concern about the fact that he doesn't act like Presidents typically do in this country. And I hope that that's going to change before this fall and if it doesn't change, then a lot of places are going to politically reject him and his party.

KING: And I guess my sense, if you go back and look at the data -- I'm a data geek. If you look at the data or if you read the, you know, historical reports, it's incredibly difficult for a President to improve his standing in a mid-term election year, the second year in office. First year, traditionally get a honeymoon. This President didn't get a honeymoon. The first year, traditionally get a honeymoon, people are, OK, it's new, let's give it a chance even if I didn't vote for this person, let him give a chance.

Then on the second year, you kind of have, you know, the (INAUADIBLE) balloon a little. Do they have plan at this White House? Do they have a sense that, you know, 37% is historically unpopular? If they can click it up to 38, that's a couple of House seats. If they can click it up to 39, they protect a couple more. Do they have a sense of how to try to put out on the road and just try to find a formula?


KING: Please do. JOHNSON: Please wait, if that's a preview of what Trump would say on the campaign trail, which I think it is a, you know, a taste of what he would say I think that's concerning for candidates because he's not the guy I think who you'd bring out for a candidate --


JOHNSON: -- who comes out and says, you know, here is why you're voting for Republican Joe Schmoe, you know, Congressional District III in Minnesota or wherever.

KING: Right.

JOHNSON: He is going to talk about his 2016 victory rather than sell the candidate he is there to sell. That has been somewhat concerning. As to the White House, I don't think they feel they have enough control over the President's conduct to tell him, you know, you need to do X, Y, and Z in order to tick your approval ratings up. But I don't think their communication strategy has ever been -- I think it's problematic in terms of selling their legislation and also in terms of their ability to control the President.

ZELENY: The prompter's --

KING: Jeff, for just one second. She, you know, to the point you made earlier about the economy though and the point you just made about can you get the President to be disciplined? The little bit we played at the top is Trump being Trump as you said, that's part of he's stick but listen here, listen here, can they get the President disciplined or can the Republican Party sneers the President on tax cuts last night asking people, look at your wallets, look at your bank accounts between now and November and don't forget.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American Dream is roaring back to life. And we have just signed into law the most significant tax cuts and reforms in American history.

And if the Democrats ever had the chance, the first thing they would do is get rid of it and raise up your taxes, sometimes by 40%, 50%, 60% higher than you're paying right now. We can't have that.


KING: I don't know if he's the right messenger given his approval ratings, but that's not a bad message if you're Republicans trying to keep the majority.

MARTIN: On the promoter.

ZELENY: And the White House -- right, right. And the White House hopes he keeps talking about that. He's going to be a doubles economic for on the first U.S. President to do it in 20 years or so that's coming up later this month. He -- the White House wants him to talk --


ZELENY: Definitely not but you can take -- what they want him to do is talks about the economy. No, definitely but, you know, what kind of message? You know, there are a lot of Trump contemporaries at least once upon a time I guess. But if, I mean, if he would stop --

KING: His old friends.

ZELENY: -- doing which is we know he won as --

KING: Right.

ZELENY: -- as Jonathan just said.

MARTIN: Right, right.

ZELENY: But if he does talk more about the economy, about the stock market, of course, that could also go down this year. I mean, he's been riding this as sort of a wave here but look, he -- we know he's not going to change a lot. But The White House aides believe that they can get him more on the road this year, which they believe it's a good thing because it distracts him and be, you know, it does rally as base up a little bit. But they wanted to talk about the economy, the tax bill, and nothing else. Of course that's a follower.

MARTIN: And he is capable of staying on the prompter. You just played a clip right there, I recall he went to Missouri shortly before the holidays and he gave us before --

KING: The tax bill.

MARTIN: --it was largely on the tax bill and he didn't really deviate. The problem is that every strategies and candidate this year watched what happened in Alabama with Luther Strange when he went down to Huntsville and he went wildly off script and didn't really help Strange at all and they fear --

KING: Eric Price (ph) loved that.

ZELENY: It's those prime time rallies that they get him into trouble. Usually, just daytime policy speeches.


ZELENY: But they do get incredible local news coverage.

MARTIN: And to your question --

ZELENY: That's why a lot of this people on --

MARTIN: -- John, to your question about, you know, is there a game plan in the White House? Yes, they are kind of trying to hatch a game plan, but let me just borrow from that great American philosopher Mike Tyson who once said, everybody has a strategy until they get punched in the face, right?

[12:35:07] So this White House can have a strategy but when Trump decides, he wants to do what he wants to do in terms of what he wants to say and how he wants to say it, all of their planning, all of the staff work, all of the prep work in the world means nothing if he tweets out, I'm going to support ex-candidate in this primary, they're going to, no, what are you doing? It doesn't matter because he's going to do what he wants to. He's the political director of the White House and they know that out there.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLICTICS REPORTER: And just in terms of, you know, the President's frame of mind, yes there is a little bit of a risk there, you know, is this going to be the night when he decides to go off prompter and none of his aids are aware.


LEE: But I think just in general, we see him and see the way that he is when he sees the crowd in front of him and this has always been the case. He is extremely comfortable, very happy to feel like he is being complimented and that there are supporters out there who are, you know, out there cheering for him. And I think, especially at a time when a book like the Michael Wolff book has come out and he feels like he is under siege. This might be not be the worst thing in terms of White House aides to let him blow off some steam and the energy that is building up inside of him just let it out a little bit.

JOHNSON: I think to that point, I mean, that's White House aides managing the President rather than executing communication strategy aimed at electing Republicans which is --

KING: Right. Aims two full-time jobs.

JOHNSON: Right, just the difficulty, who manage him --

KING: Just as you point, you pick up the New York Times, today, David Brooks is a conservative columnist and a lot of Republicans think he's jumped to ship, shall we say? David Brooks' Fire and Fury very interesting column in the New York Times, says, "It's almost as if there are two White Houses. There's the Potemkin White House, which we tend to focus on, Trump berserk in front of the TV, the lawyers working the Russian investigation and the press operation. Then there is the Invisible White House that you never hear about, which is getting more effective at managing around the distracted boss. I sometimes wonder if the Invisible White House has learned to use the Potemkin White House to deke us while it changes the country."

It's an interesting theory because there are a lot of changes that if you are a liberal, you don't like it and if you are a conservative, you do. Whether it's judicial nominees, regulatory reform, you know, lifting whether it's oil drilling restrictions or energy restrictions. There are a lot of policy changes that don't get a lot of day-to-day attention in Washington because of the drama of Trump --


KING: -- are better changing the country.

JOHNSON: I had a White House aide say to me, you know, look at all we got done last year in terms of reforming and pushing the country and the conservative direction and the President is not a conservative. You know, the White House aides is celebrating but I think all these changes that are taking place in the country are taking place without the President touching them or having much influence on them.

So it's Mitch McConnell who's responsible for the judicial reforms --


JOHNSON: -- and, you know, the vice president is having some influence on elections and personnel. But, really the President is in charge of the -- what David Brooks called the Potemkin White House and the agencies and the Republican House and Senate leaders, leadership who are running everything else.

KING: What do we make of this last night? Again, we're waiting here for the President. Has a group of bipartisan lawmakers at the White House. He's had a very extended session that the White House press pool brought into the meeting room. The President spoken other people in that meeting have spoken about whether they can cut a deal to protect the so-call Dreamers as part of the broader conversation about immigration policy which was then part of a broader conversation about funding the government and keeping it open.

A deadline in 10 days away, as this place out again, we had this conversation early in the election last night, the President decided after that speech in Tennessee to go to the national championship game in college football.

Before the game, he walked out on the field. He's made a big deal about NFL protester in the national NFL college players don't come out on the field for national NFL. They routinely stay in the locker room. Let's show the pictures, the President walking out on the field last night with members of the military for the national anthem. I think we can have those pictures showed to you, I'm hopeful. There we go. President coming out on the field here, waving.

It's always a risk for a politician go on in front of a huge crowd like this. You're going to hear some cheers, you're going to hear some boos but he went out, he was there during the playing of the national anthem. There's a lot of chatter that he seem to get a little bit lost during some the words. Good luck to you at the live event, down the road of field trying to get -- other politicians has had that moment.

ZELENY: Especially because you can always hear as well on the field. Having that asidem he got the picture that he was looking for going there.

KING: Right. Right there.

ZELENY: He put his over his heart. The difference in college football is no players are taking me because college players are not on the field during that. The band is and they are playing the national anthem there. So it's slightly different. He only stayed for half of the game and he was back in Washington like in bed even before the overtime assessment that incredible game last night.

But look, he go exactly what he was looking for there and it was something that, you know, was orchestrated perfectly just seeing these notes here, the pool is finally out. He even talked about Oprah at the end of this very long pool spray. So, tease to stay tuned at that.

KING: So we're going to take a break because we expect to get it just momentarily as we go to break again. The President of the United States talking immigration at the White House, if you are a Georgia fan, you saw the President there. Yes, he was back in the White House, if you are a Georgia fan, you are wondering why didn't they stop throwing the ball. We'll be right back.


[12:41:55] KING: Welcome back. Again, we're waiting for tape, the President talking immigration and other issues at the White House. We'll have that for you any moment now. Among the questions, does he think he can beat Oprah Winfrey?

Now, why was President of the United States be asked if thinks he could beat Oprah Winfrey? Well, Oprah, doing very little to end speculation about a possible 2020 Presidential bid. Today, her best friend, the CBS anchor, Gayle King told her viewers, nothing has changed since Oprah said last year, she has no plans to run, but --


GAYLE KING, CBS ANCHOR: I was up talking to her very late last night. I do think this though, guys. I do 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 the right to your change mind. I don't think at this point she is actually considering it.


KING: Now, we'll hear from the President in just a minute. The Democratic Party not quite sure what to think. Here's what two of Oprah's potential 2020 primary rivals had to say about her big Golden Globe moment.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: I think everybody knows that Oprah is an extremely intelligent, articulate person, but I think it's silly to be speculating on an election that may take place in three years.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: I think she's a real leader and I think her voice is powerful, and important and whatever she wants to do she should do.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: We have about 30 seconds until we hear from the President of the United States on immigration and other issues, including Oprah. Is this a sign of Democratic strength that Oprah Winfrey wants to get involved? Is this a sign of Democratic weaknesses? They don't have a clear front-runner. Is it a sign that Trump is just blowing up every rule in American politics?

ZELENY: It's a sign that the midterm season is always a season for all comers. The Democratic Party's bench is entirely wiped out essentially so why not have this conversation. Things will get more real after the midterm elections.

MARTIN: We're a celebrity obsessed country and I think politics has become driven by celebrities. And also Democrats have this cultural issue in their party. They keep focus on midterms. They were just --

KING: Here we go -- sorry to interrupt. President of the United States at the White House talking immigration. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- to the world, but it seems to me not much of that would change in terms of your positions.

TRUMP: No, I think it's change. I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with. I am very much reliant on the people of this room. I know most of the people on both sides have a lot of respect for the people on both sides and my -- what I approve is going to be very much reliant on what the people in this room come to me with. I have great confidence in the people. If they come to me with things that I'm not in love with, I'm going to do it, because I respect them. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you.


Yes, I'll beat him. Oprah would be a lot of fun. I know it very well, you know, I did one of her last shows. She had Donald Trump as before politics. Her last week and she had Donald Trump in my family, it was very nice. Though, I like Oprah. I don't think she is going to run. I know her very well.


Yes, it's phase two. I think comprehensive will be phase two. I think I really agree with Jake. I think we get the one thing done and then we go into comprehensive the following day. I think it will happen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just wait one second.

TRUMP: Thank you all very much. I hope we gave you enough material. This should cover you for about two weeks.

(END VIDEOTAPE) [12:45:21] KING: That's a small taste of the President at the White House. And welcome to the world, welcome to how much American politics has changed with Donald Trump as president of United States talking about running against Oprah Winfrey and then blowing up the Republican Party on immigration all in about a sentence right there.


KING: Let's start with the political with the policies.

MARTIN: Season two.

KING: I'm going to probably disappoint everybody watching. I'm going to disappoint everybody watching probably with the control of this one.

Let's start with the policy first. Immigration has been the quicksand of American politics for the last decade or more. The president there just saying, remember, he ran on I'm going to build a wall. Mexico is going to pay for it. We're not going to have amnesty. He -- we're going to have increased enforcement. We're going to let people coming into this country. We're going to stop money going to sanctuary cities.

Remember the campaign, he just said whatever they send me, I will sign. I will be flexible, I will respect the people in this room. He was flanked by two leading Democrats, Dick Durbin senator of Illinois, Steny Hoyer, the number and the House leadership of Democratic at Maryland. And the president of United States early in the midterm election here saying, you guys come up with a plan, get me something outside it and now we could talk about comprehensive immigration.

MARTIN: Immediately, immediately.

KING: Which on the next day which includes, depending on your perspective, a path to legal status, or the Democrats would like it to be a path to citizenship. Was that a reality TV show or was that today's political reality?

ZELENY: He would sign that. I mean, I think he actually would, but the reality is he has a problem with his own party on this. I mean, so that -- as we said earlier, is he going to stand up to the Steve Kings the others? I mean many, many, many more people in this Party and do this.

Look, I'm not sure he has any idea how difficult this is or if he has sort of looked at the history of how this passed the Senate in 2013 that failed (ph) in the House.

KING: That's George W. Bush.

ZELENY: Exactly.

KING: John McCain, the late senator, Ted Kennedy.

ZELENY: But, again, he's a unique figure. If he wanted to lead on this, he's uniquely qualified to do so. Does he want to, will he be able to? Way, way, way too early to say that.

LEE: And, noteworthy that he said he will sign something even if he's not in love with whatever it is that they send. I think that's just another example that shows that he will choose a deal over policy any day. He doesn't necessarily have, I think, bullet points on what exactly he must get from this immigration deal. He is just more interested in striking a deal.

There's been a lot of talk about how some Republicans are happy or relieved that John Kelly has taken over that immigration talks. But I think don't overestimate Trump's ability to --

KING: But the president, to that point let's go back and listen to more of the President at the White House just moments ago.


TRUMP: Well, thank you very much, everyone for being here. I'm thrilled to be with a distinguished group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers from both the House and the Senate. We have something in common we'd like to see this get done, and you know what this means.

We are here to advance bipartisan immigration reform that serves the needs of the American families, workers, and taxpayers. It's DACA. We're talking about DACA for a long time. I've been hearing about it for years long before I decided to go into this particular line of work. And maybe we can do something.

We have a lot of good people in this room. A lot of people that have a great spirit for taking care of people we represent -- we all represent it. For that reason, any legislation on DACA we feel, at least a strong part of this group feels -- has to accomplish three vital goals.

And, Chairman Goodlatte will be submitting a bill over the next two to three days that will cover many of the things. And, obviously, that will -- if it gets past, it will go to the Senate and they can negotiate and we'll see how it all turns out. But I feel having the Democrats in with us is absolutely vital because there should be bipartisan bill. It should be a bill of love. Truly, it should be a bill of love, and we can do that.

But it also has to be a bill where we're able to secure our border. Drugs are pouring into our country at a record pace. A lot of people are coming in that we can't have. We've greatly stiffened, as you know, and fewer people are trying to come in. But we have tremendous numbers of people on drugs pouring into our country.

So, in order to secure it, we need a wall. We need closing enforcement. We have to close enforcement loopholes and give immigration officers and these are tremendous people, the border security agents, the ICE agents, we have to give them the equipment they need. We have to close loopholes and this really does include a very strong amount of different things for border security.

I think everybody in the room would agree to that. I think that we -- it's a question of amounts. But I think everyone agrees we have to have border security. I don't think there'd be anybody that says no.

[12:50:02] Second, there has to be a bill to end chain migration. Chain migration is bringing in many, many people with one and often it doesn't work out very well. Those many people are not doing us right. And I think a lot of people in the room and I'm not sure I can speak for everybody, but a lot of the people in this room want to see chain migration ended.

And we have a recent case along the West Side Highway having to do with chain migration, where a man ran over and killed eight people and many people injured badly, loss of arms, loss of legs. Horrible thing happened. And then you look at the chain and all the people that came in because of him. Terrible situation.

And the other is canceled the lottery program. They call it visa lottery, I just called it lottery. But countries come in and they put names in a hopper. They're not giving you their best names, come and sense means they're giving you their best names. They're giving you people that they don't want. And then we take them out of the lottery. And when they do it by hand, where they put their hand in a bowl and probably what's in their hand are the worst of the worst.

But they put people that they don't want into a lottery and the United States takes those people. And again, they're going back to that same person who came in through the lottery program. They went -- they visited this neighborhood and the people in the neighborhood said, oh my god, we suffered with this man, the rudeness, the horrible way he treated us right from the beginning. So we don't want the lottery system or the visa lottery system. We want it ended.

So those three things are paramount. These are measures that will make our community safer and more prosperous. These reforms are supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans and from every standpoint, from every poll and they're being requested by law enforcement officers.

I had a big meeting with ICE last week. I had a meeting with the border patrol agents last week. Nobody knows it better than them. As an example, on the wall, they say, sir, we desperately need the wall. And we don't need a 2,000-mile wall. We don't need a wall where you have rivers and mountains and everything else protecting.

But we do need a wall where a fairly good portion. We also, as you know, it was passed in 2006, a essentially similar thing, which a fence a very, a very substantial fence was passed. But, unfortunately, I don't know, they never got it done. But they need it.

So I'm appealing to everyone in the room to put the country before a party and to sit down and negotiate and to compromise, and let's see if we can get something done. I really think that we have a chance to do it. I think it's very important. You're talking about 800,000 of people and you're talking about lots of other people are also affected, including people that live in our country. That's from the security standpoint. So, maybe the press cans stay for a little while and a couple of folks can make statements and I don't mind the statements. We will have this as a very open forum. I will say, though, that I really do believe Democrat and Republican, the people sitting around this table want to get something done in good faith. And I think we're on our way to do it. This is an idea I had last week. I was sitting with some of our great Republican senators and we all agreed on everything.

It was a great meeting, right? David, right? We had a great meeting, Tom? It was perfect. Then I said, yes, but we would like to get some Democrats. Well, what would they say? And I say let's have the same meeting, but let's add the Democrats. And that's what we've done and I think we're going to come up with an answer. I hope we're going to come up with an answer for DACA, and then we go further than that later on down the road.

Dick, perhaps you'd like to say a few words.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), MINORITY WHIP: Thanks, Mr. President, for inviting us. We're all honored to be part of this conversation.

September the 5th, you challenged us. You challenged Congress. You said we're going to end DACA, not replace it. As of today, we have not done that. We face a deadline of March 5th, which you've created with the elimination of DACA, and we know that in the meantime, there have been efforts underway by Senator Graham and I.

We sat down with a bipartisan group of senators. We have worked long and hard, many hours have been put into it. And we feel that we can put together our combination for the future of DACA as well as border security. But there elements you're going to find Democrats support when it comes to border security. We want a safe border in America, period, both when it comes to the issues of illegal migration, but also when it comes to drugs in all these other areas.

Now, I will say that there is a sense of urgency that's felt by many of us when it comes to this issue. There are many of this young people who are losing the protection of DACA on a daily basis. As of March 5th, a thousand a day we'll lose DACA protection. Nine hundred of them are members of the U.S. military. Twenty thousand of them are schoolteachers. In my state of Illinois and the city of Chicago, there are 25 of them in medical school who can't apply for residency if they lose their DACA status.

[12:55:06] So, lives are hanging in the balance of our getting the job done. We've got the time to do it. In a matter of days, literally of days, we can come together and reach an agreement. And when that happens, I think good things will happen in other places. And we'll see some progress in Washington.

TRUMP: I agree with that, Dick. I very much agree with that. Tom, would you like to say something? Tom Cotton.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Thank you for inviting us all here and I'm glad to be here with the Democrats and with House members as well. You know, I think on this issue there is a lack of trust and has been, for many years, a lack of trust between Republicans and Democrats, a lack of trust among Republicans, most fundamentally, a lack of trust between the American people and our elected leaders on not delivering the solution for many, many years about some of these problems.

And I hope that this meeting can be the beginning of building trust between our parties, between the chambers, because I know, for fact, all the Republicans around the table are committed to finding a solution, and I believe all the Democrats are as well.

So I think this is a good first step in building the trust we need for a good bill, Mr. President, that will achieve the objectives that you stated, providing legal protection for the DACA population, while also securing our border and ending chain migration and the diversity lottery.

Thank you for the invitation.

TRUMP: Thank you.

REP. STENY HOYER (D), MINORITY WHIP: Mr. President, thank you very much for having us down here. I agree with Tom Cotton that the American public are very frustrated with us. One of the reasons they're frustrated with us because we continue to couple things on which we had large agreement with things on which we do not agree. This is a perfect example of that.

Eighty-six percent of the American people in the most recent poll are for ensuring, as you have said, not providing for DACA-protected kids to go to a place that they don't know, they didn't grow up in, and it's not their home. They're Americans. They don't have a piece of paper that says they're Americans, but they're Americans.

And it seems to me, Mr. President, if we're going to move ahead in a constructive way, that we take that on which we agree, pass it. The American public will be pleased with all of us if we do that. Just as, in September, you recall, we did the extension of the C.R. No drama, we were all for it. You and the four leaders met, we came to an agreement, and we passed that C.R.

In my view, we can pass the protection in the -- well, I understand your position is procedurally it was not done correctly. You then, as Dick has said, challenged us to pass it correctly. If it's put on the floor, Mr. President, I believe it will have the overwhelming majority in both the House and the Senator Graham thinks that we'll have a substantial majority in the United States Senate as well.

That, I think is the first step, Tom, to creating some degree of confidence. Democrats are for security at the borders. I want to state that emphatically. There is not a Democrat that is not for having secure borders. There are obviously differences, however, Mr. President, on how you effect that. You've just indicated that yourself. And you indicated this would be a first step, and then we continue to talk as we are talking today about how we best secure the border. There are differences of opinion within your party and within our party.

So I would urge that we move forward on protecting the DACA, protected individuals. Young people, young adults as you pointed out in one of your statements, who are productive parts of our community, that we protect that and get that done. And then, because I think everybody around the table, as you pointed out, is for security and then the issue is going to be how do we best effect that border security.

So I would urge us to move, as Senator Durbin urged us to move, on the DACA students. As a matter of fact, the Speaker, I think today, but maybe yesterday, said, we need to solve the DACA issue, and we need to solve it in a way that is permanent, not temporary. And I agree with him on that issue.

TRUMP: And, interestingly, when you say that, President Obama, when he signed the executive order, actually said he doesn't have the right to do this. And so you do have to go through Congress, and you do have to make it permanent, whether it does, whether he doesn't, let's assume he doesn't, he said it, and that was a temporary stopgap. I don't think we want that. I think we want to have a permanent solution to this and I think everybody in this room feels that way very strongly.

HOYER: And what happened, Mr. President, I think is that Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill, as you know. We did not consider it in the House, so we didn't reach those issues. Very frankly, on border security, Mr. McCaul, the chairman of the committee --