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DACA Deal or No DACA Deal?; Trump Creates Confusion Over FISA Surveillance Program; Sources: Trump Allies Urge Him Not to Talk to Mueller; Interview with Congressman Adam Schiff of California. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired January 11, 2018 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:07] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The president's "FOX & Friends" fix comes head to head with his national security team.

THE LEAD starts right now.

In two early morning tweets, President Trump sends heads a spinning at the White House within his party and presumably in the shadows of our intelligence community with his thoughts on foreign surveillance and the FBI. Why does the president seem to trust FOX News pundits more than his own CIA and FBI directors?

Deal or no deal? Republicans can't even get on the same page about whether a plan's in place to save dreamers and keep the government open. Is President Trump's wall the roadblock?

Plus, the doctor is in. After speculation about the president's fitness for office, the Trump administration is going all out in detailing his health.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to begin with a politic's lead today, and President Trump throwing a proverbial wrench into a debate over a controversial national security bill this morning and, in doing so, illustrating better than any bestseller ever could one of the biggest challenges for this presidency, his own impulse control, which may sometimes seem reckless.

Today, the House of Representatives was set to vote on a reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, otherwise known as FISA, specifically a six-year extension of Section 702 of the FISA Act. That section, which grew out of terrorist surveillance priorities, allows the intelligence community to monitor foreign communications, even with people in the U.S.

It was set to expire in eight days. Here's how FBI Director Christopher Wray described the provision on Tuesday.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: It is an essential foreign intelligence authority that permits the targeted surveillance of non- U.S. persons overseas. Without 702, we would open ourselves up to intelligence gaps that would make it easier for bad cyber-actors and terrorists to attack us and our allies and to make it harder for us to detect those threats. We cannot afford to let that happen.


TAPPER: That is President Trump's picked FBI director.

Republican leaders and the White House completely on board. Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said reauthorizing the provision was -- quote -- "a top priority of the administration." She said the bill was necessary, so the U.S. government could -- quote -- "collect critical intelligence on terrorist organizations, weapons proliferators, and other foreign adversaries that is vital to keeping the nation safe."

But then, then this morning, President Trump went to one of his primary sources of misinformation, "FOX & Friends," with commentators that he seems to trust more than senior members of his own administration. And it was there at "FOX & Friends" that he heard this message at 6:47 a.m.


ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS: I'm scratching my head. I don't understand why Donald Trump is in favor of this. His woes began with unlawful foreign surveillance and unconstitutional domestic surveillance of him before he was the president of the United States, and now he wants to institutionalize this.

Mr. President, this is not the way to go.


TAPPER: That characterization from Judge Andrew Napolitano of FOX News, who you might recall when anchors distanced themselves from him and his baseless claim that British intelligence spied on Trump at President Obama's request. Remember that?

Napolitano now claiming that there was unconstitutional domestic surveillance of then citizen Donald Trump, which we have no evidence for, no evidence that it ever occurred. President Trump, however, seemed moved by this direct-to-camera of plea, despite the fact that his own national security team has been pushing for renewal of the FISA program.

So President Trump at 7:33 a.m. tweeted -- quote -- "House votes on controversial FISA Act today. This is the act that may have been used with the help of the discredited and phony dossier to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump campaign by the previous administration and others?"

Now, that initial tweet from the president seeming to lobby against this authorization caused a lot of confusion on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Hill sources tell CNN, with a bill that regularly draws opposition in the dozens from Democrats and Republicans alike. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called House Speaker Paul Ryan and urged him to pull the bill in light of the president's tweet. Speaker Ryan and President Trump then spoke, which CNN's Manu Raju asked Speaker Ryan about.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We understand that you spoke to the president after his morning tweet. Is it your understanding that the president does not understand what this FISA bill is and the fact that his own administration was supporting it?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, look, we speak on an almost daily basis. It's well known that he has concerns about the domestic FISA law. That's not what we're doing today.


Today was 702, which is a different part of that law, Section 7 -- that's Title 7, not Title 1, and Title 7, which we're doing today is foreign terrorists on foreign soil.


TAPPER: So, President Trump did attempt another try a little less than two hours after his first tweet, writing this time -- quote -- "With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office, and today's vote is about surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it. Get smart."

CNN asked White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who was on Capitol Hill during this vote, if the president's tweets made matters more difficult? Kelly responded: "It's not more difficult. It's a juggling act."

The bill did pass the House. It's now headed to the Senate. Asked about the confusion today, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders denied that it existed.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't see any contradiction or confusion.

The president has a great deal of understanding. This is top of mind. He was talking about it last week. He issued a presidential memo on it. So it's not something that just happened this morning. This has been an ongoing discussion and something of great importance.

The president doesn't believe that Americans' rights or liberties should be abused, but he certainly believes that Americans should be protected.


TAPPER: This is now standard practice of this White House to deny the nose on your face.

Of course there was confusion. Republicans on Capitol Hill said there was confusion, and that's the very reason why President Trump felt the need to send out the second tweet to clear up the confusion.

Now, beyond the merits of the legislation -- and there is a good debate to have over this surveillance legislation, one we have had many times on this show -- beyond that, we are left once again with a very clear illustration of a problem, the president, not particularly informed on a specific subject, fueled by his own sense of grievance, tweeting against his own administration's position.

This has all happened before, relying on "FOX & Friends" over his own FBI and CIA directors and national security adviser when it comes to national security issues, issues they insist are life and death.

Whatever you think of Michael Wolff and the book "Fire and Fury" and the sourcing of all that, look up, witness these facts. They're playing out in real time right in front of you.

My panel joins me now to into this.

I'm going to start with Mike Rogers, the former Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, your reaction to what happened today and what do you want John Kelly to know he needs to do to prevent it from happening again?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, rip the Twitter machine out of the hands of the president. That would be a great start. Or at least put those big white things on his fingers, so he can't quite type, you know, get the keypad going.

Listen, the reason this is a problem is because there have been months and months and months of members who understand the importance of 702, the foreign intelligence collection and surveillance act, where they brief other members, who aren't on security committees, who don't have an understanding of this, because that's not in their lane, to get them comfortable, to go through the education process, offer them classified briefings, to do all of that to get up to today when this vote counts, and then, you know, bring those members along, tell them that we will give you all the materials you need to go home and to explain why you did what you did, because there's lots of misinformation about it.

And then to have the president do this, this morning, I'm sure that there were lots of heart palpitations from a lot of people who have built the case of why we had all of these members ready to vote for it. Luckily, it looks like they were able to put it in a box, and John Kelly apparently got in the car and drove down to the House to make sure that they understood that the administration's position was this was important in our effort to stop terrorism, catch spies.

TAPPER: It's remarkable.

Margaret Hoover, I guess I don't know which is worse, that President Trump knew that the FBI director and CIA director and his national security adviser, et cetera, disagreed with Judge Napolitano, or he had no idea. I don't know which is worse, but either way, he was taking the FOX News pundit's word as gospel.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: He -- what we know about President Trump is that he doesn't actually believe in experts. He believes that his own opinion at any given moment is the prevailing correct opinion.

And so, while he was certainly listening and taking in what Napolitano said, he doesn't -- it doesn't even occur to him, it seems, to defer to people who really do know much more about these things, because he thinks he knows what is necessary to know.

What is extraordinary, as somebody who's worked in the White House and in the functioning of government and on Capitol Hill, is that the chief of staff of the White House, the person who is behind the president every moment of the day and is constantly juggling in his words 15 different pressing issues from North Korea to domestic politics to DACA, had to leave his post in the White House and go to Capitol Hill and sit in the Cloak Room on Capitol Hill outside of the House chamber to ensure that this vote got done.

Imagine how much didn't happen now because the White House chief of staff had to spend that time and how much more functional a White House and the country could be run if they weren't constantly fire- drilling the president's bad actions.



Containing president's chaos is Chief of Staff Kelly's number one job. It's just rarely do you see a chief of staff departing for Capitol Hill to try to calm everybody down because the president's contradicted administration policy.

And the fact that he is taking his talking points from TV, and motivated from a place of grievance, as you point out, over the Intelligence Committees is just the latest example of a deeper problem that we can't confront and we can't be spun away from. And, of course, it's confusion and chaos.

That's what this president seems to breed, and the answer is not putting mittens on him so he can't tweet. The answer is him actually trusting his administration and intelligence sources.

TAPPER: So, Congressman, let me ask you this, because I was talking to the ACLU today about the legislation, about the bill and their concerns about it.

And one of the legislative affairs directors said to me that this is -- her name is Neema Guliani. And one of the issues that she said is: "Congress is on the cusp of giving this authority to someone like Trump. If Trump decides he wants to target immigrants, minorities, or even news stations he doesn't like, his administration now has a honey pot of information to sift through. That kind of power in an administration as erratic as this is concerning."

ROGERS: I think that's an irresponsible statement, candidly.

TAPPER: OK. Explain, explain.

ROGERS: First of all, this has been around since about 2007. So the president has already had this, and actually there was a little bit of a wall put into this bill that he -- in other words, took away a little bit of his authority in the passage of this bill.

They separated criminal and intelligence gathering and they put it in two different places. You now have to have a warrant to look at information even if it was generated overseas through an American here in the United States. So that was a hurdle that wasn't there before.

So this notion -- I think they're taking advantage of their position, given where they think the president is, but it is not fair to say that he had -- that the intelligence community writ large can now go on the hunt for people they don't like. That is patently false. There is oversight of this, there is judicial oversight of this, there is congressional oversight of this, there is inspector general oversight of this.

This is one of those programs that has more people looking at it than are actually doing the work. And so I wouldn't -- that'd be the least thing I would be concerned about, but it was really important to make sure that our intelligence community had the ability to listen to foreigners who are overseas communicating to other foreigners likely overseas and committing acts of either terror or espionage.

And without this authority that was getting ready to go away, we would have lost all of that. And I think that would have been a travesty and dangerous to the United States.

TAPPER: I want to ask about one other topic. And I know you're eager to jump in on this, but I do want to ask about this, because Kellyanne Conway was on CNN last night and she said that nobody at the White House is talking about Hillary Clinton. Take a listen.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: We don't care about her. Nobody here talks about her. Hey, Chris, nobody here talks about Hillary Clinton, I promise you.


TAPPER: So that was after the president had tweeted -- no, I'm sorry, had spoken at a press conference and referred to Clinton as his opponent. He said, my opponent, Hillary Clinton.

And then this morning, he logged onto Twitter, he mentioned Hillary Clinton again. We said yesterday on the show he can't quit her. But this idea that nobody talks -- maybe nobody except for one person.

AVLON: The president. Right, but tone comes from the top in an administration. And, no, he

can't quit her. But this is sort of "Glory Days," you know the Bruce Springsteen song? In his mind, he's talking about the glory days of the '16 campaign and he had a really unpopular opponent he could run against and benefited at the very end by cutting across the finish with 72,000 votes in three states. But he can't -- he loves talking about it.

TAPPER: Thank you. I appreciate that.


AVLON: But one thing is that, yes, Kellyanne Conway could say that all day long, but we know from the president's own mouth and Twitter feed that's just demonstrably false. He can't quit her.

TAPPER: Don't you think it might be better for him to move on from talking about her so much? Because she's not running again.

HOOVER: It's nonsensical, but his base actually -- even Republicans who aren't comfortable with Donald Trump in the presidency necessarily, they aren't comfortable with his behavior, they don't think it's presidential, you still talk about, about the choice they had between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and they still say, I'm not positive we would have better off with Hillary Clinton.

I mean, these are talking to Republicans. They're part of the 36 that still support Donald Trump. But, by the way, they're also part of the 90 percent of Republicans that voted for Donald Trump.

AVLON: This is the curse of negative partisanship.

The only thing keeping together the Republican coalition right now is unified dislike of Hillary Clinton. And so Trump's trying to draw on that because it's the only glue he's got.

TAPPER: So, that makes a little bit sense, I suppose.

Everyone, stick around. We have a lot more to talk about.

Coming up, deal or no deal on immigration? Some members of Congress say one thing. The White House is saying another. Which is it? What is the future of immigration? Stay with us.


[16:18:57] TAPPER: We're back with breaking news in our politics lead. Multiple sources telling CNN that President Trump's close advisors and friends are advising him to not sit for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller.

The president was asked about that responsibility yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When they have no collusion and nobody's found any collusion, at any level, it seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview.


TAPPER: Here's White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders just moments ago trying to explain the president's position.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Nothing's changed. We're going to continue to be fully cooperative with the special counsel as we have been. Power for the president and his personal attorneys are going to discuss this matter with the office of the special counsel, not reporters.


TAPPER: I want to get right to CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash who is bringing this breaking news to us.

Dana, the president talked to all sorts of people on this matter, what is he being advised?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, close advisors and friends of President Trump are warning him not to sit for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller or his team. One source I spoke with who talks to the president advised him against sitting down with Mueller's team because he said even though he believes the president did nothing wrong, the president would put himself in legal and political jeopardy if questioned in a recorded interview.

[16:20:11] Now, others argue flatly, it is just too risky. Now, this is not a unanimous view, there is a different camp of friends and advisors who say, well, the president should in fact find some way to cooperate, but do so in a way, Jake, that limits the potential legal exposure. Saying that, doing that, is a lot harder than it would seem.

TAPPER: And what about the president himself? He has said publicly 100 percent he's willing to talk, what is he saying privately?

BASH: Well, you mention that, let's just remind our viewers exactly what the president said when asked about this in June.


REPORTER: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of these events?



BASH: Sources familiar with private conversations say that the president is telling friends that he is willing to talk with Mueller so he could make the case himself that there was no wrongdoing. Now, Trump's legal team is weighing every possible avenue for the president to provide information to the special counsel from interviews to written answers. One source said the result could end up being some kind of hybrid of both of those or all of the potential options. I should say yesterday after you played the sound of the president saying that it seems unlikely that there would even be an interview because he doesn't believe there was collusion.

A source from the president's legal team told CNN that Trump got a little bit ahead of himself because they really haven't closed any doors. They haven't made any decisions, and the decisions that they do make will be heavily influenced, of course, by what topics Robert Mueller wants to question Trump about and whether the information can be obtained elsewhere. Sources familiar with their thinking, that's what they tell us.

Now, the president is no stranger to court proceedings, you know this, Jake. He's been in so many depositions, been in so many court proceedings. But nothing, nothing that he has done in the past even comes close to the high stakes question right now that he has, whether he as president should talk to FBI investigators and if so, how.

TAPPER: All right. Dana Bash bringing us that breaking news. Thanks so much.

So, should President Trump's inner circle be worried about him speaking to Mueller?

We'll talk to Congressman Adam Schiff. He's one of the lawmakers leading the Russia probe, the leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, coming up next.

Stay with us.


[16:26:39] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Right before the break, we broke the story about how some in President Trump's orbit, friends and senior advisors, are telling him he should not sit for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller.

Joining me now is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff of California.

Congressman Schiff, thanks for being here. What's your reaction to CNN's reporting?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I wouldn't surprised if some -- wouldn't be surprised if some around the president are urging him not to speak with the special prosecutor, but I don't think the president is going to have much choice about that. Special prosecutor, special counsel is going to need to speak with him and I don't think written answers are going to do any good. Written answers are the lawyer's testimony, not really the individual. And here, obviously, the president has a lot to say when it comes to

Russia and the connections with Russia, Mike Flynn, as well as the issue of obstruction of justice. So, I think he has a lot to say and a lot that the special counsel will want to hear regardless of the scope of what the special counsel is looking at. I think his testimony's going to be very necessary.

But I'd be worried if I were one of the president's advisors. I mean, just look at this morning, the president issued a statement after watching FOX that was patently false, and that it was forced to correct it minutes later. That's a very scary prospect as a lawyer to have a client like that.

TAPPER: In your view, Congressman, does the special counsel need to interview Trump for the investigation to be completed? Or would written answers, for example, suffice?

SCHIFF: I think he will need to interview the president. And no, I don't think written answers will suffice.

The problem with written answers in addition to the fact that they don't really speak for the person they speak for the attorneys for the person, is that they can be very carefully calibrated to avoid giving any useful information, and the technically accurate, but be completely misleading. When you have an opportunity to question someone in real-time, that makes that very difficult, particularly if you're being asked questions by a skillful examiner which I think Bob Mueller and his team certainly possess in great number.

So, no, written answers are not going to be sufficient at all.

TAPPER: The White House take a shot at you today and I want to give you an opportunity to respond. They were asked about how Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, the ranking on judiciary on the Senate. She released a transcript of the co-founder of Fusion GPS testifying on Capitol Hill behind closed doors, Fusion GPS, as you know, is behind the Russia dossier.

Take a listen to how Sarah Sanders responded to the question.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We certainly think it's a gross overstep by Senator Feinstein to release that transcript. There's been a lot of comments about obstruction of justice and, frankly, the only people that we've seen trying to influence the investigation are former Director Comey and Democrats in Congress, and that would include Senator Feinstein, Representative Schiff who have both selectively leaked to the media witness interviews.


TAPPER: So, she is accusing you of selectively leaking to the media witness interviews. Your response, Congressman? SCHIFF: Well, I think all the press that have dealt with me in this

investigation know often to their frustration that I don't discuss the contents of our investigative interviews. The only exception is when people refuse to answer questions because I don't let them hide behind a closed session and then leave the room and say, we cooperated fully.

So, I don't -- I'm not surprised by Sarah Huckabee Sanders' attack, but at the same time, I applaud what Senator Feinstein did.