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Trump Targets FISA Provision Up for Renewal; President Trump Mentioned Hillary Clinton Hours Before Kellyanne Conway Denies White House Talking About Hillary Clinton; Governors Outraged After Florida Dropped From Drilling Plan; White House Allows States To Make Some Medicaid Recipients Work. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired January 11, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:11] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. John Berman here. A mind-bending morning at the White House where up is down, black is white, and there are serious questions about whether President Donald Trump knows the positions of President Donald Trump.
In the span of just a few minutes the president seemed to come out against a bill the White House supports. He used words a key aide claims he doesn't say -- Hillary Clinton -- and this is on top of pronouncing he might not answer questions that he 100 percent said he would.
The breaking news is that the president seemed to suggest he opposes reauthorization of a key surveillance act. He wrote, "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 previous administration and others."
Now the president is wrong on certain fronts here, misleading on others which we will get to. But maybe most strikingly his own White House put out a statement in support of the same bill he just blasted.
CNN's Joe Johns is at the White House this morning.
Joe, I would ask for clarity but I'm not sure there's any coming.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and all you can say about this, John, is that it's complicated. You're absolutely right, this administration has come out strongly in support of the reauthorization of these FISA amendments. This is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It has long been controversial. The president's right on that point.
The administration said it supports these amendments and has gone as far as to say more recently that it opposes attempts to water down these amendments which are going to be voted on the House floor, we expect, later today. Of course on balance, it's so controversial that members of the Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill have suggested they're opposed because there aren't enough privacy protections inside the amendments. And even Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, one of the true libertarians, has said in his view this thing ought to go down.
The problem, of course, the issue of course, John, if you will, is that FISA allows for surveillance of foreign nationals even when they're communicating with Americans. There are a lot of people on the hill say they want Americans to be taken out of that equation -- John.
BERMAN: No, but to be clear, up until now, the White House hasn't said that. In fact, they said they wanted this reauthorized, not watered down at all. They want clean passage of it.
And Joe, not the only thing that the president is writing this morning, once again bashing the Russia investigation.
JOHNS: That's right, the president did bash the Russian investigation in several ways in a tweet this morning. He said that this dossier that has been so controversial with salacious allegations including some about the president himself, paid for by Democrats, the dossier was used to spy on the Trump campaign.
"Did the FBI, he asked, use the intel tool to influence the election? Did Hillary Clinton also pay Russians? Where are the hidden and smashed DNC servers? Where are crooked Hillary's e-mails? What a mess."
So the president all over the dossier and referring back to his favorite target once again, Hillary Clinton, the person he defeated in 2016, by the way, in the election some time ago.
BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns, much more on that in a second. Joe, thank you very much.
I want to discuss the FISA issue with CNN legal analyst Paul Callan.
And, Paul, I think it's very important to note here that the president is conflating things. He says that Congress is voting on something today that allowed the surveillance, he's implying, of Carter Page and Paul Manafort, and that's simply not true. That is not up for reauthorization today. That's a different part of this bill. Explain.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, you're absolutely right about that, John. He's confusing Section 702 of the act which Congress is considering with an entirely different procedure which resulted in incidental conversation from the Trump Tower being picked up on a wiretap of Carter Page who, at the time, they had gotten actually a warrant from a FISA judge authorizing a wiretap because they thought he was in communication with foreign agents. And when he called the Trump Tower, there were some incidental pickups.
That's not what Congress is talking about in this act, and the president is confused. Section 702 is a very different section that was recommended by the 9/11 terror commission and what it does is it allows the United States to generally surveil foreign telephone conversations, and of course we have satellite capacity and other ways of doing this. And then they do an algorithm scan of this enormous amount of data looking for suspicious calls that may involve terrorists. [09:05:09] Now if some of those calls involve American citizens, up
until now at least the government has been able to look at those calls to see if there's an attack being planned on the United States. There are some privacy advocates, Republicans who are libertarians and Democrats who are privacy advocates who say they should get a court warrant before they look at the content, the specific content of that material. Others say, no, this would harm American security interests. So there are two vastly different provisions of law and the president's tweet is confusing on it.
BERMAN: I'm not suggesting this isn't controversial. There are people on both sides of the 702 issue, the issue that comes up today. But as far as the dossier goes, the president says the dossier was used.
Well, CNN has reported that the corroborated parts of the dossier may have been used to get the warrant on Carter Page but that's from a different part of the act, Paul, again, where that warrant was issued by the judge because there were concerns he may have been a foreign agent.
CALLAN: That's absolutely right. And FISA puts the judge in the process because under the Constitution a judge has to find that there's probable cause. The only difference with the FISA Act is that those proceedings remain secret for national security reasons, but American citizens are still protected by the presence of a federal judge finding probable cause. And those are remaining absolutely in place. We're talking about a different provision of law here that Congress is looking at today.
BERMAN: And this doesn't even get into the fact which we will in a moment that it's unclear if the president's position is the same as the stated White House position overnight. That discussion in just a moment.
Paul Callan, thank you very, very much.
CALLAN: Thank you, John.
BERMAN: Overnight -- overnight another major development from the upside down. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told CNN's Chris Cuomo emphatically by the way that nobody at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue talks about Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSEL TO THE PRESIDENT: We don't care about her. Nobody here talks about her. Hey, Chris, nobody here talks about Hillary Clinton, I promise you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: "Nobody here talks about Hillary Clinton." Nobody. Now it is possible I suppose that this is true, nobody there talks about Hillary Clinton, but only if this guy is named nobody.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hillary Clinton had an interview where she wasn't sworn in, she wasn't given the oath. They didn't take notes. Hillary was not for a strong military and Hillary, my opponent, was for windmills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: That was President Trump or nobody as Kellyanne Conway likes to call him talking about Hillary Clinton like six hours before Conway made that statement. It turns out it wasn't just yesterday. Nobody likes to talk about Hillary Clinton a lot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Hillary resisted and you know what happened? She lost the election in a landslide. You want to look at Hillary Clinton. Well, I hope Hillary runs. Is she going to run, I hope. Hillary, please run again. There has been collusion between Hillary Clinton, the DNC and the Russians. Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: A small sampling of President Trump -- president nobody as Kellyanne Conway might say -- talking out loud about Hillary Clinton. So it turns out that nobody likes to write about her, too, on Twitter. This morning, crooked Hillary. January 7th, Hillary Clinton. Another January 7th Hillary Clinton. January 6th Hillary Clinton. January 5th Hillary Clinton. January 2nd Hillary Clinton. That's just January.
Also, it is worth noting that President Trump is not the only person in the White House talking about Hillary Clinton. Yes, nobody has a staff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONWAY: You don't get out there and talk to the people like we do, respectfully. Hillary Clinton didn't respectfully. I work here. Hillary Clinton doesn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Wait, was that Kellyanne Conway talking about Hillary Clinton despite Kellyanne Conway saying nobody talks about Hillary Clinton?
So when you hear the claim that nobody in the White House talks about Hillary Clinton, who on earth could possibly say that's true? Maybe, well, nobody.
Joining me now, Caitlin Huey-Burns, national political reporter for RealClearPolitics, Errol Louis, CNN political commenter, and Michael Shear, a CNN political analyst.
Guys, we're going to get to Hillary Clinton in just a moment but first I want to focus on the breaking news if I can from this morning. The president's statement about the FISA Act suggesting that this is the act that was used to surveil Carter Page and Paul Manafort, you know, hinting, Errol, maybe that he's against the extension of that act today in Congress despite the fact that his own White House put out a statement in support today.
This follows, you know, the DACA issue where he came out for and against something all at the same time.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, in this particular case I think he's getting out ahead of the talking points of the Republican leadership. There have been a number of people in Congress who have been going after the FISA Act, some genuine libertarians like Rand Paul, others because it's a way to try and discredit the investigation into links with the Russians during the campaign.
[09:1012] So I think Donald Trump decided to sort of push that along because he is so desperately interested in trying to sow confusion and distraction any time the Russia investigation comes up.
BERMAN: Confusion and distraction but the fact is, Caitlin, that his own White House last night put out a statement saying that they want this extension, they oppose an amendment that waters it down. If you're a Republican member of Congress right now --
CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER FOR REALCLEARPOLITICS: Exactly.
BERMAN: -- could you legitimately be asking what's the White House's position on this?
HUEY-BURNS: Exactly. And that's why it matters not only on this issue but it matters on something like immigration or anything else that this White House wants to get accomplished this year if they are counting on working with Republicans in Congress, and Democrats. Remember there's already a big trust deficit with lawmakers in this White House and frankly with kind of the public in this White House.
They've been contradicting themselves for a while now as it pertains to the administration and the president. And you also have the president going after his own Republican Party saying, why aren't you doing enough on the Russia investigation when, in fact, Republicans control everything in Washington and the special counsel looking into this is also a registered Republican. So to Errol's point, you know, that also feeds into this, but it really matters as it pertains to other issues that are coming up the pipe.
BERMAN: We'll get to Russia in just a minute.
Michael Shear, to you, though, on this issue of the White House talking about Hillary Clinton, you know, Kellyanne Conway did put out a statement on Twitter just a moment ago. This is what she wrote. "So fun to see the predictable heads exploding," maybe she means mine, "but I should have finished that sentence with 'Cuomo Primetime,' nobody in the White House talks about Hillary Clinton when noting whose presidential leadership equals historic tax cuts and economic boom, regulation reform, put ISIS in retreat." Trying to clean up a little bit of what she said last night. The fact
of the matter is pure and simple, what she said was wrong. People in the White House obsess over Hillary Clinton. The question is why, what do they get out of the constant referrals to Hillary Clinton?
MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think in some ways it all stems from this question that they believe is in the public's mind about the president's legitimacy. Right? The obsession over the Russia investigation, the obsession over Hillary Clinton is part of that nervousness that somehow despite winning the election, you know, there's sort of an asterisk next to the president's name that somehow, you know, people don't think the election was legitimate because of the questions about meddling by Russia, et cetera.
You know, I think, John, the interesting thing is to think about -- think back to 2000 and imagine, you know, President George W. Bush a year into his term obsessing about Al Gore or Barack Obama a year into his term obsessing about John McCain. I mean, it's just hard to imagine. I mean, the people that win are not the people that obsess about the loser. It's usually the other way around.
And, you know, I think Kellyanne Conway's comment notwithstanding, it's pretty clear that, you know, a lot of mental energy in this White House both at the presidential level but also below goes into sort of, you know, thinking about that race.
SHEAR: And -- you know, and I think it all comes down to the legitimacy question.
BERMAN: It's a great point, Michael. I covered the first year of the Bush White House. I don't remember him bringing up Al Gore once, you know, let alone, you know, 60 times in five days which may be the count for the Trump White House.
Errol Louis, o the Russia front, I mean, the president made news yesterday when he all of a sudden sowed doubt in whether or not he would speak to the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He said it's unlikely that he'll have to because there's no collusion which he repeated like a million and a half times by the way. But that's not what he said back in the spring. Listen to his comment then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of events?
TRUMP: One hundred percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: One hundred percent, that's the president back in June. Behind the scenes the White House lawyers all telling everybody that they're working on a deal maybe to have him talk at some point but the president says unlikely. What do you make of it? LOUIS: Unlikely. Well, look, he told us 100 percent he's going to
show us his tax returns, right? And that hasn't happened yet either.
LOUIS: So I think if he's represented by competent counsel and we have to assume that he is, there's no way they want him talking to Robert Mueller if they can possibly avoid it. They will delay it if they're good attorneys as long as possible. In the end, however, he probably will have to talk to Robert Mueller under oath in a way that exposes him across the board to a whole range of different things.
One of the themes of the White House, they've been trying to contain this investigation and confine it simply to electoral questions and not bring up any of the underlying business questions that are so explosive and that could really sort of reveal a lot more that the president doesn't want to come out. He doesn't get that kind of option once he's under oath. So I think we're going to see a lot of negotiation but sooner or later he will talk to Mueller.
[09:15:00] He noted that that new Quinnipiac poll, 66 percent feel the economy is excellent or good, that's highest number ever recorded by this poll. It's a great number. Some other numbers the president did not note in that same poll is that more people give President Obama credit for the good economy, 49 percent, than the president. The same poll shows President Trump at a 36 percent approval ratings. So, good news/bad news there.
HUEY-BURNS: Exactly. I think this kind of stat is fascinating, especially since it's been reflected in other polls. Yes, people feel better about the economy, at least on paper, but they're not giving this president credit for it.
So, that really matters heading into a midterm election in which Republicans are facing already these big headwinds. We talk about the bad climate for Republicans a lot, but the economy has been their calling card and something that Democrats have to figure into their messaging how to message against a good economy.
But when you see polls like this showing that people are not willing to give the president credit for it, that figures to play against Republicans and you already see all of these retirements coming in. Darrell Issa, just yesterday show how troublesome this bigger picture is for Republicans.
BERMAN: You're also seeing these retirements after retirements of more Republicans, but you're also seeing news, Michael, we just saw Walmart is going to give a bonus to some of its employees, increase the wage on some of its employees. It's fascinating that so far the president is not getting the credit for the economy right now. Will that last? Does the White House hope that by November of this year that maybe he is getting some of the credit?
MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think they certainly hope that that's the case. Look, I actually think that it may well be that those numbers improve for him because ultimately the kind of feeling that the public exhibits on these kinds of questions is very much affected by the political campaign of the moment.
You know, the president hasn't had the opportunity and the Republicans haven't had the opportunity to start actively campaigning on this issue, putting up campaign commercials and ads and the whole thing.
I think you probably see that number pick up because as the campaign gets into full swing, that will be the message that both the president and the Republican candidates will be sending and it's sort of bound to improve those numbers.
Whether it improves enough, you know, to help these Republicans win I think is a question. You know, one other thing just to get back to the president's comments on the interview, I think the thing that was most surprising to me was that may have been the first time that the president was a well behaved legal client, right?
Most times his lawyers are ripping out their hair over what he said. What he said was exactly what the lawyers wanted him to say, which is to not commit to anything so that it gives them room to negotiate what they might do with the special counsel. It was an interesting moment that he was very well behaved in that respect.
BERMAN: That's a great point, Michael. All right. Guys, thank you very much.
We do have breaking news, a new statement from the president where he tries, I think, to clean up the confusion that he himself created over the Foreign Surveillance Act. He said with that being said, he's referring to the previous tweet, "I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office in today's vote about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it, get smart."
So, he's now saying he supports the votes today, just to clear it up. We need it, he says, get smart. Unclear exactly who the "get smart" message is directed at. We will let you decide.
House Republicans come out with a new immigration plan. Is it in line with what the president wants? Does anybody know what the president wants?
And two Big Macs, two Fillet-O-Fish sandwiches, a small chocolate shake, what former staffers say the president would eat for dinner. All this as he gears up for his very first head-to-toe physical exam since taking office and questions mount about his fitness. What will we really learn from this?
Breaking news, 17 dead in the California mudslides. Hundreds of rescue workers frantically searching through the debris for survivors. We are there.
BERMAN: Overnight new developments in the battle to protect some 800,000 DREAMers in the U.S. as a possible government shutdown looms. CNN's M.J. Lee is on Capitol Hill for us. M.J., this is a Republican plan that came out. Does it address the concerns of all sides here?
M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, John, just on the big picture right now, this is going to be a moment of truth for Republicans. As you know, this has been such a contentious and divisive issue for the party and now what we're seeing moderate Republicans want something, conservative Republicans want something and Democrats, of course, want something else altogether.
The plan that we saw come out yesterday from a number of conservative Republicans, let's just say it is not going to sit well with some moderate Republicans, not to mention most of the Democrats, if not all. It addresses immigration enforcement.
That's going to be quite controversial. It cuts overall immigration levels and also it would build a wall. Now, while all of this is going on, just to give you a sense of how messy everything is, there is also bipartisan efforts to try to come up with a plan that would more reflect the tone that President Trump used earlier this week at the White House meeting, would address DACA, would touch on border security and possibly a couple of other issues.
Now, the biggest sticking point going forward for Democrats or one of them at least is going to be whether Republicans insist on funding for building a wall. Take a listen to what Steny Hoyer, the House minority whip had to say on "NEW DAY" this morning about this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MINORITY WHIP: Frankly, the building of the wall, its cost is not justified either by its efficiency or effectiveness, and therefore -- but that will be --
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But you think the president is open to rejecting -- ultimately working his way around to not having a physical wall?
HOYER: Look, I think the president has talked about a wall through his campaign and continues to talk about a wall and he's going to continue to talk about a wall. We'll have to see. But what I took from the meeting was a consensus, not on that, but a consensus on the fact that the DREAMers had to be protected and the president was prepared to sign a bill to do just that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[09:25:14] LEE: Now at this point in time really not clear if lawmakers will be able to come up with something and get it across the finish line or what that will look like -- John.
BERMAN: All right. M.J. Lee on Capitol Hill for us, thanks so much.
This morning, coastal governors are outraged accusing the Trump administration of playing politics after responding to pressure from Florida's Republican governor on coastal drilling. Democrats call it a political favor wondering if this has anything to do with Governor Rick Scott of Florida, who may be thinking about running for Senate later this year against the Democrat Bill Nelson, a spokesman for the Interior Department denies it has anything to do with that.
Joining me now is the Florida Democrat, Senator Bill Nelson. Senator, thank you so much for being with us. Before we get into the politics, are you happy that there will no longer be drilling off the Florida coast?
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDIA: Well, of course, if that's real, but Secretary Zinke just said he takes it off the table. By the way, that was one day after it was published in the "Federal Register" that all of the outer continental shelf was going to be drilled. So, what does he mean by off the table? The devil's in the details, to answer your question am I happy.
BERMAN: I understand that. We need to learn more about it, but let's assume that off the table means there will not be coastal drilling off the coast of Florida the way that there will be in other places in the United States apparently still.
So, then my question is, as governor, for Governor Rick Scott, isn't it appropriate for him to use whatever tools he has, personal relationships, favor with the president, to keep things that he believes to be in Florida's interests or not in Florida's interests from happening?
NELSON: Well, that's not what he believes because for the last seven and a half years, he has consistently said that he wanted offshore drilling or he was silent on the issue. So. this is obviously a political stunt where the secretary of the interior flies to Tallahassee.
They do a press conference in the Tallahassee airport. A day after, it's published in the "Federal Register" to try to help him. Now, that's politics, but you understand now why all the other coastal governors are so upset. Well, if you're going to do it for politics, for the reasons to help the Florida Republican governor, why don't you do it for us and take it off our coast as well.
BERMAN: All right. The president says he's unlikely now to testify in the Russia probe, he says, because there's no collusion so why would he have to testify. At this point, as you sit here a year into this or so, have you seen any evidence of collusion?
NELSON: Yes, plenty. And I think the statements coming out of the president in the last day, I think this indicates that we're coming to a constitutional crisis. He will refuse to testify, that will ratchet up the tension, and then if he ever gets to the point of firing Mueller, we really are in a constitutional crisis.
BERMAN: He says he won't or he has no plans to fire Mueller at this point. Look, who knows?
NELSON: Do you believe him?
BERMAN: I'm just telling you what he says right now. Robert Mueller may offer a subpoena at some point. Last question on DREAMers right now. Senator Manchin and other Democrats say that they may support at least a little bit of a wall in some places. Could you support any funding for a wall to get protections for DREAMers?
NELSON: Well, your reporter's piece I think is accurate, and that is we're in a firm state of flux. So, the question is, what do you have to do to satisfy the president on a wall? I think at the end of the day we are going to protect the DREAMers. Something will be called a wall and that will be the compromise.
BERMAN: Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, a fascinating assessment right there. Thanks so much for being with us.
NELSON: Thanks a lot, John.
BERMAN: All right. This morning, sweeping changes to Medicaid, the White House will now allow states to require some enrollees to work to qualify for benefits. Our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans here before the bell.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's a big GOP victory here on this. For the first time, states can compel people to work to qualify for Medicaid, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this morning releasing guidance.
States can now require nondisabled working age Medicaid recipients to work, to volunteer, go to school or enter job training in order to receive their health benefits. It also acknowledges people in poor health, women who are pregnant, and people in areas with very high employment.