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Paul Ryan News Conference; Trump Tweets Create Confusion; Republicans Want Punt on Dreamers Fix; Political Revolt without Wall. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired January 11, 2018 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:00:00] REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Sound like a broken record. A, we want to fix DACA. We do want to fix DACA.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King.
You've been listening there to the House speaker, Paul Ryan, spending much of his time talking about negotiations on legislation to protect the so-called dreamers, a DACA fix as they call it in Congress. Also saying that as part of that, if it's linked to a spending bill, he's also trying to find a way to limit -- increase, excuse me, defense spending. We'll get to more of the immigration negotiations in a minute.
But the speaker meeting with reporters just moments after a critical House vote on a law American spies say they need desperately to keep the country safe. The House, just moments ago, reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The final vote, 256 to 164. A comfortable margin after a chaos-filled morning.
That chaos created by the president. The president of the United States tweeting this morning against a bill his White House says it very much supports. This from the president, 7:33 a.m., 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 administrations and others.
We'll fact check that one later.
But, nearly two hours later, this reversal from the president. With that being said -- meaning the previous tweet -- I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking off in today's vote about foreign surveillance of bad guys on foreign land. We need it. Get smart.
So the administration was for it, then against it, then for it again, I think. It's confusing. That's what happens when he goes on Twitter in the morning.
Why did the president change his mind? Sources say the House speaker, who you just heard from, picked up the phone, got to the president on a phone call this morning. Listen to the speaker earlier today, just as they prepared the vote -- as they're preparing to vote, the speaker went to the floor -- we don't have the sound for you, I'm told, but he said, pay no attention to the noise. Pay no attention to the Internet. Pay no attention to what you hear on cable TV. Even if that noise comes from the Oval Office. That's what the speaker said this morning.
[12:05:01] With us to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Hirschfeld Davis of "The New York Times," Sahil Kapur with "Bloomberg," John McCormack of "The Weekly Standard," and "The Washington Post's" Karen Tumulty.
I want to get to the substance of FISA and the debate about that. That is one of the key pieces of the post 9/11 intelligence infrastructure that is here. We'll get to the substance of that in a minute.
But what does it tell us that the president of the United States, in the morning, after his White House has worked for months, for months, because this is controversial, because it divides libertarians in the Republican Party don't like it. Some Democrats don't like the sweeping powers. They worked for months to get to the point where they have the vote. The president wakes up and says, this is terrible.
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it suggests, first of all, that he hasn't been very engaged in that debate in the past. You heard Paul Ryan earlier say that, you know, the president knows what the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is and he know what this program is. But the tweet this morning suggested otherwise. That he is basically -- he had conflated the part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which deals with domestic surveillance with the part that they were dealing with today, which deals with foreign surveillance.
But, you know, it's clear that he wasn't -- he hadn't gotten or listened to briefings from his staff to come up with that statement that they put out last night by the White House saying that they strongly supported this bill and that he hadn't really been involved in or cared much about the very difficult and arduous process that was going on behind the scenes to try and tamp down on this bipartisan effort to add more protects into this and more restrictions on the government's ability to surveil. And clearly that led to the confusion this morning, along with the segment, I'm told, on Fox News, which he was just highly critical of FISA and he then tied it to the surveillance of his campaign. He's still (INAUDIBLE).
KING: Yes. To that point, to that point, the attorney general, the CIA director, the director of national intelligence, anybody involved in the fight against terrorism says this is critical. This is how they listen to people they suspect overseas, about conversations -- is al Qaeda, is ISIS, is any organization planning something against the United States? They also use it separately, is North Korea trying to proliferate nuclear materials, or (INAUDIBLE) materials on the market? They say it is absolutely critical.
The president has a team of pretty accomplished people around him to give him advice. But, why did he do the tweet? Because he was watching "Fox and Friends" and he saw this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: But I'm scratching my head. I don't understand why Donald Trump is in favor of this. His woes began --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
NAPOLITANO: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Again, what Judge Napolitano just said there would break the fact check machine, but we won't get into that part of it.
Why does the president have a cabinet and a national security adviser and all these people who work for him? I guess he doesn't need them. He just gets up in the morning, watches that, and almost sends this train off the tracks.
SAHIL KAPUR, "BLOOMBERG": It reveals the extent to which he acts on impulse, right? He'll see something on TV and end up putting out a tweet that undercuts weeks or months of what his administration was trying to do. His own chief of staff, General Kelly, was on Capitol Hill for this vote. They take it very, very seriously.
This also, I think, reveals it's part of a pattern with the president where he sometimes speaks and tweets as though he's kind of a passive observer and his own government, like a Fox News viewer, rather than someone whose every word weighs a ton and whose every word will send ripples all throughout his own government and today on Capitol Hill. Democrats were confused. Some of them were calling to delay the voter count and a vote to clear up the confusion. Speaker Ryan had to go to the floor and explain, this is really what he was talking about. And, of course, as you reported, he spoke to the president before and clarified.
The tweets still weren't particularly clear.
KARAN TUMULTY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": But --
KAPUR: At the end of it, but, you know, they managed to get it done. The Amash Amendment to put safeguards on privacy went down 183-233. The final vote passed on a bipartisan vote. This issue has been bipartisan for a while.
TUMULTY: Well, I do think it speaks to two things. As both of you have said, as Julie said, and as we saw a few days ago on the clean DACA bill, the president just doesn't dig very deeply into the substance of pretty much anything that he is dealing with. And, you know, that's kind of fine with Congress. They feel like if they can get a bill to his desk and he'll sign it, that's fine.
But you also saw something else in this. It was very characteristic of Donald Trump. And that is, if something is portrayed as a personal affront to him as CIA director Judge Napolitano did, it triggers a reaction to him. Like, you know, this -- this was something that was a direct, personal hit on you, you get a reaction from him.
JOHN MCCORMACK, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": And the most common defense of Trump among congressional Republicans is, well, that's just Trump being Trump or those are just tweets. And today we were reminded that, well, tweets can actually affect policy. And while it didn't actually bring down the vote, it does sew confusion. And this is a very -- it is a very confusing debate. It's a very complex debate about, you know, when we're having these foreign communications, Americans are being scooped up if they're talking to a foreigner who's under surveillance.
You know, this is a complex debate. Paul Ryan was arguing that if, you know, this bill went down, if they voted for this Amash Amendment, that we would be basically going back to the pre-9/11 situation where we were flying blind. You know, civil liberties advocates, like Amash, would say that's not the case. This is an important debate which the president clearly hasn't dug into.
[12:10:14] DAVIS: Well, and --
KING: It's an important, substantive debate, and there are legitimate concerns about the scope of government power. How much should you listen to? What if Americans get caught up in that? It's all an interesting debate. It is just fascinating when a man who has now been president for -- it's going to hit the one-year mark in just a few days, apparently, a, doesn't quite understand his role as commander in chief and how important this is to that and gets his advice from Fox News.
I'm sorry I interrupted.
DAVIS: No, no, well, that was the point I was going to make. And to follow up on what Karen said. I think it is actually OK with Republicans in Congress that he doesn't get very far below the surface, except when it pulls the rug out from under Republicans who are try keep themselves together on a difficult issue, which this was one of those cases. There are a lot of Republicans -- or some Republicans anyway that were part of the coalition that voted for that amendment today, that wanted to see more protections, a very, you know, libertarian strain in the party that felt like this bill goes too far in giving the government surveillance powers.
And Republican leaders were really trying hard to keep their guys in line. And then to have the president sort of pull the rug out from under them, the way he did with health care, the way he's done with other issues, that gives Republicans a lot of pause and it makes them nervous, especially as they're looking toward difficult midterms later this year.
KING: Maybe the chief of staff will find a way to pare the White House budget by cutting the cable bill or something like that.
Up next, Groundhog Day isn't until next month, so why are we talking yet again about scrambling to avoid a government shutdown. And perhaps, as part of that, delaying a deal to protect the dreamers.
[12:15:43] KING: Welcome back.
Today, fresh doubt the so-called DACA deal to protect dreamers gets done by the time the government runs out of money. Senior Republicans in both the House and the Senate now say it looks like it will be too hard to build what would be a big compromise by January 19th. That's when they need to fund the government to keep it open. Republican leaders now want a sort term spending bill that punts the big questions, including those immigration questions, to the future.
Here's a subplot. Will the Democrats go for it? It is a massive risk untangling the spending bill from a DACA fix could rob the Democrats of a lot of their leverage in those negotiations. And that could end with Republicans -- of Democrats, excuse me, ending up having to take big Republican demands on border security. If they hold out, well, then Democrats could get blamed for a shutdown. Might be a political price there.
What happens? Anyone's guess at the moment. Nothing right now is certain.
Let's get up to CNN's Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill.
Phil, today, what happened on Capitol Hill? Is it increasing or decreasing the likelihood of a shutdown?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good question.
No, look, I think the fact that there's no DACA fix right now and Republican leaders are clearly moving forward without one likely on the table, it certainly increases things. I think one way of putting it right now is leaders on both sides are kind of wondering themselves aimlessly into a very serious game of chicken that's going to be played out next week.
Now, it's worth noting, the Senate Republican and Democratic group that's been meeting now for moths, a gang of six that has been working on this DACA issue, is likely to produce some type of product in the course of the next day or two.
However, and I think this has been the big split over the last couple of days, is Republican leaders are now kind of faced with the situation that inside their own conference, not just in the Senate but especially in the House, that product is not likely to be able to be moved forward. Even though that's probably what everybody's been pointing to as the most likely product that could actually get onto the floor and get to the president's desk. That leaves Republican leaders in a bit of a lurch. They don't necessarily have a pathway forward on the DACA issue now and that's why, as you noted, they're looking for some type of clean resolution to keep this process moving for another two weeks.
The big question right now is where are Democrats on this. Are Democrats able in the Senate to hold together, to basically keep their leverage, to keep their threat? And probably, more importantly, in the House, can Speaker Paul Ryan get 218 members of his own conference, with no Democratic support, on a short-term CR. Until you have the answers to those two questions, John, you simply don't know where things are going to end up next week.
KING: And you hear a lot of people on Capitol Hill saying, you know, the president's taken several positions on this. That's part of the confusion. That's why we need more time. My view is that's kind of a cop-out, right? This is more the conservative thing that if they separate this from the spending deal, they take away the Democrats' leverage and then, in the end, they get a tougher bill more to the conservatives' liking? Is that fair?
MATTINGLY: Yes, that's absolutely fair.
Look, the president is a huge player in this. Whatever the president gets behind, whatever the president actually starts or tries to push forward on is likely what's going to be what actually moves right now.
But the reason you've seen Republican leadership in both the House and Senate kind of move away from this bipartisan working group right now is they're hearing from their conferences and their conferences are saying explicitly, the direction that they've heard things are going, the direction things are likely going is simply not workable for them. And because of that, they don't want to put the risk -- take the risk of inflaming their own conference and putting something on the floor.
The reality is, though, there are no other kind of serious proposals right now that are considered on the table. A lot of working groups. A lot of members who think that they're working on specific things that might be able to get there. But at this moment, that Senate working group has always been the one that was considered to have the most viable proposal and if Republican leaders are moving away from that, the answer right now is very much up in the air.
KING: And the clock ticks.
Phil Mattingly live on The Hill. Phil, thanks very much.
And so let's start the conversation with the idea that just about everyone -- there are some conservatives who say no, that's amnesty, we don't want to do it, but overwhelming majorities in both parties say let's do this and yet, why?
KAPUR: It has always been the case that immigration is an extremely divisive issue. It's hard to think of an issue that divides Americans more passionately than this one.
Now we have a situation where Republicans, as they have for the last decade or decade and a half of attempt to do immigration are facing pressure from their base not to give up anything on legal status unless they get a lot in return. The House Republican bill has asked for things like e-verify entry. It's a tracking system. A cutoff of sanctuary cities. Democrats are facing their own pressure from their base right now, an
enormous amount of pressure from members and activist who don't want to give away things like cutting family based immigration categories, what the president calls chain migration, and ending the diversity visa lottery, unless they deal with the 11 million people who are in. Democrats voted for these things and about 46 billion to militarize the southern border in 2013 in the context of 11 million people getting a path to citizenship. Now we're talking about 800,000. How much are they going to give? Can Democrats hold their caucuses together. It's an open question.
[12:20:17] TUMULTY: But it's one thing to dither on these issues when, as we've seen them do for decades, when you don't have a real life, huge consequence facing you. If they don't come up with a deal on DACA by next week, you will have 800,000 people facing potential immigration. I think, interestingly enough, the president's demand for the wall may be the part of this that is easy to solve because he no longer seems to define this wall as this brick and mortar structure that goes along the whole border. It may be that, you know, a little bit of wall here, a little bit of fence here will be enough to let him decide he's going to say he's got his wall funding.
I think these other issues, the things like, you know, being able to bring over family members, those may be the ones that have been sort of lurking there all along and that really end up being harder.
KING: And that was the question. When the president had this remarkable meeting -- it was just nice to see Democrats and Republicans sitting around a table, at least politely talking to each other. They didn't resolve any of these substantive disagreements on the -- each of those issues as divisive. Some of those issues are just quick sand or toxic for Republicans.
But one of the issues was, to your point, could you do just a DACA fix and give the president some border wall funding? The president seemed to be -- think that that was enough for him, and then you deal with the other issues down the road a little bit. Here's how "The Washington Post" editorial board puts it today. For once you're in agreement with the editorial board. How about that?
They say, the wall is a dumb idea, but consider how rare it is that a dumb idea in Congress actually buys something smart in return. In this case, the return on that dumb idea would be huge. Democrats who choke on the wall, loath to hand Mr. Trump a political triumph, might ask themselves what other deals they might strike that would do so much tangible good for so many people, so immediately and it's such a relatively modest price.
Essentially saying, give me some wall money. Get a DACA fix. The problem is, can the Republican leadership -- will they accept that? Will the Republican leadership expect a pretty simple trade off. We'll give you a DACA fix, we'll give you the wall money, we'll deal with everything else later.
MCCORMACK: Well, I think the -- this whole idea about the wall and a fence, I mean Trump has kind of scrambled people's brains in the sense that, you know, back in 2006 you had Democrats like Chuck Schumer, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton vote for the Secure Fence Act, which would have put 700 miles of fencing, that was later sort of modified in a way that rendered it not as effective as it originally was. But if Democrats could give that to the president right now, I think they'd get almost anything. I think they could probably get the Gang of Eight bill if they wanted. They could give that much of a fence.
The president is desperate to get a wall, to get a fence. He's desperate just to declare victory. I mean he is now declaring that Obamacare is repealed because he got the individual mandate repealed. So I think if he could get, you know, some increased fencing, which is, in my view, it's a sensible idea. It's not going to fix illegal immigration. It's going to decrease a particular kind of illegal immigration. And if you could do that in exchange for some bigger deal, I'm not sure if the whole deal would make sense, but I do think that that piece delivers (ph).
KING: And to the earlier point about FISA, the president gets a lot of his advice, or takes a lot of his incoming from what he sees on cable television. He seems open -- you're right, he seems open to just about anything right now. As he said, whatever these people send me, I'll sign, as long as -- and then they modified that, as long as it includes his border wall money. And yet you see a bit of a conservative revolt. Listen to Laura Ingraham here. If the president keeps hearing this, might he change his mind if these negotiations go on and on and on?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I'm going to wait to see what the final DACA proposal looks like. But if it does not include a wall, a real wall, not a see through wall, expect a political revolt from the base, which means losing the House and maybe even losing the Senate. The president did not promise his supporters an opaque, electronic fence that only covers a third of the border. He promised them a wall. A big, beautiful wall. And unless it's built, unless chain migration is ended, I fear, Mr. President, your most ardent supporters will write you off as just another politician who said something he didn't really mean.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DAVIS: I mean Democrats and Republicans have something big in common here beyond the fact that they both want a DACA fix. They're both very deeply divided on this, as you saw from that. Republicans are divided. The Republican leadership is hearing from the conservative base and people like Ingraham saying, you know, this -- this -- if we vote for this, if we go for this, this is going to be the death of us. Our base is going to go crazy.
And then there are -- is a coalition of Republicans that really wants to see this get done and wants to show that they can govern and knows that the president wants to see something get done. And by the same token Democrats, while it's pretty universal that everyone wants a DACA fix, there is a divide within the party about whether it's worth shutting down the government over it. Whether they want to push this on this particular spending bill right now if they think they can get a deal on some of these other issues that's favorable to what they want to see longer term on addressing the 11 million and on chain migration and these other issues that, you know, the president has thrown into the mix. And the fact that the president said earlier this week, I'll take whatever you'll give me, I mean we heard John Cornyn push back on him in that meeting and say, we actually need to know what you're going to sign before we are going to send you something, you know?
KAPUR: And this is where time is not on the side of getting the deal. The moral ark of President Trump's universe bends towards his base and he's going to keep hearing things like that the longer this goes on. So I think they need to get a deal quickly if they want to get something done. And the real issue here, it's plausible to me that they get something in the Senate and they pass it in the Senate. I don't think the Senate is really a problem. The House of Representatives is where the problem is.
[12:25:16] KING: The House, yes.
KAPUR: You have many Republicans who are going to be facing primaries in the spring and these are small groups -- small electorates who are very passionate, very anti-immigrant in some places.
KING: Ask former Speaker Boehner about trying to get immigration through the House. Sorry, Speaker Ryan.
A reminder, nothing forces compromise in Washington like a deadline. Eight days until the government runs out of money. Could shut down. Eight days.
We'll be right back.
[12:29:50] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There has been no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians or Trump and Russians. No collusion.
Bottom line, they all say there's no collusion and there is no collusion. I can only say this, there was absolutely no collusion. But it has been determined that there is no collusion.
When they have no collusion and nobody's found any collusion at any level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: There you see it, President Trump at the White House just yesterday, eight