Return to Transcripts main page
Trump: "Looking Forward" to Meeting with Mueller; DOJ: "Reckless" for Nunes to Release Memo without Review; CNN: Texts Lost after Glitch Hit Thousands of FBI Phones; Secretary Mnuchin says Weak Dollar is Good for U.S. Trade. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired January 25, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We appreciate it. Ambassador, thank you so much.
Let's go straight to our Jeff Zeleny, of course, our senior White House correspondent. He's following all of this with the president in Davos. We're getting some more reaction to these two key meetings with Prime Minister Theresa May and Netanyahu. What are you hearing?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No question, the president meeting here with these two leaders, you heard, of course, and you saw the very warm relationship between these two leaders and of course, it is one of the reasons that meeting was in fact scheduled. The two leaders don't necessarily have as much business to do because they do agree on so many things.
Now, of course, central issues here are where does the peace process stand? As Admiral Kirby was just saying right there, that's very much an open question here. We know where it stands on one side, but certainly not the Palestinian side, outrage was certainly coming after the announcement of the Capitol.
But even before that meeting, President Trump was meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May here as well on the sidelines of the Davos Economic Forum. Of course, so much bad blood between those two, the president had essentially called off a state visit to London that was supposed to happen this winter. The president tried to ease some concerns about the relationship, he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So that was a little bit of a false rumor out there. I just wanted to correct it frankly, because we have great respect for everything you're doing and we love your country, we think it's really great. And we're working on transactions in terms of economic development, trade, maybe most importantly military. We are very much joined at the hip when it comes to the military.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So you heard the president there describing it as a false rumor, the fact that they have had some tense relationships. But there is no question that it is a reality, a fact, that the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom has been a tested or strained to say the least. The reality is the president called off a state visit there, worried about protests. He talked about how much the new U.S. embassy there was costing, use that as the reason there, but interesting that the president clearly trying to smooth that over as he's here in Europe, John and Poppy.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So making news in Davos, Jeff Zeleny, but really making a whole lot of news on the way to Davos when he surprised reporters in the White House and talked about what he wants to do with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
ZELENY: Indeed. And this is something that president decided to do on his own. He walked into his White House chief of staff's office, John Kelly, last evening, where the chief of staff was holding a fairly rare meeting with reporters to talk about immigration policy, talk about things going forward. The president walked directly in and walked squarely into so many questions about the Russia investigation, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller. If he would sit down with him, under what conditions, this is what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to talk to Mueller?
TRUMP: I'm looking forward to it, actually.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You want to?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have a date set?
TRUMP: Here's the story, just so you understand. There's been no collusion whatsoever. There's no obstruction whatsoever, and I'm looking forward to it.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: To reach a higher standard, you would do it under oath?
TRUMP: I would do it under oath, absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So there the president said he would sit down, but shortly after that, his lawyers rushed to clarify that saying that, yes, the White House is cooperating, but they are still working on the terms of any such meeting, any type of questions, you know the scope. They obviously want them to be narrow. This could be the riskiest moment for this president, sitting down with prosecutors, investigators from the Special Counsel's Office.
So clearly he wants to show that he has nothing to hide here, no collusion as he said, but it was a moment once again that put him on the other side of his advisers where his advisers had to clean up a bit of what he was doing. But that talk of the Russia investigation is certainly hanging in the air here in Davos as the president has other meetings, meets with CEOs tonight and of course delivers a big speech here on Friday about his America First agenda. John and Poppy?
HARLOW: All right, Jeff Zeleny in Davos, thank you so much for all of that news.
We do have some more breaking news on the Russia front. We have just learned 20 White House staffers have spoken to the special counsel and Congressional investigators. Shimon Prokupecz is following it all on the justice in Washington. Interesting that they would offer this up, is this sort of a, hey, we're transparent, the most transparent ever?
SHIMON PROKUPEKZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, certainly, that's what the Trump lawyers are saying that you know, quote, that "The cooperation and transparency is unprecedented," and as you said, they tell us that over 20 White House personnel have been interviewed by the special counsel, including eight people from the White House Counsel's Office.
[10:05:00] Also interestingly, a couple of headlines here, Poppy, 17 campaign employees, plus 11 additional individuals, somehow affiliated with the campaign, so that's 28 people that were affiliated with the campaign were have been interviewed by the special counsel, and people on the Hill, and a pretty large number of documents they say have been turned over to the special counsel, by the campaign. They say some 1.4 million pages of documents have been provided to the special counsel and by the campaign. That's a staggering number of documents.
You know, this could also signal that the White House and Trump lawyers at this point have completed what they think is sort of their requirement to turn over documents. It could signal that they are done. That they have met all of what they believe is their requirements to hand over documents and interviews. We don't know that specifically.
But this is rare. I mean, this is the first time we're really getting a full picture of -- a full detailed picture really of what kind of activity the Trump lawyers, what they have handed over to the special counsel and really the number of people that have been interviewed. According to this, we're now talking about 48 people somehow associated with the president have now appeared before the special counsel.
BERMAN: I do not think we knew that number for sure -
HARLOW: Big number.
BERMAN: How big that number was, specifically the number inside the White House Counsel's Office which seems like a high number too. Curious what the special counsel might be looking for in there. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much for that breaking news.
We'll discuss all of what that means in just a moment. But there is other news, you know, writ large on the Russia front. The Justice Department thinks it is extremely reckless, that's the words they're using. That House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes wants to release this classified memo. HARLOW: Right. This classified memo that alleges that the FBI basically abused their surveillance power, abused surveillance laws, all tied to the Trump Russia dossier.
Our Laura Jarrett is in Washington with, frankly, the difficult job of explaining this all because this has been evolving very quickly. What is going on?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, this fight between the Justice Department and the House Intel Committee is just getting uglier and uglier, escalating every day. The FBI has asked to see the Nunes memo. The Justice Department has asked to see the Nunes memo saying why won't you let us advise on the national security risk before you release it. The Senate Intel Committee has asked to see the Nunes memo.
And it has also seen the same underlying supporting documents. And they all have been essentially rebuffed. They have said we're not doing it. But a spokesman for House Intel Committee Chair Devin Nunes is pushing back, saying in a statement that, "Agencies that are under investigation by congressional committees don't typically get access to the committees' investigative documents about them, and it's no surprise these agencies don't want the abuses we've found to be made public," so, pushing back there against the Justice Department and its concerns about the security risks of exposing this memo.
BERMAN: And so, Laura, these missing text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, it turns out, you know, it is not just the two of them that were affected.
JARRETT: Exactly. We've now learned that thousands of FBI cellphones, as many as 1 in 10 in fact were affected by that same technical glitch that resulted in the loss of those five months' worth of text messages exchanged between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the two officials formerly on Mueller's team. So, it means, it is a far broader issue than perhaps first realized, guys.
HARLOW: When you look at the text messages in question right now, the newly revealed ones between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, right, who had these important positions on the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe and the Russia probe. You haven't seen these. We haven't seen the texts, but you know Republican Senator Ron Johnson has seen the texts and put them out there. There has been a lot of talk about the secret society text. But there is some new revelation this morning that that may have been a joke.
JARRETT: Yes, so having, you know, now looked at the message myself on the secret society, I have to say -
HARLOW: You've seen it, OK.
JARRETT: It is far from clear what it means. It is far from clear that it is some plot to undermine the president. The day after the 2016 election last year, Page says to Strzok, are you even going to give out your calendars? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society. But who knows what she means? And so I've reached out to her lawyer. I reached out to Strzok's lawyer for comment as we continue to dig in here on what exactly these officials meant. John, Poppy?
HARLOW: Of course you've seen the text. How could I say you haven't seen them? We haven't seen them as of yesterday. Laura, thank you for the reporting. We appreciate it.
BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, Phil Mudd, CNN counterterror analyst and former FBI senior intelligence adviser and Robert Ray, former independent counsel on the Whitewater investigation. Counsel, I'm going to start with you with the breaking news that we just got from the White House. This release of just how cooperative they have been.
[10:10:03] I mean, I think that seems to be the message here. We put forward all these people. We turned over all these documents. What message were they sending? Why is it important?
ROBERT RAY, FORMER WHITEWATER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Well, I think the administration, the message they want to send and they're getting better at sending it is that they hope to wrap this investigation up sooner rather than later. The only way that that's possible, of course, is that they have to both appear to be cooperative and be cooperative. And I think it is also a negotiating tactic with Special Counsel Mueller's office to be able to control the breadth and scope of the interview of the president.
HARLOW: So, you're saying that more people that they give Mueller to talk to, the less he will ask for in the president's interview?
RAY: Well, I understand it doesn't appear to be directly related. But the point is that they want to have the public accept the fact that they have been cooperative. And therefore they are going to be insistent on the fact that this is not going to be a free roving interview about any and all topic. It is going to be limited to the topics that the president wants it limited to. You want to talk about collusion. I'm prepared to talk about that. You want to talk about obstruction of justice and the firing of the FBI director. You want to talk about things related to Michael Flynn. I'm going to talk about that. I'm not talking about the Trump organization. I'm not talking about what happened in the -- I'm talking about a whole lot of other things. I'm talking about the reason why the Special Counsel's Office was put in place.
BERMAN: I can see what you're saying there. If they try to limit the discussion between the president and people complain, why are you trying to keep us away -
RAY: I've been fully cooperative. We have been cooperative and we're going to be cooperative to a limit, the appropriate narrow scope of your investigation.
BERMAN: Phil Mudd, a bunch of developments inside this, beyond that the president ultimately wants to talk to the special counsel. I think they give some tells about what their legal strategy is. Listen to how the president deals with the issue of obstruction when he was talking to reporters yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think Robert Mueller will be fair to you in this larger investigation?
TRUMP: We're going to find out.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you concerned?
TRUMP: We're going to find out, because here's what we'll say, and everybody says, no collusion. There's no collusion. Now they're saying, oh well did he fight back?
If you fight back - you fight back, John. Oh, it's obstruction. So, here's the thing, I hope so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So, Phil Mudd, you know fighting back. You're smiling there. Is fighting back, does that explain obstruction - is fighting back OK and OK kind of obstruction?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: You got to ask a lawyer about obstruction. But as someone who's been observing this now for many months, I think the president just gave us a taste of the future. Let's develop one scenario for a moment. And that is, let's assume that there continue to be charges, those charges might relate to lying to federal officers, that's a thousand and one violations. Those charges might relate to obstruction of justice.
Neither of those two charges gets direct to the point of whether there is cooperation between the campaign and the Russians. Let's assume there is no such charge. There is not a charge that anybody had illegal contact with the Russians. I can see the president saying how could this be an obstruction of justice. There is no case ever to pursue. I told you it was a myth. I told you there was smoke, but no fire. How can you charge me with obstruction, an investigation into a crime that never took place? I'm not saying there is a legal foundation for that. I'm saying that I can easily see him making that argument to the American people.
HARLOW: Robert, to you, as an attorney, what about the really revealing answer the White House gave yesterday on how it and the president see collusion. Listen to this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": He says collusion between the campaign, does he mean himself or does he mean that no one on his campaign could have known anything?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I think he's stating for himself and to anything that he would be a part of or know about or have sanctioned, but that would be something that, again, I think he's very clearly laid out. He and his campaign had nothing to do with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: I mean, that's fascinating, that all of a sudden there is this sort of narrow definition from the White House.
RAY: Look, I don't know about that.
HARLOW: They said it is just about the president. This isn't about his team or any of that. How do you see it?
RAY: Well, I mean, the only issue with regard to the campaign, I mean, he's the head of the campaign, is really collusion that would amount to a crime. And I have to tell you, I understand the political interest in the word collusion, but the only relevant to me, really -
HARLOW: Is the law.
RAY: -- would be the law and the only thing that Mueller is charged with, this is not, like, let me find out cosmically whether there has been collusion. The only type of collusion that would make a difference under the law would be the type of collusion that would be the Russians' promise to do x in order to help get you elected and they're expecting y after you are inaugurated to help them with regard to policy, got to be a quid pro quo. Absent that, all this collusion stuff is a hobby horse for you know, politics, frankly.
BERMAN: What he just did there was, a line was drawn saying that you know, I'm only saying no collusion to the stuff that I know about, I did myself. And anything else that happened, hey, you know, hands off.
[10:15:05] RAY: That's a separate issue for the country about whether or not the Russians are trying to influence the election. The only thing he can speak to really in terms of the Mueller investigation is what it is, either he did, he sanctioned or he knew about. That's it.
BERMAN: Robert Ray, Philip Mudd, great to have you here with us, guys. Appreciate it.
All right, just a few minutes from now on Capitol Hill, big meeting, a bipartisan group of senators, they'll talk about immigration and I think the subjects they will discuss vastly differ now that the president shocked everyone by saying that he sees a path to citizenship for Dreamers.
HARLOW: And guess who is back in the news? Oprah. The billionaire, the mogul, the media mogul, well, she's finally answering that key question, will you run in 2020? What did she say?
BERMAN: Sort of.
HARLOW: We have different interpretations. You can interpret, next.
BERMAN: All right, just a few minutes from now, very big meeting on Capitol Hill. A bipartisan group of senators will sit down and try, again, to reach a deal on immigration.
[10:20:05] HARLOW: Why do I feel like I've heard this story before?
BERMAN: A new script this time.
HARLOW: But a new script.
All right, this meeting comes after the president broke the most conservative members of his party, certainly I think surprised everyone, with his comments on Dreamers. Listen to this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you want citizenship for Dreamers?
TRUMP: We're going to morph into it, it's going to happen at some point in the future. Over a period of 10 to 12 years, somebody does a great job, they've worked hard, it gives incentive to do a great job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Our Phil Mattingly is on the Hill. And look, Phil that got the president the title from "Breitbart" of "Amnesty Don." This morning after saying that but Lindsey Graham says those comments help us reach a deal in Congress. Is that a widely shared sentiment on the Hill?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think there is a lot of -- people are very cautious right now, at least in the conversations I've had over the course of the last 12 hours or so as to what the president actually means. But just look at the reaction of Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Richard Durbin, the top Democratic negotiator, said those comments were a step in the right direction.
The reality here is for a bipartisan deal, if President Trump and Republicans want to get Democrats to sign on, citizenship for the Dreamer population is a red line. There is no question about it. That has to be in there.
Now, as you noted, that breaks with a lot of hardline immigration hawks inside Congress who are talking about legal status, perhaps a three-year renewable legal status which we have seen on a number of proposals. So, obviously, the president has to walk a very fine line here between what his base wants, what his biggest supporters on Capitol Hill wants, and perhaps what would be necessary for a deal.
But I do also think it is important, guys, and you know this better than anybody else. The devil here is in the details. When the president says he wants citizenship, is he talking about the population of current DACA recipients, which is about 690,000 or is he talking about all eligible Dreamers, which rolls into around 800,000 to a million. I've been told by certain sources that the president prefers the former. That would be problematic for Democrats.
You also have to talk about what's in exchange for that. The president is talking about $25 billion to build the border wall structure. Well, the president wants that appropriated as in the money being handed out from the very beginning. What Democrats put on the table on Friday, what Senator Chuck Schumer put on the table on Friday was an authorization, which means the money would have to be appropriated later.
John, I know you're getting excited because I'm talking about the difference between appropriation and authorization right now. This is your dream moment.
MATTINGLY: But I think what's important is that the key players in this are looking at what the president said last night and saying that this is a potential step forward. This is something Democrats need. The big question now I think becomes when you look at the bipartisan meetings that are happening, when you talk about Chief of Staff John Kelly being on the Hill today to work on this issue is, can they take that piece and, one, meld it into something that works for 60, 70 Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and then they can kick it over to the House with actual momentum, or, does the president back off from that as we have seen a number of times.
There's one Democratic aide told me last night, let's not get too excited. We've had lose in the football moment too many times over the course of the last three weeks. So, I think it's a lot of wait and see.
BERMAN: Don't mock my role play. Sometimes I like to wear appropriations because that's my own business. Number two from that, Phil Mattingly, what is the expectation now? We're told the president of the White House is going to release immigration outline blueprint plan, you know. What is Congress expecting, especially now, you know maybe different than it was 24 hours ago before the president spoke out loud.
MATTINGLY: Yes. So, what I'm told is what you heard the president outlined last night. Whether it be on path to citizenship, whether it be on money for the wall, whether it be on family migration or the visa lottery, are all key elements, elements that have been kind of out there in the past, the four kind of principal points the White House has been pointing to. But the president was really alluding in details to a lot of things that I'm told are expected to be in that proposal around Monday.
But I'll tell you this. I spoke to a number of key Republicans who were involved in this process, and they were surprised when Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary, came to the podium yesterday and said there would be a framework announced on Monday.
But I would note, guys, just really quick, this is very important. The White House has made very clear they need to be involved. Republicans have made clear they need the White House sign off, if not just for the Senate then put the House more than anything else. So, this framework is extremely important. Just a matter of what it actually says guys.
HARLOW: All right, Phil Mattingly, good to see you, thank you so much. Shocker for you this morning, the Dow hit another record high, jumping triple digits at the open.
BERMAN: This came on the same day that the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had to clarify remarks about a weak dollar, something that treasury secretaries don't do. He said that a weak dollar was good.
Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here to explain what is going on?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: First the Dow, you know, up here huge earnings from Caterpillar, the earnings season has been very, very good. And you know the tax cuts and the strong economy have been great for corporate America. So that's what that story is about.
This other story, this huge break with tradition in 25 years, frankly, the American policy, unheard of for U.S. Treasury secretary to welcome a weak dollar and this earned a tongue lashing from the editorial board of "The Wall Street Journal" this morning calling it a spectacle.
[10:25:01] "The man whose signature is on the greenback tells the world he wants its value to be lower so the U.S. can beggar its neighbors on trade." Ouch.
Here's what went down. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin yesterday said he's not concerned that the dollar fell 10 percent last year and weaker dollar is, quote, "good for us as it relates to trade and opportunities."
Today, he's clarifying that he's not worried about the dollar in the short-term, citing trade advantages. He sort of is saying, look, this is my position all along, what is the big deal? A weak dollar means cheaper exports but it also makes imports more expensive. That hurts American's purchasing power. He's saying all of this at Davos where world leaders are raising alarms about protectionism.
Both the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the French President Emmanuel Macron, calling this a dangerous move backwards, the protectionism, a thinly veiled dig against the United States. The president abandoned the Paris Climate accord. He bailed on TPP, this week he announced tariffs on Chinese solar panels and South Korean washing machines and those trade policies already taking effect.
LG told retailers it's raising prices on washing machines in the U.S. And this morning, South Korea says it would appeal to the world trade organization to complain about America's move here on tariffs, so on the trade front, everything very, very interesting and a bit of a kerfuffle when the treasury secretary starts talking about a weak dollar.
HARLOW: And his counterpart in the UK, you know the British treasury secretary says thanks so much, because you helped the Sterling, you've helped the British Pound. Christine, thank you.
ROMANS: You're welcome.
HARLOW: We're continuing to follow the breaking news on this Russia probe, a lot of fast moving developments. New details on just how many White House staffers have sat down for interviews with the special counsel and his team. We're on it.