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Trump Proposes Path To Citizenship For 1.8 Million; NYT: Clinton Kept Aide Accused Of Sexual Harassment In 2008; GOP Rep. Leaving Congress Amid Sex Harassment Controversy; Rep. Kennedy To Deliver State Of The Union Response; Trump Apologizes For Re-Tweeting Racist Videos; Haley: Affair Rumors "Absolutely Not True"; Sources: Trump Increasingly Frustrated With Kelly. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 26, 2018 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will break the cycle.

People will know that you can't just smuggle in, hunker down and wait to be legalized. Not going to work that way. Those days are over.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: A lot of conservatives today are wishing for that guy. Candidate Trump's immigration's stance, pretty crystal, a giant red underlined no to what conservatives call amnesty. Reconcile that with this.

The White House will now say yes to a pathway of citizenship for DACA recipients for one million more so-called Dreamers. In return, the White House does have some big demands. Twenty-five billion dollar trust fund for a border wall, family-based immigration would end, and green cards with a visa lottery would shift elsewhere.

But, conservatives still look at that first point. They see it as surrender.


MARK LEVIN, THE MARK LEVIN SHOW HOST: You've given them, on the numbers side, more than they could have ever expected from Barack Obama. You started with 1.8 million for amnesty. Why would you start with 1.8 million? Why would you start with people who never even applied for DACA, one million people over the 700,000 to 800,000 who never even applied for it? Why would you do that?

And it's going to be spun that this is absolute genius. No, it's not. This is absolutely pathetic.


KING: Mark Levin there on the radio. So where does this get us? Republicans have said we'd like to know what the president is for so we can decide what to put on the floor in terms of legislation. Democrats have said, we need to have a DACA deal and Republicans especially in the House won't move on anything until they know what the president is for.

Does this advance the debate or does this explode the debate?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, remember that it was very recently that the president said at a meeting at the White House, anything that you all send over to me, I will sign it. That's clearly not the case. I think you're seeing the president sort of be pulled back and forth in a couple directions.

One, of course, is his great desire to make a deal. That's why I think in a setting like that he is inclined to say something like I will sign anything that you all send my way. But then I think there is also the sort of the dynamic of listening to the last person that is in his ear, so whether that's the more moderate Republicans who say, you know, we have to find a solution on DACA, or others who are more conservative who will say absolutely not, we have to go in a more conservative direction.

I will say this plan doesn't seem to have the fingerprints of Stephen Miller, and I do wonder if at some point, especially when the president is back in the U.S., whether he actually comes out and says this is the White House deal and I am putting my full weight behind it. We haven't really seen him talk about it yet.

KING: When they presented it yesterday, it was, we'll give you the 1.8 but it's take it or leave it on the rest of it.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well -- and look, the reason I think this -- to answer your question is more blows up the deal than it does help proceed it is that conservatives, like the one you just played, are going to ignore the fine print and only look at that big headline that they consider to be amnesty.

Whereas on the other side, the Democrats and the Republicans who are more apt to look for a more moderate solution are going to look -- sort of ignore that headline and look at the fine print. And the fine print is literally policy after policy after policy that really hardline conservative immigration advocates have been trying to push through for decades, and it's cracking down on immigration enforcement.

All other immigrants would feel the sting of way more enforcement, and you'd be shutting the borders of the United States to a lot of people that have been coming in, you know, through sort of different means for literally, you know, 50, 60, 70 years you'd be shutting that down.

And so, both sides have reason, different reasons, but reasons to hate it.

KING: So everybody is mad, and the question is when Air Force One hits the ground, will we ever see -- we're now into the beginning of a second year, will we ever see the great deal maker. Will he ever bring everybody in a room and say, here's my proposal. You bring yours, you bring yours, you bring yours and your's and we're going to hash this out together. Here's one of the president's spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp on Fox and Friends of all places this morning getting confronted with hey, conservatives don't like this amnesty part.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would acknowledge that 1.8 million folks with a pathway to citizenship is a hiccup for conservatives?

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: You know, this is part of the deal that clearly needs to happen. If we would clearly have a 60 votes with Republicans that would support this, it would be a lot easier. We are not -- the Congress is not in that position so this is why you need a compromise on immigration.


KING: Except no one views it as a compromise.

LEE: Right.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's true, but I actually think that the fact that you're saying, which is true that -- and both of you are, that the left -- for lack of a better way to say it -- the left and the right are angry about this means that it is actually is kind of a compromise.

What surprises me, given the fact that the president has gone back and forth with such intensity about what he wants over the past two months, what surprises me is that if this is the end deal, which the way it had been described to me ultimately it probably was some version of this, why are they putting this out there now?

[12:35:12] Why don't they just keep quiet, explain that this is what they wanted quietly behind the scenes, let the Senate pass it by, you know, 70 votes, which is what I'm told the House speaker wants, a very, very big vote so that he --

KING: But this -- the president's camp can pass the Senate by 70 votes.

BASH: No, no but some version -- you're right, you're right. But a version of that particularly on the DACA side, the fact that he is saying not only can the people who have already come out of the shadows and said that, you know, they're here illegally stay but about a million more can. That is exactly what immigration advocates have wanted and this what is making his base mad. So is he putting this out there so that his base puts, you know, (INAUDIBLE) shun (ph) it? I don't know.

KING: Quite over that, if you're a House conservative you can see that amnesty. You're worried that's going to come out of the Senate. The 1.8 is going to come out of the Senate and the speaker is going to say -- and the rest of the stuff won't.

If you're Nancy Pelosi, you're worried. If your progressives blink in the Senate, you get some of that new strip. This is serious changes to immigration policy, very serious changes to immigration policy. Here's how Nancy Pelosi put it this morning.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: That plan is a campaign to make America white again. It's a plan that says over 50 percent of the current legal immigration will be cut back, that many people will be sent out of the country. If you read through it, you're thinking, do they not understand that immigration has been the constant reinvigoration of America?


KING: I mean, maybe the strategic brilliance here is the only way to get everybody back to the middle is to first send them back to their corners. But this has sent everybody back to their corners.

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: That's definitely true. But look, I think it's harder for Democrats to argue that this is a campaign to make America whiter when the White House is offering to amnesty two million DACA recipients.

For Republicans and for immigration hawks in particular, the real sticking point is not going to be amnesty. I actually think that immigration hawks would be fine. Amnesty, meaning giving citizenship to these 700,000 or 800,000 DACA recipients, people who have already gotten DACA work permits.

The issue is now the White House is saying, OK, let's do a million more. People who haven't received DACA work permits yet. That's going to be a huge sticking point for particularly House conservatives and for people like Tom Cotton and David Perdue in the Senate. They are going to push back hard against that and I don't think that that's a bill that Tom Cotton and the Senate would support.

KING: Well, the president talking today in Davos about maybe we'll have some more time. I don't know if he means, you know, not the next spending deadline. If it's still March, the DACA deadline or he's willing to somehow extend that deadline. But that's the conversation the president is returning to when he gets off Air Force One.

Up next, the stunning report that Hillary Clinton refused to fire a campaign aide accused of repeated sexual harassment.


[12:42:34] KING: Topping today's political radar, a "New York Times" report says Hillary Clinton went against the advice of her 2008 campaign manager and decided not to fire an adviser accused of sexually harassing a subordinate. Burns Strider is accused of inappropriately touching the shoulders of a younger staffer, kissing her forehead and sending her suggestive e-mails. Sources tell the New York Times that when the accusations made their way to candidate Clinton, she decided to dock him pay and to reassign the woman to a new job instead of firing him. A spokesperson for Clinton provided this statement from the law firm that represented the 2008 campaign. "To ensure a safe working environment, the campaign had a process to address complaints of misconduct or harassment. When matters arose, they were reviewed in accordance with these policies, and appropriate action was taken. This complaint was no exception."

The accused staffer Strider has not responded to CNN's request for a comment.

Pennsylvania Republican Patrick Meehan says he won't see reelection this year. The congressman used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit but insist -- a complaint I should say, but insist he remained faithful to his wife.

Meehan now joins a growing list of other congressmen who have recently left office or won't seek reelection because of ethics questions.

And the Democratic response to the president's State of the Union Address next week will be delivered by Massachusetts' Democratic Congressman Joseph Kennedy III. He's the great nephew of JFK and a rising star in the Democratic Party.

And President Trump addressing his retweet of three online videos posted by a far-right hate group operating in Great Britain. The president, listen here, telling ITV's Piers Morgan that at the time he simply had no idea he says about what that group represented. And the president says, he still doesn't know.


PIERS MORGAN, ITV: But first, is basically a bunch of racist, fascist.

TRUMP: Of course, I don't know that.

MORGAN: Well, that's what I wanted to clarify with you. What did you know about them when you did --

TRUMP: Well, I knew nothing about them, and I know nothing about them today other than I read a little bit --

MORGAN: -- get an apology after just for -- the retweets.

TRUMP: Well, if you're telling me --

MORGAN: I think we go a long way.

TRUMP: Here's what's fair. If you are telling me that's a horrible people, horrible racist people, I would certainly apologize if you would like me to do that. I know nothing about them.


KING: Up next, Nikki Haley goes on the record to defend herself from vicious, salacious rumors. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:47:41] KING: Welcome back. The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, took the extraordinary step of going on the record with Eliana Johnsons of POLITICO. Here with us on the panel today to deny an unsubstantiated loosely word that I would say this is rumor floating around after Michael Wolff's book "Fire & Fury" suggesting that Nikki Haley is having an affair with the president.


NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: It is absolutely not true. It is highly offensive and it's disgusting. At every point in my life I've noticed that if you speak your mind and you're strong about it, and you say what you believe, there's a small percentage of people that resent that. And they way they deal with it is to try and throw arrows, lies or not, to diminish you.


KING: Wow. Explain. Wow.

JOHNSON: Yes. So, I've been pushing to get an interview with Master Haley for a while and got the green light on Monday and took the opportunity to sort of let her clear the air about a rumor that had been instigated by Michael Wolff. In an interview with Bill Maher, he said that close readers of his book would know -- he said he was absolutely convince, I think, those were the exact words that the president was having an affair, and the close readers of his book would be able to figure out who he thought the president was having an affair with. And people begun to focus on a line in the book where he says that Nikki Haley had begun spending a lot of time private time on Air Force One with President Trump, and that he was grooming her for a political future.

And I asked her just for her response to the rumor that had been going around, and you all heard her response. But she also pointed out that she has only taken one Air Force One trip with the president. That was in July. It was the day that John Kelly was announced as the new chief of staff, and said she was never alone with him, and also said she's never discussed her future with President Trump. So, she pretty definitively, I think, knocked down this rumor, but said that the idea that women -- that successful, strong, outspoken women have slept their way to the top is a particularly sort of vicious rumor that attaches itself to ambitious women.

[12:50:05] And I should note, it was a 40-minute interview, it was wide-ranging. This sound bite is getting the most attention, but she talked about everything from the way she grew up in small-town South Carolina to, you know, a kerfuffle yesterday with the president saying that Jerusalem was off the table.

And she took pains to say that the president was talking about location of the American embassy, though, I'm not actually familiar with the location of the American embassy being a negotiating point between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But we talked about all sorts of things, and I would encourage people to listen to the entire interview rather than focus on that one quote.

KING: You know, but to that very point you have a rising star in team Trump who was the governor of South of Carolina, raising star, they're not on team Trump during the campaign. She's now in the Trump Cabinet.


KING: That's a Cabinet level position who has, whether you agree or disagree with Trump policies, who has forcefully represented the views of the United States and the United Nations, who clearly is a rising star in the Republican Party and that she felt compelled to address this on the record and forcefully tells you a lot. And good for her, because, especially what was said on the Bill Maher Show it's reprehensible.

JOHNSON: Absolutely.

KING: If you have proof of something, say something. If you don't, shut up.

SHEAR: Well, can I just say as disgusting as it is just on the -- for women to have to face this kind of thing, it's just disgusting journalism, too, right? For Michael Wolff like you either know something as a journalist and you are solid with your sources and you say I know this to be the case or you don't, you don't --

JOHNSON: Great point.

SHEAR: -- hint in an intimate and say look at this line in my book and undermine things --

KING: It undermines every thing else in the book --

SHEAR: -- terrible, terrible.

KING: -- and people have said he can't connect the dots on that are -- this is a suggestion and not proven. He undermines his own work by just being reckless and personal like that.

LEE: Yes --

BASH: Yes, no, go ahead.

LEE: Well, I was just going to say this is an administration where there is so much palace intrigues, so many rumors, so many sort of fun behind-the-scenes stories. You could easily fill 400 pages or however long Michael Wolff's book was with all of these interesting stories. But I think unfortunately, and very sadly, he decided to actually put out the 400 pages and include stories that were tenuously source a lot of things that ended up being factually not accurate, and I think that's just bad for journalism and bad for everyone sitting around the table that people start to think that this is what journalism is.

JOHNSON: Well, he went on to spill rumors that he wouldn't even put in the book. (CROSSTALK)

BASH: I think at the end of the day this is about a woman in a very important position being distracted by this silly stuff from the issues that you were talking about, and -- but knowing that she needs to do this to stand up for herself and, frankly, other women. And I think, frankly, the more women who are in positions like that, the less we're going to have to deal with.

JOHNSON: I would add that she -- I asked her about the MeToo movement whether she thought that there would be backlash and she said, you know, every false allegation that comes out, every sort of rumor isn't substantiated hurts people who actually do suffer at the hands of these things, and I think she's a case in point. It's a slightly different situation, but it is a case in point.

KING: Right. Amen. It's a great view. Good for Ambassador Haley.

Up next, sources tell CNN there is new tension between the president and his Chief of Staff John Kelly. Is this perhaps an attempt by the president to make peace?


TRUMP: Steven, Wilbur, Gary, Robert, even my general and my various other generals.



[12:57:29] KING: Welcome back, new sides of tension inside the West Wing. Sources telling CNN the president growing increasingly frustrated with and by his Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Earlier this week President Trump walked into Kelly's office interrupting a briefing that chief of staff was giving to reporters about immigration policy. The president decided he was going to talk on the record and he made headlines, about immigration and the Russia investigation. One source described the move as a, "warning shot" to Kelly in order to show who's boss.

This is your reporting. Part of a team of reporters here lead by you. Is this real or is this just Kelly's turn because the president always needs someone to be mad at? Feels real.

BASH: Well, I think that they're one and the same often. But you mentioned the fact that it was a very deliberate, we are told, move for the president to go into this meeting with reporters, take over. It wasn't just a hey, how are you, it was, I'm going to talk for 10, 15 minutes and upend the policy messages that you are trying to do, chief of staff.

But the other thing that I and my colleagues who worked on this have heard from multiple sources is concern about, maybe concern is the wrong word, noting the fact that this -- we've seen this movie before. A chief of staff who is trying very hard to kind of work things the right way slowly moves away from the president, stops going on every trip, hears about a very angry president about one or two things that he does. In this case, it was Kelly going on Fox News last week saying that the president was uninformed during the campaign and being in the doghouse.

So, the question now is will the movie play out the way it did with Reince Priebus, where, you know, even though the president was saying wonderful things publicly about him, you know, a month after he left him behind in a -- at the G-20, he fired him. You know, who knows. But it is certainly interesting that the president has had many a ruffled feather with regard to Kelly according to multiple, multiple sources.

KING: Two very powerful personalities. I guess, can it last, just the question.

SHEAR: Yes, well, I mean, and look, all staff members serve the pleasure of the president, and when the president feels they're not serving their interest, they get rid of them. The thing that's so interesting is that normally we don't hear about the daily ups and downs and the weekly and maybe hourly ups and downs, we just usually hear it at the end. And, of course, in the Trump White House, that's different.

LEE: And I thought it was interesting in your story, Dana, that Kelly is determined to sort of make it not obvious that he is managing the president, but I think we all know that if you are up close to the president or working under him, you're always managing the president.

KING: Always managing the president. All right, more on this drama as the days go out. Thanks for joining us "Inside Politics". See you tomorrow. Wolf Blitzer starts right now.