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Trump Wants Memo Released ASAP, But After His Speech; At Least 10 Democrats Plan to Boycott Trump's Speech. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired January 30, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:08] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We are live at the nation's capital today for the CNN special coverage of President Trump's first State of the Union speech. So, hours before now, he will be speaking before a joint session of Congress.
As he gets ready to face the nation, the president is on the verge of a major faceoff with his own Justice Department. The conflict is over a classified memo that slammed specific work by the FBI and we just got word from sources that the president wants the memo released as soon as possible, but not before his big speech this evening.
The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines with Republicans agreeing that the memo should go public. A top official at the Justice Department calls the move, quote, extraordinarily reckless. It also leaves President Trump and Republicans open to attack by Democratic leaders.
They say the memo is an attack specifically on special counsel Robert Mueller and Russia investigation on the whole.
Here now, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The White House, congressional Republicans attacks on Mueller and his investigation make you believe it was taking place in a banana republic, Erdogan's Turkey, Putin's Russia, not in the United States of America. A different kind of president would want to know how precisely Russia meddled in our election and would have severely punished Putin for it to discourage him from ever trying it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Plus, the president is refusing to impose more sanctions on Russia. We're going to get into that in just a moment.
But, first, let's talk about the big speech. CNN's Phil Mattingly is live with me to talk about how lawmakers are boycotting this event. They're not even going to show up tonight.
But, Jeff Zeleny, you're with the White House, let's begin there, senior White House correspondent, on some of the new details who are coming out and this hours ahead of his big speech. I understand the phrase from the sources are that the president will give eye-opening remarks on North Korea and news on this memo.
What do you have?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Brooke. Of course, the memo is still hanging over much of the conversation in the back room discussions here at the White House, even as the president is working on that speech. The president, I am told, will not talk about the Russia investigation during the speech. That is something he does not want to be part of the speech. He wants it to be an uplifting speech, we're told, an optimistic speech, we're told.
Listen to a lot of his accomplishments, prepare to listen to. He's going to talk a lot about the stock market which ironically is going down today, but, of course, it had a record year in 2017. He's going to be talking about unemployment.
And we're told that the president, of course, has a whole team of speech writers working on this. But he, apparently, for several weeks and even months, has been writing down some thoughts and lines and paragraphs and handing them off to aides. All those have been stitched together, it's about an hour-long speech, as prepared for this evening.
He practiced it once yesterday. He will likely practice is once again today. And again, it's supposed to be uplifting and bipartisan. But the reality here, the substance in his policies are anything but bipartisan.
So, this will be an opportunity, of course, for him to be in front of Democrats and Republicans. As for that memo, of course, he will not talk about that as well. At least, he's not expected to.
But we are told by sources here that the president wants that released as soon as possible. Not today, of course, that would distract from the State of the Union speech, but perhaps as early as tomorrow or Thursday, look for that to happen here.
Of course, that will just escalate all the conversation about the drama between the FBI and the White House. But at least for tonight in prime time, the president is going to be giving a different message. But again, watch for the policy specifics here, Brooke, rather than simply the tone of what his aides are promising -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: OK. Down the road, Phil Mattingly, to you, there at Capitol Hill. Tell me what some of these lawmakers who are bringing special guests tonight and how others are just not showing up.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, just as the White House has 15 guests, a lot of them served to fit a narrative or make a political point that the president is going to talk about in his speech, lawmakers themselves are doing something similar. It's a bit of a tradition at this point. So, you have a lot of Democratic lawmakers, Brooke, who are planning to bring DACA recipients, obviously make the point for ongoing debate on Capitol Hill.
It's going to be equal parts policy, definitely a lot of politics, but also we're seeing a lot of protests. At this point, Brooke, I'm told at least a dozen, potentially more, Democrats will not attend at all. They will be boycotting this. And by my count, that's the most lawmakers to boycott the State of the Union since I believe 1971.
MATTINGLY: You look into the rationale, it's a little bit diversified, some saying they don't respect the president or they don't feel the president respects them. A handful of Congressional Black Caucus members who are very upset about the president's vulgar remarks in the Oval Office a couple of weeks ago that were reported, civil rights icon John Lewis who made no secret of his dislike for the president or disdain for the president's tone in recent weeks and months, he will also not be attending.
[14:05:00] One thing I will tell you, I've been told by several Democrats that Democratic leadership stressed to their members, if you don't want to go, if you have a problem with the president, just don't go. Don't walk out, don't make a big scene. Don't draw attention away from things. So, that's what they're saying here.
But you're also seeing lawmakers boycotting, lawmakers trying to make policy perspectives as well. You're talking about some lawmakers, Brooke, bringing people that are involved in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, other issues as well. So, pay close attention to that tonight. Just like the White House says, these lawmakers have guests and they're doing it for a reason. That's obviously something we're going to keep a close eye on it. But as I said, the umber of lawmakers that are not attending tonight for various reasons, it's certainly something we haven't seen in any recent history.
BALDWIN: A lot of red Recy Taylor pens, we've got Recy's niece coming up in just a little while. She's a guest of a congresswoman.
Gentlemen, thank you so much for further reporting off the top here.
Just returning to the memo that's now for the president at odds with the DOJ, Republican Devin Nunes who is the chair of the House Intel Committee, wrote it and within this memo, he alleges that the FBI abused its surveillance authority in order to get warrants to monitor specific members of the Trump campaign. Democrats wrote the memo in rebuttal, but the House Intel Committee voted along party lines to reject the public release of the, if you will, counter memo.
Listen to the committee's top Democrat speaking to Jim Sciutto moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So, you're saying you've read the underlying intelligence. And when you look at that, it colors these allegations differently?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's what we set out in the document we prepared. It's what the Republican members don't want at this point the country to see because it pokes holes in this memorandum. They don't want the country to know how misleading their document is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: All right. Let's discuss. With me now, CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider, CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel, CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston, and Kim Wehle, who is associate independent counsel during the Whitewater investigation of President Clinton.
Thanks for having me in the great town of D.C. today, everyone.
And, Mark, just beginning with you. What is this memo really all about? Undermining the Mueller investigation, undercutting the FBI, DOJ, what?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it depends who you speak to. But I do think that the underlying thought is from some Republicans, perhaps Devin Nunes specifically, that he is trying to undermine the investigation at this point, trying to cast doubt, trying to cast criticism towards the FBI, what he thinks or he believes anyway that they've run amuck, that they didn't run the Clinton investigation correctly and they certainly haven't run the Trump investigation correctly.
But when you take a step back, I do think that there are some folks in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate who do believe that the memo should get out because they believe in full transparency. I will say this, though, in closing, is that I do think that this memo is going to have longstanding consequences over the next year because I do think that the idea of trust is now absolutely out the window on Capitol Hill.
BALDWIN: What are you thinking on this?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Dysfunction with a capital D.
GANGEL: You said along party lines. As Mark said, this is political at the end of the day, whatever the motivation is.
But I spoke to a Republican source who knows what's been going on in that committee. And some of it is political and some of it is really about what happened. This source said that, just to quote, that what happened here is the FBI went about getting the FISA authority, either it was very sloppy or there was some nefarious thing.
Quote, it calls into question the methods and tactics that the FBI was using and they were not as independent of thought as they should be.
That said, as Mark said, this is going to have political ramifications.
The same source said to me, we don't want this to muddy the water. It shouldn't hurt the Mueller investigation. But what did Donald Trump -- what did our reporters at the White House
saying? Trump wants to release it as soon as possible.
BALDWIN: And the people in the White House are nervous that he will focus more on the memo in this classified room versus in his speech tonight.
GANGEL: He can't wait to get there.
BALDWIN: Yes. One key Republican who says this won't be muddying the waters is the speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, who says release the memo. And he also said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is a completely separate matter from Bob Mueller's investigation. There may have been malfeasance at the FBI by certain individuals. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. And so, what we want is all of this information to come out so that transparency can reign supreme and accountability can occur.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Jessica, what's his role in all of this?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rod Rosenstein, we know that the president has vented frustration about the deputy attorney general.
[14:10:05] That's from four different sources. In fact, we know the president has floated this idea of firing the deputy attorney general. Of course, Rod Rosenstein, he oversees the Russia probe. He oversees the special counsel. And what we do know is he is also at the centerpiece or one of the centerpieces of this Nunes memo.
In it, it talks about Rosenstein's role overseeing this investigation and also reports have been that it talks about the fact that Rosenstein did, in fact, reauthorize this secret surveillance on the Trump -- former Trump campaign foreign adviser Carter Page. So, the question is, now, it's in the president's hand, it's at the White House, what will be inside of this? Could it further draw the ire of President Trump and could it make for ramifications for Rod Rosenstein or other members of the Justice Department?
BALDWIN: She brings up a good point. What are the legal implications, ramifications of this?
KIM WEHLE, FORMER WHITEWATER ASSOCIATE INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Well, I actually there's a huge separation of powers problem with how this memo has been unfolded. And that is basically, the question is whether the Justice Department under Rod Rosenstein properly exercised its authority under FISA and whether a judge properly authorized surveillance. This is squarely within the discretion of the judicial branch and the executive branch. So, for Congress to come in and say, listen, they didn't do their job right, that's a straight-up constitutional abomination as far as I'm concerned.
BALDWIN: Isn't the bar so high to get a FISA warrant or ultimately it's up to the judge, they have to corroborate, under information and, you know, obviously one side of the camp? Would you say this is a guy who was just doing his job?
WEHLE: Yes. I mean, actually, FISA was a post-Watergate reform. It's about intelligence gathering. It's not about putting people in jail. The goal is really national security.
And so, to the extent to which Congress releases that, their own rules say they can release it so long as the public interest does not outweigh the public interest. And here we have the president's own Justice Department having problems with that.
So, it's -- I agree that it's political. It's political in a way that undermines the integrity of the criminal justice system. And that's something we need to hold for generations, right? It's just not today. Future generations.
BALDWIN: Where does this lead? This is all kind of interconnected here because then it leads me to Chris Wray, right? He's the FBI director. We know the big news as of 24 hours ago, that McCabe, his deputy, is out. Sarah Sanders has said the president has full faith in Chris Wray.
Why do you think it seems the president is protecting him? What's his role here?
PRESTON: What Chris Wray's role?
BALDWIN: Yes, Chris Wray.
PRESTON: Honestly, I just think he's an instrument for President Trump to get what he wants done. We've seen him do that with everybody, from James Comey down, you know, asking James Comey for loyalty, asking James Comey to back off the investigation of Michael Flynn.
But it just goes to show that President Trump really does value loyalty to himself more than he values loyalty to the United States Constitution or for our government as it has been established, gosh, for, you know, hundreds of years right now.
So, Chris Wray, I think, is just a tool. At some point when Donald Trump tires of Chris Wray, Chris Wray is gone, too.
BALDWIN: OK. The backdrop to all of this, of course, this big Mueller investigation and we know the sit-down between Team Mueller and Trump, negotiations are ongoing.
I want you to hear what former New Jersey governor and former federal prosecutor, Chris Christie, had to say about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I don't think there's been any allegations, credible allegations against the president of the United States. And I don't think the president of the United States, unless there are credible allegations, which I don't believe there are, should be sitting across from special counsel. The presidency is different. I don't think they should do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Wouldn't that be a telltale sign if Trump says thanks, but no thanks, special prosecutor, that he has something to hide?
WEHLE: Well, I mean, there are political implications and I worked on the Whitewater investigation. And ultimately, President Clinton was subpoenaed and he testified and if that happens, I think President Trump is going to have to testify or plead the Fifth. And in that instance, sure, it looks like he has something to hide.
But this is a class act in terms of prosecutorial looking for the facts, identifying if there's any crime and moving on. That was the same thing that happened in the Starr investigation. People tried to politicize it. But these are career people that are just doing their job.
BALDWIN: OK. Thank you all so much. Appreciate it, every single one of you.
Ahead here on the special coverage day ahead of State of the Union tonight. President Trump will try to send a unifying message on an issue that has sharply divided this nation, immigration, the framework the White House rolled out last week has already met resistance on both sides of the aisle. Can he close the deal tonight?
Also ahead, it is a name you may not know but will likely see if you watch the State of the Union, Recy. They are on that red button. It will be emblazoned on this pens worn by lawmakers in reference to Recy Taylor, the woman Oprah Winfrey highlighted in her speech at the Golden Globes.
Stay with me. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
[14:19:26] BALDWIN: We're back live here in Washington. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.
President Trump has a tough sell. It's tonight's State of the Union address, as he attempts to deliver a unifying message of America and make a case for his ambitious immigration plan. He has set a deadline. It's March 5th, for Congress to find a permanent solution to protect hundreds of thousands of Dreamers.
The question now, can he get Democrats on board?
With me now, Angela Rye, CNN political commentator and a former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Kevin Sheridan, former senior adviser for Mitt Romney's campaign and former RNC spokesman.
So, welcome, welcome.
[14:20:00] First up, the president is expected to talk about how great the economy has been since he has been in office these last 365-plus days. But leave it to the Senate minority leader to preempt him with a little shade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUMER: President Trump was handed an already healthy economy by his predecessor. Like many things in his life, he inherited the healthy economy. Here are two words we won't hear President Trump say tonight about the economy: Thanks, Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN SHERIDAN, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, ROMNEY FOR PRESIDENT: Well, he did not inherit consumer confidence, which is at a record high. The Dow obviously speaks for itself. There's a number of really good indications that the economy is growing.
I would not want to be a Democrat trying to run down this economy in 2018. I think it's going to keep going. It's going to explode even more. I think the growth is going to go up in the first quarter when we actually see the impacts of the tax reform.
So, that's all Democrats have right now I wish them well with that argument. It's not a very strong argument, frankly.
BALDWIN: Got a Democrat right there. How would you respond?
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think explode was a great choice of words because everything that Donald Trump touches tends to explode or implode, in some instances. And so, here we are. This same guy who would not believe the Bureau of Labor Statistics and their employment numbers is now taking full credit for the same Bureau of Labor Statistic numbers.
I agree with Maria earlier on the segment. She said thanks, Obama. I certainly agree with Minority Leader Schumer.
I would also agree with you that it's never good for us to question the strength of our economy, particularly while it's growing. I would ask President Obama to retract what he was doing during the campaign.
BALDWIN: What about the notion we're hearing from sources that the president is going to lean in tonight on bipartisanship? And, you know, if we take him at his word, Angela Rye, that is a good thing, because when you think of infrastructure, you think of immigration, you need both sides of the aisle to play well in the sand box.
RYE: So, I think the challenge that we have is Donald Trump's many faces, right? This is someone who regularly will do one thing and then turn around and there's a complete 180 the very next day, sometimes within minutes. So, I'm eager to see if that spirit of bipartisanship, spirit of unity, the spirit of being stronger together, and moving forward in a positive manner, reflecting true leadership will reflect on his Twitter account tomorrow.
BALDWIN: It's a fair point. It's a fair point. But, again, you know, you think to the notion, A, of leaning in to bipartisanship a great thing. But, B, when you look at the folks writing the speech, one name that pops out at me as a more hardliner adviser is Steven Miller.
How do you square the two in a speech tonight --
SHERIDAN: Donald Trump is proven very adept at this speeches and no matter who is writing it, I think he will probably --
BALDWIN: Stephen Miller is one person.
SHERIDAN: Yes, one of them. But I think, look, I think tone is the most important thing for this president. His problem is in the suburbs, his problem with the voters who came over to him at the end of the campaign in 2016, but were doubt -- you know, had questions about his temperament and tone.
SHERIDAN: He's -- you know, he has turned a lot of them off with his tweeting. Look, he hasn't tweeted in two days. This is good news for most Republicans.
BALDWIN: So even you acknowledge that.
SHERIDAN: We start with small steps. Start with small steps. His tone is the most important thing. If he can reach out on a little bit of consensus, I think he's going to go a long way to some of those voters --
RYE: Brooke, we have to note that Kevin smiled during this point because he knows it's funny.
BALDWIN: Twitter fingers, time out, two whole days, you heard it here from this problem. Let's talk Democrats and we know that Congressman Joe Kennedy from Massachusetts, he's going to be delivering the response tonight, 37-year-old great nephew of JFK.
So, by the Democratic Party picking him as their voice, maybe of the future, what do you make of that? What message are they sending?
RYE: You know, Brooke, this is really hard for me to say, but I really believe in honesty.
BALDWIN: Hit me, hit me.
RYE: What this tells me is that Democrats are completely missing the pulse of the culture. Let me tell you why. I'm sure, from everything I've seen about him -- he is an up and coming like great magnanimous leader --
RYE: -- but it's a legacy, dynasty family kind of a moment and what that says to me is that we didn't learn the lessons of the 2016 election, right? And I'm someone who supported Hillary Clinton. It took me a minute to come around but I definitely came around.
And I think that we have to find is just because we tried something once doesn't mean it's always going to work. There are paradigm shifts that happen in this country. We have to listen to what they are.
And I'll give you an example. Congresswoman Maxine Waters is doing a rebuttal on my program. I'm doing a special on BET. And the response to that has been crazy. Democrats, instead of embracing that, and this, you know, this big tent party idea, are almost creating this issue of pitting them against each other.
BALDWIN: Maxine Waters isn't even showing up tonight.
BALDWIN: I would argue that how can one stand up against the president when you're not -- and, listen, huge respect for Maxine Waters, Congresswoman Waters.
[14:25:05] But if you can't show up and sit in the same room, is it fair to then sit there and criticize?
RYE: Yes, and let me tell you why. When I was the CBC executive, we staged a walkout when Republicans wanted to hold Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, walking out because you want to hold someone in contempt of Congress. This is the same president who called countries we respect, and honor and admire shitholes. This is the same president who had talked about building a wall, keeping people out who just want to make a better life.
This is the president who -- I mean, we can go on and on and on. And so, at some point, you have to say, what will it require of me to take a stand? And Congresswoman Waters has always blazed that trail. And so, Democrats and the CBC, especially, should follow suit, walk out or don't even go.
BALDWIN: What are you thinking?
SHERIDAN: Well, a couple of thoughts. One, the tone of the Democrats is going to be equally as important as the tone of the president tonight. And if they do stage walkouts, if they do heckle the president or if they groan and look disrespectful, I don't think that's going to help with middle of the road voters.
BALDWIN: Would you agree it's not a good look for Democrats if they do that? I mean, come on, if you're staging a walkout? RYE: I respect a walkout a hell of a lot more than I respect the Joe
Wilson "you lie" moment.
SHERIDAN: Well, I think you might see that tonight from Democrats.
RYE: You might. I would rather they walk out.
SHERIDAN: Hashtag resist is -- I mean, do we know what Democrats are going to do tonight? I would suspect that there are going to be some loose canons there or maybe more. There might be a lot of people who do that.
I don't think that helps the Democratic Party right now. I think the Democrats are poised for a wave election if they can bring a positive, optimistic message to the American people. But right now, they haven't shown it. They've shown resist, resist, resist. That's it.
RYE: And I'm with it, and I think that to me, you have to resist first before you can reach positivity. Right now, he is representing something that none of us stand for, like if we're honest about, Kevin, you don't even stand for a lot of what he pushes out.
And so, first, you have to resist. Then you turn the page and go in a different direction. And so, turning the page and going the different direction, walk out that door first.
SHERIDAN: Donald Trump has been blessed by his opponents. He's got just as exciting opponents as he is.
BALDWIN: We'll be tuned in. Angela and Kevin, thank you both so much.
RYE: Thank you, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
SHERIDAN: Thank you, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Still ahead here on CNN, some lawmakers as we just mentioned making their own silent statement to tonight's State of the Union. They will be wearing pins with the name "Recy" on them in memory of Recy Taylor, a black woman who was raped by six white men during the Jim Crow era in this country and never got justice.
Her niece will be at tonight's speech. She joins me live, next.