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Deputy FBI Director McCabe Stepping Down; Joe Kennedy III Giving Dem Response To Trump's Speech; What Trump Can Learn From Nixon And Clinton. 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 30, 2018 - 12:30   ET



[12:31:31] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Time now to check some of the other stories on our political radar. More fallout from that "Wall Street Journal" report accusing the now former RNC Finance Chair Steve Wynn of sexual misconduct, allegations he denies.

The Republican Governor Association is returning a $100,000 donation and it's also cancelling plans to hold its 2020 Convention at the Wynn Las Vegas. As for the RNC a source familiar with the situation tells me that the RNC will not get back its contributions from Wynn until his company's investigation into the allegations is complete.

And the Trump administration, it seems has plead no one with how it handled Monday's deadline for Russia sanctions. Moscow is at least outwardly furious that the Treasury Department posted a long list of Russian elites who could face new penalties. But the administration chose not to impose further sanctions, angering even Republicans by arguing that current measures are enough for now.

Meanwhile, the CIA Director Mike Pompeo says the threat of more election meddling is still very real.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have concerns that they might try to interfere in the U.S. midterms which are coming up?

MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: Of course. I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that, but I'm confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election that will push back in a way that is sufficiently robust, that the impact they have on our election won't be great.


BASH: And now more on the big news that broke right here on this Show 24 hours ago. The FBI Director, the deputy FBI Director, I should say, Andrew McCabe, he's gone earlier than expected.

Speculation immediately turned to the White House and whether the man in the oval office helped hasten McCabe's exit. Sources inside the Justice Department say the new FBI Director, Christopher Wray, simply wanted his own team. But another source hints that there is something maybe more curious. A staff-wide e-mail sent by Director Wray that mentions a widely anticipated inspector general report examining what top officials did during the 2016 election.

And we're back with our panel. I mean, to me, that -- memo about the IG report is potentially the biggest tell about what's going on here, which is obviously directly related to this memo that we're talking about. It's all about what happened inside the FBI, what trade craft did they use, did they follow the rules and regulations to get the information that they used to begin the Russian investigation?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: I mean, it certainly looks like it tell and there have been to these two kind of persistent story long questions about McCabe, and one is did he appropriately kind of extricate themselves or distance himself from conflict of interest because his wife had been a candidate who received money from a pack connected to Hillary backers, OK

We know that and you know the second is this line that the Nunes memo is attempting to, you know, enumerate about FISA and whether FISA was followed properly. All of these are like intensely inside baseball -- inside Washington issues that most Americans aren't following closely, but they are incredibly important in terms of how the intelligence agencies relate to Congress and the rest of the executive branch. And in terms of the kind of confidence and sanctity and the process going forward.

So I think beyond McCabe, who left now a month earlier than he was expected to, are all these underlying persistent questions about the path forward.

[12:35:05] BASH: In the short term, the question about why he left, one of the answers can be found with what Chris Christie said this morning. And I said that because Chris Christie is very close with the relatively new FBI Director Chris Wray.

Here's what he said.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I don't think we should make a mistake about who is making some of these decisions. It's pretty clear to me that Chris Wray has made the decision, the FBI director. But this is Chris Wray methodically putting his team in place.

Remember, whether you agree with Jim Comey or don't agree with him, Chris Wray has the right to have his own team in place at the FBI, then the FBI direction he thinks it needs to. And one thing I know about Director Wray, he will make those decisions himself.


CHRISTIE: No one else will make those decision for him.


BASH: And yet my friends on Bloomberg, you are a publication reported on Monday, Kelly held separate meetings, meeting at White House Chief Staff John Kelly separate meeting or phone calls with senior Justice Department officials last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to convey Trump's displeasure and lecture them on the White House expectations. Kelly had taken to ending these conversations with the disclaimer that the White House isn't expecting officials to do anything illegal or unethical.

JOSHUA GREEN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: Amazing. And that came, these phone calls from Kelly as a direct result, we reported of Trump exploding on his flight to Davos, in anger of the fact the fact that his own Justice Department was saying that it would be reckless to release the Nunes memo.

So part of what you have going on here despite what Paul Ryan claims that this is separate from the Russia investigation, is that Republicans are intent on proving or showing that part of what drove the FISA court to approve a warrant to oppose surveillance and (inaudible) the Trump administration official, was material that came from this controversial Christopher Steele document that apparently had not been made included or made public to the judge at the time it was issued. And Republicans are trying to use this as a lever to undermine the Mueller investigation.

What Chris Christie is doing in that clip we just showed is making every effort to suggest that this is being done independently by the FBI Director Chris Wray and not as a result of pressure from the president, although it sure looks like that's what's causing it.

BASH: It sure it does, OK. Everybody stand by because up next, we're going to look at the Democrats giving the spotlight tonight to a political newcomer after the State of the Union. The same position another newcomer was in 33 years ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly then, there is a Democratic Party in America which is alive and well. A party committed to prosperity and opportunity for all Americans, a party more concerned with the future than the past. This is a party that knows it has to change, a party that wants to reach out to all Americans, Democrats, Republicans and independents.



[12:42:24] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Right after the State of the Union comes the Democratic response. And this year the party will turn to a young voice with instant name recognition. Even though he's little known outside his home state, Joe Kennedy III will give the Democratic rebuttal after President Trump speaks.

He is 37 years old. And in his third term representing Barney Franke District to Massachusetts. He is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and the grandnephew of President John F. Kennedy.

The late Senator Ted Kennedy was also one of his great uncles and after tonight the two will have something in common since the elder Kennedy was part of a group of Democrats who rebutted President Reagan's State of the Union speech back in 1982. I'm such a sucker for all this history. So it's so great. But Carl, why Joe Kennedy III?

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think they want a young voice. I mean the Democratic leadership is actually a little older, shall we say. And I think they wanted to put somebody out there who can talk about, you know, a new generation, which is sort of the family mantra. But when they announced his name, my first reaction was "good luck" because delivering the response has become one of the worst jobs in politics.

It's just really hard to compete with the president in that, you know, the tableau there in the house. People don't tend to pay attention to it. So it's been a little tough recently. It has though in the past created political stars. They showed Bill Clinton, and other people have been able to do it. We'll see how he does. He's very popular, highly regarded in the house among his colleagues. And I mean I do think people obviously think he's a big future Democratic voice.

BASH: They do. But, you know, the Democratic Party, not unlike the Republican Party when President Obama was in office. It's not like they have this one speaker for kind of prime time that the networks will take. But then it's quite fractured. Bernie Sanders is going to give his own speech and several others from different parts of the party are going to try to seize on the moment with their kind of sectors of the Democratic Party. Do you think that is going to matter?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLOTICAL REPORTER: Well, I mean, I think you're right that he certainly sort of fits the bill in terms of being a younger face and younger blood. But I do think that, you know, for some of the Democrats who are really hoping that this can be their opportunity to bring in new faces and sort of different faces and new blood, I don't know that Kennedy quite fits that bill.

[12:45:00] And especially in the context of you see sort of the "me too" movement being out in full force tonight with members wearing black. I think there is sort of a question about could they have chosen a woman to deliver this address.

And then, of course, you know, when so many members are bringing sort of these immigrant guests to show their support for DACA and that situation being fixed, could they have brought on someone, you know, a Democrat who is a person of color? I think there are some questions being raised about could there have been someone who better fits the other molds that they're hoping.

HULSE: Proving my point that this is not a good job. He's already in trouble.

BASH: Well, yes, exactly. And he can't control, you know, he was born a white guy. I mean that's who he is. But speaking of people who have aspirations for higher office soon, like 2020, it's so incredibly calculated and political who they're bringing as guest. And I just want to show just a couple of examples. Cory Booker is bringing a DACA recipient and a founder of a Latino organization. Kirsten Gillenbrand, senator of New York is bringing the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Kamala Harris, she is bringing a DACA recipient and Elizabeth Warren is bringing first Haitian-American man elected to public office in Massachusetts. That's super settle.

TALEV: Yes, right. And you could, you know, to stop the raise on. I have to say when the White House was previewing from the podium yesterday some of the first ladies, you know, box of guest. I was curious. I was listening within ear to whether they would have a DACA recipient in their mix, and I'll tell you why. On one hand, of course, the president wants this as part of a comprehensive deal. And on the other hand, he's made such a big deal about trying to insist that he is still sympathetic and empathetic to these people as well. That I thought if they had they gone that route, that would have sent a really different message right out of the box.

BASH: You know, and sort of the flip side of that they're bringing parents of somebody who was killed by a group that is inspired by and filled with people who are allegedly part of undocumented immigrants.

JOSHUA GREEN, SENIOR NATIONAL CORESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: Well, and this was a concept being for his initial campaign. He would get up there with these poor mothers whose children have been murdered by undocumented immigrants. And that was a way of kind of firing up the red meat conservative base. In a speech that's been build as an attempt and bipartisanship, it seems like a very odd choice to have that be your guest rather than a DACA recipient.

Let's remember, Trump just put out a plan actually offering amnesty for 1.8 million DACA recipients so he could plausibly do what Margaret had suggested.

BASH: Well, let's see.

GREEN: The chief and Trump strategist for the DACA.

BASH: Let's see if he fills in the blanks around his anecdotes and his characters who he brings for his guests.

All right, everybody stand by, because up next, we're going to look at what President Trump can learn from two of his predecessors, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.


[12:52:25] BASH: President Trump won't be the first to give his state of the union address while under investigation. Two others come to mind, two very different presidents facing very different scandals. First, Richard M. Nixon in 1974 gave his speech under the cloud of Watergate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Mr. President, my distinguished colleagues and our guests, I would like to add a personal word with regard to an issue that has been of great concern to all Americans over the past year. I refer, of course, to the investigations of the so-called Watergate affair. I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end. One year of Watergate is enough.


BASH: Nixon also promised he wouldn't quit. Six months later he resigned in disgrace.

The other example, Bill Clinton, his speech in 1998 came just days after he denied having an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a denial which eventually led to his impeachment. But unlike Nixon, Clinton avoided the subject entirely.

Now we're back with our panel. Carl, I was going to make a joke about what it was like to cover Nixon but I won't. We can do that because we're old friends. But you were there for that '98 speech.

HULSE: That out of the many, many, many state of the union --

BASH: How many?

HULSE: I think probably over 30. I probably been here four. The '98 one sticks out in my mind because the Lewinsky scandal had just broken. And in town we were all like, how is he going to be able to go up there and deliver the speech in this environment? Most people wouldn't be able to come out of their bedroom with the amount of attention and pressure that was happening. And so we were all waiting to see and he went up there and he pulled it off.

In fact, I think his numbers actually went up briefly after that. It was an amazing performance, and it just shows the Clinton compartmentalization. That was to me the --

BASH: And the Clinton charisma. I mean, there are few politicians on either side of the aisle who would be able to pull that off. And this is, to be fair, a very different situation with the president coming up, first of all, with the Congress led by his own party.

LEE: Right. And you have to sort of imagine, looking back at that Nixon clip, imagine a scenario tonight where President Trump says exactly those words but just substituting in the so-called Russia investigation. And I'm also just curious in that hypothetical what kind of reception he would get even from his own colleagues. Would they really be standing up to, you know, give him applause?

2[12:55:05] BASH: That's a good point, but the so-called Russia investigation isn't going to cross his lips, as far as --

TALEV: Well, of course, as we all know it's not a so-called Russia investigation, it actually is a very involved Russia investigation. Actually it is a very evolve Russia investigation. BASH: I know, I'm paraphrasing about President Trump.

TALEV: I mean, his go line has been no collusion. And I just -- I'm sure it's not written into the speech but I just wonder if that's the one ad lib line I'll be listening for. But I think, you know, another, there's really different today than it was obviously both in Watergate and the Clinton administration is there -- there was no Twitter then.

And at the time, state of the union address was a rare moment to really galvanize the American public's attention. The entire landscape of how to communicate with voters is completely different now, which means you don't need to use a state of the union in the same way that you used to need to use it.

BASH: And it's so ingrained in everything now, we forget how new it really was. It wasn't even used during the 2008 campaign, for the most part.

Everybody, thank you very much. Thank you for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Jim Sciutto is going to pick up our coverage right after a quick break.