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Manchin Suggests Disrespect; Legislation to Protect Mueller; Nunes Memo Release; Sessions Resignation Offer. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 31, 2018 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:33:37] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives. Under our plan --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. You just heard the Democrats booing President Trump during a portion of his State of the Union Address. After the speech, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin suggested that his fellow Democrats did not show respect for the president. He told CNN's Manu Raju, quote, I stand and show respect for the office. You can see lots of Democrats there not following that advice.

But Senator Manchin joins us now.

Hi, senator.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Hi, Alisyn. How are you?

CAMEROTA: I'm doing well.

So did you see disrespect on the parts of Democrats?

MANCHIN: Well, and I've seen it on both sides. I was there when Obama gave speeches. I was there on that horrible night when he said you lie, OK, and I saw them not standing. That was disrespectful. And I said, this is not how I was raised in West Virginia and the family I was raised in. And then I saw last night the disrespect. You know, you respect the office. You --

CAMEROTA: But what if they disagree with what he said?

MANCHIN: You can disagree. I can stand up and still disagree in respect but I want to move forward.

The president's laid out some things that I can work with. He talked about opiates. I've got a serious opiate problem in the state, in my country.

CAMEROTA: For sure.

MANCHIN: And we need the funding. I need to get that funded. He talked about clean coal technology.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

MANCHIN: I need clean coal technology because we're going to use it. We need to use it the best we can.

CAMEROTA: You always see things through a bipartisan lens.

MANCHIN: I try. I try. I try.

CAMEROTA: That's one of your superpowers. But as you can see from the stony faces --

MANCHIN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Of Nancy Pelosi and James Cliburn -- I think we have some video of this, Steny Hoyer, they did not move a facial muscle. I mean they looked almost funereal. But that's their way -- that's their protest vote. They don't -- there -- you see some of the faces -- they don't agree with what he was saying. They don't like the policies that he laid out. They don't like the rhetoric. What do you want them to do?

[08:35:23] MANCHIN: You know, here, we're talking about immigration. Right now we have a hard date of February the 8th.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

MANCHIN: We've got to do something. We've got to keep this government open.

CAMEROTA: Is it going to happen next week?

MANCHIN: We're going to make something happen. We truly are.

The bipartisan group with Susan Collins, we call it the Common Sense Coalition, we have almost 25 senators who are coming to every meeting. We've met more in the last week than I have met collectively with any other bipartisan group over seven years.

CAMEROTA: And you're getting traction?

MANCHIN: We're getting traction. We're looking -- OK, the president put out a template of what his four -- his four pillars. Can we accept all four pillars? Can we start with two pillars or three pillars? A lot of knowledgeable people in this room that really understand immigration.

CAMEROTA: I want to talk to you about something that you said over the weekend, which was, when the news -- there was news, CNN had reported and "The New York Times" did as well, that the president wanted to fire Robert Mueller.

MANCHIN: Yes. CAMEROTA: And that the only person who stopped him was this -- the White House counsel, Don McGahn, who refused to do it, who refused to carry out that order. You seemed to dismiss it as, quote, New York talk.

MANCHIN: Let me say, when I was -- New York talk, OK, sometimes is a little bit more boisterous than what maybe I grew up with. Sometimes they talk through each other rather than to each other, but they know they're going to get to the middle. Let's say -- let's take Chuck Schumer and President Trump. You hear all this rhetoric back and forth. But, at the end of the day, those two can sit down and work something out.

CAMEROTA: I know. I mean I know New York talk. I'm from New Jersey. That's like New York talk on steroids.

MANCHIN: You're -- yes.

CAMEROTA: But I think that -- are you suggesting that that's not right, that the president didn't want Robert Mueller fired and that Don --

MANCHIN: No. I don't know that, OK? Now, did he use --

CAMEROTA: So what part is New York talk?

MANCHIN: I've been around people and I've been around the president. He'll say something -- yes, that's just wrong, OK, we've got to do something. Well, fine. The facts have come into play. You can't do that. That's not what we're going to do.

And I have said this openly and I've said this to staff people, moving on Mueller, firing Robert Mueller, would -- it would cohease (ph) the partisanship we have right now that's separated.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

MANCHIN: And it would bring us together. Because this is one person we believe in. This is one person that we have the confidence and faith in that is going to do an investigation thoroughly. And, at the end of the day, he'll come out with his findings and conclusion and we can move on.

CAMEROTA: Right. So you think it would be unwise. It doesn't mean the president won't do it. It doesn't mean the president doesn't want (ph) to do it.

MANCHIN: I would recommend strongly he does not. If he moves on Rosenstein first would be the direction he would go probably if he's going down that. And at that time, I will guarantee you, you'll see movement immediately to protect the judicial system.

CAMEROTA: You mean legislation?

MANCHIN: I do mean legislation. Because we have three branches --

CAMEROTA: And why --

MANCHIN: We're going to protect three branches, the democracy we have in three branches.

CAMEROTA: Look, as you know, there are already people who are worried that he is going to do something to Rod Rosenstein or Robert Mueller. So why not do legislation now?

MANCHIN: Well, I'm fine with that, too, if they think it needs to be done. I'm going to vote for it and support that. I think we need a separation. We need to make sure we protect judicial.

My recommendation to the president and to the administration, we have a tremendous judicial system I believe in very strongly. We have a good intelligence community, the best in the world. Get to know these people. Have confidence and faith and let them do their job. Help them expedite this investigation so that we can get to the end and get a conclusion.

CAMEROTA: Do you think that Senator Chuck Schumer is right to try to tie the legislation to protect Mueller to whatever the funding deal is you all make next week?

MANCHIN: The whole thing when people tie things together, they look for a vehicle that's going the carry it, OK, something that's going to pass. You know, I'm not going to hold anything up until what we call poison pills. I'm not voting for poison pills. I know it's something that you can never vote for, but I'm going to put it in there because it's going to embarrass you and make it look like -- I can use it against you. You know, it's all -- it's a got you moment all the time up there. A poison pill basically is put in there by a Democrat or Republican to use against the next election or next campaign against that person. That's not what we're there to do. We're there to get things done and we're not getting it done.

CAMEROTA: Next question, should the Devin Nunes Republican memo be released?

MANCHIN: That is the absolute asinine thing. I'm on Intelligence on the Senate. What Devin Nunes has done to the Intelligence Committee on the House, he has neutered it. They do not have any confidence no matter what he does. And then this is a man that basically was sanctioned by his own -- his own committee that he could not be involved in a Russia investigation.

CAMEROTA: Right, wasn't supposed to be involved, but here he is.

MANCHIN: But let me just tell you how this works. We do, in the Intelligence Committee, we cross-check everything. They're nine different intelligence agencies. They're going back and forth all the time. We look at everything before we move forward. He won't even reveal his sources. He won't even tell Adam Schiff on the other side. I mean --

CAMEROTA: He won't even show you, am I right?

MANCHIN: None of us. Yes, he won't even --

CAMEROTA: In the Senate.

MANCHIN: Wait a minute, he won't even show Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Can you believe --

CAMEROTA: What does that tell you?

MANCHIN: It tells you that it's a scam. The whole thing he's doing. And why he's doing this. It doesn't help the president. It doesn't help our country. It doesn't help the administration. It doesn't do anything but put more of a cloud and doubt. And why he --

CAMEROTA: Do you think --

MANCHIN: I have no clue.

[08:40:13] CAMEROTA: Do you think there's dangerous, classified information in there?

MANCHIN: The FBI seems to be concerned about that. I would pay attention to what the FBI is saying. If they're saying, listen, I recommend that you don't, because you're going to be making accusations that puts more doubts in the confidence we should have in the judicial system.

I believe in the FBI. I believe in the CIA. I believe in the intelligence community that comes to me with the facts. And we cross- check them. If we have nine different intelligence communities giving us the facts, and let's say that two or three of them doesn't match up, they're different, we don't go with it. That's just the way we do it.

CAMEROTA: Senator Joe Manchin, we really appreciate you being here. Great to talk to you. Thanks so much.

MANCHIN: Thank you, Alisyn. It's good to be with you. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Chris.

CUOMO: Interesting times when lawmakers feel compelled to say that they trust the FBI and the CIA.

President Trump resisting the urge to talk about the Russia investigation during his address last night. Behind the scenes, several major developments on those probes, including the possibility Trump may still fire Special Counsel Mueller. We'll discuss why that is a suggestion, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: As you're learning every day, sometimes it's important to hear what questions people won't answer, what things they don't mention. For example, last night there was only one brief mention of Russia in the State of the Union, but President Trump is reportedly growing impatient with the Russia investigation. A source close to Trump tells CNN, it is still possible the president could fire Special Counsel Bob Mueller.

[08:45:10] Joining us now, CNN legal analyst Richard Ben-Veniste, who was the former special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation.

Always a pleasure to be in your presence, sir.

RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Thank you.

CUOMO: Everybody knows he can move on the special counsel if he wants through a chain of events. Everybody seems to agree that it would be a disaster politically. So let's put politics to the side.

Let me hit you with a number of propositions and you tell me what matters and what doesn't matter to this special prosecutor.

The latest information that there are documents that have been delivered to the special prosecutor by the DOJ, which is, of course, run by Trump appointees, that suggest circumstances surrounding the request for resignation of Jeff Sessions' attorney general. We'll remember, for you at home, Trump was angry. He felt that Sessions shouldn't have recused himself. He started pushing on him about loyalty and what is he doing? Is he his guy or not? Sessions put in a letter of resignation. Trump ultimately didn't accept it. Relevant?

BEN-VENISTE: Yes, sure.

CUOMO: Why?

BEN-VENISTE: Because it's all a piece of the president's desire to control the investigation rather than have someone independent running an investigation that implicates his campaign and perhaps him personally.

CUOMO: Where are you in terms of the president's obstruction of justice versus he can fire whoever he wants. If he calls it fighting back, I know you can interpret that to mean fighting back, yes, with corrupt intent. But he can fire Comey. Comey works for him. He can fire -- he can tell Sessions he's out. He can stop any criminal investigation he wants to a point. So what is the line?

BEN-VENISTE: The line is really a political one in the first instance. In Watergate you'll remember there was a firestorm of adverse reaction to Richard Nixon firing the man who demanded evidence concerning the tapes. Here I think --

CUOMO: But nobody considered, as you well know, nobody considered an indictment, surely, but even an impeachment of Nixon on the basis of firing Archibald Cox.

BEN-VENISTE: Oh, actually, Chris, they did. That was --

CUOMO: It's not recorded well then.

BEN-VENISTE: That is part of the first article of impeachment by the House committee that Nixon interfered with the investigation by firing Archibald Cox. And it's quite clear, when you look at the tapes, he always intended to do that, and he found the pretext to do it in the tapes fight.

So yes, all of these cumulative events that suggest that the president wants to control the investigation -- and the question as --

CUOMO: Controlling the investigation, is that necessarily wrong?

BEN-VENISTE: As in Watergate, people ask the common sense question, what is he hiding? What was Nixon hiding? Why would he go to the extent of firing Archibald Cox?

Here, the same question obtains. People will ask, why won't the president simply keep his hands off of Mueller, this orchestrated campaign to denigrate the FBI, to denigrate Mueller, who -- his picture is in the dictionary next to public servant.

CUOMO: Right.

BEN-VENISTE: I mean there's no one better equipped to conduct an impartial investigation than Robert Mueller.

CUOMO: But insults aren't equated with criminality very often. With Nixon, and, again, just because of your expertise there and experience, it was that he was hiding material that was relevant to the investigation of an actual crime --

BEN-VENISTE: Sure.

CUOMO: A felony of that larceny --

BEN-VENISTE: Sure.

CUOMO: That break-in, that burglary.

Where is the equivalent here out of the suggestion of, well, Donald Junior's meeting, which was inarguably stupid that they had with that Russian lawyer, he wanted to doctor the statement and make it better for them politically?

BEN-VENISTE: But put -- put the obstruction of justice piece of this aside, Chris, for a moment, because -- and there are a lot of things cumulative that add up to an inference there. There's a lot of smoke, but we don't know because Mueller is doing what he's supposed to do, and that is not leaking. He speaks in court, not off the record to some journalist. And so we don't know what Mueller has.

But consider the other pieces of the investigation, such as money laundering. We know that Russians, oligarchs, mafia-connected people spend tens of millions of dollars in excess of the true value of properties they bought from Trump. Why did they do that? Because they're foolish and they didn't understand what the real estate values were of the property they were buying --

[08:50:01] CUOMO: Or was it laundering? BEN-VENISTE: Or was it --

CUOMO: That's the question.

BEN-VENISTE: Or was it connected to something involving Putin?

CUOMO: Well, Richard Ben-Veniste, we know you're very busy. We're always asking you to come on because your perspective is second to none. You've lived it and you understand it conceptually so well.

Thank you, sir.

BEN-VENISTE: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Always a pleasure.

Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, after the president's big speech, the punch lines followed. Late night hosts and humor, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: OK, late night hosts were live last night to react to President Trump's State of the Union. Here is some of their take.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": The theme for tonight's speech was safe, strong and proud. I guess they felt it was better than loud, orange and out of control, but that was the theme.

TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVER NOAH": You know what I love about Paul Ryan and Mike Pence, they always look like his chaperones are there for the evening. Just like, uh-huh, read the words.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": At the beginning of the speech he listed some of the natural disasters we've endured this year.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have endured floods and fires and storms.

[08:55:02] COLBERT: And Stormys. Don't forget her. She was one of the most expensive disasters for you personally.

KIMMEL: It was like "The Bachelor" after the rose special where they bring all the contestants that hated each other back together in the same room. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi spent the whole speech looking like they ate a bag of expired batteries.

NOAH: This year's designated survivor was the secretary of agriculture. Yes. I was like, what's that person going to do in an attack? It's just like, secretary, North Korea's launched the attack. Bring me the cabbage. KIMMEL: And if there was any question about the first lady's

enthusiasm for her husband, she put those rumors to rest tonight.

That was Melania wearing a tasteful white pants suit in tribute to the president she voted for and --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: That's funny.

But, yes, I mean, the white pant suit, she looked beautiful. Interesting choice given that so many of the women there were in black. So that was an optical message.

CUOMO: Yes. I wonder if that's something that was a consideration or not.

CAMEROTA: I don't know.

CUOMO: You never know. There's always so much mystery.

CAMEROTA: You never know.

CUOMO: We've got plenty of things to deal with that we know already.

CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman will pick up right after the break.

Look at that beautiful shot.

CAMEROTA: It's beautiful.

See you tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:00:13] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.