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Trump Has Read Nunes Memo; NYT: Hicks Told Trump Don Jr's E- mails Won't Get Out; Manchin on Pence Attacks: "This Is Why Washington Sucks"; Trump Erroneously Claims SOTU Address Highest Rated in History. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 1, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:32:19] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we have breaking news here in to CNN. This coming to us from Jeff Zeleny. A White House official says the president has now read the controversial Nunes memo.

I want to go straight to CNN's Kaitlan Collins, live for us at the White House.

Kaitlan, tell us what you're hearing.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Brianna, we have learned that the president has read and reviewed this very controversial memo. It has been over at the White House since the House Intelligence Committee voted on it first Monday night. We know the president had put off reading it since he had his State of the Union address to prepare for. We are told now that the president has read the memo.

This also comes after the deputy press secretary, Rod Shaw, denied that this memo was for -- the president believes this memo could discredit the entire Russia investigation as we reported this morning. The president has been phoning friends and allies saying he believes the release of the memo could serve to expose bias among the top ranks at the FBI. And Rod Shaw earlier said it was not about that, it was not about the Russia investigation, but that it was, quote, "about transparency." And he continued to say that this is a legislative process, they have initiated it, and that the White House is only following through on our role throughout the House rules here.

We reported earlier, of course, the president has been telling his allies it is more about the Russia investigation. And we really got some insight into his thinking because, Brianna, as you know, the president has been fervent about releasing this memo even before he read the memo. He told a congressman after the State of the Union that he was 100 percent going to release it and not to worry about him wavering over releasing it.

The president reading the memo, the release we're told could come as early as today, comes as there has been much dispute not only on Capitol Hill, but between the White House, conservatives and intelligence agencies over releasing this memo because critics say it could be damaging to national security and that the facts included in this three and a half-page memo are actually not the whole story, that it is misleading. But, Brianna, what we do know is that the president has indeed read it. And we will find out soon when they're going to lease this.

KEILAR: So did you say -- is it right, Kaitlan, that it could be released today because, obviously, the indication would be if he's read it, we would be closer to the release.

COLLINS: That's right. We would -- the indication would be if he's read it, we're closer to the release. Before we found out the president read the memo, as we reported this morning, that the president -- they were considering releasing it as early as today. Now, they had five days from Monday to decide about releasing it. But since the president has been so gung ho about releasing this memo, it is no surprise to people that it -- they would release it earlier than those five days -- Brianna?

[11:34:55] KEILAR: You've been reporting that. You said it would be actually surprising if he went the full five days.

All right, Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much for that reporting for us from the White House.

There is some new information on the Russia investigations -- the investigation, I should say, the special counsel's investigation. "The Times," "The New York Times" is reporting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is zeroing in on statements made by President Trump's team after news broke about the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Jr -- Donald Trump Jr and Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. "The Times" reports is that Mark Corallo, a former spokesman for President Trump's legal team, will tell Mueller that White House communications director, Hope Hicks, assured President Trump that Donald Jr's e-mails about the meeting will never get out. Quote, "Will never get out." Hicks' lawyer issued a strong denial to CNN, saying, quote, "It is not my practice to comment in response to questions from the media, but this warrants a response. She never said that. And the idea that Hope Hicks ever suggested that e-mails or other documents would be concealed or destroyed is completely false."

I'm joined now by "New York Times" Washington investigations editor, Mark Mazzetti, one of the reporters who broke this story.

Mark, thank you for being with us.

And you detail in here what Corallo is going to tell Mueller's team about the phone call between him, the president and Hope Hicks. What is he planning to say?

MARK MAZZETTI, WASHINGTON INVESTIGATIONS EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, he's describing a conference call between President Trump, Hope Hicks, and himself, the day after a statement came out that was misleading, about this meeting that had happened a year earlier. During the call, according to what Corallo plans to testify to, that these documents, these e-mails of Donald Trump Jr, he said would eventually come out, putting a lie to the cover story that came out the night before. And according to Corallo's version of events, Hope Hicks said those e-mails will never come out. This concerned Corallo and made him think she might be planning a White House -- might be trying to do something with the e-mails.

As you pointed out, the lawyer for Hope Hicks strongly denied it. And as we point out in our story, certainly, there would have been difficulties doing anything with those e-mails because they had been spread around to various lawyers. But this is something that we believe Corallo is prepared to testify to in the coming days or weeks.

KEILAR: So essentially that he was worried she would obstruct justice. How would that affect sort of the larger investigation?

MAZZETTI: Well, as we know, and as we reported, Mueller does seem to be looking at this question of obstruction of justice, just how much the president tried to impede an ongoing investigation, a federal investigation, into questions of Russian -- collusion with Russians during the election. Any other aspect of this that he's examining and if he finds any credence to could be used in an eventual obstruction case.

We point out in the story one of the curious things is why Mueller seems to be focused on this press statement, the statement to the press, to "The New York Times," after the White House was approached with questions about the Trump Tower meeting. Lying to the press is not a crime. So how would this fit into any possible obstruction case? It is still unclear. But it does appear that Mueller by focusing in on this statement wants to see what the president's role in crafting this statement was, and how the White House team responded after being confronted with the news about this meeting, which up to that point had been secret.

KEILAR: How do you square this denial from her attorneys? It is so -- it is strong, right? Over this quote that the e-mails will never get out. This is emphatic. She never said that, is what her attorney says. How do you square that with the reporting in this story?

MAZZETTI: It is certainly categorical. And Corallo, as we said, told people contemporaneously this happened. And it, you know, might end up, you know, literally being a he said/she said episode. There were three people, we believe, on the call including the president. He will give his account, and perhaps once he gives it, Robert Mueller will have Hope Hicks back, but we'll see how that plays out.

KEILAR: Very interesting.

Mark Mazzetti, thank you so much. Great story. Thank you for being with us today.

MAZZETTI: Thank you.

[11:39:30] KEILAR: Democratic Senator Joe Manchin says Washington sucks. Maybe taking the words out of so many people's mouths at times. He's putting some of the blame on Vice President Mike Pence. We'll tell you why next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KEILAR: We have some breaking news. The White House says President Trump has now read the controversial Nunes memo about alleged FBI abuses in surveillance of Americans. And in the next hour, Donald Trump is going to be speaking at the GOP retreat in West Virginia, where all Congress, congressional Republicans, almost all congressional Republicans are.

It was there that Mike Pence set his sights on Democratic Senator Joe Manchin over his no vote on the tax overhaul. So this is the very state that Manchin is up for a tough re-election this year.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I looked him in the eye, and I told him, I said, Joe, the people of the Mountain State are counting on you. I said, let's get this tax cut done together. But Joe voted no. Joe voted no to give working families more of your hard-earned money.


KEILAR: So, Manchin responded with this tweet: "The V.P.'s comments are why Washington sucks. I'm disappointed in his comments but will continue to work to make Washington work so West Virginia and our country work."

I want to bring in Paul Begala, CNN political commentator and former adviser to Bill Clinton. And Bryan Lanza with us as well, a CNN political commentator and the former communications director for the Trump transition team.

Do you agree Washington sucks, gentlemen? Let's start off, maybe start off on an agreement?

[11:45:20] PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is great. It is the people they send here who suck. This is actually a great --



BEGALA: Beautiful, historic, monuments.

BRYAN LANZA, CNN POLITIAL COMMENTATOR: I'm sure what sucks for Senator Manchin is the fact he's being held accountable --



LANZA: That sucks.

KEILAR: Let's talk about it. He is slammed by the vice president. He is up for tough re-election. Politically, totally see why the Veep did it. But, look, Pence, even though he said this, in West Virginia, in a tweet a few months ago. I spoke to the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and said this the same thing, I looked him in the eye. So, you know, there is a number of things though where you have seen -- you've seen Manchin go along with Republicans. He was not a fan of, for instance, the shutdown, right? He has given the president bipartisan support. So if you want to talk about his voting record, we should. He voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch, which, for a long time, until the tax overhaul was pretty much the only thing President Trump had his pocket to say, look, I did something. He voted to confirm Jeff Sessions. He even criticized other Democrats for not clapping for President Trump at the State of the Union. OK. So square that with what you just told me.

LANZA: I think the people of West Virginia, they support the president's policies, and they're electing Joe Manchin to see if he'll be supportive of the policies. It is one thing voting for an A.G., but when you want the policies that will change the lives for daily West Virginians, you want the Trump tax cut, the reform and restructure of Obamacare.

KEILAR: The other stuff doesn't matter if you vote against --


LANZA: It is not that it doesn't matter. The people of West Virginia expect him to follow President Trump's policies. And that --


KEILAR: He's a Democrat and they know that. Don't they expect --


LANZA: We'll see if they want independence or they believe in the American dream that the president is pushing.

KEILAR: And it -- go on.

BEGALA: They expect him to put West Virginia first, not Washington first. This is a classic Washington slime-ball maneuver, give a speech to the nation, I want to be bipartisan, then go and attack the least partisan guy in the Senate. As you point out, guy votes for his judges, voted for the president's position on abortion, votes for many things, but couldn't be for the tax bill. The White House should have had Joe and half the Democrats at least on this tax bill easily. But why didn't they? They gave everything to CEOs and corporations and nothing to middle-class working people.


BEGALA: This is a --


BEGALA: It's a tailor-made issue for Joe Manchin now. Mike Pence teed him up. Now Joe can run anti-Washington because Mike Pence is bombing into the Mountain State, trying to tell West Virginians how to think. He can be populist. West Virginia, populist state. Voted overwhelmingly for Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. It is a populist state. And Joe Manchin knows this state did better than Mike Pence, believe me.

KEILAR: Yes. I remember when he came in, it was with the ad where he shot a hole in the cap-and-trade bill of Democrats, right?

BEGALA: A good shot.

KEILAR: He is contrarian. It was, whoo. You know, I don't know would we even pay attention now. That's so funny.

His response is that Washington sucks. To Paul's point, what a great bumper sticker, what kind of a great slogan. And so even though West Virginia voted -- voters 67.9 percent went for Trump, you can still see how this might -- might this work for him?

LANZA: He has to -- he has to use all options available for the re- election. That's just the reality of life. He's going to paint himself as an independent, you know, fighting Washington, he has the opportunity to do it. However, there is going to be a contrast. There's going to be who he voted for. At the end of the day, Senator Joe Manchin is the face of the resistance of West Virginia. He's resisting the Trump agenda and he's prioritizing the liberal base over West Virginia by siding with the resistance. West Virginia wants DACA reform, wants tax reform. He's choosing the liberal base over West Virginia and --


KEILAR: OK, Paul, I want to move --


BEGALA: pro-Second Amendment, West Virginia Democrats.

KEILAR: I do want to move on from talking about Senator Manchin.

Yesterday, it was surprising the president didn't go out, he didn't sell his State of the Union. So many times I've covered presidents who have. And they go out -- it is a great experience for them, a rally. It is just -- I'm surprised he didn't do it. But you have seen Pence out doing it. Does that even matter though if the president isn't?

BEGALA: I like Mike Pence, actually. He's a good man. He doesn't have Donald Trump's political skills. Very few people do. But what they need to be doing -- seriously, free advice, having done this for a living -- they need to roll out their policies. Should have done it before the speech. They cannot do it after. The people who elected Donald Trump, for example, overwhelmingly are in rural America. Where is his A.G. policy, his farm policy? Rural America is hurting. They turn to Donald Trump for help. They're not getting it from Donald Trump. They're getting the president attacking the FBI and instead of attacking their -- same thing with opioid addiction. He declared a national health emergency and, to my knowledge, has done nothing. Why don't we have that policy? [11:50:10] KEILAR: Bryan, I want you to respond to that very


LANZA: I think the president -- listen, they made a strategic decision. The president is probably the most actively engaged president with the voters through his Twitter. How much more will he amplify a specific message? I'm sure his voters want to see him out there. I'm sure he wants to be out there. But we have to see --


KEILAR: He canceled the White House Correspondent's Dinner. Why would he go out and then --


KEILAR: You know. I don't know. I wonder.

LANZA: Purely, strategic.

KEILAR: I wonder, Bryan, to be honest.

Bryan Lanza, Paul Begala, thank you so much to both of you.

LANZA: Thank you.

KEILAR: Up next, President Trump claiming his first State of the Union address was the highest rated in history. But it's not. And it's not by a long shot. We're going to show you the numbers, next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go get them, Mr. President.




KEILAR: It is fact-check time. Let's take a look at the president's tweet this morning: "Thank you for all the compliments and reviews of the State of the Union speech. 45.6 million people watched, the highest number in history."

It would be quite an accomplishment if this were true. But instead, the tweet is more like a tale.

CNN's Hadas Gold is here to break it down for us -- Hadas?

HADAS GOLD, CNN POLITICS, MEDIA & BUSINESS REPORTER: Brianna, so 45.6 million people did watch, according to Neilson's TV ratings, but that's not the highest number in history. Just in 2010, Barack Obama beat that, as we can see. He had 48 million tune in. And before that, Bush in 2002 had 52 million tune in.

So what exactly is going on here? Some people were getting flashbacks to that Sean Spicer Saturday after the inauguration press conference where he said this was the largest inauguration in history.

Now some of the president's supporters have been saying, what about live streaming, what about people who tune in online, on Twitter, something like that. We don't have reliable ways to measure those numbers. But for the vast majority of people, they watch big events like this on live television. And the numbers just don't add up. As we can tell from Neilson, this is not the most-watched State of the Union in history.

[11:55:10] KEILAR: That's a flashback to Sean Spicer even saying the live streaming thing, right? That was sort of his excuse.

GOLD: Yes.

KEILAR: Oh, my goodness.


It is deja vu all over again.

Hadas Gold for us, in New York, thank you so much for that.

GOLD: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: Up next, we have more on the breaking news. President Trump has read and reviewed that controversial Nunes memo.

Dana Bash will pick up after a quick break.


[12:00:06] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash. John King is off.