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NYT: White House Lawyers Urge Trump to Refuse Mueller Interview; Trump Uses NFL Player's Death to Push Immigration Agenda; Sen. Graham: "Increasingly Pessimistic" on DACA Deal; Backlash Against John Kelly's DREAMer Comment. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired February 6, 2018 - 14:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:33:16] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: New reporting on the Russia investigation. President Trump's attorneys are urging him to avoid an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Sources tell "The New York Times" his lawyers are concerned President Trump could lie under oath and possible perjure himself. But publicly, the president has said he would voluntarily sit down with Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of events?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One-hundred percent. We'll see what happens. Certainly, I'll see what happens. When they have no collusion, and no one has found collusion at any level, it seems unlikely you would have an interview.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to talk to Mueller?

TRUMP: I'm looking forward to it, actually.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: That's no collusion whatsoever. There's no obstruction whatsoever. And I'm looking forward to it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have a date set, Mr. President?

TRUMP: I don't know. They're talking about two or three weeks. But I would love to do it.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Again, I have to say, subject to my lawyers and all of that, but I would love to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's bring in CNN contributor, Garret Graff, the author of "The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror." Garrett, we'll get to your piece in just a second. There's at least

one of the lawyers, Ty Cobb, the low man on an island, saying, no, we should fully cooperate with Team Mueller. What do you make so far on reporting of the legal team's advice?

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's consistent with what we've seen thus far, which is public pronouncements of total and complete cooperation and then behind the scenes a little more slow walking and roadblocking erecting to try to slow down or stymie what I think is an investigation that feels like it's closing in on the White House pretty quickly.

[14:35:07] BALDWIN: You have a piece where you write about the known knowns of the Bob Mueller's investigation. You say, "Bob Mueller's investigation is larger and farther along than you think." And you point out these five different branches within this investigation. Walk me through them.

GRAFF: Yes. We talked about Bob Mueller's investigation as a thing, but it's really five different probes in one. You have an investigation into sort of prior business dealings and money laundering, which is what has led to the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. There's sort of some hints that there are investigations into -- from "Buzzfeed's" reporting, some suspicious payments from the Russian embassy into the United States as well. Second, you have the Russian information operations, which is the bots and the trolls we saw on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The third avenue of this investigation is the active cyber intrusions by the SFB and GRU hacking teams that we know as Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear that hacked John Podesta's e-mail, that penetrated the DNC. And, notably, we should remember, RNC, but we never saw those e- mails surface, which is an interesting set of questions unto themselves.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAFF: Go ahead. Sorry.

BALDWIN: No, no, no. I see four and five. I want to ask you, of the five, which of the five do you think the president worries about the most?

GRAFF: Well, obviously, I think the president's worry is the obstruction of justice investigation, which is the Big Kahuna in this one, because it goes directly to his own behavior in the firing of FBI director, Robert Mueller (sic), and his pressure, as Comey has laid out to, quote, unquote, "look past" the investigation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

BALDWIN: Towards the end of your piece, you make note of something worth repeating. I like to say out loud there's so much we don't know on this investigation. You point out that Flynn and Papadopoulos' cooperation, information in exchange for plea deals, whatever they said, that hasn't been made public yet.

GRAFF: Yes. There's very significant evidence that we know that Bob Mueller knows that we don't yet.

BALDWIN: Yes.

GRAFF: In some ways, that's the most significant aspect of this investigation. We know that Bob Mueller knows that there's a lot more to this that he hasn't told us yet.

BALDWIN: Totally agree.

Garret Graff, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

GRAFF: My pleasure.

BALDWIN: Next, more on our breaking news. Backlash erupting among Democrats over the chief of staff's remarks on DREAMers, suggesting that thousands who never signed up for DACA are lazy. This, as we get word of another ominous sign in immigration negotiations. We've got that.

Also an NFL player tragically killed by a suspected drunk driver. And now President Trump is seizing upon the driver's history of deportations to push his own immigration agenda. We'll get the facts behind this case.

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[14:42:32] BALDWIN: President Trump is using the death of an NFL player to push for tougher immigration laws. Indianapolis Colts linebacker, Edwin Jackson, was killed Sunday after a suspected drunk driver hit him. Police say that driver was in the country illegally, from Guatemala, and had been deported twice. President Trump taking to Twitter and writing, "So disgraceful that a person illegally in our country killed Colts Linebacker Edwin Jackson. This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the Dems to get tough on the border and with illegal immigration fast."

CNN national correspondent, Athena Jones, is live in Indianapolis for us.

Athena, we know that the suspect was in court today. What did you find out?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brooke. That appearance was very brief, lasting less than 10 minutes. It's what's called an advertisement of rights hearing. The judge, through a translator, informed Alex Cabrera that he had accepted the prosecution's request for a 72-hour continuance. The means the prosecution, the state has until tomorrow to formally charge Alex Cabrera. He is expected back here in court tomorrow to hear those charges. That's also when we could hear a plea from him.

Little more information. He was in the U.S. using an alias. Immigration authorities believe he first arrived in the U.S. illegally back in 2004. He was arrested in California in 2005 for drunk driving. He was also arrested in Indiana in March of 2017 for driving without a license. And as you mentioned, he had been deported twice in 2007 and 2009. Federal immigration authorities now have a hold on him.

But, Brooke, this is a story that is tailor made for President Trump and his allies, and the tough-on-immigration stance that he has been promoting for years now. That's why you're seeing a strong tweet from him this morning. We also saw a tweet last night from Vice President Mike Pence, who was the governor of Indiana.

Trump did send another tweet after that initial one, sending condolences, saying, "My prayers and best wishes are with the family of Edwin Jackson, a wonderful young man whose life was so senselessly taken."

This is clearly getting a lot of attention because this is an undocumented immigrant who had been deported twice. This goes to the argument the president has been making about the need to toughen immigration policy -- Brooke?

[14:44:58] BALDWIN: I'm sure this will come up in the briefing today at the White House. A reminder, we'll take that live in a little bit.

Athena Jones, in Indiana, thank you so much.

Next, our breaking news. White House moments away from facing reporters as Democrats are blasting this man, the chief of staff of the White House, John Kelly. He has suggested that thousands of DREAMers, who never actually signed up for DACA, are lazy. This, as we get word of another ominous sign in immigration negotiations.

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[14:49:54] BALDWIN: All right. We're back with some breaking news, both specifically on DACA and the DREAMers, and explicit comments getting all kinds of reaction, including Democratic Congressman Joaquin Phoenix (sic), calling it callous -- what the chief of staff has said about a number of people in this country illegally.

But, first -- Joaquin Castro, yes. Sorry about that.

But first, Brian Karem, is with me, our CNN political analyst and executive editor of "Sentinel Newspapers."

Brian, I want to begin with, we know the president has been sitting at this roundtable on law enforcement, and he made a little bit of news when saying this about a government shutdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Frankly, I'll go a step further. If we don't change the legislation, get rid of these loopholes where killers are allowed to come into our country and continue to kill, gang members -- and we're just talking about MS-13. There are many gang members that we don't even mention. If we don't change it, let's do a shutdown. We'll do a shutdown. And it's worth it for our country. I'd love to see a shutdown if we don't get this stuff taken care of.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: I would love to see a shutdown, let's have a shutdown.

BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wow.

BALDWIN: That's a wow moment. Why say that?

KAREM: For a number of reasons. First of all, every immigrant in this country isn't a killer, a thug and a thief, and he has equated all immigrants, put them in that category, when the crime rate in the immigrant communities are smaller than the general community. That's a disingenuous statement, let's have a shutdown. I guess he has to play that card because, after you've accused all the Democrats of being treasonous, you're going to find it hard to reach a bipartisan agreement on anything on the Hill these days. Maybe he's preemptively saying that because of what he said during a speech yesterday. I mean, with this president, you're never really sure. There's always something that is behind something that's behind something that's behind something. And the problem is with that statement, not only is it a wow that you want to have a shutdown, who wants to shut down the government? Seriously.

BALDWIN: Right.

KAREM: You don't want to shut down the government.

The other part of that wow, like I said, is that not every immigrant is a killer. The idea of even saying that is so offensive on so many levels that, you know, it just -- it prompts a wow.

BALDWIN: Right. Listen, I don't know what the president is thinking. I do know he keeps tweeting and was telling us this story about this Indianapolis Colts player. And maybe in that case, you know -- but certainly, you're right, people are here for all kinds of incredibly valid and patriotic reasons.

Let me come back to you.

Because on these immigration negotiations, we do have an update from one key Senator.

Phil Mattingly has been watching all of this for us on Capitol Hill.

It's Senator Lindsey Graham. This, coming from Senator Graham, is significant in and of itself. Tell me what he said.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's pessimistic, Brooke. There's no other way to put it. He's pretty downtrodden. He was talking to reporters and making it clear that in terms of what the path forward would be for a long-term DACA resolution or a permanent DACA resolution, at this point in time, he doesn't actually see it. Brooke, that jives largely from what I've heard from aides in both parties right now. The path forward is very unclear.

Here's what we know. There will be a Senate debate on an immigration bill next week. That will be an open debate. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader from the Republican Party, said a short while ago that will be fair and balanced. He won't try to tilt it one way or the other. But the Senate does not make law. The Senate makes a bill and then they have to decide what the House is going to do and what the president is going to do.

Why there's such a divide right now, Brooke, is you look at the president's proposal on DACA, four pillars of that. Two of those pillars, the chain migration piece, the visa lottery piece, are basically no starters at this point for Democrats. Well, they have to be in there for the president to support it. The House -- and Speaker Paul Ryan said again this morning -- the House will not move forward on anything related to DACA unless the president supports it. That's where you have this divide right now. Even though Senators are going into next week's floor debate with grand expectations that they can get something done in a bipartisan way, Brooke, all you have to do is think back to the last immigration debate in 2016. And 60-some-odd Senators voted for comprehensive immigration reform and it withered on the vine over in the House. I think that's what Senator Graham is looking at right now. He's deeply involved in that process, deeply involved in this process. In terms of the prospects of a long-term or permanent solution, there's no clear pathway right now. That's what he is reflecting. And frankly, that's what you're hearing from people on Capitol Hill. They don't know how to get to that end game. They know everybody wants to get there, they're just not sure how to actually do it right now -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Speaking of immigration, Phil, thank you.

Brian, back over to you at the White House.

I want to play what the chief of staff, John Kelly, said a while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF (voice-over): There are 690,000 official DACA registrants. And the president sent over what amounts to be two and a half times that number, to 1.8 million. The difference between 690,000 and 1.8 million were the people that, some would say, were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn't sign up. So the president shockingly said, OK, 1.8 million. And then probably the biggest shock was in a path to citizenship. That's beyond what anyone could have imagined.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[14:55:20] KAREM: Wow!

BALDWIN: Some saying too lazy to get off their asses. I've said this out loud three or four times throughout the show, discussing this. I still can't quite wrap my head around the language. He's making this overarching point, hey, the president did something a lot of folks in our base didn't do, added all those hundreds of thousands of folks in this country who didn't give the government their information, making it that 1.8 million number. But still. What?

KAREM: Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be free. Oh, the hell with it. They're too lazy to get off their arses. Come on. What? Where has the level of political discourse gone in this country? Such a disrespect to those coming here to seek a better life, which is pretty much everyone who has been here. Their forefathers came here for that reason. I'm only second generation here, Brooke. To sit there and say they're too lazy to -- maybe they're too afraid of what's happening in this country. Maybe they're scared. I have dealt with stories in Montgomery County, Prince Georges County, Maryland, where people are afraid they're going to be shipped out at any day, and they've been here for, you know, what, 20, 30, 40 years. There's a palpable, real fear brought about by this administration. And this administration has a disconnect between the things that they do and say and what happens when they do and say them. And they haven't come to grips with that yet.

BALDWIN: We are minutes away from that briefing. We'll look for you in there.

You've got a lot to ask of Sarah Sanders.

KAREM: Yes, we do.

BALDWIN: The White House is about to weigh in on all of this moments from now.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:00:12] BALDWIN: We're back with the breaking news. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.