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Trump Calls for Shutdown If No Deal on Immigration; Kelly: Some Immigrants 'Too Lazy' to Sign up for DACA; NYT: Trump's Lawyers Advising Him Not to Speak with Mueller. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 6, 2018 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, shut it down. Just as Democrats and Republicans try to close in on a budget agreement with 48 hours until a shutdown, President Trump dares Congress to shut down the government, saying that would be better than getting the border -- than not getting the border security deal he wants.

[17:00:24] "Too lazy." The president's chief of staff describes immigrants who didn't sign up for DREAMer protections they will as being too lazy and says the president won't extend his looming deadline to end the program.

Not talking. The House Intelligence Committee delays its subpoena to former White House adviser Steve Bannon, saying the White House is planning to limit questioning. Meantime, the president's lawyers reportedly don't want him to talk to the special counsel because they fear he could get caught lying.

And stealing digital money. Is North Korea funding its nuclear and missile programs by stealing South Korea's digital money? New information on Kim Jong-un's army of hackers.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: There's breaking news. With budget talks in a fragile moment right now, President Trump repeatedly calls for another government shutdown if Democrats don't agree to tighten immigration laws.

And White House chief of staff John Kelly slams young immigrants, saying some are simply too lazy to apply for DREAMer protections.

Also breaking, President Trump has just seen the Russia immigration memo by House intelligence Committee members, reviewing it with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The White House says it will get the same review process as the earlier Republican memo.

I'll speak with Senator Ben Cardin of the Foreign Relations Committee. And our correspondents and specialists, they're all standing by with full coverage.

But let's begin with the harsh new comments on immigration as the president threatens yet another government shutdown. Let's go live to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, what's the latest?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was a day of cleaning up comment after comment here at the White House, from the president saying he wants to shut down the government over an immigration deal, to the chief of staff, John Kelly, describing some undocumented immigrants as lazy. That's on top of the fact that White House officials spent much of the day defending the president's comments that Democrats were, quote, "treasonous" for not applauding him enough at the State of the Union.



ACOSTA (voice-over): Here we go again. With the clock ticking down to another headline for a government shutdown, President Trump issued a challenge to Democrats: agree to a deal on immigration or shut it down.

TRUMP: Without borders, we don't have a country. So would I shut it down over this issue? Yes. I can't speak for our great representatives here, but I have a feeling they may agree with me.

ACOSTA: The president made the comments at a White House meeting with both lawmakers and law enforcement on the dangers posed by the international criminal gang MS-13. But remarkably, a fellow Republican in the room with the president shot down the shutdown idea.

REP. BARBARA COMSTOCK (R), VIRGINIA: We don't need a government shutdown over this. We really do -- I think both sides have learned that a government shutdown was bad.

ACOSTA: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was pressed on that.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is encouraging people to do their jobs. The only people that have caused a shutdown are the Democrats, who have repeatedly held the government hostage.

ACOSTA: The White House is now doing damage control on a potential immigration deal after chief of staff John Kelly tried to explain why the president was willing to offer a path to citizenship to nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants instead of the roughly 700,000 immigrants who are protected from being deported under the so-called DACA program. Kelly suggested some of the DREAMers are just lazy.

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The difference between 690 and 1.8 million are 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.

ACOSTA (on camera): It's just an offensive comment, though, isn't it? Just on its surface.

SANDERS: I think that's something you would have to decide for yourself.

ACOSTA (voice-over): These days the White House rarely passes up the chance to hammer the immigration issue, with the president tweeting that it was disgraceful that Indianapolis Colts football player Edwin Jackson died in a car accident allegedly caused by an undocumented immigrant who police say was driving drunk. That was before the president tweeted his condolences to the Colts player.

While the government is set to run out of money on Thursday, that's not the only deadline the White House is facing, as the president has until the end of the week to release a memo from House Democrats on surveillance of Trump campaign staffers in 2016.

SANDERS: And we are undergoing the exact same process that we did with the previous memo, in which it will go through a full and thorough legal and national security review.

ACOSTA: White House clean-up is now a round-the-clock operation, with aides to the president still mopping up after this comment about Democrats at the State of the Union speech.

TRUMP: Even on positive news, really positive news, like that, they were like death. And un-American. Un-American. Somebody said treasonous. I mean, yes, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn't seem to love our country very much.

[17:05:16] ACOSTA: He was just joking, the White House said.

SANDERS: The president was clearly joking.

I think it's un-American not to be excited about the fact that people, more people in this country have jobs.

ACOSTA: The Trump campaign used that excuse before after this remark.

TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let's see if that happens. That will be next.

ACOSTA: But both Republicans...

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Treason is not a punch line, Mr. President.

ACOSTA: ... and Democrats slammed the treasonous comment.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: There's this thing called the First Amendment in the Constitution that protects the right of all of us as citizens to either cheer and applaud the president when we agree with him or to not applaud when we have differing priorities. He simply doesn't get that. He's not above the law, and he's not the state. And failure to cheer him when he thinks we should is not only not treasonous; some of us would argue it's patriotic.

ACOSTA: The other looming question for the president is whether he will sit down with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Members of the president's legal team are sounding as if that won't happen, despite what Mr. Trump said just last month.

TRUMP: So here's the story...

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

TRUMP: I don't know. No. I guess they're talking about two or three weeks, but I would love to do it. Again, it's -- I have to say. Subject to my lawyers and all of that, but I would love to do it.


ACOSTA: Now as for the Democrats' memo on surveillance and the Russia investigation, the White House said the president has seen it and that he was reviewing it this afternoon with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. Wolf, that is the same deputy attorney general who was seen as being at risk all last week over his role in the Russia investigation, and of course, the White House has not put to rest whether or not the president may one day fire Rod Rosenstein. They have not ruled that one out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots going on right now. Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.

Now that the president has seen that memo by the House Intelligence Committee Democrats, let's go live to Capitol Hill. Our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is standing by. What are you hearing, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the big question, Wolf, on Capitol Hill is exactly what President Trump is going to do, now that he has the memo and the clock is ticking for that five-day window for him to decide whether or not object or allow its release.

And another big question is what are the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee who voted yesterday unanimously to send this memo to President Trump's desk, whether they would override any decision of his to block the release of the memo allow it to redact key portions of it.

Right now a number of Republicans are saying -- not saying one way or the other what they will do. Another Republican who's not saying what they will do is Paul Ryan, the House speaker. He would not say earlier today whether or not President Trump should release the memo, saying that this needs to be scrubbed of, quote, sources and methods. These will be reviewed by the Department of Justice and the FBI.

Now, in addition to that, Wolf, I had a chance to ask Paul Ryan earlier today about the president's tweet over the weekend that he was, quote, "totally vindicated" by this Nunes memo. Even as Paul Ryan himself said this memo has nothing to do with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Here's what Paul Ryan said.


RAJU: Last week you made the case that the memo, the Nunes memo was separate from the Mueller investigation.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I continue to say that.

RAJU: Over the weekend, the president claimed, quote, "total vindication" from the Nunes memo. Was he vindicated in any way?

RYAN: Let me go back to what I just said. This is about FISA abuse, and this is about holding our government accountable, and this is about Congress doing its job and conducting oversight over the executive branch, which in this particular case has been given great power over us as citizens. We need to make sure that that power is used correctly.

RAJU: But was the president vindicated?


RAJU: So Wolf, not saying whether or not the president was vindicated but defending the Nunes memo. Nunes himself went behind closed doors today, Wolf, and defended this to the House Republican conference, laid out exactly why they did this memo, something that Trey Gowdy also on that same committee also made that case privately to House Republicans. Nunes emerged from that meeting and declined to comment, answer any questions about the meeting.

But one Republican has been skeptical about the Nunes memo is Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr who told our colleague, Ted Barrett, quote, "I don't think there was any need for a memo to be released," so you're seeing some difference between the House and Senate Republicans on this key issue right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Manu, another important issue, Steve Bannon, the president's former chief strategist in the White House, won't be appearing before the House Intelligence Committee today after all. What happened?

RAJU: Yes. This was supposed to be his second appearance before the committee after last month, when he appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, would not answer questions about any topics after the campaign season, to preserve the president's right to assert executive privilege. This was according to his attorney, saying that the White House directed him not to answer these key questions.

[17:10:00] Well, members were not happy. They want him to come back, answer those questions. They said this did not cover, in particular, that period over the transition where executive privilege should not apply.

So they issued a subpoena, demanded his appearance, but he refused to appear despite the subpoena. Now, as a result, they have -- the committee has extended the deadline to next week to continue negotiations about exactly what Steve Bannon can't answer before the committee.

And Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that there were 14 questions that the White House pre-approved Bannon to answer. Yes or no questions. And he said that was unacceptable. He said they need to answer more than that. And if he doesn't, he said they should be prepared to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress.

But Wolf, we are hearing from sources close to Bannon that he's willing to risk being held in contempt and he's willing to instead answer the questions that Bob Mueller has but not the House Intelligence Committee, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens next week. All right, Manu. Thank you very much.

Joining us now, Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. He's a key member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Wolf, it's always good to be with you. Thanks.

BLITZER: Let's begin with the breaking news. President Trump's threat to shut down the federal government on Thursday, midnight Thursday, if Democrats don't meet his demands on immigration. Did the president just potentially ruin any potential chance of a deal?

CARDIN: You know, as we get close to agreement, the president steps in and really makes it very difficult for us to get our job done. He created this problem when he put a date on the backs of the DREAMers. There was not a crisis. He created the crisis.

Yes, it will be good for Congress to act. Now we have to act. And we're getting closer to acting. But the president's threats just make it much, much more difficult. And now threatening to close government? One would think maybe he wants the government shut down. We saw that before, but this clearly is not helpful for us getting our work done.

BLITZER: As you know, Congress has already passed four short-term spending deals since last September, and the next one expires on Thursday at midnight. Why can't lawmakers figure this out and get the job done?

CARDIN: Well, it's very frustrating. The Republicans control both the House, the Senate and the White House; and they can't pass a budget.

We're now four months past the beginning of the fiscal year. We still don't have a budget. We all acknowledge that you can't run agencies, whether it's the Department of Defense and keeping us safe, or whether it's the Health Department and doing research for our country. You can't do that on continuing resolutions. You need a budget. Now the good news is that there are serious negotiations that are taking place between the Democrats and Republicans on a budget blueprint that we hope may be done this week, and we're hoping that that will happen. But in the meantime, it's inexcusable to do continuing resolutions.

BLITZER: Well, will this short-term deal do what the president says he needs in order to sign it? Namely, get tighter border security?

CARDIN: I think it's unlikely that we're going to have an immigration bill done by the end of this week. I don't think that's likely. I think that's regrettable.

Every day that we don't resolve the status of the DREAMers, more DREAMers are left out; more DREAMers are leaving, more have a sense of hopelessness. Families are being ripped apart. These are people who know no other country but America.

It should be resolved now. It should have been resolved before. It never should have been set up as a crisis by the president last September. So we should get this done. It is not that difficult. Let's just protect the DREAMers. The president is insisting that we do some of the immigration changes that will hurt legal immigration here in America, make it more difficult and waste money on a border wall that not only won't keep us safe but will be offensive to Mexico, where we need their cooperation to help secure our borders.

BLITZER: Let me get your reaction, Senator, to the comments from the president's White House chief of staff, John Kelly, who suggested that undocumented immigrants who fail to register for DACA were simply too lazy to sign up.

As you know, about 690,000 DREAMers have actually signed up for the DACA program. The president said 1.8 million of them, even though many of them didn't sign up, they would be eligible for a pathway to citizenship. What do you think of the remarks from the White House chief of staff?

CARDIN: Extremely offensive. Here are people that are in the shadows, who are afraid to come forward. They're afraid to go to church. They're afraid to go to a hospital. They're afraid that they're going to be picked up by immigration and sent to a country they don't even know. That they're going to be separated from their families. It takes a lot of courage to step forward.

So no, these are individuals who just want a future for themselves and their families. They're part of America. They've helped build this country. It would be economically against our interests to send them back to a country they don't know.

No. It is a fear factor of coming forward, and that's what we're trying to correct by -- the president was by the DACA program, and what I hope Congress will do with legislation we pass, I hope, as early as this week.

BLITZER: But Senator, do you welcome the president's willingness to allow a pathway to citizenship? Not just for the 690,000 or 700,000 DREAMers who formally registered with the DACA program? But as many as 1.8 million DREAMers? Many of them didn't register for anything. Do you welcome that from the president?

CARDIN: I don't welcome the way that he has packaged that, which will rip families apart, because parents won't be able to stay here. That will deal with restricting immigration, legal immigration here into the United States. No, I don't welcome that.

What I want from the president is to work with us. Look, we've come close. We had a bill that was by Senator Durbin and Senator Graham that had strong bipartisan support. That bill would have protected the DREAMers. It would have protected their immediate families. It would have provided us a way forward on border security. It would have protected those that have temporary protective status. All that would have been protected under this bill.

And once we got close, what happened? The president blew it up in his office. So no. The president seems to want to make sure we don't come to an agreement here on Capitol Hill. He has certainly not provided presidential leadership to get this done.

BLITZER: Yesterday the president called Democrats who refused to applaud for his State of the Union address "un-American." He said it was treasonous. The White House insists he was just joking, but Democrats, as you know, slammed the comment, and some Republicans, as well, including your Republican colleague, Senator Jeff Flake, who said on the Senate floor today treason, in his words, is not a punchline. What did you make of those comments from the president?

CARDIN: Well, I certainly agree with Senator Flake. This is not the first time the president has been totally sensitive to the values of this great nation. One of our great values is the freedom of expression. We can disagree with the president, and that doesn't mean we're not patriotic or that we're committing treason. We have a responsibility to stand up for what we believe in.

The president was shown respect -- the office when he walked into the chambers with the applause that he received from all. But when he says things that we disagree with, we have no responsibility to just appease his ego to stand up to applaud. And what we did is patriotic. What we did was protecting our rights under our Constitution.

BLITZER: Senator Cardin, thanks for joining us.

CARDIN: Thank you, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Up next, will the president's lawyers try to keep him from meeting with the special counsel, Robert Mueller? One report says they're afraid he'll get caught lying. I'll talk to a former FBI official.


[17:22:00] BLITZER: The breaking news: the White House refusing to say whether the president's lawyers have advised him not to talk to the special counsel, Robert Mueller. That follows a "New York Times" report that said that the lawyers, the president's lawyers fear he could get caught lying if he meets with Mueller and his team.

Joining us now, CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell. He's a former FBI supervisory special agent. Josh, how would Mueller's team prepare for such an important interview, Q&A session with the president of the United States?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, that's a good question, Wolf. Let me say at the outset that, although I worked in the FBI, I worked at FBI headquarters and for the director. I was not read into this investigation, so I just want to say that at the outset. So what I'm explaining here is based on information gathered as an FBI agent, based on experience and assessing what that would likely be like. So I just wanted to make that known.

I will say that Mueller's team is filled with all-stars. That's why they're known throughout the bureau, that the agents and analysts that are over there, along with the prosecutors, are the very best. And the reason that's important is because they're going to prepare for that interview in two separate ways.

First of all, they know case. They know investigation. They've been working on it. But then the second piece comes down to the dynamics of the actual interview. So how many people do you take in? What questions do you ask? What order? All that's going to be thought through in advance.

BLITZER: As you know, last week CNN reported that the president's lawyers don't believe the threshold, a high threshold for interviewing the president of the United States has been met by Robert Mueller and his team. Do you believe there's a different standard for the president of the United States, as opposed to others?

CAMPBELL: So I'm not an attorney. I think a lot of that will be litigated between the attorneys and negotiated. I will say that I can't understand, and most FBI agents would realize that you can't go to the president of the United States over the smallest of topics. Right? You can't take the officials' time and, you know, bury him in litigation. But I think that in this case, that will be determined based on the discussion by the lawyers and, if necessary, litigated by the courts.

BLITZER: A lot of defense attorneys have said the president should not agree to such an interview with Mueller and his investigators, because it could be a perjury trap. He could get caught lying. Even if he's not under oath, lying to federal officials is still a crime.

CAMPBELL: It is a crime. I would say I reject the phrase "a perjury trap." Because FBI agents, when you're going into an interview, whether you're interviewing the president of the United States or someone on the street, you're going to go in for the same reason. That's to gather information. What does this person know? How does it relate to the case?

And at the end of the day, you're simply seeking the truth. You don't go in there in some attempt to -- "I'm going to catch this person in a crime." It is true that the 1001 regulation does make it a crime to lie to the FBI agent, but you don't go into an interview trying to get that charge. You want the information at the end of the day.

BLITZER: Would this interview likely be recorded?

CAMPBELL: I would expect that this interview would not be recorded, and for this reason. FBI interviews by policy are recorded when there's some type of custodial situation. So for example, if you have a subject who's in custody, FBI policy requires that interview to be recorded.

If you recall, during the FBI's interview of Secretary Clinton, that interview was not recorded, and it was for that same reason. She wasn't in custody. She was there on her own accord. She could have left whenever she wanted. I assume -- and I know that in this case it would be the same, that the president would be free to go whenever he wanted. I doubt it would be recorded.

[17:25:06] BLITZER: Compare this potential interview, Mueller and his team and the president of the United States, compare what the Mueller team is doing right now as opposed to what Congress, in their respective investigations, are doing.

CAMPBELL: So it's a really good question. And let me point out. This is something that, you know, practitioners within the intelligence community, it's a point that has been of concern.

If you remember back to 2004 with the WMD Commission, which was looking into intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war. The intelligence community, the charge was that intelligence was fixed to fit a certain conclusion. And so that commission determined that there would be a set of standards, first of all, for the intelligence community and nowadays, before an intelligence product can go out the door from the intelligence community, it has to meet certain standards. It has to be objective. It has to be apolitical; has to be timely; has to include all the relevant intelligence that's available on a certain topic; and it has to meet certain standards.

On top of all that, it has to include alternative views. So if you remember, during -- after the WMD Commission, they looked into, "Well, what are other people saying?" And all intelligence products have to include that.

My concern is that, if you look at the Republican memo and perhaps what we might see with the Democrat memo, which again, we haven't seen, but the concern is that this product, at least the Republicans, didn't meet those standards.

So we appear to have one set of standards for the intelligence community, one set for the Intelligence Committee and that's a concern.

BLITZER: That's a concern. Josh, welcome to CNN.

CAMPBELL: Thank you. BLITZER: Josh Campbell joining us.

Coming you, there's more news we're following. Even as lawmakers try to close a budget agreement, President Trump includes any deal must include his border security demands.


TRUMP: If we don't change it, let's have 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.



BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking news stories right now, including President Trump's new threat to allow a government shutdown if Congress doesn't make a deal on immigration reform.

[17:31:41] Let's bring in our specialists. And Gloria Borger, if there is another government shutdown, that threat from the president certainly could come back to backfire on him.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he doesn't think so, obviously. Look, he takes a look at the last government shutdown, and he thinks he did pretty well in it, that the Democrats forced the government shutdown. They didn't get anything for it, and here we are again.

I mean, the irony of the president's comments today is behind the scenes, Republicans are working towards some kind of a short-term spending bill. And you know, Lindsey Graham, who was pessimistic this morning, just came out of a meeting in his office moments ago and said, "Well, we may be a little bit more on track."

So you know, while the president is pontificating, "Yes, I could use a good shutdown," people are in Congress actually working and trying to get something done.

BLITZER: Yes, they're trying to make -- get a good compromise that will deal with the DREAMers, allow the DREAMers to stay; 1.8 million of them have a pathway to citizenship, as the president said, over the next ten to 12 years. At the same time, strengthen border security and deal with these other issues. They're getting closer, but they're not there yet.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE GUARDIAN": Right. And I think in conversations I've had with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the prevailing question is at what cost will they secure some sort of path to citizenship for DREAMers? So is the president going to seek full funding for his border wall? Is he really going to insist on some of these more hardline proposals that he put out, the White House, such as, quote/unquote ending chain migration which is doing away with family reunification visas. That's certainly a non-starter with Democrats. And even some Republicans who don't think that they should be changing legal immigration during this debate. I think also, there is an urgency that people feel is missing from the White House, where they say, "Well, even if we don't meet the deadline, we're not going to do anything to low-priority undocumented immigrants. When in fact, low- priority immigrants routinely get rounded up by immigration enforcement officials during routine traffic stops. It certainly doesn't give any sense of security to them.

BLITZER: Yes, lots riding right now. They've got to reach a deadline -- a deal by Thursday night midnight, Ron Brownstein. A lot riding on the shoulders right now of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. You know, there is pretty clearly, I think, by all indications, a deal to be had on immigration which would unlock the broader dispute that would tie some kind of legal status, potentially citizenship, for the DREAMers, to enhance border security and some funding for the wall.

The trip wire is that the president has gone much further, to demand significant reductions in legal immigration, up to 40 percent reductions in legal immigration, the biggest since the 1920s, as part of the solution, as well. And as we've been discussing, that is a bridge too far. Not only for Democrats, I think, universally but also for many moderate Republicans.

I was down yesterday in Orange County, where Republicans are defending four Republican-held House seats in an area that has been diversifying demographically; and they've held those seat, Wolf, largely because they've done better there than they have in other parts of the country with the growing Asian-American community.

Once you start talking about limiting family reunification, not only dealing with people who are here on an undocumented status but making it much tougher for people to have -- bring in adult children, siblings and parents, that's it. That's as far as it goes. You potentially erode the Republican position even further among Asian and Hispanic communities, and that could compound their problems in some of these diverse suburbs that are clearly the center of the battlefield for 2018.

[17:35:06] BLITZER: Yes, and Gloria, the White House chief of staff, General John Kelly, injected some fresh controversy into this entire debate today. I want you to listen to how he described the president's position on DACA. Listen to this.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: 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 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.


BLITZER: A lot of them were certainly afraid to sign up, because they've been living in fear for all of these years.

BORER: Yes. Yes, and look, I think that John Kelly should give up being any kind of a spokesman for this administration. You know, he hasn't -- he has made mistakes before when he has spoken. And I think that this was offensive to many people, particularly when you're in the middle of a negotiation here.

And we know -- we know that John Kelly is not a moderate when it comes to immigration reform. And we know that he's whispering in the president's ear on a lot of this. And I think that he didn't help the cause if they're -- if they want to get some kind of agreement here at all.

BLITZER: Does that kind of language, does it make it more difficult to reach an agreement in good faith?

SIDDIQUI: Certainly, when you talk to immigration advocates, they feel that comments like these reflect a lack of empathy from this administration toward the plight of undocumented immigrants more broadly, and specifically DREAMers. As mentioned, some of them were afraid to hand over their information to this administration. Some of them cannot afford the application fee, which costs $500. Some of them simply didn't know about what the new deadline was, because the administration didn't necessarily engage in a messaging campaign over how you can renew your status during this short window of time.

And it's also worth noting: they're talking a lot about what they would do if they don't -- if they don't reach a deal by the deadline, it's not just about the threat of deportation. This is about providing a path for them to work and study legally in the United States. So losing their protections would preclude them from being able to do that. It's not just about the idea that they would be rounded up and sent to a country they don't know.

BLITZER: You know, Ron...

BROWNSTEIN: You know what?

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: I was going to say, I've been struck in the last few days that the Republican National Committee, speaking, in essence, as the institutional Republican Party, has been echoing the very harsh language on immigration, both undocumented and legal, from the president. And it is a reminder that the Republican Party now, both in Congress, at the presidential [SIC] level, and at the presidential level, is rooted in the parts of America that are at least touched by immigration.

Donald Trump won 26 of the 30 states with the smallest share of immigrants. He lost 16 of the 20 with the most. Eighty-five percent of the House Republicans are in districts where the share of immigrants is below the national average. In the Senate, 42 of the 51 Republicans come from those bottom 30 states.

But even with that tilt, they still need some beachhead in the more diverse, internationally-affected parts of the country. And the risk, clearly, here is that they are defining themselves in opposition, not only to undocumented but to legal immigration in a way that I think, in the long run, makes it harder to hold a place like Arizona or Nevada in the Senate, both which of are at the top of their list of vulnerabilities this fall. But also in the House. Places like northern Virginia or Orange County, California, or Miami and its environs. All are place where they're going to have a tough time defending House seats and where this push to cut legal immigration, I think, much -- significantly compounds their vulnerability.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. Don't go too far away.

We're now learning new details on the overall Mueller/Russia investigation. We'll share those details with you when we come back.


[17:43:30] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We have breaking news: New details about the special counsel, Robert Mueller's, overall Russia investigation. I want to bring in CNN's Kara Scannell. Kara, what are you and your team learning?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So we've obtained some e-mails from the General Services Administration. That's the government agency that handled the presidential transition.

And what we learned from the e-mails is that one month after Robert Mueller took over the investigation, so in June of 2017, they requested from the agency that handled these transitions to preserve all documents.

And how that differed from the FBI investigation, which was run then under FBI director James Comey, was really a counter intel investigation, is that their requests to the agency were much more targeted and narrow in scope. So we saw within one month of the special counsel taking over, they had preserved all documents, and they were looking, then, at the transition team e-mails: equipment, cell phones, and computers.

BLITZER: So this is the GSA, the General Services Administration, which was in charge of the transition. So what does this say about the overall breadth, the scope of the Mueller investigation?

SCANNELL: Well, I think what we learned was immediately after they came in, they very quickly said, "We want to preserve all documents from the transition period." We had seen that the FBI was looking a little bit more piecemeal. So this showed that they were saying, "We're going to look at everything. We want to make sure we have all the documents we may need from the transition," which we know, you know, subsequently, Michael Flynn pled guilty to lying about activities he made during the transition. So we might see this develop further as we see the rest of the investigation unfold.

BLITZER: And there -- apparently, there was some sort of fight between the transition team and the GSA?

SCANNELL: That's right.. The transition team, they believe that they own and they're the owners of the documents, the -- all the contents on the laptops and the cell phones and that they should have been the one to respond to requests for information.

So they're upset with the GSA for having handed over everything to Mueller, saying that there could be issues of violating attorney- client privilege and privacy.

BLITZER: And it sort of underscores what the mission is of Mueller's investigation, not looking at any coordination between the Russians and the campaign of President Donald Trump but also any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation. They are taking that part -- second part very, very seriously.

SCANNELL: That's right.

BLITZER: Kara, good reporting. Thanks so much for doing that.


BLITZER: Coming up, cyberthieves apparently working for North Korea's Kim Jong-un are at it again. Standby. We're getting new details of a high-tech theft that have apparently netted the digital equivalent of billions of dollars.

Plus, the latest political aftershocks up on Capitol Hill after President Trump threatens another government shutdown if he doesn't get an immigration deal.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would shut it down over this issue. I can't speak for everybody at the table, but I will tell you, I would shut it down over this issue.



[17:51:03] BLITZER: Tonight, we're getting alarming new details of a major cyber attack and cybertheft. And once again, the culprits appear to be hackers working for North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, what have they apparently gotten away with?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it looks like they've gotten away with tens of millions of dollars. We're told tonight that this heist, along with other similar ones recently, have U.S. intelligence now watching Kim's hackers very closely.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, North Korea is being accused of a brazen and lucrative internet heist, likely committed by Kim Jong-un's hackers. A South Korean lawmaker, briefed by that country's intelligence service, says North Korea stole millions of dollars in digital money last year, all from South Korean exchanges.

The lawmaker says the attackers used a spearfishing method, which analysts say was a clever way to pluck that money, known as cryptocurrency, from victims' electronic wallets.

JENNY JUN, AUTHOR, "NORTH KOREA'S CYBER OPERATIONS: STRATEGY AND RESPONSES": They used actual credentials of real existing people to fabricate a job application, using the fact that these cryptocurrency exchanges are booming in South Korea right now and that they're hiring a lot of new employees.

TODD (voice-over): By most accounts, North Korean hackers are now in overdrive, becoming much more aggressive in recent months. And over the last few years, growing more sophisticated.

YAYA FANUSIE, DIRECTOR OF ANALYSIS FOR THE CENTER ON SANCTIONS AND ILLICIT FINANCE, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: They've improved drastically. If you go back to the Sony hack a few years ago, if you go back to the WannaCry ransomware hack last year which was worldwide, even if it didn't get a lot of money, it caused a lot of havoc.

TODD (voice-over): The WannaCry hack in May of last year was the biggest cyber attack the world has ever seen. Hundreds of thousands of computers around the world, in about 150 countries, were targeted -- businesses, homes, hospitals were hit. Even parts of Britain's National Health Service were crippled, putting lives at risk.

The U.S. government placed the blame for the WannaCry assault squarely on the shoulders of Kim Jong-un's army of hackers. Experts believe he has got more than 6,000 of them, most of them working for North Korea's top intelligence agency. They've stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from banks around to world.

DANIEL RUSSEL, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS, DEPARTMENT OF STATE: That money is then used in turn by the regime for its nefarious purposes, for the nuclear program, for the missile program.

TODD (voice-over): A key question tonight, what are the options for the U.S., South Korea, and their allies to retaliate against Kim's hackers?


And there has been some reporting to date that they have been doing this, that they've been getting into the North Korean offensive operations and trying to disrupt them, trying to foil those attacks. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: What are Kim Jong-un's next big hacking targets? Analysts say he could go after U.S. or South Korean military installations, but those are fairly well protected in cyberspace.

Most likely, they say his hackers are going to keep targeting banks and cryptocurrency exchanges. They're a fast and easy way for Kim to get cash, and they allow him to achieve another one of his goals, causing panic among his enemies -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly does. In recent days, Brian, there was another major hack that might have North Korea's fingerprints on it as well, right?

TODD: That's right, Wolf. About a week and a half ago, hackers stole $530 million from a Japanese cryptocurrency exchange called Coincheck. South Korean intelligence and outside analysts say there's a good chance that was the work of Kim Jong-un's hackers too.

And unlike the hacking of banks, we're told when these cryptocurrency exchanges are hacked, it's impossible to recover any of that money because it's just not protected by banks or governments.

BLITZER: Pretty amazing stuff. All right, Brian, thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting.

Coming up, breaking news. Just as lawmakers try to reach a bipartisan budget agreement, the President says he'd love to see a government shutdown if immigration demands that he wants aren't met.


TRUMP: Without borders, we don't have a country. So would I shut it down over this issue? Yes.



BLITZER: Happening now. Breaking news. Let's have a shutdown.

President Trump warns he's ready to let the government close again if there's no deal on immigration. His new threats and taunts undermining bipartisan talks with another deadline looming.

Refusing to answer. After he failed to be forthcoming the first time around, Steve Bannon's second appearance before the House Russia investigators has now been delayed. Some lawmakers fear the President's former strategist still is taking orders from the White House.

Refusing to talk? As the Special Counsel pushes for an interview with the President, we're now learning more about why Mr. Trump's lawyers think he should say no. [18:00:03] And tonight in an exclusive interview, former Vice

President Joe Biden has a surprising take on whether President Trump should sit down with Robert Mueller.