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Mueller Interviewed Trump Campaign Pollster; White House Prepares for National Emergency; Trump Visits Texas. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired January 10, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Not about governing, it's about something else at the moment anyway.
Thanks for joining us today on INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow, discuss the president's border visit.
Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great day.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.
Underway right now, nearly a million people about to miss a paycheck as the president takes a trip he really didn't want to go on to the border.
Plus, Democrats and the president are arguing, not about a substantive way to re-open the government, but whether he handed out candy at a meeting and threw a temper tantrum.
Should the Mueller report be public? The president won't say. But if he's innocent, why not?
And the Trump administration's vacancy sign, bright green, as 40 percent of the government's top positions are empty.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KEILAR: All of those stories in just a moment.
But first, we're beginning with breaking news.
CNN has learned that Robert Mueller's team has questioned this man here, Trump campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio. This news coming, of course, after we learned that Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, shared internal campaign data, polling data, with a suspected Russian operative and asked that it be passed on to two pro- Putin Ukrainian oligarchs.
So what does this all mean? We have CNN political correspondent Sara Murray here with us now.
What do we know about this meeting that Fabrizio had with the special counsel? SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, we know this
meeting actually happened in February of last year. And CNN journalists actually saw Fabrizio go in for this interview and then later confirmed that he was, in fact, meeting with the special counsel's team.
And it was interesting because at the time prosecutors were looking into Paul Manafort and his Ukrainian business dealings, but they were also looking into what those Ukrainian business dealings may have had to do with collusion.
Now, all of this is very interesting now because he was Trump's chief pollster on the campaign, and we're learning this new information about how Paul Manafort shared polling data with a Russian associate that's caused a lot of alarm among Democrats who are saying, why was Paul Manafort sharing this information.
Now, Tony Fabrizio would not comment for this story, but a person who was familiar with his interview said that he was asked about some of the work he had previously done with Paul Manafort in Ukraine. He did some polling for him in 2013 and in 2012, but wasn't asked about proprietary Trump campaign data.
What we don't know, though, is what else was covered over the course of his interview. We know that when Mueller brings witnesses in, they tend to be pretty extensive interviews. They tend to cover a lot of ground. So there's still a lot of questions about what they might have wanted with Fabrizio, and whether it was campaign related, whether it was solely Manafort relate and, you know, whether there were any follow-up interviews after that.
KEILAR: And what we now know is that -- and because of Manafort's attorneys failing to redact something in a filing, an admission that Manafort passed on this proprietary data, as you put it, internal polling data, pretty sensitive stuff. He passed that on.
We've also since learned, right, that he was in the hole millions of dollars to an oligarch, right? So he had some business dealings. He was vulnerable in some ways, at least on one front, and we've learned this.
MURRAY: Yes, Paul Manafort basically had no money coming in and he still took a job working on the Trump campaign and didn't accept a salary for taking that job. There were a lot of weird things going on with his finances.
It turns out, you know, he had previously been making all of this money from these pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs. They still owed him millions of dollars. And a source told CNN, that's who he wanted to get the polling data to, these pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs.
Now, his spokesman denied that this was some kind of quid pro quo polling data in exchange for the money, but I think there are a lot of unanswered questions here about why Paul Manafort felt it was necessary to share this information with a Russian associate that prosecutors say had ties to Russian intelligence, and why he wanted it in the hands of these pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs.
So Democrats are also asking, OK, what did the Russians use this for and who else knew about it? And President Trump came out today and insisted, I didn't know anything about this. I didn't know Paul Manafort was sharing this information with the Russians.
KEILAR: Yes. Very important point.
All right, I want to bring in former federal prosecutor turned defense attorney, CNN legal analyst Shan Wu with us, and associate editor and columnist at "RealClearPolitics," A.B. Stoddard.
So, Shan, there's a source familiar with the special counsel's interest who says that this man, Tony Fabrizio, was asked about his polling work for Manafort in Ukraine rather than his internal Trump campaign polling. What does that tell you?
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It tells us again that Mueller's investigation is a little bit ahead of what we know that they know and --
KEILAR: They know -- we don't know what they know.
WU: Right. Exactly.
So looking at the polling means that you can infer that point they were already curious and suspicious about what kind of internal information might have been going out and what Manafort might have been trying to get out at that point, or at least the campaign.
And this whole issue with the polling data is just so curious because one can't imagine any legitimate reasons why a foreign entity would want any kind of polling data.
[13:05:06] And while Manafort's people, I would expect that they might spin this to say, well, they're asking him just about the work he did for Manafort, the Ukrainian people, obviously that would not be of such great interest to Mueller.
KEILAR: What do you think, A.B.?
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, "REALCLEARPOLITICS": Well, I think that this whole episode is so dramatic for two reasons. One, it's the first time that people can look to an event and say, this really looks like collusion with a foreign government interest who all of our intelligence agencies have said had it out to beat Hillary Clinton and make sure Trump was elected, and that was the entire goal of their interference in this election.
The second one was that we found this out inadvertently. And it means all along people have said, there's no collusion, it would have leaked out. It is an indicator that Mueller might have lots on collusion, that we only saw one crumb of inadvertently leak out.
And so, as Shan points out, and Sara, I mean, there are so many witnesses that we don't know about. There are so many -- there's so much testimony that we don't know about. Now that the House is in control of -- by Democrats in their investigations, they intend, the \Intelligence Committee intends to turn over a bunch of transcripts that the Republicans refused to turn over to Mueller. What if he then finds that witnesses have lied to Congress and what if he can flip them and make this an even longer investigation? I don't think we knows what he has and I don't think that we know that this is about to conclude, either.
KEILAR: Their -- and the question that people keep wondering, does -- did the president know about this? He was asked about the polling share by Manafort, Shan. He said he didn't know about it.
KEILAR: So how significant is that. We now have the president on the record saying he didn't know about it. And if there is no proof that he knew about it, or he genuinely didn't know about it, what does that mean?
WU: Well, President Trump's being on the record is a real term of art --
KEILAR: It's true.
WU: Unless he's actually under oath. So I think any statements he makes in public, I don't think he would ever feel like he's wedded to those statements.
KEILAR: You don't take to the bank.
WU: I don't, yes.
MURRAY: I also think we need to remember, there's another very important witness in this that is still cooperating, who would have known about a lot of this polling information, and that's Rick Gates --
MURRAY: Who was your former client and was Paul Manafort's right-hand man. This is someone who is cooperating with Mueller's team, is cooperating in ongoing investigations. So, you know, President Trump can, obviously, you know, deny it publicly, but if there was some -- certainly if there was any kind of document trail that shows that Trump knew about this during the campaign, you can bet that Mueller's team has that. And you can bet that Rick Gates is talking about it.
KEILAR: A.B., when the president was asked whether this report -- let's call it the Mueller report -- it was the Starr report with Bill Clinton, right -- if it should be public. In the past it has been public. And also members of Congress have had access to underlying findings that didn't even make the report. But the president asked if it should be public. He won't say. What does that tell you?
STODDARD: I thought that was an interesting response.
KEILAR: Really? Why?
STODDARD: Instead of no, I have the right to, you know, to exert executive privilege and insist that so much be redacted or removed or blocked or, you know, he just left it open. I thought that was kind of fascinating that he didn't try to put his foot down, which his lawyers -- his brand new team of 17 additional lawyers certainly intended to do.
KEILAR: A.B., Shan, Sara, thank you all.
President Trump heading to the border to make his case for building a wall. The president's visit to the southern border is coming after he walked out of talks with Democrats over the wall and the partial government shutdown.
And before he left today, he told reporters that if the Democrats won't make a deal, he'll take action on his own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. I haven't done it yet. I may do it. If this doesn't work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely.
TRUMP: This is a national emergency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is in Hidalgo, Texas, near the border with Mexico.
And, Jim, the president appears to be laying the groundwork here for declaring a national emergency.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
KEILAR: What steps are being taken? Is there a sense of this this might unfold? Have they gotten this far at the White House?
ACOSTA: Yes, Brianna, and I should point out, we are standing right by the border with Mexico in Hidalgo, Texas, which is near McAllen. And the president will be here. He's going to be arriving here shortly. He's going to make a trip down to the border, talk with Border Patrol agents down here and get a sense as to what's happening.
It does sound as though the White House is making preparations just in case he decides to declare that national emergency down on the border. The White House Counsel's Office has been working on this for some time now, looking at whether or not that could ultimately be successful if it's subjected to a court challenge. I will tell you, Brianna, it's a curious place for a president to come
to do a border visit if he's thinking about declaring a national emergency. McAllen, Texas, which is, as I said, right outside of Hidalgo, where we are right now, is -- has consistently on of the safest places in America, one of the safest cities in America.
[13:10:11] We've been talking to local residents this morning. I talked to one woman just a short while ago who said, you know, she's been here for ten years, hasn't seen any crime, hasn't heard any incidences of people coming across the border and shooting and causing mayhem and that sort of thing. Walked along portions of the border this morning, didn't see any migrants trying to cross.
Obviously that happens in other parts of the border region. It happens in other places, of course. And, of course, there have been instances of crime where undocumented immigrants have come into the country. Although we should point out, at much lower levels than native-born Americans. But at the same time, it does, I guess, raise the question, Brianna, as to why the president would come to this area because it has been traditionally a pretty safe area.
One thing we should also point out, earlier this morning, when he was leaving the White House, he was talking about the shutdown, he was talking about various issues with the border all that he would like to see built on the border and, you know, he was asked at one point, why isn't Mexico paying for it. He was asked that question again because, of course, he talked about that time and again out on the campaign trail. And he said to reporters, well, I never said that Mexico was going to write us a big check. That, obvious -- that is not true, Brianna, because during the campaign, the campaign put out proposals that said that Mexico could, one way or another, make a one-time payment to the United States to reimburse the U.S. for the cost of a border.
So the president, as he was coming down here, and we've been seeing this over the last several days, using misleading information to sell this crisis to the country, try to sell the country on the idea of building a wall and having the U.S. taxpayers pay for it instead of the people of Mexico, which is what he promised during the campaign.
But he'll be down here in about 45 minutes from now, talk to local officials, talk to Border Patrol agents, and then we should get some pictures of him actually on the border getting a firsthand look at things for himself. But as I pointed out, Brianna, it is -- this is a very safe part of the border, so it's a strange place for him to go to try to make that case.
KEILAR: Yes, Jim Acosta, thank you so much, near the border as he's following President Trump's visit there today.
And next I'm going to speak live with a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee about efforts behind the scenes to end the shutdown. Plus, Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the meeting was a setup by the White House, that meeting with President Trump and Republicans. A setup, she said, so the president could walk out. We'll talk about that.
And anger is boiling as protests erupt nationwide over federal workers not being paid. These are live pictures and we'll bring you CNN's special live coverage, more of it, ahead.
[13:17:13] KEILAR: No wall, no way. That is the position the Democrats are sticking with in this border wall government shutdown standoff. But President Trump says it shows they're not concerned about crime, that they're not concerned about border security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats, which I've been saying all along, they don't give a damn about crime. They don't care about crime. They don't care about gang members coming in and stabbing people and cutting people up.
The Democrats don't care about crime. They've been taken over by a group of young people who, frankly, in some cases, I've been watching, I actually think they're crazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas is joining us now. He's a member of both the Intel Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee. He's a chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Conference as well.
Thanks so much for being with us, congressman.
And just give us your reaction to what the president said there, that Democrats don't care about crime because they're opposed to the wall.
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Well, that's just not true. There's a difference. A very important difference and distinction to be made between supporting border security, smart, effective border security, like technology, more manpower, 21st century solutions, and the 17th century solution that the president is asking for in a wall.
And before the holidays the Senate voted unanimously to support border security funding without President Trump's border wall and the House of Representatives did so in January. So the only person holding this up is President Trump.
He had actually agreed initially to what the Senate and the House had passed, but then started watching Fox News and was getting beat up by Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham and these other folks, Ann Coulter, and so he changed his mind. So he's bowing basically to these talk show hosts on Fox News.
KEILAR: There are some Senate Republicans who are privately -- they're planning to court Democratic senators. They want to offer proposals, kind of sweeteners here, right? They want to talk about dreamers. They want to talk about other issues in exchange for border wall money. Do you think that that's going to work with your Democratic colleagues in the Senate?
CASTRO: Well, first is, I'm encouraged that President Trump and Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and everybody else are getting together and meeting regularly. That's a good thing because the government's been shut down for 21 days and the priority should be to get it reopened. It's also encouraging that folks are trying to bring forward ideas on how to re-open the government and find compromise.
But two things. Number one, I have not seen any kind of serious offer from President Trump or from the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, or Lindsey Graham. And the second thing is that, like many Americans, I'm not inclined to trade the lives and the futures of millions of dreames for a big, long border wall across the border with Mexico. So, you know, of course, you know, we want to listen to what they have to offer, but I'm not inclined to make that trade right now.
[13:20:09] KEILAR: Do you worry at a certain point that people who are really feeling the financial strain of this, federal workers, contract workers, that eventually they are going to turn on Democrats, you know, they're going to turn on government in general and just be very upset that the shutdown isn't resolved? I wonder, Democrats, it seems, when you listen to Nancy Pelosi there, they seem so sure that they have the support for not building the wall that that is going to somehow trump the major economic concerns. Why that confidence?
CASTRO: Well, no, I think you're right. I think people are already frustrated. They'll be even more frustrated and angry when they start missing a paycheck on Friday and people can't pay rent, they can't pay mortgages, they can't make car payments. They get extra penalties or late fees on credit cards and stuff. So, yes, the heat and the anger, I think, is going to intensify.
But I think that Speaker Pelosi makes that point because I also believe that most Americans know and agree that it was President Trump who is the one that basically moved the goalpost. Again, remember, the Senate voted unanimously on a bill, the same bill -- the Republican Senate voted on the same bill that the Democratic House voted on to reopen the government. So there is one problem here, and it's in the White House.
KEILAR: It's looking -- actually, I just want to mention the president has canceled his trip to Davos as the shutdown drags on. Just really important to note there, that just happened.
It's looking increasingly -- and you heard the president say this -- the national -- declaring a national emergency is on the table. What is your reaction to that as a method of reopening the government?
CASTRO: I hope that he doesn't take us down that path. If he does that, we'll file a motion or a resolution of disapproval in the Congress right away and ask for a vote on it. We'll also fight him and challenge him in every way that we can, in the Congress, in the courts and in the streets in protest
KEILAR: How -- why would that be a problem? Why is that a problem? You're going to have -- you'll have federal workers and folks who say, thank goodness, I get my paycheck back if the government reopens. Why is it a problem, in your eyes, to declare a national emergency?
CASTRO: Yes. Well, I think a few things. The first thing is that there is no national emergency at the border. Hopefully when he goes to McAllen today, where my wife grew up, people are going to talk to him, even conservatives will tell him that there's no crisis there. The border cities in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, so forth, California, are among the safest cities in the United States.
I just visited in Alamogordo, New Mexico, the other day, a few days ago, a Border Patrol station that apprehends or takes in migrants and there were zero people there. There were no migrants who were being held there that day. So I think the president has a tough time explaining how this is a national emergency.
But second is, Senator Rubio said earlier today, I believe, that it also sets a precedent for other presidents to come along and declare national emergencies based on policies that they favor. So politically and legislatively it's bad, but it's also -- there's not a national emergency. There's a humanitarian crisis, but the only national emergency at the border right now is in the president's imagination.
KEILAR: I want to turn to a different topic now. You are on the Intel Committee and there is, of course, the Russia investigation going on with the special counsel. Listen to what the president said today when asked about that investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: The special counsel's final report, do you want that to be made public?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll have to see. There's been no collusion whatsoever. We'll have to see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: He won't say if the report, if Robert Mueller's report, should be made public. What's your reaction to that?
CASTRO: Well, the American people are owed that report. That's a report, not just for Congress, but even more than for Congress, that's a report that is due to the American people. So many of us will do everything that we can to make sure that that report sees the light of day when it's ready.
KEILAR: Do you -- does it say anything about him, that he will not put that report out, or do you not want to go that far?
CASTRO: Yes, no. Well, I mean, it raises the question, what does the president think is going to be in that report that's so damaging that he's got to hide it from the American people? If it is as he says, that there was no collusion, that he had no contact with Russians and so forth, that he did nothing wrong, then why would he hide that report from the American people? That report needs to see the light of day.
KEILAR: All right, congressman, thank you so much for being with us. Joaquin Castro, really appreciate it.
CASTRO: Thank you.
KEILAR: Coming up, we have some breaking news.
[13:24:45] CNN learning that Robert Mueller's team has questioned a Trump campaign pollster. Why that could be significant to the larger Russia probe. We'll have that next.
KEILAR: Negotiations so far have produced very little in the way of progress on funding the president's border wall or reopening the government.
You're looking at live pictures of protests here.
You have two sides that can't even agree on what really happened during this White House meeting with congressional leaders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: Our meeting did not last long.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president walked into the room and passed out candy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's true.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: We saw a temper tantrum.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't have temper tantrums. I really don't.
[13:30:02] SCHUMER: He sort of slammed the table.
TRUMP: I didn't smash the table. I should have.