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Day 20: Key GOP Huddle with McConnell to Find A Way Out; Pompeo Slams Obama's Middle East Policies, Praises Trump's; Trump Denies Knowing That Manafort Shared Data with Russians; Speculation Grows That Mueller Probe is Nearing End; Making the Case to Build the Wall. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired January 10, 2019 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Now, some might Pence's fault.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
KING: Some might Pence's fault.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it's not.
KING: But, so then, we're at this for a while. We're at this for a while. One of the things that the Lindsey Graham group -- (INAUDIBLE), I don't question their intentions, but they're talking about help for DACA recipients, changes to H-2B visas, provisions to help immigrants in the temporary protected status program. Essentially, here's some things the Democrats want.
Give the president his wall.
Again, they could have gotten Democratic votes when the Republicans still control the House. That's a deal that might have gotten you enough Democratic votes to get it to the finish line.
MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: Yes.
KING: But the Republicans don't control the House any more.
UNIDENTIFID FEMALE: Well --
PERRY BACON, SENIOR WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: In fact, in January last year we had this kind of deal offered and Trump said basically, I'm not, you know, no, I'm not doing this so. But then he get a better deal (INAUDIBLE).
KING: That's true too. With A, would Democrats support it, and B, is there any indication the president, who answers to his base and their tweets, is going to accept a deal that gives --
JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: That's the common denominator.
(CROSSTALK) BACON: Ann Coulter, Fox news, Rush Limbaugh. And it's not going to (INAUDIBLE) Trump wants to sign a deal to legalize people in DACA ever.
PACE: That's the common denominator between what happened early last year and at the end of the year which was Trump's base revolted and said, you know, we didn't support you to have you fold to some Democrats and moderate Republicans on something like DACA. Even though DACA is extremely popular, coming up with a protection for the Dreamers. So, I don't think there's any reason to believe that that same base wouldn't have a massive outcry even if they were giving the wall alongside a package for the Dreamers.
KING: And part of the Republican messaging and it's smart and it's factual is that, a whole bunch of Democrats in 2006 voted for a wall. So why won't you vote for a wall now? Mitch McConnell stood on the floor today with the thick pictures of the wall behind him that then and now saying the differences that President Trump is president.
It authorized 700 miles of fencing. It passed the Senate 80-19. That was not exactly controversial at that time, signed into law on October 2006. Among the current Senate Democrats still around, Tom Carper, Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, Ron Wyden. Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama all voted for it. Sherrod Brown is now a senator. He voted for it in the House.
Again, smart messaging for the Republicans. You guys were for this before, now you're against it just because of your animus toward President Trump. That's also 13 years ago and we live in a different world.
PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CONGRESSPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: That was part of a broader debate that was going on in 2006 and resumed in 2007 in which there was going to be comprehensive immigration reform. And you're talking about 10 to 11 million undocumented immigrants that were going to have a path to citizenship. And that was the sort of atmosphere by which that passed.
BACON: And George Bush supported the comprehensive bill, too --
BACON: -- unlike Donald Trump. It's a huge, huge difference.
TALEV: I was just going to say (INAUDIBLE). The Lindsey Graham proposal that's being talk about is the obvious answer. It's of course is the obvious solution what the Democrats want? What do Republicans want? How do you put it together in the middle?
But it relies on there being a President George W. Bush in office to make that deal. And not only is it not clear at all that President Trump wants to make that deal with no pressure. But it's also now clear that he could make that deal at the risk of losing his base, and it's not clear that the Democrats think they can trust him. And so --
KING: And it's not clear that the Democrats want that deal.
TALEV: You're right about that.
KING: Because of their, A, their new majority, and B, some of the energy of the liberals in the new majority, they don't think it's enough. They think, you have 35 percent of the America people support the border wall, 80 percent of the American people support giving the Dreamers, you know, status. That's not an even trade. We're not going for it.
That's part of their thinking, stay of their own politics too. It's not just the president, the Democrats have a politics too which leaves us at day 20 and counting.
Up next, the president secretary of state, strikes a different tone on Syria than the boss.
[12:38:00] KING: Topping our political today, Democratic sources say the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will brief House lawmakers this afternoon on why his department now easing sanctions on companies linked to a Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. The Russian oligarch has close ties to both Vladimir Putin and to President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The United States imposed sanctions last year on at least two companies where Deripaska has a big stake. But in December, the administration announced they would be lifted. Seven House committee chairman, all Democrats are demanding to know why.
The president of Venezuela was sworn in today for a second term, but Nicolas Maduro was getting the official -- no official well wishes from the United States, quite the opposite. This tweet a short time ago from John Bolton, the president's national security adviser, quote, the U.S. will not recognize the Maduro dictatorship's illegitimate inauguration. We will continue to increase pressure on the corrupt regime, support the Democratic National Assembly, and call for democracy and freedom in Venezuela.
Speaking in Egypt today, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized President Obama's strategy in the Middle East and said, President Trump is bringing welcome changes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Remember, it was here in this city that another American stood before you. He told you that radical Islamic terrorism does not stem from an ideology. The results of these misjudgments have been dire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Secretary Pompeo also said the United States will not retreat until the fight against terrorism is over and that despite President Trump's plan to withdraw troops from Syria. Interesting, number one, to follow in the footsteps of Barack Obama who famously gave a big speech early in his presidency in Cairo. Secretary Pompeo essentially saying forget that, that's over. But he also made this point about, we stand by our friends in the Middle East.
Israel is certainly happy in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is certainly happy in the Middle East, a hundred days after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the administration has kind of turned a blind eye. What new did we learned from this?
[12:40:00] KANE: I think we've learned that there are -- there is still this divide within the administration from the president himself to his cabinet officers. Rand Paul walked out of the Senate lunch yesterday with Donald Trump -- just after the president had left. And Manu and I caught up with him, and he said on Syria the president's position hasn't changed. He said that he still very strongly wants to have a quick withdrawal from Syria. That's not what we're hearing from Mike Pompeo and Bolton.
KING: Or from John Bolton, right?
TALEV: Or from the ambassador and Special Syrian Envoy Jim Jeffrey or we're hearing that from Dunford who still in the area now trying to work this stuff out. I mean, look, what's going on Syria is that the president said what he wanted (INAUDIBLE) Erdogan, sent the entire U.S. military and diplomatic establishment into a panic. And they spent the last three weeks trying to (INAUDIBLE) upon him, why that could be counterproductive to U.S. national security goals. As well as to Israel's interests, as well as other contingencies that the president actually cares about from a political, you know, policy perspective.
And so I think there is a consistent message from all the non-Mattis advisers who are left, from Bolton, from Pompeo, from Dunford, from Shanahan over the Defense Department and from Jeffrey. The problem and the question is, right now, the president agrees with their counsel, what they are telling people about the administration's actual guard rails and conditions for withdrawal in Syria. But how long will that hold?
How long will the president remain patient enough to protect the Kurds, protect the ISIS -- to protect the, you know, the parameters by which the ISIS prisoners are held to protect Israel's interests? And that's a real question.
KING: That's months and months and months and months and months. So we'll see about that.
Up next, will the American public ever get to see the special counsel's report? The president says, stay tuned.
[12:46:08] KING: Welcome back. President Trump commenting for the first time today on a big development this week in the Russian election interference investigation. Because of a mix-up by Paul Manafort's lawyers, we learned that he shared sensitive Trump campaign polling data in 2016 with Ukrainian oligarchs who are known to have ties to the Kremlin. The president of the United States was asked this morning, sir, you were the candidate. Did you know anything about it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know that Paul Manafort was sharing polling data from your campaign with the Russians?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I didn't know nothing about it. Nothing about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins our conversation. Significant in the sense that Paul Manafort is not supposed to this. It raises certainly the possibility of collusion. Was he doing this to help the Russian troll farms in their election interference or was he doing it because we know he's a swamp creature and he was just trying to be gratuitous to people with whom either he owed money or wanted to make money? The president there pretty clear, not me
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. Of course he's going to say that, right? And it could be very well possible that he didn't know. I think there has been a feeling that certainly early on when all of this began by the FBI that a lot of people on the campaign close to Trump were trying to pocket money, right? Make business out of this campaign. So maybe Paul Manafort was trying to do a favor.
The big question is why did he feel that he needed to give this information to them? Why did the Russians want it? Why did this guy ask for it? There is so much information that it seems would be contained in this polling data that would be problematic given what the Russians were up to in their own, as you said, troll farm, what they were doing.
So that's a big question that I think that we'll get answered. I think Mueller know knows because there are intercepts. There are Russians talking about this data, other data that they had. So the government -- the U.S. Government knows about this. We'll get answers at some point.
KING: So you say we'll get answers. So maybe we'll get answers in some of the court filings.
PROKUPECZ: That's right.
KING: There's continuing cases against some of the Russians. They're trying to bring some of them here for trial. There's a continuing case against Manafort. There's still Michael Flynn to come up in his sentencing disposition which was delayed, there other cases. That's one way we might learn. Otherwise we might learn in a report. The president was asked today, Bob Mueller finished his report, should the public see it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The special counsel's final report, do you want that to be made public?
TRUMP: We'll have to see. There's been no collusion whatsoever. We'll have to see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We'll have to see is a trademark.
TALEV: I'll put it on my list, yes.
KING: (INAUDIBLE) probably know, thank you very much. That's an excellent Trump translation.
PROKUPECZ: What could save Trump in some of this in terms of -- some of this, well, can't be made public because of DOJ guidelines, so that could save him. And the other thing that's really right now, you know, members of Congress, you know, the Dems certainly that want to pursue all these different avenues of investigations, they're being constraint right now by Mueller.
So, once Mueller is done, it's going to open so many doors and so many avenues for the Democrats to pursue. Certainly witnesses that have not been able to come before Congress or not been able to talk to members of Congress, to the media and to other folks, they may be set free. And that's going to open a whole new door.
KING: And that's if you close the Mueller door, you open the Democratic congressional investigative doors which will be 2019 and into 2020.
The question is, how informed are we? Or, how informed is all the speculation that Mueller must be winding down? Rod Rosenstein is willing to step down. We know he is been the protector and the defender and the supporter of the Mueller investigation. He's planning to leave.
Is that because he knows Mueller is about done, he doesn't need his protection anymore? Is that because the new attorney general-to-be as soon he gets confirmed has assured him, I won't mess with Bob Mueller? Do we really know that Mueller is winding down just because the public hints? He just asked for six more months for his grand jury.
Again, we haven't done the Flynn sentencing. There are still other trials that have to happen. We don't know what's going to happen to Roger Stone. We don't know what's going to happen to his friend Jerome Corsi. We don't know what's going to happen to Don Jr. So the public can't say this is going to go on for a while. Yet, everyone keep saying, it's almost over.
[12:50:02] PROKUPECZ: Right. So the Mueller part could be over and there could be aspects of this investigation that are going to live for years that the Department of Justice under a new attorney general is going to handle. So there could be aspects of this that will live for many, many years to come.
But certainly the part that Mueller was tasked with. Remember, there were mandates that were given to him by the Department of Justice. We don't know all of them. Those could be winding down. And whatever else that knew that he has learned, that could continue. But it does appear that things are winding down.
KING: -- continue in the sense that we've seen him hand off to other prosecutors in Virginia and the Southern District of New York. So is the White House prepared for this?
We know that the White House Counsel Pat Cipollone is traveling with the president today. A part of their conversation is whether to declare national emergency in education. But he also just took the job, the Washington Post reporting again today about how he comes into this depleted office. And it has 20 lawyers left, he's trying to beef it up to 35 or 40.
Are they ready for what's about to happen, A, Mueller, B, Congress?
PACE: I don't think they're ready as of today. I think there is some urgency in the West Wing to get ready and to do it pretty quickly. Because there are people in there who know that this is going to be a rough next two years regardless of what's in the Mueller report for this exact point that a lot of this is going to get handed off to Congress. And there are going to be whole new investigations led by this Congress that have absolutely nothing to do with Mueller, nothing to do with Russia that could end up being even more problematic for the president.
KING: A fascinating moment.
All right, up next for us, the president is on his way to the border. He wants to change minds of America. The conservative media, evidence of collusion there when it comes to the wall? Just a joke.
[12:56:06] KING: The president touching down in McAllen, Texas next hour. A powerful message to his base that he's with them on the wall. Remember, it was a base revolt that produced this shutdown. The president flipped and decided he would not sign the spending plan that had no new border wall money.
Now the border visit plus a morning tweet, quoting, his favorite morning eco chamber, quote, president supporters do not want him to cave. That's from Steve Doocy of "Fox and Friends". I won't the president saying. Later tonight, he'll sit down with Sean Hannity who's looking to give the president an even bigger boost, unusual by broadcasting his show from the border. This is Hannity last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Pelosi and Schumer, the rest of the Democratic Party in the media wanted to stay on manufacture crisis and allow this continue and play a political game. The president, he will have the full authority and power to declare a national emergency and tackle this head on with or without congressional funding approval or he could use the Defense Department. It's about protecting our homeland.
But first, it's up to you. Look at the number on your screen. You might want to call. Ask your member of Congress in the Senate to hold the line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That's what happens in paid political ads and there which is about the same thing, I want to (INAUDIBLE) the president. But the serious point is the president has reacted to his base that is why we are here. How -- is that all the president is looking for here to keep that?
PACE: At this point, yes. I mean -- because you have to put this on the context of course his re-election campaign. And if Trump has any weakening of his base, it's over. He's done very little over the previous two years to build any new support. Certainly in an election you're going to be looking for any signs of weakening among those moderate Republicans, some of those independents that may have sided with him. But if that base starts to slide, it's done and he knows that.
KING: Does he get the joke and joke is the wrong word for it. But you see Hannity doing that at the end. It looks like an advocacy ad. Call Congress, demand they don't buckle.
The reason he's doing that is because they know, 21 days ago, the president was about to sign something that didn't include the border wall funding. He flipped when Hannity, Ann Coulter, and others (INAUDIBLE). And listen to Mark Meadows here, one of the president's top allies in the House Freedom Caucus, yes he's on the president side, but again, listen closely.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEDOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: And I tell you who he is not walking at on. He's not walking at on the moms and dads who have lost their children. He's not walking out on law enforcement officers who have to fight this each and everyday and sometimes tragedy strikes there. He's not walking out on the families who have to deal with drug overdoses each and everyday. He's staying engage and I applaud him for doing that and we need to get behind him --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Saying, sticks -- stay here, don't move Mr. President. Please don't go back to where you were. Stay here.
KANE: You know where Mark Meadows was that Thursday morning when Donald Trump decided to start this shutdown? He was on "Fox and Friends". And the night before Jim Jordan, his best buddy was on Laura Ingraham. They target him through Fox. They speak directly to him through Fox.
TALEV: Yes, they are saying we're with you as long as you do --
KING: (INAUDIBLE) with us?
TALEV: Exactly. Yes, because --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
TALEV: And I think for the president there's a corollary advantage. Just not the reason for considering the shutdown but there is a kind of corollary political advantage and that is as long as he is throwing the Democrats off of their game and making them respond to him, they cannot roll out the kind of policy proactive messages that they wanted to when Nancy Pelosi ascended to the speakership. Because this has to be priority number one, and because now they're going to be hamstrung in terms of even trying to do it.
You know it has a vote or a political vote on a program that the Senate never going to sign off them because there's no money to pay for it.
KING: It also just sets the tone for the beginning of the second half of his term as we head into 2020 that this is not about governing. It's about something else at the moment anyway.
Thanks for joining us today in the INSIDE POPLITICS. We'll see you back here this tomorrow to discuss the president 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.