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Trump Denies He's Working for Russia; Police Respond to Active Shooting Incident at UPS New Jersey Facility; William Barr Tells Congress Public Should Know Results of Mueller's Russia Probe; Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired January 14, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And he tried to shame the reporter for asking it. But there are so many reasons, David Chalian, why it is a very important and legitimate questions this morning given the reporting over the weekend from the "Washington Post," from the "New York Times," and our reporting this weekend quoting James Baker, then general counsel of the FBI, and what he told congressional investigators behind closed doors about why this was a question within the agency, right?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I mean, it was the most obvious question of the day. Obviously it needed to be asked.
CHALIAN: And let's just step back for a second, Poppy, and just what just occurred. I mean, there was a needed question to be asked to the president of the United States of America to clarify whether or not he was a Russian agent. This is -- I know we get so used to the crush of headlines. The president of the United States just needed to be asked if he was a Russian agent. These are not normal times.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And a question that, frankly, some of the FBI considered at least a legitimate question to be investigated and reach a conclusion on it but to be investigated based on what they knew.
Abby Phillip, the other news in there of course is the president appearing to further dig his heels in on this shutdown eliminating one path to a resolution here which was this idea floated by Senator Lindsey Graham. That seems to be the president's decision and no change from that.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right. And I think he actually eliminated from what I heard two paths. He backed off the national emergency.
PHILLIP: That he's been talking about for several weeks now.
HARLOW: Right. PHILLIP: He says, I'm not looking to declare a national emergency.
He says he believes he can but he's saying for the first time that he doesn't really want to do it but also he's explicitly saying that when Lindsey Graham, one of his top allies, came to him and said let's temporarily reopen the government while we have this discussion, allow people to get paid, the president has now rejected that offer. The problem here is that no one knows what it will take other than the president getting everything that he has asked for in order to end the shutdown.
I mean, negotiations usually require both parties to come together in the middle somewhere and the president so far has not backed off his starting position and today he seemed to do -- to dig in on that. He is not changing what his demands are and he's not offering a path forward. So the only conclusion you can really come to is that the president doesn't see the shutdown ending any time soon and he's not even really offering a path forward that could do that.
He's simply trying to place the blame on Democrats talking about how they are not in Washington. He's here at the White House waiting for them. But there's no resolution on the horizon based on what I heard from him on the lawn today.
HARLOW: Look, nearly a million workers, right, caught in the crosshairs of that.
Josh Campbell, if I could given your prior work and prior life within the FBI, just revert back to the president saying that it's so unbelievable that a reporter would ask whether or not he was acting, you know, wittingly or unwittingly as an agent of Russia. I mean, here's CNN's new reporting this morning on it which just presses why it's such an important question that James Baker said behind closed doors to congressional investigators that they were looking at whether or not the president was acting at the behest of and somehow following directions of Russia and executing their will.
And he said we need to investigate because we don't know whether it's the worst case scenario that it's possibly true or that the president, Josh, is totally innocent here.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's right. And every time the president speaks on the topic of Russia and this investigation, those of us who care about the national security of the United States become even more troubled. Now someone who, as an FBI agent, I used to analyze statements for a living. And if you look at the president's comments over the weekend on FOX News where he was asked the question, you know, did you work for Russia, it took him two minutes to explain and he never really answered that directly.
He did today saying that he didn't work for Russia. But then there were so many extraneous words after the fact. There is only one right answer to the question, are you a foreign spy or are you a foreign asset. And it doesn't require a lot of extraneous words. So those of us who look at this, who care about the security of the country become very troubled. As you mentioned inside the FBI obviously, you know, as I've said and
many people have said that -- you know, that care about national security, it would have been derelict for the FBI not to investigate the president based on the pattern of activity that we saw up to that point. Now there's a lot that I can't talk about, I won't talk about here about what was going on in the inside. But based on this reporting, again, if you're an FBI agent, you're seeing these clues come forward, how can you not dig in and see whether or not the president is a threat there.
HARLOW: Yes. Yes.
CAMPBELL: So I think obviously a lot of issues. And if I can just say lastly, I mean, the president is simply rewriting history. Now my job isn't to defend the FBI. They can defend themselves. I will explain the FBI when it's right and what's wrong.
He came on the air and said that 12 people at the FBI were terminated, which is a -- which is a lie. There were three people fired. One of them he fired. He fired the FBI director, Michael McFross (PH), because the FBI was investigating the president as he later admitted to NBC News, and then there were two people to, you know, the president's credit that were fired because of their own, you know, judgment issues and one of them actually lying to investigators.
[10:05:06] But what he's trying to do is conflate all of this and make it sound as though they were, you know, scoundrels as he mentioned so therefore the investigation itself there's a problem with it which is just not the case.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Thank you for fact-checking that, Josh.
SCIUTTO: Because it's something you have to do. It happens so glibly and almost without many folks noticing. But the president was not telling the truth about the order of investigation here.
CAMPBELL: It's manipulation.
SCIUTTO: Shimon, in this context you and others of our CNN colleagues are reporting this morning that gets at those transcripts of what was the thinking when these investigative questions were first raised. Tell our viewers what that is to help counter what you just heard from the president there saying that it was all partisans who had been fired who started this.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. Well, I think Josh, you know, somewhat explained some of that. And really what we have here was the top lawyer for the FBI at the time, the former FBI director James Comey was fired he came into Congress closed door. Had to testify. And he explained the thinking in the time around when Comey was fired and what the senior level staff over at the FBI were thinking.
You know, and they're concerned certainly that the firing of James Comey was done on behalf of Russia. Did somehow someone get to the president, whether it was someone from Russia directly, or was there some kind of indirect contact, whether it's through people that the president knows or whether it's through the president's own conversations that made him decide to fire Comey?
Because it would seem certainly on its face that in firing Comey it would help Russia and it could potentially stop the Russia investigation or hurt the Russia investigation and really that's what our new reporting shows. That there was all sorts of thinking. They went to different extremes, the FBI. There were those who thought that the president was completely innocent and this was within his right as the president to fire the FBI director. But certainly there were enough questions that needed to be asked, questions that needed to be investigated, to see whether or not somehow the decision to fire the former FBI director was because of Russia and ultimately, though, even to this day we don't have a complete answer, right? Because the counterintelligence investigation is still ongoing.
PROKUPECZ: It now lives with Mueller and the FBI agents there. But this could go on for years, this investigation. In terms of the counterintelligence. It may not mean that anyone will face charges as a result of it, but it goes into more of a theoretical and better understanding of how Russians are thinking, what they were doing and how they were effective.
HARLOW: Josh Dawsey, let me ask you, to Shimon's point, about why, again this is such an important question that the president should have expected and answered directly this morning from your colleagues at the "Washington Post." Gregg Miller is reporting over the weekend that talks about the length that your paper has uncovered, the lengths to which president went to conceal details of his five conversations including that Helsinki meeting with Vladimir Putin.
JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, Greg Miller's reporting showed that the president wanted the notes not shared with others. Did not want others in his administration to know what was said behind closed doors, didn't want other people in the meetings. And it was perplexing behavior at the time. Many in the intel community did not know why the president was so determined not to have others in the room.
Now for the president's defenders, they will say when there's folks in the room they were leaking out transcripts of other calls and sensitive conservations information, we need to keep a close hold on it. But it seemed that his protections were higher for conversations with Putin than they were with other world leaders, and that raised a lot of eyebrows among intelligence and national security officials.
SCIUTTO: It's a good point. Right? Because the president is very private about that conversation, but we know he has many conversations on what we believe is an unsecured phone where nothing like those kind of precautions are taken.
Abby Phillip, I asked the White House over the weekend, and I imagine you were asking the same question, saying, OK, you're saying the "Washington Post" story is incorrect here. So tell us who has records of this conversation? Were notes preserved in some way? I didn't get an answer to that question. Have you gotten an answer to that question? Has the White House said, listen, we do know what happened to that conversation or do they not have an answer to that conversation?
PHILLIP: Well, interestingly, it's not clear what has happened to the notes. But this morning White House counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway was asked about this and she corrected a reporter who described the notes as having been destroyed. And she suggested that perhaps they still existed. That the president had simply just confiscated them from the interpreter. So the White House is in some ways trying to have it both ways. They're sort of disputing the premise of the story or describing what the president might have done by saying that he was simply trying to protect the confidentiality of his conversations because his administration at the time was doing -- dealing with so many leaks.
[10:10:11] But at the same time, if these notes exist, does that make it more likely that congressional Democrats can then go and request them and do have other people now subsequently seen these notes? So I think there are a lot of questions to be asked to drill down further about what's going on here. But the White House's position is not actually necessarily that the president didn't do this but rather that if he -- that when he did do it, the reason he did it is because he was concerned that simply he couldn't trust the people in his administration at the time.
Now that was certainly true at the beginning. Particularly around the time that he was in Hamburg for the G-20 and met with Putin for the first time face-to-face. They were dealing with an enormous amount of leaks. But the fact that this continued for two plus years is really extraordinary. And I think it speaks to a degree of secrecy around these meetings that the president simply does not have around other meetings with world leaders as Josh just pointed out.
It's just a very different way of handling Putin and a lot of people just want to know why. It's perplexing.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes.
HARLOW: David Chalian, back to you on the shutdown and the market change. Remember it was last week when the president walked down and talked to reporters that he said I almost certainly will, and I'm paraphrasing here, but I almost certainly will invoke a national emergency.
Today it's the opposite. I have the power to, but no, no, no, I'm not going to do that. And a rejection of Lindsey Graham's sort of, you know, offer here. Hey, why don't we give it, like, three weeks. And if, you know, Dems don't compromise then you can shut the government down. And he -- I mean, he made it pretty clear saying, I'm not sure if we're close to a deal that this could go on a really long time.
CHALIAN: Yes. That is what I heard from the president on the South Lawn today, Poppy. A commitment to a dug-in strategy that is likely to keep this shutdown going. There was nothing -- I didn't hear a word out of the president that suggested there was some path to resolving this crisis. It sounded like he was shutting off those paths and very much committed to a strategy of just staring at the Democrats and seeing who blinks first. And that's where we've been to get us to the place that we're in the longest shutdown in American history.
HARLOW: Yes. Yes.
SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, there's a Dr. Seuss story about that. Right?
Josh Dawsey, the president digging in. Democrats digging in as well. And I imagine feeling bolstered by polling showing that the majority of Americans blame Republicans for the shutdown. But fact is, some within their own party are concerned about the political dangers here for the Democrats.
Do you see from your seat any wavering of support among Democrats for sticking in here, or asked different, I suppose, you know, any increase in support for making concessions and making a deal with the president?
DAWSEY: According to my reporting, no, Jim. I mean, you talk to folks who are close to Pelosi, who are close to Schumer. They don't see any incentive right now to give the president significant amount on the wall money to open the government. You saw the polling over the weekend. Our poll showed 53 percent of the country blames it on Trump while about 30 percent or less blames it on the Democrats. They see as having more leverage right now than the president.
HARLOW: But, but --
DAWSEY: There's certainly concern about federal workers and supporters.
DAWSEY: But I don't see them right now making a deal. No.
HARLOW: I'm just wondering on that point, Jim and I, we had Katie Hill on, you know, freshman Democrat from California on the show on Friday who said she is willing to give a certain amount of money toward some sort of physical barrier.
You have this, Josh, incoming class of freshmen Democrats who promised to be different and how long are they going to stand by their leadership if it's just digging in heels?
DAWSEY: Liberal Democrats that's on the left who would be apoplectic if Nancy Pelosi gave any money to President Trump for a wall.
DAWSEY: I mean, she has a split caucus in many ways.
DAWSEY: And, you know, a lot of the young new Democrats are not interested in giving him a single dollar or they've made that clear. So I don't know that the dynamics are really going in that direction.
SCIUTTO: Yes. We've talked a lot about the split within the Republican Party. You do have this division within the Democratic Party.
HARLOW: Yes. Yes.
SCIUTTO: Everyone, thanks to all of you. Certainly a lot to digest there. We're going to continue covering every line of that story.
Still ahead, the House GOP leader says that action will be taken, this after Republican congressman from Iowa, Steve King, made racist comments on white supremacy, white nationalism. What kind of action will the Republican Party take?
HARLOW: And teachers in Los Angeles, the second biggest school district, are on strike leaving 600,000 students in limbo right now. We'll take you there live.
[10:19:06] SCIUTTO: We're following breaking news this hour getting reports of an active shooter situation at a UPS supply chain facility. This in Logan Township, New Jersey.
Let's get straight to CNN national correspondent Brynn Gingras. She is in New York.
Brynn, what are we hearing?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, we're still working to get more details of exactly what is happening in South Jersey. But we know, we've confirmed from UPS, this is an active shooter situation. That the UPS facility is currently working with law enforcement there on the ground to figure out what's exactly going on.
We don't know how many workers were inside. We don't know if this is a hostage situation. We don't know if the shooting is still continuing. There's a lot of questions we're still trying to get answered. Again, we do know and have confirmed it's an active shooter situation.
We know that this facility at the -- this UPS facility distributes sort of larger shipments in bulk for companies. That's sort of it's -- you know, what it does at this particular facility. So really, that doesn't tell us much about how many workers would be there right now inside that facility during this shift.
[10:20:04] But again, these are all questions we're working to get answered and of course we're going to stay on top of this for you guys. HARLOW: OK. And I know, Brynn, just looking at this we're getting
this statement from UPS Corporate, right, that they are looking into this, etc. But no idea if it's employees involved. No idea on numbers, et cetera?
GINGRAS: We don't. We don't know again how many people are inside that building. We don't know if the active shooter is an employee. Are there other employees involved? Again, that statement is just pretty blank. It says that they're working with law enforcement as they respond to an active shooter situation at one of the company's supply chain processing facilities in Logan Township, New Jersey, which is in South Jersey. We cannot provide information about the identity of people involved at this time.
So again, that's something we know.
GINGRAS: They are working with law enforcement. But we'll get answers soon.
HARLOW: Brynn, thank you very much for that. We'll stay on that breaking news obviously.
So ahead for us, after his racist remarks were widely condemned last week, we're talking about the racist remarks of Iowa Congressman Steve King, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy says he will face consequences today.
But this just happened. And this is important. Given a chance to condemn what Steve King said just this morning, the president was just asked by a reporter what he thinks, he said, quote, "I don't know. I haven't been following it. I really haven't been following it."
Next, what's going to happen today.
[10:26:15] HARLOW: All right. Breaking news just in. This is very significant ahead of the president's pick for attorney general who will face senators tomorrow at his confirmation hearing. William Barr is prepared to tell Congress that the public and Congress should get the results of the Mueller probe.
Let's go to my colleague, Jessica Schneider, with more.
This is really significant because it was just I think last Thursday that CNN's reporting was that the White House legal team that's been beefed up part of their aim is to argue that part of the Mueller report when it comes out should be constrained and withheld because of executive privilege. And his is the soon-to-be if confirmed attorney general saying no, the public should see it and Congress should see it.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And those are all questions that William Barr will be facing tomorrow when he begins his Senate confirmation hearings. That will start at 9:30 tomorrow morning. And in advance of that, we are getting a glimpse at his prepared remarks that he will be making before the committee. And as you mentioned, the -- William Barr, the nominee for attorney general, really pledging here, Poppy, to let Robert Mueller continue his investigation and the Russian probe unimpeded.
So he said this, he said that he believes that the public and Congress should be informed of the special counsel's work. And he also talked about the special counsel. He said, "I believe it is in the best interest of everyone, the president, Congress, and most importantly the American people that this matter be resolved by allowing the special counsel to complete his work."
So William Barr there, the nominee for attorney general to lead the Justice Department, pledging to let Robert Mueller finish his work and finish it. Who knows how long that could last. So William Barr saying that he will let Mueller proceed unimpeded.
But of course, Poppy, we will see the senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee drill into William Barr in particular because of his past comments, past op-eds and memos saying that he doesn't believe the president could have obstructed justice by firing James Comey.
SCHNEIDER: So that's going to be a key element of questioning as well. We are getting his prepared remarks.
SCHNEIDER: And he says that the special counsel should proceed unimpeded -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Yes. Which is key to the key questions from senators that he'll face tomorrow.
Jessica, thank you very much. Jim?
SCIUTTO: The president a short time ago was asked by a reporter about Congressman Steve King's racist remarks. He gave this response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't been following it. I really haven't been following it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Not following that story this despite tweeting this weekend about Jeff Bezos' divorce, Elizabeth Warren's social media posts, gas prices. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy is taking a different route, saying that, quote, "action will be taken at a meeting today with King." King complained to the "New York Times" last week that the words white nationalist and white supremacist have become unfairly offensive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
That language has no place in America. That is not the America I know and it's most definitely not the party of Lincoln.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Should he be punished for it?
MCCARTHY: I have a scheduled meeting with him on Monday. And I will tell you this. I watched on the other side that they do not take action when their members say something like this. Action will be taken. I'm having a serious conversation with Congressman Steve King on his future and role in this Republican Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Joining me now is CNN political commentator, Doug Heye. He is a Republican strategist, former RNC communications director.
Doug, thank you, as always.
DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: So the president there said he's not following the King story despite the fact that the Republican minority leader is meeting with King today and is taking this very seriously. Do you find the president's answer credible?
HEYE: I think he probably knows about it. Obviously he has a lot on his plate. And, you know, selfishly, I don't want Donald Trump commenting on Steve King too much because frankly we know that Donald Trump may go in the wrong direction on that and not help the situation at all.
SCIUTTO: I hear that point, Doug. But --
SCIUTTO: Let's be fair.