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Trump Pushes Back on Intel Leaders; Democrats Pushing Medicare for All; First Bipartisan Meeting Ends with No Border Deal. Aired 4- 4:30p ET

Aired January 30, 2019 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: If you're going to tweet that someone needs to go back to school, you might want to make sure you're using the right spelling of the word there.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Insulting the intelligence of the intelligence. President Trump unloading on his own top intelligence officials for giving their honest assessments about Iran, North Korea, Russia, ISIS, instead of falling in line with him.

It's been called everything from cruel to compassionate to un- American. And now Senator Kamala Harris is kind of adjusting her stance on a single-payer Medicare for all health care plan. Why Medicare for all could be the issue as Democrats decide who will face Trump.

Plus, a top Trump official, a billionaire Republican donor and a Russian oligarch who some say got off easy -- why Democrats now have new questions for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD.

We have some breaking news right now in the Mueller probe. CNN is learning that documents that were not public knowledge in Robert Mueller's investigation somehow ended up in the hands of a pro-Russian Twitter account and were used in an attempt to discredit Mueller's probe.

Let's go right to CNN's Shimon Prokupecz, who has more on it.

Shimon, what happened?


And, Jake, these are documents that while they are not non-public, they're sensitive documents that were given to defense attorneys representing a Russian company that has been brought up on charges by the Mueller team for essentially disseminating false news, fake information during the campaign, other things that they were indicted for.

And what happened here is these documents that went to these attorneys, there was a protective order. These attorneys were not supposed to share it with any of the Russians, somehow, the FBI says, wound up in the hands of Russians. And then he created a Web page linking to these documents.

And within these documents, you have the real documents. But the other thing that the FBI found was that there was fake documents. They altered these documents all in an effort to discredit the Mueller investigation.

Now, someone from this Web page, from this hacking group, essentially, they claimed that they were hackers, and they turn out to be Russians, did contact some reporters here in the U.S. trying to share this information with them. And that is perhaps how, in some ways, the special counsel's office learned of this.

But, nonetheless, the FBI went back, did some work and they found that these documents originated, this Web page originated in Russia. And they're saying that this was all done to try and discredit the investigation.

And the other quick point here, Jake, is that the Mueller team has been fighting this company, the lawyers here in the U.S. from getting any of this information because they were afraid that some of this could fall into the wrong hands. And it seems even though they have been fighting and there was a protective order, somehow this still happened.

TAPPER: All right guys, Shimon Prokupecz, thanks so much.

Let's have a quick chat about this, lightning round.

Phil, former CIA and FBI official, what do you make us?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, the publication I don't think is a surprise.

I think the real question is the intel guys are doing some work now, I presume, saying, who owns the Web site? One question, is the Web site connected to people who are linked to the Russian government? Is this a hacker operation? I doubt it. Is it an operation that's more closely allied with the Russian government? I'm guessing it is.

TAPPER: Jen, you used to work for the Obama State Department and the Obama White House. How big a deal is this?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think we know yet.

I mean, I think what's clear is that the Russians are very good at using social media. They don't follow the same rules that we follow. I think Phil's question is exactly the question they're probably digging into right now in terms of who this is connected to it and who's behind it. So I believe we will know more as the story develops. It could be

significant, but it could be just a development that shouldn't surprise anyone.

TAPPER: And it does show that the Russians, presuming that the Russians are playing a role in this, are still trying to disrupt and still trying to spread disinformation?


Look, we talked about this yesterday, and there was a hearing. The Intelligence Committee had a hearing yesterday and talked about the Russians' continued efforts to play a role in a disruption of our elections in 2020 and moving forward.

And I think you see that playing out right today.


TAPPER: And, Kylie, I mean, that's one that's one of the points that I think every American or at least most Americans should be more aware of, which is the Russians are going to be doing this kind of thing, putting out misinformation from now until probably forever.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: And despite what the president continues to say, the intelligence community, as we saw yesterday, is still strongly supportive of the fact that they are continuing to interrupt what is going on here in the U.S. elections.

TAPPER: Well, that's exactly what I want to talk about next, because all this is happening as President Trump has decided to go to war again with his handpicked intelligence chiefs after they openly contradicted him on a series of national security threats facing the United States, including North Korea's nuclear weapons program, Russian election interference, the ISIS threat, and whether Iran has clearly violated the nuclear agreement.


In a series of tweets today, the president blasted the director of national intelligence and his CIA and FBI directors -- quote -- "The intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong. Perhaps intelligence should go back to school."

This was tweeted the very same morning that President Trump was insulting his intelligence agency leaders. He was quoting a source he obviously considers reliable, "FOX & Friends," which was discussing caravans of migrants approaching the border.

The intelligence chiefs, we should note, did not mention the crisis at the border as a top threat to the United States.

CNN's Pamela Brown at the White House starts us off.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump today punching back against his own intelligence chiefs for their candid national security assessment, which contradicted some of the president's own claims.

In a tweet that included a misspelling, Trump suggested the intel chiefs he nominated are -- quote -- "naive and should go back to school."

He's particularly upset over their assessment of Iran. In testimony Tuesday, they said Iran is not currently making a bomb and is still abiding by the Obama era nuclear deal that Trump pulled out up.

GINA HASPEL, CIA DIRECTOR: At the moment, technically, they're in compliance, but we do see them debating amongst themselves, as they fail to realize the economic benefits they hoped for from the deal.

BROWN: But the president, not satisfied with that answer, tweeted: "Iran is still a source of potential danger and conflict."

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have won against ISIS. We have beaten them, and we have beaten them badly.

BROWN: And after declaring victory over ISIS, the intelligence chiefs clearly striking a nerve with the president, as they testified ISIS is still a serious threat to the U.S.

DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Remaining pockets of ISIS and opposition fighters will continue, we agree, we assess, to stoke violence. ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.

BROWN: Coats also refuting Trump's claims that North Korea will eventually give up its nuclear program.

COATS: We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities.

BROWN: This as new reporting from "The Financial Times" puts more scrutiny on the president's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The report says that when Trump and Putin spoke after a G20 event in Buenos Aires in November, Trump didn't have a notetaker or translator there to document their conversation. It also cites a Russian government official's account that the two leaders discussed a range of issues.

The White House did not respond to CNN's questions about the meeting, except to again say their encounter was one of a series of informal discussions Trump had with counterparts that evening. Coats wouldn't comment publicly on any of the meetings Trump has had with the Russian president.

COATS: Clearly, this is a sensitive issue, and it's an issue that we ought to talk about this afternoon. I look forward to discussing that in a closed session.


BROWN: So, this reporting from "The Financial Times" comes in the wake of other reporting that President Trump has tried to conceal the details of his face-to-face meetings with Putin.

So it only raises more questions, particularly as investigators continue to probe the Trump campaign's interactions with the Russians in 2016 -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Pamela Brown at the White House, thanks.

Jen Psaki, let me start with you, as a former State Department and White House official in the Obama administration.

What does it matter if President Trump meets with Vladimir Putin and doesn't have a notetaker or translator? What's the significance of that?

PSAKI: There are a couple things, Jake.

One is that -- one, they also didn't release that he had had this meeting, and that should certainly send off alarm bells.

TAPPER: I think they said it was an encounter, but they didn't go -- they didn't acknowledge it was a real meeting, yes.

PSAKI: They didn't share details, which is uncommon.

I would say the significance of not having a notetaker there is that there isn't information that then is relayed back to the agencies. So, typically, there are readouts that are done from these. There's reporting that goes back not just within the State Department and the White House, but when there is relevant information that comes up that may impact the intelligence agencies or others during the discussions.

That's how governing happens, because most of the follow-up and most of the contacts happens at that level, not president to president. So that is one of the impacts of it.

TAPPER: And, Phil, I want to ask you about the president saying that the intelligence needs to go back to school.

You used to work for the CIA and the FBI. Does that bother people in intelligence when the president goes at them like that?

MUDD: Well, yes, let me give you a reason why which is not visible to the naked eye.

The president talking about profound issues, Russia, ISIS, North Korea. President Bush sat down five or six days a week -- that is Bush 43 -- to talk to intel guys. I was among those who spoke with him periodically.

If the president is surprised by his intel guys talking about issues like Russian and ISIS, here's my question. Does he ever take an intel briefing? If you're sitting behind the doors over there at Langley, I would be saying, hey, boss, why don't you take an intel brief, and that way, when we speak in public, you might not be surprised about what we say?


That's the story here. The president ought to be embarrassed?

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you, David, because David Thune -- I'm sorry -- John Thune responded to the president doing this to CNN's Manu Raju.

He said -- quote -- "I don't know how many times you can say this, but I prefer the president would stay off Twitter, particularly with regard to these important national security issues. I think in those cases when it comes to their judgment, take into consideration what they're saying. I think we need to trust their judgment."

Do you agree?

URBAN: Look, I wish the president wouldn't tweet a lot of things as well.

What I think is happening here is let's just kind of drill down on some of the top-line issues here. Right? So ISIS is defeated. You heard Dan Coats saying the remaining pockets of ISIS will look to resurge, right, all those kinds of things. The caliphate has been defeated. That's top line. That's what the president is talking about.

In Iran, the nuclear deal is being complied with, maybe to the letter, not to the spirit. You heard the DCI say she thinks that there may be chatter amongst Iranians, that they're not getting the cash they would like to see from this, they may scuttle the deal. Doesn't say anything about what's going on with the IRGC and lots of other things that surround that.

That is what the president may be talking about. But on North Korea with the beginning of his presidency, there were missiles being lobbed across the Sea of Japan, across our allies' borders almost on a daily basis.

And now you're talking about denuclearization. I think that's what the president is saying on one side. And you're hearing kind of very precise -- it should be in the intel community -- very precise language.

The president's prone to hyperbole and he's looking at the top line and these guys are in the weeds.

TAPPER: Well, and that's the thing, because, Kylie, take a listen to what CIA Director Gina Haspel actually said specifically about Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HASPEL: They're making some preparations that would increase their ability to take a step back if they make that decision. So, at the moment, technically they're in compliance.


TAPPER: So she's saying the Iranians seem to be considering stepping away and violating the deal, but they haven't actually gone so far as to do it.

That's not to me, just in my assessment, being soft on Iran. It's just being precise.

ATWOOD: Right.

And that's what Europeans have consistently said. Iran is still in the nuclear deal. And it's still applying all of the measures that we put in place. So why has Trump continually tried to get out of this deal?

And I think that's going to be on the spotlight next week, because Pompeo is going to be heading to Warsaw for a summit. He's going to be talking about peace in the Middle East more broadly, but it's going to be an anti-Iran meeting.

The question, however, comes then as to if Europeans really want to talk to the U.S. about this anymore. We know that certain diplomats from certain regions don't know who is going from their country. So I just talked to a European diplomat earlier today who said, yes, we're not sure who we're sending.

So sitting down with the U.S. at the table when their policy is clearly not in line with the intelligence community and in line with what their allies are saying is proving to be a problem at the diplomacy table.

TAPPER: And when it comes to Russia, there does seem to be a really big discrepancy.

I want you to take a listen to President Trump talking about Russian election interference, and also FBI Director Christopher Wray.


TRUMP: I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Not only did the Russians continue to do it in 2018, but we have seen indication that they're continuing to adapt their model.


TAPPER: Now, the White House later said that the president misspoke, he meant to say why it wouldn't be. But I think -- I think the point that President Trump has been willing

to believe Putin's denials has been established or at least willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

There's a real contradiction there between what the FBI director is saying and what President Trump seems to believe.

MUDD: No, there is.

And it's significant going into the next round of a national election in America, because there's a couple things the White House should be doing. Number one, day one in office, most presidents would sit down with the National Security Council and say, State Department, Defense Department, CIA, what's our plan on countering Russian interference?

And, more significantly, especially for a president with the pulpit -- who out of the White House is going to speak to the American people about the threat they face in very simple terms? The president is a great communicator.

He is never going to get out there and say, when you're looking at Facebook and Twitter, I want to tell you here's a Web site from the U.S. government about what to be careful about. He's going to say it's a hoax.

And I don't think that's helpful.

URBAN: And to Phil's point, I mean, Facebook and Twitter, they cut both ways, right?

As you saw during this election, both on the Republican and Democratic side were spreading tons of false information on both sides.


URBAN: Yes, amongst Black Lives and lots of other things.

So you can't quite tell your. As your piece yesterday talked about the deep...

TAPPER: The deep face.

URBAN: The deep face now coming up, right? Even more so to be suspicious.

PSAKI: I will say, though, that I think that the president being somebody who likes to speak in hyperbole is quite risky on the global stage.

I mean, he is -- people are watching what he says and how he says things. And he is siding with authoritarian dictators and leaders like President Putin. He's siding with the Saudis, ahead of his intelligence community.

That sends a certain message...


URBAN: Yes, but...


PSAKI: David, let me finish.

[16:15:05] It sends a certain message overseas. It also cuts a lot of his national security team off at the knees when they go overseas, because even though they're talking insane terms that Europeans and others want to hear, they know that they're not speaking on behalf the president.

So, there are some actual serious risks and I'm not being specific and more nuanced about how he talks about it.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone's stick around. We're going to keep talking about this.

Here we go again. Talks just wrapped up to prevent the next government shutdown but was any real progress made after President Trump launched a grenade into the talks first thing this morning?

Stay with us.


TAPPER: We're back with some breaking news in our national lead. Just moments ago, a bipartisan group of lawmakers met for the very first time, hoping to make a deal on border security funding and avoid hopefully another government shutdown.

Not exactly inspiring confidence, President Trump tweeting this morning, quote: If the committee of Republicans and Democrats now meeting on border security is not discussing or contemplating a wall or physical barrier, they are wasting their time, exclamation point.

But some Democrats do seem open to giving President Trump at least part of what he wants.


REP. DAVID PRICE (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, a barrier, a fence in appropriate places is clearly an ingredient in border security.

SEN. BOB CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Fencing is different and a wall should not be confused with border security.


TAPPER: CNN's Phil Mattingly is live for us on Capitol Hill.

Phil, a meeting just wrapped up. Any word? Are there -- is there any movement to a deal?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, in short, Jake, that answer is no. And this was the first meeting it was collegial, it was complimentary at times, bipartisan group of lawmakers, all appropriators who generally get along with one another.

But the goals, the crucial issue that has separated these two sides for weeks now, the border wall, is still something that hasn't been resolved. In fact, Democrats laid out the top lines of their opening proposal. It has a lot of money for things like personnel, for technology, for upgrading ports of entry. What it doesn't have is any money at all for border wall, border barriers or border fencing.

You compare that to every Republican who spoke at this opening conference committee, each talking about the importance of not only a comprehensive solution but one that includes border barriers add in where the president stands on this and the reality remains, they're still pretty much in the same place, Jake.

TAPPER: Well, we know Speaker Pelosi met with freshman Democrats today about a possible compromise. What did she have to say?

MATTINGLY: You know, Jake, people who were in that meeting said the speaker did not notably lay out any red line, say anything wasn't negotiable, but did say she did have a lot of trust in the Democratic negotiators saying put your faith in them, they will be able to reach a good deal.

She did also note the poll numbers and, basically, Democrats have been keeping a very close eye on the fact that the president has been upside down throughout this shutdown fights, something they have seized on to kind of bolster their current position. But the point that's been made multiple times by both Republicans and Democrats is the president should just stay out, something that the speaker said. Take a listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: No, I think where the conference can reach him a good result left to its own devices without an interference from everybody else. I've confidence in the appropriators.

REPORTER: The president stay out?

PELOSI: He should sign the bill.


MATTINGLY: Now, Jake, privately, Republicans would also echo that, saying the president should just leave them to their own devices. At this point, of course, the catch-22 there is the president is going to have to sign whatever they come up with. So at some point, they're going to need a support, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

And joining us right now, Amanda Carpenter and Jamal Simmons. Amanda, let me ask you. You heard Speaker Pelosi there essentially warning President Trump to stay out of the negotiations. Some senior Republicans feel kind of the same way. Take a listen to Senator Richard Shelby.


SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: I think that the speaker and the president are big players in this, and I think they would let us that we would solve this problem and have to give and take. I've told the president that.


TAPPER: Is that the way to solve the problem with the conference committee do this and then just bring it to Pelosi and Trump and say just pass this please?

CARPENTER: Yes, it's the conference committee's job to compromise, and as long as the president isn't tweeting getting in the middle of that, they can probably work this out. I was interested to hear a Democrat in there earlier today talked about the fact that the 2006 Secure Fence Act mandated 700 miles of fence. Right now, there's 654 miles built. If the Democrats could give on those last 46 miles, Trump can declare victory by finishing the fence. Everyone could declare victory by finishing the fence that was mandated in the 2006 bill.

I think there's an opening there if the Democrats can at least come to terms with some kind of barrier fencing in order to get a win with DACA or some kind of other protections for the Dreamers in exchange for those 46 miles.

TAPPER: But, Jamal, the Customs and Border Patrol wants some new fencing, barrier, steel slats, whatever you want to call it. They want it in El Paso. They want it for three areas in the Rio Grande Valley.

If that's what the Customs and Border Patrol wants, why not at least give a little?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: So, Democrats are not against finishing up some fencing. We heard Hakeem Jeffries, Congressman Jeffries from New York talk about that today. I talked to Bennie Thompson yesterday. He's the chairman of the Homeland Security --

TAPPER: Committee.

SIMMONS: -- Committee. Thank you very much.

He said that they were also fine with that. The problem is they're just not going to do this big wall. I just think and he also pointed out that the Border Patrol Union was one of the few law enforcement unions that endorsed Donald Trump for president. So there may in fact be some politics mixed up with their support of Donald's position here. DAVE URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We're talking politics.

SIMMONS: I want you to take a listen to Chris Christie, who e was on Stephen Colbert. He's out there with his book. He'll be on our show tomorrow. He seems to think the President Trump deserves at least some blame for the shutdown.


STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE NIGHT TV HOST: Where do you think the wheels came off during the shutdown?



CHRISTIE: When he shut the government down with no plan on how to reopen it.

I don't think, given that it went 35 days, that we had a plan.

COLBERT: And he got a goose egg I believe it's the technical term for a wall.

[16:25:02] CHRISTIE: Yes, in politics, we call that getting rolled.


TAPPER: Did President Trump get rolled?

URBAN: No, no. Yes, I mean, let's wait and see, right? The outcome is going to be what the outcome is here in the next two weeks, next -- maybe there's another C.R. until they get it done. I mean, as we see now, Democrats are coming around saying, no, we'll give you some wall, we'll give you this, we'll give you that.

Look, I mean, the president starts out of the position. You know, you never end with your opening position. Who knows what the president really wanted the end of the day? I think, you know, we'll have to wait and see.

If we get some physical barrier, a more secure border along our southern border, I think the president comes out as a winner.

TAPPER: Jen Psaki, I want you to take a listen to former House Speaker John Boehner. He spoke about the government shutdown and he said, quote: When I was looking for a legislative strategy the last place I looked was in talk radio. The second last place I looked was the knucklehead caucus -- that's what he calls the Freedom Caucus -- who don't know how to vote yes on anything. They did the president a total disservice.

I'm guessing that you're going to agree with former Speaker Boehner.

PSAKI: Well, I think former Speaker Boehner may still be recalling the 2013 shutdown which he was led into primarily from the Freedom Caucus members in his own party. Look, the reality is there are more on the Republican side, but certainly some on the Democratic side members who pull the parties who want to compromise two different sides. Compromise has become quite a dirty word in Washington and a dirty word often in Congress.

Hopefully, they will come to an agreement. They would have to figure out a way to name barrier security or border security or wall security, something different, I don't know if they will do that.

If they don't my bet is on another continuing resolution which is would meet a clean bill that just keeps the government open because McConnell knows he lost, Trump knows he lost, and I don't think they want to do that again.

TAPPER: I guess I find the whole thing just confusing because Democrats have said that they're willing to do some sort of barriers, just not a wall. And President Trump keeps continually saying call it a wall, call it call it steel slats, whatever you call it. I mean, like it seems like the compromise is right there. Everybody --

SIMMONS: You know, Jake, this isn't really about protecting us at the border. This is really about Donald Trump's political strategy of exacerbating racial tensions in the country, getting people worried about Mexicans and South Americans, Nicaraguans coming up into the United States and protecting his base of people who are to seem to be very animated by this idea of stopping that flow of brown people from coming into United States.

TAPPER: But do you think that's what it is? I mean, there are people who advocate for those undocumented immigrants who say that there is a humanitarian crisis and we do need to discourage people from coming up --


PSAKI: Which a wall would not address.

SIMMONS: Right, exactly.

PSAKI: A wall isn't a solution to the reality of the crisis that most people agree on. So that's something we don't talk about enough.

TAPPER: I do want to also talk about the fact that because you were very frustrated during the government shutdown about all the poor federal employees that were not being paid. Take a listen to a government contractor named Yvette Hicks. She's a security guard at the Air and Space Museum. She told "Reuters" she hasn't gotten paid since December and now she's worried her family may end up homeless if there's another shutdown.

She says, quote: There's no stability. How long will the government be shut down again if Trump doesn't get what he wants?

And this is a real human element of this that where again we're risking going into again. CARPENTER: Yes, going into another shutdown fresh out the last one where I think there was broad recognition that thousands of people were forced to work without pay. This wasn't a vacation for people. It wasn't a fun low, where you could go play in the slow. There was real hurt to it.

And people are still bearing the consequences. If you had to borrow money put in your credit card, your credit score may have taken a hit. And so, I don't think Trump can go into this with the same tough negotiating position, because this will hurt him and he doesn't have the backing from Republicans and so when he says, I will take slats, a fence, chicken wire, whatever, I think he's begging for a way out.

TAPPER: Steel slats, that's what he calls it. Steel slats.

Everyone, stick around.

It could be a litmus test for 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Stay with us.