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Trump Tweets on Negotiations; Pelosi Expresses Openness to Barrier; Evidence Against Stone; Trump Leaves Decision to Justice Department. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 31, 2019 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:34] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

President Trump promises a hands-off approach when it comes to releasing the Russia special counsel report, but he says it was sad and very disappointing to see the FBI show of force in that pre-dawn arrest of his friend Roger Stone.

Plus, new tweets demanding a border wall and new planning at the White House to redirect other government money to wall construction if, as Speaker Pelosi promised yet again today, Congress tells the president no.

And as Democrats look for a 2020 standard-bearer, contenders for middle America say there's a lesson to be learned in those blue states President Trump turned red.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), EXPLORING 2020 PRESIDENTIAL BID: The experience of the industrial Midwest is exactly the kind of experience that politics, forgive me, but here on the coast has been ignoring.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Thank you for showing the country that an outspoken progressive can win and win decisively in the heartland, the message we send.


KING: A busy breaking news day. We will hear momentarily from the president. The president inviting reporters into the Oval Office as he signs an executive order. That event open just a short time ago, after the Democratic speaker of the House said the president is not going to get his biggest wish.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: There's not going to be any wall money in the -- in the -- in the legislation.

What did he say today, Congress is -- it doesn't matter what Congress does? I knew that he wanted it all to himself. I mean, oh, really, a president who wants to have Congress be completely irrelevant in how we meet the needs of the American people? No, come on. So, let them work their will.


KING: Those comments from the speaker following a morning presidential tweet storm. Seven tweets, including this, Republicans are wasting their time in negotiations. Democrats are not going to give money to build the desperately needed wall. I got you covered. Wall is already being built. I don't expect much help.

This confrontation playing out.

Phil Mattingly live on Capitol Hill.

Phil, we'll have the president's take in a minute, but it is interesting that the speaker of the House, even though the negotiations are just beginning, is already getting to the end, saying, no, there will not be money for the wall.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, look, it's not a surprise that's her position because that's been her position pretty much throughout the course of this conversation. But I think it was interesting given the fact that the conference committee is meeting and given the fact she has made clear, both publically and behind closed doors to her members I'm told, that it's time to let the conference committee, let these appropriators, let these Democratic members work their will, work on their own and see what they can figure out.

Now, I was also interested, though, in something that happened later on in the press conference, John, where someone was asked, what about some type of enhanced fencing? In other words, there are clear red lines here where the president stands and where Democrats stand, where is the gray area here? Could you get enhanced fencing? Could you get some type of semantic win for both sides? It's what we've been talking about for a long time. It's probably the only way out of this that people would agree on. And Speaker Pelosi said, look, if you're talking about Normandy fencing, which is essentially the kind of x- looking (ph) vehicle barriers, and she said if the president wants to call that a wall, then he can have that as a wall.

And so people right now are trying to figure out -- I've actually been getting text messages from some Republicans saying, was she opening the door to something here, which probably underscores the moment we're in right now, that people aren't totally sure what's relevant, what's not and what tea leaves to read.

But I think that's kind of the crux of things. If there's an opening, semantically, on what type of a barrier could actually fly, then there's a possibility of reaching a deal. If there is not and if no wall also includes no border barriers, period, as is the opening offer from the House Democrats that they just released a short while ago, then there will be no deal and the president will likely have to operate unilaterally.


KING: Operate unilaterally. We'll watch this one.

We're going to hear from the president and his take any minute now.

Phil Mattingly, appreciate that, live on The Hill. Answer those text messages best you can.

With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Hirschfeld Davis with "The New York Times," Franco Ordonez with "McClatchy," Elana Schor with "The Associated Press," and CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

Let me start with you. You covered the White House.

This event was not supposed to be open.


KING: Can I connect those dots? They heard from the speaker. They decided the president's going to try to get the last word, at least for this hour.

COLLINS: And I think from the president's tweets this morning we saw that he has a lot on his mind to say about this specifically. And Nancy Pelosi saying there, there's not going to be any money for the wall here. And it's the president who's been trying to straddle this over the last few weeks saying we don't have to call it a wall, you don't -- to say that.

His aides, including Kellyanne Conway, were going out and scolding the media, saying that they were calling it the wall, they were the only ones doing it. And then the president tweets this morning, let's just call them walls and stop playing games. It's the president essentially undermining what even he has said. Typically he undermines what his aides say. He's undermining what he said when he said let's just call it a barrier with steel slats.

[12:05:08] So it's interesting to see what the president is going to say. But there is this feeling inside the White House and it happened before Nancy Pelosi made that comment at the press conference today that the president is going to invoke a national emergency and bypass Congress to fund that wall. And that only feels increased now with her comment that there's not going to be any money for a wall.

And -- but she doesn't have to answer the question. She can say, look, the negotiations just started. You all know my view. But let them do their work. Let's talk when they're done. She deliberately says these things.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Absolutely, because I think part of the president undercutting himself in those tweets, and undercutting what Kellyanne Conway has said, which is, this is a messaging thing, you are all obsessed with the word, is it's a question of winning and losing. What the president wants less than anything is to have to admit that he lost. He -- KING: Again.

DAVIS: Again. I think that if -- if Democrats and Republicans, in that room in the basement of the Capitol, can come up with a border security deal that is not the, quote/unquote, wall that President Trump has asked for, he could probably see him way clear to supporting that, but he can't bear the reality that Democrats are going to come out of that room and say, you see, we said no wall and you got no wall. And so that is the semantic sort of importance of this.


DAVIS: It's not just about the substance of it, which, of course, is important. But as Phil said, there is some potential coming together on the substance. But on the message, there's no possible coming together. And I think that's where the real fight is right now.

ORDONEZ: And he's also got aides in his ear at the White House who are telling him, you need to deliver on this campaign signature promise. And he's very concerned that he will not have a victory on this going into 2020. It's very important that he deliver on this. He campaigned on this. He started his campaign on this. This is the issue above so many others that he must deliver.

ELANA SCHOR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": Also, when we think about the national emergency declaration, don't forget Senate Republicans are over shutdowns. Mitch McConnell himself is sending strong signals. I don't want another shutdown on February 15th. Do what you have to do. So that speaks to the emergency planning. There's just not a lot of support from his own party for going down that road again.

DAVIS: But the interesting thing there too is that if he does decide to go down that road, any appetite that Democrats might have for giving in -- for giving some ground on border security that Republicans actually want, that people who care about the issue would actually feel like was progress, that will go away. If Democrats believe that he's just going to do this unilaterally, there's no way they're even giving a dollar, I wouldn't think, for a physical barrier of any kind because that is politically hard for them. So if the president's going to short-circuit this, I think Nancy Pelosi will pull back even that little glimmer of what we can talk about what we might be willing to do on fencing.

KING: Well, again, we've got two weeks for this now. We'll see, you know, the president may get a bill with no wall money, sign it so the government doesn't close down, and then pick up the pen and go to the next piece of paper, which is to declare a national emergency and say I'm going to redirect some other money for my wall.

Let's look at a little polling on this as this plays out. Who do you trust more on border security, President Trump or the Democrats in Congress? Forty-one percent, President Trump, 50 percent, Democrats in Congress. So the president comes out on the short end there. But that's not a huge gap. And, again, you mentioned, this has been his signature -- he worries about that 35 percent, 40 percent that is his base, that he's talked to, although he has punted on this one repeatedly. We are here because he keeps moving the line.

COLLINS: So often. And if you look at even just his Twitter feed from this morning, it's unclear if the wall has being built, if it's being built, if he can't get it built because of the Democrats. The president is sending multiple messages to not only the people who follow him, but just as far as what his messaging strategy is going to be, because he fluctuates from one to the other because he's trying so hard to make this argument because he doesn't want to capitulate on that promise because he is very sensitive to the criticism from people like Ann Coulter, even though he dismissed what she had said during that interview with "The Wall Street Journal." That is something that is front and center for the president.

It's not as important to the aides in the White House. There are a handful that he fulfilled this promise. But they realize that the president is dead set on walking away with a win. He doesn't care how he gets there, if he only gets $2 billion for the wall, whether or not it's the 5.7 at the end, that's an open question. But the president is essentially all over the place on this.

ORDONEZ: I can't agree more. I mean the idea of a win is so important that there are very -- there are several hardline groups that are so immigration enforcement forward (ph). They would rather have e-verify than a wall. They would rather have more interior enforcement than a wall.

The wall is a symbol, it is not a solution, in their minds. And I'm talking about the hardliners. So it's fascinating that he has pushed so far -- so much on this because it is so politically charged and is so politically important to him.

KING: And if -- I want you to listen here. This is Lindsey Graham last night on Fox News who just made a point of noting, before I came on the program, I just happened to talk to the president and he said this.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We're going to build a wall one way or the other. I just talked to the president ten minutes before I came on your show.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Wait, I know for a fact, it was in the green room.

GRAHAM: So, here's the point we're trying to make. The $5.7 billion represents 10 locations according to the Department of Homeland Security that a barrier would make the most difference. It's a professionally designed plan. The president's not doing anything crazy. What's crazy is that they're fighting him after having voted the way they did in the past.


[12:10:06] KING: He's right that Democrats in the past, including then Senators Hillary Clinton and Senators Barack Obama voted for fencing and a wall in the past. However, we're not in the past. The Democratic Party has moved to the left because this is so personal to President Trump. Democrats -- some Democrats oppose it just because of that.

SCHOR: And, for that matter, you know, Democrats will discuss the idea of perhaps, you know, not a physical wall but a technologically based wall, sensors, other -- you know, they're willing to go right up to the line of this physical wall the president envisions and they feel like that's enough. So Democrats are left hanging here saying, hey, we want to discuss border security. We'll even go above the 1.6 billion that we had talked about before.

COLLINS: Well, and it's interesting that until today, Nancy Pelosi had been asked by Manu Raju multiple times if she was still a hard no on including any border wall money in -- they -- if they came to some agreement, and she didn't answer. She would not draw a hard line in the sand. So I thought it was really interesting. And the White House was paying attention to those comments.

Well, then she comes out today and pretty matter of factually says this. I think the thing to look going forward is, are they still going to meet for the next two weeks or so if they've essentially come to this agreement and the White House says, well, we're not going to sign whatever you come up with if it doesn't have border wall money. And I think a telling sign is that -- is that these 17 bipartisan congressional negotiators were considered -- they were considering coming to the White House for a meeting with the president and his aides. And right now we're told that that meeting is not happening this week.

KING: Not happening this week.

And one thing, to me, as everybody knows, this is so personal to the president, but even he seems to forget the facts, if you will, the chronology. He was led here. He did an interview yesterday with "The Daily Caller." And the person asking the question clearly does not like former Speaker Paul Ryan and said some things about the chronology, which were not true, but the president didn't correct this. Well, I was going to veto the omnibus bill, the big spending bill before, and Paul told me in the strongest of language, please don't do that, we'll get you the wall. And I said, I hope you mean that because I don't like this bill. And then he went lame duck. And once he went lame duck, it was really just an exercise in waving to people and the power was gone, so I was very disappointed. I was very disappointed in Paul because the wall was so desperately needed and I'll get the wall.

KING: Allies of Speaker Ryan like to note, the House bill actually had money for the wall. It's that other place, I think they call it the Senate, which would not -- would not support it.

DAVIS: Well I mean, this just speaks to, I think, how over two years the president has just become increasingly angry at the fact that he wants to fight for the wall, and every single appropriations battle he's had and Republican leaders -- Republican leaders -- have consistently come back to him and said, this is not going to fly, not this time, we can't get a deal with that. And not just because Democrats don't want it, but because, frankly, for the reasons that Frank said and many others, the Republicans don't want it. They don't necessarily support it. Or they're certainly not going to go to the mat for it and hadn't been willing to for all of the appropriations battles we saw for the first two years of this presidency.

KING: Right.

DAVIS: And he got really tired of being told no. And we saw him almost veto that bill last year.

KING: Math.

DAVIS: And December I guess was the time when he said it's over. But the fundamentals haven't changed. There still is not support among Democrats and even among Republicans, as we've seen with these last couple of votes in the Senate, to actually have a fight over this.

KING: And now a Democrat has the speaker's gavel, which makes a big difference as we go forward.

We'll come back to this. We should hear from the president momentarily.

Up next, hard drives, bank records, cell phones. That's just some of the evidence the special counsel says it has against Roger Stone.


[12:17:24] KING: Welcome back.

A quick reminder, we're waiting to hear from the president of the United States. Reporters now in the Oval Office.

And, just moments ago, some other breaking news. The Russia special counsel making a brand new court filing cataloging some of the evidence it used and seized in the Friday indictment of the long-time Trump associate Roger Stone.

CNN's Evan Perez and Sara Murray are here for the conversation.

What are we learning most of all? So they have -- they have the pre- dawn raid.


KING: Some controversy about the level of force or the level of personnel the FBI used there. What did they get?

PEREZ: Well, you know, there's a lot of things -- the type of things that you would get in this type of search. I mean from financial and bank records, Apple cloud accounts, things having to do with his cell phone. We know that they took his cell phone and returned it a couple of days later, over the weekend. So the types of things that you would expect that when the FBI comes to your house and goes through it, searches and takes a record. And one of the things that they've done today is they've put a

protective order on some of this -- on this evidence, which is typical in these types of high-profile cases. This basically makes sure that whatever is being shared, as you prepare to go to trial, that that stays within the people who are handling the case.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is clear they already had voluminous evidence against Stone before they, you know, arrested and indicted him. We've heard that from witnesses who were brought in and met with the special counsel. But then they continued obviously gathering additional information, gathering, you know, those electronic devices. They may have already had access, for instance, to some of the stuff from iCloud, but it seems like they did want the physical devices. And they went to his apartment in New York, as well as his home in Florida, as well as sort of a storage space/office in Florida that he uses for his "InfoWars" appearances. He apparently keeps his memorabilia there. So for some reason they wanted to search that as well. So it was pretty extensive.

KING: You say for some reason. It is pretty sensitive, obviously, especially given the allegations at hand here. Did he have direct contact with WikiLeaks? Was he contacting WikiLeaks through second or third parties? What was the extent of that relationship? What documents might there be to back up the case they already had.

Now, the president -- here's what the president says about this. He did an interview with "The Daily Caller" yesterday and he says, I'm speaking for a lot of people that were very disappointed to see that go down that way, to see it happen where it was on camera, on top of it. That was a very disappointing scene. Well, you have 29 people and you had armored vehicles, and you had all of the other -- you know, many people know Roger, and Roger's not a person that they would have to worry about from that standpoint.

The president says -- so he's saying this was overkill. A pre-dawn raid. A knock at the door, "FBI," All the trucks and vehicles. But the special counsel's office says they believed it was necessary because of --

PEREZ: Well, yes, I mean --

KING: This very point.

PEREZ: The day before they filed with the court and they asked the court for permission to do it this way. And they got a judge's permission to do it this way because they said there was concern about destruction of evidence.

[12:20:03] Look, I think the president is giving voice to some of the things you're hearing from some parts of the right wing media. But, I mean, look, when you have a witness or a defendant like this who is sort of out there making threats and, according to the -- to the special counsel, making threats against other witnesses, they're going to treat him a little differently. And so I think that's what you saw happen in Florida on Friday. And, by the way, on Friday, after he was arrested, Roger Stone said --

he commended the FBI and said that they had treated him with the utmost respect.

KING: Utmost respect.

You mentioned -- I was going to move on to something else, but you mentioned the Republicans. So the Republicans have lost their power in the House. We know when they controlled the House, they repeatedly criticized the investigation, repeatedly questioned the integrity of the FBI. They've lost the House. But they have a -- the president has a new friend in Lindsey Graham, who's the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who says he wants the FBI to come up and answer questions about why they did it that way at Roger Stone's house.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This seems to me over the top. And I don't know what the message was being sent, but I personally didn't like it. You know, I've been a prosecutor and defense attorney. It seemed to be sending the wrong message, that if you cross Mueller, look what's going to happen to you. Mueller, do your job, but these tactics are unacceptable given the level of threat here.


KING: The FBI would say they were doing what the boss ordered them to do there, and the special counsel's office would say, as you know, we went before a judge. We didn't just decide to do this on a whim.

PEREZ: Right. They can't just do this on a whim.

MURRAY: Yes, it will be --

KING: But will the FBI go up and sit in front of Senator Lindsey Graham and have to defend themselves?

PEREZ: Well, yes, they have to. I mean, obviously, he is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee now. So Chris Wray, I imagine, is going to have to pick up the phone and explain to Lindsey Graham, if he asks for an in-person briefing, he'll have to do that. This is the kind of thing that FBI directors do routinely.

MURRAY: Interestingly, though, we -- we don't hear this kind of outrage from Republicans about the notion that Roger Stone seemed to have allegedly lied to Congress when he was supposed to be there participating in what you would expect to be a very important investigation, the notion that Russians meddled in our election. The question of whether there was collusion, we haven't heard a whole lot of concern from Lindsey Graham about that part.

KING: Could possibly -- could you possibly be -- could you possibly be suggesting that the Republicans have selective outrage?

MURRAY: You know, it -- KING: (INAUDIBLE).

MURRAY: It does seem that way. And, look, they have an oversight role in this and certainly they -- they are -- it's their job to ask the questions and to get them answered and for the FBI to provide an explanation. But, you know, it seems like if I were Lindsey Graham, I would also have, you know, some more questions about what's going on with Roger Stone.

KING: In this "Daily Caller" interview, the president was again critical of the Mueller investigation. He says there's nothing there. It's gone on forever. It's cost more than $30 million. But, significantly, he was asked, what about the potential release of the Mueller report when it's final? And the president says, I'm going to leave it up to the Justice Department. They'll have to make their decision within the Justice Department. They will make the decision as to what they do.

The question was, would it be Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general, or whatever replaces him as attorney general -- whose ever the attorney general at the time, who has that power. The president there saying, washing my hands, it's completely up to them. I don't know that Democrats will believe that. But that is a more hands-off approach than the president's taken if you read his Twitter feed.

PEREZ: I think you're right. And I think it -- I think it shows a little bit more comfort. I think the president feels more comfortable now that Jeff Sessions is gone. That was an irritant. That was something that certainly was a reminder to him of where things really went wrong, at least according to him, which was Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself.

And he also -- they don't trust -- they also didn't -- don't trust Rod Rosenstein. So the idea that a new Trump pick, Bill Barr, someone who is, you know, by all accounts, you know, well respected, I think he feels a lot more comfort level that Bill Barr will be the one handling the end of this investigation. I'm not sure whether that's -- you know, that's exactly what he should be feeling right now, but that's how he feels, it seems like.

KING: Because of the personal acts with Jeff Sessions (INAUDIBLE).

PEREZ: Right.

KING: And we're going to keep that one. We'll save that quote. They will make the decision as to what they do, to see if it plays out that way.

PEREZ: Right.

KING: Coming up for us, the road to 2020 means a lot of pit stops in the Midwest as Democrats work to win back blue collar voters in the heartland.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:28:54] KING: Sen. Sherrod Brown testing the waters in Iowa today. Mark your calendars, 368 days now before the caucuses kick off the 2020 voting.

Brown believes his blue collar Ohio roots help him better understand the Iowans who helped turn their state red again in 2016. Another 2020 contender, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, telling "CBS This Morning," Democrats need to fix the big damage they did in the last election.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: Things are changing tectonically in our country and we can't just keep doing what we've been doing. We can't nibble around the edges of the system that no longer works. The experience of the industrial Midwest is exactly the kind of experience that politics, forgive me, but here on the coast has been ignoring. And especially in my party, that's come at a terrible cost.


KING: So, how exactly should the party go about winning back those crucial voters? In a word, carefully. One Wisconsin-based Democratic strategist telling "The Associated Press," don't talk down to them. Quote, it's about being able to create a message and persona for yourself that's not elitist in nature. We've got plenty of great coastal candidates running at or looking at running but particularly in the primary they end up talking to the bubble.

[12:30:02] That is from your piece. It's a great point, if you look, and we can put it up, just put up the 2016 results.