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New Day

President Trump Delivers State of the Union Address; Interview with White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders; Trump Tells GOP Lawmaker He'll "100 Percent" Release Nunes Memo. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 31, 2018 - 8:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Sun comes up on another day in the capital. Good morning. Welcome to your "New Day." It is Wednesday, January 31st, 8:00 here in Washington.

So President Trump hailing the start of a new American moment in his first state of the union address. He's calling on a deeply divided nation to unify, and challenging Republicans and Democrats to work together for the American people. The president also laying out the four pillars of his immigration plan, leaving both sides of the aisle on edge but for very different reasons.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Absent from the address, any mention of Russia's election interference, news sanctions against Russia or the ongoing Russia investigation. This as the president gives a glimpse into his thinking about that classified and controversial Republican memo alleging FBI misconduct. The president said he'll 100 percent release it.

CUOMO: Joining us now exclusively, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. It is good to see you.


CUOMO: You're always welcome. Thank you for taking the invitation.

SANDERS: Absolutely.

CUOMO: So you and I have seen a lot of states of the union, although I am much older than you.

SANDERS: You said it. Not me. So I'll leave that on the table.

CUOMO: Facts first. That room last night was grossly divided. I've never seen Nancy Pelosi's face like that. The president made some outreach to them but he was focusing mostly on the Republican side. How can he unify that room?

SANDERS: I think doing exactly what he did last night. I'm going to be a little in disagreement with you. I think Nancy Pelosi looks like that all the time. I think she should smile a lot more often. I think the country would be better for it. She seems to embody the bitterness that belongs in the Democrat party right now. I think last night was a good step forward. Hopefully they can let go of some of that. And they have to make a big decision. They need to decide, Chris, do they love America more than they hate this president, and are they willing to put some of those differences aside, come together, and do what's right for this country.

CUOMO: A fundamental disagreement is in where's the hate because Nancy Pelosi would argue, has argued on this set that it is righteous indignation that you see coming from her, the way last night the president identified the people who killed the children of those African-American couples that were there last night as illegal entrants as minors. They took it as code for Dreamers, that you're trying to villainize this group of people.

SANDERS: There was no code. The president could not have been more clear. He has laid out exactly what he wants to see in an immigration reform plan. All of the things he has laid out are thing that Democrats have support. Bill Clinton got a standing ovation for using similar language in one of his state of the union addresses by both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats have voted to end the visa lottery stims. They support a pathway to citizenship. These are things that the president has given and laid out a good and solid compromise that frankly everybody should be excited about.

Democrats and Republicans should both be celebrating. As the president said, everybody didn't get everything they wanted but the country is getting what they need. And it's time for both Republicans and Democrats to come together and put some of that common sense solution forward.

CUOMO: Message versus messenger. Clinton -- you know you have problems, you know you have to make the process better in terms of who gets into this country and also whom you decide to throw out. But the motivating ethos from Clinton, the idea was we are our diversity. The feeling is with this president, he sees diversity as a minus. Not one story last night -- and by the way, the president did a good job articulating people's story last night, and it's very powerful for the audience and for the media, but not one about a successful Dreamer, not one. Although he did say all Americans are Dreamers, which again is not only is not true but I didn't understand the point of doing that.

SANDERS: The president has committed to solving this problem. He has said he wants to find a solution, and he's laid one out. Democrats don't have a message. They simply are sitting on their hands and being angry instead of coming to the table to have real negotiations.

CUOMO: But they believe it's a policy of exclusion.

SANDERS: How is it a policy of exclusion, Chris, when the president frankly went further than Barack Obama ever did as president? He has tripled the number of people he has included in this program.

CUOMO: Fair point.

SANDERS: That is the opposite of exclusion. That is broadening the spectrum and taking it a much step further. The idea that Democrats are saying that this president is not being inclusive and is not trying to put an actual solution on the table is frankly laughable and they should be embarrassed they are trying to peddle that kind of false premise. It's just frankly not true.

CUOMO: The premise is this. With one way he gives, pathway to citizenship. Going to be hard to sell to part of your party, by the way. With the other hand he's taking away. And there are obviously at least two of these pillars, if not three, are designed to limit who comes into this country and what types of people continue into this country, which is what the Democrats are trying to protect against.

So the practical problem becomes, you have two. The first one is this -- you have two pillars too many. Do you think you can get any deal that goes beyond dealing with DACA and security. It seems like the Democrats will give you security, vernacular about the wall will be an issue. But the other two may be a bridge too far.

SANDERS: But you can't just do partial security. It has to be the whole thing, otherwise we're dealing with the same situation in two, three, four, five years. The president doesn't want to kick the can down the road anymore. He wants to be able to sit down with Democrats, sit down with Republicans and say, look, we have a problem with the DACA system. Let's fix it. We have 1.8 million people. Let's give them a pathway, but at the same time let's make sure we don't find ourselves back here again. That's why you can't just have one or two pillars. You have to have all four, the same reason a stool doesn't work with two legs. You've got to have all that.

CUOMO: It's too much exclusion.

SANDERS: It's not exclusion, though. It's the safety and security of the American people.

CUOMO: I know, but where is that seen in the facts, though, Sarah. When it comes to the lottery, the selling point is we don't know who these people are. You know that's not true. They get vetted, they get vetted several times. What you call chain migration, which the Democrats call family unification.

SANDERS: Which Democrats have voted to end in the past.

CUOMO: No, no, no. What they've done is to vote for limitations. Nobody is saying you don't want to improve these processes so you know who is coming in, but the idea, what the president said last night, somebody can literally bring in as many people as they want. It's just not true. It's not true in the facts, it's not true in reality.

SANDERS: People have multiple instances where they are bringing in dozens of people. We're not saying they can't bring in anybody. We're just limiting the number to be the nuclear and immediate family.

CUOMO: But you're making the exception the rule when you do that. You're making the exception the rule about who gets in here, who commits crimes, who are malefactors. You're making the exceptions the rule, you're painting all of these people with the same brush.

SANDERS: That's not true at all. That's what Democrats are doing is trying to paint the president as saying this. The president wants to have people, I've heard the him say it hundreds of time, he wants people from all over the world, from all different places to come. But he wants to make sure they want to come here for the right reasons, that they want to come here to be part of our society, to contribute, to work, to help raise a family, and to make sure they weren't coming here to do harm to American citizens. I think that's a positive. I think everybody in America thinks that's a positive. And I think that's a reason that 75 percent of the country last night said they liked Donald Trump's speech. There was a poll last night --

CUOMO: There was plenty of stuff in there to like. We had 48 percent were highly favorable. It's one thing to say it. It's then what do you do and what do you tweet thereafter. We don't have to go back into the language he used, but he wants people to come to the country but not those certain s-hole countries. We wants them rich and white. He wants them from Norway. And that's not America.

SANDERS: That's not true.

CUOMO: I wouldn't be here if that's America.

SANDERS: That is the opposite of what this president has laid out. By very definition a merit-based system is colorblind. It is absolutely outrageous to claim that it is anything different.

CUOMO: But he said exactly that, Sarah.

SANDERS: Democrats have been begging for some of these things in the past and now they claim they're racist. That is just --

CUOMO: But he said it, Sarah.

SANDERS: He said that he wanted a merit-based system.

CUOMO: No, he didn't. He said he didn't want people from those countries.

SANDERS: I guess I missed you being in the room --

CUOMO: Are you saying that he didn't say that?

SANDERS: I'm saying that you're trying to create a narrative that doesn't exist. You're trying to take words of the president and make them mean something that they don't.

CUOMO: Based on the context of all the other things he said about immigrants that is so ugly and so destructive.

SANDERS: I'm going to have to disagree with your premise. This is a president who loves this country. This is the president who wants to see the very best things of this country. And I think you saw him highlight his heart, his soul, and the optimistic vision that he has for our country last night. And I think you see that every day in the policies that he's been pushing over the last year and everything that he has laid out that he wants his administration to accomplish over the next seven years. CUOMO: And you have the other side saying those exact same criteria,

they don't trust that he wants to do the right thing by these people. But we'll see what happens at the table.

Now the second obstacle you have to making a deal. You're in the five-day period now with this memo. If that memo is released, it will dominate the discussion for good and bad reason. It will dominate deal-making. You said in a statement from the White House, he hasn't reviewed it yet. We're nowhere on releasing it. Then let's put up the statement just so people can see. There you are. Good enough picture. I know everybody always starts with the picture. Contrary to a published report, there are no current plans to release the House Intel Committee's memo. Continue on, the president hasn't seen or been briefed on the memo or reviewed its contents. OK, fair enough, but then last night we had this piece of sound. So then explain it to us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's release the memo.



CUOMO: It's 100 percent he's going to release the memo. Is that the new position from White House?

SANDERS: Look, we've said all along from day one we want full transparency in this process. We haven't hidden that. But at the same time we're still going to complete the legal and national security review that has to take place before putting something out publicly. And that's the place where we are right now.

CUOMO: Is there any chance that the president does not release the memo?

SANDERS: I think there's always a chance. But again, I don't know -- I haven't seen the memo. I can't make that judgment, but I do know that we're going through that process. I know that will be part of what's taking place at the White House today. And we'll certainly keep you guys posted as I know you'll continue to ask until you hear the final answer on that.

CUOMO: Has the president seen the memo yet?

SANDERS: Not that I'm aware of. I know he hadn't as of last night prior to and immediately after the state of the union.

CUOMO: So obviously before he goes promising 100 percent he should read this because he may be getting set up by the memo if it doesn't deliver as promised by people on the right. Did Devin Nunes work with anybody in the White House on that memo?

SANDERS: Not that I know of.

CUOMO: He wouldn't answer that question.

SANDERS: And I just don't know the answer. I don't know of anyone that he did. And I haven't had a chance --

CUOMO: He's work with the White House before when it comes to intelligence and the Russia investigation.

SANDERS: Look, we have certainly coordinated with members of Congress as is appropriate. As to specifics on this, I just don't know the answer. I'm not aware of any conversations or coordination with Congressman Nunes.

CUOMO: Rosenstein, Trump's choice, says he doesn't like this. He goes to the chief of staff to say it. Stephen Boyd, Trump's choice at the DOJ, says this could be reckless, dangerous. The intelligence community says let us review this. You have the House saying we don't trust the GOP, the Republican part of that committee. You have the president when asked if he trusts the FBI say we'll have to see. Why do this to the intelligence community? Why call into question their legitimacy with the American people?

SANDERS: I don't think we are calling into question --

CUOMO: He wouldn't say he trusts the FBI.

SANDERS: Look, we've said many, many times before the president has full confidence in Director Wray and his ability to lead the FBI. I don't think there's any secret that there is some frustration, and certainly great cause for concern by some of the actions of some of the previous leadership at the FBI. But the president put Director Wray there for a reason. He has great confidence in the rank and file members of the FBI which we've said repeatedly. But there are a number of things that have given reason for, not just the president, but the American people to have cause for concern out of the actions of that department.

CUOMO: So why not let the system work? Why do this --

SANDERS: That's exactly what we're doing.

CUOMO: No, no. This is a naked end run, Sarah, you know that, this is a naked end run by the House Republicans. They're saying usually --

SANDERS: That is the process.

CUOMO: No. We've never seen this before.

SANDERS: It is the process for the Intel committee.

CUOMO: We've never seen a release of information like this.

SANDERS: We've also never seen the obsession over a total hoax like we have seen over the last year.

CUOMO: What's a hoax? What's a hoax? SANDERS: I would say the Russia collusion and Russian fever that you

guys have perpetuated every single day.

CUOMO: How is it a fever? Did it happen? Was there Russian interference? The American people certainly have never said they don't want to hear about it.

SANDERS: That's not what you're talking about. You're not talking about whether or not Russia was involved. You're talking about where the president was involved. Those are very different things.

CUOMO: But that's part of the special counsel's purview, a man who you guys interviewed for a job at the White House, a lifelong Republican and a decorated veteran who everybody applauded, Bob Mueller.

SANDERS: We're fully cooperating with him. We've turned over thousands and thousands of documents. More than 20 people have done interviews.

CUOMO: And you have reports that the president thought of making a move on him this summer.

SANDERS: We have continued to be fully cooperative with him. The president has been fully cooperative with him. He's publicly been very positive in saying I don't have any problems here. Let's see what happens, let's get this done.

CUOMO: He said I'm look forth ward to sitting down with him. Now there's reporting that your lawyers are looking for an exception to get him out of an interview. Which is it?

SANDERS: Those two things are not mutually exclusive, Chris.


SANDERS: Because the president has nothing to hide. He's more than happy --

CUOMO: Then why look for a reason to get him out of an interview?

SANDERS: At the same time his attorneys are going to go through the proper process. You guys want to paint these crazy, ludicrous things and create stories that just aren't there.

CUOMO: What's crazy and ludicrous? He says he wants to meet with Mueller, now you've got his lawyers looking for an exception that probably doesn't apply. Why?

SANDERS: He says he's certainly willing to.

CUOMO: Then don't have the lawyers waste my tax money figuring stuff out with that.

SANDERS: If you want to talk about wasting tax money, talk about the entire investigation as a whole with this president and collusion. That is a waste of taxpayer money.

CUOMO: How do you know when you don't know what the investigation will yield?

SANDERS: We have spent a year digging and digging and digging. Everybody comes to the same conclusion, even the Democrats.

CUOMO: Mueller has come to no conclusion, the Senate Intelligence Committee have come to no conclusion.

SANDERS: Multiple members of the Senate Intelligence Committee including Dianne Feinstein have said they've seen no evidence of collusion.

CUOMO: But the investigation isn't over. Why wouldn't you want to see it through?


CUOMO: If you want to see it through then why do you keep saying shut it down and call it a fever? Why do you allow Nunes to do this end run that we've never seen before in subverting the intelligence community to release things that could be jeopardizing to national security?

SANDERS: No one here is going to make a decision that jeopardizes national security. That's been the president's number one priority.


CUOMO: Then how can the president release the memo?

SANDERS: You see that day in and day out.

CUOMO: Rosenstein doesn't want him to do it. Boyd doesn't want him to do it.

SANDERS: Frankly, Chris, I don't think you're qualified to answer to that. You haven't seen the memo. You're not an intelligence officer.

CUOMO: The president hasn't seen the memo. Why is he promising 100 percent to release it?

SANDERS: He's going to take the advice that those that have the knowledge and experience to make that decision. I don't and neither do you. So, we shouldn't sit here and pretend like we do.

The president has individuals on his legal team, his national security team that are doing that review, will make that recommendation and make that final decision at that point.

The point I'm trying to make is we have spent the better part of the year, wasted a year. Think about all the incredible things this president has been able to accomplish in the last year.

The economy is booming. ISIS is on the run. We're remaking the judiciary. We've gotten rid of thousands of regulations that have allowed our economy to actually thrive. We're making strides in places that we haven't seen in decades.

If we did not have to deal with the obsession by the media over this, then I can't imagine the other amazing things that could have been accomplished in this past year.

CUOMO: The media isn't keeping you from accomplishing things. You set policy. We report on it. Both of these things are true. You've done things that were positive --

SANDERS: But we also have to deal with all of the crazy questions that you guys spent on this topic day in and day out.

CUOMO: Give me one crazy question. We're watching the investigation that goes to the heart of the legitimacy of our democracy. And what he does to the economy matters too. They're not mutually exclusive to borrow your phrase.

You have to report on all of it. Don't dismiss the Russia investigation before we know what Mueller has.

SANDERS: Look, we've spent a year. And, frankly, if in a year they haven't been able to find anything, I think that's very telling.

Here is something else. You guys say you report on both of these things. Ninety percent of the coverage of this president is negative. How can 90 percent of the coverage be negative when so many incredible things are happening?

CUOMO: Here is your answer.

SANDERS: Oh, give me a break.

CUOMO: Keep the president off this device -- actually I don't want him to do that. I want the window into his mind.

SANDERS: And so does America. They appreciate the fact that they have a president who directly --

CUOMO: That's where the negative coverage comes from, what he says and what he does. You know what? You know what is helpful to the American people, you coming on shows like this to make the case directly to them. We know you have to go. You're always welcome.

SANDERS: Thank you. Thanks for having me. Always great to be with you.

CUOMO: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, thanks for being here.


CAMEROTA: OK. There's a lot to talk about obviously from Press Secretary Sarah Sanders interview. So, we'll break it all down with our pundits, next.


[08:21:26] CAMEROTA: All right. We just had on White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. We talked to her about the president's State of the Union Address and, of course, the Russia investigation.

So, let's get to it. Let's bring if our pundits, CNN senior political analyst and executive director of political programming, Mark Preston, and CNN politics reporter and editor at large, Chris Cillizza, the two men with the longest titles in the building.


CAMEROTA: OK. So, Sarah Sanders was here, just to recap for everybody, of course, Chris brought up all sorts of things.

So, let's start with what might happen this week in the Devin Nunes memo. Chris asked if the president has just read it. We had Jackie Speier on and she said she has read it. She said there's dangerous, classified information, her words, in there that she doesn't believe should be released.

So, Chris asked Sarah Sanders if the president read it. Here is what she said.


SANDERS: We've seen all along from day one that we want full transparency in this process. We haven't hidden that. At the same time, we're still going to complete the legal and national security review that has to take place before putting something out publicly. That's where we are right now.

CUOMO: Is there any chance that the president does not release the memo?

SANDERS: I think there's always a chance. But again, I don't know. I haven't seen the memo.


CUOMO: He said 100 percent to Congressman Duncan last night when asked about it. He hasn't even read the memo yet.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: On tape. This is actually on tape.

I have sympathy for anybody who has to go out and try to explain away anything the president --

CUOMO: Not me. That's the job. You work for the American people. You're supposed to speak truth to power and address their concerns.

PRESTON: Correct.

CUOMO: I had the answer prepared.

CAMEROTA: That was well-done. I've heard that.

PRESTON: Having said that, though, unfortunately she doesn't have the answer. She said the president hadn't read it before the State of the Union speech and hadn't read it immediately after. He had made that comment on the House floor right after he delivered his State of the Union --

CAMEROTA: Also, how do you have the considerations she outlined, Chris Cillizza, and release the memo?

CILLIZZA: Because the reason he's going to release it before he reads it is because it confirms what he thinks which is -- I don't know a thing that's in it. But in his mind, it confirms the idea that the FBI -- that there is a deep state conspiracy burrowed within the FBI and law enforcement that doesn't want him to win and tried to help Hillary Clinton win. We know this from the Andrew McCabe tweets about he took money and, therefore, Hillary -- you know, Donald Trump seizes on things that affirm his points of view, and he believes that they are true. That's why he says 100 percent despite the fact he hasn't read it.

Sarah saying there's always a chance -- I mean, it's like 1 in a hundred, more like one in a million. I mean, he's -- I think it would be stunning at this point if he didn't release it because it has become sort of a real cause celebre in the conservative blogs sphere Twittersphere. I'm sure we all get a 100 hashtag release the memo, to not doing it at this point -- I mean, he's doing it.

CAMEROTA: It was interesting, Chris, to hear her use the president say when you asked her about Russia, she said it's a total hoax. You said what part is a total hoax? Aren't we past the total hoax, now that people have pled guilty, now that we have a special counsel, aren't we past the total hoax?

She pointed out because she said because you all just talk about -- her argument was, you talk about Russia. He said, you're saying the meddling is a hoax? She said, no, you don't talk about meddling. You're talking about collusion, and that's the hoax.

[08:25:02] PRESTON: No, of course, we talk about meddling, because that's where it started. The question is about collusion.

She also said we have Russian fever quite frankly. What's ridiculous about this is that we already have two people right now who are cooperating with the special counsel. We already have two people who are indicted.

By the way, the two people cooperating are pleading guilty, OK? We have two others that are under indictment. One of them might actually flip and start cooperating as sources are telling CNN at this point. The fact is that Russia has been this very dark cloud over this administration, a very dark cloud over all of America for the past year right now. And the fact that Donald Trump continues to try to stop this investigation and he does it very clumsily is outrageous and ridiculous. CILLIZZA: Well, here is the thing. The media, no matter what anyone thinks, we are not involved in the special counsel's office. We are not the attorney general. We are not the deputy attorney general. We are not the director of the FBI. All of these people are Republicans --

PRESTON: Chris --

CILLIZZA: -- up to and including Bob Mueller. All of these people are people, with the exception of Bob Mueller, Donald Trump put in these jobs. Really to remind memo, the special counsel investigation is not being run by the four people you see here. It's being run by people Donald, by and large, that were picked to do these things.

Rod Rosenstein, that was a Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump pick who then said we need a special counsel. That was Bob Mueller who was George W. Bush's pick for the FBI. The idea that this is some sort of media conspiracy is simply not borne out by what should be agreed-upon facts.

PRESTON: Yes. But to add to that, too, you have congressional committees on Capitol Hill in both chambers being led by Republicans that are investigating.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But you heard her argument about that, which is, why haven't they found anything yet?

PRESTON: We don't know what they found. We don't know.

CAMEROTA: Obviously her allies who are Republicans in these congressional committees are saying there's no there there. That's where she's getting that.

CUOMO: You know, look, here is the truth. She's right, however, for the wrong reason. That will be frustrating to people. But you know what? The truth is also often complicated.

They haven't found things that we know about. We don't know what Mueller has. And the idea of not letting it finish, why is the Senate Intel Committee that's run by Republicans -- every committee is run by Republicans -- why are they continuing to meet? They don't know yet. They have to go through something.

CAMEROTA: In fact, the Democrats as we just heard yesterday said they have new documents in the past few months, they have led them in a different path.

CUOMO: They go to sessions, the circumstances surrounding Sessions' resignations which is telescoping concerns about what was the motivation to push him to resign, does that feed into obstruction?

What I don't get is if I were working for the administration, I would say, leave it all alone, let them come to their conclusion.

CILLIZZA: Of course. CUOMO: We're going to get cleared. Then I had a clear path to say, I let them do everything they wanted me to do, I answered every question they wanted me to answer and I am clean. Can we move on? But he's frustrating that and it becomes suggestive of something to hide.

CILLIZZA: OK. So, on that point, I think a lot of it is psychological, which is believes -- when Donald Trump hears Russia, he believes they're undermining my victory.

CUOMO: Absolutely.

CILLIZZA: I won and they're trying to say I didn't. So, your logic make sense, but I don't think it applies.

The thing that drives me insane when I hear all the time, they haven't found anything yet. And this will -- Mark will appreciate this as a Boston native. That's like saying in last year's Super Bowl, the Falcons are up 28-3. It's not over! They play four quarters.

CAMEROTA: Even I get that.

CILLIZZA: We simply do not know. It's an NA, right? It's a not known. It's not a no.

CUOMO: Investigations take a long time, especially FBI-type investigations. And this Nunes memo, the one thing she argued that I just don't know if it holds, you guys tell me at home who are watching, the idea that this is allowing the process to take its course, it is demonstrably false. We've never seen Congress go around the intelligence community to release information like this. It's a political play. It's to distract and to demean the Russia investigation. It just is.

CAMEROTA: Chris Cillizza and Mark Preston, thank you both very much.

CUOMO: Senator Joe Manchin criticizing his own, talking about Democratic colleagues saying they didn't show enough respect during the State of the Union. Should they applaud or stand when they disagree? Senator Manchin joins us next.