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Soon: Trump Meets GOP, Dems On Fate Of Dreamers; CNN: Trump Lawyers Anticipate Mueller Request For Trump Testimony And Want To Limit Its Scope; Growing Partisan Gap Over House Probe. Aired 11- 11:30a ET
Aired January 9, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:05] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan. Just minutes from now, a big meeting at the White House. The fate of thousands of people and funding to keep the government running hanging in the balance.
President Trump meets with a group of congressional Democrats and Republicans to discuss the fate of DREAMers, hundreds of thousands, about 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children who could now be facing deportation.
The negotiations have hit a wall so to speak. President Trump saying that there will be no deal for protections unless a border wall is part of the deal. That wall, of course, was probably his biggest and most controversial campaign promise of all. His demand could derail negotiations over the must pass spending deal.
CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House. So, Abby, what is the administration doing at this point to try to close a deal here?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Brianna. The administration is bringing the folks who are most involved in this negotiation to the table at the White House. It partly in a show of engagement on this issue, and partly to give folks on the Hill a good sense of what the president and the White House needs in order to sign an immigration deal.
Now the participants of this meeting have become a little bit of a sticking point in part because there are some folks who are coming to this meeting, who have been deeply involved in the talks who Democrats say they really can't deal with, including senior adviser to the White House, Stephen Miller, who many Democrats have raised concerns about.
They're not convinced that he's someone who is willing to get a DACA deal done, but at the same time the very fact that this meeting is happening is pretty important because everything needs to be laid out on the table.
We've heard President Trump talk about several things, that wall that you just mentioned, but also border security and also changes to legal immigration. It will be a key detail, whether Democrats are willing to accept some changes to legal immigration in exchange for a DACA deal, a lot needs to be discussed.
But Brianna, it seems very much that at this moment, the two sides are still pretty far apart on this issue in that there is a lot of talking that needs to happen before they can say that they are even close to coming to an agreement on a final DACA deal -- Brianna.
KEILAR: There is so much to work out. Abby Phillip, keeping an eye on it at the White House for us. So much is at stake with both sides dug in as you heard her saying there. What are the major hurdles that have to be overcome?
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill to tell us about that. Sunlen, what are the sticking points here?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, Brianna, there are major sticking points and there is a lot of pessimism in the halls of Capitol Hill today in advance of that big meeting over at the White House.
Yes, as Abby said, they are going to be sitting down with a group of lawmakers bicameral, partisan, nearly two dozen lawmakers, but going into that meeting, there is a lot of partisan rhetoric, a lot of finger pointing, a lot of skepticism at the amount they have to get done.
As you said both sides are really entrenched in their sides right now. Democrats say they won't agree to any sort of spending bill that doesn't address DACA. They're holding firm to that. You have President Trump insists that any spending bill fund the border wall, $18 billion worth of a border wall, that he wants, a big campaign promise of his.
So, going too that meeting, both sides really entrenched and already trying to point fingers at the other. Both sides essentially saying that other side is holding this deal hostage and I can tell you already up here on Capitol Hill, there is talk, will they be able to meet the deadline.
It is only ten days away on January 19th. Already talk about what would happen if they miss that deadline. Would they have to potentially pass another short-term CR, continuing resolution, to keep the government funding and fight this biggest fight another day -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Sunlen Serfaty for us on Capitol Hill, thank you so much for that report about the sticking points that we're seeing and there are a lot of them to discuss with Mercedes Schlapp, assistant to the president. She's senior adviser for Strategic Communications for the Trump administration. Mercedes, it's so great to have you on. Thank you so much for joining us.
MERCEDES SCHLAPP, ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for having me.
KEILAR: I wanted to ask you, because CNN was talking to a person who is directly involved in these negotiations and their quote about how they're going is, it's a mess. I know that for anyone who has been through immigration negotiations before, perhaps that's not a surprise, but the clock is ticking here. So, you know, what do you say about that and what does the president want out of this meeting that's going to happen here in just a few minutes.
SCHLAPP: Well, I will tell you that President Trump will solve the DACA problem. It's very clear that we want to find a permanent fix for the 700,000 DACA recipients. I think that's going to be the goal. Obviously, this will include strong negotiations on the principles itself, which is that of securing the border, closing the loopholes, giving the necessary resources that we need for the judicial backlogs as well as for the -- for our ICE agents.
[11:05:07] I mean, it's very clear our ICE agents are on the front lines. They are dealing with the stress of illegal immigrants coming into this nation. At this point, this is an opportunity that the president is bringing in both Democrats and Republicans to solve this issue and the key is to find a permanent fix.
KEILAR: So, you're talking there about strengthening ICE, about strengthening the ability to patrol the border, which makes me wonder how much of a wall the president needs to keep his campaign promise. Could this be a virtual war and reinforcements and more strengthening of ICE in order to bring along some Democrats?
SCHLAPP: Well, as you know, the wall consists of the brick and mortar, technology, it consists of personnel and so, when you look at our Customs and Border Patrol Agents, they are the ones saying we need this wall system in place.
And what's interesting is that back, you know, in 2006 it was 54 Senate Democrats who voted for a physical barrier along the southern border. It was the Chuck Schumer bill involved as well as the Secure Fence Act.
I mean, it's very clear that we can find common ground with the Democrats in ensuring that we don't continue to recreate these problems on illegal immigration for too long, for decades this issue has been ignored or just pushed to the side or with temporary fixes.
This is not how we're able to solve our immigration problems as well as create more responsible immigration reform and allow the legal immigrants to come to our country in a way that we're able to assess them by skills a merit based system, able to have those individuals who will be part and contributing to our economy.
KEILAR: So, it sounds like there's not a firm demand, that there is negotiations when it comes to the wall? Am I reading you correctly there?
SCHLAPP: I don't think so. I think that the key here is the president has mentioned in his principles we want to find an end to chain migration. As we know close to 80 percent of the individuals who come here to this country through immigration is through a chain migration process. We want to close the loopholes and end diversity. Visa lottery program, which as we know, several individuals who actually committed terrorist attacks here in the United States came in through that program.
So we want to find an opportunity where we do have a legal system that works, that we enforce our laws and that other countries respect our laws and that's part of the reason why for the President Trump and his team, they're leading the efforts in terms of the negotiation and I feel this will be a productive meeting with both Democrats and Republicans here at the White House today.
KEILAR: So, in these negotiations where he does have people from both parties, is he -- is Chief of Staff John Kelly, who has been the lead negotiator with Congress on this emphasizing more the broader points of border security than that physical brick and mortar barrier?
SCHLAPP: Absolutely, as well as Secretary Nielsen and the team, they will be discussing about the border wall, talking about ending the chain migration piece. I mean, this is again a discussion that we're going to have as to how we can find this permanent fix.
It's time to resolve this issue sooner rather than later and the key for the Democrats I think is just don't attach it to the spending bill. Why would they hijack or take hostage the spending bill for that, the funding of our troops, that's incredibly problematic.
I think the key is to keep this separate, find a resolution, and again, the president will lead on solving this DACA issue and that's what we want to move forward to.
KEILAR: But here's why they might, because when you look at the polls, it shows this was something conducted last month, a CNN poll, that 83 percent of Americans want to continue the policy. I mean, Democrats are in a pretty strong position here in terms of appealing to protecting these 800,000 DREAMers.
KEILAR: Hundreds of which lose their protections by the day. So, will the president risk a government shutdown over the wall?
SCHLAPP: I'm going to make this very clear, the president will solve this DACA problem. I think the key is the Democrats have to come to the table as we know the vast majority of Americans in our polls have shown time and time again that we need to protect our homeland, that we need to take control of our immigration system.
This is about responsible immigration reform and ensuring that look this is a perfect time to come to the table for too long our immigration system has been broken, for too long we've let the loopholes occur.
We're putting our men and women on the front lines with our Customs and Border Patrol agents out there in trying to secure our border and they need the resources, they need the help. That's what we're asking the Democrats to do and I think -- I'm hoping again for a productive meeting today and I know under the president's leadership, we can make this happen.
KEILAR: Can he stick to that, though, emphasizing the need for something that is responsible as opposed to as he did during the campaign, touting the need for a wall, which became this divisive picture he would paint?
SCHLAPP: The wall represents border security. The wall represents protecting our homeland.
[11:10:09] Individuals and Americans agree that is something that needs to be done. I think that we have to separate that from the Democrats' arguments of open borders and no control of enforcing our immigration laws. We are a nation of laws. It is time that we are able to enforce these laws.
We want legal immigrants to come into this country and want immigrants to come in the right way. We have immigration laws that should be enforced and that's what we want to do. We want to provide the adequate resources for our Justice Department so that they're able to deal with the backlogs of cases.
Individuals are here for years and years without their cases being heard. They need the resources in order to hear the cases and in order to expedite the process and we also need to ensure that our ICE agents have the ability to make decisions and also be able to deal with the -- what you would do with an individual coming into the country legally.
KEILAR: But if you talked to even Republicans, moderate Republicans, who say this has to be very narrow in order for there to be an agreement, this needs to be how is this issue of the wall settled and this needs to be DACA, and then a lot of these other issues are going to make this very difficult to do comprehensive immigration reform in such a short amount of time, what do you say to that?
SCHLAPP: I don't think comprehensive is the word. We used that word years ago under the Bush administration. I will tell you what we are looking at here are very commonsense approaches in helping to create a responsible immigration system. And that's the key, and part of this is a negotiation.
The president laid out his priorities, the Democrats are coming and having these discussions in order to figure out where is the right place to end. At the end of the day, President Trump will solve this DACA problem and ensure that we also have real reforms to our immigration systems, to allow a broken immigration system to exist in our nation is not acceptable and other nations, for example, you take Australia and Canada, they have a merit based system --
KEILAR: Mercedes, he has asked for billions -- I hear you moving away from it and I understand why, but he has requested billions of dollars --
SCHLAPP: Moving away from what? What am I moving away from? This is part of a negotiation. You have to have negotiation to take --
KEILAR: I'm saying what the president talks about -- your boss, the president himself, has tweeted no DACA without a wall.
SCHLAPP: That was --
KEILAR: And he has requested billions of dollars for a physical wall. But, I hear you deemphasizing that --
SCHLAPP: Do you understand what a ball border wall system is. It is a physical wall and in certain areas if you look at where the wall would be placed, you can't somehow put some physical barriers that's where you need personnel and technology. So, it is a -- it's a border wall system.
KEILAR: So, I'm trying to understand --
SCHLAPP: I don't understand why you're stuck with the border wall brick and mortar. There are different components to it.
KEILAR: -- because of what the president himself has talked about.
SCHLAPP: By saying building the wall, it clearly means there's a technology component, a personnel component to it and the fencing for it. There are men and women that are in the front lines every day protecting our homeland. They are part of this effort to ensure that they secure the border and building the wall is a very big component of it.
KEILAR: I want to ask you before I let you go about the special counsel because CNN is reporting that the president's legal team is getting ready for the president to be questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Are you expecting that this is going to be an interview that's recorded?
SCHLAPP: I will tell you that the White House has been transparent during these investigations. We continue to cooperate with the special counsel.
KEILAR: Is the president open to that level of transparency? He's been --
SCHLAPP: Again we have -- we have been open and transparent in cooperating with the special counsel.
KEILAR: But is he open to it being recorded?
SCHLAPP: To my knowledge, at this point is that we are -- the president -- we have been transparent on this issue and we will continue to cooperate in the Russia -- in this investigation.
KEILAR: OK. I don't understand what you're saying we're being transparent, but I'm not really getting a transparent answer from you. I don't understand, is he open to it being recorded? I mean, the transparent --
SCHLAPP: I have not talked to him about this issue. I do not have an answer for you.
KEILAR: All right. Mercedes Schlapp, thank you so much for joining us. We do appreciate it, from the White House. Thank you so much.
SCHLAPP: Thank you.
KEILAR: Could there be a showdown with the special counsel? Will President Trump's legal team is gearing up for an interview request from Bob Mueller with the goal of limiting the scope and setting for the questions. We'll have details ahead.
Plus, it looks like the most significant positive development on the Korean Peninsula in years. North and South Korea agreeing to hold military talks and more. So, why did the North strike this deal now? Stay with us for that.
KEILAR: New in the Russia investigation, President Trump's lawyers expect a request from Special Counsel Robert Mueller to interview the president and they're trying to decide how to limit the scope of the questions. That is according to CNN sources.
They say that no formal request has been made yet, but that the matter was raised in a previous meeting and the president's team wants to determine if he needs to testify under oath, whether he can provide written answers to questions from Mueller's team, and whether the testimony should be recorded.
Democratic Congressman Jim Himes is joining me now, member of the House Intelligence Committee, one of four congressional committees that is investigating Russia's interference in the election. Sir, thank you for joining us this morning.
REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Good morning, Brianna.
KEILAR: Do you expect that Robert Mueller is going to interview President Trump soon? What's your expectation with this?
HIMES: Well, I'll start by saying that there is not much communication as there should not be, between the FBI investigation and, of course, the congressional investigations, one of which I am a part of. That is a law enforcement, criminal investigation that can result in indictments and all that sort of thing that we've actually seen happen so far.
[11:20:06] Our investigations are different. There's not a lot of communication other than to deconflict, to make sure we don't step on each other. To answer your question, though, yes, I do anticipate that Robert Mueller will want to talk to the president.
There are, obviously, questions about his role and his campaign's role in the attack by Russia and, of course, we understand, and I don't have any particular inside information on this, that Robert Mueller may be interested in questions of obstruction of justice.
Remember that Bill Clinton, as president, sat and did a deposition with then Special Prosecutor Ken Starr. So, there is plenty of precedence for this. I imagine that we're going to see something along the lines what we saw when Bill Clinton had to do the same thing when he was president.
KEILAR: There have been other ones, George H.W. Bush, transcribed by a court reporter. There are different parameters for how this could go down and different precedence. CNN is reporting the president's lawyers are talking about what those parameters are going to be.
Would you be satisfied with anything less than the president testifying under oath? That said, not necessarily a requirement of talking to the FBI, but it's something that president has, for instance, lambasted Hillary Clinton for not being under oath even though it is a crime to lie to the FBI whether you are, quote/unquote, "under oath or not."
HIMES: Yes. Well, that's exactly the point. This question comes up, under oath. Guess what, oath or no oath, if you lie to a criminal investigator or Congress, you're committing a felony. Whether it's under oath or not, you know, it doesn't really matter. What really matters is that the American people get to see candid answers to tough questions. One of the things --
KEILAR: What -- sorry, go on.
HIMES: I was going to say, one of the things that has been challenging in the congressional investigation is that some of these interviews have had happened or have happened behind closed doors. The question of under oath or not doesn't really matter.
What really matters is that the president gives frank responses to whatever questions Mueller wants to ask and more importantly, I had to sort of chuckle as your White House guest earlier was saying how cooperative the White House has been with this investigation, boy, that's a different definition of cooperation than the one that I have.
When you're out there threatening to fire your attorney general, calling the investigation a hoax, that is not the sign of cooperation. So most importantly, I hope that we quickly get to a point where the president, just as presidents in the past have done, sit down and answer some tough questions in a way the American people get to see the answers.
KEILAR: Would you be satisfied with the answers being written rather than in person?
HIMES: No. No. Again, think of Bill Clinton answering questions in person, other presidents answering questions in person. They did not have the opportunity to look at a written question and think through the answer, share it with attorneys so no.
You know, any prosecutor will tell you that they like the opportunity to take the measure of the man or woman to ask question in certain orders. No. I think if we get total candor and do want as the White House says they will provide total cooperation the president should sit with the special counsel and answer his questions.
KEILAR: You have said that your committee has a lot of work left to do on their investigation. Republicans, obviously, don't feel that way. They want wrap this up. Do you think there are going to be two separate reports, one from Democrats and one from the Republicans coming from the House Intel Committee?
HIMES: I'm not sure I agree with your characterization. We continue to work -- the Republicans tend to be focused as the chairman of the committee, Chairman Nunez, is focused on questions of whether the DOJ and the FBI over relied on the Steele dossier. We're hearing lots of possible witnesses to discuss that issue.
The Democrats tend to be a little bit more focused on what is clearly central to the investigation about whether there was any sort of participation on the part of the Trump campaign with the Russian efforts.
KEILAR: Do you think there will be two reports?
HIMES: Well, I certainly hope not. Again, we have not been -- I guess characterized by huge bipartisanship but that needs to change between now and when the report is issued. I've said this before, I'll say it again, the Russian attack on our election system on the very core of our democracy, you know, is up there with Pearl Harbor in terms of its seriousness as a challenge to this country.
I understand and we've all seen it politics and partisanship gets involved, but the seriousness of that attack really makes it incumbent on Congress to figure out a way to speak with one voice about what really happened. Though the trend is not good, my hope sure is that we can issue one report.
KEILAR: And finally before I let you go, Oprah, lots of speculation, some of it fueled by those close to her she could run in 2020. Would you welcome that?
HIMES: It had to come up, didn't it?
KEILAR: Of course. You know it did.
HIMES: Well, I'll tell you what, like an awful lot of Americans I just thought what an incredible articulation of this country's values she gave at the Golden Globes. I thought it was amazing. I thought it was in stark contrast to the hatred, the divisiveness and the anger that we see coming out of the White House.
Whether that then translates into a White House run is a very big leap to take, but like so many people I was so touched by the depth of her feeling and reminder of the people that we are as Americans.
[11:25:12] KEILAR: And we appreciate your insight on that. Not answering the question, but we will try again later, Congressman Jim Himes, thank you so much. HIMES: I know you will.
KEILAR: I want to bring in CNN national security commentator, Mike Rogers, a former Republican congressman, the chairman of the House -- was chairman of the House Intel Committee and also a former member of President Trump's transition team.
So, Congressman Himes would not answer the question about whether there would be one or two reports, but there really could be. I mean, it's almost as if you're seeing two different investigations from Democrats and Republicans on House Intel. What would the impact of two different reports be?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: I think whatever happens now in these -- in most of these legislative committee investigations, is you're going to have half of America is going to hate it and the other half is not going to like it.
So, you're going to have this really mixed bag because both folks are going to have comments at the back, there's always this dissenting comments and reviews in the back of these reports. It sure looks like that's the path they're going.
The only hope here now it looks like the Senate Intel Committee is a little closer aligned in their investigation. So, you can hope at least one of these committees can come out with a report that is fair and balanced as much as it can possibly be.
KEILAR: On the --
ROGERS: Which is difficult on something like this. It's so politically charged. Things are really difficult.
KEILAR: Do you have hope that the Senate can get to the finish line and still be unified between Democrats and Republicans?
ROGERS: They've handled it the best so far, the most professional way to handle it. It looks like the Senate committee has done that, but getting across the finish line even from where they are is still a big leap.
KEILAR: It's the hardest part, perhaps. I want to talk about the reporting we have that the attorneys of the president are now looking toward an interview by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and President Trump and they're thinking about what are the parameters we want to put on this.
A question about, you know, is it under oath like -- I heard you -- I saw you nodding when I was talking about to the congressman about that. That doesn't matter so much. But whether you would have written responses to questions, that is a key thing. Is it going to be recorded? If so, transcribed by a court reporter? Is getting to be audio? Is it going to be video? What do you think?
ROGERS: And by the way, this is really interesting to me because it says they're anticipating a request from the special counsel and all of this information is coming from the White House. So as an old FBI agent, I look the at this and say they are prepping the battlefield for the legal case that's coming.
So, they're trying to establish early what their parameters were, even though the special prosecutor hasn't got than far. Why that's important normally in an investigation like this, if you look at the Hillary Clinton investigation, even criminal investigations, the so- called subject of your investigation is normally 95 percent the last person you talk to and so they're --
KEILAR: Wrap it up.
ROGERS: I'm getting ready for the interview, wrap it up. This is really interesting.
KEILAR: That is interesting. Will it be recorded do you think?
ROGERS: They will have to have some way to record it. A normal interview would be the FBI agent taking hand notes, that is the most basic way to do these interviews, all the way up to some recording. I think the prosecutor will push for some recording because they want to make sure there's consistency of what comes out of that interview.
KEILAR: Cover themselves. All right. Mike Rogers, thank you so much. Always a pleasure to have you on.
Progress on the Korean Peninsula, North and South Korea holding their most significant military talks in years. Could this be a breakthrough? That's next.