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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger; Oprah for President?; Government Shutdown?. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 8, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Are the Trump camp's protests actually adding fuel to concerns about his fitness?
Shutting down? GOP leaders in Congress are staring down a new deadline to keep the government running or face an embarrassing failure. Will the president's border wall demands kill any hope of a bipartisan deal?
And challenge accepted. The White House said it would welcome a presidential run by Oprah Winfrey if -- if the entertainment icon decides to take on Mr. Trump in 2020. Tonight, Winfrey's friends are talking to CNN about her possible plans, as many Americans are buzzing about her powerful speech at the Golden Globes.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the anticipated request by President Trump's testimony -- for President Trump's testimony in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
Sources with knowledge of the matter tell CNN Mr. Trump's lawyers are preparing for Mueller's team to request an interview with the president and they're looking for ways to limit the scope of the questioning. That as the president makes appearances in Nashville and Atlanta tonight.
The White House is denying a new report his official workday has been starting later so he can spend more time watching TV and tweeting. Mr. Trump and his allies are waging a concerted campaign to defend his mental fitness. The president tweeting he is a very stable genius, and "like, really smart."
Also breaking, the White House says it welcomes a potential 2020 challenge by Oprah Winfrey. The Oprah for president buzz exploding after her moving speech at the Golden Globes awards ceremony. Two friends of Winfrey tell CNN she's actively thinking about a White House bid and some of her confidants are encouraging her to run.
And high-level, high-stakes talks are about to begin on the very tense Korean Peninsula against the backdrop of Kim Jong-un's nuclear threats and the upcoming Winter Olympic Games. South Korean officials arrived at the heavily armed border this hour for their first face-to-face talks with the North Koreans in more than two years.
I will talk about those stories, much more with Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He's a Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
First, let's get to the breaking news on the Russia investigation and preparations for the president's possible testimony.
Let's go to CNN's justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. Pamela, the Trump legal team is actively planning for this.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.
In fact the anticipation has been there for a while. And right now what we're told is they're trying to define what the parameters would be if special counsel Robert Mueller, he puts in a request to interview the president.
Sources tell us the matter of a potential interview with the president was broached in a recent meeting, but sources say there weren't any substantive discussions or active negotiations, but the expectation is when the two sides meet again that they will discus STEWART: and try to work out some sort of structural agreement for such an interview to take place.
The expectation for months has been that Robert Mueller will not wrap up his interview -- particularly the obstruction of justice -- sorry -- not wrap up the investigation, we should say, particularly the obstruction of justice investigation, until an interview with the president happens.
What that may look is exactly what the president's legal team is trying to work out now. They want this done. They have public about wanting this investigation over with sooner rather than later.
The president himself has said, Wolf, he wants this investigation over with. And, of course, any interview with the president would be significant. And they feel like this is something that could happen sooner rather than later, and they want to be prepared.
BLITZER: Yes, very significant, indeed, if this interview takes place.
What are the various interview options they're looking at, because there are a lot of possibilities?
BROWN: There are a lot of possibilities here.
The lawyers basically want to prevent any sort of fishing expedition where the president is interviewed by the special counsel and it goes on and on. So they do want to try to figure out some sort of agreement where there are constraints, there are parameters and whether this happens in an interview under oath, whether it's recorded, whether the president provides written testimony. Those are all things they're looking at right now. Of course, they'd
want to prevent what happened with Bill Clinton. They're looking at situations of past presidents and how it's happened. They would want to prevent a situation where they're subpoenaed, this goes to court, where he goes in front of a grand jury, because in that case you can't have a lawyer if you go in front of a grand jury.
They're looking at all the options right now. Ultimately they will have to work something out with Robert Mueller's team, and if they don't, then that could be problematic.
BLITZER: The president's attorney issued a statement?
BROWN: Yes, that's right.
Ty Cobb, the White House special counsel, said: "For the record, the White House does not comment on communications with the Office of Special Counsel out of respect for the OSC, Office of Special Counsel, and its process. The White House is continuing its full cooperation with the OSC in order to facilitate the earliest possible resolution."
Ty Cobb there has been very outspoken, too, saying, look, they look forward to this investigation wrapping up soon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, if they interview the president, that's a sign maybe they are getting closer towards the end. Usually they save the president of the United States, if they want to question the president, for near the end.
Pamela Brown, thanks very much for that report.
And now to the president himself. He's on the road right now. He's very much on the defensive about his mental fitness.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, the president went to extremes in claiming he has the brainpower to be president.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He absolutely did, Wolf.
President Trump though today he tried to get back on message, touting his economic agenda, after spending the last few days, as you said, defending his own mental sharpness and acuity, but the president's unusual claim he's a very stable genius has demonstrated how too much damage control can cause some damage.
ACOSTA (voice-over): At a speech to farmers in Nashville, President Trump sounded as if he was summing up his first year in office as pure genius.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, are you happy you voted for me. You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege.
ACOSTA: The president was trying to steer his White House back on track after a week of responding to revelations from the book "Fire and Fury" that raised questions about Mr. Trump's mental fitness, revelations that prompted this tweet over the weekend.
"I went from very successful businessman to top TV star, to president of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius, and a very stable genius at that."
QUESTION: Why did you feel the need to tweet about that this morning?
TRUMP: Well, only because I went to the best colleges -- or college. I went to a -- I had a situation where I was a very excellent student, came out, made billions and billions of dollars, became one of the top businesspeople, went to television, and for 10 years was a tremendous success, as you probably have heard, ran for president one time and won.
ACOSTA: Even fellow Republicans are having fun with that.
QUESTION: Do you think he's really smart and a stable genius?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think this. If he doesn't call himself a genius, nobody else will.
ACOSTA: But it's no laughing matter at the White House.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The only person who has called himself a genius in the last week is the president.
STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Which happens to be a true statement.
ACOSTA: Where top officials are pushing back on any notion that the president has lost a step.
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I'm there once a week. And I'm there for a day with White House meetings and everything. No one questions the stability of the president.
ACOSTA: But there are questions about the president's political future, as Democrats are already swooning over the prospect of Oprah Winfrey in 2020 after her speech at the Golden Globes.
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.
ACOSTA: The White House response? Bring it on, Oprah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We welcome the challenge, whether it be Oprah Winfrey or anybody else.
ACOSTA: The president will likely face reelection without the services of Steve Bannon, despite an apology from the former chief strategist for his comment that Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian attorney general was treasonous.
Bannon said in a statement: "My comments were aimed at former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr."
That's despite Bannon's comment to author Michael Wolff that federal investigators are going to crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV.
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, "FIRE AND FURY: INSIDE THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE": I'm very fond of Steve. I have gotten fond of him. And obviously he's been very helpful, incredibly insightful. This is not true.
ACOSTA: And White House officials are making it very clear they don't want Bannon back either.
Asked whether Bannon could somehow make a return, a White House spokesman told reporters the former chief strategist's comments about the president's children were -- quote -- "repugnant and grotesque" -- end quote -- and that there doesn't appear to be anyway back for Bannon.
Meanwhile, Wolf, we should point out the president has a physical examination coming up later on this week at Walter Reed. That will not include a psychiatric component, according to a White House spokesman here.
And we also should point out they're pushing back on any notion he's not putting in a full day's work -- a full day's work, I should say. A spokesman told reporters earlier today the president is doing yeoman's work here at the White House.
BLITZER: Have they committed to releasing all the results of that physical exam at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Friday?
ACOSTA: I think that is going to be interesting to watch. We have been asking questions about that.
It is not exactly clear what the White House will give us. They are committed to giving some kind of a result to the public, to the press after that physical is complete.
But we don't know yet what that will include in terms of the documentation they're going to put out. But, at this point, Wolf, they're not going to have the president undergo any kind of psychiatric evaluation. That was made clear to reporters earlier today. Despite the fact the
president says he's a stable genius, that's not going to be proven in any kind of psychiatric exam when he goes up to Walter Reed later this week, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you, Jim Acosta at the White House.
Let's talk more about the president, the Russia investigation and more.
Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger is joining us. He's a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: You bet. Thanks. Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: How important, from your perspective, is it that Robert Mueller interview the president as far as the Russia probe investigation is concerned?
KINZINGER: Well, how important is up to Robert Mueller.
As I have said from the beginning, America just wants answers. This is the best route to get answers to what happened and hold anybody that fell short of the law or violated the law, hold them accountable to what that is.
And if Robert Mueller believes he needs to interview the president, then I believe the president's team will set up the proper way to do that. Ultimately, people just want answers. They want to know what happened. They want to know what is going on. And to the extent the president to the investigatory team can provide that information, I'm sure they're all going to work together to get to that answer.
BLITZER: And you're a Republican. You have confidence in Mueller, right?
KINZINGER: I do, yes. Yes.
BLITZER: How much influence should the president's legal team, his lawyers have in deciding the scope, the format of this kind of interview?
KINZINGER: Well, that's hard for me to answer as a not lawyer, thankfully.
But as a not lawyer, it's hard for me to answer that. So, I look at it and go, OK, they want have some questions that they want answered, whatever those questions are. The president's team needs to work with them to make sure at the end of the day those questions are answered.
But I do think it's legitimate, I think it's proper for the president's team to say we don't want to just have an open-ended fishing expedition here. We all remember the optics from President Clinton when he was under this investigation and some of that stuff that kind of happened.
And everybody would agree that some of those optics weren't good for anybody, much less the country. And so I think setting this up and doing this the right way is proper, totally expected. And I think anybody else, whether president or not, in his position would be engaging in the same way.
BLITZER: Bill Clinton spent four hours testifying with a video hookup to a grand jury when he was questioned about the Monica Lewinsky affairs. A lot of us who covered the Clinton administration remember.
In your perspective, is this a sign, a potential interview between Robert Mueller and the president, a sign that Mueller may be completing or nearing an end of his investigation?
KINZINGER: It's total speculation on my part, but if I was to speculate, I would say that, yes, if he interviews the president, that's probably the last person that would be on the list of very important folks to talk to.
And I don't think necessarily this investigation is going to wrap up anytime soon, but I think that's basically the end of the information- gathering stage. And from there then, you go into processing that information. But having never served on a special counsel and again not being an expert in being a lawyer, it's kind of hard for me to tell.
BLITZER: You're a U.S. Air Force pilot, as opposed to being a lawyer. So you got a different kind of training.
"The New York Times," as you know, Congressman, has reported details on Don McGahn, the White House counsel, how he lobbied the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, against recusal, how Sessions was looking to put out damaging information on the FBI Director Comey, the Justice Department denying that. Do you think that those men need to be investigated?
KINZINGER: Do they need to be investigated for that? Not necessarily.
Again, I don't know what's legally proper in this case or what isn't. I have heard a lot of experts, though, on various shows talking about this meeting and saying, look, it's actually proper for the president's lawyer to go out and say, hey, here's a concern.
The president -- we all need to keep in mind. And I want an independent investigation free of influence from the executive branch. But we have to keep in mind the president does have oversight of the judiciary, and not of the judiciary, but of Justice.
So I think for a lawyer to go and say, hey, here's a concern, or here's an interest, we don't want you to recuse yourself, is not necessarily improper.
If it is, that should be held accountable. But from what I have heard, there's not a lot of people that say, because when it became obvious that the attorney general was going to recuse himself, he did back away.
BLITZER: Axios is reporting that President Trump's schedule has shifted to include less meetings, more what they call executive time. Axios is told that involves more time to watch TV, more time to tweet from the residence over at the White House.
The White House totally denying that. But what's your analysis? Are you concerned about this report in Axios?
KINZINGER: You know, I'm not a fan of the president's Twitter, let's be clear about that. I have said that.
But I think to say executive time automatically means he's sitting on the couch watching news and doing nothing else but obsessing over it, look, I have met with the president three different occasions in the White House.
And I will tell you, he's somebody that knows his issues. He's engaged. This is not political spin. This isn't me as a Republican standing up and saying Republican stuff.
This is what I have experienced, a president that knows the issues in North Korea, he knows the issues in Asia. I specifically met with him right before his Asia trip.
And so executive time, look, as a congressman sometimes, I'm in my office and that's where I make my calls, that's where I catch up on news of the day, because, otherwise, at the end of the day, it's 7:00, 8:00 at night and you realize all you have done is you had meetings, but you never accomplished anything.
That's where some of that comes into effect. I don't think it's a scandal or anything really necessarily improper. Now, I think if the president is glued to the TV for three hours, that's probably a habit he ought to break.
But there's no doubt he watches TV. But I think he makes phone calls and does a lot of his other stuff which is important for a president to do.
BLITZER: The president went in front of the cameras over the weekend at Camp David and strongly defended himself against these new questions that have emerged about his mental state, questions emerging from that new bombshell book.
All the leaders of the party were behind him, members of the Cabinet, members of the Republican leadership in the House and Senate. What message does that send?
KINZINGER: So, I didn't like the tweets.
Again, sending out the tweet talking about yourself and your mental acuity I always think is not -- look, as a president, I think there's some things you just need to be bigger than. But at the same time, there's something much bigger at play here,
which is it is very dangerous to question the mental acuity of the president of the United States, which the other side of the aisle is doing a lot more of. And it's actually starting to really concern me.
I remember with President Ronald Reagan there were a lot of people questioning his sanity and questioning his mental acuity. With President George W. Bush, people were questioning him and saying he's not up to the job because he's not intelligent.
There's this pattern of questioning the mental ability of presidents of the United States that happen to be Republican. Look, I think President Trump is not insane. I think he's not psycho. I think he's different than what people expect.
But to go that next level, as some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are doing, and saying he's mentally incompetent to be president of the United States is way more dangerous than what they accuse any of his tweets on North Korea of doing. It tells our enemies overseas that they have somebody that isn't necessarily all there.
And that's wrong. And I fully, frankly, disagree with that assertion.
BLITZER: Congressman, stand by. There are other developments I want to raise with you, discuss with you. We will take a quick break. We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're back with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger.
We're following the breaking news from the president's legal team preparing for a possible request from the special counsel for testimony by the president.
Congressman, I want you to stand by because right now I want to get the latest on an urgent matter facing you and other members of Congress right now, a possible government shutdown 11 days from now.
Let's go to our congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly.
Phil, will they be able to strike a budget deal and overt a shutdown?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it's an open question now.
One aide I just spoke to said, things "aren't in a good place right now." Another said very frankly it's a mess. The reality right now for both Republican and Democratic negotiators is they're trying to wrap up some very sizable issues, put it all together, not just in 11 days, but only eight legislative days.
That's the Children's Health Insurance Program reauthorization. That's a disaster relief package. That's a spending deal, and that's the DACA negotiations that are ongoing.
As it currently stands, Wolf, much of the talks while they're still occurring on the staff level are frozen. All kind of contingent on that DACA issue that lawmakers are still trying to work through.
The big question now is with such sizable items on the agenda, such a short amount of time to actually get them done, is there a possibility to actually figure something out? Nobody when you talk to lawmakers and aides actually wants a shutdown right now, but at this point, Wolf, as we currently stand, just eight legislative days away, there's no clear path forward.
BLITZER: And, Phil, on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the dreamers program, as it's called, it expires in March, as you know.
Will it all come down to passing DACA, extending it, letting those 700,000 or 800,000 dreamers stay in the United States where they have grown up, will it all come down to border wall with Mexico?
MATTINGLY: Look, it's certainly a huge piece of it.
And I think it's important to note, Wolf, the president has not been shy about what he wants out of any potential DACA deal.
Just take a listen to what he had to say Saturday at Camp David.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We want the wall. The wall is going to happen or we're not going to have DACA. We want to get rid of chain migration, very important. And we want to get rid of the lottery system. In addition to that, we want some money for funding. We need some additional border security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Now, Wolf, when it comes to the wall, obviously, Democrats have been unanimous in their opposition to that through the campaign, throughout his first year in office.
The reality is there are ways around this. There are ways to massage this idea where you appropriate some money that president can say he's dictating towards a wall, and Democrats can say, no, not going to a wall at all.
So there is a possibility of some kind of deal there. But it's the other two issues that are also problematic when you talk to Democrats. The family migration or as he calls it chain migration issue, Democrats are uncomfortable with, one, how large a scope that actually would be, what that would actually mean for kind of a larger immigration reform package.
And then you have the visa lottery. That is currently under discussion, trying to see if there's a deal that can be made when it comes to that. But the president has been very clear on what he wants. Democrats have been very clear at least at this point those demands are not something they're ready to acquiesce to.
And that leaves them in a place, Wolf, where when you talk about this entire spending deal, Democrats say it's entirely contingent on a DACA deal. And right now, heading into a bipartisan meeting at the White House tomorrow between lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans say things just simply aren't in a very good place -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.
Let's get back to Congressman Kinzinger.
Congressman, can you overt a government shutdown?
KINZINGER: Well, I certainly hope so.
I think this is going to be really the showdown point. We came up to Christmas and we passed a C.R. I expected that. I think this is really going to be the inflection point where we get some things done or we don't.
And, look, I may be one of the younger guys out here, but I'm actually kind of an old-school believer that both sides have got to find ways to come together and get some stuff fixed. And right now it seems like people are just in their corners.
Everybody interprets news based on how they want to see it. Everybody believes somebody is right or wrong based on what they want to see.
This is a situation, I think this one is actually pretty easily solvable. The reality is nobody, except some of the most kind of fringe elements, really want to deport a million people that know nothing besides this country as their home.
But, at the same time, I think it's unrealistic to say we're going to do that without some aspect of border security, whether it's a wall or whether it's a wall in some places with some technology in other areas.
How you can be against border security, I don't know. So, these are both two things that I think the vast majority of people want. We just out in Washington, D.C., have to learn to get to yes sometimes. And that's to Republicans and to Democrats. We can solve this if we want to.
BLITZER: But the president says there's not going to be a deal to let those dreamers stay unless there is the money for the wall. He says down the road at some point Mexico will pay for it in some form.
But he's asking for $18 billion right now to build that long wall along the U.S./Mexico border. Otherwise, those dreamers aren't going to be allowed to stay. What say you?
KINZINGER: Well, and Nancy Pelosi says she's not going to have any kind of a deal without DACA. We have two things. The president wants $18 billion for border security. Nancy Pelosi wants DACA. It seems like we can take both things and marry them together and say, all right, we're going to do the DACA thing.
The president has said that he wants to solve the DACA issue. But also it's unrealistic to say that the president doesn't have a right to ask for some of what he promised in a campaign, which is enough for border security.
And, again, a vast majority of people would say secure the border. And it's not about immigration. It's as much about drugs as anything. It just seems eminently solvable. But in Washington, D.C., we make everything so complicated every day.
BLITZER: How concerned are you, if you are concerned, this $18 billion to build a wall that U.S. taxpayers would have to pay for, that that could impact the nation's deficit?
KINZINGER: I'm always concerned.
We find ourselves in $20 trillion of debt. So, we're going to have spend money as a country. But any time we spend money, we add to debt, which is why we need to continue to have big discussions about how do we continue to grow the economy to increase revenues, how do we make sure we are helping people get from poverty to work and achieve their full God-given potential.
These are kind of things that I hope in 2018 we can begin to have that conversation, understanding the election is on the horizon and we're probably not going to make huge efforts. But on a long-term as a country, these are discussions we need to be able to get out of our corners and have as Americans, and not just Republicans and Democrats.
BLITZER: Why should Americans have to pay for the wall, Congressman, when President Trump ran on the promise, he guaranteed it so many, times that Mexico would pay for it?
KINZINGER: Yes, I can't speak for the president on that one. I always thought from the beginning that's a pretty tough nut to crack to get the Mexicans to pay for the wall.
But, at the same time, look, the president has talked about border security. There is a law in place that says the border has to be secure of which many Democrats that are now against this have voted for.
This is a situation, again, we can solve this. Everybody out here in D.C. needs to take a deep breath. We need to put our identity as Republicans and Democrats aside for a little bit and try to call ourselves American with political bias first and we can achieve some really big things, if we want.
BLITZER: Congressman Kingston, thanks so much.
KINZINGER: Any time. See you. BLITZER: See you.
Just ahead, will the president's lawyers be able to set the terms and limit the scope of his potential testimony in the Russia investigation? We will talk about that and more. The breaking news coming up.
And it would be a clash of the titans. We're told Oprah Winfrey is thinking about a presidential challenge to President Trump, but how seriously?
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on what could be one of the most critical and compelling moments of the Russia investigation: the possibility that the president of the United States will testify.
[18:34:06] CNN has learned that the president's lawyers are anticipating a request by the special counsel's team for an interview, and they're hoping to try to limit the scope of any questioning.
Let's bring in our reporters and analysts. And Gloria Borger, you've been doing a lot of reporting on this possible interview. Tell our viewers precisely what you're hearing.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there have been no substantive talks yet or negotiations about how this would proceed. The matter was broached in a previous meeting they all had with Mueller's team last year, late last year. And I think that the assumption is that the discussion is going to get picked up again in the near future.
And what Trump's team is looking to do, as you might expect, is to kind of set the parameters for any kind of interview for their client, because they don't want to allow the special counsel to go on some kind of a fishing expedition with Donald Trump.
So what they might do is say, "OK, we'd like the questions to be in writing, to which he could respond." Or perhaps, "We'd like them in advance. "Maybe "We don't want this interview recorded." Does he have to testify under oath?
You know, what one of things they look at is Ronald Reagan during Iran-Contra -- and Jeffrey knows this -- responded to questions in writing. So that, you know, they're looking at all of these things, because obviously, they want to protect their client.
It doesn't mean that Bob Mueller is going to then say, "Oh, sure, whatever you want." He may have some different requirements. But we -- since the substantive questions have not occurred yet, we don't know what that would be.
BLITZER: As you remember, and all of us remember who covered it, Bill Clinton testified for four hours before a grand jury from the White House via video and audio.
BORGER: But he was subpoenaed.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It depends on what the meaning of "is" is, one of the famous lines from that. Well, that's one extreme. Actual grand jury testimony under oath with -- you know, it's just a straightforward grand jury testimony.
At the other extreme is George Bush to the 9/11 Commission.
TOOBIN: Where he had, essentially, an informal hour-long meeting, not under oath. Vice President Cheney was there. Very different, much more informal.
Obviously, the Trump people are going to be pushing more towards the 9/11 model. The Mueller people are pushing towards, you know, a formal grand jury testimony.
Frankly, I think the Trump people hold all the cards -- or most of the cards here. Because they'll just say, "OK, then he won't testify," if you don't do it, and do our...
BORGER: But then they'll extend the investigation. The flip side of that is why have this thing go on for another eight months like it did with, you know, with Clinton if you fight the special counsel?
TOOBIN: Well, but the testimony is not necessarily the determining factor in how -- how long you -- the investigation will go on. You know, he has said that he will testify under oath.
But as we know with Donald Trump, what he said one day doesn't necessarily mean what he'll agree to the next. And so I think this is very much up for grabs. And I think your reporting is right, that this subject of negotiation is very much not resolved.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Can I ask you a question, Jeffrey? Do you anticipate -- you can't envision, can you -- tell me if I'm wrong -- an investigation wrapping up without President Trump participating in it, in some form of an interview?
TOOBIN: In some form. But I mean, if -- if the White House takes a hard line and says, "We'll only answer written questions," for example, in writing, which is, you know, close to useless, that -- I mean Mueller is going to have to either take that, accept it or not.
But what are Mueller's options? He could issue a grand jury subpoena, have a lengthy court battle. I mean all of those are possibilities. But I think Mueller is not interested in this thing dragging on either. And, you know, I think...
BORGER: It depends how interested he is in Donald Trump. You know, I mean, it sort of depends what he wants to talk about. Does he want to talk about obstruction? Then he's going to be really interested in Donald Trump. TOOBIN: Well, he's...
BLITZER: All of this, Rebecca, the president and his team, they're dealing with this new bombshell book, making all sorts of accusations. The author, Michael Wolff, he just sat down with an interview, a very special interview with our own Don Lemon.
I want to play a clip, and then we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, "FIRE AND FURY": So then I went and told everybody, "The president says it's OK."
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And so you had access? You went and told everybody who? At the White House, in the West Wing?
WOLFF: Yes. I would call up the -- write an e-mail and say, "The president" has -- and he did. Everybody -- you know, this was not a -- this was not a secret. Everybody was told to speak to me.
LEMON: And in the book, you say that Bannon told people to cooperate.
WOLFF: Bannon told people to cooperate. Sean Spicer told people to cooperate. Kellyanne Conway told...
LEMON: So then why are they saying it's fake?
WOLFF: Hope Hicks. Because they're liars. This is -- what are you talking about? This is Donald Trump. This is what he does. Day after day after day after day, incident after incident after incident, he doesn't tell the truth, because he doesn't know what the truth is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think of that?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's hard to argue with that, based on the wealth of evidence there is to support that the White House does not always tell the truth, and in fact, sometimes they outright lie, much less, you know, they're usually fast and loose with the facts.
But Sebastian Gorka, a former White House aide, essentially confirmed that today, that he was told to work with Wolff on this book; and other aides were told to work with him on this book. So the White House spin on this doesn't really stand up.
BLITZER: It looks like there was a lot of authorization for Wolff to interview everybody he wanted over there at the White House.
CHALIAN: Yes. His access is pretty incredible. I mean, and if you talk to anybody that's been covering the White House, seeing Michael Wolff in the West Wing was not an uncommon thing.
So to have that kind of access, even if every anecdote and story is not verbatim and 100 percent accurate, just alone, having that kind of access to help depict the portrayal of a White House that he does is something that nobody else has done in this White House.
[18:40:07] BLITZER: An important note to our viewers. You can see don lemon's full interview with Michael Wolff later tonight on "CNN TONIGHT," 10 p.m. Eastern. What you just saw was just the tip of the iceberg.
Just ahead, will Oprah Winfrey's Golden Globes speech be remembered as the moment that launched her presidential campaign? We'll talk about all the speculation about Oprah versus Trump in 2020.
[18:45:08] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're back with our analysts, as the White House responds to a potential Oprah Winfrey presidential bid, effectively saying bring it on. After Winfrey's moving speech at the Golden Globes overnight, two of her close friends tell CNN she's actively thinking about a White House bid.
Let's get some more on all of this from CNN's Tom Foreman.
Tom, Oprah's fans and friends and there are millions of them out there, they're cheering her on.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are. They're saying a lot. She's not saying much of anything. But here's one of the reasons peculation is running so hot. Her long time companion Stedman has made a statement where he said, hey, it's up to the people whether or not she runs.
OPRAH WINFREY, MEDIA MOGUL: A new day is on the horizon. And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight and some pretty phenomenal men.
FOREMAN (voice-over): It looked like a political rally and sounded like one, too.
Now, sources tell CNN Oprah Winfrey is actively thinking of jumping into the 2020 race. And already, big name supporters are buzzing. Actress Meryl Streep: I want her to run for president. Country singer Billy Gillman: please run. Former Obama White House staffer Alyssa Mastromonaco, we can't stop, hashtag, Oprah for president.
The queen-of-daytime-talk-turned-actress-turned-media-mogul has always said no to the idea of trading her entertainment empire, adoring fans and super comfortable lifestyle for the frozen fields of Iowa and bruising world of politics.
WINFREY: There will be no running for office of any kind for me.
FOREMAN: But as further back as 1989, guess who thought she'd be a strong running mate. DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: I love Oprah. Oprah would always be my
first choice. If she'd do it, she'd be fantastic. She's popular. She's brilliant. She's a wonderful woman.
FOREMAN: Oprah has brushed up against campaigning only occasionally and for Democrats, notably stumping for Barack Obama in his 2008 run.
WINFREY: For the very first time in my life, I feel compelled to stand up and to speak out for the man who I believe has a new vision for America.
FOREMAN: So, in 2016 when her name was floated as a possible Trump running mate --
JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE NIGHT TV HOST: If he did make the call, would you take the call?
WINFREY: I would say, Donald, I'm with her.
KIMMEL: Ah, I see.
FOREMAN: Still Oprah could create a stir. She's hugely popular. "Forbes" puts her wealth at $2.8 billion, just under Donald Trump's $3.1. And she's spent a lifetime talking about poverty, education, human rights, addiction, faith, fidelity, and the way powerful men sometimes treat women.
WINFREY: Your time is up.
FOREMAN: But remember, again and again, she said I don't want the job. Anywhere else in the country, that would end the issue. But, Wolff, here in Washington as you know the speculation goes on simply because when people say I don't want to be president here, that's often the first step towards starting a race.
BLITZER: Both good point. Tom Foreman, thanks very much.
Jeffrey Toobin, what do you think? Oprah 2020.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know what? I predicted the outcome of the 2016 race, and I predicted Hillary Clinton was going to win. I don't know if anyone else here did.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know.
TOOBIN: So I think a lot of people like me are very wary of saying who is going to win and who is going to run. I mean, I am chastened.
TOOBIN: And I think there is only one way to tell if someone is going to run -- going to be the president which is to run for president. And she's just going to have to get out there and run if she wants.
BORGER: Well, I think that it shows you that people are looking elsewhere after Donald Trump. I mean that they're looking for people outside the box, who don't necessarily have legislative experience, namely, you know, us old fools used to think that you needed to have some kind of experience in government, for example. And that wasn't the case with Donald Trump.
So, I think now, if you elected Donald Trump, well, why not elect somebody like Oprah Winfrey who is well-known, has a nationally built- in base, who can self-finance a campaign even though we all know she has no experience on the campaign trail and that's a very different kettle of fish.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Wolf, the most significant development in this story today is that Oprah Winfrey didn't tamp this down at all.
[18:50:01] CHALIAN: She didn't come out on Twitter. She didn't send out a word that she wanted this to stop. She didn't try to issue some Shermanesque statement, which is not to say she is running for president.
But it is to say, to Jeffrey's point, I don't think any of us can just dismiss this notion, because what do we know about successful presidential candidates. They are people who can captivate the imagination of the American people with a message that matches the moment. That is true of Donald Trump, no doubt, but it's also true of his more traditional politician predecessors, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama.
It would be hard to argue that last night's speech was not somebody who can captivate the imagination of the American people with a message that matched --
BLITZER: Do you think it was a sort of a trial balloon on her part to see what the reaction would be?
CHALIAN: I think Oprah Winfrey in her career has done nothing haphazardly, ever. And I think she understands the weight of her words and understands how to use a public platform better than most. And so, I think she was keenly aware what she was doing last night, understanding, again, even if she's not going to run for president, she understood that this was going to be the conversation after her remarks.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: And, by the way, Democratic strategists are taking her very seriously and taking her potential candidacy very seriously. This isn't the way Republican strategists responded to Donald Trump in 2016 and 2015 before that. I spent the day talking to Democratic strategists here in Washington and in key states like Iowa, people who have helped run presidential campaigns in Iowa, and they all say she is a serious candidate if she runs, a force to be reckoned with. BORGER: And, you know, even if she's not a candidate, she's valuable.
She's valuable in 2018 for Democratic candidates. She's valuable even if she doesn't run in 2020, to support a Democratic candidate, to raise money for Democratic candidates. So, you know, I think --
BERG: She was on the stump for Barack Obama in 2007 and 2008 --
BERG: And a very good surrogate for him.
BLITZER: She's a powerful woman and, you know, and the fact is, as Tom Foreman pointed out, this is a woman who pointed out last night at the Golden Globes that her mother used to clean other people's homes. She came from that kind of a background.
She's now 63 years old according to "Forbes", she's worth $2.8 billion. Donald Trump, according to "Forbes," is worth $3.1 billion. They both have very successful TV careers. And neither had any major -- any political experience at all.
TOOBIN: Right. And, you know, she has a very different political persona or to the extent she has one than Donald Trump. I mean, Donald Trump is famous for saying or was, you know, you're fired. That was his touchstone.
You know, I think the thing we most know about Oprah was everybody gets a car and that moment and the moments on her show were about uplift, were sort of new agey, but affirmative, not negative. And, you know, when people start asking her what she's going to do about the Middle East, and whether she wants to raise the minimum wage and gun control and immigration, we'll see. And maybe she doesn't want to deal with that. But this is a real possibility. There's no doubt about that.
CHALIAN: Does everybody get a car like two chickens in every pot?
BORGER: I'd rather get a car.
BLITZER: Stand by, guys.
There's other major news we're following right now. We're standing by for the start of landmark talks, historic talks between North and South Korea.
CNN's Will Ripley, he's near the scene. We'll go there live right after this.
[18:57:56] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news right now on the very tense Korean peninsula. Representatives of North and South Korea, they're about to begin the first high level face-to-face talks in more than two years. CNN's Will Ripley is joining us live from near the demilitarized zone
between the two countries where officials are now arriving for the talks.
Will, you've been to North Korea more than a dozen times, approaching 9:00 a.m. Tuesday where you are right now. Tell our viewers what you're learning.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just minutes ago, the South Korean delegation entered the demilitarized zone. And minutes from now, we're expecting a dramatic scene, something we haven't seen here on the Korean peninsula in more than two years.
The North Korean delegation is expected to walk over the military demarcation line that separates the North and the South. This is the same line that a North Korean soldier ran across back in November when he was defecting and shot five times. But this time, these officials will be walking into peace house, where they will sit down for these talks centering around the Panmunjom Winter Olympics and perhaps on other issues, inter-Korean relations, military tensions and whatnot.
We know that special hotlines have been installed in peace house so that North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in can actually listen in real time to the discussions and make phone calls to the delegations. They can really intervene at any moment with last-minute instructions. They're going to be sorting out details for getting North Korean athletes to participate in the Olympics.
And as of right now, Kim Jong-un really hasn't had to give up anything but South Korea and the United States certainly are giving up quite a bit. South Korea has agreed to cover all cross for the North Korean Olympians. There's even been an offer of sending in a cruise ship to house those athletes separately. And the military drills that were scheduled to kick off during the Olympics have been delayed at least for now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Will Ripley, along the demilitarized zone, not very far from the demilitarized zone, where these historic talks are about to begin. Will, we'll stay very, very close touch with you. We'll see where they go forward, especially as they get ready for the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea next month.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.