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AT THIS HOUR

Lawmakers Scramble For Deal To Avoid Government Shutdown; Clock Ticking On Trump Decision To Release Dems' Memo; Pelosi Will Not Support Spending Deal Unless Speaker Ryan Commits To A Vote On Dreamers; Kelly: Some DREAMers "Too Lazy" To Sign Up For DACA; Biden: Trump "Has Some Difficulty With Precision"; Biden On Saving "Dreamers" In Exchange For Trump Wall. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 7, 2018 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- this week. Andy Scholes, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

All right. Thank you all for joining us today. I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" starts now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan. In Washington, time and money are running out. At 37 hours, the federal government runs out of funding and faces a shutdown. Lawmakers are racing to clear a number of hurdles before midnight tomorrow, not the least of which the threat of Republican defections and growing importance of winning votes from Democrats.

I want to begin on Capitol Hill, that's where Suzanne Malveaux is for us. Suzanne, the House is in session now. We just saw Nancy Pelosi there on the floor. The Senate is going to gavel into session in a matter of minutes here. How do we expect this all to play out?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, some news that Nancy Pelosi made, essentially pouring cold water on the idea of this bipartisan deal to move the budget forward, this big budget deal that the Senate is envisioning with the hope of support from Democrats because it doesn't actually include something for the DREAMers, the DACA deal.

That is something that Senator Dick Durbin, who I spoke with early this morning is really trying to push his Democratic colleagues to get on board, but she says she cannot do it without that.

Now at the same time, in about 30 minutes, you're going to see a flurry of activity on the Senate side that is when they gavel to order. There will be a vote on a standalone military spending bill and then onto the House proposed short term spending, CR, a resolution to keep the government going.

They'll strip the language and put in their own language and that's expected to go to the House tomorrow where they would vote to avoid a government shutdown. At the same time, Brianna, what is happening and what senators are quite excited about at least is this bipartisan deal that they've come up with to try to avoid all of this short-term spending and funding of the government here.

And what it would include is, yes, that six-week extension of the government through March 23rd as an initial starting off point, but then a path to two years of locking in spending and more spending for the defense, for domestic programs over the course of two years in the tune of $300 billion.

Including disaster relief package as well, something that they have been wanting. It raises the debt ceiling past midterm elections, so you don't have that political football, that hot potato that is so dangerous and midterm elections and finally funding a community health centers for two years.

As I said, Senator Dick Durbin trying to convince his Democratic colleagues to come on board. Clearly, there's a split within the Democratic Party. They are holding their caucus, retreat, three-day retreat on the capitol as opposed to the eastern shore to make sure that they tend to this business, very divided.

And as well as House Republicans, some of the conservatives who are looking at that deal saying it is way too expensive for them to sign off as well -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Dick Durbin did say one of the problems with the last agreement, there was no funding for those community health centers. So, we'll see what he does convince people to do. Suzanne Malveaux on the Hill for us, thank you.

President Trump faces another deadline. He has only until the end of the week to decide on the release of the Democrat's memo. It refutes Republican claims that the Justice Department abused its authority in the Russia investigation and claims that the president has applauded.

The White House says he'll rely on the advice of the FBI and intelligence committees, the very authorities that he has openly distrusted.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us. Kaitlan, any new hints on the timing this morning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Brianna, we know that the president has this memo in his hands. He was given it by the chief of staff, John Kelly, yesterday to go over. We know that he actually met with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on this memo yesterday.

And John Kelly said he expects all of the appropriate parties and national security attorneys, the FBI, the DOJ, to make their recommendations about releasing this memo by Thursday. Now, the White House says they are going to act off whatever those recommendations are.

But it's important to keep in mind that with the Republican memo, the FBI strongly advocated for the White House to keep that document private and to not release it and the White House did so anyway. So, important to keep that in mind as we are go through this decision process. But this memo is almost more than double in length actually than that the Republican memo. It's 10 pages long and John Kelly hinted yesterday that he thinks there will be some White House initiated redactions with this one because he said it's, quote, "a lot less clean."

He thinks there's a lot more going on here. There may be some more things that they have to take out so that will definitely be something that will spark some outcry from Democrats that the White House does redact a lot of things from this memo.

But Brianna, the White House is very aware of the optics here. If they do not release this memo especially after releasing that very controversial Republican memo last week. So, that's what we're looking at right now.

But they are not saying either way which direction they are leaning, but they are very aware of how it will look if they do not release this Democratic memo come Friday -- Brianna.

KEILAR: And we'll see if they are aware of how it looks if they release it with redactions. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you so much.

[11:05:08] I want to bring in my panel to talk about this, CNN political reporter, Rebecca Berg, and Chris Cilizza, CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large. OK, this is what we heard, Rebecca, from the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly where he said that the president should make a decision by tomorrow. This is what Kaitlan was talking about, maybe it isn't as clean as the other memo. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Where the first one was very clean relative to sources and methods, my initial cut is this one is a lot less clean. But at the end of it all, it will be guys like Rod Rosenstein and Chris Wray from FBI, certainly the national security attorneys at the White House giving the president a recommendation on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: I guess, I wonder why did he even weigh in on whether it's clean if it is going to be, Rebecca, the FBI and the DOJ that decides this? Because there will inevitably, if there are redactions be this perception that the White House is not being transparent with what Democrats want to counterpunch with.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. Isn't it amazing that the White House and John Kelly are putting the onus on the Justice Department and the FBI after they ignored their recommendation on the Republican memo.

I mean, Democrats are not going to let them good get away with that without bringing that up, that suddenly now they are concerned about potentially exposing intelligence sources and methods with this memo.

But the Democratic message we can expect, of course, depending on what redactions we see with this memo, is going to be why did the White House feel that there were these dangers of exposing sources and methods in this case but not in the case of the Republican memo. Is there a double standard here? The White House is going to have to be prepared to defend their decision on this.

KEILAR: Chris, I want to ask you about the shutdown. It's so hard at any given moment to know exactly where we are, if there could be another 2shutdown. So, where are we? How do things look? It looked like things were OK, but then we heard Nancy Pelosi. So, what's going on?

CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: The short answer is we don't know. The longer answer, I'll try to keep it relatively short is I think that -- you heard Suzanne talk about this.

This is a real divide within the Democratic Party in Congress as to do you do a deal like this that accomplishes many of the things that they want and breaks you out of a governing from crisis to crisis, week to week mentality?

And get nothing really for it in terms of DACA, right? Remember the last big focus when the government shutdown was because there was a question of will DACA and border wall --

KEILAR: In particular, DREAMers, young people brought undocumented to the U.S. by their families and by guardians and they know no other home aside from the U.S.

CILIZZA: And so, the issue there, I think that's what Nancy Pelosi is addressing, we're going to make a deal here that allows Republicans to keep the government open and get more defense spending and do all these things, but what is in it on this thing that we said was an absolute must have priority? Why are we suddenly just saying, OK, it's no big deal now?

BERG: You consider that Democrats would be getting a huge increase in spending caps on domestic spending which has been a priority for them.

CILIZZA: Which is an incentive to try to bring them along without DACA.

BERG: Exactly. And then assurances that they will still deal with immigration in the weeks to come. Now, Democrats might say an assurance is not worth anything from Republicans, but Republicans have said they are committed to addressing this issue.

And finally, you have to consider that Democrats lost a lot of political capital on the last government shutdown. So, what incentive are they going to have to shut down the government.

KEILAR: I do want to ask you because one of the things that makes the discussion more difficult, something we heard from the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, talking about DACA recipients. He was talking about the idea that there are more people who would benefit from what the president wants to do on DACA than actually registered themselves as DREAMers, but this is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY: There are 690,000 official DACA registrants and the president sent over what amounts to be two and a half times that number to 1.8 million. The difference between 690,000 and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn't sign up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: OK. And then the cleanup was really no better. He said some of them didn't hear -- he was asked about this again, OK? Some of them didn't hear about the program, hard to believe but OK. Some were perhaps a little concerned about signing up when many, many people in their neighborhood signed up three times, two or three times.

OK, fine, the rest of them who are claiming not even claiming have been granted essentially DACA status by the president of the United States. Goes on to say, I've got to say that some of them should have probably gotten off the couch and signed up.

[11:10:13] CILIZZA: Right. Here's what he's right about. There is a gap between people who apply for DACA status and people who are eligible for DACA status and that's part of the president's proposal here --

KEILAR: Chris, what I don't understand --

CILIZZA: But the reasoning --

KEILAR: They always say like they don't like registries, right. They don't trust the government.

CILIZZA: Gun registry, right.

KEILAR: The party where the idea of a registry in other context for sure is something that is distrusted. He's making this argument that it doesn't make sense.

CILIZZA: The lazy thing, I mean, look, candidly I think it's much -- there's a lot of reasons people don't sign up. I think fear is certainly one. He touches on it but kind of glosses over it. I think another one is, the opposite of lazy, that these people are working and are trying to fit it in and dealing with childcare.

I mean, like all of us try to deal with imbalance. It's the perception that they don't really believe that DACA recipient -- I mean, look, it's a bad stereo type. I don't know how else to put it.

It's a bad stereo type that the White House chief of staff shouldn't say and definitely shouldn't believe. But clearly does because to your point, Brianna, it's not like he said it one time then ran away from it.

KEILAR: He didn't fix it. The other thing that I find interesting is you look at this narrative, Rebecca, that when John Kelly came in as chief of staff, this is someone who's going to reign in the chaos. This is someone who's going to be a moderating influence. This changes -- it's another data point that has changed that perception.

BERG: Right. Well, he has exerted discipline on the White House process, on the internal workings of the White House, that's worth noting, but John Kelly has not been a moderating force on the president when it comes to immigration in particular and on messaging on general.

He has not stopped the president from tweeting things that the president probably shouldn't be tweeting in terms of message discipline and he hasn't stopped the president from saying things that maybe he shouldn't say.

And of course, John Kelly in this case said something that he probably shouldn't have said at a time when Republicans are trying to give people the impression they are working towards a compassionate solution for DACA recipients or eligible.

CILIZZA: One more quick thing to that point, John Kelly was Donald Trump's pick to be the head of the Department of Homeland Security for a reason. He was the pick to be chief of staff for a reason. Donald Trump wasn't like I need to be more moderate. He and John Kelly are more simpatico on issue stuff than that initial narrative put out.

BERG: Especially on immigration and refugees.

CILIZZA: Yes.

BERG: And though that shouldn't be lost in this discussion.

KEILAR: Thank you, guys, so much, Chris Cilizza and Rebecca Berg.

Coming up, a CNN exclusive, former Vice President Joe Biden unleashes on President Trump. He calls Trump a joke and slams his attacks on the FBI, and a whole lot more. We'll have the Biden interview next.

Plus, does the president have parade envy? The commander in chief ordering the Pentagon to stage a grand military parade after witnessing Bastille Day events in France, but there are some big concerns. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:17:26]

KEILAR: President Trump's allies tell CNN the president remains eager to speak with Special Counsel Robert Mueller despite his lawyers urging against it. Now one person familiar with the president's thinking says his willingness to talk stems in part from his belief that he is innocent, and he has experience with lawsuits and testifying under oath from his time in the real estate business. That person said the president doesn't realize how high the stakes are. Now Vice President Joe Biden says he would advise President Trump against talking to Mueller. Biden spoke exclusively with CNN's Chris Cuomo about a wide range of issues beginning with Biden's concerns about the president's attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do worry about damage. I worry about the full-throated attack -- this is the first president -- I've been here for eight presidents. This is the first president to make a full-throated, unvarnished attack on the entirety of the FBI, not going after J. Edgar Hoover, who was one person in the FBI. This is to discredit the FBI and discredit his own Justice Department.

You know, look, I spent a lot of time traveling around the world. What do you think they're thinking in Moscow? This is doing everything that Putin ever wanted, sowing doubt about whether or not our justice system is fair, sowing doubt about whether or not there is anything that's remotely consistent with our constitution. It's just -- it's a disaster.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think he should sit down with the special counsel?

BIDEN: If I were the president's lawyer, I would probably tell him not to sit down with the special counsel.

CUOMO: Why?

BIDEN: Because --

CUOMO: Then they subpoena you, and you wind up in front of a grand jury without a lawyer.

BIDEN: Yes, and if you -- you're in a situation where the president has some difficulty with precision.

CUOMO: That's one of the most subtle things I've ever heard you say, Joe Biden.

BIDEN: And one of the things that I would worry about if I were his lawyer was him saying something that was simply not true without him even planning to be disingenuous.

CUOMO: You think he has that little control over whether he tells the truth or not?

BIDEN: I just -- I just marvel at some of the things he says and does, like, what, two days ago? Anybody who didn't stand up and clap for him was un-American and maybe even treasonous.

CUOMO: They say it was tongue in cheek. Democrats can't take a joke.

BIDEN: Well, let me tell you, he's a joke.

CUOMO: You're saying the president is the joke?

BIDEN: Yes. I mean, in this kind of stuff, look, you know, I think he understands. I think the people around him understand. What presidents say matter. Our children are listening.

[11:20:12] The world is listening. It matters what they say and it's just amazing the outrageously inaccurate things the president says.

CUOMO: When it comes to this probe, do you regret that your administration with President Obama, of course, didn't blow the whistle on these Russian efforts during the election? I get the calculation. But the idea that Senator McConnell wouldn't come out and make it -- who cares what he wanted at the time. Do you regret not saying more about this?

BIDEN: Well, I don't think -- I think if we had said more about it, we would have further undermined the legitimacy of the process. We didn't have the information we had 15, 20 days after the election was all over. We didn't have hard data on -- we knew that what was happening in terms of intercepting e-mails and the like.

But we didn't have the whole picture and we knew that -- we believed that one of the purposes of what Russia was doing was to discredit the process, the whole process. And so, if we came out and looked like we were bigfooting the election a couple weeks before the election, implying that this is all about the Russians trying to help defeat Hillary Clinton, then it would have just thrown it into chaos. And -- but if we knew what we knew in January, it would have been a different story.

CUOMO: You would have done it differently if you'd known more?

BIDEN: Well, I think we would have because there would have been much harder data, and I think it would have been impossible -- and I'm a friend of Mitch McConnell's. It wouldn't have been impossible for Mitch not to -- in a bipartisan way not to join us and exposing what's happening.

CUOMO: Are we heading down a bad road, or do you think this all ends well?

BIDEN: Look, when the president first got elected, I got heavily criticized for saying I hope he succeeds because America succeeds if the president succeeds. And I found myself at first bemused thinking that maybe these were just over the top gaffes that were going on.

But now I've gone from that to I'm genuinely concerned. There's two things that have popped up. One is that this naked nationalism, that it's now us against them. As Richard Hough says there's three ways countries lose their ability to influence the world and lose their power, and one of which is abdicating that power. We are abdicating our responsibility around the world and putting everything in terms of us versus them. The second thing that combines that is this phony populism. This notion that the way in which -- the only reason you have a problem is because of the other. It's because of that immigrant or that minority or because of someone else doing something to you. And so, this president has spent his entire time since he's gotten in office trying to divide the country instead of uniting the country.

And as I said, I am more optimistic about the chances for America in the 21st Century than I have been in my whole career. We have the most advanced universities in the world where all the research comes out of. We have the most productive people in the world. We have the most agile venture capitalist.

We're in a situation where we're energy independent in North America. I mean, what are we doing? We're not talking about any of the things that really matter and all he seems to be trying to do is undo everything President Obama has done.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Coming up, we'll have more on the former vice president's exclusive interview with CNN, including his take on the current battle over DREAMers and the border wall.

Plus, is Biden going to run for president or not? We'll have that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:28:06]

KEILAR: President Trump's March 5th deadline for a deal to protect DREAMers is fast approaching. Just a short time ago, the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she would oppose an emerging two- year budget cap deal unless House Speaker Paul Ryan promises to bring a DACA bill up for a vote.

Former Vice President Joe Biden weighing in on the immigration issue in part two of his interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: DACA obviously matters, the executive order that came through under your administration with President Obama. Do you think the Democrats should do a deal, save the DREAMers, give them the pathway that the president offered, we'll give you the wall? Would you do that deal?

BIDEN: It depends on what they meant by the wall, but one of the things --

CUOMO: He's going to want to say wall at the end of it.

BIDEN: I don't care what the hell he says. That would be fine by me. But here's the point, the idea we're using almost 2 million young lives -- these kids are Americans. Can you imagine 2 years old, mom, don't take me across the Rio Grande. I don't to go. It's illegal. Leave me here.

CUOMO: Rule of law, Vice President. That's what they say.

BIDEN: Rule of law is a rule of equity, and there's such thing as equity. And there's no equity in sending 2 million kids who have been here, 1.9 million, for the bulk of their life, who didn't come voluntarily and have abided by the law and the rules and are making great contributions to America --

CUOMO: They can stay but not their parents and they can only be guest workers, they'll never be like you and me.

BIDEN: That's a gigantic mistake. We're the only country in the world of industrial world that is able to have replacement workers, able to continue (inaudible) the rest of the world. I mean, we are so incredibly short sighted, but here's the point, the American people have a heart.

The American people overwhelmingly think the lives of these kids shouldn't be bargained for anything. Just do it, either do it or don't do it, but don't bargain their lives for a wall or for funding for a program. That is not the American way.

CUOMO: So, then do the Democrats stand strong on that kind of principle and not do this deal and then you have to see if the president is willing to pull --