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tv   CNN Newsroom With John Berman and Poppy Harlow  CNN  January 23, 2018 6:00am-7:00am PST

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i'm john berman. >> i'm poppy harlow. the president fired one fbi director and this morning new reporting that the current fbi director became so enraged he threatened to quit. >> axios said christopher ray fired the deputy director, mccade had been a public target of president trump for months, largely for his role in the hillary clinton investigation. cnn shimon prokupecz has more on this from washington.
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what are you learning? >> that's right, john. this is another example of the white house putting pressure on the department of justice and sessions to do something about the fbi. the axios report says at the urging of the president sessions told the fbi director chris wray that he wanted the deputy director andrew mccabe fired and in turn, the fbi director threatened to resign over the issue. now it's important to keep in mind that mccabe can't be fired. he's a career fbi agent so wray's only option perhaps would have been to re-assign him and that's what we reported previously for months. mccabe has been telling people that he plans to retire in march completely aware of some of the political fire that he's been taking from the president and his allies over the fbi's handling of the hillary clinton e-mail investigation and his connections to the two fbi employees who has been revealed sent anti-trump messages, these
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text messages, they had an affair and they were sending text messages between each other and the president has publicly called if are mccabe to step down. he's repeatedly tweeted these attacks on the fbi and mccabe saying basically, when he learned that mccabe was going to retire saying the fbi director andrew mccabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go. mccabe has been sort of this punching bag of sorts for the president and republicans who have taken issue over many of things that have gone wrong, they say, at the fbi. after this report from axios surfaced last night, the former fbi director sent his own tweet, sort of saying how good this was that someone was standing up and this is what he said, good to read reports of people standing up for what they believe in, and then he went on to quote mlk saying the ultimate pressure of
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a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. poppy and john, i can tell you that people inside the fiber taking good to this. they're happy to see that the fbi director is perhaps standing up to sessions and the president. >> shimon, we appreciate the reporting. thank you very much for going through all of that. what's really interesting about the white house response is they're not denying it. they are saying that the president does have a problem with some, quote, senior leaders of the fbi. kalen collins is at the white house with more. good morning. >> yeah, good morning poppy and john. that's right. the white house did not deny this in a very lengthy statement that they issued. they did not deny this reporting specifically, but they said the president has enormous respect for thousands of rank and file fbi agents who make up the world's most professional and talented law enforcement agency. the statement continued he believes politically motivated
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senior leaders including former director comey and others he empowered have tainted the agency's reputation for unbiased pursuit of justice. the president appointed chris wray because he's a man of true character and integrity and the right choice to clean up the misconduct at the highest levels in the fbi and give the rank and file confidence in their leadership. it's worth noting that the president has had a troubled relationship with the fbi ever since he first took office nearly a year ago, and just in december he tweeted that he believed the fbi's reputation was in tatters and the worst it's ever been and chris wray is someone the president hand picked and we are seeing him put him in a very difficult position with the comments that he's made. today this is noteworthy because the president could comment on this to reporters because we will see him for the first time here at the white house this afternoon as he signs off on trade racks and the first time we will see the president since the government shutdown midnight on friday, john and poppy. >> caitlan collins, we'll be watching that very closely.
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>> jeffrey toobin, you heard that white house statement that read in part politically motivated senior leaders including former director comey and others in power have tainted the agency's reputation for pursuit of justice. leave, can a president or a attorney general fire a deputy fbi director if they think that that person is biassed? >> not under the letter of the law, but i mean, what we are learning is that the president believes that the fbi is like any other agency, like the department of the interior. that the president has absolute authority to control and fire anyone who works there. traditionally that has not been the case. the reason the fbi director has a ten-year tenure is because he is supposed to be insulated from these sorts of political pressures and the president has made clear that he thinks the fbi director owes him loyalty
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and him personally loyalty and not the government and not the rule of law and that has led to certainly the firing of comby and now this conflict with wray. >> what about the fact that wray pushed back and that wray threatened to quit. what does that tell you? that tells me that like comey, wray is trying to preserve the independence and the integrity of the fbi. >> and the firing wasn't worth the public firestorm. >> right, and that's true, but look at, you know, what the white house is trying to do. they are trying to control the fbi every day in politically moat -- politically sensitive cases and in cases that involve the president as a potential target. >> you take great umbrage. we promised we would goet to this, you take umbrage with the notice that there is political bias. >> andrew mccabe is a distinguished agent now at a
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senior level and the only charge against him as far as i'm aware has any factual basis is that his wife ran for state -- the state legislature in virginia during the 2006 campaign and was a democrat and was supported by -- >> terry mcauliffe. >> the democratic governor of the state. there's no evidence that mccabe did anything to help his wife win. there's no evidence that he was a partisan. he, presumably, like every other fbi agent votes in elections, but the idea that his wife's candidacy makes him unqualified to be a senior leader of the fbi is something that doesn't have any precedent in our law. >> since then the revelation of these text messages between peter struck and lisa paige to the folks working on the fbi investigation and the russia probe is in andy's office. they think they're talking about discussions about trump in andy mccabe's office.
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a few have come out and we at cnn have not seen them. these have been released by republican lawmaker rob johnson, and here are some of them. lisa paige saying unbelievable that the 2016 presidential race would come down to clinton versus trump. now the pressure is the mid-year review about hillary clinton's e-mail investigation. another series of texts, you say we text on that phone when we talk about hillary because it can't be traced. those are just a few. >> so what? what does that tell you? i mean, yes, the fact that this investigation was going on in the middle of a presidential campaign, everybody knew that. obviously, they had to resolve it. this idea that fbi agents can't acknowledge what's going on in the real world. i read those text messages and i think so what? >> there's also this new revelation that some six months of texts, they can't find them
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and is that in any way suspicious to you? >> let there be an investigation of why they'ves did appeared. >> stuff gets lost, and it happens in law enforcement where i worked for a while. you know, if there was someone who got rid of these text messages for some sinister reason, that we should know. if they disappeared just in the normal course of business, we should know that, too. >> care to weigh into the stormy daniels tempest and the latest page of it, that this group, the sort of liberal-leaning group saying look, doj, you have to investigate whether this is improper use of potentially campaign donations? >> the prosecution of john edwards. >> right. >> the former senator from north carolina was based on a similar theory, that these sorts of expenditures could be seen as an illegal campaign contribution. john edwards was acquitted.
quote
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so, you know, i do think legally it's probably a long shot, but you know, the question of who -- where this money came from and why is certainly one that i would imagine would be of interest to voters and the public. whether it's a crime, it's hard for me to say. >> thank you very much. we appreciate it. >> counselor -- >> we got through a lot there. so this morning the government is open, so now what? >> the president just wrote the last hour, nobody knows for sure that the republicans and democrats will be able to reach a deal on daca by february 8th, but everybody will be trying with a big additional focus put on military strength and border security. the dems have just learned that a shutdown is not the answer. cnn's suzanne malveaux is live on capitol hill to take the temperature of where things are. suzanne? >> reporter: good morning, john and poppy. there are negotiations taking place on the budget side as well as immigration reform and what's going to happen on the budget side is they will have to come
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with an agreement on spending caps and domestic and military spending. at the same time they'll be dealing with this daca deal and whether or not they can get something done in this very narrow wend owe and the february 8th deadline or whether or not senate majority leader mitch mcconnell will take it up after that, after the deadline, but before march 5th when that daca deal expires. i had a chance to talk to senator susan collins of main. as you know, she was one of the republicans who hosted and brokered this bipartisan group to come forward with this agreement that ended this shutdown, and she told me about, first of all, her conversation with the president that she had after the deal was done. she said that he did not outline any specific red lines or parameters about the daca deal or immigration reform that he mostly listened, but he did express some optimism getting to the march 5th deadline and didn't mention the february 8th deadline, and also susan collins, she is one who is really going to have to hold senate majority leader mitch
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mcconnell's feet to the fire in terms of promises here. a lot of people, democrats, as well as some republicans not quite sure if that is a deal that is good on paper, that is a real commitment here. some democrats feeling cheated. senator collins addressed that criticism specifically about the promise that was broken when she brokered her own deal with mcconnell over health care reform. >> the deadline of the majority leader's premise to me on health care issues certainly slipped and i was not at all happy about that, but the fact is that we are continuing to work on that. >> senator says she will continue to work on that with her colleagues in the next couple of weeks and as you know, just two and a half weeks to that deadline and whether or not the government will be funded and the big question, what the president wants and whether or
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not he will sign on and what they are willing to take on. >> suzanne malveaux, thanks so much. we do have breaking news. u.s. state department officials tell cnn that u.s. citizens were among those killed in the attack in a hotel in kabul this past weekend. the taliban released a statement claiming responsibility for this attack. >> much more on that as we get it. storm after stormy, the watchdog group says that those alleged payoffs from donald trump's personal lawyer to a porn star may have broken the law. does this go anywhere? >> also, a first volley and a new trade war. the president slaps new tariffs on chinese goods. will there be a response? >> the president heading for the glitz and glamour of davos, but who will not be going with him? the first lady raising all kinds of new questions. this morni
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is back open. congress now has 16 days not only to keep it open, but try to salvage a deal to protect some
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800,000 d.r.e.a.m.ers living in this country. >> the president says he is ready to negotiate, but could new developments in the russia probe get in the way? joining us now is cnn's political commentator matt lewis, and patrick healy. so the government's open. that's great. everyone wants to talk, that's great, but they want really different things. patrick, republicans are claiming a victory and you know, look, schumer's got a major challenge on his hands. his leverage is gone. what do dems do now? >> it's a real problem. chuck schumer is -- he's great at winning elections. he's terrific and very much helped the democrats get the majority back in the senate in 2006. he built it out in 2008, but here he's without leverage. his -- the democrats didn't have strong leverage on tax reform last month. that got away from them. now they're bfkasically lookingt a situation in three weeks where they need to put together a deal
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both on daca and on government spending and they don't at least right now, they don't have the votes. they certainly don't have the votes in the house, and what they've really sort of given up, frankly, is the weapon that the shutdown gave them. >> right. >> to sort of say to the house you're going to have to vote both to reopen the government and on something on immigration and on something on spending. upon right now it's sort of chuck schumer is the master political tactician good at winning elections. >> not here. >> right now the political tacticians in the white house are talking a lot and some may suggest talking too much. we heard mick mulvaney who is the budget director moments ago speaking to chris cuomo on the issue of what the white house wants for d.r.e.a.m.ers here. listen to what mick mulvaney said. >> what his position is on it? how do they get to stay? who gets to stay? >> depends on what we get in exchange. what do we get for a border secureit security? what do we get for a wall. he gave the president everything
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he wanted on the wall. i challenge that. senator schumer says he insists that he gave it. we'll have a discussion. did he really offer $20 billion in appropriated funds or did he just offer $20 billion in authorized funds? keep in mind, there is border security that was authorized in 2006. >> right. >> that senator schumer voted for. >> right. >> but that still has not been built yet because no one has appropriated that. where are we on that? >> the very beginning when he was asked, what happens to the d.r.e.a.m.ers and he basically said -- >> what do we get? >> the white house saying all of this big love that the president has for the d.r.e.a.m.ers is conditional and transactional. >> yeah. everybody is probably going to be playing the exact same game in three weeks that we were seeing play out over the weekend where you cannot talk about the d.r.e.a.m.ers without talking about the border wall. once you start talking about the border wall, how much money is in what format is quite enough to make that handshake happen? this is what has been so
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frustrating for the lawmakers watching this and both republicans and democrats have said they feel in the senate and they get close and the terms switch and change because the white house is looking for a more do you put on the table from their list of demands. so the government's open for three weeks, but this is really act one of a play that we will see continue as we get into february because the issues have not changed. you're hearing it the morning after they struck the deal. it's the same issues on the table. wall, but border security versus daca and that's not going away any time soon. >> matt lewis, two quick questions for you. the first is do you think the president himself can really claim victory here, himself, because he was a persona nongrata on capitol hill and we literally didn't see him for three days. is this a win for him and his messaging? was his tweeting enough or is it hard for him to say i won on this? >> well, look, i think it's a win for him and i applaud him for going dark.
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i think that it's not ease per donald trump to keep his mouth shut. the fact that he was able to do it paid off. i'll just make this point. i've been very vitt cal of donald trump, but i think there is also a possibility that donald trump does things that a normal, sane, competent republican president couldn't do. the republicans haven't been very good at winning shutdown battle, but donald trump just won one. it looks like donald trump's going to actually move the capital to jerusalem. donald trump has broken norms and in some cases, the norms were there for a reason and they were very important norms and it's dangerous, but in other cases donald trump has broken norms that are arbitrary and there's a reason for republicans to applaud that. >> matt, you also say when you're giving credit to the president here or at least saying he's getting what he wants, you're saying there isn't enough focus a split, a divide or a civil war inside the democratic party? >> absolutely. i wrote a book about the republican civil war, and i'm
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not alone. we've been chronicling the tea party and the split between the so-called, you know, republican establishments, and now you have the trump thing. there's been so much effort and energy focused on the problems on the right, and i think that there really is something happening on the republican side, but we've mostly ignored the skichisms and the cleavagesn the left and whether that's the rise of the burdeernie sanders elizabeth warren, and you have democrats basically caving into pressure and worried about losing elections and now you have the liberal base very upset with people like chuck schumer calling them sellouts. this is an underrated story, but the democrats as they seek to win the midterms this is going to be a subplot we really should be paying attention to. >> so let's switch gears to what's going on with the axios reporting, patrick, that the attorney general jeff sessions had been earn frpressuring the
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director andy mccabe whom we know the president very much dislikes and it enraged wray so much that he threatened to quit. the fact that the president keeps up this fight whether it's comey and the the deputy director and on and on and on and the significance of this and the fact that wray wouldn't do it and said i'll quit over this. >> whether directlier indirectly, all of this pressure is coming from donald trump. he told my times colleague mike schmitt last month, i can do whatever i want, whenever i want with the justice department and that is his attitude. that is how he ran his company. that is something that he's chosen, president trump has chosen not to adjust to in the federal government, in terms of being a leader who is not just sort of strong arming individuals. he still believes in the strong arming approach. he wants this guy gone. he sees wray and sessions clearly as instruments of his own authority, but he oversteps. he oversteps time and again, and to end -- in terms of the --
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their play, and the president's play certainly has been to cast doubt on at least the fbi investigation, but to try not to undermine the fbi itself, he's sort of leaving that to anything, but it's -- >> not so much that you can do that. >> wray was supposed to be the guy that was apolitical, if he drags him into that mix that could be problematic. >> simmering on the outside and sill on the outside of all of this discussion is the stormy daniels issue. michael cohen allegedly paying off this adult film actress $130,000 to stay silent about an alleged affair she had with the president and michael cohen and this woman denies the affair and no one denies the payment still and now common cause wants to get involved following a suit saying there is a violation of election law here. how long does this stay in the background? how long before this starts to be something democrats want to talk about it, if republicans get nervous about it. >> probably into the midterm
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elections unless something sticks and becomes an actual case and an entity that has to go through reviews and discovery and investigations would pursue, but certainly this is, you know, it's a whipping point for people who want to kind of point out that -- to try to shake donald trump's hold on the evangelical base because this is a question of adultery. it's a question of something that's a bit tawdry. it grips our attention and headlines very, very well and it doesn't necessarily mean that that will happen, but it's certainly a very -- it's politically advantageous although not necessarily overplayed and various groups that want to charge trump over this will and are coming out saying that they shall, but the question really for everything that will be happening this year is going to be so governed by the political season that we're in which is completely focused on november. >> and it's not really a
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question so much of did the president cheat on his wife or not, was there a payoff weeks before the election to keep someone quiet and how is that money allocated? where was that money from? that was the crux of it. >> what about rises to the investigation that actually takes hold and yes, fec can take a long time. this will be happening and operating in parallel to the season that we're in and so the way people interpret it and the way people see it will not be purely as a matter of was this an inappropriate use of funds and people will be arguing over it in the political sphere. >> thank you, guys. cara, matt, patrick, thank you very much. we have a lot ahead. the first lady was going to go switzerland, to davos to the world economic forum with the president. she's not going. why? >> we are moments away from the opening bell on wall street. christine romans joins us with a preview. good morning. >> speaking of davos, the president will be on his way to speak even as though he's announced a couple of big
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tariffs that are making news on washing machines and solar panels. some whispers of protectionism potentially and that's something they're talking about in global circle, but for stocks mixed. the futures are mixed and maybe if you'll get momentum you'll see record highs again. all-time highs yesterday. watch netflix when the opening bell rings in two minutes. we expect netflix to hit a record high and it had a record number of subscribers and outlined a $39 million cost associated with kevin spacey. i'll have that after the break. let's begin. yes or no? do you want the same tools and seamless experience across web and tablet? do you want $4.95 commissions for stocks, $0.50 options contracts?
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new this morning. a fierce reaction from china to the u.s. plan for tariffs. new tariffs issued by the president on solar panels and washing machines. in a statement he, expressed his strong dissatisfaction with the move. are these the opening shots? yes, i'll answer the question in what appears to be a new trade war. christine romans is here. this has been going back and forth between the u.s. and china for a while and this is the president's latest move. >> this is a new sheriff in town. for the first year we've been waiting to see what kind of tariffs this president is going to impose on these products and product categories. he promised on campaign trail that the u.s. was not getting a fair shake and that for too long
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administrations hadn't done anything about it and he would and this is what the united states is imposing new tariffs on solar panels. a 30% tariff on solar panels and that's targeting china and that's the main source. china says it's an abuse ever trade rules and is angry about it. washing machines up to 50%. these are large washing machines and think lg and samsung. south korea says it will file a complaint with the world trade organization, that is of course, the international architecture to solve these disputes. there's a reason the trump administration's doing this now. the president's action makes clear again that the trump administration will always defend american workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses. some of the trade folks that we've been speaking to, say they don't expect a trade war over this. china has more to lose than the u.s. in a trade war. we'll watch carefully how the language evolves here. the solar in particular, they're worried that this will raise costs for american consumers of these goods specifically solar and we have so many jobs in the
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u.s. that's installing solar and not necessarily manufacturing done in china, 154,000 solar installation jobs and sales, product development and they're worried about the cost-benefit analysis for consumers. coal jobs, 50,000 coal jobs in the united states. that gives you a perspective of energy. >> it's a third. that's a good point. >> christine, thank you. >> you're welcome. the president is headed to switzerland, davos and the world economic forum. the first lady melania trump was going to join him and now she is not going to join him. >> the white house cites white house and logistical issues that exist now. the president's personal lawyer michael cohen paid off an adult film actress to keep quiet about an alleged relationship. kate bennett is in washington for us, following all of this. kate, what do you make of it? >> well, i think you can take it at face value. scheduling logistics, it
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happens. when you don't hear from a first lady. we haven't heard from her in a while. we are sort of forced to write our own narrative and the clues she's given are curious. take, for example, the tweet she put out on saturday to mark the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of her husband and it did not include anything to do with her husband. it sort of has a faceless military escort here. she talks about the wonderful moments she's had during the year, but she doesn't say thank you, mr. president or it's been a great ride for us. et cetera. with this first lady she remains quite mysterious and however she's popular and the most popular member of the trump family according to our new polling and she's seven points higher than the president in terms of favorability and up from a year ago so her poll numbers continue to climb. however, we don't hear from her. we see her watching back and forth to marine one. she got on marine one with the president to go to mar-a-lago on that same day that the stormy
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daniels story broke, and she spent the weekend down there and returned with him, but we still haven't heard from her, and this trip to davos was planned. again, she's very conscious of things like using resources for her own activities. it could very well have been something to do with getting back and forth from the world economic forum to any sort of solo event she wanted to do. certainly, however, i didn't wake up this morning with an e-mail in my inbox from her office saying no, no, no, your reporting is incorrect or it's this or we want to push back. so i think we're left to infer that perhaps this could be because she's laying low. >> all right, kate bennett for us. kate, thanks very much. we do have breaking news to tell you. a high school shooting, we are just learning about. this is a shooting at marshall county high school. this is located in benton, kentucky, a town of about 4500 people, two hours northwest of nashville. this is according to benton city
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clerk, beth cooper speaking to cnn. we know the police department there is located inside of city hall. officers have gone to the high school already. you're talking about a high school of 1300 students that the school. >> 1300 students, about 74 teachers. no word yet on casualties or injuries. we will get you the very latest when we can. much more ahead. stay with us. you might take something for your heart... or joints. but do you take something for your brain. with an ingredient originally found in jellyfish,
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more political news. this morning republicans are joining the president in declaring victory over this shutdown, the end of the shutdown. is it too early to claim a big win? what does it mean for the midterms and a major battle still under way for the next 16 days. joining us now is stephen law, the president and ceo of the leadership fund to senator mitch mcconnel and he knows the brain and the man in the middle of all of this better than all of us do. thank you for being here this morning. republicans are claiming victory. they are saying we won. what now? because you just heard mick mulvaney who was in charge of the whole shutdown from the white house saying we'll see if we get a daca deal. what do we get in return? what do we get in terms of a wall? where does this go? >> the democrats have had a pretty bad month. the tax bill they opposed has turned out to be great for the economy resulting in ghobonusesr hundre hundreds of thousands of workers and the shutdown that's ended up
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in terrible disaster created divisions within the democrats' ranks and i don't know if that's a trend, but i'll take it. >> but what are republicans going to do now? what do you think they should do now because we have another shutdown three weeks away or the possibility for it and you have the issue of d.r.e.a.m.ers. you've had a number of jobs in your career and one was working in the chamber of commerce which was incredibly supportive for the protection of d.r.e.a.m.ers and to withdraw the right of the individuals the right to work and deport them to countries they don't know is not in the best interest of america. the question, what needs to happen and what do republicans need to make happen in the next three weeks? >> sure. there are a lot of republicans who are very supportive of the deal to provide relief to the d.r.e.a.m.ers, but they're not going to want to give it away without the democrats giving something in return which is border security. this is where we will see the ideological fissures in the
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democratic party play out. it is basically an open borders party and they don't want restrictions and controls and there are others who are mainstream liberals who would like to cut a deal, and it will be just as difficult, if not more so for the democratic party to come to an agreement on what the deal would look like on daca as it would be for the republicans. >> let me ask you this, you've got demands from the white house and sarah sanders reiterated them yesterday in order to have a deal for d.r.e.a.m.ers, the four set of pillars and what they want on immigration reform, is a solution to daca, an end to what they call, a lot of republicans call in the white house chain migration, and an end totally to the visa lottery system and border security that in her words certainly includes a wall. do you see democrats giving on all of that? >> that's the point of negotiation that needs to play out. i think chain migration is a serious issue that's been elevated in the last few months that the vast majority of republicans and not just republicans, but also voters in general favor a solution to, and
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again, it comes down to the point that i think republicans want to get a deal to provide relief to d.r.e.a.m.ers, but they're going to need to get something from the democrats and the question is are democrats going to be able to work internally with their own ideological fissures and factions to be able to come to the table with something that's reasonable. >> you've heard mitch mcconnell say he'll bring up the issue of immigration on a level playing field on the senate floor and allow amendments if the gang of six bill comes to the floor or something similar, close to it with adjustments here or there, do you think that has enough votes on a level playing field to pass the senate? >> it's really hard for me to say, we haven't done a vote count on that yet, there are provisions of it that would be acceptable to either side, and i don't think something -- >> you know immigration reform, comprehensive immigration reform passed the senate in 2013 with situations that are not dissimilar to this, and it passed once and it could pass the senate again and that could be the frustration from
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moderates from both sides, republicans and democrats, if you vote on it, it would pass. the house would be somewhat more conservative and the national thinking on this issue has also changid and think people have started to look more deeply into these issues and i think there's rising concern, as i said about chain migration and that was not the topic of discussion some time earlier, and so i think the senate process will have to work its will. there are obviously republicans who will be more conservative than the gang of six product, but they're also going to be democrats who are much more liberal who really aren't going to want to deal, and certainly not a deal that includes any restriction at all on immigration. >> stephen, we appreciate it. we have to cut it short because we do have to come back to the breaking news on the school shooting. the school shooting out of kentucky and our alison kosik is standing by with that. >> we are learning new information from matt bevin, the
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governor of kentucky about the school shooting that happened sch a short time ago. there has been one person confirmed dead, multiple others have been wounded. the shooter is in custody. once again, was there an active shooting that began this morning. it seems like it began right around school started or gettin started at marshall county high school located in benton, kentucky and you see the tweet there from matt bevin. tragic shooting at marshall county high school. shooter is in custody, one confirmed fatality, multiothers wounded. much yet unknown. interesting tidbit though from benton city clerk beth cooper telling cnn that the benton county police department is located inside city hall, and when the call went out about this active shooting happening at marshall county high school the entire police department, all of the members of the police force left the building and went to the high school where they
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are on scene right now. marshall countier shouldivey sh officers are also on the scene. >>, th thanks so much for that report. a major development potentially in the russia investigation. "the new york times" reporting that the attorney general jeff sessions was interviewed by special council robert mueller last week. >> it's very big considering this is someone in the president's inner circle currently working with the administration and again, the times just breaking this news that he was questioned several hours by the special counsel bob mueller in the russia probe. >> notable, a spokesperson for the justice department did confirm to the times that this interview happened. so the times seems to have this completely solid. we're going to get much more information on this as we can. i will note, what is fascinating about jeff sessions is in his testimony. >> yes. >> in his testimony to congress before he claimed he did not remember or would not answer questions based on the possibility of privilege down
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the road. >> right. which doesn't work with bob mueller. >> would he use that with bob mueller? what would bob mueller try to get from him that he would not give? >> you'll remember jeff sessions recused himself from anything having to do with the russia probe back, you know, a year ago or so, infuriating the president. the president who didn't sessions himself at the risk of losing his job did feel like he needed to, he did that. and now he's sat down for hours with bob mueller. >> and, again, the things -- the questions that jeff sessions could answer deal with the two issues that seem to be of some interest to the special counsel, alleged collusion and alleged obstruction of justice. on the issue of collusion, jeff sessions was at these meetings, the meetings with josh papadopoulos. and at the meeting with george
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papadopoulos, it was do they want to meet with russian officials. sessions recused himself from the investigation, but how involved was he or wasn't he in the firing of james comey? >> also, you'll remember that jeff sessions didn't remember, according to him at the time that he had meetings with sergey kislyak, the ambassador, and then remembered them again, had to be all of these changes to his disclosure form. we'll have much more of this significant breaking news. the attorney general sat down last week for hours with the special counsel, bob mueller, in the russia probe. much more on this ahead.
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this is cnn breaking news. >> we have significant breaking news to report to you. the attorney general jeff sessions sat down last week for hours. we have learned, with bob mueller's team. this is a special counsel leading the russia probe. this is the first time that a current cabinet member of the trump administration has been interviewed in this probe by mueller's team. >> we understand there was no subpoena issued. he went in and voluntarily answered questions, again, for several hours. no doubt those discussions covered jeff sessions' own meeting with the russian ambassador jeff sessions' own role in meetings during the trump campaign that involved george papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying about discussions he had with russians. also the issue of obstruction of justice. what does jeff sessions know about how, why and when the fbi director james comey was fired. let's get right to our justice
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reporter for the very latest on this. shim mo shimon, what are you learning? >> this took place last wednesday and as you said went on for hours. now what is important here is that sessions has been part of probably two of the central issues in this investigation. that is the russia contacts, also he was running the foreign policy team during the campaign and we know that much of that team is now under scrutiny, some of on that team, george papadopoulos, have pleaded guilty and are now cooperating with the fbi. he was also in on the comey firing, helped draft a memo that ultimately was used as justification to fire the fbi director. so there are two central issues here that presumably sessions would have been questioned about. so, the fact that he went in without a subpoena is not that
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kind of -- it is normal for that to happen. he is the attorney general still. and certainly mueller has had a lot of questions and has been looking into a lot of the issues that sessions has been part of. >> shimon, thank you for the reporting. stay with us if you would. let's go to the white house. kaitlan collins is there. the department of justice confirmed, yes, this happened. is the white house saying anything at this point? >> reporter: the white house hasn't responded at this point, john and poppy. we reached out for a request for comment on what they have to say about this incredibly significant move that the first person in the president's cabinet has been interviewed and we'll let you know as soon as we hear back from the white house. but this really puts the spotlight on this troubled relationship between the president and his attorney general that we have seen go on since jeff sessions first recused himself from anything relating to the russia investigation into the 2016 campaign and whether or not trump officials colluded with russia. we have seen the president
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publicly go after jeff sessions, not only on twitter, but in interviews, especially that one with the new york times where he said he would not have picked jeff sessions to be his attorney general if he knew he was going to recuse himself. so this certainly could cause some problems, could bring up that fight between the president and jeff sessions because it has been dormant for quite some time now. the president still gets frustrated with jeff sessions, but does so only privately talking to old friends and allies, and he has not gone after him publicly in recent months. but we could see that get brought up again here, john and poppy. we'll let you know as soon as the white house responds to this reporting. >> all right. kaitlan collins for us at the white house. let's bring in susan hennessey, our cnn national security analyst and steve moore, cnn law enforcement contributor. susan first to you, just learning this information, the attorney general of the united states interviewed in the special counsel's probe into russian meddling, the first cabinet official, certainly the person closest or most senior ranking official interviewed yet
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in this investigation. what is significant to you here? >> one of the things significant sort of over the past week really is the ramping up these attacks against the fbi, coming from the house intelligence committee, this memo from devin nunes, president trump's tweet this morning regarding a series of text messages not preserved. so i think this does put additional sort of context into why the white house is potentially feeling so nervous and really ramping up their efforts to try and discredit robert mueller's investigation. >> so we'll remember, steve, that testimony that we were all watching sort of jaws dropped of sessions in front of congress saying so many times over and over i can't recall or really trying to cite executive privilege or saying i might have to in the future to not answer lawmakers questions on so many things about any communication with russians from the trump administration or him personally. can he d

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