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Opening Day Of The 115th Congress; Democrats Weigh How Hard To Fight Trump Agenda; Rep. Rodgers Nominating Paul Ryan For Speaker; Russian Hacking Stokes Republican Tensions; Pence Pressed On Trump's Russia Hacking Response; McCain: Europe "Nervous" About Trump's Russia Stance; Schumer: Democrats Will Keep Trump Accountable. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 3, 2017 - 12:30   ET



[12:32:58] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Live pictures of the first day, first hour of 115th Congress there (ph). The House of Representative is top right at your screen, United States Senate, the bottom right. A big change election sends Donald Trump to be the president-elect 17 days away from being president of the United States.

In Congress, three of the four leaders are the same leaders from last year. We expect the votes still have to be held later this hour. The House will vote on a speaker. We expect Paul Ryan to win. Nancy Pelosi will be the Democratic leader there. Mitch McConnell is the Republican and the Majority Leader of the United State Senate.

But Harry Reid has retired. The new face of the Democrats is Chuck Schumer, Liberal Democrat from New York. A familiar face here in Washington, but about to become a much more familiar face as a Democratic leader nationally.

In an interview with CNN's Dana Bash a short time ago, he lamented. Confirmation hearing for the Trump cabinet will begin next week. Last year, the Democrats changed the rules. It used to be, you could block a nominee, force the party to come up with 60 votes. Democrats changed those rules. Chuck Schumer says, "Big mistake."


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) INCOMING MINORITY LEADER: We'd be derelict in our responsibility to the American people if we just let, let's do all of these in a week and not ask him any tough questioning.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But your hands are tied because in the last Congress you're a Democratic leadership, you're a part of it changed the rules so that you only need 51 votes --


BASH: -- to confirm a nominee, not 60.


BASH: And, therefore, you're living by your rules. Was that a mistake in retrospect?

SCHUMER: I argued against it at the time. I said both the Supreme Court and in cabinet should be 60 because on such important positions there should be some degree of bipartisanship. I won on Supreme Court, lost on cabinet. But it's what we have to live with now.

BASH: Not the greatest situation when you're a Minority.

SCHUMER: I wished it never happened.

BASH: You wished it hadn't happened?



KING: Yep, yep. You could you see that interview, it's in entirely tonight on "Anderson Cooper 360" at 8:00 p.m. here at CNN Yup, Chuck Schumer says there. You want to watch that interview, a very important player now in Washington.

If you're not familiar with him, you're about to get familiar with him because remember, President Obama is passing from stage, Vice- President Biden is passing from the stage. The Clinton era is over. The Democrats don't have any national leader right now.

[12:35:03] Chuck Schumer in the Senate. Nancy Pelosi in the House. It is fascinating to see how they do this going forward to the point Senator Schumer was making there with Dana.

We have confirmation hearing starting next week. You made a very smart point earlier that we have a lot of questions about what campaign promises from the president-elect actually carry over into the new administration.

So when Tom Price is being confirmed for Health and Human Services, how do they want to deal with Obamacare? When General Mattis is being confirmed for the Defense Secretary, what is he going to do about Russia hacking? What about this threat from North Korea on the table? Go through each and every agency and we have a lot of question marks. The Democrats, though, are powerless more or less, unless they can get Republicans.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed they are, but I think this confirmation hearings are going to fill in a lot of blanks and questions we still have about what the Trump administration is going to look like.

Now, all of these nominees have been working with the transition officials, specifically shaping policy ideas. So we are going to learn much more about what he thinks, about what this administration thinks, and simply about their own backgrounds. Now, the reality is most of them, if not all of them will likely be confirmed. That's how the math works. You can see the look on Senator Schumer's face. I remember that at the time he wasn't a host to it. He is speaking accurately there.

But we are going to get a lot of answers to what Trump's policies are going to be here. But, you know, if Mitch McConnell wants to get a lot of people confirmed by inauguration day, that will very likely happen.

KING: But we're also going to learn not only some of the policy details, but we're going to learn whether the Democrats or will we learn? Are they there yet? Do they understand they're going to lose the bully pulpit?

They're going to lost it whether you like him or support him are not a very powerful communicator in President Obama, a very loyal and well known Democrat in Joe Biden. The Clintons are gone, mostly from the national stage. Do we know the strategy here or the Democrats still sort of finding their way?

REID WILSON, THE HILLS: Well, I think Democrats are trying to line up opposition to a number of the cabinet appointees that President-elect Trump has sent forward. I think you can expect pretty strong questioning at least, and probably lots step opposition to people like Tom Price for HHS, Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, and some other folks like that.

The problem for Democrats, though, is that you kind of only -- you kind of have on pick and choose. You can't be against everybody or you become the obstructionist party that they have been complaining about for the eight years of the Obama administration.

And a part of me thinks that President-elect Trump has offered a number of nominees that would all fall on the objectionable category with the hope that a number of the most make through and Democrats will be forced to hand pick one or two that they will really make their stand draw their line (inaudible).

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: And two people and two issues that Democrats are talking about focussing on in these hearings is Russia, obviously. We know that that's part of the discussion, but also look for the Steven Mnuchin hearings.

I think to be an opportunity where Democrats are going to try to have a reset on their economic message, they're still trying to figure out exactly what that is, but they see that as an opportunity to -- if not block him from confirmation at least take some shot at him and try to damage Trump's reputation as a president who is going to look out for the working class and then turns around and appoints people with Goldman backgrounds.

KING: We learned from the campaign that Trump likes to be a counter puncher, and so if the Democrats beat him up so much -- beat up his people so much in the confirmation process, will Trump then push back when they try to cooperate with him on infrastructure spending, on trade?

On the Florida House of Representative's right now and member of the House Leadership Team, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State nominating Paul Ryan for Speaker of the House.


REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS, (R) WASHINGTON: -- protected here in this chamber by the people and for the people. Just over a year ago when he picked up that gavel, Speaker Ryan challenged us to raise our gaze, to respect this institution and open up the legislative process which best represents the will of the people, to be accountability to the people we represent, to be men and women of integrity, to serve our country with purpose and into empower everyone to reach their full potential.

Speaker Ryan knows that the healthy competition of ideas between our passionate talented members is an asset to representative government. As Speaker Paul Ryan made a commitment to getting this institution working, and as a result we've had more conference committees and more bipartisan achievements.

He put his majority to work on bold policy solutions that have united us. Under his leadership this think-tank of ideas was able to find common ground without compromising conservative principles.

Together after crisscrossing our districts and listening to Americans of all walks of life we developed a better way. Our vision for a confident America, policy that solve the biggest challenges of our time, policies that trust people not the government to make their own decisions and pursue their own dreams. As Speaker Ryan said the day he was called upon for his role, nothing could be more inspiring than a job well done.

[12:40:03] Nothing could stir the heart more than real concrete results. In this critical moment in our nation's history, as our unified Republican government begins to take its place, we have an opportunity to think big, to reimagine this government from the top to the bottom and to put people back at the center of it. It's the time to act with a sense of purpose, to rebuild the American idea and reclaim the people's voice.

There's no one better to lead the people's House in that calling than Paul D. Ryan. Through all of it, the man from Jamesville never forgets where he came from and who he works for. He insists on calling his constituents his employers. He insists on all of us calling him Paul, but make no mistake. Today and every day we are honored to call him Mr. Speaker.


KING: That's Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the member of the House Leadership Team, Republican from Washington State. The highest ranking woman in the Republican leadership nominating her friend, Paul Ryan, for Speaker of the House, Democrats will nominate Nancy Pelosi, but we fully expect that in a few moments Paul Ryan will be reelected Speaker of the House of Representative.

A quick break, "Inside Politics" will continue in just a moment, a big day here opening day for the 115th Congress, the House and the Senate both controlled by Republicans. President-elect Trump, 17 days away from becoming president. Stay with us.


KING: Welcome back to "Inside Politics." About 45 minutes now to the opening of the 115th Congress. You see the new Senate Democratic Leader, Chuck Schumer, bottom right of your screen. Top right of your screen is Congressman Joe Crowley of New York. He is nominating Nancy Pelosi to be the Speaker of the House. She will lose.

[12:45:02] Republican controls the House of Representatives, but this is part of the ceremony. The circumstance of the first day of the new Congress, Democrats nominate their candidate. Republicans nominate theirs. Republicans have the vote. We'll keep on eye on that as we go forward.

Back in the room here, though, one of the fascinating questions we've talked about trade differences the president-elect has with Congress. We've talked about how they will try to deal with the replace part of Obamacare. Repeal is easy and you put in the bill, forget about the replace, whatever, how much time you buy for yourself.

Foreign policy is a huge issue. Number one is the whole Russian hacking question. There is broad bipartisan agreement that Russia hacked into institutions here in the United States, including the Democratic National Committee, including Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta's e-mails and meddled in the election.

The one voice questioning that still is the president-elect of the United States. A lot of Republicans are nervous about this. We know his Vice President, Mike Pence, is a Russia hawk, very skeptical of Vladimir Putin. However, he has muted that criticism because the boss won't go there.

Listen to vice president-elect this morning. He is asked a very direct question. Have you lost faith in the U.S. intelligence community? And he punts.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you lost confidence in the U.S. intelligence community?

MIKE PENCE, (R) VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: I think the challenges that America faced on the world staged are going to be met with renewed American strength and renewed leadership, rebuilding our military, engaging leaders around the world as the president-elect has done on a personal basis is all part and parcel of, I think a new season.


KING: Pretty straight forward question and you could answer yes or no. You could give a more nuanced answer. Instead, he ignores the question completely because this is one area where we are reasonably certain from people close to him, he disagrees with the boss and he is a little skeptical about why his boss won't say "I win. I will be president, but I'm going to find out what the Russians did and I will hold them accountable."

MARY KATHARINE HAM, THE FEDERALIST: Yeah. I'm sympathetic to those in the Trump circle who think like -- that the hacking is real, but they also think people are using the story to delegitimatize Trump. I think that's fair.

But, I think the best way to conquer that perhaps is to say, "I'm going to get to the bottom of this and be serious about it." But this is where the new shape of the Democratic caucus is interesting to me, because although it does not look like the ascending coalition with Pelosi and Schumer heading it, Schumer, I think is as hard-nosed as Reid but savior and he knows that for instance.

Trump might like him better than others in the Republican Party, that he could work with him on some things and that Republicans are very worried about the Russian issue. I think he'll be better at figuring out where they can work together than a Reid would have been.

PACE: It's also possible. I don't want to say likely, but it is possible that Trump has created a way out of this for himself. If you listen to some transition officials when they briefed reporters earlier today, they talked about Intel officials coming to give Trump another briefing on this later this week. We have James Clapper who is going to be up on the hill and an Obama administration report that's coming out. It is possible.

He could use that as his window to say, "I've now been briefed more fully, and I agree with Russia." I don't think we should be holding our breath for that given what he said in the past, but certainly people around him would like for this issue to be viewed in a different lens. It's really unbelievable that we're still talking about this right now.

KING: We're still talking about it, and it is an issue. You're right that Trump -- President-elect Trump himself has said people tried to delegitimatize neither question with Russian.

He won. He is going to be president of the United States in 17 days. If you are out there thinking somehow that's going to go away, get over it. He's going to be president of the United States.

So it's an issue here in Washington. It's an issue about does the president trust the men and women who risked their lives in the intelligence community across a number of agencies? That's the troubling part to the intelligence community. Wait a minute, we're risking our lives to get you this information, why don't you ask it (ph)?

Senator John McCain wants to have investigations in the Armed Services Committee. He believes the senate intelligence committee will also have investigations. He is just back from a trip to Eastern Europe. He says this isn't just a Washington issue. He says some of our small allies in Eastern Europe are very worried about the new president.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I can assure you that our friends in Eastern Europe are very nervous and very concerned about what this administration's policy will be.

Of course, Vladimir Putin will not. They're already feeling it's a lot of pressure. And so, they're deeply concerned that no one will ensure them that there's a lot of us in the United State Senate that's probably support Donald Trump.


KING: A little bit of background news there, noise as Manu tried to interview Senator McCain there. But, he says there's already a lot of pressure among this Eastern European allies. This is a big test for the -- we can make it about politics in Washington, but this is a huge global test for the president-elect on the world stage because once the clock ticks, the 17 more days, it matters.

You can say a lot of things on transition. You correct things as you get wrong. All presidents do. All president-elects do. President- elect do, but pretty soon, what he says will not only affect things here at home, but overseas.

WILSON: John, I think this is something you hinted that underscore is one of the biggest changes between the Obama administration and the Trump administration. And that's how the various White Houses are going to work within each other.

[12:50:02] President Obama strove to create an administration that had no drama. No drama Obama was the big story. This president-elect has set up what is essentially a team of rivals.

You've got people like the president and the vice president very clearly disagreeing Mike Pence. He even brought this up in the vice presidential debate, very clearly disagreeing about Russia and its role in terms of the U.S. and whether it's an ally or an antagonist. You know, we've got John Bolten in the conversation to have a prominent role in Russia.

I mean, there are a number of Russia hawks who were very likely to have very prominent roles within the administration. And then there are a bunch of people who take a view that's much more like Donald Trump.

So, whether it's Russia or trade or any of the big issues that we're going to be talking about over the next four years there -- this president-elect has already sort of foster these rivalries that are going to buy (ph) for power within the administration in a way that we never saw within the Obama administration that could lead this in great results. But it's just different from what the way Obama --

(CROSSTALK) ZELENY: I think on Russia, this is something that Donald Trump did not really campaign on his constituents, his supporters, his admirers out there don't necessarily -- I don't think are going to follow him on the Putin thing.

And this is something that's ingrained in our history more and on trade, yes. Yes, a constituency that he run on this. He's a little bit out there more on his own, on Putin and Russia I believe and that could be one huge confrontation with Republicans on that.

KING: Very important. You mentioned he may find a pivot here. Very important the things he says in the next several days including once he takes his hand off the bible about Russia and about North Korea, which is threatening to test an intercontinental ballistic missile.

We're going to head to a quick break here at first day of the 115th Congress. As we go to break, let's listen to the new Senate Democratic Leader for a moment, Chuck Schumer of New York.


SCHUMER: And it becomes clear that Democratic proposals or what the American people want and need, I hope many will. But, we are not in the majority. We cannot dilute anyone that this Congress will start tomorrow taking our priorities in the Democratic minority. But we can raise our voices to present an alternative way forward and we can rally the American people to support this program as Republicans return majorities to both Houses of Congress --



KING: Senator Chuck Schumer, the new Democratic leader speaking live on the floor of the United States Senate, first day of the 115th Congress.


SCHUMER: -- on presidents to both parties. Many in this body have long observed that in America we are a nation of laws, not men. That sacred constitutional duty of holding the president accountable to the law must continue, and Democrats will make sure of it.

Sometimes it will mean pointing out where is rhetoric and reality diverge. And sometimes it will mean resisting the president and Republicans in Congress when they propose legislation that we believe will hurt the American people. This will be an accountability Congress, and we will be a caucus that makes sure the president-elect keeps his commitment to truly make America great again in its finest sense and tradition.

We know what makes America great, a fundamental optimism. A belief that the future will bring every child more opportunity than their parents, a conviction that this American dream can be shared by all of us regardless of raise or gender or sexual orientation. We will hold President-elect Trump accountable to the values that truly make America great.

[12:55:07] But we'll fight him tooth and nail when he appeals to the basic instincts that diminish America and its greatness, instincts that have too often plagued this country and too often plagued his campaign and we'll have benchmarks throughout the campaign.

The president-elect said he could push GDP growth to 5 percent or 6 percent. He complained that the real unemployment rate was too high and he'd bring it down. We'll hold him accountable to that.

What does he think he can achieve in a year or two or four? What policies does he propose to achieve those goals? He promised to be much tougher on China, even though many Republicans for years have resisted legislation here in Congress to do that. We'll hold him accountable for it and demand he keep his promise.

He promised to protect social security and medicare, but tapped in a vow critic of medicare, a man who has spent his career advocating for its demise as his secretary of Health and Human Services.

We demand that he keep his promise not to cut social security or medicare. He says he wants to build a strong America and earn respect around the world, but seems to be marching in lock step with a bullying, disassembling autocrat, who has caused the great deal of trouble around the globe here in America, Vladimir Putin. We're going to hold him accountable to that.

We will hold the president accountable if he doesn't nominate a mainstream Supreme Court justice. President Obama nominated the mainstream candidate in Merrick Garland. President-elect Trump should do the same. And the president-elect said many great things about build -- great many things rather about building our infrastructure. Democrats welcome that discussion. But how he is going to do it?

We have thousands of bridges and tunnels and highways and schools, waste water systems, airports in need of repair, not only in our big cities, but in rural and suburban communities throughout America.

A program of tax credits isn't going to get the job done no matter how large. We need significant direct spending. How does the president- elect plan to get that done? The president-elect just said that there are several parts of the Affordable Care Act that he favors. We'll hold him accountable to that. The ACA extended affordable health care to 30 million Americans.

We asked the president-elect, if you repeal the ACA, what are you going to do to protect these 30 million people and how are you going to ensure that a kid right out of college can stay on his parents' or her parents' plan? That the mother of -- with a child who has a preexisting condition can get health care for her child, that women everywhere are not charged more for their care simply because they're a woman.

It is not acceptable to repeal the law, throw our health care system into chaos, and then leave the hard work for another day. Mr. President-elect, what is your plan to make sure all Americans can get affordable health care?

So, we will hold the president-elect accountable, for actually creating jobs and raising incomes, for growing our economy and lowering our trade deficit, for protecting voting rights and civil rights, for safeguarding our clean air and clean water, for maintaining our commitment to our nation's veterans and troops and their families, for giving that worker in Michigan, that college student in L.A., that single mother in Cleveland, a real opportunity and a ladder up. What could be fairer? After all, his biggest and most consistent pledge was that he would, "Make America great." Make the lives of America better.

We, the Democrats of this senate will hold him accountable to that and we will resist him if he breaks that promise. And while we respect the office of the presidency, we won't hesitate for a moment to call out the person occupying that office if he demeans women or Muslims or Latinos or our friends in the LGBT community.

And if allies or aides to the president demean a group of Americans, we won't hesitate for a moment to demand that our new president condemn these comments. Not sidestep them, not simply distance himself from them, condemn them pointedly and roundly as presidents of both parties, every president to both parties has done throughout the decades.