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Intel Report: Russia Had "Clear Preference" for Trump; Trump Downplays Russian Meddling Despite Intel Report; Trump's First Press Conference Since Election; President Obama's to Give Farewell Speech; Trump's Populist Message Muddled by Picks?. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired January 8, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:21] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): A new intelligence report says, point blank, Vladimir Putin personally ordered a massive cyber campaign to help Donald Trump and to hurt Hillary Clinton.
JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don't think we've ever encountered a more aggressive or direct campaign to interfere with out election process.
KING: After weeks of mocking U.S. intelligence agencies, President- elect Trump hears the classified version, but still does not condemn Russia, or address conservative calls for tougher retaliation.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It is time now not to throw pebbles but throw rocks.
KING: Plus, President Obama prepares to say farewell.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I look back on the last eight years with enormous pride.
KING: Vice President Biden is also heading home, but not quietly.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Grow up, Donald. Grow up. Time to be an adult. You're president.
KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.
KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your Sunday morning.
A big week behind us and a giant one ahead as the Americans prepare for transition from Democratic President Barack Obama to Republican President Donald Trump. The president-elect plans his first news conference in more than five months. You can be certain he will be asked to share his thoughts on that damning new report, saying Vladimir Putin personally ordered a Russian cyber campaign designed to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: It's very important for the United States to understand what happened here so that we cannot only safeguard our system, but we can also make sure that we inform others, and by exposing this publicly, we may make Mr. Putin more reluctant to the future to go down this path because their activities are being uncovered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It will be fascinating to hear what the president-elect says about that report.
The sitting president heading home to Chicago for a farewell address, one last effort to shape both his legacy and the big policy debates now shaping the new Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We didn't get everything we wanted to get done. I think we're well-positioned for the future, and my hope is, is that not just the president-elect but the incoming Congress looks honestly at everything that's been accomplished.
Plus, Donald Trump's victory is now official. Some Democrats protested as the Electoral College votes were officially recorded with the Congress, but in one of his last official acts -- watch this -- Vice President Joe Biden shuts them down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Is there a signature from a senator?
UNIENTIFIED MALE: There's a signature from the House of Representatives, myself and --
BIDEN: The objection cannot be received without a signature from a senator.
Is it signed by a United States senator?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not yet, we're seeking a United States senator.
BIDEN: Well, in that case, the objection cannot be received.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My grave concerns of the intelligence --
BIDEN: The objection cannot be received.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, the objection is signed by a member of the House but not yet by a member of the Senate.
BIDEN: Well, it is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Big smile from the Republican speaker there when the Democratic vice president said and he's correct, it's over.
With us to share their reporting and their insights: Abby Phillip of "The Washington Post," CNN's Jeff Zeleny, CNN's Manu Raju, and Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast."
I'm going to ask my guests for a little patience and embark first on what's likely will be a fool's errand. But I'm going to give it a try.
Set aside your partisan reflex for just a moment and consider this sentence. Quote, "We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in the 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. The consistent goals of which were to undermine faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump."
There's more, a lot more, and that's just from the unclassified public report prepared by the CIA, the FBI and other top U.S. intelligence experts.
President Obama knows the full story. He received the classified evidence not in that public report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: One of the things that I am concerned about is the degree to which we've seen a lot of commentary lately where there are Republicans or pundits or cable commentators who seem to have more confidence in Vladimir Putin than fellow Americans because those fellow Americans are Democrats. That cannot be.
INTERVIEWER: Does that include the president-elect?
OBAMA: Well, what I will say is that, and I said this right after the election, we have to remind ourselves we're on the same team.
[08:05:02] Vladimir Putin is not on our team.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Vladimir Putin not on our team, says the current president.
President-elect Trump received the same briefing, but his reaction is very different. No direct condemnation of Russia's behavior. No promise of additional sanctions, just a general pledge to make cyber security a top priority.
So, a quick appeal to those of you watching who are Trump supporters. He tells you not to believe people like us, but if he wants to question our honesty, doesn't he owe you the truth?
This is part of his Twitter reaction to the Russia hacking report. Quote, "Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results. Voting machines not touched."
That is not true. You can read it yourself. The report says no such thing. It does say there's no evidence Russia hacked voting machines or in any way changed the count, and that's important. But intelligence agencies explicitly say they have no way of judging whether the release of hacked e-mails and other Russian tactics like promoting fake news might have affected voters' decision.
The president-elect's tweet, again, you can check this out yourself, is at a minimum, is highly misleading. And that's part of the debate in Washington.
He gets this classified briefing that everybody was waiting for, and a lot of conservatives were hoping that was his pivot point, that he would come out and say, "I've got my briefing." He has every right and every reason to say "it didn't affect the results. I'm the president. I'm going to be president." He has ever reason to say that for those who are trying to question the legitimacy of his win.
But he says nothing about, this will not be tolerated. I will stand up to Russia. I will either keep in place or accelerate, strengthen the President Obama sanctions, nothing.
ABBY PHILLIP, THE WASHINGTON POST: What's worse is the statement that the Trump transition put out came out just a couple of minutes after the doors closed on that meeting with intelligence officials, and that statement did not acknowledge what the report says pretty strongly which is that Russia and only Russia was responsible for this.
It said, as Trump has been saying for months, it could be Russia. It could have been China. It could have been someone else.
And just the inability to acknowledge that one aspect of this, putting aside the impact of the election, putting aside a lot of these other more inflammatory issues, but just the question was Russia slowly responsible for this? The Trump transition and Trump himself is still unwilling to say that even after this report and that's really, really remarkable.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Because it's still about Donald Trump. It's not about the country. It's not about going forward, how these hacks should be prevented.
It's not about -- it's just -- it isn't about the bigger picture right now, still. Even after the intelligence briefing.
And it's striking, you're right. That statement came out right after the meeting. It was pretty baked. Seemed pre-baked and there was some misunderstanding initially when it came out, I saw from some of our colleagues saying, he acknowledged it. He didn't. He's not acknowledged it, and it's just another example of him digging in and not letting new information change --
KING: The statement says Russia, China and others routinely try to hack and may have hacked the Democratic National Committee. But doesn't specifically -- you know, Trump says the Democratic National Committee, it's its own fault, didn't have a tougher fire wall. He's right, he's right. The Democrats should have done more to protect their systems.
But that's not the point. The big point is a foreign actor that does other things on the world stage that are contrary to U.S. interests, and Trump doesn't address that either, try to meddle, did meddle, not tried, did meddle in our election.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And this is going to be the first big fight between Trump and Republicans in Congress. Already, you're seeing this play out. Not just from John McCains of the world who are Russia hardliners, but Republican leadership is on the side of people like John McCain. They are going to be in a difficult spot going forward.
And on the issues specifically of sanctions, imposing stiffer sanctions, something that Congress needs to approve and something that's going to be pushed. How does Trump deal with stiffer sanctions? This push for new sanctions?
He tweeted over the weekend that people are stupid for not wanting closer relations with Russia.
So, if we're pushing for tougher -- there's a push for tougher sanctions against Russia, that's going to make relations worse, so does Trump come out and oppose sanctions? That's going to be a big fight for him.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And it's unclear if he is even going to leave the current sanctions in place.
But you're absolutely right. Republican senators, this is something and House members, this is one of the first buzzsaws he's going to run into because to a person, people, Republicans in this party cannot believe why he is doing this. They believe he's being played by Putin, and interestingly, if you read the report, and you should read the report, people, it's an easy read.
PHILIP: It's not that long.
ZELENY: A quick thing.
It also talked about how Moscow thought Secretary Clinton was going to win. They thought at the end of the campaign she was going to win, so they were going to try to sort of, you know, shape the conversation and denigrate her. So, it's a fascinating read about fake news.
KING: And denigrate our system by saying it was rigged, by saying the cake was baked, which who echoed those thoughts throughout the campaign. This is why people scratched their heads and said, what's Trump's end game? If there is an end game here.
[08:10:01] You mentioned the tweets I just want to bring them in because, again, a lot of the leadership, McCain and Graham and others have been quite vocal, a lot of leadership has tried to mute it because they keep getting reassurances from people like Vice President-elect Pence, we'll bring him around, he'll get there, give us time, he'll get there.
Here are the tweets from yesterday. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only stupid people or fools would think that is bad. We have enough problems around the world without yet another one. When I am president, Russia will respect us far more than they do now and both countries will perhaps work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the world."
Now, let's set aside the only stupid people, which is, you know, if you disagree with Donald Trump, that's what he calls you, stupid, or dishonest, if you're in the media and he disagrees with you. Again this conflates or misdirects from the key issue.
There's nobody saying the United States should not work with Russia in Syria. No one is saying the United States should not work with Russia if the details of the Iran deal come up and things like that. No one says the United States should not work with Russia on a host of issues.
They are saying, but as you work with them, you also have to be honest about what -- what about Georgia? What the Crimea? What about the slaughter of innocent children in Syria? What about other steps that Russia has taken to be open and honest about their activities that run counter to U.S. interests?
PHILLIP: And the people saying this the most strongly it cannot be said enough are Republicans. People like Tom Cotton in the Senate who has been largely supportive of Trump, you know. He said this week Russia is not our friend for any number of issues because they do things around the world that are unacceptable, that nobody else does.
And Trump can have a position of, I want to improve relationships. That's a place that Obama came in. He wanted to reset Russian relations.
That's not in and of itself a bad thing but you have to have sort of a more open mind about -- about the reality of the situation that Vladimir Putin is an ideological warrior for his own interests and for the interests of Russia. He's not trying to play patty cakes with the United States. He's playing a long game.
And Trump has to demonstrate on some level that he recognizes that, that he understands the complexity of that situation.
RAJU: And, John, what's going to be so instructive are the confirmation hearings for the national security team. How do they respond to questions about Russia? General James Mattis for one is taking a much tougher approach to Russia.
And even Rex Tillerson, who is a close Putin ally who was head of ExxonMobil. In these private meetings with senators, he's suggesting that was just a business relationship, suggesting he may even take a tougher line. Interesting to see if he goes further than the president-elect on this key issue, and I think that's going to show some divide within the Trump team. KING: And it's interesting to go back in time. Abby, you make a key
point. I was covering with the Bush White House when he met with Vladimir Putin, the first one was in Slovenia, and he said, "I looked into his soul, you know, I saw a good man". The Bush administration would tell you that was a huge mistake and they learned overtime.
The Obama administration tried to reset, thinking, we're going fix this mess, because Mr. Trump is right, you do need to get along with Russia or at least do business with Russia on serious issues, they tried the reset, they have been foiled. Bill Burns, who was a longtime career foreign service, now he served as one of Hillary Clinton's key deputies, so a Republican would just write this off as partisan, but Bill Burns served the United States, Democrat and Republican presidents at the State Department for a long time as an ambassador and a diplomat.
He writes in an op-ed in "The New York Times," "It's tempting to think a personal rapport can bridge this disconnect, and that the art of the deal can unlocked a grand bargain. That is a foolish starting point for sensible policy. It would be especially foolish to think that Russia's deeply troubling interference in our election can or should be played down, however inconvenient."
It's the last part there. If you want to have a relationship with Russia? Fine, good, good. Work it out.
But to just want to not talk about this. Is it -- you started by saying, you know, it's Trump being Trump. And it's Trump -- is it just Trump's fragile ego? He can't acknowledge that Russia tried to help him and we don't really know if the fake news and hacked Podesta e-mails affected voter decisions in the end, we can't answer that question unless we, you know, interview every voter out there.
Is that all it is? Or does he have to -- does he just fundamentally have a very different world view about Russia that leaves him not alone but almost alone in the Republican Party?
KUCINICH: I feel like to have a world view, you would have to have something before he ran for president to back that up. He didn't really have anything and it's all new. And so, right now, it seems like he's in defensive crouch. The legitimacy of him being president is a big deal, particularly to someone like Donald Trump.
And it's really interesting while -- everyone is right, this is going to be a huge fight with Republican senators, Republican members of the House. You haven't seen few of them have taken it directly to him. A lot of them have been talking past him. You saw a lot of the questions during that hearing last week. It was meant to sort of refute some of the things that Trump has said but they didn't say, Donald Trump has said.
So, it is going -- there is going to be a clash, and they're going to have to stop talking past each other. I've been saying this over and over again at some point.
[08:15:04] And maybe it's when he decides to get rid of the executive action when it comes to these sanctions. We'll have to wait and see.
ZELENY: So many Republicans think Donald Trump would actually look stronger if he who come out and say, OK, we're going to aggressively look into this. As Joe Biden said this week, it is over.
So, there is some hope for Republicans the closer Donald Trump gets inside the Oval Office and at the White House, he may have a change in view, but I'm not so sure.
KING: Twelve days. Twelve days and the counting.
Up next, we'll continue part of this conversation. Next, will it be worth the wait? Donald Trump is about to hold a news conference. His first in more than five months.
And as we go to break, politicians stay the darnedest things. Vice President Joe Biden swearing in senators one last time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Come on, man. You can't back out now.
You're going to have a hard job keeping the boys away from your sister. Keep your boys away from your sister.
How you guys doing? Who is that beautiful child?
Anybody else want to be sworn in?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too much work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome back.
A question to consider over your Sunday morning coffee. What would you ask the president-elect if given a chance?
We're told a more than five-month drought ends Wednesday with a press conference in New York -- Russia hacking, North Korea's belligerence, separating from the Trump real estate organization, taxing and spending issues, Obamacare, paying for the wall. The list of potential questions is never ending.
History tells us this event should be interesting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TRUMP: Wow. There's a lot of press.
This sleazy guy right over here from ABC, he's a sleaze.
Be quiet, I know you want to, you know, save her.
Thank you for the nice things you always say about me. You are so nice, thank you.
Nobody is listening to you, Jeremy, OK? Nobody ever listens to you.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KING: Can't wait. It's been too long. It's been too long.
And I'm going to start with this.
[08:20:00] People in our business should not be so self-important. It's been a five months. It's a long time. We think public officials should be more available to us.
But he has every right to run his operation the way he wants to run his operation, but we do get a chance to question him apparently. This has been pulled back before. And he's done other press conferences. He calls them press conferences and doesn't take a lot of questions.
But what are you looking for?
PHILLIP: Well, two things.
One, we still need to find out the status of his businesses. That's really the thing he was supposed to talk about a month ago that he hasn't told anybody what he's going to do. What are his children going to do?
And then the other thing is just the challenge of nailing down, what does Donald Trump believe right at this moment? There were a lot of things said during the campaign. Some of them may or may not still be true.
We need to establish a baseline for the American public to understand this person is about to be sworn in. What does he believe? What does he intend to do and how and how will that impact you?
KING: We want that. We want that. But is it in his strategic interesting not to be so specific?
RAJU: I think absolutely.
KING: Because he's in this negotiation -- yes, the Republicans run Washington. But it's pretty evenly divided. We already know. Let's just for example -- before you jump out. I want to go back to the campaign. The most promise that everybody remembers from the campaign is we're going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it. Let's just remind ourselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TRUMP: We will build a great wall along the southern border.
And Mexico will pay for the wall.
Who is going to pay for the wall? AUDIENCE: Mexico!
TRUMP: Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
AUDIENCE: Build a wall! Build a wall! Build a wall! Build a wall!
TRUMP: Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
Who is going to pay for the wall?
TRUMP: A hundred percent.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KING: This is one of the fascinating questions for the next six or eight months in the sense that we expect Congress to move regularly quickly on a border security bill. You at home, the American taxpayer with the Trump transition team's full consent, will pay for the wall at first.
Now, Donald Trump says he'll get the money back. Is it his interest against the weeds on this stuff right now?
ZELENY: No, I don't think it is, but I mean, the -- it's not as convenient to say in a rally, who's going to pay for the wall? We are! And Mexico will pay us back.
RAJU: We'll call several years down the road.
ZELENY: The fine print of this is much more complicates, like everything. But again, this I think is important to point out. This is not about the press. This is not about us as reporters asking Donald Trump questions.
It is about trying to shed some more light on what he will do as president. And there are so many open questions here.
What is so fascinating about his presidency to come is he is not beholden to a lot of things inside his party. So, we do not yet know on Obamacare, for example, what his views specifically are if he wants to repeal and replace instantly. His suggestions this week are to go slower on that. So, I think that's why Wednesday is so fascinating.
But Abby is right. The conflicts of interest, those are things he has been working on ever since Election Day. His team has been working on. He should provide some answers for that, but, again, this is not about the press asking the questions. This is about his answers.
KING: I have argued repeatedly and taken some flack for Democrats for it to give him some grace on the business stuff because it is his life. It's his brand, his business, his life and family. It's so intertwined. But in 12 days, he becomes president. So, I do think -- so he postponed the December news conference. So, what? If they needed more time to figure it out, they needed more time to figure it out. The question is what you do, not how you get there?
But the others recently, there's a story the other day on the paper, Jared Kushner meeting with rich Chinese investors and now, he says he's going to comply with all the ethics laws. So, what you did before is different -- that's the son-in-law, I'm sorry. He's very influential to President Trump.
But it's testing time, I guess is my point on this. I think they deserve all the grace they need but the clock is ticking.
RAJU: Yes, and they said they were going to make some announcements about business dealings. We'll see how far they go. But I think Jeff is absolutely right. I mean, there's so much of a gray area in Trump's presidency that we've been reading the tea leaves about what he means and what he does.
I mean, on Friday night, Rand Paul tweeted the conversation that he had with Donald Trump saying that he wanted to replace Obamacare immediately after the repeal vote takes place, sometime early this year. And that completely contradicts exactly what the Republican leaders in Congress are trying to do right now.
Does Donald Trump believe that?
KING: And what Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said on TV this week where she said it could take a couple of years.
RAJU: Exactly, and that's the view of a Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. So, where does Donald Trump come down on that central policy issues and things like the border wall and his views on Russia. All of those things we've only been learning from either his advisers or through his tweets. It will be good to hear from the president- elect exactly how he approaches these issues because it's going to drive the agenda in Washington.
KING: But this is man defined by "Art of the Deal" and if you read the book, the last thing you want to be is absolute at the beginning of a negotiation. I thought it was one of things -- we beat Mr. Trump up here, I just did on Russia a little bit. One of the things he was very candid and I expect on the campaign, is I have my ideas but I'm going to have to negotiate all this stuff. You know, I'm going to have to negotiate with the Democrats and negotiate with the Republicans from.
So, why -- you know, from his perspective why does he want to stand there for an hour and, you know, how long on Obamacare?
[08:25:05] What about pre-existing conditions? What if it explodes the deficit? Why would he want to do that?
KUCINICH: Well, exactly, and I don't mean to be pessimistic, but I wonder how long the shelf life these answers will have actually until he actually starts governing, we won't know exactly what he's going to do. I mean, he could change his mind again. We've seen that before.
So, until there's actually pen to paper. You know, I'm of the opinion I don't think he'll really get hit if he decides to have taxpayers pay for the wall initially. I think it's one of those things where they criticize the media for taking him too literally.
But I do think when it comes to spending, when it comes to all the things he wants to do with infrastructure, when it comes to the wall and when you start looking at all of these things adding up, not reforming entitlements because he said he hasn't, he doesn't want to, even though maybe some of the people that he has appointed or is going to appoint are for entitlement reform. That's what's going to matter, the cumulative effect of this, and how much all of these things are going to end up costing.
KING: We will see how we go. I think on the issue of immigration, what he does with the undocumented probably means more to his voters than who pays for the wall. In the end, as long as we get tougher border security, we shall see.
Up next, President Obama's last act, including a big farewell address Tuesday night from Chicago.
KING: Welcome back.
A smart historian will tell you it's best to wait at while, a decade or two, sometimes even more to judge a president's place in history. But every president tries to shape the early legacy debate as their term expires.
And the economy is one area where President Obama thinks he doesn't get enough credit.
[08:30:00] Let's look at some of the numbers. This is -- we have one more month to go here because the president doesn't leave office for another 12 days. This does not include January. But so far, 11.3 million jobs created in the Obama administration.
How does that compare? Well, George W. Bush, he had, remember, the collapse at the end of his term. Only 1.3 million jobs, so without a doubt, President Obama compares favorably.
The gold standard in recent times, Bill Clinton, nearly 23 million jobs in his eight-year presidency. These are all two-term presidents and Republicans think fondly of the Ronald Reagan days, two terms, 16.1 million jobs. So, 11.3 million, plus what happens in January, certainly doesn't compare as favorably to this.
But President Obama as he heads out, watch his farewell address Tuesday night says, OK, maybe that number not as big as these numbers but remember where I started.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I took an economy that was about to go into a Great Depression and we've had a little over six years of straight economic job growth. This is an ongoing battle. I said in Grant Park when I was declared the winner of the presidency that this wasn't a task for one year or one term or even one president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: One of the many issues that he hopes to frame I guess in the final days. He's been active in the Obamacare debate, but let's focus on the economy for a minute, because if you were in this town in 2008 and 2009, we were in a ditch. There were some people who thought the entire economy might collapse. And you had George W. Bush, a conservative president, bailing out the auto industry, bailing out some of the banks. Conservatives were still mad about that and then President Obama.
And if you look since the election, Donald Trump takes a lot of credit for the stock market rally and there's no question. Some of the psychology of the markets is because of the Trump presidency but is the president on firm footing when he says, hey, I should be junked favorably in history if you consider where we started?
ZELENY: I think he is. And if you look at the 75 consecutive months of job growth, if you look at the jobs created, you just saw there, unemployment 4.7 percent when he leaves office. So, without question, it seems like a long time ago, but we all remember those early months of -- of his presidency and the final months of the Bush presidency.
So, Donald Trump is inheriting a good economy, no question about that. But I think the president on this score deserves a lot of credit.
On other things, he's not accomplished everything he wanted to. We can talk about that in a minute. But on the economy specifically, I think he does, but you're right. History will judge him -- we don't have a full picture of that yet.
We'll see what happens to his signature items and how much of them remain intact, but on the economy, you have to give him high marks.
RAJU: What's been so fascinating is to see how Democrats in the Obama years have struggled to discuss the economy because they don't want to look like they are cheerleading an economy, that the recovery is not going as fast as it should. Wages still not growing at a pace in the country that are -- that it should, and -- and this has led to a lot of frustration from some Democratic members who believe that the White House should have discussed and messaged the economy in much more positive terms, potentially.
Pointing to the other factors that are doing well in the economy that could have helped their own political fortunes and 2010 mid-terms, 2014 mid-terms, and even in this election where the economic message for the Clinton campaign was clearly lacking, even as the job numbers have significantly improved in the last several years.
KING: I was just going to say, as much as we focus on the Russia hacking and we should, and we should, Hillary Clinton did not really have a compelling economic message that would have help her cut through some of that.
But let's focus on the current president of the United States. He's about to leave. It's a rare spot in history, three successive two- term presidents, all young men when they took the office.
Bill Clinton very active in his post-presidency, sometimes that hurt his wife I think in this past campaign, but Bill Clinton very active.
George W. Bush taking a very different approach. We see him from time to time, but he's been much more laid back. He says, you know, my job is to get out of the way, let next guy be president.
Listen to President Obama trying to strike the balance on what he's going to do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My intention is not to be in the day-to-day scrum after the new president is inaugurated, but it is my intention as a citizen to continue to promote the things that I care about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We see him a lot or we see him very little?
PHILLIP: I think we see him a lot. I think, he's one the few remaining Democrats who has a prominent enough, you know, public image to really help the party transition into this next phase, and beyond that. I mean, I think Obama is going to still be kind of like the number one topic of discussion for the next year.
I mean, we're going to be talking about his health care law, all these things that Trump wants to do to undo his legacy. I don't think he's going to be silent while all of that is happening or while Republicans are trying to do that, and -- and this idea that former presidents can kind of like defer to the guy who's coming in next has been eroding for quite some time.
[08:35:01] I mean, I think particularly this last election with Bill Clinton literally being the husband of the opponent of the current president, I think that the idea has been going out the door for a while. I think will continue to go out the door with Obama taking on a more prominent role.
KUCINICH: And it seems like he has unfinished business and also, he's got the approval rating to -- the approval rating goes up when you're out of office.
KING: He does, but Trump now has his bully pulpit, Republicans control the House and the Senate. I'm not sure he's going to win many of these arguments. So, if you're in them all the time, do you diminish yourself if you're out there all the time in these fights and you lose? KUCINICH: But when you're talking about, even under the radar, what
he can do to help state parties. He was talking about building that up. I think it might not be press conferences, but I do think he's said he's going to be active in the sort of rebuilding effort.
RAJU: I'm told he's going to be active in a bigger kind of 30,000 foot way with redistricting, with fake news, other things that he sort of cares about. I do not think we're going to see him on fund-raising appeals, because his quality and his sort of stock will diminish very quickly if he involves himself in these day-to-day things.
And the reality is he lost the last fight. His legacy is going to be remembered for, you know, losing to Donald Trump as well here. So, I think that he's going to look down the road at some bigger things, not these smaller fights.
KING: And if we're wondering how often the soon-to-be former president will be involved in the daily scrum as he calls, what about his wife, his soon-to-be former first lady? Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: I want you to remember something that my husband and I have talked about since we first started this journey nearly a decade ago. Something that has carried us through every moment in this White House and every movement our lives and that is the power of hope. Do not ever let anyone make you feel like you don't matter or like you don't have a place in our American story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Whatever your party, if you like politics or if you like history, to study the evolution of Michelle Obama as public speaker and communicator from the 2007 and 2008 days to today is fascinating, but where does she go?
ZELENY: She will not be on the public stage nearly as much. She has a lost of issues. But watching that speech reminds me what people in Chicago said back in 2003 and '04, why isn't she the one running for office?
PHILLIP: She's smart.
ZELENY: She will not run for office. I do not believe at all. But she will stay involved.
RAJU: She will get pressured to run for office.
KING: She will get. You're dead right about that. She will get pressured to run for office.
Up next, spotlight time for several of president-elect's cabinet picks. Democrats have a long list of complaints, but are any of the Trump cabinet picks in real danger of not winning confirmation? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[08:41:07] KING: It was one of the more memorable lines of Donald Trump's convention acceptance speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: These are the forgotten men and women of our country, and they are forgotten, but they're not going to be forgotten long.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
These are people who work hard but no longer have a voice. I am your voice!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, beginning this week, Democrats are going to try to make a case that's a promise already broken. Their strategy, use confirmation hearings for several cabinet choices to suggest what he has is a team of millionaires and billionaires, Democrats say got richer by taking advantage of the little guy that candidate Trump promised to represent.
Let's take Wilbur Ross, for example. You see right here, he is Mr. Trump's choice to be the Commerce Secretary. He is know, his nickname is the "King of Bankruptcy". His estimated net worth, $3 billion. His critics say he's had SEC violations. He's cast as a Wall Street baron.
He has gone -- now, to be fair to Mr. Ross -- he says he's a successful businessman. He and bought companies in trouble and revitalized them, or sold off some of their assets.
But this is a theme from Democrats that we're going to see in other picks. We can put up another screen. A number of people -- a wealthy man just won the presidency, and guess what? These are people who agree with his views on many things and bring Republican ideas to the table and a number of them are millionaires and billionaires, and Democrats are going to say, this proves Donald Trump is picking a team that is out of touch with the people who helped him win the election.
Beyond or yes?
PHILLIP: It's the beginnings of an argument, but it requires that Trump isn't particularly successful in what he's actually trying to do in terms of policies, job creation, tax cuts potentially and, you know, raising wages. So, Democrats can start this conversation now. They are hoping that they can advance it a little further in 2018 and finish it in 2020.
But a lot is the riding on whether Trump actually does what he says he's going to do, because otherwise, his supporters are going to say, those people are just like this man we just voted in. He's reach and he's going to make us rich like him.
KING: And they are not beholden to anybody. Part of Trump's argument is he's not beholden to anybody, they're not traditional politicians. I guess, the question is, you know, the Democrats do this to beat them up. Do they recent their wealth? Are they doing this to raise money? Are they doing this to, you know, try to claim Trump is a faux populist? Or any of them in trouble?
RAJU: I don't think so because I don't think the Democrats, Senate Democrats, Harry Reid, changed the rules back in 2013 to make it much easier to confirm cabinet level nominees and judges were Supreme Court nominees, meaning 51 senators can confirm a nominee, overcome a fluster, when there are 52 Republican senators.
So, unless, Republicans defect, he should be fine and the only nominee right now in which Republicans are defecting is Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state nominee because of his ties to Russia. So, the question is, do they trip on the confirmation proceedings which could presumably spark some Republican defections if things come out during the vetting process, if they trip up in the questioning. That could change things.
The economic argument Democrats are trying to advance because they know they did not succeed in doing that in this past election, but they are going to try to make the case that these nominees are out of touch, out of step with the way middle class voters need and believe and they hope they can make the argument. Whether they can succeed, though, is a different play.
KING: You mentioned the vetting argument, though. I want to get to some of the specific people that Mr. Trump wants to put in his cabinet. But to the vetting argument, there's news out today that broke yesterday that the office of government ethics is complaining that the Trump team is trying to go too fast here, that they haven't had a chance to vet all the people.
I just want to read here from a letter released late Friday, I guess. This schedule -- this is from the Office of Government Ethics, "This schedule has created undo you pressure on OGE staff and agency staff officials to rush through these important reviews.
[08:45:01] More significantly, it's left some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings."
Now, Democrats are saying this is unprecedented. I've been in this town long enough to know maybe a number of people is not unprecedented. This is not unprecedented. Every president-elect tries to rush through their people. There are maybe more here that have question marks.
What bothered me about this, this is somebody who has been in Washington maybe too long, is that Walter Schwab, the head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, nothing against him. He's a good public servant. He's a Democratic appointee of President Obama. Why didn't they release this letter publicly to everybody? They
release it had through the office of the Democratic leader Chuck Schumer which to me sort of taints it right out of the box as political?
ZELENY: It does, and a lot of these -- I mean, Manu is absolutely right. The reality is, most if not all of these nominees will be confirmed. But there are concerned about FBI background checks as well.
I'm told that only one cabinet nominee has submitted his -- has completed his. So, we're going to hear a lot about that this week, about the background checks and the vetting, et cetera.
But I went back and looked this up. In January of '09, some eight years ago, a lot of the FBI background checks and the vetting was not done at the time as well. So, there were seven -- six or seven nominees waiting for President Obama when he took office. I don't know that there will be that many for -- this time around, but there are going to be a lot of them without a question.
And it's -- you know, there's not much the Democrats can do about it.
KUCINICH: Except slow it down.
RAJU: Except slow it down. And that's the thing. Republicans are pushing hard for the seven nominees to be confirmed, to be in line with what Obama got on the first day in office. They want that done by January 20th. But Democrats can absolutely deny that by objecting and doing delay tactics, and it seems like that they will in a lot of these instances in order not just to deny Donald Trump that victory, but to slow down other elements of his agenda if they are bogged down in these confirmations.
PHILLIP: The other thing to keep in mind also -- if there's insufficient vetting on the front end of this, it just raises the probability of something out of left field coming up and potentially slowing or imperiling some of these nominees. That's the only risk that they face is that we just don't know what they are going to uncover in this process. A lot of these offices are going through material. They're trying to find stuff. You got oppo teams trying to find stuff, they could find things and we may not know until the day of.
KING: It happens from time to time.
Let's lots focus on the one who said, that's iffy when it comes to the Republicans right now, although you mentioned Rex Tillerson, the president's choice for secretary of state. The CEO of ExxonMobil. He's leaving that job.
Let's just take a look, a little bit of look at him. His estimated net worth is $150 million, which by Trump cabinet standards is somewhere in the middle. But a lot of Democrats are complaining about the retirement package he's getting a package. He's getting a package, but this is -- he's a CEO. This is part of
his deal. It's been pre-negotiated. Actually, it would have been more money if he stayed in the job. He has to leave some money on the job to take it.
You know, critics say -- this is the big one. They say he has no formal foreign policy experience. He's traveled the world in ExxonMobil and I don't think that's so much the issue. He received an award from Vladimir Putin, has a lot of friendly pictures with Vladimir Putin.
This is John McCain's issue, but even John McCain has said, right, that he's beginning to meet Rex Tillers, he's starting to ameliorate really the doubts some?
RAJU: Yes, that's right. I asked John McCain that specifically. Are you feeling any better about Tillerson and he said, "I am." He said that I had a discussion with him earlier this week. I said, did he alleviate all the concerns, no, he said, no, he still has some concerns with him about Russia, so he needs to hear that line of questioning.
Look, from what I can tell from these conversations that Tillerson is having with senators. He's coming across very well. He's very polished. He's very savvy and I think he's going to allay some of those concerns.
How exactly he deals with that given Trump's balancing, but Trump's position is on Russia will be inersting.
KING: Stay with us throughout the week. We have many of these confirmation hearings live for you throughout the week. They will become a proxy battle, if you will, for what does the president-elect think? What does the president-elect? What does the president-elect think?
It's going to be much more about Donald Trump than about the person in the chair.
Our reporters share from their notebooks next, including the president-elect's strategy on executive actions.
[08:52:31] KING: Welcome back. We surround our table with reporters, not pundits and we close by asking them each week to share a nugget or two from their notebooks to help you get out ahead of the upcoming political news.
PHILLIP: Well, there's a lot of questions what Trump is going to do on his first day in office in terms of executive actions. But sources tell me as much attention should be paid to executive inaction. The Trump administration is going to be looking to do more than just sign executive orders and rescind Obama's. They might be looking at freezing entire functions of the government that Republicans have been looking to cut for a long time.
One big target of this could be the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This is a strategy that will allow him to have pretty widespread impact on the federal government immediately by simply telling people don't do anything. And that's something that Republicans have wanted to do. It's -- it's sort of a slash and burn type of approach to federal governance and it's very different from what Washington has seen in the last eight years.
KING: The Consumer Finance Protection Board, he's going to renew his tweet war with Elizabeth Warren. Great.
ZELENY: The contentious race for chairman of the Ohio Republican Party this week shows how much Donald Trump is willing to get engaged in Republican Party politics outside of Washington. This wasn't necessarily on the radar here, but in Ohio, it was the top battle of all battles and Donald Trump was personal weighing in, making telephone calls around the clock.
It was part of a blood bath, a final episode perhaps, another installment of it with John Kasich. But Donald Trump's people are watching all of these chairmanships all across the country. So, a prime example, Ohio, but in the Minnesota, a race is also open, a battle brewing in Florida.
So, in two weeks, Donald Trump is taking over the GOP here, but also across the country. So, keep an eye on all those chairmanships and those, of course, have big consequences.
KING: From "Apprentice" to grudge match.
RAJU: John, Donald Trump has a new favorite Democrat, that is Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat senator and someone who is actually considered by Trump to be his energy secretary nominee.
Last week when -- after Manchin met with Trump's EPA nominee, the Trump transition team blasted out a statement from Manchin praising Trump's nominee. Also last week, when President Obama was visiting Capitol Hill, Joe Manchin did not go to that meeting and later in the day privately met with Mike Pence and when I talked to Joe Manchin afterwards, he said he's open to work with the Trump team on a replacement plan for Obamacare even though he opposes the repeal.
[08:55:02] But that's much different from other Democrats and, of course, their interests do align. Manchin is up for re-election in a very conservative state. Trump needs some Democratic support in the Senate to move his agenda. There are ten Democratic senators who represent states that Trump overwhelmingly carried, five from very red states like West Virginia. So, not everyone will be in line where Joe Manchin is, but Joe Manchin
is really willing to work with Donald Trump to help his own political future.
KING: Narrowly divided Senate. That one vote might mean a lot.
KUCINICH: College affordability was the centerpiece of Bernie Sanders campaign and it was also a big part of Elizabeth Warren's progressive platform. These two senators are both on the health committee which is going have the confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos next week. To what extent do the senators bring that hearing to bring this issue back to the forefront because it's not something that's going to go away with the 2016 campaign?
KING: It will be interesting to watch, and to that point, a big town hall with Bernie Sanders here on CNN tomorrow night. We might get a little taste of what's coming this week.
I'll close with a bit more on the crafting of that farewell address President Obama will deliver Tuesday night. Now, the timing is deliberate, to leave some space between the current's president's last big speech and the new president's inauguration. It's no surprise -- the speech will include a last defense of Obamacare and a reminder of how better the economy is now compared to the post-financial crisis mess President Obama inherited.
But the buzzy part will be with a series, a series of what one top presidential adviser calls, quote, "admonitions about the challenges we face moving forward." Those admonitions will be squarely aimed I'm told at President-elect Trump and include calls to celebrate America's diversity, to be more respectful of critics and more respectful of political institutions. The admonitions part, the adviser says, is a lot longer than it would have been had the election gone the other way. A fun week ahead.
That's it for us. Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning.
INSIDE POLITICS also live every weekday at noon for the early weeks of this big New Year. Hope to see you then.
Up next today, "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER".