Return to Transcripts main page
Donald Trump Faces Critical Week Ahead of Inauguration; Trump in Feud with Meryl Streep Over Golden Globes Speech; Accused Gunman On Way to Court; Woman: Fellow Traveler Shielded And Saved Me; Suspect Charged With Domestic Violence Last Year; Fiat Chrysler Announces $1B Investment. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired January 9, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, I'm Carol Costello. Thanks so much for joining me.
A critical week for the President-elect. In the spotlight, Trump's Cabinet nominees. Senate confirmation hearings kicking off about 24 hours from now, but the government ethics office is already waving the red flag on some of those picks.
Plus Trump gearing up to face the press, holding his first formal news conference in months.
And Trump gets tangled up in another feud, this time with the actress Meryl Streep after her scathing speech at the Golden Globes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERYL STREEP, ACTRESS: Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence insights violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: All of this happening as the clock ticks down to inauguration. Our team is covering all the angles for you this morning, but let's begin with CNN's Phil Mattingly.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Carol. Get ready for a whirlwind week on Capitol Hill for those Cabinet selections, as many as nine confirmation hearings over the course of just three days. And that's part of the reason you've heard Democrats crying foul, saying this is all happening way too fast. And they've gotten a little help as well, Carol.
When it comes to the hearings themselves, expect Democrats, at least according to advisers I've spoken to, to really take two tracks. One, attack the nominee but also attack the President-elect and try and get the nominee to take shots at the President-elect if they can. But before the hearings actually start, right now, it's been the speed with which Republicans are actually moving to get these confirmations through, and they've gotten a little help from the Office of Government Ethics.
Now, according to a letter sent from the Director of the Office of Government Ethics to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, there is great concern about that speed, about how Republicans are moving through. And I want to read just a piece of that letter right now saying that, "It has left some of the nominees," some of the President-elect's nominees, "with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings."
Now, the issue here, Carol, is every nominee has to submit paper works, submit financial disclosure forms, to the Office of Government Ethics. The Office of Government Ethics is supposed to sign off and arrange for the nominees to, basically, lay out how they're going to get rid of any potential ethical issues before they actually take a position in the Cabinet. At this point, not all of President-elect Trump's Cabinet nominees have gone through that process.
Democrats say that's problematic. Democrats say that's why this process needs to slow down. The Republicans? They say this is sour grapes. Take a listen to what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had to say this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE: I know how it feels when you're coming into a new situation that the other guys won the election. What did we do? We confirmed seven Cabinet appointments the day President Obama was sworn in. We didn't like most of them either, but he won the election. All of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration in having not only lost the White House but having lost the Senate. I understand that, but we need to sort of grow up here and guest past that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: And, Carol, that's what you're hearing from a lot of Republicans, most publicly from majority leader but also behind the scenes as well. What they're basically saying is, they have no plans to slow the process down. They also have don't have plans to have full Senate floor votes before those ethics forms are on their way in. As Mitch McConnell noted, they confirmed a number of President Obama's nominees in 2009 very early on in the process. They plan on doing the same thing with President-elect Trump's nominees in 2017, Carol.
COSTELLO: All right. Phil Mattingly reporting live for us this morning. Thank you.
In the meantime, anticipation is building for Wednesday when Mr. Trump is set to hold his first news conference since July. Mr. Trump expected to be grilled about Russia and about Obamacare. CNN's Jason Carroll live outside of Trump Tower with more on that. Hi, Jason.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you, Carol. Six months since that last press conference. I was at that press conference six months ago. There were points that needed clarification then; there are points that need clarifying even now.
You talked about repealing and replacing Obamacare. Repeal it, got it. Replace it specifically, with what and when? One of the questions that's outstanding.
Build that wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Got it. But Mexico says they're not going to pay for it, so how and when will U.S. taxpayers be reimbursed?
And when it comes to those Russian intel reports, most of everyone has it in terms of knowing that Russia was indeed behind it. Reince Priebus, the incoming Chief of Staff says he thinks that Trump accepts the findings even though Trump's critics say, look, he hasn't come out with a strong enough statement against Russia in terms of what the U.S. should do to Russia for that cyber attack. Kellyanne Conway says, look, it's very clear where the President-elect stands on this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: He recognizes that Russia, China, and others are constantly trying to hack into government institutions, businesses, individuals, and we, of course, are against that. We don't want foreign interference from anyone into this country.
[09:05:00] This man, Donald Trump, ran successfully on America first, and he means it, including on this issue. But, you know, we can't get over this selective feigned outrage. There's no smoking gun when it comes to the nexus between these hacking activities and the election results.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: And, Carol, another point, Trump has made it clear that he's vowed that he would clear up any potential conflicts of interest with his business dealings but still has not specifically laid out a plan in terms of how he will do that. So, again, Carol, a lot of questions that are out there outstanding. Hopefully, the specifics will come on Wednesday. Carol.
COSTELLO: We'll be standing by. Jason Carroll, a very cold Jason Carroll, standing live outside of Trump Tower. Hopefully, he can get somewhere warm. Thank you, Jason.
With me now to talk about that -- well, not that Jason was cold, but all things political. With me now to talk about all things political, David Swerdlick, CNN political commentator and assistant editor at "The Washington Post," and Paul Singer, Washington correspondent for "USA Today."
Welcome to you both.
PAUL SINGER, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: Good morning.
COSTELLO: So, David, a big week for Mr. Trump. First press conference in 165 days. Confirmation hearings start. Russia is lauding Trump's now partial dismissal of U.S. intelligence findings on hacking. That happened this morning. And Meryl Streep is ripping Donald Trump on national television.
So, David, what is Mr. Trump tweeting about this morning? Meryl Streep. Thoughts?
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Oh, well, on Russia, look, let's take a step back again. December 9th, my "Washington Post" colleagues, Adam Entous, Greg Miller, and Ellen Nakashima, reported out that they had found out that Russia played a heavy hand in -- that the intelligence assessment of our intelligence community that Russia had played a heavy hand in the election, that they had meddled in our election, gone after the Democratic Party. December 11th, President-elect Trump went out on the Sunday shows and dismissed it, called it ridiculous.
Now, I think he's having trouble walking back from this perch where he allowed himself to appear soft on Russia. We don't know everything in that classified briefing that he got on Friday. We only have the summary, and we don't know what his thoughts are and what he will do when he takes office.
But the perception out there is not, as Kellyanne Conway said earlier today on CNN, necessarily that Russia tipped the outcome of the election, but that they meddled in our election. And I think the Trump camp is having a hard time addressing that.
In terms of Meryl Streep, look, she was very clear, Carol, about the fact that one of the things that stuck with her in the election was Trump mocking "The New York Times'" Serge Kovaleski. She was very specific about that and then went on to talk about her feelings about the election. He wants to tweet at her, that is -- she's a heavyweight in her field, he's a heavyweight in his field. They're going to go at it. I just think this is going to be a feature of life in the Trump era.
COSTELLO: Yes, I think we'll see much more of this down the line.
COSTELLO: We're going to talk about Meryl Streep in just a second. I do want to focus on Russia because a Russian spokesperson came out this morning again, Paul, and said that Putin and Trump will meet at some point in time. That meeting will take place. A spokesman also said that the U.S. intelligence reports are wrong and that Russia had nothing to do with cyber attacks into the DNC.
So this is all going on, you know, and Trump is having this press conference tomorrow. Well, you heard what David said. So how does he talk his way around this?
SINGER: Well, it's a fascinating thing to watch when you remember that it was 2012 that the Republican presidential nominee said that Russia is our greatest geopolitical adversary. And now you have the Republican President-elect saying, basically, it wouldn't be a bad thing for us to have a better relationship with Russia.
What's interesting about the way Kellyanne Conway is phrasing this and a lot of Trump's people have been phrasing this, including Donald Trump, is that there's no evidence that the Russians hacked into the voting systems, which is true. But you don't have to hack into the voting systems to have an impact on the election.
It's going to be interesting to watch Donald Trump try and sort of walk this walk, if he does hold this press conference, which I still consider an "if." How is he going to walk this fine line between saying, yes, there's Russian agents sponsored by the Russian government hacking into U.S. political campaigns to get information and leak it to WikiLeaks. But, comma, I want to have a better relationship with Russia. Those are two very different messages. It's very hard to walk that line.
COSTELLO: So this news conference -- you bring up an important point, Paul -- because I'm kind of skeptical whether this press conference will take place either on Wednesday because it is possible, David, that Mr. Trump will back out. He's done it before.
SWERDLICK: Well, I think the logic behind Paul's theory is actually pretty sound, right. President-elect Trump has backed out of other announced and scheduled press conferences before. I think they probably can anticipate that they'll get a lot of questions and a lot of push back on this Russia issue that we're talking about, and so maybe they don't want to come out and talk about it.
[09:10:02] One reason that tilts me toward thinking they may go ahead and have the press conference is that President Obama is going to give his farewell address on Tuesday evening. And I wonder if President- elect Trump will be able to resist the opportunity to respond directly to that at the podium rather than simply on Twitter as he has done largely throughout the transition.
COSTELLO: Yes, because you got to believe, Paul, that President Obama will bring up Russia even though it's his farewell speech.
SINGER: Right. And, well, David is right, of course, that this press conference was scheduled basically as soon as Obama announced that he was going to have his farewell speech. The Trump of people announced that this press conference would take place the following morning, and we all immediately assumed it was in order for Donald Trump to rebut President Obama. Again, since he's got Twitter, I'm not sure he needs to hold a press conference where the environment is less controlled, but we'll see.
You know, there's going to be a whole lot of questions at that press conference, if it happens, about ethics, what are Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump's roles going to be in the White House and in the Trump company, what are their relations to a whole bunch of business dealings that have been in the press for the Trump organization? There's a lot of very uncomfortable questions that Trump will be asked at this press conference. He can't control the agenda when he does it like a press conference. We'll see how it works out if he actually does it.
COSTELLO: Yes, we will. The drama builds. David Swerdlick, Paul Singer, thanks for being with me this morning.
All right. Let's talk about Meryl Streep now. She took the stage and she took a swing at Donald Trump at last night's Golden Globes. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STREEP: There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart, not because it was good. There was nothing good about it, but it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.
It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can't --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: All right. And it went on from there. Donald Trump is hitting back this morning dismissing Streep in a series of tweets as an overrated actress. With me now to talk more about this CNN's senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. This is a fascinating example of Donald Trump counterpunching. We know that he tends to respond when feels he's attacked, but this is one of the most famous women in the world, Meryl Streep, and not just any ordinary person that he's responding to. A lot of Trump voters, a lot of Clinton voters, a lot of fans of Meryl Streep all there across the country.
So Trump responding first in an overnight interview with "The New York Times" then on Twitter saying she's a Hillary --
COSTELLO: So he found the time to do a late night interview with "The New York Times"?
STELTER: That's right. Calling her a Hillary lover among other things, yes.
STELTER: And then weighed in when he woke up at 6:30 in the morning, weighing in on Twitter. Let's take a look at what the substance of this is, though. This is Donald Trump reacting to Meryl Streep alleging that he was making fun of a disabled reporter while campaigning. This happened way back in the primary season.
Let's look first at the video of Donald Trump actually talking about this reporter, Serge Kovaleski, on the campaign trail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right after a couple of good paragraphs talking, and it's talking about northern New Jersey, draws the prober's eye (ph), written by a nice reporter. Now, the poor guy -- you got to see this guy, "Uh, I don't know what I said. Uh, I don't remember." He's going like, "I don't remember. Oh, maybe that's what I said." This is 14 years ago. They didn't do a retraction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: OK. So number one, Serge Kovaleski, has a condition that limits the movement of his arms. So many people interpreted Trump's behavior there to be mocking Serge Kovaleski, a reporter that he knew from his time covering New York.
The broader story here was that Serge Kovaleski was challenging Trump's allegation that thousands of Muslims cheered in New Jersey on 9/11. There's absolutely no proof of that allegation. Trump was wrong about that, but he continued to repeat it.
So Serge Kovaleski challenged Trump on it. Trump was disturbed by that. He made fun of Serge Kovaleski on the campaign trail. All of that happened, of course, during the primary season, but it's been pointed to, ever since, as one of the most shocking examples of Trump's behavior on the campaign trail.
COSTELLO: But he, again, denied it this morning via tweet. And Kellyanne Conway both on --
STELTER: That's right. He continued to deny it and so does Kellyanne Conway.
COSTELLO: Right, saying that we can't see what was in his heart.
STELTER: That's right. This is really interesting. That's what she said on "NEW DAY" a few minutes ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONWAY: You can't give him the benefit of the doubt on this? And he's telling you what was in his heart. You always want to go by what's come out of his mouth rather than look at what's in his heart.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It's a gesture that he's making on video --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: The suggestion there is that we shouldn't always take Trump's word so seriously. We should believe instead what he feels in his heart.
[09:15:00] COSTELLO: How are we supposed to know how he feels in his heart? STELTER: I am blown away by what Kellyanne Conway said there. I
don't know what to make of it. I don't know how we're supposed to interpret it because it suggests that what Trump is saying on Twitter, what he say in interviews, and get to the press conference on Wednesday matters less than what he believes privately. So we have to go on what he actually says publicly.
COSTELLO: Brian Stelter, thanks so much.
Tonight, it's a special CNN Town Hall. Former presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders sits down with Chris Cuomo to answer questions on how Democrats will work with the Trump administration at 9 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.
Still to come in the NEWSROOM, the accused killer in Friday's airport attack is due this morning in a Florida courtroom. This as questions grow over why he was able to legally own a gun.
COSTELLO: Less than two hours from now, the man accused of Friday's shooting rampage is due to appear in court. These are brand new pictures of him being transported to federal court from the Broward County jail. Charges against him could carry the death penalty.
Surveillance video obtained by TMZ shows the gunman calmly pull out a handgun from his pants and just opens fire at Fort Lauderdale's airport. Five people killed, several more injured.
This morning on CNN, we heard from one woman who believes her life was saved when a 70-year-old man, a fellow traveler climbed on top of her and shielded her body with his. Both somehow escaped uninjured even though the gunman stood right next to them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNIKA DEAN, FORT LAUDERDALE AIRPORT SURVIVOR: I had my face to the carpet. I wasn't looking around. I had been praying, I was still praying. But when Tony shielded me, I did feel immediate comfort. I knew that I would be safe.
[09:20:02]I did not know if Tony would be would be safe or if he would be hit, but I knew he was protecting me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: CNN's Rachel Crane has more from Fort Lauderdale. Good morning.
RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Many incredible stories of heroism like the one you just heard emerging over the weekend and new details surrounding the investigation coming out including new surveillance that shows the moments just as this horrific attack started.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CRANE (voice-over): It all happens in an instance. Travelers casually walking through the baggage claim area of Terminal 2 when suddenly shots rang out. A security camera capturing 26-year-old Esteban Santiago wearing a blue shirt, strolling alongside travelers, suddenly pulls a gun from his waistband opening fire. People scramble to take cover as the shooter begins his deadly rampage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He never spoke. He just walked along, pow, pow, pow, pow, just like that and emptied the full magazine.
CRANE: This terrified passenger seen walking among the dead and wounded in this cell phone video recognizes her seatmate from the plane, killed in the melee.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was standing right next to me and the pop started, we hit the ground. I turned around and she was shot in the head.
CRANE: Among the five victims is Olga Woltering, she and her husband were set to go on a cruise when her life was taken and 62-year-old Terry Andres was also killed with his spouse at his side.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't imagine her being there live through all this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CRANE: Now an arraignment is being held today at 11:00. Santiago is facing three federal charges, all of which are eligible for the death penalty -- Carol.
COSTELLO: All right, Rachel Crane reporting live from Fort Lauderdale. With me now to talk more about this is Tom Fuentes, CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former assistant director at the FBI. Welcome, Tom.
TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Good morning, Carol.
COSTELLO: A question for you. Bear with me because it's kind of long. The Alaska police investigated three incidents of domestic violence against this man. Last year Santiago was prosecuted for trying to strangle his girlfriend. He entered into what's called a deferred prosecution agreement.
Now under federal law, if you've been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor you cannot legally own a gun. Santiago pleaded no contest. Of course, that means he doesn't admit guilt. But still, why was he allowed to keep his guns after three domestic violence calls?
FUENTES: Because Carol, none of those domestic violence calls resulted at the end of the investigation and prosecution in a conviction for a felony. That's what's required to deny him the right to own or buy a weapon. That's what the problem is here.
Yes, they answered to domestic disturbance calls, him attempting to break down the door and allegedly strangling her. The way that was set up is that in March.
If he had no further incidents where law enforcement was called to break up a violent act, those charges would have been dismissed and he would not have been convicted even then. So unfortunately, law enforcement --
COSTELLO: Even though he had a restraining order?
FUENTES: A restraining order is not a conviction for a felony. She could get a restraining order that he can't come near her. That's different from an order to take away his gun and keep it away from him. Unfortunately, that's the way the gun laws are right now.
And the police, unless he's convicted of a felony, unless he's judged to be mentally ill by psychiatrists or an actual judge, he's free to purchase as many weapons as the law allows and keep them in his possession.
The police took custody of his gun when they brought him to the medical hospital for evaluation. But when they let him out the door a free person with still no formal adjudication of him being mentally ill, they had no alternative but to return his personal property which included the firearm.
COSTELLO: People are probably listening to you and they're very frustrated so --
FUENTES: Carol, people have been frustrated from all these incidents, Sandy Hook and all that. We hear that all time. Frustration isn't changes in the law to make anything different. That's the problem. Everybody is shocked and outraged at the moment. But at the end of the day, does anything really change? If they don't change the laws, the police hands are tied and they'll be forced to return a gun to somebody like this.
COSTELLO: Do you have any confidence that the laws might be changed under the new administration?
FUENTES: Not really.
COSTELLO: So what are people to do?
[09:25:01]FUENTES: Well, try and be alert and be as careful as they can, but there's only so much you can do. We have a free society, and the FBI and local police are not free to take somebody into custody, lock them up indefinitely for who knows how long because they said delusional things or they said they were hearing voices or they're not acting right.
It just would not be even tolerated, and the problem is, really, the only recourse for the local police department, in this case Anchorage, PD, take the individual, try to get him checked into a medical facility with a psychiatric ward where he might see a professional mental health person, a doctor. But they have no control to keep him there. That's the problem. COSTELLO: So just my final question to you. I know authorities are frustrated by this because they're always blamed. The signs were all there. You should have taken his gun away. Why didn't you act, report this to one? It's your fault. How do authorities feel when they hear stuff like that?
FUENTES: Extremely frustrated because the lack of mental health facilities is a national policy. The defunding of these facilities, reduction in the number of them, number of psychiatrists available to evaluate people like this, the ability to keep them locked up, it's nothing that law enforcement can do if that isn't changed.
And it's not up to law enforcement to make that change. That's a congressional decision and state legislature and governors' decision to change the laws in their states where people can.
Now on the other side of that, imagine the outcry if the FBI or police say, you know, this person said crazy things, we're going to lock them up, without due process, without adjudication? It's not going to happen.
That's just the way the system is right now. I don't see that changing unless Congress really wants to take a serious look at mental health issues and who gets treated.
Secondly, this is a veteran. We have 22 veterans a day committing suicide in this country. What kind of mental health treatment are they getting? Especially when we don't know when they do commit suicide if they're going to take someone else with them. So that's the problem.
COSTELLO: Tom Fuentes, thanks so much.
Still to come in the NEWSROOM, the kremlin says Trump and Putin will meet after the Russian government slams the report on election hacking as a witch hunt. A member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee joins me next.
But first, we are moments away from the opening bell. A major announcement from Fiat Chrysler sends stocks surging. CNN's Alison Kosik is live. Good morning.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. The Jeep Wagoneer, Carol, is coming back. It's part of the announcement from Fiat Chrysler, which says it's making a big investment in two U.S. factories. The announcement coming as President-elect Trump puts pressure on the auto industry to keep or bring back manufacturing into the U.S.
This automaker will pour $1 billion into two plants, one in Michigan and Ohio, it will create 2,000 jobs. The factories will produce SUVs and pickup trucks, one as I said will be the all new Jeep Wagoneer, a model Chrysler stopped producing in 1991. It's a huge favorite.
Known for its wood paneling and rugged frame. Now the president-elect has not directly target Fiat Chrysler in his recent crusade against automakers that this announcement could be a proactive move to show the company's commitment to the U.S.
Carol, as I throw it back to you, we are keeping an eye on Dow 20,000 it got within less than a point of that milestone. We'll keep an eye on it today for you.
COSTELLO: All right, Alison Kosik, thanks so much. I'll be right back.