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Bipartisan Pressure on Trump Over Russia Hacks; Trump to Hold News Conference Wednesday; Trump: Every Nominee Will Pass. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired January 9, 2017 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:30:01] BARACK OBAMA, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: And we're going to have bigger problems than just cyber hacking.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Back to Trump Tower. Sorry to interrupt there but back to Trump Tower, Donald Trump speaking to reporters again.
TRUMP: It's going to be very, very easy to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you already started that process?
TRUMP: Yeah, very much so. A lot, but it's really a very simple thought so.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell me about the role that you expect us to have in your administration?
TRUMP: We'll talk about that on Wednesday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you plan to repeal and replace Obamacare?
TRUMP: One of the great men. You know that, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will he be involved in the inauguration --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are you right now on --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you deliver a package to Mr. President Trump?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are some wonderful things in this country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Such as? With LVMH?
TRUMP: With jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you expanding LVMH here at all?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you making that back again (ph)? BERNARD ARNAULT, LVMH CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER: Some products of 25 years, we can (inaudible) and we are going to expand with the success of the product, and we're going to do that here in Colorado ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some Republicans now say there's no replacement plan is going to place, are you worried that they repeal --
TRUMP: Not even a little bit. That's going to all been work out. Thank you very much folks, see you later.
TRUMP: We'll be talking about it on Wednesday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So is there a plan now or there will just be a plan on Wednesday?
KING: Another interesting glimpse into the lobby of the Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, the president-elect of the United States escorting another one of his meeting guests. Out, he is meeting with a number of businessmen today. The gentleman there I believe with a high fashion company. We'll try to get more information on that meeting.
Now Donald Trump, a little bantering with reporters, but as we saw at the top of the hour. Also when questions came up about the big substantive stuff, he tends to say either wait, we'll get to that or push it away. But again, it's the -- we are -- I know we had a long campaign, I know a lot of people think they know everything there is to know about Donald Trump based on the campaign. But you are always learning about your president and your politicians even if they're in office for eight years like a guy who's about to leave. What is it about him?
His guests can come down and leave, but he -- and you mentioned a little bit earlier, he enjoys part of this, but then he pulls back from part of this.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, he does like to be able to show off that he is bringing all these people to him to Trump Tower whether, you know, it's just banter or just to run a couple of things by them whether it's to be informed on an issue or whether it's for an interview. And that is part of the reason he has liked to use his other properties for these meetings. He likes to be able to have that interaction on camera.
And also, remember, Donald Trump knows how media works. He knows that throughout the day we're going to put these images on television. We're going to use them in our television pieces tonight. The sound will make its way into radio pieces. So he's aware that if he doesn't put something out there, we're going to fill the void with something else. And he's very good at kind of playing that game and being aware of what part of Donald Trump is going to make it on television because he watches them. MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Which is why that he tweets so much too because he knows he needs something to fill the void. When his voice is not out there, we have to take his tweets and literally even if his advisors don't want to take them literally because this is the president, soon-to-be president of the United States issuing a view that will affect this country, will affect how people on Capitol Hill think about his agenda going forward, will affect what world leaders think. And that's one of the reasons why President Obama exercise -- urged him to exercise some caution on what he says because people many not believe that, you know, even if he is saying something that his advisors are saying don't take literally, look into his heart, people are going to take what he says literally.
KING: There was a -- I hope I got the name pronounced right, I'm sorry to interrupt nut Bernard Arnault who's the head of luxury fashion house and brands includes Louis Vuitton. Your wife's birthday coming up?
RAJU: In October.
KING: We have a reminder. Never too early, my friend, never too early. Let's go back to what we were talking about and I don't think he timed that one. We were talking about what playing the -- President Obama, the sound we're going to play that we interrupted with Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.
There's pretty much bipartisan agreement here that, yes, Russia did meddle in our presidential elections. Yes, their intent was to help Donald Trump and that, yes, they went up as high as President Vladimir Putin.
There'll be a public hearing tomorrow, the director of National Intelligence, the CIA director, several others, including the FBI director testifying again before Congress. Donald Trump, am I right, is largely on an island here?
[12:34:55] JULIE HIRSCHFIELD DAVIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Absolutely. I mean, he is -- he and his advisors are the only ones who haven't actually acknowledged in a very concrete way that this was an effort that was carried out by Putin to affect the election. What he has said and is also true of the intelligence report that came out last week is that there is no concrete evidence that their efforts had a concrete impact on the vote tally. That is to say voting machines, ballot casting, the counting of votes.
But that's not the same thing as saying that the effort which we all know shaped the coverage of the election, the narrative of the election, the conversation around Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, didn't have any impact on the contest. And certainly by refusing to acknowledge that this is actually happened, what he is doing is down playing the importance of it. He is the only one who's not expressing outrage --
KING: That's what scares --
DAVIS: -- you heard Lindsey Graham say, you know, if he comes away from this briefing and is still not outraged by this and still not convinced, that's very unnerving to me.
KING: But that's what scares both the foreign policy hawks on Capitol Hill and the intelligence community that he won. He won, he won and in 11 days he'll be sworn in right there on those steps behind me, this is a big deal. This is a foreign government and not just any foreign government, a government that not only does not have the United States interest at heart, but that takes territory from its neighbors, that supports Assad in Syria, and if you don't take the Putin thing seriously, we might have a problem.
JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: But they're still fixated on the fact of legitimacy, and they're still fixated and you hear them go back to it with interviews with Kellyanne Conway and interviews with other Donald Trump surrogates. They go back to the fact that this was the DNC's fault and that this was -- this is -- they're trying to delegitimatize Trump's presidency.
But -- I mean -- and Democrats -- maybe some Democrats were initially. But at this point, we're passed that, this is about the future it's not about the past.
RAJU: And, John, there's one way though the Republican leaders are protecting him and that they are preventing select committee from going forward to investigate the Russia hacks further. They want to do it through the existing legislative committees and why that's significant. When you have a select committee it draws tons of headlines or be expansive, the investigation go very deep. Democrats want that, they're pushing for it, some Republicans like John McCain want it but people like Mitch McConnell are opposed and that will help Donald Trump presumably if he wants to get off this subject.
KING: Although, I still think he will have his many critics including the after mentioned McCain, Graham, et cetera if he doesn't turn the page. Eleven days to inauguration, there'll still time, we'll see what happens there.
Up next, it is a big week for the incoming Trump administration. You heard the president-elect talk a little bit about it there, but not just for him, for the men and women who he is hoping will lead the country's big cabinet agencies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[12:41:34] TRUMP: I think they'll all pass. I think every nomination will be -- they're all at the highest level. Jack was even saying -- I mean, they are the absolute highest level. I think they're going to do well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That was president-elect to the United States Donald Trump at the top of the hour at the lobby of the Trump Tower voicing confidence all of his cabinet picks will get through. Well, get ready for the confirmation rush or blur here in Washington. Eight hearings over three days this week. Then we'll continue on into next week.
The question is, can Donald Trump get all of his key choices through. He met today with the Senate Majority Leader, Manu, Mitch McConnell who says at least when it comes to the national security team he wants them all in place by the time essentially the day Trump is inaugurated.
Democrats have complained about the fast pace. Democrats have complained there are too many hearings at the same time. If you are on two committees you can't attend. They've also complained that some of the ethics paper work is not done yet. The ethics review is not done yet. We got to move along?
RAJU: Well, the Democrats can certainly prevent nominees from being confirmed by January 20th. They do have the power to delay the Senate schedule, so McConnell will need cooperation from Chuck Schumer in order to get six or seven nominees confirmed which is their goal by inauguration day. It's uncertain whether or not Democrats will cooperate on that yet because of their concerns about the paperwork, the have they say that there'd four nominees in particular have not submitted their ethics paperwork, signed off yet before their hearings have gone forward.
But, they do not have the power to block these nominations because they themselves change the Senate filibuster rules in 2013 so to insure that 51 senators could vote to confirm nominees, there are 52 Republican senators, and they're right now no nominees other than Rex Tillerson in which Republican senators are feeling a little squeamish about. So unless some Republicans sorted the fact, Trump will probably get his cabinet.
KING: And again, we'll hear from the president-elect on Wednesday. But this is a great chance these confirmation hearings to see what has been discussed in the transition meetings. You know, what about getting Mexico to pay for the wall? What are you going to do about voting rights if you're the next attorney general of the United States?. And so on and so forth through the departments.
Let's just show what's going to happen this week if the schedule sticks. There are negotiations as Manu notes. Some of the schedule may change to accommodate concerns from both parties that if you're on two or three committees, you can't get to them all. But Jeff Sessions, the senator from Alabama, he is Attorney General pick. He starts tomorrow. John Kelly, the General John Kelly, Homeland Security pick supposed to start tomorrow. Then Rex Tillerson for State, Elaine Chao for Transportation, Mike Pompeo of the CIA, Betsy DeVos for Education, one of the -- all of these hearings let some tough democratic questions. But Betsy DeVos is facing a lot of them.
And then you'll see the bottom there on Thursday. General James Mattis, the Defense Secretary, Wilbur Ross, the Commerce Secretary Designate, and Dr. Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development. If you're the Democrats, to Manu's point, you probably don't have the votes.
KUCINICH: Right. KING: So, we're going to knock number seat, which ones do they pick to fight the most, and most importantly to me, I think on what teams? Because the Democrats are lonely now. They're in the minority in the House and the Senate. They lose the White House so what are we going to see or who are we going to see plant a flag that tells us this is what to watch for the direction of the Democratic Party going forward?
KUCINICH: I am watching to see where some of these nominees separate for Trump particularly on the issue of Russia. Russia is going to be a big deal with Mattis, with Kelly, with Tillerson certainly. And I think there's going to be -- that's going to be a big focus in seeing what Trump has said and whether these nominees agree with them because there are many controversial topics. And I think that's going to be, that's going to be the thing I'm going to be focussing on and I think Democrats are really going to hone in on places where they do not agree with the president-elect.
MURRAY: And I think on some of these other, you know, nominees, it's an opportunity sure for Democrats to knock them around.
[20:45:00] But some of these, this is the consequence of losing an election. You know, if you don't like Pruitt for the EPA, sorry, you lost the election.
And so, Donald Trump was never running on great ambitions to, you know, battle climate change. We all knew what he stood for on this issue when he was running and so we chose a cabinet nominee who reflects those priorities and certainly this is another one I think we can expect to fight on. We, of course, know environmentalists are very vocal on this nominee, and we will see where the Democratic Party is headed on this issue. We have a good idea already. But, like Manu said, you know, the Democrats really boxed themselves in when it comes to these nominees.
RAJU: It is going to be interesting to see the split within the Democratic Party because there are going to be moderate Democratic senators who'll going to be inclined to vote for some of these nominees. Joe Manchin already saying he's going to support Jeff Sessions for instance. Heidi Heitkamp told our colleague Ted Barrett that she is open to Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. So there are a lot of possibilities where you're going to see the split between the liberals and moderates on these nominees.
KING: And how much of this becomes a proxy banner about Trump himself or about the White House those who are not Senate confirmed? Mike Flynn, he's national security advisor pick, he's controversial. But also Jared Kushner, his son-in-law. There's a New York magazine profile that calls him essentially the president's son-in-law, the son-in-law of president, the in-law of president.
They don't have to face Senate confirmations. A lot of questions about how are they going to deal with their conflicts of interests? Do these other guys in the chair and girls in the chair -- forgive me, do they become a proxy for that?
DAVIS: I mean I think they do become a proxy somewhat for that because as you say, there's no way for them to really get a word in on those. They're not Senate confirmable and so it's up to Donald Trump who he wants to have in those positions, although there is an issue with Jared Kushner that he is his son-in-law, and there are anti- nepotism rules so that is open turn to rotation. Donald Trump obviously doesn't think that applies to him.
But, what's interesting to me about these nominees is oftentimes you see these confirmation hearings focusing on the words of the nominee. What you said in the past, what your position was in the past? And I think this time to a greater degree than we've seen before. It's really going to be about what Donald Trump has said about the issue that you are in charge of. So with Tillerson and with General Kelly and General Mattis, that might be Russia.
Certainly, there's going to be a lot of debate over the wall and immigration policy for General Kelly who's taking over or is in line to take over DHS. So I think, you know, we're going to see a lot of attempts to make Trump expand political capital on defending these people. While there may not be a successful effort to block them, I think there -- because they can't stop people like Flynn and they can't stop people like Kushner from taking those key roles, this is where they're going to stake their ground.
KING: You get your benchmark for the debates that follow on in the weeks and years ahead.
Up next, the incoming president is worried the opposition party is trying to delegitimatize his presidency. That sounds familiar. Our reporters empty their notebooks, next.
[12:51:55] KING: We close every day by asking our reporters to share a little bit from their notebooks and get you ahead of the political news just around the corner. Manu?
RAJU: John, Republicans in Congress have mostly fallen in line behind Donald Trump since he was elected president, but there's one faction that is creating some problems and probably problems are signs of things to come, the libertarian minded members of the House and Senate Republican conferences. People like Justin Amash from Michigan who have criticized Trump for some of the deals that he believes are picking winners and losers in the economy, like that Carrier deal that he announced late last year.
But even Republican Rand Paul creating problems for the Senate Republican leadership saying that he's going to vote against the pending budget that would pave the way to repeal Obamacare because it increases deficit spending. Paul himself talking to Donald Trump trying to convince him to repeal and replace Obamacare in the same day it is repealed. That is a strategy that Republican leadership does not want to do. So watch for that faction to be potentially problematic for Republican leaders and Donald Trump.
KING: Governing part gets interesting. Julie? DAVIS: What we've been talking about, the confirmation of the cabinet picks. We learned last week that Donald Trump's team has taken an unusual hard line against allowing the political appointees that President Obama has in place serving as ambassadors around the world to stay even a day after the inauguration. What's also true is that they're finding it somewhat challenging to recruit ambassadors for these positions overall. And so the question is, will they be left without envoys in key places throughout the world? And also it raises questions about who is Donald Trump going to turn to take some of these important posts in countries that have really vital relationships with the United States?
KING: You probably just created some volunteers out there with that reporting. Jackie?
KUCINICH: I mean, some of the Trump nominees might not have their paperwork in. But the Trump team is saying that they're ready for these hearings. They have had 30 practice hearings, 15 the first week of January. They've been subjected to some 2,600 questions, and they've had 70 hours in mock hearings. So while they know these are going to be contentious, but they're making sure that their people are ready for whatever is thrown at them.
KING: Well, we'll be listening for the answers especially on those big policy questions. Sara?
MURRAY: Let's just talk about the irony for a second. Donald Trump spent the entirety of President Obama's presidency questioning whether he was born in the United States which of course many saw as an effort to delegitimatize America's first black president.
Well, now people close to Donald Trump say they would be surprised if we ever see him fully acknowledge that Russia hacked U.S. political institutions, that they attempted to interfere in the U.S. election. And this is because Donald Trump sees this as one thing which is an effort to delegitimize his victory.
He believes this is all a political play, and he is so competitive that he doesn't want to give an inch on this subject. He doesn't want to even hint that there is any possibility that he could be president because of some sort of outside influence. Now, if he appreciates the irony in this, there is really no indication. I spoke to someone who is close to him, and I sort of compared the two situations and in terms of the question about Obama's birthplace, he says that's all behind us now.
KING: Well, it's all behind us now. I'll close with both the trivia question and an observation. First the question, when was the last the United States have back to back to back two termed elected presidents, and what's the big difference this time?
[12:55:04] The last time, the early 1800s when Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe each served two terms. It took until 1992 to begin the new streak, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. One big difference, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, all from the same party. They called it the Democratic Republicans in those days. And they're all also from Virginia.
The more recent streak went Democrat to Republican and back to Democrat. And from Arkansas to Texas to Illinois. Control of the Congress went back and forth over the most recent streak too as Americans seem to favor stability in the White House but also divided government. A new all Republican chapter begins on those steps next Friday. We'll see how long it lasts.
Just a reminder, want to understand the new Washington, tune in tonight at CNN's special town hall. Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders sits down with Chris Cuomo to answer questions about how Democrats will work with and at times against the Trump administration. Starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Thanks for watching. See you back here tomorrow. Wolf Blitzer with us after a quick break.