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STATE OF THE UNION
Senate to Investigate Trump-Russia Ties; Interview With White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Interview With Kentucky Senator Rand Paul; Trump Set to Take Oath of Office; Civil Rights Icon to Boycott Inauguration; Congressman John Lewis Questions Trump's Legitimacy; Trump: A Good Relationship with Putin Is An Asset; Great Moments In The Presidential Press Conference History. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired January 15, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Here it comes. In just five days, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the president of the United States. Hillary and Bill Clinton say they are going to the inauguration, but Congressman John Lewis says he's boycotting.
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I don't see the president-elect as a legitimate president.
TAPPER: Will other Democrats revolt en masse? President Obama's chief of staff will be here live.
Plus, hear it here first. President-elect Trump says he wants Obamacare repealed immediately.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're going to move on this quickly as we can. Definitely is a plan within the first 100 days.
TAPPER: But what will the replacement look like?
Senator and Dr. Rand Paul will debut his bill right here exclusively in minutes.
And deep dive.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset.
TAPPER: The Senate now says it will investigate Trump's ties to Russia a day after a top Republican said it was no business of theirs. What will they discover?
Plus, the best political minds will be here with insights on what happens next.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is in rehearsals for the inauguration of Donald J. Trump.
You're overlooking the capital, where preparations are under way right now for Friday's parade and swearing-in ceremony.
But not American is celebrating. A contingent of House Democrats led by Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon and proud, even partisan Democrat, plan to boycott the inauguration. Members of his party are divided on the issue, with Trump's rival, Hillary Clinton, and former President Bill Clinton saying they will attend, and, of course, President Obama and first lady Obama will be there to hand the baton to the Trumps.
I'm joined this morning by President Obama's chief of staff, Denis McDonough.
Denis, thanks so much for being here. It's quite a thing to have you here on the last Sunday of the Obama presidency.
DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I appreciate very much the chance to be with you, Jake.
TAPPER: So, let me ask you, there are now at least 18 House Democrats who are boycotting the Trump inauguration. Does President Obama think that's inappropriate, or do they think -- does he think they should follow his lead and attend for the sake of honoring the office and the peaceful transfer of power?
MCDONOUGH: Well, the president has made very clear since the election that we should do everything in our power in this transition period to make sure that the next president and his team are up and ready to go.
In fact, on Tuesday night in his speech, he called him the freely elected president of the United States. So, that's the charge that we have taken.
By the same token, these Democrats and others have pointed out that they have got significant concerns. And we have found some of those concerns. The intelligence shows that the Russians did intervene. They did intervene with the purpose of helping one candidate and hurting the other.
So, these are by no means trivial concerns. So, my hope would be that the president-elect will reach out to somebody as consequential and as somebody who is such a leader as John Lewis, who has done so many things over the course of his life, to try to work this out, and hopefully not just reach out to him, but pursue some of the policies that Mr. Lewis has literally fought, bled and gone to jail for over the course of his remarkable life.
And that would be the kind of thing that would not only send a message to the American people that we're prepared to work together, but would also send a message to the Russians, that we are united. Their efforts to divide us, to weaken us, to advance their own interests, at the expense of ours, are going to fail. And...
TAPPER: Just to be clear though, President Obama thinks that president-elect Trump is legitimate?
MCDONOUGH: The president has made very clear that he believes that he is the freely elected president. He will be inaugurated on Friday. And he will come into office hopefully strengthened by the kind of transition that we have tried to run in this White House.
TAPPER: As somebody who saw his own legitimacy questioned repeatedly as president, President Obama, including by the incoming president- elect, Donald Trump, with that birther nonsense, does he think that Democrats should put this away, this whole idea of legitimate, illegitimate?
MCDONOUGH: The president is not going to get in the middle of this right now.
I think what, ultimately, the president -- president-elect Trump's success will be determined by his ability to implement the kind of policies and to have the kind of success that we have had over the course of this administration.
Take one of the issues that I think he mentions over the course of the last several days, which is crime. Crime is down. Crime is way down. In fact, crime is down at the same time that the prison populations in this country are down.
That's the first time that's ever happened. So, we feel very good about the progress that we have made over the course of these eight years. And we hope that the next president will continue a lot of those policies that have resulted in that progress.
TAPPER: Michael McFaul, who was President Obama's ambassador to Russia, put out a tweet this weekend that I want to show you.
He wrote -- quote -- "It's unusual for transition teams to have contact with foreign governments. The number of calls to Kislyak," which was Russia's ambassador to the U.S., "during the Obama transition was zero."
This is a specific reference to president-elect Trump's incoming national security adviser, Mike Flynn, reaching out to the Russian ambassador several times on and around the day that the Obama White House announced new sanctions and punishments against Russia.
Do you have any concerns about those calls and attempts to reach out by Mike Flynn?
MCDONOUGH: Well, Josh was asked about this on Friday, Jake, and I think he answered it just right, which is to say, fact is, the content of the calls is what matters.
We have pursued a policy throughout the course of this transition which is the one that we pursued when we were coming in, in 2008, which is there's one president at a time. That's important, so that our -- the American people know exactly what to expect. And it's also important so that our adversaries are not confused by what we intended to do, by what the United States' position is, and about the significance of our feeling or our intentions on some particular issue.
TAPPER: Do you have any knowledge of what the content of the call was?
MCDONOUGH: I don't.
TAPPER: Are you concerned at all that it was, don't worry about these sanctions, we will undo them when we get into office, or...
MCDONOUGH: I'm not going to get into any particular concerns, but I do think that the content matters. And we will see what -- what that -- how that shakes out.
TAPPER: About nine days ago, you were in the room when President Obama and Vice President Biden were briefed by the top intelligence officials in the country about not just the intelligence community report on the Russian hacking, but also that addendum, that annex, the two-page synopsis about that MI -- former MI6 British officer's memos.
I know you're not going to get into the content, but Vice President Biden confirmed that that synopsis was there. And the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, tried to explain it.
In a statement, he said: "Part of our obligation is to ensure that policy-makers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security."
Do those matters affect national security? Or do you agree with president-elect Trump that this is a political witch-hunt by the intelligence community trying to hurt him?
MCDONOUGH: Look, the president thought it was very important to ask for this assessment of what -- what precisely happened in our election in 2016, but not just in 2016, also in 2012 and in 2008, two elections that he stood in.
And, in fact, in 2008, as you know Jake and as everybody knows, we were also hacked at that time.
TAPPER: But nothing was released.
MCDONOUGH: Nothing was released.
The point is, it's important for the president. It was important for the president that we get a full and complete assessment from the intelligence community, so that we could brief that to policy-makers who would stay here and the incoming policy-makers, so that they can come up with policy and implement that policy to ensure this doesn't happen again.
We think we got that from the I.C. in this case.
TAPPER: But about the synopsis, do you think that including that was the intelligence community trying to mess with Donald Trump, trying to get uncorroborated rumors out there in a sneaky way?
MCDONOUGH: I have no -- look, the intelligence community is staffed by an unbelievable cadre of professionals who have dedicated their lives and in many cases put their lives at risk to get really critical, timely and important information to policy-makers.
I have no reason to believe that. They pursued this, tasking this assignment, with anything but -- the most straightforward professional goals in mind.
TAPPER: Are you at all concerned that the Russians have something on Donald Trump?
MCDONOUGH: Look, I -- job description of chief of staff is to be concerned and to worry about things.
But the thing that we're worried about right now is to make sure that the incoming team has all the information, all the readiness, all the preparation that they need that they can hit the ground running at 12:01 on Friday, after the president is inaugurated here and they take over.
TAPPER: I recognize that your hands are kind of tied as to what you can say, but you didn't deny that you were concerned.
MCDONOUGH: Look, I'm paid to be concerned about everything, Jake, and that's my job description. That's what I do. And that's what I will continue to do until 12:01 on Friday.
TAPPER: A big part of the Obama legacy, of course, is the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans are -- have already started the process of repealing it. President Obama has told Democrats, don't rescue Republicans on Obamacare. Make them own it. Start calling it Trumpcare.
Given how many Americans depend upon the Affordable Care Act and what will come next, shouldn't Democrats try to make it as good as possible?
MCDONOUGH: Well, I'm not sure what that quote is. I think that's referring to a leak or a secondhand characterization of what the president said.
Here's what I know what the president believes and what the president has said to me, which is that the Affordable Care Act is important to the American people. This isn't a political question. This is 24 million people who now have access to health care because of that act.
We also have seen historically low cost increases in health care costs over the course of the last four years, year on year on year on year. That's something that we have not seen happen since we started keeping score on these matters.
TAPPER: But premiums have gone up. Premiums have gone up.
MCDONOUGH: Premiums go up and down, Jake, as a matter of course in health care. That's what we call the market.
And, in fact, what we have seen over the course of time is, over the course of these last four years, historically low cost increases. That's even when you consider out-of-cost -- out-of-pocket costs like deductibles or co-pays.
That's a fact. That's undeniable. And that's what the president is focused on. The politics will work themselves out, OK? What won't work themselves out is 24 million people or the 320,000 people who would get coverage in North Carolina under the expanded Medicaid plan of Governor Cooper, which has put on hold last night by a federal judge.
What won't happen is, those 320,000 people won't get health care, won't get the piece of mind that you and I have, that all 435 of these people have, and that everybody in the administration has when they get health care coverage, at the cost of the American taxpayer.
That's what the American people deserve. And it would be a shame, an absolute shame, if this Congress and this next incoming administration doesn't recognize that fact.
TAPPER: You mentioned the intelligence professionals who will still be here after President Obama and his administration leave.
There are going to be a lot of bureaucrats and people who work in policy who are remaining here. The Trump transition team has sent out questionnaires to a lot of them. How many of you and who has worked on climate change, who has worked on gender issues? What do you make of that? These are still your employees, technically.
MCDONOUGH: Well, these are the American people's employees. The American people pay them. The American people pay them expect professionalism from them, expect results from them. And that's, in the main, what they get.
We were very concerned about these reports, Jake. We have raised them. A number of us have raised them with the transition team and with the president-elect's team. We have sought and we have received assurances that that was not sanctioned activity and that, in fact, that they think it's a bad idea.
So, we're relieved to hear that. We think that the American people will be relieved to hear that, and we think that the federal work force should be relieved to hear that. And we will make sure that we conduct our business just that way until 12:01 on Friday.
TAPPER: There is still an FBI probe going on with the Clinton Foundation.
Senator Sessions, the other day during his confirmation hearing, said, as attorney general, he will recuse himself from anything having to do with the Clintons, which suggests there's still stuff going on.
Is there any discussion right now by President Obama about any sort of preemptive pardon for Bill or Hillary Clinton?
MCDONOUGH: I don't know anything about any investigations, and I don't have anything on pardons, preemptive or otherwise.
TAPPER: How about for Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning?
MCDONOUGH: Also don't -- like -- if the president is going to exercise any pardons, it will be conducted straightforwardly, pursuant to our policies. And we will make those decisions based on the merits, not on the politics of any particular matter.
TAPPER: Denis, you have been with President Obama since he was Senator Obama, giving him advice, and then joining his campaign. So, what is your favorite one-on-one memory you ever had with him?
MCDONOUGH: The beauty about my one-on-one memories, Jake, is that they will stay that.
I have valued my candid relationship with the president, the fact that he gives me some good advice, including on how to be a good dad. That's stuff that I will take with me, maybe share with my wife, but nobody else.
I will say that the thing I'm most proud of, Jake, is an administration now, acknowledging that we still have six days left or five days left, that has been historically free of scandal.
And I think that's important, not just because it underscores the president and his and the first lady, Dr. Biden, Vice President Biden's view on how the government should run and how we should conduct ourselves, but it's also because we set up a White House that said the institutions have to work.
Congress is going to investigate us. They did. We have participated in and cooperated with those investigations. The Department of Justice...
TAPPER: Some would take issue with that, just FYI.
MCDONOUGH: Well, I'm sure they will.
And my point, though, is, Jake, is, they ought not let down their guard on the importance of the Article 1 institution, Congress, overseeing the Article II institution, the president.
By the same token, we have let the Department of Justice, the FBI, the courts do their business, and we've not intervened in that. The independence and transparency of that process is very important to the functioning of this democracy.
The president has been clear about that with us from day one. And that's why, God willing, we will leave here on 12:01 Friday with that president's record intact. That's an important thing. That underscores the confidence of the American people in the institutions, at a time when that sometimes seems in question.
TAPPER: Most White House chief of staffs last, what, two years, year- and-a-half?
MCDONOUGH: Oh, there's been great ones. You know, Andy Card lasted five-and-a-half years.
TAPPER: What, you were four?
MCDONOUGH: Not yet, if I make it until Friday.
MCDONOUGH: I serve at the pleasure, Jake, so let's see if I can make...
TAPPER: Oh, you might -- you think you're going to get fired before then?
MCDONOUGH: I just might.
MCDONOUGH: I don't know.
TAPPER: You never know.
TAPPER: It's up to the discretion of the president.
Denis McDonough, thank you so much for being here.
MCDONOUGH: Thanks, Jake. I appreciate the shot.
TAPPER: I really appreciate it.
Coming up next: an exclusive look into the first Republican proposal to replace Obamacare. What's in? What's out?
Senator Rand Paul will be here with the details next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
We're just five days away from Donald Trump's first day in office.
And the president-elect says repealing and replacing Obamacare is his top priority once he gets to the White House. Now, for the first time, we are getting a preview of what might be in a replacement bill.
Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, has written the first draft of a piece of legislation. He is here to share it with us exclusively.
Senator, thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Morning. Thanks for having me.
TAPPER: So, I'm going to get to your bill in just a second, but, first, I have to ask you about a big story going on this weekend, this Martin Luther King weekend, Congressman John Lewis obviously suggesting that president-elect Trump, in his view, is not legitimate because of the Russian hacking.
Mr. Trump took to Twitter on Saturday and attacked him. He wrote -- quote -- "John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart, not to mention crime-infested, rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk. No action or results. Sad."
Then later in the day, president-elect Trump tweeted: "Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime-infested inner cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get."
Now, Senator Paul, you make and have made a concerted effort to reach out to communities of color as senator and as a presidential candidate. I went with you when you went to Howard University.
What's your response to what president-elect Trump tweeted at John Lewis?
PAUL: Well, you know, I have worked with John Lewis, met him several times, have worked with many members of the Black Caucus and many progressive Democrats, frankly, on the idea of criminal justice reform.
So, I think I have a good relationship with him. But I would also be one who says -- and I do appreciate what -- him being a civil rights icon. But I would also say that that doesn't make us immune from criticism or debate.
So, John Lewis isn't in a position where there can't be a healthy debate back and forth. Because he's a civil rights icon shouldn't make him immune.
But I would say that, instead of this bickering back and forth, what I would like to find out is how we can still do criminal justice reform. And I have been talking to Democrats about how we get more Republicans on board. I was disappointed we didn't get it through, you know, when President Obama was in.
But I think there is still some chance to reform some of our criminal justice system. And I'm willing to work with John Lewis and others on that.
TAPPER: Just a last question on this, and then I want to get to Obamacare.
I think one of the things people are taking issue with is not the question about whether John Lewis is immune from criticism. Obviously, he's a partisan Democrat and he said president-elect Trump is illegitimate. Certainly, lots of room to criticize there in terms of what he is saying a few days before the inaugural.
But the question of describing his district as crime-infested, urging him to focus on burning inner cities, and referring to this man, who you refer to as an icon, accurately, as all talk, no action, I think, on Martin Luther King Day weekend, I think that struck a lot of people as a little tone-deaf, including many Republicans.
PAUL: Yes, I -- but if it -- but I think it gets one-sided sometimes.
In Jeff Sessions', you know, nomination hearings, there were three African-American legislators, Cory Booker, John Lewis, and I think Cedric Richmond, came forward and decided to testify against Jeff Sessions.
But there were also three African-Americans who had worked with him and known him for years and years who testified in his favor. So I think we shouldn't -- when things involve race, it gets very, very sensitive. All of us -- or none of us actually want to be considered to be either racially insensitive.
And so it's a very, very important subject, but I think we shouldn't -- we shouldn't ignore that people are partisan. So, John Lewis is a partisan. I have a great deal of respect for him, but he's a partisan. And I disagree with him on issues.
I should be able to honestly disagree with him, and not have it all come back to, I have no appreciation for a civil rights icon because of this. And I think that's the part that I think is sometimes unfair in this.
TAPPER: Let's turn to health care.
I want you to hear from a Kentucky resident who voted for Donald Trump and is now concerned about possibly losing Obamacare. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: You supported Donald Trump in this election?
LINDA ADAMS, TRUMP VOTER: I did. I did.
QUESTION: But if Obamacare goes away?
ADAMS: If Obamacare goes away, I'm going to be in a world of depression.
QUESTION: But you want the jobs that Trump promised? ADAMS: I want the jobs, yes.
QUESTION: But you want the health care that Obama has provided?
ADAMS: I do. I do. And I want -- I do. And I know it sounds weird.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I know I'm not telling you anything you don't know, sir, but more than 400,000 people in your great Commonwealth of Kentucky have been able to get health insurance because of Obamacare, whether through the Medicaid expansion or through subsidized private insurance, the plan that your former governor set up.
Tell us about the replacement bill that you plan to introduce. Can you guarantee all 400,000 of those -- 400,000 of those people in Kentucky are going to be able to keep their coverage?
PAUL: You know, I think the interesting thing about the woman's comment is, is that she wants care. She also wants a job.
And so we need policies that create more jobs, because the more jobs that are created, obviously, the less need there is for government to jump in.
I believe that it's incredibly important that we do replacement on the same day as we do repeal. We have had six years to complain. And we have complained. I have been one of those complaining about Obamacare. Replacement should be the same day.
The replacement bill that we put together, our goal is to ensure the most amount of people -- give access to the most amount of people at the least amount of cost.
And I think this is where Obamacare failed. They wanted to insure people. Their motives were good. Their heart was in the right place. But they put so many mandates in it, that they made it too expensive. So what's happening in the individual market, which is about 6 or 7 percent of the market, you have companies like Blue Cross of North Carolina losing $400 million because young, healthy people don't want to buy it because they are told, hey, you can get it any time after you get sick.
And so that -- they have broken the insurance model. The other problem with Obamacare is, they have put these mandates and said that every insurance policy has to have 10 items, things like pregnancy and dental coverage and all these things, which are great, but they add cost.
And that forced people out of the market. So, one of the key reforms that we will do is, we're going to legalize the sale of inexpensive insurance. That means getting rid of the Obamacare mandates on what you can buy.
[09:25:05] We are going to help people save through health savings accounts, as well as a tax credit. And then one of the things that we need to talk more about -- and this is the third part of the replacement bill -- is, we're going to allow individuals to come together in associations to buy insurance.
I understand, as a small business people. I had a doctor's office with four employees. If one of my employees got cancer, it was devastating to the bottom line, not only to them, obviously, but to the bottom line of insurance.
But there's no reason why someone with four employees shouldn't be able to join with hundreds and hundreds of other businesses that are small to become a large entity to get leverage to bring your prices down, but also to get insurance that can't cancel you and guarantees the issue of the insurance even if you get sick.
TAPPER: So, Senator, what will happen to the people in Kentucky who now have health insurance because of the Medicaid expansion? Will Medicaid expansion remain, or will it be taken away as your new bill theoretically takes forward -- goes forward?
PAUL: I think that's the big question.
And I don't think that's going to be in the replacement aspect. I think that's going to be in the repeal aspect. There's going to be a vote on -- it's a fancy term -- budget reconciliation, which has to do with, once a budget is passed, you can, by simple majority, alter things that have to do with the budget.
That's how Obamacare is going to be repealed. The vast majority of people that got insurance under President Obama's Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, got it through Medicaid. So, what we have to decide is what can be kept and what can't be kept. And that's going to be part of repeal.
But I will make this point, and this is an incredibly important point. Everybody says, oh, well, what are we going to do? We're going to give these people care. The other question is, where are we going to get the money is what I ask?
We borrow $1 million a minute. We owe $20 trillion. We have this enormous debt. My point is, we should be honest about it. If Kentucky or Tennessee or Ohio wants to expand Medicaid, and they want -- they say you have a lot of people struggling, we're willing to help them, that's fine.
Probably, we should then raise the taxes on everybody in Kentucky to pay for Medicaid. Instead, we had this deceitfulness that President Obama said it would be free, it would be taken care of 100 percent by the federal government. But we have no money in Washington.
You know, we have a $20 trillion debt, so it's not honest accounting. So, I would say, if you want to have Medicaid, you should say, we're going to have to have higher taxes to pay for it. TAPPER: Senator Paul, I have to ask you, you have now heard testimony
from Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump's nominee to be secretary of state. You are on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
At this point, are you prepared to say that you would vote for him to be secretary of state?
PAUL: Yes, I will vote for Rex Tillerson.
I was very impressed. And one of the things I was very impressed with was one of the introductions by Sam Nunn, a former Democrat, but somebody who did a lot of history in arms control and realizes how important dialogue is.
We have so dumbed down and simplified this whole idea of whether Tillerson would be a friend of Russia or this and that. We want dialogue and engagement.
And the one thing Sam Nunn mentioned is, he said, you know what, in the deepest, darkest throes of the Cold War, when we were at such great odds with the Soviet Union, and when we knew there were terrible human rights abuses, and they were, you know, doing proxy wars around the globe, we still talked to the Russians.
This is really important, because we have -- on both sides, Republicans and Democrats, saying, like, what are you going to do? What are you going to do? Are you going to call him a war criminal?
And it's like, well, no, maybe we're just going to have discussions and engagement. It doesn't mean we're going to acquiesce or we're going to say the Russians are right or we won't stand up to them. All of that has to happen.
But we also have to realize that we have enough nuclear weapons on both sides to blow up the world, that it's incredibly important that we always maintain a dialogue with the Russians.
TAPPER: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, always good to see you, sir. Thanks for coming in. We appreciate it. Hope to see you soon.
PAUL: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: Coming up: Boycott? You're looking right now at pictures of the inaugural rehearsal under way right this second, but at least 18 members of the House, Democrats, say they are not going to attend. Will those numbers grow?
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I don't see the president-elect as a legitimate president. I think that the Russians participated in helping this man get elected, and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Congressman John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, questioning the legitimacy of Donald Trump's presidency. Trump responded yesterday morning tweeting -- quote -- "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing his health and helping his district which is on horrible shape and falling apart not to mention crime-infested rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk -- no action or results." And then as we all know, "Sad."
Will more Democrats follow the lead of Lewis and boycott the inauguration or will they follow the lead of President Obama. Hear with us. We'll talk about all of this and more former Republican presidential candidate and senator from the Great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Rick Santorum. Former Democratic Ohio State senator Nina Turner. Sarah Isgur Flores, attorney general designee spokesman. We needed a spokesman for Jeff Sessions. And Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans. Thanks one and all for being here.
MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: I love to talk about -- Mr. Mayor, let me -- let me start with you.
What do you make of the fight between president-elect Trump and John Lewis?
MORIAL: John Lewis is a great American -- an American icon. Nothing Donald Trump says will diminish it his standing and from his legacy, but let's not let all the smoke of the conversation get away from the fire of whether Russia was involved in our elections process. That is something that has to play out. Got to be fully and fairly investigated so in all of the discussion we shouldn't lose the essence of the issue.
John Lewis raised that once again. Members of both the Republican and Democratic intelligence committee in the Senate have raised that. There needs to be a complete investigation. I would like to see a select committee, a bipartisan commission, something that can be done in public because it's damaging to democracy if a foreign power was involved in our elections process.
TAPPER: And we will talk more about Russia in the next block but, Senator Santorum, let me ask you. I understand that you would take issue with the question of whether or not president-elect Trump is legitimate. You heard Denis (ph) --
RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we should all take issue with it (ph).
TAPPER: (INAUDIBLE) --
SANTORUM: I don't think -- I don't think it should be me that takes issue with this.
SANTORUM: The idea that we're actually questioning the legitimacy of Donald Trump's election at this point in time is absurd.
TAPPER: And I think Denis McDonough said the same thing, President Obama considers him to be a freely and fairly elected president. That -- I just want to ask you as a political matter, if Donald Trump had said what do you think -- how do you think I should handle this? What would you have said?
SANTORUM: Well look, Donald Trump is president and I'm not so I'm not giving Donald Trump any advice on how to handle these things.
What Donald Trump has done throughout the course of this campaign has break every single rule and it's working out pretty well for him. To attack John Lewis, I think the last thing he said in his tweet was right. It's sad. John Lewis is a -- is a -- was a great civil rights leader 50 years ago when he -- when he made his mark and continued to make a mark.
But look, John Lewis said some things he should not have said and is doing something he shouldn't do, and -- and that's -- and that to me is sad because I think it does create a little stain on what is otherwise a terrific record.
TAPPER: I guess one of the things is without taking issue with what Senator Santorum said and I'm sure you would agree president-elect Trump is a legitimate president, I don't know that it doesn't hurt him, I mean, president-elect Trump, because you have a president-elect who is coming in as the least popular president-elect in history, or at least in modern history. His approval ratings are under 50 percent. He's according to polls, his approval rating among independents is actually going the wrong way.
This is normally a time when George W. Bush was at 67 percent approval ratings, president-elect Obama was at something like 80 percent approval rating. This is a time for uniting to get the country behind you so you can do what you need these guys in the building behind me to do.
SARAH ISGUR FLORES, SPOKESMAN, ATTORNEY GENERAL DESIGNEE JEFF SESSIONS: Right. Well, I do think that we're seeing just a different political atmosphere that we've seen before. And for all the Democrats who decried the delegitimization of President Obama as they should have -- they're very silent --
TAPPER: Led by Donald Trump, by the way.
FLORES: They are very silent this time around and John Lewis should know better. That's what's so frustrating.
This is about the office. It is not about the man. And I do think that Donald Trump will actually go in with a different honeymoon period, but it will be a honeymoon period.
I think that Congress is ready to get to work on a bunch of items. The last president was having several executive actions that were unconstitutional. The Supreme Court struck down one after the other because he couldn't find a way to work with Congress. So the question for this president is -- going in, his approval ratings, set those aside.
Frankly those are fairly meaningless compared to can he go to that building and actually cut deals and negotiate to get things done? And I think we're seeing so far, as just president-elect, that he's making some good progress on that.
TAPPER: Here's the thing. John Lewis put Democrats in kind of an awkward position on Friday. A lot of Democrats are like, oh, no, now I'm going to have to be forced to defend Donald -- president-elect Trump. Now I think that president-elect Trump changed the dynamic by engaging with him...
NINA TURNER (D), FORMER OHIO STATE SENATOR: Yes.
TAPPER: ... but that was -- a lot of Democrats had raised their eyebrows at John Lewis doing that.
TURNER: Well, he's Congressman John Lewis. I just want to say that to make sure that we give him the requisite respect that he deserves, and 50 years ago everything that he did is still important today.
Now I as a Democrat, we know that the Russians have some impact, but they didn't go vote on Election Day, they didn't mess with the electronic data so there are Democrats that get that and they didn't write the e-mails. Democrats are going to have to wear that.
But at the same time what the president-elect needs to do, this is not "The Apprentice, White House edition." His tweets were insensitive. For him to categorize Congressman Trump's -- excuse me -- Congressman Lewis' district as in bad shape.
TURNER: Crime-infested -- it's not.
TAPPER: ... by the way.
TURNER: Fortune 500 companies, it's about 58 percent African- American.
TURNER: Right. Institutions of higher learning. It is diverse ethnically and it is diverse economically. So my memo to my -- to my -- to my white elected officials, not just president-elect Trump, but a lot of white elected officials make this mistake in making the African-American community a very homogenous. They read us the wrong way. They think everybody is poor, everybody is broken down. That is not the truth. So they need to come and visit some African-American communities and see the diversity of that community. The president is going to have to let some of the stuff roll -- president-elect Trump should let some of stuff for a lot of state --
FLORES: But why -- why does President Trump has to be the bigger man when you've seen calls for recount, calls for Russian involvement? Like after...
MORIAL: I'd tell you why.
FLORES: ... delegitimizing the president?
MORIAL: I'd tell you why because when you're president you got to take the heat. And personally attacking people...
FLORES: That wasn't what you were saying when Donald Trump was attacking President Obama.
MORIAL: ... personally -- yes. But that -- President Obama took the heat. He rose with dignity.
TURNER: He did.
MORIAL: And he took all the low blows and he's going to leave office with one of the highest approval ratings of any president in modern American history. So the verdict is in on President Obama. He took the heat.
I would suggest that in this instance if you're concerned about America's urban communities assemble a team of people who understand America's urban communities. Less have a public policy discussion. Let's understand as Nina says, great cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and small towns (INAUDIBLE) have problems but have tremendous -- tremendous successes and assets.
Let's not downgrade these communities.
TURNER: That's right.
TAPPER: Hold on right there. Stay with us, coming up in just five days Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the next president of the United States. Predictions from our panel on what surprises the big day will bring. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks? That's called an asset, not a liability.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That was president-elect Donald Trump talking about Russian President Putin and his hopes for a better relationship with him and with Russia. Others on Capitol Hill are worried about just how much Putin likes Trump and what that might have meant during the election.
The panel is back with me and Senator Santorum I rudely cut you off. I want you to respond. Mayor Morial was talking about how well President Obama took the slings and arrows when he was president -- you take issue.
SANTORUM: Yes. I take big issue because President Obama was probably one of the most vindictive presidents that we've ever dealt with in going after individual members of Congress and anybody who disagreed with him, and that was one of his hallmarks. One of the things that made it him hard for him -- I'll be honest -- hard for him to get things done was going after Paul Ryan while Paul Ryan is sitting right in front of him and trying to embarrass him.
TAPPER: On Medicare.
SATORUM: Yes, on Medicare and going after the Supreme Court during the State of the Union address where the Supreme Court -- trying to bully the Supreme Court.
This president has been a bully. This president has been tough. That he's done it in a cool way. I'll give you that. The guy has style, but it's not because he's been -- he's been light handed or he's been soft touch. He's been a very tough touch.
MORIAL: He's been a tough strong leader and he has done it...
MORIAL: ... with dignity. And I think what we expect presidents to be presidential.
MORIAL: And --
SANTORUM: You're talking about style.
MORIAL: It's not just style.
SANTORUM: It is style.
MORIAL: It's comporting a sense of leadership and a sense of confidence in what we want our children to be.
The presidency is -- also an important role model and an important image. And I don't want my children believing that leaders speak in coarse language, that leaders personally attack anyone that says something anything about them like they are on the schoolyard playground.
So I sort of think we just have to get used to this tweeting but -- you know, let me say this. You learn this. When you as a high- powered person attack someone, you also elevate them. John McCain was elevated when Donald Trump attacked him. John Lewis is elevated when Donald Trump attacks him because they are elevated in the public consciousness -- because people don't really expect a president to do that.
I would like us to certainly pivot as a country and move to confronting some of the challenges we face if there's going to be a plan coming from this administration for America's urban communities. I'm all ears.
TAPPER: Yes. So let's turn back to the subject that this was about -- that you says we shouldn't avoid which was Russia and the hacks of Russia. And now the Senate intelligence committee is saying that they are going to look into the role of Russia and also any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns. What do you make of this?
TURNER: They have to do that, Jake. And they have to reassure the American people that we will be protected, not just from Russia, from China. We need the private sector to be engaged because we know Sony got hacked, you know, a couple years ago. This is a big deal. This is a security issue from the public perspective and also from the private perspective and we have got to come together and do that.
But that being said, we need no red scare in the 21st century. We can't have a hegemony nation like the United States and a super power like Russia getting into these fights back and forth. We must protect this nation. President-elect Trump is the president of America and has to make that clear even though I believe he's taken some of the things that Democrats are saying about the hacking and making it personal about his legitimacy. Those are two separate things.
For the record, president-elect Donald Trump won the Electoral College and my Democratic colleagues need to understand that, need to vibe with that, need to feel that and we need to decide what we're going to do starting this year, 2018, 2019 and 2020 -- going forward to win elections and to win over to get the power back so that we can push our agenda. Those are the facts.
But this is a Dr. King moment, Jake, right here, a Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King moment, and he once said that we have to work together as brothers and with (ph) those (ph) sisters in there.
TAPPER: Please do.
MORIAL: Bring them in. TURNER: Brothers and sisters or perish, you know, together as fools. And this is a moment where we have to come together on the things that Democrats can work with the president-elect with, they should. On the things that they can't, let's have at it. This is politics.
SANTORUM: Sarah said it right. The proof is going to be in the pudding. Donald Trump is going to get a lot of stuff done here. He's going to get much more done than President Obama ever thought of getting done, even tried to get done.
TURNER: (INAUDIBLE) --
SANTORUM: And one of the reasons...
TAPPER: Let him make his point.
SANTORUM: ... is because Donald Trump is not an ideologue. He's not a partisan. He's extra partisan. He's -- I mean, he's a Republican.
TAPPER: Kind of.
SANTORUM: In name only, and -- and ideologically he's certainly not an ideological conservative.
He's going to go up there and do what he did when he was a businessman. He's going to make deals. You'll see a lot of things happen and I agree with Sarah 100 percent. His popularity is going to grow over time.
Look, he's going to have rough edges. It's a coarsening society and we have a president that reflects that, surprise. I mean, we -- you know, I always said, the presidency is a reflection of us. We may not like that reflection sometimes, but we need to look in our own mirror when we see that.
TAPPER: I'm going to take that as your first prediction. I want to go down the rest because you talked about a lot getting done --
TAPPER: I have to change the subject. You had a nice little speech there. That was lovely. Now let's talk -- let's look forward.
What do you see happening here on inauguration day and moving forward? You can make it about the Democrats if you want, I don't care. But like what -- give us a little prediction.
TURNER: I mean -- but -- do we have to tear down the current president to lift up president-elect Trump? And that's what Senator Santorum -- that is what he just did. I mean, that -- we shouldn't do that. And I agree with some of the things that he's saying. The prediction is the president-elect is going to go there. He's going to do his thing. The question about whether or not he's going to read the teleprompter, not read the teleprompter, I think he's going to do a little of both. It's going to be a little country, a little rock 'n' roll. It would not be like him...
MORIAL: A little jazz, a little hip hop.
TURNER: ... little jazz, little hip hop. It wouldn't be -- it wouldn't be -- he wouldn't be who he is if he didn't throw in a few believe mes into that -- into his speech.
TAPPER: Sarah, what are we going to see on inauguration day and moving forward?
FLORES: So the day after the election, I thought he gave one of his best speeches that he's given and that was --
TAPPER: Early morning.
FLORES: Yes. Whatever (ph) (INAUDIBLE) 3:00 a.m., and I thought that was one of his best speeches and that was done on very short notice.
Steven Miller is a talented speech writer so I think the speech itself is going to be pretty great. But don't forget that this president understands how to reach the American people in a revolutionary way that we probably haven't seen since Reagan took over television.
You know, Clinton with town halls and Obama with social media but that's nothing compared to the Reagan moment and the Trump moment that we're going to see.
MORIAL: So, I'd tell you what I hope. What I hope is that this idea of making America great becomes a real cause to make America great for everyone, and that everyone is included in the go forward. And that -- there isn't an effort to roll back important gains particularly when it comes to civil rights, and that Donald Trump will in fact nominate a mainstream moderate, Supreme Court justice. That's my hope.
But my hope is also that the rhetoric around an inner city plan is very real. And I hold my hand up to say that there's a chance on that issue, I think, Jake, to build a real bipartisan approach to really lift the American economy.
TAPPER: Great panel. Thank you so much. I hope it's a wonderful inauguration day for all of you. Thanks for being here.
After the break, Trump's first press conference since the election proves that his rocky relationship with the likes of us will continue once he takes the White House. But he's not the only president.
Great moments in the presidential press conference history is the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."
TAPPER: Bleeding red ink. A laughing stock rag. And of course this week's failing pile of garbage. Donald Trump has had no shortage of colorful insults for the news media, but he certainly is not the first president to have had a contention relationship with the fourth (ph) estate (ph). And that is the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump.
TAPPER (voice-over): President-elect Donald Trump held his first televised press conference since the election this week and it got a little tense.
TRUMP: I'm not going to give you a question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you state --
TRUMP: You are fake news.
TAPPER: Presidents as far back as the one who held the first televised press conference, Dwight D. Eisenhower, have been wary of taking our questions.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I see we are trying a new experiment this morning. I hope it doesn't prove to be a disturbing influence.
TAPPER: Richard Nixon clearly thought we were a tad intrusive.
RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's the responsibility of media to look at government generally, particularly at the president with a microscope. I don't mind a microscope, but, boy, when they use a proctoscope that's going too far.
TAPPER: Noting that the White House briefing room was built on top of the site where the White House swimming pool used to be.
Ronald Reagan's press secretary Jim Brady joked that the president had a plan for reporters who got out of line.
JAMES BRADY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, REAGAN ADMINISTRATION: I only had to push a button and splash.
TAPPER: Other presidents were more comfortable around us like L.B.J. who once answered reporters' questions aboard Air Force one while striping down until he was left in only a towel. Actually, answering questions while nude might be more common than you think if you believe the legendary tale that John Quincy Adams was taking a skinny dip in the Potomac when he emerged to find one of America's first female reporters sitting on top of his clothes forcing him to answer her questions.
Here at CNN we want to expose the truth about our leaders but not, you know, expose them.
TAPPER: Thanks for watching. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" is next.