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CNN NEWSROOM

Biden talks Russian Meddling; Russia Blames EU for Meddling; NFL Legend Co-Hosts Pre-Inauguration Party; Trump's HHS Pick Faces Senate; HHS Pick Faces Obamacare Questions; HHS Pick Faces Ethics Questions. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 18, 2017 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:33:14] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you for joining me live from Washington, D.C., where the excitement will happen on the weekend. Today, though, we're awaiting several cabinet confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill. Trump's picks for secretaries of Commerce, Health and Human Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Representative to the United Nations all face Senate committees at the top of the hour. We have special coverage starting in just a little while.

In the meantime, Vice President Biden is talking. He's issuing a staunch warning to the international community. Russia's election meddling doesn't end with the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But it's not only the United States,. I need not tell you, that has been targeted. Europe has seen the same kind of attacks in the past. And with many countries in Europe slated to hold elections this year, we should expect further attempts by Russia to meddle in the democratic process. It will occur again, I promise you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: This after Russia's foreign minister says the interference in the U.S. election was the European Union's fault, calling out their support for Hillary Clinton and said they, quote -- the European Union that is, quote, "demonized Donald Trump."

Let's bring in CNN's former Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty and CNN Money emerging markets editor John Defterios.

Welcome to both of you.

So, Jill, Russia is now blaming the European Union for the hacking that occurred in the United States during the election?

JILL DOUGHERTY, FORMER CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Actually not for the hacking so much as interfering in general, talking about the U.S. election. And what Mr. Lavrov, Minister Lavrov, is saying, is that they openly agitated for Clinton and demonized Donald Trump. And he specifically calls out Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, the U.K. prime minister, Theresa May, and then also French President Francois Hollande. And he says anyone who says that Russia was interfering is saying slanderous and groundless things that we, Russia, are just standing here on the sidelines watching all of this. And then he also said talk about interference, President Obama himself was interfering when he talked about Brexit, talked against Brexit, and that was interference in European politics.

[09:35:35] Carol.

COSTELLO: So, Jill, is it interesting that Russia keeps talking about this? Why doesn't it let it go for a while?

DOUGHERTY: Well, it is a hot subject, I have to tell you, but I think they are very frustrated by the whole attack on them. They really want to criticize Obama as he goes out the door. And I think really kind of close the door on Obama by making these counter charges and then opening the door to better relations with Donald Trump. So it's kind of good riddance to President Obama and let's try to work together with President Trump.

COSTELLO: So the Obama administration is getting its digs in, right, because Joe Biden spoke out at Davos. What else did he say, John?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN MONEY EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, it's interesting, Jill, I think he didn't want to pull any punches speaking before the business leaders and policymakers here in Davos. He is suggesting it's a challenge to the community of democracies, really the Transatlantic Alliance is what we're talking about here between the United States and Europe.

I thought it fascinating that he was making reference to the election campaign and the meddling, accused to -- of -- for Moscow, of course, and also the major elections that are taking place in Europe this year. That would be France, Germany and the Netherlands. So he has said it requires urgent action, an urgent response this year to uphold the institutions after World War II, those built (ph) like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund. And I think he was alluding to also the NATO alliance, which is being challenged now in reference to Moscow.

And he didn't limit, Carol, his comments only to Russia, but he also included China and Iran, suggesting they, of course, would like to exercise more influence over the global community going forward. And let's not forget, President Xi Jinping of China was the first Chinese leaders to speak here at the World Economic Forum. He wanted to highlight his support for globalization, but also acting like a statesman. So, again, Russia, China and even Iran with the foreign minister standing out in Davos 2017.

COSTELLO: Fascinating. Jill Dougherty, John Defterios, thanks to you both.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, nearly 3 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton. And my next guest was one of them. But NFL legend Jim Brown says it is time for the country to unite. He's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:41:04] COSTELLO: President-elect Trump has a huge challenge, and that would be uniting a very divided nation. A CNN/ORC poll that just 40 percent of Americans approval of how Trump is handling the presidential transition. The tensions will be on full display this weekend when thousands are expected to protest in Washington, D.C., just a day after Trump is sworn in as president. But Mr. Trump has managed to win over some former high-profile opponents, including NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown, a former Hillary Clinton supporter. Brown is co-hosting a pre-Inauguration Day party tomorrow and he joins me now live.

Thank you so much for being with me. And it's such an honor to meet you.

JIM BROWN, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Thank you for having me here. Ohio, you know.

COSTELLO: It's so awesome to have you here. That's right. That's right.

BROWN: A lot of background there.

COSTELLO: So much. So much.

So you're going to be hosting this party. Who's going to be there?

BROWN: Oh, my goodness, we'll have a lot of celebrities. Ray Lewis, probably Curtis Martin and, you know, many other high-profile individuals. Bruce Zoldan out of Ohio, Phantom Fireworks, a great supporter. Monique Brown, my wife. She is a great worker for the community. A lot of wonderful people. You know, a cross section of great people that want to see our country, you know, get back on track.

COSTELLO: So what do you hope -- what message do you hope that your party, with such high-profile guests, will send to America?

BROWN: Well, actually, we will show that there are people that, without getting any type of a reward, is for this country doing the right thing, developing opportunity for those who are underprivileged, that are not privileged to be rich and to be in the upper echelon. That a lot of individuals that are killing each other in these communities around the country, which you hear nothing about it. And so we're going to be addressing poor people, African-Americans that are trying to get an equal opportunity, and that's my goal, and I think that's a worthy goal.

COSTELLO: You know, many African-Americans are angry at Mr. Trump right now for his ongoing fight with Congressman John Lewis. You know, this morning, Mr. Trump called John Lewis a liar, and it goes on. What do you think about that?

BROWN: Well, I'm glad you asked me about that. John Lewis has a great history as a civil rights fighter. As a young man, he was one of those guys out there that really was leading the parade during the King era. And so we all respect his history.

But when I hear him cry the blues about Mr. Trump and saying that it's an illegitimate presidency, I take offense at -- if it's illegitimate, why is it going on? If you're going to impeach him, impeach him. If he did something wrong, arrest him. But don't cry the blues because you did not get the vote out and this man had a genius way of winning the election.

COSTELLO: Do you think that Congressman Lewis should sit down with Donald Trump?

BROWN: Absolutely. Why not? Because it's in the best interest of the country. It is not good for people just to complain about something they had a part in and polarize the country. If I would leave and sit down as Jim Brown and complain about Donald Trump, what good would that do the country? But if I get out, regardless of who the president is, and try to contribute what I have to contribute and what my like- minded partners have to contribute, then we can look forward to the change and help the change.

COSTELLO: So all of these lawmakers, democratic lawmakers, and there's 52 now I think, who are boycotting the inauguration, do you think they ought to go?

BROWN: Of course they should go. They should respect the position. If the election was illegal -- if he is the president of the United States, they should go. We're Republicans, Democrats, so forth and so on, but we're human beings. And there are a lot of people that need us to get along so that we can help the people that can't help themselves.

[09:45:18] COSTELLO: Well, I look forward to hearing coverage of your party. And thank you so much for stopping by. I do appreciate it.

BROWN: Thank you for having me. And I appreciate you very much.

COSTELLO: Thank you so much.

We are awaiting several cabinet confirmations hearings this morning on Capitol Hill. Mr. Trump's picks for secretaries of Commerce, Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. representative to the United Nations, all facing Senate committees at the top of the hour.

And with that, our special coverage will begin. And I want to thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello. Have a great day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jake Tapper and we are live in Washington.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world to our live special coverage. We're just minutes away for the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings for

four more prospective members of President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet. The first, Georgia congressman and orthopedic surgeon Tom Price goes before the Senate over his nomination for secretary of Health and Human Services. He's expected to face contentious questions about his plans for Obamacare.

Plus, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross also on the hot seat over his nomination to become the next Commerce secretary, while South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley faces Congress as Trump's pick to become the next U.N. ambassador. Also ahead, Scott Pruitt, attorney general for the state of Oklahoma, he's slated to answer questions about his stance on climate change as the potential head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

[09:50:19] And as if all of that weren't enough, President Obama is holding his last news conference before leaving office two days from now. That's at 2:15 p.m. Eastern. Of course you'll see it live right here on CNN. This is going to be a pretty busy day for all of us.

TAPPER: A very busy day. Let's kick it off on Capitol Hill with CNN's senior political reporter Manu Raju joining us.

And, Manu, tell us about the Tom Price hearing. He is a -- he's been a member of Republican House leadership. He's a well-known quantity on Capitol Hill. But there have been some questions about business transactions.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Wolf, Jake, this is actually going to be one of the key questions that Democrats are going to be leveling going forward, exactly these health care shares that he traded while a member of the House, while pursuing legislation on health care issues, including a medical device manufacturer, last year buying stock in that company before offering legislates that would actually help that company.

Now, Price has sort of -- his team has downplayed those reports, saying it's really much ado about nothing. But that's one aspect of a larger effort by Democrats to try to undermine his nomination, not just on those issues, but also ideologically, on entitlements, Social Security, Medicare, health care. How Tom Price would replace Obamacare if he does get confirmed. He is the one nominee, Wolf and Jake, that if Democrats could stop, they would do everything they can to stop him.

Chuck Schumer, yesterday -- telling me yesterday that he will not get confirmed. But to do that, Wolf and Jake, that means that they need to get Republicans to oppose Tom Price. So we'll see if any Republicans change their mind at today's hearing. And also the key hearing also, the Finance Committee, also has jurisdiction over this nominee. That's the one that will actually vote on Tom Price. But today, a big, big moment for him to determine whether or not he has enough support in the Senate to get confirmed, Wolf and Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Thank you so much. And, of course, far beyond any of these issues having to do with Tom

Price and his personal financial transactions, the bit -- there's the bigger issue, I think it's fair to say, of more relevance to the American people, which is Obamacare, what happens with it. Tom Price, a doctor who ran for Congress partly because of his opposition to all the regulations he saw coming from Washington, D.C., is a firm opponent of Obamacare. And, obviously, this is one of the number one issues if not the number one issue on the plate of Congress is repealing and replacing Obamacare.

BLITZER: And Congressman Price has put forward his own replacement plan, but it's obviously not necessarily the final plan that the president-elect is going to endorse once he becomes president of the United States. And he wants to repeal and replace almost, he says, simultaneously.

TAPPER: Although there's been a lot of question about that. When I talked to Speaker Ryan last week, he talked about how the process, he hoped, would be simultaneously. Sometimes even within the same bill, repealing with one thing and replacing with another.

But the devil's in the details, as is often said in this town. I mean one of the problems going forward for Republican members of Congress, who want to repeal and replace it, is they don't like the taxes that were part of Obamacare, but they want that money for whatever they have to replace Obamacare. So will they repeal the Obamacare taxes and then add new taxes? Or are they more likely just to keep the Obamacare taxes so they can use it to fund their own health care bill?

BLITZER: Sanjay Gupta is with us, our chief medical correspondent.

Sanjay, I'm looking at the Democrats who are going to be asking Congressman Price questions. Patty Murray is the ranking Democrat. But Bernie Sanders, Tammy Baldwin, Elizabeth Warren. He's going to be facing some pretty serious questions from some progressive or liberal Democrats who totally disagree with his vision for the future of health care in the United States.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No question. And I think there's data to sort of look at to sort of inform these questions as well. For example, they talk about wanting to keep certain things in place, but also repealing Obamacare. Keeping things like no discrimination based on preexisting conditions. That's a big one. How do you do that if you repeal the other parts of Obamacare?

One of the big things that comes up a lot is this notion of high risk pools. We will just take people who have chronic illness and put them in a high risk pool. We'll help subsidize that pool so there's some money there. The problem is, getting back to the data, is that that -- that's been around. I mean it was in 35 states eight years ago, before the ACA was implemented, and they don't work very well. They're tough to the administrators, they're very expensive for patients, and they don't provide oftentimes the type of insurance that patients with chronic illness need. They're the ones who utilize the health care system. And under that system, the concern is they're not going to get what they need, even less so than people who aren't using the system at all.

[09:55:01] BLITZER: Is there some common ground between Democrats and Republicans for a replacement, or is this going to be strictly along party lines?

GUPTA: It's kind of like the three-legged stool analogy. I think there's common ground. The problem is that as soon as you start to take certain things away, the whole thing falls apart. The biggest thing is, look, if you -- if there's no mandate, how is this thing going to get paid for? It's a simplistic sort of argument, but it's an important one. Insurance companies right now are incentivized to be a part of this because they know they're getting consumers coming into the system. People are being -- or they have to have health care insurance. If there is no mandate, you're going to drive premiums up, you're going to drive enrollment down and that's exactly what they mean when they say they're going to destabilize the system.

TAPPER: One of the issues with Obamacare and how it is not functioning properly right now, one of the reasons why the people who have enrolled in Obamacare who are younger and healthier and have seen their premiums go up, is because they are paying for older and sicker people. Now, one of the issues that I've heard health care experts say is -- or the problem is not enough of these younger, healthier people are in the system because the fines, this is the argument, this is not my point of view --

GUPTA: Right.

TAPPER: The fines were not big enough, so it's actually cheaper for somebody just to pay the fine for not having Obamacare, violate the individual mandate, and then if they get sick, just sign up later on because you can't be discriminated against if there's a preexisting condition. This is one of the arguments as to why this is all falling down on itself and so many employers are pulling out of Obamacare.

GUPTA: And I think that's not an unfair argument, in the sense that you can do the math, right? How much is it going to cost me to pay the penalty? How much is it going to cost me to have premiums? I'm a young person. I never go to the director. This is just an additional cost for me. Which is less? That's the math that a lot of people are doing.

The penalties are supposed to go up over time. At some point there's supposed to be a percentage of your overall income as well. So that -- you know, that would be greater, obviously, depending on how much money you're making. But, yes, that is part of the issue right now. Still, though, you do have people who are in the system that the anticipation is would likely drop out if they're not mandated to be there anymore.

TAPPER: And --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: The question is, how do you incentivize the insurance companies to stay in this?

TAPPER: Right. BORGER: I mean they're -- they're not nonprofits and they don't want to be nonprofits. And so if you -- if you lose the mandate, and you don't have, you know, more people in the system, do you end up saying to voters, well, now you're going to have to subsidize the insurance companies? Because I don't think that would be very popular politically. The insurance companies are not exactly popular. So it leaves lawmakers with a real conundrum here because otherwise the system just collapses.

TAPPER: And if you look on the right side of your screen, I just want to -- that's Congressman Tom Price, Republican of Georgia. I believe he's a surgeon. He is --

BLITZER: Orthopedic surgeon.

TAPPER: Orthopedic surgeon. He used to be a member of the Republican leadership. And he is President-elect Trump's nominee to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

And, John, this is, I think it's fair to say, whatever Republican would have won, Tom Price was a very likely HHS secretary nominee.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And the interesting factor now is, Tom Price, to his credit, I'm not agreeing with what he put forward, but during the earlier votes to repeal, the Democrats were screaming, as they are now, you can't repeal without a plan to replace. To his credit, Congressman Price came forward with specific ideas.

Now, they're conservative ideas. They're more market-based ideas. There's less Washington control. Some incentives using the tax code to help people pay for their insurance. But the problem for Republicans now we're talking about, can they get Democrats on board. To replace, they're going to have to eventually get Democrats on board. But first, they have to settle the civil war amongst themselves over what to do because there's such a wide variety of opinions.

Tom Price's plan is well more to the right, more conservative, than what his boss, the president-elect, has said must be accomplished here. "I don't want people dying in the streets," he said this morning. Now, what does that mean? That's the hard part. You have to run this through, and I don't mean this disrespectfully, the Trump translator, because he lays out these goals, these broad goals, and then people in Washington say, is that universal coverage or universal access? And there's a huge difference there in terms of the money.

So the Republicans, and it will be interesting to see the questions today, what has Tom Price -- what conversations has he had with the president-elect about taking the plan he put forward last year and changing it, shifting it, what's new in it, to make it, as the president-elect says, I don't want the Republicans in Congress to do this. I have my plan that will get us there. We don't know the details, though, and that's a lot of money.

BLITZER: Nia, the nominee is also going to face some questions about a stock purchase he did. Yesterday we heard from Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, saying this is a serious issue. He bought a stock for a medical device just days before he introduced some legislation that would have benefitted the manufacturer of that device, and there's now questions about whether that was appropriate, even legal.

[09:59:49] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. And this is reporting that Manu Raju, our reporter, broke on our air. And certainly some questions about it. Chuck Schumer wants to look more heavily into this, scrutinize this. I think for Tom Price, in the way that you saw senators, like Jeff Sessions, this is a member of the club, obviously Tom Price not a senator but he's a member of Congress.