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CNN NEWSROOM

Rubio to Support Tillerson for Secretary of State; Watchdog Group to Sue Trump Over Foreign Payments; Interview with Representative Steve Cohen; Samsung Says Batteries Caused Galaxy Note 7 Fire; Climate Change Takes Center Stage at Sundance. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 23, 2017 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Word on that, Manu. What is it?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no more Rex Tillerson confirmation process. He's going to get confirmed as secretary of State. Republicans including Marco Rubio now saying that they will support Rex Tillerson's nomination for that top diplomatic job in Donald Trump's administration. Marco Rubio, who had significant concerns about Tillerson at the confirmation hearings and actually had a pretty sharp line of questioning with Rex Tillerson, not saying whether or not he would vote for Mr. Tillerson, now announcing in a Facebook post just moments ago that he will indeed support Tillerson.

Now I'll read from some of this rather lengthy post. He said that he believed that the president is entitled to significant deference when it comes to his choices for the Cabinet. And he said that he calls him -- he said there's no doubts about Mr. Tillerson's qualifications and patriotism. He says at this time in our nation's history it doesn't make sense to delay this for any reason longer. He also suggested that he still has some significant reservations about the nomination. He said despite those reservations, he is going to support Mr. Tillerson.

Now, Carol, in the last week or so, last week, Rubio did meet with Rex Tillerson. I am told, in addition with Reince Priebus and Vice President Mike Pence, discussing a lot of these issues in a 90-minute what one Rubio adviser said was a blunt conversation. They discussed a lot of issues. Rubio sent up another hundred written questions to Mr. Tillerson about a range of concerns he had, of course concerns namely about Russia and about Mr. Tillerson's ties with Russia, ties to Vladimir Putin, whether or not he would take a hard enough line on that country.

Those responses did come back, and clearly they have satisfied some level of concern. This comes, too, after Republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham said that they would vote for Mr. Tillerson on the floor of the Senate. Those two were holding out up until yesterday. So now they -- Marco Rubio support today in the Foreign Relations Committee, they're going to approve this nomination. They'll have enough Republican support to push it out of the committee despite the Democratic opposition. And probably within the next several days or maybe a couple of weeks Mr. Tillerson will be the next secretary of State -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Manu Raju reporting live from Capitol Hill, many thanks.

You're sued. Moments ago a liberal watchdog group filed a federal lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by accepting foreign payments through his business dealings. According to the group, a refusal to divest means, quote, "Trump is now getting cash and favors from foreign governments through guests and events at his hotels, leases in his buildings, and valuable real estate deals abroad." Ethics lawyers argue that could influence decisions made in the White House.

With me now to talk about this is Norman Eisen. He's board chairman for Citizens Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the group that's filing the lawsuit. He's also a former White House ethics czar and former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic.

Welcome.

NORMAN EISEN, CO-FOUNDED, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: Thank you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Thank you. So you're filing this lawsuit. You said that Mr. Trump is violating the Constitution. He's turning his business interests over to his sons. Isn't that enough?

EISEN: Carol, it's not enough. The importance of completely making a clean break with his businesses, he's hanging onto his ownership interests, instead of making a clean break, he's -- he's departing from what presidents of four -- for four decades of both parties have done. And here, unlike all the others, there is a constitutional violation involved. By Trump hanging onto his businesses, he's transgressing the founders of our country's principle that no president should get money or other benefits of any kind whatever, that's a quote from the Constitution, from foreign governments.

And he's doing that. So it's a constitutional violation. It's going to affect his judgment. On the trade deals we just talked about, when he's getting big sums from these foreign governments he's negotiating with, how do we know that he's really fighting for American jobs instead of shipping them abroad as too many others have done? So we think it's important and we're fighting it.

COSTELLO: Trump supporters would say, look, we've never had a president quite like this who has these vast business dealings, you know, in this country and outside of the country. So give him a minute, right, so he can work it out. Why not give him a minute?

EISEN: Well, Carol, even Trump's supporters agree, there's strong bipartisan agreement that we need to know more about these deals. 75 percent of Americans including most of those who voted for Mr. Trump want to see his tax returns. We are going to seek those tax returns in this litigation so we can see for ourselves. I think even his supporters are concerned about conflicts. [10:35:04] COSTELLO: So is that really the main point that you're

going after? Because, you know, if the lawsuit goes forward, the Trump team will have to turn over evidence and that could mean his taxes. Is that the real goal here?

EISEN: The goal is to defend the Constitution. It's a bipartisan goal. CREW is a nonpartisan organization. My co-chair, the vice chair of CREW is the Bush administration ethics czar, Richard Painter. We're nonpartisan. We join Americans in wanting to see this information and defend the Constitution. That is the main point. But we have to have the taxes and the other financial information in order to defend the Constitution.

COSTELLO: Well you heard Kellyanne Conway.

EISEN: And we're going to get them.

COSTELLO: You heard Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump is not going to release his tax forms, although she walked that back a little bit. But it still appears that Mr. Trump is not going to release his tax returns, basically because Kellyanne Conway says nobody cares. He was elected president.

(LAUGHTER)

EISEN: That's what we call -- that's what we now call alternative facts or Spicer facts, facts that are not actually grounded in reality. Poll after poll, Carol, 75 percent of Americans including many Trump supporters want to see these taxes.

COSTELLO: But he was elected.

EISEN: Well, but it was not a referendum. He was elected despite profound reservations. It was not an authorization to violate the Constitution. He said he would drain the swamp. He said he would step away from his businesses. He hasn't done that. And Carol, Kellyanne Conway walked that back for a reason. The judicial branch, where we are now, are the guardians of the Constitution. The Constitution is being nakedly violated here. The judicial branch is going to step up and if they order him to release his taxes to us in discovery, he's going to have to do it.

This is a case, bipartisan case to defend the Constitution and the rule that was so important, no foreign government payments to our chief executive because when those foreign government payments come in, American jobs go out.

COSTELLO: All right. I've got to leave it there. Norman Eisen, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

EISEN: Thanks, Carol.

COSTELLO: You're welcome.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, GOP lawmakers start to unveil their plan to replace Obamacare. How they say it could impact millions of Americans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:41:47] COSTELLO: Next hour, Republican lawmakers are expected to unveil a plan to replace Obamacare. Senators Bill Cassidy and Susan Collins leading the charges, promising that their proposal would give more power to states, individual states, increase affordable access to insurance, and cover millions who are currently uninsured. Collins and Cassidy will need to get Republican leadership on board first.

With me now to talk about this is Democratic congressman Steve Cohen. Welcome.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: Good morning.

COSTELLO: Good morning. So are you open to this replacement plan?

COHEN: Well, I think if they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which helps over 20 million people get insurance and is insurance reform of steroids, they need to have a replacement immediately present. And they don't have a replacement. And it can be -- it can be improved, there's no question about it. And the wonderful thing is the Republicans didn't talk about having national health care policy at all other than Mitt Romney in Massachusetts back in the '90s.

And now since President Obama and the Democratic Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, they are now wanting to replace it with something. So the Affordable Care Act has caused the Republicans to realize America was the only industrialized country in the world without a health policy for all of its people. We will have a health policy, I presume, or they will suffer greatly at the polls. It's important that all people have access to health care.

COSTELLO: So do you believe there will actually be a plan to replace Obamacare, or will they make it seem like it's a new plan but they'll just fix what's wrong with Obamacare?

COHEN: Well, I don't know what they're going to come up with. They're going to have a problem. They say they like, and I think all Americans like, not having preexisting conditions prohibit you from getting insurance. Most Americans like not having lifetime caps or yearly caps on your insurance. And women who of course participated in a historic march the other day, can't be discriminated against because of their gender. And children can stay on their parents' health insurance until they're 26.

If the Republicans like these things and want to continue them, and the American people do, they're going to have to have revenue to do it because it costs money. There's this equation. Just like when you have -- if you have coverage, you have to have corresponding premiums. And if you don't have a subsidy, which we've had, you've got to find some other method to pay for it. And nothing happens for free. And I don't know if the Republicans can do that.

There is a certain group there in the Freedom Caucus that won't vote for any additional expense or any additional revenue measures. And so it's going to be difficult for the Republicans to do it. Certainly they can't do it without Democratic help.

COSTELLO: Well, we'll see what this new plan specifically entails a little later today. I wanted to talk to you about the huge number of protesters who crowded into the mall, the huge numbers of women marching across the country. There was so much energy and passion there. And a lot of people are today wondering if that will continue or if it was just a one-off. What do you think?

COHEN: I think it will continue. I participated in a march in Memphis. We had about 9,000 people. I almost -- I was very emotional about it because I haven't seen such a turnout since the civil rights days. And people were very concerned. They want to express themselves and they did it well here in Memphis. They ended it at the National Rights Museum where unfortunately Dr. King was slain.

[10:45:00] The women of this country are in jeopardy. The bill tomorrow, which is the 44th anniversary of "Roe v. Wade," the Republicans are bringing a bill that would threaten women having an opportunity to get an abortion coverage in even private insurance. And they're going to try to do so much in this bill to limit women's rights to not take into consideration the health of the woman.

One of the first initiatives of this administration apparently is going to be to repeal the Violence Against Women grants. And that's been an important, important provision in federal law to help states protect women who have violence --

COSTELLO: So, Congressman, if those things happen, what would you like to see from these people who protested so passionately over the weekend?

COHEN: They need to stay active. They need to protest in Washington and other places when these events occur, because I think the president is very concerned about his ratings and his ratings will be going down even more than the 34 percent who approve him now. They need to write letters to the editor. They need to be involved in social media and try to get the truth out. There are no alternative facts. There are truths, there are lies. Sometimes there's spin. But alternative facts don't exist. There's no such thing.

I think sometimes we're in an alternative universe, and it's a scary situation. But they need to try to set the truth -- put the truth out there on social media and letters to the editor and they need to register as many people to vote as possible. And they need to get involved in NGOs that are going to help people whether Planned Parenthood or ACLU or Southern Poverty Law Center and Sierra Club, who will be going to court and take actions like the gentlemen right now because of the terrible ethical breaches that are occurring now, threatening the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

The conflicts of interests with the Trump family are great. And right now I think with what we're doing we're putting China first, Russia is right up there with them, and we're third. We're not in first place. We're not America first. We're putting Russia and China ahead. I'm concerned for America's perspective in the international community where we've been a leader in advocating for human rights and democracy. And we need to continue doing that.

COSTELLO: I have to leave it there, sir. Congressman Steve Cohen, thanks so much for being with me this morning.

Coming up in the NEWSROOM, Samsung now says it knows what caused their phones to explode last year, but some tech experts disagree.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:51:12] COSTELLO: Samsung says it now knows what was causing Galaxy Note 7 phones to overheat and catch fire. It was the batteries. The company says multiple investigations by their company and several others point to the same conclusion. But other tech experts say not so fast.

CNN tech correspondent Samuel Burke tells us why. Good morning.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN TECH CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Carol. Keep in mind that this is the second time that Samsung is trying to explain publicly what happened to the ill-fated Note 7. The first time around they said there are two different manufacturers for the batteries, it's only a problem with manufacturer A. They recalled those. But we kept on seeing the same problems like the one that you're seeing on your screen now with phone -- the same phone from the other batteries of the other manufacturer. And they ended up recalling all of them.

Now this time around, the second stab at it, Samsung has pretty much arrived at the same conclusion, saying that the batteries are at fault. But some experts say that Samsung is being much too simplistic. They say that Samsung saying the batteries were too big for the phone, but they're saying Samsung then should have made the phones bigger for the batteries. Also that we don't have to charge our phones as often, Carol.

Now on the one hand we hear that Samsung will release a new phone, but not at the usual time. So we don't know when the Galaxy S8 is coming out. The good news is 96 percent of the three million Note 7s that were sold have been recalled, Carol. But I'd like to know who are the 4 percent who are still clinging to these fiery phones.

(LAUGHTER)

COSTELLO: I know. I don't know, they're not very wise people, though. They better get rid of those puppies. Samuel Burke, thanks so much.

A police officer from Spokane, Washington, rescues a woman from a burning car and his body camera captures it all.

OK. So it's unclear how this fire started. But a woman -- but a women tells a CNN affiliate it began after the car slipped on an icy patch and then the car just shut down. This woman was actually inside that car. She was the woman that was rescued. She was treated for smoke inhalation. And she was raised. And she's going to be OK. But boy, that's amazing. Up next in the NEWSROOM, we're taking you to Sundance. Al Gore is

there. We'll explain why, next.

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[10:57:52] COSTELLO: The search for Oscar-worthy films begins at Sundance. And this year films about the environment are taking center stage. That's where CNN correspondent Stephanie Elam is, she joins us now live from beautiful Park City, Utah.

Good morning.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Yes, the environment here actually has snow. The last couple of times we've been here for Sundance it hasn't been this snowy so that's one big change. And one of the topics that we've seen really develop here at Sundance are films about the environment. To that point, Al Gore, you may remember "An Inconvenient Truth," a film debuted about 10 years ago here at Sundance. Well, now he was here again with a sequel to that film.

He told CNN that one of the main differences that he's seen in the 10 years that's gone by since this sequel has come along is that he's seen more bipartisan support for the fact that global change is actually happening. So that was a big debut that happened here already.

Another movie that is also talking about that is a movie called "Water and Power: A California Heist." That's a National Geographic film that's going to debut in the spring. I also talked with Marina Zenovich and Alex Gibney of that film about it. And it's really taking a look at how the battle for access to water in California has been going on longer than California has been a state. It really gives you the back story, it's a fascinating film because it really does show you what's going to happen throughout the world.

And most people don't think that what happens in California affects them but because of the agricultural business in California, it does affect the whole country and the world there. But outside of what was going on with the films on the documentary side, we also have heard a lot of buzz about a move called "Mud Bound," that premiered here. It got two standing ovations. It's already getting Oscar buzz.

If you look at what the reviews have been about the film, they were really amazing. You'll see Mary J. Blige in this film. Kerry Mulligan is also in this film as well. It's about two farming families in the 1920s in Mississippi -- in 1940s in Mississippi and so that is something that is really getting a lot of buzz here -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Can't wait. Looks so beautiful there. I envy you, Stephanie. Thanks so much.

Thanks all of you to -- thanks to all of you for joining me today as usual. I'm Carol Costello. "AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND BOLDUAN" starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. We're going to begin with breaking news involving the health of the former president and first lady.