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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Democrats Throwing Around Trump "Impeachment"; Trump to Address Troops, Meet with Military Leadership; Is New Violence in Ukraine a New Message to Trump on Russia? SNL Parodies W.H. Spokesman Sean Spicer. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired February 6, 2017 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:32:58] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Looking live right there, Air Force One landed in Tampa, Florida just a short time ago at MacDill Air Force Base, where President Trump will be deplaning any moment now to head in for a briefing with leaders there at U.S. Central Command. Also, having lunch with servicemembers, and then giving remarks. Really, his first big address to the troops since becoming commander- in-chief. We're waiting for all of that to begin any time now. We'll take you there live in just a moment.
But this is all happening as we speak. Moments ago, Democrats on Capitol Hill are sounding off against President Trump. Now throwing around the word "impeachment."
CNN's senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju, joins us now with more details.
What are they talking about, Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Maxine Waters, a prominent member of the House Democratic caucus, of the Congressional Black Caucus, who has been in the House since 1991, making eyebrow- raising comments. She tweeted last week that her greatest desire is to lead Donald Trump to impeachment, much further than many Democrats, particularly Democrats in the leadership, are willing to go at this point.
Earlier this morning, Maxine Waters was at a press conference. I asked her, is it appropriate to be calling for the impeachment of the president of the United States less than a month after him taking office? This is what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MAXINE WATERS, (D), CALIFORNIA: I have not called for the impeachment yet. He's doing it himself. Let me just say that the statement I made was a statement in response to questions and pleas that I'm getting from many citizens across this country.
The fact that he is wrapping his arms around Putin while Putin is continuing to advance into Korea (sic), I think that he is leading himself into that kind of position where folks will begin to ask, what are we going to do. And the answer is going to be, eventually, we've got to do something about him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:35:05] RAJU: So standing right next to Maxine Waters was House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. I asked her, do you agree with Maxine Waters? And she didn't take my question. But then another reporter asked the same question, do you agree with Maxine Waters? What she said, Kate, is that -- she was not there to talk about impeachment, tried to sidestep the question. But she said, when and if he breaks the law, that is when something like that would come up, but it is not the subject here today. She didn't want to take that off the table.
Of course, Democrats can't do anything about impeachment. They don't control the House. It's something House Republicans would have to do. But it shows the challenges that Democratic leaders have in trying to resist Donald Trump, fight Donald Trump, but not look like they're overreaching. And some folks on the left want to fight hard, even throwing around the "I" word -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Manu, doesn't it show how short everyone's memories seem to be? You and I are both old enough to remember that when Democrats went wild over Mitch McConnell saying he wanted to make President Obama a one-term president.
RAJU: That's absolutely right. That's the real risk Democratic leaders sense in taking such lines or argument right now that the Trump team will turn around, the Republicans, and say, look, the Democrats didn't try to work with us, they're calling for impeachment right out of the gate, that's one reason why you can't trust Democrats. And that's one reason why Democratic leaders aren't willing to go where Maxine Waters is going now. But I wouldn't be surprised, if Donald Trump continues to take steps that some believe is unconstitutional, on the left, you'll hear more and more of these calls to Capitol Hill -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: And definitely, why Nancy Pelosi was doing her best to sidestep that question today.
Great to see you, Manu. Thank you so much.
RAJU: Thanks, Kate.
BOLDUAN: We're also keeping an eye on that. But also, keeping an, as you can see, on Air Force One waiting for President Trump to deplane to head into MacDill Air Force Base for his big address to the troops. We will bring that to you any moment.
And also, this, new conflict, new questions. Is renewed violence in Ukraine a new message to President Trump? The former ambassador to Ukraine joins me next.
Plus, Trump's spokesman gets the "SNL" treatment. But can the White House take a joke? Sean Spicer just responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTRESS: Before we begin, I know that my ---
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: All right. We see right now President Trump deplaning. He lands at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Heading in for a briefing with senior leadership, lunch with servicemembers, and then will be making remarks to the troops.
Let's get over to Jessica Schneider, joining us from the headquarters for U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base.
Jessica, what are we expecting to hear from President Trump in his remarks today?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the White House not yet releasing many details about these remarks the president is expected to make very shortly. But this is multifaceted trip here to MacDill Air Force Base, kind of capping off the president's weekend in Florida. He'll start his visit here in a few minutes with a briefing from senior officials at U.S. Central Command. This is a pertinent visit. CENTCOM, of course, oversaw that raid in Yemen at the end of the January, where an al Qaeda compounded was raided, but it also resulted in the death of Navy SEAL William Owens. President Trump made that unannounced visit last week to Dover Air Force Base to meet with the family of Officer Owens and be there when the remains were transferred there.
So, President Trump having that briefing at CENTCOM, but then having lunch, sitting down with some of the military members here as well. Finally, at the end of his visit, he'll be making those remarks, making them to senior U.S. commanders. It will be about a two and a half-hour-long visit here.
The president, as you see, just touching down with Air Force One. He did spend the weekend at Mar-a-Lago, so making this journey across the state to Tampa. Later this afternoon, he'll be headed back to Washington, D.C. This will be his first meeting with military servicemembers as commander-in-chief -- Kate?
[11:40:48] BOLDUAN: Which also means a big moment. We will all be waiting to hear, exactly what the president and commander-in-chief says.
Great to see you, Jessica.
We'll bring those remarks to you live and follow it throughout the day.
Also, this we're watching right now. President Trump has made no secret of his hopes for good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But how do you square Trump's words with Putin's actions, violating a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine last week. Just yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're watching, and very troubled by the increased hostilities over the past week in eastern Ukraine. I know the president had a conversation with Vladimir Putin.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Did he say he was troubled?
PENCE: They spoke at that time about Ukraine. And I expect those conversations are going to be ongoing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Joining me now to discuss is Steven Pifer, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. He served in both Democratic and Republican administrations.
Great to see you, Mr. Ambassador. Thanks for coming in.
STEVEN PIFER, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE & FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Thanks for having me.
BOLDUAN: The statement from the White House -- you heard it from Mike Pence -- we're watching and we're troubled. That's what the vice president says. From your perspective, is that the right stance to take against Russian aggression in the Ukraine right now?
PIFER: I think yes. It's clear that we've had a cease-fire agreed to more than two years ago. And the Russians, who have significant control over the separatist movement in Ukraine, have done little to enforce that cease-fire. They bear a huge share of the responsibility for the conflict that's taken almost 10,000 lives.
BOLDUAN: The last we heard from the president himself on his position on sanctions is that he kind of suggested that the lifting of sanctions against Russia because of this was on the table. The lifting of sanctions. But then you have his new U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley saying something different last week, that they will not lift sanctions until Russia leaves Crimea. Who do you believe, Mr. Ambassador?
PIFER: I think the administration is still working out what its policy towards Russia is going to be. You're seeing these contradictions, those comments by the president, who, for example, remains reluctant to criticize the Kremlin or Russian actions, where is people like Ambassador Haley, the vice president, who are much more forthright in condemning Russia's actions. So, the administration has to come together and figure out what its approach towards Russia will be. I'm not sure yet we have a good fix on that.
BOLDUAN: As you mentioned, kind of those comments we've been talking about throughout the show from President Trump about the Russian President Vladimir Putin just yesterday. If you're in your old post, what impact do these mixed messages have on your job? PIFER: Well, I think certainly in Kiev there's a degree of
nervousness about American policy. Under the Obama administration, there was a fairly strong degree of support for Ukraine. In Kiev, they've watched and seen what Mr. Trump said as a candidate, some of the comments he's made since becoming president, and there's uncertainty what that means in terms of continued Western support for Ukraine.
BOLDUAN: In this FOX interview, President Trump said he respected Vladimir Putin. Bill O'Reilly, the host, pushed back, saying that Vladimir Putin is a killer. Donald Trump's response, "There are lots of killers." He even said, "Do you think our country is so innocent?"
What's your response to that?
PIFER: I find that troubling. I won't defend every American action. But I think if you look at American policy and Russian policy, there are significant differences. And the kind of equivalency that President Trump seemed to be drawing is very disturbing. It raises the question, why is there this reluctance to criticize the Kremlin when the Kremlin's actions are clearly -- represent egregious misbehavior? It seems to be tied to a belief on Mr. Trump's part that Russia can be an ally in dealing with ISIS or perhaps in containing China. I worry that he overstates that. If you look at, for example, Russian military actions in Syria over the last year and a half, they haven't been directed at ISIS. They've been directed at supporting Assad. In the question of China, I don't see how you pry Russia away from China in terms of having Russia become a partner in containing China. I think Mr. Trump has some beliefs about how to engage with Russia but I don't think there's a solid foundation for those beliefs.
[11:45:16] BOLDUAN: There's no question that he does not speak like a diplomat. That's one thing that many folks love about him is that he doesn't speak like a politician, he's plainspoken. At the same time, you have his words, you also have actions. The Obama-era sanctions are still in place. His words, his actions, which one matters more when it comes to Russia?
PIFER: Well, I would watch the actions here. And again, the important point is, the Obama administration's economic sanctions are still in place. There are reports that came out of the phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian President Poroshenko that those sanctions would remain. And I think that's a very important piece of Western leverage with Russia. We certainly should not give those sanctions up for nothing. But it's part of this effort to try to encourage the Russians to adopt a different approach towards a settlement of Ukraine, something different from what we've seen over the past two years.
Ambassador, it's always great to have you. Thank you so much for your time.
PIFER: Thank you. BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, for the first time, "Saturday Night Live"
takes aim at a top spokesman for the White House. And according to my next guest, the funny skit has some serious implications. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:51:10] MCCARTHY: I'm not here to be your buddy. I'm here to swallow gum, and I'm here to take names.
MCCARTHY: The travel ban is not a ban, which makes it not a ban.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Bun you just called it a ban.
MCCARTHY: Because I'm using your words. A ban. You said ban. Now I'm saying it back to you.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The president tweeted, and I quote, "If the ban were announced with a one week notice --"
MCCARTHY: Yeah, exactly. You just said that.
He is quoting you. It's your words.
Yeah, all right. You guys still aren't getting it.
You need some props? My words too big? I got to show you in pictures? Great. OK. Here we go. When it comes to these decision, the Constitution gives our president lots of power. And --
-- Steve Bannon is the key advisor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: I'm going to use some props here. Bam, bam, bam. Bam, bam, bam. That is not a live feed from the White House briefing room. That's Melissa McCarthy on "SNL" with a pretty funny parody of White House spokesman, Sean Spicer. Funny? Yes. Would Sean say so? Yes. But some say it also sends a serious message.
Let me bring in right now CNN political commentator, S.E. Cupp.
S.E. CUPPER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi.
BOLDUAN: S.E. your assessment of "SNL's assessment of Sean Spicer?
CUPP: Brilliant. Hysterical. I have actually agreed in the past with President Trump, who is notoriously thin skinned when it comes to "SNL" parody, but it hasn't been all that funny despite all the material they've had to work with. They really just kind of make fun of Trump. They don't really satirize him. This was hilarious. The casting was creative and very good. She really -- I mean, she really captured the first rocky weeks of Spicer's term as White House press secretary. I thought it was really good. If you know Sean Spicer like we do, you know, you maybe were a little embarrassed for him, but hopefully he took it in stride.
CUPP: You also think, as you say, kind of encapsulates -- this parody encapsulates something bigger than just making fun of the Trump White House.
BOLDUAN: What does it encapsulate.
CUPP: Well, look, Sean Spicer is kind of what happens -- the epitome of what happens when someone gets Trump-ified. We've known Sean. He is a normal professional, you know, political operative, but under Trump, as so many others have, he has really taken on Trump qualities. That adversarial relationship with the press, it twisting of words, the sort of aggressive tone. A lot of people surrounding Trump who kind of came from Washington have taken on his rhetorical flourishes and his sort, you know, company line. When everyone starts acting like a character in a Trump play, that's when you have just this, you know, ripe climate for the kinds of creative parody that "SNL" used to do a lot of. I mean, I am sure you remember Chris Farley playing Newt Gingrich. He did it so well that the Republicans in the House invited him to the capitol to be Newt Gingrich in front of Newt Gingrich. When "SNL" is good and on its game, as you saw what Melissa McCarthy did on Saturday night.
BOLDUAN: Isn't that also how to win in terms of Sean Spicer's bit, part in all of this, embrace it, laugh with, go along with the laughter. I mean, do you think that he is going to change anything from here on out? As you say, he has taken on some of Trump's personality. Is it by force or by design?
[11:55:02]CUPP: It looks like him, because he is not the only one. You know, lots of people around Trump are doing that. You know, he was very careful in his interview after the sketch with "Extra" to point out that he also didn't find Alec Baldwin's impersonation of Trump very funny, and it was too mean. While he said this was funny, Melissa McCarthy, he is also towing Trump's company line that "SNL" cannot be mean to President Trump.
Look, the best advice for Sean is to have a sense of humor around this, embrace it. It was hilarious. Just, you know, have fun with it.
BOLDUAN: I cannot wait. I cannot wait to see what he brings to that White House briefing room tomorrow for the briefing.
S.E., great to see you. Thank you so much.
CUPP: You, too.
BOLDUAN: So fresh off their epic Super Bowl win, one Patriots player says he will not be going to the White House for the annual tradition. Hear why.
Plus, a short time ago -- a short time from now, President Trump will be giving his first speech to the troops as commander-in-chief. This is the first big address at MacDill Air Force Base. We're going to take you there live.