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Sen. Graham Comments on Trump Attack on McCain over Yemen Raid; McCain Questions about Yemen Raid & Investigation; Conway Gives "Free Commercial" for Ivanka Trump's Clothing Line. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 9, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: -- you know, the scenario where someone like Betsy DeVos would get voted down on the floor, we haven't seen that in a long time.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: This also, again, is not a typical year for these nominees.


BOLDUAN: Great to see you guys. Thank you so much.

Also, moments ago, Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of Senator John McCain, weighing in on the president's attack of McCain over the deadly U.S. raid in Yemen. We'll play that for you, next.



SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: What I would like to do is move forward. We need more raids throughout the world, not less. Sometimes they don't work out the way you hoped. But the effort is what we're trying to reward here. And this man died in defending his homeland. Some terrorists were killed and some information was obtained. That's a good day. But I had eight years of overselling things, how things were better than they actually were in Iraq and Syria. So, my advice to the administration is, let's be one team, one fight, and see if we can move on.



[11:35:10] BOLDUAN: Interesting comments right there from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, saying -- this is in response to this now back and forth between President Trump, the White House, his press secretary, and John McCain over the success or failure of that Yemen raid that occurred. Lindsey Graham right there saying, let's all move on, let's work as one team.

Let me bring in CNN's senior political commentator, former Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum; and former deputy press secretary under Barack Obama, Bill Burton.

Guys, great to see you.

Senator, you served for years on Armed Services. You've served for years with John McCain and Lindsey Graham. I want to get your take on where do you land on this? The president kind of reigniting his attacks, on again/off again, with Senator John McCain, for saying that -- McCain saying he wouldn't describe the Yemen raid as a success. The president says he shouldn't be evaluating the operation at all. What do you make of this?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I actually found myself agreeing with Lindsey here. John McCain wants more raids. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have both been pushing harder for us to go after radical Islamist terrorists, al Qaeda, ISIS and others. The fact that he would criticize a raid, obviously, there's reason for criticism, obviously, in the sense that we lost a soldier and civilians were killed. That's a very tragic thing. But the bottom line is Lindsey's right, if you want more of these types of activities, don't pick a fight with the guy who is doing what you're asking him to do. But this is just -- expect more of this. I mean, I know John McCain, I know Donald Trump --


BOLDUAN: Senator, do you think John McCain was --


SANTORUM: They don't like to be criticized. I'm sorry, what?

BOLDUAN: I'm sorry, Senator. Do you think John McCain was picking a fight or President Trump was picking the fight here?

SANTORUM: Yes. I mean --


Look, this is the nature of both of them. Neither of them like to be criticized. Both of them like to sort of have their statements put out there and be taken as truth. And so, you're going to see a lot more of this between Trump and Senator McCain.

But I would just go back to what Lindsey said. We need more of this type of activity. And picking fights about it is not going to get more. It's probably going to chasten the White House from doing these things.

BOLDUAN: This came from President Trump via Twitter. We saw that. This also came from President Trump's press secretary, from the briefing room, Bill, where you spent much time. Sean Spicer saying this yesterday, listen.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESSS SECRETARY: Did the -- action that was taken in Yemen was a huge success. American lives will be saved because of it. Future attacks will prevent it. The life of Chief Ryan Owens was done in service to this country and we owe him and his family a great debt. I think anybody who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and a disservice.


BOLDUAN: Live with John McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In the case of his --


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: I think we ought to hold the people responsible and we know that Boris Nemchoff was murdered in the shadow of the Kremlin. We need to understand Vladimir Putin for what he is, a murderer and a thug. And he has murdered people. And this is just the latest example of the kind of KGB activities that he engages in.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We did an interview with his wife, Evgenia, in Moscow, and she told us she finds it unacceptable and intolerable for President Trump to turn a blind eye to a killer like Putin. What do you believe?

MCCAIN: I already stated last week, after the president of the United States equated the United States on the same moral plane as Vladimir Putin, I strongly disagree.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, you talked about your main focus is just winning in Afghanistan. Does that get harder when there are disagreements, interparty disagreements like the one between you and the president right now?

MCCAIN: I rely to a large degree on the national security team that I am very good friends with for many years, General Mattis, General Flynn, General Kelly. I've known them all many years and I worked very closely with them. I talked to General Mattis again this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, in your role --



MCCAIN: I don't know. I hope that he listens to General Mattis. I think he will. But I can't predict.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you heard anything similar from the general?

MCCAIN: Oh, of course not. Oh, no. I have good conversations often with General Mattis, General Flynn, General Kelly. I have good conversations with them all the time.

[11:40:02] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Should the Trump administration reach out to the family of Vladimir Murza?

MCCAIN: I can't tell the president what to do. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Should the U.S. have any role in trying to

help him?

MCCAIN: We should try to help him in every way we can. The best way to help him, and I'm sure he would tell you that, and Boris Nemchoff would tell you, who he murdered, was stand up to Putin.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, as your role as chair, do you believe the committee should look deeper into the Yemen raid?

MCCAIN: We had a good briefing -- we had a classified briefing just the day before yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: No hearings planned on that?




BOLDUAN: That is just a typical Thursday on Capitol Hill. Yes, that happens quite often.

Senator McCain fielding questions from reporters, including our Phil Mattingly, asking, as the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, if he would be having hearings about the raid. He said, no, there are no hearings planned.

Back to this conversation. We can leave Russia over here for a moment, Senator. Senator, does that bring back nostalgic feelings?

SANTORUM: Yeah, reporters traipsing around you, sticking microphones in your mouth and asking you questions that you're not prepared for is part of the daily routine.

BOLDUAN: Senator McCain always prepared, as you know.


BOLDUAN: Bill, if I could back to where we were right before this, from the podium at the White House, Sean Spicer, going even further than we even heard from President Trump in saying that anybody who undermines the success of the Yemen raid owes an apology, and it is a disservice to the life of Chief Owens.

You've been behind that podium. Did President Obama have the same feelings of criticism of raids under his watch?

BILL BURTON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Well, you know, there's no perfect equivalence to some other raid that happened while President Obama was in office.

But I will say, this is where the rubber hits the road on credibility for that podium. When they lie about crowd size, when they lie about the murder rate, when they lie about any number of things they don't tell the truth about, those things in and of themselves probably don't matter, the American people don't care. But when you have to talk about issues of national security and you're not being totally straight with the American people about what went down, and you had a mission where you didn't succeed in getting the guy you were going after, and many civilians were killed, including small children, I think you erode the credibility of what you can do in the press briefing room and of the administration in way that's going to make it very hard for Americans and the global community to take them seriously.

But the second thing that I'll say on this that's disappointing about what John McCain had to say just now is that, you know, he seemed totally satisfied with the briefing from the administration about what happened at that raid. I think the reason people hate politics is that, if this were reversed, if president Hillary Clinton had conducted a raid, there would have been a completely different reaction to that. There would be hearings. It would be Benghazi, part two. They would be decrying the fact that an American serviceman was killed, that civilians were killed. Instead, Republicans are just walking away saying, we're satisfied with the amount of inquiry that we've had here. It's disappointing. And for John McCain, who often is so honorable in his comments, it's disappointing that he's walking away from the opportunity to have some accountability and oversight over this administration.

BOLDUAN: Senator, what do you say to that?

SANTORUM: I couldn't disagree more. I mean, this is the kind of partisan stuff that you keep hearing, you know. To do it so closely related to a raid like this, look, military action is difficult. There are always complications. The enemy has a role, has a vote, as they always say, and horrible things happen in war. To suggest that every time a raid is conducted, that we have to have a hearing, if a civilian is killed or someone in the United States military is killed, or you're not doing your job, is frankly just ridiculous.

The role of the executives to take on that responsibility, I don't think there's been any accusations that there was -- you know, there was some sort of problem from the leadership point of view. Missions don't succeed all the time, as they're written up on paper. If we're going to have a congressional inquiry every time there's a raid or every time there's a military action where someone -- doesn't go perfectly well, that's not the standard. This is the politics that people deplore.


SANTORUM: If a raid goes as well as it's supposed to go, that there has to be accountability goes to the president, that's not right.

BURTON: I encourage you to take the mental exercise and imagine everything Senator Santorum just said, and think about Benghazi. The disingenuousness with which Republicans have approached this and Benghazi is bald, before the American people to see. I just think it's disappointing to say it's partisan, to think that there ought to be some inquiry into this, when that is the duty of the United States Senate. The United States Congress should be asking tough questions when Americans die, when civilians die. And there's no reason to walk away from it, saying, oh, this is just partisan, that Democrats want to ask questions. No, Americans should ask questions. There should be checks and balances on the system.

[11:45:20] SANTORUM: Yeah, actually, I would just say this -


BOLDUAN: After a raid, Senator, on this, after any mission, after any operation, do you think it should be objective -- do you think there is an objective line if it is a success or a failure? That's what I want to know.

SANTORUM: Absolutely. I'm not suggesting that people shouldn't look. They just had a briefing laying out what happened at that raid. Again --


BOLDUAN: And coming out of it, people were saying it was a failure.

SANTORUM: OK. But the question is, is that the responsibility -- did the administration or people high up in the administration do something to compromise that mission, or did the mission go in, we had a plan that was a reasonable plan that was approved, and things didn't go quite as well on the ground as they should have been. That is fundamentally different from Benghazi, where the administration went out and lied about the reason for the attack, and then continued to lie about the interactions between the secretary and those on the ground. So, that's a fundamentally different thing.

The Obama administration conducted many, many raids. They conducted many strikes. You didn't see the Republicans go out and question every one of them. Only when there is some culpability up the chain of command for this problem, do we get into that. And I don't think there's any evidence of that here.


BURTON: I think that there aren't -- as you said, Kate, John McCain walked out of that briefing room and said that the raid was a failure. The briefing was classified. The American people didn't have access to that information. There's no sunlight on this process. There's no availability of information for the American people.

So, you know, I'm with Senator Santorum. Yes, in times of war, bad things often happen, and sometimes bad things can happen and a raid or a mission can be a success. In this case, it looks like there was a very specific reason that the American military went in on this raid. That was not achieved. And so, the fact that we lost a servicemember, which is tragic, that these civilians died, including small children, the fact that we're not asking questions, I think it's a disservice to the American people and to the military. There should be accountability. People both in America and across the globe should have confidence in the American military and the way that we're conducting missions all around the world.


BOLDUAN: We'll leave it there.

But I do wonder, even though John McCain, as we well know, wanted to end that conversation with reporters and said there are no hearings planned, I do wonder if they are asking questions, and they still may well be asking questions, especially if Donald Trump, the president, continues to go back and forth on it.

SANTORUM: I guarantee you John McCain is asking questions and asked a lot in that hearing. It sounded to me like he was satisfied. I suspect more questions will be asked, but that doesn't necessarily mean in a public failure.


BURTON: If calling it a failure means being satisfied, I'm not sure that's right.

BOLDUAN: We'll continue this conversation.

Thank you, Senator.

Thank you, Bill.

Thank you so much. Great to see you both.

BURTON: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, she called it a, quote, "free commercial" from inside the White House briefing room. Counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway, saying on TV that Americans should go out and buy Ivanka Trump's clothing line. Did that cross a line? Details ahead.

But first, the new CNN original series "The History of Comedy" takes a look at how comedy has impacted the nation's history. In the premiere episode, you'll the early pushback, risky and risque comics faced.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you went to the record store, you often had to ask for these albums. You couldn't just pick them up out of the bin. They were often hidden or in a certain part of the store where you needed some sort of assistance from people in the store because they were thought to be too scandalous.

DICK CAVETT, FORMER TALK SHOW HOST: I've heard several of them and it's a miracle you're able to select parts to do on television.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The party records that Redd Foxx did were underground, underground to mainstream society. The mainstream didn't want any part of it and didn't want any part of it at that point.


[11:49:16] BOLDUAN: Do not forget to watch is "The History of Comedy," premiering tonight at 10:00 p.m. eastern, because we all need a laugh right now.

Be right back.


BOLDUAN: Did President Trump's top -- one of President Trump's top advisers break the law this morning when she told TV viewers to buy products from Ivanka's clothing line? Kellyanne Conway was speaking to "FOX and Friends" this morning from the White House briefing room and called her pitch a free commercial -- those were her words -- for the president's daughter after Nordstrom decided they were going to cut her fashion line from their stores. Take a look at the clip.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISOR: They are using the most prominent woman in Donald Trump's -- you know, most pro prominent --


CONWAY: And they're using her, who has been a champion for women in power and women in the workplace, to get to him.


CONWAY: So I think people can see through that.


CONWAY: Go buy Ivanka's stuff, is what I would tell you.


CONWAY: I am going to go get some myself today. This is just -- it's a wonderful line. I own some of it. I fully -- I'm going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now, "CNN Money" correspondent, Cristina Alesci; CNN senior legal Toobin, Jeff Toobin; and CNN senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, the host of "Reliable Sources."

Jeffrey, why are you laughing?



BOLDUAN: Did she break the law?

TOOBIN: I don't think she broke -- you know the expression, don't make a federal case out of it. There's a possibly technical violation but this is a law that is not frequently prosecuted.

But it's just so inappropriate. It's so wrong. It's so ridiculous that a White House official is saying go buy the president's daughter's project.

And politically, I think it is significant when you think that, you know, the Trump -- the idea that the Trump business and the Trump administration, they've pretended they're different. They're the same. This administration exists to support the Trump business.

[11:55:18] BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the facts of this, Cristina, because Ivanka Trump removed herself, yes, from the brand?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, technically, she did. But this is the question, right? I have been reporting for the last several months on whether or not Trump org, or the Trump presidency, has effectively separated itself from the Trump business. And the answer has been, not really, right? Now the question is, can the White House, can the entire White House staff separate itself from Trump Org? Or is it just another arm, as Jeffrey just mentioned, of the Trump business?

BOLDUAN: Donald Trump, President Trump, the conflict-of-interest laws really don't apply to President Trump.

ALESCI: They don't.

BOLDUAN: When it comes to Kellyanne Conway and what she said, Jeffrey Toobin has the word on where the law is, and isn't, if there's really a problem there. Is Nordstrom responding to this this morning? This has been happening now -- started with Donald Trump tweeting about it. Now it's continuing.


ALESCI: Nordstrom is responding saying this was not a political decision, as Kellyanne suggested it.


ALESCI: Exactly. This was a business decision. Specifically, it said that "Sales of the brand have steadily declined to the point where it didn't make good business sense for us to continue with the line for now."

So, clearly, Nordstrom pushing back on this idea that it was political.

And, remember, I spoke to Ivanka Trump's brand company, and they told me they were targeting young women, young professional women. Well, guess who was boycotting the brand online and everywhere else? Young professional women. This was clearly a business decision, not one that was politically motivated.

BOLDUAN: Clearly, many Republicans would say that's not entirely clear, if it's -- clearly. And here's why. Because there are a lot of companies who came out after the travel ban was in place and spoke out against it. Nordstrom was included in that.

ALESCI: Exactly.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: The companies are trying to thread the needle, aren't they?


STELTER: Trying to figure are out what the right position is.

I'm shocked by Nordstrom's stock. Gained a lot after Trump's tweet.

BOLDUAN: Dipped a little, then gained.

STELTER: Dipped a little bit, probably algorithm trading right when Trump tweeted, then gained the rest of the day. It's up 3.4 percent now today.

I watched that FOX interview. First of all, the "FOX & Friends" hosts are entertainers, and didn't follow up on the comment from Conway when it was clearly an ethical issue. The Office of Government Ethics has been clear about this. Members of the executive branch should not be making endorsements.

But I do wonder what's next. There is an element of humor in this, as Jeffrey was laughing about it. What is it next? Conway on QVC? What we are going to see from the Trump brand?


BOLDUAN: Here's the thing. In the end, no matter what everyone thinks at home, it seems everyone involved won.


BOLDUAN: You have Nordstrom stock is up and Donald Trump got to speak about it and Kellyanne Conway got to speak about it.

STELTER: Let's see where the brand is a year from now.


ALESCI: I don't think Ivanka will survive another year.



BOLDUAN: Seriously.

ALESCI: Ivanka Trump's brand may not make a comeback, even with the Kellyanne commercial today.

BOLDUAN: OK. Here we go.

Thanks, guys. Great to see you.

What happened when Comedian Bill Maher tangles with a very staunch Donald Trump voter? Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED TRUMP VOTER: The president in office barely three weeks. Why can't you guys in the media and Hollywood give him some slack?


BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: Because of what he's done and said. Slack?

UNIDENTIFIED TRUMP VOTER: It's only three weeks.

MAHER: Three weeks?

UNIDENTIFIED TRUMP VOTER: Give him a break. Can't you give him a break?



UNIDENTIFIED TRUMP VOTER: It's the toughest job on earth.

MAHER: The toughest job on earth has never been done like this. This is beyond the realm of politics. If you're just talking about politics, let's pretend it's just politics. I'd have big problems there because it's a giant con, what he's done. He ran for the little man and then what does he do? He gets into office, the coal companies can dump sludge in the river because that's what the little man is aching for. Undoing Dodd/Frank because so many of the town halls in Appalachia, people were standing up and saying, Mr. Trump, please get rid of the Volcker Rule --


-- because if I can't make certain speculative investments, it's killing us here.


So, that's just the political part. We could have a normal conversation about that. But this presidency is not about the political part, even three weeks in. It's beyond politics. It's about sanity. It's about somebody who makes stuff up, who doesn't read. His information is either anecdotal or pulled right out of his -- what word, Reverend, should I --

(LAUGHTER) -- his behind. Of course, we're worried when the president sees multitudes that don't exist, as in the illegal people, the illegal voting, three million. That should bother you, sir. I'm not the crazy one here.


BOLDUAN: Bill Maher and Van Jones right there, "The Messy Truth." That's tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern. New episode with Van Jones. You don't want to miss it.

Right now, though, let us go to "Inside Politics" with John King.