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Soon: Trump To Announce New Labor Secretary Nominee; Sources: Trump's Billionaire Ally May Review Intel Agencies; Trump Targets Leakers After National Security Adviser Ousted; Trump Meets With House GOP Supporters; Senate Confirms Mick Mulvaney For OMB Director. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 16, 2017 - 11:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. New this morning, intelligence under review. Not the actual intel that threw the White House into turmoil but the intelligence agencies themselves could now be investigated.

And this is the man we're going to show you that the administration is considering to lead that effort, Stephen Feinberg, a billionaire, private equity investor who sits on the president's Economic Advisory Council, someone with, as far as anyone can tell, no national security experience.

What's that review going to like and how will that be received? This is all happening as Capitol Hill still hasn't figured out what to do with the leaks of contacts between Trump aides and Russia. Investigate the content or investigate the leakers?

And we've just found out, as we just found out, President Trump will be holding a press conference, a news conference in the next hour. He's going to face a lot of questions. How many questions will he take? Lots to cover.

CNN's Joe Johns is at the White House and Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Let's get first to you, Joe, this news coming out that President Trump will be holding a news conference. He was just before cameras and reporters next yesterday. What are we hearing about this, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's a very interesting development, quite frankly, the idea that the president is going to hold a news conference at noon Eastern Time. You hit the nail on the head. The question is what kinds of questions, how many questions, will he take any questions at all, or are they holding a news conference simply for a statement to be read publicly? Anybody's guess right now. That's the only information that we have at this time, that there will be a news conference at noon Eastern Time, Kate.

BOLDUAN: A lot to learn there. One of the big pieces of news that is coming out, Joe, is what do we know about this broad kind of based review and the man who is being considered to lead it right now, of the intelligence agencies?

JOHNS: Right, his name is Stephen Feinberg. He is a billionaire. He runs something called Cerberus Capital Management, the founder of it, actually. He's known for, among other things, its work with distressed assets and counts among the people on its team former Vice President Dan Quayle as well as former Treasury Secretary John Snow.

Now, Stephen Feinberg is a friend of the president. He's also apparently well-known to the Adviser Steve Bannon and some others in the administration. And "The New York Times" first reported this story, among the things they said about it is that Feinberg has notified shareholders, apparently, of his company that he is in some type of discussions or negotiations with the White House about possibly assuming some role in the Trump administration.

So this review that we have asked about and been told he might be considered for or is being considered for would look at a variety of things in the intelligence agencies. But the focus, according to people here at the White House, would have at least in part to do with the leaks that come out of the intelligence agencies.

As you know, the president has been very concerned about it. He's tweeted about it. He's talked about it and the suggestion is Feinberg would be called on to come in and leave the review of those issues. Back to you.

BOLDUAN: I wonder if that means root it out. Great to see you, Joe. A lot to come with the breaking news that the president is going to be holding a news conference at the very top of the hour. We'll be bringing you live coverage.

Manu, to you. I'm so excited to talk to you. From the Capitol Hill side of things, who is going to be investigating what over there?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, that's been the big focus here. On the Senate side, the Senate Intelligence Committee taking the lead for looking into Russia, those contacts between Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador and the run-up to the Trump administration coming into power, as well as on the House side.

The House Intelligence Committee, now what was interesting this morning, I had a chance to talk to the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee about Donald Trump's concerns about the leakers. And he made very clear that it's not within his committee's jurisdiction to look into the possibility of folks leaking information to the press and possibly breaking the law.

And he also said they were going to look into those transcripts, request those transcripts between Flynn and the Russian ambassador. Take a listen.


SENATOR RICHARD BUFF (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We're concerned with leaks, because it jeopardizes our national security, and the committee is responsible for classified material, that's important.

But we turn to the FBI if in fact we have an indication of the direction for them to look. The White House can do that, the Justice Department can do that. It has been done. I'm told there is an aggressive effort to try to figure this out.

[11:05:02]There's a tremendous amount of leaking going on today. It's all getting reported as fact and the reality is that it's not all factual. It's absolutely crucial that if people break the law, which some of these leakers have that we fully investigate it and hold accountable any individuals that would do that.


RAJU: Now I also asked him are you requesting those transcripts between Flynn and the Russian ambassador, and he said that they have actually made that request. He says he has actually not seen those transcripts yet.

He said actually nobody on the Hill in his opinion has seen those transcripts yet, discussing whether or not they discussed the issue of sanctions as Donald Trump was coming into power.

And interestingly, Kate, he also is not aware, has not been told from the Trump administration about naming Steven Feinberg, potentially naming him as part of that oversight on the intelligence community. He said he had no idea about it, he said he was reading about it in the newspaper.

So this is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee not being told by the president of the United States and the administration what they're doing about the intelligence community. It just goes to show you, a lot of folks on Capitol Hill are not being kept in the loop on the plans of the new administration -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, it's not just on that topic. That's a complaint we're hearing from a lot of folks on Capitol Hill, they're hearing about it first in the media. Manu, great to see you, a busy day up there, thank you so much.

All right, joining me now to discuss this a little bit further, former CIA operative, Bob Baer, is joining me. So Bob, when you hear this that they're considering a broad based review of the U.S. intelligence agencies, what does that mean to you?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: I think this is part, Kate, of the war against of the intelligence community. Clearly the president is furious about these leaks, by the way, which were top secret, intercepting phone calls of the Russian ambassador is a top secret transcript. So he does have a point there.


BAER: But going outside to this man, Steve Feinberg, tells me that this is going to be a hostile relationship. Feinberg is very close to Erik Prince, the head of Blackwater, who is also hostile to the intelligence community. I think we're going to see some heads roll, some big changes. The DNI is probably going to be ultimately sidelined in this and Feinberg is very interested in intelligence. He at one point was considered to be head of director of operations for the CIA, but because of conflict of interest, that was dismissed.

He's very close to Bannon. Bannon has a clear dislike for the intelligence community. So we're going to see -- I think we're going to see big changes over the next year.

BOLDUAN: With that in mind, how will this be received by your former colleagues?

BAER: Well, I think there's going to be resistance. I think there's going to be more leaks. There's going to be resentment. The intelligence community is very upset about these Russian connections with Russian intelligence. They don't look at this lightly. For them the cold war never ended, Russia is the enemy. And we're going to see pieces of this come out, this whole Russian story, over months and months. It's not going to be pretty.

BOLDUAN: Bob Baer, great to see you, a lot more to learn about this. Thank you so much.

The panel with me today, Mary Katherine Ham is here, CNN political commentator and senior writer for "The Federalist," David Drucker, a senior congressional correspondent at "The Washington Examiner," Peter Beinart, CNN political commentator and contributing editor to "The Atlantic," and Kayleigh McEnany is a CNN political commentator and contributor to "The Hill."

Before we begin, we're getting a little more clarity on this news conference that President Trump is going to be holding at noon. According to the pool, he's going to be holding this press conference to announce his new pick for labor secretary, of course, after Andrew Puzder pulled away from his nomination just yesterday, a little bit of news for us there.

But let's talk about where things stand with the intelligence community, the leaks, the news, and now the broad-based review that's being considered of the intelligence community. Kayleigh, Bob Baer says it's a war on the intelligence community. What do you say about this review?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think that at all. I think we've seen a series of leaks and I find it very troubling, troubling, you had nine former and current member of the intelligence community come out and share top secret information, as Bob mentioned.

Not only that, "The Wall Street Journal" reported today that members of the intelligence community are selectively deciding what to share with the president because they do not trust him.

BOLDUAN: We do not have that reporting. "The Wall Street Journal" may have their reporting, but CNN has none of that reporting. MCENANY: Sure. But that aside, even if that's not true, even if "The Wall Street Journal" is wrong about that, the fact that you have intelligence officials leaking information is bad, very bad. And for President Trump to appoint someone that he trust to look over the intelligence community, much like what was done after 9/11, that's not a bad thing. That is a good thing.

BOLDUAN: Is the problem the leakers, though, Mary Catherine Ham? No president likes a leak. Barack Obama prosecuted I think more leakers than any recent president.

[00:00:00]But is the problem the leaks? If the leakers are the problem, why did Michael Flynn get fired, then?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. I don't think the leakers aren't the only problem. We have two sets of leaks, one from the intelligence community, we don't know why they're motivated, and two or three different sets of leakers from the White House. Parsing this is very interesting.

But look, I think that when it comes to the intelligence community, there is a worry in like a systematic campaign that is perhaps motivated by not liking this guy. I think there's a circular reasoning going on where people go, he must be doing this because he's so very bad.

That doesn't make the behavior good. Same for Trump. It doesn't make the behavior look good, contact with the Russians looks like circumstantial evidence that it's bad. Those are not good, but these things can exists at the same time. And I think none of this is getting healthier anytime soon, when you bring in the independent reviewer, I don't think.

BOLDUAN: Well, interesting point is if there's nothing there, then where is the denial from President Trump in terms of the contacts from campaign aides to people known as operatives in Russia? That's one question. But this afternoon we may have -- you know what, actually we are seeing President Trump right now, as I speak, he comes on my show, meeting with supporters on Capitol Hill. This is some video coming in, let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Good morning. Hello, everybody. What a nice group. Very good. Come on, that's what we like. Let me grab that for you.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you all for being here. I have had a lot of good discussions this morning. I'm negotiating a lot of contracts that are saving billions and billions of dollars for the American people and for all of us. And I'm very proud of it.

The A-35 fighter jet, the Air Force One program, which was totally out of control, and now it's back very much in control, and many other things. In addition, I had a very good phone call this morning about a major plant that's moving back into the United States. We'll be talking about it soon. What I do have is a little free time at about 12:00. So I don't think the press will want to show up, but I think I have a press conference, probably at 12:00 in the east room.

We had a little time in between things. So if the press would like to show up, will anybody show up to that press conference? Historically, they don't care about these things, for me they show up. I think 12:00 in the east room of the White House. We'll have a press conference.

I just want to thank you folks for coming today. This was great. This was scheduled a long time ago. Some of my very, very early supporters and I've been your supporter also. We're doing really well. The fake news media doesn't like talking about the economy.

I never see anything about the stock market sets new records every day, Chris, I never see that. But I think the people understand it. We're giving a speech in Melbourne, Florida, on Saturday. I think it's going to be around 4:00.

And I hear the tickets, you can't get them, that's OK, that's better than you have too many, right? So it's going to be great. I look forward to that. That will be Melbourne at 4:00. I really appreciate you folks. You folks have been so great.

And right from the beginning, and Tom, right at the beginning, just about every one of you, right at the beginning, some were a little after the beginning. But we forgive, but we forgive. Let's go around, just for the media, you'll introduce yourselves, and then we'll start talking and I'll see the media back at 12:00 -- Chris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, we're all honored to be here. This is really our Trump caucus. Reconvening for the first time in a little bit. Our first meeting was the first part of March. Duncan Hunter and I both endorsed you on February 24th, a week from tomorrow the one-year answers. This is the Trump caucus reconvening. We're so honored you're taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: These are real friends.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, very good to see you, sir. From Santiago, California.

KEVIN KRAMER, NORTH DAKOTA: Kevin Kramer from North Dakota.

BILL SHUSTER, WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA: Bill Shuster, Western Pennsylvania, chair of the transportation committee. I'm looking forward to --

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We'll give you some money for transportation and that's good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) from Pennsylvania.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Good territory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, Tom (inaudible), a pleasure to travel with you to Florida, congratulations.

[11:15:02]PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) from Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Please indulge me, 30 seconds. I have something for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something for you to sign, I think he meant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beware of members of Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) 60-some years old, never voted, never registered. He registered for you and voted for you and asked me to give this to you, I'm sorry, Mr. Vice president, I'll set this over here.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: That's beautiful, thank you. He's a talented guy, I can see that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then I have the chairman and CEO of Little League World Series Baseball. Mr. Vice president, I kind of figured you would be here as well. This is from the New York team last year that was in the World Series. That's for you. And this is a jersey, an original jersey of the New York team in the World Series last year. This is for you as well, sir.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, thank you very much. Thank them for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will do that.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank them for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From Tennessee, I just want you to know that Tennessee is fully behind you, we're excited about the work you're doing. We know that health care and tax reform has to be done this year. We like the work you're doing and we need you to help us.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We'll get it done. The health care is going really well and now that we finally have Tom, Tom Price, Dr. Tom Price, that was a big thing, we couldn't get him. We are going to be announcing, I guess I'll do it at 12:00, a new secretary of labor who is really phenomenal.

So that will be at 12:00 and we're getting -- this is the slowest in history, the approval of a cabinet. And these people are outstanding people. The man I'll be announcing for labor is a star, great person, great person. And so I look forward to that, but I appreciate everything you've done. You've been fantastic, and I appreciate it. Thank you. MIKE KELLY: Mr. President, good to see you, Mike Kelly, thanks so much. What an exciting summer we had together. We did better than OK.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We took an area that wasn't a big Republican area, and we swamped them, right?

KELLY: We did. Thirty four years since Erie actually voted for a Republican. Thanks to you.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much.

BILL LONG: Billy Long, I'm co-chair of the delegation to Japan, on Saturday. Meeting with Prime Minister Abe on Monday. If you will tell me how many golf balls he lost.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: He played well, I'll tell you. We played with Ernie Els, I called up Billy and said, the prime minister of Japan wants to play golf. We get to the front of the club and Ernie Els is waiting for us. We had a good time. He played very nicely and he's a great guy, you're going to like him.

LONG: Yes, I met him, the last three or four years, he's a great guy. I knew you all would hit it off.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We had a good feeling.

LONG: I know you guys would get along good.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I always said about President Obama, it's great to play golf, but play golf with heads of countries and by the way, people like yourself, when you're looking for votes. Don't play with your friends that you play with every week. Does that make sense?

LONG: Yes, it does.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I hit it off with the prime minister. He's a fabulous guy. He loves his country and we spoke all day long, and we will into the night. As you know, they launched a missile, North Korea, and we were discussing that. It was really -- it was really something. Have a good time over there and give him my regards.

LONG: Ambassador Sai was in my district for two full days, he mentioned he was in Florida with you also. One last quick thing, Fran Drescher from "The Nanny," you were on "The Nanny" one time, she has a request, she's in the battle for cancer, that you have a cancer board with one non-medical person. She wanted me to put her name in the hat.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Why don't you give me that request, Billy, and let's see if we can do that. Marsha?

MARSHA BLACKBURN, TENNESSEE: Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee, I chair the telecommunications and technology subcommittee at Energy and Commerce. We are looking forward to broadband expansion, real broadband. PRESIDENT TRUMP: You're going to get it. Thank you very much, everybody. See you at 12:00. If you don't show up, I won't be there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to get those leakers, Mr. President?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We're going to find the leakers. They'll pay a big price for leaking.

[11:20:12]BOLDUAN: There you have it. Donald Trump, President Trump, meeting with some of his original supporters from Capitol Hill as he went around the horn and let them all present their gifts or had their say, then you heard at the very end, "We're going to find the leakers and they're going to pay a very big price."

The panel has stuck around. David, from Capitol Hill, you hear that from President Trump, we'll find them and make them pay. But from Capitol Hill, the reaction ranges from, we're going to investigate the content of what was released, we want to get to the bottom of these contacts with Russia in the campaign, we want to get to the bottom of the phone calls between Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador, but you also have, we want to investigate the leakers. Forget Republicans and Democrats, this is a Republican/Republican problem from the House and the Senate.

DAVID DRUCKER, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Correct. If there's an area where they don't want to give to Trump, they've let a lot of things slide, they've appreciated his unconventional approach to the consternation of many conservatives at times, but one area where they're not going to give is Russia.

We're seeing two different approaches from Republicans on the Hill when it comes to the Flynn matter. One is, there is concern about the content of what Mr. Flynn had to say to the Russian ambassador and concern about the relationship that the president has with the Russians. Why?

Because from the beginning of the campaign, he has been a Putin apologist and excused Putin's bad behavior at every turn, deference he has not shown to the Chinese or even many of our allies. It raises a lot of questions.

However, there are Republicans that are similarly concerned about the fact that the transcript or things that Flynn said did leak. And as Republicans pointed out to me yesterday, they want to know how an American citizen, Michael Flynn.

Even if it was caught up in the spying on the Russian ambassador, how that stuff was not washed away as they explain, according to our laws, the intelligence community cannot spy on Americans. And if the FBI did it, because they can, where is the warrant?

BOLDUAN: This is creating very -- I would say a concerning situation kind of on all fronts, Peter, in terms of the leaks coming out, the information, and who is being targeted here because you hear very specifically what the president has to say about the information. He's not talking about the information. He's talking about the leakers.

You hear from some of his allies on Capitol Hill who are saying that because Donald Trump, like Steve King, he says Donald Trump has so many enemies in the intelligence committee, the way he termed it. You don't even believe anything that comes out of the intelligence community now.

That's not a sustainable situation. If you can't trust your intelligence professionals and the information they're giving you, who do you trust?

PETER BEINART, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC": It is very frightening, because after all, the president is supposed to be working with the intelligence community to keep us safe, right? I mean, beyond all of this stuff, Donald Trump is supposed to be, you know, actually this guy who is going to prevent terrorist attacks.

Those of us who are highly critical of Donald Trump should not fall into the trap of idealizing the intelligence agencies. They are unelected. It is a problem when people start leaking information and the press should treat that with skepticism.

But the largest context here is, as you were saying earlier, what is the relationship between Donald Trump and Russia? That's really what matters. The Flynn conversation is only a very small part of this.

Why would so many Trump campaign officials talk to Russian government people and intelligence officials during the campaign? What were Donald Trump's financial records? And why has Donald Trump so consistently been an apologist for the Russians since he entered the political campaign?

Those are the questions we need a fundamental investigation of and it should be as above board as possible.

BOLDUAN: If there is nothing there, there, I said this earlier, Kayleigh, if there is nothing there, there, I'm confused as to where is the president's denial of all of this. He essentially fires Michael Flynn over it then says the next day he is a wonderful man even though there is an erosion of trust.

He hasn't answered any questions to him about these constant contacts between his top aides during the campaign and Russian contacts. We saw on Twitter a little while ago Donald Trump tweeting, "The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election so badly so they made up a story, Russia. Fake news."

Again, I'm not going to pretend to assume I know exactly which bit of the Russia story Donald Trump is speaking to, I don't think we can, but he hasn't denied anything.

MCENANY: Right. I think he should have a press conference, at noon, hopefully he'll take some questions on this, I do think he should answer questions. But to your point about not knowing, none of us has seen that transcript. The Gang of Eight hasn't seen that transcript.

BOLDUAN: They do think it's concerning enough that they do want to see it.

[15:25:01]MCENANY: A 100 percent but we don't know what President Trump has seen. He might have seen a transcript that was as simple as the Russian ambassador saying, hey, what about those sanctions, and Michael Flynn saying something to the effect of, oh, we'll talk about that after inauguration. We don't know what the transcript says and until we have that information, I don't think we can scrutinize how the president has handled it.

BOLDUAN: Doesn't it benefit the president to have this investigated, not just investigating the leakers, doesn't it benefit the president maybe not to have the transcripts made public but to have the Senate investigate what the transcripts say?

HAM: Right. That would be my position, let's get to the bottom of this. What I fear is that in this investigation, which I support, that it would be in the best interests of intel folks, of Democrats, and of some of the Trump people, to keep it as sort of foggy as possible, so then you're going to have politically motivated leaks out of the investigation in perpetuity. I'm not sure what we end up learning. Not to say it shouldn't happen, but I'm worried that it doesn't become more illuminated.

BOLDUAN: Breaking news, Mick Mulvaney has been confirmed as the budget director for President Trump. As President Trump was saying in his meeting with lawmakers, this is the longest, slowest go of getting his cabinet in place. Now one more, Mick Mulvaney confirmed after some touchy moments, David, being confirmed as OMB director.

DRUCKER: Yes, look, I think that Trump will end up getting almost everyone that he's nominated confirmed. I think the issue with Puzder was more personal, and that's why he dropped out. That's why most presidents don't get every cabinet pick, there's always something wrong with somebody.

But the votes are going to be there. Republicans in general want to support the president. They in general agree with him on domestic policy. There's not going to be much issue there.

One last thing to watch on the president's sort of war with the intelligence community, as he brings in an outsider from Wall Street to try and take a look at things, the issue isn't so much that the president wants to produce better intelligence.

As Peter said, he needs to work with the intelligence community to keep us safe. The issue is, is this about making intelligence work better or is it just about the president gaining control over the work product because there are parts of the work product he doesn't like?

BOLDUAN: What does this mean for Mike Pompeo, the CIA director? What does this mean for Dan Coats, the man he nominated to be director of National Intelligence? What does it mean for these congressional committees, who have oversight over the intelligence agencies? Is this basically decline them?

DRUCKER: None of them can be happy about this. As you know, first of all, there's a lot of turf protecting when it comes to stuff like that. If you're Dan Coats and you're on your way in, you're probably thinking, what am I supposed to do if you bring in somebody to look over my shoulder?

BOLDUAN: Dan Coats hasn't even been given a shot yet. Congress hasn't confirmed him yet. One final thought, Peter.

BEINART: The central questions we always have to come to, we know the Russians were trying to influence the American election. Was the Trump campaign complicit in that effort? Everything comes back to that question.

MCENANY: We have no information to suggest that they were.

BEINART: We don't, but with he know the intelligence community is highly concerned about the possibility.

DRUCKER: We know they meddled. We don't know that that tipped the election. Hillary Clinton is a bad candidate, who made a lot of mistakes.

BOLDUAN: Republicans on Capitol Hill, they're investigating that as we speak. They want to know the level of meddling that the Russians had in the election. You know that John McCain and Lindsey Graham are not letting this go. We won't let it go either. Great to see you, guys. Thanks so much for sticking around.

Coming up for us, the first high level face-to-face meeting between the U.S. and Russia since President Trump took office. Words of friendship and a warning from Trump's new secretary of state. Details ahead. We'll be right back.