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Stocks Near 25,000 Mark; Book Highlights White House Dysfunction; Stock Market Breaks 25,000; Massive Winter Storm Hits Northeast; Trump Takes Credit for Talks. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 4, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


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[09:31:59] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Twenty-four thousand, nine hundred, eighty-five. We are just a few points away from the opening -- well, we're past the opening bell. A few points away from 25,000.

Christine Romans, our chief business correspondent, is here.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Super close. Fastest thousand points when it hits 25,000 in history. We've never seen the Dow go up 1,000 points in just a month.

When you look at how it has been over the past year, since January, one after another, these big, round milestones have been achieved. It's because corporate profits are great. Expectations that corporate tax will make corporate profits even better. That means companies are making money and spending money for their shareholders and investors. So we're expecting that's going to happen any moment. If it doesn't happen today, it could happen very soon because the path of least resistance seems to be higher here. That has been the trend and the tone in the stock market because the economy is growing. We're hoping that wages will start growing this year and corporate profits are growing.

The president, last night, even tweeting about it, a non- confrontational -- a tweet from the president where he said the stock market had another good day. Now that the tax cut bill has passed, we have tremendous upward potential. The Dow just short of 25,000. A number that few thought would be possible. Only getting better.

Sorry, I thought we were going to show that tweet. But the president tweeting about the stock market, among other things yesterday, seeming to take credit for it. But, clearly, investigators have enjoyed things in the past -- actually the past eight or nine years.

BERMAN: Yes.

ROMANS: The past year has been pretty impressive.

BERMAN: Flirting with 25,000.

ROMANS: Flirting.

BERMAN: We will see how long this flirtation goes on before perhaps, you know, the market consummates the --

ROMANS: Oh, nice.

BERMAN: Did you like that?

HARLOW: There you go.

ROMANS: I need a cigarette.

BERMAN: All right, Christine Romans, thank you very much.

All right, we've been talking all morning about Michael Wolff --

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: His new book that he will publish shortly from inside the White House, about the chaos inside the White House. A lot to discuss.

Joining us now, Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana.

Senator, Happy New Year. Thank you so much for being with us, sir.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: And to you. Thank you.

BERMAN: So this book, among other things, you know, it paints a picture of a president and a White House where senior staffers are questioning, you know, the behavior, the disposition of the president. They say he's acting like a child. There are stories about him repeating himself, not recognizing people.

You have spoken to the president. You see the president. You've had a chance to work with him. Have you witnessed the president perhaps losing a step?

KENNEDY: No. I mean, I probably have been with the president in small meetings in my first year between five and ten times. I've never seen that side of the president. The last time I was with him we were discussing the ethanol issue and he had a very clean grasp of the issues.

Let me say something about all of this. Number one, I don't think it's helpful in terms of us getting what we need done to help the American people. You know, federal government, I found in my first year, doesn't have the remote control. You've got to get up and change it yourself. So you've got to stay focused.

Number two, and I don't say this to disparage anybody, but some people like drama But just because they like drama doesn't mean I have to attend the performance. And I just think we need to put this stuff aside and get back to work.

[09:35:18] That's my -- I don't know if what's in the book is true. I'm not saying it is. I'm not saying it isn't.

BERMAN: Right. KENNEDY: It could be that the author just pulled it out of his orifices. I don't know. I mean I'm not saying it is or it isn't. But it is what it is and I'm trying not to let it distract me. And I think most senators feel that way.

HARLOW: So we're going to have the --

KENNEDY: I get it. I get it that it's fun to talk about, you know? It's human nature to be interested in this stuff.

HARLOW: Well --

KENNEDY: And I understand that it's news. But I'm just saying, there are bigger issues.

HARLOW: So, a few points. We're going to have the editor from "The Hollywood Reporter" on later who edited Michael Wolff and these excerpts. So we'll ask him some of those questions about fact checking.

BERMAN: Right.

KENNEDY: Good.

HARLOW: What was done, et cetera.

But let me get you on this because, you know, to your fellow Republican, Governor John Kasich of Ohio, this is substantive and very material to the future of your party. And here's why. He said on CNN, you're going to probably see a weakening of support for Republicans for the president if this all keeps up. And he points to losses for Republicans in Alabama and Virginia as evidence of that. He warned the party could face future losses next year as a result of, you know, the chaos that Michael Wolff reports on. Do you agree with him on that point?

KENNEDY: Well, the governor's a smart guy, but I don't think he's clairvoyant. And, you know, he could be right. He could also be wrong too. I don't think anybody knows.

Look, whether you like it or you don't, we just passed one of the major changes to the internal revenue code that's ever been passed in American history. And I happen to agree with it. I think it's going to help the economy.

Now we've got other issues to deal with. The Children Health Insurance Program.

HARLOW: Yes.

KENNEDY: I'm very supportive of it. It's helped my state a lot. I don't think there's nearly the waste in CHIP that there is in the other parts of the Medicaid program. We're going to renew it. My suggestions to my colleagues is, let's go do it now because we're scaring people, needlessly, unnecessarily, needlessly. I mean we're going to do it. We know we're going to do it. Let's go do it. Immigration reform. I know part of that is DACA. But it's just part of

it. There's been a 15-year bipartisan refusal in Washington, D.C., to focus on our immigration laws. And, frankly, to either enforce them or make them better. And we need to deal with that.

A budget. You know, I mean we're sitting here -- it's embarrassing. We don't have a budget for the United States of America. Most families do. Most businesses do. Most TV stations do. I mean we don't have a budget for God's sakes. It's embarrassing. We need to go do it.

BERMAN: So, senator, a few things. First of all, one, I think you should write a book --

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: Because I think your colorful language in metaphors, you know, would grab the attention of a reader.

Number two, the Dow just crossed 25,000. I wanted to tell people.

KENNEDY: Yes, that's great.

BERMAN: And this is a milestone. And I know you would appreciate being on TV with us when that happened.

But you just said a number of interesting things in an interesting way that I want to point out. Number one, on CHIP, you said we need to pass this now. We're scaring people.

KENNEDY: Yes.

BERMAN: On immigration, you made the case that we need to get this done. I assume you include some kind of, you know, provision for dreamers as well. Are you suggesting that your leadership is not moving on this quickly enough? It's up to them to start the process here. Are they not moving quickly enough?

KENNEDY: Well, leaders, whether you're in the majority or the minority, can't just snap their fingers and make senators do what they want to. I've said this before, at least on my side of the aisle, Republican senators are kind of entrepreneurial. They're not -- kind of like free range chickens. Sometimes they go in the same direction but sometimes a few wonder off. So you can't blame leadership for everything.

Number two, everybody on the Republican and Democratic side of the aisle in the United States Senate knows we're going to renew the CHIP program. It's worked. You can debate about a little nuance here or a minor change here, but it's a solid program. It helps my state a lot. We know we're going to renew it. For God's sakes, let's go do it because people are getting scared and there's no point in that.

HARLOW: Right. Look, but to John's point, senator, in your state -- in your state alone, you've got 121,000 children that rely on this.

KENNEDY: 122,000, actually as of this morning. HARLOW: Thank you. Even more, right, 122,000 families that rely on

this.

KENNEDY: Yes.

HARLOW: And as you point out, they have been scared for months because they don't know if come next month their child will be able to get the surgery they need, the medication they need, et cetera.

KENNEDY: Well, I don't want them to be scared, Poppy. I don't want them to be scared.

[09:40:04] HARLOW: So you can -- I mean leadership can't do it alone, but they can emphasize to their fellow senators, this is issue number one.

KENNEDY: Hopefully. I sent -- I sent a letter to Mitch -- I'm sorry.

HARLOW: I'm bringing this to the floor as soon as you bring me, you know, a bill and a -- that you can all agree on and we can get enough votes for. So they can do that. They can persuade heavily.

KENNEDY: I sent Senator McConnell a letter yesterday saying, look, with all due respect, let's go -- we know we're going to do it. Let's go renew CHIP.

HARLOW: OK.

KENNEDY: In my state, I think it works the same way in other states, this helps about 122,000 kids who are too poor to be sick. Their parents don't qualify for Medicaid. It doesn't mean they're wealthy. They make just a little bit too much money to qualify for Medicaid.

HARLOW: Yes.

KENNEDY: So this helps the kids. And every kid deserves a chance in life. And you can't do it if you're sick.

And we know we're going to renew it, so let's do it and stop scaring people.

BERMAN: Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, as we said, Happy New Year. We look forward to reading your next book. We'll go in with you on it.

HARLOW: John will edit it for you.

BERMAN: I will edit it.

KENNEDY: There you go.

BERMAN: Appreciate it, sir. Thank you so much.

KENNEDY: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you, senator.

KENNEDY: Happy New Year.

BERMAN: All right, millions of people right now bracing for a blizzard. It's happening right outside.

HARLOW: What's it called?

BERMAN: Bombogenesis. Bombogenesis.

HARLOW: A true story.

BERMAN: That's an actual word that I learned yesterday. Strong winds, heavy snow, frigid cold temperatures. Thirteen people have already died because of the cold coming with this storm. We'll take you to some of the places hardest hit, next.

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[09:45:25] BERMAN: All right, it happened, the breaking news, look at that number, the Dow Jones over 25,000. That is why we have CNN chief business correspondent, star of "EARLY START," Christine Romans here to tell us what's going on.

ROMANS: Well, it was just a month ago we hit 24,000. It was the end of November, 24,000. So just a month. The fastest thousand points in Dow history, although all the market nerds are pointing out to me on Twitter that because the Dow was so much higher, the percentagewise is not as fast, blady, blady, blah. It's a thousand points in a month. That is a big rally.

And a lot of this has to do with fundamentals. The economy is doing well. The job market is doing well. Companies are making a lot of money. They already had been. And then you're getting big corporate tax cuts that insure they will make even more money next year. And the stock market reflects corporate profits.

HARLOW: Yes.

ROMANS: Not how you feel, Poppy. Not how I feel. Not how Berman feels. He always feels the same.

HARLOW: Yes.

ROMANS: It reflects how corporate profits are. And they are expected to be pretty rich.

Let me give you some perspective. The Dow is 30 stocks. The best Dow stocks last year were like Boeing, Caterpillar, Apple. But the S&P 500 is the better way to look at sort of how you feel the stock market. The S&P last year up 19 percent. That's awesome. The S&P the first year of the Obama administration, up 24 percent. Also awesome. So let the arguing over who's to blame or to get credit ensure.

HARLOW: Yes.

ROMANS: But those are just the numbers.

HARLOW: Everyone can be awesome, a. And, b, I think I heard Janet Yellen once say blady, blady, blah also.

ROMANS: Yes, it's a technical term.

BERMAN: When she was talking to the Fed.

All right, Christine Romans, thanks so much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

All right, so this morning this brutal winter storm across the Northeast. Right now 58 million Americans in the path. Countless schools closed. Traffic already snarled. More than 3,000 flights have been canceled. Roads, a nightmare. We've got our meteorologist Jennifer Gray, who is with us.

First, though, let's go outside. Athena Jones is in Queens, New York.

So when I came in this morning about 5:00 a.m., a little bit of snow. What's it like now?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Poppy.

Well, a lot more snow than a couple of hours ago. As you can see, the road conditions have gotten worse and worse in Queens. We've been driving around Queens and Long Island. We've seen cars slipping and sliding on the local roads. We saw cars spun out on the Long Island Expressway, the major highway that links Long Island to New York. So the road conditions certainly getting worse.

When all told, we expect to see six to ten inches of snow falling in New York City over the course of today. Up to a foot or more in Boston. And what we're calling a bombogenesis. That is what forecasters call it, this weather system, this weather phenomenon, that is leading to near hurricane force winds. We're talking 50, 60- mile-an-hour winds and blinding snow. We're already seeing the snow blowing sideways. So very dangerous conditions.

Officials are warning people to stay off the road as much as possible. If you have to travel, try to use mass transit.

We have seen cars out on the road, as I mentioned. A lot less traffic than you would usually expect around this hour. And there are several more hours of snow to go. Following that snow, as you've mentioned, even more bitter cold. New York and Philadelphia expected to reach about 3 degrees, down to negative 7 in Boston.

Poppy. John.

HARLOW: Oh.

BERMAN: All right, Athena Jones braving the bombogenesis.

Let's go to meteorologist Jennifer Gray in the Weather Center.

What do things look like, Jennifer? JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, guys, this has rapidly

intensified as we talked about yesterday and now the Northeast feeling the effects.

Here's the radar. Athena right outside of New York. And you can see the heavy snowfall around Long Island as well.

So all snow basically from North Carolina all the way up to Maine. So we are going to have blizzard-like conditions for a lot of these coastal areas as we go throughout the afternoon. \

You can see all the areas shaded in orange. Those are the blizzard warnings. Some of these areas could have hurricane-force gusts. Wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour or more. Of course, hurricane force would be 74 miles per hour.

So here is the storm. And we'll track it for you because it is going to be a fast mover. This is going to be in and out today and out of here by tonight. And so we'll be able to recover a little bit over the weekend.

But we will have a long road ahead as far as the very cold temperatures. There's cold, cold air behind this and so temperatures are going to drop subfreezing for tomorrow and Saturday.

So here's the snowfall forecast. You can see the heavy amounts right along the coast. Philadelphia, three to six inches, New York City, four to eight inches. Boston could see more than a foot of snow.

And here are your high temperatures for Friday and Saturday. New York only gets to 10 degrees on Saturday. So, guys, if you lose power, it is going to be a rough, rough weekend ahead.

HARLOW: Yes. You have a generator, right?

BERMAN: Yes.

HARLOW: Yes. I don't.

Jennifer Gray, thank you. We appreciate it.

GRAY: All right, Poppy.

[09:49:49] HARLOW: New developments on conversations between North and South Korea. And the president, President Trump, this morning taking credit. We're live in Seoul.

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BERMAN: So this morning President Trump is taking credit for the recent communication between North and South Korea. He wrote, with all of the failed experts weighing in does anybody really believe that talks and dialog would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn't firm, strong and willing to commit our total might against the North? Fools. But talks are a good thing.

HARLOW: Our international correspondent is in Seoul with us, Will Ripley.

So, look, this comes on the heels of that communication line, the telephone line between the North and the South opening up and having two pretty short phone calls over the last 48 hours or so. Where does this leave us?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, there have been five conversations in total over the past couple of days on this phone line, but not much substance, at least not yet. Some of the calls were basically testing the line to make sure the phones were stable and then it with was the North telling the South that they have no new information to report at this time.

But we are hearing that they are expecting to have discussions and possibly set up a meeting as early as next week about North Korea sending a delegation here to South Korea just over a month from now for the winter Olympics in Pyongchang. And this is something that government here wants very much, one, to show, you know, potential thawing of relations between the North and the South, but also because the South feels that if North Korea has athletes at the Olympics, that they're less likely to engage in provocative behavior, like a nuclear test or a missile test during the Olympics, which could scare people from attending, potentially destabilize this very important international event.

[09:55:14] We also just learned moments ago about a phone call that happened between President Trump and South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in, where President Trump offered to assist with the inter-Korean communications. He said that the United States supports the South Korean president and he says he hopes to see good results from this communication between the North and the South. So President Trump taking credit in tweets and saying he's happy to step in and help out with the dialog.

Of course his tweet just yesterday where he was boasting about the size and power of his nuclear button when compared to North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un's nuclear button may cause North Korean officials to be fairly reluctant to, at least at this point, to engage with President Trump. That's something that they told me just as recently as a couple months ago in Pyongyang when they raised questions about whether they could even negotiate with President Trump.

BERMAN: So, Will, we do have some breaking news we want to get your take on. This just in regarding South Korea and the U.S. Apparently as part of this phone call, both presidents agreed to halt or to cease or not hold joint military exercises that were scheduled to take place after the winter Olympics. This is significant and, frankly, this is something North Korea wanted.

RIPLEY: Yes, that's right. You're right, that this just flashed right now. Another readout from that call. And the reason why South Korea was asking the United States to push back these scheduled military drills is because they were scheduled to coincide with the Paralympics, which, of course, take place right after the Olympic games. And often during these military drills, we have seen North Korea lash out or act out with missile launches and what not. So the U.S. agreeing to delay those military drills in hopes of a smooth and peaceful winter Olympics here in South Korea.

BERMAN: All right, Will Ripley, that major development just coming in. Thanks so much, Will.

HARLOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: So what is really going on inside the White House? More of this stunning reporting from a book that's not even out yet.

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