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Competency Questions Cloud Trump's 2018 Agenda Meeting; Trump: North-South Korea Talks Wouldn't Happen Without My "Tough Stance". Aired 7-8a ET

Aired January 7, 2018 - 07:00   ET



[07:00:02] Ran for president one time and won.

MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR: They say he's a moron, an idiot. This man does not read, does not listen.

TRUMP: Everything that I've done is 100 percent proper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kim Jong-un's regime says it will come to the table and engage in peace talks with its South Korean enemies.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We've had channels open to North Korea for sometime.

TRUMP: If I weren't involved, they wouldn't be talking about Olympics right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First round of any negotiations with the North Koreans is usually very tough and sometimes even confrontational.

TRUMP: He knows I'm not messing around. I'm not messing around, not even a little bit.



ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.

This was supposed to be the crucial weekend of meetings with the president and top Republicans were going to huddle at Camp David to set the goals for the 2018 agenda.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: With the strategy session that was overshadowed by the president's insistence that he is a stable genius and his attacks against this new tell-all book.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Only because I went to the best colleges -- or college. I went to -- I had a situation where I was a very excellent student and came out and made billions and billions of dollars and became one of the top business people. Went to television and for ten years, was a tremendous success, as you probably have heard. Ran for president one time and won.

And I hear this guy that does not know, doesn't know me at all. By the way, did not interview for three -- he said he interviewed me for three hours in the White House and it didn't exist, OK? It's his imagination.


BLACKWELL: We'll talk more about the president's response to that book.

But there's also this, this morning. A key U.S. ally is defending the president against claims he is unfit for office. British Prime Minister Theresa may says she has no questions about President Trump's mental health.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were quite serious questions being raised in the states about his mental state. Do you think they are serious?

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: As I say, I -- when I deal with President Trump, what I see is somebody who is committed to ensuring that he is taking decisions in the best interests of the United States.


PAUL: Now, CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live for us in Washington.

So, Jeremy, obviously, there were quite the distractions yesterday. But we didn't get a lot of specifics, though, did get some sort of trajectory or idea of what the GOP's top priorities and goals are going to be at least for the next few months, yes?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. Well, the president is spending his weekend huddling with congressional Republican leaders and key members of his cabinet, on top item on the agenda there is discussing the 2018 legislative agenda, of course, but they are also discussing everything from national security threats, including the threat from North Korea. But they offered only a few pieces of insight into that 2018 legislative agenda and the priorities that Republicans hope to engage in this coming year.

Of course, one of the items on the agenda that they mentioned was welfare reform. But they also made clear that bipartisanship is going to be crucial in this coming year. And that the top of that bipartisanship agenda, the first thing on that agenda at least is going to be immigration reform. Republicans in Congress and Democrats are looking to strike a deal to keep -- to create into legislation a program to protect those undocumented immigrants who are brought to the United States as children, the program formally known as DACA, of course. But Republicans, including the president, are looking for a lot of different items in exchange for creating that kind of a permanent program for those immigrants.

The president laid out some of those demands yesterday.


TRUMP: We want the wall. The wall is going to happen, or we're not going to have DACA. We want to get rid of chain migration, very important, and we want get rid of the lottery system. In addition to that, we want some money for funding. We need some additional border security.


DIAMOND: There is, of course, a march deadline before those provisions run out and the Trump administration has privately made requests it seems for $33 billion in border security funding, including $18 billion for the border wall, of course, that the president has long touted.

But while the president did escape to Camp David this weekend from Washington to huddle with Republican leaders, he hasn't altogether escaped questions about his fitness for office. That discussion, of course, sparked this week by the new book "Fire and Fury" by Michael Wolff.

The president instead of escaping those questions appearing to add some fuel to the fire, suggesting yesterday that he is a very stable genius. So, that discussion is likely sure to continue.

PAUL: Jeremy Diamond, so good to see you. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: We're going to continue it right now. CNN political commentator and political anchor at Spectrum News, Errol Louis, is with us. Commentary writer and editor of the "Washington Examiner", Siraj Hashmi. And CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter is with us as well.

[07:05:03] Brian, I want to start with you.

And those tweets from the president came out during our show yesterday and I've been thinking a lot about them. I want you to tell me if I'm overstating this. Modern presidents, there have been these phrases that are iconic in which the presidents, I guess, compensate for shortcomings. I am not a crook. I did not have sexual relations with that woman. We don't even need to name the president, people know who we are talking about.

We heard from an American president via Twitter yesterday, I'm a very stable genius. Did we have another one of those moments?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we did, because we've never seen anything quite like this. And I just try to say that because now, 24 hours later, we can step back and say that has never happened before in American history, at least not in modern times, to have a president come forward and say, no, I am not struggling with my capacity to handle this job. I am actually fit for the job. My mental health is in order.

But I think you're on to something really important, Victor, that those kinds of quotes from past president is like, "I am not a crook", the kind of denial of something that is all over the news and being talked about, it does happen from time to time with presidents, it's just never happened in this way on the subject of mental health and stability.

And make no mistake, that's the point of Michael Wolff's book. You know, when the book excerpt came out a few days ago, it was all about Steve Bannon and what Bannon was saying, and what Bannon is saying truly is shocking. At the end of the book, Bannon says, again, Trump has lost it, he's lost his stuff.

But the overarching point of the book isn't about Bannon, it's about the president's fitness. So, that's why this issue I think has come much more to the forefront in recent days. Wolff is not just sitting back as an armchair psychiatrist saying Trump has a problem. Wolff is claiming and this has to be reported out further, Wolff is claiming that Trump's own aides are concerned about his fitness.

So, that's why this creates such a fury, to borrow the title of the book. And I think this is a situation where we need more reporting, not just guessing, not just speculation, not just armchair psychologist and psychiatrists.


STELTER: More reporting is needed to know exactly how Trump's aides and colleagues feel about his status.

BLACKWELL: Errol, let me come to you and talk about, you know, the busy month ahead for the president. They have to get through funding the government, they've got a spending bill they need to pass, they've got DACA, infrastructure plan is scheduled to come out this month as well, and he's been focused on this book. Now, a new moniker for Steve Bannon was sloppy Steve.

You remember back during the summer, there were those themed weeks? Was made in America week. There was technology week. And inevitably, the president would veer off or distract it to some other area.

January is more than just a theme. How does the president -- how does the White House keep the president on track?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, they've got something that is required according to the Constitution which is called the State of the Union address to Congress.

BLACKWELL: Yes, at the end of the month.

LOUIS: That's where it's all going to come together, I think. That's where you're going to have really to sort of see this administration try and get itself back on track. And again, we're not talking just about the president. I think to a certain extent, I'm only about halfway through the Michael Wolff book.

And just as Brian says, it's a startling portrait of a man who seems to be believed by his assistants, by his aides to be not quite up to the job. That's one interesting and important question. The larger question for the public is whether or not this administration can work and you put your finger on it. Can they sort of march forward in a disciplined orderly strategic fashion to lay out their priorities for the country and rally the country around those priorities, or at least lead a debate about them?

I think, by the way, we're not necessarily going to have the luxury of waiting until March to see the DACA question really flushed out because there are some leaning Democrats who have said they are going to tie resolution to that issue to the funding of the government. So, we may see that showdown in the coming weeks, even before the State of the Union Address.

BLACKWELL: So, let's talk about, Siraj, with the president, yesterday, saying that he believes that there should be one piece of legislation, that fixes DACA, but also ends chain migration, ends the visa lottery system and provides funding for the border wall, all in one piece of legislation. Has the president now created a 100 percent win or 100 percent loss situation for himself and Democrats?

He is the great deal maker. He is the author, asterisk, of "The Art of the Deal". If he doesn't get everything he has put on one side of the scale against DACA here, does he go into the State of the Union as a loser? Does he go into the State of the Union impaired?

SIRAJ HASHMI, COMMENTARY WRITER AND EDITOR, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, if we know anything about the White House Trump is spinning it in his favor. What you're looking at right now with the deal between DACA and the border wall with Democrats is that if he is able to get a deal with the Democrats, he'll be able to say that he was successful in getting that deal done and getting at least border security funding, as well as $18 billion for the border wall.

[07:10:11] BLACKWELL: But is there any appetite for Democrats to bend on the border wall?

HASHMI: There is an appetite for them, because if they're not able to get a deal done, then the president, as well as congressional Republicans, will be able to point them as obstructionists and hurt them in the midterm elections, which could be the biggest wet blanket for them at least coming up in terms of driving down turnout. But, again, President Trump will be able to spin this in a way make him look like the good guy to his base no matter what.

BLACKWELL: Errol, I don't see how the Democrats can keep that energy that they are relying upon the resistance if they allow for the $18 billion or even a portion of that for the border wall in defense of the DACA recipients. Is there some way they can say yes for the sake of the 800,000 who are here undocumented, no fault of their own brought here as children? We will allow construction to begin for the southern border wall?

LOUIS: I can't quite imagine it and having talked with members of the Democratic leadership, you never know what kind of pressure they might be under. But, look, make no mistake about it, certainly where the Democrats are concerned and to a great extent the Republicans too, the real agenda here are the November elections, right?

So, everybody is looking at key districts. Everybody is polling questions about the border wall, about DACA in those key districts. What people think in those 24 odd districts or what the strategists think the voters are going to be willing to tolerate or be seeking in November is really going to dictate a lot of the course of this conversation. I mean, these are not just abstract questions. This is life or death for the leadership of Congress.

BLACKWELL: So, Brian, let me come to you and more about the book. The reporting from Jake Tapper and Jeremy Diamond that soon after the first excerpts were released from "Fire and Fury" of Steve Bannon's interviews, Bannon was minutes from attacking the book and the author, Michael Wolff, and defending the president and Don Jr. Here is part of the proposed statement, according to sources from Jake Tapper and Jeremy Diamond, Don Jr., like his father is a great American and a patriot. We all know Don Jr. did not knowingly meet with Russian agents, also went on to say Michael Wolff took my remarks about Don Jr. out of context to sell his book.

But after the White House in that scathing statement went after Steve Bannon, that was pulled at the last minute. If they had just pulled their punches, the president potentially would not be in this position?

STELTER: This feud maybe would not have become nuclear. It became so intense in the last few days that it seems hard to come back from.

But I think one of the important points in the book, one of the overarching themes is that Bannon viewed himself as bigger than Trump, that the president was just an imperfect vehicle for Trumpism and that this is a revolution that will continue long after President Trump. Now, Bannon, he may have that tested now. Let's see how much power he really has in order to crown future candidates and help them get elected.

But that was Bannon's view this time last year was that he was really the leader and President Trump was just the vehicle for him. I think the key part of the Don Jr., the treasonous quote is this book reminds us how many may be implicated in the various Russia probes. There is new reporting on that on almost a daily basis and that's the overarching, biggest problem Trump continues to have.

BLACKWELL: All right, Siraj, you get the first question next time. We've got have to wrap it here, unfortunately. Brian, Errol, thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: And don't miss "STATE OF THE UNION" later this morning. Bombshell revelations in this book "Fire and Fury", alleging dysfunction and chaos in the West Wing. Jake Tapper speaks to Stephen Miller, the president's senior policy adviser. Again, "STATE OF THE UNION" this morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

PAUL: There was another big headline out of this weekend's Camp David retreat.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the president says he's open to dialogue with North Korea and that he always believes in talking.

What happened to all of those angry words about fire and fury and not negotiating with little rocket man?

PAUL: And more from CNN's exclusive interview with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He has ever questioned the president's stability? He is going to answer that.



[07:17:20] TRUMP: Right now, they are talking Olympics. It's a start. It's a big start. If I weren't involved, they wouldn't be talking about Olympics right now. They'd be doing no talking or something much more serious.

If something can happen and something can come out of those talks, that would be a great thing for all of humanity.


BLACKWELL: That's President Trump speaking to reporters at Camp David yesterday. He also said he is open to talking with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

PAUL: North Korea has accepted South Korea's offers to meet for talks this week, and that meeting is going to be the first high level, face- to-face contacts between the countries in more than two years.

BLACKWELL: Now, President Trump says the talks would not be on the table if he had not taken what he calls a firm stance on North Korea.

PAUL: The president has been sending mixed messages on North Korea throughout the first year in office here, starting when he said that he would be open to meeting with Kim Jong-un. That statement was back in May.


TRUMP: I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it. If it's under the -- again, under the right circumstances.

Rocket man is on suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: All right. So then on October 1st, President Trump sent out a message via Twitter. I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful secretary of state, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with little rocket man.

PAUL: All righty. CNN national security analyst Kelly Magsamen is with us now.

Kelly, thank you for being here.

With that said, with the mixed messages that we're seeing, what does -- when President Trump says he is open with talks with Kim Jong-un, what does that diplomacy look like? You certainly do not start with President Trump and Kim Jong-un.


Well, the president is changing his tune and I think there is something going on here. It's a good sign, I think. It's a sign he is trying to get on the same page with our South Korean ally to ensure that there is not a gap between the United States and South Korea on these diplomat talks coming up next week. And that's really important because a gap between our -- you know, the two allies would be a win for Kim Jong-un.

So, I think this is a sign that his national security team is telling him that it's very important that he be supportive of this round of discussions. At the same time, I think we should keep our expectations pretty low when it comes to these talks. I think they will basically be just getting to know each other.

[07:20:00] They haven't talked in over two years, discussing what might be possible in terms of improving the relationship or deescalating the situation.

But I don't think we should be, you know, pinning our hopes that these talks are going to come up with something really substantive at this stage.

PAUL: I want to listen what McMaster, the White House national security adviser, said just last month about North Korea.


H.R. MCMASTER, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There are ways to address this problem short of armed conflict, but it is a race because it's getting closer and closer. And there is not much time left.


PAUL: So, what are the policy options now that there is some sort of understanding as to how North Korea has been so expeditious with their nuclear program? MAGSAMEN: Well, I think the policy options are essentially, you know,

putting additional pressure on North Korea. I think to the administration's credit, they have been doing a very good job on the pressure campaign, most recently with the latest U.N. Security Council resolution. The other policy options include diplomacy. Again, I think this next round of talks, again, it's just between North Korea and South Korea but perhaps could lead down the road to U.S. and North Korean discussions.

So, really, diplomacy is the key option here. And, of course, the administration is trying to keep the military option on the table but I have to say, you know, I think we all know that war on the Korean peninsula would be a devastating consequence so it's not a very attractive option to the president, I'm sure.

PAUL: Well, I understand you had said the period after the Olympics is the, quote, danger zone. What did you mean by that?

MAGSAMEN: Well, I think, you know, after the Olympics, depending how these discussions go next week, you could probably see Kim Jong-un try to test again in some way, shape or form. U.S. military exercises will start later in March probably. That will just heighten tensions. I expect, you know, the sort of cycle of diplomacy and provocation continue and see tense moments after the Olympics.

PAUL: All righty. Kelly Magsamen, appreciate your insight there. Thank you.

MAGSAMEN: You're welcome.

BLACKWELL: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addresses the latest controversy over questions about President Trump's mental fitness for office. Hear what he says and other things on that topic in the exclusive interview with CNN's Elise Labott. That's ahead.

First, though, "Staying Well" looks how music can be used as therapy. Take it a look at how it helped a teen deal with the death of her father seven years ago.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jordan was 11 years old when her father died from lung cancer.

JORDAN KAREM, MUSIC THERAPY PARTICIPANT: I was very, very close with my dad.

Coming home from school and not having him here was a very hard time in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes her feelings would come out in anger or frustration, and I would ask her what's wrong but she couldn't tell me because she just couldn't put it into words. I knew music might be a way to help her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Music therapy is the use of music to attain therapeutic and rehabilitative goals. We find people are able to share things through music that they may not be able to share in talk therapy. So, we may use things like lyric analysis, song writing, playing instruments, singing.

KAREM: We decided to write a song with all of the memories that I had of him. I got to put my own emotions into it.

I remember feeling at home when you left me in your arms --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She got more confidence in herself. She definitely was able to trust other people and feel OK sharing her feelings. Today, she's a theater major. I would have never dreamed that for her.



[07:27:24] PAUL: So glad to have you with us here. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: So, President Trump has said he is willing take to you take North Korean leader Kim Jong-un put with preconditions.

BLACKWELL: Well, in a television exclusive interview with CNN, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sat down with CNN's Elise Labott and spoke at length on U.S. diplomacy with North Korea.


ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Let's start with North Korea. The North and South arranging talks for next week. North Korea now coming to the table. Is that an opening, maybe, for talks with the U.S. or nuclear talks?

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think it's too early to tell. We need to wait and see what the outcome of their talks are. The president -- President Trump had a good call with President Moon yesterday morning which I participated in and their intent is to talk about the Olympics. Obviously, very important upcoming event for South Korea and the potential participation of North Korea in those Olympics. So, our understanding is that's the content of the meetings. So I think a little early to draw any conclusions at this point.

LABOTT: It could be a positive sign maybe that North Korea wants to engage a little bit?

TILLERSON: Well, we'll see. We'll see. Perhaps. I know some are speculating that this may be their first effort to open a channel, but as you know, we've had channels open to North Korea to sometime and -- so, they do know how to reach us when -- if and when they are ready to engage with us as well.

LABOTT: Well, maybe you'll be next? TILLERSON: We'll see.

LABOTT: If you could explain a little bit about what the U.S. policy is on North Korea, because I think the Americans are a little bit confused. Do the North Koreans have to give up their nuclear program before committing to talks?

TILLERSON: Our policy is the complete verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

LABOTT: Right.

TILLERSON: That is a common policy held by everyone in the region as well.

LABOTT: Right.

TILLERSON: The Chinese have that as a stated policy. The Russia has it as a stated policy. So, regionally, all of the countries in the neighboring area, as well as the international community are well aligned on the policy. How we achieve the ultimate end point, the final full denuclearization, the verification of that and irreversibility of it, it's going to take some time.

So, how we end the talks is yet to be determined but we clearly need a signal from North Korea that they understand these talks must lead to that conclusion. The pathway of how you get there, that is the nature of the negotiation. There will be some give and take to achieve those objectives. So, that is -- that objective has never changed.

LABOTT: Because you said, it's unrealistic for them to kind of sit down and say, we are ready to do it. It sounds like, you know, they have to show some willingness, but then, you know, the mechanics of that are --

TILLERSON: We have to have a shared view that that is the reason we are talking. That is the purpose of these talks. And it is through those talks that North Korea actually can chart the way for themselves of a more secure future and more prosperous future for their people as well.

So, there are very positive outcomes for these talks from North Korea as there will be positive outcomes for the security of the entire region. That is the nature of the negotiations.

LABOTT: Do you think -- you know, a lot has been made about the president's tweet on the nuclear button. But, you know, now North Korea is talking with South Korea. Do you think that tough rhetoric has worked here?

TILLERSON: I think the rhetoric that North Korea understands is while it is our objective and the president has been very clear to achieve a denuclearization through diplomatic efforts, those diplomatic efforts are backed by a strong military option, if necessary. That is not the first choice and the president has been clear that is not his first choice. But it is important that North Koreans, as well as other regional players, understand how high the stakes are in an effort to ensure our diplomatic efforts are fully supported.

And I think to date, the diplomatic efforts have been supported very well in the international community if you look at the three U.N. Security Council resolutions on sanctions, the participation in those sanctions, and a number of countries going well beyond the Security Council resolutions and imposing unilateral actions on their own, both economic, as well as diplomatic. I think it is a recognition that the president has demonstrated to the world how high the stakes are. That's why we must achieve a diplomatic outcome but the North Koreans have to understand that and they have to understand that the penalties to them will continue and will only grow more severe in terms of sanctions, actions, and other actions until they do get on a pathway to achieve that objective that the entire world hopes to achieve.

LABOTT: So, it sounds like this good cop/bad cop, if you will. You know, hold out the prospects of talk but if talks don't work, military action, that might be the formula that you and the president will continue.

TILLERSON: I'm going to let you characterize it that way. I'm not going to necessarily show all of our cards.

LABOTT: Let's go to Iran. You said you want to support, quote, elements in the country that will lead to a peaceful transition of government. That sounds like regime change.

TILLERSON: Very little good has happened for the Iranian people. Ever since this regime has taken power, they have suffered under economic sanctions because of this regime's destabilizing activities in the region.

At some point, people will decide this is not how they want to live any longer, but we always support a peaceful transition of power. We do not support violent transitions of power. But we do support peaceful transitions of power and we have seen those expressions in years past with the large demonstrations of the elections in 2009, the demonstrations that we see on the streets today.

We are supportive of the Iranian people of achieving their aspirations for a better quality of life, for greater freedom. We believe they deserve that, but it will be up to the Iranian people to manage that peaceful transition. We support that.

LABOTT: How do you help they facilitate that?

TILLERSON: When this go to street, we listen why they are there, what are their concerns, and where there are legitimate concerns and we agree that their concerns are legitimate, we should support the expression of those, and that's what the president has done, the White House, the vice president, myself at the State Department, through statements we've made is to give their voice amplification. We know the regime listens to the world and that's why we have been working diligently with others in the world, including our European partners, to also amplify these voices within the country to say to the regime, you must address these concerns of these people and you should address it by beginning a process of reform. LABOTT: How does that factor into your decision on sanctions? Do you

support waving sanctions at this next certification?

TILLERSON: We look at the totality of Iran's actions and behaviors. So, the decisions around waiving sanctions relative to the nuclear agreement and decisions to take in terms of imposing additional sanctions on Iran that are unrelated to the nuclear agreement, are -- there is a broad array when you talk about sanctions.

LABOTT: So, nonnuclear sanctions?

TILLERSON: Well, I think some people get confused sometimes, and it's understandable. But Iran's support for the Houthis in Yemen, their support for destabilization efforts in Syria, the funding of militias, the Singaporean fighters, arming terrorist organizations in the region, Lebanese, Hezbollah, that has to be dealt with and our sanctions are targeted that Iran's destabilizing activities within the region while still maintaining all of our efforts to ensure Iran never acquires nuclear weapons.

[07:35:04] So, there are sanctions regime is built around both of those efforts and what the president has done with his policies is he is now looked at Iran in its totality and said Iran has to be held to account in both of these areas.

LABOTT: So it sounds like maybe even if you certify on the nuclear issue, more nonnuclear sanctions could be coming?

TILLERSON: They will be coming. There were nonnuclear sanctions announced yesterday by the Treasury Department in response to Iran's missile -- ballistic missile development programs which are in violation of earlier agreements.

LABOTT: And more to come?

TILLERSON: In all likelihood -- unless Iran alters its behavior and again, this is the objective of the sanctions is to -- is to put enough pressure on these governments that they decide the price, the cost of what they are doing is too high.


PAUL: We have more of that interview with Secretary Tillerson. He's going to talk about the U.S. relationship with Russia, next.


BLACKWELL: We have more of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's interview now.

PAUL: We want to listen now to his views on the U.S. relationship with Russia, as well as his own relationship with the president.


LABOTT: Let's talk about Russia. You came in. The president wanted a better relationship. It's been a tough year. What do you see the flash points next year?

TILLERSON: Well, it has been a difficult year with Russia. We clearly -- and I've said clearly, the president has stated clearly -- our two nations should have a more productive relationship. Today, it's very strained for all of the reasons that I think the American people well understand.

Having said that, we have maintained a constant engagement with Russia, very active engagement. We have to be open and candid nations should have a more productive relationship. Today, it's very strained for all of the reasons that I think the American people well understand.

[07:40:02] Having said that, we have maintained a constant engagement with Russia, very active engagement.

We have to be very open and candid and frank with one another about what both of us -- and I think Foreign Minister Lavrov is as committed to trying to improve relationship as I am. These are difficult issues. And we have made it clear that the keystone is really Ukraine.

Having said that, we have found areas of cooperation in Syria that have led to the near defeat of ISIS in Syria.

LABOTT: President Trump said that this whole Russia investigation has been kind of a drag on your foreign policy, that it hurt you with allies, that there's a lot of confusion. How has which impacted your dealing with world leaders in term of this cloud, if you will?

TILLERSON: It has had no impact. And I say that --

LABOTT: Really?

TILLERSON: It's had none. It never comes up in our conversations, or in my bilats, or my dialogues with world leaders elsewhere.

The domestic issues around the Russia involvement in our elections are not part of our dialogue elsewhere. I think the rest of the world recognizes it is a domestic issue, it's an important one. The Russians and we talk about it, and we have said to them, look, it's a problem.

LABOTT: You think they're going to try to meddle in 2018?

TILLERSON: I don't know. I hope they don't.

LABOTT: Do you have evidence which they are?

TILLERSON: We have none yet. But we do know that Russia has involved themselves in other elections --

LABOTT: Right.

TILLERSON: -- in Europe and elsewhere. So, it's -- it is a message we convey to the Russians. The way I

convey it is I don't understand why you do this. I don't understand what you think you're getting for this, because it's not evident to me as to how's this benefiting you when --

LABOTT: Chaos in the United States benefits them, right? TILLERSON: How's it damaging -- but it damages Russia because we're not making progress and they're not making progress with others.

So we try to stay focused on the truly big issues between us which is Syria and the situation there, situation in Ukraine, and Eastern Europe, and creating stability in Eastern Europe, and recognize what Russia's concerns are. And we have very important talks coming up on the START Treaty and the INF Treaty as well.

LABOTT: What is with these rumors about you leaving? How long are you planning to stay, or are you planning to stick around for a while?

TILLERSON: We had a very successful, in my view, year of 2017, pivoting our policies and helping our partners understand those polities. We're now into the implementation and execution those policies. I think we're going to have a very productive 2018.

Again, the State Department gets stronger everyday understanding what we're trying to do, and I look forward to having a very, very successful 2018.

LABOTT: For the whole year?

TILLERSON: I intend to be here for the whole year.

LABOTT: Has the President given you any indication that you won't be around for a while?


LABOTT: None whatsoever?

TILLERSON: None whatsoever.

LABOTT: I'm sure you've heard about this new book out there about the White House. It's the talk of the town. It describes, you know, a president who's foreign policy is actually uniformed, that he's not engaged, that he's not interested, that he gets up and leaves meetings with world leaders because he's bored.

You're at the White House several times a week. Is that your experience?

TILLERSON: I think among all the cabinet secretaries, I probably have spent more time with the President than perhaps Secretary of Defense Mattis, who spends a lot of time with him as well.

I have never seen the President leave a meeting with a foreign leader. He is very engaged in these meetings. And in our policy deliberations and the meetings with the National Security Council with him to, as I've said, a big challenge was pivoting policies in a different direction than they were placed when the president took office. From North Korea, to the Afghanistan, South Asia policy in Pakistan, to the defeat ISIS campaign, the president prioritized the threats early on. And that's the sequence within which we have addressed those. And in all those deliberations -- and these have been, not been easy deliberations, these are not easy decisions for a president to make -- he has been very deliberative, he has listened to the arguments, he argues back as he should.

LABOTT: Because all of these --

TILLERSON: He pushes back. And in the end, he makes a decision which we then implement.

I would tell you on all of the major policy areas, the President has made the right decision on every one of those. How we got there involves a lot of debate, and it should involve a lot of debate. It's a very -- it's a very healthy exchange with the president, and one which I think is important that we continue to have.

LABOTT: Everybody in this book questions his mental fitness. Have you ever questioned his mental fitness? And describe your relationship with him because some people would think it's -- you know, through his tweets and stuff, it's not a very good relationship.

TILLERSON: I've never questioned his mental fitness. I have no reason to question his mental fitness. My relationship with him -- and it is a developing one, and I remind people and I think it's well known that he and I did not know one another before he asked me to serve as secretary of state.

[07:45:05] So, we don't have a lot of history and past, so part of this is us knowing -- coming to learn and understand one another.

LABOTT: You're also two different kinds of people.

TILLERSON: Well, we have different management styles. How I make decisions, how I process information. I have -- I have to learn how he takes information in, processes it and makes decisions.

And that's my responsibility. I'm here to serve his presidency, so I've had to spend a lot of time understanding how to best communicate with him so I can serve his needs with information.

I do think one of my roles is to always give him all sides of the issues. Even when I know it's not the side that he really wants to consider, I think the it's part of making good decisions is that I know he at least has had visibility to all aspects of the decision he's about to make. And that's my role as secretary of state, is to provide him that full 360 visibility of what these decisions mean for our foreign affairs with allies, with partners, and with adversaries.

And I think what comes out sometimes, what people see then, is they think that is conflict when it's not. It's a normal process of having the President look at all sides and then saying, "I don't like that." And that's healthy. That's not good. I mean, people should feel good about the way decisions are made

because it's not just one of giving in to what you think the President wants, rather helping him see the full array of all the options and what the implications of those are, then he decides. He's the commander in chief, he's the president, he decides, and then we'll implement against his decisions.

LABOTT: You know, reflecting back, what have you learned about yourself, and what might you do differently next year?

TILLERSON: You never stop growing as an individual. So, in terms of what I would certainly do different, I'm going to build on my ability to communicate with the president better, my ability to communicate with others better.

As I said, something I had to learn is what is effective with this president. He is not typical of presidents of the past. I think that's well-recognized. That's also why the American people chose him. They were tired of what was being done in the past. They wanted something to change.

So, I've learned over the past year better how to deal with the president, to serve what he -- I think he needs to know so he can make not bad decisions, and I've learned a lot about the interagency process, which was to me, and that will get better all the time as well. But that is our role here at the State Department.



[07:50:56] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: So, the 75th Golden Awards airs tonight. Listen, it's going to be a lot more than glitz and glam this year.

Three hundred of Hollywood's most prominent actresses and entertainment executives have launched this movement, it's called Time's Up. They want to combat sexual harassment and promote gender equality.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: In solidarity, many attendees are planning to wear black on the red carpet to call attention to the issue. Here with us to discuss, pop culture editor for "The Washington Post", Zachary Pincus-Roth.

Zach, good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: So, we want to talk about the Me Too Movement in just a moment, but first, this is an award show, a big night for Hollywood, movies and television. Leading contenders, list them off for us.

PINCUS-ROTH: Well, I think the leading contender for best picture drama is "The Shape of Water", which is a very charming movie about a cleaning woman who falls in love with a sea creature. I think it will win over "The Post," which is Stephen Spielberg's movie about "The Washington Post" publishing the Pentagon Papers in 1971. I think "The Shape of Water" has a lot of universal appeal. It also kind of reminds me of a couple of years ago when "The Revenant," another which is another kind of fairytale type move beat "Spotlight", which is another movie about American journalism in this category.

"The Shape of Water" also has the most nominations of any movie tonight.

PAUL: All righty. What about best actor?

PINCUS-ROTH: Well, best actor in a motion picture drama will be Gary Oldman, a lot of acclaim for his performance in "Darkest Hour". And then in best motion picture drama actress, I think it will be Frances McDormand for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." She gives a very powerful performance as a mother whose child was killed and she sort of shames the police in her town into investigating. It's a very powerful performance.

BLACKWELL: I've noticed people who do a really good Winston Churchill or a really good Truman Capote --

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: -- you're lined up for an award, you're at least getting a nomination. Those two characters I've seen over the few years, last few years. You're going to go home with at least the nomination.

PINCUS-ROTH: Yes, definitely.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Let's talk -- can we talk TV?

PINCUS-ROTH: Yes, TV. Well, I think in the best TV comedy, I think it will be "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." It's a very charming comedy on Amazon about a 1950s housewife who becomes a stand-up comic. You know, interestingly in this category, the Golden Globe has given it to a new show, in the last five years from "Girls" to, "Atlanta" to "Brooklyn 99." So, I think they'll repeat again this year.

And in the best TV drama category, it will be "The Handmaid's Tale," which is Hulu's acclaimed show. It's the adoption of Margaret Atwood book.

And then in best TV, movie or limited series, I think it will be "Big Little Lies," which is the star-studded HBO show with Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman.

PAUL: Hey, Oprah Winfrey, I understand is accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award. Any expectations there about what's going to happen, what she might say?

PINCUS-ROTH: Well, it's interesting. I mean, remember, this is the slot last year where Meryl Streep accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award, and she actually criticized President Trump and Trump came back and called her overrated and it was a bit of a controversy. So, I think a lot of eyes will be on Oprah to see what she says. I

mean, she, you know, might talk about sexual misconduct in Hollywood, she might talk about politics. You know, obviously, there is wild speculation she might be a, you know, contender in the 2020 election against President Trump. So, I think a lot of eyes will be on Oprah.

BLACKWELL: Yes, she has poured gallons and gallons of water on that possibility of running for president.

But let's stay on this issue of sexual harassment and the Me Too Movement. We know that this is kind of the night typically where Hollywood loosens up. A lot less stuffy traditionally than the Oscars. There is a fine line to walk here for the host especially, and for some of the presenters, in trying to keep the evening light but respecting the mood and the issue of the day for Hollywood.

PINCUS-ROTH: Yes. And I think Seth Meyers is actually a really interesting host for this moment. He's obviously done topical human before. He worked on weekend update on "SNL." His late night talk show is very topical.

[07:55:01] You know, interestingly, Seth Meyers talked about how his wife is an attorney who prosecuted sexual assault cases and he has a segment on his late night show called "Jokes Seth can't tell" where he brings on two women writers to kind of tell the jokes he can't tell.

So, I think he's very aware of the potential pitfalls and is a really good person to kind of account for them.

PAUL: There were no nominations for female filmmakers. Is that going to be something that's brought up? Does it exacerbate the industry's diversity problem? What's the talk there about that?

PINCUS-ROTH: Well, yes, I mean, I think it's not a great look for Hollywood this year, but I think there are two things. One is that, you know, this is obviously a question of representation and how, you know, there just aren't as many women directing big movies as there are men.

And the second thing is, you know, the biggest snub in this category was I think "Lady Bird.", Greta Gerwig's movie, and Greta Gerwig is the director in this category. And, I think, you know, some people feel the perceptions that movies like "Lady Bird" which is about a rebellious teenager in Sacramento are kind of not as seen weighty or as kind of director-driven than some of the other movies and I think some people feel that that perception needs to be countered.

BLACKWELL: And again, we're expecting to see a lot of black on the red carpet. Also, some Time's Up pins.

PINCUS-ROTH: Yes, definitely. Time's Up refers to sort of this initiative in Hollywood to combat sexual misconduct. And that's actually tied to a legal defense fund that people can, you know, donate to. And, yes, many people will be wearing all black, both women and men. Men have said they'll be wearing all black, you know, tuxedos and shirt. You know, it's controversial because some people feel that, you know,

it's a way for fashion to make a statement, but some people feel it's kind of more of an empty gesture and won't really lead to substantive change. So, we'll sort of see what pans out.

PAUL: Yes, sometimes you can only do what you can do in the moment.



PAUL: Zachary Pincus-Roth, good to have you here. Thank you.

PINCUS-ROTH: Thank you so much.

PAUL: Sure. Have fun tonight.

And thank you so much for starting your morning with us. We always appreciate your company. We have you make some good memories today.

BLACKWELL: "INSIDE POLITICS" with Nia-Malika Henderson, in for John King, starts right after a break.