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Interview With Maryland Senator Ben Cardin; How Will Democrats Respond to State of the Union?; President Trump Set to Deliver State of the Union. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 30, 2018 - 16:30   ET



BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: He believes the Russians will try and interfere in the midterm elections, that, basically, they haven't given up since 2016.

No public indication yet of direct evidence that they are doing it, but his view and the view of the intelligence community is, they are continuing to try and have some effect on American elections -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Barbara, while the Trump administration did not impose the sanctions passed by Congress, they did put out a list of top Russian businesspeople and politicians who could be targeted with sanctions in the future.

Where did they come up with this list of names?

STARR: Well, the implication is that they came up with it in part from the "Forbes" list of those most wealthy in Russia.

The indications from the Treasury Department are their criteria for this list of so-called oligarchs, close to 100 of them, is that each of these people would have $1 billion in wealth. They are being looked at very closely by the Treasury Department, according to Secretary Mnuchin, for possible future sanctions for their relationships with blacklisted entities that might be involved in election interference in the U.S.

No sanctions yet against these oligarchs, but the Treasury Department is promising it could happen, Jake.

TAPPER: Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon, thank you.

We have lots more to discuss, including at least five different responses to one speech. Do the Democrats have a union issue here? That's next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Tonight is the first State of the Union address from a Republican president in a decade. You might think tonight and the Trump era in general might be a time for Democrats on Capitol Hill to come together and craft a focused, unified response.

Instead, Democrats will feature no fewer than five separate responses tonight to be seen everywhere from Facebook to the BET Network. For the official response, the Democratic Party has tapped Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy, the liberal great nephew of President John F. Kennedy and grandson of Robert Kennedy.

Just in time to distract from message, well, four other options. Independent Vermont Bernie Sanders plans to broadcast his version exclusively on social media.

Today, Sanders implored his followers to tune in to Facebook Live after the president's speech, tweeting this video preview.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: So I think his speech is going to need a strong response, and I hope you will join me tonight for that response.


TAPPER: Then there's the official Spanish-language response to President Trump. That will come from Virginia Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, a Peruvian immigrant to the United States.

Then on behalf of Progressive Working Families, that party, former Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards will issue a statement. And, finally, Congressman Maxine Waters of California also plans to boycott the speech, but nonetheless will have a response to it courtesy of the BET Network.

Now, on one level, a progressive might argue, this is the Democratic Party attempting to be more inclusive with more diverse messaging to Spanish speakers and the immigrants and the African-American community.

But one might also argue that this is the sign of a party experiencing some disunity. Perhaps the Democrats could use some leadership from their own national community. Unfortunately, the DNC itself is having some leadership issues.

DNC CEO Jessica O'Connell has just stepped down mere months after taking on the task of improving the organization. In a statement to CNN, O'Connell said: "Rebuilding the party will take time. While it is not an easy task, we developed a strategy. We implemented a strategy and we won races up and down the ballot in 2017."

Developing a strategy and implementing it sounds great, but there seems to be little evidence of that this evening, at the very least. Democrats have won some key elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and Alabama, as well as statewide races, but the national Democratic Party is having some issues. From Election Day through November last year, national Republicans raised roughly $70 million more than their Democratic counterparts, capping off one of the Democrats' worst fund-raising years on record. It seems the state of the opposition party is a mixed bag.

Joining me now is Democratic Senator from Maryland Ben Cardin.

So five different State of the Union responses, the worst fund-raising in record. Are you concerned about the Democratic Party going into this midterm year?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Well, Jake, it is good to be with you.

No, I'm not at all. Look at the results of elections we have seen so far, in the Senate race in Alabama, or take a look at Virginia. Take a look at my own state of Maryland in Frederick and Annapolis, where Democrats took out incumbent Republicans.

The energy is with the Democrats. The reason I think there are so many responses is that Donald Trump brings out a lot of opposition and a lot of concern.

TAPPER: We might hear about infrastructure in the State of the Union speech tonight.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote an op-ed in "The Washington Post" including this excerpt -- quote -- "On Tuesday, if President Trump chooses a real direct federal investment in infrastructure, he will have a chance to pass an effective bipartisan bill. We Democrats will gladly work with him on it."

Will you?

CARDIN: I think infrastructure is an area where could you bring Democrats and Republicans together.

But you are going to have to be straightforward with it. It has to provide more ability, more revenues, more opportunity for to us rebuild our roads, our bridges, our water infrastructure, our transit systems.

That requires public investment. So, it is going to have to increase the public investment part of it.

TAPPER: Spend more money.

CARDIN: We have to spend more money.

Now, we can leverage private sector involvement. We can look at creative ways to finance this. But it does require a greater public investment.

TAPPER: You're the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I want to ask you about the fact that today is the day the Russian sanctions that you worked on with Senator McCain and others were supposed to be imposed. We now know the Trump administration is not going to be enforcing these sanctions.

I want you to listen to the counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway.


QUESTION: Why so soft on Russia?


QUESTION: Not Russia.

CONWAY: He's not soft on Russia. That's not right.

This president has been very tough about energy. About ISIS. And we're trying to work together with Russia on big issues of the day, like a nuclearized North Korea, which is everybody's business.



TAPPER: So she seems to be saying that they're not imposing these sanctions because they need Russia for cooperation on ISIS, for cooperation on North Korea.

What do you think?

CARDIN: Well, Jake, Russia has attacked our country. They attacked our elections. They're still actively engaged.

We saw over the weekend in the Czech Republic that Russia was very much engaged in that election, interfering with their democratic elections.

Russia -- Mr. Putin will do anything he can get away with. And if we don't stand strong against him, and the United States leadership is not there, he will continue in our democratic system and interfere in our 2018 elections.

So it is critically important there be a clear message to Mr. Putin there's a price to pay. And the failure to enact any sanctions, any sanctions against Russia with legislation that passed with over 99 percent of the Congress behind, that's just wrong. And it's a wrong message to Mr. Putin.

TAPPER: I want you take a listen to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin trying to explain today their lack of action.



There will be, as a result of this work... (CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're just not implemented yet.

MNUCHIN: Again, that's...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That sounds like a delay.

MNUCHIN: No, that's not a delay.

What it was, was, I think, as you know, our sanctions are based upon an enormous amount of intel work. Now we will take basis of that report and look at kind of, as we do in the normal course, where it is the appropriate to put sanctions.


TAPPER: Do you buy it?

CARDIN: No. It has been six months.

The sanction is not the just against the military and intelligence sector. There are sanctions authorized for cyber-activities. And Russia certainly has been very active in cyber. Human rights violations, arms embargo violations, all of that, Russia has been engaged with since the passage of this bill.

TAPPER: Why don't you think they did it? Why don't you think they're implementing them?

CARDIN: Well, here you have a president of the United States who talks to Mr. Putin and says, I believe Mr. Putin when he says he didn't interfere in our elections.

If the president of the United States is not convinced that Russia is engaged in activities against us, it is understandable that his administration is soft on these issues.

TAPPER: But you saw the CIA director just told BBC that not only -- he said in the past that he thinks Russia interfered, but he's also worried and concerned that they're going to do it again in the midterms.

CARDIN: He answered of course when they said, will Russia be engaged in the 2018 elections?

Obviously, Russia will be actively engaged. They're actively engaged right now in our country. We know that. We have intelligence that points that out. We know what they're doing in Europe.

But the president of the United States has always downplayed what Russia is doing, which is a signal to Mr. Putin, he can do more.

TAPPER: Your counterpart in the House, Eliot Engel, says that Congress needs to do more.

But you already passed these sanctions. What more can you do?

CARDIN: We need strong oversight.

The president's team said, well, this is day one. You just heard Mr. Mnuchin say that they're going to be imposing -- there's possibility for sanctions. I think Congress needs to hold oversight hearings.

We need to make it clear what the law requires. These are mandatory sanctions. These are not discretionary sanctions. And Congress needs to continue to put a spotlight on this, so that the administration takes action.

TAPPER: Do you think that the failure to impose these sanctions has anything to do with any of the conversations that we know the Trump team had with Russians that are all part of this investigation?

CARDIN: We don't know that.

And that's I'm assuming to be part of investigation being done by Mr. Moore, by our Intelligence Committees. That is something that will be investigated and hopefully we will be able to get the answer. But I'm not going to guess as to whether there are any connections here.

TAPPER: Senator Cardin, thank you so much for being here. We always appreciate it.

We're just hours away from President Trump's first State of the Union address. And a source is telling CNN the president's comments on perhaps the most challenging international crisis, North Korea, will be -- quote -- "eye-opening." What does that mean?

Stay with us.


[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: With just hours until what the White House calls must-watch T.V. President Trump's first official State of the Union Address, we're getting a better idea of some of what the President will say. Let's go to CNN's Dana Bash live on Capitol Hill for us. And Dana, a source familiar with tonight's speech says we should expect, "eye-opening remarks" on North Korea?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is something that hasn't been talked about extensively with regard to the State of the Union Address but our colleague Jim Acosta is hearing from a source exactly as you said that not only will these remarks be eye-opening but the prediction is the way that these issues with regard to North Korea will be framed. It will be the headline for the day tomorrow and that the idea is that not only will he talk about some of the things that maybe we haven't heard before with regard to North Korea, but he will also give himself some credit for the way that he has changed the diplomatic rhetoric and that has forced the North and South to come to the table in recent weeks and months.

In addition to that, Jake, of course, we're going to hear the President talk about immigration which is as hot as it gets up here, the deadline for a deal looming on February 8th. But also, I know you and I have heard this from multiple sources that the whole tone of the speech, the White House insists is going to be more optimistic than before and is going to call for unity which is going to be very interesting to see how that falls in such an incredibly divided Congress.

TAPPER: All right, Dana Bash, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Now back with my panel. So, Bryan, you helped lead his communications team during the campaign, the President's communications team and the transition. Give us insight into how involved he is with his speeches, does he suggest broad themes, does he make notes?

BRYAN LANZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's all of it. I mean, he's very involved in the messaging of his presidency just like he's very involved in the messaging of the campaign. So you know, he's coming up with themes. He's probably worked them -- worked them out throughout the year, tweeted with some friends. I sure he's given Stephen Miller the proper direction of where he wants to go which is probably why you're seeing this sort of uplifting tone that he wants to hit because that's who ultimately the president wants to be to the American people. I think last year you had you know, American carnage. I think you're going to look at this year and say, you know, this is American bipartisanship and hopefully post-partisan as we start to address them with some of these issues in this coming year.

[16:50:25] TAPPER: Angela, at least 13 Democrats, members of Congress say they're going to boycott tonight's speech. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus say they will attend in order to stare hate in the face. You work for the Congressional Black Caucus, do you think boycotting is the best way to deal with the President whose policy they oppose?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I absolutely believe in a boycott. I think that there's nothing better than facing bigotry head-on with resistance. I also respect the fact that there are members who feel like they need to sit in the audience. I don't agree that strategy but at least they'll be sitting there with the Recy Taylor's friends. That's why --

TAPPER: Explain to the audience who Recy Taylor is.

RYE: Recy Taylor is a woman who just passed away last year from Alabama who was raped by six white men in the 1940s and was never really believed. And so this is a moment that is in the vein of Me Too and Time's Up and it's staring someone who has also been accused of sexual assault in the face.

TAPPER: In a lunch with members of the media today, which is off the record but the White House approved this part of it to be on the record. He was asked, the President what he has learned in his year in office and he responded in part "I've really learned a lot. You know, governing, when you're a business person, you don't have to worry about your heart, the heart. You really do what's best for you, you know, for almost purely monetary reasons. I'm telling you, the immigration issue is so easy to solve if it was purely a business matter but it's not. And I think that's something that I've learned maybe more than anything else. You have to govern with all of the instincts of a businessperson but you have to add much more heart and soul into your decisions than you would ever have thought of before." Your reactions?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not sure his critics would agree with him approaching things that that's what he's learned but it is a bit more introspection than I think what we're used to hearing from him. And I think the immigration part of the speech for that reason, and because we're in this sort of pressure cooker situation where they want to get something done. It will be very interesting for that reason. By the way, I would boycott all the State of the Unions because -- and you know, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter, you can write a letter too and I blame Woodrow Wilson for bringing it upon us again.

TAPPER: I would agree with you except tens of millions of Americans watch it.

HAM: I know, I'm messing around.

TAPPER: But if it weren't for that though, I'll be with you because I do find it a bit tiresome regardless who the president it, but the people are engaged. What did you think of that answer from the President? It is more introspective than usually, we hear from him.

LANZA: Yes, you know, it's who he is. You know, you have sort of D.C. which is sort of this conflict base you know, that this conflict bite that takes place no matter who's there at the White House or who's there in Congress. The President came here, you know, I tell people he's like agnostic to success, whether it's Democrat, Liberal, or Conservative, he wants something that can piece together and be successful there. That's his process. His heart has always been in it for the right people for the right reasons.

When he talked about immigration and he talked about the victims of illegal immigrants like there was a real heart, compassion that he felt. So that's the President that I know and I think what you also see is a street fighter. We've seen in the last year, this guy is not afraid to rumble -- you know, to rumble with anybody. And I think that's a good thing from a standpoint of, we've grown stale here in Washington and he's come in and sort of added new energy. It can be debated whether it is a good or a bad thing but because of him, we've been able to dislodge issues that we haven't been able to sort of address. And tax reform is one of those things.

TAPPER: I want to give Angela -- I want to give Angela an opportunity because I'm pretty sure she doesn't think the President's heart has played much of a role in his governing.

RYE: Did you see my face from behind my hair, Jake? I think I am dying to meet this person you keep describing, Bryan. Like I'm just going, who is this guy? Well, I'm not sure because who is that that shows up on Twitter then? And who is that that shows up --

LANZA: Yes, that's the street fighter Donald Trump who's fighting back all of these silly things that are taking place. RYE: But I mean, he also street fights April Ryan who's a commentator on this network and is a staple in the White House press room.

LANZA: April is a lovely woman but she has a political bias?

RYE: But she doesn't -- but she doesn't. And then I would also point to before he was elected, like the Central Park Five issue, the housing discrimination issue --

LANZA: Do I point to the many awards he's received from the Urban League or African American organizations --

RYE: Thanks to donations but like I think it doesn't speak to character.

TAPPER: I believe -- as Ron Burgundy said, agree to disagree. Apple is having trouble with the X. Is the new $1,000 phone that reads your face dragging the company down? That's next.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: And in our "MONEY LEAD." Hey, Siri, how is the new iPhone X doing? Maybe not so great. Apple was drastically cutting production of the $1,000 phone according to the Nikkei Asian Review and Wall Street Journal. Instead of the initial 40 million iPhone Xs, Apple will make half that. Apple Stock fell more than five percent over the past week. Apple earnings will be out Thursday and it's still expected to boost record sales and profits. Experts say Apple could see this hit in sales later this year. Apple did not respond to CNN's request for a comment. And I should point out, I'm still using my iPhone over here so I don't know what people think. Mary Katharine, Angela and Bryan, thanks so much for being here. That's it for THE LEAD today. I'll see you again tonight for CNN's special coverage of the State of the Union and I turn you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" now. We'll see you in a bit. Thanks for watching.