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Breathtaking Rebuke Of U.S. Intelligence Leaders By The President Who Those Leaders Openly And Repeatedly Contradicted In Their Testimony To Congress Just Yesterday; More Than 83 Million People Throughout The Midwest Facing Subzero Temperatures. Aired 10- 10:30a ET
Aired January 30, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Very good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: I'm Poppy Harlow. We're glad you're with us. And we do begin this hour with a really breathtaking rebuke of U.S. intelligence leaders by the President who those leaders openly and repeatedly contradicted in their testimony to Congress just yesterday.
On Iran, the President the, quote, intelligence people are, quote, extremely passive and naive. And then he says they should perhaps go back to school. But on Syria, ISIS, North Korea, and Afghanistan the President claims, quote, tremendous progress where the intel leaders see ongoing threats and unfulfilled promises.
SCIUTTO: The President, this morning, is also weighing in on the talks beginning this afternoon, heading off another government shutdown, if you can believe it. He says a group of bipartisan senators, 17 House members and Senators are wasting their time if they are not discussing or contemplating a wall or physical barrier.
Exactly what sort of compromise might he accept, and whether anything can get done in the 16 days remaining. It's really not clear, but up first, the President's latest public attack on the Intelligence Community, CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
You know it's kind of interesting this morning, Barbara, because as earlier tweets walked back some of his own claims about, for instance, North Korea no longer being a nuclear threat.
Saying well, now it's an open question. But then he seemed to firm up and say well, you know what, don't listen to the intel agents - intel agencies, they're naive. They should go back to school. I mean, it's quite a remarkable thing to hear from a sitting president.
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It - it really is. And it, sort of, bakes the question, if you have a President of the United States who believes his Intelligence Community leadership is naive and wrong in his own words, shouldn't he be replacing them?
Why is he keeping them on if he believes he's being served by people who are not doing their jobs properly? So, you know, the question is how now will these intelligence leaders react to what the President has to say about them?
I suspect that they'll be quiet for a while. They know and understand. We have heard this behind the scenes, you know, for - for months, there's the President's tweets and there's what they brief him on.
What he chooses to put in public is that he does not agree with the Intelligence Community on Iran. The Intelligence Community says they see no evidence that Iran is currently taking specific steps to lead to a nuclear weapon. That doesn't jive well with the narrative that the president wants. Their view on ISIS doesn't square with what he wants. They say there's still thousands of fighters out there. The President chooses to focus solely on the physical territory that U.S. troops have helped retake from ISIS.
So the issue here is that these questions - these intelligence challenges are in fact very nuanced, while the President of the United States wants to see them win as a win or lose proposition, Jim, Poppy.
SCIUTTO: Barbara Starr, it's remarkable. Let's discuss now with Rear Admiral John Kirby. He was in both, the State Department, and the Pentagon, a long service in the Navy. Admiral, thanks very much for taking the time with us this morning.
JOHN KIRBY, RETIRED UNITED STATES MILITARY OFFICER: You bet - you bet.
SCIUTTO: You know this is not really a difference of opinion here, right, because it's a difference of facts. The President is claiming a different reality than U.S. intelligence - intelligence agencies with all of their resources are telling him.
Is that dangerous for a President to stake out positions that are not backed by any intelligence we're aware of, but backed by his own view of the world. Is that dangerous for U.S. national security?
KIRBY: Yes, I'm worried about that, Jim, and the - and the cases that were brought up yesterday, in terms of Iran, North Korea, Syria, ISIS, those things are serious issues which we are trying to grapple with, not just from a national policy perspective, but in coordination will allies and partners.
And when the President distances himself like that from his intelligence chiefs, it - it worries me on two fronts. One, it's not a different - it's not a different taking of the fact if you will. It's ignorance. It's willful ignorance. And so, it concerns me that my President, my Commander-in-chief isn't absorbing the context that these guys provide. And it's not all perfect. The under - intelligence is an imperfect science at best.
Number two, I worry that it sends a strong message to our adversaries out there, particularly Russia and China, that there are huge gaps remaining in the national security decision making apparatus in this country, and that they can run right through those gaps and try to further sow discord and division amongst ourselves. And that really scares me.
HARLOW: Admiral Kirby, to Barbara's excellent and important point just there, then why doesn't he replace them? And do you think he risks losing some of them if he keeps this up?
KIRBY: I hope not. I - I couldn't - I can't answer for why I wouldn't fire them. I - my - my sense is that this guys not really good at firing people, although he likes to pretend that he is.
I think deep down probably. I'm sure the people around him are convincing him that these intelligence agencies are doing their - their due diligence that they - they work in an apolitical manner. And that they - and that they're providing a serious product that he ought to pay attention to. At least, that's what I hope folks like John Bolton are telling the president.
And as for them, they are professionals. Yes, some are political appointees, but all of them are very serious sober individuals with decade's worth of experience in - in the Intelligence Community. And I think they take their work very seriously.
KIRBY: When I was assistant secretary of state, I got an intel brief every single morning. It was the most important part of my day. You can never take that stuff for granted.
SCIUTTO: I mean, the President can fire the individuals, he can't fire the facts. He can't shop around folks who are going to find an essential - essentially ...
SCIUTTO: ... a different view of what's - what's happening in the world. I just wonder, you know, the thing is these positions, contrary to the intelligence, are making policy now. For instance, U.S. troops are coming out of Syria now.
SCIUTTO: ISIS is not defeated. The intelligence chief said that directly yesterday. The President claimed it. The troops are coming out. I wonder for U.S. allies - for U.S. adversaries, they may hear the intelligence chiefs make these findings, but who do they listen to?
KIRBY: No - well no. You're right, Jim. And - and this is - this is the whole essence of the Trump foreign policy, so much that there actually is a foreign policy. It's all around him and his outsized ego and personality. And our adversaries and our allies are coming to grips with this too.
One of the things that I - I thought was fascinating yesterday was the degree to which our allies and partners are separating themselves from us ...
KIRBY: ... because they know everything is about Donald Trump. And he is the - he is the only, sort of, epicenter of all the foreign policy. And that's really dangerous for us when you have a President who, as I said earlier, seems to be willfully ignorant, and not willing to absorb the context of these professionals, and factor that, and them, and their agencies into this national security decision making process. That's not good for us at all.
KIRBY: And look, we've been here before by the way. If you remember, the run-up to the ...
KIRBY: ... Iraq War. The intelligence was politicized to - to - to subscribe to the President's certain view of what was going on in Iraq ...
KIRBY: ... and it turned out ...
HARLOW: That ...
KIRBY: ... to be false.
SCIUTTO: That's the real danger.
HARLOW: ... that is such an important point. Admiral Kirby, thank you, as always, for being here.
KIRBY: My pleasure.
HARLOW: Also this morning, burr, more than 83 million people throughout the Midwest facing subzero temperatures, experts calling it the coldest air in a generation. You don't need to be an expert to know this, OK? It is severe and it's deadly. At least five people have died. The wind chill expected to drop to temperatures as low as negative 70 in parts of Minnesota as officials warn of instant frostbite.
SCIUTTO: In Michigan State, offices are closed. The U.S. Postal Service suspending deliveries in 10 states, while thousands of flights have been canceled and all Amtrak trains in and out of Chicago suspended. CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray tracking the polar vortex. So Jennifer, how long does this last in the Midwest? And also, how far to the east we ask from our seats in New York. Is this going to come?
HARLOW: Jim wants to know, is it coming here?
JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is coming there guys, yes. You - you will feel this, not quite as - as strong as we felt it in the Midwest, but you'll be feeling by tomorrow. In a lot of these areas, the actual temperature is not going to get back above zero until Friday.
So it is going to be long lived, and it's also far reaching. We're having wind chills of minus 50 almost in Chicago, 53 below zero in Minneapolis, 55 below zero in International Falls. That's what it feels like right now. And it's spilling all the way over to Indianapolis and Cleveland with wind chill values 25 to 35 degrees below zero is what it feels like.
So as we go through the evening, or the afternoon, by rush hour this afternoon 40 degrees below zero is what it'll feel like in Chicago, 25 below in Cleveland, Minneapolis, 35 below. As we get into tomorrow morning, much of the same story. But look, it spreads over into places like New York tomorrow morning will feel like 10 below zero.
So it is going to be brutally cold in the east as well. It's not going to last as long in the northeast. Temperatures will rebound much faster than they have in the Midwest. But you can see temperatures still feeling below zero in Chicago tomorrow afternoon.
Possible record lows, 39 at least. So dozens of records will be shattered as we go through the next couple of days. The morning lows are going to stay below zero in Chicago at least until Saturday, so rounding out the work week just as we are now, Minneapolis gradually warming, but still below zero until Friday afternoon.
Cleveland, you'll get back above zero Friday afternoon as well, so extreme cold is going to finally let go just a little bit by the end of the weekend. Sunday into Monday guys, it is going to feel much - much warmer in these locations.
So if we could just get through the next couple of days, the payoff will be Sunday and Monday where it will feel very nice. In fact, we'll probably feel balmy compared to how it's been during the next few days.
HARLOW: OK (ph).
SCIUTTO: I have a plan. I'm going to stay inside. I think that that's really ...
GRAY: Good plan.
SCIUTTO: ... the only way forward.
HARLOW: Wimp. I'm going for a run tomorrow morning in the cold, Jennifer, thanks. SCIUTTO: Still to come, 60 days left to avoid another government shutdown. It feels like we just stopped talking about the last one.
SCIUTTO: What is so different about this newest round of negotiations beginning today?
HARLOW: Plus, high stakes trade talks underway between the U.S. and China right now. This is happening right now in Washington. But are new charges filed against the Chinese tech giant Huawei complicating discussions? And part two of our interview with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. He addresses the criticism from the Democratic Party about a potential Independent run, and he's defiant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD SCHULTZ, AMERICAN BUSINESSMAN: I would never put myself in a position where I would be the person who reelects Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: All right, let the negotiations begin very soon, and I mean in a matter of hours. Seventeen bipartisan lawmakers will hold their first meeting to try to stave off another government shutdown.
SCIUTTO: That's the group you see here. It now has 16 days to reach a border security spending compromise. A compromise that the President says must include a wall or a physical barrier.
Joining us now is former Republican Congresswoman from Utah, Mia Love, and former Democratic House Member in South Carolina, Bakari Sellers. Thanks to both - both of you, Mia, great to have you on the show now that you're part of the ...
HARLOW: Yes, welcome.
SCIUTTO: ...CNN team. Bakari, I want to start with you just because what has struck me among Democrats - I spoke to another today, David Price in North Carolina ...
SCIUTTO: ... who says he's open to money for a border barrier of some - some sort. Bob Casey said that on our show yesterday. John Tester has said that in public, Hakeem Jeffries. Is it becoming clear that Democrats are going to vote for some money for a barrier here?
BAKARI SELLERS (D), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE MEMBER: I think it's going to be a part of a comprehensive package. What you will not have is $5.6 billion for this president's own, kind of, sacrifice to himself. What you're going to see is a - is a full package of immigration
measures, making sure that we take care of individuals on DACA, or DACA recipients. Making sure that we smart and innovative ways in which we patrol our border.
One of the things in which Democrats we have to do a better job of, and I think that we've actually staked out some ground throughout this shutdown, is making sure that people - the American public know and understand that we are in favor of strong border security. We want to make sure that it's efficient. And we want to make sure it's up to the standards of the 21st century.
And so, you may get some monies there for a - a - some border fencing or border wall, or whatever it may be. But it's going to be a part of a larger package. We should make sure that we give relief to the 800,000 recipients of DACA, and make sure it's what's known, what we want to see is comprehensive immigration reform.
HARLOW: So Mia, I'm interested in if you think these two numbers that I'm about to put up affect Republicans and - and affect the President, specifically, in this in terms of giving more?
So, new polling out this week, Washington Post-ABC, one in three Republicans want a different nominee other than Trump in 2020, right? And when you ask some really important current Republicans in the Senate, like Senator Susan Collins, not prepared to endorse Trump for 2020 yet.
When you see things like that, do you think that that, after a five week shutdown that costs billions of dollars to the U.S economy, is that going to make the President bend until more Republicans push him to bend?
REP. MIA LOVE (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I think that there are three mistakes that the President made. They're glaring mistakes. First of all, if you remember on the campaign trail he talked about a border wall, and then he said Mexico was going to pay for it without any ...
LOVE: ... plan of having - finding a way to make Mexico pay for it. Then he went and convinced the American people that border security is important. And border security is important. You're seeing a lot of Democrats that are saying we are going to - we're going to support border security. There were 20 of them that signed a letter saying that they support border security.
The problem that he also had was going into a meeting with Chuck Schumer and Speaker Pelosi and said, if you don't give me a border wall I'm going to own the shutdown. Nobody wanted to own the shutdown. I was - I was there in Congress saying, I don't know what he's talking about.
We don't want to take responsibility for a shutdown. Last, but not least, he threw a lot of colleagues, a lot of his own supporters under the bus. Those people that stood strong did not vote for anything that did not include border security. He threw them under the bus. And the 800,000 furloughed employees got nothing out of it.
So what I'm hoping that we'll see is that finally they'll just leave the President out of it, which he should've been left out of it to begin with. They'll strike a deal that will give him border security, $5.7 billion is nothing compared to the $867 billion that was spent on the farm bill.
We already lost $3 billion, non-recoverable, from the shutdown to begin with. So $5.7 billion, to give border security that includes all sorts of security. We condemn (ph) it. Everybody has different ideas of what should be done at the border.
But most of all ...
LOVE: ...I am hoping that it gives a win on immigration reform, on the temporary protective status. The people that have been here, that are working here, they have families here. They're contributing to our economy. I think that that's going to be the best of both worlds if these guys can get together, stop worrying about themselves, and do the job that the American people sent them there to do.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you though, Bakari, because there's been a lot of talk about the - how the President backed down. And even criticism from his most ardent supporters there. But - but if Democrats get behind some money for a barrier.
As the President said, whatever you call it - call it a fence, call it a barrier, if they get behind it wouldn't that then require Nancy Pelosi to back down her pledge of not a single dollar for a wall on the border?
SELLERS: Not at all. I - I think what Nancy Pelosi is trying to say - and please, one of the things I will not do on this show or any show is speak for Nancy Pelosi. She handled herself quite well.
SCIUTTO: I'm just asking you to - to - to, like, read that there ...
SCIUTTO: ... because she said not a single dollar. If a number of Democrats get behind a couple billion dollars, that's (inaudible).
SELLERS: I think what we're going to see is one of the things that most people did not want is some edifice in honor of Donald Trump. What we are going to see though is comprehensive legislation. I think most Democrats will get behind comprehensive legislation. And we may see some of those monies - some of those 5.6 or $7 billion, as Congressmen Love said, go to a wall. Or it may just be innovative ways by which we patrol the border. What I want to see is comprehensive reform. What I want to see is a reform on the way that we treat asylum seekers. I want to see a reform by which we treat those with temporary status, the way we treat our DACA recipients. We need to make sure that we're not piecemealing (ph) this thing and we get it done comprehensively.
So I think if there's a plan that comes forth - and look, if this does have money for a wall in it, but it has the signoff of this gang of 17, which is a pretty big gang. And the Democrats get onboard, the Nancy Pelosis, the Chuck Schumers, and the Republicans and Mitch McConnell get on board.
And because it does not have any money for a wall, and the President still does not want to sign it. Then the President has signed his election defeat in 2020. That's on him. That's not on the American public. And that's not on the members of the United States Congress.
LOVE: I - I would - I would also add that the Speaker of the House, who now has control of the House. There's a lot of people that are going to be looking to her also. She said open up government and then we'll discuss border security. So I think that there are a lot of people that are going to be looking for that leadership.
And another thing, it's going to be up to her to make sure that she follows through with getting immigration reform. That she follows through with all of these other things. I mean, there are - there's - you can't just be the Speaker of the House and resist any longer. You actually have to get some wins and get some things done.
HARLOW: So I think that there's some pressure there also.
SCIUTTO: That's a good point, or question.
HARLOW: It is - it is a good point. Thank you both. Mia Love, Bakari Sellers, we appreciate it.
SCIUTTO: Thanks guys.
HARLOW: Ahead for us, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz really seriously considering an independent bid for the White House and Democrats hate it. They really hate it. He responds to that criticism defiantly, next.
HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. When Howard Schultz announced he's seriously considering an independent bid for the presidency in 2020, the former Starbucks CEO knew there would be blowback from the party that he's been a part of for his entire life, until now. He had no idea the response from the Democratic establishment would be like this. Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighed in telling CNN, quote, I'm not for anyone who stands in the way of a Democratic victory. Here is what Schultz told me when we sat down in New York for a wide-ranging interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
HARLOW: So why you, Howard Schultz? Why are you the person that you think can oust President Trump from the White House without any party infrastructure, any party backing, and a ton of blowback from Democrats?
HOWARD SCHULTZ, FORMER CEO OF STARBUCKS: Well, first off I'd say to get this kind of reaction in the last 48 - 48 hours from the elite, from the Washington insiders, from the core of the Democratic Party. Anytime you threaten the system and the apparatus, and I'd - I would also say that the DNC and the RNC have setup such high levels of restrictions and impediments to almost not allow an independent person to run for President. It's un-American.
HARLOW: It's not just the elite, Howard. I mean, I was at the book event this week when a heckler ...
HARLOW: ... yelled out - an average Joe in the audience ...
HARLOW: ... don't get Donald Trump reelected.
SCHULTZ: Well, I think people are - are worried, and I understand that that potentially this could end up reelecting Donald Trump. I don't believe them.
HARLOW: So let me read you some of blowback.
HARLOW: You've read it.
HARLOW: You've read it.
HARLOW: Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro says you, quote, give the best hope of getting Trump reelected. Washington State Democratic Party chair, your home state, Seattle, Washington, two words for you, just don't. Dan Pfeiffer, Senior Advisor to President Obama calls the idea half-baked.
HARLOW: They all believe - with countless other Democrats, that you getting in this race, if you do, will do nothing but help ensure a second term for President Trump. What do you see that they all don't, other than those poll numbers?
SCHULTZ: What I see is that the majority of Americans are not being represented by the far right extreme of the Republican Party, the far left extreme of the Democratic Party. And I think lifelong Republicans and lifelong Democrats, given a legitimate choice for a better way, will find a home.
Now, I'm going to go out to the American people over the next three months. What I hope to do is share my story ...
SCHULTZ: ... and ignite a national movement.
HARLOW: I think there's already a national conversation about this ...
HARLOW: ... for sure.
HARLOW: Look ...
SCHULTZ: Why - why do you think so many people have - why do you think we've gotten this, kind of, unbelievable reaction, why?
HARLOW: I - I don't know. But what I do know is the President wants you to run. Not only did he tweet as much ...
HARLOW: ... but Maggie Haberman in the New York Times is reporting this morning that this week at a fundraiser, he told his supporters he wants you to run because he thinks it will help get him reelected.
SCHULTZ: Well, he should be careful for what he wishes for.
HARLOW: Word association. I'm going to give you a name, and I want your first reaction. President Trump.
SCHULTZ: Despicable (ph).
(END VIDEO TAPE)