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Trump & First Lady Cheered By Crowd At LSU-Clemson Game; Actor Vince Vaughn Attacked On Social Media After Shaking Hands & Chatting With Trump; Trump Administration Officials Contradict Trump On "Imminence" Justifying Soleimani Killing; Report: Russia GRU Hacked Burisma; Warren, Van Hollen Ask SEC & CFTC To Investigate Insider Trading After Trump Dropped Hints Prior To Soleimani Killing; Former Trump Transition Team Economic Adviser, J.W. Verret, Endorses Biden. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired January 14, 2020 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: It's not surprising that President Trump would get such a welcome at a championship game, but that he would have such support from the voting public.
S.E. CUPP, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and I could do a political analysis reminding people why this president is so popular. It has to do with the economy.
Let's not forget there are a couple terrorists in the ground because of him. That gets people patriotic and full of pride. That's all understandable. I won't do that. I won't do that.
I will just take this opportunity to remind people that, yes, the president still enjoys some popularity. And I think that's also because, unlike you and I, Brianna, and everyone else who does politics for a living, I'm not sure they're as invested and polarized as the rest of us are.
I think a lot of people went to a football game, saw the president walk onto a field and started to applaud. Sometimes it's as simple as that.
KEILAR: It makes it a bigger deal that he's there, right?
KEILAR: While he's there, he watches the game from a suite. He has a brief chat with the actor, Vince Vaughn, who -- just to be honest, S.E., my producer, Lauren, was not familiar with his movies. Can we say "Swingers," "Wedding crashers."
CUPP: Right. Yes.
KEILAR: You told me "Rudy."
KEILAR: "Hacksaw Ridge," a little known one I forgot about.
They shake hands, they chat, and now Vaughn is being attacked on social media. This reminds me of the reaction Ellen got when she sat next to George W. Bush at the Cowboys game.
KEILAR: What do you think about the reactions are that he's getting?
CUPP: How dare he! The outrage of this is the problem of America. The fact two men are chatting at a football game is not. If you are outraged by this, I think you need to check your priorities.
There's a lot going on and a lot to be outraged about. The fact that these two very famous people could find a minute to sort of pound fists over being celebrities at a football game is not one of them.
I talk about this all the time, this outsized sense of importance that we have started to put on politics in our daily lives, the way it organizes our social lives, who we're friends with, who we can talk to, who we can't, who we interact with on social media, where we live, where we work.
I don't think that's very healthy. And I think it's especially problematic with the presidency.
It was not just Trump. It was Obama before. Probably going back all the way to JFK when we really started to believe that one man could, you know, be the face of all of our hopes and dreams in this country, could solve all of our problems, small and large.
He's just a guy. He's just a politician at that. And so to get as wrapped up and emotionally invested in who talks to the president in a social setting, I think it's really unhealthy. It's not a sustainable level of emotion.
And we should probably be worrying more about who is on the board of our local schools and our sanitation departments and less about who is chatting it up with the president, any president, at a sporting event.
KEILAR: There are just so many voters who want him to want to not talk to the president, S.E. Cupp.
KEILAR: Do you know which other movie Vince Vaughn comes from?
KEILAR: "The Break-Up." I want you to want to do the dishes. Remember?
CUPP: What baby wants, baby gets. Baby wants lemons.
KEILAR: S.E. Cupp, thank you very much.
Don't forget, you can watch "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED" every Saturday night right here on CNN. That will start at 6:00 P.M. Eastern.
Just how imminent is imminent? The Trump administration's shifting explanations for why Iranian General Soleimani posed an immediate threat and needed to be taken out.
Russia is at it again, this time, hacking into the Ukrainian gas company that is at the heart of the president's impeachment drama.
KEILAR: How imminent was the threat posed by General Qasem Soleimani? Since the deadly targeted trike on Iran's number-two man, administration officials have offered confusing and contradictory explanations. They've given the impression they're making up their public justification for Soleimani's killing after the fact.
The latest shift in the narrative comes from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when asked why the administration initially used the word "imminent."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't know who used it first, but it reflects what we saw. I can dance around the maple on the word "imminent." I can assure you of this. The intelligence picture that was painted, not only in those days, but in all the history that's builds up to this, this doesn't just come to your radar screen new and fresh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: CNN Senior National Correspondent, Alex Marquardt, is here.
Alex, just walk us through the progressions because it has been quite a progression of these explanations.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. What a progression it has been. Administration officials contorting themselves to make the case, saying Soleimani was a bad guy, doing bad things for a long time, while also arguing that there was an imminent threat to U.S. interest. Which is it? How much of each of those arguments was there? Different officials have said very different things.
[13:40:03] Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was out earlier a couple of days after the killing of Soleimani saying the reason to take out Soleimani was a collective.
When the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, was asked about the intelligence, he responded that, did it exactly say who, what, when, where, no.
And when the national security adviser, Robert O'Brian, when he was asked about the supposed imminence of these attacks, he said, "the coming days."
That's when calls became louder on Capitol Hill to justify what really is a potentially dangerous killing of a powerful figure like Qasem Soleimani. And as that pressure grew, Pompeo admitted this past Thursday that the intelligence didn't show precisely when or where these attacks would be carried out.
But then his boss chimed in. The president seemed to contradict that and seemed to add quite a bit more details.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We did it because they were looking to blow up our embassy.
I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies and I think that probably Baghdad already started.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: Four embassies, the president said there.
Members of Congress, both in the House and the Senate, they got classified briefings on the drone strike, meaning, Brianna, they could be told specifically what the intelligence the administration had, what that showed. But those briefings were widely criticized as lacking in any real detail.
One of the harshest criticisms from Senator Mike Lee, of Utah, who is a Republican. He called it the worst briefing on a military issue that he had ever received during his time in the Senate.
Then, when the secretary of defense was asked this past Sunday about the president's claim about the four embassies being targeted, he said he didn't see that evidence.
Now, here we are almost two weeks since that strike took out Soleimani, and Secretary Mike Pompeo is still quibbling with that word "imminent," which the administration, in fact, used first. And he's emphasizing other angles, Soleimani's bloody history in the region and the administration's larger goals with Iran. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POMPEO: I want to lay this out in context of what we've been trying to do. There's a bigger strategy to this. President Trump and those of us in his national security team are reestablishing deterrence, real deterrence, against the Islamic Republic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: The argument there, Brianna, future deterrence, not imminence -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Yes, a very big difference.
Alex, thank you for that.
Meantime, cybersecurity researchers say Russian military hackers successfully infiltrated the Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, the same company at the heart of President Trump's impeachment drama.
The online security firm, Area One, said employees of Burisma were tricked into giving up their computer credentials by a sophisticated network of fake Web sites set up by Russian military intelligence.
Joe Biden's campaign released a statement, saying, in part, that Vladimir Putin also sees Biden as a threat.
Now, Burisma is where Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son, once served on the board of directors. And it's the company that President Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate as a favor in their July phone call.
Let's talk about this now with General James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence.
What stands out to you about this cyberattack?
GEN. JAMES CLAPPER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First, this is kind of standard Soviet and now Russian activity. It shouldn't be surprising that they would do this, single out Burisma and its affiliates as a target.
If they see potential for doing as they did in 2016, disrupting our political discourse -- it's not clear what they actually got that they might be able to exploit, but it's certainly typical of what the Russians would do. And I think we should expect more of this as we approach 2020.
And by the way, other countries who are going to go to school or have already gone to school on what the Russians have done are going to do the same thing with different agendas.
KEILAR: Any idea what they might have been looking for?
CLAPPER: I assume something that, in their mind, they could exploit that would be damaging to the candidacy of former Vice President Biden, because of his son's presence on the Burisma board. I'm guessing that's what it is.
And probably the vice president has a point, that the Russians would just as soon he don't get elected. KEILAR: Russians clearly not concerned about American retaliation for
something like this.
CLAPPER: No, they're not. I think, from their standpoint, the effort they expended and what they gained in 2016 -- and we really haven't hammered on that badly, so why not? From their standpoint, minimal resources with a pretty good result.
KEILAR: I want to ask you about something that Senator Elizabeth Warren, who, of course, is running for president, along with her Senate colleague, Chris Van Hollen, is asking.
They're demanding the SEC and also, I believe, the Commodities Future Trading Commission -- so the CFTC -- they're requesting they open investigations into whether there may have been illegal trading in defense company stocks, oil futures or oil economies stemming from anyone's advance knowledge of the U.S. attack that killed General Soleimani in Iran.
They're doing this because "The Daily Beast" reported that five days before launching the strike, the president was basically roaming Mar- a-Lago and dropping hints to close associates and club goes that something big was coming.
What do you think of this?
CLAPPER: For me, a big concern is a security one, or an operational security one. If the president made a decision to conduct this directive, a conduct of the strike, and was talking about it at Mar-a- Lago outside his national security team, for me, that's a big deal from a security standpoint.
Because it risks compromising what they're going to do. You're putting -- potentially putting troops' lives at risk.
About the SEC issued, I don't know much about that. I assume they'll have to sort out who actually heard all this and did someone who was there and heard it advantage themselves on the stock market.
But, to me, the big issue is operational security.
KEILAR: General, thank you so much. General Clapper, I always appreciate you being on.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Brianna.
KEILAR: Happening now, Democratic presidential candidates are arriving at the debate site for walk-throughs. This is ahead of tonight's presidential debate on CNN. You see Senator Amy Klobuchar on stage right now. We will take you to Drake University, live.
And a lifelong Republican lays out the case for Joe Biden. I'll be asking him why, next.
KEILAR: Ahead of tonight's debate, Senator Joe Biden is picking up an endorsement of sorts and from an unexpected place. J.W. Verret is a lifelong Republican who was an economic adviser on President Trump's transition team. And he also worked on the campaigns of John McCain, Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney.
And not only is he endorsing Joe Biden, he's urging Republicans to help Biden get nominated in the primaries.
He's joining us now.
Just lay out your case here. You have several reasons you support Joe Biden. Let's start with the big one, which is electability.
J.W. VERRET, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF LAW, ACCOUNTING AND BANKING, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY & FORMER ECONOMIC ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Sure. He's very electable in a way the rest of the field is not.
I don't know what I would do if represented with the Sophie's choice of Sanders versus Trump. I've called out Trump for his criminal actions in the Mueller report and the Ukraine investigation. I don't know what I would do with that Sophie's choice.
But it's clear to me Biden and McConnell can work together. They could work together on trade, on immigration, on major economic issues that big business is interested in reasserting its influence in the Republican Party. I think it's a good thing all around.
KEILAR: Because Trump doesn't have a characteristically Republican view on trade, so you think he's vulnerable?
VERRET: Let's be honest, he wasn't a Republican until his 70s. That's a part of this here.
And the populous part of the Republican Party now is distasteful to me, as a Libertarian. It's distasteful to the business community.
I think it's a whole different ball game of Biden and McConnell working together.
KEILAR: Why do you think that Biden/McConnell could be a key to like an immigration deal?
VERRET: A lot of presidents have tried before. Bush almost got it done, and Obama didn't come as close as Bush, but he went for it.
I think, post-Trump, the Democratic Party's willing to negotiate more than they've ever been in the past because they've seen the -- just the suffering that's happened as a result of Trump's policies.
And on the right, I think the Chamber of Commerce gets involved and gets more active. And don't forget the sort of Koch brother's Libertarian movement has grown in frustration as well. When those two forces reignite in the Republican Party, you have the recipe for a deal.
KEILAR: So if you are gaming this out, if you're looking at, you know, especially because Democratic voters are very concerned with "who can beat President Trump," if it's Joe Biden versus Trump, who do you think wins?
VERRET: I think Biden takes it.
VERRET: I think that he's -- he's someone who's got a long history. He's a known quantity. Whatever negatives there are about him are already out there, and they've already been digested.
I think that Independent voters know he's got experience as vice president. He's a nice guy. Character counts. And he's just a nice guy.
I met him one time when I was 26, and for, you know, five minutes, he made -- you know, made a connection there in a way that Donald Trump doesn't do with everyday people who don't follow politics.
KEILAR: But he goes to these big rallies and he has so much enthusiasm you could argue Joe Biden doesn't match. What is it -- I mean, the retail politics certainly goes a long way. But you can't meet everybody. And Donald Trump can make people enthusiastic with a whole giant room.
KEILAR: What is it that makes you think those voters who are -- who have switched to Donald Trump are going to say, I'll go back to Joe Biden, I'll got back to Democrats?
VERRET: Trump's comfort zone is his base. He's good with his base. This is not going to be a base election. This is going to be an election about getting suburbanites to the polls who want to vote for change, are uncomfortable with Trump.
Remember, 17 percent -- 10 to 17 percent, depending on how you count which poll, of the Republican Party, thinks President Trump should not only be impeached but removed.
Obama won with 8 percent of Republican voters and that was historic. If you can get to 17 percent for Biden, even if you can get to 10 percent for Biden, that's a game changer.
KEILAR: J.W., thank you. J.W. Verret.
And be sure to tune in tonight as the top Democrats square off in Iowa. That is tonight, 9:00 Eastern, here on CNN.
He's the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, so what evidence did Lev Parnas just give to Congress in the form of thousands of documents? Plus, new details on the queen's crisis meeting over Prince Harry and
Meghan Markle. Hear why Markle wasn't even involved after all.