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Interview With Marco Rubio; Fighting Poverty; Solar Flare; Is Chris Christie's Political Future Been Damaged By Scandal?

Aired January 9, 2014 - 08:30   ET

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


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

We turn now to another leader of the Republican Party making headlines this morning. Senator Marco Rubio joining several other prominent Republicans speaking out with proposals to fight poverty. And in remarks yesterday, he claimed he said America is not the land of opportunity for all.

So what is he going to do about it? The Florida senator, Marco Rubio, is joining us now with much more to talk about this.

So, Senator, you really are proposing quite an overhaul. A major overhaul of anti-poverty programs. The biggest in 50 years, you say. Part of it, you want to turn many anti-poverty programs, take them from the federal government and turn them over to the states. How is that going to bring people out of poverty? How is that going to help people?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, first of all, we have to understand that right now our current programs, what they do is they help people in alleviating the symptoms of poverty, the pain caused by poverty. And that - that has utility. That's important. But then don't help people emerge from poverty. And the structural causes of poverty are complex.

BOLDUAN: Right.

RUBIO: They're social, they're economic, they're - they're complex and they're overlapping. We have to address those things. I do not believe -- in fact, I know that Washington and its one-size-fits-all approach is not conducive to finding the kind of innovative solutions that it will take to deal with the complex underlying causes of poverty.

However, if we take all the money that we spend now on federal poverty programs, put them into one federal agency, and then use that agency to transfer that money to states who are pursuing innovative programs to address things like hunger but also education and career training in combination with each other, I think that's where you're going on get better results.

And the model for that, we see it already in reforms that states have made on unemployment benefits, which have - which have been successful, and we saw it in the '90s in welfare reform that put more power in the hands of the states to find innovations to get people back to work.

BOLDUAN: And I do want to ask you about unemployment benefits and how that plays into this. Because you well know that while everyone should be trying to find a way to help more Americans come out of poverty and to fight poverty, Democrats are already jumping all over your speech saying that it's empty rhetoric because so many Republicans, while you say this on one side, you're also not supporting an extension of long- term unemployed benefits that is before Congress at this very moment.

RUBIO: Right. So --

BOLDUAN: Why don't you -- why won't you support the three-month extension that is in the Senate - that has been working its way through the Senate right now?

RUBIO: First of all, I do support the three-month extension. The only thing I ask for is that it not -- that we find all the -- some waste in government, it's not going to be hard to do, to find some money to pay for it so we don't add to the debt. It's a very reasonable request. There's multiple places --

BOLDUAN: Where do you think - I mean when we - when we're talking about $6.4 billion, sadly that's not a lot of money.

RUBIO: That's just not a lot of money.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

RUBIO: That's right.

BOLDUAN: So where is the money?

RUBIO: So - well, it's everywhere. It's all - for example, there's proposals out there right now, you can find that program and -- there's cuts in the defense industry that we can find that money from. There's a proposal from Kelly Ayotte to go after the fraud that exists in the earned income tax credit that would more than pay for that. Senator Portman has proposals. The problem is that Senator Reid is not allowing any amendments to be voted on. They won't even vote on that proposal. They won't even allow us to vote on that.

But let me go beyond that for second, because I think their criticism and focus on unemployment benefits as a result -- as a way to tackle poverty is indicative of the flaw in their thinking. The problem is long-term unemployment. An unemployment check allows to you pay the bills, and that's important, but the only way to solve unemployment is employment. And our current unemployment program does nothing, nothing, to help people find a job and get employed.

You know what states have done? States have taken people on long-term unemployment and they sent them a check, but they've also put them in online training courses that improved their ability to prepare a resume or interview or actual job skills and they are finding dramatic results in helping people get out of long-term unemployment. Why aren't we doing that or empowering states to do that, not just simply sending a check? And that's the Democrats' answer to everything, and it shows you why, after 50 years, we still have 49 million people living in poverty.

BOLDUAN: And, senator, will you just, really quick, address the fact that - and both sides are doing it right now - we're entering an election year and all of a sudden everyone wants to talk about how to help bring Americans - more Americans out of poverty. Answer to the criticism from Democrats that Republicans are just doing this to try to help their brand in an election year.

RUBIO: Well, I've been talking about this since 2005 when I was in the state legislature. I was the speaking of the house and many of the ideas in a book that I produced called "The 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future" were dealing with this very topic of upward mobility. I ran on upward mobility. I'm a generation removed from poverty myself.

My parents came to this country and they were very poor when -- had to work their way up into the middle class. Thank God they were able to do that because I can't imagine what my life would have - my life would have been like had they not had that opportunity. And I just want other people to have the same opportunity. And for me, I've been dealing with this for 10 years. So I don't know who they're talking about, but it isn't me.

BOLDUAN: All right, well that -- the fight over unemployment, as well as the fight against poverty will continue on Capitol Hill and I know you'll continue - we'll follow those proposals that you're pushing, follow those closely.

There are problems on Capitol Hill. There always are. And there are also other problems that I've got to ask you about. I have to ask you about this exploding political story surrounding Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. Senator, if it is true that his aides tied up traffic as part of a political vendetta, and we are waiting to hear more from what he says today, what should the governor do? Would this rise to the level that he should resign?

RUBIO: Well, I understand this is a big story nationally and I'll -- but I don't know anything about it other than a couple of articles I've seen headlines on. I would - I just don't think it would be fair for me to comment on something that I have no involvement in, know nothing about, haven't talked to Governor Christie.

I think there's - I think what we should do, for those of us who are watching this, is allow that process in New Jersey to move forward. I understand the legislature there is looking at it. But I'm just not going to comment on something I don't know anything about.

BOLDUAN: Do you think when there is a lot of reporting out there - and I am hearing quietly that Republicans are very nervous about this political firestorm that the governor is facing -- do you think there should be a federal investigation?

RUBIO: Well, I think that's just - I think that's just political speculation in a - in a - you know, obviously people that cover politics for a living, they're always looking for something to drive the next news cycle. I'm not saying it's an illegitimate story, I'm just saying I don't know anything about it and that would be unfair for me to comment on it.

BOLDUAN: Now one thing, I know this is not -- this is not just about the governor's state. He is stepping into a very important role right now as chairman of the Republican Governor's Association. That is important to every Republican, really, across the country because that is a very important, powerful fund-raising position. If this is true, does this hurt -- have the potential to hurt the Republican Party?

RUBIO: Again, I'm not -- I don't know and I'm not - I haven't spent any time thinking about it. I think we should let this thing play forward. And I think it would be fair to all sides to allow it to play forward. I - you know, that's, I think, the right approach is to be a bit prudent here and not jump to conclusions. But as I said, I don't know anything about this. so for me to comment beyond that would just not be, you know, appropriate.

BOLDUAN: We do know that you've got a lot of work ahead of you on Capitol Hill, so I appreciate your time for coming in this morning. Senator Marco Rubio, we'll talk to you very soon.

RUBIO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

Chris, back to you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, coming up on NEW DAY, Governor Christie set to address his political scandal this morning. Will the man who said he is responsible for all New Jerseyans own this scandal or deflect? We have a panel of those who know analyzing this is a passing blemish or is Chris Christie in the fight for his political life?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Here are the five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

Dennis Rodman admitting he was out of bounds. The former NBA star apologizing to pretty much everyone for his outburst during an interview right here on NEW DAY from North Korea. He blames it all on stress and alcohol.

Breaking news. The American jailed in the United Arab Emirates over a parody video is now free and on his way home. Shezanne Cassim is expected home today.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid considering forcing a procedural vote to extend unemployment benefits. Republicans demanding he come up with a way to pay for the $6.4 billion plan.

Reforming the NSA, that is the agenda when President Obama meets with congressional leaders today. He's reportedly considering limits on domestic phone surveillance operations and spying on foreign leaders.

And at number five, Sandra Bullock's heating up at the People's Choice Awards, winning four awards. Favorite movie actress, favorite comedic and dramatic actress and best movie duo with "Gravity" co-star George Clooney.

We always update those five things to know, so be sure to go to newdaycnn.com for the very latest.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

So Indra promised to come back and tell us about these super cool solar - this super cool solar flare. So -

CUOMO: Science.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, science lesson. Science lesson.

BOLDUAN: (INAUDIBLE).

PEREIRA: (INAUDIBLE). Hands up.

PETERSONS: First we've got to show the video, right? Let's take a look at the video first. Let's look at this. This is a solar flare that happened two days ago, but the effects are going to be happening today. So we're going to show you the basics first.

Let's first talk about what is a sun spot. So, sun spots, that's a large area of magnetic activity on the sun. OK, we got this. Now there's an imbalance. We get something called a solar flare. Wallah (ph). When you look at this corner right here, that's like billions of particles of radiation - a scary word -- coming towards the earth. It takes two days. So that was two days ago.

Today's the lucky day. So today and tomorrow we're dealing with this. The most important thing you need to know, it does not affect humans. So that's the good side of this. But, love those cell phones, GPS apps, it will affect that. We're also going to be talking about airline routes. So the farther north you are, they don't want communications affected. It's not going to affect the planes themselves, so they're going to be flying lower for the next several day. They're worried about that.

Also the delivery that was supposed to go to the Space Station, not going for this reason. But you can actually see it. That's what's pretty cool. The farther north you are, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, you do have the chance to see the aurora from this. But again, the most important thing, it does not affect humans. A lot of people are worried.

PEREIRA: Miss Petersons, next class, can we learn -

PETERSONS: Yes.

PEREIRA: About what causes the imbalance next class.

PETERSONS: Electromagnetic activity imbalance.

PEREIRA: Oh.

PETERSONS: And what causes it? Electromagnetic field. I can't even say these words, electromagnetic field.

BOLDUAN: It doesn't matter, my brain shut off a couple minutes ago (ph).

PETERSONS: Yes, you're done.

BOLDUAN: But it sounds great, though.

PETERSONS: Yes.

CUOMO: You can't say them, but unlike the rest of us, you know what they mean.

PETERSONS: I can't say it, but at least I can do this.

PEREIRA: Wow.

BOLDUAN: Great. Thanks, Indra.

PETERSONS: Sure thing.

BOLDUAN: All right, let's take a break. Coming up next on NEW DAY, New Jersey governor wrapped up a scandal -- wrapped up in a scandal involving political payback. So how damaging is this for the Republican Party's front runner for 2016? We're going to tackle Chris Christie's future with our political panel of CNN all-stars coming up.

CUOMO: Scandal is the -

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Welcome back. Crunch time for Chris Christie. In a little more than two hours, New Jersey's governor will address the growing bridge scandal surrounding him this morning.

Earlier here on the show, a state senator announced he's formally requesting a federal investigation into Christie's administration, scary words. But we don't know what it will mean in the end of the day. But here's a big question politically: is this the end of Chris Christie's presidential aspirations or even potentially his governorship?

Here to break it down, CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, As well as CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Kevin Madden, and CNN's chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash. Thanks to all of you.

Let me begin with you, Mr. Toobin, because you are closest to me. If we look at this, make the case for how you get to the worst-case scenario for Chris Christie. We're starting at this operative presumption. These e-mails came out. It's just the staffers talking. It seems to be political retribution, so they closed the lanes to punish the mayor who didn't like the governor. How do we get from there to where Governor Christie is at real risk?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEAGAL ANALYST: If he is found through e- mail, through testimony, to have authorized, to have endorsed, to have ordered this closure as political retribution, I don't know if he will finish his term as governor. I think that's a sufficiently bad act. I don't know that it's criminal. I don't think this is a criminal matter, at least that I've seen.

But in terms of the effect on his governorship, I think that is so bad, if that's true, it could end it.

If his position remains what it is, that I simply didn't know that my top aides had some simultaneous stroke and did this terrible thing without my authorization, then I think he stays as governor. But either way, I think his presidential campaign is pretty much over.

BOLDUAN: Now, Dana, I want you to jump in on that, if you agree with Jeffrey on that one and also the fact that as soon as he put out that paper statement yesterday, people were almost immediately jumping on it, that it was too thin, it didn't go far enough, and that it took too long. I mean, is that nit-picking for nit-picking sake? Or is he really in some hot water here?

DANA BASH, CHEIF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's -- politically, it's not nit-picking for nit-picking's sake. I was actually just texting with some Republicans on Capitol Hill this morning who are -- have been on the receiving end of Chris Christie's flames, especially remember during the whole fight over Sandy relief. It was very (inaudible) when it came to John Boehner and others.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

BASH: And they are sort of noting with the -- you can sort of see the smirk through the e-mail in the text that this is a guy who, you know, certainly is able to give it out and talk about the fact that people should come out and explain their issue and so forth and that he put out that little statement.

But I think big picture, look, I'm from New Jersey. I'm not -- I grew up not too far from Fort Lee. I get the traffic there. I also get the politics there.

But if you are a voter in Iowa, if you are a voter in New Hampshire, you don't necessarily have to get the traffic patterns in New Jersey to understand the human implication of this, not just the political, you know, "Oh, my gosh, this guy is a regular politician," but also the fact there were kids on buses for hours and hours and apparently a woman -- ended up dying because -- an emergency vehicle couldn't get to her. Those are real-life implications, not just, you know, "Wow, this is actually just a regular politician. We're disappointed."

CUOMO: Kevin Madden, are you prepared to make a case that this is being a little bit exaggerated in its scrutiny because politics is blood sport, that this is the way these offices work, that often staffers are given the power of retribution and use it just this way. Do you think you can make a case that will save them? KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I tell you, Chris, like any good staffer, I'm a realist. I think you have to recognize that when you become a national political figure, that this level of scrutiny is going to -- is a guarantee, quite frankly.

But what I would say that I think -- any analysis on either extreme, I think it is a bit off base. I don't think that this is absolutely the end of Chris Christie. And anybody who says that I think is wrong. And I think that anybody who says that this is all going to be over and it is much ado about nothing is wrong.

The truth is always somewhere in between. And how Governor Christie comes out of this politically, how he protects his political profile, is going to be crucial starting at 11:00.

One of the big problems that he's had to this point is this is a story that has now festered for 24 hours, and the only people that have been talking about have been Chris Christie critics. So starting at 11:00, this is an open wound right now in the political profile that needs some stitching up.

CUOMO: Politics are not about reality. They are about perception, Kevin. You and I both know that very well. This is a man who doesn't put himself out there the way most policies (sic) do now, does he?

He says, "You gotta be clean. You gotta be straight. Let's not play the game. I'm responsible for all New Jerseyans. That's what makes me different than these other guys."

Is he going to get measured by that stick? If he does get measured by that stick, just not knowing what your people were doing when it's this bad, shouldn't that be enough for to you pay the price?

MADDEN: Yeah, one of the big problems here is that there isn't a good answer. If he didn't know, that is something that I think people will judge him harshly on. If he did know, he's gonna be -- he's gonna have a very tough time explaining that.

What's most important is that he built a political profile exactly as you said, Chris, as somebody who is a straight shooter, who welcomes the accountability of voters, welcomes the accountability of critics.

If starting at 11:00 he can again take back that profile, show that he's gonna be accountable by having some heads roll, show that he's going to take charge of this situation, he could very well navigate this controversy.

TOOBIN: Chris, let me disagree with you a little bit, that politics is all about perception. That's obviously a big part.

It's also about reality. What happened here? Who ordered these bridges closed? What was the connection between Ms. Kelly, who clearly was engaging in political retribution and David Wildstein, you know, Chris Christie's high school buddy who's at the port authority, What did they know? And when did they know it? And how involved was Christie? I don't think that we can make any final judgments here until we know exactly how this all unfolded.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: And also, if I could just add, remember, Chris Christie has spent the last few days mocking this whole story, that it is a joke, and that he had nothing to do with it. Now we know that was at least false if not a lie.

BOLDUAN: And also, the Democratic state Senator Ray Lesniak was on the show earlier, and said that he thinks there is reasonable suspicion there were criminal acts involved here. He points to reckless endangerment of people's lives and he said possibly negligent criminal homicide. Is that going too far?

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Dana, get in there.

BASH: Can I just say one thing just politically, just to sort of give a little bit of reality check here? And Kevin Madden knows this as well as anybody because he's worked on Republican primary campaigns.

Big picture. Of course Christie has gotten a lot of headlines, gotten a lot of attention as a transformational person, somebody who could change the Republican party.

But if he did or if does go ahead and decide to run for president, take this scandal aside, it would have already been very, very difficult for him. I've spent a lot of time with Republican primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, and Chris Christie is not their bag normally. So it was already going to be difficult.

He was going to have to transform the process because he was such a different guy and people were going to have to look at him as somebody who could win the White House. This takes some of that away from him. Again, you can change it depending on what he says at 11:00. But Kevin, I'm sure you can -- spent a lot of time with him, too.

MADDEN: No, I will agree with that real quick. I mean, I don't think there are a whole bunch of folks out there that may have been registering support for Chris Christie previous to this in places like New Hampshire and Iowa.

Is this going to push them away from Chris Christie altogether; they're never come back? No. But is it enough that they're gonna start looking at the other options? And there will be plenty of options come 2016. Yes, it is. And that's the big challenge for them. Dana is absolutely right.

BOLDUAN: Good point to end on there.

CUOMO: All good points. And remember, you know, Jeffery and I know this well. This is not the courtroom. This is the court of public opinion. We thought the keynote was the big test for Chris Christie. The big test for Chris Christie comes just a few hours from today. Watch it if you care about his political future.

BOLDUAN: We'll have it live here on CNN.

Kevin, Dana, Jeffrey, great to see you. Thank you guys so much.

BASH: Thanks.

CUOMO: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Ton of developing stories going on now.

We hand you to the newsroom in the capable hands of Carol Costello.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much. Have a great day. NEWSROOM starts now.