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Interview with Congressman Debbie Dingell of Michigan; Trump Sons Distance Themselves from Inauguration Fundraiser. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired December 22, 2016 - 06:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:32:46] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: On Wednesday, the Kremlin said that nearly all communication channels between Russia and the United States have been, quote, "frozen". The U.S. State Department disputes that statement.

So, let's bring in Democratic representative from Michigan and member of the Budget Committee, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell.

Good morning, Congresswoman.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: Good morning, Alisyn. Good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you here.

So, the Kremlin says that U.S.-Russian relations are frozen. What do you think about trying to thaw those?

DINGELL: Well, let's start with, it's normal hyperbole, can you trust what you're being told? The State Department is telling us that they're engaged with Russia on a number of subjects. So, again, is this positioning to make it look like Donald Trump a hero when he becomes president?

So, I'm concerned about how much of this is hyperbole. I think we do have to engage in diplomatic subjects with Russia. But we need to be cautious about what a relationship is with them. We need to be worried about a country that is hacking us and tried to disrupt our election.

CAMEROTA: Well, Mr. Trump, I think, has been pretty clear that he thinks it would serve the U.S. interests well, as well as the globe, to be friendlier to Russia and to make them not an enemy. What concerns you?

DINGELL: I think that we've got to engage with foreign countries all around the world, especially superpowers like China and Russia.

But the fact of the matter is, we've got to be cautious. Their intents are not always good. They threaten our democracy at times. We need to be concerned about a country that tried to disrupt or election.

So, I want -- and you know, rumor on the street is trying to help Donald Trump become president.

I'm grateful that Senator McCain, Graham, Rubio are all concerned about this as well and I think it's very important we study the issues here in a very bipartisan fashion and that we be very cautious in our diplomatic relationships with Russia. I do believe the State Department needs to engage with Russia, that's real world. But we got to be cautious, too.

CAMEROTA: Well, as you know, Senator McConnell, majority leader, has said that he doesn't think there needs to be any select committee to investigate this. So, how will that bipartisan group move forward?

DINGELL: Well, I disagree. I think a select committee would have been better. But I've also heard him say that the intelligence committee has the background to investigate it.

[06:35:04] They understand it.

I do believe that there are Republicans in both Houses that want to work with Democrats to make sure there is a complete and thorough vetting of this issue and I'm going to believe that our leaders are going to make sure that happens.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about -- you know, look, obviously, manufacturing is very important in your home state of Michigan. What do you think of the proposed tariff? We hear it could be a 5 percent tariff on imported goods that Trump transition is now floating?

DINGELL: The first thing I thought when I heard it is Donald Trump understands the working men and women of my state and he's delivering on what he talked about the entire election, and why I was one of those Democrats that said that Donald Trump could win.

I haven't seen the exact proposals. I think we need to be looking at these kinds of issues. Working men and women are tired of seeing their jobs shipped overseas. Business is not going to be happy. It's going to be very complicated.

I'm going to study it thoroughly but I'm not going to dismiss it out of pocket. And I think the fact that he's even making his proposals shows that he does understand the anxiety of working men and women in this country.

CAMEROTA: And so, you think that it will -- for factory workers, for the working class, you think that a 5 percent tariff is a good thing or is it more complicated?

DINGELL: I think it's more complicated. I haven't seen the proposal. I don't comment on things I haven't seen specifically.

But for the working men and women of my state who are tired of seeing their jobs shipped overseas, who don't feel like they're playing in a level playing field, his just saying that they're cheering. He's hearing us, our jobs, he understands. Let's protect them. That's what I thought when I heard it.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you what's going on in Flint, Michigan, obviously the toxic the water crisis. Four more people have been charged in this scandal, this crisis, but they're not big fish.

Do you think that this goes far enough? Are you satisfied with the accountability or what's gone wrong in Flint?

DINGELL: Well, I've always said we need to find out what happened, hold everybody accountable and make sure it never happens again. The attorney general, Bill Schuette, who I wish maybe had been there a little earlier, is continuing his investigation. He's made it clear that this is not the end of the investigation, that he's going to hold everybody accountable and I think it's very important that we hold people accountable at the federal, state and local level. Though I think the state and local level have many more people that were making decisions that led to what happened there.

CAMEROTA: But who do you think ultimately was accountable?

DINGELL: I think everybody was accountable.

CAMEROTA: I mean, who do you think was ultimately responsible?

DINGELL: When we say that -- look, the state very significantly turned an eye and they've been trying to fix it. But the federal government was not -- government at every level, federal, state and local failed the people of Flint. We've got to make sure that e never happens again. We've got to have legislation. If EPA learns there's this kind of toxicity or danger in water or some place else, and a chemical, they need to warn the community. We need to learn from this and make sure it never happens again, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Do you think Governor Rick Snyder was responsible?

DINGELL: I think the governor -- look, I have a great deal of respect for the governor. I think he did not understand or surround himself with good people that were telling him what he needed to do. So, ultimately, when you're CEO, the buck stops there. So, Flint shouldn't have happened and it happened on his watch.

CAMEROTA: What does that mean for him? What should happen?

DINGELL: Well, he's not going to be able to run again. He's term limited. I think he's gone in and he is trying to address the issues like people at the federal level are, but I think the state still has a lot more work to do in the city of Flint.

And I'll tell you, one of the problems is that people don't trust government there. They don't trust their pipes. So, even though there are chemicals in many houses, beginning to clean up the water like we saw in Washington, D.C. a number of years ago, the people in Flint are never going to believe that the water is safe again and probably won't until those pipes are replaced.

CAMEROTA: Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, always nice to talk to you. Thanks much.

DINGELL: Good to see you. Happy holidays.

CAMEROTA: You too.

DINGELL: Thank you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So, President-elect Trump and his family are learning lessons about politics and fund-raising. The reports about a charity event that had Trump's sons facing serious questions about pay-for-play, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:42:29] CUOMO: All right. We have a story that's what about sports should be about.

Oklahoma's football coach speaking out for the fist time since video was released of one of his star players purging a woman more than two years ago.

Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

This brings back the same issue e had in the NFL flashed up by Ray Rice. What's going on this time?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly right, Chris. You have Coach Bob Stoops and other Oklahoma administrators, like the athletic director, the school president, facing a lot of criticism for the punishment they gave star running back Joe Mixon just two years ago.

The graphic video of this 2014 incident released Friday by Mixon's attorney shows the woman shoving and slapping Mixon, but then Mixon went on to punch her in the head so hard, he broke several bones in her face. She had to have her jaw wired shut.

He did not face jail time, did not lose his scholarship, instead he received 100 hours of community service and suspended from the team for a year. He's played for the team though the past two years starring for them and critics said she should have received a much harder punishment. But Stoops says he wanted Mixon to have a chance to redeem himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB STOOPS, OKLAHOMA HEAD COACH: Two and a half years later, it is fair to say it isn't enough. And that's positive in that is the way the things have gone in the last two and a half years that really the only thing that's ever acceptable anymore is dismissal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: The woman has a civil lawsuit pending against Mixon. Oklahoma plays in the Sugar Bowl against Auburn on January 2nd. Mixon, as of now, is allowed to play in that game. Let's take a respite from some of the negative. It's Friday Eve, so

let's turn to Raven star receiver Steve Smith getting in the Christmas spirit, dressed up like an elf for yesterday's news conference. His team playing the archrivals, the Steelers, on Christmas Day. But don't expect a lot of holiday spirit in that one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE SMITH, BALTIMORE RAVENS: It's going to be joy. Not a lot of peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: Not a lot of peace. A lot of bone crushing hits I think. This is the Steelers and Ravens. Going to be must see TV on Christmas Day if you're a football fan.

CUOMO: You ever play against him?

WIRE: Yes. He is one of those guys for whom I have the upmost respect. He and Anquan Boldin, two of my favorite receivers. Oh, and, of course, Hines Ward, got to love that guy, too.

CAMEROTA: Even when he's in an elf suit, you have the utmost respect for him, because it seems like he was having second thoughts in the middle of that elf suit.

[06:45:00] WIRE: Well, he was a guy -- he came out in costume a couple of weeks ago so when he did that, the company sent him seven outfits.

CUOMO: He did a funny thing, because in contrast he's a small guy. It was very, very tough. Word is, there's videotape of him blowing right past Coy.

CAMEROTA: What? I don't believe it.

Coy, thank you.

WIRE: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: All right. The son of the president-elect opening up around his family's possible conflicts of interest and now, a new approach, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: President-elect Donald Trump's son dealings with controversy. Their names part of a charity that offered an outing with big donors could score some quality face time with members of the Trump family for some big bucks.

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The offer looked like a peddler's dream -- a fundraising event the day after the inauguration where for a million dollars, a donor could meet the new president at a private reception, and then enjoy a hunting trip with first family sons Donald Jr. and Eric.

[06:50:00] All the money going to conservation charities.

But now, the Trump transition team is moving away from the whole idea fast, amid accusations it looks an awful lot like pay for play.

The Center for Public Integrity raised one of the first flags.

CARRIE LEVINE, THE CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: Access to the people close to the president is a very valuable commodity and people are willing to pay six, seven figures for it.

FOREMAN: On the campaign trail, the president-elect attacked Hillary Clinton over and over again with claims she used her family's foundation to collect money in exchange for access to the secretary of state's office.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Hillary is the one who engaged in a corrupt pay for play scheme at the State Department and now, there are five FBI probes into the Clinton Foundation and they are pay-for- play activities.

FOREMAN: There's never been proof. But the optics clearly hurt, especially since during Bill Clinton's presidency, similar accusations were raised about big Democratic donors staying in the Lincoln bedroom.

So, just last week, the Trump team abruptly pulled the plug on a fundraising auction for coffee with daughter Ivanka, who came under fire as bid soared past $70,000.

And now, they are pushing back hard against critics of this latest event. Documents filed with the state of Texas, the two Trump sons were listed as initial directors of the charity involved. Their names have now been removed as directors of that charity. And on a conference call with reporters, the transition spokesperson said --

JASON MILLER, TRUMP TRANSITION TEAM SPOKESMAN: There is no involvement of this with Don Jr. or Eric. Nor do they plan on being involved with it.

FOREMAN: And a new version of the flyer promoting the event no longer mentions meeting the new president or any of his family members.

(on camera): Indeed, the Trump seem says the original flyer was just a draft, never a completed plan and certainly nothing they ever wanted to get out to the general public.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CUOMO: All right. The problem is there's also a formation document for this organization filed in Texas that had their names on it. Was that a draft?

The Trump sons now distancing themselves for obvious reasons, but there are concerns about whether or not this shows what will happen if it isn't caught in advance.

Let's bring in the reporter you just saw in Tom's piece who broke the details surrounding the event, Carrie Levine. She's with the Center for Public Integrity. We're also joined by "Washington Post" reporter David Fahrenthold who had been digging into Trump's philanthropic history and conflicts of interest since the campaign.

Good morning to both of you.

Carrie, safe to say that this was going to happen until you exposed it. Is that what your reporting shows?

CARRIE LEVINE, CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: That's -- my understanding is that that draft, or that original version of the solicitation was circulating among the donor community, yes. So --

CUOMO: The idea -- the idea, from what we just heard from Jason Miller, spokesperson for the Trump campaign, that they never intended to have anything to do with it. Does that square with anything that you've discovered?

LEVINE: You know, it's hard to understand then how they got on that document and how that draft was circulating among donors. But I think there's just still some things we don't know.

CUOMO: David, what's your take on this?

DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, there's two possibilities. One is that the Trump family was involved in planning this event, starting up this odd charity that was going to benefit from it and now they tonight want to admit it. Now, they're trying to back away?

In fact, there's some indication in "The Dallas Morning News" that Don Trump Jr. actually was involved in starting all of this. And now, they're saying he doesn't have anything to do with it. That's one possibility.

The sort of more charitable, most beneficial explanation for the Trump family is that a friend of Don Jr.'s felt so comfortable with the sort of lack of ethical guidelines here that he went out and tried to sell Donald Trump's time on his own, believing that would be fine with the family and it turned out that they came back and changed their minds.

CUOMO: And, quickly, if somebody hears this and says, what's so wrong with this, the money was going to charity? What's the issue?

FAHRENTHOLD: We don't know actually where it was going to. This charity that set up doesn't have nonprofit status. They tried to attach themselves to an existing conservation charity which says, no, we're not actually related to them. We haven't decided to ally ourselves with it.

Also, you're selling the president's time. This is not you pay some money and you get to go to the party with the president might be. This is, if you give us a million dollars, we'll give you time with the most powerful person in the world. That's not something that's happened before.

CUOMO: Right. And, remember, Carrie, all of this intense examination about what could have been implied as an inappropriate contact involving money with Hillary Clinton and the foundation and her role at the State Department, let's look at how direct line this was. Let's up the graphics of what is said and what is known through Carrie's reporting.

LEVINE: Thank you.

CUOMO: Put it up.

So, Trump transition claim: the fundraiser was not approved or pursued by the Trump family. The fact check from Carrie and others, foundation director Don Jr. spearheaded plans -- what does that mean, Carrie?

LEVINE: Well, I took that comment to mean that he was involved in thinking this up.

[06:55:02] CUOMO: Right, that's what spearheaded means to most people.

LEVINE: He thought he was OK with this.

CUOMO: All right. And then on the next level, put up the next graphic. Donald Trump Jr. and Eric are not involved in any capacity. Fact check, legal paperwork lists Don Jr. and Eric as directors of the foundation. Certainly nothing stamped draft on what was filed with the state of Texas, right?

LEVINE: No. Those were legal documents filed under penalty of perjury by the people who signed them. So, they must have felt confident that what they were filing was accurate.

CUOMO: So, then, you have what was legal and then you have the ethical situation. That's much of what conflicts are about, something being right or wrong.

Let's put up what Eric Trump just said in his defense about why he's pulling away. "As unfortunate as it is, I understand the quagmire. You do a good thing that backfires."

David, this goes to what you would term the generous reading of this situation. What's the other reading?

FAHRENTHOLD: Well, the other reading is that they thought this was a fine thing to do. The Trump family hasn't set any sort of ethical guidelines, any sort of walls between themselves and donors, between Donald Trump and his business or his children's philanthropies. The less generation explanation is, they thought this was fine and now, they found out that other people have objection to it and they're trying to pretend like they were never involved.

CUOMO: I keep hearing from people that the heightened skepticism is because of the decreased transparency, Carrie, that because you don't know about what's in the taxes, because you don't know what the actual business arrangements are involving the kids and Mr. Trump, you have to be skeptical about things. Is that a fair assessment?

LEVINE: I think you have to be skeptical about things, but certainly in this case, they've got a very complicated situation with extensive business holdings. The extent of all of their sources of income really isn't known because as you point out, Donald Trump hasn't released his tax returns which would give us a fuller accounting.

And in addition to that, he has adult children who have their own businesses, who have their own charitable interests, who have their own web of connections and who are sitting in on meetings with world leaders and domestic business titans and advising him on policies and key hires. So, who's influencing them becoming a very pressing question.

CUOMO: And, Carrie, let's check all the premise I had on this. Is this, in your estimation of your reporting, a question of legality or illegality, or is this more in the area of ethical opportunities that are taken or unethical opportunities?

LEVINE: I think pay to play and access for donors usually fall into the ethical area. The laws that apply here would start come into play if someone actually got something, if there was a case of bribery or something like that, which is not what we're talking about here. I think what we're talking about here, as David so correctly put it, buying the president's time for a million dollars.

CUOMO: All right. David Fahrenthold, I appreciate you reporting on this. Carrie Levine as well. Let us know what you find out and we'll continue our coverage. Thanks to both of you.

So, what do you think about this? Is it right? Is it wrong? Does it matter? Tweet us @NewDay. You can get me and Alisyn on Twitter, hopefully, you follow us, or you can comment on Facebook.com/NewDay.

There is a lot of news. There's new information that the German authorities know the man who is now the suspect in that terrible attack. Let's get to it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An intense manhunt under way for Anis Amri.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The German counterterrorism services considered him dangerous, considered him a risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: German intelligence failed to intercept this radicalized individual.

CUOMO: Donald Trump saying Germany is proof of the need for a ban of Muslims here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I plan on voting no on anything that's done here because it's all unconstitutional.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lawmakers failing to repeal the state's controversial bathroom bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The legislature had a chance to do the right thing for North Carolina and they failed.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alison Camerota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

The manhunt following Monday's terror attack in Berlin has now focused on a single suspect. Police are looking for a man named Anis Amri. He's being described as both violent and armed.

CAMEROTA: The suspect is no stranger to police. He spent four years in jail in Italy and was arrested in Germany over the summer with forged documents. So, why he was still on the streets?

CNN has all the breaking news covered beginning with Chris Burns live in Berlin.

What's the latest, Chris?

CHRIS BURNS, JOURNALIST: Alisyn, in fact, yes, that question you have is on the front page of this tabloid here, saying why was he not already in detention. And that is the problem.

Yes, exactly. He was freed over the summer and on the run, on the loose despite all of that evidence. That is the big question. Let's look at it a little bit more in our report.