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House Republicans Gut Independent Ethics Watchdog; Trump Lashes Out at North Korea & China in Tweets; U.S. Intelligence: 'Digital Fingerprints' Show Russia Behind Hacks. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 3, 2017 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congress set to effectively neuter the independent ethics office.


Beautiful people from Dubai here.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISOR: This man is allowed to have a celebration with his business partners.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump using Twitter to challenge North Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't allow North Korea to get their hands on nuclear weapons.

TRUMP: Hacking is a very hard thing to prove.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Case closed. It's KGB code.

CONWAY: Donald Trump ought to know many things that the rest of us do not know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lines were completely chaotic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thousands of international travelers delayed for hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody was yelling. People fainting here and there.


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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, January 3, 6 a.m. here in New York.

Up first, House Republicans secretly voting to gut the independent congressional ethics watchdog just hours before the new Republican- controlled Congress gets sworn in today. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: This after President-elect Trump has repeatedly promised to, quote, "drain the swamp." And, of course, there are still many questions about Mr. Trump's potential conflicts of interest.

Donald Trump takes the oath of office in 17 days. So let's begin our coverage with CNN's Phil Mattingly. He is live on Capitol Hill. Give us the latest, Phil.


This is the moment Republicans have been waiting years for. The most powerful, ambitious majorities will be sworn in, in just a couple of hours. But it's something they did before that swearing in even occurred last night behind closed doors is raising major questions about their intentions.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): In a sign perhaps of what to expect from the new Congress, House Republicans voting behind closed doors Monday night, overwhelmingly in favor of a proposal that guts its own independent ethics watchdog, tasked with investigating allegations of misconduct among House members.

The proposal would place the Office of Congressional Ethics under the oversight of the very lawmakers it oversees. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi slamming the move in a statement, saying, "Republicans claim they want to drain the swamp. Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress."

The Republicans went against their own leadership, House Speaker Paul Ryan and the majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, did not back the move. Today, the full House of Representatives is set to vote on the proposal. It should last for at least two years if passed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House will be in order.

MATTINGLY: Republicans this week also expected to cast their first votes on repealing the Affordable Care Act.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The Obamacare repeal resolution will be the first item up in the new year.

MATTINGLY: With a major fight over Obamacare brewing, top Democrats launching a preemptive strike, calling Republicans' rapid push to dismantle the president's signature healthcare law without a clear agreed-upon plan to replace it a, quote, "act of cowardice." Pelosi urging the American people to, quote, "take a second look."

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), INCOMING MINORITY LEADER: Just repealing Obamacare, even though they have nothing to put in its place, and saying they'll do it sometime down the road, will cause huge calamity.

MATTINGLY: There's also another battle developing. Senate Democrats vowing to delay confirming Trump's cabinet nominees, possibly for months.

SEAN SPICER, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The idea that the Democrats' choice is to figure out how from day one how to oppose every one of these individuals is just -- is frankly sad.

MATTINGLY: Democrats complain that at least eight of Trump's nominees have not submitted required materials, including financial information, as materials they need to review before the hearings. Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, warning, quote, "Republicans think they can quickly jam through a whole slate of nominees without a fair hearing process, they're sorely mistaken."


MATTINGLY: And guys, the reality here on Capitol Hill is there's very little Democrats can do to actually block any of Trump's cabinet appointees, gumming up the works is about all they can hope for and something that really underscores the power of Republicans. Not only do they control the Senate and control the House, in a couple days, they'll control the White House, as well. Expect the most conservative agenda to put forward in decades -- Chris and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Phil, thank you very much for all of that background.

Let's discuss it with our panel. We have CNN political commentator and political anchor of Spectrum News, Errol Louis; CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief of "The Daily Beast," Jackie Kucinich; and senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner" and host of the podcast "Examining Politics," David Drucker. Great to see all of you.


CAMEROTA: So in this behind-closed-doors meeting, Errol, House Republicans voted to basically kill the Office of Congressional Ethics. Why did they do that?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, we'll find out when we get some statements from them. There will be a lot of microphones placed in front of them, I think. Look, this is a startling change from what had been in place before.

And to be clear the OCE, it didn't have a long life to it. It really came in the wake of some serious, serious scandals toward the end of the 2000s. And so it was intended to sort of put something in place, something that's independent, something that was more public facing so that the public could sort of weigh in on this, as opposed to the regular ethics committee, where it's really members sort of accusing other members of this all very, very behind closed doors.

But the notion that they would do this at night on a holiday, we all know from journalism, that is when you try and bury the news. It didn't necessarily work so well this time. But they are clearly on a path to see if they can sort of push aside the public as they get started. You know, I mean, they're trying to take away, I think, from activists and from fellow Democrats, fellow members of Congress who are Democrats, the ability to sort of publicly name and shame people for what might be conflicts of interest.

CUOMO: David Drucker, let's just get the "Washington Examiner" take on this. Criticism of the OCE is not new. It's gone after Republicans and Democrats. There's always been a tension about what kind of rights were afforded people who got caught in its crosshairs. What do you make of the move?

DRUCKER: Well, a lot of members complain about due process issues with the OCE. What I think it does, though, is hand Democrats something to run on in 2018. And if things don't go so well for the Republican Congress, the minute you have a scandal, people are going to point to Republicans getting rid of the OCE as a part of a broader sort of conspiracy, if you will, of Republicans to run the House of Representatives in an underhanded way.

And so I don't think so much it's a process issue. After all, we uncovered all sorts of scandal and wrongdoing before the OCE existed. It's a party of that, what was uncovered, that led to its creation. So I think there's plenty in place and always has been to -- to uncover when members do things that are illegal or wrong.

I think the issue here is political perception, and it does give Democrats something to chew on, especially, you know, if and when there's some big scandal and they can point to the fact that the OCE was a part of a broader effort, true or not, for Republicans to hide things from the public.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And it should be noted that Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy were against this change, probably because exactly what David is saying. They knew the political perception of this would be terrible; and so they had pushed against this.

But this was pushed by rank-and-file members, essentially, who cast aside their leaders, with the exception of Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, and decided to go forward with this. So you also see a little bit of friction within the Republican -- the House Republicans as to whether this was the right move.

CAMEROTA: So they vote on this today?


CAMEROTA: Is it already done, for all intents and purposes?

LOUIS: For all intents and purposes, it is done unless somebody wants to make a real fight of it and some Republican defectors make it a possibility of defeating it as a measure.

But the reality is, even under the worst-case scenario, for the House leadership, they bought themselves a year. You know, like even if there's going to be this ammunition, as David suggests, provided to the Democrats to come back and run against them, the pace at which the regular ethics office operates almost guarantees that you'll be able to say, truthfully or not, that the 15th -- the 115th Congress had no scandals, right, because it take them months and months and months behind closed doors.

CUOMO: That's why they proposed this in the first place.

CUOMO: By the way, it was a Democrat that raised the radar of the need for the OCE. It was Maxine Waters in California when they start looking at her. You had another Democrat, Duke Cunningham, got caught up in it early on. So it was about just head hunting one party.

But now you know what's very interesting, David Drucker. Of all the things he decides to tweet about, the president-elect says nothing about this on his Twitter thread. What do you make of that?

DRUCKER: Drain the swamp, baby. I mean, look, I don't think Donald Trump is necessarily going to start out by criticizing members of his own party in Congress that he needs to move an agenda forward.

On the other hand, I wouldn't actually be surprised if he -- if he did criticize them for this, because it goes against what he says he is trying to do with his administration, which is, you know, reduce ethical scandal and reduce pay-for-play and things that sort of look like they're going against the public.

CUOMO: Not even a tweet. He'll talk about his head shot in the unprecedented CNN quote for, you know, tweet after tweet. Nothing about this.

DRUCKER: Look, I mean, I don't want to -- we criticize him when he tweets. I guess we criticize him when he doesn't tweet. You know, the day -- the morning is still young, Chris. That's what I will tell you. Give it time.

CAMEROTA: Jackie, let's move on to what's happening with Obamacare.

So today as Congress resumes, you know, there -- there is the big hue and cry for Republicans to repeal and replace it, though there are a couple of provisions, as we know, that they like and will try to keep. Of course, the preexisting conditions, the children up to 26 years old staying on their parents' plan. So what's going to happen? How is this all going to work?

KUCINICH: This isn't really a buffet. You can't just, like, pick what you want with Obamacare, because if you pick that, it affects somewhere else. So this is something that's going to be very difficult. It's not going to be hard to repeal it. I mean, they have the votes. They can do that. They have someone to sign it.

The replacing is going to be hard. Now, whether they use something like what Tom Price is -- who is Trump's nominee for HHS, what he's proposed, the devil is in the details here, but they've got -- this is not going to be something that comes together quickly at all. It just can't.

CUOMO: By all accounts they don't have a plan yet, but to your earlier point, Errol, they buy themselves time. They get the political points for the repeal. The service contracts that people get when they sign up for Obamacare are a year. So you couldn't do anything anyway. You'd be -- you'd be hollowing out those contracts. So they have a free year to talk about what they want to do, but they don't have to do anything.

LOUIS: That's exactly right. The members of Congress I've talked to, the health advocates that I've talked to give estimates anywhere from sort of 18 months on. If they really wanted to move at rocket-like speed, it would take them at least a year and a half to seriously do damage to it.

They can start renaming things. They can start sort of bad-mouthing different provisions of it. They can start undermining some of the subsidies that make it work. But to sort of wholesale repeal it is not likely to happen, unless, you know, we get a surprise. They decide what they really want to do is throw 18 million people off their insurance, and we'll figure out the details later, politically very unwise, politically, I think, very unlikely, but they could do it.

[06:10:05] CAMEROTA: David, what do you predict?

DRUCKER: Well, they are going to move to repeal and replace Obamacare, I think, extremely quickly, as Trump might say. And part of that is the politics -- politics wrapped up in this for the Republican Party.

If the Republicans slow walk this, their voters, their base, is going to be apoplectic. So the challenge, as Errol and Jackie has mentioned -- have mentioned is how do you do this without throwing people off of plans and out of doctors' offices that they like, which is what caused Democrats problems to begin with.

When you reform the healthcare system, you make all sorts of big changes. So it's possible we could see a one- to two-year phase in and phase out of the current law.

But the challenge is going to be allowing people to keep their kids on their plans until they're 26, no lifetime caps, no preexisting conditions and exclusions. Obama won the message argument in that regard, but there's not enough political will or like for his law to keep it going with Republicans in charge. So they will come up with something.

The issue is can they sell it politically and not get caught in the same trap doing it as Democrats got caught up in when they passed Obamacare to begin with.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much. Stick around. We have much more to talk about.

CUOMO: President-elect Donald Trump did not tweet about this change in the ethics review in Congress; but he did decide to tweet about North Korea and its development of long-range nuclear warheads. He also blasted China for being weak in their response to what's going on in North Korea, all in a series of tweets in just last night. This as we wait for Trump to reveal the inside information he's been

touting that is leading him to question whether or not the Russians were involved with the hacking.

CNN's Jessica Schneider live at Trump Tower in New York with more. This revelation from the president-elect has seemingly been delayed. What are you hearing?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. You know, Chris overnight, Donald Trump touched on a multitude of topics over Twitter. All of that after those New Year's comments, where he continues to doubt that the Russians are responsible for those hacks over the election season, and then, of course, overnight it was Donald Trump espousing once again on foreign policy online.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President-elect Donald Trump airing his diplomatic grievances on Twitter yet again, targeting the leaders of North Korea and China.

Trump taunting Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, who threatened over the weekend that his reclusive country was close to test- launching a missile that could reach the U.S. Trump tweeting, "It won't happen." Even though China supported new sanctions against North Korea. Trump continued, "China has been taking out massive amounts of money and wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won't help with North Korea. Nice."

This as new video obtained by CNN shows Trump from his New Year's Eve party at mar-a-Lago speaking to the crowd at 800 wealthy revelers.

TRUMP: The ones I really care about are the members I don't give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about their guests.

SCHNEIDER: Trump lavishing praise upon his Dubai billionaire business partner, Hussain Sajwani.

TRUMP: Hussain and the whole family, the most beautiful people from Dubai are here tonight.

The most people here from Dubai are here tonight.

SCHNEIDER: Despite pledging to step away from his business, and address glaring conflicts of interest. A top adviser is springing to Trump's defense.

CONWAY: This man is allowed to have a New Year's celebration with his friends and his business partners, the idea that he's giving a speech recognizing a friend and his beautiful wife. And people are just going to twist that around to somehow it's a business favor. I mean, we've got to get ahold of ourselves here.

SCHNEIDER: All the while, Trump continuing to cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence communities conclusions on Russian hacking. The president-elect critically promising to reveal inside information on Russia's alleged election cyber meddling today or tomorrow.

CONWAY: It can come in a tweet. It can come in a press conference. It can come in a statement.


SCHNEIDER: And speaking of press conferences, there is now a new date for a potential press conference after that original one was delayed in mid-December. Kellyanne Conway says that Donald Trump will potentially speak to reporters on January 11 about how he'll handle his business ventures once he enters the White House.

Notably, January 11, the day after President Obama plans to give his farewell address in Chicago -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes. It will be a busy week, as they all are. Jessica, thank you very much for the reporting.

U.S. intelligence officials offering new evidence that they say directly ties Russia to cyberattacks during the U.S. presidential election. They say they found digital fingerprints that point directly to Moscow being behind the intrusions. The news comes as a top Trump adviser disagrees with Mr. Trump on whether Russia was involved.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is live in Washington with more. What have you learned, Barbara?


Highly technical business here, but officials are saying that they are beginning to identify the markers, the digital fingerprints that point back to Moscow.

What are some of the indicators they feel they have locked down now? Well, they say they've been able to conduct a forensics that lead to the actual keyboards that were used using the Cyrillic alphabet that Russia uses that point back to Russian entities, government entities being involved in all of this, that the sophistication of the cyber tools used for this lengthy intrusion, that they were so sophisticated that they mirrored the kinds of tools used by the U.S. National Security Agency.

Again, the feeling only that the Russian government could have that kind of technical capability to conduct this, and the dispersal of the information through WikiLeaks, that it was so massive, it was so ongoing that it would only be Vladimir Putin that would have that kind of authority to authorize the dispersal of that kind of information, even though WikiLeaks says they didn't get it from the Russians -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Barbara, thank you very much. Important to note, as you've been reporting all along, these are not revelations. This is information they've had as part of their investigation to finger Russia. They're just leaking certain things out now, evidently to kind of forward this conversation.

So the main questioner of a lot of this intelligence is the President- elect, Donald Trump. Now, again, he's taken to Twitter. Silence on the gutting of the best tool to drain the swamp in Congress, but he did take time to poke perhaps the most unstable leader in the world, the leader of North Korea. He tweeted about North Korea's nuclear capabilities.

Plus, the latest on these allegations. We're going to discuss and get to the bottom of it with our panel next.


[06:20:22] CUOMO: America's president-elect, Donald Trump, taking on North Korea's leader on Twitter, declaring that the reclusive country's nuclear ambitions, quote, "won't happen." Is this the right way to deal with this type of highly sensitive issue? Most would say no, but let's talk about it with Errol Louis, Jackie Kucinich and David Drucker.

Brother Drucker, I start with you. We talk about earlier what you criticize and what you don't. I don't think it's about how you do these things, necessarily, and it's about why they do them -- what shape they take. It's a very sensitive issue with a very provocative individual. What is your take on this way of dealing with nuclear capability?

DRUCKER: Look, I'd rather not deal with the man-child in North Korea through Twitter, because he is a little unstable and you never know what a tyrant like that is going to do, but this is how Donald Trump has chosen to conduct foreign policy. This is how he is going to conduct foreign policy.

So I think what we can hope for -- and we won't really know this until he takes office and his administration is really up and running -- is we can hope that behind the scenes, there are the usual wheels of both diplomacy and military posturing and communication taking place with other countries to flesh out exactly what the president, the new president means by his tweets so that other countries understand what to expect from us, that our adversaries know what lines not to cross and our allies know that they can trust us and how they can trust us.

CAMEROTA: That's an optimistic view, David. That's a -- that's a nice...

DRUCKER: I said we can hope.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Behind the scenes, there's a lot of thoughtfulness going on. Here's the tweet. I'll read it for everybody in case they missed it. "North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen!" exclamation point.

So that's sort of typical Trump rhetoric. We have no idea how Kim Jong-un will respond or read that. KUCINICH: David talked about behind the scenes. And I wonder if the

behind the scenes are the ones who are going to eventually curb Trump diplomacy. Because right now, he's messing with Obama's foreign policy, which you know, he just doesn't care.

When it's his people in there, when they're trying to work on something and he tweets it. And it mucks something up. That is going to be a problem for him. That is going to be -- then he's going to start hearing it from the inside. Whether he cares or not, that's something else entirely, but you have to wonder if his people are going to put up with this for the duration of his administration.

CUOMO: And the question then becomes to, what is "this"? Right? On the outward to the uninitiated, it's a show of strength. That's what he's all about.

But in the first part of this, just 140 characters, the first part of it, he validates North Korea's claim that they're close to getting this, which the United States doesn't usually do. Right? When North Korea says we are about to, usually U.S. officials laugh it off and says, "Let's see your next test that goes plop in the middle of some random piece of water." And then at the end, he says it won't happen, which suggests some type of implication, some consequence that we don't know, if there's any reality.

LOUIS: Well, it's interesting. I read it a little bit differently. I'm thinking, you know, just as a journalist, maybe we are hearing some -- through this tweet some of what he's getting in his classified security briefings. Maybe when he says it won't happen, maybe that's what he was told by the national security operation.

The apparatus has said to him, "Look, they're nowhere near. The next missile is going to fall in the ocean like all the other ones. They actually don't have the technology or the capability of doing this. Don't worry about it." And he converted it somehow into a tweet.

You know, some of what he's doing, if you take the belligerence of the tweet at face value, it sounds a little bit like the old Richard Nixon madman theory, right? I'm going to -- I'm going to kind of say whatever I want. I'm going to keep people guessing. You know, our adversaries will have to think that I might be crazy.

The problem is, you're dealing in this case with the hermit king who actually might be crazy. So having Donald Trump maybe try to out- madman a madman is going to probably leave us all a little bit unsettled until you see the next missile fall.

CAMEROTA: David, let's move on to Russia. As you know, Donald Trump and his team have expressed skepticism at the findings of the intel agencies that say that they see a direct link between Russia and the hacking and the DNC computers.

So yesterday, we had his incoming press secretary on, Sean Spicer, who basically chided us as journalists for even deigning to ask the question why the president is skeptical about this before the final report that's coming out this week. Let me play this for you. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: One thing I think is missing from this discussion, Alisyn, is this report that everyone keeps talking about is not final. The president -- the current president of the United States hasn't seen a final report. The intelligence community is talking about wrapping it up later this week.

[06:25:13] So for anybody to be going out and talking about what's in the report, it's not final yet. And I think that the idea that we're jumping to conclusions before we have a final report is, frankly, irresponsible.


CAMEROTA: So David, there have been two reports already that have become public that, according to the intelligence agencies, have definitely made the link to Russia. So what do you think of their argument?

DRUCKER: Right. Well, you know who else has commented on the veracity of the intelligence is his boss, Donald Trump. So it's not just critics and people suggesting that Russia had something to do with this and people who believe the intelligence reports. It's the president-elect himself, who has commented on it before the report is finished.

Look, I spoke on Monday with Devin Nunes, who's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, for my next podcast. And what Mr. Nunes explained to me is that they have long been worried about Russian hacking. They have long felt that Russia is one of the few countries capable of the sophisticated kind of hacking that they -- that occurs when you try and do the kind of things that Putin has been up to.

And so the issue isn't, you know, were they not capable or were they capable? They're definitely capable. The issue is whether or not some of the things that went on during our campaign actually happened. It's possible that it did, and I think that we know the motive was there, and so we will find out over time if it happened.

CUOMO: All right. Just to be clear, David, did Nunes say to you that he doesn't think Russia was involved with the hacks that took place during the election?

DRUCKER: No, he didn't say that either way. What he said is he wants more information. But he reaffirmed what many Republicans have been telling us for years, that the Russians are bad actors, that they have been trying to hack our systems, that they have the capability, that not everybody does, by the way. It's not just some fat guy in a basement.

CUOMO: Right. We've been working this story hard. I haven't found anybody, anybody connected to the intel or any of the political side of it who will say that they don't think Russia had something to do with the hacks. Why they did it, they'll go in a thousand different directions, but I haven't found anyone to say maybe it wasn't Russia. Just for the record.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, we have to tell you about this story, because the intense manhunt is still under way in Istanbul. Authorities are releasing new video of the man they say opened fire at that nightclub, killing dozens of people at a New Year's party. We have a live report for you next.