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House Republicans Gut Independent Ethics Watchdog; Trump Taps Robert Lighthizer; Trump's Skepticism of Russian Hacking. Aired 8:30- 9a ET

Aired January 3, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: And I'll tell you one thing, my friends over at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, they've already started to write the scripts for the ads in the 2018 mid-term election because this issue is going to haunt Republicans.

As a matter of substance, Chris, here's what's important. Let's remember why we had this office of Congressional Ethics in 2008. Three members of Congress had gone to jail. They had gone to jail by committing crimes under a system where the House Ethics Committee wasn't really capable of investigating and coming to a resolution. Democrats in 2008 decided we need an independent and autonomous entity to take these investigations, do the investigations, refer them to the Ethics Committee. They has worked. Have thy at times been overzealous? Yes, they have been overzealous. But at the end of the day, the Ethics Committee had the responsibility of moving on those referrals. Now you have the people who are being investigated controlling the investigators. They threw the OCE, the Office of Congressional Ethics, under a bus. They didn't drain the swamp. They made it more murky.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: That's a lot of metaphors.

Steve Israel, thank you very much.

ISRAEL: You like that?

CUOMO: Appreciate your service. Look forward to having you as a voice on NEW DAY. Be well.

ISRAEL: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, that closed door Republican vote to gut Congress' own ethics watchdog, as we were just talking about, this is the first move of the new GOP-led Congress. What's next? "The Bottom Line" is, that's what.


[08:35:01] CAMEROTA: So Republicans facing some criticism before the new Congress is even sworn in today because House GOP members voted yesterday evening to basically gut this congressional watchdog agency. Let's get "The Bottom Line" on this and more stories with CNN

political analyst David Gregory.

David, how are you?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good. Happy New Year, my friends.

CAMEROTA: You, too.

So we just had Congressman Marsha Blackburn on, Republican from Tennessee. She did vote for this to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. Her rationale, she says, is that now without that watchdog people will - there will be more transparency, she argued, because people will be able to know who their accuser was. Apparently they didn't used to be able to know that. What do you think of what they did yesterday?

GREGORY: You know, they can talk a lot about process around this and whether there's a better process to pursue. It just doesn't make any sense in terms of the timing on a couple of levels. First of all, congressional leaders, like the speaker of the House, was opposed to doing this. It looks like it came out of nowhere just as Congress is opening in the new Trump era and they've got this ambitious agenda. Why would you want to do this when you have an ethical cloud hanging over the president-elect about all of his business conflict of interest? This is now the Republican brand and a new Republican brand that they are a part of, that Donald Trump is a bigger part of as the incoming president.

So it doesn't make a lot of sense. It gives, I think, some hope to democrats who have got some new issues to run on in terms of ethics against the president-elect and now the new leadership of Congress.

CUOMO: Well, they say the OCE was for investigating Congress, not the president. But your point stands. I don't think that the sensitivity is as much about when they did it or how they did it, but why they did it.


CUOMO: It does seem like they must have something to hide, because you could have done all the due process stuff that you want and Democrats and Republicans have complained about that, but you didn't have to take away the ability of the OCE to independently review criminal violations and you didn't have to give the politicians the unilateral ability to stop any investigation (ph) by the OCE. That's just hiding, David.

GREGORY: Well, it also seems kind of counter to the message of the incoming president, who, while he's got all these ethical questions about his business dealings, didn't like this kind of politics as usual and politicians -

CUOMO: Right. Not a single tweet from Trump about the OCE vote. GREGORY: Yes, not yet. But it's also - but it's also about, you know,

who's really in charge. I mean the question of the Republican leadership's ability to move a particular agenda, whether it's Trump's or whether it's their own, raises questions when you can have the rank and file kind of rising up and doing this over their objections. And, again, just the timing of it I do think matters because it's going to get a lot of attention just as they're convening.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the newly named U.S. trade rep, Robert Lighthizer. Before you start snoring, the reason that we're talking about this is because trade, obviously, has been so central to President-elect Trump's message.


CAMEROTA: What do you think of this?

GREGORY: Well, look, in terms of organization and this priority around trade, renegotiating trade agreements around the globe, opposing the Pacific trade agreement, Donald Trump has been very organized. He's got a big team here. A trade counsel office that he set up. And multiple key players who are in line with his protectionist policies. It's clear he's going to get to work right away on these issues and he's got the team to do it.

CUOMO: Now, Trump did say he was going to have people negotiating the deals that come from the business world, not government people. That's not what Lighthizer is, but he does have a good resume to be sure.

So, what do you make about this point of intrigue about Donald Trump and the let's wait and see for all the evidence and comparisons to the O.J. trial and what we heard about waiting for all the evidence to come out? Why have you brought this on to our desk?

GREGORY: Well, you know, I saw "The New York Times" had this headline this morning in its transition briefing, which I was thinking myself, which is that, you know, Trump, his allies, others are raising all of these - the specter of conspiracy and other people being involved. It's like O.J. Simpson still looking for the real killers.

The bottom line is there's consensus in the intelligence community about Russia's culpability. The president-elect is going to get a formal briefing on this. But he's been shooting off the Twitter storm without getting all of the facts because I think he's so sensitive about the implication that somehow it delegitimizes his election.

I think what the incoming administration needs to be a lot more focused on is the fact that as a new administration, Russia is not just going to put down all of its tools to disrupt America. And Trump has got to start thinking about the presidency and the country writ large as being vulnerable to Russia and not just the specter of him being seen as an illegitimate president.

CAMEROTA: OK. David Gregory, thank you. Great to see you.

GREGORY: Thanks. CAMEROTA: Thanks for "The Bottom Line."

CUOMO: All right, so after we went through months of trumping the media by only tweeting, the president-elect has set a date for his first official press conference since winning the election. That said, they were kind of squishy about whether this is going to happen at all. And this is like the third time they've gotten squishy about supposedly coming out and talking to the press. What's going to be the real deal? Next.


[08:43:49] CUOMO: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

Number one, the 115th Congress gets sworn in today. But before that can even happen, house Republicans voting to gut the ethics office created eight years ago to investigate them.

CAMEROTA: President-elect Trump slamming North Korea's missile threat and China's response on Twitter. Mr. Trump declaring the Kim Jong-un's nuclear ambition, quote, "won't happen."

CUOMO: U.S. intelligence officials say Russia's digital fingerprints are all over the election-related computer hacks. An officials tell CNN, the administration traced the cyberattacks to actual keyboards that featured Cyrillic characters. Those are used in the Russian language.

CAMEROTA: At least five people are dead after a tornado and severe storms tear through the south. Four died in Alabama when a tree fell on their mobile home. A Florida man drowned.

CUOMO: Chaos at airports across the country last night after U.S. Customs computers crashed for four hours. Now things, we're told, are back to normal. No word on what caused the glitch.

CAMEROTA: For more on the "Five Things to Know," go to for the latest.

CUOMO: I was not affected by that glitch.

CAMEROTA: I don't know how you avoided that glitch.

CUOMO: (INAUDIBLE) happy to hear.

Donald Trump is president-elect, but he's also an executive producer. The new season of "The Apprentice" premiers with a new host.

[08:45:09] CAMEROTA: And a new tag line.

CUOMO: Do you like it?

CAMEROTA: I love it.

CUOMO: Don't tell them. CAMEROTA: OK. That's next.


CUOMO: Wait for it.

CAMEROTA: I'm waiting.

CUOMO: Arnold is the new Donald on "The Apprentice." Well-done?


CUOMO: 2017. Feels good. Ah, vodka. All right.

CAMEROTA: Just quit now.

CUOMO: So is he even better than Trump on "The Apprentice"? You've got Tyra Banks, Carson Kressley, Boy George, just a few of the celebs submitting themselves to "The Terminator." Trump remains an EP on the show. Here's a taste.


ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, "THE APPRENTICE": I think that you miss calculated in a big way. It was a very risky thing to do clearly. Therefore, Carnie, you're terminated. Hasta la vista, baby.


CUOMO: All right.

CAMEROTA: That's awesome.

CUOMO: So, there's that.


CUOMO: And then also team Trump says a presser is coming. A press conference. They've said this three times now. Remember the one about new intel on Russia, it was supposed to happen today, yesterday? We'll see. The one on how Trump is going to fix his conflicts, crickets.

[08:50:10] CNN's senior media correspondent and host of "Reliable Sources" Brian Stelter is here, and CNN media analyst Bill Carter.

Let's start with the most important question. Brian, what did you think of "The Terminator" and how do you like the new tag line?


CAMEROTA: Me, too.

STELTER: And he also used the get to the chopper reference. This was -

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Yes. STELTER: Essentially all of Arnold Schwarzenegger's greatest hits.

CARTER: Basically.

STELTER: And this is such a made for TV thing, isn't it? I mean we've got the former reality TV star taking office, the former office holder taking over his show. NBC couldn't have scripted this more better - more perfectly.

CARTER: I think he could have used a different line.

CUOMO: What? Which?

CARTER: He could have said, "I'll be back, but you won't."

CUOMO: Oh, I like it.

CAMEROTA: Oh, I like that, too.

CUOMO: Maybe we will hear that.

CAMEROTA: Maybe in episode two.

So, yes, but this is - this is so parallel universe. I mean as you say -

STELTER: Right. I mean we're in the middle of the Trump show and now we have the Arnold show, too.

CARTER: Exactly. Yes.

CAMEROTA: And which one is reality and what's happening here?

CARTER: Well, it's so amazing because even the contestants were like four or five reality show contestants on the thing. You know, "Real House Wives" were on the show, and Snooki is on the show. It's like, they are the celebrities now. It's a polar -


CARTER: It's reality inside reality.

CUOMO: There's even a contestant (ph) angle to it because you've got Arnold, who was a sitting governor, can't run for president because he wasn't born here.

CARTER: Right.


CUOMO: Replacing the man who went after the man who was president saying he wasn't born here.

STELTER: I hadn't even thought of that one.

CAMEROTA: Wow. CARTER: I hadn't thought of that. That's a good one.

CAMEROTA: I mean it's an enigma wrapped in Vegas (ph).

STELTER: And to complete the circle, of course, let's see if Trump weighs in. I mean he is still an E.P. It's only a technical title.


STELTER: Let's see if he weighs in on the premier. Arnold has said he wants to beat Trump's ratings. I don't think that will happen.


CARTER: Very unlikely.

CAMEROTA: Why don't you think that will happen?

STELTER: If Trump cares about one thing, it's about - it's ratings (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: Yes. Yes. But you don't think Arnold can pull it off?

STELTER: So, you know, I just don't think "The Apprentice" is going to be as big as it used to be. I personally think its moment has passed.

CUOMO: Oh, boy.

CARTER: Yes, it's a tired (ph) format (ph).

STELTER: But Schwarzenegger wants to prove me wrong.

CARTER: It was already -

CUOMO: You don't think Arnold's -

CARTER: Already on the down slide.

CUOMO: You don't think he's going to pump it up?

CARTER: I don't think so.

CAMEROTA: Oh, boy (ph).

CARTER: Well, you know, they were against a tremendous football game last night for one thing.

CUOMO: That's true, 52-49, Rose Bowl, (INAUDIBLE).

CARTER: So - yes. Yes.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the press conference that Mr. Trump is promising to have -

CARTER: Alleged one, yes. CAMEROTA: On January 11th. He's promised to have press conferences in the past and they haven't come to fruition. One of the ironies is that he was very critical of Hillary Clinton for not holding a press conference. I'll remind you of what he said then on July 27th about Hillary Clinton. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: So it's been 235 days since crooked Hillary Clinton has had a press conference. So just ask yourself why she doesn't have news conferences. And, honestly, the reason is because there's no way she can answer questions because the job she has done is so bad.



STELTER: And that was actually his last press conference. It was back in July. It was about 160 days ago.

CARTER: Right.

STELTER: And, you know, Clinton should have been having more press conferences back then. Trump should be having more press conferences now. Normally when you're elected president, you have a press conference within a few days of taking office.

CARTER: Right. Every president-elect has done it before.

STELTER: IN this case, it's been almost two months. Now, what was so interesting last night, Kellyanne Conway, for the first time, said it was going to be January 11th. That's been the plan. Implying that she knew that for a while.


STELTER: Well, when is Obama's - when is Obama's farewell?

CUOMO: Well, he also said - right, I mean, you know the answer to that.

STELTER: We just found out, on January 10th.

CUOMO: He is - he is the 10th. So it is a good position of rebuttal for him.


CUOMO: But what do you make of these non-events with these early ones? I'm going to tell you about my conflicts. I've got my lawyers. Kellyanne was still running that line in recent interviews saying when the lawyers are comfortable, we'll do it. This is a quick legal discussion. It could be done in about 45 minutes.

CARTER: Yes, just like releasing the taxes could be. He doesn't have anybody really making him accountable so he can continue to push the thing beyond - well, who's going to stoop it? Who's going to say, you must have a press conference? You don't have to do it. He promised to do his taxes how many times? He hasn't done it. Nobody's really holding him accountable.

CUOMO: Well, we were just talking about this before. He never said he'd show his taxes except to say, I'll show them when the audit's over, which is somewhat of a phantom, right?

CARTER: Right.

CUOMO: Because what is this audit? We don't even know if he is being audited, when it would end. We - you know, he just doesn't want to show them and he won anyway.

CARTER: But what's the impetus for him to do any of these things?

CAMEROTA: That's right.

CARTER: What forces him to do it?

CAMEROTA: That's right. Why - why does he have to -

STELTER: Voters.

CARTER: Voters.

STELTER: Only voters -

CAMEROTA: Well, no, hold on a second because -

STELTER: And that's a delayed reaction.

CAMEROTA: But this is the point. In this new media world, you don't actually have to have a press conference. He goes directly to the voters through Twitter. He could start his own Trump TV. So why does he have to have a press conference? That's - he'll say that's a vestige of, you know, the old way.

STELTER: Over time this could all add up and disappoint both the voters who supported him -


STELTER: And the citizens who did not support him.

CUOMO: And also reach -

STELTER: That's, of course, a delayed thing.

And, by the way, let me just express a concern about that. What if he doesn't believe his public opinion ratings?


STELTER: What if he doesn't believe the polls (INAUDIBLE)? CARTER: Well, he'll be -

STELTER: That's a whole separate issue.

CARTER: He's bound to say the polls were wrong before, so he's going to say it again.

STELTER: But presuming he does believe his approval rating, presuming he does, like President Bush and Obama and all the rest, care deeply about his approval ratings, then that would be a reason for Donald Trump to take the press more seriously and answer the questions.

CUOMO: The president - the president will come to the press because of reach. He wants to match the reach.

[08:55:03] CARTER: Eventually.

STELTER: And he still has more reach on television than he does on Twitter.

CUOMO: Absolutely.


STELTER: That's something to keep reminding ourselves, actually.



STELTER: This is still the main medium for him to reach the American people.

CAMEROTA: Brian and Bill, thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

CUOMO: "The Good Stuff," next.


CUOMO: "Good Stuff." You know how you don't know someone's struggle until you've been in their shoes?


CUOMO: Well, what about when they don't have any shoes? Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome, my friend. Start the new year out on the right foot.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: All right, this is called The Healing Place. It's a non-profit in Louisville, Kentucky. You're going the see a lot of shoes there. You know why? Because you would be shocked how many people, even in America, don't have shoes and they can make a life changing difference.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have donate us boots and everything. They're getting our size and everything. I think that's very nice.


CUOMO: Needed the boots to get a job on a construction site.

CAMEROTA: Definitely.

CUOMO: Dr. George Quill and his orthopedic staff makes sure folks get the right size and fit. That's what they do. But thanks to Red Wing shoes - they make a hell of a pair of boots, by the way - you get a free pair of boots or sneakers.


DR. GEORGE QUILL, ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON: We see frostbite. We see a lot of diabetic complications. And I get more blessings than shoes I've bestowed.


[09:00:01] CUOMO: Now, he's doing it, you know, proper shoes can help you, you know, because your feet from a health issue. But just from a dignity issue and an employment issue -

CAMEROTA: Certainly.

CUOMO: It can make a big difference.

CAMEROTA: That's a great "Good Stuff." Thank you very much.

Time now for "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello.

Good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thanks. Have a great