Return to Transcripts main page


Confirmation Hearings Begin Soon for Trump's Cabinet; Booker to Testify Against Sessions in Hearing; Obama to Give Farewell Address Tonight. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 10, 2017 - 06:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump tapping his son-in-law to be a senior advisor to the president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Although conflict of interest doesn't apply to the president-elect, it certainly applies to senior advisor Jared Kushner.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are the absolute highest level.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: President Obama's nominees met all the standards. Trump's nominees have not.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL), ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Those were false charges and distortions of anything that I did.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISOR: There's no smoking gun between these hacking activities and the election results.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm terrified that the Republicans will repeal the Affordable Care Act.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Damn well are not going to see it repealed and have no replacement.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The concentrated interactions and experience that you have here, I don't expect you can duplicate any place else.


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 your NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, January 10, 6 a.m. here in Washington, D.C.

In just hours, we're going to have confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet picks. First up, nominees for attorney general and homeland security chief.

Alisyn, to you in New York. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Chris. Also, Mr. Trump's choice for

senior White House adviser, his son -- his son-in-law Jared Kushner, is raising some questions. How will he get around nepotism laws?

All this as President Obama delivers his farewell address to the nation tonight.

We are 10 days until inauguration day, so let's begin our coverage with CNN's Jason Carroll. He is live at Trump tower in New York.

Good morning, Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you. You know, the president-elect is feeling good about his cabinet choices and his son-in-law, but as expected, they're going to be met by some tough opposition.


CARROLL (voice-over): The president-elect says he's confident in all eight of his cabinet nominees facing confirmation hearings this week.

TRUMP: The confirmation is going great. I think they'll all pass. I think every nomination will be -- they're all at the highest level.

CARROLL: Trump's controversial pick for attorney general, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, is first up, followed by retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, who is up for homeland security secretary, but it is Trump's move to appoint his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as senior White House advisor that is raising lots of questions.

Top Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee calling for a review of the appointment, arguing the anti-nepotism law leaves Kushner ineligible for the job, but Kushner's attorney maintains the anti- nepotism statute excludes West Wing posts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell us how the transition is going?

CARROLL: Meantime, Kushner is moving to resign from all executive positions at his companies and divest a significant number of assets, including all foreign investments, to comply with government ethics rules, something the president-elect has yet to do.

An official briefed on the transition says Kushner will not take a salary at the White House, and not all Democrats are wary of Kushner.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: I'm certainly pleased he'll be in that role. I find him to be a lot more reasonable and a lot more moderate.

CARROLL: It's not clear what role Kushner's wife, Ivanka, will have, or whether the first daughter will have a West Wing office.

TRUMP: We'll talk about that on Wednesday.

CARROLL: That's when Trump will hold his first press conference in nearly six months, where he is expected to be pressed about his conflicts of interest.

TRUMP: It's very simple, very easy.

CARROLL: And whether he accepts the conclusions of intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the U.S. election.

TRUMP: We'll talk to you about that at another time.


CARROLL: While much of the attention is focused on the incoming president, tonight the attention will be on the outgoing president. President Obama will be delivering his farewell speech from Chicago. It's expected to -- he's expected to thank his supporters over the years. The speech is expected to be forward-looking and from the heart -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Jason, thank you very much.

This is a week of big tests for the president-elect. Confirmation hearings begin here in Washington, D.C., in just hours. Up first will be Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, the president-elect's pick for attorney general. The hearing is expected to make history when Democratic Senator Cory Booker takes the unprecedented move of testifying against his Senate colleague over his civil rights record. And that's the real story: why Booker feels the need to do this.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is live on Capitol Hill with more -- Sunlen.


This is quite simply something that has never happened before, a sitting senator testifying against another one. But New Jersey Senator Cory Booker coming out and saying this is not a decision that he makes likely, but quote, "The immense powers of the attorney general, combined with the deeply troubling views of this nominee is a call to conscience. The attorney general is responsible for ensuring the fair administration of justice, and based on his record, I lack confidence that Senator Sessions can honor this duty."

And civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis also set to testify against him, as well.

Now, all of this does not call into question Sessions' confirmation. Very likely, it will remain on track. But keep in mind, there's some history here. It's the same Senate committee hearing -- committee which turned down and rejected Senator Sessions in the '80s when he was applying for a federal judgeship over these racially insensitive remarks that he made in the past.

But though Sessions is getting some support from some prominent Republicans, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice coming out with praise, saying, quote, "He's a man who is committed to justice and knows that law and order are necessary to guarantee freedom and liberty." All of this happening today. One more hearing, much less

controversial, though, that of General John Kelly for Department of Homeland Security secretary. Likely to be easily confirmed -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Sunlen, thank you very much.

So there's a lot to discuss. Let's bring in our panel. We have CNN political analyst and author of "How's Your Faith," David Gregory; senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner," David Drucker; and CNN political commentator and senior contributor to "The Daily Caller," Matt Lewis. Great to have all of you here.

Matt, I'll start with you, since you are here with me. Cory Booker, Senator Cory Booker, is about to make history in that he is going to testify against a colleague, because he does not want Senator Sessions to become attorney general. Here is how senator Booker describes the problems, listen to this.


[06:05:06] SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Please understand, I think these are extraordinary times, and they call for extraordinary measures. We've seen consistently Jeff Sessions, as Senator Jeff Sessions, voting against everything from the Matthew Shepherd Act, voting against -- or speaking out against key ideals around the Voting Rights Act; taking measures to try to block criminal justice reform. He has a posture and a positioning that I think represent a real danger to our country and even nations.


CAMEROTA: So Matt, how's this going to go?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, let me just say, we've been hearing for a long time the wringing of the hands about how the senators used to get along, and there used to be bipartisan compromise and cooperation. And this is an example, I think, of Democrats actually getting away from that.

You know, they're part of the reason that things are going the way they're going right now is that Harry Reid killed the filibuster, got rid of that protocol, and that tradition in the Senate.

Now you have a U.S. senator who's going to testify, in a very unprecedented manner, against another one. I think...

CAMEROTA: Do you think he's just standing on his convictions? I mean, isn't that what he would say?

LEWIS: That's his right to do it. But I think, once you -- this opens a new era where we can expect more of this. It goes against precedent; it goes against tradition.

And look, let's be honest. Jeff Sessions, if you were casting a caricature of a southern politician, he is -- that's who Jeff Sessions is. I think they want to beat him up. They want to play the race card against him. There may be some legitimate questions about him. But I think this is about politics, because he's going to get the confirmation.

CUOMO: Well, look, they can't get the votes, right? But just to be clear, this isn't unprecedented. Booker testifying is unprecedented. Holding up an A.G. nomination and making that one take more time is not unusual. If you look at the last few administrations, it's happened almost every time. The question will come down to why. It seems like the past is going to be haunting Jeff Sessions. David, notably in 1985 as A.G. in Alabama, his decision to go after voting rights advocates for trying to extend people's ability to sign up and go. He decided to prosecute them. That still sticks in the craw of many.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. There are a lot of Republicans now who are still working against expansion of voting rights. You heard Bernie Sanders talk about that in your town hall with him last night.

So this is the progressive wing of the Democratic Party also saying, look, we're going to take a stand on Jeff Sessions. We probably don't have the votes, but we're going to stand up here.

And A.G. is one of those positions where Democrats are going to do that. I remember covering the Bush administration, and then-Senator Ashcroft had a very tight vote. He was very narrowly confirmed to be attorney general. So I think it's one of those positions where you see the fight.

CUOMO: David, one of the things that Democrats say is, "Hey, could you see Jeff Sessions actually opening a case against the president of the United States? He's way too deferential to Trump."

I don't know that that's true. And also, when is the last A.G. that opened up a case against a president of the United States?

DAVID DRUCKER, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Can we -- can we dispense with this idea that the attorney general is independent of the White House, some independent...

CUOMO: It is supposed to be.

DRUCKER: Yes, but the attorney general is appointed by the president of the United States. The attorney general basically can be fired by the president of the United States.

CUOMO: Yes, but that...

DRUCKER: That is how you hold the office of the attorney general accountable. Otherwise, they're accountable to nobody.

But let's look at why Jeff Sessions is going to be confirmed, regardless of opposition from Democrats. I think people need to remember that, before the rise of Trump, Jeff Sessions was sort of the oddball Republican in the conference. He was always going against them on issues like immigration and trade and other things; but they all liked him, because he disagreed in the tradition of the Senate, civilly. And so when you would talk to people about Jeff Sessions, "Hey, does his opposition bother you? Is he causing you problems on issues like immigration and trade?" things of that matter, they'd say, "Look, Jeff Sessions has his views, but he's a gentleman about it, and we like him."

That's why he's going to be confirmed, and that's why I think Democrats would be better off targeting and looking at nominees like Stephen Mnuchin because of the foreclosure issues with IndyMac. That's something that could really sell with the public.

I know why they're going after Sessions from a Democratic point of view with internal politics. They're not going to get it done.

CAMEROTA: Matt, let's talk about Jared Kushner, who Mr. Trump would like to be his senior adviser in the White House. Can he get around nepotism laws by just not taking a salary? That -- settles that?

LEWIS: I don't think that's the legal argument that the Trump people are making. They're basically saying he can do this, because those laws don't apply to, you know, the...

CAMEROTA: Son-in-law?

LEWIS: To the West Wing. But look, I think legally, you also look at Hillary Clinton. If Hillary Clinton, the first lady, could run healthcare, head up that task force for her husband, the president, then legally, I think you could make a case for Kushner.

I would say practically speaking, we should be rooting for this. I think Jared Kushner is obviously, you know, a serious person. This isn't a case of nepotism, where "We're going to pay my son-in-law some money. He doesn't deserve it. He's not going to" -- this is really Donald Trump's adviser. He -- and he seems to be, along with Ivanka, a calming force.

[06:10:09] CAMEROTA: Yes. Mayor de Blasio, no fan of Donald Trump, made that exact same point.

CUOMO: Yes, but there's a big "but" here, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: That we should -- everyone should be comforted. Go ahead, Chris.

CUOMO: There's a big "but." First of all, we don't know how the law applies to this. There's one case where two -- actually, all three judges on the panel discussed it, but this wasn't the issue in the case. It was about whether or not what Hillary Clinton was doing was considered an advisory committee. And what that did is an encroachment on the executive who's in the weeds. They never decided. Two of the three judges said they don't think the nepotism laws apply to the White House. It's never been legally tested.

But we have seen the conflict issue already raise its head, because the people that Jared Kushner brings before the president-elect for positions are people he's done business with. GREGORY: Right. And there is a business empire that he has been

involved in, and the Trump family with real-estate deals. And we were talking before the program, how do you unwind that in the same way that you have to ask how does Trump unwind all of these deals that are already in motion, that were even in motion, big "New York Times" piece about meetings that went on after he became the nominee.

There's another factor here. I mean, I agree with what Matt said. Big for opponents of Trump, Kushner is seen as very important and a calming influence on Trump. A very close adviser.

The notion of a free safety, somebody who's that important with a kind of unlimited portfolio, that can be pretty tough within a White House staff. We've seen that with Valerie Jarrett, right, who -- who attracted some barbs within the White House, because she was kind of the best friend and didn't have limits.

DRUCKER: This is a great example of what if Obama did it, right? I mean, there are a couple of things. First of all, if you're a Republican, one of the closest advisers to the president of the United States, the one he trusts the most is basically a liberal Democrat who has been educating himself on Republican policy and priorities in the past year or so.

And Republicans that have been in need with him will tell you that. But here's the other thing. So you have a very close adviser to the president. And what do the American people want out of somebody like that? Somebody who can tell the president no. Somebody who can tell the president, "I don't know if this is such a good idea," and if they think it's a really bad idea, threaten to walk.

And if you're Donald Trump's son-in-law, basically his kid, and you look up to him, do you have it? Do you actually ever think he does anything wrong? And can you walk? And does that threat hold any water. And I think that's something...

GREGORY: But he also has the ability to say, "Look, I'm really in this for you, and you really shouldn't do that." And we've seen him have that influence.

DRUCKER: But you're supposed to be in it for both the president and the people he's serving. And that's something -- it might work, but it's something that is different and we don't know.

CAMEROTA: OK. Panel, thank you.

GREGORY: He hired Jamie Gorelick, as well. A left person to represent him and his staff.

CAMEROTA: OK, panel, stick around. We have much more to talk about.

President Obama, meanwhile, putting the finishing touches on tonight's farewell address to the nation. His aides say it will be forward- looking with an eye on the challenges facing America. What does that mean? What will he say to or about Mr. Trump? Our panel discusses that next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:16:47] CUOMO: Another big reason that this is a very important week. We're counting down to President Obama's farewell address to the nation. That happens tonight. What do we think is going to be in this speech? What kind of message is it for you, for the incoming president?

Let's bring in our panel: David Gregory, David Drucker and Matt Lewis and, of course, the beautiful and intelligent Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: I see you reading prompter where I wrote that.

CUOMO: I'm just glad I got it all right.

All right. So what are you expecting?

GREGORY: I think you have a popular outgoing president who is uniquely in a position where he's still basically runs the Democratic Party. He's the head of the Democratic Party. There are others, like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton now having exited the Democratic stage. I think he wants to set a tone for what the opposition is going to be, moving forward. How the party rebuilds and what the messaging is like. I think he wants to give the Democrats some spine in Washington and outside of Washington on how to lead the resistance to Trump.

CUOMO: What do you need to hear?

DRUCKER: Well, look, President Obama is young and vigorous, and so I think that we're looking for clues as to what his next act is. And it's a delicate dance, because when you've been president for eight years, as much as your party may love you, there is a restlessness that occurs.

People want to turn the page. They start to focus on all the things they didn't get over eight years. It's amazing what winning does to make you so ungrateful. All you do is focus on the things that weren't accomplished.

And what's really interesting about President Obama is he leaves behind a country in which he has largely won some of the key messaging wars, whether it's on health care or things like that, whether it's on taxes even.

And yet, obviously, his party didn't win the presidential election in November, and his party has suffered down ballot, so some victories and some defeats. And I think because of those defeats, that he can contribute to what's next for the Democratic Party. But I think it's going to be important for him to step aside and let a new generation rise up.

If he doesn't, I think it's going to be the detriment to his party in 2020 and 2024. They need a new generation of leaders that can position themselves to run and win the presidency next time around. CAMEROTA: But Matt, there is a problem, I think, going into tonight's

farewell speech, and that is that we've heard from a senior Obama official that he is working on a speech that will be optimistic and hopeful. What? I mean, how is that going to work? We've already heard from the first lady that now they know what it feels like not to have hope. So many Democrats in his party are now feeling optimism or hopeful; they're feeling anxious and angry. So that's not -- that's a sour note. That's an off keynote that he might sound.

LEWIS: Well, he's a great -- he's a great speaker, and I expect this speech will do two things.

One, I think it's about his legacy, about, you know, going out, defining what it is that he accomplished.


LEWIS: But I think it will also get a little preachy, a little lecture-y, about how, you know, this will be typical Obama, you know, where he talks about how we as Americans need to come together. It's sort of typical political stuff.

The problem I see is that the next day, you have President-elect Trump giving a big press conference, and you have I don't know how many confirmation hearings.

[06:20:00] So this is going to very quickly fade off of the front page of the newspaper. And I think it's sort of a microcosm of what we've seen out of President Obama lately. It's going to be -- you know, briefly we're going to pay attention to this, and very quickly we're going to move on to Trump.

GREGORY: But he's got a primetime shot to define his legacy. What he accomplished right before Trump works to dismantle some of these things. So I think he wants to frame a debate more powerfully than the Democratic resistance can in Washington. And he gets to do it in primetime. I think these things matter.

CUOMO: We got a big hint last night of what the Democratic Party took from the election and how they are going to carry forward in the form of the Vermont senator, Bernard Sanders, although last night at our town hall, he had a lot of the Brooklyn Bernie working, especially when it came to describing the president-elect. Take a listen to this.


SANDERS: This is one of the problems that all of us have, including the media, and I am not the only person to say this. There are Republicans who say this. We are dealing with a man who, in many respects is -- how can I phrase this -- you know, a pathological liar. I say that without any -- look, I have many conservative friends, and I disagree with them. They're not liars. They have their point of view. But time after time, after time, he says stuff which is blatantly, absolutely untrue.


CUOMO: So I went to him, David, after he said that immediately and said, "This man was just elected by the American people. He's the next president of the United States. You're comfortable with that description?" And he waved me out of hand. He was like, "Yep."

Now, the rest of the night was filled with him trying to find spaces where, hey, jobs matter. And let's remember: Sanders and Trump weren't that far off when it came to trade and the need to focus on a certain...

GREGORY: Right. Yes.

CUOMO: ... part of the job base. But overall, there was an open contempt.

DRUCKER: Right. And I think what Democrats have to come around to is -- is the idea that Donald Trump is president, and the best way you can defeat him is to normalize him. Stop focusing on so much about him, the tweets, the things that we don't always know are true or not. Maybe Donald Trump thinks they are true; maybe he doesn't. And just deal with him on matters of policy and politics.

And if they do that, I think they will have a better opportunity to point out when they think he's wrong in ways that will resonate with voters. If they focus too much on refighting the election, which is what all of this he's a liar will start to look like, they will actually be less effective.

It's the same way 15 years ago, when Democrats couldn't, in some ways understandably, get over the Supreme Court decision that led to George W. Bush's victory, and they kept refighting that, it made it harder to just focus on policy. And George W. Bush had some early victories, in part because of that.

CUOMO: David, do you think that he gives them an opportunity to just deal with him on policy. Or do you think that, through his own provocations, he'll create this dynamic?

GREGORY: I think he'll create those dynamics. I think that Sanders is interesting. He's also using praise for Trump, saying, "Look, you stand up for the little guy. I stand up for the little guy. You think they're getting screwed? I think they're getting screwed. Then I'm going to hold you to your promise, I'll say, on Social Security. We'll find ways to work together." But he is a big voice of the resistance.

CUOMO: Gentlemen, thank you very much.

All right. So coming up ahead, hundreds of different law enforcement officers are in Orlando right now, searching for a gunman who shot and killed a veteran police officer. Now, the suspect is being linked to the murder of a pregnant woman. Who is he? How close are they to getting him? How can you help? Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [06:27:00] CUOMO: A cop killer on the loose. There is a massive manhunt in the Orlando area, hundreds of law enforcement officers looking for a man suspected of shooting and killing a veteran police officer on Monday.

We got CNN's Nick Valencia live in Orlando with the latest on the manhunt. And now they're saying, Nick, this may not be the only person whose life this man took.


It's been more than 24 hours since that police officer was shot and killed, and Markeith Lloyd remains on the run. The incident started about 7 a.m. yesterday outside of an area Wal-Mart, where somebody who knew Lloyd and knew that he was wanted for the murder of his pregnant girlfriend back in December, told a local police officer. That officer, Officer Debra Clayton, approached Lloyd. That's when he turned around and opened fire, shooting her. She was pronounced dead at hospital a short time later.

Lloyd is then reported spotted by a sheriff's deputy, where he is spotted by a sheriff's deputy in an unmarked SUV. Lloyd again opened fire on that officer. That's the last time he was seen publicly. He carjacked a vehicle and fled the scene.

More than a dozen area schools were put on lockdown as a result of the manhunt. Also, tragically, a second officer died as a result of the manhunt. He was struck and killed by a pedestrian vehicle while he was on that motorcycle.

For his part, Lloyd is a career criminal. He recently posted on social media that he wanted to be a part of "America's Most Wanted." He's certainly one of the most wanted men in Florida this morning -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Nick. Thank you very much for that.

Meanwhile, the gunman who opened fire inside the Fort Lauderdale International Airport is telling a judge that he understands the charges against him and the possibility that he could face the death penalty. A judge ordered Esteban Santiago to be held until his detention hearing next week. He's been appointed a federal public defender after telling the court he has no job and only 5 or 10 dollars in the bank.

CUOMO: All right. The largest parts of the U.S. are shivering with bitter cold temperatures. When are things going to warm up? CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has your forecast, and Chad Everett, thanks for the heads up about the foot of snow that fell on my head. And by thanks, I mean you said nothing.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I wasn't on TV. I don't work on Saturday.

CUOMO: No love for your brother. I plowed all day.

MYERS: You plowed? Because other people are shoveling, Chris.

CUOMO: That's how much snow there was. That's my point. Go ahead.

MYERS: Hey, that's all right. Purina, this is your pet, our passion, and this weather is for your pet, because it is cold outside. And I want you to make sure that the pet that you have out there is warm.

It is going to be cold for the next few days. It gets better, but you know what? The pets are not ready for this kind of cold weather. Their paws aren't ready. Make sure they have those little boots on that you can buy now. There's really a much better place out there for pets if you take care of them.

We'll some snow across parts of the upper Midwest into the Great Lakes for today. The weather gets better. It does. It warms up. In fact, Atlanta will be 70 degrees by Friday. It gets better even for New York City. That chilly air moves out. The mild air moves in.