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Tillerson Was Awarded Russia's Order Of Friendship; David Petraeus On Trump, Russia & Putin; Trump To Address Business Conflicts Soon. Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired January 11, 2017 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: By 2013, Vladimir Putin awarded Tillerson Russia's Order of Friendship, one of its highest honors for a foreigner.
REX TILLERSON, FORMER EXXONMOBIL CEO, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: My relationship with Vladimir Putin, which dates back almost 15 years now. I've known him since 1999 and I have a very close relationship with him. I don't agree with everything he's doing but he understands that I'm a businessman.
SCUITTO: Russia's specialists say Tillerson's relationship with Putin is virtually unmatched among western business leaders.
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: There's no question in my mind that he has been the single-most effective American in the private sector to work with and develop a true operating relationship with the president of Russia.
SCUITTO: His nomination comes as the president-elect has repeatedly praised the Russian leader --
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Wouldn't it be nice if we actually did get along with Russia?
SCIUTTO: -- and repeatedly dismissed the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia hacked the presidential election.
TRUMP: They cannot be sure of this situation.
SCUITTO: Tillerson met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week, ahead of what is expected to be a contentious confirmation hearing dominated by questions about Tillerson's views on Russia.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Obviously, he did business with Russia. He was able to get things done there and those relationships will be subject to questioning during the confirmation hearings.
SCUITTO: One point of contention, Congress is now considering new, even tougher sanctions on Russia for the election hacks. When he was CEO of ExxonMobil, Tillerson opposed the sanctions already in place for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In fact, Exxon had a direct financial interest. U.S. and European sanctions targeting Russia forced the oil giant out of the estimated $1 billion arctic drilling deal. If Trump lifts those sanctions or decides against new ones Exxon could gain financially.
TILLERSON: And what I tell him is, you know, we're not going anywhere. We've been around 130 years. When the sanctions are over we'll all sit down and get back to work and until then, we just have to comply with the law.
SCUITTO: Russia is not the only country in which Exxon and Tillerson opposed U.S. policy. In Iraq, he negotiated an oil deal with the Kurdish government in northern Iraq instead of working with the U.S.- backed central government in Baghdad.
TILLERSON: I'm not here to represent the United States government's interest. I'm not here to defend it nor am I here to criticize it.
SCUITTO: Still, it's Tillerson's relationship with Russia that is raising the most scrutiny, though it may also bring potential advantages.
BREMMER: Obama's Russia policy has failed. There's no question that Trump will be able to develop a better relationship with Russia if he wants to, and Tillerson is someone who truly can facilitate that. That is not a horrible outcome, frankly, but in the context of a President Trump, who apparently is not interested in understanding how and why the Russians hacked the U.S. election.
SCIUTTO: Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's discuss this morning's confirmation hearing with former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson. Gentlemen, great to see you --
BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: -- this morning. Governor, let me start with you and let's start with Rex Tillerson. If you were on that committee this morning, what question would you have for Rex Tillerson?
RICHARDSON: The Russia question. Are you able to separate your economic interest as CEO of Exxon with your being Secretary of State? A commercial agreement with Russia -- an oil agreement -- is not the same as diplomacy.
CAMEROTA: I mean, he's obviously given up his role as the head of ExxonMobil.
RICHARDSON: I realize that but, you know, there's this view that just because he knows Putin well and they like each other that he can be a good Secretary of State. I think that remains to be seen. The issue is going to be is he going to press Putin on Syria, where we have big differences? Nuclear weapons -- we both have 7,000 nuclear weapons. Are we going to continue arms control agreements? Are we going to find a way with Russia to work on -- when I was Energy
secretary we had a plutonium agreement with Russia that Russia canceled recently. What are we going to do about the intelligence hacking? Are you going to be tough on Putin and really get to the bottom and tell him stop this stuff because what he's done is unacceptable?
Those are the questions, besides the vision. What is your foreign policy vision for this country? A commercial agreement -- an oil agreement --
RICHARDSON: -- that you've negotiated is very different than diplomacy.
CAMEROTA: What's your worldview, in other words? Congressman, what question would you have for Rex Tillerson?
ERIC CANTOR (R), FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: You know, Alisyn, you know, we've got remember that the election occurred in November and the vision that prevailed was that of Donald Trump's and, Donald Trump, as president-elect, now has a prerogative to select his nominee. A process is in motion. The Senate will then go about confirming that nomination and I think any question is appropriate, for sure.
[07:35:00] But let's remember, Rex Tillerson, if he becomes Secretary of State, which will happen -- he is now working for Donald Trump in that role. And it is the vision that Donald Trump has, which has been really covered over the last several months about Russia, is that Donald Trump wants to see whether there can be a better relationship with Russia in order to tackle some of the very serious issues that the governor just mentioned.
And I think, you know, Rex Tillerson certainly has a record. He was in business. He was CEO of one of the world's largest corporations and he had his allegiance to the board of directors and shareholders --
CANTOR: -- of that company.
CAMEROTA: But it sounds like you're comfortable --
CANTOR: Now, he will be in a completely different role --
CAMEROTA: I mean, am I hearing you say that you're comfortable with what his relationship has been with Russia and what Donald Trump's relationship appears to be?
CANTOR: Alisyn, what I'm saying is that we've got to take his role in context. At the time, he was in the context, as the governor just said, of being a businessman. A CEO of a very large --
CANTOR: -- corporation and those interests were furthered. He will be in a different context now --
CANTOR: -- but he will bring to the Secretary of State his relationships, his experience, and his judgment that was gained throughout his experiences.
CAMEROTA: You know, Congressman, it wasn't just Russia. I want to read you something else because there are other questions, particularly about Iran. "According to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, ExxonMobil did business with Iran through a European joint venture when U.S. companies were barred from doing business with Tehran. In addition to Iran, they did business -- ExxonMobil did -- with three state sponsors of terrorism -- Iran, Syria, and Sudan." How concerning is that to you, Congressman?
CANTOR: Well certainly, Alisyn, you know I'm no fan of Iran's and certainly while serving in Congress was vehemently against anything that the largest state sponsor of terror in Tehran was going to do, and felt that sanctions were the least that we should be doing. Now, I am not familiar with that report. I don't know what is subsequent to the statement that you just read to say whether Exxon was in compliance with the law.
CANTOR: You heard Mr. Tillerson in the report just prior. He was interested in making sure that the company that he had was in compliance with the law.
CAMEROTA: Yes. I have a little bit more information for you, Governor. The oil giant said the transactions were legal because they were conducted and managed by a European company co-owned with Shell, whose management was independent. Are you concerned about some of these alliances and entanglements?
RICHARDSON: Well, I'm concerned. Obviously, the big issue is, is it a violation of U.S. sanctions that they used a European entity? Maybe there's a gray area. But, yes, it concerns me that anyone does business with Sudan. This is a state sponsor of terrorism with Iran, at the same time. I mean, the Iran Nuclear Agreement has made things a little better. But I have real concerns about Iran's role as a state sponsor of terrorism. And here, we have one of America's biggest companies doing this kind of business. So --
CAMEROTA: So, Governor -- I mean, any chance that his nominee will be tripped up by any of this or will this sail through?
RICHARDSON: Secretary of States sail through. He won't sail through. They'll be -- it'll be a close vote but I predict that he'll get confirmed. I think that Sen. Sessions will be confirmed -- a good part of it because he's a senator. It's kind of a club. But at the same time, I will say something about Tillerson that is positive. Former Secretary of State James Baker, who I deeply respect, thinks that he could do a good job. I mean, that says a lot with me.
RICHARDSON: But these Russia ties are really concerning. Are you going to enforce sanctions? That's the law of the land and Tillerson has been against the sanctions -- economic sanctions -- and we may need more because of their election hacking. And is Donald Trump going to really have a relationship with Russia that is on America's national interest, not, you know, just because we're buddies?
CAMEROTA: All of this is sure to come up today. We will be watching when it begins. Eric Cantor, Bill Richardson, thank you very much -- Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We have an interview that couldn't come with better timing, retired Gen. David Petraeus. As you'll remember, he was once on the Trump short list for Secretary of State. He goes one- on-one with CNN's Christiane Amanpour. He opens up about Trump, Russia, and Putin. Christiane joins us next.
[07:42:55] CAMEROTA: A few short weeks ago Donald Trump was considering former CIA director David Petraeus to be his Secretary of State. On Thursday, CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour -- I should say on Tuesday -- sat down with him to talk about Mr. Trump, about Russia, and about Vladimir Putin. Here is part of that interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you troubled by this really tense situation between the incoming administration -- Russia and Putin -- and the criticism that Donald Trump is favoring Vladimir Putin, and even Julian Assange, over the United States' own intelligence agencies?
DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE CIA: When the intelligence community comes together as it has -- when the DNI, the CIA director, the NSA -- and say that they have high confidence in assessments, that they have cleared a very high bar and this is very significant finding. And so, we obviously -- not that we needed reminding, I think, but if we did this is a very stark reminder that Vladimir Putin is not a friend. He does not have our best interests at heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: And Christiane Amanpour joins us now. Christiane, great to see you. Very interesting to hear from Gen. Petraeus, particularly as Rex Tillerson's confirmation hearings begin just hours from now.
AMANPOUR: That's exactly right and I actually asked him about Rex Tillerson because of all the reporting that we've done and we know his history as chairman of Exxon. I said well, you know, what do you think he will be like? Well, he's already come out and said that Russia needs to be confronted for what it did. But Petraeus basically said look, when he was Exxon chairman he had to
fight and work for his stockholders, who at that time were Exxon stockholders and his business interests. Now, he's got a whole nother set of stockholders -- those were the words of David Petraeus -- the American people, so he's going to have work in the best interest of the American people.
But I must say this interview was conducted just before all the revelations that CNN's been reporting and it goes quite far towards answering a question that has totally befuddled the western allies and people overseas. As I said to Petraeus, the befuddlement of Donald Trump's persistent, you know, warming up and favoring of the Russians over his own intelligence agencies on this regard.
[07:45:19] CAMEROTA: Christiane, there's also confusion today about the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, namely waterboarding. This is something that Donald Trump has said that he would favor. This is something that Jeff Sessions, as attorney general, in his confirmation hearings yesterday said that he believes is illegal. Did you ask David -- actually, you did. Let me -- I have a sound bit about when you asked him about that. Let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Do you think Donald Trump has given up the notion that torture would be reintroduced under his administration?
PETRAEUS: Yes, and for what it's worthI have publicly, as you know, for a number of years stated that enhanced interrogation techniques or whatever you want to call this --
PETRAEUS: -- a), doesn't work. It certainly doesn't work sufficiently to justify the enormous penalties that you will end up incurring as a result of doing that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Interesting, Christiane, to hear him so unequivocal when we haven't heard the president-elect.
AMANPOUR: Well, right, and he was unequivocal and he said yes, he's given up that notion. And you're right, we'll wait to see what happens under a Trump administration. But, you know, as Gen. James Mattis, who is the nominee for Defense Secretary, who is very close to David Petraeus as well because of their time in the field together.
But also, who told Donald Trump that, you know, it's not torture, it's a beer and cigarette that will get you the most information at most times. And Mattis is very strongly against the torture for moral reasons and for the way it would come back to harm Americans in the field, in the future. And we obviously talked about the Iran deal, North Korea, and all those other incredible challenges ahead for the new administration.
CAMEROTA: What did he tell you about his meeting with Donald Trump when he was being considered for Secretary of State?
AMANPOUR: Well, it was interesting because obviously I asked him that first. And he said you know what, you know, I would have served had I been asked but I went in and we both had our lists, as if he were referring to himself and to Donald Trump. We both had our lists about our, you know, bottom lines. What I required from him, if necessary, and certainly what he required from me, and he said that it was very interesting.
And, you know, he obviously came down in very important ways about how to deal with Vladimir Putin's Russia. Important ways about Iran. Basically, don't tear up the nuclear deal because it's the best we have at the moment. Important ways about torture, as you've heard, and about North Korea. Obviously, the fight against ISIS, as well. So they -- he said they both got a real sort of lay of the land about each other.
CAMEROTA: Very interesting. Thank you, Christiane, for sharing portions of that interview with us. Great to see you.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: Let's get to Chris.
CUOMO: All right. The unknown with this situation with Russia and these allegations vis-a-vis Trump is about the unknown. His business conflicts are about the unknown. At this press conference today, will the president-elect take any steps to remove these doubts by revealing financial information -- tax information that he has, to this point, refused? A closer look, next.
[07:52:25] CUOMO: In about three hours, President-elect Donald Trump's going to hold his first press conference since the election. He is expected to address conflicts of interest and how he plans to disentangle himself from his business interests, which are looming larger than ever.
Let's discuss. We've got "New York Times" reporter Rachel Abrams and executive editor of "Bloomberg View" and author of "Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald", Timothy O'Brien. Good to have you both. In fact, it is perfect to have you both this morning.
These questions about Russia and kompromat and what they may have over Trump are only as true as his existing business relationships and the problem is the unknown, which is why we keep turning to you two about what we can piece together. His own defense in tweets this morning. One, he's -- like he used Assange, he's now using Russia as a source for why should believe what's true about him, which is odd and political. We'll put that to the side. "I have nothing to with Russia. No deals, no loans, no nothing!" What do we know, Tim?
TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Well, he hasn't done a lot in Russia, Chris. He had a beauty pageant there, that's it. He tried to pursue a bunch of building projects there. They never saw the light of day. He sort of put himself in a corner because he bragged and lied over the years that he had a relationship with Putin that he never really had.
Having said that, the problem with Trump is that he's painting himself into a corner with Putin politically because he's made himself appear to be a puppet or a pawn of the Kremlin whether or not, in fact, he is or isn't, and now we're in this great sort of cloud of unknowing about how to assess it.
CUOMO: Now, Rachel, you've been saying from the beginning, at least in our dialogue, the reason to put out his portfolio of business interests and loans and taxes is to remove this type of speculation. Is it even more important to do so now?
RACHEL ABRAMS, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: I would say so. I mean, basically, Trump has not only a conflict of interest problem but an optics problem. And because we have no idea what his actual assets are, what his liabilities are, who he owes money to, it's going to create a lot of questions and at the very least undermine any kind of policy decisions he ends up making.
CUOMO: Because he can call this fake news but the documents either exist or they don't, and they're real enough to be included in an appendix by the intel officials. Whether or not they discussed them specifically with Trump we don't know, but it's not fake. It's about the substance of the allegations and in one way, he's his own obstacle to the truth here, isn't he?
O'BRIEN: Well, he is, and what we can't verify out of Russia we can verify in the U.S. We know that he has over $1 billion in debts outstanding to about 150 financial institutions from BlackRock and JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank, on down the line. These are all entities that he's going to regulate from the White House and that's just a pure conflict. There's no way that any policy he tries to make, for example, on financial services deregulation, isn't going to be questionable given all the debt his business owes to the banks.
[07:55:25] CUOMO: And, one item of pushback you'll get back from Trump people is we'd never make you guys satisfied. There's nothing we could give you where this would end. Do you believe that?
ABRAMS: I don't think that that is a reasonable pushback. I think that the president and his affiliates are under an obligation to be as transparent as possible to give the public the utmost faith in all their decisions and all of the things that we hear from the White House. I think it's going to be a big issue if we have any reason not trust his policy decisions and his regulations, especially, as Tim mentioned, when it comes to the financial industry.
CUOMO: And it's not playing out in speculation, it's happening in real time. I mean, put your Trump whisperer hat on for a second. These are unsubstantiated allegations but they were important enough to be included in this appendix in the presidential briefing from the intel community. But why would Donald Trump shelter Russia from responsibility from the hacks in the United States when it was so clear to the intel community? People can't make sense of that. O'BRIEN: Because he clearly admires Putin and he admires Putin because Trump admires strong men, strong figures. He likes bravado. He likes the way that Putin rolls, but that comes from a completely unsophisticated place. Donald Trump is wildly ignorant about foreign policy and national security issues and he's now playing with fire because he's about to take ownership of the most powerful office in the land.
CUOMO: But he's got real politicians around him, whether it's Priebus or Spicer or Kellyanne Conway, who are coming out and echoing that. We don't know if it's Russia. We don't know. They can't be 100 percent. In denial of what is very clear to the intel community, it hasn't made sense. And then, these allegations come that he could be compromised and now, he winds up fueling his own fire again, no?
O'BRIEN: As he -- as he does all the time. He would have been much better off after he got elected to leave Twitter until he got inaugurated, but he can't help himself because he lacks, as we've discovered, some adult restraints.
CUOMO: So what do you think happens today? He's going to be asked about the conflicts because now, they're intertwined with questions about these allegations of these documents about Russia and kompromat, a word that's now been introduced into the American lexicon. What do you think he'll say about the conflicts today? Do you think it's a wait and see again?
ABRAMS: I think he'll actually give us some idea of how he plans to deal with these conflicts. We already know that Ivanka, his daughter, and her husband Jared Kushner have taken steps to remove themselves from conflicts of interest issues. We know that they've recused themselves from their respective roles within their respective organizations. I think we're probably going to hear more details about that.
Hopefully, we'll hear more details about how Trump plans to address his own conflicts about how exactly he plans to divest. But it's really hard to say given that we don't have too much guidance up until now.
CUOMO: You have your assets but you also have your intentions and who you're working for. Yourself, the American people, a combination. It's a problem but that's why, Rachel, you've been reporting the heck out of it and we appreciate that. And Tim, as always, appreciate it.
O'BRIEN: Thanks, Chris.
CUOMO: All right. We're following a lot of news. This is a huge day in the transfer of power. Let's get to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The classified documents include allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump. REINCE PRIEBUS, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We're talking about fake news. It isn't a document that came from our intelligence community.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL), ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: I am ready for this job.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: This is one of the more consequential appointments.
CUOMO: Rex Tillerson facing a tough confirmation hearing over his close ties with Russia.
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: I have a very close relationship with him.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this country than when we started. Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're watching NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, January 11th, 8:00 here in New York. And we begin with Donald Trump facing a major test today that could shape the course of his presidency. In three hours, the president-elect will hold his first press conference since the election. In fact, in six months. How will he respond to CNN's reporting that he and President Obama were given a report with claims of Russian efforts to compromise Mr. Trump?
CUOMO: All right. We already have some clues from a series of tweets that the president-elect is posting this morning. All this as Rex Tillerson, Trump's pick for Secretary of State, prepares for a confirmation hearing. Senators are expected to grill him about his ties to Vladimir Putin. Now those questions are even deeper. And we're still nine days away from Inauguration Day.