Return to Transcripts main page


President Obama Bids Farewell; Art Helps Save Recovering Addict; Claims of Russians Compromising Trump. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 11, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Over the eight years, it did feel that over time there was an erosion of that ability, not just with him, but even with the entire Democratic Party to really get out of the corner, to get out of the polarity truly, truly keep - keep those connections deep.

And you remember that kind of almost Bobby Kennedy quality that Obama had at the beginning to sort of just scramble all the - all the categories. It did feel like that got eroded. And you saw him last night reaching back for that again and really trying to, I think, tell us, you know what, that's the key to the whole thing, guys. Don't let that go. Don't forget about it.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Look, there was this promise and this hope back then that this would be a post partisan era. It seems so quaint and misguided now. There was also a feeling that because he was the first black president that it would do a lot for race relations. He talked about that last night.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. Now, I've lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10 or 20 or 30 years ago no matter what some folks say.


CAMEROTA: OK, so where does that leave us?

JONES: Well, look, if you look at the actual history of race relations in the United States, you always have this kind of two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, one step back. You know, after the Civil War, you had reconstruction and people were really moving forward. You had African-Americans elected across the south and then you had this, you know, retrenchment. And then you had the civil rights era.

So I think this is a heartbreaking moment right now. I don't feel good about race relations. I don't feel that we're anywhere near where I hoped we would be, you know, in 2008. And I think most people feel that way. And yet the conversation continues, the struggle continues.

I do think that for some people on the left who have been so committed to, you know, the African-American narrative, the narrative of the dreamers, I think we overshot. I think we got out over our skis and we forgot to have a big enough circle of love that also included other people who are hurting, including those coal miners, those industrial workers, and we had to pay a price. And so now I think maybe multiculturalism and pluralism can be expanded to include more people in that - in that conversation.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You know, not to be too literary, but that's the way Obama is very often when he speaks. You know some are said (ph) long (ph). You know, you drew a circle that kept me out. Love and I had the wit to win. You drew a circle that kept me in. Is that part of the lesson that you're learning in "The Messy Truth" that you can talk about advancements with diversity and race and understanding our culture, but you have to do it in a way that is sensitive to norms as well and where those people are coming from?

JONES: You know, it's amazing when, you know, this - we're doing the special tonight, 9:00. I think people are going to be stunned with some of the things we're doing. We're bringing an African-American civil rights leader, who's - she's become very close friends with a white admitted racist. You know, people - you know, people are trying to reach across and amazing things are happening across the country.

But I think what's happened is, we now actually believe our own rhetoric. We believe that you can check a box and know what an African-American thinks or what a white guy thinks, or what a lesbian thinks. And the messy truth is, you know, we're actually going out in the country and talking to real people. And what people say is so shocking and discombobulating that you - we all got a - we - you know, we've got to start trying to dealing with the people now and not the pollsters because they put us in these boxes and, guess what, nobody wants to be in a box. America is much more complicated than most politicians are willing to admit and "The Messy Truth" is about getting underneath all of that and figuring out what's really going on.

CAMEROTA: That is such a great point. Even party lines, people are cobbling it together for themselves, you know, they're freelancing.

JONES: I mean, let me - I mean even look at the Republican Party. You know, conservatives are usually, you know, clean government and this sort of stuff and yet maybe we're going to have to let a little bit of nepotism? I don't know. I mean all these different things are going on. And, you know what, it's messy and I love it and I love the fact that the people - the people are confounding the experts over and over again. We've got a whole show dedicated just to that.

CAMEROTA: Can't wait to see it. Thanks so much for previewing it with us, Van.

Be sure to watch CNN's town hall "The Messy Truth" hosted by Van Jones at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

CUOMO: President-elect Donald Trump will finally take questions from the media today after a nearly six-month drought. What will he say about Russia and his many business conflicts? Can he just blame it all on us. Ahead.


[08:38:12] CAMEROTA: Here's some headlines for you now.

A federal judge will formally sentence Dylann Roof after jurors recommend the death penalty for the massacre at a Charleston church. Roof represented himself during the penalty phase of his trial. The 22-year-old was convicted of killing nine people inside the Emanuel AME Church in 2015.

CUOMO: The manhunt is intense and expanding for a man suspected of killing a police officer in Orlando. Markeith Loyd is the man on your screen. He's also accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend. He's accused of gunning down a veteran cop, Debra Clayton, as she tried to confront him outside a store. The reward for information leading to Loyd's capture is now up to $100,000. Look at your screen.

CAMEROTA: President Obama will host the world champion Chicago Cubs at the White House on Monday despite the fact that he is a White Sox fan. The president extended the invitation on Twitter the night the Cubbies won game seven over the Cleveland Indians.

CUOMO: It's OK, though. They're AL and NL, so it's OK.

CAMEROTA: It can work.

CUOMO: He can be a White Sox fan and a Cubs fan when they win.

CAMEROTA: All right.

The messy truth, you know, as we were talking about. He can do both.

CUOMO: That's right. That's the least of his concerns.


CUOMO: So, what will he say? President-elect Donald Trump is going to be in front of the cameras in just hours to face questions from reporters for the first time in nearly six months.

CAMEROTA: But first, a 27-year-old almost lost his life in a motorcycle accident because of alcoholism, but a long-time passion helped him get on the right track with just a paint brush and a canvas. His story in this edition of "Turning Points."


BRIAN MENISH, ARTIST: I was always like a really, really shy kid. And when I found alcohol, it felt like a magical key. I had been drinking. I was going too fast around a small, winding road. My bike hit the guard rail and I flew over and split my skull.

[08:40:10] I still can't talk very well. I couldn't walk at all. I couldn't use my right hand or arm. I was very depressed. In high school, I was painting a lot with my right hand. My mom, she

was like, well, have you tried your left hand? I was hesitant at first. It only took me like six months and I was into art school, even though my style was much looser, it just felt great to be just painting again.

Two of my paintings I submitted into a gallery. They were juried and accepted.

I work out six days a week. I am in two honor societies. If I didn't know how to paint, I would probably be in jail or dead.

Don't give up on yourself. If I can do it, you can do it.



CUOMO: It is a big day and a big test for the president-elect. Donald Trump's going to take questions from the media in about two hours. It's the first time since he became president-elect that he's going to face the media.

[08:45:11] Let's discuss what the implications are heading into this presser. We've got CNN's senior reporter for media and politics, Dylan Byers, and CNN media analyst and author of "The War for Late Night," Bill Carter.

Bill Carter, what do you think the first question is that the president-elect gets today?

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Oh, it's going to have to be about this Russian report, I assume. And that, of course, is a change, because I think there would have been a question directly about his conflict of interest, which I assume he'll address. I think he'll come out and make a statement ahead of time. But I think he - somebody's going to go after him on this Russian thing right away to get some sort of reaction from him on that. There's so many areas that he hasn't spoken of. It's been so long since he's really taken questions that it could be almost anything, I guess.


CARTER: But I would - that's what I would expect.

CAMEROTA: And, Dylan, there is so much to cover, to Bill's point. What must journalists do today?

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: Well, I think they need to stay focused. I think, you know, obviously the sort of faith in the media to do its job right now is at an all-time low. And I think, you know, a lot of Trump supporters certainly are going to be looking to the media to sort of trip over itself, ask questions and maybe aren't front and center in the minds of the Americans who voted for Trump. Look, there's a lot to hold Donald Trump accountable for here. I agree

with Bill, I think there's an elephant in the room, and the elephant in the room is that intelligence - those classified documents that were presented to both Donald Trump and President Obama. So, look, there's no question that those are going to be front and center on the table.

I think the key thing journalists need to do, though, is make sure they're getting full answers from Donald Trump because so much of what he says can be evasive. So much of what he says can be sort of general. He rarely answers a question directly. This is the first chance we've had in 168 days to ask him questions directly and I think they need to press him on it.

CUOMO: Well, if you're headline hunting - and let's be honest, that's what most people in the media are going to be doing - he's going to give you one, Bill, and it's going to be this, the media sucks.

CARTER: Yes, that's it.

CUOMO: This is fake news. They're coming after me.

CARTER: No question.

CUOMO: This is what they do. And certainly for 46 percent of the country, that will be enough right there. So how does that play out?

CARTER: Oh, I - I think he's going to be super aggressive. I do. I think that's what he's going to do, he's going to come right after the media saying this is all made up, this is all fabrication, it's all a plan to delegitimize my presidency. I think he's going to really be aggressive on that. You see that in the way he tweets. That's what he's going to do. He's going to call the media dishonest. He may call them disgusting, et cetera.

But I also think it's going to be interesting to see how he handles the stagecraft of it. He does like the attention. He likes to be a performer. And I think you're going to see some of that come out. I mean this is a very sort of theatrical thing where you're up there in front of everybody answering questions. And I think that - Dylan is absolutely right, there has to be focus in the media. They have to listen, as well as think about their own question, because he's going to say something that you have - really have to follow up in a smart way, I think.

CAMEROTA: And, Dylan, I just want to be very, very clear. This is the opposite of fake news. Fake news is fiction. It is intentionally fiction. It is written by fiction writers. This is real reporting regardless of what he says.

BYERS: That's absolutely right, this is real reporting. But, look, the greatest concern - you know, the press has been clamoring for a press conference for a very long time. Like I said, 168 days. There's an idea that somehow if we just get to sit in a room with him and ask him questions that somehow that will clear things up, that we'll get more - a more specific picture of his own history, of this whole question about Russia and about his policy proposals once he enters the White House.

My concern, just the other day one of his top aides, Kellyanne Conway, told you, Chris, she said, why do you always take him at face value? Why don't - why do you listen to his words instead of listening to what's in his heart? My great concern here is that we are so eager to hear what Donald Trump says in response to our questions, but that maybe what he says won't matter. Maybe he will be evasive. Maybe he will say things he doesn't exactly mean. Maybe he will make promises he won't follow through on. And maybe he will mislead us, or at least not give us full answers to some of the questions we have. And that includes on that - on that report about Russia.

CUOMO: That's why I like that he tweets because I think that you get things that he has to be held accountable for and it's all on him if he changes.

Bill Carter, he's been tweeting a lot about this stuff, the Russian allegations. And I think just on the face of it, he used Julian Assange as his basis for why he didn't believe the U.S. intelligence agencies about who was responsible for the hacks during the election. Now he's quoting Russia as a source for whether or not to believe these allegations about what's going on.

CARTER: Right.

CUOMO: So how much are his tweets going to play in to what he has to answer for before the media?

CARTER: Well, I think they do play in because they're on the record. They're statements that he's made on the record, which we haven't really heard before. You know, he hasn't been addressing the press. So these are his positions. And so he should be held accountable to them.

Listen, there's a whole range of things that he hasn't answered. I mean why did they change the Ukraine thing in the platform, for example. It looks sort of questionable now. There's so many things that look more questionable now in light of this report. You think he has to be pressed on that. And he will - as Dylan said, he will sluff that off. He will like move right on. And I think - the other thing he does is he changes the position. Whatever he says in this press conference could be, you know, invalidated the next day.

[08:50:23] Kellyanne Conway doubled down on this last month with Seth Meyers saying it always has been the case that you shouldn't listen to what comes out of his mouth, and you have to listen to what's in his heart - you have to pay attention to what's in has heart. How are we supposed to do that? But maybe the tweets are more an indication of what's in his heart than what comes out of his mouth.

CAMEROTA: Dylan, we only have -

BYERS: I will say -

CAMEROTA: Yes, go ahead. Just a few second. Go ahead.

BYERS: Yes, I would just say, on that point, you know, you go back to the question of what should journalists do today, get him on the record. Get him on the record with concrete answers. Get him on the record with things that you can go back to the tape days, weeks, months from now and point out where he might not have followed through on a promise or where he might have said something that is false. Maybe then you can sort of build the case to the American people.

CUOMO: All right. Dylan, Bill, thank you very much. We'll see what happens and we'll see soon.

CAMEROTA: Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper lead CNN's special coverage of the Senate confirmation hearings and Donald Trump's press conference. This begins after this very quick break. We'll see you tomorrow.


[08:55:05] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jake Tapper live in Washington.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

We begin with breaking news here in the United States. A major day ahead with big questions for Donald Trump and his incoming administration. Moments from now, another round of confirmation hearings gets underway.

First up, Rex Tillerson for secretary of state. The Exxon Mobil CEO will face bipartisan scrutiny for his business and personal ties with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

Then, in an unprecedented move, Senator Cory Booker will appear as a witness and testify against his Senate colleague, the attorney general nominee, Jeff Sessions.

Also on the hot seat, Trump's pick for transportation secretary, Elaine Chao. She served as secretary of labor under President George W. Bush and is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

And then, for the first time since winning the presidential election and the first time, in fact, in nearly six months, President-elect Donald Trump will hold a news conference during which he's pledging to outline his plan to try to separate himself from his businesses. It also comes just hours after CNN's reporting that intelligence chiefs presented Trump with classified documents that allege - allege Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information on him.

TAPPER: A lot - a lot to chew over on this busy day. Let's begin with Sara Murray. CNN's Sara Murray, who's outside Trump Tower.



Well, Donald Trump has taken to Twitter this morning to lash back at any notion that Russia may have compromising material on him and he's taking a swipe at intelligence agencies as well, tweeting, "intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to 'leak' into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?" He also insisted that Russia holds no influence over him, saying, "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I have nothing to do with Russia. No deals. No loans. No nothing."

Now, of course, CNN has not corroborated the underlying allegations about this potential compromising material, but Reince Priebus, who is Donald Trump's chief of staff, was on television this morning. He said he asked Donald Trump directly about some of these allegations. Trump dismissed them as total garbage.

Of course, Wolf, Jake, you can bet that these questions about Russia are going to come up in today's press conference, as well as a barrage of other issues from Obamacare to tax reform to, of course, how Donald Trump will disentangle himself from his business.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray outside Trump Tower, thank you so much.

BLITZER: Want to bring in Evan Perez, our justice correspondent, and Pamela Brown, our justice correspondent as well.

Evan, the reaction from Donald Trump to your reporting, Jake's reporting, Jim Sciutto's reporting, Carl Bernstein, when he says, "are we living in Nazi Germany right now," obviously he is really angry at all these reports that have come out.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The greatest irony of all of this is that Donald Trump and his team have been huge fans of leaks during the last few months of the campaign, in particular the leaks that had to do with Democrats and Hillary Clinton that showed up on WikiLeaks and other websites. It was information that was stolen by Russian intelligence. That's their view of the U.S. intelligence agency. So they've been promoting those, they've been flogging those on Twitter and on social media and now they're not fans of this idea of leaks.

And, look, the fact is that Donald Trump has not addressed the central part of our story, which is that the U.S. intelligence agencies, the chiefs of these agencies met with him last Friday and they presented documents that included these allegations. Again, we're not saying these allegations are true. There's a lot to be done to try to see whether or not they are true. The FBI, the intelligence agencies are still working on that. But the central premise of the story, he has not actually addressed in any of these Twitter rants.

TAPPER: And we should also note that there is a difference between what the intelligence chiefs presented to President-elect Trump and President Obama and these uncorroborated reports that are floating around that have been printed I think irresponsibly by other news outlets. We're not talking about the details there. We don't know -

PEREZ: We don't know -

TAPPER: Which of those details were provided to President-elect Trump. My reporting, your reporting and Jim Sciutto and Carl Bernstein's suggests that the two-page synopsis was fairly anodyne, describing contacts between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, allegations of contacts I should say -

PEREZ: Right.

TAPPER: Allegations of personal and financial information that might be compromising, claims that people are making. My understanding is that there were very few specifics that were as colorful as what we've seen in some of the uncorroborated reports out there. So when the Trump team denies that anybody brought up specific A or specific B or specific C, that's entirely possible, I would say even probable because the intelligence community officials brought forward what they thought was credible, not reports that they had not corroborated.