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Mattis Questioned as Potential Defense Secretary; I.G. Investigating Justice Department, FBI on Clinton E-mail Case; Could Rubio Derail Tillerson's Nomination; Senate Vote Sets Stage for Obamacare Showdown. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 12, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILIARY ANALYST: There's going to be a great emphasis on people like General Mattis and Congressman Pompeo to, as you say, lead up significantly to ensure their boss understands and gets the pragmatic and informed approach when they start dealing with problems. So, all of that is critically important. But i'm wondering if anyone is keeping a checklist, a comparative checklist between what Mr. Trump said on the campaign trail and what all of his nominees are saying before Congress because there are some distinct differences.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We are keeping a check list. We're keeping a checklist, i can assure you on that.

On General Mattis, General Hertling, can you tell me more about General "Mad Dog" Mattis, the man. I understand he doesn't have a lot of family. A career military man, huge bipartisan support in Washington and beyond. Tell me more.

HERTLING: First thing, Brooke, I'll tell you -- and he reinforced it this morning during testimony -- as you and I once talked before, you better not call him "Mad Dog." That is not a --

BALDWIN: That's what the press calls him. Not what his friends call him.


HERTLING: Yeah. And that's what he reaffirmed this morning. That's what his Marines call him. But he doesn't like that. He's a very intelligent, charismatic, smart individual, who understands strategies, tactics and operations. He's been in combat quite a few times and knows what happens when you send America's sons and daughters into war, and he will fight hard for the right reasons to prevent that. But when they are used in conflict, he will make sure there's a good end state that all people using strategy have to do. He's also informed in the globe, throughout the globe. He not only knows ISIS but, as evidenced in the testimony this morning, he knows Russia very well and he knows the basis of partnership is not whether or not they like you, it's what they are doing in their strategic interest and how it's bounded by what our strategic interest is. It has nothing to do with personal aggrandizement. He knows the South China Sea and North Korea and cyber. All of those things are critically important. And he's even mentioned things in terms of acquisitions that perhaps countered a little bit about what Mr. Trump said about the F-35 and some other things this morning during his testimony.

BALDWIN: Lt. Gen. Hertling, Jim Sciutto, gentleman, thank you both very, very much.

Next here on our breaking news, the inspector general of the Justice Department is now launching this investigation of the Justice Department and the FBI. What does that mean moving ahead?

Stay with me.


[13:36:18] BALDWIN: We are following breaking news out of Washington. The inspector general's office is launching an investigation of the Justice Department, specifically the FBI, in connection with the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private e- mail server. All of this comes after requests from both Democrats and Republicans. Among some of the concerns, whether proper procedures were followed, whether a deputy director of the FBI should have recused himself from the Clinton investigation all together, and whether staffers improperly disclosed information.

Last hour, we heard reaction from the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is -- decisions that are made by inspectors general across the administration are independent. And this administration has assiduously protected the independence of inspectors general. So, we wouldn't weigh in publicly or privately on any sort of investigative decision made by an inspector general. Presumably, the stakes are even higher for an inspector general who has a responsibility for conducting these types of investigations of independent law enforcement agencies. I can tell you the White House was not involved in that decision. And anything the inspector general chooses to investigate is something that he will do -- he or she will do -- based on their own view of the situation, based own their own knowledge of the facts. And hopefully, they will follow whatever - follow the evidence where it leads, if they find any evidence.


BALDWIN: We'll have much more on that investigation at the top of the hour.

But to Capitol Hill we go. One of the questions there today: what will Republican Senator Marco Rubio decide about secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson? And what happens if he becomes the only Republican to actually vote no? We are closely watching Capitol Hill waiting to see if the meeting between the two might happen at some point today, just a couple of hours after Senator Rubio grilled Mr. Tillerson over how to balance national security interests with human rights.

CNN's Manu Raju talked to the Florida Senator.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Are you prepared to be the one Republican to vote no?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA: I'm prepared to do what's right. I'm not analyzing this from a partisan standpoint. I was elected by the people. So, I want to have a clear view on foreign policy, both in my presidential race and my re-election. I swore an oath about a week ago to protect, defend and uphold the Constitution of this country, and that Constitution requires me to provide advice and to consent to the president's nominees. My view is that the president deserves wide latitude in their nominations. But the more important the position is, the less latitude they have. It's a like a cone. It's really wide in some positions. As it gets higher and higher, the discretion becomes more limited and our scrutiny should become higher.


BALDWIN: Let's go to Manu Raju, joining me from Capitol Hill

Manu, what do you know about the Florida Senator and Rex Tillerson?

RAJU: We don't know if they're going to meet today. We were hearing that it was possible they were going to arrange some sort of session so they could discuss some of Marco Rubio's lingering concerns about issues such as Russia and China, things that he does not believe Mr. Tillerson address fully in yesterday's confirmation hearing.

I can just tell you, Brooke, Marco Rubio just left a closed-door session in a room right behind me with the CIA director nominee, Mike Pompeo. And as Rubio left, i asked if he was going to meet with Mr. Tillerson today, and he said, "I've got nothing more to add." He didn't want to talk about a possible meeting at all.

And earlier today, I asked him if he feels any different than he did last night. Take a listen.


[14:40:03] RUBIO: I don't have anything to say on that today. We're still working through the process.

RAJU: After a night, are you feeling any better right now about Rex Tillerson?

RUBIO: Well, we're still working through it, so we'll have a decision here soon.

RAJU: Today, whether or not to support him?

RUBIO: I don't know what the timing is, but certainly before the vote. RAJU: People who you respect in the Bush administration believe he'll

take a hard line on Russia. From what you heard yesterday, do you believe, do you side with those folks in the Bush administration, like Condoleezza Rice, for instance?

RUBIO: Well, as I said, we're going to continue to review everything that he said yesterday. And some of the questions were submitted. And when we have something to announce, that's what we'll do. OK?


RAJU: Very noncommittal, Brooke. Significant because there's only a one-seat difference between Republicans and Democrats on that Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And let's say all the Democrats on the committee vote and Marco Rubio decides to vote no, that's a big problem because then he will not have the votes to overcome the opposition in the committee. And at that point, the Republican leadership needs to make a decision whether to bypass the committee altogether, something that is really frowned upon in the Senate. And so, a lot of problems for Mr. Tillerson if Marco Rubio decides to vote no. And something that, clearly, he has not decided just yet -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Manu chasing them down on the Hill.

Manu Raju, thank you as always.

Next, a late-night Senate vote setting the stage for an Obamacare showdown. We will tell you about potential hurdles facing the president-elect's plans to repeal and replace.


[14:46:03] BALDWIN: The latest round in the epic health care reform battle has begun. And for now, House Republicans working behind the scenes to lock in the vote. The Senate took the first step toward repealing Obamacare early this morning. The budget blueprint passed along party lines and it included more than 150 amendments. And just a short time ago, President-elect Trump tweeted, "Congrats to the Senate for taking the first step to repealing Obamacare. Now it's on to the House."

Let's go to CNN politics reporter, M.J. Lee, who is live in Washington.

i know the sounds potentially exciting for Republicans and the president-elect, but this has a long way to go. Walk me through the next hurdle.

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yeah, that's right. As Donald Trump tweeted, the next step is this bill does get sent to the House. But I want to be crystal clear on exactly what happened last night. The bill that the Senate passed late last night was the first procedural step, so the step that gets the process started for Congress started to write the bill, a second bill that contains the language to repeal large portions of Obamacare. And the most important caveat, Brooke, to keep in mind is that this bill has not yet been written. Republican leaders and rank-and-file leaders are having discussions of what it will look like. But it has not been written. So, it could be weeks or potentially months before Donald Trump sees it on his desk.

Having said all that, the House is expected to consider this sometime tomorrow. But based on our reporting, we are hearing some rumblings among House Republicans, who have some reservations about voting for this bill. A part of the problem is they feel they are not getting enough reassurances from GOP leadership that there is going to be a clear alternative before they vote to do the repeal. And the reason they're so worried about this is because this is a law that covers some 20 million people and they do not want to be stuck with sort of this big political liability of being cast as a party that either disrupts people's health coverage or takes away people's coverage by voting for a repeal when there's no clear alternative.

BALDWIN: There is so much to this. And good to you for being crystal clear on this, that this is a procedural vote and the bill has not yet been written.

So, on that note, M.J., we know President-elect Trump said yesterday at his news conference that they want to repeal and replace Obamacare "simultaneously." This is something we heard initially in opinion piece from Republican Senator Rand Paul. If you do one, you have to do the other in lock step.

Where do efforts stand to firm up the specifics of a plan? Has that even begun?

LEE: Yeah. So, in Donald Trump's ideal scenario, first Congress would vote quickly to repeal Obamacare, and right away, Congress would vote on a replacement plan. Those two things would happen almost at the same time. Yesterday, at the press conference, he even said these two things could happen on the same day, maybe even within the same hour.

But, of course, the political reality is this is going to be a very, very difficult thing to do. And keep in mind, when Congress first came back, the original plan Republicans were considering was to move as quickly as possible for the repeal but to take time to come up with the replacement plan. And that's why Republican leaders are feeling so mjuch pressure right now to convince rank-and-file members that they are working as fast as possible to over some clarity on that, but that clarity may not come for a number of weeks.

[14:49:36] BALDWIN: OK.

M.J., thank you very much.

Back to our breaking news, the Justice Department's internal watchdog, the inspector general, launching an investigation into exactly how the FBI and the Justice Department handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails. We have that for you.

We're also waiting for a very special event at the White House. That kicks off in just moments from now. The president hosting a farewell event for his good friend, the Vice President Joe Biden. That is moments away.

We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: Let's take a sneak peek on Capitol Hill. Live pictures of the full Senate or several members voting, expected to proceed to a roll-call vote. This is known as the Mattis Waiver, right? You have to have seven years to separate you between military service and potentially become secretary of defense. He only has three, so they have to pass this waiver. Right now, the Senate, the full Senate is voting on whether to grant him the waiver. We know the Senate Armed Services Committee already approved that, so it's gone to the full Senate. We will let you know where the votes go momentarily. That's happening on Capitol Hill.

Let's talk about the first lady. Michelle Obama made her final appearance on the "Tonight Show" as first lady. And she was asked about -- if you were on Twitter Tuesday night, you probably wondered the same thing -- where was Sasha Obama during her father's farewell address? And the first lady also took part in hosting Jimmy Fallon's well-known thank-you note segment. Here she is.



[14:55:06] MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Barack, for proving you're not a lame duck --


-- but my very own Silver Fox.



OBAMA: Yeah.

I'm angling for a good gift.


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, THE TONIGHT SHOW: Yeah, he knows you went for that one.


BALDWIN: OK. So, tomorrow night, CNN explores First Lady Michelle Obama's journey from Chicago to the world stage. It's the CNN special report, "History Made: The Legacy of Michelle Obama." It airs tomorrow night at 9:00 eastern.

Coming up next, we have the latest on the breaking news, the inspector general's office within the Justice Department launching an investigation into how the FBI, how the DOJ handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails ahead of the presidential election. We have those details from Washington.

Also, we have live pictures of the White House. A special ceremony set to begin momentarily honoring President Obama's right-hand man, the vice president, Joe Biden. Stay tuned for that.