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Report: Senate Passes Waiver for Trump Defense Sec'y Pick; White House to Bid Farewell to Biden; Ethics Official Blasts Trump Conflict of Interest Plan; Senators Have Closed Door Meeting on Russia Hacks. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 12, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think he does, I agree completely with General Mattis and others that Russia must be seen as a potential adversary or enemy on certain issues. We need to find areas of cooperation but ultimately President Putin has a very different agenda than ours, so he will have to be tested economically, diplomatically and even militarily in the Baltics and elsewhere. But ultimately, I think President-elect Trump once he sits in that oval office and has people like General Mattis and Pompeo and maybe even his new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson I assume, but whoever it is they will present to him the complexity of the issues as they exist in real world rather as part of the campaign rhetoric.

And I have to believe that President Trump is going to want to be successful and to ignore advice of people who have been around the world then he does so at his peril, so I except the President to at least modify some of his positions, he's the one who sets it but I think will modify it consistent with the assistance he gets.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Asked whether or not they respect the intelligence community hearing these questions peppered throughout the hearings. Thank you all so much and again just to underscore the news, this so-called Mattis waiver, the Senate has passed the waiver to allow General Mattis to serve, and now goes on to the house for a vote tomorrow. Still ahead, waiting for Joe Biden. The room is packed. The cameras set. Just waiting for the man of the hour and of course the President of the United States, first family. Dr. Biden, friends, family and others on stand by for that.

Also, major concerns over the President-elect's plans to avoid conflicts of interest with his massive business empire, ahead, why the head of government ethics suspect isn't happy.


BALDWIN: Quick flash to the White House as we are waiting for this big farewell thank-you ceremony for Vice President Joe Biden, the room is set. We'll take it as soon as it begins. Meantime, new backlash over the president-elect's plan to avoid conflicts of interest with his mega-business empire. Mr. Trump says he will hand over leadership and management of the Trump organization and place his holdings in a trust run by his two adult sons and says he will not talk to them about the organization as long as he's President. The President-elect also doesn't plan to sell any of his stake in the Trump brand but the director of the office of the government ethics says it is not OK, calls it wholly inadequate.


WALTER SHAUB, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS: The plan the President has announced doesn't meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every President in the past four decades has met. He's going to be asking the men and women in uniform to risk their lives, so no, I don't think a divestiture is it too high a price to pay to be President of the United States of America.


BALDWIN: Let's talk this over with Brian Stelter: How is this going to fly?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN, HOST: The head of the ethics office is saying it is not a blind trust, not even close, the key is that because the President-elect is not going to sell off the businesses he's going to know at least in the back of his mind what his interests and stakes are in the various branches of his business empire. He says he won't speak to his sons, Eric and Don Junior, but that's just leaving it up to whether you trust the President-elect or not. I think a lot of journalist's antennae,

there's go up and wonder about that.

How do we verify, how do we know what is going in that sort of black box that is the Trump organization? This is related in some ways to the questions about his tax returns. Because we have never really seen his tax returns. We don't really know what happens inside that black box. And now this new proposal which the President-elect says is intended to address his conflicts of interest. It's sort of another version of that black box the President-elect is essentially saying, trust me on this, trust me.

BALDWIN: OK, it's up to other folks if they want to -- to your point the with antenna raised. The $1 billion that is reportedly -- what did George Soros truly lose a billion in bet?

[15:40:00] STELTER: This is a fascinating story in the "Wall Street Journal" today. The paper reporting that George Soros -- a famous liberal billionaire, a supporter of many progressive causes he expected if Donald Trump were to win for a bear market. Expected a big market selloff, made a series of market trades anticipating a decline in markets as a result of a Trump win and of course that paid off in a very bad way. According to the "Journal" to a tune of a billion dollars lost because as we all know the markets have all been on a surge. The Dow dropped drastically that evening and when Donald Trump gave his speech, they surged. So, the journal says Soros is personally out a billion dollars. I'm sure he's not the only one and because of a status of liberal causes I think some Trump supporters really enjoying that story today.

BALDWIN: I'm sure they are clicking on that headline in glee. Thank you very much.

The pictures here, the White House, we're waiting for this special sendoff that the President will give for the Vice President. Going down in history as a charismatic personality, empathy for those going through loss and grief, and his sense of humor, and of course his no nonsense approach to anyone's malarkey.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey.


BIDEN: Because not a single thing he said is accurate.

That's all simply a bunch of stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What does that mean, a bunch of stuff?

BIDEN: We Irish call it malarkey.

You come to the White House I will buy you the beer.

The notion that somehow because I'm a man that I don't know how to raise two kids alone, or sure one is going to make it -- you all love them equally and have a slightly different relationship and Beau is my soul, Beau is my conscious, he was the little boy when he was six- year-old, he was 30-year-old.

There's not one single corner. Oval. Oval.

Let me show you, that's where the President sits, this is where I sit. The Vice President. Same exact chair. One difference, a lot of power in that chair.

He's trying to tell us he cares about the middle class? Give me a break, that's a bunch of malarkey, I would get myself in trouble if I said I would like to take him behind the gym if I were in high school.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've lost elections before. Joe hasn't, but --

BIDEN: You beat me badly.



BALDWIN: Before we get you to the White House we got sound in, senators leaving the closed-door meeting topic being Russia here is Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.


DICK DURBIN, SENATOR, ILLINOIS: There's never been any question by our intelligence agencies that this decision by Russia goes straight to the top to Vladimir Putin, I'm not disclosing anything that's classified. And when you look at the breadth of this infiltration by the Russians, it is not limited to going after the DNC and John Podesta. This is something we need to take seriously. The only good news we have is that they didn't infiltrate the actual voting process in this country but they did everything short of that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, the department of justice inspector general announced today that they are going to look into the handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation by the FBI, the DOJ, do you agree with that decision to basically investigate the investigation to look back and see how this was handled?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why do you think that's an important step?

DURBIN: I think steps were taken by the director of the FBI near the election that were unprecedented, did not ever happen before. His statement about whether there is going to be an opening of an investigation, the closing of an investigation I don't think was fair, professional or consistent with the policies of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does it threaten his job, sir?

DURBIN: He serves at the pleasure of the President.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was that discussed at this meeting?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you learn anything of this briefing that you had not heard before?

DURBIN: I read all the materials and I have access that other members don't and there was more details today. And I came out of this saying, I thought it was terrible and thought it was even worse and if we don't take it seriously, shame on us. Thank you.


BALDWIN: Let's go straight to The Hill to Manu Raju, give us a little bit of context, we know what it's about with regard to Russia but tell me more.

MANU RAJU, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Look, this is the first time most senators have heard the level of detail that Republican and Democratic leadership have heard and the President-elect have heard and President Obama have heard about the extent of the Russian hacking and things that allegedly happened during the elections. Remember when this -- when this classified report came out, that classified report is what actually most members of Congress have seen so far, but what happened they don't really know the details so it's interesting to see Dick Durbin --

BALDWIN: Forgive me, Manu, let's go to the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, the President and Vice President of the United States.

[15:50:00] OBAMA: I don't want to embarrass the guy. Welcome to the White House, everybody. As I have already delivered my farewell address, I will try to be relatively brief. But I just want to get some folks together to pay tribute to somebody who has not only been by my side for the duration of this amazing journey, but somebody who has devoted his entire professional life to service to this country. The best Vice-President America has ever had, Mr. Joe Biden.

This also gives the internet one last chance to talk about our "bromance". This has been quite a ride. It was 8 1/2 years ago, that I chose Joe to be my Vice-President. There has not been a single moment since that time that I have doubted the wisdom of that decision. He was the best possible choice, not just for me, but for the American people. This is an extraordinary man with an extraordinary career in public service. This is somebody the people of Delaware sent to the Senate as quickly as they possibly could.

Elected at age 29, for more than a dozen years apiece, he served as chair or ranking member of the judiciary and foreign relation committees, domestically he championed landmark legislation to make our communities safer, to protect our women from violence. Internationally, his wisdom and capacity to build relationships has shaped our nation's response to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, to counter terrorism, Iraq, Afghanistan. And for the past eight years, he could not have been a more devoted or effective partner in the progress that we've made. He fought to make college more affordable and revitalize American manufacturing as the head of our middle-class task force. He suited up for our cancer moon shot, giving hope to millions of Americans touched by this disease.

He led our efforts to combat gun violence and he rooted out any possible misappropriations that might have occurred. And as a consequence, the recovery act worked as well as just about any large- scale stimulus project has ever worked in this country. He visited college after college and made friends with lady gaga for our it's on us campaign against campus sexual assault. And when the Pope visited, Joe was even kind enough to let me talk to the holiness as well.

Behind the scenes, Joe's candid honest counsel has made me a better President and a better commander in chief. From the situation room to our weekly lunches, to our huddles after everybody else has cleared out of the room, he's been unafraid to give it to me straight. Even if we disagree. In fact, especially when we disagree. And all of this makes him, I believe, the finest Vice-President we have ever seen. And I also think he has been a lion of American history. The best part is he's nowhere close to finished.

In the years ahead as a citizen, he will continue to build on that legacy internationally and domestically. He's got a voice of vision and reason and optimism, and love for people, and we're going to need that spirit and that vision as we continue to try to make our world safer, and to make sure that everybody has got a fair shot in this country. So, all told, that's a pretty remarkable legacy, an amazing career in public service. It is as Joe once said, a big deal. It is. But we all know that on its own, his work, this list of accomplishments, the amazing resume, does not capture the full measure of Joe Biden. I have not mentioned Amtrak yet or literally. Folks don't just feel like they know Joe the politician. They feel like they know the person. What makes him laugh, what he believes, what he cares about, where he came from. Pretty much every time he speaks, he treats us to some wisdom from the nuns who taught him in grade school. Or an old Senate colleague. But, of course, most frequently cited Catherine and Joseph, Senior, his mom and dad.

No one's better than you, but you're better than nobody. Bravery resides in every heart, and yours is fierce and clear. When you get knocked down, Joe, get up. Get up. get up. That's where he got those broad shoulders. That's where he got that Biden heart. And through his life, through trial after trial, he has never once forgotten the values that made him who he is. That's what steels his faith in god, in America, and in his friends and in all of us. When joe talks to auto workers whose livelihood he helped save, we knew the man who had the pain of telling his kids he lost his job.

When Joe talks about hope and opportunity for our children, we hear the father who rode the rails home every night so he could be there to tuck his kids in bed. When Joe sticks up for the little guy, we hear the young man standing in front of the mirror reciting yates aa tempting to get rid of a debilitating stutter. We hear a kindred spirit. Another father of an American veteran, someone whose faith has been test and forced today to wander through the darkness he himself and knows who to lean on to find the light.

So, that's Joe Biden, a resilient and loyal and humble servant. And a patriot, but most of all a family man. It starts with Jill, captain of the vice squad. Only the second lady in our history to keep her regular day job. Jill says, teaching isn't what she does, it's who she is. A few days after Joe and I were inaugurated in 2009, she was back in the classroom teaching. That's why when our administration worked to strengthen community colleges, we looked to Jill to lead the way. She's also traveled the world to boost education and empowerment for women, and as a blue star mom, her work with Michelle to honor our military families will go down in history as one of the most lasting and powerful efforts of this administration.

Of course, like Joe, Jill's work is only part of the story. She just seems to walk this earth so lightly, spread her joy so freely. And she reminds us that although we're in a serious business, we don't have to take ourselves too seriously. She's quick with laugh or practical joke, disguising herself as a server at a party she once hosted to liven the mood. She once hid in the overhead apartment of air force 2 to scare the staff. Because why not? She seems to have a 6th sense of when to send a note of encouragement to a friend or a staffer, a simple thank you, or a box of macaroons.

She is one of the best most genuine people I've met not in politics but my entire life. She is grounded, caring, generous and funny and that is why joe is proud to introduce himself as Jill Biden's husband. To see them together is to see what real love looks like, through thick and thin, good times and bad. It's an all-American love story. Jill once surprised Joe by painting hearts on his office windows for valentine's day. And then there are these Biden kids and grandkids, they're everywhere. They're all good looking.