Return to Transcripts main page


Defense Secretary Nominee Confirmation Hearing Today; Who Is Retired General James Mattis?; Clapper: Trump Briefed On Existence of Unsubstantiated Report; Booker Takes on Sessions; Donald Trump Vs. The Media. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 12, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:02] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: James Mattis, Trump has picked for Defense Secretary will be in the hot sit in two hours. The general has a sterling reputation and has already shown that he doesn't always agree with the president elect.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: President-elect Donald Trump was excited to announce retired Marine Corps General James Mattis as his Pentagon chief.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: We are going to appoint mad dog Mattis as our Secretary of Defense.

STARR: But the first thing to know nobody who actually knows James Mattis calls him mad dog.

DAVID ROMLEY, FORMER MATTIS AIDE: I never actually have been heard of it until I think I read about it in a news account. I mean for me that sort of, you know, conjures up ideas of somebody foaming at the mouth and sort of aimlessly going across the battlefield. That's not General Mattis at all.

STARR: Mattis acknowledge he join the Trump team because of a sense of duty.

He joined the Trump team because of a sense of duty.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS (RET), DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: I'm grateful for the opportunity to return to our troops and their families.

STARR: But he may find himself at odds with President Trump on Russia.

MATTIS: There are people questioning, has Putin gone crazy? Is he delusional? People say when Putin leaves at law get better. I think that's a pipe dream.

STARR: Mattis's colleague says he was pushed into early retirement in 2013 because of his views on Iran. MATTIS: The Iranian regime in my mind is the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.

STARR: But if troops are sent to war Mattis believes there must be a clear strategy and goal. A former Defense Secretary says "Do not underestimate Mattis his sense of military morality."

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: But if the president makes the wrong decision, you know, I think like a good marine he'll salute and say I'm not the man for this job. It has been a career of headlines. In 2005 he was cautioned by the marine commandant about his public statements after being caught on camera talking about shooting people.

MATTIS: It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up there with you.

STARR: One of his more colorful things. "Be polite and be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet." Anticipating Senate confirmation, Mattis agree to give up his business interest. Including a $242,000 a year position on the board of General Dynamics, one of the largest defense contractors.

In December Mattis resign from the board of Theranos, a blood testing company under government scrutiny for questionable practices. He has been deeply involved in a food bank in his home state of Washington.

V.J. MEADOWS, TRI-CITIES FOOD BANK: His mother still lives here in town and so we, you know, just the fact that he wanted to come back and be involved in the community he grew up in.

STARR: But Mattis his long track record has largely centered on a strong view of the reality of using military force. In 2013 he cautioned on the calls to force out Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

MATTIS: If the Americans go in, if the Americans take leadership, if the Americans take ownership of this, it's going to be a full throated very, very serious war.

STARR: Mattis already impacting Trump's views on torture and Waterboarding.

TRUMP: I was surprised. He said "I've never found it to be useful." He said "I've always found give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture."

STARR: Mattis his own bottom line.

MATTIS: When you go to war, it can't be a half step. It's a terrible step. Don't ever take it if you can avoid it. Negotiate talk and diplomacy or whatever. But if you go, it should be compelling for day one.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now is former CIA Director and former advisor to President-elect Trump, James Woolsey. Director Woolsey, thanks so much for being with us. We have a lot to talk about.


CAMEROTA: Let's start with what's going to happen this morning. Do you foresee any hiccups or challenges to General Mattis's confirmation hearing as well as the person who would be taking the place that you had filled and that was director of the CIA with Mr. Pompeo?

WOOLSEY: I don't see any problems for either one. I've known Jim Mattis as sort of pin pal for several years. We exchanged e-mails a bunch of times on strategy and energy issue. He's very interested in energy, very knowledgeable too.

And I just meet Mike Pompeo a few weeks ago. To spent a couple of hours willing talking about the CIA and the future. These are very impressive fellow and I'm just delighted with both of these nominations. I don't see any problems that I perceive for either one.

[07:35:07] CAMEROTA: OK. Now let's talk about the extraordinary series of events that happened yesterday. CNN as you know reported that the Intel community last week presented Mr. Trump with two pages of reports and Russian that that Russian operatives claimed to have some sort of compromising information on Mr. Trump. Why do you think that the Intel community included that in their briefing to him?

WOOLSEY: I don't know. I don't know what the substance is and it's hard to make a judgment without knowing that but the fact that the Russians if that's who it was, was distributing it it's also a fact that the leaders of the country ought to know. But this is also gets -- I think all tied up in the business of whether the sort of fake evidence was generated by one of the blogs.

And you have to know what people are saying when you're in a senior intelligence position even if you know it's false. And so, there are reasons for understanding what was taking place even if presumably it had been generated by invention by a blog or somebody working for a blog.

CAMEROTA: OK, so let me understand that. You're saying that the Intel community though they were not able to verify the information in that report that it was incumbent upon themes presented it to Mr. Trump so that he could have full story, see the full picture of what was out these kind of in the public realm that was being whispered about.

WOOLSEY: I think if I were in the CIA job I would think it ought to be shown to him but not circulated throughout the intelligence community even in classified circles on the assumption that there was some truth in it. And apparently there's -- it's pretty blatantly false.

CAMEROTA: What part is false? WOOLSEY: Well, there this discussion of Mr. Cohen and whether he took part in it and I think Mr. Trump and others found out that Mr. Cohen had never been to where he was supposed to have been according to the fake story so there are just --

CAMEROTA: So there are some details in it that have been proven --

WOOLSEY: There's no reason to circulate it broadly.

CAMEROTA: Right, but there was reason.

WOOLSEY: Say again?

CAMEROTA: So I hear what you're saying. So there was some details in it that seem to be false so that has cast doubt on the material itself.

WOOLSEY: Certainly.

CAMEROTA: But you still think that it should be presented to Mr. Trump. Let me read to you what the director of National Intelligence Clapper release said in this statement. He called Mr. Trump about this to say that the Intel Community was not the source of the leak he believes.

He says "I emphasized that this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product and I do not belief the leaks came from within the I.C. The I.C. has not made any judgment that the information in this document was reliable, and we did not reply upon it in any way for our conclusions. However, part of the obligation is to make sure that policy makers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security."

So he's saying basically what you're saying is that give Mr. Trump the full picture and give president Obama the full picture and even though they weren't able to confirm the information. Here is what Mr. Trump just tweeted about that exchange. He says "James Clapper called me yesterday to denounce the false and factious report that was illegally circulated, made up phony facts, too bad." Is that how you see it?

WOOLSEY: Well, Mr. Trump maybe used some adjectives that I would suppress if I were doing an intelligence analysis but I think the basic idea of being quite angry if someone has come up with an invented story like this blog apparently did is an understandable human reaction to be very negative toward someone who was come up with an invention or something that you -- they alleged that you did and you did not.

CAMEROTA: All right. Thank you. I know that all of this is breaking as we speak and it is tough to get your mind around it in real time but thank you for your perspective as always. Great to talk to you. Let's go over to Chris.

WOOLSEY: Good to be with you.

CUOMO: All right. Alisyn, just to be clear Clapper did not use any of the words that the President-elect just did in his tweet to describe the information in that briefing.

So, another big story out of the government. Senator Corey Booker testifying against Trump's nominee for attorney general. He says it's not about race but something much larger.

[07:40:10] Plus, will he run for president in 2020? Many people are criticizing him saying that's why he testified in the first place. What does he say? Hear from him next.


CUOMO: Just in to CNN, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer senator from New York confirming he will oppose Senator Jeff Sessions bid to become the next attorney general. This comes a day after Democratic Senator Corey Booker made history testifying against his Senate colleague Sessions over his civil rights record.

CNN Senior Political reporter Manu Raju caught up with Senator Booker after his testimony. Here's what he had to say.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Senator you did something rather extraordinary today became the first seating senator to testify and fellow seating senator for a cabinet post. Why did you make that decision?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, first me to say, I have a lot of respect for Senator Sessions. He and I we've been worked together on giving out a Medal of Freedom to civil rights marcher. Something I felt honored and blessed to be able to do in partnership with him.

So, it's really not a personal thing at all. It's just the fact that Jeff Sessions is out of line even with the Republican caucus as well. Everybody from the Chairman Grassley to Ted Cruz, Michael Lee, all working together on issues around criminal justice reform. This is somebody who's criticized those very reforms, criticized that justice department even for their reform. Criticized the Justice Department for consent degrees here we're working on city for police accountability. Criticized the Violence Against Women Act and criticized the Justice Department work on voter rights.

[07:45:03] So this is somebody who clearly has told us if he is attorney general he will not be executing. One of the key function of the attorney general's office which is to protect the vulnerable, to protect women, to protect minorities, to protect voting rights, to protect the poor.

So this is clearly something in good conscience that could not remain silent on. And I believe that it's more important for me to stand up for principles and ideals of my country than it is to stand up for Senate's norms.

RAJU: And some members of the Congressional Black Caucus have questioned whether or not he would have fairly administered a law across races. Do you see that concerned you? Are you worried that you may not be fair with African-Americans?

BOOKER: So I don't want to get into an accusation of what I hear which I think is nonsensical to call him a racist. I just want to say, what he's told us he will do. And what he has criticized the Justice Department from doing, to take voting rights right now. It has been proven that literally of course with surgical precision they disadvantaged African-Americans to access to the polls.

Now, here is a guy who's been criticizing the Justice Department doing that kind of work bringing those kind of cases. So he's basically saying to us that this is not the kind of thing. He's going to be aggressively pursuing.

RAJU: Critics would say this is Corey Booker paving the way for 2020.

BOOKER: Well, I think that anybody who could just fairly look at my last three years, if there's a space in the Senate that I spent a lot of time working on. In fact I would challenge how many people in the last three years to work harder on issues of criminal justice reform. So please understand that somebody who is going to take us as a nation, not towards to where we were going right and left. Many Republican governors bragging about lowering prison populations and keeping people more safe, this is somebody that thinks the opioid crisis just thinks we can lock our way up, lock our -- arrest our way out of the opioid crisis which is counter to Republican law in this country in counter to that so --

RAJU: Are you open to 2020?

BOOKER: I am open to doing everything I can right now as the Trump administration is coming in. And please understand, Jeff Sessions as attorney general is counter to so many of the values and ideals that I believe in. But you've also got people like Pruitt coming in to the EPA, a lot of other challenging people. So the focus is on now, the focus is on doing everything you can to stop Donald Trump and a lot of his intentions, somebody who run a campaign demeaning and degrading so many Americans, who now is advocating for policies, who will end up doing the same. The work is now. The leadership we need now, we need to be raising our voices now, resisting where we can and protecting people as we must.


CAMEROTA: OK. So yesterday there was a stunning moment that we want to talk about with you. President-elect Donald Trump attacking CNN and refusing to take a question from Jim Acosta, what happened behind the cameras after this moment? Jim Acosta will be here live to tell us.


[07:51:46] CUOMO: President-elect Donald Trump has a formula that works with his base but not a majority of the country at least not yet. Bad news, attack the media. He tried to shut out CNN at his press conference yesterday. CNN Senior White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta fought for the right to question the president-elect. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Since you are attacking our news organization. Can you give us a chance?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: No. Not you. Not you. Your organization is terrible.

ACOSTA: Can you give us a chance to ask a question, sir. Sir --

TRUMP: Let's go. Go ahead. Quiet. Quiet. Go ahead --

ACOSTA: Mr. President-elect can you state --

TRUMP: She's asking a question don't be rude.

ACOSTA: But president-elect, can you give us a question? You're attacking us. Can you give us a question?

TRUMP: Don't be. You're going to give me a question. I'm not going to give you a question. You are fake news.


TRUMP: Go ahead.

ACOSTA: Can you state categorically that nobody. Mr. President-elect that's not appropriate.


CUOMO: Those were his staffers clapping, not the media by the way. And tells, Jim don't be rude. And call him fake news.

Jim Acosta is here along with CNN senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter. So Jim --


CUOMO: How did you feel the dynamic played out yesterday?

ACOSTA: You know, my feeling was that he was attacking us. And he was attacking us repeatedly. He was attacking the credibility of this news organization calling us fake news. And I thought well, if he's going to do that then he should take a question from us. And so that's why I was being persistent. I wasn't trying to be rude. I wasn't trying to be disrespectful. I have no constitutional right to ask the president or president-elect a question. But I thought in fairness in that moment, he should have given us a question.

CAMEROTA: Well, what happened after that, I mean think, you can tell me how you feel. But there has been a real solidarity in most of the press that we're all in this together. You attack one of us, you attack all of us. You attack the free press. And in fact something happened right after that, that I want to get your take on it. Cecilia Vega of ABC then when she was called on, she asked your question. And I know is there, this time honored tradition in the press room that if somebody is shouted down and if the president doesn't answer your question that somebody else picks up for you.

ACOSTA: There is that tradition. You're right. I don't know exactly, you know, whether or not that was what happened there. I can't say that for sure. If that's the --

CAMEROTA: You don't know if she had planned to ask that question. But she ask --

ACOSTA: Exactly. She may have had this question. Exactly. And if that's what she was doing that's wonderful.

But yes, in the briefing room, there have been plenty of times where, you know, for Josh Earnest doesn't answer Major Garrett's question, you know, one of us will try to say, "Hey, Josh, let's go back to that question over here and get an answer on that." It is a tradition. And I think it's a good one. But, you know, the story is not about us. The story is about Donald J. Trump. Is he -- how is this going to be when he's president of the United States. Is he going to answer the hard questions? And there were lots of hard questions for him yesterday. He was refusing to answer a lot of them. And he was, you know, I think they came in with a strategy to go in guns blazing, blame the news media for this very difficult story. And, you know, they called him a disrupter. At some time, there are times that we're going to have to be disrupters. And that's what we were --

CUOMO: Well, an awesome disruption, lines are come down on the truth these days. And look, we got a tweet from the president-elect today which once again, gives us a great example of his desire to run away from what's true. He says, "James Clapper called me yesterday to denounce the false and fictitious report that was illegally circulated. James Clapper, never said in a statement that was issued publicly that the intel is believed to be false or fictitious. He says they haven't made any determination on it yet."

[07:55:04] Kellyanne Conway, on another morning show this morning says, "Emphasizing, Clapper, did that the intelligence community gave no credibility and veracity to fake news documents." They would never use the term fake news. Otherwise they would have been silly to include it. They never said that they thought it had no credibility. They never said it had no veracity. Again, they said, they haven't made a determination yet. This is running away from the truth. What is the media to do?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Trump's aides are misleading people about this at every turn. There just no way around that. And in some ways they rather talk about us, they rather talk about the media, they rather decry CNN and buzz feed and all other outlets that are trying to work on this story, some in very different ways in CNN. They'd almost rather talk about the media than about the facts on the ground. I mean that was my impression at the press conference. Donald Trump would rather attack the press. Attack the messengers than actually deal with the questions. And this is something I think we should expect to continue, to prepare to continue. We talk a lot about media distrust in this country, low levels of trust in media, the polls have shown it for years. I think we should also note though how many viewers want us, want the press to be challenging power. Whether it's Bush, Obama, Trump and whoever comes after Trump. My inbox is stuffed with people thank you, Jim, for standing there yesterday. And thanking this network for its reporting about Trump and Russia. And thanking the press, and practically begging for more of it.

So yes, there's a portion of the country that distrusts the media. Let's not lose sight of the majority of the public that I think really wants --

ACOSTA: There are a lot of folks out there who thought we didn't do enough during the campaign.


ACOSTA: That we weren't tough enough on Donald Trump, that we gave him too much air time at the beginning of the campaign. And that's in to the detriment of the other Republicans in the field. So there a lot of hard questions asked about what we do. But I think at the end of the day, you know, people come up to me and ask me, "What are we going to do about Donald Trump? You know, what are we going to do about that?" I say, "I'm not going to do anything about Donald Trump. I'm going to do the news. We're going to keep doing the news." And that's something that's not going to stop. When he goes into the White House they can kick us out, they can kick us out on the Pennsylvania Avenue. We'll set up our trucks out there and we'll continue to do those stories out there.

CUOMO: And I'll you what, that's not that hypothetical based on what Sean Spicer.

CAMEROTA: Can Sean Spicer try to kick you out of the press briefing room?

ACOSTA: He came up to me during the news conference. And he said, "If you do that one more time you're out of here." And I've covered four presidential campaigns, Democrats, Republicans, you know, I asked hard questions of President Obama. And, you know, one time I asked him, "Why can't we get the bastards?" talking about ISIS, they were angry and furious about that for months and months. Listen --

CUOMO: Did you say to him, you got the wrong Latino? I'm not Jorge Ramos, you know, kick me out. I'm working for CNN.

ACOSTA: And you kick me out. I still get to stay in the country. But, you know, that's never happened to me before. And I think we all have to take a deep breath and de-escalate. And figure out if there's a way where we can work together. If there's going to be a time when there's a terrorist attack or natural disaster, the White House is going to need the news media to give them time at night and prime time for presidential address. There going to be times that we need to ask questions to the president of the United States when something very important is going on. And so there has to be a working relationship.

So, you know, my hope is that Donald Trump can get past this, you know, Clinton news network, CNN sucks mentality that we saw out on the campaign trail. The campaign is over. It's time to be president of the United States.

STELTER: And that's the key point, the environment right now is so far from normal. We're so from the norms of respect when it comes to the president or president-elect talking at least saying the right things about respecting the first amendment. Trump is still acting like he's campaigning. I think this is what undergirds all of this. Even his tweet this morning question, you know, misstating the facts about Tapper. He is continuing to talk mainly to the people that voted for him and not to the 54 percent of the country that didn't vote for him.

CAMEROTA: Well, I just want to say, one last thing about journalists. And that is it -- it will be hard for Mr. Trump to marginalize CNN because our competitors yesterday stood up for us, Shepherd Smith.

CUOMO: Shepherd Smith, yes.

CAMEROTA: --the highly respected journalist on Fox News said -- basically said that CNN has great journalists. And we got a scoop and any network that had our scoop and our reporting would have run.

STELTER: Actually that came from the top of the Fox.

CUOMO: Yeah. I was going to say that, whenever that -- what Shepherd said, I didn't watch it. But I read it. It seemed like that wasn't just him who was speaking which is interesting, if that's true.

STELTER: That was Murdoch's. That came from upstairs.

CUOMO: Do you think so?

STELTER: That came from the leaders of the Fox News Network. Now, there's always going to be the Sean Hannity's who lie about --

CUOMO: But he is not a journalist.

STELTER: But Shepherd Smith is a journalist. And I thought that stand for journalism is really important as we know.

CAMEROTA: Jim, thank you.

ACOSTA: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for all of that Brian. Thank you very much.

ACOSTA: We're going to take a break.

CUOMO: No, no, no --

ACOSTA: Cup of coffee.

CUOMO: You cannot --

CAMEROTA: Get after us.

CUOMO: Just a quick one. You cannot yield.

All right, what's your take? Tweet us @NewDay post your comment on

There is a lot of news. Today is another big day for president- elect's nominees. Let's get to it.


TRUMP: Does anyone really believe that story?

CAMEROTA: James Clapper telling the president-elect that the intelligence community did not leak a dossier.

[08:00:03] TRUMP: It's all fake news. It's phony stuff. It didn't happen.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I think you guys are feeling the heat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vladimir Putin want --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would not use that term.