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Trump Outlines Conflicts of Interest Plan; Secretary of State Nominee's Ties to Russia; Dems Call for FBI to Investigate Tillerson. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 12, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Ethics lawyers say he didn't go far enough yesterday and that we're looking at years of trouble. But Trump says voters priced in his conflicts when they voted for him. Here's his take.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: So I could actually run my business. I could actually run my business and run government at the same time. I don't like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to. I'd be the only one that would be able to do that. You can't do that in any other capacity.


CUOMO: All right, let's discuss. We have Timothy O'Brien, the author of "Trump Nation: The Art of Being The Donald." He's the executive editor of Bloomberg View, and Norm Eisen, a fellow with The Brookings Institution and served as President Obama's White House ethics czar from 2009 to 2011.

OK, Norm, as you know, I've relied on you for the legal acumen in this area before. How do you see what the president-elect laid out yesterday?


And before the president-elect announced his plans, so no one would excuse us of moving the goal posts, my Republican counterpart, Professor Painter, the Bush ethics czar, and America's most distinguished constitutional lawyer, Larry Tribe, laid out a five point scorecard to grade the president-elect's plan. How did he do? He got an F in all five of the categories. Maybe one D plus. So there was unanimous bipartisan condemnation of this, including extraordinarily the director of the Office of Government Ethics who said the plan was meaningless. That's a good way to put it.

CUOMO: All right, so let's lay out - Norm, let's lay out your -

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The five point scorecard. I hope that we have this. I'm not sure. OK, here we go. Leave - oh, he would leave the ownership not just the operational ownership. He would divest into a true blind trust. He would appoint an independent trustee, not a family member. All emoluments clause - Chris' favorite word - issues resolved. Strong ethics wall in place for administration and business. So none of those passed muster, you're saying?

EISEN: That's right, Alisyn. On the ownership, he's hanging on to the ownership. So there's no break at all. The thing he's breaking with on the first one, ownership, is four decades of bipartisan presidential tradition. Presidents have all used a blind trust or the equivalent. On the - in order to make that ownership break.


EISEN: No blind trust. As OGE has said, it's the policy of the Office of Government Ethics that that rule applies to the president and he's not doing it.

The trustee, the third category, non-independent trustee, he's putting his kids in charge. That defeats the whole purpose. The confidence you want to have that the trustee won't be leaking information back and forth.

On emoluments, fancy 18th century word. Chris and Alisyn, we've talked about it before, this is what it means. The founders of our country were very concerned that foreign governments would use huge sums of money and other benefits to influence an American president. And you can understand why that would distort the judgment, make a president -


EISEN: Here, Donald Trump has not dealt with that problem of emoluments.


EISEN: All he said is, well, I'm going to peel out one revenue stream in my books and records from my hotels.


EISEN: But that's not sufficient. That one piece, he's got to take all of it out of the hotels. And what about the non-hotel properties? What about the condos he sells, the apartments? And he's a real estate developer, Alisyn and he sells the brand.


EISEN: And those both rely on emoluments. What are they?


EISEN: Real estate permitting. He's not doing anything about that from foreign governments.

CUOMO: All right, Norm. Hold on a second.

EISEN: You get the idea. It's an F.

CAMEROTA: We do. And we -

EISEN: It's an F. And the ethics law, the last thing, it's not a wall it's a sieve or a colander. So he gets an F.

CAMEROTA: I don't know -

CUOMO: Colander, that's a fancy word.

CAMEROTA: So is sieve.

I don't know if you can add to any of that, Tim. What did you hear yesterday?

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Well, I don't disagree with Norm on any points, so I won't revisit those. I think there's two things worth noting here. One of the constant critiques, and I think they were very valid of the Clintons, was any shady area between their policy making and the Clinton Foundation. That was solely about financial conflicts of interest. The same rule applies to the Trump administration.

Secondly, we had some unfinished business from earlier. He doesn't have a business that is too big to unwind. He owns one commercial property outright in the United States, 40 Wall Street. He owns -

CAMEROTA: Is that right, because the impression is that he has a massive real estate empire.

O'BRIEN: Correct. That's just - and which they - and they tried to compare it yesterday to Nelson Rockefeller and Standard Oil. It is a false comparison. Overseas you've got a couple of golf courses in Scotland, one golf course in Ireland, the rest of it are licensing deals. In the U.S., some very lucrative retail space in Manhattan, but all of the Trump buildings, the condo buildings that have his name on them, those units were sold to other buyers long ago. You could -

[08:35:10] CAMEROTA: So that can be liquidated, you're saying? He could divest from those?

O'BRIEN: It could be liquidated, right, (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: Right, but there's an issue with that.


CUOMO: So, Norm, let me push back on you a little bit here. The idea of forcing a fail - or what you call - a sale, what you call divestiture, is unfair and leads to potentially more compromise. And here's the argument. One, who's going to buy it and what do they think they're getting for it if they buy it. Second of all, you're doing undue burden to Trump and his kids and any successors that he's giving any assets to because you're going to force a sale which is going to create a buyers' market and either depress the asset's prices or artificially pump them up because someone's trying to curry favor. And a blind trust doesn't work here because he'll always know what's going on. These are his kids who's running it. It would never work as an instrument. This is an unfair standard being set for the president- elect.

EISEN: Well, Chris, you're doing a good job as the devil's advocate, but I got to tell you -


EISEN: That is all wrong.


EISEN: First of all, it's a relatively simple procedure. There's nothing unfair about it. He signs over to the trustee and then the trustee figures out how to monetize all of this stuff. Some might be handled in private equity with a sale to executives. Maybe a leveraged buyout. Maybe an IPO. It might be packaged up into different deals.

They - this is the high watermark for Trump's brand. All those Trump voters who selected him might want a piece of the Trump rock, the gilt edge stock certificate that bears an IPO. So I don't believe it would be a fire sale.

And as for the fairness point, the man chose to run for president of the United States.


EISEN: He has a big job to do.


EISEN: He - you heard of Sophie's Choice, of Hobson's choice, now we're confronted with Trump's choice. Does he want to be president or does he want to be entangled with these businesses?

CAMEROTA: Right. I mean we -

EISEN: I think he should be president.

CAMEROTA: There you go. And to your point, it is a public service, and let's not lose sight of that.

O'BRIEN: Correct.

CAMEROTA: Mr. Eisen, Tim, thank you very much for laying all of this out for us in such a colorful way. Thank you.

Well, it was a rocky confirmation hearing for secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson. Lawmakers grilled him about Russia, as well as his world view. One prominent Republican was unsatisfied with his answers. That's ahead on NEW DAY.


[08:41:04] CAMEROTA: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day. The nation's top intelligence chief calling President-elect Trump -

oh, calling him on the phone, I should say. DNI director James Clapper assuring Mr. Trump that the intel community did not leak details of an unsubstantiated Russia report.

CUOMO: Senate Republicans passing a budget resolution that included repealing Obamacare. It was a marathon late night session. The House is expected to take up the measure tomorrow.

CAMEROTA: The Senate begins three more confirmation hearings soon for Mr. Trump's nominees for secretary of defense and housing, as well as CIA director.

CUOMO: Florida police arresting three people they say helped a man accused of shooting a police officer to evade authorities. Markeith Loyd is the man who they're looking for. He remains on the run. He's also accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend.

CAMEROTA: Multiple reports that NFL's San Diego Chargers will announce they're moving to Los Angeles next season. Team owner Dean Spanos scheduling a meeting with his entire staff at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. The team has played in San Diego since 1961.

CUOMO: For more on the "Five Things to Know," go to for the latest.

CAMEROTA: Well, Mr. Trump's secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, was grilled at his confirmation hearing over Russia, as well as his world view. We'll talk about which Republicans might not vote for him. That's next.


[08:4558] CUOMO: Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, facing tough questions about Russia at his confirmation hearing.

CNN's Tom Foreman has more on what we know about the long time oil executive.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This nominee has a long history of dealing with Russia in general and Vladimir Putin in particular. So perhaps it's no surprise that his Russian connection wound up at the white hot center of this hearing.

FOREMAN (voice-over): When Russian troops roared into Ukraine in 2014, the Obama White House hit back fast and hard with economic sanctions. An international energy giant, Exxon Mobil, questioned the move. With billions at stake in Russian oil deals, then CEO Rex Tillerson told shareholders, "we do not support sanctions generally because we don't find them to be effective." But listen to what he said when asked about his stance during his confirmation hearing for secretary of state.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: First, I have never lobbied against sanctions personally. I continue to believe sanctions -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the company you directed did.

TILLERSON: To my knowledge, Exxon never directly lobbied against sanctions. Not to my knowledge.

FOREMAN: But, hold on, this federal lobbying report shows Exxon did lobby Congress about Russia, Ukraine and the sanctions numerous times. Amid the uproar over his testimony, Exxon Mobil tweeted, "let's be clear, we engage with lawmakers to discuss sanction impacts, not whether or not sanctions should be imposed." That's a view Tillerson floated too, but some on the committee were not buying it.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: In your mind, calling a United States senator to express your belief that sanctions would be ineffective is not lobbying? I would argue that's a distinction without a difference.

FOREMAN: By day's end, the Democratic leaning political group issued a statement to "respectfully request that the FBI open an investigation to determine whether Mr. Tillerson lied under oath to Congress." And while he says he has not done that, he also insists he's taking all the questions to heart.

TILLERSON: I understand full well the responsibilities and the seriousness of it.

FOREMAN: For lawmakers, the issue is really quite simple. If he is confirmed as secretary of state, Tillerson would be in a position to push for a rollback of those sanctions. And if they are rolled back, that could mean an awful lot of money for his old company.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


CAMEROTA: OK. So let's go to the heart of the matter now. Did Tillerson lie under oath about lobbying against Russia's sanctions? Let's get to "The Bottom Line" with CNN political director David Chalian.

David, great to see you.

We've had a couple of Republicans on this morning who say, no, that's not how they interpreted what he said about never having lobbied Congress or the White House. How did you see it?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I guess it all depends on the definition of lobbying. Clearly, Exxon was not in favor of the sanctions. That much we can state. Even Exxon seems to agree with that with its statement that you saw Tom included in his piece because they were discussing the impact of the sanctions.

I really do think, much like Chris Murphy, the Democratic senator said there, this is a little bit of a distinction without a difference. I don't know that there is going to be grounds for a full investigation about lying under oath to Congress. I just think that this is how each side is going to spin the way - the use of the word "lobby."

CUOMO: So, Rex Tillerson says on the stand yesterday that he has not discussed this area of policy, and Russia was what they were discussing, with the president-elect. Do you believe that?

CHALIAN: I think it was one of the most confounding and shocking statements in the hearing yesterday. How is that possible? Rex Tillerson has met with Donald Trump. Donald Trump was well aware of his connections both from a business perspective and a personal perspective to Vladimir Putin, doing business in Russia. This being a front and center issue, it just defies logic that that somehow would not come up. But Rex Tillerson says that they haven't discussed that.

[08:50:09] I think, if that is true, that's pretty problematic also. At some point, your secretary of state designee and the president- elect should probably have a conversation about one of the most pressing global challenges that exist.

CAMEROTA: So, David, because of some of this, Senator Marco Rubio seems to be on the fence about whether or not he would vote to confirm Rex Tillerson. John McCain and Lindsey Graham may also be in that category. So what's going to happen with his confirmation?

CHALIAN: Well, let's start with Marco Rubio, who, after three rounds of questioning, came out and talked to reporters and still refused to say how he was going to vote, still saying he had some questions he wanted answers. Remember, that Foreign Relations Committee, that's one vote majority Republican. So if Marco Rubio in committee votes down the Tillerson nomination, that could be a huge stumbling block. It still can get to the floor, but that would just be - it would have huge reverberations because what happens is, as you noted, Alisyn, if John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, and there are a couple others who - Republicans who have been somewhat circumspect about the Tillerson nomination, if they go against it, Donald Trump is going to need Democratic votes to get this controversial secretary of state nominee through, that could happen except that those high-profile Republicans, of course, give even the most conservative Democrat some cover to stick with the party, the Democratic Party in opposition, if indeed some Republicans are voting against as well.

CUOMO: All right, two part bottom line. One, do you think there's any real chance that Tillerson doesn't get through or Sessions doesn't get through? And, second part, bottom line, who gets the most heat today?

CHALIAN: Bottom line, I think both those nominees get through because I think, at the end of the day, the president-elect does get some deference from the United States Senate in their advise and consent role, to put his team together. So I - and the Republicans have the votes. So I do think, bottom line, he gets his nominees. That's my guess on that for both of them.

In terms of who gets the heat today, I - all eyes are on Mike Pompeo, the CIA director nominee, because of this intelligence battle that has been so front and center in the last two days. This is the guy now that Donald Trump has nominated to manage this entire intelligence process. I think he's going to get a lot of heat on those questions about Russia and intel.

CAMEROTA: OK. It will be very interesting to see all of that. David, thank you very much.

CHALIAN: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: We have a programming note for all of you. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan takes part in a CNN town hall tonight. It is hosted by Jake Tapper. What will he say about Mr. Trump's battle with the intel community and how Republicans plan to replace Obamacare? Join us to find out tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

CUOMO: What perfect timing for the audience. You've got Jake Tapper, who's at the center of the reporting about this dossier. You've got the speaker of the House, who has to weigh in on all these big issues. And you get people to ask them real questions about it tonight. It's awesome.

Late night laughs, next.


[08:56:36] CUOMO: The first lady bringing the jokes when she set the record straight about why Sasha missed her dad's farewell address. Here are your late night laughs.



MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: She had a final and it's like, you know the Obama's girl, you - sorry. Better take your test.

FALLON: Sorry, you're going to miss the - yes.

OBAMA: You can say good-bye later.

James, can I get some thank you note writing music, please?

FALLON: I've never seen him that happy in my entire -

OBAMA: Is that how it's done?

FALLON: Yes. Yes, that's perfect.

OBAMA: I'm pretty good at this.

Thank you, Barack, for proving you're not a lame duck, but my very own silver fox.

FALLON: Thank you, First Lady Michelle Obama, for bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase "the right to bear arms." Yeah! Come on.

OBAMA: You are welcome.

Thank you, Inauguration Day, or as I like to call it, let's move!

FALLON: Yes, let's move. That's it.

Finally, thank you, Mrs. Obama, for always promoting physical fitness and, hey, since you like exercise so much, how about running for president?


CAMEROTA: That is great. She was very playful. She played along. I like the arm. Thank you. She even got that down.

CUOMO: Sure was. I also think it's interesting insight into her and the people around her that they were very quick to say Michelle Obama is not going to run for office. That's rarely said. Usually your get the non-answer to that.

CAMEROTA: I say we've heard that a few times now.

So, anyway, that was great. She played - it will be very fascinating to see what they're going to do next and how much of a - they'll be in the public eye and life.

CUOMO: And the absence of leadership in the Democratic Party is putting the outgoing president in a tough spot. He is still their big champion. Usually they go (INAUDIBLE) when they go out, you know, they stay quiet. Will he?

CAMEROTA: All right, there you go. Thanks so much for joining us. CNN's special coverage of the Senate confirmation hearings with Wolf Blitzer begins now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. I want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world for our special coverage. On The Hill right now, Capitol Hill right behind us, and under the microscope, over the next hour, a new round of Trump nominees appears before lawmakers. They're fighting to earn Congress' trust and top posts in the incoming Trump White House.

Just minutes from now, retired U.S. Marine Crops General James Mattis makes his case to become the next defense secretary of the United States. The former combat Marine enjoys bipartisan support, but lawmakers would have to grant an exception to an existing law. Mattis has not been retired from the military the mandatory seven years in order to become eligible to serve as defense secretary.