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House Takes First Step Today to Kill Obamacare; FBI Faces Investigation over Clinton E-mail Case; Cabinet Picks Break with Trump on Key Issues. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 13, 2017 - 10:00   ET



[10:00:25] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me. Almost since the day that Obamacare became law, Republicans have vowed to kill it. Well, today, the House GOP takes its first step toward repealing it. The lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are concerned about the millions of Americans who could lose coverage if a replacement plan is not put into place. CNN's senior political reporter Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill with more this morning. Hi, Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Hey Carol. That's right. Today begins the process to repeal Obamacare. It's going to take several weeks for them to actually put that repeal legislation together. But what we do know is that it's going to be difficult to get support from Democrats and even within the Republican Party over a replace plan. We're already hearing pushback from some top House Republicans who are concerned about repealing Obamacare without a plan to replace it.

I spoke with Charlie Dent. He's a Pennsylvania Republican top moderate, who said that he wants his party's leadership to slow down, to actually hit the brakes. He has some real reservations about moving forward without anything specific. Now, Paul Ryan the House Speaker, trying to combat that. Last night at the CNN town hall, saying that they're going to try to move on a repeal of Obamacare at the same time as replacing some aspects of the law. -- That is an effort to alleviate concerns from people like Charlie Dent. Take a listen to concerns from that Pennsylvania Republican.


REP. CHARLIE DENT, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: I think the repeal plan needs to be fully developed and better articulated prior to moving forward. I have some reservations about moving as quickly as we are. I'm very concerned specifically on the policy side that the replacement, either occurs simultaneously or as close to simultaneously as possible. If we don't provide a credible replacement plan, my main concern is that there would not be any gaps in coverages for people who are currently subsidized. Also concerned about how the insurance markets might react.

RAJU: Would you urge the leadership to slow down on the repeal? DENT: Well, look, I've already had that conversation with leadership, encouraging them to be a bit more deliberative in trying to chart out the full strategy, you know, from repeal and replace and make sure that we are in full sync with the Senate as well as the incoming White House. I don't think we're quite there yet.


RAJU: Now, all eyes are on the House floor this afternoon where they're going to take that key vote on a budget that will begin that process of repealing Obamacare. But again, they need to get support within their own party to repeal, let alone the replace parts. A lot of questions about how the Republicans deal with such a huge issue in the beginning parts of Donald Trump's administration, Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Manu Raju, reporting live from Capitol Hill.

Also in Washington, Vice President Biden, speaking out on recent reports about intelligence gathered on Donald Trump and confirming what CNN has already accurately reported. Specifically, that the Intelligence Community briefed Mr. Trump and President Obama that Russia might have compromising unsubstantiated information on Trump. And that they were going to inform the president-elect because they felt they had to.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Their argument was that this is something that the press already had. Not just here in the United States, but other places. That it would be - they would be -- they didn't use the word derelict, but it was their obligation to inform not only us but the president-elect that this was out there.


COSTELLO: All of this coming as the FBI director James Comey is facing new scrutiny over his handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez has been very busy lately. He's tracking all the developments for us. Good morning.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Vice President Joe Biden is the first to tell reporters on the record, that intelligence officials had briefed him and President Obama last week about those unverified claims that Russia may have compromising information on President-elect Donald Trump. CNN was first to report that the nation's top intelligence chiefs presented both the president and president-elect with a two-page written synopsis of those claims which came from a 35-page opposition research dossier. And it was compiled by a British intelligence operative, former British intelligence operative based on Russian sources. The -- U.S. Intelligence agencies haven't verified these allegations.

[10:05:00] But Leon Panetta, the former CIA director and Pentagon Secretary, explained to Erin Burnett last night why they would include that information. Take a listen to what he had to say. OK. Carol, we don't have that sound bite ready. But the fact is -- this is an extremely sensitive issue for the incoming president-elect. We know that the four intelligence chiefs met him last Friday, in part, to really brief him on the Russian meddling in the U.S. election, the U.S. presidential elections. We're told that -- by sources that Jim Comey was the one that actually briefed Donald Trump on what was in this dossier, that this unverified allegations. He had a one-on-one conversation with the president-elect. And we're told that it was actually a very cordial conversation. We reached out to the FBI for comment. They declined to comment. And of course, you already heard from Donald Trump, Carol, that he says these allegations are all false.

COSTELLO: OK. On the subject of Jim Comey and the FBI, there's -- he's going to be questioned by lawmakers about the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. What will go down in that investigation - or in that questioning session, I should say.

PEREZ: Well, yes, this is -- we know that the e-mail investigation which we thought was all over with is now the subject of an Inspector General investigation from the Justice Department. And what this means is that, simply put all of the actions of Comey and the Justice Department in handling that investigation. And now, they are now going to be back under scrutiny.

At the top of their concerns, Carol, is that July press conference that Comey held, in which he said that he was going to recommend no charges against Hillary Clinton. But then, went on to list all the different things that he thought she had done wrong. Of course, there was a lot of criticism of the October letter that he sent to Congress, in which he said, that they found new e-mails, essentially reopening the investigation. Again, that's 11 days before the election, so all of this now back under scrutiny and a lot of criticism -- political criticism for the FBI director.

COSTELLO: All right. Evan Perez thanks so much. So, let's talk a little bit more about this. With me now is Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager, Robby Mook. Hi, Robby.


COSTELLO: Thank you for being here this morning. You probably already know this, but the president-elect has already responded to this investigation on Jim Comey and what he did during that time. This is what the president-elect tweeted this morning. "What are Hillary Clinton's people complaining about with respect to the FBI based on the information they had she should never have been allowed to run - guilty as hell. They were very nice to her. She lost because she campaigned in the wrong states - no enthusiasm!" Your reaction to those tweets?

MOOK: Well, I think this is Donald Trump lashing out the way he typically does. He's coming under further scrutiny for his own connections to Russia. And then, obviously, this Inspector General investigation into Director Comey and the FBI's handling of the e-mail investigation is calling into question, whether there were political motivations, and whether that might have impacted the outcome of the election. Trump doesn't have good answers to these questions, so he's lashing out, as he usually does.

I'm glad that the Inspector General has called for this investigation. We need to understand why Director Comey took the unprecedented step of talking about the investigation of Secretary Clinton, why he sent those letters, and whether there were political motivations.

COSTELLO: Well, some Republicans are probably saying to themselves, you know, look, it's over, the election is over. It's clear that Democratic entities are trying to delegitimize Mr. Trump as president, so why not just let this go?

MOOK: Well, Democrats aren't the ones calling for these investigations. Obviously, we support it. We think it's important that this is looked at. But it's the Inspector General, who is an independent actor at the Justice Department who has called for this. It's Republican Senator John McCain, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been holding hearings to investigate Mr. Trump's potential ties to Russia. The election is over and Donald Trump is going to be inaugurated as our next president, that's not the question here. I think the question is whether outside actors influenced the outcome of the election, whether that be -- the Russians or the FBI.

COSTELLO: -- But isn't that investigation is centered more on Jim Comey and why he took the actions that he did during the election, isn't it?

MOOK: Well, it's -- there's a separate investigation going on, on Russia. But this isn't just James Comey at the FBI. There were leaks coming out left and right, particularly from the New York field office. Many news outlets were running stories based on leaks that were coming to turn out just not to be true, entire stories that had to be retracted because of leaks that were going on.

[10:10:05] I think Director Comey bears the responsibility for having that press conference, which was totally unprecedented, a clear breach of protocol at the Justice Department. He's accountable for that letter he sent to the Hill, which was also a breach of protocols at the State Department.

And again, I think the world was shocked the other day, when in a Senate Committee Hearing, senators asked to understand the status of investigations into Mr. Trump's relations with Russia, and Mr. Comey refused to comment. He didn't refuse to comment at all when it came to Secretary Clinton. And in fact, he had a whole press conference to editorialize about his personal views of her and what she did. So -

COSTELLO: Do you think that Jim Comey should resign when all is said and done?

MOOK: I think we need to get the facts. It's up to Mr. Comey whether he steps down. But we need the Inspector General to - what happened.

COSTELLO: -- But what in your own mind would demonstrate the need for Jim Comey to resign? MOOK: I think, if he has acted improperly and that the American people can no longer have faith in his ability to carry out justice. I think at that point, someone should step down. I think it's hard to be director of such an important institution when that trust is no longer there. And let's let this process play out and look at the facts. But there are some pretty clear facts in front of us, such as that press conference he had, such as those letters, the leaks that were coming out constantly. And I wish that this had gotten more scrutiny during the election, frankly. But we are where we are. And I'm glad that it's going to be looked at more closely now.

COSTELLO: Have you talked to Secretary Clinton about any of this?

MOOK: Well, I'm not going to, you know, get into private conversations. But I think she, like everybody else, just wants to get to the bottom of this. You know, at the point that we're at right now this isn't a Democratic or Republican issue. This is really an issue of whether we're going to have free, fair, and open elections in this country. And I think -- every American should be concerned about outside intervention.

COSTELLO: -- You two have had a discussion about the Russian hacking and about Jim Comey's actions during the election?

MOOK: Well, we obviously had to talk about this a lot, because, you know, I was on the plane with her when that letter came out from Director Comey. Obviously, we were dealing with the leaks that the Russians were putting out every single day. So, of course, we had to talk about this, because we were battling it constantly during the campaign.

But I know that Secretary Clinton, above all, is a patriotic person. She believes that our democracy is what makes us strong. And that's what we've got to protect. Government agents and foreign aggressors should not be allowed to step into our Democratic electoral process and intervene and try to swing the voters. And it appears that that could have happened from the Russians and from James Comey. And we need to investigate and address that and make sure this never happens to anyone else ever again.

COSTELLO: And just a last question. And I know this has been pooh- poohed by many, but there are a good number of people who want Hillary Clinton to run for the mayor of New York City. Do you think that's a possibility?

MOOK: I'll leave that to her. --

COSTELLO: Do you think she should, though?

MOOK: I think she should do what she wants. But look, here's what I'll say. I think she's one of the most important leaders in our country right now. She is truly an elder state statesperson. And I think, she has a powerful voice and I know that she's going to use that for good and for the purposes that she has always served, to fight for everyday people, to make sure the playing field is level, and to fight for the rights of all people and women and girls around the world. -- So, I know we can trust her to do that.

COSTELLO: She can do that as mayor of New York City. She could have a big voice.

MOOK: She can do that in a number of ways. I know no matter what, she's going to be an important force for good in our country and our world moving forward. And I look forward to that. We need her voice more than ever. And I look forward to hearing that voice.

COSTELLO: Robby Mook, thanks for being with me this morning.

MOOK: Thanks.

COSTELLO: You're welcome.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, a wild week on the Hill, as Mr. Trump's nominees breaks for the president-elect on some major issues.

Also, in the NEWSROOM, still fearless after her Fox News by Gretchen Carlson opening up about life after her widely publicized sexual harassment lawsuit. I sat down with her and our conversation turned to Donald Trump.


COSTELLO: But as a woman who fights against sexual harassment and against such language in the workplace, how can you now say to young men out there that this kind of language is unacceptable when a man who is president of the United States used such language?



[10:14:00] COSTELLO: President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet picks disagreeing with some of his policies, just seven days out from Donald Trump taking office, this week's back to back Congressional hearings exposing where his nominees differ from him on major issues, especially on Russia.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT-ELECT: If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: I would consider the principal threats to start with, Russia.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: We're not likely to ever be friends.

TRUMP: Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass. I'd approve it.


GEN. JOHN F. KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY NOMINEE: I don't think we should ever come close to crossing a line that is beyond what we as Americans would expect to follow in terms of interrogation techniques.


COSTELLO: CNN's Sunlen Serfaty, live on Capitol Hill with more on this. Good morning.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Carol. This is one of the big takeaways from this week on Capitol Hill from all those confirmation hearings that many of these nominees are not in line with President-elect Donald Trump's stances on key issues,

[10:20:04] and many in specific cases stand in direct opposition to the stances that the president-elect, their future boss, will take. You noted that split with Russia, which was certainly significant among many of his nominees up here. But we also saw this pattern emerge on a plethora of other issues, notably many of the president- elect's campaign promises that he made as a candidate on the border wall with Mexico, on the ban for Muslims coming into the U.S., and on waterboarding as well.

The president-elect this morning, perhaps, responding to this, pushing back a bit, trying to frame this as a good thing. He tweeted this morning, "All of my cabinet nominees are looking good and doing a great job. I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts."

And transition officials have been trying to downplay the spotlight being on these sorts of splits, saying that at the end of the day, the president-elect here is going to be the one that's going to make the policy. And they believe, and this according to Sean Spicer, that they are going to pursue the Trump agenda in the end. But this certainly sets up already going into the incoming administration a very tricky dynamic. Carol?

COSTELLO: Oh, yes. Sunlen Serfaty thanks so much. So let's talk about this and more. With me now, Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief of the "Chicago Sun-Times," and Jackie Kucinich, CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast." Welcome to both of you.



COSTELLO: Hi. So, Lynn, what do you make of this? I mean, Donald Trump saying things like, yes, waterboarding and all of his nominees saying, oh, no. Americans don't believe in that, it's illegal.

SWEET: What I make of this is that don't look for consistency for President-elect Donald Trump. We know that. And then, I want to pick up on the point that Sunlen made. This is interesting, that these four key cabinet members disagree with him on central campaign themes and pledges, about the wall in Mexico and how it will be effective, for example. So, we do have to wait now to see what is the policy and more important, it seems to me, knowing that cabinet members disagree with the president, will this drive a wedge among Republicans who control Congress.

COSTELLO: Well, here is the thing, Jackie, if Donald Trump is OK with this, like who is Donald Trump and what does he believe?

KUCINICH: I mean, so I think at the end of the day, Donald Trump is going to set the policy. The policies come from the top, particularly when it comes to the federal government. So no matter what Rex Tillerson or Kelly or, you know, Mattis says, I mean, Trump is going to be the one who sets the policy. Now, what he has said, he has dialed back waterboarding, because he said Mattis told him it doesn't work.

So, he has shown -- a willingness to change his opinions. So, we'll have to -- it really is an open question as to how much he will be listening to his cabinet secretaries and how much he will be telling them to listen to him. It does seem like he's going to give them a lot of leeway in terms of running the organizations, the federal agencies. He's told them to kind of go in and shake it up. But we'll have to see just how hands-on he is. We don't know the answer to that question yet.

COSTELLO: OK. So, but let's say the arguments between his cabinet picks and Donald Trump become very heated, Lynn, and he is the President of the United States. He has the final say. Isn't it possible that some of them who feel strongly about such things, and I'm talking about General Mattis, because he's already expressed some concerns, right, that means they could possibly walk away, resign? I mean, what would it mean?

SWEET: Well, sometimes -- this will bring new meaning to the wonderful Doris Kearns Goodwin term of a "Team of Rivals" that she wrote about, you know, Abraham Lincoln's administration. You know, this the team of rivals between the president's cabinet of people who he picked, who he never even ran against. But what this means is that there is going to be -- to pick up on Jackie's point, a big understanding of what the Trump administration will be about, when we find out, is he going to be the manager who in a sense outsources a lot of decision making to cabinet members, that is a management style that we may not be surprised to see, and say if it's good enough for Mattis, it's good enough for me.

But the complexities of all this do end up in Congress, where Congress has to decide, are we going to appropriate money for a wall. Let's just take even one bite-sized chunk of this, Carol and Jackie and see what happens. That very soon will tell us if members of Congress will say why should we pay for this when his own cabinet member who's had Department of Homeland Security says it might not do what the president says he wants it to do.

[10:25:00] COSTELLO: Well, here's the other thing. Just building on what Lynn just said. So, Jackie, Rex Tillerson, he testified before lawmakers that he hadn't even really talked about Donald Trump about Russia. So, is it possible that Donald Trump doesn't know exactly what his nominees think of such issues?

KUCINICH: Seems like a lack of preparation on Rex Tillerson's point, if he hasn't really talked to him about Russia. But maybe there is a little bit of wait and see. I had a hard time believing that, frankly, that they have had no discussions about Russia, because it's such a big part of the job he's going into. But that said that's what he said. And again, as I said before, we'll have to wait and see whose policy wins out, whether Donald Trump is going to listen to his -- cabinet secretaries or whether he's going to tell them what to do.

SWEET: May I just add one thing about why we should not be surprised, perhaps, can we hear what people -- what cabinet nominees or potential when they were in their interviews with Trump have not discussed. Sometimes it's strategic. So they could come to hearing and say, well, Carol, we just never talked about it. --


COSTELLO: That's possible -

KUCINICH: Possible.

COSTELLO: I mean is it also possible - and I'm being very cynical. Is it also possible that the nominees are saying things that lawmakers want to hear to be confirmed? I mean, they're under oath, though. -- Let me retract that because that's just not fair.

SWEET: I think -

COSTELLO: Why would Donald Trump pick these people who don't really buy into his major league policies?

SWEET: Well, you know, let's take him at his word and his tweet, when does said that -- didn't he say that they look good? I think sometimes he just goes with his vibe and the looks, central casting. And I do see from the campaign, when he said afterwards that he's somebody who thinks big picture, big sweep, we'll fill in the details later.

On the other hand, he has been willing to publicly reverse himself, such as his pledge to lock her up in reference to Hillary Clinton and having an investigation. That's why --

COSTELLO: Although this morning he said she was guilty as hell.

SWEET: Right. So, to say this is fluid -- is there a stronger way of saying this, ladies, than just to say the situation is fluid?


COSTELLO: I think we should leave it there. Lynn Sweet, Jackie Kucinich, thanks to both of you.

SWEET: Thank you.

COSTELLO: You're welcome.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, life after Fox News, my one-on-one interview with Gretchen Carlson, what she's doing now following her sexual harassment lawsuit.