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Trump Rips Civil Rights Icon, CIA Director in New Feud; Trump Vows "Insurance For Everybody"; Trump: I Trust Both Merkel And Putin, For Now. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 16, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We thought, maybe, he wouldn't tweet responding to it. All day yesterday, there were no tweets.


CAMEROTA: I did. Until last night, and then there was the tweet. I wonder if he'll ever go back on the show like he did a year and a half ago.

BERMAN: He didn't like that, by the way.

CAMEROTA: Yes. All right.

BERMAN: All right. That's it for us. Time for NEWSROOM with Carol Costello. Hey, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: It was funny though. Thanks guys. Have a great day. NEWSROOM starts right now.

And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

Counting down to inauguration day, and controversy clouding the President-elect. Donald Trump fighting back against civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis who called his presidency not legitimate. And CIA Director John Brennan also taking hit after he said Trump doesn't fully understand the threat posed by Russia. All of this as Trump is set to spend the Martin Luther King holiday in New York where he is expected to hold meetings.

CNN's Sara Murray live outside of Trump Tower with more. Good morning, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning, Carol. Well, Donald Trump's already fraught relationship with the U.S. intelligence community appear to hit a new low as he engaged in a war of words with outgoing CIA Director John Brennan, Trump even suggesting on Twitter, was this the leaker of fake news?


MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump taking to Twitter to suggest that outgoing CIA Director John Brennan leaked unsubstantiated personal and financial information that could be damaging to Trump.

JOHN BRENNAN, DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: There is no basis for Mr. Trump to point fingers at the intelligence community for leaking information that was already available publicly.

MURRAY (voice-over): Trump's charge coming hours after Brennan appeared on national television, arguing the President-elect doesn't understand the critical threat Russia poses.

BRENNAN: I think he has to recognize that his words do have impact, and they can have very positive impact or they can be undercutting of our national security.

MURRAY (voice-over): Trump has spent months doubting U.S. intelligence findings that Russia was behind the election cyber attacks. And in a new interview, the President-elect suggesting the U.S. could ease tensions with Russia. Trump telling "The Times" of London and German newspaper "Bild," "Let's see if we can make some good deals."

This as China blasts Trump's comments over the weekend that the "One China" policy which maintains Taiwan as part of China is under negotiation. China's state-run tabloid slamming Trump in an editorial, quote, "We were simply angry initially, but now we can't help but laugh."

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: There are no plans to change the "One China" policy, but certainly, that policy is on the table if China doesn't also come to the table and work with us on trade, work with us on the South China Sea, and what's happening there.

MURRAY (voice-over): Meanwhile at home, Trump promising, "We're going to have insurance for everybody," in a new interview with "The Washington Post." The President-elect not revealing specifics, but says he's close to finishing his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. And part of that plan will be to specifically target the pharmaceutical industry.

CROWD: Protect my health care.

MURRAY (voice-over): Over the weekend, thousands joining rallies across the country led by Democrats to protest repeal of the law while Trump's feud with civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis intensifies.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I don't see this President-elect as a legitimate president.

MURRAY (voice-over): The controversial comment, of course, provoking Trump to tweet, "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district which is in horrible shape and falling apart, not to mention crime infested, rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk -- no action or results. Sad!" But Trump's assertion is wrong. Lewis represents an economically

diverse area of Atlanta, thriving and wealthy in some areas with poverty in others. Now, dozens of Democrats say they'll boycott Trump's inauguration.


MURRAY: Now, Donald Trump's spat with the civil rights icon, certainly not coming at an ideal time as we head into the Martin Luther King holiday today. Donald Trump was expected to spend the day in Washington, D.C. He has scrapped those plans and will stick around New York for meetings, Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Sara Murray reporting live. Thanks so much.

Any moment now, Congressman John Lewis will be speaking at an MLK breakfast in Miami, Florida. It will be the first time we hear from the Congressman since the President-elect tweeted about him over the weekend.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is live outside that event. What can you tell us, Boris?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Carol. Yes, we're set to hear from Representative Lewis later today. He was set for a press availability this morning, but the Congressman is running late. He is said to be the keynote speaker at an event here in Miami for the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project.

It's a project that brings together young African-American men and mentors from the community. And the response here, as you can imagine, Carol, has not been one welcoming of Donald Trump's criticism of Representative Lewis in large part because of the timing of this.

[09:05:11] You'll note that Representative Lewis has an extensive civil rights resume, of course, walking and marching with Dr. Martin Luther King many years ago and leading the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 where he had a confrontation with police and had his skull fractured.

Among Democrats, the response has been harsh, to say the least. At last count, at least 26 Democrats have decided to skip the inauguration.

We're also now hearing from some Republicans critical of Donald Trump. Just a few moments ago, we heard Senator Marco Rubio, who is also here, say that this is not a welcome critique of Representative Lewis, calling him an American hero.

Again, this will be the first time we hear from Representative John Lewis since the war of words with Trump kicked off this weekend. We're set to hear from him any minute now. We'll bring you the latest as we get it, Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, we'll get back to you. Boris Sanchez reporting live. So let's talk about this. With me now is Jason Johnson, politics

editor for and Political Science professor at Morgan State University and Sirius XM contributor. Larry Sabato is also here. He's the director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. Welcome to you both.


COSTELLO: Good morning. So, Jason, we know Donald Trump counterpunches, so let's not pretend he's ever going to turn the other cheek because, clearly, he's not. I mean, the question now is, how do we, as lawmakers, as Americans, deal with it?

JOHNSON: Well, the way we deal with it is, in some ways, ignoring it and in other ways, pointing out when he's lying. Look, it's clear that Donald Trump lacks the discipline, the self-esteem, and possibly even the tact to ignore every single attack that's going to come at him. He's going to be exhaustive for the next four to eight years.

But the larger issue is this, you can't have a President attack an entire district of the country, a district where -- actually, the CNN headquarters in Atlanta is in District 5. I don't remember anything crumbling when I was going there.

And the other thing is this, and I think this is really important, it's one thing to question the legitimacy of a president because of who they are, which is what happened with birtherism. All that's being said by Representative John Lewis is, after hearing the CIA intelligence briefing, he doubts that Donald Trump is a legitimate president. You can agree with that or disagree with that, but that's substantively different from birtherism.

COSTELLO: Well, so let's go that, Larry, because there would be many people who would say that John Lewis shouldn't have said that, that Trump's presidency isn't legitimate because, A, we don't have hardcore proof of that quite yet, right? If we ever will. So why do that? I mean, is that really good for America?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR POLITICS OF UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: I don't think it's good for America. I don't think John Lewis should have said that.

I don't think Donald Trump's presidency is illegitimate. Under our system, he was legitimately elected. You can disagree with everything he says, you can say the American people made the wrong decision, but he's not illegitimate.

But, you know, both sides have been exaggerating. That's one side for the Democrats.

The Republicans, I heard four times on Sunday, on Sunday shows, from Vice President-elect Pence and from Chief of Staff Priebus that Donald Trump was elected in a massive landslide. No, he wasn't. They keep saying this. I suppose believing that if they repeat it enough, people will believe it. It was a minimal victory, at least stacked up against all the other presidential elections in American history. So, you know, Carol, I'm just at the point where I realize, as Jason

just suggested, the only thing we know for sure is that we're never going to be bored for the next four years. That's it.

COSTELLO: Well, I was trying to figure out this morning what this spat really means in the bigger picture, and I hadn't even come up with a conclusion. I can tell you this, dozens of Democratic lawmakers aren't going to Trump's inauguration supposedly because of this. I can also tell you that Mr. Trump tweeted out this morning, and this is what the tweet says, "Celebrate Martin Luther King Day and all of the many wonderful things that he stood for. Honor him for being the great man that he was."

I mean, it always devolves into silliness, doesn't it?

JOHNSON: Yes. Carol, I've got to say, you know, to me, what this really boils down to is, this is a President who says that he wants to work with the African-American community and has done little or nothing to do so. You attack John Lewis on MLK weekend. You appoint Steve Bannon as your senior adviser. These are not the actions of a President who wants to bring people together.

And I'll say this, and I think this is really, really important, for every Republican out there who's like, I cannot believe that Donald Trump is attacking John Lewis, he's a civil rights icon, are you going to go out and vote for Jeff Sessions? Because Jeff Session, as Attorney General, has spent his entire career trying to fight against the very policies that John Lewis has fought for, not just in the past but up to the recent elections in the state of Georgia.

[09:09:58] COSTELLO: Although, I will say, Larry, that there are a large number of Trump supporters who don't greatly admire John Lewis because, in recent times -- and this is on Eric Erickson's blog this morning -- they think he's a race baiter.

SABATO: Well, I don't think that's appropriate either, but I do think that he's a liberal Democrat. So, obviously, conservative Republicans while they may, and I hope, honor his role in the civil rights movement, they probably disagree with virtually every vote he casts.

But, you know, the more general picture is this, think about the transition we've had, 70-plus days of transition. It has been one controversy right after another, one Twitter fight right after another, one policy change right after another. This is extremely abnormal. It is abnormal. And one hopes that Donald Trump as President, beginning Friday, will change some of his behaviors, and I also hope that all hunger disappears from the face of the globe.


COSTELLO: I'm just going to ask, as the last question to Jason, what do you suppose the Inauguration Day will be like?

JOHNSON: It's going to be really empty. I mean, apparently, there's still hotels that you can get. There are still hotels in Maryland, there are still hotels in D.C. Look, I don't think Donald Trump is going to change his behavior at

all. And I think that the beginning of this administration is a testament to what's going to happen throughout the next four to eight years. And if they want to be able to govern, if they want the kind of enthusiasm, if they want to make America great again, Trump's going to have to start acting differently. I don't think he's going to do it.

COSTELLO: All right. I have to leave it there, Jason Johnson, Larry Sabato. Actually, stay with me. We're going to talk about more things in the next block of NEWSROOM.

Still to come, need health insurance? Donald Trump says he will have you covered. A big promise. Can he and the Republicans deliver?


[09:16:11] COSTELLO: Health insurance for everyone, a cheaper, better plan almost ready to go. President-elect Trump says he's just about ready to roll out a replacement plan for Obamacare. If Mr. Trump does have a viable alternative as in Trumpcare, maybe, right?

President Obama is right about one thing, there is no going back to the way it used to be.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think we've set the bar with respect to the notion that it is possible to provide health care for people. Now, I know that the incoming Congress and administration talks about repealing it, but we've set a bar that shows that this can be done, and that core principle is one that the majority of Americans including supporters of Donald Trump believe in.


COSTELLO: CNN's Athena Jones live outside the White House with more. Good morning.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. We're talking about the president's signature domestic achievement. It's the law that it has his nickname, is of course, called the Affordable Care Act, but it's been dubbed Obamacare a long time ago by the proponents of this.

It's something that the GOP Congress is already in the process of beginning to repeal and dismantle and later on replace it. This is something the White House, the president himself and the White House spokesperson have spent a lot of time talking about over the last several months since Donald Trump was elected.

Talking about the more than 20 million people who now have coverage under the Affordable Care Act, talking about some of the most popular provisions like the fact that children can stay on their parent's health plan until the age of 26. People with pre-existing conditions are required to be covered by these plans. So they've been talking up the benefits of the Affordable Care Act in hopes of possibly influencing those who want to make big changes.

The president talked about this last night in his interview with "60 Minutes" and he talked about one of the areas where he would like to have a do-over as related to health care and exchanges. Take a listen to that.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: If you know you've got a controversial program and you're setting up a really big complicated website, the website ought to work on the first day, first week, first month. The fact that it didn't, obviously lost a little momentum. That was clearly a management failure.


JONES: So the president there acknowledging a failure during the rollout of The president has been talking about how much they want to see much of this law retained, something he said last night in his farewell speech -- not last night -- last week at his farewell speech in Chicago, he challenged the incoming administration to replace Obamacare with something that covers as many people at less cost. He says, if they can do that, he's glad to support it. We'll see if that happens -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I know. Maybe challenge met. Athena Jones, thanks so much. Mr. Trump says he'll unveil his own replacement plan for Obamacare alongside House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. He says lawmakers will go along with it or face his ire via Twitter.

Back to talk about this is Jason Johnson and Larry Sabato. Welcome back. So first question, Larry. Mr. Trump told "The Washington Post" his replacement plan would provide health care for everyone. There would be no cuts to Medicare, no single pair, the government won't be the entity that provides insurance to everybody.

Larry, it took 14 months and hundreds of hearings to come up with Obamacare. Is it possible that President-elect Trump has come up with a plan this fast?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: I don't think so, but you know, maybe miracles still happen. We'll see. As we've said a million times, the devil is in the details, particularly on health care. It's a tough, tough complicated topic. Ask President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, they couldn't do it in the early '90s.

Ask President Harry Truman, he couldn't get it done during his term. So we'll see what he actually comes up with. These grand promises will come back to haunt him because it's guaranteed that millions of people will be unhappy, that large corporations will be unhappy. Trump says he's going after the pharmaceutical industry. They're big. They're powerful. They've given millions and millions of dollars to hundreds of members of Congress for years and years and years. They're not just going to sit there and take it. It's easy to make these grand pronouncements. It's really tough to get a plan done that works.

COSTELLO: I'm glad you mentioned the pharmaceutical companies because that's my next question. Jason, Mr. Trump says he'll pressure the drug companies to reduce prices using his Twitter account, you know, just like he did with that plane thing.

[09:20:07]So this is actually something that Democrats have pushed for, for years, and Republicans have been absolutely against. So just looking toward the good side of things, Mr. Trump is trying to take politics out of it and come up with an idea that works.

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: Carol, I don't know if I'm that enthusiastic about a president scolding and affecting the business world through Twitter. I don't know that he has a new plan. I don't believe he needs more people. I don't believe it until I actually see it.

But I will say this, the issue is not always with the pharmaceutical companies. Sometimes it's with the insurance companies. It is expensive to come up with new drugs. I'm not getting drug insurance money.

I just know it's expensive to come up with new drugs. It's the coverage of those drugs that is often the problem for families that are suffering and are going bankrupt.

So unless he can find a way to completely change the pharmaceutical market and also force drug companies and insurance companies to cover more, he doesn't have a fix. I'm still waiting to see that plan after an 18-month campaign.

COSTELLO: Yes, but he said he's going to shame the pharmaceutical companies into lowering prices, Larry. Might it be possible that that could work?

SABATO: Here and there. I mean, that's happened already before Trump. Occasionally you can focus on a pharmaceutical company that's dramatically raised --

COSTELLO: Like the EpiPen, right?

SABATO: Exactly. Like the EpiPen. I don't think there's enough space on Twitter, and I know it's supposed to be infinite. I don't think there's enough space on Twitter to go after every pharmaceutical company that has a high-priced drug day after day after day, and we all know Donald Trump has loads of other targets on Twitter.

If you can hunker down for a day or two, he'll switch targets. I'll tell you one thing, I just hope President Trump has learned from the mistakes President Obama made. I would suggest to him, never to say, if you like your doctor, you can keep him or her. That was a big mistake President Obama made.

President Trump is on the edge of making some of the same errors. If he does, his health care plan is going to be just as controversial, if not more controversial than President Obama's was.

COSTELLO: I want to get into one more thing that Donald Trump told "The Washington Post" because I find it very intriguing. Jason, Mr. Trump says, if lawmakers don't go along with his agenda, his plans, he'll use his 20 million Twitter followers as a weapon and he'll also use the power of his presidency. What does that sound like to you?

JOHNSON: Well, it sounds like he's using the power of negotiation, which is what you're supposed to do. A lot of the presidency has so much power, but in all honesty, if Congress wanted to do something that they don't want President Trump to know about, just do it on Saturday night because we know he's not paying attention. He's watching Alec Baldwin.

This is the thing. I mean, you can't shame people but so much. We saw this with the House ethics issue about a week and a half ago. Yes, if the American citizens come in, they can change what's going to happen in Congress.

But ultimately you have the money that Congress people are receiving, their own constituencies. There's just so much power the president really has if he can't negotiate with people in good faith.

COSTELLO: We'll have to sit back and see what happens, as they say. Jason Johnson, Larry Sabato, thanks to both of you.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Donald Trump hasn't even been sworn in yet and he's already ruffling the feathers, more than that, of foreign leaders. We'll talk about that next.



COSTELLO: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thanks so much for joining me. Backlash over Donald Trump's wide ranging interview with two international publications. The president-elect giving his clearest indication yet that he is ready to ease sanctions on Russia, and when asked which world leader he trusts more, Putin or Germany's Angela Merkel, Trump called it a draw for now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you trust more if you talk to them, Angela Merkel or Vladimir Putin?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: Well, I start off trusting both, but let's see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all.


COSTELLO: In the meantime, NATO is pushing back after Trump once again called the defense alliance obsolete. CNN's Nic Robertson has reaction to Trump's comments. He's live in London. Good morning.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Good morning, Carol. Certainly what Donald Trump has said has caused a reaction here in Europe. You have the German foreign minister today in Brussels meeting with other European leaders saying collectively it's caused astonishment and agitation.

What he said about Angela Merkel, her decisions to allowing refugees into Germany was catastrophic, but also said that he respected her as a leader. His answer about Trump and Merkel that maybe that would change.

That's not clear if he was basing that on an assessment of how he hopes to strike deals with Vladimir Putin or reduction of nuclear weapons at the expense of possibly getting rid of some sanctions against Russia. That was part of the conversation. He was also very, very critical about NATO. This is what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Among Eastern Europeans there's a lot of fear of Putin and Russia.

TRUMP: Sure. And I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number one, it was obsolete because it was designed many, many years ago. Number two, the countries weren't paying what they're supposed to pay.


ROBERTSON: So he also went on to talk about how German automakers should -- could face 35 percent trade tariffs bringing cars into the United States. He said there's more Mercedes on Fifth Avenue than you see Chevrolets driving around Germany, an imbalance he said that couldn't be allowed to continue which has German automakers worried.

BMW has lost 2 percent of its share value today. Daimler the same. Angela Merkel for her part is taking this in her stride and saying, "We knew that he thought these things once he's in office. That's when we'll begin to deal with him and his team" -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Nic Robertson reporting live for us.

So let's talk about this more. With me now is Aaron David Miller, a CNN global affairs analyst and vice president for New Initiatives and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. Welcome.


COSTELLO: I'm good. Thanks for being here. Mr. Trump refuses to say who he trusts more, Putin or Merkel. Your reaction to that?

MILLER: You know, we've never had a president-elect quite like Mr. Trump. You've had President George H.W. Bush's new foreign policy.