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Trump Spars with Civil Rights Icon; Soon: Rep Lewis Speaks at MLK Breakfast; Singer Backs Out of Inauguration Concert. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired January 16, 2017 - 10:00   ET



[10:00:15] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thanks so much for joining me. Donald Trump's inauguration just days away and clouded in controversy, the president-elect locked in a war of words with a slew of high profile figures, among them, John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and civil rights icon who is questioning Trump's legitimacy. Lewis and dozens of other Democrats now say they will boycott Trump's inauguration. Also on Trump's list, the director of the CIA, John Brennan, who says Trump does not fully understand the threat Russia poses for the United States. Trump firing back, suggesting Brennan may be behind the recent intelligence leaks. And the president-elect is also making headlines for his foreign policy stances, including once again calling NATO obsolete, while blasting German Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy as, a "catastrophic mistake." CNN is keeping track of all of these fast moving developments but we want to begin with Sara Murray. She's live outside of Trump Tower. Good morning.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Good morning, Carol. Well, Donald Trump's fraught relationship with the U.S. Intelligence Community grew apparently even more strained over the weekend. It began in part with John Brennan saying that Donald Trump's attacks on intelligence are not particularly helpful. Listen to what he had to say.


JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: There is no basis for Mr. Trump to point fingers at the Intelligence Community for leaking information that was already available publicly. He is going to be, in a few days' time, the most powerful person in the world in terms of sitting on top of the United States government. And 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: And of course it should be no surprise to people who have tracked Donald Trump for the last year or so, that he did not take that criticism very well. He lashed back on Twitter, even suggesting of Brennan was this -- the leaker of fake news. Now, of course, all of this is coming against the backdrop of a number of other spats, Donald Trump is engaging in with high profile figures, including civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis. This is all coming just ahead of today, Martin Luther King Day, where we expected Donald Trump to be spending the day in D.C. He's actually going to be scrapping those plans and spending it in New York instead. But he did take to Twitter, to talk about celebrating Martin Luther King Day, saying, "Celebrate Martin Luther King Day and all of the wonderful things that he stood for. Honor him for being the great man that he was!" Carol?

COSTELLO: All right, Sara Murray, reporting live from Trump Tower. Like I said, very soon the Congressman John Lewis will be speaking for the first time since the president-elect tweeted about him, over the weekend, maligning his district and saying the Congressman should be paying more attention to making his district in the city of Atlanta better.

This is the MLK Breakfast. It's a scholarship breakfast in Miami. It's a breakfast to honor boys who have made good and to award them with scholarships so they can get ahead. So, we're awaiting Congressman John Lewis. We're awaiting him to speak at any moment. When he does, of course, we'll bring you back live to Miami.

But let's talk about this snafu right now. Julian Zelizer is here. He's a historian professor at Princeton University and author of "The Fierce Urgency of Now." Ron Brownstein also joins me, CNN's senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic." OK. So let's talk about this snafu. Ron, we know that Donald Trump is a counterpuncher and if someone maligns him in any way, he's going to strike back. So, shouldn't Americans just -- and lawmakers, by the way, get used to that?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST AND SENIOR EDITOR "THE ATLANTIC": Well, look, I mean, this is something -- when you're President of the United States, every day somebody is unhappy about something you do, whether at home or abroad. I mean, it goes with the territory. And if the president is going to engage in basically combat with everyone who ever disagrees with him at home and abroad, you are in for just an unprecedented, rocky ride. And you know your list at the beginning of all the different ways that Donald Trump, you know, has kind of been engaged in confrontations just over this weekend. The idea that there's going to be anything different in the presidency than there was in the campaign, and there has been in the -- transition, seems to be increasingly implausible. And this is the world. I think it does have consequences. It does have consequences both at home and abroad in terms of the ability of institutions to function. But it is the world we are heading into.

COSTELLO: But Julian, -- don't you think that John Lewis had also have consequences because he questioned the legitimacy of a democratically elected president?

JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORIAN AND PROFESSOR PRINCETON UNIVERSITY AND AUTHOR "THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW:" Well, of course. I think there are many Democrats, even, who while they share some of the concerns of Congressman Lewis, weren't pleased or comfortable with his words.

[10:05:01] But I think of the two, it's pretty clear that President- elect Trump has been much looser with his words on a number of issues, from race to intelligence to foreign policy, than Congressman Lewis, who has been very consistent and careful through much of his career fighting for a certain set of issues. Congressman Lewis was reacting to the stories about the intelligence, about the problems with the election. And I think that's the context where it came from.

COSTELLO: So, here's where we are in light of this -- I guess argument. A couple of dozen Democratic lawmakers will not attend Trump's inauguration, although Hillary Clinton and her husband will attend, Ron. So, I don't know, Senator Marco Rubio, he's at the scholarship breakfast. He was asked about this argument between Donald Trump and Congressman Lewis. I'll let our viewers hear -- what Marco Rubio had to say. Here it is.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: I have tremendous admiration for Congressman Lewis, not only for what he's done but for what he stands for and that remains undiminished. I don't agree with him that President-elect Trump is illegitimate. I believe it's a legitimate election that he was elected through the electoral process. That said, you know, I'd also had hoped that president-elect would have responded differently given everything that John Lewis means to our country. But people make their own decisions.


COSTELLO: So, Ron, what do you make of that?

BROWNSTEIN: I think he got it exactly right. I mean, I think you know the language that John Lewis, as Julian said, was you know -- was overboard. It's understandable to some extent where he comes from, with Donald Trump, basically, emerging as a national figure trying to delegitimize President Obama through the birther argument. But it is - it is too far to say that it was an illegitimate election. I think it is reflective though of both the clouds hanging over Trump because of these unprecedented accusations about Russian interference.

But even more broadly, the level of resistance, I mean, the fact is that he will take the Oath of Office on Friday, facing a more divided country, I think, than any newly-elected president. You know, maybe since Abraham Lincoln. I mean, the fact is that we've never had a president take office with less than majority job approval in their first post inaugural poll and it is almost certain that he will become the first. -- You will not have a majority of Americans saying they approve of the way he's handling the presidency once he takes office, we've already seen that in the transition, with numbers that are much lower.

And I think the comments from Rep. Lewis just reflects how deep the anxiety and apprehension is in the portions of America that did not vote for him, even as there's undeniable excitement among those who did support him.

COSTELLO: It is possible that Donald Trump, maybe, possibly thinks he went a step too far by maligning Congressman Lewis because he tweeted out this morning, as Sara Murray reported about Martin Luther King Day. He tweeted, "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!" Julian?

ZELIZER: It's going to take much more than that, I think, to convince many supporters of civil rights that this is serious. This comes out of a whole campaign where there's been a lot of animosity and tension between Donald Trump and the cause of civil rights, whether you're talking about immigrants or you're talking about African-Americans. So, John Lewis and the remarks about him tap right into this. And so I think the tweet today, it is fine, but I don't think it's going to calm many fears about where this administration is heading. They look at Jeff Sessions and that's where they see the trajectory the administration, not this tweet.

COSTELLO: So, I don't know, it just makes you wonder about what Inauguration Day will be like, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I think we're already in unchartered waters. We've never had the kind of protest that we had after the election. We've never had the kind of counter protest, I believe, that the schedule for the day after the inaugural. And on the other side of the ledger, there are lot of voters who felt that they were not being heard by the political system, who are very excited about Donald Trump being elected.

I mean, the fact is, Hillary Clinton won 88 of the 100 largest counties in America. She only won 400 others. I mean, Donald Trump won, you know, 25 -- 2600 counties, including many that had voted for President Obama. There is a deep, deep gulf that is awaiting him. And the striking thing is the contrast between the depth of that division and kind of the precariousness of the balance of opinion in the country and the fact that unified Republican control that is going to allow him to pursue a very, very aggressive agenda, significantly reversing course on a whole series of fronts, even, you know, atop a very divided country that did not provide anything like a landslide mandate.

So, we are in for, I think just a very tumultuous ride, not only because of the nature of his personality and the way he approaches criticism and opposition, but also, just the sheered extent of the agenda that he will be attempting to impose despite a very divided -- on a very divided country.

COSTELLO: And Julian, he doesn't really seem interested in uniting the country, at least at the moment, right?

ZELIZER: He has no interest in uniting the country, nor does he have any interest in everyone loving him.

[10:10:01] He is the anti-hero in the White House. And he has thrived on that throughout the campaign. He was always unpopular but he makes it work for him. And he has that combined with the united and very disciplined Congress, Republican Congress that Ron is talking about. So, I don't think he feels the need to reach out. And I think this is a strategy that characterizes Trump politics, divide and conquer. COSTELLO: All right. I'm going to leave it there. Julian Zelizer, Ron Brownstein, thank you so much. And again, Congressman John Lewis set to speak at any moment now at this scholarship breakfast in Miami, Florida. And we do expect him to address this - argument that he's having with the president-elect, Donald Trump, when Congressman Lewis takes to the podium, of course, we'll bring you back live to Miami.

Also still to come, the world is watching as the clock ticks down to inauguration. Why Trump is facing international backlash before he's even sworn in.


[10:14:45] COSTELLO: Donald Trump is sparking backlash days before he even takes office as President of the United States. He's calling the One-China policy negotiable. He says NATO is obsolete. And he raised some eyebrows with this comment.

[10:15:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

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


COSTELLO: All right. Now, China is calling Trump an amateur. NATO is pushing back. And the European Union says sooner or later Washington will understand its vital role in maintaining world peace. So, let's talk about all of this. Jill Dougherty is here. She's a former CNN Moscow bureau chief and global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Ivan Watson is here. He's a CNN senior international correspondent. And David Rohde is a CNN global affairs analyst and national security investigations editor at "Reuters". Welcome to all of you.

So, Jill, I'll start with you. Donald Trump said that when asked the question who he trusted more, Putin or Angela Merkel, who is America's great ally, he said that it was a wash. He would start out by trusting them both the same. What do you make of that?

JILL DOUGHERTY, GLOBAL FELLOW WOODROW WILSON CENTER AND FORMER CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Well, I mean, you can say generally he's saying let's all get along, maybe it will happen, maybe it won't. But the way it came out is that you're putting those two names together, which has a lot of shock value, as you can imagine, in Europe and perhaps in the United States, because Angela Merkel is the head of a country that is one of our closest allies, and Vladimir Putin is the head of a country that the United States considers at best -- someone with whom we're competing, or at worst an enemy. So, to put them together was very strange. And I think that's what a lot of people are shaking their heads and saying, what does that actually mean?

COSTELLO: So Ivan, what has been the international reaction to this? IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly we're watching China and the escalating war of words with the president-elect, especially after he said in that interview that things like the so-called One-China policy, everything, including that, is negotiable, it could be bargained about. The Chinese foreign ministry coming out, blasting Donald Trump saying, that this would undermine basically the foundation of bilateral relations between Beijing and numerous previous U.S. administrations. And you've had the Chinese state media really going after Donald Trump.

Here is one quote from the state-run "Global Times," an editorial, "We were simply angry initially, but now we can't help but laugh at this U.S. leader-in-waiting. Maybe American voters promoted him too quickly. His amateur remarks and over-confident manner are equally shocking."

So, China really firing back at any suggestion coming from Donald Trump that he could use Taiwan, which China considers to be a breakaway renegade province, as a kind of bargaining chip in future relations on trying to carve out some kind of a better deal with China. Carol?

COSTELLO: OK. So, David, China is upset. Europe is upset. So, I mean, you study international relations. -- Could it be a good thing that they're sort of -- they're sort of confused about what may happen or may not happen?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST AND NATIONAL SECURITY INVESTIGATIONS EDITOR "REUTERS": You could argue that this is all sort of a bargaining position that he's trying to get better trade deals with Europe, and with China. But what's strange is he's sort of offering a nuclear arms reduction deal with Russia. -- Right at the beginning of his administration, when, you know, Russia has been such a - you know, I guess, misbehaving. And then, what's strange is that you know, politically, it's about jobs. And what's strange about the focus on Russia is that Russia is sort of irrelevant in terms of the American economy. Russia is our 18th largest trading partner. It's 36th in terms of where American exports go. China, on the other hand, is our largest trading partner. Germany is our third largest trading partner. So, it's this focus on Russia that's puzzling. It doesn't make sense politically. He should be talking about jobs in a political sense.

COSTELLO: Let's go back to the nuclear issue. And I'm going to address this question to you, Jill. Because Trump said a deal could be done to reduce sanctions on Russia. And he cited nuclear weapons as part of that deal. But Trump has also said in the past that U.S. - that the United States needs to bolster its nuclear arsenal until the world comes to its senses. So, how is that line of thinking going down in Russia?

DOUGHERTY: You know, nobody is really even directly taking this on as, let's say, a proposal. Nobody I think here, at least in the government, would believe that that is a proposal, because it's apples and oranges. So, you have statements by Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for President Putin, saying, well we will wait until he's president.

[10:20:06] I mean, basically, you know not making any comment at all. Because really, when you look at it, the issue of nuclear weapons is an existential issue. So, it's been dealt with in a very different way. And to think that the Russians would bargain away something about their security in response to sanctions, which, you know, are hurting them but they're not destroying the country, seems very strange. I think perhaps -- incoming President Trump believed that he had a bargaining chip with those sanctions. But it's not a bargaining chip in the eyes really of the Russians, when it comes to their security.

COSTELLO: So, Ivan, I'll post this question to you, about China. So, Donald Trump is talking tough on China, right? But China is not weak militarily. So, what's the danger here?

WATSON: Well, I think a big concern is a possible trade war. I mean, David was very right to point out that China is a massive trading partner. The two countries have more than half a trillion dollars' worth of trade in the last year. And you've got this really strange situation right now, Carol, where the president-elect is attacking elements of the liberal world order which the U.S. helped create in the first place, which the U.S. underwrote but also kind of benefitted from, that's free trade, open trade, multilateral trade.

And now, China and its leader Xi Jinping are about to go -- he's in Switzerland right now, he's going to attend that world economic forum at Davos, where traditionally you've got kind of capitalists and world leaders rubbing shoulders and talking about the future of the world. So, of all people, now you have the Chinese leader going there and we're hearing that he's going to talk about the benefits of free trade, of protecting stability in the global order, where as President-elect Trump is out there kind of smashing orthodoxy and some of the very same institutions that the U.S. has helped build up in the first place.

COSTELLO: So, final question to you, David, you know, during the confirmation hearings, Mr. Trump's cabinet picks aren't talking like he's talking right now. So, what's behind Donald Trump's comments to this international newspaper?

ROHDE: Look, I would think it's his personal beliefs and maybe there's more there and we have to give him a chance to see. But it's also strange politically inside United States, his own party, the Republican Party, is breaking with him on Russia. His nominees, you know, for Secretary of Defense, for Secretary of State, are breaking with him on Russia. You know, he needs the support of a unified Republican Congress to enact his agenda. Why this focus on Russia? It's again -- it's an irrelevant country in terms of our trade and our economy. Its China is really the major international player. The war on terrorism, there's much more important issues on China. So, you know, we'll see, maybe this is all talk and he'll back away. But I don't see what it gets him.

COSTELLO: All right. I have to leave it there, Jill Dougherty, Ivan Watson, David Rohde, thanks so much. Just days -- before President Obama leaves the White House, he's handing out some advice to his successor. Here is Mr. Obama speaking in his final TV interview as commander in chief.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think everybody has to acknowledge, don't underestimate the guy because he's going to be 45th President of the United States. The one thing I've said to him directly, and I would advise my Republican friends in Congress and supporters around the country, is just make sure that as we go forward, certain norms, certain institutional traditions, don't get eroded, because there's reason they're in place.


COSTELLO: President Obama went on to talk about his future goals, saying he's looking forward to the next phase in his life. Mr. Obama says he hopes to write a book and work on his foundation.

Very soon we expect Congressman John Lewis to begin speaking for the first time since the president-elect tweeted about John Lewis over the weekend. Right now, Lewis is at this MLK Breakfast in Miami. We've been watching this for you. When John Lewis takes to the podium, we'll bring it to you live. I'll be right back.


[10:28:50] COSTELLO: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so this much for joining me. Four days and counting until the inauguration and singer Jennifer Holliday, well, she says she's backing out of the big event. Holliday, who's best known for her role in the original "Dreamgirls" and the Broadway show "The Color Purple," explains more on her decision and why she was excited to perform.


JENNIFER HOLLIDAY, SINGER AND ACTRESS: I should have looked at the climate of where we are today.


HOLLIDAY: And so, that would be my fault. Everybody kept saying did Trump trick you? No, they did not trick me. I wanted to sing on the mall for America and for the people. I wanted my voice, I thought, to be an instrument of healing.


COSTELLO: But she backed out because her fans, well, she suffered a certain amount of backlash from her fans. In spite of a growing number of lawmakers and celebrities who say they will not come to Trump's inauguration. Trump tweeted this, "Inauguration Day is turning out to be even bigger than expected." So, let's talk about the inauguration. Sarah Armstrong is with me. She's the CEO of the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Good morning. SARA ARMSTRONG, CEO PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: Good morning.

COSTELLO: So are you ready?

ARMSTRONG: We are ready. We have only a few days left to get all the final details in. But we are very excited and we are ready.

COSTELLO: Have any surprises in store for us?

ARMSTRONG: Well, you know, Mr. Trump is a very different president- elect.