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Trump Begins with Historically Low Approval Rating; Growing List of Democrats Boycotting Inauguration; Trump HHS Pick Under Fire for Stock Buy; Growing Rift Between Trump, GOP on Healthcare. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired January 17, 2017 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CUOMO: What do you see?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Good morning, Chris. You guys said it's an historic low that number you gave, 40 percent approval. Take a look historically just how low it is.

At this point, on the eve of his inauguration, Barack Obama was at 84 percent approval. George W. Bush, 61 percent, and that was after that contentious Florida recount in 2000. Bill Clinton took the oath of office at a 67 percent approval. That 40 percent number is indeed historically low in the modern times and is a big warning sign for Donald Trump as he heads and takes the oath of office.

Now let's take a look here at that number you said the disapproval, 52 percent. A majority of the country disapproves of the way he's handling the transition. Look how that's grown since November. It was just at 45 percent right after the election. So the transition period itself has not been going in Donald Trump's way.

Another way we get at that, we ask people, what is your level of confidence? Has it increased or decreased since the election in Donald Trump's ability to do the job as president? Fifty-three percent say now that their confidence in Trump has decreased since the election. Thirty-seven percent say it has increased. How does that compare when we asked that question right after the election?

Look at this. The number of people who say that their confidence in Trump has decreased, that's gone up ten points. Those that say their confidence in Trump has increased, look at that. That's gone down 11 points. Again, this transition period has been going in the wrong direction for Donald Trump.

And finally, take a look at this. This is -- this is about his promise, right? Will Donald Trump create good-paying jobs, especially in those economically troubled areas? Sixty-one percent of the country says yes, that he is going to deliver on that big promise.

I'll tell you, guys, if he does, if the American people are right and Donald Trump does deliver on this core promise, I would imagine some of those other numbers that we're looking at will go up as the days progress.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you very much. We're going to get even deeper into these numbers in just a second.

More than three dozen Democratic lawmakers are now saying they're not going to go to President-elect Trump's inauguration on Friday. This is backlash after Trump's feud with civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis.

CNN's Jason Carroll live at Trump Tower in New York with more. John Lewis did boycott George Bush, president -- 43rd president of the United States, as well, saying that that outcome, he saw, as illegitimate.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. He's saying it again this time. We should also tell you that time a number of Democratic lawmakers who have come out, saying they are not going to attend the inauguration. It really started to increase after we saw the president-elect coming out to criticize Congressman John Lewis.

A number of these lawmakers took to Twitter. They took to Facebook saying the time has come for them to follow their conscience.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President-elect.

CARROLL (voice-over): The growing discontent within the Democratic Party over President-elect Donald Trump sparking a massive boycott.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just cannot celebrate in good conscience.

CARROLL: Nearly one in five House Democrats are now saying they will not attend Trump's inauguration.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something, to say something, and not be quiet.

CARROLL: Democrats standing with civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis after Trump called Lewis all talk and no action, angered by Lewis's claim that he is not a legitimate president.

CONWAY: You can respect Congressman Lewis's vaunted place in our history and still defend yourself.

CARROLL: Despite the backlash with Lewis, the president-elect meeting with Martin Luther King's eldest son on the holiday devoted to the civil rights hero.

MARTIN LUTHER KING III, REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.'S SON: Things get said at both sides in the heat of emotion. And at some point in this nation, we've got to move forward.

CARROLL: This as the battle continues between Trump and the outgoing CIA director, John Brennan. Brennan bristling at the president- elect's comparison of handling of handling of unverified intelligence reports to Nazi Germany.

TRUMP: That's something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.

CARROLL: In a new interview, Brennan saying, quote, "Tell the families of those 117 CIA officers who are forever memorialized on our wall of honor that their loved ones who gave their lives were akin to Nazis."

Secretary of State John Kerry criticizing Trump, as well.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It was inappropriate for a president-elect of the United States to be stepping into the politics of other countries in a quite direct manner.

CARROLL: After Trump reasserted old criticisms of NATO, saying it is obsolete in an interview with foreign media.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said a long time ago that NATO has problems. No. 1, it was obsolete because it was designed many, many years ago. No. 2, the countries weren't paying what they're supposed to pay.

CARROLL: Trump also saying that he trusts America's longtime ally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as much as he does Russian President Vladimir Putin.

TRUMP: Well, I start off trusting both.

[07:05:05] CARROLL: But Trump's Russia-friendly rhetoric is a relatively recent development. Nearly three years ago, Trump stuck a different tone.

TRUMP: We should definitely do sanctions.

CARROLL: CNN's K-File unearthing a series of interviews where Trump called Russia America's biggest problem.

TRUMP: We have to show some strength. I mean, Putin has eaten Obama's lunch.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And also that interview with the foreign press that you heard some of that there, Trump was asked whether or not he supports sanctions against Russia for their role in those cyberattacks, to which Trump said people will do what they have to do.

He also went on to say that he still is looking forward to making good deals with Russia -- Chris, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Jason, thank you very much.

Let's discuss these new poll numbers and what they mean with our panel. We have CNN political director David Chalian. Also joining us is CNN political commentator and host of CNN's "SMERCONISH," Michael Smerconish; and CNN contributor, "Washington Examiner" reporter and "New York Post" columnist Salena Zito. Great to see all of you. Michael, I want to start with you, because you have your finger on the

pulse of how your listeners feel through your radio show all the time. So how do you explain or how do they explain these historically low approval numbers for an incoming president?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: As David's numbers suggest, what Donald Trump is not getting is the bump that's normally afforded to an incoming president.

What strikes me, Alisyn, when I look at the data, if that about 40 percent as an approval rating, that's pretty darn near where he was when he got elected, because only -- and I don't want to besmirch his election -- he won -- but only 46 percent of the American people are sending him to the White House. So there's been a modest decline in the numbers. And he hasn't been afforded the kind of bump that President Obama received when his numbers were at 84 percent, when he was coming into 2009.

CUOMO: Well, you've got, Salena, a 10 percent increase in the amount of people who express disapproval. So there's some kind of softening in the base there, but what can you look at that would explain this at this point?

SALENA ZITO, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Michael is right. When he came -- we shouldn't be surprised if it's at 50 percent, because he came in here with half of the support or less than half of the support of the popular vote.

I would -- I would say that, you know, when President Obama came in, it was a very historic moment, and there was a lot of praise about his differences.

Trump, by the nature of the way he interacts with us, it's much different. There's much more chaos. There's much more contention. There's much more, you know, arguing back and forth with the press, and, you know, a lot of it is him. A lot of it is us. And so he's walking in there in part creating this sort of noise.

CUOMO: And Bush came in on the heels of an historic legal battle that questioned legitimacy as much as anything ever did. He was at 61 percent.

ZITO: Yes, but it was different. You know, you didn't have -- you didn't have -- in 2000, you did not have this massive social media with all this information going at you at all times. You have video. You have information...

CUOMO: You didn't have Bush questioning the intel organizations...

ZITO: No.

CUOMO: ... and attacking every institution he could find either.

ZITO: He's a completely different guy. I will tell you this. When you talk to Trump supporters out here, and even when you talk to Clinton people out here, they think this is -- they're going to look at polls with a very different sort of point of view, because to them -- even people that supported Clinton, they'll say, hey, we thought she was going to win going in. I'm a little skeptical of everything that people are telling me.

CAMEROTA: I mean, so do you think that he has a higher approval rating than what this poll is showing in terms of 40 percent? Or what you're saying, just to be clear, is that he is doing something so differently. He is picking fights right now with the intel community, with Congressman John Lewis, with Angela Merkel, with China, with the CIA director, with CNN; and maybe people aren't liking that?

ZITO: Well, I mean, I would -- I would caution about picking fights, you know, how it's perceived by people picking fights with the intel community.

So people look at the intel community in two completely different ways. Their populist side of them look at them as something big. And that's what populism is. It's the rejection of all things big. So it's the rejection of bureaucracy, but individually, they look at them as heroes.

So you put that aside. And then his fights with John Lewis. Honestly, even the Democrats that I talked to say that John Lewis is well within his right to -- to not attend the inauguration. We have a history of doing that. It goes back to Nixon. It goes back to Lincoln.

[07:10:08] But they did not like him saying that he was illegitimate. So John Lewis did start it. Trump's reaction, not that great. Put that right out there.

CHALIAN: Hey, guys, I just want to...

CUOMO: Go ahead.

CHALIAN: If you take a look at sort of where the support is coming from here, I do think it is interesting to look at it. When we asked people in November immediately after the election about approval or disapproval of how he's handling the transition, parts of his base from election night, white voters to begin with, he was plus 19 in approval among white Americans immediately in the aftermath of the election in November. He's plus three now there.

He was ahead with independents on approval in the aftermath of the election. He's now underwater by 4 points here.

So some parts of his winning coalition and that were with him in the immediate aftermath approving of what he was doing in the immediate aftermath of the election seem to be drifting away from him, in large part because of what they've seen between then and now.

CUOMO: Look, the numbers as we know are a snapshot of a moment in time. And there does seem to be some softening. So the obvious question is why the softening. Michael, what's working for him? What isn't? To many me the word "Russia" does pop up. We see in our own poll

that, you know, people have mixed feelings about it. You know, you do have that they don't feel that this is why the election turned out the way it did. The assessment of whether or not the intel community is right about Russia and their involvement. Skews about 75-25.

I see that third of somewhat likely being very important and probably going to skew more negative to neutral.

But when you look at what's working for him and what isn't, does Russia pop up in terms of how he's managing that?

SMERCONISH: Well, I think that him being at odds with the intel community and being an island unto himself, because they have been uniform. The FBI, the NSA, the CIA, all of those differing agencies, towing the same line, and then there's Donald Trump.

And anyone who's playing close attention to the confirmation hearings knows that he hasn't drawn any support from his own nominees. So I think that's the single largest issue that has cost him.

Let me also say that those confirmation hearings thus far, I think, have gone well for the nominees. There haven't been any major bumps in the road. So whatever decline in numbers he's experiencing is all on him. It's not from the team that he's assembled.

CAMEROTA: Salena, I think that you make such a good point about how, of course, people see CIA agents as heroes individually, but maybe the intel community as a big bureaucratic blob.

However, here -- he -- Mr. Trump has been in a fight, publicly now, with the outgoing CIA director, John Brennan, and...

CUOMO: Accusing him of leaks.

CAMEROTA: Accusing him of leaks. So John Brennan just responded. Here's his "Wall Street Journal" interview. He says, "It's when there are allegations made about leaking or about dishonesty or a lack of integrity, that's where I think the line is crossed. Tell the families of those 117 CIA officers who are forever memorialized on our wall of honor that their loved ones who gave their lives were akin to Nazis." That's something that Mr. Trump did. "I found that to be very repugnant, and I will forever stand up for the integrity and patriotism of my officers, who have done much over the years to sacrifice for their fellow citizens."

Do you think this is resonating, in terms of his approval rating?

ZITO: Yes, possibly. Look, I honestly think the biggest thing that is resonating is that, after 2016 election, people were exhausted, and the -- his honeymoon period has been anything but calm and cool and smooth. It has been as exhausting, if not even more contentious than the campaign. I never thought that would be possible.

I think that actually is playing into this, and I think people are just like, "We're done. Everybody just stop, and let's start governing -- governing." And I think that is part of why you see a loss of support for him in the polls. I think, if you put Congress in there or put us in there, we'd probably be in the same place.

CUOMO: There's no question. Negativity breeds negativity.

ZITO: Oh, yes.

CUOMO: Thank you very much. Appreciate it, panel.

Coming up in our next hour, Republican Senator John McCain joins us. Let's get his thoughts on these poll numbers. Let's get his thoughts. More importantly, on what matters. He has a message for you about the condition of the U.S. military and what needs to happen yesterday.

CAMEROTA: Also, you have to stick around for this. Woodward and Bernstein together again. The legendary journalists will discuss their reported rift over the recent CNN reporting on that 35-page dossier, as well as what they expect for the Trump presidency.

CUOMO: All right. Some reporting first here on CNN. New ethics questions looming over Trump's health and human services nominee, Tom Price. The transition team is defending the Georgia lawmaker.

[07:15:09] House records show he invested in a company, then introduced a bill days later that would have directly benefited the firm. CNN senior political reporter Manu Raju live in Washington with more. What's the facts?

MANU RAJU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Chris, remember, Congress in 2012 passed legislation to crack down on insider trading on Capitol Hill. And now ethics experts say Congressman Price's latest healthcare trade flies in the face of that law. This after new revelations in March 2016 that Price purchased between 1,000 and $15,000 in stock in the medical device maker Zimmer BioMed, which would have been hurt by a federal Medicare rule taking effect.

Now, less than a week after purchasing those shares, Price offered legislation benefitting Zimmer BioMed by delaying that federal Medicare rule until 2018. And then the company donated Price's campaign.

Now Trump's transition team says this is all much ado about nothing. The congressman was not influenced by the campaign. The company's donations, they say he was not aware that his broker made the purchase until about a month later, about April 2016.

But Price did continue to hold that stock in the House, and he now views his shares as enough of a conflict of interest that he plans to divest from Zimmer BioMed, along with 42 other companies, if he gets confirmed to the post. This all is renewing calls from Democrats for an ethics investigation into Price's trading.

Now, there are other appointees who have endured some controversy, as well, including Monica Crowley, a conservative commentator who bowed out of a White House staff job yesterday after CNN's K-File uncovered instances of plagiarism. And this all comes as major confirmation hearings over Trump's picks

with the EPA, education, energy, treasury and interior department, all take place this week, as well as Price's first one on Wednesday and expect that to be very contentious -- Chris.

CAMEROTA: Manu, I'll take it. We will be talking about that throughout the rest of the program. Thank you very much.

So there's this growing number of Democrats in Congress who plan to skip Mr. Trump's inauguration. What do Republicans think about that? We'll ask one next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:21:12] CUOMO: President-elect Donald Trump is heading into his inauguration with an historically low approval rating. Forty percent of Americans approve of the president-elect's performance during this transition period; 52 percent disapprove. This comes as one-in-five House Democrats saying they're going to boycott his inauguration.

Let's discuss with Republican Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. He is a member of the president-elect's transition team.

Good to see you, Congressman, as always.

It's not so much just the low number in an absolute fashion. Because this was a very divided race. You know, as we know, the popular vote was upside-down for Donald Trump, but it's that it's gone down since the transition took place. Why?

SEN. SEAN DUFFY (R), WISCONSIN: Yes. Listen, I this has been has been a pretty combative relationship between Donald Trump and the press. And frankly, I think the -- the press has been tougher on Donald Trump than most other presidential -- president-elects. And as President-elect Donald Trump has been hard on the press.

I mean, look back to the first week after he was elected. The -- the media was reporting that the transition was in disarray, because it hasn't appointed new cabinet members. Well, Mr. Trump has been consistent with every other president-elect after the election in appointing cabinet members, but the press, his hair was on fire on Mr. Trump.

I think we've had unique -- unique press about -- a leak from the intelligence community that Mr. Trump has actually pushed back on.

But I think what's happening here is the -- the public fight that Mr. Trump is having with CNN and other media groups has taken some skin off his poll numbers, and it's gone down.

But I think what -- the interesting number that you reported on was 60 percent -- or 61 percent feel that Mr. Trump will do a better job of growing jobs and the economy across the country. And I think that means that people have some faith in his ability to negotiate and put in good policies that can kick-start this economy and put them back to work with a better-paying job. Which means these other numbers that we discussed can actually come up

in the not-too-distant future.

CUOMO: And you also have the wall as one of his big promises. That does not fare well in this poll. People don't know that it's going to get built, and they certainly don't think that Mexico is going to pay for it. Your take on that?

DUFFY: Well, I think we should secure our border. And I think part of that should be a wall. I think it's pretty tough to get Mexico to pay for it. I think America is going to pay for it at the start. And Mr. Trump says maybe there's some possibility of getting payment back from Mexico.

But it's our responsibility, Chris, to secure our border. And I think Americans still have the belief that we can determine who comes in and out of our country as Americans. It's just not whoever wants to come in, we have an open border policy.

And so that border security is the key, though, to get us to immigration reform. We all want to see us deal with those who have come to the country without documentation that are working hard and playing by the rules, how do we deal with those folks? You can't get to that question until you first deal with border security. And that's why I'm hopeful we can do one for border security, a wall, and then deal with those who are here as undocumented, which I think is going to be key for this community that's in flux right now.

CUOMO: Well, and also, look, I think the disconnect between what he said and what he's going to be able to do, is one reason why that wall isn't up as high on the as getting rid of Obamacare is.

And now, you have another growing rift there on your side of the ball, between lawmakers who want to make changes to the ACA versus those who agree with what Donald Trump says he's going to do. He keeps saying everybody is going to have insurance. And as you know, a lot people in your party are saying they don't know what he means by that or how he plans to achieve that.

DUFFY: Nor do I, Chris. That was -- that was news to me when those statements came out. But listen, I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of plan he has. We can analyze it, and look at it in the House and the Senate.

But we've been working on health care for some time in our chamber and so, too, has the Senate.

[07:25:03] What we have to do is all come together: the administration, the House, the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, work on a healthcare package that's actually going to guarantee people coverage that have preexisting conditions; work on those 20 million new people who have health care coverage; but also work on a market- based system that put people in charge, families in charge of their healthcare decisions, instead of bureaucrats in Washington. Get competition, drive prices down, offer more choice. And I think that will be a good thing. But Democrats have to be part of the conversation. But to your point, I'm looking forward to Mr. Trump's plan, because I haven't seen it yet and I think it's pretty tough to do.

CUOMO: Yes. That's part of what, you know, some people put under the category of the conflict between Trump and the media. When you say things that don't make a lot of sense, and you have no plan for them, you're going to get pushback.

One thing you said earlier I want to go back to real quickly. You said there are leaks coming from the intel community. I have seen no proof of any leak coming from the intel community. Clapper came out and said there were no leaks. Brennan just came out, the outgoing CIA director, and said that it's not about leaks coming from the intel community. It's about disrespect coming from Trump to the intel community.

Do you have any proof of any leaks from the intel community?

DUFFY: Well, there -- so we all -- we all know that the media reported on the salacious allegations that Mr. Trump was briefed upon and so was President Obama. How does anybody know that those briefs took place but for a leak from the intelligence community?

CUOMO: The Gang of Eight were told also.

DUFFY: We have...

CUOMO: A lot of people knew about that stuff. McCain knew about it. He's coming on the show. Other people have been briefed about it. Harry Reid had been briefed about it.

DUFFY: Listen. But hold on a second. McCain actually was the one who sent the information to the FBI. He felt they should look at it. But John McCain, the Gang of Eight? Listen, these are professionals that get all kinds of intelligence, and they keep it pretty secret. They know the consequences of leaking it.

CUOMO: So politicians, you think, know the consequences of leaking it? So politicians you'll give the nod to. The intel community you won't give the nod to.

DUFFY: Yes, you're right.

CUOMO: That seems a little upside-down, Congressman.

DUFFY: That's true. No it doesn't. Because listen, these people are elected. They're held accountable to their constituents and to the American people, where the intelligence community is not. And the consequences for leaking this information is significant.

So I have real concern about what the intelligence community has been doing with regard to top secret information that's been put out in the press and frankly, Chris, you know, this is why they reported. The intelligence community always leaks information for strategic purposes. There was a point that the intelligence community leaked President

Obama's kill list in the Middle East. How did that happen? Maybe President Obama leaked it. I don't know.

CUOMO: I'm just saying -- I'm saying that knowing something in the general is different than knowing in the specific. I'm saying I don't know anything about any leaks now, and certainly politicians are always a great source for us.

Let me ask you something, the boycott of the inauguration, what's your take on it?

DUFFY: but first, politicians are a great source for public information or perspective. I would say not for top-secret or secret information.

But in regard to the boycott, listen, we're all Americans, and, you know what? I was not thrilled. It was a very depressing day in 2008 and 2012 in the Duffy household when President Obama won re-election. We fought hard for the Republican candidate. We weren't happy. But guess what? We go -- we go to the inauguration, maybe with a heavy heart. But it's part of this American process that Republicans and Democrats come together as one America as we transition, peacefully, power.

And I'm disappointed that, you know, that all these Democrats are saying they are going to stay home. It's like, I was a little kid and I'm used to getting a juice box and a trophy, no matter whether I win or I lose. Listen, Democrats lost. Donald Trump won. You may not like him; you may not agree with his agenda, just like we didn't agree with President Obama's agenda. But show up. That's your duty as a Republican congressman. Be part of the process.

But what this does, Chris, is in the future, what happens with the next Democrat presidential-elect that goes through their inauguration: are Republicans going to say that "We're going to stay home"? That these events become partisan in nature? That's bad for the country. Show up, be part of it. Put your big boy pants on, and let's start working together.

CUOMO: Congressman Duffy, appreciate you being on NEW DAY, as always.

DUFFY: OK.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

DUFFY: Thanks, Chris. Have a good day.

CAMEROTA: Christ, Donald Trump's education secretary nominee, Betsy Davos, will be questioned by the Senate today. Critics say she has no experience in public schools, so how can she run them? We'll hear what her supporters have to say next.

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