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Interview with John McCain; More Democrats Decide Not to Attend Donald Trump's Inauguration; Interview with Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 17, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's see how long that lasts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump with a historic low approval rating head into the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, give them all obligations to do something, to say something, and not be quiet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: to question the legitimacy of this election is deeply disappointing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say John Lewis demonstrated that he's action.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We hope that these Democratic members of Congress reconsider. They are certainly welcome to the inauguration.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Up first president-elect Donald Trump is going to enter the White House with a historically low approval rating. A new CNN/ORC poll, 40 percent of Americans approve of how Trump has handled the presidential transition, 52 percent disapprove. That approval rate is 44 points lower than Obama in 2009 before he took office. It's also 20 points lower than his three other predecessors.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The 52 percent who disapprove of Mr. Trumps transitional performance, that's seven points higher than it was even it in November. The poll also shows 53 percent of Americans are less confident now in Mr. Trump's ability to handle the job than they were on Election Day. Many Americans, though, are still confident Mr. Trump will make good on some on his signature promises like creating good-paying jobs. And 61 percent believe that is likely.

CUOMO: We have a big guest to discuss these big numbers but also what is going on in the world and a specific on the needs of the military, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, Senator McCain, chairman of the armed services committee. Good to see you again, sir.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Thank you. Good to be with you.

CUOMO: So Senator, what do you make of these numbers? Why are they going the wrong way for the president-elect as he enters office?

MCCAIN: Well, I think you can assume it's because he seems to want to engage with every windmill that he can find rather than focus on the large aspect of assuming the most important position on earth. And obviously -- apparently according to the polls, many Americans are not happy with that approach when he has not even assumed the presidency.

CUOMO: So Churchill said you can't make any progress if you stop along the road to deal with every barking dog. Fair enough, but you would argue, I believe that there is a huge bear that he is ignoring. How much of your concern that we seeing in these polls do you believe is a reflection of the president-elect's apparent sheltering and placating of Russia?

MCCAIN: I am very concerned about the president's statements about Russia. This is a guy that used precision-guided missiles to hit hospitals in Aleppo. War crimes have been committed, and of course he continues his dismemberment of Georgia, Ukraine, Crimea, the list goes on and on.

But I also am concerned about his comments about NATO. And Chris, if I could just refresh your memory, we were attacked on 9/11, not any of these countries, and they sent their young men and women to serve in Afghanistan, over 1,000 were killed in Afghanistan, not because they were attacked but because we were attacked, and they adhered to the NATO charter, Article Five, we says when one is attacked, all is attacked. I don't think that we should ever forget that, that they were willing to send their young people to Afghanistan to fight not because they were attacked but because we were attacked, and we should never forget that.

CUOMO: Fair and strong point. The president-elect saying again that he believes NATO is obsolete. What is your message to him in light of the concerns that we are hearing out of Germany, out of China, out of the European Union about the state of alliances and relationships with the United States in part at least because of his fomenting of tensions with those countries.

MCCAIN: First of all, I would say thank you for your commitment to increase defense spending. Barack Obama has basically harmed our military in terms of readiness, capability, in every way, including morale of the men and women who are serving. So I want to thank him in saying he will increase spending and defense.

We've cut defense 21 percent in the last eight years. I don't think the world is 21 percent safer. Second of all, obviously the world is on fire thanks to a total abysmal failure of leadership for the last eight years. Tell Vladimir I will be more flexible when I am elected, and ISIS is the jayvee, the list goes on and on.

Meanwhile, along with Congress cutting spending on defense, I have a plan to increase the spending and restoring the military, and we'd better do it because the world is on fire and they got the message about a weak America.

[08:05:02] CUOMO: I will circle back to the politics. Let's stay on this point because you're making it right now. What do you want the American people to know about the situation with the U.S. military? What needs to be done and what are the prospects for getting it done?

MCCAIN: Well, I blame Congress as well as Barack Obama for this mindless sequestration which was meat axe cuts to our defenses, throwing out good and bad programs, and also we in Congress have not done the job we should do about these terrible cost overruns and waste and mismanagement, and I'm glad that the president commented on that. We are going to have to rebuild our military. We have the smallest army, smallest, air force, smallest Navy we've had in literally modern times. We're going to have to rebuild. We're going to have to spend more money, we're going to have to reform the way we do business.

But right now the advantage that we have held for the last 70 years is now being eroded as the Russians and the Chinese have increased their capabilities, not to mention Iran and other nation states. So I think we need NATO more than ever, but we are also facing a long-term battle against this radical Islamic extremism, which clearly we have not won.

CUOMO: Part of our military strategy often involves intel, as you know better than most. What do you make of the CIA outgoing director John Brennan going after the president-elect for, in his opinion, disparaging the community, questioning its consensus about Russia being behind the attacks, relating their behavior to Nazis. What do you make of that?

MCCAIN: I am sorry to see it because it helps neither the intelligence community, which has not been infallible, we all know that, although they are vital, and of course this kind of confrontation cannot be helpful. And I also am worried about the morale of these men and women who labor out of the spotlight in the shadows defending our nation in the intelligence business. They are incredible patriots, and I'd like -- I don't want to see their morale hurt.

CUOMO: So one of the big keys, of course, going forward will be the cabinet positions, specifically secretary of state. The president- elect's nominee is Rex Tillerson. Have you decided whether or not whether you're going to vote for him?

MCCAIN: I have not. I had another conversation with him yesterday where I think he explained better to me his relationship with Vladimir Putin.

Chris, I just -- when I see what Vladimir Putin has done in the way of literally committing war crimes intentionally, I point out again, precision weapons used in Aleppo to strike hospitals and kill innocent men, women, and children, that's just an example. I question the recipient of a friendship award with Vladimir Putin. See my point?

CUOMO: I do see why you are raising questions. The question is what are you going to do about it. You say you have not decided yet, and that seems to be a disposition that you're going to have to make your mind up about on a lot of different fronts going forward. How much thought are you giving to how you are going to deal with these situations if they continue the same way, if the president, then, not just president-elect, says I trust Merkel and Putin going forward, you know, and the equation between those two people, how are you going to deal with those issues as you go forward?

MCCAIN: I have a very close relationship with General Mattis and General Kelly, I know and respect General Flynn a great deal. A lot of the people that are going to be around the president I have known for many years, and I trust and respect especially those individuals that I just mentioned.

So I want to work with the president. I know I can work with the secretary of defense, secretary of homeland security and others because I have in the past, and so I will look forward to the opportunity of working with them. But the world is on fire, Chris. We are in more danger than we've been in 70 years. The European Union is under the most severe strains. The refugee problem continues. The Chinese act in the most aggressive behavior, and of course Vladimir Putin continues to now play a major role in the Middle East which is something that he did not do, he was absent from the Middle East a few years ago.

CUOMO: Last question, because a lot of this, obviously the tone is going to come from the top. If we look at what is going on with Congressman Tom Price now, there are these ethics questions that are coming out about past trades. And I know he has a good reputation in congress, and I know how important he is to the party because he's the only one with a semblance of a plan about what to do something with the replacement of the ACA.

[08:10:00] But you have got all this pressure from the top of the Office of Government Ethics, get rid of your job, you stink at your job, hurry up with your job, and then you have somebody with these conflicts that are seemingly going to pass on to you senators who are going to vote. Are you concerned about that?

MCCAIN: I think it's important that we adhere to the constitution, and that is the Senate's responsibility is to advise and consent. We certainly are in the armed services committee, and no matter how qualified an individual is, they still have to pass the advise and consent aspect of any nominee. And I don't know that much about Congressman Price's qualifications or lack of, but I do know that we need to exercise our constitutional responsibilities, otherwise we are guilty of not doing so.

CUOMO: So we are going to have a transition of power in a few days from now. President Obama will be outgoing, and you certainly have your criticisms for what you see, specifically with foreign policy. Is there anything that you would congratulate the president for as he leaves now in terms of his legacy?

MCCAIN: I congratulated him many times going back to November of 2008. He was a statement to the world that America will elect a person as president of the United States no matter what their race, color, or creed is, and it was a signal and something that all of us can be very proud of.

CUOMO: Senator John McCain, we look forward to seeing how these hearings go, and we understand the importance of the military spending bill. You are always welcome to come here as it makes its way through the process to make the case.

MCCAIN: Thank you. Always glad to be with you.

CUOMO: The pleasure is ours. Be well, senator.

MCCAIN: Thanks.

CUOMO: In just minutes we have Woodward and Bernstein together again. The legendary journalists are discussing a very important situation, the CNN report, what they each make of this situation journalistically right here on the show.

CAMEROTA: We also have some big breaking news. The underwater search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 that we remember has been missing, this search has officially been suspended. The plane vanished nearly three years ago over the Indian Ocean in route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, 239 people were onboard. Searchers spent millions of dollars and scoured thousands of square miles of the Indian Ocean. In a joint statement, Malaysian, Chinese, and Australian officials said they did not make this decision, quote, "lightly nor without sadness."

CUOMO: Turkish police say their two week manhunt for the nightclub gunman is over, arrested the suspect and four others in a hideout in an Istanbul suburb. Now we know that for a fact, however the city's governor says the alleged shooter confessed to the ISIS influenced attack. We don't have that confirmed yet. But we do know that 39 people died, dozens more were injured in the early morning hours of New Year's Day.

CAMEROTA: A U.S. citizen is among five people killed inside a nightclub in Mexico. Shots rang out just before dawn yesterday at Playa del Carmen. Authorities are ruling out terrorism. They believe the incident stemmed from a personal dispute. The American who was killed has been identified as 18-year-old Alejandra Villanueva Ibarra of Denver. She was killed in the crush to escape the building.

CUOMO: More Democrats are hopping on the bandwagon, boycotting president-elect Trumps inauguration. Is it the right move? We are going to talk to a democratic congressman who has not decided yet whether or not he will attend.


[08:16:47] CAMEROTA: A number of Democrats say they will not attend Mr. Trump's inauguration. About 20 percent of the Democrats in the House of Representatives say they will skip it. So, will this move cast a shadow over what is normally a momentous celebration?

Joining us is Democratic congressman from New York who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee. He is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman Gregory Meeks.

Good morning.


CAMEROTA: Are you going to go to the inauguration?

MEEKS: Not decided yet, and listening to the issues and over the MLK weekend I was talking to a lot of my constituents, and I think there's a lot at stake here.

CAMEROTA: But why -- what are you waiting for?

MEEKS: Number one, if I go it's not to celebrate, and it's there to understand the office of the presidency of the United States of America, and I want to make sure that if I go that I am in the face of this president and know he can not get around me and other members of Congress.

I see others he is talking to, and they are not members of Congress that deal with policy issues and I want to deal with the policy issues and challenge him and go back and forth, something that did not take place during the debates.

CAMEROTA: Well, look, there you have it. Isn't the peaceful transfer of power and that tradition in our country paramount? Doesn't that sort of, pardon the pun, trump any kind of personal beef you have with any incoming president?

MEEKS: Which is why I am considering going but making sure that I would be at no celebratory event. I don't want to be there, and it's good we are having the peaceful transfer of power, but I would not hangout in a celebration with an individual who says it's OK to grab women by their private parts are calling individuals who happen to be of Mexican descent rapist and criminals and started the birther movement against the president of the United States.

CAMEROTA: I mean, wouldn't he say all that was in the past and that was during the campaign and now it's time for a new page and to move forward and attempt to have some sort of progress or unity for the country?

MEEKS: Well, that tells me who he is as a person, and so I don't like him as a person. But I do have to deal with him because the Electoral College has determined he will be the 45th president of the United States, and that's why I am considering going and I want to be in his face with a legitimate agenda for the people I represent and for all Americans.

CAMEROTA: Was your colleague, John Lewis, wrong, to say that Mr. Trump is an illegitimate president?

MEEKS: Congressman Lewis is not wrong, and he has earned the right and respect and he has put everything on the line for this country and he, indeed, is one that made this country great. Not Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: Understood. But you are the person who just said the Electoral College voted for him. He is our president.

MEEKS: That is correct, and John Lewis is right because he put -- right to make his statement of his beliefs because he has really put his life on the line for this country. Donald Trump has never done anything for anybody other than Donald Trump.

It seems to me if he was -- the president-elect wanted to do the right thing instead of coming back at John Lewis, he would have said to John Lewis, I would love to sit down and talk to you, John Lewis, on how we could make this country moving forward and how we can work together on policy that would benefit this country and let's have a dialogue in regards to that as opposed to what he has been doing with everybody, just calling people names.

[08:20:01] CAMEROTA: But, I mean, of course, he is understandably upset that he was called an illegitimate president. He was elected legitimately.

MEEKS: He is the president of the -- will be the president of the United States. You cannot respond in methods that I think are immature and childish.

CAMEROTA: CNN has found a couple of clips of Mr. Trump on Fox News and NBC back in 2014 where he had a very different take on Russia than what he appears to have today. So let me play those for you and get your reaction.


TRUMP: Mitt was right. And he was also right when he mentioned in one of the debates about Russia, and he said Russia is our biggest problem. Russia is not strong economically, and we could do a lot of things to do numbers on them if we wanted to.

We should definitely be strong. We should definitely do sanctions. And we have to show some strength. I mean, Putin has eaten Obama's lunch, therefore our lunch, for a long period of time.


CAMEROTA: He said we should definitely do sanctions, he doesn't feel that way it sounds like anymore. What do you think has changed in less than three years?

MEEKS: I don't know, Donald Trump has flip-flopped through the whole election campaign, we don't really know who this Donald Trump is. I don't think the Republicans know who Donald Trump is and I think that's why I think that we are going to have to confront him.

I think that we are in a very serious scenario domestically and internationally, and that's what has a lot of individuals concerned about his presidency. No matter who you talk to, as I walk the streets and go across the country, Americans are concerned and I sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee and as I talk to individuals internationally, they are concerned. They are asking people to come to talk because they have no clue what Donald Trump will do as president.

CAMEROTA: What's your biggest concern?

MEEKS: What my concern is, when you start making statements as he has with regards to Russia, and whether NATO shouldn't exist and the E.U., that has an impact. It has an impact on the economy, when you are picking fights with China, and with Mexico, and you know, with all of our allies, those have consequences. Words have consequences, especially if you are the president of the United States.

You cannot just go on and get on a Twitter and put statements out and think you can govern and legislate in that manner.

CAMEROTA: He also picked fight with the intel community, as you know. Mr. Trump is understandably, I think, upset that this dossier of opposition research that included some wild and unconfirmed accusations about him got leaked. He blames the intel community. In fact, he likened it, the leak, to Nazi Germany. CIA Director John Brennan said that that was repugnant.

What do you make of the rift that he has with the intel community?

MEEKS: Mr. Trump has to understand it's not about him. I know all of his life, everything has just been about him. When you are the president of the United States, it's not about you and it's about the country. When you are the leader of the free world, it's not about the country but about the world, that it's so small and interconnected that we have to figure out how to do this thing and work together with our allies.

So, Mr. Trump, if you go by his life's work, it's only been about him and his family, and as president of the United States. It's got to change. And it's only the American people that are going to be able to compel him and force him to change, and that's where our voices have to be loud and clear.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Greg Meeks, perhaps we will see you at the inauguration later this week. Thanks so much for being here with us.

MEEKS: Good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: What is your take on all of this? You can tweet us @newday, or you can post your comment on


CUOMO: All right. Woodward and Bernstein broke the story that blew open the Watergate scandal and set a standard for investigative reporting on politics. Now, there's an apparent, or a least a reported rift over a CNN report about a two-page intelligence summary presented to the president and president-elect. Is that real or is it manufactured? You're going to hear it when they reunite, next.


[08:27:30]CUOMO: Time now for the five things to know for your NEW DAY.

Donald Trump is set to take office with a historically low approval rating, and just 40 percent of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the transition, that's lower than any incoming president in decades.

CAMEROTA: More than three dozen House Democrats now say they will boycott the inauguration of Donald Trump. The list expanding after the president-elect's public criticism of civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis for questioning the legitimacy of Mr. Trump's presidency.

CUOMO: The Trump transition team now depending Health and Human Services nominee, Tom Price, after House records raised ethical records, and they show the Georgia lawmaker invested in a company and introduced a bill days later that would have directly benefited the firm.

CAMEROTA: The underwater search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has been officially suspended. The plane vanished nearly three years ago over the Indian Ocean, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, 239 people were onboard.

CUOMO: Sad news. Astronaut Eugene Cernan, the commander of the last mission to the moon in December 1972, has passed away. Cernan's family released a statement confirming the 82-year-old died of ongoing health issues.

CAMEROTA: For more on the five things to know, go to for the latest.

Well, award-winning journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward teamed up for Watergate decades ago, as you know. But are they at odds now about the recent intelligence report on Russian hacking? The legendary duo will be together again on NEW DAY, next.