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George H.W. Bush Hospitalized; Trump Discusses Hot Button Issues in New Interview; President Obama Commutes Sentence of Chelsea Manning; Education Secretary Nominee Grilled on Capitol Hill. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired January 18, 2017 - 07:00   ET

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think you would be sitting here today?

BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY NOMINEE: As a matter of fact, I do.

[07:00:03] SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: No wonder they want to rush it through. They don't want people to get a good look at these people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

CUOMO: "These people." Loaded words from Chuck Schumer.

Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We begin with breaking news about America's oldest living former president. George H.W. Bush is being treated at a Houston hospital after falling ill.

CAMEROTA: The 92-year-old 41st president has battled a series of health issues in the last year. CNN's Athena Jones is live at the White House with all the breaking details. What do we know, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. Well the former president spokesperson tells CNN that he has been hospitalized since Saturday for shortness of breath. He is responding well to treatments and will hopefully be released from the hospital soon. That's according to a spokesperson.

But as you said, he suffered from a series of health concerns over the last several years. For one thing, he suffers from a form of Parkinson's Disease. He's also been hospitalized several times. Twice in late 2012 for bronchitis. He ultimately spent two months in the hospital being treated for that ailment.

Two years later, he was hospitalized for shortness of breath, the same complaint that sent him to the hospital this time. And in July of 2015, he suffered a fall at his home in Kennebunkport, Maine, and broke vertebrae in his neck. So he's had a series of health challenges.

He's also remained quite active for someone of his age, celebrating his last -- celebrating several birthdays by jumping out of the helicopter, skydiving, in Houston. But of course, it's a big concern any time someone of his age is hospitalized, and it could affect his son's plans, Bush 43, George W. Bush's plans to attend Friday's inauguration. We'll have to see what develops and see if those plans change -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Athena. Thank you very much.

President-elect Donald Trump making headlines this morning. In a new interview, Trump talking about his rift with the CIA and the border wall with Mexico.

We're just two days away from his inauguration. CNN's Jason Carroll is live at Trump Tower in New York with more -- Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, you know, there are a lot of headlines there, Chris, as you mentioned. He really goes into more detail than we've heard in the past, specifically, how he feels about that intel leak after he got that briefing about Russia and its involvement in the U.S. election.

He also talked about the border wall, as you mentioned, specifically saying who he believes is going to pay for it. Of course, it's going to be Mexico at the end of the day.

And finally Chris, once again, he does talk about that feud that he's having with Congressman John Lewis and how he feels about the total now of 54 Democratic lawmakers who will not be attending his inauguration.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: CIA John Brennan, he responded to your Twitter. You said -- you questioned whether or not he might be the leaker. He's saying no, he's not the leaker. What's your response?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I accept his -- look, I accept it, but it came out of some place and it's you fake news. It's all fake news. I can say something about George Washington. I can say something about Abraham Lincoln. I can say something about you. I can -- just fake news, and they shouldn't have been a part of it. They should not have been a part of it, because it's made up, never existed, never happened.

And the reason I say that so strongly is because nothing is ever going to show up. There's never going to be a tape that shows up. There's never going to be anything that shows up. Now, I would be embarrassed if a tape actually showed up, saying something like that. It would be double embarrassed, because I'm saying there isn't a tape. There was no event. I was never even in that room for that period of time. They made stuff up.

And it started with the Republican Party, when they tried to beat me in the nomination, and then it went on. The Democrats took over that work, supposedly. And by the intelligence giving it credence, a little bit of credence by just even talking about it, it was very inappropriate. So I don't know who the leaker was. I have no idea, but it's fake

news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are some congressmen and women who have decided not to show up and not be there. What was your reaction when Congressman Lewis started this?

TRUMP: Well, what he said is that he's never done it before, but he has. He has done it before, because he did it with President Bush 43; and he did it on the same basis. He said he is not our president or something thereabouts. And that's a very bad misrepresentation. So let's see what happens.

As far as other people not going, that's OK, because we need seats so badly. I hope they give me their tickets. Are they going to give us their tickets, or are they going to give them to other people? No, what happens to their tickets? I hope they're going to give us their tickets.

When I said we're going to get reimbursed for the wall, they said, "Oh, Trump's not keeping his promise." Wait a minute. We're going to build the wall. Mexico is going to reimburse us. And headlines "Trump's not" -- what's this all about? Now I could wait, but in order to get the wall started, which we're going to do sooner than we can do the deal, we have to do it this way.

So we're going to have a wall. Mexico -- in some form, Mexico is going to reimburse us for that wall. And everybody is going to be happy. And we're going to stop the drugs from coming in, and we're going to stop people from coming in who are doing, in some cases, some tremendous harm. But I have to say this, we're going to have a tremendous, beautiful big door in that wall.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[07:05:18] CARROLL: And the president-elect also talked about his inauguration address. You'll remember, last month, he said that he would be writing it himself. Transition officials say that he has done just that.

And he talked a little bit about that, Chris and Alisyn. He said that, in the opening of his speech, he plans to thank all of the past presidents; and he specifically gave a special note to President Obama and his wife. He said the two of them have been especially gracious throughout the transition -- Chris, Alisyn.

CUOMO: Thanks, Jason.

Let's bring in our panel. We've got David Gregory, CNN political analyst; and Patrick Healy, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" deputy culture editor.

David Gregory, any headlines pop out at you after that excerpt of the interview of the president-elect?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I guess what I wonder in hearing that, as he takes on Democrats who have taken on him, how he wants to tried to bridge this divide a little bit. We talked about the fact that Trump is coming into office now with a very divided country, mostly about him and his temperament and his approach to the office. His economic agenda is a little bit more popular. How he wants to try to salve these wounds as he comes into office. I think he'd like to try to do some things to bring Democrats on board, instead of being in a posture of fighting, and to be fair to him, they're in a posture of fighting, as well, by calling him illegitimate.

But again, I'm looking for what he might do in the inauguration to try to change that a little bit.

CAMEROTA: So Patrick, are these 45 Democrats in the House who have decided to boycott, are they making their bed, that they're not going to be helpful to the president; and he certainly won't seek them out?

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. They're standing their ground. And you saw this on the Senate side yesterday, too, with the confirmation hearing of Betsy Devos, the education secretary nominee. They are trying to go strong and hard where they can. They're trying to sort of pick their shots. And at least with the inauguration, you know, it's really kind of a symbolic, you know, pushback for them.

But I think the broader point, and this goes to data, is how these two sides are going to work together. You see kind of Donald Trump, who still is just kind of making these attacks, saying sort of fake news, fake news. Just sort of throwing out kind of like words and pot shots when he doesn't like something, when he disagrees with something. You know, a long intelligence briefing report on Russia, he just sort of dismisses it. That's not the way to try to engage in kind of a back and forth dialogue.

CAMEROTA: But you know that he's talking about the particular dossier that said that there was some sort of information that the Russians had; this is from Russian operatives. It came through political opposition research. He doesn't like what's in it. He doesn't believe that he's been compromised. So he -- he's calling it fake news, but I mean, basically he's saying he doesn't believe it and it's not true.

HEALY: Right. I mean, this is sort of the Trump strategy. It's to -- it's to dismiss. It's to sort of focus on the one phrase that he wants his supporters to hear over and over again. You know, it's fake news. Yes, with that point very much so.

But sort of the broader issues, he's got to build a relationship with Democrats on the Hill, you would think. At least so far, there hasn't been the kind of outreach. Reince Priebus and some of the others around Donald Trump are doing some of that, but what I've heard from Democrats themselves is them saying, "It's not like he's bringing us into the cabinet. We're not sort of in the inner circle. We haven't heard, like, a change of rhetoric from Donald Trump in terms of trying to reach across the aisle."

CUOMO: David, how do we know that you're right that he wants to unify? I know he's said it, you know, from time to time. But if you look at his actions from before but certainly after he became elected, he's done nothing but foment tensions.

GREGORY: Yes.

CUOMO: He's done absolutely nothing to bridge this divide. Even if you look at this situation with the dossier, I get why he wouldn't like the dossier.

He also undermined the intelligence agency, refused to acknowledge that Russia was behind the hacks. Even when he admitted it, he still gave an opening that it could be other people. He takes every fight up that comes his way. Is that the path to any kind of unity?

GREGORY: No, I don't think it is. Because I think it's actually something that's central to who he is. I mean, I think if you look in the polling, what people are concerned about is his temperament. Even people who supported him. We've been talking about this for over a year. Even people that supported him have concerns about his temperament, how he conducts himself.

So I think that is a real problem. And I think part of it is he can't help himself. Anyone that questions his legitimacy as a leader or whether he rightly and fairly won the election, he just can't restrain himself.

So I think he's got to deal with that. And maybe he won't. Maybe he will just dig in and take all comers who want to challenge his legitimacy instead of trying to turn them around.

But I think another point in all of this, the -- as Pat said, I mean, it's kind of taking pot shots and flying off on any number of these issues. He's going to have to make some decisions about where his priorities are. As are Democrats. Where are they going to fight him?

[06:10:05] He's going to have to decide what fights he wants. Is he going to take on building the wall and all that opposition? Is he going to take on replacing healthcare? These things are going to require time, political capital. All the while he wants to take on international relationships. So as someone who doesn't really know the presidency, is not classically qualified for the presidency, I think it's going to be a rude awakening how he's going to try to do all these things at the same time.

HEALY: One point -- and one point that he made, too, that -- to David's point about both temperament and about priorities, is what -- what Donald Trump said in the interview about -- about Mexico reimbursing the United States for the wall. Throughout the campaign...

CUOMO: No more "pay."

HEALY: ... no more "pay." It was all about they're going to pay for the wall. They're going to pay for the wall. It was one of the huge rallying applause -- applause lines at his rallies. Nothing would get his supporters more excited than the idea that the United States was going to make Mexico pay for that wall.

And now he's going to this language "reimburse." It does not have the same lovely tone from his side's point of view.

But it is striking that, in terms of at least temperament and priorities, you know, it's not about trying to bring another country to its knees. It's now saying, "Well, you can, you know, send us the check afterward."

CAMEROTA: And David another -- make your point.

GREGORY: No, no, you go. Go ahead.

CAMEROTA: Another case in point.

GREGORY: He's going to be accountable for these things -- sorry, we have a satellite delay. He's going to be accountable for these big promises and that's -- among his supporters, among the public at large. The media is certainly not going to let him get away with that. We know what his big pronouncements were. And now, as your president, you've got to stand and deliver or not.

CAMEROTA: OK. So we're watching this play out in real time with Obamacare. President-elect Trump has said more than once everybody should be insured. And now, you know, Tom Price and Paul Ryan are like, "Whoa, what? How do we do that?" So even within his own party some things might cause some future strife.

GREGORY: And I think that goes to a larger point, which is where are the battles within his own party? You talked about Russia a minute ago. He's going to take flak from his own party on whatever relationship he charged with Russia, so we watch for that.

But this is a very important case about the future of the Affordable Care Act, because there's certainly the energy to replace it, to repeal it. But then how do you replace it? And who's going to win the day here? Is a President Trump, with all of his political backing, going to really put the thumb on the scale and to say to those recalcitrant conservatives, "No, you're going to do it my way. You're going to find a way to insure all Americans." Don't know how they're going to do that? We haven't seen the specifics.

Or is he going to accept the judgment of those conservatives on Capitol Hill who say, "This is what it's going to look like"? We always wondered what the tension would be like between him and Ryan, whether Ryan would effectively run domestic policy or not. I think we're going to find out.

CAMEROTA: David, Patrick, thank you very much.

GREGORY: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: So there's praise and outrage following President Obama's decision to commute Chelsea Manning's 35-year sentence down to 7 years. The transgender former Army private was convicted of leaking hundreds of thousands of pages of government documents. CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with the latest. Good

morning, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. It was one of the stiffest convictions ever for violating the Espionage Act, but now Chelsea Manning is getting out of jail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He broke the law.

STARR (voice-over): In a stunning move, President Obama commuting the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence soldier convicted of leaking classified government documents to WikiLeaks. Manning now set to be released in May after serving 7 years of a 35- year sentence.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I have serious concerns about equivocating sentences when national security is at stake.

STARR: The controversial decision going against the objections of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and sending shockwaves through Washington.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AK), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: For the president, especially a president who's made so much recently about the danger that WikiLeaks has posed to our national security, to commute Private Manning's sentence I just think is very disappointing.

STARR: Manning, a transgender woman formerly known as Bradley, stole hundreds of thousands of classified military files, including videos of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq that sparked concerns over human rights violations, and embarrassing diplomatic cables, a leak credited with putting WikiLeaks on the map.

Manning pled guilty, convicted of multiple charges, including violating the Espionage Act.

Serving time in Fort Leavenworth, a men's military prison, Manning struggled with gender identity issues, twice trying to commit suicide after requests to be transferred to a civilian prison were denied.

[07:10:04] WikiLeaks celebrating the news, hailing Manning's clemency as a victory.

But Obama did not exonerate another famous leaker, NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary. Chelsea Manning is somebody who was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: So what now for WikiLeaks? Its founder, Julian Assange, has said he will agree to an extradition request to the U.S. if Manning was released. We haven't seen Mr. Assange get on a plane yet for the United States.

And what about Edward Snowden, NSA leaker? Well, Moscow now says that Snowden can stay in Russia until at least 2020 -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Barbara. Thank you very much.

Confirmation hearings are ongoing today. More for Trump's cabinet picks from Democratic lawmakers. You've got four of them up there today. The incoming education secretary potentially -- potentially, because boy, did she get hammered yesterday. We'll tell you how, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:20:04] CUOMO: Four of President-elect Trump's cabinet nominees face Senate confirmation hearings today, including health and human services nominee Congressman Tom Price. This comes after a contentious hearing late yesterday for education secretary nominee Betsy Devos.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty live on Capitol Hill with more. Tough questions for Devos.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There certainly were, Chris, and Betsy Devos is certainly one of Donald Trump's most controversial cabinet nominees. And we did really see that reflected in the sharp line of questioning coming from Democrats yesterday, bringing up her support for the voucher program and school choice, and even her political past, being a major top Republican donor behind the scenes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: Can you commit to us tonight that you will not work to privatize public schools or cut a single penny from public education?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Do you think, if you were not a multibillionaire, if your family has not made hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions to the Republican Party, that you would be sitting here today.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: If President Trump moves forward with his plan to ban gun free school zones, will you support that proposal?

BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY NOMINEE: I will support what the president-elect does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: And this will be another critical day for the incoming Trump administration up here on Capitol Hill, and pressure is specifically mounting on Tom Price. He is Trump's nominee for health and human services secretary and is facing a two-part confirmation hearing, going into today's hearing with a slew of insider trading accusations at his back.

The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, saying that he may have broken the law and calling for an investigation. And Democrats are saying that this hearing should be postponed so more adequate vetting can be looked into these ethics charges. The ranking Democrat on the committee that he will face next week is already saying that -- accusing Republicans of, in his words, rushing to sneak this nominee through -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Sunlen. Thanks so much.

Let's bring in now Democratic Senator Chris Coons. He's a leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Good morning, senator.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I know you were not part of that committee hearing for Betsy Devos, but I do want to ask you about how that hearing went. Many of your Senate colleagues asked her a slew of questions. At times, it got contentious. Let me just play for you a moment where she responds to how she would feel about more guns in schools. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURPHY: You can't say definitively today that guns shouldn't be in schools?

DEVOS: Well, I will refer back to Senator Enzi and the school that he was talking about in Wapiti, Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there's probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.

MURPHY: If President -- if President Trump moves forward with his plan to ban gun-free school zones will you support that proposal?

DEVOS: I will support what the president-elect does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Senator, were you satisfied with her answers?

COONS: Not at all, Alisyn. Look, at best that was evasive; at worst, that was insulting. The congressman -- excuse me, the senator from Connecticut was asking about gun-free school zones, in part because his state was so rocked, so affected by the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. And Senator Chris Murphy has been great advocate for ensuring safety in our public schools by working to reduce the possibilities of gun violence in schools. So he was asking, I think, a relevant, pointed question which she simply dodged.

CAMEROTA: A lot of your colleagues felt that they don't support her because she doesn't have any experience personally or professionally with public school education. Her counterpoint is that -- but she has a lot of experience with children and education. Do you think that she will be the next education secretary?

COONS: Well, I don't know whether she's going to get confirmed, but I am concerned that her record in advocating for school vouchers and charter schools doesn't include a record of advocating for accountability and transparency.

I'm fine with the idea that we should experiment with charter schools in education as long as they're fully accountable. And I strongly oppose school vouchers. And Ms. Devos has largely been an activist and an advocate for restructuring the public schools of the state of Michigan with, my impression is from everything I've read, with very negative results for the school children of the state of Michigan.

CAMEROTA: All right, I want to ask you about some other cabinet picks that are looming. Rex Tillerson, I know that you are still -- well, I heard that you are still on the fence about him. How are you going to vote?

COONS: Well, I spent the weekend, Alisyn, going over the transcript. We had a nine-hour hearing. One of the challenges of these hearings being stacked up was that the Tillerson hearing was the same day as the Sessions hearing. And so I was back and forth between the two.

I've got some questions I want to follow up on with Mr. Tillerson, and I'm consulting with colleagues on the committee, both Democrat and Republican.

He gave a number of answers in his confirmation hearing that really didn't satisfy me.

CAMEROTA: Such as?

[07:25:07] COONS: About lobbying at Exxon. About his view of the role of human rights in advancing American interests and about his view of climate change.

But before the confirmation hearing, we had a very constructive meeting. And I have to ask myself if not Rex Tillerson, who else might be nominated by President-elect Trump.

Like several other nominees by President-elect Trump, Rex Tillerson distanced himself from some of the more alarming things that Donald Trump has said about NATO, about Vladimir Putin and Russia, and about our role in the world and about the importance of the U.N. and of the Iran nuclear deal. So he was less concerning to me than Donald Trump is on foreign policy.

CAMEROTA: Well, speaking of the U.N., I know that you also met yesterday with Nikki Haley, Mr. Trump's pick for ambassador to the U.N. And she shared with you her world view, I think, also diverges somehow from Mr. Trump's. What did she tell you?

COONS: That's right. In a series of significant ways, both Governor Nikki Haley, nominated to be the U.N. ambassador, and Rex Tillerson, nominated to be secretary of state, have said they value NATO. They have a clear-eyed view of Vladimir Putin as being the aggressor, particularly in Ukraine. That they oppose the idea that we might ever accept the annexation of Crimea, that they don't see the value in a renewed nuclear arms race, and that they do think that we should stay at the table of the climate agreement negotiated in Paris and the Iran nuclear agreement. Those are important steps in the direction of a sort of bipartisan, I think, mature view of world affairs.

But it highlights even further how destabilizing and unprecedented the tweets of President-elect Trump over this past weekend have been, where he was picking fights with Angela Merkel, the head of Germany, with NATO, with the CIA, with his own Republican counterparts and with civil rights legend John Lewis. It's really going to be quite a challenging time ahead, and I see the value of supporting the confirmation of folks who are more seasoned and stable, although they will be serving a president-elect whose foreign policy views are tough to discern at times.

CAMEROTA: Well, we have a little bit of insight into that. Mr. Trump has just given an interview to the new political news outlet Axios. And he told them why he's giving Putin a fair shake. So let me just read this moment to you. He says, "I gave everybody an even start. That right now, as far as I'm concerned, everybody's got an even start."

Meaning there's sort of, in his mind, a level playing field between Vladimir Putin and, say, Angela Merkel.

COONS: That is ridiculous. That's frankly outrageous to suggest that one of our closest European allies that has stood shoulder to shoulder with us in NATO for seven decades is to be trusted equally with the head of state of a country that has recently attacked our election with a cyberattack, that has committed human rights violations and atrocities in Aleppo in Syria, and has recently invaded an occupied territory of a neighboring country. To suggest that we should equally trust these two heads of state is, I think, really striking.

CAMEROTA: Senator Chris Coons, thanks so much. Great to talk to you.

COONS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Let's get to Chris.

CUOMO: All right. President Obama's decision to commute Chelsea Manning is being praised but also criticized. Why did the president do it? We're going to ask White House press secretary Josh Earnest next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)