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President Obama Commutes Sentence of Chelsea Manning; Interview with Representative Marsha Blackburn; Former President George H.W. Bush Hospitalized. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 18, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I asked Secretary Summers, I said look, what do you make of Donald Trump saying a weaker dollar will be better. He sort of, there's a slight gasp, and he sort of says, it's unwise. The rubric and the rhetoric of a strong dollar has been around for two decades, and Donald Trump's use of this phrase now to talk down the dollar, still too early to know whether he actually wants a managed dollar decline. But if he's not very careful, that's exactly what he's going to get.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: In fairness to him, once he takes office, he's going to have to explain why he wants a weaker dollar, what he thinks that will mean for the economy, and he has to have a chance to lay that out.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Christine and Richard, thank you very much. Fun to hear you speak in unison.

We are following a lot of news this morning. Let's get right to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chelsea Manning is serving a sentence and will continue to serve the sentence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you combine the excessive sentence with the humanitarian considerations, Obama thought it was just to commute her sentence.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's just going to be an amazing weekend. It's going to be something special.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A shame these people don't want to be part of the transfer of power.

TRUMP: What happens to their tickets? I hope they're going to give us their tickets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's a very good chance that he will not be confirmed.

TRUMP: I'm very proud of the cabinet members we have put together.

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


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

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, January 18th, 8:00 in the east. Up first, president-elect Donald Trump talking about his feuds with the CIA director and civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis as more Democrats say they will boycott his inauguration.

CUOMO: The comments come as four of Mr. Trump's cabinet nominees head to Capitol Hill in just hours to face tough questions from senators. We're two days away from the inauguration day for Donald J. Trump. CNN's Jason Carroll live at Trump Tower in New York with more. Jason?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you. Let's start with that interview with FOX. And first up, Trump's feelings on the intel briefing that he had. It's very clear from that interview with FOX that he's still angry over that unsubstantiated report from that briefing leaking to the press. He also had choice words for Democratic lawmakers who are skipping his inauguration, basically saying if you're going to give up your seat, that's fine, give up your ticket so we can give it to somebody else. And once again, we heard some familiar points on that border wall.


AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX NEWS HOST: CIA John Brennan, he responded to your Twitter. You questioned whether he might be the leaker. He saying no, he is not the leaker.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT-ELECT: I accept it. But it came out of someplace, and it's 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 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. I would be very embarrassed if a tape actually showed up saying something like that. It would be double embarrassed because there is no 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.

EARHARDT: 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: 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 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 so we can give to other people?

EARHARDT: You're OK with them not going?

TRUMP: What happens with their tickets? I hope they're going to give us their tickets.

EARHARDT: Would you be willing to sit down with Congressman Lewis?

TRUMP: Sure, I would be. We're off to a bad start. There's no question about it. What he did was a very, very bad thing, not for me. For me it doesn't matter. He did a bad thing for the country, very, very divisive. We have a divided country. And it's not divided because of me. It's been divided. We have a very divided country. And what he did was very, very divisive.

When I said we are going to get reimbursed for the wall, they said, oh, Trump's not keeping his promise.

[08:05:00] Wait a minute. We're going to build a wall, Mexico is going to reimburse us. And headlines, Trump's not -- what's this all about. Now, I could wait. 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. 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 tremendous harm. But I have to say this, we'll have a tremendous, beautiful, big door in that wall.


CARROLL: Still unclear from that interview, Chris, when the U.S. would be reimbursed for that wall and how exactly. In addition to that interview with FOX, he also gave an interview with a new media outlet called Axios where he said that his confrontational style is misunderstood. He also said that he's not a divisive person. As you know throughout the campaign he was accused of being divisive and running a divisive campaign.

He also said in that interview that health care would be his most urgent domestic matter and that he just recently, in fact on Monday, had a conversation with the president about that. You have to wonder how that conversation went since repealing Obamacare is at the top of his list.

In terms of his inauguration, in that interview with FOX, he also talked about his inauguration speech. He said that he plans to thank past presidents including President Obama and the first lady. He says both the president and the first lady have been, quote, "very gracious to him and Melania." Chris?

CUOMO: This is his big chance, Jason, to start moving the country back together. Just two days left in office for President Obama, and he just made a controversial decision, commuting the 35-year sentence for Chelsea Manning, the transgender former army private convicted of leaking 750,000 pages of government documents and videos. She's going to be free in just months. She will have served seven years. CNN's Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with more. Seven years is more than twice the average sentence, but it's not the 35 she was given.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Chris. The original 35-year sentence was one of the stiffest ever for violation of the Espionage Act. But now Chelsea Manning is getting out of jail.



STARR: 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 seven years of a 35-year sentence.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ, (D) 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) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: For the president, especially the president who has made so much recently about the danger that WikiLeaks has posed to our national security, to commute Private Manning's sentence I 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. air strikes 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. 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: A couple of key things to watch now. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has said he would agree to a U.S. extradition request if Manning got out of jail. We haven't seen Mr. Assange get on a plane just yet. And what about Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor in Moscow? The Russians have now said earlier today that he will be allowed to stay in Russia at least until 2020. Chris, Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Barbara, thank you for all that reporting. Joining us now is Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. Ms. Blackburn is the vice chair of Donald Trump's Transition team. Good morning, Congresswoman.

[08:10:02] REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, (R) TENNESSEE: Good morning.

CAMEROTA: So how does Mr. Trump feel about the commutation of Chelsea Manning's sentence?

BLACKBURN: I think that Mr. Trump and many of us are very disappointed with this news. And you know, Alisyn, I've got to tell you, the Democrats have made so much about Russian hacking and leaks and the DNC hacking. And now you have the president come back, and someone who was convicted, they were convicted and found guilty of giving our secrets. They violated the Espionage Act. And what is he going to do? He's going to commute the sentence. And there is an inconsistency that I think is very difficult for a lot of people to square.

CAMEROTA: Why do you think we haven't heard from Mr. Trump on this yet? He hasn't tweeted anything yet about it.

BLACKBURN: I'm certain he's seeking advice from his national security team and that he may even be waiting for a briefing on some of this. I appreciate the fact that, as he did with the Russian hacking, he is gathering information, and maybe he'll have something more to say about it. He does have a busy couple of days in front of him.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you can say that again.

But there are so many twists and turns to this, Congresswoman, with this Chelsea Manning thing, because it has put people on different sides than maybe conventional wisdom would have them on. As we know, Mr. Trump did support what WikiLeaks did. He supported the idea that they hacked into the DNC computers and published what they knew from John Podesta. He didn't mind that. He did invite, jokingly, Russia to do something similar to Hillary Clinton. And so why wouldn't he support the commutation of someone who says they were trying to act in the public good in revealing what they knew about what they said were lies about what the military was telling the public?

BLACKBURN: What Private Manning did was to put the lives of a lot of people in danger. And he was found guilty. I think it's kind of a stretch there, Alisyn, to say that Mr. Trump supported what WikiLeaks did. I think what we all know is that Julian Assange is not someone we would call an honorable person.

CAMEROTA: But hold on a second, congresswoman. Mr. Trump has spoken --

BLACKBURN: -- wouldn't want our kids to roll model.

CAMEROTA: He hasn't said that about Julian Assange. In fact, he has said he has trusted Julian Assange over other news outlets. He has said that he has actually never called Julian Assange a traitor or spoken of him in the negative terms you are.

BLACKBURN: I do not see Julian Assange as an upstanding person. I think what has gotten the Democrats upset, and I can understand it, is the content of those e-mails. What that did was to affirm to so many people what they thought was going on behind the screens.

Now, the Democrats should have had better encryption on their servers.

CAMEROTA: Sure. But Mr. Trump never spoke out about what WikiLeaks was doing. In fact, he seemed to be supportive of what they were doing when he invited people to look for more emails and hacks if necessary and quoted those e-mails.

BLACKBURN: I think what we have to do is not play thought police for what someone thinks because they have not spoken on something. I think that's a dangerous road to tread. I do think that there is plenty. We did have our first briefing on the Russian hacking. I think the situation with Private Manning is that he did face the court. He was found guilty of the violations. He was sentenced appropriately for the crimes that he has committed. And I find it just very disappointing that the president would, after he has been so vocal on the Russian hacking issue, that he would commute the sentence.

CAMEROTA: If Julian Assange comes back to face justice, as he said he would if Chelsea Manning's prison sentence were commuted, Mr. Trump would prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law?

[08:15:02] BLACKBURN: I would expect Mr. Trump to return this nation to the rule of law on all fronts. People want to make certain that we apply the law equally to all citizen citizens. That was a point that was discussed repeatedly throughout this campaign. People felt as if the federal government was going in and picking winners and losers and choosing sides and using federal agencies to cause harm to different individuals.

I think indeed Senator Schumer's comments to Mr. Trump about, you know, don't cross the intel agencies, they have six ways from Sunday from getting at you -- Alisyn, that's the kind of thing that is unsettling to many citizens. It is what we need to move away from and we need to restore equal treatment under the law.

CAMEROTA: Congresswoman, very quickly, on Obamacare, maybe you can help us understand where he stands in terms of insurance for all Americans right now. He gave an interview over the weekend where he said his goal is insurance for everybody. He then gave another interview to Axios. He said, "You know, there

are many people talking about many forms of health care. We can't have that."

What is his plan to have insurance for everybody?

BLACKBURN: Oh, I think he's repeatedly talked about one of my favorite bills, across state line purchase of health insurance, HR 314. I've worked on it since 2009. And opening up the insurance marketplace, making insurance more affordable so that individuals can pick a policy that they like, do something that works for them.

CAMEROTA: What will pay for everybody to have insurance?

BLACKBURN: There are, as we look at the Medicaid reforms that are going to be necessary and block granting Medicaid back to the states, allowing them to take control. Not the old constraints of the waiver system, but allowing the states to deliver a product that is going to deliver better outcomes.

You have to say, here is our goal. Our goal is to restore access to affordable health insurance for all Americans.


BLACKBURN: And how do you make that happen? With the Medicaid component, with those that do have insurance.

And you know one of the biggest problems that our hospitals have right now, those with insurance only pay about 40 percent of what the insurance company does not pay, and that is harmful to our hospitals. So, let's make them whole.


BLACKBURN: Let's make Medicare whole.

CAMEROTA: Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, thank you. We will look forward to those plans being fleshed out more.

BLACKBURN: Good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: You too. Thank you very much.

Let's get to Chris.

CUOMO: All right. We're following breaking news: former President George H.W. Bush is being treated at a Houston hospital. The 92-year- old, our oldest living former president, has had several health issues in the past year.

CNN's Athena Jones live at the White House with the breaking details.

Athena, what do we know?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Well, we're getting some more details on the former president's condition. This is via my colleague, Jamie Gangel, who reports that he was admitted to the hospital in Houston on Saturday after suffering from shortness of breath and a cough. He was admitted as a precaution.

Doctors suspect that it might be early stage pneumonia or bronchitis, but they're still waiting for an official diagnosis which we should get relatively soon. They say he is being treated with antibiotics and has responded to well to treatment that everyone is very pleased and they are hoping he'll be released from the hospital soon. I can report that his wife Barbara Bush and son Neil Bush have both visited in the hospital. The Bushes just recently celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary.

But as you mentioned, he's had a series of health problems in recent years. For one thing, he suffers from a form of Parkinson's disease that has left him unable to walk, so he uses the wheelchair or a scooter. In 2015, he was hospitalized after he broke a vertebrae after a fall in Kennebunkport, Maine, at his home there. He was hospitalized for about seven days in 2014 for shortness of breath and twice in late 2012 for bronchitis. He ultimately spent several weeks in the hospital being treated for that ailment.

So, it is, of course, concerning that he's had a series of chest- related ailments. And that he's, of course, 22 years old. It's always a concern when someone of such an advanced age is hospitalized. So, we're all wishing him the best. And we'll have to wait and see whether this affects his son, Bush 43's plans to attend Friday's inaugural festivities -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. Athena, please keep us posted on the updates from there.

Well, Congressman Tom Price and three other Trump cabinet nominees will be in the hot seat less than two hours from now. We discuss all that, next.


[08:22:34] CUOMO: All right. Please listen up. This isn't just about politics. This is about your life. This is about your health care. Whether you get Obamacare, the ACA or not, the changes are going to affect what happens in your own health care situation.

President-elect Donald Trump and Republicans are at odds over this idea of insurance for everybody. The president-elect has said that a couple of different times. How can he deliver on it when his party seems resistant?

CNN political commentator and Republican political consultant Margaret Hoover, and chairman of the American Conservative Union and former political director for President George W. Bush, Matt Schlapp.

First, personal note: we know that President George H.W. Bush is in the hospital. Please extend all our sympathies to the family and we hope him a recovery, Matt.

MATT SCHLAPP, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: Yes, absolutely. A great patriot, served his nation with honor and we all think of him today.

CUOMO: We'll leave the political implications alone. It's always family first for the Bushes. If they need to be by their father's side, President Bush would certainly be here. We all expect that.

All right. Something we don't expect, President-elect Donald Trump says everybody has got to be able to be covered. That has to be there. Marsha Blackburn was on the show, congresswoman from Tennessee, she says how will he do that? One of my favorite bill, let's open up the state lines and let the companies compete.

Matt, not only do we have some of that in the system already, but there is no proof or even really a solid theory that that would guarantee access for everyone. Is that the best answer they have right now?

SCHLAPP: Yes. No, that's not the question of access, Chris. Buying insurance policies across state lines is about getting the type of insurance plan that's custom for you. Remember what Obama did in Obamacare is he said we all have to have certain minimum requirements --

CUOMO: Right.

SCHLAPP: -- in our health insurance.

So, people like me lost the health insurance we wanted. I had to have health insurance that covered a bunch of things I don't need and I don't want.

CUOMO: But that was her answer, Matt. When she was asked, how is he going to do this. She said, one of my favorite bills, across state lines. That is not an answer to that problem.

Do you acknowledge that?

SCHLAPP: I do acknowledge the better answer is to say if you get rid of the mandate or the fee or whatever the Supreme Court wants to tell us it is, this idea that everyone has to get insurance, it now becomes voluntary.

So, there will be people that choose not to get health insurance, but the best way to solve this question of access to health insurance, because we already have access to health care, is the question of treating the individual like you threat the corporation.

[08:25:03] If the corporation gets to write off all their health care insurance costs, so should the individual and so should the smart businessperson.

CUOMO: Right. But you know what? Cost is not the same thing as coverage. Access isn't enough. You have to have a guarantee people can get it. That's what the president-elect seems to be talking about.

The only reason this matters, Margaret, is you got Tom Price going for another day of his hearing today. He's not only a doctor but he's a lawmaker who is perceived by the GOP as having the best notion of answers to the problems of repeal and replace. How big is his confirmation for that?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's incredibly important. I mean, Tom Price is the one who has spent the last several years. First of all, he's a medical doctor. He knows the health care industry and he spent the last several years trying to figure out, once Obamacare is in place, the Affordable Care Act, how would you take this rigid structure and reform it along the lines of free market principles, so that, to your question to Marsha Blackburn and to Donald Trump's statement, Americans all have access to health insurance, because we do have access to care, and how do you make it affordable to bend the cost curves, because that is Republicans and conservatives' biggest beef with the Affordable Care Act.

We have entitlements that take up more and more non-discretionary funds every year. We cannot afford our health care and we know for a fact compared to every other country in the world, there's a way to reform and bend the cost curve in health care. And Tom Price has a better idea of how to do it.

By the way, it's not just -- there's no silver bullet on this. I mean, Matt Schlapp made good points about how health care should be portable. You shouldn't be wed to your employer in order to have health care coverage, right? So, going across state lines, competitive markets across state lines is part of the solution, but it's not the silver bullet. You have to pair it with other things like tax credits for your health care and other propositions that Matt and the American Conservative Union --

CUOMO: That gets -- when you do tax credits, it gets you into cost, that's why it's a complex situation, that's why Price matters to him, because supposedly, he's got the best head on the subject. That's why they want him at HHS. His question is going to be these ethical considerations. So, that's one.

Then, you have EPA nominee Scott Pruitt. You have Commerce nominee Wilbur Ross. You have U.N. ambassador nominee Nikki Haley and you got Betsy DeVos who had a rough time yesterday as the nominee for the Education Department.

When you look at all those, Matt, who do you think out of any of them -- is any in any real trouble?

SCHLAPP: Well, I just want to take this Tom Price thing head on. The reason you're able to report on what Tom Price did in terms of stock trades is because there's public disclosure and people can see it.

Now, it has to withstand the smell test. But the fact is this, which is there was no ethical laws broken.

And as far as these other nominees are concerned, the one I would have worried about the most from a Republican standpoint would have been Rex Tillerson. I think when John McCain came out and said he was strongly leaning towards voting for him, I think that means that he -- if McCain votes for him, he's now safe.

And then maybe the person Republicans have the most question about is Mr. Mnuchin only because they don't know him that well. And I assume he's having good meetings on the Senate, at least that's what I hear. I think all these cabinet secretaries at the end of the day are going to get confirmed.

CUOMO: You don't think DeVos got herself in deep water yesterday?

SCHLAPP: Not at all. Look, here's the thing with the education, the area of education. You're either with the teachers unions or you take them on. She's had a history of challenging them. And so, she will get 52 Republican ceiling seats.

All the people in the pocket of the teachers unions will probably be against her. And it's a shame. It's why kids aren't getting the type of educational needs met.

CUOMO: When she was asked about guns in schools, though, which is obviously a hot button issue with a lot of those senators up there, she referred to a school that had a gun to fight off grizzly bears. You know, not exactly the most complete answer to that question.

SCHLAPP: I have five little girls at school today. It would not bother me at all if there was a security guard armed in case some mad men was --

CUOMO: I know, I got you. I'm just saying, if I asked you a question about it, you probably wouldn't talk to me about the need to repeal grizzly bears.

Last feed on this Tom Price --

SCHLAPP: Depends on where you live.

CUOMO: Matt said -- in most places, right? Matt, it was a little bit of an odd answer.

The idea of what Matt just said, it's an important question for all these nominees today, ethical law standard. That is a little bit of an oxymoron. What the law insists on and what your ethics suggest are two very different standards.

You know, investing in health insurance companies when you're passing laws about health insurance companies doesn't smell good. But that's not the standard there right now, not the standard that Price upheld.

HOOVER: Look, I mean, the standard I'm comfortable with is going above and beyond the letter of the law. Be transparent. Fully break with your commitments.

But, you know, that's not what the president-elect has done. The president-elect has chosen not to share his tax returns and he chosen not to make a clean break with his business. So, that has set the standard for not ambiguity, but a lower threshold for transparency. And to me, that's unfortunate.

But I want to say one thing about Betsy DeVos.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

HOOVER: Betsy DeVos is on -- the educational reform movement is political, not in the weeds, policy-oriented. And so, what she is doing is she's going to take a strong political stand in the Department of Education, which we know, if you're going to get American reading scores up behind -- above 27, which is where they are.