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Senate Hearings for Trump Cabinet Picks Continue; Trump Team Prepares for Inauguration; U.S. Bombers Target ISIS Camps in Libya; Dems Focus on Ethics Issues of Trump's Cabinet Picks. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired January 19, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Paul, was this the easiest segment you've ever been in?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if my fingerprints are on the murder weapon, it's obvious that I didn't do it.
RICK SANTORUM, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Russia is that good they would not leave their fingerprints on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will be a chapter in the next book.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope not.
BEGALA: McClatchy News Service is reporting this morning that the FBI and five other agencies are pursuing Kremlin money, used, the story says, allegedly to benefit the Trump campaign.
CAMEROTA: OK, we have to go. We're out of time, on that cliffhanger, thank you all, gentlemen. J.D., we'll owe you one next time.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: He was happy to stay out of this. It was crazy-land on the other side.
CAMEROTA: We're following a lot of news. Let's get right to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything we have done has been aboveboard, transparent, ethical and legal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a swamp cabinet full of bankers and billionaires.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not believe climate change is a hoax.
BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you're only hearing from people who agree with you on everything you start making mistakes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Russia is trying to show their muscle. I don't think we can trust them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Donald Trump is going to hit the ground running.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dozens of House Democrats boycotting Donald Trump's inauguration.
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT-ELECT: We're going to have a tremendous turnout. I think it's going to be from what I'm hearing, the numbers are going to be astronomical.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're going to be OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CUOMO: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, January 19, 8:00 here in Washington, D.C. And boy, this is where history is going to be made. Tomorrow, Donald John Trump will be sworn in as the nation's 45th president. The president-elect hoping most of his cabinet appointments will be confirmed after he takes office.
CAMEROTA: But Democrats are trying to slow things down. They're focusing on ethical issues for some of Mr. Trump's nominees, and there are questions about the incoming administration's readiness to take the reins of the federal government. We are now just one day away from the inauguration. So let's begin coverage with CNN's Sunlen Serfaty. She is live on the beautiful Capitol Hill this morning. Sunlen?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Alisyn. President-elect Donald Trump is pushing for his cabinet nominees to be confirmed quickly. Senate Republicans want at least seven of those cabinet nominees to be confirmed within hours after he is inaugurated into office tomorrow. But Senate Democrats, they are now threatening to hit the brakes on all this, saying they will not rush this, and accusing the Republicans of trying to jam these nominees through.
SERFATY: Top Democrats hoping to jeopardize the confirmations of some of Donald Trump's cabinet picks.
CHARLES SCHUMER, (D-NY) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: This is a swamp cabinet full of bankers and billionaires.
SERFATY: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer trying to slow down the process as Senate Republicans push for confirmations of seven of his nominees on his first day in office. SCHUMER: It's no surprise Republicans are trying to rush through
these hearings. They don't want people to know the true views of their nominees.
SERFATY: Democrats focusing on ethics concerns of three of Trump's picks in Wednesday's hearings.
REP. TOM PRICE, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES NOMINEE: Everything that we have done has been aboveboard, transparent, ethical and legal.
SERFATY: Grilling the president-elect's nominee for secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, about stock purchases that could have benefited from legislation he proposed during his time in the House.
PRICE: I knew nothing about those purchases.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY, (D) CONNECTICUT: You couldn't have a defensive portfolio while staying clear of the six companies directly affected by your work on that issue?
PRICE: As I said, I didn't have any knowledge of those purchases.
SCHUMER: This is a very narrow, specific company that dealt with implants, hip and knee, and the legislation specifically affects implants. He puts it in a week after he buys the stock? That cries out for an investigation.
SERFATY: Mick Mulvaney, Trump's choice to head the office of management and budget, facing scrutiny after admitting he failed to pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a household employee. And department of commerce nominee Wilbur Ross revealing he unknowingly employed an undocumented immigrant. Meantime, Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, grilled on his views on climate change.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT: Why is the climate changing?
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR NOMINEE: Senator, in response to the co2 issue, the epa administrator is constrained by statutes --
SANDERS: I'm asking you a personal opinion.
PRUITT: My personal opinion is immaterial.
SERFATY: The president-elect, though, has repeatedly denied climate change is real.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So Donald Trump is wrong?
PRUITT: I do not believe that climate change is a hoax.
SERFATY: And Nikki Haley, chosen by Trump to be the ambassador to the United Nations, also publicly splitting with her new boss's views on foreign affairs, questioning Russia's agenda and showing support of NATO. [08:05:06] GOV. NIKKI HALEY, U.N. AMBASSADOR NOMINEE: That's how an
administration works. You surround yourself with people who don't just say yes to what you think.
SERFATY: And today on Capitol Hill, two more confirmation hearings, Rick Perry for energy secretary and Steve Mnuchin for treasury secretary. We also expect that president-elect Donald Trump today will nominate former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue to potentially be his next agriculture secretary, marking the final pick for his cabinet. Chris?
CUOMO: All right, Sunlen, thank you very much.
In just hours president-elect Donald Trump will move from New York to Washington ahead of tomorrow's inauguration. This comes as there are growing concerns about the readiness of the administration of the administration on day one to take the reins of federal government, especially in sensitive areas. CNN's Jason Carroll live at Trump Tower in New York with more. Jason?
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Chris. And when the president-elect heads your way, he'll be doing it on a military aircraft, not on the private Trump plane we've seen him fly so many times in the past.
But even as he heads your way, there's still a number of questions in terms of whether or not Trump's security team, national security team is ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead, this after CNN has learned that that transitional team has been slow to interact with Trump's national -- with Obama's National Security Council. The council has prepared a number of briefings and memos, and they're unsure if team Trump has even read them.
There are similar concerns at the State Department, but Trump's team really pushing back on that, Chris. Sean Spicer, the spokesman, saying that at the end of the day the transition will be what he called the gold standard of transitions. He says that they have landing teams ready to go across all fronts. Mike Pence also saying that the team is ready to go, specifically when it comes to taking on Obamacare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, (R) VICE PRESIDENT ELECT: I think you can expect that a President Donald Trump is going to hit the ground running on day one come Monday morning. And the first week there will be a series of executive actions both putting executive orders into place, repealing some executive orders, and continue to work very energetically with the Congress to both repeal and replace Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: Well, Alisyn, they said repeal and replace many times in the past. Repeal got it, but still unclear specifically what they're going to replace it with, although Pence says that they are going to have a replacement plan soon. Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: All right, Jason, thank you very much.
The president-elect just tweeting moments ago, we want to read it to you. He says "Getting ready to leave for Washington, D.C. The journey begins, and I will be working and fighting very hard to make it a great journey for the American people. I have no doubt that we will together make America great again."
Joining me now to discuss all things inaugural is Tom Barrack. He's the chairman of the presidential inaugural committee. Tom, what a day.
TOM BARRACK, CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: It is a big day.
CAMEROTA: You seem cool as a cucumber for somebody who has to pull off this monumental event tomorrow.
BARRACK: The president-elect has done all the hard work. He's relentless. When we talk about the transition and is he ready. The problem is keeping him away from events. He's showing up for everything. He has a motto of just show up. We've had 19 events in six days really. He shows up, he goes back to work. He shows up, he goes back to work.
CAMEROTA: He does have an incredible amount of energy. You've known him for 40 years. What is behind that? How does he have so much energy?
BARRACK: He's got this relentless curiosity and this ability to adapt to so many situations, and I think that's what you're going to see in this transition. He's picked a cabinet that fits America's personality. And he's curated a group of people who have the same kind of do it now attitude. And it's a little startling to Washington. They're not used to this.
CAMEROTA: You say he picks a cabinet that reflects America. They're all billionaires. It's not exactly reflective of the average American.
BARRACK: Let me ask you a question. If you were having cardiac surgery, would you want to hire somebody who just graduated from medical school or hire the chief of cardiac surgery at Mayo.
CAMEROTA: So you're saying it's their success that is what he's responding to.
BARRACK: If you're in the military, you hire a general. If you have an economic problem, you hire people who have the hardware and ability to maneuver. That's all that's happening.
CAMEROTA: Tell us what's going to surprise us tomorrow. This is obviously going to be a breathtaking event, as the inaugurations are. So what are you watching for? BARRACK: I'll tell you, I think what's going to surprise you is
everybody just takes a moment and says what we're going to watch at about 11:23 is the only peaceful transition partisan power that happens over five minutes in front of 190 million viewing population, where one great president, President Obama, by the stroke of a hand on a Bible, passes to his partisan counterpart the weight of the world.
[08:10:15] And at that moment when you're viewing the western platform of the White House, and to the world the transition of that power takes place, and you look down the mall and you think of the passages that are written not on the bricks of these monuments, but in the hearts of the people that wrote those inscriptions, it's powerful.
CAMEROTA: Very poetic, Tom. So speaking of poetry, the inaugural speech, what do you know about it? What's Mr. Trump going to say?
BARRACK: He's got a great speech writer, Steve Miller, and a group of people.
CAMEROTA: So he's doing it himself or he's relying on speech writers or it's a collaboration?
BARRACK: It's a collaboration, but it's coming from him. Like everything, it comes from him.
CAMEROTA: So he gives them the ideas and they craft it?
BARRACK: He also crafts it. If you look at what's happened, kind of interpreting the man's personality onto the message is the craft. I think that's what you going to see. I think it's going to surprise -- look, we're going from candidate Trump to president Trump.
CAMEROTA: And what does that mean? What's that transition going to look like?
BARRACK: It means that he knows the constituencies that got him here. He's going to be loyal and dedicated. He also knows that he needs to heal the wounds and bridge that divide. Now he's the president for everybody. So his message is come together, I come together for all of you. I'm going to listen to every point of view, and we can never be hurt as long as from the inside we're united. The outside is not going to dent us.
CAMEROTA: So he's going to tone down the fiery rhetoric?
BARRACK: I think he's going to explain to all the constituencies that they have a spot, they have a place, he's going to do what he said and he's the president for all of America.
CAMEROTA: He's going to ride over with President Obama. He has relied on President Obama for help during this transition. President Obama has said that they've had constructive conversations. What do you think their relationship will be like after tomorrow?
BARRACK: I think sensational. President Obama has been wonderful in this transition. You just had a story of the difficulty in the transition to the national security team. It's not true. Mike Flynn and K.T. McFarland are so first class. And President Obama and his team have been terrific with us, the transition of all the pieces, first class.
And I think these men rise above all the rhetoric. President Obama has compassion for what president-elect Trump is going to encompass and incur. And I think president Trump has great gratitude and admiration for President Obama as he moves on to the next phase of his life.
CAMEROTA: Right after he's inaugurated, then there will be the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Chris and I will be covering it. So what can we see? Will Mr. Trump be staying in his car? Will he be getting out and glad-handing along the way? What do you expect?
BARRACK: If it were left to him, he'd be jogging the 1.5 miles.
CAMEROTA: So maybe he won't be in the car. Have you talked about that?
BARRACK: We'll see. It will be a surprise.
But before the parade, he goes into the capitol, into the White House. And Senator Blunt, the capital provision, has done an amazing job. So at that point in time, depending on what happens, he may sign in the first part of his cabinet, depending what happens on this bantering back and forth on the cabinet. They have a lunch. So you'll be sitting, waiting for the parade for about an hour and ten minutes.
CAMEROTA: Good to know. I'll bring my rain gear.
BARRACK: Don't say that. Bring beach chairs, suntan lotion.
CAMEROTA: I hope so.
CAMEROTA: You know there's been some talk about how celebrities haven't wanted to turn out for this in the way they have in the past. Any big ticket names we should be on the lookout for tomorrow?
BARRACK: Yes, there's a lot of them. I have to tell you -- and many of them are friends of mine. And the resistance that was there is dwindling daily. We have no tickets left. Everything except to the mall is sold out. Every ball is sold out. And the people who are now asking to come, and the great celebrities buying dresses at many of the couture shops would shock you.
CAMEROTA: Any names?
BARRACK: You'll have to wait and see. I'm not going to ruin it.
CAMEROTA: The reveal, yes, I'm familiar with that tactic. Their first dance, what song?
BARRACK: Probably "My Way."
CAMEROTA: Fitting. BARRACK: Right?
CAMEROTA: Tom, that is great. So you're not nervous about anything for tomorrow?
BARRACK: I'm not nervous because we have a great team and all the heavy lifting is with the president-elect. He has made it that way. And, America, when you look behind you and you see really what we have to celebrate and what we have to inhale that the stage is the celebration.
[08:15:02] The rest of it is all folly.
CAMEROTA: We like your excitement. Tom Barrack, thanks so much for sharing it with us.
BARRACK: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: Great to have you here on NEW DAY.
A quick programming note for everyone, NEW DAY will begin an hour early tomorrow for inauguration day. Chris and I will be live here in Washington starting at 5:00 a.m. Eastern.
CUOMO: Can't get enough.
CAMEROTA: Set your alarm. I am excited.
CUOMO: All right. Breaking news for you: U.S. bombers have struck ISIS camps in southern Libya. This happened overnight. The air strikes happening in the final hours of President Obama's time in office. It's a story first reported by CNN.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the breaking details.
Barbara, this is going to be a big surprise to people. What are we seeing play out?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.
Well, this is exactly the type of military operation President Trump could be asked to authorize as soon as he takes office. It can come at any time for him. But in the closing hours of the Obama presidency, President Obama authorizing these air strikes that occurred overnight about 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte, a city along the Libyan coastline.
U.S. B2 bombers striking a number of ISIS camps that the U.S. had been closely watching as ISIS fighters fled from Sirte into this area in the desert. They have been looking for them. They have been looking for military-aged males out in the desert. President Obama authorizing the strike and it being finished up overnight.
During the Obama presidency, this has really been the evolving tactic to go after ISIS, airstrikes, drone strikes and on the ground in some places, special operations. It's worked for President Obama. What everybody will be watching now is to see what kind of authorizations President Trump gives the U.S. military to continue these types of operations -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Yes, that is the big question, Barbara. Thank you for sharing all that reporting with us.
Well, Donald Trump becomes our 45th president tomorrow. Are he and his team prepared? Our political panel weighs in on that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: This is a swamp cabinet full of bankers and billionaires -- a swamp cabinet full of bankers and billionaires.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Chuck Schumer channeling Kermit the Frog, read my lips -- alligators -- he's saying, that that's what's going to be incoming with the president-elect's cabinet picks. Democrats raising serious questions about the ethics issues of some of Trump's nominees. Will it make a difference in the votes?
Let's discuss with CNN contributor and reporter for "The Washington Examiner," Salena Zito, CNN political analyst David Gregory, "Washington Post" reporter and CNN political analyst Abby Phillip, and senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner", and host of the podcast "Examining Politics", David Drucker.
David Gregory, they don't have the votes, the Democrats, unless people want to cross lines. But is there a secondary optic at play here that could matter going forward if these picks get through?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a lot of these are proxy fights, whether it's on Russia or Obamacare.
[08:20:01] This is Democrats drawing a line in the sand, saying to this incoming administration, look, you're going to have a big fight on some of this. Look at Obamacare, they might be able to repeal it with 51 votes. They're going to need Democrats to negotiate a replacement. They'll need 60 votes.
So, I think they're having some of these fights with their nominees and I think they're trying to make a case and generate support that might move Republicans, maybe on Tom Price's investments, maybe on DeVos's lack of experience to be education secretary. But I think they're going to focus on battles they want to not just pick but try to win as they move forward on some of these big agenda items.
CAMEROTA: So, David, why don't they -- if all of these nominees get through, why don't things like maybe having some insider trading or maybe not paying your taxes on time or maybe employing undocumented worker? Why wouldn't those things matter to Republicans now?
DAVID DRUCKER, SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, all politics is situational, especially in the building behind us. And so, when you're in the minority, you use the tactics available to you. When you're in the majority, you want to get your agenda through any way you can.
And Republicans, having really been in a wilderness for about ten years on Capitol Hill, either they were in the minority, they didn't have a president, they couldn't get anything done, are so excited about the ability to get things done that even though Trump is unconventional, even though he's really not that conservative and at times he's at odds with them, they're willing -- first of all, they have no choice, but they're excited to roll the dice with a president where they have a good chance he's going to sign things like tax reform and Obamacare repeal.
So, they're not, at this point, going to get bogged down in the weeds of --
CAMEROTA: Of ethics?
DRUCKER: Well, look, you always -- look, Democrats, though, have done the same thing. Again, this is a party --
CUOMO: No, fair sarcasm on this one. The Republicans always got, and not wrongly, OK? You didn't pay your taxes for your nanny? You had an undocumented worker? We're all about keeping undocumented workers out.
Now, they're making picks -- you say talking about taking a gamble. But on things that should matter --
DRUCKER: I'm not, look --
CUOMO: Should what Price did matter? Congressman Pete Sessions, Republican from Texas says they do matter, you should extend the process and probe --
DRUCKER: Right. I'm not making the case that they don't matter. What I'm saying is Republicans, from their point of view, are looking at a bigger picture. The sooner they get Donald Trump his team, the sooner they can get things done.
It is, however, the case that things like insider stock trading and other ethical issues could derail some of these picks, the same way Tom Daschle, who Obama had nominated for HHS secretary, had to back out because of a tax issue.
CAMEROTA: Abby, do you think that's possible? Do you think something could be derailed?
ABBY PHILLIP, THE WASHINGTON POST: I definitely think that they could be. But I think the bar is higher partly because Republicans only need 50 votes to approve these nominees these days. That makes it much harder for Democrats than it would have been even in Tom Daschle's case eight years ago.
But also, the public consciousness has been shocked after this election. They went through a period where we had scandal after scandal seemingly that would derail any presidential nominee. And now, we're facing a tax issue? I think people are kind of shrugging at some of these things, because they don't seem as outrageous as they might have seemed eight years ago when we were coming off a hope and change election. This was not a hope and change election --
GREGORY: I think there's an old order that's been upturned, and there's a lot of Washington fights that people see in that context. They don't look at these as, well, ethical issues that Republicans raised before. They say, you know what, here is more of an example of why we need to shake things up and the desire to fundamentally change how Washington works.
They could be inuring to the benefit of Tom Price or others in hot water. And again, I'd like to bring up this other point, Trump is a guy who didn't even release his taxes. So, there's a lot he's done ethically or lacking in ethics that people have become comfortable with in the public at large.
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's a completely different era, right? I mean, he set the bar, has done everything completely different. If the president-elect and eventual president can get away with some of the things, like David said, the taxes, what's $15,000?
CUOMO: He also said drain the swamp, though.
All right. Let's say that they get the picks. The question is, all right, so what do you want to project with this team? Not talking to Obama's National Security Council. Rick Santorum on here as a CNN contributor saying, you know what? We don't know that Russia did the hacks.
What are these strategies about? You know, why push back on the obvious?
ZITO: Well, I mean, chaos probably helps a little bit right now, because there are so many things going on. So, why not keep all these balls juggling in the air in terms of all these messages, all this information, all these, you know, sort of almost scandals going on, so that you can get in there, plow through and start to do stuff you want to do?
CAMEROTA: Also, there's no more sacred cows, I feel. This mistrust of institutions, we take it as gospel and verse. We believe our intelligence agencies. We always have. And now, Trump is like, no, not so much.
GREGORY: I think a certain amount of disruption is good, right? I mean, why -- every other part of our institutional life has been disrupted.
[08:25:05] Our economy has been disrupted. And certainly politics was ripe for that. I agree, the idea that your -- Trump and even Rick Santorum is more a minority, questioning some of the conclusions about Russia. Mike Pompeo is going to be CIA director, General Mattis, senior Republican hawks. Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina.
So, there's a minority of people who says Russia is not so bad. To Trump's credit, he's bringing in those people --
DRUCKER: For Trump voters, this is a hope and change election. They want things to get done. They want disruption, to David's point. They want to see Republicans accomplish things they've been promising. They're not interested, maybe they're wrong for this and maybe they'll regret it, they're not interested in minor ethical issues shaking up in what they think the president-elect was sent here to do by them.
PHILLIP: The other thing about Trump's strategy from the very beginning has been to reduce the barriers between him and his people. So, if the media is getting in the way and sort of -- saying things that he doesn't want them to say, he is going to discredit the media. He's going to discredit his critics, Democrats, the CIA, whoever is in the way of him communicating directly to his people, and that's the dynamic that we're going into.
That's the way that he uses social media, and the objective here is so that when he's ready to do something, he can just say, this is what I'm doing and this is why I'm doing it. And his supporters believe him. The polling numbers show they believe him over basically everybody else.
ZITO: It's against everything big. Populism, simply put, is against big. So, it's against big media, big bureaucracy. So, it's not that people have lost faith in individual intelligent agents --
ZITO: -- but it's the bureaucracy they don't trust. And I think that's the nuance we're missing in this.
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much for all of that.
So, more than 50 House Democratic lawmakers say they will not attend Mr. Trump's inauguration tomorrow. One Democrat who will be there, Congressman Elijah Cummings. He joins us next.