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Democrats Boycotting Inauguration; Rep. Elijah Cummings Attending Inauguration; Congressional Panel on Hacks; Trump Administrations Conflicts of Interest; Bobby Knight on Donald Trump. Aired 8:30-9a ET
Aired January 19, 2017 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:31:12] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: More than 50 House Democrats say they will not attend the Capitol tomorrow for the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump. One Democrat who will be there is Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland. He joins us now.
Congressman, always a pleasure.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Good seeing you.
CUOMO: So you're going. Does that mean that they are wrong to not go?
CUMMINGS: No. I think that they should do what they believe in their hearts. Chris, you've got to understand that we members of Congress have a lot of information that the public does not have. And I can tell you, over the last week or two, the classified briefings that I have been to, and if the public know -- knew what members of Congress know, I -- I --
CUOMO: Why don't they?
CUMMINGS: I can understand --
CUOMO: Aren't you there for the people? Aren't you supposed to be relaying information to us?
CUMMINGS: Well -- well -- now, Chris, you just heard me say it's a classified briefing. You know I can't tell you --
CUOMO: But if it's that important that it's going to make people not go to the inauguration -- I take your point about confidentiality --
CUMMINGS: Yes. Yes.
CUOMO: But if it's that important, you think people know --
CUMMINGS: Yes. Well, you know then -- so then -- you're making the very point that I've been trying to make, and that is, is that, we need to be doing more, number one, to investigate this hacking and also we need to be doing more with regard to looking at the FBI director and what he did in this whole situation. And that -- and, by the way, the House has done hardly anything. I
don't think that we've done anything really. And, of course, the Senate -- the Senate, under Senator Burr in intelligence, and Senator Warner, they are doing some things.
And what I'm worried about, Chris, is that it seems as if the Republicans are sort of letting President-elect Trump just move forward with regard to, say, the conflict of interest issues, than this whole hacking issue. And -- and I'm really concerned that we, as Democrats, have to push more harder on Republicans to do something so that their standards are met and -- and that he gets rid of these conflicts and that he also deals with the hacking.
CUOMO: All right. But let's bundle it all up into the one main premise, which is either you respect the process --
CUMMINGS: That's right.
CUOMO: Or you don't.
CUMMINGS: That's right.
CUOMO: And if you don't show up for the transition of power, the argument is made is, you're not respecting the process.
Now, John Lewis has done this before with President Bush 43.
CUOMO: He said, I didn't like what happened with the Supreme Court case.
CUMMINGS: Right. Right.
CUOMO: I don't think it's legitimate.
CUMMINGS: That's right. Right.
CUOMO: He's saying it again now.
CUOMO: And he's got basically a group with him.
CUMMINGS: Yes, well --
CUOMO: You know, aside from -- some people have some different reasons about why they're not going, but --
CUMMINGS: Yes. But, Chris --
CUOMO: Either they've got proof to show what they're talking about or they're just disrespecting the process.
CUMMINGS: But, Chris, I'm going to -- Chris, Chris, let me tell you, information will come out later at some point where I think the public will fully understand. My situation is, I want to be a witness to history. My forefathers had worked hard to give me and others these opportunities. And so I want to be there to be a witness. But I also want to -- want it understood that this is our watch. And we've got to protect this democracy. I -- this, to me, is bigger than President- elect Trump. I'm concerned that we are moving slowly but surely towards a crisis of legitimacy with regard to our core institutions, CIA, FBI, NSA. And I can go straight on down the line. Even our Office of Government Ethics has been attacked. So -- by the Republicans. So we've got to -- I mean, I think some of -- some of us will be outside and doing very constructive things and meeting with constituents, while others of us will be inside.
The other thing, Chris, that I want to be clear on, I'm -- at some point a lot of information is going to come to me as the top person on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and I don't want anybody to say, well, he was one of the people that was just protesting. I want them to understand, this is not about Democrat or Republican. When that information comes to me, I want to be able to say, I --I acted almost as a judge to put it forward (ph).
[08:35:13] CUOMO: I hear you. This is -- this is loaded stuff, though.
CUMMINGS: Oh, I know it's loaded stuff.
CUOMO: The suggestions are loaded. You've got Hillary Clinton, who's going to be there tomorrow --
CUOMO: With her husband.
CUOMO: So, obviously, she's respecting the process and all this legitimacy stuff would somehow influence what happened with her I'm assuming through the Democratic narrative. But it's -- there's such loaded suggestions. The information's going to be coming. If the American people knew what we knew.
CUOMO: Isn't there a responsibility to do something with that kind of suggestion because it's like a poison pill dumping into the process?
CUMMINGS: I do not -- Chris, you know this, I do not control the information. Republicans are in control. And you know that. And so when they -- and so they control the whole flow of things. So hopefully we will, at some point, you know, we've got the investigation going on in the -- in the Senate. Hopefully the House will begin to do some investigations itself. And -- and -- but the -- the -- the key is to do what I and Congressman Swawell (ph) of California have suggested. We need a 9/11-type panel where independent people -- not congressmen or senators, an independent panel, distinguished people, come in, look at the evidence with regard to hacking and any -- any other things they need to look at and present all of that to the American people with recommendations. CUOMO: But what I'm saying is, I get -- I get what you mean by the
9/11 panel, but that was about understanding how something happened that we knew happened, OK?
CUOMO: This is different in as much as, there is a suggestion, correct me if I'm wrong, that what could be developed is so powerful that it could rationalize delegitimizing the outcome of the election.
CUMMINGS: Well, you're saying delegitimizing. I didn't say that.
CUOMO: I'm saying it -- it is the spillover --
CUMMINGS: You're -- you're saying that.
CUOMO: It's the implication I'm getting from --
CUMMINGS: Well, I'm -- I'm -- no, I'm just telling you, we've got -- we've got --
CUOMO: Back (ph) me off of it (ph) if that's wrong.
CUMMINGS: No, we -- you -- you -- we've got 17 intelligence agencies --
CUMMINGS: Who have already said --
CUMMINGS: The Russians hacked.
CUMMINGS: Hacked. That's right.
CUOMO: They were behind the hacks.
CUMMINGS: And -- and now we need to find -- find out more information about that. We also need to find out how -- how they did it. And we need to have recommendations as to how (INAUDIBLE).
CUOMO: But do you think that it's even possible that you would get to a place where what you learn legitimately calls the outcome of the election into question?
CUMMINGS: I -- I -- I leave that to the -- to the future, all right.
CUOMO: But I'm saying even if --
CUMMINGS: Chris --
CUOMO: All right. CUMMINGS: I leave that to the future. In other words, you present evidence. Just like a judge or a jury, you present the evidence. The evidence has got to come forward and let the public take a look at it. I don't know what that's going to come to. Tomorrow, though, I will be there asking as a witness to history.
CUOMO: Me, too.
CUMMINGS: Yes. And I -- and you got your ticket?
CUOMO: No. I'm in the media. That's my ticket.
CUMMINGS: Oh, you're right.
CUOMO: Congressman, thank you for being with us, as always. Enjoy the day tomorrow.
CUMMINGS: Thank you.
CUOMO: All right, if all of Trump's cabinet picks do get confirmed, well, then what's going to happen in terms of these existing issues of conflicts and the president-elect having to own those going forward? That's part of "The Bottom Line," next.
[08:41:46] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President-elect Donald Trump, of course, promised to drain the swamp, but ethics experts say Mr. Trump has not done enough to resolve his own conflicts, and some of his cabinet members are also being grilled, of course, on Capitol Hill over their conflicts involving their businesses and finance. How will all of this play out in the first days of the administration? Let's get "The Bottom Line" with senior editor of "The Atlantic," David Frum, CNN political analyst and "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers, and New York City councilman and Republican commentator Joseph Borelli.
Great to see all of you on this momentous occasion.
So, David, if the word is conflicts, seems like we're going to have to take a leap of faith because they have not all been resolved 24 hours out.
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, I don't think there's any intention of resolving them. The conflicts in this -- for this administration are not a bug, they're a feature. That is the whole purpose of this administration. And so we are going to see a step beyond conflicts. Remember, conflicts are merely prophylactic. Conflicts are the fence around where you shouldn't go. Donald Trump wants to go where you shouldn't go.
CUOMO: Borelli, how do you feel about that? Because there's an insinuation here that, you know what, the voters are OK if Tom Price bought stock that came a little too close to collecting interest with the legislation he put. They're OK if these guys don't pay their tax. These are small potatoes. That was baked in, in the price of entry with Trump and they're on to bigger things. Is this stuff that makes you feel OK?
JOSEPH BORELLI, COUNCILMAN, 51ST DISTRICT OF NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: Well, I mean, isn't that partially true? Donald Trump is someone who ran for office who didn't hide the fact that he had multiple companies in multiple countries, multiple assets everywhere and yet still the American public chose to elect him. I don't think it's fair --
CUOMO: That doesn't mean they chose -- he doesn't pay taxes or --
BORELLI: But let's be fair --
CUOMO: You know, he does something dirty.
BORELLI: But let's be fair, there's no legal issue with anything Donald Trump is doing right now. And to say that he has maybe a political question would be fair, but I think it's also fair to say that the media is going to hold this administration extremely accountable given the potential of a conflict of interest over the next four years. I don't think anyone in Trump's immediate circle believes that there will not be a very strong microscope on everything they do as it relates to businesses his family may own.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Which is -- but the problem is, he's also trying to delegitimize the media because he knows the media is holding him accountable. So that's -- that, I think, that that's part of the problem. Also this focus on what's legal versus what's ethical is problematic. So even if you look at -- well, if you take Donald Trump, for example, just because it's legal doesn't mean that it's OK. If it presents a conflict of interest ethically, that's a problem. If you look at Tom Price keeps saying, like everything I did was legal. But I think for most people would say, but it wasn't ethical.
FRUM: It's also -- it's also (INAUDIBLE).
CUOMO: Why did voting for Trump mean that you're OK with Tom Price doing that? That's what's being suggested by some Trump surrogates. That's what I'm asking you about is, because I voted for Trump, that means I don't care if cabinet members paid their taxes?
BORELLI: Look, it --
CUOMO: I don't care if Tom Price -- well -- how does that follow (ph)?
BORELLI: If there's proof that Tom Price did something, sort of a quid pro quo or to benefit himself in his own personal stock portfolio, which there is no clear evidence or no proof.
CAMEROTA: No, there is proof, actually.
BORELLI: Then -- then, yes, then that would --
CAMEROTA: There is -- there is -- he did exactly that.
BORELLI: No, I would not say (INAUDIBLE) --
CAMEROTA: But what he's saying -- he -- even he's admitting that.
BORELLI: Personally to benefit.
CAMEROTA: Hold on a second, Joe. Even he's admitting that that happened. What he's saying is, well, a financial advisor made these choices that -- that he shouldn't have made.
BORELLI: Right, he used, like many of us, a stock manager who manages a portfolio.
BORELLI: Who doesn't maybe consult with him every day on every trade. I think, again, you have to find a quid pro quo to indict this man publicly, if not legally.
[08:45:08] CUOMO: So should you take the time to find it?
FRUM: That's not even true. I don't want to comment on Tom Price's case. A lot remains uncertain. But let's remember, when you said something is legal. The United States has the laxest laws on public integrity of almost any developed country. It is not true. As -- the reason Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia is a free man is even if there's a quid pro quo, that's not enough to convict you in the United States. This country has the magna carta for crooked politicians. If you were in --
CUOMO: You're referring to the Supreme Court case that just came down that said showing the quid pro quo isn't enough.
FRUM: Isn't enough.
CUOMO: You've got to show the motivations for the quid pro quo.
FRUM: That's not enough. What you also must show is that the quid pro quo governed an official act. So what Bob McDonnell did was he arranged a series of meetings for someone who gave him fancy watches and cash.
FRUM: And the Supreme Court said, even that is not a crime in the United States.
CUOMO: You have to show that the meeting is what led to the action and that's why it happened.
CAMEROTA: But, Kirsten, I mean, how have we come so far from when Tom Daschle, who was very popular, that his nomination was scuttled for HHS and now here we are?
POWERS: Well, because I think we have Donald Trump is obviously flouting all norms. And I think there's very little shame when it comes to this kind of stuff. There is this attitude -- his own attitude is, as long as it's legal and we're not breaking the law, then what I'm doing is OK and there doesn't seem to be concern.
Because in the Tom Price -- even if it's legal, it's just mind- boggling that you can be responsible for introducing legislation that your broker is able to invest in companies that -- related to it. I mean he is responsible for medical issues, health care. How is it possible that there isn't a rule against that? I mean tech reporters -- tech reporters would not allow the --
BORELLI: No, like you said, on -- there isn't a rule against -- there isn't a rule against this and he did not break any laws.
FRUM: There should.
POWERS: But they're (INAUDIBLE).
BORELLI: You're -- you're saying he should be --
CUOMO: (INAUDIBLE) following and not break the law? Is that the only standard (INAUDIBLE)?
BORELLI: You're saying he should be. He's saying there shouldn't be and that's why we shouldn't have this person as a secretary. That's just not the reality --
CUOMO: No, I'm saying you should actually look at it.
FRUM: Economists have studied the portfolios of members of Congress and find they systematically outperform the stock market. Systematically. Now, maybe --
BORELLI: I wish they'd give me (INAUDIBLE) --
FRUM: Maybe our members of Congress are just super good investors.
FRUM: Or maybe there is a systematic habit of trading on inside information and it's not just -- again, no accusation against Tom Price, we don't know, but it's not just any one congressman, it is a collective activity. And it's -- and, yes, it is legal, but it shouldn't be. And the reason -- and because the laws here are so lax, American members of government have historical (INAUDIBLE) by decency and ethics and the desire to live up to the highest standards. The question has never been before, just what can you get away with? How do you stay one step short of indictment?
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you. Thank you very much for being here.
Well, many of Mr. Trump's long-time friends who supported him to ascend to the presidency are here in Washington, of course, for his inauguration. Basketball legend Bobby Knight is here. He joins us live, next.
[08:51:25] CUOMO: Many of President-elect Donald Trump's long-time friends and supporters are here for tomorrow's historic inauguration. One of those friends, and he has his own theme music, you can hear it playing behind us right now, is legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight.
Coach, great to have you on the show. Thanks for being with us.
BOBBY KNIGHT, HALL OF FAME BASKETBALL COACH: Well, it's always nice to be with people that know what they're doing, and you folks, as I've watched you over the years, always seem to know what you're doing.
CAMEROTA: That's very kind.
CUOMO: Well, they're playing -- they're playing Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion." What are you feeling as we head into the inauguration?
KNIGHT: Well, interesting. I think that it's something that, you know, you don't get to see every day. And if you have some little part in it that's just -- I've gotten a real thrill, I think, out of spending some time and being involved with the Trump administration. I have a great, positive feeling about Mr. Trump, having spent quite a bit of time with him.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about that because, as you know, there are so many in the country who have trepidation about how Mr. --
KNIGHT: You've got to explain trepidation to me.
CUOMO: She likes the big words.
CAMEROTA: Nervous -- who are slightly nervous about Mr. Trump becoming their president. So what do people get wrong about -- you've known him since the '80s, what do people get wrong about him?
KNIGHT: Well, let me tell you what I think about it is. I think the guy is perfect for the job. And I'll tell you why. Whoever takes over as president at this point in time is going to have a lot of problems. We have problems with the budget. We have this. We have that. And when I traveled with Mr. Trump, I looked at it and I just saw, here's a guy that is tough, he's smart and he loves America. And beyond that, he has the faculties to do a lot of things, I believe, that have to be done insofar as our country is concerned.
Number one is this, he's not just an American. The guy is known all over the world. And if you study his background, you're going to see this. He has had all kinds of businesses, here, there, everywhere.
KNIGHT: Some of them have had problems that he's had to correct. Some other things he's had to change. And he is going to be able to solve things. And I think that's going to be huge as we progress here in the next couple of years.
CUOMO: Coach, one of the things he's got to solve is that he does not deny any fight. He takes up every battle that comes his way. As a coach, you are not known as someone who shied away from battles either, even with the media. What's your advice to him in terms of how to be going forward?
KNIGHT: I think --
CUOMO: With what got him here or do you think he's got to think about what fights he takes on?
KNIGHT: I -- no, I -- I think just use his skills. His skills to correct. His skills to build. And I think that he'll bring those skills with him. And it's going to be a great -- a great thing for us. As I said, when I traveled with him and people brought him up to me, I said, well, you find somebody that's better prepared for that job than he is, and I'll talk to you about it. And so far nobody's come up with a better preparation.
CUOMO: Because you scare them, that's why.
CUOMO: Because they're scared of you, that's why they don't.
[08:55:00] KNIGHT: Well, that's their fault, not mine. But I just think that we're going to see a man develop into, I think, one of the great presidents that we will have had simply because he brings the tools with him to this job that are necessary right now.
CAMEROTA: Is Mr. Trump capable of rising above personal slights? Because he likes to say that he's a counterpuncher. Can he just resist counter-punching?
KNIGHT: Well, I think so. You know, a lot of it is kind of humor from his standpoint. Now, it might not be for yours or mine or somebody else's.
CAMEROTA: Yes, to be on the receiving end of it doesn't feel that fun.
KNIGHT: Well, yes, but I -- I think that he's really straightened out a lot on that. I think going back in time, say several months ago, I think he got a little bit carried away with this and that and other things. But then, as I saw him and worked with him over a period of time, I just saw him develop into a person that really understood what this was all about. And I had a great -- a great positive feeling for the direction in which he was headed.
CUOMO: You're a character witness here in a way. What's going on with his cabinet process in part is this kind of trial of what matters to Mr. Trump, what is he OK with and the people he puts around him. Some of them seem to be sterling, when you get like the generals that he has around him, certainly Mattis and Flynn.
KNIGHT: Well, let's -- let's just start with -- let's just talk about the generals for a second.
CUOMO: Mattis and Kelly, rather.
KNIGHT: You know, you think about the secretary of defense. You know, the last secretary of defense had nothing to do with the military. This one does.
CUOMO: Ash Carter?
KNIGHT: You -- huh? Way back.
CUOMO: He worked at the Pentagon for like 35 years.
KNIGHT: Way back. Well, I'm talking about a guy that's been there and a guy that's been through things. I think that's an indication of his grasp of what's necessary. And I think that, as I spent time with him and watched him, the guy has -- is a very, very smart guy. Don't underestimate that in any way, shape or form. I've been there. I've seen it.
CAMEROTA: So for people who are nervous or they didn't vote for him, what do you say to them?
KNIGHT: I say they should have voted for him, if you want my answer, because I think that he gave us, of all the candidates there were, I think he was far and away better prepared for this job than any other candidate that was handed to us. I mean, to me, it's that simple. The guy has a background for doing the things that he's going to have to do from now on. The other people had no background whatsoever to do this.
CAMEROTA: So --
CUOMO: What's the basis of the misunderstanding then because many people don't perceive him that way. They see him as uniquely unqualified for the job because he's never run in anything like this.
KNIGHT: But have they ever been -- have they ever been around, have they ever talked to him? I've spent two months with him. I was there, you know. I'm not making a judgment from something I read, you know. I'm there. I watched him. I saw him as he dealt with people. And as we progressed, I said, this guy is going to really be good.
Now, I'm a guy that's been there. You're talking about people that read the newspaper or listen to something on television. Now, if you want something from somebody that's been there, then I've -- you know, I've been there.
CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about the significance of your red sweater that you're known for.
KNIGHT: Well, I appreciate you asking me that because I grew up in a great town in Ohio, Orville, and our sports uniforms, basketball, football, were red. So when I started coaching as a little thing for my hometown, Orville, Ohio, I always wore a red sweater just to thank the people in Orville. CUOMO: So it wasn't the Indiana team color. I mean it was, but that's
not why you did it.
KNIGHT: No. No, it -- no, it was because of my growing up in this great town, Orville, and I got to play all sports. And my mother was a teacher there. And it was just something I did because the town had been very nice to me and I had gotten an awful lot of things that I think I might not have been able to do or get in other towns.
CAMEROTA: And you -- you have --
CUOMO: So you think that Trump's red tie is a little bit of a nod to his good friend Bobby Knight?
CAMEROTA: To Orville? Yes, probably.
KNIGHT: Well, I don't know whether he's got it tied right or not.
CAMEROTA: Where are you going to be tomorrow watching?
KNIGHT: Well, I don't know. I'll -- we'll see. My wife and I are here. My wife is a lot more intelligent than I am, and she's here -- she's here with me. And I think that she was interesting. She was not a Trump supporter when things got going.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Yes.
KNIGHT: And as things went on and as I was involved with travel with him --
CAMEROTA: Yes. You --
KNIGHT: She saw a different thing. And she came to me one time. We were just kind of sitting there and she said, I have paid attention and I agree how you feel about Mr. Trump.
[09:00:12] CUOMO: All right, coach --
CAMEROTA: Coach Knight, great to talk to you.