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President Trump Removes U.S. from Transpacific Partnership; Senate Hearings of Trump Cabinet Nominees Continue; Interview with Senator Rob Portman; Communications Between General Mike Flynn and Russia Ambassador Under Investigation; Interview with Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 24, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:02] ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A sign that these are still issues that very much continue to bother him. But it wasn't all about the past. The president also took several executive actions yesterday. As you mentioned he withdrew the U.S. formally from the Transpacific Partnership trade deal. That's the 12-nation trade deal that was so important to the Obama administration but that Trump ran on undoing. Here's more of what he had to say about trade.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT-ELECT: We're going to stop the ridiculous trade deals that are taking everybody out of our country and taking companies out of our country. And it's going to be reversed. I think you'll have a lot of companies come back to our country. Companies that left are going to come back to our country. They're going to hire a lot of people.


JONES: The president also instituted a hiring freeze on federal workers. It doesn't apply to members of the military or presidential appointees as his administration continues to try to fill positions. And he reinstated the so-called Mexico City policy. That's a policy under which nongovernmental organizations operating overseas that get federal funds are not allowed to perform or promote abortions.

Now, the president has another busy schedule today starting off with another breakfast and listening session, this time with auto industry leaders. Later on he'll be signing more executive orders and then meeting with Senate leaders. One thing that is not on his public schedule, the presidential daily briefing. That's the intelligence briefing that's getting a lot of attention in recent months. Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. Athena, thank you very much for that.

Vice President Mike Pence swearing in Mike Pompeo as the new CIA director last night after he was confirmed by the Senate. The president's pick for secretary of state Rex Tillerson advances to a full vote next week. We have a full slate of hearings today. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has more from Capitol Hill. Sunlen? SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you. The Senate is inching along here. Mike Pompeo becoming the third cabinet official in place, sworn in overnight very swiftly by Vice President Pence. And things are now lining up for Trump's fourth cabinet official to potentially be in place very soon. Rex Tillerson, Trump's controversial secretary of state nominee, approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday with some last-minute support from Senator Marco Rubio. Tillerson now heads to the full Senate, and he's all but guaranteed to pass through easily. But that vote will likely not happen immediately. Democrats up here on the Hill have already indicated that they likely will filibuster this nomination, pushing Tillerson's final vote into next week.

Today on Capitol Hill, another slew of potentially contentious confirmation hearings, including for Tom Price who is facing his second round of questioning, Mick Mulvaney, and a scheduled committee vote for Senator Sessions in the judiciary committee. Democrats on that committee as is their right have already indicated they will delay that vote, pushing Sessions into next week. And right now Senator Sessions is at least facing, at the earliest, a final confirmation in early February. Back to you guys.

CUOMO: All right, Sunlen.

Let's discuss with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. Senator, it's always good to have you on the show. There's a lot of politics in the air about these confirmation hearings, but I wanted to talk to you about something of substance with nominee Tom Price. In one of the hearings, the issue of the Obamacare provision that allows or mandates mental health coverage, addiction care coverage be offered, the nominee vacillated on that. When he was asked whether or not he thought it was still a good thing because he's passed legislation in the past that would have gotten rid on that mandate on insurance to cover addiction treatment, he didn't reply directly. He said I think what's a good to do is make certain we're providing the kinds of options and choices for patients so they can address their clinical and medical needs. That's a non-answer. Are you worried the next head of the HHS may take away addiction treatment when we have a scourge of opioids going across this country that you have been fighting aggressively for your own state?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: Chris, I would be concerned, and specifically with regard to Medicaid expansion. What we've seen in Ohio is many people who need that treatment are now being covered by that expansion. So I'm for the Medicaid reforms Governor Kasich in Ohio and others have talked about to provide the states more flexibility to better cover the Medicaid population. But I do think that it's important we keep that addiction services in place because, look, we are facing an epidemic, not just in Ohio, where we happen to be facing it, you know, more intensely than other states, but all around the country. And I believe from the data we're getting, it's getting worse, not better. In other words more people are falling into that addiction trap. And so it's opioids, its' prescription drugs, it's fentanyl now. And we do need to be sure that we are turning that tide by providing treatment to people who need it. CUOMO: Is it a deal-breaker for you if the incoming HHS secretary

won't go to the mat for people who are suffering from a scourge that's going across this country, will that influence your vote?

[08:05:01] PORTMAN: We'll talk to him about it. I suspect he was talking more about the exchanges and more about what should the mandates be under the exchanges. And there is a lot of honest debate about whether the Affordable Care Act put so many mandates in place that it is driven costs up.

CUOMO: Yes, but senator, you've seen that in the past if you don't make insurance companies cover addiction treatment, they don't cover it. So if you remove that, and he vacillated on it at best, and he's passed bills in the past that took it away in the main, will that matter enough to you to compromise your vote?

PORTMAN: Again, I'm going to have the discussion with him as well as some other issues. As you know I believe that we ought to have a transition that is smooth and thoughtful in terms of the Affordable Care Act. I think we ought to take our time and get it right. So there's a lot of discussion to be had. We have a hearing exit today with him in the finance committee. So we'll have a chance to talk about those and other issues.

CUOMO: So the president makes a bold move, takes the United States out of the TPP, the Transpacific Partnership. A lot of cheers, but they are coming from the wrong side of the aisle. A lot of Democrats are very happy about this. But, you know, whether or not it's Ryan or McCain or your head for the House ways and means committee, Brady, they didn't like this. The GOP liked the partnership, likes the idea of expansive free trade. What's going on with our new president and his party?

PORTMAN: Well, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both came out against the trade deal with the pacific countries, the TPP, Transpacific Partnership. I, too, thought it was not a good agreement and, frankly, there were three specific issues that I think were weak. One was with regard to autos, actually, because there's a rules of origin that would allow autos to come in from Japan with a lot of parts coming from other countries, including countries like China that are not part of the agreement. To me that didn't seem fair and we made that point repeatedly. So I think it can be approved. And I think even Republicans who support the concept of it because of the geopolitical importance, frankly of having that agreement with countries in the region to counter some of what China is doing have concerns about some of the specifics. So I think it can be improved.

CUOMO: The first thing that happened, once you withdraw, you're out, right? And China immediately stepped in to fill the vacuum. Do you think it's a coincidence that the next thing they did was make a comment about the South China Sea and said the United States is not a party to this matter, which sounds more like a trade term than it does a geopolitical military operative term? Do you see that they filled the void and the mistake has been made?

PORTMAN: I think they've been filling whatever voids that they can find, and during the Obama administration, as you and I have talked about before, Chris, I believe that we did withdraw in terms of our American presence around the world to the point that both Russia, China and other actors have stepped in. And I think what's happens in the South China Sea is an example of that. The other countries in the region are very nervous about that. So I do think the United States needs to continue to play a key role in Asia.

And I know there's been discussion about bilateral trade agreements, for instance, with some of these individual countries like Japan, which is, by far, the biggest economy involved in the TPP. I understand they are interested in that. That could be very helpful. Sometimes our bilateral agreements, Chris, tend to be much better than our multilaterals but you can really reduce the barriers to trade further when you have an agreement just between two parties.

So I'm hopeful we will not pull back from that region and, in fact, restore America's leadership.

CUOMO: We have on the screen right now as part of your description that you're on the finance committee. But you're on a lot committees, senator, and one is the foreign relations committee. Do you have any concern for the president forgoing the daily intel brief? Many presidents in administrations past have said it's the cumulative understanding of this conversation about the issues as presented that give the president and the people around him the best feel for security conditions.

PORTMAN: I think the daily brief is important because it's raw intelligence. So it's also important to have analysis from the people around you. And I know he's put together a good national security team around him, including General Mattis and General Kelly who have been confirmed, and Rex Tillerson is on his way. I think he'll be confirmed in the next week or so. So that's important.

But yes, I think the raw intelligence is important. And I think if you were to talk to previous presidents, they would say that they found that to be helpful in terms of understanding not just cumulatively what the narrative is around the world but, you know, deeper dive into some of the specific national security concerns around the world.

CUOMO: Last question. You said that you expect Tillerson to be confirmed next week. You just said that you are concerned about Russia and China filling the void in places around the world. I assume that you've gotten over any concerns about Rex Tillerson's relationship with Russia and what it means for putting America first.

PORTMAN: Look, he's got good relationships with world leaders, and I think that can be a positive or a negative depending on what his policy positions are and what he's willing to promote. And the hearings, as you know, I questioned him about that. I talked to him specifically about NATO, Article 5, which is an incredibly important part of our mutual defense with these NATO countries. I also talked to him about Ukraine and the fact that the Obama administration has not supported providing defensive lethal weapons to Ukraine. [08:10:04] He said he would be in favor of reversing that policy, in

other words, being tougher relative to Vladimir Putin and the Russians and their intervention in Ukraine. So I did get some good comments from him about that and that assured me to be able to vote for hum last night.

CUOMO: Senator, thank you very much. We know you'll keep your eyes on these addiction prevention measures that are coming out of our government. We know you know acutely how important they are.

PORTMAN: And likewise, Chris. Thank you for your continued coverage of that and raising the awareness, which is going to raise lives as people understand the connection between prescription drugs and heroin and as we continue to fight this scourge.

CUOMO: Few things are as universal as addiction. Be well, senator. Talk to you soon.

PORTMAN: Thanks, Chris, take care.

CUOMO: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: That's such an important topic.

Well, phone calls between President Trump's national security adviser Mike Flynn and a Russian ambassador now under scrutiny, these calls raising concerns with counterintelligence investigators. CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez is live from Washington with more. What have you learned, Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. Well, the calls between Mike Flynn, President Trump's national security adviser, and Russia's ambassador to the United States are being scrutinized as part of a broader counterintelligence investigation of Russian activities here in this country. Law enforcement and intelligence officials say the calls were captured by routine U.S. eavesdropping targeting the Russian diplomats.

But the officials also say that some of the content of the conversation drew enough potential concerns that investigators are still looking into the discussions. The officials also stressed that so far there's been no determination of wrongdoing.

We know that the FBI and intelligence officials briefed the Obama White House about the phone discussions before President Obama left office because at least one of the calls came on the same day the Obama administration announced sanctions on Russia and expelled 35 diplomats. The White House says it has, quote, "Absolutely no knowledge any of investigation or even the basis for such an investigation." Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, told reporters that there were two calls and that the men discussed four subjects. That includes setting up a conference on ISIS and a phone call between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Chris?

CUOMO: Thank you very much, my friend. Keep us up to date on that story.

President Trump moving quickly to start repealing several of President Obama's policies. More executive actions expected this morning. How are Democrats responding? We're going to hear from one of them, next.



[08:16:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to stop the ridiculous trade deals that have been taken everybody out of our country and taking companies out of our country. And it's going to be reversed. I think you're going to have a lot of companies come back to our country. Companies that left are going to come back to our country. And they're going to hire a lot of people.


CAMEROTA: President Trump beginning his first week in office with a flurry of executive orders, including withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. The move fulfilling a promise Mr. Trump made during the campaign.

Joining us now to discuss it, Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota. He's the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a candidate for the DNC chair.

Good morning, Congressman.


CAMEROTA: So, you didn't like TPP. Are you pleased with how swiftly Mr. Trump moved on it?

ELLISON: Well, I'm pleased that the American people over the course of years raised up the problems with TPP, and I'm glad that their voices got heard, even if it was by somebody who cynically manipulated the issue for their own political advantage.

I mean, at the end of the day, we need a new trade model. We need a trade model that ends deferral, which is a tax provision that allows companies to keep profits offshore and not bring them back into the country. We need a trade policy that invests in American jobs and put American workers first. So, that's really where we have to go from here.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But these are the things that President Trump is saying. Why don't you give him credit for ending TPP?

ELLISON: You know, I give him credit for being a reader of the political tea leaves.

But look what else he did. He also re-established the global gag rule, which is something very bad. You know, one of the leading causes of poverty for women around the world is the inability to space their children. CAMEROTA: Yes.

ELLISON: The inability to plan their families and he got rid of that, which is very damaging.

CAMEROTA: And you know what --

ELLISON: But also the federal hiring freeze. Another bad thing, too.

CAMEROTA: I do want to ask you about those. But just one second. Where you find points of agreement, why not give him credit for those things?

ELLISON: Because -- I think because the people who raise their voices over the course of years that brought us about -- brought about this policy. I want to give the people credit. That's what I believe.

CAMEROTA: I understand. As you know, the way it works, the president, who is in office at the time that it happens, gets the credit.

ELLISON: Well, I don't necessarily agree with that. I think that in a democracy, it's the people who get the credit and the people drove this policy change to the point where they -- now we're not going to have to deal with the Trans Pacific Partnership. But what are we going to have to deal with next? Next, we're still going to have to have some kind of a policy and this is as a business person brought in ties, suits and a whole bunch of other stuff by using foreign low-wage labor.

So, I mean, I guess that's one of the reasons I'm not fully persuaded that this is a cause for rejoicing. I mean, you don't -- you know, Mr. Trump does have a history of exploiting low-cost foreign labor in order to sell his goods and also, as -- you know, you brought foreign workers into the United States to run his resort. So --

CAMEROTA: So, you don't believe him? When he says he's for American workers as he said during the campaign and has reiterated since taking office, you don't believe that?

ELLISON: Here's what I believe. I believe that the workers in Atlantic City who were mistreated by him, I believe them. I believe the workers in Las Vegas who say they were not treated properly by Donald Trump. Those are the -- that's who I believe.

Now, I think this president, given his background, needs to do a little more proving before you make a believer out of me.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, if you're not going to give him credit for withdrawing from TPP, then how can you criticize him for then his executive order on the so-called Mexico City Plan, the gag rule that you address?

ELLISON: Because I disagree with it. Because I think it's a bad policy. And I think that the right policy was to leave President Obama's rescission of that policy in place. I don't think it's a right policy --

[08:20:03] CAMEROTA: Right. So, you will criticize him -- I mean, just to be clear -- you will criticize for the policies you disagree with but you will never give him credit for those that you agree with?

ELLISON: You used the word never. That wasn't me --

CAMEROTA: You're right. You today will not give him credit.

ELLISON: What I'm doing is relying on his background that he brings into office. What I'm doing is relying on is the fact I was in untold number of meetings raising questions and concerns about the Trans Pacific Partnership over the course of the last several years, and I know people were very concerned about our trade policy.

And we're very -- and writing letters to Congress. We're having meetings on the Hill. And we're doing all kinds of things because they were concerned about our trade policy. That's what -- now, that's what I think is critical to focus on. Now --

CAMEROTA: OK, now I just want to get to -- I want to move on to the Mexico City gag rule you talked about because this is baffling.


CAMEROTA: Why not allow NGOs to be able to discuss family planning with women? As we -- as I understand it, correct me if I'm wrong, they can't even discuss contraception?

ELLISON: Well, I think it's a very damaging policy. It's ideologically driven by certain -- some people's religious beliefs. And I don't think it's right to impose that as U.S. policy.

And I think it's actually pretty damaging when you consider, you know, how so many women around the world are -- and so many people are relegated to poverty because women do not have the capacity and the ability to make choices around family planning. And so, I think it's a disastrous policy and I'm sorry that it happened.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about this meeting where Mr. Trump met with this bipartisan group of lawmakers, four Republicans, four Democrats. I know you weren't there in the meeting.

But did any of your colleagues share with you what it was like in the room when President Trump again made the false claim that millions of people voted illegally. How did your lawmaker colleagues respond to that?

ELLISON: Well, I have to tell you, I haven't had the chance to go over the meet with them but I did read press reports about it. At this point, I'm not shocked to hear Donald Trump say something that's verifiably untrue.

I mean, it's -- he's starting to develop a track record of it. And so, the fact is that I think we're going to see more of this. I think we've just got to be very clear that we're going to correct the record and tell the truth to the American people. There's no record of millions of people who are not authorized to vote, voting in this election.

The reason that Donald Trump lost the popular vote is because most Americans don't prefer him. Now, he did get the votes in the Electoral College that allowed him to win but in terms of the overall popular vote, he didn't win it. It's because most people -- because he's not a popular president. And he's actually starts his presidency with the lowest approval ratings in modern memory.

So, I mean, I think that's really where we are. And I think we're in for an interesting four years with Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we are.

Congressman Keith Ellison, thank you very much for being on NEW DAY.

ELLISON: You're welcome.


CUOMO: So, why is President Trump reviving the false claim about voter fraud costing him the popular vote? We'll get the bottom line, next.


[08:27:17] CUOMO: President Donald John Trump continues to peddle a debunk claim that the voter fraud cost him the popular vote and is depending the turnout at his inauguration. Why is the president stuck on these points?

Let's get the bottom line with David Drucker, senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner" and host of the podcast "Examining Politics".

Why, David? Why?

DAVID DRUCKER, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: The $64 trillion question, Chris. And the only reason we're talking about this is because the president keeps bringing this up. And I think a much better model for him to follow if he's that concerned about his legitimacy and his ability to get things done and be taken seriously, which, by the way, I don't think he has to be concerned about.

But if he's concerned, I think a model to follow is George W. Bush coming out of the 2000 election where he lost the popular vote. It was ultimately decided in the Supreme Court, and there was a lot of talk back then, you recall, about whether President Bush had to move softly, be a little more bipartisan, reduce the ambition of his goals and he really was having none of it.

He moved forward with exactly what he talked about on the campaign trail. And, in fact, in his first 100 days got a lot done. There was education reform. There was the big Bush tax cuts and there were other things, and that solidified any doubts about the legitimacy of his presidency, and people forget it was a long time that it had been since somebody lost the popular vote but won through the Electoral College.

CAMEROTA: David, is there any harm in the president of the United States claiming that the underpinning of our democracy, free and fair voting, doesn't work?

DRUCKER: Yeah, there's a lot of harm. The people in charge of government call into question the ability of government to do its job and question the legitimacy of our institutions, it sows all sorts of doubt. When people don't have faith in institutions, it affects the choices that they make, and it leaves them feeling as though there are things happening to them and about them that aren't true.

And, look, that's one of the hallmarks of our democracy and our country has been the fact that we have been able to have faith in the rule of law, the Constitution and institutions. I think that's one of the things the partisanship in Washington, and I personally don't have a problem with partisanship because when people believe different things they fight it out. But you don't want to see people losing faith in institutions.

CUOMO: So how do you see the bottom line on the first spate of executive actions that culminated in TPP? It seems to be the president is doing a little something for everyone but on TPP, the wrong side of the aisle is cheering for him. You got Bernie Sanders and the Democrats standing up and saying, yay. You got Paul Ryan who, of course, once again hedged on his feelings about it, but pro-TPP. Brady, pro-TPP. McCain, the Same.

What's he doing to his party?