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4 Top State Officials Fired by Trump Administration; CIA Whistleblower Responds to Trump on Torture; Backlash Against Singer Chrisette Michele for Singing at Trump Inaugural. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 26, 2017 - 14:30   ET



[14:33:39] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Just absolutely stunning news out of the State Department, what is being described as the White House cleaning house. CNN just learning four top State Department officials have been fired by the Trump administration, according to two senior administration officials. This comes a day after Patrick Kennedy, who served for nine years as the undersecretary for management resigned. He has worked there more than 40 years, left.

With me now, CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, who has all the details. Also with us, CNN political analyst and columnist for "The Washington Post," Josh Rogin.

Elise, starting with you, what happened? Tell me the back story?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, we're talking about four officials with a combined 150 years of institutional knowledge at the State Department. Pat Kennedy, long-serving undersecretary of management, is kind of a controversial figure. He was involved in handling the Benghazi attacks in 2012 and criticized for mishandling Hillary Clinton's e-mail server. But in addition to his resignation, that was accepted by the Trump White House, we're talking about Michelle Bond, an assistant secretary for counselor affairs; Joyce Barr, assistant secretary for administration, and Gentry Smith, who handles the office of foreign missions, embassies here in the U.S.

Brooke, it's very common for officials, political appointees and career officials, to submit their resignation after a new president. That's required by law. But normally, what happens is that these officials are asked to stay on until their successor is confirmed. And that was true for many of the officials who served under the Bush and Clinton and Obama administrations. That was true for many of those officials who served under the Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations.

[14:35:34] It is true -- and Josh has a piece about this this morning in the "Washington Post" -- is that there is a lot of anxiety at the State Department about the incoming Trump administration. There are a lot of foreign service officials who are resigning and don't want to stay in this administration.

But in this particular bureau, the bureau that handles the safety of U.S. citizens overseas, U.S. consulates overseas, and running and safety of U.S. personnel and facilities abroad, this leaves a real gaping hole. 150 years of institutional knowledge out the door before Rex Tillerson even takes office -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: So with the perfect setup, Elise.

Josh, your interpretation of this? And does Trump have a team ready to swoop in and fill these positions?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree with everything Elise just said. We've both been hearing over the last weeks a lot of concern inside the State Department about what the new Trump administration means for the career services all over the world. thousands of diplomatic posts representing our country, so when these four officials left the building or resigned yesterday. People didn't know if this was their decision or the Trump administration's decision. And Elise's excellent reporting showed that it was the Trump administration's decision to let them go. And what that tells us is that they're not only cleaning house in the political realm, but going through the entire works of the federal government.

BALDWIN: But do they have successors?

ROGIN: They don't have successors yet. There will be acting people who can step in and sort of keep the train running. But one of Rex Tillerson's jobs, assuming he's confirmed by the full Senate, will be to find people to run the State Department and foreign policy, and that's a huge task.

BALDWIN: Yep, yep.

Josh and Elise, thank you very much. Elise, with all the reporting, I appreciate.

Coming up next, President Trump says he thinks maybe torture works and reportedly wants a review. Next, we will talk to a CIA whistleblower who exposed the use of waterboarding. We'll get his response to the president's words.

Also, Spike Lee drops plans to use a singer's music after she performed at Trump's inauguration. Grammy-award winning Chrisette Michele joins me live to respond. Don't miss this.


[14:42:32] BALDWIN: President Trump says he's under the impression that torture works and he wants to, quote, "fight fire with fire" to counter terrorism.


DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: President Obama says, do not torture. Will you say that?

TRUMP: Well, a have a general who I have great respect for, General Mattis, who said -- I was a little surprised -- says he's not for torture. But I have spoken to others in intelligence and they are big believers in, as an example, waterboarding --

MUIR: You did tell me --

TRUMP: -- because they say it does work.


BALDWIN: Bottom line, let's remind everyone these enhanced terrorism techniques are illegal.

With me John Kiriakou, former CIA analyst who was jailed for being the first to blow the whistle on the CIA's use of waterboarding.

John, good to see you. Welcome back.


BALDWIN: We want to talk about the thing, the very thing that you shined this light on, is the very thing that the president is apparently is considering.

KIRIAKOU: I'm very disappointed by that. I believe, like many Americans, that we had this debate a decade ago. The passage of the amendment in 2015, I thought, put this behind us. So I'm disappointed this issue has popped up again.

BALDWIN: The intelligence chief was with me and what's the issue for you?

KIRIAKOU: I think that the issue is, is it moral, ethical and legal. We know that it is illegal. It's, frankly, been illegal since 1946. We executed Japanese soldiers who waterboarded American prisoners after world war ii. Just because the Bush White House in the early part of the last decade decided that it was legal didn't necessarily make it so. And that question was settled finally in 2015 with McCain-Feinstein but is it moral and ethical? The inspector general says it is not. The American Psychological Institute says it is not. The National Council of Churches says it's not. I say it's not.

BALDWIN: On top of, apparently, this report that the Trump is reconsidering the black sites overseas where said brutal interrogations of these terrorism suspects were carried out in the early 2000, other reports indicate Defense Secretary James Mattis, the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, were blindsided by this. You spent 14 years at the CIA. What really happens at these black sites?

[14:45:29] KIRIAKOU: Under the Bush administration, terrible things happened at these black sites. The Bush administration called them enhanced interrogation techniques, many of us called them torture techniques. But that's not necessarily what needs to happen. In the event that these black sites are reopened -- and President Trump could reopen them with the stroke of a pen -- CIA officers would have to care them out according to the letter of the law. And what is delineated in the field manual is what is permitted. The CIA is affect an extraordinary rendition and send them to third countries where they actually do torture.

BALDWIN: Depending on what could change last question that these men and women in the field would comply.

KIRIAKOU: Oh, I'm confident they will not comply. We know from the Senate torture report that people inside the CIA objected. Some of them curtailed their assignments and went back to headquarters, which is a career-ending move, and some actually resigned. I think if ordered to carry out a torture program today, they would simply walk away or refuse to do it.

BALDWIN: John Kiriakou, as always, thank you very much.

KIRIAKOU: Thanks for having me.

More on our breaking news. President Trump and the president of Mexico mutually calling off the White House meeting for next week over the border wall. What happens next in this key relationship? We'll discuss.

Also, backlash erupts after this Grammy Award-winning singer performs at the inauguration and Spike Lee now says he won't use her music. Chrisette Michele joins me to respond.





[14:49:52] BALDWIN: This Sunday marks the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. "Manchester By the Sea" leads the list for film star. Casey Affleck is up for best actor, but there's plenty of opportunities for upsets. You can watch it live on our sister stations, TBS and TNT this Sunday at 8:00 eastern.

Coming up, Grammy Award-wining singer, Chrisette Michele, joins me live after the backlash she got after performing live at the Trump inauguration.

Back in 90 seconds.


BALDWIN: Grammy Award-wining singer, songwriter, Chrisette Michele, is hitting back after the backlash she received for performing at the Trump inauguration.





She lost fans, she lost followers, even a potential gig with film maker Spike Lee, he posted on Instagram, "i was thinking about using her music in 'She's Gotta Have It," not anymore. And others are weighing.

Chrisette Michele is with me now. She just released her lasted single, a spoken-word track called "No Political Genius," a direct response to the inauguration uproar.

It's such a pleasure to meet you. Chrisette, thanks for coming on.

CHRISETTE MICHELE, SINGER: Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: Let's back up. Why did you perform?

MICHELE: We have to be seen. The Democrats don't even see us there. I saw him on TV and thought, he doesn't know me.

BALDWIN: Because of what Spike Lee said, what would you say?

MICHELE: You were supposed to mentor me through this moment, taught us art for change. This is what this is for. I wore a -- skirt on the stage of the inaugural ball. Were you not paying attention? And that's my response to that.

BALDWIN: That's your response?

MICHELE: That's it. If we're artists, supposed to be people who shake the world with our art, then we have to stand on stage and be uncomfortable. I was so excited to show who we are and what we've got to show on that stage.

BALDWIN: We talked about Jennifer Holliday and other people who received such hate that they pulled out.

MICHELE: Barack Obama received such hate and ran again, so I'm going to keep running just like he did. At the end of the day everybody is going to get hate for what they believe in. And black Twitter is not the entire country or black America, so I refuse to make 6,000 comments the voice of black America.

BALDWIN: India Rea gave you love.

MICHELE: I love India.

BALDWIN: How about your family. What's their response?

MICHELE: My mom and dad and brothers were super supportive. But you have those aunts petrified of politics because you can't mix religion and politics. We grew up Pentecostal, so any of this is straight taboo.

First of all, I sang a gospel song. So, after they saw the performance and understood where I was coming from, it's been a lot more love. But it was a little bit scary for me. [14:55:21] BALDWIN: Did you want to meet Trump? What would you say to Trump if you were to meet him?

MICHELE: This is what we look like. At the end of the day, he has constituents, folks in the cabinet, people not there anymore, as news just told us. I want him to know what we have to say, what we think. My goal with all of this is to bring the story of the black girl who has a baby in his own welfare with the white girl in South Dakota that has her own story, if I have a coin a phrase, "No political Genius," and create a TV show myself so our voice can be heard as a whole, then I don't mind being in the gap.

BALDWIN: You can speak from experience now after all of this.

So nice to meet you.

MICHELE: Thank you so much.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much.

MICHELE: My pleasure.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much, Chrisette.

Coming up next Donald Trump says the meeting with Mexico's president is off after he said Mexico will be reimbursing the U.S. for building the wall along the border, but did the Mexican president cancel the meeting first?

We're back in a moment.


[15:00:11] BALDWIN: Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

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