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Tillerson Begins First Full Day of Secretary of State; Dem, GOP Tensions Erupt Over Trump Cabinet Picks; Trump Hits Schwarzenegger at National Prayer Breakfast; Goodell Addresses Relationship with Patriots; Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired February 2, 2017 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:30:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: World is very confused by Donald Trump's actions. You would expect Rex Tillerson to have world leaders calling him, reaching out to him on day one like perhaps the president of Mexico, the prime minister of Australia, to name a few. Maybe he has to calm fears with Iran. So from a military perspective -- because I'm sure our military leaders are watching what's been occurring over the last few days with interest. So what would they think of Rex Tillerson's demeanor and his speech today?
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think this is very reassuring to them. We've had this conversation before when the president chose General Mattis to be his secretary of Defense. Likewise and when he chose Secretary Tillerson now as the secretary of State. Many of the senior military leadership in the United States believe that these were good choices because they put a more social veneer, I guess, but also a calming influence. So where you've got the president being a little tough, as he said, the new sheriff in town, you've got very calming influences at the Pentagon and at State Department.
And these are probably the two most important national security posts in the country. So I agree with Ryan, I think this was a very reassuring address to the employees, but it also I think to the American people and to the U.S. military, that we've got some adult leadership in place, and they're going to be advising the president.
COSTELLO: So is that how it's going to go, Julian? Donald Trump will sort of throw a bomb into things and then Rex Tillerson and General Mattis will come to the rescue, so to speak?
JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORIAN AND PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It's not that easy. I think when the president is making calls like this and making provocative statements this way, they have a much bigger effect than anything the secretary of Defense or the secretary of State are going to be able to do.
President Trump can undercut all the personal work that they're trying to do. And so I think we need to be a little cautious. It's also notable, he didn't speak a lot just now about diplomacy itself. It was more organization man, talking about restoring how the organization works, rather than what will the role of the diplomacy be in the Trump administration. think that's what we're all waiting to see right now. COSTELLO: And Ryan, many Americans who voted for Donald Trump like
Donald Trump's tough stance. They want him to be tougher with countries all over the world, especially Australia. They want to restore America's respect in the world. So how much will diplomacy matter in that sense?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think Tillerson is going to have to fight for his seat at the table at the NSC. He's going to have to fight for influence, as frankly all secretaries of state do. There is traditionally a very difficult relationship between the secretary of State and often the secretary of Defense. And the secretary of State and the National Security adviser. And so, so far it looks like Michael Flynn is -- it does seem like he's going to be a fairly influential National Security adviser. That's going to be competition for Rex Tillerson.
So he's going to have to find ways to make sure that the president has his ear. Because he does have different views on some of the big important issues. Tillerson just during his career as CEO of Exxon was not known for one interested in military confrontation. He was one perhaps to a fault to his critics, always looking for engagement, you know, including with some of the more hostile regimes around the world, for instance, he had a good relationship with Putin, and a good relationship -- or at least ExxonMobil did, with Iran.
So typical international businessman, not trying to, you know, enter into conflicts with states, but enter into business transactions. So it will be interesting to see how -- what he brings from that world into the world of diplomacy because so far the president is offering some pretty tough words towards, for instance, Iran right now.
COSTELLO: Exactly. I have to leave it there, Ryan Lizza, Julian Zelizer, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, thanks to all of you.
There are fast breaking developments on the Hill. Our reporters are digging. We'll bring in new information right after a break.
[10:38:35] COSTELLO: The battle to confirm President Trump's Cabinet rages on. Tensions between Democrats and Republicans front and center again, as lawmakers gear up for another day of contentious hearings. Among those in the spotlight today, the EPA nominee Scott Pruitt. Moments ago Senator John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, told CNN Republicans will push for the full Senate vote today.
With me now, CNN's team of congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, Manu Raju, Phil Mattingly, they're all on Capitol Hill, they're all working their sources.
Manu, what have you got found out?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This vote over Scott Pruitt's nomination to head EPA, very, very controversial. Democrats are trying their hardest to try to delay it as long as possible. And they've boycotted not just today's vote but also yesterday, not showing up, to prevent this action happening in the committee, the committee rules requiring at least two Democrats to be present, to have a vote before the full Senate can act.
So the Republicans are taking matters in their own hands. And right now they're waiting for Democrats to appear at this hearing. They're not going to come. And they expect Republicans to use their own power to push this nomination through and even change the rules of the committee to do just that. We just had a chance to talk to Senator John Barrasso who chairs the committee. He made very clear this nomination is moving forward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: Scott Pruitt will be voted out of committee today. He will get to the floor of the United States Senate. And he will be confirmed as the next administrator of the EPA.
[10:40:05] RAJU: But you need two Democrats. The rules require two Democrats to be sitting in a quorum.
BARRASSO: All Democrats are invited to the committee. I met earlier this morning with Senator Carper, the ranking member. He indicated that the Democrats would not be attending. We're going to have a meeting today and we are going to make sure that Scott Pruitt is advanced to the floor of the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now this is a rather unusual moment on Capitol Hill, we're seeing this happen, Democrats boycotting committee hearings, Republicans moving forward on their own, changing the rules to send these nominations to the floor of the Senate. This happened yesterday in the Senate Finance Committee, when Tom Price, to lead Health and Human Services, and Steven Mnuchin to lead the Treasury Department. Both were advanced to the full Senate despite Democrats' boycotting and as Republicans suspended the rules to move them forward.
A bit of hardball politics on both sides. There's also a sign that Donald Trump is going to get most if not all of his Cabinet confirmed because the Republicans are in the majority and they're using their power full well, Carol.
COSTELLO: All right. Manu Raju, thank you very much.
Let's focus on specifics, starting with the Office of Management and Budget. Michael Mulvaney is up for that job. So, Phil, fill us in on what happens next to him.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's going to be an interesting day for Mick Mulvaney, obviously, the choice for Budget director. He has to go through two committee votes. And one of those, he should be fine, but one that's going to be happening behind me in a couple of minutes not so much. And a pretty good reason why. Senator John McCain has made it very clear he is opposed to the pick, he has been very strong in his opposition to Mick Mulvaney based on their relationship when Mick Mulvaney was in the House. He still is a member of Congress, and he took positions particularly on Defense spending that John McCain, Senator McCain, did not agree with, did not appreciate. He's made very clear he's going to oppose the nomination.
Now, Carol, that doesn't stop Mick Mulvaney. He will still get to the Senate floor and move forward. But it has been interesting to watch how this has all happened.
But, Carol, I also want to kind draw your attention to one other thing. We spoke to Senator McCain as he was walking into the hearing. There are a number of issues that he's focused on on foreign policy, whether it'd be the raid in Yemen, the special forces raid in Yemen or the president's call with Australia, with the Australian leader. He had very strong comments on that specifically. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Australia, they fought alongside us in wars, including losing over 500 brave Australians in the Vietnam War, which some of us remember. And this in my view was an unnecessary and frankly harmful open dispute over an issue which is not nearly as important as United States-Australian cooperation and working together including training of our Marines in Australia and other areas of military cooperation and intelligence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: So, Carol, basically what you're hearing there from Senator McCain is he is talking about a crucial relationship. And you're also seeing the blowback of these leader calls as the details of these private calls are starting to come out. Key senators, crucial senators, obviously Senator McCain is the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressing major concern about what this means going forward, that these aren't just simple calls, that these have wide ranging ramifications with allies of the United States. These are Republicans that have problems with these calls. Expect to hear more of that going forward and as long as Senator McCain is concerned about it, expect it to be a constant topic of conversation on Capitol Hill -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Well, here's the thing, Phil. Right now Republicans are helping President Trump as much as they can. So if these kinds of things, like this thing with Australia, the thing with Mexico, keep bubbling up, how long will powerful Republicans be willing to help President Trump?
MATTINGLY: So basically the best way to look at this is I've been talking to Republican aides on both the House and Senate side for weeks about this very issue, what's the trigger point, what's the tipping point, when the president does something that is found to be either so abhorrent or against the kind of conservative ethos or ideology that they would start to break with him entirely. And their point remains this. They control the House, they control the Senate, and finally they control the White House. Carol, that means they can get things done legislatively. They'll
express concerns when they have them but their eyes are focused right now on the possibility of tax reform, of repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, that's where their focus remains, even though they have major concerns about other things that are going on right now particularly on foreign policy -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Like national security? Because that enters into the picture, too, especially when it comes to Iran.
MATTINGLY: No question at all. But the interesting part is, we asked Senator McCain about Iran specifically, and he had no problems with what was said yesterday. He made the point that putting Iran on notice was something that -- and he stated this throughout the course of the Obama administration, that he wished President Obama would have done. So it's the interesting split here, Carol, where you see that they have different perspectives on different things, and they're going to split, especially individuals like Senator McCain or Senator Lindsey Graham.
They've made no secret of their disagreements on foreign policy issues. But again, they're looking towards legislative agendas, things they couldn't get done with a Democrat in the White House.
[10:45:07] And they're trying to kind of divide the two, if you will, or at least separate the two, as long as they possibly can. And I said, you know, what is the trigger point, what is the tipping point where that all of a sudden stops? We haven't been able to identify it yet.
COSTELLO: All right. Phil Mattingly reporting live for us, thank you so much. So let's talk about President Trump's pick for Education secretary, Betsy DeVos. Sunlen Serfaty is covering that. What might her day look like?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Betsy DeVos, Trump's nominee for Education secretary, is standing on some very shaky ground right now as her nomination heads to the full Senate, and that's due to two big time Republican defections, two Republican senators coming out and saying they will not vote for her. Now where that stands is if no other Republicans add to their breaking of ranks, if no other Republicans decide to vote against her, that would lead to a 50-50 tie in the Senate. And that's including Senator Jeff Sessions' yes vote for her before he is confirmed for attorney general.
This all boils down to the issue that this leads to Vice President Mike Pence likely having to come up here on Capitol Hill in his capacity as the president of the Senate and vote for Betsy DeVos. That would be the tie breaking vote, something that the Senate historian tells us this morning has never happened before, where you have a sitting vice president casting and cementing in a Cabinet official into place.
Now Republican leadership aides and the White House say they are confident that she will get through. But there still are a lot of question marks, a lot of drama around this. Here's where we are. Tomorrow there will be the next procedural vote on Betsy DeVos in the Senate. Likely according to GOP leadership aides tell me this morning that will push for confirmation -- her final confirmation potentially into Monday -- Carol.
COSTELLO: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, reporting live for us. Thank you so much.
Manu Raju, I just got a very urgent message to go back to Manu Raju from my senior producer Carolyn.
So, Manu, what do you have for us?
RAJU: Well, actually right now as we speak the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the Republicans are voting to suspend the rules and send the nomination of Mr. Pruitt, Scott Pruitt, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, circumventing Democrats who have boycotted for a second straight day this committee vote.
The rules require two Democrats to be present in order to have that committee vote before the full Senate can confirm Mr. Pruitt to that position. But Republicans for -- in a second committee, for a second straight day, doing something that we really have not seen, to suspend the rules altogether, to send Pruitt's nomination to the floor. So right now, this just happened, Pruitt was approved by 11-0 vote. All 11 Republicans voting yes. Democrats did not show up, suspending the rules, sending Pruitt to the floor of the United States Senate.
Now the third nomination to go through this unusual procedure, a sign of the lengths Republicans are going to make sure Donald Trump gets his Cabinet as Democrats do everything they can to stall and delay and frustrate some of the more controversial nominees, Carol.
COSTELLO: All right, drama on Capitol Hill this morning. Manu Raju, many thanks for your fine reporting.
Up next in the NEWSROOM, President Trump says a prayer for Arnold Schwarzenegger and his "Apprentice" ratings. And Arnold, he strikes back.
[10:50:03] COSTELLO: All right. Everyone is still buzzing about what Donald Trump said about Arnold Schwarzenegger and his "Apprentice" ratings at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., earlier this morning. Mr. Trump basically said he would pray for Arnold's ratings, pray for them to get better. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had tremendous success on "The Apprentice." And when I ran for president, I had to leave the show. That's when I knew for sure I was doing it. And they hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place. And we know how that turned out. The ratings went right down the tubes. It's been a total disaster. And Mark will never, ever bet against Trump again. And I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: So Mark Burnett is an executive producer, that's who he's talking about. Mr. Burnett introduced Mr. Trump at that prayer breakfast.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, as I said, he has responded. And of course he responded via tweet, so let's put that up. This is what Arnold said. He say, hey -- oh, it's a sound bite, we have sound, it's not a tweet. That's something new. Let's listen to what -- it's from a tweet? OK. Let's listen to what we have. Here is Arnold Schwarzenegger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, HOST, "CELEBRITY APPRENTICE": Hey, Donald, I have a great idea. Why don't we switch jobs? You take over TV, because you're such an expert in ratings, and I take over your job, and then people can finally sleep comfortably again, hmm?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Ouch. So let's bring in Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker," and Julian Zelizer, historian and professor at Princeton University, and author of "The Fierce Urgency of Now."
So since you're the author of "The Fierce Urgency of Now," Julian, I don't even know what to make of this, if anything.
ZELIZER: Well, look, there is the humorous part and there's the serious part. The humorous part is I can't believe this is what the president is talking about right now, that he's engaged in a ratings back and forth with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The serious part for people is it points to something deeper. A kind of vindictive nature that we see in Donald Trump. Now President Trump. That worries people. How does this kind of attitude play out on foreign policy or how it will play out on Capitol Hill? And that's why when you hear this, I think it can raise some red flags beyond just the actual issue being discussed.
COSTELLO: Well, I guess, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ryan, was not a supporter of Donald Trump during the campaign, right? And he's the kind of Republican that, well, that didn't vote for Republican, let's just put it that way.
LIZZA: Yes, he's been a critic. You know, to me it suggests that Trump is having difficulty adjusting to the role of president, and he's still got a foot in his previous life. He wouldn't give up his business empire, right. He still has a stake in the Trump Organization, obviously. He still, if I'm not mistaken, still remains -- has a title on "The Apprentice" as the producer, I believe.
COSTELLO: Yes. LIZZA: And so he's still monitoring and obsessed with the parts of
his life before the presidency, which I do find a little unusual. The more conspiratorial part of me thinks this is all just fake, you know, "Wrestlemania" type of thing, to get people to focus on "The Apprentice," and maybe goose the ratings of "The Apprentice." And it's a fake fight. But, you know -- he is still part of "The Apprentice" so I can't tell you, does he wants Schwarzenegger to fail or not?
COSTELLO: Oh, my gosh. I never thought Ryan Lizza would get conspiratorial.
LIZZA: So I don't know if this is a real fight or, you know, the kind of fight you see in wrestling.
ZELIZER: I mean, the other way to kind of talk about that, is this the politics of distraction? And this has been an issue people have been discussing. When very controversial things are taking place, whether it's the executive order on refugees, or whether it's all these calls with various foreign leaders and statements that are causing really explosive moments, is this a distraction, that we're talking about "The Apprentice" and his statement and not focusing on that. We don't know. We don't know if this is intentional. We don't know if he's just saying what's on the top of his mind. But the effect is that, and I think that's also a concern.
COSTELLO: Well, another moment at the National Prayer Breakfast that caught everyone -- that has everyone abuzz especially online, the Senate chaplain got up and gave this impassioned prayer. He was really firing his remarks and very effective. And Donald Trump was very appreciative of that. And here's what he said at the National Prayer Breakfast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Thank you as well to Senate Chaplain Barry Black for his moving words. And I don't know, Chaplain, whether or not that's an appointed position.
[10:55:04] Is that an appointed position? I don't even know if you're a Democrat or if you're a Republican. But I'm appointing you for another year, the hell with it.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: And I think it's not even my appointment. It's the Senate's appointment. But we'll talk to them. You're very -- your son is here. Your job is very, very secure, OK? Thank you, Barry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: OK. So definitely brought a lot of laughs from the crowd. So just -- because I'm running up to the end of the show, so briefly, which one of you would like to comment on that?
ZELIZER: Well, again, that was in some ways the least interesting part of the talk. He actually spoke about Islam in very negative terms and about the kind of war we're fighting. And I think those were the comments that caught my attention, or his promise to get rid of the Johnson amendment which prohibits nonprofit organizations from getting involved in politics. That kind of humor is fine, but in some ways I think we need to look at the rest of the speech.
COSTELLO: All right, Ryan Lizza, Julian Zelizer, thanks for playing this morning. I appreciate it. I'll be right back.
COSTELLO: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave his State of the League Address yesterday. And he was asked if he considered himself at war with Patriots fans.
Cory Wire has more on that in this morning's "Bleacher Report."
Hi. Coy, can you hear me? Coy?
COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Roger Goodell -- it's been a long time since he's been to Foxborough because of the deflategate and the punishments he handed out. And fans want to know, how do you feel about coming back to Foxborough at some point? Here is the commissioner talking about it yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: I would tell you that it's not awkward at all for me. I was in Boston two seasons ago for two consecutive playoff games. The same way I was in Atlanta this year. So that happens. If I'm invited back to Foxborough, I'll come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WIRE: All right. So afterwards -- Mr. Kraft, the owner for the Patriots actually invited the commissioner to the opening game for next season if the Patriots indeed win the Super Bowl. They have to beat the Falcons to do it. They have a tough task, the Falcons do. They're going up against the Pats and Tom Brady.
I asked someone who played against Brady, Von Miller, last year's Super Bowl MVP. And I asked him what makes Tom Terrific so great.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VON MILLER, BRONCOS LINEBACKER: He's a leader. You know, the wolf pack is only as strong as the wolf. You know, and the wolf is only as strong as the pack. And that is true when it comes to the New England Patriots. There really enough superstar than Tom Brady and they have a solid team, you know, with solid leadership. And they have a true tight wolf pack over there.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WIRE: A wolf pack. It's almost game day here, Carol. And also I asked J. J. Watt. J. J. Watt said Tom Brady is probably the greatest of all time. They're letting them fly here in Houston.
COSTELLO: Whatever. Cory Wire, thanks so much. Go Falcons.
Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello. "AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND BOLDUAN" starts now.
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