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Bitter Cabinet Battles Rage On; Trump Blasts Australia's PM Over Refugees; Goodell Addresses Relationship with Patriots; Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired February 2, 2017 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:32:25] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It is now official. Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is the new secretary of State but battles rage on over other key Cabinet posts. Democrats also preparing for a major battle over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch with Mr. Trump suggesting Republicans go nuclear to get him confirmed.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is live on Capitol Hill. What's the state of play?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, likely be another contentious day up here on Capitol Hill, Chris. It's notable that Rex Tillerson, yes, became the sixth Cabinet official in place but there are still many members of Donald Trump's potential Cabinet still hanging in the balance up here on Capitol Hill and we have Democrats digging in even more throwing down obstacles at every place they can to delay the process and the White House is simply losing patience, calling these moves by the Democrats childish.
SERFATY (voice-over): In an unprecedented move, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee suspending committee rules. Advancing the nominations of Steve Mnuchin as Treasury secretary and Tom Price as Health and Human Services secretary.
The extraordinary measure coming after Democrats demanded additional information on the nominees and boycotted when they didn't get it.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Our Democratic colleagues chose to cower in the hallway, and hold a press conference.
SERFATY: But the Democrats' boycott did successfully delay the vote for President Trump's EPA choice Scott Pruitt.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I cannot participate in any way possible with moving someone along who has not allowed a thorough vetting.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They are doing their constituents and our country a disservice by resorting to these childish tactics. SERFATY: Tensions between the two parties front and center with
tempers flaring ahead of the confirmation vote for the president's attorney general nominee, Senator Jeff Sessions.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: Senator Cruz misrepresented what happened. So I'd like to take this opportunity to set the record straight.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I object to -- I object to the senator disparaging a fellow member of the committee here in his absence.
SERFATY: Lawmakers erupting in a bitter exchange over Senator Ted Cruz and Al Franken's differing opinions of Sessions' civil rights record. There's just one problem, Cruz wasn't in the room.
FRANKEN: Senator Cruz did the very thing that Senator Cornyn is accusing me of doing. In my absence, he misrepresented me. He personally impugned my integrity. You didn't object then, did you?
SERFATY: Meanwhile, another fight with Democrats is brewing over Trump's Supreme Court pick for Judge Neil Gorsuch.
[06:35:01] But Republicans could cut Democrats out all together going with the nuclear option -- changing longstanding Senate rules requiring 60 votes to confirm Gorsuch to just 51 required votes.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we end up with that gridlock I would say if you can, Mitch, go nuclear.
SERFATY: And today the thing to watch up here on Capitol Hill, Education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Her nomination is now on shaky ground, now that two Republicans have come out and said they will vote against her. This would lead to a 50-50 tie with Senator Sessions casting his vote for her before he is confirmed for attorney general. This all boils down to the fact that Vice President Mike Pence will likely have to step in and cast his ballot breaking the tie in his capacity as president of the Senate.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that will be an interesting one to watch today. Sunlen, thank you very much.
Well, President Trump creating rifts with Mexico and Australia, while ratcheting up tensions with Iran. Where is this headed? We get the answer from President Obama's former deputy secretary of state.
[06:40:02] CAMEROTA: President Trump clashing with the Australian prime minister over an agreement on refugees. What's been the reaction in Australia?
CNN's Anna Coren is live from Sidney. Anna, what's happening there?
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, it's certainly being met with shock and dismay that President Trump could publicly humiliate Australia's prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and really trash an alliance that dates back to World War II. America and Australia share a very close relationship but that seems to matter little to America's new president.
Now as far as the prime minister, he was concerned this deal was done. It was a deal that was signed with President Obama days before the U.S. elections in November where America was willing to accept 1250 refugees who are in offshore detention centers in PNG's Manus Island and the Pacific Island's Nauru. These are people living in appalling conditions who are not allowed into Australia because they are people who have come here by boat and are refused entry. It's part of Australia's hard line immigration policy.
But we are now learning that Trump has not signed off on his deal and that occurred from his tweet that we learned of and I'll just read that tweet to you. It says, "Do you believe it? The Obama administration agreed to take thousands of legal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal."
So as I say shock and dismay that the president of the United States has reacted this way to what was thought to be a done deal.
CAMEROTA: All right. Anna, thank you for bringing us that from Australia.
So let's get reaction now from someone well versed in international diplomacy, Tony Blinken was President Obama's former deputy secretary of State and former deputy National Security adviser.
Good morning, Tony.
TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Hey, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about Australia to begin with. So President Trump does not like this deal that President Obama had hatched with Australia over taking in 1,250 refugees who are currently languishing on an island off of Australia's coast. He doesn't like it. He thinks that it somehow would make the U.S. more dangerous. Now what?
BLINKEN: Well, first, Alisyn, you know, we have enough challenges around the world that we probably shouldn't be picking fights with our closest friends. And Australia is among our closest friends. Australian soldiers fighting side by side with our own around the world for decades.
This deal was important to Prime Minister Turnbull. It helped solve a problem that he's had on his hands, that is about 1200 refugees living in deplorable conditions on islands just outside of Australia. We made a commitment to help out and the important thing here is these are refugees. They're not immigrants as the president suggested. That means that the process to bring them into the United States is going to take a long time. They'll be very, very carefully vetted and we're talking mostly about women and children and folks who are fleeing terrorism, fleeing violence in the Middle East. CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: But given the phobias in the United States
and given his mandate the president is allowed to not like the deal. The question becomes well, how does he go about expressing that and what does that mean. How big a deal is it if you have a tough conversation with an ally early on?
BLINKEN: Well, you know, first we've seen a series of apparently tough conversations with the Mexicans about building the wall. Now with the Australians about this refugee deal. With partners around the world who were deeply concerned about the refugee ban order. And so we seem to be getting into scrapes with friends and partners pretty much on every continent and again given the challenges that we face, given the threats that we have around the world picking fight with our friends is not necessarily a good way to start.
CAMEROTA: So let's talk about some of those threats and certainly some of those foes. President Trump is also talking about Iran and you heard General Flynn come out and say Iran is now on notice. What does that mean to you?
BLINKEN: Well, I'd love to know the answer to that question myself, it's not clear. And I suspect people will be asking that today at the White House briefing.
Look, Iran has been testing missiles for some time. They were doing it before the nuclear deal was reached, they were doing it while the nuclear deal was being negotiated, they've done it since. And that's one of the reasons we insisted that even with the nuclear deal the United Nations maintain in place the ability to sanction Iran for missile activity particularly activity that involves missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. So the right thing to do -- and the administration has done this -- is to take this to the United Nations Security Council.
CUOMO: What do you think about the president's way of handling this? He's been tweeting about it this morning, let's put to the side tweeting. That's a whole other conversation. But we'll put up a couple of his most recent tweets about Iran. He says, "Iran has been formally put on notice for firing a ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them."
CAMEROTA: It goes on. Have a little bit more, Tony.
[06:45:02] "Iran was on its last legs and ready to collapse until the U.S. came along and gave it a lifeline in the form of the Iran deal $150 billion." What's your response?
BLINKEN: Well, the response is that the deal with Iran took away the prospect of Iran getting a nuclear weapon any time soon, puts that far into the future. That means that the threat that Iran already poses is much less than it otherwise would have been in the absence of the deal. And as to the money, and we've had an opportunity to talk about this before. It's a lot less than $150 billion. Looking at a few billion dollars that have wound up in Iran's coffers that had huge debts to pay and the money that was freed up as a result of the deal has mostly gone to pay those debts and to bolster the economy. CUOMO: So in terms of how this moves forward, what is your concern?
So Trump says Obama administration was too soft on Iran, gave them that deal, let them get away with whatever they want. They're gobbling up parts of Iraq. Not on my watch. I'm going to tell them, if they do this something is going to happen and they're figuring out what. What don't you like about that?
BLINKEN: Chris, here's the challenge. When you start to talk tough and make what seemed to be open ended threats then the pressure builds to actually put these behind the words and that can be very tricky. It's absolutely right to stand up to Iran's malicious activities, whether it comes to supporting terrorism, whether it comes to fomenting instability, supporting the Houthis in Yemen. But open ended talk with threats again creates pressure to take action. And that can lead to miscalculation, it can lead to getting into an unintended spiral.
You know, we've got about 20 percent of the world's oil going to the Straits of Hormuz every single day. And getting into an altercation there could have a real impact on the economy so you have to be very deliberate about these things and the right thing to do, again the administration did it, is they went to the Security Council on this question of the ballistic missiles test.
CAMEROTA: Tony, we want to get your take on what's going on with Ukraine. Obviously it's become -- a lot of tension. Why isn't President Trump talking about that more?
BLINKEN: Well, it's a great question, Alisyn. And what we've seen over the last few days is a major spike in violence in Ukraine coming from the separatists backed by Russia. And it seems to be that the Russians are testing, probing, seeing how far they can go knowing that President Trump has talked about lifting sanctions that were imposed on Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. That's incredibly dangerous because it risks sparking an even broader conflagration. And it's striking that the administration doesn't seem to be paying much attention to this, doesn't seem to care about it.
It's important because what Russia is doing in Ukraine is basically undermining the entire international order that we built up over the last seven years. It's breaking the very basic principles that we put in place. That one country doesn't simply go and change the borders of another country by force and that it doesn't tell its people what their future is, who they can associate with, who they can partner with. That's what's been happening in Ukraine.
CUOMO: Well, Tony, look, there's one question about why our new president seems to have been sheltering Russia from responsibility for its acts whether it's hacking here in the United States or what happened in Ukraine but there's a history to this. We were one or the only ones that went there to cover what happened in Ukraine. We went there thinking it was about a plane being shut down, and there was a civil war basically going on there with Russian backed separatists as you say which we're able to prove every day with our own eyes.
But the Obama administration didn't give the kinds of weapons that the Ukraine government in Kiev was asking for to defend themselves so isn't there shared responsibility for not being tough with Russia on this situation?
BLINKEN: Well, I've got to say, Chris, we led the international effort to impose sanctions -- severe sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine. And without the leadership of the United States and the Obama administration that wouldn't have happened. We now have in place --
CUOMO: But you didn't give them the weapons, Tony.
BLINKEN: We build up their defenses. We worked very closely with their military. There were certain weapons that they wanted including anti-tank weapons that we didn't give them. But certainly their military has been significantly strengthened as a result of the cooperation we've had with them over the last two or three years.
CAMEROTA: Tony Blinken, we appreciate getting your perspective on all of this.
BLINKEN: Thanks. Good to be with you.
CAMEROTA: Thanks for being on NEW DAY.
CUOMO: All right. A confirmation confrontation. Things getting heated at a Senate hearing for one of the president's Cabinet picks. We're going to show you what happened and we're going to get reactions from lawmakers on the Hill, just ahead.
[06:52:58] CUOMO: The NFL commish Roger Goodell giving his state of the league address yesterday and he was asked if he considers himself at war with Patriot fans. Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report." Good question.
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Chris, I was at the press conference yesterday. And Patriots' owner Robert Kraft was actually sitting in the very first row. Now Goodell has not gone to a game at Foxborough in the past two seasons. Even choosing to go to Atlanta for two games in a row during a playoff as opposed to going to see the Patriots play at home and it has been characterized that Patriots fans, they're at war with Roger Goodell and the commissioner was flat-out asked yesterday is he avoiding going to Foxborough.
(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)
SCHOLES: Well, at the news conference Robert Kraft did officially invite Goodell to a game next season. Now there is a little question which side President Trump is on in this spat. A "New York Times" magazine article revealing yesterday that back in 2015 President Trump told Mark Leibovich, quote, "The commissioner is a weak guy. The commissioner is a dope. He's a stupid guy," end quote. Now President Trump is known to have a great relationship with Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft, and when asked about President Trump yesterday Roger Goodell chose not to answer that question, instead saying that the Super Bowl this weekend is going to bring the world together -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: I like that word dope. I don't use it enough. Chris uses it a lot but I don't use it enough.
SCHOLES: I'm not sure I've ever used it.
CAMEROTA: Yes. But it's a good one. Andy, thank you very much for all of that.
SCHOLES: All right.
CAMEROTA: For our international viewers thank you for joining us. "CNN NEWSROOM" begins for you after the break. For our viewers here in the U.S. we have new details emerging about President Trump's heating phone call with Australia's prime minister. What does this mean for our relationship with one of our strongest allies?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: The United States is not naive. We are not going to stand by.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a new dawn, a new day for relations with Iraq.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Very tense call between Donald Trump and the Australian prime minister.
MALCOLM TURNBULL, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: The president assured me that he would honor the refugee resettlement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president said to the Mexican president, you may have some pretty tough hombres, you have not done a good job knocking them out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you need enemies if you're going to alienate all your allies?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New details about the raid that killed a Navy SEAL in Yemen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: War has costs and things will go wrong. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say if you can,
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I cannot participate moving someone along who has not allowed a thorough vetting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say to my colleagues you're making yourselves look bad.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY. With Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. The White House beginning another day with diplomatic tension over phone call on Saturday between the president and the prime minister of Australia. Mr. Trump also reportedly creating tension with Mexico by telling that country's president that he's doing --