Return to Transcripts main page


Education Secretary Nominee Advances; Muddled Messaging on Obamacare; ACLU Lawsuit Against Travel Ban; Russia Charges Spies; Countdown to the Super Bowl. Aired 9:30-10:00a ET

Aired February 3, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:38] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

The Senate votes 52-48 to advance Betsy DeVos' nomination to serve as secretary of education. The Senate convened at 6:30 Eastern Time this morning. An unusually early time. They were hoping to avoid Democrats' stall tactics. Democrats have, you know, criticize DeVos' positions on public and charter schools.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty joins us live with more.

Hi, Sunlen.


This was a rare early morning vote in the Senate which now inches Betsy DeVos one step closer towards confirmation. This was just a procedural vote this morning, essentially to break a Democratic filibuster. And predictably it came down party lines, which now means that Betsy DeVos will advance towards final confirmation vote in the full Senate. That likely to come at some point very early next week.

As you know, she has certainly emerged as one of the most controversial, one of Donald Trump's nominees for cabinet positions. Democrats really fighting this tooth and nail and actually two Republicans announcing already that they are breaking ranks with Republicans, will vote against her next week. And this is something that we saw Senator Schumer really implore on many of his colleagues, making the last-minute plea to join in.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: I would urge my colleagues over the weekend, those who have committed and those who have not, to look into their consciences. Sometimes loyalty to a new president demands a bit too much. With this nominee, it does.


SERFATY: Now, at this point, we do not expect any additional Republican defections, which means heading into next week, heading into her final confirmation vote. Most likely it would be a 50/50 split. That's including the vote of Senator Jeff Sessions before he is confirmed as attorney general. That brings in Vice President Mike Pence to come up here and, in his capacity as the president of the Senate, to cast a tie-breaking vote for Betsy DeVos. But as of now, Carol, it looks very likely that Donald Trump, President Trump, will be getting his education secretary in place next week.


COSTELLO: All right, Sunlen Serfaty reporting live from Capitol Hill.

Repeal and replacing Obamacare appears to be an impossible dream. Republican lawmakers are now saying things like, I'm open to anything, and, I think of Obamacare as a collapsing bridge in need of repair. CNN's Phil Mattingly live on Capitol Hill with what this means.

Good morning, Phil.


It looks like there's been some, as Speaker Paul Ryan said, misinterpretation or miscommunication about the Republican top line talking points when it comes to the repeal and the replace of the law. And make no mistake, repeal and replace is still the stated goal in both chambers across Republican leaders, across the board. But there's no questioning the fact that there's a lot of confusion about the path forward amongst rank and file Republicans. And that confusion leading to a lot of concern as well. There's obviously political damage that they're very wary of, but there's also very real marketplace damage, patient damage that could also occur if this is not done thoroughly.

Now, I want to kind of give you some background about how Republicans expect this to happen going forward. Again, it's a long process. They haven't coalesced around any type of replacement plan. But take a listen to what Senator John Barrasso described as how he thinks they can navigate the replace process.


SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: We're not going to bring down a 2,700 page bill to the floor of the Senate. We want to do this, as we've said, piece by piece, step by step. And that's what we're working on now to make sure we can go through the steps. We have to get our secretary of health and services in place so he can work through the regulations that have actually made the health care law worse than it was as written. So he can do some things there. Legislatively, we're going to be able to do some things as well.


[09:35:24] MATTINGLY: And, Carol, you heard a key point there. They desperately need Tom Price to be confirmed as Health and Human Services secretary. Obviously that's been held up the last couple of weeks. He can do a lot of things unilaterally on his own from his position that will help at least kick start this process. But there's no question at this current moment a lot of Republicans

want repeal to happen quickly, but want replace to be there right with it. And until that plan exists, until a true pathway exists, there's going to be a lot of concern, a lot of uneasiness, not just with Republicans or with Democrats who oppose this idea, but with the very Republicans who they need to support it going forward. One thing to keep in mind, step by step process. That's what I'm told repeatedly by Republican aides. Don't' expect any massive replacement bill to be slammed down on the floor the day repeal happens. Even that is of concern to some Republicans as well, Carol. So a lot of questions up here, no question about it.

COSTELLO: Phil Mattingly reporting live from Capitol Hill. Thanks so much.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, lawsuits against President Trump's travel ban heading to court soon. After the break, I'm joined live by the ACLU leader in Massachusetts. Why she is confident Trump's ban will be revoked, next.


[09:40:34] COSTELLO: A Massachusetts ACLU lawsuit targeting President Trump's travel ban heads to court this morning. The ACLU wants a full repeal of Trump's order curbing immigration from seven countries. In just a couple of hours we could hear what the federal government rules. This week Massachusetts became the fourth state to sue. This after the state attorney general, Maura Healey, joined the cause. A move my next gust says will help the ACLU strike down Mr. Trump's travel ban for good.

Joining me on the phone is Carol Rose. She's the executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts.

So, Carol, go through what's going to happen with this suit this morning.

CAROL ROSE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACLU OF MASS. (via telephone): So, hello. Good morning.

For this morning the ACLU is going into court to request the federal judge keep in place the stay that was imposed last weekend on the - Trump's discriminatory, unconstitutional Muslim ban. We're asking the judge to keep that stay in place because that's protecting people and enabling people to come into the country until such time as the lawyers on both sides have an opportunity to fully brief the case.

COSTELLO: I think there have been some tweaks to that executive order, right? Because I think they tweaked it to exclude those who hold green cards. Is that enough to satisfy you?

ROSE: No. I mean it's great that - because of the issue litigation, the Trump administration backed down from its ban on travel by green card holders. That's a victory in and of itself. Now we want to make sure that there also isn't religious discrimination against people who have valid visas to enter the country and to be in this country. COSTELLO: Look, the president has a wide latitude to protect this

country, especially from terrorists, right? So Mr. Trump would say, hey, this is a temporary ban. All we're doing is looking at the vetting process to make sure it's OK. President Obama came up with these seven countries. So why are you arguing against this?

ROSE: Well, I mean, I think - first of all, it's really important to realize, there's no national security threat that's being addressed by this. No one from any of these seven countries has ever been convicted of committed a terrorist attack in the United States. So that's just a - you know, a smoke screen for what's really religious discrimination. And, number two, these people have already been vetted, often 12 to 18 months' worth of vetting. These are incredibly, highly vetted people.

What's important to realize, this isn't just about the law. This is about affecting people's lives. People are being separated from their families. People's plans that they have to come to this country to study, to work, all these things, it affects our industries, it affects our universities, it affects our economy. It's just not - and it's dangerous from a national security point of view because it sends a message to the rest of the world -

COSTELLO: So - so are you suing - are you suing - are you suing, Carol, to stop something that may or may not happen?

ROSE: No. What we're doing is just - we're suing because this is blatantly unconstitutional. It's clear that this executive order was motivated by animus toward one religion over another, and that's unconstitutional. And it's, frankly, unpatriotic and un-American.

COSTELLO: It's interesting what's happening in the state of Massachusetts because you have catholic leaders on your side, you have the mayor of Boston certainly on your side. Now the ACLU is joining in with the state of Massachusetts. It seems like the state of Massachusetts is pitting itself against the Trump presidency.

ROSE: Yes, it's wonderful. Our state attorney general, Maura Healey, has intervened in the case, has joined in the case, bringing the entire weight of the commonwealth of Massachusetts on the side of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. And the ACLU stands together with the attorney general, Maura Healey, to challenge this unconstitutional effort to discriminate against people based on their religion and their national origin.

COSTELLO: And will we continue to see this combativeness between the state of Massachusetts and the Trump administration you think?

ROSE: I think we'll only see combativeness if the Trump administration continues to issue executive orders that are clearly unconstitutional and illegal.

COSTELLO: So please keep us posted on what happens in federal court. Carol Rose, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Russian government agents charged with treason. How Russia is cracking down on the spies in Moscow. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:49:04] COSTELLO: Right now, Mexican drug lord "El Chapo" is appearing in New York court. He's charged with running a drug trafficking operation that laundered billions of dollars. On multiple occasions, he was in prison and then escaped while he was in Mexico. U.S. prosecutors have agreed not to seek the death penalty, however.

Four Russian men charged with treason after being suspected of leaking confidential information to the United States. Two of those men are part of Russia's top security agency, the FSB, formerly the KGB, which President Putin was once a member of. Russia's crackdown coming shortly after the U.S. accused Russia hackers of interfering in the U.S. election. CNN's Brian Todd has more for you.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vladimir Putin unfazed as rebels loyal to Russia battle with their enemies in Ukraine. Putin says the Ukrainian government started the fighting to portray itself as a victim to the new American president.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): If a conflict were to break out, then that would help them.

[09:50:02] TODD: The Ukrainians accuse the Russian-back rebels of starting these skirmishes. Back home, in the shadow of the Kremlin, Putin's taking on internal enemies. Four men face an extraordinary charge, treason, accused of passing secrets to American intelligence. That's according to an attorney for one of the men. Neither the Kremlin nor U.S. officials are commenting on this case. Two of the alleged spies worked for the FSB, Russian's internal security service, once known as the KGB, Putin's old spy agency. That's one of the bureaus believed to be behind the hacks targeting the U.S. election. Experts say the Russians may have caught some internal double agents who had told the Americans that Russia was behind the hacks.

ERIC O'NEILL, NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGIST, CARBON BLACK: We do know that they were working in areas of Russia's cyber - attack and cyber defense. So cyber security from Russia or their cyber attack machine. That would give them inside information, which is what you want if you're going to recruit a spy.

TODD: Eric O'Neill is a former FBI counterintelligence officer who brought down Russian mole Robert Hanson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put the gun down!

TODD: O'Neill is played by Ryan Philippe in the movie "Breach." He says Putin, a former Cold War KGB agent himself, may have been prompted to hunt down internal spies after the U.S. accused him of directing the hacks.

O'NEILL: They know there must be a source, so they start shaking the tree. And when they do that, a couple people will fall out. Someone gives someone up. They find an e-mail that shouldn't have been written. They follow somebody they suspect and he meets with somebody he shouldn't be meeting with.

TODD: Analysts say Putin is still very close to his spy agencies and he takes this alleged double cross personally and knows what it could lead to.

MATTHEW ROJANSKY, THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER: The idea of, you know, finding disloyal elements within those agencies carries with it not just an implication for Russia's foreign policy, but actually for the stability of Putin's regime, for the loyalty of those agencies that he depends on to hold on to power in Russia.

TODD (on camera): What will Putin and his security services do with these alleged spies? Experts say if this had happened 20 years ago, they might already be dead. Now, with this case so heavily publicized and blown up in the media, experts say they're likely to go through a highly publicized trial, then possibly be imprisoned or executed.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Falcons, Patriots, Super Bowl LI. But can you guess who the number one enemy is for Pats fans?


[09:56:49] COSTELLO: All right, a bit of breaking news to share with you. The Trump administration will carry through with its threat to impose new sanctions on Iran after it fired off that ballistic missile. We expect to hear from the Treasury Department at any time making those sanctions official. When we find out exactly what those sanctions are, of course I'll pass it along to you.

All right, let's talk a little sports, shall we? The Patriots, they take on the Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Sunday. But if you - if you ask anyone who they're hoping to win, I would say they would say oh maybe the Falcons. Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning.


Tom Brady has not once criticized the commissioner since his deflategate suspension, but New England fans, that's a whole different story. There's a lot of bad blood up in bean town. And our own Andy Scholes went to radio row here in Houston and talked to some of Boston media legends who know the people and the pulse of Pats Nation. They told Andy how folks up there really feel.


DAN SHAUGHNESSY, "BOSTON GLOBE": I've really never seen anything like it. He is the all-time target, wose than any villain on a team. It's across the board, he's become the devil. GERRY CALLAHAN, WEEI RADIO: Pure, 100 percent hatred. It is not even -

there's not even much debate. Patriot fans, there's a consensus, he's a bad man. He's not an honest man. And he screwed Tom Brady and the Patriots.

They love Tom Brady. They love their Patriots. And the notion back home is, no one was doing anything and that's why they're so happy to be here because the feeling is they tried to punish the Patriots and, you know what, it didn't work, here they are.


WIRE: All right, now if the Patriots win, many think Goodell having to hand the Lombardi trophy to Tom Brady would be must-see TV.

Now, Lady Gaga's press conference for the Super Bowl halftime show was yesterday. And Gaga is known for taking stands against bullying. She's for equality. So she was asked if she'd be making any political statements during her halftime performance. Here's what she said.


LADY GAGA, MUSICIAN: The only statements that I'll be making during the halftime show are the ones that I have been consistently making throughout my career. I believe in a passion for inclusion. When you're watching football, you're watching guys crash into each other. You're watching some real strategizing happening. It's a pretty intense situation. And I didn't want the halftime show to take a dip. So it's going to be a good time.


WIRE: Speaking of good times, "Kickoff in Houston." A CNN "Bleacher Report" special airs Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern on both CNN and CNN International. I and Hines Ward will be led by Patriots homer John Berman. And be ready because being a former Atlanta Falcon, Berman and I may get a little heated on the set, Carol. It's going to be good stuff.

COSTELLO: Oh, wait, I missed your last sentence. I couldn't hear you. I think it was something about John Berman being a Patriots fan and you're a former Falcon and it might come to fisticuffs. I'll be watching.

Cory Wire, many thanks.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts now.

COSTELLO: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

[10:00:01] Right now at the White House - right now at the White House, President Trump is meeting with his economic advisory panel of chief executives and he will face some complaints. One, you know, has already quit in protest of the Trump ban. As in quit, he's not going to attend the meeting.