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National Security Adviser Replacement; Turmoil Inside the White House; One Spirit Makes Brutal Winters Bearable; Trump on Flynn Story. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired February 14, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:32:29] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, President Trump has named retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg as the interim national security adviser after General Michael Flynn resigned last night. A senior official tells CNN one name is rising to the top of the list to replace Flynn.

Let's discuss it all with retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, CNN's chief political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, I know that you have new reporting. Tell us what the reaction is at the Pentagon and who is the frontrunner?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it appears, at this point, Alisyn, that perhaps the frontrunner is retired Navy Admiral Bob Harward. This is someone I have interviewed in the past. He is super smart, very focused, very disciplined, and perhaps most importantly Admiral Harward, very close to Defense Secretary James Mattis. He has work for Mattis before in multiple roles when both of them were on active duty in the military. He ran detainee operations in Afghanistan for a period of time. A former Navy SEAL. He has also served on the National Security Council in the past.

Does he have the broad ongoing global national security management expertise? Perhaps not. But he is close to Mattis and that may be one of the most important things right now to bring some stability to this entire NSC process, which appears to be badly shaken.

Two other contenders, retired General David Petraeus, scheduled to meet with Trump today, very high profile but, of course, still under probation for his violations of handling classified information. And also Keith Kellogg, respected but a retired general who served some years ago and perhaps does not have the current level of experience in dealing with issues like ISIS and North Korea. So the betting money right now is Bob Harward is the guy to watch.


CAMEROTA: OK, thank you.

General Hertling, David Petraeus. That -- that would be certainly an interesting choice. Is he too tarnished?

RET. LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Could be, Alisyn. And what I'd say is, one of the things I think we're looking for across the board is someone who could bring organization to the National Security Council and do it very quickly. General Petraeus, certainly, having worked for him, I know his organizational style. He could certainly do that fast. He would have the right systems in place and provide a little bit of flow to the organization. He would also contribute to the balance of some of the more extreme views within the Oval Office. And I'm not just talking about the president. I'm talking about some of his other advisers. So this is a guy who --

[08:35:06] CAMEROTA: Meaning -- wait, wait, hold on, meaning like Steve Bannon? You think David Petraeus would be a good counter balance to the views of say Steve Bannon, which some people consider extreme nationalism?

HERTLING: Yes, I kind of think that would take place. But he'd also provide an unbelievably informed world view because of his experience in the military and his experience in Washington as the CIA director.

But, you're right, he is bringing a little bit of baggage to this particular issue.

CAMEROTA: OK, Dana, that leads us to what's going on inside the White House. We've had so many analyst take this sort of generous view of, you know what, these are some rookie mistakes that we're seeing. There's been missteps. This happens. But I know that you have reporting on just what the mood is and what the feeling is about how decisions are made and procedures there.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Not great, that is probably the nice way to put the mood and the feeling inside the White House because of the fact that there have been so many leaks, so many questions about who -- what particular fiefdom is in charge, whether or not there is infighting, which the answer is, to some extent yes, but to some extent, I'm told, not as much as those who are kind of pointing bows and arrows at each other on a lower level would like to think that we see on the top level.

Meaning, for example, Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, is somebody who was not a long-time true believer. We know that. He was the RNC chair. He had to be kind of more diplomatic, vis-a-vis all of the Republicans, and so there is a fair amount of skepticism among the long time true believers of Donald Trump, those who were on the campaign and were there from the beginning.

Having said that, the guy at the top of that food chain, I would think it's fair to say that's Steve Bannon, I'm told has a very good relationship with Reince Priebus. That they are partners. One source even said to me they do co-parenting, which kind of gives you a sense of where things are and how things stand, because it is still, much like the campaign, much like his corporations, Donald Trump's White House.

CAMEROTA: Yes. BASH: I'm told that he is very much focused on the big picture and very much focused on in the weeds decisions for better or worse --


BASH: And so that is why there is sort of a need for this co- parenting, I'm told, by the senior staff.

CAMEROTA: But who's the child in that equation? Who are they co- parenting?

BASH: I think you can understand the o-parenting is, the child in that situation. And, again, I don't mean to be disrespectful at all. And this was -- this term co-parenting was told to me tongue and cheek.


BASH: So let's just be clear.


BASH: But the idea is, is to manage the president. That's the more respectful way to say it and the more realistic way to say it. And, look, that's not unusual for any principle, but it is taken to the nth degree in this White House because of -- of the kind of chaotic nature of Donald Trump's leadership style.

CAMEROTA: Understood.

Barbara, all of this is set against the backdrop of North Korea launching a test missile, everything that's happening in the Middle East, the fight against ISIS. I mean I could go on and on. So is there trepidation inside the Pentagon that this lapse at the National Security Council is worrisome?

STARR: Well, look, to a certain extent, the national security agencies, the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA, the intelligence community are full of hundreds if not thousands of ongoing professionals who deal with these things day-to-day. The problem is that what you want is an NSC that is smoothly functioning and can coordinate the inputs from all of those agencies on a moment's notice when there is a crisis, because you can bet there will be one, one of these days. It's what happens and they need a person to be ready to deal with it.


CAMEROTA: Definitely. That --

BASH: Can I just -- can I just add to that very quickly?

CAMEROTA: Very quickly, yes.

BASH: That is that the idea of General Petraeus, of course there's a lot of politics here and if he were named Democrats would say, wait a minute, it's not fair, you went after Hillary Clinton for e-mailing classified information and he did, too.


BASH: However, we're also hearing from Democrats who say, put that aside, the national security of the country is at stake here, and they want somebody, regardless of party, who is in that job who can handle it.

CAMEROTA: General Mark Hertling, I owe you one.


CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for being here.

Barbara Starr, Dana Bash, thank you all. Great to talk to you.

[08:40:01] Chris.

CUOMO: All right, so far President Trump has remained silent on Flynn's departure. Could he have not known about the scandal unfolding with his national security advisor when the media has been all over this story for days? That's what he says. We test it on "The Bottom Line," next.


CUOMO: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

President Trump looking for a new national security adviser after Michael Flynn resigned. He says he misled the White House about his contacts with the Russian ambassador before the president took office, but who else new?

CAMEROTA: The Senate confirmations Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary and David Shulkin to lead Veterans Affairs. Small business nominee Linda McMahon could get a green light as soon as this morning.

CUOMO: Lawyers for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl say their client's case should be dismissed. They say he can't get a fair trial after President Trump attacked him on the campaign trail calling him a, quote, "traitor."

[08:45:04] CAMEROTA: Jeffrey Sandusky, the adopted son of convicted sex abuser and former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, is now facing child sex charge abuses -- abuse charges, I should say. The 41 year old Sandusky was arraigned on charges Monday for alleged offenses in 2013.

CUOMO: Water no longer flowing over the nation's tallest dam. Remember, that spillway, the emergency one, was breached. Officials are hoping lake levels will go down another 50 feet before expected storms on Thursday.

For more on the "Five Things to Know," please go to for the latest.

CAMEROTA: All right, what will President Trump say about Michael Flynn's resignation? We're going to get "The Bottom Line," next.

CUOMO: But first, families on American Indian reservations in South Dakota are fighting life or death battles and trying to survive in subzero cold. But in today's "Impact Your World," one organization is helping keep their homes warm this winter.


BAMM BREWER, REPRESENTATIVE, ONE SPIRIT: Winters here can be life threatening. One Spirit is a non-profit that helps out the Lakota people here on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

We have homes that are below standard. Our people struggle with poverty and no jobs. So many people here have wood stoves because it's the cheapest way to heat your home.

RONALD ROBERT RED CLOUD, RESIDENT, PINE RIDGE RESERVATION: We would probably have to just burn anything, just burn clothes, or burn shoes, something just to keep warm.

BREWER: We're kind of in open country. So sometimes the wood is farther to get. The people just struggle to be able to get out to get the wood because of the poverty. There's no gas money to get out there or no vehicle.

We go out and cut the wood, you know, carry the wood in the house where it's needed.

RED CLOUD: Before just really cold. There's hardly any wood for us. I had to put plastics outside and inside just to keep warm. They brought wood over and that's really helpful for us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's part of our culture to help one another.

BREWER: Here we go. Next house.



[08:51:08] CUOMO: President Trump has said surprisingly little about Michael Flynn. In fact, the last time he was asked on Friday aboard Air Force One, here's what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know about it. I haven't seen it. What report is that?

QUESTION: There are a number of --

TRUMP: I haven't seen --

QUESTION: "The Washington Post" is reporting that he talked to the ambassador of Russia before you were inaugurated about sanctions. That he tried to -- TRUMP: Look, I haven't' seen that. I'll look at that.


CUOMO: All right. So the president, who watches more TV and reads more articles than any of his predecessors in all likelihood, didn't know about something that was all over the media for days.

OK, let's get "The Bottom Line" with senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner," David Drucker.

The president will get multiple chances to answer questions about it today. He has been ducking this. The White House has been spinning in gross fashion. One of his advisers this morning refusing to answer questions about who knew what and when about this situation, saying, we can't get information about who knew. That's not going to cut it.

DAVID DRUCKER, SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORR., "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": No, it's not, and I think that the president really does need to talk about this because the -- essentially firing the national security adviser is such a big deal, the position is so important. We know from news reports -- I know from talking to people in Washington that the National Security Council has been dysfunctional. Michael Flynn was not able to get one of his top deputies confirmed. And the president has really not spoken about any of this.

And, Chris, as you mentioned, we know he watches the news. We know that political organizations that run ads that want to reach the president monitor the television shows that we know that he watches. So he had to know about this. I think the question is, how much did he believe and what did his subordinates in the administration tell him?

CAMEROTA: Well, there you go, and therein lies the rub. We know that Sally Yates, the acting attorney general, did report to the White House Council at the end of last month. We don't know exactly what date, but a couple of weeks ago, what they had learned about this conversation between Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador and that they had discussed easing sanctions.

So there are only two options and they're both bad. Either the White House Council kept it from the president and the vice president, or the president wasn't telling the truth when reporters asked him and he didn't move with alacrity when he learned to get rid of Michael Flynn.

DRUCKER: So those choices, Alisyn, are both possible. I -- I also say that it's a -- it's -- you know, it's amazing how difficult management of a White House can be for presidents and their underlings and they don't always do things that would appear to be logical. So when Sally Yates and others briefed aides to the president about this, the first thing they should have done was run it up the chain and figured out what was going on and briefed the president. That doesn't mean that that didn't -- that is necessarily what happened.

I also think the other thing going on here, and I can't stress this enough is, I think that the administration and the president constantly attacking reporters for producing news that they believe is not real is something that they believe wholeheartedly. And so I think that unless we know exactly how and when the president was confronted by people he trusts and said this happened with Mr. Flynn, what do you want to do about it, it's hard to know exactly when he knew, what he knew.


DRUCKER: And we still don't actually know -- I mean, look, we still don't actually know what his reaction was. Did he talk to Michael Flynn? What does he want to do about it?


DRUCKER: And who, as a consequence, is he going to bring in to set things right?

CAMEROTA: Sure. Sure. And all of that will come out. But I -- just to be clear on what you're saying, you're saying that there's a third possibility, and that is that though Sally Yates told the White House Council, that it didn't make it up the chain because of disorganization basically?

DRUCKER: Yes. And I think what we've seen with this White House so far is a lot of chaotic management. All right, they haven't gotten their feed underneath them. I think the president and his team are still adjusting to what it means to run a government versus a business and a campaign.

[08:55:03] CUOMO: David -- David, hold on a second. It's not making sense. You're right to give the benefit of the doubt in the absence of facts from the administration. People will criticize that suggestion. But if we don't know, you should give some deference to the unknown in this case. However, we do know. It cannot be true that the White House can be upset about this reporting in any real way because this is about their dissembling, their refusal to bring out facts that would have never come to light without journalists doing their job. They ducked this information. The White House Council, not passing it on, short of that person deciding to resign for malfeasance, right, because keeping material information about national security from the president of the United States would make no sense as someone who could stay in that job. So we'll wait on that.

But they are not answering the questions this morning. That's what you do when a story is fake, as they love to say. You correct it.


CUOMO: You say, well, here's the real answer. There's none of that. The president said he hadn't even heard of this story. That's almost impossible to believe. Kellyanne and other advisers are out there talking. Chris Collins, one of his surrogates, came on here this morning, the congressman, and suggested that the GOP leadership isn't talking about this because they're having Valentine's Day with their spouses --

DRUCKER: Yes, well, that's -- that's ridiculous. CUOMO: It is about fake, but not about the media. It's about fake responses in light of real questions.

DRUCKER: Well, I -- look, I agree with you in that regard. What I'm saying is that sometimes the logical answer in these cases is not always correct because I don't think that they know that one side knows what the other side is doing necessarily. There are a lot of fiefdoms in the White House.


DRUCKER: There's a lot of competition. And I don't think that they have figured out yet how to run things smoothly.

CAMEROTA: David Drucker, thank you very much for "The Bottom Line."

CUOMO: Manafort, Flynn, both involved with Russia, both now out.

CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman begins right after this break. A lot of news. A lot of questions. Stay with CNN.