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Trump: Flynn Was "Wonderful Man" Treated "Very Unfairly"; Is The Two-State Solution Dead?; Trump Campaign Aides In Constant Contact With Russian Officials. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired February 16, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:40] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: The president hitting the Twitter this morning about intel leaks, saying, "Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years. Failing @nytimes (and others) must apologize!"

"The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught!"

Why is the president more concerned about leaks than what has been learned about his team's ties to Russia? I guess that's kind of a rhetorical question, right? Let's bring in CNN political commentator and senior writer for "The Federalist," Mary Katharine Ham. And, CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast," Jackie Kucinich.

So, another tweet this morning that informs this discussion, I think, M.K., is Michael Flynn, wonderful man, media unfair to him. Is the President of the United States suggesting that he fired someone, essentially, because of us?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, SENIOR WRITER, "THE FEDERALIST": If that's the case, look, he says it was fake media but the guy real resigned or was real fired. So, if he fired him then that seems like a weak move to me.


HAM: Well, at the media's behest?

CAMEROTA: Oh, at the media's behest.

HAM: Right. But, the broader issue here is I think you can hold two ideas in your head -- and, by the way, everybody's taking their partisan stance on whether leaks are good or bad, predictably -- but there are two things going on. One is the connections to Russia which you can have an issue with, and you should, and we can investigate that. And there is also this issue of a systematic leaking campaign because the Intelligence Community has decided they don't like this dude, and that can be dangerous as well and both of those things can be operative at the same time.

CAMEROTA: Right, but which one is more important, getting to the substance or getting to the leaks? I mean, it seems as though -- you're right, partisan -- there's a divide and that Republicans in the House are going to focus on the leaks with their laser-like --

HAM: Yes, I think you've got to do both. I think you've got to at least do both and I think getting to the bottom of the Russia stuff is important. I do think a lot of the headlines about the Russia stuff are more salacious than the actual -- what looks like a lot -- a lot of circumstantial evidence in the actual reporting.

CUOMO: Jason Chaffetz says protect FBI whistleblowers, in no coincidence in close proximity to when he had a plan to go after Hillary Clinton. And what'd he say, I've got two years' worth of stuff to --

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": He said it's a target-rich environment. We have so much stuff.

CUOMO: And it just --

KUCINICH: It will last us two years.

CUOMO: And it just so happened that the FBI had been leaking about that investigation and fueling a lot of speculation about it. Now, we don't like leaks. Do you see a bit of hypocrisy in this?

KUCINICH: Of course, there's hypocrisy, but I -- this is exactly what Mary Katharine said. Everyone's manning their partisan battle stations. When it comes to leaks it's all fun and games until it's you. Donald Trump was saying I love WikiLeaks during the campaign. I'm sure if WikiLeaks started leaking his tax returns or something like that he would, all of a sudden, turn on them. We talked about yesterday, he was embracing Julian Assange or appeared to at one point.

These are all things that, you know, when the tables are turned politicians don't tend to like. So, is Jason -- Jason Chaffetz is now calling for an investigation into these leaks. I know Donald Trump -- "The New York Times" had a story this morning he might have an independent broker come in to look at the intelligence agencies. This is all something -- I've seen this movie before.

CAMEROTA: Right. We've seen it -- we've seen it half a dozen times with Jason Chaffetz. I mean, he had half a dozen, you know, repeated committee meetings and hearings and investigations into Benghazi.

CUOMO: Thirty-three.

CAMEROTA: Seven million dollars of taxpayer money spent. And so why -- to your point, why wouldn't he launch an investigation into the substance of the allegations, in addition to the leaks?

HAM: Right. I think he may eventually do that. I think I heard Jim Jordan, like, we're open to where this heads. But, I think you do have to expect that no, that Jason Chaffetz's Oversight Committee is not going to do exactly what many in the press think it should do every single day. Like, that's just going to be a fact of life.


CUOMO: Hold on. To a Republican --

HAM: Right.

CUOMO: -- but you flip the parties here and you've got a spy ship off the coast --

HAM: This is what I'm saying.

CUOMO: -- planes buzzing our ships, missiles being launched, and the president says nothing? And there's been constant contact between that president's staff and Russia?

HAM: Right.

CUOMO: I can imagine Jim Jordan saying we need to proceed with all deliberate speed here. Just take it easy --

HAM: Welcome to Washington. Like, I mean, that's -- I'm just saying that this is the reality.

[07:35:00] CUOMO: But this was supposed to end with the Trump administration. They were supposed to drain the swamp. It was supposed to be disruptive to this culture of only covering your own behind.

HAM: Well, I do think it's disruptive. It's not going to be disruptive in all of the ways that the press expects it to be, but -- and I'm not saying that's not -- I'm not saying that's good, but --


CUOMO: But what does the press expect? Isn't this just reason? You said you were going to clean it up and it wouldn't be so self-serving anymore. How is this anything but that?

HAM: Hold on. The -- again, the press has some of its own leanings and with President Obama, despite the fact that people died in Benghazi, many folks said well, why are we investigating that? What's the -- what's the deal here?

CAMEROTA: Yes, but --

HAM: And I think that was worth investigating. I also think this is worth investigating. But people man their battle stations and here we are, and this is kind of a fact of life. It doesn't mean it's not -- it doesn't mean it's good, but it does mean --

CAMEROTA: You mean, we should accept hypocrisy on a Trump Capitol Hill?

HAM: It means that it's going to part -- be part of the game in a Democratic presidential --presidency, and the Republican one, in that perhaps we should be upset about both of those. CUOMO: But am I hearing you right? I feel like you're excusing the current behavior a little bit because part of this is media perception of what happens and should happen. I don't see it. I see it completely objectively. I don't know how you can't be looking at these kinds of questions when you certainly would --

HAM: I --

CUOMO: -- if you flipped parties.

HAM: Yes.

CUOMO: I don't see that as a media take, I see it as a man with a lunch pail take.

HAM: I have already said that they should. Like, I'm with you on that.

CUOMO: Right.

HAM: What I am saying is that it does strike many on the right -- and I think there's a trust issue here with the media. It does strike many on the right or right of center as wait, why are we pretending that lying and hypocrisy are brand new -- that these things have never existed before? And I do think the running around with their hair on fire, as the press often does, about every single issue of a Trump campaign -- Trump presidency, when they did not do the same about something even as big as Benghazi or the IRS scandal during the Obama campaign is an issue.

And people are within heir rights to look back and go wait a second, you guys weren't making a big deal about this when Obama was around. I think it should still be a big deal now. I regret that it was not a big deal during the Obama administration. But there is a trust issue here.

CAMEROTA: It's going to get tiring running around with our hair on fire.

CUOMO: I've paid a lot of money for this hair.

CAMEROTA: Oh, yes.

CUOMO: I'm not running around with my hair on fire, I'll tell you that.

CAMEROTA: That's a -- no, it is flammable. Mary Katharine, Jackie, thank you very much.

HAM: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: The president breaking with decades of U.S. foreign policy, backing off the two-state solution. Does that mean it's dead? What does that mean? We discuss it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:40:45] CUOMO: President Trump breaking with the U.S. longstanding commitment to a two-state solution in the Middle East. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He can have two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one that both parties like. I could live either one.


CUOMO: The Israeli prime minister is laughing. Is that good? Let's discuss with CNN global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller. He has helped numerous secretaries of state formulate U.S. policy on Arab- Israeli negotiations. He's also the vice president for New Initiatives and a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. And it must be noted you have worked with both sides of the aisle, administrations of left and right stripe.

So, the premise is this, my friend. What we have been doing to this point has yielded no peace. Why not throw it all out and say we'll go with whatever works, which is essentially what the president was saying?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, VP & DISTINGUISHED SCHOLAR, WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER: I mean, logic would lead you to that conclusion, Chris. It's just that the prime directive of this administration appears to be disrupt -- to disrupt without thinking through carefully and cautiously the implications of what it is they're doing.

And, yes, the two-state solution is in deep trouble. The problem is to unmoor it from American policy, 20 years now, both under Republican and Democratic administrations, without an alternative Ithink is neither wise nor warranted. I mean, again, in another universe you'd have an administration that would have a policy review, they'd do consultations, they'd do their due diligence, and then they'd explore their options. So, in this case, it's very similar to other things when China, NATO -- and sometimes they end up -- this administration ends up circling back to embrace the very concept that they've rejected initially.

CUOMO: So, the criticism is somewhat the same and then takes on an additional layer, which is yes, but it didn't work, and this is a largely academic reckoning that you have of a constipated process that has yielded nothing. Trump is a dealmaker and he's said whatever you guys want is fine, figure it out, we'll help as we can, and that sounds pretty good to the uninitiated here. What do they need to think about in order to scrutinize what they've heard about our course forward as a United States?

MILLER: Well, you know, U.S. foreign policy isn't like ordering off of a Chinese menu in an old-style Chinese restaurant where you basically choose between one from column "A" and one from column "B". The U.S. has a policy. Clearly, a two-state solution has not worked, largely not because of what the U.S. has done or not done but because the Israelis and the Palestinians are unwilling and/or unable to make the core decisions to create the right environment for negotiation. I would argue to you it's the least bad option, but there may be others.

And the Trump administration is going to explore the possibility of engaging the Arab states which, frankly, is smart. The problem is you cannot escape the reality that Israelis and Palestinians caught in this interminable conflict and literally living on top of one another are going to have to figure out a way to deal with their proximity problem and, to date, the best and most logical strategy is to -- some sort of separation through negotiations into a -- well, two states -- two polities living side-by-side in peace and security.

Hard to implement, Chris, but it seems to me without having another alternative that's compelling you end up, essentially, breaking down the house before you're prepared to construct another.

And just one additional point. Fiction and illusion can be very important. Millions of people in this country believe in angels or millions of kids believe in the tooth fairy. I mean, they are --

CUOMO: Take it easy. Take it easy, ADM.

MILLER: Right. They can be very useful.

CUOMO: All right.

MILLER: And I think in this -- in this case the two-state solution -- the two-state solution is worth keeping until you can identify an alternative. I'm not sure you can.

[07:45:05] CUOMO: Well, to distract you from destroying my children's belief system, let me take you to another belief of the American people right now, which is fatigue. We've had it. It doesn't work there in the Middle East. It's always the same. Generations of the same iterations of situations often accented by violent conflict and ongoing terror but this is the way it is. Why should it be such a big focus for the United States, anyway? Maybe Trump is right. Let them figure it out.

MILLER: Look, if you ask me to identify the three core American interests in the Middle East right now, putting Israeli-Palestinian peace as much as I care about it, as much as I work to try to accomplish it, would not be one of the top three objectives. My three would be protect the homeland, but do it in a really smart way, not by invading other countries or engaging in trillion-dollar social science experiments like Iraq.

Number two, maintaining access to oil and weaning yourself away from Arab hydrocarbons, which we're in the process of doing -- energy security and independence to the degree you can create it. And finally, doing everything you can to prevent the emergence of a single regional hegemon with a nuclear weapon, and that would be Iran, without exaggerating the Iranian threat.

I would argue those are the three things that we should care about because those are the three things that concern American security and American prosperity. Israeli-Palestinian peace -- if we could play a role, let's do it. But why should we undermine our own credibility by chasing after a problem when the Israelis and the Palestinians aren't willing to take the decisions required to end their own conflict? Doesn't add up, Chris.

CUOMO: Aaron David Miller, appreciate it, as always.

MILLER: Great to be with you.

CUOMO: So, you want to hear this spelled out in more detail? Of course, you do. Please check out Aaron's op-ed. It's on right now. Five big points to know on this topic -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, Chris. Vladimir Putin's regime kicked our next guest out of Russia, so what does he want to tell President Trump about Russia's leader? That's next.


[07:51:15] CUOMO: It is time for CNN Money Now. Alison Kosik is in the Money Center. Stocks, record highs. This morning there's another milestone that could be even more impressive. What is it?

ALISON KOSIK, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT: Could be, Chris. You know, all the turmoil that you've been talking about in Washington not bothering Wall Street one bit. The Dow, Nasdaq, S&P 500 all soaring to record levels and that marks the fifth straight day of all-time highs and the first time since 1992 that all of the three major averages have achieved five in a row.

And guess what? The president's feeling pretty good about it, tweeting about the winning streak this morning and saying, "Great level of confidence and optimism, even before the tax plan rollout." And you know what, he's right. Investors think lower taxes will help lead to higher profits. We're looking at futures this morning. They're a bit lower ahead of the opening bell. Ah, but the day is still young -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for all of that, Alison. Well, President Trump avoiding questions about any link between his campaign and Russia, but multiple law enforcement and intelligence sources tell CNN that high-level Trump advisers were in "constant communication" with Russian officials during the Trump campaign.

Our next guest, David Satter, is the author of "The Less You Know, The Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin." He is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a scholar of Russia, and he has the distinction of being the only American journalist to be expelled from Russia since the Cold War. Mr. Satter, thanks for being here.


CAMEROTA: What did you do to arouse the ire of the Kremlin? SATTER: Well, it's hard -- of course, it's hard for me to know what's on their minds but I think that it was more a question of what they thought I was going to do on the basis of what I had reported and written about in the past. I wrote about the role of terrorism in the creation of the Putin regime, which is a very sensitive topic for them and it's actually very important for us now that we're talking about a partnership with Russia and the war on terror. Of course, it's very important to know who are partners are and how they feel about terror.


CUOMO: All right. So, what does yourjournalistic sense tell you about this confluence of circumstances we find our self in right now? Most recently, spy ship off the coast, Russian planes buzzing U.S. ships, a missile being launched. No word from any of that from a president who said the Obama days of weakness are over, I'm all about talking tough. His -- you know, the president's long list of protecting and insulating Russia here in what has become a bizarre kind of affinity to Putin and the Kremlin. What's your take on all of those circumstances?

SATTER: Well, for one thing, the buzzing of American ships, the provocations, the invasion of air space, that's been going on for a long time. That was going on during the -- during the Obama administration. And it's also notable that the Russians threatened nuclear war after the annexation of Crimea. That also took place before Trump was elected president. It may well be that he doesn't -- hasn't had time to react or has not yet formulated a policy.

What's really worrying, at least for me, is the constant talk that Russia can be an ally and that we can -- we can -- we can work together with Russia against the Islamic State. I think that that's a --

CAMEROTA: What's wrong with that? Why can't we -- why can't the U.S. work with Russia against ISIS?

SATTER: There are a lot of reasons. For one thing, Russia wages war in a manner that's completely different than the way in which a Western power would wage war and it's unacceptable to us. It involves massive civilian casualties. They were -- they carpet-bombed their own city, Grozny, in 1995. Twenty thousand dead in five weeks. And in Aleppo and in Syria, the casualty rate from Russian bombings is eight times as high as it is for the civilian casualty rate, as in the case of Western air operations.

[07:55:30] Russians bomb indiscriminately and they -- if we were in a partnership with them their crimes would be attributed to us. The other point is that, in fact, they cooperate with terrorists.

CUOMO: Well, how does that apply itself to ISIS? Again, help people understandbecause the notion is well, we saw what was happening in Syria. Russia was dedicated to going after ISIS there so they could be a good ally. You're saying aside from their methods, do you believe that there is an intentionality there on Russia's part to want to deal with ISIS? SATTER: I don't think there is. I think that what they've -- ever since their intervention in Syria began they've been talking about a war against the Islamic State, but the people that they've been fighting have not been the Islamic State. They've been groups that have been if not allied with us, groups that we feel are a better alternative than either Assad or the Islamic State. Whether that's right or wrong is beside the point. The Russians are not cooperating with our view of the situation and they won't cooperate.


SATTER: In fact -- yes?