Return to Transcripts main page


Report: Trump Says 4 in Running for National Security Adviser; Trump Spending Third Straight Weekend in Florida; Venezuela Orders CNN En Espanol Off the Air. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 17, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You just wonder if there is more to the story. We heard the sound bite from Senator Ted Cruz saying, hey, maybe he thinks it should be Ambassador John Bolton although he and the President didn't see eye to eye on Iraq. Keith Kellogg is in play for NSA, as are three others. Stellar resume but baggage, General Petraeus. Of all of those people, who might say yes?


BALDWIN: The White House.

BLINKEN: The White House. The most important job in national security in the country. Again, a job that anyone who has been in this business would want to have. So, again, I think it really comes down to what kind of assurances can the administration give to whoever takes the job. Politics will stop at the situation door. A number of names that you just mentioned, they are terrific people, very competent. David Petraeus I know very well would be superb at the job if he were to get it.

BALDWIN: He wants it badly. That's what we hear.

BLINKEN: He served this country with extraordinary distinction. He would be very good. And some of the others we mentioned would be good as well. If you're in their position, he wants you want to get the assurances. This is a critical job. It is really at the hub of our foreign policy. This is supposed to bring everyone together around the table. To be an honest broker. To make sure every department and agency is critical in making these decisions.

BALDWIN: And you think perhaps the Steve Bannon piece.

BLINKEN: That is something that would have to give pause to anyone thinking about that job.

BALDWIN: Let me move on to your role in the Obama administration. You were number two in state. And we have actually have the picture. Guys, throw the picture up. Tony Blinken in "The Situation Room". Your head is somewhere in here. There we go. Spotlighted. So, you were in the room. This was during the Osama bin Laden raid. It shows the overarching note today that President Trump, not only is he having a hard time filling national security adviser, that spot is empty.

BLINKEN: We like to think as deputies we did all the hard work.

BALDWIN: I'm sure you did a little bit.

BLINKEN: We did a little bit of it. But every single day in an administration, the deputies committee, the number twos of all the critical agencies is meeting two or three times a day. Pretty much any piece of foreign policy that the administration considers has to go through that committee, it gets pushed up to the cabinet secretaries and ultimately the President. It all happens with the deputies.

BALDWIN: How do you function without them?

BLINKEN: It is very, very difficult. And, you know, this is how balls get dropped. This is what's so critical. You know, you start the administration, the Trump administration started very proactively putting a lot of things out there, for good or for bad. They were proactive. But the world doesn't wait. It starts to throw a lot at you all of a sudden your out box is getting smaller and your in box is getting bigger and bigger. If you don't have the people in place, the process in place to handle all that incoming, you've got a problem.

BALDWIN: Tony Blinken, pleasure.

BLINKEN: Good to be with you.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much.

Coming up, President Trump just landed in West Palm Beach moments ago in Florida for his third straight weekend. We will explore what some are calling the lavish lifestyle, you the tax payer paying for these trips, his children, his wife in New York, pennies, nickels and dimes. That's the story coming up.


BALDWIN: OK. Live pictures here. We have air force one that has just landed in Palm Beach, Florida. We saw the President a little bit ago in North Charleston, South Carolina, Of course, Boeing. Now he is headed to Mar-a-Lago and his club in Florida. We will see what's shaking here in a minute. But first, this is his third straight weekend in balmy Palm Beach. Pretty extraordinary lifestyle for a President. It is a logistical nightmare. Drew Harwell with this excellent piece. And Tim O'Brien is back with us today, executive editor at Bloomberg view and "Trump Nation, the Art of Being the Donald." Gentlemen, good to see both of you. Drew, to you first. Your piece was so rich. We have to mention Bush had the ranch. Obama went to Hawaii and Martha's Vineyard. Trump has Mar-a-Lago. It is his adult kid, his wife. It's a lot following him around.

DREW HARWELL, NATIONAL BUSINESS REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: With Trump, everything is bigger, right? It is just a fact of life

that Presidents and vice Presidents go on vacation, they go on trips. Obama went on trips. So, did Bush. It is the scale of them that is sort of mind boggling. While the President is heading down to Florida with a whole secret service detail in tow, his boys are going to Dubai to open a very lavish golf course with their own contingents. And the price tags for these climb really, really quickly. They are incredibly detailed operation.

BALDWIN: Give me numbers, drew. How much are we talk something.

HARWELL: We're talking $3 million a weekend for every time Trump goes down to Florida. So, we are up to $10 million already. For a context, President Obama, who was criticized routinely for his trips, was something like $90 million over eight years. So, we are quickly getting to that pace. And the trips don't come cheap.

BALDWIN: Because a lot of these -- you mentioned, the sons, I know they're in Dubai. Who was criticized routinely for his trips, was something like $90 million over eight years. So, we are quickly getting to that pace. And the trips don't come cheap.

Five-star hotels. That's a chunk of change ultimately for all the personnel to protect them as they go on these trips. Tim, let me turn to you. It is key in pointing out. When we talk about Mar-a-Lago. You've been there. I've talked to secret service agents about it. It is on the water. You have to have protection on the water.

[15:40:00] HARWELL: I've been there and survived.

BALDWIN: Why do you say that?

HARWELL: It is a little carnival-esque. It is Marjory Merriweather Post's old estate that Donald bought essentially out of an estate sale. At the time, he bought it he was very strapped for money. And I think he needed to buy a club where other people could help him carry the cost of owning the place. It's still a club. He is very happy there. I think he has a permanent audience there. So, every time he goes to dinner he can walk through the ding room and everyone looks at him. That was before he became President. Now it is like on steroids. Almost every weekend. He loves to golf. He keeps his plane at LaGuardia airport. Friday night at 5:00 or 6:00 he flies to Palm Beach.

BALDWIN: Here he is getting off air force one headed to Mar-a-Lago. Drew, and you mentioned in your piece he doubled the price of admission -- I shouldn't say admission. Being accepted into this club, 200,000 down to 100,000.

HARWELL: That's right.

BALDWIN: To be fair, when I was reading your piece and your piece on President Obama in 2013 when he went to Chicago and then was criticized for playing golf with tiger woods down in Florida. That wasn't cheap either.

HARWELL: No, it wasn't. These trips are delicate. They're costly. But it's the number of them. When Mr. Trump went last weekend, he spent several hours on the golf course with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He spent five hours on his own. The white house tells us he is always working when he is at Mar-a-Lago. He never turns off. But when you see these pictures, these are very Trump trips. This is the businessman President who we have elected. He has not moderated that lifestyle at all. His kids haven't either. I think there's two differences here. There's one that Presidents are guaranteed protection. That is something no one will quibble with. They should be safe and secure when they go on these travels. But it is really the choices that the President is making. He is choosing to go on these extraordinarily lavish trips. In another breath, cutting down on government waste. Being a good steward of the public money. How do you square those two when he is traveling back and forth?

BALDWIN: Why not hop up to Camp David instead of the big plane and heading to Palm Beach. Quickly, Drew, staying with you, have you talked to people in Palm Beach? The sheriff was quoted how thin they are strapped. They have to shut down airspace. It's traffic.

HARWELL: Mar-a-Lago stretches from the Atlantic to the inter coastal waterways.

BALDWIN: That's why it is Mar-a-Lago, ocean to lake.

HARWELL: He shuts down multiple airports down there. One trip I think people down there are OK with it. They understand it. When it's every weekend, it starts to cut into the money they make. It is an incredible burden in that level of Presidential involvement.

BALDWIN: Tim, let me ask you about these pictures. I can't see the President's head. I imagine he is somewhere in there. I think I saw them handing out the red "Make America Great Again" hats. He has already talked to the crowd in South Carolina, hopped on the plane in Florida, talking to crowds tomorrow in Melbourne, Florida. He loves this.

TIM O'BRIEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BLOOMBERG VIEW: He loves this. The other thing worth point out, after Drew's typically stellar reporting, tax payers are paying to help the Trump family make money. This is how it departs from previous administrations. Of course, the first family should get protection. They're entitled to that security. It is worth noting Donald Trump repeatedly when Obama was President swiped at him at taking trips on tax payer expense. When we pay for Eric and Donald Trump Jr. to go to South America on a business trip, they're going there to make money. And there's this interesting little loop in Trumplandia, where he hasn't fully separated himself from those businesses. He is still making money. The tax payers are paying for his sons to be protected so they can do business. When Donald Trump takes Abe to Florida it is not just a diplomatic mission he is also getting free advertising for the clubs he is taking Abe while he is down there at taxpayer's expense.

BALDWIN: Isn't he totally entitled to do that and all of his children are entitled to secret service protection?

[15:45:00] O'BRIEN: I think they are entitled to protection, of course. But where is that divide between the taxpayers supporting his business?

BALDWIN: Tim and Drew, thank you both so much. There he is. The President out there shaking hands and saying hello to well wishers in Palm Beach, Florida.

Coming up next, we'll talk Venezuela. The president there ordering CNN En Espanol off the air after a year-long investigation that uncovered explosive allegations against the government. Details on what has him so angry.


BALDWIN: I want to make sure everyone is aware of this. Our sister network CNN En Espanol off air by order of the Venezuelan government. This is all stemming from an yearlong CNN and CNN En Espanol investigation called "Passports in the Shadows" to uncover the alleged sale of passports and visas from the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq. And revealed a confidential intelligence report that the vice President to the issuance of passports to people potentially connected to terrorism.

[15:50:00] CNN's Drew Griffin talked to a whistleblower in Baghdad and provided CNN with a comprehensive report of alleged activity inside that embassy.


MISAEL LOPEZ, FORMER VENEZUELAN EMBASSY OFFICIAL: He told me I have 13 Syrian people who wants to pay 10,000 U.S. dollars each for a visa.


LOPEZ: I suspect that might be terrorist. That's why I reject of course immediately.

GRIFFIN: Lopez decided to investigate further. He searched the employee's desk and took these pictures of what he found. The stamp to authenticate visas, along with sheets of paper with the Venezuelan government seal.


BALDWIN: Let me bring in CNN International Correspondent Paula Newton, the last CNN reporter inside the country. Explain this to me. If the Venezuelan government isn't talking to CNN, I imagine we're chasing them down.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have been. Every time I have been in Venezuela. I was not involved in the investigation. We worked on this more than a year.

BALDWIN: Just told us.

NEWTON: Just told us exactly. It was a lie. Without actually sitting down and talking to us and seeing what kind of evidence was there. For this, President the President --

BALDWIN: People want to know what the story is. How can they find this? NEWTON: CNN En Espanol is saying we stand by our work. We will

continue to fulfill our responsibility and you can see us on YouTube and streaming on the internet free of charge. And it's been very interesting to see social media people posting pictures of their computers, their phones, and they're still getting CNN En Espanol and CNN international in some cases. Why is this important, broke? It's important in the first years when I started going there with Hugo Chavez regime, he would always rail against CNN as telling lies. He always let me into the country with a working visa and allowed me to question him. And it was good.


NEWTON: It matters. Now when we go there we don't have to be afraid any more. When they hear CNN, they actually come to us and they want to talk to us about the food shortages, the medicine shortages, dire conditions.

BALDWIN: Not about this. Go check out Drew's reporting on Paula, thank you very much. Thank you.

We do have breaking news now involving a closed door classified meeting with FBI Director James Comey on Capitol Hill. We just learned why this meeting was called. Stay with me.


BALDWIN: Just in to CNN, video of FBI Director James Comey leaving a meeting on Capitol Hill today, a closed-door meeting tells us the topic discussed with senators was Russia. It was Russia. As soon as we learned more, we'll let you know.

Dramatic video captured on a police body camera shows a Washington state police officer going beyond the call of duty using his baton to shatter a car window and free a woman from her burning car. CNN's Dan Simon tells the story.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The heart-pounding rescue captured on the officer's body cam.

TIM SWEARINGEN, SPOKANE POLICE OFFICER: You get there and all you see is this car on fire. We gotcha!

SIMON: Spokane police officer Tim Swearing using his baton to break a window, trying it free a woman from a burning car.

KIM NOVAK, WOMAN TRAPPED IN BURNING CAR: I was so helpless, absolutely helpless.

SIMON: Kim Novak had just come from the grocery store when she said her car hit an ice bump and lost all power. She couldn't open the windows and even the manual door locks would not budge.

NOVAK: What's on fire? The car. SIMON: Where in the car?

NOVAK: In the hood. Under the hood. I can smell it burning. Oh, dear god, please get me out. Please, please! I'm kicking! I'm kicking!

SIMON: Unable to kick her way out, there is little time before the smoke will render her unconscious.

SWEARINGEN: I just heard on the radio and said I'm going to go to that. Surveyed the scene, basically we had to punch the window out to be able to get her out of here.

SIMON: After several strikes, a small opening for Kim to climb out. He created just big enough hole for her to climb through.

SWEARINGEN: Yes, she was able to make it out of there. I instructed her, let's go. I grab an arm, the neighbor grabs an arm. And we pull her out of the car.

NOVAK: I was at the mercy of whoever was going to come and save me. It happened to be Tim. Thank god, thank god for that.

SWEARINGEN: All right, are you good?

SIMON: Because she knows without his initiative and grit, she likely would have died in the smoke-filled car. Dan Simon, CNN, Spokane, Washington.

Incredible. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Let's go to Washington. "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts now.