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Tom Perez Elected DNC Chairman, Keith Ellison Selected Deputy Chair; President Obama Congratulated Tom Perez Election; House Intelligence Committee Chair Asked by White House to Reach Out to Media. Aired 4:00-5:00p ET

Aired February 25, 2017 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Something that was really fascinating about this just a moment ago was the man there on the far right of your screen, you can only see a bit of him there, he is partially obscured, that is Keith Ellison. And he represented certainly more the liberal wing. He had Bernie Sanders behind him. He was sort of the Elizabeth Warren sect. And Tom Perez made Keith Ellison the deputy of the DNC.

Almost immediately and turned over the microphone to him so that he could give his first speech. All of this coming as you actually had some protests coming from folks on the left side of the party there in Atlanta in the very room. And this sort of quelled some of that -- quelled some of that disagreement that we were hearing coming from the back of the room.

And right now I want to bring in A. Scott Bolden. He is the former chair of the Democratic Party.

I believe -- can you tell me, I'm sorry, I just was told that you were available for me to chat. Washington, D.C., tell me.

A. SCOTT BOLDEN, FORMER CHAIR OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: The D.C. Democratic Party, which is the party, Democratic Party in the nation's capital. Call it what you want.

KEILAR: OK, too far off. OK. So you are looking at this, Tom Perez, and this was pretty close this vote, I think it was like 200 to 235.


KEILAR: And I mean, this is -- tell me, this is a big job that Tom Perez has, as the influence of the party is waning. As you see discord between the left side of the party, and the more moderate part of it.

BOLDEN: Yes, that gap is still ever-present. You know, normally in the DNC, when I was chair of the D.C. Democratic Party in 2002-2004, these races really weren't that close. This was close. And it magnifies the division in the party between the progressives, the Bernie Sanders, and then the more centrist.

However I will say this. Tom Perez, who is a Hispanic Democrat, has the bona fides this as a progressive and the labor support to do a lot better than prior leadership. That's one thing. Secondly, on naming Representative Ellison as the deputy chair right away, suspending the rules. That was a pure outreach and olive branch to the young and to the progressives.

But there's a ton of work to do in the party before you even get to Donald Trump and before you even get to Donald Trump voters who are Democrats or former Democrats who voted for Obama. So a lot of work to do and a lot of fundraising to do because the party rebuilding will take a lot of money.

KEILAR: What do you say there's a lot of work? What is the wok? What does he need to do? He said he is going to listen, but he needs to do more than that.

BOLDEN: No time to listen. You need a 50-state strategy. You know, with Obama in office, he was the rock star and many feel that the DNC was kind of left to the wayside, and the 50-state strategy for organizing at the state level, local level, county level, that was essentially ignored. And you can see because there are a lot more Republicans located at the state level and local level, than the Democrats in the last eight years. We can't focus on the White House. We have got mid-terms coming up. There are about six red states that are vulnerable. You have to pick a President, in four years to take on Donald Trump. You have got to get organized and give resources and moneys to the state and local parties. And so, you need money to do that. You got to do all that at the same time because you don't have that much time before the mid-terms. Lots of work, Brianna.

KEILAR: One of the criticisms that Bernie Sanders supporters, because Bernie Sanders was very much behind Keith Ellison, one of the things Ellison supporters said was -- Tom Perez doesn't have a lot of electoral experience. He's won one race from Montgomery county council. That is it. Is this really the guy who is going to help Democrats in the midterms as you mentioned, so important coming up for Democrats, you know. Is this the guy with that experience when it comes to a 50-state strategy, an electoral strategy? What do you say to that?

BOLDEN: Well, I think that is going to be a challenge. But remember we have had former DNC chairs with no electoral experience. We have had Ron Brown, we have Terry McAuliffe, who later ran to be governor. And so I don't think that's a bigger challenge. But he has got to put the right people around him. He has got to have the right message and he has got to do a better job of bringing in the Bernie Sanders voters and supporters in the DNC. Give them significant positions, give the progressives a voice, and then talk about a progressive economy that brings back those Trump voters, who normally would vote Democrat, because of the economic message, bring them back, give them power, give them voice, and win some state and local elections and get ready for the Presidential election in four years. And the mid-terms two years from now. Very important, lot to do.

KEILAR: There is a ton of work.

A. Scott Bolden, a pleasure. Thank you so much for being with us.

BOLDEN: Thank you.

KEILAR: Ryan Nobles is back with us now. He was still following -- he is still there in the room following the action as we've just heard Tom Perez, former labor secretary, is going to be narrowly the next head of the DNC.

You heard A. Scott Bolden there saying it, Ryan, there's a lot of work to do. I spoke to the former mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, and he was sort of minimizing some of the discord. But you were reporting about some of the discord. This is a divide that needs to be bridged.

[16:05:26] RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no doubt about that. And they are going to start trying to show a unified party right away, Brianna. In fact, the first media availability for the new chairman, Tom Perez is going to be alongside his new deputy chairman, Keith Ellison. The DNC staffers telling us that the first time we are going to be able to ask questions to this new chairman is with Keith Ellison right beside him. So it's clear that he wants to show these Democrats that he wants to bring the party together.

But to your point about local elections, and that being an Achilles heel for Democrats, that is so true. You know, Democrats traditionally don't have a problem coming out for the big races. The Presidential races, even big mid-term elections. But state legislative races, particularly those state legislative races that happen in off years are notoriously difficult for Democrats. I mean, Virginia is a perfect example that they are able to turn out big electoral wins for Democrats in Presidential years, in fact, Virginia went blue this past Presidential year. But the Virginia state house, currently has a super majority of Republicans on the house side.

So there's a lot of work that has to be done right down to the granular level here for Democrats, and that's part of what Tom Perez. And hopefully from his perspective with Keith Ellison's help and support, they can begin to do at a very local level.

KEILAR: Ryan Nobles, stay with me as I bring in Ryan Lizza, CNN political commentator, Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker" into this conversation.

You know, what's your reaction into this, as we see what is a show of unity? But - I mean, you heard Ryan Nobles talking there about it, there is a lot to be done. This is very difficult as we look towards the mid-terms in those off-year races.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, look. The last eight years, I mean, one thing that the Obama era will be known for is the Democratic Party being gutted at the state and local level. Loss of, more than a majority of the governorships, obviously the house and the Senate. And so in the post-Obama era, it is a party that needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.

You know, there's only so much the DNC can do, right? At the end of the day the party committee itself is a fundraising and organizing vehicle. It can't -- it doesn't have the power that someone like an Obama or a Hillary Clinton, or you know, whoever that next figure is, to inspire that next generation of grassroots activists.

Just look down the Republican side, Brianna. You know, it was Donald Trump who came along and added the energy and excitement to the Republican Party that allowed them to whip the White House. So we live in an era of candidate-centered politics, right, that there's only so much that the party committees on the road can do.

So, you know, Perez is going to have his work cut out for him. He is inheriting a party that's at a low point when you add up the number of governorships and legislative seats that the Democrats hold. But despite the differences that this DNC race made clear, you know, the ones we have all been talking about, the sort of Sanders wing versus the Obama-Clinton wing, Trump is a unifying force now for the Democrats.

And so I think that, you know, when you're the out party and you have got a President in the White House of the other party and control of Congress, those divisions will take a back seat when you are in the opposition.

KEILAR: All right. Ryan Lizza, I want to turn this into a panel discussion. We have Ryan Lizza there in Washington, we have Ryan Nobles in Atlanta and I'm joined now by Alice Stewart, she is a CNN political commentator and Republican strategist. She was the former communications director for Ted Cruz.

I mean, Alice, you know that Donald Trump tweeted out, I think just a couple days ago, he sort of was supporting Keith Ellison. He said Keith Ellison was the only one who predicted I would win. And it seems like we have seen from not only the White House, but also from Republicans in congress, like Mitch McConnell, this desire to make the Elizabeth Warrens, the Bernie Sanders, the Keith Ellisons, really the face of the Democratic Party. Because they realize that sect has enthusiasm, but also that maybe they're not big enough to carry the day. They kind of seem to want to pigeonhole the Democratic Party into being more liberal because they think that preserves the rustbelt for them which was so key to Donald Trump's strategy. What's the Republican reaction to instead then, Tom Perez winning the chairmanship?

[16:10:05] ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You hit the nail on the head in terms of I believe how people perceive Ellison and others along that same vein. But you heard Tom Perez say himself, anyone who casts off and minimizes the support that Ellison has along with a lot of the Bernie Sanders supporters, does so at their own peril. And I think it was really smart of him right out of the gate to bring him on board as the deputy chairman.

If you recall in the town hall they had, just the other night with all the DNC chairman candidates, they were asked about a potential meeting that Ellison and Perez had. And some sort of a deal, they may be making. But it's clear regardless of who won. I believe both would have appointed the other as a deputy. They clearly see there is a power in uniting together, the more progressive side of the party and the Tom Perez part of the party. And it's really smart to do so. You also note that Tom Perez listed off a slew of races they already

have on their radar. That they are going to focus on really working to turn out the democratic vote in some of these races. And that's critical. And he understands that time is of the essence. It's not about getting up and talking platitudes. It's important to communicate message. But they clearly have marching orders for some key races that are on the ballot in the midterms that they are going to focus on. And I think it's important for Republicans to understand that while we make great strides in the last election, we can't take anything for granted. And we need to buckle down and focus on our mid-terms as well.

KEILAR: I feel like we learn that every four to eight years, you can't rest on your laurels, no matter which party you are in.

OK. There's a reaction from President Obama. He is out with a statement congratulating Tom Perez, who of course was his labor secretary.

In a statement, President Obama said congratulations to my friend Tom Perez on his election to lead the Democratic Party and on his choice of Keith Ellison to help him lead it. I'm proud of all the candidates who ran and who make this great party what it is. What unites our party is a belief in opportunity. They idea that however you started out, whatever you look like or whomever you love, America is the place you can make it if you try.

He continued on, over past eight years our party continued its track record of delivering that promise, growing our economy, creating new jobs, keeping our people safe for the tough smart foreign policy and expanding the rights of our founding to every American, including the right to quality affordable health insurance. That's a legacy that the Democratic Party will always carry forward. I know that Tom Perez will unite us under that banner of opportunity and lay the groundwork for a new generation of democratic leadership for this big, bold, inclusive dynamic America we love so much.

Ryan Lizza, you pointed out earlier what is sort of the irony in this, which is under President Obama, he wasn't the party person that say Hillary Clinton was. Hillary Clinton and her husband, Bill Clinton, believed very much in the party apparatus, using that running kind of like a three-legged race, if you will, with the party. And that's not exactly what President Obama saw it as. What you ended up having is on the local level, there wasn't this sort of tending to young, Democratic talent, and you talked about it, state houses, governorships, wiped out. And that's really where you find that maybe, next candidate as President Obama came through state legislature, who could even be President.

LIZZA: Absolutely. And that's why, you know, people talk about who might be the Democratic front-runner for 2020. Well, you know, that person may not even - may barely be in office yet.

And loo. Yes, I think - I don't think, like Obama when he first came to office in 2009 inherited, his emergency situation. Party building was not a front-burner issue. But, you know, a lot of Democrats have criticized his administration or his White House for not quite tending to, you know, the Democratic Party apparatus, not making it a priority. Even after the emergency that he inherited was over.

And look, you know, I know the argument from the left on that is that he let the grassroots of the 2008 Obama campaign sort of wither. He didn't use the energy and excitement that all of those people in in 2008 and transfer that into something more of a party-building organization. You know, there is a significant debate in the Democratic Party whether that's true or not. Who knows if he could have actually done any more than he could? There was obviously significant conservative backlash against his administration that led to a lot of Republican success in the Obama era. Maybe three wasn't a whole lot he can do. But the Democrats now, looking at the situation they are in, are that party-building mode because that's what they need to be. They're out of power everywhere.

[16:15:05] KEILAR: Or did President Obama coincide in his rise sort of with this just lack of love for the party institution as well.

All right. You guys stay with me, Alice Stewart and Ryan Lizza. We are going in a quick break, much more ahead on the breaking news, new head of the DNC after this.


[16:18:44] KEILAR: CNN can now confirm that the head of the house national intelligence committee was asked by the White House to reach out to the media in an effort to knock down stories about Trump's campaign ties to Russia.

That news follows exclusive CNN reporting that the White House asked the FBI to do the very same thing, but the FBI said no. It couldn't.

CNN correspondent Athena Jones is at the White House.

And Athena, the White House is being very clear that they think they did nothing wrong here. That they were just inquiring about whether this opinion that officials may have had over at the FBI, was something that could have been put out there publicly as the FBI responded they couldn't. What's the White House saying?


That's right. They maintain that there was nothing inappropriate about these conversations. That the chief of staff, Reince Priebus had, with the deputy director of the FBI. They maintain that it was the deputy director, Andrew McCabe, who initiated this conversation in the first place.

The White House press secretary Sean Spicer said look, we didn't try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth. And a senior administration officials have denied the White House was attempting to exert pressure on the FBI. Insisting that the White House wasn't, they weren't discussing the pending investigation, but rather a news story. Of course the news story is about that in fact ongoing investigation. And I should tell you, Brianna, that a source close to Trump told my

colleague Sara Murray here last night that there is consternation within the White House about those conversations between Priebus and the FBI. Even if they maintain they weren't inappropriate. That source saying this is the type of distraction the President doesn't need right now. Later adding that the President is trying to focus on his agenda items and that he has grown frustrated by all the staff stories - Brianna.

[16:20:36] KEILAR: All right. Athena Jones at the White House, thank you so much for that.

And coming up, Republicans on the ropes.


KEILAR: Growing outrage at town hall meetings across the country. Constituents demanding to be heard. Even when their lawmaker does not show up.


[16:24:39] KEILAR: The anger is building in Republican town halls across America as constituents line up to give their lawmakers an earful. Here's what happened this week to Arizona congresswoman Martha McSalley.


[16:25:08] KEILAR: Well the White House claims the outrage is partly manufactured by activists paid to protest. While there's no evidence of that, one thing is clear. These explosive town halls have put Republican lawmakers on the defensive as some decide to skip the events altogether.

CNN's Ryan Young reports.


CROWD: Do your job! Do your job!


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anger erupting at political town halls across the country. In Covington, Kentucky in a packed room, this protester demanding Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell hear them out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, we are not protesting the election. We are protesting right to work. We are protesting losing our healthcare. We are protesting Russian interference in the White House. We are protesting the fact that to get in front of you we have to pay dollars. Why don't you hold a town hall with your constituents? We want to hear from you. We want to talk to you.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Yes, was somebody else invited to speak? I kind of missed it. Anyway --

YOUNG: In Charles City, Iowa, Senator Chuck Grassley came face to face with his constituents. This tiny courthouse, filled to capacity. Getting an earful on issues ranging from Obamacare to immigration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you vote to jeopardize Iowa's quality of education and how is Betsy DeVos a qualified candidate for your vote?


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: A President gets elected and has to carry out the responsibilities of which he was elected, that that person ought to have the team that they need to get the job done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But don't you believe that the person should be qualified?

GRASSLEY: Well then we would not have Tillerson being secretary of state.


YOUNG: In some cases, angry voters across the country holding empty- chair town halls for lawmakers reluctant to show. Voicing their displeasure by posting missing congressman notices on milk carton. Marco Rubio's constituents printing a life-sized cut-out and hiding his face in where's Waldo puzzles, seeking him out during in his daily routine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought you were in Europe. I saw these missing child posters all over town. Are you going to host a town hall? I'm glad you're OK. There's a constituent town hall today. We need to hear from you, senator. Senator, we need to hear from you, your constituents. Are you going to host a town hall?

YOUNG: Some lawmakers defending their absence citing concerns for their safety. Congressman Louis Galmer telling his constituents, the house sergeant at arms advised us that after former Congressman Gabby Giffords was shot at a public appearance. That civilian attendees at congressional public events stand the most chance of being harmed or killed just as happened there. Giffords responded today saying I was shot on a Saturday morning, by Monday morning my office was open to the public. To the politician who have abandoned their civi obligations, I say this, have some courage, face your constituents, hold town halls.

Ryan Young, CNN, Charles City, Iowa.


KEILAR: I want to bring in my panel now, Sarah Westwood, the White House correspondent for the "Washington Examiner," and Ryan Lizza, a CNN political commentator.

And you guys, stay with me. Listen to this Tom Perez, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee speaking now. TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Congressman Keith

Ellison. The new deputy chair of the DNC. We are united, as a party. We have so much work ahead of us. Because across America, people are fearful. People are fearful for our future. Democrats unit reasonable are the hope for that future. So we're going to put our values into action. We have a special election today in Delaware. No boots on the ground. We have got actions all over the country today.

That strength in numbers, the millions of people who have been coming out since the inauguration to say Donald Trump you don't stand for our values. We are marching and harnessing that remarkable energy going forward to build a nation where our values of inclusion, optimism, the value of diversity, are in place.

So it is great to be here today. We got a lot of work ahead. We got a lot of things to do and we are going to do it together. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). Congressman?

[16:30:33] REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Thank you. Thank you.

Let me be the moment first to congratulate Chairman Tom Perez of the Democratic National Committee. It is tremendous honor that he has extended an invitation for me to join him in his leadership of the DNC. And I think one thing tom is clear on is it's going to take all of us, he's our leader, he's our chair. But we are, I think Tom is ready to call on all Americans to help rebuild the Democratic Party. And stand for the values that we all share, which are prosperity for all, respect for all, inclusion of all. And so we're ready to do it.

Let me just say this. For anybody who supported me in this race, I want to say thank you. But I want to you support Tom Perez. I want to you put your energy and time, your resources behind making this the best Democratic National Committee it can possibly be. And I think I can speak for all of the other candidates in the race, Tom, and all of us are united in the idea that Tom is our chair and we are proud to be part of the DNC. And we are proud to say that this day is the day that the Democrats come together, chart the new course for a bright future for the American people. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is today a turning point for the Democratic Party?

PEREZ: I think we are very excited about today. You see people all across America, there's more rallies today. We are going to win special election in Delaware. We have got an opportunity here in the sixth congressional district of Atlanta. And I think we have a real shot there. We are moving forward in New Jersey. In Virginia. I think we are going to elect a Democratic governor in both of those states.

So we are ready to hit the ground running. And what we also know is that our party succeeds when we have a real presence in all the states and territories. So it's not just the Presidential elections, what we are united on is our very, very strong belief that our mission of this party, this committee is to elect people from the school board to the Senate. And the best way to do that is to help do that party- building, that congressman Ellison did in Minnesota and we see being done elsewhere. We have got to do that we've lost a lot of seats, over 900.


ELLISON: Here's what I want to say to them. I want to say that if you care about people who have their loved ones' cemeteries being desecrated, as the Jewish communities facing that right now. If you care about people having walls being built against them, being banned for their religion, having their health care taken away from them if you care about those people, then you have got to stay in here and back Tom Perez for chair. That's what you have to do.

This is not some sort of a little sort of an -- it's not a small thing, it's a big thing. And the very fate of our nation I believe is in the balance right now. And all hands on deck, I trust Tom Perez. If they trust me, they need to come on and trust Tom Perez as well. That's what I'm telling them.

And let me tell you, I have had the benefit of sitting next to this man on many, many debates. And of course, Tom and I were friends before that. And I have heard a vision that I share. It got to the point where you know, we kind of agreed on a whole lot of things, you know. It was one press report, I love you guys and you know that. But one press report that said there's not enough arguing going on in this particular race, I think there's a consensus that and Tom said, we're going to build from dog catcher to the Senate and we're going to fight in every state, every county, every territory and Democrats abroad.

There are fights going on like today. Stephanie, Stephanie Hanson is on the ballot today. And our revolution, led with Bernie Sanders, who I want to thank by the way, is having rallies in every congressional district. There's a lot of action. But it's got to be channeled into the Democratic Party, into the DNC so we can win elections. Is that right, Tom?

PEREZ: Absolutely.

[16:35:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tom Perez, do you degree with your new deputy, who has said that President Trump has already done several things that legitimately raise the question of impeachment. And if so, what plan?

PEREZ: Well, you are now seeing Republicans call for a special investigation of what happened in the run-up to the election. And I think there has to be an independent investigation. You can't have the attorney general who was out on the stump, for the President, doing that investigation. That's disrespectful to all foxes to call it the FOX guarding the hen house. And we have to make sure that it is fair and -- if the tables had been turned and Hillary Clinton had won the presidency with the help the Donald Trump, with the help of Putin, I confuse Putin and Trump because they are so similar. And the help of all this hacking, the Republicans, how many Benghazi hearings did they have, 15? I mean, there would have been articles of impeachment filed already. And so, I hope that this independent investigation is done. And I'm

glad finally to see some Republicans calling for it as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) was this conversation a week ago did it happen ten minutes after the second ballot took place? When was the decision about deputy chair? How did that come together?

PEREZ: You know, we have been friends for a long time. When we sat down to talk about this campaign, number one value was, there's no one, not just the two of us, but there's no one in this race who wanted to win at any cost.

This race is not about Keith Ellison. It's not about Tom Perez, it's not about any of the other candidates. And it's about making sure that we are helping the immigrant who is being potentially sent home. It's about making sure we're helping that worker who has lost his job or her job, and needs help. That's what this is about. And so, we understood that in order to move forward, it's imperative to be united. And so, we have spoken for some time about how do we bring together unity whoever wins? And if the tables had been turned, I would have been honored to serve under Congressman Ellison.

We have spoken about this for some time. I don't know. We didn't -- neither of us document the days. But we have spoken about it for some time because we think it's really important. And I'm very honored that we are here together. Because we are, I think the embodiment of good synergy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rules chairman has long been a fundraising role. Almost primarily. Do you still perceive that as being the case? And if not, how do you perceive your role day to day (INAUDIBLE)?

PEREZ: Well, I think the role of the chair and the deputy chair are all about, certainly fundraising is one component. But, you know, we have got to lead the fight not only against Donald Trump, but the fight to make sure that people understand our affirmative vision of inclusion and opportunity. We have got to make sure that we are implementing our shared vision of culture change. So that we are no longer simply a committee that helps elect the President. We are the committee that helps to insure that we are electing people up and down the democratic ticket. Because if we want to take back the House of Representatives, we have got to take back state houses, we got to take back governors' mansions, and we also have to make sure that we are working together on the issue of internal culture change within the DNC. And equally importantly, we need to do more to collaborate with our partners in the progressive movement because you watch what's going on and the existential threats. And we can't be bullied along. We have got to be in partnership. The union movement is under attack. Planned Parenthood under attack and the Democratic Party will always be there to defend our friends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chairman Perez, last question for you and Mr. Ellison, what is your message to the folks in the back of the room? We couldn't hear what was being said on the days because they were drowning out what was happening so what's your message to you know, the support of Mr. Ellison, (INAUDIBLE) what do you say to them Mr. Ellison? Will you stay in the house, sir, as deputy chairman or will you lead the house (INAUDIBLE)?

PEREZ: Sure. You know, my message is I look forward to listening and learning from you. And I have already done that. I have already begun that, I should say. Because, you know, we are all in this together. When I have gone out on the road over the course of the last how long has this been? Two or three months. And I have had a fascinating learning moments. Talking to people, some of whom voted for senator Sanders, some of whom voted for Jill Stein. Some of whom voted for Gary Johnson. Some of whom voted for Hillary Clinton. And what is still important is for us to understand that what unites us far outweighs our differences.

And as Congressman Ellison said at the outset, we are staring unbelievably existential threats right in the eye right now. And we have to be united moving forward. Because we have got so many people across this country, who are fearful.

And so, I know that we all have work to do. When I think our diversity of viewpoint is our strength as a party and I look forward to listening and learning and earning the support and trust of everyone.


PEREZ: I love passion. People have passion because they want to make sure that we address the abiding issues of inequality. When Congressman Ellison and I work together work together on the overtime rule, when we work together to insure retirement security for everyone, when we were side by side on the fight for 15 movement. That was addressing those passions. Because I met a woman in Detroit, who was part in the fight for 15 movement and the night before I met her, she slept in her car with her three children. We can do better than that.

I have the same passion, because America is only America truly America when everybody has a fair shake. And not enough people are getting a fair shake. And that is why we are so aligned because we got to make sure this economy and this country works for everyone, not just a few at the top.

[16:42:26] ELLISON: I absolutely will remain in the House of Representatives. But I believe this is a good synergy because with Tom leading the way at the DNC and assisting, I'll be able to be a messenger between these other Democratic institutions that we need to be in communication with, too. I think Tom would agree that we need to build a little, we need to stop so much (INAUDIBLE) and find a way for institutions to cooperate. So, I will be in the House but I will be with the DNC.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chairman, chairman, there are hundreds of millions of dollars (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both of you have talked a lot about party building and the need to build infrastructures, so that you can elect people all the way up to where you want to go. So can you talk about over the next couple of months, changes at the actions we're going to see from you, at the committee to begin to create this infrastructure and what it's going to look like?

PEREZ: Sure. I mean, we are putting together now a transition operation so that we can understand what the immediate opportunities are, what the immediate needs are and understanding those immediate needs, we will be moving forward.

I expect over the next week or ten days, that we are going to get a pretty comprehensive email or some sort of directive out to members. Asking them a lot of questions as you heard me say earlier today. There's an incredible amount of talent in the DNC. I think they are chronically underutilized. And we talked about that before.

And so, among the questions that we want to discuss collaboratively are how do we channel this remarkable energy at a grassroots level? How do we partner with the indivisibles? How do we turn that energy into sustainable momentum around preserving the affordable care act? And then what are the immediate infrastructure needs of the DNC?

After the election, you know, roughly, there has been a number of people who are laid off, that tends to happen after elections. And so, there's a lot of basic nuts and bolts that we have to do. There's a lot of external outreach we need to do, not only members, but to the broader community. And you know, this is like doing some maintenance on a plane when it's at 25,000 feet because you can't just shut the plane down and do that maintenance.

And so, I'm very excited about the weeks ahead. And we are looking forward to making use, not only of the two of us, but also other candidates who have all said, you know, how can I help? And the answer is going to be quite a bit. And so many DNC members and political leaders elsewhere who are saying, sign me up to help Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chairman Perez, the budget (INAUDIBLE) was not discussed during the debate. Hundreds of millions of dollars would be spent on national contracts, (INAUDIBLE). How are we going to make sure that the money goes to the states which are starving for resources?

PEREZ: Sure. Well, I mean, transparency is a critical foundation for any organization, but especially the DNC. And transparency is something that you are talking about on many levels. Transparency for instance, means making sure that a decisions are made in an open and transparent manner. Transparency in budgeting is a huge priority in terms of making sure that as we build a budget we are including members of the DNC. We are making, you know, it available and open.

And then as we spend money, making sure the procurement process is fair and impartial. And making sure we are working with states -- state parties I should say in that process.

And so, I have, Congressman Ellison and I, have a steep learning curve. There is no doubt about it. We have never begun an adventure that didn't have a steep learning curve. But we have the same shared value in making sure that the DNC is firing on all cylinders and we have got work to do. And that's no different than a number of the jobs I have had the privilege of starting recently where you go there, you listen, you learn and then you innovate.

[16:45:39] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Change in Democratic culture, such that more money is given directly to the DNC and the state party instead of these outside national posts - (INAUDIBLE)

PEREZ: Well, I mean, when Congressman and Ellison and I both talk about culture change, one aspect of culture change is doing a better job of collaborating with our partners out there in the progressive movement. And that, I look at the Republican Party and there's been a lot of collaboration between the RNC and the Koch brothers and the nonprofit infrastructure including, but not limited to the southern Baptist church. And that partnership has yielded results at the ballot box.

And so, we have got to do a much better job of that collaboration as well. As I said before, you know, we can't be bowling alone. We have got to be bowling together as we move forward. And so, that's something that we are both very committed.

And the good news is these partners in the progressive movement are partners that we have spent collectively virtually our entire career working with. And so, I'm actually very excited about our ability to hit the ground running in collaboration with them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are going to hear one from (INAUDIBLE) and we are done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You talked a lot about disagreements within the party. Do you, are contested primaries, primary challenges to incumbent Democrats - (INAUDIBLE).

PEREZ: Are you referring to what, the Presidential?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A congressional race, state legislative races, you see talking about the people coming from the progressive wing of the party challenging incumbent Democrats, as something that's a good and healthy thing for party politics?

PEREZ: Well we are going to have robust debates within the Democratic Party. And that's who we are. But our job is to help elect Democrats. And you know, Democrats - you know, the Democratic Party Massachusetts is different from the Democratic Party in West Virginia. And so, a type of Democrat who might get elected in West Virginia, may have different stands on different issues.

But you know what, our job is to elect Democrats. And what we have in common whether you're West Virginia or Massachusetts or Kansas, is our commitment to economic opportunity. And I think when we are focused on that message, of jobs, good jobs and pathways to the middle class, retirement security, that's a message that has elected Democrats in Missouri and West Virginia and Minnesota and across the country. And that's what we're going to make sure we're doing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you doing some sort of project over the next few months or weeks, more forward-looking or backward looking anticipates o autopsy on what went wrong in 2016.

And Congressman, do you anticipate, you know, (INAUDIBLE) for building out support of project that most that internally what went wrong to primary process.

PEREZ: Absolutely.

ELLISON: Well, let me tell you. We are going to have to look at really what went wrong, crunch the numbers, get specific. I think we both have a sense of what went wrong, but we want to ask DNC members how they feel about it. And I think that what the real thing is, we got to win. People are expecting us to win. So the -- they look back has got to be geared towards winning elections in this period to come, not just in 2017, 2018, 2020. We are very focused on redistricting. And we are thinking how we can succeed there and really and even beyond that. So, you know, we are looking back, but we are looking back to look forward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much, everybody. Thank you.

KEILAR: Press conference between Tom Perez, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee and his deputy, Keith Ellison who was also in the running for the role. And Tom Perez, by motion, put him as the number two there at the DNC in a show of unity.

And here to talk to me a little bit more about this, as well as a number of other topics and news is Connecticut's Democratic governor Dan Malloy.

Governor, your reaction to not only Tom Perez being elected the new DNC chief, but also this need to show unity as the party apparatus, tries to retain relevance.

[16:50:08] GOV. DAN MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, you know, I was able to watch what you've been watching, Tom and Keith appearing together. And I think it's a remarkable thing that they have accomplished. They brought the party together. When I think when a lot of folks thought they would be leaving Atlanta divided. I give a lot of credit to Keith for his willingness to join Tom's team. I give a lot of credit to Tom for extending the offer. I think this is the best possible outcome we could have ended up with. And I think we should be impressed with their answers and their emerging leadership.

KEILAR: I want to talk about a couple of things you have had going on in your state. You are very much poking your finger in the eye of the Trump administration. I know that you were proud to be doing so. And you know, the White House, this is just one of the things, the White House this week revoked Obama-era guidelines that allowed transgender students to use rest rooms that matched their gender identity. And you, in response to that, signed an executive order to increase the projection from transgender students.

This was an issue, the idea was to leave it up to the states. And you are certainly taking that and running with it.

MALLOY: How did leaving it up to the states work when black people weren't allowed to sit at the counter or to drink from a water cooler? How did that work for the United States when black and Hispanic people were denied access to hotel rooms? How did that work? The reality is, is that America and the world are moving in the direction of understanding more and more people and the differences that those people represent. And this President is taking us backwards.

And quite frankly that's never happened before in the United States. We have always moved forward with understanding. We have always moved forward with compassion. We have always moved forward to accommodate people's differences. Why would we at this moment. At this time in our lives, of this country take a step backwards, it didn't work on the lunch counter, it's not going to work here.

KEILAR: Safe assumption, you did not support Betsy DeVos, the pick who is now the heading up the department of education, right?

MALLOY: I did not think she was the best choice by far.

KEILAR: OK. Yes, but I want to ask you about this because I think she surprised some people this week. She had, according to our reporting, when this guidance was going to be rescinded, she talked to the AG Jeff Sessions, and said I'm not on board with this. She went to the White House to talk to sessions and Donald Trump, expressed her discontent with this change there. Was told basically to publicly get on board. And she did. But in the statement about this, rescinding the guidance about transgender students, it talks about the need to protect these students. There was some pretty strong language there.

So was that something that surprised you? And do you think that's going to be helpful that she's there On the Record saying, these students need to be protected?

MALLOY: Well, it's nice that she says they need to be protected. But basically she went along with a document that takes that protection away. Her moment of truth was, if you do this, I resign. And she didn't say she would resign. At least we don't have any evidence of that. And she certainly didn't resign. Let me go back --

KEILAR: But if she resigned, governor, let's say she did resign, she could easily be replaced with someone who wouldn't even want that statement in the, in her public remarks. Someone who just was completely publicly on board with this. I mean, is that a better alternative in?

MALLOY: No. She could have included any statement that she would have made. Quite frankly did she offer her resignation?

KEILAR: That's my point. I know she didn't. You know what I'm saying, she could have been replaced by somebody who didn't even that view, that she had, even for supporting these students.

MALLOY: But if you're a secretary, right, and she is, and she has given the opportunity to express who she is and what she is, and she sends a letter saying she doesn't agree with what you just did, it's not the strongest. That's not a profile in courage moment.

KEILAR: Yes. I understand the difference that you're making there.

I also want to talk to you about something that you have done which when it comes to the immigration guidance, that the Trump administration has expanded for local law enforcement, state law enforcement to give them more latitude when it comes to essentially detaining and then deporting undocumented immigrants.

You have said you know what actually, to state and local law enforcement, you don't have to do this. And this is something not surprisingly the White House has targeted. Let's listen to Sean Spicer.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The idea that Governor Malloy would not want the law followed, as enacted by Congress or by the Connecticut legislature in any fashion seems to be concerning, right. Whether you are a governor or mayor for the President, laws are passed in this country and we expect people in our lawmakers and our law enforcement agencies to follow and adhere to the laws as passed by the appropriate level of government.


[16:55:14] KEILAR: I hear what you just said about state's rights, shouldn't be what you lean on when you are talking about protecting transgender students. And I know this is certainly a case where you feel like people are not being protected in your state. But you feel strongly that in this case states' rights pertain to this and that you have the latitude to, to do this, to tell local law enforcement, you don't have to respect what the Trump administration is guiding you on.

MALLOY: Well, I don't want a lecture here, but Sean says things that have no factual base. He can't point to a law that we are violating. We have made it very clear, you want to pick up a bad person and deport them? You want to pick up a violent person and deport them? We will do that.

In 2013, in fact the legislature of Connecticut passed unanimously Republicans and Democrats, the guidelines under which we would participate with ICE. There is no federal law that says we have to do that. But we took the step to define that relationship, of the President of the United States without the act of Congress to not pass his own law. He can't make law. That's just not how it happens in the United States.

We have an obligation to enforce our laws. And that's what we are doing. And quite frankly, we are there when it comes to getting bad people out of our country. But we are not going to go with ICE if they want to go to a warming center and round up people who they think are immigrants.

They have done that in the last couple of weeks. They have gone into schools and scared children. We have a federal obligation in Connecticut to educate children regardless of their status. Therefore, we are not going to cooperate with ICE as they go in and around and see who is in classrooms or who is studying somewhere. That's not the role of state government and no federal government can make us do that. And in fact we are enforcing the state of Connecticut law.

KEILAR: All right. Governor Dan Malloy, really, we had so much to cover. And I really do appreciate you being on. Thank you so much from Connecticut.

MALLOY: Thank you.

KEILAR: Coming up, breaking news, Tom Perez elected the new chairman of the DNC. Can he bridge the divide between the establishment and the progressive wings of the party? We have a live report.