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Sources: Huntsman Named U.S. Ambassador to Russia; Cowboys to Release Tony Romo Today; President's Confidant Discusses Wiretapping Allegations. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 9, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:31:52] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We got news and a concern that literally connects all Americans. Are we going to put our fighting men and women in jeopardy?

A report U.S. marines now joining the fight against ISIS in Syria. What are we being told? That they'll provide support to U.S.-backed local forces that are fighting there.

Officials say in the coming weeks, forces will launch a combat mission in Raqqah, that's ISIS's self-declared capital in Syria. The Pentagon and Marine Corps have declined to confirm the deployment because they say its security concerns in the region that are keeping it all quiet.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Here's a terrible story to tell you about. Guatemala is observing three days of morning after fire ripped through home and killed children. The death toll now 21, most of those teenage girls. Many others are in critical condition. The cause of the fire is under investigation. Now, riot police were called to control a disturbance there the day before.

CUOMO: MIT offering a cash prize award for disobedience. That's right. Break the rules, get $250,000. Boy, I would have been a rich man back in school. To be eligible, the individual or group must have been taken a personal risk to affect positive change and make the world a better place. The winner is going to be announced in July.

CAMEROTA: That's cool. That's an interesting gimmick. I mean, look, risk-takers rule the world. There is a school of thought. Risk takers rule the world. Sometimes they go to jail.

CUOMO: Scared money never wins. They teach you that in law school.

CAMEROTA: Right. Interesting.

Spring-like temperatures giving way to snow in the Northeast and that's not the only region expected to see some snow flakes.

Meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking the latest. What are you seeing, Chad? CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I see snow in your future for tomorrow

and I know the weather models and the weather service is going two-to- four. But I think by the time it ends, New York City or even places in the Poconos could see 8 inches of snow.

I know it's the high end, but it's possible. The storm comes if tonight. Not a lot of snow on the ground tomorrow morning. By the time you're going home tomorrow night, that's when the snow is on the ground. There could be four-to-eight inches of snow.

Now the official model looks like this, two-to-four inches. But there is a big difference between two and four, and four to eight if you try to drive home tomorrow afternoon. Just keep that in mind, tomorrow was probably a train day if you have that choice.

The snow continues south of St. Louis for the week. As you said the snow continues the cold continues for the northeast for the next couple days. The next real chance of snow for New York, Boston, Philadelphia, after tomorrow will be Tuesday and it could be another pretty big shot, because it stays pretty cold -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, my friend, I don't know what to do with that information. I mean, I'm in the unenviable position of thinking you are wrong, but we'll see. I appreciate the position, my friend as always.

White House officials insisting President Trump is not the target of any investigation involving Russia's hacking of the U.S. What Spicer said was, "we don't have any reason to believe." A closer look at what there is reason to believe, next.


[06:39:10] CUOMO: All right. Sources tell CNN, President Trump has chosen former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman to be the U.S. ambassador to Russia. What challenges will Huntsman now face, what does he present in terms of pluses and minuses?

Joining us to talk about that, Thomas Pickering, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Mr. Ambassador, good to see you.


CUOMO: Jon Huntsman on the obvious positive side, charismatic well- spoken guy, known to be intelligent, was no lackey for Donald Trump during the election, outspoken critic. How does that play into this decision and his potential?

PICKERING: I think having somebody with an independent voice and a set of eyes, ears and good brain, which is certainly just a minimal description of Jon Huntsman's enormous attributes is a good thing to add a sense of balance and perspective. [06:40:03] With Russia, we are caught on the horns of a dilemma. Some

people want to see them as the next implacable enemy with no possibility of any working around with them. And others want to glorify them as kind of the new messiah on the scene and President Trump is just a wonderful guy, we can all deal with.

Neither of those views have any real sense of reality and Jon Huntsman is an individual who could bring a freight sense of reality. He served in China. He speaks mandarin. But he understands international politics as well as anybody I know and I think he's a remarkably food choice for this job.

CUOMO: A tough job, isn't it? In terms of -- what is the basic guidance you would have for Jon Huntsman in tackling this right now when Russia has become such a topic of toxic conversation in our political dialogue?

PICKERING: I would say, first, form his own judgment about what is real, what is true, what is an opportunity and what are the challenges? Our relationship with Russia over the years has been difficult and in sometimes very tense and sometimes very confrontational. But there are elements of that, where people forgive, where there has been continued cooperation. We are together against terrorism. We work together interestingly enough in Afghanistan, the Russian versus permitted supply.

Now, the Russians have worked with us closely on the International Space Station. We've tried to work with them on Syria. Some of that has begun to come back again. So there are a number of things there that form the basis for moving.

A critical question for Jon Huntsman as for this administration will be, can we, rather than add notes of confrontation over the nuclear equation, add notes of sanity of care, of building stability in that relationship, rather than talking about the possibility of using nuclear weapons, God forbid, under any circumstances.

The experts can tell you a hundred ways we can make mistakes, have accidents and slide into nuclear use. I don't know there is anybody out there that can tell you, once it gets going, how do you stop it? It's the kind of thing that threatens not just the United States and Russia but the planet.

And we need to keep our deterrents strong, obviously, but we need to speak clearly. We need to think rationally. We need to put together the next steps in making that deterrent more stable even as we look at repairing it, if it has any difficulties or dangers there.

CUOMO: Ambassador, let me ask you something, all of this investigating into contacts between the Trump campaign staff, current staff and Russia, how unusual are these different points of contact? Are you more interested in, what was done or what was not disclosed?

PICKERING: Look, Chris, what has been a serious problem in what I would have to call telling the truth has morphed into a situation where we have demonized contacts with Russia. I was ambassador to Russia. I worked with -- the Russian's contacts are essential. They're very important.

And Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who is a friend, is also a superb diplomat and a very, very smart and intelligent guy. And anybody who would want to know about U.S.-Russian relationships would want to strike out and talk to Ambassador Kislyak about how he sees things and what's going on.

That point of view, that opinion is significant in the mix. It won't be the final answer for everything, but failing to make those contacts is, I think, a bigger fault than having the contacts at a time when the situation is, obviously, swinging between the two extremes I just explained to you.

CUOMO: So you don't think that the fact that Flynn was meeting with the ambassador, talking to the ambassador or the same with Jeff Sessions, none of that concerns you, but you say the problem is telling the truth. What do you mean ten? What's the concern?

PICKERING: Well, you know, come on, Chris, we all know that General Flynn had a problem possibly with the vice president in terms of depicting the conversation he had. And that's an internal matter in the administration, but it has consequences, obviously.

Secondly, Attorney General Sessions in his hearings apparently said something about his contacts which doesn't seem to have reflected what really happened and is now back trying to explain to the committee what happened. Those are the points of concern. Not the issue of whether we speak with the Russians or not.

CUOMO: So, the concern becomes why was it not fully disclosed or why was there any attempt to mislead about it?

[06:45:02] Ambassador, appreciate the perspective, as always.

PICKERING: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: We'll have you back soon.


PICKERING: Great to be with you. Thank you.


So what is president Trump telling the people closest to him about those wiretapping allegations? Mr. Trump's personal friend joins us just ahead.


CAMEROTA: It's the end of an era in Dallas. The Cowboys are expected to officially release quarterback Tony Romo later today. Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Even I know Tony Romo, that's how big he is.


You know, Romo watch is officially on. The favorite landing right now the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans. If he would have been cut by the Cowboys, it would have been unimaginable before last season, but due to the rise of rookie of the year Dak Prescott, Romo became expendable. He leaves the Cowboys as the team's all time leader in passing yards and touchdowns.

Tim Tebow making a Mets spring training debut, but it would be one to forget for the former Heisman Trophy winner. Tebow 0 for 3 from the plate, with two strikeouts. Tebow said after the game, kind of what he expected competition wise, it was definitely fun to be out there.

Finally, according to several publications, we now have a new power couple. A-Rod and J.-Lo are currently dating "The New York Daily News" front page, and, Chris, of course, with it being A-Rod and J. Lo we call them J-Rod.

[06:50:02] CUOMO: J-Rod, I would have called them A-Lo because it plays to international, you know, kind of hellos also. That's me though.

All right. Thanks, my friend.

SCHOLES: All right.

CUOMO: Up next, how does the U.S. the president really feel about wiretapping? We have a close friend, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, talked to him about it. What's his insight? Next.


CAMEROTA: So what did President Trump say to his friends about those acquisitions that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower?

Let's ask one of his close friends.

Christopher Ruddy is the CEO and president of Newsmax Media which runs several conservative media outlets.

Chris, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: You spoke with President Trump on Saturday --


CAMEROTA: -- after the tweet storm about the accusations of President Obama wiretapping him and Trump Tower. You wrote about it in Newsmax. You used some rather colorful language.

Let me read it for our viewers, "I spoke with the president twice Saturday about the wiretap story. I haven't seen him this pissed off in a long time. When I mentioned Obama's denials about the wiretaps, he shot back, 'This will be investigated, it will all come out. [06:55:06] I will be proven right.'"

You haven't spoken to him since then. Did he tell you then on Saturday where he was getting his information?

RUDDY: No. And I didn't ask. I wasn't there as a member of the press to ask him a lot of questions, but he certainly was -- I had just seen him after he first came off the golf course, so he had tweeted in the morning, spent four hours on the golf course. He didn't know the implications at that point how much the press had picked up that story and how big a story it was.

You know, I think the president's a New York guy. You know, here in New York they tell you how they think. They show their emotion. But the next day, they can go on to other things and it's not bothering them.

And I think we've seen since then the president has sort of moved on with Obamacare and replacing that and other things.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but I mean, the problem is, once you toss the grenade in the building that everyone else has to deal with the cleanup. And so, I mean, of course, it's up to the press to say well, where is he getting that information? Since Jim Comey isn't confirming it and the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denies, do you believe it came from a Mark Levin radio show?

RUDDY: I don't know where it came from. The president said it will come. I'm waiting for the evidence just like he is and you are.

And I want to point out, I don't speak for him. I don't speak for the White House. I run an independent media agency.

But you raise the issue of the press. I think the president has a real problem with the press as do many conservatives. Here is why: we're focusing on certain issues.

You just said there were denials. Comey never officially denied it. All the official denials from the Obama administration officials just said, he did not personally order the wiretap. But they --

CAMEROTA: Yes, you know, but he doesn't like to come out publicly. He broke that rule but he generally doesn't come out publicly. So, in other words, you think that you're still operating from the assumption as is Mr. Trump that it might be true.

RUDDY: I think there's a lot of people the campaign one point or another.

But let's get back to the press for a second, it's really important. The Tip poll came out this week. It was the most accurate poll. They found 54 percent of Americans are weary of the negative press attention against the president. "The USA Today" poll showed that 48 percent of Americans are giving him a positive approval. That is higher than what Obama had most of his years. Now, I have a question for you: why do you think there's such a

disconnect between the press and networks like CNN and MSNBC and others that are so critical of the president and the American people that are still supporting him so strongly?

CAMEROTA: Look, we have other polls numbers we could bounce up right here about his official numbers.

RUDDY: I'm sure you guys do.

CAMEROTA: I have questions for you, Chris, about what's happening today.

RUDDY: Sure.

CAMEROTA: The replacement for the Obamacare Affordable Care Act. Here are some headlines from conservative media sites, blogs, et cetera. Breitbart, "Obamacare 2.0 guts enforcement, gives illegal aliens health care through identity fraud." Here comes the "Daily Wire", "RYANCARE: Five serious problems with the Republican replacement for Obamacare." PoliZette, "Obamacare 2.0: repeal and replace in name only."

Do you think that Mr. Trump has been surprised by the deserve pushback against the plan?

RUDDY: I haven't spoken to him so I can't say what his reaction is.

I do think and this is my personal view that Obamacare is a big quagmire for him and the Congress and I do think they should have led with tax reform and infrastructure, two popular things.

CAMEROTA: Why didn't he do that? Why didn't he lead with things you think were more winning?

RUDDY: Congress, the public and the press, certainly the press are giving this impression this is an autocratic president. He was actually -- it was Congress that was pushing for this, Paul Ryan. It was some of the state governors that wanted the changes.

You know, Donald Trump actually agrees with Barack Obama on the idea that everybody should get universal coverage --

CAMEROTA: That's right. He had said that, but not what conservatives want and that's not what Paul Ryan and the Republicans want. So, there's a problem.-

If this doesn't pass, who's to blame?

RUDDY: They should have treated Obamacare as a process to fix. I think if it doesn't pass, it's not the president. Remember, this is a guy that has never been in political office, never been in Washington.

He's come in office. He's relying on a lot of people and he's on a learning curve. So, I don't think the public is going to blame Donald Trump on this. But I do think he's got some big things coming town the pike, including the tax reform and infrastructure. It's going to be very popular.

I personally think they should have radically expanded Medicaid.

CAMEROTA: Did you share this with him?

RUDDY: I have not discussed this with him.

CAMEROTA: Speaking of which, Chris, I'm just curious, does your friend Mr. Trump know you're on CNN? As you know, he's not a big fan at the moment.

RUDDY: Well, it's funny, through the months since the election, I think if one press organization he's most critical of all the time is CNN.

CAMEROTA: Right. So did he want you going on?

RUDDY: Well, I don't ask him for permission. I don't think he cares where I go on. He knows I'm an independent media person. And I speak to all parties.

And so, I think at the end of the day, I know the president says the press is the enemy of the people. I actually think what he's doing is creating a negotiating position with the press.