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How Will Trump Reach to Big Day of Hearings?; Song Leads to Heated Twitter Exchange; Trump Wiretap Claim Strains Relations with Allies; Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 20, 2017 - 07:30   ET



[07:31:13] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: This could be the biggest week of Trump's young presidency. You've got the FBI director testifying before the House hearing this morning, his Supreme Court nominee beginning his confirmation hearing, so what's on the president's mind?

Let's bring in two guests who met with the president this weekend. You got Chris Ruddy, CEO and president of Newsmax and Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School.

So, Professor, what brought you down to Mar-a-Lago? What was the general nature of this conversation? I want -- I don't want you to breach confidences, of course.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Obviously. Chris is a good friend of mine and runs a terrific news service, Newsmax, which I write for, and he invited me to come have dinner with him at Mar-a-Lago with my wife. We had a lovely dinner and suddenly the president walks in and he is applauded by everybody and he comes over to our table and starts schmoozing first with Chris and then with me, and he takes me aside and talks to me in general.

I told him I didn't vote for him, and he said well, if I can get you to vote for me next, that will be a great accomplishment because you've never voted a Republican before. And we laughed about that. I said I have an open mind, it's an uphill fight. And then we talked about a range of subjects. The travel ban. He had seen me on television saying that I thought the Supreme Court would uphold it.

We talked about the Gorsuch nomination and I said I thought that ultimately Gorsuch would be confirmed, and then we talked about a range of other issues. Chris talked to him. I talked to him. My wife talked to him. His wife was there, then the vice president came over, and the secretary of Commerce came over. I expected to have a nice quiet dinner with Chris and my wide. And suddenly we're with the president, the vice president and the secretary. It was great.

CUOMO: Mar-a-Lago, it seems to be the place to be these days.

So, Chris Ruddy, how big a day do you believe the president sees today as?

CHRIS RUDDY, CEO AND PRESIDENT, NEWSMAX MEDIA: It's hard for me to say. I certainly don't speak for the president or reveal what's on his mind but I can tell you he was very concerned when he chatted with Alan and myself about the press coverage. You know, here he had a fantastic meeting with the chancellor. He told me that he thinks he saved American concessions about $500 billion over the next several years and the press says that he didn't shake her hand. And the president explained to me that when a member of the press instructed him to shake her hands he wasn't going to follow their orders and then he shook her hands several times, and was very happy about meeting her and he thought they got along famously.

So, you know, this type of stuff I think is very irritating to the president but a lot of the supporters like myself and we're seeing today like with the Comey --

CUOMO: Right.

RUDDY: -- thing that it looks like it's a showdown with the president. Comey is going to probably say -- we're assuming what he said anonymously to the press, that he didn't wiretap the -- the president's campaign. But I don't think that puts the matter to bed frankly.

CUOMO: Why not?

RUDDY: Well, there's 17 different intelligence agency, Chris. The NSA does a lot of wiretapping, other agencies as well, and this has not really been investigated so, you know, it's again an issue I'm waiting for the evidence just like you are.

CUOMO: Right.

RUDDY: And others in the press.

CUOMO: Well --

RUDDY: To the allegations but --

CUOMO: Right. But you have a take on what that evidence is. I mean, Professor, one of the pieces of genius of the wiretapping charge other than what I see as a huge Achilles heel which is that the president could answer all of this for himself relatively easily, he chose not to, put it on Congress, created at least a great distraction, is that can it ever be satisfying for people like Chris Ruddy or other people on the right? OK, so it wasn't wiretapping. Was it surveillance? No, it wasn't. There wasn't any proof of any surveillance. By everybody, ever in the history of anybody who looked at it all that time?


[07:35:03] CUOMO: You could never really get full satisfaction, could you?

DERSHOWITZ: Chris, you're missing the great irony. It's always the liberals, people like me, who say, oh, the National Security people said there was no surveillance. Yes, like we're going to believe them. It's usually the liberals who are very skeptical about when the National Security Agency say, oh, we didn't do any surveillance at all.

Now it's the conservatives who were skeptical. And the liberals are saying, if the National Security Agency says there was no surveillance that must be absolutely true. It just shows both sides become so political and get locked on to a narrative.

CUOMO: Chris, answer your friend.

RUDDY: But, Alan, I think you would agree -- Alan, I think you would agree that the -- what is clear, there's complete evidence, is that the security officials of the government leaked highly classified documents including the president's private conversations. It's criminal what they did.


RUDDY: And that's not even being talked about. I think the president chatted with you about that at length.


CUOMO: But we talked about it every administration. Leaks of the information, even confidential information is not new or unique to this administration.

DERSHOWITZ: But they shouldn't do that.

CUOMO: And we're also feeling with the president, Chris, who applauded leaks, who asked for them during the campaign, who celebrated WikiLeaks, so this is somewhat of a newfound integrity on this issue for him, and just to an earlier point you made, you want to put it on the press about our president deciding not to shake the hand of Angela Merkel. You know, you want to put it on the press because the president puts it on the press.

Do you know whether or not Angela Merkel asked him to shake hands?

RUDDY: Well, we know that three times they did shake hands publicly. So --

CUOMO: But when didn't in that press --


RUDDY: It's not an issue on whether he shook hands or not.

CUOMO: But you know that clip --

RUDDY: But it's again -- you're accusing --

CUOMO: No, no, no. I'm just trying to clarify the facts, Chris. We're not here to fight. I'm just telling you, you want to put it on the press. In that moment, she says, I think they want a handshake, he ignores her. That's what caused that media drama. I know they shook hands. I saw the same pictures.

RUDDY: Right. But he was really ignoring the request by the media.

CUOMO: We didn't make anything of it.

RUDDY: He was --

CUOMO: Well, that what he says, and you say you don't speak for him but you're advancing exactly that right now. His take on it, right?

RUDDY: No, I shared with you what his sentiment was on it.

CUOMO: I know. You said you don't speak for the president but that's exactly what you're doing in that capacity, right? Because that's his take on it, which is only a defiance of the fact of what happened in the moment.

RUDDY: I just shared with you his sentiment, but I think we -- look, we're all members of the press. And we -- and we all pick and choose the stories. We try to give some balance. And I think there's a feeling generally among a lot of people that support the president and people in the middle of the country. I think, polling data shows it, people feel the press is just simply too harsh against the president. They're not talking about any of the good things he's doing. The job creation that he did.

CUOMO: Right. And I think that's an exaggerated criticism. We do it all the time and in fact we do it even more if we didn't get distracted by the president himself.

Just this morning, Professor, he puts out a series of tweets trying to control his own narrative which, by the way, is completely within his right, he happens to be very good at it. But he wants to call all questions about Russian contacts between his staff and whether it was the ambassador or somebody else fake news. He wants to call it that. That's going to draw scrutiny because again it's a hallow presumption. So who is that on, Professor? You be the judge.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, no doubt about that, but he also, in one of his tweets, talked about the leaking of classified material. I happen to think that can be very, very serious because --

CUOMO: Of course it can be.

DERSHOWITZ: People don't control what gets leaked and, you know, we like leaks when they support our side. And we don't like them when they don't support our side. But in general we should be doing something about stopping the leaking of classified material by people who have an agenda.

CUOMO: Right.

DERSHOWITZ: And that's an issue that I think Congress should be looking into and he tweeted about that as well.

CUOMO: True. DERSHOWITZ: Look, he does better, generally, when he doesn't speak

about an issue. The Gorsuch thing is going through very smoothly.

CUOMO: So far.

DERSHOWITZ: Because he hasn't really tweeted about that, and when he tweets obviously in response, it gets counter tweets. So, you know, historically when the president remains silent about something he tends to get his way more. We have seen obviously with the travel ban that his own words have been used against him. I don't think that's going to be sustained. By the way, Judge Kozinski in the Ninth Circuit wrote a blistering opinion in the last couple of days mocking the lower courts for using campaign rhetoric.

CUOMO: Right.

DERSHOWITZ: Against a presidential order and I think that will be the way the Supreme Court ultimately decides the case with Kozinski's logic rather than with the two district court judges.

CUOMO: And you've said we're still a long way from that, Professor. The Supreme Court likes to take on final decisions.


CUOMO: And I think we have a long way to go as you've instructed us on the show before.

Professor, appreciate you talking about the issues of the day as always. And Chris, you know, you're always welcome on NEW DAY. Good to have you today.

DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.

RUDDY: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, guys. A heated Twitter war over the weekend between former Missouri secretary of state Jason Kander and a white nationalist as well.

[07:40:03] We're going to talk about this conversation that went viral next.


HARLOW: Well, you may know that song. "Tomorrow Belongs to Me." It is from the hit musical "Cabaret." Well, it somehow ended up in the middle of a Twitter battle, a war over the weekend. Journalist John Marshall told alt-right leader Richard Spencer to take his philosophy back to the 1930s. Well, in response to that Spencer tweeted out a link to the song and said, "1930s? No, tomorrow belongs to us." Of course it references the song sung in the musical as the Nazi party is rising to power. What Spencer did not know perhaps the history behind the song. The

composer's nephew Jason Kander tweeted at Spencer saying, "Hey, buddy, that song you love was written by my uncle. He's been married to my other uncle for 40 years and he is a Jew."

Jason Kander is a CNN contributor and former Missouri secretary of state.

It is nice to have you. At last check about 15 minutes ago, your tweet have been re-tweeted 39,000 times. Copies of it had been re- tweeted many more thousand times. Did you expect such a response?

JASON KINDER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I didn't really know what to expect. I just saw it and thought, you know, it's not -- it's not every day you get to tell often neo-Nazi, so it seemed like a fun thing to do over the weekend.

HARLOW: All right. A fun thing to do and I see the smile and I hear you in jest. But a really serious context, right?


HARLOW: I mean, this is surrounded by a rise of white nationalism in this country, an increase in hate crimes and hate groups. So I mean, bigger picture here, there's a much larger message.

[07:45:10] KANDER: Yes, and I think really, I mean, in all seriousness the reason that it went viral is because people are upset about what they're seeing, and when you look closer at what's going on right now and the feeling that some of these folks like this guy have been certainly given license to be more mainstream, it bothers people and part of the reason I think it went viral is because people do want to stand up to it.

HARLOW: So you say a license to be mainstream. It is not the mainstream, however we have seen an increase in this rhetoric and these hate crimes and these hate groups. Who are you saying as giving this license?

KANDER: Well, personally, I'm not in any way saying that the president necessarily sympathizes with it, but I do think that the president of the United States whether you voted for him or not, no matter who it is at any given time, is in addition to being the leader of the government and the commander-in-chief is the cultural and moral leader of the country by position. And I think that, you know, Americans, I know myself included, would like to see the president speak out against hatred of all types, racism, all types of hatred in a way that isn't where his hand has been forced politically, but instead where it's really evident that it bothers the president and that he feels that he has to say something. I think that will make a difference.

HARLOW: So are you saying -- for example when he was asked about all of these attacks on Jewish centers and the rise of anti-Semitism in this country at that press conference, actually by an Israeli reporter, he attacked the reporter, he didn't address it. It was later at the African-American History Museum where he came out and began his statement with this. You want to hear things like that much more quickly from the president.

KANDER: Right. Not only did he attack the reporter in that case, I believe he just pivoted to talking about the electoral college victories. So it's not a matter of -- I'm not in any way saying that, you know, making an accusation against the president or anything like that in this case. I'm just saying that whether it is the potential victims of this sort of thing or whether it's the perpetrators potentially of this sort of thing, Americans need to hear that the president is bothered by it, and that he feels a need to speak up before anybody really pressures him to do so.

HARLOW: But by not speaking up any sooner are you in essence saying that he owns some of this? That he owns part of the rise?

KANDER: Well --

HARLOW: Are you going that far? Because I'm a little confused at your word choice here. What are you really saying?

KANDER: Well, I'm saying that the president could make a difference here.


KANDER: And that I would like to see the president want badly to make a difference here.

HARLOW: All right. Let me get your take on a few other things. Hillary Clinton came out speaking to a group of Irish American women I believe, and she talked about perhaps now is the time to, quote, "come out of the woods." Listen.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am ready to, you know, come out of the woods.


CLINTON: And to shed light on what is already happening around kitchen tables and dinners like this to help draw strength that will enable everybody to keep going.


HARLOW: It's not just a metaphorical coming out of the woods. She literally has been, you know, snapped by people pictures hiking in the woods. So as she emerges, as she's making clear here, what do you want to see her say and do, and how can she help your party to lead into whatever the future is of your party.

KANDER: Well, I think this sort of grows to this misconception that the Democratic Party is looking toward a singular leader right now and somehow in search of one. I don't think that's the case. If you look -- and I think everybody has a role to play, including Secretary Clinton, but, you know, if you look at what has gone on whether it's the protests or the women's march or the town halls that have people flooding into them in even the most conservative of districts, what's happening right now is really more of a people powered movement against an agenda by a president who is acting as though he won some sort of mandate when in reality 54 percent of voters chose somebody else, and the country is really in a large part standing up to that. That's why you see the president's number going down.

HARLOW: But, Secretary, the difference is that movement is not really embodied in one person so a lot of people are asking who is the person? Who is the future of the party? Is Secretary Clinton the future of the party? Are you the future of the party?

KANDER: Well, Poppy, with all due respect to you it's honestly I think mostly folks whose job it is to ask that question. When I lived here in Kansas City and, for instance, when I was at the women's march here in Kansas City, you know, nobody was talking about who is the leader. Everybody was just like really excited to be involved and so -- and I think that's important, right? Because the most effective movements in our country's history are generally not those that start in Washington. They're those that start outside of Washington among regular folks.

HARLOW: But they have to become embodied in a leader if you want to win elections. We'll have you back. Thank you very much, Jason Kander. We appreciate it. Chris.

KANDER: Thanks.

[07:50:02] CUOMO: All right. So why does President Trump continue to spar with some of America's closest allies? What good can come of it? What bad has come of it already? Former deputy secretary of state, Tony Blinken, weighs in next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as wiretapping, I guess, by, you know, this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps.


CUOMO: Has become a mainstay on social media. I feel like you look at me like that most of the time.

HARLOW: Daily.

CUOMO: Minute. By minute.

HARLOW: Daily.

CUOMO: President Trump joking about wiretapping while standing alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Was it funny or not during the White House? Well, that's up to you. But it is just the latest incident involving a close U.S. ally that's raising questions about the president's behavior.


CUOMO: I think it's -- I think there's ridiculousness to the whole nature.

HARLOW: It's absurd, yes.

CUOMO: But let's discuss with CNN global affairs analyst, Tony Blinken. He's the former deputy secretary of State and deputy national security adviser under President Obama.

It's good to have you here as always.


CUOMO: All right. So we just had Chris Ruddy on from Newsmax. He says I've met with the president this weekend. We're having dinner with our wives. And he was talking to me about it. He's upset about the press coverage because he says he had a great meeting with Merkel, and we only focus on the lack of handshake. And he says, you know, I didn't shake her hand because the press told me to.

[07:55:01] Now just facts aside, Angela Merkel asked for a handshake also and he apparently ignored it. And we know they shook hands plenty. But what does a moment like this mean? Is it just media fodder and something for us to debate but ultimately inconsequential? Or something more?

BLINKEN: You know, Chris, I think the moment becomes symbolic of something larger, which is that this president's emphasis is not on diplomacy. We've seen a series of incidents with a series of foreign leaders, whether it was the Australian, the Mexican, now the German chancellor.


BLINKEN: The UK. And maybe even more important, State Department budget slashed by almost 30 percent. And the president likes to talk a lot about hard power, but unfortunately, what we're seeing is something that is not smart power. Because most of the problems that we're dealing with around the world don't have a neat military solution. We can't do it alone. We need partners, we need allies. And if you're shortchanging them, or even insulting them, it's not a real good way to get the kind of partnerships. You need to tackle the problems we have to face.

HARLOW: So since Thursday, the president has managed to anger some of our closest friends and allies, along with, you know, Mexico and Australia, which he'd previously done. He really upset the Brits by quoting this FOX News analyst, who said, you know, the British spy agency was the one that, you know, Obama had wiretapped Trump. Completely unfounded. BLINKEN: Right.

HARLOW: Which the White House basically apologized to them for. And then Germany. He comes out, he tweets over the weekend that Germany owe vast sums of money to NATO and the United States and must be paid for by the powerful and very expensive defense it provides to Germany. Germany's defense minister came out and said that's not factually accurate at all. What is the play in fighting with our closest friends?

BLINKEN: It's a good question. You think -- we'd spend most of our focus if we have to pick fights with anyone, pick fights with our adversaries, not with our partners. But again it seems to me that this is just -- underscores the fact that diplomacy is not something that the president is focused on. But think about it this way. He's put a lot of money into the military. And that's fine.

But taking it away from the State Department, taking it away from development doesn't do us any favors because after all, a lot of things we're dealing with around the world, whether it's finding Ebola, whether it's dealing with climate change, whether it's dealing with cyber hackers, whether it's dealing with terrorist networks, none of those things have a military solution, or at least a clear military solution. All of them need partners.

And if you're alienating your number one partners, countries like the United Kingdom, like Germany, when we need a favor from them, when we need them with us, it's going to be harder for them to say yes.

CUOMO: The NATO thing is a little bit banking on Americans' ignorance, right? They're not going to go to Google or they're not going to watch the news and realized that nobody is paying any money to NATO. This is about a commitment to your own defense spending.


CUOMO: And that has been an imbalance. And there are lots of reasons for that. All right. So that's a fact faux pas. But there is a tactical play here. Obama, Blinken, you guys were soft, you capitulated to everybody. And that's why ISIS is the way it is. Not me. I'm Trump. I'm New York. I'm strong. And I'm going to tell people how it is, because if I'm paying the bills, I'm going to be telling them how to play. People loved it. What is the tactical play now in terms of how that is made manifest?

BLINKEN: Well, look, Chris, again, it comes back to this fact that, yes, you want to be strong. But you also want to be smart. You want to make sure that you're not alienating the countries that you most need to be with you in the trenches when you have to fight or to deal with these problems to prevent a war in the first place. So that's why some of this stuff is actually dangerous.

HARLOW: Because when Article 5 gets invoked, you want your friends in your corner.

BLINKEN: And the one time in history it was invoked -- CUOMO: 9/11.

HARLOW: Yes. After 9/11. Well, of course.

BLINKEN: 9/11. Europeans coming to our defense.

HARLOW: Let me ask you about this. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who doesn't like to talk to the media so we don't hear much from him, but he -- former Exxon CEO, went over, had this trip all around Asia. He had this meeting with President Xi of China. He used some really key words, he used the words mutual respect. And the Chinese media covered that meeting as a big success and a big win. They called it a diplomatic victory for China. And some critics of Tillerson say he left this trip looking -- leaving the U.S. looking too weak when it comes to very controversial issues like the South China Sea. How do you see it?

BLINKEN: You know, the Chinese like to have us hopefully repeat the formulas that they prefer to describe the relationship. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we don't. I'd be much more focused on what was done, what he got accomplished and where this goes from here. The number one issue on his agenda in -- during this trip was North Korea. We've seen just this weekend further progress from North Korea in getting a missile, they can put a nuclear warhead on, that can actually reach the United States.

His job is to bring countries together, South Korea, Japan and China, to deal with this problem. I think the jury is still out. And a lot of this of course was trying to tee-up with Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader to the United States.

HARLOW: So flatter China maybe to the world and then say -- use harsher rhetoric behind closed doors --


BLINKEN: Right. It really matters what he said behind closed doors. Did he say to China, North Korea is now a core concern of the United States, we need you with us, we need you to exert pressure on North Korea? If he did, that's a successful trip.

HARLOW: Yes, we can't do it without China.

BLINKEN: That's right.

HARLOW: When it comes to North Korea. Thank you, Tony. Nice to see you.

BLINKEN: Good to be with you.

HARLOW: We appreciate it.

All right. Following a lot of news. Let's get right to it.