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Interview with Senator Joe Manchin; Interview with Madeleine Albright. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 18, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: I don't think that's one of them.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, here's what we do know on the positive side of the ledger. To get you guys and the Democrats agreeing that anything is good is unusual. Hopefully it's contagious and it leads to work on actually policy measures for the American people.

Congressman Dent, always a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you for coming on.

DENT: Thank you, Chris. Great to be with you.

CUOMO: Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Chris. Thank you.

In a just a couple of hours, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein will brief the full Senate on the Russia investigation and Comey's firing after naming a special counsel. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin joins us live next.


CUOMO: Big day. Word of a special counsel appointed by the deputy attorney general and the man himself Rod Rosenstein is going to brief the entire Senate behind closed doors. And he's going to do that with the entire House tomorrow.

So you've got Bob Mueller, a former head of the FBI, now named special counsel. What will that mean and what are the Democrats going to want from him and from Rosenstein today?

Big questions. We have just the man to answer. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia joins us now.


BERMAN: He is a member of the Senate Intel Committee which is conducting its own probe into Russia's role in the 2016 election.

Senator, thank you for joining us.

MANCHIN: Thanks for having me, Chris.

CUOMO: Special counsel. Right move? Bob Mueller, right choice?

MANCHIN: It sounds to me a great choice and is the right move, and a great choice to put some confidence back, you know -- as someone was saying, Winston Churchill says don't worry, the United States will always do the right thing after they tried everything else.

[07:35:09] Well, we're on the right track and this is a good thing. I think that we should have confidence in what's going on. We still in the Intelligence Committee is going to do its job. And the special prosecutor will do his job. And we'll see where it goes. But we're going to make sure that we uncover and have transparency. And whatever is there is there. Let the intel take you to the facts and the facts will take you to the truth.

CUOMO: Look, it's good to have Republicans and Democrats agreeing on anything.


CUOMO: Let alone something as sensitive as this. If there's not consensus about the move, there is consensus about the man, it seems, and that's a start. But the move is suggestive of a reality. The mandate for a special counsel, as you well know, and now as the American people are going to learn, is because there is a perceived difficulty in doing it through the normal challenge. There is a concern about conflict and interference from the normal channels.

In this case, that seems to mean what we've seen with the former FBI director all the way up to the president that there have been efforts if not inclinations to affect this investigation. Do you believe that that is the reality?

MANCHIN: Almost certainly. I think that there has been serious allegations made and speculations and people are talking, and you know the town of Washington is full of gossip. It always has been, always will be.

But, Chris, the American people have to understand that the rule of law is something we have different from any other nation. And no one is above it from the president all the way down to the person that has no connection, no ties or no authority or no power that you might think. They still have the power of the rule of law. That is special.

With that being said, this administration, I think they would want to clear this up. I want to make sure that this administration, this -- our president can move forward and govern our great nation. And that's what needs to be done. If they can't and that can't continue on in an orderly transition of how we do our job every day, then, you know, you make adjustments. But that's what we hear to do. So I think that you're going to see things start moving now.

We've got to get now a new FBI director. We're going to see how that's going to play out. That's going to be an interesting process. Mr. Rosenstein stepped to the plate. There's going to be a lot of questions today. A lot of the Democrats I heard in caucus and some Republicans, too, why was the letter that was written in the defense of firing Comey, his thought process behind that will be very, very watched upon and eager to hear his explanation. So it's going to be a great day for us to get some answers.

CUOMO: What do you want?

MANCHIN: Well, I want to hear why he took the position he took in justifying Comey's firing. Everything I've heard about Comey, he was not a hotdog, he was not a glory hound or anything people have said. He was the ultimate professional. And with that being said -- with saying that and looking back at what we have done, why did Mr. Rosenstein write such a letter justifying why he had to get rid of him.

Here's the -- this is how I would have taken. At the day -- if I had been elected president, the day I was elected and sworn in, I would have brought Mr. Comey in my office and says, listen, Mr. Comey, you have had an impeccable record in doing the job you have for the United States, but your services are no longer needed because I think it will be a distraction with all the drama that comes off in this election.

But that wasn't done. So hindsight being 20/20, you move forward. Why was he kept on until he lost favor? There's a lot going on we want to talk about. Michael Flynn, General Flynn. I have known General Flynn. I was in Armed Services. We worked with him. Seemed to be a really upstanding guy. Why he seems to have gone off the rails I really don't know. A lot of questions have to be answered. We're going to be asking those questions. And we're going to be interested in finding out what the facts really are. I --

CUOMO: So two -- so, two, what do you do questions. The first one, Rosenstein comes in and he tells you they asked me to do it. And there's plenty of stink on Comey. I wrote it up about how I felt about it. But I was asked. This is what Sessions wanted, this is what the president wanted. And that leads you to a conclusion that the president was actually telling us the truth in that interview. He did not want Comey there not because of the Hillary Clinton stuff, but because of the Russia stuff. And he didn't like it. He thinks it's a hoax. And Comey seemed to be getting more emboldened on that. So he got rid of him. If that is the conclusion you arrive at, what do you do about it?

MANCHIN: Well, if that's the conclusion and Mr. Rosenstein being in the position he is, being the lead person we have after Attorney General Sessions has stepped aside which I thought was right thing for Attorney General Sessions to do because of his interaction with Michael Flynn over the campaign. It makes it quite troubling. I mean, then people have doubts. Can we really truly get an honest answer and get to the facts? We're going to find out. But that's contradicting what he did last night, Chris.

CUOMO: That's understood. Or is it -- or was it a reaction to what happened with the memo to him, assert his own independence.

[07:40:05] You'll be able to know better today when you meet with him. Another what if. What if this "New York Times" reporting winds up

being an accurate window into the dynamics surrounding Flynn's appointment as NSA? That the White House counsel was not only warned by then acting AG Yates about the risks of Flynn, but that Flynn had told the White House counsel and others at the White House that he was under investigation. And yet nothing was done in the negative. And in fact they made him the NSA anyway.

MANCHIN: I can't explain it. That is extremely troubling. And as a member of the Intelligence Committee, I want those answers. Our staff has been interviewing and talking to people that are in that -- in the chain of information if you will. And we'll get clear to the top of it.

But you know, the thing that we need to find out, Chris, has our country by person had close ties to the White House, involved with the White House, or clearly up to the president has anything been breached, has been compromised? Is there something we should be concerned about that basically the interests of the United States of America that we all take an oath to protect under all circumstances? Has that been breached? And with that, there's going to be serious punishment towards those people if they had done that.

But if not, this is not going to be a witch hunt. The Democrats, I can tell you from my standpoint, I am not on a witch hunt. I am on a fact-finding mission to get the intelligence that gives me the facts that I need to make some decisions. We'll be corroborating I think -- corroborating with the new prosecutor, special prosecutor, Mr. Mueller. We'll work hand-in-hand if we have to any way possible, whatever we can do to assist and help in the information we've gathered.

He'll be running his own investigation. We'll be doing ours. And we're going to have to see at the end to make sure we get to conclusion that the American people have a transparency and trust in the decisions we're going to make.

CUOMO: And now comes the wild card. People who are questioning this move. It is all about independence because of what seems to be apparent undue influence by the White House even in the form of the president when it comes to the Russia investigation. And he just tweeted. And here's what he said.

"With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign and Obama administration, there was never a special counsel appointed."

What does this response tell you about the president's respect for what is going on right now with this special counsel choice even if it is Bob Mueller?

MANCHIN: Well, I'm not going to speak on why the Congress did not have a special counsel or special prosecutor on the two administrations you just mentioned. This, I never heard of us being entwined with Russia or any other foreign government to the level that this accusation is being made. I think people are concerned, it needs to be cleared up. It's not going to go away. And with that, then why don't we continue on?

This appointment and this decision was made by Mr. Rosenstein. This was made by this administration and appointments they've made. So I think it bodes well to say that we're not afraid to look at this whole thing to unveil it, to look at the transparency and making sure that we allow the American public to see what we have seen, to find out the facts that we have found out and basically to move on and we can do the job that we need to do.

CUOMO: Right.

MANCHIN: We're talking about tax reform, we're talking about -- we're talking about health care. These are serious things that we have to address sooner or later, Chris. And the sooner we get on with this and get this completed and move on, whatever happens, happens, then we're able to do our job.

CUOMO: All right. Senator Joe Manchin, I appreciate it. Thank you very much for being with us on the show this morning.

MANCHIN: OK. Interesting time. Just stay tuned.

CUOMO: That's a word for it. Brooke.

BALDWIN: We are all are. With our phones a buzzing.

Gentlemen, thank you.

It may be spring, feels more like summer in the East. And today could be a record breaker. Chad Myers has the sweltering forecast next.


[07:48:30] BALDWIN: Time now for "The Five Things You Need to Know" for your NEW DAY.

Number one, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein naming former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel in the Russia investigation. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praising the move.

CUOMO: The "New York Times" reporting President Trump knew weeks before his inauguration that Michael Flynn was under federal investigation. Despite that, the president made Flynn his National Security adviser.

BALDWIN: A not guilty verdict in the case of an Oklahoma police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man last year. Officer Betty Shelby cleared of manslaughter charges in the death of 40-year- old Terence Crutcher.

CUOMO: Federal agents say they've arrested dozens of MS-13 gang members in Los Angeles. Authorities say more than 50 simultaneous raids targeted the gang's leadership.

BALDWIN: And the music world mourning the sudden and unexpected death of grunge rock icon Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave died last night after a show in Detroit. He was 52.

CUOMO: Such a unique rock presence.

BALDWIN: Totally.

CUOMO: He will be missed.

Want more on "The Five Things to Know"? Please go to for the latest.

BALDWIN: And it's going to be another hot on in the East. Could be a record-breaker. Chad Myers has the skinny with your forecast.

Good morning, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Brooke. I'm afraid it will be a record-breaker. Thanks for pulling double duty today on NEW DAY. I know Christopher Charles need you next to him. Just to kind of keep him sane.


[07:50:37] MYERS: This is a big day.

CUOMO: And God-willing, it will be a nonevent for the folks out there.

MYERS: You bet.

CUOMO: We know you'd be on it, Chad. Appreciate it.

Up next, will controversies here at home follow President Trump on his overseas trip? Is he ready for this trip? We asked former secretary of state to weigh in on everything in the news. Madeleine Albright is here, next.


CUOMO: Well, the big question is the wild card. How will President Trump react to the special counsel?


CUOMO: Will he respect the process? He's tweeting this morning and it doesn't sound too positive. Take a look at your screen.

"With all the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign and Obama administration, there was never a special counsel appointed."

Spelling error aside, the real error here is they have an investigation. There was no finding of illegality. James Comey said that for better or worse during the campaign and obviously the president didn't like it. He already admitted it motivated his ouster of Comey and now he seems to once again not like what's going on. How will that affect this? How will it affect his mindset when he goes abroad? To discuss, Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Let's start with the maelstrom at home and then we'll move to the potential moment abroad. The appointment of a special counsel in the form of Bob Mueller and the president's apparent reaction to it. How do you see these situations?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think it's a very good appointment, and I'm glad that it was done and the president's reaction to it is actually ridiculous because he is demeaning something that could, in fact, help solve a lot of situations and I think it is just typical of his approach to the way he sees things that he is concerned about might affect his own posture. So I think it's unfortunate. He could have welcomed it.

BALDWIN: So, Madame Secretary, you say his response is ridiculous. My question is simple. I mean, if you have nothing to hide, then why not welcome this notion of having an independent special prosecutor looking into something.

ALBRIGHT: Well exactly. I think that he should have done that. But his initial reaction is always to see the wrong side. That is what troubles me. He is somebody that sees something in a very legitimate approach as something that is against him and he could in fact welcome it.

CUOMO: And again he just tweeted. Not about you, Secretary. Don't worry about that.

"This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history."

What is the benefit here? Obviously there is the whole "he doth protest too much" aspect of this.

[07:55:05] But putting it to the side, as a political calculation, as he's heading into his first foreign trip about where his mind is.


CUOMO: And how he deals with adversity, what is your advice for the president with tweets like this, Secretary?

ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I am always amazed that everything he does has to be the greatest. Yesterday when he was talking to the Coast Guard Academy, his things about him, the greatest problems in American history and now everything is the greatest. I think he needs to keep his mind on what is going to be I think a very important trip in terms of going to the Middle East, spending time in Saudi Arabia and Israel, talking to President Abbas, to the Palestinians, then going to see the Pope, then going to NATO and the G-7. What could possibly go wrong?

And so I think that we have to watch very carefully. He has to keep his mind on what he's doing. He represents the United States. And I hope, even though we seem to be setting kind of a low bar for this trip, he doesn't just make mistakes, I hope that there is not one single tweet about anything during the nine days that he's gone.

BALDWIN: OK. So you've lowered the bar. We know just, you know, this past week this White House and Sean Spicer had to correct it. Erroneously stated that the Western Wall was in the West Bank. We know that he's giving a speech in Saudi Arabia talking about Islam. We know that this is a man who's appointed his son-in-law with no political experience prior to this campaign, Jared Kushner, to solve Middle East peace.

Flat-out, Madame Secretary, what keeps you up at night with regard to this president?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think having worked for two other presidents, they actually worked very hard and were briefed in detail for trips like this. And by the way, every presidential trip is complicated. You have to have some deliverables. It is an action enforcing mechanism for the government. And what keeps me up at night is that in fact this president is not well enough prepared to deal with the myriad of issues that are out there which are very complicated.

I've never seen the world as complicated. And what keeps me up at night is that there is not a full team that is working at the State Department that -- and all the questions about what is happening inside the White House. That's what worries me because there is an awful lot happening and we have a president who doesn't seem to do his homework.

CUOMO: I remember when President Obama went abroad to Egypt, Cairo. There was a major speech to the Muslim world. That's how it was built. And I went there to cover it. And I remember for all the thought and all the scholarship that went into that speech it was still a dicey proposition. And now we have President Trump with all the baggage he brings with him to Saudi Arabia where he has flat-out accused the entire faith of having something wrong with it, he is giving a speech that we learned is being written by Stephen Miller, a man not exactly highly regarded for high credentials in this regard.

What are the expectations for that speech? What is your advice about what should and should not be said?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think it is going to be very complicated because there are going to be many Muslim leaders. And by the way, what is really unfortunate is President al-Bashir of Sudan, who is an indicted war criminal has been invited. I do think that this has to be a very carefully crafted speech because people believe based on his actions that the president is opposed to Muslims. And so the question is how he deals with that.

Also whether he has any understanding of what Islam is about, that there are a variety -- most Americans didn't know enough and the differences between the Shia and Sunni, which then get reverberated in the relationships between Saudi Arabia and Iran. So it couldn't be more complicated and it requires deftness, which doesn't seem to be the main characteristic of President Trump.

CUOMO: Secretary Albright, author of "Read My Pens," and you have a splendid eagle on your lapel this morning representing our freedom as a symbol in the world as the trip starts and goes along, please come back and give us your take on it. Will you?

BALDWIN: So nice to talk to you.

ALBRIGHT: Definitely will. And let's just not have a low bar. This is an important trip.

BALDWIN: Got it.

CUOMO: Thank you very much. We will see.

Now already we have seen the president is tweeting. He has a very harsh reaction to the special counsel. What is it? Let's get after it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Thursday, May 18th, 8:00 in the East. Alisyn is off. Brooke Baldwin joins me. And you have brought breaking news.

BALDWIN: Yes, I have indeed.

CUOMO: The presidential variety. President Trump ending his short lived Twitter hiatus, blasting the Russia investigation, blasting the appointment of a special council as the greatest witch hunt in American history.

Remember this move by Rosenstein, the man that the president said he respected so much that he took his advice in getting rid of Jim Comey, agreed upon by Democrats and Republicans -- when's the last time that happened -- now being trashed by --