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Priebus Interviewed By Special Counsel Mueller's Team; Russia's Meddling In The 2016 U.S. Election; Analysts Examine Disputes within Republican Party; Rex Tillerson States Diplomacy Continues with North Korea; Wildfires Continue to Burn in Northern California. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired October 16, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATION CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: They're often inane. They go off in wild directions, and it's frankly a waste of time. So one can say a lot of what these trolls were doing were probably going off into empty cyberspace without much impact at all. So, you know, there's still a lot of questions how much influence this really had at the end of the day.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Michael Isikoff, thank you very much for this important and interesting reporting. It's good to have you on, as always.

There is a lot of news this morning. What do you say? It's Monday, but let's get after it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, it's a season of war against a GOP establishment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we're successful, Mitch McConnell is fine. If we're not, we're all in trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump and McConnell said to meet today as the budget deadline and the possibility of a government shutdown looms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't subsidize something that's never going to work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What he's doing is hurting the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because we all made the deal doesn't mean you don't go back and look and say, is it still working.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is using this for political cover. He has assembled a very unconventional game. He is an unconventional president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is not going to permit Kim Jong-un to threaten the United States with a nuclear weapon.

(END VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Monday, October 16th, 8:00 in the east. Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow joining me. Thank you very much. It is good to have you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Making my Monday morning all right.

CUOMO: Oh, that's very kind.


CUOMO: She doesn't mean it.

In just hours, President Trump is going to have lunch with Senator Mitch McConnell, the man he has publicly attacked for failing to repeal Obamacare. And when they're sitting at that lunch, the president's pal, Steve Bannon, is declaring war on McConnell and the GOP establishment. Can the president strike a deal on anything, let alone the big thing like taxes, budget, health care? We'll see.

HARLOW: All that stuff to get done for the American people. At the same time, the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is tackling reports that he called the president, an "f'ing moron," still not denying and vowing to continue diplomatic efforts with North Korea, quote, "until the first bomb drops." A lot to cover at the White House this morning. Let's go there. It is where we find our Joe Johns. Good morning, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Despite the public sniping between the president and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the two men will sit down for lunch today. The vice president also will be there. Tax reform hangs in the balance. They need to get something done on the budget in order to move taxes by the end of the year.


JOHNS: President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meeting face-to-face today after months of growing tension. Both leaders desperate for a legislative win, set to chart the path forward on key issues like health care and tax reform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we going to get tax reform done?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes. If we don't, we're dead.

JOHNS: The president also cozying up to two former rivals, inviting Senators Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul to play golf over the weekend.

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: He's a little better golfer than I am.

JOHNS: But despite these warming relations, growing signs of deep divisions within the Republican Party. STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: The donors are not

happy. They've all left you. We've cut your oxygen off, Mitch.

JOHNS: President Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon attacking Mitch McConnell by name this weekend and declaring war on the GOP establishment.

BANNON: This is not my war. This is our war. The establishment started it. But I will tell you one thing. You all are going to finish it.

JOHNS: This is Republican senator Susan Collins, a key no vote on health care, criticized the president's move to kill subsidies benefitting poor Americans.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: What the president is doing is affecting the ability of vulnerable people to receive health care right now.

JOHNS: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addressing his own rocky relationship with the president on CNN's "State of the Union."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you call him a moron?

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Jake, as I indicated earlier when I was asked about that, I'm not going to deal with that kind of petty stuff. I'm just not going to dignify the question.

JOHNS: Refusing to answer when asked repeatedly if he called the president a moron before pushing back against comments from Republican Senator Bob Corker that the president is trying to publicly castrate him.

TILLERSON: I checked. I'm fully intact. This is an unconventional president. He uses unconventional communication tools. He uses unconventional techniques to motivate change.

JOHNS: Tillerson also defending the president's decision to decertify the Iran deal and the administration's strategy toward North Korea.

TILLERSON: The president has also made clear to me he wants this solved diplomatically. He is not seeking to go to war. Those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops.


[08:05:03] JOHNS: The president is expected to meet with his cabinet this morning, then he's going to turn his attention to another statewide race in the south. This time it will be South Carolina. The governor there expected to face challenges from two Republicans. The president picked the wrong horse in the Alabama Senate race earlier this year.

CUOMO: Went against his boy, Bannon, and lost, Joe Johns, true. Let's see what happens this time. Let's discuss with CNN political analysts John Avlon and David Sanger. All right, so let's start with this domestic situation here first, John Avlon. The Democrats saying we'll hold up everything over health care. So where's the room to get something done? The president sent a mixed message. He cancelled these cost-sharing revenues but he's also said to the Democrats, put a deal together, come back to me.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I lit the house on fire, but if you want a firefighter, call the station. I mean, there may be some kind of opportunity. The governors in particular, pay attention to the governors, Republican governors who are outraged about this action. There has been a systemic effort to undermine Obamacare because they haven't been able to repeal and replace legislatively. The question is whether you get a bipartisan plan like Alexander Murray comes in, try to stabilize the account.

But what was done yesterday is a form of arson. And it is an ideological agenda that is going to hurt real people. But the governors are the people to watch. They're the canaries in the coal mine, and Republican governors in particular are furious about this.

HARLOW: David Sanger, to you on health care and also on tax reform. Lindsey Graham gave, you know, full of sound bites yesterday, one of them, "we're dead," like we as in the entire party is dead and you can forget about Mitch McConnell if we can't get this thing done on tax reform. How do you see it?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think Lindsey Graham was pretty plainspoken, has gotten this about right. I mean, they failed on health care to do something that they should have been able to have had a plan ready to go for the past six or seven years, right? And the tax plan is the core of what the Republican Party and the Republican majority thinks about. So if they can't get that through, and they can't get health care through, you've got to think their base is going to notice.

But not just their base. There are a lot of Republicans out there, and some Democrats, who feel that the tax reform plan is long overdue, and if that's the case, it would be pretty remarkable with this kind of majority they couldn't get it together. I suspect on taxes they'll find a way.

AVLON: But, you know, obviously, David is right. Taxes are core. But so is repealing and replacing Obamacare for seven years. The difference has been that they focused on opposition, not proposition. And even with the tax reform proposal, the outline put forward by the president, you've got fundamental contradictions. You've got a president who says he wants middle class tax cuts. He may want to raise taxes on the wealthy, he said. This is really supposed to be populist. And the proposal they put out is the exact opposite.

So while there's notional, sentimental support for tax reform and they need to do it for their credibility and arguably for the economy, at least Wall Street which seems to be betting on tax reform being done, there still is no actual underlying coherence among Republicans beyond the catechism of cut taxes at any cost, literally. CUOMO: So we had John Kennedy on the show, Republican from Louisiana,

very plainspoken and certainly fights for the middle classes in own state. He's known for that, David. It was not easy for him to defend this proposal. He said, it's just a proposal, just a proposal. But it was captioned as this is to help the middle class. And it doesn't do that in any way that's even close to proportion ate for what it does for the wealthy. So what does that do within their own caucus there, David?

SANGER: It's a question here of whether or not they think people are actually going to pay attention to the details of what a cut is. And the president, as John points out, talks about this at such a 30,000- foot level that you never hear him sort of get into the details other than to say it's going to be beautiful and the middle class will benefit from it.

And then, of course, you read into the details of it, you discover that, in fact, they may not. And this is what happens when you don't have legislation that is being driven by a White House legislative office that is strongly coming out and saying, here's how the bill matches up with the president's rhetoric. And that has never happened in this administration.

HARLOW: Yes, I mean, you just look at what the Tax Policy Center says. They're independent. They analyze it, and the middle class gets this much help, and then the rich get this much help. So it's the qualification that the president is not putting on it.

Let's move on, David. You did fascinating reporting over months, this investigation into the threat from North Korea aside from the nuclear threat. Before we get to what you found, let's listen to the secretary of state in a rare interview, sitting down with CNN, talking about how he is continuing to push diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy, despite what the president says or tweets. Listen to this.


[08:10:12] REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: He has made it clear to me to continue my diplomatic efforts, which we are, and we will -- as I've told others, those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops.


CUOMO: Remember, the president has tweeted that Tillerson --

HARLOW: Save your energy.

CUOMO: -- is wasting his time with diplomacy. So mixed message.

HARLOW: Totally mixed message. But it's not just the nuclear threat. You guys found a whole lot more in this investigation, David.

SANGER: Well, we did. And I think what you're hearing from Secretary Tillerson there is an effort that he, Secretary of Defense Mattis, the national security adviser H.R. McMaster, are pursuing, which is to say that to hold an alliance together, if you've actually got to get into a confrontation with North Korea, you've got to show that you've done everything you can to negotiate.

Now, remember, at this point the North Koreans have shown no interest in negotiation. That may change over time, but so far, no interest. The investigation we did worked from this premise, that the nuclear and missile tests you've seen are just that. They are tests. And the North Koreans know that they can't actually use a nuclear weapon because if they did, they know what happens to the regime.

But cyber has emerged from something that was sort of a joke when the North Koreans first tried it in 2008, 2009, to something they have gotten quite skillful at, and it's a weapon they actually can use and they've used it for many things from theft from central banks to trying to get retribution against not only Sony, but we discovered a British network because of work they were doing that the North Koreans thought would impugn the image of Kim Jong-un, the leader.

CUOMO: And where does it lead you in terms of as you go down the road to the investigating, where did it lead you in terms of what needs to be known going forward?

SANGER: Two things, Chris. First, we have to expect that if we press North Korea more and more on the nuclear -- in the nuclear arena, they are going to push back in the cyber arena because they recognize that this is where we have a huge vulnerability, but it tends usually to be below the level at which we would retaliate. So if they go after banks, if they go after TV networks, if they go after movie studios, we're probably not going to take a big risk on that.

Second thing to remember, cyber is destabilizing. And it's destabilizing because the North Koreans fear that if we ever took out their networks, their missiles -- we previously reported about American cyber-attacks on their missile program -- they wouldn't be able to use any of it in a real confrontation. That means they're more likely to try to use it early.

HARLOW: John, final word.

AVLON: Look, this is clearly the emerging forefront of war. And it's an opportunity for rogue states, because it is a classic guerilla maneuver in some ways. The costs are low, the impacts are high. I think David's extraordinary reporting, though, is the potential of a Stuxnet type incursion which could move missiles offline, does that actually act as a hair trigger to move conventional forces forward. But the stability that comes with the cold war and conventional forces opposite each other is -- we're in a brave new world here, folks. And individual actors and rogue nations can have massive destabilizing impact on companies, and until we've got a national policy in place for retaliation, that vulnerability that David pointed out will continue.

CUOMO: Well done, David, and your team. A lot of new information, a lot of new perspective in the piece. We hope people read it.

SANGER: Thank you, Chris. HARLOW: Trying to steal a billion bucks from the Federal Reserve, that's how you start the piece. People should dig in this morning in "The Times." Thank you.

SANGER: Nearly worked.

HARLOW: There you go. Signs of hope this morning. You're looking at the deadly blaze in northern California. But things have turned the corner finally. Firefighters getting the upper hand on some of these wildfires. Still at least 40 people have died in the last week. More than 200 people still unaccounted for. Ryan Young is in hard-hit Santa Rosa with more. You were with us all week last week. You were wearing the mask. You're not this morning. It's a positive sign. Still, a lot of death and a lot of destruction.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I probably should be still wearing the mask. The smoke is still sort of thick up here. But I guess I'm just taking a chance with it. When you look at a home behind you like this one, you can see the damage that's been left behind. Something that we can show you in the distance, more than about five miles away, we can actually see the flames from another fire. But the good news is, just like you talked about, they have been able to get some of those fires contained. The fact the two largest fires are 60 percent contained, these firefighters have been working their butts off to knock this fire down. We know more than 8,000 just working for the last week to knock it out.

And of course we've got to show you this video of the two roommates who tried to escape the fire. This fire is moving so fast, a lot of questions from people saying how did people get trapped by the fire? When you figure out the fact that it was moving more than a football field every two to three seconds, you understand just how dangerous this was.


And when you watch this video, you can see the two men trying to escape the fire. It was all around them. They're in their car. They are trying to decide which direction to go. This played out over and over again.

Then there's the sad story of a couple who was here visiting, and they had been married 50 years and couldn't escape the fire. They jumped in the pool, and unfortunately, the wife died in her husband's arms. The husband suffered second degree burns.

We're hearing more stories of survival, but also the idea that so many people are still missing their loved ones. More than 200 people still missing. This is a very tough story, because the fact disaster seems to continue and continue, day after day. Everyone has been impacted, especially when you talk about the air quality and it might not rain until Thursday -- Chris.

CUOMO: And the winds, you know, today it's supposed to be a little bit more mild, but every time they pick up, it turbo charges the whole situation. That's why it's different from a hurricane. It never ends the way a normal natural disaster might. Ryan, thank you so much.

Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was interviewed by special counsel, Bob Mueller, and his team in the Russia investigation. We're going to talk with a member of the House Intel Committee, which is conducting its own investigation. What questions do they have, next?


HARLOW: Special Counsel Bob Mueller's team is now in the middle of interviewing current and former White House staffers as part of their investigation into Russia's election meddling and any potential ties to the Trump campaign.

[08:20:09] Interviewers sat down with former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus all day on Friday to ask him a lot of questions.

With us is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, a member of the House Intel and Judiciary Committees who would like to sit down with Reince Priebus, as well. It's nice to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL, D-CALIF.: Good morning, Poppy.

HARLOW: So to be clear, neither committee has had a chance to question Priebus. We don't know what he told Bob Mueller's investigators. We know it lasted a long time on Friday. What would you ask him?

SWALWELL: That's right. Well, I think he is a witness, particularly, you know, for the judiciary committee, around what actions the Trump team took after the election. You know, we know that the Russians were in the oval office, the Russian ambassador and foreign minister.

And the president was kind of showing off about how he had just fired James Comey and wouldn't have that problem when he dealt with the Russians anymore and, you know, Reince Priebus was a witness to a lot of that when he was chief of staff.

So, any quid pro quo that would have taken place with the Russians, if that occurred, he would be a witness to. And also, Poppy, I should note that we put in place over the summer sanctions against Russia for what they did in the election.

And we are still seeing today that the White House has not implemented them. There are 15 days now past the deadline. So, it's those kinds of -- you know, what did they do to benefit Russia post-election that Priebus would be relevant.

HARLOW: If there was something.

SWALWELL: That's right.

HARLOW: So, you know, it's been -- there are some Americans who have fatigue, right, on this? And they say show me the evidence, show me the evidence, show me the evidence. And that is incumbent on your investigations, and both committees wrapping up the bipartisan efforts and on Mueller's investigation finishing up.

No one wants to rush that. But have you seen, Congressman, anything to this point that you can say to Americans right now, you will be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that there was collusion here between anyone on the Trump team and the Russians? Have you seen anything to that effect yet?

SWALWELL: Well, Poppy, I remember about seven months ago, you asked me that question. And when you asked me that, we had not seen an e- mail that said, Trump/Russia, private confidential, and Don Jr. eagerly taking a meeting with the Russians.

We had not seen an e-mail between Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's lawyer, and Felix Sater, where they said we could engineer this for our boy and arrange a meeting between Donald Trump and Putin during the election.

So, it does seem when you're in the thick of that it doesn't move as fast as you would like. But I think we have made tremendous progress in the media and also in the House and Senate investigations that have shown a willingness and an eagerness to work with the Russians. Poppy, what you're pointing to, and I'll acknowledge --

HARLOW: I don't think anyone should rush. So, if I made it sound like that, I shouldn't have, but what I am saying is, have you seen anything? Are you saying those e-mails are evidence of collusion? Is there anything classified that you have seen that you cannot disclose what it is right now, but you say, yes, this would prove to the American people, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there was collusion.

SWALWELL: Those e-mails are absolutely evidence of an eagerness to collude. What we're piecing together is whether it amounted to a relationship and what we are hoping to do is to continue to go through the witnesses.

I would like the House Intelligence Committee's investigation to be as curious and as dogged as Bob Mueller's. And I'll give you an example, we interviewed last week Samantha Power. For over four hours, she sat and was interviewed as a witness that the Republicans have called.

That's about two more hours than Jared Kushner sat in the witness chair because Jared Kushner didn't want to sit there and the Republicans didn't want to bring him in under subpoena.

So why Samantha Power is more relevant to whether the Trump team worked with the Russians than Jared Kushner, I can't tell you. But it shows a lack of curiosity that I've seen in this investigation, and it's going to hamper I think our ability to tell the American people just what happened.

HARLOW: It sounds like you're saying -- are you saying that your Republican counterparts on these committees are not curious enough to get real answers?

SWALWELL: I think they're curious about the wrong things and that's why I'm supporting having an independent commission. I think it would be an insurance policy against an investigation in the House that right now still has an asterisk around it.

Now Chairman Conway who has taken over for Devin Nunes, I think we made a lot of progress under him. There is a lineup of witnesses coming in, in the next few weeks, so I think are more relevant. And I hope by the end of the year we've made progress and have answered those questions.

HARLOW: All right. Let me ask you a few other things before we go on bipartisanship, which would be so lovely to see a little bit more of in the House and in the Senate, and just in Washington in general. Do you think that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are playing nice with the president and vice versa is actually working?

[08:25:01] SWALWELL: Yes. And I think the Dreamers, who are counting on a solution so they're not removed need Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to negotiate with the president. So, I fully support that.

HARLOW: But how is it working? I mean, the president has -- you know, made clear he wants things they will never agree to in order to come to a deal on DACA, and then he ended the subsidies, which infuriated Democrats and a lot of Americans for health care on Friday.

SWALWELL: I think it's important that we show Americans that we are willing to work with the president, if it means putting people to work, growing their paycheck, helping immigrants who are here living in the shadows of fear.

But if he wants to, you know, build a wall, pass policies that are hurtful or tax cuts that only help the wealthy, we're going to block it. I see it, Poppy, as being America's bouncers. We can let the good ideas in and work with him on that and the bad ideas we have to stand firm and not allow to go to the American people.

HARLOW: Congressman, we appreciate your time. Thanks for being here.

SWALWELL: My pleasure, Poppy.

HARLOW: Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So, the White House says that tax cuts for companies will mean bigger paychecks for middle class workers. Is that a given? Christine Romans has the answer, next.