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Interview with Kellyanne Conway; Senator Richard Blumenthal Discusses Ongoing Russia Investigation; Steve Bannon Holds Rally for Roy Moore. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 6, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: They've always taken a waiver because it would be seen as a destabilizing move and they put the practicality above the politics. As important as the relationship with Israel is, destabilizing the region and giving way to what now has been called three days of rage by Palestinians would seem as not worth a political score.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I appreciated the earlier interview with your colleague Alisyn Camerota, the woman who was trying to explain why it's called three days of rage and not three days of annoyance or three days or protest or three days of disagreement. It's call three days of rage. Its' pretty clear.

CUOMO: Yes, the PLO lady ducked that. But the destabilization is a potentially consequence of this. Why would you do something to aggravate it?

CONWAY: Chris, why does the Senate have such bipartisan support? Were they kidding? Are they doing what people in Washington have done for years before President Trump got here to change it, to change the tone, to change the content? Why would you take a vote? Why would you put yourself out there and take a vote in front of your constituents, in front of the world, really, that you don't mean?

This president means it. He promised it and he is delivering on it. But he didn't deliver on it on day one because he has been consulting with the leaders around the world and most importantly consulting with his national security and foreign policy team. Thank you for having me.

CUOMO: Israel is beefing up security there, so hopefully nothing happens that is horrible. I would hate to have to go there under those conditions.

Kellyanne, I appreciate you coming on this show. You are always welcome. I am sure I will speak to you before, but the best for Christmas for you, the kids, your husband, your family.

CONWAY: Merry Christmas, thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Be well. Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, now for the Democratic response, joining us is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Senator, I know you have been listening to the counselor, to the president there, so let's dive right in with some of the things she said and then of course I want to also get to all of the latest threads in the Russia investigation. So you heard what Kellyanne Conway just said and what the president has been saying about Roy Moore, the candidate for Senate in Alabama. These accusations from events from 40 years ago. They are just accusations, unproven, and it's up to the Alabama voters. What is your response?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT: Well, like many of my colleagues in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle, I believe the women. I believe that Roy Moore committed these acts of unconscionable harassment and assault, and he will be judged by the United States Senate if he is elected, but I still very hope that the voters of Alabama will show not only good sense but also moral principle. There is a moral principle involved here. Sexual harassment and sexual assault are never OK, and that's why we need to act against it here in the Congress as well as every other industry where it may be prevalent.

CAMEROTA: When you say he will be judged by his Senate colleagues if he were to win, that means an ethics committee investigation will be launched and then we would see what happens?

BLUMENTHAL: There should be due process and an ethics committee investigation, that would be a bipartisan step, and then the appropriate remedies.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's talk about taxes. You just heard the counsel to the president basically say that this tax plan is for the little guy. You heard her reasoning. What's your response?

BLUMENTHAL: This tax plan is an absolute atrocity economically as well as morally. And one point that has been lost here, Alisyn, is not only the transfer of wealth from middle class families to the wealthiest who benefit most from this plan, but also the immorality of saddling and burdening our children and grandchildren with trillions of dollars in additional debt.

Mike Mullin, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the greatest threat to our national security is the national debt. We had testimony in the Armed Services Committee where I said about the effect of our national debt on our national defense, and we cannot afford the kinds of weapons systems and training for our men and women and other kinds of skilled training for our civilian force that has to build the submarines and the joint strike fighters because of this national debt. And it is unconscionable to give benefits and giveaways and breaks to the wealthiest and burden our children and grandchildren with that humongous threat.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the Russia threads, because you're on judiciary. You want a subpoena issued for Don Jr., who will be appearing in front of the House Intel Committee today, but behind closed doors, you want him to testify publicly in front of your committee. What do you want to know from Don Jr.?

BLUMENTHAL: For starters, I want to know about why and how there was an exchange of e-mails between him and WikiLeaks in September of 2016 in the midst of the campaign talking about stolen e-mails, that is to say e-mails taken illegally by the Russians from the Clinton campaign.

[08:05:14] Why did he continue to indicate possible cooperation and collaboration with the Russians? And why did he not simply reject those overtures? We did he not report them? What other kinds of collaboration or cooperation with the Russians was discussed. There's a credible case of obstruction of justice against President Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: Explain that to me. Make your case. What do you think the obstruction of justice is?

BLUMENTHAL: The president acknowledged in a tweet on Saturday morning.

CAMEROTA: That he says he didn't write.

BLUMENTHAL: That he says he didn't write, but they're his words no matter who drafted it. He has never disavowed those words himself. His lawyer has said that the lawyer wrote them, but we all know when people draft words, we own them.

CAMEROTA: OK, but is that what you are -- that is the predicate for what you now believe is objection of justice, that tweet suggesting that he knew about Mike Flynn lying to the FBI? Is that what you would build your case on?

BLUMENTHAL: It is that tweet, but so much more. The tweet indicates that Donald Trump knew that Michael Flynn lied when he fired Michael Flynn, but it also indicates that he knew Michael Flynn lied and committed a felony when he asked Jim Comey to stop the investigation, and when he fired Jim Comey for failing to stop that investigation, when he called Michael Flynn and told him to stand strong, when he asked Dan Coats, the national security director and other members of the intelligence community to ease their pressure on Michael Flynn and the Russia investigation.

The obstruction and evidence that may not be publicly available is under investigation by the special counsel and what now is needed, very bluntly, is protection for the special counsel because what we see more and more is the threats and intimidation from the White House that has to be stopped through legislation I offered. It's bipartisan legislation.

CAMEROTA: What do you mean intimidation from the White House to the special counsel?

BLUMENTHAL: The President of the United States has called this investigation a witch --

CAMEROTA: A witch hunt.

BLUMENTHAL: A witch hunt and a hoax. He has attacked the special counsel. As recently as last Sunday he attacked the FBI. And these words are very much like what we are accustomed to hearing from a criminal defendant with something to hide.

CAMEROTA: OK, so your chairman of judiciary is Senator Grassley. Dianne Feinstein, Democrat senator, has said that she believes that Senator Grassley is not approaching this with the gusto that she would like to see. Do you think that Senator Grassley is slow rolling this investigation somehow?

BLUMENTHAL: I hope that the pace and urgency of this investigation will be increased. Senator Grassley is a straight shooter. He believes in uncovering wrongdoing. My hope is that he will, in fact, subpoena Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner and others who have questions to answer, because that question now is what did they know and when did they know it? That question applies to Vice President Pence, Jared Kushner, K.T. McFarland, others who may have known about contacts with the Russians during the transition as well as before, during the campaign and obstruction of justice. And the American people have a right to hear this testimony under oath and in public.

CAMEROTA: And very quickly, when you bring up Vice President Pence, what is it that you've learned that makes you want to revisit what Vice President Pence knows?

BLUMENTHAL: Great question. If you look at the statement of facts offered by the special counsel at the time of Michael Flynn's guilty plea, acknowledged by Michael Flynn, he had contacts with others in the transition before he contacted the Russians about the sanctions issue. The question is, was Michael Pence one of those transition officials? And he was a principle in the transition who was consulted or directed those contacts. We know K.T. McFarland very was likely one of them, and that Jared Kushner very likely was consulted. Was the vice president?

CAMEROTA: Understood. Thank you very much for giving us your perspective on all of this.

[08:10:00] BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.


CUOMO: Some very different reckonings on very important issues. Let's bring in people to help us synthesize it all. CNN political analyst Josh Green and CNN politics reporter and editor at large, the man behind the point, Chris Cillizza.



CUOMO: Chief synthesizer, known as the moog. So Chris Cillizza, what did you make of what we heard from Kellyanne Conway? Let's start there.

CILLIZZA: Fascinating TV. So I think what you heard there was Kellyanne essentially trying to -- let's talk about Roy Moore, because there was a lot. But let's focus on Roy Moore. Essentially making the argument that Democrats and anyone else who is raising questions about Roy Moore has to answer for Al Franken in that Franken has said he doesn't really remember when he takes lots of pictures, he may have done these things, women alleging that he groped them, Leeann Tweeden alleging that he tried to kiss her on a USO tour, whereas Moore denies everything. And therefore, if you want to cast moral judgment on Roy Moore you have to cast it on Al Franken, too.

I am not in the business of equating which is worse. The Roy Moore charges seem to be more serious here, the accusations. But the broader point is that Donald Trump is the president of the United States. When he does things or chooses not to do things it matters. And when president Trump says I endorse Roy Moore, go get them, Roy, he's our guy, it matters both politically speaking because that will help Roy Moore without question, and it matters leadership-wise, that amorphous quality that we look for in presidents, it says, OK, well, I guess Donald Trump is either satisfied that these accusers are all lying, or he doesn't care.

CAMEROTA: Josh, you are in Alabama where of course this race is unfolding. That's also where Steve Bannon was yesterday, firing up the crowd. Steve Bannon was talking about lots of different things and reasons to support Roy Moore, in fact he said that Roy Moore, I believe, has more integrity in his pinky finger than Mitt Romney does in the whole DNA of his entire family. So let's play a portion of the Bannon moment.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: You avoided service, brother. You hid behind religion. You went to France to be a missionary, and guys were dying in Vietnam. Do not talk to me about honor and integrity.

You ran for commander-in-chief, you had five sons, not one day of service in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have 7,000 dead and 52,000 casualties, and where were the Romneys during those wars?


CAMEROTA: Josh, you know Steve Bannon. Where did he get off with that logic when we all know about Donald Trump's deferments and his sons didn't serve?

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, his rally last night was every bit of fiery and combative as your Kellyanne Conway interview was. He was not there to talk about Donald Trump. He was basically making the case that the line that Bannon had prepared ahead of time was they want to take your voice away and they're trying to prevent you from electing Roy Moore. So Bannon basically went on a kind of resentment tour against not just Mitt Romney but also Mitch McConnell. They were people in crowds shouting out Republican politicians that they wanted Bannon to attack. And the effect it has was the effect I think Bannon intended of trying to rally people to Moore's behalf in what is for reasons we're all aware of suddenly a very close race.

CAMEROTA: It just requires a level of willful blindness about the history of military service for the Trump family as well.

CUOMO: Or you make a choice about what you decide to care about. On the ground there, Josh, what was the take on the president's endorsement of Moore? Obviously it was a Moore crowd, but what was resonating with them?

GREEN: What resonated with them was that it looked like Republicans were moving away from Trump in the wake of these revelations, and as Dean Young, one of Moore's top strategists said, you guys held the line, Steve Bannon held the line, and they were essentially there celebrating Moore's political resurrection it seemed to me. And talking to people afterwards, the mood in the crowd was very positive. They think they are going to win on Tuesday, although some polls show they might not. And the idea, essentially, was to keep them in the fold, keep them fired up, and get them to the polls on Tuesday.

CAMEROTA: So Chris, if Roy Moore wins, what does Mitch McConnell do, what do the Republicans who have tried to thread this needle do?

CILLIZZA: They have no idea, candidly. Mitch McConnell has acknowledged, look, I tried to get rid of Roy Moore, it didn't work. I think that the idea that he would be expelled and that Republicans would lead this expulsion process is really -- it's about the chances of me walking out of your studio and dunking a basketball. Even at 6'2", it's probably -- it's probably physically possible at my advanced age, but it's not going to happen.

And I think that's the deal. It's just -- there's just -- it's very, very unlikely. How to take -- let's say Roy Moore wins in six days' time, how do you take that result? Because as Josh knows it's not like the people in Alabama are unaware of the situation around Roy Moore. How do you take that and conclude we need to get rid of this guy and not face the charge of you are overturning what the people of Alabama want?

If you're going to say let the voters of Alabama decide, which is what Mitch McConnell says, guess what? You have to respect what they decide. I just think they're --


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And then you're going to have to keep your arms around him.

CILLIZZA: The most likely outcome --

CUOMO: When he is in there --

CILLIZZA: -- is Senator Roy Moore.

CUOMO: Right.

CILLIZZA: For at least two more years.

CUOMO: If he wins the election, that is the likely outcome, and they're going to have to keep their arms around him and it's not just about these accusations with the women, not that they shouldn't be enough. But I'm saying, this is a man who has very definite feelings about LGBTQ issues and about where their place is in society, and about what the role of faith is in the society, as the ultimate standard for everything beyond any secular notion.

They're going to have to put their arms around that, too. And it was interesting, Kellyanne didn't want to go there on that. That and the Pope. She didn't want to go near any -- either of those things, Chris Cillizza. But that's the proposition for them. If he wins, he's now their guy. I said, are you comfortable with him being owned by the GOP? And she said, oh no, I don't give any opinions about that.

CILLIZZA: Well, what's fascinating is that -- I mean, look, prior to these stories breaking about, the allegations against Roy Moore, there were lots of Republicans who told me and told any reporter who would listen, this serving with Roy Moore, it's not going to be great. Not -- this is pre-allegations about his interactions with teenagers. This was -- because to your point, Chris, his views about gay marriage, his views about transgender politics, his views about abortion, his views about church and state separation.

This is a guy who was massively controversial before any of this happened. And I think that that is lost a little bit here but will not be. Roy Moore, if he gets elected, is not going to think, you know what, I should probably moderate my tone. He's going to see this as an affirmation of his views, as a strike against the establishment.

CAMEROTA: All right. Chris Cillizza, Josh Green, thank you very much. Josh, great to have you there in Alabama.

All right. Don Trump, Jr. will face tough questions from a House panel behind closed doors in their Russia investigation today. What do lawmakers want to learn from him? We asked a member of that committee next.


[08:21:48] CAMEROTA: Donald Trump Jr. will appear before the House Intelligence Committee in just a few hours to answer questions behind closed doors.

Now last month Trump Jr. confirmed that he exchanged messages on Twitter with WikiLeaks during his father's campaign.

Here to discuss is Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Good morning, Congresswoman.


CAMEROTA: What are your burning questions today for Don Jr.?

SPEIER: Well, certainly the e-mails and texts and direct messages with WikiLeaks will be a hot topic this morning, as will the company, the Trump Organization and inordinate number of Russians who have either purchased interests or condominiums and the extent to which those individuals have criminal backgrounds.

CAMEROTA: Why isn't this an open door, publicly --

SPEIER: Good question. Very good question. It should be open. And, you know, maybe there will be a negotiation at some point that will allow us to have an open hearing, but, you know, we are not in the majority and the majority calls the shots.

CAMEROTA: I see. So your chairman decided it should be behind closed doors?

SPEIER: Correct.

CAMEROTA: And is the thinking that Don Jr. would be more forthcoming?

SPEIER: You know, I can't really explain what the rationale is. You know, we have done a number of hearings where they've made the transcript public, and in this case of course it's not going to be to my understanding, so there is no rhyme or reason for the decisions that are being made. And I think the American people have a right to know what is going on.

CAMEROTA: We just spoke to Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a Democrat.

SPEIER: Mm-hmm.

CAMEROTA: He said that he believes that he could make a case for obstruction of justice against the president. What do you think?

SPEIER: Well, I think it's piling up. I don't know that I'm quite there yet, but certainly there is evidence piling up of obstruction of justice.

CAMEROTA: Such as? I mean, what is the evidence to you?

SPEIER: Well, I mean, the blatant evidence that the president tried to get then Director Comey to stop investigating Michael Flynn. The fact that it appears now that Michael Flynn actually was operating under the direction of the president and then lied on behalf of the president, which probably sets him up for a pardon at some point as well.

CAMEROTA: Do you -- how big of a deal do you see that tweet that went out this weekend that said -- seemed to suggest that the president knew that Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI, that then his attorney, John Dowd, said, oh, no, no, sorry, that was my tweet, I crafted that. Do you think that that's a smoking gun somehow?

SPEIER: I don't know that it's a smoking gun, but it is, again, more evidence of an effort to obstruct. And I think that we all have to take that very seriously. You know there have been efforts to obstruct justice in our history before that have taken down presidents or certainly impeach them. So it is -- it's worthy of our review.

CAMEROTA: I'm sorry. My producer was just telling me something in my ear that I didn't know, and that is something that you and I have spoken about.

SPEIER: I know.

CAMEROTA: So often of course and that's sexual harassment. It is in my industry, it is in Congress, it is in every industry, in this "Me Too" moment.

[08:25:03] and he's just telling me that "TIME" magazine has just announced the "Silence Breakers" the "TIME Person of the Year," the women who have come forward.

SPEIER: Yes, I just heard it as well and I was thrilled. I mean, what a difference a year makes really when you think about it. About a year ago, we had a presidential candidate who was trying to say that those who had come forward that he had sexually harassed were lying, and this year we have a "TIME" Person of the Year, persons of the year, that have brought us to a new enlightenment about how you operate, how you conduct yourself in the workplace.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And of course this is a bipartisan issue, as we have learned. So what do you think of Congressman John Conyers, the longest serving member of Congress, that he announced his retirement, resignation, call it whatever you want, yesterday after multiple staffers came forward and accused him of unwanted advances?

SPEIER: Well, I think Congressman Conyers did the right thing obviously. He was going to be in for a protracted investigation. It was not going to serve him well. It certainly was going to be a painful process for those in Congress who recognize that his many years in service have been, you know, really distinguished, but that does not take away from behavior that is not fitting for a member of Congress.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Congressman Jackie Speier, always great to talk to you. Thank you so much.

SPEIER: Great talking to you. Thank you.


CUOMO: All right. There are questions brewing about what the vice president knew, Mike Pence, when the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was having those meetings and discussing sanctions. How did the man who was in charge of the transition not know? Was he misled or something else? Next.