Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's Call To The Kremlin; Beyond The Call Of Duty; CNN Sources: Sen. McCain Looks Increasingly Frail. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired December 15, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:31:47] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump thanking Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a phone call yesterday, for praising America's strong economic performance on Mr. Trump's watch. The call happened after Putin held a marathon news conference calling claims of Russian interference in the U.S. election nothing but quote "spy hysteria."

Joining us now is Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Good morning, Senator.


CAMEROTA: So I want to ask you about this phone call. We know what was discussed on it because the White House put out a statement. I'll read it to you.

"President Donald J. Trump spoke with President Vladimir Putin of Russia today. President Trump thanked President Putin for acknowledging America's strong economic performance in his annual press conference.

The two presidents also discussed working together to resolve the very dangerous situation in North Korea." End of statement.

What are your thoughts about what President Trump chose to talk to Putin about?

BLUMENTHAL: I welcome the President of the United States having amicable relations with Russia and cooperation with Russia when it comes to North Korea or Syria. We hope that we can cooperate on the international front in stopping North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons and also in the Middle East, seeking peace there.

But the president has resisted the objective reality that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections. In fact, he's firmly rejected any suggestion that Russia attacked our democracy which plainly, it did. All of the Intelligence agencies have reached unanimity in that conclusion and it impairs our ability to resist and stop this kind of meddling and interference in the future.

It is a real national security threat and Russia will repeat it unless they are made to pay a price.

CAMEROTA: Senator, there's something even stranger, I think, about Russia. "The Washington Post" is reporting that Intelligence officers have them -- their sources say that these Intel officials leave information about Russia out of the daily Intel briefing to the president because it upsets him hearing about it. So they've chosen to just omit information from the daily Intel briefing about Russia.

Is Congress comfortable with that?

BLUMENTHAL: I'm certainly not comfortable with it.

The president needs and deserves to face objective reality, which is Russia is a threat to our democracy.

Putin is, forgive me, a KGB thug. He wants to expand Russia to encompasses what used to be the Soviet Union and that's his long-term goal. And, he wants to undermine democracies around the world, most particularly our democracy, as he showed very, very clearly during the last election.

The fact that the Intelligence briefers are failing to provide the president with an objective and comprehensive view of the world simply because he's infuriated by the suggestion that Russia supported him in the last election and may have contributed to his victory, is very, very dangerous. And this kind of rejection of reality has reverberations across the government and, indeed, is a threat to our national security.

[07:35:15] CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the tax bill. Do you think that there will be a tax bill on the president's desk for him to sign, and he'll do so before Christmas?

BLUMENTHAL: Certainly, the political dynamic is in favor of the Republicans reaching their goal of rushing this tax bill through -- ramming it through the Congress without proper consideration.

It is going to be unveiled today. It's extremely complex and it does, in fact, as I think the last segment of your show demonstrated, tilt the benefits in favor of the wealthiest and corporations. And more egregiously, it creates trillions of dollars in debt for our children and our grandchildren.

It threatens our national defense. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, once said famously that the biggest threat to our national defense is our national debt because it undermines our ability to acquire those weapons system and train young men and women for our military.

It also undermines Social Security, potentially, and Medicare.

So I think that our Republican colleagues are going to ignore those threats. They will do a lot of horse trading and arm-twisting.

Marco Rubio is still holding out. Others may, as well.

But the political dynamic here is that, unfortunately, Republicans are simply desperate for some kind of win that they can present to the president. CAMEROTA: OK, next topic.

As I'm sure you know, some of your fellow senators have begun calling on President Trump to resign. This is in light of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations against him.

So there are six senators, right now -- I can put them up for you -- calling, actually, on the president to resign. Are you going to add your name to this list?

BLUMENTHAL: I think the president ought to be subject to the same scrutiny as anyone else in America -- any other leader, whether it's in entertainment, or business, or Congress, or sports, and that scrutiny ought to encompass investigation as appropriate.

I am more focused on the investigation now underway in the Judiciary Committee into potential obstruction of justice. I think there's a credible case against Donald Trump on obstruction of justice and I think that Robert Mueller ought to be permitted to pursue it.

Legislation is necessary to protect that investigation in light of some of the very disturbing comments that have been made just within the past days by Republican colleagues on the House side about possible interference in that investigation. The investigation of Russian meddling in this last election, an attack on our democracy --


BLUMENTHAL: -- as well as possible obstruction of justice ought to continue.

CAMEROTA: So that's a no in terms of a call for him to resign?

BLUMENTHAL: I want to see what the facts are. I think there ought to be scrutiny.

CAMEROTA: Senator Blumenthal, thank you very much for being on NEW DAY.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Chris --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Coming up, we have an update to a CNN story that went viral a few weeks ago. Remember this police officer made this incredible sacrifice and adopted an opioid addict's baby? How's that mother doing now? We have an update.


[07:43:11] CAMEROTA: Parts of the Northeast are gearing up for another round of snow.

CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray has your forecast. Jennifer, we haven't seen you for a while. Anything new in your life?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I did -- I had a little baby about three months ago.

CAMEROTA: Congrats, that's so nice.

GRAY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: His name's Caden?

GRAY: Caden, yes.

CAMEROTA: That's really nice. A really pretty name.

GRAY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, well great. Welcome back.

GRAY: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Yes, you guys are going to have some cold temperatures for the next couple of days. Temperatures running about 10 to 15 degrees below normal. In the twenties starting out in New York, 19 in Boston, so feeling the chill.

This weather report is brought to you by Keurig. Brew the love.

So, we are going to see another shot of snow as you mentioned, also around the Great Lakes. But around the Northeast, this is really going to hit right around rush hour and so we are going to see a little bit of sloppy mess for the commute home for the Northeast -- New Jersey, New York. The majority of the snowfall will be on the eastern side of Long Island.

This is going to be a quick mover, too. This is going to move in and move out. Boston's even going to get a little bit of this snow as well.

So we're not going to see huge amounts, about one to two inches. Isolated amounts could see two to four but for the most part, we'll see about an inch or two.

But look at these high temperatures today. Twenty-eight degrees in New York. It should be in the mid-forties this time of year -- Chris.

CUOMO: So, Aunt Alisyn says that Caden is a pretty name, but it's a boy and I say it's strong.

I tried to send you his first fishing rod which was actually a lighter. It's a fishing rod but it's actually like a lighter for your fireplace or whatever and it got --

GRAY: I love it.

CUOMO: It got booted because it was seen as being flammable, which I guess it is because it's a lighter. But I'm going to send it to you. It's cute.

GRAY: Thank you. CUOMO: Jen is a huge fisherman, she's a huge conservationist, and I'm sure that this boy is going to be all up in it soon enough.

CAMEROTA: That's awesome, and babies love flammable things.

[07:45:00] CUOMO: Yes, that's right. But you could just take the butane thing out of it. It would be fine.

Congratulations. Good to have you back.

GRAY: Thank you.

CUOMO: A special Christmas for you and your family.

GRAY: Yes, it's going to be.

CUOMO: Now we have an update on that CNN story. It touched millions on social media.

This police officer adopted an opioid addict's baby when he encountered her on the job. So after the story aired, several rehab facilities across the country offered to help the baby's mother and her partner, but did they seize the opportunity to get clean? That's the hard part of this story.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has an update in "Beyond the Call of Duty."


ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Crystal Champ flies a sign in an Albuquerque, New Mexico intersection, scrapping together the money she needs to live and to pay for the heroin that controls her life.

Crystal was at the center of a CNN story that touched tens of millions of people around the world.

LAVANDERA (on camera): After the story ran there were a lot of people who were worried about you and wanted to see good things happen for you and to get clean. How does that make you feel and what do you take away from that?

CRYSTAL CHAMP, OPIOID ADDICT: It feels good that people care.

RYAN HOLETS, OFFICER, ALBUQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT: So I'm not going to lie to you. It looks like you guys are getting ready to shoot up over here.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): In September, Albuquerque police office Ryan Holets found Crystal eight months pregnant, homeless, shooting up heroin with her partner, Tom.

HOLETS: How far along are you?

CHAMP: About eight months.

HOLETS: Oh my gosh.

LAVANDERA: Nearly three weeks after that chance encounter Crystal gave birth to baby Hope and Officer Holets and his family offered to adopt the baby. They've guided the newborn through the painful withdrawals from heroin and crystal meth.

HOLETS: You seeing the light?

LAVANDERA: Today, baby Hope is doing well, bright-eyed and smiling.

But the story didn't end there for Officer Holets.

CHAMP: He basically adopted us, too.

LAVANDERA: The accolades mean nothing if he can't help Crystal and Tom.

HOLETS: They're not, obviously, my family members and I met them a couple of months ago, but I feel like the same way that I would feel if they were my brother and my sister.

LAVANDERA: After the story aired on CNN, several rehab centers around the country offered to help Crystal and her partner --

CHAMP: Come on, let's go.

LAVANDERA: -- but the grip of heroin is so strong that Crystal believes she can't leave this life.

CHAMP: I know what it takes for me to get sober and it is -- it is not easy.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Because you're scared?

CHAMP: Yes, I'm scared that I'll get clean and, you know, not find the comfort that I find in a life like this.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): A rehab interventionist approached Crystal and Tom and there was a breakthrough. They both agreed to leave their life of addiction behind and take the offer to enter a rehab center in Florida.

HOLETS: You're trying to quit though, right?

LAVANDERA: Ryan Holets with a smile escorted them to the airport.

LAVANDERA (on camera): What does it mean to you that Ryan and his family haven't given up on you? That they're still trying to help you.

CHAMP: I think that he really believes in me. He is my personal angel, you know, on earth here. I don't know -- I don't know where he came from but I'm really happy -- I'm really happy he's here.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): But when Officer Holets and the rehab team arrived at the airport for their flight to Florida, Crystal and Tom unraveled.

CHAMP: I don't want to do this. I'm happy. I'm fine being a heroin addict on the street.

LAVANDERA: Ryan Holets looks on, heartbroken.

HOLETS: We tried. We tried to get them into the rehab and they wouldn't go.

LAVANDERA: Crystal and Tom missed the flight.

HOLETS: I think that's a restatement to just how strong addiction is and what it makes people do isn't logical.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Do you give up on them?

HOLETS: I'll never give up. I won't.

LAVANDERA: But you could walk away if you wanted. Why don't you?

HOLETS: I can't. I just can't. They're Hope's parents.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Ryan Holets still has hope.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Albuquerque, New Mexico.


CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, that's devastating. I mean, that just captures -- if a baby can't help you -- if being pregnant doesn't help you get clean, if having a baby doesn't help, if offers of free help to fly to a rehab -- I mean, that's the grip of this drug on people.

CUOMO: The good news is I've seen so many babies who come out of an addicted beginning and they wind up being fine. So, hopefully, this baby is among that number.

You know, I don't talk about it a lot but I've worked a lot with addicts and I've had a lot of it in my life -- not personally, but close enough -- and it is not choice.

It's not that these people just like to do the drugs. It encompasses every part of your being and anybody who has an addict anywhere near their life knows that.

[07:50:04] So be careful on the judgment. I know it looked like this should have been a no-brainer and they should have gone, but you have to remember everything in their being is telling them that the drug is as important as their next breath.

CAMEROTA: All right.

Meanwhile, sources are telling CNN that Sen. John McCain is increasingly frail. CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to join us with an update on McCain's health.


CUOMO: All right. There is growing concern, unfortunately, about the health of Sen. John McCain. He is a warrior like none other in that Senate, but the 81-year-old war hero does appear to be increasingly frail. The senator is currently in the hospital from side effects of his brain cancer treatment he's undergoing.

[07:55:05] Joining us now is CNN chief medical correspondent -- chief medical correspondent! Dana, are you ready? Throw on --


CUOMO: Throw on some coveralls.

And so, we have chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash and chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay was the only journalist given permission to speak with McCain's doctors when he was first diagnosed. And he reviewed his medical records when he was a presidential candidate back in 2008.

And I'm glad we could have a little joke going into this because this is dire stuff, Sanjay. So how you going to explain it to people?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, we know back in July he went in for what they said was a routine check at that time. He'd been feeling tired.

He was found to have this blood collection just above his left eyebrow -- you remember that. In the brain behind the left eyebrow that was subsequently found to have been caused by a brain tumor known as a glioblastoma.

Many people may know that term. That is a malignant brain tumor and that's what he's been dealing with over the last five months.

Had an operation to have that tumor removed and then he's getting this additional therapy. Well, even if you remove the tumor, you have to work under the assumption that there are still some tumor cells there. Thus, the additional therapy, including radiation.

And what we've heard and what you just read, they say that he's in the hospital at Walter Reed because of the side effects from that additional therapy -- that additional radiation and chemotherapy.

It could be headaches that you get from the radiation causing swelling. It could be nausea from the chemotherapy. We don't know exactly what it is. But that's what's happening right now, five months later.

CAMEROTA: Dana, what's your reporting on what's happening with him and what's happening in Congress in his absence?

BASH: Well, first on what's happening with him. Look, as Sanjay knows, it is -- he has had aggressive treatment. Round, after round, after round of chemotherapy and that takes a toll on any young, healthy person, and he's an 81 -- before this, an 81-year-old healthy person, and so it's tough.

And if you combine that with the fact that Sen. McCain had been determined to show up for work every day, to not miss any votes, even though his friends, I am told, were at -- were pleading with him just to chill and just to relax, it took a toll. And it takes a toll.

And so, when his office said in their statement that he is suffering from the normal effects of treatment, that's what they're talking about.

CUOMO: Do you think he's going to vote?

BASH: They don't know. So, he is, as far as we know at this hour, still in Walter Reed. He is still in the hospital and, you know, trying to get better and to be able to get up.

Look, Sanjay can tell you this better than I, but three-four days when you're talking about this kind of ailment and trying to recover from the treatment could be a long time. So, you know, they're hoping that he can leave.

If I know John McCain the way you know John McCain, the last place on earth he wants to be is in a hospital.

One of his friends once described him as a shark. He never stops moving and when he does, he doesn't know what to do with himself. So I'm sure that's the case right now.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, obviously, the prognosis for this disease is quite grim. He was diagnosed in July.

GUPTA: Right.

CAMEROTA: What does the time frame tell you?

GUPTA: Well, yes and, you know, it's tough to sort of talk about these types of numbers and you've always got to put them in the context that everybody's going to be a little bit different. But if you look at the -- in totality this type of tumor -- again, glioblastoma -- average survival is around 14 months and that's with therapy.

You'll remember Sen. Ted Kennedy had the same type of tumor and that was his -- that was his prognosis and that's how long he survived.

Since I've been in medical school, nearly 25 years ago, the prognosis for this tumor really hasn't budged much. It's that difficult a tumor to treat.

But, you know, as Dana mentioned, he is -- the doctors told me when I spoke to them after his operation he should stay in Arizona for a couple of weeks, he shouldn't be doing anything. Just a few days later he was on a plane to Washington. So he clearly has a different sort of makeup when it comes to these things. And also, if this, in fact, is just the side effects of treatment -- and I don't mean to minimize that in any way, but I can tell you that that may be more favorable in terms of treating that.

BASH: Exactly.

GUPTA: You can treat these side effects and you may see this roller coaster where he improves and rallies. It doesn't mean the tumor prognosis has changed but he may feel better for periods of time.

BASH: And I can tell you that is the hope of his close friends and colleagues that once the effects of this current round subside that he will feel better. But right now, he's not there yet.

CUOMO: Well, we all know that the senator does not like to be challenged and often rises to one, so I challenge him to get up and come on this show and take on this tax plan and fight about whatever he wants on the show. He can have as much time as he wants. So get after it, Senator, and come here and let's see what you have.

CAMEROTA: Dana, Sanjay, thank you both very much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We're following a lot of news this morning so let's get right to it.


REP. KEVIN BRADY (R), TEXAS: There is going to be strong support or we wouldn't be moving forward.