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Banned Words at CDC; Trump National Security Speech; Trump and Putin Speak Again, Aired 6:30-7:00a ET

Aired December 18, 2017 - 06:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[06:32:59] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What's wrong with the word "venerable"? That's a question for the CDC today after "The Washington Post" first reported that the White House asked the Centers for Disease Control to stop using the following seven words, diversity, transgender, fetus, vulnerable, entitlement, evidence-based, and science-based. The Department of health and Human Services says reports of these banned words in budget documents is a, quote, mischaracterization of the discussions.

So let's get some answers. Joining us now is Rush Holt, he's the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. Holt, thank you very much for being here.

RUSH HOLT, CEO, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE: Good to be with you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: What's wrong with words like "transgender" and "fetus" and "vulnerable"?

HOLT: Nothing's wrong with the words. The problem comes in excising them. You know, a lot of people have been calling this Orwellian.

You know, the head of the CDC, Dr. Fitzgerald, said, oh, no, we're not doing that. And a spokesperson said, well, this is just a mischaracterization.

Well, all I can tell you is, somebody said something that got word to the employees that they should not use these words in budget documents. So, you know, there's a -- there's a -- that creates self- censorship at least.

But it's --

CAMEROTA: Yes. And just out of curiosity, what happens if you -- I mean let's pretend that they stop using these words like "fetus." I mean I don't know how -- I don't know what other use you use for "transgender." I don't know what other words you can substitute for some of these things, like "vulnerable" and "science-based." But let's say they stop using those words. What's the upshot? What's the danger in stopping using these? HOLT: Well, there is a serious side here. Of course most people, when

they heard this, they just -- they just laughed. You know, how ridiculous. Some talked about George Carlin's (INAUDIBLE) "Seven Dirty Words" --

CAMEROTA: "Seven Dirty Words."

HOLT: Right. Yes. But --

CAMEROTA: It does harken back to the "Seven Dirty Words" that you can't say on TV.

HOLT: But, you know --

CAMEROTA: It sounds like this is taken from that page.

[06:35:04] HOLT: It reminded me of something I haven't read for years. But I remember in "Catch-22," the World War II by Joseph Heller, the censors of letters from the warfront would one day censor all nouns. The next day they would censor all verbs. The day after that, they would censor all adverbs and adjectives. And, you know, this might be called a farce if we weren't in the middle of an epidemic.

You know, it's ironic, this is the centers for disease control. They look at epidemics.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

HOLT: Well, the epidemic I'm talking about is widespread negligent attitude towards science. Neglect of evidence. Where people far and wide seem very comfortable substituting wishful thinking and opinion and ideology for evidence. And --

CAMEROTA: I mean, and, also, I mean, we should mention that because I assume you're basing that on the idea of the reports that they had removed climate change, those words, from EPA documents and website.

HOLT: You know, and removing questions from various surveys. It's -- the State Department said instead of saying sex ed, sexual education, you should talk about sexual risk avoidance.

CAMEROTA: Right.

HOLT: So, you know, this epidemic of neglect of evidence is really serious because if you want policies and regulations that work, they should be based on our best understanding of how things are.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

HOLT: And that's what science is. Science is a way of asking questions so that we can get our best sense of how things actually are.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And, in general, also in the United States, we don't ban words.

But let me tell you what their side is, OK? So this is from HHS, which oversees the CDC. And so what they say -- here's their reaction letter.

The assertion that HHS has banned words is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process. HHS will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans. HHS also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions.

So, away from that sort of bureaucratic speak, the way I understand their argument is that what they say is that the terms evidence-based and science-based have been used so often that they're almost -- they're virtually meaningless now. So they're going to phrase it differently because these have become catch words.

HOLT: Some of these words that are -- that were flag, fetus, transgender, suggests that there's an ideological -- there's ideology creeping in here. And ideology is the enemy of evidence-based thinking. Evidence-based thinking is the antidote for the kinds -- the kind of thinking that is not based on how things actually are. And so it's hard enough to make evidence-based decisions without having the very idea disparaged.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Rush Holt, thank you very much for joining us with your perspective on all this.

HOLT: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: More evidence that everything gets easier when you're married. Prince Harry is now engaged and he got a big get right after, snagging a one-on-one interview with former President Obama. The story behind the big booking, next.

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[06:42:50] CUOMO: The House Intelligence Committee is set to question publicist Rod Goldstone today as part of its probe into Russian election meddling. Now Goldstone arranged the 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and that Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. The panel is also expected to question former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz this week. Wasserman-Schultz denies knowing about an arrangement for the DNC to help fund a dossier containing salacious accusations against Mr. Trump.

CAMEROTA: Firefighters in southern California hope the weather today will help slow the spread of the Thomas wildfire along the Santa Barbara coastline. On Sunday, thousands of firefighters faced intense wind gusts topping 70 miles per hour as the fire spread to more than 270,000 acres.

There was a pause in the fight to honor Cory Iverson, who died battling this fire. People waved flags and saluted as the funeral procession made its way from Ventura County, where Iverson died, to his home in San Diego. The fire is now 45 percent contained. CUOMO: Prince Harry and former President Barack Obama. That's a big get for Harry. A teaser as part of his upcoming guest editor gig for BBC Radio. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Do I have to speak faster, because I'm a slower speaker?

PRINCE HARRY: No, no, no. No, not at all.

OBAMA: OK. Do I need the British accent?

PRINCE HARRY: If you start -- if you start using long pauses between answers, you're probably going to get -- the face.

OBAMA: Are you -- let me see the face.

PRINCE HARRY: Oh, OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: That was good, president versus prince. The interview actually happened in September during the Invictus Games in Toronto. Former President Obama sharing memories of the day he left office and his hopes for the future. The BBC is going to air the full interview December 27th. It's also going to be released as a podcast.

CAMEROTA: I'm glad we had video of this podcast or this radio show because you can't see the joke. I mean we get to see the joke, but on radio you generally can't see the funny face he made.

CUOMO: You will not get to see the face if you are listening to it.

CAMEROTA: Right. Yes. So I'm glad we have that.

CUOMO: But a big get. Not easy. The former president is not a big fan of interviews. So, good for you, Harry.

[06:45:04] CAMEROTA: Harry's having a charmed moment right now. It's fun to watch it.

CUOMO: I'm telling you, you get married, everything in life gets easier.

CAMEROTA: It gets easier. I like --

CUOMO: It's all better.

CAMEROTA: You're so right.

CUOMO: It's all upside. Some people call this the smallest handcuff in the history of the world. Not me.

CAMEROTA: Not you.

CUOMO: Not me.

CAMEROTA: No, liberating to you.

CUOMO: Liberating.

CAMEROTA: I know that.

CUOMO: Liberating. It's like a power ring.

CAMEROTA: Wow, that is inspirational. Thank you.

President Trump fine-tuning his speech on national security today. He will be promoting an America first strategy. He is expected to take on one country, though. Details, next.

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CUOMO: President Trump is expected to fold his America first policies into a national security strategy today. This after an unusual call from Russian President Vladimir Putin thanking President Trump for a CIA tip that the Kremlin says helped avoid terror attacks in St. Petersburg.

[06:50:11] Now, this is the second time the two men have spoken in just days.

Joining us now with unique insight is CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger.

Always a pleasure to see you. The best for the holy days to you and the family.

DAVID E. SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You too, Chris.

CUOMO: So, the phone call. Your take?

SANGER: Well, the strange thing about the phone call is not that it's happened. Frequently world leaders call and thank each other for cooperation on intelligence issues.

The strange thing was that it got announced by both sides as this sort of celebration of cooperation on this kind of tip. I can't imagine that the intelligence agencies were very happy about it because it helps people begin to figure out sources and methods of how this happened.

And then the White House statement that ended up coming out two days after the conversation took place and after the Kremlin had announced this ended with congratulations to the intelligence community with a big exclamation point.

CUOMO: Yes, we'll put that up for the audience, David. Here's part of the readout from the White House. President Putin extended his thanks and congratulations to the CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the CIA. President Trump then called Director Pompeo to congratulate him, his very talented people and the entire intelligence community on a job well done!

Why do we care about the exclamation point?

SANGER: Well, the only thing that's interesting about it, is it tells you who actually wrote the statement. These are usually, you know, come out from mid-level aides. But you don't -- you know, this is a pretty boring world I live in, in the -- in the world of national security coverage. You don't see many exclamation point in the midst of this. And that had more of a cheerleading stance than a -- the sort of usual, sober, you know, we're thankful to the intelligence community for keeping everyone safe.

CUOMO: Well, talk about the irony and an indication of the crazy days that we are living in, that Vladimir Putin would be the impetus for the president to say something positive about the intelligence agencies that he's been railing against for so many months now. It is a bizarre world.

SANGER: Perfect -- perfect coded (ph), it is a strange -- a strange year.

But also strange because it came just hours before this national security strategy comes out, which describes China and Russia together. Lumps them in together as revisionist powers.

Now --

CUOMO: What does that mean?

SANGER: Well, revisionist powers usually means a power that's trying to upend the status quo and redefine the global rules under its term. So I get that for China. No problem. They're clearly going around the world looking to fill in vacuums that the United States has left open and looking to right the rules to its advantage the way after World War II we wrote the rules to our advantage.

Russia, that's a harder case to make. I mean certainly they are a disruptor from Syria to Ukraine to trying to make efforts to disrupt elections in Europe and, of course, here in the United States. But they simply don't have the power or the economic size to revamp the globe.

And what's really strange about the national security strategy, and all national security strategies are a bit of a compilation, is that this one sounds tougher on Russia and what it's doing than the president who's putting it out. And he's insisted on giving a speech this afternoon, which should be quite interesting, about the national security strategy, which is really an effort to take his past speeches, the tweets, everything else, and try to encompass them in sort of one intellectual framework.

CUOMO: Let's put up the four main baskets that the speech is going to encompass today, protect homeland and American people, advance American prosperity, preserve peace through strength, advancing American influence. I want your take on this breakdown of those buckets, and also on the

fact that, you know, yes, there is more condemnatory language anticipated in this than we're used to hearing from the White House, except they are not breaking out election interference as a big deal in the sum of this strategy. But what's your take?

SANGER: Chris, you're absolutely right. And what's -- one of the things that you always look for in a national security strategy is, what's missing, right? So in this case, the biggest national security issue we've all been talking about all year has been the need for a comprehensive strategy to keep Russia or any other power from doing what Russia did in the 2016 election.

Now, the president avoided creating a presidential commission for this. He's called for an end to the Russia investigation because it's a witch-hunt, in his phrase. And the national security strategy does not have any sort of overarching look about how you counter either the cyber or information operations here.

[06:55:01] CUOMO: David Sanger, always a plus. Thank you for being part of the NEW DAY family.

SANGER: Thank you, Chris. Great to be with you. Have a great holiday.

CUOMO: You too.

Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, Chris.

What is President Trump saying about the Russia investigation behind closed doors? We have exclusive CNN reporting about the president's new outlook on the probe. That's next.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an attack on the presidency at levels we've never seen before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not at all believe that Mr. Mueller has been compromised, that he's beyond reproach.

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I haven't heard anything about this, any firing, but we've got to get past this investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is delivering middle income tax relief to families across the country.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wish John well, but I understand he'll come if we ever needed his vote.

[07:00:01] SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC SENATORIAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE: It's a huge giveaway to big corporations. Millions of middle class taxpayers will see their taxes go up. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The lights just went out. Everything went out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now we don't know the cause of the fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to express