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Trump's Judicial Pick Withdraws After Viral Hearing Video; Trump Touts "America First" Approach In National Security Speech; Lakers Retire Kobe Bryant's No. 8 and No. 24; Back To Puerto Rico. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired December 19, 2017 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00] SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA), MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, BUDGET COMMITTEE: -- economic forecasting is more art --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Right.

KENNEDY: -- than science.

CUOMO: No, I don't -- listen, just to be clear about one thing, Senator. I don't want to be right about that.

KENNEDY: I understand, I understand.

CUOMO: I'm just saying that --

KENNEDY: I don't want you to be right, either.

CUOMO: -- you have to question the priorities and the choices that are made. That's my only point.

But, while I have you --

KENNEDY: Fair point.

CUOMO: -- I do have to point out your questioning of a judge nominee that took place. Let me play a little bit for people to remind them of what was happening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: Have you ever tried a jury trial?

MATTHEW PETERSON, COMMISSIONER, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, NOMINEE, FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT: I have not.

KENNEDY: Civil?

PETERSON: No.

KENNEDY: Criminal?

PETERSON: No.

KENNEDY: Bench? PETERSON: No.

KENNEDY: State or federal court?

PETERSON: I have not.

KENNEDY: Do you know what a motion in limine is?

PETERSON: I would probably not be able to give you a good definition right now.

KENNEDY: OK. Do you know what the Younger Abstention Doctrine is?

PETERSON: Uh, I've heard of it but I -- again --

KENNEDY: How about the Pullman Abstention Doctrine?

PETERSON: I heard --

KENNEDY: You're going to see -- you'll all see that a lot in federal court. OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Senator, did you anticipate taking this man down the way you did when you went in there?

KENNEDY: No, sir.

Look, I had read Mr. Peterson's FBI background check. He's a very smart guy. He's honest, lots of integrity. But he doesn't have any trial experience and that's what a trial judge -- federal district court judge does.

I think the president has made some outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Nobody's perfect. My job on the Judiciary Committee is to help catch mistakes that might come through and I just don't -- I say this respectfully, but I just don't think Mr. Peterson is ready to be a -- be a trial judge.

I tried -- I didn't -- I don't think they were gotcha questions.

Your clip didn't show this but one of the questions I asked him about the Dober (ph) case.

CUOMO: Right.

KENNEDY: I say Dobear (ph), some say Dober. But I'm from Louisiana. We say Dobear.

CUOMO: Right.

KENNEDY: That's like Marbury versus Madison or --

CUOMO: Right. It's about whether or not -- when you have the exceptions to when a federal court will review -- KENNEDY: Yes.

CUOMO: -- state court decisions and it carved out certain things, as did Pullman.

No, no, no, I get it. I get why you were asking the questions. I was just shocked at the answers. I mean, motion in limine --

KENNEDY: Well, frankly I wish --

CUOMO: -- is something you learn in law school. It's just -- it was weird.

Now, is it true that the president contacted you to say --

KENNEDY: He did.

CUOMO: What did -- what did he say?

KENNEDY: He called me Friday. He said look, Kennedy, you know, do your job, man. I'm not upset. He said, do your job.

He said what do you think we ought to do? And I said Mr. President, I would -- I would ask Mr. Peterson to step down. I don't want to see him suffer any more. And he said I think that's what we'll do.

And he said just keep doing your job, and I said I really appreciate that, Mr. President.

And then we -- I said I understand you don't interview these candidates. I brought it up, he didn't, and he doesn't. Presidents don't interview federal district court judge nominees. They're busy doing other stuff.

But I said look, I appreciate it, Mr. President. And then we started talking about taxes. We talked about tax reform, mostly.

CUOMO: Well, Senator, that was really classic what you did there. I was joking before the segment. I'm really not joking. You could be a NEW DAY anchor the way you were -- you were interviewing that judge nominee. It was really interesting.

KENNEDY: Thank you.

CUOMO: I liked your line about how watching "MY COUSIN VINNY" doesn't qualify you to be a federal judge. It's good that you put that controversy to rest.

KENNEDY: Well, it wasn't personal. It wasn't personal. And let me say again, I think Mr. Peterson's a very smart guy and he's very capable.

But, you know, you're smart too, Chris, but I wouldn't ask you to transplant a kidney in the morning, you know. Experience matters.

CUOMO: You are a wise man, Senator Kennedy, especially if it was your kidney that we were talking about.

KENNEDY: Amen.

CUOMO: I wouldn't ask me to do that, too.

Listen, the best to you and your family --

KENNEDY: You, too, Chris.

CUOMO: -- for Christmas.

You are an enduring example of how people can disagree, they can have different ideas, but they can do it with decency, and you prove that time and again on this show and you are always welcome here.

KENNEDY: Thanks, Chris. Thanks a lot.

CUOMO: All right. The best to you, sir.

KENNEDY: Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: T.V. news --

CUOMO: Do you think I can translate your kidney?

CAMEROTA: Translate it? No, no. T.V. news is not brain surgery.

CUOMO: What's it called when you take it out? Transplant?

CAMEROTA: Transplant.

CUOMO: I could take a kidney out.

CAMEROTA: Let's start with that.

CUOMO: I could take a kidney out. The person wouldn't survive --

CAMEROTA: No.

CUOMO: -- but I could take a kidney out.

CAMEROTA: With your bare hands?

CUOMO: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

CUOMO: Just with my look, kidneys just fall out of people.

CAMEROTA: I am -- OK. I was going to -- I was going to describe --

CUOMO: I'll teach --

CAMEROTA: -- that feeling. CUOMO: I'll teach you. I'll teach you how to do it. It's great fun at parties.

CAMEROTA: They say it's not brain surgery or kidney surgery, but here we go. Here's more T.V. news for you.

President Trump lays out his national security plan pushing his "America First" policies. What the president said and what he did not say that has one senator's attention. That's next.

CUOMO: You're smart but I wouldn't ask you to transplant --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:38:53] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We also face rival powers, Russia and China, that seek to challenge American influence, values, and wealth. We will attempt to build a great partnership with those and other countries, but in a manner that always protects our national interests.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK, that was President Trump labeling China and Russia as threats to the U.S. economy during his national security speech, and framing his foreign policy as "America First." But, he also left out a vital national security issue.

Let's talk about all of this and more with Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin. He's the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Good morning, Senator.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD), RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Alisyn, it's good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you.

What jumped out at you about the president's speech?

CARDIN: Well, you're right. He did leave out the climate issue, which was under President Obama, listed properly as a national security concern.

The president talked a lot about what he said during the campaign, "America First." And when you look at the president's actions it doesn't line up with everything he said in his speech.

America alone -- "America First" has been America alone, pulling out the Paris agreements, pulling his language on North Korea that is out of step with diplomacy. So when you look at the president's actions and you try to square that with some of his message, there is an inconsistency here.

[07:40:16] CAMEROTA: Well, there was also another curious discrepancy and that is that in the papers -- the documents that accompanied this speech -- the policy paper if you will -- there was a mention of Russia's meddling. It was not a long mention but it was in there.

I'll read it to everyone. "Today, actors such as Russia, are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data. The American public and private sectors much recognize this and work together to defend our way of life."

But there was no mention of it in his speech. How do you explain that?

CARDIN: Well, Alisyn, there is no question that what you just read has happened. We've had -- we've been able to confirm that, that Russia deliberately tried to interfere in our elections. That they have a propaganda campaign that is detrimental to our interests.

President Trump just can't say it. He still embraces Mr. Putin so he cannot acknowledge what Russia did here in the United States and what's he doing - continuing to do in Europe. And that's a fundamental problem we have with President Trump because the credibility of his statements become -- or lack of statements speak volumes.

CAMEROTA: Or did the fact that it was in the documents, did that tell you that his policy people and his national security people recognize it. I mean, they actually use that word. That it's time for everyone to recognize that this happened. So it tells you that somebody in the White House recognizes it and wants that message telegraphed, but the president doesn't.

CARDIN: Alisyn, we hear this time and time again when we talk to the president's advisers. We get a sense that they understand the national security threats that we have as a nation, whether it's Russia, or what's happening in North Korea, or what's happening in Iran. You could take any one of the troubled spots in Syria.

And then, we listen to the president and we see him say things different than what we heard from his -- from the president's national security team. So it's not surprising to see that the annex contains the facts but the president will not acknowledge that publicly.

CAMEROTA: OK, Senator, let's talk about taxes -- the tax plan. The Senate may be voting on it today as soon as the House is done with it.

You tweeted something interesting that I want to read to our viewers.

You say, "GOP colleagues are asking me for help fixing serious flaws they know are in the tax bill once it passes. Isn't that process backwards?"

So tell us about that. Are your Republican colleagues coming to you and asking for help?

CARDIN: Oh, yes. We've had conversations on how we're going to deal with what's known as the Technical Corrections Bill. That's the bill that would correct mistakes made in the bill that hasn't even been passed yet.

There is an acknowledgment as they've dealt with things such as pass- through income that there's going to be a need for us to make some adjustments going forward. How they've dealt with some of the problems of middle-income families, we have temporary tax provisions that are going to have to be modified.

There are going to be issues with this bill. We've heard from a lot of different groups as to whether this will have unintended consequences. State and local governments are concerned about it. We're going to hear from a lot of different groups once they figure out what's in this bill.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but I mean --

CARDIN: The fundamental flaw --

CAMEROTA: Yes, but hold on one second. I just want to be clear on this.

So in other words, privately, your Republican colleagues are more worried about the lack of popularity and the flaws in the bill than they are saying publicly?

CARDIN: My colleagues -- Republican colleagues and Democratic colleagues know that we're going to have to pay attention to additional legislation after this bill is enacted into law. Yes, that is true.

CAMEROTA: OK, one last question. You know, there is this feeling among some of your colleagues in Congress that Al Franken, your Democratic colleague, offered to resign too quickly -- prematurely. And that, in fact, he should stay in the Senate and that he should not resign.

Where are you on that?

CARDIN: Senator Franken made a decision what he thought was best. He did it for his constituents. He did not want to be distracted with an ethics investigation and he thought the people of Minnesota deserved to have a senator who could devote full-time to their issues. He made that decision based on what he thought was best for his own future.

I respect the way that he went about making that decision and I -- and I support his decision.

CAMEROTA: OK. Senator Ben Cardin, thanks so much for being with us on NEW DAY.

CARDIN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Chris --

CUOMO: All right.

So, Puerto Rico is calling for a review. How a CNN report got the governor to take a closer look at Hurricane Maria's impact, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:49:14] CUOMO: Kobe Bryant is so good he had not one, but two jerseys retired last night.

Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

I've been loving looking online, Coy, and seeing all the tributes to Kobe and all the clips to remind just how devastating a scorer that guy was -- a true killer.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Chris, and two different jerseys as you mention. He said, though, that last night was the first time he'd been back to the Staples Center to see his former team play.

Jerseys number eight and 24, both that he wore during his 20-year career, all with the Lakers, revealed at a ceremony at halftime. He thanked his teammates who helped him become a five-time NBA champ and some of the legends who came before home.

But also, in attendance were his three daughters and he had a special message for them -- listen.

[07:50:02] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOBE BRYANT, RETIRED, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: Those times when you get up early and you work hard, those times that you stay up late and you work hard, those times when you don't feel like working -- you're too tired and you don't want to push yourself, but you do it anyway, that is actually the dream.

That's the dream. It's not the destination, it's the journey. If you guys could understand that then I'm doing my job as a father.

Thank you guys so much. I love you and I'm out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: A great night for Kobe Bryant.

Not so great for his former team as they would end up losing in overtime to the Warriors thanks to that man, Kevin Durant.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much for showing us that moment, Coy.

WIRE: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: Chris --

CUOMO: Mamba, out.

CAMEROTA: Mamba, out.

CUOMO: If you were a snake, what would your spirit animal be? CAMEROTA: If I were a snake, what would my spirit animal be?

CUOMO: They call Kobe the Mamba. You know, the deadly snake.

CAMEROTA: Oh, as human what's my spirit animal?

CUOMO: Yes, like what would you want to be? What would you want, yes?

CAMEROTA: I'm just like a very --

CUOMO: Just an animal.

CAMEROTA: -- lazy cat that --

CUOMO: Lazy cat? That's what you'd want to be -- your -- lazy cat, out? That's what you would say?

CAMEROTA: Yes, yes. Very lazy, furry cat --

CUOMO: I'll give you a better one than that.

CAMEROTA: -- that gets -- that gets --

CUOMO: I mean, you at least should have like a koala or something like that. You've got to go with something better than that -- a lazy cat.

CAMEROTA: Koala -- they climb, right? I'm not sure I can do it.

CUOMO: You could do it. You could do anything.

All right.

So, we have been following what's happened in Puerto Rico since the storm. The progress just isn't there. That has been the constant fact. Three months since Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico, food, water, power, is it really better today?

We have Bill Weir back on the ground. What he found, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:55:48] CUOMO: All right.

An important update for you on the situation in Puerto Rico. The governor there is ordering a review of the death count from Hurricane Maria. The death toll currently stands at 64 but a CNN report shows that that number could be 10 times higher.

It will be three months tomorrow since that hurricane just carved a path of destruction through Puerto Rico.

CNN's Bill Weir has more on the aftermath. How are things now? Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When we first met Diana and Miguel in the hills of Aguas Buenas, they had just made it through the worst storm of their lives but the fight for survival was just beginning. The Vietnam vet had just a few doses of insulin spoiling in a powerless fridge.

When I went back a month later, the transmission tower that nearly crushed them inside their home was back up.

WEIR (on camera): Wow, that's a good sign. Look at that, they've got it back up. How are you?

WEIR (voice-over): Folks at the V.A. had seen our story and sent help.

Miguel was resting and Diana's spirits were high. I'm going to keep fighting, she said, and then pointed up. They put a flag on top of the tower.

But just before Thanksgiving, her hope turned to grief and she wept over the flag atop Miguel's coffin. The aftermath was just too much for him, but will he be counted as a victim of Hurricane Maria?

After reporting by CNN and others sparked an official review, the fatality number could jump from 63 to over 1,000, but that is just one horrible puzzle to solve here.

WEIR (on camera): How the hell did you get this contract?

WEIR (voice-over): Whitefish, the tiny company promised $300 million to help fix the grid was fired just weeks into the job. The head of the island's power authority quit amid the scandal. And now, as the Army Corps of Engineers struggles through jungle terrain, a third of the island remains in the dark. About 20,000 blue roof tarps have been installed but another 50,000 are waiting.

But, Puerto Rico, it's just one of dozens of disaster zones from the Caribbean to California. Nearly five million Americans have filed for federal aid in just the last few months and among those begging for help is the guy in charge of helping.

BROCK LONG, ADMINISTRATOR, FEMA: I haven't even been here six months yet and what I hope to do is inform, you know, Americans about how complex this mission is. It might be a time to sit back and say are we in charge of too much.

WEIR: After careers in emergency management in Georgia and Alabama, Brock Long was tapped by President Trump right before one of those destructive summers in American history, but he's been there long enough to say that FEMA is broke and the system is broken.

Many of his 19,000 personnel have worked such long hours they've hit a pay cap and will have to give back overtime.

WEIR (on camera): What does that do for morale? Are there people who are essentially working for free?

LONG: We've got to -- we've got to fix that problem and I've been very vocal, you know, within Congress. I mean, you know, yes, it impacts morale. We cannot do this alone.

Anytime FEMA is the first -- you know, the first responder and the primary responder like we were in Puerto Rico, it's never an ideal situation. But I do believe, you know, for example, with Puerto Rico that we kept that island from complete and total collapse.

WEIR: You think so?

LONG: I do.

WEIR (voice-over): But things are so dire there now, 10 percent of the island has evacuated to Florida.

Stephanie and Victoria are among the quarter-million Puerto Ricans who have fled so far. They're grateful to Miami's St. Thomas University for taking them in but they're worried about an entire future influx.

WEIR (on camera): Do you feel like Americans on that island? Do you feel like second-class Americans?

STEPHANIE ROSARIO, PUERTO RICAN WHO EVACUATED TO FLORIDA: It's like we felt -- we feel we aren't a priority, you know.

WEIR: Right.

ROSARIO: We aren't being taken the care we deserve to be taken on the island.

VICTORIA ANGULO, PUERTO RICAN WHO EVACUATED TO FLORIDA: And we need the help. We are really needing the help.

WEIR: So when President Trump goes to Puerto Rico, for example, and throws paper towels to storms survivors, what sort of message does that send and how are you graded based on that?

LONG: You know what? President Trump has been incredibly supportive of emergency management. At one point, we were having day-to-day conversations with the White House and he is highly involved. He calls me directly. He's very engaged.