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Interview with 2016 Green Party Candidate Jill Stein; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Sent A Letter To Speaker Paul Ryan Warning The Speaker Not To Allow The House's Russia Investigation To Shut Down, New Ethics Questions Are Coming To Light Concerning Outgoing Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 22, 2017 - 08:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, HOST, NEW DAY: Bannon has talked about his own political aspirations and how they are tied to President Trump's so here is a portion of the article. It says that, "Bannon - in October, Bannon called an adviser and said he would consider running for President if Trump doesn't run for reelection in 2020," which Bannon has told people is a realistic possibility in private conversations since leaving the White House. Bannon said Trump only has 30% chance of serving out his term whether he is impeached or removed by the Cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment. What? That's a bombshell, and why does Bannon think that President Trump isn't long for the office?

JOSH GREEN, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN : Well, if you look at what Bannon has done, since he left the White House in August, he has spent all of his time touring around the country and around the world, giving speeches, extolling this vision of nationalism the Trump ran and won on, which is really Bannon's vision more than Trump's.

I've been with him a couple of these rallies. He gets a great reception. He's essentially - Bannon - behaving like a Presidential candidate and clearly has a connection with the Trump base of the Republican Party. Now Bannon has said publicly that he's doing this on Trump's behalf, that he's trying to keep Trump loyal to the ideas they ran and won on, but as you can see elsewhere in that piece, Bannon is frustrated by the fact that Trump doesn't really believe most of the stuff and isn't willing to stick to it and so, if Trump were to get impeached or decide not to run again, were to have some kind of a health issue, Bannon has talked about, "Well, you know maybe I could step in. These are my ideas after all, I'm the guy who got President Trump elected." Banno believes. And so why not step into that role if Trump were to vacate it?

BILL WEIR, ANCHOR, CNN: Would the two men harbor contempt for each other that can ignite into rage. They can't quit each other is a line in there, so this will be continued. Joshua, thanks so much for your insight. Merry Christmas.

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


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES : I hardly know the man, I'm not going to say, I want you to pledge allegiance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Andrew McCabe testifying behind closed doors that former FBI Director James Comey discussed conversations he had with President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our law enforcement became highly politicized. Most Americans just want to see on this completely removed ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whenever it seems as if Mueller is getting closer to the White House, it seems that we're distracted to something else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you react that the President took steps to get rid of Robert Mueller?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not. I've talked to the President. He's not ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the UN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do think the United States needs to continue to promote this idea of a two-state solution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will not be intimidated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will completely reject this preposterous resolution. The solution is in our capital.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your New Day. It is Friday, December 22nd, 8:00 in the East, Chris is off. Bill Weir joins me. We're very close to the holiday weekend.

BILL WEIR: We're getting into the spirit.

CAMEROTA: Very. A lot of Christmas music playing in here, so in about two hours, President Trump himself will head to Mar-a-Lago for Christmas, but he could sign the Republican Tax Plan into law before then. Despite that big legislative win, and a government shutdown having been averted, the clout of Russia does still linger. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan warning the Speaker not to allow the House's Russia investigation to shut down.

WEIR: And heading into the New Year, tensions are reportedly erupting inside the White House over the administration's strategy for the midterms. The "New York Times" reports a heated exchange broke out at an Oval Office meeting of the President's top advisers earlier this week.

Let us discuss now with CNN political analyst, Jonathan Martin and Josh Green. Good morning, gentlemen. Good to see both you. Welcome back, Josh. So, let's talk about the latest on the FBI Deputy Director seeming to corroborate James Comey's testimony that the President asked for that loyalty pledge, perhaps part of obstruction of justice. Jonathan, what are you hearing on this front? JONATHAN MARTIN, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: That the Democrats are

obviously very, very optimistic that this is going to be something that could lead them to political riches in 2018 that now have the Deputy at the FBI corroborating with the former FBI Director himself has said, it has written - by the way, I should add, contemporaneously.

This is to keep the pressure on the Republicans going into next year and it's going to continue to keep questions alive about what the President does if there are further indictments from Mr. Mueller and whether or not he pardons people or ultimately fire Mueller.

CAMEROTA: And Josh, I mean, look, I take Jonathan's point, that this is they think, political hay for them, the Democrats, but it's hard to know where that political maneuvering stops and where their true anxiety starts about what President Trump might do to Robert Mueller, how they might impugn the entire investigation.


CAMEROTA: So, Nancy Pelosi just sent this letter to Speaker Paul Ryan about if they had any plans to try to shut down the Russian investigation, here's an excerpt from it. "Democrats are deeply concerned by the majority's efforts to curtail the House Intelligence Committee's investigation and its overall failure to address Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. We expect that you will take urgent action to ensue this investigation can continue and justice can be pursued unhindered."

I mean, I think that they sound a little concerned and they've told us that taking a break for Christmas, anything could happen while they're gone.

GREEN: Well, sure, I mean, let's remember there are multiple investigations going on here. The letter from Pelosi to Ryan was meant specifically to try and put pressure on Republicans in Congress not to shut down that investigation. Trump himself has been pressuring Republican lawmakers saying, "Can't you hurry this up? Can't you shut this down?" Democrats in Congress want to make sure that that doesn't happen.

Now separately, Republicans have also been trying to tarnish the image of Bob Mueller, the Special Counsel, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe who sat for nine hours of testimony and from what I hear was highly criticized by Republicans, so this is kind of in all fronts efforts among Republicans to push back against these encroaching investigations and then on the flipside of that coin, you have Democrats insisting that these investigations not fall prey to partisanship and be shut down just because they're inconvenient or unwanted in the White House.

WEIR: On the other side, you've got also a people like ran Paul calling for an investigation into Obama officials liking it to the Watergate, worse than Watergate he said there and Jerry Nadler rallying against this kind of talk. Let's listen to him yesterday to talk about this other call for an investigation. (START VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY NADLER, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, NEW YORK, DEMOCRAT: This hearing is part of an ongoing Republican attempt to divert attention. It's just an attempt to divert - part of their intent to divert attention from the real investigation into the collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and the subject matter is frivolous.


WEIR: That's what he say, Devin Nunes, Jonathan, admits it's not a secret they're investigating the Department of Justice. How big is this going to get?

MARTIN: I think it will get as big as the Republicans in Congress want it to get and they're obviously being encouraged by President Trump. I know for a fact that he has personally encouraged our lawmakers to raise question about the FBI's conduct and to look at allegations around Hillary Clinton from last year.

So, look, the Republicans in Congress increasingly are more loyal to Tromp because he is basically signing their agenda into law and he is somebody who they now feel more obliged to help out, and so yes, they are trying to do what they can to raise questions about the investigators. Look, there is no question that there are questions to be asked about that the conduct of the FBI, but there is certainly an effort that is going on here to - and politics, you basically muddy the waters and I think we're seeing that happen right now.

CAMEROTA: So, listen, the President just tweeted and its relevant because - this is your Christmas present, Jonathan, to you.

MARTIN: Exactly, early ...

CAMEROTA: It's relevant because it does shed some light on what his top priorities will be for 2018 and what he thinks that his legislative agenda could be, so here it is. "At some point, and for the good of the country, I predict we will start working with the Democrats in a bipartisan fashion. Infrastructure will be the perfect place to start. After having foolishly spent $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is time to start rebuilding our country."

So people had wondered what his first order of business would be in the New Year, infrastructure is a bipartisan effort or certainly a wish list, so that's ...

MARTIN: But this is the question, Alisyn, I think everybody in Washington have been asking now for the last year is why didn't he start his administration with infrastructure instead of trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which created so many headaches for him over the course of this year? He would have been in a much different political place today had he started with infrastructure.

CAMEROTA: Okay, but I mean, now he's course correcting. I mean, now he is starting the New Year it sounds like with infrastructure. MARTIN: Well, I think Paul Ryan doesn't want to do that because Paul

Ryan who is probably in his last year in Congress wants to focus on welfare, reform and entitlements and he has no interest in a massive deficit financed infrastructure plan.


MARTIN: This is going to cause real tension between the House, Senate and the White House. Paul Ryan does not want to do this. Mitch McConnell I think is more open to it going into this election year, but this is not a Ryan priority at all. Go ahead, Josh.

GREEN: Well, but there is another reason why this isn't going to happen as the first thing in the New Year and that is because Congress just punted an entire laundry list of things that were supposed to get done by the end of the year or three weeks towards January 19th. When Congress comes back, they have to deal with spending and budget. They have to deal with illegal immigration, the Dreamers.

There is an entire laundry list of emergency items that they need to get through and Democrats have indicated that they are not to go along willingly, that we could be looking a debt ceiling breach or government shutdown what have you.

John is right. If Trump had started with infrastructure right after his election, Democrats were cowed, they were intimidated. They probably would've gone along with it or some of them would, flash forward now and Trump is toxic. He is deeply unpopular and not only are Democrats not be inclined to cooperate, but most of them would probably be punished by their base if they did go ahead and cooperate.

So, I think that this is a kind of wishful thinking on Trump's part about what he'd like to have happen. I don't think that it's going to be reflected in reality ...


CAMEROTA: Go ahead.

WEIR: Where Trump generally leans toward, right, that the comment and the latter part of that tweet about more money overseas, I think if Trump believes much of anything, that generally captures it. Why aren't we doing more here at home? Sort of this vague nationalism and that's where Bannon lean towards, too.

The issue is that Trump has basically turned over his agenda to conventional small government Republicans in Congress and certainly, in Mike Pence, his Vice President who just don't know the sort of the same nationalist views he does.

CAMEROTA: Now, I mean, of course, they do have this big legislative win this week with the Tax Bill, so that has the wind in their sails, and so, Jonathan, I know you have some reporting however if there is still anxiety inside the White House about what they're going to do for 2018 and if this is going to be enough to carry them. So what you have learned about the fears there? MARTIN: Well, look, there is a widely held view in the Republican

Party that yes, it's good that we have a Tax Cut Bill going forward because it's something that we can talk about, but nobody in the party thinks that this is a panacea. They are bracing for a brutal election year. The backlash to the sitting President in the first midterm is usually pretty difficult and this President, given how unpopular he is, it could be even worse.

And I think you're seeing - my colleague Maggie Haberman has a story today - there are real tensions is sort of Trump's orbit and the broader party about how to approach 2018, and by the way, it's only going to get more uncomfortable for the White House because this President is going to face rejection from candidates who don't want to be seen with him next year on the campaign trail.

It's going to be hard for him to stomach that when left and right, there are candidates running for office who don't want him to be seen in the same picture.

CAMEROTA: All right, Jonathan Martin and Josh Green, thank you very much. Merry Christmas.

MARTIN: Thanks, guys.

WEIR: Moving on now to "Breaking News" a CNN exclusive in fact, new ethics questions are coming to light concerning outgoing Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, the Republican is already being investigated for sexual misconduct allegations and is now facing accusations, he may have caused another lie. CNN's MJ Lee is here with the breaking details. Good morning.

MJ LEE, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Good morning. So, we are learning new information about the ongoing ethics investigation into Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, a source tells CNN that Elizabeth Peace who was Farenthold's Former Communications Director spoke with the House Ethics Committee last week. They say that Peace told the Committee that Farenthold and his Chief of Staff regularly asked her to perform campaign related duties even though she was never paid by or volunteered with his Congressional campaign.

Now, the source also tells CNN that Peace told the Ethics Committee last week that she sometimes received these campaign related requests on her official house e-mail and during work hours when she was physically on Capitol Hill and she sometimes used the House computer to do the campaign work.

Now, according to source, Peace also claimed that on at least one occasion, Farenthold's Chief of Staff yelled at her to help with campaign efforts and that she tried to express her discomfort, but she felt pressure from Farenthold's Chief of Staff to do what she was asked. Now, why is this potentially significant? Because there are strict rules prohibiting the use of official Congressional resources for campaign or political purposes, so if Peace's allegations to the Ethics Committee are found to be true, that could mean that Farenthold committed campaign finance violations, but I should stress that CNN has not independently confirmed Peace's allegations and Farenthold's Chief of Staff and his office did not respond to CNN's request for comment. Peace also declined to comment for the story, but she did confirm that she spoke with the House Ethics Committee lawyers last week.


WEIR: Where does the ongoing ethics investigation stand with him?

LEE: Yes, well, as you know the ethics committee actually announced yesterday that it is broadening its ongoing investigation into Congressman Farenthold beyond just allegations of sexual harassment and remember, another former aide, Lauren Greene accused Farenthold of sexual harassment and now the committee says, it is looking into "allegations" that Congressman Farenthold's Congressional staff may have used house resources including staff time to benefit his congressional campaigns, as well as "allegations" that Congresman Farenhold or any person acting on his behalf may have required members of this Congressional staff to work on his Congressional campaigns, and I should note, Farenthold announced last week that he will nto run for reelection next year and have Speaker Paul Ryan, said that he supports that decision and he has not called on Farenthold to resign.

CAMEROTA: Okay, we have not heard the end of this obviously and MJ, thank you for sharing all of these new reporting with us. All right, meanwhile, Ambassador Nikki Haley following through on the threat to take names after the 128 to 9 vote condemning the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Haley sent invitations to a reception and only to the 64 countries that did not vote against the US. CNN's senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski is live in Washington with more. What's the latest on this, Michelle?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN'S SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alisyn, yes, so I guess you are disinvited if you voted for this resolution, which would be against the US position, but the party is not just for people who voted against it. It's also for all of those who abstained. There were more than 30 of those, so the US did have some support here, and if you didn't vote at all, you are also invited to this party.

So, the invite says, this is a reception to thank you for your friendship to the United States. It sounds a little exclusive there as if you didn't vote the right way, you are not really being thanked for your friendship at this point, and a source who passed on the invite to us said, "Think of this as just a first symbolic step in the United States taking note ..." kind of like the taking names of who supports us and who doesn't.

And one foreign diplomat I spoke to who did not vote the way the US would have liked sarcastically responded to this saying that his team would be crying about this, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Got it, Michelle. Thank you very much.

KOSINSKI: I guess the dress code is make them jealous or something like that.

CAMEROTA: Isn't it always?

WEIR: We're going to have our own party.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much, Michelle.

WEIR: Well, the Russia probe is expanding. The Senate Intel Committee now looking into other campaigns including green party candidate, Jill Stein. And she will join us next.


CAMEROTA: Senate Intel Chairman Richard Burr says his committee is examining other 2016 presidential campaigns as part of its Russia probe. One of those campaigns is that of Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Dr. Stein attended a conference hosted by Russia state television RT, and sat at a table with Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Trump national security adviser, Mike Flynn.

[08:20:03] Joining us now is 2016 Green Party candidate, Jill Stein.

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


CAMEROTA: What is the story behind that photo taken at that state dinner?

STEIN: The story is pretty straightforward. As you mentioned, I was there for a conference basically on international relations and the role of media attended by the BBC, by the Canadian Broadcasting System, by the state TV networks for India, China, Telesur, many other countries around the world. It was actually a very interesting conference and it's all up on the web. You can see exactly what went on.

The dinner was really a formality. I was seated at the table with other diplomats, basically, from China -- not China, from Germany and from the Czech Republic.

And when Vladimir Putin came in very late in the dinner, he was accompanied by three or four men who I assumed were his bodyguards. I later learned they were not his bodyguards, they were his inner circle, but you never would have known because no one was introduced to anyone. There was no translator. I was only able to talk to my right and the German diplomat was the only one within earshot who spoke English.

So, you know, no introductions made, Vladimir Putin went around the table at lightning speed before he left and quickly shook everybody's hands, but no names were exchanged, no words and that was about it.

CAMEROTA: And you never had any other interactions with Vladimir Putin? STEIN: That's right, yes. Nothing in advance and nothing afterwards.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, if it's as innocuous as you just laid out, why is the Senate Intel Committee investigating you? Have they talked to you and interviewed you?

STEIN: They have not. At this point, they have sent us a letter asking for documents and we are cooperating with that. I take very seriously the issue of interference in our elections whether by a foreign government, by gangster networks, by oligarchs, and be they foreign or domestic. You know, I think we ought to have a commission on election integrity that addresses the many aspects of interference in our elections. I think that would go a long way to restore the confidence of the American people in our election process.

CAMEROTA: Do you think Russia meddled in the elections?

STEIN: You know, I haven't seen the evidence. I would love to see that evidence to know. I think it would be naive to think they didn't try. Regrettably, this is sort of the norm now.

There are actually hundreds of millions of hacks every day, just into the state government of Utah, probably because there's a big NSA center there, but, you know, hacking, as we know from the WannaCray ransomware episode, from Equifax and so on, hacking regrettably -- you know, we are in the Wild West of hacking, and I agree with the president of Microsoft who actually called for an international conference, a Geneva Summit --


STEIN: -- on cyber warfare. I think we need some rules of the road that can be applied across the board.

CAMEROTA: Well, when you say that you haven't seen the evidence that Russia hacked, or there was Russian meddling, I mean, just yesterday I spoke to Senator James Lankford who talked about he's trying to pass legislation, a bipartisan legislation because he's on the Intel committee and the evidence is so overwhelming to him. Let me just read to you what he says here.

During the 2016 election, intelligence reports have factually established that Russia hacked presidential campaign accounts, launched cyber attacks against at least 21 state election systems and attacked a U.S. voting systems software company. So, why don't you believe the intel evidence that has been presented?

STEIN: So, for example, the states of Wisconsin and California have disputed that. They are among the 21 states that have alleged to have been hacked. The intelligence agencies themselves say that they assert this, which means that this is their opinion, that they do not have the factual information.

If they do, you know, perhaps the intelligence community has seen things the public has not, and if that's the case, I think we deserve to see it. You know, when we were in the crisis with the Soviet Union back during that Cuban crisis, John Kennedy, President Kennedy declassified that information and he made public the photographs showing the evidence because we were going to the verge of war in a very hostile state of affair with USSR.

CAMEROTA: Yes, OK, and let me just clarify what --


STEIN: -- that we should be going to war now, and I think that means the American public needs to be fully informed.

[08:25:02] CAMEROTA: OK. So, let's talk about that. So, in other words, when the intel community says they have evidence of Russian digital fingerprints on the DNC computers, you want to see the physical Cyrillic letters? I mean, what more do you want to see than what they have said has allowed them to conclude that, yes, Russia meddled?

STEIN: I think -- let's start that our intelligence agencies should be allowed to inspect the DNC server, and the DNC refused to allow the FBI to do that. So, we're relying on evidence that was obtained by a private security company that doesn't have the greatest representation that was under the employment of the DNC.

So, you know, I think when matters become as seriously as they are, we really need to really on the best intelligence that we have and that has not been put to use yet. And I know the FBI tried to obtain access to that server, and was denied. So that, you know, that as an example of where there are just some gaps in the information that I think could be far more persuasive to the American public.

And when the stakes are as high as they are right now, we really need to have the best information.

CAMEROTA: From what you have seen out there do you think that Donald Trump's campaign had inappropriate contacts with Russia?

STEIN: So to my mind -- the question is not only inappropriate contacts, it's quid pro quo, other forms of influence, vested interests, violation of campaign finance laws and money laundering, I think all of that is really important and that's in the purview of the committee. And I think the committee should go forward and continue to proceed. There may be information that Mueller has at this point that he has not made public, and to his credit he has taken care not to sensationalize or politicized this investigation.

CAMEROTA: But have you seen things in the public purview that caused concern that made you think there were inappropriate contacts that were not disclosed?

STEIN: So, yes, I think failing to disclose the contacts was a problem and trying to cover them up was a problem. And then for Donald Trump to have basically fired Comey because he refused to let go of the investigation, including into General Flynn, you know, that is all very much of concern and needs to be pursued. If there wasn't something untoward and inappropriate or illegal going

on, why were all these lies told in order to cover it up? And from the point of view of General Flynn alone, we know that he was working for the Turkish government, did not declare that and was undertaking actions here in the United States on behalf of the Turkish government, and that is absolutely outrageous.

CAMEROTA: So, in summary you do think that the Mueller investigation and the congressional investigations into the Trump contacts and Trump campaign are legitimate and should go forward?

STEIN: Absolutely. Yes, yes, this investigation has a very important and legitimate mission. I don't think, you know, it should be tampered or distorted by politicizing, by sensationalism and by some of the frankly very low standards reporting that has sensationalized and politicized it. But down to the core mission of the investigation, it's very important and it should go forward. I am fully cooperating for my part and it should be supported.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Jill Stein, thank you very much for coming in and explaining what is going on with your campaign and any investigation, we will follow it closely. Thanks so much.

STEIN: Thank you, Alisyn.


WEIR: A Defense Department nominee takes his name out of the running after the Senate Armed Services Committee expresses concerns over his views on guns. Now, Dr. Dean Winslow is speaking his mind again right here, next.