Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Representative Francis Rooney; Bronx Fire Likely Sparked by Child Playing with Stove; Top Seven Money Stories of 2017; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired December 29, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: -- about all the things that have come out of some of the people in the FBI and the Justice Department. Even going back during the Clinton administration.

You know, this Strzok guy appears to have -- he has some very bad things in those tweets and I just wonder how we want a guy like that working in an agency that have so much authority over Americans.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know that Bob Mueller dismissed him from the team working on the Russia probe immediately when he learned about that. And then he also tweeted negative things, disparaging things about Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. But it's not enough for you that he was removed from the team?

ROONEY: I'm not so sure that -- well, first thing, we need to find out what they were talking about, about the meeting in Andy's office and about the dossier. We need to find out what they were doing with that or what they wanted to do with it. And if it goes as far as some of the rumors, then maybe he shouldn't be working at the FBI.

HARLOW: So you think maybe he should be fired. Look, as you know, Republican Senate Chuck Grassley who chairs the Judiciary Committee, Senate Judiciary, has asked Rod Rosenstein to answer some of those questions.

You sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee. When it comes to foreign policy and diplomacy, just looking at the year in review for this president, there is some fascinating analysis this morning out of "The New York Times" and you have the national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster telling "The Times" that the president's unorthodox approach to foreign policy, quote, "has moved a lot of us out of our comfort zone, me included."

Is that a good thing or is that a bit concerning to you?

ROONEY: Well, I think it's concerning from the point of view that if the world doesn't understand where the United States is trying to go, it could create some more instability and chaos and we certainly don't need any more of it. You know, we have this terrible situation in North Korea and I think the president is right to focus maximum pressure on China since North Korea is basically a subsidiary of China. And we have these continuing challenges in the Middle East.

HARLOW: So are you saying that the president has, to your concern, contributed to that uncertainty on the global stage?

ROONEY: No. But I think that -- not the president but I think the whole tension of and frustration that came out during the campaign and we see it now of the American people between lost and exported jobs versus trade deficits between these continuing problems we have had in the Middle East and the difficulties in the wars and then I think there is a lot of frustration with the over empowerment of Iran in the recent years. So the --


HARLOW: So, Congressman, there is nothing you think the president -- I mean, it is hard to separate the president and what he has said and done on foreign policy from the actual policy of the United States. Is it not? I mean, are you saying he bears no responsibility for what you're concerned about?

ROONEY: Of course. No, he's the commander-in-chief and he needs to be clear. And I think that we need to clarify just exactly what we're going to do both about trade and security. There seems to be a lot of confusion right now about what the president means.

HARLOW: So the Kremlin this morning, as you know, has come out and said that the relationship between Russia and the United States is one of the major disappointments of the year. You saw Secretary of State Rex Tillerson yesterday in this opinion piece calling the relationship between the U.S. and Russia poor.

Do you believe -- you're a big Russia hawk. Do you believe that the United States, the American people, have benefitted from the president's -- at least in rhetoric, if not action -- going easy on Vladimir Putin and on Russia?

ROONEY: Well, I think the American people are going to benefit by sending those javelin anti-tank weaponry over to the Ukraine --


HARLOW: And that's why I said rhetoric, not action. That's why I said rhetoric, not action.

ROONEY: Yes. Rhetoric, I got it. I'm sorry, yes.

HARLOW: What I'm saying is, do you think that the president's language, what he said about Vladimir Putin and Russia has been helpful to the American people?

ROONEY: Well, they haven't done anything else since the DonEx so I can't say one way or the other. I think Russia is going to act on their own strategic interest regardless of what anybody says or does.

HARLOW: But -- you know, Mike Morrell, former acting CIA director, Mike Rogers, former Republican chair of the House Intel Committee, both warned in an opinion piece this week that indeed Russia is still meddling in democracies, still meddling in elections. So for you to say they're not doing anything at all, what is that based on? ROONEY: Well, I think that they haven't taken any more territory.

They're doing a lot of bad things.

HARLOW: Right.

ROONEY: They're still moving the borders around over in South Ossetia. I think they're posed to take more of the Ukraine if they think they can get away with it. If I was living in Lithuania or Latvia and Estonia, I'd be quite worried about what Russia might try to do next.

HARLOW: Let me ask you about the future of the Republican Party. I had your fellow Republican congressman, Charlie Dent, on the program yesterday. And he told me that he thinks your party needs to do a much, much better job of being inclusive, of bringing in minorities, of bringing in women, of bringing in young voters and he said, quote, "I think we've gone in the wrong direction on that score." Do you share his concern?

Ossetia Well, I think we have an increasingly diverse population. And I think that if we believe our Republican values of reliance, on individual reliance and free enterprise are the best way to go and limited government, we need to make the case to all Americans that it's better -- that it's in their interest.

[10:35:11] HARLOW: So he's right?

ROONEY: And I would like to think that we'd be able to do that.

HARLOW: He's right? He's right then?

ROONEY: I think he's got a point, sure. He's got a point, sure. We need to be reaching out to all Americans and show them that our view of the economy and security of things is the right one.

HARLOW: He is one of the 27 Republican members of Congress who are not seeking re-election in 2018, as you know. That's compared to 15 Democrats. He told me yesterday that the president, President Trump, is actually a factor, part of the reason why he is not seeking re- election in the New Year.

Do you have concerns that the president is playing a role here as part of the reason why some of your Republican colleagues are saying, enough, I'm not going to run again?

ROONEY: Well, I wouldn't want to speculate why any individual congressman would decide not to run but I definitely know that there's history --


HARLOW: Well, he said -- he said the president is part of the reason for it for him. Does that concern you?

ROONEY: No, I -- it concerns me that so many Republicans are retiring, for sure. HARLOW: Why do you think it is? Have you talked to them about it?

ROONEY: Well, I know that the history is that the party in power loses seats in the House in the off year election, and I think maybe this year the -- with all the press and hysteria that's been going on about the Russia probe and other things like that, whether it's right or wrong, good, bad or ugly, the fact is the country seems to be in a bit of a chaotic moment right now.

HARLOW: Why do you call it hysteria when you also applaud the independence and performance of and background of Bob Mueller, the special counsel?

ROONEY: Well, I just think there is so much hype. It's just dominating the news every way. I'd like to see Director Mueller go about his business, finish his investigation and we move on.

HARLOW: Congressman, appreciate your time. Have a good new year. Thank you.

ROONEY: Thank you. Happy New Year.

HARLOW: You, too.

All right. To breaking news on that deadly apartment fire in the Bronx. The mayor of New York City weighing now in saying what caused the fire. We'll have the details next.


[10:41:02] HARLOW: Breaking details on that deadly fire that swept to the Bronx apartment building last night. City officials are now saying it was likely caused by a child playing with a stove. Twelve people died. Several others injured, including firefighters and those first responders.

Our Scott McLean is in the Bronx with more.

Look, there were infants trapped. We know some of those who died were under the age of 10 years old. And now they say think they know the cause.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. You said it. The fire commissioner here in New York speaking to reporters saying that this was caused by a young boy in a first floor apartment playing with the burners on a stove. His mother was inside the apartment. But not in his vicinity to supervise him and that's essentially the cause of this fire.

He also said it moved quite quickly because people were opening their windows to get out on to the fire escape and of course fire needs oxygen. And once that starts getting in there, it just fuels the flames.

He also said the fire got into the stairway and he said that really, you know, acted like a chimney, allowing the fire to spread quickly after the floors and potentially because this fire started on the first floor and worked its way up, that may be why this was so deadly in fact.

We also had heard, Poppy, according to city records, city -- public records, excuse me, that there had been six open violations with respect to this particular building. Two of them had to do with a smoke detector that was defective and a carbon monoxide detector that was defective as well.

We have reached out to the -- at least one of the building owners. We have not been able to get in touch with them so far, though, and so it is not clear whether or not those issues were resolved or whether they played any factor in what happened here.

The fire commissioner was asked about that. He said that they are still looking into whether or not those smoke detectors were, in fact, all working. He said they all would have been installed because that is the code. But whether or not they were working, they are still looking to find that out -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Scott, thank you very much for the reporting. Our thoughts with all of those families. Twelve people dying in that fire. Thank you.

All right. So ahead for us, the Dow hits record highs this year. The president says his administration gets a lot of credit. We're going to take a closer look at the stock market rally and all of the top business stories of 2017 next.


[10:47:50] HARLOW: Cities across the country are increasing security measures for New Year's Eve. Las Vegas Police are putting snipers on rooftops. They're also bringing in the National Guard to help protect crowds there. And here in New York police are setting up barricades. Right now they are patrolling tourist attractions and hotels leading up to the iconic ball drop in Times Square. Parking garages will be closed. Counter sniper teams will be mobilized.

And for the first time, we're told that these reflectors will be placed on the high rise buildings around Times Square. It's a precaution that police say will help them identify very quickly the floors of buildings in case any shots are fired from the window. Police say this is all just in an abundance of caution. They have not received credible threats.

And live from Times Square, these two gents, Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen will host our New Year's Eve special coverage that begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

All right. So quite a year for the market. If you are invested, if you're longing this market, you have loved this ride. Stocks are pretty close to that 25,000 milestone for the Dow. The president takes a lot of credit for the success of the market. Stocks have seen quite a bump since the president took office. Extending the bump we saw under President Obama.

Our Christine Romans and Richard Quest have the top money stories of the year.




QUEST: CEOs revolt.

ROMANS: And investors cheer.

QUEST: Here are the top seven money stories in 2017.

ROMANS: Number seven, brick and mortar's retail apocalypse. A record 6,700-plus locations shuttered in 2017, a stunning list of bankruptcies, more than 70,000 retail jobs lost but online sales are soaring. Wal-Mart's pivot to e-commerce pays off. Online sales skyrocketed. And Amazon, the king of digital shopping, saw its stock price cross $1,000 a share making CEO Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world.

[10:50:03] Amazon has so much cash it actually bought a brick and mortar chain bringing us to our next story.

QUEST: Number six, mega mergers. Amazon's $13 billion purchase of Whole Foods. It was one of the splashiest deals of the year and in true Amazon style, the retail juggernaut immediately dropped prices.

Verizon, yes, closed its purchase of Yahoo! and as the year came to an end, CVS plans to buy Aetna. It's an eye-popping $69 billion. If approved, it will rank as the largest healthcare merger in history. It all relies on the regulators. Will they sign off on these deals?

Just before Thanksgiving, the Justice Department sued to block AT&T's purchase of Time Warner, parent company of CNN. And that's causing uncertainty for future deals that could put a chill on M&A next year.

ROMANS: Number five, the Bitcoin craze. The virtual currency started the year below $1,000, then a speculative frenzy to Bitcoin from $6,000 to $16,000 in less than a month. Driving it all, an expectation that this speculative investment will someday be mainstream and the rally sparking a get rich quick fever in retail investors.

So is Bitcoin a bubble and made-up Internet money or a profound shift to a viable digital currency? Nobody knows for sure, so buyer beware.

QUEST: And so to number four, your data that's under attack. In September, credit reporting agency Equifax disclosed a colossal breach on a monumental scale. The data of 143 million Americans, nearly half the country, had been exposed.

Chief executive Richard Smith resigned, although he still got a tongue-lashing from lawmakers in the U.S.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Equifax did a terrible job of protecting our data.

QUEST: The lesson for corporate America, hacks are a threat to your brand. Prioritize cyber security or be prepared to pay the price.

ROMANS: Number three, chief executives bail on the Trump administration. The CEO president made a big show of bringing business leaders to the White House, but his handpicked jobs and manufacturing council started to unravel and then eventually imploded. In January, several high-profile CEOs criticized Trump's travel ban. In June, Tesla's Elon Musk and Disney's Bob Iger both quit the group after the administration withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord.

Then came Charlottesville. One CEO after the next resigned from the council until the president had no choice but to disband them altogether.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Just in, two of the president's CEO Groups for Jobs now totally gone, disbanding.

ROMANS: It was stunning reversal considering the euphoria among many business leaders following Trump's election.

QUEST: Number two, the most sweeping tax reform in decades. It will touch nearly every American citizen and it's billed as a middle class tax cut.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing. Believe me, believe -- this is not good for me.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The bigger relief goes to those who need it most.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The middle class are the biggest winners in the Senate's tax plan.

QUEST: The government's own analysis tells a different story. It finds the rich and corporations benefit the most at a cost of $1 trillion added to the deficit. Republicans insist tax cuts will ignite explosive economic growth benefiting everyone.

RYAN: The conference report is adopted, without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Trump administration and the Republican Congress on the brink of their first major legislative victory of 2017.

TRUMP: It's the largest tax cut in the history of our country and reform, but tax cut.

ROMANS: And number one, the Trump bump takes off.

PAUL LA MONICA, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: 20,000 is a historic moment.

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We've gone right through 20,000, 21,000, 22,000, just another day at work.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We do have breaking news, look at that number right there, 24,000.

ROMANS: It seems nothing could stop this rally, not a growing nuclear threat from North Korea, not the Russia investigation, not the nomination of a new Federal Reserve chair. President Trump delights in praising the market's rise.

TRUMP: We have a stock market that has hit record highs 81 times since our election victory.

ROMANS: And he often touts the strong economy.

TRUMP: Total unemployment is now at a 17-year low, think of it, not bad.

QUEST: Every president takes credit for a booming economy, but cheering on the stock market, that's risky.

[10:55:07] Just think about it. After all what goes up sometimes, perhaps usually in the fullness of time, might go down. And the second strongest bull market in history could be over due for a serious pullback.

So the question now, will it happen in 2018 or will the bulls continue to run?


HARLOW: Richard Quest, Christine Romans, thank you so much as always.

So the president says he thinks Special Counsel Bob Mueller will be fair to him. But also believes the Russia probe is making the country look, in the president's words, very bad. We have much more on that ahead.

I'm Poppy Harlow. Thank you so much for being with me this morning. Have a great weekend and a Happy New Year.