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Sen. Doug Jones On His Plans For Bipartisanship; Massive Winter Storm Bearing Down On The Northeast; Book: Bannon Calls Trump Tower Russia Meeting "Treasonous." Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired January 4, 2018 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:33:44] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The president is taking on his former chief strategist Steve Bannon after a book filled with bombshell quotes from Bannon came out.
President Trump then released a statement reading, in part, "Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning is not as easy as I make it look.
Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of the country. Yet, Steve had everything to do with the loss of the Senate seat in Alabama held for more than 30 years by Republicans."
The Democrat who won that seat is Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama. He was sworn into office yesterday and he joins us now. Good morning, Senator.
SEN. DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
CAMEROTA: So listen, you were a target of Steve Bannon's. I mean, you beat Roy Moore, thereby beating Steve Bannon.
What do you think of this feud unfolding today?
JONES: Oh, you know, look, Alisyn, I don't -- I don't want to get in the middle of feuds between Steve Bannon and the president. I am certainly over Steve Bannon.
We won this race. We got sworn in yesterday. I'm ready to work for the people of Alabama and to get going right now. So, I'm just -- I ignored Steve Bannon during the campaign and we're going to ignore him now.
CAMEROTA: Well, I promise we are going to get to your agenda, but it's hard to ignore some of the things he said because you will have to deal with the unfolding Russia investigation.
So, let me just read one relevant thing --
[07:35:00] CAMEROTA: -- and get your take on it, OK? JONES: Sure.
CAMEROTA: So, here's what Steve Bannon is quoted as saying in this book. This is about the meeting that Don, Jr. had with the Russian lawyer.
"The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor, with no lawyers. They didn't have any lawyers.
Even if you thought that this was not treasonous or unpatriotic, or bad s***, and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately."
You were a former U.S. attorney.
CAMEROTA: Do you think that meeting was treasonous?
JONES: Well, you know, look, here's the thing about that. That was all said by Steve Bannon in a book and I think that this investigation is going to play out. All of that information, at one point or another, is going to come out.
I don't think it's appropriate right now to really comment from my standpoint. Let's just see how this plays out, both with the Mueller investigation and in the Intelligence Committee here in Congress. And let's see what the real facts are, not just based on a book that Steve Bannon writes.
CAMEROTA: That's fair, but do you think that Don Jr. should have taken that meeting?
JONES: I'm not going to comment on that. I don't want to -- I just don't think it's appropriate right now for me.
I've been -- I've been a United States senator for just, you know, less than a day. I mean, I'm going on my 19th hour right now. Let's let me see how things go.
My desk is still blank -- it's starting to fill up. Let me get my feet wet around here and just see how things go.
But I will tell you this. I do think that it's important that people in Congress, people around -- in the Senate and the House let these investigations take their course rather than just making public comments a lot. I think they need to take their course.
I know, as a prosecutor, that's what I wanted to do. Let the prosecutors do their work, let the committees do their work because all this will come out at the appropriate time.
CAMEROTA: You've been there 19 hours. Are you shocked by the dysfunction yet? JONES: No, not yet. We -- you know, we had one vote. It went pretty simple, so all good so far.
CAMEROTA: At your swearing-in ceremony your friend, former Vice President Joe Biden, was there.
CAMEROTA: What advice did he give you?
JONES: You know, Joe has always said be yourself, Doug. That's all he has ever told me over the course of the many years that I have known him. He said be yourself. You know the people of Alabama.
You know -- you be true to yourself and you'll do -- you'll do great in Washington, D.C. And that's, I think, the best advice that anybody can give someone and I certainly take it to heart.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about what you're going to do now that you're there in Washington.
First order of business I keep the government funded through the next two weeks. That's what the deadline is. As you know, there are some sticking points.
CAMEROTA: So, CHIP -- that's the children's health program that I know you feel very strongly about.
CAMEROTA: But there -- but, it's complicated. So how do you vote on that?
JONES: Well, I want to see what it is. Again, you know, like I say, I haven't seen all the details about what's going to happen in the next couple of weeks with that vote. I really want to see that program funded.
And I know how this place works, and I know that there are give and take down the road and there's going to be people looking to put things in that budget. I really want to see that and I want to reach out.
I think as soon as we can get rid of the snowstorm up here in Washington now that's kind of shut things down today, I want to talk to the other senators and colleagues on both sides of those issues and find out how to best get that program funded.
The government's going to have to be funded at some point -- I know that. And I hope that the CHIP can be extended for as long as we possibly can do it.
JONES: It's important to 150,000 kids in my state.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Listen, I know that you've called it -- you think that your colleagues are using it as a political football -- using children's health as a political football. But listen, here's the sticking point, which I think that you already know.
If -- the Democrats don't want to siphon the funds for paying for CHIP out of a preventative health fund that was set up by the Affordable Care Act. So --
CAMEROTA: -- how do you vote if you -- in order to fund CHIP -- if you have to siphon funds from another program?
JONES: You know, Alisyn, let me do this. Let me -- let me -- let me spend more than 19 hours in a whirlwind up here and talk to my colleagues about their particulars on that issue, and let me find out what is their reasoning on that.
Let me go to the other side of the aisle. That's the one thing I campaigned on, listening to both sides. So, I'm not going to get pinned down just yet.
You know, you can -- we can ask a lot of questions but until I can spend some time up here talking to both sides of these issues, I can't reach across with anybody just yet. That's what I want to do and that's where I think I can be -- hopefully, be effective within the Democratic caucus, as well as working with Sen. Shelby and others on the other side of the aisle.
CAMEROTA: Have your thoughts gelled yet on how you feel about the Dreamers and whether or not you're willing to protect them if it means funding the border wall that President Trump wants?
JONES: Well, I feel very strongly about the Dreamers and the DACA program. I want to see exactly how that's going to shake out, as well.
I do feel strongly about that. I think it's important, and we just heard Sec. Johnson talking about that. That's going to be a sticking issue, but I think it's really a bipartisan issue.
What I would love to see -- and this may be pie in the sky, I know this. I've watched, you know, Washington for many years.
But I'd love to see Congress, the House and the Senate, carve out some of those issues and just tell the American people look, these are issues that we all agree on. Let's carve those out and move forward and let the -- let the -- you know, the partisan rancoring go on to some other issues.
[07:40:07] Let's see what we can do on that. It may not be possible. That's going to come up. I'll take it one step at a time. CAMEROTA: OK. Senator Doug Jones -- I know that has a nice ring to it for you. We'll give you a little bit more time to get your feet wet and after about 48 hours you'll be an old hand, so we'll have you back. Thanks so much.
JONES: You got it. Thank you, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK -- Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right.
Another big story this morning is this massive winter storm bearing down on the northeast. Up to a foot of snow is expected in some places. We have a live report coming up.
CUOMO: A massive winter storm bearing down on the northeast. Parts of the region are going to see up to a foot of snow. The wind is going to be really heavy.
The storm already hitting the southeast hard. Florida saw its first measurable snowfall in nearly 30 years. South Carolina, record snow. Some parts of the state seeing up to six inches.
CNN's Athena Jones live on the road for us in New York tracking the conditions. Obviously, the problem in the southeast, they're not used to this. In the northeast we are, but wind, freezing temperatures, heavy snowfall, bad combo.
How is it?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris.
Well, we are in Melville, Long Island, out on Long Island and you can see the road conditions out here are growing worse by the minute. As we were leaving the city a couple of hours ago you could still see the pavement. That is not the case out here.
[07:45:09] And on the Long Island Expressway -- the freeway we took to get here to Melville, we already saw two accidents -- a car that had spun out. One that had crashed into the barricade separating the eastbound lanes from the westbound lanes.
And that is exactly what city officials have been warning people about. They say look, stay off the roads if you can. If you have to travel, use mass transit. And that is because of these high, high winds and blinding snow that are forecast.
This word bombogenesis that we've been hearing so much, it's a funny sounding word but this storm is no joke at all. Forecasters say this weather system could bring what they're calling a bomb cyclone, which is near hurricane force winds and blinding snow.
We're talking about gusts of 40 to 60 miles an hour or more in some places, and snow levels from six inches to a foot between here and New York and up into New England. So, really bad conditions ahead for this day -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: I mean, just the word, Athena, bomb cyclone -- you know, that tells you that we are in a whole new territory.
Thanks. We'll check back with you.
Meanwhile, we do have some breaking news for you right now because four people have been killed and dozens more injured when this passenger train collided with a truck. This is in South Africa.
The train was traveling from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg when the collision took place. It caused a fire to break out in at least one of the carriages.
CUOMO: North Korea has now spoken to South Korea three times in two days on this newly-reopened border hotline. The communications are designed to ensure that the hotline is stable because it hasn't been used for two years.
Also this morning, South Korea's joint chiefs of staff are denying reports that North Korea may be preparing for another missile launch.
CAMEROTA: U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley hosted a "Friends of the U.S." reception Wednesday. The invitation was extended to those who stood with President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Last month, 120 countries voted against the president's decision -- only nine voted with him. Twenty-five nations abstained, including Canada, Mexico, and Australia.
CUOMO: Two significant computer chip flaws could mean billions of computers and smartphones are vulnerable to hackers. The chips may need to be replaced to fix the problem.
Now, a researcher who uncovered the flaw says they could allow an attacker to read sensitive data stored in memory, like passwords or even to see what tabs are open on a device -- not good.
CAMEROTA: I just think everybody's reading everything at all times. That's why I have completely whitewashed any of my e-mails to almost making no sense.
CUOMO: So they -- you're not -- don't -- you're not going to -- you're not going to go full ovey-dovey (ph) here again? Alisyn believes --
CAMEROTA: Well, but -- (INAUDIBLE), Chris.
CUOMO: Alisyn believes that speaking in ovey-dovey is --
CAMEROTA: That's the only way to protect what you really want to say.
CUOMO: That -- I can't believe that that wasn't in --
CAMEROTA: That is -- CUOMO: -- the Michael Wolff book.
CAMEROTA: Let me tell you something. The Russians have not deciphered this yet. Neither have you.
CUOMO: She'll talk to me on set about it and I'll say you know everybody understands. She says nobody understands.
CAMEROTA: No-bo they-bay do-bon't, OK?
CUOMO: It's actually -- it's actually true behind-the-scenes insight you just got there.
All right, so there are new excerpts from this book that I was just mentioning here that really has a look inside the White House that you don't get very often, and a lot of the quotes coming out are hurtful to this presidency. Some of them are coming from the main strategist, Steve Bannon.
The man on your screen, Anthony Scaramucci, says he was always saying that Steve Bannon couldn't be trusted. What is his take on that man, his motivations, and what's in this book? He joins us live, coming up.
[07:52:15] CUOMO: This morning, a war between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon continues after the former White House chief of staff -- not chief of staff -- chief strategist spoke critically of President Trump's family in excerpts from a forthcoming book. The president is now saying his one-time chief strategist has, quote, "lost his mind."
Here to discuss that and much more, independent senator from Maine, Angus King.
Angus, I know you don't like to play parlor intrigue, but the question about the book for you goes specifically to your confidence in the competence of this White House.
SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME), MEMBER, SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, you know, I think the first thing to point out is that Bannon was only a guy who got coffee in the White House, right?
I mean, he really didn't have a significant role except he was put on the National Security Council. I think at one point his title was chief strategist. I think he was also deputy chief of staff. He obviously had a very important role and a very important role in the latter stages of the campaign.
You know, competence -- I'm not going to judge competence, but I think it will be interesting to see what further statements Mr. Bannon makes in this book or otherwise.
If I were the president, though, I would be very uncomfortable trashing somebody who -- with whom I worked so closely for so long because who knows what else he might -- Mr. Bannon might want to talk about.
CUOMO: One of the things Bannon talks about in the book is his regard for the Russia probe. He calls that meeting that Trump, Jr., and Kushner, and Manafort attended with that Russian lawyer, treasonous.
KING: Yes, that's a strong term and I'm not going to necessarily use that term. At this point, you know, I'm not going to make that judgment. However, I could -- you clearly can say it was a serious mistake -- a serious lack of judgment.
You're approached by -- and by the way, this was the highest level of the campaign. This was the candidate's son, son-in-law, and campaign manager in Trump Tower meeting with representatives of the Russians.
Clearly, there was a quid pro quo that was contemplated because they talked about dirt on Hillary Clinton. But they also talked about sanctions and the Magnitsky Act. And so, it was a really serious lapse of judgment.
I think that -- I don't usually agree with Steve Bannon but the idea that they should have immediately called the FBI, I think, is absolutely accurate.
CUOMO: He also observes in the book, according to Michael Wolff, that it's about money laundering, and that money laundering is going to be a chokepoint for the efforts of the investigators.
What do you think about that?
KING: Well, I think, again, it's important to delineate the differences of the investigations that are going on. I think that question is one that as near as I can tell from sort of the emanations, if you will, from the Mueller probe that that is one of the subjects that they are looking into.
[07:55:09] Clearly, they looked into the financial transactions of Paul Manafort. That was one of the things that he's been indicted for. So, I think that is a subject.
On our side in the Senate Intelligence Committee, we're more focused on the counterintelligence questions. What did the Russians do, how did they do it? Most importantly, how do we prevent them from doing it the next time?
And then, also, whether there were relationships between the Russians and the Trump campaign during and leading up to the election. I don't think money laundering is necessarily part of what our responsibility is.
But I do think -- my understanding is that the Mueller people -- and I don't have any inside knowledge whatsoever. I don't know any more than you do, but based on the Manafort indictment, it does look like they're looking at financial questions.
CUOMO: Where are you guys in terms of figuring out how Russia did what it did and how to protect against it in the future? KING: Well, I think we're pretty far along actually on those -- on those questions, although toward the end of the year the whole issue of the use of social media, the disinformation, the Facebook, Twitter, the fake accounts coming out of this troll farm in St. Petersburg really raised a new and, I think in many ways, most disturbing aspect of this.
But we're at it. We're keeping our heads down. The fact that you haven't heard a lot doesn't mean that a lot's not going on.
The committee -- we're meeting -- I think we've met with over 200 witnesses at this point, thousands of pages of documents. And I think we're pretty -- we're in pretty good shape on what they did, how they did it.
And we're going to work on recommendations in the next month or so for the states. We've got to -- we've got to get on that because the states are vulnerable for this coming election this year.
So, hopefully, we're going to be able to produce -- if not -- I wouldn't call it an interim report, but I would call it a set of recommendations to try to help both the American people, but also particular state election systems to protect themselves because the most important point here, Chris, is this isn't a one-off deal. These people aren't going away. They're still at it.
KING: They're at it right now and they'll continue to stay at it through this coming election and beyond. And that's what we've got to really focus on.
CUOMO: Quickly, Senator, do you think you guys get DACA done anytime soon as a stand-alone?
KING: I think there's a -- there's a chance of that. There really is bipartisan -- I wouldn't say agreement. I wouldn't go as far as to say consensus, but there's plenty of sympathy for trying to deal with this issue sooner rather than later on both sides of the aisle.
The real question is, you know, the president sort of threw a monkey wrench into it a little bit over the weekend, saying that the wall has to be part of it. Clearly, border security does have to be part of it but the wall, in many ways and many areas and many parts, just not practical, feasible or sensible. There are other ways to secure the border without building a big object.
So, if we can get by that and do something on border security that people can feel confident in, I think there is a settlement out there to be had. As I say, hopefully, sooner rather than later because every day, people are losing their DACA status and their lives are being thrown into turmoil.
And again, as I heard a Republican senator say this morning, you don't put a 3-year-old in jail for walking across your lawn for trespass. These are kids that were brought to this country when they were young. This is the only country they've known and we ought to be able to fix it.
CUOMO: That's why it's got to get done because you're right, timing is of the essence.
Senator King, always a pleasure to have you on NEW DAY. Happy New Year, sir.
KING: Thank you, Chris, and batten down the hatches. You're going to get some snow today, man.
CUOMO: We will be ready. We will be ready. Thank you very much -- especially you guys up in Maine.
All right. We're following a lot of news. What do you say? Let's get after it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Fists are flying between the president and his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
CUOMO: President Trump's lawyer sending Bannon a cease and desist letter.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Steve Bannon accused the president's son of treasonous behavior.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The book has a lot of things that are completely untrue.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes him look like everyone around him feels like he's a bumbling idiot and doesn't tell him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They think he doesn't read anything. They think he doesn't know anything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He then feels like he has nothing left to lose.
DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: About 15 states along the east coast of the U.S. currently under some sort of winter weather advisory.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The temperatures are going to be extremely cold. In fact, colder than we've seen the last 11 days.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don't have a reason to be out, don't be out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day. We're now doing a split show, I see.
It's Thursday, January fourth, 8:00 in the east. OK, listen up, everyone. There are new excerpts that have just been released this morning from this book that's rocking the White House.