Return to Transcripts main page
Interview with Richard Blumenthal (D) Connecticut. Aired 7:30- 8a ET
Aired January 8, 2018 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KEN STARR, FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: That's very important. I think it's one of the things we tend to overlook - the importance of congress and congress' oversight.
CHRIS COUMO, NEW DAY CO-ANCHOR: Ken Starr, thank you very much for your take, as always.
STARR: My pleasure, Chris.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, NEW DAY CO-ANCHOR: OK, Chris.
Are lawmakers talking about President Trump's mental stability? Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal talks about that and more, next.
CAMEROTA: One major question surrounding the Russia investigation is, will President Trump meet face to face with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Let's ask Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He's a member of the senate judiciary committee - one of those investigating the Russian meddling and
Great to have you here, senator.
SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: So, you predict that President Trump will meet face-to-face with Mueller?
BLUMENTHAL: Unquestionably, there has to be that kind of face-to-face interview. The timing is important because the special counsel needs to have as many facts and as much evidence before he has that face-to- face interview with the President of the United States.
CAMEROTA: So, when might that happen? BLUMENTHAL: My view is it will probably happen sometime this year. We're going to have more convictions - there have been two already, and more indictments.
CAMEROTA: How do you know that there's going to be more?
BLUMENTAL: I think that the evidence accumulating against individuals within the White House, within the administration, the mounting evidence of obstruction of justice that's public - and we have no idea all of what is available to special counsel. Plus there will be a trial in the Manafort case - almost certainly that will be regulatory as to additional facts.
CAMEROTA: Who else might be indicted?
BLUMENTHAL: At this point, speculation is pretty hazardous. But, the people around the President who have been involved, for example, in his writing a misleading and deceptive statement on Air Force One returning from Europe about his son's meeting with foreign agents describing that meeting as having to do only with Russian adoption, when clearly its purpose was to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. Who participated in that meeting? Who knew about its falsity? That's the kind of individual who may have exposure.
CAMEROTA: So, but when you say exposure, that means that Don Jr., Hope Hicks - I mean, what would the indictment be for?
BLUMENTHAL: It could be for obstruction of justice. There is obvious exposure on money laundering, involvement of Deutsche Bank and Jared Kushner in
those transactions. But, to take Donald Trump Jr. - we're writing today, Senator Whitehouse and I, asking for the Glenn Simpson interview.
CAMEROTA: One of the founders of Fusion GPS, who testified in front of your committee?
BLUMENTHAL: He was interviewed in our committee.
CAMEROTA: But, behind closed doors.
BLUMENTHAL: Behind closed doors.
CAMEROTA: Why do you want that to be made public?
BLUMENTHAL: The American people have a right to know exactly what Glenn Simpson told us. And, that's just a start. They also have a right to know what Donald Trump, Jr. told us. And, I will tell you, Alisyn, as a former prosecutor, I have looked very carefully and closely at the Glenn Simpson interview and the Donald Trump Jr. interview and the most profound and pressing questions come out of that Donald Trump Jr. interview.
CAMEROTA: Such as?
BLUMENTHAL: And, the American people deserve to know. CAMEROTA: What raised your eyebrows?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, to take what is already public, the exchange between Donald Trump, Jr. and WikiLeaks about stolen and hacked materials taken from the Clinton campaign. Why wasn't that material and that approach reported to the FBI? The republican leadership on the judiciary committee has made a criminal referral about Christopher Steele who blew the whistle on Russia.
CAMEROTA: He's the one that compiled the dossier. And, so, your committee, it seems, often is more often is interested in him and doing something with him. What's that about?
BLUMENTHAL: And that's profoundly disappointing. Because, the Republican majority has made a referral asking for criminal review of Christopher Steele who reported wrongdoing - not committed it, and they're using facts that the FBI and the Department of Justice actually provided the committee. In other words, they and we should be looking at Russian meddling and obstruction of justice and Trump collusion, which are the priorities for our investigation.
CAMEROTA: But, just to be clear, from where you sit today, you believe that Don Jr. and Jared Kushner could be facing indictment?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, I'm not predicting and I'm not saying what all the evidence may be, but certainly the evidence points to continued investigation and there ought to be some very searching consideration of whether they face criminal charges.
CAMEROTA: But, when you say you already see a case for obstruction of justice, you're pinning that on the misleading statement crafted on Air Force One about the meeting with the Russian lawyer?
BLUMENTHAL: The Air Force One statement, the direction to his White House counsel to stop Sessions from recusing himself, the firing of Jim Comey, the requirement that Jim Comey pledged loyalty and then the request that he let go Michael Flynn - there are a series of events and statements that create mounting evidence - serious credible evidence of obstruction of justice.
Now, corrupt intent is a key element. And, that has to be proved as well beyond a reasonable doubt. Robert Mueller is a careful, meticulous, methodical prosecutor. And, he's going to demand a high standard.
CAMEROTA: The feds are now investigating the Clinton Foundation. What's that about?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, this investigation is about three years old. It was closed at some point - reported publicly.
CAMEROTA: Why has it been reopened?
BLUMENTHAL: And, the reason it's been reopened, I think, is part of a continuing campaign on the part of Republicans, namely in congress, to deflect and distract, from the special counsel investigation and our investigation, the judiciary committee, as well as the intelligence committee into the Russian attack on our democracy. And, let's be very clear. The Russians are going to do it again.
CAMEROTA: But, who called for this to be reopened from the Clinton Foundation? The White House?
BLUMENTHAL: The White House has been talking about it - members of Congress, the President's defenders and sycophants in congress have been talking about it.
CAMEROTA: But, just because somebody is talking about it, that means the FBI does it? I mean, does somebody have to request it? Why does the FBI reopen a closed investigation?
BLUMENTHAL: The President has said, very wrongly, that he should be able to control what the Department of Justice does. But, the reason that the FBI has reopened it is quite possibly because of the threats that have been raised and the criticism made of the FBI and law enforcement by members of Congress, as well as the White House.
CAMEROTA: Are you concerned about the president's mental state?
BLUMENTHAL: I am concerned about the President potentially violating the law. I'm concerned about the instability of the President's policies as well as his personality. The threats and taunts to North Korea are deeply concerning, and I think that the special counsel investigation has to be protected against possible impulsive and rash threats that would bring us to a constitutional confrontation, and even a conflagration similar to what we had with the Saturday night massacre.
CAMEROTA: Senator Richard Blumenthal, we always appreciate you coming in and talking about all of this. Thanks so much for being here.
CUOMO: Here's a question for you this morning. Should Apple do more to keep kids from getting addicted to their iPhones? The letter two big investors are sending to the heads of the company, next.
CAMEROTA: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is investigating this water pipe break that caused chaos at New York's JFK Airport flooding parts of the international terminal.
CNN's Alison Kosik is live at JFK Airport with all of the latest.
Is all of this under control now, Alison?
ALISON KOSIK, CNN: It seems to be under control, but there are residual delays. There are those flights though that are back in action here at terminal 4, but only after a very chaotic situation yesterday when a water pipe that feeds into a sprinkler system here at the terminal broke, sending a cascade of water pouring into the terminal and into the baggage claim area where hundreds of bags were already sitting because of massive cancellations that had happened a few days before because of that big winter snowstorm. It also didn't help that baggage handling equipment had failed because it was frozen. Now, because thousands of people had been affected by this huge mess, the Port Authority, which oversees the airports here in New York and New Jersey, the Port Authority is investigating to figure out what went wrong here, why there wasn't any kind of weather protection around this interior pipe and what other factors may have contributed to this huge mess.
CAMEROTA: OK, Alison. Thank you for the update from there.
So, two people may not show up for work today because they became instant millionaires over the weekend. In New Hampshire, a store sold one winning ticket for the $560 million Powerball Jackpot. And, down in Florida, someone has the $450 million Mega Millions Jackpot. So far neither winner has come forward.
I can't believe we didn't win.
CUOMO: I can. Because, the chances are like a gazillion to one. But, you got to be in it to win it. You have to be in it.
CUOMO: These people say, I can't win. I don't want to be in it. What about hope?
CAMEROTA: By the way, you know what, what am I saying? We did win. I think we won like 14 bucks.
CUOMO: It's true. But, you know, it's not the best return on investment.
CAMEROTA: No, but we're going to parlay that into a major win.
CUOMO: We do this. Every time we win, we then parlay our tickets.
CUOMO: But, look, we believe. We're believers here, right? For better or worse.
CAMEROTA: We're optimists.
CUOMA: Here it is. That's what you get with Camerota and Cuomo.
All right. So, in an open letter, two major Apple investors are pressuring the tech giant to do more to combat this: iPhone addiction among young people. The California State Teacher's Retirement System and JANA Partners own about $2 billion in Apple stock, between them. They're suggesting that Apple needs to add more sophisticated parental controls to limit the time children can spend on devices and what content they can access. The investors pointed to a number of studies highlighting the effects of smartphone addiction, including a higher risk of depression and suicide.
Discuss. Where are you?
CAMEROTA: Well, it's troubling. It's worrisome that they have a higher level of suicide and depression. Of course you can be addicted to things other than substances. I mean, we have learned this now. It does light up certain brain centers in some people. So, it's real.
CUOMO: Is on the onus on Apple or on us? We're parents. We both have young kids. You know, the iPhone is coming upon us. I have a teenager. She's already in iPhone land.
CUOMO: Is it on us or is it on them?
CAMEROTA: Look, I could use their help, OK? So, I mean, I think obviously it's on us. But, I think that we can use all the help we can get. It's real. I mean, my daughter - it sometimes is hard to pry it out of her hands.
In your house?
CUOMO: It is an ongoing battle. I am surprised - very strict about it. I think it's a mistake. I think that technology can be a great thing. It can be a bad thing. Kids left to their own devices - it's easier for parents to give in.
What do you think? Do you think that's the solution - that it's about the software or is it the parenting? What's the balance? Let me know.
CAMEROTA: Very good.
All right. President Trump's mental health is being questioned, or mental fitness at least, in this new tell-all book. Is he the only President whose fitness for office has been called into question?
We give some historical context next.
CUOMO: All right. So, let's have a little bit of a different and deeper discussion around these questions of what's going on in the White House and mental competence. Our starting point is that the author of this Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff says 100 percent of the people around President Trump question his fitness for office. Is that true? And, even if it's not completely true, some of these
questions are obviously swirling, because you hear about them all the time in different ways. So, let's get some context about where we are right now and where we've been in the past.
We have CNN's presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.
Professor, the best for the New Year, always a pleasure to have you.
Before we dive into the 25A stuff and Trump and Wolff, just set a little bit of a scene for us right now. Where do you believe we are in terms of what we are living right now being historically extraordinary?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, we've never really had a President we were worried about this kind of mental instability going on. And, that's really the key of the Wolff book - Whit House insiders saying the President is not fit for command. There have been moments where we - there have been pockets of concerns with Richard Nixon in 1973 and '74, the pressures of Watergate and his drinking of gin and things made people think he was becoming unglued.
Linden Johnson in 1968 had cardiac issues and decided not to run for re-election and started letting his hair grow long and became a little bit of a befuddled character. And, Woodrow Wilson after a stroke - people don't realize, Sigmund Freud wrote a book about Woodrow Wilson and his alter ego, Colonel House, how to - President and his personal assistant had created a co-dependency. So, we look at these things.
But, Donald Trump it seems every day he's giving people evidence of narcissistic personality disorder, except everybody likes to say the cliche, I'm not a doctor, I don't want to be the one to diagnose him, but there's an old Bob Dylan line, you don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows. You don't need to see Donald Trump and not recognize he has a narcissistic personal disorder. We all know that.
CUOMO: But, the feeling or the reckoning of somebody about what the President may seem to be exhibiting is a very different standard than that which would trigger any actions specifically under the 25th Amendment. I mean, when we've seen it exercised in history, what are the circumstances and what does it take?
BRINKLEY: I don't think you're going to see the 25th Amendment. That would be a very large measure to take. There's no reason for the Republicans to do it. Instead you're having a containment strategy - how can the White House contain Donald Trump?
It's now clear you're not going to stop his tweets and some irrational behavior, but can you make sure there's not damage done on the international stage or domestic policies? And, the fact that the stock market is booming, which the President talks about, and unemployment down, it makes it seem like perhaps he's working and that just a lot of Americans have problems with his way of behaving. So, it's going to be people keeping an eye on him in the White House, keeping notes, telling people. He is under observation by his own staff, staff even if he doesn't realize it.
CUOMO: Right. You know, I just remember from the practice of law and investigations, you know, people would always say, you know, don't have to be sick to be evil and you don't have to be sick to be stupid. And, you know, just applying that as an axiom to what we're seeing right now, the President of the United States doesn't have to be mentally unfit or in some way ill to exercise bad judgment and to fail to surrender the me to the we, which is clearly evidenced by what he does every day. He doesn't have to be sick to be acting this way.
BRINKLEY: No. But, I think it would be helpful if we convinced CNN to do a one-hour documentary on what is narcissism in politics. Back in the '70s Christopher Lass wrote a book on the culture of narcissism.
CUOMO: But, even if he were narcissistic - even if he were diagnosed as such, you know, we have seen presidents in the past who either were diagnosed, recognized or exhibited mental illness to one degree or another. There's even a percentage for it. I think it's somewhere around 10 percent. Just because - even if you did have depression - clinical depression, that doesn't mean you can't be President, does it?
BRINKLEY: No, I agree with that completely. But, what it does mean is that some people have to take precautions. You notice Vice President Pence is not in the Fire and Fury book. He was smart enough not to talk to Wolff. He's preserving himself as plan B in the same way that ...
CUOMO: He would be key to anything that happened under the 25th Amendment. It could not happen without him.
BRINKLEY: Exactly. And, so, he's staying quiet. He doesn't - I'm just suggesting there are people that are looking at this. And, Wolff just happened to be for some reason, let into the White House to roam around and report what others are thinking. Some of it may be hyperbole or exaggeration, but the overall portrait rings true to an awful lot of people. It just means - not that the President is on time-out or the 25th Amendment is coming, but we have to watch his behavior and try to analyze it on a day-by-day basis. And, really only the people around his inner circle are going to get to know just how erratic he may be.
CUOMO: It's very interesting. You know the old adage, may you live in interesting times. We certainly are. What they will mean, how they'll be remembered is yet unwritten. But, certainly Douglas Brinkley, you'll be part of that effort when it happens. So, it's always great to have your perspective.
Good to have you, professor.
BRINKLEY: Thank you so much.
CUOMO: All right. So, on this Monday morning, there is a ton of news. So, what do you say? Let's get after it.