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Dems to Try to Censure Trump; GOP Accused of Blocking Russia Probe; Trump's Controversial Comment. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 15, 2018 - 08:30   ET

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


[08:31:12] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

President Trump says he is not a racist. He said that again last night. He denies using a vulgar word to describe immigrants from these African nations coming to this country. Well, now, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler want to censure the president over those remarks.

Joining me now is Congressman Nadler. He is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee as well. Your first interview of that.

Thank you very much for being with us. We appreciate it.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Thank you.

HARLOW: Let's talk about the move to censure the president here. You need bipartisan support to actually make this happen.

NADLER: Yes, of course.

HARLOW: It is ultimately -- it's not going as far as impeaching the president. It is largely symbolic. It's a publicly reprimanding.

NADLER: That's right.

HARLOW: What's your goal?

NADLER: Well, the goal is to put the Congress and the United States on record that we don't approve of racism and that the president, when he makes these kinds of racist remarks, is not speaking for the people of the United States. We have ambassadors in country's all over -- rather country's all over calling in their American ambassadors.

When the president characterized certain countries as terrible places, well, he may be right or wrong. But the point he made was that we don't want people from places like that, we want people from places like Norway. What he was clearly saying is, we don't want black or brown people, we want white people coming here. And that's straight racism.

It -- but it's part of his character. I mean we saw it in Charlotte -- we saw the same thing in his remarks after Charlottesville. We saw the same thing going way back to his taking an ad in the paper saying that we should execute -- HARLOW: The Central Park Five.

NADLER: The Central Park Five, who proved to be innocent.

HARLOW: Um --

NADLER: So it's a long pattern and we have to repudiate it.

HARLOW: Would you go as far as to call this president a racist?

NADLER: Absolutely. He's --

HARLOW: So --

NADLER: He's shown it repeatedly.

HARLOW: So you have, you know, Republican Senator Tim Scott, the only black Republican sitting senator, condemning, you know, the remarks in the aftermath. Mia Love, the first Haitian American elected to Congress saying I can't defend the indefensible. But, still, you don't think, congressman, that you can get enough bipartisan support on this censure move?

NADLER: Well, I think it's important that we find out -- I think it's important that we offer this resolution. Cedric Richmond, the head of the Black Caucus, and myself, that -- on behalf of the Black Caucus and the Democrats in the Judiciary Committee, that we offer this resolution of censure and that we give our Republican colleagues the chance to speak out. I think it's important that Congress speak out. And I'm not going to get -- I'm not going to take the cynical view, which may be the correct view --

HARLOW: Right.

NADLER: I'm not going to take the cynical view right away that our Republican colleagues are irredeemable and will not condemn the condemnable.

HARLOW: I ask this time because you tried to censure the president in August after his remarks following the violence from white supremacists in Charlottesville. Does something feel different to you this time?

NADLER: Well, it's --

HARLOW: That you might get the support on it this time?

NADLER: I don't -- I don't know. It's cumulative.

HARLOW: OK.

NADLER: We've seen some Republicans expressing great unease about this. We'll see.

HARLOW: Let's talk about the Russian investigation. Obviously you're the ranking Democrat on a very important committee in all of this on judiciary. So you cosigned a letter last week to House Speaker Paul Ryan and here's a sentence from it. At the end you wrote, House Republicans have chosen to put President Trump ahead of our national interests. That's quite an assertion for your fellow members of Congress. You say they're putting the president ahead of national interest.

NADLER: Yes.

HARLOW: Who and what's the evidence?

NADLER: Well, there's a concerted campaign by the Republicans, obviously, to distract, disable and discredit, a, the Mueller investigation, b, the FBI, c, the Justice Department. Every institution that we depend on for fair administration of justice and defense of our democracy (ph).

HARLOW: But to -- their argument is they believe that's also in the national interest. I get that you guys --

NADLER: It's not in the national interest to discredit and disable those institutions. And take a look at just the nonsense. All we actually know about the Mueller investigation, because they've been commendably leak-proof, nothing's leaked from there. All we actually know is that they've indicted two people and they've gotten guilty pleas from two other people.

[08:35:20] HARLOW: Two.

NADLER: And some witnesses we know they've called. Period. Everything the Republicans say alleging that this is a biased investigation, is based on the personal political opinions of people who may work for it --

HARLOW: Well --

NADLER: When the FBI is prohibited by law from inquiring into it (ph).

HARLOW: We've debated this. We've put the fact out there. I'm not going to go down the rabbit hole. But you know there are some real questions about some of the folks who were leading, helping lead the Russian investigation --

NADLER: We disagree (ph).

HARLOW: Like Peter Strzok. Like the text messages. I got to get you on --

NADLER: That -- that -- that -- excuse me. Peter Strzok is entirely entitled, like anybody else --

HARLOW: OK.

NADLER: To have a personal political opinion he expresses to his girlfriend. That doesn't show --

HARLOW: It -- right. Who happened to both work for the FBI.

NADLER: But that doesn't -- what you have to show is not political opinions by people working, you have to show bias by the investigation. (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: And Mueller removed him from the team.

Let me ask you two more things I want to get you on.

One is the president said a few weeks ago the line was, I think Mueller's going to be fair. Then most recently, a few days ago, the line was, again, in his words, this is the single greatest witch hunt in American history. Which president do you believe?

NADLER: Well, Mueller --

HARLOW: Who -- who is he? Does he believe Mueller's going to be fair or is this a witch hunt?

NADLER: Which does he believe or --

HARLOW: Yes. I mean which do you believe the president actually feels?

NADLER: Oh, oh, oh. I believe the president changes from day-to-day.

HARLOW: All right.

NADLER: I think he's very unstable in this and many other things.

HARLOW: But on the issue of articles of impeachment, if Democrats were to retake the House in the midterms, you're going to be the lead. I mean you will take the lead. You're going to be essentially your party's gatekeeper on any move to impeach the president.

What I find fascinating about you is that you've been public in warning your fellow Democrats -- and let me read your words, if impeachment proceedings would, quote, tear the country apart too much or there's no buy-in or not enough bipartisanship, we shouldn't do it for whatever reason. That -- I mean that's surprising, I think, to some from you --

NADLER: No, I'm quoting myself from my floor speech in 1998 against the Clinton impeachment.

HARLOW: Of course, but explain why -- do you still feel that way and explain why.

NADLER: Yes. An impeachment -- let's put it this way, an impeachment must be bipartisan. There must be partial buy-in at least by the other party for two reasons. One, arithmetic.

HARLOW: Of course, to get it done.

NADLER: You need -- you need -- you need a two-thirds vote in the Senate. You can impeach on a partisan basis in the House, but what's the point if you're going to acquit the president in the Senate.

But the second, and more importantly, to really remove a president from office is in one sense to negate, to nullify the last election. And you may have to do it. The defense of democracy may force you to do it. But if you do it in a circumstance in which at the end of the process, unless an appreciable fraction of the people on the other side who voted for Trump by into that at the end of the process, you will have the country face 20 years of recriminations. We won the election. You stole it. You have to be able to achieve a situation where an appreciable fraction of people on the other side reluctantly agree, well, they had no choice. This president went so far off the rails we had to do it because you don't want the country torn apart by that part -- (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: So sentiment has to be there as well. We --

NADLER: Some sentiment. I didn't say a majority. But there's got to be some substantial buy-in from people who didn't agree with you in the first place.

HARLOW: We appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

NADLER: You're welcome.

HARLOW: Nice to have you here.

All right, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, so they're telling us that what happened in Hawaii with this false missile alert was human error, but, boy, did it trigger pandemonium. There, of course, was no actual incoming missile, thank God. But how do they fix this? Not just on that state level in Hawaii, but on the federal level, because there was no word for half an hour, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:41:46] HARLOW: We are following breaking news this morning. A fire on a casino shuttle boat north of Tampa has left a female passenger dead, 14 others injured. Look at those pictures. This -- passengers were jumping overboard trying to escape the flames. Officials say the fire likely started in the engine room. It spread quickly. They credit the captain for turning the boat around when he noticed the flames, making it easier for first responders to get there and help.

CUOMO: Oh.

All right, Hawaii's governor is apologizing for the false alert that had people thinking a ballistic missile was headed towards the state. Officials say an officer in the emergency operations center mistakenly picked the wrong message template and that's what sent out the warning to the public. It took 38 minutes for a correction to be issued. That employee has now been reassigned. The Federal Communications Commission chair, Ajit Pai, says the false alert shows Hawaii lacked reasonable safeguards. But should this be a federal issue? We didn't hear anything from the federal government for 30 minutes. Are state's in charge of missile defense?

We reached out to the FCC chair, said, please, come on and tell us what the parameters are. He declined to talk about this national emergency with us. He did, however, appear on Fox News.

HARLOW: Rescue teams sifting through miles of debris, going door to door hoping to locate some of the victims of these deadly mudslides in Montecito, California. At least 20 people have died as a result. You've still got at least four others still missing. Thousands gathering at a vigil last night at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse remember the victims.

CUOMO: President Trump's s-hole outburst clearly vulgar. But if he didn't use that word, does that change anything? What about the comparison he made of brown people to white and who he wants here? We'll weigh the president's words, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:46:41] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Did you see what various senators in the room said about my comments that were made? No, no, I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interview, that I can tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: President Trump once again denying he's a racist because once again he said something that made people accuse him of racism. He used a vulgar word to say that he would rather have immigrants from Norway than people from what he called s-hole countries like Haiti and some African nations.

What matters here? Let's get to "The Bottom Line."

We have CNN political commentator Joan Walsh and "National Review" editor Rich Lowry.

It's good to have you both here.

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Hi there.

CUOMO: Is the problem the word that he used, or is there a larger problem that we're missing by getting into the whole versus house?

JOAN WALSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there's a larger problem. I think, you know, Rich is one of the first people that I heard deliver us the house version, but at the time we both agreed, it doesn't change anything. It's the same -- it's essentially the same word and it's the same sentiment, Chris. And it's something that virtually everyone recognized right away. It is racism. To pit these brown countries basically against the whitest of the white country, Norway, is just a window on to his world view and what he wants to do with immigration policy.

CUOMO: Why create this situation, Rich? He didn't have to do this. He didn't have to fight this. If the White House wanted to deny the language, they could have done it from jump. Raj put out a statement that when asked he didn't say it was the wrong language. A White House staffer talked to CNN's Kaitlan Collins and said, you know, we're OK with this. We think the base is OK with this. We know what happened with his comments in the NFL. So, let's move on.

Why -- why create this people are lying about this?

LOWRY: Well, the -- I'm fairly confident -- I wasn't in the meeting -- but that the word was house. I don't think it makes a big difference, but I think it's completely absurd for Dick Durbin to say he repeatedly said vial and racist things. The president's --

CUOMO: Well, how do we know if we weren't in the meeting?

LOWRY: The president's -- the president's position is that we shouldn't take account of countries of origin and that we should emphasize skills. So if you're someone with a college degree and meet other various metrics from an s-house country --

CUOMO: Sure.

LOWRY: You can come here. And if you have --

WALSH: But why would he say s-hole country?

LOWRY: And if you have this -- well, this was the context --

CUOMO: And why did he pick countries, Rich?

LOWRY: The context of the president here.

CUOMO: I'm just saying, you understand your own point. The president doesn't want to be about countries anymore. OK.

LOWRY: Yes, I'll tell you.

CUOMO: But he made it about countries.

LOWRY: I'll tell you.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

LOWRY: Because there's a discussion about the visa lottery program, which, as you know, even immigration reformers said this is a terrible program. Various bills have eliminated it or tried to eliminate it over the years.

CUOMO: Right.

LOWRY: And what it does, it just randomly sprinkles visas --

CUOMO: Right. LOWRY: To random countries around the world. That's exactly the wrong approach. We need to be more deliberate about our immigration policy.

And Senators Graham and Durbin were proposing not eliminating it, but just sprinkling some of those visas again around random countries.

CUOMO: Fine.

LOWRY: So the president says, let's not do it to random countries. And his position is not one that will create a lot of white immigration from Norway. It will create more immigration from people, probably with brown skin, but that have higher levels of education --

CUOMO: Right.

LOWRY: That -- which makes it -- makes it easier to succeed here. That's just a fact.

CUOMO: But, look, Rich, we're only talking about it because he brought it up again.

WALSH: Right.

CUOMO: This is -- this is him creating this issue. And you have agreement on chain migration and the lottery.

LOWRY: No, you don't.

CUOMO: You -- they had it in their last iteration of the gang of eight bill --

[08:50:00] LOWRY: No. No. That's --

CUOMO: And that's not what they're fighting over right now.

LOWRY: No. Well, the -- the problem with this deal, so-called, that Durbin and Graham offered doesn't really do anything on chain migration. As we just discussed, it doesn't totally end the visa lottery program. And instead of focusing on the small population -- relatively small population of DACA recipients, which is what we're supposed to be talking about --

CUOMO: Right.

LOWRY: Once a wider amnesty for all Dream Act people, their parents and people who are beneficiaries of temporary protective status.

CUOMO: Right.

LOWRY: So the president -- this is a negotiation, Chris, and I don't think you're shocked always by vulgar language. I'm sure you've heard some in tough negotiations.

CUOMO: It's not the language. It's not the language. It's not the language. And I never called the president that word either. You know, some of your friends on the right are trying to get me fired. Not very nice. I was saying, this is who he is. This word, this is the way he talks and certainly this is the way he feels about this comparison. A comparison he drew.

But points to Rich for talking about issues that matter on this proposal.

WALSH: Sure.

CUOMO: However, the context of this discussion wasn't the lottery. It was the temporary protection status and it's part of the give-back --

WALSH: For the country, right.

CUOMO: To the Democrats. They said, hey, what about these people? That's when he made this comment.

WALSH: Exactly.

CUOMO: So the context matters so much. But in the larger scale --

LOWRY: Yes, you're wrong about that. I'm sorry, you're just wrong about that. So --

CUOMO: Well, no, it has to -- it has to be right because --

LOWRY: You know, can I -- can I -- no, can I clarify?

CUOMO: Well, Rich, let me make my point and then you can shoot it down.

LOWRY: Sure.

CUOMO: You can shoot it down. My back hurts. (INAUDIBLE).

LOWRY: I will. I will. Go ahead.

CUOMO: So talking about Haiti, talking about El Salvador, who -- what do they have in common? They're both TPS membership countries right now because of natural disasters. It's not a meaningful distinction, but it wasn't, hey, president -- Mr. President, here's why we want to keep the lottery system the way it is and he said, no, no, no, and then he brought this up.

LOWRY: Yes. Yes, it was. So, just to be clear, the proposal on the visa lottery is some of it is going to be transferred over to TPS folks and some of it is going to go to random countries.

CUOMO: Right. But it was a TPS (INAUDIBLE) they were talking --

LOWRY: So the -- so the discussion -- the context of the session is a visa lottery which pays attention to countries of origin. And the president's position is, we shouldn't do that anymore. How could you disagree --

CUOMO: So he made that point by drawing a distinction between countries? LOWRY: How could -- you think that -- you think a -- you think a merit

based system is racist?

CUOMO: No.

WALSH: No. This is how you --

CUOMO: Go ahead, Joan.

WALSH: We've had this debate before. You keep derailing it. You keep derailing yourself. Why are you tying yourself and your point of view, some of which has merit, to what the president said? How can you defend that? He said s-hole countries.

LOWRY: Because I think you guys are being completely unfair and you're taking a very hostile --

WALSH: And so s-hole --

LOWRY: You're taking a hostile interpretation of his remarks and treating it as gospel truth.

WALSH: But there's a good -- there's a good interpretation.

LOWRY: I'm interpreting -- I'm interpreting --

CUOMO: So he said -- if he said blank house instead of blank hole, you're OK with it? You think it means something different?

LOWRY: No, that's not what I'm saying. I didn't say that. We just said it (INAUDIBLE) we agreed. Now -- now you're being really unfair.

CUOMO: And if he said -- right, but in a -- no, no, no, hold on a second. Rich, I invited you on to be inherently fair, not unfair.

LOWRY: I know, but you're distorting what I said.

CUOMO: No, but I'm saying, I'm trying to -- I'm trying to get to the seed of your point.

LOWRY: But you will agree, at the beginning of the discussion, we also said that -- that particular word doesn't matter.

CUOMO: The word doesn't matter. He was saying something vulgar either way.

LOWRY: Right.

CUOMO: Fine. We move on to the next point, which is --

LOWRY: Correct.

CUOMO: He's the one who brought up countries as a distinguishing feature --

WALSH: Right. CUOMO: Joan, and he's done it before. And now the bigger problem is what he's doing to enable a cover-up of this. He's got two senators now who have big futures in front of them, and certainly Cotton --

WALSH: Right.

CUOMO: Who are now --

WALSH: Who are now --

CUOMO: Really caught in an odd canard. Am I wrong on this?

WALSH: No, you're right. Are they -- to your understanding, Rich, are they saying that house is different and so they're not going to go -- they're not going to confirm hole because it was really house?

WALSH: I urge everyone who wants to understand this issue to read the transcript of Tom Cotton's interview yesterday. Excellent explanation of the issue, which is, we are not going to pay attention to countries of origin any more in their view. We're going to go to a merit based system. And how, Chris, you think a merit based system is that racist? Is there anything inherently wrong with that? No.

WALSH: No. No one's saying --

CUOMO: Nobody's saying it.

WALSH: No one's saying that. He brought up s-hole countries.

LOWRY: No. So you should -- I think -- I would humbly suggest then perhaps you should interpret the president's mark through that prism. That's his actual policy position. So his policy position --

CUOMO: Why would I do that?

LOWRY: Because he's not advocating people from Norway coming here.

CUOMO: See, that's exactly what he said.

LOWRY: His position -- no, no, no, his position is a merit based system. Wherever you are around the world, if you have a college degree --

CUOMO: Right.

LOWRY: If you have certain either jobs bill --

CUOMO: But, Rich, then you say that --

WALSH: He made that point really well.

CUOMO: Then you say that --

WALSH: HE made that point incredibly well.

CUOMO: You don't say, why do we have to take people from countries like this. We should take people from countries like this. You don't say that in order to make a point that you don't want to consider country of origin.

LOWRY: Right, but you --

WALSH: He comes to --

LOWRY: You're saying his actual position on the issue is irrelevant to this discussion.

CUOMO: No, I'm saying what -- I'm saying you can't use an articulation of a position to clarify and change what he actually said.

LOWRY: But he doesn't --

CUOMO: I'm fine with your position.

LOWRY: But he doesn't actually want --

CUOMO: It's not what he said.

LOWRY: He doesn't actually want Norwegians to come here.

CUOMO: How do you know?

LOWRY: He wants people with skills.

CUOMO: He said exactly that, I want people from Norway.

LOWRY: Because his policy position is that we're going to have a merit based system that doesn't pay attention to countries of origins.

CUOMO: So you're saying because there's an inconsistency, we shouldn't believe what he says.

LOWRY: I'm saying in a loose discussion and an argument, a guy who --

CUOMO: It was a White House meeting.

LOWRY: A guy who is not --

CUOMO: They weren't waiting for --

WALSH: It's not a bar. They weren't sitting in the tavern.

LOWRY: A guy who always sort of has a more inflammatory way of saying something, said it in a way that I wouldn't have said it.

WALSH: He said the opposite of what you're saying.

LOWRY: But his position -- but you guys -- but if you think country of origin is the wrong way to go --

CUOMO: Nobody --

LOWRY: Then you should agree with me -- CUOMO: No --

LOWRY: That we should have merit based system.

CUOMO: Rich, Rich, let's just end on this one obvious point.

It's Martin Luther King Day. OK.

WALSH: Yes.

LOWRY: Yes.

CUOMO: This was bad timing for the president, but maybe not. I said that on the show at night. I probably shouldn't have because you want opportunities to dive into how we should be speaking about things that matter. And I -- whatever his position is about country of origin is fine. Let him learn how to articulate it --

[08:55:14] WALSH: Right.

CUOMO: Because when you say, I don't want so many of these, I want more of those, and you're talking about countries, you do not help someone like Rich Lowry say that the president doesn't care about country --

WALSH: Which is why Rich Lowry should not be defending him.

LOWRY: His position -- his position is that we should be doing this based on merit. Wherever you're from, you have a college degree, you speak English, you have job skills --

WALSH: That's the opposite of what he said.

LOWRY: (INAUDIBLE) transition.

CUOMO: You still have the Joan problem. You still have the Joan problem.

LOWRY: That's his position.

WALSH: What's the Joan problem?

LOWRY: I don't -- I don't have a Joan problem. What are you talking about?

CUOMO: Oh, you have a big Joan problem and it's sitting right next to you because --

LOWRY: I don't have a Joan problem.

CUOMO: She's saying if the position is what you say it is, Rich Lowry --

LOWRY: I think Joan has a Rich Lowry problem.

CUOMO: Then he should have said that and he didn't say that. WALSH: Right. He said the opposite.

LOWRY: But it's in the -- again, it's in the context the visa lottery program --

WALSH: Oh, my God.

LOWRY: Which pays attention to countries. And he's like, let's not do that. I don't want to randomly get certain people from random countries.

CUOMO: Then he should've said it. He should have said it, Rich. He should have invited you to the meeting.

WALSH: Yes, Rich.

LOWRY: Well -- well, that's fine. I mean that's always very good advice.

CUOMO: Because, otherwise, look where we're left right now. They're calling each other liars on the basis of something that you know can't happen.

LOWRY: But you're taking -- you are taking a very hostile interpretation and you're just saying, no, I'm (INAUDIBLE) as fact.

WALSH: Because he deserves it. It's not that this is the first racist --

LOWRY: You're --

CUOMO: He said what he said, Rich.

LOWRY: That's your opinion.

WALSH: It's not the first racist thing he's ever said.

CUOMO: He said what he said he.

LOWRY: That's your opinion.

WALSH: It's not like he has the first racist thing he's ever said. It's not like he has -- he's never said anything like this before and we're suddenly calling him on it. He has a history of talking this way about nonwhite people.

CUOMO: Now --

LOWRY: But his position matters, right? You agree?

CUOMO: And -- here's what matters even more, though, is, you've got legitimate points to make and the other side is going to push back. They're going to have to negotiate it. They're not doing it because he set up a situation. We often argue, is the president getting a lot of criticism? Yes. Does he ask for it? Yes. And this is another example of that, Rich. He could be doing what you're doing right now but he isn't because he's trying to backfill on a B.S. statement.

LOWRY: I don't think the president should do what I'm doing.

CUOMO: Rich Lowry, that is the most true thing you said. Joan Walsh, thank you very much.

WALSH: Thank you.

LOWRY: Thank you.

CUOMO: A robust conversation. Much needed. Appreciate it.

All right, we're taking a break here. You've got a big treat coming your way. CNN "NEWSROOM" with John Berman right after this. But I got Poppy this morning, so I win.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning, everyone. John Berman here.

I'm not a racist. An extraordinary declaration from a president on this holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Even more extraordinary that he felt compelled to say it. But perhaps most extraordinary that many people this morning do not believe it.

This is what the president said overnight to reporters pushing for answers about the White House meeting where he called African nations blank-hole countries and said he would rather have immigrants from Norway.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[09:00:01] BERMAN: This comes as some Republican senators in the room are actually denying they heard the president use the offensive word. And if you can believe it, a new report that they're basing these denials on the difference between a hole and a house.