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Flake to Stand Up for Media; Navy Filing Criminal Charges; Massive Winter Storm from Florida to Maine; House Leaders Push for Funding Fix. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 17, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:58] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: In just moments, something pretty extraordinary is about to happen on the Senate floor. A sitting Republican senator will walk out and will denounce the president. Specifically his attacks on the media.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who is a frequent critic of the president, has been working on this speech for days. He is expected to compare the president's words and actions to that of the former Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin. Normally when that's done, it's not meant in a nice way.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN's senior media correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter.

And, Brian, you know, as we've been saying, this is not the normal type of thing you see.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: So far from normal. And as Flake prepares to leave the Senate, he wants to make a statement on a number of topics. The first of these significant floor speeches is about the press and about President Trump's use of the term fake news over and over again to delegitimize the press.

Here's a part of what we expect Flake to say. He released these excerpts ahead of time. It says, Mr. President, it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies. It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase "enemy of the people" that even Nikita Khrushchev forbid its use, telling the Soviet communist party that the phrase that had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of annihilating such individuals who disagreed with the supreme leader."

So Flake here is trying to make the point that language has consequences.


STELTER: That words have power. When you derive the press as the enemy of the people or as fake news that produces fake stories, that it has an impact on the public at large. Now, Flake later came out and said I'm not actually comparing Trump to

Stalin --

BERMAN: When I'm comparing Trump to Stalin.


STELTER: But I'm pretty sure that's what he just did and what he's going to do in (INAUDIBLE).


HARLOW: He did. I mean he told Christiane Amanpour, look, if he were Stalin, I'd be in Gitmo or in jail. But, I mean, he's the one who wrote the words.


HARLOW: Look, his fellow Republican from Arizona, Senator John McCain, has an op-ed in "The Washington Post" this morning backing up -- I mean really backing up Flake. There is obviously a reason it's there this morning ahead of this speech.

And here's what he writes. Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leader who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy.

As you know, Brian, he goes on to say, last year was one of the most dangerous for journalists.

STELTER: Yes. And the point he's making is that Trump's words here in the United States have effects in other countries. They send signals to other countries.

Here's a couple of stats that the Committee to Protect Journalists has provided about the impact of the kind of fake news rhetoric and what it could possibly mean.

According to the CPJ, 262 journalists behind bars around the world, in countries like Turkey and China and Egypt. There were 21 cases last year where journalists were jailed on so-called fake news or false news charges. Now, that's not happening in the United States. It's happening in other countries with dictatorial leaders.

But the point that I think McCain's trying to make is that Trump's words, as the leader of a western democracy --


STELTER: Have impact in other countries.

HARLOW: Give them a pass.


HARLOW: Give some of these dictators a pass.

STELTER: And I think what McCain and Flake are both doing is focusing on the impact of the daily repetition of the term "fake news."

HARLOW: Right.

STELTER: I have some stats that I'll come back with a little later on just how many times Trump has used that term this year.

HARLOW: By the way, today is supposed to be the fake news awards, apparently?

[09:35:00] BERMAN: It's a potential -- it's a potent event. We're not sure. It may be --

HARLOW: The White House hasn't confirmed yet, but that's what the president put out there.

BERMAN: It might be like releasing his tax returns type of an event. We don't know. We don't know

HARLOW: I'm still -- I'm still waiting on those.

Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: Thanks.

HARLOW: All right, coming up, new fallout after two disasters at sea have been deemed completely unavoidable. You remember when this happened and 17 U.S. sailors lost their lives. We have a live update from our Barbara Starr at the Pentagon ahead with what they've been charged with.


BERMAN: All right, new this morning, a rare move by the U.S. Navy. Criminal charges are now being filed against the commanding officers of the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John McCain. Those are the two ships involved in the deadly collisions last week that killed 16 sailors.

HARLOW: Earlier, investigations by the Navy showed the crashes were preventable. We knew that. But now we know the charges, and they are severe. Dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel and negligent homicide.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, joins us now.

[09:40:01] Look, you're talking about 17 American lives lost and now some very severe and rare charges.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Very -- not unprecedented perhaps but I've checked around and I can't find anybody in the Navy who really remembers the last time this happened. Negligent homicide for two commanding officers at these Navy warships, the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John McCain out in the far Pacific late last year, these collisions with commercial vessels in two separate incidents killing 17 sailors. The commander officers facing charges of negligent homicide, operating a vessel in a hazardous manner, dereliction of duty and administrative punishment, if you will, also against eight additional crew members.

What the initial investigations had found is that all of this was preventable, that there were training failures, that commanders should have known that these ships had problems, that the crews were not able to operate them properly, that they didn't have the training. We have seen senior level Navy commanders already replaced. The head of surface warfare resigning now.

But this is very serious. These charges will now go to a preliminary hearing in the U.S. military and they are, by all accounts, headed to court-martial proceedings here in probably the Washington, D.C., area, at least for the initial court appearances.

How this all plays out, of course, these people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But for the Navy leadership, there are still so many questions about how 17 sailors could have lost their lives in these preventable collisions.

John. Poppy.

BERMAN: And now we're seeing some of the ramifications.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you very much.

HARLOW: Right now, more than 55 million of you are under winter storm warnings or advisories. This is a powerful winter storm. It is trudging up and down the East Coast. Big, big, big is the name of the game here. All the way from Florida to Maine. The snow and ice causing perilous travel right now. More than 600 accidents already reported on slick Houston roads alone.

Our meteorologist Jennifer Gray is tracking it all in the Weather Center.

Look at that car just sideways there across the highway.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, very, very icy, especially in Houston. A lot of airports are going to see delays today, especially those smaller airports. But some of the major ones as well, including in the northeast. But you're right, stretching all the way from Florida, getting ice and snow again for the second time in two months, and then this is all up in the northeast as well. And extremely cold temperatures behind it also.

So New York City getting snow now. Boston getting snow. Philly, D.C. we could see several inches of snow in all of these cities. Down in the south, it has moved out of Atlanta, where we've picked up about an inch here. But it's now in the Carolinas, southern Georgia and even Florida, if you can believe it.

And the wind chills are very, very cold. So a lot of kids in the south loving the snow but not able to stay out and play in it very long because it feels like temperatures are below zero across a lot of these southern cities. Pensacola, it feels like 8 for you.

And then here's your radar as we go forward in time. This is going to move on out for today. So by this evening, pretty much everyone should be wrapped up except for maybe the eastern side of North Carolina, the outer banks.

So high temperatures today, not even getting to freezing in a lot of cities, 23 in Cincinnati, 36 in New York, 34 in Charlotte, 30 degrees your high temperature in Atlanta.

But there is some light at the end of the tunnel. This cold air is going to work its way out. Warmer air will replace it. By the time we get into the weekend, and by Sunday, that mild air should stretch all the way to the east.

John and Poppy.

BERMAN: All right, Jennifer Gray, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, tick tock, tick tock.


BERMAN: The government shutdown less than three days away and a key group of conservative lawmakers not sold on the current Republican plan. Might they derail its passage? We're going to talk to one of the members of the House Freedom Caucus next.


[09:48:32] HARLOW: All right, this morning, a temporary fix to keep the government up and running or keep it from shutting down in three days is on the table. The problem with it is that Republicans will likely have to go it alone and at last check the chairman of the powerful House Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows, says there may not be enough Republican support to get this thing through the House, never mind what happens in the Senate, where they need Democrats to get on board.

BERMAN: All right, joining us now is Republican Congressman Dave Brat of Virginia. He is a Freedom Caucus member. As Brat goes, so goes America, sir. So our question to you, very simply and very quickly --


BERMAN: Are you a "yes" vote on this temporary spending measure?

BRAT: If we get a few other things tacked down, the DACA bill, we want the Goodlatte bill. President Trump is out front leading on that one. If we get some reassurances that that rational policy goes side by side and if we get some assurances on a military plus, that's all we're talking about, right? We just want what we've been planning --

HARLOW: That's a lot.

BERMAN: That's a lot of other things. I'm just talking about this bill --

HARLOW: This one on the table.

BERMAN: Which you may see this week.

BRAT: Yes.

BERMAN: If that comes to the floor, are you going to vote yes? And I assume that means that, you know, the vote on dreamers happens later?

BRAT: Well, that's why I said -- that vote is contingent on our team taking the fight to the Senate. The Senate doesn't want to -- they haven't taken a vote on anything tough. They failed on health care. They got tax through. No budget this year. They're not going to do a budget next year. They're going to deem a budget. They're giving up all of our leverage.

So Paul Ryan's done a great job this year on our team but then, unfortunately, we get rolled every time we go to the Senate. So we want our leadership to tell the Senate, hey, we're going in with a strong Goodlatte bill. We --

HARLOW: But --

[09:50:10] BRAT: Our intention is to get military plus up. If all that -- no one wants to shut down the government, none of that, but it's -- in March we're going to reach the real deal, right, on a big plus up on both sides with a deficit probably approaching a trillion dollars this year. And I know that it doesn't go into a quick sound bite, but that is significant. And then the DACA deal has to be rational. You're not just going to whip some DACA deal together at the last minute.

BERMAN: Look, look -- we don't know what the deal is right now.

BRAT: Yes. Yes.

BERMAN: But what you're saying, I just want to make sure our viewers understand.

HARLOW: Is no.

BERMAN: Well, I think he's saying, if there's some strong language, if some of your House leaders say some strong things, you'll vote yes on this?

BRAT: Yes. Right. That's right. That's right.

HARLOW: OK. Understood.

So let's move on to DACA and want you want to see in a DACA deal that it sounds like you want some guarantees would happened after this continuing resolution if it's passed -- actually gets passed, but before the March deadline.

As you know, the president said yesterday in his tweet that a DACA bill is, quote -- that it's amnesty for all -- the Democrats, to be clear, he said Democrats want, in his words, amnesty for all. Do you feel that extending protection for dreamers, these just under 800,000 young people who came in young in this country by no fault of their own, for dreamers, do you believe that that is amnesty, yes or no?

BRAT: If it's a pathway to citizenship, that would be an amnesty. The Goodlatte bill puts together a new status for the DACA kids, but also puts in place policies so that we don't run into this again. Right, all the drama --

HARLOW: But you believe any path to citizenship --

BRAT: Yes.

HARLOW: Just for that set amount of people here that came at the average age of six to this country --

BRAT: Well, I hear you selling --

HARLOW: You do think that that is --

BRAT: Right.

HARLOW: No, you do think that's amnesty, right?

BRAT: I said what I just -- I just gave you a very clear answer. If it results in a path to citizenship, it's amnesty. But that's not the -- there's been a huge compromise already. President Trump won. When he won, CNN was in meltdown crying mode the night of, right? They thought it was going to be devastating on this issue.

We're compromising, right? This is a huge compromise. In exchange when you compromise, you usually get something in an exchange. What we want is the Goodlatte bill, which is 20 years of rational policy that, by the way, Bill Clinton, go back and listen to his '95 State of the Union. He's more right wing than the Goodlatte bill. Go back and listen to Pelosi, Schumer, Dick Durbin, all of them are on tape five years ago wanting exactly the end of chain migration, stuff that's good for the middle class wages. That's what we're doing, right? Bernie was more on to this economic stuff before the Democrats went all in on identity politics and just trying to thrash your opponent. We can all get along --

BERMAN: You're saying go back -- hang on.

BRAT: Yes, we could all get along and have a great compromise. Yes.

BERMAN: You're saying go back and -- look, I agree we can all get along on many things.

Jeff Sessions, last night -- you cited a whole bunch of Democrats and what they said on immigration. Well, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said this about immigration.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: What good does it do to bring in somebody who's illiterate in their only country, has no skills and is going to struggle in our country and not be successful? That is not what a good nation should do. And we need to get away from it.


BERMAN: So what exactly do you think he's saying and do you agree with it, congressman?

BRAT: Well, it's hard to put it quick, right? When you're talking about asylum, right, I've taught economics for 20 years. I worked at the World Bank on poverty and education for the poorest of the poor, Sub-Saharan Africa, (INAUDIBLE) Martin Luther King. If you're talking about asylum for political refugees, that's a different issue than an immigration policy. If you go look at London right now, Paris, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, they're being devastated. They have total chaos. They have parts where the police can't go. We're approaching that, right? We're having sanctuary cities and sanctuary states where the law doesn't apply anymore. You're just seeing the beginning trickles of the European end game.

HARLOW: Well --

BRAT: When people see what it's like to live without the police in their communities, they're not going to like that.

BERMAN: Well --

BRAT: So we're just being rational up front and saying, let's not go there.

HARLOW: OK. Let's --

BRAT: Yes.

HARLOW: Let me -- let's just hit on some very specific words from the attorney general yesterday and just get you to address those.

BRAT: Sure.

HARLOW: He said, what good does it do to bring someone in this country who's illiterate, who has no skills and who's not going to be successful in this country? I can rattle off for you folks that have come to this country not speaking English, including my in-laws, or Bianna Golodryga's parents, who was just -- she was just on the show earlier today, who have become very successful. And our question is, when you look at some of these stats, when you look at those born in Africa who come to this country --

BRAT: Yes.

HARLOW: And have college degrees, it's 42 percent. It's higher than native born Americans --

BRAT: Yes.

HARLOW: With 32 percent who have bachelor's degrees. BRAT: Yes.

HARLOW: Do you agree with his assessment that those people have no skill that are from those countries that will not be successful in this country?

[09:55:02] BRAT: No, the data don't show -- I don't think that's what he's saying.

But on your own argument, if -- one of the greatest problems with Sub- Saharan Africa is the dictatorships and despites they've got to fight. So according to your own logic, the moral thing to do wouldn't be to take out the cream of the crop from Sub-Saharan Africa. The only people that are set up and equipped and have some relative power to fight against the despites. And then you just leave the folks in poverty, right, to fight against despites. So that's been the 40 year problem we've had, right?

The World Bank and all of them have done everything good except for focusing on the one thing that will solve the problem, and that's economic growth. They focus on all of these other issues, but business they can't get their head around being pro-business and pro-economic growth. And if you don't crack that one, those people who are all children of God, right, the Chinese, the Indians, Sub-Saharan, they're all children of God. I went to seminary. We want what's best for every person on this planet. And the formula's pretty simple in this country. We have the Judeo Christian tradition which led into the rule of law, right? Moses all the way through James Madison. And then if you're really lucky, you get Adam Smith. You do those three, you're rich. And we need to spread that cookbook to the rest of the world, enrich everybody. There's no upper bound on economic growth, right? There's no upper bound on what everybody can achieve if you're working together.

BERMAN: Congressman --

BRAT: And so let's do it.

BERMAN: Congressman, I've got to -- sadly, we're out of time. We would like to talk to you about James Madison much more in the future --

BRAT: Yes. Well, let's do it.

BERMAN: As well as what you mean by children of God and how you square that --

BRAT: Good.

BERMAN: With the blank-hole countries that the president talked about.

But, sadly, sir, that has to be for next time. Thank you, congressman.

BRAT: Next time. All right, you got it.

HARLOW: Thank you, congressman.

BRAT: You bet. Thank you, guys.

HARLOW: All right, so an episode of my favorite show, the "West Wing," has less drama than what's happening on Capitol Hill today. House Speaker Paul Ryan set to speak in a high stakes game of chicken over funding the government.

Plus, Republican sitting Senator Jeff Flake heads to the Senate floor to publicly condemn the Republican president with a speech that compares him to dictator Joseph Stalin. Stay with us. You'll hear it live here.