Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Representative Francis Rooney; Number of Larry Nassar's Victims at 256; Secretary James Mattis Seeking Pentagon Cell Phone Ban; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 31, 2018 - 10:30   ET



[10:32:33] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Very shortly, it could be really any minute now, the Republican memo which alleges FBI abuses could be released. Now our next guest has been critical of the agency.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: He's Republican Congressman Francis Rooney. He sits on the House Foreign Affairs and Joint Economic Committees.

It's nice to have you here. We're going to get to that in a moment, the memo. But let me just ask your reaction to the State of the Union last night because on immigration the president once again pushed his hope for a path for citizenship for Dreamers and would-be Dreamers, almost two million people in this country.

You have said, OK, I'm open for what you call a reasonable DACA agreement but something that is in your words not amnesty. Is what the president is proposing, this path to citizenship -- is that amnesty?

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: You know, I don't really think it is. I think what I understand of it, and I haven't seen it in print, but what I've read is that it's a 10 or 12-year path which should put those applicants squarely in line with other people that are applying for citizenship and then will be legitimize in their status while they're here in the process.

BERMAN: On the memo, sir, we heard Chief of Staff John Kelly say moments ago it could come out pretty quickly. Yesterday Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, was speaking about this and said let's get it all out there, cleanse the organization. I think we have the statement. "Cleanse the organization. I think we should disclose all this stuff. It's the best disinfectant."

So I guess my question to you is, why is the Republican disinfectant better than the Democratic disinfectant? If disinfectant is what you're after, why not release both memos at once?

ROONEY: I didn't know there was a Democratic memo until I just heard you all speaking about it on CNN. I don't -- I don't really know that I have a problem with releasing everything. You know, the American people usually make the right call when they get all the information. BERMAN: I think you're right. So release them at the same time. Now

that you do know from CNN's reporting that there is a Democratic memo out there, do you think it would be best to release them both at the same time?

ROONEY: I don't know about at the same time, but it's worthy of consideration, for sure. I'm going to be looking forward to the reaction of this memo and remember, what's important is not whether it's Democrat or Republican. But if the facts are accurate . If the facts are accurate, this is a serious matter and that's why I felt it was going to be a serious matter when I spoke up about it in the first place.

HARLOW: On the point of the crafting of the memo, there's new reporting out of "Daily Beast" that Devin Nunes wrote the memo, worked with the White House on it, that essentially there was some cooperation here between the White House and the chair of the House Intel Committee on this one.

[10:35:07] If that is the case -- because he didn't deny it when he was asked it yesterday by one of his fellow Congress members, and the White House didn't deny it when they were asked this morning on CNN, Sarah Sanders, about it. If the White House and Devin Nunes worked in any collaboration on this memo, does that concern you?

ROONEY: It doesn't as long as it's factually accurate. As long as --


HARLOW: But why doesn't it -- hold on. If it goes to -- right? It's all about alleged surveillance abuses by the FBI tied to the Trump- Russia dossier. So that's tied to the Trump White House. Why would it not concern you if there was some collaboration on the memo?

ROONEY: Again, all I care about is that it's factually accurate. Whoever gets the information is not as important to me as that it'd be truthful and accurate so people can make their own decision based on facts and not rumors.

BERMAN: Congressman, you are on the Foreign Affairs Committee. You care a great deal about Russia and you look at Russia as a serious threat. You call it one of the greatest geopolitical threats. You know Russia needs to know there is a high cost for further voyeurism in the Middle East, things like that. You've gone to great end to point out Russia's misdeeds around the world.

Well, this week the White House trying to meet a deadline for new sanctions on Russia doesn't issue new sanctions and instead all it does is puts out a list of essentially Russian oligarchs.

HARLOW: Really rich guys. Who might be sanctioned.

BERMAN: Pulled from "Forbes" magazine, you know, some reports go here. Does that go far enough to deal with this threat that you think is so dire? ROONEY: Well, I think we have the Magnitsky Act that does provide for

sanctions for these people that have been involved in hurting the people over there and putting people in jail and killing them and stuff.

HARLOW: But this is not -- this is not an implementation of sanctions. Monday was the deadline for the White House to say we're sanctioning X, Y and Z person and entity. And I think John's question is they didn't do that. As such a Russia hawk, does it concern you that they didn't slap these sanctions on these folks?

ROONEY: It does if these people would be sanctioned under the bills that the House has passed in the Magnitsky Act because I think we need to enforce that stuff.

BERMAN: All right. Congressman, also we're hearing from the president's legal team right now that they're not sure that the special counsel has met the legal standard for the president to sit down with investigators right now.

Do you think if he has nothing to hide as he says that he should answer whatever questions they have?

ROONEY: Well, that's a little bit above my pay grade. I mean, I generally would say that if you have nothing to hide, you ought to answer questions. But these prosecutorial things are -- you know, there may be some concern about that that I don't know about.

I'd hate to see the president tripped up or something by a mistake that's inadvertent and not factual. If he can stick to the facts, why not?

BERMAN: Well, what kind of mistake is inadvertent? And if he's speaking the fact, if he's saying things that aren't true, that would seem inadvertent?

ROONEY: Well, no, I'm sure that he wouldn't say things that are untrue. But, you know, I don't know if you all have ever taken those personality tests like you do for intelligence or for applications in a company like we do in our executives is you can -- you'll ask the same question a lot of different ways. And sometimes you might not answer it all at the same way. They ask the same thing six different times out of 200 questions you might shade something the wrong way that could be actionable. I don't know. It's a little above my pay grade about that.

HARLOW: And if you're always just telling the truth, there shouldn't be a problem. Right?

ROONEY: I agree. The truth will set you free.

HARLOW: Congressman Francis Rooney, thank you.

ROONEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: I thought he was commenting on our personality as if we've -- (CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: Have you ever taken one of those?

BERMAN: I'm very charming. I've been telling you all morning how charming I am.

HARLOW: That's true.

Happening now, more survivors speaking out against former USA gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. He is back in court again for a third sentencing hearing. A live report from outside of the courthouse ahead.


[10:43:00] HARLOW: Right now former USA gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar is in another Michigan courtroom for another sentencing. This is in a separate case still, though, about sexual abuse.

BERMAN: More survivors of his abuse are speaking out. He pleaded guilty to three counts of criminal sexual conduct in Eaton County. That's in addition to the seven counts of criminal conduct in a different country. He was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for that.

CNN's Jean Casarez in Michigan for us. Jean, what can we expect this morning?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they've already started giving their victim impact statements and the assistant attorney general and the judge said before this proceeding began that there were 265 identified victims of Larry Nassar. At this point 65 of them will be giving victim impact statements but the assistant AG said that number could definitely change.

I want to explain why we're here in Eaton County which is another county in Michigan. It's because they have the sports gymnasium called Twist Stars and this was a place for young Olympic hopefuls to practice and train and the doctor that serviced them medically was Larry Nassar. So through the years there were so many, many young women that went on to Olympic greatness from this gymnasium Twist Stars. But that's where the victims come in.

He pled guilty to three charges of aggravated sexual conduct. So there were three actual victims but once again as per the plea agreement, all of these other young women who are additional act witnesses who were also sexually assaulted can give statements.

Now in other news right here in Michigan, in Lansing, which we are right next to here, former governor, John Engler, was appointed by the Board of Trustees, a former governor of Michigan to be the interim president. There were protests this morning at the university by students saying we weren't allowed to give input on this. But the Board of Trustees that are still in place decided this is the best person in the interim while they do a national search and that national search is done for the permanent president.

[10:45:06] BERMAN: That's rattled so many different institutions in that state.

Jean Casarez, thanks so much for your reporting.

HARLOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: The secretary of the Defense considering banning personal cell phones at the Pentagon for security reasons. We'll tell you why. Stick around.


BERMAN: All right. New this morning, CNN has learned that Secretary of Defense James Mattis is considering a ban on cell phones at the Pentagon.

HARLOW: Right. This would be personal cell phones, I think. But let's find out from our Ryan Browne because this is all about a fitness app actually that they were concerned was a heat map was showing all these different things. It could be a security concern.

[10:50:07] Is this just personal cell phones or is this any cell phone?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, John and Poppy, we're being told that this applies to personal cell phones. There's some 23,000 Pentagon employees. U.S. military personnel and civilian personnel that work in this building which some call the largest office building in the world. So that's quite a lot of cell phones.

There are security concerns. You mentioned this Fitbit issue, this kind of tracker. Now that -- this review predates that kind of revelation. However we're being told that this -- that has only reinforced what the officials say is the need for this review. And so one of the things they're concerned about is the intelligence risk posed by personal cell phones potentially being brought into classified areas.

This is a concern. It's actually the same concerns that drove a similar ban on personal cell phone use at the White House. Now that ban was implemented for West Wing staffers this month. So this is kind of following similar intelligence we're being told. That's the risk involved in personal cell phones brought into sensitive areas.

But again, a lot of logistical challenges putting this in place. There are so many personnel and some over 20,000 people. Many of them come on public transit. They would have to have lockers or something of that nature to store their cell phones. So the logistical challenges do question the feasibility of this ban.


BROWNE: But we are being told that it's being actively considered at this time. BERMAN: You know, Ryan, last night the president spoke about North

Korea and the threat of North Korean missiles, the imminent threat to the U.S. mainland. At the same time, you know, apparently the person who was going to be the ambassador to South Korea no longer in consideration. That's interesting.

BROWNE: Well, that's right, John. Victor Cha penning an op-ed yesterday in "The Washington Post" kind of laying out some of his concerns about potential strategies to confront the North Korean missile challenge, nuclear and missile program challenge, particularly this notion of a bloody nose preemptive strike -- limited strike. He laid that out in his op-ed. Again, he had long been rumored to be the Trump administration's first choice for the ambassadorship to South Korea position that remains unfilled. And some say is a really important position given all these mounted tensions. So we'll look to see who the Trump administration seeks as their new choice for that post.

HARLOW: OK. Ryan Browne, thank you very much.

BROWNE: You bet.

BERMAN: So our own Coy Wire just made the Eagles quarterback Nick Foles cry.

HARLOW: Really?

BERMAN: We'll tell you why.


[10:57:16] HARLOW: Win or lose in the Super Bowl, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles just wants his daughter to be proud of her daddy.

BERMAN: That's really sweet.

Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report" from Minneapolis.

And Coy, this was you talking to Nick Foles.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes. I had a feeling Nick might get a bit verklempt, guys. Good morning to you. This "Bleacher Report" presented by the new 2018 Ford F-150.

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and his wife Tori, they've been through a lot. She got sick in 2013. Diagnosed with a rare heart condition. He was by her side for a month in the Mayo Clinic. He proposed to her there. They got married two days later in a courthouse. They've never even had a honeymoon. But seven months ago he and Tori welcomed their baby daughter Lilly. Watch what happens when I ask Nick how that has changed the way he sees the game.


NICK FOLES, EAGLES QUARTERBACK: The most important thing when I get to -- you know, when I think about this journey and everything I get home and I -- I get to see her. No matter what happens, no matter if I play a horrible game, she loves me. She has no idea. We win the Super Bowl, she has no idea. And she's going to love me no matter what.


WIRE: That is what it's all about. Playing for a higher purpose. We see these players on the field like super heroes but Nick Foles reminds us that behind the pads and the glitz and the glam, they are human just like us.

Well, maybe not all of them are human. Tom Brady going for his sixth Super Bowl title with the Patriots. And as a kid he visited his mom's side of the family who lives in Browerville, just a couple hours from here. I asked him if he had any fun or funny memories and he told me about the time he insisted that his uncles let him try chewing tobacco.


TOM BRADY, PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK: We were fishing in a -- we went sun- fishing and on the way home I said, I want to try it. And they said, look, if we give it to you, then, you know, you can't spit it out until you get home. It was like a 30-minute ride back to my grandpa's farm. So of course they give it to me and within five minutes I'm outside of the car throwing up all over the place. And I don't think I've had much chewing tobacco since then.


WIRE: Tom told me that some of his Minnesotan family members who have never seen him play in person in a Super Bowl, maybe even his uncles, will be at the game on Sunday.

HARLOW: I wish he had a better Minnesota memory than chewing tobacco and barfing on the side of the road. But I don't know if he will because I think the Eagles are going to take it. Sorry, Berman.

BERMAN: Like they said, land of 10,000 lakes and throwing up at the side of the road after chewing tobacco.

Coy Wire, those are great interviews, man. You made news on two fronts there.

HARLOW: On both of them.

BERMAN: And I can't help but liking Nick Foles. So great job.

HARLOW: So -- and I'm not going to be here on Monday, so if the Pats don't win -- is that a possibility?

BERMAN: I don't understand --

HARLOW: What are you going to wear?

BERMAN: I don't understand the premise of the question.

HARLOW: Well, I won't be here to, like, bring you something embarrassing to wear.

BERMAN: I don't understand the premise of the question.


HARLOW: Thank you all for joining us. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" starts now.