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Kelly's History of Controversies; Congress to Vote on Spending Deal; Trump Unlikely to Authorize Memo; Mother Of Olympian Addresses Pence Tweets; Trump Speaks at Prayer Breakfast. Aired 8:30-9:00a ET

Aired February 8, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Leader can tell you what President Trump wants. And so that plays out in his White House. That plays out in the legislation we must work on for the American people and it's not helping a single person in America right now.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And so what do Democrats do? Do you call for Chief of Staff John Kelly to be replaced?

SWALWELL: No. You know, honestly, Alisyn, it's the president's right to run his own White House. We have to -- in the legislative branch -- work around the White House if they're not willing to work with us. And I think you're seeing, on the Senate side, they did that yesterday. They struck a bipartisan deal. I hope we can do the same here on the House side.

But, you know, there's different branches of government. And until it starts to really affect the American people, I still think the person who's name is on the door is the one who's most responsible. That's Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: OK, so what are you going to do in the House? What -- what is going to happen with this budget deal given the fact that it doesn't address immigration?

SWALWELL: Well, it takes four people to make a deal in Congress. Three people agree right now, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell. The odd man out is Paul Ryan. He is not offering to the House Democrats the same deal that the Senate Democrats got. So we're just asking him to -- let's strike the same deal. Let's get a bipartisan budget. Let's solve the dreamers issue. Let's provide border security and move on for the American people.

CAMEROTA: And without that, is this budget going to happen by midnight tonight?

SWALWELL: I don't -- I don't think it will, Alisyn. I think -- you know, Democrats on the House side believe strongly that we need to have the same bipartisan cooperation we see over in the Senate. And that there's no reason that Paul Ryan should treat us any differently.

CAMEROTA: And you're willing to shut down the government over it?

SWALWELL: No, we're -- there's three sides -- or three sides of this are willing to keep the government open. The one person who's left out here is Paul Ryan. I think he should, you know, really just try and work with us. I don't understand why he wouldn't want to be a part of a big bipartisan solution here that can keep government open and solve the immigration crisis.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about the -- another thing that people have been waiting on, with baited breath, and that is the Democratic memo, the rebuttal to the Nunes memo and the White House until Friday to release it. The word is that they will release it, but it could be with many redactions.

So what are your thoughts on this? Where does that leave the American public in terms of knowing what's really happening in the House Intel Committee?

SWALWELL: The American public wants a memo without political edits. They want us to move on and end these attacks on process and get back to listening to witnesses and receiving evidence.

The larger issue, though, Alisyn, is what we've heard just in the past few days from Mike Pompeo and Rex Tillerson, which is that the Russians haven't left our democracy. They're still here and they're getting ready to attack us in 2018. And so disunity is a sword for Russia. The best unity is for us -- you know, the best shield for us is for we -- for us to show unity, get our act together and start putting in reforms that will protect us from what happened back in 2016.

CAMEROTA: What about what the Republicans are claiming, congressman, that your ranking member, Adam Schiff, intentionally put intel into this memo, into his rebuttal, that would have to be redacted, thereby making it seem as though the White House was biased and only redacting the Democratic side and not the Republican side?

SWALWELL: Yes. Well, you can't have a counter memo, Alisyn, unless there's an original memo. And ours was only in response to what was put out there. It goes no further than that.

But, you know, it would be irresponsible to leave unanswered such baseless charges that have a collateral effect of really reducing the confidence that the American people have in the FBI. And so we want to show they put together a serious application to surveil a member of the Trump campaign and at the seriousness of this investigation is probably beyond what most people understand it to be.

CAMEROTA: All right, Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you for talking about all of this with us.

SWALWELL: Of course. My pleasure. Thanks, Alisyn.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, you see in the little box on your screen, that is the National Prayer Breakfast. The president has arrived. He arrived with Chief of Staff John Kelly. We're waiting for him to speak. He's still a couple of people down the dais, we're told. So as soon as he gets up there, we'll bring it live.

One of the big stories this morning is a gay American Olympian refusing to meet with Vice President Mike Pence. We're going to talk with the mother of that athlete and get the story straight once and for all, next.


[08:38:14] CUOMO: All right, so the vice president re-igniting a feud this morning with an openly gay Olympian on Team USA. "USA Today," the newspaper, reporting that Pence tried to set up a meeting with figure skater Adam Rippon last month. There's nothing wrong with requesting that kind of meeting. Why did he ask for a meeting? Because the skater was critical of the vice president leading the U.S. delegation, saying, quote, you mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I'm not buying it.

Adam appears to referencing a statement from Pence's 2000 congressional campaign website that reads, resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.

Now, before Pence was vice president, you may remember he was the governor of Indiana. One of the things that brought him on to the national stage was his open and aggressive support of that state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was a fancy way of saying allow people to use religion to avoid laws mandating equal treatment for the LGBT community. That's what it was. At the time we begged him to come on to defend it. He wouldn't.

Joining us now is Adam's mother, Kelly Rippon.

Can you hear us?

KELLY RIPPON, MOTHER OF FIGURE SKATER ADAM RIPPON (via telephone): Yes, I can, Chris. Good morning.

CUOMO: Great. It's good to have you.

First things first, congratulations to the family. We know you must be very nervous. We wish him well. And we are so appreciative of your son representing the country.

RIPPON: Well, thank you.

CUOMO: Because that's, you know, that's what this should be about.

However, you now know what's going on. Were you aware if the vice president had asked to meet with your son?

RIPPON: You know, I do not handle his communications. You know, he has an agent and a publicist. But my understanding was that when he -- when certain things were published a few weeks ago, I think it was, that his office reached out for a conversation. I don't know about a face-to-face. But I think it was something about that. But I can't be sure about that. So I don't -- you know, I can't say that that's true. [08:40:08:40:29] CUOMO: And you were aware that your son didn't want

to do it?

RIPPON: No. This is -- this is the part that I think is misunderstood, Chris. I believe that, you know, you can say it many different ways. I don't think he ever said I refuse to do that, because that suggests a tone of intolerance and, you know, inflexibility and a closed door. I think what he said was, and what he said to me is the tone that he conveyed to me was, I have a huge responsibility to give United States Figure Skating my absolute best performance and I can't do that having side conversations about different things. I need to put 100 percent of my energy, like I have all season, on competing and training for the Olympic games and for the events that he was responsible to give his best performance for.

So he conveyed to whomever, I don't know the individuals -- that any kind of communication would have to be done after the competition is over.

CUOMO: Right. Right. I mean it makes perfect sense.

First of all, I mean --

RIPPON: So instead of saying, I can't do that, it was reported he refused. So it sounds -- the tone, you know.

CUOMO: I get it. I get it. I get your concern with it and wanting to correct it. I mean he was quoted saying what he was saying. But, by the way, you know, he's an American. He's entitled to his opinion about any of these matters. And we would understand his not wanting to be distracted when he has the biggest moment of his life upcoming.

What bothered you --

RIPPON: But he was never quoted as saying I refuse.

CUOMO: No, he was quoted as saying the guy who said the, you know, Mike Pence, the guy who did this and this.

RIPPON: Of course. Yes.

CUOMO: No thanks or whatever. And all that's fine.

RIPPON: In reference to his history. In reference to history to see --

CUOMO: Understood.

RIPPON: Yes, and not supportive of the LGBT community, right.

CUOMO: Understood. And that's a key distinction for you, because you say what bothered you here was the vice president saying that that is fake, fake news. Let's put the tweets up there so people at home --

RIPPON: Well, you know, I don't like that. Yes, that's right.

CUOMO: I know. I get it and I want you to say why but I want people to understand what we're talking about first.

So, Vice President Mike Pence tweeted, headed to the Olympic to cheer on Team USA. One reporter -- he's talking about Christine Brennan, one of the best sports reporters in the business -- trying to distort 18- year-old nonstory to sow seeds of division. We won't let that happen. Fake news. And then he goes on.

That bothers you because?

RIPPON: Well, it bothered -- yes, well the idea of -- it bothered me in the one that he addressed Adam with, the one above that. I want you to know we're all for you, which I think's wonderful. That's terrific. Don't let fake news distract you. And I just think that that -- that when people keep saying that word "fake news" over and over again, it implies that you can do things and you can never be held accountable for them because you just say that it's fake. And I just -- that -- that -- that repetition of that term, I don't think, is good.

CUOMO: I agree with you. We deal with it all the time, that fake news for this administration has become a phrase that means, we don't like this. And, unfortunately, people hear it. And when people read that tweet, to your point, they -- some supporters of the vice president and the president will say, well, I guess they have it wrong about what he said. But everybody can read what was on that website for themselves, what he said about funding services to change sexual behavior. I don't know what else that can mean --

RIPPON: Right.

CUOMO: Other than what your son took it as. And in 2015, the vice president, who was put on the national stage, pushing a state law --

RIPPON: Right.

CUOMO: That allowed people to use religion to get around laws for equality for the LGBTQ community. What's your take on that?

RIPPON: Right. I think that -- and I think that that's what he was speaking of. You know, that it was in opposition to -- equality for all. Not that -- you know, it's -- you know, when, say, for instance, when a student is in school and they have a learning plan, it's not to give them an advantage, it's to level the playing field. And protection for equal rights for people isn't to give any group or marginalized community an advantage. It's to try and level the playing field. And I think that, you know, as a mom or as a citizen or just as a human being, we don't want to see anyone be treated, guilted or shamed into feeling that they're less than who they actually are.

[08:45:07] CUOMO: Amen.

Tomorrow night you're going to have one of the proudest moments of your life. You'll be there for the opening ceremony. You'll get to see your son walk in. I know there will be like a gazillion athletes there, but what will that moment mean to you?

RIPPON: It is a dream come true. It really is. I mean to -- I -- when I flew over here, there were a few parents from, you know, various sports that were on the same flight that I was on. We came out of Atlanta. And, you know, when we spoke to each other, it's -- we don't -- we just met for the first time, but we knew each other, because it's -- very few people -- you know, parents of Olympic athletes understand the brutal commitment, the physical drive and commitment that an athlete has to put their bodies through that exceptionally elite level of activity every day and the ups and downs and to have that thick skin. You know, I'm sure he's not following a lot of this and --

CUOMO: Good.

RIPPON: Conversations that we have a pretty limited.

CUOMO: Good. Hopefully he focuses on the Olympics. I'm not getting choked up because of you. I was drinking and choking at the same time.

CAMEROTA: Yes, he is. He is, actually. It's no joke.

CUOMO: But it is very emotional.

There, I'm back. It is very emotional. We are all proud of the athletes who are there for us.

Thank you for talking to us about this, this morning.

RIPPON: You have a great day.

CUOMO: I wish I had the emotional depth to get that choked up.

CAMEROTA: Do you need me to pound on your back, because I'm willing to.

CUOMO: I know at any -- at any moment's notice.

CAMEROTA: I am willing to. I have a mallet over here for just that.

CUOMO: Thank you. It won't be enough.

CAMEROTA: All right.

CUOMO: Please continue.

CAMEROTA: President Trump is set to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast any moment. So we will bring that to you live as soon as it happens.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: OK, we promised we would bring this to you live as soon as it happens and here is President Donald Trump speaking at the NATIONAL PRAYER BREAKFAST.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. And thank you, Randy, for that very kind introduction.

I want to thank you and Congressman Charlie Crist for serving as co- chairs this year. It's an honor to be with so many faith leaders, members of Congress, and dignitaries from all around the world as we continue this extraordinary tradition.

I'm very glad to be joined by many members of my cabinet. They're doing a terrific job.

I want to extend our appreciation to the first lady of Rwanda for leading the opening prayer.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

I also want to thank my two great friends, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. They're some here. Where are they? They are two terrific people. Stand up, Mark, you deserve it, even though he comes from Hollywood. Roma, thank you very much. Thank you for doing this.

Major Scottie Smiley (ph) and Tiffany, we're moved by your faith and your courage and inspired by your service and sacrifice. That was really beautiful, thank you very much. Thank you.

And to my friend and everybody's friend, Steve Scalise, we are so glad to have you with us today. Your presence reminds us of Jesus' words in the book of Matthew, with God all things are possible. You are fantastic. You really are, Steve. A fantastic man.

America's a nation of believers and together we are strengthened by the power of prayer. This morning, our hearts are full of gratitude as we come together for the 66th Annual National Prayer Breakfast. But our hearts are also saddened by the absence of the co-founder of this wonderful breakfast who passed away last year, Doug Coe, who everybody loved.

[08:50:30] For 60 years, Doug devoted his time and passion to this prayer breakfast. And to many other wonderful causes. Today we are blessed to be joined by Doug's wife, Jan, and two of their sons, David and Tim.

Thank you. Thank you very much. A great man.

I want to thank you for carrying on Doug's legacy also and bringing our national together in prayer. You are indeed carrying on his great legacy.

Each year this event reminds us that faith is central to American life and to liberty. Our founders invoked our creator four times in the Declaration of Independence. Our currency declares "in God we trust."

And we place our hands on our hearts as we recite the Pledge of Allegiance and proclaim we are one nation under God.

Our rights are not given to us by man, our rights come from our creator. No matter what, no earthly force can take those rights away.

That is why the words "praise be to God" are etched atop the Washington Monument and those same words are etched into the hearts of our people. So today we praise God for how truly blessed we are to be American.

Across our land, we see the splendor of God's creation. Through our history, we see the story of God's providence. And in every city and town, we see the Lord's grace all around us through a million acts of kindness, courage and generosity. We love God. We see the Lord's grace in the service members who risk their lives for our freedom. We see it in the teachers who work tirelessly for their students and the police who sacrifice for our communities. And sacrifice they do.

And we see the Lord's grace in the moms and dads who work two and three jobs to give their children the chance for a better and much more prosperous and happier life. As the Bible tells us, for we are God's handiwork, created in Jesus Christ, to do good works. America's heroes rise to this calling. In their selfless deeds, they reveal the beauty and goodness of the human soul.

When catastrophic hurricanes struck, first responders and everyday citizens dove into rushing waters to save stranded families from danger, and they saved them by the thousands. Neighbors opened their homes to those in need of food, clothes, shelter. Firefighters braved blinding smoke and flames to rescue children from devastating wildfires. During the horrific shooting, strangers shielded strangers and police officers ran into a hail of bullets to save the lives of their fellow Americans right in Las Vegas. A terrible day, a terrible night, but such bravery.

Families have adopted babies orphaned by the opioid epidemic and given them loving homes. Communities and churches have reached out to those struggling with addiction and shown them the path to a clean life, a good job, and a renewed sense of purpose. And soldiers, sailors, coast guardsmen, airmen and marines have spent long months away from home defending our great American flag.

[08:55:21] All we have to do is open our eyes and look around us and we can see God's hand. In the courage of our fellow citizens, we see the power of God's love at work in our souls and the power of God's will to answer all of our prayers. When Americans are able to live by their convictions, to speak openly of their faith, and to teach their children what is right, our families thrive, our communities flourish, and our nation can achieve anything at all.

Together, as Americans, we are a tireless force for justice and for peace. We have witnessed this truth over the past year. For years ISIS had brutally tortured and murdered Christians, Jews, religious minorities and countless Muslims. Today, the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated almost 100 percent of the territory just recently held by these killers in Iraq and all throughout Syria.

Much work will always remain. But we will never rest until that job is completely done. And we are really doing it like never before. We know that millions of people in Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and North

Korea and other countries suffer under repressive and brutal regimes. America stands with all people suffering oppression and religious persecution. Last week, during the State of the Union, the world was inspired by the story of a North Korean defector, Mr. Gee Song Ho (ph), who is now back in South Korea. Before his escape, when Song Ho was being tortured by North Korean officials, there was one thing that kept him from losing hope, over and over again he recited the Lord's Prayer. He prayed for peace and he prayed for freedom. And now as you know Song Ho is free and a symbol of hope to millions of people all around the world.

Here with us today is another symbol of hope. A very brave nine-year- old girl named Sofia Marie Campa Peters (ph). Sophia suffers from a rare disease that has caused her to have many (ph) strokes. At one point the doctors told Sofia that she would not be able to walk. Sofia replied, if you're only going to talk about what I can't do, then I don't want to hear it. Just let me try to walk.

She tried and she succeeded. And one of her doctors even told her mom -- and they're right here in the front row where they should be -- this little girl has God on her side.

Thank you, Sofia. Thank you, mom. Great mom. I said, do you love your mom? She said, I have a great mom. I love my mom. Right?

Just two weeks ago, Sofia needed to have a very high risk surgery. She decided to ask the whole world to pray for her. And she hoped to reach 10,000 people. On January 24th, as Sofia went into surgery, she far surpassed her goal. Millions and millions of people lifted Sofia up in their prayers. Today we thank God that Sofia is with us and she's recovering and she's walking very well.

[09:00:08] And I have to say this, Sofia, you may only be nine-years- old, but you are already a hero to all of