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Rep. Schiff To Meet With FBI Over Democratic Memo Redaction; Tensions Escalate After Israel's Clash With Iran & Syria; Power Plant Explosion Causes Blackout In Puerto Rico; Steve Bannon Says #MeToo Movement Could Take Down Trump. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired February 12, 2018 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:42] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so here's the latest.

Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intel Committee, blasting the president for refusing to release the Democratic rebuttal to the controversial GOP memo that alleges surveillance abuses. Schiff says the hypocrisy kind of reaches out and grabs you by the throat.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He's a member of the Intel Committee. Always good to have you on the show. Thank you for being with us.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good morning.

CUOMO: All right. So, what we do know? We do know that there is an apparent double standard going on here.

Reading through the notes from the White House counsel about why they were OK releasing the Nunes memo doesn't seem to be the same standard. In fact, they don't even cite the same executive guideline in doing it.

Is that how you guys feel -- this is just politics?

HIMES: Yes, there's -- I mean, you know, this is very simply the White House saying, over the objections of the Department of Justice and the FBI, we'll release the Nunes memo but when the counterfactual -- when the rebuttal to the Nunes memo comes out and the White House -- and the FBI and the Department of Justice have some concerns, well now those concerns are going to be taken seriously.

So this is just a charade obviously, Chris, to keep information that would show the Nunes memo for what it is, which was conjecture and ill-founded allegations. They're determined to keep that information from the public.

CUOMO: Have you seen Schiff's memo?

HIMES: The Democratic memo?

CUOMO: Yes.

HIMES: Sure, yes.

CUOMO: That's right. I shouldn't call it that. I'm sorry.

But I've been calling the other one Nunes and calling Schiff, you know, just to keep it relatable to people at home --

HIMES: Yes.

CUOMO: -- who are following this mess along.

Is it a fair criticism that there is stuff in your memo -- the Democrat rebuttal memo -- that may need to be redacted and it is a different use of classified information than the Nunes memo?

HIMES: I don't think so. The initial outing of the FISA application -- which is a big deal -- the government's never done that before -- which happened with the Nunes memo. So now, the American public knows that there was a FISA application made on Carter Page. That's the big deal.

Now, needless to say, the Democratic memo points to other elements of that to refute, to rebut the contention that, for example, the Steele information -- the Steele dossier information was critical to it.

But no, the big deal is making that FISA application public to begin with. It's all a big deal.

But the point is that the White House didn't care one iota for what the Department of Justice or the FBI thought the first time around. But now that there's a rebuttal, of course, now they've got to take classification seriously.

CUOMO: All right. So assuming, and I heard that Schiff is going to meet with the FBI and go over what their concerns may be in terms of redacting material -- true?

HIMES: That's right, we don't have a choice but to have that exercise.

CUOMO: All right, so, good. You go and meet with them assuming that they can make recommendations that you guys are comfortable with.

You do not need the president to declassify this and make it public. You have immunity for debate on that floor of Congress. Once you get the clearance from the FBI you can read whatever you want into the Congressional record.

You can't do whatever you want on the floor of Congress and get immunity, but why not go that route?

HIMES: Well, I think, unlike the release of the Nunes memo, which was political -- which was designed in an unartful way to buttress the president's argument that the whole Russia thing is a hoax, as he puts it -- we're being careful here.

We don't want to establish -- we're uncomfortable with the establishment of a precedent where, for political reasons -- and this is what happened with the Nunes memo -- for political reasons, classified information gets out there.

Remember, the White House overrode the objections of the FBI the first time around. We don't want to do that. We want to say, hey, we're not going to -- we're not going to be political. We want the rebuttal out there but we do want to listen to the FBI, something that the president did not afford the FBI when the Nunes memo was released.

CUOMO: All right, now, next topic.

In an oversight capacity, what is Congress, to your knowledge, willing to do about what is now a pretty glaring problem in the White House when it comes to these clearances?

Rob Porter had only a temporary clearance even though he was there a very long time. People don't understand. They hear the word secretary and some stigma goes into play. They don't understand how important this position is and how much classified -- the most sensitive classified information we have goes through this individual's hands to the president.

Jared Kushner -- dozens of changes to his disclosure forms -- still doesn't have clearance. As many as 30 or more members of this administration.

[07:35:02] What can you do about it?

HIMES: Yes, that's absolutely right.

CUOMO: Because they're not doing anything. They could do this but they aren't, apparently.

HIMES: Yes.

CUOMO: So, what can you do?

HIMES: Here's an administration that partly got elected by criticizing Hillary Clinton's -- the way she handled classified information.

Chris, when you go into the Oval Office you leave your Blackberry, you leave your iPhone behind because conversations that happen in there almost inevitably touch on classified information. So you've got all these people, as you point out, who don't have, yet, security clearances handling some of the most sensitive information that we have.

Your question is does Congress have a role? Of course, we do. I would argue that the Homeland Security Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committees have an interest in making sure that the executive safeguards information.

This isn't an abstract thing if talk is loose, if people who shouldn't have access to classified information do. Sources -- now sources are people. Sources in places -- in dangerous places around this -- around this planet are at risk. So yes, this is absolutely something that the Congress should look into.

More to the point, the White House, starting with the president, should fix this immediately.

CUOMO: So, infrastructure. The president's going to put out his plan. Many believe it should have been his first effort right out of the box because now it's going to be harder with deficit hawks in his party after the tax bill that they had to swallow with what that does to the deficit after the spending caps you guys just blew through this current proposal for spending, it's going to be hard.

The state of Connecticut -- the president's idea is to go public- private. It's innovative, it works on some levels. I don't -- I've never seen it done on this scale.

Can your state shoulder its burden to do infrastructure under this plan from the president because it falls to the state and the localities to match the money that the fed gives it.

HIMES: Yes, it's clear we're going to need some traditional federal money for this plan. There's just no way you're going to build infrastructure around this country purely with public-private partnerships, purely with innovative ideas like an infrastructure bank -- something that we've been talking about for a very long time.

What we need to see -- and you're absolutely right because the tax overhaul blew a $1.5 trillion hole in our budget. This last spending bill that passed last week, of course, is a whole lot more money.

Now, we get to one of those most urgent priorities of the American people and you sort of worry that you're going to shake the piggy bank and there's not going to be anything in there. So we are going to have to be creative, not just about traditional federal financing but --

I mean, look at LaGuardia Airport just 10 miles from here. That's being rebuilt completely with a public-private partnership. The problem, Chris, is that that doesn't work everywhere. You're not going to build a new highway through the state of Montana with a public-private partnership.

CUOMO: Right.

HIMES: You're going to need a combination of different revenue sources. And, you know, it's classic politics. Everybody's saying this is really, really, really important but nobody's got ideas how to pay for it and that's what we've got to solve in the next week or two in Washington.

CUOMO: Congressman Himes, Connecticut, thank you very much for being with us.

HIMES: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Erica -- ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: After months in the dark following Hurricane Maria, another massive power outage hits Puerto Rico. What caused this blackout? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(07:41:40] HILL: Israel's cross-border clash with Iranian and Syrian forces escalating hostilities along the country's northern border. It comes after an Israel fighter jet came under fire and crashed.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is live in Jerusalem now with more -- Oren.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erica, this is the first time Israel has openly struck Iranian targets in Syria, making this the first direct confrontation between Israel and Iran since the start of Syria's civil war.

So, let me walk you through what happened over the weekend. This all started on Saturday morning when Israel says an Iranian drone enters Israeli airspace. Notably, that drone is a copy, Israel says, of an American drone that Iran intercepted back in 2011. A drone that was, at least at the time, supposed to be stealth.

Israel downs that drone with an attack helicopter and retaliates by striking the drone's command and control center in Syria. In that strike, a Syrian anti-aircraft missile downs an Israeli fighter jet for the first time in some 35 years. Israel strikes back, hitting 12 different Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria.

That military tension peaks, roughly, on Saturday afternoon and even as the rhetoric and the threatening language keeps flying back and forth, the military tension, the escalation there has ebbed a little bit and the tension, itself, has eased. But you get a sense of who the regional players are and who's looking.

Chris, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Russian president Vladimir Putin on the phone Saturday night. Putin took a very evenhanded approach between Israel and Syria, urging both sides to deescalate. Remember, Russia and Putin have ties with all of the players here -- Israel, Syria, Iran -- and it's Russia that has the leverage to tell both sides to back off here.

There was a phone call to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who is on a tour through the Middle East now. Notably, Tillerson not visiting Israel on this trip -- Chris.

CUOMO: That is something that is painfully apparent to many.

Oren, thank you very much. Keep us in the loop on how this develops.

All right. So, news of an explosion and fire at a power substation that caused a blackout in parts of northern Puerto Rico, including San Juan. Officials say this was a mechanical failure which caused the fire. It was quickly extinguished. The explosion knocked two other substations offline. This is the latest setback for the U.S. territory's efforts to fully

restore power more than five months after Hurricane Maria and it is also a reflection of infrastructure problems that they had there from the beginning.

HILL: That's true.

We want to show you now some live pictures. This is -- these are live pictures of the active search for any remains of the passenger plane that crashed near Moscow on Sunday.

The crew did not report any problems before that plane went down. All 71 people on board were killed.

The plane disappearing from radar shortly after takeoff. Now, witnesses report seeing an explosion. You see some surveillance video here. Witnesses, again, saying they believe there was an explosion before the aircraft went down.

Moscow, we should also point out, is experiencing its heaviest snowfall in decades. It is not clear, at this point, whether the weather played any role in the crash.

CUOMO: All right. So, going on this morning, we're going to take you to some aerial views that show the rugged terrain where a sightseeing helicopter went down in the Grand Canyon. I know we just told you about another plane crash. This is totally unrelated -- different place, different circumstances.

We do know that there were six passengers aboard, all visiting from the U.K. Three of those people are now dead. Three others, along with the pilot, airlifted to a Nevada hospital and they are said to be in critical condition.

[07:45:13] And I'll tell you, looking at the pictures it is amazing anyone survived.

HILL: I had -- I had the exact same thought in seeing that.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is speaking out to CNN about the #MeToo movement, telling Poppy Harlow it will have staying power. And, she also called for an equal rights amendment. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUTH BADER GINSBURG, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I don't think that there will be a serious backlash. It's too widespread. My concern is that it shouldn't stop with prominent people.

It's amazing to me that for the first time, women are really listened to because sexual harassment had often been dismissed as well, she made it up or she's too thin-skinned. So I think it's a very healthy development.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: I think we can call it a healthy development.

CUOMO: Yes, and look, the sad part of the reality of what the Justice supposed is playing out right now in the White House. I mean, what else do you describe as the president saying well, I'm going to take his side?

HILL: Yes.

CUOMO: He's a good guy and, you know, a lot of these women -- you know, they lie.

HILL: Yes.

CUOMO: So, let's keep that in mind. It's exactly what's happening right now.

HILL: And that's what playing -- that's what is playing out. All right.

CUOMO: She's obviously right.

HILL: At least some consistency, I guess.

CUOMO: That's true, that's true.

Heavy rain -- it's not letting up in parts of the southeast and mid- Atlantic. Flash flooding now a possibility.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has your forecast. What are the factors?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's warmer than it should be in many spots so we're talking rain and possibly flooding rather than what could be or would have been a major snow event.

This weather is brought to you by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Packed with goodness.

It has been raining across the northeast. It has been raining, and still will, across Richmond and Hampton Roads. But all of south Florida, too, picking up some significant rain today. It could slow down a few airplanes but other than that, that's really, truly about it.

A lack of moisture on the map here for the next couple of days after that -- some rainfall here. Some could be three to four inches deep. Those rainfall totals somewhere around Pensacola could make flooding on the roadways. Be careful this morning.

And we will talk more on the Olympics weather later on tomorrow. Last night was really tough --

HILL: Yes.

MYERS: -- in South Korea.

HILL: Cold and windy, too. Chad, thank you. MYERS: Yes.

HILL: Steve Bannon speaking out on the #MeToo movement. Why he thinks it could be a major threat to President Trump. The author who interviewed Bannon is with us, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:52:02] CUOMO: President Trump defending a former aide who resigned following allegations of domestic violence. This is not the first time that the president has sided with men accused of hurting women.

But now, in the face of the #MeToo movement, President Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon suggests that movement could take down the president. But he doesn't say it in a way that's very constructive or even realistic.

It's part of a new interview conducted by CNN political analyst Joshua Green in the new paperback edition for those of you like books that bend of the "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency." It comes out tomorrow. I have my copy right here, conspicuously not signed by the author -- a pet peeve.

It is good to have you with us.

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, AUTHOR, "DEVIL'S BARGAIN: STEVE BANNON, DONALD TRUMP, AND THE STORMING OF THE PRESIDENCY": Not signed yet.

CUOMO: Thank you very much. I look forward to it. It is important perspective at this time.

What is Bannon's take on what the #MeToo movement, which he refers to -- which is why I qualified it as the anti-patriarchy movement? What does this mean to him and to the fates of the president, in his opinion?

GREEN: Well, one of the news stories of the book is Bannon sitting in his darkened room watching the "GOLDEN GLOBE" awards with Oprah Winfrey -- pivotal moment in our culture in the last couple of months -- and essentially fulminating about this women's movement that is, you know, encroaching on the rights of men and that threatens Trump and Republicans who Bannon doesn't think are taking this movement seriously enough.

He says -- I don't know if I can say this on the air in a morning show but Bannon was so upset with what Oprah and the actresses were saying, he said if you rolled out a guillotine right now, she'd chop off every set of -- we'll call it male genitalia -- in the room right now.

CUOMO: Yes.

GREEN: And said this is all a backlash to Trump. He is the national patriarch. The irony --

CUOMO: A quick question --

GREEN: Yes.

CUOMO: -- because I know where you're going with this and I want to hear that point.

But just to get people a sense of the premise, do you think Bannon really believes that being pro-woman, pro-protection of everyone, pro- feminist is the same as being anti-male? Do you think he believes that?

GREEN: I think he believes that this movement is directed unfairly at a lot of men who don't deserve it. But the real point I think he was trying to make is that the Trump White House and Republicans aren't sufficiently aware of the political threat this poses to them.

You know, Bannon, despite all his flaws, is very good at recognizing political backlashes. That's what he saw in the culture two years ago that gave rise to Trump. And right now --

CUOMO: Then why didn't he see his own fate coming?

GREEN: Well, so --

CUOMO: You know, if he's so good at noticing it how long did he think he could trash the president's intimates and family and get away with it?

GREEN: Well look, introspection probably isn't one of his biggest qualities --

CUOMO: No.

GREEN: -- but spotting kind of national anxieties and backlashes, I think, is. And what he's -- what he's saying to me in this book is that he thinks that #MeToo is going to be the end of the Trump presidency.

[07:55:03] And he even spins out a scenario where Oprah, who has gained so much currency on this issue, could go out and campaign for House Democrats this cycle, tilt the House to Democrats who could turn around an impeach Trump.

So, Bannon, I guess, is trying to sound the alarm here.

And if you look at what has gone on in the White House in the last week with the epic mishandling of the spousal abuse scandal. You know, White House officials --

CUOMO: Right.

GREEN: -- initially coming to defend Porter and now, coming to defend Kelly after his mishandling of the scandal. I think it points up the fact that the White House really is tone-deaf on this issue and all the attention has been defending the president, defending Kelly. Almost none of it has been about the victims here -- the wives. CUOMO: Well, in the context of what the White House did and what the allegations of domestic abuse -- remember, this isn't about stepping out on a spouse. This isn't about a story coming --

GREEN: No.

CUOMO: -- up from one woman saying that someone was inappropriate at work. This is about violence, domestic abuse -- something that's all too real -- a scourge in the society. So that's that.

With Bannon -- examining him, and I want to stick to the relevance of the book -- is he in contact with the president? Does he believe he is dunzo in terms of his influence on the politics of this country?

GREEN: I don't know that Bannon has had contact with the president. That's one of the things I tried to find out over the last couple of weeks. But he certainly thinks, I think, that he can maneuverer his way back into Trump's good graces eventually.

I think he understands that Trump is really his ticket to relevance and, you know, it's often said in the White House the doghouse has a revolving door. Trump will fire people like Corey Lewandowski, like Reince Priebus, and then turn around and reach out to them a couple of months later, as he has been recently.

So, it wouldn't be that shocking if at some point, especially if this chaos in the West Wing continues, that Trump might decide, you know, I need a new perspective. I'm going to reach out to Steve Bannon again.

CUOMO: Wow, that would really be something if he went back to Bannon.

But, does Bannon have a next trick up his sleeve? Has he got a new movement, new initiative, new money?

GREEN: Well, it's not clear that he does. He's working on a C4. I know he's been out fundraising and trying to put that together.

But, you know, he had quite a fall after Trump broke with him last month. He lost his big financial benefactor, the Mercer family. So, it's up to him to piece that back together and to try and find a way in.

But I do think that it's interesting that he is sounding the alarm about the #MeToo movement and perceives what a threat this could be to Republicans because there don't seem to be a lot of Republicans, certainly not in the White House, that share that view -- at least not based on how they've been acting in the last couple of weeks.

CUOMO: Well, I mean to most people who are politically minded you would see the #MeToo movement as something to embrace, and something to empower, and something to deal with on a systematic level because right now, to this point, it's really just been about bold-faced names.

GREEN: Well, that's right. But if you're boss, the commander in chief, is hopping on Twitter and tweeting in defense of the alleged attacker, saying nothing whatsoever about the victims in this, I think that sends a completely different message that, you know, what's important here is to right back against the women, not necessarily the men who are abusing them.

CUOMO: Right, except his mistake -- and it is a mistake. I don't care what anybody says. You don't have to support the president to support his mistakes. You can do both at the same time and you could also call out his mistakes.

It's an opportunity for other Republicans, what just happened here. Although, as we've been saying this morning -- you hear that, Josh, that's the silence of McConnell and Ryan in yet another moment of leadership.

Thank you for the update on the book. The paperback version right here. If you pay a little extra you can get it signed. I couldn't make it happen for myself.

Josh, thank you very much.

We're following a lot of news this morning, my friends. We're getting new information in here. So, what do you say? Let's get after it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was very sad when we heard about it and certainly, he's also very sad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He continues to -- not to speak up for the people who have been abused, but for the abusers.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: He says that Gen. Kelly is doing a great job and that he has full faith in him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way he didn't know about this. He's up to his neck in it and he chose not to deal with.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: We've got to hear from John Kelly as to what he knew.

CUOMO: The Senate set to begin debating immigration today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's secure our border and let's solve the problems for the DACA recipients and Dreamers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're a few weeks away from the March deadline and we still don't have a resolution here.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: What's being proposed in the Senate is not going to be acceptable to conservatives in the House.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: It's real debate on an issue where we really don't know what the outcome is going to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your new day. It's Monday, February 12th, 8:00 in the east.

Alisyn, on assignment. Erica Hill joining me right now. Thank you for propping me up this morning.

HILL: Hey, thanks for inviting me back.

CUOMO: Always a pleasure.

The Trump White House just can't get the story straight on the scandal rocking the West Wing for the last week. Trump aides continue to defend the president's chief of staff John Kelly over his handling -- or really, mishandling of the domestic abuse allegations that led to Rob Porter resigning.

The president following a pattern that we have seen time and again and it must be called out.