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Madeleine Albright On Her New Book "Fascism: A Warning"; Trump Warns "Get Ready Russia," Missiles Are Coming To Syria; Facebook CEO Zuckerberg Faces Second Day Of Questions Before Congress; White House Says President Trump Has The Power To Fire Robert Mueller. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 11, 2018 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00] MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE, AUTHOR, "FASCISM: A WARNING": And that is what worries me because democracy can't operate if there is, in fact, a president who thinks he's above the law and thinks that he can do everything by himself.

My book is kind of a historical approach to fascism and one of the things that does happen is that there is a leader who thinks that he can do everything by himself. A -- the answer to everything, a stable genius, a number of aspects that says I can do it by myself. That is not what this country is about.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Now I want to -- you know, you start the book off with a quote by Primo Levi which is a perfect choice, right?

ALBRIGHT: Yes.

CUOMO: He's an Italian and he's Jewish so you checked both boxes --

ALBRIGHT: Yes.

CUOMO: -- for us.

And it suggests that don't just look at the obvious when you're talking about fascism because fascism is such a dynamite word, right? I mean, it evokes such harshness in itself. And the quote is interesting and obviously, it winds up being an invitation for people to how you're going to discuss this book.

It's not just about terror and police intimidation. Denying and distorting information, undermining systems of justice, paralyzing the system of education. Spreading, in a myriad of subtle ways, nostalgia for a period when order reigned.

OK, that's the criticism of "Make American Great Again," that it is a dog whistle to an earlier order.

Do you agree with that and what is that order suggestive of to you?

ALBRIGHT: Well, the reason I wrote the book is that I am worried about the dog whistle part of this.

And, Mussolini -- and I write about him in the book -- is somebody that came up with a really incredible image which is if you pluck a chicken one feather at a time you can consolidate without people paying attention. I think we are seeing a couple of feathers pulled most recently which is plucking the chicken in terms of the judicial system.

And one of the other parts about this is you can't have a leader that thinks he's above the law. So for me, what I wanted to do was kind of warn about those particular steps.

And, you know, the statement "say something" -- "see something, say something" I've now added to that "do something" which is why I wrote the book.

CUOMO: Now look, you know, I'm teasing you about being the warrior but anybody who knows your story -- and they should read the book and they should look at it because it's not just about Donald Trump. There's a chapter in here about him. He's mentioned in the foreword but there's a lot more context in here.

You lived this. You lived the absolute extreme of what can happen because of the Holocaust. You lost grandparents, you lost extended family members, you had to be on the run. It shaped you.

So it's not about some mindless worry. It's about your reality of what existence can bring.

In your chapter about the president it will meet with a counterargument, which is no, no, no, he's not a fascist. He believes in democracy. He believes that democracy has been corrupted here. That the institutions, the deep state -- that they're not doing their job and that's what he's calling out.

He's not against justice, he's about injustice and that's what his words are and to the extent they go beyond that, he doesn't mean it. That's just hyperbole.

Is that good enough for you?

ALBRIGHT: Chris, I'm not calling him a fascist. What I'm looking at are what, in fact, the characteristics are that we've seen in other places where a leader does, in fact, say that the institutions that we have don't work at all. That again, above the law.

Then also, there are divisions in society -- we know that -- and somebody who exacerbates those divisions rather than trying to find common ground is what the problem is.

And so what I wanted to do -- and by the way, I would have written this book no matter who was elected because there were various signs to kind of show that there -- the government was not responding to a lot of the things that the people wanted and that we needed to make sure that people ran for office, believed in the government, understood that the press was absolutely vital to our existence.

And that we couldn't kind of do hyper-nationalism which made us try to look for some enemy to scapegoat. And those are the kinds of things, frankly, that have been part of the record.

So I do think that that's what we need to -- kind of the 'watch out for' list.

CUOMO: And look, obviously, you have Duterte, you have el-Sisi, you have Putin. You have a lot of different aspects that you cover in this book, "Fascism: A Warning."

Madeleine Albright -- madam, thank you very much --

ALBRIGHT: Right.

CUOMO: -- for being with us as always.

ALBRIGHT: Thank you so much. Thank you.

CUOMO: That's a heck of a handshake -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Chris, we have a big development.

President Trump taunting Russia in an extraordinary tweet as he may be ready to respond to Syria's chemical attack. Up next, we ask Republican Sen. Ron Johnson about all of this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:38:40] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: We do have breaking news this morning. President Trump taunting Russia ahead of potential U.S. airstrikes in Syria.

The president just tweeted this. "Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia because they will be coming, nice and new and smart! You shouldn't be partners with a gas- killing animal who kills his people and enjoys it!"

Joining us now, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, thank you for being with us.

What do you make of that tweet?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI), MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Good morning, Alisyn.

Well, first of all, I think it's good news that President Trump is talking to our NATO allies, France and Great Britain, that Nikki Haley is trying to work a U.N. resolution. That's a good thing. I realize Russia's always going to block those but I think public disclosure is probably the best policy at this point in time.

And quite honestly, we need to verify exactly what happened here. Who, as best we can determine, caused this.

I've read reports that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons -- Russia is talking about letting them in. Now, are they going to give them full access? I doubt it, but I think it's probably the best way to handle this at this point in time.

It seems Syria is already moving its military assets around is -- rather than a military strike let's find out what happened, let's really expose for the public the multiple chemical attacks, and really start fingering Assad and then put a lot of pressure on Russia with their complicity at propping up this heinous regime.

[07:40:08] CAMEROTA: Senator, that's quite different than what the tweet says. I mean --

JOHNSON: I understand.

CAMEROTA: -- are you comfortable with the tone and style of that tweet when it comes to bombs and war?

JOHNSON: I'm not a real fan of the tweeting process here. I think there's a better way of doing this.

And again, I'm trying to accentuate the positive that the president is talking to our allies. They're trying to work through the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Hopefully, we'll get on the ground and try and verify exactly what happened.

CAMEROTA: I don't know, Senator. I mean, it sounds like what the president is tweeting is quite different than the diplomacy that you're talking about.

Here's a new tweet that has just crossed. It says, "Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this.

Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?"

Question mark? I'm not sure if that was intended.

Do you agree that our relationship with Russia is the worst it's ever been now?

JOHNSON: Well, it's not where it should be. I've said repeatedly I wish Russia were no worse than a friendly rival as opposed to an unfriendly adversary. And what they're doing around the world, including Syria, is not helpful.

And so, how do you deal with Russia? Well, you have to deal with them with strength and resolve. We have to deal with them through our multilateral institutions like the U.N. through NATO with our allies. We've got to do this as the democracies of the world pushing back on their aggression.

CAMEROTA: But, Senator, just back to the first tweet. I just want to ask you about one element of it where the president says "get ready Russia because they will be coming, nice and new and smart." He's talking about U.S. missiles.

What do you think about alerting the enemy to what's coming?

JOHNSON: Look, I didn't agree that when President Trump was signaling what we may do and then delaying until the point where we didn't do it. I think if we are going to strike we first need to verify exactly what happened so that we are almost certain that we know who's responsible, then I think we strike without warning.

CAMEROTA: So why --

JOHNSON: We've given them warning.

CAMEROTA: I understand. I mean, what the president has --

JOHNSON: You know -- you know, the world has given them warning that this is unacceptable behavior -- the use of chemical weapons.

CAMEROTA: Donald Trump used to say that you never telegraph your plans to the enemy. He used to hit Barack Obama -- President Obama for that at the time.

Why is he telegraphing this?

JOHNSON: I can't explain it but he should follow his previous advice.

CAMEROTA: You're not comfortable with this tweet that was sent out this morning?

JOHNSON: I'm -- I don't really like reading about it, no.

CAMEROTA: Do you think -- will you be sharing that with the White House? Will you be sharing that -- will you be asking, for instance, Mike Pompeo?

JOHNSON: I guess -- I guess I'm sharing it right now, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Well, let's talk about -- I guess you are. Let's talk about that because I know that you are quite interested in the new possible secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

Do you support him?

JOHNSON: Absolutely. Mike Pompeo, I think, is a person of real integrity. He's a brilliant man. Now he's got the experience not only in Congress but in the military, but now as CIA director.

He knows his stuff. I think he'll make an excellent secretary of state.

I hated to see Rex Tillerson go. I thought his redesign of the State Department was appropriate.

I think the -- you know, the lack of appointments is somewhat overblown. If you take a look at trajectory over history there was a real bump-up in both funding and personnel and Rex Tillerson was just trying to smooth that out. We were just over in South Korea. We don't have an ambassador but we have a very effective team on the ground there with the sharjay (ph). Again, I've got a great deal of respect for professional Foreign Service and those folks who are still on the job working for America and I applaud them.

CAMEROTA: Do you think that Mike Pompeo can stop the president from doing what people say are these impulsive tweets about something as serious as war?

JOHNSON: I don't believe that anybody's going to be able to stop the president from his tweets. It's what he does. It's what is, I guess, his style.

So again, what I'm hoping is people provide wise counsel so that regardless of the tweets we actually do the right things, and that is working with our allies and verify that exactly who caused this before we take any military action.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I understand and listen, I'm responding to your saying when response to this, but do you think that a tweet like this escalates whatever the tension is with Russia about Syria?

JOHNSON: I don't know how you can escalate it much beyond the use of chemical weapons and Russia's support for that -- the criminal regime that is the Assad regime. So, I don't know how it gets much worse than that.

So again, the civilized world needs to react but we need to react together and we need to react with the proper information.

CAMEROTA: Do you read this, when the president says "Get ready Russia because they will be coming nice and new and smart," that there will be some sort of U.S. missile launched this week?

JOHNSON: No, not necessarily. I mean, the president takes a negotiating position on a number of things and I'm hoping this is just a stronger negotiating position to get Vladimir Putin to think twice before he continues to do this because his second tweet is exactly right.

[07:45:05] If Russia were to actually behave better in the world it would be so much better for the Russian economy and the Russian people, but the aggressive action is harming his country's progress forward. It's a historical tragedy that Putin has taken this path.

CAMEROTA: OK, very quickly, next topic.

I do want to ask you because you interviewed Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook yesterday, along with so many other senators.

I want to know what you took away from what he told you and whether or not you think that Facebook and other social media needs to be regulated.

JOHNSON: I think Mr. Zuckerberg did a good job yesterday. By the way, Sen. Hatch, I'm quite certain, knows exactly how Facebook

is funded.

CAMEROTA: It didn't seem like it Senator because --

JOHNSON: No, no, listen --

CAMEROTA: -- what he asked -- he asked specifically where are you --

JOHNSON: No, you --

CAMEROTA: -- getting your funding?

JOHNSON: I know. He's trying to clarify the situation for, quite honestly, the public and that's really what these hearings are about is make sure -- is begin the process of getting the public to understand exactly what Facebook's business model is. And it is to gain your information and then they monetize that by selling ads -- targeting ads for their advertisers. That's the deal.

And my questions were talking about how many Facebook users actually read the terms of service and the privacy agreement. And you know, the bottom line is nobody reads those.

CAMEROTA: Right.

JOHNSON: Virtually nobody. They just click on it. And so people are voluntarily offering basically all of this information --

CAMEROTA: Right.

JOHNSON: -- for advertisers to use.

CAMEROTA: But, unwittingly. I mean --

JOHNSON: And the public -- and the public needs to understand that, which is exactly what Sen. Hatch was trying to clarify in his questioning.

CAMEROTA: But you don't think that that requires more regulation?

JOHNSON: Listen, I am concerned about the overall power of a monopoly. I know Mr. Zuckerberg said he's not one. He's really close.

And the power they have -- for example, with political campaigns. If they are completely even -- you know, every political campaign uses Facebook. What if Facebook tips the balance in one direction or the other?

CAMEROTA: Well, therein lies --

JOHNSON: That's a legit -- that's a --

CAMEROTA: -- the very question. JOHNSON: It's a legitimate question. It's a legitimate -- and Sen. Cruz offered that question about sites that have been taken down that were more conservative versus liberal.

So again, I think they were mainly legitimate questions.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

JOHNSON: This is just the first round. But I think actually, the hearing was quite well at raising a lot of these issues.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

JOHNSON: There are a lot of questions that still need to be answered.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

Senator Ron Johnson, thank you very much for being on NEW DAY.

JOHNSON: Have a good day.

CAMEROTA: You, too -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right.

So, the White House insists President Trump has the power to fire special counsel Bob Mueller. Does he? Let's get a take from someone who should know, former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:50:30] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president believe he has the power to fire special counsel Robert Mueller? Does he believe that's within his power?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly believes he has the power to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: "Certainly believes he has the power." Why? The White House making this case that the president has legal authority to fire special counsel Bob Mueller.

Let's test the claim. We have former U.S. attorney general, counsel to President George W. Bush, Alberto Gonzales, now the dean of a prestigious law school.

Good to have you, sir. I hope your Easter was good for you and the family.

ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL, FORMER COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, DEAN, BELMONT UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW: Same to you, Chris. Good to be with you. CUOMO: So what's the answer, Professor? Does he have the legal authority to fire Mueller directly?

GONZALES: I'll give you a lawyer's answer, maybe, depending on the circumstances.

Listen, I think the constitution says nothing about removal authority by any branch of government, quite frankly. But the general -- I think the general understanding is that the President of the United States should have the power to remove officials within the Executive Branch. Otherwise, how can ensure that laws be faithfully executed?

Now having said that there are cases that say in those -- with respect to those officials who are independent from the president is important.

Congress can pass a statute limiting removal but Congress cannot pass a statute outright preventing the president from removing an official. That the president would have to find cause in order to remove such an official. And, of course, that gives the president a great deal of discretion in finding cause -- what does that mean -- and that's undefined.

So, it's possible that the president -- the president could remove this individual for cause even if Congress passes a statute.

Now, the question is has Congress acted here? First, some of your previous speakers talked about the fact that you've got these federal regulations based upon statutes -- regulations passed by Congress --

CUOMO: Right.

GONZALES: -- implementing regulations from the Department of Justice. That's not quite the same as Congress passing a statute.

And so whether or not the --

CUOMO: Well, why isn't the -- why isn't the 18 USC statute on this about what the attorney general does in the instance of a special counsel? Why doesn't that count as legislation to you?

GONZALES: I don't think it's quite the same, quite frankly. I think the courts could find a difference. They may not. It just depends on the judges that look at this -- look at this question.

So my --

CUOMO: Right. As you know, Dean, there are cases that have been on this issue that have upheld the authority of Congress to curtail it in special circumstances like a special counsel.

GONZALES: Yes, I agree with that. I agree with that and as I outlined for you, the parameters that would have to be in place in order to make that effective.

From my perspective, it's not an open and shut case as to whether or not the president can or cannot fire the special counsel directly.

A better way to deal with this is obviously to deal with the person who made the appointment. In this case, the attorney general -- the deputy attorney general. And if, in fact, the president is unhappy with the performance of the special counsel there should be a conversation with the deputy attorney general.

CUOMO: Do you think the president has cause to call the Russia investigation or what we just saw with the executed search warrant of his personal attorney's offices an attack on the country?

GONZALES: I do not agree with that, quite frankly.

I think that based upon the indictments we've already seen, the plea agreements we've had, and the public testimony by our Intelligence Community -- the leaders of our Intelligence Community, it is clear that Russia interfered with our election. And for that reason alone, I'd like to see the Mueller investigation continue.

I believe one of the charges of the Mueller team is to find out what Russia did and how they did it. It's very important that we know this information so that we can hold Russia accountable and we can prevent it from happening again.

So for that reason alone, I would like to see the Mueller investigation continue because this is information that is extremely valuable to the national security of our country and to our whole democratic process, quite frankly, going forward.

CUOMO: Right. I don't get -- I mean, you know, we're not -- we don't have you here for politics, but the politics of it just don't make sense.

The president should want this probe to wrap up and clear him more than anybody else. Otherwise, the questions will never go away. It will fuel endless speculation about what he was afraid of.

Let me ask you something about this warrant that we saw executed by the Southern District which is nominally run by someone who was just appointed by Sessions and was supposedly interviewed by the president himself. He recused himself. We don't know why exactly.

But that warrant was attacked and the execution of it was attacked by the president as a raid and as of more proof of illegality.

[07:55:02] Do you think that that's a supported claim?

GONZALES: No, I don't believe it is a supported claim.

I think what happened here is that the professionals looked at possible evidence of a crime and they made a calculation that this something that warranted additional investigation. And they went to a magistrate -- a neutral magistrate detached from this case -- from these circumstances of this case, made the case that, in fact, there might be evidence of a crime in the possession of Mr. Cohen, either in his office or his home or in his hotel room. And no, it was executed by the book and so I disagree with that characterization. This is certainly consistent with the rule of law as far as I'm concerned.

CUOMO: The dean of Belmont University School of Law, Alberto Gonzales. Thank you for reminding us what the law is about because we are in strange days when the institutions of our democracy are being attacked this way. Thanks for being with us -- Alisyn.

GONZALES: Thanks, Chris.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris.

Our breaking news, President Trump warning Russia, telling them to get ready for airstrikes in Syria. Now, Russia is responding. We have all the breaking details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: Welcome to your NEW DAY. We begin with breaking news.