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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Raises Questions about Origin of Email Hack; Ryan on Julian Assange: He's a Sycophant; U.S. Intelligence Chiefs To Brief Trump Later This Week; Trump Announces News Conference Next Week; Obama: Make Sure Trump Benefits From "Outstanding Advice"; Obama Urges Dems to Protect Obamacare Today. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 4, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:04] TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: I've had to have a lot more faith in our intelligence officers serving around the world that is very smart and experienced analyst that we have here in the nation's capital than I do in people like Julian Assange. I can tell you that much. Look, I don't dispute the intelligence community's assessment from October 7th that Russia or Russian associates were behind the attack on the DNC.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Publicly there, very conservative, military veteran. Tom Cotton, senator from Arkansas saying the Russians did this and why would you believe Julian Assage.

I want you to listen before we start the conversation. This is the House Speaker, Paul Ryan, who tries to temper his criticism of Trump, tries to just bide his words. But here is what -- listen to this. This is on The Hugh Hewitt Show. The Speaker of The House asked the same question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUGH HEWITT, "THE HUGH HEWITT SHOW" HOST: Now, let me ask you what your opinion is of Julian Assange?

PAUL RYAN, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: I really have none other than I think the guy is a sycophant for Russia. He leaks. He steals data and compromises National Security.

HEWITT: And he is wanted on a rape charge.

RYAN: Yeah, right. And I think he's under house arrest or he is in the Ecuadorian embassy.

HEWITT: Yeah. So --

RYAN: Just like the last four years. Yeah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's focus on in the first half of that. What does it tell us that, 16 days away from a new Republican president, just about every other Republican, including the speaker of the House right there, says the guy Donald Trump is citing on Twitter as proof or character witness for his skepticism about Russian hacking is a sycophant for Russia?

DOMENICO MONTANARO, NPA: Oh, and by the way Mike Pence was asked about it today at the press conference that got all the attention for ACA, and that exact quote was said and you see Paul Ryan kind of off to the side just sort of like smirking, bow his head, and Pence said, look we'll, you know, we'll find out from the intelligence community when we take a briefing with them with the heads of the intelligence community on Friday.

You know, Donald Trump can talk to the intelligence community and those officials and ask for more evidence than anybody except for Barack Obama. The two of them can ask for whatever they want. And so to say that they're putting it off till Friday. I mean I do think it shows that there's the biggest rift between the Republican establishment and Donald Trump who's more of a right-wing nationalist that he is, you know, this, you know, tried and true Republican is this issue of Russia and national security.

KING: And much for -- excuse me for interrupting, but this is much bigger than that, because this has become a political conversation in Washington, this is the show called "Inside Politics". So, people watching and they say this is a political thing. Trump's critics are saying this.

He is going to receive briefings pretty soon that North Korea might test an intercontinental ballistic missile, he is going to get briefings about whether it's Boko Haram here or, you know, a terrorist group there. And the question is, does he believe these people? Because he will be recommended -- actions will be recommended based on these things. And Donald Trump, again, tweeting, this is last night, "The intelligence briefing on so-called Russian hacking was delayed until Friday perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange. Note the intelligence."

He is mocking the intelligence community here. That this is -- these people -- these are men and women, most of whom have spent 17 different agencies, the primary three or four agencies. Most of them have spent their entire adult lives, some of them risking their lives on the battlefield. I'm not saying they're always right, but the fact that the President-elect is "The intelligence briefing" and the facts are actually that his briefing was not -- his briefing on the big Russian report was not scheduled until Friday. His facts are wrong, but the question -- the bigger issue is -- I was texting with a Republican senator last night, who's been quiet about this, who kept thinking Trump would eventually come around. Who said this has gone from amateur and amusing to alarming.

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG: And I think there are two parallel acts going on here by Trump. Both on Twitter and both really provocative and one is seeming to take sides with Julian Assange, you know, who is working with the Russians against the U.S. intelligence community, and the other is kind of eroding the credibility of the U.S. intelligence community. If Donald Trump or the president and Democrats were in charge of Congress, hearings would begin immediately.

KING: Can you imagine if Barack Obama, President Obama in his early days took Julian Assange's side in a dispute or Vladimir Putin's side?

TALEV: I think the Democrats in Congress would investigate.

JONATHAN MARTIN, NEW YORK TIMES: It's jarring to see a first -- the ought of office become commander-in-chief taunting, that's what he's doing, he's taunting the American intelligence community 17 days before he becomes president of United States. And to me it just -- is a reminder that there's a collision coming between him and his own party because for now the McCains and the Grahams of the world, even the Tom Cottons and Marco Rubios.

TALEV: The Bob Corkers.

MARTIN: They don't want to look over. They're averting their gaze, right? They just don't want to come --

KING: They hope it comes around. They have back channeled through Mike Pence. Your right, give a very careful answer to that. They back channel through Pence saying get him to come around.

[12:35:01] MARTIN: But John, hope a new strategy and the assumption that at some point he's not going to this because he raised his right hand and suddenly he becomes, you know, a Churchill meets Eisenhower meets Reagan and is a real statesman, that's a hell of a game work play.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And he has been remarkably consistent on this.

KING: Right.

HENDERSON: I mean throughout the campaign of questioning whether it was Russia, saying it was some 400-pound guy sitting on a bed somewhere here, saying it might have been China.

King: New Jersey.

HENDERSON: New Jersey, yeah. And, you know, he's been consistent talking about Putin.

KING: Yeah, how would that change?

HENDERSON: Yes, not only waste and it hasn't changed. It's gotten worse. At some point he is going to be in charge of that intelligence community, in charge of those agencies and need them.

KING: Hey, what happens --

HENDERSON: What happens when -- are they going to be credible with?

MARTIN: And are there any better inside players in Washington politics than folks at the intelligence agencies? Oh, my god.

HENDERSON: Yeah.

MARTIN: I mean he is really playing with fire here because what happens is they start the leaking. They are --

HENDERSON: They're leaking, yeah.

MARTIN: Humiliating him at how little he knows about national security. That will then in turn enrage him, they don't want to see those, stop talking to them, stop taking briefings?

KING: The current President of the United States who is imposing sanctions on Russia that Trump again has -- Trump and his team has voiced some skepticism about, but the current President had a meeting today and with the joint chiefs and combatant commanders -- now this is not the intelligence community, this is the military brass, but you can tell right here in these comments from the current President of the United States, he's trying to suggest to the President-elect of the United States, you know, these people aren't political and maybe you got to listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: We still have a lot of active threats around the world and we still have men and women in harm's way. But we've got to make sure that during this transition period that there is a seamless passing of the baton. We are doing everything we can to make sure that the next president will benefit from the same kinds of outstanding advice and service.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I wish -- I wish that we had -- and it came up quickly so we didn't have the time for it. But I wish we had the wide shot of that meeting, because you're sitting at the table there with men and women -- I think mostly men at this meeting, but who have a lot of medals here. They spent a lot of time serving their country. And if you've ever gone to Iraq or any other place with the United States military, whatever your views about how they got their politics of that, you can't help but admire their courage. And there is -- that's a nudge, I guess is that the right word?

MONTANARO: Yeah.

HENDERSON: Yeah. I think it is but he is trying to nudge someone who said that he knows a lot about hacking. Trump said he knows a lot about hacking. He said he knows more about ISIS than the generals, so, you know, again, I think he is hoping in the way that allowing the Republicans are hoping and he'll stop doing, he'll come around.

TALEV: This is an attempt to negotiate with the military and the intelligence community the same way you negotiate with Boeing and Lockheed or, you know, carrier, and it's going to play out differently.

KING: 16 days. A lot can change in 16 days. Everybody sit tight. Coming up, protesters demonstrated outside the office of one of President-elect Trump's cabinet pick. We'll talk about what that might mean for his Congressional hearings. That's just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:42:29] KING: Donald Trump's last full news conference was in July. Noteworthy event because he used it to encourage Russia to release any hacked Hillary Clinton e-mails it might had with its possession. He has taken a few questions since from time to time, but it is more than five months since he held an open-ended full bore session with reporters.

That drought apparently about to end. The President-elect says he will hold a press conference one week from today, on January 11th. His aides now say it could slip to the 12th. It will be in New York to discuss, among other things, his plans to step away from the Trump organization during his presidency.

The anticipation builds for this event. We're laughing about it to your degree because, you know, we want access to President-elect and to other important people. I think sometimes we should drop our self importance gene (ph), you know, he thinks he is communicating just fine, and we can negotiate this as we go. But on the issue of the business, it has been an issue and he has promised before to come out in detail, and I have been one saying repeatedly give him some time. This is personal. This is his life.

But is it a pretty high bar, or is there not a high bar that he has to meet next week in saying, here's how I'm going to step back, here how -- I will have absolutely no role, I assume. But then how does he navigate if his two sons take over the business, their interaction with the White House?

TALEV: Yeah. I mean this is really an opportunity for him to start out in a really strong position if he comes forward with something that puts a lot of these questions to rest. It will throw many critics for a loop if he actually dispenses with these issues in a satisfactory way and it's just one last thing to worry about when you come in with enormous agenda.

KING: Sorry to interrupt you. I want to stop one second, Josh Earnest, briefing at the White House right now. The press secretary, maybe some insights on the President's visit the Capitol Hill today, let's listen.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Critical success that Democrats have had in advancing that agenda, but rooted in the tangible positive difference that their efforts have made in the lives of millions of Americans and communities large and small across the country.

And that worked -- much of that work would not have been possible had the President not been able to work effectively with Democrats and Congress to get so much of that done given the unreasonable and unprecedented obstruction that was erected by Congressional Republicans.

The President continued saying that that should fuel their efforts moving forward and even though Democrats in Congress will not have the kind of cooperative partner that they've enjoyed for the last eight years in the White House.

[12:45:05] They still have the set of values and priorities that are worth fighting for. And the good news is that those are values and priorities that most Americans agree with and strongly support. Those are values and priorities that lead to policies that made people's lives better and make our country stronger. And the President expressed his or that he is suppose to envy for the opportunity that they have to keep up that fight, and the President expressed his confidence and their ability not just to wage those fights with passion but expressed confidence in their ability to succeed.

Again both because the majority of the American people agree with them, whether it's investing in the kinds of policies that expanding kind of opportunity for middle class families, whether it is expanding access to health care for every American, making it not just a privilege but a right. Making sure that there are consumer protections in place so that every American can't be discriminated against because they have a preexisting condition and they can't be subject to lifetime caps that allow them to no longer benefit from insurance coverage if someone in their family gets sick.

These are the kinds of values and priorities that Democrats have long fought for, and these are the Democrat -- these are the values and priorities most Americans agree with. So, that was essentially the President's opening statement, and he took questions from a substantial number of House and Senate Democrats, and most of the questions centered on the proximate fight on Capitol Hill which is other Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Bur the President had an opportunity to touch on some other areas as well, and it was -- the President really enjoyed the opportunity to go up there and was warmly received, which he has been every time by Democrats on Capitol Hill. Even when he has gone out there to address difference that is they have. But I got to tell you in this case, you know, the President has gone -- you know, in the past and you all have covered times when the President has traveled to Capitol Hill to try to bridge differences with Democrats on Capitol Hill.

That was the case this time, this time the President was there to affirm his support for the agenda that Democrats and Congress are fighting for, and that unanimity will be a source of strength for Democrats in the years ahead. And the President encouraged them to draw on it as they continue to fight for the values they've been fighting for not just the eight years, but most of the people I that room they've been fighting for their entire career in public service.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mentioned in other areas, what other issues did they talk about he decided to come here?

EARNEST: You know, there are range of legislative issues I think that you would expect, from a justice reform, immigration reform, infrastructure, you know, some of the other issues that Democrats are likely to be working on over the -- over the next couple of years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To go back to the question of what you want Democrats to do. Once the law is repealed, would he like --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You're listening to John Earnest, the White House Press Secretary. A quick break. We'll back "Inside Politics" in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:52:33] KING: Let's head quickly around the "Inside Politics" table. Ask our great reporters to share a little nugget from their notebooks. Margaret Talev?

TALEV: Business roundtable. You may have heard of the group. Represents a couple of hundred of really important U.S. CEOs, really interesting stuff today in naming Josh Bolten, that's George Bush's former Chief of Staff as the group's president and CEO, he'll work with Jamie Dimon who is going to be chairing this group for the next two years. What's interesting is that Bolten last year led a major push to keep Donald Trump from becoming the Republican nominee. Now says that was then this is now and Trump has earned our respect and we are looking forward to working with the administration.

KING: Kumbaya. Domenico?

MONTANARO: Just want to give you a little bit of numbers on the last time Donald Trump held a press conference and now that he is promising one on the 11th and possibly the 12th. You know, it's been 160 days since he has held a press conference. We have a widget on our website on MPR.org that you can check out. He's tweeted 1,552 times in that time since and if you were to hold a press conference every day between now and inauguration, he's still wouldn't hold as many as Barack Obama did when he was President-elect. He held 18. George W. Bush as President-elect in that shortened time held 11.

KING: New world order. Jonathan?

MARTIN: The first hearings on the apparent Russian hacking are going to be tomorrow on Capitol Hill, Senator John McCain at the Senate Armed Services Committee. And you can expect, he and his close friend Senator Lindsey Graham, also on the committee, to aggressively go after the issue tomorrow and it's going to be fascinating to see how Donald Trump responds to the press coverage of that hearing.

I was on the Hill yesterday and I'm told that while Senator McConnell, the leader on Republicans in the Senate, has said he does not want to do a select committee to investigate the Russian hacking, he is going to let McCain an Graham hold as many hearings as they want pursuing this issue at Armed Services. And so the question to me is, if and when Trump gets irritable about this and start to pressure on McConnell to say shut it down, what's McConnel do?

KING: Maybe we should get a countdown clock.

HENDERSON: Yeah. The race for the chair of the DNC on, Earnest. One of Democratic insiders I talked to see it's coming down to three people. Keith Ellison, Tom Perez and Jamie Harrison, who is sort of the dark horse there coming along. Ellison certainly, Ellison he's looked up about 70 yeses, he needs about 224 to get the majority. Perez coming on a little slowly certainly got the support of a lot of national Democrats. And Jamie Harrison feels like he's got the support of obviously that South Carolina coalition, but there's been some questions I think that he is going to get in terms of how healthy that Democratic Party is in South Carolina. It will be interesting to watch.

[12:55:08] KING: They need is another voice, all the voices. I'll close with this, like Dick Cheney before him, Vice President-elect Mike Pence is a former member of the House. And like Dick Cheney, Pence will have an office on the House side of the capitol. In addition to the Senate side office, the Vice President always gets because of his official role as the President residing officer of that chamber. It is a reflection of Pence's critical role not just because of his prior Capitol Hill experience and friendships but because so many Hill Republicans still have doubts and worries about the President-elect.

One very senior House Republican put it this way to me in an exchange this morning. "Mike is a true conservative, one of us. Donald trump is Donald Trump." You can read into that whenever you wish. Thanks for joining us for "Inside politics" well, see you back here at noon tomorrow in the east. Wolf starts after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)