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Trump Calls Russian Hacking Uproar Political Witch Hunt; Trump Intel Briefing Today; Taxpayers May Pay for Wall. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired January 6, 2017 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:00:12] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.
It is judgment day - judgment hour for President-elect Donald Trump. In just about 30 minutes, he gets a classified briefing on the evidence that Russia meddled in our presidential election. The big question is this, will he finally accept the intelligence, or will he continue his war with America's spy agencies?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don't think that we've ever encountered a more aggressive or direct campaign to interfere with our election process than we've seen in this - in this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That man right there, Director Clapper, among those meeting with Donald Trump in just a few minutes in New York. We'll take you there live if we get some pictures from that.
Plus, the lesson every new president learns, some campaign promises are hard to keep. The path to Obamacare repeal is hardly a clear one. And Mr. Trump's pledge to make Mexico pay for a new border wall now in serious doubt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP TRANSITION SENIOR ADVISER: Mr. Trump has always been very clear nothing has changed. He is building the wall. Mexico will pay for it. He ran on that. You can take that promise. And he will - he'll keep that promise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Congress may have some other views on that question. We'll get to that in a moment.
And the Obama's final act. The president gearing up for a big farewell address next week, and just moments ago offering his successor and his Republican friends some last minute advice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Keep in mind, I'm not the one who named it Obamacare. They - they were the ones who named it Obamacare because what they wanted to do was personalize this and feed on antipathy towards me in their party as an organizing tool. It's politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That moments ago from the outgoing president. The first lady, Michelle Obama, holding her last official event at the White House as we speak. We'll take you there if anything interesting develops.
With us to share their reporting and their insights, "The Atlantic's" Molly Ball, Ed O'Keefe of "The Washington Post," CNN's Manu Raju and Abby Phillip of :The Washington Post."
Now, the CIA director, who will also be in the room with Donald Trump in just a few minutes, John Brennan, he says there's no doubt in that the United States must voice its outrage against criminal election meddling to send, Mr. Brennan says, a critical message to Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: It was very important for the United States to understand exactly what happened here so that we can not only safeguard our system, but we can also make sure that we inform others. And by exposing this publicly, may it - may it make Mr. Putin more reluctant in the future to go down this path because their activities are being uncovered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: But will a Trump administration, will President Trump, take that advice and finally accept what is called overwhelming evidence of Russia hacking and other meddling, or will the new president stick with this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I know a lot about hacking, and hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don't know, and so they cannot be sure of this situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It is a fascinating day. That briefing, again, moments away in New York City. The director of National Intelligence, Mr. Clapper, the CIA director, Mr. Brennan, the FBI director, James Comey, the director of Defense Intelligence Agency, Admiral Kelly, who was on Capitol Hill yesterday, among those who will be there to brief the president-elect and his team. The question is, does Donald Trump change his tune? Does he say, I
accept it? I accept your findings, and I will keep sanctions in place. Some Republicans want him to increase the sanctions against Russia. Or he just told "The New York Times" moments ago this morning, and you don't give interviews on certain issues unless you want to talk about them, just before this briefing he tells "The New York Times," "China relatively recently hacked 20 million government names. How come nobody ever talks about that? This is a political witch hunt."
"This is apolitical witch hunt." Not an effort to, a, lay out the evidence that a foreign state actor meddled in our presidential election, which, again, a bipartisan group of lawmakers and intel officials say is pretty clear evidence, not an effort to do anything about it. Donald Trump says it's a witch hunt.
ABBY PHILLIP, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, it seems like he's gearing up to acknowledge perhaps that Russia had something to do with it, but is trying to create an equivalency between Russia hacking and Chinese hacking. We saw some of that in the hearing yesterday with - from Tom Cotton, a senator who has been a little critical of Trump and is no friend to Russia, but was not willing to really - to lay this on the feet of Russia as an attempt to favor Donald Trump. So that's a little bit of a blueprint from - for what I think we can expect from Trump this afternoon, that maybe he might acknowledge Russia had something to do with it. But the idea that it's a political witch hunt, that it is - that it is something that we've experienced in the past from other nation states is part of the denial process of trying to maintain that - that this is an attempt to de-legitimatize him. And I don't think he's going to change his mind about that issue.
[12:05:08] ED O'KEEFE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": And it's important to remember textually, as Mike Shoe (ph) pointed out in his article about the interview, that while China has hacked us, while others have tried, and he calls - Trump calls the United States the hacking capital of the world -
O'KEEFE: The big difference in this case is that information that was hacked was made public. The Chinese never publically released whatever they got their hands on. Other actors who have done this have not necessarily released the information they got. But in the case of the election and John Podesta's e-mail and the other information, he was released publicly. That's part of what drives the public concern.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And the real challenge - the concern for Trump should be that he could be a man on an island here if the evidence is overwhelming when - especially if the evidence, when it's declassified and comes out publicly, is overwhelming that Russia was involved. We know that as soon as today, according to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, they're going to release some of this report and we could learn a whole - and she said it's, quote, "stunning in its conclusions." And this report done by the intelligence community assessing exactly what happened, and potentially revealing how emails that were hacked from the DNC got into the hands of Russian officials. Now, if it's clear, as everyone says it is, and Donald Trump continues
to deny it, you're not going to see much support for him on Capitol Hill from Republicans, and even some of his own advisors will not support what he is saying. So he really risks looking like he's alone on this.
KING: And you make a key point and let's try to dwell on it. There are those in team Trump, including the president-elect himself, who say this is being discussed only to leave the impression that he's an illegitimate president. That Russia helped. Russia put its thumb on the scale and helped him win the election.
He will be inaugurated president of the United States two weeks from today in this hour. Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. Nobody's going to take that away. The issue is, what do you do about a foreign state actor? And to your point, what we are told is that the evidence includes evidence that Russia has been at this for eight or nine years, that they've been playing around in election systems, the fake news, not just meddling and hacking - trying to hack e-mail systems of political institutions, but also working on this fake news operation to get involved. That it's not a new effort, but that it reached this peak in the presidential election.
They say they're going to show Mr. Trump the evidence that they know who from the Russian government gave it to a middle man who gave it to WikiLeaks who then published it. And they say they have intercepts of Russian officials celebrating on election night the fact that they won too. That they - they think the Trump victory is more than that.
Now, I want you to listen to Kellyanne Conway here, one of the people who continues to say this is really much ado about nothing, this is an effort to de-legitimize the presidency. Kellyanne Conway saying here just this morning, why would the Russians want Donald Trump to win?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP TRANSITION SENIOR ADVISER: The Russians didn't want him elected. You know why? Because he has said very clearly during the campaign and now as president-elect that he is going to modernize our nuclear capability, that he is going to call for an increase in defense budget, he's going to have oil and gas exploration, all of which goes against Russia's economic and military interests. He got elected - Donald Trump got elect in part because people want a tougher leader in the White House, a tougher commander in chief.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I don't think - I don't think there's any doubt about the last part. People might want some - at least Trump voters want a tougher commander in chief or a tough commander in chief in the White House.
But just to sort of set the record clear, Donald Trump did kind of suck up to Vladimir Putin for the whole campaign. He did turn a blind eye when questioned about Vladimir Putin stealing land, invading land, from his neighbors. Donald Trump did seem to think it wasn't such a big deal that Vladimir Putin was helping Bashir al Assad in Syria slaughter innocent children. Donald Trump didn't seem to think that was a big deal, said we could all get along and fix that. So, sorry, Kellyanne, but there are - there are reasons to believe the Russians might have preferred Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton.
The key issue, though, is, even this conversation, even my getting into it with her there, is a distraction from what is Donald Trump going to do when the leaders of the intelligence community give him what they say is incontrovertible evidence that Russia did this, was at it for years and wants to keep doing it.
MOLLY BALL, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, but Trump has had, as you sort of imply there, he has had multiple opportunities to say something else about Putin, but he has been favorable to Putin at every turn, and he has expressed the views that are the most favorable to Putin and to Russian interests at every turn. It's one of the things he's been the most consistent about in the, you know, year and a half since he became a politician. And so it's hard to imagine him changing his tune.
If there's anything that we know about Trump, it's that he doesn't back down. And he - he is not someone who tends to change his views based on contrary evidence. And he's had intelligence briefings before. And he's said he doesn't believe them. It's hard to see how that suddenly changes. But I think his quote about it being a political witch hunt is really revealing. He does see this all as political.
BALL: The lens through which Trump sees everything is fair or unfair and anything that is unfair to him must not be correct. So, you know, it's - there's already been a resignation on his transition team on the basis of foreign policy. This is dividing Republicans on Capitol Hill. It's going to be a flashpoint in multiple confirmation hearings, most prominently for secretary of state.
[12:10:09] KING: Right.
BALL: So this issue is not going to go away for him.
KING: And again, to your point, he has a sense of timing. He does things on purpose. And he tweeted, just before we came on the air, that he wants the Senate and the House Intelligence Committees to investigate how there were leaks to the news media about this report, knowing some of the details, including that there were - they have identified the emissaries who gave -took it from the Russian government and gave it to WikiLeaks. He's more focused on that than, what did Russia do, why did Russia do it, and what will the United States do about it. The United States and its allies. The current president of the United States says he hopes that after listening to these professionals today, Donald Trump has a change of heart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My hope is that when the president-elect receives his own briefings and is able to examine the intelligence as his team is put together and they see how professional and effective these agencies are, that some of those current tensions will be reduced.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Miss Ball seem quite skeptical that's going to happen. I'm smiling about it because you have to resist this sometimes. It is great theater. And it is a telling issue as we go through the transition. But as I was talking about the other day, and I was talking about this with both the military professional and a congressional person the other night, in the early days of his administration, he's likely to be faced with an intelligence briefing on Kim Jong-un rolling out an intercontinental ballistic missile to a test pad. Is Donald Trump going to believe the intelligence? Is - are the American people going to constantly, and our allies around the world going to constantly doubt what U.S. officials say about our intelligence because the president of the United States says I don't believe it?
RAJU: And that's a real risk, and that's what was voiced yesterday in that Senate hearing, that if it was going to disparage the intelligence community, how is that going to make the intelligence community look in terms of its credibility in the eyes of the public. It's something that Claire McCaskill voiced, the senator from Missouri, the Democrat, but also that James Clapper voiced as well. There's a difference between healthy skepticism and disparaging the community.
And it doesn't seem like Donald Trump is really changing his tune. In that "New York Times" interview just now, he was - he cited weapons of mass destruction being the fact that the failure of the intelligence community not - asserting that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So he's still equating what happened in the Russia hacks with the WMD's in Iraq. It doesn't seem like he believes that they should be given any credibility.
KING: Right. And that was a very interesting point yesterday. I thought Director Clapper was very articulate on this saying, please have healthy skepticism. We hope all of you have healthy skepticism. We hope all of you challenge us. But they also make the case - and, again, he has access to the information, we don't - that that was 13 years ago, the weapons of mass destruction. They make the case they've learned valuable lessons and they do their job better now.
O'KEEFE: I think one thing we have to watch is, of the four guys meeting with him today, at least two of them will be gone two weeks from today.
O'KEEFE: James Clapper and John Brennan. The other two, including Comey, and I believe, correct me if I'm wrong, this is their first face to face meeting since the election, the FBI director. KING: Right.
O'KEEFE: Will his attitude change once his own people are in there? That's what I do wonder. Dan Coats nominated yesterday to be Clapper's successor. Mike Pompeo, the Kansas congressman, who's up next week to be CIA director, expected to sail through with little problem.
O'KEEFE: Once they're installed and they're the ones delivering that information, will his attitude change? I suspect it might.
KING: And do they - do Pompeo, do Dan Coats, do General Mattis and (INAUDIBLE) -
O'KEEFE: Do they (INAUDIBLE).
KING: Do they have sway over Trump or does Mike Flynn, his national security advisor, who he knows is a skeptic of these guys and seems to be more pro-Russian, to see who has sway in the Trump inner team is, I think, one of the questions we will answer as we go forward.
O'KEEFE: And we've seen reporting by our colleague and yours, Josh Rogin, this morning saying that Mattis is upset with some of the selections that Trump is making for various undersecretaries and other civilian officials at the Pentagon.
O'KEEFE: So the drama continues.
BALL: Right. Well, and it's a two-way street, right? The other question is, how does the intelligence community react if Trump continues in this vein?
BALL: Do they try to seek some kind of (INAUDIBLE), do we get more resignations? What do they try to do?
KING: Right. Interesting moments. Two weeks from today, the inauguration of the president. We will wait, see if we get any feedback from that intelligence briefing, classified briefing. It's supposed to start about 15 minutes from now.
Up next, building a wall and making Mexico pay for it. That's one Trump promise everyone remembers. But it turns out, you, you at home, the U.S. taxpayers will foot the bill, at least for now.
[12:18:45] KING: We're going to show you some pictures here, just moments ago. This is the vice president-elect, Mike Pence, arriving at Trump Tower for a very important intelligence briefing. At the bottom of the hour, the director of National Intelligence, the FBI director, the CIA director and the director of military intelligence, the Defense Intelligence Agency, are going to brief the vice president- elect, Mike Pence, you see him right there, the president-elect, Donald Trump, other members of their national security team on the findings they say prove beyond any doubt that Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election, has been doing so for years. The question now, we'll learn more after this briefing, will Donald Trump accept those findings? Will he leave in place but maybe intensify Obama administration sanctions against Russia, or will he try to pull them back? Fascinating question. We'll bring you more on that briefing as we get it. It begins in just a few minutes.
Now back to other news here in Washington. There's a lesson every president learns and learns pretty quickly. Some campaign promises are difficult, sometimes even impossible, to keep. Even this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We will build a great wall along the southern border.
And Mexico will pay for the wall.
Who is going to pay for the wall?
TRUMP: Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
[12:20:02] Who is going to pay for the wall?
TRUMP: One hundred percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, though, Republicans on Capitol Hill say their plans call for American taxpayers to pay for new border security measures, including some new wall construction. And they say they have team Trump support for that financing plan. The president-elect insists you at home, the taxpayer, just part of a temporary fix. In his ritual morning Twitter session, he wrote this this morning.
"The dishonest media," that would be us, "does not report that any money spent on building the great wall for sake of speed will be paid back by Mexico later." I believe we just reported it again, but we're still dishonest in his view. Take that one up at another time.
Let's go around the table. Now, Trump laid the groundwork for this in October and what he says is, yes, we want to get this done as quickly as possible. So we're going to appropriate the money. We're going to use the authority we have under a 2006 or 2007 law where we're going to continue to extend the wall, and then I'm going to get Mexico to pay for it. Show of hands if anyone at the table - I checked in with a Mexican official today who said that their position remains that they have zero intentions of paying for the wall.
RAJU: I mean - I was talking - I spent the morning out a House Republican conference meeting talking to them about what do they think about this idea? This is not coming from House Republicans. The Trump transition team is telling House Republicans they want to include spending, billions of dollars, in the appropriations bill this April. This is their effort.
Now, I asked them, do you think that they will get Mexico to repay the wall? Lot of them - some of them don't care. They're, like, we just want to build the wall. Others say, if he does not get Mexico to pay us back, he's going to get a huge backlash because this was a central campaign promise.
KING: A key point before you come in - a key point because I just - I made light of it there and we have to have thick skins in our business and we can't feel too important. He's going to call us dishonest every day, even when we're telling you the absolute truth. It's up to you at home to check out and you can make the call yourself. You have access to the Internet and all that stuff.
But to your key point, to your key point, the Trump transition team asked them, according to House Republicans on Capitol Hill. Here's Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump's senior advisor, campaign manager, about to become council of the president in the White House. Here's how she says it happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP: Our Congress, I guess, is investigating the possibility of paying for it to make it more speedy and then having Mexico may for it after the fact. But that's what Congress is doing. Mr. Trump has always been very clear nothing has changed. He's building the wall. Mexico will pay for it. He ran on that. You can take that promise. And he will - he will keep that promise. In fact, he's already discussing ways to get it done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I don't want to use the word dishonest about other people, but I might use the word disingenuous. So Congress, I guess, is investigating. Kellyanne Conway was in the room, correct, the other day up on Capitol Hill with Mike Pence when they were starting to talk about all these things. In the end, I don't really think this matters to most Trump voters. They want them to be tough on immigration. They want him to build the wall. I don't think there's any way to get Mexico to pay for it. He's talked about if Mexico doesn't volunteer a check, maybe you do this through a trade agreement or maybe you seize remittances. You know, Mexicans who are in this country sending money home. So you're going to take money that's going home to, you know, feed their families. I don't think that's constitutional, but we'll see how this one plays out.
BALL: Well, yes. I mean, I would say, in fairness to Trump, he's not president yet.
BALL: He has not had a chance to enact the sort of coercive measures that he had said will be the method that he uses to make Mexico pay for it. He said Mexico is going to pay for it, they just don't know it yet. They're saying no now, but that's before he's, you know, begun a trade war -
BALL: Or done other - taken other coercive methods that he says are the way that Mexico is going to be forced to pay for the wall. So the idea that Mexico will pay for it after we stick them with the bill and then, you know, do things to them, it's not necessarily a broken promise yet, I wouldn't say.
PHILLIP: And to Manu's point, I think it's important to keep an eye on House Republicans because right now they're saying - some of them are shrugging, some of them are saying, oh, maybe there will be backlash. But I wouldn't be surprised if a couple of months down the road many of them decided, hey, you know, if this is what Mr. Trump wants, this is - this is what President Trump wants, this is what President Trump gets. We've already seen them fall back, you know, or fall on their sword in the face of a Trump tweet. And Trump himself, contrary to what Kellyanne said, implicated that the stories are actually correct, that he is in support of a plan that calls for taxpayers to pay for it now and Mexico to pay for it later.
PHILLIP: Whether that later will ever come, we may never know.
KING: Whether that later will ever come, if he's tougher on immigration, I believe he believes, and I bet most of his voters believe, he's delivered on his promise.
O'KEEFE: Absolutely. Important point here, if they're going to give in on paying for the wall, they're also essentially this week giving in on the idea of passing budget measures that would add trillions to the deficit -
O'KEEFE: Because, they said, as long as it helps repeal Obamacare. We are now seeing them -
O'KEEFE: Essentially put aside -
KING: Right. O'KEEFE: Eight years of principled opposition to big spending plans because the big spending plan now will enact what they and their voters are wanting more than anything.
PHILLIP: And we have (INAUDIBLE).
[12:25:05] RAJU: But, John, the challenge is that building the wall is going to be really, really hard. Even getting that funding through Congress is going to be difficult. They have - still have to get 60 votes in the United States Senate. Democrats could block this. There could be a shutdown threat.
O'KEEFE: Well -
RAJU: And even - even if they were to move forward on a wall, which they say they have the authority to do it, there are all sorts of legal challenges that could be raised along the border, environmental lawsuits, you name it, that will actually prohibit him from constructing this wall. I mean a lot of challenges ahead for it.
KING: A lot of challenges on the immigration issue, on the health care issue, in part because Republicans do control everything in this town starting two weeks from today, but they have a narrower Senate majority, 52-48. They have a narrow House majority. It's hard.
O'KEEFE: I don't - I don't think the Senate will be the problem. I think it's the legal and the environmental (INAUDIBLE) will be harder because Republicans have rightly pointed out since this was unearthed -
O'KEEFE: That a bunch of Democrats still in office voted for the original 2006 measure for part of a 2013 bipartisan compromise that would have put the huge wall up as part of a deal to get comprehensive reform. So they're already on the record as being in support of a wall. The question will be, when and how it's built and where exactly.
KING: And how Republicans figure out the paying part. I think you're right, 2018 politics might get them enough Democratic votes, the red state Democrats, to get there.
KING: All right, next up, 14 days and counting for President Obama.