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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Donald Trump: I Think It Was Russia; Some Lawmakers Still Undecided On Sessions; Trump To Put Business In Trust Run By His Sons; Booker: Sessions Not Qualified to be Attorney General; Rubio Refuses to Say If He'll Ever Vote for Tillerson; Interview with U.S. Senator James Lankford. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 11, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR:. Thanks very much. That's it for me. Thanks for watching. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next. Breaking news tonight. Trump firing back, blaming Russia, the media, the democrats in his first press conference in six months.
Plus, war on whites. That's what one lawmaker calls the fight against Jeff Sessions tonight. Can that battle get any uglier?
And where was Sasha Obama last night? That question and some interesting answers taking the web by storm. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, Donald Trump admitting for the first time that Russia hacked the U.S. election, the admission coming just after weeks of Trump dismissing U.S. Intel reports, pinning the attack on Vladimir Putin personally. Almost in the same breath, so Trump refused to accept that Russia's motive was to try to help him win the presidency. In his first press conference in 168 days, Trump said Putin will respect America more with him in the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I'm leading it than when other people have led it. You will see that. Russia will respect our country more. Do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me? Does anybody in this room really believe that? Give me a break.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That press conference was 77 minutes long. It was contentious. There were fireworks, especially when Trump vehemently attacked reporting first broadcast on CNN that U.S. Intel officials presented him with documents alleging Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal information about Trump. Our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto is part of the CNN team breaking that story. And he's OUTFRONT now with more breaking details. Jim, a major reversal for the President-elect though on the crucial issue of did Russia hack the U.S.election. JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Nuanced to some degree. He said he thinks it was Russia. He went on to downplay it saying a lot of other countries attempt to hack the U.S. even praised the information that was released by the hack but it is the first time he has not publicly dismissed and disputed the high confidence assessment of the U.S. intelligence community.
TRUMP: As far as hacking, I think it was Russia.
SCIUTTO: Tonight for the first time President-elect Donald Trump accepting the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia is to blame for the unprecedented attack on the 2016 election process. And then immediately watering down that admission in the very same sentence.
TRUMP: But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.
SCIUTTO: Still, the remarks of the most definitive that he has made after months of openly doubting the intelligence community's assessment, which includes that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the operation.
TRUMP: He shouldn't have done it. I don't believe he'll be doing it more now.
SCIUTTO: The President-elect's reversal comes after the nation's intelligence chiefs briefed Trump on their classified findings last week. CNN first reported that at the same briefing President-elect Trump was presented with documents alleging that Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about it.
TRUMP: It's phony stuff.
SCIUTTO: Today, Trump angrily denied the contents of those claims accusing the intelligence chiefs of leaking the allegations.
TRUMP: I think it was disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out.
SCIUTTO: He went on to say that he's simply too cautious when he's traveling for the Russians to have anything damning on him.
TRUMP: I am extremely careful. I'm surrounded by bodyguards. I'm surrounded by people. And I always tell them anywhere, but I always tell them if I'm leaving this country, be very careful because in your hotel rooms and no matter where you go you're going to -- probably going to have cameras. I'm not referring just to Russia, but I would certainly put them in that category.
SCIUTTO: The allegations reigniting questions about Donald Trump's ties to Russia, which he has often touted in the past.
TRUMP: I was in Moscow a couple of months ago. I own the Miss Universe Pageant. And they treated me so great. Putin even sent me a present.
SCIUTTO: In 2013, Trump brought his Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow. Today Trump maintains that he has no connections to Russia and CNN has not been able to find any current business operations there.
TRUMP: I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we've stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia.
SCIUTTO: As if Russia's hacking was intended to help him get elected, Trump suggested that in his view that would be a plus.
TRUMP: If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks, that's called an asset, not a liability. Now, I don't know that I'm going to get along with Vladimir Putin. I hope I do. But there's a good chance I won't. And if I don't, do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me? Does anybody in this room really believe that? Give me a break.
SCIUTTO: Donald Trump of course has repeatedly talked about pursuing a friendlier relationship with Russia, but we noted today that Rex Tillerson, his nominee for Secretary of State, asked about that possibility during his confirmation hearings today, said a number of times that the U.S. is not friends with Russia, not likely to be, that we have in his words a different value system. He did say that he might look for a way to turn down the temperature in his words and Erin, that might be something that the president very well does end up pursuing. The question is, how does he pursue that with the many issues of disagreement between the two countries right now.
BURNETT: Right. All right. Absolutely, Jim. So, I'm going to go to Jim Acosta because he was at the press conference today. And I want to talk about an extremely contentious back and forth you had with, Jim with the President-elect over CNN's reporting. Today the bottom line of what he seemed to be trying to say in light of all the allegations about improper things that the Russians may know about him, he's trying to say now he may not get along with Vladimir Putin.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. And you heard some of that sound in a piece, Donald Trump saying, well, if Vladimir Putin likes him that's an asset, not a liability. Donald Trump still has this idea that perhaps the U.S. and Russia could join forces to take the fight to ISIS. But you did hear him say at one point maybe I won't get along very well with Vladimir Putin and that's a little bit of a departure from what we heard out on the campaign trail. He was effusive in his praise of Vladimir Putin throughout that campaign. And so I do think that is a measurable difference but perhaps, Erin, the weight of the presidency is starting to bring him to the reality that Vladimir Putin may not actually be on his side.
BURNETT: Right. Right. And now, that what's brings me to your heated exchange, right? Because you went to ask him a question after he had attacked CNN, right? Because CNN, Jim Sciutto, that reporting team reported that Trump was presented with documents that had, you know, allegations that Russians, operatives had information, compromising information about Donald Trump. We reported that he was briefed on that. As we all know, others have reported what those actual allegations are. We have not. We have not substantiated them. He attacked you for the CNN reporting and here's how it went.
ACOSTA: Since you are attacking our news organization --
TRUMP: No. Not you. Not you.
ACOSTA: Can you give us a chance.
TRUMP: Your organization is terrible.
ACOSTA: You are attacking our news organization, can you give us a chance to ask a question, sir.
TRUMP: Go ahead had.
ACOSTA: Sir, can you state --
TRUMP: Quiet, quiet.
ACOSTA: Mr. President-elect, can you state categorically --
TRUMP: Go ahead. She's asking a question. Don't be rude.
ACOSTA: Mr. President-elect, can you give us a question? You're attacking us.
TRUMP: Don't be rude.
ACOSTA: Can you give us a question?
TRUMP: Don't be -- I'm not going to give you a --
ACOSTA: Can you -- can you state --
TRUMP: I'm not going to give you a question. You are fake news.
ACOSTA: Can you state categorically -- Sir, can you state categorically that nobody -- Mr. President-elect, that's not appropriate.
BURNETT: And good for you, Jim, standing up for yourself, for this organization. Has the campaign, the transition team said anything to you about this exchange that we just heard?
ACOSTA: Well, Erin, Sean Spicer, the incoming Press Secretary, came up to me after that news conference was over and said that I crossed a line and he thought my behavior during that news conference was inappropriate. I thought that, you know, Donald Trump had attacked our news organization several times and I thought, you know, it was only right for us to have a chance to ask him a question, ask a follow-up question. And I merely wanted to ask, you know, did he have any associates who were in contact with the Russians during the course of that campaign. He did not want to answer that question. He finally did answer that question as he was getting on an elevator when a colleague of ours over at ABC tried to ask the question. But Erin, one thing I think is very notable and worth pointing out is
that during that news conference, Sean Spicer said to me that if I were to continue to persist and try to ask a question that I would be thrown out of that news conference. Now, Erin, keep in mind, I've covered four presidential campaigns, I covered President Obama at the White House. I have never had a Press Secretary threaten to throw me out of a news conference. That is a first. It is not a good sign of things to come and perhaps when the heat dies down we'll both, you know, come to an agreement as to how this should go forward in the future. But obviously, you know, we're just trying to ask the hard questions and do our job. That's what we're here for.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jim. I want to go to Democratic Senator Al Franken, also a member of the judiciary committee in the senate. Senator, you just heard that exchange between Jim Acosta, our Jim Acosta and Donald Trump. You heard him say he's covered, you know, multiple White Houses or multiple campaigns, never been threatened with being thrown out of a press conference before. When you hear that exchange, what do you hear?
Sen. Al Franken (D), Judiciary Committee: Well, I heard, I didn't see it and I didn't -- I was in the hearings for Senator Sessions for Attorney General so I didn't see the total context, but it sounds pretty bad. And, you know, this is really kind of about transparency. Donald Trump -- we don't know -- I mean, the charges are is that he has some indiscretion or some financial ties to Russia somehow. Those as you said have not been substantiated and you guys -- you guys haven't said that, but the fact is that these have been presented to him.
This is why he should release his taxes. The financial part, for example. I mean, here's someone who's had a number of businesses, and number of business that have gone bankrupt to the tune of leaving creditors holding the bag for a billion dollars. Then sometimes you wonder where else are you going to get credit and are those going to be foreign entities. And he has been surprisingly friendly to Putin and to Russia, praising Russia and Syria when they have committed with the Assad Regime atrocities. He denied that Russia went into Crimea, he threatened NATO. This is something that you wonder why he is sort of carrying so much of Russia's water.
BURNETT: So, you think that they may have something on him and that he's aware. Is that what you're implying? I mean, I'm not trying to put words in your mouth but it sort of sounds like that's where you're going.
FRANKEN: What I'm saying is that we need much, much more transparency and part of that is he's releasing his income taxes to see where his money comes from, what his business relationships are, and that's something he can easily do.
BURNETT: Right. Absolutely. And the thing, though, is he's saying that these allegations -- and again, I want to make it clear to people, CNN reported he was briefed on allegations. We did not report on what allegations are. We have not substantiated them, we all know that, another organization put some of those allegations, put the report out in public. OK. The former acting CIA Director Mike Morrell, though, Senator, today did say on CNN that it would be unprecedented, it is -- it is unprecedented but the intelligence community to present to anyone unverified information. Let me just play for you exactly how Mike Morrell put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE MORRELL, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I was a bit surprised that our intelligence community would take a private document and summarize it for the President and President-elect if they didn't know anything about the credibility of the information in it. That would be quite frankly unprecedented.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And Senator, Donald Trump responded today saying and I was -- I'll quote him, "I think it was disgraceful that the intelligence community is allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out. I think it's a disgrace." Should the Intel Chief, Senator, have presented these allegations without knowing if they are true?
FRANKEN: Well, you may have to --I don't know how this works. They may have been afraid it would leak so they were telling him to give him a warning in case it was leaked. You might say the same thing about what FBI Director Comey on what he did just 11 days before the election, something that amounted to absolutely nothing but I think had an effect on this election. The point is that Donald Trump, very -- if he says something isn't true, that doesn't mean it isn't true. He has said thousands of Muslims cheered, he saw this on TV, the thousands of Muslims cheered in New Jersey as the 9/11 towers went down. That's -- he says things that aren't true all the time. So you can't take his word for anything.
BURNETT: So, do you -- do you know who to believe at this point? Or whose responsibility is next? I mean, should senate set up a committee to investigate this 35-page report? Should the intelligence community be tasked with verifying and saying if anything in there is true now that the whole world has been able to see it? I mean, we say.
FRANKEN: Yes. I think we should have a committee looking at this. I think we should have a special committee looking at this. We had one for Benghazi. We should -- the hacking of our elections and then it wasn't just hacking us, it was releasing the information to WikiLeaks. By the way, Donald Trump praised WikiLeaks and praised he Julian Assange. I mean, this is pretty outrageous and this does need an investigation, of course.
BURNETT: And I must ask you because as you point out you didn't hear the press conference live because you were doing your job, you're on the judiciary committee, you've been questioning Senator Sessions, there's been two days of hearings. Is he going to be confirmed as the next attorney general, Senator Franken?
FRANKEN: I can't say one way or the other. I have a lot of skepticism about his ability to be the kind of attorney general who protects all Americans. I pressed him about his own mischaracterization of his record. He said he personally handled four civil rights cases that turns out he didn't. He --I worry about him with the voting rights act. He -- we went over what happened in North Carolina where the fourth circuit said that North Carolina had targeted specifically African-Americans to suppress their vote and that had stood for a couple of years so we had elections where those voters were denied the right to vote.
And he didn't seem to think there was enough of a problem there to restore the voting rights act where they -- where the federal government has preclearance over those states like North Carolina that have a history of suppressing the votes of minorities. So I don't think that he necessarily is the right choice to protect the rights of Americans.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Senator Franken. Appreciate your time.
FRANKEN: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, Trump lays out his plan for separating his business from his presidency. Plus, Senator Cory Booker unprecedented and emotional attack on a fellow senator. Manu Raju just spoke with him. And we're going to bring that to you next.
And President Obama on his eight years in office turning to his daughters.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Malia and Sasha, you have become two amazing young women.
BURNETT: Malia was there. You see her. But where was Sasha?
BURNETT: Tonight, President-elect Donald Trump says he'll donate every dollar of profit from foreign government payments to his hotels to U.S. taxpayers. Now, this as he says he will have nothing to do with his business as president.
TRUMP: My two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company. They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They're not going to discuss it with me.
BURNETT: That announcement is tonight's Big Number comes a series of moves to avoid conflicts of interests. He also promised the Trump organization won't make any new foreign deals and then all pending deals have been cancelled. OUTFRONT now, Larry Noble, former General Council to the Federal Election commission and Rick Santorum, the former presidential candidate, former republican senator from Pennsylvania. Larry, let me start with you. You know, he's saying, look, there's a deal done, I'll read about it in the newspaper, I'll see it on television, I won't know about it, I won't be involved in it but he is going to a profit and loss statement. Do these moves go far enough? LARRY NOBLE, GENERAL COUNSEL CAMPAIGN LEGAL CENTER: No. Not at all. He is still financially involved this this company. His finances will depend on how the companies do when he leaves the presidency he will be a lot wealthier if the companies do better. He will be less wealthy if the companies don't do well. This is a classic conflict of interest. This is a classic financial conflict of interest. And he's saying he's putting the businesses in a trust. It's not a blind trust. It's being run by his children. And all it means is that he's not going to be involved in the operation. But he is still going to benefit from them and from what they do.
And they know what he wants, they know how it works. And also as equally as important, people dealing with his companies know that the President will benefit. If he -- if they do a good deal with the company. If they benefit the company, the President will benefit and that's a dangerous situation.
BURNETT: Senator Santorum, do you agree? I mean, the director of the office of government ethics said today these moves in his words were wholly inadequate. Your view?
RICK SANTORUM, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For what? I mean, you ask the question, Erin. You said does this go far enough? Far enough for what? There's no --
BURNETT: Far enough to show that he would not in any way benefit from his office or be able to use it to his financial advantage.
SANTORUM: So why is that the standard?
BURNETT: Well, I mean, I would expect nothing less, right?
SANTORUM: No -- but no, it's not the standard, Erin. The President of the United States is not bound by any conflict of interest standard. So, when you say does it go far enough, far enough for what? The -- far enough for the law? The law doesn't apply to the president. So the answer -- the answer is far enough for what the public perception is. And of course the gentleman who's on with me right now, for him, no, it's not. For me? Yes, it is, because if there is no standard. And just because other presidents may have decided, well, I'm going to comply with that even though it's not the law for me to do so doesn't make it the standard.
What Donald Trump did when he ran for president is he spent tens of millions of his own money. He's probably going to be as a result of not doing further financial deals, going to be giving up tens of millions of more dollars. And the people are wondering, well, he's going to profit if this company continues to operate. No one would suspect that -- he's getting to this -- to the presidency so he can make more money. He's actually lost a lot of money running for President of the United States. So, I just think this is a whole false narrative. The President of the United States is not bound by the law to have any -- do anything to avoid conflict of interest.
What he is bound by, and this is what I would say, he is bound by public perception. And of course those who don't like Donald Trump will never be satisfied with anything he does short of selling everything. But that is an unreasonable thing for the public to ask because Donald Trump isn't Rex Tillerson. Rex Tillerson can sell his public stock in a company that he was CEO of. Donald Trump is Trump and that's the difference.
BURNETT: So let me get a translated respond to the Senator. Are you --do you think, Larry, the standard would be he would have to sell absolutely everything? Because that would be unfair, right? I mean, you'd have to sell everything, these are illiquid assets. That may not be possible to do very quickly. Are you saying it would have to go that far, Larry?
NOBLE: Yes. I think that he should sell everything. Look, he as the President of the United States, it's the most powerful office in world. And, you know, and the senator asks what standards? Well, there is a definition of conflict of interest. There is a common understanding of what is a conflict of interest. I don't think Donald Trump would accept one of his executives having the same type of deal with other companies while working with him.
Now, he is right that the core conflict of interest law doesn't apply to the president, but as the Senator also said, previous presidents have applied it to themselves and have worked as if it applied to them to avoid the appearance and reality. And the reality of the conflict of interest is that he will do things because it may benefit his company or just as dangerously, other people, other foreign countries, other foreign companies, domestic companies will do things to favor him hoping to get some benefit from it. And that is a very dangerous thing.
You know, he can make the best decision in the world. You know, based on the most accurate information and because it will be seen he's ben it thing from it, people will not trust him.
BURNETT: So, and that is an issue. And Senator, I guess also the question, if you are going to be the leader of the free world, the most powerful person on the planet, why not hold yourself to the highest standard? I mean, why would you want the answer to be well, other people did but I don't have to because the law is this? Is that what-- is that really you want to hear from your president?
NOBLE: I think what Donald Trump has done is put forth a reasonable plan to separate himself from the business, to disconnect himself from any knowledge or management of the business, and as the attorney pointed out, there are problems with trying to sell his assets. His assets have the Trump name. They will get -- they might get more money paid for those assets because it's the President of the United States. There's no easy way to unwind this. And what president Trump -- President-elect Trump has done is put forth a reasonable proposal that is not going to satisfy people like we're hearing who want everything sold no matter whether he loses money or not.
That's not fair. And when you say Donald Trump asked for the presidency, that's right, but he knew that the laws to conflict of interest laws didn't apply and he knew he wouldn't have to sell his property. So, to now say, well, we're going to change the rules because if you don't do this, it doesn't look good, I think what's done is put a reasonable plan together and I think we should give him time to see how it works out.
BURNETT: All right. We will hit pause. We'll have you back as we see how this goes both of you. Thank you. Rick Santorum, Larry Elder.
And next, one congressman says the attacks on Jeff Sessions are part of an ongoing war on whites. That's next.
And Trump and his cabinet picks not seeing eye to eye at all.
TRUMP: We will also immediately stop the job killing trans-pacific partnership.
REX TILLERSON, FORMER EXXONMOBIL CEO: I do not oppose TPP.
[19:30:46] BURNETT: Breaking news: a war over race erupting on Capitol Hill. Republicans and Democrats accusing each other of playing the race card when it comes to Donald Trump's pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Democrats hammering Sessions' civil rights record today.
The Alabama Republican Congressman Mo Brooks responded with this --
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: It's really about political power and racial division and what I refer to on occasion as the "war on whites". They are trying to motivate the African-American vote to vote bloc for Democrats by using every "Republican is a racist" tool that they can envision.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Also today, the Democratic Senator Cory Booker took on an unprecedented step. He took on his fellow Senator Sessions at today's confirmation hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: With all that has taken our nation now, with the urgent need for healing and for love, I pray that my colleagues will join me in opposing this nomination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Senator Booker could shut down Sessions' nominations.
Our senior political reporter Manu Raju is OUTFRONT. He's on Capitol Hill.
And, Manu, you just spoke to Booker. What did he say? I mean, this was an emotional moment for him. It is an unprecedented moment, as I just said, to testify against Sessions.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, absolutely. The first time actually ever in history that a sitting senator has testified against another sitting senator for a cabinet post. And I asked him about. And he said he didn't take the decision lightly. He actually considers himself a personal friend with Jeff Sessions. But he said that Jeff Sessions is far out of the mainstream, in his view, even further to the right to the most conservative elements of the Republican conference.
And even I talked to him about what some critics believe that Cory Booker is doing this for his own 2020 ambitions. He addressed all that just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOOKER: So, this is somebody who clearly has told us if he is attorney general, he will not be executing what is a key function of the attorney general's office, which is to protect the vulnerable, to protect women, to protect minorities, protect voting rights, to protect the poor. So, it's clearly something in good conscience I could not remain silent on. And I believe that it's more important for me to stand up for principles and ideals on my country than it is to stand up for Senate norms.
RAJU: Some of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus have questioned whether or not he would fairly administer the law across races. Do you hear that concern? Are you worried that he may not be fair with African-Americans?
BOOKER: So, I don't want to get into an accusation of what I hear, which I think is nonsensical to call him a racist. I want to say what he's told us he will do.
RAJU: Are you open to 2020?
BOOKER: I am open to doing everything I can right now as the Trump administration is coming in. Please understand, Jeff Sessions as attorney general is counter to so many of the ideals and ideals that I believe in.
The focus is doing on everything you can to stop Donald Trump and a lot of his intentions, somebody who ran a campaign demeaning and degrading so many Americans who now is advocating for policies that will end up doing the same.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So, Erin, not ruling out 2020 run when I asked him, are you open to that idea, but saying this is not something -- he's not doing this because of his own political ambitions. But one interesting point, I also asked him about the nomination of Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, Booker sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he did not rule out voting for Rex Tillerson.
BURNETT: Oh, interesting. RAJU: He said he's open to it. He's listening to his testimony, will make a decision later. So, potentially one Democrat still considering voting for Tillerson, even as others are considering voting against him.
BURNETT: Well, it could be a crucial vote considering Marco Rubio could vote against. So, that absolutely could be a very, very crucial thing.
Thank you very much, Manu.
I want to go straight now to Jeffrey Lord, former Reagan White House political director. Basil Smikle, New York State Democratic Party executive director.
So, Senator Booker saying he doesn't think that Jeff Sessions will work in the interests of the vulnerable. But not going so far as to call him a racist. I guess he wanted to be somewhat political when it came to that final bottom line point.
Is there a disconnect there?
BASIL SMIKLE, NEW YORK STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: No, listen, civil rights organizations have said that Sessions is not someone who is going to uphold the values of those organizations and certainly protect vulnerable communities and disenfranchised communities in this country.
And I think, even with all the talk about Cory Booker potentially setting himself up for 2020, I think there's another issue here that a lot us are forgetting.
[19:35:05] In the history of this country, there have been only been ten African-American senators. Three of them are serving currently and the current president was one of them.
So, when you look back on things like voting rights, when you talk about the pernicious sort of effective gerrymandering, that actually hurts the ability of African-Americans, women, others --
BURNETT: What you're saying is this is not something in the past?
BURNETT: But you can't just say, OK, we're fine.
SMIKLE: Absolutely right. You have to keep fighting for it and that was Cory Booker's point today.
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, this is what modern liberalism has become and I think this is the tragedy of it. They infect everything with this kind of political beliefs.
I mean, I served in the Reagan White House. They went after Supreme Court nominees. They went after lower court nominees. Jeff Sessions was a Reagan nominee and they went after him.
And this is what they do. This is part of the standard playbook. To borrow from Hillary Clinton, the basket of deplorables, this is the nomination --
SMIKLE: But who is they and are you saying that they are deplorable for standing up --
LORD: No, when you talk --
SMIKLE: For the people of color. Why is it folks feel so threatened when people who are searching for or pushing for representation actually do that?
LORD: It's not about feeling threatened. It's about equality of treatment and getting to Dr. King's dream of a place where we're being judged on the content of our character, not color of our skin.
I am suggesting -- wait, wait, I am suggesting to you that this is the progressive formula and it has been for well over 200 years.
SMIKLE: What's the formula of what?
LORD: You had played the race card --
SMIKLE: I don't have a race -- go ahead.
BURNETT: I want to read the formula of what Mo Brooks said. Mo Brooks is saying that they are trying -- what he's calling the war on whites, all right? And the Democrats are trying to motivate the African-American vote to block for Democrats buy using "every Republican is a racist" tool they can envision even, if they have to lie about it. That's the formula that he sees.
SMIKLE: It is both an idiotic and irresponsible statement, because there are good people, Republicans and Democrats, black and white, that are trying to solve these kinds of problems and from have good, strong, open dialogue. When both turn around and say you're playing the race card --
BURNETT: What's your gut reaction?
SMIKLE: I'm appalled at that. I think it's an idiotic statement. There is no war on whites. That goes to what I was saying, if people are being threatened, and he clearly feels threatened there are folks of color, people previously disenfranchised, now exercising their power, and have a platform, somehow it's an opportunity to say, you know what, we don't want this kind of change, it's happening too quickly.
BURNETT: Mo Brooks says this is a war on whites, the Sessions nomination. Does that go too far? Or are you appalled or do you think --
LORD: The phrase "war on whites" is terrible, atrocious. I certainly would never use it.
But the rest of what he's saying is in essence what I've been saying, is that they divide by race for a reason. They divide by race to get a progressive agenda.
SMIKLE: So, let me ask you a question. So, you have Rand Paul, who said today that he actually disagrees with Jeff Sessions, particularly on this issue of incarceration, which is disproportionately impacted people of color. Is he playing the race card? No. This is about good, solid public policy. There is no war on whites that they are enacted.
LORD: Well, the they as I say is American liberalism today. And in the past, I mean, the culture --
SMIKLE: So, Rand Paul is an American liberal?
LORD: I think Rand Paul, you know, is having an intelligent conversation on this issue. And that's the kind of thing that has to be had. But to say that we're going to block the president's choice for attorney general, I certainly disagreed with Eric Holder, I thought he deserved to be --
SMIKLE: You can raise important questions about what these nominees are saying or have done in the past and that's what booker is doing. That's what John Lewis was doing.
LORD: The president should have his choice for his cabinet, whomever that may be.
SMIKLE: And senators are have the right to block it.
BURNETT: We'll see how it goes. Senator Franken sounded earlier like he was leaning against voting for Senator Jeff Sessions.
BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, Trump's pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, under fire today from both sides of the aisle. Is he going to get the job?
And then, Jeanne Moos on first daughter Sasha's conspicuous absence at her father's final speech. Everybody has a theory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's out on a date?
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's got the flu? MOOS: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's taking care of the dogs?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:43:30] BURNETT: Breaking news: Marco Rubio refuses to say he will vote for Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson after a day of testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: It's a very important decision. I have to make sure that I'm 100 percent behind whatever decision that I make. I'm prepared to do what's right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Senator Rubio's refusal to back Tillerson comes on a day Tillerson and other Trump cabinet picks are publicly going against some of Trump's core campaign promises.
Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump's campaign trail promises --
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: What do you think of waterboarding? I said it's fine. And if we want to go stronger, I'd go stronger, too.
We're going to build a wall! We're going to build a big beautiful wall!
ZELENY: Aren't being backed up on Capitol Hill, not just by Democrats, by his own cabinet nominees. A second day of confirmation hearings show that Trump's team is at odds with the boss on some of the most hot-button issues.
On trade, the president-elect railed against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
TRUMP: We will also immediately stop the job killing Trans-Pacific Partnership, a disaster, another disastrous potential deal.
ZELENY: Today, Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson took a different view.
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: I do not oppose TPP. I share some of his views regarding whether the agreement that was negotiated serves all of America's interests best.
ZELENY: The disagreements run deeper on torture, which Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions told the Judiciary Committee.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Congress has taken an action now that makes it absolutely improper and illegal to use waterboarding or any other form of torture.
[19:45:10] ZELENY: Trump's rhetoric before the election and since is colliding with governing. His perspective cabinet is shedding new light on what a Trump administration would like. That old pledge to ban Muslims --
TRUMP: A total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.
ZELENY: That he started walking away from during the campaign met resistance from Sessions and others.
SESSIONS: I have no belief and do not support the idea that Muslims as a religious group should be denied admission to the United States.
ZELENY: At Trump Tower today, the president-elect still pledged to build that wall on the border with Mexico.
TRUMP: It's not a fence. It's a wall.
ZELENY: His pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, retired General John Kelly, gently disagreed.
GEN. JOHN F. KELLY (RET.), HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY NOMINEE: A physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job. It has to be a layered defense.
ZELENY: And on Russia, Trump's approach to Vladimir Putin --
TRUMP: If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability.
ZELENY: -- was challenged by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where his choice for secretary of state struck a harder line than Trump.
TILLERSON: Russia must know we will be accountable to our commitments and those of our allies and that Russia must be held to account for its actions.
ZELENY: The rhetoric of campaigning is coming headlong to the reality of governing. Rex Tillerson saw that more than any other nominee perhaps, Erin, when he was asked about climate change and nuclear weapons, asked throughout the day in aggressive questioning if he agrees with Donald Trump. He said in many cases he does not.
Now, the real question will be, when Donald Trump comes here in just ten days, how that reality affects his policies?
BURNETT: That is the crucial question.
All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you.
And, you know, I want to go straight to Republican Senator James Lankford. He is the only senator on both the Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees.
Obviously, a lot of say you have here say, sir. There are so many questions I could ask you about these stark differences between Donald Trump and his nominees. But I want to ask you this one. Do you think that Trump's nominees will actually stand up to him on the wall, the TPP, torture, nuclear weapons, the list goes on?
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: I would assume they would. I assume these are all conversations they've already had with the president-elect, in the interviews, to say we have some differences. I think it shows Trump is bringing in good leaders that have thoughts on a lot of these issues. And he doesn't mind people within his cabinet having some disagreements. That's a positive thing in the process.
And a lot of these issues were debated throughout the campaign and as the campaign went on, some of those shifted on and you see that from some of the cabinet officials that he's selected.
BURNET: So, you have said you've had concerns about the Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson due to his close links to Russia as the CEO of Exxon. And your colleague, Marco Rubio, of course, shares those concerns. He's on the Foreign Relations Committee. Tillerson needs his vote. And their exchanges today were very contentious.
I want to play one of them for you, Senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?
TILLERSON: I would not use that term.
RUBIO: Based on all this information, what's publicly in the record about what's happened in Aleppo and the Russian military, you are still not prepared to say that Vladimir Putin and his military have violated the rules of war and have conducted war crimes in Aleppo?
TILLERSON: Now, those are very, very serious charges to make and I would want to have much more information before reaching a conclusion. I understand there is a body of record in the public domain. I'm sure there's a body of record in the classified domain. And I think in order to deal with a serious question like this --
RUBIO: Mr. Tillerson, what happened in Aleppo is in the public domain and the videos --
(CROSSTALK) TILLERSON: I would want to be fully informed before advising the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Senator, are you satisfied with Tillerson's response?
LANKFORD: Tillerson had a lot of questions all day long and he did come back over and over again saying Russia, saying that Russia needs to be held to account. So, yes, at the end of the day, he came back and said the things we clearly needed to hear from him, is that this is not a business transaction. This is a transaction of a sense of values from the United States, that we are projecting our values globally and standing up for things like religious liberty, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom to be able to gather.
Those are unique values that we have as Americans and places they don't share those values, we should push back on those things. And Russia has been one of the leading violators of a lot of those values.
BURNETT: So, you say he circled back and you ended up being confident or you seem satisfied with those responses. Senator Rubio pushed him on one other thing when it pertains to Vladimir Putin, when you refer to contentious exchanges. And I wanted to play this one for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: Are you aware that people who oppose Vladimir Putin wind up dead all over the world, poisoned, shot in the back of the head?
TILLERSON: Well, people who speak up for freedom in regimes that are oppressive are often a threat and these things happen to them. In terms of assigning specific responsibilities, I would have to have more information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I know you said you ended up being satisfied with his responses on Russia.
[19:50:02] Does he have your vote, Senator Lankford?
LANKFORD: I'm still going through all the file information on that. I've not made a final decision. I would say I'm leaning towards a yes based on what I'm hearing. I'm still trying to get a time to be able to block off. There are some other human rights issues that I want to walk through and see what they're doing specifically. Some of those were touched on in the hearing today. Some of them were not. So, I want to be able to get some final answers.
BURNETT: All right. So, lean yes.
Today, Trump said he'll start building a wall immediately. He said, again, Mexico is going to reimburse taxpayers for it later. The president of Mexico tonight says, absolutely no, Mexico will never pay for that wall. Are you sure, Senator, that U.S. taxpayers will not get stuck with
LANKFORD: I don't know what the proposal is from President-elect Trump. None of us have seen it yet. What he's proposing on how Mexico would pay for the wall. He is coming forward to be able to make the request.
Quite frankly, this is a bill that's almost 20 years old now that the United States already voted and the United States Congress voted and the president signed to say, we need to have a physical barrier on our border. But it was never fully funded and in many areas, where there was multi-layering as General Kelly mentioned in his testimony yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security hearing, some of those areas where technology was put in place, a billion dollars spent and the technology didn't work at the end of it.
So, there's a lot of issues with the acquisition from DHS, which has been a major problem for over a decade, and finishing out something that Congress started in the early 2000s on security. So, this is not a vote to start something new. This is actually a vote to be able -- to finish what should have been done a long time ago.
BURNETT: All right. Senator Lankford, good to talk to you again. Appreciate your time tonight.
LANKFORD: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, Jeanne Moos. After President Obama's farewell address to the nation, all everyone was asking was, where is Sasha?
BURNETT: President Obama's youngest daughter, Sasha, was not there last night for his emotional farewell speech to the nation. So, where was she?
Jeanne Moos investigated.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPODNENT: We watched her grow from a kid to a teenager, from petting a turkey to barely putting up with the turkey pardon.
But when President Obama delivered his swan song --
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women.
MOOS: Only one of the two was there.
OBAMA: You are kind and you are thoughtful and you are full of passion. [19:55:00] MOOS: While Malia shed a tear, Sasha had disappeared,
inspiring the #whereissasha. A tweet featuring binoculars asked, "But for real, where is Sasha Obama?"
And there was this answer, "Hopefully, blocking the driveway to the White House, so the next occupant can't move in."
The family of four inexplicably reduced to three.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was out on a date?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's got the flu?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's taking care of the dogs?
Tweeted someone, "Anyone else wondering if Sasha Obama is the designated survivor?"
As the president spoke, Google searches for Sasha spiked over searches for Malia. Remember back in 2008 when Sasha asked her dad up on the screen --
SASHA OBAMA, FIRST DAUGHTER: Daddy, what city are you in?
MOOS: That's what we wondered about you, Sasha.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She hates Chicago?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She wouldn't go?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She had to study?
MOOS: The White House says Sasha couldn't come to Chicago because she had an exam the next morning at her private school in Washington.
A once-in-a-lifetime farewell speech by dad versus a science exam?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's important that they're showing that the education is the most valuable thing.
MOOS: But whether or not Sasha aces the exam --
OBAMA: Of all that I have done in my life, I am most proud to be your dad. (MUSIC)
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: And we'll be right back.
BURNETT: And thank you so much for joining us. Don't forget. You can watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere on CNN go.
"AC360", of course, with Anderson starts now.