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STATE OF THE UNION
Russia Probe Deepens; Trump's Rowdy Rally; Interview With Ohio Governor John Kasich; Interview With New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez; Interview With Former U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones; Democrats Looking For Ways To Get Rid of Trump. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired February 19, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Help wanted. Trump holds auditions for a new national security adviser after Mike Flynn is fired and Trump's first choice turns him down.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.
SCIUTTO: Who will get the job, and what will it mean for the country?
And the Russia probe deepens.
TRUMP: I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don't have any deals in Russia.
SCIUTTO: The FBI director holds a secret briefing on Capitol Hill amid concerns from Congress. Senators vow a bipartisan investigation. Where will it lead?
Plus, campaigner in chief. President Trump hits the road for a rowdy rally.
TRUMP: I'm here because I want to be among my friends and among the people.
SCIUTTO: And a reminder that he still has plenty of fan.
And the best political minds will be here with insights on what happens next.
SCIUTTO: Hello, and good morning. I'm Jim Sciutto, in for Jake Tapper today, where the state of our union is still campaigning?
You can be forgiven for suffering from an election flashback while watching President Trump's rally in Melbourne, Florida, last night, where thousands of his fans gathered to cheer him on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I want to be here with you, and I will always be with you. i promise you that.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: I want to be in a room filled with hardworking American patriots who love their country, who salute their flag, and who pray for a better future.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Trump seemed to be eager to reengage with his core supporters after what was a bumpy week here in Washington that saw him fire his national security adviser for lying to the vice president and also growing calls for an investigation into alleged ties between his campaign and Russia.
Meanwhile, Vice President Pence, he headed to Munich, Germany, where he sought to reassure European allies of America's commitment to NATO, despite President Trump's harsh, sometimes dismissive words for the alliance.
Let's go now to Munich, Germany, where Ohio Governor and former Republican candidate for president John Kasich is attending the Munich security conference.
Governor Kasich, thanks very much for joining us this morning.
I want to ask you. The conference there, a lot of world leaders, many others, what are they saying to you about President Trump?
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Well, the interesting thing, Jim, is -- is what they are saying is, we can hear from the vice president, we can hear from General Mattis, we can hear from General Kelly, but we're not sure about the president.
And it is vital that the administration be on the same page. And there is question that, in a time of crisis, where will America be? And I think it's just critically important that all the signals coming out of the administration are very solid and very consistent with the fact that we all stand together in the Western alliance, that we stand strong for NATO.
The president's people have all said it, but, frankly, he needs to be heard in a more -- in a more clear, in a more -- and in a more passionate way, because, despite all these people being here, I have been meeting with all these folks from all over the world. They say: We're just not sure.
So it's really critical that they speak with one voice on all these critical matters of national security and supporting our Western alliance, which has kept the peace since World War II.
SCIUTTO: Governor Kasich, as you know, one place where President Trump has been clear and passionate is his targeting of one American institution, it seems, after another since taking office, the intelligence community, the judiciary, including individual judges, the Congress.
And this week, he went once again after the media, but really in stronger terms that he has used, referring to the American media as the enemy of the American people.
Senator McCain had some very harsh words for those comments. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and, many times, adversarial press.
And, without it, I'm afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: "That's how dictators get started."
Do you share that concern?
KASICH: Well, I think Senator McCain, in terms of that, has to defend his own comments or support his own comments.
But I think the comments of Angela Merkel, really the gist of what John McCain is saying, and what I have said to the press in Ohio and around the country and here in Munich is, thank God you're there. You're there that have to -- to hold people accountable.
And without a free press -- well, we're going to have a free press. And while I don't always agree with the reporting of the press, they are vital. They are really such an important part of democracy.
And when I met just recently with press all across the state of Ohio, some that are very critical of me, when I walked into the room, they applauded me. And I got on the stage and I said, I applaud you for following the facts and reporting a story even at times when it is not easy.
I have great respect for the press. I was once in the press. The key, though, is not to be oversensationalizing everything, but get to the facts. Let the investigation of the press go where it wants. Tell the story.
That's a part of America. And it's a part of an institution that works to make sure that things have balance.
SCIUTTO: You know this was a difficult week for the Trump administration. You have the resignation of General Michael Flynn as national security adviser, Senator McCain describing the administration as being in disarray. That's something we're hearing privately as well from many members of the Republican Party.
As you look at the administration now in these crucial first weeks, do you see disarray as well?
KASICH: Well, there's been disarray, but, Jim, I'm a little different than a lot of folks.
When you're the governor of a state and you're an executive, you assemble your team, and then you need to get your sea legs. And I made mistakes early on as governor. In fact, my wife once told me: "John, you're the father of Ohio. Act like it."
And the fact of the matter is that words matter. I think the administration needs to understand that loose words, frankly, causes great concern. And one of the things that's amazed me on this trip over here is, as much as the Europeans criticize the United States of America, they love us, they need us, and they tell us that.
And, in some sense, they are almost begging us to say: Please, stand with us. You're the leader. No one else can fill your role.
So, I think it's just very important that, in any administration, it gets its sea legs, that it's stable, and realizing that things that get said out of that White House really matter, not just in America, but all over the world.
SCIUTTO: I'm certain that Russia is a major topic of conversation there, also certainly here at home.
And two of your former presidential rivals, Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Rand Paul, they expressed very different views on how Congress should deal with allegations here pertaining to Russia's meddling in the U.S. election.
First, let me play what Senator Graham said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: 2017 is going to be a year of kicking Russia in the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: That's Senator Graham there.
Rand Paul suggesting something very different, that Republicans should not investigate the Trump administration's potential links to Russia because it would impede the GOP's policy agenda.
Listen to Senator Paul.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I just don't think it's useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party. We will never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we're spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans. I think it makes no sense.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Who do you side with, Governor Kasich, Senator Graham, who says got to push hard, or Senator Paul, who says that Republicans should be pulling back?
KASICH: Let me tell you -- let me -- yes.
Look, if our intelligence community thinks we need to get to the bottom of this, I happen to believe that perhaps a joint House-Senate Intelligence Committee investigation ought to get to the bottom of Russian hacking. Were they trying to influence our election?
You know, what is it all about? What's the bottom line? Now, I don't favor at this point moving it outside of the Intelligence Committees. I think that the Intelligence Committees have the capability to conduct a thorough understanding of what happened, so that we can be in a position to prevent it in the future.
Many European countries are worried about Russia's hacking their elections, disrupting their elections. So, I believe that the House and Senate can carry this out. And I think that it has to be done in a bipartisan and thorough way.
And I think that a person like Senator Feinstein, Senator Warner, if they feel as though we're not getting to the bottom line and that investigations become partisan, then we have to look at something more independent.
But I'm confident that the House and the Senate Intelligence Committee can do this. It's in the best national security interests of the United States. And, frankly, the rest of the world is looking at how we handle this, because they don't want to be hacked. They don't want to have their elections to be disrupted in any way.
SCIUTTO: And lots of evidence that Russia is disrupting elections in Europe, continue to.
Of course, part of the Republican agenda is repealing Obamacare. When you expanded Medicaid in your home state, Ohio, bringing health insurance to an additional 700,000 low-income people, you defended that decision to conservatives by saying this. I will remind our viewers.
"I don't know about you, lady, but when I get to the pearly gates, I'm going to have an answer -- I'm going have to answer for what I have done for the poor."
Of course, as you know, the Trump administration, Republican leaders in Congress signaled this week they want to sharply reduce federal payments to 31 states. It's going to make it a lot harder to ensure the poor that you were referring there in your statement.
From your perspective, is it an un-Christian thing for the Trump administration, for Republicans to pursue so aggressively?
KASICH: Jim, I'm not going to get into, you know, religious discussion, but here's what I will tell you.
There are 700,000 Ohioans who now get care who didn't have it before, a third of whom have either mental illness and need to be treated or drug addiction, which is a problem throughout the country. A quarter of them have chronic conditions. They don't even know it.
And to turn our back on them makes no sense. Now, I believe there is an ability to reform, to repeal and replace Obamacare which also includes a reform of Medicaid that will make the program more affordable, that will put us in a position of where we can continue to cover 20 million people and 700,000 in my state.
And I'm not going to sit silent and just allow them to -- to rip that out. In fact, I think the president and a number of other people, senators, said those who are covered will continue to be covered.
And there's a way to do it with a reform agenda that I have been clear on. And I will send it to you, if you would like to see it.
I understand -- now, I'm in Munich, but I understand that there was an initial effort by House Republicans to, for example, phase out Medicaid expansion, which means phasing out coverage. That is a very, very bad idea, because we cannot turn our back on the most vulnerable. We can give them the coverage, reform the program, save some money, and make sure that we live in a country where people are going to say, at least somebody is looking out for me.
It's not a giveaway program. It's one that addresses the basic needs of people in our country. And I happen to believe that's what Americans want.
SCIUTTO: Governor Kasich, thanks very much for taking the time. And please do send us that plan. We will be looking for it.
KASICH: Thank you very much. Good luck, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Coming up next: The FBI director was on Capitol Hill on Friday giving a secret briefing to senators amid new questions about Trump's ties to Russia. Did he reveal to them new details?
That's right after this.
SCIUTTO: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jim Sciutto, filling in for Jake Tapper. Five congressional committees are now investigating whether President
Trump's campaign had ties to Russia. But the most serious seems to be the one under way by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The director of the FBI, James Comey, gave its members a classified briefing on Friday, from which the senators emerged serious and tight- lipped.
So, what new information has the Senate learned?
I'm joined now by a democratic Senator of New Jersey. He is Robert Menendez.
Senator Menendez, thanks very much for joining us this Sunday.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: It's good to be with you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: After that meeting, Senator Marco Rubio tweeted the following. He said, "I am now very confident Senate Intel Committee I serve on will conduct thorough, bipartisan investigation of Putin interference and influence."
Have you spoken to any members of the Intelligence Committee about what new they learned from Director Comey?
MENENDEZ: No, I have not.
But I think they are pursuing a vigorous effort to get to the bottom of it. The only question for me is, is the Intelligence Committee, in and of itself alone, the appropriate entity, particularly since much of what they will do will be in secret?
And I think there are elements of the whole Russia scandal that deserve to be in the public view.
SCIUTTO: This is a question here, because there are so many politics, as you would expect, around this, some Democrats concerned that even a bipartisan committee would not be aggressive enough.
From your point of view, do you think there needs to be an independent commission, something along the lines of the 9/11 Commission?
MENENDEZ: I think the question of Russia trying to undermine our democracy, a direct attack by cyber, is something that rises to that importance.
It's a new world. And we have to be prepared for it. And we have to know what was involved in the process, not only that, but what happened in the aftermath. We have a national security apparatus that's stuck and mired in the muck of Russian connections.
We have a set of circumstances where Russia is engaged in trying to do this in elections in Western allies this year in France and Germany. And so it seems to me that knowing the who, when, what and everything that transpired deserves an independent commission. And I know my colleagues are going to work at it really hard. I don't
question their commitment, but there are so many different elements of this. Foreign Relations, where I sit on, could be looking at Russian foreign policy vis-a-vis Russia and the effects that it has in this regard.
You could be looking at it from an intelligence angle. You could be looking at it from a judiciary angle as it relates to the election process in this country and how Russia tried to affect it.
Instead of having disparate elements, a commission that's committed, ultimately, I think would be the greatest course. In the absence of being able to create one, because I think those calls have been rebuffed by the Republican leadership in both the House and the Senate, then we need to vigorously pursue it through each and every one of these avenues.
SCIUTTO: Russia or ties to Russia ended the career of a national security adviser this week.
As you know, in an interview last month with the FBI, General Flynn initially denied he had discussed -- discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with the country's ambassador before President Trump took office. Turns out that was not true.
Do you think at this point -- he's lost his job now, but do you think that General Flynn should face legal repercussions for potentially, at least, making false or incomplete statements to the FBI?
MENENDEZ: Well, that will be for the Justice Department to pursue.
But let me just say, this is not a de minimis fact. I know that there are some who have tried to brush it away. Here we are trying to get Russia to understand that there are real consequences for trying to affect our elections.
And I know that President Trump doesn't want to hear that. But it's not a question of whether they succeeded in affecting our elections or not. The question is the mere effort of Russia through cyber-attacks and engagement trying to affect our election should be an issue of outrage for every citizen, from the president on down.
And, also, we're trying to get Russia to observe the international order, which means stop invading countries like Ukraine, stop indiscriminately bombing civilians in Aleppo.
And you can't get them back into the international order if there's a wink or a nod that says don't worry about the sanctions. So, this is incredibly important. And I know that the president is focused on talking about the lying press, but he should worry about those in his national security apparatus that lied to him.
SCIUTTO: Strong words.
I want to turn now to -- to immigration, big issue domestically.
President Obama, when he was in office, as you know, he signed an executive order that made it possible for 750,000 young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to stay and work in this country without fear of deportation.
During the campaign, President Trump vowed to repeal that order. He now says he finds that situation, though, to be very difficult. Listen to his words just on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The DACA situation is a very, very -- it's a very difficult thing for me, because, you know, I love these kids. I love kids. I have kids and grandkids. And I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do. And you know the law is rough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Listening to those words, it sounds like President Trump may want to find some sort of accommodation for these dreamers, as they are known.
Have you reached out to him? Have you spoken with the president on this issue?
MENENDEZ: I have not, Jim, although the -- I believe the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Hispanic members of Congress, of which I am one, has, I believe, reached out to the president.
Look, I hope that that sentiment that the president has may be the only heartfelt element of his immigration policy. These are kids who came to this country through no choice of their own. The only flag they have ever pledged allegiance to is that of the United States. The only national anthem they know is "The Star-Spangled Banner."
The reality is, they are some of our greatest students, valedictorians, salutatorians in their schools and colleges. So, we need to take advantage of their human intellect and capacity to help America.
So, I hope the president is committed to that. And, certainly, if he is, we will work with him. But I am concerned about his broader immigration policy.
The latest reports that I have read of what's being proposed, it, in essence, is a mass deportation effort, where you indiscriminately pursue any immigrant, not criminal immigrants, which I certainly support the deportation of.
But, ultimately, anyone who is found in an undocumented status would ultimately be apprehended and deported, with due process totally eroded under the proposals that I'm hearing about.
And that's not only going to lead to massive deportations that are going to affect every element of our society and our economic sector as well, but, also, it's going to create the possibilities, which we have seen in the past in immigration raids, of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents being unlawfully detained, in violation of their constitutional rights.
And the broad discretion that is being talked about giving ICE agents is going to be a real challenge in our country.
SCIUTTO: Senator Menendez, thanks very much for joining us this Sunday.
MENENDEZ: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Donald Trump is interviewing contenders for the open job as national security adviser after his first pick said, no thanks.
Who should get the job? I will ask a man who knows it very well right after this break.
SCIUTTO: President Trump today is at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Florida that he has christened the Southern White House in a tweet this weekend.
Joining him there are several candidates to be his new national security adviser, a job that, as you know, opened unexpectedly this week when Mike Flynn was fired by Trump after less than a month in the position.
Trump's first pick to replace Flynn turned down the job, comparing it to, how can I say this, a less-than-appetizing sandwich.
So, who does actually want to take the job? And what will it take to succeed in this crucial position?
Who better to ask than a former national security adviser himself?
I'm joined now by retired General Jim Jones. He served in that role during the Obama administration.
General Jones, thanks very much for joining us.
There was a report this week that you are being considered for the position of national security adviser under President Trump. Have you had contacts with the Trump White House, and is it a position you would consider?
GEN. JAMES JONES (RET.), FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: No, I have not had any -- any contact with the White House.
And I think that I have had my -- my tour in the barrel. But I would be very happy to offer any advice to anybody who -- to the person that does take the job, because it's so -- it's so very important.
SCIUTTO: Well, President Trump is meeting with some possible candidates this weekend.
I will just run through them for our viewers. You may know John Bolton -- he's the former U.N. ambassador -- General H.R. McMaster, experienced military commander, the former Lieutenant General Robert Caslen, as well as the acting national security adviser, Keith Kellogg.
From your experience knowing these people, who might work best in a Trump administration?
JONES: Well, I don't want to handicap that race by picking a candidate, but I will tell you that all three -- all four seem to have the requisite qualifications, and that is to be steeped in geopolitics, to be a strategic thinker and to be able to coordinate the inner agency in such a way that it can be most useful to the president.
But national security is not the province of any one department anymore. It's several agencies that have to sit at the table to discuss the important issues that are of our times. So it has got to be someone who is a strategic thinker, got to be someone who understands that the coordination, the strategic coordination of the inner agency is very important and above all, I think, someone who can resist and cause the NSE to resist getting involved in the tactical operations of our -- of our efforts around the world.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this because beyond qualifications, it's -- it's our reporting that one reason Vice Admiral Bob Harward turned down the job this week is that it wasn't clear to him what the chain of command was.
He wanted a direct line to the president. There is -- there are some questions about the role that Steve Bannon plays in the White House. How crucial is it for a national security adviser to -- to be in effect in charge of these issues, have a direct line to the president, have his own staff, his or her own staff, how important is that to being successful in this job?
JONES: I think it's very important. The national security adviser sits as the chairman of the -- of one of the four committees -- the principles committee. One of the four committees that keys up the issues just before the full NSE where the president is present. So the national security adviser has to have direct access to the president obviously you keep appropriate people informed, the vice president, the chief of staff and so on and so forth, but that relationship has got to be a very strong and very direct. And I also think the national security adviser has to have the confidence of the cabinet members and has to be fully aware of what their views are on each of the important subjects that are being discussed. So access and confidence, trust and confidence on the part of the president for that national security adviser is absolutely key.
SCIUTTO: I want to turn now to the deployment --
JONES: By the way, there's a whole community of national security advisers around the world...
SCIUTTO: I want to turn now to the deployment of U.S. forces abroad, arguably --
JONES: ... there's a whole community of national --
SCIUTTO: Sorry, general, we have a bit of a delay there that makes it difficult to have quick back and forth but I do before we run out of time want to turn to the question of the deployment of U.S. forces abroad, arguably no greater decision than a national security adviser would be involved in or our president.
It's our CNN -- my colleague's Barbara Starr's reporting that the Pentagon may recommend to the president deployment of conventional ground forces in Northern Syria beyond just the small groups of special operators that are there now. Would you recommend sending those additional troops in numbers into that fight now?
JONES: Well, I would have to know a lot more than I do about what the mission would be and what -- what exactly the forces would do.
But I do believe that, you know, since the failure to enforce the red line back in the previous administration, that the -- that was a colossal mistake from a strategic standpoint and I have been advocating that the Pentagon (INAUDIBLE) Operation Provide Comfort in 1991, which was a Kurdish relief operation where we -- we also handled refugees and we established no-fly zones and no-go zones, and I think at the very least the penalty for Bashar al Assad for having used chemical weapons on his own people should have been the forfeit of a piece of his territory for -- where refugees could have been handled and might have prevented the flow of refugees into the -- into Europe.
So I -- I think it depends on what the mission is and what that force does, but I think there's -- I'm sure the Pentagon is hard at work at it and I'm anxious to see what they come up.
SCIUTTO: Do you blame, General Jones, President Obama for the degree of the current refugee crisis from Syria?
JONES: No, I don't -- I don't -- I don't blame him. I think it was a mistake to draw a red line on a certain issue and then fail to follow up on it in any meaningful way and I think that caused a lot of loss of confidence in the will of the -- of the United States in this very important part of the world. I know of no part of the world that's more important from a security standpoint to us and to our friends in Europe and -- and indirectly to the NATO alliance.
SCIUTTO: General Jim Jones, thanks very much for joining us from Germany.
Well, President Trump back in his comfort zone amid a sea of make America great again hats. What he staged at this weekend's rally, that's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This guy -- so he's been all over television saying the best things, and I see him standing, and then you get here like at 4:00 in the morning. Say a couple of words to this --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: That was President Trump bringing one of his supporters on stage, very excited there at his campaign-style rally in Florida last night. Perhaps over the initial objections of his secret service. Let's talk about that rally and others like it to come with our panel.
We have former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, Nina turner, she's former Democratic state senator from Ohio, CNN political commentator Amanda Carpenter, and Jason Kander, he's president of Let America Vote. He's also a U.S. army veteran.
Senator Santorum, you know, a bit of an Oprah moment there right on stage.
Do you have any concern -- you know, and he does these rallies, and I'm sure this is one of a series that he's not focused more on the legislation, more on the public imaging and not on the legislation back here at home?
RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, certainly part of his legislative success is going to keep his base rallied. Obviously the other side is pretty hyped up, and putting a lot of pressure on Congress. He needs to create that counterbalance and one of the ways he can do that is go out there and rally his folks, get them excited, get them putting pressure on the other side on Republicans to stand by him and move his plan forward.
SCIUTTO: Makes sense to you, Jason?
JASON KANDER (D), FORMER MISSOURI SECRETARY OF STATE: This is what he does well. He puts on a show, and the problem he's having right now is that people watch "The Apprentice" not for Donald Trump they watch it for drama, that's why people watch reality television. And what we're finding out right now day by day is that you can't run a country on drama, in fact when you do it's pretty bad for the country.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I just want to jump in because I really think that was a magical moment that was really good for Trump.
I don't think you can overstate the importance of a president showing someone that he is seen, he is recognized and not only that but I trust you to come on stage. It shows how much Donald Trump has really changed the game for all candidates, because before someone would have to be vetted six ways to Sunday to make sure they never drove with expired tags before anything would think about giving them the stage like that. Donald Trump did and I guarantee you that endeared everyone to him and that guy is never going to forgot it. His family is never going to forgot it and it was just a really nice moment for Donald Trump.
NINA TURNER (D), FORMER OHIO STATE SENATOR: Well, in some ways -- I mean, I think, Amanda hit the nail on the head. I mean, he is in his element, but at some point you do have to govern, and it can't be governance by rallies, and it can't be governance by executive order. He is going to have to pay the piper at some point, but the fact that he is out there reminding his base that they matter politically is a good thing.
CARPENTER: There is a difference though between Republican and Democrats when it comes to the first 100 days because Republicans, they want to do things like reform. That naturally takes longer. President Obama got a lot of credit because he came in and did the stimulus which is essentially throwing around a trillion dollars. That is easy to do.
The things that Donald Trump and Republicans are trying to do are harder and will take longer. The standard should be three months or six months, not the first 100 days.
TURNER: The president did -- President Obama did not have an easy time. I mean, imagine we know...
CARPENTER: He had --
TURNER: ... we know what the country was going on --
CARPENTER: ... reform.
TURNER: No. I don't --
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you what Senator McCain -- of course Republican is on the cover of "New York Magazine" this weekend. This is what he had to said about President Trump.
"One thing politicians look at are ratings, and his ratings are going to continue to decline. That means members of Congress will be more likely to resist things they do not agree with rather than roll over."
As that happens, Senator Santorum, who've been in that -- you've been up in The Hill for a number of years, is that -- that is going to be a problem for him?
SANTORUM: Well, I don't think his ratings are actually declining that much. I mean, if you look at the fact that he got -- what -- 46 percent, 47 percent of the popular vote his numbers are at least that and in some cases better when it comes to job performance.
SCIUTTO: The average poll is 45 percent.
SANTORUM: Well, but -- you know, job performance is a little higher and the bottom line is he's doing things.
I mean, you can dispute, you know, whether he's doing them flawlessly or carrying it off well, but he's got -- he's gotten a lot of things done. They are --
SCIUTTO: Name the top three?
SANTORUM: Well, I mean, you know, first off, he did -- he did move forward on an executive -- on several executive orders on the environment which I think are very, very important.
SCIUTTO: Repealing regulations.
SANTORUM: He's repealing regulations. There's a bunch of CRAs, which are Congressional Review Acts that are really important things to get this economy going. They have sent very strong signals out there that they are serious about removing the regulatory burdens that this administration -- the previous administration put forward. I'd say more than -- and they haven't gotten a lot of attention but they are very, very important things.
SCIUTTO: But to -- but to be fair on one of his signature issues, even Republicans -- Republicans who support some sort of travel ban, say the execution was at least flawed on that. He lost his national security advisers --
SANTORUM: I would make the argument there that the court overstepped its bounds. I mean, that Ninth Circuit is overturned 80 percent of the time by the Supreme Court.
That Ninth Circuit decision was a -- was a travesty and he should have been -- look, was the travel ban taken care of in a way it should have? No. It wasn't done perfectly but the court jumped in and, I think, messed it up.
SCIUTTO: Jason, thoughts?
KANDER: Jim, every time somebody says that he's following through on his promises I remember the fact that 54 percent of Americans voted for somebody else and their promises, and it real means that the president ought to come in and reach out to the entire country.
So rather than just think about his base, rather than just go and get in front of a crowd that's going to wildly cheer for him in Florida, maybe he should think about the 54 percent of people who wanted somebody else to be president.
CARPENTER: I wish President Obama would have done that with Obamacare.
SANTORUM: He never reached out to the other side. I mean, it was --
KANDER: I think he tried.
SANTORUM: Oh, he did not try. He was a radical agenda from day one.
KANDER: One of the biggest...
KANDER: ... people say he tried for too long.
SANTORUM: That's just such bogus. That's a retelling of history.
KANDER: He --
SANTORUM: That was his biggest problem and he created this partisan atmosphere in Washington. This man never would compromise.
SCIUTTO: To be fair the partisan atmosphere probably pre-dated.
SANTORUM: This is what I think you guys are missing an opportunity. I think Donald Trump will actually compromise it. You saw it on his comments on DACA the other day. This man is not an ideologue. President Obama was an ideologue. Trump is not. And I think there's a tremendous opportunity the Democrats are forgoing by doing -- by doing what they're doing --
SCIUTTO: Nina, quick thought before you go to break.
TURNER: I mean, doing the right thing on the DACA, that's just the right thing to do so we applaud that but if you're trying to act like the Republicans --
SCIUTTO: Folks, we'll have a chance to continue this after the break. Coming up, some Democrats in Congress are looking to repeal and replace the president. Is it wishful thinking or is it a real political strategy? That's right after this.
[09:51:02] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: The 25th amendment is there to, you know, provide a backstop if in fact the president becomes incapacitated. You may remember --
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Do you believe he's incapacitated?
SPEIER: Well, I think we have got to be very careful. He needs to start acting presidential. I mean, he has got to get a grip. And so, the 25th amendment is there if a president becomes incapacitated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: That's Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier talking about the prospect of the vice president and the majority of the cabinet invoking the 25th amendment to remove President Trump from office. It's a highly implausible argument to make but she is not the only one. But are Democrats taking their opposition to Mr. Trump too far?
The panel back with me now. Jason, 25th amendment?
KANDER: Look, I just think of it this way is that if President Trump were president during the Cuban missile crisis then at that point we might -- if that had been the case, we might have hoped that somebody had started this conversation at some point. Because I don't know if we'd all be sitting here. So all I know is he's -- he doesn't seem to be a very steady hand.
CARPENTER: So he is a yes on the house of cards strategy to take down President Trump. But what I think is just laughable about all this is that the Democrats long shot scenario is actually making Mike Pence president. So if that's what we've got, sign me up too.
SANTORUM: This is absurd. There's no possibility of this to happen (ph). The fact they are even talking about this just tells you this is the -- this is the ace in the hole that Donald Trump has. The left always overplays their hand. They go one step too far and they look just as crazy as they are portraying Donald Trump to be.
TURNER: Well, you know, Thomas Jefferson once said, "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." So if the Democrats really believe that and others then have it. But just as the president can't just govern by rallies and executive orders Democrats can't either.
We have a Flint water crisis to deal with. We have over 3,000 other municipalities that still have higher levels of lead. Let's do something for the American people and stop playing these I got you games.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you because beyond the 25th Amendment there's a new political action committee launched just this week called "We Will Replace You." Of course Mr. Trump wanting (ph) Democrat -- no, no, being Democrats who don't stand in the way of President Trump across the board or they will face primary challenges.
It says, "Among the groups demands opposing all Trump appointees, and all of Trump's legislative priorities systematically bring all business to a crawl, and publically supporting impeachment if Trump is found to have broken the law or the Constitution."
Jason, is that a -- is that a viable strategy?
KANDER: Well, I think it's obviously something, there's going to be people focused on that, right? But, you know, it's not necessarily a bad thing when there are people coming up behind you and saying, hey, we want to make sure you perform well. I mean, they always say like in spring training when an all star player is there and he sees that somebody is being invited to camp (ph) who plays his position he tends to have a better (INAUDIBLE).
SCIUTTO: This is not about -- you can say it's well but this is -- this is sort of invoking a-- almost a Republican strategy here saying, if you're not -- if you're not 100 percent opposed, we're going to get someone who will be opposed and challenge you in the primary.
KANDER: Yes. And what they're saying, I think, is -- I mean, if you look at what they have said so far, they have not said they are looking for people now. They're just sort of putting that out there.
CARPENTER: But there's a reason why Republican strategies work. And they do this with someone who's been very familiar with (INAUDIBLE) group (ph) is like. Conservatives fund Freedom work, Heritage work you don't set this vague standard to oppose everything. You have to tie it to a vote, to a letter. There has to be something tangible.
SCIUTTO: To oppose everything is also not a new strategy. Let's be fair.
CARPENTER: You can oppose everything but saying we're going to primary you, unless you oppose everything, you're never going to enforce that. That's designed to fail. You have to tie it to something tangible where you can actually say, OK, that person didn't do it. Now we will launch a primary.
SCIUTTO: Does this, Nina, help or hurt the Democratic Party? I mean, (INAUDIBLE).
TURNER: I mean, you have got to shake it up a bit but the everything model -- again, I agree does not work.
I mean, we have lots of work to do in this country and it can't be everything. I mean, if President Trump is going to live up to his promise that he wants to make sure that folks have better health care in this country or he wants to make the investment of billions or trillion dollars in infrastructure that will put Americans back to work, or even the bill that Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Elijah Cummings are working on in terms of prescription drug prices.
If in fact he's going to follow through on that, then Democrats should support that. But where there is a need to oppose him they should do that. And if the grassroots folks feel as though Democrats are not standing up, speaking up and living up to the promises that they have made to stand up for the people then, yes, let's shake it up.
SCIUTTO: OK. We're going to have to leave it there. Nina, Senator Santorum, Jason and Amanda, appreciate you spending part of your Sunday with us.
So, who will lead the Democrats through the Trump era? CNN is hosting the next Democratic debate this Sunday. The final showdown for Democrats to choose the next chair of the DNC. Make sure to watch. That's Wednesday night, 10:00 Eastern time right here on CNN.
Thanks for spending part of your Sunday with us. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" is next.