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President Trump's Wild News Conference; Harward Turns Down National Security Adviser Job;Trump Claims There's No Chaos In White House;New Labor Nominee Is Alexander Acosta. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 17, 2017 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:00] MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN HOST: -- national security adviser. Retired Vice Admiral Bob Harward said no to the job. This, days after the president demanded Michael Flynn's resignation for misleading the vice president over his talks with the Russian ambassador.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN HOST: Harward cited financial and family issues that would prevent the 24/7 commitment the job requires, but it may not be as simple as that. A senior Republican says central to Harward's decision was "a question of clarity" regarding the lines of authority and, more bluntly, a friend of Harward's says he was reluctant because the White House seems so chaotic. The friend says Harward called the job an "s" word expletive sandwich.

A White House official asked by CNN if there's another candidate for national security adviser on the horizon replied, "Not that I'm aware of."

MARQUEZ: Now, the timing of Vice Admiral Harward's decision perhaps not entirely coincidental. It came just hours after the president's rant of a news conference which marked a total break from anything we've ever seen before. Even Capitol Hill veterans were left a little stunned. One Republican senator texting CNN's John King, "He should do that with a therapist, not on live television." Another Republican lawmaker called it the new normal, adding, "We're just trying to manage this s***."

CNN's Sara Murray has more from the White House.


SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alison, Miguel. Donald Trump capped off a very busy week with a rock 'em, sock 'em press conference, something very different from what we're used to seeing in the East Room. He stretched on for more than an hour slamming the media and also going after his former political opponent, Hillary Clinton, all as he assured the press and the American public that there's no turmoil in this White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I turn on the T.V., open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos -- chaos -- yet, it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine despite the fact that I can't get my cabinet approved.

MURRAY: All of that and the president making news on Russia, insisting that he is not aware that any of his top campaign advisers were in contact with Russian officials during the presidential campaign. Now, that runs contrary to what we are hearing at CNN from sources who say that there are former Donald Trump top campaign officials who were in constant contact with Russian intelligence officials throughout the campaign.

And in that press conference, President Trump continued to speak glowingly about Russia, saying he hopes to have positive diplomatic relations going forward. Today, Donald Trump heads to South Carolina for an event at a Boeing plant there before he heads off to Mar-a- Lago, also known as the winter White House, for the weekend. Back to you guys.


KOSIK: OK, Sara Murray. And we need more help in understanding all of this.

MARQUEZ: It's tough.

KOSIK: What happened to the East Room yesterday? We've got "CNN POLITICS" reporter Tal Kopan. She's live in Washington for us. And joining us here in New York, senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, and host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES." Good morning to you both.



KOSIK: Tal, let me -- let me start with you because it's interesting to see how this press conference began. The president stepping out with the big news, announcing who his pick for Labor secretary is, Alexander Acosta. He also made other news. The first time we're hearing his reaction on Russia, on Gen. Flynn, on Russia's provocations lately, his new executive order on immigration expected to come next week, Obamacare. We got atimeline there, even on tax reform. So there was a lot of news here, wasn't there?

KOPAN: Yes, there was and, you know, it was really remarkable. I was watching this unfold yesterday and he sort of came out and, you know, he very perfunctorily said OK, my Labor secretary pick is Alexander Acosta and then moved on, you know. We're sort of used to seeing these rollouts as very, sort of, mundane. They walk out with the nominee standing next to them, they give some platitude, they do a little speech. We didn't see that at all. The president came out and he said this is who my pick is, I'm happy with it.

And then, he just sort of went through a list of things that were, on their own, all headline worthy and the press conference only continued from there. So, you're right, it was jam-packed with news and it's almost hard to pick out what is the most important headline from the press conference because there was just so much ground covered.

MARQUEZ: Interestingly, our own Jim Acosta got more air time yesterday than Alexander Acosta, which is what this was essentially meant for. The question of Russia came up time and again during that press conference and the president passed it off as fake news, not real. Here's what he told one reporter who tried to get a yes or no answer out of him.


JULIE PACE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: So you're not aware of any contacts during the course of the election?

TRUMP: Look, look, look, how many times do I have to answer this question?

PACE: Can you just say yes or no on it?

TRUMP: Russia is a ruse. Yes, I know you have to get up and ask a question, it's so important. Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. I haven't made a phone call to Russia in years. I don't speak to people from Russia. Not that I wouldn't, I just have nobody to speak to.


MARQUEZ: He is not going to answer that question directly. Brian, is there -- I mean, he said it every way except he wouldn't give a definitive no.

[05:35:00] STELTER: A useful effort, though, by AP's Julie Pace, with a yes or question. Several different reporters all circled around this issue knowing it's going to be important in the months to come to the extent that there are investigations into this matter. The president giving some information but not a full account. I think it's important to note this was his idea. He wanted to have this press conference. He asked his aides to do it.

This morning's "New York Times" frames it really well, saying, over the objections of some of his top advisers who, you know, want to steer him away from confrontation, Mr. Trump was determined to face the media. He continues to be his own --

MARQUEZ: Dives right into it.

STELTER: -- his own best press secretary and I'm sure Sean Spicer was watching very carefully, maybe taking some tips.

MARQUEZ: Does it serve him well? Does it get things done in D.C. very, sort of, courtly and, you know, has its own way of doing things there?

STELTER: Right. You've got to separate out Trump's base -- his loyal voters -- the ones who didn't just vote for him but voted for him with so much enthusiasm -- from the rest of the voters who may have supported him reluctantly, and then the rest of the country that did not support him. I'm really curious to see the polls this time next week. What will his approval ratings look like once we've seen him in this environment, once we've seen him in a campaign-style rally this weekend? Does that begin to draw more support for him or does it further have him underwater in the approval ratings?

KOSIK: And, by the way, Julie Pace will be on "NEW DAY" so a little plug there.


KOSIK: So, Tal, let me turn to you because Russia obviously figured very prominently in yesterday's news conference. You know, it was a little awkward when he started rambling about what he would do or what his response is to that Russian spy ship that's sitting off the coast -- the East Coast of the U.S. Listen to what he said.


TRUMP: The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles off shore right out of the water. Everyone in this country's going to say oh, it's so great. That's not great -- that's not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia. Now, you've had a lot of presidents that haven't taken that tact. Look where we are now.


KOSIK: Now, keep in mind, this is after Secretary of State Tillerson met with his counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

MARQUEZ: It was at the same time.

KOSIK: Right. So, you're seeing almost a reaction here, but then you also saw the president later say I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to do about this ship.

KOPAN: Yes. I don't even know what to make of that statement. You know, he's basically saying that America would love it if he shot at a Russian sub that's off the shore. I mean, to hear a president sort of talking so cavalierly about an act of war and then saying but I'm not going to do it -- but I'm not going to tell you -- it's very hard to figure out what message he's trying to transmit. And keep in mind, you know, Donald Trump is not a trained politician. We are very used to politicians who know how to say things without saying anything. It's sort of a game of, you know, being vague, leaving options open --


KOPAN: -- reading between the lines. He doesn't do that. He speaks whatever is in his head. And you're seeing the American public, you're seeing the American military, you're seeing other nations, you're see lawmakers all grappling with that. I don't think we've ever seen so many "s" words bleeped out on our morning show. But people are trying to figure out, you know, how do I interpret these statements, is he serious, is he not serious? It's a new way of doing business and people are confused about what they should make of comments like this.

KOSIK: Well, he is the disruptor, right? STELTER: Right, but when Shep Smith, on "Fox", says this is crazy -- what we're watching -- when Jake Tapper says this is unhinged, when Scott Pelley comes on and talks about Trump's exaggerations and his bluster and his bloviating, all of that which can come across as shocking and scary to some viewers also comes across as a president who is willing to break stuff and make it up and try something new. And we know that was one of the intended messages of the election.

I think voters saw that at this press conference. His message, his willingness to be spontaneous and unpredictable, I think that is what he has been frustrated about. He hasn't been able to say as much or do as often in the past four weeks, so to have this press conference setting, it's getting back to vintage Donald Trump.

MARQUEZ: But, perhaps --

KOPAN: This is a change election, you know. People voted for a change.

MARQUEZ: And perhaps more sort of concerning in all of this, the leaks and the involvement of Russia in the U.S. election and what they actually did. Clearly, the fact that Mike Flynn's phone call was leaked out there is a concern, but rather than focusing on the concerns about Russia he's making it about the leaks. And the --

STELTER: I think he was trying to distract. I don't think it worked, however.

MARQUEZ: But the Republicans are taking that line, yes, Tal?

KOPAN: They are to an extent. You know, you've heard some Republicans on Capitol Hill saying we should investigate the leaks, not the other, you know, contents of the leaks, but not entirely. You still have some lawmakers who are definitely out there saying we absolutely need to see the transcripts of the phone calls from Mike Flynn. We need to know what transpired.

[05:40:00] MARQUEZ: Right.

KOPAN: And there are some that are sort of withholding judgment. And, you know, keep in mind, leaks have done a lot of good for this country in the past. I mean, Watergate was a leak and I don't know anyone in Washington who would say it's a bad thing the American public found out about it. You know, this is something that is an important function of the press and it's going to play out over the next several weeks.

KOSIK: OK, it's Friday. Let's have a moment of levity. I want to show you what late-night T.V. did after watching this news -- this news conference -- watch this.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, ABC "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": He talked for an hour and 17 minutes, which is more than he's spoken to Melania all this year -- the whole year. JIMMY FALLON, HOST, NBC "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON": Trump also discussed a recent bombshell about his staff communicating with Russia and he said that he hasn't made a phone call to Russia in years. We thought Trump was lying because his tie grew another three inches.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, CBS "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": He's had them with world leaders. He's gone out there and shared the podiums -- with the twin podiums of the world leaders, but this was just him, by himself. Evidently, he didn't even bring his meds with him. It's kind of hard to characterize the press conference. What do his friends over at "FOX NEWS" say?


COLBERT: All right, very funny, very funny, that's right -- very funny. OK, what did "FOX NEWS" really say?

FOX NEWS REPORTER: Wow, alrighty, then.


KOSIK: So, Brian, you know, just in case the president wasn't watching last night but he caught our montage -- because I have a sinking feeling he could be watching CNN this morning -- what do you think the president is thinking of late-night T.V.?

STELTER: Stephen Colbert called the press conference a "stress conference." That's exactly what it was. I think President Trump felt that and so did the reporters. You know, Seth Meyers brought a paper shredder out on the set and literally shredded his old jokes because he wanted to talk entirely about the press conference. President Trump is a goldmine for the late-night shows.

KOSIK: All right. Thanks so much, Brian, Tal. Thanks for the analysis, both of you.

MARQUEZ: Thank you. Have a good weekend. The NBA's All-Star Weekend getting underway down by the bayou. Andy Scholes has a preview from New Orleans -- a lucky dog -- in this morning's Bleacher Report.


[05:46:18] KOSIK: As we mentioned before, almost lost in the president's news conference, the first thing he actually said, Alexander Acosta is the new nominee for Secretary of Labor. I'll give you some background on him. He's currently the dean of the Florida International University Law School. He led the civil rights division of the Justice Department for two years under President George W. Bush. He was also a U.S. attorney and had served on the National Labor Relations Board. And, Acosta is the only Hispanic cabinet pick in the Trump administration.

As Labor Secretary, he'd be tasked with protecting workers from discrimination, improving workplace safety, and adding new job opportunities. Plus, he'd oversee the monthly jobs report, something that the president has called a hoax.

MARQUEZ: Well, let's switch gears a bit to New York Jets Darrelle Revis, now faces four felony charges after an altercation over the weekend.

KOSIK: Andy Scholes is live for us from New Orleans with the NBA All- Star festivities but, Andy, let's start with Revis.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, guys. These charges stem from an alleged altercation between Revis and two men that happened over the weekend in Pittsburgh. Now, police are charging Revis with two counts -- or two felony counts, I should say, of aggravated assault and one count each of felony robbery and conspiracy.

Police say a 22-year-old man approached Revis and then reportedly followed him and recorded him with a cell phone. According to the arrest report Revis took the man's phone and tried to delete the video and then threw the phone into road. Then things allegedly turned physical, with the two men being knocked unconscious. Revis' attorney says his client feared for his life and is the victim in all of this.

All right, out here in New Orleans it's pretty quiet right now here on Bourbon Street, but the party is really going to get started later on tonight for NBA All-Star Weekend and Mardi Gras. Some things to look forward to this weekend in terms of All-Star -- we've got the dunk contest and three-point contest tomorrow night, and after an epic showdown last year between Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon, Gordon is back trying to win it this year. I've heard he's got some new dunks that have never been done before, so definitely look for that.

As for the big game on Sunday, you know, LeBron James, for the first time ever, is the oldest player in the All-Star game at 32 years old. He's, once again, going to be anchoring the East team. On the West side of things, all eyes are going to be on Kevin Durrant and Russell Westbrook, as they're back in the same locker room for the first time since Durrant left the Thunder for the Warriors. Now, other than a few exchanges on the court, these two -- they don't speak anymore so that should be fun to watch them two interact together on the same team.

And yesterday, I caught up with Cavs star Kyrie Irving. He told me All-Star Weekend is something he looks forward to every year.


KYRIE IRVING, FOUR-TIME NBA ALL-STAR: I just connect with the fans in any way possible and just keep on enjoying them. It's so awesome. The NBA does an incredible job in just reaching the community where we have all-star and New Orleans is a big part of that now.

KEVIN GARNETT, ANALYST, "NBA ON TNT": This is strictly for the players. The seventies, everything, the parties, this is the reason why we're here, you know. The games, the skill challenge stuff contests -- all the things that make up all-stars is the reason why they're here. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: And you can catch all the All-Star Weekend action on TNT. You've got the State Farm All-Star Saturday night at 8:00 Eastern. Then Sunday, the 66th NBA All-Star game coverage starts at 7:00. And make sure to tune into CNN Saturday afternoon for "ALL ACCESS" at the NBA All-Star game. The CNN Bleacher Report special will be hosted by Fredricka Whitfield and Steve Smith. You can catch that at 2:30 Eastern.

And guys, you know, it's Friday morning for us. Still Thursday night for a few stragglers out here on Bourbon Street. People still trying to have a good time.

MARQUEZ: He can have a good time.

KOSIK: All right. Andy Scholes -- yes he will -- thanks very much.

A little Jeopardy trivia for you this morning. Only two presidents have seen bigger stock market gains in their first month and Donald Trump -- hmm, we'll tell you who and where the Trump rally stands, next.


[05:54:30] MARQUEZ: Welcome back. Vice President Mike Pence on his way to Europe today where he's expected to offer reassurance as he meets with world leaders at the Munich Security Conference. Those reassurances are needed perhaps more than ever as mixed signals on foreign policy keep coming out of Washington. CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is live for us in Munich, Germany. Nic, I take it that European leaders really want a few moments with the vice president.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They do, they want to get clarity. They want to understand what's happening at the White House. You know, they watch things, such as the press conference last night -- the president's press conference last night. It leaves them with more questions over and above what they've been hearing. And their concerns are, over the past weeks, about what the president said about NATO, what he's said about the European Union. Of course, very important for Vice President Pence when he gets here.

[05:55:18] He is meeting with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. President Trump has criticized Angela Merkel for being soft on refugees, for trying to steal business from the United States, and this has caused, you know, her anxiety. She's running for election this year, so that's going to be an important message.

There's a real sense in Europe, at the moment, that perhaps Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Mattis all here in Europe this week -- are all here on sort of a damage control, damage limitation exercise because the message that they've been bringing is one of reassurance, is one that the transatlantic relationship with allies and partners here in Europe is strong. Yes, there is some new messaging from the president and, yes, that's what Mike Pence is here to bring, as well.

But this concern from Europe, perhaps, won't go away with these meetings because they're going to want to see what happens when Pence, Mattis, Tillerson get back to Washington -- what the president then says. A concern that this is still a somewhat, if you will from a European perspective, a little chaotic, a little shambolic going on in Washington -- Miguel.

MARQUEZ: It will also be interesting to see that -- the reaction to Trump in the elections there in Germany. Nic Robertson for us. Thank you very much.

KOSIK: All right, let's get a check on CNN Money Stream. The five- day streak of record highs for the three major averages is over. The Dow managed a small gain at Thursday's close but the Nasdaq and S&P 500, they fell. Despite the president's comments on tax reform at his news conference yesterday, investors now want see action and that has futures ticking lower this morning. Stock markets in Europe and Asia, they are down as well.

Now, there is one tradingday left in the first month of Trump's presidency but the stock market needs a huge gain today to make the Trump stock market rally the biggest of all time. Currently, that record belongs to Lyndon B. Johnson. In his first month in office after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the S&P 500 jumped six percent. The second best gain actually belonged to JFK in 1961.

Trump is still solidly in third place with a 3.8 percent gain so far. And you know what? He's pretty happy about it. He tweeted yesterday, "Stock market hits new high with longest winning streak in decades. Great level of confidence and optimism, even before a tax plan rollout."

Americans are taking on a lot more debt. Total household debt in the U.S. jumped to $12.5 trillion at the end of last year. It's now less than one percent below the peak the economy hit before the Great Recession in 2008. I know while that number looks alarming there's actually more stability now, evidenced by fewer delinquencies and fewer bankruptcies. And with a tight labor market Americans, they're feeling more confident about taking out loans.

Mortgages account for two-thirds of all outstanding debt. Student loans are 10 percent. But check out what's next, auto loans. Auto loans hitting the highest level on record in 2016, so Americans now owe more on their cars than they do on their credit cards. Just a tip if you're trying to pay off debt. Do your best to put a little away in savings.

MARQUEZ: Interesting that more -- so many loans are on cars. They've been very -- the car industry has done very well in the last few years.

KOSIK: Absolutely. All right, thanks so much for joining us. I'm Alison Kosik.

MARQUEZ: And I'm Miguel Marquez. "NEW DAY" starts right now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The press has become so dishonest. The press, honestly, is out of control.

I want to find a friendly reporter.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The deflector-in-chief strikes again.

TRUMP: Russia is fake news put out by the media.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake?

TRUMP: No, the reporting is fake.

Mike, he's doing his job. I didn't direct him but I would have directed him, but I didn't.

MURRAY: The retired Vice Admiral Bob Harward taking a pass on the job as national security adviser.

TRUMP: This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While we're in this back-and-forth the world is getting more dangerous.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Friday, February 17th, 6:00 here in New York.

And up first, President Donald Trump returned to the scorched-earth politics that got him elected. The president taking his fate in his own hands. No more press secretaries, no more spokespeople. Him, a podium, and a microphone against the reporters. An extraordinary hour-long news conference that gave us a lot to discuss and fact- check.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: So, questions about Russia continue, though President Trump tried to dismiss those as a ruse. This, as we learn that the president's top choice to replace Michael Flynn for national security adviser has turned down the job. Some people see chaos, Mr. Trump says it's a well-oiled machine.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Sunlen Serfaty live on Capitol Hill -- Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Alisyn. This was a press conference that was originally meant for --