Return to Transcripts main page

NEW DAY SUNDAY

Trump: I Never Asked Comey to Stop Investigating Flynn; NYT: Emails Show Top Transition Officials Discussed Russia; Book Reveals Trump's Rants, Love for Fast Food; Republicans Confident Tax Plan Will Pass; Interview with Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired December 3, 2017 - 07:00   ET

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and that he can't seem to keep his fingers off his BlackBerry or whatever he uses.

[07:00:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We may look back on this plea bargain deal by Michael Flynn as the beginning of the end of the Trump administration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That raises the question here of the legal jeopardy not simply for the president but for members of his family.

ANNNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. We are grateful to have you with us here.

This morning, it seems to be the president of the United States against a former director of the FBI.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Here we go. Just minutes ago, President Trump tweeted this, I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn, just more fake news covering another Comey lie. The president's denials contradict what James Comey, the former FBI director, said under oath during his testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee in June.

Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I understood him to be saying that what he wanted me to do was drop any investigation connected to Flynn's account of his conversations with the Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: So, I want to get straight to CNN's Dan Merica, live in Washington for us.

Dan, I mean, this is turning into a he said/he said debate all over again.

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: It absolutely is. And that's really what President Trump has tried to create ever since James Comey testified before the Senate and the House earlier this year. He is up and tweeting. We expect to hear more from him today, especially on his favorite medium, Twitter. This stems from the February 14th meeting between President Trump and FBI director, James Comey. Trump decided to fire Comey earlier this year. He said because of his handling of the e-mail investigation into Hillary Clinton.

But, he also told NBC News, at the time during an interview that he was considering the Russian investigation, the FBI investigation into possible collusion.

I want to take you back to his testimony before the Senate to really get to why this is becoming a he said/he said. Here's what Comey said in his written testimony. The president then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn saying he is a good guy and has been through a lot. He repeated that Flynn hadn't done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the vice president.

He then said, I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go. I replied only that he is a good guy. In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as director of Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at the FBI. I did not say I would let this go.

Now, this is all significant because whether President Trump knew that Mike Flynn lied to the FBI at the time he fired him could get to obstruction. And what we're learning now is that, you know, tweets matter. The president has used this new form of communication very effectively throughout the 2016 campaign and then as president. But, it also gives special counsel Robert Mueller, other investigators an avenue to get to his real-time thinking during the investigation.

And that is going to be significant, because most presidents are very careful about what they say. President Trump seem to wake up in the morning and turns to Twitter and unleash a message like we saw earlier this hour really that gets into his day-to-day thinking of this investigation, Christi.

PAUL: All right. Dan Merica, we appreciate it. Thank you.

So, on the heels of the new tweets from the president on Flynn, specifically when he said yesterday, I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and FBI. Former FBI Director James Comey is offering this cryptic message. Look at this -- Beautiful Long Island sound from Westport, Connecticut. To paraphrase the Buddha, three thing cannot be long hidden, the sun, the moon and the truth.

BLACKWELL: Maybe not so cryptic. And this is not the first time that Comey seemed to react to news in the Russia investigation after Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday. Comey tweeted a Bible verse about justice. Here to discuss, Gloria Browne-Marshall, constitutional law professor

at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Brian Karem, CNN political analyst and executive editor of Sentinel newspapers.

Good morning to both of you.

GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Good morning.

BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

BLACKWELL: All right. So, this is really fluid here because the president apparently likes to weigh in as the third panelist. He did during Christi's conversation, and that's where that tweet came from just a few moments.

So, let's start first, though, with the big question that was created yesterday by the president's tweet. And let's put it up where the president said that he had to fire General Michael Flynn. Let's put it on the screen so everyone can see it. He had to fire Michael Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He pled guilty to the lies. It's a shame because his actions were lawful. There was nothing to hide.

First to you, Gloria, if the president knew that Flynn lied to the FBI, and then on February 15th, 14th, rather, asked Flynn to -- rather Comey to let this go and when he didn't fired him with Russia on his mind as he said during that Lester Holt interview.

[07:05:09] Is that clear or strong case for obstruction of justice?

BROWNE-MARSHALL: I think it is the foundation for obstruction of justice. I think Mueller is looking at this saying, OK, if you knew he lied, even though you might have thought that whatever was lawful at the time even though that looks suspect, and now, you are trying to stop an investigation, then, yes, there's a foundation for obstruction of justice. And, Mueller, of course, has been given the authority to go after any links, anything. I mean, it's such a broad authority that this would fall clearly within his dictate.

BLACKWELL: So, Brian, the White House is saying that this tweet yesterday did not come from the president himself, that it was actually written by his top personal attorney John Dowd and Dowd is trying to mimic something that Ty Cobb, another attorney for the president, wrote on Friday. Is that customary? Do we see his attorneys writing tweets for him often?

KAREM: No. Actually, the Twitter is spread by the president himself. He gets up in the morning and tweets his, you know, to his little heart's content, including stuff, fake video from anti-Muslim extremists. And the things he tweets often come straight from him, come straight from his heart.

We have been told these things are actually, you know, this is policy. We asked that in the White House press briefing room and we're told what he tweets is policy. He's got a problem and, no, he doesn't often have others tweet for him. It's rather odd that he would have someone tweet something for him because he takes pride in his tweets while the rest of us cower and wonder what he is talking about.

BLACKWELL: Gloria, let me ask you and we've had, throughout the entire campaign and now presidency, attorneys and legal experts on who say the president's tweets are problematic. What lawyer, worth the hourly rate, would tweet something that says the president knew that his national security adviser lied to the FBI and then kept him on for weeks after that?

BROWNE-MARSHALL: Well, a client in search of any lawyer who is willing to represent him at this time. I mean, he will throw his lawyer under the bus. I think it's really problematic not just that there would be a lawyer who would stand by this man, but the fact that the lawyers now going to be in a situation in which he's going to have to say, you know, at some point in response, did you do this?

I mean, you can't just say the lawyer did it and now the lawyer whose got a reputation to uphold and, you know, to be a member of the bar, is he going to admit he did it or is he going to lie on behalf of his client?

BLACKWELL: You know, I wonder. And maybe you know the answer to this, maybe you don't, is there an some attorney/client privilege that prevents or protects Dowd from having to testify before the special prosecutor in answering the question if he, indeed, tweeted that or the president admitted through Twitter that he knew that Flynn lied to the FBI?

BROWNE-MARSHALL: I mean, that brings the whole question of attorney/client privilege. Did they break the privilege if he's sharing this with the world? I mean, the privilege is based on what happened between the attorney and the client. But if the client decides to share all this information with the world, then the privilege is broken.

BLACKWELL: Go ahead.

KAREM: And the thing you should remember, Victor, when it comes to the president's tweets, what we have learned in covering this president is that nothing is sacrosanct and you can't believe anything that is tweeted. So, did the attorney tweet it? I don't know. Was it factual? I don't know. It's there for you to look at. But, what it is, that's up for judgment, still.

BLACKWELL: All right. So, let's get to the element that the president added to our conversation early this morning when he tweeted that he never asked Comey to fire or stop investigating Flynn. Here is the tweet. I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more fake news covering another Comey lie.

Let's go back to June to the testimony from the FBI Director James Comey in an exchange with the Senator Burr. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Director, when the president requested that you, and I quote, let Flynn go. General Flynn had an unreported contact with the Russians, which was an offense. If press accounts are right, there might have been discrepancies between facts and his FBI testimony. In your estimation, was General Flynn, at that time, in serious legal jeopardy? And, in addition to that, do you sense that the president was trying to obstruct justice or seek a way for Mike Flynn to save face, given he had already been fired?

[07:10:08] COMEY: General Flynn, at that point of time was in legal jeopardy. There was an open FBI criminal investigation of his statements in connection with the Russian contacts and the contacts themselves. So, that was my assessment at the time. I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was effort to obstruct. I took it as very disturbing, very concerning. But that's a conclusion the special counsel will work towards.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: So, Brian, to you, finally, this recollection comes from Comey's contemporary notes and unclassified memo immediately after and begs the question as it has through the entire saga, why the president continues to be so loyal to Flynn and still telling him to stay strong through this process.

KAREM: Well, that's a good question and one that Mueller has to look at and I'm sure he is looking at. As Comey pointed out, is a very disturbing revelation and will be up to better legal minds than mine to decide whether or not it's obstruction of justice. But what it does points to, I think what we should all take away from that is the fact that the president was heavily involved with Flynn and any attempt to back away from him is not going to stick.

I mean, we have heard he was just an Obama appointee. The simple fact of the matter is, he was very close to the president. And his future and the president's future may be intertwined in ways we don't know yet.

BLACKWELL: All right. Brian Karem, Gloria Browne-Marshall, thank you both.

BROWNE-MARSHALL: Thank you.

KAREM: Thank you.

PAUL: While U.S. officials say an FBI agent assigned to the Russia investigation was removed because of old anti-Trump messages. This past summer, Robert Mueller removed Peter Strzok after an internal investigation found he sent messages during the 2016 campaign. And these were messages that appeared to make fun of then-candidate Trump. The messages raised questions and concerns that could be seen as pro- Hillary Clinton. So, sources say the Justice Department has agreed for the House Intel Committee to interview him. Up next, was the White House telling the truth when it said General

Flynn was acting alone when it came to Russia? Well, there are new e- mails obtained by "The New York Times" this morning that show this may be taking a turn.

BLACKWELL: Plus, a new book on President Trump's campaign, reviewed by "The Washington post" gives an inside view of the turbulent relationship with the staff and a lot more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:16:44] BLACKWELL: Some serious questions this morning, casting doubt on the White House's portrayal of General Michael Flynn and how he supposedly acted alone. Was this a rogue actor when he made contact with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak?

Now, "The New York Times" has emails written by the former transition team adviser, KT McFarland, revealing Flynn was in close contact with members of the transition team before and after he spoke with the then-Russian ambassador.

PAUL: McFarland sent out this e-mail right after the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia from meddling in the 2016 election.

And here's the most important part, possibly, of what she wrote. If there is a tit for tat escalation, Trump will have difficulties improving relations with Russia which has just thrown USA election to him.

Now, look, "The New York Times" admits here, this is not clear whether McFarland believes Russia threw the election to President Trump or that she's saying the Democrats would spin Mr. Trump's election in that way.

So, who is KT McFarland?

BLACKWELL: That may be something you're asking this morning, a name we haven't heard much of up to this point. She was a top official on the president's transition team. Previously, the deputy national security adviser in the Trump White House. But she was asked to step down after General Flynn was fired. She has spoken rather with special counsel Mueller as part of the Russia investigation.

PAUL: Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News with us now.

Good morning, Errol.

How problematic is this information coming out of "The New York Times" for the Trump administration this morning?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it really underscores the fact, Christi, that they've got to get their stories straight. Either the statement of offense that was signed on perjury by Michael Flynn is true or it's not. In his recounting of events, he speaks with high-ranking officials of the transition, very high ranking members of the transition before and after his phone calls to Ambassador Kislyak.

If they later are sort of passing around e-mails trying to strategize and sort of, well, maybe we did, maybe we didn't. Maybe he's a rogue operator. Maybe he lied to the vice president. Maybe the president fired him because of this stuff. It just doesn't make a lot of sense. In those kind of cases, frankly, it's the person who is making statements with a lot to lose. And that's Michael Flynn, whose words should probably carry the day.

PAUL: Well, I want to bring that full screen up, if we could, please of what part of this e-mail was. As it is titled Obama doing three things politically. The last one there, if there is a tit for tat escalation. Trump will have difficulty improving relations with Russia, which has just thrown USA election to him.

Again, we don't know what that means. Is it important for either the president or someone in his administration or someone from the transition team to come out and clarify the context of that?

LOUIS: Well, the ideal person to come forward would be KT McFarland herself --

PAUL: Right.

LOUIS: -- who apparently wants to be an ambassador or represent the United States overseas, to the extent that she wants to have that kind of official standing. She should clear the whole thing up. I think I see your point and it's an important one, which is that there was broad discussion within the transition that it was not a good idea to have these sanctions and somebody ought to do something about it.

[07:20:11] KT McFarland, who is very close to Michael Flynn, is talking about it with him. And so, it's clear that this wasn't some rogue operator, this wasn't somebody off on their own making stuff up. The transition and for political reasons that are easy to discern wanted this to all go away. And according to Michael Flynn, again under oath, somebody high in transition told him or at least was aware of the fact that he was going to do something about it.

PAUL: I want to get to another tweet from President Trump, happened late yesterday. We haven't talked about it, yet. But this is what he tweeted.

So, General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life is destroyed. Well, look at Hillary Clinton on that famous FBI holiday interrogation, which is in parenthesis, with no swearing in and no recording lies and nothing happens to her. Rigged system or just double standard?

Now, we don't know there was no recording. We don't know whether there was a swearing in. At least I don't know of anything like that. I don't know that anybody else does, either. What the official protocol was in that point.

But does he have a point? There might be people looking at this going, well, yes, that's a good question to ask.

LOUIS: No, I'd say he doesn't have a point because what we have seen for over a year is when ever anyone asks candidate and then president- elect, now President Donald Trump, about his actions, about what he has done, he goes to personal insults, he goes back to so-called crooked Hillary. He tries to distract. He tries to insult. He tries to make us look at anything but him and his actions.

Only one person here has top officials who have pleaded guilty to felonies and it is not Hillary Clinton.

PAUL: We have reports that KT McFarland has been interviewed by Mueller. Do you think, based on what we are seeing here, she is vulnerable to another interview with the investigators?

LOUIS: You know, I assume that the special prosecutor, in talking to every single person he can, to try to sort of fill out this picture, has probably gotten from her a lot of information that led directly to the guilty plea and the situation with Michael Flynn that we just saw unfold. I mean, she was seen, KT McFarland was described as Flynn's brain. They were very close. And so, I assume they have gotten from her everything they need to get.

PAUL: All righty. Errol Louis, always appreciate your insight. Thank you, sir.

LOUIS: Thank you.

PAUL: So, as Republicans try to move forward with their tax plan, there's the still threat of a possible government shutdown. Can they declare victory on both fronts is the question? Republican senator, Tim Scott, is going to join Jake Tapper on "STATE OF THE UNION", that is today at 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: Candidate Trump's anger, his tantrums as they're described, and his love for the Golden Arches, McDonald's, and having his pants pressed, while wearing them.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: A new book on the Trump campaign by two top former aides and reviewed by "The Washington post." We'll talk about the book in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:27:49] PAUL: Oh, it's Sunday. We are so glad to have you with us. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

PAUL: So, this morning, the president is taking on it seems the former director of the FBI.

BLACKWELL: All right. So, this just minutes ago from the president, via Twitter, I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more fake news covering another Comey lie.

PAUL: Now, the president's denials contradict what James Comey said under oath back in June. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: Understood him to be saying that what he wanted me to do was drop any investigation connected to Flynn's account of his conversations with the Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: James Comey has not responded, by the way, to President Trump's latest accusation.

All righty. Meltdowns. Expletives. The screening fix. Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, all the ingredients in Cory Lewandowski and David Bossie's new book, providing an inside look at what they say was the Trump presidential campaign.

BLACKWELL: "Let Trump be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency" releases on Tuesday. It's been reviewed first by "The Washington Post."

Here to talk about it, Brian Stelter, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES".

Brian --

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

BLACKWELL: Good morning to you.

Some fascinating details like one that Christi and I were discussing this morning. Pressing or steaming pants while Donald Trump is still wearing them.

STELTER: I have never tried that. Never had to do that. Maybe the campaign was in a hurry.

This book, though, is fascinating. It's Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie writing a book together, which is one of the reasons why I'm interested in reading it. Each of them wrote different chapters, but the part they wrote together says, among other things, sooner or later, everybody who works for Donald Trump will see a side of them that makes you wonder why you took a job with him in the first place.

That's a little bit different than what we heard from Corey Lewandowski here on CNN during the campaign. He was a reliable cheerleader for the president. But now that the president is in office, we are seeing these books about the campaign revealing how complicated it was behind the scenes, how many rivalries there were behind the scenes, and how ugly it can sometimes be when you are trying to become president.

PAUL: OK. Speaking of something getting ugly, according to Lewandowski in the book, talk about this.

[07:30:03] President Trump told Paul Manafort, do I say allegedly? I guess, they are saying it. He hasn't said he has. They say he said, did you say I shouldn't be on TV on Sunday? I'll go on TV anytime I GDF want and you won't say another F word about me.

I can't say because I don't get in trouble.

(CROSSTALK)

PAUL: Not that loud anyway, sometimes in my head.

Brian Stelter, what do you make of these tirades they talk about?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It's an amazing anecdote. You have now President Trump as a candidate in his helicopter. He tells the pilot to fly lower to get cell reception, then chews out Paul Manafort and says I will go on TV anytime I want to, plus all the expletives.

I think it actually it helps me understand the president's Twitter account and I'll tell you what I mean by that. He is reluctant to take advice from his aides or from his advisers. If he wants to say something, if he wants to do something, he is going to do it, whether it's go on TV despite the advice during the campaign or whether it's the controversial, sometimes maybe even incriminating tweets on Twitter. There's nobody that can stand in the way or be a gate keeper for the president.

It sounds like we saw that behavior during the campaign.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Brian, I don't know if you know the answer to this. But didn't they sign nondisclosure agreements? I mean, did they have to get clearance for the book to write these details?

STELTER: There were some nondisclosure agreements some staffers had. That was definitely a factor during the campaign. So, we'll have to read the whole book to see how far the two former campaign aides go. Remember, Lewandowski is in D.C. now, has a business, where he's selling influence or alleged influence to the president. So, I don't think they are completely turning on Trump, but they are showing how complicated and stressful it can be behind the scenes.

PAUL: All righty. Let's talk about "SNL" because they -- again, the cleverness of these people.

STELTER: Oh, yes.

PAUL: Never ceases to amaze me. They had the ghost of Flynn visiting President Trump, kind of the whole Christmas carol thing. Let's take a look together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who are you? Jacob Marley with a lot of chains on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm Michael Flynn, the ghost of witness flipped. Mr. President, I came to warn you, it's time for you to come clean, for the good of the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The good of the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The good --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is serious, sir! The FBI got to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Do you ever wonder if his face freezes like that? He's always like that. Brian?

STELTER: He was on there, Michael Flynn is the man at the Republican convention that said lock her up at the end. The skit ends with Hillary Clinton re-emerging as the final ghost and Clinton says to Trump, lock him up.

Obviously, this week, the revelations about Flynn, it has Trump's detractors sort of hoping for that kind of outcome. You can see that among a former Clinton aide, some former Obama aide wondering if Mueller is closing in. You see at the end, Clinton emerges. We hadn't seen Kate McKinnon playing Hillary Clinton in a while. She had a lot of fun at the end saying lock him up -- guys.

PAUL: All righty. Brian, we appreciate your time.

STELTER: Thanks.

PAUL: Thank you, sir.

Be sure to catch Brian who's not going anywhere on "RELIABLE SOURCES". It's at 11:00 a.m. Eastern today, right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: All right. After a law trying to block the Republican tax plan, Democrats are searching for a path forward. We will speak with a Democratic lawmaker John Yarmuth, ranking member of the Budget Committee there on the House, to talk about what happens next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: All right. Thirty-eight minutes after the hour now.

The fight over the tax bill is not over. The next step will be ironing out the differences between the House version that passed in November and the Senate version that passed early Saturday morning.

PAUL: Yes, the Republicans are feeling optimistic about the chances of the first legislative win under the Trump White House, of course, for the end of the year. Democrats, though, they are trying to figure out their next steps.

Hillary Clinton called voters to action on Twitter, writing, sometimes it's hard to know what to do after a loss, not this time. This tax bill is only going to get worse as people learn more about it. There are six GOP senators run on it and two open seats in 2018. We all need to get to work.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's bring in Representative John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Kentucky, ranking member of the Budget Committee.

I'm going to talk about the upcoming budget fight. Congressman, good morning to you.

REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D), KENTUCKY: Good morning, Victor.

BLACKWELL: First, I want to hit the tax issue. Obviously, Secretary Clinton believes this is an albatross of Republicans running in 2018. My question to you is why?

YARMUTH: Well, for a couple reasons. One is that, you know, they said that they needed to have this for political purposes going into the midterms. We argue the one thing they could accomplish in their takeover of government is pay off donors.

I think the message is resonating in the country. All the polls show this has at best, 25 percent, 27 percent support, almost 2-1 opposition. The calls in my office and most of the offices I know are running hundreds against to one or two for.

So, I think the atmosphere is very, very toxic out there toward this Republican Congress. I just think there's so much skepticism about what this Congress is doing that the Republicans are going to have a tough burden in selling this to the American people.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's talk about the budget.

[07:40:02] The money runs out next week. And we know that Speaker Ryan is proposing this two-week extension. There are some conservative members of the Republican caucus who are not fond of extending for two weeks to continue negotiations. They will need Democratic votes to get that done.

Will you support that two-week extension? Do you suspect there will be enough Democratic votes so the conversations can continue?

YARMUTH: Sure, Victor. They are not going to have a problem in passing the two-week extension. If they try to go to next year, a lot of Democrats will push back at that. They have had months and months and months to work this funding out.

Our leadership has been in conversations with their leadership for a long time. So, I know, I think we are perfectly willing to go until the 22nd. But past that, we are not.

With every spending bill in this era, Republicans definitely need Democratic votes. There have to be serious negotiations during those two weeks, because we are still far apart on both the, some of the issues that we are concerned about like funding for children's health insurance, like the DREAMers, several other things.

But, we haven't come to agreement on the numbers. That's, of course, the most important thing.

BLACKWELL: So, you mentioned CHIP and you also mentioned DACA and Leader Pelosi said it is possible that that will be the votes for the funding bill will be used as leverage to get protection for the 800,000 or so DREAMers here in this country.

I want to put up a tweet from Senator Jeff Flake who voted for the Senate tax cut bill. He said, I will support tax reform bill after securing language to eliminate an $85 billion budget gimmick, as well as commitment from the administration and Senate leadership to advance growth oriented legislation to a fair and permanent protection for DACA recipients.

What is your degree of confidence that Republican leadership will follow through with what Senator Flake suggests is the promise that there will be permanent protections for data recipients?

YARMUTH: I'm not overly confident. I have some confidence. You know, Speaker Ryan said we need to fix this problem. Many other Republicans said they want to do that. The president, of course, said he wanted to fix it.

But, the real problem right now is one of the sense of urgency. Republicans seem to be sitting on their hands saying, well, we've got until March to do this. But they don't understand the anxiety and trauma the DREAMers are undergoing right now. They are trying to make plans if they can go back to college in the spring semester. They need to know now they are going to be safe and secure in their future in this country.

So, we are pushing very hard to get this done by the end of the year. Yes, we are going to use leverage to negotiate that.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you, finally, about the big issue of the weekend and the guilty plea from former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. First, on Friday, we heard from the president's attorney, Ty Cobb saying nothing about the guilty plea targets anyone other than Mr. Flynn.

Considering what we've learned from that statement of offenses and the reporting this morning from "The New York Times" and others, do you believe that statement is accurate?

YARMUTH: Well, I guess technically, it's accurate. I think the actual nuances of this are that it clearly means that Mr. Mueller has his sights on people senior to General Flynn. That means you are talking about the president, Jared Kushner, the vice president and maybe attorney general sessions. There aren't many people that are senior to General Flynn.

So, yes, it doesn't directly implicate any individual, but it certainly indicates to me and most other observers there are people who are in serious jeopardy at the very highest levels of our government.

BLACKWELL: Finally, the president tweeted or let me correct that, tweeted from the president's account yesterday was this. I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He's pled guilty to those lies. It's a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful, there was nothing to hide. The White House says his attorney John Dowd tweeted this to mimic something Ty Cobb said on Friday, but Cobb never mentioned the FBI.

Is this evidence of obstruction of justice?

YARMUTH: I think there's plenty of evidence. When the president fired James Comey, that was evidence of obstruction of justice. When he made calls to senators trying to end the investigations of Russian involvement, that was obstruction of justice.

[07:45:08] I think the instances of obstruction keep mounting. I think the president is well advised not to tweet about this case. Every one of these things puts him in the position of being held up to be contradicting him or other people in his administration. This is very dangerous for him. But, again, I think it's very clear to me that the West Wing, and again, I'm not sure which individuals, but the West Wing ought to be sweating bullets.

BLACKWELL: All right. Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky, sir, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

YARMUTH: Thanks, Victor.

PAUL: After losing his son to an overdose, a retired U.S. Navy admiral has something he wants you to know if you are struggling with somebody you love who is fighting the opioid epidemic. We'll talk to him in a moment.

Stay close.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERIC O'GREY, LOST MORE THAN 150 POUNDS: My name is Eric.

I was 340 pounds, taking insulin for type 2 diabetes, in addition to about 15 other medications. And I just felt miserable all the time.

I hit rock bottom. One day, I was on an airplane. They had to delay the airline by 45 minutes until they could get a seatbelt extension. That caused me to feel very embarrassed.

I found a doctor. She prescribed for me a whole food, plant based diet and she also told me to adopt a shelter dog. Adopting a dog forced me to get outside every day. I had to take Petey on walks for a half hour twice a day. Suddenly, we had friends and were talking to people. The doctor provided a list of recipes and I learned how to cook. What

I was craving changed entirely. In ten months, I dropped from 340 pounds to 185 pounds. After Petey passed away, I stopped going on walks.

I started feeling another dog was looking for me. I started looking for all the shelters. He looked at me like, dude, let's get out of here. We were running marathons. It's been seven years and my weight hasn't fluctuated up and down more than two pounds. I believe that Pety completely saved my life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:51:55] PAUL: I want to talk to you about the opioid crisis. There's a family fighting to end the epidemic because their son overdosed. This is a father who was a four-star Navy admiral, access to guidance from senior government officials. And Jonathan Winnefeld just could not escape the depths of his addiction. So his family is sharing his story, hoping that they can help you and others.

Jonathan's father, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff and CBS contributor, James Sandy Winnefeld is with us now.

Thank you so much, sir, for being here. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances.

First of all, how is your family doing now?

JAMES "SANDY" WINNEFELD, VICE CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF 2011- 2015: We're doing fine. I think, you know, a big part of the recovery process for us has been having the opportunity to step forward and try to advance the cause that John actually believed in himself. He got his emergency medical technician qualification, because he wanted to help other people. And we want to carry that forward in his place.

PAUL: I know it's only been four months since he passed away. And President Trump, we know, declared the opioid epidemic a national health emergency. No additional funding, federal funding for this just yet. What is your most current need, do you think, to really wipe this out?

WINNEFELD: There are fine lines of effort the nation needs to pull on very hard and they're all interrelated and I can go through them very quickly, raising public awareness.

PAUL: Sure. The most important part of that, of course, is lowering the stigma that's associated with opioid addiction, because there are a lot of people who are resisting entering treatment because of that stigma, and it's a disease, not a moral failing. We also need to amp up our prevention efforts, whether it's in schools or workplaces, and be more creative about that, apply more resources, all the way from the community to the national level. We need to get the opioid prescription piece much better under

control. That is one of the original causes of this epidemic. We need to amp up our law enforcement efforts to -- with the DEA nationally, locally, what have you, to include experimenting with some techniques that can actually help lower the rate of fatal overdoses, like safe use zones, which are a little bit controversial, but worth trying.

PAUL: What did you -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

WINNEFELD: And last but not least, if I could, sorry, Christi, the most important possibly is better access to treatment. More capacity, better capacity, and certainly much more affordability for treatment.

PAUL: People would think that you had resources available to you. Did you? Or was that an obstacle for you?

WINNEFELD: Well, you know, the military health care system at the time did not well understand the phenomenon of dual diagnosis, where -- you know, of the three entry paths that you can have sort of into this addiction, Jonathan was on the one where he had anxiety and depression, at the same time spiraling into addiction. And that takes a very special type of treatment.

The military health care system didn't really understand that, so we ended up paying it out of pocket and it cost a lot of money.

PAUL: Yes, well, we only have a minute left, but I want to give you a chance to talk about your advocacy group you have going, safe you call it, right?

WINNEFELD: Exactly. We believe we have the opportunity to make a difference in John's name. You know, John had to write an essay as an incoming freshman at the University of Denver and in his essay, he described performing CPR on a person who was undergoing a heroin overdose in a McDonald's bathroom.

[07:55:08] And it said it changed his life and he wanted to help people. So, we believe we should carry that forward.

We call it SAFE for Stop the Addiction Fatality Epidemic. We have a website that is freshly up. It's safeproject.us, and we are anxious to hear from people like ourselves who have ideas, and we also want to try to help people and we are determined to carry this forward.

PAUL: Your determination is so evident, considering the fact that you just lost your son four months ago. Certainly thoughts and prayers and your family.

But thank you so much, James "Sandy" Winnefeld for being here and help share your story.

WINNEFELD: Thank you, Christi, for helping highlight this -- what is a very, very important issue for us.

PAUL: It absolutely is and we appreciate you talking about it. Thanks again.

WINNEFELD: My pleasure.

PAUL: Sure.

BLACKWELL: Thanks for being with us this morning.

PAUL: "INSIDE POLITICS WITH JOHN KING" starts right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)