CNN "CNN Newsroom" - TRANSCRIPT Brady Retires Again; Biden and McCarthy Hold Critical Meeting; Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) is Interviewed about the Debt Limit; Tyre Nichols' Funeral Held Today; JB Smiley Jr. is Interviewed about Nichols' Death. Aired 9-9:30a ET


Date: Feb. 1, 2023


Joining me now, Republican Congressman Dusty Johnson of South Dakota.

Congressman, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So, first on the budget demands of your party here.


What specific programs are you putting on the table to cut?

JOHNSON: Well, that's not how a negotiation works. In fact, the law says that the president needs to step forward with a budget first. His team is going to miss their February deadline. They say they're not even going to get that done until March.

So, here's what I think is step one. Today, we need to have the president and the speaker in the same room. that's going to happen. And we need to have President Biden agree that he will negotiate over the reckless spending that our country has been engaged in.

SCIUTTO: But as you know, the debt ceiling relates to budgets already passed by congresses, including with Republican votes. What are the positions -- because a negotiation, as you know, involves, if you want to call it that, involves two sides presenting their positions. Can you name a single program that Republicans would be willing to cut money from to make a deal?

JOHNSON: But see, I think that's ridiculously unfair. And here's why. The credit card bill comes to our family. We have maxed out our credit cards. Now, of course, listen, we are going to pay that credit card bill. We're legally obligated to do so. But rather than force all of the onus on the Republicans, which I know y'all love to do, what a responsible, reasonable and sensible family would do - is sit down together and start to talk through, how do we stop - how do we stop this spending.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I don't - by the way, I'm not - I'm not doing that, sir. I'm not putting all the onus on Republicans. That's the law. The law puts the onus on Congress, and the nation, to pay its bill. But, please, go ahead. Is there a program that you can name that you personally would be willing to see money cut from?

JOHNSON: Well, yes, there are lots of programs. But that - but the point is, I'm not going to negotiate against the Republican Party on CNN. The only thing that we're asking for today is for President Biden to be responsible, sensible and reasonable and being willing to come to the table and negotiate.

You know it's remarkable, MJ, your reporter, she's great. You know, she highlighted ho President Biden is spending his time taking jabs at Kevin McCarthy. How is Kevin McCarthy spending his time today? He's getting together with his Republican team to talk about, how do we try to bend these curves away from $32 trillion in debt.

SCIUTTO: The -- our Manu Raju is reporting that defense budget cuts are also on the table. Can you name a defense weapons system or program that you'd be willing to cut money from? JOHNSON: If we honestly think that out of $800 billion or $900 billion

in defense spending a year that there isn't anything that can be cut, I would just tell you, I think we've got to be willing to roll up our sleeves.

But I get what your goal is here today. Your goal is to try to get Republicans to negotiate against themselves and to try to identify programs --

SCIUTTO: No, my goal is to find out what your positions are. When you're going into a budget negotiation, presumably you have some programs in mind that you'd be willing to cut. So, I'm asking the questions, can you name a defense program you'd be willing to cut from?

JOHNSON: OK, but step -- step one is to actually have the president of the United States be willing to have this negotiation. I mean why in the world would Republicans -- when the president has the statutory obligation to bring his budget forward first, why would we bring forth all of these admittedly difficult to discuss cuts. Let the president off the hook. He has shown a total unwillingness to be the leader of the free world and engaging in these conversations.

SCIUTTO: Well, as you know, the debt ceiling - the debt ceiling is about budgets already passed. And I should note that when Republican presidents were in office, George W. Bush and Trump, Democrats did not push the country to the brink.

And, by the way, Republicans did not push their own Republican president to the brink on the debt ceiling, although I should note for our viewers you noted against raising the debt ceiling yourself. But the Republican leadership did not. Why that difference? Why push this president but not Trump?

JOHNSON: I love this revisionist history. Here are the facts for your viewers. After eight years of Republican control in the House, discretionary spending was lower at the end of that eight years than it was at the beginning. So, why didn't Republicans go to the brink? It was because they had Republican presidents who were willing to work with them on some of these much needed spending cuts, rather than a Joe Biden who says he refuses, he refuses to negotiate.


JOHNSON: Listen, if we're really going to get this done, it's not about CNN or Joe Biden putting all of the onus on Republicans to identify cuts. It will be two responsible men who should be the president of the United States and the speaker of the House sitting down to begin the negotiations rather than the onus all being on one party.

SCIUTTO: I'm asking the question because you represent the Republican Party. I've asked equal questions of Democratic lawmakers on this broadcast, which you're welcome to watch and I'll share with you afterwards.

I do want to ask you about your position since you're on the China Select Committee.


SCIUTTO: It's a story -- it's an issue that I follow quite closely.

Earlier this week we had an Air Force general, the commander of mobility command, say that he believes the U.S. will go to war with China in two years, in the year 2025. I know from speaking to military officials that's not the U.S. Defense Department assessment, but do you share that assessment that the U.S. and China are on the brink of a hot war within two years' time?


JOHNSON: I do not share that assessment, but I would tell you that lots of reasonable people are concerned about a kinetic engagement between China and the United States in the next few years. That's why our work on the China Select Committee is so important. And - but the three things that I think are most important, remember, number one, our work will be bipartisan. It has to be. Number two, the Chinese people are not our enemies. The Chinese Communist Party is our adversary. And, number three, our committee has to be - our work has to be wide-ranging because the threat of the CCP is so wide ranging. I don't share the assessment about an actual hot war, but we had better make sure that we're prepared to push back on Chinese aggression.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Dusty Johnson, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

JOHNSON: Thank you for having me.