Return to Transcripts main page


Team Trump: Transition Turmoil?; Jared Kushner: Man in the Middle; Trump Grabs Dinner Minus Reporters; Obama in Greece. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired November 16, 2016 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Confusion inside Trump's transition team. The president-elect denying any trouble. But the man who just got bounced, he is talking to CNN.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The man in the middle is Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. He's said to be rubbing some team members the wrong way.

ROMANS: This as the president-elect ditches the reporters who are supposed to cover him again.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: Nice to see you. I'm John Berman. It is Wednesday, November 16th, it's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And new this morning, all is well in Trumpville, at least according to the president-elect and his transition team. The members of the transition who are left, that is, there have been reports of turmoil within the presidential transition and reports that Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is right in the middle of that infighting.

Sources close to the transition tell CNN there's a battle between establishment Republicans and nontraditional conservatives. But a high-ranking Trump argues that the reports of infighting of are overblown and tells CNN that some lobbyists were fired, but there was no purge under way, and that this happens during a transition.

Donald Trump himself tweeted overnight, he said, "Very organized process taking place as I decide on cabinet and many other positions."

[05:00:07] He added, "I am the only one who knows who the finalists are."

One transition official who was let go is former congressman and CNN commentator Mike Rogers. He was dropped after months advising the transition on national security issues.

CNN's Joe Johns now has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Mike Rogers, the former House Intelligence Committee chairman, is now out. He was seen as reassuring figure to many Republicans, especially on issues of national security and was thought on the short list for CIA director. He's gone. Of course, he was hired by Chris Christie, who, as well, was demoted.

So, the question is why? What's going on with the transition?

The story they certainly want to put out is this is all about a blending of the campaign staff that traveled around the country with Donald Trump and the transition staff that was put in place to figure out what was going to happen in the event he won. But there is also a question, as to whether all of this is part of a purge, in the continuing fight, the back-fighting, between the establishment figures who work with Donald Trump and the nontraditional figures, the insiders and the outsiders. Of course, they say no, it is not a purge.


ROMANS: All right. Mike Rogers says there is some confusion about the chain of command at Trump Tower in New York where Vice President- elect Mike Pence, he is now chairman of that transition team. Rogers is former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and his presence on the transition was seen as reassuring to establishment Republicans.

But Rogers told CNN's Anderson Cooper that it was, quote, "absolutely the campaign's prerogative" to let him go.


MIKE ROGERS, FORMER MEMBER OF TRUMP TRANSITION TEAM: They wanted to go in a different direction. It was easy for me to hand it off to Mike Pence in his capable hands coming in. So, I think that was kind of a combination. I think there is some confusion going on about a chain of command coming out of New York.

Hopefully, they'll get that settled pretty soon. I think they need to do it because as the clock ticks, all of these decisions become more important. And you have to make them sooner with a little more authority and forward thinking to make sure they don't bump into anything in the future. I think they're going to get there. I'm an optimist about that.


BERMAN: All right. New signs that the president-elect doesn't have regard for the press and the important goal that journalists play in tracking his movements. An aide told reporters that Trump was done for the night, this happened last night, that he wasn't going out. But that turned out to be false.

The president-elect showed up at a New York City steakhouse two hours later, without notifying a team of reporters on stand by. This team of reporters exists only to track the president-elect's movements. And the transition team is supposed to keep this press pool alerted as to when and where the president-elect is going. It is standing procedure for the president-elect to travel with a pool of reporters, just as the president does.

The Trump spokesperson says she was not aware of the restaurant plans. It is her job to be aware of all the restaurant plans, and any movements, frankly. And the Trump transition team says there is now an effort to set up this pool.

Again, this is not a partisan issue. We've had issues before with transitions in candidates and also, frankly, presidents. But the press pool exists to track the movements of the president-elect and the president, in case something happens to that person. In case something happens in the country, need to reach that person immediately.

This is a matter of public interest. To have access, so the public can have access to these people. We don't want to order like drinks with the Trump family. We just want to know what building they're in.

ROMANS: All right. We'll see if they get that protocol set up here, or if this is a new kind of maybe -- I don't know, signal to the press and role of the press.

BERMAN: Well, it's a signal so far. They haven't gotten it right yet.

ROMANS: All right. Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner could end up with top national security clearance. Kushner is expected to play a key role in the White House as an adviser to his father-in-law. Sources tell CNN clearance for Kushner is likely but hasn't happened yet.

BERMAN: New roadblocks this morning for a leading contender for a key cabinet position. Rudy Giuliani, seen by many including himself, as a leading possibility for secretary of state. He's facing questions about legal work and consulting work and about high paid speeches he gave over the last 15 years. Critics say these pose potentially serious conflicts of interest.

His former law firm, Bracewell and Giuliani, and other company, Giuliani Security, did work for governments across the world, including Latin America and the Middle East.

Senator Rand Paul, a Republican who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee that will have a key role in confirmation process, he calls the former New York mayor's ties to foreign governments worrisome.

ROMANS: All right. Guess who stopped by Trump Tower in Manhattan on Tuesday for a private meeting with the president-elect? Ted Cruz. Trump and the Texas senator were fierce rivals during their primary battle.

It's not clear who initiated this visit. Not clear what they discussed. [05:05:00] A Cruz spokeswoman would only say the Texas senator, quote,

"looks forward to assisting the Trump administration." That's fueling speculation that Cruz might have a role in Trump's White House.

BERMAN: Maybe in his Supreme Court.

ROMANS: Interesting.

BERMAN: But think about these young Republicans, the Marco Rubios and Ted Cruzes of the world, who run for president this time, but now maybe not able to run for four or eight years. Interesting.

ROMANS: Interesting.

BERMAN: All right. I want to talk about transition and all things going on with CNN political analyst Josh Rogin who's a columnist for "The Washington Post."

Good morning, Josh.

ROMANS: Good morning.


BERMAN: Let me take the idea that there is transition turmoil. I covered the Gore/Bush election when George W. Bush only became the president-elect after a 36-day recount. They had a shorter time to actually get to the White House because there was 36 days receive count. And that wasn't a problem.

So, what's the big deal over this turmoil?

ROGIN: Yes, I mean, I guess you're right that there is plenty of time. But that doesn't change the fact that there's been more turmoil in this transition that we typically see, right? Two reasons, one, the Trump transition didn't think he was going to win, right? So, what they had was sort of a skeleton outline of who they wanted to do what. And then when he did win, all of that was thrown in the garbage, right? They started from scratch, right?

And then now, they face like a third problem that they're sort of clashing with everyone they're reaching out to one way or the other. That is disincentive for people around Washington to really sign up. I mean, sure, he's going to be president. And it's going to be a hugely influential administration, but these people also have to think about their long-term prospects.

When I talked to Republicans, some who are with Trump or some who weren't with Trump even, they all say the same thing, if this is going to be a disaster, this is going to be a mess, I don't want to be a part of it, right? These are people's lives that they're changing in order to join this. So, it's not really were you for Trump or were you against Trump? It's the perception of just this disorganization and chaos. And if this is going to be the way that they're going to operate, a lot of people are not going to want to sign up. ROMANS: The question also, who is going to have Trump's ear? You

know, who is going to be -- he's got this equal situation where he's got Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus who set up as equals. Mike Rogers talked to Anderson last night about this, about the chief of staff and what it's supposed to look like inside the Oval Office. Listen:


ROGERS: I'm an old school guy, Anderson. I think, you know, your chief of staff has to be the one, or whatever title you want to give them, needs to be the one making decisions. They need to be held accountable for those decisions, but you need someone that can clearly make those decisions. If you make those decisions by a committee, I don't care how small it is, it just adds to the difficulty.


ROMANS: Mike Rogers has been on the inside of that bubble for several months and now finds himself on the outside.

ROGIN: Right. Now, we're getting down to the ideological split inside Trump world. You've got these establishment mainstream moderate Republicans, many of whom were with Trump or at least amenable to Trump a whole time. And then you've got the loyalists, the Bannons of he world, and alt-right people and the more Islamophobic people like Frank Gaffney, according to "The New York Times" advising on national security, right?

And they both can't win. One of these sides has to lose. What Trump has decided to do is let them fight it out, right? He's got the sort of inner working inside the Trump Tower that sort of, you know, tells people broad things.

But then it's kind of like "The Hunger Games." And that is a recipe for confusion. That's what we're seeing. So, it seems like the moderates like Mike Rogers getting pushed out. It seems like they're losing the battle.

In the end, you've got so many jobs, thousands of jobs. You're not going to be able to cut out an entire swath of Republicans. You're going to need people to do these jobs. But until they get the top people in place, the people of one or two levels down are not going to know what's going on.

BERMAN: Can I ask about Rudy Giuliani who is seen by many, including himself, as the leading contender to be secretary of state? A whole bunch of articles that raise questions about whether he has conflicts of interest because of his business deals ironically his paid speeches over the years. I've been over the impression, Josh, that the idea that there'd be confirmation problems or betting problems for anyone that Trump wants is sort of balk.

I mean, Trump goes in with an enormous amount of power right now, a Republican with a Republican Congress. I was thinking if he wants someone, he's going to get someone. The spate of articles this morning makes me think he's wrong. ROGIN: Right. I wrote one of those articles how Giuliani got tens of

thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars from an Iranian dissident cult group, right? That was on the foreign -- list of foreign terrorist organizations. That happened.

I think the other problematic ones he did consulting for the Venezuelan governments oil and gas company. The government of Qatar which has been linked to all sorts of mischief.

You know, the bottom line here is that he still needs 60 vote, OK? So, you're right, it's a high bar for not getting confirmed. But they don't want any problems. I mean, this is already going to be a speed up process. They need cabinet officials in place.

[05:10:01] So, the question really is, does the Trump transition team care about sort of ugly sort of confirmation process where people are -- people's, you know, conflicts are sort of aired. And then they get it anyway? Because that's what's likely to happen, you're right, John. They'll probably get who they want.

But are they sensitive to the pushback and the blowback that comes from having these guys with all of these ties, which directly contradicts their sort of claim that they're going to drain the swamp. Rudy Giuliani is also a man who is really, you know, feared by the diplomatic community because has no diplomatic experience, he doesn't know the State Department.

I mean, John Bolton is not exactly a popular guy in foreign policy circles. But he knows the building, right? He's seen as a professional with experience in doing this job. Whereas, Rudy Giuliani, you know, what diplomatic experience does he have? Really none.

ROMANS: Josh Rogin, stick around. We'll talk to you again.

President-elect Donald Trump will start reshaping America's trade policy on day one of his administration. That's according to this memo drafted by his transition team. A memo obtained by CNN. Now, this document lays out five main trade goals. These are supposed to be accomplished in the first 200 days in office.

Renegotiate or withdraw from NAFTA. Stop TPP, it's basically all but dead anyway. Ban unfair imports, end unfair trade practices, pursue bilateral trade deals. That's basically a rejection of status quo of the past 30 years, bipartisan status quo of American trade with the rest of the world.

Another big focus of the memo, retain and return manufacturing jobs. The Trump administration thinks it can achieve that by lowering the business tax rate, eliminating certain regulations, lifting restrictions on domestic energy. The memo itself says things could change. These points are for discussion purposes. Lots of great reporting on NAFTA and what it would take to kill it, right now, on CNN Money.

Also, have a great story of a letter of IBM CEO Ginni Rometty sent to the incoming White House, saying, let's talk about creating new collar jobs. Not talking about changing our trade situation, but about new collar jobs. There are, I think, 6 million job openings in America. Companies complain they can't match the people who are out of work with the jobs that they need. So, where is that conversation?

BERMAN: I hadn't heard that phrase before, new collar. You know, not blue collar, not white collar, but new collar.

ROMANS: It's really interesting.

BERMAN: Do something different.

ROMANS: And IBM has been pushing on that. Actually, in high schools, trying to educate in high schools.

BERMAN: All right. House Democrats, they were supposed to hold leadership elections this week. But now, the vote has been delayed. So, what does that mean for House minority leader Nancy Pelosi? Could this national figure be in trouble?


[05:16:59] BERMAN: All right. Trouble and intrigue brewing on Capitol Hill for House Democrats. They have delayed their leadership election until after Thanksgiving.

A lot of people see this as a sign that longtime leader Nancy Pelosi could be in trouble. She won the election this week. That will not happen. No formal challenger has emerged so far, but one Democratic House member says they want time to recalibrate to decide how to move forward.

ROMANS: Paul Ryan will continue to serve as House speaker after unanimous support from Republicans in a voice vote Tuesday for another term. The speaker says the nation is in the dawn of a new Republican government. He will face a formal vote in the House when the 115th Congress convenes in January.

BERMAN: Hillary Clinton will make her first public appearance as he conceded the election last Wednesday. She will be honored tonight by the Children's Defense Fund in Washington. Clinton worked for the group in the 1970s and later joined the board. The head of that group calls the former secretary a tireless voice for children. Hillary Clinton is expected to give remarks at the end of this event.

ROMANS: All right. It's about 18 minutes past the hour.

President Obama trying to calm global anxiety about a Donald Trump White House. He's in Greece. He's speaking out about the rhetoric that put his successor over the top. A live report from Athens is next.


[05:22:33] BERMAN: President Obama touring the Acropolis this morning, part of his visit to Greece. But the elephant in the Acropolis, as it were, is the election of Donald Trump back here it's in United States. The president is telling the global community he is concerned about a troubling strain of rhetoric worldwide that helped launch Donald Trump into the White House.

I want to go live now to Athens and bring in CNN White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski.

Michelle, what's the president saying?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that elephant follows him everywhere, right? He was bound to get some tough questions about the election on this trip and he was expecting it. It's interesting, though, you know, the past year, he's been traveling around the world. The White House has said a lot of his time has been taken up by foreign leaders asking about the election, worried about it.

And he felt like part of his job was to reassure them that a Donald Trump presidency would not happen. Now, obviously, that it has happened, his job is much different. He has been trying to offer some optimism and reassurance out there.

But yesterday, it was much more critical, just based on the kinds of questions he was asked about delving into what led to this. That's where he got critical about the rhetoric, the sentiment that was used by Republicans, as he said it, to tap into that anger and frustration and then lead it into a direction that he didn't agree with.

In fact, his tone was almost warning and dark yesterday, saying that if you take that kind of sentiment and let it divide America on certain lines, it's dangerous -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Michelle Kosinski for us. The president after Greece heads to Germany for some key meeting there as well. It's fascinating. Thanks, Michelle.


ROMANS: Time now for the five things you need to know for your EARLY START.

Number one, the Trump transition team denying reports of infighting. Former House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers who was just let go as a national security adviser to the Trump team said there is some confusion about the chain of command.

BERMAN: President-elect Trump ditched his press pool last night after an aide said he wasn't going out anymore. He was spotted at a New York City restaurant a short time later with his family.

ROMANS: Hillary Clinton will make her first public appearance since election night. Clinton is expected to give remarks when she is honored by the Children's Defense Fund in Washington.

BERMAN: New intelligence this morning on the whereabouts of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, a group of militias working with the Iraqi military says they have information that al Baghdadi is somewhere, within a 50-mile area near Iraq's border with Syria.

[05:25:04] ROMANS: Three workers were hurt in a huge blaze in an oil refinery in Torrance, California. The refinery has just reopened after an explosion just it down in February of last year.

For more on the big things, go to

BERMAN: All right. The Trump transition team denying reports of turmoil. Sources telling CNN that Trump's son-in-law, though, right in the middle of some controversy. Stick around.