Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Trump Talks Jobs, Russia, Mideast Peace; Trump "Getting Along Very Well" With Obama; Soon: How the U.S. Will Retaliate Against Russia. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 29, 2016 - 12:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello once again, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. It's the top of the hour. Thanks so much for joining me or sticking with me, whichever one you want.

We begin this hour with the transition of power in Washington which is either going smoothly or not so smoothly depending on who you ask and really what time of day you ask the president-elect.

Yesterday, Donald Trump spoke briefly with reporters hours after venting online about, quote, "The many inflammatory President Obama statements and roadblocks." We should point out that is the controversial boxing promoter, Don King, at Trump's side. Can't let that one go without pointing out.

Trump in the tweet went on to say this, "Thought it was going to be a smooth transition, not." But in the evening, the president-elect had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, our staffs are getting along very well and I'm getting along very well with him other than a couple of statements that I responded to and we talked about it and smiled about it and nobody's ever going to go because we're never going to be going against each other in that way. But it was a great conversation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Don King apparently finds that hilarious as he's laughing beside him. By no means a real press conference, you do see there the president-elect was taking questions from reporters. CNN's Scott McLean is tracking the transition for us this morning. Scott, what else did the president-elect have to say?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. He talked a lot about jobs. Earlier this year, Japanese firm called Soft Bank announced it was investing billions in the U.S. to create some 50,000 jobs. And last night, it looked like Donald Trump was taking some credit for some of those jobs now coming to fruition.

Soft Bank has invested in Sprint and also a Florida tech start-up called "One Web," which aims to expand internet access by using small satellites. Trump says both those companies are now hiring.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: So we just had very good news. Because of what's happening and the spirit and the hope, I was just called by the head people of Sprint and they're going to be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States. They're taking them from other countries. They're bringing them back to the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLEAN: Now, Trump also said that One Web would be hiring 3,000 people. Now, Kate, it's unclear how much credit Trump really deserves here, but it's worth pointing out that Sprint made the initial call to Donald Trump. They also mentioned him in their statement yesterday. Saying that they look forward to working with him to create jobs here in the United States.

Now, today we know that Donald Trump is meeting with his inner circle to talk about inauguration and also get started on writing his speech, something that he plans to do largely on his own. We also have expecting the possibility of another cabinet announcement sometime this week.

The secretary of Veterans Affairs position is still open and that is a big one, especially for Donald Trump, given how much time he spent on the campaign trail, promising better care for America's veterans -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, one of the singular kind of themes that were constant throughout his campaign was talking about veterans and in improving veteran's care, so that post, extremely important one. Scott, great to see you. Thank you so much.

With me now, Eliana Johnson, a national political reporter for "Politico." Harlan Hill, a political consultant who supported Donald Trump during the campaign after of course, he supported Bernie Sanders. Angela Rye is a CNN political commentator and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus. Great to see all of you.

So, so Eliana, Scott was talking about it. What are you hearing from your reporting in terms of the jobs that Donald Trump announced? This is kind of a second or third wave of job announcements that he's come out to say, you know, claiming credit for, taking a bit of a victory lap for. Does he deserve the credit?

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": Yes, I actually don't think this is so out of the ordinary. You know, it's in Sprint's interest to give a nod to the incoming president. It's in Trump's interest to take credit for the announcement.

And, you know, it's just -- it's just historically true that incoming presidents get credit for economic developments, whether or not they actually deserve it, and so Trump will get credit for the positive economic trends. Whether or not he deserves it. He'll take the blame for the negative economic trends, whether or not they're his fault. So this seems to be in the regular course of events.

[12:05:03]BOLDUAN: And if history proves correct, if when he gets the negative, he will blame it on the administration before, as we've seen with every president past.

JOHNSON: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Exactly right. So Harlan, he has run into this. We saw this with the Carrier announcement in Indiana where he made the announcement and I spoke with some of the workers in the plant, they were very thankful for the announcement, that he was there, that he helped keep jobs at that plant, at that Carrier plant.

But it was off, the numbers were wrong. The timing of this announcement. Some of the -- some of these jobs had already been announced. If you don't get it squarely right, does it diminish kind of the victory lap he can take when he maybe should deserve credit for some of this?

HARLAN HILL, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: I think so. Look, I think one of my biggest criticisms of Donald Trump is that the people that are around him sometimes don't help him articulate some of these accomplishments very well.

And I think if he looked at the Carrier announcement, he deserved immense credit for that for doing what a leader should do. Standing up and saying, look, if you move these jobs out of the country, there's going to be consequences.

Barack Obama when he was running in '08 said that, he told union leaders, if you need my help, I'll walk the line with you. And so I think to have a president or an incoming president stand up and actually following through with that promise is a pretty remarkable moment in time.

But I think you're right, he needs to better articulate these victories because otherwise, he diminishes it. You know, if we're nitpicking over the numbers.

BOLDUAN: He says 800 versus 1,100 in terms of the Carrier deal -- that's a lot of jobs -- that's a big deal.

HILL: It's a distraction, exactly, absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Angela, your thoughts?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I just wanted to briefly respond. I think it's important to note that with the Carrier deal in particular, there were tax incentives put in place by the state of Indiana to protect and keep those jobs here in this country.

And so Donald Trump can certainly claim credit for that because we know that the outgoing governor of Indiana is of course -- was his running mate and is now the incoming vice president. So of course, he can claim credit for that.

I just think it's interesting that he also was side tracked in that deal by getting into a fight with a union leader from Carrier who called him a liar and gave him the many reasons why. So I think it's important to note, yes, Donald Trump is going to be his own worst enemy.

To your point, Kate, at one point, he'll say, I take credit for all things good, and on the other hand, he'll say, it's a good thing we're getting rid of Barack Obama because it's going bad.

I think the real challenge here now will be how the Hill, how the rest of the country will be able to work with Donald Trump. There was a piece that came out yesterday talking about my former bosses at the CBC who said, listen, we're happy to work with Donald Trump -- some of them say we're happy to work with Donald Trump on an infrastructure spending bill.

We're happy to know that it's not just permanent enemies or permanent friends for us. It's permanent interest. I'm not there yet. I love my bosses but I am so torn about this. Definitely think we need to do what's right for the country, particularly as it relates to jobs and the many local economies that are struggling all over this country.

But this is going to be a tough hill to climb, particularly when he's at odds with the outgoing president of the United States and demonstrating to the world they're not on one accord.

BOLDUAN: Are they at odds? Are they not at odds? Are they friends? Are they frenemies? It depends on the day and the time stamp. At 12:08, Angela, where do you think the friendship stands between the president-elect and President Obama?

RYE: Here's what I'll tell you. I think that Barack Hussein Obama is smart enough to know to play Donald Trump. And by that I mean he is going to say what he needs -- what Donald Trump needs to hear so that many of Barack Obama's legacies and some of the key points that he stands on, that he's the most proud of, that we know he'll talk about in his outgoing speech on January 10th, he's going to do what he needs to do to protect those legacy items.

Whether or not Donald Trump is frustrated by some of the things that the president is doing as he goes out, he should have expected this. These are things again that only bolster the president's long-term legacy and his impact on history.

BOLDUAN: Harlan, does it matter to you if the president and the president-elect get along? If you are a -- if you're a very strong Trump supporter and you remember very clearly how much they clashed and disliked each other during the campaign, do you even want them getting along? Do you like this kumbaya or something of it?

HILL: There are two issues at play. One I think is that Barack Obama has changed his tone recently. This whole pivot to Israel between the United Nations resolution and John Kerry's speech yesterday I think struck a very negative tone. That followed on the heels of Barack Obama saying that he would have actually been able to beat Donald Trump if he could have stood for a third term, which was a blain slap in the face of the president-elect and to Hillary Clinton frankly.

I found that to be extraordinarily offensive if not sexist for him to stand up and say that could I have wiped the floor with him. So I think that might be unprecedented for a president to speak about a president-elect that way.

BOLDUAN: Angela?

[12:10:02]RYE: I just -- I think that's funny to hear about sexism from a Trump supporter from that campaign. I also think it's not a slap in the face to Hillary Clinton. It is the truth, he would have beat Donald Trump. Look at the president's current approval ratings.

HILL: Please.

RYE: I don't think it was to downplay -- oh, no, please is right, please stay one more term, Barack Obama.

HILL: This election was a referendum on last eight years which have been a disaster --

RYE: Did you miss almost 3 million votes?

HILL: -- a disaster for the American middle class --

RYE: No. Did you miss 3 million votes?

HILL: That's why Donald Trump was able to execute the greatest strategic victory in the Electoral College that I've seen --

BOLDUAN: OK, Harlan. Go ahead, Eliana.

JOHNSON: The truth is that presidents don't run for third terms in this country so Obama's remarks were really neither here nor there. This was a change election. Obama's remark, it was a slap at Hillary Clinton, but it's an exercise that it doesn't matter, presidents don't run for third terms and it's a meaningless remark.

HILL: Then why did he say it?

RYE: Because he was being interviewed by his friend, David Axelrod, who ran --

BOLDUAN: And I looked back in history, Bill Clinton actually said the same thing about if he could run again.

HILL: So pompous.

BOLDUAN: Again, this is why I find it fascinating because it's not going to happen. I do not understand why anyone would -- why a president -- why really it's on the president-elect on this, why the president-elect, why this bothers him so much, that he talked about it for three days in a row.

But I do want to ask you, Eliana, on the issue of the transition. It was not going smoothly. It's on the rocks. It is going smoothly depending on kind of the moment that we heard from the president-elect in the past couple of days.

What are you hearing though behind the scenes where the real mechanics are happening with the staff? Is it going smoothly?

JOHNSON: You know, I think the transition is going relatively smoothly in terms of the big appointments. My reporting really suggests that there has been some tension in the undersecretary-type positions. Trump has intended to empower like his secretary of state, secretary of defense, to choose their undersecretaries.

There's been some tension with transition staffers offering positions to those people at the same time their secretaries, their principals have offered those same positions. It's a little tension there that's not popping through to the front page headlines yet, but not the sort of thing you're going to read on the front page of the news.

BOLDUAN: Right. I could see that being a problem, though, two people show up for the same job. That might be a problem. Guys, great to see you. Thanks so much.

The United States gets ready for a big payback. President Obama preparing to retaliate against Russia for interference in the U.S. election. Russia says bring it on. Details could be announced today of what that retaliation might look like. We're going to be looking at that just ahead.

And also this, legendary actress, dancer and singer, a true triple threat, Debbie Reynolds died just one day after her daughter, actress, Carrie Fisher. We're going to look at Reynolds remarkable career and the close bond between mother and daughter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:16:35]

BOLDUAN: Today is the day we expect to hear how the U.S. government plans to punish Russia for meddling in the presidential election. White House officials tell CNN there will be harsh measures taken against Russia, some things that we will see, some things that we may never know about. Those details could go public at any time.

We are watching that very closely. So let's get more details on what we do now right now with Athena Jones, in Honolulu, where the president and his family are on vacation -- that's the hardest thing I'm going to say apparently Athena because I can't get it out of my mouth. Athena, what do we know about the administration's plans for these sanctions? When could we hear?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. We could hear as soon as the next few hours. Among those harsh measures, expanded sanctions and diplomatic measures. We also expect the government to name individuals who are associated with the Russian disinformation campaign that did the interfering in the election.

This is what it's all about. Russia is known for these disinformation campaigns. The U.S. intelligence officials believe they used hacks, hacking, to get information from mostly Democratic Party organizations and officials and then they used that against Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign.

We also have indications from government sources that there are plans for covert actions, unannounced moves that will be taken at a time of their choosing, things we may never hear about, in order to retaliate against Russia.

This is coming as we're hearing from President-elect Trump that we should get on with our lives saying computers have complicated things. His move, seeming to dismiss the need for sanction, are certainly at odds from what we are hearing from a lot of folks on Capitol Hill, on both sides of the aisle.

Folks like from Arizona Republican John McCain, a senator from Arizona, Lindsey Graham from South Carolina and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota who just last hour said that not responding to Russian steps is an invitation for not only Russia but other countries.

China comes to mind to try to do this again. This should not be a political issue. She said that she hopes that President-elect Trump takes this seriously when he takes office and she's going to base her decisions not on what he tweets or what he says in an offhanded way but on what he says once he gets into office -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: What we have heard from him so far puts him at odds over where President Obama is, which also means these sanctions could be short-lived as President Trump prepares to take office. Great to see you, Athena. Thank you.

Let's continue the discussion. Let me bring in right now Jill Dougherty. She ran CNN's Moscow bureau for many years, a dear friend. Hi there, Jill. Also Jackie Kucinich, our political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast."

Jill, this is long your area of expertise. How confident are you that sanctions right now coming from the Obama administration, though we, of course, don't know the exact details right now, but that sanctions right now will have an impact?

JILL DOUGHERTY, WOODROW WILSON CENTER GLOBAL FELLOW: Well, you know, they're upping the ante. Even though the Obama administration says it's proportionate. They're upping the ante because we don't know yet but, you know, it could be more personally aimed at President Putin releasing or leaking information about, which could be embarrassing information, about the president himself or key members of President Putin's administration or oligarchs or others of power in Russia.

[12:20:04]And, you know, I've been, Kate, messaging back and forth with the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zhahatava (ph), and I asked her about some of these things, you know, diplomatic measures, et cetera. And she said, quote, "They will get the same."

So what they're saying we'll be proportionate too. You know, we'll answer everything that you do in kind. I think this is very disturbing right now because it feels so much like the cold war, where you're going to have tit-for-tat measures and we don't know where it's all going to end.

BOLDUAN: How serious do you take that threat? I was going to ask you that, Jill, coming from the Foreign Ministry, is that serious?

DOUGHERTY: I think it's serious, oh, yes, I mean, it depends on, you know, what the measures are. I don't think --

BOLDUAN: Yes.

DOUGHERTY: -- either side wants to get into some type of real cyber- war where you start destroying infrastructure. That really would be war. But right now, a lot of it's diplomatic, economic, sanctions, et cetera, and they are going to -- they say they're going to be prepared to be as nasty as anyone can be so buckle your seat belt.

BOLDUAN: So you've got this happening. This kind of playing out right now on -- from the White House side, Jackie, but you also have got the new administration that will be coming in in just weeks.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

BOLDUAN: Trump could undue these sanctions as soon as he gets into office. It sounds like he could face a fight from Congress here. I spoke to Senator Amy Klobuchar in the last hour and also Senator Graham said this to CNN just this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I would say we believe the Russians did this and we'll do something about it. We're going to put sanctions together that hit Putin as an individual and his inner circle for interfering in our election. And they're doing it all over the world, not just in the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: What would a fight between bipartisan congressional effort and a President Trump look like on this?

KUCINICH: Yes, it would be a pretty harsh welcome to governing for Donald Trump if he decides to try to roll back these sanctions. That's one of the reasons the White House is making a big to do about them and rolling them out when they are.

They want to make sure it's very hard for the Trump administration if they so choose to roll these back. Both publicly and with Congress. And Lindsey Graham and John McCain and I'm sure, you know, you'll hear other people, once people get back in town, really speak out against Russia. It's a really tough position particularly for Republicans to be in, who have been very critical of Russia over the past decade or so to all of a sudden because of the new administration coming in say, oh, they're OK.

And, you know, what struck me about what Trump said yesterday about moving on with our lives, that's the point, really, with these sanctions is to prevent these from happening again. It isn't so much about the last election as it is about the next election. They're looking to prevent this.

It's not necessarily -- they're looking at it through the prism of questioning his legitimacy. This is about the future as much as it's probably more so than it's about the past.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Jill, I want to get your take, your impression from when Donald Trump made the statement. He was asked very directly about how he feels generally about sanctions against Russia. And when he said, we ought to move on with our lives, I mean, it sounds like he's completely dismissing the idea. I mean, what's your sense, what's your reaction to that? I mean, I assume Russia's listening very intently to that.

DOUGHERTY: They're listening very intently, Kate. I think if we look back, stand back and look at what's going on. Look at the decision that the agreement in Syria that just happens, is happening right now, President Putin coming out, look like the person who was able to solve things when the administration of Barack Obama was not.

So Russia right now is positioning itself to look like the peacemakers, the guys who can get things done, and they're doing that in order to kind of set it up to say the Obama administration could, you know, just ruin things, destroy the Middle East, destroy Syria, et cetera.

And now waiting for a few weeks before the new administration comes in which they think will be much more open to working with them. So I think, you know, from the Russian perspective, you've got them with a big messaging campaign right now, which is to make the Obama administration look as weak and ineffective as possible and hold out hope for working with Donald Trump when he is in office.

BOLDUAN: It's interesting you say hope because I got the sense last hour, Jackie, from Senator Klobuchar, she worked very closely on this issue with Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain.

[12:25:02]That she is hopeful but I don't know if she was entirely confident that when Donald Trump takes office that he'll have a -- it will change his mind, if you will, on the intelligence and where it stands on this, because his words and actions to this point have not shown that.

KUCINICH: Exactly. I mean, and that's the open question of whether he wants an open war. Not only with Democrats in the Senate, particularly in the Senate, but also with Republicans. And let's not forget, he has a secretary of state with very close ties of Russia who's going to have a confirmation hearing coming up, who's going to get very tough questions, and a lot of those questions are going to -- Rex Tillerson is going to have --

BOLDUAN: Especially one of those senators, Lindsey Graham.

KUCINICH: Yes, exactly, precisely, and one of the -- he is going to have to have a very good answer for that question of what do you think of this hacking, what are you guys going to do.

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely. Guys, it's great to see you. Thank you so much. Watching this very closely today as we await this announcement coming from the White House on what sanction, what measures will be taken against Russia today. Thank you.

Ahead for us -- concerns about security as Americans prepare to ring in the New Year. More than 1 million people are expected to fill New York's Times Square. Ahead, new details about how police are planning to keep the area secure. A press conference ahead.

Plus, remembering legendary actress, Debbie Reynolds. She passed away just one day after the sudden death her daughter, actress, Carrie Fisher. Ahead, a look at Reynolds' decades-long career.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)