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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump May Keep Part of Obamacare; Pence to Lead Transition Team; Sources: Priebus May Become White House Chief of Staff; Trump to Receive Top-Secret Intelligence Briefings; Trump May Keep Parts of Obama Health Care Reform; President-elect Trump and the Media; Trump Tower Now a Fortress Ringed by Tight Security. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired November 11, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, out of respect. A big hinted compromise from Donald Trump, who says that after talking with President Obama out of respect, he'll consider leaving intact some parts of the president's healthcare law. The president-elect now suggests the law could be amended instead of replaced outright.
[17:00:33] The Pence plan. A shake-up in the Trump transition team. It's now headed by Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, replacing Chris Christie. Trump's children are named as key advisors as a power struggle may be underway for a top post at the White House.
The crowned jewels. Trump will now be briefed on the most highly classified aspects of U.S. intelligence, the so-called crowned jewels of top-secret spying operations abroad.
And the fortress, Trump Tower, the president-elect's home and headquarters, has now turned into a skyscraper stronghold, ringed by tight security right in the middle of New York City. New restrictions are in place for people, cars, and even aircraft.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news, Donald Trump may already be willing to compromise on one of the top items of his agenda hit list, Obamacare. In an interview with the "Wall Street Journal," Trump now says that, after conferring with President Obama, he'd consider leaving in place certain parts of the healthcare law. The president-elect is now suggesting the law could be amended, rather than just repealed and replaced.
Trump has just reshuffled his transition team at the same time with Vice-President-elect Mike Pence taking over the leadership from Chris Christie. Trump's children have joined the staff of advisors, charged with putting together a new administration. Sources say that all signs indicate Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus will become the White House chief of staff, although Trump himself is said to favor right-wing media kingpin Steve Bannon for that powerful post. And as President-elect Trump is about to start getting highly
classified briefings on so the-called crowned jewels of American intelligence, including top-secret details of U.S. spy operations around the world. I'll speak with Republican Congressman Peter King. He's a key member of the Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees. And our correspondents, analysts, and guests, they will have full coverage of all the day's top stories.
Let's begin right now with Donald Trump. He says that the election is over, but it's different now. And in a first hint of compromise, he says he may consider keeping parts of President Obama's signature healthcare law. CNN politics reporter Sara Murray is here with me.
Sara, this would be quite a turnaround.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think what you're seeing is Donald Trump running into this conundrum for Republicans that, even though Obamacare may not be popular, certain aspects of the healthcare law absolutely are. And while in the past, Trump has hinted he might keep one of these provisions here and there, obviously, these words take on a whole new meaning now that he's the president-elect.
MURRAY (voice-over): After his full-throated campaign calls to repeal President Obama's signature healthcare law...
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Real change begins with immediately repealing and replacing Obamacare.
MURRAY: Now it appears Donald Trump may be willing to strike a deal. Trump telling the "Wall Street Journal" that, after meeting with the president on Thursday...
TRUMP: Well, thank you very much, President Obama.
MURRAY: ... he's open to preserving portions of Obamacare. Like a provision that prevents insurers from denying coverage because of preexisting conditions. And the provision that allows children to remain on their parent's health insurance policies until they're 26.
Now the president-elect tells the "Wall Street Journal" he wants to move quickly on health care once he takes office. And either Obamacare will be amended or repealed and replaced.
The latest look at Trump's priorities comes as he turns to his V.P., Mike Pence, to take the lead on transition planning, a role previously held by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie will stay on as a vice chairman, alongside many of Trump's earliest supporters: Ben Carson, Jeff Sessions, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and Michael Flynn.
As Trump hunkered down in New York to map out a Trump White House, palace intrigue in Washington was running wild. TRUMP: I'll tell you Reince is really a star. And he is the hardest
working guy, and in a certain way I did this -- Reince, come up here. Where is Reince? Get over here, Reince.
MURRAY: Among the leading candidates for chief of staff, Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman who has strong ties to Capitol Hill. And buoyed Trump's successful presidential bid with the GOP's data and ground operation.
[17:05:03] REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Ladies and gentlemen, the next president of the United States, Donald Trump.
MURRAY: But filling the role is already sparking friction among Trump's team. Priebus is the favorite option among some in Trump's inner circle, but his Washington insider status is being weighed against a more unorthodox option, Steve Bannon. He served as the Trump campaign CEO. Briefly pulling back from his role as the head of right-wing website Breitbart.
But his tenure at Breitbart would surely make him a contentious pick and provide fodder for liberals already decrying a Trump presidency. Today, outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid declared, "The election of Donald Trump has emboldened the forces of hate and bigotry in America."
As Trump turned to transition planning this morning, he did so just hours after protesters poured into the streets in cities across the U.S., all in opposition to the president-elect. Their outbursts catching the attention of Trump himself, who tweeted, "Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters incited by the media are protesting. Very unfair."
But even Trump appeared to second guess that approach. Hours later, he tweeted, "Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud."
MURRAY: Now in light of all these protests, in this "Wall Street Journal" interview, Donald Trump was asked whether he thought maybe his campaign trail rhetoric went too far. And he said, "No, I won."
BLITZER: Good answer. He did win. There's no doubt about that.
All right. Thanks very much for that, Sara, Sara Murray reporting.
Let's turn to CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash. You're getting new information on why Pence, the vice-president-elect, all of a sudden he was elevated, he's put in charge, Chris Christie a bit demoted.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first and foremost, Mike Pence is somebody who knows his role. He's already going to be the vice president. So he doesn't have to put himself in a transition role. And he's not vying for anything, which is probably a big reason why Dick Cheney back in 2000 took on that role for then- president George W. Bush.
But the other reason is because Mike Pence genuinely has a lot of insight and experience with Capitol Hill. He was a member of Congress for ten years, a member of the Republican leadership. And also, of course, governors out in the country, because he is one. He is a sitting governor of Indiana. And he has formed a real bond with Donald Trump over the past several months since he was picked.
He says all the time, he said it to us several times in interviews that they talk multiple times a day. And that is the main reason why Donald Trump was convinced that Mike Pence is the guy to pick, because he said he wanted somebody with that kind of experience if he were to win the White House.
BLITZER: One of the most important decisions is who's going to be the White House chief of staff? And that's expected to be announced fairly soon.
BASH: Right. This was the role that's been fast-tracked. Still is expected to happen as soon as Monday. We don't know for sure, because people who are telling us that say that was the plan going, you know, sort of into today, into the transition meeting that they had at Trump Tower. And that anything could change.
But, as Sara just reported, the -- certainly the leader, the lead contender is Reince Priebus, the RNC chair. I was told that once that kind of got out into the ether, the day after Donald Trump was elected, that Steve Bannon, whom Sara just talked about, is somebody who is very well known inside kind of the alt-right or conservative universe. He threw his hat in the ring. And that there is a lot of pressure mounting on Donald Trump to pick Reince Priebus, particularly from people who he will be working with, now that he is not just the outsider; he has to work inside the White House. And really want to get things done.
And Reince Priebus is somebody a lot of people think who can do that, who can bridge those two roles. He spent a lot of time with Donald Trump. He's gotten to know him well. He helped run debate prep, and he's best friends with the House speaker. They're both from Wisconsin, which in some ways, the people who elected Donald Trump might be skeptical of and Trump himself might be, too, but that, it seems to be, is the reason why he is the leading contender.
But Steve Bannon, I'm told, even if he's not chief of staff, he will have a serious role, because he also has a calming effect on Donald Trump. Because he trusts him.
BLITZER: Reince Priebus well-liked by all the Republicans here in Washington. Very well-known, as well. All right, Dana, thank you very much.
Joining us now, Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. He serves on both the Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: You're very welcome, Wolf, thank you.
BLITZER: All right. So you just saw Donald Trump gave this new interview today to the "Wall Street Journal," where it sounded like he had dramatically changed at least the tone since the campaign. He suggested he hasn't thought about whether he'll appoint a special prosecutor for example to go after Hillary Clinton. He didn't mention specifically building a wall. Is he going to govern differently than he campaigned?
[17:10:04] KING: I think it would be different to the extent that the tone might be different, but for instance, on Obamacare, and on health care generally, Republicans have almost always supported the assistance on preexisting coverage and preexisting duties, also portability of insurance, where you go from one job to another. So I think in any ultimate package that would come out, Donald Trump would have included provisions like that anyway.
So I would say the fact that he's saying what he's going to include from Obamacare, still Obamacare itself is going to be dramatically, dramatically changed. And so I'm not that surprised.
I think the tone is something we saw change on election night. He's now the president of all the people. And the goal is to bring people together, but do it in a way where you're not, in any way, compromising principles, but you're getting as much as you can.
BLITZER: During the campaign he flatly said it would be repealed and replaced. And now in this "Wall Street Journal" interview, he said it will either be amended, uses the word "amended," or replaced. It's, as you point out, at least a shift in tone from what we heard on the campaign trail. Is it fair to say he's at least moderating one of the key principles he ran on?
KING: All along, I mean, I supported Donald Trump, and I believe that Obamacare should be repealed, but I always assumed that you would have a preexisting condition provision in the, you know, the revision or the amendment or the total repeal. You would still include preexisting conditions. That's always been, to me, one of the givens. It would be there.
So maybe he's articulating, making a general reference to that several times. Obamacare will still be changed very dramatically.
BLITZER: Yes, he said out of respect to the president with whom he met at the White House behind me, he's at least going to get -- consider some amendments, if you will, as opposed to maybe complete repeal and replacement.
Let's talk about some other issues that have now come up. The vice president-elect, Mike Pence, he now takes over the transition from Chris Christie. Is that a good idea from your perspective?
KING: Well, as far as Mike Pence, Mike Pence is Class A. I've known Mike, I guess, since the year 2000. He's a great congressman. He was widely respected. Everyone respects his integrity. He's a smart guy. He's a governor. And obviously, he's won the confidence of Donald Trump. And he has no agenda now. He is the vice president of the United States. So it's not going to be he's going to be jockeying for any position for himself.
So I think Donald Trump sees him as being an honest broker who knows his way around Washington. And yet, has solid conservative principles. So I can see why he picked Donald Trump. Again, as far as Chris Christie, I don't know what's going on behind the scenes, but all I can say is, as far as Mike Pence is concerned, I have a tremendous regard for Mike Pence.
BLITZER: Yes, he served for ten years, more than ten years in the U.S. Congress together with you, as well, so you know him quite well.
Who should be Donald Trump's White House chief of staff? Steve Bannon or the Republican Party committee chairman, Reince Priebus?
KING: You know, the last thing I'm going to do is be telling Donald Trump what he should do. He's made it this far. He's the president- elect. He did it pretty much on his own by breaking all of the traditional rules of politics and getting it done his way.
I really don't know Steve Bannon. I've only met him one. I have a great regard for Reince Priebus. And so really, I would say Reince Priebus is the one that I would know the most. But again, Donald Trump has worked with both of them on almost a daily basis for the last several months. Reince Priebus almost a year, I guess, certainly the last three or four months with Steve Bannon also.
So I'll leave that to the president-elect. That's his choice. It has to be somebody that is very competent and that the president, the president-elect and the president is just very comfortable with. You have to have a chief of staff that you just trust. And so that, again, only -- only Donald Trump can make that decision.
BLITZER: Congressman, we're getting some new information on the intelligence briefings that the president-elect is now getting. He's getting access to what they call the crown jewels of classified information.
BLITZER: I'm going to discuss that with you. We've got to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[17:18:26] BLITZER: We're talking with Congressman Peter King. We'll get back to him in a moment, but first, as president-elect, Donald Trump will now get regular daily briefings on top-secret military and intelligence programs.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has new information. Barbara, you're getting some reporting on what lies ahead for Donald Trump when he begins these daily intelligence briefings which could happen at any moment. What should he expect?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.
Well indeed, the elements of power and presidency are beginning to surround President-elect Trump very rapidly. He is going to start getting at any point the so-called presidential daily intelligence briefing. The very same information will be offered to him that is given to President Obama every morning. The latest intelligence overnight on the latest threats facing the U.S.
But then it gets even more specific than that. The so-called crown jewels. These are the details on signals intelligence, covert operations, spying operations, how the U.S. spies around the world. This is information that only goes to a president-elect and a sitting president.
He will then also be briefed on the nuclear launch codes. By the time he takes the oath of office and steps off the Capitol steps on inauguration day, that nuclear football, the nuclear launch codes, will be held by a military officer always within reach of him.
As president, he will be engaging only in secure communications, and he will only be flying on Air Force One so he can be fully protected, and he will have those secure communications.
[17:20:06] I've talked to people who have done some of these briefings for president-elects. They say a president-elect after a campaign, they go into these briefings feeling pretty good. They come out a little bit ashen-faced. They find out how grim the world can be and how little, as president, they may be able to do about it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And they want to make sure he's ready to go as commander in chief on day one, January 20th of next year, a few weeks from now when he will be the president of the United States.
Barbara, thanks very much.
We're back with Republican Congressman Peter King. He's a member of the Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees. Congressman, what can you share with us about Donald Trump's national security team, as far as you know? You're pretty well plugged in.
KING: Well, I would say the main person right now would be General Michael Flynn. He's extremely close to President-elect Trump. He is probably the one he relies on the most for national security. Also, Jim Woolsey, who was Bill Clinton's former CIA director. He's definitely plugged in.
So I would say, though, they're the main two off the top of my head that I can think of.
But let me just say, I fully agree with Barbara Starr, as I usually do. I've also spoken to people who have briefed the president-elect in the past, including President Obama, who actually had been a U.S. senator for four years, and they are invariably surprised when they learn all that is going on, all the threats that are against us, all the operations we may have around the world, you know, what might be coming down and it's -- and to realize they have that power and the responsibility. It's -- even though you read about it and hear about it, apparently when they're in that room and actually are confronted with it, face to face, it really has an impact on them.
BLITZER: Yes, it certainly does. I've heard exactly the same thing.
You're a key member of the Homeland Security Committee. You've been a close friend of Donald Trump for a long time. Has Chris Christie or anyone from the Trump transition team, Mike Pence, the vice president- elect, actually reached out to you about a possible position in the incoming administration?
KING: No. I've discussed -- nothing about myself, but I have discussed generally issues of transition with, you know, some of those people, but I wouldn't go any further than that. No, no one has reached out to me about any position in the administration.
BLITZER: Do you want a position in the administration?
KING: I just got reelected. I'm very happy. But I told everyone who asks that question I would do anything to help Donald Trump succeed, but I expect to be doing that from a seat in the Congress, not in the administration. But again, it's important, I think, to all of us...
KING: Republicans and Democrats. Yes.
BLITZER: Yes, Senator Harry Reid, the retiring minority leader, the Democratic leader in the Senate, he released a blistering statement today on Donald Trump's victory, saying it's emboldened hate and bigotry.
Let me read a couple sentences from this statement from Harry Reid: "White nationalists, Vladimir Putin, and ISIS are celebrating Donald Trump's victory, while innocent law-abiding Americans are wracked with fear, especially African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Muslim Americans, LGBT Americans, and Asian-Americans. Watching white nationalists celebrate while innocent Americans cry tears of fear does not feel like America."
I'm anxious to get your response to Harry Reid.
KING: Yes, actually that's a disgrace. That sounds like some old has-been at the end of the bar who's just angry at life, angry at the world, angry that he's on the way out, and nobody cares. I mean, that is really disgraceful to talk that way.
I just wish that Harry Reid had a little bit of the class that President Obama and Hillary Clinton have shown over the last several days. It would be a lot better. We are going to be better with him gone, I'll say that.
BLITZER: Congressman Peter King of New York, thanks very much for joining us.
KING: Thank you very much, Wolf, thank you. BLITZER: Coming up, more secrets are coming out about Donald Trump's
transition process. Our correspondents and political experts, they've been working their own sources. They have new reporting. That's coming up next.
Later, the challenge of securing the new president's home and office, which just happened to be one of the most accessible tourist destinations in New York.
[17:28:45] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. Donald Trump dropping a surprising hint he may be open to keeping parts of President Obama's healthcare reform law, as well as today's dramatic shake-up in Donald Trump's transition team. The vice president-elect, Mike Pence, now taking over from Governor Chris Christie, and the dramatically expanded team includes three of Donald Trump's adult children, Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr.
Our correspondents and political experts are learning even more from their sources.
Gloria, "The Wall Street Journal" interview was fascinating, because Trump, following his meeting yesterday behind us over at the White House in the Oval Office, he says out of respect to President Obama, he's now willing to maybe amend the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, instead of quickly just repealing and replacing.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Remember when we were talking yesterday about how interesting it was that Donald Trump came out of that meeting and said that he had learned some things from President Obama about his achievements?
And we were speculating -- and we might have been right -- that perhaps President Obama was talking to him about Obamacare and insurance for preexisting conditions and for your adult children. And maybe the president said to him, "Don't lose those things."
And when Trump came out with this today, it became pretty clear that that is something that they had discussed.
Now, I should say that, of the Republican plans that have been circulating on Capitol Hill, none of them get rid of these very politically popular provisions.
[17:30:09] So it's not surprising that Donald Trump would do that.
What is surprising is that he said he learned about how great these conditions were from President Obama.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Clearly a 90-minute meeting, Dana, must have had an impact on Donald Trump.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. That he said he learned about it from him. You know, whether or not that's true, I think politically -- BORGER: Yes.
BASH: He was trying to give President Obama credit which says a lot. I mean, you know, you have to give him some props for trying to send that signal, you know, a bipartisanship that it wasn't just about sitting in the Oval Office and learning the ropes from the current president, it was really trying to soak in some of the things that he was telling him.
You know, to your point, Gloria, it is true that there's no way anybody in Congress even -- and especially Republicans would pass anything that would get rid of preexisting conditions because it is so popular. But --
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: And I think that gets to the reality of sort of this whole Obamacare problem for Republicans is they've tried to repeal it over and over and over again, but replace it is the complicated part.
MURRAY: Because everyone likes the provisions that give certain people more coverage. I mean, states that have gotten a lot of Medicaid money, for instance, like that provision since they got this influx of Medicaid money.
MURRAY: And so, you know, Donald Trump, the deal maker, might now be looking at the health care law in a different way and saying, OK, maybe not a full repeal, maybe there are sort of big amendments we can use to make changes to this. And he has sort of made some of these suggestions before, but he was further in these comments and it is a different thing to say things on the campaign trail and to say things as the president-elect.
BORGER: I would also say that what I learned from this is that it might be a good place to be, to be the last person who whispers in Donald Trump's ear on any particular policy issue. And that is why chief of staff, for example, is going to be such an important job. There's a large learning curve here and chief of staff's important.
BLITZER: Because, Rebecca, he seems to be open now to making sure that children can stay on their parents' health care insurance plans until the age of 26, which is part of Obamacare. And if you have a preexisting condition, you can still get insurance. Seems to be open to those two provisions.
REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: That's right. And this has actually been one of the challenges for Republicans as they've been staking out their opposition to Obamacare was that there are some provisions that are relatively popular and they don't want to just scrap the whole bill and lose those popular provisions and get blamed for it. So Republicans are going to in the next few weeks and months have to walk a really interesting line on Obamacare because you can't just scrap the whole thing without some consequences both political and practical.
BLITZER: And, Dana, that's why who leads the administration, the White House chief of staff, the Cabinet members, top administration officials, who Donald Trump and Mike Pence, who's now in charge of the transitioning.
BLITZER: Who they pick will be so critically important for the next four years.
BASH: No question. Look, it's important for any president, it is especially important for Donald Trump since he is absolutely no government experience whatsoever, working inside the government. Not inside the government, not inside the military, none of the tentacles of what runs this country. And so the people he puts around him are important.
It's not just because of the policy making, it's the knowing how to reach out to all of the various aspects of the agencies, of Capitol Hill, of dealing with the court, never mind the world stage. Everybody -- everybody in every country around the world. So it's always important, but especially when, as Gloria said, the president- elect has such a huge learning curve.
BLITZER: And Sara, he needs topnotch talent for these jobs that are so critically important. Domestic economic issues, national security issues, international affairs. He needs really a great, great personnel to come in.
You've been covering him since day one when he went down the escalator with Melania Trump, his wife, all of us remember that. Take us a little bit behind the scenes on how he is coming up with these new potential government officials.
MURRAY: Well, look, I think that there are the names in Donald Trump's head, and then there are the names of the people talking to Donald Trump and the names of the people in the circle outside of that and the names of the people in the circle outside of that. So we're going to hear a lot of different names that are under consideration, but might not actually be under Donald Trump's consideration. One thing we know about him is he does prize loyalty and so he will be looking for ways to reward the people that stuck their neck out for him early on.
But he also is just now diving into this. So I think a lot of these positions that we're talking about, yes, people in their minds might have decided the job they want. But I don't necessarily think Donald Trump has gone through all these names and figured out exactly where he wants all these people, and as Gloria pointed out, it matters a lot who he talks to less. So he's now going to start getting more feedback on why if you nominate this person for this job, I don't know, that could be a messy confirmation hearing.
[17:35:02] But the other thing I just want to point out as we're learning more about how he's going through this transition process are the prominent roles that he has given his children and helping him with this transition planning. Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump. Now one of the reasons this is notable is because he has said he's going to hand his company off to his children.
We still haven't seen his tax returns, we still don't know a lot about his business. We still don't know a lot about what conflicts are presented there. And the notion that you're going to have his children intimately involved in selecting who is going to be in these top powerful slots in government and then to just sort of turn the page and move back into the e Trump Organization, I have to imagine it's a little bit troubling for some government --
BLITZER: Let me ask Rebecca on that because I know you've been doing some checking on that. Some have suggested there's a potential conflict there.
BERG: Well, sure. And there is actually a law that forbids federal government officials from hiring family members in salaried positions. This is a little different, there's no salary, it's sort of an unofficial position at this point. But it raises the question of exactly what Sara is saying. Is there a conflict of interest here? The reason that law is in place is to prevent that.
And then, there is also the question moving forward of what role will they play in a Trump administration? Because all along this campaign and even before that in running his business, Donald Trump kept his family very close as trusted advisers and it's unclear how he would really function without their input. And so I would imagine in a Trump administration, even if they don't have formal roles in the government, I can't see him just cutting them off as his kitchen cabinet.
BORGER: And loyalty, you know, as Sara was pointing out, is so key to Donald Trump. And he knows his family's loyal, above all else. And I think that he's comfortable with it. And he wants them around. And don't forget, it was his family who intervened and said, pick Mike Pence instead of Newt Gingrich. And that was -- that was an important decision for him. One which he does not regret. I mean, he thinks it was a great decision. So he wants those people around him.
The question is, in this world in which we live, where conflict of interest laws are there and, you know, his family doesn't need a salary. It's not an issue of making any money from the government. It's just an issue of if you have a business and you're advising the president of the United States, where do you -- you know, where do you draw the line on that?
BASH: And it's not just conflict of interest laws, there are nepotism laws.
BASH: The anti-nepotism laws.
BLITZER: All right. Everyone, stand by. We have a lot more coming up. After a quick break, I also want -- I want you to weigh in on the new concerns about the transparency and the future president's relationship with the media.
[17:42:11] BLITZER: Our breaking news that Donald Trump naming Vice President-elect Mike Pence to take the lead. The lead role in his newly expanded transition effort. We're also getting new signals pointing to the future of Trump's love-hate relationship with the news media.
CNN's Brian Todd is studying the latest developments for us.
Anything changing now that he's president-elect? What are you learning, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Could be some things changing, Wolf. In an interview late today President-elect Trump suggested the acid- laced rhetoric he used during the campaign which many believe helped get him elected could be toned down. He said things are different now. Striking considering Mr. Trump's relentless attacks on the media for the past year and a half.
TODD (voice-over): After months of openly sparring with the media during the campaign --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: They're bunch of phony, low lives. They're disgraceful. Bad people. Bad people.
TODD: His supporters joined that fight.
(CROWD CHANTING "CNN SUCKS")
TODD: Tonight new questions about how Donald Trump will treat the media as president. Questions fuelled by Trump's teams ditching of the traditional pool of reporters assigned to cover him when he came to Washington to meet with President Obama.
The head of the White House Correspondents Association complained.
JEFF MASON, PRESIDENT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS ASSOCIATION: To be there in case news happens, to be there in case something happens to him. It is important for us to be able to fulfill our responsibilities as journalists and to tell the story of what's going on, and to inform the public.
TODD: On 9/11, if reporters weren't traveling with President Bush, the public may not have known certain details of where the president was. There could have been worrisome information gaps on the day President Reagan was shot. During the campaign, Trump blocked the media from traveling with him. He blacklisted journalists who'd been critical of him. He threatened to sue the "New York Times" for reporting on his taxes. Threatened to sue NBC for the "Access Hollywood" tape release, but didn't follow through. Still, the media is not blameless in the relationship.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, NPR NEWS: I think that there were a lot of mistakes along the way by the media. I think the media failed to treat Donald Trump seriously even as they covered him in intensely and gave an extraordinarily amount of airtime during the primary campaigns.
TODD: And analysts say Trump's public disdain for reporters may well have helped him at the polls. Tonight Trump is showing signs of flexibility in his first interview as president-elect, telling the "Wall Street Journal" he'll change his overall tone. Quote, "It's different now."
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The dynamics of a campaign are inherently different from governing. A campaign has a daily clash. Governing is different. Governing is leading. Governing is showing example, governing is giving people a leadership role. Makes people say to Congress, do what the president said.
TODD: Media watchers say it's an open question whether Donald Trump will be more receptive to the media and allow them more access as president, but for now a Trump spokesperson tells CNN they expect to operate a traditional pool for reporters and they're asking for patience as they navigate the transition process.
[17:45:05] Wolf, we'll see what happens.
BLITZER: Yes, it's very, very important that they honor those long standing traditions and allow at least even a small pool of reporters, camera crews, to go with the president on every single occasion.
Brian, thanks very, very much.
Do you think he's going to do it, Gloria? Do you think he's going to honor that long standing tradition?
BORGER: Well, I don't know. We hope so. And really I think it depends on who leads the president's communications team and whether they understand and I would assume they do the needs of the media to cover the president in a way that can best inform the American people about where he is and what he is doing.
I think, you know, the history in the White House is of a free and open press. And I think that if that were not to be the case, that would really -- that would really be an issue here for journalists trying to do their job.
BASH: And can I just add --
BLITZER: And you cover him on a daily basis. You haven't seen that, have you? He always allows a pool with him on his plane, for example, or where he's going. A lot of times he just sort of disappears.
MURRAY: He does disappear. This isn't a fun challenge of covering Donald Trump. It's like where -- where is Donald Trump game which is one thing if you're a candidate, and, you know, he did impress upon them multiple times when he became the Republican nominee that it was not the same as just being a candidate. And, you know, we continue try to impress that upon him now that he is the president-elect and obviously when he goes to the White House, you know, we are talking about historic moments. Whether it's something that he does. Whether it's something that happens to him and god forbid whether there was some kind of risk presented to him.
You know, he now serves at the pleasure of the American people and the American people deserve to know where he is and what he is doing. And you know, part of having these pools has made the possible. But you're absolutely right. This is not a candidate who has followed the norms. He did not ride on the same plane as his press at any point during the campaign. He occasionally invited select reporters on his plane.
But our understanding is he's going to have to give up Trump Force One and you know, he would occasionally joke about it would be a downgrade to Air Force One. So we'll see.
BLITZER: Well, at least on Air Force One, there is a press section right at the back of the plane.
BASH: Yes, there is.
BLITZER: Room for about 12 journalists and who always travel with the president. I'm sure that will happen this time. It better.
MURRAY: It better.
BLITZER: Up next, fortress Trump. The challenge of protecting the president-elect when he's inside one of New York's top tourist destinations. Trump Tower.
[17:51:53] BLITZER: Take a look at this, live pictures coming in from an anti-Donald Trump protest tonight in New York City. You see people marching. They're heading toward Trump Tower and 5th Avenue, right in the middle of Manhattan. That's the president-elect's home, business headquarters. Trump Tower by the way has already been turned into a heavily guarded stronghold.
CNN's Phil Mattingly is on the scene for us. Phil, describe the scene for us right now.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you've seen a number of changes just over the course of the last 48 hours. And those protesters heading this way right now are just one of the reason law enforcement officials have major headaches on their hands. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight, the residents of the president- elect, Trump Tower, is a fortress, ringed by tight security. The center of an increasingly worrisome question, how do you secure a 58- story skyscraper, smack in the center of one of the world's busiest cities?
It's a question made even more difficult by the fact the building's atrium is a public space, increasingly difficult to monitor, law enforcement officials say. And the building itself, a target as recently as this year of a suction cup climber, seen as potentially vulnerable to any number of threats from surrounding towers and streets.
TOM VERNI, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE: Because it is so dense, you know, the damage you could cause is potentially immense. So they -- it's going to be -- they're going have their work cut out for them here for quite some time.
MATTINGLY: The FAA already moving to protect it from the air. Issuing temporary flight restrictions that extend nearly 3,000 feet up and two nautical miles out. In the wake of election night, new cement barriers and sand-filled dump trucks line busy 5th Avenue, pushing cars and the public further away.
Now a Secret Service presence throughout the building and a regular presence of more than 100 NYPD officers surrounding the property. A debate between Secret Service and NYPD officials still ongoing over even more restrictive actions to take. Concerns exacerbated by the now constant presence of protesters, a group now given their own pen at across the street from the building's main entrance.
VERNI: There always is a possibility as we've seen in some of these other demonstrations where riots used to occur, where you may have a rogue person or two or professional agitator or two who may decide that they have to take it a notch up or two. And then law enforcement is going to have to deal with that on top of the actual securing of the perimeter itself.
MATTINGLY: Law enforcement officials acknowledge the challenge. There's no easy way to protect a building that reads "Trump Tower" that sits right in the middle of 5th Avenue.
MATTINGLY: And Wolf, you and I have spoken countless times from out in front of this building. You'll notice, I'm in a very different place right now. Usually right next to the building. Since the election we have been moved across the street. Behind me, 5th Avenue has been closed multiple times. Side streets also close as well. But when you talk to law enforcement officials, specifically those dealing with the Secret Service, they make very clear, they are still not comfortable with how things currently are.
The way it's been described to me is this is an evolving security presence. It's going to change, it's going to get more restrictive. Law enforcement officials are being blunt. They just wish Donald Trump wasn't smack in the middle of New York City -- Wolf.
[17:55:08] BLITZER: Phil Mattingly, thanks very much. Law enforcement and Secret Service, they want to do whatever they can to protect the president-elect of the United States.
Coming up, more breaking news. A shakeup in the Trump transition team that's now headed by Mike Pence, replacing Chris Christie. And there may be a power struggle for a top post at the White House.
Plus, a big hint in compromise by Donald Trump who now says that out of respect for President Obama he'll consider leaving intact some parts of Obama's health care law.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. It's different now. Donald Trump hints at a possible compromise on a major campaign promise now that he's won the White House. Trump says his meeting with President Obama gave him new perspective.
Christie gets --