Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Seeking Top Secret Security Clearances for Children; Democrats Delay Vote for House Leadership; Interview with Rep. Tim Ryan; GOP National Security Specialists Concerned at Exclusion of Experienced Voices; ISIS Leader May Be Hiding in Northern Iraq. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 15, 2016 - 16:30   ET


[16:30:02] KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I know everybody is very concerned about security, which is a slightly separate matter. But, at the same time, I am sure that the Trump children will be there to support their father in informal capacities.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But one that underscores the fact that no set of presidential offspring have had more say or more potential power in a new administration, each a constant presence inside Trump Tower, as the president-elect confronts the challenge of filling thousands of government jobs, and each with policy issues they have professed deep interest in, from land and water issues for Don Jr. to Ivanka's continued focus on child care and education.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: I am going to be a daughter, but I have said throughout the campaign that I am very passionate about certain issues and that I want to fight for them.

MATTINGLY: Even as all three say they have no plans of joining their father in the White House.

ERIC TRUMP, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: We will be in New York. We will take care of the business. I think we are going to have a lot of fun doing it and we are going to make him very proud.

MATTINGLY: Yet, the lines between business, personal and the White House have already blurred, Ivanka Trump's business already seeking to capitalize on it, sending a -- quote -- "style alert," touting a bracelet worn in a recent interview from her fashion line.

And while presidents historically put their business holdings in a blind trust, it remains Trump's intention to let his children continue to run the business, one with tens of millions of dollars in holdings in foreign countries and tens of millions of dollars in debt to foreign banks.

How they will handle those potential conflicts, still an open question, according to top Trump advisers.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I think you are going to have to fashion something that is very comfortable, something that's fair, something that assures the American people, as he said, he has no interest in what's going on in the business, and that his children get to run the business they know how to run.


MATTINGLY: And, Jim, I think the interesting element is here when you look at that idea of the security clearances, it's important to note that wasn't a request from the president-elect. It wasn't a request from the kids, but it was a request kind of underscoring their role in this entire process and one that has already garnered the attention of Capitol Hill Democrats, House Oversight Committee Democrats already looking into this issue.

So, it's something that is going to continue to draw attention and scrutiny going forward.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Security clearances and the business ties continuing, both very much unprecedented. Thanks very much, Phil Mattingly.

Now that this unprecedented election has been decided, see how we got to this historic moment in the first-ever book from CNN politics, "Unprecedented: The Election That Changed Everything." The book is in stores December 6. Preorder your copy today on

Well, it could be the end of an era for Democrats on the Hill -- why big changes could be coming soon.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Today, House Democrats decided to delay their vote for new leadership for another two weeks. The decision comes in the wake of last week's shellacking. And it's a move that could spell the end of an era for longtime House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has been at the helm of House Democrats for nearly 14 years now.

Let's go to CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He's live on Capitol Hill.

So, Jeff, postponing this vote really does signal some distress among House Democrats?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it signals absolute concern across the Democratic Party, starting with the House of Representatives.

Now, so far, there has not been a center of gravity around any one person to run against her. But all that could change in 15 days.


ZELENY (voice-over): One week later, President Obama is still talking about bruising lessons learned from the election.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is this mismatch, I think, between frustration and anger. Perhaps the view of the American people was, was that you just need to shake things up.

ZELENY: And shake things up, voters did. Now the Democratic Party is facing a shakeup of its own, as outgoing Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid takes forceful aim at Donald Trump.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Well, thanks, everybody, for being here.

ZELENY: The Democratic rank-and-file is restless. Today, House Democrats voted to delay the election of its leaders, a warning shot to Nancy Pelosi that she may face a challenge of her own. She walked into a closed-door meeting today confident of keeping her title as the Democratic leader.

QUESTION: Madam Leader, do you expect a challenge to your leadership today?


ZELENY: Her effort to hold a quick election failed. Challengers now have two weeks to step forward. She walked away quickly, saying she doesn't own the stinging Democratic defeat.

QUESTION: You got beat pretty badly here. And this speaks of leadership.

PELOSI: Well, that speaks to the presidential race more than our race.

ZELENY: The Democratic Party is demoralized, decimated and in disarray. It's seeking new direction at the DNC and beyond. The place to start rebuilding is on Capitol Hill where young Rust Belt lawmakers say the party must increase its appeal to working-class voters.

Pennsylvania Congressman Brendan Boyle said his state should not have been such an easy win for Trump.

REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Our party needs to do a much, much better job of reaching out and representing blue-collar and working-class voters. And for me, this election should be the final wakeup call that we get.

ZELENY: The Democrats' finger-pointing is giving way to soul- searching and who should be the face of the party.

REP. G.K. BUTTERFIELD (D), NORTH CAROLINA: We just got a shellacking. We just got a shellacking last Tuesday. We got an unexpected defeat. And we have got to recalibrate and decide how we go forward. It's just like death. There are different stages of grief that you go through.

ZELENY: Pelosi still enjoys strong support from many fellow Democrats. But Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan is considering mounting a challenge, saying it's time for a new direction. REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO: This is not about in -- the past election,

in my mind. This is about the next election, and what do the leaders look like, what does the message sound like, in order for us to pick up the seats that we need to pick up to get back in the majority.



ZELENY: And, Jim, the thing you hear again and again talking to so many lawmakers up here today is geography.

The party needs to look inside the center of the country here, not just on the West Coast or East Coast here, for the next leader, many people say. That's why some are turning to Tim Ryan as a possible candidate for the House Democratic majority -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Jeff Zeleny on the Hill, thanks very much.

You heard there from Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan.

And he joins us now live.

Congressman Ryan, thanks very much for taking the time.

You just said there, our viewers heard, that it is time for a new direction in the Democratic Party. You have not ruled out running against Pelosi to lead House Democrats. You have colleagues that are pushing you to run. Does new direction for the party mean new leadership?

RYAN: Well, it means a big conversation around where we need to go and who needs to be that messenger.

I mean, we have a situation now, which I agree with what Nancy Pelosi said. I don't blame her for this election. The question is moving forward. We have to go into red states. We have to go into red congressional districts. We have to talk to blue-collar workers. We need blue-collar workers to vote blue.

And in order to do that, we need to have the message and the messengers to be able to connect with them to pull them back into the Democratic camp.


SCIUTTO: Are you the messenger, Congressman Ryan, or is it Nancy Pelosi?

RYAN: Well, I don't know if I am or someone else is. But that's what this whole conversation is all about.

My goal was to get this moved so that we can have a family discussion. And like many families who need to have a pretty important discussion, we tend to put it off, sometimes days, sometimes weeks. We have to have that tough discussion now and figure out what's going to position us to take the House of Representatives back.

We have an opportunity here. Now, as much grief as there is, there is also opportunity. What's America 2.0? What's it look like? And how do we get there and how do we position the Democratic Party to help us to get there?

And then when you look at the Republicans controlling the presidency, the House and Senate, they are going to repeal the health care bill, they're going to privatize Medicare, they're going to gut Medicaid.

Many red congressional districts in many red states have people in them that benefit from these programs. So, as they're repealing these programs and taking these benefits away, we need someone who can go there and make not only that argument that we need to stand up for some of these programs that they benefit from, but also that we're going to here for blue-collar workers to get good-paying jobs back in some of these communities.

SCIUTTO: Before we get to the agenda, it just sounds like it's clear you're not ruling out challenging Pelosi for the leadership.

RYAN: I am not. And I don't think anyone else is. I think there are a lot of people having conversations right now.

SCIUTTO: So, let's talk about the agenda then.

You listed a number of things that you expect the GOP to push now, repealing Obamacare being one of them. Are there things that you can work, that Democrats can work together with Republicans on? Do you see room for compromise?

RYAN: I would hope there would be a couple things.

I think, when you talk about what Donald Trump said during the campaign, draining the swamp, let's do it. Let's do it right now. Let's move to publicly financing campaigns or campaign finance reform. That's how you drain the swamp here in Washington, D.C. You get the money out.

I hope we can work with him on that. Rebuilding the country. He talks about a big transportation bill. Let's go. Let's do it. Let's get our and building and construction trade people back to work. Let's have buy-American provisions in there, so it's American-made steel and American-made concrete.

I think those are two big things that we can do together right out of the gate to let the American people know we want to find opportunities to work together. But then if you try to repeal the health care bill, we are going to fight you. You try to privatize Medicare, we are going to fight you.

You try to gut some of these social programs, we are going to fight you every step of the way.

SCIUTTO: Final question for you. More than 100 House Democrats have signed a letter urging Trump to rescind his appointment of Steve Bannon. Will you and your colleagues refuse to work with Steve Bannon in his role?

RYAN: I signed that letter myself.

I think it's appalling that we would have someone that is either or has very close ties to white supremacist groups. I represent a lot of working-class African-American folks in my congressional district. I am appalled that this man would somehow make his way into the White House.

And I think it's disgusting that the president-elect would appoint somebody like that. We need to move in another direction. I mean, regardless of what happened in this election, we should be an America that welcomes everybody.

And that means immigrants and poor and black and brown and gay and straight. This is America. And we should not put somebody at such a high position that's going to be advising the president of the United States, not the president of a union, not the president of the rotary club

The president of the United States has someone with deep ties to these groups and has promoted these groups over the past few months. It's disgusting. And I think it is going to be very, very difficult for us to work with President Trump if he's pushing this guy out front to be his top adviser.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Tim Ryan, thanks very much.

RYAN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: A look at the four men who could lead Trump's national security team and why there are already big concerns about one candidate in particular.


[16:45:00] SCIUTTO: Look at the four men who could lead Trump's national security team, and why there are already big concerns about one candidate in particular.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD. More in politics now. President- elect Trump just received his first presidential daily briefing today, the PDB. It's the same top secret briefing that President Obama receives. This comes as the Trump transition team looks to fill top national security posts in the new administration with growing concerns inside and outside the GOP about who's in and who's out.


SCIUTTO: Tonight concern among some GOP national security specialists that the Trump White House is excluding some of the party's most experienced voices.


SCIUTTO: Among them Mike Rogers, Former House Intel Committee Chair and CNN analyst, removed as head of the National Security Transition Team. A list of leading contenders for the most senior posts is now emerging.

RUDY GIULIANI, REPUBLICAN FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: The next President of the United States, Donald Trump.

SCIUTTO: Former New York City Mayor and staunch Trump supporter, Rudy Giuliani being considered for Secretary of State. However, though a well-known figure nationally, his foreign policy experience is limited, and many of his positions unknown.

Plus, his business ties to Qatar and to the Venezuelan-owned oil company CITGO are raising concerns according to a source familiar with the transition talks.

Another candidate for state is John Bolton.


SCIUTTO: Former Ambassador to the United Nations under the Bush administration. He has more foreign policy experience as well as some tough positions, including favoring bombing Iran's nuclear facilities rather than negotiating a nuclear deal.

JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES SENATOR: Donald, welcome to my hometown, Mobile, Alabama.

SCIUTTO: Senator Jeff Sessions, a transition team leader and senior member of the Armed Services Committee, is one of the contenders for Defense Secretary. Sessions, who is one of the first GOP senators to back Trump, is also being considered for other top jobs, including Attorney General.

Another candidate under consideration for Pentagon Chief is first-term Senator Tom Cotton, a member of the Armed Services Committee and a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Considered hawkish on defense, Cotton told CNN earlier this month he agrees with Trump on using the now illegal practice of waterboarding terrorists in some circumstances.

TOM COTTON, UNITED STATES SENATOR: If experienced intelligence professionals come to the President of the United States and say we think this terrorist has critical information and we need to obtain it, and this is the only way we can obtain it, that's a tough call, but the presidency is a tough job. Donald Trump is a pretty tough guy, and I think he's ready to make those tough calls.

MICHAEL FLYNN, RETIRED UNITED STATES ARMY LIEUTENANT GENERAL: Donald J. Trump to be next President of the United states.

SCIUTTO: Retired General Michael Flynn who was pushed out is director of the Defence Intelligence Agency is now in Trump's inner circle of advisors, and is being seriously considered for a senior post including National Security Advisor.


SCIUTTO: I want to bring back my panel now. Congressman Rogers, you severed ties with the Trump administration just today officially, statement was very amicable. Why did you leave the team?

ROGERS: I think they were going in a different direction. So, all of the work on the transition has already happened. All of the national security portfolio, all the position papers, both the short papers and the wider position papers were done. They're getting ready to do what's called landing teams, although those people had been vetted. I understand there's been some changes on some of those teams, but those are the people they're getting ready to go in. So, I think it's a natural course of Vice President Pence, he's going to come in and kind of head up the transition from here until completion day. And I -- you know, it's a -- I think this is just kind of the natural occurrence of a campaign. There's -- is there a little confusion in New York right yet? I think there is, but I think this is growing pains. And once they integrate people who have been doing it with people in New York I think you'll see a more -- a smoother transition.

SCIUTTO: Do you have any concerns that the Trump National Security Team will not get the most qualified people for the most important senior posts?

ROGERS: You know, I've seen the list. I'd be a little bit skeptical of the name game that happens here. You know, we've seen people who were never on the list throw their name to the press to say, "I think I'm on the list." We've seen people who have always been on the list, I've not seen their name on the press at all. So, I'm always a little skeptical of the name game that I see here. I think that when -- the names that I saw in my portfolios that were sent up to New York are very qualified people. I think America would be comforted that they could serve in the -- in the capacities of which they were recommended for. And by the way, this notion that there's no one interested, thousands and thousands and thousands of really good people were interested a little bit before the election and a lot after the election.

SCIUTTO: Surprisingly. It happens in Washington and other places. Jennifer Jacobs, you've been reporting on the transition, you have some new reporting, what are you learning?

JENNIFER JACOBS, BLOOMBERG POLITICS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I think -- I think Congressman Rogers is being polite. There's probably more power struggle happening than people realize. I think anyone who's loyal to Chris Christie is probably going to have trouble getting any sort of a cabinet post, and I know that some within Trump's inner circle did think that Mike Rogers was someone who was an ally of Chris Christie. He was, of course, tapped by Christie before the election to oversee national security for the transition.

I think that Rudy Giuliani or Jeff Sessions could pretty much have the pick of any post they would like. I know that Rudy Giuliani has his heart set on Secretary of State. It sounds like Sessions is interested in defense, so those are the two we're -- you know, we would think that they would be leaning towards, but we also hear that there are other finalists for Secretary of State, still, including John Bolton is still in the mix as well as Richard Armitage and Henry Paulson.

[16:55:00] SCIUTTO: Very similar to our reporting both on the infighting but also on many of those senior positions. Matt Viser, of course, one of the most

signature positions of the campaign, Donald Trump, was draining the swamp, and that's still a phrase we hear since the election. But many of the names that are coming up for these senior positions are not exactly outsiders or new comers. Is that likely to quickly disappoint some of his supporters?

MATT VISER, BOSTON GLOBE DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Potentially. And I mean, you look at the lobbying activity going on right now, too. I mean, the swamp is being filled, you know, in Washington in many ways. And I think that people may be disappointed, but you look at Trump and how he's made his past decisions. And none of these should be that much of a surprise. The way he ran his campaign was often a campaign in turmoil with different people, lots of infighting, people being shoved out, coming back in.

And I think that it shouldn't be a surprise now the way that this transition is being run. But I do think that some of the names -- you look at his vice presidential pick, going with Mike Pence, you know, a very traditional type of politician, not somebody out of the box. So I think the names that Trump is looking at now for some of the key positions are people that you would expect in those kinds of positions.

SCIUTTO: Now, I wonder if just the setup of the leadership sets up for bigger divisions going forward when you have these -- you have a Priebus in there as the Chief of Staff and you have the somewhat unusual Senior Adviser position, Steve Bannon, certainly a very strong personality coming from a different camp and then you have Jared Kushner, the son-in-law. Does that concern you, Jennifer Jacobs that they could bring it all together and actually run the government?

JACAOBS: Well, I do know that they got along during the campaign, the Priebus and the Bannon camps really truly respected each other and got along surprisingly well. I think it's more about a power struggle. No one expected Donald Trump to win, not even Mr. Trump. And so, as this has become a reality, and it's only been a week, the power struggles have really become strong.

SCIUTTO: Four years minus one week. Jennifer Jacobs, Matt Viser, Congressman Rogers, thanks very much. We'll turn now to our "WORLD LEAD." The elusive ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be hiding in Northern Iraq, that's according to a majority Shiites paramilitary force known as the Popular Mobilization Units or PMUs. This, as anti- ISIS forces are pushing forward to take back Mosul, closing in on ISIS from several fronts with Iraqi and Peshmerga forces pushing in from the east and with these PMU units moving in

from the west. I want to bring in CNN international correspondent Phil Black. He is on the ground there in Irbil, Iraq. Phil, there have been a lot of rumors now about al-Baghdadi recently. How credible are these -- your information that anti-ISIS forces are getting closer?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, as with so many things in Iraq, it's not entirely clear. As you say, this information, this claim, it has come from these Popular Mobilization Units, these former militia that have been brought into the Iraqi State and they have claimed that their intelligence indicates that Baghdadi is in a location west of Mosul, this corner of Iraq somewhere between two towns, only an hour's drive apart or so.

Now, this claim can't or won't be backed up by other departments and ministries of the Iraqi government. The defence ministry says that its intelligence indicates that Baghdadi was in Mosul at the start of the operation but left shortly after, and he headed west. If you keep heading west, you hit the Syrian border and then, of course, on the other side, the territory there that ISIS controls which is beyond the reach of Iraqi ground forces. There were right, there have been lots of rumors about his location in recent days and weeks, but it appears for the moment, he remains an elusive figure, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, the early signs of this battle, even from our own colleagues. We've seen some of these firsthand there, is that this is going to be bloody. What is the latest on progress in terms of recapturing Mosul?

BLACK: Jim, members of the coalition including the United State say that this is going to plan, but there is no doubt that in recent days, the tempo has changed. For much of the four-week operation, the fighting has been concentrating on the areas around Mosul, the towns, and villages and territories, driving ISIS from there, there's been relatively rapid success. But ever since Iraqi forces penetrated the built-up area of the city in the east while their advance has slowed dramatically because ISIS knew they were coming. They've fortified, they built tunnels and multiple car bombs. They know those narrow streets. They're using all of that to their advantage.

And so, the fight is just incredibly difficult there. Now, the expectation is that eventually forces from the north and south will eventually converge on the city as well, into the city, draw some of the pressure away, but it's still seems some time off. This fight, well, Mosul is looking to fall imminently. It looks like this fight has weeks, perhaps months left in it yet, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And many civilians still there, too. Phil Black on the ground for us. Thanks very much. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @jimsciutto or tweet the show @theleadcnn. That is it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jim Sciutto in today for Jake Tapper. I turn you over now to the very capable hands of Wolf Blitzer. He is where you'd expect him to be in "THE SITUATION ROOM."