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Turmoil & Infighting on Trump Transition Team; Transition Team Asks about Clearances for Trump Family; Interview with Rep. Ted Yoho; Trump Calls Electoral College 'Genius'; Sources Say Business Ties Complicate Giuliani's Secretary of State Bid; Megyn Kelly Claims Trump Threatened Her. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 15, 2016 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, transition turmoil. Sources tell CNN that Donald Trump's transition team is like a knife fight. After a key national security official gets pushed out, Mike Pence comes in with his own list of names. As the delays build up, is the transition already in trouble?

[17:00:23] Can't stop the tweet. Trump can't contain himself, taking to Twitter to say he could have won the popular vote if he had tried, and praising the Electoral College, which he once called a disaster.

Seats at the table. Trump's grown children and son-in-law heavily involved with the campaign and now in the transition. Will they get top-secret security clearances even though they're already involved in his business empire?

And threatened by Trump. Shocking new revelations as Megyn Kelly, in her own words, describes how Trump tried to bully her before the first presidential debate.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following new developments in the Donald Trump messy transition operation. Vice President-elect Mike Pence arrived at Trump Tower today in New York to take charge and stop what multiple sources described as infighting over top jobs in the new administration.

Today Trump received his first briefing about the nation's most important secrets. The president-elect also resumed tweeting today, calling the Electoral College "a work of genius" and boasting he could have won the popular vote if he had campaigned in California and New York.

Nationwide, Trump is almost a million votes behind Hillary Clinton right now.

We're also following journalist Megyn Kelly's new allegations of a Donald Trump vendetta against her. Kelly now says Trump threatened her only days before the first presidential debate.

A lot to talk over with Republican Congressman Ted Yoho. There he is. See him? He's standing by. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories. Let's beginning with our political reporter, Sara Murray. She's in

New York City for us. Sara, what are you hearing?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, while you certainly wouldn't expect a president-elect to have their entire cabinet filled out by now, it is unusual to see all of the different changes we're hearing about within Donald Trump's transition team, to see Chris Christie ousted and Mike Pence taking over and now to see some jostling among lower level staffers.

Now, it is clear that Donald Trump and Mike Pence want to sort things out and get them moving on a glide path today. And that's why they've been huddled in Trump Tower for most of the afternoon, going over potential cabinet picks and trying to find a way forward from what you called a messy transition.


MURRAY (voice-over): Tonight Donald Trump and his V.P., Mike Pence, huddling at Trump Tower to bring some order to a transition team already facing signs of disarray. Sources involved in the transition telling CNN there are internal disagreements over some top-level cabinet positions.

Adding to the confusion, lingering questions about who's calling the shots, as newly-named chief strategist Steve Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus, and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, all weigh in on the transition process.

As Trump received his first presidential daily brief today, a national security roundup of threats and intelligence developments, he'll have one less experienced hand to turn to. Former House Intelligence Committee chairman and CNN contributor Mike Rogers, who served as a national security advisor on Trump's transition team, was ousted on Monday. The ouster of Mike Rogers, the second major shakeup for the transition team after New Jersey governor Chris Christie was demoted on Friday.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to give a very special thanks to our former mayor, Rudy Giuliani. He's unbelievable.

MURRAY: One area of contention, secretary of state. Sources say former New York mayor and close Trump confidant Rudy Giuliani is a leading candidate for the job. But others are pushing for former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: John would be a very good choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there anybody better?

GIULIANI: Maybe me. I don't know.

MURRAY: Giuliani is hardly keeping his ambitions hidden, but his international business ties, like doing business with Qatar and lobbying Citgo, a U.S. subsidiary of the Venezuelan oil conglomerate, could complicate his confirmation hearing.

Meanwhile, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is already under consideration for a high-profile position, such as secretary of defense or attorney general.

GIULIANI: Well, first of all, I won't be attorney general.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You won't be attorney general?

GIULIANI: So good. I won't have to decide that one, thank God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You made that clear.

GIULIANI: I can escape -- I can escape that one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I should ask Jeff Sessions that question, should I?

GIULIANI: Wouldn't be a bad idea. But I don't know who's going to be attorney general.

MURRAY: He spent 13 years in the U.S. Army Reserves and was the first senator to endorse Trump for president.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: At this time in Americans' history, we need to make America great again.

[17:05:03] MURRAY: Another name Pence is looking to add to consideration for defense secretary, Arkansas senator and U.S. Army combat veteran Tom Cotton.

Today Trump is also turning his eye to who should serve as treasury secretary. Trump campaign finance chair and former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin; Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling; or perhaps J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

Amid transition planning, Trump's still finding time to troll his opponents on social media, tweeting about losing the popular vote: "If the election were based on total popular vote, I would have campaigned in New York, Florida and California and won even bigger and more easily."

Trump then calling the Electoral College genius, after he tweeted just four years ago, "The Electoral College is a disaster for a democracy."


MURRAY: One of the interesting things about some of the names that the Trump transition sources are floating is that they want to make it clear that they are not just looking at people who have previously served in government. They are looking at people in the private sector and even that they're looking at people who have been critical of Donald Trump in the past, even Republicans who have said that they voted for Hillary Clinton.

Now, whether any of these people actually end up in top cabinet positions, that is still an open question, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara Murray in New York City for us. Sara, thank you.

Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, has been working her sources. She's here with me. Dana, what are you hearing about all the jockeying going on underway in Trump Tower right now?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's intense and, in many ways, it's expected. You have a person who has never been in public office trying to put together a government in under 70 days and trying to not just put together a government but pick people who are going to represent an ideology and a world view that isn't completely hammered out. So these are big, big decisions to make.

Certainly, there is -- there is jockeying to the point of some infighting. I was told by a couple of sources that much of that at this point is some hard feelings by people who Chris Christie, who was the head of transition during the campaign, he had put in place and are no longer part of the transition. Some of that is because of the fact that Chris Christie is being pushed aside by team Trump. And some of it also is because that was planning for the maybe hypothetical, and this is reality.

So there's a lot of that going on. I was just told that we should not expect any big announcements for the rest of the week, that they're still trying to, you know, meet and talk and try to put all of the pieces of the puzzle, at least the big names, together. Hopefully, they hope, by the end of the week.

BLITZER: Yes. Secretary of state...

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: ... secretary of the treasury, secretary of defense, CIA director. Big names like that.

The vice president-elect, Mike Pence, he's there in New York today. So has he really taken charge? Because he replaced Chris Christie.

BASH: He has. He was in New York today, last night and today, having meetings with the president-elect, with the transition team. And I was told that they met for several hours today, that it was a productive meeting and that things are falling into place.

And the thing to keep in mind, I'm told -- and you know this, Wolf. You've covered transitions before. You know, let's just say, for example, our reporting is that Rudy Giuliani really wants to be the secretary of state. Well, that might happen or it might not, depending on the other pieces of the puzzle that fall into place.

Jeff Sessions, another person, by the way, who like Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump feels like, whatever they want, they get because they were so loyal from the get-go, is said to, according to several sources, Sara Murray's and mine, actually prefer the attorney general slot over the secretary of defense. But now I was just told, well, maybe he will be willing to do secretary of defense if they need somebody else for the attorney general slot.

So it's -- it's personnel, you know -- kind of a personnel checkerboard figure out. And again, they need all the pieces to fit together.

BLITZER: And they're watching that lobby over at Trump Tower very closely to see who's walking in, who's walking out.

BASH: They are. There is somebody who came in today who has had a storied and troubled relationship with Donald Trump, Ted Cruz. He came to New York. He met with the president-elect. His spokesman -- just pulling it up here -- just released a statement saying that he was happy to meet with the president-elect to talk about issues like draining the swamp and Obamacare and filling the Supreme Court.

But it is, I think, note-worthy that he, who is now going to be a senator and, he says he hopes, a partner of Donald Trump, went to meet with him to talk about legislative agenda, a whole other host of things. Because he could be a partner; he could be a thorn in his side. And an early meeting is quite notable.

BLITZER: Yes. Interesting. All right. Dana, thanks very, very much.

Joining us now, Republican Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida. He's a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. TED YOHO (R), FLORIDA: Sure, Wolf. Great to be here.

BLITZER: So what do you think about some of these names that have been suggested so far for key positions in the Trump administration?

[17:10:05] YOHO: Well, he's developed a short list, and I'm very excited about it. And I think you're going to see some jockeying. And what I would tell people is just step back, take a breath, calm down. He'll work through this.

I mean, this is a guy that came from zero to win the presidency of the United States. He's built successful businesses. He knows how to put teams together. And I think you're going to see him come together, and things will fall into place. So I have a lot of confidence in his ability and the team he's putting together.

BLITZER: What do you think about John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the Bush administration, becoming secretary of state?

YOHO: I'm excited about that. I know Mr. Bolton. I've got a lot of respect for him, as he does around the world. And I think he would represent America well and the ideologies not just of Mr. Trump but the people that sent Mr. Trump up there as the next president of the United States.

And I look forward to working with him. As you know, I sit on Foreign Affairs, and we've seen him multiple times. Very smart, very astute ambassador. And he'll represent America great.

BLITZER: He doesn't have it yet. We'll see if he does. Rudy Giuliani clearly is very interested in becoming secretary of state, as well.

YOHO: Yes.

BLITZER: There are some concerns, though, because his law firm had consulted, done business for foreign governments. Should he be nominated for the job, given that issues -- some of those -- the contacts he had with some of these foreign entities?

YOHO: Well, Wolf, I mean, that's something that would have to go through the vetting process. And if there's no doubt that what he's done is OK, I say move forward. If there's any doubt, yes, we don't want to cloud an administration. But that's in the working process. And that will all come out, and that will be vetted out and flushed out.

BLITZER: Congressman, we're getting some new information on this entire transition process. I want you to stand by. We're going to take a quick break. We'll resume our coverage right after this.


[17:156:25] BLITZER: We're discussing the Trump transition with Republican Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida, who's on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. We're going to get back to him in a moment.

Today, we have some new reporting, though, about the possibility of Trump's adult children and his son-in-law receiving top-secret security clearances. CNN's Phil Mattingly is joining us with the latest.

Phil, it now appears this was not a direct request from the president- elect.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, Wolf. What this was, was an inquiry talking about the possibility of his three oldest children and Jared Kushner, Ivanka's husband, getting security clearance. It's one that has raised a lot of questions and a few eyebrows. But also one that underscores the reality: never have grown children been this close to the president-elect and never have they also had such enormous business ties.


D. TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you, Melania.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): A trio of power-wielding advisors to the president-elect...


MATTINGLY: ... Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka, invaluable campaign surrogates. IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD D. TRUMP: I can tell you first-hand

that there's no better person to have in your corner when you're facing tough decisions or tough opponents.

MATTINGLY: All members of the president-elect's transition team and, of course, all Donald Trump's children. Add in Jared Kushner, Ivanka's husband and one of Donald Trump's closest advisors. Now, sources say, Trump's transition team has asked about the possibility for all four to receive top-secret security clearances.

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'm sure that the Trump children will be there to support their father in informal capacities.

MATTINGLY: 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. But each a potential conflict of interest because of the role they play in managing the Trump business empire.

I. TRUMP: I'm 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, SON OF DONALD TRUMP: We'll be in New York, and we'll take care of the business. I think we're going to have a lot of fun doing it. And we're 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 dollars in holdings in foreign countries and tens of millions of dollars in debt to foreign banks. How they'll handle those potential conflicts, still an open question, according to top Trump advisors.

GIULIANI: 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 Wolf, it is important to point out, no official paperwork was filed for a security clearance. No official from the president-elect. Nonetheless, Democrats already paying very close attention both to

security clearances and also to the business aspect. The House Oversight Committee Democrats, Wolf -- you know them very well -- already looking into this issue, sending a letter to Reince Priebus, the future chief of staff to Donald Trump, asking about the specifics of it. It's something that people are very interested in and will almost certainly draw scrutiny pretty regularly on the way forward.

[17:20:00] BLITZER: I'm sure they will. All right. Thanks very much. Phil Mattingly reporting.

Let's continue our conversation with Republican Congressman Ted Yoho.

Congressman, is it a conflict of interest for Trump to get top-secret security clearances for his children and his son-in-law?

YOHO: I think it would definitely be unprecedented, but it's something that he's got close advisors. He's relied on these people, you know, all the way through the campaign. And I think, whatever is done, it will be under the auspices of a, you know, fine-toothed comb. It will be done properly, and it will be transparent. And I have the utmost confidence in that.

You know, people are going to talk, and we want to make sure that the people that are around him do have the clearance. We'd have to look at the rules and regulations on that and just make sure it's done properly for the protection of this country.

And I think, when Mr. Trump was on "60 Minutes" the other day and they were talking about the business arrangement; and Ivanka says, you know, "I'm a daughter, No. 1, and that's all I want to be." And then the way they just talked about -- he's here to make this a better country, and we all want that. And I think, under that, I think you'll see them do the right thing.

BLITZER: Because he says, and the children -- the adult children have said, he will strictly focus 100 percent, like a laser, on being president of the United States.

YOHO: Right.

BLITZER: He'll have absolutely nothing to do with the Trump business, the real estate, the casinos, the golf courses and all of that. But the kids will run all of that. So there seems to be a potential for some sort of a conflict, especially if the government starts giving them secret security clearances.

YOHO: Well, I think there's always a potential of that. But I think that's also a sign of a strong leader. You know, when you put a good team together, you can step away from that. And the thing you want to do is you want to make yourself replaceable. And I think he's done that in the corporate world. He's made himself replaceable. He's got great surrogates to run those businesses. You know, the real-estate holdings of the Trump empire.

I mean, this is a guy who that's crafted a brand that's, you know, second to none around the world when it comes to excellence. And I expect him, and I think you'll see him do the same as the president of the United States of America. And I look forward to making -- helping him make it great again.

BLITZER: You heard our reporter, Sara Murray, say that there's a lot of infighting going on right now inside the Trump transition team. Jared Kushner, the son-in-law, Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, general Michael Flynn, who's apparently in charge of national security, former head of DIA, Defense Intelligence.

YOHO: Yes. Good man.

BLITZER: ... Agency. Apparently, they're not all necessarily in agreement right now. Do you think there are too many voices in this transition?

YOHO: No. I mean, I would expect people to have different opinions right now. And they're sifting through that. And you're going to see -- I mean, what are we, a week since the election? They're going through that transition. People are jockeying. You're going to see people come and go.

But I have the utmost confidence that they're going to -- they're going to be fine. That's what I said in the beginning of the segment, Wolf. Step back, take a breath, let the process work, and have faith in that process. We will get through this, and it will be a good thing.

BLITZER: As you know, Steve Bannon, former head of Breitbart, will now be one of the most influential members of Donald Trump's White House team. What do you think of him? Do you see any problems with his appointment? Do you know him?

YOHO: No, none at all. And I think -- I kind of like that, because you have Reince Priebus, who you know, was head of the Republican Party, that delivered very well for him. He knows the establishment. He knows the workings of the political insider.

But yet, with Steve Bannon there, that's a counter-balance to that. And I think that's a smart move, because you're going to weigh both sides of that, and you're going to come out and make the decision.

And again, Mr. Trump is a guy that's shown that he knows how to make that decision. And you're going to listen to both sides of that. And I look forward to that. I think -- people are going to be surprised, I think, at how well this transition moves.

BLITZER: The House speaker, Paul Ryan, told our Jake Tapper on Sunday there isn't a bill ready to replace Obamacare. Why isn't there a bill ready to go? Republicans, as you know, they've had six years to figure this out. And if the new president wants to repeal and replace, shouldn't there be legislation ready to go early on to repeal and replace new legislation?

YOHO: You're going to see that come out. There were four bills previously, but they never came up. We're at a different era now, because there were so many people that were put on Obamacare. You're going to see a transition.

And in this new repeal bill you'll see a transition period where nobody gets hurt, but it will provide for preexisting conditions. It will provide for the insurance companies to go back and sell insurance prior to Obamacare and it will be a transition, hopefully seamless. Anytime you take a major program like that and get rid of it and replace it, there is going to be some people that -- they're going to just feel like it's not working that's human nature.

But the thing is, keep in mind, our goal is to make sure everybody has access to quality care and that the ones that can't afford it that we have coverage for those folks.

BLITZER: Congressman Yoho, thanks very much for joining us.

YOHO: Wolf, it's a pleasure. Thank you.

[17:25:06] BLITZER: Coming up, we'll have more on the disarray that's apparently slowing Donald Trump's transition to the White House. Our political correspondents, reporters and experts, they are all standing by.

And later, in her own words. Megyn Kelly's shocking claim that Donald Trump threatened her only days before the first presidential debate.


BLITZER: Some are describing it as chaos right now within Trump's transition team, and it's threatening to undermine the president- elect's ability to fill out key positions within his incoming administration.

Let's discuss the very latest with our political experts.

Dana, what are you hearing about the positions, the key positions, right now, where there is this infighting going on?

[17:30:09] BASH: Well, you know, with regard to the positions, I'm not sure how much of it is infighting versus people who feel that they have worked very hard for Donald Trump, have been loyal from the beginning, like Rudy Giuliani, like Jeff Sessions, trying to stake their claim. I'm told much more so in the Giuliani camp, that for example, he says he really wants to be secretary of state.

But it's not -- it's not a done deal for several reasons. I know you were asking your guest earlier about a little bit of early concern before full vetting goes in about some of his business interests, whether that would pose a problem for him during the confirmation process as secretary of state.

But I think, big picture, what I was just told, which I think is very interesting. We talked at the beginning of the hour about the fact that there's probably not going to be an announcement this week, that part of the reason is because the first announcement, which was the Bannon/Priebus announcement, which was done by press release on Sunday, didn't go very smoothly. It left a lot of questions. Maybe a lot more questions than answers. So they want to not do that again with the big cabinet picks.

BLITZER: Yes. Usually when they announce a major position there's a news conference.

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: The president-elect, the vice-president-elect, they show up, and they're pleased to announce Mr. or Ms. X as secretary of state, secretary of defense, secretary of the treasury. They just had a press release, a piece of paper, they released on Sunday.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Yes. And what's interesting, too, is that other than the "60 Minutes" interview and, of course, his desire to tweet this morning, we haven't heard anything from Donald Trump specifically himself. I mean, he's been very quiet. And you've got to wonder if his advisors are telling him, "At this point, do not say anything. Do not say anything. Do not go out there. Let us continue to control the message."

But to your point, when they do decide to name a secretary of state, when they do decide to name somebody to head the Defense Department, will he actually come out and stand with them? Those are very, very big jobs.

What's interesting about Rudy Giuliani too, and quite frankly, Laura Ingraham, is that Rudy Giuliani goes out yesterday and publicly says he wants to be secretary of state. Who does that? I don't understand it.

BASH: Not very diplomatic.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You won't end up with the job that way.

PRESTON: He's making the story about himself. And Laura Ingraham has been on TV and is going to be on FOX tonight. And she's supposedly in contention to be the press secretary. I just think it's bizarre. I mean, for these big jobs, they tend to be quiet.

BLITZER: And all of a sudden today Mike Rogers, the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a CNN contributor -- he was part of the transition team -- announces he's resigning from that team today. That caught a lot of people by surprise.

CHALIAN: Yes, I mean, I think this is part of the Jared Kushner assertion over what was the Chris Christie portfolio of the transition, before the election. And this is clearing out all the Christie-related assignments and people brought in as Jared Kushner really asserts himself in that senior advisor aide de campe role. Clearly, there's not a lot of love lost between Jared Kushner and Chris Christie. And Mike Rogers was part of that Christie regime. And so they're trying to clear all that out.

BLITZER: Sara, what are you hearing about the possibility that Donald Trump could actually pick someone or a bunch of people who were critical of him? Maybe not a never-Trumper, along those lines, but were pretty critical of him during the campaign. How likely is that?

MURRAY: Well, they're certainly floating names for some of these key positions of people that were critical. One that stood out to me was the notion of Henry Paulson, the former treasury secretary, in the mix for secretary of state. This is someone who said publicly in an op-ed that he was voting for Hillary Clinton and, you know, noted that a Donald Trump presidency would be dangerous to the economy. And now they're saying they're adding his name to the mix.

Now, as Dana pointed out, we still believe that Rudy Giuliani, at least for now, is the favorite for that job. He's made it clear that is the job he wants. But I do think it is the Trump campaign's sort of attempt or sort of the transition team's attempt to send a signal that, "Look, we know we need to try to build a government. We know that that is going to involve bringing in thousands of people and that some of those people may have been critical of Trump in the past, but we really want the best people for this job."

But even on that front, other people who have dealt with the transition effort say that they're still getting mixed signals, that there's still a lot of animosity toward people who did not support Trump at the outset.

BLITZER: He's got -- he's got about 4,000 political appointees he's got to find.

BASH: Could I just add one thing to what Sara was just saying, which is absolutely right? It's about people not supporting Donald Trump. But the other -- there's another problem, and that is the reverse. And that is Donald Trump ran on some things that are very antithetical to what had been the traditional Republican credo. And because of the very big change, for example, since the George W. Bush administration.

And when she's talking about Hank Paulson, I've heard that name, as well. It's not even so much that he was critical of Donald Trump. Hank Paulson is Mr. Bailout.

CHALIAN: Right. Yes.

BASH: He was in charge of the bailout, which, you know, a lot people argue that saved the U.S. economy, maybe even the world economy, but for Republican base voters, that sort of helped to -- it was the dawn of the Tea Party.

[17:35:09] CHALIAN: Without a doubt.

BASH: And so I just -- that's hard to see, because those are Donald Trump's core supporters.

PRESTON: But there has been an acknowledgement, though, from Donald Trump which, shocker, that he would acknowledge something that's antithetical to what he said, you know, just a couple of days ago, is that these are the people who run Washington.

And the fact is, to your point, Wolf, you said 4,000 political jobs here. Where do you find 4,000 qualified people, you know, for these jobs? So he's going to have to go back on his promises. Question is, could he go back and pull in somebody like Hank Paulson?

CHALIAN: We are going to use the term "strange bedfellows" more often than ever to discuss the Trump administration.

BASH: And remember, we're talking about a Democrat.

CHALIAN: And the Trump relationship with the Republicans on Capitol Hill.

BLITZER: But remember, he promised to drain the swamp. And a lot of these people could be, at least to his -- his supporters, are seen as the swamp.

PRESTON: Right. No doubt.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stay with us. There's a lot more to assess right now. More information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM on this transition. We'll be right back.


[18:40:46] BLITZER: Look at this. Live pictures -- that's the lobby of Trump Tower. Fifth Avenue, New York City. We're waiting to see who emerges. We expect the vice president-elect, Mike Pence, to come out of one of those elevators soon. We'll see if he stops by and speaks with reporters. If he does, we'll have coverage.

Very, very busy day in New York as the transition is continuing one week after the presidential election.

As President-elect Trump falls further behind Hillary Clinton, though, in the popular national vote, he's reversing his previously-held position on the Electoral College, which he once called a disaster for democracy. We're back with our political experts.

Mark Preston, here's what he tweeted. "The Electoral College is actually genius, in that it brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play." He tweeted that today.

It was four years ago when Mitt Romney -- thought might win the popular vote, lose the Electoral College, he tweeted, "The Electoral College is a disaster for a democracy." So he's flipped on that in four years.

PRESTON: Shocker. So why this is a problem, I think, is because, if he is still wedded to this idea -- by the way, he's president-elect at this point -- that he's upset that people are still questioning whether he really should be president, because he didn't win the popular vote -- what happens when a big decision has to be made and half the country says to him, you know, "We don't agree with what you did," or "We don't agree with what's going on"? It's just like, why do they still allow him to use his Twitter account? I don't know.

BLITZER: Once again, these are live pictures, we're told, of Mike Pence apparently just emerged and walked out there. And we'll see if he stops and talks to reporters. We showed the popular national vote. Hillary Clinton has now more

than a million votes ahead of Donald Trump. Not that it means much, other than she can brag about that. She got a million more. Maybe she'll wind up with a lot more than a million. Still counting votes in California, for example. But you see Donald Trump, he's sensitive to that.

CHALIAN: I think at last report, about four million votes were still outstanding in California. She's going to win a big chunk of those, so she'll add to that total.

This is -- this is a fine point for Democrats to make. I have not heard one of them say Donald Trump isn't rightly the president-elect and is not able to put an administration together and get going. So I'm not sure why it's getting under Donald Trump's skin, since nobody is claiming that he shouldn't move into the White House on January 20. He clearly is going to be the next president of the United States.

The current president of the United States said as much yesterday in his press conference before he got on the plane and went to Greece. The fact that Donald Trump would allow himself to get distracted by this is what we saw during the campaign, what many people around him were hoping we wouldn't see in this phase.

BLITZER: Because usually, you have your aides, who tweet about that kind of stuff. But you're the president-elect of the United States, and you try to stay above the fray, if you will.

BASH: Yes. But, you know, we've never had a President-elect Donald Trump before. You know, it's a whole new world. And he has used Twitter to express himself, almost as therapy sometimes. I think this is one of those examples, that that is exactly what he did, for better or worse.

It is an open question, what is going to happen after he puts his hand on the Bible and he's sworn in on January 20, whether he is going to have, you know, the access to Twitter to be able to do this in the middle of the night, in the middle of the day, whatever time it is.

PRESTON: On major issues.

BASH: Yes.

PRESTON: On major world issues.

BLITZER: President Obama, he tweets also, POTUS, @potus. He tweets. He talks about issues that are important. All major figures do it, but they don't necessarily get involved in the kind of stuff that Donald Trump, at least in the campaign, got involved in. But we'll follow them on Twitter and see what they have to say.

Sara, how much of a problem does Rudy Giuliani have, because of the history of his business ties, potentially confirming him as a secretary of state?

MURRAY: Well, look, I think it would cost Donald Trump a certain amount of political capital. Our colleague, Elise Labott, was pointing out earlier today that concerns are already rising about, you know, his relationship with Citgo, a U.S. subsidiary of a Venezuelan oil conglomerate; about some of his other foreign business dealings abroad.

That said, Rudy Giuliani has been one of Donald Trump's closest advisors, one of his, you know, most loyal friends throughout this.

[17:45:00] And he is making it very clear that what he is interested in is Secretary of State. That doesn't mean that Rudy Giuliani would not be confirmed. It does not mean he would not make it through the process. It could just set yourself up for a bloody fight. And maybe that's not the first thing you want to do when you take the White House.

BLITZER: I heard Rudy Giuliani, when his name came up -- or Senator Rand Paul spoke with me earlier today, made it clear he's going to vote against it and potentially he could try to block that nomination.

BASH: And, you know, look, other people might do the same on the Democratic side. I mean, that's a perfect example of no matter who you put in there, no matter who is in the White House, you are going to have senators like Rand Paul on the Republican side and maybe even a Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side who used to do this from time to time against President Obama's nominees and will continue to do so.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stay with us. Don't go too far away. To our viewers, please be sure to check out the first ever book from CNN Politics. It's called "Unprecedented: The Election That Changed Everything." It's in stores starting December 6th. You could preorder your copy today, right now, at

Coming up, we'll have much more on Donald Trump's tumultuous transition to the White House. Who is in line for the most coveted, most important jobs in the new administration?

But, first, stunning allegations from Megyn Kelly. The Fox News anchor is claiming that Trump threatened her just days before she co- moderated the first presidential primary debate.


[17:51:02] BLITZER: Tough questions from Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly ignited a long simmering public feud with President-elect Trump, but a new book by Kelly claims that Trump's private treatment of her was even more threatening.

Brian Todd has the details of the explosive new allegations. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, Megyn Kelly is saying that Donald Trump threatened her over the phone shortly before that first Republican debate last year. It is amongst some incendiary allegations in Kelly's new book in which she claims that Trump came after her, quote, "like a dog" for months and that she had to take security precautions for her family. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): New allegations tonight of a personal vendetta from President-elect Trump and a threat against one of the biggest stars in T.V. news. Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly says, just days before she moderated the first presidential debate, Donald Trump called her. Kelly told Dr. Phil the candidate was not happy about one of her interviews

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL ANCHOR: He called me up and threatened me and made very clear to me that he was extremely displeased. He started screaming at me. He hung up the phone.

TODD (voice-over): Trump was angry over Kelly's interview with an author who had discussed court testimony from Trump's first wife that Trump had raped her. Ivana Trump later said the allegation wasn't true.

What was the Trump's threat to Kelly? In her new book, Kelly writes that Trump said, quote, "I almost unleashed my beautiful Twitter account against you and I still may."

ERIK WEMPLE, MEDIA CRITIC, THE WASHINGTON POST: You might not think, oh, that's that bad, but it is what happens with the followers that is really, really nasty and that can really, really hurt you. And make you scared.

TODD (voice-over): A few days after Trump's alleged threat, Kelly asked the candidate one of the most explosive questions in debate history.

KELLY: You've called the women you don't like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as President?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I say is what I say. And honestly, Megyn, if you don't like it, I'm sorry.

TODD (voice-over): After that, Trump did unleash his Twitter account at Kelly calling her a light weight, overrated, crazy. Kelly says, by doing that, Trump flipped the switch with his followers who called her worse names, she says, and threatened her. She spoke to ABC about it.

KELLY: It definitely posed these challenges when he was coming after me so relentlessly and causing security issues in my life and the life of my family. He came after me like a dog with a bone for nine months.

TODD (voice-over): Kelly writes that, at one point, her young daughter told her she was scared of Donald Trump. Quote, "He wants to hurt me."

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the questions about Donald Trump's temperament were the biggest single head wind that he faced in the election. And what the exit poll told us is that those concerns, those fears, those anxieties, remained remarkably widespread even among many people who voted for him.

TODD (voice-over): Kelly says when she met Trump at his Manhattan home earlier this year, they got past their feud.

KELLY: He has a magnanimous piece of him. He has a charming piece to him as well.

TODD (voice-over): In the book, Kelly also has strong allegations against her former boss, Roger Ailes. She says that then Fox News Chairman sexually harassed her repeatedly starting in 2005. Ailes, who served as an adviser to the Trump campaign, vehemently denials the allegation.


TODD: Now, we reached out repeatedly to President-elect Trump's transition team in calls, texts, and e-mails today for their response to Megyn Kelly's claims that Donald Trump threatened her. We have not heard back from them. Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, there's also some criticism tonight of Megyn Kelly herself for the timing, the release, of this book.

TODD: A lot of people asking questions about that, Wolf. Erik Wemple of "The Washington Post," their media critic, he says Kelly's decision to release the book after the election was, quote, "an awful one." Eric Wemple says if she had information like that about Donald Trump, she should have released it before the election when it relevant to who he was as a candidate.

Eric Wemple points out other reporting from other news outlets like here at CNN, "The Washington Post," "New York Times." That reporting, he says, bounced off the public because it came from main stream outlets. He says because Kelly works for Fox News, what says has instant credibility with the people who might have voted for Trump, and he says she sat on that until after the election.

Now, we pressed Kelly's publisher for a response to Wemple's criticism. We have not gotten a response to that, Wolf.

[17:55:07] BLITZER: All right. Brian, thanks very much. Brian Todd, reporting.

Coming up, new reporting on the infighting and the disarray inside Donald Trump's transition team.

Plus, today's important milestone in the transition as the President- elect receives his first briefing on the nation's most important secrets.


[17:59:49] BLITZER: Happening now. Palace intrigue. Sources are telling CNN a fierce infighting as Donald Trump tries to put together a Cabinet. Top insiders are said to be jockeying for key roles in the new administration while others are being ousted from the Trump team. Why did Trump rival turned surrogate Dr. Ben Carson take himself out of the running?