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Congressional Republicans Consider Ryan's Future; Trump, Pence Meeting for Cabinet Picks; Pelosi Could Lose House Leadership Position; Giuliani Says Won't be Attorney General, Maybe Secretary of State; Interview with Sen. Rand Paul; Paul Ryan Re-Elected House Speaker. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired November 15, 2016 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[13:30:00] REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Donald Trump is a multibillionaire, successful businessman, who has been so successful because he's surrounded himself with good people. He is a man who has created tens of thousands of jobs because he gets good advice from people surrounded about him. What's wrong with that? That's a good thing.
We are going to focus on doing a good job in Congress. We're going to do everything we can to help him be as successful as he's going to be, which I think he'll be a very successful president. We have an exciting agenda and we're excited to get to work for the American people.
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MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Paul Ryan also downplaying concerns about Steve Bannon, the controversial top adviser for Donald Trump being named to that position in the White House, saying, I want to be worrying only about results. This is a Republican Party that is trying to present, project a lot of unity, something we've not seen for a long time this entire election cycle. The feeling, much different, of course, after last week's win. Same time, Democrats are reeling, Republicans feeling pretty good.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Republicans seem to be pretty united. I spoke with Congressman Mark Meadows yesterday, of the Freedom Caucus, and he was upbeat about the speaker. He says there will be no resistance to Paul Ryan, speaker of the House.
Very different picture, though, emerging on the Democratic leadership front. What are you hearing about that, Manu?
RAJU: That's right. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, wanted to move forward with a leadership election this Thursday, to re-elect her. But some members said we need to put the brakes on that and have more time to discuss what went wrong last week in the election results and, as a result, they agreed to delay those leadership elections until after Thanksgiving, something that Pelosi did not want to do but was essentially forced to by her members. That could potentially lead to a challenge for Nancy Pelosi. Tim Ryan, the Congressman from Ohio, is considering a run against her. But Pelosi has a lot of support within her caucus. There's a chance she'll get re-elected even if she does have a challenge. It shows tension still remaining within the Democratic caucus as it tries to figure out a way forward after last week's results -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Democrats trying to figure out what happened and where they go from here.
Manu, soon as you get the definitive word there, let us know.
Coming up, President-elect Donald Trump, a meeting now inside Trump Tower with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who's in charge of the transition. They're deciding who will round out Trump's cabinet. Their decisions that could come literally at any moment now. Who's on the short list, and what does each pick say about Donald Trump's White House? We'll discuss that and much more with Senator Rand Paul. He's up on Capitol Hill. You see him right there. He'll join us live right after this quick break.
[13:32:05] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: There are breaking news involving the New York City -- former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, mentioned for several top cabinet posts in the new Trump administration. Giuliani says he won't be the attorney general of the United States but isn't ruling out other positions and lots of talk about him potentially becoming the secretary of state.
Joining us now, CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, with new information.
Elise, what are you hearing?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, even as early as yesterday and this morning, Wolf, we're reading about Rudy Giuliani even laying out a foreign policy vision, perhaps tilting his hand as being the next secretary of state. But sources familiar with some of the transition talks going on within the President-elect Trump's transition team are saying that now that Rudy Giuliani's prior business ties to international countries, international firms, could pose a problem, and obviously, as some of these candidates are being vetted right now, this is one of the things that they're looking at.
In particular, I'm hearing that some of the lobbying that a law firm based in Houston did for Citgo, which, as you know, the U.S. subsidiary of the Venezuelan oil company, is raising a lot of eyebrows. That's something they're talking about. We're talked a lot about how President-elect Trump has talked about "draining the swamp." He was very critical of ties to the Clinton Foundation had with foreign governments. Obviously, the President-elect wants to be very careful about the team he's putting in.
These types of controversies are not old for Rudy Giuliani. Remember, when he ran for president in 2008, his firm, Giuliani Partners, came under scrutiny for some of its advising and contacts it took from the government of Qatar. All of these international dealings that Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, has done since he left office are going to be raising a lot of eyebrows and certainly a concern as they move forward for the confirmation of a top U.S. diplomat -- Wolf?
# All right. I'm sure there's a lot of vetting going on now.
Elise, thank you very much.
Elise Labott reporting.
Let's get reaction to this and more. U.S. Senator Rand Paul is joining us. He's the Republican senator from Kentucky. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and the Homeland Security Committee.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, so what's your reaction to what Elise just reported about Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor?
Do you think he would be a good secretary of State?
PAUL: Well, I think it is worrisome, some of the ties to foreign governments, because that was a big complaint about many of us with Hillary Clinton and her ties and the money she received from foreign governments.
So, whether or not you have divided loyalty, obviously, is very important.
But I think more important than that is I think Trump should pick a secretary of State that agrees with his foreign policy. And the thing Donald Trump said over and over again was that he was opposed to the Iraq War and he learned that lesson that regime change in the Middle East was not a good idea and yet I don't see Giuliani coming out with statements like that. I certainly don't see John Bolton. I think both of them have been big cheerleaders for the Iraq War and for more intervention in the Middle East.
So, I hope Donald Trump will pick somebody consistent with what he said on the campaign trail. Iraq War was a mistake. Regime change in the Middle East is a mistake.
[13:40:29] BLITZER: Because John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the Bush administration, I know you've written very, very sharp words criticizing him.
You would be totally opposed.
Would you go so far as not to vote to confirm him as secretary of State if president-elect -- or President Trump goes ahead and nominates him? PAUL: I couldn't vote for Bolton unless he repudiated his support for the Iraq War and repudiated his support for regime change throughout the Middle East, repudiated his call for immediately bombing Iran.
I mean really, you want to have a diplomat in charge of diplomacy. You don't want a bomb thrower.
And so, no, John -- John Bolton is totally unfit to be secretary of State and I hope that the Trump administration will say, you know what, he does not represent what Donald Trump represents, which is change and which is the understanding the Iraq War was a mistake and that regime change in the Middle East has been a mistake.
BLITZER: And Rudy Giuliani, what about him?
Would you vote to confirm him?
PAUL: You know, I think it's less clear. I think Giuliani shares most of John Bolton's statements toward Iran, toward the Iraq War.
I'd say it's a stiff uphill climb for me with Giuliani, because he would have to convince me that he understands now the Iraq War was a mistake. And I've never heard anything like that coming from him.
So, really, I think Giuliani and Bolton are very similar. Bolton just has a more extensive cheerleading background with regard to war in the Middle East.
BLITZER: The other names we've heard, Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House. We've heard his name, Richard Haas, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, your colleagues, Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Quickly, give me your thoughts on them.
PAUL: Any of them would be better than Giuliani or Bolton. I know Bob Corker well. He's not in exactly the same place as I am on foreign policy, but I would call him a realist. I would call him a reasonable person. I would call him a person who would seek peace as a first option rather than war, a steady hand, somebody who has, you know, is thoughtful.
And so, yes, Corker would be way better than either Giuliani or Bolton. And if they feel like they have to give Giuliani a position, give him a position that doesn't put him in direct conflict with everything that Trump has said. He could be somewhere, but just don't put him in a position that would be in direct conflict to Donald Trump saying 1,000 times on the campaign trail that he was against the Iraq War.
BLITZER: We've heard some potential intelligence chief names being thrown out there. Let me put a few up on the screen. Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, maybe national security adviser to the president in the White House. He's a former head of DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency. Retired Lieutenant General Ron Burgess for director of National Intelligence. Former Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra, CIA director. He's a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Are you familiar with them?
PAUL: Yes, I know all the names. I don't know them personally.
But my question to anybody that wants to be in charge of our intelligence would be, will you defend the Fourth Amendment?
Will you defend the American citizen's right to privacy and will you try to do a better job at searching for the records of terrorists and less of a generalized sweep of all of our records?
The one common theme to every -- just virtually every domestic terrorist attack has been that they have been investigated by the FBI before the attack and the FBI has said, oh, they weren't a credible threat.
So, I think the FBI needs to reformat, reboot, and recharge how they do investigations. They need to be kept open longer, but they need to investigate terrorists, people for whom they have suspicion of terrorism and not be grabbing up all the records of innocent Americans.
BLITZER: You've heard these reports that the president-elect is thinking maybe of asking the intelligence community to give top secret security clearances to his adult children, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has certainly emerged as a key adviser.
Would you have a problem with that?
PAUL: You know, I think you have to look at individuals. Just because they're related to someone doesn't mean -- make -- make them ineligible for taking a high position. So, you know, John Kennedy had Robert Kennedy in his cabinet. So, I think we have seen people appoint people from their family. We've never seen children.
But I'm not to say that it's automatically excludes them. I think it depends on what they stand for, who they are. And they would have to be analyzed in that fashion.
But I would not make a -- just a comment saying no. I take we ought to look at the facts.
BLITZER: One final question, Senator, before I let you go.
What do you think of Steve Bannon?
The president-elect named him a senior counselor at the White House, senior adviser.
What do you think of him?
[13:45:12] PAUL: You know, I think there's a lot of sour grapes out there. After people lose the election, they're pointing fingers. They're wanting to make him into a caricature. I've met him. I don't think he's a caricature of any of these horrible things the left is bringing out about him.
I don't believe him to be a racist. I don't believe him to be anyone who categorizes anybody based on their race or -- or otherwise, or their religion.
I think that's a lot of just sour grapes. Let's give the guy a chance. Let's see how he performs and really, I think it's the results we should look at. Look at what he says, where he is going moving forward and judge that.
But let's not make him into a caricature just because people are unhappy about the election.
BLITZER: Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
PAUL: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.
More on the Trump transition coming up and details on potential picks. What could shape the President-elect's choices? Looking at like pictures of Trump Tower, Fifth Avenue, New York City.
We'll be right there.
[13:50:01] BLITZER: Let's get back to our panel. David Chalian is still with us, our political director; Jackie Kucinich, CNN political analyst, Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast"; Molly Ball is with us, senior political writer for "The Atlantic"; and retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt.
General, you're hearing names for secretary of defense, national security advisor, CIA, security director, National Intelligence director. What is your analysis of the names coming out?
BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, RETIED U.S. ARMY: At this point, I think we're seeing good names, people that have a lot of experience that the foreign policy field, people that understand the Middle East, people that understand putting American troops on the ground. I think that's a prerequisite for the advisors that will surround any President- elect.
BLITZER: Rudy Giuliani, does he have what it takes to be a secretary of state?
KIMMITT: Well, I'm not going to comment on any particular person. And it seems from my area, the Middle East, he has a good understanding of the issues at hand and he's very much in line with President-elect Trump in terms of how he sees how we can improve the atrocious situation we have in the Middle East right now.
BLITZER: What about -- and you don't have to give me an analysis now if you don't want to -- retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, former head of the DIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, who's widely been speculated to become the president's national security advisor.
KIMMITT: We've had a number of generals in the past, Brent Scowcroft, Jim Jones. they bring to the job the understanding of how to bring the department of defense and the department of state into the conversation to give the best advice to the president and I'm certain General Flynn would be able to do that.
BLITZER: And Colin Powell, let's not forget --
BLITZER: -- he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then became a national security advisor as swell.
David Chalian, these decisions that the President-elect makes between now and when he's sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, they will have an impact four years and eight years.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: No doubt. It's the formulation of your policy making apparatus. Obviously, it's not permanent. We see people lose their jobs or new people come in and these jobs can change. But it's the first significant indication we get about how Donald Trump plans to govern. So, when we look at his national security picks -- you heard Rand Paul pushing back against John Bolton because it gives him a clue about how things may proceed in a Trump administration. So, that's what we assess and why these initial picks are so important.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And particularly for a Trump administration, because this is someone that doesn't have a record as a politician or military leader going back like we've seen with presidents before him. So, this will give us an indication of where he plans to go because we don't know where he's been.
BLITZER: It was interesting, Molly, to hear Senator Rand Paul say to the president -- he was talking to us, talking to the world but he was also talking the President-elect Trump who says, "Pick someone who thinks the Iraq war was a disaster, pick someone who thinks Qaddafi was a disaster, pick someone like you, who thinks the regime change has been a disaster. That was a strong message he was sending to the President-elect.
MOLLY BALL, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Very unambiguous. Trump has no record in office a sense of his inclination, he's said so many conflicting things on the campaign trail. He didn't formulate a big sheaf of foreign policy white papers on his web site. He'd say one thing on the stump and say the mutually exclusive thing at the same time which enabled people to hear whatever they wanted to out of his rhetoric so people like Rand Paul heard Trump talk and say, OK, he's a non-interventionist like me. Other people heard him say, "We're going to bomb the you-know-what out of ISIS," and the think OK, he's like John Bolton, he wants massive military might. As David was saying, this is the most important first signal we'll get about what -- when the Trump has to make policy and can't say what everybody wants to hear what is the direction he wants to go?
BLITZER: General Kimmitt, during the campaign, almost every speech, almost every rally we heard from Trump, he railed against the Iran nuclear deal, saying it was a disaster, billions of dollars in cash flowing to Iran. Now that he'll be the president of the United States, can he unilaterally eliminate it, remove it, say it's over?
KIMMITT: First of all, I think what he's been saying recently is that he is going to abide by it, but he's going to make sure it's enforced. Iranians have violated the terms of the agreement by overproducing their heavy water. I don't think that a President Trump is going to sit back and allow the terms of the agreement to be violated, to draw a red line that won't be crossed. What you'll see as a president in the Middle East that will show resolve, consistency, and tack back to the traditional allies that you have.
[13:55:19] BLITZER: It's interesting he did have a phone call, David, with Putin yesterday and, apparently, it was a pretty smooth call.
CHALIAN: And it was a clear elbow to the Obama administration as well in the readout of that call that they both committed to better relations, admitting relations between the two countries are off course.
BLITZER: We have breaking news coming in from Capitol Hill right now.
Let's go to Manu Raju.
Manu, can you hear me? We understand you have the final word on the future of the speaker of the House.
RAJU: That's right. Paul Ryan will be the next speaker of the House. The House Republican conference just nominated Paul Ryan in a vote. We are told by sources in the room who said he was overwhelmingly supported by his Republican conference. This is one step for him to be reelected speaker. This is the nomination vote. So, each side puts up its nominee for speaker, and Republicans, since they will be in the House -- in the majority and the new Congress, it means that Ryan will be the speaker of the House. This was the nomination vote. In January, it will be the full vote in the House of Representatives. Now that vote on the floor, Paul Ryan can lose no more than 20 votes or so, Wolf. Right now, Republicans are expected to have 238 votes on the floor in the chamber next Congress at least. They may have a few more because outstanding. He can't lose more than 20 votes on the House floor and that's not going to happen. I'm told it's a unified conference even though there was some dissension going in from the House Freedom Caucus. But he was nominated by one member of the House Freedom Caucus, Mick Mulvaney, of South Carolina, as well as Chris Collins, a long-time Trump supporter. And Paul Ryan's position over Donald Trump caused consternation among Trump's supporters. But Ryan has moved to alleviate those concerns. He's embraced Trump tightly in the last couple weeks. He's working with them closely as well during this transition period after the big win when they kept control of the House and Senate majority, winning back the White House. Wanting to hit the ground running in a new administration. Paul Ryan not facing push back. A much different feeling here than it was a month ago when I looked like Paul Ryan could face challenge from the right. We are hearing this vote has concluded, Paul Ryan chosen by his colleagues to be the speaker of the House by a voice vote, suggesting not a lot of dissension among his colleagues - Wolf?
BLITZER: Sounds unanimous.
We have a tweet that Paul Ryan just released. There you see it right there. "It's a tremendous honor to be nominated by my colleagues to serve as speaker of the House. Now it's time to go big."
David Chalian, when he says "go big" what does that mean day one, day two, day three with the new president.
CHALIAN: I'm surprised he didn't say "go bigley" and use the Trump term because it's largely due to Donald Trump's election as president that Paul Ryan was able to be nominated by his conference. Donald Trump's election gave Paul Ryan breathing room not only to put together what he need to do in the conference to have this nomination but to give himself some running room with the start of the new Congress. If the election had gone the other way, I think the Republicans would have been much more divisive.
BLITZER: He wanted to say big league but he's limited to 140 characters.
BLITZER: Wasn't able to do so.
What's your reaction when you hear the unanimity among Republicans.
KUCINICH: I agree with David. This really -- Trump's election saved Paul Ryan. There were a few people in there who thought Ryan separating himself hurt his chances. Now that that's not an issue, Paul Ryan is the person they want to see go forward. No one else can make a case, because he kept that House, that he shouldn't be.
BALL: Winning concentrates the mind. All of these Freedom Caucus members who were so troublesome when they were in the minority, all of a sudden they're on board. However, what's really going to be the issue is when there is policy to be passed. You have a Republican Congress whose agenda may be at odds with a President Trump and Republicans think they can roll Trump. They think because they know the system they can call the shots. We shall see who's in charge.
BLITZER: And what's interesting is Republicans moved quickly on leadership front, Democrats not so quickly at least today.
All right, guys, thanks very much.
That's it for me. I'll see you back here 5:00 p.m. eastern in "The Situation Room."
The news continues right now, right here on CNN.
[14:00:10] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me.