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Trump Denies Transition Team in Turmoil; Republican Congress to Overturn Earmarks Ban; Giuliani's Past Business Ties Could Nix Secretary of State Position; Pelosi Could Lose Democratic Leadership Job. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 16, 2016 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] MARTHA KUMAR, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE TRANSITION PROJECT & PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, TOWSON UNIVERSITY: But in some ways, it harmed them, because it was difficult for them to bring in people from nonprofits, who had worked on particular issues, like la Raza, so they required waivers.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Because they were registered lobbyists for these nonprofits?


KUMAR: Right.


DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Some of the questions here, right, are they ready for primetime? You know, if you don't put together a protective pool, which is a small group of reporters that always follow the president or, in this case, the president-elect, about abridging the press, and a lot of this they don't know how to do. Maybe disinclined to do it. And there are a lot of people in the capital start saying, whoa, this is not how government gets run.


BLITZER: I'm sure they will learn.

BORGER: This is a category 5. Ok? It's coming into Washington. And everybody's got to recognize that it's going to be done differently.

BLITZER: And they have to fill 4,000 political appointee jobs, which is a lot of work in a limited period of time.

Stick around.

Happening now also, House Republicans are getting ready to vote on a spending bill which could throw out a key part of John Boehner's legacy. We'll go up to Capitol Hill, live, right after the break.


[13:35:33] BLITZER: Welcome back. Remember that famous bridge to nowhere in Alaska? A $223 million illustration of government excess? The Republican-led House shut that down in 2011 by banning pork projects like that bridge. But this hour, the still Republican-led House of Representatives could move to undo that ban.

Our senior political reporter, Manu Raju, joins us from Capitol Hill right now.

Why do Republicans want to overturn that ban on these appropriations called earmarks?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right, Wolf. Actually, a lot of lawmakers from both parties believe they've ceded too much authority to the executive branch by eliminating this kind of spending, what critics call pork barrel projects. All these lawmakers say it's the job of Congress to direct that money to key priorities, whether it's bridges, roads, other projects back home in their districts and their states. And also, they believe politically it helps them. They can point to funding they've brought back home when they campaign for re-election.

The critics -- there are ample size of them, particularly conservative critics -- believe that this breeds corruption, conflicts of interest. Special interests could get money, as well as donors, and that's one reason why there's been a lot of opposition from conservative groups to bringing back these so-called earmarks.

But this vote is happening behind closed doors and also by secret ballot, so we're not quite sure how this could turn out. Members could say they voted one way, but because it's a secret, we'll never know how they voted. We'll see how it turns out. It could be close -- Wolf?

BLITZER: It's interesting they want to get rid of these so-called earmarks as a Republican administration is coming in suggesting Republicans don't trust the administration as much as they say they do?

RAJU: It would undercut Donald Trump's key campaign promise to drain the swamp, because as we know, the kind of projects would be a windfall for lobbyists in Washington, who would be pushing very hard to ensure that a lot of these projects are included in these appropriations bills, in order that their clients get funded. So, in a lot of ways, it would undercut Donald Trump's main campaign theme, but there's a lot of members of Congress who believe that it's their job to direct spending, how they see fit -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Sounds rather bureaucratic but significant with the taxpayers' money. Ver significant, indeed.

Manu, thank you. Let us know how it turns out.

Coming up, new questions surfing over Rudy Giuliani's business ties and whether his past should disqualify him as a potential secretary of state. We'll discuss, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:42:36] BLITZER: These are live pictures we're showing you now from the vice president's residence at the Naval Observatory here in Washington, D.C. Vice President Biden has been meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence. They've been going over various issues involving the vice presidency of the United States. Both men are about to emerge. They've also had lunch there. They're going to be speaking to reporters. We'll have live coverage and see what the vice president and the vice president-elect have to say.

Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani is a top contender to become the next secretary of state in the Trump administration. The former New York City mayor has been a major critic of Hillary Clinton's time as secretary of state, citing conflicts of interest because of her ties to the Clinton Foundation. But Giuliani himself could end up with some major conflicts of interest himself if he goes through a confirmation process because of his own paid consulting work involving foreign entities.

Our chief investigative reporter, Drew Griffin, has looked into this story for us. He joins us from the CNN Center.

Drew, what have you learned?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Rudy Giuliani became a famous national politician on 9/11 when he was mayor of New York City during that terrible terrorist attack. But when he left office three months after the attack, that fame and reputation began earning him a lot of money. He turned it and translated - he could never turn it into a higher office but he did after the attack go out and start making a lot of money. He became extremely rich doing it.

He began giving speeches worldwide. He created -- actually joined a huge law firm and create a security consulting company. He sold his services basically, Wolf, across the globe. So, that is coming back to haunt him. He did business deals in Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, the government of Qatar. He had security contracts in Chile, Mexico City, El Salvador. His law firm even represented the U.S. subsidiary of Venezuela's state-run oil company.

There's an explanation, Wolf, for all of these. And they are all legal deals that made them tens of millions are dollars. But what will be hard for Giuliani to explain are his own sharp words on the campaign trail about the Clintons and their overseas business.


RUDY GIULIANI, (R), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: The Clinton Foundation to me is a racketeering enterprise and the State Department was a Pay-for-Play organization.

The Clinton Foundation is a fraud.

That's classic Pay-to-Play.

She did favors for those very people who gave money to the Clinton Foundation.

(voice-over): I think it's a racketeering enterprise.

GIULIANI (on camera): I would probably indict the Clinton Foundation as a racketeering enterprise.

Turning the State Department into a Pay-for-Play operation.


[13:45:16] GRIFFIN: You can argue, Wolf, that the particulars are just not the same, but I know Senator Rand Paul told you yesterday, Giuliani's business deals raise some concerns about his confirmation, if selected for the secretary of state position. And Senator Paul, of course, you know is a Republican. I'm sure Democrats would look at all this overseas business and try to make any confirmation very tough for Rudy Giuliani -- Wolf?

BLITZER: As you know, if you represent foreign entities, foreign governments here in Washington, you have to register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. You know if Rudy Giuliani or members of his team registered as foreign agents?

GRIFFIN: They are so many members of his team we haven't been able to go through all of them. We can tell you Rudy Giuliani did not and, apparently, did not have to. He was not representing those agencies in relation to the United States. Mostly, he was advising them on security issues, helping them structurally within their organization. So, he was not required to register.

BLITZER: And finally, what about his ties to an Iranian exile group that, until four years ago, the State Department considered to be a terrorist organization?

GRIFFIN: That group is getting a lot of press now, even being called this mysterious Iranian group. They'll really not mysterious at all. It is confusing. They were part of the Iranian Revolution and quickly fell out of favor with the ayatollah, or kicked out of basically of Iran, living in exile, their leadership in Paris. They've got lots of bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Ed Rendell spoke to them. Howard Dean spoke to them. You know, obviously, Rudy Giuliani has spoken on their behalf. And it was Secretary Clinton that dropped them from the foreign terrorist organization.

I don't think that's going to be as big a problem. They're are a confusing group, considered more of a cult group nowadays, Wolf, but that won't get in the way as much as his business deals will.

BLITZER: Drew Griffin doing some good reporting. Thanks very much.

Up next, Democrats delayed their House leadership elections. What the move might signal for the future of the party and the longtime leader in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:51:22] BLITZER: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says she wants to keep her job, but some House members are pushing for someone other than Nancy Pelosi.

Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego is one of the members who is concerned Democrats need a different type of leader to deal with Donald Trump's presidency.

Congressman, thank you for joining us.

REP. RUBEN GALLEGO, (D), ARIZONA: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Why are you concerned about Nancy Pelosi staying around as Democratic leader in the House?

GALLEGO: I'm not saying Nancy Pelosi can't stay around as leader, but we are asking that she has to start taking reforms and changes that are important for the future of this caucus and the Democratic Party. Business as usual has not worked. And this is not an issue of us going left or right. This is about us either going backwards or moving forward. And we need to be moving forward for the American citizens right now and we don't feel that that's occurring under current management right now.

BLITZER: Yesterday, she was told that she wasn't going to be reelected. They're going to delay that vote for a couple of weeks. Are you trying to send a message that maybe it's time for new leadership?

GALLEGO: I'm trying to send a message that we need to do some radical change within this caucus. And if we're going to have leaders, no matter who it is, they should do three things that are important. Number one, we need to have a focus on the future. That means that this caucus has to have more power submitted down to some of these younger members. We'll be here and we're going to be living through the Trump years for many years and we're going to have to be the ones leading the fight. And we're closer to the ground for many of the people that are affected by what's going on with this economy.

Number two, we're also asking that we have a grass-roots movement up to assure that, from now on, instead of just coming in at the last minute to these races and trying to recruit people to run, that we're working in the communities and making sure we're finding the right people to run for office and building them so we have all these members of Congress ready to go on these election years.

Lastly, we want to campaign on values. It's -- it's clear that just saying the other person is bad is not going to win us elections. What we need to focus on is going back and explaining to the person that is the steel worker, that is the Latino in Arizona, the Democratic Party is the party of the worker. We're here to protect you from Wall Street. We'll be here to make sure you have an opportunity of the American dream like anyone else deserves. And that cuts across all demographic lines. Right now, I don't believe that we're having that message. That's why we're having not - we're not having success we want. Any leader, whether Leader Pelosi or anybody else, needs to adapt that type of, I think, strategy in order for us to have success in the future.

BLITZER: Democratic Representative Tim Ryan, of Ohio, his name has been floated as a potential opponent to Nancy Pelosi. When you vote down the road, would you back Ryan or do you have someone else potentially in mind?

GALLEGO: Again, it depends on if they're willing to listen. Just because we have a new leader coming in and they're not necessarily going to change any of the reforms and keep things the status quo, I don't think that will benefit caucus whatsoever. I will look at everybody thinking about running but they have to answer at least those three fundamental things about where we're going as a caucus. Because we've seen this time and time again. We're always coming up short. And, again, our success is just not happening in this business as usual here in Congress is not going to work out for Democrats.

BLITZER: Right now, do you have confidence Nancy Pelosi can move you in the direction you want to see Democrats in the House go?

GALLEGO: I'm going to keep myself open to this, Wolf. I want to make sure that, you know, she clearly listens to many of us that have been asking for these types of reform. This is not the first year we've talked about this. But I hope she's listening loud and clear to understand that we do care about this caucus. We care about the future of this country. And this is why we're asking for these types of changes.

BLITZER: Your gains, the Democrats' gains in the House, very, very minor this time in the Senate, very minor in the state races, legislators, governors' races. You guys, bottom line, did not do well. Really quickly, what's the biggest reason why?

[13:55:22] GALLEGO: We have to get people to come out to vote for something, not against someone. And for too long, I think we were focusing on trying to convince people that some person is bad or Donald Trump is bad. But we need to give them some inspiration for them to come out and vote, give them hope that all their hard work is going to pay off and that the American dream has not left them. Until we do that, we're always going to be racing to the bottom.

BLITZER: Representative Gallego, thank you so much for joining us.

GALLEGO: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Good discussion.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back 5:00 p.m. eastern in "The Situation Room."

For our international viewers, "Amanpour" is next.

For our north American viewers, NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin will start after a quick break.