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Trump Team Weighing National Security Options; U.S. Representative Tim Ryan Announces Challenge to Nancy Pelosi; President-elect Donald Trump's Promises $1 trillion on Infrastructure. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 17, 2016 - 16:30   ET



[16:31:45] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

As the country waits to see just whom President-elect Trump will put on his national security team, some national security issues that he brought up as a candidate are now causing some real anxiety and anticipation.

Joining me to discuss, Olivier Knox, the chief Washington correspondent at Yahoo News, CNN political analyst Rebecca Berg who is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics, and Bill Kristol, editor of the "Weekly Standard".

We'll get to national security in a moment. But, Bill, I know you are learning something about perhaps the timing of when Donald Trump announces whom he's going to appoint to the Supreme Court.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes. Obviously, he can't make that nomination until he is president of the United States. He has to wait until January 20th. But I'm told they're seriously considering announcing whom he's going to nominate maybe as early as right after Thanksgiving.

And the idea is, first of all, let the Senate begin its background work and all that so that the person can come up quickly for hearings and a vote after January 20th. And, secondly, A, B, that's paying off something he promised to do. The conservatives will very be cheered up by the notion of a conservative replacement for Justice Scalia. There's a list of good candidates, that are mostly sitting judges. They're going to probably be very easy to rally Republicans around them.

I think the politics of this, they think, and I kind of agree with this, is it unites conservatives. A lot of Republicans had all kinds of problems about Donald Trump, but the one thing they wanted was a conservative constitutionalist replacement for Justice Scalia. The left will fight it because they always fight the Supreme Court nominations, but that's one of the rare fights that Republicans are pretty good at. And conservatives, they know, the Federalist Society, they know how to mobilize conservative lawyers to make the case. It wouldn't be bad for the president-elect in December and January to

be having a big fight on the Supreme Court nominee as opposed to a lot of coverage of the chaotic -- otherwise somewhat chaotic transition.

TAPPER: Somewhat chaotic.

Rebecca, let's talk a little bit about this database. There was talk during the campaign about a Muslim database, then there is talk about Muslim -- now a database of Muslim visitors to this country or immigrants. What's the reality here? What is the Trump team actually thinking about proposing?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we've had something like this before, Jake, as you know. After September 11th, the government implemented a similar database people coming into and leaving the country from particularly threatening perhaps regions of the world, seen as threats. They actually decided to do away with that. DHS said not only were they worried about it unfairly targeting minorities, Muslims, but it wasn't really efficient. It wasn't really effective.

So I think this is one of the questions that Trump and his team are going to have to answer as they moved forward potentially with this policy, is what problem is this actually solving, is it actually adding any information to our broader intelligence system that we already have, information about the people coming into the country. And they're going to have to address concerns about this unfairly targeting certainly religions, certain minorities and certain ethnicities.

And this has been a major concern throughout the campaign that they're unfairly targeting Muslims. So, we haven't really heard the argument from them yet about this in particular. But we're hearing it's something they're looking at. They had also talked about a travel ban during the campaign. I haven't really seen what's going to become of that.

But this is -- maybe some uneven footing to start for the Trump transition, because you don't want to start with the most controversial issues necessarily when you're becoming president and trying to unite the country.

[16:35:08] It's a really tumultuous time.

TAPPER: And, Olivier, this is one of the things that's so odd about President-elect Trump, which is he has stated positions and then stated positions that are different from that position, claimed that he never rescinded the first position, never said the second position and claimed he never said the first one. I mean, then you're kind of just left like, he can do whatever he wants and it will uphold something that he said.

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: It's like covering congressman. They say I'm going to introduce a bill that does X, Y, Z and the somehow the text of the bill never actually drops. There is never anything actually to look at. This isn't real until Donald Trump proposes it, actually does. Doesn't sort of go along with someone suggesting it. Doesn't let someone down his organization to do it. This only really becomes real when he actually says it.

TAPPER: And it also kind of ties in, Bill, in some ways with like, with some of these names we keep hearing being floated, like Frank Gaffney, who is obviously very controversial, and a lot of Muslims think he is an Islamophobe, et cetera. We're told he is part of the transition team and then we're told he's not part of the transition team. I don't know what to believe ever.

KRISTOL: I believe he's not. I believe some of his friends thought maybe they shouldn't have floated his name. He was for Trump and they probably reward him by floating his name.

But I would sort of make the opposite side of the point Rebecca is making. Generally speaking, if you look at this transition, both in the names that are being seriously considered and the policies that are being floated, they are less extreme than Donald Trump talked about in the campaign. That's certainly true of the Muslim -- of this travel issue.

Going back to the bush/Obama policy from 2002 to 2011, that's not radical change, right? It may be good idea. It may be a bad idea.

Nikki Haley as a possible secretary of state. Meeting with Mitt Romney this weekend. I think they're within the limits of Trump and Trump world, which is still somewhat confusing and complicated place.

I would say he's being more establishment, if I could use that term, than I would have expected.

TAPPER: It sounds like one of the first fights he may have on his hands will be with cities that are self-described sanctuary cities. They're proud of not enforcing federal immigration laws. If you are an undocumented immigrant, you get pulled over, you're not going to be turned over to authorities.

The sanctuary cities are saying that a lot of these undocumented communities are in crisis and they're having -- they're worried about all sorts of things, understandably so. I wonder what you think, Olivier, because if the Trump's administration's first shot on this immigration issue is, you need to enforce the law. If you don't like the law, fine, lobby Congress, change the law, but you need to enforce the law or else you're not going to get money.

I mean, is that a battle -- it seems like that's a battle they might be able to win.

KNOX: Yes, they may be able to. One of the challenges here is that the enforcement mechanism is not all that clear. You talked about money. Historically, it has to be money that's linked to, in some way to the policy question at hand. So, it's not clear that we'll define --

TAPPER: You can't take away education money, necessarily.

KNOX: To punish police departments, for example. So, it's a little bit more complicated. It's not just -- they can't just take away random, arbitrary sums of money from the cities. It is going to be a fight.

But if you are the mayor of a sanctuary city where most of your residents are proud of that status or don't feel that, say, a teacher should be reporting a child because a child is undocumented, if you're that city's mayor, if there is not really a credible enforcement mechanism, maybe you fight to a stalemate.

TAPPER: Do you think the politics on Capitol Hill -- I know Democrats think it will create a Latino surge that didn't actually materialize in 2016 but might in 2018 or 2020. Is this politically something Democrats think that they could win on?

BERG: It's actually a wedge issue I think for both parties, interestingly, because it pits not only Latinos and Hispanics against the Republican Party. Creates this opportunity for the Republican Party to really emphasize their focus on security, on border security, on helping American workers, but it's also an urban sort of thing, right? An urban issue. Cities where there are more Democrats than Republicans against the Republicans. I mean, it's kind of perfect for both parties to highlight both of their priorities.

So, I don't think either side is really going to be scared of this fight.

TAPPER: There is a -- I want to ask you about this fake news story thing because I think it's so fascinating. We just did a piece about it.

The man -- a man who has made a living off posting fake news stories from these bogus news sites that traffic went up apparently on Facebook according to "BuzzFeed" more than legitimate news stories, said of the public, "People are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore." And then he went on to slam Donald Trump, which is kind of irrelevant, or maybe not.

But what do you think of this phenomenon?

KRISTOL: No, it's really terrible. Of course, it is fake news. They have phony kind of names of the alleged news source that sound like they could be a real newspaper or a network or something like that. I thought the most interesting thing in the little package you just did on it, though, was Mike Flynn, who's been rumored to be the leading candidate to be national security advisor passed on one of those, tweeted about one, right, with a link to it.

[16:40:03] TAPPER: Yes, it's still there.

KRISTOL: I mean, he is -- it's kind of a little shocking that the former director of the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, is passing on a pretty obviously fake news story. TAPPER: It was so -- it was so bat poop crazy, I couldn't believe he

had tweeted it. It was just thing that you -- true pundit or whatever. It was saying like all of the Clintons and all these other people were involved in child sex slave rings. It was just nuts.

KRISTOL: Yes, New York Police Department investigating it.


KRISTOL: That was the claim, which maybe if you're going to be -- if you are a senior -- the senior foreign policy, national security advisor of the Trump campaign, may be you should call up the New York Police Department before you post something like that.

KNOX: Or the top Clinton aides involved in satanic ritual dinners and all that stuff.

KRISTOL: That's not true.

TAPPER: He tweeted something about that too. He tweeted something on that too.


KRISTOL: That one sounds perfectly reasonable.

KNOX: The invitations in the mail, I think.

No, not a truth factor authorization for Twitter. It doesn't say, are you sure? Are you really sure you want to tweet this? Really?

TAPPER: They should, they should.

Anyway, thanks so much, Rebecca Berg, Olivier Knox and Bill Kristol. That's a great business idea. Are you sure? The "are you sure?"

Be sure to pick up the first book from CNN Politics, "Unprecedented". It will take an in-depth look at this historic election. It will hit store shelves December 6th. And you can preorder at

The definition of insanity. That's how one Democrat describes reelecting Nancy Pelosi to her current position on the Hill. And now, it seems other Democrats might agree. That story next.

Plus, he wants to build a bridge to somewhere. Donald Trump's plan to rebuild America's infrastructure and its jaw-dropping price tag.


[16:45:00] TAPPER: We have some breaking news in our "POLITICS LEAD" this afternoon. After an election night that left democrats dazed and confused, the top democrat in the house now is facing a new and rare challenge. Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, announced moments ago, that he is challenging House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for leadership of the democrats in the House of Representatives. This, after a small group of house democrats, including Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, called for new leadership, fresh blood, and pushed to delay the democratic leadership election that could potentially replace Pelosi. Let me bring in Congressman Seth Moulton, Democrat of Massachusetts. Congressman, good to see you, as always.


TAPPER: So, first of all, what do you think the problem is for democrats? What is -- if you had to narrow it down to just one thing, is it that you're not conveying a clear enough economic message to white working-class voters? You're not motivating the base enough? What is it?

MOULTON: I'm not sure we know exactly what the problem is. There are a lot of disturbing trends in this election. Clearly, working class people feel like they don't have leadership from the Democratic Party, even when I think our economic policies are clearly helping grow the middle class. You had Hispanics and Blacks who voted for someone who's a racist on TV. So, there's clearly a disconnect there as well. The point is, that we need to take some time to have this conversation and figure it out, because after several successive election losses, clearly the status quo is not acceptable.

TAPPER: So, you got what you asked for. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi agreed to postpone the leadership elections until November 30th. So, what is your plan and do you have an alternate candidate in mind to challenge Leader Pelosi?

MOULTON: No, I'm not out there to push a certain candidate. I'm not out there to support or go against Nancy Pelosi. What I'm saying is that we need to have a serious conversation and listen to the American people to develop a new strategy, and whoever leads our party, ought to have a strategy, and that's what we ought to vote on. I came to office through a competitive primary. I had to listen to the constituents that I would come to represent. And we need to do that as a Democratic Party before we just rush into a new term, with exactly the same plan that we've always had.

TAPPER: You're from a blue state, but you were elected during a republican wave two years ago. You're 38, you're a combat veteran, you campaigned on a platform of bringing bipartisan leadership to Washington. Many see you as a rising star in the Democratic Party, why not put your name in the mix?

MOULTON: Look, I've only been here for a couple of years. I spent a lot more time in the marines than I did - than I have in congress, but I think it was important in this case for someone who was not interested in running him or herself, to stand up there and say we need to have this conversation, we need to step back, and we need to talk, and that's what we're doing.

TAPPER: Earlier today, Nancy Pelosi claimed she has two of the support of two-thirds of the democratic Caucus, which is enough to secure the leadership post she's held since 2003. You say that's not true, why? MOULTON: Well, I don't know if it's true or not. I haven't seen any of the whip lists. But again, this isn't about myself or Nancy Pelosi or any one person who might want to challenge her. It's really about the fact that clearly our strategy to date hasn't worked, and we've got to articulate a better strategy for the American people. You know, I've held a lot of town halls in my district, but the single busiest one was in one of the smallest towns that I represent, just after this election, because so many key people came out and said, "There's something wrong here. We don't want this man, Trump, to be our president, and yet, there's something wrong with the Democratic Party because people aren't voting for democrats."

So, we've got a lot of work to do. I mean, right now, we don't control the White House, we don't control the senate, we don't control the House of Representatives. We only control 16 governorships across the country, and we don't control a majority of state legislatures. So, clearly, there's something wrong, and we can't just keep going down the same old path.

TAPPER: Your colleague Congressman Tim Ryan is challenging Nancy Pelosi. Take a listen to what he had to say earlier today to CNN's Manu Raju.


TIM RYAN, UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE OF OHIO: I think people have been talking about this since 2010, and, you know, I think we've had this conversation in '10, '12, '14, '16. You know, we're at the lowest number of state and federal officials since reconstruction. We have the lowest number in our Caucus since 1929, and we've lost over 60 seats since 2010. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over, and over again, and you keep, you know, keep getting the same results. So, time to move on, I think.


[16:50:15] TAPPER: Your thoughts? Could you support Congressman Ryan?

MOULTON: I'm not throwing my support behind any candidate until I see the plan. I want to see what the strategy is going forward to clearly have a different agenda, a different message and potentially different messengers. But, you know, the thing is that democrats are really on the right side of the issues for working-class families. We're -- our economic policies will grow the middle class. We have a solid national security policy, quite different than Donald Trump's, and I think most Americans agree he's not fit to be commander-in-chief.

So we're on the right side of a lot of issues here, but clearly our plans are not resonating with the American people. So we need a new strategy, and we need to hear that from whomever is going to lead our party.

TAPPER: The top three house democrats are 76 years old, 77 years old and 76 years old. By contrast, the top three republicans in the house are 46 years old, 51 years old, and 51 years old. Do you think that's relevant?

MOULTON: I do think it's relevant. We have an incredibly diverse Caucus. Diverse in age, diverse demographics, we have people from the coast but also from Middle America. We have a very strong black Caucus in the house. We've got to hear from all those different constituencies, and I don't think we're hearing from enough of them today. And young people are a part of that. You know, young people came out and voted democratic. People of color came out and voted democratic. And yet, when you look at our leadership, you don't see a lot of young people or people of color represented.

TAPPER: All right. Congressman Seth Moulton, thank you so much, appreciate it, sir.

MOULTON: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: $1 trillion. That's how much Donald Trump wants to spend to rebuild America's bridges, roads and airports. So, where might he get that kind of money without raising taxes? We'll discuss.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: Welcome back. We're back with more on our "POLITICS LEAD." With Donald Trump's ascension into the White House, we're paying attention to his so-called contract with the American voter. One of his big promises for his first 100 days in office is working with congress to devote $1 trillion to infrastructure over the next 10 years. CNN's Rene Marsh is here with me to talk more about this. And Rene, President Obama wanted an infrastructure bill, but republicans in congress fought him on it. Is there any indication that they might be more inclined to help President-elect Trump?

RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. You know, they finally did pass that infrastructure bill, but it was $300 billion. It didn't come easy. And it really is a drop in the bucket compared to the big bucks that President Trump - president-elect Donald Trump is looking to spend. He wants to spend big money on infrastructure. But the key questions is how will fiscally conservative republicans deal with this? Will they go along with it? And can Donald Trump really deliver on his big campaign promise?


MARSH: It was a central message during President-elect Donald Trump's campaign.

DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT-ELECT: We're like a third-world nation. You look at our airports, our roads. Our infrastructure is falling apart. I'm going to start swimming across rivers and lakes now. I don't want to drive.

MARSH: A $1 trillion plan to rebuild America's infrastructure like airports and pipelines, and create thousands of jobs over 10 years. A promise he doubled down on in his victory speech.

TRUMP: We're going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none.

MARSH: To date, there are few details on what the plan would actually look like. A $1 trillion investment could cover the cost of repairing and expanding the national highway system and aging bridges, but it still falls short of the $3.6 trillion needed to restore all of the nation's infrastructure. There is bipartisan support for a plan, but on Capitol Hill, the divide is always over how to pay for it.

Republicans didn't like President Obama's $475 billion plan, so why would they like President-elect Trump's $1 trillion plan?

MARK MEADOWS, UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH CAROLINA: I think part of it is the way that you pay for it. And it's a valid point, but it's the way that you pay for it. You can't just raise taxes, because eventually that bill will come due.

MARSH: Will Donald Trump's dream of a $1 trillion infrastructure plan actually happen?

MEADOWS: Well, I think his dream will happen if we're committed to work in a bipartisan way.

MARSH: Trump hopes to entice the private sector to fund these projects with tax credits. But critics say the projects need to generate profits to sweeten the deal for private investors. And that could mean more toll roads and bridges.

MICHAEL SARGENT, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION RESEARCH ASSOCIATE: There will be a lot of local opposition to turning roads into toll roads just to do maintenance. And throwing tax credits at the problem would tend to move investment to new things rather than fixing the old things.


MARSH: Well, republicans publicly showing an appetite to make Trump's big spending infrastructure plan a reality, but after speaking privately with a lot of lawmakers as well as people within the industry, many of them do not believe that the plan that Donald Trump has outlined will actually, in the end, be the plan that we see. They believe it will be a much smaller plan. There just really isn't the stomach or the appetite for something with that sort of price tag. $1 trillion is pretty expensive.

TAPPER: That's a lot of - a lot of money, especially if you also campaigned as somebody who's going to fight to reduce the national debt.

MARSH: Exactly. So, how do you do it?

TAPPER: All right. Rene Marsh, thank you so much, appreciate it. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper or you can tweet the show @theleadcnn. We actually - we actually read the tweets. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. I'm turning it over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.