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Interview With Delaware Senator Chris Coons; Hillary Clinton Speaks Out; Trump and Romney Set to Meet; Trump Talks to Japanese PM, First Meeting with World Leader; Ohio Congressman Challenging Pelosi for Minority Leader; Terror A Possible Motive in Killing of U.S. Service Members. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 17, 2016 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:02]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He says he wants to build trust with the next U.S. commander in chief. Did they discuss Trump's remarks about Japan building its own nuclear arsenal?

Team of rivals? Trump is meeting with some of his sharpest critics, as he works to fill top positions in his upcoming administration, among them, Mitt Romney, who previously called Trump a con man, a phony and fraud. Could their meeting this weekend signal a role for Romney in the Trump Cabinet?

Stronger together. An emotional Hillary Clinton speaks out for the first time since conceding the election, urging her supporters to stay engaged. And now a surprising new strategy from her fellow Democrats in Congress, why they are pledging to work together with Trump.

And Obama's warning. President Obama delivers some stern foreign policy advice to his successor, calling on Donald Trump to stand up to Russia. The outgoing president warning against cutting deals with Vladimir Putin. Will Trump heed Obama's message?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news,Donald Trump's first meeting with a world leader since becoming president-elect.

Trump is talking face-to-face with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Trump's New York headquarters right now. It's the latest in a series of meetings that saw prominent Republicans passing through Trump Tower all day. Trump talked to more than half-a-dozen potential candidates for top administration posts.

And a source tells CNN Trump will meet this weekend with Mitt Romney, one of his sharpest GOP critics during the campaign. CNN has learned that Romney is interested in serving as secretary of state, which our source calls a serious possibility. And President Obama has a warning for Donald Trump: Stand up to

Russia. Speaking in Germany, the president urged the president-elect not to cut deals with Vladimir Putin and to maintain a strong transatlantic alliance. Obama says, otherwise, we will be giving our children a worse world.

We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including Senator Chris Coons. And our correspondents and our expert analysts, they are also standing by.

Let's begin with the Trump transition.

Our political reporter, Sara Murray, has the very latest for us.

Sara, a flurry of meetings today for the president-elect.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

And a number of surprising people have been passing through Trump Tower this week. We saw Ted Cruz earlier. Of course, today, Donald Trump met with Nikki Haley and on Saturday he will be meeting with Mitt Romney, all of this as the Trump team tries to send a signal that by they're interested in building a team of rivals.

But the big question, will Trump actually go through with picking any of these folks to serve in his Cabinet?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): Joining the top advisers, potential Cabinet picks and family members coming through Trump Towers' revolving doors, some new faces like Florida Governor Rick Scott and Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling.

Donald Trump also meeting today with South Governor Nikki Haley, a sharp critic throughout the campaign

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.

MURRAY: Now sources say she is under consideration for secretary of state. It's the latest indication, according to Trump advisers, that the president-elect is willing to look beyond past grudges as he builds his administration.

SEAN SPICER, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: It doesn't matter to him what your political party was or where you stood in the primary. If you are the best person for that job, then he wants you as part of this team.

MURRAY: All of this as Trump's top advisers say he's ready to deliver on one of his key campaign promises.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We are going to Washington, D.C., and we are going to drain the swamp. MURRAY: Advisers say Trump will enact a five-year lobbying ban after executive branch appointees leave office and a lifetime ban on representing foreign governments.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It's a major campaign promise that Donald Trump made. And he is already delivering on it during transition as the president-elect.

MURRAY: But it's unclear how Trump's team will define lobbyists and whether people will simply skirt the rules by choosing not to register as lobbyists and labeling themselves consultants instead.

One senior Trump adviser says raiding the government of lobbyists was the last straw in Trump's strained relationship with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. After Christie presented a transition memo peppered with lobbies and establishment hires, he was dismissed as head of the transition effort.

One outstanding question is where Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner will fit in the mix. A source says while Kushner will play a role in the Trump White House, it's unclear whether it will be formal or informal.

As Trump works to flesh out a government from New York, vice president-elect Mike Pence headed to Capitol Hill for meetings with members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is already tempering expectations on another of Trump's core campaign promises.

[18:05:11]

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's too early to know the answer to how fast can Obamacare relief occur. What we're focused on is how do we get Obamacare repealed and what we replace it with so that we can get that relief to the American families as fast as possible.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, one of the things Trump's advisers are making clear is Donald Trump is not feeling any pressure to rush and name people who will serve in his Cabinet. He's had a number of meetings. He has a number of meetings coming up.

And, frankly, he's enjoying that. He likes to be able to pick the brains of those various people who are passing through Trump Tower, and he wants to have as much information as possible before he begins to name his Cabinet picks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: CNN's Sara Murray, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on the breaking news, Donald Trump's meeting that is under way right now with the Japanese prime minister over at Trump Tower in New York.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, has the very latest just outside of Trump Tower.

So, Jim, Japan obviously a critical U.S. ally.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.

This is where campaign rhetoric meets the reality of governing. Donald Trump is meeting with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, right now. I should caution though that there appears to be a big gaggle inside the lobby of Trump Tower right now, Wolf, so we're waiting to find out whether or not that meeting has ended.

But, as you said, there are lots of important issues for the Japanese prime minister to talk about with the president-elect, chief among them, he talked about this, Donald Trump's past rhetoric saying that perhaps Japan should defend itself on the world stage in that volatile region, being close to North Korea, and perhaps even have its own nuclear arsenal.

But, Wolf, there are some pressing economic issues as well. Keep in mind, Donald Trump has talked about tariffs on Japanese goods if they don't remove their tariffs on American goods that are imported into Japan. He's also -- Donald Trump has said full stop that he's not going to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership that President Obama was trying to hammer into some kind of agreement or law before he leaves office.

Obviously, that's not going to happen. And so there are plenty of issues for the Japanese prime minister to talk about. The transition points out that Donald Trump has met with some 32 world leaders so far. He and the vice president-elect have met with some 32 foreign leaders so far.

We expect more of those meetings to come in the weeks ahead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All phone calls so far, but there will be many more face-to- face meetings, I assume. All right, Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Let's get more on all of this.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware is joining us. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks very much.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, so Donald Trump meeting right now with the prime minister, Japanese Prime Minister Abe. It's a private meeting going on as we speak.

Are you encouraged that Trump is holding these face-to-face meetings now, starting with Prime Minister Abe, in New York?

COONS: Well, given Donald Trump's very limited previous experience in foreign affairs and foreign policy, I think it's vital that he have meetings such as this both to get to know our vital allies around the world and to hopefully reassure them.

Some of his rhetoric in the course of the campaign about NATO, about our vital allies in the Pacific Rim like South Korea and Japan, I think, were truly troubling to those who have been our reliable, trusted allies for decades, and upon whom we have built our security architecture around the world.

So it's my hope that these are constructive and informative meetings for Donald Trump. And it's my hope that the stories that we have heard, you mentioned a number of names in the introduction about who he might consider for secretary of state, also suggests he's willing to overlook the slights and the fights of the campaign and to consider folks, even those who criticized him in the past, who might have some greater international experience, than folks who were mentioned in the first couple of days.

BLITZER: Yes, I assume you're referring to Mitt Romney. Is he someone you could easily vote to confirm?

COONS: Well, I think we owe it to the American people to have a full confirmation hearing process, regardless of who is nominated, whether it's for Supreme Court justice or attorney general or secretary of state.

But Mitt Romney certainly brings the kind of senior government experience as governor, as a candidate for president, and as someone I will remind you who in 2012 in the presidential campaign said that he saw Russia as one of the greatest security challenges we would face in the century.

So I think frankly Mitt Romney has established himself as a credible candidate and who sees our current challenges in the world clearly.

BLITZER: Yes, he called Russia, I remember exactly four years ago. It was an interview with me -- America's number one geopolitical foe. He was criticized at the time, including by President Obama. But he seemed to have been ahead of the curve on that one.

COONS: That's right.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about some other issues right now.

The Trump team is discussing implementing a program used during the Bush administration where immigrants, visitors from more than two dozen countries would be required to register upon entering the country.

[18:10:05]

Almost all of those countries were majority Muslim countries. Would you be in favor of reinstating that program?

COONS: I would have to better understand the contours of what he was trying to accomplish and how it would be run.

The way that program was run under the Bush administration, my understanding is that it frankly didn't significantly contribute to our security, but it did send a strong message that we were closely tracking Muslims as they entered the United States and frankly barring many people from majority Muslim countries from entering the United States.

The president, under our immigration laws, has significant power to set limits on who can come into the United States. He may well legally be able to do that. That program was not legally overturned while President Bush implemented it.

The question is, does it really make us safer? Does it really make sense? And I would look hard at it. I think we would expect to have some hearings on that. And it's my hope that we could, working together, find some way to craft a program that would respond to the very real terrorist threats around the world, but without doing so in a way that singles out people of a particular faith.

I think that's a dangerous path to go down. And I think Donald Trump's rhetoric during the campaign disturbingly suggested that he might be even more interested in blocking folks based on their Muslim face, rather than based on their threat to our national security.

BLITZER: He moderated that view, though, during the course of the campaign, originally a temporary ban on all Muslims coming into the United States. But then he wants extreme vetting from countries where there's ISIS terrorist-related incidents in those countries.

Are you in favor of what he would call extreme vetting from a country let's say like Syria?

COONS: Well, Wolf, as is the case with so many other things Donald Trump said in the course of the campaign, I don't know what extreme vetting means.

I do think that we should have thorough and detailed background checks on anyone who is coming to our country where we have a credible reason to believe that the community that they're coming from might well harbor terrorists who would do us harm. Those folks, people who we should have concerns about, aren't limited to just a few majority Muslim countries.

But I do think our Department of Homeland Security and our intelligence community do a good job of that today. So what exactly extreme vetting might mean, we don't know. And I think in the interest of protecting civil liberties and our reputation in the world as a welcoming country, we ought to strike a good balance and we ought to ask for a clear explanation from a potential Trump administration about exactly what they're trying to achieve and work through what message it would send to a billion Muslims around the world.

BLITZER: All right, Senator, stay with us. We have more to discuss, other issues emerging right now.

We will take a quick break. We will resume this conversation in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:17:20]

BLITZER: We're back with Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, we will get back to you in a moment.

We're following some breaking news right now. The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, she is being challenged. Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio has just announced he's running for minority leader, underscoring the party's post-election disarray.

Let's get some more from our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, Hillary Clinton is encouraging Democrats to continue the fight, but some in the party are looking for ways to work with Donald Trump.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, many Democrats tonight are looking for ways to work with him, particularly on areas where he's at odds with his own party.

These unlikely alliances could unfold on infrastructure spending and other populist campaign messages. Now, the Democratic Party is trying to find its way forward, even as Hillary Clinton still tries to find meaning in her stunning defeat.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know many of you are deeply disappointed about the results of the election. I am, too, more than I can ever express.

ZELENY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton offering new words about her punishing loss. She's searching for meaning and dispensing comfort as Democrats look forward.

CLINTON: I will admit coming here tonight wasn't the easiest thing for me. There have been a few times this past week when all I wanted to do was just to curl up with a good book or our dogs and never leave the house again.

ZELENY: Appearing at a Children's Defense Fund dinner last night, Clinton was greeted with a standing ovation. It was not the return to Washington she hoped for.

CLINTON: I know this isn't easy. I know that, over the past week, a lot of people have asked themselves whether America is the country we thought it was. The divisions laid bare by this election run deep. But please listen to me when I say this: America is worth it. Our children are worth it. Believe in our country, fight for our values, and never, ever give up.

ZELENY: Democrats are swiftly moving forward beyond the Clinton era, finding their footing as Republicans prepare to take charge of Congress and the White House.

In Berlin tonight, President Obama is still explaining Donald Trump's victory to the world.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He ran an extraordinarily unconventional campaign, and it resulted in the biggest political upset in perhaps modern political history. He now has to transition to governance.

ZELENY: That transition under way on Capitol Hill, vice president- elect Mike Pence meeting with leaders of both parties.

[18:20:00]

Tonight, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is facing a new threat. Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan is jumping into the race to challenge her, saying: "What we are doing right now is not working."

Pelosi defended her tenure.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We cannot be taking in the full responsibility of what happened in the election.

ZELENY: All this as Democrats are pledging to work with Trump on pieces of the populist message he campaigned on, eager to exploit any divisions with Trump and Republicans.

Vice President Biden says Democrats must respect Trump's supporters, particularly if they hope to win the back next time.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're not racists. Barack Obama won these people.

ZELENY: Independent Senator Bernie Sanders is trying to fill the Democratic vacuum and pull the party's reins back from Clinton in his progressive direction.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: It is time for a new direction for the Democratic Party.

ZELENY: At a breakfast with reporters today, Sanders said it's time for Democrats to reassess what they stand for, even though Clinton did win the popular vote.

(on camera): What role do you believe she should play in rebuilding the party?

SANDERS: She has a very important role to play in the future of the Democratic Party. Does that mean she and I are going to agree on every issue? Frankly, we are not going to agree on every issue.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Now, as Democrats find their footing, there are limits to this cooperation with Trump. But Many Democrats believe the way out of the wilderness is by accomplishing something in Washington, not being part of the gridlock or obstructionism. But on Capitol Hill at least, Wolf, that leadership election for Nancy Pelosi now after Thanksgiving will offer an early sign of how strong the winds of change are actually blowing.

BLITZER: All right, Jeff, thank you, Jeff Zeleny reporting for us.

Let's get back to Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

As you know, Nancy Pelosi now facing some competition for her leadership. I know the Senate already has chosen a new Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York. But is it time for some fresh leadership for the Democrats in the House of Representatives? Tim Ryan, the congressman challenging Nancy Pelosi, said under her leadership, since 2010, the Democrats and the House have lost 60 seats. He thinks some new blood is needed.

What do you think?

COONS: Well, Wolf, I think it's important for us to demonstrate that we hear the message of this election.

There were tens of millions of Americans who really didn't want to vote for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, folks who are deeply frustrated that we're not making progress in addressing the issues that they really care about.

So if working with Donald Trump to get people back to work, building the infrastructure of this country improving our roads and our bridges, our tunnels and our airports is the way forward, I'm willing to do that. And we have heard from our newly elected leader, Chuck Schumer in the Senate, that he agrees, that we ought to find ways to work with a Trump administration and with Donald Trump.

But, to be clear, there were some things that Donald Trump said in the campaign that were alarming, offensive, or even despicable. And, frankly, if he tries to move forward on some of those, we will oppose him vigorously.

I do think it's time for all of us in the Democratic Party to reassess whether we have heard the voices of those who have been left behind in globalization and who feel like they just don't have enough opportunity in this country.

This is folks who have a wide range of and from a wide range of states. We are going to spend time on that in the next couple of weeks. We have already started in the Senate Democratic Caucus. And it's my hope that, as the American family gathers for Thanksgiving, and as folks all over this country have to sit down across a table with people who voted for someone who they really oppose, that we will learn how to listen to each other better and, as my friend Joe Biden said in the clip you just ran, that we will learn to respect those who have felt left out in the decades behind.

BLITZER: But do you think it's time for Nancy Pelosi to move on and let someone else take over the Democratic leadership in the House?

COONS: Well, Wolf, that's going to get decided by the House Democratic Caucus. Tim Ryan, who is challenging her, is from Youngstown, Ohio, and is the sort of young leader who really might be the next face of the Democratic Party in the House.

I have known Leader Pelosi for quite a long time, and she's very capable, very skilled, very smart. I think this is a fight that is going to have to work itself out in the House Democratic Caucus.

BLITZER: But the Democrats, at least in the House, they keep failing every two years. They're losing seats. They picked up a couple this time, but it certainly has not been working for the Democrats in the House. You're a Democrat. Do you think maybe some fresh blood would help?

COONS: I do think that, for both caucuses, fresh blood certainly can't hurt.

So in the Senate Democratic Caucus, we have added folks to the leadership team, both Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin, folks who are from opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of a number of social issues, but who are equally focused on economic opportunity for working Americans.

So, that's what we did in our leadership elections, and it's my hope that some similar opening to new voices will happen in the House as well.

BLITZER: All right, Senator, thanks so much for joining us, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.

COONS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

[18:25:00]

Just ahead, Donald Trump, he meets with former critics, former rivals. Will some of them, though, be taking top roles in his incoming administration?

Plus, the new requirement for anyone looking to join Trump's national security team, does it apply to Rudy Giuliani?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Breaking news tonight: a source telling CNN president-elect Donald Trump will meet on Saturday with Mitt Romney.

The former presidential nominee was one of Donald Trump's sharpest GOP critics during the campaign, calling Trump a con man, a fraud, unfit for office.

CNN has now learned, though, that Romney is interested in serving, potentially as secretary of state, which a senior Republican source is saying is a serious possibility.

[18:30:21] Let's bring in our political reporters and analysts. Gloria, how serious is this? I don't know if -- I know they spoke on the phone earlier a few days ago, but all of a sudden coming to New Jersey to meet with Donald Trump on Saturday. That's a big deal.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, Mark Preston first reported this on CNN, and in talking to some top Romney -- former Romney advisers, I should say, they were very surprised by this meeting. To a person, they described Romney as a patriot. He's -- it's no surprise he's not a big fan of Donald Trump's.

So all we know, really, Wolf, is that Romney in general has always told people, "Gee, secretary of state would be a job I'd be interested in."

But what we also know is that this is somebody he has criticized roundly and that they disagree seriously on some very serious foreign policy issues, like Russia, for example. Romney was the first person, I believe to say to you, that Russia is an existential threat.

BLITZER: He said it was America's No. 1 geopolitical foe.

BORGER: That's right. So Russia, trade, NATO. Three key issues they disagree on. So we know they're going to have this meeting. We don't know what Donald Trump has in mind, and we have no idea what Mitt Romney has in mind, but they're meeting.

BLITZER: It's pretty surprising, though, how this all is unfolding. A, that Mitt Romney obviously wants to meet with Donald Trump, as some bitter words were exchanged. But that Donald Trump is now welcoming him, as he is others, as well, who were his former bitter critics and rivals.

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right, Wolf. Given that Mitt Romney denounced Donald Trump back in March, it is a little bit surprising.

On the other hand, I think that Trump probably realizes -- President- elect Donald Trump probably realizes that Mitt Romney is widely seen as a statesman and he could probably use that in some capacity in his administration, whether it's a cabinet-level position or some other position.

BLITZER: And Abby Phillip, I think there's no doubt that Mitt Romney -- if Donald Trump were to nominate him as his secretary of state -- he almost certainly would be confirmed by the United States Senate.

ABBY PHILLIP, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Absolutely. I think Democrats would look at it as a sign of calming force in a potential Trump administration. And I think even now it's having a little bit of a calming force on the whole dialogue around this transition.

For Mitt Romney to come in the door and for Donald Trump to welcome him is a positive sign, and my colleagues Phil Rucker and Bob Costa reported just today that the whole dynamic around the transition has to do with this idea of having these sort of competing teams around, people who don't necessarily always just agree. And people vying for influence within Trump's circle. If that is the dynamic that continues forward into the administration, Mitt Romney would fit into that. Where they don't disagree [SIC], perhaps this might be an Romney to make a case and influence the president.

BLITZER: Manu Raju, you've been up on Capitol Hill. You're still up there all now, all day since Mark Preston here on CNN broke the news that Mitt Romney would be meeting this weekend with Donald Trump. What's been the reaction you're getting from Democrats and Republicans?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they're curious about it. I think it's a question about whether or not this is a trial balloon, whether or not Mitt Romney and Donald Trump are just having a meeting to try to unite the party, or whether or not this is actually serious in adding him to the administration. No one quite knows.

But I do agree that, if he is given a position in the administration, in a cabinet position, he will probably have little opposition and little difficulty getting confirmed.

One reason why, Wolf, is that Democrats essentially gutted the filibuster for executive branch nominees. And that means that Republicans can push any nominee through, executive branch level nominee through by a simple majority of 51 votes. And they even have 52 seats next Congress.

So I think there's -- the Romney possibility, certainly the more establishment side of Republicans look at that in a positive manner, but it's still a question about whether or not Donald Trump is actually serious in moving in that direction.

BLITZER: And you remember this, Manu, when Harry Reid pushed that through, a simple majority instead of the 60 you need to break a filibuster. Some Democrats were nervous about it. What if the Republicans are in the White House? They didn't think that was going to happen, did they?

RAJU: No, they didn't. And that was the real risk. And the real risk is also, too, is on judicial nominations, Wolf. There are lots of lower court nominations that will not be subject to that 60-vote rule. These judges' lifetime appointments can be confirmed by a simple majority.

But the filibuster still exists for a Supreme Court nominee. The question will be whether or not the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, decides to get rid of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees to get a Donald Trump Supreme Court nominee through by just Republican votes. That's going to be a big pressure point in the new Congress, particularly if Democrats do fight any Donald Trump nominee.

[18:35:11] BLITZER: Yes. That's going to be a problem for the Democrats. It looks like the Republicans, after Louisiana, the run- off, they're going to have 52 senators to 48 for the Democrats. That's more than a simple majority.

BORGER: Yes. And I think that's an issue, I do. I think...

BLITZER: So Harry Reid, with hindsight, blundered when he pushed that through during the Obama administration?

BORGER: You know, where you stand depends on where you sit, obviously. So he blundered for now, yes. And he's not going to be around to deal with it.

But I just want to get back to one more point about the Romney and the -- all these people coming into Trump Tower and the reaching out. This is about pictures, not words. This is about Donald Trump, you know, his administration looking across at people who didn't like him and saying, "You know, we're going to invite you in." It doesn't mean they're going to be invited into the administration. I mean, we know that Donald Trump really values loyalty above all else.

But these are pictures that show that he is welcoming these people to visit with him and meet with him and discuss with him their issues before he assumes the presidency. So for a transition, I think it's a good idea, whether or not anything comes out of it.

BLITZER: It's not just Mitt Romney, Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina. Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas...

BORGER: ... endorsed him, though.

BLITZER: ... Ted Cruz, all of whom had some really nasty words about Donald Trump during the campaign.

SWERDLICK: Yes, no. And I agree with -- I agree with Gloria that a lot of this is about them being able to show that they can get along with Donald -- with President Trump, and President Trump showing that he can get along with a broader portion of the Republican Party.

Although in some of these cases, I would argue in the case of Mitt Romney, that the Trump administration probably could use someone that capable. Mitt Romney has a lot of political liabilities, but he also is someone who's widely seen as being able to get things done.

BLITZER: Manu, quickly, the vice-president-elect, Mike Pence, he was up on Capitol Hill today meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders. And we did hear Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, say, "You know what? Repealing and replacing Obamacare could take a while. It's not going to be that quick."

RAJU: Yes, that's right. And that does not coincide with what Donald Trump has been telling voters that he's going do that right away, repeal and replace. But there are a lot of hurdles that they're going to have to go through, in order to enact particularly a replacement bill that's going to need bipartisan support, particularly in the Senate to get that enacted.

We know that's going to be very, very difficult. But one thing that did come out today was they're going to try to enact a short-term spending bill this year. That means that Donald Trump's new administration will have two months to cut a spending deal to fund the entire government as soon as they get into office next year.

And as we know, funding the government is very difficult at times, especially if they try to push a lot of the positions that Donald Trump sought on the campaign trail, like that border wall along the southern border with Mexico. We'll see if that becomes an issue in the early spending fights in the new Trump administration.

BLITZER: Abby, what it shows, as we all know, out on the campaign trail, you make campaign promises. That's pretty easy. Delivering after you assume the office, it's a bit harder.

PHILLIP: It's where the rubber meets the road. And I think this is what President Obama was alluding to earlier this week when he said, "You know what? He -- I want to see what they try to do with Obamacare, because I think they're going to find it's harder than they think it is."

And I think Republicans in Congress are probably more wide-eyed about that than anybody else. They understand how difficult lawmaking is, especially in this kind of environment where Democrats' backs are up against the wall. Maybe there are some moderates who are out there in vulnerable districts. It's hard. Governing is hard.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. We're going to continue this conversation. Just ahead, President Obama's warning to Donald Trump about Russia.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:43:40] BLITZER: More now on the breaking news. Donald Trump just wrapping up a meeting in New York with Japan's prime minister. It's Donald Trump's first face-to-face talk with a head of state since becoming president-elect. I should say head of government as far as the prime minister of Japan is concerned.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is joining us now. Jim, Trump's meeting with Shinzo Abe followed a flurry of other meetings he's had, and he's trying to build his national security team, which supposedly is priority No. 1.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He's now met with one foreign leader. He and Mike Pence have spoken with 32 foreign leaders. But that revolving door at Trump Tower, potential candidates, still no final decisions made or at least announced on who's going to occupy those top posts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Tonight, Trump holding his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader, with Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, reassurance for a close U.S. ally who Trump suggested during the campaign that he might encourage to acquire nuclear weapons.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: The whole world will be safer if our allies do their part to support our common defense and security.

SCIUTTO: Circling in and out of Trump Tower today, national security contenders, from New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, candidate for secretary of state; to former defense intelligence chief, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, leading candidate for national security adviser.

[18:45:02] KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: He's been a very trusted adviser, a close adviser to candidate Trump and now President- elect Trump. And he certainly is one of the people being considered for that position.

SCIUTTO: Also meeting with the president-elect today, Henry Kissinger, retired General Jack Kean, and Admiral Mike Rogers, current head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command.

Trump transition leaders have launched so-called landing teams to coordinate incoming administration staff with outgoing staff at the State Department, Defense Department, Justice Department, and National Security Council. However, all the most senior national security leadership positions remain unfilled.

And today, the campaign added a new requirement -- all hires will face a lifetime ban on working for a foreign government. That rule, however, is only forward looking, as it would disqualify candidates such as Rudy Giuliani, who CNN has learned kept the Serbian government among its list of clients as recently as 2012.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: We're just here to advise and give our advice. My company gets paid for it, I don't get paid for this. My country does, gets paid for giving advice.

SCIUTTO: On his final foreign trip as president, Barack Obama delivered some stern foreign policy advice to his successor, Donald Trump, warning him to stand up to Russia and to speak up on behalf of the world's most vulnerable people.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If that voice is absent or if that voice is divided, we will be living in a meaner, harsher, more troubled world. And we have to remember that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Donald Trump's somewhat unorthodox means of getting in touch with foreign leaders continue. We learned that today in order for the Australian prime minister, a key U.S. ally, to get in touch with Trump world, he had to get the phone number of Donald Trump from Australian golfer Greg Norman. Those old golfing buddy ties, Wolf, paying off in international relations.

BLITZER: Yes, world leaders, obviously, very anxious to have a phone conversation with the president-elect of the United States.

Jim Sciutto, thanks very much for that.

Gloria, what's your reaction to this first meeting the president-elect has just wrapped up with a foreign leader?

BORGER: I think Abe is quite concerned, and it's not a coincidence that he came right over here. I think what he heard during the campaign was probably alarming to him and to the people in this country that Donald Trump thought that they should acquire nuclear weapons just to make sure that they remain safe.

And I think that's not a popular point of view, and I think he wanted to hear whether Donald Trump was backing away from that, as other people have said that he was. And so, I think it's a very important meeting for him to have face to face. And when Trump said he would meet with him, of course, he jumped at the opportunity.

BLITZER: We're standing by to get a statement from the prime minister and the president-elect. We'll have that for our viewers as soon as it comes in.

Manu, you're up on the Hill. Some excitement up there. Nancy Pelosi, all of a sudden, getting her first challenger to be the Democratic leader, the minority leader, Congressman Tim Ryan announcing his candidacy today. How worried should she be right now?

RAJU: Well, she is a heavy favorite, Wolf, in order to get re-elected as the House Democratic leader. But I can tell you, I spent the day talking to a lot of Democratic House members and there's a lot of anxiety in ranks, a lot of Democrats are not sure there is a clear path forward back from majority, including some of Pelosi's own allies, like Congressman G.K. Butterfield, head of the Congressional Black Caucus, told me today that Pelosi needs to play out a plan in order to get back into the House majority.

And other, more younger leaders believe that it's maybe time for some fresh blood atop the ranks. And that's one reason why Tim Ryan is mounting this challenge against her.

So, the one thing Ryan may have going for him is that this November 30th leadership election, Wolf, is done by a secret ballot. So, folks can vote their will and they may not face repercussions from Nancy Pelosi. But she's raised so much money for a lot of her colleagues, and has a lot of loyalty. So, it would be difficult to unseat her.

But it just shows how much anxiety there is right now within the ranks.

BLITZER: But if you keep losing year after year after year, no matter how much money you raise, what good is it if you're going to simply be in the minority as opposed to the majority?

RAJU: Yes, and that's exactly right, and that's what Tim Ryan actually told me earlier today. He said it would be, quote, "the definition of insanity to do the same thing year after year," and I was asking specifically about Pelosi's time atop the caucus.

So, the question is, how many people agree with her within the caucus? Some -- a lot may, but maybe not enough to unseat her, Wolf. BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, David, because I keep hearing a

bunch of Democrats, mostly younger ones, saying it is time for new leadership right now. Some of them don't have the guts necessarily to go public, at least not yet. But increasingly, the next two weeks, we might see something develop.

DAVID SWERDLICK, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, because, look, you can't overlook the fact that Nancy Pelosi is the first woman speaker of the House.

[18:50:04] She's -- as Manu pointed out -- she has raised a lot of money and kept her caucus together over the last number of years. But when you look at what's happened to Democrats in the House in 2010, 2014, 2016, it -- you can understand why members of the caucus are saying we just need to change things up.

BLITZER: Yes, that's -- what are you hearing there, Abby?

PHILLIP: They are also concerned about the economic issue, the geographic diversity of the party. There's a lot of power centered in California and New York right now in the House of Representatives, and Democrats looked at the really astounding losses for Hillary Clinton in the Upper Midwest and they want to do something about that. They want the party to start listening to those voices in the middle of the country. They want the party to start looking at the leadership levels like what the Democratic coalition is at the national level, which is more diverse and also much younger.

So, that's one -- those are the forces that are pushing on to Pelosi. But, you know, as Manu pointed out, it is going to be really hard for them to accomplish this. But just making the point I think is part of the challenge in this cycle for --

BLITZER: Yes, let's talk about Hillary Clinton last night. She was at the Children's Defense Fund.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Very emotional. She said, look, I could have just been curled up reading a book, but she wanted to go out there and speak, her first public remarks since she conceded the election.

A lot of her supporters out there, they still haven't come to grips with the fact that Donald Trump is going to be the next president of the United States.

BORGER: And maybe she hasn't. You know, it was kind of the most emotional I think we've seen her, talking about her mother, talking about what she wanted to tell her mother about how she became first lady, senator and then received 62 million votes.

She allowed people to see that she was somebody who wanted to just sit in her House and never come out again and curl up with a book and shut it all out. And that was such a human response. I mean, which one of us wouldn't want to do that, having run this kind of a campaign for the last two years. We don't know what Hillary Clinton is going to do this her future. We

don't know where that is going to lead. But the fact that she came out and gave this speech last night and let us into how disappointed she is, I think was kind of a moving moment. Whether you like Hillary Clinton or you don't like Hillary Clinton. It was an emotional moment for her that we really haven't seen.

BLITZER: Yes, she failed to break that glass ceiling eight years ago. She failed to break the glass ceiling this time around as well. And you could see the pain she was going through in her remarks last night.

BORGER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Stick around and to our viewers, please be sure to check out the first ever book from CNN Politics, "Unprecedented: The Election That Changed Everything". It's in stores December 6th. You can preorder your copy today at CNN.com/book.

Just ahead, new information about the shooting deaths of three American service members in Jordan. Was it a terror attack?

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:57:32] BLITZER: There is new information tonight in the shooting deaths of three American service members at an air base in Jordan.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working the story for us.

Barbara, update our viewers on what you are learning about this investigation.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.

The three soldiers were shot earlier this month at a base in Jordan, where they were working as trainers. What we now know is they were shot as they approached a guard post. But a fourth American soldier was able to pull his weapon, fire back at the attacker wounding him. That is new information.

We also know now that the three American soldiers were working in a CIA-backed training program in Jordan. The U.S. embassy is pushing back, saying they were shot shocked not because of the initial reports saying there was some confusion at the gate about their identity. The U.S. embassy dismissing that. This incident is now very much being investigated as a terror attack on the three U.S. soldiers, Wolf.

BLITZER: In Mosul, in Iraq, Barbara, there are stories, reports of new horror, new tactics emerging. How bad is it getting?

STARR: It is just getting really worse. The U.S. is letting it be known and they expect it to get a lot worse as Iraqi troops move closer to the center of the city. Iraqi authorities now discovering mass graves again, containing some 250 bodies. And there's new intelligence tonight about ISIS tactics that are just chilling, to try and lure Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers into the kill zone traps. They are putting out cars, they're putting out piles of cash, the kinds of things that might attract soldiers, new cars. But all of those things are rigged to blow up. So, when Iraqi soldiers approach it, they will detonate and be killed.

No reports if this has successfully worked yet, but it's another indication of how far ISIS is willing to go on the attack -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, this could go on for a while, right, Barbara? This is by no means a done deal.

STARR: By no means done, Wolf. And especially across the border in Syria, we're watching very carefully. It looks like the Obama administration may be getting ready to make plans to send even more troops to Syria as military advisors there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, they are going to go after ISIS in Raqqah as well. Let's what happens.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.