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Trump Transition Team Working To Fill Positions; Trump Team Developing Plan To Track Immigrants; Trump to Meet With Romney; Trump Meets with Cruz and Haley; Clinton Urges Supporters to Remain Engaged. Aired 1:15-1:30p ET
Aired November 17, 2016 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
Up first, a parade of past presidents and possibly future leaders descending on Trump Tower in New York City. The President-elect Donald Trump, he's meeting with potential cabinet and top staff members.
His former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was asked if we should expect any announcements today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, FORMER MANAGER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: It's possible but I think it's basically before or right after Thanksgiving is probably more appropriate in terms of (INAUDIBLE.)
We looked at where past administrations have been also and we feel like we're right on target, right on time for all of that. And so, we feel way ahead of schedule and never in a rush to do the wrong thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Among those on the President-elect's schedule today, the former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, he's emerging as an adviser. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, sources say Haley is a potential candidate for secretary of state.
Also, the Florida governor, Rick Scott. Admiral Mike Rogers of the NSA, Director of the National Security Agency. Former Cincinnati Mayor Ken Blackwell and Congressman Jeb Hensarling, a potential treasury secretary.
Trump also has had his first face-to-face meeting, is about to I should say, with a world leader of the Japanese prime minister Abe coming to New York. A special meeting later today with the President- elect.
Meanwhile, President Obama's on his final trip to Europe as commander in chief. Had some advice for the President-elect. We're going to tell you what he had to say in a few minutes. Stand by for that. But first, let's get some more on the true flurry of activity over at Trump transition headquarters at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is outside Trump Tower.
Sunlen, give us an update on what's happening right now.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, again today, Wolf, Trump Tower has been a hotbed of activity. And we are seeing many people come and go, going inside for meetings that could become the very public, high-profile faces of the eventual Trump administration.
Earlier this morning, we saw General Michael Flynn go into Trump Tower. He is a top contender for national security adviser. We also know that Rudy Giuliani spent about an hour inside today. Kellyanne Conway who is Trump's top adviser, saying that Giuliani -- just today, that he is the leading contender for a number of positions.
And we know, according to sources, that's everything from attorney general to secretary of home -- Department of Homeland Security, to secretary of state which we know, according to sources, is the position that Rudy Giuliani really is jockeying for.
Trump also meeting one on one with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley today. We know that, according to sources, she is being considered for secretary of state as well. Notable of course, Wolf, because she was a critic of Trump's during the campaign -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What's the latest you're hearing about a time line for getting the cabinet at least in place? There are about 4,000 political appointments he's got to make between now and January 20th.
SERFATY: That's right. Many appointments to be made. And still a lot of decisions, it sounds, to be made as well. According to Trump transition advisers, they tell me that there is no arbitrary time line in place that these decisions -- that the announcements will be made as soon as the decisions are made by Donald Trump.
Notable that tomorrow, Wolf, Donald Trump has called for a full meeting of his entire transition staff, two-hour meeting here at Trump Tower. So, certainly, this process at a stage where there feels like there is a need to get everyone together at one table and in one room.
I think we can say it's certainly because of that meeting and because of the high-profile comings and goings today, that this really has kicked into a higher gear -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They clearly are working long hours, working very hard on all of this.
All right, Sunlen, thanks very much.
We're also learning more about how Donald Trump plans to handle immigration, specifically whether he will enforce his proposed ban on Muslim immigrants to the United States, at least a temporary ban. That was what he said earlier. He modified that during the course of the campaign, saying he wants significant vetting of all immigrants to the United States.
I want to bring in our Justice Correspondent Pamela Brown because, Pamela, you're getting some new information.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I spoke, Wolf, to a person involved with President-elect Trump's immigration plan. And I'm told that they're developing a proposal to track immigrants traveling to the U.S. from high-risk countries and then put those people in a database.
The source says it will be similar to the NSEERS program implemented right after 911 which imposed higher scrutiny and tracking of people coming to the U.S. from countries that were considered a terrorist threat. All those countries with the exception of North Korea were Muslim.
Now, that system was ended in 2011 because of profiling complaints. The source I spoke with says that Trump's team is basically looking to bring that back in a similar fashion, requiring fingerprinting, entering the person's personal information into a database and requiring that person to check in with federal immigration authorities every year as to their location.
[13:05:12] The source says that the people put into this database would have to fit into a certain criteria. So, in other words, not all people from these high-risk countries would be in it. And the source, Wolf, did not specify which countries are looking at as considered high risk. This person said, it's a moving target, given the terrorist threat with ISIS and Al Qaeda.
And the person also said that all the countries -- that there are some Muslim countries that are not being included on this current list by the Trump team right now.
BLITZER: They're going to watch it very, very closely. Because he did modify his position on a temporary ban of Muslims coming to the United States throughout the campaign. He said that earlier on but later he revised it.
BROWN: That's right. And so, I asked this person whether that is something that -- an option that they're looking at. And I'm told that -- essentially, that the people working on this immigration plan are prepared for that. But that it's highly unlikely that would happen, given how Donald Trump changed his rhetoric during the campaign.
But I'm told, look, all options are on the table. These will all be presented once Donald Trump is officially in the White House. And then, ultimately, the decision will be up to him, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much for that. Pamela Brown reporting.
Let's get some more now on the Trump transition. Sean Spicer is chief strategist, communications director for the Republican National Committee and has emerged as a key adviser to Donald Trump through the campaign, continuing that role right now.
Sean, thanks very much for joining us.
SEAN SPICER, CHIEF STRATEGIST AND COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: Good afternoon, Wolf. Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: All right, you just heard Pam's report on emerging immigration ideas. Can you clarify whether or not there would be some sort of specific Muslim registry, at least some Trump supporters -- not necessarily members of the transition team, but some supporters have suggested that.
SPICER: I think, right now, Wolf, the President-elect and the Vice President-elect are focused on staffing their administration and setting forth agenda and priorities to be ready on the day that he takes that oath of office.
So, we're more focused on the staff and making sure that the staff is subsequently ready to enact that agenda. We're not going to get into specific policies, at this time.
BLITZER: Because immigration clearly is -- was a central feature of the President-elect's campaign. He's got very strong views. Is this a high -- I mean, he said, in recent days since he was elected, immigration is one of three major priorities, at least on his immediate agenda.
SPICER: It is. He's got that, repealing Obamacare and really focusing on the economy and bringing back jobs. So, I mean, he's got -- those are his three priorities. That's what he has tasked his staff and the people that are going to subsequently fill out his cabinet and other senior positions with doing. Drawing out those policies, making sure on day one he and his team are 100 percent focused on enacting that agenda.
BLITZER: But you understand that Muslim-Americans, indeed a lot of Americans, are concerned about some sort of registry, something along those lines? That's a source of some concern. You understand that, right, Sean?
SPICER: I do. And, again, I think if you'd listen to what the President-elect has said, starting on the night that he accepted that call from secretary Clinton to his meeting with President Obama, that he has talked about making sure that he -- every American is taking part of his plan and that all of the lives of every American, from one coast to another, his policies help lift all of them up.
BLITZER: How close is the transition team to naming nominees for some of the top positions, secretary of state, secretary of defense, for example?
SPICER: Well, look at the people that have come in and out of this building. Sunlen Serfaty went through part of them.
But over and over again, we are seeing some of the best and brightest. The most capable people in this country, from business leaders to successful people in government, to outsiders, to people like secretary Henry Kissinger this morning. Someone he has a long friendship with who he's known for a long time getting his ideas.
People are drawn to Donald Trump right now. We had over 47,000 resumes at GreatAgain.gov. People want to be part of this administration. And you're seeing a number of these quality caliber- type people come in and out, share their ideas with him.
And then, he is able to sit back and figure out who will be the best people to help enact that vision.
BLITZER: I know he's consulting with Henry Kissinger who's now in his 90s. Clearly, Henry Kissinger is not looking for a job. But the other people who are coming in, and they are very impressive, governors, senators, others with a lot of experience. Are these people he's consulting with trying to get their input or are they potential cabinet members?
SPICER: I think it's a combination of both. As you have noted, secretary Kissinger wasn't here looking for a job but he was sharing his insight and his knowledge and back and forth with the President- elect.
But then, there's, you know, General Keen, Mr. Flynn, Mr. Fred Smith, Nikki Haley, Governor Scott, Senator Sessions, all of these individuals, and the list goes on and on, who are coming in, sharing their ideas, their opinions. But it's a back and forth conversation.
In some cases, Mr. Trump has an idea of a way that he thinks that they could be part of his administration. In some cases, it's multiple positions. In some cases, frankly, it's just that he really respects them and wants to hear their ideas and opinions.
[13:10:09] BLITZER: What about the South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley? Obviously very talented, very intelligent, very popular. Sources have told us she's being considered for secretary of state.
She was a pretty harsh critic of Donald Trump during the early stage of the primaries. Later said she was supporting him, voting for him. But she has limited foreign policy credentials. Is she being considered a potential secretary of state?
SPICER: Well, first, I think what you pointed out was right on. Donald Trump, right now, isn't looking to figure out who supported him and who didn't. He wants to figure out who's the best people to enact a vision of change.
And he will look at Republicans, Democrats, independent, people who voted for him, people who voted against him. As long as they are committed to bringing change to Washington and making this country better, then they are -- they be part of this team. That's all he cares about.
And so, someone like Governor Nikki Haley who, as you pointed out, an unbelievably talented and successful governor, and someone that he wanted to have a conversation with, hear her views and thoughts, and then figure out whether she is someone that could play a role in his administration. But no decisions have been made.
BLITZER: So, when I hear you saying, Sean, no hard feelings, the President-elect is ready to move on, even if some these potential people who will serve in his administration said not such nice things about him or didn't support him. He wants the best people in there, right now, despite some hard feelings from the past. Is that right?
SPICER: That's absolutely right, Wolf. I mean, his 100 percent commitment is to have the best staff administration to enact change. And 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 his team.
And, again, look at the caliber of people that have continued to come in and out of Trump Tower over the last 48 hours and will continue to come in and out of and meet with him in the next coming weeks. It's unbelievable. And only a guy like Donald Trump could bring this level and this caliber of people to meet with him and to talk about how to enact real change.
BLITZER: Because yesterday, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, he showed up there. He was a Republican presidential candidate. They had some ugly words between the two them. Is he now being considered for something?
SPICER: Again, I'm not going to get into who's being considered or not. What it is is an opportunity for Mr. Trump to hear people, what their ideas, suggestions, thoughts are, about how to enact these real changes and policies.
And so, he's not look -- I mean, as you pointed out, Senator Cruz and others who ran against him. His goal is to make this country better. That's it. Full stop. And it doesn't matter what your party was, where you -- who you voted for. If you want to be part of change and you want to help enact and make this country better for every American, then you're welcome on this team.
BLITZER: And one final question before I let you go, Sean. Prime minister Abe of Japan making a special visit to New York. He will be the first foreign leader to meet with the President-elect. Tell us how that meeting came about.
SPICER: Well, Mr. Trump has met with or spoken to, now, 32 world leaders. President Abe and him wanted to have an opportunity to meet privately. He will do that. But we recognize the fact that there is only one president at a time. And so, they will have a private meeting, discuss, get to know each other a little better.
And then, once he is sworn into office, continue to have foreign leaders come visit or he will visit them and really start to -- but he wanted to ready on day one.
BLITZER: He's spoken on the phone with these 30-plus other foreign leaders. The only one so far he's meeting face-to-face later today is prime minister Abe of Japan, right?
SPICER: That's correct.
BLITZER: And when they spoke on the phone earlier in the week, prime minister Abe said, you know, I'd like to come over and say hi. Is that how it happened?
SPICER: Well, I'm not going to get into the specifics of a private conversation. But let's just say that they thought it would be a good idea to meet. They are doing so privately because we continue to want to recognize that the United States can only have one president at a time. So, they'll have this private meeting tonight. And then, he will continue to talk to world leaders on the phone.
BLITZER: United States has one president. That's President Obama right now. One President-elect, and that's Donald Trump right now. And that changes on January 20th.
Sean, thanks very much for joining us.
SPICER: You bet, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: As the President-elect is working to select his future administration, President Obama is meeting today with his closest global ally, at one of them, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. In the last hour, the two leaders held a very long joint news conference where they faced questions over the transition of power to Donald Trump.
And what lies ahead for the relationship between the U.S. and Germany? With respect to America's future with Russia, President Obama issued a warning to his successor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And my hope is that the President-elect coming in takes a similarly constructive approach, finding areas where we can cooperate with Russia, where our values and interests align, but that the president-elect also is willing to stand up to Russia where they are deviating from our values and international norms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Up next, all eyes on Trump Tower in New York City as it's turned into the epicenter of the presidential transition. Looking at live pictures from the lobby there inside Trump Tower.
Also, there is drama right now unfolding up on Capitol Hill as the vice president-elect, there you see him, Mike Pence, pays a visit. We're going to tell you what warning he gave to party members in the House of Representatives as they look ahead to a new agenda.
BLITZER: Right now the future of Washington is being decided in New York City. The president-elect, Donald Trump, is meeting with several possible cabinet picks over at Trump Tower as we speak. Among them, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. They're talking about possible appointments of others.
Let's bring in our political panel. Mark Preston is CNN Politics executive editor. Abby Phillip is a reporter for "The Washington Post." Jeff Zeleny is CNN's senior Washington correspondent.
[13:20:05] So let's talk a little bit about the breaking news. Mark, you just literally got this information, first on CNN. Tell our viewers what you're hearing.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, Wolf, of course we've seen a lot of people going inside and out of Trump Tower with these meetings, but we now have learned that this weekend Donald Trump is going to sit down with Mitt Romney, have a discussion. They're going to talk about, I'm told, about governing and how to govern as they move forward in - in the new Trump administration. I'm also told there could be a discussion about Mitt Romney potentially joining the Trump cabinet.
PRESTON: Yes. Which would be amazing given the fact -
PRESTON: That Donald Trump and Mitt Romney -
BLITZER: Given the history there.
PRESTON: Certainly have not been close allies to say the least.
But, you know, they wouldn't say - they wouldn't specify exactly what the role could be for Mitt Romney. But even if Mitt Romney were not to join the cabinet, there would probably be some hope, I think, that Mitt Romney would serve as an informal outside advisor. So we'll see how those discussions go this weekend.
BLITZER: And the meetings are going to take place in New York or New Jersey because I know that Trump is going to New Jersey at some point.
PRESTON: Right. So - so the person I spoke with that knew of the meeting wasn't able to say where it would exactly take place. But as we know, where Donald Trump goes in New Jersey is really not that far outside of the city, so -
PRESTON: We do know that he's - that Donald Trump's going to be either in New York or New Jersey over the weekend (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: And you heard Sean Spicer, who has emerged as a senior advisor to Donald Trump, say, you know what, what happened in the past during the campaign is the past. He wants the best, most qualified people now to serve in his cabinet.
PRESTON: Right. And I think that we are seeing that in - and I think Abby and Jeff can speak to this as well. I mean the fact is, we're start to see Republicans come home, but in a way of a realization that Donald Trump is president now and there is a - obviously a need and a desire to try to help the country move forward. And I do think you're going to start to see more reaching out. Look, we've seen Nikki Haley up there today. Talk about another mortal enemy during the campaign of Donald Trump.
BLITZER: So this is a big deal right now, Abby. I'm sure you agree. If Mitt Romney, four years ago he was the Republican presidential nominee, during the course of the last year, year and a half, there were some ugly words exchanged between him and Donald Trump. If Donald Trump is now inviting him to meet with him and even thinking about offering him a major position in the new administration, that's important.
ABBY PHILLIP, REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right, there are few peoples would had such an antagonistic relationship with Trump on - in both directions. Both Trump - responding to Mitt Romney saying basically, don't make this guy president, and Mitt Romney saying, I will do anything within my power to make sure he's not. So for him to go into Trump Tower and talk is a positive sign.
It also indicates that a lot of Republicans are coming to the conclusion that the best way to influence and shape this potential administration is from the inside, not from the outside. And there's a - that sense on Capitol Hill too that they can - can sort of shape where Trump goes with some of his priorities by basically saying, hey, we're here to work with you, here's our version of the plan, and hope for the best.
BLITZER: So, Jeff, Trump inviting Ted Cruz, Nikki Haley -
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right.
BLITZER: Now Mitt Romney to come to Trump Tower to discuss possible jobs, let's say, or at least working together in a new administration, that sends a powerful signal out there.
ZELENY: It does, regardless of who he ends up sort of bringing on board. A, Trump won. It's easy when you're the winner to bring people in. And there has to be a certain sense of satisfaction for this. But there also is a sense, when we switch from campaigning to governing. You can feel it in this town, across this town, from Capitol Hill to the agencies. This is a new moment here and people - you know, this is what we do in the U.S., people come together.
It will be fascinating to see if Mitt Romney would join a Trump presidency. I would think an outside adviser would be - you know, is certainly more interesting. But Nikki Haley, so many Republicans are fascinating by that choice today. I've talked to a couple of South Carolina Republicans who still say that they, you know, don't believe that, you know, this is all that possible, but they're, frankly, not sure because no one knows what the dynamic would be with Donald Trump and Nikki Haley.
A lot of these people have been throwing sort of attacks and barbs from afar, from long distance. Now we they sit down and meet, it's a whole different situation here. So keep your eye on that. That would be a fascinating development.
BLITZER: And what does it say about Donald Trump himself, that he's willing now, not just to pick those who are most loyal to him, his biggest supporter, those who were out front all of the time, but to reach out to other talented individuals?
PRESTON: Look, I think it says a lot. I mean we'll have to see what the future holds and how he actually builds his administration, how he works with leaders on Capitol Hill in his own party, let alone Democrats for that matter.
But I do think it says something, as Jeff said, we're moving from this campaign of really nasty rhetoric to the - to the - really the stark realization, they need to govern. They have to govern. They are - you know, Donald Trump is the leader of the free world.
I do think it says something about him. It says something about his advisers, who are willing to try to broker these meetings and not just say, we won, you know, let's wall it off, you know, the spoils are ours. So, we'll see how it actually plays out. But, you know, a good sign, I think.
ZELENY: At the same time, though, there are some - some worries. I've talked to a couple former Bush administration Republicans who are in this town who are very worried about these lobbyist rules and other things. They think that Trump is potentially blocking out some good and skilled individuals from coming inside the White House. So it does feel like in the last couple of days that things have kicked into gear a little bit more, but there is still some gridlock internally with the Trump original people and some of the other outsiders.
[13:25:21] So - but every time the campaign - every time the Trump world announces someone is coming in, it makes it look like things are more on track. And I think in reality they are. I went back to look eight years ago to see what we were talking about right now with President Obama. I was writing those stories then. Things are on track. The president held his first news conference about three days after the election. But a totally different situation. The economy was crumbling and it just felt different. So I think Trump's on track.
And, very quickly, Abby, your thoughts on Hillary Clinton. All of a sudden last night she appeared at the Children's Defense Fund, an organization she's been involved with since 40-plus years ago when she finished Yale Law School, and she got pretty emotional and very personal in speaking.
PHILLIP: Yes, absolutely. I mean saying her good-byes in some ways in the place where she started her career right after law school at the Children's Defense Fund. I mean you saw Hillary Clinton basically trying to help her supporters and help Democrats at large move forward and take that step to say Donald Trump is president, how do we continue on from there. And also, kind taking herself a little bit out of it too. I mean we didn't hear a lot of blame game about who was at fault for her loss. And that was probably a good thing because that's something that Democrats have to grapple with right now and some of the fault is going to go to her.
BLITZER: Jeff, you covered the Clinton campaign, all of - maybe two years long now. And let me play a little clip of what she said last - the first time she spoke publicly since her concession speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: She beat the odds. She found a way to offer me the boundless love and support she never received herself. And I dream of going up to her and sitting next to her and taking her in my arms and saying, look, look at me and listen. You will survive. You will have a family of your own, three children. And as hard as it might be to imagine, your daughter will grow up to be a United States senator, represent our country as secretary of state, and win more than 62 million votes for president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: She was talking of her mother, who had a very, very rough childhood.
ZELENY: She was indeed. And she was saying what she would tell her mother if she could about what her life would be like going forward. But that's about as reflective and emotional as we'll see Secretary Clinton. You can tell how difficult this is for her. But as Abby said, it is interesting, she is trying to help her Democrats and supporters along through this grieving process, as the rest of Washington and things moves on.
I think the fact that she kept that appointment last night to speak at that dinner, which was on her schedule for a long time, she thought she'd be speaking there as the president-elect. That didn't happen, obviously. But I think this - the reception in the room and those words, so interesting to show you her mind-set here. But, again, she will be saying her good-byes to this party.
I talked to Senator Sanders this morning, Bernie Sanders, who's out and about at things and he says he believes that Hillary Clinton has a role to play in the future Democratic Party. Certainly he doesn't agree with her on everything. But - so watching her next chapter will be interesting because she'll still stay involved without question.
BLITZER: Yes, when she said, you know, I thought I'd rather curl up and just read a book -
BLITZER: Than make a public appearance.
ZELENY: But there she was.
BLITZER: But she thought it was important to do so. And she was right, it was important for her to do so.
All right, guys, stick around.
Also happening right now, the vice president-elect of the United States, Mike Pence, he's in Washington, D.C., today, meeting with top Democrat, including the Democratic minority leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, while Democrats consider some major changes potentially in party leadership. We're going live to Capitol Hill for the very latest.