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Trump Meets with Mitt Romney; A Plea for Balance and Diversity; Trump Picks Senator Sessions for Attorney General; Trump's Potential Conflicts of Interest; Trump Shuts Out with Press Corps; "Hamilton" Cast Addressed Pence After Show; Aired 9-10a ET
Aired November 19, 2016 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Might he now be in a position to shape civil rights policy?
And in what has to be a presidential first, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle Trump University lawsuits.
Plus with so many potential conflicts of interest looming, no less than "The Wall Street Journal" has said that Trump should sell off all his business holdings. Could his conflicts be the Clinton Foundation reducks?
Meanwhile, the president-elect has been shutting out the White House press corps even during a meeting with the prime minister of Japan. Is the functioning of the White House press pool now in jeopardy?
First, for the latest on that pow-wow between Governor Romney and President-elect Trump, joining me now CNN correspondent Jessica Schneider in Bedminster, New Jersey.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey, Michael, you know that highly anticipated face-to-face will happen this afternoon just a few miles from here at the Trump National Golf Club, a private golf resort.
The two men, to say the least, have had a very contentious relationship. Their war of words really reaching a crescendo back in March at the height of the primary season when Mitt Romney held that 20-minute press conference where he very plainly and flatly called Donald Trump a fraud and a phony. But one of the things that could be on the list when they meet today, secretary of State position.
Sources close to Romney say that if Mitt Romney were to get back into government -- consider. However, a close friend has expressed healthy skepticism that Mitt Romney would actually join the Trump administration if that position were offered. So the question as we move forward to the meeting today is will this just be a mending of fences between these two men who have had contentious war of words battles or will, in fact, Mitt Romney consider joining that team of rivals -- Michael.
SMERCONISH: Thank you for that report.
Now about the administration appointments he's already made. Last week I said that although I didn't vote for him, I recognize Donald Trump as my president and that I would evaluate him based on his actions, not on his words as a candidate. I said that I hope that he'd govern not as an ideologue, but as a deal maker, a pragmatist, maybe we'd see a compromiser-in-chief in the White House. After all, on election night he said, it's time to, quote, "bind the wounds of division," unquote.
Well, after another week, the Trump administration is taking shape and my glass is half empty. At the outset it looked like the president- elect was trying to appease the different, sometimes conflicting constituencies that had supported him. Steve Bannon, a media provocateur and critic of House Speaker Paul Ryan was named senior adviser. But at the same time, Ryan's Wisconsin neighbor, the more establishment Republican, Reince Priebus, was named White House chief of staff. Balance is good.
Then came three more picks, Lieutenant General Mike Flynn as national security adviser, Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general and Congressman Mike Pompeo as head of the CIA.
Flynn has said that Islam is an ideology, not a religion. Sessions' inflammatory words about race as a prosecutor caused a Republican Senate to turn aside his judicial nomination on Ronald Reagan's watch. Pompeo has some impressive credentials but was one of Hillary Clinton's most vociferous critics regarding Benghazi and as recently as Thursday tweeted that he looked forward to rolling back the nuclear agreement with Iran. He has also called for the death penalty for NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden.
It's a hard line bunch and racially diverse these five are not. So in regards to this meeting with 2012 standard bearer Mitt Romney, here's hoping he's not window dressing but an actual reach. If not across the aisle, at least toward the center. The Cabinet and staff picks in combination with the president-elect's Twitter attack on, quote, "professional protesters," his unwillingness to totally divest himself and family from his businesses as even the "Wall Street Journal" advises, and keeping the American media at bay while having his first meeting with a foreign leader are all troublesome signs.
Come on, Mr. President. Surround yourself with more balance in both perspective and experience not to mention diversity. Yes, you won. You're entitled to pick your team, but the selections you make now are going to have long-range implications and you are the president of all of us, not just the 47 percent who voted for you.
Joining me now, legendary legal expert Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at the Harvard Law School and author of this book, "Electile Dysfunction: A Guide for Unaroused Voters," oh my. And former writer for President George W. Bush, Ned Ryan.
Ned, you get the first shot. Respond to my words. Am I mistaken when I say I'm looking for a president-elect to be more inclusionary?
NED RYAN, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH PRESIDENTIAL WRITER: Well, here is the deal. I mean, first of all, I think people are understanding that, you know, Trump meant what he said when he was running for office. Now he's won and he's going to -- he's going to put people in places that he thinks are going to advance what he wants to see accomplished.
[09:05:05] And I think you said something interesting, Michael. You know when you said I'm going to give Trump a chance not from his words but from his actions. And I think the thing about -- for example, Jeff Sessions.
I think people will be pleasantly surprised if they start to look at Jeff Sessions' actions when he was a U.S. attorney and attorney general of Alabama. I mean, he was pushing for desegregation of schools. I mean, his case against the son of the clansman that murdered a young black man not only as the U.S. attorney but attorney general eventually led to breaking of the back of the KKK in Alabama. I mean, he voted -- he was one of the only Republicans to vote for Eric Holder as attorney general.
I mean, he was an advocate for Rosa Parks. He voted for the 30-year extension of the Civil Rights Act. So I think Jeff Sessions' actions actually I think people would be very encouraged. And Mike Flynn, I mean, I think Mike Flynn again -- first of all, let's remember, Mike Flynn is a registered Democrat. He was appointed by Obama in 2012 to head the Defense Intelligence Agency, and I think the thing that's great about Mike Flynn, I think he wakes up every morning going, how am I going to keep this country and future generations safe? And I don't think anybody can disagree with that.
SMERCONISH: But, Ned -- Ned, I have to say it, I want to show a piece of footage and allow Professor Dershowitz to respond. I worry that Lieutenant General Flynn is about to become a recruitment device for ISIS. Roll the tape so that we can comment on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Islam is a political ideology. It is a political ideology. It definitely hides behind this notion of it being a religion. I don't see a lot of people screaming Jesus Christ with hatchets or machetes or rifles shooting up clubs or hatcheting, you know, literally axing families on a train. And so it's like cancer. And it's like a -- it's like a malignant cancer, though, in this case. It has metastasized.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Professor, I don't shy away from using the words radical Islam. I regard those words as referring to a small but strident group who are acting in a perversion of the faith. He's saying something different. This sounds to me like the Crusades. What's your thought?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, I agree. I think it's a way overstatement to condemn every Muslim in the world. What I'm afraid of is I see a global phenomenon and it's manifested right now in America of the right moving more right and the left moving more left, and the vital center being eliminated. So in reaction to this anti-Muslim statement we're going to see the
appointment of Keith Ellison as the head of the Democratic National Committee. Keith Ellison is kind of a radical person of the left, strongly anti-Israel, who had close connections to Farrakhan in the past. If the Democrats think that's the way to win elections they are just making a terrible mistake.
DERSHOWITZ: And I think those of us in the center -- I'm a center liberal, there are left center conservatives, we're the ones who are being squeezed out by the movement of the right to the alt-right, the movement of the left to the extreme radical left, and I think we need to see a coalition building to move us more to the center, the vibrant center, which is what America has always been about.
SMERCONISH: Professor, you have defended Steve Bannon against charges of anti-Semitism.
DERSHOWITZ: That's right.
SMERCONISH: But you have not embraced his status, his appointment as a senior adviser. Explain.
DERSHOWITZ: Well, I don't like people to be falsely charged with anti-Semitism. That's a nuclear weapon. And I look at the evidence very closely and I came to the conclusion, as did the Anti-Defamation League, that the charge of anti-Semitism was absolutely false. That doesn't mean that I condone what he said about women, what he has said and allowed to be published about Muslims. I don't think it's a good appointment nor do I think that the Keith Ellison appointment is a good appointment.
But I would also defend Ellison against charges that he is anti- Semitic. I've heard those charges. I've seen no evidence of that. You know, the interesting thing is, everybody who knows these people likes them. I've heard from friends, Bannon, they say he's a wonderful guy in person. Friends of Jeff Sessions, you know, he's a wonderful guy in person. The Jewish community in Minnesota says about Keith Ellison, he's a wonderful guy in person.
So these are all politicians who are charming, who are very good to their constituents. Everybody who knows them loves them but we have to judge them by their complete record. Look, America is a forgiving country. And if Keith Ellison said things in the past and he's apologized for them, I'm prepared to forgive that. If Jeff sessions has said things in the past but he's been a good senator and a good U.S. attorney, I'm prepared to forgive that.
I think we have to look at the total picture, but my distress is the movement of the extreme right more right, the extreme left more left and we in the center being left out.
RYAN: Michael, if I could --
SMERCONISH: Now, Ned -- Ned, I don't concede his point that that represents a majority of the country because I -- you know, all my work here frankly is predicated on the belief that there's a whole swath that is the majority who are somewhere between those polar extremes.
[09:10:03] Let me ask you a different question. The sit-down with Governor Romney. Window dressing or a real prospect of reaching into a different part of the Republican Party?
RYAN: Well, I think first of all there are a couple of things going on. One a healing process. Again, as you pointed out, a very acrimonious relationship through the elections. So I think it's a time for them to be able to sit down and go, OK, we're both Republicans. We might have our disagreements but let's sit down.
I honestly don't think, Michael, if you were to say, Ned, place a bet, you think Romney gets a Cabinet position, I don't think he will.
DERSHOWITZ: I agree.
RYAN: We're going to find out. I think the thing about Trump that he's having a little bit of fun with is having people come in, quite frankly kiss the ring. We saw this happened with Ted Cruz about the attorney general and a couple of days later he announces Jeff Sessions. So I think there are some positives things taking place. I think that Trump is having a little bit of fun right now, but I don't -- I really don't vision Romney getting a place in the Cabinet. But we'll see what takes place.
DERSHOWITZ: You know, I have a different perspective on the secretary of State. I think what we're seeing generally is a marginalization of the State Department. Foreign policy today is not made in the State Department. It's made in the White House. That's been true for several administrations. And I think the appointment of secretary of State -- if it's Romney, who's a great guy. I like him, he was a terrific governor. He is a wonderful man. I would love to see his appointment in the Cabinet. But if he's appointed secretary of State, it will mean even greater marginalization of the State Department.
Giuliani, on the other hand, is so much like Donald Trump. He is tough, he is smart, he is Trump's guide. If Giuliani got the State Department, we'd see an increase in the influence of the State Department in government. So I think this is much about the role of the State Department vis-a-vis the national security apparatus in the White House as it is about particular personnel.
RYAN: Michael, if I could --
SMERCONISH: Alan Dershowitz -- real quick, Ned. Go ahead. Final thought.
RYAN: We're talking -- you know, we're just starting to announce Cabinet positions. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised when they see some of these names being considered. I think you're actually going to see a very diverse Cabinet. Again, this was just the first Cabinet announcement. So I think people need to be a little patient and see what happens over the next few weeks. DERSHOWITZ: I don't think so.
SMERCONISH: But Ned -- Ned, I have to say, I think he made a mistake. I mean, five white guys are the first thing that he announced after what was racially and ethnically very -- it just would have been smart politics to put a person of color out there first and he didn't do it. I don't understand.
I'm out of time but I'm appreciative of Alan Dershowitz and Ned Ryan. Thank you, gentlemen.
DERSHOWITZ: Thank you, Michael.
RYAN: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Tweet me your thoughts @smerconish and I will read some during the program. As a matter of fact, they're already coming in. "A leopard does not change its spots. What did you expect?"
Colin Pinto, I'm trying to give the man the benefit of the doubt. And to look at his actions. Not his words as a candidate.
Coming up, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is Donald Trump's pick for attorney general a controversial one due to his track record and views on civil rights and immigration? Is he the right choice?
[09:17:02] SMERCONISH: Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is President- elect Trump's pick for attorney general. What might that mean for America? In 1986 Sessions was a U.S. attorney from Alabama and Ronald Reagan nominated him to a federal judgeship, four Justice Department lawyers testified that he'd made racist remarks. Now he's been a senator for 20 years. One of its most conservative members. His selection is clearly designed to implement candidate Trump's law and order promises. Is he the right pick?
Joining me now civil rights attorney Areva Martin and Vanderbilt University law professor Carol Swain.
Carol, I know you look favorably on this nomination. Are you saying that his earlier statements back in the era when he was a U.S. attorney are now irrelevant in light of his 20-year record as a member of the Senate?
CAROL SWAIN, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: I think that you have to judge people by their records. And some of the allegations against him were hearsay. And even if he did make racially insensitive jokes like many people have, I think that we need to look at what people actually do. We all make mistakes. I have followed his record for many years. I respect him enormously and I believe that he would bring back respect to the Department of Justice and that he is the right person at this time to help President-elect Trump fulfill his campaign promises. And I think he will be fair to all Americans. And he again will bring respect to the Department of Justice that's been lost over the past eight years. SMERCONISH: Has he conscientiously worked to dispel the shadows that
cost him the judgeship? I lifted those words from the lead editorial in today's "Times," Carol. They say he's done nothing to make amends for those earlier comments if in fact he uttered them?
SWAIN: What would you expect him to do? All I know is that the colleagues that know him intimately in Congress, his Senate colleagues, they respect him. I believe that they will confirm him and that he is -- should be certainly given the opportunity to answer any questions that are posed to him. But I think he is well respected by his colleagues and that he will get bipartisan support.
We need to look at his record. And I don't think it's fair to always go back, you know, 30, 20, 30 years in someone's past to try to dredge up allegations. Every Republican nominee will be dismissed as a racist because all the Democrats do is throw out epithets. And so if you're white, you're racist if you're Republican.
SMERCONISH: Well, let me go -- let me go to Areva. But, Areva, to Carol's point, I'm going to put something up on the screen. I was very close to United States Senator Arlen Specter who served with Jeff Sessions. And in his book, "Life Among the Cannibals," put that on the screen, here's what he wrote. "U.S. attorney Jeff Sessions was defeated for a district court judgeship in America.
[09:20:04] "At Sessions' confirmation hearings four Department of Justice lawyers testified he'd made racist remarks. On June 5, 1986, the committee voted 10-8 against Sessions' nomination with Mathias and me joining the Democrats. That was the Senate's first rejection of a Reagan judicial nominee." And it continues, "Sessions would win election to the Senate in 1996, ultimately succeed me as senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and I have since publicly acknowledged that my opposition was a mistake," writes Senator Specter. "It also remains one of my biggest regrets based on what I later got to know about Jeff Sessions. He was not a bigot. We would go on to enjoy a cordial relationship both before and after my parties switched."
If Senator Specter says, look, I came to know the guy over the course of the 20 years, and I was wrong to oppose him as a judge, does that make a difference to you?
AREVA MARTIN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: It makes a difference to me, Mike. And I agree with Carol Swain on this point, that people can change. And I don't think this nomination of Jeff Sessions has caused the concern in the civil rights community simply because of those statements, those racist comments he made in 1986. Everyone knows about those statements. People are particularly concerned about him for just cause, but people are more concern about what Jeff Sessions in the Senate in the last 20 years.
He has been the most strident opponent of every immigration law that has been presented to the U.S. Senate. He has even opposed legal immigrants getting a pathway to citizenship. He's opposed gay marriages, he's also opposed criminal justice reform, and he has been the biggest, biggest opposer to laws that protect the civil rights of Americans in this country.
And if President-elect Trump, as he said in his acceptance speech when he won the president election, he said he was going to bring people together. He was going to be the president for the entire country. But to appoint as attorney general someone whose job is to protect the rights of all Americans, someone with such a troubling past on race relations as Jeff Sessions that doesn't speak well for the president's statement about bringing us together.
You know, the NAACP, the ACLU, the largest groups that support the rights of immigrants and the LGBT community all speaking out against Jeff Sessions' nomination because they are concerned about his record, not just his statements in 1986, but his actual record as a senator. And that's what we should look at and that record is troubling.
SMERCONISH: Carol, go ahead and respond.
SWAIN: I would say that they have a right to be concerned by the fact that Senator Sessions will support the rule of law. He has a record of being pro-family. And when it comes to immigration, he has been strongly in support of the American worker and he opposes illegal immigration and he will look at some of the programs that we have, the guest worker programs where we may be bringing in people that we really don't need that are low-skilled workers.
And so I think it's very important for a President-elect Trump if he's going to accomplish what he has promised to have a person that he trusts in the Department of Justice, we need a strong leader there. And I believe that strong leader is Senator Sessions. I believe he will be fair to all Americans and he respects the Constitution and the rule of law, so that means that he will be fair to immigrants. He will be fair to anyone that is in America, respecting our Constitution, and our way of life.
SMERCONISH: Areva, quick comment.
MARTIN: Well, I just want to say what president --
SMERCONISH: This could have profound implications for our criminal -- for our criminal justice system. When you think about Eric Holder not being active as a prosecutor of non-violent low-level drug offenders by way of one illustration or this dichotomy in marijuana laws between the feds and the states, Jeff Sessions is going to be the one to sort those sort of things out. It will have a profound impact on our prison population.
MARTIN: Well, absolutely. And Jeff Sessions opposed a bipartisan bill, a criminal -- criminal justice reform bill that would have reduced sentencing -- federal sentencing for those low-level offenders. And that's troubling. And we know under prior Republican administrations the civil rights department was for all practical purposes gutted. And that's what the concern is here. Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch have been very adamant about addressing issues of police brutality and criminal justice reform. What happens to all of that work under Sessions is left to be seen. And I think a Democratic congressman from Illinois put it best, if we
are nostalgic about a time when blacks stayed quiet, when gays were in the closet, where immigrants were invisible and where women stayed in the kitchen, then Jeff Sessions is your guy.
SMERCONISH: Areva Martin --
MARTIN: But if we want to move forward in this country with respect to protection of civil rights, there's some real questions about Jeff Sessions.
[09:25:08] SMERCONISH: Areva Martin, Carol Swain, I always enjoy having the two of you here. Thank you so much.
SWAIN: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: They will come back I am sure.
Another of your tweets, quickly can we put it up? A lot of Twitter activity I'm told. "Smerconish, you speak as if there's something inherently wrong with Trump's nominees merely because they are white."
Live and Raw, I'm saying it's a big diverse country with a lot of strife in the aftermath of this election. I'm sure -- I have to believe he is going to put people of color around him. I'm just surprised that the first five picks were white guys. That's all I was saying.
Still to come, "Clinton Cash" author Peter Schweizer attacked the Clintons for their foundation's availability to foreign leaders who were precluded by law to participate in American elections. So what does he say about our new businessman president's possible conflicts of interest? I will ask him.
And even though candidate Trump often attacked the media many think the media helped his campaign, but now as president-elect, he is shutting out the White House press corps even from meetings with heads of state. Is presidential transparency in jeopardy? We'll talk about it.
[09:30:34] SMERCONISH: Donald Trump campaigned on his strength as a businessman, perhaps he was surprised on Friday when "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page said that the president-elect should liquidate his stake in the family business.
It said, quote, "One reason 60 million voters elected Donald Trump is because he promised to change Washington's culture of self-dealing. And if he wants to succeed, he's going to have to make a sacrifice and lead by example."
Now this is ironic given that except for those damn e-mails the issue that most dogged candidate Hillary Clinton was concern over the ethics of the Clinton Foundation and whether foreign governments made donations in exchange for favorable treatment while she was secretary of State.
Trump's heading down what likely might be an even trickier path unless he heeds the "Journal's" advice.
Joining me now the man who literally wrote the book on the Clinton Foundation, "Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich." Peter Schweizer is a Breitbart News editor and head of the Government Accountability Institute.
Peter, the premise of your book "Clinton Cash" was that the Clintons were able to skirt the legal prohibition against foreign involvement in American elections. Do you see a parallel set of circumstances between the Trump Organization and the Clinton Foundation that could head him into trouble?
PETER SCHWEIZER, AUTHOR, CLINTON CASH: Yes. There are some very perilous waters here, Michael. Look, the bulk of the holdings that the Trump Organization has is in real estate. And particularly when you go overseas to places like Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Russia, those large real estate deals that they engage in are inherently political. You basically have government involvement. And the big concern here is that they are either going to seek -- the Trump Organization is going to seek favorable deals from these governmental entities knowing that Donald Trump is president or that foreign governments are going to offer sweetheart deals for the Trumps in hoping to curry favor. So there's a lot of work I think that needs to be done to create as best we can a wall to make sure that doesn't happen.
SMERCONISH: In other words, the concern that you had with regard to the Clinton Foundation was that a foreign individual or a foreign power could curry favor with the foundation by writing a check or by hiring Bill at an exorbitant fee to speak and therefore ingratiate themselves, and in this case you're saying, hey, you can do business with the Trump Organization and as long as the kids are running it, maybe your star rises.
SCHWEIZER: Yes. I mean, look, imagine this scenario, the government of Russia wants better relations or wants something favorable from the federal government in Washington, D.C. and the Russian government approaches the Trump Organization and says, we've got this prime piece of real estate in Moscow. We would love to give it to you for fire sale prices so you can build a major project here. That's a huge problem. So, you know, the hope is that safeguards are being put in place, that the Trump Organization leadership is on guard for precisely this kind of scenario because I think based on history it's only a question of time when these kinds of offers are made.
And if they take those offers, it's hugely problematic. It's not only a conflict of interest, it's the appearance of a conflict of interest, and then you've got major problems around U.S. policy towards that country.
SMERCONISH: And apart from the foreign prospect, let's just look domestically. And to be fair to the president-elect, he says well, I'm going to be completely out of it and the kids will run the business. I don't know whether he meets the definition of blind trust the way that he envisions it, but you could also see domestic, political entities, maybe it's a union, maybe it's a big pharma, maybe it's somebody with legislation that they'd like to see passed and now the convention, it's at Doral or it's at that Washington Hotel that he just opened up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and Peter Schweizer and others will be writing new books and saying, is there a conflict here? Was there a quid pro quo?
SCHWEIZER: Yes -- no, exactly, Michael. A couple of things, some people have called for Donald Trump to divest himself from the Trump Organization. I think that's a great idea. I don't know all the legalities of it. But I think for him to sell his ownership stake in the companies would be very wise. Second of all, the Trump Organization should announce publicly.
[09:35:02] They don't have to do it legally but I think they really should ethically announce that they are not going to have any government contracts. They're not going to bid for contracts. They're not going to seek contracts with General Service Administration or anybody else in the federal government. That at least offers some assurance that they're trying to create a bright line, but it's very, very difficult when you're talking about large real estate deals.
These aren't stock trades where they trade in and out of stocks. To divest yourself from real estate holdings is not an easy thing. But I think it would be a very powerful thing to do and would send a great signal to the American people who are clamoring for somebody to clean up Washington, D.C.
SMERCONISH: That's good advice. Final question. What will you title the book?
SCHWEIZER: Well, right now I am working on a project. It's a look at widespread corruption in Washington, D.C. involving both political parties and we'll just have to see how things shake out. I am cautiously optimistic, hopeful that Trump, who comes to the White House saying he wants to drain the swamp, and I think he's going to have an ambitious agenda in that regard will hopefully pay special attention to these kinds of ethical issues.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Peter.
SCHWEIZER: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: So what should Trump do to alleviate concerns?
Joining me now is Richard Painter. He was chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush and is currently professor of corporate law at the University of Minnesota.
If President-elect Donald Trump were to call you and seek your counsel as to how to get his business affairs in order before he's inaugurated, what would you say to him? RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER FOR PRES. G.
W. BUSH: Well, I would recommend taking a lot of these holdings and putting them into companies that could go public through an initial public offering with a registration statement that takes a few months to prepare, but that could be done and then the shares could be sold for cash. And he would have a lot of cash there if he's worth what he says he is. And several billion dollars. And then that cash could be invested in mutual funds and/or in treasury securities or put in a blind trust and then invested by the trustee in investments that he wouldn't know about when he was president so he could focus on his job.
SMERCONISH: But he's going to say to you -- he's going to say to you a couple of things, why should I be penalized now that I'm president? Why shouldn't my kids be the beneficiaries of all of my hard work? And he probably also say that the value is tied to me and if I'm no longer associated it's going to be a greatly diminished product and I'm not going to be able to cash out.
PAINTER: Well, first, I think that there are a lot of buildings that are worth a lot and the Trump empire is worth quite a bit of money without his name attached to it. And they could sell that, as I say, through an initial public offering. I think they'd realize quite a bit of cash there, but he's chose to run for president of the United States and he's won the election. And his job over the next four years is to be president of the United States, not to have his name be used to market buildings in various real estate projects all over the world.
I think that creates way too many avenues for actual or perceived corruption and that's going to very much undermine his ability to be a good president.
SMERCONISH: What about the kids? What about the children? How might there be ethical issues related to their continued involvement in the Trump Organization if, say, they provide counsel to their father? Ivanka was president for the meeting with the Japanese prime minister if she is simultaneously running, you know, the hotel division, is that problematic?
PAINTER: Well, the appearances can be problematic, but the ethics rules aren't violated unless the family member becomes a government employee. But if the family member becomes a government employee, and that includes even an unpaid employee on an advisory board, then that family member is going to have to make sure they watch the conflicts of interest because the financial conflicts of interest rules even if they don't apply to the president do apply to government employees including part-time government employees so the family members need to think very seriously about whether they want to cross that line and become government employees and if so they are going to have to watch their financial conflicts of interest very, very seriously.
SMERCONISH: The Trump University case apparently being settled for $25 million, which reminds me, he's not protected against liability as president, which is one more reason to completely divest himself of all ongoing business activities, right? PAINTER: Well, absolutely. The plaintiff's lawyers are going to be
itching to file cases all over the country against Trump business enterprises. Many plaintiff's lawyers are affiliated with the Democratic Party, they're going to be cheered on by the president's political opponents.
[09:40:06] And the "Jones versus Clinton" case has made it very clear that the president can be sued in his personal capacity while he is president. We could have deposition testimony and all that, but we've been through that with President Clinton. And this could be much worse. If he gets rid of the business empire and sells it, he's going to reduce the risk of frivolous litigation and serious litigation, both risks substantially while he's president.
SMERCONISH: OK. An IPO, that's the advice from the man who schooled George W. Bush on presidential ethics.
Richard Painter, thank you so much.
PAINTER: Thank you very much.
SMERCONISH: Everybody against the trial lawyers, I should have said, until they need one. Show me another tweet. "Smerconish, if you think he'll change, you should enroll in Trump University." Very funny. Thank you, Jeff.
Still to come, it's one thing if the president-elect wants to go out for a steak dinner and doesn't feel obligated to notify the media, quite another if he doesn't invite them when he meets with a foreign head of state. We'll talk Trump's treatment of the fourth estate when we come back. And keep the tweets coming at @smerconish.
"Hey, is the media being complicit by saying there is real fear out there? Disappointed is not fear. Words matter." Well, I keep saying conduct matters, but you know, he's now named five people. I think that's conduct and it's worthy of some discussion. Back in a second.
[09:45:35] SMERCONISH: After Donald Trump ditched the press corps this week, the White House Correspondents Association felt compelled to issue a stern rebuke. Quote, "It is unacceptable for the next president of the United States to travel without a regular pool to record his movements and inform the public about his whereabouts." Then Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the White House press was again not invited by Japanese press was allowed.
What does this mean for the relationship moving forward? And how will the public be kept informed about the whereabouts and actions of its elected leader?
Julie Mason, host of the Sirius XM radio program "Press Pool" on the POTUS Channel. She was a White House reporter for Politico, the "Washington Examiner" and "Houston Chronicle" and was an elected board member of the White House Correspondents Association.
Julie, is he making rookie mistakes or do you think there's something more sinister taking place?
JULIE MASON, HOST, SIRIUS XM'S "THE PRESS POOL": Michael, I think it's both. He's shown demonstrated contempt for the role that the press plays in the government and in covering him and also he seems overwhelmed by this transition effort and has been overlooking some protocols that frankly have been in place for decades that are very important to the functioning of democracy.
SMERCONISH: You know that some would say, hey, you know, if the guy wants to go eat a steak at the 21 Club, give him a break.
MASON: Right, exactly. Well, you know, terrible things happen by surprise, Michael. And the principle is more important than the event. You know, Bush was just going to read to little kids in Florida. Kennedy was just on a speech tour in Dallas. The press needs to be there. We don't need to be at the table when he's having a steak. Usually we sit out in a pool van with no bathroom breaks for hours while the president plays golf or the president-elect has dinner, but there's rules in place.
If something happens, if the nation comes under attack, if he comes under attack, you need independent journalists there to be the conduit of information for America and the rest of the world that need to know -- everyone needs to know that someone is in charge. That things are happening as they should.
SMERCONISH: How unusual this episode earlier this week with the Japanese prime minister that the American media would not have been granted access and were put in the position of having to decide, are we going to rely on the Japanese media to cover this?
MASON: That' the thing. Japanese -- it was Japanese government photos that were released. That doesn't meet our standards. That's not the standard for independent journalism.
And Michael, you notice a lot of news organizations aren't using the video, aren't using the photos that came out because that's not how we do it.
SMERCONISH: Including CNN.
MASON: Right. We need independent journalists' eyes on the president-elect when he's meeting with world leaders. That's very, very important.
SMERCONISH: OK, Julie. Fast forward to next spring. We all remember President Obama doing his comedic routine at the expense of Donald Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondent Association dinner where you've been a board member.
Do you think Donald Trump is going to continue the tradition and come speak to the press corps?
MASON: You know, that's a big question, Michael. You raised a really interesting point. That dinner which is so maligned is a fundraising for college scholarships, for students who want to study journalism, and can't afford it. I really hope the president-elect is going to attend. There's no requirement for him to do so. It would be a nice gesture. He doesn't have to do it, but, you know, as he is doing things like meeting with Mitt Romney and showing that he's inclusive and showing that he's serious about all the facets of this job, I really hope he'll consider attending the dinner. It's an important event.
SMERCONISH: Well, I think -- you know, I think that the primer for him was the Al Smith Dinner.
SMERCONISH: He told a very funny joke about Melania when she cribbed from Michelle Obama's speech. That was funny. That was good stiff. And then he deviate and he became, you know, really unsettled in front of a funny audience.
MASON: Right. Right.
SMERCONISH: So it's going to be an interesting issue to see whether he is there at the big dinner.
MASON: He really is not skilled at being self-deprecating. And that's a skill that politicians have to have. That's what's on display at the dinner. Being able to laugh at yourself, maybe that's something he'll learn in the interim.
SMERCONISH: No doubt. Julie Mason, thank you.
MASON: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, Mike Pence went to "Hamilton" last night and was surprised by a cast member's speech at him during the curtain call.
And your best and worst tweets. Let's see another. "Smerconish, who are you kidding? Mitt Romney has been invited to kiss the ring of Donald Trump, the ultimate big dog move. No offer coming." I don't know. I mean, Mitt is a pretty smart guy. I don't know that Mitt would allow himself to be used like that. Time will tell.
[09:54:06] SMERCONISH: This morning Donald Trump tweeted about "Hamilton" because last night Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended "Hamilton" on Broadway and got a surprise message from the cast during the curtain call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRANDON DIXON, ACTOR, "HAMILTON": Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us here at "Hamilton: An American Musical." We really do. We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
DIXON: Our children, our parents or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: You know, I've got to say, I'm with Trump and Pence on this. I mean, can't the guy just have a night out and enjoy the theater?
[09:55:02] As my parents would say, time and a place, time and a place, time and a place. That reminds me, which I just saw that clip for the first time, it reminds me of the night that I spent a lot of money to sit in the front row at Madison Square Garden and listen to Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame, and we were like a mile or two from ground zero as the crow flies. And I had to sit through a lecture that he delivered on habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo prisoners.
And it was just so inappropriate. I think I ended up shouting back during the course of the performance. So let the guy have a night out. For crying out loud, he's got a lot on his plate for the next four or eight years. I'm not denying the message of what I just heard, I'm just denying the propriety of where and when and how it was delivered.
I'm sorry, I just ate up all the time for Twitter. But that's important. Tweet me @smerconish. I'll see you back here in two weeks because we're off for Thanksgiving. Have a great holiday.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik, in today for Christi Paul.