Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Trump Calls Gen "Mad Dog" Mattis Impressive; Interview with Congressman Adam Schiff of California; 7.3 Earthquake Rocks Japan, Now Bracing for Tsunami. Interview With Florida Governor Rick Scott; Texas Police Officer Killed; Trump Meets With Potential Cabinet Picks. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired November 21, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Meeting with foreign businessmen while running the U.S. government, remember when that was a bad thing?
THE LEAD starts right now.
His critics called him a liberal New York Democrat. Some even accused him of being Democratic Party plant. So, could one Democrat find her way into the president-elect's Cabinet? The surprising name on Trump's guest list today.
Donald Trump says he will have nothing to do with his business empire now that he's running the country. So, then why did he meet with three tycoons from India just last week?
And ambushed. A San Antonio police officer gunned down execution- style right outside police headquarters. He's one of four police officers shot in fewer than 24 hours, seemingly targeted just because they wear the uniform.
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in again today for Jake.
Donald Trump is conducting a highly public recruiting search to fill his Cabinet, as a parade of elected officials, former rivals, even a Democrat or two show up for meetings with the president-elect, of course, at lavish Trump properties.
As Trump makes his Cabinet decisions, his team says he will also be telling America more a what he is hoping to accomplish while in office with a new video in which he will address the American people directly. We're expecting that video this afternoon.
CNN's politics reporter, Sara Murray, is live outside Trump Tower in New York.
Sara, what Cabinet posts is Mr. Trump concentrating on filling right now?
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, at the moment, I'm told they're focusing less at the post and more on the person. For instance, I'm told the meeting with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard went very well. I'm hearing from a source that she was very impressive and is under serious consideration for a national security position.
But, as you pointed out, while filling out a Cabinet normally resembles a covert operation, that certainly is not how Donald Trump is running his operation.
MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump is bringing a taste of reality television to the staid Washington tradition of building a presidential Cabinet.
QUESTION: What are you looking forward to discussing with Rudy Giuliani later today?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Oh, wouldn't you like to know?
MURRAY: The president-elect convening another spree of sit-downs and job interviews at Trump Tower today, meeting with Democratic Congresswoman and combat veteran Tulsi Gabbard and former Texas Governor Rick Perry, both under consideration for Cabinet posts, as well Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.
That's after Trump beckoned some of his biggest backers and prior critics for meetings over weekend at his New Jersey golf club.
TRUMP: Tremendous talent, we're seeing tremendous talent, people that, as I say, who will make America great again. These are really great people. These are really, really talented people.
MURRAY: Aiming to build suspense about who might make up his Cabinet, and teasing major announcements that never quite materialized over the weekend.
Meanwhile, one of Trump's first White House hires, chief strategist Steve Bannon, is battling back critics' charges that he has helped elevate the views of white supremacists, the Breitbart News executive telling "The Wall Street Journal": "I'm an economic nationalist. I'm an America first guy," but insisting he rejects anti-Semitism and racist views.
It's clear, though, that the white nationalists aren't rejecting Trump. In fact, they lauded the president-elect and used a Nazi-era slur to bash the media this weekend at a meeting in Washington.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those of us in the alt-right always took president-elect Donald Trump and his chances seriously. The mainstream media, or perhaps we should refer to them in the original German, luegenpresse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mainstream media never did.
MURRAY: And while the president-elect has said little about the white supremacists embracing his victory, aside from one rebuke in an interview, the former reality TV star served up plenty of criticism of the entertainment industry this weekend after "Saturday Night Live" brought back Alec Baldwin as Trump.
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Siri, how do I kill ISIS?
MURRAY: Trump hit back, calling "SNL" a "totally one-sided, biased show, nothing funny at all."
And he's continuing to hammer the Broadway musical "Hamilton," tweeting: "The cast and producers of 'Hamilton," which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior."
That's after the vice president-elect faced some boos when he attended last week and the cast addressed him from the stage with a plea for tolerance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To work on behalf of all of us.
MURRAY: An uncomfortable moment that at least Pence appears to be taking in stride.
MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: What I can tell you is, I wasn't offended by what was said.
MURRAY: Now, aside from a word here and there to the press over the weekend, Donald Trump has largely been absent from public view.
One of his top advisers, Kellyanne Conway, says he's so busy with meetings, he really doesn't have time to hold a press conference yet, so this video when it does come out will be some of the most extensive comments we have seen from Trump since he became the president-elect about what he plans to do when he gets to the White House -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: No time for press conferences, certainly time for tweeting.
Sara Murray, thanks very much.
One of those politicians making the trek to Trump Tower in New York joins me now.
He is an early Trump supporter and Florida Governor Rick Scott. He met with Mr. Trump on Thursday.
Governor Scott, thanks for taking the time today. GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Hi, Jake. How you doing? We had a
good meeting. I can tell you, he's working hard. He's energized. I think he's going to put together a great team.
SCIUTTO: It's Jim Sciutto here in New York. Jake is on vacation.
SCOTT: Oh, sorry.
SCIUTTO: That's all right. It happens. It happens. Sometimes, some people even say we look alike.
Are you up for a post in the Trump White House? And if you were asked, would you accept?
SCOTT: I'm not going to go to the White House.
I have a great job. I have little more than two years to go in this job. I have got a lot of good things to get done. I want to continue to win on jobs. We're up to 1.232 million jobs. I want to continue to improve education.
So I have got a lot of things to do here, but I will do everything I can to help president-elect Trump. When I met with him last week, I said, look, I want to help you. We have great Republican governors. I will help you with Republican governors.
We have got to repeal and replace Obamacare. I want to help you do that. On top of that, I want to help you redesign government. What he's going through is similar to what I went through. I had never been in business (sic) before.
And I had to put together a team when I came into this job in 2010. It's a lot of work, but I put in the energy just like Donald Trump is doing right now.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. As he builds his Cabinet, we have been watching Mr. Trump speaking to quite a broad range. There are establishment Republicans, never-Trump Republicans. We saw a Democrat there today.
In your view, is this genuine outreach? Is he considering expanding his tent to include some of those people?
SCOTT: Well, I think you have got to be the president for everybody, and I think he's going to talk to everybody and put together his team.
If you go back to my race in 2010, Republicans didn't endorse me in the primary. It was hard to get them on board in the general. And he went through the same -- he's going through the same experience, but what you want to do is, you want to say, I want to get my agenda done. Who are the best people to get the agenda done?
And that's what he's going to surround himself with. And then he is going to hold them accountable, just like I have been doing in Florida. And it works.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, Governor Scott, because you bring this up. You had a business past. You were not a career politician when you came in.
But when you came into office, you set up a blind trust to separate your business dealings. Donald Trump, he met last week with Indian real estate developers. Some foreign officials have said that they plan to stay at the Trump Hotel just down the street from the White House, in deference to the president-elect.
Aren't these the kinds of conflicts of interest that Mr. Trump accused his opponent of during the campaign? And aren't they genuine conflicts of interest for a president of the United States?
SCOTT: Well, it worked for me to set up a blind trust.
And the way I did it -- the reason I did it that it worked for me to make it easier to make everybody knew I didn't have a conflict. Donald Trump is going to go through the same situation. He's going to figure out what works for him to put everybody at ease to make sure people believe he doesn't have a conflict, which I'm sure he will work hard to make sure he does that.
SCIUTTO: But let me ask you this, because, in Florida, as you know, relatives are barred from managing blind trusts, like the one that you set up for your businesses.
We know, in the case of president-elect Trump, that, in fact, his family members may end up being some of his closest advisers. Why shouldn't the president of the United States meet the same standard that, for instance, the state of Florida has?
SCOTT: Well, if you remember, back in 2010, when I got elected, there was no standard. I did it -- some other prior elected officials had done it in Florida. And I think I'm the only one in Florida who even has a blind trust that is elected. Everybody does it differently.
SCIUTTO: Why did you do it? You didn't do it out of the kindness of your heart, I assume.
SCOTT: I did it because in my case -- so, in my case, I wanted to make sure that everybody felt comfortable that I did not have a conflict.
I had been in business all my life. And so that's the reason I did it. Donald Trump is going to focus on how he can make sure people feel comfortable, because he doesn't want to have a conflict. I don't think anybody elected wants to have a conflict.
You want people to feel comfortable you're focused on what you got elected to do, and I'm sure Donald Trump will be doing the same thing.
SCIUTTO: I want to play a clip from "Saturday Night Live" this weekend which gets to an issue very close to your heart. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Let's move on to Obamacare. As you know, 20 million people use it. And it sounds crazy, but a lot of them like it.
BALDWIN: Keep it. Let's just keep it.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I'm sorry. Keep it?
BALDWIN: Yes, keep it. All of it. No change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Now, obviously, Governor Scott, this is comedy, but it does speak to the difficulty that even some Republicans grant to scrapping Obamacare entirely.
This is an issue that you're very deep into. You have even offered to advise the president on it.
Will Donald Trump and Republicans have to modify, instead of repeal Obamacare, in your view?
SCOTT: Well, I think a lot of elites think you can't repeal.
And you have to repeal it. It's a disaster. It's not good for our country. It's not good for people that want to get health care. Let's think about. What we want is, we want lower-cost health care so people have access to health care.
The way to get that is you have to first repeal Obamacare. Then there will be two things that he said he would like to leave in there, allowing people to stay on their parents' insurance plan until they're 26, and the preexisting condition. That was only put in there at the end to get votes, and that's fine.
But the core of Obamacare has to be repealed. And let's come up with a plan that reduces costs, increases competition.
SCIUTTO: The core. So, you say the core. But you seem to be leaving a door open there to keep some of it.
There are 20 million people who would lose their health care if it disappeared entirely. But you say the core repealed, that seems to be saying you're leaving the door open to leaving part of Obamacare in place, advising the president to do so.
SCOTT: I'm going to advise the president to repeal Obamacare.
I know what he has said about the preexisting condition and keeping people on their policies, their parents' policies, until they're 26. But you have to start off by repealing Obamacare and improve it by reducing costs, by making sure people have access to health care.
The promise with Obamacare is the costs are going up so fast. People can't afford it. Companies can't afford it. And long term, the government won't be able to afford health care.
SCIUTTO: Governor Rick Scott, sounds like you're leaving the door open to Trumpcare, perhaps.
Thanks very much for joining us today.
SCOTT: Have a great day.
SCIUTTO: He's nicknamed Mad Dog, and once said -- quote -- "It's fun to shoot some people."
This former general is one of Donald Trump's top choices for defense secretary, but there is a hitch. That's right after this.
[16:15:44] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
President-elect Trump has spoken to dozens of politicians, business people and military men and women as he fills out his cabinet. But he seems to be zeroing in on one candidate for secretary of defense, Retired Marine General James Mattis. Trump himself praised the marine nicknamed "Mad Dog". But a federal law could stand between the general and the Pentagon.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: All I can say is he is the real deal.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): President-elect Donald Trump is, quote, "extremely entranced" with retired Marine General James Mattis following their meeting this weekend. Sources tell CNN that Mattis is now the leading candidate for secretary of defense.
RET. GEN. JAMES MATTIS (RET), U.S. MARINES: The U.S. military is quite capable of giving our enemies their longest day and their worst day if ordered to do so.
SCIUTTO: Mattis is a seasoned commander with 44 years of service in the Marine Corps and key demands in both Afghanistan and Iran. He won praise for his role in the deadly 2004 battle of Fallujah, his ferocity earning him the nickname "Mad Dog".
Reaction to his possible nomination so far has been positive.
GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Jim Mattis understands how the military can influence and is influenced by those other elements of power. He's very much a strategic thinker.
SCIUTTO: But his career has not been without controversy. In 2005, he came under fire for remarks he made in a panel discussion which seemed to make light of killing in combat.
MATTIS: It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up front with you. I like brawling.
SCIUTTO: Mattis' nomination would, however, face immediate and significant legislative hurdle. Federal law requires that the Pentagon be led by a civilian or a military veteran who has been out of uniform for at least seven years. Mattis has only been retired for three years, so Congress would have to vote to give them a waiver. Congress has only used the waiver once in history, in 1950, allowing President Harry Truman to appoint General George Marshall to the position of defense secretary. The law is rooted in a long standing American principle of civilian command of the military.
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: There's nothing magical in the seven years. They want enough time to say, are you separated enough from the military ethic and culture and part of the community as such to be a civilian boss?
SCIUTTO: Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. He is a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Thanks very much for joining us on a holiday week.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Good to be here.
SCIUTTO: So, as we explain there, the secretary of defense needs to be retired for seven years, would need congressional approval to change that, to grant a waiver. It hasn't happened since 1950. Would Democrats in Congress fight that waiver?
SCHIFF: Well, I think if people want Mattis, if he's the nominee and he's well respected and everything I've seen of him, and I met him when he was in Iraq and leading the first marine expeditionary force, I don't think congressional approval will be an obstacle. There is a sound reason for it. We want people to be civilian leaders not intimately connected with the military at the time they take over that civilian role, but the other reason is we don't want people in the military campaigning for cabinet office while they're in the military.
There was no indication that he was doing that. If anyone, General Flynn was doing that and not while active duty. So I don't think that will be an impediment if, indeed, he is the one that's chosen.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you, because when you look at the big picture, you have these rules and norms that are set up for a reason. And then when we look at others, for instance, the idea of having his son-in- law as an adviser. I mean, there are nepotism rules. Nothing that bars it outright, the president has a lot of leeway, but there are standards that have tended to be followed in the past. Conflicts of interest in terms of his business holdings as well. Still not sure how President-elect Trump will handle those conflicts of interest.
When you bring all these together, aren't you chipping away at laws and standards that have a function, right?
SCHIFF: Well, certainly in the case of potential conflicts of interest, there is profound concern. We've already had the reports of his meeting with Japanese officials and the potential with Indian businesspeople that came up. Is he still, during the transition, focusing on his business interests, not on running the country?
Those concerns are going to be profound if, indeed, he has his kids running the business whether they're involved in the government at all or not.
[16:20:08] That's still a real conflict of interest, but even more so should they have any role whatsoever, should the son-in-law have a role and his wife be running the business. That is just bound to all kinds of conflicts and I think it's going to be problem after problem after problem for the new president.
You know, as much as I urged if Secretary Clinton was available, they should cut it out for a profit, the conflicts are even that much more concerning, and he ought to divorce his whole family from them.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you because Vice President-elect Mike Pence, he left room in the Trump administration, at least for at least the possibility of bringing back waterboarding. How would you respond to that?
SCHIFF: Never going to happen. It's never going to happen. And I think if he were or the president were somehow to instruct the military or instruct our intelligence agencies or anyone else to engage in waterboarding or torture, those orders I think would be refused. I would say to anyone ordered to do that, you should resign your position before you fall, that kind of an order. I'd also want to make sure anyone who's ordered do to anything to the kind ought to use the classified channels to let the House Intelligence Committee know because I would want to know about that and put a stop to it right away.
SCIUTTO: I've spoken to people in the intelligence agencies as well as soldiers and commanders who've said exactly what you said. Is that, you, as in your position as ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, I imagine, have you had similar conversations?
SCHIFF: Well, I certainly -- I haven't had that conversation because people haven't raised, hey, I was ordered to do this. We are never going back to that. We should have never been doing it to begin with, and yes, anyone who is given that order should refuse it, and if necessary should resign. That is not the America we love, and I think Senator McCain is 110 percent right about this.
SCIUTTO: There's been a lot of criticism of Donald Trump's hiring of Steve Bannon as a chief strategist and key advisor. Today, Howard Dean, former chairman of the DNC called him outright a Nazi, his words. Was that going too far? SCHIFF: Well, I don't think a Nazi is accurate. But, look, you know, he has flirted with anti-Semites and racist and bigots and misogynists. That's what his website has largely or often been about. So, there's no denying that he has encouraged and invited in and giving a platform for bigots.
That doesn't make him a Nazi, but it also means he's not somebody that should have any position or responsibility in the White House, and the fact that a president-elect would choose him tells me that he's not ready to endorse himself from that part of his base and that's alarming I think quite despicable really.
SCIUTTO: Certainly some despicable groups rejoicing in his victory.
Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks very much.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Appreciate you coming on.
We have breaking news coming out of Japan, a major earthquake off the coast of Japan. There are now tsunami warnings. We're going to give you an update on that story, right after this break.
[16:27:37] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
SCIUTTO: We have breaking news in our world lead.
A massive earthquake just hit Japan, this off the coast of Fukushima and the country's national broadcaster says that a tsunami is minutes away from hitting Japan's shores. I want to get right to our Jennifer Gray. She is in the CNN severe weather center.
Jennifer, we're getting reports of some buildings in Japan still shaking from what is a very large earthquake. Some evacuations now ordered as well.
JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, not only was this a large earthquake, Jim, but it was a very shallow one. This was a 7.3 and only 10 kilometers deep. So the more shallow the quake is, the more you're going to feel it.
Let's show you exactly where this is because it did occur offshore by about 50 kilometers. And so, we're still getting information in about it, but it did happen about 50 kilometers offshore, so those tsunami waves should be coming very, very soon. We're expected to e the waves up to a meter in height, which is about 3 feet or so, so everyone along the coast, around Fukushima told to go inland. Get to higher ground as fast as you can.
Of course, it's the wee hours of the running there, just after 6:00 or so. And so, folks are urged to get to higher ground. Of course, there's the nuclear power plant that was impacted by the big quake just a couple years ago, of course. But 7.3, that's a big one, Jim, and it's also extremely shallow, only 10 kilometers.
SCIUTTO: Now, is there any concern in the level of earthquake activity that Japan has seen and elsewhere in the region in recent weeks and months?
GRAY: Well, you know, we just had one in New Zealand. I don't think there's huge concern. Of course, with this particular one being a 7.3, we may feel some after shocks in the coming minutes, hours and even days. But we are just right now the tsunami waves, of course, being the biggest concern and those folks getting to higher ground.
SCIUTTO: And people along that coastline, they know the dangers of this all too well.
SCIUTTO: Jennifer Gray, thanks very much.
SCIUTTO: He bashed Hillary Clinton for what he called pay to play. But Donald Trump is walking a very fine line when it comes to his own business dealings, and a number of potential conflicts of interest really just staggering.