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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Texas Police Officer Killed; Trump's Business Conflicts; At Least 27 Killed In Eastern Aleppo Bombing Today; Four Officers Shot In 4 Cities In 24 Hours. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 21, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:34:05]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

As president-elect Donald Trump tries to build his inner circle, he's making little to no effort to separate himself from his old circles, that is, his business ties, and the questionable lines of conflict of interest seem to be growing by the day.

I want to bring in CNN's Cristina Alesci.

So, Cristina, Trump does not seem to be just toeing the line of conflicts of interest as he defined them during the campaign himself. He seems to be setting himself up for crossing these lines wholesale as president.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Donald Trump doesn't seem to be fretting too much over this topic, and, you know, Jim, that's probably because there are very few laws that actually bar him from running his business even after he takes office.

There is one exception. And it has to do with his ties to foreign businesspeople and, by extension, their home countries. Now, over the last week, several incidents are now under the microscope.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Place your left hand on the Bible and raise your right hand and repeat after me.

ALESCI (voice-over): The president is sworn to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

[16:35:03]

BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So help me God.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So help me God.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So help me God.

ALESCI: But conflicts of interest between Donald Trump's businesses and his presidency are already sparking talk of a constitutional crisis. The concern is over potential insider dealings, a topic he railed

against on the campaign trail.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: More pay for play.

ALESCI: Trump's empire spans the globe, from Canada to the Philippines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here at Century City, Trump Tower Manila will gloriously rise.

ALESCI: To Dubai.

TRUMP: I think you're getting major, major tournaments here in Dubai.

ALESCI: This weekend, new evidence showed that Trump is still clinging to his international business ties.

First, three Indian developers appeared in a photo at Trump Tower standing next to their business partner, the now president-elect. According to "The New York Times," the executives also met with Eric and Ivanka Trump. On Friday, the Trump International Tower in D.C. entertained a group of foreign diplomats, marketing the new hotel's exclusive townhouse suite, cost per night, $20,000.

Experts say that creates an unprecedented opportunity for pay-to-play. Want to get on the president's good side? Some diplomats think that booking a high-end room will do the trick.

Finally, "The Post" reported that since the beginning of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has launched eight companies in Saudi Arabia, possibly tied to a new hotel. That's only part of a larger international portfolio. Trump's companies do business in 18 countries, according to "The Post."

Ethics experts question Trump's holdings.

NORM EISEN, SPECIAL COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT OBAMA FOR ETHICS: Every time that he has an engagement with a friend or a foe internationally in a place where he has an economic interest, the question arises, how are his personal financial interests potentially conflicting with the national interests of the United States?

ALESCI: Trump's chief of staff says the White House will police itself.

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: And I think that, while it's unique, it's certainly compliant with the law, and obviously we will comply with all of those laws, and we will have our White House counsel review all of these things.

ALESCI: And that White House counsel is going to be very busy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALESCI: Jim, most of my sources say that lawmakers aren't going to immediately investigate the conflicts of interest. After all, Republicans control the Congress, so there is no political motivation there.

But lawmakers will have to monitor the situation. And so far Trump wants to hand control of his businesses to his children. But in order to completely avoid scrutiny, he's going to have to sell most of his holdings and probably have to start with his international ones -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And there's been no pledge to do that. Cristina Alesci, thanks very much.

Let's bring in our panel, CNN commentator national political reporter for RealClearPolitics Rebecca Berg and deputy Washington bureau chief for "The Boston Globe" Matt Viser.

So, let's not take my view. Let's not take anybody at CNN's view or yours, but the former White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, Richard Painter, he says all these potential conflicts are bombs just waiting to go off, in his words.

Matt Viser, how can a campaigner who ran for pay-for-play politics -- you heard him there in Cristina Alesci's piece -- continue to meet with business leaders now, but also not clean this up before Inauguration Day?

MATT VISER, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": It's a problem.

We haven't had a president who has this sort of financial network all around the world. He has to do something, it seems, to shed those. They have talked about a blind trust, but they're not talking about it in the traditional sense of actually not knowing what the investments are.

He's talked about sort of handing it off to his kids. I think there's a lot of problems and potential conflicts of interest for dealing around the world that he has to answer and address.

SCIUTTO: Rebecca, in this case, his children actually are going to be critical advisers, so there's not a separation in terms of -- the White House actually won't actually be separated if he does hand them on to the kids.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

Even if his adult children and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, do not take salaried positions in his White House, it's safe to assume that they are still going to be a part of his kitchen cabinet, so to speak. They're still very trusted advisers for him.

And as we have seen throughout this transition, he can't really function without them as advisers. They have been integral to this process.

That's why you're starting to see, for example, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board came out recently and said he should just liquidate his stake in the company entirely, because this blind trust, so to speak, is not really a blind trust.

He will know what deals internationally would or would not help him or hurt him and his business. Why shouldn't we assume that that's going to be at least in the back of his mind as he's crafting these international negotiations?

SCIUTTO: Remember, that was the demand for Hillary Clinton from the Republican side during the primaries with the Clinton Foundation, which is a nonprofit. These are for-profit businesses.

[16:40:04]

I want to ask you both about what we have seen, that sort of revolving door going in and out of Trump Tower and elsewhere, these potential appointees. You have Mitt Romney going in there, and we heard our Sara Murray report earlier that there was talk of Tulsi Gabbard, rather, as well, a Democrat, going in there, talk of her being very impressive, that she's under some serious consideration.

You have a Republican who criticized him very personally during the campaign in Mitt Romney. You got a Democrat meeting with him.

Matt Viser, are these substantive meetings? Are they under actual consideration, in your view?

VISER: They're a substantive part of it. Mitt Romney's meeting lasted for 90 minutes.

They were talking about something in there, presumably. At least in the people that he's bringing in, there is a magnanimous part of Donald Trump that we did not see during the campaign, being willing to meet with Mitt Romney.

(CROSSTALK)

VISER: Yes. The question is, his appointments so far that we know about are in line with Donald Trump the candidate, not Donald Trump the president-elect.

I think we have to wait and see who he actually picks.

SCIUTTO: If there's an actual appointment in that category, as opposed to a meeting.

Rebecca, I want to ask you, because groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, they have been denouncing the hiring of Steve Bannon because of his ties to the alt-right, members of that group.

They are unabashed white supremacists, racists, anti-Semites. They stick by those views. Richard Spencer, he's the man who actually coined that term alt-right. He was in Washington this weekend. He was spewing, as he often does, what I can only describe as hate-filled garbage.

Of Jews, Spencer said -- and we will put this quote up on screen -- "One wonders if these people are people at all, or instead, soulless golem."

That is an alt-right leader, Richard Spencer, talking about Jews.

Does president-elect Trump need to formally denounce and disavow these groups as a whole?

BERGEN: He has in the past over the course of the campaign. He was asked this question a few times regarding David Duke, regarding more generally the alt-right on some of their ethno-nationalist sentiments, and he did denounce them.

But because this keeps popping up and because he chose Steve Bannon and there is some controversy over that, certainly, there are some people that are urging him to do so again.

There's a risk inherent in that, because if he does denounce it, he's raising this issue and lifting it to more prominence, lifting their message to more prominence.

So, I could see why they wouldn't want to say anything. But I think the challenge for Trump and his team moving forward is going to be to assure people that people on the alt-right, white nationalists, do not have a voice in the Trump administration and do not have a place in the policies that they will be crafting when he is president.

I haven't really seen those signals from him yet. I think moving, they're going to be challenge, certainly, to try to tamp down on this narrative is building that they accept some...

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Again, in fairness, Donald Trump, during the "60 Minutes" interview, he looked into the camera and he said don't spout this hate. I'm paraphrasing there.

But he did hire as a chief strategist Steve Bannon, who -- and we had Adam Schiff on here just a short time ago -- saying he, with Breitbart, gave these people a platform repeatedly. And he's in the White House.

VISER: Yes.

Donald Trump, he sort of lit this fire that we're seeing right now and now is afraid to sort of put it out in some ways and be sort of strong on it.

One point of irony is that Mitt Romney, one of the things that led him to speak out so vociferously against Donald Trump was when Trump was slow to denounce David Duke.

TAPPER: To our own Jake Tapper.

VISER: It so appalled Mitt Romney. Yes.

And so that triggered Mitt Romney to give that big speech and sort of denounce Trump and continue doing it. And so it's so ironic and interesting that Romney now is potentially a Cabinet choice.

SCIUTTO: Right.

BERGEN: Part of this is also a political calculation, right? They found that they need these people in their coalition to succeed, so can they disown them and cleanse their coalition of these people?

SCIUTTO: It's a hard question.

Rebecca Berg, Matt Viser, thank you, as always.

Police officers across the country, they're are high alert after now, after four separate cop shootings. Now a massive manhunt under way for one suspect

Plus, so many bombs, they don't even notice anymore, children buried under rubble. So, why have so many residents of Aleppo in Syria put their lives on the line to stay? That's right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] SCIUTTO: We're back with our "World Lead." In Syria, relentless, indiscriminate shelling, pounded, rebel-held Aleppo over the weekend. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad forces killing nearly 300 people, this just in the last week alone. Even for a city that has been ravaged by the five-year war, rescue volunteers say the bombing over the weekend was the worst bombardment yet. In the bloody history of this war, that is saying something. I want to bring in CNN Correspondent Will Ripley. Will, this heavy bombardment included a chemical weapons attack targeting women and children. The pictures just disgusting to see.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A family of six was killed, Jim, when barrel bombs purportedly containing chlorine gas, were dropped on their home. And these chemical attacks have to have occurred on both sides, the rebels have been accused of launching artillery shells with chemical - with chlorine gas inside. And then, these barrel bombings by the Syrian regime as well. This video of this young boy basically struggling to breathe, asking if he's going to die, is one of the most heartbreaking and yet sadly familiar scenes that we are seeing unfolding just in the last week. In rebel-held East Aleppo, more than 300 people have been killed in what residents describe as the most intense bombardment since that city first was under siege back in mid-2012. People who have lived through this nightmare for more than four years say it's never been this bad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIPLEY: The explosions are like clockwork in rebel-held east Aleppo. All day every day.

[16:50:03] ISMAIL ALABDULLAH, ALEPPO RESIDENT: They actually -- they did -- they don't know how to wake up normally, without sound of bombing, without anything.

RIPLEY: Ismail Alabdullah takes cover in his basement during our 14- minute conversation, I count at least 17 blasts.

And there's another one.

Each getting louder, closer. I'm listening to these explosions here and it seems like it doesn't even faze you. I mean, you're so used to it.

ALABDULLAH: It's normal for us. We're not a human beings anymore because after this.

RIPLEY: This is a normal day in east Aleppo, first responders racing from one site to the next.

"This is our country, our country," says this man, refusing to let even destruction like this, forced him from his home.

Why do you stay?

ALABDULLAH: Why do we stay? We stay because it's our city. It's because they - because they have no place to go.

RIPLEY: Alabdullah says, the more than quarter million people who remain in East Aleppo, don't trust the so-called humanitarian corridors. He says snipers on both sides, shoot and kill people who try to leave.

ALABDULLAH: We're not going to leave. We're not - we are going to die.

RIPLEY: He lost three friends in three days. He says many feel tired, hopeless, abandoned by the world.

ALABDULLAH: Yeah, I think it would be --

RIPLEY: That was close. That one was close.

ALABDULLAH: OK. I'm going to go.

RIPLEY: OK, be safe. Be safe.

Despite nearly five years of pleading for help, the relentless bombing of east Aleppo continues.

Wow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

What we're seeing right now is the Syrian regime essentially targeting the city's medical facilities, all of the major hospitals have been knocked out of service, which means that these injured patients have nowhere to go, they're rapidly running out of medicine and food, even water, with no immediate plan for the United Nations to provide much- needed aid. Jim, they say many people could starve very soon if something isn't done, and it seems as if this is just the beginning.

SCIUTTO: Just so much suffering, so many years. Will Ripley in Istanbul, thanks very much.

A police officer executed on the steps of his own precinct. That's just one of four alarming ambush-style attacks inside 24 hours, all of them targeting cops, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Tapping our "National Lead," an urgent manhunt underway for a suspect who police say, killed San Antonio Police Officer in an execution-style shooting. That slang is just one of four separate shootings targeting police over the last 24 hours, near Kansas City and St. Louis, in Sanibel, Florida, three other officers gunned down by assailants. Those three others were fortunate to escape with their lives. CNN's Polo Sandoval has this report on how the mayhem all started.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Police are on high alert. It started Sunday around 11:45 a.m. in San Antonio, Texas.

WILLIAM MCMANUS, CHIEF OF SAN ANTONIO POLICE DEPARTMENT: We have pulled out all the stops.

SANDOVAL: The search now underway for the man who police say ambushed 50-year-old Detective Benjamin Marconi, who was writing a traffic ticket in his squad car.

MCMANUS: We consider this suspect to be extremely dangerous both to the police and to the public.

SANDOVAL: Officer say, this man walked into police headquarters shortly before the shooting and asked a question of the desk clerk. The man later pulled up to Marconi's car, shot him in the head from outside of the car. And then, reached through the window and shot the 20-year veteran again. Police believe Marconi was targeted not as an individual but as a symbol.

MCMANUS: I think the uniform was the target. And anyone who happened to (INAUDIBLE) the first person who happened along was the - was the first person that he targeted.

SANDOVAL: Several hours later in St. Louis, Missouri, a 46-year-old police sergeant was waiting in traffic around 7:30 p.m. when the suspect drove up to the driver's side of his patrol car and opened fire, shooting the 20-year veteran twice in the face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like he's going to survive, he's going to be OK, but this is traumatic.

SANDOVAL: Police believe the suspect was a wanted criminal.

SAMUEL DOTSON, ST. LOUIS POLICE CHIEF: When he saw the officer, he became concerned that he would be recognized and we believe he fired at the officer for that reason. SANDOVAL: The suspect was killed following a late night manhunt and shootout with police. In Sanibel, Florida, a quiet beach community which has never had one of its officers shot, a suspect is in custody for shooting Officer Jarred Ciccone. He was also conducting a routine traffic stop. According to police, Ciccone was on the side of the road when the suspect drove by and started shooting. The officer was injured but has since been released from the hospital.

Finally, around 10:30 p.m. in Gladstone, Missouri, nine miles north of Kansas City, an officer and a suspect were both shot at a traffic stop. It's unclear if the officer was targeted in this attack. There was no known connection between any of these four attacks.

MCMANUS: It is certainly a coincidence, but we're not going to venture to say that it's connected.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANDOVAL: Outside detective Marconi's police headquarters, this makeshift memorial continues to grow at this hour. It's not very far where the shooting happened, Jim, tonight. This community in South Texas is coming together. They're grieving, they're praying those sworn to protect them continue the search for this cop killer, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Polo Sandoval, thanks very much.

That is it for THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in all week for Jake Tapper. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer. He's in "THE SITUATION ROOM."