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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Official: Secret Service May Rent Floor at Trump Tower; Interview with Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York; Trump Mulling Cabinet Picks; Legislative Coup in North Carolina?. Aired 4:00-4:30p ET
Aired November 25, 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: So, just who is on president-elect Trump's Christmas wish list? The lead starts right now.
Thanksgiving is over, which means Christmas shopping season has just started. Donald Trump has yet to reveal his pick for secretary of state. And sources say the pool of names keeps growing.
Trump warned Democrats could steal the election. But now in North Carolina, some Democrats say it's the Republican governor pulling a fast one. Are they right, or is this just politics?
Plus, fighting ISIS from the edge of space, the top-secret aircraft searching for the terrorists' secret hideaways.
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in today for Jake Tapper this Black Friday.
While you're shopping for heavily discounted TVs or Snuggles Dream Puppies, president-elect Donald Trump is search Amazon for White House staff and Cabinet officials. OK, he's not, but Trump did click the buy button on two top aides for his White House staff, yet still no word on who will be the next secretary of state.
Heading into today, Trump had two items in his shopping cart, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. But today we're learning the president- elect is considering up to five choices now.
CNN's Jim Acosta has the latest.
Jim, transition sources telling you, you got five names on that list. Does that reflect infighting inside Trump's circle?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Perhaps some, Jim. But we should also point out just a little bit of news that came in, in the last hour or.
We are told that Mitt Romney is still in the running as secretary of state and that Governor Romney and Donald Trump spoke over Thanksgiving. I'm told that it was a brief conversation, but they did speak. Donald Trump, as you said, did add more names to his administration today, but for the president-elect, filling the deputy national security adviser and White House counsel is, as one source put it, a layup, nowhere near level of difficulty that is now apparent that comes with picking the next secretary of state.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Now that he's finished with his Thanksgiving turkey, Donald Trump is stuffing his White House staff, naming former Republican administration official K.T. McFarland his deputy national security adviser and Don McGahn his White House counsel.
McFarland, a foreign policy hawk and FOX News contributor, accused Russia of meddling in the presidential election just last September.
K.T. MCFARLAND, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: And he said, it's not a Russian state entity and then he smiled. What's that? That's an admission that, in fact, they're doing it. And why do they it? It's because they can get away with it.
ACOSTA: But Trump still faces the high-stakes test of choosing his next secretary of state. A transition source says, in addition to Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, retired General David Petraeus, retired marine General John Kelly and Senator Bob Corker are also in the running for the post.
It's a battle that has divided the president-elect's world into rival factions between aides who see Romney as the safe choice and staffers loyal to Giuliani. Senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway took her thoughts to Twitter, saying: "Receiving deluge of social media and private coms regarding Romney. Some Trump loyalists warn against Romney as secretary of state."
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I would suggest there are a lot of other people who are more qualified than Romney in foreign policy and who are also -- have not been as actively hostile as he's been.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: It's not about that I don't care for Mitt personally, but I am still very happy that Mitt did everything he could to derail Donald Trump. He attacked him on a personal level about his character, integrity, his honor.
ACOSTA: Giuliani boasted about his credentials to "The Wall Street Journal," saying: "I probably have traveled in the last 13 years as much Hillary did in the years she was secretary of state."
Romney's world is much more quiet, with wife Ann tweeting on Thanksgiving, "Thankful today for a full house and full heart."
As for Petraeus, the former CIA director who was sentenced to two years of probation after sharing classified information with his lover, told the BBC he is open to serving in government again.
DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I have been in the position before where a president has turned to me in the Oval Office in a difficult moment and turned without any pleasantries and said, I am asking you as your president and commander in chief to take command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. And the only response can be, yes, Mr. President.
ACOSTA: During the campaign, Trump defended Petraeus, saying he received far worse treatment than Hillary Clinton did from FBI Director James Comey.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: After all of these items where she is so guilty, he left her off the hook, while other lives, including General Petraeus and many others, have been destroyed for doing far, far less.
ACOSTA: Now, as for the infighting over secretary of state, tensions are building in response to some of the grumbling over Romney's past criticism of Trump.
One Romney loyalist said to me: "Who needs who more?" And Trump's transition team is floating more names for secretary of state, as we reported, Jim. That is a sign that this may not be just a battle between Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani anymore.
SCIUTTO: Well, it would be an interesting confirmation hearing on classified information for Petraeus as well.
ACOSTA: Absolutely. Could be sticky.
SCIUTTO: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
ACOSTA: You got it.
SCIUTTO: We're turning now to our panel to talk more about the transition effort.
I want to bring in the panel, "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers, contributing writer fore "TIME" magazine Jay Newton-Small, and national political reporter for Bloomberg Sahil Kapur.
Thanks to all of you for coming in, day after Thanksgiving.
So, Kirsten, you know, seeing this battle kind of bubble up out into the public and on social media, Kellyanne Conway tweeting about it, do you think he could survive this, Mitt Romney? Clearly, there is opposition inside the inner circle.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think that's what we are all waiting to see. Is Trump going to be somebody who is really swayed by his closest advisers, the people who were really the people who helped get him here, or is he going to decide now, is he going to decide and say, look, this is the team who got me here, but I need a different team to move me forward?
I would say it doesn't look great for Mitt Romney, but we don't really know yet how Donald Trump can make these decisions, and so he could surprise us. SCIUTTO: And I suppose the thing is about this, Jay, is that each --
none of these candidates are perfect. Right?
You talk about Petraeus, he has his own issue with having misdealt with classified material. Giuliani, you were mentioning this before about business conflicts of interest, et cetera.
JAY NEWTON-SMALL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": The man gave so many speeches to Wall Street. And that was such a huge criticism for Hillary Clinton, right? Everyone kept saying, she is bought and paid for by Wall Street. She's in the pocket of all the rich people.
Rudy Giuliani has done nothing since he was America's mayor but give tons of speeches about what it was like being mayor of New York during 9/11 and lobbying for all kinds of shady governments.
And so a lot of people that I have spoken to on the Hill, in the Senate, even Senate Republicans, have said, we know that we can confirm Rudy Giuliani, because there are so many sort of dogs in his past that have to be fleshed out and have to be discussed.
So if there is a question of Rudy Giuliani, if there's questions about him, if there is questions about David Petraeus, Mitt Romney clearly confirmable. In fact, he gives Democrats the warm and fuzzies. That tells you how far we have come from 2012, but, obviously, a huge critic of Donald Trump.
And the question now is, can Donald Trump take that in his own team? Can he have a team of rivals, where people tell him point blank, no, we don't like the way you are going, we want to see a different direction?
SCIUTTO: I would say the Republican Party is sort of like Iran, right, yesterday's hard-liners are today's moderates.
But when you look at this, a lot of this, Sahil, is a parlor game, as to people betting who we're going to get in these key positions. But as you look at what we have seen so far in the candidates, are you sensing any kind of consistent vision or style that Donald Trump will be likely to govern by in these various choices?
SAHIL KAPUR, BLOOMBERG: Jim, I think the consistent thing here is we that are seeing the vast majority of the picks that Donald Trump has made for these administration appointees are people who have been loyal to him and people who share his vision, whether it's Steve Bannon, a strategist, and Jeff Sessions on things like immigration and trade, Michael Flynn, national security adviser, on his suspicion and negative views toward Muslims.
I think the battle over Romney and these leaks we are seeing, these power plays we're seeing by some people within Trump's team is shaping up to be a proxy war over whether Trump will bring in people who have been opposed to him in the past, someone like Mitt Romney, who was very critical of Trump in the primary, called him a fraud, a phony, a con artist.
Nobody else Trump has picked has been of that mold.
SCIUTTO: Nikki Haley, though.
KAPUR: Nikki Haley was supporting Marco Rubio in the Republican primary, but her criticisms of Trump were a lot more muted. So, that's true, but I would put it in a little bit of a different category.
SCIUTTO: That's a fair point.
I was told earlier by transition sources that criticism is OK. Personal attacks might be a bridge too far. But who knows? I suppose we will see.
POWERS: Yes, but for who is the question.
It seems like Donald Trump is kind of over it. It seems the people who aren't over it are Newt Gingrich and Kellyanne Conway and Rudy Giuliani and who else, we don't know. So it doesn't seem to be an issue for Donald Trump.
If it was, he wouldn't be meeting with him in the first place. Right?
SCIUTTO: That's a good note, fair point.
NEWTON-SMALL: It's always like that, though. It's always staffs.
Even between Obama and Hillary, it was staff that for years and years and years, even now, like to hold those grudges, whereas the two of them had buried the hatchet a long, long time ago.
KAPUR: The latest indications are that Romney is still in the running.
I part of the effort here by these staffers and these advisers to Trump is to maybe try to elbow him put, so that he withdraws or whatever because he doesn't want to deal with this kind of drama. There is a lot of it.
As we heard from Jim Acosta before, they did speak, though. Romney and Trump did speak yesterday. No idea what they said in those conversations.
K.T. McFarland, this is a name that is out there now, deputy national security adviser. You have the advantage of having worked with her over at another network whose name I won't mention. Do you have a sense of vision, policy priorities for her and how she would fit with Michael Flynn?
POWERS: I always thought of her as somebody as being a pretty conventional hawkish Republican. So, it wouldn't be a kind of Donald Trump sort of Republican. But she
did support him, I gather. And so this is top-down. It's Trump's vision. And people are there to implement it. And so I guess I am told she is very close to General Flynn. And that's probably in large part why she got this. And I'm sure Trump is familiar with her, because we know he watches a lot of cable TV and obviously likes what he sees.
But, like I said, they're going to be making the recommendations. But he has a pretty clear I think idea of what he wants to do that is not a conventional Republican foreign policy.
SCIUTTO: There was so much talk about intelligence briefings for the candidates before the election and now after the election.
We are learning reports that Donald Trump since the election, we are already 17 days out, has had two intelligence briefings. His vice president apparently has had more. He's offered these every day. He has access to the president's daily briefing, the PDB, which he could get every day.
Should we be concerned? Should Americans back home be concerned?
NEWTON-SMALL: I mean, it's certainly been -- some people have expressed a lot of concern, saying at this time in the nation's history, this is a point now where you really want to be getting...
SCIUTTO: There's a lot going on.
NEWTON-SMALL: There's a lot going on.
There is a lot of insecurity in the world. And that is, frankly, what helped elect him, right, is the sense of insecurity in the world. You would want your president to really boned up on this stuff.
His staff sort of plays it down, says, look, he has been incredibly busy. He's running a transition. He's picking up a Cabinet. And there's others things going on. He is absolutely up to date on what's going on. They're not worried at all.
SCIUTTO: Sahil, too busy to received classified intelligence briefings on national security threats?
It's an interesting phenomenon that what we are seeing. But I think it speaks to the fact that the people that Donald Trump surrounds himself are going to be more than important than usual, because this is someone who has not had experience in serving in public office and who has not had experience in government.
And that's highly unusual for a president in this era, and especially in an era with threats this complicated abroad. I think it matters. That's why these picks that we're seeing matter a whole lot more than they might otherwise.
SCIUTTO: No question.
Kirsten, Jay, Sahil, thanks very much. Happy Thanksgiving to you as we head into the weekend.
It may end up being White House north, new information about the potential taxpayer cost to protect Donald Trump's Fifth Avenue home.
[16:15:42] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We are back with word of new logistics and lots of money in the works to secure Donald Trump and his family at their New York home, which has become known as White House north. Trump Tower in the heart of Manhattan features an atrium opened to the public, luxury stores and restaurants and perhaps soon, a floor for the Secret Service.
I want to bring in CNN's Pamela Brown.
So, Pamela, I mean, this is a big logistical challenge and also a lot of money we are talking about here.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's both and plans are in the works as we speak to figure out how to make this happen. And what we're told, Jim, by officials is that the Secret Service is looking at least at one floor inside Trump Tower, basically set up a command post.
Now, we spoke to a person responsible for renting out these floors. And we're told that one floor would cost $1.5 million a year. That is on top of the million dollars a year we are told, a day I should say, being spent on protecting Trump and his family in New York City.
So, the costs are really adding up here. I am told the situation would be different, it would cost less and there wouldn't be much security if you didn't have the future first lady staying in Trump Tower through at least the spring. Of course, that would mean the president would be coming back a lot.
So, that's basically what the Secret Service is preparing for Trump when he's president and president-elect as we've seen going back and forth. What's also interesting here is the fact have you Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, one of the busiest corridor, one of the busiest cities in the world. And the Secret Service will be renting out this floor and paying the Trump Corporation, which owns the building.
So, essentially, if you but this together, Trump --
SCIUTTO: Is there any precedent for it, because, one, you in effect have to secure. Two, permanent residences at least for a period of time. It's not like going on vacation, you know, for a couple of weeks. Also the money is not only being charged by taxpayers. The taxpayers in effect are paying at least a corporation. (CROSSTALK)
BROWN: Exactly, in that sense. Now, we don't know all the details worked out, in that since, Trump's corporation, his company, would be getting the money the Secret Service would be paying for the rent of that floor through taxpayer dollars.
So, it's really unprecedented in that sense.
BROWN: Of course, this could all change if and when the first family permanently moves into the White House. We know that Melania and Baron are seeing in the spring. We don't know after that what will happen.
But a lot of this is unusual. At the same time, a lot of this is typical for Secret Service. After every election, the Secret Service has to come up with a brand-new game plan on how to protect the future first family. So, that's what's happening right now. But there are some interesting aspects for sure.
SCIUTTO: So, yes, unusual to be paying the first family to protect the first family?
Pamela Brown, thanks very much.
Was the Kremlin behind those fake news stories that flooded your Facebook and Twitter feeds before and during election? That's next.
And then, one candidate has declared himself the winner, even putting together his transition team. The other candidate is still refusing to concede. The governor's race that won't end, that's coming up.
[16:23:04] SCIUTTO: Welcome back.
And sticking with politics now. Like shouting into a hurricane, that's how researcher get the truth to break through the fake news stories during the 2016 presidential campaign. Now, those researchers tell "The Washington Post" that Russia helps spin those fake stories by exploiting American-made platforms like Twitter to boost stories pedaling conspiracy theories, for instance, around Hillary Clinton's health, or a secretive group of power brokers that really runs the world.
Joining me now is Congressman Gregory Meeks. He is a Democrat for my home state of New York. Thanks very much. And he sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Very happy Thanksgiving to you, Congressman Meeks.
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Thank you. Same to you.
SCIUTTO: So, this is serious stuff we are talking about here, a coordinated effort to spread fake news, really just false information to in effect poison the U.S. election campaign. What's your reaction to this report?
MEEKS: Well, I think throughout the election campaign, you saw that there was only, it was one-sided. I mean, the Russians clearly were supporting Mr. Trump and clearly did not want Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States. All of our intelligence agencies have indicated that.
And so, whether it's WikiLeaks, whether it's these fake stories that were on the Internet, they've perfected them to try to distort -- at least the thought process of the electorate and probably with some success. Some folks, you read something and they believe it, because it's written on the Internet. So, it is troubling and it's very concerning.
SCIUTTO: This is, in effect, an attack -- and you mention in addition to something that U.S. intelligence has identified. They say that Russia was behind those cyber attacks, exposed the emails of the DNC, other Democratic officials. That is, in effect, not even just in effect, it is by definition a cyber attack on the American, on America's democracy.
[16:25:01] What do you think that the response should be?
MEEKS: Well, I think that there has to be a response and I would hope that the president-elect would not, you know, he seemed to disbelieve everything that was being thrown at that time and he says, ah, it's not Russia.
So, the first thing I am focused on is hoping that the president-elect reads the intelligence briefings and believes in the intelligence briefings and not the scientists say, well, you are wrong, I'm right, just based upon a whim that he may have. So, that's my first concern, based upon his statements during the campaign that you've got to read these briefings. You got to analyze them, then you can make the appropriate responses to make sure that we're protecting the integrity of the United States.
SCIUTTO: Should Congress investigate Russia's attack on the U.S. election, one? Then I would ask you in conjunction with that, do you expect the Republican-led Congress to do so?
MEEKS: Should Congress do an investigation? Absolutely. Should Congress conduct hearings in regards to what took place? Absolutely.
Will Congress do it? Well, it doesn't look like it right now. I think, but you will see and hear Democrats -- I think Elijah Cummings on the government operations, on Oversight Committee, has sent letters to the chair of the committee, saying that we need to look into some of these things and we need to look into it very religiously for the country of the United States.
And I think that Democrats will be making a lot of noise to the American publics that Congress should do its job to make sure that we are investigating the integrity of the elections and the infiltration of Russia propaganda into American politics.
SCIUTTO: You mentioned intelligence briefings. There's a report that Donald Trump in the 17 days since he was elected president of the United States, has only taken two intelligence briefings. Although he has the option every day to get the presidential briefing as it's known. Does that concern you?
MEEKS: Well, it does concern me, because our national security is the first priority, and on top of which concerns me is what Donald Trump has said all along, that he knows more than the intelligence agencies, that he and he alone can move forward with foreign policy. So, that concerns me very much.
You know, sometimes as a business person, you can do something on a whim and sometimes if the whim is wrong, you know, you go file bankruptcy and you do something else. You can't do that as president of United States of America. You can't -- our national security is at stake here and so, you know, as I've looked and heard and read about prior presidents, they've delved into some of these matters very seriously, between the time of day where the president-elect to the time they became president.
I think that it's -- you know, when you look at Mr. Trump and his background, it's unprecedented that you have someone like him, who has never been in government before. So, I would think he would delve night more than anyone else. But it seems to be that's just not the case here.
SCIUTTO: Certainly, no shortage of national security threats. Congressman Meeks, wish you the best this holiday season.
MEEKS: Thank you. Good being with you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: It's been nearly three weeks since Election Day. But one state still doesn't know who its next governor will be. Next, the vote fight that's getting uglier by the day in North Carolina.