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Interview With Congressman Adam Kinzinger; Defense Secretary Pick?; Trump in Indiana; Trump Praises Country He Once Called "Most Dangerous"; Officials: Crashed Plane Ran Out of Fuel; Trump Visits Carrier Plant to Tout Jobs-Saving Deal. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 1, 2016 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: General decision? We're told that the next commander in chief has settled on his choice for defense secretary. How would retired Marine Corps General James Mattis influence America's security? I will get reaction from a war-veteran-turned- congressman.

And out of fuel. Investigators now are pointing to a shocking cause of a deadly charter plane crash. How could the fuel tank of a commercial jet run empty in midflight?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the Trump transition. Tonight, a source is telling CNN the president-elect has zeroed in on retired Marine Corps General James Mattis to become the secretary of defense.

We're told an official announcement will happen next week. A Trump spokesman insists a final decision has not yet been made. We will see if the president-elect offers any new details about his transition when he speaks in Ohio very soon. He's holding his first post- election rally to kick off what he's calling his thank you tour. CNN will carry it live.

Just a few hours ago, Trump visited the Carrier plant in Indiana, touting the deal he made with the company to keep more than 1,000 jobs in the United States. He warned other companies considering leaving the U.S. for Mexico or any place else they would face consequences.

Also tonight, officials now believe the deadly crash of a soccer team's charter team had a very surprising cause. The jet ran out of fuel. Audio recordings reveal a crew member made a frantic call to air traffic control just before the crash, talking about a failure of electricity and fuel.

I will talk about the Trump transition with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. There you see him. He's standing by live, along with our correspondents and analysts, as we cover the day's top stories. Up first, let's go to CNN's Sunlen Serfaty with more on the Trump transition.

Sunlen, the president-elect hasn't spoken out like he's doing today since the election. Update our viewers.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He hasn't, Wolf. Donald Trump has mainly been spending the last three weeks since elected president here holed up at Trump Tower, holding meetings and job interviews to fill out his Cabinet posts.

But transition officials tell us this is something he very much wanted to do, not only to get out and thank supporters, but also to tout one of his first deals as president-elect.


SERFATY (voice-over): Tonight, president-elect Donald Trump is taking his show back on the road.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Is there anyplace more fun to be than a Trump rally?

SERFATY: Returning to a stage he revels in for the first time since being elected. Trump is holding a campaign-style rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, tonight, the first of many thank you events the president-elect plans to hold across the country in the coming weeks.

TRUMP: I love these rowdy crowds. Isn't it great? There's spirit. There's spirit. I said Carrier will never leave.

SERFATY: Trump's victory lap today also bringing him to Indianapolis to deliver on a campaign promise.

TRUMP: They're going to say, Mr. President, Carrier has decided to stay in Indiana. Thank you, sir.

SERFATY: Celebrating a deal he reached with the air conditioning company Carrier to save nearly 1,000 jobs from being shipped to Mexico.

TRUMP: Companies are not going to leave the United States anymore without consequences. Not going to happen.

SERFATY: Sources familiar with the deal tell CNN Carrier will receive $7 million in financial incentives over the next 10 years from Indiana to keep those jobs in the state, the deal getting mixed reaction on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Paul Ryan welcoming the news.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I'm pretty happy that we're keeping jobs in America. Aren't you?

SERFATY: But Vermont Bernie Sanders sounding the alarms, saying Carrier -- quote -- "took Trump hostage and won," setting up a bad precedent for the new administration by signaling -- quote -- "to every corporation in America that they can threaten to offshore jobs in exchange for business-friendly tax benefits and incentives."

Meantime, the suspense continues to build as Trump works to fill out his administration, still hanging in the balance, the most high- profile job of the Cabinet posts, secretary of state.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These discussions I have had with him have been enlightening and interesting and engaging.

SERFATY: Trump loyalist Newt Gingrich ripping finalist Mitt Romney for his public vying for the job.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You have never, ever in your career seen a serious adult who is wealthy, independent, has been a presidential nominee suck up at the rate that Mitt Romney is sucking up.


SERFATY: Meantime, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren returning to her attack dog role, slamming Trump's nominee for treasury secretary, former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: What Donald Trump is doing is he's literally handing the keys to the Treasury over to a Wall Street banker who helped cause the crash.


SERFATY: And, tonight, it seems that president-elect Donald Trump may be inching towards making a key decision on another big Cabinet post, a source telling CNN that Trump is zeroing in on General James Mattis for secretary of defense, although Wolf, transition officials tonight say that nothing is done yet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's not done until Donald Trump says it's done or tweets, as I said, that it's done. We will see soon enough, I'm sure.

Thanks very much for that, Sunlen.

Let's go to Cincinnati right now, where president-elect Trump will be speaking very, very soon.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is there for us.

So what can we expect tonight, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as the transition team has been talking about all day long, this is going to be an opportunity for Donald Trump to thank his voters for that resounding victory, at least in the Electoral College, that we saw on November 8.

And as we heard in Indiana earlier today at the event at that Carrier factory that is going to be staying open and keeping about 1,000 people employed, Donald Trump is back to talking about trade. He's back to sounding like a trade warrior. Consider how he was talking about NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, that he railed so much during the campaign.

He was back talking about it earlier today in Indiana. Here's what he had to say.


TRUMP: We have NAFTA, which is a total and complete disaster. It's a total and complete disaster.


TRUMP: It's a one-lane highway into Mexico. Nothing coming our way. Everything going their way. Nothing coming our way. Everything going their way.

And I don't have to mention who signed it anymore. It's so nice. I don't have to mention who backed it anymore. Right? We don't have to mention that anymore, fortunately.

But it's a one-way street. And it's going to be changed. It's going to be changed.


ACOSTA: And that's obviously a trade message that's very effective in places like Cincinnati, Ohio, where Donald Trump will be having this thank his voters rally here coming up in about an hour from now.

If it wasn't for places like Ohio, and Michigan, and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Donald Trump would not be president-elect of the United States right now, Wolf.

One thing that we should point out, just to sort of give you a sense of the room here, we're inside an arena in downtown Cincinnati that should typically seat about 17,000 to 18,000 people. Just want to show you the crowd right now.

This venue is nowhere near its capacity in terms of seating right now. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of empty seats right now. We just sent one of our producers outside who also reports there's not a line of people waiting to get inside. Obviously, we're an hour away from this rally beginning, so more people could file in and potentially line up outside.

But, Wolf, we're nowhere near what we saw, the kind of crowds we saw during the campaign. Obviously when the election is over, a lot of the voters move on -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will see how many people actually show up. Thanks very much, Wolf. We will of course stand by for live coverage, Jim Acosta reporting.

Let's talk a little bit about all the news in the Trump transition right now.

Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger is joining us. He's a veteran of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: You bet, Wolf. Thanks.

BLITZER: All right, so the Trump campaign says it's not a done deal yet. But would you support retired Marine Corps General James Mattis as defense secretary? You think that would be a good idea, even though he's only been out of active duty for three years?

KINZINGER: Yes, I love Mad Dog Mattis, a great general.

The thing that you notice about good leaders is what his people say about him, and you see people that have worked for James Mattis and they just said they would basically follow this guy into any conditions, into hell, because he would do the same for them.

And that's the kind of leader I think the Defense Department needs. And there's an advantage, by the way, to having somebody that was a general in this position, because they know in essence where the skeletons are buried. So, in many cases, there's problems with defense acquisitions and the way the Defense Department works that needs reform.

And if you're on the inside as a general, when you come out, you are able to know where that is and make some changes. So I think he's a great pick and would love it if that's it.

BLITZER: But you appreciate the tradition of civilian leadership at the Department of Defense?

KINZINGER: Yes, you do. And I think it's essential.

And I think the big key to understand is, he's been out for three years. I don't know why the number was set at seven back in the day whenever this was, early 1900s. But he's been out for three years. He's in a civilian capacity. It's not like we're taking somebody right out of uniform service and installing them in this position.


So, that would be a debate the Senate is going to have. And I think ultimately it will come out favorably.

BLITZER: If he is named defense secretary, you have a retired general in the Department of Defense, you have a retired lieutenant general, Mike Flynn, as the president's national security adviser. Would they effectively rule out retired General David Petraeus as secretary of state, because there would fear too many generals are running national security?

KINZINGER: I don't know. Who knows?

One of the things I guess you're seeing in foreign policy and in these areas is Donald Trump has made it clear he's going to surround himself with experts. He knows he's coming in without government experience. He knows that there's an advantage to coming in without government experience, but you have to have people that have been involved in the military and in government to be able to surround him.

And it seems like he's doing that. I don't know if that necessarily bodes poorly for Petraeus or not, but I think of the finalists I'm hearing in the secretary of state race, I think we could end up with somebody pretty good.

BLITZER: Well, what do you think? Who do you like of the final four, as they're called?

KINZINGER: Look, I like Mitt. I think he would be a fantastic pick. Whether that's where he ends up going or not, that's his decision. But there's a lot of good options.

There's nobody I really see that's being named potentially for secretary of state that I'm concerned with. These are people that understand America's role in the world, understand an encroaching Russia, understand the tragedy in Syria with half-a-million dead Syrians, and I think these are the people that can fix this problem in the long run.

BLITZER: And so the conviction of General David Petraeus, one count misdemeanor for mishandling classified information, he pleaded guilty to that plea bargain agreement, that doesn't bother you?

KINZINGER: Well, it's a concern, obviously.

And I think Donald Trump and the team has probably taken that into account. I think he would have to be -- General Petraeus would probably have to talk a little more about it and be accountable to that.

But you know what? He is a brilliant mind. David Petraeus is somebody that in essence helped build the resurgence in Iraq, and authored the surge and turned around a lot of areas that were challenging. So he has the skill set. This could be an issue. And I think that will be taken into account as the final decision is made.

BLITZER: What about Rudy Giuliani's international business deal? Some have suggested that potentially could be a problem. Do you think it could be?

KINZINGER: Well, again, it's going to be up to the president-elect and the folks that confirm him.

You know, it's tough to kind of get into every name and what's the good and what is the bad, because we just don't know. But I think all the names I have heard so far would do a great job as secretary of state. And I think I want to know. I hope it's announced soon, because I think everybody has kind of had enough waiting on this.

BLITZER: Yes. A lot of people are increasingly thinking Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, might be the safest choice. He would sail through a confirmation process. Do you agree with that? KINZINGER: Yes, there's a tradition of senators being able to, in

essence, sail through the Senate pretty easily. Bob Corker has great relationships on the Democratic and Republican side.

He's very diplomatic, which you obviously need in the chief diplomat for the United States. I think he would be fantastic, too. So, again, of all the finalists I'm hearing, there's nobody that for me as a foreign policy guy and somebody that cares about these issues deeply, there's nobody that puts up huge red flags that are the finalists for this position.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about his victory lap today over in Indianapolis at the Carrier plant. He worked out a deal, as you know, to keep more than 1,000 jobs in Indiana, very important deal, if you will.

At the top of his speech, though, it sounded like a campaign rally, if you will. He was talking about himself a lot, congratulating himself. You have been critical of him. You were critical of him during the campaign. Is that presidential right now, to see him out there doing what he obviously so often and so successfully did during the Republican primaries and in the general election?

KINZINGER: He's such a unique guy, and this is -- everything about this is unique, from the Twitter to everything else, that it's hard to judge and say, is this presidential, because he's kind of thrown out the whole script on how this has always worked.

Even President Obama, when he was elected, he did things that were considered not presidential, going on YouTube and everything else. And now it just becomes the narrative of how a president is.

So I know for a fact, and hearing people talk, that Donald Trump gets energized in front of big crowds, and if this is what's taking -- as politicians, when you go and talk to people, you kind of get re- excited and reenergized. And if this is the way he feels like he connects with his people and his voters and America, that might be a good thing.

BLITZER: Stick around, Congressman. We have more to discuss. I need to take a quick break.

We will resume our conversation right after this.



BLITZER: We're back with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, as we wait to hear directly from the president-elect Trump at a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Congressman, as you know, president-elect Trump, he spoke by phone yesterday with Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. And according to the Pakistanis, the prime minister's office, Sharif's office, Trump called Sharif -- and I'm quoting him now -- "a terrific guy" and said he's ready and "willing to play any role that you might want me to play."

That was according to a transcript the Pakistanis put out. He says they want to work together.

Do you think that's -- all that kind of talk about Pakistan, which, as you know, has been pretty controversial in recent years, is appropriate?

KINZINGER: I don't know. No.

And, you know, I think -- I haven't seen the transcript. I have seen it reported obviously here. I think it's a little over the line to tell somebody -- quote -- "I will play whatever role you want me to play."


Obviously, as the United States, we're proud of the fact that we're the leader of the free world. We're proud of these alliances we have, but we're also in the driver's seat in most of these alliances.

And we need to be because of our values and systems. So, I think if that actually was said -- and, again, I don't have anything besides what I have just seen reported. If that was actually said, it was probably a bridge too far.

But, again, Donald Trump is really new at this. And I think as you kind of get your sea legs under you, as you learn about diplomacy and everything, maybe that changes. Maybe that tone changes.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, previously, Donald Trump has accused Pakistan, accused them of harboring Osama bin Laden, colluding, if you will, with terrorist organizations.

I guess here's the question. Was it a mistake for him to start out this new relationship with the Pakistani prime minister, Prime Minister Sharif, with this tone? Did he get enough briefings going into that phone conversation?

KINZINGER: Again, I don't know.

I don't know what he's been privy to, what he hasn't. Again, international diplomacy, it's a learning process, to learn how to do this. And, unfortunately, he doesn't have much experience, except in business dealings. And so this is a process for him.

But when it's all said and done, I don't think anybody should have any doubt that Donald Trump will push back against Pakistan. He's been very clear about that. So in this case, you have a statement from a transcript that maybe was or wasn't said that I don't think necessarily shows how Donald Trump will be when it comes to being president of the United States on these very important issues.

BLITZER: India, which of course has a very tense relationship with Pakistan, took some serious offense to the characterization of that call. I guess we don't know for sure, but do you believe there are enough people surrounding Donald Trump right now giving him clear advice on how to deal with these sensitive issues, Pakistan, India? Was this perhaps just a rookie mistake?

KINZINGER: It could be. Again, there's a lot of information I don't know.

But I think the team I have been seeing him assemble around him is actually really good with this. And it's not the full team yet, because he still has to announce secretary of state officially, secretary of defense and some of these other positions, and so you will begin to see that coalesce.

But I think there's no doubt you don't want to say things like, we will play whatever role you want us to play. But I don't think that necessarily indicates that somehow we're going to be subservient to Pakistan.

BLITZER: Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thanks so much for joining us.

KINZINGER: You bet, Wolf. Take care.

BLITZER: All right, we're standing by once again for Donald Trump's thank you rally, the first one of the post-election, this post- election victory lap tour. We will have live coverage. That's coming up.



BLITZER: We're standing by for president-elect Donald Trump's first rally since his election victory. He will speak in Cincinnati, Ohio -- you're looking at live pictures right there -- just hours after visiting the Carrier plant in Indiana to tout his role in saving more than 1,000 jobs at that Carrier plant.

At times, Trump sounded like he was back on the campaign trail, unscripted, unpredictable. Listen to this.


TRUMP: We had a tremendous love affair with the state of Indiana, because, if you remember, during the primaries, this was going to be the firewall. This was where they were going to stop Trump, right?

And that did not work out too well. And we won by 16 points. And the election we just won by 20 points, almost 20 points.

And that was some -- it was some victory. That's pretty great.

And I will never forget, about a week ago, I was watching the nightly news. I won't say which one, because I don't want to give them credit, because I don't like them much, I will be honest.

(LAUGHTER) TRUMP: But they were doing a story on Carrier. And I say, wow, that's something. I want to see that. And they had a gentleman, worker, great guy, handsome guy. He was on. And it was like he didn't even know they were leaving. He said something to the effect, no, we're not leaving, because Donald Trump promised us that we're not leaving.

And I never thought I made that promise, not with Carrier. I made it for everybody else. I didn't make it really for Carrier. And I said, what is he saying? And he was such a believer. He was such a great guy. He said, I have been with Donald Trump from the beginning. And he made the statement that Carrier is not going anywhere. They're not leaving.

And I'm saying to myself, man. And then they played my statement. And I said, Carrier will never leave. But that was a euphemism.

And then I said was -- it was 6:30 the evening. And I said, boy, the first thing I'm going to do is go there and I say, do I call the head of Carrier, who is a great guy?

But I have always learned, I got to call the top. So, I called Greg Hayes. I heard of him, but I never met him. And he picked up the phone, Mr. President-Elect, sir, how are you?

It's wonderful to win. Think, if I lost, he wouldn't have returned my call.

So I said, Greg, you got to help us out here. We got to sit down. We got to do something. And I said, because we just can't let it happen.

So many people are going to be buying Carrier air conditioners.

We have had such help here. Bobby Knight -- nobody in Indiana ever heard of Bobby Knight. How great is Bobby Knight?


TRUMP: I'll tell you, I got coach Knight. How good was Bobby Knight, as far as we're concerned, in Indiana? Is that right?

[18:30:10] I just have to thank the people that I met backstage, incredible people. The spirit, the love. People are crying. I mean, they're all crying.

People are saying, "Do you think Trump is going to build the wall?" Trust me, we're going to build the wall. And by the way, people are going to come through that wall. We're going to have doors in that wall, but they're going to come through legally. And people are going to come through on worker permits to work the fields.

We're going to have a lot of phone calls made to companies when they say they're thinking about leaving this country, because they're not leaving this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in our political panel, starting with Gloria Borger.

Gloria, we saw a lot of Republicans cheering that Carrier deal today, even Paul Ryan, the speaker, who typically opposes government meddling in business decisions or, in his words, picking winners and losers. He praised the outcome.

So here's the question: is Trump's message of economic populism already reshaping the party?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I think it's a little early to say that. I think Paul Ryan and Republicans were applauding this, because after all, the president-elect was keeping jobs from going to Mexico.

But I do think there's going to be a huge debate among Republicans and among Democrats about the issues of trade. I mean, we don't know whether Donald Trump threatened to slap on a 35 percent tariff that he's been talking about, which lots of Republicans would be opposed to.

There's going to be lots of discussion in the Congress about corporate tax reform. We saw that Carrier got $7 million worth of tax breaks over -- over ten years. And there's also going to be a lot of debate over the budget and how you can afford all this, either on the state level or on a federal level.

So I think while everybody is applauding, and this is the pre- honeymoon phase, but I think when you look at it more globally, everybody is going to have to sit down and say, what is our overarching policy that we want to come out of the Congress of the United States?

BLITZER: David Swerdlick, we've already seen some populist Democrats like Senator Bernie Sanders, slamming the Carrier deal. Sanders called the deal corporate welfare, says the company took Trump hostage and won. They're clearly worried that other big corporations will now expect similar treatment from Trump that Carrier just received. So is this a winning argument right now for the Democrats?

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": So Wolf, we had tremendous response to Senator Sanders' piece today at "The Washington Post." I think he effectively served notice that he wants to be one of the leaders of the loyal opposition to President-elect Trump, and I think in the long-term, his message might be successful. This idea that company after company might come to the administration and ask for handouts or tax breaks in order to not move their jobs overseas.

But in the short term, I think it's going to be a tough argument for Democrats, because right now you have President-elect Trump taking this victory lap, saying however small, however unorthodox, he was able to, in his framing, save a thousand jobs of people in Indiana.

BLITZER: And that's going to certainly resonate politically, of course.

Jeffrey Toobin, Trump did a bit of gloating during the speech today. Maybe he was entitled to. He bragged about the time he won the Indiana Republican primary.

But during his election-night victory speech, remember, he pledged to be the president for all Americans, even those who didn't vote for him. Here's the question: should the president-elect strike right now a more conciliatory, unifying tone, instead of that gloating, if you will, or re-litigating the campaign?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, maybe the famous pivot is going to happen now. You think? You know, I mean, come on.

He's 70 years old. He just was elected president of the United States. He is who he is. He's not going to change. I mean, look, why are people still waiting for this to happen? It's not going to happen.

It's going to be interesting, for example, to see an inaugural address in that style, a State of the Union address in that style. But you know what? That's what we're going to get, because that's who he is, and that's who won the election. And people who don't like it are just going to have to deal with it.

BLITZER: You know, Rebecca Berg, the president-elect also embarking on this so-called thank-you tour that's about to begin. He'll be holding campaign-style rallies, we're told, throughout the nation, thanking the American people for getting him elected president of the United States.

Are we going to go see the unscripted, fired-up Donald Trump that we just saw at that -- that we just saw throughout the campaign, the general election? Or do you agree with Jeffrey Toobin that what you see then, what -- what you saw throughout the primary, the general election, is what you're going to continue to see as president?

[17:35:12] REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, I absolutely with Jeffrey. I think he hit the nail on the head, Wolf. Because Donald Trump is Donald Trump is Donald Trump. I mean, you can give the man a teleprompter, and maybe half of the time he'll use it. But Donald Trump is always going to be, at least to some degree, unscripted. He's always going to go off on these tangents about polling, about having won the primary in this state or that.

It was pretty unbelievable, for example, today in Indiana at this Carrier presentation when Donald Trump was supposed to be stressing the jobs that he was saving for the country, he went off about how he won the primary in Indiana, and this is, you know, now ancient history, now that he's won the general election and is the president- elect. So I think we'll see a lot more of that style from him at these rallies moving forward.

But one question I have about his style at these thank-you rallies, will be whether he takes that very harsh tone he took at some of his rallies, especially early on in the campaign. And this was something that was, you know, very divisive, very polarizing. And this is a time now where he's hoping, at least, he has said, to unify Americans. And so I wonder if he'll try, at least, to take a more conciliatory tone.

BLITZER: Gloria, let's talk a little bit about Donald Trump's search for a secretary of state. Listen to what Newt Gingrich, the former speaker, had to say about Mitt Romney, who reportedly is under consideration for the job. Listen to this.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You have never, ever in your career seen a serious adult, who's wealthy, independent, has been a presidential nominee, suck up at the rate that Mitt Romney is sucking up. I mean, I'm confident that he thinks now that Donald Trump is one of his closest friends, that they have so many things in common, that they're both such wise, brilliant people.


BLITZER: All right, Gloria, have you ever seen such a brutal campaign waged against a potential cabinet appointee from members of the president-elect's own party?

BORGER: No. And not from -- and not from people he considered in his inner circle. If you look at Newt Gingrich, who's somebody he's consulted. And don't forget: Newt has a history with Mitt Romney here. Let's make that clear. They ran against each other in 2012. They never kissed and made up. They were -- they were OK, but there -- there is a history there.

But I think, if you look at what Newt Gingrich has been saying, and what Kellyanne Conway has been saying in a much more gracious way, what they've both been saying is they've been taking their arguments against Romney public, because they understand that that's one way to get to Donald Trump.

I also think it's indicative of how seriously Trump is considering Romney for the job. Because I think that you don't -- you don't take it to this level outside unless you think there's a real shot that it's going to happen. And I think that's exactly what Newt Gingrich is doing.

And I'll tell you one thing. What I know from my reporting in Romney world, which as I've been saying the last day or so, has gone dark, is that Romney is not talking about this with a lot of people. He is not asking people to lobby for this job for him. He did enough lobbying himself after dinner the other night, when he ate crow. But he is not telling people on Capitol Hill to go talk to the transition team or Reince Priebus or Vice-President-elect Pence. He's just kind of letting it happen and talking to Donald Trump, as he is asked to do. But there's no lobbying campaign; there's only an anti-Romney campaign.

BLITZER: Yes, and you make a good point that Romney did beat Newt Gingrich for the Republican presidential nomination... BORGER: Yes, he did.

BLITZER: ... four years ago. And there's clearly a little bit of bitterness hanging over.

David, many of the so-called never-Trump Republicans, they had looked to Romney as a role model during the campaign. Now it seems Romney is betting his political career on Trump picking him as secretary of state. So is that a risk for his legacy?

SWERDLICK: Yes. I mean, Romney was a role model for "never Trumpers" back in March when he gave that speech, saying, essentially, that Trump's brand of Republicanism, such as it was, was not Romney's brand of Republicanism and detailed why he thought Trump was a poor representative of the party.

But now he's clearly signaling by his actions that the election is over, and he feels like he can serve.

I think the one place where he risks his legacy is not in serving in the administration, if he's asked to serve, but in the words that he says upon accepting that.

The other night when he spoke, as Gloria mentioned, after having had dinner with Donald Trump and spoke about his meeting and how he felt about President-elect Trump, the one word that jumped out with me -- for me, Wolf, was that he said that Trump was going forward in a spirit of inclusion. And I thought that was a little bit strange of a word to use, because so far at least, I don't think President-elect Trump has really given a full-throated statement that he wants to be an inclusive president for all Americans.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stick around. We have more to discuss, including some phone call flattery. Surprising details emerging about Donald Trump's very chummy chat with a world leader who's under pressure to crack down on terrorism. Critics are calling it bizarre. So what does it tell us about diplomacy, Donald Trump style?


[18:44:54] BLITZER: We're back with our political team. Tonight, there are growing questions about U.S. diplomacy under President-elect Donald Trump after surprising details were released about his phone conversation with the leader of Pakistan.

[18:45:06] Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is working the story for us.

Elise, this does not sound like a typical phone call between two world leaders.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's not, Wolf. You know, these are typically congratulatory, quick phone calls. The president-elect just expresses a desire to work together, but word that Donald Trump showered compliments and offered to help solve the problems of a nuclear power he once accused of betrayal and disrespect is raising questions about whether the president-elect is sending a message or just winging it.


LABOTT (voice-over): It's a country criticized by the U.S. for failing to crack down on terrorism. President-elect Donald Trump says Pakistan is doing, quote, "amazing work in every way", a message Prime Minis Nawaz Sharif said Trump delivered in a phone call Wednesday, promising to play any role to solve Pakistan's problems.

Sharif's office quoting Trump as saying, "he would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place, of fantastic people."

Trump's team described the conversation as "productive."

It's a far cry from the troubled country he described during the campaign.

DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Pakistan is a very, very vital problem and really vital country for us, because they have a thing called nuclear weapons. They have to get a hold of their situation.

LABOTT: And no mention of his pledge to ban immigrants from terrorist havens like Pakistan.

The change in tone has one long time diplomat questioning Trump's intent.

CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER U.S. AMB TO SOUTH KOREA AND IRAQ: I think what we're seeing in these early days is a certain amount of winging it.

LABOTT: The State Department said it had no part in briefing Trump beforehand.

MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: We had no discussion with President-elect Trump prior to that call.

LABOTT: Kazakhstan announced Trump also fawned over its president, who has had an iron grip on the country since 1991 and has been slammed by human right groups for torture. The transition said the two leaders spoke about closer ties. But President Nazarbayev said Trump told him that under his leadership, Kazakhstan's success was a, quote, "miracle."

HILL: What you don't want to do is give off a lot of signals that you didn't mean to give and then have to reverse course.

LABOTT: Trump didn't shy away from grandiose praise for U.S. adversaries on the campaign trail, say thing to NBC News about Vladimir Putin.

TRUMP: If he says great things about me, I'm going to say great things about him. LABOTT: After insulting some Mexicans during the campaign, he took

heat when he didn't bring up his signature issue in a meeting with Mexico's president.

TRUMP: Who pays for the wall, we didn't discuss.

LABOTT: Despite U.S. tensions with Egypt over its crackdown of political opponents, Trump had nothing but praise for President Al- Sisi, telling Fox Business News after meeting him in New York --

TRUMP: He's a fantastic guy. Took control of Egypt, and he really took control of it. There was good chemistry.


LABOTT: Now, these readouts would suggest that Donald Trump is striking out our rapport with world leaders with his out-of-the-box, even casual style. But, Wolf, you know, words matter in diplomacy, especially now that Trump is president-elect. India, Pakistan's arch enemy, is trying to make sense of the report of this call, but for now, is taking a tongue in cheek approach. The foreign ministry is saying it does hope that Trump would help Pakistan with its biggest outstanding problem, terrorism -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Elise. Thanks very much. Elise Labott, reporting.

Let's get back to our panel.

Gloria, so what do you make of Donald Trump's -- what his critics are calling inconsistent treatment of these foreign leaders in these congratulatory phone calls?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think -- it does sound like as Elise's piece pointed out, it does sound like he's winging it. I mean, when you become president, and as president- elect, when you have these phone calls, every word is usually strategic.

It's not like picking up the phone and calling someone and saying, you know, I really look forward to visiting your fabulous hotel in Pakistan, and I'm, you know, or doing business with you or -- it's different. And I think Trump knew it as a candidate. He was happy to criticize Pakistan. And now, you can't say the same thing to everybody, unless you say basically nothing to everybody.

And what he was trying to do in complimenting Pakistan was saying nothing, but it said something that's a little convoluted, but if you get me. I think it's a kind of winging it that really can become dangerous, and I think this is a first phone call. So let's not overdo it.

But I do think you saw in the State Department spokesman's tenor of his response, "no, we were not consulted," that they were not happy about it.

BLITZER: I'm sure they weren't.

Rebecca Berg, apparently, there was no mention of Donald Trump's proposal to ban immigrants to the United States from countries that have a problem with terrorists and presumably, that would be Pakistan as well. Has he run into some awkward diplomatic situations because what was his heated campaign rhetoric on the specific issue of banning certain people from coming to the United States?

[18:50:06] REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think we've already seen that to an extent, Wolf. I would point you to really a smaller issue, but after the election, Donald Trump called Nigel Farage, the former leader of the party in the U.K. that supported Brexit. Before he called the Prime Minister Theresa May to speak with her, introduced himself, discussed world affairs with her, and then later on Twitter, he suggested that Nigel Farage should be the British ambassador to the United States, basically pressuring Theresa May to make this decision, really just throwing protocol out the window and I think we've seen that in a lot of different ways from Donald Trump over the course of the campaign as well.

So, I think we've seen that there is the possibility that he's going to create some minor to major international incidents with what he's saying and as we saw in Indiana today, Wolf, he does not necessarily recognize the weight of his words, whether we're talking about domestic policy or foreign policy. When he got off on stage and said -- referred back to his prior remarks about Carrier on the campaign trail and said that he was surprised when people took him seriously, took him literally, I think the same goes for a lot of what he has said about foreign policy as well that -- as Elise said in her piece, words do matter in diplomacy.

And I think we're going to see with whoever Donald Trump picks as secretary of state, part of the job description I think is going to be clean up duty for what Donald Trump says in public.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, as you know, Donald Trump said during the campaign, if Putin says nice things about him, he'll say nice things about Putin. Is that savvy diplomacy? How you see that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I feel that way about you, wolf. If you say nice things about me, I will say nice things about you.

Look, he's obviously winging this. And frankly, I don't think any of this matters particularly in -- at this moment. You know, saying Pakistan is a fantasy place. What difference does that make?

I mean, what's going to happen is there are going to be crises. There is going to be potentially a fight between India and Pakistan and the president is going to have to intervene. That is when this is going to matter.

At this point, everybody is happy. He's just -- he's the new president. He's getting to know people. But, you know, events start to take the lead. Not personalities. And when events take over, the words are really going to matter. BLITZER: All right. Everybody stick around.

There's more news coming up. How could a commercial aircraft simply run out of fuel? There is new information emerging about that deadly plane crash and it is causing some serious concern right now.


[18:57:11] BLITZER: Tonight, disturbing new details about why a charter plane slammed into a mountainside, killing 71 people. Officials now confirmed it ran out of fuel.

Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh has more.

Rene, what are you learning?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know that the charter airline Lamia is grounded tonight. It's already suspending its flying permit. It's almost unheard of, Wolf, a commercial airliner running out of fuel.


MARSH (voice-over): New audio reports from the doomed charter flight reveals troubling clues about what may have caused the crash killing 71 people, including members of a promising Brazilian soccer team.

PILOT: Miss, Lima-Mike-India 2933, it's in failure. Total electrical and fuel failure.

MARSH: Lamia Flight 2933 was just minutes away from its destination and rapidly descending when a crew member made an urgent call to air traffic control, requesting a runway assignment to land.

PILOT: Lima-Mike-India, vectors! Vectors miss! Vectors to the runway.

MARSH: Seconds later, the flight disappeared from radar. The controller still tried to direct the pilot in for landing.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: You're 8.2 miles to the runway. What's your altitude now?

MARSH: Then silence.

The plane crashed just five miles from the airport. Investigators confirm it ran out of fuel.

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: It is an extraordinary event and it really borders on negligence.

MARSH: In addition to fuel shortage, a question as to why this aircraft, a four-engine plane designed for short haul flights was used in the first place.

GOELZ: This plane was questionable in terms of accomplishing the mission. It's certified range was 1,600 nautical miles. This flight was 1,605 nautical miles. That's at the outer limits.

MARSH: The charter flight left Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Monday night, bound for a championship game in Medellin, Colombia.

Newly released video shows excitement onboard the flight before takeoff. This woman was the co-pilot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are ready to offer them the best service.

MARSH: Three players, two crew members and one journalist survived. Wednesday night, fans eager to pay respects, flooded the stadium where the soccer team was supposed to play.

And in an emotional moment, the players who did not travel with the team walked onto the field holding hands.


MARSH: Investigators have not determined why they ran out of fuel. Was it human error or something mechanical? But we can't overstate just how rare this is. Pilots are supposed to calculate whether they have enough fuel before takeoff. They consider the weight on board, the distance they need to travel.

Here in the United States, pilots have enough fuel not just for the intended route but for another 45 minutes, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Rene, thanks very much.

That's it for me. Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.