Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Trump Slams China After Backlash Over Taiwan Call; Ivanka Trump Meeting Al Gore Today On Climate Change; Trump's China Feud: Headache For New Secretary Of State; At Least 36 Dead In Party Fire, Number Of Victims To Rise; Police: Gunman "Self-Investigates" Fake News Story. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired December 5, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello. "AT THIS HOUR" with Berman and Bolduan starts now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. John Berman is off today. Donald Trump hasn't yet chosen his secretary of state, but he may have already given the mystery nominee a few major to-dos and maybe a slight headache to deal with on day one.
All weekend, the president-elect was fending off criticism for offending decades of U.S. policy by taking a call from the president of Taiwan. Now Trump is amping it up rather than trying to quiet it down, it seems, by unleashing on China in a Twitter attack that could set the stage for somewhat of a messy showdown. We are going to have more on that in just a moment.
But first, there's also brand new this morning one position that Donald Trump has filled as of this morning. His former rival turned supporter is now his nominee to head up the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Ben Carson becomes the first African-American nominated to Donald Trump's cabinet. Vice President-elect Mike Pence talked about Carson just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: We are excited to have Dr. Carson as our intended nominee for Housing and Urban Development. We are looking forward to another very productive week to the transition that's setting a historic pace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Let's go live for more to CNN's Jessica Schneider. She's outside Trump Tower. So Jessica, let's go back to China real quick. What is the transition saying this morning about the president-elect's comments?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Kate, they are not saying much. We can glean alone from Donald Trump's conversation with the leader of Taiwan on Friday as well as his subsequent tweets, of course, that controversial call, 10-minute phone call on Friday, and then a slew of tweets over the weekend criticizing China.
But of course, Donald Trump is defending the phone call. He says it was a call that was made to him by the leader of China and also VP- elect Mike Pence is defending the call as well, saying, this was just a courtesy call.
But over the weekend, Donald Trump did in fact double down on his criticism of China, tweeting this. He said, "Did China asked us if it was OK to devalue their currency, making it hard for our companies to compete, heavily tax our products going into their country, the U.S. doesn't tax them, or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea. I don't think so."
Now, to be sure, Donald Trump did make many of these remarks when he was campaigning, talking about China devaluing its currency but of course, now with about six and a half weeks to go until Donald Trump assumes the presidency, there is a lot of concern that this could be a new hostile era in U.S.-China relations.
In fact, right after this phone call with the leader of Taiwan, Chinese officials scrambled to call the White House, tried to get some clarification and there have been a slew of statements over the weekend from the foreign ministry of China.
They haven't said much in particular, but they do say that they don't want to further scrutinize or analyze Donald Trump's actions or his tweets and then continuing to reiterate that the policies that have stood with the U.S.-China relations over the past four decades, they need to continue to stand to continue that relationship, in particular that one China policy.
So a lot of confusion here. Will this mean a change in policy? A lot to be seen but definitely drawing some controversy over the past few days -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Jessica, also this morning, the transition is just saying, it got a lot of attention that Ivanka Trump is planning to meet with Al Gore today to talk about climate issues. That's a little surprising to say the very least.
SCHNEIDER: Yes. You know, the future first daughter meeting with the former vice president, of course, Al Gore, his signature issue is climate change and in recent weeks, we have actually heard that Ivanka Trump may be making this one of her signature issues as well. It's something she hasn't really spoken out about.
In fact, when we heard her at the Republican National Convention, she was focused on child care, making that her platform, but it appears that she may be shifting or adding to so yes, she will in fact meet with the former vice president, the former presidential candidate, Al Gore, right here at Trump Tower. That meeting happening today.
When asked if Donald Trump himself might meet with Al Gore, the transition team said that's not scheduled at this point but who knows. In addition, Kate, it's interesting, we have learned that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are actually house hunting in D.C. It looks like that couple may make the move down to nation's capital with their three children. That bearing questions as to what exactly Jared Kushner's role could be in the presidency.
Of course, he's barred by anti-nepotism laws from actually taking on an official position, but we know that he's had Donald Trump's ear throughout this campaign as well as during this transition process. But yes, the Kushners perhaps going down to D.C. we learned that they are house hunting down there -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Well, and with the transition announcing this meeting between Ivanka Trump and Al Gore, it also renews questions of what is Ivanka Trump's role within the administration, the transition.
[11:05:06]Because obviously Donald Trump has said over and over that the children are going to run the business. So this does raise a lot more conversation to be had. Jessica, great to see you. Thank you so much.
Joining me, CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, who spent many years working in China, including as chief of staff and senior adviser to former U.S. ambassador to China.
Richard Quest is host of CNN International's "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" and also editor-at-large for CNN Money. Ron Brownstein is here, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic." Guys, thanks for being here.
Jim, first to you, the call between Donald Trump and the Taiwanese president, what is your take on the real impact now, especially as we saw in "The Washington Post" reporting this morning that this call was in the works for weeks, maybe months?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That fights the initial spin, right, which was this was just one of many congratulatory phone calls that Donald Trump received as opposed to arranged.
Here's the thing. I spent a lot of time covering China and in China. China is extremely sensitive to the most minor shifts in rhetoric, diplomatic signals, policy shifts, et cetera.
To have the president-elect tweet out, we know the way Donald Trump uses Twitter, this is expressions of his policy positions, to have a president-elect tweet out two very, I don't know if antagonistic is the right word, but very firm statement, shall we say, on major policy issues between the U.S. and China, economic policy, foreign policy with the South China Sea.
That signal a substantive shift from a bipartisan decades-long bipartisan approach to China, right, on those issues, but also in terms much of Taiwan that goes back to 1979 recognizing Beijing as the seat of China as opposed to Taiwan.
When that happens from the president-elect, that's major. That's substantial. While China's public statements have been very measured, saying, well, this is a trade relationship that has benefited both sides.
I have heard and I think this is quite credible, that inside China's Foreign Ministry, inside the Chinese Embassy down here the street from us in Washington, D.C., that there is genuine concern about what's next with the U.S. and that's significant.
BOLDUAN: Richard, from your perspective, when you saw the tweet, Jessica read the tweet that Trump sent out over the weekend directed at China, saying several things, how do you describe the relationship between the United States and China? Let's say over the last eight years under Obama and what this kind of - do you think just these words are likely to change that relationship?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN MONEY EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes. It has all the potential for doing that. You have to understand, very much as Jim was saying, the idea of all of this whole business of diplomacy and communication between countries is that we are both doing the same dance in the same direction.
So I agree with you we are both going to do the fox trot and we start to do it and we may not do it very well, but hopefully if diplomacy is right we are both gliding around the floor.
What Donald Trump is doing is he is telegraphing to people who thought they were going to be doing the fox trot then they are actually going to be doing the tango.
Now the other side is saying, hold on, I thought we were doing the fox trot and somebody else says, no, I thought it was a rumba. I give you this example, maybe it's an excuse. The rules of diplomacy are there for a purpose.
It means when you sit down, you know where you're going and what you're doing. That's vital in business. Who wants to commit billions of dollars of investment anywhere in the world inwards or outwards if you don't know?
BOLDUAN: Besides the fact that I have this beautiful image of you and I trying to fox trot, rumba and tango at the same time, which would be quite something to see, Ron, let me get your take on this, then. All of this in mind, what does this mean for Donald Trump's -- at some point will be announced very soon we think, maybe, his incoming secretary of state?
I found it interesting I think probably everybody did as well, as this is happening you have the former ambassador to China under Obama, the former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman's name being added to the list of candidates that are being considered?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, as Jim and Richard well know, the U.S. relationship with China is always big and messy and sprawling and contradictory. There is always a mix of confrontation and cooperation going on at the same time.
On the one hand, Donald Trump is clearly signaling a more confrontational tone with the tweets and the call. On the other hand, he is dropping on China's doorstep a giant Christmas package wrapped up in a big bow, which is withdrawing from the Transpacific Partnership, which was the principal means by which the Obama administration was hoping to contain Chinese economic power in Asia and allowing now China to fill the gap with their own regional free trade agreement.
And I think where this comes back to secretary of state, one reason why this job is so hard is because Donald Trump departs I think more decisively from traditional Republican thinking on foreign policy than he does even on domestic policy.
[11:10:08]And finding someone who basically shares the same coordinates in their views of the world as Donald Trump and is also credible as an international figure, as secretary of state, that is a narrow needle to thread. I think you are seeing the difficulty of doing that play out as this process continues.
BOLDUAN: We see some of that concern, Jim, I don't know if concern, but it's also questions of course immediately going to Republicans on Capitol Hill. I heard Mike McCarthy -- sorry, Kevin McCarthy was asked by reporters about this on the Hill.
Manu Raju tweeting out that McCarthy was telling reporters that one congratulatory phone call will not change U.S. policy. You see this delicate kind of dance going on.
SCIUTTO: It is delicate. I'm going to extend Richard's very powerful point there and go from rumba to mosh pit because that's the difference here. We are swinging blows on the dance floor here. Now, the thing about that diplomatic dance, I have been answering a lot of questions on Twitter.
They're like why is it bad to stand up to China. I'm not a diplomat or government official here, I'm not making judgments about policy decisions, but the reason diplomatic language and communication matters is because it avoids wars, right?
I mean, throughout history -- this is the way difficult states with difficult relationships try to communicate important stuff without shooting at each other in the simplest terms.
And that's why I was just going to say, right now, the U.S. and China have disputes that have the potential to escalate. One over the militarization of man-made islands in the China Sea, trade issues, and human rights issues, et cetera. So this kind of communication matters.
BOLDUAN: What is --
QUEST: The important point also is we shouldn't be having these discussions at such level of detail until January 21st, when the president-elect takes office. The U.S. only has one president at each time. We are always told by both the winner and the incumbent.
BOLDUAN: Maybe that also, though, says that he hasn't done anything yet. QUEST: He has.
SCIUTTO: He's doing something with these statements.
BROWNSTEIN: Words count.
BOLDUAN: Words matter. Lot of people say words played less of a role in a lot of the conversations had during the campaign as we went over and over again. Ron, you get the last fun one. I dare you to make a dance metaphor in this.
The changing world captured in one image. I will put up the picture. A lot of folks have been pointing to this as a lot of folks describing this picture taken less than a year ago.
Obama with the world leaders from the U.K., France, Italy, Germany, taken in April 2015. Since then, just take a look around. Especially after over the weekend. Angela Merkel's really the last one standing.
Obama's on his way out. Hollande is not seeking re-election and Renzi and Cameron have resigned or announced resignations. What does that say about the world right now?
BROWNSTEIN: It says that when you have a sustained period of slow growth and living standards, you get a lot of political turbulence no matter what country you are in. What we have seen is this global backlash in countries across Europe and certainly in the U.S. election among a big portion of the electorate recoiling against trade and immigration as kind of a target, as an explanation for those slowly growing living standards.
But as we saw in Austria yesterday, that tide is not necessarily irreversible. I think it is an enormous choice coming up as Richard knows better than I, with Germany and France this year, when Britain has already pulled back and Donald Trump signaled support for the insular populist movements.
Which way Europe turns in the next year is going to be a truly consequential choice and one that is not entirely possible to predict today.
BOLDUAN: Guys, great to see you. Noteworthy, Ron did not make a dance metaphor. Thanks, guys. Great to see you. Much appreciated.
We got more on our breaking news right, the horrific warehouse fire in Oakland, California. The death toll rising this morning, now 36 people confirmed dead. In the words of the Oakland fire chief, she absolutely believes the death toll will rise again.
Overnight they had to halt all search operations at the warehouse after finding the building unstable and at risk of collapsing on rescue workers there. CNN's Stephanie Elam is at the scene joining us with the very latest. What are you hearing, Stephanie?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. Well, at this point, the structural engineers should be on scene now working to make sure that this building is safe for them to continue their recovery efforts and also to find out what started this fire. They do believe that they have isolated the place where the fire began. In fact, take a listen to what the Oakland fire battalion chief had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BATTALION CHIEF MELINDA DRAYTON, OAKLAND FIRE DEPARTMENT: Where this steel is actually twisted and wrapped in the back of the building, we can see fire spread and ATF and our local investigators feel very strongly they have identified the section of the building that is the area of origin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:15:07]ELAM: And they are also hoping that after they are able to shore up the building that the firefighters will be able to get back in there, investigators will be able to get back in there somewhere between noon and 4:00 p.m. local time so that they can continue these efforts to recover victims.
And as you say, they do believe they will recover more victims inside of this building. A slow, painstaking process that they say will continue to move at this speed simply because they do not want to miss anything or anyone, despite the fact that rain is in the forecast for later on this week -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Stephanie, thank you very much, for keeping a close on that.
In minutes, I will speak live with the city's district attorney who is launching a criminal investigation into that horrific fire.
This is also ahead for us, an armed man walks into a pizza restaurant in D.C., fires a shot. Why was he there? He wanted to self- investigate a fictitious news story conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton. We are going to speak live with a witness who was inside the restaurant when this happened.
And right now, the jury in the trial of the South Carolina officer charged of murdering Walter Scott, the jury is back in the room after one of the jurors refused to join in the majority. Hear about the note he sent to the judge.
BOLDUAN: Police say a man arrested with a gun at a popular Washington pizzeria admitted that he was trying to investigate an online conspiracy theory about the restaurant and its owners being involved in a child sex ring, which was the conspiracy theory links it to the Clinton campaign.
Again, a fictitious online conspiracy theory. But 28-year-old Edgar Madison Welch of North Carolina, he walked into a restaurant full of customers yesterday, fired the weapon, according to police, and pointed it at an employee. No one thankfully was injured. Welch was arrested and charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. Two firearms were found in the restaurant, another in his car. My next guest is one of the customers in the restaurant during this entire scary incident.
Sharif Silmi is joining me right now. Mr. Silmi, thank you so much for joining me. You were in the restaurant with your wife and three young kids. Tell me what you saw.
SHARIF SILMI, WITNESS: Yes. We were in the restaurant and the middle section of the restaurant where there's some ping-pong tables and fusball tables, my family was playing. I was actually playing ping- pong with my wife at the time.
The suspect walked in, he walked behind me. I assumed he was a security guard. Several people seen him with the gun and were obviously starting to kind of move around and shake things up.
So an employee came and grabbed me and let me know that this was indeed somebody that wasn't supposed to be there and was a gunman, and obviously my first reaction was to get my family out and get my kids out and my wife did the same.
Thankfully we were out of there. The staff there did an amazing job getting everyone out. It was a very swift exit for all the patrons. Nobody seemed really like nervous or anything. Everybody swiftly left the place. We went out to the sidewalk and then proceed across the street into a restaurant where we were safer.
BOLDUAN: What did he seem like? What was his demeanor? In the brief time you saw him, was he calm, agitated, did you get any sense?
SILMI: It seemed that he was headed straight for the back room. That's why my thought was he was a staff member because he was walking straight into the back room. He didn't engage with me or any other -- I didn't see him engage with any other customers or staff. He just walked straight into the back.
BOLDUAN: What was the reaction of everyone else in the restaurant? You said everyone got up calmly and swiftly. Whenever someone would walk into a restaurant with a gun, it seems difficult that everybody would be able to get out calmly, I guess.
SILMI: It was rather remarkable, I think, that we were probably the last family to leave because like I said, we were kind of in the back in the ping-pong area and the people -- so the people in front of us were all moving very swiftly and calmly and we were all out.
A couple like cooks I seen running kind of fast out of there so that kind of shook things up a little bit. For the most part, people were very calm. We were aware of the sort of controversy around the place.
And frankly, the lies that have been propagated regarding ping-pong, but it's not going to deter us from visiting it. It's a delicious pizzeria that's an excellent place to go. We had a blast playing ping-pong. We are not going to be frightened by people's lies. You know, people like Alex Jones that are lying and manipulating people and are really in my opinion, I tweeted this out, responsible for the danger that my family was in yesterday.
BOLDUAN: You think they are responsible. You also I assume hold this guy responsible who on his own free will came into this restaurant with a gun.
SILMI: Yes, obviously he's directly responsible. In my opinion, the folks like Alex Jones and others that are propagating these lies have some responsibility for these folks' actions.
BOLDUAN: What --
SILMI: They're pouring fuel on the fire.
BOLDUAN: What have you told your young children since this whole thing?
SILMI: You know, we're Muslim-Americans and we are basically see ourselves being demonized in the media and online, all over the place. I always let them know we need to be vigilant and aware of potential threats around us. This obviously was a manifestation of that, but thankfully nobody was hurt.
They were all very calm and very cool about it, surprisingly, and I was really proud of them. In fact, on our way home, I live in Maryland, we were driving up to Maryland, I said you know, what do you guys think, you want to go home or go see a movie. They said no, let's go see a movie.
We went to a theater and watched a movie and didn't let it ruin our life or interfere with what we do and how we behave. We are out there and won't be scared by people.
[11:25:05]BOLDUAN: As you very well said, thankfully no one was injured. Thanks so much for coming on and speaking with us. We appreciate it.
SILMI: My pleasure.
BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, days after he cut a deal with an American company to keep jobs in America, Donald Trump threatened a 35 percent tax on any company that moves operations abroad. Where does he get the authority? Will Congress go along with that?
Plus, house hunters first family edition, two of Trump's closest advisers, his daughter and son-in-law, are moving to Washington despite Trump promising no conflicts of interest.
BOLDUAN: Days after striking a deal with the U.S. company to keep jobs in the United States, Donald Trump offering now warning other companies, don't move your jobs overseas. In a series of tweets, Donald Trump saying that the U.S. will reduce taxes --