Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Taps Carson for Housing Secretary; Trump Unleashes Twitter Tirade Against China; Jill Stein Holds Recount Rally Outside Trump Tower; Death Toll in Oakland Fire Climbs to 36; Police: Gunman Motivated by Fake News. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired December 5, 2016 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: -- We'll have more on that in just a minute.
Right now, let's take a live look outside of Trump Tower where former Green Party candidate Jill Stein is about to hold a rally and a news conference. The Stein camp, still pushing for a recount in Pennsylvania despite mounting costs, while Pennsylvania hasn't gotten the go ahead, a district judge in Michigan has ordered election officials to begin counting ballots later today.
In the meantime, President-elect Trump makes another big hire, tapping Dr. Ben Carson for Housing Secretary. At the same time, the Secretary of State search expands, now in the mix, former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman. Huntsman also happens to be a former ambassador. Trump's latest Twitter target, China, the president-elect now facing heat for unleashing an online tirade and breaking with decades of international protocol. CNN's Jessica Schneider is outside of Trump Tower with more. Good morning.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Like you said, first came that controversial phone call with Taiwan. Then came, that series of tweets from Donald Trump over the weekend where he slammed China, accusing it of manipulating its currency. Of course, that's a claim he made repeatedly throughout his campaign and then, also, criticizing China's military action in the South China Sea.
So first, Chinese officials were left scrambling, trying to get some sort of clarification as to that phone call that happened on Friday. Then they were left to react to Donald Trump's tweets over the weekend. But the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of China does say that China refuses to speculate about Donald Trump's actions and then going on to say that they believe that the policies between the U.S. and China that have lasted for nearly four decades need to be continued, in particular, referring to the One-China policy. But as it pertains to VP-elect Mike Pence, he's defending that phone call, that ten-minute phone call between Donald Trump and the leader of Taiwan, even downplaying its significance. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE PENCE, (R) VICE-PRESIDENTIAL-ELECT: I think the conversation that happened this week with the President of Taiwan was a courtesy call. It's one of more than 50 telephone calls that the president-elect -- has taken from and made to world leaders. President-elect Donald Trump takes a courtesy call from the democratically elected President of Taiwan and it becomes something of a thing in the media. -- I think most Americans and frankly, most leaders around the world, know this for what it was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: But nevertheless, the Chinese continue to be rattled by what their concern could be a change in U.S.-China policy. Of course, Chinese officials reacting throughout the weekend, first to that phone call to the White House on Friday, seeking some clarification and as we've seen, a slew of statements that have come out from the Chinese over the weekend continuing to urge the United States to stand by at One-China policy. Carol?
COSTELLO: All right, Jessica Schneider, reporting live outside of Trump Tower. Later this hour, Alexandra Field will join us from Beijing to discuss China's reaction to all of this. Let's talk about that and much, much more. With me now, CNN political analyst Rebecca Berg, she's national political reporter for "Real Clear Politics," Karen Tumulty is the national political correspondent for "The Washington Post," Andre Bauer is a former Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina and CNN commentator Bakari Sellers joins me as well. Welcome to all of you.
What do you want to talk about first? We got a lot on the plate this morning. Andre, I'll start with you in Jill Stein. Because she's expected to speak at any moment about this recount and she's holding this rally in front of Trump Tower. What do you -- what is she expecting to gain from that?
ANDRE BAUER, FORMER LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR SOUTH CAROLINA: I can't answer that one. I don't know what she's expecting to gain. It's not moving America forward. It's not continuing to get ready for the new president to take office. To me, it seems like a side show. I don't want to negate anybody's opportunity to challenge something they feel is not right, but you know, I don't know -- what the goal is here. I don't know what she is trying to accomplish at this point in time. To me, it just doesn't seem like anything that actually has any legitimacy and we haven't seen a shift in the numbers. And it just seems like a side show to me, although, I'm not trying to be critical of her. -- I just don't see an end game here.
COSTELLO: No, no, no. -- I think there's a lot like Jill Stein is doing her side show. And the side show surrounding the supposedly illegal votes that were cast in the state of California, well, that's still playing out, too. In fact it played out on "60 Minutes" last night. House speaker Paul Ryan was asked if he believes Mr. Trump's claim that -- oh, I'm just hearing I don't have Paul Ryan. But Paul Ryan didn't exactly say an emphatic no. Bakari, when he was asked if there was really illegal voting taking on illegal voting occurring in the country. So why are both sides continuing to do this? BAKARI SELLERS, CNN COMMENTATOR AND FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE MEMBER: Well, to answer your question flat out, Carol, I'm not sure. Actually, I agree with Andre when it comes to Jill Stein. I wish Jill Stein cared about a couple of thousands votes here or there before the election on November 8th. We also know that the amount of votes Jill Stein got in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin was actually the vote difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
And so, I don't put a whole hill of beans in what Jill Stein is doing today. I think Democrats for the most part are focused on the United States Senate race down in Louisiana, where we should focus our attention and money, and not Jill Stein who has become nothing more than a grifter (ph).
I will say that, I wish more Republicans
[10:05:16] would actually stand up and actually call a lie, a lie. And Paul Ryan disappointed me last night on "60 Minutes" by not flat out saying it is a lie to say that millions of people voted illegally in the state of California. -- We are living in a fact-free environment. And it's so frustrating and it's very difficult when "leaders" like Mike Pence or like Paul Ryan just don't have the courage to stand up and call a lie, a lie.
COSTELLO: OK. So again, so we'll just leave that issue there. Because no one really believes with any credibility at least that there's any widespread voter fraud in this country. OK. That said, let's move on to something else that's breaking.
The New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will announce later this morning that he is going to request $35 million to cover costs from Election Day to the inauguration because he says Donald Trump is costing his city so much money. Is that a normal amount of money to request, Rebecca?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER "REAL CLEAR POLITICS": Well, obviously Carol, the security concerns and logistics in a city like New York are very different than if this was somewhere else. And because Donald Trump lives in a building that is also used and open to the public, where other people live, where there are other businesses, it becomes exponentially more complicated for the Secret Service to really create a secure environment for the president-elect.
Now, I think it would be difficult for even Donald Trump's critics to argue that he doesn't have the right to continue to reside or keep up a residence in Trump Tower because he's lived there you know, for many, many years. It's a big part of his life. And to expect that the president-elect would just move to a completely different location during this transition period, I think would be a very difficult argument to make. But the issue of Melania Trump, potentially staying in New York, staying in that residence after Donald Trump moves into the White House, that will certainly create an opportunity for some of Donald Trump's critics just from a cost and logistics perspective of continuing to protect her, protect Barron Trump, their young son and the rest of the family in that environment. COSTELLO: So Karen, how long do you think that Melania Trump will stay inside the Trump Tower? Just until the end of the school year, because nobody really knows.
KAREN TUMULTY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT "THE WASHINGTON POST": Nobody does know. But certainly, other first families have also wrestled with this question. First families with small children, do you yank them out in the middle of the school year. I think that what we ought to do is give first families some space to make decisions around their children for what they think is the best for their children, because really, these kids do not ask for this life that they are being brought into. So I do think that -- this is an area where we really ought to sort of trust Melania Trump's judgment about what is best for her own child.
COSTELLO: Absolutely. OK. So Bakari, Donald Trump has tapped Ben Carson to be his, Housing Secretary. A team of rivals he's assembling?
SELLERS: I'm a little bit taken aback by this. I think that you know, Ben Carson has the aptitude to do great things but I think Ben Carson's adviser, himself, a couple of weeks ago said that Ben Carson wasn't ready or qualified to be a cabinet head. I think he's made some troubling statements in the past, you know, and the list goes on and on and on. Ben Carson actually doesn't believe in the Fair Housing Act, for an example. I look forward to his confirmation hearing. But I do think that Ben Carson, kind of fits this mold of just grabbing someone and placing them somewhere and hopefully they'll fit. And we'll just have to see. I'm willing to give Ben Carson a chance because for many of us, regardless of his politics, Ben Carson has been a hero. You know, politically speaking, he's not the policies I don't adhere to but he's still is a hero. And so hopefully he will do well. Our country needs him to.
COSTELLO: So Bakari, you know, Ben Carson is this brilliant surgeon. So, why not attorney general or you know, something that maybe, you know, a doctor is expert in?
SELLERS: Yes. I mean, like Health and Human Services, maybe. --
COSTELLO: Yes, exactly.
SELLERS: You know I don't know the answer to that question.
COSTELLO: Well, I was going to ask Andre. Andre, do you know?
BAUER: Well, I don't know specifically but he's --
COSTELLO: Andre, do you hear? OK.
BAUER: I can hear you just fine. I don't know specifically why he chose him for that but Ben Carson is a well-rounded individual. He's well-spoken. So many people admire him. And I think whatever office you put him in, he's going to do a great job. He's well thought out and has a history where he comes from such a diverse background and has shown perseverance and determination to overcome so many obstacles. I think his talents will be well used no matter what office he's in.
TUMULTY: Yes. I think specifically, you know he grew up in a -- in Detroit and would have at least, bring that part of his biography to -- this perspective to this office.
[10:10:16] The urban development aspect of this is the toughest part of the Housing Secretary's job and it is the most -- you know, the most intransigent problems. And we have seen people come into the job with maybe not a lot of experience in the area, but a big vision of what they want to do. Jack Kemp comes to mind. There is a question as to whether what kind of administrator he would because it's a huge bureaucracy. But he is bringing some clear ideas as to what he would like to see happen in the job.
COSTELLO: OK. So Rebecca, the Secretary of State, right? -- go ahead, Andre.
BAUER: I was just going to say he's run a bureaucracy before in running a hospital. I mean, he has had to deal with you know, many folks from different backgrounds. I think this will fall right into so many of his life experiences. He'll be prepared for --
COSTELLO: Well, he hasn't run an entire hospital, though, has he? He's run his surgical team but not an entire hospital.
BAUER: He has, and -- not an entire hospital. He's run a very prestigious and very forward-thinking group of individuals that come from many different backgrounds. I think he will be easily prepared for this.
COSTELLO: Rebecca --
SELLERS: Carol, if I --
COSTELLO: Go ahead.
SELLERS: I'm sorry to cut you off and Rebecca. But I just have to comment on one thing. Just because you come from an urban environment does not mean that you can run a HUD. I mean, that is illogical. And to say that because someone is from Detroit or someone is from Chicago or someone is even from Columbia, South Carolina is a qualification to be Secretary of HUD, I think is a very, very low bar. And I know we are living in a culture of low expectation but that is not a criteria. --
TUMULTY: No, my point being, however, that he is somebody who has both witnessed and he's experienced what the problems are and he has given some thought to what he thinks the solutions should be. And I do think that sometimes bringing people with diverse life experiences into government is not a bad thing to do.
COSTELLO: OK. -- Rebecca, absolutely, has to have the last word, I mean, I got to go. Rebecca.
BERG: Well, just to finish up this conversation that we're having about Ben Carson and HUD. I would add that Nancy Pelosi did put out a statement today, saying that he was not qualified for this position. Particularly pointing out that he doesn't have any experience in urban policy, in low income housing policy. So he did grow up in this environment but she is at least pointing out that that's not necessarily what you would want in an administrative capacity for a sprawling government agency. So I think, moving forward we are probably going to hear a lot more of that theme from Democrats. I think Nancy Pelosi is kind of throwing down the marker this morning on what the Democratic push-back is going to be here.
COSTELLO: All right. I have to leave it there, Rebecca Berg, Karen Tumulty, Andre Bauer, Bakari Sellers, thank you so much.
Coming up in the "Newsroom," grim new developments in the Oakland warehouse fire. The death toll climbs. The search for clues bogs down. In fact, they had to end their operation this morning because it's too dangerous to look for more bodies. We'll tell you more, next.
[10:17:12] COSTELLO: In northern California, the death toll rises in that horrific fire that raced through a converted warehouse that was filled with party goers attending an illegal electronic music show. At least 36 people died but only a handful, have been identified. They include 32-year-old Donna Kellogg, 35-year-old Travis Hough and just minutes ago, we received the photo of another victim, 35-year-old David Cline. Also this morning, a new image of a 22-year-old musician Cash Askew, she was in the band that released its debut album just last year. She also died in the fire. Investigators do expect the death toll to climb as they pains taken sift through the charred ruins of the building. A criminal investigation now under way but the search for more bodies is on hold for now. CNN's Stephanie Elam, live in Oakland with more. Good morning.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Officials say that they have searched through 70 percent of the warehouse. However, they had to stop around 10:00 p.m. local time last night because there was fear that part of the building would collapse. In about 45 minutes or so, structural engineers are expected to show up and they will start shoring up this building to make sure that it is safe to re- enter. They are hoping by around noon, somewhere between noon and 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time they will be able to get back in there and continue the recovery efforts. However, they do believe that they have found what may be where the fire started. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BATTALION CHIEF MELINDA DRAYTON, OAKLAND FIRE DEPARTMENT: Where the steel is actually twisted and wrapped in the back of the building, we can see fire spread. ATF and our local investigators feel very strongly that they have identified the section of the building that is the area of origin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ELAM: And on top of all of this that they are dealing with and working around the clock to try to recover as many people as they can. They do say that even with the fact they've cleared 70 percent of the building, the way it was actually said, direct quote here, that they absolutely believe that they will uncover more bodies inside of this warehouse. And just to confound their operation going on here, rain is in the forecast but they are saying no matter what, they're going to continue to methodically and slowly work through the warehouse despite the rain, because they don't want to miss any clues and they don't want to miss anyone who may have lost their life there. Carol?
COSTELLO: All right, Stephanie Elam reporting live from Oakland, California this morning.
James McMullen, my next guest, is a -- former Chief California State Fire Marshal. Welcome, sir.
JAMES MCMULLEN, FORMER CHIEF CALIFORNIA STATE FIRE MARSHAL: Thank you.
COSTELLO: We found out -- last hour, rather, that fire officials in Oakland think that the fire started in the back of the building. Does that tell you anything?
MCMULLEN: Well, the way they get to that point is to go by burn patterns. First, they look at an area that's burned the least and work their way to the area burned the most. And the area of origin is a general area and that's what they were speaking to as an area of origin. They are subsequently going to try
[10:20:16] to refine that down to a point of origin. And once you determine the point of origin, they would then go through a process of eliminating various causes to determine the cause of the fire.
COSTELLO: And this is going to be so difficult for them because the building is unstable. In fact, they stopped searching for bodies because it's just too dangerous for fire officials right now.
MCMULLEN: Yes. The issue is you have to have safety for the investigators. Otherwise, you're going to have more casualties, among the fire investigators.
COSTELLO: So, we understand that fire inspectors have been out to inspect this warehouse. Building inspectors had been out just in the last couple of weeks and they found all sorts of infractions. You know, and in light of this tragedy, I mean, the question is, why didn't someone shut it down?
MCMULLEN: Well, that's a question that we would have to investigate further as to what they determine were the issues when they were there. The key thing is that what it was being used for was a public assembly. -- When they organized this party that became assembly occupancy. And we have a history throughout the United States of bad fires, killer fires, in public assemblies. And that's a lot different than a warehouse.
COSTELLO: So it is possible that the people who inspected this warehouse did not know that somebody was going to throw a concert there. MCMULLEN: Correct. That's my opinion right -- with the information I have at hand right now, is they weren't aware the potential for life loss that was given what they saw at the time. However, it was used as a residence and residences are a lot different where people live and sleep as opposed to just a warehouse. That is a far more restrictive occupancy as well.
COSTELLO: So this might -- I mean, rain is coming today. Maybe that will help firefighters to put out the hot spots in the building, I don't know, but this whole process could take how long?
MCMULLEN: Well, it could go on for several more days. It is going to take some time. The fact is that we have a two-fold operation going. We have one. We're doing a fire investigation and potentially even an arson investigation. We don't know yet until we get down to point of origin. But we're also, at the same time, doing body recovery so it's going to take some time sifting slowly so as not to destroy, a, evidence, b, impact the structural stability of the building, and c, that we don't harm any of the remains of the victims that still may be there.
COSTELLO: And we do understand that they have opened up a criminal investigation but that could mean anything, right, it could mean arson and what else?
MCMULLEN: Well, it could mean code infractions that resulted in the fire as an example, whether it is arson which is an intentionally set fire, or whether it is illegal wiring that was done that caused the fire. That could be a criminal investigation as well. So there's a variety of reasons they could have opened the criminal investigation.
COSTELLO: All right. James McMullen thanks for your insight. I do appreciate it.
Coming up in the "Newsroom," the reality of fake news, someone could actually act on it and at a pizza shop in D.C., someone actually did.
[10:28:20] COSTELLO: Fake news stories can have real consequences, potentially deadly consequences. Police say 28-year-old Edgar Madison Welch stormed into the Comet Ping Pong restaurant in D.C. armed with a shotgun. He told police he wanted to "investigate Pizza Gate." It's a totally bogus online conspiracy theory that D.C. police confirmed as fictitious. The false news was spread by Michael Flynn Jr., who is the son of Trump's new U.S. National Security adviser, Michael Flynn Sr. After the incident, Flynn Jr. tweeted this, "Until Pizza Gate is proven to be false, it will remain a story. The left seems to forget Podesta e-mails and the many coincidences tied to it." CNN's Joe Johns is -- following this story. He joins us now, live from Washington. Good morning.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. You really have to file this under what happens when fake news stories use real names, real places, but false facts. So, 28-year-old Edgar Madison Welch came here to this location, Comet Ping Pong, with a rifle, apparently fired it. Police took him into custody. He was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. No one was injured because the people saw the gun and started running away. When police took him and sat him down and asked him what happened, he said he was here essentially to take a look, to self-investigate, if you will, "Pizza Gate" which they call fictitious online conspiracy -- theory that involves the restaurant and claims that Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager John Podesta were involved in a child sex ring, which all of that, certainly is false. Now, as I've said, arrested and charged, the investigation continues. It also happens to be something this restaurant and its owner --