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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
President Obama Delivers Address on National Security. Pence: Flynn Jr. No Longer With Transition Team; Obama: We Are And Must Remain World's Strongest Fighting Force; Van Jones Hosts Post-Election Town Hall At 9PM; Jones Talks To Trump Voters In Swing States. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired December 6, 2016 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Terrorists would love to see us walk away from the type of work that builds international coalitions and ends conflicts and stops the spread of deadly weapons. It would make life easier for them. It would be a tragic mistake for us.
Just think about what we have done these last eight years without firing a shot. We have rolled back Iran's nuclear program. That's not just my assessment. That's the assessment of Israeli intelligence, even though they were opposed to the deal.
We secured nuclear materials around the globe, reducing the risk that they fall into the hands of terrorists. We have eliminated Syria's declared chemical weapons program.
All of these steps have helped keep us safe and helped keep our troops safe. Those are the result of diplomacy. And sustained diplomatic efforts, no matter how frustrating or difficult they sometimes appear, are going to be required to resolve the conflicts roiling in the Middle East, from Yemen to Syria, to Israel and Palestine.
And if we don't have strong efforts there, the more you will be called upon to clean up after the failure of diplomacy.
Similarly, any long-term strategy to reduce the threat of terrorism depends on investments that strengthen some of these fragile societies. Our generals, our commanders understand this. This is not charity. It's fundamental to our national security.
A dollar spent on development is worth a lot more than a dollar spent fighting a war.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: This is -- this is how we prevent conflicts from starting in the first place. This is how we can ensure that peace is lasting after we have fought.
It's how we stop people from falling prey to extremism, because children are going to school and they can think for themselves, and families can feed themselves and aren't desperate, and communities are not ravaged by diseases, and countries are not devastated by climate changes.
As Americans, we have to see the value of empowering civil societies, so that there are outlets for people's frustrations. And we have to support entrepreneurs who want to build businesses, instead of destroying. We have to invest in young people, because the areas that are generating terrorists are typically having a huge youth bulge, which makes them more dangerous.
And there are times where we need to help refugees who have escaped the horrors of war, in search of a better life.
OBAMA: Our military recognizes that these issues of governance and human dignity and development are vital to our security. It's central to our plans in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Let's make sure that this wisdom is reflected in our budgets as well.
And, finally, in this fight, we have to uphold the civil liberties that define us. Terrorists want us to turn on one another. And while defeating them requires us to draw upon the enormous capabilities of all of our government.
We have to make sure changes in how we address terrorists are not abused. This is why, for example, we have made extensive reforms in how we gather intelligence around the world, increasing oversight, placing new restrictions on the government's ability to retain and search and use certain communications, so that people trust us, and, that way, they cooperate and work with us.
We don't use our power to indiscriminately read e-mails or listen to phone calls, just targeted at folks who might be trying to do us harm. We use it to save lives. And, by doing so, by maintaining these civil liberties, we sustain the confidence of the American people, and we get the cooperation of our allies more readily.
Protecting liberty, that's something we do for all Americans, and not just some.
OBAMA: We are fighting terrorists who claim to fight on behalf of Islam. But they do not speak for over a billion Muslims around the world. And they do not speak for American-Muslims, including many who wear the uniform of the United States of America's military.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: If we stigmatize good, patriotic Muslims, that just feeds the terrorists' narrative. It fuels the same false grievances that they use to motivate people to kill. If we act like this is a war between the United States and Islam,
we're not just going to lose more Americans to terrorist attacks, but we will also lose sight of the very principles we claim to defend.
So, let my final words to you as your commander in chief be a reminder of what it is that you are fighting for, what it is that we are fighting for.
The United States of America is not a country that imposes religious tests as a price for freedom. We're a country that was founded so that people could practice their faiths as they choose.
The United States of America is not a place where some citizens have to withstand greater scrutiny or carry a special I.D. card or prove that they are not an enemy from within.
We are a country that has bled and struggled and sacrificed against that kind of discrimination and arbitrary rule here in our own country and around the world.
We're a nation that believes freedom can never be taken for granted and that each of us has a responsibility to sustain it, the universal right to speak your mind and to protest against authority, to live in a society that's open and free, that can criticize our president without retribution.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: A country where you're judged by the contents of your character, rather than what you look like or how you worship or what your last name is or where your family came from.
That's what separates us from tyrants and terrorists. We are a nation that stands for the rule of law and strengthen the laws of war When the Nazis were defeated, we put them on trial. Some couldn't understand that. It had never happened before.
But, as one of the American lawyers who was at Nuremberg says: "I was trying to prove that the rule of law should govern human behavior."
And, by doing so, we broadened the scope and reach of justice around the world, held ourselves out as a beacon and an example for others. We are a nation that won world wars without grabbing the resources of those we defeated. We helped them rebuild. We didn't hold onto territory, other than the cemeteries where we buried our dead.
Our greatest generation fought and bled and died to build an international order of laws and institutions that could preserve the peace and extend prosperity and promote cooperation among nations.
And for all of its imperfections, we depend on that international order to protect our own freedom.
In other words, we are a nation that, at our best, has been defined by hope, and not fear, a country that went through the crucible of a civil war to offer a new birth of freedom, that stormed the beaches of Normandy, climbed the hills of Iwo Jima, that saw normal people mobilize to extend the meaning of civil rights.
That's who we are. That's what makes us stronger than any act of terror.
Remember that history. Remember what that flag stands for, for we depend on you, the heirs to that legacy, our men and women in uniform, and the citizens who support you, to carry forward what is best in us, that commitment to a common creed, the confidence that right makes might, not the other way around.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: That's how we can sustain this long struggle. That's how we will protect this country. That's how we will protect our Constitution against all threats, foreign and domestic.
I trust that you will fulfill that mission, as you have fulfilled all others.
It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your commander in chief. I thank you for all that you have done and all that you will do in the future.
May God bless you, may God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You were just listening to President Obama's final planned national security speech at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
Lots to talk about from the president's remarks, as well as my interview with vice president-elect Mike Pence.
Joining me now is my panel.
We have with us national political correspondent for "The Washington Post" Karen Tumulty, CNN political commentator Amanda Carpenter, and Bloomberg White House correspondent Margaret Talev, and also we have with us CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.
And, Jim, let me just get your first thoughts on President Obama's speech just now, the last big national security address. What did you make of it? And who do you think the audience was for the speech?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, on the first question, it would be difficult to imagine a sharper disparity between the tone and the substance of this speech we just heard now and the tone and substance of President Obama's successor through the campaign and since the campaign as well in his initial statements and comments and positions as the president-elect.
Just look at the issues here as they relate to counterterror, on Guantanamo, on torture, on the Iran deal. These are ones where president-elect Trump and President Obama differ very sharply, but also on the tone. I mean, just I think, as a country, as journalists, throw out the idea of any nuanced or complicated discussion of an issue like terror, right?
Phrases like this, terrorists want us to turn on each other, get the terrorists at the same time as staying true to who we are, don't overstate their power, those kinds of points, you know how Donald Trump talked about this issue during the campaign and even since then, things like the Muslim ban, et cetera.
You are not going to have these kinds of conversations right now, at least from that bully pulpit, not to say that Donald Trump is going to follow through on all those positions, but the conversation, the nature of the conversation, the vocabulary of the conversation is going to change, and I think dramatically.
Who was the audience?
TAPPER: By the way, we should point out which a lot of his supporters will like. A lot of his supporters don't like not only President Obama's positions, but the nuanced way in which he discusses them.
SCIUTTO: Oh, absolutely. Clearly, that nuanced way lost. You can say it contributed to losing an election, right?
Because Hillary Clinton, although she was different on some of those issues, Islamic -- radical Islamic terrorism, for instance, she had no hesitation -- she had no issue using that term. But in general, the rhetoric that helped to win this campaign, I think you would say, is very different from the one we just heard there.
So that's gone. Who was the audience for this? It's kind of hard to say. I think, from Barack Obama's perspective, he want -- it's kind of the public guidance that I imagine he wants to give president-elect Donald Trump in private, say, listen, this stuff worked for the last eight years. Let's not imagine that it's all been that bad, and here is why. Let me give you my argument for it.
I think it's a very open question as to how much, though, Donald Trump listens to that.
TAPPER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you.
Everyone else, stick around.
We have got a lot more to discuss. We are going to take a quick break. We will be right back.
[16:45:00] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I'm back with my stupendous political panel. Let's talk about what we heard at the top of the hour from Vice President-Elect Mike Pence and also what we just heard from President Obama. Let me start with you, Karen. Who was the audience, do you think, for the speech by President Obama in which he was talking about how great his national security strategy was and what worked and what was effective? Who --
KAREN TUMULTY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT FOR THE WASHINGTON POST: I think the audience. It was a rebuttal both to Donald Trump and the people who voted for him in the election. He made the argument that his strategy has worked, that it -- we should not compromise our values. He talked a lot about the politics of fear. And certainly, that was all of the key things of his -- of a rebuttal to Donald Trump's campaign.
TAPPER: Yeah. And Margaret, one of the things that Jim Sciutto pointed out on his way out, just a minute ago was that there was this very nuanced credit-taking that the president made when he said something along the lines that there had been no -- and I'm paraphrasing -- with no foreign instructed successful terrorist attack made within the homeland. You really have to parse 15 different ways to have that to be true.
MARGARET TALEV, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT FOR BLOOMBERG: Yeah. It means there hasn't been another 9/11 since then. But of course, from Fort Hood to San Bernardino to every ISIS-inspired attack, whether or not there was any direct, indirect involvement or just inspiration, certainly since President Obama's second term, there's just been a flood of violence and fear and watching what's happening in places like Belgium and in Paris, and how it could come to play here. But I think this goes to your question of who his audience was. I think he's talking for the history books. This is his last speech to mark what he believes and what his record was in the way he wants his record to be remembered. And when Donald Trump, Mike Flynn and the rest of the Trump administration proceed to try to unpack, unroll, change course on all of these policies, President Obama wants a marker down to say, this is what I did, this is why I did it.
TAPPER: And Amanda, let's turn back to that's one history book being written and finished. And one other is starting. And I was asking Vice President-Elect Pence about Michael G. Flynn, the son of the incoming National Security Advisor who was fired, asked to leave according to a source familiar, directly by -- the order came from President-Elect Trump because of these crazy tweets and pushing insane conspiracy theories, et cetera. And the vice president-elect didn't seem eager to answer my question when I asked that the government sources have told me that they put in for a security clearance for the junior Flynn. Take a listen to Vice President-Elect Pence. I think this is maybe the seventh or eighth time I tried to get an answer from him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, what I can tell you is that, in talking with General Flynn today, he made me aware that his son was assisting him in scheduling --
TAPPER: And that you'd put in for a security clearance. PENCE: -- meetings and -- oh, well, whatever the appropriate paperwork was to assist him in that regard, Jake, I'm sure was taking place. But that's no longer the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: How do you think vice president-elect pence should have answered that question? Or do you think that was exactly right?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Here's the -- this is a much bigger problem that the Trump administration has to reckon with given how many family members are involved in the transition. This is nepotism, plain and simple. This guy had a social media profile that was horrendous. The only reason that someone requested a security clearance for him is because he was a son of someone powerful. The Trump administration has to be -- they have to recognize that, because that person was not qualified by any objective standard. And so, Mike Pence does need to take responsibility for it, because one of two things happened. They either knew and looked the other way or they didn't even bother to vet this person before requesting the security clearance, and so they need to pay attention to it because, if they don't nip this in the bud now, I predict there will be many other Mike Flynns to follow.
TAPPER: And I should point out that the Trump team is now pushing back, saying that they never, quote, "initiated" security clearance. I'm not -- I don't know what they mean by "initiated." I don't know what all the word --
CARPENTER: He had access to the schedule for a very powerful person.
TAPPER: Yeah. I don't know the word games are. Government officials who know say that they put in for security clearance, period. I don't know what the "initiated" means.
TUMULTY: And that, by the way, sounds very much like the language the Trump transition team used after there were media reports, it was floated that President-elect Trump was seeking a security clearance for his own son-in-law.
TAPPER: And it turned out that it was true, that somebody had, but they put it off later after days of denial, saying it was a low-level staffer who didn't know any better.
TALEV: It does. And this goes to sort of at least two questions. One is going to be the treatment of children, children of principals in the Trump administration, how close to power they get, what the firewalls are, and how they're scrutinized and why they want the access, that's one. And the second is General Flynn, the role that he's going to play both in terms of shaping policy, but also, in terms of sending a message. And I don't think anyone should be directly responsible for their children's actions, that's not what I'm talking about at all, but the idea that his own actions in terms of retweeting have -- of things that turned out to be, sort of, spurious or leading have also generated a lot of attention. We really haven't heard from him squarely on this issue yet or from most people who are coming into this administration so early in the process. They're interviewing so many people. But at some point, if the sort of controversy around this doesn't die down, General Flynn may need to make a more public statement.
TAPPER: Although, obviously National Security Advisor is not -- does not require a senate confirmation so he might never talk to (INAUDIBLE)
TALEV: But is incredibly important.
TUMULTY: But I also suspect that in those seven answers to those seven questions that you asked, we heard what's likely to be a pattern when these situations emerge, which is basically Vice President-elect Pence said, "It's taken care of. We've moved on. Let's talk about something else."
TAPPER: Yeah. Absolutely. Karen, Amanda, Margaret, thank you so much. Be sure to tune in tomorrow night for a "CNN SPECIAL REPORT: THE LEGACY OF BARACK OBAMA." CNN's Fareed Zakaria sitting down with President Obama, tomorrow night, 9 p.m. Eastern.
Coming up, why would people who voted for President Obama twice turned around and vote for Donald Trump. Van Jones went to Ohio to ask Trump voters and he'll tell us what he found out, next.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: Polls and pundits, reporters, and sometimes it felt like the entire world doubted him. But make no mistake, Donald Trump will become our 45th president. And instead of only talking about Trump supporters, CNN Political Commentator Van Jones set out on a mission to talk with Trump supporters, to try to understand in a way he could not what is Trump's appeal. Now, these conversations will help drive a live town hall tonight on CNN called "THE MESSY TRUTH."
And Van Jones joins me now with a preview. Van, you're a -- you're a strong supporter of President Obama. A lifelong democrat in Ohio who voted for Obama twice and then voted for Trump last month. He told me Hillary Clinton's e-mail controversy
really mattered to him. Why?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He said it was an issue of trust, but he also said, in a way that was so heart-breaking, even the camera guys welled up. He said she hurt us because she did not speak to the pain they were feeling up there, with their factories closing, losing their jobs, and Donald Trump did. And he said, "That was it."
And I tell you, you think about Trump supporters, lock her up, lock her up, the anger, you don't hear the pain. You don't hear the other deeper emotions of feeling left out and forgotten. And we got down to that. The truth is messy. There's some nasty elements in that Trump movement, and we've talked about that a lot, but there are some beautiful people who are looking for some hope and some answers, and they found hope in Obama in 2008, those same people found hope in Trump in 2016.
TAPPER: Fascinating. Your battleground tour was before last month's election. How were the conversations, do you think, possibly more important now that Trump has won?
JONES: Well, you know, I went -- I went to Pennsylvania before, I went to Ohio afterwards. I think it's more important now because we're just talking past each other so much. I think it's sort of -- I think liberal cosmopolitan elites, especially all they hear when they think about Trump are those inflammatory comments and they imagine, anybody who voted for him is voting for every one of those inflammatory comments, and they are very, very alarmed. What I found was he had people who were delighted by those comments, but that's a small number. most of the people I met, they were -- they found those comments distasteful but not disqualifying because they had other concerns. They didn't -- they didn't like it, but they had other concerns.
TAPPER: All right, Van Jones. And you can watch "THE MESSY TRUTH", a special live town hall with Van Jones tonight at 9:00 Eastern tonight. Only on CNN. Thanks, Van. That's it for THE LEAD. I am Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM", thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, "BREAKING NEWS", tweet of the deal. Donald Trump uses Twitter to announce what he says will be thousands more U.S. jobs --