Return to Transcripts main page


Trump on Drug Prices; Trump Picks General Mattis; Barrasso Spent Holiday with Troops; U.S. Presence in Afghanistan. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired December 7, 2016 - 13:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: -- today. Wolf Blitzer, these are such an important day happening all over the country.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It certainly is Brianna. We're commemorating this infamous day in American history. We're looking to the future as well as a new administration takes shape.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

These are live pictures coming in from Honolulu right now from Pearl Harbor. This is the Pearl Harbor-Hickam Joint Base there. The ceremony just beginning to get underway. The ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Here in Washington, by the way, the Vice President-elect Mike Pence is attending a separate ceremony together with Arizona Senator John McCain who will deliver the keynote address.

These are live pictures as you see there, coming in from the World War II memorial here in Washington, D.C.

Let's listen in to the "National Anthem."

We're going to continue to watch all of these ceremonies commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. And we'll get back there shortly.

There are other major stories we're following today as well, including, of course, the transition of power to the incoming Donald Trump administration.

President-elect Trump has offered Iowa Governor Terry Branstad the position of the United States ambassador to China. Trump says a decision could come next week at his choice for secretary of state.

He was asked whether former adversary Mitt Romney still has a chance of becoming the secretary of state.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had some tremendous difficulty together and now I think we've come a long way. But the answer is, yes, he does. It's not about revenge. It's about what's good for the country. And I'm able to put this stuff behind us.


BLITZER: Our National Correspondent Jason Carroll is joining us from outside Trump Tower in New York City with more on the transition.

Jason, first of all, what can you tell us about Trump's choice for ambassador to China? The Iowa governor still has to be confirmed, of course, by the United States Senate.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a lot of people, I think, see this as somewhat of a logical choice. A little background about the governor. He's the longest serving governor of Iowa, from 1983 to 1999, again in 2011.

This is a man who has a very close relationship with the -- with the Chinese president. Apparently, the two met back in 1985. They've known each other for decades. The thought is, perhaps, this is the type of person who would be in place, who could, perhaps, ease some tensions with China, especially after that call -- that controversial call with Taiwan.

Again, this is a man who has supported Donald Trump early on. And a man, once again, Wolf, who has very close ties with the Chinese president.

BLITZER: What about the other meetings that the president-elect, Jason, is having today over at Trump Tower? Who else is he meeting with?

CARROLL: Well, you know, he's been taking a lot of meetings, Wolf. You know that. The meeting today with Rahm Emanuel, Chicago's Mayor. Some one -- some people are thinking that that's somewhat of an unusual meeting, considering how much Donald Trump criticized the way that the Chicago -- city of Chicago was handling crime there in the city.

But he will be meeting with Rahm Emanuel.

Also with Andy Puzder, head of CKE Restaurants, perhaps he's in the running for Labor Department. Also, Scott Pruitt, the Attorney General of Oklahoma. The thought is, perhaps, he could be a contender for the EPA.

And also, Wolf, a meeting with North Carolina's Pat McCrory. The governor there, as you know, just lost his re-election bid in a very, very tight race there. The tightest in North Carolina history, losing to his Democratic rival by some 10,000 votes.

So, still taking up a lot of meetings today. Tomorrow, for his part, Wolf, expected to head to Ohio to meet with the victims and first responders there from the attack at OSU -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jason, thank you. Jason Carroll outside of Trump Tower in New York.

The president-elect may be softening his hard-line stance on illegal immigration. He has turned to President Obama for advice on staff and cabinet choices. We're told as well by the president-elect, those revelations came from interviews following Trump's selection as "Time" magazine's person of the year.

Let's bring in our panel to talk a little bit more about all of this. Susan Page is with us. She is the Washington bureau chief for "USA Today." Our CNN Political Analyst David Gregory is with us. And our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger is with us as well.

In a that "Time" magazine interview, he granted an interview to "Time" magazine in connection with his selection as the person of the year. He said this about the children, the kids, who were brought here illegally by their parents to the United States, the so-called dreamers.

He said, they got brought here at a very young age. They've worked here. They've gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they're in never-never land because they don't know what's going to happen.

[13:05:11] There are about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. A lot of children as well. President Obama wants the children at least to have some sort of legal status. And Donald Trump, the president-elect, now indicating he might be ready for that.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: As we all know the history of this, the president signed an executive order on this which has been tied up in the courts. And it's -- it was a tie vote at the Supreme Court. And now, it's headed back down to the courts.

And the president-elect when he becomes president could, with the stroke of a pen, undo what Barack Obama did. It sounds to me, in listening to him here -- and I know he spoke with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel about this this morning who handed him a petition from other big city mayors.

Emanuel said to him, you can do this to these people. They have handed over their names and their addresses to the government in good faith, and how do you just reverse that?

And like with so many things with Donald Trump, it was almost as if he was hearing this for the first time. And said, oh, wait a minute. That would not be a Humane thing to do.

So, you can just see the wheels spinning here, and maybe he is rethinking what he might do through executive action or legislation.

BLITZER: In a separate interview with NBC's "Today Show" today, they announced the person of the year on the "Today Show." He, then, called in by phone. Susan, he was once again very, very effusive in his praise of the outgoing president, President Obama. Said that they'd been talking and he's been getting advice, recommendations from President Obama. Listen to this --


TRUMP: I have asked him what he would think of this one and that one. I've asked him what he thinks are the biggest problems of the country. What are some of the greatest assets going forward? And we have a very good dialogue.

And I must tell you, you know, I had never met him before this. And I never spoke to him before this. I really -- I do like him. I love getting his ideas.

I would say that, yes, I take his recommendations very seriously. And there are some people that I will be appointing. And, in one case, have appointed where he thought very highly of that person.


BLITZER: Pretty impressive comments about the -- from -- about the president, the outgoing president, from the incoming president.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Well, especially when you consider their previous relationship was one of incredible hostility while they hadn't met. Donald Trump had been -- had questioned the legitimacy of Barack Obama's presidency. And Barack Obama could not have been more fiercely critical of Donald Trump during the campaign.

But now, different rules. And you see, I think, President Obama seeing a relationship, building a relationship with Donald Trump as one way to protect parts of are his legacy that Trump attacked during the campaign.

One example would be in his treatment of the dreamers. This was, I think, every interesting this morning in the comments that he made in the "Time" magazine interview, being willing to consider a very different step from that, that he lined out during the campaign.

BLITZER: Because when you think about it, David Gregory, what these two men, the president-elect and the president, had to say about each other during the campaign. President Obama said Donald Trump was unfit to be president of the United States. Temperamentally unfit to be president of the United States.

Donald Trump said President Obama was the worst president in American history. He founded ISIS, if you will. Those were pretty stark comments.

BORGER: Oh, forget it.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, it's as if it was -- it was like a parade, a political parade, in a way, in Donald Trump's mind. And now, yes, that's the stuff you do to get elected.

And now, he's never done this before. And you talk to people who met with him or who are commenting on the outside. He is influenced by people that he's talking to, revealing things to him maybe he hadn't thought through. Whether it's torture and Mattis. Maybe it's sanctuary cities and mayor Emanuel. Maybe it's Tim Cook and Gill Gates calling him as he thinks about climate change. Meeting with Al Gore.

That piece is really refreshing. I think we'd want all of our political leaders just to say, let's some good ideas from all quarters. And I think he is going to be influenced by President Obama.

And I think the sanctuary city issue, the issue of the dreamers, is important. Because I think if Trump is approaching this more pragmatically, he's got bigger goals than anything that's going to tear the social fabric of the country apart.

College campuses are really, really worked up and very concerned about the issue of the dreamers. They want to be sanctuary campuses. You see that in sanctuary cities.

Which means a city, like Chicago, is going to say to the president- elect, we're not going to cooperate with federal authorities at all, if you're coming here to do raids to deport people.

So, it's a signal that these priorities are where they are. The economy being a jobs presence.

BORGER: Yes, I kind of look at this as if that was last season's show.

GREGORY: Yes, yes.

BORGER: And this is the new season. And he's recasting the show this time. So, last season was the election. Season two is going to be the governing. And he is recasting and --

[13:10:09] PAGE: Here's the --

BORGER: -- not only in people but on issues.

PAGE: -- but here's the problem with that. People elected him to be president based on the positions he took during the campaign. And will his most fervent supporters, his core supporters, accept the idea that maybe you won't really build a wall, maybe some of it's offensive.

GREGORY: Yes, that's the critical question.

PAGE: Maybe not deport all illegal immigrants. We only maybe just need to focus on deportation as President Obama did.

GREGORY: But there is this idea that we took all of this literally and people took it as more of kind of a raging against machine (ph) and shaking things up. And that he is the ultimate outsider. He'll be forgiven. I'm not sure of that. I think the question you raise is incredibly important. Also important for us, as journalists, as we do soul searching about the campaign. We still are covering what he said and promises he made. And we're going to be vigilant about that, whether, you know, a couple weeks later, he's now off of it.

BORGER: I think there are promises and there are promises.


BORGER: So, immigration, building a wall, big promise.


BORGER: Key -- you know,, cornerstone of the campaign. Other issues, maybe not so much. Where dreamers fits into that, --


BORGER: -- we've already gotten rid of the -- you know, the question of deporting people here. Largely rounding up 11 million people, dreamer maybe the second step in that.

But I think in, in Donald Trump's mind, and I've talked to people in the transition about this, there are different -- there are different categories, I think.

GREGORY: Oh, yes.

BORGER: And he has such confidence in himself as a salesman, that if he continues to go directly to the American public and say, this is why I am doing X, Y and Z, that maybe -- that maybe they'll buy it.

BLITZER: In the interview on the "Today Show" today, he also, Susan, said he's still thinking, seriously thinking, about Mitt Romney as his secretary of state. He said he'll have an announcement next week. He said he's still being seriously considered.

PAGE: That's right. That -- which is interesting. You know, he also named another general, his intention to nominate another general, General Kelly, that -- to homeland security.

BLITZER: He hasn't formally done that.

PAGE: But he --

BLITZER: There were reports along those lines.

PAGE: -- there are reports that he has, yes.

BLITZER: To be secretary of Homeland Security.

PAGE: Yes, exactly.

BLITZER: Those are -- there are reports out there out there, that's John Kelly. PAGE: And that would be the third -- if he did that, that would be

the third general -- if he did that, that would be the third general to head a major agency. And that might make him less likely to name General Petraeus, I think, as head of secretary of state -- as head of the State Department. Maybe that helps Mitt Romney.

Clearly, he's looking around at the State Department. He's broadened his sights a bit. Mitt Romney, I think, keeps on the list. But, obviously, he's not quite ready to make the call yet because he says that won't come until next week.

BLITZER: But he also said he's seriously thinking about the chairman, the CEO of Exxon Mobile, who's coming in to see him today.

GREGORY: What's clear is that he likes alpha males, mostly white men, around him (INAUDIBLE) wealthy.


GREGORY: No, but I mean, there's obviously a type here. People who are going to think like he does, even though they might execute differently.

I mean, Mattis is a perfect example. An incredibly erudite, well- read, warrior, creative thinker. And yet, he talks and holds himself in a certain way that Trump likes, even though he would execute differently because Trump's a different kind of guy.

BORGER: I think it's peer to peer. He's hiring people that he feels comfortable with.

GREGORY: I just don't think he's worked out what he wants in secretary of state. And we're getting a window in their process, Wolf, that I think you'd agree, we haven't seen before. You don't see this in transitions or in president-elects, where, you know, he's kind of working through all of this in a way that's pretty transparent so far.

PAGE: Pretty transparent. We see them walking into Trump Tower. We see them walking up and they come over and start --

BORGER: I'm waiting for them to be mic'd (ph), OK, in the meeting.

PAGE: This is different from the way previous talks have gone about --


BLITZER: It's totally different. We've covered a lot of transitions, and I don't remember ever the candidates being so visible in the discussion. From the journalistic point of view, I'm very happy that they're being so transparent.

GREGORY: He can decide live who's going to be secretary of state. He'll get them all together and he'll have a live reveal. BORGER: You know, he escorts people down to the lobby of Trump Tower and says, here, meet the media. And it's a -- it is -- it is a show. We're in the second season.

PAGE: And yet, he hasn't done a news conference since July.

BORGER: Well, we're waiting for one next week.


BLITZER: But in fairness, he did give a 15-minute interview to NBC today.

PAGE: That's different. That's different.

BLITZER: He gave about an hour interview to reporters and editors from "The New York Times." He gave an interview to "The Wallstreet Journal." And he did an hour on "60 Minutes."

So, he hasn't done a news conference in a long time, but he is making himself available. He did a relatively soft interview with Sean Hannity on Fox as well. So, he is makes himself available to the news media, even if he hasn't sat down for a formal news conference.

So, we'll watch it all together, with all of you.

GREGORY: Yes, we will.

BLITZER: Don't go too far away. Coming up, the president-elect promises to crack down on controversial drug price hikes. Will he face a backlash from congressional Republicans?

Plus, this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy.


BLITZER: Today marks the -- the nation marks 75 years since Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, killing nearly 2,500 and launching the U.S. into World War II.

[13:15:03] We're going to take you live to remembrance ceremonies around the country. We'll also hear from survivors, just ahead.


[13:15:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Harbor, killing nearly 2,500 and launching the U.S. into World War II. We'll take you live to remembrance ceremonies around the country. We'll also hear from survivors, just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: President-elect Donald Trump has a new campaign promise to the American people, but to pharmaceutical companies, sounds more like a warning. In a "Time" magazine interview, Trump told the magazine he doesn't like what's happening with drug prices. He's going to bring down the cost of prescription medications.

Let's bring in Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He's also a Republican leader in the Senate.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: You're just back from Afghanistan.


BLITZER: I want to talk to you about that as well.

But what's your reaction when he says he's going to bring down the price of pharmaceuticals right now because pharmaceutical companies clearly not happy and some Republicans are not happy that he's intervening as well.

BARRASSO: Well, you know, it's interesting, the pharmaceutical companies agreed with President Obama on passing Obamacare. So this was part of the agreement. We need to make all of health care more affordable, drugs, hospitalizations, doctor visits, and that's what we're trying to do immediately with a repeal and then a replacement of the entire Obama health care law so people can get the care that they need, from a doctor they choose at lower costs and have more flexibility and choice.

[13:20:02] BLITZER: And you support repealing and replacing. Do you support a two-year replacement policy or a three-year replacement policy, because there seems to be a debate among Republicans right now, how long it will take to completely change the Affordable Care Act?

BARRASSO: Well, the important thing is that for people who have had their lives so significantly disrupted, we want to make sure there's a smooth transition to do that. We visited with Vice President-elect Pence yesterday. He came to the Senate Policy Committee luncheon to talk about that. We just want to make sure that we don't disrupt significantly the lives of the people.

BLITZER: What about the 20 million Americans who now have health insurance, who've never had it before, but now had it thanks to the -- thanks to Obamacare?

BARRASSO: Well, you know, I have a lot of people in Wyoming that had it before, it worked for them and it was affordable, but they lost it because of the Obama health care law, because the president said it wasn't good enough for him. So he counts them now as having, quote, "good insurance," where, in fact, they had something that worked for them. The American people, as of last week, Gallup poll, 80 percent said we either need to repeal and replace or fundamentally change the health care law, because it's not working for so many Americans, eight out of ten.

BLITZER: But are you with the two year folks or the three year folks for completely replacing it with something new?

BARRASSO: I want to do it as soon as possible to limit the damage that's already been done. We need to start repairing the damage that's taken six years with this health care law to kind of drive the cart into the ditch. It's going to take a while to bring it back out and on to the road to affordable health care.

BLITZER: On the issue of General Mattis becoming defense secretary, I assume you favor congressional legislation giving him a waiver. He's only been out of the military for three years. You're supposed to be out for at least seven in order to take over civilian leadership of the Department of Defense. I want you to listen to what the protected- elect said about this.


BLITZER: Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: He'll get that waiver, right? He can get that. Oh, if he didn't get that waiver, they'll be a lot of angry people. Such a popular choice.


BLITZER: That waiver is being included as a temporary funding spending bill, if you will, which is critically important. Some are saying, you know, why include the waiver in that essential legislation? They say this is really not fair.

BARRASSO: Well, it's a continuing resolution that funds the government. It sets up an expedited procedure to get him through sooner so that he can get that vote. I believe he ought to be confirmed after the hearings and proper vetting. But, you know, when you take a look at North Korea, Russia, Iran, and the situation we've had with President Obama where he has welcomed sort of the aggression, invited the aggression because of what I believe show a weakness by the Obama administration, when you have to deal with somebody whose nickname is "Maddog," it's going to make people think twice before taking aggressive action against the United States.

BLITZER: Do you think that's why -- why the president-elect picked him, because of his nickname?

BARRASSO: I think he picked him because of his incredible career in the military, the respect that all Americans have for him, for his service. Certainly the men and women in uniform respect him immensely.

BLITZER: What about your -- you just came back to Washington. You were just -- spent a few days in Afghanistan with U.S. troops on the ground. There's still, what, about 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.


BLITZER: They're fighting over there. It's a very, very dangerous operation. And you didn't just go to Kabul. You went outside of Kabul.

BARRASSO: We did. And, you know, the president says he's ended two wars. There are still thousands of Americans at war in Afghanistan and fighting not just the Taliban but ISIS is now setting up a --

BLITZER: How significant is ISIS in Afghanistan?

BARRASSO: It's significant in the area near the Afghan border with Pakistan. Over near Jalalabad. And we went to that area, to Kambari (ph), to a forward operating base and --

BLITZER: Are there Americans based there?

BARRASSO: There are Americans, including a guy from Wyoming, who was -- to spend Thanksgiving dinner with a young person who, you know, is there keeping us safe and keeping us free. You go to see your troops to thank them for the job they're doing on behalf of all Americans. I have Wyoming National Guard Troops there, as well as at the Bagram Air Force Base.

BLITZER: You want those 10,000 American troops to stay in Afghanistan?

BARRASSO: We need to get the mission completed. I think the president has gone down --

BLITZER: That mission is going to go on for a long, long time, as you know.

BARRASSO: The -- and it's -- and it's expanding because ISIS is now moving its operations there. So I have a lot of concerns about the way that the drawdown has occurred.

That Bagram military base, there was actually a suicide bomber who was a local who built a bomb on himself and killed two American soldiers, injured another dozen. This is on the military base. And the reason is, when I talked to the troops there, that local was doing a job that used to be done by a member of the military. So when you draw down but keep the base there, there is -- there are costs to that.

BLITZER: Is it your understanding the president-elect wants to keep those 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan?

BARRASSO: I'll let the president-elect obviously speak for himself.

BLITZER: Have you spoken to him about this?

BARRASSO: Not specifically about that. But you want to go -- I go every year at Thanksgiving to wherever the Wyoming National Guard is to thank them on behalf of the people of the country, to make sure they have everything they need, and they mostly want to talk about home. You know, Wolf, they love to see you. They don't want to see it for long, but they love to see you and it's good to be there with them at a holiday.

BLITZER: Yes, just under 10,000 troops there now, about 9,800 U.S. troops. It's going to go down 1,000 or so maybe in January, but --

[13:25:06] BARRASSO: And they're training others. They're training Afghans.

BLITZER: There's still a lot of Americans there and it's a very, very dangerous place.

BARRASSO: But it was the pullout from Iraq that allowed the vacuum to occur for which Isis then grew up.

BLITZER: There was al Qaeda in Iraq long before the U.S. pulled out. ISIS emerge from al Qaeda in Iraq. So this is a debate that is going to go on for a long time. Scholars can discuss that down the road. Senator, thank --

BARRASSO: And we will.

BLITZER: I'm glad you're back safe and sound from Afghanistan.

BARRASSO: Hey, thanks.

BLITZER: Thanks so much for joining us.

BARRASSO: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: John Barrasso of Wyoming.

Take a look at this. We're getting some live pictures right now from Pearl Harbor, where an important remembrance ceremony is honoring the yearly 2,500 killed in the attack that took place there 75 years ago today. Up next, we're going to introduce you to one Navy veteran, an attack survivor, as he embarks on a final military campaign, returning to the site where he lost 400 comrades.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You hear them tapping on the wall. People in there I guess thinking they're going to get rescued. After about two days, maybe, in the third day, it stopped.


BLITZER: We're going to bring you his remarkable story. But before we go to break, a quick look back to 1991, the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. I was there. I was at Pearl Harbor. Spoke to Army Pilot Kenneth Taylor as he reflected on the infamous morning, that infamous morning with one of the Japanese pilots shooting at his base.


ARMY PILOT KENNETH TAYLOR: I find this a very moving morning, as I think most people who participated in it, similar sort of a day. BLITZER: General Taylor, thank you very much for joining us on this

special 50th anniversary commemoration. Lieutenant Mighta (ph), thank you very much also for coming to meet face to face with your former enemy, now your friend.