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Interview With Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff; Heroin and Opioid Epidemic; No Escape in Syria; Produced by POTUS; Interview with Tom Steyer; Giuliani Removes Name from Consideration in Trump Admin. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired December 9, 2016 - 4:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Now, it seems to me that there's already no better title, no better credit than president of the United States. What am I missing here?

THE LEAD starts right now.

President-elect Trump, he will not headline the reality show that brought him television fame. He has a different day job now. But he's still going to keep one foot in Hollywood. Why?

Homeless and dying. And those are the lucky ones who escaped, 100,000 Syrians trapped inside Aleppo now, and they're facing a choice, ride out the relentless bombardment or flee and risk starving to death in the streets.

It kills more than guns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that heroin and opioids are now deadlier than firearm homicides. The epidemic crippling our nation, how do we stop it?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This evening, president-elect Donald Trump will hold his fourth thank you rally. Tonight, Trump hits the stage in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the state he turned red, something every Republican presidential nominee had failed to do since George H.W. Bush won there in 1988.

Trump is on the road already. He's in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and he just wrapped up a go vote rally for the Republican Senate candidate there named John Kennedy. President-elect Trump continues to fill his Cabinet, meanwhile. He has apparently not yet decided who will be his secretary of state.

But transition sources tell CNN he has decided it will not be Rudy Giuliani. The former New York City mayor was told earlier this week he's out, according to sources. We're also being told that Trump is looking even more closely at ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for the position. Tillerson has publicly spoken out against sanctioning Russia.

He has known President Vladimir Putin dating back to the 1990s, when Tillerson headed up Exxon's branch in Russia. And just in case you think president-elect Trump has been insufficiently ubiquitous, we now know that he will continue to be the executive producer of the reality show he left when he started his campaign.

CNN's Sara Murray joins me now here in Washington.

Sara, explain to me how this is going to work. The transition team, they're saying that his being executive producer of "Celebrity Apprentice," it is just going to be something of a hobby?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think we're all dying to know exactly how this is going to work out.

Obviously, it's not normal for a president to have a side gig, but Donald Trump is not your normal president-elect and sources are telling CNN exactly that, that even though Donald Trump made a big fuss over the fact it wasn't his business interests that mattered to him, it was the presidential campaign, it was becoming president, he doesn't look like he wants to leave those behind any time soon.


MURRAY (voice-over): On the campaign trail, Donald Trump easily shrugged aside his business interests, insisting the allure of the White House was far more important.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I don't care. It doesn't matter to me. It's nice when you don't have to care, but I don't care. What I care about is making America great again. That's much more important. It's much more important.

MURRAY: But now the president-elect is showing little sign of stepping back from his corporate calling. In yet another potential conflict of interest, sources say Trump will remain an executive producer for NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice," even as he serves as president of the United States.

Trump hosted 14 seasons of "The Apprentice," but in 2015, NBC said it was cutting ties after his controversial remarks about undocumented Mexican immigrants.

TRUMP: I have a big chunk of that show. And I could have done it for another five years if I wanted to. But I don't know. There's a lot of pressure on Arnold, because Arnold is going to have a hard time. It was the number one show. And I did it for 14 seasons. I have a big stake in it.

MURRAY: Now one of Trump's top advisers, Kellyanne Conway, is defending Trump's decision, saying he will remain involved in the show in his free time.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: Were we so concerned about the hours and hours and hours spent on the golf course of the current president? I mean, presidents have a right to do things in their spare time or their leisure time. MURRAY: Of course, Trump and other Republicans were sharply critical

of the time President Obama spent on the links.

TRUMP: And he gets on this plane, flies to Hawaii. He's there for a long time. Golf, golf, golf, golf, more, more. Learning how to chip. Learning how to hit the drive. Learning how to putt. Oh, I want more.

MURRAY: The latest news on Trump's business dealings comes days before he's slated to hold a press conference on who will run his company once he heads to the White House, although there is little indication Trump will divest from his business.

But in the meantime, the battle for secretary of state rages on. CNN has learned ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson's stock is on the rise for the post. But one-time front-runner Rudy Giuliani appears to be out of contention.


And Trump is using his thank you tour to defend the Cabinet picks he's already made, which indeed a number of business titans with little government experience.

TRUMP: By the way, some of the people I put on to negotiate, you have been noticing, are some of the most successful people in the world. One newspaper criticized me. Why can't they have people of modest means? Because I want people that made a fortune, because now they're negotiating with you. OK?

MURRAY: That road show continues today with an evening rally in Michigan, as well as a stop in Louisiana to campaign for a Republican Senate candidate. But before he left Trump Tower, he squeezed in a meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is putting aside his past criticism of Trump in favor of a show of unity instead.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're very excited about getting to work and hitting the ground running in 2017 to put this country back on track.


MURRAY: Now, we have paid a lot of attention to the battle over secretary of state, but there's been another one brewing about who is going to lead the Republican National Committee now that Reince Priebus is going into the White House.

And we are expecting Donald Trump to make it official tonight and to throw his support behind Ronna Romney McDaniel. She's the head of the Michigan Republican Party, with the caveat that nothing is set until it comes out of Donald Trump's mouth, and, of course, RNC committee members have to vote on the pick, but the backing of the president- elect holds an awful lot of weight for that job.

TAPPER: Sure does. Interesting because there was talk that Governor Chris Christie might be considered for that position. MURRAY: Yes, though that was talk before things went a little bit

south I think in the relationship between Chris Christie and Donald Trump.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray, thank you so much.

And joining me now to discuss this and much more, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. He now heads the Chertoff Group.

Sir, thanks so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.


TAPPER: Nearly three weeks ago, the last time you were on CNN, you said that president-elect Trump's behavior since the election had reflected a sober, disciplined and appropriate approach. You said you were encouraged.

Since then, there have been developments. He's broken with protocol, taken that call from the president of Taiwan. He has talked about imposing big tariffs on products made in China. This week, he's gone after a local labor leader who had criticized him. Do you still feel that he's been sober, disciplined and appropriate and you're encouraged?

CHERTOFF: Well, let me say this.

In terms of his appointments, by and large, I think particularly in the national security area, the suggestion that General Mattis is going to be defense secretary and General Kelly head of Homeland Security I think are good appointments.

In terms of the call to Taiwan, there is an argument that sometimes giving a little bit of a brushback to the Chinese and indicating that we may shake things up a little is not a bad idea. Now, the question is how you execute on that, because it should be part of a strategy. And hopefully he is in the process of developing with his advisers and with the experts a strategy going forward that doesn't antagonize the Chinese, but perhaps adjusts a little bit in terms of our relationship with them?

TAPPER: What do you make of all the potential conflicts of interests? He's got the global business enterprise. And it seems that he's not going to divest himself or sell off his assets, that he's going to try to do some sort of wall.

But his sons Don Jr. and Eric will still be in charge of the company. And there are a lot of decisions and a lot of things having to do with foreign governments that a lot of people think, a lot of ethics experts say this is going to be a problem for him.

CHERTOFF: Well, one thing, Jake, is, if we're talking about creating jobs, there are going to be a lot of jobs for lawyers, because...

TAPPER: Lawyers suing the Trump Organization? CHERTOFF: Suing, defending, analyzing, advising.

I don't know what he's going to do. Obviously, when you have business interests and financial stakes involving foreign countries, it raises a whole host of issues. He is going to have to work with the lawyers to figure out what protects him and protects the country and his kids from getting caught up in some kind of a problem.

TAPPER: Would you suggest that he fully divest or at least...

CHERTOFF: Well, divestiture is the easiest thing to do. And that's clean and simple.

I think when you don't do that, even though the strict ethics laws don't apply to the president, there are a lot of laws that do apply, including the Constitution. And he is going to have to get guidance as to what that requires.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the fact that we're being told by the transition team that president-elect Trump is getting about one intelligence briefing a week, whereas obviously normally presidents- elect -- and we're told vice president-elect Pence is getting one roughly every day. Does it matter? And, if so, why?

CHERTOFF: Presidents have treated the presidential daily brief differently.

I know President Bush got it every day or six days a week. And actually someone came in and briefed him. Other presidents have read it, but they haven't had somebody come in. Some people get briefed orally.

Now, he's not president yet, so he has got a little bit of time to figure out what he wants to do. But I think what he will find out is when you own the responsibility, there's such a lot of dynamic change every single day that in some form or another, you're going to want to hear every day what's going on, whether that's the written brief, whether it's something electronic, whether it's someone in giving an oral brief or some combination.


He's going to have to figure out what he's comfortable with once he actually has the job.

TAPPER: President Obama announced that he is ordering a full intelligence review into the election, including the hacking allegedly by Russia.

How concerned are you about the Russian interplay in the election this year?

CHERTOFF: Well, I actually think it's even a more important broader question, because for years the Russians have engaged in what they call information operations in Europe. And they have used it to influence public opinion, to drive certain

candidates forward with finance, with propaganda but having botnets that literally drive up certain tweets in order to get attention.

So, this is part of a larger set of issues. We have just begun to experience that here in the U.S. But I think, in many ways, what the Russians have done is weaponize social media. And we need to have a larger analysis and discussion of what that means strategically for how we deal with the Russians around the globe.

TAPPER: How do you think that they have weaponized social media? Hacking into...

CHERTOFF: Not just hacking into data to get data, which is espionage, but literally using it to manipulate public opinion, to put stories out that are biased or phony in order to drive public opinion a certain way.

If you look at polling in Europe, you will be amazed to find that in many places, attitudes to the U.S. and Russia are basically evenly balanced. People think that the U.S. is as much of a problem as Russia.

That is driven by some of the information operations that for years have now been pushed out in Western Europe.

TAPPER: Two former heads of the CIA, men that I think you know well, Michael Hayden and Mike Morell, both have told me that they think Putin is playing Trump. Hayden even suggested he's a useful fool.

What do you think?

CHERTOFF: I don't think there's any doubt in my mind that Putin is trying to set the stage and the circumstances to get Donald Trump to be as favorable to him as possible.

Now, of course, other presidents had -- quote -- "resets" and they rapidly discovered that the reset was only cosmetic and that the fundamental challenges were still there. So, look, I think it's OK to treat the Russians respectfully. I think there are times we have gratuitously insulted them.

And that's probably unnecessary and unhelpful. But you have got to be very clear that, other than being pilot, there are certain core interests the U.S. and its allies have and those can't be compromised. And I think that's going to be a critical test for the incoming administration.

TAPPER: Do you think president-elect Trump realizes that?

CHERTOFF: Well, this is what his advisers, and people like General Mattis and General Kelly, they understand, they know about it, and they ought to be in the process of educating him about it.

TAPPER: So, they have got it.

All right, thank you so much, Secretary Chertoff. Always good to see you. Thank you so much for being here.

CHERTOFF: Good to be here.

He's called climate change a Chinese hoax. Now Donald Trump has picked a man who is a climate change denier to head the EPA. Our next guest he will spend whatever it takes to stop the president-elect's environmental agenda.

Stick around.


[16:17:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

One year ago this month, Donald Trump called climate change a scam designed to make a lot of people a lot of money. Now in his choice to be the director of the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has said the debate over climate change is far from settled, making environmentalists concerned about how much the pending healed of the Environmental Protection Agency actually wants to, you know, protect the environment.

This is all a nightmare in particular for our next guest who quit his day job managing a billion dollar investment firm to take up the fight against climate change full time.

Joining us now, philanthropist and environmentalist Tom Steyer.

Mr. Steyer, thank you so much for joining us, as always.


TAPPER: So, what do you think of Scott Pruitt?

STEYER: Well, I think that Donald Trump has chosen someone to head the EPA and I think that he's someone who has very close to corporate interest and specifically oil interests. In fact, one of the biggest independent oil men in the United States of America, Harold Hamm, was the head of his election committee.

So, I think we can see exactly where the president-elect is going on this. He's appointing people to dismantle the agencies that they're scheduled to lead to take their mission and flush it.

TAPPER: There are also reports that Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers may be nominated to head the Department of Interior. I don't know what you think about her. Is she trying to dismantle the Department of Interior you think?

STEYER: Well, she's someone who has been active in supporting drilling off the coast. She's someone who has said about Al Gore that she would give him an A for creative writing but an F for science. So, I think that she's very consistent with the rest of the president- elect's picks in the sense that they're climate deniers who are absolutely opening up America to corporate interests at the expense of the American citizens.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about the election. There have never been two major party candidates with more divergent views on the environment in the history of our country. You supported Clinton. Donald Trump has suggested climate change is a Chinese hoax.

How do you determine these election results, the guy that you opposed with lots of money and lots of effort, he won?

STEYER: Donald Trump is proposing something in terms of returning to a fossil fuel driven economy that was successful and the dominant idea in the 1950s. So, his goal is to return to a technology that was good 65 years ago and think that's going to lead us into the future. The fact of the matter is we actually, Jake, came out with a report two days ago, showing that if we move to clean energy it will create more jobs in America, that there'll be better paying jobs, that the America will grow faster and our costs will go down dramatically.

So, he's got an old technology that he's trying to push to please corporate interests at the expense of American working people and American citizens.

TAPPER: Well, with all due respect, a lot of people don't believe that argument. Take a listen to Hillary Clinton speaking in Ohio at a town hall in March.


[16:20:02] HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country, because we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business. Right?


TAPPER: She was talking about trying to bring new jobs, these clean energy jobs you're talking about, to coal country. But that comment hurt her in states that matter such as Ohio.

Is there a more effective way to talk about these issues or is the policy the problem?

STEYER: Good grief. I think the fact of the matter is people who work in the coal industry do it to support their families, they started in it for the most part when it was a vibrant industry. It's shrunk dramatically since then and I think that the idea of not caring about working Americans in declining industry is something that is a huge mistake.

The fact of the matter is, in Ohio, there are probably 25 times more jobs in clean energy than there are in coal. So, we absolutely should be caring about working Americans who work in coal, we should absolutely care about parts of the country that are having economic problems, that are having problems growing and providing good paying jobs. But the fact of the matter is the numbers say there are 60,000 coal

miners in the whole of the United States, and in my home state of California, there are probably 550,000 clean energy jobs right now. Ten times the number of coal miners in the whole United States.

So, when we look forward, what is really important that we go area by area and show people what the actual jobs will be and we should never take any pride in the fact that new technologies are going to replace old technologies because there are people who are working old technologies are hard working Americans, trying to support their families, trying to do it with dignity, and the fact of the matter is, the world is moving on and we need as a society to take care of working people who have done very poorly over the last 35 years in the United States of America.

TAPPER: Tom Steyer, thank you so much as always. Come back soon, please?

STEYER: Jake, thanks for having me.

TAPPER: On the campaign trail, Donald Trump criticized his opponents claiming they were owned by Goldman Sachs. But now, he doesn't mind having at least two or three Goldman Sachs people in his inner circle. How does that work?

Then, a deadly milestone. Heroin deaths surpassing gun homicides for the first time in this country. A look at the growing opioid epidemic.

Stay with us.


[16:27:00] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We have some breaking news now. We reported at the top of the show that transition sources told us that Rudy Giuliani was no longer under consideration to President-elect Trump's secretary of state. And now, the transition has put out a statement saying that Giuliani removed his name for consideration for any position in the Trump administration. Trump in the statement praised Giuliani and said he would have been an outstanding member of the cabinet in several roles but respects his decision to remain in the private sector. Curious.

For more, let's bring in our political panel. We have with us, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today", Susan Page, associate editor and columnist for "Real Clear Politics", A.B. Stoddard, and CNN contributor, Salena Zito.

Thanks one and all for being here.

Susan, let me start with you. Translate that with us. What happened here?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Well, you know, Rudy Giuliani said he only wanted secretary of state, no other job. He apparently meant it. Became clear he was not going to get it the secretary of state job. This statement being put out today gives him some face-saving because it says he told Trump on November 29th that he wasn't interested in joining the administration.

And so, this makes it look a little less like he didn't -- just wasn't able to get the job that he sought. And that some people thought he had a good shot at getting, given all his work for Trump during the campaign.

TAPPER: He was a stalwart. But I have to say, I had been hearing that he would have potentially confirmation problems on Capitol Hill because of all his business entanglements all over the world.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Even the Rudy fans among Trump's closest supporters who wanted him to have the job where he couldn't be vetted, make it through confirmation with all those entanglements with overseas business dealings. The same kind of things that they -- that Donald Trump, you know, criticized Hillary Clinton for in the campaign. It would have just been a very difficult thicket for him.

But it's interesting that if he's really been out of the running since November 29th why have Trump surrogates come out and still used his name in the ever expanding list when they talk about it weeks and days since?

TAPPER: It's strange. And, Salena, I guess people -- a guy like Rudy Giuliani, he's an accomplished man, a mayor, he can want what he wants. But, you know, I had been told that, you know, the Trump team offered him attorney general, he didn't want it.


TAPPER: Offered him Homeland Security, he didn't want. You know, I guess he had his sights set on the secretary of state position.

ZITO: Right. I think the last time we saw him was right around November 30th, 29th, 28th, somewhere around there. He had his last public appearance. He was asked about being attorney general and he said, "No, that's Jeff Sessions," and he said, you know, "The only thing I really want is secretary of state", and then he just went radio silent. We haven't heard from him since then.

PAGE: You know, the other thing would be if one of his biggest defenders, Trump's biggest defenders during the campaign does not get that job and his biggest critic Mitt Romney does.

TAPPER: That would be -- that would be interesting. Do you think Romney is still in the hunt here?

PAGE: I think we know from Donald Trump that Mitt Romney is still in the mix. Although the fact that Donald Trump hasn't made an appointment yet indicates that he's still looking around a little. But I think we know pretty with some degree of certainty that Romney is at least in the mix. TAPPER: So, let's talk about the fact that "The Washington Post" is

reporting Trump has picked the president and COO of Goldman Sachs as his national economic counsel director.