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Frigid Air Sweeps Across U.S.; Trump Ends "Thank You" Tour With Alabama Rally;; State TV: Aleppo Evacuations Underway Now; "SNL" Mocks Trump's Relationship With Putin; Putin's Tight Grip On Power; Trump Won't Take Business Briefings As President; Trump's Cabinet Picks; Trump's Electors Receive Death Threats. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired December 18, 2016 - 06:00   ET



[06:00:13] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to Sunday. We're so grateful to see you. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. The holiday deep freeze, a lot of people are feeling it. Arctic winter weather is dumping a lot of snow, ice, and subfreezing temperatures across the country.

PAUL: It's frigid air. It's already turned deadly. Two people were killed in Baltimore after this massive 55-car pileup along I-95. A tanker carrying gasoline skidded off the highway and exploded.

BLACKWELL: The brutal blast is also affecting sports, NFL fans in Chicago and the players are bracing today for what could be the coldest game ever. All this as millions have already started their holiday travel.

PAUL: CNN has got you covered with our team here, Andy Scholes has been following impact across the country. Meteorologist, Allison Chinchar is tracking conditions as well as what's coming next.

So Allison, let's start with you. In the next few days, I've been hearing bone chilling and wind chills that's downright dangerous.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. That's where we're going to start with today is that wind chill. So it's not just the cold temperatures that have come in behind the front but the wind that goes with it. All of the areas that you see here in this purple and light blue color are under a wind chill warning or advisory.

We are talking some areas in the Dakotas with a wind chill of minus 50. You have to imagine a temperature that cold. Frostbite can set in at less than 10 minutes at that point. So just try to avoid being outside or if you have to bundle every surface of skin at that point.

We are also still talking some winter precipitation. We have winter weather advisories and storm warnings out as well as the ice threat still across portions of the U.S.

Right now, here is a wide look stretching from Maine all the way back to Louisiana. We are starting to see that change over into ice and freezing rain in Nashville. So keep that in mind. Accumulations have already started.

If you have travel plans along those interstates or the airport, give yourself some extra time. We'll be seeing the changeover in Pittsburgh here within about the next hour. Same thing with Buffalo. Starting to see that changeover take place. Give yourself extra time.

Victor, Christi, we saw what happened yesterday with the airports and roads. It would not be out of the question to have a similar scenario today.

PAUL: Wow. All right, Allison, thank you for the heads up there.

BLACKWELL: OK, so with all that we saw there, we know that most people would stay indoors.

PAUL: Most people.

BLACKWELL: Most people during these brutal temperatures, but then you have the sports fans, right? CNN's sports correspondent, Andy Scholes, has a look ahead at the games. Andy, go to the game where there's no flurries is one thing. This is different.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Today, we find out who really is one of those hard core football fans. The Packers played some very cold games in their history, but today's temporary could set the all- time record. The forecast at kickoff is 2 degrees with a wind chill, it will feel like 16 below zero.

That would make this afternoon's game at Soldier's Field the coldest home game in modern history for the Chicago Bears. Fans have to be bundled up for sure. The team is also trying to make it a little less miserable inside the stadium.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Added two warming stations on top of the two we already have. We've also added some medical teams if need be. We've added staff and we have roving teams throughout the day. That's all been beefed up a little bit for the game as well.


SCHOLES: Kickoff in Chicago is at 1:00. The cold in Buffalo, they had some snow. The Bills asked for fans to shovel it all out of new Era Field. Dozens of people armed with shovels quickly got to work clearing all the seats and aisles. The hard work didn't come for free. The team paid them 10 bucks an hour. They got a free ticket to upcoming game.

By the way, though, they were asked to bring their own shovels if they could. The cold weather blanketing the country will affect several other games as well. Kickoff temperatures for the Titan Chiefs game at Kansas City is expected to be 5 with wind chill of minus 7.

It will feel like 13 in Cincinnati for the Steelers/Bengals game. It's going to be downright balmy, 22 degrees in Denver with a wind chill of 14 for that one.

In case you're wondering, the coldest game in NFL history, that would be the Ice Bowl at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, it was 13 below with a wind chill of minus 48 when the Packers hosted the Cowboys on New Year's Eve back in 1967. Guys, I'm actually going to the Falcons/49ers game and I'll be wearing this because it's inside.

PAUL: Thank you, Andy, so much.

Want to tell you that authorities do not know if recent heavy rains played a part in a huge tree that fell over on a wedding party in a California park. These poor people. That tree crashed down yesterday afternoon and killed one person, injured five others.

That was in Los Angeles. Witnesses say the group was taking photos moments before that tree split in two and fell over.

[06:05:05]Firefighters had to use chainsaws to cut people loose from under the tree's limbs.

BLACKWELL: President-elect Donald Trump is ending his "Thank You Tour" where he says its political movement began. Donald Trump taking one last victory lap at an hour-long speech at a crowd at a football stadium in Mobile, Alabama.

PAUL: Trump's speech echoed familiar campaign themes. Keeping his focus on creating jobs and praising the Electoral College system, something that he once called a disaster back in 2012.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: The electoral vote and I never appreciated it until now, how genius it was, what they had in mind because at the time they didn't want everybody going to Boston and New York and everything else would be forgotten and now it's the same thing. It's genius. I'm telling you. It's genius. I went to 17 states. I went to states -- I went to states that, you know, you just wouldn't go to.


PAUL: Trump also responded to First Lady Michelle Obama's recent comments about some Americans feeling a loss of hope. CNN's Ryan Nobles watched all of this on the ground and filed this report.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump is making good on a campaign promise returning here to Mobile, Alabama, the site of one of his first major campaign rallies. (voice-over): It was back in August of 2015 that Trump brought

out a crowd of some 30,000 people and on Saturday he told a similar size crowd that this is where it all began.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. This is where it all began. Remember that incredible rally we had? And people came out and it was like this. It was packed and incredible and people said something's going on there. That was the beginning, wasn't it? That was the beginning.

And if you remember, even though you don't have to vote for me, maybe four years, we'll take a look, right? But you know what, I said, I'm coming back to see you in Alabama, right?

NOBLES: Now Trump gave the crowd a history lesson detailing state by state his victory on election night. What Trump didn't do was wade into some of the complex policy issues that awaits him when he takes office. He didn't mention China or Russia.

Despite the U.S. relationship with both of those countries becoming a growing situation for the incoming Trump administration. Instead the president-elect focused on many of his campaign promises, specifically how he plans to help the American economy.

He did go off script a bit criticizing the current first lady, Michelle Obama, for an interview she recently gave to Oprah Winfrey where she suggested that a sizeable part of the country lacks hope because of Trump's election victory.

TRUMP: Michelle Obama said yesterday that there's no hope. But I assume she was talking about the past, not the future, because I'm telling you, we have tremendous hope. We have tremendous promise and tremendous potential. We are going to be so successful as a country again.

We are going to be amazing, and I actually think she made that statement not meaning it the way it came out, I really do, because I met with President Obama and Michelle Obama in the White House, my wife was there. She could not have been nicer.

I honestly believe she made that statement in a different way that it came out because I believe -- I believe there is tremendous hope and beyond hope. We have such potential.

NOBLES (on camera): Trump now heads to his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, where he plans to spend the Christmas holiday with his family. He's not expected to make any news. There is a chance we could learn more about appointments to his administration in the coming weeks. Ryan Nobles, CNN, Mobile, Alabama.


PAUL: All right, Ryan, thank you so much.

CNN's senior political analyst and senior editor at "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein with us now, and CNN politics reporter, Eugene Scott as well. Gentlemen, thank you. Good morning to you. Ron, I wanted to ask you a very measured response from Donald

Trump there to what Michelle Obama said about feeling like there is no hope. Do you think she did not mean it the way that he's referring?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I think she -- I think she did mean that the results of the election have dispirited kind of the coalition that was on the other side. This was an incredible gulp in this campaign. If you go back to the Election Day exit poll, something like 95 percent of Trump voters said Hillary Clinton was not honest and 95 percent of Clinton voters said Trump was not qualified to be president.

But one thing we have seen in this transition, even as we have seen I think some unprecedented levels of conflict between the incoming and outgoing administrations.

[06:10:07]Particularly over the role of Russia and the strains between the president-elect and White House press secretary last week that the principles are taking the high road.

There's no question that Donald Trump has gone out of his way to avoid personal conflict with the Obamas and vice versa. In many ways that is the biggest distinction between Trump the candidate and Trump the president-elect.

Because what we saw in the speech was a remarkable extension of kind of his rhetoric, themes, positioning, posture from the campaign. Very little broadening into, in essence, someone who was about a month away from becoming leader of the free world and commander-in-chief.

PAUL: I think I remember Kellyanne Conway saying when he's on that stage, and he's around those people that's his comfort zone. That's where he gets his energy, so to speak. Let's listen here to what he said regarding possible future rallies as he's president, which would be very different but let's listen.


TRUMP: This is the last time I'll be speaking at a rally for maybe a while, you know? They're saying as president he shouldn't be doing rallies, but I think we should, right? We've done everything else the opposite. This is the way you get an honest word out.


PAUL: This is the way you get an honest word out, he says, Eugene Scott. Do you think rallies during his presidency are positive?

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: It's certainly a way for him to connect with the people who have been faithful to him and loyal to him since his earliest days. I covered yesterday's rally and remember covering the first time he was in Mobile, but what Donald Trump needs to do is continue to connect with people who don't have as much hope in him as his supporters do.

Yes, he said that his election is optimistic and brings joy to many people who got on board with him, but according to a recent Pew poll, nearly 40 percent of Americans think Donald Trump will be a poor or terrible president. He should use time to connect with those people.

PAUL: Let's talk about China. I want to talk about China real quickly here because we're getting word that that drone will be returned to the U.S. that was stolen. We do not know how that will happen or when that will happen, but we're getting word that it will.

Donald Trump tweeted yesterday this, I want to read it to you, "We should tell China that we don't want the drone they stole back. Let them keep it." Is this how foreign policy will be conducted, Ron Brownstein?

BROWNSTEIN: No, it's a really good question because there was the original tweet earlier about China and I found myself thinking when I was reading it, OK, that went through what process before he, you know, put it out with unprecedented spelled wrong along the way. You kind of wonder how many other people were involved.

First of all, there is one president at a time and this is where this transition gets kind of strange. Donald Trump, you know, continuing to act like a candidate in this case kind of weighing in with opinions on the way about, you know, diplomatic matters.

But I think the larger question is, what is the process by which those -- you know, is there a process or is it simply him kind of reaching for his device? Was Rex Tillerson consulted before he made either of these -- or Michael Flynn?

I don't know the answer, but I think, you know, if it's going to be this improvisational as president, there will be a lot of heartburn in different parts of the foreign policy world both here and abroad.

PAUL: Eugene, real quickly, 10 seconds, I want to get your thoughts?

SCOTT: Yes, I'm very much concerned how other people who don't respect the U.S. and want to mistreat us and act roguely would respond to something like this. Now they see, fine, you stole it, you can keep it. I don't think it's the precedent that the new president wants to actually set.

PAUL: All righty, Ron Brownstein and Eugene Scott, it's so good to see you both. Gentlemen, thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, breaking news this morning, a potential life line for thousands trapped in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Syrian state TV is reporting now that buses have just arrived to evacuate those desperate citizens trying to get out of the city.

PAUL: Also Vladimir Putin's tight grip on power. Why the diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Russia is more important now than possibly ever before?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin has made his wish list very clear. He wants Ukraine. He wants sanctions lifted and he wants to be left alone in Syria.




BLACKWELL: Breaking news right now, some renewed hope for the people trying to escape the violence in Eastern Aleppo. According to state TV, buses have arrived and evacuations have just resumed. This is after a new deal that was reached to help those still stuck in the city.

Russia, Syria, Turkey we know, Iran as well will meet to discuss the situation in Aleppo in just a few days. CNN's Muhammad Lila is live from the Turkey-Syria border. Muhammad, tell us about what you're seeing there and the plans for these evacuations.

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, it's been a slow- moving weekend. Finally this morning here, we're starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. We understand according to Syrian state television that those buses that have entered the rebel held parts of Eastern Aleppo ready to take those peopl out of the rebel held part of the city and into the countryside.

But what started as a simple evacuation plan getting rebels and civilians and families outside of those areas has really morphed into something a little bit more complicated. We're now dealing with evacuations from at least three or four other towns, some towns have been besieged by Islamist rebels for more than a year and a half.

What we're seeing is a simultaneous evacuation from those towns which makes it more complicated because the flow is not going one way out of Aleppo, it's going in several directions. Whenever that happens, you're dealing with many more complications on the ground.

You need to get security clearances from all of the different fighting groups. And of course, all it takes is one rogue element among those fighting groups to start firing a weapon and the whole thing collapses.

One thing to remember about this is that even once these civilians are evacuated, they are not out of the clear. We visited an emergency field hospitals where doctors are scrambling to treat some of the most critically wounded victims.


LILA (voice-over): We drove the along the Baron Turkish Syrian border to a location so sensitive, we weren't allowed to film directly outside. Inside, we were given a tour of the make shift hospital run by a Turkish religious foundation where doctors scrambled to treat patients who had been evacuated from Aleppo. (on camera): This is what it looks like inside this make shift

hospital. You can see how bare it is. The doctors tell us of the 100 patients they've treated, 30 of them were children.

(voice-over): This man spoke to us with his 6-year-old son crying by his side. I don't want to go back to Aleppo, he says. My wife and most of my children have died. I don't have anyone left in Aleppo. I only have this child left.

Should I return and cause him to die as well? This doctor who asked us not to show his face for security reasons says many of the injuries are critical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very serious. Amputation of leg.

LILA (on camera): Amputations?

[06:20:05]UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have four patients, amputations. Yesterday come patient -- two eyes out.

LILA (voice-over): The most critical cases can't be treated here so they're loaded on to ambulances bound for more advanced hospitals in bigger Turkish towns. While they head in one direction, truckloads of relief are heading into the other into Syria reportedly filled with food, clothes and blankets.

Part of a plan to set up a refugee camp housing up to 80,000 people inside Syrian territory, something the Syrian government may see as a provocation.


LILA: And, you know, just on that story, that father with the 6-year- old son next to him, one thing that footage didn't show was that that 6-year-old was crying so loudly you could hear his wailing from the room next door.

And there are thousands of civilians on both sides of this conflict that have been caught that have been orphaned and that have lost their mothers or their fathers. It's just a reminder of how real and how tragic this conflict has become.

BLACKWELL: It has gone on for years now. Some hope the resumption of these evacuations. Muhammad Lila reporting along the border. Thank you so much.

PAUL: A deadly attack, meanwhile, in Yemen this morning, 41 soldiers are dead after a suicide bombing at a military base in Aiden. The blast took place as the soldiers were lining up to receive their salaries. This is the de facto capitol of the U.N. recognized and Saudi-backed government of Yemen. The official capital has been under rebel control since last year.

Coming up, two powerful men with two solid egos. That's Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, of course. We're talking Putin's power grab and the future of U.S./Russian diplomacy. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: In its final episode of 2016 and one week before Christmas, "Saturday Night Live" brought a tons of gifts, Alec Baldwin impersonation, yes, of Donald Trump back this week despite being criticized by the president-elect two weeks ago.

[06:25:10]BLACKWELL: In this sketch, Donald Trump gets a surprise holiday visitor who enters through a chimney. His shirt was Vladimir Putin.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's coming from the chimney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it a ghost? Am I being Scrooged? I hate Scrooged?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald, I think it's --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vladimir, this is such a great surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you doing here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just in town, you know? Hiding in the walls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come in, come in, it's so great to finally get a chance to talk in person. I can post an e-mail to you, but I haven't even sent it yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. Mr. Trump, I'm here because your CIA is saying that we Russians tried to make you win election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. All lies made up by some very bitter people who need to move on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you trust me more than American CIA?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I know is I won.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, this guy is blowing my mind.


BLACKWELL: All right. So that's comedy, but the U.S./Russian relations really no laughing matter when Donald Trump moves into the oval office.

PAUL: From the annexation of Crimea, you have the hacking involvement in U.S. election. Putin and Russia remain a really divisive force and many say a force to be reckoned with.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Nic Robertson looks at what Putin's diplomacy could look like during the Trump administration.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): When the Soviet Union collapsed, the world thought Russia would be a different place, and for a decade under President Yeltsin it was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had free press. They had democracy and they had a civil society. The problem is they didn't have any laws and they didn't have any rules.

ROBERTSON: Bill Browder, an investment banker was there in Russia making millions amidst the chaos but then Putin came to power. A few years later he clashed with Browder.

BILL BROWDER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: I pointed out that Putin and the people around him have stolen an enormous amount of money from the Russian people and have covered it up.

ROBERTSON: Browder's businesses were raided. One of his whistleblowing lawyers, Sergei Magnitski (ph) was thrown in jail, brutalized and died there many months later. Putin rejects every accusation Browder makes and has barred him from Russia for the past decade.

BROWDER: At this point many people consider me to be Putin's number one foreign enemy and as such my life is at risk.

ROBERTSON: He is right to be worried. Putin's critics get silenced.

SIR ANDREW WOOD, FORMER BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: They're either directly ordered or indirectly encouraged.

ROBERTSON: Sir Andrew Wood was Britain's ambassador to Russia at the same time Browder was making his millions. He dismisses Putin's denials of any influence in the deaths.

WOOD: When Putin came to power his main theme was Russia should be a great power. He chose not economic reform and political progress but a relapse into what amounts to sort of a form of a narcissistic area.

ROBERTSON: In foreign policy that's intervention in Ukraine and Syria annexing Crimea, providing overnight popularity for Putin at the price of (inaudible) long term economic sanctions. Pretty soon all this will be on President-elect Donald Trump's plate.

BROWDER: He wants to be seen as a great deal maker and as a winner and so Putin has made his wish list very clear. He wants Ukraine. He wants sanctions lifted and he wants to be left alone in Syria.

ROBERTSON: Problem is Putin's idea of deal making not much of a deal.

WOOD: What he's offering I don't think is anything at all. Nice words perhaps.

ROBERTSON: And even his words warns Browder aren't worth much.

BROWDER: Putin doesn't keep to his word. Putin always betrays deals. He takes what's offered and then tries to take some more in the future. That probably won't play that well with Trump who will feel ripped off.

ROBERTSON (on camera): And what are his options going to be then?

BROWDER: To become probably much tougher than any other U.S. head of state before him towards Russia.

WOOD: I think at least for a period it will be in his interests to take things relatively calm.

ROBERTSON: The alternative could be very deeply troubling, two powerful men, two big egos.

BROWDER: I can imagine that we'll end up in a position where both these guys will be thumping their chests and steering each other down.

[06:30:00]ROBERTSON: Twenty-five years of post cold war diplomacy could be about to face their biggest test yet.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


PAUL: Well, it seems Donald Trump is choosing people thus far to lead the very agencies that they've criticized in the past. Our next guest says, it's a deliberate strategy. We're going to talk about that next. Stay put.


BLACKWELL: Thirty-three minutes after the hour this morning. We're getting a few new hints this morning about how Donald Trump plans on avoiding some business conflicts as president.

PAUL: Yes. A Trump spokeswoman says he won't take business meetings after he takes the oath of office. And Trump is open to some restrictions on talking shop with his family. Of course his lawyers are still working out the details. But this comes after Trump's team delayed a news conference to outline exactly how he would untangle, I should say, himself from his global business interests as president. It will not -- they say that we will not hear those answers until January now.

BLACKWELL: Still five weeks or so until the president-elect takes office. And Donald Trump is filling out his cabinet. He has picked people though to lead the very agencies that they have criticized in the past in some cases like Tom Price at HHS. Scott Pruitt for EPA. Andrew Puzder for the Department of Labor. Rick Perry at energy. Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development. So what is behind this strategy and these choices?

Let's bring in Meg Jacobs, a research scholar at Princeton University. Meg, good morning to you. And you have two really good thought- provoking opinion pieces on


I want to talk about each of them. First, with the one about these picks for the cabinet. You write, "But for now, in the battle to roll back government Trump is the dismantler-in-chief and these are his generals." Take a few seconds and support that.

MEG JACOBS, RESEARCH SCHOLAR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Yes. Well, it's a deliberate strategy, even if you have united government, it's still hard to actually undo, to repeal, to get rid of government agencies so the idea instead is to appoint people who are fundamentally hostile to the mission of the agencies and thereby lead by not enforcing the regulations that they're set up to do.

BLACKWELL: So why is this dismantling though and not simple reform? Any time a presidency goes from one party to another, the party out of power may say, that this appointee is going to tear this department apart. But is this not the reform that tens of millions of Americans voted for?

JACOBS: Well, that's certainly true and Trump signaled ahead of time, even on the campaign trail, that he would support policies like rolling back regulations at EPA, for example, so with someone like Scott Pruitt he's delivering on that promise.

BLACKWELL: Now let's talk about the other piece you have out just out this weekend about President Obama -- let me talk about first what Donald Trump said in pushing forward in energy and picking Rex Tillerson at state, picking Pruitt, as we mentioned. He says that he is going to build infrastructure and energy is going to be one of the temple issues of his presidency.

You write that this is going to be energy independence on steroids. President Obama lauded energy independence so why is that a bad thing? Some people hear energy independence on steroids is a good thing.

JACOBS: Well, it depends what you mean by energy independence. I think for Donald Trump it means it's part of his America first plan to be independent of the world so that we rely on our own resources, our own natural resources. For President Obama I think for energy independence he meant declining dependence on fossil fuels. So I think had -- they mean different things for different presidents.

BLACKWELL: In the piece you take issue with the selection of Rex Tillerson and his time as president of ExxonMobil. Obviously an energy company, oil and gas. Let's listen to what Tillerson said earlier this year about the distinction between his being a businessman and being a representative of the American government. Watch.


REX TILLERSON, CEO, EXXONMOBIL: I'm not here to represent the United States government's interest.


BLACKWELL: He in that case says that he is a businessman. Now if he can make that distinction as head of ExxonMobil, why not give him the benefit of the doubt that he can do that as secretary of state?

JACOBS: Well, he might be able to, it's just a question of what policies you want to enforce, and I believe as part of the Trump administration he will be on board with this effort to, as Trump has said, assert a very aggressive position in terms of making deals, in terms of bringing his skills from ExxonMobil to look out for American interests first and foremost abroad.

BLACKWELL: How does Mick Mulvaney, the congressman who has been chosen to lead the Office of Management and Budget -- excuse me -- being a budget director, how does he fit into your theory of how Donald Trump is choosing these department heads and these members of his administration?

JACOBS: Well, he's very important because in addition to having people at the head of agencies who want to scale back, roll back the regulations, what he can do from OMB is to help gut these agencies by cutting their finances. And this is a strategy that we saw under Ronald Reagan with David Stockman whose main agenda was to slash federal spending substantially and thereby making it harder for agencies like EPA to do their job.

BLACKWELL: But as you pointed out in your piece, there is a roll back. That if there is some negative response to a president who tries to dismantle these departments that there will be a natural correction. Is that not what the point of this system of checks and balances is -- if there is some retreat from a president's approach that we'll see that from a Donald Trump administration?

JACOBS: I'm not sure it's a natural correction. It might be a political correction. And we certainly saw that under Ronald Reagan.

So, for example, when he cut EPA spending by half, that was the cue to the environmental movement to mobilize, to organize, to put even more pressure on the administration and you did, indeed see a return of the funding, for example. So we'll see what happens.

You know, it's really up to the opponents of a Trump administration to put pressure on him, including in the next mid-term elections if they want to see a reversal of the kind of policies he's likely to put in place.


BLACKWELL: All right. Two good pieces on that have us thinking. Meg Jacobs, thanks so much.

JACOBS: Thanks for having me.

BLACKWELL: And we've got our partisan political voices ready to weigh in on what they heard from Meg in the president-elect's incoming cabinet. Good morning to Danielle McLaughlin and Ben Ferguson. Stay with us.


BLACKWELL: We'll speak with you right after the break.


BLACKWELL: Welcome back. Let's bring in Ben Ferguson, a Republican and CNN political commentator, and Danielle McLaughlin, a Democratic strategist. Good morning to both of you.

FERGUSON: Good morning.


BLACKWELL: Ben, I want to start with you and what Meg Jacobs our previous guest talked about. Donald Trump potentially picking members of his cabinet who will dismantle, in her words, the departments that they are now asked to lead. Does she have it right? Because some of Trump's supporters want these departments to be effectively dismantled.

FERGUSON: Well, I think what you're seeing is Donald Trump realizes that many of these departments have become way too big, way over bearing and way overreaching on state's rights and the issues for business to be able to actually operate in a climate that is a condition to actually growing and not shutting down and not going overseas.

I'll give you a great example, Rick Perry, he's an individual and said he wanted to shut down the department he's now going to lead. It's a perfect pick because he understands just how overreaching and how bloated this government agency has gotten. So do I think he's going to shut it down? No. Do I think he's going to be able to streamline it, save the American tax payer serious dollars and also allow for business to grow in this country at the same time? Yes.

And that's why I think it's very smart, these picks. They're people that have said for a long time we're going to drain the swamp. Well, part of the swamp draining is getting rid of some of these over -- these massive government agencies that have way too much bureaucratic oversight and they want to make them smaller. It's a smart move.

BLACKWELL: Danielle, your take?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I'm not sure draining the swamp is having the richest cabinet in the history of the country. But that's a -- I guess, conversation for another time. There are important things that the federal government does and I can give a couple of examples.


One of the most important things the Department of Justice does is enforce civil rights laws. And we have a candidate for the head of the DOJ who has come out many times against notions of civil rights. It's very important. The second thing is not --



FERGUSON: When did he do that? When did he do that?


BLACKWELL: Hold on. Hold on. I'll let you respond to that, Ben. Go ahead. Finish your thought quickly if you can, Danielle?

MCLAUGHLIN: Sure. Texas is polluting in the states around its borders. It's polluting the air. What are the other states going to do about it? We have ultimately and intimately trans-state issues certainly as it relates to the environment. You think of the air. You think about the water. That's why we have federal governments over those things so there isn't a race to the bottom over environmental standards that not only fix the states in which those laws are made (INAUDIBLE) surrounding states.

BLACKWELL: All right. Ben, go ahead. Respond to that.

FERGUSON: Victor, first, I'm in Texas so I know a little bit about how the clean air and water is. Come on down instead of flying over Texas and actually spend some time in Texas and you'll understand that Governor Perry when he was the governor and now Greg Abbott have done an incredible job of making sure that this is a very clean state when it comes to EPA issues as well. To say that somehow Texas is polluting the air around them is absurd.

If anyone is polluting...


MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's an example, Ben, and it happened (ph).

FERGUSON: ... it would be Mexico. But let me -- let me...

BLACKWELL: Hold on. Hold on, Danielle --


FERGUSON: ... you said a second ago. You said a moment ago that the Justice Department and the person that's going to be the attorney general has made numerous statements that are -- is in favor of some sort of racism in this country. Give me an example of where that is actually fact because it's not the truth at all. It's nothing but fear mongering that you're doing on that issue as well.

BLACKWELL: Danielle, the example (ph)?

MCLAUGHLIN: No. That's actually not what I said, Ben, at all. What I'm saying is...


FERGUSON: All right. Then please explain it.

MCLAUGHLIN: ... from within the federal government is certainly within the civil rights department, within the department of justice. These are things that this country has worked for decades in terms of...


MCLAUGHLIN: ... any number of ways.

FERGUSON: I heard you talk about it. Give me an example. Give me an example. I heard you --


MCLAUGHLIN: Interracial marriage used to be outlawed, right? And we had the civil rights act. We had Loving versus Virginia, a Supreme Court case, that determined that that law within Virginia was unconstitutional. Ultimately we had other cases like that (INAUDIBLE) with interracial marriage but with other --


FERGUSON: You did not give me an example of the incoming individual. See, this is the thing that drives me nuts.


BLACKWELL: Is that a criticism specifically of Jeff Sessions though, Danielle?

MCLAUGHLIN: I beg your pardon, victor?

BLACKWELL: You pointed to Jeff Sessions when you said someone who is coming in as a (INAUDIBLE) and you go to the Loving case, is that a criticism specifically of his record?

MCLAUGHLIN: No, it's not. It's not.


BLACKWELL: Then is it fair -- is it fair then to saddle him with that?

MCLAUGHLIN: Back in the time during -- when he was first had some obviously this is decades ago there were some issues. I think we should get all of this --

FERGUSON: Victor, victor --

BLACKWELL: Danielle, that seems a little too vague to try to -- to try to saddle Jeff Sessions with that although there are critics of Jeff Sessions to saddle him with the Loving case. It seems --


MCLAUGHLIN: No, no, no. I'm not. And I don't -- seriously, I'm not --


BLACKWELL: Hold on, Ben.

MCLAUGHLIN: I'm saying that there's a role for the Department of Justice. There is a role for federal civil rights and there is a role for federal environmental regulation in this country.

BLACKWELL: OK. Ben, let me come to you on another topic. Because a week ago that (INAUDIBLE) for a minute. But I want to talk to you about what Mitt Romney wrote in "The Salt Lake tribune" this weekend. He wrote a letter. It was really, really short. I mean, it could have been a series of tweets but he wrote this in part.

"I was more than a little surprised that the president-elect reached out to me to potentially serve as the secretary of the United States. I see it as a welcome sign that he will be open to alternative views and even to critics."

You opposed Romney potentially as the next secretary of state. Is this what the consideration was about, being open to alternative views and even critics? Or was this a bit of ribbing? A bit of retaliation, a revenge here?

FERGUSON: Look, I think there is a lot of people that were saying if you want to drain the swamp and we elected you to go to Washington, be different. We didn't elect you to all of a sudden give Mitt Romney a job. There are a lot of hard core conservatives that would be upset with that pick.

I think what you're seeing from Donald Trump, and I think this is a good thing long term, is that he's willing to listen to critics. Those that -- the biggest speech Mitt Romney gave in the last four years was an anti-Trump speech. So since the day he basically lost the election years ago.

So you look at this and I think the good news is for people that were worried that Donald Trump was only going to have yes people around him, not the case at all. He's willing to sit down with people that disagree with him. He's willing, like Nikki Haley, and to say, OK, you're obviously an intelligent individual. Tell me where I may be wrong on something and maybe we can work together.

And I think it's good that they have this rapport. I think it's good that they will be able to have phone conversations moving forward. I don't think this was ribbing at all. I don't think he would have wasted that much of his own time meeting with Romney. I think it was a serious consideration. I'm glad to see that in his cabinet.

But let me say one last thing...

BLACKWELL: Quickly. FERGUSON: ... about what we just talked about. The fact that you have people that are coming out and criticizing Donald Trump's picks and they have nothing to back it up and they go back to decades old cases that have nothing to do with the incoming attorney general just tells you how divided and how...



FERGUSON: ... furious Democrats are they lost this election.

BLACKWELL: Nothing is a stretch but I hear your point on Jeff Sessions here.

Danielle McLaughlin, Ben Ferguson, we've got to wrap.

Christi, over to you. Thank you both.

PAUL: Thank you.

Death threats against Electoral College voters. Well, these electors casting their ballots tomorrow for president. We're going to meet a man who says he's been threatened hundreds of times to change his vote from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton. Stay close.


PAUL: Well, electors across the country will vote tomorrow to officially choose the 45th president of the United States.

BLACKWELL: There are a total of 538 electors, California with the most, 55. And seven states and the District of Columbia have just three. The numbers in each state are equal to its members of Congress. Now despite winning the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, Hillary Clinton has picked up only 232 electoral votes, Donald Trump has picked up 306.

Now in the likely or rather unlikely event that electors flip their vote and go against their state's wishes making them faithless electors, 38 Republican electors would have to choose Clinton instead of Donald Trump. The results will not be announced until January 6th.

PAUL: Some pro-Trump electors though say they've been sent death threats. Warning them of dire consequences if they don't switch their vote from the president-elect to Hillary Clinton.

BLACKWELL: In fact one of those voters received 600 -- 600 threatening letters in just one day telling him not to cast a ballot for Donald Trump.

CNN's Rosa Flores has his story.


MICHAEL BANERIAN, MICHIGAN ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTER: So this one came in a day before the election. Hey, blank head, I'll find you and put a bullet in your fat blanking mouth.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Death threats fill Michael Banerian's social media accounts.

BANERIAN: So this is a tweet I received has a picture of a noose on it.

FLORES: His mailbox packed with demands coming from around the country. 2,000 just this week, he says.

BANERIAN: Oregon, Oklahoma, Washington State.



FLORES: The mailman even interrupting our interview to deliver another 600 letters, all calling on him not to vote for Donald Trump. Something Banerian along with Michigan's 15 other electors pledged to do regardless of the pressure.

BANERIAN: I've had death wishes, people just saying, I hope you die. Do society a favor, throw yourself in front of a bus. And just recently I was reading a blog about me and unfortunately these people not only called for the burning of myself but my family, which is completely out of line.

FLORES: Banerian has no choice. Michigan State law keeps him from changing his vote. Electors in 27 other states and the District of Columbia have also what are known as faithless elector laws, but in 22 states electors can go rogue.

Anti-Trump groups are not letting up posting the names and addresses of 283 electors on the internet encouraging people across the country to write the electors asking they vote against Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe I must cast my vote for an alternative Republican.

FLORES: The group Hamilton Electors is leading the charge to block Trump from 270 electoral votes. They say at least 20 electors are on boards but they need 37 for the election to go to the House of Representatives.

MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: Republican members of the Electoral College, this message is for you.

FLORES: Hollywood stars are pushing for an alternate ending as well releasing this video.

RICHARD SCHIFF, ACTOR: By voting your conscience you and other brave Republican electors can give the House of Representatives the option to select a qualified candidate.

FLORES: But that has never happened before and Banerian says his vote won't help this year be the first. BANERIAN: It's utter hypocrisy. Because I don't think that if the roles were reversed most of these people would be okay with electors being faithless and voting for anyone other than Hillary Clinton had she won.

FLORES: Rosa Flores, CNN, Chicago.


BLACKWELL: All right. Coming up on NEW DAY buses arrive in Eastern Aleppo. Thousands of civilians are there waiting to be rescued. We'll talk exactly about those evacuations which we understand have resumed in just the last few minutes. When we come back we'll have details.