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John Kelly: My Job Is Not to "Control" Trump; As Puerto Rico Suffers, Trump Says "Can't Stay Forever"; Trump Nominates Kirstjen Neilson as DHS Secretary. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 12, 2017 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:30:00] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But messengers matter. And the way that he delivered that was really key and really different. Having said that, they all work for the same guy. At the end of the day, it is an audience of one. That's why you heard a lot of going after the media, no question in my mind.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Once piece that I didn't hear come up that was in that "Vanity Fair" article we've all read by Dave Sherman (ph). And it all has to do with what reportedly Steve Bannon said to President Trump when he was in the White House, on the 25th Amendment.

Joan Biskupic, CNN legal analyst. You cover the Supreme Court for us and all things.

There is this report, a refresher for everyone, I think the fourth section, 25th Amendment, starts with the vice president, then goes to members of the cabinet, members of Congress, and ultimately, down the road, the president could no longer be the president. I'm giving a watered-down version. You explain this to the people watching. And how much of a probably this would be?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is funny because it kind of ties into what we just observed of John Kelly about how unlike think is that his own people would turn against him. It would almost require a coup. The vice president, the majority of his cabinet, would have to tell Congress that the president is unable to discharge his duties and you would have to get two-thirds of the House and Senate. And right now, what we all just saw was essentially a man saying this administration can discharge its duties. Now, it does come down to Donald Trump himself, as Dana just said, but for the 25th Amendment, it has never been invoked to get rid of a president. It's unlikely it would be invoked to get rid of Donald Trump, given the impossibility and the numbers of Republicans that would have to be involved. As I say, John Kelly is exhibit A for the fact that the message is that this administration can discharge its duties.

BALDWIN: Let move go to Maria Santana.

Thank you for being here from CNN Espanol.

MARIA SANTANA, CNN ESPANOL COMMENTATOR & ANCHOR: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Of course, anchor there. One of the huge questions is on Puerto Rico. This is in the week of the tweets this morning from the president. "Puerto Rico survived the hurricanes, now an economic disaster looms largely. Their own making." He says, "It shows a total lack of accountability, says the governor. Electric and all infrastructure was all a disaster before the hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend. We cannot keep FEMA, the military, and first responders, who have been amazing under the most difficult circumstances, in Puerto Rico forever."

So when General Kelly was asked about that, he said the tweet was accurate in terms of -- he's right, you can't have FEMA and the military there forever, but I didn't hear him address the perceived "kicking them when they're down" kind of comment.

SANTANA: And this is exactly what we hear from people in Puerto Rico, like the San Juan mayor, that he is just kicking us when we're down, the president of the United States. And when, at this point in time, he is tweeting about pulling federal workers and pulling the military from Puerto Rico, that has a lot of people asking if the president truly understands the humanitarian situation on the island, if any, he does, whether or not this will be negligence.

General Kelly is right. What the people in Puerto Rico wants, what everyone wants is that the job gets down, it improves, and it is stabilized enough that FEMA and the military are no longer needed there. But from everything that I saw and the reports that we're getting from troops on the ground is that we're nowhere near that. Only 17 percent of the island has power, including hospitals that still cannot operate. Only half of the island has clean running water. The governor of Puerto Rico said our official death toll is now 45. But people are expecting that number to rise because what is happening now is there are still a lot of standing water. There is, from what I hear on the ground, accumulating piles of trash mixed with the water and attracting rats. People are getting contaminated with a deadly bacterial infection that is caught from flood waters contaminated with animal urine.

BALDWIN: Awful.

SANTANA: What I hear from people is they still don't see this notable presence of the military or federal workers or FEMA picking up the trash or helping to restore power lines or distributing food. There are places reporting that FEMA has not been there, that they haven't gotten the supplies they need.

BISKUPIC: At the very least, it was insensitive --

BALDWIN: Yes.

BISKUPIC: -- to say this today.

Seventeen percent have electricity. That means 80 percent don't.

BALDWIN: $Right.

BISKUPIC: To do this right now, why do that? JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: And would he do it

to Texas or Florida?

BALDWIN: That's right.

SANTANA: These are American citizens, just like people in Florida and Texas. So why is the commitment, it seems, not as strong as robust as the states?

[14:35:04] BALDWIN: From Puerto Rico to Pakistan, Afghanistan. Everyone read the great news this family of five, an American wife and their three children, two of whom, which she was pregnant when they were kidnapped by the Taliban. And the husband, who is Canadian, the latest report -- and I didn't hear this addressed - the latest report being that he refused to get on the C-130 because he's afraid of his ex-wife's brother's connections, having been at Gitmo, and what he may be facing when he comes home.

Can you tell us about the operation and what happened?

SCIUTTO: General Kelly referenced it there. The U.S. provided intelligence to the Pakistanis, and the Pakistanis went and got these folks

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: -- carried it out. And it seems quicker than the U.S. might have expected. In other words, they got the call after they had been picked up, which the U.S. welcomed. But you heard General Kelly say there that it was something the president hinted at, saying that they respect us more now. This would not have happened under a previous administration. Kelly didn't make the same boast but he did say that I believe the relationship is improving.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: -- cooperation with the U.S.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes. Which it's always been, through multiple administrations, going back to Bush and Obama. There have been real questions. And it was interesting to hear him fumble with the word partner. There had been questions and evidence of Pakistani support, at least their intelligence services for some of these --

BALDWIN: About Osama bin Laden, right.

SCIUTTO: Right.

BALDWIN: Right. Right.

SCIUTTO: Exactly.

Also, I would note news regarding North Korea. He said they have, his words, "a pretty good ICBM capability." That -- we heard that, that's been the assess. He basically declared from the White House podium that North Korea has an intercontinental ballistic missile capability. And that's

BALDWIN: Frightening.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BALDWIN: And he said the threat is manageable, I hope diplomacy works, dot, dot, dot.

SCIUTTO: Right.

BALDWIN: Jim and Jamey and Maria, thank you all so very much. Of course, Dana and Joan as well.

We're still waiting now for the moment we will see the president, president and first lady, about to participate in the announcement of the next secretary of Homeland Security. Live pictures from the East Room of the White House. We will take that.

Quick break. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:40:22] BALDWIN: Here is the president of the United States. We are also about to see this young woman, Kirstjen Neilson. She is his nominee for the next Homeland Security secretary.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Melania and I are honored to welcome to the cabinet and welcome everybody to the White House. This is a very special place. And I am going to be very proud to announce my nomination for the next secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Neilson.

In my opinion, and in my campaign for president, I promised that my highest priority would be to secure American's homeland. I pledged to protect our country from all of the people here and around the world, and to give our full support to the men and women of law enforcement.

For the first six months of my administration, the Department of Homeland Security was led by the great four-star general, John Kelly.

Where is John Kelly? Stand up, John.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: A Marine, a proud Marine.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: He's does a great job.

Secretary Kelly led the department to make historic strides in all of its critical missions, from immigration enforcement to guarding our coasts, our waterways, enhancing our resilience against natural disasters and emergencies. He's one of the finest people I have ever had a privilege to know. We are deeply fortunate that he now is here at the White House as our chief of staff. Do you agree with that, Kirstjen?

KIRSTJEN NEILSON, NOMINEE FOR SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Yes, sir.

I do, too.

(LAUGHTER)

That was a close one, right?

(LAUGHTER)

During John Kelly's time at DHS, by his side was Kirstjen, the chief of staff for the department. He would be the first to tell you she was critical to his success. There, she quickly reinforced a sterling reputation as a dedicated leader whose number-one priority is always the safety and security of our country and the citizens. Not politics or ideology. There will be no on-the-job training for Kirstjen. She is ready on day one.

Would you say?

NEILSON: Yes, sir.

TRUMP: Good.

At DHS, she was integral to the progress we made in controlling our borders, confronting gang violence, preparing for disasters and protecting aviation and security.

Given her great talent, her knowledge and devotion, I selected Kirstjen as the principal deputy chief of staff at the White House. In her current position, she plays a crucial role in managing White House functions and coordinating with federal agencies. And with Melania, who has got -- really she has done great work for a lot of different groups. And she is the one that will very much miss you in your current position, I can tell you.

Is that a correct statement?

She was disappointed to hear this news.

(LAUGHTER)

Through her wisdom and leadership, she won the universal respect of my cabinet and senior White House staff. Previously, Kirstjen served President Bush as special assistant to the president for Homeland Security and senior director for prevention, preparedness, and response. In this role, she oversaw policy and implementation related to protecting our critical infrastructure, cybersecurity, counterterrorism and emergency preparedness. She is also former senior fellow at George Washington University.

Additionally, for the first time in history, a former employee at the department is going to lead the department. So that is the first. That's the way it should be. It should have happened a lot over the years, but it didn't.

She joined the Transportation Security Administration in a policy role soon after the September 11th attacks. It is hard to imagine a more qualified can daylight for this critical position. She is joined today by her father, James.

James? Where is James? Stand up, James.

Great father.

(APPLAUSE)

[14:45:22] TRUMP: Her uncle and aunt from North Carolina, Trevor and Mary Ellen Burton, and several other family members and loved ones. Her mother is no longer with us.

But, Kirstjen, we know she is looking down on you today and she is incredibly proud.

We will be very sad to see this incredible woman leave the White House, but we are truly thrilled for all that she is going to accomplish for the nation and the citizens of this great country in her new role.

In light of the serious threats facing our country and the urgent disaster recovery efforts, I call upon the Senate to put politics aside and confirm this tremendously qualified and talented nominee with a strong bipartisan vote. At this crucial time, we need the Senate to confirm a secretary of Homeland Security, one who is ready to lead on day one. Kirstjen has my full faith and confidence. And she also has the complete confidence of the law enforcement officers dedicated professionals, and senior leadership at the Department of Homeland Security.

The officers and agents at Homeland Security risk their lives for our country every single day. They work together day and night, to shield us, to protect us, and to inspire everything that we're about. They are totally devoted to this nation. They are driven by a love of country and by a conviction that every American, no matter who they are, or where they come from, should have a community that is safe where their families are secure and where their needs will always come first. These great public servants and every American across our country deserve a Homeland Security secretary as committed and ready as Kirstjen.

For the last three months, Acting Secretary Elaine Duke provided exactly that kind of leadership during a crucial time for our country. Melania and I are particularly grateful for her contributions to the rapid and life-saving response for the families affected by the wildfires in California, and one of the worst hurricane seasons in United States history. She is going to be a great partner for Kirstjen as deputy secretary.

Congratulations again to you, your friends and your family. I know you will fulfill your duties with dedication, determination, and resolve. And I know you will never waiver in fulfilling your obligations to the citizens, the laws, and the country we all took an oath to protect.

May God bless you. May God bless America. Good luck.

(APPLAUSE)

NEILSON: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

NEILSON: (INAUDIBLE)

(APPLAUSE)

NEILSON: Thank you. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

NEILSON: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Thank you for the honor of this nomination and for your extraordinary leadership. I am humbled by the trust you are placing in me. And should I be confirmed, I will be the utmost dedication work every day to protect and secure our homeland.

I also want to thank the first lady, the vice president, the members of the cabinet here with us today. I know it's last minute, I know how busy you are, so I appreciate the time and effort you made to be here today.

[14:49:56] It's an incredible privilege to work at the White House, and before that, to have served in this administration at the Department of Homeland Security.

I'm especially honored because I had the privilege of serving along the great men and women of DHS after the attacks of September 11, 2001. I witnessed and continue to witness the dedication of these men and women, their professionalism and their unwavering resolve to protect the nation.

I share the president's profound commitment to the security of our country and the safety of the American people. Truly, there is nothing more valuable than to feel safe and secure in your homeland.

Mr. President, if confirmed, it will be the highest honor of my life to again work with and support these remarkable public servants and to continue to serve all of the American people.

In recent weeks, communities across our nation have been struck by natural disasters of historic proportions. Americans have seen the devotion of this department and the extraordinary team at DHS who, along with our federal, state, local, and territorial partners, have been working around the clock to save lives, provide medical care and valuable supplies and to rebuild our communities. I know this rebuilding will take years. I want to echo what the president has said many times. We will remain fully engaged the long recovery effort ahead of us. If confirmed as the sixth secretary of Homeland Security, I will work

every day to enforce the law, secure our borders, our coast and our waterways, and to protect Americans from dangerous criminals, terrorists, cyberattacks, and all of the other threats facing our homeland today.

If confirmed, I look forward continuing the record of exceptional leadership that John Kelly and acting secretary, Elaine Duke, have established at DHS. Big shoes to fill.

I will also continue to give dedicated men and women at the department the support, tools, and resources they need and deserve to carry out their difficult and often dangerous missions.

I look forward to speaking with the members of the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, to answer their questions and seek their advice. If confirmed, to work closely with them and all members of Congress in the years ahead.

Finally, I want to thank General Kelly for allowing me to serve with him. He is the epitome of selfless service and he truly leads by example.

Sir, it is a tremendous honor.

I would also like to thank my family for their love and support throughout my life. This day would not have been possible without all of you.

Through my service, I hope to make you all proud and live up to your high standards and the standards that the American people expect and deserve.

Thank you again, Mr. President, for this opportunity to serve your administration and to help fulfill your commitment to defend the nation in we all love.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: All right, we did it.

(APPLAUSE)

NEILSON: I'm following you out.

(APPLAUSE)

BALDWIN: So, Kirstjen Neilson, the president's nominee for the ahead of the Department of Homeland Security.

I have Dana Bash and Jamie Gangel and Jim Sciutto with me to talk us through

What more, Jamie, do we know about her? JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: She is -- everyone I have

spoken to says she is a super star. He is competent. He will hit the ground running. She is also perhaps the most important thing, she worked for General Kelly at Homeland Security as his chief of staff. He brought her to the White House. She has his complete confidence. And she is a cybersecurity expert. She has been doing this a long time. And she will work well with General Kelly in the White House.

BALDWIN: Dana Bash, big picture, what is this about? We just came out of talking about her former boss, the chief of staff, and how, to Jim Sciutto's point, yes, he was jabbing at the media, everyone was laughing about it, but I stand by my breathe-of-fresh-air comment. Between hearing from him, seeing this super star woman a nominee as secretary of Homeland Security, is this the White House, what are they doing here?

[14:54:40] BASH: I mean, they have a very important role to fill that has been open for quite some time now. The acting secretary elaine duke has been in this and she has been getting high marks, especially since she dealt with three major hurricanes, but I think one of the things this is maybe inside baseball, but important inside baseball given all of the stories about the internal turmoil at the White House is that Kirstjen is not just someone that has been at John Kelly's side since DHS and the White House, she is known as the enforcer. We talk a lot about the processes that John Kelly put in place to try to stop people from going into the Oval Office. She is the one who helps John Kelly carry that out. To execute this new mission. She is very well known inside the White House, and to old- timers, so to speak, or long time Trump loyalists, they chafed at some of her actions.

The flip side is she was doing exactly what she was asked to do, carrying out the new mission of the new organization in the White House. So I think it is interesting that she is being elevated because of her expertise and ability at DHS, but also because she did exactly what she was asked to do while just steps from the Oval Office.

BALDWIN: What do you think?

SCIUTTO: In the midst of this unified and more polished front from the White House that we have seen today with this new Homeland Security secretary, with Kelly from the White House podium, there was two differences, right? In terms of differences on major policy issues expressed. Kelly said with North Korea diplomacy first. That is something that Secretary Tillerson has by saying as well. And Secretary Mattis. So all of the president's senior advisors, as the president, as you'll remember, just a week ago, undercut his own secretary of state while he was in China pushing diplomacy first, saying, you're wasting your time with that. That is a difference. And that's important because North Korea is the number-one, the most immediate national security threat facing this administration today.

The other point, on Mexico. I thought it was interesting light of John Kelly's background as well on border security, he gave credit to Mexico for its work securing that border, and also acknowledging America's demand for these drugs, et cetera. Different, again, from the president's take on this, going back to the campaign. But even since then, that this is Mexico that is throwing this stuff our way and they will throw up this wall and --

(CROSSTALK)

GANGEL: He said they're good partners.

SCIUTTO: Exactly. He made a point of saying it's a good partner. On those two points, not only a different messenger but a different message. Yes.

BALDWIN: Yes.

GANGEL: Also, can I just quickly, the optics of today.

BALDWIN: Yes.

GNAGEL: President Trump stayed on his teleprompter. General Kelly had a very good briefing, confident, adult in charge. And Kirstjen Neilson, again, this is a very different looking White House that they're putting out here today from the chaos that we have been reporting.

BALDWIN: All right, thank you all very much.

More on our breaking news here as we're talking about this hostage situation, this family of five, one of the freed Taliban hostages. The husband of this American woman is refusing to board the U.S. plane. The dramatic situation playing out now. We have those details for you ahead here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)