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Trump Thanks Military Members for Service on Thanksgiving Day; Relentless Search Expands for Three Missing Sailors; Heightened Security Along Macy's Parade Route; Congressman Joe Barton Tried to Keep Explicit Photos Under Wraps; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 23, 2017 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:36] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. I'm Ana Cabrera, in today for John and Poppy. Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks for being here.

The president beginning his Mar-a-Lago holiday with a greeting to the nation and a list of what he thinks we should be thankful for, including jobs, stocks, and a military, quote, "getting really strong." Last hour he thanked a few service members directly via video conference and CNN's Joe Johns is joining us now from West Palm Beach with more on that.

Joe, tell us about it.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Ana, this was a teleconference featuring the president of the United States speaking to five branches of the United States Military in various parts of the world, the Army in Afghanistan, the Navy at sea aboard the USS Monterey, among others, the Air Force in Turkey and the Coast Guard in Kuwait.

The president also, we are told, our White House producer Liz Landers is reporting, that the president is expected to go to a Coast Guard station that is nearby to -- here in Florida and expected to go to the mess hall, greet the commander, a second step by the president to thank the troops.

The president's speech today was interesting in the fact that he did focus not only on thanking the troops but also talking about things that he says have changed in his administration, the fact that he says the military is now winning, which they weren't doing before he came into office.

Listen to some of the president's address to the troops today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're being talked about again as an armed forces. We're really winning. We know how to win. But we have to let you win. They weren't letting you win before. They were letting you play even. We're letting you win.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JOHNS: "We're letting you win." So, again, the president, we're told, headed over to the Coast Guard station that is not far from here, not far, of course, from West Palm Beach, Florida. The president vacationing over at Mar-a-Lago.

Back to you, Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Joe Johns, thank you.

Here now to discuss, CNN military analyst, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

First, General, your reaction to the president's call with the troops this morning.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, even before that, Ana, Happy Thanksgiving to you and all of your team.

CABRERA: You too.

HERTLING: And first of all, all of the close to over a quarter of a million soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are deployed around the world today away from their families, Happy Thanksgiving to them and also Happy Thanksgiving to all the families who have their soldiers or sailors or airmen or Marines nearby.

You know, Ana, what I'd say is, first of all, Thanksgiving is a very unique day for the military. If you're deployed, you come together with your fellow service members in that deployed situation and what normally happens is commanders go and serve the meal to their soldiers to show the thanks for them for what they're doing.

If you're not deployed you get dressed up, everyone gets dressed up, goes to the mess hall, the dining facility, and they, again, have the commanders and the senior ranking NCOs serve their soldiers or whatever.

The president's message, getting to your question, first of all, I'm thankful for the fact that he did address the soldiers, but the message that I heard and some of the things he said would have not rung very well with me had I been a deployed soldier.

We have been winning. You're talking to soldiers and military personnel around the world who have been in this fight for 17 years and to suddenly be told that they're winning now when they weren't winning before is somewhat insulting, first of all, and secondly, the comments about the economy and where the economy is growing, deployed service members don't want to hear about that. They want to hear, hey, thanks. Thanks for what you're doing --

CABRERA: Can I ask -- can I ask you to pause for a second so we can listen to those comments specifically, Mark?

HERTLING: Sure.

CABRERA: Let's play it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When you come back you're going to see with the jobs and companies coming back into our country and the stock market just hit a record high, unemployment, the lowest it's been in 17 years so you're fighting for something real, you're fighting for something good. A lot of things have happened with our country over the last very short period of time. And they're really good. They're really good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[10:05:09] CABRERA: So, General Hertling, you were saying that that's not exactly what they want to hear. How did you interpret that?

HERTLING: Yes. Well, again, it wouldn't be what I would want to hear. And I'm just speaking for myself. If I'm deployed with soldiers, and I have been eight different times in my career, I was deployed on Thanksgiving to different locations, you want to hear just a thank you. Truthfully, military personnel really don't care all that much about the job market or the economy or tax cuts or things like that.

They just want to know and let other people know what they're fighting for, what they're serving for is each other, first of all, and for the oath that they took to defend the Constitution.

So again, Ana, trying to be positive, I'm glad the president at least took some time to say thank you to the troops around the world, and that he's going to a Coast Guard station today, but the rest of the message I think may have been a little off kilter.

CABRERA: The president has oftentimes talked about his love for the military, for the nation's veterans. How do you assess the president's relationship with the military compared to past administrations?

HERTLING: Well, I don't want to compare it to past administrations but what I would say is that I think he's learning. He hasn't been with forces all that much lately. He's visited some organizations, some units. He's had some military personnel around him. He has not been to any of the combat zones yet. Some of the past administrations have actually done that within their first year in office.

I remember being in Baghdad in 2003 when President Bush surprised everybody by flying over the night before Thanksgiving and serving turkey to the soldiers. I remember being deployed when President Obama showed up. So all presidents have different styles. One is being there, showing people that they're there.

One might be true of video teleconference and going to a local Coast Guard station, but all of them have different styles. I don't want to say one is good and one is bad. I know which one I like, but part of the issue is, when you're with the soldiers, you understand what they're doing and why they're doing it. And you don't use commentary like hey, you didn't do it very well in the past but you're doing it great now just because I'm the president. That -- to me, that's somewhat insulting.

CABRERA: Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, it's always good to see you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for your service and Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your family.

HERTLING: You, too, Ana. Thank you.

CABRERA: Thanks.

Well, we have some breaking news. We're just getting word from the Argentine Navy that it has picked up a noise consistent with an explosion near the last known location of that missing submarine, the ARA San Juan with 44 crew members aboard, last heard from eight days ago. Ships and planes from a dozen nations are now involved in the search. A Navy spokesman told reporters the recorded nose was, quote, "singular, short, violent and nonnuclear."

We are working to get more information. We will bring you new details just as soon as we get them.

And now to the frantic search for three missing sailors that's expanding this morning after a Navy plane crashed off the coast of Japan. American ships and planes patrolled hundreds of miles across the Philippine Sea overnight and Navy officials are promising to be relentless in their search.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is joining us now.

Barbara, what more can you tell us about the progress of this search? Any sign?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, nothing that the Navy has been able to report in the last 24 hours really, Ana, other than the search continuing, now they've gone over 300 square miles of ocean out there.

The eight people that were rescued from the wreckage are aboard the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, said to be doing well, in good condition. As far as the three missing, their families now have been notified that they are officially listed as duty status whereabouts unknown which essentially means at the moment they are missing.

The search is being conducted by U.S. Air crews on this Thanksgiving Day, as well as ships are out there, U.S. aircraft and ships are out there, as well as Japanese forces. So they're putting everybody they can on it. They're going to try and locate any sign of wreckage, obviously, and see if they can recover the three missing from them -- Ana.

CABRERA: Barbara, what are you learning about the investigation into what happened?

STARR: Well, there will be a full Navy investigation as there is with every military accident or crash. If they can retrieve the wreckage of the airplane from the sea, that may begin to give them some clues about was there some sort of mechanical or structural failure. If they can interview the survivors, perhaps the survivors heard the pilot or the crew say something or give some indication of what was happening.

[10:10:03] So all of these things will be clues about it, but it's going to take some time. They're going to have to just go through everything they can. No word yet on what might have caused it.

CABRERA: All right. Barbara Starr, we know you'll stay on it. Thank you. And Happy Thanksgiving, my friend.

STARR: You too.

CABRERA: Thank you.

Security extra tight in New York City this morning as the 91st Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade is under way. This is a live look right now along the parade route where the balloons are flying high. People are out. That guy in a T-shirt? I mean, the sun is shining it, isn't it, this morning, Jason Carroll? He is joining us from Central Park West with a front row seat to all the action.

What a fun assignment today, Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes. It's great. You know, finally an opportunity to come out and do a story where we can smile and a lot of smiling faces along the parade route. Millions of people line the 2.6 mile route going from uptown to downtown ending at Harold Square in front of Macy's.

You know, I've covered this parade in years past, Ana, and I've seen, you know, obviously a number of officers out here but not like this year. You know, the NYPD said there would be an enhanced police presence out here and that's what we've seen. They talked about having officers in every block. We've seen them basically not only at every block but every half block as well.

They also talked about counterterrorism unit being out here as well. Concrete barriers set up at various streets that we didn't see in years past that we've seen this year to block unauthorized vehicles from getting on to the parade route.

So we have seen that increased police presence out here, but also, obviously, a number of just happy people wanting to be out here, wanting to celebrate. This year, 17 major balloons. You've got four new balloons. Not any of the new balloons that we can see in this particular vantage point but you do see the giant dinosaur, this year we have the Grinch, Chase from "Paw Patrol" and Olaf, very popular, from the Disney movie "Frozen." That's one of the new balloons as well.

But, Ana, a lot of folks coming out here, just wanting to enjoy the day with their family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving to you from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Still about an hour or so more to go. Everyone here just out here having a good time. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we are.

CABRERA: That looks awesome.

CARROLL: Always a clown.

(LAUGHTER)

CABRERA: Way to be a good sport there. Way to be a good sport, Jason.

CARROLL: Got to love them.

CABRERA: Got to love them. Got to love you. Thank you for that fun report, Jason.

Well, the pressure is now on on Capitol Hill for leaders in Congress to spill the names of lawmakers who have settled sex harassment claims. If taxpayers paid for these settlements do they have the right to know?

And were you targeted by a Russia troll during the 2016 election? Facebook might tell you.

And pass the turkey, hold the political talk? What's really giving Americans some serious heartburn as holiday season kicks off? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:17:21] CABRERA: Scandals rocking both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill.

Sunlen Serfaty is joining us from Washington now with the latest.

Brings us up to speed, Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, there are new questions this morning surrounding Congressman Joe Barton after nude photos of the Texas Republican were circulated this week on social media on an anonymous Twitter account.

Now Barton hasn't denied the photos are legitimate and he has apologized for them, but it also -- he's also now raising the possibility that he's a victim of revenge porn, which is a criminal act in Texas.

Now Barton's spokeswoman tells CNN Barton did not release the image himself and does not know who did. An unnamed woman, however, has come forward telling "The Washington Post" that Barton sent her lewd photos, videos and messages when they had two sexual encounters over the course of five years.

The woman shared a secretly recorded phone call from 2015 with the paper and in that call the "Post" says Barton warned her against using the explicit images he had sent her in a way that would negatively affect his career, vowing that he would go to the Capitol Hill Police.

Now Congressman Barton says it was to stop her from publicly releasing the images as revenge porn, which Texas outlawed in 2015. In a statement Barton says, quote, "This woman admitted that we had a consensual relationship with -- when I ended that relationship she threatened to publicly share my private photographs and intimate correspondence in retaliation. As the transcript reflects I offered to take the matter to Capitol Hill Police to open an investigation. Today the Capitol Hill police reached out to me and offered to launch an investigation."

And, Ana, he now says that he's accepted an offer for that investigation.

CABRERA: And also this morning, Sunlen, Democratic Congressman John Conyers of Michigan is facing new harassment allegations. What can you tell us about that?

SERFATY: That's right. This comes from a former staffer of the -- congressman, her name is Melanie Slone, and she says she was verbally abused and harassed by Conyers. Slone does not think importantly she was sexually harassed. She thinks the congressman's behavior was inappropriate, though. She recalls one specific instance where he called her into his office and he would then in his underwear in front of her.

Now Conyers' lawyer says all of -- in the midst of all of this, not only this allegation of harassment but of course there have been other allegation this week of sexual misconduct his lawyer says the congressman is not going to resign.

CABRERA: All right. Sunlen Serfaty in Washington for us, thank you.

Before we bring in our panel I want to take you live to the president visiting the Coast Guard in Florida. Let's listen in for just a quick minute.

TRUMP: 16,000 lives.

[10:20:02] In fact, when I first heard the number, I said, you mean like 600, 500? 16,000 lives in Texas. So as bad as that hurricane was, and that was a bad one, that was a big water job, right? It kept coming in, then going back. They couldn't get rid of it as you've ever seen. I guess it was the biggest water dump that's ever seen. But when you get 16,000, (INAUDIBLE) people. But when you hear 16,000 that's really something.

And in Florida here. And you know that one very well. You used that one pretty well, right. And the job you did in Florida. And then Puerto Rico. And I really mean that. I think that there is no brand of any kind, I'm not just talking about a military trend, that has gone up more than the Coast Guard. Incredible people. You've done an incredible job.

And I love coming in here, we're doing this with you today. I think it's -- we have to keep you very well fed. These are -- this is good stuff. But it's an honor. And it's the first lady, you know, and --

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: Happy Thanksgiving.

TRUMP: And we went together to Texas and we saw what you were doing and you just followed that storm, right next to that storm, you saved so many people. I still haven't figured out how people take their boats out into a hurricane. OK. Some day you'll explain it.

Jean was just telling me that they actually do it to save their boat in many cases. They're not thinking about their life, they're thinking about their boats. And I don't know, they go out in a boat and they think, I guess, you know, they've got a wonderful boat, they've had it for years, it can weather anything and then they have 25 foot waves breaking down, and that would be the end of them.

But you saved a lot of people. And I just want to thank you on behalf of the whole country, and on behalf of us, what a job you've done. Thank you all very much.

And I'll also take questions if you have -- now should we leave the media here and do the questions or should we --

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: You know what, it's Thanksgiving. So let's let the media stay. OK. Anybody have any questions about the country? How we're doing or any of those things? I love it when you don't.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: See, that means you're doing great. I love that. That's the greatest. The press I know doesn't have any questions. If you do we won't take them. But that's all right. The press has plenty of questions. But the country is doing really well. Stock market, all- time high. This is all good stuff. I just spoke to a lot of your friends in Afghanistan and Iraq. We spoke to the USS Monterey great ship, great missile ship.

We spoke to a lot of different folks from the Air Force, the Army, just now a little while ago at Mar-a-Lago. The telecommunication systems, what you can do now, you go live to Iraq, live to Afghanistan, and it's really incredible.

But I told them, our country is doing great. And you folks are fighting so hard and working so hard and it's nice that you're working for something that's really starting to work. We've cut back so much on regulation and all the waste and all the abuse and the stock market on Friday hit the all-time high. The highest it's ever been, ever. In your whole long life, the stock market is higher than it's ever been.

And that means your 401(k)s and your -- all of the things that you have, you know, whether it's even if you're in the military, you have a country that's really starting to turn and we want to have a strong country. We want to have a country where I can buy new Coast Guard cutters and not have to worry about it. All right? And that's what we're doing. We're building up wealth so that we can take care of our protection.

And we're ordering tremendous amounts of new equipment. We're at $700 billion of the military. And you know that we're cutting back for years. They just kept cutting and cutting and cutting the military. And you've got lean, to put it nicely. Depleted was the word. And now it's changing.

The Navy, I can tell you, we're ordering ships with the Air Force ordering a lot of planes, in particular the F-35 fighter jet which is, you know, almost like an invisible fighter. I was asking the Air Force guys, I said, how good is this plane? They said, well, sir, you can't see it. I said, yes, but in a fight. You know, in a fight like I watch on the movies. The fight, they're fighting. How good is this? They say, well, wins every time because the enemy cannot see it.

Even if it's right next to them, it can't see it. I said that helps. I don't know --

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: That's a good thing. But I mean we have equipment that -- nobody has the equipment that we have. And it's sad when we're selling our equipment to other countries but we're not buying it ourselves. But now that's all changed. And so I said, the stuff that we have is always a little bit better, too. You know, when we sell to other countries, even if they're allies you never know about an ally. An ally can turn. You know what they said? You're going to find that out.

[10:25:03] But I always say make ours a little bit better. You know, give it that extra speed, a little bit -- keep a little bit -- keep about 10 percent in the bag because -- we have nobody has what with we have. That's what we're doing. But we're really proud of the Coast Guard, and I'm very proud -- I walked in today and Jean said, the day I got elected, the following morning, they were putting up the statement that I made right on your front door, right on your glass.

And I came in and the first thing I noticed, of course, I said, wow, look at that. And I said, did you put that up just for me because I happen to be coming in here today? And you did that the first day. So that tells me something. That tells me something. Thank you very much.

Let's go, fellas. Come on. Let's get up here. Let's get up here. Yes. This is good stuff.

CABRERA: OK. Those were live comments from the president. He's visiting Rivera Beach, Florida, and the Coast Guard there, alongside the first lady, talking about everything from the Coast Guard's involvement and helping during the hurricanes, in particular Hurricane Harvey in Texas, with the flooding there.

We're continuing to stay with them. And then he went on this long riff about the economy and how they should be very happy about how the stock market is doing and unemployment and 401(k)s and also talked about military spending and some of the investment that he would like to see happen in that as well.

I want to get to our panel, here with us, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, CNN political commentator Alice Stewart, and former communications director for the DNC and former senior adviser to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, Karen Finney.

So, Ron, I just want to get your initial reaction to the latest comments from the president on this Thanksgiving.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, this is not a president who operates within the normal previous boundaries of other presidents and you see it today as you see every day. You know, usually this is a day for a more nonpartisan message. Instead we've had a pretty, you know, direct touting of your own accomplishments and along the way kind of taking swipes at your predecessors, all of which is pretty unusual.

I was struck -- one thing struck me particularly from these remarks this morning is that this is an administration that officially denies the existence of climate change and yet is -- yet he is talking about this extraordinary concentration of high octane hurricanes, which I think his phrase was, the greatest rain dump we've ever seen in terms of Harvey.

So it was just a reminder to me as I was listening that we can choose whether or not to believe that the climate is changing. It doesn't really care. It's going to keep changing whether we believe it or not and I think the president's comments were a reminder of that.

CABRERA: Alice Stewart, from a political strategy, perspective, were those smart comments to be making by the president, to be touting some of what he sees as victories?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the most important thing that he did, starting off the morning on Thanksgiving, doing the video conference he did with all branches of our military, all over the world, and thanking them for their service and reassuring them that the U.S. government has -- is behind them and we will win and they will continue to dedicate the necessary resources to all branches of the military to help us be the greatest power in the world.

That being said, to follow it up with this personal visit to these troops, I think was very powerful. I think it was really important. And more than anything, the overall message was certainly to show his gratitude for the troops and to show them that we appreciate what they do in all branches of the government, but specifically, to be able to say we saw what you guys did in Florida, we're aware of what you're doing across the country.

I think that's really important, not just to say it on television or in the paper but to go there personally and meet with these people. Yes, it's a little unorthodox for him to tout the stock market and other aspects of the administration while he's doing something like this, but this is an unorthodox president and he's going to do things a little bit differently. He gave them the opportunity to ask questions about anything that they

could possibly want to ask and I'm sure he'll have that chance one on one, but more than anything, the takeaway is that he has taken time on this important day to thank our troops for all they're doing for this country.

CABRERA: Karen, real quick, your takeaway?

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Well, look, I agree with Alice that I think it's important to thank the troops particularly on a day like today when we have so many men and women serving, who are away from their families, but I think the thing rather than hearing about the stock market, I think what our troops particularly those who are in a foreign theater want to hear is that their president has a plan and a strategy, not just to hear the phrase we're winning, we're going to win, you couldn't win, you're going to win, but I think the greatest thing he could offer to our troops is, we have a clear plan for why you're deployed where you're deployed and what your mission is going to be where you are.

And I think that that uncertainty is unfortunate, but I certainly believe on a day like today, visiting with our members of our Coast Guard and certainly reaching out to troops around the world, it is a good thing to do and an important thing for the commander-in-chief.

CABRERA: All right. Everyone, stay with us. Thank you for those comments. We're going to take a quick break and we'll talk about much more in the political arena with you all when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)