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Showdown Over Consumer Agency Leader; Egypt: Death Toll At 300 Plus, Attackers Carried ISIS Flags; New Moore Ad Blasts Allegations As "False"; Young Republicans Debate Roy Moore's Candidacy; Rex Tillerson's Senior Team Skipping Ivanka Trump's Trip; Emergency Care Sparse in Parts of Rural America. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired November 25, 2017 - 08:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Showdown at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, pitching the president against an Obama appointee. Who is really in charge of the top U.S. consumer watch dog agency?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has very close knowledge of the Comey firing and perhaps likely the president's state of mind when he did that firing. Based on what I've seen, Michael Flynn is in deep trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all want to know the answers to everything tomorrow. This is a long process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The name dominating national headlines for more than two weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll work across party lines to create jobs and get wages up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're getting nationally is, Alabamans would vote for a pedophile over a liberal Democrat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't vote for the baby killer for hell or high water.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: It's 8:01 is the time on this Saturday morning and we are always so thankful to have you with us. I'm Christi Paul.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. Chaos is brewing for the agency that has one of the biggest impacts on help you safeguard your finances.

PAUL: Yes, at the stroke of midnight most likely while you were sleeping the man heading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray stepped down. The question is who is going to replace him on Monday? The answer to that, well, that depends on who you ask.


PAUL (voice-over): A lot of confusion this morning over who is leading the top U.S. consumer watch dog agency, and here is why. President Trump tapped White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to be interim chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB.

The announcement came, though, just hours after the outgoing director, Richard Cordray, an Obama appointee formerly resigned and named his chief of staff, Leandra English, the successor, which makes her the acting director.

The appointments of two officials to the same post sets up a political and legal clash here. The question of who is in charge when employees return to work on Monday. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who helped create the CFPB tweeted this, "The Dodd-Frank Act is clear. If there's a CFPB vacancy, the deputy director becomes acting director. Donald Trump can't override that."

But the administration can appoint a current government official into a new job as long as they're confirmed by the Senate under the Federal Vacancies Act to serve in an acting capacity. So, the CFPB was created after the 2008 financial crisis to protect consumers and keep an eye on Wall Street.

Republicans argue the agency has too much power, not enough oversight and establishes what they see as anti-business regulations. Mulvaney has been a long-time critic. While serving in Congress, he voted in favor of killing the agency and once called it a sick and sad joke.

President Trump will ultimately nominate a permanent director. The opening is a chance for a major overhaul of the bureau.


PAUL: So, Abby Philip with us now, CNN White House correspondent. Abby, good morning to you. I know that while serving in Congress, South Carolina Congressman Mulvaney wanted to kill this agency and voted to do so. Is there any indication that his stance on this has changed?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi. There's no indication at all that Mick Mulvaney is anything but one of the staunches critics of the CFPB within the administration.

He channels some of the antipathy from outside conservative groups against the CFPB. They've been pushing President Trump to really gut that agency or get rid of it altogether. Take a listen to some of the comments that Mick Mulvaney has said over the years. These are some of his harshest words against the CFPB.


REP. MICK MULVANEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's a wonderful example of how a bureaucracy will function if it has no accountability to anybody. It turns up being a joke, and that's what the CFPB really has in a sick, sad kind of way. You've got an institution that has tremendous authority over what you all do for a living, over your businesses, over your members.


PHILLIP: Well, we're going to hear from the White House in the next couple of hours how they see this legal fight. We're expecting them to say that the president and only the president has the ability to put in an interim replacement.

It seems clear that the White House wants to use this time in which there's no permanent director and Mick Mulvaney is in there to revamp the agency. They put out a statement last night, saying that they look forward to what Mulvaney will do in that post. We'll keep you posted on what they have to say -- Christi.

[08:05:03] PAUL: All right. Looking forward to it. Abby Phillip, we appreciate it. Thank you.

SAVIDGE: Let's just be clear, this is a government agency that has an extreme outlook over your potential financial future as it were. So, let's talk more about this with Kelly Jane Torrance, deputy managing editor at "The Weekly Standard," and Daniel Lippman, political reporter and co-author of "Politico Playbook," and Paul Callan, CNN legal analysts.

Daniel, let me start with you, come Monday, as we heard, this watchdog group is going to have no idea who is reports to, two leaders apparently. How do you think this going to play out?

DANIEL LIPPMAN, REPORTER, "POLITICO": I can only imagine on Monday, are the two directors going to be fighting over office space or, you know, the parking lot, you know, director's slot. So, I think on Monday, this will probably go to the courts. You'll have various groups that support either director, you know, ask the federal courts to decide on these competing directors.

But this is kind of an indication of the broader message confusion from the Trump administration where you have two different viewpoints often coming about critical national issues.

SAVIDGE: And Kelly, what do you expect is going to happen, say, to this agency, under Mulvaney's leadership? Do you think it will be consumer protection in name only?

KELLY JANE TORRANCE, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Doesn't it sound by the way like a great sitcom, two people showing up one day for the same position. No, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was the only government agency named in the 2016 Republican platform as an agency the Republicans wanted to get rid of.

So, I think we are going to see some big changes under Mick Mulvaney. Honestly, I'm surprised that there's more excitement about this. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, actually a three-judge panel called the director of this agency, the most powerful person in government after the president.

This is actually quite a position. There's not a lot of accountability by the director is one reason that they're confused about who actually has the power to decide who is the acting director.

SAVIDGE: Paul, Mulvaney is the only one who was put in charge of the department in which they have been overly critical. We can talk about the secretary of education and director of the EPA, and so on and so forth. So, this kind of move, does it surprise you in any way?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, it doesn't. I mean, this has been a critical campaign platform of the Trump administration to regulate the government and he systematically dismantling these administrative agencies. Now, you know, this is really a strange situation because, you know, this whole agency was kind of the brainchild of Senator Elizabeth Warren.

And she ran on this when she ran for the Senate in Massachusetts setting up this agency. They kind of slipped in this little provision in the law, creating this agency that the acting director becomes director when the director resigns.

But there's a prior federal law called the Federal Vacancies Act, which says that the president can appoint an acting director. But I'm betting when this goes to court, the new law is going to Trump the old law because the Consumer Financial Protection Board legislation was passed after that prior federal law.

So, they may win victory, the Democrats here, and get their own director in place. But, of course, the president is going to win ultimately because he's got a Republican Congress and he gets to name say permanent director. So, this is a temporary battle and we kind of know the outcome ultimately.

SAVIDGE: You are maybe right. Daniel, do you think that as far as the public because this is an organization that has done quite a bit of good, at least, with many average Americans looking at their wallet, I say that. Do you think that they're going to lose this agency that has protected them from big banks and other financial institutions?

LIPPMAN: I think when a lot of Trump voters came to vote for him last November, they didn't think they would get rid of an agency that was protecting them. Not many voters pulled the lever and said, let's get rid of the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau.

So, it doesn't seem like Trump has support of the public on this. This is more about pleasing very harsh conservatives in terms of the base which does not like regulation. But I think the average American says, what's wrong with having regulations that protect consumers?

And they can't really point to many things that this bureau has done that has hurt the market. You know, the stock market is doing really well. It doesn't seem like this is an agency that has gone, you know, totally berserk and is, you know, not having -- not having is proper authority. That most people think that this agency is doing good. SAVIDGE: Yes, there could be kind of a public blowback on this one. Kelly, moving on to something else, I want to get your reaction to the president saying that "Time" is considering him for person of the year, and here's his tweet.

[08:10:02] He tweeted, "Time" magazine called to say that I was probably going to named man person of the year like last year, but I would have to agree an interview and a major shoot, I said probably is no good and took a pass, thanks anyway."

What this suggest, though, about the president's frame of mind and did he make this up because "Time" is saying, no, it doesn't work that way?

TORRANCE: You know, it's a great question, Martin, because it does suggest the president's frame of mind. Here's a man who was named "Time" man of the year last year. He is a man who was elected president against, you know, almost every analysts' predictions, quite an accomplishment, and it's still not enough.

I mean, Donald Trump seems to have some self-esteem issues, frankly. You know, he constantly is bringing up he won by this much, that much. Being man of the year, one is not enough. It's -- you know, he really has done some amazing things by just becoming president.

And he still needs that love that he seems to be missing. There's a hole in his heart I honestly think. Tweets like that you almost feel sorry for him, not quite, but almost.

SAVIDGE: That also think is (inaudible). I should in fairness playout what "Time" magazine has said, and that is this, "The president is incorrect about how we use person of the year. "Time" does not comment on our choice until the publication which is on December 6th."

So, I want to thank all of you for participating on our panel. We'll see, maybe it will be the president, nonetheless. Thank you.

PAUL: Coming up, it should be a significant moment for Ivanka Trump on the world stage. The question is whether infighting within her father's administration could overshadow her trip to a global summit.

SAVIDGE: New details on that devastating Egypt mosque attack, Egyptian officials say that the number of people killed has gone up and we are learning more about the attackers. Details ahead.



PAUL: We are following new developments out of Egypt this hour. The number of people killed in that horrifying massacre at a mosque that happened yesterday, well, the number of people who died has climbed to 305.

SAVIDGE: And Egyptian authorities are saying that more than two dozen attackers carrying ISIS flags surrounded the mosque before setting off explosives and gunning down people as they tried to flee.

CNN senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is joining us live from Cairo. Ben, what are Egyptian officials telling us both about the attack and their response?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, of the 305 people killed, 28 of them were children killed in that mosque during Friday prayers. What we understand from the public prosecutor, who put out a statement that was read on Egyptian television is that somewhere between 25 and 30 men drove up to this mosque in five SUVs while prayers were going on.

Some of them were wearing combat fatigues. Some of them were with masked, and they set off some sort of explosion outside, and then went into the mosque and just started shooting and shooting and shooting.

And we're not -- it's not clear how long it went on, but the toll is obviously, in this case -- now, according to the Egyptian authorities, one of them was also carrying an ISIS flag. Now, ISIS itself has not claimed responsibility so far.

And some of the other militant groups that function in Egypt also in the Sinai are denying any connection including one group that is affiliated to al Qaeda. So, we're waiting for some sort of claim of responsibility.

But it will be interesting to see if they actually do step up and admit it, given that this is the worst terrorist incident in Egyptian history -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: Yes. There is a horrific attack carried out against a mosque. Ben Wedeman, thank you very much.

PAUL: Well, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is going to be in Texas today for the funeral of that border patrol agent who was killed. Rogelio Martinez died in a Texas hospital last weekend after he and another agent were seriously injured while on patrol.

Now the FBI will not say exactly what happened. They're calling it, quote, "a possible assault." The governor of Texas says Martinez was murdered, but the local sheriff says his injuries may be consistent with a fall in the culvert where he and his partner were found. The partner, apparently, is having some trouble remembering exactly what happened.

SAVIDGE: In Republican-dominated Alabama, can Democrat Doug Jones really convince skeptical GOP voters to cross the aisle? Next, we'll have a closer look at the candidate and how young Republicans are weighing in on his opponent and that, of course, is Roy Moore.



PAUL: We are so grateful to see you this morning. I'm Christi Paul. SAVIDGE: And I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. Monday is the deadline to register to vote in Alabama, of course, that only affects one state. But in this very close race that could see a Democrat flip a seat in a deep red state it actually could impact the nation.

PAUL: Yes, but Republican Roy Moore is not giving up. He's firing back once again against allegations that he sexually harassed and abused multiple women.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Five state campaigns, four years of honorable service, Roy Moore has been intensity scrutinized and not a hint of scandal. But four weeks before the election, false allegations, schemed by the Republican establishment to protect their big government trough. But we know a vote for Roy Moore means conservative judges, tax cuts and rebuilding the military. Roy Moore, right choice.


PAUL: Let's bring in CNN's Kaylee Hartung. She's been following the race really closely. You've been there. What are the folks in Alabama saying about this. I'm just wondering what chance Doug Jones has?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Martin, you've been there as much as anybody digging into this race and talking to the voters, and the key demographic we could be looking at come election day, African- American voters.

A headline in "The Washington Post" today calling it Doug Jones' problem saying African-American voters are not energized by this Alabama Senate race. Interestingly enough, one state senator saying just two and a half weeks away from election day, many African- Americans don't know there is an election to be had.


[08:25:12] HARTUNG (voice-over): The name dominating national headlines for more than two weeks. We know Roy Moore is running for the U.S. Senate and his campaign is in trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): They were girls when Roy Moore immorally pursued them. Now they're women, witnesses (inaudible) disturbing conduct.

HARTUNG: But what about the other guy, the challenger to the man accused of being a sexual predator?

RICHARD DIXON, BIRMINGHAM CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: What they're getting is oh, Alabamans will vote for a pedophile over a liberal Democrat --

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: In this circumstance, yes. DIXON: OK. You're saying it flat out though.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like my record speaks for itself --

HARTUNG: In the red state of Alabama where Republicans have held every state office for the last 25 years, the blue label of Democrat is drowning out Doug Jones' name to some, even while his opponent is drowning in scandal.

DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE (via telephone): We're staying in our lane as best we can. Obviously to some extent it's a distraction.

HARTUNG: Born and raised in Alabama, the 63-year-old first-time candidate is a longtime attorney, a federal prosecutor who is best known for successfully putting domestic terrorist, Eric Rudolph, and Ku Klux Klan members, who bombed a Birmingham church in 1963 behind bars.

In the state that elected President Trump by 28 points, victory for Jones requires him swaying some Republicans on the issues. So, he's trying to appeal to more conservative voters focusing on what he calls kitchen table issues, jobs, the economy, health care.

He says he would vote to raise the federal minimum wage and he supports the Affordable Care Act. But for many in Alabama, it comes down to one issue, Jones is pro-choice, believing it's an intensity personal choice and supporting the state's current abortion laws.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: I wouldn't vote for a baby killer for hell or high water. I don't believe in murdering children.

HARTUNG: Strong rhetoric like that can be heard on the conservative talk airwaves, but in print a different statement. The editorial board of the state's top newspapers writing "Stand for decency, reject Roy Moore." This front page above-the-fold editorial denouncing Moore and endorsing Jones.

Alabama voters are skeptical of outside influences on this race, but their choice on December 12th is crucial to the balance of power in Washington.


HARTUNG: All eyes will be on Alabama on December 12th. But today, they have the eyes of the sports world, the Iron Bowl, the annual rivalry college football game between Alabama and Auburn will take place.

The stakes could not be higher as John Archibald on said the state of Alabama needs this. They need an escape from politics. That being said, I'm told Doug Jones will be in Auburn for the Iron Bowl tailgating today, a graduate of the University of Alabama.

PAUL: All righty. Kaylee Hartung, we appreciate it. Thank you. SAVIDGE: A column in the Alabama newspaper makes a case that support for Moore may depend on the age of the voter. That seems to be true from what I found as well. We want you to listen to this clip from a podcast called "Young Alabama." It's produced by two young Republicans who are mentioned in the article. Take a listen.


DAVID WISDOM, CO-HOST, "YOUNG ALABAMA" (via telephone): It's kind of hard for me as a young Republican to sit and listen to people tell me oh, it's all fake, David, it's not real when there's a lot of circumstantial evidence pointing in the opposite direction. And the statement from Roy Moore is anything but satisfying.


SAVIDGE: Joining us now, Michael Bullington, one of the co-hosts of the podcast "Young Alabama" and Aaron Seeley, a member of the Alabama Young Republicans, who says he will vote for Moore.

Michael, let me start with you, in your podcast, you said that no matter where you stand on the issues, you cannot vote for someone who is lying to you. Is that what you said?

MICHAEL BULLINGTON, CO-HOST, "YOUNG ALABAMA" PODCAST: Yes, sir, I found that the allegations against him, particularly sexual assault and sexual molestation have been very credible and very serious. As of yet, the Moore campaign has not been able to provide the same level of credibility in their denials. And because of that and the contradictory statements that they're making, I can't leave myself to vote for somebody who is not being truthful or at least open with me.

SAVIDGE: We should point out these are accusations. There's no proof that has been essentially brought forward yet. No charge of any kind. Aaron, some have questions about the polls showing Jones leading because they say what happens in the voting booth, we've learned this from past experience, is not necessarily what a voter will tell a pollster. Do you think that the polls should be questioned right now?

[08:30:00] AARON SEELEY, MEMBER, ALABAMA YOUNG REPUBLICANS: I think they should. So if you look at Alabama we voted I think 62 percent for Trump. So I think Judge Moore has a good chance in this race if he can defend himself and prove that the allegations aren't credible.

SAVIDGE: And I should point out at this point you are going with Roy Moore, is that correct?

SEELEY: Yes. Right now I am supporting Judge Moore. If the allegations are proven to be true beyond a reasonable doubt, either before or after the election, then my stance is subject to change.

SAVIDGE: But how do you get to that point? I mean, it's really not possible. It's, one, 40 years of time has passed. And this is a he said-she said kind of thing. So, I mean, to say you want proof, there are things we believe without necessarily proof positive. But in your case you want proof positive. SEELEY: Right. Well, we need to address this situation with

intellectual honesty because policy is just as important as character when it comes to electing public officials. And I believe in the sacred principle of the American judicial system. That being innocent until proven guilty.

SAVIDGE: Bless you.



SAVIDGE: That's all right.

Michael, let me bring you in again and ask you this. You've I believe in your podcast made the sort of comparison to Bill Clinton. But in this case, these charges, at least, you know, one of them was brought against the president, was proven. This one, how you can make that kind of a claim?

BULLINGTON: Well, I mean, I think that the idea of proof is a very vague statement, that if we're going to do comparisons to the court of law, testimony is just as viable as being video or DNA evidence. And if we're going to believe the many different allegations against the Clintons, against some other Democrats that many Republicans especially in Alabama are very fond of bringing up and believe wholeheartedly, then there's no reason to doubt these claims. You mentioned a second ago that it was a he said-she said situation, right now it's more of a he said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said situation.

SAVIDGE: I got you. Right. It's more people have come forward. Who would you then vote for? If you're not -- as a Republican you're not going to vote for Roy Moore, who -- what's a Republican supposed to do?

BULLINGTON: I'm a big fan of the write-in vote. I think that if you're uneasy about a candidate, you shouldn't vote for them. You shouldn't support somebody just because you're trying to choose the lesser of two evils because in the end you're still going to choose evil. So --

SAVIDGE: But, Aaron, isn't that an automatic loss then for the Republicans? I mean, write-in candidacies have never really turned out too well?


BULLINGTON: Well, that's true. But in the end, it comes down to if the Republican Party is going to be the party of morality and have the moral high ground, then we need to actually follow through on that, and if that means losing this seat but maintaining the legitimacy of the values of the party, then that's something that we need to do.

SAVIDGE: Aaron, I'll give you the last word on that. You agree? SEELEY: Well, I also am talking about condemning a man as a pedophile

if it's completely proven true. And we, the Alabama voters, are going to look into this even more. People are trying to demonize us as victim shaming which is completely false. And Alabama should look into this and see what we can find.

SAVIDGE: All right. Well, we appreciate both of you joining us and giving us a more youthful perspective on this. Thank you both, Michael Bullington and Aaron Seeley.

BULLINGTON: Thank you.

PAUL: So as U.S. health care costs are skyrocketing there are more and more hospitals in these rural areas closing down. In fact since 2010 82 rural hospitals have closed down nationwide. And for some towns this means the closest ER is hundreds of miles away.

Here's CNN's Simon Ostrovsky.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Patient 11, 1-0-0-0 Eerie, Maine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dispatch. Medical 11. Buckle up, missy.

SIMON OSTROVSKY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the EMS crew of Tonopah, a small mining town in the middle of Nevada that 2400 people call home. There's no professional ambulance service here and Tonopah's only hospital closed its doors for good in 2015.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Medical 11 is on scene.

OSTROVSKY: So local residents have taken matters into their own hands. Dawn Gudmunsson is one of several volunteer EMTs who act as the community's only lifeline.

DAWN GUDMUNSSON, TONOPAH VOLUNTEER EMT: It's scary. It's scary to live here. I'm scared for our residents, I'm scared for my family.

OSTROVSKY: When Tonopah's hospital closed, the entire county, an area roughly the size of the U.S. state of Massachusetts, was left without any emergency medical care. Any area that's more than 30 miles away from a hospital is known as a hospital desert. Tonopah, it's more than 200 miles from emergency trauma care.

JESSICA THOMPSON, REGISTERED NURSE: If you need trauma care, well, you're looking at either Reno or Las Vegas which is 3 1/2 hours by vehicle. You know, I know of some people that did not make it on the transport. They expired en route.

[08:35:02] GUDMUNSSON: My aunt, she had a lot of medical problems, and we weren't able to get her to higher level of care quick enough. So she passed in our ambulance. It was just hard. Like she taught us how to be EMTs and then we were working on her and there was just nothing more that we could do. And if we had had a hospital, they have years of knowledge, and it would have been different. OSTROVSKY: Dawn is bringing her latest patient to the airport, but by

the time the plane arrives from Las Vegas, they've already been waiting on the tarmac for two hours.

(On camera): This is increasingly the reality of living in rural America. If you get injured or you get sick, you have to be driven to the airport so you can get flown to a hospital hundreds of miles away.

GUDMUNSSON: I think that because we're so rural, people tend to forget about us. Why are we not worthy of health care? We're people, too. We need help.

OSTROVSKY: Simon Ostrovsky, CNN, Tonopah, Nevada.


PAUL: And we'll obviously keep you posted on where that's going. Meanwhile, lawyers of former National Security adviser Michael Flynn are no longer sharing information with the president's lawyers which has a lot of people saying what does this tell us about the state of the investigation and where it's going.

SAVIDGE: Plus a major snub from the State Department. Details on why the secretary of state is refusing to send high-level officials to India with Ivanka Trump.


[08:40:51] SAVIDGE: Infighting in the Trump administration is threatening to overshadow a major global summit. State Department officials tell CNN that the U.S. isn't sending a high-level delegation to next week's Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India. And the main reason, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson doesn't want to support Ivanka Trump who is leading the U.S. delegation to that event.

CNN's Michelle Kosinski broke this story and she has more details.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: OK. So what we're talking about here is the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. It is a big event. It's put on by the State Department. And this year first daughter and senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump is headlining it. She leaves this weekend. She was invited by the Indian prime minister himself and the theme is "Women's Entrepreneurship."

But what we're hearing now from several sources including senior ones inside the State Department as well as a source close to the White House is that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his inner circle don't want to send senior people because they don't love the idea of Ivanka Trump leading the U.S. delegation here.

From a senior State Department official, they, meaning Tillerson and staff won't send someone senior because they don't want to bolster Ivanka. It's now another rift between the White House and State at the time when Rex Tillerson doesn't need any more problems with the president.

And from a source close to the White House, Rex doesn't like the fact that he's supposed to be our nation's top diplomat and Jared and now Ivanka have stepped all over Rex Tillerson for a long time. So now he's not sending senior people from the State Department to support this issue, he's not supporting Ivanka Trump.

When you look at this event in the past years, President Obama attended more than once. Secretary of State Kerry, last year it was Kerry and undersecretary and assistant secretaries of State. But these courses are telling us that Tillerson and his staff aren't letting anyone above the deputy assistant level go. And that originally the acting assistant secretary for this region was slated to be on the trip and that she was then pulled by Tillerson and his staff.

You know, when I asked a State Department spokesperson who are the senior people going on this trip, and the list hasn't been officially published yet, they did give me a short list of the top U.S. government officials but none of them were from the State Department. There was an ambassador, but that person is already in India. So then you could say, all right, this event was an Obama-era creation, that the current State Department is trying to slash its budget left and right, and there is no permanent assistant secretary for this region.

But the answers that we get back from our sources are, well, if you're going to send a smaller delegation, fine, but wouldn't you send your senior people and cut back in other ways. We did get an on-the-record statement finally from the State Department and it says this.

"The department is committed to supporting women's economic empowerment and entrepreneurship. The summit is a prime opportunity to showcase the importance of this themes. The summit is really about the more than 1500 entrepreneurs, investors and supporters."

But they are -- obviously they are not commenting on this perceived Tillerson-Ivanka snub and they're denying any of this either.

Michelle Kosinski, CNN, Washington.


PAUL: Michelle, thank you.

Kelly Jane Torrance, deputy editor at the "Weekly Standard" with us now, as well as Daniel Lippman, reporters at Politico and co-author of the "Politico Playbook."

Thank you both for sticking around here.

LIPPMAN: Thank you.

PAUL: Kelly Jane, is this about infighting as best you can tell or budget cutting?

TORRANCE: Yes. I think it's a little bit of both. And I have to say, you know, we in Washington, we kind of enjoy some of the infighting that's going on in the administration. You know, we all like drama, but when it starts to affect policy and events, it becomes a real problem.

I have to say, given this administration, if you look at Trump's Cabinet, it's mostly, you know, old white men. And I think the administration is -- you know, Rex Tillerson is not doing the administration a good service by sort of ignoring one of the few women at a high level in the Trump administration. And this event is about women and entrepreneurship. And she was invited by the Indian prime minister.

And this really does start to make Rex Tillerson who -- a lot of people who don't like Trump still like Tillerson. Think he's been sort of a calming influence. But this starts to make him look really petty, I have to say.

[08:45:10] PAUL: Well, but there are people who say listen, Ivanka and Jared Kushner look like they're stepping on his toes a little bit here. To that, you say what, Daniel?

LIPPMAN: I would say that Tillerson himself has not been doing himself many favors by cutting the State Department so much and actually focusing more on the bureaucratic structure of the department and less about diplomacy overseas.

I remember when John Kerry was secretary of State and Hillary Clinton as well, they were flying around the world every week and they were trying to make deals, solve issues like the Syrian civil war. And it doesn't seem like Tillerson has focused much on that. He is more about, you know, in his office studying that bureaucratic plan but not making those deals that Trump wanted him to make as secretary of State.

So it's very disappointing for a lot of foreign policy experts who thought that Tillerson could do a better job since he was widely lauded as a good CEO of ExxonMobil.

PAUL: All right. Kelly Jane, I want to pivot here real quickly to a major development we've been watching in the Russia investigation, these lawyers for former National Security adviser Michael Flynn no longer sharing information with the president's lawyers which means Flynn is expected to be cooperating with Special Counsel Mueller's investigation or perhaps planning to plead guilty.

When we -- when you first heard about that and based on what you know about it today, let's face it, Flynn knows an awful lot of details about that campaign. He sat in meetings. He sat right next to people.

Do you think what we're seeing, this withholding of information now from the White House, could change what some of these key players may say in the future, say, Jared Kushner, for instance, knowing that there's somebody that sat right next to them in a meeting that could say, guess what, Director Mueller, I don't know that they're telling the truth? What are your thoughts? TORRANCE: Yes. That's a great question, Christi. When I first heard

about this, I was a little surprised because, you know, Trump himself has really been standing behind Flynn. You know, he keeps calling him a great guy throughout this investigation. So, you know, I assumed that the feeling was mutual. And I was a bit surprised.

You know, the only thing that perhaps might save some of these people if they have been not coming, you know, entirely truthful, they're going to claim they have a bad memory. That seems to be the number one excuse that we've been hearing in this investigation. But one of the reasons I heard that it might be why Flynn has decided to flip possibly, as they say, is that he's also worried about his son and what his son has been up to.

And it's possible he might, you know, plead guilty or cooperate in exchange for a bit of leniency towards his son, who is also being investigated by Robert Mueller.

PAUL: All right. Daniel, I want to play this clip from Norman Eisen. He's chair of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. He's actually the ethics czar under President Obama. Let's listen to what he said.



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: OK. So it's also my understanding that you say Mueller may not give a deal to Flynn unless he implicates someone up the ladder, is that correct?

NORM EISEN, FORMER ETHICS CZAR UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: It's correct. I had the opportunity years later when I was in the government of working with Bob on an investigation. So I know how he rolls. He's not going to hand out these cooperate deals like Christmas candy. On the contrary, and it's standard operating procedure in our profession, Brooke, you've got to roll over on somebody up the ladder.

And in the same way, John, who's a great American hero for what he did during Watergate, cooperated against those above him and ultimately led to the resignation of the president. I think that Mueller's going to want something from Flynn on Kushner, Don Junior or Trump himself.


PAUL: Daniel, your take on that theory?

LIPPMAN: That's probably keeping Don and Jared up at night to hear something like that being said. I think that underlines the importance of Don Junior and Jared Kushner telling the truth to investigators when they get interviewed. You already saw Jared misstate on the -- on those security disclosures three times his foreign contacts. That was not good for his legal liability. But I think going forward, they're going to keep in mind that Flynn could have flipped. And so they're going to try to dot every I and cross every T in terms

of speaking the truth to the letter to these investigators. They're definitely worried that Flynn is cooperating and maybe others as well that we don't know about.

PAUL: And will come from that. Yes. No doubt.

Kelly Jane Torrance, Daniel Lippman, so we appreciate the both of you. Thank you.

[08:50:04] TORRANCE: Thank you, Christi.

LIPPMAN: Thanks. Bye.

PAUL: Sure.

SAVIDGE: The traditional start to the holiday season continues. Happening now, it is small business Saturday. Plus, we'll tell you why Macy's and Lowe's had a whole lot of unhappy customers during the peak of Black Friday.


SAVIDGE: All right. I know you know this but I'm just going to tell you anyway. Today is small business Saturday. The traditional shopping excursion that follows Black Friday and is designated to promote community over big box profits. During this mega break season for many mom and pop stores, shop owners hope that a growing online presence, low unemployment and a strong economy will help keep doors open.

[08:55:07] PAUL: And you know, speaking online, Macy's suffered a credit card system meltdown during the height of Black Friday. Machines struggled to process transactions which caused in-store delays and online outages. And you can imagine a lot of complaints out there. Some shoppers decided to give up they just abandoned their items in store lines.

And it wasn't a whole lot better for home improvement giant Lowe's. Its Web site went down for just a short time yesterday. And of course you look ahead at cyber Monday coming up, you hope it's all good.

SAVIDGE: And as more customers choose the convenience of staying at home, you know, shopping online, brick and mortar stores may be witnessing the end of the traditional Black Friday rush. Retailers are counting on the holiday season after what was a rough 2017. More than 6700 stores have closed. 6700. And multiple high profile chains have filed for bankruptcy and that is, well, I should say all is not lost. The National Retail Federation predicts that holiday sales could total about $682 billion. That's up 4 percent from last year. That's the good news.

PAUL: Whoo.

SAVIDGE: Now we'll see you back here at 10:00. That's also good news. PAUL: For CNN NEWSROOM of course. "SMERCONISH," though, is coming up

after this short break.