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Comey Arrives on Capitol Hill; New Jobs Numbers; DOJ To Seek Extradition of Chinese Executive; Trump Nominates Barr; Trump Announces Nominations; Army Versus Navy. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired December 7, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


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[09:30:08] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, former FBI Director James Comey, now very outspoken James Comey, just arrived on Capitol Hill moments ago. He will testify behind closed doors in just about half an hour's time. This is at the request of House Republicans from the Judiciary and Oversight Committee. Democrats invited. Some Democrats will also be in the room for this.

Manu Raju, our congressional correspondent, joins us on The Hill.

And, Manu, look, Comey fought hard through the course to have this in public. It won't be, but the American people will know what is said on all sides here, right, because the transcript will be released I think in 24 hours.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they said in 24 hours or as soon as practicable. So whatever that means. It could be tomorrow. It could be over the weekend. It could be early next week. But we do expect to see a transcript soon.

Now, this hearing is closed doors. This interview is going to happen. It's going to take place probably all day long. Two committees, Republican-led committees, the Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight Committee, both have been eager. The Republicans on this committee have been eager to interview Comey on a range of subjects because of what they believe are FBI improper actions over the Russia investigation in 2016, as well as the Clinton e-mail investigation.

Now, the Democrats say this is all part of a witch hunt, all part of an effort to change the focus from potential areas of collusion that may have occurred with the Trump campaign and Russia, instead focus on the investigation itself. But all those matters expect to be discussed as Republicans will have their time to question, Democrats will have their time to question. They'll go back and forth, back and forth all day long until Comey eventually emerges and we do expect him to talk to cameras afterwards. So we'll hear what he has to say at the end of the day, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes, no, that is notable that he very likely may answer those questions, Manu, that reporters have after this testimony because he has wanted it to be so transparent. Most witnesses we have not seen answer questions. Thank you very much.

Jim, now to you.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, all eyes on Wall Street now. Markets flat so far this morning. This after down about 40 points there. This after the U.S. added some 155,000 jobs in November. Unemployment rate holding tight at 3.7 percent. Also this morning, investors on edge and raising doubts about the fragile trade truce with China. This after the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive.

A lot to get to this morning. And joining me now is Peter Navarro. He's assistant to President Trump for trade and manufacturing policy, right in the middle of this trade issue with China.

Mr. Navarro, thanks very much for taking the time this morning.

PETER NAVARRO, ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: Jim, good to be with you, sir.

SCIUTTO: So first let me just ask you about the jobs report. Economists have been expecting 190,000. It's 155,000. It's no small number, but it is below expectations. And you have other signals out there. The markets have been very edgy. Concerns about tricking earnings. The oil markets as well. Are you concerned that an economic slowdown is coming?

NAVARRO: Yes, I loved Christine Romans analysis, who pointed out over two million jobs created. What I loved about that report is that about 75 percent of the people coming into those 155,000 jobs were coming off the bench essentially. They weren't being counted. Those are the kinds of Trump folks that we've been trying back since the campaign to get back into the -- the discourage workforce to get back into the workforce.

The other highlight for me, given what I try to do, is the manufacturing jobs. Robust. We keep hitting all -- just knocking it out of the park. I would say that there has been 12 months --

SCIUTTO: It's got to come to an end, though, right?

NAVARRO: Well, yes. Good things -- but --

SCIUTTO: I mean it's 10 years (ph) of growth.

NAVARRO: But, yes, give it six more years. It's like if you look at the last -- going back to 1970. We've had 12 months where we've had unemployment below 4 percent. Guess what, seven of them are in the Trump administration.

What I also love is that the lower part of the income stream is benefitting disproportionately, both from the rise in jobs, as well as in the rise of income. We had again rising wages, both in real and nominal terms.

So there's a lot of great things in that report. We think it's strong and on trend.

SCIUTTO: OK. Let's talk China because there's a lot going on there and I know it's close to your heart.

First, the arrest of this executive -- Chinese executive. And someone made a good comparison, I thought. It would be the equivalent of say Tim Cook of Apple being arrested in China.

You're in the midst of sensitive negotiations. Is the president, is the administration angry, frustrated, surprised that this arrest might scuttle those negotiations?

NAVARRO: So, they're two separate events. The problem we have is not the conscience of the events, it's the bad actions of Huawei. Huawei, a very large company, founded by someone from the Chinese military, it's frightening that as the second largest purveyor of cell phones, any one of those cell phones can have a listening device for the Chinese government.

[09:35:07] Our government --

SCIUTTO: (INAUDIBLE) testimony famously the intel chief said they wouldn't carry a Huawei phone because of that concern.

NAVARRO: Well, our government doesn't buy them. New Zealand doesn't buy them. Australia doesn't buy them. Great Britain doesn't buy them. More and more countries.

So the point is that Huawei's a bad actor, let's look at what the indictment says and let the Justice Department do its thing. And it was good cooperation between the Canadians. The timing was unusual, but the actions were legitimate. And that's par for the course in terms of what the Justice Department does.

SCIUTTO: OK. Give us a sense of what President Xi, President Trump, what the U.S. and China are actually talking about and what progress was actually made at their dinner and what progress can be made in these 90 days. Actually, we have, you know, close to about 60 more days now in this, because coming out of that meeting President Trump made a lot of claims about agreements made by the Chinese. Those claims were not echoed by the Chinese in any of their public announcements. If progress was made, why are China and the U.S. on different pages?

NAVARRO: So, let's talk about what happened in that room because it was an extraordinary piece of history. On our side we had Secretary Pompeo, Ambassador Bolton, Chief of Staff John Kelly, Larry Kudlow, Steve Mnuchin, Ambassador Lighthizer and the president. On the other side you had President Xi and his team. None of us spoke except the two presidents. Mostly who spoke was President Xi. He came in to that room and talked for about 45 minutes, offering a very detailed offer for a deal. Clearly the Chinese side are motivated because of President Trump's strong stance on their practices. They want a deal.

And so when people say that, oh, there's vagueness or whatever, inside that room, that president, on the Chinese side, went over 142 items, based on our demands for -- think about this, I mean, do we want to work with a government that forces technology transfer?

SCIUTTO: Right.

NAVARRO: That steals our technology and our intellectual property, that counterfeits and pirates, that sends in fentanyl across our borders, that spies on us, that engages in all of these things?

SCIUTTO: But how do you get China to give ground on all those issues in 90 days because these issues are -- they've been going on for years and they are issues, from China's perspective, in China's national interest, to steal U.S. technology, to close its markets to foreign competitors.

NAVARRO: I mean this moment is far more historically significant than what Nixon and Kissinger did because we have an economy and an authoritarian state in China which fundamentally, fundamentally has to restructure its economy if it's to be a good citizen to the rest of the world, because if it won't, then the rules are changed now. This president is the first president to stand up to this Chinese predation.

You know what's interesting --

SCIUTTO: Hold -- if you don't mind, hold that for a second.

NAVARRO: Yes, go ahead.

SCIUTTO: I don't mean to interrupt you, but we do have some breaking news, which we want to go to.

NAVARRO: Sure.

SCIUTTO: And then get back for your reaction.

I'm going to toss to my colleague, Poppy, in New York.

HARLOW: All right, very important interview with Peter Navarro. We'll get to that in a moment.

A host of breaking news in the last few minutes.

First of all, we've learned from our Kaitlan Collins, the president's chief of staff, John Kelly, is not traveling with the president today to Kansas City. That is significant, of course, given the talk about his impending resignation in Kaitlan's reporting. We'll get to that in a moment.

Abby, to you, though, on two really significant nominations that are coming through from the president. The president will nominate William Barr to be the next U.S. attorney general. He is Senate confirmed. He was attorney general under President Bush.

Let's begin with the significance of that.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy, the president confirming to reporters as he's walking out on the South Lawn just a few minutes ago that he will nominate William Barr. This is a man who served as attorney general under George H.W. Bush and was here in Washington just a few days ago, saw a lot of people who were here in this West Wing at the funeral for President Bush.

But one of the things that people are focusing on with Barr are his past comments and writings about the Mueller probe, talking about President Trump's firing of James Comey, saying that there was perhaps a justification for the president to do that.

He's also talked about whether the Justice Department should investigate Hillary Clinton for the Uranium One deal. This is something President Trump has talked a lot about in the past. So, in some ways, you see Barr echoing some of the things that President Trump might want to hear from his attorney general.

At the same time, he is viewed as something of a more conventional pick. He has held the job in the past. In fact, Robert Mueller has worked for him in the past. And earlier this week, even a Democrat, Patrick Leahy, had praise for Barr as his name was mentioned as a possibility.

So it remains to be seen how this will go down on The Bill. But here I think with this pick we're seeing someone who might have perhaps an easier time of getting confirmed in the Senate for a position that is under a lot of scrutiny.

[09:40:08] HARLOW: Yes. Yes, and the significance of having some Democrats support him, likely he is notable. We are going to hear likely from the president in just a few moments as he departs and walks across the lawn there to go to Kansas City, Missouri.

Heather Nauert, the spokeswoman for the State Department right now, is the president's pick to replace Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. A -- currently a cabinet position. Whether it will remain a cabinet position is to be seen. A former Fox News host, a journalist. What can you tell us about this pick by the president?

PHILLIP: Yes, well, she was someone who has been in the president's sights for some time now. The president likes her way of handling herself at the podium at the State Department. But a lot of people are raising questions about whether she has the qualifications, the national security qualifications, the foreign policy qualifications for this very important post, which is at the moment a cabinet level position.

I know we're hearing from the president as we speak right now.

HARLOW: I think we are. Guys, do we -- all right, one minute?

Jim, back to you with Peter Navarro.

SCIUTTO: Peter, we were talking trade policy there, but you have major moves by this president, including our reporting earlier today, the expected departure of the chief of staff, John Kelly.

NAVARRO: Yes, stop right there, that's -- that's not happening as far as I know. I --

SCIUTTO: You don't believe the chief of staff is leaving?

NAVARRO: I don't believe that until I see it. We've seen this reporting every day since he got there. We saw it back in May. And you showed a wonderful clip of how the president is supporting him.

SCIUTTO: Sure.

NAVARRO: And the chief not going on the plane today, that's no big deal. Half the time --

SCIUTTO: So to your knowledge he's not -- he's not out as chief of staff?

NAVARRO: No. No. And when we were in Buenos Aries, everything was cordial and fine. And chief, just yesterday over in the West Wing, he was interacting fine in the Oval. I mean this is unfair to our administration to keep picking on people one by one saying they're going to go or they don't have the confidence of the president or they don't have this and that. It's got to stop. It's like when the -- when and if the chief resigns, let him go.

SCIUTTO: OK.

NAVARRO: He's an honorable man. He's a great chief.

SCIUTTO: Sorry to interrupt again. Here is the president.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very important subject. I want to confirm that Bill Barr, one of the most respected jurists in the country, highly respected lawyer, former attorney general under the Bush administration, a terrific man, a terrific person, a brilliant man. I did not know him for -- until recently when I went through the process of looking at people. And he was my first choice from day one. Respected by Republicans and respected by Democrats.

He will be nominated for the United States attorney general. And hopefully that process will go very quickly. And I think it will go very quickly. And I've seen very good things about him, even over the last day or so when people thought that it might be Bill Barr. So Bill Barr will be nominated for the United States attorney general position. I think he will serve with great distinction.

I also want to inform you that Heather Nauert, somebody that we know very well, who's done a great job at the -- as working with Mike Pompeo and others over at the State Department, Heather Nauert will be nominated. She's going to work with Nikki Haley to replace Nikki at the United Nations. She's be ambassador to the United Nations. She's very talented, very smart, very quick, and I think she's going to be respected by all. So Heather Nauert will be nominated for the ambassador to the United Nations.

Those are two very big ones. I have another one for tomorrow that I'm going to be announcing at the Army/Navy game. I can give you a little hint. It will have to do with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and succession. And I look forward to telling you. And I'll see you later. I'll see you in Kansas.

HARLOW: OK, so there you have the president confirming the news that we just brought you, that he is nominating William Barr, former attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, to be attorney general once again. Already Senate confirmed. And Heather Nauert, the former Fox News host, current spokeswoman for the secretary of state to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Jim, he did not take any other questions, Jim, from reporters who have a lot of pertinent questions this morning about a lot of news.

SCIUTTO: No question. And did not provide clarity on the fate of the chief of staff, John Kelly.

HARLOW: Right. That's right.

SCIUTTO: Of course, we have a number of folks here.

Abby Phillip, you've been there at the White House watching this closely. Tell us what you're hearing there about, is there any news on John Kelly's position since CNN's reporting earlier in the day?

[09:45:00] PHILLIP: Well, not since this morning. But we do know that he's not traveling to Kansas City. That being said, it's not unusual for John Kelly to not be on every single trip that the president takes. But at a moment like this, when the speculation is so high about his fate, for him to be absent as the president is heading out on a trip like this and on a day that he's announcing a lot of other staff changes is very telling.

We are still, though, expecting, according to our sources, in the coming days for Kelly to submit a resignation. But the problem here, Jim and Poppy, is that the president has not settled on a replacement. And I think that there is a sense here that the president will want to make that decision first before announcing anything further.

He also teased some announcement tomorrow as he's going to the Army/Navy game tomorrow. So that is also another impending decision.

But there's a lot going on today. The White House apparently not ready yet to announce the fate of Chief of Staff John Kelly.

HARLOW: OK, Michelle Kosinski, to you on the president's choice to replace Nikki Haley at the United Nations. A very important role. Heather Nauert. You covered the State Department and Heather Nauert is currently the spokesperson for the State Department. Formerly a journalist. Formerly with ABC News and Fox News.

A big question, Michelle, does this role, if she is confirmed, does it remain a cabinet position? What can you tell us about her and how prepared she may be for us?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, our sources tell us that they believe that this will be a lowered role, that it won't be a cabinet position, which is what Nikki Haley is currently holding. That remains to be seen, though. And this has been quite a process. For weeks and weeks it has been

rumored that Heather Nauert was the president's favorite pick for this role. We know that she is strongly supported by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

But the decision comes weeks after we expected it. We know that within the administration there were some others who were urging the president to consider other people. We knew some of those names had been circulating. That might have been part of the delay, that there were urgings to look at other names. Some of whom had more experience than Heather Nauert.

But now we know that the pick is Heather. So considering her path, I mean the president is choosing another Fox News alumni for a very senior position in his administration. Heather Nauert, at the beginning of this administration, had come from Fox News as a news reader for "Fox and Friends." She's been a journalist for about 20 years, most of which was spent at Fox.

She then became spokesperson for the State Department. Within about a year's time, though, after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired, along with his undersecretary for public affairs, Heather Nauert was then appointed to acting undersecretary. So within about a year's time, she went from being a news reader on Fox to the number four person at State. Now she takes another high level position to become the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

So the administration is speaking very highly of her. One senior administration official put out a statement saying that she does have experience with foreign policy. She's traveling extensively. But critics are saying, at least one of them on the record, saying that she is now the poster child for an administration that has put people in places where they have no business being.

SCIUTTO: So we're -- still with us, and thank you, Peter Navarro, for rolling with the punches as the news just keeps coming across the transom here.

But, Peter, I want to ask you, as we see this, because we were talking about China and trade. And this is a defining issue for this administration, politically, but also economically. It's a defining issue for these two -- the world's two biggest economies right now. You have Heather Nauert, who's not going to be the U.N. ambassador, a role certainly in this back and forth here.

I just want to ask you this, if the issues that you mentioned, and Trump has listed here, the sizable trade deficit, stolen technology, et cetera, if they're not resolved in 90 days, is this administration willing to walk away?

NAVARRO: It's not a question of walking away, it's a question of moving forward on the strategy, which is to simply raise the tariffs on the $200 billion from 10 percent, which they are now, to 200 percent.

I would point out to the American people that today we raised close to $12 billion from the tariffs. What they've done -- what these tariffs have done is draw investment in --

SCIUTTO: But, wait, that's misleading because the -- tariffs are paid by U.S. importers and consumers.

NAVARRO: They're share -- tariffs are -- that's a -- what we call a tax incidence problem in economics. And those tariffs are being born largely by the Chinese exporters. And so --

SCIUTTO: A big chunks by folks like you and me.

NAVARRO: Well, I think the point is that, as the tariffs are to defend this country from China's economic aggression against our technology and innovation base. They're working with steel and aluminum. They've attracted a tremendous amount of investment so we can have two key pillar industries. Be strong for our defense industrial base.

[09:50:05] What President Trump has recognized is that economic security is national security.

SCIUTTO: Right.

NAVARRO: So when we strengthen our economy, we're also strengthening our national security. And this is a philosophy which permeates everything we do, corporate tax cuts, deregulation, the steel and aluminum tariffs. All of these policies.

And China, getting back to this idea, this is a -- this is more historical than Nixon/Kissinger because China is at a point now, at an inflection point. It either has to change its self structurally and come in to the world of free trading nations and be peaceful or it can continue doing what it's doing.

SCIUTTO: Right.

NAVARRO: If it's doing to continue doing what it's doing, we have a president who's going to stand up to that for once and the American people should be appreciative of that.

SCIUTTO: Peter Navarro, thanks very much for taking the time.

NAVARRO: I appreciate it, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And answering a lot of questions on a lot of stuff.

NAVARRO: It was fun watching the interlude here.

SCIUTTO: See it as it's happening.

Poppy and I will be right back after this. Still a lot of news to cover this morning.

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[09:55:35] SCIUTTO: It is a college football rivalry like no other. Army versus Navy. Trust me, Poppy, I've been to those games. They are awesome. HARLOW: It's not like Columbia versus Yale? What? All right. Not

exactly.

Coy Wire has more on tomorrow's game from Philadelphia in today's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, my friend.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy and Jim.

Since 1890, the Army/Navy game has the pageantry and tradition that make it perhaps the greatest sporting spectacle in the world. Nine sitting United States presidents have attended the game. It started with Teddy Roosevelt back in 1901. And, tomorrow, President Donald Trump will become the tenth. He'll be here. He was here in 2016 as then president-elect. Now, it's tradition for the commander in chief to sit on one side for a half and then switch so as not to choose any favorites.

Now, it's said that the Army/Navy game is the only game played where everyone who's playing the game would die for everyone who plays -- who is watching the game. So I've played in NFL games and the historic Rose Bowl in college and even covered Super Bowls and Olympic games. None of them compare to the stage that is the magic of the Army/Navy game. It's tomorrow at 3:00 p.m.

SCIUTTO: That's quite a line, Coy. Everyone playing would die for everyone watching. Wow, that is service.

HARLOW: Wow, there you go.

SCIUTTO: Coy Wire, thanks very much.

HARLOW: All right, we are following a ton of breaking news this morning. A new attorney general pick from the president, a new ambassador to the United Nations, and that is just the beginning of it. Don't go anywhere. We're back in a minute.

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