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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Source: Trump Picks Gen. Mattis For Defense Secretary; Interview with Congressman Adam Schiff of California[ Recordings from Colombia Plane Crash Released; Disgraced Self-Help Guru Attempts Comeback. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired December 01, 2016 - 16:30   ET


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESONDENT: So, the Trump administration will have to have legislation submitted to Congress for a waiver for Jim Mattis.

[16:30:02] And, in fact, we know very quietly Congress itself was beginning to look at what that legislation might have to look like. It will be very short. It will be very brief. It will be a waiver that will allow General James Mattis to serve as secretary of defense.

Like you, Jim, I have covered General Mattis for many, many years. One of the most plain spoken, blunt generals out there. Do not expect him on revisit the Trump campaign. Don't expect him to get involved in politics of what has happened over the last two years.

Expect Jim Mattis to look forward very rapidly when he gets to the Pentagon. He will have many challenges. He will have to deal with the fight against ISIS, the upcoming fight to retake Raqqah in Syria with Russian advances. He will be the key point man to deal with Russia's advances in Eastern Europe and in the Middle East. Can he trust Vladimir Putin, what advice will he give Donald Trump on Putin?

And he will be the defense secretary that may have to confront and deal with the North Korean nuclear situation very quickly. We know that North Korea even as we stand here is working on its underground tunnels again for a potential additional nuclear test.

These are the kinds of things that Jim Mattis is walking into. He will be a secretary of defense that will be looking to deal with all of this, not to get mired down in the political fights of the last two years.

But here is the big question. He will also for the first time have to deal with the mundane day to day business of running one of the world's largest bureaucracies -- budget, acquisition, science and technology. It is a huge portfolio. Can he do it? Absolutely, I don't think there's a question about it.

But it will be interesting to see what he decides to focus on, what his interests will be and how he will interact with other key players, lieutenant general retired, Mike Flynn, the new national security adviser who is actually junior to Mattis and also whoever becomes secretary of state -- Jim. SCIUTTO: Barbara, in my experience in that five sided building where

you are now, he's also a soldier's soldier, very popular with the armed service men and women. But also with commanders who had their own reservations about Donald Trump.

In your view from where you are, a savvy pick, isn't it?

STARR: Yes, you know, it's interesting. Up and down, you know, the 17 and a half miles of corridors inside the Pentagon, over the last several days as Mattis' name rose to the top, you began to hear that hallway chatter. Everybody is like, who do you think it will be? Will it be Mattis? We want it to be Mattis.

I think it is very fair to say, at least in the Pentagon, here in Washington, he would be very warmly received. They feel he is so knowledgeable and he has walked the walk in combat. He is one of them.

He has commanded troops in combat. He has buried troops in cemeteries all over this country in these years of war. He knows about all of this, having served in Iraq and in the Middle East during many different tours.

So, the feeling is, this is a guy who knows. This is not a politician or some sort of, you know, university geek coming to run their shop. He is one of them. He knows them.

I think it is fair to say he will get a very warm reception far beyond the Marine Corps which it is very fair to say absolutely adores him.

SCIUTTO: No question. Not an arm chair general. He saw his share sadly of bloodshed in the battle of Fallujah, where he commanded.

Barbara Starr, thanks very much. Please stay with us.

STARR: Sure.

SCIUTTO: Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He's ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, certainly an enormous amount of experience with the Defense Department on issues.

You just heard the news, Congressman Schiff, about General Mattis. What's your reaction?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, it's largely positive you know, I met him I think at the time he was the -- leading the first marine expeditionary force. I was impressed with him. I've certainly been impressed with what I've seen and read about him and his reputation. So, I think he's a very good choice and I think he'll be well-received.

You know, probably the only issue that will come up is this issue the fact that it will require statutory change so that he can even be appointed to this position. In isolation, that might not be as big a deal. But if the Trump administration is going to be populated with generals in many, many positions, that will become a bigger issue than it would be otherwise.

But his reputation is excellent and, frankly, you know, I guess in my view the bar has been lowered dramatically with some of the appointments that the president-elect has made such that when he picks an adult for the room, there is I think a very broad positive reception to that.

[16:35:02] And he would bring I think a great experience, a great reputation with him, a great mind with him, and some comfort for members of Congress on both sides of the aisle that the president will be getting good thoughtful sound advice. And that's not always the feeling we've had with some of the other appointments.

SCIUTTO: You mentioned the waiver -- Barbara mentioned this as well -- that would be necessary. This is law dates back to 1947 requiring the general be retired for seven years. He has not been. It's only happened once before I believer in 1950, where waivers have been granted.

Do you foresee any challenge getting that through Congress?

SCHIFF: There will be concerns about it. And, you know, as I mentioned, those concerns will be put in the context of his other appointments. It will certainly be an issue.

I don't think it will ultimately be a bar because I think he is so well thought of that he can overcome people's reservations about that. You know, unfortunately, I wish you could have this in reverse order where you can have the confirmation hearings go forward first so he could be thoroughly vetted and those issues could be explored and then a decision could be made about changing the statute.

But my guess is because his reputation is so strong and frankly because there is enough concern among Democrats about some of the president-elect's other choices, there will be a desire to amend the statute if that's what is necessary and I think it will be necessary.

SCIUTTO: Well, one potential issue is posture towards Russia. I spent a lot of time in the Pentagon. There is great concern about Russia's military moves, in Syria, with regards to NATO, in Eastern Europe with regards to its fly-bys of U.S. Navy warships, U.S. aircraft, et cetera. That's the view from the Pentagon. I haven't spoken to General Mattis about it, but it's reasonable to assume that he shares some of those concerns. We heard during the campaign that Donald Trump has a very different view of Russia.

Is that a potential area of disagreement between them?

SCHIFF: Well, it is and frankly, it's one of the reasons why I'm very inclined to be supportive of this choice, because I think General Mattis' view of NATO and his strong support of NATO will temper the skepticism that the president-elect has expressed. And I think General Mattis has a full appreciation of the threat that's posed by Russia. I don't think he's going to be any kind of a apologist for Russia or view Russia with anything but the most deep skepticism. So, I would like to see that in a secretary of defense. But it may

bring about a conflict, particularly when you have the national security adviser, General Flynn, so you have these two generals that have expressed I think in the past two very different views of Russia. But frankly, I'd be glad to have the president-elect getting insights from General Mattis on things like Russia and NATO.

SCIUTTO: Of course, another major issue for the president certainly, but also the man who would be leading the Pentagon, is the fight against ISIS. We are in a midst of a pitch battle around Mosul. is the power center in Iraq. There is talk of taking back Raqqah in Syria, really the capital of their claimed caliphate.

As you look at that, what do you -- what do you expect General Mattis to advise Donald Trump who again during the campaign has expressed his desire to pull back from some of these crises? He does not want to get involved in these overseas wars. How do you expect and how would you advise this new head if he's confirmed to the Pentagon to advise the president?

SCHIFF: I think what you can expect from General Mattis because he's a pretty plain spoken person that he would tell the president-elect, look, we can do this, we can drawdown our involvement in the area. But here is the consequence. You're going to be empowering the Russians, you're going to be empowering the Iranians, there are going to be cost to American reputation of we abandon support for moderate opposition in Syria, and here's the issues that we see in Iraq and the increasing Iranian influence in Iraq, the political problems that are still unsolved between the Sunni and Shia in Iraq.

And, you know, conversely, if the president-elect is inclined to use force in places and he has also threatened obviously to carpet-bomb or to torture or kill families of terrorists, et cetera, I think General Mattis will be quite blunt about, OK, what does that really mean, let me tell you how that would be perceived, how that would -- the impact of those kind of policies, the effect on the military, the effect on other agencies.

So, I think he'll get some sober advice from the general and the general tell him, just what will be required in terms of what the military commitment would be for military engagement, and I think that kind of sound advice would benefit the president-elect.

SCIUTTO: And that could be consequential advice because we've heard that Donald Trump is leaning towards pulling back even more so from Syria there.

[16:40:02] Finally, before I let you go, Congressman Schiff, we know that Donald Trump has had several phone calls with world leaders, including just yesterday with the prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif.

This was an interesting situation here because oftentimes we get readouts of these phone calls. They're very boilerplate, as you know. They don't reveal very much. But the readout of this phone call from the Pakistani side at least was quite revealing. I just want to quote from it here to remind our viewers. This is what

they said Donald Trump said.

"You're a terrific guy. Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people." He continued on, "I am ready and willing to play any role to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems."

As you heard that there and to be clear, the Trump transition team's readout was much simpler, saying simply that the two had a productive conversation. But this is a very strained relationship, the U.S. with Pakistan. Donald Trump in the past has said some very critical things about Pakistan, outright questioning whether they are indeed a real ally. Delicate important relationship.

Did that readout of that call present any concerns to you?

SCHIFF: Well, it did, but I have to say the read on that call sounded very much like Donald Trump's voice. You can easily picture him saying exactly what was in that Pakistani transcript, and it wasn't surprising to me that they would release that, Prime Minister Sharif has got a lot of difficulties in terms of the balance of power in Pakistan and his own standing in that country. So that kind of unbridled endorsement that he got in this call with Donald Trump is something that they would want to put out.

But what it also told me is, either Donald Trump is not surrounding himself with people who are giving him good advice about what he should say and shouldn't say in these calls, or he is getting that advice and he's ignoring it. I think ultimately, we may have a situation where he doesn't listen to good advice, doesn't have the patience or the focus to get good briefings before these kind of meetings. He says things he makes commitments that he will not live up to ultimately.

And what I think in the future it means is that the world leaders will simply not believe what they are being told by him. So, that may be the ultimate impact, which will have other consequences. But I wish he would take the time to be briefed before these calls and I wish he would listen to the briefers, because his words now have a lot greater consequence than I think he really understands or appreciates.

SCIUTTO: No question. Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks very much.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: We have other news in to CNN, a major shakeup at Starbucks. We'll have that just after this.


[16:47:04] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We're back now with "The World Lead," new evidence of confusion and desperation inside the cockpit of a jet just before it crashed, killing 71 people, including most members of a popular soccer team. Only six people survived, though the pilot is among the many dead.

The LAMIA flight 2133 was just minutes from its destination Monday night in Colombia when on approach to the airport an audio recording played on Colombia media reportedly captures the pilot frantically trying to relay his location to air traffic control, telling operators that his plane had lost electricity or fuel.

Could anything have been done to save this plane and its passengers? CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh has the latest.


RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New audio recordings from the doomed charter flight reveals troubling clues about what may have caused the crash killing 71 people including members of a promising Brazilian soccer team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): Miss. Lima-Mike-India, 2933, it's in failure. Total electrical and fuel failure.

MARSH: LAMIA Flight 2933 was just minutes away from its destination and rapidly descending when a crew member made an urgent call to air traffic control requesting a runway assignment to land.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): Lima-Mike-India, vectors. Vectors missed. Vectors to the runway.

MARSH: Seconds later, the flight disappeared from radar. The controller still tried to direct the pilot in for landing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through Translator): You're 8.2 miles to the runway. What is your altitude now?

MARSH: Then silence. The plane crashed just five miles from the airport. Investigators confirmed it ran out of fuel.

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGER DIRECTOR: It is an extraordinary event and it really borders on negligence.

MARSH: In addition to fuel shortage, a question as to why this aircraft, a four-engine plane designed for short haul flights, was used in the first place.

GOELZ: This plane was questionable in terms of accomplishing the mission. Its certified range was 1600 nautical miles. This flight was 1605 nautical miles. That's at the outer limits.

MARSH: The charter flight left Santa Cruz, Bolivia Monday night bound for a championship game in Medellin, Colombia. This newly released video shows excitement on board the flight before takeoff. This woman was the co-pilot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through Translator): We are ready to offer them the best service.

MARSH: Incredibly three players, two crew members and one journalist survived. Fans flooded the stadium where they were to play and players who did not travel with the team showed up to pay their respects.


MARSH: Well, investigators have not determined how they ran out of fuel. Was it human error or something mechanical? But we just cannot overstate how rare this is. Pilots are supposed to calculate whether they have enough fuel before takeoff. They consider the weight on board and the distance they have to travel.

[16:50:05] Here in the United States, Jim, pilots, they essentially have enough fuel not only for the route that they're going to travel, but also for an additional 45 minutes.

SCIUTTO: Which is so sad when you see the pictures of those people just before they were lost.


SCIUTTO: Rene Marsh, thanks very much.

There is more breaking news just in to THE LEAD. The CEO who redefined everyone's morning routine has announced that he is stepping down. This is the guy responsible for putting a Starbucks on what seems like every corner in New York and beyond and in every shopping complex across the country.

Howard Schultz said just minutes ago that he is going to step aside as CEO effective next April. Schultz had stepped down once before, this in 2000, only to run the company again starting back in 2008.

Our Poppy Harlow just got off the phone with Schultz. He says that this had been in the works at least for a year. He called the transition, quote, "a good thing." As for what he is going to do next, Schultz also says he won't leave Starbucks completely. He will be appointed executive chairman where he will focus on innovation design and developing for Starbucks.

Schultz had been active during the presidential campaign. Some had speculated that he could head here to Washington. Schultz says however that's not going to happen.

One victim's mother says she was cooked to death inside his sweat lodge. Now James Arthur Ray is back in the self-help business and making a comeback.


[16:55:41] SCIUTTO: Well, back now with "The Pop Lead." In a new CNN film, see the twisted side of the billion-dollar self-help industry. Spiritual retreats, motivational speakers. In 2009, James Arthur Ray was a leading self-help guru until one day at his sweat lodge in Arizona, one of his personal transformational challenges went too far and three people died. Ray went to prison, but now he's out and CNN's Sara Sidner explains how Ray is trying at the least to make a comeback.


VIRGINIA BROWN, KIRBY BROWN'S MOTHER: A state trooper came to my door and said, do you know Kirby Brown?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She did. Virginia Brown is Kirby's mother and that day she learned her daughter was dead.

BROWN: She was cooked to death. That's how she died. This beautiful woman who was drunk on life and had friends all over.

SIDNER: Kirby's life ended while she was trying to improve it. The surfer and avid horseback rider wanted more, a life partner and help growing her business. That's when she found self-help guru James Arthur Ray.

JAMES ARTHUR RAY, MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER: And I can help you. I really can.

SIDNER: The motivational speaker had already built a multimillion- dollar business launched by the popular movie "The Secret" and appearances on "Oprah," "Larry King" and the "Today" show.

BROWN: She really was very taken and signed up immediately.

SIDNER: She reached one of the highest level workshops, a retreat, which cost her her life-savings. $10,000.

(On camera): During the five-day retreat at this campground outside Sedona, Arizona, participants were challenged to shave their heads, go on a 36-hour trek into the desert without food or water. And ultimately end up in a steaming hot sweat lodge. All in an effort to transform their lives.

(Voice-over): It was in the sweat lodge where it all went wrong. Hot rocks doused with water creating steam and temperatures well past 100 degrees. Courtroom testimony revealed that people were screaming, throwing up, crying, and babbling. Others were passed out. 19 people ended up in the hospital that day. Mother of three, Liz Neuman, died at the hospital. James Shore, a father of three, pulled one person to safety right past James Ray. Shore went back into get Kirby Brown. According to witnesses, they lay dying inside the tent feet away from Ray.

BROWN: What did James Ray do to my life? He blew up my life.

SIDNER: A jury convicted James Ray of negligent homicide. He served 20 months in prison. After his release, Ray told CNN this about the sweat lodge. RAY: I didn't know nor did anyone know that anyone was in a death --

a life or death or situation.

SIDNER: He's now making another run at success as a motivational speaker as documented in the CNN Film "Enlighten Us."

RAY: I was involved in a terrible accident and I lost three friends. People that I really cared about.

BROWN: These three good friends that he left in the dirt unconscious and did nothing to help them. Those were his three good friends?

SIDNER: After her daughter died at Sedona, Virginia Brown started a nonprofit organization called Seek Safely, an educational tool to protect those interested in self-help. The $11 billion industry is not regulated.

BROWN: I want this story of her death to be that cautionary tale that will save other people's lives.

SIDNER: Sara Sidner, CNN, Sedona, Arizona.


SCIUTTO: The CNN Film "Enlighten Us," it airs this Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

And I want to give you an update now regarding the covert heroes of World War II we introduced to you on Tuesday. My colleague Jake Tapper, the House has now voted to award a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor to members of the OSS. That's the Office of Strategic Services. These men and women many now in their '90s were the precursors of the modern day CIA. The legislation will now head right to the president's desk for his signature.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in for Jake Tapper. We turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer who was in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Trumpeting the deal. President-elect Donald Trump displaying his classic off- the-cuff style --