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Erin Burnett Outfront

Trump Delays Press Conference On Conflicts Of Interest; Trump On Russian Hacking: I Don't Believe It; Sources: Russia's Hack Were Aimed At Helping Trump; Trump On Intel Briefings: No Need To Hear Same Things Daily; Sources: Exxon CEO is Trump's Top Pick for State Department; Sources: China Responds to Trump by Flying Nuclear Bombers. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 12, 2016 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:04] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: "OutFront" next, breaking news, sudden delay, Donald Trump putting on hold a major press conference. He promised he'd address his conflicts of interest. Why the change?

Plus Trump mocking the CIA as more Republicans ask for a probe on Russia and whether Putin tried to help Trump win the White House. Plus, who is Rex Tillerson and why is he so controversial as a pick for Secretary of State? Let's go "OutFront."

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. "OutFront" tonight the breaking news, Donald Trump suddenly postponing what he had billed as his words, a major news conference.

It was scheduled for this week, going to be Thursday, and using Trump's words, he promised to, "Discuss the fact that I will be leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country in order to make America great again, capitals. While I am not mandated to this under the law, I feel it is visually important as president to in no way to have a conflict of interest with my various businesses, hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The presidency is a far more important task."

So as you can see, it wasn't just one tweet, it wasn't one off-hand comment, it was detailed, it was a date, it was a big press conference and you saw all of what he had to say. A new date not even set tonight. Two Trump transition sources, though, say now it's not going to happen until January, obviously, that's going to put you right before inauguration.

Phil Mattingly is "OutFront" at tonight at Trump Tower tonight. And, Phil, this was a highly anticipated press conference. As you heard, Donald Trump promising so much detail and promising a lot of deliverables, what more can you tell us about why now suddenly it's off?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. And on one of the biggest post-election issues that he's been facing, a lot of questions, a lot of concerns about those business ties, his calls with foreign leaders, how his family relates to all of this. These are the questions Donald Trump, himself, the president-elect said he was going to answer, and then not just answer those with documents and press releases, but also hold a news conference, something he hasn't done since July 27th. That has all been pushed off.

Now according to a transition official, it's been pushed off primarily because of where the president-elect's focus has been. It has been on personnel. It has been on cabinet picks. And, Erin, as you know very well, in the building behind me, there's been a steady stream of potential picks going in and out over the course of the last couple weeks. That's where the president-elect's focus has been.

But another transition source I spoke to, Erin, made very clear, it is also the complexity of what they're actually trying to do here and some disagreements about the direction of that. This isn't an easy thing. We've never seen something like this before a president-elect with these sizable business holdings. They're trying to figure out the proper way forward and the reality here is, Erin, they simply weren't ready.

BURNETT: They weren't which, I mean, you want them to be ready when they do it. It is frightening, of course, that they're not there yet given the timing here of inauguration. On that timing point, Phil, obviously this new press conference is now coming when members of the Electoral College meet to formally cast their ballots, right?

It's going to be coming after that and it was going to be coming before. And there are some in the Electoral College who are facing these moral questions about what they are going to do. This is a big question mark now.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, it is. It's a small number, but it is absolutely a very real number. 10 already today has spoken out saying they want information, more information related to the Russia allegations before they have to cast their vote on December 19th. And as you point out, this press conference was supposed to be on December 15th, before that vote. Now, it will be pushed to January after this is all over.

And I can tell you, Erin, I have already heard from about a half dozen Democratic officials pointing out that very date, that very change, and wondering if that was the rationale for that. Now, I haven't heard from any Trump transition officials who have confirmed that, but it is a big question right now, because as we've talked about repeatedly on your show, the business conflict of interests are "A," very real and "B," a very big concern.

The fact that those won't be addressed before the electors actually come together and vote, I can tell you right now people are definitely paying attention to it. It has become an issue and I think it's going to be something you hear more about in the days to ahead, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Phil.

And "OutFront" now, former Reagan White House Director, Jeffrey Lord, State Department Spokesperson under Hillary Clinton, Nayyera Haq, CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel and our Senior Media Correspondent, Brian Stelter, also with us, our Senior Legal Analyst, Paul Callan. Jamie, let me just start with you on your reporting. I mean, you want them to get it right and it is complicated, OK, so there is that. But having this postponed so suddenly and now it's going to be after the Electoral College meets to vote.


BURNETT: That is a pretty stunning development.

GANGEL: Right. So to give him their due, we are in unchartered territory.


GANGEL: We know that this is a business like no other, a family business and we've known for quite sometime. He wasn't going to divest. There wasn't going to be a blind trust. What we've been hearing is that there are a lot of lawyers involved and that they were looking for an elegant way to do it, the best way to do it and this is simply not going to ever be simple.

[19:05:06] On the other hand, appearance matters and putting this off until January reminds me of what did we never see, his tax returns, right? Things get pushed down the road.

BURNETT: Interesting.

GANGEL: And I think they're going to be concerns about, you know, is this ever going?

BURNETT: And he has talked about this issue when he's been asked and he's given answers that are less than satisfactory when it gets to the bottom line here. Here's what he said yesterday about how he would handled the businesses when he's in the White House.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: My executives will run it with my children. It's a big company. It's a great company, but I'm going to have nothing to do with management.


BURNETT: Nothing to do with management, Paul Callan, but that that doesn't address the fundamental issue here, which is that as long as his children are at the helm, a worldwide business like Donald Trump's could benefit from people doing things (inaudible), giving at business simply because they want to influence him. There is no way around that.

PAUL CALLAN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: No, there isn't. This is a unique problem we're facing now and when you think about it in the history of the presidency, most presidents, they come in with inherited wealth or they come in from other public service. Now, we have a model of a billionaire coming in with a large empire and we have to adjust and look at it. You know, earlier today I was looking back in history to see what happened with George Washington, what happened with Thomas Jefferson. You know, neither one of them sold off their plantations. They did -- Jefferson didn't sell Monticello and Washington continued with Mt. Vernon and they made very good presidents.

So, you know, I think he's going to find a way to make this work. He's got to because, otherwise, his presidency will not be taken seriously.

BURNETT: Is it, Brian, just about this?


BURNETT: Or is this about he doesn't want to have a press conference right now before the Electoral College or something else?

STELTER: The question is what is he hiding? What is he hiding? I keep asking, what is he afraid to the answer? You know, this is not about, to me, not about his businesses. Most president-elects have a press conference a few days after being elected. That means in early or mid-November. That goes all the way back to Carter.

Normally you step out and you answer questions whether you're elected for the first time or whether you're re-elected. It's been almost five weeks. So what is it that he hasn't wanted to answer? Yes, he has given a few interviews, "60 Minutes", Fox News and he's been tweeting. But mostly we've heard from, through Twitter and through these rallies, we have not seen him answer a lot of questions. So what is he hiding? Why doesn't he want to answer questions this week from reporters?

BURNETT: And Jeffrey, what's the answer to that?

JEFFREY LORD, FORMER REAGAN WHITE HOUSE POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I don't think he's hide a thing. I think he just ...

STELTER: But he should have a press conference.

LORD: As Jamie says, this is complicated business. The very last thing you want to do is come out and do the kind of press conference you're suggesting here and that was suggested for, you know, today or whatever, and get it wrong because then the media would be all over you.

BURNETT: But he could have a press conference to talk about, well, anything. There's lots of things to talk about, Jeffrey. He hasn't held one in five weeks.

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER SENATE DEPT. SPOKESWOMAN UNDER CLINTON & KERRY: He also could have actually been far more transparent and just sharing some of what the challenges are. I mean, we haven't seen tax returns. We're not seeing a press conference in 140 days on any topics. So there's a consistent lack of transparency almost that it indicates he wasn't expecting to be president. I mean, he's known for a long time he was running for this office. Why weren't things in the works? And why wasn't this a process that had been sorted out or at leas least the direction. I think we're -- he's once again benefiting from a lowered set of expectations where it's easy to say, "Well, this is a unique circumstance." He knew what he was getting into and it's not fair to say that he's absolutely not going to divest and he's not going to create a trust.

LORD: His choices are really doing very well. I mean, he's really proceeding a pace filling his administration. That's where his focus should be.

HAQ: He's not answering the question that frankly several members of the Electoral College have been asked, that several folks across the aisle have asked, even within his own party which is what is going to be the motivation behind his ...

LORD: That the American people have decided this.

HAQ: Is he going to be motivated by his own business interests? In order to put that question to rest, divest, separate and put country before self. I think these points to a broader challenge he's having of really separating himself from the presidency.

BURNETT: Is this also, though, Jeffrey, a point that he's making to the media that he wants to make again and again? He will come out as he chooses. You will put the videos out with policy. He will do Twitter. He'll do an interview here and there.

LORD: Yeah, that's right.

BURNETT: But basically he has no respect for the press in the sense that the press being a conduit by which he can reach the people, in terms of the press asking questions. He doesn't respect that part.

LORD: And listen to my friend Brian over here when we've had this conversation. And I said, what we have here is a late 20th century media dealing with somebody who's going to be a 21st century president in terms of communications and with all due respect to everybody here and all of CNN and every place else, he's going to do what he can to get around the media and get his message out the way he wants to do it.

STELTER: But there are unintended consequences. We're going to hear more conversation about the Electoral College now than we would have because Donald Trump doesn't seem ...


BURNETT: Right. It would have been an assessment and afterthought. I mean, a little bit of a conversation more than normal, right? But not the way it's going to be now.

STELTER: ... with this Russia issues, because it doesn't seem like Donald Trump wants to talk about.


HAQ: It also indicates a consistent lacked of preparedness, right.

[19:10:02] It is not difficult to go out and prepare to say something, to go radically silent only leads to even more questions.

LORD: He's not radically silent. He's been doing all these interviews.

GANGEL: I would argue with that. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump. He's playing by his own set of rules. I don't see any difference now than what we saw in the campaign. He was perfectly willing to come out and be interviewed and do press conferences over and over again. This is what he wants to do right now.

HAQ: So what he wants to do doesn't necessarily mean it's what's best for the country or best for the institution.

BURNETT: Paul, go ahead.

CALLAN: Yeah. You know, I think what we really have here is a private sector person becoming president of the United States and there's a certain irony that the largest capitalist country on earth and the most successful for the first time has a private sector businessman taking office.

And a lot of people are upset about it and it's going to take time to make this work, but the American people decided that's what they wanted. And I think the complexity of his business empire is going to haunt us for a few months, but he's going to get through it. He has to. It's just a new model for us to get used to.

BURNETT: All right, thanks to all.

Next, Trump mocking the CIA while evidence from the CIA, they say points to Russia. They say Russia did it. Russia hacked the election to try and help Trump. My guest tonight, the former CIA Director James Woolsey.

Trump's leading choice for Secretary of State, meantime a man with such close ties to Russia that Putin personally gave him an award. So, who is Rex Tillerson?

And Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner house hunting in Georgetown this weekend in Washington. Tonight, what Trump is saying about their roles in the White House?


[19:15:06] BURNETT: Tonight, President-elect Trump doubling down defending his criticism of the nation's intelligence community for its assessment that Russia hacked the election to help him beat Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I think the Democrats are putting it out because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country. And, frankly, I think they're putting it out and it's ridiculous. We ought to get back to making America great again, which is what we're going to do.


BURNETT: Pamela Brown is "OutFront."


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, U.S. intelligence officials are increasingly confident Russia intended to help Donald Trump win the election. A view the CIA shared with Congress in a classified briefing after the election. Today, the White House made clear who they believe the Russians targeted.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: E-mails that had been hacked and leaked by the Russians, these were e-mails from the DNC and John Podesta, not from the RNC and Steve Bannon.

BROWN: U.S. officials tell CNN part of the CIA's shift in assessment is based on the fact hackers obtained documents from both the DNC and RNC, but chose only to publish documents harmful to Democrats online.

CNN has learned FBI investigators did find a breach of a third-party entity that held data belonging to the RNC. The FBI has not concluded the RNC was directly breached, and the RNC has repeatedly denied ever being hacked. And President-elect Trump has expressed doubt the Russians were involved at all.

TRUMP: I think it's ridiculous. I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it.

BROWN: The extent to which the Kremlin is tied to the hacks remains murky. CNN has learned U.S. investigators discovered a digital footprint leading back to people in Russia tied to the Russian government, and officials have said the hack fits Russia's M.O. but there's still no smoking gun directly tieing the Russian government to the theft of e-mails from the DNC and Clinton campaign manager, John Podesta that were released through WikiLeaks.

Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied Russia's involvement, even if Russia did try to help Donald Trump, it's unknown how that might have impacted the outcome of the election. A point made in a fiery exchange by Trump Transition Spokesman Sean Spicer and CNN's Michael Smerconish.

SEAN SPICER, RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Show me what facts have actually shown that anything undermined that election. Donald Trump won with 306 electoral votes, 2,300 counties, 62 million Americans voted for him. So what proof do you have or does anyone have that any of this affected the outcome of this election?

(END VIDEO CLIP) PAMELA: Officials say that adding to the CIA's assessment about Russia's motive is evidence showing individuals connected to the Russian government bankrolling operations to spread fake news about Hillary Clinton during the election.

The FBI has a more conservative view of Russia's motive and has not come as far as the CIA believing that tried to help Donald Trump. No final conclusions have been made by any U.S. agency. Erin?

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Pamela.

And "OutFront" now, Adviser to President-elect Donald Trump and the former CIA Director under President Bill Clinton, Ambassador James Woolsey. Ambassador Woolsey, thanks for coming on.

You know, obviously the bottom line is this. The CIA says Russia was behind the hack to help Trump beat Clinton. The president-elect has been very clear that he does not buy it. I want to play it again, in his words.


TRUMP: I think it's ridiculous. I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it.


BURNETT: So ambassador, who do you believe the president-elect, or the agency that you once led?

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR, ADVISER TO PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP: There's not just one thing here, and I think there are two major issues that are getting conflated and we need to separate them in order to understand it. One is what the Russians called dezinformatsia or disinformation or lying.

They do this all the time and they use all sorts of sophisticated ways to get lies about the Pope, about Jews, about all sorts of people who hold values that they think are hostile to their totalitarian values. They smear them and they do it all the time in -- with great numbers of participants working on this.

And so far as anyone thought that there was information going, or lying information, non-information, disinformation going into the system, I think they would be correct, full stop. It takes something very different to hack into, let's say, records of births and burials in a city and find out who has been registered to vote even though they were dead 15 years ago. Who is lying and cheating in the system in that way that most of us think of his electoral malfeasance. If -- and so far as someone said he didn't know or have any evidence that that was taking place, he may well be correct.

[19:20:09] So we have to realized which we're talking about.


WOOLSEY: But if one is talking about dezinformatsia, I think it was probably going on in a lot of places, not just in politics.


WOOLSEY: If one is talking about fiddling with birth and death records through a computer, that's something quite else, again, and the people would say, wait a minute, I don't like the FBI, but I don't know that this was occurring, may well be right.

BURNETT: All right. So they haven't come out with their, you know, their list of evidence or whatever it might be from the CIA, so to your point we don't know. But if you take a step back and you look at what happened, the intelligence community, the CIA says Russia was responsible for these hacks, and the DNC hack.

These hacks that all were about Democrats, every single one of them was about Democrats. In a sense, it doesn't really seem like a massive breaking news step to take to say that that would be trying to help the other side, right? I mean, it's sort of stating the obvious, isn't it?

WOOLSEY: What I'm suggesting is that the word "hack" in these circumstances conflates two different things ...

BURNETT: You're talking about voting machine hacks or birth and death records. I mean, I'm just making it more simply. Did they try to influence the election to help Trump?

WOOLSEY: Try to influence by releasing propaganda, disinformation? Who knows, maybe? They release it all the time about the Pope, about Jews. They are shameless about how much information they put out and how they tilt it toward anybody that they don't like for any reason. It's a very nasty national characteristic that the Russians push on, with this disinformation.

BURNETT: So ambassador, are you worried with the bigger picture of what Trump's trying to do here, right. So he is discrediting the CIA, the statement put out by the transition team. I'll just read it, again. "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."

Now in that, some might say, look, he has a point. Given what happened before, there were disagreements within any intelligence agency, within the CIA, why not put out your evidence if you're going to say Russia did this on purpose to help Trump? Is he right to raise that analogy or is that too much?

WOOLSEY: Saddam had two-thirds of the kinds of weapons of mass destruction. He had biological weapons and they had chemical weapons. He had a lot of them. What he didn't have that -- some people thought he did was nuclear weapons, but it confuses the issue I think to talk about weapons of mass destruction on general.

BURNETT: So do you think Trump is right to raise that as a failure of the CIA that makes him say that they are now wrong, again? Is that a step too far? WOOLSEY: I think he has a fair point in stressing the importance of getting political campaigns to focus on truth, and on debates on the issues rather than on the lies that one side may generate. And -- or both sides in different ways. And I think that this is, to a certain extent, because of this conflation of disinformation and fiddling with the birth records and so forth, I think there's a real confusion if the public the debate because of that.

BURNETT: So, before we go, I want to ask you one other thing. President-elect Trump being criticized for not receiving the daily briefing, something that they're saying George H.W. Bush maybe getting more details now because you're allowed to get briefings as an ex- president than Donald Trump is getting. Trump is defending this saying there's nothing wrong with them. Let just play quickly what he said.


TRUMP: I'm available on one minute's notice. I don't have to be told, you know, I'm like a smart person. I don't have to be told the same thing and the same words every single day for the next eight years.


BURNETT: You've overseen those briefings. You've been a part of it. You know what's in them. Is he right? Is it sort of a same thing every day and a waste of time? Or is that too cavalier?

WOOLSEY: More than one president has taken his daily briefings differently than having somebody sit there and brief him.


WOOLSEY: I didn't sit there and brief President Clinton. He wanted to read the briefing. He's a speed reader and he would write notes to me in the margin sometimes. Different presidents do this different ways, but I don't think it means that you are not participating in the effort and not doing your job if you don't sit there and have somebody read to you. Most of us can read with our eyes faster than we can listen.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Ambassador Woolsey. Appreciate your time as always.

WOOLSEY: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, Exxon CEO now said to be the leading pick for Secretary of State. With close business ties to Russia, is he the right pick? And a grim warning from China tonight flying nuclear- capable bombers. How dangerous is Trump's war of words with Beijing?


[19:28:27]BURNETT: New tonight, another top Republican raising red flag about Trump's likely pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. Senator James Lankford of the intelligence committee says he, too, has questions about the ExxonMobil CEO's ties to Russia. Sunlen Serfaty is "OutFront."


REX TILLERSON, CEO, EXXONMOBIL CORPORATION: We are largest American oil company, we're very global.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rex Tillerson, a career oil man on track to become the nation's chief diplomat.

TILLERSON: As someone who has spent his entire career in the energy industry.

SERFATY: Tillerson, a 64-year-old conservative Texan has no government or foreign policy experience. He has only held one job in his adult life, working for the last 40 years at Exxon. First hired as a civil engineer out of college, working his way up the corporate ladder through the international division and then rising to CEO in 2006.

TILLERSON: The belief in the promise of international engagement and in the potential for global approaches to meeting this nation's challenges.

SERFATY: At the helm of ExxonMobil, Tillerson operated at a high level internationally, negotiating on behalf of Exxon's interests with deep relationship in the Gulf and Middle East, Asia and Russia.

TRUMP: He's much more than a business executive. I mean, he's a world class player.

SERFATY: Tillerson having deep ties especially to Russia and Vladimir Putin, even receiving the Order of Friendship in 2012, a high honor bestowed to him personally from Putin.

TRUMP: To me, a great advantage is he knows many of the players and he knows them well. He does massive deals in Russia.

SERFATY: But that's seen as an asset to President-elect Trump is the problem for some on Capitol Hill.

[19:30:03] SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I have obviously concerns of reports of his relationship with Vladimir Putin who is a thug and a murderer.

SERFATY: Marco Rubio tweeting, quote, "being a friend of Vladimir is not an attribute I am hoping for from a secretary of state."

Meantime, Tillerson's views on climate change in opposition to the president he's about to serve.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We will cancel this deal so that our companies can compete.

SERFATY: Tillerson supported the Paris climate change agreement reached earlier this year, and has declared climate change a problem -- at odds with Trump.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Where are you on the environment?

TRUMP: I'm very open-minded. I'm still open-minded. Nobody really knows.

SERFATY: While Exxon spent years denying that burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change, under Tillerson's time, the company softened its stance.

REX TILLERSON, CEO, EXXONMOBIL CORPORATION: While there are a range of possible outcomes, the risk posed by rising greenhouse gas emissions could prove to be significant.

SERFATY: Outside of his work, Tillerson, a father of four, has deep lineage in the Boy Scouts of America. An Eagle Scout, himself, he served as national president in 2010 and had a big role in moving that organization forward and allowing the acceptance of gay scouts.


SERFATY: And Tillerson would be just the latest multimillionaire to potentially join the Trump administration. If you look at his salary, bonuses and stocks, he'd made more than $240 million as CEO at Exxon over the last ten years -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Sunlen, thank you.

And OUTFRONT now: David Gergen joins us, former presidential adviser for four presidents. Jeffrey Lord, Nayyera Haq, and Jamie Gangel are back.

David, let me start with you, though. You saw in Sunlen's piece, which I think really did give you a real sense of the man, his oil roots, but overseeing gays coming into the Boy Scouts, and admitting climate change. He was awarded, though, the Kremlin's order of friendship, personally, Vladimir Putin we just saw, pinned that on Rex Tillerson's jacket.

How significant is that?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's important, but I think it ought to be seen within the broader context of who he is. And what he's done in life.

This guy is a true heavyweight. He runs the third largest company in the world. He knows how to execute. And I think very, very importantly, he's been recommended by some people who command widespread respect. You know, as Bob Gates went in to see Donald Trump and said you really ought to take a look at Tillerson. Condi Rice did the same thing. He's involved in the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. They have great respect for him there.

So, I think you have to start out with the fact that people in his lane where he's been playing take him very seriously. BURNETT: Right.

GERGEN: Having said that, you have to sort of also realize he is going to be asked, and I think he can do the big things. I mean, he can handle big projects and go in and do the big negotiations. There's no question he can get things done. The question is, who is going to decide what needs to get done? And is that going to be someone who's really experienced in foreign policy as opposed to energy policy and corporate policy?

BURNETT: Right, that's where me comes from.

GERGEN: He comes short on that. He really needs a deputy to help him sort out the sort of the diplomatic niceties and that sort of thing. It would be child's play for him to deal with the White House. That's the good thing.

BURNETT: Jamie, the issue here, though, I think as David points out is establishment Republicans are not yet on board with this. They don't see this as positively. They see it as they're upset about Russia, you just heard Senator Langford saying that.

So, what are you hearing from establishment Republicans? He has to get them on board here.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. As David said, there's a disconnect here, because I cannot imagine that Bob Gates or Condi Rice would be promoting a candidate that they thought was in the tank for Vladimir Putin or Russia. I'm not -- you know, there's the expression, "keep your friends close and your enemies closer," I'm not saying Putin is an enemy, but this is someone they know.

GERGEN: Gates said Putin is a cold-blooded killer, that's his description.

GANGEL: But I spoke to a very senior former White House official who's very respected, who knows Tillerson very well and he said to me today, I think he will be a great secretary of state and that he understands the difference between being the CEO of Exxon and representing the United States of America.

BURNETT: You know, Jeffrey, I interviewed Rex Tillerson before and actually was -- it was a broad-ranging interview on ExxonMobil, but also about some of the issues of what the company at the time was doing on alternative investments, reading he was not a climate change denier, he was going ahead with that.

But the issue here, of course, is the lack of government experience.


BURNETT: It's a positive in some, but is it a positive across a cabinet?

LORD: This is, I think, speaks to the larger problem, I think it's one of the reasons why Donald Trump is where he is now. BURNETT: Yes.

LORD: It's because there was this perception out there in the world that we have developed over the decades, a political class and that the private-sector folks who basically fuel the economy were always looked down on. And so, here we have both the president and if he's picked as secretary of state, who are serious representatives -- and other members of the cabinet -- who are serious representatives of the private sector and I think that's a good thing.

[19:35:04] BURNETT: Nayyera, you got John McCain calling Vladimir Putin a thug and a murderer, not supporting Rex Tillerson. You worked at State. Could he lead the organization? Could he be the top diplomat for this country?

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN UNDER CLINTON & KERRY: He clearly knows how to be an executive. But diplomacy is about far more than executing a mission, right? There's a strategy, there's understanding nuance and unfortunately in this case, diplomacy is often about pieces of perception and indications that then become the reality.

So, the perception is he is in bed with Russia. There are not many people in D.C., political or non, or in the United States, who are considered friends of Vladimir. And when you're looking at something the State Department is negotiating right now which is a potential diplomatic deal in Syria, Russia is on the wrong side.

Russia has supported the slaughter of millions of Syrian citizens. How does somebody who is a friend of Vlad, will he be a deal-maker that advances his own interests in Russia and of corporate perspective? He certainly can do economic diplomacy. How will he do on the more strategic elements that require making hard decisions?

BURNETT: I just want everyone to know. Trump just tweeted a second ago, again, doing things the way he likes to do them that "I will be making my secretary of state announcement tomorrow morning." OK. He has tweeted that himself, Jamie. He's going to turn this away from lack of a press conference later this week, going to get the conversation of secretary of state, he'll be effected in doing that.

HAQ: Making an announcement is not necessarily getting the confirmation. We know Tillerson will probably get through the Duma just fine, getting through the Senate and getting through the Congress --

BURNETT: And, of course, the assumption is it is going do be Tillerson tomorrow morning when he makes that announcement.

Jamie, a question, though, Romney was publicly paraded, came to New York several times, the dinner, everything. Did Trump seriously consider him or is this now Trump's ultimate way of saying, you were so vile to me and I have now had my revenge?

GANGEL: I'm absolutely told that he was a very serious candidate. This was not -- BURNETT: It was the real deal.

GANGEL: It may not look good now, and it may be hard for Mitt Romney now that he doesn't get it --

BURNETT: It is hard for Mitt Romney. It's horrible for Mitt Romney.

GANGEL: He put it out there. But I've asked this question over and over, and even today when I spoke to people, they said it was completely serious, and there was some question today with Tillerson, could Romney still be in the --

BURNETT: Quick final word.

GERGEN: It may have been serious, but they also made him (INAUDIBLE)


GERGEN: You can't just avoid that.

HAQ: And being loyal is not necessarily enough, certainly not what we saw with Chris Christie. That was embarrassing also.

BURNETT: Thank you all.

And next, China sending a warning shot to Trump, nuclear-capable bombers flying. It is more than a show of force?

And Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner now house-hunting specifically in Georgetown as Trump lays out his big plans for them in the White House.


[19:41:27] BURNETT: Breaking news, China sending a warning to Donald Trump, tonight senior defense officials telling CNN for the first time, China flew nuclear-capable bombers over the South China Sea. A stunning development that happened twice. Just after President-elect Trump broke with U.S. protocol talking to the president of Taiwan, Trump now says he'll use the, quote/unquote, "One China Policy" as a bargain chip, not accepting it as a guaranteed thing at all.

Jim Sciutto is OUTFRONT.

And, Jim, it's stunning on so many levels but let's start with this. Those nuclear-capable bombers flying over the South China Sea. That is a pretty incredible show of force to Donald Trump.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It is, it's basically China saying, we have the military power to back up that enormous territorial claim which includes up in the north Taiwan as you saw there on the map, but also the South China Sea and they're doing other things. Manmade islands there that the U.S. believes they're militarizing, putting long landing strips on them.

Now, to be fair, I should say the U.S., of course, also flies planes and sails ships around these waters to express its desire to keep them open airspace, open waterways. I was on one of those spy planes last year. China pushing back against U.S. military power in the region.

BURNETT: And the thing is, though, Jim, this all comes in the context of no one has ever talked to China like this before. China doesn't have a strategy to deal with this, either.

SCIUTTO: You're right. I mean, this is unprecedented in recent memory, because this has been the policy of America, at least One China, for many decades, and Republican and Democratic administrations.

So, now, you have a new president who we see on so many fronts, domestic and foreign policy, willing to shake things up. But I'll tell you, Erin, of the things to shake up with China, and, of course, there's some benefit here for improving the relationship with Taiwan. It's a democracy, China is not. Long U.S. ties to Taiwan.

But if it's a sensitive issue, you're talking about with China, it's going to be Taiwan. I'll tell you. It's as if Hawaii seceded from the Union, right, and went to another country. That's the way China sees Taiwan and is very sensitive area for them.

BURNETT: Something that's certainly if you give, that Hawaiian analogy would be considered an act of war to China, as it would to the U.S.

Thanks so much, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

BURNETT: David Gergen is back with back with me.

I think that Hawaiian analogy from Jim is very powerful, gives people a sense in this country of how China feels.

You know, CIA director, Former CIA Director Michael Morell was on the show not long ago when there was a spy plane interaction, not even nuclear and he said, war really could be coming. We need to take this seriously.

GERGEN: It is an extraordinarily sensitive part of the world and we've had to send ships to the straits between Taiwan and China to keep them apart because it is so explosive. I don't think we're getting into a conflict right away. Certainly not any kind of military conflict but we're getting into a war of words and that can lead to serious tensions.

We're clearly heading toward a very adversarial, tense relationship and our president is going all the way back to Nixons have thought it essential in order to keep peace in that part of the world, that we have a One China Policy that recognizes or at least is supportive of Taiwan, will protect them. Given that halfway promise.

BURNETT: Yes. GERGEN: And he's really attacking that and I -- you know, you can't

help but thinking watching how this is playing out, sending the plane, the words they're using, wouldn't it make a lot of difference if he were trying to figure out what to do next as Donald Trump? To be reading your CIA briefing that tells you what's happening in China each day, that explains what's going on behind the scenes to the extent that we know it, so that you can figure out what they might do next and what you might want to do next after that to play the chess board?

[19:45:10] BURNETT: Yes, of course, as we know not receiving those.


BURNETT: Although requested, specifically North Korea, so obviously related but not just China.

Thank you so much, David Gergen.

And next, Trump's plan to put Ivanka and her husband in White House jobs. The roles that he's laying out tonight.

And it's one of the most baffling unsolved murders in recent history. JonBenet Ramsey's father speaks out with stunning new revelations tonight.


BURNETT: Tonight, we're learning Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner visited homes in the wealthy Washington neighborhood of Georgetown this weekend. Trump and Kushner moving their three children to D.C. to work side by side with the president-elect.

And in a new interview, Trump now detailing what specifically Ivanka would be doing in the White House.


TRUMP: If you look at Ivanka, you take a look and she's so strong, as you know, into the women's issue and childcare and so many things she'd be so good. Nobody could do better than her, and I just have to see whether or not we can do that and she would like to do that.


BURENTT: Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT in Washington.

And, Tom, you know, this isn't speculation, this is it. Ivanka Trump is going to be working in the White House.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This will be an absolute sensation in this town if this couple is here going to restaurants, hanging out, doing things.

[19:50:05] But it's not clear really what she's going to do. Even as he's detailing it there, as he has so many times as the president- elect, we don't have many specifics here, Erin. We don't know what her real role would be, would it be general advisory role, would she actually take the lead on things like Hillary Clinton led the way on health care, for example, would she play that role? Would it be more ceremonial?

We do know, however, that the second part of that equation may be as important as the first, Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, just like Ivanka Trump played a big role in the campaign in helping guide his sense of policy, where he was going, offering a sounding board for many, many things, and that may really be the key here. Listen what he said about Jared Kushner.


TRUMP: I'd love to have Jared helping us on deals with other nations and see if we can do peace in the Middle East and other things. He's very talented. He's a very talented guy. So, we're looking at that from a legal standpoint right now.


FOREMAN: So, Erin, as I said, it would be a big sensation here if this couple came to town and it could be that each one of home' could be a big deal for the Trump administration.

BURNETT: And, Tom, you know, earlier this month, there was a report that Ivanka Trump would make climate change one of her key issues and she has. She met with Al Gore, along with her father. Then with Leonardo DiCaprio as well as her father. I know he was with DiCaprio for 30 minutes of that 2-hour meeting.

Does this show the amount of influence she could have, and even more on the specific issues, the issues that they think could reach over to the other side? The more liberal issues?

FOREMAN: Well, the influence she's already having, Erin. Reportedly she's the one who engineered this meeting on climate change and you hit on a real key there. One of the things that Ivanka Trump did during this campaign is she reached out to women, she reached out to younger people, she connected her father with audiences that maybe he wasn't such a natural fit with. And she has shown herself to be in some ways more open to Democratic positions and she may be a bit of the diplomat working both side of the aisle here and saying, look, my father's who he is, let me help talk your issues through, let me talk to him, I'll talk to you.

Maybe that's the role. We don't know, but like with so much else with the president-elect, it's a big mystery and it's pretty interesting.

BURNETT: Right. Of course, we know there's a lot of questions delaying that press conference, maybe not having formal titles yet or having this resolved --

FOREMAN: Wait until we see moving trucks.

BURNETT: Yes. All right. Thank you very much, Tom. And next, 20 years after his daughter's mysterious death, John

Ramsey's stunning interview with Jean Casarez.


JOHN RAMSEY, JONBENET RAMSEY'S FATHER: I took the duct tape off immediately and tried to untie her hands. The knot was way too tight. I couldn't get it -- I couldn't get it loose. I couldn't do anything but scream.



[19:56:15] BURNETT: Tonight, new details on the death of JonBenet Ramsey. The 6-year-old beauty queen was found murdered in her home the day after Christmas. That was in 1996 and the murder has been unsolved for two decades. Bu now, weeks before the 20-year anniversary, Jean Casarez has a very rare interview with JonBenet's father, John Ramsey, about finding his daughter's body and the days after her death.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On New Year's Eve in their hometown, Atlanta, Georgia, the family buried JonBenet.

RAMSEY: I think it's the worst thing a human being can experience is the loss of a child.

CASAREZ: But things for John and Patsy were about to get even worse. Investigators had grown suspicious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of things didn't make sense. Why would they leave a ransom note with her body still in the house?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My first impression was that this guy wrote the Magna Carta.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will withdraw $118,000 from your account.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I were kidnapping this guy's daughter, I'd ask for a quarter million, half million, a million dollars, so the amount of money is just really odd to me.

CASAREZ: The Ramseys thought so, too.

RAMSEY: What's that mean? We looked at Psalm 118. Was that a biblical -- where did the number come from?

CASAREZ (on camera): When did it hit you the $118,000 equated to your Christmas bonus?

RAMSEY: It didn't initially. That bonus occurred a year earlier in January of '96, but it was on every pay stub that I got.

CASAREZ: Police asked the Ramseys for handwriting samples. John gave them two notepads.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These pads were pads that were kept by the telephone and each John and Patsy had their own pads.

CASAREZ: Detectives concluded the ransom note was written on pages torn out of Patsy's notepad.


BURNETT: Jean Casarez joins me now. They could literally see the imprint, right, on the notepad, and whoever did it had taken a lot of time to write that ransom note.

CASAREZ: Two and a half pages long.

BURNETT: It's pivotal.

CASAREZ: It was written to Mr. Ramsey, with a small foreign faction, "we've got your daughter, don't tell anyone or we will murder her, we will behead her, and use your brain, use your Southern charm." And remember, they were from Atlanta.

You know, I spent hours talking to John Ramsey and he said this ransom note was a hoax because it wasn't a kidnapping, it was a murder. But after that, all the authorities looked at him. They said he a good friend that was a former D.A. that came to him and said, look, the police believe you murdered your daughter, you got to get a lawyer, you get the best defense lawyer you can. He did but then they said, no, you and your wife both are the suspects.

BURNETT: And this anniversary put a spotlight back on the case. People have been looking at this again. Renewed suspicion that the family was involved, right, because we haven't gotten answers after these 20 years including JonBenet's brother who was only 9 years old at the seem.

You talked to John Ramsey, his father, JonBenet's father. What's his reaction to that?

CASAREZ: He's angry. He's angry that people are putting the spotlight on his son now. He said it's ludicrous, it's ridiculous. He was a 9-year-old child and it was a very gruesome and heinous and brutal crime that occurred. We talk about that in the documentary also.

BURNETT: All right. Well, it is incredible. I think people still have immense desire to understand what happened there. So, impossible to imagine how we still do not know what this child found in her own home and Jean's special report, CNN special report "The Murder of JonBenet" airs tomorrow night at 9:00 with Jean Casarez.

And thank you all for joining us. We appreciate your time tonight. I see you back here tomorrow.

"AC360" with Anderson Cooper begins right now.