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Trump Transition Team is In- Fighting; Reflecting on the Life of Gwen Ifill; Backlash at the Appointment of Bannon to Trump's Cabinet. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired November 15, 2016 - 06:00   ET


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: ... between the more traditional Republicans on his team like Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, the two power centers in Trump's World.


[06:00:10] The battle for appointments to President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet being called a "Knife Fight" and "Buffoonery", according to sources within his transition team. With potential picks for west wing and key national security posts drawing sharp internal disagreements.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think this week you'll hear some additional appointments.

SERFATY: But today inside Trump Tower, Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence are hunkering down reviewing the list of contenders. The positions to possibly be nailed down as early as today include Secretaries of State, Education, Commerce, and Treasury.

GLENN BECK, CONSERVATIVE RADIO SHOW HOST: He's a nightmare and he's the chief adviser to the President of the United States now.

SERFATY: This as the appointment of Steve Bannon as Trump's chief strategist continues to draw sharp rebuke, critics citing his close ties to the alt-right movement known for white nationalism and anti- Semitism.

CONWAY: I work very closely with Mr. Bannon. He's been the general of this campaign. And frankly, people should look at the full resume. I'm personally offended that you'd think I'd manage a campaign where that would be one of the billion cause. I think it was not.

SERFATY: And new concerns over conflict of interests are emerging with Trump considering seeking top security clearance for his adult children and son-in-law according to a transition team source.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll be in New York and we'll take care of the business.

SERFATY: No paperwork has been filed, but the children could have access to secure communications technology, travel schedules, and secret service procedures. Mean while, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking by phone. The two men discussing the need for joint efforts in the fight against common enemy number one, international terrorism and extremism. All this as deep domestic divisions remain, anti-Trump demonstrators protesting across the country for the sixth straight day.

CROWD: We reject the President-elect!


SERFATY: And a Trump transition adviser says it is possible that there could be some cabinet level appointments coming out today once they have made their final picks. But very clear as Trump huddles today with Mike Pence, although they are inching towards decision time, Alisyn, very clear that the final, final decisions haven't been made.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK Sunlen, thanks so much for all of that.

President Obama on his final foreign trip, Air Force One touching down in Athens, Greece just hours ago. The six-day tour also includes visits to Germany and Peru. Part of Obama's mission, reassuring allies about his successor, President-elect Trump. So let's bring in CNN's Michelle Kosinski. She's live in Athens. What's the latest Michelle?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORREPONDENT: Right. This is his final foreign trip. But before he left, we heard him for the first time speak at some length post-election. And he was asked directly; do you have concerns about a Trump presidency?


BARACK OBAMA, (D) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I don't think he's ideological. I think ultimately that he is pragmatic in that way. And that can serve him well as long as he's got good people around him and he has a clear sense of direction. Do I have concerns? Absolutely, of course I've got concerns. One of the things I advised him to do was to make sure that before he commits to certain courses of action, he's really dug in and thought through how various issues play themselves out.


KOSINSKI: The President wants to sound optimistic, but of course the elephant in the room is always, always the things the President said about Donald Trump during the campaign, including that he is unfit.

Well, the President now says, yes, there are elements of Donald Trump's personality, his temperament that won't serve him well unless he recognizes and corrects them. Recently in the meeting they had, Donald Trump did express a commitment to NATO. He said there are parts of ObamaCare that he might preserve. And President Obama thinks that he is sincere about wanting to build America. Alisyn? CAMEROTA: OK Michelle, thanks so much for all that background. Let's bring in CNN'S Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash and CNN Political Analyst and Editor-in-Chief of the "Daily Beast" John Avalon to talk about all of these. Guys, thank you so much for being here.

So Dana, let's talk about what we -- or this reportedly this infighting in terms of the top. I think it's about a division of power, right? So what will Steve Bannon be in charge of versus Reince Priebus, versus Jared Kushner who of course has had President-elect Trumps either through out all of this, do we know how all of that will be delineated?

DANA BASH, CNN CHEIF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No and I don't -- well, actually the answer I think is yes. And then it won't be delineated very much. And that's how it did work in the campaign. But running a campaign with, you know, frankly a handful of people and running an entire country or a global economy is quite different. So the way this is going to shake out is unclear.

[06:05:01] I'm not so sure that the sort of infighting if you will, is so much between those power centers as it is between those who want the jobs that are open. And it's --- that, you know, sort of the typical jockeying, but it is jockeying on steroids because these people genuinely didn't think that they would be here. I thought they would be going off on their merry way, having their lives returning to normalcy, and Hillary Clinton would be doing a transition and that's not happening.

CUOMO: I think Dana is closer on. I mean, I know it's a good headline, you know, that they're infighting in there. But it doesn't square with my reporting, or what's going on inside the Trump transition. First of all, I've been around transitions very closely, they're never not messy. But there's always a conflict, everybody trying to jockey and show their worth to the man, you know, or whoever is at the top of the administration. So there's some of that. And then there's this other thing that I don't think squares that accurately with my reporting, which is this idea of calling Bannon an outsider. Even on this network, you keep hearing well, he got the insider and Reince Priebus and he got the outsider in Bannon. Bannon is not an outsider. You just heard Glenn Beck say he's a nightmare. It seems like there's exaggeration ...

CAMEROTA: He's cool-headed ...

CUOMO: I'm not really ...

CAMEROTA: Chris said Glenn Beck ...


CAMEROTA: ... is now weighing in.


CUOMO: Well, I'm acting as character reference.

AVLON: Glenn Beck ...


CUOMO: Glenn Beck is an outsider, right? He is an ideologue ...


CUOMO: ... who has gone against his own party that he is saying, this guy is something totally outside the sphere of normal.

AVLON: Yeah.

CUOMO: I don't get the exit like it's like, you know, this reporting that, wow, they're really killing each other in there, not true. This idea that he's just a regular outsider so it's like a typical balance of influences, not true.

CAMEROTA: There's nothing typical here.

AVLON: Yeah. You know, there's nothing ...

CAMEROTA: Put that out there.

AVLON: ... normal about this election or this transition. To Dana's point, normally transitions have been methodically planned. This one was treated as an afterthought for a number of reasons. That increases the chaos. But guys ...


CUOMO: ... nothing in the house.

AVLON: No, no. Look, you know, you can call it a scrum, you can call it a "knife fight" if you want to be dramatic. What you have is a bunch of people who see unusual opportunities with massive ambition trying to curry favor while the clock ticks.

CUOMO: Right.

AVLON: Because they're big jobs that have real responsibilities, and there is no clear process by which to select those people which already been pre-baked.

CAMEROTA: OK, so let's look at some of the names that are being floated right now. So let's start with Secretary of Defense, OK. So here are the names that at least are being floated. No idea if people are interested. You have Jeff Sessions, Jim Talent, Jon Kyl, Duncan Hunter Jr., Bob Corker. What do you have Dana?

BASH: I -- Sarah Murray and I were both told by sources who are involved in this yesterday that Jeff Sessions is now much more likely to be Attorney General. That he's not ...

CAMEROTA: Than, than ...

BASH: Giuliani. CAMEROTA: ... than ...

BASH: Well, definitely than Giuliani. Because Giuliani, we were told -- Rudy Giuliani, you will appreciate this and I'm going to turn the floor but he will as soon as I said -- say this. What Rudy Giuliani wants, Rudy Giuliani is going to get and he wants Secretary of State.


BASH: But the thing about Jeff Sessions and you see there (inaudible) and the Attorney General one. I was told that people are assuming that he's going to go to the Defense Department but it's much more likely that the former U.S. attorney, former judiciary chair is going to be tapped for A.G.

CAMEROTA: Is it true that what Rudy wants, Rudy gets?

AVLON: I think Trump's been very open about the fact that Rudy was with him when other people weren't.

BASH: Yes.

AVLON: He didn't run for the exits when they all -- the "Access Hollywood" tape came down. He was loyal. He was enthusiastic. He was, you know, untiring and that creates loyalty on Trump's part too.

And I think what people don't appreciate about Rudy and I did work for him for many years when he was mayor of the city of New York, is that in the meantime while he's deeply versed in the Justice Department, he worked in Reagan's Justice Department. He was U.S. Attorney for the South District before becoming mayor. He has really spent a lot of the last 10 years traveling the world on international business. And that's really been the field that most fascinated him even with his presidential campaign, which I worked on in policy. It's the international sphere that really is fascinated Rudy Giuliani in the wake of 9/11 in a way folks might not see on the surface.

CUOMO: Now, the confusing part of this picture is he came on the show, seemed to be making a case for A.G. I was told afterwards that he was only talking in the personal context, not the professional context that if you, you know, he was -- he said, well look, if you ask me about me, I'm very qualified to be Attorney General because of all my experience. I never said I wanted it. Yeah, I just told you I was very qualified.

AVLON: That is probably objective.


BASH: And I mean the word is that he also -- not only is he interested in the policy and that the substance of what it means to be Secretary of State, that Attorney General is more about of a been there, done that, maybe beneath him.

CAMEROTA: And that's exactly ...

CUOMO: Right, and how many political heavyweights does Rudy have to put him -- does ...

CAMEROTA: Not may.

CUOMO: ... the President-elect have to put around him?

CAMEROTA: No, not many.

AVLON: Yeah, this is, you know, none of this is normal, but this transition, you know, the Romney campaign have perhaps presumptuously baked a very deep transition document. They were prepared for like, you know, business and governing.

[06:10:03] This is not been done that way so it's unusual.

BASH: The other thing is that they are trying to reach outside to your point ...


BASH: ... the very small sphere of Trump world and try to see who is willing to come in and who -- people who might not normally be Trump, you know, sort of political people ...

CAMEROTA: And how's that going?

BASH: We'll see.

CUOMO: It's also not -- it's also a weird thing when you walk into the room. You walk into the room for one of these interviews. Let's say you're Jamie Dimon, OK. I know he's got a lot on his plate but him or even Richard Hass, CFR. You walk in, hey, Reince, how you doing?


AVLON: So would ...

CUOMO: And then you look over there, and there's Steve Bannon, you know, who might as well look a big black cape on for a lot of these guys. That's a weird situation to walk in.

CAMEROTA: That was Paul Manafort with the cape.

CUOMO: You know.

AVLON: Yeah. I mean look, I mean look.

CUOMO: This had red lining on the inside. This guy's cape is all black.

AVLON: That these are -- look, these are coalitions that reflect the Trump campaign and some could argue the state of the party right now. But I mean, you know, the baggage that comes with Breitbart is unusual by any measure. And Bannon has been unabashed about trying to inherit Andrew Breitbart's mantle and really do a kind of burn down the establishment approach to politics and advocacy of nationalism. And a lot of the folks who touched around that have been -- would can be generously called advocates of white identity politics.

BASH: So yeah, the one thing ...

AVLON: That's a problem.

BASH: The one thing I will say I knew Andrew Breitbart a little bit.

AVLON: Yeah, we do.

BASH: And this is way beyond ...


BASH: ... what he wanted.

AVLON: Oh, yeah, yeah.

BASH: It's -- he didn't do any of the racially tinged ...

CUOMO: Right.

BASH: ... headlines.


AVLON: Very notably Andrew Breitbart always refused to join the birther crowd. He rejected that at the time.

CAMEROTA: That's -- it's good to know.

AVLON: That's important to remember.

CAMEROTA: All right, guys stick around, we have many more questions for you.

CUOMO: President Obama answering questions himself. Actually, for like the first time since the election. He provided some details and insight into the meeting with Donald Trump. He'll tell you what he's saying about the president-elect's controversial appointment of Steve Bannon, next.


[06:15:42] CUOMO: So, President Obama has a tricky task. His side lost the election, yet now as president of the United States, he has to go and tell people everything is going to be OK. So, he's on this like farewell international tour, Greece, Germany, Peru.

But before taking off, President Obama did hold his first press conference since President-elect Donald Trump's in store an unexpected win last week. And he talked about the election and what he sees as the next president's likelihood of success.


OBAMA: Campaigning is different from governing. I think he recognizes that. I think he's sincere and wanting to be a successful president and moving this country forward. And I think any president ever comes in saying themselves, I want to figure out how to make people angry or alienate half the country.


CUOMO: Let's dig into what he said with our political panel, Dana Bash and John Avlon.

Dana, saying that someone is not ideological but pragmatic is often a nice way of saying something that's not so nice. Which is, this person doesn't really believe anything so we'll have to see what they get done.

BASH: That's true but I think in this case, my read of what President Obama said was that he actually has it in him to do -- to get some stuff done. As long as he's got people around him who can guide him to do that. And as long as he pays attention to some of the things that, you know, this -- I think this is what he was trying to say, some of the things in my agenda, my President Obama's agenda that people actually liked.

My sort of broader takeaway from what President Obama was doing was to me, it was as if when he declined so many times to bite on Steve Bannon or, you know, anything else about what he said about Donald Trump before the election was this is how you do it. It was almost as if he was sending a signal to Donald Trump. That was campaigning and this is governing and there's a difference. And this is how you act. This is how you purport yourself.

CAMEROTA: That's really a helpful analysis because there are so many people who dislike Trump, so many of Hillary Clinton's supporters who are like, what's happening? How could the president have gone, you know, in the space of 24 hours from saying this man's a danger, he's unfit, to now saying like I think that he' going to do very well. And people -- its cognitive dissonance for people. They don't speak Washington speak.

AVLON: Yeah -- well, I think they also fundamentally misunderstand the responsibilities of being president. You know there's a higher form of patriotism. And that's enshrined ...


AVLON: ... by the peaceful transfer of power. And there is campaigning and the personal views that that the president may have. But this is professional. This is about the country. And look, saying that someone is not an ideologue but pragmatic I think is a compliment to the extent that it's the half -- (inaudible) full view of Trump. But, this is Donald the deal maker. And now, that the election is over, he's going to try to unite the nation because he has to. He has unified control of the government. And that maybe he will be more pragmatic because he doesn't come from an ideological background folks.

CAMEROTA: Yup. AVLON: Let's be real clear about that. And that may create opportunities for different kind of coalition building.

CUOMO: All depends on what the stuff is Dana. You said, you know, I think the president is suggesting that he can get some stuff done. If that stuff is repealing ObamaCare just to show that he got his success ...

BASH: Right.

CUOMO: ... that's not stuff that I think Obama will be calling positive pragmatism.

BASH: No, I absolutely agree with you on that. I think that he's resigned to the fact that for, you know, ever since ObamaCare was enacted into law in 2009 and 1'0, he realized that the Republicans made it their mission to repeal it, and now they have full control of the Congress. They have a Republican in the White House and some of that is going to happen. But, there are other issues where he clearly was reassured by Donald Trump. I'm going to go out on a crazy limb here.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

CAMEROTA: Go for it.

BASH: OK. I think that it is possible that Donald Trump, after he, you know, get some wins with the conservatives by putting a conservative on the court, maybe dealing with ObamaCare. He can be a person who can do immigration reform. He can do -- he can actually -- not only just do immigration reform, maybe not one a big package and we are talking about this yesterday but ultimately have a path to citizenship because ...

[06:20:04] AVLON: Only Nixon can go to China.

BASH: ... the only -- right, the only reason -- the main reason why Republican leaders couldn't do that before is because the base would have gone crazy.

AVLON: Right.

BASH: He is the guy -- he's the one guy at this point who they trust.

AVLON: Only Nixon can go to China and that's a strategic position of strength for Trump to be in. He's got the base. He may be best positioned, ironically, to build up beyond it. So, you know, it'll be fascinating to see if that's the direction he goes.

But as you're also figuring out, some of this unentangling is more difficult. As practical matter when you beyond the politics, you know, he take away pre-existing conditions which he said he would try to keep but ObamaCare. That has a cascading effect that hurts people.

BASH: Right.

AVLON: And that's not his intention either. So, he's going to be walking that line, trying to make sure ...

BASH: Right.

AVLON: ... the conservatives get what he wants to deliver, but he's got an opportunity ...

BASH: Exactly.

AVLON: ... I think to reshuffle the deck.

CUOMO: I mean, you hear more and more from his people, I don't think healthcare, I don't think this is going to be the mirror image of what we saw within President-elect Obama and early President Obama which is this is my signature move, I'm going to do it. I think that undoing this healthcare plan, no matter how you feel about it, is so onerous. He can't get it done quickly. You need an hour both lead time -- a year lead time ...


CUOMO: ... just for the contracts to cancel ...


CUOMO: ... that people are signing right now so, you won't get a quick win. You're going to have a lot of people who may be, you know, hurt by this. I don't think it's on the top of the list. I think they'll announce it but won't work on it actively. They'll work on other things that they can get done again, checking the box ...

AVLON: I think it will be jobs. He's going to be though. He's going to ...


AVLON: ... do infrastructure ...

CUOMO: Regulation.

AVLON: ... at a major level that we've never seen before. And that should have ...

CUOMO: Stripping regulations, executive orders where he strips away regulations.

AVLON: Absolutely. But here's what the other interesting thing was, the president said that Donald Trump and he wasn't as focused on NATO, I'm withdrawing from NATO as he had been during ...

CAMEROTA: Oh no. I think he was focused on making it a robust relationship, maintaining it.

AVLON: Right. But, you know, that would contradict things that Donald Trump has written in books as far back as 2000. But that would also be sort of recognition of reality.

CUOMO: His caveat that he says I'm good with NATO, they just have to pay more.


CUOMO: Right.

AVLON: And look, maybes' that's a negotiating position. We'll see if Donald the deal maker step in and readjust the -- but, at the time when the president is in Greece, he's going to be giving a speech about global populism and then so they the lack of trust in international institutions which we're seeing right now. That's it -- that is one of the high stakes questions that too often we don't -- do not discuss in the United States because it seems foreign to us, but its core (ph) to the structure.

BASH: And you talked about the fact that President Obama is, you know, he just touched down in Greece. Can we just wrap our minds around the fact that President Obama is effectively an ambassador right now for President-elect Trump to try to calm -- I mean, that's what he is because his job is to calm people down around the world. That's what he's going to be doing.

CUOMO: And what a tough job that is. We talked about opposite world. You have to go to Greece to calm them down about what we might mean to them. You know, that sink hole of international funds.

AVLON: I don't know.

CAMEROTA: It strange bedfellows that have been created by all of this. Thank you for helping walk us through all to of these guys. Great to talk to you.

BASH: Thank you.

BASH: So, she broke down barriers for women and African Americans. We will remember the life and legacy of Gwen Ifill one day after her shocking death, ahead on "New Day."


[06:27:03] CAMEROTA: Courage, fairness, and integrity, some of the words being used to remember Gwen Ifill, a late journalist whose historic career spanned three decades. She quickly became a pioneer for women and African-Americans, shattering both gender and racial barriers.


GWEN IFILL, LATE CNN JOURNALIST: Judy and I will be bringing you the news and analysis you've come to trust.

CAMEROTA: Ground breaking, history making, role model, Gwen Ifill was a veteran journalist, best known for co-anchoring "PBS News Hour."

JUDY WOODRUFF, CO-ANCHOR, PBS "NEWSHOUR": She was a super nova in a profession loaded with smart and talented people. CAMEROTA: Her career included stints at "The Washington Post," "The New York Times," NBC News and PBS. Ifill, a pioneer for women and African-Americans in journalism.

IFILL: Let me turn this on its head because when we talk about race in this country, we always talk about African-Americans, people of color. I want to talk to you about white people.

CAMEROTA: Becoming the first African-American woman to host a major political talk show as moderator. PBS' "Washington Weekend Review" in 1999.

IFILL: I'm Gwen Ifill of the "NewsHour" and "Washington Week" on PBS.

CAMEROTA: And in 2013, once again making history, co-anchoring "NewsHour" with Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Good evening, I'm Judy Woodruff.

IFILL: And I'm Gwen Ifill. Those are just ...

CAMEROTA: The two women, the first to jointly lead a national nightly news broadcast. Ifill taking on the challenge of moderating two vice presidential debates and at 2016 Democratic primary debate.

OBAMA: She'll not only inform today's citizens, but she also inspired tomorrow's journalists.

CAMEROTA: While covering this year's presidential election, Ifill was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. She chose to keep that diagnosis private. She was 61 years old.


CUOMO: Such a, such a -- so much packed (ph) into such a short life.

CAMEROTA: I know and it is so shocking for us. And obviously, not her loved ones who knew about this but for people who didn't know that she was battling cancer, to hear of her death, it was just so sudden to us.

CUOMO: How she handled it also I think is probably a little emblematic of how she did her job. She never made the news about her in any way. And she was suffering with a really hard form of cancer. She only took time when she had to. And she came back after treatment and interviewed the president of the United States. That takes a lot of gumption.


CUOMO: It really does. Wow. Our best to her friends and family.

All right, we're going to take a quick break here. House democrats, they are calling on Donald Trump to rescind his latest appointment to the White House, Steve Bannon. Why? What is it about Steve Bannon that is a legitimate concern, and what is just political hype? We're going to talk to a man who knows and worked with Bannon well, next.