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Trump Proclaims Transition 'Organized' Despite Reports; Senator Harry Reid has a Strong Message for Donald Trump. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired November 16, 2016 - 06:00   ET



MIKE ROGERS, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: There is some confusion going around about a change of command.

[05:58:27] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Power struggle at Trump Tower.

REP. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Want to have a diplomat in charge of diplomacy. We don't want a bomb thrower.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: It would be an honor to serve the country again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there anybody else?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Jared Kushner behind the transition trouble?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president is going to be judged on the results of this administration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump needs to banish the Bannons of this world from his administration


GLENN BECK, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: The alt-right is real. It is truly terrifying.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, November 16, 6 a.m. in the east. Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow is back with me. Thanks for coming in again.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, my friend.

CUOMO: Always a pleasure. Up first, all right. So not a single new hire by Donald Trump, but the pink slips are piling up. At least four members of the president-elect's transition team have already been shown the door. Questions: is this transition team troubled? Is Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, rubbing some allies the wrong way? We have new insight into the real deal and what this transition means for how Trump may govern.

HARLOW: Meanwhile, the president-elect went to dinner last night at a pretty nice New York restaurant. But guess who didn't go? The press. This is the second time since the election he has broken precedent with the press, leaning to pointed criticism from journalists. Why should you care? We have it all covered this morning, especially Trump transition, starting with Sunlen Serfaty outside of Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Good morning.


This continues to be a rocky transition for President-elect Donald Trump. Among those who are out of this transition, former congressman and CNN contributor Mike Rogers, who was a leading national security voice on the transition team, but he was aligned to former transition leader, Chris Christie.

But amid all of this, top transition officials are pushing back hard, insisting that they're not in disarray.


SERFATY (voice-over): President-elect Donald Trump's transition team continues to turn over, now purging key members of their staff.

ROGERS: Sometimes in politics there are people who are in and people who are out.

SERFATY: Multiple sources saying Trump's son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, is at the center of the in-fighting and trying to oust all Chris Christie associates from the team.

ROGERS: The people who have been asked to move on have some relationship with Chris Christie. In my case, I was hired by him. And so there's a whole series of about five of them that fit that criteria that were asked to leave in the last few days.

SERFATY: Kushner has a complicated history with Christie. His father, Charles, a real-estate developer, spending a year in jail after being prosecuted by Christie, then a U.S. attorney in 2004, for tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign contributions.

But a high-ranking Trump insider is dismissing reports of infighting and says the purge of Christie loyalists is being mischaracterized.

Trump, too, is pushing back, defending the transition as "very organized process taking place as I decide on cabinet and many other positions. I am the only one who knows who the finalists are."

Meanwhile, a source with close knowledge of the transition says that Kushner could likely end up with a top national security clearance as a key adviser to Trump, fueling concerns over nepotism and a potential conflict of interest as Kushner's wife, Ivanka, will manage Trump's empire. And as the waiting game continues over key cabinet slots, a potential

roadblock for one of Trump's top contenders for secretary of state, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. According to transition sources, Giuliani's lucrative consulting firm is being looked over by Trump's transition team, to whether his business ties with several foreign governments would complicate his confirmation.

PAUL: Well, I think it is worrisome some of the ties to foreign governments, because that was a big complaint about many of us with Hillary Clinton.

SERFATY: Meantime, Donald Trump breaking protocol, again, as president-elect. Ditching his press pool of reporters, slipping out for a late-night steak dinner with his family Tuesday.


SERFATY: And traditionally, a president-elect's protective press pool goes everywhere he goes, and it's not only a matter of media access here. It's a matter of national security. If something were to happen to the president-elect.

And in Donald Trump's case there still is not a true and formal protective press pool set up, Poppy and Chris, and the transition press folks are saying that they just simply did not know he was going out to dinner, and that's why they did not notify the press.

CUOMO: All right. And this is an interesting question, why that matters, the press pool. Do they always have to be with the president? Doesn't he have security? This isn't about security. We're going to take you through it.

Let's bring in Bloomberg Politics national political reporter Jen Jacobs; CNN political analyst and "New York times" political correspondent Patrick Healy; and CNN political analyst and Real Clear Politics national political reporter Rebecca Berg.

OK. So let's talk about the transition, all right, first and what our best sources say. Patrick Healy, what are you hearing that would give you a strong suggestion that what's going on inside this transition is materially different in a negative way from what we usually see?

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. So, in 1992, you had Hillary Clinton playing a very, very strong role with Bill Clinton. She wanted to vet staff. She wanted to look at possible appointees.

In 2008, you had Barack Obama, who did not make any major appointment announcements for about three weeks. He had his Senate staff. He had Jim Messina He had people like Rahm Emanuel who were already around him, built in, who were ready to take over, and but he didn't appoint Tim Geitner (ph) and Larry Summers for three weeks after election day.

CUOMO: So is this different?

HEALY: This is different in the sense that Donald Trump doesn't have a Senate staff or people who've been in government to be a kitchen cabinet. What he has is Jared Kushner, who is making, you know, his presence, his power felt, even more strongly than he did during the campaign. Donald Trump trusts Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner more than anyone else in that circle. And they're -- and they're sort of leading it.

HARLOW: And when he listened to them during the campaign, it worked. Things like the V.P. pick and Mike Pence and more traditional things.

HEALY: Right. And bringing in -- pushing out sort of Corey, pushing out Paul Manafort.

HARLOW: Yes. But now what's happening is they're pushing out the Christie sort of sector. Right, Jen? I mean, Jared Kushner has a very long, complicated family feud spat, more than that, really, with Chris Christie because, you know, more than ten years ago he was the attorney who prosecuted Jared Kushner's dad for a number of things. And that is bad...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... for a two-year prison sentence.

CUOMO: Got him convicted.

HARLOW: Yes, exactly. Got him convicted. That is bad blood, to say the least. So, I wonder how much you think that is actually playing in or should we listen to Eliot Cohen, State Department official under George W. Bush. He tweeted this. This is from a conservative: "After exchange with Trump transition team, changed my recommendations. Stay away, they're angry, arrogant, screaming, 'You lost.' Will be ugly." And then he went on to say they think of these jobs as lollipops. I think we're on the verge of a crisis.

JEN JACOBS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: Yes. He had a lot to say on Twitter yesterday. Yes, so, I was told by my sources that the friction between Jared Kushner and Chris Christie is real. It's something that's perceived amongst the staff. And they're very loyal to Jared, and they want to protect him.

There was also some reports that perhaps the Christie people had not gotten as much work done as Donald Trump wished, had not progressed as far as they wanted, and he's a results-based manager; and therefore, he was going to let people go if they didn't produce the results they wanted. So Mike Rogers was perceived as a Chris Christie guy. He was fired. He was called the day before yesterday and told, "I'm sorry." And we do understand that he was one of the Christie firings. So there's definitely a purge going on.

CUOMO: The question becomes why, though. Right? The president-elect himself is tweeting to kind of assuage any fears about this, saying that, you know, this is fine.

HARLOW: Totally normal.

CUOMO: Basically, this is going on; it's organized. It's fine.

So let's take a step back and see if we can thread through all this different reporting and get a little bit of a tapestry of truth out of it, Rebecca Berg.

What matters most in terms of politics, in terms of having people around you? Is it confidence? No, it's loyalty. Right? That's what you need to have. That's why Christie was there in the first place. Because he was an early manifestation of it. But doesn't it stand to reason that if you have your son-in-law who you've known a long time, you love very much. You trust, and you respect.

OK, he's going to be the main guy, because loyalty is the main priority. And everything flows from that. And Kushner has to be given loyalty to reinforce his loyalty, which means he can't have the guy who put his daddy in jail right next to him. He swallowed it for a while, but now it's about asserting himself and letting him show who he really is so that Donald Trump doesn't have to make every hard decision. Does that make sense?

BERG: It absolutely makes sense. I was speaking with Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary under Bush, who also worked on his transition team and they asked him, you know, what should be the balance here of outsiders versus loyal insiders in the Trump transition team and in his administration moving forward.

Ari Fleischer said the same thing you said, Chris, which is that loyalty is paramount. You need people who you can trust. You need people who support your ideas, support your priorities, and that's exactly what we're seeing right now from Trump's transition team. By the same token, you know, why didn't they work these things out during, you know, the early stages of the transition? Why was Chris Christie put in charge of this transition from the beginning if he didn't have that trust from Kushner...

HARLOW: Because of what we learned from the CNN book that's coming out, that scoop this week that Christie, that Donald Trump said, you know, "I'm not going to make it past October. So Christie, I'll get behind you." And then, well, Donald Trump made it. And then Christie was the first to get behind Donald Trump. Again, to Chris's point of loyalty.

BERG: So they are in territory they didn't expect to be in. They didn't expect they would actually need to go...

HEALY: Just one Trump adviser said to me, remember the relationship to watch, the relationship that has always been there is the one between Jared Kushner and Mike Pence. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump wanted Mike Pence to be vice president. They did not want Newt Gingrich; they did not want Chris Christie. They went out to Indiana. They pushed for him. You had to have Mike Pence running for vice president in September and October. He couldn't be plotting a transition. This is very much a Kushner/Pence relationship that you're seeing.

CUOMO: Right. But you also have to remember, Christie made a lot of sense, because he's an executive. He's a governor. He knows how to run things. He knows how to manage people. Donald Trump is suffering from noting having a built-in infrastructure around him. It's not how the Trump Organization works. There is no big Trump organization when you go there. And he now has to do it on the fly. But also, you have to look at some of these pink slips for what they are. Donald Trump didn't know, I am told, that they were having a lot of these insider types larded on in the beginning.

HARLOW: And then Leslie Stahl asked him about it on "60 Minutes."

CUOMO: I think he gave the answer to Leslie Stahl that he was given when he asked about it. Like, I'm trying to drain the swamp, and you're putting alligators into my organization.

HARLOW: Who are you calling alligators, Cuomo?

CUOMO: Are you a lobbyist? There you go. So that he was told, this is all we have. He wants out. Kushner is the guy to do it. When you are the guy, who is in the position, man or woman, to tell people to leave, you're going to get trash talked. It's just a matter of time. We're seeing

Everyone stay with us. We're going to take a quick break. Democrats ramping up criticism of Steve Bannon as Donald Trump's chief White House strategist, conservatives, as well.

[06:10:08] Outgoing Senator Harry Reid leading that charge. Listen to what he said on the floor of the House, straight ahead.



SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: If Trump is serious about seeking unity, the first thing you should do is rescind his appointment of Steve Bannon. As long as a champion of racial division is a step away from the Oval Office, it will be impossible to take Trump's efforts to heal the nation seriously.


HARLOW: Senator Harry Reid with a strong message that you just heard to Donald Trump, calling on the president-elect to push controversial Breitbart editor Steve Bannon out of his administration. He joins dozens of Democrats speaking out against the controversial appointment, but not just Democrats, conservatives, too.

Let's bring back in our panel: Jennifer Jacobs, Patrick Healy, Rebecca Berg. And guys, yes, of course, Democrats are in opposition to this, but so are a number of conservatives. You heard it on this show; you heard it across the network.

Let's listen to Glenn Beck with Anderson.


BECK: I want to quote: "Bannon said that Breitbart is a platform for the alt-right." I want to make sure that everybody understands that the alt-right is real. It is truly terrifying, in my opinion. And this message about the alt-right must be heard by the conservatives. They must take it seriously. Separate and apart from any kind of politics.


[06:15:19] HARLOW: He says you have to take this seriously. America is not taking it seriously. That's his -- that's his position on this. Patrick Healy, you know, there's no chance Donald Trump is going to get rid of Bannon.

HEALY: No, I mean, Bannon was not only, as Kellyanne Conway said, sort of like the general of their campaign, but Donald Trump is someone who likes to have people talk in a real world way. He doesn't want to be brought, you know, seven-point policy plans. He doesn't want to have sort of long, you know, seminars about how to, you know, get this trade deal done or how should I talk to, you know, Great Britain? He wants to get that person just on the phone, you know, on the fly, as we've been seeing this week. He likes what Bannon brings. He feels like Bannon is his sort of direct link to the base of the Republican Party, or at least the base of the Trump, you know, part of the Republican Party.

And Democrats have been coming at him with a lot of fire. It's not something that is ever to sort of dust up Trump. and I think what you're seeing, though...

HARLOW: If anything, it would make him dig his heels in.

HEALY: Right, right.

HARLOW: This is the guy, and I'm going to show you why.

HEALY: Exactly. But what Democrats are facing is that they're seeing President Obama trying to kind of keep the peace to some extent and kind of say the right things and be kind of a voice for moral authority, but you're getting people like Tim Kaine and Harry Reid, who are really starting to say the words that the left really wants said. They want white supremacists. They want white nationalists. They want anti-Semite and, you know, that language is just sort of intensifying.

CUOMO: Right. But you've got to be careful you're not throwing ugly language around for political effect. I mean, Jennifer, do you think that the dynamic here with Bannon is the same one with Kushner, which is if it works for Trump and if somebody else can take the heat instead of Trump, then it's a net positive. Right? Because at the end of the day, the president-electwants to be insulated from criticism, go after Bannon, go after Kushner. "You're not going after me."

JACOBS: Eventually, Bannon is going to be the behind-the-scenes strategy guy, and it's going to be Reince Priebus who's running the day-to-day operations and is really going to be the face of that administration, working with Congress and going down, you know, to Capitol Hill and actually getting out there and talking to people.

Bannon is going to be, you know, I think lesser seen. He doesn't do interviews. He's not out there very much. But you know how Trump talks about chemistry, and he thinks he has a really strong chemistry with Bannon and they have a very strong trust. He likes Bannon's ideas.

CUOMO: That's the scary part.

JACOBS: Well, that's true. Although, you know, if you ask Bannon's closest friends and allies, and I've come right out and said, "Is he a white nationalist? Do you think he's racist?" And they have said no.

CUOMO: Why would his close friends and allies tell you that he's a racist or a white nationalist?

JACOBS: He oversaw Breitbart, which I mean, we don't have to go through all the headlines again. We know what they are, and those -- the path was right through him.

HEALY: Right. But when you ask people, even friends, it's interesting to hear their responses. I mean, talking to one guy who has known Steve Bannon for a lot of years, you know, they'll start sort of trying to explain the difference between Breitbart and Bannon, for instance. And how, you know, he doesn't write the headlines. You know, let him off the hook.

HARLOW: In his words, this is a platform for the alt-right.

HEALY: Right. No, no, no. I'm just saying that, you know, I think to some degree there is an effort to not answer the questions directly, you know, sometimes.

CUOMO: Right. The question becomes, Rebecca Berg, does that make it better or worse? You know, if you are an authentic whatever, that's one thing. But if Bannon's friends could say, "He's not that bad a guy. But you allow yourself to motivate that type of negativity coming out of a place like Breitbart. Does it make it different in the final analysis?"

BERG: Right. And so I think he's going to have a lot to prove in his new role in the White House, and Trump will have a lot to prove by extension that they're not trying to stir up these sentiments.

But it's hard, because the crux of the Trump message is a nationalist message. And with that comes a lot of this sort of racist baggage, and I don't know how they separate that moving forward.

HARLOW: So then the question becomes, who else will he surround yourself with -- himself with? If you are who you are friends with and who you surround yourself with. This is the ultimate test who will make up their team. You've got some really interesting reporting on Ted Cruz, who was in Manhattan, a few blocks from here. Did go into Trump Tower yesterday. His team says, "No, no, no-no. This is just a normal meeting. Doesn't want to be attorney general, doesn't want to be a Supreme Court justice," and you say?

JACOBS: Well, they legitimately went, thinking it was going to be a talk about the Senate and the conservative movement and how they could make a difference. It was an audition. And after he left, the inner circle was debating whether Ted Cruz would make a good attorney general.

CUOMO: What do you think? What are you hearing in terms of the plus minuses?

JACOBS: I did not hear that part. All I know is that they were discussing it. And of course, there are other people who have their eye on it. You know, my understanding is that Jeff Sessions would like it, and Sessions is gold within the Trump camp. He's also another loyalist. It's my understanding that Trump would pretty much give him any position he wants.

HARLOW: First senator, first sitting senator to come out, Giuliani. Lot of baggage there. He railed Hillary Clinton throughout the campaign for the Clinton Foundation, pay for play. Look at this, she' crooked because of this.

He's got a lot of business ties to the Middle East, to Qatar the work that his former law firm did with Citgo, a U.S.-based subsidiary of the Venezuelan oil conglomerate. How could he shake that if he wants to be secretary of state or A.G.?

BERG: It's going to be difficult. I mean, it's not just the public perception here, but we're talking about Senate confirmation, and Senator Rand Paul came out yesterday and said that he would not feel comfortable with Giuliani or with former Ambassador John Bolton, who is also in the mix for secretary of state.

So, one problem with the way this transition process is moving forward is that Trump's team doesn't really have a handle, doesn't really have control of the message right now. Isn't presenting these potential nominees in any sort of deliberate way.

And so they're just kind of dangling them out there for us to vet in the public sphere before they really know what their message is, know what their push is going to be for any of these potential nominees.

So if Rudy Giuliani is going to be their pick, they should have come out and been proactive about this and made the sale to Republicans so that Republicans were out talking about all the great qualities that Rudy Giuliani has to offer. They haven't done that. We're kind of moving in reverse order here with this, in many ways.

HEALY: In 2008, you know, the economy was melting down. And Obama went to Tim Geitner (ph) and Larry Summers, who were seen as kind of the architects of a lot of the economic problems, and you know, he was able to get them through. You know, the Republicans have -- have that majority. I think Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump will get what they want.

I would just say really quickly, it's just so striking how many white men we're talking about. And who is the first woman appointee going to be? Who's the first African-American?

HARLOW: When he announced his economic team it was on my show. I remember saying, "There are 13 white men here," and then they came out with some women. CUOMO: But that's part -- that's part of what this election is about

also. Is that, you know, you'll hear women who support him saying, "You guys are all P.C. with wanting to see women faces. We just care about ideas of people."

So, all right. So thank you very much to all of you.

There are new intelligence reports to tell you about that suggest the leader of ISIS may be hiding in northern Iraq, Abu al Baghdadi. Can he be captured, especially while you have this ongoing struggle to liberate Mosul? Is that worth the distraction from freeing that city? We have a report with the realities from the front lines next.