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Reports of Disorganization in Trump's Transition Team Surface; Interview with Congressman Chris Collins. Aired 8-830a ET

Aired November 16, 2016 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] MIKE ROGERS, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Sometimes in politics there are people who are in and people who are out.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT Y: Multiple sources saying Trump's son-in-law and close adviser Jared Kushner is at the center of the infighting in 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 a "very organized process taking place as I decide on cabinet in 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.


SERFATY: 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.

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: 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 president-elect Donald Trump continues his tweet storm this morning, now going over -- after specific media outlets over their coverage of his turbulent transition time. Trump tweeting just a moment ago, quote, "The failing "New York Times" story is so totally wrong on transition. It is going so smoothly. Also, I have spoken to many foreign leaders." And Chris that was of course in reference to "The New York Times" reporting that many foreign governments and foreign leaders were having trouble getting through to Donald Trump on the phone and they were in essence cold calling Trump Tower hoping to get through.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The president-elect, Sunlen, said he would use Twitter very sparingly if at all. He's been tweeting all morning in response to what's on the morning shows.

Let's take a look at that. We're going to get a nice window into the inner workings of the Trump transition team from Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York. He was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president. He's just been named congressional liaison to the Trump transition team. Always good to see you, congressman. Hopefully it doesn't change my access to you now that you're going to be the liaison. Hopefully you'll still have time for us. What will you do in this position? Why does it matter to you?

REP. CHRIS COLLINS, (R) NEW YORK: I'm always going to have time for you, Chris. You don't need to worry about that.

CUOMO: Thank you, sir.

COLLINS: Very honored to be asked by Speaker Ryan to be the congressional liaison to the transition team, and, really, as you can imagine, our leadership, Speaker Ryan, Leader McCarthy, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, are very busy on a legislative agenda, the first 100 days, and this is a coordinating this with the Trump team. That's something I'm not involved in, but it's the strategy that goes behind how are we going to roll out in the first 100 days and how are we going to work through the lame duck session to make sure everything is set up.

In the meanwhile, you know, we have all these members of congress, they're getting deluged with calls and resumes and people saying, I'd like to be part of this movement. This is a moment in time. I want to be part of it. How do I get my resume in? Who, you know -- who do I talk to? So, Speaker Ryan decided it would be a good idea to have a point person, that's now me, to coordinate this with all the members and to make sure that, you know, we're getting these people in to the transition team, slotted where they want to be, to get the proper vetting --

CUOMO: Right.

COLLINS: -- and things of this sort. So it's -- I've got a very, nitty-gritty kind of job, of making sure that the train is running smoothly from the transition side in the House, and that we're getting people feedback. They hate that black hole. I sent it in. What's happening? Is somebody looking at it? Did I fill in all the things I'm supposed to? That's an interface we can play with Rick Dearborn, the executive director, just to make sure people know if they're looking to get a job, they're being considered, their application's in, it's filled out.

CUOMO: Got you.

COLLINS: We'll get back to you.

[08:05:05] CUOMO: So you gave me a partial answer to my next question. Let me give it to you in a different context. You know what the reporting is, that there's unusual chaos inside the transition team, that people aren't getting vetted, that Jared Kushner's stirring up a lot of trouble with a lot of the establishment types. What are you witnessing inside of the transition? What can you speak to?

COLLINS: I would say it's just the opposite. You know, the election was only a week ago and I suppose in a 24-hour news cycle people are looking for little tidbits of anything. But as you can imagine, this is a very complicated process. And -- and Chris Christie was replaced by vice president-elect Pence to be in charge of the transition effort. So whenever something like that would happen you'd expect --

CUOMO: Sure --

COLLINS: -- a very normal transfer of some of the responsibilities to people. I can tell you at least from my interaction, I don't see this disarray people are talking about. In fact, it's getting stronger and tighter when it comes to now starting to, you know, once we got our chief of staff and chief strategist position --

CUOMO: Why do you --

COLLINS: I think things are working just fine.

CUOMO: All right, good to hear the perspective on that. Why do you think Chris Christie got swapped out? Is it the talk about how it was about the personality conflict with the son-in-law because of the prosecution and conviction of the son-in-law's father? Or is it just because Christie they felt resembled a little bit of an ethical issue because of the bridge-gate thing, they wanted him away? What was it?

COLLINS: Well, I can't tell you, and obviously I was not part of that decision. I just think I would point to president-elect Mike Pence, and he's going to be the vice president. And when you look at him being in charge of the transition team, that makes the most sense of anything. So now that the election has occurred Mike Pence is the vice president-elect. I just think that was a very normal slot for him. Any of the other issues you're talking about, certainly something I don't know anything about.

CUOMO: Mike Rogers was seen as a Christie guy but he's also a Pence guy. They were in Congress at the same time, starting out, he'd just gotten great e-mail from the vice president Mike Rogers says. He gets taken off. There's a suggestion it's because, well, maybe it's not because he was a Christie guy, but, they didn't like that he was in charge of an investigation of Clinton that showed no wrongdoing in Benghazi.

COLLINS: Well, again, that's I think somebody looking for a link that I really also don't believe is there. I think any time you have a team, and certainly Mike Pence has a team with Rick Dearborn, the day- to-day, you're just going to make sure that you have the people that you have faith in for different spots and at some point in time. There could be a personality issue or otherwise. But I think again people are reading more into this than there is. So, you know --

CUOMO: I like the shrug of his shoulders. Congressman sometimes the body language says more than anything that comes out in words.

Rudy Giuliani was up for A.G. and speculation, now we're hearing as secretary of state. There's pushback on the reporting on the Democrat said saying that he should be painted with the same brush that he painted Hillary Clinton with about conflicts of interest. Do you believe that Rudy Giuliani would be a tough sell to the Republicans as secretary of state?

COLLINS: I'll just say I hope not. With everything that Rudy Giuliani has done in his life, in his contacts, and what we know of Rudy Giuliani, he would be a fabulous cabinet-level official. And at some point I hope he's nominated for one of these positions. It's the Senate's role then to confirm, or I suppose not confirm that individual. I would -- I would be, frankly, very surprised, Chris, if a Republican Senate does stand in the way of any of president Trump's cabinet officials. I mean, we'd have to wait and see.

CUOMO: Right.

COLLINS: But it's the job of the president to pick his advisers and his cabinet officials that he's most comfortable with, and I, for one, would hope Rudy Giuliani is in one of those positions.

CUOMO: The calculus is a little different. I mean, obviously you have the majority, but it's 52-48. So it gets a little bit more dicey, but we'll have to take a wait and see on that.

Last question for you today, congressman. Donald Trump, you had said that the office will mold the man somewhat, that he is realizing the gravity of the position and what it is to be president versus an insurgent trying to be president. The tweets, he said he was going to lay off on it, that it was beneath the office, he'd use it sparingly. He's all over Twitter this morning taking shots at the "New York Times," trying to correct things that are in the media. Do you think that this is a healthy way for him to govern going forward?

[08:10:01] COLLINS: Well, I can tell you this, the pressure that has got to be on president-elect Trump is immense. The enormity of the job ahead of him, and so I would have to say if this is his way of relaxing, God bless him.

CUOMO: Relaxing?

COLLINS: Absolutely. If this is what he has some fun with and he finds this relaxing and his entertainment, let him go with it.

CUOMO: Even if it's him putting a wedge between him and the media trying to get people to believe that the media is illegitimate with its reporting? You really think that's a good time?

COLLINS: At this point in time we would. I know the pressures are on an individual walking in to a role that Donald Trump is going to be having, I would not second-guess anything he's doing that he would use to make himself call it unwinding, relaxing, and I think that's part of it. It's Donald Trump being Donald Trump. You don't want this stuff all bottled up. So frankly I don't have a problem with this in the least. I think America actually wants to continue to see a real human being in the White House. And I put this in to the -- you know, this is his way of unwinding, and taking some stress off. So I think it's a good thing.

CUOMO: A generous assessment by any definition. Congressman Collins, congratulations on the appointment. Look forward to talking to you about what matters here on NEW DAY going forward. Be well.

COLLINS: Very good. Nice to be with you, Chris.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We're following breaking news this morning in Florida where two trains have collided. You're looking at live pictures out of Citra, Florida. More than 20 cars have overturned, 4,000 gallons of fuel leaking right now. There are two reports of injuries at this time, looks like minor injuries. Of course this is all developing. But, again, 20 overturned cars there. We'll bring you more as soon as we know.

CUOMO: Holy cow, did you see that? Look at the zigzag of those cars. You know how long that's going to take to fix?

HARLOW: And the fuel is leaking.

CUOMO: It's 4,000 gallons. We'll stay on this, get more information. Poppy gave you the headline. We've only heard of a couple of injuries. You always worry about people first. We'll give you more on that when we get it in.

Another story -- a patron took matters into his own hands when he witnessed an apparent holdup at a pizza shop in Levittown, Pennsylvania, last night. Witnesses say after being pistol whipped, the customer reached for his gun and shot his two attackers. One of the suspects died from injuries. The other man survived. No word on charges. Police say they are investigating.

He is a popular resident of Bikini Bottom. Yep. I just said that. Now -- SpongeBob's sidekick Patrick is literally the star of Russia. Place say vandals scaled a tower in the southeast -- in the southeastern Russian city, painting the soviet star pink complete with Patrick's green spotty shorts and googly eyes. The joke is not going over so well there.

CUOMO: This is one of your big challenges as a parent, by the way. Your little one is way too young. But --

HARLOW: Is that why I didn't know what Bikini Bottom is?

CUOMO: It's OK. You can say it. It's not offensive. He lives in a pineapple under the sea, SpongeBob Square Pants. You'll know the song by heart. Will you let your kid watch SpongeBob or not? Because all of these parents would tell you it's way too dirty, but your kid will love almost nothing else.

HARLOW: Will he give me a moment free?


HARLOW: He can watch.

CUOMO: The way that Trump attacks the media and that's a good release according to Congressman Collins, that would be SpongeBob.

HARLOW: There you go.

CUOMO: Could Democrats be looking at new leaders in the House? Remember, this isn't just transition on the Republican side. This is transition on the Democratic side, including the woman on your screen right now, longtime Democratic leader in the House Nancy Pelosi. Will she remain as minority leader? We're going to talk to a potential competitor, next.




[08:17:21] SEN. HARRY REID, (D) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: If Trump is serious about seeking unity, the first thing he 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 would be impossible to take Trump's efforts to heal the nation seriously.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: That is Senator Harry Reid blasting president-elect Donald Trump's appointment of Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, an equal he calls him to his chief of staff. Now, more than 100 Democrats are calling on Trump to rescind Bannon's hire. One of those lawmakers is Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio. Thank you for being with me.

REP. TIM RYAN, (D) OHIO: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: That's not going to happen. I appreciate your, your letter and the public can do what they will but it's not going to happen. So now it's going to be incumbent on you guys to work with Bannon in that administration. Will you do it?

RYAN: Well, I mean, it depends on what we're talking about. I think it's going to be very, very hard to work with him. I mean, you know, we just got through this campaign where Donald Trump, you know, treated women and minorities and people of certain religious persuasions like they were not real Americans like they were somehow un-American.

And if they're going to be pushing an agenda that defunds Planned Parenthood or tries to kick people off their health care, you know, we're not going to be able to work with him. And I can see a scenario where there's going to be a lot of Democrats who aren't going to want to be in meetings or aren't going to want to work with Trump if that guy is in the room. I mean he has a history of ...

HARLOW: So, how is that different then because look, what the American people elected -- elected Donald Trump, right? And you are representative paid for by the taxpayers of America and that's where your salary comes from. How is that different than Mitch McConnell saying in 2008, our number one priority is going to be to make President Obama a one-term president? At some point you've got to meet in the middle over things that are critical to the American public, no?

RYAN: Well, first and foremost it'd be very helpful if he didn't appoint somebody or give someone a very high position that was very sympathetic to white supremacist groups. That would be very, very helpful. But look, I think ...

HARLOW: But Steve Bannon said that's not me. He did run Breitbart which has run many, many stories that have nationalist headlines and anti-Semitic headlines. I hear you but Steve Bannon would say, that is not who I am.

[08:20:05] RYAN: Well, if the standard is that low these days Poppy, then we have a real problem. Because I know your network doesn't promote things like that. A lot of newspapers, a lot of websites don't promote that kind of rhetoric or give a platform and now that platform is in the White House, the people's house. And that to me is unacceptable.

Look, if Donald Trump talked about draining the swamp. If he wants to drain the swamp, let's do it. We're in. Like, let's publicly finance campaigns. Let's get all this dark money out of politics. We'll agree with him on that. He wants to rebuild the country? Let's do it, let's buy American provisions scenarios, we'll get American steel, American concrete.

[08:15:05] There are things we could work with him on, but if he pushes this right-wing agenda, we're going to fight him every step of the way.

HARLOW: All right, let's talk about you, because you have been in the headlines a lot over the past 48 hours or so. Obviously the election of the leader of the House and your party has been postponed till November 30th. Politico puts it as you are, quote, cautiously weighing a bid for minority leader. Do you think that your party in the house needs new representation? If so, are you the guy to do it? Do you want Nancy Pelosi's job?

RYAN: That's, that's the conversation we're having right now. My main goal was to get the election delayed. We were supposed to have it tomorrow, and now it's delayed for a couple weeks so we can actually have that conversation. And look, let me just say, I love Nancy Pelosi, she's an amazing woman. She's got more energy than probably half of our Democratic caucus and a terrific fundraiser. And I don't blame her for the past election. It wasn't her fault. We did get caught up in a national wave.

HARLOW: Do you want to leave now? Do you want her job? Do you think you know the voters you need to tap in to being from, you know, one of the rust belt states that you guys lost?

RYAN: That I do. I do know the voters we need to get back into the fold and I probably know them as well as any other political figure in the country. I grew up just outside of Youngstown, Ohio, my buddies are working steel mills and working the building and construction trades. Kids and buddies that I went to high school with and we need to make sure that those people feel welcome in the Democratic Party.

Look, we're fighting for women, we're fighting for minorities. We're fighting all these issues that Donald Trump is going to try to jam down our throat. But he did do very well with these blue collar workers, and blue collar workers should be violet and blue.

HARLOW: So how are you -- so let's talk about how you're going to do that, right? Because I've spent time in your state with them ahead of the election. I have life long Democrats, not one, not two, not three, a number of them say to me, I'm voting for Donald Trump because at least he's going to try to bring my job back.

Ohio has lost a third of its manufacturing jobs since 2000. People hated what she said about coal, and you said this morning on another network, no one wants to hear about job retraining. That's what Clinton talked about. So how are you going to get them back? Are you -- I mean, because you can't say like Donald Trump, I'm going to bring your coal jobs because that's, you know, that's -- that is antithetical to where you stand.

RYAN: Well, first and foremost I think that is the problem. People don't want to hear about job retraining. People don't want to hear about running a computer. They want to -- they want you to talk to them about how they can run machinery or run a back hoe or sling concrete block. That's what they want to do. And so we need an agenda for Democrats that speak to those workers, which to speak to millennials and all of that as well with technology jobs and new economy jobs but we've got to also speak to those folks. And look, there is a real opportunity, I think in two ways. One is with the renewable energy economy, building wind mills, building solar panels ...

HARLOW: Because that's what Clinton talked about there a lot. RYAN: Well, I don't think we talked about it enough. There are 8,000 component parts to a windmill. There's gear shifts, there's hydraulics. These things need manufactured. And if the United States of America says, we're going in to a clean energy economy, and we are going to manufacture those products, in coal country, in Youngstown, Ohio, in the industrial Midwest, in the great lakes regions. I mean, that is what we do in that region. We make those so we need national policies that are going to allow us to get there.

We spent hundreds of billions of dollars on defense spending. That spending should be spent in the United States, tier one, tier two, tier three suppliers. No -- I mean, this -- you ask me the question so I just want to answer it Poppy.

There's a lot of money that gets spent that can be put into American manufacturing that gets out sourced. We need to drive that money back into these regions that are getting killed by NAFTA and killed by trade with China.

HARLOW: All right, DNC chair, there's this number of names being floated. Howard Dean, Keith Ellison from my home state of Minnesota, who do you like for that job?

RYAN: I got a lot of respect for all of them. I don't have a horse in that race just yet. We've been pretty focused on the House of Representatives, and what's happening here. That race I think is not until February. So ...

HARLOW: But it matters a lot, because it matters for the direction of your party, a party that doesn't have ...

RYAN: Sure does.

HARLOW: ... direction right now. All right.

RYAN: No, it sure does. That's going to be a huge pick for us and ...


RYAN: ... look, you know, the Obamas are gone, the Clintons are gone, the Bidens are gone, Harry Reid's gone. There's no one at the DNC now. We've got, we've got to say, what's America 2.0 look like Poppy? And how does the Democratic Party get policies and proposals to help us get to that new iteration of ...

HARLOW: America ...

RYAN: ... United States of America.

HARLOW: ... America 2.0.

RYAN: America 2.0 and Democratic Party 2.0.

HARLOW: I got to leave it there.

RYAN: You know, we've got to re-evaluate what we're doing as Democrats especially in the congressional campaign.

HARLOW: I've got to leave it there, America 2.0, Democratic Party 2.0. Do you want Pelosi's job, no answer yet. We'll see, we'll watch. Thank you sir, appreciate it. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good sum up Pop. I got it all there in like eight seconds.

[08:25:01] Donald Trump had plenty of company at dinner the other night. But you know who he didn't invite? The press. Oh, is this just a media whining again? What happens if something happens when the president is out without the press? Not if God forbid. But something good that happens, and you don't know about it. David Axelrod gives his opinion next.


CUOMO: President-elect Donald Trump tweeting this morning, taking on the "New York Times," calling its reporting on the transition false, saying it's a failing paper, saying that the media is unfair. This comes just hour after Trump ditched the press pool to head to dinner.

Joining us now with the "Bottom Line" is CNN political commentator and former Chief Strategist for President Obama, David Axelrod.

Let's tick these off one by one. Congressman Chris Collins says, he's okay with the tweeting because it's a good release for the president. I said to him, you know, only a little bit joking, that's a good release, you know, trying to get people to feel the press is illegitimate. Let me just shrugged his shoulders. He was like, uh, that's what he wants to do. What's your take?

[08:30:01] DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I try yoga. I think that would be better.