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Trump Meets With Romney This Weekend; Interview with Kellyanne Conway; Old Allegations of Racism Dog Sen. Sessions; Tracking Immigrants?; Source: Trump Offered Flynn Natl. Security Adviser Job. Aired 8-9p ET.

Aired November 17, 2016 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:17] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

Tonight, the breaking news: Donald Trump reaching out for the very first time to a leader who could not be more different from himself, someone who is quite literally worlds apart, in experience, outlook and expectations. So much so that he might as well be from a foreign country.

Also tonight, Trump's meeting with Shinzo Abe who is actually from a foreign country. He's the Japanese prime minister and the first world leader to sit down with the president-elect.

We begin, though, with the meeting set for this weekend with someone who spent the entire campaign painting Donald Trump as a threat to decency, even democracy itself -- Mitt Romney, the very same Mitt Romney who called Trump a con man and who Trump called a choke artist. That Mitt Romney.

The big question is, is he apparently now being considered for secretary of state? Is he interested?

In a moment, what Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway has to say about that and a string of other developments to the transition today.

But, first, our Phil Mattingly at Trump Tower with the very latest.

You' been talking to both Trump sources and Republicans outside the Trump circle. How real is this potential alliance between the president-elect and Mitt Romney?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, the interesting thing is that exact question is the exact question, some iteration of it at least, I've been getting from multiple Republicans, including top Mitt Romney allies. I think the reality right now of what we know is this -- they will meet -- our Mark Preston, CNN's Mark Preston, broke the story -- tomorrow.

And this is a very important meeting for one primary reason. It sends a signal. And I think that more than anything else is what Republicans outside the Trump orbit are taking from this. Obviously, Mitt Romney never came around to Donald Trump and didn't really mince words about the fact.

The fact that Donald Trump would be willing to meet with Mitt Romney, that Mitt Romney would be willing to meet with Donald Trump is a big deal.

Now, will Donald Trump be considering him for a cabinet position? That is something we're told is under consideration. Mitt Romney has made clear to friends in the past, we are told, that secretary of state would be a position he is interested in. Now, how serious is that? That is a question we don't currently have the answer to. But the thing people are seizing on right now, Anderson, is the signal this is sending to Republicans, even those who are very opposed to Donald Trump throughout this campaign.

COOPER: But the idea that Mitt Romney would be interested in secretary of state is not that he -- we don't know he's interested in being secretary of state for Donald Trump. It's just in theory, if he ever was to be back in government, secretary of state is the position he would be interested in, correct?

MATTINGLY: That's exactly right. It's an important clarification. Mitt Romney, even though he's very well known for he's done on the economic side of things, he has always stated, and if you can just look at his last book, he's very interested in foreign affairs, foreign policy. That would be a position in general if he were to head back in government, he would be interested in.

That's not necessarily the case in a Trump administration. What we're hearing from the Trump side of things, that this meeting between Mitt Romney and Donald Trump, will be talking about the idea of governing and a potential place in a Trump administration, Anderson.

COOPER: It also raises interesting questions, because it was Mitt Romney when he was running who said that Russia is the number one geopolitical foe, or threat, I can't remember the exact terminology that he used. But with the number one concern for the United States. He was sort of ridiculed for it at the time, certainly by President Obama. And obviously, Donald Trump has a different viewpoint, or seemingly different viewpoint that he expressed during the campaign.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it would seem they would diverge on that.

Look, when you talk to folks who are still very proud of their association with Mitt Romney, who talked often with Mitt Romney, they consistently go back to the 2012 campaign, and that Mitt Romney was relentlessly mocked for saying Russia was the biggest geopolitical foe, geopolitical roadblock to the United States of America at the time. They also talk about Mitt Romney's comments about the Middle East and about the potential for a force like ISIS to be created. This say repeatedly, he was right in 2012. People should pay attention to that.

But on the issue of Russia, I do think it's an important point, Anderson, to make. They appear, Donald Trump and Mitt Romney, appear to diverge on toughness on Russia. Now, we'll have to see what Donald Trump says going forward. But

throughout the course of this campaign, he's been dogged by that fact. He's never really backed off that fact. In fact, he consistently says he wants to have an open relationship with Russia, a restart, if you will. That's not the position Mitt Romney has had -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. It's a fascinating development.

Phil Mattingly, thanks.

A short time ago, before I air, I spoke about the Romney factor with senior Trump adviser and former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway.


COOPER: So, Kellyanne, let's talk about the transition. We've seen the reporting now that Mitt Romney is going to be meeting with President-elect Trump this weekend, and the possibility even of a possible role as secretary of state. Is there any truth to that?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISOR: There is truth to the fact that Governor Romney is expected to join Mr. Trump out in New Jersey for a meeting this Saturday. I see eight meetings on the list for that day, so far, in addition to staff meetings and transition meetings.

But I know that Mr. Trump is very excited to meet with Governor Romney. Governor Romney was a successful job creator in the private sector.

[20:05:00] He did a great job in Massachusetts on many different things. And he obviously was the last Republican nominee for president.

So, I'm sure they'll be able to compare notes.

COOPER: I mean, as you know, president-elect and governor Trump, they traded very personal insults throughout the campaign. I mean, Governor Romney, you know, came out and said a lot of things, Donald Trump as well.

In fact, let me just play for our viewers to remind them some of the comments that were made. Let me just play this sound.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mitt was a disaster as a candidate.

ROMNEY: He's playing the members of the American public for suckers.

TRUMP: Romney let us all down. He was a very poor campaigner.

ROMNEY: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.

TRUMP: Romney choked like a dog. He choked. He went --

ROMNEY: His promises are as worthless as the degree from Trump University.

TRUMP: I have a lot of friends. No, I have a lot of friends. By the way, Mitt Romney is not one of them.


COOPER: And Romney, you know, had said from his foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He was critical of Vladimir Putin and Russia, he named it as the top geopolitical concern for the United States when he was running.

Do you think they could actually work together?

CONWAY: I do. And I think what happens with consensus builders and good negotiators, and successful businessmen who know you have to take the counsel of many different people, rivals, allies, is that they find a way to work together if it's appropriate, Anderson.

And, look, I think in politics people look at each other through these blue and red lenses. But businessmen like Romney and Trump, they tend to be able to shed that -- those gladiator outfits of blue and red and try to solve problems and come together. I think it will be a productive conversation.

I'm smiling thinking about how maybe that is how Hillary Clinton viewed the secretary of state job after she had terrible things to say about Barack Obama, and he her, after they were primary rivals in 2012.

COOPER: Not quite as tough, though.

CONWAY: But that's what happens. Well, but Barack Obama -- Senator Obama at the time said Hillary Clinton will say anything to get elected.

COOPER: True. That she was nice enough.

CONWAY: It happened.


CONWAY: I mean, it's happened in the fog of war. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton exchanged barbs. I would say he threw shade on her just this week after she lost.

COOPER: Right. George Bush and Ronald Reagan as well, actually.

CONWAY: Yes, it goes on and on. And he chose him to be his running mate. So, at the same time, I think that these two men, not unlike President Obama and Mr. Trump last week, show their love for America, and their interest in having a peaceful Democratic transition. COOPER: In terms of actually governance, the idea has emerged

according to numerous reports, that Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, and Reince Priebus, essentially former troika of advisers, to President Trump. Is that the situation now that the president-elect is making the final decisions, but those three advisers are the top people who would have his ear?

People compared it if it is the case under Ronald Reagan, you had Ed Meese, you had Jim Baker, and Mike Deaver who, you know, all had the president's ear and respect.

CONWAY: Well, the three men that you mentioned, Jared, Steve and Reince are all incredibly important to President-elect Trump, were during his campaign, are now in transition, and one can reasonably assume, take it to the bank, that the will all be very important, and constant voices within the president-elect's ear.

Yes, you're right, he makes the ultimate decisions. But what I've always found with President-elect Trump that he's listener and a great and an eager learner. And anybody who's in his company, Anderson, gets it right in return.

COOPER: There's also reporting from "The New York Times" that Jared Kushner believes he would not be prohibited from serving the White House by federal anti-nepotism laws if he didn't take a salary, put his assets in a blind trust. Is that your understanding as well?

CONWAY: I read reports that Jared is conferring with lawyers about that very thing. And he does everything by the book as we know.

I discussed this directly with Jared Kushner, and he told me this morning, or actually as of this afternoon, he had not applied for any job within the administration, and he had not sought out a national security clearance, a top-secret clearance as some of the reports have said.

But you can bet on one thing, Jared Kushner will continue to a very important adviser to his father-in-law. All of the quote, "kids", as they call them, the Trump kids support -- and their spouses, support Mr. Trump in his presidential run and will continue to do that.

But I'm sure if Jared is pursuing this any farther, that he first is doing his diligence because that's the way he operates. He's a very successful real estate businessman. And that's the way he operates every time I'm in his presence and working on a project with Jared Kushner, everything is by the book and fully vetted ahead of time.

COOPER: There also is a very positive statement about the transition team today about the president-elect's meeting with Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, particularly about his legal career.

[20:10:00] Is the president-elect at all concerned about issues that some have raised, Senator Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in the mid '80s at least in part because of allegations he made racially insensitive comments? CONWAY: We're aware of what was said and done 30-some years ago. And

we're also aware of the incredible career that Jeff sessions has had throughout his life. The 15 years as a federal prosecutor, U.S. attorney, I believe, Anderson, obviously in Alabama, and then, of course, United States senator for I think about 20 years, representing the state of Alabama. A man who I think is the only person in the United States Senate who has neither a primary nor general election opponent the last time he ran in 2014.

I think if anybody had a problem with his record, they would have just run against him and made that very clear.

But Senator Sessions would be qualified for any number of positions.

COOPER: Final question to you. Do you want to see as -- when Donald Trump becomes president, do you want to see him continue to tweet? You and I have talked about this. We've talked to the candidate about it. Donald Trump has talked about it publicly. He's obviously tweeting less than he did before.

It's -- from everybody I've talked to who, you know, about this, Jeff Lord, I talked about it last night, you know, said that he feels it's one way Donald Trump stays connected to people. He gets feedback from people. There's also reports he wants to continue with large rallies to continue that contact, you know, kind of break outside the bubble.

Do you want to see him continue to tweet as president?

CONWAY: So, my first and most important thing for President Trump would be that he does continue to connect with people. That's how he got here. It was the life blood of his candidacy. It really gave him oxygen to be with thousands and thousands of people taking his case directly to the American people. And I predict he will continue to do that. Not just through a TV camera, at the bully pulpit, Anderson, and not just on the world stage, but literally going to visit Americans. Not just because he needs their votes.

So, I don't know what the Secret Service, I don't know what the protocol, I don't know what the presidential protocol dictate in this case as goes social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. I do know that many times, if Donald Trump post something on Twitter or Facebook, there are 25 million people who see it, who otherwise might not be aware of that article or that event, or that opinion of his.

But at the same time, I'm sure that there are those in -- who are in charge of security and presidential safety that will weigh in on this particular question. I hope they do. But at the same time, I hope, however, Donald Trump can continue to show that he is connected to people, which really was the secret sauce of his candidacy and how he became the next president of the United States, that he will do it.

COOPER: Kellyanne Conway, thanks very much, Kellyanne.

CONWAY: Thank you, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: We shortened the interview with Kellyanne just for time. You can see the entire conversation at

Coming up next, we'll talk to the panel on what you just heard and all the other breaking transition news today.

And later, you'll meet the workers whose jobs are moving to Mexico, at the Carrier plant that Donald Trump made part of his campaign. He promised workers there it would not happen if he were president. Now that he's won, see what the same workers have to say. Some of them might surprise you, ahead.


[20:16:47] COOPER: Well, before the break, you heard Kellyanne Conway seemed to leave the door open to the possibility that candidate Trump's arch enemy during the campaign, Mitt Romney, could become President Trump's secretary of state or have some other role. He's apparently expressed interest in the job, theoretically, not necessarily under a Trump administration, and will discuss it on Saturday when the two meet.

Here to talk about it, our own team of friendly rivals, "The Atlantic's" Peter Beinart, GOP strategist and Trump critic, Ana Navarro, "The Washington Post's" Phillip Bump, Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord, and conservative writer Mary Katharine Ham.

Philip, how real do you think this is? I mean, it's understandable that there would be a meeting just to kind of mend fences. Donald Trump is going to be president whether Mitt Romney wanted him to be or not.

PHILIP BUMP, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I mean, it's very, very hard to gauge. And I think Donald Trump likes having it very hard to gauge as well.

You know, one of the things we've seen, though, if you look at his transition team, for example, it's all folks who were there fairly early in the campaign, folks that have been fairly loyal to him. Donald Trump clearly values loyalty.

And so, it's hard to imagine that he and Mitt Romney, it's easy to imagine them breaking bread, it's very hard to imagine them working together for four years and it's very hard to imagine Mitt t Romney signing up for that job.

COOPER: Particularly, Peter -- I mean, Mitt Romney is clearly back in 2012, was talking about Russia long before a lot of other folks were. Donald Trump seems to have a different take on certainly Vladimir Putin.

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. And also, General Flynn who looks like he's likely to be national security adviser, also much more similar to Trump. Soft line on Russia, he used to go on "Russia Today", wants to work with Russia on Syria. I think the problem for Romney -- I mean, I would be very happy as a

Trump critic, I would be somewhat relieved to see Mitt Romney. I think the problem is, that when you have a national security adviser who is much more on Trump's wavelength on this, I think that -- I don't think Romney would have a lot of influence. I think he'd be like Colin Powell under George W. Bush because he's out of step where they want to go on foreign policy.

COOPER: The benefit, though, with something like that, even the benefit of having this meeting for Donald Trump is, it does -- I mean, to Peter's point, it makes those who don't like Donald Trump at least feel, well, there are more establishment figures or people with experience in the room who are being considered, whether or not they're actually going to get the job.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think it sends a very important message. There you few people that fought the Romney candidacy as hard as Mitt Romney did. In fact, I would tell you, there was tremendous moral leadership from the Mormon community in general.

Let's remember that just a few weeks after losing to Barack Obama, Mitt Romney went and met with Barack Obama. The Mitt Romney I know is a guy who is a great patriot. He will put country first. He will put the country's interest above his own.

And so, I am not surprised at all to see him go meet with Donald Trump, a man who I still think he has probably very little in common with, in hopes of influencing him for the better, in hopes of saying, I am here for advice. I am here as a supporter. I am here as an American now that you are president-elect.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Jeffrey, it's one thing to meet with president- elect, it's another thing to actually really be considered as secretary of state and to want to be his secretary of state.

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Peter just laid out some of the problems that inevitably flow. But this is traditional. I mean, Hillary Clinton, after all, ran tooth and nail against Barack Obama and wound up secretary of state. LBJ was, you know, JFK's vice president.

COOPER: George H.W. Bush against Ronald Reagan.

LORD: And --

COOPER: I wanted to mention Reagan before you did.

LORD: Thank you.


[20:20:00] LORD: You're getting the hang of it now.

COOPER: I would go for Grover Cleveland, but I can --

LORD: One more, Mitt Romney's father, George, who ran against Richard Nixon was put in the Nixon cabinet.

COOPER: Right.

So, I mean, I read a report that he kind of regretted being in the Nixon cabinet or didn't like the experience.

LORD: It was sort of, in those days, he was shunted off to what was seen as the side bar of the department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and, you know, I don't think he was particularly happy there. But it is a tradition in American politics and it's a good one.

COOPER: And, Mary Katharine, we've seen Ted Cruz going over to Trump Tower, Nikki Haley. So, it's not -- Mitt Romney is not the only one.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and I think secretary of state was the thing that was sort of floated for Haley as well. And so -- there's some of the Trump team is messing with us, because like anyone who thought the transition wasn't going to be about chaos and buzzworthy stuff and New York/New Jersey grudge matches between Jared Kushner and Christie, you are out of your mind. This is what this is about.

But I do think for Romney, I think Ana is right, there is some ambition there. There's also a sense, certainly among the foreign policy nerds in the establishment, that someone needs to go and serve President Trump for the good of the country, and I think he would be interested in doing that. But I think some of that is Trump bringing people in --


COOPER: Let's show some of what everybody was saying during the campaign, which seems like a long time ago and easy to forget. Let's just watch it.


GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Donald Trump is everything we hear and teach our kids not to do in kindergarten.

TRUMP: First of all, she's very weak on illegal immigration.

HALEY: I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the KKK.

TRUMP: She certainly has no trouble asking me for campaign contributions.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: This man is a pathological liar.

TRUMP: Lyin' Ted. Lyin' Ted. Liar. Whoo.

CRUZ: A narcissist at a level I don't think this country has ever seen.

TRUMP: Bible high, bible high, puts it down and then he lies.

CRUZ: The man is utterly amoral. A bully. A serial philander.

TRUMP: To the best of my knowledge, not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba, OK?


COOPER: Kind of seems so --

LORD: (INAUDIBLE) United States.

COOPER: Right. Yes, I mean, that's one of the fascinating things, though, about not American politics, all politics. I mean, campaigns are one thing. Governance is another.

LORD: Right, right. I mean, these campaigns can get ugly. But they have always been that way, you know?

COOPER: But it does seem -- I mean, we've talked about this before, how important loyalty is for Donald Trump. And we were just talking about that.

LORD: That goes again to Peter's point.

BEINART: And that's why actually I would love to see Ted Cruz as attorney general. I would love see Mitt Romney as secretary of state. Here is why: I think there's a possibility this is going to be a massively corrupt administration and an administration that tramples on the rule of law in very disturbing ways. I would love to see members of the cabinet who I feel like are not sycophant, who are independent enough that if Donald Trump -- if Donald Trump crosses a line, I believe that Ted Cruz or Mitt Romney would actually call him out and that would be a really good thing for the country.

NAVARRO: Also remember, you know, it always make sense to keep your enemies or potential enemies close and Ted Cruz could very well come out as a potential contender to a Donald Trump if he is a failed president. If in a year or two, it seems like a man who is imploding the presidency, you are going to see Marco Rubio, you're going to see Ted Cruz try to emerge as stars again and potential options for the Republican Party.

COOPER: And Nikki Haley.

NAVARRO: Yes, I almost like Nikki Haley too much for her to want -- and think she's got such a bright future. I don't want her to go into this cabinet.

BUMP: I would just point out that I don't know that the opinions you just heard expressed there, I don't know they necessarily changed and I think that a Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz maybe to Peter's points wanting to go in and wanting to serve and wanting to make sure that the stewardship of the United States doesn't suffer from someone they sincerely think is not qualified.

COOPER: Right. The question is would Donald Trump, with his inner circle, want that, want those folks close by?

LORD: You got to be loyal. You got to be loyal if you go in there. I mean, you got to serve your president, no matter who it is. I mean, Barack Obama would not want people around him who are not loyal to him, and neither would any president, nor should any president.

HAM: Yes, I think it's far more likely bring your enemies closer than it is I want honest critique from my team.

BEINART: No, no, I don't think that's what Trump wants. I mean, I think the question for someone like Cruz, though, does this really help him as a future Republican presidential candidate, he then has all the baggage of the Trump presidency? It could be dangerous.

COOPER: You've got to take a quick break.

By the way, Mary Katharine Ham, congratulations on completing the Marine Corps marathon.

HAM: Thank you very much. My knees still hurt.

COOPER: Yes. My knees just hurt thinking about it.

We've got a special edition of 360 tonight and tomorrow night at 9:00. It's a look inside both campaigns through the eyes of the CNN correspondents who covered them. "Unprecedented: Inside the Trump Campaign", that's tonight at 9:00. And the Clinton campaign, that's tomorrow night at 9:00, fresh insight, some unforgettable moments starting at the top of the next hour in about 36 minutes from now.

Just ahead, though, tonight in this hour, more on the baggage that could follow Senator Jeff Sessions into a congressional hearing if he's nominated for a cabinet post 30 years ago, through allegations of racism sank his nomination for federal bench. We'll show that played out, next.


[20:28:51] COOPER: Well, Kellyanne Conway told me earlier the Trump transition team aware of the controversial aspects of Senator Jeff Sessions past, but don't see it as a problem.

Senator Sessions met with President-elect Trump today at Trump Tower, intensifying speculation that he is headed for a cabinet post. When asked about it, here's what he said.


SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: Well, I'd be honored to be considered and Mr. Trump will make those decisions.

REPORTER: Do you want to be secretary of state?

SESSIONS: I haven't -- if he asked me, I'll share with him but I'm not talking about my agenda at this point. I'd be pleased to continue to serve in the Senate. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, Senator Sessions is thought to be contender for the attorney general or secretary of defense. Attorneys general, of course, are responsible for upholding civil rights law and defense secretaries are in charge of the country's diverse military, which is why tapping Senator Sessions for either position might be complicated based on the racially charged hearing that sank a different nomination of his three decades ago.

Senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin tonight reports.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, the first U.S. senator to come out in support of Donald Trump was a U.S. attorney in Alabama when then-President Ronald Reagan nominated him for the federal court.

But the appointment broke down at the Sessions' 1986 confirmation hearing when allegations over his alleged racial remarks took center stage. Allegations that Sessions angrily denied then and now.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, (R) ALABAMA: I am not a racist. I'm not insensitive to blacks. I have supported civil rights activity in my state. I have done my job with integrity, equality and fairness fur all.

GRIFFIN: Transcripts of that Senate judiciary hearing show that Thomas Figures, a black former assistant U.S. attorney in Alabama, testified Sessions called him "boy" and joke about the Ku Klux Klan.

SESSIONS: ... state categorically, because I have never called Mr. Figures "boy".

GRIFFIN: And Gerald Hebert, who was a Justice Department lawyer also testified, "Sessions called NAACP and ACLU un-American, and communist inspired". Herbert recalled Sessions said that, he thought they did more harm than good when they were trying to force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them.

In a heated exchange with then Senator Joe Biden, Sessions denied calling the National Counsel of Churches and NAACP un-American.

SESSIONS: My opinion is they have not. They may have taken positions and not consider to be adverse to the security interest of the United States.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Does that make them un- American.

SESSIONS: No sir it does not.

BIDEN: No, does that make the positions un-American?

SESSIONS: No. GRIFFIN: Sessions, also denied a statement that he though klan members were OK until he learned they smoked marijuana.

SESSIONS: This assertion is ludicrous. I detest the klan.

GRIFFIN: He went on to testify, that I am loose with my tongue on occasion and I may have said something similar to that or could be interpreted to that. The seat on the court was denied, but 10 years later, he was elected to the Senate and went on to become the judiciary committee's top Republican member.

He told CNN's Dana Bash in 2009, that the allegations of racism were heartbreaking.

SESSIONS: That was not fair. That was not accurate. Those were false charges and distortions of anything that I did. And it really was not. I never had those kind of views and I was caricatured in a way that was not me.

GRIFFIN: Today, Gerald Hebert tell CNN, he stands by his testimony from 30 years ago.

GERALD HEBERT, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT LAWYER: The allegations that I made against him and things that I have heard firsthand from him were things that demonstrated gross, racial insensitivity to black citizens of Alabama and the United States.

GRIFFIN: Hebert says Sessions shouldn't be anywhere near the cabinet.

HEBERT: He has never backed off to the comments he made at that time. He never has apologized for them. The fact that he would be considered to lead a government agency at the cabinet level is very alarming to me.


GRIFFIN: Anderson, we should point out that Hebert has not seen Jeff Sessions since that day they sat next to each other back in 1986. Since then Jeff Sessions has gone on to become the attorney general of Alabama and for nearly 20 years now a U.S. senator. Anderson.

COOPER: Drew, thanks very much.

Joining us now, CNN political commentator, Kayleigh McEnany and Van Jones. Kayleigh is a Trump supporter, Van is not, he's a former Obama senior administration officials and co-founder and president of Rebuild the Dream.

So Van, I mean these allegations against Senator Sessions are from decades ago. He vehemently denies them. They were never proven. Should those allegations be a disqualifier?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think that they are troubling. But you've got to give everybody a fair opportunity to have a hearing. This I think is going to raise a lot of concerns. Certainly you want the head of the Department of Justice to be someone everybody feels is fair. And given some of the tensions in the country with law enforcement, black community that's probably going to be an even bigger concern. But I don't think you want to just look at things that somebody said about somebody 30 years ago. He's got a 30 year record since then, that should really be looked at. And I don't think we need to be in a situation where we just rush into labeling people based on things that happened 30 years ago.

COOPER: Kayleigh, where do you stand on this, particularly if he's being consider for attorney general?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I couldn't agree with Van more. I think that's absolutely right everything that he just said. I also want to point out on behalf of the Senator Sessions that Arlen Specter actually, one of the senators -- Democratic senator who voted against him in those confirmation hearings back in 1986 came out and said, look I've got to know this man. He's egalitarian, he's fair to all people and he's a great person.

So he has a long established history in government. I agree that everyone should be vetted to the fullest extent, but from every indicator I have Senator Sessions is a man above standing character and in a great twist of irony became the ranking member of this kind of judiciary committee, because he did earn the respect and non-racial of his colleague.

COOPER: And then certainly, President-elect Trump, I mean he won fair and square and Senator Sessions is somebody who endorsed him early on, has been by his side his campaign forum candidates, President-elects are, you know, want to have people who have been loyal to them in their cabinet around them.

[20:35:14] JONES: Sure. So what we're going to see as we go forward, you going to see is over and over again, there's always this dual challenge. On the one hand the president has got to be able to put together a team that works for him or works for her. At the same time it's got to also work for the country. If you put too many people in your cabinet that just begin to reduce the confidence of the country, is going to be a fair administration, that does become an issue. You are representing -- you're serving the president and the president's seat.

And so, listen what I want to do is to say look, if there are allegations, these type of concerns, hearings are appropriate. Let's see the evidence. Let's see the information. Let's also hear from other people and then let's make a decision. Listen, if you've been in public life for more than 13 seconds you've been called every name in the book. That's just the way the world is. And so just because people are being call things, doesn't mean that they are, pointed they're not, but let's give people fair hearings in America.

COOPER: The concerns also Kayleigh -- I mean for any president-elect is that, you know, your expending political capital for things that could be spent on other things, you know, just to get people confirmed. And so at a certain point you have to make a calculation, you know, you have to pick your battles and if you have a number of candidates for confirmation different areas who are, you know, have questions about their backgrounds at a certain point, you have to start to pick and choose.

MCENANY: That's exactly right. I think he wants a flawless smooth transition and flags are raised, so if you have Republican senator saying hey pause on this. I'm not sure if I can vote for this person, you know, we've had Rand Paul come out and say, he has hesitations about some of the peoples names, on who out there for secretary of state. So, you know, you certainly want to take into consideration the fact that you might have members of your own party who might not vote for any given person.

But that being said where I trust Donald Trump and what I really like that I'm seeing if he is bringing in people from the other side who have left political wounds on him like Mitt Romney and Nikki Haley, what that says to me is president-elect Trump wants the best person for the American people. This is about who supported him from the gecko, this is about who has the skills the talent to serve the country most effectively and that is how every decision should be made.

COOPER: We'll see -- Van do you want to add on that or?

JONES: Yeah, I tell you, if, you know, I'm not in the business of giving Trump any advice. If he wanted to go further than just creating heals within his own party, which is very important and wanted to give an olive branch. The Department of Justice would be a good place to do it. If Sessions doesn't meet that criteria he might want to reconsider. I think he want to look at the overall set of appointments if they all give trouble and discomfort to certain section of Americans you want to start looking at that and trying to make it a little better for the whole country, not just for yourself.

COOPER: All right, Van Jones, Kayleigh McEnany, thanks so much, appreciated.

MCENANY: Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead, new details in the plan, president-elect Trump's team is set to be working on to track immigrants, traveling to the U.S. from high risk countries. A source says it's being modeled, now defunct program that did draw fire from civil rights activists. Details ahead.


[20:42:08] COOPER: Breaking news tonight Donald Trump has just made the first big move to fill foreign policy and defense team. CNN has learned he has offered the national security advisor job for retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. And General Flynn who was fixture (ph) on the campaign trail ran the Defense Intelligence Agency for two years under President Obama. Before that he served General Stanley McChrystal's top intelligence officer in Afghanistan. Some background now from CNN's Barbara Starr.


LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, U.S. ARMY RETIRED: I have called on Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race, because she, she put our nation's security at extremely high risk.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn now considered a leading candidate to become Donald Trump's national security advisor. Flynn harshly criticized Hillary Clinton's handling of the sensitive information during the campaign.

FLYNN: This over classification excuse is not an excuse. If it's classified it's classified.

STARR: But Flynn's own record with classified information has been called into question during his military career. On at least two occasions his handling of classified information came under scrutiny by the U.S. military.

Two former government officials with direct knowledge of the issue tell CNN during the time Flynn over saw intelligence in Afghanistan, he shared classified information with Pakistan on terror networks responsible for killing American troops. Intelligence, the sources say come from another agency. Flynn wasn't supposed to share it. They say he was trying to convince Pakistan to stop sheltering terrorists.

Asked by e-mail about the allegation, Flynn told CNN it is not true, not even close. Flynn declined to comment further for this story.

In a separate incident the two officials CNN spoke with, said Flynn did not follow established security procedures when he shared classified intelligence with allies. Flynn has acknowledged that one. Telling the "Washington Post", "The investigation on me was for sharing intelligence with the Brits and Australians in combat and I'm proud of that one. That was substantiated because I actually did it."

Flynn says he had permission to share the classified information. In both cases sources say the retired general was informally reprimanded at the time but never charged with wrong doing. And in 2010 while still serving as a senior officer he published an article criticizing the state of U.S. intelligence operations in Afghanistan.

CNN had learned that the CIA was so furious at Flynn for publicly disclosing short fall, it complained to the Pentagon which had signed off on the article. Flynn joins tremendous access and credibility with Donald Trump.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: What makes General Flynn different from certainly others that we've heard about on Donald Trump's transition team? Is he's the one with the real experience fighting on the ground and Afghanistan and Iraq?


[20:45:08] COOPER: That was Barbara Starr reporting. And so the breaking news tonight, Donald Trump has offered the national security advisor job to General Flynn.

On the phone now, is CNN military analyst, retired General Mark Hertling and back with us also is Jeffrey Lord. General Hertling, what do you make of this offer to General Flynn? What's he like.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I know Mike from -- we were general office together. We served in Iraq together. He's a career intelligence officer. He's very intense and passionate about the collection, assessment, dissemination and the use of intelligence. He has lots of time as the staff officer. I knew him when he was the intelligence officer for JSOC when we're working together in northern part of Iraq serving he was giving us the information on targets as well working with General McChrystal.

In fact, as he passes into the NSA role, he's going to have to be the smartest guy in the room taking after folks like Kissinger, Scowcroft, Hague, Condaleezza Rice, Rosinski. He's got to build consensus with some heavy hitters like the SEC def, the SEC tape (ph), the vice president, the chairman of the joint chiefs. And he's going to help the president find the right solutions for some the most difficult military and diplomatic problems that he'll face.

So this is a guy that's going to have to broaden his experiences from just collecting and disseminating military intelligence to getting into this strategic coordination and synchronization from many diverse resources and he's going to have to be the guy that stands up in the room and builds consensus among some folks with some big egos and big power plays.

COOPER: General Hertling there were some that who expressed surprise at the level to which General Flynn went out for Donald Trump on the campaign trail, some of the things he said about Hillary Clinton, about Obama. Were you surprised by that? And do you think he's up for it? Up to this job?

HERTLING: I was, Anderson. I thought some of the things that he did say on the campaign trail were somewhat unprofessional and a little bit too passionate. You know, it's one thing to support a candidate. It's another thing to lead choruses of "lock her up" as he did at the Republican convention. And he did get quite a bit of backlash from several active military general officers for the extent that he went in terms of campaigning for the president-elect.

But, you know, everybody chooses their own path. And even though he took a lot of feedback from serving general officers and some retired general officers, that's the way he thought he should go in supporting this particular candidate. And I think part of it was he had such a disdain for the acting -- for the president at the time that that contributed to some of his commentary as well.

COOPER: Is it clear to you what happened to him under in the Obama administration, because, you know, he -- I remember reading he said he had met with Obama for a long period of time as he was running the Defense Intelligence Agency. It seem like he was frozen out at a certain point.

HERLING: No, I don't think you're going to see the director of Defense Intelligence Agency meeting a lot with the president. And in fact, I don't think he had much contact at all with the president. In fact he was asked at one point how many times he'd met with the president and didn't describe how many times that was because it probably wasn't much. I mean he filters all the defense intelligence through the chairman of joint chiefs and it is one of many realms of intelligence the president gets.

So, it's -- again, that's the consensus piece of the intelligence building when you get in the Oval Office. It's not only the national intelligence, it's CIA, it's VIA, it's NSA, it's NRO and all the different intelligence agencies coming together.

So you're not going to put all those folks in one room and have them squabble in front of the president. That I don't think Mike really had a whole lot of input directly to the president. But I felt -- he probably felt the president did not give him due justice when he provided some information on ISIS as it was building. And I think he held that against the president for the rest time in. But again his boss at the time was the director of national intelligence and I think there were probably some issues with personalities between the various intelligence chiefs at the time.

COOPER: I also want to bring in Reza Aslan, professor of the university of California, Riverside, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and host of CNN's up coming documentary series "Believer".

Reza, what do you make of General Flynn based on some of the things he has said?

REZA ASLAN, CNN BELIEVER HOST: Well I think it's quite concerning to think that our national security advisor someone who of course is going to have to be dealing with a very real threat from certainly Muslim majority countries has been on record saying things like Islam as the religion is a cancer. That it is not even a religion, it's an idealogy.

[20:50:07] He said quote that, "Fear of Muslims, not fear of radical Islam, not fear of Muslim terrorists, fear of Muslims is a -- is rational. I think these are going to be very difficult ideas for him to reconcile with this new position that the president-elect has put him into.

COOPER: Jeffrey Lord, as a Trump supporter, obviously he has been very loyal to Donald Trump, he's been out on the campaign trail as we discussed. What do you think of him as national security adviser?

LORD: I think it's a perfect fit for him. I think that's exactly where it should be. You know, there was some talk during the summer that he might be the vice presidential nominee, which I thought that was a bad decision there, because I didn't think he was probably much in the politics department here. And that was a very political job. But as the general -- General Hertling had said this has been a collection in this job of people who have been military leaders like General Scowcroft and academics like Henry Kissinger, Walt Russell, McGeorge Bundy, et ceterea. So I think he fits right into that traditionalism military man. I think he'll do very well.

COOPER: In terms of concisus building, in terms of that Jeffrey do you have any concerns based on what, you know, what you heard from General Hertling and some of the ...

LORD: No, I mean that's a valid point the General makes, but I really do think that he'll adapt. I mean this will be his job, I mean he will have to do it, and I'm sure he will.

COOPER: And the comments that Reza pointed to.

LORD: Yeah, look. I mean this is an issue that is certainly a hot button here, in the campaign, and in terms of President Obama not talking about radical Islam, et cetera, I think that there are a lot of people in this country that have that point of view, and so it will be at the table. There will be people with other points of view and they will be there as well.

COOPER: General Hertling, I mean based on the things that Reza mentioned, is that a concern for you?

HERTLING: It is a concern for me, Anderson, I'm very concerned. I've read Mike's book, it was very concerning to me, some of the things he's said in his book. I've seen some of the tweeted out as well. And I think it is somewhat of an extreme view that Mike has on many issues. And with a national security adviser from my read of history, and to Jeffrey certainly has that co-management (ph), that's the calming force in the room. They have to listen to other people's arguments and then help the president make decisions.

And in fact, sometimes when you have a bunch of people who think alike on the same team, you really need a contrarian to be the Napoleon corporal and say, hey, let's think more about this. And Mike is a targeter. I mean he has done tactical intelligence all of his life, he's worked for other people on their staff as their intelligence collector. He's going to have to have a very broadened view in this job. And it's going to be tough.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break, we're going to continue this conversation, you can all stay with us. We'll be right back.


[20:55:40] COOPER: The breaking news, Donald Trum offering Michael Flynn the national security adviser job, a position traditionally be this one pseudo phrase so-called "honest broker" a very point view. General Flynn on the other hand is certainly known as a passionate advocate, with battle of experience. Back with us Jeffrey Lord, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling and Reza Aslan.

Reza, I mean were you surprise at the sent with General Flynn was out on the campaign trail as well for Donald Trump?

ASLAN: Well, he clearly is passionately pro the president-elect, and so he was willing to put his reputation on the line to get him elected. And certainly now he is now being rewarded. But I just want to remind people that we are engaged in a conflict with the militant organization that believes that the United States is at war with Islam, and the president-elect has now just appointed a national security adviser who agrees with that statement. COOPER: General Hertling, in terms of working with Muslim countries, in terms of trying to send the message to most of the Muslim world which is not against the United States or not fighting the United States, does this hurt that effort?

HERTLING: I think it does, Anderson. And -- but I think you're seeing across the board that the Trump team is beginning to understand things that were stated during the campaign are in fact hurting him in many areas. Not just been Muslim countries but we are talking about NATO, Asia, Africa, some of the other things that they have mentioned which have been contentious during the campaign season. They're realizing they're got to walk back quite a bit right now, as they meet with variety of people and meet with other governments to understand that other governments have their own national security concerns and they're not always going to do exactly what the United States wants them to do.

So, I think there is a requirement to get the intelligence right. And even though as we've mentioned, you know, there have been some commentary about Muslims across the board, and the ideology of Islam, that will cause some challenges, that may not be the only problem the national security adviser faces, and helps the president address. I mean that the whole thing that the president does with the national security adviser is look security across the country.

And ISIS is only one of about eight things that that national security adviser is going to have to be worried about on day one of the presidency.

COOPER: Right, I mean General Hertling, that General Flynn is being criticized he for perceived relationships with Russia, he's appeared on Russia today and off a lot, and I think he been gone over there to speak.

HERTLING: Yeah, that's correct, and not only Russia, but giving advice to Turkey, so there is potentially some conflict of interest here. I think Mike went to Russia soon after his retirement, which surprise quite a few folks after being the director of Intelligence Agency, that since Intelligence Agency.

So, yeah that -- those are all concerning things, and truthfully, I think it's going to as many of our NATO allies a great deal of pause to know how Donald Trump feels, but also, to see what Mike Flynn has done prior to being named the NSA.

COOPER: Yeah, I mean Jeffrey, it certainly -- I mean his views that Russia seem to be in line with what Donald Trump has said on Russia.

LORD: Right, they do, indeed. And that of course is what each president wants. I mean Susan Rice's view of the world is very much the same as President Obama's. And she's the national security adviser, and that's what she does. So there's nothing in the least unusual about this, and I think, you know, therefore General Flynn will serve President Trump very, very well.

COOPER: Is it important though for moving forward for Donald Trump to have a variety of opinions around him in your opinion Jeffrey?

LORD: Sure, sure. And you can do that both with people in your own government and consult constantly with people outside of your government. I mean there all kinds of people out there that would be more than willing to sit down with the president of the United States and talk about their view of the world if the president's interested which I'm sure Donald Trump would be, he's a very, very good listener and a very good executive. So, absolutely I'm sure he'll be doing that.

COOPER: We have to leave it there. Jeffrey Lord, thank you. General Hertling as well, Reza Aslan, great to see you. Thank you.

Starting now at "360" Special Report, unprecedented inside the Trump campaign, we'll be right back.

[21:00:09] Good evening, tonight at "360" Special Report.