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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger; Trump's Infrastructure Plan?; Trump and Romney Set to Meet. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired November 17, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, if you can't beat them, join them.
THE LEAD starts right now.
The shift from campaign mode to commander in chief, some huge surprises, including an unexpected Cabinet hopeful heading to Trump Tower today. Who is it?
Plus, Donald Trump building bridges, not in like unite the country sense, actual bridges, his plan to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure and whether for congressional Republicans it's a bridge too far.
And it's true. I read it on Facebook. That, of course, could not be more wrong right now. The fake news stories filling your news feed and prompting condemnation from the president today.
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the lead. I am Jake Tapper.
Our politics lead, President-elect Trump about to have his first in- the-flesh meeting with a world leader in his new position next hour. He will sit down with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The revolving door at the president-elect's address has gotten quite a workout today, potential future Cabinet secretaries under president- elect Trump marching in and out of the building all day, including South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley reportedly under consideration to be America's new top diplomat, the secretary of state.
She of course once declared that Trump embodied -- quote -- "everything a governor doesn't want in a president." But she got a tete-a-tete with the president-elect a few hours ago.
Speaking of Republican luminaries who have said rather some nasty things about the president-elect, we learned that Trump today is set to meet with Governor Mitt Romney this weekend, the man who once called Trump a con man and predicted trickle-down racism would pollute the United States because of Donald Trump.
Sara Murray is here with me in Washington.
Sara, sources telling CNN that Mitt Romney is not only meeting with Trump. They are going to be discussing a potential Cabinet post?
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wouldn't you love to be a fly on that wall at that meeting?
Look, Mitt Romney is just the latest Trump critic to come out and indicate he's willing to sit down with the president-elect and maybe even ponder a Cabinet position. It's also a signal though from the Trump team that, hey, we're not holding grudges, we're looking to build the best team around.
MURRAY (voice-over): As Trump Towers' revolving doors turn in top advisers, potential Cabinet picks and family members, Donald Trump is welcoming some new faces, like Florida Governor Rick Scott and Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling. Also on the agenda today, a sit-down with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a sharp Trump critic throughout the campaign.
GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.
MURRAY: Now sources say she is under consideration for secretary of state. It's the latest indication, according to Trump advisers, that the president-elect is willing to look beyond past grudges as he builds his administration.
SEAN SPICER, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: It doesn't matter to him what your political party was or where you stood in the primary. If you are the best person for that job, then he wants you as part of this team.
MURRAY: All of this as Trump's top advisers say he's ready to deliver on one of his key campaign promises.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We are going to Washington, D.C., and we are going to drain the swamp.
MURRAY: Advisers say Trump will enact a five-year lobbying ban after executive branch appointees leave office and a lifetime ban on representing foreign governments.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It's a major campaign promise that Donald Trump made. And he is already delivering on it during transition as the president-elect.
MURRAY: But it's unclear how Trump's team will define lobbyists and whether people will simply skirt the rules by choosing not to register as lobbyists and labeling themselves consultants instead.
One senior Trump adviser says raiding the government of lobbyists was the last straw in Trump's strained relationship with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. After Christie presented a transition memo peppered with lobbies and establishment hires, he was dismissed as head of the transition effort.
One outstanding question is where Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner will fit in the mix. A source says while Kushner will play a role in the Trump White House, it's unclear whether it will be formal or informal.
As Trump works to flesh out a government from New York, vice president-elect Mike Pence headed to Capitol Hill for meetings with members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is already tempering expectations on another of Trump's core campaign promises.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's too early to know the answer to how fast can Obamacare relief occur. What we're focused on is how do we get Obamacare repealed and what we replace it with so that we can get that relief to the American families as fast as possible.
MURRAY: Now, Donald Trump has already spent ours poring over Cabinet picks, but still no update on the timeline for when he will announce them. His advisers say he wants to get it right, not on some sort of arbitrary time frame.
TAPPER: Sara Murray, thank you so much.
This morning, the director of national intelligence, retired General James Clapper, submitted his letter of resignation effective January 20, 2017, to President Obama. General Clapper oversees all the intelligence agencies, the ones that do indispensable work when it comes to trying to snuff out terrorist plots.
This was expected. So, it doesn't exactly complicate the task of filling out the Trump administration's national security team, but it does reinforce the idea that there is this big, giant, looming clock hanging over this entire process.
CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has more now on how Trump could fill out his national security team.
Jim, we are seeing a lot of folks walking in and out of Trump Tower. Is the list for a top national security post, is it at all surprising?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It's surprising and it may be lengthening at this point.
Earlier this week, for arguably the most important national security post, secretary of state, we had been told it was down to Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, but now new names coming up, including, as Sara Murray said, Nikki Haley and even the possibility at this meeting it could be discussed at the meeting this weekend Mitt Romney for secretary of state.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Circling in and out of Trump Tower today, national security contenders from New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, candidate for secretary of state, to former defense intelligence chief lieutenant General Michael Flynn, leading candidate for national security adviser.
CONWAY: He has been a very trusted adviser, a close adviser to candidate Trump and now president-elect Trump. And he certainly is one of the people being considered for that position.
SCIUTTO: Also meeting with the president-elect today, Henry Kissinger, retired General Jack Keane and Admiral Mike Rogers, the current head of NSA and U.S. Cyber Command.
Trump transition leaders have launched so-called landing teams to coordinate incoming administration staff with outgoing staff at the State Department, Defense Department, Justice Department and National Security Council.
However, all the most senior national security leadership positions remain unfilled. And today the campaign added a new requirement. All hires will face a lifetime ban on working for a foreign government. That rule, however, is only forward-looking, as it would disqualify candidates such as Giuliani, who CNN has learned kept the Serbian government among its list of foreign clients as recently as 2012.
RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: We're just hear to advise them and give our advice. My company gets paid for it. I don't get paid for it. That's what my company does. It gets paid for giving advice.
SCIUTTO: On his final foreign trip as president, Barack Obama delivered some stern foreign policy advice to his successor, Donald Trump, warning him to stand up to Russia and to speak up on behalf of the world's most vulnerable people.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If that voice is absent or if that voice is divided, we will be living in a meaner, harsher, more troubled world. And we have to remember that.
SCIUTTO: The Trump team's somewhat unconventional contacts with foreign leaders continue. We learned that Australian golfer Greg Norman was the key to linking up his prime minister with Donald Trump, their old golfing buddy relationship paying off in international relations.
TAPPER: Glad he had the number to pass it on to the prime minister.
Jim Sciutto, thanks.
Joining me now from Capitol Hill is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He's also a former Air Force pilot and current Air National Guard Reservist.
Congressman, thanks for coming on.
One of your primary concerns of president-elect Trump during the campaign was how he would deal with Russia and if he would try to appease Vladimir Putin. President Obama weighed in on that very topic hours ago.
And, Congressman, I will let you respond to what the president had to say right after this quick break.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger is still with me. He's on Capitol Hill.
Congressman, listen to what President Obama had to say in Berlin just a few hours ago about how he hopes president-elect Trump will stand up to Vladimir Putin's Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My hope is, is that he does not simply take a realpolitik approach and suggest that, if we just cut some deals with Russia, even if it hurts people or even if it violates international norms or even if it leaves smaller countries vulnerable...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Are you comfortable that president-elect Trump will stand up to Russia?
KINZINGER: Well, it's remaining to be seen.
I have been really very impressed with what I have seen so far, names floated out of the transition team, really, what I think was the day, basically, Trump won, the weight of the world, the weight of the presidency coming onto him and realizing that, you know, this is a big deal, and now getting spun up on these issues, really beginning to understand the threat that Russia poses.
I am seeing some optimistic things, seeing some great things on the domestic side. I am starting to get more optimistic when it comes to foreign policy. But the point I will point out on the president, and I agree with what he said, is that it was under this president, frankly, that Russia was allowed to get a foothold into Syria and now is participating with Assad in killing half-a-million and 50,000 children.
So, I do hope president-elect Trump stands up to Russia more aggressively than what we have had so far.
TAPPER: There was legislation that came up on the House today that would have sanctioned Russia for the cyber-attacks on the U.S. that impacted the U.S. elections. You told me back in September that you suspected Russia was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee.
Wouldn't this measure at least have done something to hold Russia accountable for trying to meddle in the election? KINZINGER: Oh, sure, yes.
And I think, going forward, I think we still need to find out, by the way, with every amount of proof we can if they were in fact behind it, who was associated with that. This is a big deal. This doesn't end with Election Day.
But especially going forward, I mean, we cannot set a precedent. We are not an old satellite country of the Soviet Union. We're the United States of America. So, to allow any country to come in and try to mess with an election system with information or whatever is a big, serious problem.
And so not just that, but you also can get into, if you find information on somebody, for instance, this is spycraft, where somebody can turn them into spies for the state by having embarrassing information. So, cyber-protection is extremely important. It's something our committee has taken up.
But we actually have to move faster, because, unfortunately, technology is moving faster than the works of government in securing it.
TAPPER: Listen to National Security Agency
[16:15:00] REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: So cyber protection is extremely important. It's something our committee has taken up. But we actually have to move faster because unfortunately technology is moving faster than the works of government in securing it.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Listen to National Security Agency chief, Admiral Mike Rogers, talking to the "Wall Street Journal" about the hack of the DNC, saying it was intentional and done by a nation-state. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADMIRAL MIKE ROGERS, NSA DIRECTOR: There shouldn't be any doubt in anybody's mind, this was not something that was done casually. This was not something that was done by chance. That was selected purely arbitrarily. This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: If we find out definitively that it was Russia, what do you think needs to be done? Because you know better than I, OK, it's the DNC and John Podesta targeted this year. Next year, it's the RNC --
TAPPER: -- and, you know, who knows? Steve Bannon or Reince Priebus.
KINZINGER: Yes. So, I mean, when it comes to cyber issues, first off, you know, defense is the best offense. So if we can defend that information, that's important. Understand that what you send out on e-mail can be revealed.
But the other thing is, I think this is almost going to have to go to a level of what it was in Cold War, with mutually assured destruction with nuclear weapons and understanding that, you know, you can always find cyber vulnerabilities. But if something like this happens, expect something like this even greater to happen to you.
You know, there was discussion about, you know, there is very embarrassing information that probably could reveal to some level about Vladimir Putin and his dealings overseas. I mean, you have to get to level where we're willing to go to the wall to also -- so that somebody understands that any attack on our sovereignty would result in at least equal if not greater penalties for them.
TAPPER: Admiral Rogers, while we are talking about Admiral Rogers, he was at Trump Tower today to discuss potentially taking the helm at the CIA, we're told. Under President Obama, drone strikes and covert counter-terrorism operations were largely shifted from the CIA to the Pentagon which meant more congressional notification, a measure for of transparency.
One would think, and I'm just hypothesizing here, one would think that installing a military guy at the CIA could signal a shift of those operations back to the CIA, back into the shadows. Would you be comfortable with that?
KINZINGER: Well, I don't know if that's necessarily signaling it. But let's say theoretically that something like that would happen. I think there needs -- anytime you can have more congressional oversight is obviously better. You have an intelligence committee out here that reviews this kind of stuff, which is important.
I think it needs -- I think drone strikes and any kind of counter- terrorism operation shouldn't be put necessarily in, you know, where it's going to mean the best politically but should be put where it's going to be the most effective. And if the CIA has better footprints in certain countries that the DOD doesn't, and vice versa, it ought to be given control there.
I mean, our number one goal needs to be within the confines of, you know, good humanity and Constitution to destroy the enemy that's trying to destroy us. So, wherever we can do it best, I'm all for it.
TAPPER: Congressman, thank you and congratulations on your reelection, by the way.
KINZER: Thanks, Jake. Appreciate it.
TAPPER: The pope endorsed Donald Trump. No, he didn't. Hillary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS. No, not true.
These are just some of the fake news stories filling your Facebook feed. And now even the president is weighing in. That story coming up.
Plus, there was a fight brewing on Capitol Hill and it has nothing to do with Republicans. Who is now worried about keeping her job?
Stay with us.
[16:22:57] TAPPER: Welcome back.
More to our politics lead now.
There was a time when false news stories were just e-mailed to you by your crazy Uncle Frank, a long screed in all caps about how this politician was part of a crime family or secretly responsible for a terrorist attack or gay or a murderer.
But today, that crazy misinformation comes neatly packaged and professionally presented, places such as the "Denver Guardian", breathlessly and falsely reporting, quote, "FBI agent suspected in Hillary e-mail leaks found dead in apparent murder-suicide." Not true. It didn't happen. And the "Denver Guardian" is not a real source of news.
One cray-cray story in the thick of the election suggested that First Lady Michelle Obama was so concerned about a pending arrest of Hillary Clinton, the first lady was scrubbing all references to Clinton from her Twitter accounts. And that fake story was shared by a top talk radio host with his audience.
Now, there is no data providing that this fake news phenomenon had an impact on the election but it is, without question, a problem. So much so that earlier today, President Obama condemned it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I would like to turn it over to Mike Flynn.
TAPPER (voice-over): Retired General Michael Flynn, who has the inside track to become President-elect Donald Trump's national security advisor, took to Twitter just days before the election and forwarded this false and rather unhinged story suggesting that the NYPD had found evidence of so many crimes on Anthony Weiner's laptop, including pedophilia, that Hillary Clinton and her crew would be put away for life. The story on something called truepundit.com was a complete lie.
Nonetheless, Flynn tweeted it to his tens of thousands of followers. "You decide," he wrote. It has since been retweeted nearly 7,000 times. After all, General Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, wouldn't tweet it if it weren't true, right? False.
Twitter streams and Facebook news feeds flooded with falsehoods have become so prevalent it was called out today by the leader of the free world.
[16:25:01] BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we are not serious about facts, if we can't discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.
TAPPER: In an era when sharing a story is easier than fact-checking one, the battle for the truth is difficult.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: It's time to reject a media and political elite that's bled our country dry.
TAPPER: Contributing to the craze is a deepening distrust in mainstream media. Some of it sewn by giant missteps such as the false "Rolling Stone" story about a non-existent gang rape on a college campus, along with the perception that media organizations are choosing political sides.
TRUMP: A bunch of phony low-lives. They're disgraceful.
LUCAS GRAVES, ASST. PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON: That kind of journalism has a long history in the United States, but I think it also contributes to the long-term decline of people's trust in the news media.
TAPPER: And it turns out, lying is a lucrative business.
According to "BuzzFeed", fake news story outperformed legitimate ones on Facebook in the weeks leading up to Election Day.
GRAVES: We have kind of a perfect storm in some ways because the media economy today really rewards stories that go viral. The stories that tend to go viral are those that tap right into our political instincts. So, there is a strong incentive for people who are trying to make money.
TAPPER: One man behind these hoaxes told the "Washington Post," "There's nothing you can't write about now that people won't believe." Adding that "Trump's campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up."
JON STEWART, TV HOST/COMEDIAN: Authenticity comes across as lunacy.
TAPPER: Some conservatives say part of the blame for the phenomenon lies with those who treated popular left-leaning satire programs such as the "Daily Show" as legitimate news sources even though they engaged in deceptive editing for comedy's sake.
Both Facebook and Google have announced they would no longer allow fake news sites to use their ad selling services, a small effort to slow a rumor mill that is running faster than ever.
TAPPER: During the campaign, Donald Trump talked about banning Muslims. Now, there is talk about a registry that would end up tracking mostly Muslim immigrants. So just what is the Trump administration proposing? That story next.