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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Trump Announces 3 National Security Appointments; Trump's Daughter, Husband Attend Shinzo Abe Meeting with Trump; Trump Takes Credit for Saving Ford Jobs in KY. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 18, 2016 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[11:30:47] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, President-elect Donald Trump officially announced his first key national security posts, Congressman Mike Pompeo as CIA director, Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general, and retired General Michael Flynn as national security adviser. All three have accepted. Two will require Senate confirmations.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Here to discuss these picks, someone who knows a lot about these roles, Nancy Soderberg. She was deputy national security adviser for President Bill Clinton.

It's great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

NANCY SODERBERG, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about national security adviser. Obviously, that's a position you are very familiar with. Put us in the room. How big of a role is the president's national security adviser? How big of a role does he or she play?

SODERBERG: First, let me just comment on the group. These are people who fed the views saw during the campaign to Donald Trump. You had Pompeo, who is on the Benghazi Committee in the House, you had Sessions who fed anti-Islamic, racist comments to him but couldn't even get through the Judicial Committee when he was a Reagan nominee in the'80s because of his racist views, and Michael Flynn, an intelligence officer who was fired from the Defense Intelligence Agency because of his opposition to the Obama policies. Actually, a Democrat. But he's never held a policy job in his life.

So, my prediction is on Flynn, he will come in thinking he can run the place like a general and be out within a year. You cannot do that job without building consensus. I worked in the National Security Council very closely for many years. And the role of the national security adviser is, yes, number one, the president's chief foreign policy adviser. Now, remember intelligence is not policy. So, he's never held a policy-making job. And the role of a good national security adviser is one who makes the rest of the National Security Council feel that they were listened to, because, yes, you can overrule your cabinet's position, but they need to have at least felt that their views were considered. He did not do that at the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was fired from that job in 2014.

And he's the one who has been feeding these extreme views that we heard during the campaign, anti-Muslim. He says it's rational to fear Muslims. He's very pro-Russian. He's belligerent against NATO.

I think what you will see in the first nine months of the Trump administration is very similar to what you saw in the first nine months of George W.'s administration, where he had a lot of ideologues coming in wanting to push an agenda. In their case, they ignored terrorism, were focused on Russia and China, didn't want to deal with nation building. All of that changed dramatically on 9/11. Then they began to be much more engaged in reality.

BERMAN: It's clear you have a very different world view than the people that Donald Trump has tapped. It's clear you disagree with them on all of their positions. The two of them will require Senate confirmation. General Flynn won't. General Flynn, whose views were known during the election, very close to Donald Trump. Donald Trump won.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, members of Congress, including Democratic members of Congress, have had perfectly nice things to say about him. Including Adam Schiff, who is ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee. He says, "Mike is a very bright, hard-working, and will devote himself to helping the agency develop the best possible intelligence for policy makers."

So, what you are seeing, you are seeing at least for that selection bipartisan praise.

SODERBERG: You know, he may prove to be competent. You never know exactly how individuals grow into these jobs.

Look, Donald Trump won this election fair and square. He has the absolute right to put his own people in place. My job is to try and look in the crystal ball and see how they are going to develop.

I think Pompeo could be a perfectly fine head of our national - head of our -- CIA director. We just simply don't know. I'm troubled by all the Benghazi hearings that went on over the years. But he's been on the Intelligence Committee. He knows the agency. And that's a good thing. He's clearly competent. We'll see. That's a very tough job.

BOLDUAN: If you -- if you --

SODERBERG: Sessions as attorney general is a little troubling given his background. But, again, that's the message Donald Trump got elected on. So, it should be no surprise.

[11:35:10] BOLDUAN: Could I just quick ask you, on Michael Flynn - could I ask, on Michael Flynn, if you had just one piece of advice, just kind of how to best do the job, what would be your one piece of advice as someone who has been in that room to Michael Flynn as national security adviser? SODERBERG: Make the other members of the National Security Council

feel that they are listened to. If they feel the president has heard their views and then he overrules them, they will accept that. If they feel their views are just dismissed and thrown aside, then you will have major problems and he will be out in a year. If Flynn can evolve from the person he's been to date and become more of a consensus builder -- is really what the national security adviser must do -- then he will succeed. There's nothing in his background that indicates to me that he's going to do that. But we all hope they succeed. All Americans want this government to succeed. It's too much on the line to have this not work. I'm troubled by that appointment. I think many others are.

BERMAN: Nancy Soderberg, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate your insight.

SODERBERG: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, Donald Trump ditches the press again. This time ahead of a meeting with the prime minister of Japan. Reporters not allowed in. Donald Trump's son-in-law, Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka, they were there with him. Why that -- why the fact they were in the room, why that's raising eyebrows right now.

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[11:41:00] BOLDUAN: Donald Trump making moves to fill out his cabinet. Also, sitting down for his first face-to-face with a foreign leader, Japan's prime minister. In the room, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has been a close advisor and will likely continue to be to the president-elect, by all accounts. Also in the room, his daughter, Ivanka, who has said she will not be involved in the government. The president and his daughter, Ivanka, have said she will be running his business going forward.

BERMAN: I want to bring in Joseph Borelli, New York City councilman, a Donald Trump supporter; Angela Rye, CNN political commentator, former executive director of Congressional Black Caucus, who was supportive of Hillary Clinton; and Doug Heye, CNN political commentator, former communications director for the Republican National Committee.

Doug Heye, Ivanka Trump in the room when president-elect meets with the Japanese prime minister. This is his first foreign meeting with a foreign leader as president-elect. Why was she there? What kind of message does this send?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We don't know. Because the press wasn't in the -- there was no press pool coverage --

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BERMAN: That's a whole other problem.

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HEYE: If it was exchanging pleasantries and introductions, that's totally fine. If they are talking serious policies and moving forward with the relationship, how it affects what we have seen just from the past eight years in Asia, that presents a problem and presents a lot of questions. One of the things that a lot of people have been troubled by or at least asking questions about is, what is the vetting process not just for meetings, but for the phone calls that are coming from foreign leaders, and are they on secured lines and things like that. He's obviously talked to a lot of foreign leaders, which is good. But those need to be on secured line and following protocols that come from the State Department.

BOLDUAN: Joseph, there have already been a lot of conflict-of- interest questions raised, because it is not clear where the line will be or how the line will be drawn between Trump, his family, and his business. That's just one. But then when you -- why even have your daughter in the room when that is not clearly -- that hasn't been cleared up yet?

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BOLDUAN: I mean, why would you even allow for more questions?

JOSEPH BORELLI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: To Doug's first point, Kellyanne Conway had come on the airways prior to this meeting and said it would be an informal meeting between the prime minister and the president-elect.

That said, it is unusual in the sense that we have to look back over 20 years to find a president with an adult child. When we do, we see that Jeb Bush was an informal and semi-formal adviser to George Bush and he had been widely known to have corresponded with the staff. I don't think --

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BOLDUAN: But Donald Trump had been very clear they were going to run the business.

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BOLDUAN: The reason he said that is, in his view, Donald Trump during the campaign, was trying to clear up questions of conflict of interest. They are going to run my r business. They won't be involved in government.

BORELLI: He also said during the campaign it was widely known his children were an influence in his life and would have a role in the White House as advisers.

BERMAN: You can't do both. You can't run the business and be an adviser in the White House. That creates a huge, huge conflict of interest. Again, we don't know what happened in that room for the reasons Doug brought up --

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BORELLI: But to infer some type of problem --

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BERMAN: It was a 90-minute meeting with the prime minister of Japan. It could not have just been like the weather's nice, we both like golf. At a certain point, policy came up, which I know it did.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLTICAL COMMENTATOR: And there are two things he easily could have done to prevent this issue, this appearance of impropriety, which is wait until he's actually the president to start having these conversations, which is what folks have done in the past when elected president.

The second thing he could have done was at least get the briefings from the State Department so he knows how these conversations go.

I think, unfortunately, this is just yet another example of Donald Trump's inexperience causing him to make bad decisions. The inexperience of some of the folks on his transition team causing him to make bad decisions. The fact that his three children are on the transition team I think yet again begs the point of his inexperience.

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HEYE: One thing is they didn't expect to be there, so when the president of South Korea calls and wants to talk to the president- elect, they patch the call through somehow. The problem is they have to follow the protocols because talking to one nation before another in Europe could cause a problem.

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HEYE: Talking to one nation in Asia before another may cause a problem.

[11:45:09] BOLDUAN: And hiccups happen.

RYE: Sure.

HEYE: Sure.

BOLDUAN: You have seen this in past administrations. I just don't understand why, when you know there are real conflict-of-interest questions raised --

RYE: Kate, Kate --

BOLDUAN: -- why even allow it to continue in a very important first meeting that everyone will want to know about, when you sit down for the first time with a foreign leader.

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BORELLI: We don't know there was a real conflict-of-interest issue raised because we don't know the conversation. And all evidence --

RYE: That's only his fault.

BORELLI: All the evidence leading up to it was this was going to be an informal conversation between the world leader and future world leader. We could be grasping at straws to just make inferences.

RYE: No, this is what happens when you become president.

BOLDUAN: Remember what Donald Trump said during the campaign? How does Bill Clinton and the attorney general talk about kids and golf for however long they were sitting on that plane?

BERMAN: It was 90 minutes.

BORELLI: As president-elect, he already is a world leader.

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BORELLI: As we all know, he's already saved the Ford Motor Company jobs. He has a real impact --

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(LAUGHTER)

RYE: I've got to clarify.

BERMAN: Let's actually talk about that. It's fascinating. Donald Trump tweeted last night. He claimed credit for saving these jobs in Kentucky that he didn't save. Ford was going to change the model they were producing there, but Donald Trump claimed credit for it. There it is. "I worked hard with Bill Ford to keep the Lincoln plant in Kentucky. I owed it to the great state of Kentucky for their confidence in me."

Joseph Borelli, it's just not true.

BORELLI: I mean, if you read the "Wall Street Journal" today, they come out and say the Ford company was going to make the Escape and expand their operation at the Lexington factory but they were going to move the Lincoln model -- I forget which model it is -- to another factory. And --

BERMAN: So he won the Escape for that plant?

BORELLI: He got the Escape. And now the Lincoln MKZ, or whatever, will still also be made there. That is a small victory.

He's not taking credit for the victory, per se.

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BORELLI: He's saying the president of Ford called him to say we are happy to work with you in a future administration at keeping jobs here. That is sort of a moral victory. I don't think it's a specifically related to something he did but I think it shows the new direction the president wants to go in to keep jobs in America. And I think it is something to be a little pat on the back for.

RYE: But they announced it some time ago, one, and I think we have to be careful. There's a separate president and CEO, and, of course, his name escapes me right now, but that's not who he was on the phone with. He was on the phone with the chairman.

I think the biggest question is this is a decision they made some time ago and he shared this information on his Twitter feed like it was something that resulted from the call. I think it's very, very important because just how when we had Barack Obama, it was, all of a sudden, oh, we're post-racial now. We are post-truth. The president- elect represents post-truth. Whatever he says goes to his 12 million Twitter followers.

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BERMAN: We have to quit. We are also post-time right now.

(LAUGHTER)

Thank you so much for being with us.

So, could we see Ted Cruz in Donald Trump's cabinet? The former rivals have been working together a little bit to shape the administration. And Ted Cruz himself is set to speak just moments from now. Stick around.

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[11:51:52] BERMAN: Donald Trump's mantra for the election, a simple one, "common sense."

BOLDUAN: CNN's new book "Unprecedented, The Election that Changed Everything," digs deep into this and more.

But on this, let's bring in CNN Political director, David Chalian.

David, common sense, how did the Trump campaign use those to their advantage to win?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: This is like, it's the economy, stupid, right, of the Clinton campaign in '92. This common-sense mantra, according to Sam Nunberg, a Trump -- Roger Stone, compatriot and political advisor at the beginning of the campaign, said Donald Trump was committed to taking complexities of the global stage and simplifying it for two reasons. One, the Republican electorate, the primary electorate, would find it appealing, a common-sense approach to things and wrapping everything in that frame. And, two, it would enrage the establishment, saying things aren't that simple. So, he would be able to accomplish two goals.

BERMAN: And the wall, classic wall, an example of this, David?

CHALIAN: Yes. Again, according to excellent reporting - guys, we would love this dream assignment, instead of chasing headlines every day. Our colleagues have been able to be behind the scenes throughout the entire campaign, richly report what was going on behind the scenes. Nunberg uses an example, as told in the book, about the wall, because every time Donald Trump would just say, "build the wall, the wall," and we would all talk about Trump and the wall. For the psychology of voters, they believed what was happening is that people said, wow, Donald Trump is using his estate developer skills, building something, to protect us. It's just that simple. That kind of messaging is what Trump found attractive and what the team around him at the launch of his campaign was trying to build.

BERMAN: Interesting to see how that works in the White House.

David Chalian --

BOLDUAN: Simple and successful.

BERMAN: Nice to see you, David. Appreciate it

BOLDUAN: Thanks, David.

BERMAN: "Unprecedented" hits store shelves December 6th. Preorder your copy at CNN.com/book.

We'll be right back.

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[11:58:10] BOLDUAN: Voting is now under way for "CNN Hero" of the year. Sheldon Smith is one of this year's top-10 heroes. His nonprofit, the Dovetail Project, helps young fathers build stronger families by giving them the skills to become responsible parents. Meet Sheldon Smith.

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SHELDON SMITH, CNN HERO (voice-over): Being a dad taught me to overcome because I didn't have a father figure around that taught me what being a dad is. Fatherhood doesn't come with a map. Fatherhood doesn't come with a manual. And sometimes you can learn from others or you learn on the fly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in this program so my son wouldn't have to go through what I went through.

SMITH: Amen.

(voice-over): 70 percent of African-American children grow up in single-parent households. What I wanted to do was figure out how to provide these men with the skills and tools that they need to stay involved in their children's lives and really support the next generation of children.

My goal at the end of the day when I started the Dovetail Project was to right the cycle because I grew up in a community where a lot of young men faced the same issues I was facing and no one was doing anything about it. There aren't too many places where a father can go and get the help and support that he actually needs. Being able to have those resources that you actually need to make an impact on your child's life, like employment or some type of assistance, is key and very important. And I really wanted to be the person who built the hub for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Doing such important work. Vote for Sheldon or any of your top-10 heroes. Do it right now at CNNheroes.com.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for joining us AT THIS HOUR, everybody.

BERMAN: CNN NEWSROOM with Brianna Keilar starts right now.

[12:00:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. And welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Brianna Keilar.

And the first U.S. Senator to back Donald Trump for president is on his way to Donald Trump's cabinet. Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, is the president-elect's nominee for attorney general.