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Trump's New Pick; Trump to Meet Romney; Trump Spins Ford Factory News. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired November 18, 2016 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:11] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president-elect's pick for national security adviser, a retired army man with a combat experience and a combative reputation.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And a surprise contender for top cabinet pick -- former presidential candidate and harsh Trump critic, Mitt Romney.

ROMANS: President-elect Trump takes credit for keeping a Ford plant from moving to Mexico. But a closer look revealed a different story.

Good morning. Welcome, everyone, to EARLY START this Friday morning. I'm Christine Romans.

HOWELL: Friday.

I'm George Howell. It is Friday, November 18th, 4:00 a.m. here in the East.

And new this morning, President-elect Donald Trump has picked General Michael Flynn for the job of national security advisor. This is according to a Trump official. Flynn was a fierce supporter during the campaign.

He would come to the White House, though, with some baggage. Among other things, he was fired as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, officials say, because of his combative management style. As for the overall transition activity, though, it is moving forward this morning at Trump Tower here in Manhattan. The president-elect has two hours, a two-hour meeting to review top choices for key administration jobs.

After that, Donald Trump will spend the weekend at Trump National Golf Course in New Jersey. He is set to sit down with 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney to talk about a possible role for him, possibly that of secretary of state.

Let's bring in CNN's Sara Murray with the very latest.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning, George and Christine. Donald Trump making it official, extending an offer to General Michael

Flynn, asking him to be his national security adviser in the White House. Now, our sources aren't telling us whether Flynn has accepted that position. But in many ways, it's a natural fit. Flynn has been at Donald Trump's side throughout the campaign and also throughout this transition process as Trump works to build a government.

Now, while Flynn may seem like a logical pick, Donald Trump is having many other meetings that are raising eyebrows. He spent Thursday meeting with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, someone who's been very critical of him in the past, but someone sources say he is considering for secretary of state.

As for this weekend, he'll be meeting with Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney was perhaps one of the earliest and fiercest critics of Donald Trump. But sources say that they are expected to discuss the secretary of state job.

Now, whether Trump will actually go with one of these past rivals and name them to a cabinet position is still to be seen. He may just stick with safe picks like Flynn.

Back to you, guys.


ROMANS: All right. Sara Murray, thank you.

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is another staunch ally with whom Trump has been discussing cabinet jobs. A transition official tells CNN, Sessions is a leading contender for attorney general. The former Alabama attorney general was the first sitting U.S. senator to endorse Trump. You know, he was nominated for a federal judgeship back in the 1980s, that was scuttled after Sessions was accused of having made racially tinge remarks during his time as U.S. attorney for Alabama. Those were allegations he strongly denied at the time.

HOWELL: We are hearing from sources familiar are the process that former Texas Governor Rick Perry has been in touch with the transition team about the role of energy secretary. As you will remember, that's the department that Perry couldn't remember during the 2011 Republican debate when listing the three that he would eliminate as president. Like many other cabinet contenders, sources say Perry is under consideration for multiple positions.

ROMANS: All right. Another ally, Newt Gingrich, will not be holding a cabinet post in the Donald Trump administration. The former House speaker and presidential candidate says it's, quote, "not physically doable." Instead, Gingrich plans to focus on strategic planning for Trump without holding an official role. Gingrich's name had been mentioned for health and human services secretary and secretary of state.

HOWELL: We have some new details this morning about the Trump team's demotion of Chris Christie. A senior Trump adviser telling CNN the New Jersey governor met with the president-elect's staff last Thursday to review his transition memo for the first time. Because Christie's plan involved hiring of lobbyists and Washington insiders, it was rejected. And Christie was replaced with Vice President-elect Pence.

Here is Christie discussing his future during a speech in Atlantic City on Thursday.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I have no reason to believe as we stand here today that I will do anything other than serve out my full term as governor and turn the keys of the office over to whoever you select in November of 2017 to replace me.


HOWELL: Christie says after his term as governor, he is not sure if he will pursue another position in public service or if he will enter the private sector.

President-elect Donald Trump is planning to take a victory lap. His staff is calling it "The Thank You" tour, "Thank You, America" tour. Rallies planned around the country right now.

[04:05:00] The multi-city event will begin in the next couple weeks and it will focus on several of the critical swing states that Trump turned from blue to red.

ROMANS: President-elect Donald Trump taking credit last night for stopping Ford from moving the plant from Kentucky to Mexico. But Ford was never planning to move that plant in the first place. Here's what the president-elect tweeted, quote, "Just got a call from my friend Bill Ford, chairman of Ford, who advised me that he will be keeping the Lincoln plant in Kentucky. No Mexico."

Fourteen minutes later, quote, "I worked hard with Bill Ford to keep the plant in Kentucky. I owed it to the great state in Kentucky for their confidence in me."

Here are the facts: last year, Ford signed a legally binding contract with the United Auto Workers union. It includes $700 million of investment in the Louisville, Kentucky plant. It would build new Escape models there and it would keep the current level of 4,700 workers. So, it was the union with whom the company had made this agreement.

What Trump may be referring to is that Ford was planning to ship production of the smaller volume Lincoln MKC from Kentucky to another factory as production of the popular Escape increased. Mexico was one possible location. But the move would not have cut any jobs at all.

Now, Ford says the plant will stay. That model rather will stay at the Kentucky plant.

HOWELL: A federal judge today in San Diego will hear arguments from Trump's attorneys to delay a civil fraud trial involving Trump University. That case is scheduled to go to trial in ten days, but Donald Trump wants it delayed until after his inauguration. His attorneys argue that preparations for the White House are critical and all consuming right now. The class action suit by former students alleges Trump University misled them and nothing more than a scam.

ROMANS: Nancy Pelosi facing a challenge to her leadership of the House Democratic caucus this morning. Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan announcing that he wants to lead House Democrats to a comeback after their thrashing in last week's election.

Senior political reporter Manu Raju has the very latest this morning from Capitol Hill.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Good morning, George and Christine.

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan throwing his hat in the ring, mounting an uphill challenge against Nancy Pelosi who's had control over the caucus for years and years and has deep loyalty, also having raised millions of dollars for her colleagues.

But there is a lot of angst among House Democrats about whether or not Nancy Pelosi knows the right way forward in order to get her party back into the majority. Now, yesterday, I had a chance to speak with Mr. Ryan, who said that reelecting Nancy Pelosi after another bad night for Democrats may not be the best idea.

REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO: You know, we're at the lowest number of state and federal officials since reconstruction. We have the lowest number in our caucus since 1929. And we've lost over 60 seats since 2010. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and you keep getting the same results. So, time to move on, I think.

RAJU: Now, the leadership elections are not until November 30th. At that point, House Democrats go behind closed doors and cast a secret ballot to determine whether or not Nancy Pelosi or Tim Ryan will be the next leader of the House Democrats. And while the betting is on Nancy Pelosi, the Pelosi people know that there is considerable concern about the future direction of their party and they are pulling out all the stops, making sure they have enough support.

Pelosi telling reporters yesterday that actually she has 2/3 support of the entire Democratic Caucus and that she knows how to bring the party back to the majority -- George and Christine.


HOWELL: Manu Raju, thank you.

President Obama is meeting with European leaders in Berlin this morning, trying to tighten alliances and to calm nerves before Donald Trump takes office. And he was a warning that he wants the entire world to hear. We'll have that story, as EARLY START continues.


[04:13:10] ROMANS: Welcome back. This morning, President Obama making a final attempt to tighten transatlantic alliances before he leaves office. He's in Berlin. He is meeting with members of Germany, Spain, Italy and the U.K.

And with so much uncertainty about the incoming president of the United States, the current president is warning his closest allies about a shift in the global order that could lead to meaner, harsher, more troubled world.

CNN's Michelle Kosinski is traveling with the president. She joins us live from Berlin.

You know, there is a sitting U.S. president. But there is another who will take office in January. And the incoming president has a different world view than President Barack Obama.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, there wasn't a lot of optimism from what we heard from the president most recently. About the most he can do in this meeting which is the quince meeting, the President and his closest European allies is telling them that it's going to be a smooth transition, that the next administration will be well-prepared, that they'll be told where all of President Obama' initiatives stand with these other leaders.

But what we mostly heard from President Obama and this is partly based on the questions he was asked, were kinds of warnings. I mean, he seemed to be warning Donald Trump that what works on the campaign trail doesn't necessarily work in leading the country. He needs to make sure he stays true to Democratic values. He seemed to be warning voters that they need to be informed and actually vote. And they can't take democracy for granted, as well as warning the world about giving in to what he called a crude nationalism and populism.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The voice that helps to steer the world away from war wherever possible, that's our voice more often than not.

[04:15:08] And we're not always successful. But if that voice is absent or if that voice is divided, we will be living in a meaner, harsher, more troubled world.


KOSINSKI: I think about the best we could hear is from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying that she had an open mind about the incoming administration. I mean, that's not necessarily what you expect to hear about the new president of your closest ally, that she has an open mind. I mean, she wasn't saying she is looking with him.

And President Obama expressed a cautious optimism. But he didn't base that on any particular qualities that he feels Donald Trump has. He based it on the job. He said being president forces you to focus and it demands seriousness -- Christine and George.

ROMANS: All right. Certainly, interesting days ahead. Thanks so much for that, Michelle Kosinski, in Berlin.

HOWELL: Hillary Clinton's vice presidential pick Tim Kaine says that he will be not running for president or vice president in 2020. Instead, the Virginia senator plans to run for re-election in 2018, calling his work in Congress, "My highest and best use." Kaine told reporters that the election loss hit him hard, but he's been gratified by the kindness that he's been show by colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

ROMANS: All right. More than a week after the election, North Carolinians still don't know who the next governor will be. The incumbent Republican Pat McCrory trails Democratic Roy Cooper by some 5,000 votes. State election officials are expected to certify all the ballots by today. Cooper says he is confident his victory will be confirmed, but Governor McCrory is challenging votes in more than of North Carolina's counties, alleging voter fraud.

HOWELL: Donald Trump and Japan's prime minister meeting one on one here in Manhattan. Trump's comments on the campaign trail, they have rattled Japan. So, this -- did this face-to-face, did it calm any nerves? We'll take a look, next.


[04:21:45] HOWELL: Welcome back to EARLY START.

Donald Trump is holding his first face-to-face meetings with world leaders. The prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, sat down with the president-elect at Trump Tower Thursday. The two were said to have had a very candid discussion.

Let's bring in CNN's Andrew Stevens following this story live in Hong Kong this hour.

Andrew, good to have you.

Donald Trump said a lot during the campaign that rattled really a lot of U.S. allies. But now, Abe is saying that he believes the U.S. and Japan can maintain a relationship of trust.

What more can you tell us?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's a very important word for Shinzo Abe, the Japan prime minister, George. He believes that trust is very, very key in establishing a relationship at this sort of level. He puts a lot of stock in the fact that he can trust Donald Trump.

And this is going to be watched obviously not just in Japan, but across the region to see whether the Japanese prime minister can find some common ground, because as you point, there was a lot of rhetoric on the campaign trail that did shock Tokyo in many, many ways. There was suggestions from Donald Trump that U.S. troops could be withdrawn from Japan unless Japan stump up more cash to pay for them. There were suggestions from the Trump campaign that Japan should look to making its own nuclear arsenal as a deterrent against North Korea.

And this did indeed worry Tokyo significantly. And Shinzo Abe was looking to get to Donald Trump face-to-face to just really to establish some sort of relationship so they can move forward.

Just listen to what the prime minister had to say at the end of the 90-minute meeting.


SHINZO ABE, PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN (through translator): Without confidence between the two nations, alliance will never function in the future. And as an outcome of today's discussion, I am convinced that Mr. Trump is a leader with whom I can have great confidence in.


STEVENS: So great confidence. Key words there.

And also, interesting, George, in what the Trump team didn't say. They didn't reiterate any of the campaign rhetoric they would indeed carry through with the plan to withdraw troops unless Japan did stump up more cash. So, it has been moderation, at least that's what the Japanese are seeing. Whether that carries through to substantive discussions as of (INAUDIBLE) relation of President Trump, it remains to be seen. But certainly, Japanese are saying that it was a very good start in this new relationship.

HOWELL: You know, we hear, Andrew, from sources that Abe's team was advised by Trump's team not to take the president-elect literally. His words literally. Do you think that might have played into this?

STEVENS: You hear that a lot. What was said on the campaign trail will stay on the campaign trail. That is certainly something that has been resonating in Tokyo and perhaps that may be one of the reasons that Abe's people are saying this was such a good start. That there may have been reassurances behind the scene during this informal meeting, reassurances from the Trump team, that that is indeed the case, George. But it is difficult to say at this stage, because there is no clear policy which has from the Trump camp, not just on Japan but across Asia, across Europe as well, NATO allies.

[04:25:08] So, there is an awful lot of ground to cover before we can see clearly what the new administration is going to be aiming for in foreign policy and how it fits with these traditional allies. I mean, the alliance between the U.S. and Japan goes back decades and it's really is a bedrock as far as Japan for its economic success and its military security. So, it is absolutely vital in Japan's eyes that this alliance stays as it is.

HOWELL: Japan and other world leaders trying to find their footing to determine the real Donald Trump. Obviously, we will continue to follow the story.

Andrew, thank you for the reporting.

ROMANS: All right. Back home. The Minnesota police officer charged with the fatal shooting of Philando Castile will make his first court appearance today. Officer Jeronimo Yanez is charged with second degree manslaughter and two other felony counts. He fatally shot Castile after a traffic stop in July. The aftermath of the shooting was live streamed by Castile's girlfriend.

Officer Yanez faces up to ten years in prison on the manslaughter charge if convicted.

HOWELL: The season's first measurable snow in the Rockies. Take a look at this. It is leading to multiple crashes across the state of Colorado. Those wet slippery roads there. The state patrol reporting at least two people were killed. The blowing snow is forcing several stretches of Interstate 70 to shutdown because of vehicle pile-ups.

ROMANS: All right. Donald Trump offering the job of national security adviser to a loyal ally, Retired General Michael Flynn. If Flynn accepts that post, he'll bring some baggage to the White House. We'll take a closer look ahead on EARLY START.