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Gen. Flynn Tapped By Trump; Trump to Meet Romney; Trump Spins Ford Factory News; Houston Takes Down Louisville. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 18, 2016 - 05:00   ET


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The president-elect's pick for national security advisor. A retired army man with combat experience and a combative reputation.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A surprise from the Trump transition team. Harsh Trump critic Mitt Romney, he plans to meet with the president-elect this weekend.

HOWELL: And President-elect Trump taking credit for keeping a Ford plant from moving to Mexico. But a closer look reveals he actually didn't have anything to do with that.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm George Howell.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, it is November 18th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And new this morning, President-elect Donald Trump has offered the job of national security advisor to General Michael Flynn. That's according to a Trump transition official.

Flynn was a fierce Trump supporter during the campaign, but he would come to the White House with a history. Among other things, he was fired as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, officials say, because of his combative management style.

Transition activity moving forward this morning at Trump Tower. Trump has a two-hour meeting to review top choices for key administration jobs. After that, he'll spend the weekend at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey. And get this -- he will sit down with 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney -- Mitt Romney who said a Trump presidency could lead to trickle down racism. Mitt Romney who called Donald Trump a con man, a phony, and a fraud.

For the latest, let's turn to CNN's Sara Murray.


MURRAY: 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.

[05:00:07] 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.


HOWELL: Sara Murray, thank you.

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

ROMANS: Sources familiar with the process say former Texas Governor Rick Perry has been in touch with the Trump transition team about the role of energy secretary. That's the department Perry could not remember during that infamous 2011 Republican debate when listing the three departments he would eliminate as president. Like many other cabinet contenders, sources say Perry is under consideration for multiple positions.

HOWELL: And Newt Gingrich. We have seen him on the campaign trail. He will not hold a cabinet post in the Trump administration. The former House speaker and presidential candidate says he it's not physically doable. Instead, Gingrich plans to focus on strategic planning for Donald Trump without holding an official role. Gingrich's name had been mentioned for health and human services secretary and secretary of state.

ROMANS: New details this morning about the Trump team's demotion of Chris Christie. A senior Trump adviser tells 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, this is according to the transition team, involved hiring of lobbyists and Washington insiders, it was rejected. Christie was replaced with Vice President-elect Pence.

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


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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Christie says after his term as governor, he is not sure if he will pursue another position in public service or whether he'll enter the private sector.

HOWELL: And the president-elect is planning to visit the swing states that put him over the top. Donald Trump's staff starting out calling it a victory tour, but then quickly switching that name to the "Thank America" tour. Rallies are planned around the country right now. It is a multicity event that will begin in the next couple weeks. It will focus on several of the battleground states that Donald Trump turned from blue to red.

The question, Christine, with all of the protests we have seen in so many cities, how will the "Thank America" tour play out with people, it's a divided country?

There's a lot to talk about this morning. Let's now bring in our own Tal Kopan to talk more about the situation with Donald Trump's transition.

Tal, good morning.


HOWELL: I want to start by talking about Mitt Romney's meeting with Donald Trump. It is supposed to happen this weekend. And when you look back at the primaries, this was a very bitter relationship. Now, the two are planning to talk.

Let's look at the words that they had for each other back on the campaign trail. We can talk about it here on the other side.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Mitt was a disaster as a candidate.

ROMNEY: He is 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.


HOWELL: Mitt Romney he says is not one of them, though the two will be meeting. Donald Trump and Mitt Romney in a room. Could you imagine being a fly on the wall when that happens?

KOPAN: Right.

HOWELL: Look, is this about healing wounds or is this about considering Mitt Romney for some sort of a role?

KOPAN: Well, our reporting shows that it's both. The story you were mentioning yesterday about some of the changes that happened on the transition. You know, our reporting shows that there is the intent to send the message that the party can be united, that Donald Trump is willing to meet with people that spoke out very forcefully against him. Some of the message that all is calm and that, you know, the Republican Party will come together and move forward.

[05:05:04] And, you know, keep in mind, every election, there is a little bit of this, right? You know, President Obama and Hillary Clinton ran against each other, then came together. She ended up being secretary of state.

For Donald Trump, that process is a little bit delayed. A lot of these people spoke out against him up until Election Day. And he's also shown an unwillingness to let go of a grudge in the past. So, we are still going to have to watch if this is genuine. But right now, the message they are trying to send, at least, is that former rivals are welcome at least to talk to him about a position in his administration.

ROMANS: You know, let's be honest. They need adults. They need people who have a red -- seriously.


ROMANS: A ready made network of people to stand up a department and run it, right, and be able to get stuff done. This is a president who said he's going to be a dealmaker.

On the other side for people who are critical of Donald Trump, I mean, this is a moment where a potential unity of the Republican Party we have not seen in some time. And for them and for somebody like a Mitt Romney who is a patriot, you wonder if he is thinking that America is bigger than Donald Trump. The presidency and the country are more important than all of the mudslinging on the campaign trail.

KOPAN: Yes, absolutely. You know, I have been covering Donald Trump's transition since before the election, when it was being run by Chris Christie and being assembled. And there were a lot of people on the transition who would not have outright campaigned for Trump, necessarily, but who believed in the calling of building an administration.

I talked to folks around town who would not have supported him necessarily or may not have voted for him. But if a call to serve came in to them, they would serve. There's definitely a belief that serving the country is more important than sort of petty politics.

And so, there is an element of that. Our reporting shows that from people close to Mitt Romney, that he does believe that it would be his duty to serve his country. You know, one position he is rumored to be in the running for is secretary of state -- a diplomatic position where you want someone with a sort of even keel.

And, you know, they do need adults in the room. You look at the list of people they were considering. It was a who's who of who has been defending Donald Trump on television.

ROMANS: Right.

KOPAN: There were a lot of positions that had the same names over and over. They have to broaden the search if they are staffing the whole administration.

ROMANS: Yes. You know, all this talk about the messy transition. You know, Tal, I went back looking back at some of the stories that I wrote last time around when we had a big transition. That was in the middle of the financial crisis, by the way.

But transitions -- every eight years or sometimes four years, the transition is messy. And the transition is behind. That is by nature what the transition is.

All right. Tal, we'll talk to you in a few minutes, about a half an hour. Come back. Thank you.

President-elect Trump taking credit on Twitter for stopping Ford from moving a plant from Kentucky to Mexico. But Ford was never planning to move that plant.

This is what Donald Trump 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 Lincoln plant in Kentucky. I owed it to the great state in Kentucky for their confidence in me."

Last year, Ford signed a contract with the UAW. It includes $700 million of investments at that very plant. They are legally obligated to keep the plant there, legally obligated to keep the employment near 4,700.

Now, Ford was planning to shift production of the Lincoln MKC. That's a luxury SUV, very small scale production. They're going to move the production from Kentucky to somewhere else as production of the Escape increased, right? So, the Escape, a bigger, higher margin vehicle growing quickly. That's going to stay there.

They were going to move this MKC. Mexico was one possible location. But the move would not cut jobs. Now, Ford says that model will stay in the Kentucky plant.

My Romans numeral today, 28,000. Ford says it has added 28,000 jobs at U.S. factories over the past five years, up 50 percent from the depths of the recession.

HOWELL: Of course, you would expect campaigns to spin. When does spin become non-truth?

ROMANS: Look, Ford has said it was going to move small car production to Mexico. And that's what Donald Trump seized on, that they're going to move small car production to Mexico. But then, what Ford will tell you was like, yes, those are small low margin products we're moving to Mexico, because we got bigger things we are building here and we're building more of them here and we are adding jobs in the U.S. and continuing to add jobs in the U.S. This is a global company. So, Donald Trump has been at odds with Ford in the past over this.

HOWELL: Right. Well, the current president, Barack Obama, is meeting with European leaders in Berlin this morning, trying to tighten alliances and calm nerves before Donald Trump takes office. And he has a warning that he wants the entire world to hear.

That story as EARLY START continues.


[05:14:14] HOWELL: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm George Howell.

President Obama is making one final attempt this morning to try to tighten transatlantic alliances before he leaves office. The president is in Berlin, meeting with leaders of Germany, Spain, Italy, France and the United Kingdom. With so much uncertainty about Donald Trump, the president is also warning his closest allies about a shift in the global order that could lead to, quote, "a meaner, harsher and more troubled world."

CNN's Michelle Kosinski is traveling with the president and live in Berlin this hour.

Michelle, the not so rosy an outlook from President Obama.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, not really. I mean, he doesn't really have a lot of reassurance or clarity to add here in Europe where there is a great deal of apprehension and plenty of questions about what this new administration will mean for things like trade deals, the Iran nuclear deal, the fight against ISIS, the Paris climate agreement and on and on.

[05:15:12] I mean, what President Obama can do is emphasize the strength of the relationships and that he will help to ensure a smooth transition.

But for the most part, what we have been hearing from him and this is based on the questions he has been asked by the press is kind of what sounds like warnings. I mean, he warned Donald Trump that what works during a campaign doesn't necessarily work in leading the country. He warned against simplicity solutions and attacks. He seemed to be warning voters they need to be informed and focused on facts. Vote and not take democracy for granted.

He also warned the world against the wave of what he called crude nationalism. Listen.


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. 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: In terms of optimism, the most that German Chancellor Merkel could offer was that she is keeping an open mind about the new administration. President Obama said he has a cautious optimism, but he didn't base that on Donald Trump's qualities. He based it on the job, saying that being president forces you to focus and be serious -- George and Christine.

HOWELL: Michelle, many of the world leaders are unsure of Donald Trump's positions will be when he takes the oath of office. Michelle Kosinski traveling with the president live in Berlin. Thank you for the reporting.

ROMANS: All right. Donald Trump holding his first face-to-face meeting with the world leader. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sat down with the president-elect at Trump Tower Thursday. The two were said to have a candid discussion. Abe saying he believes the U.S. and Japan can form a level of trust with their relationship.

Let's bring in CNN's Andrew Stevens. He is live in Hong Kong.

Good morning, Andrew. So, a meeting with the incoming president of the United States with Shinzo Abe. You know, during the campaign trail, there were concerns in Japan about the statements from Donald Trump.


Real concerns, and hardly surprising given what Donald Trump had been saying on the campaign trail, talking about withdrawing U.S. troops if Japan did not pay more for upkeep in Japan. There are about 50,000 troops there s there, which is key to Japan's own security, being part of the U.S. security umbrella. Donald Trump also saying that maybe Japan and South Korea should

develop their own nuclear program, nuclear weapons program that is, as a deterrent against North Korea. Donald Trump have since walked those comments back. He is strong on ripping up international trade deals, and Japan has been pushing very hard for the Trans Pacific Partnership, along with President Barack Obama.

So, real concerns in Japan and Tokyo about the incoming administration. You mentioned the word trust. That is a word used a lot by the Japanese leader. He said that to make sure the alliance between the U.S. and Japan is working properly, there needs to be trust. This is what he had to say after the meeting with Donald Trump.


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'm convinced that Mr. Trump is a leader with whom I can have great confidence in.


STEVENS: Great confidence and great trust. The meeting went a little longer than expected. It went for 19 minutes. Reports this morning in Tokyo that there were sighs of relief from the government that the meeting did go so well. Nothing substantive coming out of it, Christine, weren't expecting any substantive. But certainly, the optics looked pretty good at least as far as Tokyo is concerned.

ROMANS: All right. Andrew Stevens, thank you so much for that. Andrew Stevens for us this morning in Hong Kong.

HOWELL: Really interesting write on CNN Money that says China is ready to pounce of Trump axes the Pacific Trade deal.

ROMANS: Oh, yeah. Interesting.

After making history with the Chicago Cubs this season, one of the team's young stars Kris Bryant added a new honor to his resume. Andy Scholes has more in "The Bleacher Report", next.


[05:24:14] HOWELL: Welcome back.

Let's talk about the college football playoff picture. It is getting more clear or maybe it is getting more messy, if you're a Louisville fan.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Good morning. Good Friday morning, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, guys, as well. You know, fifth ranked Louisville's playoff hopes coming to an end at

the hands of my Houston Cougars last night. Not only that, Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson, he had a really rough night. He may no longer be a lock for the Heisman trophy. After jumping out to the early lead on this one, all of the bounces going Houston's way. The pass tipped there and right for the touchdown. That made it 17-0.

The Cougar 31-0 by halftime. Jackson has no answer for the defense. He was sacked 11 times.

[05:25:00] Students rushed the field as Houston wins 36-10, knocking Louisville out of the playoff picture.

Panthers in a must-win situation last night hosting the New Orleans Saints. You got to check out Cam Newton's pre-game cleats. Like the Super Bowl pants, but they had fur on them as well. Maybe they were good luck, second quarter, Cam finding his man for this touchdown. The call was overturned and it is complete.

Bad news for the Panthers. Linebacker Luke Kuechly carted off in tears in the fourth quarter after that hit, he was diagnosed with a concussion. Panthers win 23-20.

An amazing run for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant continues. The 24- year-old was named the National League's most valuable player, becoming just the third player ever to win Rookie of the Year, MVP, and the World Series in its first two seasons. Boston's (INAUDIBLE) were the others to do it.

And the American League's Mike Trout bringing home his second MVP Award. The 26-year-old has never finished worst than second in the voting in his five years.

All right. Finally, for inside the NBA on TNT last night, Shaq was busy playing Shaq-a-Claus. Shaq went on a shopping spree in Atlanta buying toys for the marines toys for tots program.


SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, SHAQ-A-CLAUS: Fifteen million kids will wake up without one single toy. So, we urge people to just come and donate.


SCHOLES: Guys, Shaq says he has been doing that for 25 years. He doesn't just buy little toys for these kids. I mean, he is throwing Xboxes and PlayStations in that basket. Props to him for doing this for so long.

ROMANS: He is great guy. You know, one time we did an interview with him, he buys shoes for kids. He has size 1,000 foot. He gives his shoes to kids who also have size 1,000 feet. He is a guy who always giving back. Love that about him.

HOWELL: Somehow though a Santa, I don't see him getting down the chimney. I don't know that's going to happen. It's a bit tough. ROMANS: I see him eat the cookies, though.

All right. Thanks so much, Andy. Nice to see you.

Donald Trump offering the job of national security adviser to a loyal ally and one that brings a bit of history to the White House. We're going to take a closer look ahead on EARLY START.