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Trumps Picks Michael Flynn for National Security Adviser; Sessions Top Contender For A.G.; Obama Meeting With Allies In Berlin. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 18, 2016 - 05:30   ET


[05:31:20] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: President-elect Trump picks his national security adviser, a retired Army man with combat experience and a combative reputation.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN HOST: Donald Trump also set to meet with one of his toughest critics -- this man, the former presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

ROMANS: And the president-elect plans to hit the road again. Get ready for the "Thank America" tour. It's coming soon.Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. Thirty-one minutes past the hour and new this morning, President-elect Donald Trump has picked Gen. Michael Flynn for the job of national security adviser. This, according to a Trump transition official. Flynn was a fierce Trump supporter during the campaign. He would come to the White House, though, with some baggage. Among other things he was fired as the director of Defense Intelligence Agency, officials say, because of his combative management style.

As for the overall transition activity, it is moving forward this morning at Trump Tower. The president-elect has a two-hour meeting to review top choices for key administration jobs and after that Trump will spend the weekend at Trump National Course in New Jersey. He's set to sit down with 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney to talk about a role for him. Could you imagine being a fly on the wall for that meeting?

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


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning, George and Christine. Donald Trump making it official, extending an offer to Gen. Michael Flynn, asking him to be his national security adviser in the White House. Now our source isn'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 Gov. Nikki Haley, someone who's been very critical of him in the past but someone sources say he's considering for Secretary of State.

And 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 also to discuss the Secretary of State job. Now whether Trump will actually go with one 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. Thanks so much, Sara Murray.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, 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 is the first sitting U.S. senator to endorse Trump. He was nominated for a federal judgeship back in the 1980's. That was scuttled when Sessions was accused of having made racially- tinged remarks during his time as U.S. attorney for Alabama, and those are allegations he's strongly denied.

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

ROMANS: Newt Gingrich will not be holding a cabinet post in the Trump administration. The former House speaker and presidential candidate says it's "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 & Human Services secretary and Secretary of State.

[05:35:00] HOWELL: We've got 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, but because Christie's plan involved the hiring of lobbyists and Washington insiders it was rejected and Christie was replaced with Vice President-elect Pence. Here's Christie discussing his future during a speech in Atlantic City on Thursday. Listen.


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 to the office over to whoever you select in November of 2017 to replace me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: Christie also saying after his term as governor he is not sure whether he will pursue another position in public service or whether he will enter the private sector.

President-elect Trump is planning to visit the swing states that put him over the top. The Trump staff started out calling this a "Victory" tour but then quickly switched that name to the "Thank America" tour. Rallies are being planned around the country right now. It's a multi-city event. It will start in the next couple of weeks and will focus, again, on those battleground states that Trump turned from blue to red.

ROMANS: President-elect Donald Trump taking credit on Twitter last night for stopping Ford from moving a plant from Kentucky to Mexico, but Ford was never planning to move that plant.

He tweeted this. "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, "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!"

Here are the facts. Last year Ford signed a legally binding contract with the United Autoworkers Union. It includes $700 million of investments in that Louisville, Kentucky plant. It would build new Escape models there and it would keep employment near the current level of 4,700 workers.

What Trump may be referring to is that Ford was planning to ship production of the smaller volume Lincoln MKC -- that's a luxury SUV -- shift small production of that 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. There'd be no jobs transferred. Now Ford says that model will stay at the Kentucky plant.

This is the second time Trump has taken credit for getting Ford to change its mind. He did it last year when the company decided to keep the F-150 truck in Ohio, claiming his speeches swayed their decision.

With a few more pieces of the Trump transition falling into place, let's bring in CNN Politics reporter Tal Kopan again to help assess the state of play. Let's stay on the Ford subject here. You know, Ford had said it was going to move its small car production to Mexico and that really fired up Donald Trump. But then Ford was -- you know, had interviews and press releases and calls with reporters explaining no, we have a global -- a global production model that is good for America and good for American workers, and we're adding American jobs. Let's listen to Mark Fields, Ford's -- executive Mark Fields in September.


MARK FIELDS, CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: It's really unfortunate when politics get in the way of the facts, and the facts are Ford's investment in the U.S. and commitment to American jobs has never been stronger, so not one job will be lost. And most of our investment is here in the U.S. and that's the way it's going to continue to be.


ROMANS: Trump continues to try to paint, Tal, the very simplest terms what is not a simple business model, but it really resonates with the people who got him into the White House.

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, that's right. I mean, throughout the campaign we have shown -- we have seen that Donald Trump is not concerned about letting facts get in his way. I mean, he has said patently untrue things multiple times on a variety of topics on the campaign trail. And what we've seen from voters is that that's not necessarily their concern. They're not as concerned about whether everything he says is true. They are more concerned with the spirit of what he says.

And, you know, especially when you look at the demographics and the states that he flipped. It is very clear that there is a section of this country that has been reliant on manufacturing and production jobs related to steel, coal, autoworkers, that type of thing, that have seen their jobs go away. Experts say, in fact, largely because of technology. But they're very concerned and they want to rebuild those communities and Donald Trump spoke directly to them.

So, you know, these messages -- while you and I may know that they're not entirely true, voters are responding to the fact that he seems to actually care about that --

ROMANS: Right.

KOPAN: -- message and that's what they're responding to.

ROMANS: Right.

HOWELL: The Oxford Dictionaries' word of the year for 2016 is post- truth.

ROMANS: Post-truth, yes.

HOWELL: That is just so interesting. You know, I want to talk about two stories that we've covered today that just seem in contrast. So we've heard that Donald Trump is pushing to delay the Trump University lawsuit, saying that the transition to become the President of the United States -- that it's all-consuming.

[05:40:05] One would imagine that is the case but, at the same time, planning this "Thank America" tour. So planning to go to these different states to hold big rallies just seems in contrast, Tal.

KOPAN: Yes, I think you could make that argument. You know, you could also make the counterargument, to play devil's advocate, that a trial is a lot more time-consuming than popping on your jet to a location, holding a rally, and going home. You know, on the campaign trail we saw him cram four, five rallies into a day. And so, you know, if he wants to do one in a day he could probably argue he could work on the way there and back, whereas, a trial might take up some more time.

But yes, absolutely, it looks like there is one of these things he would like to do and one of these things --

ROMANS: Right.

KOPAN: -- he would not like to do --

ROMANS: Right.

KOPAN: -- as I'm sure you can understand this. By all accounts, the best he felt the entire campaign was in front of a cheering crowd --


HOWELL: That's true.

KOPAN: -- and he wants that again. And he's going to set it up so he can have it.

ROMANS: Let's talk a little bit about this weekend because there will be -- he will go to one of his golf clubs in New Jersey. He will meet with Mitt Romney, the guy who had the nomination for president and did not become president in 2012. And last night Kellyanne Conway was talking to Anderson about kind of what the -- what the trajectory is of the transition team in terms of reaching out to people. Listen.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: 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.


ROMANS: You know, he was called a con man, a phony, a fraud by Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney said there will be trickle down racism if this is the President of the United States. Can they put that behind them?

KOPAN: I guess we're going to find out, right? You know, they may say they can put that behind them. You know, in some respects this is the game of politics.

ROMANS: Right.

KOPAN: People sort of speak in the way that's convenient to them at the time if they're running against each other. It's very rancorous. If they need to work together, all of a sudden they're best friends. We saw it all throughout the campaign trail, throughout the Republican and Democratic primary. You know, some of this criticism of Donald Trump reached a pitch we don't often see. Language that was very inflammatory and, oddly for most presidential candidates, it continued even after he was the party nominee from some in his own party through the election, and that's why this is a little bit surprising. Also because Trump has the reputation for not letting go of the slight and for rewarding loyalty above all else.

But clearly, the message from the campaign is that they want to come together and they want to project that they are considering people who were once against them and that they're moving on. So we'll see what the outcome of the weekend meeting is very closely.

HOWELL: It just seems like it would be a really interesting meeting.

ROMANS: Yes. Donald Trump said enough terrible things about Mitt Romney, too. Maybe they cancel each other out in the end, you know, and they just move forward.

KOPAN: Sure.

ROMANS: Thank you, Tal.

HOWELL: Tal, thank you.

ROMANS: Tal Kopan, have a great weekend.

KOPAN: Thank you, guys, you, too.

HOWELL: Still ahead, the current President of the United States, Barack Obama, meeting with European leaders this morning. He's also warning about a dangerous global shift. CNN is live in Berlin, next.


[05:47:35] ROMANS: Welcome back. This morning, President Obama is making one final attempt to tighten transatlantic alliances before he leaves office. He's in Berlin. He's meeting with the leaders of Germany, Spain, Italy, France, and the U.K. So much uncertainty about Donald Trump. The president is warning his closest allies about a shift in the global order that could lead to a meaner, harsher, more troubled world.

CNN's Michelle Kosinski traveling with the president. She joins us live from Berlin. So a warning from the president about crude nationalism springing up around the world.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN: Right. Yes, you know, this was supposed to be the president's 'we made it through the election, we'll all be fine, let's move on' trip but it's turned into something else. I mean, obviously, the outcome was so much different than he expected and now there is all this uncertainty among European leaders. You can just imagine what those conversations are one-on-one and today, in this group of five, what they're really asking the president about.

But there is this resignation that the only thing they can do is work with the new administration. On the surface everybody's diplomatic but we know behind the scenes there's anxiety there. They don't know how their key initiatives are going to change and, ultimately, turn out.

When you look at all the things that these nations have been working on together, whether it's the Iran nuclear deal, the fight against ISIS, the refugee crisis, the Paris climate agreement, and on and on and on, they're not really sure how the U.S. is going to play into that, including things like the U.S.'s relationship with Russia and how that's going to change things.

So what the president has been saying is sounding more like warnings and cautions than it is optimism. Some of that's, of course, based on the kinds of questions he been asked. But he warned Donald Trump that what works during campaigns doesn't necessarily work in the leading the country. He warned against simplistic attacks and simplistic solutions. And he warned about this wave of what he called a crude nationalism and a populism, saying that if you let that kind of sentiment divide your nation it's dangerous -- Christine and George.

ROMANS: Michelle Kosinski in Berlin for us. Thank you so much, Michelle.

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

[05:50:12] ROMANS: All right. A big clean energy merger -- approval from the shareholders now. What it means for the future of electric power when we get a check on CNN Money Stream next.