Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Offers National Security Post to Michael Flynn; Mitt Romney to Meet with Donald Trump this Weekend. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired November 18, 2016 - 06:00   ET



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democracy is hard work. Do not take for granted our systems of government.

[05:58:07] GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE-PRESIDENT-ELECT: We are working briskly in transition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flynn getting the coveted role of the national security advisor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would be worried about an impulsive president with an impulsive national security advisor.

GEOFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He'll adapt. I mean, this will be his job. He will have to do it, and I'm sure he will.

OBAMA: My hope is that the president-elect is willing to stand up to Russia.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISOR: I know Mr. Trump is excited to meet with Governor Romney.

SEAN SPICER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: If you are the best person for that job, then he wants you as part of this team.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, November 18, 6 p.m. in the East. Chris is off this morning. John Berman is the lucky person to be here.


CAMEROTA: Happy Friday.

So up first, President-elect Trump offering the role of national security advisor to one of his most trusted and loyal allies, retired Army General Michael Flynn. Well, now some of Flynn's previous comments are being scrutinized.

BERMAN: Yes. So the Flynn news was expected by many, but completely unexpected, a Trump/Romney summit. Mitt Romney, who called the president-elect a fraud and a phony and really seemed to mean it. He's paying a visit to Donald Trump this weekend. There is speculation, which seems to be stoked by all sides involved and media, as well, they could discuss the possibility of Romney serving as secretary of state.

CNN has the Trump transition covered from every possible angle, including a head-on camera from outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, where we find CNN's Sunlen Serfaty.

Good morning, Sunlen.


President-elect Donald Trump calling for a two-hour meeting today here with his entire transition team here at Trump Tower, where he will likely be reviewing some of his top choices, John, for some of these key cabinet posts. And meantime, Trump making his first big move, his first big staff move already, which is causing some controversy.

President-elect Donald Trump offering Lieutenant General Michael Flynn the role of national security adviser, according to a transition official.


LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, NEWLY-APPOINTED NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We must regain our ability to truly crush our enemies.

SERFATY (voice-over): Trump's choice is already making waves. Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has a long history of controversial remarks, accused of stoking Islamophobia.

FLYNN: We cannot win this war unless we are free to call our enemies by name: radical Islamists and failed tyrants.

SERFATY: He was fired in 2014 by the White House. Flynn says it was payback for criticizing the administration. U.S. officials say it was his contentious management style.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (R), MASSACHUSETTS: You've got to look for somebody that will tame the impulsive nature of the president-elect, somebody who is more steady and more objective and more thorough in their analysis. I'm not sure that's what you get with General Flynn.

SERFATY: Flynn also accused of mishandling classified information, which the U.S. military has scrutinized twice. In both cases he was never charged with wrongdoing and has defended his actions.

Flynn, a registered Democrat, has been by Trump's side for much of the campaign...

TRUMP: General Flynn, how great is he?

SERFATY: ... acting as top adviser and a high-profile surrogate.

FLYNN: The next president of the United States, right here. SERFATY: Another Trump loyalist, Senator Jeff Sessions emerging as

the top candidate for attorney general, according to a transition official. If picked, he could face a tough Senate confirmation fight over accusations of alleged racist remarks 30 years ago. Those remarks causing the Alabama senator to be rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986. Sessions denied the allegations at the time.

CONWAY: I think that if anybody had a problem with his record, they would have just run against him and made that very clear. But Senator Sessions would be qualified for any number of positions.

SERFATY: Meanwhile, Trump is also reaching out to a former adversary.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud.

SERFATY: The president-elect meeting with 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney this weekend. The two planning to talk about how to govern moving forward amid speculation that they could discuss Romney serving as secretary of state.

JACK KINGSTON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: I think if the two of the can get together, Mitt Romney is an extremely smart guy. He brings a lot to the table; and so I think looking at him as a candidate is the right thing to do.

SERFATY: And the Trump team are starting to make some progress, as well now, making contact at some of these key agencies -- Defense, Justice Department -- as well as the National Security Council, really starting to coordinate now with their Obama administration counterparts.

Now, Donald Trump after he wraps up the meeting here today, he will head this weekend to Bedminster, New Jersey, to his golf resort, where of course, he will continue to make some decisions and moves on these staffing announcements. And most notably, John and Alisyn, of course, he is going to be meeting with Mitt Romney there.

CAMEROTA: It's going to be a very interesting weekend. Thanks so much for all that.

We want to bring in now our panel. We have CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, Errol Louis; politics editor of and political science and communications director at Morgan State University, Jason Johnson; and CNN political analyst David Gregory.

Gentlemen, great to have you. Errol, I'll start with you. What should we know, what jumps out at you about General Flynn?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: General Flynn strikes me as somebody who, very much as described, is going to sort of be Trump magnified as opposed to a wise counselor to try and reign him in. This is, of course, you know, Donald Trump's decision to make, who is going to be sort of a truth teller and a restraint and who's going to go in and just go out and be a strong right hand for him You know, to the extent that he's got a lot of really aggressive designs as far as how he intends to change foreign policy, Flynn is right in line with that.

And so, you know, those who thought that maybe there was going to be this famous word "pivot," that there was going to be a change, that there was going to be a more diplomatic tone, that's just not going to happen. And I think there's reason to be concerned about what happens, especially when it comes to dealing with Muslim nations.

BERMAN: On the issue of Muslims, let's just throw up his tweet from Michael Flynn earlier this year. It says fear of Muslims is rational. And there's a video, and it says, "Please forward this to other people." You know, the truth is, there's no question -- David Gregory, so I mean, Michael Flynn is transparent about how he feels about a lot of things. The general has made this crystal clear. But what does this tell us about Donald Trump's worldview going forward?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the fear is that this double down on his darker impulses, about the Islamic world. Look, Michael Flynn, General Flynn has made fair criticisms of how this administration dealt with the rising threat that became ISIS.

But then you jump the shark into this kind of Islamophobia, to indict, to say that Islam is a political ideology, what he has said, and not a religion; to indict 4 billion Muslims around the globe. I mean, that's just shortsighted, ignorant thinking. And that's the kind of impulse that I think will give opponents of Donald Trump and watchdogs of Donald Trump a lot of concerns.

[06:05:12] The other side of the ledger is that General Flynn has received very high marks from the military people that I have talked to, very high-level retired, who say that he is first rate as an intelligence analyst and gatherer.

But I think the question will be not just those impulses and those kinds of statements, but how does he lead? You know, to understand the role of national security adviser is not just the primary national security adviser to the president, but somebody who coordinates all of the elements of a national security team to get the best advice to the president. If that's done well, it's very important. If it's done in a clumsy fashion, you can have real discord within the administration. So this is an important pick.

CAMEROTA: Jason, one more troubling thing that his Twitter feed reveals. He tweeted a fake news story that is so over the top that it's absurd. Let me read it to everybody; you decide: "NYPD Blows Whistle On New Hillary Emails, Money Laundering, Sex Crimes With Children, Et Cetera. Must read!" -- exclamation point.

This comes from a so clearly fake news site, that there's a gullibility that this suggests that is troubling.

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: So, let's put this in context. On Monday president-elect Trump selected Steve Bannon to be his senior adviser, and this is someone who sympathizes with white nationalist groups, who are basically terrorist groups.

And now, he's got a national security adviser who has said that Muslims should be feared, who's made very, very aggressive statements about countries that have to interact with across the globe and who's appeared on Russian television, state-sponsored Russian television. This is dangerous.

And tweeting out fake news suggests to me that not only is he going to continue to spread the kind of violent rhetoric that he did throughout the campaign, he'll continue to do it once he's in office, once he's in a position of power. And that is dangerous for everyone in this country.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, national security adviser requires no Senate confirmation. Donald Trump has asked him. If he accepts, he will be the national security adviser.

And I'll only make one point. I mean, all of these things were known during the campaign. The American voters knew that General Flynn was Donald Trump's key national security adviser, and they voted for him. So this is a choice that the voters have already made. We will see how it plays out.

One person who will be meeting with Donald Trump this weekend comes as a bit of a surprise, though. That is Mitt Romney. And as I said, these two men have had a lot to say about each other. And what's unique in politics is I really think they meant it. Let's just listen to get a little graded tips (ph) of these two guys going after each other.


ROMNEY: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud.

TRUMP: Mitt was a disaster as a candidate.

ROMNEY: He's 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 a 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.


BERMAN: And this was the nice stuff they said about each other, Errol. This wasn't even the harsh stuff. We played the wrong clip there. Look, Mitt Romney is going to meet with Donald Trump this weekend.

That shows, I think, some magnanimity on both sides, right, that they're willing to talk about the future here.

But, despite the fact that it's being floated out there that maybe Mitt Romney will be considered as secretary of state, is there any way, is there any universe where that could happen?

LOUIS: I think there's a scenario where something akin to an appointment, maybe not that particular one, could happen.

Let's think about what Barack Obama did in his first days of his administration. He took one political rival, Hillary Clinton, and sent her to 100 countries as his secretary of state. He took another potential rival, somebody who we now know was -- they took seriously and who did, in fact, eventually run against him John Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, made him a diplomat, sent him to Beijing, deported, essentially, his rival.

So I see a scenario where -- where Mitt Romney could -- could find some very useful work on behalf of the country far, far away from the shores of the United States.

CAMEROTA: David, what do you think is happening?

GREGORY: Look, I think we're seeing two sides of Donald Trump as president-elect. I think he deserves very high marks for reaching out to not just a rival, as John says, but somebody who went after him completely and early and said this guy should be totally disqualified. And the fact that Donald Trump is reaching out to Romney for advice, for guidance, to do so very publicly and, even better, if he were to offer him a job in the administration is an extremely positive sign.

He met with Bill de Blasio. He's, you know, met with Ted Cruz. All of those things are to say, look, the campaign was a campaign. Now let's move on. Let's get the right people in the positions. Let's get the right advice.

[06:10:03] The other side of that is that extreme loyalty. Who was there first? You know, who was behind him when the rest of the establishment was not? Those people are getting rewarded. We talked about General Flynn, Bannon, Reince Priebus and others.

So I do think you're seeing both sides of this. This kind of reaching out, I think, is very positive.

CAMEROTA: Jason, is that how -- do you see this as heartening, the meeting with de Blasio, meeting with Romney, et cetera?

JOHNSON: No. Not really. I think it's -- it's the frightening reality that Donald Trump has realized, "Oh, my God, this job is tough. This is difficult. This is a tough job. All these people who I said I was going to drain the swamp with, I actually need them, because running the federal government is much more difficult."

And it's not just he's reached out to Romney; it's not just he's reached out to Reince Priebus. He's saying, "I want to keep talking to President Obama, because I don't exactly know how this job works." So you know, the fact that he realizes it's a difficult job is nice, but that kind of rhetoric I'm sure is going to linger in some of these meetings down the road.

BERMAN: These people are sitting down with him. And no one is forcing Mitt Romney to go talk to Donald Trump.

LOUIS: The president asks you to come in and talk, you go in and talk. It's possible. It would be great to be a fly on the wall to find out. It's also possible that he's bringing them in just to sort of say, you know, "OK, who gets the last laugh now?" You know? And then to try and come out and then be able to say, "Well, look, I talked to all of the people. We settled all of the bad blood." But it's possible all these folks will remain far on the outside.

GREGORY: I don't think you can dismiss the optics of this. I mean, you can't have it both ways, where you say the guy is scary; he doesn't reach out to the right people, and then when he does, you say that doesn't mean anything. Optics in politics matters. He's having these meetings. He's getting this advice, and one can hope that he's taking it in and in an appropriate, constructive way.

CAMEROTA: Panel stick around. We have more to talk to you about.

Lieutenant General Flynn has not yet accepted Donald Trump's offer to become national security advisor, but that's not stopping his critics from already going after him. Will he advise -- how will he advise Trump to handle ISIS and Russia? We look at all that next.


[06:15:50] BERMAN: Donald Trump has made his choice for national security adviser, offering the job to retired Army General Michael Flynn. So what toes this choice say about a future Trump administration?

Joining us to discuss is Nicholas Burns, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, former State Department official. He's currently a professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Also with us, CNN military analyst, Lieutenant General -- retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. He's a former Army commanding general for Europe and for the 7th Army.

And General Hertling, let me start with you, because General Flynn has military experience. He has more than three decades of experience in world affairs and global affairs, in military and in military intelligence. Is that not the type of person you would like advising the president on national security matters?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It is, John. And here's what I'll tell you, having traveled in circles with Mike Flynn. He's a first-rate intelligence officer, staff officer. He's been unrelenting and passionate and energized and intense about collecting intelligence, especially against al Qaeda over the last ten years or so. But at the strategic level, personalities and relationships do matter;

and there are some challenges there. And like his boss recently, since he's retired, his tweets, his travels, his demeanor, to me, as your military analyst, have been troubling from the professionalism side as a retired general officer. You know, those are the things that matter.

His comments about Muslims -- you know when I first read his tweet about Muslims, I thought to myself, "Hey, wait a minute, Mike." You know, I had, when commanding 1st Armored Division, I had about 300 Muslim soldiers in my unit and a couple of Muslim chaplains. So not all Muslims fall into that category.

The travels to Moscow to meet with Putin soon after he retired, his relationships with Turkey. Again, these are all troubling things. And he seems to be complimenting the personality of his boss, which certainly, a boss can choose that, but you know, this kind of demeanor and actions, again, I -- I'm standing askance a little bit.

CAMEROTA: Ambassador Burns, what jumps out at you about what we know about General Flynn?

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, I agree he's had a distinguished military career. He deserves thanks for his service. I think there are going to be some questions here. One is about judgment and one is about experience.

On judgment I agree that sitting next to Vladimir Putin at a Russia TV -- that's the propaganda arm of the Russian government -- banquet did not show appropriate judgment.

His excoriation of Muslims is worrisome from a civil liberties perspective, as well as a human rights perspective here in the United States.

I think I'm experienced. I've worked for the NSC staff, National Security Council staff both in the Republican administration and a Democrat administration. This is a key position in the foreign policy team.

It's important, obviously, to understand the military intelligence. It's just as important to understand diplomacy. Does he have the experience to really have a sophisticated view of Asia, of Japan, and South Korea and China? Does he have a sophisticated view of Latin America and Africa? He's had a one-dimensional career that's pretty much been focused on the Middle East. That's a vitally important part of the world.

But the bigger challenge is, is he making the right judgments about Vladimir Putin? Because he seems to be saying that we should aligning ourselves with Putin to fight the Islamic State, but we've got big problems with Putin in Eastern Europe. He's pressuring our NATO allies, and we've got to defend the line against Putin there.

And I worry about both Donald Trump and General Flynn's cozying up to Putin when we should be standing up to him. BERMAN: You worry about this, but this is what Donald Trump ran on.

This is what Donald Trump ran on and Donald Trump won on, this policy towards Russia that Michael Flynn, he went over there and sat near Vladimir Putin at an RT, Russian Television gala and was paid for that trip.

But that's not that different than the things Donald Trump has said. And certainly, the war against ISIS and prosecuting that is not something against what Donald Trump has said. So General Hertling, you know, where do you think this shows the priorities of the Trump administration will be?

HERTLING: Well, I think what we have seen over the last week as he's tried to put his team together during the transition, he should be getting -- going after people who give him an informed view. He has done that in some cases, but in other cases, as John, you've reported, there have been people who have been dismissed with that informed view, because they're part of the swamp he's trying to drain, allegedly.

[06:20:10] But truthfully I think I agree with Ambassador Burns: you have to have many voices in the room, especially as a national security adviser and the presidential team, and they do have to be like-minded. But there's got to be some coordination with some pretty tough egos and personalities when you're talking about sec state, sec def, chairman of the joint chiefs, the intelligence czar. So all those folks coming together in primary committees or the NSA -- NSC meetings, you've got to have sort of the informed view and the collaboration and the consensus building, as opposed to the tough talk and just the feelings versus the post-truth actions.

CAMEROTA: Ambassador Burns, there's also -- it's also, I think, instructive to look back at the double standard that may be in play here.

You know, General Flynn went to Russia for this conference. He was photographed with Putin. He received money for it. And this is the same campaign that there was a lot of hue and cry about Hillary Clinton considering going to Morocco and taking money for a speech there, which she ended up not doing.

And then he's also accused of, in two instances, mishandling classified information and relaying it intentionally to people who should not have had it. And I don't need to remind everybody about all about of the hue and cry about Hillary Clinton's private server and classified information. How do you square those things?

BURNS: Well, we should have the highest standards for people in public office, and I think we should go to the facts here. The facts are that -- and you said it, John, what Donald Trump said during the campaign about Russia is objectionable. And you do want a national security adviser, a secretary of state, a secretary of defense who will essentially hopefully improve on Donald Trump's understanding and counsel him not to side with Russia, when Russia, of course, annexed Ukraine -- Crimea, divided Ukraine, and is pressuring the Baltic states. It's a question of policy judgment. And so that's what I think people have to think about when they look

at this appointment and look at some of the other appointments.

It is a fact that Donald Trump is going to be the very first president of the United States with no prior public service experience, political experience or military experience. He needs a sophisticated team around him. And think of the great people who have served in these jobs. Think of General Brent Scowcroft as national security advisor. Think of Steve Hadley, both Republicans.

These are the quality of people in all these jobs informing this team that Donald Trump needs. He needs a lot of help, because he really doesn't have the experience or, I think, even the understanding of global politics; and he's made some serious misjudgments, Donald Trump, about Russia during the campaign.

BERMAN: General Hertling, quickly, yesterday Donald Trump met with the prime minister of Japan, Abe. This is his second meeting with a foreign leader. During the campaign, he met with -- went to Mexico and met with the president there. After both meetings, both of these leaders essentially said that they were terrific meetings. They had fruitful conversations with Donald Trump.

I hear from Japanese officials during the meeting last night they couldn't believe it was going on for so long. It lasted 90 full minutes.

Does Donald Trump have a personality that may serve him well for foreign relationships going forward?

HERTLING: He may. But, again, it's that informed view that backs up the relationships.

John, I've been in a lot of rooms with people where the charisma comes through on both sides, and you're shaking hands and having a discussion. And I think what I heard in Mr. Abe's comments afterwards was it was different than what he thought it was going to be. That's all well and good but, again, when we're talking about not just the one-on-one but an understanding of how all countries fit into the global order, it gets more challenging and more complex, as opposed to just that deal making one on one.

I'm not sure how much he was informed behind -- before that meeting in terms of the other implications of dealing with Japan. But that's of consideration, and that's why you need as the ambassador said, that good staff to give him that informed view from a world perspective, not just a one on one.

BERMAN: General Hertling, Ambassador Burns, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

BURNS: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Donald Trump giving himself a pat on the back for saving U.S. jobs by stopping Ford from moving one of its plants to Mexico. But is that what really happened here? Closer look ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:28:02] CAMEROTA: Time now for five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

No. 1, Donald Trump offering the post of national security adviser to one of his most loyal backers, retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Flynn has not formally accepted the position yet.

BERMAN: President Obama slamming fake news. This is during a joint appearance with the German chancellor in Berlin. The president said bad information in a viral age could push our children in the wrong direction. This morning the president heads to Peru. This is the final stop of a three-nation tour.

CAMEROTA: We're still doing real news.

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan announcing he'll challenge Nancy Pelosi for the House Democratic leadership. Ryan says the party shows the party needs a new direction forged by new leaders. Nancy Pelosi has been top Democrat in the House since 2003. They hold leadership elections November 30.

BERMAN: A federal investigation into the shooting of Harambe, the gorilla, finds -- or found his protective barrier did not meet U.S. safety standards. The endangered gorilla was killed in May after grabbing a boy who fell into his enclosure. The Cincinnati Zoo has since made the barrier taller and reinforced it with nylon mesh.

CAMEROTA: Listen to this. You can have McDonald's brought to your table now. The fast food company is rolling out new offerings to personalize the customer experience. There's touch screen ordering and table service being phased in to help the Golden Arches stay relevant.

BERMAN: Because it was really complicated to get your food at McDonald's. You needed to make it that easy?

CAMEROTA: You have to walk to the counter and then walk to your table.

BERMAN: That extra little bit, I'm glad they cut that out.

For more on the five things to know, go to for the very latest.

CAMEROTA: All right. Donald Trump promised he would stop U.S. companies from outsourcing jobs overseas. That's why so many American workers voted for him. Can the president-elect keep that promise? We talk to workers at the plant at the center of that debate. That's next.