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Trump Unveils Agenda for First Days; Trump Denounces Racism Alt-Right Movement; Trump Considering Ret. Gen. Mattis for Defense Secy.; Trump Slams Questions About Conflicts of Interest; Alt-Right Leader: "Heil Trump"; Melania Trump, Son Won't Move to WH Initially. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired November 21, 2016 - 21:00   ET



[21:02:08] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just past the top of the hour, Donald Trump has addressed the nation for the first time since his victory speech on election night or election morning. He laid out his plan for his first days in office and he did it really unlike any president-elect before him. Instead of a press conference or a live statement, he released a video this evening on social media. Watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, I would like to provide the American people with an update on the White House transition and our policy plans for the first 100 days.

Our transition team is working very smoothly, efficiently, and effectively. Truly great and talented men and women, patriots indeed are being brought in and many will soon be a part of our government, helping us to Make America Great Again.

My agenda will be based on a simple core principle, putting America First.

Whether it's producing steel, building cars, or curing disease, I want the next generation of production and innovation to happen right here, in our great homeland, America, creating wealth and jobs for American workers.

As part of this plan, I've asked my transition team to develop a list of executive actions we can take on day one to restore our laws and bring back our jobs. It's about time.

These include the following. On trade, I am going to issue our notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country. Instead, we will negotiate fair, bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back onto American shores.

On energy, I will cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale energy and clean coal, creating many millions of high-paying jobs. That's what we want, that's what we've been waiting for.

On regulation, I will formulate a rule which says that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated, it's so important.

On national security, I will ask the Department of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a comprehensive plan to protect America's vital infrastructure from cyber-attacks, and all other form of attacks.

On immigration, I will direct the Department of Labor to investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.

On ethics reform, as part of our plan to Drain the Swamp, we will impose a five-year ban on executive officials becoming lobbyists after they leave the Administration, and a lifetime ban on executive officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.

These are just a few of the steps we will take to reform Washington and rebuild our middle class.

I will provide more updates in the coming days, as we work together to Make America Great Again for everyone. And I mean everyone.


[21:05:05] BERMAN: That was Donald Trump on social media, released just tonight. Now, CNN's Jim Acosta live at Trump Tower.

And, Jim, this statement from Donald Trump, which just bypasses the media, delivers the statement with no questions asked, is this something do you think that we're going to see from Donald Trump going forward?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think so, John. Keep in mind, Donald Trump has bypassed the news media to a large extent already. We are now 13 days after the election, he has not held a news conference with the news media. President Obama, for example, during his transition, his first transition back in 2008, held his first news conference with the media three days after he was elected president. And so, Donald Trump is not taking to the news media so far. Perhaps he'll do it tomorrow.

And just as unconventional as his approach is with the media, it has been his Cabinet selection process. It's been sort of like an episode of Cabinet apprentice. We've seen a number of Cabinet prospects parading in front of the cameras all day long, even few surprises were there.

Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, showed up to talk to Trump about some potential Cabinet positions. And we even had Newt Gingrich adding to the drama over who will be Secretary of State, talking up Rudy Giuliani over Mitt Romney. And so, it has been sort of a reality T.V. show since Election Day, John.

BERMAN: And Jim, finally, the Trump transition team released a statement because they've been facing questions about an alt-right gathering that took place very close to the White House that had incredibly offensive rhetoric spouted there. What did you hear from the transition team?

ACOSTA: Right, this was an alt-right conference just a few blocks from the White House. And we should point out, alt-right is sort of a sanitized term for people on the right, the hard right, representing white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis and so forth.

And at this conference over the weekend, one of the leaders of this movement, Richard Spencer, was caught on tape saying, "Heil Trump, hail victory," and there were Nazi salutes in the room, which was frightening to see.

Now, the Trump transition put out a statement just a little while ago this evening. I'll read it to you, John. It says, "President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he was elected because he will be a leader for every American. To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds."

But John, as you can tell, in that statement it does not really denounce the alt-right or the white supremacists and the neo-Nazis in the alt-right, it sort of dances around that. And then also really stops way short of the criticism that Trump had for the cast of "Hamilton", who, as you know, on Friday, called out Mike Pence here in New York City. And so this will be one of the questions for Donald Trump if he ever has that news conference. John?

BERMAN: It does not address what was said over the weekend or who said it really at all. Jim Acosta, thanks so much.

Back with us, Carlos Watson, Errol Louis and our only Gergen of the night, David Gergen, joins now.

And David, let's start with the Trump video, what was said on camera, this promise of what he would do in his first days in office. What do you make of that?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, John, what you said in the beginning was right and that is what was not in the statement was as important as what was in the statement. And that is we heard nothing about repealing the Affordable Care Act, so-called Obamacare, on day one, and we heard nothing about a wall. The rest of it, I thought, was sort of, you know, sort of to be expected, no big surprises.

But nothing as dramatic as one might have thought coming from Donald Trump. Knowing him, he has a lot of drama ahead, though.

BERMAN: It is interesting, Errol Louis, David Gergen is talking about drama right now. You know, Donald Trump is a guy who during the campaign held rally after rally, he was always on camera, he was always calling in to shows of all kind, did press conferences up until a few months ago, did interviews up until a few months ago, now he's just completely disappeared. You know, he wins the election and for 13 days as president-elect in a way that really no president-elect has done before, he disappears.

ERROL LOUIS, POLITICAL ANCHOR, NY1: Well, that's right. I mean, and he's -- and look, he's got to go through a same process -- the same process that Barack Obama went through.

You remember the night that he spoke at Grant Park in Chicago, on the night of the victory. Right there and then, he started trying to tamp down expectations because not all of the stuff is going to happen quickly.

On the big-ticket items, you have to go to Congress, whether that's building a wall, anything resembling the kind of mass deportation that he has talked about, that's about 10,000 per person or family. You multiply that by $2 million or $3 billion, you're talking about tens of billions of dollars. Again, you've got to go to Congress. Supreme Court appointment, you've got to go to Congress.

So, he's going to have to get into a negotiation with what might be a friendly Congress, but nevertheless it will be a negotiation. And so, a lot of this stuff is not going to happen on day one despite what he promised on the campaign trail.

BERMAN: Carlos, can we do some unfinished business here because we were talking the last hour about this alt-right conference or you can call that a neo-Nazi conference or white supremacists conference, you know, alt-right sanitized is perhaps more than it deserves.

[21:10:04] And you saw the reaction from the Trump transition team where they put out a statement saying, hey, Donald Trump always condemns racism, to say otherwise, misses the point. That's not a specific response to what was said or who said it over the weekend. Does he need to do more here?

CARLOS WATSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, OZY.COM: I think there are no two ways about it that he does need to do more. Now, we're all clear that Donald Trump won, but we're also clear that he kind of unleashed this Pandora's Box during the campaign. You heard Binder, you know, recap all the things that happened that led to this kind of opening of kind of racial feelings and racial animosity or at least part of it. So, there's more that he needs to do.

Now, is it simply looking into the camera on "60 Minutes"? I don't think so. Could there be a major speech that could really turn the conversation? I think that could be important.

But another place we're going to have to look to at some point, we'll also probably be the Justice Department. Now, a lot of folks are going to be concerned because they're going to look up and they're going to say, well, who's the appointed to run the Justice Department? Jeff Sessions.

What I think we're talking about, John, though in part, is that it won't really be up to Trump. The question is what will the Democrats do, right? And the Democrats were a little leaderless at the moment. Now, there's a fight on for who's going to head the DNC. You've heard President Obama is so concerned that he said, unlike former presidents, I'm not going to simply quietly retire. I may engage in here, because I'm worried that there's going to be a vacuum.

Oh, by the way, very quietly, if you listen, what can you hear? You can hear new Democratic candidates for 2020. That's what I heard when I heard your governor this morning, Andrew Cuomo going hard. I heard the rumblings even though the new president has been sworn in.

So, there's a lot that Mr. Trump, President-elect Trump has to do, but the Democrats are also going to have to step up and do their part as any opposition party has to.

BERMAN: They're not in power right now. David Gergen ...

GERGEN: Can I have just a word?

BERMAN: Go ahead, David.

GERGEN: Can I have just a word? I'd like to come back to this alt- right. The accounts that are in the newspapers this morning, especially on the front page of "The New York Times", that's the single most disturbing article that I can remember since the election. And there have been many that have been disturbing. I mean, after all, the man he -- Mr. Trump has named to be his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has -- who ran Breitbart, said publicly that Breitbart was to be the main platform for the alt-right.

And here after all these -- the fear that's spread across the country about what's coming and the denial is that there was any racism in the administration, there was anti-Semitism in the new incoming administration. Here we have a blatantly anti-Semitic, blatantly racist, anti-woman, all -- everything you can think of, and they've declared, this is a white nation and we -- for whites this is conquer or die. Now, that sends terrible messages around the country, to people of color, to Jews, and to so many others. And Mr. Trump puts out a namby-pamby statement? Give me a break.

BERMAN: You know, this was an event over the weekend where Richard Spencer, the man at the podium, questioned whether Jews are people. He also talked about white heritage. This was stuff -- you know, there were Nazi salutes there as you're seeing right now in this video from "The Atlantic". And there's nothing ambiguous about this. I mean, this is neo-Nazi white supremacist stuff right now.

And David, you know, again, you work in communications, last hour Kayleigh McEnany was saying, well, Donald Trump and the transition team, you know, they don't want to draw too much attention to it, so they don't want to call it out by name. But there's no statute of limitations, there's no rules that says you can't name things as awful every time they happen.

GERGEN: If it's that closely linked to the top person you've named, one of the two top people you've named to your team on the White House, you know, silence is acquiescence. They're just -- they're not -- there's a good and there's bad about this and he's got to give a speech. I don't see how Mitt Romney for example (inaudible) Secretary of State unless he gets reassurances on this issue. This is fundamental to who we are as Americans. It represents our values, it represents our culture and to have people like the alt- right suddenly becoming normalized within our structure, you know, that's way beyond anybody -- what anybody had -- would have imagined during this campaign.

WATSON: And you know, John, it's not just that. Remember, Dylan Roof sadly enough was not that long ago, right, and there are a number of us who still remember Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City. So, there's real risks, these aren't just words, they could turn into action.

BERMAN: Well, let's hope this does not get normalized. You know, what we saw this weekend should never be considered normal.

Carlos Watson, Errol Louis, David Gergen, thanks so much.

Next, the man who many believe will be offered the Defense Secretary job, maybe even soon, why his status as a retired general would make it almost unprecedented and whether the transition of civilian control in the military is in danger.

And later, did Donald Trump's global business ties make his administration, as some experts have warned, a ticking ethical time bomb?


[21:18:29] BERMAN: There is a creature that is part of Washington lore called The Great Mentioner. David Gergen denies it's him. I'm going to ask Mike Rogers if he really believes that.

The Great Mentioner or TGM is responsible for putting the names of potential Cabinet picks and loding mates, as they say, out there. His latest mention is this man, retired Marine General James Mattis for Defense Secretary. He met with Donald Trump over the weekend and apparently left a good impression. The mentioner says he is the frontrunner.

If named, he would need extra congressional permission to take the job and would be the first retired general to have the job since George Marshall in 1949.

Joining us, CNN military analyst, retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, also former U.S. congressman and House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers who is now a CNN national security commentator.

And General Hertling, you know, I was joking about The Great Mentioner. Donald Trump in this case, the President-elect has mentioned it more than anybody else. He put out a tweet over the weekend saying that he met with James Mattis, he loved him and mentioned that he's a candidate for Secretary of Defense. Now, you say, General, you would normally oppose the notion of a general taking on the role of Secretary of Defense, but not General Mattis.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Not this time. BERMAN: What is it about him you like so much?

HERTLING: Well, first of all, the situation, John. And secondly, the fact that General Mattis brings an unbelievable wealth of character, and presence and intellect to the table. He is well loved by everyone wearing the uniform or in the cloth of our country, but he also has a really good feel for the various things that perhaps Mr. Trump doesn't have a good feel on that some of us saw during the campaign cycle.

[21:19:59] He will address the various threats against our country, not just ISIS. He has a very good feel. He will also have a better feel for NATO than anybody in the current White House because he was, not only the Central Command commander, which so many people tout him for, but he was also the Joint Forces Command commander. And as part of that job, he headed up something called Allied Command Transformation, which was linked directly to NATO when I was the commander of U.S. Army Europe.

But beyond all of that, I think we're going to need someone to step into the Pentagon very quickly, conduct the affairs of being a Cabinet member and the second in command of all the military, but also run it as a business. And garner the admiration and the loyalty of the over a million uniform members of the services and the civilians that work for the Pentagon.

BERMAN: Donald Trump called him the general's general, people call him the fighting general. He has enormous respect within the Marine Corps.

Chairman Rogers, you know, with the National Defense Authorization Act that required a seven-year waiting period between active duty and a civilian role like Secretary of Defense, this means that General Mattis would need a waiver from Congress in order to get the job. Why does this statute exist in the first place?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, and I agree with General Hertling. I'm always a little reluctant to have a general officer walk into the secretary's job, because it's a little different. You want civilian control of your military in all cases, and people worry, other generals worry that you go in with a general's attitude, not a secretary's attitude, which is that big strategic picture.

But almost universally, people are saying, and I know General Mattis personally, you always know you're in the presence of leadership when you're around this guy. He is both a tactical, tough warrior from every fiber of his being to this really smart, strategic guy who understands that you have to speak truth to power and show leadership all at the same time.

This is a guy that can get around lots of the issues that the general talked about just a minute ago, about walking in, having instant credibility, getting the Pentagon going in the right direction and giving good, solid advice on both the strategic level, and even some of the tactical decisions they'll have to make about what's going to happen in places like Syria and Iraq. BERMAN: So Mike Rogers, you have the unique role of having given advice to the Trump transition team in what will be, you know, the Trump White House team or much of it going forward, do you think they will be receptive to the advice of General Mattis? Do they respect the kind of expertise that he brings to the table?

ROGERS: Trust me, there won't be long before they're listening to General Mattis on his advice. If you know General Mattis, you'll know he'll take -- he will convince them that his position is right, not because he has to be right, but he just exudes this kind of leadership that's really hard to describe. And General Hertling, help me out here. You've seen it.


ROGERS: He has this capability to kind of break through things that other -- I think other people would have a hard time breaking through.

BERMAN: General?

HERTLING: One of the things that's interesting is everybody in the media right now is calling him "Mad Dog" Mattis. Well, that's the common nickname for him for what happened in Fallujah, but he is better known from the senior officers as the "Warrior Monk". This guy is a strategic genius -- no, that's his nickname.

ROGERS: It's so true. All he does is read. I don't think he ever watches T.V.

HERTLING: Yeah, he allegedly has like 7,000 -- I've seen some of these, he has 7,000 books in his personal library, he's unmarried, he does nothing but focus on military strategy and the effects of combat. He's a great combat leader, so he's proven himself there, but he's also going to able to be very quickly one of the alpha males in this administration.

He is going to set the condition in areas where Mr. Trump and others in his small circle will not know anything about. You know, as we went through the campaign season and some of us were concerned about Mr. Trump's international competencies, Mattis will bring those.

BERMAN: General Hertling, Chairman Mike Rogers, I heard 10,000 books and I heard he read them all, but it's a matter of interpretation. Guys, thank you so much.

ROGERS: Trust me, he did.

BERMAN: Next up for us, Donald Trump, he is tweeting again. Just minutes ago tweeting about his corporate empire and questions about conflicts of interest now that he's about to become the most powerful man in the world. We'll look at what, if anything, is to stop him from mixing the nation's business with his own.


[21:28:23] BERMAN: Donald Trump back in January promised if elected to hand over his business empire to his kids and never again get involved in it, because he said, I wouldn't care about anything but our country, anything.

Now whatever you think of the idea of sons and daughters taking the place of a true blind trust and even though he's only the president- elect, not the president yet, his actions are already raising questions.

He met last week with three Indian business partners, also with daughter Ivanka, who will be running his company, sat on in his meeting with a Japanese Prime Minister. "The Washington Post" reports that foreign diplomats have begun staying at his new hotel in Washington.

By all appearances, the candidate who ran against business as usual appears so far, at least, to be conducting his own business as usual.

Just a few minutes ago, Trump tweeted about it, "Prior to the election, it was well-known that I have interest in properties all over the world. Only the crooked media makes this a big deal."

And when asked about it earlier today, Trump's senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway said in so many words, nothing to see here, folks.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP'S SENIOR ADVISER: I'm very confident he's not breaking any law. He has many lawyers, accounts and advisers who tell him what he must do and what he can't do.


BERMAN: Sounds simple enough. As CNN's Tom Foreman discovered, the experts say it could be anything but. He joins us now.

Tom, what did you find?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, if you think about Donald Trump's empire, it is so vast and so valuable and the potential for conflict of interest is so big, yeah, he's come up with this novel approach, this idea of saying, I'll have my children basically run the family business while I run the White House and I just won't talk to them about business while I'm in office. So what could go wrong?

[21:30:03] Well, it could start with the U.S. constitution and this particular clause call the Emoluments Clause. Emolument is an old word that means salary or gifts or presents. And part of what it says is, "No person holding office shall, without the consent of Congress, accept any present of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state."

So now let's back to the Trump Organization being run by his children over here. And let's imagine that they're building some new property as they often do in some foreign nation. And as they're putting up this building or new resort, they get some kind of a break on their taxes or on regulations or on anything else, permits, something that could be given to them by the local government.

It's very easy to see that that's something that a business might want to get, but it could also bring very tremendous pressure on the president of that time, Donald Trump, to prove he did not know anything about this favor being granted out there. And that there was no quid pro quo, that none of the U.S. government agencies under the purview of the president did anything to help that foreign country that just helped out his business. Because he would like it very tricky and it's very serious business, because any president -- I'm not talking about Donald Trump, any president, if they were actually caught in a bribery scandal, would be prosecutable. It could happen to them and they could face up to three times the amount of the bribery in terms of a fine, and up to 15 years in jail. John?

BERMAN: So a lot of that famous Emoluments Clause, Tom. But are there any other regulations which could trip him up?

FOREMAN: Yeah, there are actually plenty of it that might be a problem out there. Do you ever think about this? Do you ever wonder to yourself why there aren't any kind of endorsement deals for president like Bill Clinton cheeseburgers or maybe George Bush convertibles or Barack Obama cell phones? Well, first of all, it relies on the character of presidents to not simply do this sort of thing.

But aside from that, there's also a law. In the U.S. code, it says, "Any business that is dealing with the U.S. government may not use the name of an individual in the service of the United States in advertising the business." So what comes to mind immediately? Well, this does. The Trump name.

Donald Trump himself has said that this is one of the greatest assets of his company, that people who do business with him get to display the Trump name. It is valuable and in more than 260 businesses around the world, his name is prominently displayed.

So what happens in this circumstance? Does he say to those businesses, you need to take it down because of this rule in the U.S. code? If he does that, they could say, you owe us money because we paid for that name, or we're going to sue you, even though you're the president of United States because of that name. And if he doesn't do anything and they keep the name up, then those businesses potentially run afoul of the very business that he becomes the president of -- the government of the United States, John.

BERMAN: A lot of questions to ask. All right, Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

Joining me now is the man who has the dubious honor of being sued by Donald Trump for $5 billion after he wrote about Trump's financial troubles years ago. The lawsuit was thrown out. Tim O'Brien is the author of "TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald".

So, obviously, there are a lot of questions about Donald Trump and his business dealings and what happens to his empire as it were. Is anything short of a blind trust enough to separate his business dealings from the work of the government? And how would you even do a blind trust with his holdings?

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMPNATION, THE ART OF BEING THE DONALD": Well, a blind trust itself may not be enough. So certainly anything short of a blind trust is a problem. The idea of a blind trust is to take things that he controls and give control of them to someone else.

The government ethics guidelines prevent family members from overseeing that stuff. So Donald has said, my kids can run it, it will be a blind trust. But the very presence of his children in the trust means it's not blind.

BERMAN: No, your kids can't run a blind trust. It's not blind.

O'BRIEN: That's right.

BERMAN: In fact, if your empire doesn't change at all, it's not really a trust either.

O'BRIEN: Right. I mean, he's got -- there's two choices, he could liquidate everything and sell it off, which he's not going do or he could get an authentically independent third party to make decisions about buying and selling the Trump name, which is the primary thing that they're involved with, and running some of the real estate holdings.

BERMAN: That's exactly right. A lot of what he does is just his name. It's selling his name, it's licensing his name. So does this business continue without him?

O'BRIEN: I mean, you know, the notion -- people keep saying there's a vast Trump empire, and it's really not vast. It's a family business, it's sort of a boutique, it's run on the 26th floor of Trump Tower, they have some very lucrative domestic buildings that they collect rents on, essentially, but a big part of what he does is licensing, and you could cure that by simply putting someone else in charge of licensing, who has no contact with the children and no contact with the White House.

[21:35:01] BERMAN: So in terms of separating just the licensing, just the name, that actually, ironically, separating the name would be easy you said?

O'BRIEN: It would be logistically much easier than people have portrayed. There's this sense that there's all these vast real estate holdings and he's got all these other complex business entities that would be hard to unwind, and that's no the case.

BERMAN: But he has that Trump Tower, right? And he has other building ...

O'BRIEN: Well, he owns some of the commercial space in Trump Tower. The condominium owners own most of Trump Tower. He doesn't even control the land of the new Trump Tower. He's got -- he owns 40 Wall Street outright and he owns large stakes, lucrative stakes in two buildings that are not a reality company that was in California and New York. Those are three of his prime real estate holdings. And there's no real issue with 40 Wall. He rents out the space to office holders. So the real conflicts come in where he's trying to capitalize off of his name to find partners globally or domestically who can trade off of that.

BERMAN: So you've covered him for years and you've looked at his financial dealings. You've also looked at Donald Trump, the person. Given what drives him, given the need he has had over the years to make deals and accumulate wealth, can you see him, all of a sudden, just giving it up cold turkey when he goes to the White House?

O'BRIEN: No, not at all. It's quart (ph) of who he is. He's a deal maker. He's not been a great deal maker at times but it's fundamental to his identity. He likes quick hits. He's got a lot of appetites. He's got -- you know, he loves food and women and humor and deals in money and it's hard to reign those things in.

BERMAN: What's going to stop it?

O'BRIEN: The Senate and the House of Representatives, which the GOP now controls. So I think we're in a moment here where the GOP has to decide what kind of party it is, and whether or not they want to put some guidelines around this.

Remember, on Sunday, Mike Pence said that the Trump administration will be marked by new ethics laws that overhaul the relationship of lobbyists in the federal government. There's no reason, if you believe in that principle, of good government and clean ethics laws not to extend that into the Oval Office.

BERMAN: But we have no evidence yet that Congress -- the Republican and Congress will engage in oversight. That is something we will have to watch.

O'BRIEN: That's true.

BERMAN: Tim O'Brien, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

O'BRIEN: Good be here. Thank you.

BERMAN: Up next, civil rights group say the alt-right and Steve Bannon have no place in the White House. Bannon insists he is not a white nationalist. I'll speak to the reporter who interviewed him at length. That's next.


[21:41:12] BERMAN: As we have reported, Donald Trump's transition team has put out a statement after a group spoke about white supremacy and used Nazi imagery and gathered in Washington to celebrate his victory. They called themselves an alt-right group. They say America belongs to white people and this happened. The video is from "The Atlantic".


RICHARD SPENCER, ALT-RIGHT LEADER: Heil, Trump. Heil our people. Heil victory.


BERMAN: Those are Nazi salutes. And this came just after the speaker questioned whether Jews are, in fact, people.

In a statement, Trump transition spokesman Brian Lanza, does not mention that gathering specifically, but says, "President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he was elected because he will be a leader for every American. To think, otherwise, is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds." Again, it did not address this meeting over the weekend though.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says the so-called alt-right movement is just a rebranding of white nationalism and now there are worries this reach is extending all the way to the White House in Trump's pick for chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Bannon was the head of the website Breitbart, which is often a platform for alt-right thinkers.

Joining me now is Hollywood reporter, columnist Michael Wolff who interviewed Steve Bannon at length in a fascinating article. And Michael, you heard all kinds of things about Steve Bannon and he no doubt has heard all kinds of things about himself.


BERMAN: Calling, you know, calling a white supremacist, saying that he's anti-Semitic. What does he say to his critics?

WOLFF: Well, he -- I think his attitude about this is don't -- if you ask me these kinds of questions, that's asking me if I beat my wife. In other words, these are the questions, the setup questions, from people he perceives to be his opponents, which he can't -- there's no way that he can rise above those questions. Even by answering those questions, he essentially, admits to something that he is -- certainly does not want to admit to, certainly doesn't think that he has any reason to admit to.

Now, I'm not defending him here. I'm really just trying to channel his point of view on this. Because he implacably, implacably denies having -- being a racist, being an anti-Semite -- I mean, denies it to the extent that it is -- he just blows it away. This is not his reality.

BERMAN: What does he see then as his world view? I've heard comments where he's said, I'm not a white nationalist, I'm a nationalist. What does that mean?

WOLFF: It means that he is about working for Americans. And again, I want to be very clear that I'm not defending him. I went in there and there's a lot of -- I've been dealing with other media people, other journalists on Twitter all day, thinking that somehow I interviewed this man and therefore I represent him. This is totally not true. I merely went and did an interview with him and listened to him. BERMAN: But that's what's so interesting I think to our viewers here, because there are -- most people have not heard directly from Steve Bannon.

WOLFF: Exactly, and it's an important distinction. Because -- and I think that something he sees that nobody is listening to him. Nobody knows who he is. Nobody wants to know who he is. All they or we, whoever this media -- liberal media cabal, which the Trump people really do see existing, these people just want to pin something on him, want him to represent evil in some sense.

[21:45:11] BERMAN: You say evil. Let me read you the quote that's getting a lot of attention from your piece, which certainly caught my attention. Steve Bannon told you, "Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power." What did he mean by that?

WOLFF: He means that when the liberal media elite establishment see him as being bad, see him as being dark, see him out without seeing him, that's provides a very powerful kind of cover for him. They don't really see what he is really doing. And he would argue that that's how Donald Trump got elected.

We, the media, liberal elite -- again, however you want to define it, failed to see what they were doing, became convinced that Hillary Clinton was going to win, across the board, everyone. And while they -- we were so deluded and misinformed, the Trump people were rallying a near -- something quite close to a majority of Americans.

BERMAN: We've got about 30 seconds left. What does he want to accomplish do you think, personally, in this next four years?

WOLFF: Well, he said two things. The first thing, he wants to have the Trump movement stay in power for 50 years. How does he want to do that? He wants to do that by giving people well-paying jobs. The oldest political trick in the book.

BERMAN: That's so interesting tonight, because we saw this video released by Donald Trump, this 2.5-minute video, which is really all we've seen of him in the last two weeks that hammer that point home. Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. That was on that video ...

WOLFF: It's very much. It's very -- it's the economy, stupid. And he argues that the Democrats have profoundly forgotten that that is their classic platform.

BERMAN: Michael Wolff, thanks so much for sharing your insights and talking about this interview. A lot of people were hearing right now. Appreciate it.

Up next, why Melania Trump and her son, Barron, will not be joining President Trump at the White House anytime soon?


[21:50:57] BERMAN: Over the weekend, Donald Trump told reporters he will live in the White House but his wife Melania and 10-year-old son, Barron, will stay in New York temporarily so Barron can go to school here.

More now from Suzanne Malveaux.


MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF DONALD TRUMP: Thank you very much. You have all been very kind to Donald and me, to our young son, Barron, and to our whole family.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Since the Trumps descended from the escalator of the Trump Tower, June 2015, Melania Trump has made it clear, their son Barron is her top priority.

M. TRUMP: I'm a full time mother to our son, Barron, an incredible boy. As his father travels around the country, running for president, I'm with our son. We talk a little bit about politics and a lot about life, homework and sports.

MALVEAUX: Melania decided early on to rarely campaign by her husband's side.

M. TRUMP: My husband or the campaign, they will have me on the trail all the time. They wish to have me there. But I made the decision, I will be a parent to our boy, to our child.

No matter who you are ...

MALVEAUX: But the soon to be first lady could not shield her son from the scandals that emerged. Namely, the tape of her husband from 2005 bragging about groping women.

M. TRUMP: Sometimes I said, I have two boys at home. I have my young son and I have my husband.

MALVEAUX: Melania tried to use the controversy as a teachable moment for their son.

M. TRUMP: He's in that age and all the boys are in that age. That's -- yeah, they say some bad words and it's very normal. They're growing up. But I tell him that, you know, there are consequences as well.

MALVEAUX: Barron Trump's arrival at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will be historic as the first son in the White House in over 50 years.

In 2008, first lady Michelle Obama was reticent to move their daughters, 10-year-old Malia and seven-year-old Sasha from their Chicago home. Bringing her mother Marian Robinson along put her at ease.

And when Michelle Obama hosted Melania at the White House just over a week ago, the two talked about the challenges raising their children in the spotlight.

MALVEAUX: The Obama's have also decided not to disrupt their daughter Sasha's schooling by staying here in Washington, D.C. for at least another couple of years. It could turn out that the Obama and Trump children end up attending the same private elite school as many of the presidential children do.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, the White House.


BERMAN: All right, thank you Suzanne.

Joining me now, Kate Andersen Brower, historian on this topic. She's also the author of "First Women: The Grace and Power of America's First Ladies", and "The Residence: Inside the Secret World of the White House".

And Kate, you know, Melania Trump and Barron not moving into the White House at least not yet, this is relatively speaking unprecedented.

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, AUTHOR, "FIRST WOMEN": Oh absolutely. I mean, Martha Washington didn't live in the White House because it didn't -- hadn't been built yet. And then also Anna Harrison didn't live in the White House, because her husband died shortly after being sworn in.

So, every first lady in modern history has taken on the role of first lady from the East Wing, you know. There are a lot of important parts of this job, including having a chief of staff and a social secretary who work with the resident staff to really run the second and third floors of the White House. And all the things that we see, the public sees, like state dinners, Medal of Honor ceremonies, these are things that first ladies historically have always been a part of.

BERMAN: Well, that's interesting. That had deals specifically with Melania here and what her role will be in this administration, and it makes it difficult if she's not in there in the White House, doesn't it?

BROWER: Yeah. I spoke with one former staffer tonight who said it will be very awkward for her to not be there. That's kind of idea that she's telecommuting as first lady. Although I think a lot of people are sympathetic to her, having a 10-year-old son, yanking him out of school midway. It's difficult -- it was difficult for Michelle Obama, you know, bringing Sasha and Malia here.

[21:55:01] And I think the difference for Barron is, he doesn't have a sibling, his own age range. You know, he really is alone in that sense. And I was curious, you know, to see if Melania would feel the need to bring her parents down in the same way that Michelle Obama did with her mother Marian who lives in a suite on the third floor, because kids in the White House do need a sense of stability and normalcy.

And I think Melania's whole, you know, mantra on the campaign that it's her family first. She's really showing that it's true. I mean, she is very involved in raising their son, and she's going to do this for the next six months, and we'll see it's open ended.

BERMAN: Well that we'll see. I mean, "The New York Times" is reporting the possibility that Mrs. Trump could revisit this at the end of the school year. She really did seem to leave the door at least a little bit open there.

BROWER: Yeah, and I think it would make sense for them to come in the fall, you know, in the summer, and sort of do what every other first lady has done. It's a privilege to live in the White House. I'm sure she's aware of that.

I think the transition is always difficult. It was hard for Michelle Obama. She had to go through a couple chiefs of staff before she found a good fit. She went through a couple of different ideas, it took her a while to come up with the lets move idea.

And I think for Melania, the cyberbullying idea, you know, she's got to get a good projects coordinator on board, a press secretary, a chief of staff, a social secretary, I mean, these are lesser known appointments that have to be made. Obviously, we're all talking about Secretary of State. But these things are important to the running of the White House.

BERMAN: We shall see what she decides to do. We'll also see how much Donald Trump plans on coming back to New York to visit them at Trump Tower. That's a whole different issue.

Kate Andersen Brower, thanks so much.

BROWER: Thank you.

BERMAN: We'll be right back.