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Trump Interview at "New York Times"; Trump Says He Won't Go After Clinton; Trump Condemns White Supremacists; Trump Talks His Business Ties; Trump Talks Climate Change; Chattanooga Community Reals from School Bus Crash; Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 22, 2016 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

Whoo, it is a big day for America's president-elect because moments ago Mr. Trump made news on a variety of topics. Everything from Hillary Clinton, to climate change, and the white supremacists seen in a new video cheering him on.

So let's get straight to Brian Stelter, our senior media correspondent and host of "Reliable Sources," and David Chalian, our CNN political director.

But, Brian, let me just begin with you here. The backdrop of this meeting, Donald Trump over at "The New York Times." What's the back story?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Trump often says he detests the media. He complains about the media every chance he get, but he cares deeply about the press. He cares about "The New York Times." He cares about what CNN says about him. So he requested this meeting at "The New York Times" today. Then he canceled it this morning. Then he put it back on his calendar.

So now he's at "The New York Times," up on the 16th floor, having this editorial board meeting. It is on the record. It's an hour plus long interview, which means it's his most extensive interview yet since being elected. And we're learning about it through live tweets from reporters who are in the room. So we're learning a lot, Brooke, about what he says he'll do as president.

BALDWIN: Let's get straight to it, including what he said about Hillary Clinton, David Chalian. So let me just ask you. You know, we know earlier today his adviser said that he would not pursue any prosecution of Hillary Clinton, which is what we heard, right, the cacophony of that on the campaign trail. And now he's echoing this.

Let me just show this tweet. As we know they're live tweeting. The tweet is, "I think it would be very, very divisive for the country." Is this, David Chalian, is this a new Trump? The Trump with less - is this less red meat?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Listen, I - this is Donald Trump who is keenly aware that he's about to take over a very divided country and he see this as one way to try to begin to heal that divide. Remember, he - watch his trajectory on this issue, Brooke. Remember at the convention when they started chanting "lock her up" and around that time, he actually was trying to quiet that down a bit and say, no, let's just get elected. Let's win here.

Then, in the fall, as "lock her up" became a rallying cry for his most ardent supporters at his rallies -

BALDWIN: He joined in.

CHALIAN: He joined it full force. Led the way. He got the chant going. And now we see him sort of going back on that. You know, he'll get dinged on the right for walking back on a promise. But remember at that debate, when - the second debate where he said he would seek a special prosecutor and how much criticism he came in for about how un- American that is and that's how Banana Republics run, he clearly heard some of that criticism. He clearly understands how divisive this kind of issue would be.

And let me read you one more thing in one of the tweets. He said, "my inclination would be for whatever power I have on the matter to say, let's go forward. This has been looked at for so long, ad nauseam." He also says he thinks he will explain it to his supporters who may question why he's walking away from this as a way to save the country.

BALDWIN: OK, so we're about to speak to one of those Trump supporters who may be none too thrilled that he's walking this piece of it back. But let's listen just for a moment on what he said in the past about the Clintons.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation.

Special prosecutor, here we come, right? If I win, we're going to appoint a special prosecutor.

She deleted the e-mails. She has to go to jail.

Hillary's running for a lot of reasons. One of them is because she wants to stay out of jail.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.

TRUMP: Because you'd be in jail.


BALDWIN: Wow. Just wanted to remind everyone. And, again, we'll be talking to a Trump supporter in just a second and see how he's feeling with how now Trump is responding to this. Brian Stelter, the other piece of this conversation today, you know, after getting a lot of heat for his - his tepid response to the white supremacist group cheering him on over the weekend in this meeting now with "The New York Times," Apparently the president-elect is saying he disavows, he condemns them and he also says, let me quote this tweet in particular, he says, "it's not a group I want to energize and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why." It's a change of tone.

STELTER: We all know - yes, we all know why white supremacists have been energized by Donald Trump. His candidacy did cause division. It did play to some of the worst impulses some people feel about others. Whether those others are immigrants or other kinds of people. So Trump now saying he doesn't think he energized those people. He's saying he's not interested in the alt-right.

This is going to come as a surprise to some of his fans. You know, Steve Bannon, who's going to be Trump's chief strategist, once called his website, Breitbart News, the platform for the alt-right. To be fair, though, the alt-right means many things and I think it is notable that in this meeting at "The New York Times," Trump is very much rejecting that white supremacist conference over the weekend, that video that we've seen several times now he says - you actually - he actually at one point said to "The New York Times" reporters when they - when they asked about it again, "boy, you are really into this issue." And then he disavowed them once again.

[14:05:13] BALDWIN: Well, there's a reason for that and he had - there had been this blanket condemnation, but that wasn't enough.


BALDWIN: And then you mentioned Steve Bannon, David Chalian. You know, he also was asked about Steve Bannon in this meeting with "The Times." He said this is - you know, Trump saying Bannon isn't racist, that Bannon is taking this criticism hard, although it's interesting because we never hear this from Bannon himself.

CHALIAN: Right, and I think at that moment, according to the reporters in the room, Reince Priebus, the incoming chief of staff, chimed in to defend Bannon as well. And you're right, Bannon is sort of press- averse in many ways.

I don't think we should get too caught up in the alt-right. I don't think Donald Trump turning to a camera on "60 Minutes" or offering a disavowal in front of "New York Times" reporters is going to be what's required here.


CHALIAN: I think that if he continues to find racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic supporters who in one breath are talking about their support and embracing him and hailing him, and in the other breath spewing hate, it's going to require more leadership, presidential style leadership, from Donald Trump to shut that down as unacceptable behavior in America. But, Brooke, I do want to bring up one other thing from this "New York

Times" interview because you are right, as you said at the top, very, very newsy.


CHALIAN: He also talked about his potential conflict of interest with his businesses. He was asked about this. And I thought this was a stunning line. He said, "the law is totally on my side on this." He first thought maybe he was going to have to put it in a blind trust. He now realizes he doesn't have to do that and he says, quote, "the president can't have conflicts of interest."

This language is nearly Nixonian. And so I - he - it is going to be fascinating to watch now as we learn that he feels very attached to his businesses, even as he may hand it over to his children in a day to day capacity, he clearly indicated he feels no need to completely wall himself off from it as president.

BALDWIN: So a quick follow-up on that because I noted that line as well and we've been - we'll be talking more about the conflict of interest. Then who can speak up? I mean if Trump is essentially the boss and you imagine Republicans on Capitol Hill won't, is this moot?

CHALIAN: It may be moot if somebody is not going to investigate this in terms of the Republican chairman on Capitol Hill. And I'm not even suggesting that this is something that may rile up American voters. I just think it is one of those things, because of the unprecedented nature of his portfolio moving into the Oval Office -


CHALIAN: That is going to require more explanation just so the American people can have confidence that he -


CHALIAN: I mean he talked today, his election has made his brand hotter he said in this "New York Times" meeting. So he's going to need to sort of separate out, I think, his business from serving the country continually to the American people.

BALDWIN: OK. Let me - let me move on -

STELTER: Yes, in this interview - yes.

BALDWIN: No, sorry, there's just - there's so much to get to. I do want to ask you, Brian, about what he's talking about, about climate change and he seems like he's walking back some of his hardline stances on climate change. By the way, here he is walking out of "The New York Times." Let's actually listen and see how people are responding to him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Trump, when will you hold your first news conference?


STELTER: Sounds like some boos to me, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Stunning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When will you hold a press conference?

BALDWIN: I just wanted to sit on this moment because I think it's just worth listening. This is the man who will be the 45th president of the United States who has just come from this mega, mega newsworthy meeting with "The New York Times." And to watch everyone crowded in that lobby, a lobby you know so well, Brian Stelter, you know, to - it almost felt like a combination of iPhone and they wanted a piece of it and wanted the photo, but you also heard some mixed reviews and some boos as well. Did you notice that?

STELTER: Yes, indeed. And just to paint the picture for people, this is the lobby of "The New York Times" building. It's notable that Trump went to "The Times." He didn't bring the editors over to his Trump Tower.


STELTER: I think that was a sign of respect for "The Times" in Midtown Manhattan. Now he's leaving through the loading dock, going back to work. He was walking by a restaurant as well there, waving to the patrons.

But there were some boos in the lobby. Those are not "New York Times" reporters or editors. Those are actually other New Yorkers, some of them work in other floors of the building, work in other offices, law firms in the building. So just so people know, it's not reporters who are booing the president-elect.

But, obviously, in New York, there's a lot of hostility toward the president-elect, even though he lives in Midtown Manhattan. He has not been out in public much since being elected. So to see him, even in a lobby for a moment, is really revealing. That mix of emotions from people in the lobby.

BALDWIN: Just wanted to sit on that and all of us take it in.

[14:10:00] Back to climate change. David, I'll pivot to you and ask you. He seems like he's walking back his hardline stance on climate change. Let me read one of his tweets on this. Quote, "I think there is some connectivity between humans and climate change." What do you think that means, David Chalian?

CHALIAN: Well, that certainly was not the tone he was striking during the campaign. We should note that immediately following that, according to these tweets, it's hard to get the exact timeline of when he said what, but it looked like in a subsequent tweet that he also said, Brooke, but as I consider climate change and even acknowledging some connectivity to human activity, I am also considering the impact on American business and the American economy. So it wasn't all of a sudden that he was joining up with the League of Conservation Voters or the Sierra Club and becoming some green environmental activist here. I don't think anybody would expect that.

BALDWIN: But it was softer.

CHALIAN: Yes. But that acknowledgment certainly sounded different than he did in the campaign. But because he also added in sort of how he's considering the economic impact, I think the jury should remain out on how he plans to proceed in this issue area.

BALDWIN: It's just amazing. I will say good-bye for now. Thank you both so much. There's so much to chew on that we're hanging on every single word from this - from this meeting there at "The New York Times." Watching him leave. We'll have much more on it.

We mentioned a piece of this conversation. Let me just move on. Trump just told "The New York Times" that it is his choice now not to go after Hillary Clinton and he believes that that choice will not disappoint his supporters. Well, let's ask one.

With me now, Trump supporter Oliver McGee. He was a senior policy adviser in the White House science office during the Bill Clinton administration.

Oliver, nice to have you on.

OLIVER MCGEE, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Thank you for having me, Brooke. I'm a big fan.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much.

Let's just begin with - you know, you just heard the news that the president-elect says no to prosecuting Hillary Clinton. He said he wanted to move on and move forward. Are you disappointed in that?

MCGEE: Well, Brooke, campaigning is a brawl and the GOP base nominated a brawler. But also Donald Trump is recognizing that governing is about getting to the peace. And so essentially he's - essentially he's kind of opening the door for possibly a pardon from President Clinton. The issue is that when I talked -

BALDWIN: Why - what indicates that for you?

MCGEE: Well, I talked to my Uber driver here. I asked a person on the street and she said that she said this is possibly a possibility going back to the Nixon days when Nixon was basically into the same type of situation, Ford pardoned him for all past and future malfeasance. But given that we do not even have -

BALDWIN: I'm sorry. Am I hearing you clearly that - I'm sorry, hang on a second, Oliver, are you -


BALDWIN: You're looking to your Uber driver for knowledge on the matter to quote on CNN?

MCGEE: A lot of times when you basically look at people on the street, that's essentially who voted in the middle of the country is basically sometimes -

BALDWIN: Gotcha.

MCGEE: I was kind of thinking it's the same way. But at the same time, it is rather telling to tell your audience because Trump may be possibly positioning himself for a possible presidential pardon, and that is about trying to get to the peace after the election.

I think the Trump presidency will be extremely distracted going into large amounts of disturbing the club of presidents. The club of presidential candidates. We have to get to the point to where we get to solving the bigger problems of transportation infrastructure, the 4 percent growth in the economy that we definitely need and getting to the point of looking at our - all of the issues that we have to do with looking at health care and who needs it and who doesn't have it. But going into a long -

BALDWIN: I think a lot of people, Oliver, if I may just jump in, on jobs and on infrastructure and economy -


BALDWIN: That was on the minds of so many people, especially those who I know voted for him.


BALDWIN: But on what I'm specifically asking you about, about - and not only, you know, potentially not standing by, you know, calling on a special prosecutor to prosecute Hillary Clinton, but even softening on climate change and other issues that are coming out of this "New York Times" meeting, are you still a full throated Donald Trump supporter?

MCGEE: Oh, absolutely. I've been on the - I've been on the record as saying that this election was not about change, it was about enough. And essentially when we look at the two coasts, which were blue, and the middle of the country was red, the voters said we, the people, are responsible for we, the law makers, who are accountable. Even if we start talking about who is going to be impeached or who is not, it resides with the people.

BALDWIN: But don't you want to hold the candidate accountable and you want that follow through - you want that follow through? I imagine one of the - you tell me, is one of the reasons why you voted for him is what he was saying on immigration -


BALDWIN: And maybe a - I don't know, a Muslim registry, or a deportation force. And now that we're hearing a softening of all of those campaign promises or a lack thereof in that YouTube video, that's OK for you.

[14:15:00] MCGEE: Yes. It's OK for all presidents to do this. We saw Obama do the same thing. We saw Bush do the same thing. We saw Nixon do the same thing. And we will see the same thing in Trump.

Campaigning is a brawl. You're at war. But when you try to govern and you see some of the issues and talking amongst the club of presidents, even when President Obama met with Donald Trump, they were about getting to the peace because ultimately we are a united nation and we have to govern ourselves together. And really this, once again, is about we the people who are responsible for the - we the lawmakers who are accountable. Going to - trying to get people to unite together to the real problems that we have in this country is very, very important. I know that supporters for Hillary are out marching. They will actually march it off, walk it off, walk it off and then this administration will find a way to govern somewhere in the middle having both moderate right and moderate left because that's essentially what my book "Jumping the Aisle," is about.


MCGEE: And that's where we are right now.

BALDWIN: Time will tell. We shall see. Oliver McGee, thank you so much.

By the way, not trying to throw side on Uber drivers. I talk to cab drivers all the time to hear - I'm always - I'm always looking for perspectives.


BALDWIN: I just wasn't quite totally sure where you were going with that.

Oliver, thank you. Thank you for your time today. I -

MCGEE: Right on, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I appreciate it.

Just ahead here, we will talk more about the criticism against President-elect Trump over specifically white supremacists who cheer him on.

Also just a short time from now, President Obama awards the Medal of Freedom to some of the nation's most massive stars, Michael Jordan, Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Hanks, Dianna Ross. We'll have it for you live.

Also ahead, breaking news, this just horrendous school bus crash in Chattanooga that killed at least five children. We'll speak live with two pastors who are there speaking with the families and what the driver's mother is now saying.

We'll be right back.


[14:20:53] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN.

I want to turn our attention to just this incredible difficult story out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Grief counseling has been happening all day long today inside of this elementary school there. The school, its teachers, its students grappling with the unspeakable loss of five young lives. These students died Monday in a school bus crash, fourth graders, a first grader, and a kindergartener.

The man who was behind the wheel, Johnthony Walker. He has been charged with multiple counts of homicide and reckless driving. Police say he was speeding along a winding road when he lost control of the bus and swerved off the pavement. The bus flipped onto its side and then wrapped around this tree. Apparently the impact was so tremendous, a witness said it knocked the power out in her own home. One of the young survivors described the moment before the wreck.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wasn't paying attention. He was going real fast. And he had hit a garbage - a garbage bag and he had hit a mailbox and then we flipped over and hit the tree real hard.


BALDWIN: Thirty-five children were on board that bus. Twelve are still in the hospital. Six in intensive care. CNN spoke with the bus driver's mother. She asked for compassion for her son, saying the crash was God's will. The company Walker works for says it is fully cooperating with authorities.

And at this school this morning, Woodmore Elementary, students and faculty returned to confront their grief.

So joining me now, Chaplain Dwight Wilson, a volunteer hospice chaplain, who's been at the hospital and at the school comforting these families and the students. He is joined by his son, youth Pastor Jason Wilson, who is also providing some of the grief counseling.

So, gentlemen, first and foremost, my deepest condolences to you, to these families, to your community. I know Chattanooga pretty well. It is a beautiful, lovely, kind place. How are you doing and how is the community doing?

DWIGHT WILSON, VOLUNTEER HOSPICE CHAPLIN: We are doing all we can to make sure that care is given to the families. We were here last night at the hospital. We have been at the school this morning. Spoke with the principal of the school. We saw some of the children, the early car drivers that bring their children in. Some of those children looked sad, but not really fully realizing what has happened yet.

We came back to the hospital. We've been ministering to families in here who have children in the intensive care. These children are badly hurt, head injuries, broken ribs, broken legs, broken arms, bleeding kidneys. Our hearts - our hearts have been going out to these families as we put our arms around them and pray for them.

BALDWIN: How are these parents? I mean you were in the room last evening at the hospital. What will you share with how these moms and dads are doing?

D. WILSON: Initially - initially it was some anger from family members. My son, Jason, heard a parent cry out, "not my baby." But then the cry changed a little bit later. The initial anger, denial, weeping, and today even looking for some distraction from the constant grief.

These parents are doing whatever they can to stay present because they don't know from one minute to the next when their family's name will be called and they will have an update - hopefully a good update - about how their child is doing.

[14:25:22] BALDWIN: Pastor, have you spoken to the parents of children who have survived? How did the children relay what happened, what went so wrong on that bus ride?

D. WILSON: The only - the only ones that I've heard talk about that was parents that said the bus driver and his family must be hurting, and this is something that this bus driver will have to live with for the rest of his life. I heard two parents of the children that survived that have said, whatever we do, we need to pray for that young man and his family.

That's one of my first thoughts last night as I was here, that we pray first of all for these children that are still in intensive care. We pray for the ones that are at school. We pray for their families today and the weeks to come because this is not something that will just go away in a day or two.


D. WILSON: And so the parents are reaching out for prayer for people all over the city, all over the nation and whoever will pray. One man told me in the intensive care waiting room, he said, "every little prayer makes it a little bit more bearable." And so whatever your faith is, whatever your walk in life, we have found out that you may shun a minister, a chaplain or something, but when it comes to your door, and those hearts that care are there, I found that most always prayer is welcome.

I used to drive a school bus a long, long time ago. And I loved those little elementary school kids. They would get on the bus and give me love notes. I don't - I don't know how the driver is going to cope, but I do know from firsthand experience that it's something that will affect him, will affect his family -

BALDWIN: For the rest of their lives.

D. WILSON: And - the - it will. It will.

BALDWIN: All right. I just wanted to sit here and list. I appreciate both of your voices. Thank you so much. I am so sorry. We'll be right back.