Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With Indiana Congressman Andre Carson; Scientists Calling for Election Recounts in Key States; Trump Names More Cabinet Picks. Source: Scientists Urge Clinton Camp to Contest Results. Aired 4-4:15p ET
Aired November 23, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: President-elect Trump is in Mar-a-Lago for Thanksgiving. At least one family won't be arguing politics over dinner.
THE LEAD starts right now.
On the eve of they're, two new announcements from president-elect Donald Trump. And coming on the heels of men joining his team, both of today's picks are women.
It's two weeks after Hillary Clinton conceded, but could we now be headed for a recount? Two computer scientists calling up the Clinton campaign and telling them that some of the key votes just don't add up.
Speaking of arguing politics at Thanksgiving, you actually may not have anything to worry about, because with the interstate traffic jams and the usual clogged airport terminals, you may not make dinner at all.
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in again today for Jake Tapper.
And a very happy Thanksgiving to everyone.
Today, president-elect Donald Trump is burying at least one hatchet. The Trump administration can now cross two positions off its recruiting list, United Nations ambassador, one of America's most visible faces on the international stage, and education secretary, the person who helps to guide what your children will be learning every day.
The next diplomat to battle it out with the likes of Russia and China in the U.N. Security Council, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. You may remember that Haley took a not-so-subtle shot at Trump earlier this year, in fact, more than one of them, when she called upon the country to reject our -- quote -- "angriest voices."
The president-elect also announced that Republican mega-donor Betsy DeVos has accepted his offer to run the Department of Education. DeVos has been a longtime advocate for charter schools and for school voucher programs. CNN's Jason Carroll is in Palm Beach, Florida, with the president --
with the president-elect, I should say, where he is spending Thanksgiving.
Jason, are we expecting any more personnel announcements today?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's unclear at this point. We wouldn't be able to say with certainty one way or another, Jim.
But what is clear at this point is that this president-elect is not opposed to bringing in former rivals into his Cabinet.
CARROLL (voice-over): President-elect Donald Trump is bolstering his Cabinet by turning to a one-time critic.
GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: When a bully hits you, hit that bully right back.
CARROLL: Trump today announcing South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as his choice to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Haley, a daughter of Indian immigrants, became the first woman and first person of color elected as governor of the Palmetto State. And she was the first woman selected to join the Trump administration.
Haley endorsed Senator Marco Rubio during the GOP primary and was a vocal Trump critic during the campaign.
HALEY: I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the KKK. That is not a part of our party. That's not who we want as president.
CARROLL: Trump today also naming Betsy DeVos, a top GOP donor and proponent of school choice, as his pick to head the Department of Education, calling her a brilliant and passionate education advocate. Trump pledged throughout the campaign to do away with the Common Core education standards.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: And we are going to end Common Core. Education is going to be brought local.
CARROLL: DeVos previously served on the board of an education group led by Jeb Bush that supports Common Core, but in a statement she says, "I am not a supporter, period. It got turned into a federalized boondoggle."
But it is the selection of Haley that raises the question, could another Trump rival be next? Transition sources tell CNN Mitt Romney is a leading contender for secretary of state.
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We had a far-reaching conversation with regards to the various theaters in the world where there are interests of the United States of real significance. CARROLL: The 2012 Republican nominee was one of Trump's fiercest
critics during the primaries, blasting Trump's foreign policy credentials.
TRUMP: Mr. Trump's bombast is already alarming our allies and fueling the enmity of our enemies.
HALEY: Some Trump loyalists are lambasting a potential Romney pick.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Political infighting is part of the game. But when you go after a person who was the nominee of your party, who has been duly nominated by the voters, and then you are savaging the voters. You're not just savaging Donald Trump.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I can think of 20 other people who would be more naturally compatible with the Trump vision of foreign policy.
CARROLL: Trump taking to Twitter to announce that he is considering another rival for HUD secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, and Carson tweeting an ambiguous follow-up, saying, an announcement is forthcoming about his role in helping to make America great again.
CARROLL: And the Trump team expecting to release a Trump Thanksgiving video. We were expecting that video to come out today, Jim. But the day is not over yet -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: He's got one more day to do it. Jason Carroll, thanks very much.
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Andre Carson of Indiana.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us today.
REP. ANDRE CARSON (D), INDIANA: What a pleasure. Thank you.
SCIUTTO: In the past, you have said that Donald Trump is dog- whistling to white supremacist groups. He has now picked the South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, as U.N. ambassador. She is, of course, of Indian descent. She wanted the Confederate Flag taken down from the South Carolina Statehouse.
And, as you know, she is someone who fought bitterly with Trump during the campaign, including, as we heard there, calling him out for taking so long to disavow the KKK. From your perspective, does this Cabinet selection, does it represent a substantive change in Donald Trump?
CARSON: I think so.
I think that Governor Haley is a good pick. She is smart. She has a great story of success. She is a child of immigrants as an Indian- American. I think that she does a great job in terms of challenging the status quo, even the removal of the Confederate Flag.
And what we're seeing represented in her is that she is inspiring more young women to participate in the political process, and she has inspired more from the South Asian community, who are very -- becoming more politically engaged in our country. So, I think it's a solid pick.
SCIUTTO: And does it change your view of Donald Trump and that dog- whistling that you described during the campaign?
CARSON: Well, as I said over a year ago, I have met Mr. Trump. I have found that his -- who he is in private betrays his public rhetoric.
I am still deeply concerned about the dog-whistling, to the degree that we are seeing people give Nazi salutes and saying hail Trump. He has yet to condemn the group with specificity, but the Haley pick tells me that he is very well aware, because he is a smart man, that this kind of posturing to the far right, to the extreme right, to white supremacists and white nationalists is not representative of what a true presidency should be.
I am hopeful that we have the Obama administration, who has been making this handoff very smooth, very professional, and it shows that President Obama is a man of great character, intelligence and elegance, dare I say, in the way he is dealing with the handoff, in wanting to keep America solid, keep America on track. And I think he is a great example that President Trump should consider modeling his presidency after.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. You are of course on the House Intelligence Committee. You deal with many national security issues. Are you concerned at all about Nikki Haley's lack of foreign policy, diplomatic experience in this role?
CARSON: Well, I will let Mr. Trump answer that question. I think that Governor Haley will have a chance to prove herself. And we will go from there.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this as well. As one of two Muslim members of Congress, I just want you to listen -- and I know you are familiar with these comments -- to what Trump's nation security adviser retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn has said in the past and frankly more than once about the faith of Islam.
Let's have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN (RET.), NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER-DESIGNEE: Islam is a political ideology. It is a political ideology. It definitely hides behind this notion of it being a religion. It's like cancer.
And I have gone through cancer in my own life. And so it's like cancer. And so it's like a malignant cancer, though, in this case. It has metastasized.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Does it concern you having someone with that view that can only be described as bigoted as it comes to a religion whispering in the president's ear as one of the president's closest advisers?
CARSON: Well, it deeply concerns me.
During my time on the Armed Services Committee, I had a chance to interact with General Flynn on numerous occasions. And while I appreciate his candor and his service to our great nation, those comments concern me.
There are many religions -- arguably, most religions -- that could be accused of having a cancerous element. You look at many of the white nationalists, many of whom claim to be Christians, who distort and pervert passages in the good book, in the Bible, for -- to justify their superiority claims, which are totally false.
And so any group of extremists who can claim to be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhists, even non-theists, can use their so- called philosophy for wicked gain.
SCIUTTO: Congressman Andre Carson, I do appreciate you taking this time during the Thanksgiving holiday and wish you and your family the very best.
CARSON: Likewise to you. Thank you, sir.
SCIUTTO: Computer scientists telling the Clinton campaign now that they should ask for a recount in several key swing states -- the reason why right after this break.
SCIUTTO: Sticking now with politics, according to some reports, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly two million votes.
But, of course, she still lost the election because of the Electoral College. That said, some computer scientists are privately urging her campaign to ask for a recount in several crucial Rust Belt swing states.
Why is that? Because they say Clinton got fewer votes than she should have in critical counties that used specifically electronic voting machines.
And those scientists say that there could be a pattern there and that this is potentially explosive, indicating those machines could have been manipulated or hacked.
CNN's Tom Foreman has been investigating this claim for us.
Tom, as you look into this -- this, of course, is an explosive theory -- is there truth to it?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a conspiracy theory for disgruntled Democrat. And unless we get a whole lot more evidence, that's all it is.
But like all conspiracy theories, it has something in it that seems like maybe it could be true. In a nutshell, it says something seems to have happened in the electronic voting in three key states, and maybe it cost Hillary Clinton the White House.
FOREMAN (voice-over): In Wisconsin, with almost three million votes cast, Donald Trump edged Hillary Clinton by less than 28,000. In Pennsylvania, out of almost six million votes, his advantage was 60,000. And the count in Michigan still remains too close for CNN to call the race.
But now some political activists say, in counties using electronic voting, Hillary Clinton
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Wisconsin, with almost 3 million votes cast, Donald Trump edged Hillary Clinton by less than 28,000. In Pennsylvania, out of almost 6 million votes, his advantage was 60,000.
[16:15:03] And the count in Michigan still remains too close for CNN to call the race.
But now, some political activists say in counties using electronic voting, Hillary Clinton appears to have mysteriously underperformed compare to areas with paper ballots by as much as 7 percent, according to what they told top Clinton aides in a call urging an official review. They've not released their analysis nor provided proof of hacking but the margin could have tipped Wisconsin and, if the others went her way too, she would have won.
So, who is leading the charge?
JOHN BONIFAZ, DEMOCRATIC ACTIVIST: Our democracy is under attack.
FOREMAN: John Bonifaz is a Democratic activist who ran for office a few years ago.
BONIFAZ: This is a story of where the Democratic Party needs to be.
FOREMAN: He's a big proponent of voting rights. And he tried to get President Bush impeached over the Iraq war.
BONIFAZ: The United States House of Representatives has a constitutional duty to investigate fully and comprehensively.
FOREMAN: But at the University of Michigan, the chief computer scientist behind the discovery of these alleged voting oddities seems to be on a different page. J. Alex Halderman is concerned about the risk of elections being hacked. He talked about it C-SPAN before this vote.
J. ALEX HALDERMAN, PROFESSOR, COMPUTER SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING: A realistic attack on the election will be homing in on whichever states end up having the closest margins.
FOREMAN: But he wants an investigation because he thinks any questions about voting security ought to be addressed. Not because he is convinced it would necessarily change the result nor prove anyone tried to rig the vote.
He has posted online, quote, "Were this year's deviations from pre- election polls the result of a cyber attack? Probably not. I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong."
As for election officials, some certainly went into the balloting pretty confident.
JERRY FEASER, PENNSYLVANIA ELECTION OFFICIAL: I could set one of these machines in the middle of Red Square in Moscow and the Russians couldn't hack into it.
FOREMAN: We reached out to the folks pushing this theory and we're told they don't want to say more right now in case there is legal action. The Clinton campaign has yet to file any official challenge. Jill Stein's campaign is raising some money to try.
Meanwhile, as states finish counting the remaining ballots. Clinton's lead over Trump in the popular keeps growing. New numbers out just today from the Cook Political Report put her more than 2 million votes ahead. That's the most ever by a candidate who lost the electoral vote and probably all the more reason that people want to buy into conspiracy theories like this one.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Jill Stein said that Clinton was a greater threat than Trump during the election. But a recount now.
Tom Foreman, thanks very much.
Let's move now and talk about this with our political panel, CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief of "The Daily Beast", Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times", Lynn Sweet, and White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, as well -- as well as author of the upcoming book, "At Mama's Knee: Mothers in Race in Black and White", she is April Ryan.
Thanks very much to all of you guys taking time out of your thanksgiving week to talk with us.
Lynn, if I could begin with you, looking at this theory, really, and Tom has done a good job of pretty much debunking it, is the campaign, to your understanding, taking this seriously and considering pushing a recount?
LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Well, even if they are -- excuse me -- a little allergy. Even if they are, you can't not wait forever to do a recount. That's the most important thing here.
SCIUTTO: If you're going to do it, you got to do it right away.
SWEET: You do it and there's only a few days remaining. Guys, I don't know what happened to me here.
SCIUTTO: We'll get you some water and -- Jackie -- then let you complete your thought.
SWEET: I'm OK now.
SWEET: The point is, you can't wait forever. There are only a few days left in each of these states. The main ones they are talking about are Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio. If they're going to do something, they have to do it in the next few days.
And, Jackie, is that something that they will actually considering doing?
JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: It's -- I mean, haven't heard anything yet. But there's also -- there's no clear evidence that this even -- to Tom's report, that this even happened.
So, it could be seen as -- enough that they would care, but it could be seen as being sore losers at this point. And you'd think you would hear more if this was something that they were considering pursuing. But this is 2016. So anything could happen.
SCIUTTO: Nate Silver and others have looked at the numbers and are not convinced either.
SCIUTTO: April, as we talk about that, obviously, there is a debate that has to happen at some point as to what went wrong in this election for Democrats. Is the Democratic Party struggling to begin to answer those questions, to address how they win the next election?
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORK: They're trying to do that as well. They're trying to formulate leadership.
But going back to the original question about what's happening, this is very deep. This is so deep. Yes, there are sore feelings. They are hurt. They're disappointed.
But at the same time, they said from the beginning, my sources told me maybe last week. And they wouldn't go on record but they started telling me from the very beginning, when the election night results came in and everything was official, they said something was wrong. At this point, it's so deep that they even have forensic professionals looking into this.
And if anything were to happen, going back to Lynn's point, it would have to happen this weekend. Hillary Clinton would have to make a decision this weekend because the Electoral College goes for that crucial vote on November 3rd.
SCIUTTO: So, you're saying there are serious considerations.
SCIUTTO: They're looking at the numbers to see if they have a case.
RYAN: Yes. My sources, my high-ranking sources who are very close to the situation, they are saying this is very deep. And told me last time, I was like, are you sure? They said, trust me, and then someone got -- someone to go on the record and they're talking about it now.
But it's -- Hillary Clinton, they're starting to talk to her about it. But right now, she is trying to figure out her next steps. But they have to talk to her this weekend to make the critical decision if she wants to go forward, to take legal action.
Yes, it may be a conspiracy theory, but you are looking at places like Michigan that the lead for Donald Trump is less than 10,000. So, I mean -- they're also using the issue of Comey. Comey took his time to see what was what in these e-mails. They want to go back and say, OK, if it's not, they still deserve the time to see what's, even though we're very close to inauguration day January 20th at 12:00 noon.
SCIUTTO: Well, if there was a election year, we would have a Thanksgiving weekend surprise like that, this would be the election year.
Let me ask you, the president-elect as we know him today is Donald Trump, and he is beginning to fill out his cabinet. We just had Andre Carson on. He's one of two Muslim members of Congress who are very critical of Donald Trump and what he called dog-whistling on racial issues.
He is giving Donald Trump credit for, for instance, the appointment of Nikki Haley to the U.N. who is also critic.
Do you, Lynn Sweet, see substantive change in these initial personnel moves?
SWEET: Change from what? Nikki Haley seems like an appointment that will not be controversial.
The other move today, Michigan's Betsy DeVos as Department of Education chair, will be wildly controversial, because she is strong advocate of charter schools, a hard-liner, seen as the enemy of public education. She is going to have a fight. So, it's nice to have diversity, but you can also count on people
complaining if they think someone is outside of -- out of a certain kind of parameter view. You just don't -- so I think, as we sort out thighs appointments here, it is something to think of, who is going to have a confirmation fight and who isn't.
Mitt Romney, if he becomes secretary of state nominee, he will be, you know --
SCIUTTO: Waltz in, right.
SWEET: Waltz in. Nikki Haley, I think everybody will just, you know -- no problem at all. Betsy DeVos will be a fight.
SCIUTTO: Of course, these are hot issues. School vouchers, et cetera. She did release a statement saying she is against Common Core, which is something that Trump, of course, opposed in the campaign.
But, Jackie and April, in the broader, and again, a lot of these positions remain to be filled. But there's talk of Ben Carson, another campaign opponent, for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Talk of Mitt Romney for secretary of state.
Do you see substantive change here potentially from Trump the candidate to Trump the president?
KUCINICH: Well, all rivals are not created equal. And, remember, Ben Carson became very much a Trump surrogate over the course of the campaign where Mitt Romney was steadfastly and very publicly against.
SCIUTTO: Called him a danger. Right, yes.
KUCINICH: Called him a danger, exactly.
So, if he brings in Mitt Romney, that, I think, will signal more of a change. Nikki Haley to an extent did as well because she spoke out publicly against Donald Trump as well. Not as emphatically as Mitt Romney. But not only was Mitt Romney not great to him during the election, but he also has a differing approach to foreign policy.
KUCINICH: To Russia in particular.
SCIUTTO: Absolutely. In 2012, famously identified Russia as the threat, right?
KUCINICH: Right. And so that, I think, is going to be a real thing to watch.
SCIUTTO: April, but I have to ask you, because there is precedent for high-profile posts of moderates or people who are greatly admired. Colin Powell, for instance, as secretary of state, who didn't have the influence, in fact, arguably pushed into supporting a war that he didn't support. RYAN: Right.
SCIUTTO: But you can have those positions, can't you, but not change the course of policy.
RYAN: But, you know, how Colin Powell -- Colin Powell changed the course of policy but making sure people knew he was a dissenter and his name was never used when you would hear these things.
SCIUTTO: He was in front of the Security Council pushing the case.
RYAN: Right. So what's really important right now is you have to remember the core group around Donald Trump are people somewhat in line with his rhetoric during the campaign. Now, you have in the cabinet posts who are further away but who he may talk to on a daily or every other day or whatever basis. They maybe the ones who are saying, oh, you are not wearing clothes, they are not looking at him as the emperor with no clothes, but you have to remember his core is still centering around the rhetoric that he was talking --
[16:25:06] SCIUTTO: Some of his closest advisers are Michael Flynn --
SWEET: Let's see if he gets a Democrat to join the cabinet.
SCIUTTO: Well, that's a big question.
Thanks so much, Lynn, Jackie, and April. Great to have you. Please enjoy the holiday tomorrow.
It's the least wonderful time of year to get where you're going. A look at Thanksgiving travel and if Mother Nature is cooperating.
Then, radiation detectors, bomb sniffing dogs, heavy weapons teams and a new precaution for the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York because of direct ISIS threat.