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Trump Snubs Potential Business Conflicts; Romney Mulls Potential Sec. of State Job; Chattanooga Grieves School Bus Crash Victims; Michael Jordan Earns Medal of Freedom. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 23, 2016 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The Trump transition team keeps America in suspense. Who will be next to land a cabinet position?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, curious comments on conflicts of interest. Why the president-elect says the laws are on his side.

ROMANS: A strange trend uncovered in three battleground states. Why some computer scientists say Hillary Clinton could demand a recount.

Good morning, everybody. Welcome to EARLY START this Thanksgiving Eve. I'm Christine Romans.

SANCHEZ: Always a pleasure to be here, Christine. I'm Boris Sanchez. It's Wednesday, November3rd, 5:00 a.m. in the East Coast.

We start with the update we're expecting on the latest we're expecting from the Trump transition team when they hold a conference call with reporters. We're also set to hear from the president-elect himself. He's set to release a Thanksgiving video message from Mar-A-Lago where he's spending the rest of the holiday week.

Trump flew down to Florida after a wide ranging on-the-record sit-down with "New York Times" reporters, editors, and columnist. Among the news-making highlights, Trump backing off his promise to prosecute Hillary Clinton. This as sources tell CNN that Mitt Romney is thinking hard about taking the job of secretary of state if Trump, of course, were to offer it to him.

Let's bring in CNN's Jim Acosta for all the latest.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Boris and Christine, CNN has learned that Mitt Romney is seriously considering the possibility of joining Donald Trump's transition team as secretary of state. A source familiar with the transition discussion says it's likely the 2012 Republican nominee will be consulting with his family over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The decision to select Romney would send a message that Trump is open to moderating the situation.

[05:00:02] Trump himself seemed to reveal he is open to toning down his positions in a wide-ranging interview with "The New York Times." The President-elect told "The Times" he is leaning against urging the prosecution of Hillary Clinton, something he vowed to do during the campaign. And his top advisers say it's a signal Trump is ready to move on.

RUDY GIULIANI (D), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Look, there's tradition in American politics that after you win an election, you sort of put things behind you, and if that's a decision he reached, it's perfectly consistent with sort of historical pattern of things come up. We say a lot of things. Even some bad things might happen and you can sort of put it behind you in order to unite the nation.

ACOSTA: As for the prospect of Romney joining the Trump administration, a source tells CNN a decision is not expected until next week -- Boris and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Jim Acosta, thank you for that.

President-elect Trump is tweeting he's seriously considering Dr. Ben Carson for secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The former rivals met at Trump Tower on Tuesday. Dr. Carson's spokesman tells CNN the retired neurosurgeon is honored by Trump's insistence that he'd take a cabinet post and will spend the Thanksgiving holiday thinking it over. We're also told Dr. Carson made it clear he would actually prefer to advise Trump from outside the administration.

Michelle Rhee said she will not be pursuing the role of education secretary in the Trump administration. The former chancellor of Washington, D.C.'s public schools, she met with the president-elect last weekend, despite heavy criticism from the education community. On Tuesday, she tweeted, "I have appreciated the opportunity to share my thoughts on education with the president-elect of the United States. Our job as Americans is to want him to succeed."

SANCHEZ: Meantime, Jared Kushner revealing that he played a pivotal role in the stunning election for his father-in-law by setting up a sophisticated secret data operation. Kushner tells "Forbes" magazine he called some friends from Silicon Valley and they helped him develop a social media micro-targeting strategy that involved a 100-person team at a data hub in San Antonio, working to unify fund-raising, messaging and voter targeting to get the most out of the lean marketing budget.

And it really had helped in battleground areas. If you look at a place like Orlando and Florida, Hillary Clinton spent $27 million in advertising compared to Trump's $7 million. He ended up doing very well. He ended up winning up Florida. So, it tells you, they had a lot more bang for their buck when it came to that money spending.

ROMANS: Also that "The New York Times" meeting, Donald Trump says selling his assets to avoid conflicts of interest would be difficult because most are real estate properties. Trump said, quote, "In theory, I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly. There's never been a case like this." Federal law does not prohibit the president from holding assets that

clash with official duties. Trump will be required to disclose what he owns and the debt he holds. Trump tells "The Times" he does not have to set up a blind trust but he is turning his businesses over to his kids. He says his new hotel in Washington just blocks from the White House is more valuable now because his brand is hotter.

Have you heard of a president talk about his brand?

That may be true, but the Trump effect is even hotter in the stock market. I want to show you this -- Boris, record highs for the four major averages, the Dow, NASDAQ, S&P, and also, the small cap Russell 2000, they are highest together for the first time since 1999 altogether. The Dow above 19,000 for the first time ever. Since Trump was elected, the Dow is up almost 700 points.

Markets are not taking his policies on the campaign trail literally. They think he's going to cut regulation. That's why small cap stocks are doing so well. They think he's going to cut taxes. They think there's going to be an infrastructure -- we can talk about the wrinkles in that.


ROMANS: They think there's going to be an infrastructure spending. And markets at least for now are in Trump rally mood.

SANCHEZ: A lot of that may have to do with his softening of stances. We'll get into that in just a second.


SANCHEZ: So, let's discuss today's Trump transition developments with CNN political analyst Josh Rogin. He's a columnist for "The Washington Post."

Josh, good morning. We thank you for joining us.


SANCHEZ: We have to talk about this meeting yesterday at the "The New York Times." the on, off, on again meeting. Totally unexpected not just because the day before in the off-the-record meeting with TV executives, things got reportedly pretty nasty. But because this was on the record, he seemed to soften several of his stances.

I want to read to you or point out the list of some of the things that he apparently is softening. First, keeping parts of Obamacare which is he vowed to repeal on day one. The wall with Mexico that he promised to build. One the things that we heard him say the most on the campaign trail.

ROMANS: Tens of feet of concrete among the entire border.

SANCHEZ: Right. Might now be fencing. One thing he said in the debate that he was going to appoint a special prosecutor. Now he says he's not going to prosecute Hillary Clinton. He also said he's going to open up libel laws and that he has an open mind on climate change, on climate accords.

This was really fascinating. Remember, he vowed -- or rather, he said that climate change was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Now, I want to read to you this quote from "The New York Times" saying, quote, "I think there is some connectivity. Some something. It depends on how much."

This is Donald Trump talking about how climate change maybe related to manmade industry.

[05:05:00] Is this -- I have to ask, is this part of some kind of strategy, strategy, good cop/bad cop, his heated rhetoric, and then he cools down? Is this his way of keeping the supporters excited but then tempering the fears of many in this country, Josh?

ROGIN: Right. Well, first of all, good for "The New York Times" for sticking to its guns, that it arranged an on-the-record meeting with Donald Trump. According to "The New York Times", the Trump organization tried to move that to an all off-the-record meeting. They stuck to their guns, they got their on t record meeting, quotes from the president-elect what about he's going to with American policy. So, that's success for the media, rare one these days.

As for the total shift in all of these issues, I think it just that everything is reset, OK? We can't look to the campaign and get any reliable information about how President-elect Trump is going to govern, all right? He's thinking about everything brand new.

For example, on climate change, yes, we shouldn't necessarily criticize President-elect Trump for acknowledging something that 99 percent of scientists acknowledge, which is that there is some effect of man-made actions on the warming of the planet. That's a good thing, we should jump the president-elect from what he does and what he says from here on out, not necessarily what he campaigned on.

But it just goes to show you that everything is up in the air. If you're trying to make predictions or bets on what administration policy is going to be starting January 21st, it's impossible because he's literally thinking through these things right now.

ROMANS: Let me talk a little bit about conflict of interest because that came up yesterday and it's something that a lot of us in the business world have been trying to figure out how Donald Trump extricates himself from the Trump business and becomes the Trump the president, and if that's even possible. He told "The New York Times", "The law's totally on my side. The president can't have a conflict of interest."

Well, the president can be sanctioned or it is illegal for the president to take money or loans from foreign governments, right? I mean, what if you're having foreign governments staying in a hotel who is right down the street from the White House and actually enriching his brand and enriching his hotel? The other part of the conflict that I think is fascinating is he's mulling right now who will be the treasury secretary. The treasury secretary will run the department that holds the agency that is currently investigating his taxes under audit. I mean, there's so much there. We've just never seen something like this.

ROGIN: Right. I think all the signs we've seen since the election are negative, as it pertains to Donald Trump's view of how he should handle these very serious conflicts of interest. I mean, in addition to the examples that you just gave, he also admitted to "The New York Times" that he spoke with British politician Nigel Farage about wind farms that might obstruct the view of one of his golf courses in Scotland. He kind of admitted it offhand. All right. I guess I kind of mentioned it.

So, I mean, what we're seeing is an unprecedented statement by a president-elect that not only does he is not intend to remove any perception of conflict of interest by selling all of his assets and putting them into some blind trust and then relinquishing any knowledge of how that blind trust is managed.

He's not even acknowledging that this conflict of interest exists. Of course, it exists. There are various conflicts of interest with Trump's businesses all over the world. He's technically right that it's not a legal requirement for the president to dissolve the conflicts of interest.

ROMANS: Right.

ROGIN: But most ethics, most morals, most, you know, good practices are not enshrined in laws. They're just things that people do to reassure the public --

ROMANS: Right.

ROGIN: -- that they're not profiting off of their power. And Donald Trump has no intention of doing any of that. And that's troubling to a lot of us.

ROMANS: All right. We will talk to you again in a few minutes. I want to ask you about infrastructure. He's got $20 million in infrastructure plan. Already people are starting to say, I don't know if this is going to work, how you're going to get, I want to talk about infrastructure --

ROGIN: Devil's in details.

ROMANS: Devil -- oh, it's always in the details. And what people close to Trump say is that he's into deals, not necessarily details. So, who are the people who are going to be doing those deals or doing the details, rather, that will be his cabinet and how that shakes out. We have some questions about that.

So, come back soon, OK?

SANCHEZ: We have so many questions, Josh. Don't go anywhere. Thanks.

ROMANS: A group of top computer scientists are urging Hillary Clinton to demand a recount. The computer experts say they found evidence that vote totals in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania may have been hacked. They say Clinton performed 7 percent worse in counties that used electronic voting than in counties that used paper ballots and scanners.

Scientists have not told Clinton campaign officials they have not found evidence that proves hacking, but they say this is a pattern that needs to be investigated. Clinton would have to take all three states to change the results of the election. The deadline to file for a recount in Wisconsin is Friday.

ROMANS: All right. Federal investigators on the scene of that tragic bus crash. School bus crash, that killed five children and so many are so badly injured. Their focus is now turning to the driver's record.

[05:10:01] Should he have been behind the wheel?


ROMANS: Fourteen minutes past the hour.

There is grief and anger gripping the city of Chattanooga. Tears flowing last night at a vigil for five young children killed in a gruesome school bus crash. Mourners paying tribute by releasing dozens of balloons into the night sky. Neighbors and friends try to make sense of an unimaginable tragedy.

We get more this morning from CNN's Martin Savidge.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Boris. Good morning, Christine.

Investigators will once be sifting through the wreckage of the school bus but also going over the crash site itself trying to determine not just what happened, but also why it happened. A lot of the focus of their investigation is on the bus driver, that's 24-year-old Johnthony Walker.

[05:15:00] It turns out that he only had this commercial driver's license since April and he was involved apparently in a bus car crash as recently as September. He's continuing to cooperate with authorities.

And then another facet here. And that is the treatment of those children still injured. There are six said to be in critical condition. The focus there is on trying to heal what are very severe spinal cord as well as possible head injuries.

There were a lot of children when they came in, one of the things that was unexpected was the fact that they were so young, they had no way to identify them. And many of these children couldn't say who their parents were, couldn't say where they live, didn't know even know their telephone numbers.

How did they reunite them? Parents came in with photographs. Most of them carry them as we all do, on their cell phones. And that worked very, very well. They were able to find out what children they had at the E.R. and match them up with the photographs the parents have.

That's one very poignant moment when they realize that there were parents showing up with photographs that children were not back in the E.R. -- Boris and Christine.


SANCHEZ: Your heart just drops hearing those details.

Martin, thank you.

Vice President Joe Biden is shooting down the idea of becoming chairman of the DNC. His spokesman says he's not interested, so he does plan to remain deeply involved in the reshaping of the Democratic Party. An election will be held in the spring to succeed interim chair Donna Brazile.

Biden leaves office in January after 36 years as a U.S. senator and eight years as vice president. He'll be sorely missed by the meme community online for the number of laughs he's provided over the years.

ROMANS: I know. He used to be the most outspoken guy before Donald Trump came around in politics, right?


ROMANS: All right. Rain and snow moving through the Upper Midwest on one of the year's busiest travel days.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us with the latest.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Boris and Christine.

One of the busier travel days of the year, of course, upon us and you take a look, the weather pattern across the southern U.S. really the place to be as far as clear conditions generally speaking, mild temperatures across Alabama, Mississippi, even Georgia and parts of Florida remain mild.

Work your way back out towards parts of Texas, some severe weather, we had a report of a tornado, the first of the month, actually, yesterday afternoon. That could spark a few isolated strong storms across the region. And that same front takes you all the way to the Upper Midwest. That's when the major headaches could be in place when it comes to really wet weather but wintry weather as well. And you could see, Chicago, they're aiming for about 43 degrees. Get

up north of Chicago, towards Minneapolis, should be just cold enough to mix in snow across the early morning hours and certainly could accumulate a few inches off of this.

That storm eventually pushes off in towards the Northeast and could impact parts of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade there on Thursday for New York City. But you notice the biggest storms really going to be looked in around parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota. What about two to four inches of snowfall across that region for this afternoon -- guys.



ROMANS: Time now for the five things you need to know for your EARLY START.

Number one, sources tell CNN Mitt Romney is seriously considering the job as secretary of state in a Trump administration. So far, no official word that Donald Trump has offered Romney the job.

SANCHEZ: A possible cabinets position for Ben Carson. A spokesman says the retired neurosurgeon will spend the holiday weekend considering an offer from President-elect Trump to become the nation's next secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

ROMANS: In Michigan, a suspect under arrest after a Wayne State University campus police officer was shot in the head while stopping a bicyclist. The officer pulled through surgery and is listed in critical but stable condition.

SANCHEZ: There's no formal count for the race for a North Carolina governor but incumbent Republican Pat McCrory is demanding a recount. He's about 6,000 votes behind Democrat Roy Cooper.

ROMANS: And President Obama getting set to carry out his final Thanksgiving turkey pardon. One of two birds, Tater and Tot will get a pardon, but both birds will be sent to live at Virginia Tech University.

An odd but sort of heartwarming tradition.

SANCHEZ: Enjoying wonderful platter of platters of crickets and seeds.

ROMANS: Yum, and lots of students.

For more on the five things, go to

SANCHEZ: Well, he has more trophies and medals than you can count. But Michael Jordan just picked under honor from President Obama that nearly brought him to tears. Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report" and the obligatory crying Jordan, on EARLY START, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:23:49] SANCHEZ: It was a star-studded event at the White House on Tuesday as President Obama handed out the Medal of Freedom to a number of influential people. One of them, His Airness.

ROMANS: Oh, yes. Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Andy.


You know, the Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor given to those who make a significant impact on cultural or other endeavors here in the United States. And President Obama said all 21 of people honored yesterday touched him in a powerful way and he has some fun presenting Michael Jordan with his medal.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's more than just a logo. More than just an internet meme.


There is a reason you call somebody the Michael Jordan of. Michael Jordan of neurosurgery or the Michael Jordan of rabbis or --


The Michael Jordan of outrigger canoeing.



SCHOLES: Some other sports figures receiving the Medal of Freedom yesterday were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dodgers legendary broadcaster Vin Scully.

All right. A blast from the past for the U.S. soccer team. The team announcing that Bruce Arena will take over as coach of the team. Arena coached of the U.S. from 1998 to 2006, leading to a World Cup quarterfinals in 2006.

[05:25:06] This was their best finish ever. Now, Arena who has been coaching the L.A. Galaxy in the MLS gets over for Jurgen Klinsmann as he was fired on Monday.

All right. It's something you don't see very often. Last night's MLS playoff game between Montreal and Toronto was delayed because the penalty box was drawn incorrectly. Now, the lines weren't just a couple inches off. They were a full two yards wrong. The more than 61,000 fans of Montreal had to wait 40 minutes for the game to get going but at least they got to see Montreal win straight two. All right. Finally, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott earning high

praise for simply picking up his own trash. Dak was caught on camera picking up an empty cup after missing it on the sideline. Yesterday, the rookie quarterback talked about his heroics.


DAK PRESCOTT, COWBOYS QUARTERBACK: More people need to pick up their trash, if that was a big of a deal. But, yes, I simply missed the garbage can and didn't think much of it.

I don't shoot behind my back too much. I think the garbage can was kin of behind me. It was a little flip back. I still had some ice in it, so it threw off the rotation.


SCHOLES: You know, guys, they have a famous litter campaign in Texas. It was a slogan, "Don't mess with Texas". Apparently, they haven't reached out to Dak Prescott yet, but it seems like a perfect match of him as a spokesperson.

ROMANS: I see a PSA in the future, right?

SANCHEZ: His heroics off the field and on the field. This boy has got Cowboys in the Super Bowl.

SCHOLES: Nine and one, absolutely.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes, the Michael Jordan of sports broadcasting. Thank you, sir.

SCHOLES: Appreciate that, Christine. All right.

ROMANS: All right. President-elect Trump backing away from his campaign promises as we wait for word of new cabinet appointments.