Return to Transcripts main page


Mar-A-Lago Members Facing Background Checks; Donald Trump's Potential Conflicts Of Interest; 6th Student Dies In Chattanooga School Bus Crash; NYPD Ramps Up Security For Macy's Parade; Illinois Family Thankful For Separation Of Conjoined Twins. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired November 24, 2016 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And in the waters around Mar-a-Lago, the U.S. Coast Guard is already setting up security zones. Some parts completely off limits, other areas that require permission before entering. Rodriguez says Secret Service agents will also conduct renewed background checks on every club member. And inside the club, they can also expect to see new levels of visible and invisible layers of security.

Are they in for a bit of a rude awakening?

RENNIE RODRIGUEZ, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: I think -- I think it depends, you know. Some of the neighbors may like it, others may complain because they don't like the intrusion.

LAVANDERA: But life's going to chance around here for the next four years.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, it will, most definitely.

LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, Palm Beach, Florida.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK. So that is comforting to know that Mar-a-Lago is ready-made for presidential security already.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: But with the water and with planes, I mean --

CAMEROTA: Well, that is part of the problem.

BALDWIN: -- they would have to shut that down. But other than that --

CAMEROTA: The fences were designed -- you make a good point.

BALDWIN: Conflicts of interest emerging is a big concern for the incoming Trump administration. Some actions by the president-elect's son and daughter are raising some questions. Let's discuss now with CNN political commentator Symone Sanders and John Phillips. Good morning, good morning, and happy Thanksgiving. SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.


BALDWIN: All right, John, let me begin with you. You know -- let's put it up on the screen. These are multiple examples of potential conflicts of interest. You know, he has more than 500 business interests, more than a dozen countries around the world. Does this raise red flags for you?

PHILLIPS: I'm worried about a million different things this morning. I'm worried my aunt's going to forget the pecan pie. I'm worried that they're going to run out of Bloody Mary's. I'm now worried about e- cigarettes blowing up in someone's crotchal region.

This is one of the things I'm not worried about because we still have just under two months to go before he puts his hand on the bible and takes over the country as President of the United States. He's trying to figure out right now --

BALDWIN: What do you think he'll do between now and then?

PHILLIPS: Well, he's doing -- he's figuring out what everyone's role is going to be, both within the administration and then I'm sure he's going to figure out what's going to happen with the company. At some point, someone not named Donald Trump is going to be running that company --

BALDWIN: All right.

PHILLIPS: -- and whoever it is that's running that company is not going to be able to speak on behalf of the United States. It's church and state. And if they don't do that they're going to get killed by the papers and they deserve to get killed by the papers. So they'll figure it out.

BALDWIN: All right. I appreciate your, you know, being level headed and your concern for your Bloody Mary's on your Thanksgiving. I understand that, John. But, Symone, I'm reading your mind. I think you might be concerned, but before you tell me how you feel let me just remind everyone this Trump tweet. He said -- this was November 21st -- "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." Legit?

SANDERS: No, not legit. Look, I think prior to the election it was known that the Trump organization was a global organization, but we haven't seen Donald Trump's tax returns. We don't know the extent of his financial holdings and I think that is concerning for a lot of people. And so now, we're coming to all of these realizations that Mr. Trump's name is on buildings in Turkey and he's got dealings in Argentina where he wants to move these windmills.

And Idefinitely think this raises lots of red flags. I know that there have been many ethical advisers that have, I think, written to Mr. Trump and his organization saying that they need to make sure they have a strong person in the White House -- some ethical counsel -- and it would behoove him to separate these businesses. I mean, this is dangerous. I know folks like that Mr. Trump is unconventional but this has real national security implications.

BALDWIN: The windmills are in Scotland. There was a phone call in Argentina. I know it's a lot that's being reported on with the president -- with Mr. Trump and also with Ivanka on the phone. We also know there were some Indian associates in New York that Mr. Trump met with, along with Eric and Ivanka as well.

I think the thing, John, is how he will potentially separate church and state because there was talk of a blind trust but it wouldn't be blind if he hands it over to his kids who, by the way, are on his transition team, and what role they may play.

PHILLIPS: Yes, it's been a long time since we've had an outsider without government experience, either in elected office, appointed office, or in the military take over as president.

However, we see this happen all the time at the state and local level. We had Dick Riordan, here in Los Angeles, who was a big-time businessman and developer, Michael Bloomberg in New York, the governor of Florida. And a lot of people rose the -- brought up those same concerns. They were elected, they took care of it, and it wasn't an issue after they became mayor or governor of their state. I think the same thing will happen here.

BALDWIN: What about to John's point, Symone, that the fact that clearly America voted. They wanted change. They wanted someone not within the Washington establishment. And if you, you know -- looking ahead to potential conflicts of interest of other presidents, we're talking about entrepreneurs and successful businessmen with interests around the world. Would that then dissuade them from running?

[07:35:13] SANDERS: I don't -- I don't think it will necessarily dissuade people from running. I have heard a lot of folks that said the voted for Mr. Trump thinking that he would make this presidential pivot after he got elected, and I'm still waiting to see the presidential pivot. You know, we've got him on record saying the presidentcan't have a conflict of interest.

So this being set up to be possibly one of the most corrupt presidencies in American history because of all this undue influence of his children and his business interests. And it looks like Mr. Trump might be putting business interests before the interests of the American people, so --

BALDWIN: We don't know yet, John --

SANDERS: -- we don't know.

BALDWIN: -- at this point. His hand hasn't been on the bible yet. That's coming January 20th. In the meantime, before I let both of you go, have you seen this number in terms -- I'm thinking of all of us having our turkey, and our stuffing, and our sweet potatoes and a lot of people not exactly agreeing on politics this Thanksgiving around the dinner table.

Fifty-three percent of Americans dread the thought of talking politics at the Thanksgiving dinner. Clearly, John will be downing Bloody Mary's to assuage any concerns on his side of the table. Symone, what's your plan?

SANDERS: I'll be having a little Crown and Coke and I'm going to not talk about politics. I went to a Friendsgiving this past weekend and we led with a positive conversation and someone quickly shut it down. So I just want a little Crown and Coke and some peach cobbler and that's what I'm looking forward to.

BALDWIN: Crown and Coke, peach cobbler.

PHILLIPS: You know, Brooke?

BALDWIN: Yes, go ahead, John.

PHILLIPS: The only alcohol solves is your problems.

BALDWIN: Nothing, that's nothing. Crown and Coke, Bloody Mary, and we may have some champagne after the show. Meantime, Symone and John, thank you so much. What is your take on all of this? Tweet as @NewDay, post your comment on for that.

Now to this, the grief, the loss in Chattanooga, Tennessee only deepening after a sixth student dies in that school bus crash. Up next, we'll remember one of the young victims when her cousin joins us live, next.


[07:40:35] CAMEROTA: A sixth child has died from injuries in that horrifying school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Police say the driver had no traces of alcohol or drugs in his blood. The NTSB, they say that the driver was not on the usual route when the speeding bus plowed into that tree.

So joining us now is LaFrederick Thirkill. His 9-year-old cousin, Cordayja Jones, was killed in this crash. Mr. Thirkill, we're so, so sorry for your family's loss.


CAMEROTA: I know that you are the principal at a neighboring elementary school and on that day -- that morning of the crash you heard ambulances screaming by your school. But, of course, you didn't know at the time that your 9-year-old cousin might have been in one of those ambulances. How did you find out?

THIRKILL: Well, I came home that evening at around 6:00 p.m. and I put a post on Facebook to send out condolences to my colleagues and the families at the neighboring school. And about two minutes after that I got a call from a family member who informed me that one of our cousins was one of the fatalities in the -- in the accident. And, of course, immediately heartbroken to hear that.

CAMEROTA: It's heartbreaking to see these beautiful pictures of her, on the other side of our screen, looking so, you know, vibrant and smiling and pretty, and just like a 9-year-old. What can you tell us about Cordayja?

THIRKILL: She was a sweet young lady, you know. She was nine years old. Her birthday was coming up on December the 11th. And one of the things that I remember about Cordayja was that she always smiled and she would always give you a hug. And she loved being a little girl. She invited the essence of childhood. And, of course, she loved her mother and father and they deeply loved her and, understandably, they're grieving and so is the rest of our family.

But Cordayja will be truly missed and I'm sure that all of her friends at her school are feeling the grief during this loss. She was a student at my school at one time and so I enjoyed seeing her every day and she'd come up and give me a hug. She had to treat me as the principal but she knew that she was my little cousin and I enjoyed seeing her every day. She was such a sweet kid. Never a behavior problem or anything.

CAMEROTA: She looks like it. She looks really warm. Mr. Thirkill, you received a phone call from the bus driver's sister --


CAMEROTA: -- and there are so many questions about this bus driver and his troubling past driving record. He's said to possibly have had a recent accident as well as some other infractions in his driving record. What did his sister tell you?

THURKILL: Well, you know, she has students who attend my school as well, and so she called -- very emotional and obviously grieving. And she was sharing with me that it was her brother. I shared with her that one of my cousins was on the bus as well. She just reassured me that her brother was a good person and she said that he was terribly heartbroken by the accident.

And she said that he was driving and he hit a curb or something and he tried to overcorrect the bus and caused it to flip over. I think he hit the gas pedal trying to self-correct or overcompensate and it caused the bus to flip over. She talked about how he desperately tried to get back into the bus and help render aid to some of the students. And so, I know that her family is grieving as well and I have to believe that he must feel remorse with this accident.


THURKILL: And I pray for his family as well as I do mine and the other families that were involved in this terrible accident.

CAMEROTA: I mean, we all want to believe, of course, that he feels remorse. Do you have any idea why there have been some suggestions that this might have been intentional? [07:45:05] THIRKILL: I think that's just rumors, it's emotions, it's speculation. But I'd just like to wait until the investigation is completed and get the facts. And so, I've tried to steer clear of believing all of the things that various people have said and just want to hear the facts. And I'm sure that my cousin and both of Cordayja's parents would appreciate knowing the facts and knowing what happened. And I believe that when the investigation is complete they will get the answers as well as many other people who have wondered how this terrible accident happened.

CAMEROTA: Mr. LaFrederick Thirkill, thank you very much for joining us with your memories of your cousin, as well as that message of waiting for all of the information. We appreciate that and please give our condolences to your family.

THURKILL: Thank you.


BALDWIN: No words. No words for that one. They spent their first 13 months attached, conjoined at the head. Now these twins are recovering from marathon separation surgery. We have an update on the boys, next.

CAMEROTA: But first, we do have a Thanksgiving message for you from one of our service members overseas. Watch this.


I'm (INAUDIBLE), Staff Sergeant and I would like to say hello to my family. My dad, my mom, my sister and my brother, and also my nieces and nephews, and I hope they have a happy Thanksgiving.



[07:50:35] BALDWIN: You're waking up, it's Thanksgiving morning. This what you want to see, folks. It's almost go time. Look at all those balloons. Live pictures over the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. They are in New York City. The balloons, they're ready to rock and roll. Millions of people are in the city. They line the streets as police are beefing up security to make sure everything goes as planned.

Boris Sanchez is the man on the parade route who's told us about his favorite musicals, his favorite balloons. What more do you want to share, Boris?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Brooke. I can barely hear what you're saying. This crowd is so excited. They are so pumped to be here today. They're excited to see the floats, the balloons. We can actually see Charlie Brown is about to make his way down the street.

One of the things that these folks are most thankful for is the presence of police officers, including 1,000 uniformed NYPD officers that are out here this morning keeping a close eye on everything that's going on.I actually want to bring in Commissioner O'Neill and Chief Monahan.


SANCHEZ: Good morning, gentlemen. Thanks so much for talking to us. You were just telling me a moment ago this is one of the most important days for the city of New York.

O'NEILL: Yes, we have three really big days. Thanksgiving's one of them -- New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July. But I look at the crowd, listen to the noise. It's just going to be a fantastic day. I'd just like to thank all the men and women from the NYPD for what they do -- what they're doing today and what they do every day. And with me is Chief of Patrol, Terry Monahan. Terry's actually the incident commander today.

SANCHEZ: Got it. It's such a huge operation. Tell me, what are some of the challenges you guys have to think about while you prep this?

TERENCE MONAHAN, NYPD CHIEF OF PATROL: Well, this is something we do every year. This is what the New York City Police Department is the best at. This is what our cops who are out here every day are the best at. Over 2.5 million people will be out here watching this parade and they will staff safe. And that's what we do, we keep them safe.

SANCHEZ: The most important question of the day, though, what are you guys mostexcited to see? Cats, maybe? The clowns?

O'NEILL: I'm not sure. I think Felix is back, right?

SANCHEZ: Felix is back, that's right.

O'NEILL: Yes, that's one of the original floats so I'm really looking forward to seeing him come down Sixth Avenue.

SANCHEZ: All right. Chief, thank you so much.

MONAHAN: Thank you very much.

SANCHEZ: Commissioner, appreciate it for giving so much of your time.

O'NEILL: Thanks.

SANCHEZ: Appreciate it. Brooke and Alisyn, obviously a great time ahead today and a big part of it is because of the NYPD and the important work that they do.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely, Boris. I mean, hats off to them for keeping everybody safe and festive. Thanks so much, Boris. We'll check back with you.

So, of course, Thanksgiving is always a good time to count our blessings and that's especially true for one Illinois family. You know them because just last month they had conjoined twins, Jadon and Anias, and they were separated in this marathon surgery last month.

So chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta brought us that CNN exclusive and this morning he brings us a progress report.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: When Nicole McDonald got to hold her son Jadon for the first time it was as if she saw him for the first time.

NICOLE MCDONALD, MOTHER OF CONJOINED TWINS: As a mother, you know when you hold your child you know every bit of their face. Well, his face also encompassed Anias' so it was my first moment of relearning his face.

GUPTA: Jadon and Anias are literally one in 2.5 million. They were born craniopagus twins conjoined at the head, sharing between one and one-half to two inches of brain tissue. After over a year of planning, last month the boys were separated after a 27-hour-long operation at Children's Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx. The McDonalds have allowed CNN to follow their journey from surgery through rehab, exclusively.

GUPTA: Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness. Hi, buddy. Hi. The last time we were in this room they were on a -- they were conjoined and I think he's pretty happy with the outcome.

N. MCDONALD: I would say so.

GUPTA: Are you sticking your tongue out at me?

N. MCDONALD: Yes. It's a new trick.

GUPTA: Are you sticking your tongue out at me?

For the McDonalds, this entire month has been full of first times. First time in separate beds. First time being held. First time seeing each other. But it hasn't been easy to get here. The boys have battled infections, fevers, and seizures. It's been particularly trying for Anias.

N. MCDONALD: Serious infections close to the brain, skin involvement. They had to take the bone out of Anias. They had to take skin out -- you know, there's just been -- for Anias, it's just never -- there's never a break.

[07:55:10] GUPTA: Despite all of that, the boys' doctors are so pleased with their progress. Dr. James Goodrich is the boys' neurosurgeon. He said he was right on or ahead of schedule, even. Is there a schedule -- I mean, because this is so rare, is there a schedule?

DR. JAMES GOODRICH, NEUROSURGEON, THE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL AT MONTEFIORE: Well, it's just that when we deal with traumatic cases, people with injuries, recovery times are in months --


GOODRICH: -- sometimes years, so we're a month. If you consider this as a month out this, to me, is incredibly fast.

GUPTA: Do you feel like you have permission or do you allow yourself, rather, now to think about the future with regard to Jadon and Anias?

N. MCDONALD: I think about their future all the time -- all the time. I think about the first time they go to a park, and I think about them getting married someday. I think about -- I think -- I've thought through their whole future a hundred times over the year.

CHRISTIAN MCDONALD, FATHER OF CONJOINED TWINS: It's not that I'm not optimistic. I guess I'm just more curious what the future holds for them. But I guess I don't want to get my hopes up. I guess I just take it one day at a time.

GUPTA: But each day continues to bring more blessings. The day I visited, Nicole and Christian got to see Jadon without his head dressings --

C. MCDONALD: I've never seen you like this, buddy.

GUPTA: -- for the first time. What's that like now to see the first time without the dressings?

N. MCDONALD: It's amazing. It's the most amazing thing. I just can't even believe it. And look at his little hair on top that's growing in. Hi, baby.

So when I look at them and I see them laying in their beds whole and generally healthy and, I think, mentally with it and moving forward, I don't just see that miracle -- the separation miracle -- but it's been the miracles that took place every step of the way.

C. MCDONALD: How does it feel to be your own little boy?

N. MCDONALD: Look at that head of hair.

GUPTA: Well, I think the images just speak for themselves there, no question. These boys are doing really well and what you've seen is something rare -- very rare. I'm a neurosurgeon and I've never seen anything quite like this. One in 2.5 million pregnancies result in babies who are conjoined at the head. Obviously, a much smaller percentage actually make it all the way to birth, and a smaller percentage ever get the resources of a hospital like Montefiore and are able to have this sort of operation, so it is incredibly rare.

The doctor who performed the operation, the world's expert in this type of operation, said this was the most challenging procedure he'd ever done. The most challenging separation he'd ever done. And also, now, one of the most rapid recoveries he's ever seen. So some good news in there, certainly.

The next stop for the boys over the next several days, maybe weeks, is going to be rehabilitation. Remember, these boys have never sat up before. They've never been able to crawl. They've never walked before. They're 14 months old so in many ways this is a second birthday of sorts. And now, they have a second shot at things. We'll keep an eye on them. Back to you.


CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. What a beautiful, beautiful -- I know -- I mean, seeing little Jadon reaching up to touch his head for the first time like that without --

BALDWIN: Where's my brother?


BALDWIN: Where's my brother?

CAMEROTA: That one gets me every time.

BALDWIN: To think that they haven't done so much of what a normal 14- month-old hasn't just because of how they've had to sit and lay and function, and that is all different. And for this mom to talk about how she is hopeful and she thinks about their futures. Dad is a little bit more cautiously optimistic, but you know --

CAMEROTA: We pray for them. We pray for them and, of course, we will follow their progress for you.

We're also following a lot of other news, so let's get right to it.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have before us the chance to bring real change to Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Hailey is a good pick here.

BEN CARSON (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIALCANDIDATE: There are a lot of things that were put on the table.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Betsy DeVos will represent dramatic change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's looking for the top talent. He's not out to settle scores.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Mitt Romney -- will he be offered the secretary of state job?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: There are a lot of other people who are more qualified than Romney.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanksgiving is a chance to finally turn our attention from polls to poultry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Millions of people across the country are on the move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New York police taking extra security measures along the route of the parade.

CAMEROTA: We're just hours away from the Thanksgiving Day parade.


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

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your special Thanksgiving edition of NEW DAY. Hope you're already off to a wonderful holiday.

BALDWIN: Happy Thanksgiving.

CAMEROTA: OK. It's Thursday, November 24th, 8:00 in the East. Chris is off. Brooke Baldwin is here with me.

BALDWIN: When Chris Cuomo is gone --

CAMEROTA: The turkeys play. So we are also just one hour from the start of the Thanksgiving parade here in New York City. The balloons are up. There's your guy.

BALDWIN: Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown.

CAMEROTA: There's Charlie Brown. That's your favorite one. There's going to be millions of people lining the parade route and we will have live reports, as well as your holiday forecast coming up.

BALDWIN: It's the little things, people. It really is. But first, before we do balloons and the Thanksgiving Day parade, let's talk politics.