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Trump, Romney & Priebus Having Dinner in NYC; Trump Suggests Loss of Citizenship or Jail for Flag-Burners; Trump Targets CNN Reporter; Tracing Trump's False Claim On Illegal Voters; Carrier, Trump Team Reach Deal To Keep About 1,000 Jobs In Indiana; Officials: Tennessee Wildfires "Human-Caused". Aired 8-9p ET

Aired November 29, 2016 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:06] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

There's a lot happening tonight on several fronts. We'll have the latest on devastating fires burning in Tennessee. Plus, new controversy over something President-elect Trump tweeted just this morning.

We begin thought with just the dinner date that no one would have predicted. Right now, at a New York restaurant, not far from here, in fact, President-elect Trump is having dinner with Mitt Romney. The same Mitt Romney who did his best to derail Trump's bid for the presidency is now a contender for the cabinet position of secretary of state.

It is their second meeting. Reince Priebus, Trump's incoming chief of staff, is dining with them.

Our Jim Acosta booked a table in the restaurant and joins us now by phone.

What's the scene there like, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Anderson, we can see right now, the president-elect sitting at the table with Mitt Romney who I suppose he's interviewed the secretary of state right now, along with the outgoing RNC chair Reince Priebus, who is going to be become the White House chief of staff. It's been a pretty warm and friendly discussion, pretty engaging discussion for the last 20 minutes or so since they arrived at this restaurant, inside the Trump International Hotel, right here in Columbus Circle and just across here at CNN.

And from what we can tell so far, you know, Trump sort of started out the conversation, talked for a good five minutes or so, and then Mitt Romney chimed right in. Right now, I can tell you both men are very animated, but smiling. It is warm. There is obviously no animosity whatsoever that is leftover from what we heard during the primaries when Mitt Romney referred to Donald Trump as a phony and a fraud. And Donald Trump talked about Mitt Romney choking like a dog in the

2012 presidential election. We're seeing none of that venom on display here at this table.

The person you see who's doing the most lifting right now, Anderson, is Reince Priebus. He's having trouble getting a word in edge wise.

But pretty elaborate set-up in terms of getting the dinner started. Sat down roughly about an hour before these two arrived. Secret Service swept the room. They swept each individual customer at every enable this room to make sure there wasn't any trouble with. Then the two men walked right no in with Reince Priebus, just the before 8:00.

As they were talking here, we could tell you that they're not even on their first course. So, they're having a discussion right now. And from all appearances, Anderson, this is a very positive meeting between the president-elect and Mitt Romney.

COOPER: Are you part of a press pool? Did you just happen to be in this restaurant?

ACOSTA: I didn't quite make out the question but --

COOPER: How'd you get in the restaurant? Like, what are you doing there? Did you know they were going to meet there? Are you part of a press pool following them?

ACOSTA: We had gotten a tip, Anderson, before this dinner that it was possible that they would be here. So, like any enterprising reporter, we decided to go ahead and make a reservation. We had no idea that they would be sitting down in this dining room that is part of the restaurant. As a matter of fact, there's a bar area and a dining area.

They did not go to the bar. They went to the dining area. A couple tables from where we are right now, just 15, 20 feet from where we're sitting right now, Anderson. And at one point, Reince Priebus turned around and noticed me, I'll be upfront about that, then went right back to the discussion. They don't seem to be distracted at all by having a reporter in the room.

Some of his key advance, security people are also in the room. They don't seem to be troubled by us being here at all. And we did not disturb them as they came in. They sat down and went right into their discussion.

And I can tell you, the most striking thing I that can see right now, Anderson, is there absolutely no sense of any animosity whatsoever between these two men. And they are almost getting along like old friends. At one point I saw Donald Trump sort of tossing his arms far bit while Mitt Romney was talking. Sort of the body language of maybe he's not liking what Mitt Romney had to say, but then they went right back to having this very lively exchange.

It was probably the most talked about dinner of the transition. And we're watching it unfold right now. COOPER: I assume CNN is picking up the check for you at this

restaurant tonight, because it's pretty enterprising on your part.

Was there -- was there a meeting tonight at Trump Tower between the two that preceded this dinner?

ACOSTA: In terms of what preceded this dinner, the only thing that we know of between these two men, Anderson, and I'll confess, I'm having a little trouble hearing you, was the meeting at the Bedminster Golf Club a couple of weeks ago. That would appear the last meeting.

We were also told by a source that Melania Trump, the future first lady and Ann Romney, the wife of Governor Romney, were going to be at this dinner tonight. They have not joined this at this point right now -- at this point, it's just the three men, the future White House chief of staff, Donald Trump, president-elect, and Mitt Romney potentially the next secretary of state.

[20:05:12] COOPER: And the Trump Team, what, if anything, are they saying about this or are they saying about Mitt Romney?

ACOSTA: What is the transition saying about Mitt Romney right now?


ACOSTA: You're hearing a big split, Anderson. And there are people who inside this transition who will tell you that selecting Mitt Romney as the next secretary of state makes a lot of sense because he will -- that will show the country that Donald Trump is capable of having thick skin, of getting over past grievances and uniting the country. And that is what so tantalizing about making Mitt Romney the secretary of state.

Of course, you have people like Kellyanne Conway, Newt Gingrich, and other supporters inside Trump world who just don't like the thought. They're aghast at the thought of Mitt Romney becoming the secretary of state because of the horrible things that were said about him.

I can tell you that the press is now coming in to this room, Anderson, it looks like (INAUDIBLE) of all this. You're going to have all of that story (INAUDIBLE) bringing in a small pool of reporters and photographers.

So, hopefully, maybe our presence here helped opened things up for this dinner, Anderson. There was grumblings that this might have happened, but it is amazing to see. There was that dinner the other night when the family went out and didn't tell the pool about it.

That's not the case tonight. The pool was informed about this, and now there's a small pool of reporters and photographers in here getting some shots of this dinner.

COOPER: All right. Jim, we'll continue to check in with you.

The dinner meeting taking place right now capped a busy day in the Trump transition. Just a short time ago, we learned that former Wall Street executive and Hollywood producer Steven Mnuchin is expected to be named as Trump's choice for treasury secretary, and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross is expected to be tapped for commerce secretary. Those announcements could come as soon as tomorrow.

Earlier today, Team Trump named former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to head the Transportation Department and Representative Tom Price for Health and Human Services.

Let's talk about it now with CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Kevin Madden joins us. Chief political analyst Gloria Borger and CNN political analyst and "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers.

Kevin, I want to start with you. You obviously have worked very closely with Mitt Romney.

What do you make of them reaching out to Mitt Romney? Of the relationship they have based -- and I mean, what they said about each other during the campaign?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the initial outreach had to do with sending a message I think to a lot of Republicans that Donald Trump was interested in uniting the party and genuinely interested in getting some insights from somebody like Mitt Romney who has spent a lot of time working on national security and foreign policy issues.

And I think what that first initial meeting did was show another side of Mitt Romney, the side of Mitt Romney that Donald Trump endorsed during his 2012 campaign. There was an existing relationship there before it frayed during this 2016 cycle.

So, I think this particular event what's interesting about this is the nature of it. Burying the hatchet is something you do over dinner. And it is a very personal breaking of bread is something that's very personal, particularly when you have your spouses there.

So, I think this is an indication that Reince Priebus is helping broker this burying of the hatchet between the two men.

COOPER: But how real is the possibility that he could be named secretary of state? I mean, if there's only been in the last meeting was a while ago and this is now a dinner meeting, that's not necessarily substantive meeting.

MADDEN: Yes, I think it's very possible. I think one of the things that I'm interested -- that I found interesting was that as much as there are those inside the Trump world that are in opposition to the idea of Mitt Romney being named secretary of state, nobody is declaring that it absolutely won't happen. And if there were folks inside that world that wanted to make sure that it wasn't going to, that's what they'd be predicting and they would be dismissing the idea outright. And they're not doing that.

So, I think it's very much a possibility, but Donald Trump is -- does have a blessing here in the simple fact that he has a number of candidates for the secretary of state position, that are very good, very qualified and have a lot of support amongst people inside, inside the Republican Party.

COOPER: And, Gloria, I mean, it's easy to read too much into a dinner. I mean, one side of you look and say, well, he hasn't had dinners with any of the other interviewees. Although obviously, he spent a ton of time with Rudy Giuliani among them. He met with General Petraeus just yesterday. Senator Corker, he's obviously met with as well, and others.

But at the same time, it's easy to read too much into something like this.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think this is high profile and they know it. And inviting Mitt Romney back for dinner, I was told by a source in the transition, is meaningful. That was the word that my source used.

[20:10:01] And I think if you -- if you're looking at this, it is, it is meaningful. These men could not be more different. They've said an awful lot of stuff about each other. I don't expect they're ever going to be best friends.

But I think what they're coming to and maybe I'm wrong is some kind of mutual respect. And I think what Trump is going to demand from Mitt Romney is loyalty and trust. And I think if I had to guess that that's kind of backdrop for all of this, given the words that Mitt Romney spoke about Donald Trump, including calling him a con man. And I think that he's trying to, as Donald Trump does with his gut, sort of feel out somebody to see if he's a team player.

And one thing I should point out is that sources in the Romney world have kind of gone dark on this. And, Kevin, you know this better than I do, but they're dark. Mitt Romney isn't talking to them. They're not talking a lot to us. And Romney's not lobbying for the job, nor has he asked anybody to lobby on his behalf for the job.

So, if he gets it, it's clear to me that he wants this job or he wouldn't be having dinner tonight. If he gets it, great, if he doesn't, back to his life.

COOPER: Kirsten, even if he's not the pick, it does help Donald Trump to not only, you know, have a relationship with Mitt Romney, but to be seen to be consulting him.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, no, I think -- we don't really know what Donald Trump is up to here. We don't know how serious he is about Romney or if he's just doing this to make it very clear that not only did he win, but now the person who was tearing him down is basically coming and, you know, sort of being a supplicant, as basically like, you know, bending to his will.

And that makes Donald Trump -- probably makes him very happy and it makes him look strong. And it very easily could be what he's doing. Or he could be serious. We don't really know. As Gloria said, the Romney people have been incredibly quiet, aren't

really saying very much. So, we don't know what Mitt Romney's thinking. I think if he doesn't get it, it'll look pretty bad for him to have gone this far and sort of turned around on everything he said and then basically to just treated like, you know, like Trump's like a cat playing with a toy.

COOPER: I mean, Kevin, along those lines, you know, they approached him, and yet you have people from the transition team coming out, you know, throwing shade and attacking Governor Romney.

MADDEN: That's right, and they were an unconventional campaign that was very successful and I expect they're going to be an unconventional transition. I hope they're successful, and an unconventional presidency.

They air a lot of their differences publicly. And the odd thing about that is I don't really have a whole lot of criticism for that because we've always asked that people in the political world be more genuine, be more transparent about what they say publicly, matching what they say privately. Kellyanne Conway, you know, and others, have been very vocal about that.

But they have always finished their statements by saying, but there's only one person who makes the decision, and that person makes the decision is President-elect Trump and if he makes it, they'll support it. So, I think that's been an interesting thing.

COOPER: Kirsten, it was interesting, because Monica Langley from "Wall Street Journal" was on the program last night and saying, you know, based on her reporting, that nothing Kellyanne Conway has said publicly was going rogue that it was all done with Donald Trump's knowledge and forethought, and if that is in fact the case, which seems her reporting is very accurate, it's telling and interesting that he would want that message out there.

And to Kevin's point, I think it is a valid argument that we always call for transparency, the airing of differences is transparent.

POWERS: Yes, I think that's true, but I do think there is an element of is this a very nice way to treat somebody that you're considering for very high post in your administration. And I -- just the public nature of this is very interesting. I mean, the fact that, you know, Jim Acosta got a tip off that he was able to go there and see this. I would expect it would be a private room.

It's very clear that Trump wants everyone to see this.


POWERS: Sorry. Go ahead, Gloria.

BORGER: No, it's a reality show. I mean, he does want all of us to see it and Mitt Romney is a big boy. If he didn't to want go, he didn't have to go.

COOPER: But also adds to the drama, it adds to the conversation, and Donald Trump loves that, like that. That is something he --


COOPER: We should also point out just a few moments ago, Gloria, Carrier which is a big air-conditioning manufacturer, sends a tweet and I want to read it. It says, quote, "We are pleased to have reached a deal with President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Trump to keep thousands of jobs in Indy. More details soon."

That decision, you know, they had a decision to move jobs to Mexico. It was a big talking point for Donald Trump on the campaign trail. He was very critical of it.

This is obviously something which, you know, they were negotiating and it's a big win for him no matter how you slice it.

[20:15:02] BORGER: Sure. And I, you know, we don't know the details of the deal or the conversations, but I would have to guess that what Donald Trump and Mike Pence were talking about is easing regulations, changing up the tax code to make it more beneficial for Carrier to keep it's plant in the United States. And that also that perhaps Donald Trump wouldn't impose heavy tariffs on companies like Carrier in the future who did decide to move some jobs over there.

I don't know exactly what was part of it, but I guarantee you, it'll something like this is going to be part of Donald Trump's economic plan, which would be more favorable to business. And then keep, keep companies like Carrier here.

It's a big win for Donald Trump. I mean, he promises from the campaign he's not even in office. And he worked to get it done. And the other day, I think he tweeted about it saying we're very close.

COOPER: Right. He tweeted on Thanksgiving saying, even though on Thanksgiving, working on this.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: You know, their carrots and their sticks, we don't know which was used in this or some combination thereof.

BORGER: Exactly.

COOPER: Everyone, thank you.

Much more ahead, the president-elect thinks people who burn the American flag should lose their citizenship or be thrown in jail. We'll get into the constitutional issues that raises and also the reason why we decided to start tweeting about that this morning. Why is he even doing that in the first place? Is it to distract from other issues? We'll look at that.

Also, tonight, a live update from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where raging wildfires -- look at these images -- that killed at least three people. We'll have the latest on what caused the fires, the fight to contain them, which is ongoing, and the destruction they are causing. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)


COOPER: Well, new controversy tonight over something president-elect tweeted. Imagine that. This morning, he wrote, quote, "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag. If they do, there must be consequences, perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!"

We get to the issues of a president-elect proposing, revoking American citizenship or throwing them in jail for constitutional and protected actions in a moment. The first I want to answer the question of why Donald Trump was tweeting about this in the first place?

It seems to stem from a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts.

[20:20:02] Miguel Marquez tonight joins us.

So, can you just explain, first of all, what's been going on Hampshire College since the election?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, this has been a riotous time here. The day after the election, students upset not only about the outcome of the election, but about the rhetoric leading into it and some of the hateful acts that they saw immediately after, were protesting. They lowered the main flag at the campus half-staff. The next night, which happened to be the very early mornings of Veteran's Day, someone pulled that flag down and burned it.

There is now an investigation into ongoing as to what happened there. A week later, the board of trustees and they said this in a statement, they wanted to focus the college's efforts on addressing racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and anti- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rhetoric and behaviors.

This was in response to some of those episodes you saw immediately after the election and some of those incidences of hate across the country -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, understandably, there've been counter-protests from veterans, correct? And others.

MARQUEZ: Veterans extraordinarily upset that this is happening. Not only veterans here, but people from the town, people from surrounding towns, very big protest here over the weekend. They are promising another protest if this is not wrapped up this coming weekend.

The school trying to do everything they can, I think at this point, to get students to the place where they feel they can raise this flag again and keep in mind, it's only one flag. There are several flags around the college. They are flying, but the one main flag in the college is not -- Anderson.

COOPER: And have students there had any kind of reaction to Donald Trump's statement this morning? MARQUEZ: This is a very small school and a very small town, and I

think that they are blown away by the magnitude of the backlash to all of this. The protest this past Sunday, another one planned. We spoke to one student who is a trustee here at the school, or like in the student government. I guess voting with the trustees on a lot of matters that pertain to the school.

Here's what he had to say about the Donald Trump tweeting about this.


EDUARDO SAMANIEGO, HAMPSHIRE COLLEGE STUDENT: Like today, what Donald Trump has said the president-elect of the United States, that those who burn the flag should be jailed or lose their citizenship. What does that say about our First Amendment? What does that say about freedom of speech? I think those are much more complicated issues and those are much more important than talking about the small college in the middle of Massachusetts that has burned a flag.


MARQUEZ: What's interesting about this young man, he is undocumented. He has a full ride scholarship to this college. He came to the United States when he was 16 years old. He grew up the last several years in -- outside of Atlanta, in Georgia. He was not able to go to school there. He was able to go to school here.

He was top of his class. He's on the board of trustees. He's a student on the trustees here. And he is undocumented.

So, feels very, very passionate and feels that the president-elect is tweeting specifically and threatening specifically him. As for the flag burning, he doesn't think it should have happened. He sees it as a symbol of opportunity for this country and hopes that it will go back up soon, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.

A lot to talk about now.

CNN political commentator and Trump supporter, Alice Stewart is joining us. CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist and pro-Clinton super PAC advisor, Paul Begala. CNN political analyst and "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers is back.

CNN political commentator and former Reagan White House political director and Trump supporter, Jeffrey Lord. CNN political commentator and Republican consultant, Margaret Hoover. CNN political commentator and former congressional Black Caucus executive director, Angela Rye, and CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Good night, everybody.


Jeffrey, before we talk about why Donald Trump is tweeting this out, not just about what was happening in New Hampshire, but also maybe the politics behind it or the media strategy behind it. Just the legality of this -- this has been asked and answered by the Supreme Court. The constitutionality of the American flag as distasteful as burning the American flag is.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Two things actually in that tweet have been settled by the Supreme Court. One is the more famous issue which is in 1989 and 1990, the Supreme Court said there is a constitutionally protected right to burn the American flag. It is protected under the First Amendment.

The other thing the Supreme Court has said is that the right to citizenship is a constitutional right. So, a court can't take it away from you. It's like the right for a lawyer when you're charged with a crime. The court can't sentence you to no lawyer in court.

So, they can't take away your citizenship. They can put you in jail. They can execute you. They can take away your right to vote.

[20:25:00] But there is no such thing as a sentence of taking away your citizenship.

COOPER: Jeffrey Lord, as a Trump supporter, does it concern you at all that the president-elect of the United States in a single tweet has gone against two parts of the Constitution, two things that are constitutionally protected as distasteful as they may be?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, I should say, I do part company with him on this. I'm a strong believer in the First Amendment, which is why I'm with Justice Scalia on Citizens United, the same thing, free speech.

Politically speaking, I do think that this probably helps him. There is a lot of -- for obvious reasons, very emotional attachment to the American flag.

COOPER: But do you think he understands -- do you think he knows that in a single tweet, he said two things which are --

LORD: I honestly don't know. But I think it's good -- he has -- I mean, he's now president-elect of the United States, and all year, we had people saying, you know, when he does these things, he's not going to get elected. He does them I think for a reason. They stir conversation. They get issues out there. They help people vent in some case.

COOPER: Well, I think you raise an interesting point. They stir conversation.

Paul Begala, I want to go back to something you said last night and let's talk -- you can talk about it again, it steers conversation and it takes conversation away from other issues, in fact, this takes conversation away from his last tweets which were completely factually -- there is no evidence --

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: False. COOPER: -- of what have he tweeted about millions of illegal voters voting for Hillary Clinton. Now, the discussion switches to this, which is kind of an age-old obvious issue that's going to galvanize a lot of people.

BEGALA: And a very popular position. Jeffrey's right, it's not the law of the land. It's not what the constitution is, but most Americans abhor flag burning. If we could --

LORD: Right.

BEGALA: -- we would outlaw it.

But we can't because we have freedom in this country.

LORD: Right.

BEGALA: Right? But I think -- in this case it is just a theory. I think he's trying to distract from the appointments he's making. Today seems to be stocking his cabinet with Washington insiders. Good for him, perfect right to pick his team. Elaine Chao, former cabinet member in the Republican administration of President George W. Bush.

COOPER: Married to Mitch McConnell.

BEGALA: The wife of the Senate majority leader. But very accomplished woman on her own, fully deserving of at least a full vote. I mean, she seems qualified to me.

This -- Dr. Price, Congressman Price from Georgia, long time chairman of the House Budget Committee, long time Washington veteran, apparently now is going to be the choice for Health and Human Services. So, he's going right to the establishment, for picking his cabinet, and this is -- this could annoy his base.

So, what's he do? He throws something out for the base. He says, oh, by the way, I'm going to take away your citizenship if you burn the flag. And that's going to help keep the base loyal to him even as he -- he hasn't drained the swamp, he's just bringing in new alligators, not even new ones, bigger alligators.



HOOVER: Maybe there's no game theory here, right? Maybe this is not a big strategic sort of gotcha. Maybe he was watching a cable news channel that had a segment about Hampshire on this morning and their flag burning, and maybe he tweeted about it three or four minutes afterwards.


HOOVER: But that actually happened -- let's be clear, that did happen. That happened. I didn't just create a scenario. That actually happened this morning.

And so, what happened was, Donald Trump, as we know, gets on the Twitter, isn't restrained, has gotten his Twitter feedback, clearly, because it's unlikely that any senior advisors would have --

COOPER: There was a FOX News report shortly before he had tweeted out, we don't know if there was a linkage there, but I mean, he certainly watches the shows as we're going to talk about in a little bit. I mean, he was tweeting about this show last night minutes after one of the reports.

HOOVER: Because he's at dinner with Mitt Romney.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One of the things to keep in mind also, he put out a tweet on this and we're talking about this 12 hours later. Whereas he put out several press releases today on key appointments and those aren't getting quite as much attention.

With regard to the flag burning issue, it's important to keep in mind, we all -- majority of Americans agree that it's despicable and disrespectful to burn the flag, but what he's proposing, Hillary Clinton did the exact same thing in 2005 with the Flag Burning Act, which would require a year in prison as well as $100,000 fine for people burning the flag. So, what he's proposing is not unusual.

And what I think with regard to the key appointments today, why would he want to distract from that? Him appointing Tom Price in that position, singlehandedly would -- the beginning of the end of Obamacare. And --

COOPER: It may not be unusual, but it still doesn't make it constitutionally appropriate.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENATOR: That's exactly right. And I think that we have to start talking about this as this is our incoming commander-in-chief. This man should understand constitutional law. It's fine for him to say the Supreme Court ruled in Texas versus Johnson and I don't agree with that.

But I think it is curious. It's not what's in that 140 characters. It is the mindset behind what's in the 140 characters on Twitter.

[20:30:04] The reason we talk about this, Alice, over and over again is because it actually is legitimately scary to many of us who feel like we -- I know, Anderson, feelings, I'm sorry, but we feel like we potentially elected a dictator. Someone who thinks he does not have to be accountable to constitutional law, he doesn't have to be accountable to the legislative branch. He thinks he could just come in and do some crazy stuff. That's crazy.

COOPER: But, Kristine, it is -- I mean, we are in uncharted waters with a president-elect who is continuing to tweet just as he did, maybe a little less but as he did during the campaign.

POWERS: Right. COOPER: I mean, when I first heard that he was tweeting about something that was on this broadcast a number of tweets, again, factually incorrect tweets last night, I kept thinking doesn't he have like a briefing book on ISIS to be reading last night at 10:00 or 9:00 of 8:00?


BEGALA: And he is turning away those briefers, you know that. There's been reports that he's not ...

COOPER: But, I mean, again, there is a huge amount of information that for him to be absorbing now and thinking about and the fact that he's watching shows. I appreciate he's watching the show.


COOPER: He doesn't have a Nielsen box. It doesn't really help.


COOPER: But what is he doing?

POWERS: Yeah, but I -- but that was true during the campaign. I mean, he may ...

COOPER: But I get a version of his campaign.

POWERS: OK, well, I guess, I would still say even then he should have probably been boning up on what's going on. And so I think it is concerning that he continues to do this. But in terms of the substance of what he said I think the revoking the citizenship part is very concerning. I believe that people should -- I believe in the constitutional right of free speech so I have a problem with banning flag, flag burning.

Yes, but I think that what he said, to Alice's point, to be fair to him, Democrats have supported this, that and even though it is constitutionally protected there have been repeated attempts to have constitutional amendments. So if he supports that that's -- I don't support it. I disagree with it. But it's actually not really out of the mainstream. It's the revoking the citizenship that is problem.

BEGALA: It's a question of why. And I want to believe that there's a strategy and now you guys are convincing me that there's not. And he's going to have the nuclear codes in a few weeks, guys.

COOPER: We're going to have more with our panel. Also this, as we mentioned, another target of the president-elect's tweets and retweets, CNN Senior Washington Jeff Zeleny, for a report he did on the show last night. Trump retweeted multiple attacks on him after he reported on Trump's claim, unfounded claim that millions have voted illegally. That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: If you're following along the president-elect's controversial tweets the latest was a suggestion that people who burn the flag, as we've talking about, should have their citizenship revoked or be thrown in jail. We're talking about that before the break. But just last night there was another target, CNN Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

[20:35:03] This was after Jeff reported on this program last nights, correctly, I should add, that Trump's tweets alleging that millions of people voted illegally had no actual basis in fact. And the president-elect in fact has not offered any evidence. Exactly, six minutes after Jeff's report, Trump retweeted a bunch of attacks including "Jeff Zeleny, just another generic CNN part-time want to be journalist! CNN still doesn't get it. They will never learn!"

And the president-elect retweeted this one from a 16-year-old boy in California. "Jeff Zeleny, pathetic, you have no sufficient evidence that Donald Trump did not suffer from voter fraud. Shame!" Then Trump added, "Bad reporter." Jeff Zeleny responded to Trump on Twitter, "Good evening! Have you looked for examples of voter fraud? Please send our way. Full-time journalist here. Still working." That he is. He joins me now.

So, did President-elect Trump respond to your tweet, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No, Anderson, Mr. Trump did not respond to that tweet but thousands of his followers did. And they believed him when he says that there was a lot of voter fraud, you know, that happened in the election. But, you know, this is not about us. This is about looking for this evidence of widespread voter fraud. And we're talking widespread. He said millions of people voted illegally. If not for them he would have won the popular vote.

And it seems to me that's what this is all about here. And through day by day the popular vote, the tally is increasing slightly. Hillary Clinton is up by just over 2 million. And that is agitating, I'm told, by people who have spoken to transition officials and the president elect. And that is one of the things behind this.

But I think it gets to a larger point here as well. The context of this is interesting. We've seen a pattern now throughout Mr. Trump's successful campaign. He tries to, you know, sort of demonize and distract. And this is one of the latest things here. But so far, he or his aides have not provided any evidence that millions of people voted illegally.

COOPER: Those tweets have also gotten some criticism, I know, from a politically allies of his, right?

ZELENY: Oh, they have. In fact, several Republicans we talked to today on Capitol Hill simply didn't want to talk about this at all. The flag-burning thing in particular was something that, you know, no Republican wanted to talk about. But Newt Gingrich has been a die- hard support over Donald Trump. And he did an interview with Susan Page of "USA Today" this evening or this afternoon and he said something I thought that was very interesting. He said, "The president of the United States should not be randomly tweeting without having someone else checking it out. You wonder what else he is doing."

So, Gingrich called it his biggest mistake so far in the three weeks since he's been elected. But one other friend I talked to explained it like this. They said it's been 22 days since Donald Trump has had a campaign rally so he misses that applause and enthusiasm that really kept him alive here. So he is getting some of that, at least, electronically here by looking through some of his supporters' messages but of course he'll be going back out on the road on Thursday for a big rally in Cincinnati, that I'm sure will pump him back up.

COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much. Given that there's no evidence that the claims Trump made on Twitter, no actual facts there, where did he get the idea that millions of people, millions of people voted illegally? Randi Kaye tonight following the digital trail.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This appears to be the original source of Donald Trump's so-called evidence for his claim that millions voted illegally. The Twitter feed belongs to Gregg Phillips whose Twitter handle is JumpVote. Back on November 11th Phillips tweeted, "Completed analysis of database of 180 million voter registrations. Number of non-citizen votes exceeds 3 million consulting legal team. Two days later we have verified more than 3 million votes casts by non-citizens."

Phillips is the founder of VoteStand, a voter fraud reporting app. I reached out to him on Twitter asking him to provide me the source for his information and any relevant data but he responded, "No." "Why not? When do you plan to share it and how," I asked. His response, "As I've said from the beginning I will release the data, methods, analysis to the public, no media spin." He never said when that information would be released. When I asked Phillips for an interview he sent me this article from calling Trump's claim about millions voting illegally false and writing, "CNN seems to have already made the decision."

How Gregg Phillips could possibly verify that millions voted illegally just three days after the election is anyone's guess. "The Washington Post" reported Phillips started making these claims even before data on voter history was available in most jurisdictions.

None of that has stopped websites like Infowars from picking up on Phillips' tweets. Infowars is the brainchild of radio host Alex Jones who "Rolling Stone" once called the most paranoid man in America. Jones has suggested that the 9/11 attacks and the Boston marathon bombing were inside jobs by the U.S. government. Jones also argued that those involved in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting were really actors and that nobody was actually hurt. He even claimed the Apollo 11 moon landing was faked.

[20:40:29] If Donald Trump based his voter fraud claim on what he read on Infowars, it wouldn't be the first time. When Trump argued that thousands and thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the 9/11 attack he tweeted a link to Infowars. And Infowars helped fueled the rumor that President Obama is an ISIS supporter, something Trump later suggested too.

It remained to be seen whether the conspiracy-driven website remains a go-to for the president-elect.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down. You will be very, very impressed I hope. And I think we'll be speaking a lot.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: And back with the panel. Jeffrey Lord, I got to go to you. I mean as a die-hard Trump supporters this man is going to be president of the United States, going, you know, following Infowars, talking about ...

LORD: Right, I don't know anything ...

COOPER: ... it was an inside job.

LORD: Right, I don't know anything about Infowars. What I do know is this, in 2014, John Fund, whom many of us know here formerly with "The Wall Street Journal" and now with "National Review Online," wrote an article called "Non-citizens are voting," in which I'll just read one sentence. "In 2005, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that up to 3 percent of the 30,000 people called for jury duty from voter registration roles over a two-year period and one of the 94 current U.S. district courts were non-citizens." And he goes on at length here with other examples.

My point is, clearly, this is happening. Now, millions, I ...

COOPER: That doesn't say those people actually voted. That's just ...

LORD: Well, no, but they shouldn't be on registration roles, right?

COOPER: There's dead people on registration roles. We know registration roles have lots of problem.

LORD: Right, right, but they shouldn't be there, period.

COOPER: Again, there's no evidence 3 million people voted illegally.

LORD: I understand that and so the answer is we don't know, we don't know.

COOPER: Right.

LORD: Clearly, we don't know.

COOPER: But doesn't it scare you that the president-elect is listening to Infowars?


LORD: No, I think the answer he was -- all kinds of people all over the place here.


LORD: Look, Ronald Reagan got a pin for, you know, having friends who were members of the John Birch Society for heaven sakes.

COOPER: They believe the 9/11 was an inside job.

LORD: Right, right, of course.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Sandy Hook were ...

COOPER: They believe all -- that Sandy Hook is all crisis actors. People I interviewed -- these -- they're followers ...

LORD: I am not ...

COOPER: ... the families of ...

LORD: I'm not here to vouch for Infowars. I don't listen to Infowars.

COOPER: Right, but the president-elect seems to.

LORD: Right, right, but what I'm saying, other presidents, I mean, our good friend, and I wish he were here to defend himself, our good friend Van Jones had his problem with the Obama White House because he was accused of just that, unfairly, perhaps, I think, knowing Van Jones. But, nonetheless, there he was in the Obama White House, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are we really doing that?

POWERS: Well, it was unfair. I think Van said that he ...

LORD: Yes, I agree, but I'm just saying ...

POWERS: Trump is not -- Trump is talking to him right there and we just watched it. I mean, it's not the same thing, you can't compare it. I mean, it's real ...

COOPER: He's no longer a candidate. He's the president-elect of the United States. I mean, should his behavior, I mean, Alice, should his behavior change more? Do you think it sunk in that he is president- elect of the United States?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Clearly we've seen a dramatic slow down in the tweets without a doubt. And I think the tone has changed slightly. I think with regard to this voting tweets he's put out, he should put a little bit more attribution to what he's talking about if there is some. I have seen some reports. COOPER: Right, because his tweets last night about Jeff Zeleny seemed to imply that he can say whatever he wants and that it's up to reporters to disprove him. Again, he is the president -- he's going to be the president of the United States. Should the president of the United States be putting out false information or information which he doesn't even have any proof?

LORD: He watch your back as you can see.

STEWART: Or attacking individuals who ...

LORD: If you want your doctor you can keep him?

COOPER: Well, again, I mean ...

LORD: False information, right?

RYE: No that's an old ...

LORD: Well, the president of the ...

COOPER: You can argue that that was done for political purposes. But this is ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I keep my doctor.

COOPER: ... you know, with Donald Trump now and it doesn't worry you at all?

RYE: Isn't it different, Anderson? It's different. You have someone who is not just putting out information. He's actually attacking people. He attacks the cast of "Hamilton." He attacked Jeff Zeleny, a CNN colleague.

LORD: That's called free speech.

RYE: No, no ...


COOPER: All right, Margaret, you're on.

HOOVER: Look, here's the problem. A lot of Republicans are stuck in this position. Look, there's this hopeful moment that Republicans never thought that they would have, right? So even Republicans who didn't support Donald Trump feel that maybe there's an opportunity to get real policy ...

COOPER: Of course.


COOPER: Absolutely. It's a huge opportunity.

HOOVER: And then we have these totally dichotomous experiences of really -- yes, having real concern about some of the sentiments and ideas that he's expressing through Twitter, the propaganda and the lies and the falsehood that he's propagating. That is serious concern.

[20:45:12] COOPER: Actually, to me, it's not even the idea is necessarily, it's just the impulses to ...

HOOVER: And what it represent.

COOPER: ... continue in this way when, again, I just keep coming back is, again, I'm happy he's watching the show, but shouldn't he be reading a book, "The Looming Tower" by, you know, Lawrence Wright about the history of al-Qaeda, or ...

LORD: Anderson ...

RYE: Jeffrey, you said it's free speech but free speech doesn't mean it should be undisciplined, free speech doesn't mean it should attack a person, free speech doesn't mean it should lack the character ...

COOPER: Jeffrey, I want you to be able to comment.

LORD: And in fairness, every president does things their own way. Reagan specifically was accused of not reading his briefs. And you know what they did?

COOPER: Right.

LORD: They showed him movies about the ...


LORD: ... right? OK. So all I'm saying is Donald Trump is going to bring his own individual style here.


LORD: Let's just give it a ...

COOPER: But I'm just not sure watching cable shows late at night and tweeting about them is the best use of the president's time.

STEWART: And also keep in mind ...

BEGALA: And he's lying about the results. He lost my over 2 million votes, the popular vote, over 2 million votes and he's lying.

STEWART: And he's met with over 60 foreign policy leaders and foreign leaders since he's been elected president-elect. So, he is getting information whether it's sitting down and reading a briefing book, he is talking with people and absorbing the information.

COOPER: And this deal with Carrier which we're going to talk about just ahead. We'll have more on that, our breaking news, the air- conditioning and heating company, Carrier, announcing they have reached a deal with the Trump team to keep jobs in Indiana. We'll talk about that ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: As we reported at the beginning of the program, looks like the president-elect has made progress in something he talks about a lot on the campaign trail, Carrier, an air-conditioning manufacturer was going to move jobs to Mexico. The company tweeted tonight, "We are pleased to reach a deal with President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Pence to keep close to a thousand jobs in Indy. More details soon."

Back now with the panel. Well, someone (ph) who worked hard to defeat Donald Trump and this is clearly something he talked about on the campaign trail and can rightly stand and say, look, I made a difference here tonight.

BEGALA: If true, it's great. It's terrific. Let's see the details. I do think we have a right to check the details because sometimes Mr. Trump sometimes gets a little over his ski tips. But if true, this would be an excellent example.

COOPER: I mean it's a tweet from Carrier themselves.

BEGALA: Yes. I'm not -- look, I'm trying to be as gracious as I can be. If true this is terrific and this is how the bully pulpit ought to be used. This is why Teddy Roosevelt called it the bully pulpit. I think that's great. If you're beaten up on a big corporation and you're the president that's kind of what people want to see. And I'd like to see more of that and a little less of beating up on reporters or college kids or the other things. But yes, if this is true I want to know the carrots and the sticks that you referred to earlier in the show. What giveaways did they get? What benefits, what gains? But, to hear the news, it's good news.

COOPER: Right now, Alice, we've been, you know, critical of Donald Trump in this program tonight.


COOPER: I think it is important to point out, you know, this -- he can rightly crow about this and point to this and say look, I'm not even president yet and I'm already making a difference just by having conversations.

[20:50:05] STEWART: Sure. And he and Mike Pence are expected to go there and make big announcement this week, which I think is good. This goes to show that some of his economic policies, which would encourage businesses to keep their manufacturing plants here and the jobs here on American soil are working. And I do think this is a good sign and hopefully he'll be able to flesh this out and then incentivize other businesses to keep jobs and industry here in America. And I think this is a great first step. And I do think he deserves a lot of credit for it.

LORD: You know the term hasn't escaped Donald Trump's lips yet, but when you see something like this you think, at least I do, historically, Franklin Roosevelt in 100 days. I mean, I am guessing here that the first 100 days of the Trump administration are going to be filled with action, action, action.

HOOVER: And this is all -- this has Mike Pence written all over it, right? Obviously, this is Mike Pence's estate. He has relationships with his manufacturers, and working with them for a long time. He was clearly there working on the deal for his boss. But, you know, it does say something to the argument of Trump surrounding himself with able tacticians, politicians, but also people who can get deals done and then make him look good. So this is like one good category. And the other thing is, what we're going to see, and this is the beginning of a major shift in economic policy on the Republican side, so.

COOPER: But it's easy -- I mean, it's easy to point to Mike Pence but, I mean, I think he also, if in fact is true, and we don't know the details, you do got to give credit to Donald Trump. He's the one who's out on the campaign trail was talking about it.

HOOVER: And directed Mike Pence some ...

RYE: Let me just push back on this a little bit. Initially, the conversation was about 2,000 jobs. So this is about saving half the jobs and leaving them here on American soil. The other, I think, it's important ...

HOOVER: You're moving the bench, you're moving the focus.

RYE: No, I'm not. This is what they said. They say they ...


RYE: ... 2,000 jobs was the point. And it's not 2,000 jobs. The other part is, initially he talked about imposing tariffs. He talked about penalizing companies that wanted to do this. It's clear from the deal that they at least began to discuss. He's talking about, if I lower your tax bracket, if I lower your tax rate, rather, will you keep the jobs here?

COOPER: We don't know that. We don't know that. We don't know ...

RYE: Well that's what's being ...

COOPER: You could also say there was some comment last night that perhaps there was a threat of Carrier's other businesses being affected if they did this. So we don't know how this deal, whatever the deal was ...

POWERS: And we also don't know what Congress ends up doing. So, to Paul's point, that's the big point here. We don't know what's going to actually end up happening. They'll be ...

BEGALA: If we pinpoint (ph) back to Margaret though, for years, Democrats have been campaigning on this, Democrats have been calling for laws to punish corporations and shift jobs overseas, reward corporations to keep jobs here. Now, a Republican president-elect is doing something Democrats have called for a long time and the Democrats ...

POWERS: I don't see -- yeah, but in Trump's defense, what stopped, you know, President Barack Obama from making the phone call, right?

BEGALA: The phone call, you're right.


BEGALA: Democrats tried to pass laws, but Republicans blocked it on the hill.

POWERS: OK, but that's -- I think for a lot of Americans like this is what they want to see.

COOPER: Right.

POWERS: They want to see somebody who just picks up the phone, sees a problem, and fixes it. And they find out how we fixed it but ...

STEWART: I don't people care if it's a carrot or a stick, the fact is they're keeping jobs here in America.

COOPER: I want to thank everybody in the panel.

Just ahead, more breaking news. The National Parks Service says people are to blame for the deadly wildfires raging eastern Tennessee. The death toll now stands at the three. Walls of flames, I mean, look at these images, thousands have fled their homes, for some barely in the nick of time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, shit. Why is every cabin on fire?


[20:55:46] COOPER: I want to get you to the latest breaking news about the wildfires raging in eastern Tennessee. At least three people now confirmed dead. The fires, which started yesterday, destroyed more than 250 billions of -- 250 buildings, forced thousands of people to flee their homes as walls of fire were closing in. This video captures just some of the terror.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is burning around us, every cabin, everything. There you go. We're not going to make it across that road. Shit. Oh, (expletive deleted). Oh, shit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow. It's OK, run it. (Expletive deleted). Hit the gas. Hit the gas.


COOPER: Fires just all around that vehicle. And here's Brian Todd with the latest.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An orange glow fills the night sky as one of the many fires burns in and around the Tennessee resort towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Officials say severe drought and hurricane-forced wind gusts combined to fuel a "perfect storm."

GREG MILLER, GATLINBURG FIRE CHIEF: Those winds of that nature, it is common to pick up embers of fire and take them greater than a mile away. At the same time we were facing that challenge, those high winds were knocking down trees, those trees were hitting power lines, and they were falling on this very dry, extreme drought-like condition, and everything was catching on fire.

TODD: The fire is forcing mass evacuations, sending residents and tourists into nearby Red Cross shelters. Popular area attractions were under threat, including Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, which houses 1,500 animals and marine life and the Dollywood theme park. At least 150 homes and businesses damaged or destroyed, including this 16-storey hotel complex in Gatlinburg. A guest shot this video before escaping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With all of the previous fires I've been part of could not have prepared me for what we have experienced over the past 24 hours.


COOPER: What's the latest on how this fire started?

TODD: Well, Anderson, a short time ago I talked to a National Park Service official and she told me that this set of fires was human caused. I pressed her several times on whether that means this was arson, she would not go there. She said it is human caused and it is under investigation. But a few minutes later, she did tell me, "We'd love to catch this person." So, while they're not maybe ready to draw the line directly yet to arson they seem to be getting pretty close to that.

COOPER: All right, Brian Todd. Brian, thanks.

In a moment, at the top of the hour news CNN Special Report, "War in Space: The Next Battlefield." Here is the nightmare scenario, U.S. satellites in space targeted and destroyed everything from bank transactions to stock market to traffic lights, GPS navigation for airline pilots freeze, smart bombs could become dumb, T.Vs, the internet, cell phones could stop working. U.S. military spending billions to protect against a potential attack. Here's a quick preview of the Special Report from CNN's Jim Sciutto.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORREPONDENT: Weapons fired from earth is one thing, but now the U.S. is considering capabilities it could deploy on the front lines in space, arming satellites.

ROBERT WORK, DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: You could have weapons that could be fired against the weapons that are coming at you.

SCIUTTO: Secretary Work raised the possibility of arming satellites with weapons he compared to the death charges that Navy surface ships use to defend against enemy submarines during World War II.

WORK: And so, you can imagine us doing that type of activity in space. Essentially, it would all be defensive of a nature, trying to keep our satellites from being destroyed. So, some people might say, well, that sounds like offensive war in space to me. We look at this as totally defensive.


COOPER: A whole new kind of warfare. That does it for us. The CNN Special Report, "WAR IN SPACE: THE NEXT BATTLEFIELD" starts right now.