Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger; Wildfires; OSU Attack Investigation; Trump Makes More Cabinet Picks. Aired 4- 4:30p ET
Aired November 29, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's a move that could put Obamacare on life support. THE LEAD starts right now.
Donald Trump picks the man who helped lead the charge to dismantle Obamacare to be his new health secretary. What does this mean for you? Your family? Your health insurance? Your insurance premiums?
Surrounded by flames, wildfires melting homes and hotels in mountainside towns where so many family memories were made.
Plus, breaking news, inspired by ISIS. Justice Department sources now telling CNN that the man who attacked so many at Ohio State University in that car and knife rampage was driven by terrorist propaganda.
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
President-elect Donald Trump announcing more Cabinet posts today while continuing to attack the media, particularly CNN, for pointing out that his claim that there were millions of fraudulent votes is baseless.
The president-elect on Sunday peddled the false claim that rampant voter fraud in California, New Hampshire, and Virginia swayed the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. Clinton currently leads Trump in the popular vote by more than 2.1 million votes. That means Trump's total percentage of the vote is as of now 46.5 percent. That's lower than that of Mitt Romney in 2012.
Now, yesterday, reporters did our jobs. We pointed out that the president-elect's assertion about massive voter fraud had no basis in reality, citing Democratic and Republican officials from those very states who unanimously dismissed the claims.
Not one credible official or news organization has suggested that the president-elect's conspiracy theory of millions of fraudulent votes has any merit, and yet president-elect Trump is now going after those who are simply trying to convey these facts to you.
Last night, he hit send on a string of retweets attacking CNN and attacking our own senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. Zeleny tweeted back politely asking Mr. Trump to please forward any examples of voter fraud that took place on such a massive scale, since, of course, no evidence actually exists to verify those claims.
Speaking of interactions with the fourth estate, it has been 125 days since Mr. Trump took questions from formal press conference.
CNN's Jim Acosta is in New York right now.
Jim, the president-elect still deep in this process of picking his new Cabinet.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.
Donald Trump has an unlikely dinner date tonight in Mitt Romney. We have learned that future first lady Melania Trump and Mrs. Romney will join their husbands for dinner as well. Despite the complaints from his own team, the president-elect is still actively considering Romney, one of his harshest critics, for secretary of state, but some other contenders have entered the picture, as Trump fills out his Cabinet the only way he knows how, with lots of drama and distractions.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Can you hear me OK?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ACOSTA (voice-over): After campaigning as the ultimate outsider, Donald Trump reached inside the Beltway to fill his Cabinet today.
ELAINE CHAO, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Nice to see you all.
ACOSTA: Tapping Elaine Chao, the former labor secretary under President George W. Bush and the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to lead the Transportation Department, and GOP Congressman Tom Price as secretary of health and human services.
A doctor from Georgia, Price has led the Republican charge on health care in the House with proposals to transform Medicare into a voucher program for seniors and dozens of attempts to repeal Obamacare.
REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: This law is not only harming the health of so many Americans in many, many ways across this country, but the health of our economy.
ACOSTA: Democrats vow they're ready for that battle.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: It's clear that Washington Republicans are plotting a war on seniors next year. Every senior, every American should hear this loudly and clearly. Democrats will not let them win that fight.
ACOSTA: Inside the transition, the real fight is over secretary of state, as the president-elect met with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a top candidate for the post, pushed by advisers who are aghast at the prospect of that job going to Mitt Romney, who dines with Trump tonight. SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I know he has a number of outstanding
individuals that he is talking with, but I was glad to be here.
ACOSTA: In addition to staffing his new administration, Trump is igniting new constitutional controversies on Twitter, insisting that nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag. "If they do, there must be consequences. Perhaps loss of citizenship or a year in jail."
While his vice president passed on that question...
QUESTION: Should flag burning be outlawed?
QUESTION: Mr. Vice President-Elect, what's on the agenda today?
MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: It is going to be a busy day. Stay tuned.
ACOSTA: Trump's one-time model for a Supreme Court justice, the late Antonin Scalia, once told CNN flag burning is protected free speech.
ANTONIN SCALIA, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: If I were king, I wouldn't allow people to go out burning the American flag. However, we have a First Amendment which says that the right of free speech shall not abridged, and it is addressed in particular to speech critical of the government.
ACOSTA: Trump's spokesman disagrees.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think most Americans would agree with me that flag burning should be illegal. It's completely despicable.
ACOSTA: Trump is still lashing out at the news media over stories he doesn't like, tweeting: "I thought that CNN would get better after they failed so badly in their support of Hillary Clinton. However, since election, they are worse."
The incoming president also retweeted complaints about fact-checking from CNN and others poking holes in Trump's baseless claim that millions of fraudulent votes went to Clinton, which simply did not happen.
TRUMP: They're starting to get very nervous, the press. The dishonest media, world's most dishonest people.
ACOSTA: A sign that Trump's media bashing days from the campaign are far from over.
SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: President-elect Trump is going to keep doing everything he can to distract people from his transition hires and his policy with his absurd tweets and his outrageous comments.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: And speaking of rallies, Trump will embark on a thank you tour to show voters his appreciation for being elected president with a rally style event on the Thursday in Cincinnati.
No word whether that will come with a news conference, which he hasn't held as president-elect since winning the White House three weeks ago. We should point out, Jake, President Obama held his first post- election news conference three days after he won in 2008. Big difference, Jake.
TAPPER: That's right. I was there. I remember in Chicago.
Thank you so much. Jim Acosta, appreciate it.
Joining me now, Republican Congressman from Illinois Adam Kinzinger.
Congressman, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it.
So, your former -- or I guess soon-to-be former colleague Congressman Tom Price has been tapped to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Now, if Obamacare is completely repealed, the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, says that would leave at least 14 million people without health insurance.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: Yes.
TAPPER: Does a replacement need to have some way to cover these individuals who are covered by Medicaid expansion or other ways?
KINZINGER: Yes, absolutely.
I think, as we develop what this looks like -- and keeping in mind that developing an alternative plan, as hard as it was for Obamacare to pass the first time, you had a lot of earmarks, remember the Cornhusker kickback ,and as tough as that is, it's tough to craft a replacement plan.
That's a lot of work that needs to be done. That's why we have had difficulty up until now. But I think we all agree and I would totally say that people that were covered should not lose their health insurance. So, that process to get there is something we are going to work through.
TAPPER: But does that mean repeal or does that mean take what is there now and mold it, while keeping aspects of it, like, for instance, Medicaid expansion, which, for instance, in Indiana there was a form of Medicaid expansion that was allowed to happen?
KINZINGER: Yes. So, I think we don't know.
I think we have to look at this. Tom Price is one of the smartest guys on this issue. He has a lot of plans that would take care of these problems, that would bring the cost of health care down. But what we have in the larger scheme is, yes, you have people covered by health insurance. But I hear from my people in my district every day about how their
premiums are skyrocketing, how they're losing providers, how the quality is going down. So, how do we come to an answer where we make sure people are covered, which we fully agree with, but we increase the quality and decrease the price of health care? And a lot of that is bringing competition into the market.
TAPPER: But is there a way to force companies to lower their premiums? That would be meddling in the free market, which doesn't sound like a very conservative...
KINZINGER: Yes. And I don't think you can force it, but I think you can bring free market principles into health care.
Think about it. Health care is about a fifth of the economy. It's the one area that is basically exempt from free market principles. So, how do you do that? Some of the ideas are let's put reality on pricing. If you have a broken arm and you need to go get an X-ray, you can actually competitively shop. One hospital down the street may be twice as much as the clinic somewhere else.
So, bringing those free market principles in, it's a very complicated issue, but one that we're going to solve.
TAPPER: You did not support president-elect Trump during the campaign. You said you would give him a shot.
TAPPER: And he deserved an opportunity to succeed.
I am wondering what you think of how his transition has gone so far, specifically some of the things he's done on Twitter, attacking the cast of "Hamilton" for what happened there with vice president-elect Pence, going after the media, this baseless claim about millions of fraudulent votes. Is it -- does that bother you?
KINZINGER: It's concerning.
But, you know, I also understand and recognize this is a new era of communication. President Obama had basically the first selfie of a president in office, and he was revolutionary in how he communicated with people on YouTube and other places.
Twitter is a new reality. And you see prime ministers in other countries that use it. I do get concerned when you see claims about, you know, two million fraudulent votes and things like that.
But, you know, this is the president-elect. He will be held accountable to what he says and so we will continue to see how he utilizes this. But I think the rest of the transition is going great. We have some great people in place and I am excited about the first 100 days next year.
TAPPER: I am wondering, as somebody who wants to support him, also how much you think is a red flag all of his business dealings.
CNN added it up, and it's 144 individual companies with which the Trump company is doing business in at least 25 different countries. And, obviously, the possibility for real conflicts of interest is very real.
We're already seeing it happen here and there. Do you think that it would be easier for him if he just put it in a blind trust?
KINZINGER: Yes, I think it would be easier for him. But I also don't own a billion-dollar company with my name on it that you're invested in and you have built basically from the ground up.
I think it sounds like he is going to put his children in charge of it. And I would assume that there is going to be a solid firewall in between. Over the next couple months, they will be develop it. Again, we're pretty early in the transition stage. He doesn't come in until the end of January.
And I think that would be wise to keep people from being concerned about what's happening. So we will see what the transition does.
TAPPER: But as somebody who wants him to succeed, right, doesn't he just have to make a choice between running in any real way, including with his children running the company, make a choice between running the United States and running this enterprise?
TAPPER: You could put up a wall and keep Ivanka, Eric and Don Jr. out of it and really not have anything to do with it, go run the company, and then there is no congressional hearings, there's no scandal. It's all walled off.
KINZINGER: That would be my advice.
But, again, he is the one that has to make this decision. I will say this. When I got elected for Congress, I still fly for the Air National Guard. I thought that was going to be something that was really easy to do, until I got into Congress and realized you don't have a lot of time off. And when you do, you have district commitments and then now you have to go fly for the Guard.
I think as he's becoming president and he's accepting the mantle, he is accepting the intensity of work involved. And I think by the time he's sworn in, he is going to realize you can't really have a business and also do the most powerful business job in the world. We are going to see how that comes.
TAPPER: All right, Congressman, it's always great to see you. Thank you so much for joining us.
KINZINGER: You bet.
TAPPER: Instead of talking about his Cabinet or his plans for his first 100 days in office, Donald Trump has been tweeting about possibly jailing people or revoking their citizenship for burning the American flag.
Why would he steal the spotlight from his own Cabinet news? That story next.
[16:15:59] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Vice President Mike Pence -- Vice President-elect Mike Pence just telling reporters at Trump Tower to expect another transition announcement before dinnertime. We will bring you that news when we get it.
Let's bring in our political panel to talk about everything, "USA Today" Washington bureau chief Susan Page and "Daily Beast" Washington bureau chief Jackie Kucinich.
And, Susan, you just did an interview with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is the vice chair of the transition committee. He told you he thinks Trump's biggest mistake since winning was?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I think the worst thing he did was the tweet the other night about illegal votes. I mean, you know, presidents of the United States can't randomly tweet without having somebody check it out. I mean, it's just -- it makes you wonder about whatever else he's doing. It undermines much more than just a single tweet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That's pretty strong language from a pretty strong ally.
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: That's right, from someone who has been an advocate, and a supporter, sometimes a surrogate for Donald Trump. And to be clear, most the interview was praising Trump. But he was really critical about this tweet. I asked him if he had seen any evidence of massive election fraud, and he said no.
TAPPER: And you say he also suggested -- Newt Gingrich also suggested that President-elect Trump has no obligation to ever do a press conference ever again.
PAGE: Yes. Because, of course, we haven't had a news conference since July. That's really unusual for someone who's been elected president. Traditionally, these announcements, these personal announcements would include a couple of questions, back and forth with the press. He said not only does he not have to do press conferences now, he says that President Trump should feel no obligation to have a news conference ever, and suggested that, instead, he could solicit questions from the public and answer those. TAPPER: It's interesting and actually wouldn't surprise me, Jackie,
if that's what he did. I tweeted out earlier this morning, it's been 125 days since he had a press conference and this is the longest there has ever been in the modern era without a press since winning.
And the response from Trump supporters was very, like, he doesn't need you. You guys are irrelevant. And I think that might be the guiding principle of the Trump press shop.
JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: People don't care if we whine, right? And they don't -- even when he initially was ditching the press pool, there seemed to be a misunderstanding of what the press pool actually does. It just makes sure that, you know, the president is actually alive and history is chronicled and is with him. Right now, we're not really a set of people that people think should get -- particularly Trump supporters, think should get access.
That said, this is bigger than us, the fact that he is closing out the press, because that means that things he should answer for, things that need to be clarified, won't be by the president-elect. During these conference calls that the Trump campaign has had every single day, the Trump transition team has had, there are several times when they said, "I'm going to let the president-elect speak for that." Well, that essentially is a no comment forever if he decides to lock out the press for the duration.
TAPPER: Yes. I mean --
PAGE: In fact, he's doing this ordinary thing, where his commentary is mostly through Twitter. And now, that is the way he has been communicating with the American people. Millions of people, and I think a lot of his supporters don't mind that, but it means you're not subject to the kind of scrutiny that the press provides.
And you know, reporters don't do that for reporters. Reporters do that because we're there as a representative of the American people.
TAPPER: And, for instance, the press pool was there on 9/11 and travelled around with then-President George W. Bush.
Let's turn to Tom Price, the congressman who's been tapped to be the new secretary of the Department of Homeland -- of Health and Human Services. What does this mean, do you think, in terms of the American people and in terms of insurance and in terms of premiums?
KUCINICH: Tom Price is a very substantive lawmaker. He's one of the few Republicans who's had a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. I think from like 2007, 2008 on -- 2009, excuse me. So, he is not someone who comes to this as sort of an empty suit.
That said, immediately, we're going to see some friction between some of the things Trump has said and some of the things Tom Price has said, particularly how you deal with Medicare. Donald Trump has said he is not going to touch it. [16:20:03] Tom Price wanted to turn it into a sort of voucher-like
system, which you hear from a lot of Republicans. So, there's going to be a little bit of friction initially about whether Republican orthodoxy, which has been big on entitlement reform, and the things that Donald Trump has promised.
Now, he's seen to sort of listen to his advisers before and change his mind. It remains to be seen if that's something that's going to happen with this. But, certainly, this is something that is going to be felt by the American people because it has to do with their health care.
TAPPER: And, Susan, it looks like there will be something of a fight. Democrats are already talking about this 2012 interview that Congressman Price did about whether or not women could or could not afford birth control. Obamacare, obviously, provides free or no-cost, no co-pay birth control for everyone.
Take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Where do we leave these women if this rule is rescinded?
REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: Bring me one woman who's been left behind. Bring me one. There's not one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Saying there's not one woman who can't afford birth control. And that's going to be a point of inflection I think for a lot of Democrats on Capitol Hill.
PAGE: Well, I would expect Democrats to produce hundreds, maybe thousands of women who say they've had trouble affording birth control before it was a requirement of the Affordable Care Act.
TAPPER: And that's also a big fight I think that they're going to have.
KUCINICH: Absolutely. He has been a vocal opponent of the birth control mandate. That said, it -- I mean, yes. You're absolutely right. He's going to get a lot of resistance to that, because if it's not covered, it can be expensive, particularly for low-income women.
PAGE: We're going to have such big fights.
KUCINICH: I know, everything --
PAGE: The whole mandate for health care, the exchanges -- I mean, there's going to be so many battles that I do think people on both sides are going to be -- have to pick their fights on what they care about most and what is the most important thing to try to preserve, because we're going to have this epic battle now between Republicans in united control of the government and Democrats kind of scrambling for traction.
TAPPER: And all they have, the Democrats, is the ability to filibuster in the Senate.
Susan and Jackie, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
New information about the Ohio State terrorist and his possible motive. That's next.
Plus, scorched, melted, destroyed. Our first look at the smoking wreckage left behind by the devastating fires in Tennessee that we're now learning have, sadly, turned deadly.
Stay with us.
[16:26:48] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Our national lead today, investigators now believe that the Ohio State terrorist was inspired by ISIS and by the American born al Qaeda cleric Anwar al Awlaki. This comes as ISIS today claims that the stabbing attack was carried out on its behalf.
CNN's justice correspondent Pamela Brown joins me from Columbus, Ohio.
Pamela, at this point, are there any firm links tying the suspect to a specific terrorist organization?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: At this point in the early stage of the investigation, no firm links, we're told, Jake. But investigators do believe the suspect was inspired and influenced by terrorist propaganda online from both ISIS and al Qaeda, and today, ISIS is taking credit for the attack.
BROWN (voice-over): Today, ISIS is claiming responsibility for inspiring the attack on the campus of the Ohio State University, releasing a statement on its propaganda news website. There is no evidence the claim is true.
Investigators will only say they're looking at terrorism as a possible motive.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is plenty of available evidence to indicate that this individual may have been motivated by extremism and may have been motivated by a desire to carry out an act of terrorism.
BROWN: A post on Abdul Artan's Facebook page just before the rampage pays tribute to al Qaeda cleric Anwar al Awlaki and admonishes the United States, saying, "By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims. You will not celebrate or enjoy any holiday."
Investigators are scrutinizing his cellphone and laptop and interviewing those who knew him to learn more about his motivations.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They asked me the same questions everybody else is requesting, you know, about his character. And, you know, his character was presentable. He didn't seem or appear to pose a threat to anybody.
BROWN: The owner of a convenience store near Artan's home says he came in regularly, including on the day before the attack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He came in. He grabbed whatever he wanted and we talked for a little bit, like hi, how you doing, da, da, da. How was your day? I mean, that's pretty much it. He just left, smiling, like usual. That's it.
BROWN: CNN has learned Artan was born in Somalia and moved to Pakistan as a refugee in 2007. He came to the United States with his mother and siblings in 2014 on a green card. A U.S. official says his family went through more than two years of intense vetting before being allowed into the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Abdul Razak --
BROWN: Once he arrived, he attended a community college, and then transferred to Ohio state, where he told the student newspaper he was self-conscious about showing his Muslim faith.
Artan and his family also apparently spent 23 days in Dallas in 2014, according to a faith-based group who worked with them, but they left for unknown reasons.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: This was an 18-year-old. He had just transferred schools. We don't understand his background with the family. He is an immigrant. We don't understand the issues he had integrating. One of the difficulties in these is looking at what he's claiming and comparing it to the rest of his life.
BROWN: And to try to figure that out, investigators have been going through his cellphone and his computer. So far, at this early stage, there is no indication he was communicating with groups overseas.