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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Leaving Businesses?; Nancy Pelosi Survives Challenge; Trump Cabinet Picks. Aired 4-4:15p ET

Aired November 30, 2016 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:08]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, they warned everyone. They said, if more of you voted for Hillary Clinton, Goldman Sachs would end up running the country.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Critics accused him of building a foreclosure machine to pick the bones of the great recession. What could Donald Trump's treasury pick mean for his supporters, for middle-class families, and for his promise to drain the swamp?

Out of business? Donald Trump making a vow to leave his empire to his kids while he presidents for a while. But does that make everything legit on the questions of conflicts of interest?

Plus, Donald Trump once said you have to give credit to Kim Jong-un, but today a warning from a former president that North Korea could pose one of the greatest and earliest challenges for the next president.

Good afternoon, everyone. I am Jake Tapper.

The Trump team says there are four candidates left for the position of secretary of state. We are told that Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are still in contention, with observers suggesting the other two are likely retired General David Petraeus and Senator Bob Corker. Possibilities to run the Department of Defense remain up in the air.

But we definitely know more about what president-elect Trump's economic team will likely look like, and you would be forgiven for mistaking it to be a backroom gathering at the New York Economic Club.

President-elect Trump's nominee for treasury secretary is his former finance director for his campaign, Steve Mnuchin, a former executive of Goldman Sachs turned hedge fund manager turned Hollywood film financier.

His nominee to become next commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, is a turnaround specialist, meaning he buys up failing companies and -- quote, unquote -- "restructures them." And Ross' likely future top deputy, Todd Ricketts, is the co-owner of the Chicago Cubs and the CEO of an investment bank. Trump's choices and their backgrounds are important because during the

campaign he promised to stop letting Wall Street get away with murder, the kind of business practices that Trump said left the middle class behind.

One way the incoming Trump administration is trying to show results for the middle class, even before taking office, has to do with these American workers in Indiana. See if you remember them?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It became clear that the best way to stay competitive and protect the business for long term is to move production from our facility in Indianapolis to Monterrey, Mexico.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Remember that viral video? Workers at an Indianapolis Carrier plant finding out that their jobs were going to be shipped to Mexico? Now Carrier says it has struck a deal with the incoming Trump administration to keep 1,000 or so of those jobs, not all of them, but some of them, in the United States.

We don't know how this deal was struck. Was it tax cuts? Was it a threat of lost federal contracts or new tariffs if the jobs go to Mexico? So much that we don't know.

Jim Acosta is in New York for us.

And, Jim, Trump tweeted about this Carrier deal. He's also tweeting that he will finally hold a news conference.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.

Donald Trump is assembling a Cabinet of the wealthy and well- connected. He's not finished yet, eying Mitt Romney for secretary of state. I'm told their dinner last night was a -- quote -- "net positive," according to one source.

But the president-elect is making some moves, as you mentioned, that could counter some of the optics with a major announcement that he plans to make the presidency his full-time job.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Under growing pressure to sever ties with his real estate empire, Donald Trump took to Twitter, not to start a new controversy, but to try to end one, announcing: "I will be holding a major news conference in New York City with my children on December 15 to discuss the fact that I will be leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country."

That declaration comes just one week after he pointed out presidents are technically exempt from government conflict of interest laws.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: In theory, I don't have to do anything. But I would like to do something. I would like to try and formalize something, because I don't care about my business.

ACOSTA: Still, after pledging to defend the working class as a candidate, the president-elect is assembling the team that's a lot like himself, rich, tapping financier Steve Mnuchin to be treasury secretary, billionaire Wilbur Ross for Commerce, the co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, Todd Ricketts, as deputy at that department, and another billionaire, Betsy DeVos, at Education.

Mnuchin, along with incoming White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, both worked at Goldman Sachs.

TRUMP: It's a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class.

ACOSTA: The same Wall Street powerhouse whose CEO was featured in Trump's closing campaign ad on the special interests harming American workers. Mnuchin is highlighting his past as a banker.

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY-DESIGNATE: Let me first say what I have really been focused on is being a regional banker for the last eight years. And I know what it takes to make sure that we can make loans to small and mid-market companies.

[16:05:03]

ACOSTA: Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren blasted out a statement slamming Mnuchin as the Forrest Gump of the financial crisis. "He spent two decades at Goldman Sachs helping the bank peddle the same kind of mortgage products that blew up the economy."

Trump is considering another well-known millionaire, 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, for secretary of state. CNN observed the two men as they appeared to put their bitter pasts behind them.

QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, are we looking at the next secretary of state right here?

TRUMP: Well, we're going to see what happens.

ACOSTA: After once calling Trump a fraud, Romney was singing the president-elect's praises.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not easy winning. I know that myself. He did something I tried to do and was unsuccessful in accomplishing. He won the general election.

ACOSTA: Trump is now toasting one other victory, his deal to deep hundreds of jobs at a Carrier air condition factory in Indiana from fleeing to Mexico.

WILBUR ROSS, CHAIRMAN & CEO, W.L. ROSS & COMPANY: Well, it's a great present from the president. Here we have a trade victory before we even come into office.

ACOSTA: It was a promise delivered for Trump, who had threatened to punish the manufacturer as a candidate. TRUMP: Carrier, congratulations. Enjoy your stay in Mexico. Every

unit you make, 35 percent tax. Have a good time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: So far, the Trump transition team is not sharing details of the deal with Carrier, but the president-elect will get an up-close look at the Indiana factory he worked to save tomorrow.

Then it's off to Ohio for a fund-raiser and a rally in Cincinnati, Jake. That's where he will thank Americans once again for making him the next president -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

President-elect Trump of course has so many businesses all over the world, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board has suggested that he liquidate his assets to avoid any conflicts of interest. Trump today said he'd remove completely himself from business operations.

But if he ends up turning the Trump empire over to his adult children, as he suggests, would that really be a complete removal.

Cristina Alesci offers this as our latest installment in conflict of interest watch.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.

Since he won the election, Trump has faced sharp crimp for his conflicts of interest. Look, it's almost a daily barrage of ethics experts calling on him to reassure Americans that his decisions as president won't be clouded by the potential to gain or lose money personally.

His actions over the last several weeks has not helped address those concerns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALESCI (voice-over): This morning, a Donald Trump tweetstorm, Trump writing that it is visually important to in no way have a conflict of interest. His solution? Handing his business over to his children, the same plan he touted during the campaign.

TRUMP: Run the company, kids. Have a good time. I'm going to do it for America. OK?

ALESCI: But will ceding control of the company to his kids erase the conflicts? With a business that spans 25 countries, experts say there would be plenty of opportunity in the White House for the Trump family to enrich itself if it chose to.

For example, in Argentina, a paper exposed the details of a phone call between Trump and Argentinean President Mauricio Macri. Local media claims that Trump raised permitting issues he as having with one of his projects in the country, a planned mega-tower in Buenos Aires. Both Trump and Macri denied the permits came up in conversation. In Turkey, Trump's name is on an Istanbul shopping mall and condo complex. In an interview last year with his now chief strategist Steve Bannon, Trump himself acknowledged the conflict.

TRUMP: I have a little conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul.

ALESCI: Trump's partner on the project was Dogan Holding, a company that was the Turkish government fined for $2.5 billion in 2009 over tax issues.

The company was locked in a battle with Turkish President Erdogan. That year, President Erdogan even called for a boycott of Dogan, which is a part owner of CNN Turk. This week, a Turkish journalist revealed that Trump and Erdogan recently spoke on the phone. During the call, Trump reportedly tried to mend the relationship between Erdogan and Dogan.

When CNN asked about the call, Trump's spokespeople declined to comment. In the Philippines, Trump's business partner Jose Antonio was named by his government as the official Filipino trade envoy to the United States. Antonio already partnered with the Trump family on a project in Manila.

TRUMP: It's really great working with Century Properties and the Antonio family.

ALESCI: Antonio flew to New York right after the election. Who did he meet with? The Trump children. Antonio's son later told "The New York Times" that the post-election trip was a business meeting, not a diplomatic one.

But since the election, Trump has made a concerted effort to include his children in the transition, even while preparing them to take over the company.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALESCI: Jake, even if Trump creates this wall between himself and his children running the business, he is not talking about selling off his assets and having an independent auditor place them in a blind trust, which has been the standard.

[16:10:10]

He still knows what properties he owns and whose his partners are. The analogy here is, if you have a Ferrari and give your kids the keys, you don't forget that you won the Ferrari -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Cristina Alesci, thank you so much.

Let's bring in our political panel, "Washington Post" columnist Ruth Marcus, "Wall Street Journal" White House correspondent Carol Lee, and CNN editor at "The Federalist" Mollie Hemingway. Mollie, let me start with you. Do you have any concerns about these potential conflicts of interest? Do you think the president-elect should heed the advice of "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page and others who are saying you really need to separate yourself from this?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, "THE FEDERALIST": There have been so many things that we have told are huge problems in this transition and most of them are not true.

This is actually is one of those things that is very true. There are conflicts everywhere. People, friends and critics are saying he really needs to take this very seriously. Donald Trump needs to take it seriously.

I do think we have to wait and see what his plan is before we decide to freak out so much, but it's something that is going to be a huge issue throughout his administration.

TAPPER: Do you think, Ruth, that if he does what we expect he will do, which is announce that he is severing all the ties, but his adult children, Donnie -- Don Jr., rather, Eric and Ivanka, will be in charge, is that enough?

RUTH MARCUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think it will create continuing problems for him. This is a sentence I don't often say, but "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board is correct here.

And Trump has made that problem worse. If he was going to decide not to divest, he should have done three things. Figure out how to handle this right away, not create extra problems for himself by seeming to raise business questions in conversations with world leaders or foreign officials. And keep his children on either one side of the wall or the other.

Either they can advise him on the transition in government or they're going to work on his business. They can't do both.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the Carrier deal, if we can, Carol.

Certainly, we all want American jobs to stay in this country. I am eager to also hear the details of this. But it does seem on its face to be somewhat of a win for the incoming administration.

CAROL LEE, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Sure.

Donald Trump campaigned and promised to do this. He did. It's hard to argue when you hear -- "The Indianapolis Star" has folks who work there who are saying, I'm expecting a baby. I thought I was going to be laid off. And now I'm not.

That's a good story for Donald Trump. I think the question is whether he has a broader strategy to apply this to the manufacturing sector writ large. The White House took a little dig at -- the press secretary took a little dig at him and said if he does this 804 more times, then he will match President Obama's record for reviving the manufacturing industry. It's not clear that this is a broad strategy or whether it's a one-

off. And I think the details, we don't know as many of the details as maybe perhaps we will learn in the coming days. I think it's -- yes, on its face, it looks like a very good win, but the devil is in the details.

TAPPER: What do you think?

HEMINGWAY: Exactly right. We know a little bit about it.

We know there were tax incentives. But we also know there was a bit of a stick to go with the carrot, which is loss of federal contracts. It certainly works to keep companies that have large federal contracts. That is not a broad plan. We have had sluggish growth for quite a few years. We need to see some much larger changes that will help everybody.

And also just in general tax cuts and other incentives should be universally applied, not on an ad hoc basis to benefit certain friends of the administration.

TAPPER: Earlier today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi survived a challenge. Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan was running against her for the position of leader.

About one-third of the Democratic Caucus voted for him. Still a big win for Nancy Pelosi, but that's the biggest vote tally that any challenger to her has gotten since Steny Hoyer ran against her.

Here's Kellyanne Conway, Trump campaign's response to Pelosi's victory: "What a relief. I was worried that the Democrats had learned from the elections and might be competitive and cohesive again."

Is she right?

MARCUS: Well, it wasn't going to make the Democrats competitive and cohesive again to oust Nancy Pelosi.

But that will -- and there was never any doubt that she was going to win reelection. But the--

TAPPER: It was a secret ballot, right?

MARCUS: It was a secret ballot. But she is a very canny politician. And she told us she was going to win, and she was right.

But it is a signal. And the size is a surprisingly strong signal that she has got a restive caucus. They're tired of being in the minority. They're tired of basically being bossed around by -- nothing personal to the older folks -- by a group of old folks. They want new blood and they want a path to power and they don't see it right now.

TAPPER: The leaders of the Democratic Party will be a New York liberal and a San Francisco liberal, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

LEE: Yes. And I think, to go to the Election Day for Nancy Pelosi, she did say

that she would be looking to bring more young people, more Midwesterners into leadership. I think this is certainly a shot at her a little bit, and she is going to have to produce some sort of changes.

Tim Ryan ran -- you know, he had a very specific platform of what he was going to do. And so it will be interesting to see not only what she does, but also, as you say, like, what Chuck Schumer does in the Senate.

AROL LEE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes. And I think, to go to the Election Day for Nancy Pelosi. She did say that she would be looking to bring more young people, more Midwesterners into leadership. I think this is certainly a shot at her a little bit, and she is going to have to produce some sort of changes.

[16:15:02] Tim Ryan ran -- you know, he had a specific platform of what he was going to do. So, it will be interesting to see not only what she does but also what Chuck Schumer does in the Senate.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: One of the undercover races going on right now -- under covered races is for the Democratic National Committee chairman. Keith Ellison, congressman from Minnesota, who used to be allied with the Nation of Muslim, hasn't really gotten the scrutiny Steve Bannon has gotten for some of the things Bannon has alleged to have said.

And I've seen a lot of conservatives have noted, Mollie, that, you know, that there are a loot strange and unusual affiliations that Ellison has had.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, THE FEDERALIST: Yes. I mean, there's appeal obviously. He's sort of a salt of the earth kind of guy. He has been a good read. He has read the situation that we're in pretty well.

But it's not that she has ancient associations. They're problematic. They're even quite recent. He failed to disclose the trip that was paid for by a Muslim Brotherhood affiliated group to Mecca. On that trip, there were reports he met with a bank that funds terrorists and a cleric who advocates killing U.S. soldiers.

This is exactly the wrong message to send. If the Democrats want to regain and become and national party, they need to understand that this stuff does not play well with the part of the country that they're not representing in Congress right now.

TAPPER: What do you think, Ruth?

RUTH MARCUS, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, and what's the -- I think those are totally legitimate questions. The other question is what's the alternative? And you already saw Senator Schumer lining up behind Congressman Ellison. And so, who -- who else is in there who can bring the Democrats out of this wilderness that they seem to be in after eight years of losing seats in the Obama administration, across the country?

TAPPER: And he did -- Ellison said like a year and a half ago that he thought Trump was going to be the nominee and could even win.

Ruth, Carol, Mollie, thank you so much.

LEE: Thank you.

TAPPER: During the campaign, President-elect Trump promised to crack down on Wall Street, even floating a potential tax on Wall Street. Does he still intend to follow through on that pledge? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:20:44] TAPPER: We're back with more on our politics lead.

Joining us now, communications director for the Trump transition team, Jason Miller.

Jason, good to see you. I don't think you've been on the show since your victory. Congratulations.

JASON MILLER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP TRANSITION TEAM: Thank you, Jake. Appreciate it. And thank you for having me on this afternoon.

TAPPER: So, today, President-elect Trump announced Steve Mnuchin, a banker and hedge fund manager who pursued aggressive foreclosure policies in the wake of the 2008 crash to run the Treasury Department. I want you to take a look at something from your closing ad that your campaign ran right before the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election. For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don't have your good in mind.

It's a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, as I know you know, one of the companies highlighted in the ad is Goldman Sachs. You see Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein shaking hands with Hillary Clinton at the end.

Now, the president-elect is installing a former Goldman banker as his treasury secretary. He's also reportedly considering Goldman president Gary Cohen to run the Office of Management and Budget. I don't need to tell you, he attacked Ted Cruz's wife and Hillary Clinton for ties to Goldman Sachs. What do you say to the critics who say that the appointment of Steve

Mnuchin is putting the same people he accused of robbing the working class in charge of the Treasury Department?

MILLER: Well, what I'd say is that Steve Mnuchin is the perfect pick for Treasury, and let me explain why. Steve Mnuchin was one of the architects and one of the folks who worked tirelessly with the president-elect to put together this tax plan, helping to take this economic populism message to all Americans.

As we talk about lowering the tax code -- lowering tax rates, how do we make sure we free up more money for hard-working Americans? And so, really, Steve was someone who got in there and helped develop this plan. And it's really -- it takes someone like Steve, who understands how the system works, how we can go make it more fair, how can we go and help American workers to get in there and actually change it.

The other thing I'd say, too, is that it's been well over a decade since Steve Mnuchin was with Goldman Sachs. And I would say that Steve is someone who's been a winner at everything that he's done in life. Not only has he been a successful financier, and banker, he has even been a successful movie producer and financer.

This is someone who has really been a success with the economy, and he is someone we think could help get our growth going, because it hasn't been, quite frankly.

TAPPER: And one of the things that he said in the piece that we ran earlier in the show, Steve Mnuchin talked about how he was more focused on being a banker for the last eight years.

As you know, during the confirmation hearings Democrats are going to talk about the 34,000, 35,000 individuals whom his bank foreclosed upon during the housing crisis. How are you going to respond to that?

MILLER: Well, we're going to talk about how we're going to improve the economy for all Americans. And we're going to talk about our tax plan and the vision that we have. We're going to talk about the fact that our economy has seen sluggish growth, the fact that we're only 1.5 percent GDP for the year, what we have to do to get that moving.

Now, I would say, in addition to Steve Mnuchin for the treasury secretary position, we are also talking about Wilbur Ross for commerce secretary. And Mr. Ross is someone who has been -- when you talk about "The Art of the Deal", he is someone who has made some of the best deals, someone who has really helped American manufacturing, someone who's taken companies that were struggling and helped them turn around. And he'll be working hand in hand with the president- elect and with the treasury secretary to make sure we're getting the right type of trade deals that actually help American workers.

So, this tag-team of Steve Mnuchin, Wilbur Ross -- we also announced Todd Ricketts as deputy commerce secretary today, these are some of the folks who will be leading and these folks have been successful across the board. This is part of a broader pattern for the administration, taking people who have been successful whether on the battlefield like with Mike Flynn, or public policy and governing like Vice President-elect Pence or South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and bringing this dream team together.

[16:25:05] TAPPER: But, Jason, I guess the point is Goldman Sachs was cast by your campaign as the bad guy, the people who robbed the middle class, and now you are putting a lot of these same types of people, former Goldman Sachs executive, a turn-around specialist, an investment banker, you are putting them in charge of the economy.

What is your message? Forget spinning or messages or whatever to me. What's your message to a person out there on a street who voted for Mr. Trump thinking, you know, he understands that Goldman Sachs is a bad guy? What's your message to them when you say, hey, what are you doing? You're putting all the same characters -- you're putting, you know, it's a whole -- you're not draining the swamp, you're putting a whole bunch of critters in it?

MILLER: Jake, I couldn't disagree more. What we're going to tell them that the same folks who helped to craft the president-elect's tax plan have taken the message of economic populism, the same people who helped craft the president-elect's trade plan, where we start putting together deals to actually help American workers, the exact same people who helped to put together these plans for the president-elect are the people he is now putting in to implement them.

And so, this is the exact same message President-elect Trump was talking about on the campaign trail and now we're actually going to get it accomplished in Washington.

TAPPER: I want you to listen to Newt Gingrich, one of the president- elect's closest allies throughout the campaign, vice chair of the transition, weighing in on what he feels has been Trump's biggest mistake since winning.

(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. And it undermines much more than just a single tweet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What's your response to Speaker Gingrich?

MILLER: I love Speaker Gingrich and obviously he is free to express his opinion.

I like the fact that President-elect Trump is -- feels free to go and tweet and get his views out there and talk directly to people. I think that's part of the reason why folks have appreciated him. That he is not some poll-tested and blow dried politician from Washington. He tells you exactly what he things. He is not shy about doing it. Now, when we talk about the issue of the recount and, you know, the

nonsense with Jill Stein, I think that's, you know -- if we're going down that road, we should really spend time talking about actual concerns with voting irregularities and things like that.

But again, the real focus for today is coming out and talking about these positive announcements that we made --

TAPPER: Yes.

MILLER: -- for both Treasury and Commerce. Also, this Carrier deal that's coming together. Both the president-elect and the vice president-elect will be in Indianapolis tomorrow. I mean, this is an administration who hasn't even been sworn in yet that's already helping to save over 1,000 jobs.

TAPPER: Yes.

MILLER: And this is positive action that we are seeing from this administration.

TAPPER: We're looking forward to hearing more details about how exactly that Carrier deal came about. Thank you, Jason Miller. We appreciate it.

MILLER: Hey. Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: From Brexit to Trump's win, why Monday can be a key indicator of just how far the wave of nationalistic populism is spreading throughout the globe.

And just in to CNN, the death toll tragically rising in those Tennessee wildfires, as a husband and father clings to hope that his wife and two daughters made it out alive.

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