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Trump & Romney Dine in Manhattan; 1,000 Jobs Saved; Trump's "Money" Team; Tennessee Fires Force Mass Evacuations; Colombia Plane Crash: 71 Dead, 6 Survivors; Ex-Cop Testifies At His Murder Trial. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired November 30, 2016 - 04:30   ET



MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had a wonderful evening with Preside-elect Trump.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Mitt Romney's dinner with Donald Trump, afterward heaping plateful of praise for the man he called a fraud just a few months back.

BERMAN: The president-elect delivers on a campaign promise. Details on a deal to keep 1,000 Indiana factory jobs from moving to Mexico.

[04:30:03] ROMANS: The Trump administration's economic team now taking shape. One pick is from Wall Street, the other from Wall Street and Hollywood.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. About 30 minutes after the hour right now.

Breaking overnight, Donald Trump and Mitt Romney breaking bread and maybe breaking barriers that existed between the two Republicans for months. But could there be a breakthrough that will land Romney the secretary of state job. They ate frog legs and talked diplomacy at Jean-Georges restaurant, which is inside the Trump International Hotel.

ROMANS: Nothing says middle class like frogs legs, nothing says working people like Jean-Georges. I'm just saying.

BERMAN: Have you ever had frog legs?

ROMANS: I actually haven't. I think they're like tastes of chicken, I'm told.

BERMAN: It's like chicken.

The restaurant is located inside Trump's International Hotel in Manhattan. The president-elect and the man who tried to derail his campaign, they were joined by the man who will be the chief of staff and now frog legs lever Reince Priebus. Afterwards, Romney struck a decidedly different tone than he did during the election season.


ROMNEY: I had a wonderful meeting with President-elect Trump. We had a discussion about affairs throughout the world. And these discussions I've had with him have been enlightening and interesting and engaging. I enjoyed it very, very much.

I was also very impressed by the remarks he made on his victory night. By the way, it's not easy to win, I know that myself. He did something I tried to do and was unsuccessful in accomplishing. He won the general election and he continues with a message of inclusion and bringing people together, and his vision is something which obviously is connected with the American people in a very powerful way.


BERMAN: That is cat nip for Donald Trump. Mitt Romney talking about winning. That's exactly the kind of language that gets to Donald Trump.

CNN's Jim Acosta asked the president-elect if Romney will be the pick for secretary of state, his answer was, "We're going to see what happens."

ROMANS: And Jim Acosta, what, he got a reservation there?

BERMAN: He got a reservation there at Jean-Georges. It's good reporting. That is just good reporting because he wanted to be nearby when they eat. So, he got his own reservation.

ROMANS: There you go.

BERMAN: I don't know who picked up the bill.

ROMANS: Well, somebody did, because not enough of reporter's salary.

BERMAN: Exactly.

ROMANS: All right. President-elect Donald Trump and manufacturer Carrier striking a deal to keep 1,000 jobs in Indiana. During his campaign, remember Trump blasted Carrier for its plans to close two plans in the state and open a new facility in Mexico.

He tweeted this last night, "I will be going to Indiana Thursday to make a major announcement with Carrier staying in Indianapolis, great deal for workers." Vice President-elect Mike Pence expected to join him for that announcement. Now, terms for this Carrier deal were not released.

There are already, not surprisingly, some critics. CNBC reports that Carrier received new inducements from the state, from the state of Indiana. Translation: money, either in the form of tax breaks or other incentives. Critics say taxpayers in the state could be on the hook.

It's also unclear how many jobs will be saved here. Carrier says close to 1,000 jobs will be save. But 2,200 people work at the factories.

What is clear, this is a huge win for Donald Trump, making good on his promise to stop companies from shipping jobs overseas.

Also here, the big picture, Carrier AC is owned by the big company called United Technology. UTX makes jet engines and other stuff that the government buys in big contracts. So, who knows what was going o behind the scenes saying, look, you get a lot of government contracts, your parent company, why don't you save these 1,000 jobs?

BERMAN: He doesn't have that to give just yet, right, because he's just a president-elect, not the president. But it could be a promise of the future things. But Mike Pence is the governor of Indiana, so maybe they got some tax incentives.

ROMANS: He does have something to give. I just think it shows a lot of companies have suggested we are working with the incoming administration. We're working with the incoming administration. They're terrified about what he could do with trade policy to really, really crimp their bottom lines and end the globalized way of business they do things.

BERMAN: Which says something, if you're one of those 1,000 workers who had their jobs saved right now, you're --

ROMANS: The union folks there have been saying that they hope this is not false promises. They hope this isn't as a result of a PR and that people really don't -- you know, they really want to see this follow through.

BERMAN: We'll wait to see those details.

All right. The president-elect is expected to roll out his team today. A former Goldman Sachs banker, a choice for treasury secretary, and a billionaire known for resurrecting failing companies is the pick for commerce secretary.

Let's get the details or the latest from CNN's Sunlen Serfaty.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Christine.

President-elect Donald Trump is now making some major steps to fill out his cabinet, making a slew of staffing decisions, including four key cabinet posts. Transition sources confirmed to CNN that Trump has chosen billionaire investor Wilbur Ross for commerce secretary and former Goldman Sachs partner Steve Mnuchin for treasury secretary.

[04:35:02] Those announcements are expected formally to come as some point today by Team Trump. The president-elect also announcing on Tuesday, former Labor Secretary

Elaine Chao to now lead the Transportation Department and GOP Congressman Tom Price as his pick for secretary of health and human services.

But it is really this palace intrigue over who will be chosen as secretary of state which continues to take center stage. Trump hosting more of the contenders here in New York on Tuesday. He met with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, and having a more personal second sit-down with Mitt Romney last night. A big dinner meeting at the restaurant Jean-Georges at the Trump International Hotel here in New York City.

A lot of deep divisions within Trump's top aides, still, over who would make the best pick for this job, the most high profile cabinet position of them all -- John and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Sunlen, thank you.

So, let's talk more about his pick for treasury secretary. He's a former partner at Goldman. Steve Mnuchin spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs. And he's off to Hollywood to produce movies. He's got movies in theaters right now. He was also Trump's campaign finance chairman.

Expect him to be grilled during confirmation hearings on failed mortgage lending IndyMac. He bought that company on pennies to the dollar, paid millions in fines due to spotty foreclosure practices and then he sold it for a big profit. So, profiting on the financial crisis and the housing crisis.

BERMAN: He'll also be asked about "Avatar" which he helped fund.

ROMANS: He helped fund "Avatar"?

BERMAN: He helped fund "Avatar", no doubt.

ROMANS: He will not be asked about "Avatar".

BERMAN: Congress is obsessed with "Avatar". They're going to want to know.

ROMANS: He will not be asked about "Avatar".

OK. Let's talk about Wilbur Ross. This is a fellow billionaire to run the Department of Commerce. He's basically the face of American business, the negotiator for American business around the world. He runs his own investing firm. He made a lot of money buying distressed companies and turning them around.

When I say a lot of money, I mean a lot of money. He has deep roots in steel and coal industries. He knows how to pick up the pieces. He knows to borrow money and pick up the pieces of destroyed industries and companies and find value in companies. He represented the bondholder's Trump's casino bankruptcies. He

succeeds sitting Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. She's also a billionaire. Trump's choice for education secretary, Betty DeVos is also a billionaire with billions as well.

BERMAN: Billionaire worth billions is the right kind of billionaire.

ROMANS: That's right.

BERMAN: CNN has learned that retired Marine Corps General John Kelly is emerging as Donald Trump's pick to be secretary of homeland security. A source in the Trump transition team tells our Mark Preston that the president-elect likes Kelly's views on border security. General Kelly is the former head of Florida-based U.S. Southern Command.

If he ends up in the cabinet that would make three retired generals, we think. James Mattis is the leading pick to be secretary of defense, and, of course, Mike Flynn will be the national security adviser. He does not require Senate confirmation.

ROMANS: The president-elect plans to kick off a "thank you" tour on Thursday, starting with a rally in Cincinnati. The tour will focus on key battleground states that propelled Trump to victory. Vice President-elect Mike Pence is expected to join him in Ohio. Team Trump is not revealing which other cities will be included in this tour.

BERMAN: Green Party candidate Jill Stein has paid a $3.5 million fee to clear the way for a recount in Wisconsin beginning tomorrow. A judge there has rejected her demand that all Wisconsin counties do the recount by hand. The judge ruled there's not enough evidence of fraud or abuse.

Dr. Stein is also trying to initiate recounts of Pennsylvania and Michigan. She says she needs to raise another $2.4 million because of the excessive fee charged by Wisconsin election officials.

ROMANS: All right. New details in the possible cause of deadly plane crash in Colombia. Investigators there say there was little fire in the damage in the wreckage. That's why there were a few survivors. Could it be the plane simply ran out of fuel?


[04:42:57] ROMANS: All right. We've got breaking news for you out of Alabama. You can see the pictures just coming into us. A deadly tornado ripping through Jackson County just a few hours ago. This is in the northeastern part of the state.

Three people are dead. There are multiple injuries here. The county coroner's office is telling CNN that crews are on scene right now. They are treating the injured. They're assessing the damage. We're going to bring you more on that story as we get it. But again, just a few hours ago, a deadly tornado in Alabama, three fatalities and injuries. BERMAN: All right. We're just getting these pictures in.

All right. Wildfires fueled by extreme drought and 80-mile-per-hour wind gusts, they are blamed for at least three deaths in Tennessee, but rain is now on the way. Authorities say the fires are, quote, "human caused". The smoke and flames damaged 150 buildings and forced thousands of people in the city of Gatlinburg to evacuate.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, the mayor of Gatlinburg says this was a situation where people were basically running for their lives as they were trying to get out of town, trying to escape the flames.

We talked to one man who escaped with his family on Monday. He said that the smoke and the flames were so intense and so thick, that when he was caravanning out of Gatlinburg with his wife in the lead car ahead of him, he was trailing in the car just behind her. He could not see his car, the smoke is that thick. And he said his 1-year-old daughter was choking in the backseat.

There were harrowing tales like that all over the place here in Gatlinburg. People trying to get out. Some of them did not. As of now, we know at least three people who were killed at different locations in the wildfires. The local fire chief said they don't know if more people might have been killed because they have not been able to get to every affected area.

You've got fire crews back here staging behind me, of the shelter just outside of Gatlinburg. They're getting ready to deploy another fire truck here. A short time ago, we saw a bunch ever them stream out of here with sirens blazing.

You know, this came up on people so very fast that a lot of people did not have time to get out or had very, very little time.

[04:45:00] This was a situation where high winds, some as strong as hurricane force high 80s ands miles per hour, were blowing embers miles from where they picked these embers up and dumping the embers on trees like they were match sticks because this place has experienced a drought since April.

I talked to a National Park Service spokeswoman a short time ago. She said, as of now, there's about 15,000 acres that have been charred. And she says, a very important piece of information she gave us, she said this was human caused.

Now, I pressed her on whether this was arson or not, she would not go there, she said she's not ready to say that. But they do know that this is human caused. And that part of this is under investigation.

Now, into Wednesday, they were expecting some rain to come here, and hopefully, that is going to help douse some of the flames. But with the rain, they're expecting some winds, maybe gusts up to 60 mile an hour. So, the while the rain will help douse some of the flames, the wind may start to fan flames in other areas and making firefighters' lives even more difficult -- John and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Thanks for that, Brian Todd.

A show of unity at Ohio State, one day after a stabbing spree on campus. The university tweeting out this picture. More than 1,000 people gathering to reflect on the attack that left 11 people injured. Authorities confirming the suspect Abdul Artan purchased knives on the morning ever his rampage. He was likely to carry out the stabbings by ISIS and the late Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al Awlaki.

BERMAN: Investigators in Colombia are trying to determine whether a plane that crashed in the mounts of Medellin ran out of fuel. At least 71 people died, including most of the members of a Brazilian soccer club, the club that chartered the flight. Six people survived apparently because of a lack of fire damage in the wreckage.

The tragedy is breaking hearts throughout Brazil.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Shasta Darlington in Medellin.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, Christine, a devastating turn of events for the small soccer from Brazil, Chapecoense, that was on its way to compete in the South America Cup Final for the very first time. Their plane crashed in the mountains here outside of Medellin, 71 people were killed. There were six survivor but they're in critical condition, including two here at this hospital.

In part because it was difficult for rescue workers to reach the site. There was fog, it was dark and it was driving rain. They were eventually able to dig through the wreckage, recover bodies and find the survivors. Three of them soccer team members, two crew and one journalist.

Now, this is an absolute tragedy in Brazil where the president has declared three days of mourning. Hundreds of fans poured into the stadium in Chapeco in southern Brazil, the hometown. Just absolute shock and grief in sharp contrast to the videos we've seen of the team celebrating their recent victory. This was a team that was virtually unknown just a couple years ago. They've climbed their way to the top of Brazil's soccer league.

In Medellin, the investigation continues. Authorities say they found both black boxes. They're in perfect condition. And now the soccer teams and the fans are going to hold a candlelight vigil on Wednesday night where the first game was going to be played.

Back to you.


BERMAN: Such tragedy.

All right. The Obama administration has decided not to send in official delegation to attend Fidel Castro's funeral on Sunday. But the president is sending national security adviser Ben Rhodes and U.S. diplomat Jeff DeLaurentis to represent him. Rhodes has played a key role in normalizing relations with Cuba.

ROMANS: All right. Forty-eight minutes past the hour. I have some good news for you if you're a homeowner.

BERMAN: Really? Frog legs?

ROMANS: It has nothing to do with frog legs. It has to do with home prices. They're now higher than the peak in 2006. In some markets, these price gains are stunning. The entire crash wiped away. I'm going to show you the hottest places to live when you check CNN Money Stream.

BERMAN: Frog legs, and frog legs.


[04:53:23] BERMAN: Former police officer Michael Slager took the stand in his own defense at his murder trial in South Carolina. Slager is charged in the shooting death of Walter Scott following a routine traffic stop last year. The former officer told the jury that Scott grabbed his stun gun and that he feared for his life and he kept on firing until he believed the threat was over.

Let's get more now from CNN's Boris Sanchez in Charleston.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, some very uncomfortable moments in court as Michael Slager took the stand in his own defense. The prosecution grilling him, going frame by frame, in excruciating detail over the now infamous video of his encounter taken by a witness with Walter Scott.

The prosecution asking him all kinds of specific questions, where was he looking at certain parts of the tape? How was he shifting his weight during the encounter? And the question that kept coming up again and again, how could Walter Scott have been a threat to Michael Slager life if he was trying to get away, at a point where he was still unarmed?

Here's a bit of that from the prosecution and Michael Slager.

PROSECUTOR: Would you agree that even if Mr. Scott had that taser, it could not have been used against at a distance depicted on that video?

MICHAEL SLAGER, EX-COP: At that time, I didn't have that information so I can't answer the question.

PROSECUTOR: You've seen the video.

SLAGER: I have.

PROSECUTOR: You've heard that he was 18 feet away. Would you agree he was not a threat to you with that taser without a cartridge from that distance?


PROSECUTOR: OK. So you're going to stick to that?

SLAGER: Yes. And the reason is, from 18 feet, he could have turned around and attacked me again.

[04:55:04] SANCHEZ: The moment after that was also extremely uncomfortable. The prosecution literally handing Michael Slager a tape measure and then walking the 18 feet away that represented the distance between he and Walter Scott when he opened fire. The prosecutor turning around and saying, how could Walter Scott have been a threat from his distance? Of course, Slager's defense was before that witness had started rolling video, Walter Scott had taken his taser and started aiming in his direction.

The prosecution ended their cross examination by asking Michael Slager if he cried that day that Walter Scott was shot.

Both sides wrapping up. We're expecting closing arguments today -- John and Christine.


BERMAN: All right, Boris. Thanks so much.

Decision day for Democrats in the House of Representatives. Members are set to vote on their incoming leadership for the new Congress. Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan is challenging longtime Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Representative Ryan said it's time for new blood and fresh ideas. Leader Pelosi, though, is expected to retain her position as the top Democrat in the House.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN Money Stream.

The stock market could reach for record heights today. Dow futures pointing higher. All three major averages higher Tuesday. NASDAQ hit an intraday high but couldn't hold on to the record.

Stock markets in Europe are rising in the first hour of trading there. Shares in Asia closed with gains overnight. Investors watching oil prices. Crude is jumping this morning. OPEC leaders meeting right now in Vienna. No word yet on a deal to lower production levels.

Home prices in the U.S. have never been higher. The S&P Case Shiller home price index shows a 5.5 percent increase in home values nationwide over the past year. The average price in September is $184,800 beating the level reached at the height of housing boom in July 2006. The hottest metro housing market in the past year is Seattle. Prices

there up 11 percent. Portland, similar gains. Denver and Dallas also posting big jumps there.

Another sign of economic strength, GDP now the strongest in two years. A second reading, on growth from third quarter ticked up 3.2 percent. The initial reading was something like 2.9 percent.

The U.S. has not grown that fast since the third quarter of 2014, boosting the gains, consumers spent more and companies made fatter profits. A reading on consumer confidence also rose, a good sign along with record sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

One interesting note on spending. A new survey finds 68 percent of women say they're primarily responsible for the household spending but just 30 percent of men believe they're responsible for the household spending for the holidays.

Check out the new CNN Money Stream app. That's business news personalized with stories, videos, tweets, topics you all want, men and women, all in one feed, download it now in the App Store and Google Play.

BERMAN: Can I ask you a question about housing? Because that's a big deal. The home prices are now, you know, pre-2007 levels. Whenever they get high now, I think we're all conditioned now to think well, are we talking bubble again? Is there reason to fear?

ROMANS: You know, look, mortgage rates are starting to tick up, right? They're at 4.25 percent right now. So, that cool a little bit of that. You know, first-time home buyers are a big part of the market which I think is also encouraging.

So, there are other statistics not just the home prices that I think are important. Look, if wages are increasing and the job market is getting stronger then that supports those kind of higher prices.

BERMAN: That sort of like a rising tide across the board.

ROMANS: Yes, exactly.

BERMAN: All right. EARLY START continues right now.



ROMNEY: All of those things combined give me increasing hope that President-elect Trump is the very man who can lead us to that better future.


ROMANS: Mitt Romney dining with Donald Trump, embracing the man he tried to derail just a few months ago. Did he do enough to convince the president-elect to pick him as secretary of state. BERMAN: The president-elect announced an agreement with Carrier air

conditioning to keep 1,000 jobs from moving to Mexico. So, what is in this deal a how did he get it done?

ROMANS: And the Trump money team now coming into focus, the president-elect poised to pick a former Goldman Sachs banker and a billionaire to head up treasury and commerce. Two contrarians, two known risk takers.

BERMAN: Two rich guys.

ROMANS: Two very rich guys.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It is Wednesday, November 30th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And the breaking news overnight -- Donald Trump and Mitt Romney, they had a big, big dinner, trying to get past their differences and perhaps talk about the State Department gig. Mitt Romney is said to be if, if it is offered to him by the president-elect. They had frog legs at Jean-Georges restaurant.

ROMANS: Have you eaten frog legs?

BERMAN: I've never eaten frog legs nor have I pronounced Jean-Georges correctly.

Two things that have never happened, now you will remember that Mitt Romney was incredibly critical of Donald Trump during the election campaign, called him a fraud, called him a flimflam man.