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Trump & Romney Dine; 1,000 Jobs Saved; Trump's "Money" Team; Deadly Tornado in Alabama; Tennessee Fires Force Mass Evacuations; Israeli Parliament Voting on Outposts. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 30, 2016 - 05:00   ET



MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: 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?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

[05:00:06] You can see the man who will be Donald Trump's White House chief of staff Reince Priebus as well.

After the dinner, Mitt Romney went to the microphones and struck a decidedly than he did during the campaign.


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: Calling Donald Trump a winner is the highest form of praise in Trump world. I do not think it's an accident that Mitt Romney chose that language.

Now, CNN's Jim Acosta who got a reservation for himself at Jean- Georges, just so he could do reporting on this dinner, he asked President-elect Trump if Romney will be the pick for secretary of state, and the president-elect's answer was, "We're going to see what happens."

ROMANS: All right. President-elect Trump and the manufacturer Carrier in Indianapolis striking a deal to keep 1,000 jobs in Indiana. During his campaign, Trump blasted Carrier's plans to close two plants in the state and open a new facility in Mexico where you can make these air conditioners and furnaces cheaper.

He tweeted last night, "I will be going to Indiana on Thursday to make a major announcement concerning Carrier A.C. staying in Indianapolis. Great deal for workers." Vice President-elect Mike Pence expected to join for that announcement.

Now, terms of the Carrier were not released. But there were already some questions and critics. CNBC reports that Carrier received new inducements from the state of Indiana, translation, money, either in the form of tax breaks or other incentives. Critics say taxpayers in the state then could be on the hook.

It's also unclear how many jobs will be lost. Carrier says close to 1,000 will be saved, but 2,100 people work at its two factories in the area. So, does that mean some are moving? What is clear, this was a negotiation. This is a big win for Donald

Trump. He's making good on his promise to stop companies from shipping jobs overseas.

Another layer of this I think is so interesting is Carrier makes air conditioners and furnaces. It's owned by United Technology, which also has a company that makes jet engines and has a huge revenue from government contracts. So, what kind of pressure, or at least implicit threat, when you think about it, if you're Carrier, you don't want to enrage this administration if they've been so clear that they're going to stop --

BERMAN: Look, I'm fascinated to find out what is in the deal. The details matter. Like you said, it's a win for Donald Trump who said he was going to do this and to an extent has done it. And also a win for the 1,000 workers who will likely not lose their jobs right now. So, you can't forget them either.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BERMAN: All right. Rain on the way in Tennessee and that is a welcome development. Wildfires there fueled by extreme drought. An 80-mile-per-hour wind gusts are blamed for at least three deaths. Authorities say the fires are, quote, "human caused". The smoke and flames damaged about 150 homes and buildings and forced thousands of people in the city of Gatlinburg to evacuate.

We want to get the very latest from CNN's Brian Todd.

ROMANS: All right. As you can see, it's just been really devastating there. You have Dollywood and other places closed. Folks in Gatlinburg can't get home. We'll watch very closely there and bring you some more pictures and developments. And we'll see if we can get Brian Todd back.

OK. In the meantime, let's talk about the back ground on Trump's economic picks expected to be announced today. Steve Mnuchin spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs and then he was off to Hollywood to produce movies. John Berman tells me he was financier for "Avatar."

BERMAN: "Avatar".

ROMANS: He was also Trump's campaign finance chairman.

Expect him to be grilled during confirmation hearings on the purchase, his purchase of failed mortgage lender IndyMac. He bought the company for pennies on the dollar. Paid millions of fines due to spotty foreclosure practices, and then sold it for a big profit.

BERMAN: Also, the "X-Men."

ROMANS: He was a founder of that, too?

BERMAN: One of the founders of "X-Men."

ROMANS: There you go. Trump is tapping a fellow billionaire, longtime friend and colleague to run the Department of Commerce. Wilbur Ross runs his own investing firm WL Ross and Associates. He made huge profits by just buying distress companies and turning them around, deep roots in steel and coal industries. He represented the bond holders in Trump's casino bankruptcies. He succeeds sitting Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, also a billionaire.

Trump's choice for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, also a billionaire.

BERMAN: All right. CNN has learned that retired Marine Corps General John Kelly is emerging as Donald Trump's top 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.

[05:05:00] Now, if he ends up being confirmed, nominated and confirmed, he would join James Mattis, if he in fact is nominated and confirmed, who will be secretary of defense. And former General Mike Flynn, that will make three generals inside the inner circle for Donald Trump.

ROMANS: Three generals and three billionaires, billionaires and generals is the theme I'm seeing so far.

BERMAN: For real.

ROMANS: Yes, let's go live to Washington to bring in CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan.

Let's talk about these picks. You know, I'll get to the secretary of state in a minute. But you got Elaine Chao has tapped as transportation secretary which I think is a play on getting an infrastructure built. He's also running the Labor Department. I think the longest serving labor secretary during the Bush administration.

We also know -- we now have a money team. Contrarians, both of them, risk takers, both of them.

What do you see shaping up here?

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, and let's not forget that Elaine Chao is also the wife of Senator Mitch McConnell who is in charge of the Republican Senate that would be working on any plans that Donald Trump wants to push through that is not lost on Washington. Look, Donald Trump is sort of turning to power brokers, you mention, billionaires, generals.

He's also turning to some Republicans names. They're very well-known around town. You mentioned Elaine Chao. There are others as well that he has turned to already. Jeff Sessions, Tom Price, Mike Pompeo, all come from Congress. You know, they're sitting members of Congress. So, he's looking to people who can really pull the levers of Washington. You also have Reince Priebus who is the chairman of the RNC, one of the longest serving ever. Very well-known around town. Very well-connected.

So, in some way critics are saying, oh, so much for draining the swamp. He's turning to folks in D.C. But he's also sending the message that he clearly wants to get things done and he's picking the people that maybe able to do that.

BERMAN: Pull the levers in Washington, maybe buy the levers the Washington, with all the billionaires. But billionaires are people who have done big things in the fields in which they've been nominated.

Let's talk about Mitt Romney now, because this was a fascinating dinner with some fascinating comments after last night in Jean- Georges.

Let's play a little bit more of the sound that Mitt Romney talked about after this meal.


ROMNEY: I happen to think that America's best days are ahead of us: I think you're going to see America continuing to lead the world in this century. And what I've seen through these discussions I've had with President-elect Trump, as well as what I've seen in his speech at the night of his victory, as well as the people he selected as part of his transition, 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. Thank you.


BERMAN: The very man lead us to that better future. He called Donald Trump a winner. Now, Mitt Romney didn't apologize, but that's a gushing praise from the former Republican nominee.

KOPAN: Yes, in some ways we're seeing sort of a delayed version of what everyone typically expects in the general election. But, you know, Republicans are realizing they control Washington. They've got the presidency, they've got the Senate, they've got the House. And they all sort of want different things. And Republicans are a very diverse group.

And if you actually talk to a bunch of different elements of that party. There may be fights coming ahead. They do not all see the same policy agenda moving forward with Republican control in Washington. But Mitt Romney is now getting in line, as many others are.

You know, I'm hearing a lot of folks saying, oh, actually, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump's policies are pretty similar when you drill into them. So, there's definitely a message that despite some of the very intense rhetoric that we heard from Mitt Romney on the trail that these two men, the story goes are going to let bygones be bygones. They get along well. Some sources have told our Dana Bash this dinner went great.

So, right now, the message is definitely, we're coming together, we're all in the same page, we're going to govern as one party. And we'll see how long that sticks.

ROMANS: Everyone loves America more than they dislike the language of the last few months I guess is show that goes.

KOPAN: Absolutely.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much, Tal. We'll talk to you in a few minutes. I'm going to ask you a couple of question about Carrier in a couple of minute. How big of a win that is for Donald Trump.

BERMAN: And everyone likes frog legs too.

ROMANS: Yes, frog legs. Ahh.

BERMAN: All right. We're following breaking news out of Alabama. Destructive storms overnight.

ROMANS: Also, deadly wildfires in Tennessee. Much needed rain. Will it bring an end to that crisis?


[05:13:51] BERMAN: All right. We have breaking news out of Alabama. A deadly tornado ripped through Jackson County. This happened just a few hours ago. We've just learned that three people are dead.

There are multiple injuries. That tornado is part of a series of strong storms that tore through the northern part of Alabama overnight. Damaging or destroying homes and businesses. Some of this video, we're just getting our first look at. We'll continue to monitor the situation and bring you developments as the sun comes up.

ROMANS: All right. We wish them the best as they begin to pick through that wreckage.

Welcome news in Tennessee this morning, rain is on the way. Wildfires fueled by extreme drought conditions and 80-mile-per-hour winds blamed for at least three deaths. Authorities say the fires are, quote, "human caused". The smoke and flames damaging some 150 homes and buildings, forcing thousands in the city of Gatlinburg to evacuate.

The latest this morning 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.

[05:15:08] 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.

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.


BERMAN: All right. Brian Todd, thanks so much.

Israel's top legislative body is now discussing legalizing outposts in the West Bank. This comes week before one key settlement is supposed to be evacuated.

CNN's Ian Lee live for us in Jerusalem.

What are the arguments so far, Ian, on this very thorny subject? IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John.

This bill would legalize 55 outposts in the occupied West Bank. Now, the international community from the very beginning has viewed settlements and outposts as illegal. But what the government is trying to do is legalize it within the Israeli law.

And this is quite controversial and has international ramifications. The Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned if this bill goes through then a resolution could be brought up at the U.N. Security Council settlements. Now, in the past, U.S. President Barack Obama has deflected that -- has protected Israel from any sort of solution.

But in this lame duck session, there's fear that within the Israeli government that he might let a resolution go through, especially because he has pushed for a two-state solution. And this bill would make it far more difficult for a two-state solution. There's also concern that Israeli leaders could be brought in front of the International Criminal Court if this bill were to go through.

But this also creates a crisis within the really government. This bill circumstance come centers the Israeli which ordered that the Amona outpost in the West Bank be demolished by December 5th. Then if this bill is passed, then that brings up the question who has the last say, the Israel high court or their parliament, the Knesset?

BERMAN: All right. Ian Lee for us in Jerusalem, keep us apprise of the developments there. Thanks, Ian.

ROMANS: All right. The college football playoff picture coming into focus. Michigan sliding out of the top four.

BERMAN: Robbed. Robbed.

ROMANS: But who moves in to replace them? Coy Wire with this morning's "Bleacher Report".


[05:23:30] BERMAN: All right. After the outrage, the gross injustice perpetrated on them over the weekend. Michigan out of the playoff picture in college football.

ROMANS: Coy Wire has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Coy, set us straight.


Lest we remind John Berman that Michigan lost to Iowa earlier in the season. But, hey, let's talk about this. We can debate until we're blue in the face who should be in that coveted top four. That's part of the fun, right, John?

After their double overtime loss to Ohio State, Michigan currently out of the playoff, knocked down to number five. Undefeated 'Bama still hold that top spot. Ohio State stays at number two. Clemson still in the third spot. But look at the pack's 12 representation, the Washington Huskies now at number four. Question is, can they stay there after conference championship games this weekend? They do play number 8 Colorado.

Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State also still have a chance of getting in that top four. The final rankings will be released Sunday at noon.

Let's check out the NBA, the Nets hosting the Clippers. The Clippers playing some solid D. Look at this, thievery. The steal. And the 39-year-old Paul Pierce misses the dunk and gets dominated by the rim. Before his teammate Chris Paul runs over to give him CPR on the 18- year veteran.

Some good laughs there. Fortunately, only Pierce's pride was injured on the play.

But overtime, check this out, Clippers coach Doc Rivers arguing a foul call, gets not one, but two technical fouls for this outburst. He looks like somebody need a sneakers. Rivers ejected from the game. And his Clippers ejected by Nets. Brooklyn wins in Double overtime, 127-122.

[05:25:01] Let's check out Cavs and Bucks. Matthew Dellavedova finds Tony Snow, for an easy bucket. But check this out, J.R. Smith, he quit playing defense to say hi to a Bucks player. Jason Terry on the bench. Never saw that before. It definitely didn't help his team. The Cavs were upset by the Bucks, 118-101.

Now, we all no especially Mr. Berman that Tom Brady is one of the best passers of all time but his blocking skills, feeble, feeble at best. But Brady is the first one to say so. Check out this video he posted making fun of his fierce blocking.


WIRE: John Berman, your comments on this, I know Brady's life is flashing by his eyes.

BERMAN: I think protecting the franchise and that pretty face is of paramount importance. If you miss a block here and there, you know, it's okay.

WIRE: Hey, I'm not mad. But ultimately sign of respect, no Jets players tried to haul off on him. They didn't touch him. And to me, that's saying a lot.

ROMANS: You will never say anything bad about Tom Brady, will you?

BERMAN: There's nothing bad to say about Tom Brady.

ROMANS: A Brady apologist over here. Oh my God.

WIRE: He's so good looking, Christine. He's so beautiful.

ROMANS: I will agree with you. But there are more in life than good looks.

Thanks, guys. Nice to see you, Coy.

WIRE: You, too.

BERMAN: Donald Trump and Mitt Romney speaking of good looks, breaking bread. Romney had dinner with the president-elect. Did he convince him that he's the right person to be secretary of state? That's next on EARLY START.