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Donald Trump Continues Making Picks for Cabinet; Interview with Senator Tom Cotton; Protesters March in Charlotte after D.A. Elects not to Prosecute Officer who Shot Keith Lamont Scott; Interview with Senator Angus King of Maine. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 1, 2016 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:02] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And so many people now watching who will get the secretary of state and defense nominations.

Let's begin this hour with CNN's Jessica Schneider. She is live outside Trump Tower here in New York. Good morning, Jessica.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. You know those top posts still generating a lot of intrigue for sure. But today the focus is shifting a bit to a victory tour of sorts. Donald Trump will be setting aside those job interviews and those meetings to get back into those crowds who helped him secure an election victory.


SCHNEIDER: President-elect Donald Trump heading back into campaign mode, embarking on a thank you tour in swing state that won him the White House. Trump will hold a rally in Cincinnati tonight after taking a victory lap in Indiana, celebrating a deal with Carrier to keep at least 1,000 manufacturing jobs from moving to Mexico. Carrier offering limited details on terms of the deal, receiving unspecified incentives from the state run by Trump's VP Mike Pence. This as Trump's cabinet continues to take shape, the search for secretary of state narrowed down to these four candidates. Close Trump adviser Newt Gingrich hammering Mitt Romney after his high-profile dinner with Trump Tuesday night.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have never, ever in your career seen a serious adult who's wealth independent, has been a presidential nominee, suck up at the rate that Mitt Romney is sucking up.

SCHNEIDER: Trump also facing blistering criticism from the left over his newly appointed economic team. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren slamming Trump's pick for treasury secretary, former Goldman Sachs executive Steve Mnuchin, who headed a firm that made big money off the 2008 housing crisis.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: He promised when he was running for president that he would break the connection between Wall Street and this congress. And then what does he do? He turns around and picks a guy who had actually been one of the people who helped do all of those lousy mortgages.

SCHNEIDER: The president-elect's team defending the pick.

JASON MILLER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION: It takes someone like Steve who understands how the system works and how can we go make it more fair, how can we go and help American workers to get in there and actually change it.

SCHNEIDER: Capitol Hill also reacting to Trump's announcement with no details as of yet that he will separate himself from his billion- dollar empire.

SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: You've got to be very, very careful in conflicts of interest. Sooner or later this had to happen. And I suspect he's probably not very happy about it, but it's just one of those things that had to be done.

SCHNEIDER: The Office of Government Ethics sending out an unusual series of tweets applauding Trump's pledge and encouraging the president-elect to divest his assets, a commitment that Trump has not yet made.


SCHNEIDER: And while Donald Trump hits the road a little bit later today his transition team telling us that we won't be hearing any more announcements as it pertains to cabinet posts or personnel positions. However, we are learning that a short list has emerged for director of national intelligence. The name on that list includes senior Indiana Senator Dan Coats as well as former homeland security adviser Fran Townsend, as well as Admiral Mike Rogers.

And another name that is surfacing, Sarah Palin. Sources telling us that she has thrown her name out there for secretary of Veterans Affairs, telling Donald Trump that she would like to work with his administration in some capacity over the next four years. Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: These announcements will be very interesting over the next couple of days. Jessica, thank you very much.

Let's discuss all of this with Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton. He serves on the Senate armed services committee and the Senate intelligence committee. He also served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Senator, thanks so much for being here.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Good morning, Alisyn. Good to be on with you.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about president-elect Trump's big announcement yesterday, and that is that he plans to step away from his business enterprise, hand over the reins to what sounds like his children, and he'll be making more of an announcement and more details on that on -- in about two weeks from now. How do you feel about his children taking the reins of enterprise that has business -- businesses and holdings and developments in something like 25 countries around the world? COTTON: Well, president-elect Trump has said throughout the campaign

that if he were elected he would focus 100 percent on the business of the American people, and that's a promise that yesterday he committed to make good on. We've never had a president with the kind of vast business dealings that Donald Trump's had. You know, running a hotel, running a high rise tower is not like owning stock. You can't just divest of it quickly. We're only three weeks away from the election right now. Donald Trump is still working through these details, and I look forward as do most Americans, I'm sure, to hearing more about them in a couple weeks as he said he would announce.

CAMEROTA: Does it cause you any concern, senator, that his children will have the reins? I mean is that the kind of firewall that you would be comfortable with?

COTTON: Well, again, this is a more complicated matter than what we've seen in the past with past presidents or senior officials just simply selling stock or putting stock into a blind trust. You can't really hide a building, or you know, hide who is going into a building.

[08:05:09] But, I trust Donald Trump's word that he's going to put the business of the American people first, and he'll be revealing more about all these details in two weeks and we can all judge them then.

CAMEROTA: You were a vocal critic of Hillary Clinton and of Hillary Clinton's potential entanglements if she were to become president with, say, the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative. How is this different?

COTTON: Well, the Clinton foundation had a fairly well documented record of receiving contributions, or Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton receiving speech fees from people with key interest in front of the federal government. Running a hotel is very different. People stay in Trump hotels all around the world. To include here in the United States, that's not paying someone $750,000 to give a speech in a foreign government when you're trying to influence the State Department.

But again, Donald Trump has made a commitment to focus on the business of the American people. He's going to be revealing more details about exactly what he plans to do with his business organization in a couple weeks. It's a highly complex matter. It's not like selling a share of stock. I just think that we should all wait and hear more of the details in a couple of weeks.

CAMEROTA: There are a couple of signs so far. Are you comfortable for instance with Ivanka Trump, the president-elect's daughter, sitting in on meetings with the prime minister of Japan Abe?

COTTON: Well, the president can surround himself with the advisers he chooses. And it's not uncommon for presidents to lean on the advice members. Obviously Hillary Clinton was very influential adviser to Bill Clinton during his tenure in office.

So I'm confident, though, that Donald Trump is going to be the man in charge of his administration. So I know everybody is very excited about all the cabinet picks and the rumors about cabinet picks and who's in on what meetings, but ultimately the American people elected Donald Trump. And whoever Donald Trump has in his cabinet or is advising him or sitting in on meetings, Donald Trump is going to be the one making decisions for the American people.

CAMEROTA: And just so I'm clear, you would have been -- you would have felt the same way if it were Chelsea Clinton sitting in on meetings with Hillary Clinton and a world leader?

COTTON: Well, Alisyn, I'm not going to go into hypotheticals about what would have happened had Hillary Clinton --

CAMEROTA: Well, you know how you would have felt, right? I mean how would you have felt? That's not a hypothetical.

COTTON: It actually is a hypothetical, Alisyn. But, again, there's a difference between the Clinton Foundation, which was purported to be a charitable organization that was receiving massive contributions from people who had dealings with the State Department when Hillary Clinton had signed the exact kind of memorandum of understanding at the beginning of her tenure at the State Department, and then violated that memorandum of understanding. I think we should give Donald Trump at least a chance to announce exactly what he's going to do with his business organization before we start jumping to conclusions about the effectiveness of that decision.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the final four, at least as far as we know it publicly who are under consideration for secretary of state. Are you in the Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani camp? Or for instance General Petraeus? Or Senator Corker? Who would you vote for of these four?

COTTON: Well, Alisyn, I'm in the America camp, and I support Donald Trump making the decision that he needs to make for himself and for the American people on his own time.

Look, I know all four of these gentlemen. They've all accomplished a lot for our country. Ultimately, though, what matters is Donald Trump. He's the people -- he's the person the American people elected. His secretary of state just like every other member of his cabinet and his White House staff is going to be implementing Donald Trump's policies. So I think we should just give him the time that he needs to make the right decision for himself and for the American people. He's actually far ahead of historical precedent in announcing his cabinet.


COTTON: And we still have 50 days until the inauguration.

CAMEROTA: Oh, yes he's definitely far ahead. Are you being vetted for secretary of defense?

COTTON: Alisyn, again, on that position like every other position, we should give Donald Trump the time he needs to make these decisions. I've consulted with Donald Trump throughout the campaign and since then, but I'm happy serving the people of Arkansas in the Senate, and I'm looking forward to working for them and for working for our country to help make it great again, as Donald Trump has said so many times.

CAMEROTA: Not a no.


CAMEROTA: I can have a staring contest all day, senator.

COTTON: Alisyn, we've got a baby coming in just a few days in my family. So that's taking most of my focus right now. I'm very happy to be welcoming a Christmas baby into the Cotton family and very happy to be serving the people of Arkansas in the Senate. And I think we should all just give Donald Trump the time and space he needs to make these decisions that he this that he needs to round out his cabinet and help do the job that he promised the American people.

CAMEROTA: That is thrilling. Congratulations on the impending baby arrival and we'll look forward to seeing photos.

[08:10:01] COTTON: Thank you, Alisyn. Hopefully he'll take after his mother in appearances.


CAMEROTA: Thanks, senator. Thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.

COTTON: Bye-bye.


BERMAN: Protesters taking to streets demanding answers in Charlotte over the district attorney's decision not to charge the police officer who shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott. CNN's Nick Valencia is live in Charlotte for us this morning with more. Good morning, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. This is a decision that the Scott family dreaded but a decision that many in this community anticipated. The Scott family says that they are still processing the news and will continue to pursue justice for Keith Lamont Scott.


VALENCIA: Protesters taking to the streets of Charlotte, some clashing with police during demonstrations that remained mostly peaceful. Authorities confirming that four arrests were made. The protests in response to a district attorney's decision not to charge Officer Brentley Vinson in the September shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.

ANDREW MURRAY, MECKLENBURG COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It's a justified shooting based on the totality of the circumstances.

VALENCIA: The D.A. confirming that Scott did have a loaded weapon in his hand.

MURRAY: Mr. Scott's gun, a Colt 380 semiautomatic, was recovered at the scene. It had one round in the chamber. The safety was off and the gun was cocked.

VALENCIA: This contradicts what Scott's says happened, that he was holding a book inside the car, a claim now proven untrue.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't have a gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief, chief, don't you do it!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you shoot him?

VALENCIA: Scott's wife also heard on video telling officers that her husband has a traumatic brain injury after police confronted him while searching for another person wanted on an outstanding warrant.

MURRAY: When officers come he draws the gun. He doesn't keep it in its holster. He doesn't put it on the floor. He draws the gun. He's told numerous times to drop the gun. He then gets out and doesn't turn to run away from officers. He turns towards them.

VALENCIA: Scott's family attorney reacting to the D.A.'s decision.

CHARLES MONNETT, SCOTT FAMILY ATTORNEY: We still have real questions about the decisions that were made that day in terms of how they confronted Keith.

VALENCIA: The shooting and this video of Keith's daughter that went viral shortly after his death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The police just shot my daddy four times for being black.

VALENCIA: Set off several days of violent protests that destroyed several downtown businesses, a stark contrast to last night. Protesters peacefully demanding answers. Police on the streets meeting and talking with those marching, hoping to build trust in the community.


VALENCIA: The district attorney went into great detail yesterday to show that Scott was armed at the time of the shooting. They played surveillance video just minutes before the shooting. Scott was at a convenience store and showed that he had an ankle holster. Finally yesterday, Scott's family attorney acknowledged that he did have a weapon but said it is still not clear or distinctive in any of the videos shown that it was in his hand at the time of the fatal shooting. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, Nick, thank you for all of that. We do have some breaking news now. We're just learning that deputies

say that the suspect who killed a Tacoma, Washington, police officer overnight is dead. That suspect had barricaded himself in a home, and then during the standoff used an eight-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl as shields before police shot and killed him. Those children are safe at this hour. The officer killed was 45 years old and had served for 17 years.

BERMAN: Lawmakers in the house passed a multibillion dollar health innovation bill to strengthen mental health services. The bill include research funds for the fight against Alzheimer's, cancer, traumatic brain injury, and opioid addiction. House Speaker Paul Ryan calls this a game changer. This measure, again, which is bipartisan and welcome, now heads to the Senate.

CAMEROTA: So here's big update on a story that we've been following for you. A deal has been reached for the Defense Department to stop trying to recoup about $20 million in those re-enlistment bonuses that were erroneously paid out to thousands of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only soldiers who knew they were ineligible will have to repay them, and the burden of tracking down those soldiers falls to the government. The deal is part of a larger defense bill that is due to be voted on in the coming days.

BERMAN: All right, most of Donald Trump's cabinet picks do have something in money, lots of it. So what does this say about his administration's plans? We're going to get perspective from an independent senator. Stay with us.


[08:18:09] BERMAN: President-elect Donald Trump has picked his economic team and it includes a lot of Wall Street veterans. So, is he getting too cozy with Wall Street? This after being very, very critical of Hillary Clinton for her coziness with Goldman Sachs and the like during the campaign.

Joining us now is Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine. He is on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on Armed Services.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: John, good to be with you.

BERMAN: So, I've heard you talk about the confirmation process in the past and you are generally of the mind that an executive should get to surround him or herself with the choices that he or she makes. So you're generally supportive of the idea of him getting to make his picks.

But let's talk about the finance team right now. Steve Mnuchin, the pick to be treasury secretary, worked at Goldman Sachs. You know I'm old enough to remember when Donald Trump was very critical of Hillary Clinton's close relationship with Wall Street and Goldman Sachs during the campaign. Is that a reason of concern for you? KING: Well, I don't know if it rises to the level of concern as far

as confirmation is concerned. I'm going to wait until the hearings and see what the testimony is. What the background is.

But it does strike me as an odd way of draining the swamp to bring in a new alligator from Wall Street. I, you know, I was critical of Barack Obama, frankly, eight years ago because of the connections to Wall Street, in the top of his economic team. I think -- I think you need somebody with financial and fiscal experience but also some experience with Main Street and with ordinary Americans and with businesses, not at the height of the financial center in Wall Street.

So, like I say, I'm going to listen to the testimony, I'm not reflexively opposed to Mr. Mnuchin but I do think there's an irony here of bringing in someone with a history with Goldman Sachs into the top of economic policy, as you say, particularly because of all the criticism of Secretary Clinton.

[08:20:10] But I think there's a larger issue here of who should be in charge of the American economy and I would rather see somebody with broader experience on Main Street than Wall Street.

BERMAN: Well, I'm not sure what that means. And I've heard the line, the alligator in the swamp line. You're not a Democrat. I have heard it from a lot of Democrats though the last week.

KING: I thought it was my line. I thought I made it up. I think they stole it from me.

BERMAN: You said it differently with different inflection. But I have heard it before this week.

You know, are you suggesting that you bring in someone with no finance experience? Didn't Hank Paulson who worked at Goldman Sachs help save the entire financial system?

KING: No, I'm not saying that at all. And I think I said that in my statement that you need financial and fiscal experience, but does that necessarily mean you have to have been at Goldman Sachs or -- the pinnacle of one of the Wall Street institutions --

BERMAN: It means you're doing your job though --


KING: -- let's look at. Let's look for other experience out in the country --

BERMAN: How about Wilbur Ross?

KING: I'm sorry?

BERMAN: Wilbur Ross, secretary of commerce, who's got a lot of experience you know buying and selling companies. Does he have the kind of experience you like? KING: Well, I think commerce is an entirely different position.

That's where you're representing the country working on trade and those kinds of things, and you know, that has often been someone of some wealth and experience in those things. I'm not -- I think that -- secretary of the treasury I think is very, very qualitatively different than secretary of commerce in terms of their influence over economic policy.

BERMAN: It's a good point. It's an important point. So, I appreciate that. We do understand that President-elect Trump did get a classified intelligence briefing, one of the briefings he's privy to. We believe that is the third time since his election he has received such briefings. He hasn't done it every day like the vice president-elect has.

What's your take on the information we know that he's getting at this point? Do you believe it's enough? And specifically about Russia, do you think that either the president-elect or the current president of the United States are taking seriously enough the reports and the various intelligence sites out there about what role Russia may have had or what influence they may have tried to insert in the U.S. election?

KING: Well, John, I think the story of Russia's involvement in this election is the biggest story of the decade, frankly, and I think it's going to only grow. Not from a partisan point of view. The election's over. The results are in. President-elect Trump is going to take office on January 20th.

What worries me is the pattern of Russian involvement. I happened to be in Eastern Europe last spring with a group from the intelligence committee in the Ukraine and Poland, the officials there took us aside, and warned us of this. They said this is what Russia does. They mess around with your elections. They put in fake information. They hack into your systems, and they're trying to sow discord and influence elections.

And we talked about it. We understood it. We didn't think it was going to happen here. It has happened here. The director of national intelligence on October 7th issued an extraordinary press release, one of the first I've ever seen as a member of the intelligence committee, that was so straightforward that said the intelligence community with confidence believes that Russia hack, into our political system.

Regardless of whose said they were on or whether they were on anybody's side, this is really dangerous, it's an ongoing problem, and I think it's something we're going to have to really, really dig into --

BERMAN: So what do you do about it? You seem -- obviously you're incensed that it happened but you say, you know, bygones are bygones or you know Donald Trump was elected. But so, what if they did it? What do you do about it now?

KING: Well, I think what we do about it now is get to the bottom of it, find out exactly what went on. But I think it's important $ that this not come across as a partisan, you know, Democrats trying to discredit the election. I think -- I think, you know, the election is over. But that doesn't mean we can't learn from what happened, understand what happened and figure out how to prevent it in the future, because this isn't the only time. I'm worried about elections two years from now or four years from now because this is their pattern and has been for some time in Europe and particularly in Eastern Europe and it's -- this is a huge issue that I think we rely have to confront in a serious way and use what happened this past fall as an abject lessen to guide our future decisions.

BERMAN: Senator Angus King of Maine, thanks so much. Really appreciate your insight on that and many other issues as well.


CAMEROTA: OK, John. A family tragedy in the Tennessee wildfires. A beloved grandmother has been killed by the fire. Her family is with us next on what happened.


[08:28:41] CAMEROTA: At least seven people have lost their lives in these raging wildfires in eastern Tennessee, which officials believe are human caused. One of the people who died was Alice Hagler (ph). She's a grandmother who was last heard from on Monday.

Alice' son Lyle Wood and her daughter-in-law Rachel join us now.

Lyle and Rachel, gosh, we're so, so sorry for your loss.



L. WOOD: We appreciate that. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Rachel, I know that you spoke to your mother-in-law, Alice, on Monday night, as the flames were getting too close. What did she tell you?

R. WOOD: Well, I actually spoke to her a little bit before the fire actually got to her. When I spoke to her, she was unsettled, a she was scared. She said she felt like her house was going to blow down because of the winds, and she said there was ash in the air. But we had recently gone to North Carolina for vacation, and we had experienced similar conditions from the winds changing from the North Carolina fire.

So, I believe that Alice felt that she was okay, and she was just experiencing some strong winds, and I don't believe she knew at all that the fire was that close.

CAMEROTA: Lyle, I know that your mom also had a brief conversation with your brother James, where she also expressed her anxiety about this. Do you know what she told him?