Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Trump: General Mattis "Closest Thing To Patton"; Democrats Want More Info On Russian Meddling In Election; Dem Senator: Civilian Control Of Military Is Key; Unemployment Drops To 4.6 Percent, Lowest Since 2007. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired December 2, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Whatever you do, don't tell anyone, the retired Marine General James Mattis is the president-elect's pick for defense secretary. It is a secret until Monday. Don't take our word for it. Here's the president-elect himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: We are going to appoint Mad Dog Mattis as our secretary of defense, but we're not announcing it until Monday so don't tell anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: I love that moment. That was Donald Trump just last night at his victory rally in Cincinnati, Ohio.
BERMAN: Clearly what happened in Cincinnati isn't staying in Cincinnati. The president-elect says that Mad Dog Mattis as he calls him is the closest thing we have to old blood and guts Patton. But General Mattis does have at least one serious legal hoop to jump through first.
CNN's Jessica Schneider live outside Trump Tower for us this morning with the latest. Hey, Jessica.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, you know, it is back to business here at Trump Tower today. Back-to-back meetings that will be held here after a Thursday that really felt like a return to the campaign trail. Donald Trump was off and running yesterday.
His first stop at Carrier in Indianapolis, where he touted the saving of at least 1,000 jobs that could have been and will no longer be shipped off to Mexico. From there it was on to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he kicked off his "Thank You Tour" and in that, we saw really a return to Donald Trump of the election season.
It was part teleprompter for Donald Trump, but also he lashed out at the quote, "dishonest media." He also took some jabs at Ohio Governor John Kasich but then acknowledging that Kasich did call him to offer congratulations after his win. Donald Trump touching on a multitude of subjects in that rally in front of hundreds of people. He also returned to some of his campaign promises while also calling for the country to come together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're not going to be divided for long. I have always brought people together. I know you find that hard to believe. We will finally end illegal immigration. Have to. We will construct a great wall at the border. By the way, we are repealing and replacing Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: So Donald Trump also veering off teleprompter to talk about that announcement that nomination of retired Marine General James Mattis. James "Mad Dog" Mattis as Donald Trump referred to him as.
The 66-year-old retired four-star general could, though, as you guys mentioned, face some legal hurdles to actually getting confirmed. There is a law in place that mandates that people out of uniform, be out of uniform for at least seven years before taking up civilian positions as head of the Defense Department.
But the Trump team however saying that they believe that they will easily clear that legal hurdle. The Trump transition team in fact, sources telling us that they filed paperwork on Wednesday night for that congressional waiver.
But at least one Democrat is already speaking out, saying that they will not vote for the waiver. That's New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand. Within minutes of Donald Trump making that surprise announcement out in Cincinnati, she did issue a statement saying that she will not vote for that waiver.
So already facing a bit of resistance from Democrats. But of course, a busy day of meetings here at Trump Tower. Donald Trump will be meeting with Ambassador John Bolton and also in an interesting meeting, he will be meeting with North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp.
Of course, North Dakota, a heavily red state where Donald Trump won big. When we talked to Senator Heitkamp yesterday, she said she was a little in the dark as to what exactly this meeting would be about.
But said she is open to discussing the possibility of joining the Trump administration. Of course, if she were to give up her seat, that would further disadvantage Senate Democrats out there in Congress -- John and Kate.
BOLDUAN: An interesting twist.
BERMAN: An interesting meeting today, to be sure. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it. Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, he is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks for being with us. You have a unique job coming up. For the first time really as a member of the House, you get to vote on a cabinet appointment, a nomination.
It's rare. It's a technicality. You have to grant the waiver so that he can be considered, James Mattis, to be secretary of defense. Do you think it is a concern that he's not been out of the uniform for seven years yet?
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (D), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It is a concern. Frankly, I like the precedent of the House getting to vote on these confirmations. The other precedent is a concerning one, one that I think General Mattis himself ought to address.
I don't think it should be a bar if everything else militates in favor of his selection. There's a lot to like about General Mattis for Democrats and Republicans. I think he has extraordinary service in the military.
I like the fact that even though he was against the Iran agreement, he recognizes it would be folly for the United States now to walk away from that agreement.
[11:05:09]I like the fact that he leveled with the president-elect and said torture would be a mistake and that he's a strong backer of NATO and will push back hard against Russian aggression, something I'm not as confident about both in the president-elect and his national security adviser.
So there's a lot to like about this man who is a real Marine's Marine as well as a great thinker, and I think all that will militate in his favor. I will be more concerned about the statutory issue if it becomes clear that Trump intends to nominate other senior military officers and he's looking at least at two others right now.
Two very capable people, but nonetheless, I would be even more uncomfortable with breaching this statutory restriction if he chooses other generals and admirals for key positions.
BOLDUAN: Putting on the screen right there, Congressman, some of the military officers, high ranking military officers who have been announced and selected and others who are under consideration. Let me ask you, though, when you say you have a concern about this waiver, depending on if Trump puts more say generals in his cabinet, how many generals is too many generals for a cabinet in your view?
SCHIFF: I don't know. I guess it will depend in part on how strong General Mattis' other qualifications are, what he has to say about the issue and how credible he is on the issue of civilian leadership, but also just who it is that he would fill the president-elect, that is, these other positions with.
I think the more militarized his cabinet becomes and these other senior positions become, the graver concern it will be for many Democrats and maybe a few Republicans as well. This is an extraordinary precedent that's only been broken or rule that's only been broken once.
I don't think we ought to do it lightly. I think we ought to consider the whole package of nominees when we make this kind of determination.
BERMAN: You say you think General Mattis should address this himself. What does he need to say to satisfy you?
SCHIFF: Well, if this is a very bright guy who, I think, has a profound understanding of history. He understands just why it is that there's a prohibition on having people recently out of uniform serve as secretary of defense. So I would like to hear him speak to this issue.
I would like to hear how he believes that he can put aside the military component and take a broader view of his role as secretary of defense. It is not alone being the leader of all the military but nonetheless, will have a very important role to play when he advises the president on when the military should not be utilized. So I would like to hear him discuss these issues.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, do you think that you are going to hear from him? Because the way that it seems to work here is that you are going to have to vote on this waiver before the vetting would happen during confirmation hearings and it's not, you know, it's more typical that once someone is nominated, the less they will speak out publicly before they start their confirmation hearings.
SCHIFF: Yes, I think that's probably right. If I were going to design the process I would do it in the reverse order. I would have the Senate hearings take place before there's a vote on the legislation, but that is I think unlikely to be the case.
But nonetheless, I think it would give members like myself some comfort to be able to hear from General Mattis himself about this key issue before House members have to vote. The senators will have the benefit of hearing his confirmation hearing testimony before they have to vote on the confirmation.
BERMAN: Congressman, you know, I'm reading now, Senate Democrats want more information released from the White House regarding the role that the Russians may have played in this election. You sit on the Intelligence Committee. You are privy to information that we are not. Is there any new information that would give you a greater understanding of what the Russians did?
SCHIFF: We continue to get briefed and I was briefed again as recently as yesterday on Russian interference in our political affairs. Russian involvement in hacking our institutions, Russian involvement not just in the United States but around the world and the propagation of fake news.
And I think this information should be shared with the public, to the degree that it can be without revealing sources and methods. I think there's a lot more the administration can say on this score because frankly, I think we need to push back hard against this kind of Russian meddling.
I think we need to go beyond calling them out. I think we ought to work with our partners in Europe to sanction them for this kind of meddling and I think there are other steps that we ought to take to raise the cost to them.
Right now, the Russians consider this a freebie. They consider that they largely accomplished their mission of sowing discord in the United States and maybe even tipping the balance in part in favor of Mr. Trump and against Secretary Clinton.
And unless they pay a price for this kind of interference, we will see a lot more of it. Donald Trump may have been the beneficiary of it during the campaign.
[11:10:03]But if he takes steps perhaps at General Mattis' recommendation to push back against the Russians in places like Ukraine and elsewhere, he is going to be the subject of hacks and dumps and may take a different view of the issue when that comes to pass.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, it's always great to have you. Thanks so much for joining us.
SCHIFF: Thank you very much.
BOLDUAN: All right, let's continue the conversation. Joining us now, our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is here, politics reporter for "The Daily Beast," Betsy Woodruff, and retired four-star general and former NATO supreme allied commander, Wesley Clark. It's great to see you.
Jim, let me get your take. You had a conversation with Adam Schiff yesterday as well. I mean, you know general -- when we were looking at this defense secretary nomination, we know General Mattis' record, but we are also learning more about his positions on some of the more critical issues of the administration, that Donald Trump will face and where there are differences kind of on where he stands, from where Donald Trump stands. What are you learning?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Russia is one of those potentially. General Mattis is forward-leaning on a lot of issues including on Iran. That's something where he and Donald Trump might agree. He sees Iran as the principal threat to stability in the Middle East.
So in terms of the Iran deal, in terms of military options, et cetera, there might be a meeting of the minds there. Different though in terms of Russia as a threat. Mattis is not someone who would back off delivering that message to a President Trump.
You know, it's interesting, Adam Schiff yesterday when I spoke to him, his description, of course, he's a Democrat, and you are seeing this. You are seeing bipartisan support for a Mattis choice.
Schiff's words yesterday were it's nice to see that Donald Trump has picked an adult in the cabinet. They look at him as someone who is a wise man, certainly has the respect of the people inside the Pentagon.
But also I have been hearing that many see him as a counterbalance to General Flynn as national security adviser. As you know, there are reservations even inside the military to some of Flynn's positions and his public comments.
They see Mattis as a much more for lack of a better term, mild or moderate or even level-headed influence and they see that as a nice balance.
BERMAN: General Clark, what about that? Because one of the most complicated relationships in any administration is that between the national security adviser and the defense secretary. You will have two, I don't want to say headstrong, but I will say headstrong former generals in those positions. You know both -- you know, what's that relationship going to be like?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK (RETIRED), U.S. ARMY: Well, I think both men are going to work to make it a good relationship, but I'm very comfortable with the positions that General Mattis has expressed. He's going to have some big issues on his watch there.
I think it's great to have somebody moving into that position, assuming he gets confirmed, moving into that position who has been on the field, who understands what it means to take responsibility. This is the guy who is number two behind the president in the National Command Authority.
He will have responsibility over the United States nuclear program and we will have a big nuclear modernization issue confronting us. We can't deal with Russia or China without looking at our own nuclear posture.
That hasn't come out much in the debates thus far, but I'm very comfortable with General Mattis' position on Russia, Iran, and the nuclear issues. He's got NATO experience. I'm sure he will work and so will Mike Flynn to have a good relationship there.
There will be issues they disagree on. That's normal. But people who have gone up through the military know they have to get along with each other and work, put personality issues aside and focus on the policy.
BOLDUAN: We heard from Adam Schiff there, Betsy, having some concerns about having too many generals, let's say, in Donald Trump's cabinet. With that in mind, Mattis is the one that's nominated, I'm sure General Clark wants to weigh in on that as well, I heard the chuckle.
But Betsy, first to you, on the political side, Betsy, what do you think that means for some of the other generals who are up for consideration? What does that mean if Adam Schiff is coming out saying, you know, don't put too many generals in your cabinet, and you have David Petraeus lingering out there as a consideration for secretary of state or does he have other lingering issues?
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICS REPORTER, "THE DAILY BEAST": It might be a slight complicating factor. There are other issues for Petraeus than the fact that he's a general. That said, I think it's fascinating that Mattis will be the first figure we really talk about this issue of civilian control of the military with, given that he's one of the most thoughtful thinkers on this question.
He recently co-edited a book with another Hoover Institution scholar that actually looked at the civilian military divide, the fact it's probably wider than it's been almost any point in American history.
And in August, he said that the next president needs to focus on treating the military not like they are icons to be idolized or like they are victims we should feel sorry for, but like they are citizens.
And that in many ways, American civilians don't understand the military well because there are so few civilians right now or so many who aren't active duty and so few have military experience.
So it's interesting that Mattis is going to be the person that we talk about this question regarding given that he's so thoughtful on it.
[11:15:06]BERMAN: So General Clark, you probably recused yourself from this question, but you wanted to weigh in on whether or not you can have too many generals in a cabinet. Go ahead.
CLARK: No, I think you have to get good quality people in there. When you get someone like Jim Mattis, it's true, he did spent of his adult life in the military. He's widely read. He's been with academic institutions, talked to a lot of people.
Some people have said he should have been a Republican nominee for the office of president. So he's got a broader vision than the military and I think you have to give credit to these people who have risen to top ranks of the military. They are pretty well educated, dedicated, and capable.
They are not just a man on horseback who will take the country in some strange direction. If you look at the record, it's usually the military themselves at the top who are the least willing to use military force in most circumstances.
BOLDUAN: Jim, I found it interesting to hear from Adam Schiff saying he would like to hear from General Mattis before the House votes to make them more comfortable with this question of the waiver that they would need to approve. Do you think that's going to happen?
SCIUTTO: Well, I think as General Clark said, and Betsy, he's a thinking man's general, right. He's written on this topic. If any general in this position is going to be willing to be asked that question because he sees the function of this.
I mean, keep in mind, historically there's only been one waiver granted in history back in 1950. So 66 years ago, only one time since this rule was imposed in 1947 and there's a reason for that. Why do you break with history here?
It's a fair question to ask. It's what Schiff and others should be asking. I think all of us have to hear Mattis' answers because this is a tradition in America, right, that we have civilian control of the military. You need to know why that concern should be assuaged by Mattis as the nominee.
BERMAN: That's a good point. It's no small thing. This thing literally was written into law when the defense secretary job was created. So you know, the people in Congress will take it seriously even if the Trump transition team is right and they probably are, that there will not be serious hurdles. Guys, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate it.
The campaign is over mostly but the bad blood still boiling. Aides to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton trading insults in an epic maybe unfortunate showdown, blasting each other on everything from mandates to racism. The details ahead.
BOLDUAN: Plus new job numbers out this morning, unemployment rate at its lowest point since 2007. What's behind the numbers? What does it mean for the new administration coming in?
Also ahead, a stunning morning from security officials on the threat from ISIS. Intel sources now say the terror group may be plotting to bring car bombings and chemical weapons attacks to the west. Details on that ahead.
BERMAN: Breaking economic news this morning, really good news, in fact, the unemployment rate down to 4.6 percent. That is the lowest point since August 2007.
BOLDUAN: The economy added 178,000 jobs in the month of November. Chief business correspondent, Christine Romans is taking a very deep look into it. What does it all mean?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN MONEY CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, the lowest unemployment rate since 2007, that's a nine-year low. Let me show you the jobs added here first, though, this is what we are talking about, 178,000 net new jobs. Look at the trend for the year. Look at that revision in September, guys, 208,000, that's strong, consistent jobs growth.
The unemployment rate falling, 4.6 percent. This is a level that most economists consider full employment. This is why you hear some CEOs saying they are having trouble finding workers. There are six million job openings in America and they need more workers to fill them, ironic, right?
Let's talk about the sectors here, business and information services, up 63,000. We have seen consistent jobs gains over the past few months there. Health care, this has been going on for years. Jobs in health care across the spectrum.
Lots of different pay kind of grades, lots of different kinds of jobs in health care. Manufacturing, this is the political story, right? This is why President-elect Donald Trump's message this week about bringing jobs back and keeping factory jobs here, that's why it resonated, 4,000 jobs lost in manufacturing.
You have lost about 54,000 over the past year. So that has been a spot, the factory jobs has been a weak spot here. Let me put it in context because it's not just one economic data point, right? We have had jobless rate of 4.6 percent. That's a really good number.
Auto sales this week nearing record auto sales. Again, that's a strong sign of the economy when people feel confident enough about their financial future to be able to buy a car. Home prices are now back above where they were in 2006. Erasing the entire crash.
GDP earlier this week we found was 3.2 percent so strong GDP. Overall, we have a whole mix of signals this week that show us an economy that's humming along. Ironically, the White House putting out a statement saying this is the longest stretch of job growth in history. It is, but it's a Republican administration that's going to inherit it.
BERMAN: You know, Donald Trump comes into office with economic tail winds. This economy that to a large extent he ran against. I mean, he tried to tap into economic discontent. All those numbers beside you right now are really good numbers.
ROMANS: They are.
BERMAN: The one that wasn't good is the minus 4,000 jobs --
ROMANS: In manufacturing.
BERMAN: In the rust belt, you can sort of see that blue wall crumbling right before your eyes.
ROMANS: And the opposite of the White House statement about the jobs report today was the statement from the Republican National Committee saying very first line saying 300,000 manufacturing jobs lost under this president. Donald Trump has the tools and the ability to get them back.
BOLDUAN: Very interesting stuff. I like seeing plus signs right next to you, though.
ROMANS: I think this means the fed is going to be raising interest rates. So that means borrowing costs are going to rise. Mortgage costs are rising. All of this has cause and effect so things are going to start to get --
BOLDUAN: And then she drops the hammer.
BERMAN: But where is the market today? Do we have a market look? ROMANS: Markets down a little bit and I'll tell you why. It's down because they think the fed will start raising interest rates. It has the ammunition to be able to raise rates quickly if it wants to.
BERMAN: Excellent stuff. All right, Christine Romans, thanks so much.
ROMANS: Have a great weekend, guys.
BOLDUAN: Is it weekend yet?
All right, breaking the day, a potential wrench in the recount. Michigan's attorney general is now fighting to block Jill Stein's recount effort, calling it frivolous and expensive. We have new details ahead.
[11:25:00]BOLDUAN: Plus, aides to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton meet for a conversation, I'm using air quotes right now, about the campaign, part of a post-election conference that's happened for decades. They did not, to say the least, hold hands and sing kumbaya, more like a shouting match. That next.
BOLDUAN: If you thought the discussions at your Thanksgiving table were heated, listen to what happened when top aides from the Trump and Clinton campaigns sat down at a wonderful table themselves, at a traditional post-election forum at Harvard University. Here is just one of the exchanges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER PALMIERI, HILLARY CLINTON'S COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I am proud to have lost. I would rather lose than win the way you guys did.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, DONALD TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: Do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacists had a platform? You're going to look me --