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Death Toll Rises to 33 in Oakland Warehouse Fire; Trump Takes Aim at China in New Tweets; Police: Fake News Story Triggers Armed Confrontation. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired December 5, 2016 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just all this black smoke. I couldn't breathe.

[05:58:21] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the most deadly fire in Oakland's history.

ANNEKA HIATT, FRIENDS MISSING AFTER FIRE: The reality, I think, for all of us is beginning to set in.

BOB MULE, WAREHOUSE FIRE SURVIVOR: The fire was just getting too hot. The smoke was just getting too bad, and I wasn't able to get him out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there was an expressway to cause a diplomatic uproar with China, this would be the way to do it.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE-PRESIDENT-ELECT: This was a moment of courtesy, not a discussion about policy.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISOR: The secretary of state is an incredibly important position to fill. That's his understanding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is his right to make false statements?

PENCE: It's his right to express his opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did a fake news story trigger a real-life confrontation?


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, December 5, 6 a.m. in the east. Right now, at least 33 people have lost their lives but dozens are still missing in that massive warehouse party fire in Oakland, California. We have to expect this already high number to increase. Only 30 percent of that massive building has been searched.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Criminal investigators are searching the scene for the cause of the fire; and family and friends of those still missing are enduring an agonizing wait for answers. This is the deadliest building fire in the U.S. in more than a decade. CNN's Stephanie Elam is live at the scene in Oakland with the very

latest. How is it going there, Stephanie?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is painstakingly slow work here, Alisyn, as they are trying to get further inside the building. They say they've dissected the building into four different quadrants, and they found victims in all four of those sections.


ELAM (voice-over): Officials launching a criminal investigation team and an arson task force to inspect the deadly fire that engulfed this Oakland warehouse hosting a party over the weekend.

HIATT: It just doesn't seem that that's a fire that's survivable. So the reality, I think, for all of us is beginning to set in.

ELAM: Of the confirmed dead, a teenager and an Oakland deputy son.

SGT. RAY KELLY, ALAMEDA COUNTY SHERIFF: This tragedy has hit very close to home.

ELAM: But with less than half of the two-story warehouse searched, authorities fear the worse.

KELLY: The number of victims will rise.

ELAM: Officials say firefighters with shovels are methodically removing debris bucket by bucket.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our first priority is the humane and compassionate removal of the victims of this tragedy.

ELAM: The warehouse, known as "The Ghost Ship" was an illegal residence, home to some artists, now currently under investigation for city code violations, for hazardous trash and debris, and an illegal interior building structure.

Friday night's electronic dance party, one of many held in the space, operating without a permit when the building quickly erupted in flames.

MULE: He said, "I broke my ankle. I need you to pull me out."

ELAM: One survivor, an artist who used the space, describes the horrifying moment he had to leave his friend behind.

MULE: I wasn't able to pull him out, and the fire was just getting too hot and the smoke was just getting too bad; and I had to -- I had to leave him there.


ELAM: And officials are saying some of the victims are easily identifiable if they had their I.D. on them. Fingerprints, dental records, but others, they're not easy to identify, so they're asking family members to hold onto something that may have had their DNA like a toothbrush or a hairbrush and set it aside in a clear paper bag so that they can have it.

Right now, they know eight of the people have been identified, and we can actually show you who two of the young people were that lost their lives. We know Donna Kellogg, who was 32 years old, died in the fire, as did Travis Hough. He was 35 from Oakland. But very slow going identifying people even though that they know 33 people lost their lives. It just shows you how hot this fire was and how deadly, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. What a gut-wrenching scene there, Stephanie. We'll check back with you through the program.

So of course, we will have more on the story, including live interviews with the survivor and a friend of six people who are still missing this morning.

CUOMO: All right. Let's turn to politics now.

We are seeing a familiar pattern that has taken on a much more troubling context. The president-elect reached out and had a communication with Taiwan. This was very controversial; you know this. Then China responded.

Now upon hearing that China was less than positive on this, Donald Trump has done what he has done most effectively in this campaign. He has doubled down and now has a series of tweets going after China and what China's actions have been. Not only is this a breach of diplomatic protocol, but raises big questions about how the president- elect will deal with international disputes.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is live outside Trump Tower in New York with more -- Jessica.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Chris, we were told this would be a quiet weekend for the president-elect, but if you count Twitter, it was anything but.

Donald Trump unleashed on Saturday night, first talking about "Saturday Night Live" but then turning more serious, laying down the law on companies that might be moving overseas and also, of course, the mentions of China to which the foreign ministry of China actually responded overnight, saying that they would not speculate on Donald Trump's tweets but then stressing that the relationship between the U.S. and China can only be maintained with "strong principles."


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The president-elect lashing out at China, only two days after his unprecedented phone call with the leader of Taiwan, Donald Trump accusing China of keeping its currency artificially low. Monetary experts say it's fairly valued. And decrying their military presence in the South China Sea. Trump stepping up some of the tough talk from the campaign trail. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: They've taken

our money and our jobs, our manufacturing. But they've taken everything.

China is responsible for nearly half of our entire trade deficit.

SCHNEIDER: But the timing of his tweets indicate those campaign promises could potentially become policy. Over the weekend, China lodging a formal complaint about Trump's call with Taiwan's president.

PENCE: That was nothing more than taking a courtesy call, a congratulations.

SCHNEIDER: But the "Washington Post" reports that the call had been planned for weeks. Experts warn the call carries major diplomatic risks, citing the U.S.'s one-China policy, which considers Taiwan to be a part of China. This is the first known communication between the U.S. and Taiwan since 1979.

Trump also taking to Twitter this weekend to threaten any business that leaves our country, warning of a whopping 35 percent tax on products shipped back into the country, as quote, "retribution."

Trump tweeting he would keep jobs in the country by lowering taxes for companies and slashing regulations.

[06:05:10] All this playing out as the president-elect is widening his list of contenders to be secretary of state, a process starting to look more like a reality show.

CONWAY: We have additional interviews with other candidates for secretary of state and other cabinet positions.

SCHNEIDER: Former Republican governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman, President Barack Obama's first ambassador to China, now in the running; and disgraced former general David Petraeus making a public case for the top post.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET.), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Five years ago I made a serious mistake. I acknowledged it; I apologized for it.

SCHNEIDER: Arguing that his guilty plea for revealing classified information to his former mistress should not disqualify him from serving as secretary of state.

PETRAEUS: I paid a very heavy price for it, and I've learned from it.


SCHNEIDER: And top adviser Kellyanne Conway saying more interviews will continue this week for secretary of state, potential contenders.

She also said that it's a position that demands loyalty. Of course, could that be another jab at leading contender Mitt Romney? We'll wait and see. And then, in just the last few minutes, the Trump transition team

announcing that Donald Trump will, in fact, nominate Dr. Ben Carson to Housing and Urban Development. That's the nomination we've been expecting for about the past week -- Chris and Alisyn.

CUOMO: All right, Jessica. Thank you very much. We'll deal with the distraction of the pageant surrounding secretary of state, but we want to talk about something that is hard and in real time right now.

Let's bring in CNN political commentator and political anchor of Spectrum News, Errol Louis; "Washington Post" reporter Abby Phillip; and senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner," David Drucker.

So, let's take a look at this international situation that is evolving around us right now. There is reporting out of "The Washington Post" that this call with Taiwan, Errol, had been set up for days/weeks in advance. This becomes important, because Donald Trump put out a tweet, if you want to put it out there. It is actually a relevant tweet, saying, "The president of Taiwan called me today to wish me congratulations on winning the presidency. Thank you."

The sense of this is this was spontaneous; don't make a big deal of it. It was planned in advance, and it's such a breach in protocol, and then he says it was spontaneous. That's a bad combination of facts.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Mike Pence making it sound as if it was just this breezy kind of, you know, congratulatory call that nobody anticipated, and that appears not to be true.

If you want to add another level of complexity, you've got the fact that the Trump Organization was planning to be involved in not just some kind of an economic development project, but the largest in Taiwan's history just south of the airport.

So this was something that is really, they haven't gotten their story straight. Let's just put it that way. They haven't decided how they want to spin it, what the truth of the matter is. And again, because we haven't had any press conferences. We haven't had any straightforward dealings to find out what the heck is going on. All we have are these little fragments. But it doesn't pass the smell test.

CAMEROTA: Thank goodness for your organization, "The Washington Post," Abby, who's putting some of this -- these pieces together.


CAMEROTA: And if it was long planned, as Mr. Trump's aides have suggested to "The Washington Post," and if he does pride himself on shaking up, you know, some previous relationships -- and some people would applaud this being shaken up.

PHILLIP: People in his inner circle.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. They like the idea of an alliance with Taiwan to send a message to China. So, why doesn't he own it?

PHILLIP: Well, I mean, partly because they recognize that it is a break from U.S. foreign policy. But we knew from the very beginning that calls between world leaders don't happen by accident.

You don't just pick up the phone when someone calls. There's coordination between the two camps. And we know now that the president of Taiwan would never, according to people who know her, would never have placed a call thinking that it would not have been received.

So, from the very beginning, this kind of smells a little fish, especially considering how they were framing it. But it also makes sense that they would try to ease into this. Changing the relationship between the U.S. and China is a dramatic and potentially very dangerous thing. It doesn't surprise me that they would try to test the waters, dipping their toe in with a phone call and also, then subsequently, making points about trade and tariffs that reinforce the idea that there's a new sheriff in town.

CUOMO: So, the policy move is in one thing. But I think that we don't want to jump the gun on intentionality here. Because I think we're seeing a very familiar pattern, which is Trump says, "X." David Drucker says, "Not X. X is wrong." Trump then says, "Drucker is an idiot."

Here what are we seeing? Trump went out there and did something. It was met with rebuke. You're not supposed to do that. It was wrong. It seems weird. China comes forward and says, "We're not happy about this." What does Trump do? He goes to China. He starts tweeting.

Well, what they have said about this. Now, that pattern may work OK with us and it may please his fans when he does it, but it's much more troubling on this scale, when China is who he is deciding to push back on.

[06:10:07] DAVID DRUCKER, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": If the president of the United States wants to call Drucker an idiot, nobody's going to care, and there are no implications that are negative.

When you're dealing with China, you have to be aware of a couple of things. One, the Chinese government is very big on saving face. You want to mess with them, you can mess with them, but you don't want to humiliate them publicly.

So there are a couple things to break down here. One, you need to take care of the Beijing-Taipei relationship. So to suggest that the president of Taiwan called Donald Trump out of the blue could cause them problems, and that could be a very dicey relationship.

On the other hand, if you look at U.S.-Chinese relation, if the United States wants to reassert itself in the Pacific, particularly if we're -- well, since we are abandoning the Transpacific Partnership, and you want them to know that we're not going to be as passive in the Pacific as we have been, especially with China building those islands, those military-base islands out there, this is not a bad move if it's a part of a coordinated strategy and they've mapped it out, and they're playing the game of chess. And that could be a very -- it's something that will probably make traditional Republicans concerned about Trump's foreign policy feel very good. He put together, with inviting Duterte from the Philippines to the White House, even though he's a thug. The truth is, they have been tilting towards China, and you want to get these countries back in the U.S. sphere.

So all of these moves can actually work out well, if they know what they're doing and they take care to treat the Chinese in a way that will work for the U.S. and not antagonize them.

CAMEROTA: OK. Enter secretary of state, because that would be vitally important for somebody who understood all of this stuff. Jon Huntsman, former ambassador to China, he's -- his name has been floated more over the weekend. We can pull up who we think the latest list is, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, David Petraeus, Bob Corker, Jon Huntsman, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton. Any way to tell, Errol, what's happening here?

LOUIS: No way to tell. They're floating all of these names to get a lot of discussion going. I suspect that they are probably down to probably two or three and that Donald Trump will make the decision pretty quickly after spreading this out and stringing us all along for a little bit longer.

CUOMO: Do you think it's a distraction, Abby, because you know, secretary of state is an important position. No question about it. Although Trump, by every indication, wants to be more isolationist. So it's not like he's going to have a new quarterback there running around the world for him.

But these other guys, Ben Carson. He's like, "Yes, Ben Carson, I like Ben Carson. He's a good guy. I think he lived in public housing once. He should be a HUD secretary." You know, that's a very important position to put somebody into.

Treasury secretary, really important. He's like, "Yes, this guy is my buddy. He worked at Goldman Sachs. That will be a problem for some of you, but he makes good movies, some say. Let's put him in."

You know, this so methodical, so agonizing and drawn out. Where's the balance between this?

PHILLIP: Well, you know, I think that if this were an easy decision and Donald Trump were rewarding his friends, we would see Rudy Giuliani in this position. Giuliani has made it pretty clear, this is the job he wants. He doesn't want anything else.

And the fact that we're not with Rudy Giuliani as secretary of state at this point tells you that it's a different kind of decision-making process for the president-elect. And also for his inner circle. Folks like Romney, and I would actually add Huntsman to that, are not on the side of the loyal ledger that I think, you know, Trump wants, his close advisors want. So there are some problems with each and every one of these people. CUOMO: You don't think it's just something that keeps us covering it

every day, every day, more names?

DRUCKER: That's what he does. He loves the drama. He -- he knows how to work us.

CAMEROTA: Right, but he also might be conflicted about the decision.

PHILLIP: I think it's, you know--

DRUCKER: He might be trying to figure out, "OK, this is what I campaigned on, foreign-policy-wise. Now I actually have to execute. Who would be best to do that?"

CAMEROTA: Guys, stick around. We have so many more questions for you, including this very important story. There was a fake news story, and it triggered an actual armed confrontation at a Washington, D.C., pizzeria. The gunman telling police he was there to self- investigate a conspiracy theory that he'd read about online. It seems that this is America's new reality. Our panel discusses this, next.


[06:17:58] CUOMO: All right. So, a fake election-related news story, also known as a lie, triggered a real-life confrontation in Washington, D.C. Here's what happened.

A North Carolina man got arrested Sunday after police say he walked into a pizzeria armed with an assault rifle. Why? He said that he was there, quote, "to self-investigate an online conspiracy theory."

CNN's Joe Johns is live outside that pizza shop with details. What else do we know, Joe?


Well, file this under what happens when fake news stories use the names of real people and places, but not real facts.

Authorities say a guy named Edgar Madison Welch of Salisbury, North Carolina, walked into this pizza restaurant in upper northwest Washington over the weekend. It's been here for years. He had a rifle in his hand. Apparently fired at least one shot. No one was injured. People apparently scattered when they saw the guy with the gun.

Authorities, when they sat down and interviewed Welch, say he admitted to them that he was here to self-investigate the now notorious Internet conspiracy theory known as Pizzagate, which alleges in part that the restaurant, along with Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager, John Podesta, somehow involved in a child sex ring. All false.

Now, Welch was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. No one was injured, and the owner put out a statement, essentially saying this shows the consequences of what happens when people use lies on the Internet.

Back to you, Chris and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Joe, thank you very much for all of that background. Let's bring back our political panel. We have Errol Louis, Abby Phillip, and David Drucker.

David, I'll start with you. It's just impossible to know how to quell and squash all of this. There's so much fake news out there, and it turns out that there is a consequence to fake news. A gullible person believes it. It's -- the details, though, made up are disturbing; and he shows up because he's going to do something about it.

[06:20:05] And so, I mean, every day we fight the good fight of trying to inject facts and truth.


CAMEROTA: I know, I mean, this is -- we are so through the looking glass with this stuff. What -- what are we to do?

DRUCKER: I don't know what we are to do. And we live in an age where social media provides a lot of freedom, which is a good thing. But it provides a platform for people to say and report, with quotes around the word "report," anything.

And I think the danger here is that, when you have, in politics, people stirring up or trying to motivate their supporters by playing fast and loose with facts, to use the only good cliche I can think of, these are the kinds of thing that eventually can happen. And that is what is so dangerous.

I can't tell you how many times I get a call or an e-mail from a friend who lives outside of Washington, outside of New York. Actually in New York even. And they'll say, "Is this true? I read this. I saw this. I heard this. Is this true?"

And I have to go through the story, and I say -- the first thing I say is, "Where did you read it."

And "I read it here."

"OK, probably not true, but let me read it. Yes, it's not true. It doesn't even make sense."

But people don't know the difference. And we still, as I think human beings, assume if somebody wrote it and published it--


DRUCKER: -- it must be sort of true, because that's human nature to think that.

CUOMO: It's the same reason that dealers are putting their synthetic opioids in medicine bottles now, because it looks like the right thing. And it makes people persuaded. Do you think one of the places we should start with is not calling it "fake news." There's almost no news about it.

DRUCKER: That's right.

CUOMO: It's just B.S. That's what it is. And there's almost a legitimacy being given by the title.

LOUIS: Exactly right. I mean, the form of it looks like news. But to a certain extent, this is not new. I mean, you know, I can show you 30 years ago newsrooms that I've worked in, where you know, it would draw the conspiracy theorists. Could be people hanging around the front door, sending all kinds of crazy mail, shopping bags full of clippings.

CUOMO: You're not going to persuade a guy who wants to go with an assault rifle into a pizzeria to self-investigate.

By the way, you can dismiss that as bad English, Abby. I don't think it is. I think it's speaking to his state of mind, which is, "I don't believe. They're all lying to me. I will investigate it." And that's where he comes up with something silly like "self-investigate."

PHILLIP: The difference between a conspiracy theory and clippings in a newspaper in a paper bag is that we have people with actual prominence disseminating this information. To me, that's been the most damaging thing about this cycle, is seeing how far fake news can go, being propelled by people with status and who should know better.

CUOMO: Like the national security adviser, Michael Flynn?

PHILLIP: Michael Flynn. The candidate himself. The campaign manager.

CAMEROTA: Let me give you a little context. So, Michael Flynn has tweeted out that he has sort of fallen for some of these fake, B.S. stories.

PHILLIP: This one in particular.

CAMEROTA: This is his son. His son, Michael Flynn Jr. Here's his tweet: "Until Pizzagate proven to be false, it will remain a story. The left seems to forget Podesta e-mails and the many coincidences tied to it."

In other words, this is where we are: Prove to me that it didn't happen. That's not the standard that we normally use. You have to prove it did happen.

PHILLIP: Undermining truths as the foundation of how we interact with each other is really dangerous. And it's not just dangerous for the people who happen to be on the other side of it right now. But it's a risky thing for everyone to do. If you undermine truth today for someone else, it's going to come back--

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. PHILLIP: -- to your side. And I think people don't realize that.

And we need to make that more clear as we go forward.

DRUCKER: And it's not -- look, it's not just some of the prominent political campaigns that we have been covering. I mean, if you spend time in Washington now, there are enough media outlets that will print all sorts of things. And you'll talk to very well-meaning members of Congress that will wonder, is this true or that true?

And this ends up sort of infecting the body politic, and everybody thinks to themselves, you know, "What you think is true, fine, that's what you think is true. I think this is true, because it makes sense. You know, the favorite saying now of a lot of people is, "Look, I don't know. All I know is" -- and then they fill in the blank, because it fits the world that they want to see. And it's dangerous because, as Abby said, that's when bad things can happen.

CUOMO: Also, they created the expression, "Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." That's what you're dealing with very often with the president-elect.

Now, where it bleeds into a really dangerous practical consideration is when you can get to policy. So he's going to put in a 35 percent tax. He says president doesn't unilaterally put in a 35 percent tax tariff. Whatever you want to call it, it winds up in the same place. It needs congressional approval.

So -- but as a policy consideration, Errol, this sounds good. Punish you if you leave this country. What do you think the starting point is for the analysis of it as a policy consideration?

[06:25:02] LOUIS: Well, as a policy consideration, I think one starting point is I thought it was very revealing that the president- elect acknowledged, in talking about the Carrier deal, that he had completely forgotten about it, had no intention of doing anything about it, and was reminded while watching television that he'd said he would do it, after which he would have gotten a few million dollars' worth of Indiana taxpayer money to try and paper it over.

If that's the level of conversation that we're at, we have to go much, much further. We have to talk to some economists. We have to try and get some kind of a clear, fact-based kind of discussion about what kind of jobs will this create, what kind of jobs will this kill? What will businesses actually do.

Can the White House bully them one at a time or sector by sector? You know, what's the whole point of all of this stuff? And after we get it scored, which is what Congress will do, which is why Congress will have ultimate responsibility, we'll have a better sense of what the real facts are. If we go by Trump's tweets, we'll never get anywhere near it.

CUOMO: Low bar, but at least, Abby, he admitted that he had forgotten about Carrier. At least, you know, you could probably take him at his word about that. That this was someone that he kind of remembered that he was supposed to do. PHILLIP: That's exactly the kind of thing his followers love about

him. But I mean, this is where we'll see whether Trump actually has a so-called mandate, as he says he does.

In Washington, Republicans, the Club for Growth, the sort of conservative infrastructure do not like the idea of a 35 percent tariff. They believe it gets passed back onto consumers. So this will be a fight. It will not be one of those things where Donald Trump will not walks into the halls of Congress and says, "I want this," and they give it to him.

So we'll see how far this mandate -- mandate from his election takes him because, you know, I mean, he's going in as a maverick, but Washington is still Washington. There are still Republicans and still Democrats in Congress. And they're going to be the ones evaluating this proposal.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much.

So new this morning, a judge in Michigan ordering election officials to begin a recount of the 2016 election results today. Donald Trump won that state and its 16 electoral votes by less than 10,000 votes over Hillary Clinton. Green Party candidate Jill Stein requested this recount. She's also requested the recount that is happening in Wisconsin.

CUOMO: Dakota Access Pipeline protesters are celebrating. They say they had a big win this morning. The feds agreeing to look at rerouting the project. The pipeline. Does that mean it's over? The answer is no. We're live, and we'll tell you why.