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Trump Introduces Gen. Mattis; Spokesman: Trump Sold All His Stocks; Obama's Advice to Trump; Eastern Aleppo on the Verge of Falling. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired December 7, 2016 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:11] ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump introducing General James Mattis as his pick for defense secretary. The president-elect almost daring his critics to try to mount a challenge.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And Trump insisting he sold all of his stockholdings in June. But how can he verify that?


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact that people in nations do not make good decisions when they're driven by fear.


KOSIK: A word of advice from President Obama to his successor about fighting terrorism, but is Donald Trump even listening?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. It is Wednesday, December 7th.

KOSIK: Good morning.

HOWELL: Good to have you with us. It's 4:00 a.m. here in the East.

And President-elect Donald Trump on one hand promising to unify the country. On the other though, warning Congress against blocking his pick for secretary of defense. Trump hit those themes on his "Thank You" tour, his latest rally, in the battleground state of North Carolina. Trump also introducing his nominee for Defense Secretary James Mattis.

He noted that the retired general will need a special waiver in order to take office and he almost dared Congress not to give it to him.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has the very latest for us from North Carolina.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, George and Alison.

President-elect Donald Trump holding his second "Thank You" rally here in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he brought a much different tone that we've seen. He was much more retrained, and much more disciplined, quite different from that first "Thank You" rally he had last week where that rally almost divulged into an airing of grievances.

This rally all about staying on message apparently for President-elect Donald Trump where he pushed a heavy national security message for the military community, only a few miles away from Fort Bragg where he formally rolled out his nominee for secretary of defense.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I'm proud to announce today my intention to nominate General James Mad Dog Mattis as the next secretary of defense for the United States of America.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: I look forward to being the civilian leader as long as Congress gives me the waiver and the Senate votes to consent.

TRUMP: He'll get that waiver, right? He'll get that waiver. Ooh, if he didn't get that waiver, there will be a lot of angry people.

SERFATY: And both General Mattis and Donald Trump, they're alluding to his legal battle that they have ahead in Congress that Mattis needs a special waiver from Congress in order to be considered for this job. The fact that Mattis has only retired from the military for three years and there is a statute on the books that requires officers in uniform to be out of uniform for seven years. So, Trump sending a little bit of a warning chime, a threat to Congress, you better get this passed through.

Now, meantime, Donald Trump will take to the road tomorrow to Des Moines, Iowa. And he held another one of these "Thank You" rallies on Friday in Michigan -- George and Alison.


KOSIK: OK. Thank you, Sunlen Serfaty.

Republicans are using a short-term spending bill to speed up the Mattis nomination. They're adding language to the stop-gap funding measure that imposes time limits on the debate over whether to grant that special waiver Mattis needs to become defense secretary. They want him cleared to take over the Pentagon when President-elect Trump is inaugurated. The federal government runs out of money at midnight Friday. The House votes on the spending bill Thursday.

HOWELL: The Boeing Company responding to Donald Trump's tweet slamming the price for new Air Force One jumbo jets says this came out of left field. Trump's tweet that costs are out of control, more than $4 billion, and he did demanded that they cancel the order.

Boeing officials say they have no idea where that $4 billion figure came from. They say the Pentagon hasn't decided yet on what bells and whistles it wants, nor has the decision been reached on whether to buy two or three. The aircraft maker says it can lower costs, but only if the Pentagon eases the specifications that it requires. KOSIK: Donald Trump used to hold shares in Boeing, but he sold that

position, along with the relevant of his stock portfolio. Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller, he told reporters yesterday that Trump dumped all of his stockholdings in June. A financial disclosure submitted in May showed holdings in about 100 other companies including once again, Boeing, Apple, Microsoft, G.E. and Pepsi. In total, the shares amounted to $10 million just a tiny fraction of Trump's billionaire net worth.

But verifying whether Trump actually sold the stock, that's going to be more difficult. He's not required to file another disclosure until May of 2018. However, all others have voluntarily submitted their financial holdings in this first year in office since the Ethics in Government Act passed it in 1978.

[04:05:06] That was in the wake of the Nixon scandal.

HOWELL: And the Vice President-elect Mike Pence is laying out the plan for the first 100 days of the Trump administration. The first order of business is dismantling the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare as it's known. Pence calls that priority number one. It says that Congress will hit the ground running once Donald Trump takes the oath of office.


MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: The first 100 days, I was visiting Capitol Hill the other day and I told my former colleagues there to buckle up. Vacation's over. We're going to work.

We're going to start out by repealing Obamacare, starting the process of replacing it with free market solutions. And right out of the box, you're going to see our president-elect get out that pen and repeal every single unconstitutional executive order that Barack Obama signed into law.


HOWELL: Pence is also planning to simplify tax code and to cut taxes before the arrival of spring. But, Alison, the question, you know, repeal and replace is easier said than done. Many critics point out. The question is, what will replace it? And will, millions of people, will they be left out in the cold? How long will it take?

KOSIK: Interestingly enough, you might end up seeing them tweak Obamacare and not replace the whole thing, which could possibly an easier situation.

HOWELL: Yes, indeed.

KOSIK: All right. Pence and the rest of the Trump team are now trying to distance themselves from the son of retired General Michael Flynn. Flynn is Trump's pick for national security adviser. And the security team has requested security clearance for the general's son, Michael G. Flynn, even though he has been pushing false conspiracy theories online like pizza-gate. I want you to listen to the vice president-elect deflecting Jake

Tapper's questions about that request.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You must be aware that the transition team put in for security clearance for Michael G. Flynn, the son of Lt. General Flynn?

PENCE: Well, I'm aware in talking to General Flynn that his son was helping the scheduling, Jake.

TAPPER: No, but you put in for a security clearance for him.

PENCE: He's helping his dad arrange for meetings and provide meetings, but that's no longer the case.

TAPPER: But do you need security clearance to do scheduling?

PENCE: I think that's the appropriate decision, for us to move forward, avoid any further distraction.


KOSIK: Tapper asked Pence several more times about the security clearance request for General Flynn's son. Each time, Pence refused to acknowledge the request was even made.

HOWELL: And the president of the United States, Barack Obama, checking off an important box on his to-do list, giving his final national security address, speaking to troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

The White House said the speech was planned before Donald Trump won last month. But that address, they say, wasn't meant to send a message to the president-elect. Still, some point to Mr. Obama saying it sounded he was speaking not to an audience but rather than speaking to one person.

White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski has more now from Tampa.



Right. This was a broad defense. An explanation of President Obama's policies against terrorism and our national security over the last eight years. But it also searches as almost a warning to the next administration that you need to be extremely careful with these intricate complexities of national security, otherwise, you could make problems worse.

And when you think about it, this is how this administration continues to communicate with the next one. The president continuing to hit the same point and set up these contrasts between his policies and some of the things that Donald Trump has said. For example, the president's continued attempts to close Gitmo, calling it a blot on our national honor. His opposition to enhance interrogation techniques or torture, saying that adherence to the rule of law is not a weakness but in fact is our greatest national strength.

Also on the Muslim issue, arguably, the most controversial part of Donald Trump's campaign platform. Listen.

OBAMA: The United States of America is not a country that imposes religious tests as a price for freedom. We're a country that was founded so people could practice their faiths as they choose. The United States of America is not a place where some citizens have to withstand greater scrutiny or carry a special I.D. card or prove that they're not an enemy from within. We're a country that has bled and struggled and sacrificed against that kind of discrimination and arbitrary rule, here in our own country and around the world.

KOSINSKI: This was not the fiery President Obama that we saw in on the campaign trail, but this was the lawyerly President Obama, making the careful case for why he believes his policies are the ones to carry forward and looking long term. It can almost be summed up in one sentence that you use, that he takes the fight to terrorists, not through invasion but through a network of partnerships -- George and l Alison.


KOSIK: OK. Michelle Kosinski, thank you.

And today marks the 75th anniversary on the attack on Pearl Harbor. Thousands of veterans and a few remaining survivors will attend a ceremony there later this morning. On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced he will visit the site of the attack in late December with President Obama, making him the first Japanese leader to do so since the end of World War II.

Speaking to reporters, Abe implied the gesture is a way of mirroring the commitment shown by Obama to Japan-U.S. relations when he visited Hiroshima in May.

HOWELL: That is such an important, significant moment. The simple fact that he will be there for this.

KOSIK: Absolutely.

HOWELL: Yes, moment in history.

The President-elect Donald Trump taking credit for bringing the $50 billion investment and 50,000 new jobs in the United States. But here's the question, was that deal already in the works before Mr. Trump was elected? That story next here on EARLY START.


[04:15:13] KOSIK: Donald Trump is taking credit for a $50 billion investment in the United States by a Japanese tech conglomerate. The president-elect making an appearance in the lobby of Trump Tower with the CEO of Softbank. The Japanese Internet and telecommunications giants plans to invest heavily in U.S. startups creating 50,000 jobs here. Trump is insisting the deal only happened because he won the election.

Let's get the latest now from CNN's Andrew Stevens live from Hong Kong.

So, is there a way to tell for sure whether or not Donald Trump had a hand in ushering in this deal?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At this stage, Alison, no, there's not. We have to take the president-elect's word for it. He did not independently say that he had said that to Trump. So, we don't just know at this stage.

But if you take a step back and look at this deal that $50 billion is going to come, according to Son speaking to "The Wall Street Journal," from an investment fund which is being set up by Softbank. Now, that was announced back in October before the election, obviously before the election. It's a $100 billion fund, which will invest in tech companies and tech startups, not just in the U.S., but around the world.

Now, Softbank is going to put in about $25 billion we understand. The Saudi Arabians are going to be putting about $45 billion and the balance will be made up by various other investors. Now, that was already in the works. The money hasn't come in yet, and the U.S. would be an obvious place to go if you're looking at tech startups. Silicon Valley springs to mind, obviously.

So, at this stage, what we know, those headlines that Masayoshi Son says he's going to be directing $50 billion of that $150 million into the U.S. I should point out here that a lot of money looks like for tech startups. Alison, as you know, startups and tech companies don't employ a lot of people in there, thousands at least. So, it's going to be interesting to see how this plays out. But it's pretty short term as well, four-year time frame for this investment.

KOSIK: Well, you know, Donald Trump campaigned on bringing jobs here to the U.S. So, if anything, this looks like a good photo op for him.

Andrew Stevens, thanks so much.

HOWELL: Here at home, that fire in Oakland, California, at a Ghost Ship warehouse, fire officials say they still don't know what caused it over the weekend. That fire killing 36 people. Investigators said to be looking at a malfunctioning refrigerator near where the fire begun as a possible source. Authorities say one witness who escaped the fire said that they saw flames coming from that refrigerator.

KOSIK: This morning, people in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, are getting the all-clear to return to their homes and businesses full time following the wildfires. Residents had been allowed to go back on a temporary crisis. A curfew will be in place. The wildfires in Tennessee were blamed for at least 14 deaths, more than 1,700 buildings and homes were damage or destroyed. HOWELL: We're following the fighting in Syria. The Syrian government

ramping its assault in Aleppo, now closer to recapturing the eastern part of that city. Thousands being warned to get out or die. A live report ahead.


[04:22:52] HOWELL: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm George Howell.

We're following the fighting in Syria. Government forces there are closer than ever to retaking Aleppo. More than 70 percent of the last rebel stronghold has been recaptured. Assad regime is now using massive fire power to either kill or displace thousands of people.

CNN international correspondent Jomana Karadsheh is following the story live for us in Amman, Jordan, this hour.

Jomana, we've been talking about the story for sometime. The extreme fighting so intense in parts of Aleppo, that many parts of that city have simply been leveled.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And we have seen those images, George, coming out of those neighborhoods that have been claimed by the Syrian regime. And what's left of them is large-scale destruction, and pretty much leveled when you look at these neighborhoods.

As you mentioned over the past 24 hours, more advances by the Syrian regime and their allied forces who have been provided by this air cover. This really powerful air cover, that they have been advancing undertaking a neighborhood after neighborhood, it seems, of eastern Aleppo. At this point, estimates are, they control about 75 percent of eastern Aleppo.

Now, the question remains what is going to happen to the rest of eastern Aleppo. The last quarter that is left under rebel control. Are we going to see the rebels working any sort of deal here to withdraw from Aleppo as they did in other areas like the Damascus suburbs, as we saw a few months ago or are they going to fight until the end?

That remains to be seen with a lot of concern, George, for the civilians trapped in eastern Aleppo.

HOWELL: Jomana, I'd like to touch on that when it comes to civilians, when it comes to children. I remember the most recent UNICEF statement talking about the hundreds of thousands of children who are caught up in this violence. I believe in Aleppo itself, some 100,000 children.

What is the situation with these families, with these children? We've seen so many little boys and girls trapped in the rubble, so many killed.

[04:25:04] KARADSHEH: It's a very, very dire situation, George. You're talking about them facing this military onslaught, this constant bombardment.

We were speaking to people in eastern Aleppo a short time ago, and you could still hear the shelling and bombardments of these neighborhoods taking place. Children, of course, terrified.

One father I spoke to has a 9-month-old daughter. He says that his wife can no longer breast-feed her. That they have run out of food. All they can give this baby that is crying constantly is some crushed rice and bread that's dipped in tea, because people have run out of food, run out of clean water because of the siege.

The humanitarian situation and the military offensive leaving tens of thousands of civilians facing starvation and death right now, George.

HOWELL: CNN international correspondent Jomana Karadsheh live for us in Amman, Jordan -- thank you so much for your reporting.

KOSIK: The humanitarian crisis there is really just heartbreaking. There's no other way to say it.

HOWELL: It's painful.

KOSIK: All right. Donald Trump on the second leg of his "Thank You" tour, formally introducing his pick for defense secretary, General James Mattis. The president-elect almost daring Congress to try to block the waiver Mattis needs to take over the Pentagon. Details ahead on EARLY START.