Return to Transcripts main page
General James Mattis Nomination to Defense Secretary Examined; President Obama Delivers Address at MacDill Air Force Base; Interview with Representative Ryan Zinke; Obama Versus Trump Doctrine; Trump on TIME's "Divided States of America" Headline. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired December 7, 2016 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:05] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We are now just 44 days before Inauguration Day.
So let's begin our coverage with CNN's Jessica Schneider. She's live outside of Trump Tower in New York. What's the latest, Jessica?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. Donald Trump back in New York after that North Carolina rally where he stressed his America first priorities. He also hammered in on the themes of unity, military strength, and American jobs.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We will have two simple rules when it comes to rebuilding this country -- buy American and hire American.
SCHNEIDER: Taking his America first message to North Carolina, the president-elect vowing to protect American jobs.
TRUMP: We will defeat the enemy on jobs. And we have to look at it almost as a war.
SCHNEIDER: Donald Trump once again taking aim at corporate America. The president-elect spent much of Tuesday criticizing a government contract with Boeing to build a new Air Force One, Trump tweeting, "Costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!" It's unclear why Trump attacked Boeing, America's largest exporter, or where Trump even got that hefty price tag. Boeing says it currently has a $170 million development deal to study the new aircraft.
TRUMP: I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number.
SCHNEIDER: Trump also touting his deal-making skills, claiming credit for a month's old pledge by Japanese telecom giant Softbank to invest $50 billion in the United States aimed at creating jobs. Details of the deal have not been released.
TRUMP: Masa, great guy of Japan, he's pledged he's going to put $50 billion into the United States because of our victory. He wasn't investing in our country, $50 billion, 50,000 jobs.
SCHNEIDER: Staying largely on message, a more controlled Trump promising to fight terror and increase military spending.
TRUMP: In my first budget report to Congress, I am going to ask for the elimination of the defense sequester.
SCHNEIDER: Trump officially announcing his secretary of defense pick, General James Mattis.
TRUMP: "Mad Dog" plays no games.
SCHNEIDER: Touting his credentials as a four-star general, NATO member and his leadership during desert storm.
GEN.JAMES MATTIS (RET.), MARINE GENERAL, U.S. ARMY: I look forward to being a civilian leader so long as Congress gives me the waiver and the Senate votes to consent.
SCHNEIDER: All this coming on the heels of a shake-up in the Trump transition team. Trump firing the son of national security aide retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn for pushing a baseless conspiracy theory that let a man fire a rifle inside a Washington pizza shop. CNN's Jake Tapper grilling the vice president-elect over security clearances requested for Flynn's son.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": You're downplaying his role, but you must be aware that the transition team put in for security clearance for Michael G. Flynn, the son of Lieutenant General Flynn.
MIKE PENCE (R, VICE PRESIDENT ELECT: I'm aware in talking to General Flynn that his son was helping with scheduling, Jake.
TAPPER: No, but you put in for security clearance for him.
PENCE: He was helping his dad arrange for meetings and provide meetings, but that is no longer the case.
TAPPER: But do you need military clearance to do scheduling?
PENCE: I think that was the appropriate decision for us to move forward.
SCHNEIDER: Donald Trump not just president-elect but now named "TIME" magazine's person of the year, "TIME" magazine calling him the president of the divided states of America. Donald Trump saying he is honored by this but taking issue with the word "divided," saying he did not divide the country, acknowledging, though, that there is division and promising that this country will heal.
Donald Trump is in New York City this morning. He'll attend a fundraising breakfast. And then later this week, he will be back on the road with the thank you rally tour in Des Moines, Iowa, tomorrow as well as Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Friday. Alisyn? CAMEROTA: OK, Jessica, thanks so much for all of that.
Well, he never mentioned president-elect Trump by name, but when President Obama visited MacDill air force base on Tuesday to deliver his final address, he was sending a clear message to his successor. Athena Jones is live at the White House with more. So what was said.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. The president used this wide-ranging speech to tout his administration's accomplishments in fighting terror groups like ISIS, like Al Qaeda. He talked about the killing of Usama bin Laden, the weakening of Al Qaeda, and the progress made so far against ISIS.
And while he didn't say president-elect Trump's name, he did continue to press his case for closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and for keeping and maintaining the ban on torture. These are two areas where his views are very much at odds with those expressed by the president-elect.
President Obama also talked about the need to uphold American values in this fight against terror, following the rule of law, protecting civil liberties, not stigmatizing Muslims, and not making decisions based on fear. Here's more on what he had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[08:05:00] BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Adhering to the rule of law is not a weakness in the long-term. It is our greatest strength. The whole objective of these terrorists is to scare us into changing who we are and our democracy. And the fact is people in nations do not make good decisions when they are driven by fear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: And the president often spoke during the campaign about his concerns about fear mongering driving decisions, but the White House insists this speech was long planned. It was in the works long before Donald Trump was elected president. And so this was not written for him, but it's clear these are two men who have very different opinions on how to approach the complex issues. And the president wants to make a last big pitch for his approach. Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Athena, thank you very much.
Joining me now, Montana Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke. Representative Zinke served with General Mattis in 2004. The two are still friends. Thank you for your service, sir, and thank you for being on NEW DAY this morning.
REP. RYAN ZINKE (R), MONTANA: Great to be with you.
CUOMO: So the one nominal obstacle for General Mattis will be this law that needs to be waived that was designed to create separation between military and civilian control over the military defense strategy in the United States. What do you want the American people to know why it should be waived in the case of Mattis?
ZINKE: In the case law of 1946, we were just coming out of World War II. And this is the time for the department of defense to be led by competence and by a warrior. He faces three great challenges. Number one, we have to shore up our allies to restore trust. Two, we have to restore capability in the front lines. Our troops are frustrated, the equipment is aging, and we are untrained. And lastly, he's got to cut through the bureaucracy of the Department of Defense. Reported yesterday, $125 billion worth of waste. And there's been several secretaries before that have attempted this, Rumsfeld, Gates, all have talked about it, but I think we need a warrior in order to cut through the red tape and return DOD to what it needs to be, defending our country.
CUOMO: Why is a warrior better equipped to cut through bureaucratic red tape?
ZINKE: While, if you're going to fight the bureaucracy, I think it's time to bring in someone who is actually looking at the core priorities of the defense, which is core capability at the front line, that's make sure that our troops in harm's way have what they need, the acquisition process. We should be competitive of a number of years for development, just as China and Russia can turn around their weapon systems in three to five years. We're at 17. So I think it needs a fresh look. And it needs someone who is not politically correct and willing to take on the tough task. That is General Jim Mattis.
CUOMO: A hypothetical for you, something God forbids happens where the enemy does something to America. President Trump is infuriated and says that's it, I want to do the same things to these people. Everything is on the table. Would General Mattis bow to that command from the commander in chief or would he stick by what he says about what he believes about torture and what he believes does and doesn't work on the field of battle?
ZINKE: You know, I followed General Mattis in Fallujah. As a matter of fact, my book, "American Commander," talks about that. And General Mattis understands that he is the most reluctant to go to war, but he understands if you go to war, you go to war to win. In the case of waterboarding, his belief is it's more successful, I think his quote was "a six pack and a cigarette." Certainly I think that is a great perspective.
But if there's an individual that has knowledge that would save New York City from destruction, the entire city, personally there is nothing I wouldn't do to make sure I had the information if I knew the information, that individual had it.
So it's a balancing act. But we face a different world than what we did even a decade ago. And there are elements out there that want to destroy our country. We're looking at a rise of Persia or Iran that could very well have a nuclear weapon. What if a nuclear weapon was imminent in the United States, what would you not do if you were president to protect our people? CUOMO: That's where the law and the standard comes in, right,
congressman? I just want to be clear what point you're making. Is it that General Mattis doesn't believe in torture or that under circumstances he might change his opinion and believe in torture if there were something imminent that he was really afraid of?
ZINKE: Well, you have to define what torture is. I think, too.
CUOMO: We have, right? You have standing federal law about it. That's what made Trump's comments so incendiary during the campaign to so many, including a lot of your brothers and sisters who do intelligence work, which is waterboarding was an example of something they found hurt them more than help them. Mattis seems to agree. My question is, will he hold on to a belief if it becomes at odds with the commander in chief?
ZINKE: Well, I think it goes to the judgment of our president-elect. He picked a secretary of defense that had an opposing view. And so I think, you know, I think the president-elect Trump certainly supports and respects General Mattis' view in the manner, and I think probably would be his chief adviser in such times.
[08:10:14] CUOMO: And I'm asking you that because I think it's a key component of what you're going to hear at the hearings from the Democrats. I don't believe that they have the votes they would need, I'm sure you don't either, although the risk is that a couple Republicans get turned off by what they hear.
And I think a key concern will be that it's OK to have a military man in there if he has a backbone to stand up for what he believes is right even if he winds up being at odds with the president of the United States. Do you believe that Mattis has that kind of backing?
ZINKE: Most certainly he has demonstrated that before. And I can tell you also, every veteran that I know is strong and behind General Mattis. If there's a Senate that values votes in their district about supporting veterans, then that vote should be awfully easy.
CUOMO: And it must be said that there is a lot of support on both sides of the aisle early on for General Mattis. And that is not common with some of Donald Trump's other picks as president-elect for his cabinet.
Last question, on the macro level of changing the war on terror, we saw President Obama and president-elect Trump hold forth on different rationales of whether to get in or get out. Where is your head on whether or not America needs to have an eye on dealing with the situation like the humanitarian crisis on the ground in Syria even if it seems as though it would be easier to stay home? Where is your head on whether or not sometimes you have to go in there and help make things right?
ZINKE: Well, the war in Syria is a humanitarian disaster. But to your point, we need a policy. The military supports a greater policy. And we are rudderless in Syria. We're rudderless in Iraq. We're rudderless in Iran. So develop a policy first, so leaders like General Mattis can develop plans on how to support that policy. But unless you have a policy, the military really struggles to define objectives, resources, and we tend to be drifting along what we are right now. But on your point about humanitarian assistance, I think we're a great country, and we can make sure we do provide aid, and a sanctuary in northern Syria I think probably is the right move.
CUOMO: Congressman Zinke, thank you for your perspective on General Mattis. Looking forward to seeing you on the show again.
CAMEROTA: Here is some breaking news right now. We first told you about this in our last hour. Officials say a Pakistan international airlines passenger plane has crashed. Officials say the plane went down near the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The plane was carrying 40 people. Right now there's no word on whether there are any survivors. So of course we will stay on top of what happened here.
CUOMO: Another catastrophe unfolding in that part of the world. At least 97 people confirmed dead, 73 seriously injured, after a big earthquake, 6.5 rocking Indonesia. It struck as morning prayers were just getting underway. Dozens of buildings, homes, and mosques reduced to rubble. Emergency crews that you're seeing on your screen are trying to use heavy equipment, just as often needing to use their hands to dig through debris, searching for any signs of life. This catastrophe just beginning to be understood. We'll stay on it.
CAMEROTA: So a DUI suspect and known gang member leading L.A. police on a high-speed chase for more than an hour last night. Sparks were flying as you can see off the rear rim. That was after a tire blew during this pursuit. Police backed off a pit maneuver after getting word that the suspect might be armed. This chase finally ending with suspects hit a truck blocking the road. The driver was safely taken into custody. Oh, my gosh.
CUOMO: One of those fine lines for police, when to pursue and when not. A lot of criticism of media loving the coverage of it, does it spur it?
CAMEROTA: It's dangerous any way you slice it, if you pursue the person or if you don't pursue the person. But we have not been seeing as many high-speed chases. Or maybe we have not been covering as much.
CUOMO: And police are always updating their tactics, too, in terms of how they deal with it. That in turn leads to some of the reduction.
So what will President Obama's legacy be? CNN's Fareed Zakaria asked the president in his opinion what does he want to be remembered for? It's a big interview in advance, next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:18:08] CAMEROTA: In his last national security speech, President Obama issued a warning to his successor. He advised President-elect Donald Trump to take a pragmatic strategy in fighting terrorism, while also cautioning the incoming commander-in-chief against making false promises.
Joining us now is host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS", Fareed Zakaria.
Great to see you, Fareed.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Pleasure, as always.
CAMEROTA: Is there a way in your mind to characterize the sort of doctrine, the foreign policy doctrine of Obama versus Trump?
ZAKARIA: Well, what's really interesting is, at some core level, they actually agree. Obama's core strategy has been drawdown the United States from conflicts where it can't really settle the disputes between Sunnis and Shias, nation-build, and focus instead on the big picture, Asia, things like that.
So, I don't think Trump really, if he would think about it disagrees with that. He's been against getting us in wars. Both of them want this much lighter footprint.
The big difference is in that speech yesterday, Obama emphasizes really important to put ISIS and terrorism in context. It is not an existential threat to the United States. The number of people it has been able to kill over the last decade has been trivial. He often points out more Americans drown in their bathtubs every year than are killed by, you know, international terrorists.
And so, don't overreact. Don't shred the Constitution. Don't sacrifice civil liberties because this is a manageable threat. That piece, I think he and Trump, you know, he's Mr. Under Reaction and Trump is Mr. Overreaction.
CUOMO: Well, but there's also a fundamental distinction. One is in office, one was on the outside critiquing the office.
Let's play a piece of the documentary tonight and then we'll discuss it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you if it is possible in your position to be completely honest and say, the rise of the Islamic State surprised you.
[08:20:06] It took you by surprise. It took the administration by surprise.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The ability of ISIL to initiate major land offenses, that was not on my intelligence radar screen. ZAKARIA (voice-over): Everyone was stunned that a few thousand
militants swept through Iraq and Syria, sowing fear in the region and the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: So when you take on the task like tonight, the word legacy is so subjective. The presidency is such a victim of perception versus reality. What were you able to get from the president in terms of where you think his head is, in terms of what matters most about how he's remembered for the fight against ISIS and his legacy in general?
ZAKARIA: I think -- he's clearly somebody who thinks about this very deeply. How would history remember him? What are the most important things he did?
You know, he said during the campaign in 2008, Ronald Reagan was one of the most important presidents of his lifetime because he fundamentally changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and Bill Clinton did not. So, he wants -- his aspiration was to be a transformational president.
So, I think he focuses in on the big picture, on the big bets he was able to make on health care, on energy policy. One of the things I was struck by is when you ask him where he thinks his legacy was most important, it isn't combating climate change or transforming energy's profile. So now we are a green superpower. We have this incredible solar power and wind.
On terrorism, I think it is what I was saying, he feels that he handled the problem. ISIS is badly beaten back, but he didn't overreact. He was disciplined about not invading another country and not, you know, doing things that would look back on with perhaps a certain amount of shame just because of the momentary panic to do so.
He really prizes his discipline. And if you remember, there was a moment he was asked what his foreign policy doctrine was, and he said, "Don't do stupid stuff."
CAMEROTA: I mean, but in terms of his legacy, which is what you explore tonight in the CNN primetime special, a lot of that is being rolled back. I mean, if you look at the things for health care. As we know, one of the first orders of business in the Republican Congress is to repeal and replace Obamacare.
If you look at the Iran nuclear deal, that is one of the first orders of business. President-elect Trump says he wants to dismantle. He said it was horrible.
TPP, that got so much -- that's not going forward. Normalized relations with Cuba, how do we know what is going to happen now with Cuba?
So, all of these legacy-building things might actually end up not having much saying power. ZAKARIA: You made the perfect pitch for the documentary, because it
started out as a kind of retrospective about Obama. It has turned into a cliffhanger. Because at every segment, we look at all the issues you described. In every segment, the question we had to grapple with, what part of it is going to be erased? What part of it is going to be endured?
I think some of them will be harder to overturn than you think. The Iran deal, for example, it's a very complex international deal that has achieved an extraordinary thing where Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon. If you overturn it, the Iranians have a green light and nobody else is going to re-impose sanctions.
So, it would be a dumb thing to do. And I actually think it's highly unlikely they will pull out of the Iran deal.
There are others where executive orders, they'll be able to do. But as I say, the documentary has turned into a cliffhanger.
CAMEROTA: That's a good tease.
CUOMO: But it's great because it's the difference between perception and reality. These things will be repealed, will they really? It's really good to watch.
CAMEROTA: Thanks, Fareed.
CUOMO: All right. Fareed Zakaria, thank you very much.
CAMEROTA: Be sure to watch Fareed's special tonight. It's called "The Legacy of Barack Obama". It's at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific, only on CNN.
CUOMO: President-elect Trump is the "TIME" Person on the Year. But what it says under the headline is leading to a lot of discussion this morning. The bottom line.
[08:28:23] CUOMO: Big headline, President-elect Trump is "TIME" Magazine's Man of the Year. The sub-headline deserves discussion. They call Trump president of the divided states of America.
Mr. Trump gave his thoughts on that cover just moments ago.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: When you say divides states of America, I didn't divide America. I think writing divided is snarky, but again, it's divided. I'm not president yet. So I didn't do anything to divide.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CUOMO: So, let's get to the bottom line with CNN political director David Chalian. There's no question that Donald Trump is pivoting off a very divisive fear-driven campaign. He is responsible for highlighting the divisions in this country, that is fact. However --
CAMEROTA: And ginning some of them up.
CAMEROTA: I mean, let's be honest, that's --
CUOMO: What did I say? Highlighting.
CAMEROTA: You are saying we are highlighting. Whether or not he's responsible for any of it --
CUOMO: I'm saying the fact is simple. The answer is yes. There's no question mark at the end of it. He's trying to do a pivot now.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes.
CUOMO: The question is, can he be effective, what will it take to be effective for him to go from the great divider, that's how he got the in there on fear and division, to go and be uniter.
CHALIAN: I don't know -- to me that's an open question. I don't know the answer to that. What I find really interesting, if you watched him last night in Fayetteville, if you listened to those remarks this morning on the "Today" show responding to the sub-head, you see someone who is aware that this is a challenge of his and it is mission critical. He seems to want to bring the country together.
Listen, we just got a new poll out this morning. Bloomberg showing what our poll showed a couple of weeks ago.