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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Trump Picks Climate Change Denier To Lead EPA; Trump Attacks Carrier Union Boss On Twitter; Conservative Think Tank Shaping Trump Transition; NYT: Trump Intends To Keep A Stake In His Business; Trump Picks EPA Critic To Lead EPA; Brass Cabinet? Trump Picks Third General For Post. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 8, 2016 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: -- "AT THIS HOUR" with Berman and Bolduan starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. If it's Thursday, Donald Trump must be meeting with a retired four-star about a possible job, rerating a private citizen on Twitter, and considering a new White House role for one of his kids.

Today, the president-elect will sit down with retired four-star admiral, James Stavridis, a man who by the way was actually vetted as a possible vice presidential pick for Hillary Clinton.

BOLDUAN: But already this morning, Donald Trump has announced another cabinet post filled. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Democrats and progressive groups already signaling a fight over his nomination, not that they can do much with Republicans in control of the Senate.

Pruitt is an outspoken critic of a lot of the science behind climate change and currently has a case pending against the very agency he wants to now lead.

While all of that is going on, so is this, Donald Trump in a fight over the very deal that he claimed as a big win just last week. The president-elect attacking a Carrier union leader after he called Trump a liar for fudging the numbers on how many jobs were actually saved at that Indiana plant. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK JONES, PRESIDENT, UNITED STEELWORKERS LOCAL 1999: What they're doing, they're counting in 350 some odd more that were never leaving this country at all. If you're dealing with people's livelihoods, you sure in the world ought to know what the numbers are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: CNN's Ryan Nobles is live outside Trump Tower here in New York for us. Ryan, what do you know? RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kate, good morning to both of you. This has really become a pretty public spat between the president-elect and this leader of the United Steelworkers 1999, Chuck Jones, who represents those workers at Carrier.

Jones basically called Trump a liar, saying that he inflated the number of jobs he helped save from going to Mexico. Trump bragging that at one point he had saved around 1,100 jobs but that number, much closer to 800.

While that criticism was something that the president-elect didn't take too kindly. He went to Twitter to attack Jones. He said that he's done a terrible job leading that union and he actually extended it even further and blamed Jones and other union leaders like him for many of the reasons that jobs have been leaving the United States.

Well, Jones for his part is not backing down. He said he's been in a job like this for a long time and has thick skin and can take criticism even if it comes from the next president of the United States. He said he's thankful the president-elect helped to save these jobs, but at the end of the day, he just wants him to be honest. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: He overreacted, President-elect Trump did, and I would expect if he was going to tweet something he should have come out and tried to justify his numbers and try to justify when I called him out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Jones of course and his union did support Hillary Clinton during the campaign. Now this of course has been a busy couple of days for the president-elect. He has an important meeting here in the not too distant future with James Stavridis, who is a former admiral and could potentially be the next secretary of state.

Of course, that would be another military leader that Trump could add to his administration. Yesterday announcing that John Kelly, former general, will become his secretary of Homeland Security. So a busy couple of days for Trump as he continues to fill out his cabinet and administration -- John, Kate.

BERMAN: Yes, indeed. Ryan Nobles outside Trump Tower. We will keep our eye on those elevators to see who else may go up to meet with the president-elect.

But first, we will talk more about the Carrier situation, joining us now is Brett Voorhies, the president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO and Brett is a good friend of Chuck Jones, the Carrier union official we were just talking about.

Brett, you have been with Chuck all morning. I want to know what your reaction was when you saw the president-elect go after your friend on Twitter. BRETT VOORHIES, PRESIDENT, INDIANA STATE AFL-CIA: Well, when I saw the tweet last night I was actually flabbergasted. I was actually out Christmas shopping with my daughter and my wife, and saw that the tweet come across and had to take a double look to make sure that I was seeing the right thing.

I never, ever would expect our future commander-in-chief would actually go after an average blue collar worker, local union president, from Indianapolis, let alone from anywhere in the country, and was very, very surprised that he would actually stoop that low.

BOLDUAN: Stoop that low. You have been with -- you have been with Chuck all morning. He had quite the night last night. He's been on TV all this morning. Why do you think it's a stoop that low? Can you describe this a little bit more?

VOORHIES: Well, I mean, you have got the president-elect, who is commander-in-chief, and he's taking time and spending time and basically cyberbullying by tweeting out basically, he doesn't even know Chuck Jones, doesn't know who he is, doesn't know his character.

[11:05:09]And stating that he's an awful president in his tweet, going after an ordinary average citizen and maybe he should spend more time on national security and issues like that, or even spend more time saving the jobs from going to Mexico like he campaigned on for the last year and a half.

BERMAN: So Brett, what Chuck did, is Chuck called out Donald Trump, the president-elect, on the numbers at Carrier, right. Chuck says that the numbers are more like 800 jobs saved, not 1,000 or more, which the president-elect said. In general, do you favor the deal that Donald Trump brokered here, I mean, 800 jobs have been saved that were going to Mexico?

VOORHIES: No. We are very thankful to President-elect Trump for the jobs that he has saved and the jobs that will be staying here. But bottom line is why President Jones came out and talked about, you know, calling President-elect Trump a liar was basically he misled the members.

He stood up there and at the Carrier facility, and said that he was there to save 1,100 jobs and it was nothing but falsehoods. He got a lot of people, a lot of workers' hopes up high, especially right here before the holiday season.

Just to let several hundred people down when everybody actually was either in the audience or not in the audience thought their jobs were going to be saved, very misleading.

BOLDUAN: Misleading, you say, but again, he did save jobs that would have been lost. With that in mind, Brett, I mean, what more do you want from the president-elect right now?

VOORHIES: Absolutely. Again, we are thankful for the jobs that he did save, but we just would like for President-elect Trump to actually stand by his word and stand with the working people. I mean, he campaigned for a year and a half saying that no more on his watch when he becomes president of the United States, jobs are not going to be shipped overseas.

He was talking about how if he has to put a 35 percent tariff on companies, that he was going to renegotiate NAFTA, PNCR, all these different trade deals. If you are going to do that, let's do that. Let's not go in and save just partial jobs.

If you're going to go back and save the rest of the jobs or save the plant that's two miles down the road, Rexnord, which is the plant I came out of, do what you said. At least attempt to do what you said during your campaign promises. If you can't do it, you can't do it.

BERMAN: And the fact is that Donald Trump's numbers do appear to be off as well. You know that a lot of your members and a lot of Steelworker members voted for Donald Trump. Donald Trump we believe did very well among union voters, better than past Republicans have at least in recent memory. What's your message to the union membership that you serve about the president-elect?

VOORHIES: Well, my message is, we did, we had several members that did support Donald Trump for president and my message to them and actually to anybody is I mean, like it or not, Donald Trump is going to be the president of the United States come January 20tth at noon when he gets sworn in.

And you know, I was brought up to make sure that you always pray for your leaders and you hope the best for your leaders and that's what I told my 11-year-old daughter when she was asking me questions about dad, why is Donald Trump picking on Chuck Jones.

Chuck Jones is like a grandpa to her. And I said well, Sweetheart, that's all I can do is tell you that in your prayers, pray for him. Pray for him that he saves jobs and pray for him that he does a good job and he keeps us safe in the United States.

That's the only message I can send. He's going to be our president for the next four years and I will support him as he goes along as president but at the same time, if he wants to keep picking -- if he wants to pick fights on Twitter, we will fight right back.

But we are not going to stop the fight when it comes to free trade. We are all about fair trade. If he says he's going to renegotiate these deals, then let's renegotiate these deals.

Just like President Leo Gerard said last night. He sent a letter saying he would be happy to lend a hand to help negotiate these deals. Since then, he has not heard a word back.

BOLDUAN: As you mentioned, January 20th when he will become president, he will have the power to start renegotiating the deals. That's when you can keep him accountable for that. Brett Voorhies, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

VOORHIES: Thank you. BOLDUAN: So from Indiana to Washington, D.C. now. One long-time conservative D.C. think tank is playing a big role in Donald Trump's transition team and also that would also mean playing a big role in shaping his administration.

[11:10:03]Joining us now with that, the president of the Heritage Foundation, former senator of South Carolina, Jim DeMint. Great to see you, Senator. How have you been?

JIM DEMINT, PRESIDENT, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I've been great. We have been busy. Actually, we have been busy for about a year hoping we would get this chance to shape the next administration.

BOLDUAN: You are almost trying to hide your smile. We read that you had said just this week that you are basically giddy about the incoming Trump administration. Why?

DEMINT: Well, I'm worried about our country. I have told folks who were running for president if they knew how much trouble our country was in, they probably wouldn't want the job, but just to have a chance to be at the table, to be listened to now. We know at Heritage because we do so much research what policies really will make America great again and the opportunity to actually get those implemented, it does make me a little bit giddy.

BERMAN: What's your take on the Carrier deal, Senator? Because it doesn't sound like the kind of thing that I know you as a senator would have supported or that Heritage would support. Generally speaking, you don't want government interference or as George will said, coercion in private industry and trade.

DEMINT: Well, there are lots of companies considering moving from this country right now and I hope they will all stop and give this president, this Congress, a chance --

BERMAN: I was asking about the Carrier deal, though. The state tax breaks in potential consideration down the line from the federal government.

DEMINT: Actually it's a pretty good thing if he saved jobs and he is more than a month from becoming president. That's where his heart is, to save these jobs. I don't know all the details about the deal. We should not be using taxpayer money at least at the federal level. That's my opinion.

But I hope every company that's considering moving any jobs out of this country will just take a pause because we have got such a heavy regulatory blanket on these companies, within a year, I think they are going to see a better business environment.

BOLDUAN: If they move overseas, do you want to see a 35 percent tariff on their goods coming back in like Trump have said?

DEMINT: That doesn't make any sense. But the way we can do this is level the playing field with a new tax code. BERMAN: But you do admit a lot of what Donald Trump is talking about on trade is just completely different than what Heritage has called for over the years. Big supporter of NAFTA, NAFTA, best thing ever for agriculture and other things. You were very pro-free trade as an organization.

DEMINT: We are free trade, but it needs to be done in the context of economic freedom and over the last couple of decades, this country has become less and less economically free, with the highest tax rate in the world, some of the most burdensome regulations.

So if you open your borders to trade when our companies don't have a chance to compete, that's not a good philosophy either. So we need to fix those things that make it hard to have jobs in America.

BOLDUAN: I think it's (inaudible) that we are hearing from you saying that it doesn't make sense when it comes to the 35 percent tariff that Donald Trump is putting out --

DEMINT: The tax code needs to treat our goods as fairly as those who are coming into this country. That's the way to fix the problem. Not with tariffs.

BOLDUAN: You mentioned the border. Let's talk about the border in a different respect. On immigration, another very big issue, Donald Trump in speaking in an interview with "Time" magazine speaking specifically about dreamers, young undocumented people who are here, brought over at a young age.

He said this, "We are going to work something out that's going to make people happy and proud. They got brought here at a very young age. They have worked here. They have gone to school here."

This seems almost the argument that supporters of the Dream Act, if you will, Democrats, more liberal people, what they would argue, why they are arguing the Dream Act. Does that make you comfortable?

DEMINT: Well, the first step is to fix the border because no immigration policy makes any sense --

BERMAN: The border is not the Dream Act and Donald Trump, the president-elect who you just confessed to being giddy about --

(CROSSTALK)

DEMINT: OK, I want to talk about those that are here. I want to talk about how do we control our borders then we can talk about those who are here. I think that's what --

BERMAN: We're just asking about your opinion on the dreamers.

DEMINT: He's talking about it, but hat I tell our policy people is rhetoric is not policy. When it becomes policy, we will criticize it. We will cheer for it if it's good --

BERMAN: Will you criticize any extension to the dreamers? DEMINT: We probably will, that folks who are here illegally should not be treated the same as those who came here legally.

BOLDUAN: If he secures the border as he promises he will, would you support that?

DEMINT: We have to deal with those who are here. He's talked about deporting those who have committed crimes. So a lot of those can be worked into guest worker programs. There are a lot of things we can do if we have a border that we can control and an immigration policy that makes sense.

BERMAN: One last question, "New York Times" reporting that Donald Trump intends to keep a stake in his business empire. He said he's going to announce next week at some point exactly how he will deal with his business and financial interests.

If he does keep a stake in his business empire, again, that seems to be the type much thing, the word cronyism gets thrown around, I would imagine Heritage in the past, particularly if it were Democrats, would have been against. Are you concerned about how he will separate himself from his businesses?

[11:15:08]DEMINT: I'm concerned about any conflict of interest just like Hillary's foundation. I call that out. If there is a conflict of interest, we will call it out.

BERMAN: Any stake in his businesses, is that a conflict?

DEMINT: I'll have to see how they structure. Lot of people keep their assets, put them in blind trusts, somebody else manages them. So I really can't comment on how he sets it up, but his focus will be on running this country. I imagine his family and people who are currently running aspects of his business will run it. It has to be completely transparent, but it's going to be hard with large businesses like his, almost every government transaction has something to do with that business.

BOLDUAN: All more important. One quick clarification, you said on executive orders. Does Donald Trump need to lift, eliminate the executive order that Barack Obama put in place with regard to dreamers, DACA?

DEMINT: I don't know exactly what that executive order was. We were opposed to that and I think his first stroke of the pen should be to eliminate all President Obama's executive orders. Then there are several for practical reasons they have to put back. But the dreamers should not receive any kind of amnesty with an executive order.

BERMAN: That's what Donald Trump suggested just now to "Time" magazine that maybe they should get some consideration.

DEMINT: It should be done through Congress or normal order of things with a good public debate, but it should not be considered until we control our borders. BOLDUAN: Regular order. Shocking that a former senator would approve of regular order going through Congress. Great to see you, Senator. Thank you.

DEMINT: Good to see you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, a very big -- he's a very big critic of the very agency that he has been picked to lead. He says the science behind climate change is up for debate. Democrats are promising a confirmation fight for that man. What's that fight going to look like since Republicans are in control of the Senate? One top Democratic senator is joining us. Let's see where he draws the battle lines.

BERMAN: Plus, is the president-elect considering a White House role for one of his children? New reports that Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka, may take a leave of absence from the Trump Organization. We will take a look at what role she plans to play.

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[11:21:04]

BOLDUAN: Donald Trump's pick for head of the Environmental Protection Agency isn't a general, isn't a billionaire. He's not Al Gore. Not by a long shot. Instead he's a vocal and active critic of the very agency that he's been chosen to lead and has fought President Obama's climate change policies.

BERMAN: That man is Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma's attorney general, close friend of the fossil fuel industry that is very prominent in his state. Just a few months ago, he wrote in the "National Review" that link between global warming and human activity is far from settled. A lot of scientists will tell you that's not true.

The choice galling Democrats and environmentalists. One of them says Trump has basically picked the fox to run the hen house. Want to discuss this now with Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us. The last time you were here, you told us you that regretted that Democrats changed the rules in the confirmation process keeping the filibuster out of it. I imagine that that regret is particularly acute for you on the issue of Scott Pruitt.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER COONS (D), DELAWARE: Well, let me be clear about that comment. What I regretted was that then Minority Leader McConnell so overused the filibuster to block every major nominee by the Obama administration to the D.C. circuit, the NLRB and many other vital posts, that we ultimately as a Democratic caucus felt compelled to make that change.

What I regretted was that we had a dysfunctional Senate where the minority leader and minority caucus at the time, the Republican caucus, so thoroughly and effectively misused the filibuster to block President Obama that we ultimately took the step of changing that rule in the Senate. Let me comment on what you just said about Trump's decision to nominate Oklahoma's attorney general. I think climate change is one of the greatest threats to the United States and to the world. Our current military leaders have already been taking steps to prepare our military bases and military facilities around the world for climate change.

My home state of Delaware is the lowest mean elevation state in America and we are preparing for the real impact on our state of climate change. The purpose of the Environmental Protection Agency is the protection of the environment.

To nominate someone to head the EPA who isn't just a climate skeptic but has actively litigated to block the Obama administration's clean power plant gives me real pause. I think this is a very bad action.

And while the president-elect has had some interesting meetings with advocates for taking strong action to address climate change, this action to nominate someone to be in charge of the EPA who I'm gravely concerned will undo the EPA strikes me as a line in the sand where we are just going to have to stand up and fight.

BOLDUAN: What's that fight going to look like, though, as we pointed out, there's not much to do?

COONS: Well, that fight means we are going to have robust and open hearings. We will ask tough questions. We are going to see whether the American people care about clean air and clean water, whether we can hold Donald Trump to his election commitments.

He said in the course of the campaign that he cares deeply about clean air and clean water and this nominee is someone who signaled by his actions as Oklahoma's attorney general that he cares more about defending the fossil fuel industry than he does about taking significant steps to protect our air and our water and our long-term health and our climate.

So I think if we can persuade the American people and they can persuade members of Congress of both parties, then we will have a change in terms of this confirmation. If we can't, we won't.

BERMAN: Senator, we learned that the president-elect intends to nominate General John Kelly to lead Homeland Security. We know James Mattis is his pick for the Pentagon and we know that General Flynn is national security adviser. Three generals so far and he is meeting with Admiral Stavridis today. Three generals so far, is that too many generals?

COONS: Well, I think what matters is that Donald Trump is choosing people with significant experience in foreign policy and national security. Given that he has very limited experience in those areas, I'm encouraged that he's looking to folks with deep and broad experience in those areas.

[11:25:12]And I'm frankly more concerned about making sure that we respect our traditional treaties and commitments around the world and I'm concerned that we so far hear skepticism from Donald Trump about whether or not Russia actually engaged in intentional actions to influence our elections.

Admiral Mike Rogers, who is current head of the National Security Agency and Cyber Command, has publicly said, as have all the leaders of our intelligence community, nonpartisan folks with whom we entrust our national security, that Russia really did take aggressive action to try to influence our elections.

They are not saying that they determined the outcome, but the lack of a bipartisan commitment so far to tackle this critical issue concerns me. I was pleased that Republican senator Lindsey Graham stepped forward to say that he agrees with me and many other Democrats that we need to take this very seriously because this shows a level of aggression by the Russians against our security that frankly Donald Trump isn't taking seriously yet.

BERMAN: All right, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, great to have you with us. Thanks so much for being with us.

COONS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Senator.

BERMAN: Interesting line in the sand when it comes to Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma. Interesting to see what that fight looks like or how deep that line is.

All right, the president-elect says he sold all his stocks to avoid a conflict of interest but what about his business empire? His own business interests? Up next, new reports that he's not ready to sever all ties.

BOLDUAN: Plus armed and dangerous, armed and very dangerous. A manhunt underway right now for a suspect who police believed shot two officers, one of those officers is dead. Details ahead.

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