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Filling Out The Trump Cabinet; Iowa Gov. Branstad Named Ambassador To China; Donald Trump Vs. Union Boss; Two Teens Charged With Aggravated Arson. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 8, 2016 - 05:30   ET



[05:30:15] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump's controversial choice to lead up the EPA, a fierce critic of the agency he is about to lead.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: The president-elect lashing out at a blue- collar union boss. The reason, because he criticized Trump's claims about saving jobs at an Indiana factory.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik. Good morning.

BERMAN: Nice to see you. John Berman here. Thirty minutes past the hour and breaking overnight, President-elect Donald Trump had a pretty remarkable back and forth with a steel worker union leader, a man who now says he is receiving death threats as a result. This all played out on CNN with Chuck Jones saying the Trump team's claim that it's saving more than 1,000 jobs at Carrier in Indiana, that that claim is inflated. We're going to get to all of this, including the facts, in just a moment.

First, today, the president-elect is meeting with retired Admiral James Stavridis who is said to be on the short list for secretary of state. Now, noteworthy about this meeting is that Adm. Stavridis was vetted as a possible vice presidential pick for Hillary Clinton.

Overnight, the transition team announced that the president-elect has chosen Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, to lead up the Environmental Protection Agency. Now, this is a very controversial nomination. Pruitt has said that the science of climate change is debatable and he's a fierce critic of the agency he would now run and probably will now run. For the latest on the transition let's bring in CNN's Sara Murray.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning, John and Alison. Well, the Donald Trump transition barreled on and while as a candidate on the campaign trail Trump may have said some dismissive things about the generals, he's relying an awful lot on them as he builds out his White House team.

A source tells CNN that Trump has chosen retired Gen. John Kelly to be the next head of the Department of Homeland Security. It's just one of a number of staffing announcements that appear to be taking shape this week. Yet another one that the Trump transition team made official is Linda McMahon, the former CEO of WWE. That's Donald Trump's pick to lead the Small Business Administration and a source tells me that Donald Trump is impressed with her business experience. That's part of the reason he felt she was the right pick for the job.

Now, he won't be spending all day Thursday cloistered in Trump Tower. He's going to be heading out to Ohio where he'll be meeting victims and first responders in Columbus around that Ohio State attack and then he's going to be going onward to Des Moines, Iowa. That is, of course, a state he won that helped him seal his trip to the White House, part of his victory tour, and also an opportunity for him to reveal yet another one of his staff picks, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, and that's Donald Trump's choice to be the next U.S. ambassador to China. Back to you guys.


KOSIK: OK, Sara Murray, thank you. And one likely reason Donald Trump picked Gov. Branstad for ambassador to China is Branstad's close decades-long relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping. For some background on the odd couple's friendship between the very conservative governor and the communist president let's bring in CNN's Matt Rivers who is live in Beijing.

So one thing that came to mind was Donald Trump had certainly not gone easy with his rhetoric on China and the idea that Branstad would kind of fly in with his Superman cape once Trump kind of throws some really radical policies China's way.

MATT RIVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this certainly could be viewed as an olive branch from the incoming administration towards China after what has been uniformly called a difficult week between the U.S. and China in terms of their relations. And it really is because of that personal relationship that exists between Gov. Branstad and between President Xi Jinping.

It's very unusual. These two men go back decades. In fact, in 1985, Xi Jinping, then a 31-year-old mid-level bureaucrat from a rural province in China, went to Iowa on an agricultural fact-finding mission. And then it was some two decades later, 2012, then-Vice President Xi Jinping goes back to Iowa, re-meets Gov. Branstad, and that leads to a relationship between both men. In fact, Gov. Branstad was here in China just last month, in November, on a trade mission and so both men call each other old friends.

Governor Branstad has receive high praise from Chinese officials here -- the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Not something that we hear of very often. And beyond just that friendly relationship there's an economic relationship here, too. Governor Branstad has strongly pushed for Iowa goods to be exported to China. That's a relationship that's grown. And so the Trump administration will certainly rely on Gov. Branstad's relationship with China to navigate what is certain to be some very serious differences that these two countries will have moving forward once President-elect Trump takes office come January. [05:35:00] KOSIK: OK. Matt Rivers, live from Beijing. Thanks very much. Let's go ahead and bring in CNN Politics reporter Eugene Scott, helping us break down the latest in the presidential transition. You know, let's dig in deeper about this Carrier deal about the criticism from the union leader who is criticizing the deal that Trump touted as keeping jobs here.

Now, interestingly enough, many may not know this but Chuck Jones actually spoke to CNN Money" back on Friday saying that he's "lying his ass off" about Trump's claim of saving 1,100 jobs. He says that's just not my feeling. He said, "the numbers prove he's lying his ass off. It's a damn shame when you come in and make false statements like that."

OK, fast-forward to last night, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" -- listen to this.


CHUCK JONES, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES STEELWORKERS 1999: We had a lot of our members when the word was coming out of 1,100, they thought that they would have a job. In order -- then they find out the next day after -- or next Friday -- that most likely they weren't and that 550 were still going to lose their jobs.


KOSIK: And the president-elect apparently watching "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" last night -- watching that interview then beginning a series of tweets. One of them saying "Chuck Jones, who is president of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!"

Here are some facts. I'll try to go through them quickly. Initially, Carrier planned to move 1,400 jobs. The deal was said to save 1,100, but here's the thing. Three hundred were never going to leave anyway so the net total that Trump probably should have gone out and said, listen, that is saved -- he should have said we saved 800. And then in addition to that there were another 600 that weren't saved that are going to be moved to Mexico next year.

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: To Mexico, anyway. Eight hundred jobs is a significant number, especially during the holidays, and there would have been nothing wrong with going forward and saying I saved 800 jobs. I think what the president-elect is learning is that when you make these claims about successful acts and decisions and movements you've made that people are going to look into it. And the reality is a number was put forward that wasn't accurate and now he attacked someone who called him out on it.

KOSIK: And it's taking away from the positive that he did save jobs.

SCOTT: It's 800 jobs.

KOSIK: Yes, that's nothing to sneeze at.

SCOTT: Not at all, not at all.

BERMAN: And there are questions about whether or not he should be taking on this one person by name. Chuck Jones now says he's receiving death threats --


BERMAN: -- and we're seeing the effect that someone like the president-elect can have when he does this. Let's talk about some other nominations now. Scott Pruitt to be attorney general. Scott Pruitt is someone -- sorry, Scott Pruitt to be head of the EPA.

SCOTT: His current job --

BERMAN: He's the attorney general of Oklahoma and as attorney general of Oklahoma he's actually sued the EPA. This is man who says, essentially, that the science of climate change is in question. He says that it is debatable. Now, while there are some scientists who are agree with him, overwhelminglyscientists say that humans do contribute to climate change. Science is not on his side there. This is a controversial pick.

SCOTT: If he is chosen his job will be to protect human health and the environment. And Democrats, and even conservatives, who do believe in climate change are having a hard time understanding how someone who is so unsupportive and who is so critical of the idea can, in fact, do that, especially when we've seen the Trump campaign move in a direction that seems a little more receptive to the idea. We saw Trump say there's some connectivity.

Trump met with Al Gore this week and Ivanka Trump is looking into exploring the issue more, which is popular with millennials.

KOSIK: But as controversial as that pick is, Donald Trump, on the "TODAY SHOW" yesterday, admitted listen, I'm listening to President Obama's advice on who to pick for my cabinet.

SCOTT: Yes. My favorite line from that interview was "I love his ideas". I was like I've been covering you for like a year and one- half. I've never heard you say you love President Obama's ideas. But the reality is they gave us an idea shortly after he was elected that they would try to work together more to make this transition as smooth as possible. And I think what Donald Trump has proven is that listening to President Obama's advice and views on some of these appointment picks is part of that.

BERMAN: One last thing. Linda McMahon, co-head of WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment, to lead the Small Business Administration. You smile but one might think it's a controversial pick. WWE is a big business. She ran for Senate and lost twice in Connecticut. And Richard Blumenthal, who actually beat her, says you know what, I may support this nomination.

SCOTT: If you can go from "The Apprentice" to the White House, why can't you go from WWE to SBA?

BERMAN: Donald Trump in the hall of fame. There we go.

SCOTT: Yes, there's some great memes on the internet about that.

KOSIK: I'll have to check those out. Eugene Scott, thanks so much.

SCOTT: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. A federal judge has halted the recount of votes for president in Michigan, one of three battleground states where Donald Trump narrowly beat Hillary Clinton, while seeking recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. They were filed by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. A district court judge said that Stein's suit raises serious issues but that she had offered no evidence of tampering or mistakes.

KOSIK: So, before the election stock market experts had predicted a 1,000-point drop on the Dow if Donald Trump won the election. Well, guess what? That didn't materialize. Now the exact opposite is happening. The Dow is up more than 1,200 points or seven percent since the election. It's now less than 500 points away from 20,000. Almost 300 of those points just came yesterday from the Dow closing at a record high.

[05:40:15] The S&P 500 also hitting an all-time high and the Nasdaq now just one small gain away from its own record. Futures are pointing slightly higher this morning.

Investors think a Trump presidency will mean faster growth, less regulation, and lower taxes. Even Trump, himself, can't stop the rally. He told "TIME" magazine yesterday he wants to bring down prescription drug prices and guess what? That sent pharmaceutical and biotech stocks lower, including these three you see here which were the only losers on the Dow yesterday, but it had little impact on the broader market. And away it goes.

BERMAN: And away it goes. All right. Prosecutors now say the deadly Tennessee wildfires did not start by accident. We're going to have new details when EARLY START continues.


[05:45:08] KOSIK: Two teenagers are facing aggravated arson charges in connection with the deadly Tennessee wildfires. Because they are minors police are not releasing their identities. Now right now they are being held in a juvenile detention center but the case could be moved to adult court and more charges could be filed. We get more now from CNN's Polo Sandoval.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John and Alison, good morning. Officials there in Tennessee will only say that these two are juveniles that are from Tennessee but not from Sevier County, Tennessee which is the region that was heavily scorched by those wildfires that started about two weeks ago and then eventually spread to the nearby town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The two juveniles arrested yesterday, according to investigators, as part of this arson case that's being worked by local, state, and federal investigators. Local district attorney James Dunn saying that they do believe that others charges are possible. According to him, they are keeping all of their options on the table and that includes seeking the transfer of these cases to an adult criminal court.

You'll recall 14 people lost their lives, nearly 1,400 structures there in Tennessee either damaged or destroyed after this fire. We had an opportunity to actually travel to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to see the devastation for ourselves, and you can see just smoldering rubble was all that was left of what is typically a very picturesque, very scenic area there in eastern Tennessee.

Recent heavy rains actually helped those firefighters finally gain the upper hand in taking out and extinguishing the flames and now residents are beginning to rebuild their lives. They've been able to access the region already for several days but the general public will be able access Gatlinburg come on Friday as this investigating presses forward with two juveniles behind bars -- guys.


BERMAN: All right, Polo. Thanks so much. Former astronaut and U.S. senator John Glenn is in the hospital this morning. A spokesman confirmed that the 95-year-old was admitted more than a week ago, actually, to a hospital on the campus of Ohio State University. It's not clear right now what his condition or his illness might be. Senator Glenn did suffer a stroke back in 2014 after receiving heart valve replacement surgery. Obviously, you know, the first American to orbit the earth, the oldest American ever to go space, which he did in the 1990's as well. Serving this country as a senator, he ran for U.S. president in '94. A true American hero and we are thinking about him this morning.

KOSIK: We wish him well.

BERMAN: All right. Let's get a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY". Another great American joins us now, Mr. Chris Cuomo. Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": We wish Glenn the best. What an adventurer that man has been his entire life. Good morning, my friends.

KOSIK: Good morning.

CUOMO: We're breaking down the numbers on "NEW DAY". We're going to take a closer look at the Carrier deal and here's why. This is not a gotcha game. This is a good look at what may happen with a lot of different players in the manufacturing sector if that's going to be the earlier -- an early focus of then-President Trump to save jobs like that. We're going to talk to the union leader about what the reality is of how many jobs were lost, how many were saved, and how he wound up getting into a verbal sparring match with the President-elect of the United States. Plus, a conspiracy theory brought a gunman to a neighboring business. Now the owners of a Washington, D.C. book store located right next to this infamous pizzeria want you know how completely baseless so many internet theories are and how than can affect everyday life. They have an important message for people coming up on "NEW DAY", my friends.

BERMAN: Can't wait.

KOSIK: All right.

BERMAN: All right, Chris Cuomo. Thanks so much.

KOSIK: We will be watching. OK. Delta Airlines may be bringing back an old staple of air travel. Don't give it away. How are customers going to be responding to this? What will they be testing? I'll tell you when we get a check on CNN Money Stream, next.


[05:53:00] BERMAN: Most of Aleppo is now back in the hands of the Syrian regime. Neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city, once a rebel stronghold, have now been flattened. Bodies can be seen lining the streets. And the remaining opposition forces, they're now proposing a five-day ceasefire. The Syrian President Bashad al-Assad says those rebels and the United States are "begging" for a truce.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh tracking the latest developments for us. And, Jomana, Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, they're now trying to negotiate a ceasefire. At least, Secretary of State John Kerry is. Where do things stand?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, Secretary Kerry and Lavrov met for about 45 minutes in Germany yesterday. They are scheduled to meet again today. No agreement has been reached so far and it's very unlikely that we're going to be seeing any sort of a truce coming out of these talks. More of agreements when it comes to the humanitarian situation in Aleppo. And also, the United States has floated this U.S.-led initiative that would allow for safe passage of the rebels of eastern Aleppo, where they would be allowed to move to other parts of the country that are rebel held.

And we've heard from the Russian state media saying that the Russian government could be on board for this U.S. initiative. So it really seems at this point, John, that the rebels are on the verge of defeat, possibly in eastern Aleppo. That little part of the city that still remains under their control, about 10 neighborhoods, from what we have heard.

And it would look like they are on the verge of defeat, but what would this defeat look like? Are they going to surrender through this agreement where they will be allowed safe passage? We've certainly seen that in other parts of the country where the rebels have done that in the past. Or are they going to make a last stand and fight until the end? That remains to be seen, John. BERMAN: And, of course, there are so many people -- thousands, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds caught in the middle right now. Jomana Karadsheh, thanks so much.

[05:55:00] So, Joe Biden appears to be throwing some cold water on the very hot water he created about a possible 2020 White House bid. The outgoing vice president, he raised some eyebrows this week when he said -- or maybe he was just joking -- that he planned to run for president in four years. He even told Stephen Colbert never say never. But yesterday, maybe, he walked those comments back. He told reporters I have no intention of running, which I'll just point out is different than saying I will never run.

John Boehner says he has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. Topping his list, he says, being on the sidelines during the mayhem of this presidential race. Listen to the former House Speaker respond to a reporter who asked him if he wishes he could have been more involved in the process.


JOHN BOEHNER, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Oh, my God, no. Really? Every day I'd watch it and I was oh, thank God I'm not in the middle of this. It was the most bizarre political year that we've seen in 100 years.


BERMAN: Maybe the least surprising statement ever from Speaker Boehner. The former speaker really does want to be retired and nowhere near the political back and forth. He says he has absolutely no regrets about walking away from Congress 14 months ago. He likes to mow his lawn and play golf and smoke and drink is Merlot.

KOSIK: Hey, he's never right.

BERMAN: All right, let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this morning. The Dow and the S&P 500 have never been higher, both hitting records at the close on Wednesday. We are seeing futures up slightly right now. Stock markets in Europe are trading mixed and shares in Asia posted solid gains overnight. So guess what? Since the election the Dow has surged 1,200 points or seven percent. It's an incredible run-up, especially when you consider all those predictions were for a huge drop if Trump won. Now, for the year the Dow is more than 12 percent.

So if something happened to you or your job could you come up with $2,000 to pay for it? New research shows 47 percent of Americans under 40 years old say they would not be able to come up with the money if there were an emergency. That's disturbing. That's the lowest level this year according to the New York Federal Reserve.

It shows the divide in the economy of -- on the one hand, the economy -- the data in the economy shows positive signs. Unemployment is low, consumer confidence is high, and the economy is growing, but the thing is many young Americans are just not feeling it when it comes to how they feel about the future.

Are you sitting? Sit down for this one. Delta could be bringing a major perk. It's radical -- free meals in coach. The airline is testing the service to passengers who are going to be flying between New York and Los Angeles or San Francisco. So what's on the menu? Hmm, morning flyers could be offered a honey maple breakfast sandwich, yum. For afternoon travelers, a mesquite smoked turkey sandwich or a whole grain veggie wrap just for John. Delta will decide next year whether or not to make the meals standard.

Free perks like entertainment snacks, they've been coming back slowly to airlines as they try to lure in more flyers and their profits are boosted. But earlier this week we did hear that United Airlines began actually charging some passengers to use overhead bins.

BERMAN: Yes, that doesn't seem very nice. I will say free food would be nice again, particularly on these cross-country flights, so thank you Delta for that.

KOSIK: I am down with that.

BERMAN: Yes, particularly if they're good.

KOSIK: All right, that's EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. New cabinet picks and new controversy for President-elect Donald Trump. "NEW DAY" starts right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Scott Pruitt, he's actually been involved in lawsuits against the EPA, the very agency that he is nominated to head.


BERMAN: Donald Trump adding another general to his cabinet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know everybody's saying well, it's generals. No one is saying well, this person isn't qualified.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We're saving the jobs at the Carrier plant.

JONES: He just led the people on on the actual numbers of jobs he's claiming to save.

RICHARD QUEST, CNNI HOST,, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": There is no merit and value to attack a union leader just for disagreeing.

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Mr. Trump, you are looking and acting as if you are mean, petty, thin-skinned and vindictive. Stop this.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your New Day. It is Thursday, December 8th, 6:00 in the East. Up first, one month after this win, President-elect Donald Trump is churning out his cabinet picks. He's tapped a climate change challenger to head the EPA and he's added another military general to lead Homeland Security.

CUOMO: What is the up and down side of putting so many military in power of civilian agencies? We're going to go deep on that. We also have more proof that Mr. Trump will not change as President Trump. He attacked a union leader who accused Trump of getting the numbers wrong on Carrier. Trump did not challenge the facts.

Still 43 days away from Inauguration Day, it hasn't even started yet. We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Sunlen Serfaty live in Washington -- Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Chris. Well, there has just been a flurry of announcements in the last 24 hours coming from the Trump transition team. The president- elect making some big picks for some of these key roles in his administration. But Trump is also spending his time taking to Twitter, getting into a war of words with the local union leader who has been critical of Trump's claims over jobs actually saved at Carrier.