Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Will Keep 'Celebrity Apprentice' Role While President; Senate Passes 21st Century Cures Act; Gatlinburg Reopens After Deadly Wildfires. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired December 9, 2016 - 07:30   ET


[07:31:42] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President-elect Donald Trump announcing more picks to his cabinet and our next commander-in-chief is raising some eyebrows with the news that he will stay on as executive producer of "Celebrity Apprentice" even while in the White House.

Joining us now to talk about all of this is senior adviser to the president-elect, Kellyanne Conway. Hi, Kellyanne.


CAMEROTA: Nice to see you. Why is Mr. Trump going to stay on as executive producer of "THE APPRENTICE"?

CONWAY: Well, he's a very transparent guy. Everyone can see what he's doing and the fact is that he is conferring with all types of experts to tell him what he is allowed to do and not to do as the President of the United States. And if this is one of the approved activities then, perhaps, he'll consider staying on.

CAMEROTA: You know, and I'm not saying that it's not allowed. I'm just saying that every hour he devotes to "CELEBRITY APPRENTICE" is an hour that he's not devoting to -- fill in the blank -- jobs, national security, whatever.

CONWAY: Well, OK, but were we so concerned about the hours and hours and hours spent on the golf course of the current president? I mean, presidents have a right to do things in their spare time or their leisure time.


CONWAY: I mean, nobody objects to that. There's been a lot of times --

CAMEROTA: Well, wait a second. Everybody objected to that. I mean, I heard you object to Mr. Obama playing golf.


CAMEROTA: Will Mr. Trump not be playing golf for the next four years?

CONWAY: Well, maybe he will be. It certainly seems like there's a lot of time to do it based on recent precedent while you're President of the United States, but the point is the same. That these -- whether it's President Obama or President Donald Trump, the idea that these men are going to be all work and nothing else all the time, it's just unrealistic because it's never -- it's never happened in our lifetimes. But, you know, I know Donald Trump very well and I can tell you that work is his work and work is his hobby. His preferred time is with his family but it's followed very closely behind with work.


CONWAY: He just -- it's a mystery to all of us when he even sleeps. I'm sure he's watching us right now and he's just all high energy --


CONWAY: -- high octane, high activity. And so, again --


CONWAY: -- if the powers that be -- if the lawyers and the protocol officers say that he can do that, then he probably is going to say why not?

CAMEROTA: He is a multi-tasker. That's is true and we all know that, but will he be collecting a salary?

CONWAY: Doubtful. I think he's actually already said he will not keep the salary for President of the United States --

CAMEROTA: No, I mean --

CONWAY: -- which I believe is about $400,000.

CAMEROTA: Right. No, I mean for "CELEBRITY APPRENTICE". Will he be making a profit off it somehow with royalties or a salary?

CONWAY: I haven't discussed that with him directly, however, there are many options. He could do what he's going to do with his White House salary with the "CELEBRITY APPRENTICE" which is donate it to charity or refuse or decline to take it. Again, all of that will be decided. I don't think it's as relevant an issue, respectfully, as the amazing cabinet he's putting together and the fact that a majority of Americans now have a favorable opinion toward him, his highest number ever.

That a majority of Americans say -- over 60 percent say they approve of his actions with Carrier last week, making good on his centerpiece of his campaign to keep jobs right here in the U.S. of A. rather than having them shipped off to Mexico. You saw real tripartisan support for him in that regard, Alisyn. Forty percent of Democrats, over 50 percent of Independents -- or 50 or 60 percent of Independents, and over 80 percent of Republicans.


CONWAY: So it's remarkable and I think that's what needs focused on these days.

[07:35:02] CAMEROTA: That was a real feather in his cap. Does it matter that the numbers, it turns out, were not as high as he said? It's not 1,100 jobs, it's 800.

CONWAY: No, what matters is that -- well, I think it matters to election deniers and there seem to be many of them.

CAMEROTA: No, I mean, to the people whose jobs --

CONWAY: But to people who want to see --

CAMEROTA: Look, you've heard -- you've heard the labor union leader who said that there were people who were misled, who thought that their jobs were going to be staying because of the higher number, but then it turned out that they weren't.

CONWAY: Well, they should talk to their employer, first and foremost. But secondly, I've talked to some of those Carrier employees directly. We don't care if they vote, for whom they voted, what their politics are. We care that they were able to keep their jobs here. And, you know, I think those who want to just continue to criticize Donald Trump and keep the permanent campaign going will always try to undercut his successes and his victories.

It is amazing -- and look, this could have been done. The current president could have done this same deal with Carrier but it took the president-elect, before he's even sworn in, to make one of the centerpieces of his campaign and to keep those people in their jobs. It's a huge boon in a non-swing state, by the way -- I think he carried Indiana by 10 points -- so people are critical of him.

Is he only saying thank you in the states he won? Is he going to go to states where he didn't win? Well, of course, he'll be president. He'll be very active out there with the people. And I just thought last week with Carrier was a great example of how this man, a non- politician who goes to Washington owing nobody anything, will execute, will deliver, is about accountability and results, the way he's been his entire brilliant career.

CAMEROTA: OK. Let's talk about the cabinet. So, secretary of state, who will it be?

CONWAY: That's up to Donald Trump, the president-elect, but obviously he's been broadening the search -- an incredibly diverse group of individuals by their background and their experience. You have Gov. Romney, Mayor Giuliani, Gen. David Petraeus who nobody can argue knows a lot about the world and would be effective at Foggy Bottom. You have Sen. Bob Corker who is the head of the Foreign Relations Committee -- would face easy confirmation, people project.

And then, of course, in recent days he's been meeting with Ambassador John Bolton, Congressman Rohrabacher, and more recently, Rex Tillerson from Exxon. And yesterday, Alan Mulally from Ford. These two men are captains of industry who already deal with the developing country.


CONWAY: In the case of Mr. Tillerson, has dealings with Russia and China, Yemen and, of course, most of the world. So is Exxon. It's a fascinating way of approaching such an incredibly important job and it's very Donald Trump to have a number of people in and not make it a cage match between two people played out on cable T.V.


CONWAY: That would be ridiculous. It's the secretary of state position. But instead, having that wide berth, taking his time --


CONWAY: -- and recognizing that we're way ahead of schedule with our cabinet appointees --


CONWAY: -- when you compare us to past administrations, Republican and Democrat.

CAMEROTA: And it's been entertaining and interesting to watch. Let's talk about Mitt Romney. You have not made it a secret that he would not be your first choice but is he still the top contender?

CONWAY: Well, it's not my choice at all. I'm not the president- elect. But, Donald Trump, the president-elect, gave me permission to express publicly what I had expressed privately. I would never say anything that was otherwise and I'm in his service here. And the fact is that I just was -- I just was reflecting what I saw on the grassroots. I had not seen blowback like that in quite a while.

CAMEROTA: And I do want to ask you about that blowback.

CONWAY: I think that Gov. Romney --

CAMEROTA: Just hold on one second, Kellyanne. Tell me about that. Is -- are you still seeing blowback to the possibility of Mitt Romney being chosen?

CONWAY: Yes, and the reason is it has a lot to do with the disloyalty and what he said in those remarks. Obviously, Donald Trump has extended an olive branch because that's how he is. He said on election night -- or in the wee hours of that Wednesday morning, Alisyn, that he would be president to all Americans, even those who didn't support him. That may or may not include Gov. Romney.

And that he would -- he's obviously been meeting with many different people who were part of the #NeverTrump movement, people who are from the other side of the aisle. Senator Joe Manchin will be here today, Democrat from West Virginia. He's met with Tulsi Gabbard, congresswoman from Hawaii.


CONWAY: He's obviously gone -- the day after being elected he met with President Obama. They've talked since --


CONWAY: -- several times.

CAMEROTA: But for secretary of state --

CONWAY: He's put Valerie Jarrett being helpful to people like me. Yes?

CAMEROTA: Yes, for secretary of state do you think that Mitt Romney is still a top contender, yes or no?

CONWAY: Yes, he's definitely in the mix. There are several top contenders and Gov. Romney is in there as well, and it just tells you something about Donald Trump. He is willing to take into account the background, the experience, the resumes, the vision of each of these men who are being considered, Alisyn. They're very different people. And he also -- but I think everybody also needs to appreciate and understand, if not assimilate, that you're in the service of Donald Trump. He'll be President of the United States.


CONWAY: He'll be commander-in-chief and it's the Trump doctrine worldwide that people should executive on. So I think all of this cabinet needs to understand that. What his view is on this issue or that issue in the different agencies and that, of course, includes if not begins with secretary of state.

[07:40:09] CAMEROTA: And very quickly, I only have two seconds, will we hear an announcement next week?

CONWAY: On secretary of state, it's possible?


CONWAY: They don't need to be rushed through. We're way ahead of where anybody's ever been. President Obama had four weeks before he announced his first cabinet pick --


CONWAY: -- and it was the secretary of the Treasury, not the secretary of state, Tim Geithner.


CONWAY: And so we feel really good. The president-elect and vice president-elect have met with more than 85 people, some of whom will serve in his administration.


CONWAY: All of whom love the country and wanted to offer their advice, counsel, and vision for the nation in their background and experiences. And they've also talked to over 50 heads of state now and that list continues to expand as well. So high energy, high activity, a lot of work going up here in the tower in between him going out on his "thank you America" tour. So really exciting times. I think you could see an announcement next week that only man is responsible for that, and it's the president-elect and we'll all respect his decision.

CAMEROTA: Got it. Kellyanne Conway, thank you.

CONWAY: Thank you.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It's interesting. PolitiFact says President Obama has actually taken less official vacation days than any modern president. Look it up for yourself.

Despite all the threats about dismantling Obamacare, Congress is united when it comes to funding mental health services. This is a huge issue. Everybody has someone in their family or someone you know who suffers from mental illness. Congressman Tim Murphy has been at the forefront for years and is a key sponsor of the 21st Century Cures Act. What is it, why it matters, what we still need? And a book that is a must-read for anybody who wants to get better.


[07:44:15] CUOMO: All right, big news. We talk a lot in this country about mental health and needing to address it. President Obama is set to sign the 21st Century Cures Act. What is that? Well, it's a lot of things but one of the things that's in it, with bipartisan support, is to do better when it comes to mental health. We are going to speed up the approval of new drugs in different categories but it's the first major mental health legislation in a decade. It will also, hopefully, dovetail with the needs to address the opioid epidemic.

Now, one of the men at the forefront of this effort is Republican Congressman Tim Murphy. He introduced the House version of the bill. He's done this many times. He's also the author of a really helpful book called "Overcoming Passive-Aggression". Alisyn changed my copy to say "overcoming aggression" and we can explain -- you can explain the distinction to me in a second.

[07:45:00] But, congratulations to you Congressman. I know this mattered a lot to you. Why should it matter to us -- to people in this country?



MURPHY: We have had a lot of tragedies and you've been great at helping America understand that we need to address the mental health issue behind that and provide treatment instead of tragedy. So our bill -- it came out of years of investigation in my role as the chairman of Oversight and Investigation.

We found the federal government was really partially to blame. There's 112 federal agencies out there that don't work together that are supposed to address issues of mental health, mental illness, and they don't do it very well. We are funding some pretty silly programs like how to make a fruit smoothie or interpretive dance or dealing with your anger, and not dealing with serious mental illness.

Our bill changes that. It starts at the top -- a new office -- the assistant secretary of Mental Health and Substance Abuse to get our government moving forward on this. Change the grant programs to make them evidenced-based. Making sure we have more psychiatric beds to treat people instead of dumping on the street or leaving them in emergency rooms or sending them to jail. More provider psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers because half the counties in America, you can't even get help because it's not there.

CUOMO: Now, one of the things that this addresses -- and again, I know you want to do more but, you know, especially where you are right now you've got to take one step at a time here, especially when there's such a vacuum and such a stigma against mental -- the mentally ill and treating it like illness and not behavior modification. So, a family who knows they have somebody who needs help but who doesn't want to get help or who rejects the help and doesn't follow with their care but is adult, often they're handcuffed.


CUOMO: You want to address that. How can we now?

MURPHY: Well, I do want to address it because there's certain laws -- HIPAA laws which prevent physicians from talking with family members. Part of this bill clarifies that and makes it very clear. A physician can ask a family tell me what I need to know. Some doctors think they can't do that. They really can so we're going to push towards that.

Part, I want to push more. We've got it somewhat but not fully addressed, and that's the physician's ability to tell a family some selected information. Not describing therapy notes, not breaching a person's privacy, but 75 percent of people with a serious mental illness also have a chronic illness -- diabetes, heart disease, lung disease. And it wouldn't it be great if a physician could at least say Mr. Smith, your son, I can't tell you everything we do but he needs to see an endocrinologist, he needs to see an oncologist. Can you make sure that happens?

CUOMO: Because the physical and mental go together.

MURPHY: Absolutely, they really do.

CUOMO: And to give the family the ability to go to the doctor and say Chris isn't right. His behavior is weird. I know he's not taking his medicine. He's getting erratic. Because how many times have we seen in these mass violence events where there was a perceptible chain of events and family felt unempowered. At least you did something. We know there has to be more. We'll stay on that story. Now comes the book, "Overcoming Passive-Aggression". At the beginning of this book -- Congressman Murphy has 40 years of clinical experience and his co-author Loriann Oberlin, they've worked on this before. They each have individual works as well. You've got a great story that describes what passive-aggression is. A lot of people don't believe that they are passive-aggressive. What do people learn initially in this book?

MURPHY: Well, they learn that not only other people, and oftentimes we see it more in other people but we don't see it in ourselves. Passive-aggression is how you get back at some people or you annoy them, you attack them with not really doing anything. You may delay the phone call, you may give them a left-handed compliment, you may not take care of their needs right away, you may get them the wrong sized clothing for a present. All those little nagging things. And I know it happens in Congress. It happens in every business.

CUOMO: And why does it have to be overcome?

MURPHY: Because it is an awful way to communicate. We have lost our ability to communicate directly to handle emotional and intellectual conversations with each other. We tweet, we Facebook post, we put digs and nastiness indirectly instead of looking someone in the eye. And it can bring down a company, it can destroy a marriage, it can hurt a relationship, and we need to overcome that.

CUOMO: One of the chapters I was surprised isn't in this book to overcome passive-aggression is go nose-to-nose, argue it out, and if you don't like it have a fist fight, end it there and go get a coffee.

MURPHY: No, no, no, no, no. I didn't say that.

CUOMO: There are a lot of great communication skills and there's a learning of how we behave and why we behave that way and what to do about it. Great book, "Overcoming Passive-Aggression". I know the fight to get more help for the mentally ill continues and we'll cover it.

MURPHY: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: Be well, Congressman and congratulations -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, Chris. We all remember the Sandy Hook school massacre four years ago. It was one of the saddest days in our country's history. Well now, those grieving parents are facing threats because of online haters and conspiracy theorists who say that tragedy was a hoax. Just another painful example of how real stories cause real pain. We have two people on the receiving end, next.


[07:51:50] CUOMO: All right, please listen up. Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are open for business this morning after two weeks of just terrible wildfires -- deadly, killing 14 people, destroying thousands of properties. Now, in the midst of all this disaster there have been heroes who went beyond the call of duty. Polo Sandoval has their story.


AMY WILLIAMS, GATLINBURG RESIDENT: It looks like it just went to the edge right through there but it didn't go any further. Now, look at that fire line just across. Now this has gotten so hot -- you know it had to be so hot that it has blistered the wood, but --

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amy Williams assumed she would never see her Gatlinburg family retreat again.

A. WILLIAMS: This entire mountain was on fire, everything.

SANDOVAL: She and her husband, Doug, were nearly 100 miles north in Bristol, Tennessee when they saw a photo of their property on social media. It was taken during the deadly wildfire outbreak in their state.

DOUG WILLIAMS, GATLINBURG RESIDENT: All the images that we saw, it really looked bad. I mean, it looked like there's no way for this house to survive.

SANDOVAL: Not knowing the fate of their Gatlinburg home, the Williams couple shared their story of concern with a local T.V. station while the fire captain from nearby Mosheim, Tennessee happened to catch that story.

CAPT. JERRY REDMOND, MOSHEIM, TN VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT: The homeowner was stating she didn't know whether it was still standing.

SANDOVAL: Jerry Redmond and his volunteer crew knew they had the answer Amy and Doug Williams were hoping to hear. Their retreat on Holly Ridge Road was still standing. He even, unknowingly, got proof in this picture. That's the Williams home standing tall on the scorched hillside. Redmond went beyond the call by making a call to Williams.

REDMOND: She would have had to go a couple more days of excruciating thoughts of is her family home still going to be there and we were able to answer that question for her.

SANDOVAL: Williams and her husband are heartbroken for the neighbors who lost everything but they're also grateful for Redmond and the rest of the volunteers who never gave up.

D. WILLIAMS: It's just unbelievable that there are people in this world that will do that for free.

A. WILLIAMS: When they were tired they just kept going.

SANDOVAL: The Williams plan to have the volunteers from Mosheim back at their house to thank them personally.

A. WILLIAMS: These people are miracle workers.

SANDOVAL: They are among the hundreds of men and women who charged up the Smoky Mountains determined to save who and what they could. Polo Sandoval, CNN, Gatlinburg, Tennessee.


CAMEROTA: Thanks to Polo for that. Well, December 14th will mark four years since a gunman murdered 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Believe it or not, there are online conspiracy theorists who claim that that tragedy never happened and they have even done worse than deny it.

Joining us now is the director and producer of the documentary "Newtown", Kim Snyder. We also have Dr. William Begg. He's the vice chair of emergency medicine at Danbury Hospital. We want to mention that Chris Cuomo's sister, Maria Cuomo Cole, also helped produce the film. Great to have both of you here today.

[07:55:12] In the world of fake news, fake stories, conspiracy theories, I can't imagine a more sickening one and the people online who claim that Newtown -- this event that crushed all of us, that it never happened. Kim, why do they do this? What is behind this conspiracy theory? Who are these people?

KIM SNYDER, DIRECTOR/PRODUCER, "NEWTOWN": Well, you know, early on we didn't even really want to address this. We took the lead of the town that we didn't even really want to focus our attention. The film doesn't do that. But, you know, now, three and one-half years later, days before this anniversary, it's just become somewhat contextualized and such a larger, more dangerous problem. And I think that it's not -- it's fringe -- you know, it's frightening because it just seems to be larger numbers than I think we understood.

CAMEROTA: Hillary Clinton just called it an epidemic. Other people feel that way, too. We saw violence at the D.C. pizzeria over a different crazy online conspiracy theory and I understand that there is the debate why give it oxygen? Why talk about it and give it oxygen? But, of course, we're at the point now where we have to figure out how to stamp it out.

DR. WILLIAM BEGG, VICE CHAIR, EMERGENCY MEDICINE, DANBURY HOSPITAL: I agree, and there's a difference. Previously, we may have considered it a fringe event but now, with the latest political climate and the proliferation of social media, it's having real implications. We do see that people in our society are being affected and the latest incident where because of fake news somebody goes into a D.C. pizzeria and starts shooting off their gun. I think that we have to address this issue. Realize it's an issue and then consider what are we going to do about it.

CAMEROTA: And that is where we are. So, Dr. Begg, you've been on the receiving end --

BEGG: Yes, I have.

CAMEROTA: -- of these conspiracy theories about Newtown and threats.

BEGG: Yes.

CAMEROTA: What do they say to you?

BEGG: Well, it's insidious because when you try to be an advocate for -- from my point of view about the public health issue of gun violence you want to speak to people but then the conversation morphs. In my situation, what did you see in the emergency room, what did the bodies look like. And when I point out that social decorum suggests you don't speak about that, then the conversation goes in the wrong direction. Then videos surface with the hoaxers saying that his is the E.R. doctor. He was there that day but it didn't really happen because he can't describe what happened.

CAMEROTA: So people online try to engage you and they say you're lying. And then you -- I mean, just natural, I assume, humanistic to try to defend yourself.

BEGG: Worse than that, they engage me in public when I'm in a public venue and I think that they're just a citizen or someone who is interested in this public health issue. Yes, they engage me and then it morphs into an online proliferation of multiple thousands of hits.

CAMEROTA: So, real people show up.--

BEGG: Oh, absolutely, yes.

CAMEROTA: -- and including this just recently. This Florida woman, 57-year-old Lucy Richards. She was just charged with making threats about the Sandy -- to the Sandy Hook families. She was arrested, thank God, and charged.

SNYDER: Right.

CAMEROTA: I mean, that's the -- you know, if somebody shows up I assume that the people who are doing it to you have not been arrested and charged.

BEGG: Oh gosh, no.

CAMEROTA: But she crossed a different line.

BEGG: That's the difference. Kim?

SNYDER: No, I just was going to say and friends like Dr. Bill here and others who were in the film, I mean, they wanted to bear witness for three years about the unthinkable grief and trauma that town has experienced for years, just with the motivation that they could help other families and communities from not having to go through this by telling their stories.

CAMEROTA: That is the right answer. I mean, sunlight is important and to come out and to bear witness. But the idea that you would be on the receiving end -- have you -- can you get your mind around why people -- what drives people to challenge this?

BEGG: I think there's three reasons. There is either a political benefit, there may be a financial benefit. If you have a website where you have advertisers and you get a lot of hits, there's a financial reason. And then, the third component, there's people that have psychological issues, either delusional disorder, paranoid disorder or personality disorder, and it feeds their ego by getting themselves out in the limelight. So there are real reasons why people are doing this.

CAMEROTA: So now that you've been on the receiving end of it and since we agree that we're at the point where we have to talk about it, what do you think the answer is?

BEGG: Well, I think now that we've identified that it's a problem there has to be ramifications for those perpetrators and the fact now we have folks who are being arrested and possibly going to jail, that's important.

CAMEROTA: But they've crossed a line. I mean, by the time you get arrested --

SNYDER: That's right.

CAMEROTA: -- you have logged so many threats --

BEGG: That's true.

CAMEROTA: -- at you. You've shown up, you've disrupted things. I mean, you have to really cross a violent line in order to be arrested.

SNYDER: I think it's --

CAMEROTA: So before that, what's the answer?

SNYDER: It's also an issue of bullying. I mean, even with the film we get people on our -- on our Newtown film website that just say this is a Hollywood fiction.