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President-Elect Meets Tech Titans; Family Members Present in Meeting; Conflict of Interest; Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Not Invited; President Obama's Lifetime Commitment; Trumps Are the New Kennedys; Trump's Policy for the Government. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired December 14, 2016 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:07] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hey, that does it for us. Thanks for watching. CNN TONIGHT with Don Lemon starts now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: First, family values. Are the Trumps the new Kennedys?
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
President-elect meets with the heads of Facebook, Apple, Amazon and more today. You know who else was in the room? Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump.
We're learning today that the White House office for the first lady will become the office of the first family under Donald Trump. So, just how involved will the Trump children be? Is this Camelot 2.0? I'll ask Robert G. Kennedy Jr.
Meanwhile, the president-elect tells the tech titans this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have no formal chain of command around here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: No formal chain of command, what will that mean once Donald Trump takes the oath of office in just 37 days?
Let's get right to CNN's Phil Mattingly. Phil is live for us outside of Trump Tower where he will be stationed for a while now - and has been. Phil, good evening to you. Titans of tech were at Trump Tower today. What else can you tell us?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's interesting, Don, is this isn't -- these aren't natural allies. If you look over the course of the last 15 months on a number of different policy issues, the tech community and the Trump campaign split rather sharply, and frankly, on the support itself.
They also did. If you look at some of the individuals who are in the room, Tim Cook, Sheryl Sandberg, Eric Schmidt, all these individuals not just for opposed to Donald Trump, they supported and in many cases raised money for Hillary Clinton.
But today, they were willing to try to put that aside. And you talk to sources on both sides, Don, and they said, look, there's a recognition that both sides need one another, it's a relationship they have to have over the course of the next four years.
This was the first stop of this process. There are going to be disagreements and there certainly are on issues like immigration. Some issues on taxes. But this was the start of a dialogue that will move forward. I'm told this will happen quarterly from here on out, Don.
LEMON: Phil, so there is a lot of discussion about the role of Donald Trump's children in this meeting. What can you tell us about that?
MATTINGLY: Well, I think the interesting aspect is this. That Jared Kushner was in the meeting, Ivanka Trump was in the meeting. That's somewhat expected. They are going to move back in a way from their businesses from the Trump organization, move down to D.C. and have a role there.
The big question marks with it, Eric Trump and Don Jr. were also in this meeting. These are the individuals that the president-elect, himself tweeted earlier this week would be responsible for running the Trump organization. It's not just in this meeting with tech titans, it was also Eric Trump was involved in the vetting of the secretary of state process.
Don Jr. was involved in the vetting of the interior secretary process. If these two individuals are going to be running the Trump organization, ethics experts from both sides of the aisle, Don, say there needs to be some kind of wall between the business and the policy. What we're seeing right now is that wall simply doesn't exist, Don.
LEMON: And also it should be of note that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wasn't in this meeting today. Any reason for that given Trump's obsession with Twitter?
MATTINGLY: Yes, a politician who has used it like nobody we've seen and really succeeded in large part because of it. Look, there is a public explanation and there is the behind the scenes story. Publicly, we're told there simply weren't enough seats at that large oak table we were staring at.
Behind the scenes, this is actually a feud that goes back a couple of months. It starts with Trump's digital team. They had an agreement with Twitter for a $5 million digital operation. That included custom emojis, emojis that were rejected by Twitter, and at least according to Trump officials rejected explicitly by Jack Dorsey.
Now because of that, that is one of the reasons I'm told he was not invited today. What Trump officials, at least one source said they're not willing to pull punches here, they said part of the reason they weren't invited Twitter wasn't big enough. Don, Twitter is a $14 billion company. So, maybe a little jab there, if you will. LEMON: Oh, well. I won't even go there. So, I've got some new
information that I want to ask you about. Late tonight, Phil, we learned that a judge has ordered President-elect Trump to sit for a seven-hour deposition in early January. Why is that?
MATTINGLY: Well, what's interesting here is this was already arranged in the president-elect's lawyers, his personal lawyers agreed to this deposition. What has changed is those same lawyers requested in the wake of his election that he actually either not have to sit down at all or at least reduce the timetable, reduce the scope of the questions.
What happened tonight is a judge rejected that request. So the president-elect just a few days, weeks before he's supposed to be inaugurated, sworn into office will be sitting down subject to lawyers' questions.
And I can tell you, Don, in covering the president-elect throughout the course of this campaign, depositions of which there are thousands of pages over the course of Donald Trump's career, have some of the most insightful views and looks into him personally, how he operates business wise.
So, you know people will be taking a very close look at that deposition, where does this all come from? The Trump hotel in Washington, D.C., because of his comments at the start of his campaign, celebrity Chef Jose Andres who is contracted to have a restaurant in that hotel, pulled out, Trump sued.
[22:05:08] They've been going back and forth ever since. And because of that, he'll be sitting down for seven hours, sworn testimony. Don.
LEMON: This should be testament why his business interests are so important and keeping conflict of interests apart. Thank you so much. I appreciate that, Phil Mattingly.
I want to bring in CNN's senior political commentator, David Axelrod, and senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, first, I mean, if you look at what he just reported about this deposition, thus the concern before we get to these, you know, the folks who are invited to the White House today, these giants of tech, the concern about conflicts of interest here.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I don't know about conflicts of interest, but, you know, ever since the case of Clinton v. Jones, the Paula Jones lawsuit, the Supreme Court in the late '90s said presidents of the United States can be subject to testimony in a civil case so he -- president-elect, he will be President Trump, I think, by this point, he will say -- he will have to testify in this case and there are other cases pending against him as well.
So, I think this is going to be part of the Trump presidency which is giving testimony in civil lawsuits in which he's a defendant.
LEMON: All right. Thank you for that.
TOOBIN: For deployment.
LEMON: Yes. Let's get back now and talk about the -- what happened today. So, the invites to today's tech summit, Jeffrey, were signed by Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, chief of staff Reince Priebus, and also billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel.
And as we just learned the president-elect's three children were there. Donald Jr. tweeted this. He said, "I'm honored to have sat in on this meeting, the most impressive group of minds I've seen assembled all looking to fight for America and U.S. jobs."
Do you think the separation between the Trump business and the White House is ever going to be a clear-cut line, a clear line there?
TOOBIN: No, I don't. I mean, remember, tomorrow was going to be the day that the president-elect held a news conference to explain how he was going to divide his business interests and his presidency. That has been canceled and it will never be rescheduled in my -- in my opinion.
Basically, Donald Trump's position seems to be I won, deal with it, my family will sort of run this, but my family will also be involved in running -- in my presidency. There is not going to be any legally meaningful division of labor between the presidency and the family business and, you know, or the president is going to simply say, look, if you got a complain, you know, impeach me which obviously they won't do. I mean, this is just the way it's going to.
LEMON: David, is that the way it's going to be? The American people should they have a say in this or do they really?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, as it pertains to the president, little, actually. Ethics laws that apply to others in the government don't apply to the president. You know, Don, when I went to the White House in 2009, I had two businesses that I had started and developed over a period of decades. And I very quickly sold them on the advice of the ethics lawyers who said that they might present a conflict of interest.
Now, admittedly, those are lunch money for Donald Trump and his empire is much more complex than my little businesses. But that's generally the rule that applies. And past presidents have liquidated their holdings and put them into blind trusts, so when they made decisions, there was no question that they weren't making them to enrich themselves, but on the basis of the national interests.
People can't have that confidence here because even though Donald Trump says he's stepping away from his businesses and letting his sons run the businesses, he understands what all of their investments and entanglements are.
We don't because he hasn't released his tax returns, by the way, so we don't know where his loans are out and so on. And so, this creates a real concern. You said earlier -- earlier that, you know, you asked whether this is
the new Camelot. I think the fear is that this will be Gravelot and the businesses will be a central part of the decision-making in the government so this is unchartered territory.
LEMON: Yes. And at the same time, David, we learned that Donald Jr. helped vet the -- and interview candidates for the interior secretary position and that the nominee, Congressman Ryan Zinke of Montana, represents a conserve -- a conservationist hunting club, it's called the Boone and Crockett club of which Don Jr. is a member.
We've also learned Eric Trump was present for at least one of the meetings between Donald Trump and Mitt Romney. Can Donald Jr. and Eric be this involved while also managing the business?
AXELROD: Well, apparently they are. Whether they should be is another question.
[22:09:59] Look, I don't begrudge Mr. Trump, the fact that he has great faith in his children and that he wants their counsel. The problem is that if they want to do that, then they should get out of their businesses, sell their businesses, remove themselves from potential areas of conflict. That's what ethics norms would suggest. That's clearly not what's going to happen.
LEMON: Go ahead, Jeffrey, yes.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, I just think we need to emphasize the point that David made, which is yes, it is legally true that Donald Trump does not have to sell his businesses, he does not have to separate himself from his family's business, but it is also true that this is not, like, the appearance of a conflict of interest.
This is an actual conflict of interest here because we have a situation where the Trump businesses may owe money to sovereign funds, to banks in Russia, to banks in other places, where Donald Trump as president is going to be negotiating.
I mean, it is so egregiously obvious that this is a conflict of interest that under any previous definition of how presidents should behave, these assets should have been liquidated.
LEMON: So then -- so then, so let me -- my previous question, then, so what is the recourse here? You said there's nothing illegal about it, correct?
TOOBIN: That's right.
LEMON: How is it not if it's a conflict of interest?
TOOBIN: Well, it is a conflict of interest in terms of how lawyers define conflict of interest. It is not illegal under the laws that apply to presidents of the United States. Presidents of the United States are exempt from these laws, but just
in terms of what it means to have a conflict of interest, this is a conflict of interest because you have a president and his immediate family owning assets, investing assets in countries and in places where American foreign policy has very direct interests. I mean, that's a conflict of interest.
AXELROD: Jeff, but you should explain the Emoluments Clause, there is a clause in the Constitution that forbids presidents from taking emoluments from foreign interests and that could come into play here for the reason that Jeffrey said, although we don't know to whom Donald Trump owns money because he hasn't -- owes money because he hasn't disclosed that.
The question is whether the Congress would be rigorous, a Congress that's run by the Republican Party, would be rigorous about pursuing these kinds of conflicts.
TOOBIN: Right. I mean, what David is referring to a clause of the Constitution which says "Presidents cannot receive money directly from foreign governments."
We don't know exactly what Donald Trump's financial interests are because he hasn't released his tax returns, he hasn't filed all the forms that are usually to be expected, but certainly at least in terms of his hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, it does appear that he is -- he is getting funds of this kind.
But, again, because we don't know what the facts are, we don't know if there is a precise violation of the Emoluments Clause, but the only remedy, the only way to address this is impeachment which obviously is not going to be something under consideration in the House of Representatives which is dominated, which is controlled by the republicans.
LEMON: By the republicans. OK. Is that the only way that he -- who would hold him accountable? Is it just -- is it just Congress, David?
AXELROD: Well, under the Constitution...
LEMON: Is it not the American people as well?
AXELROD: Yes. I mean, my question, and Jeffrey may have an answer to this is, what about the kids, and what are they subject to under the law? They're not the president of the United States.
If they -- if they have conflicts, can they be pursued? Not whether will or not whether they will because obviously the Justice Department is going to be his Justice Department, but could they be pursued.
LEMON: That's a very good question.
TOOBIN: I mean, as far as I'm aware, because of the 1989 amendments to these disclosure laws, it does not -- that none of the Trump family can legally be held accountable for any conflicts of interest. That's my understanding.
Although, you know, we are in unchanted -- unchartered territory here. This has never been tested by a court. But, you know, the check on all of this, by in large, is political, is, you know, is the Congress outraged? Is the public outraged?
Certainly, as of now, December 2016, there is not enough outrage to motivate a republican Congress to get involved. You know, if things change, perhaps there will be, but I think basically Donald Trump has said this is the way it's going to be. If you have an objection, impeach me, which obviously they're not going to do.
[22:15:11] So, I think this is going to be the status quo.
AXELROD: Or defeat me.
AXELROD: And that could be another recourse, but where the rubber is going to hit the road, Don, is when - when and if there are decisions made that appear to be motivated or could be motivated by elements of the Trump businesses and, you know, those examples, you know, may or may not turn up in the future. I think rigorous reporting will have to be the source of those.
LEMON: Interesting conversation and one that will continue. Probably for at least the next four years. Thank you.
TOBIN: At least.
LEMON: OK. At least. Thank you, David. Thank you, Jeffrey.
When we come right back, she may be the most feared woman in Silicon Valley and she says the tech leaders at today's meeting in Trump tower should be ashamed of themselves. Is she right?
LEMON: A tech summit at Trump tower today, and the president-elect meeting with top Silicon Valley executives from Amazon, Tesla, Apple, Facebook and others after being at odds for months.
Here to discuss is Kara Swisher. She is the executive editor of Recode. And we're glad to have you. Thank you for coming on.
KARA SWISHER, RECODE CO-FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Thanks for having me.
LEMON: Kara, we also that photo op of the top tech leaders meeting with Trump, what do you think this is -- this is all about?
SWISHER: A photo op. That's what I think it's about. So that's what it was. It was a very nice photo op and I don't think very much was said. I've talked to a number of people who were there and nothing happened. And words like very productive came out of it, so that could give you
a clue, none of the tech leaders talked about it after they left and they ran out pretty quickly.
[22:20:03] So, I don't think anything happened. It was just a large photo op and good for Donald Trump for getting them all in a room, of Pete Thiel, really, who is his major tech helper.
LEMON: So what did they get out of it? Why go, either side get out of it? Any of them?
SWISHER: Well, Donald Trump gets a great photo op with all the major leaders of tech who had -- had opposed him for the most part, were pretty much Hillary Clinton supporters and have said various things.
Each of the people in the room had said something publicly about him. He gets them in there, he looks like he's pushing for jobs, looking -- looks like he's pushing for them to keep manufacturing in the United States even though most of them make things outside of the country.
For them, they have to play nice with a new administration. They thought it was going it be a different administration. And in this case, they got a lot of major issues, regulation issues, they've got encryption issues, they've got immigration issues. And so they feel like they have to be at the table even though it's not the table they wanted to be at the first place, but they showed up.
LEMON: Well, you know, he criticized the industry relentlessly during the campaign.
LEMON: But I want you to listen to what he said at the outset of today's meeting. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I want to add that I'm here to help you folks do well, and you're doing well right now and I'm very honored by the bounce, they're all talking about the bounce. So right now everybody in this room has to -- I mean, just a little bit.
Anything we can do to help this go along and we're going to be there for you and you'll call my people, you'll call me. It doesn't make any difference. We have no formal chain of command around here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: For people who have been paying attention to this which is most people and the people at that table, they are probably saying right now, where is Donald Trump, what'd you do with him?
But I guess that's quite a different tone than what he took on the campaign trail. Will that soften hard feelings?
SWISHER: Yes. No, I don't think -- there's not going to be hard feelings. I mean, they didn't win and their candidate did not win. But that's beside the point. I think the point is, first of all, I don't know what the bounce is, and I'm still trying to figure that particular word out.
LEMON: It's maybe like the Colbert bounce, Stephen Colbert bounce.
SWISHER: Stock. I don't know. Who knows what the bounce. It was like...
LEMON: And I think he means the stock market, though.
SWISHER: I guess. You know, and the fact that they're doing well, yes, they've done kind of well, these internet companies have been kind of -- Google, the whole company seems to be doing well.
You know, I think the issue is these people have a lot of issues before the government and they obviously are worried about the Trump administration being hostile to them. He was hostile on the campaign trail. Now like he went to visit the New York Times and other places, he's making nice with certain people. He needs them. They're an important part of the economy.
The tech industry is the one industry this country has that is number one really around the globe. And so, he's got to have relationships with them and most of them haven't met him. I think most people in that room had never met him or dealt with them.
And so, of course, they're going to go. My issue is that they have so many major issues that are opposed to things he's said and none of them spoke out about any of them. And these are the most powerful people on earth and they didn't feel that it was necessary to say anything about immigration which is critical to the growth of tech.
They didn't say anything about encryption which is critical. Net neutrality. You could go on and on and on. And there wasn't a peep out of any of them about any of these issues.
LEMON: So, what's going on, and why not?
SWISHER: They want -- they want to get along.
SWISHER: I mean, you know, you make a decision. They have shareholders, this is all this -- these are mostly, I think they're all public companies. They have to be seen as cooperative. A lot of people in Silicon Valley don't like that. A lot of engineers -- there was just a petition put out by a lot of engineers here that saying we don't want to cooperate a lot of these things that the Trump administration has been talking about. Like registries of Muslims and various things. They'll never cooperate.
So, it's going to be an interesting fight here in Silicon Valley because it's supposed to about tolerance, diversity, immigration. Immigrants built Silicon Valley. And the question is can they stick with their values, their alleged values and at the same time cooperate with some things that might rub them the wrong way? We'll see if they have the guts to do that.
LEMON: I wonder if they're worried about Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, he wasn't invited today because, you know...
LEMON: ... apparently Trump's people were angry at Dorsey.
LEMON: Because they, so this is he allegedly rejected an ad with a custom emoji...
LEMON: ... of his hash tag crooked Hillary.
LEMON: So what do you think they were concerned about not being invited and what are your sources telling you about that story, is it true?
SWISHER: You know, I'm not sure if that story is exactly true. I'm sure there -- you know, look, this is -- this is a group of people who have done things like this before. So it could be true. I think they talked about there wasn't room at the table and Twitter wasn't big which is kind of ridiculous.
Twitter is Donald Trump's -- you know, it's a gift from God for Donald Trump in this election and he's a tweet savant, like I've never seen anyone use Twitter so effectively.
So, I think that's just -- I think there's probably a lot of bad blood between them, but I don't think they're scared not to be invited. I don't think that's necessarily it. I don't think Jack Dorsey is weeping here in San Francisco that he's not there.
But I do think that they feel there's a lot of issues like repatriation of all money. It's billions and billions and billions of dollars that they want back in this country of income. There's all kinds of things they want, and so they have to cooperate.
It's a republican administration, it's a republican congress, republican governorships everywhere. And they have to -- they have to reach out and cooperate with him.
[22:25:06] I don't think they had a choice to go. I just feel that they could have been more firm given how powerful they are as people, how rich they are, how influential they are that they could have just said a few things, especially around immigration, and some other issues that are near and dear to the hearts of most of the workers of Silicon Valley. LEMON: You think it was appropriate for the three older children to
participate in this meeting?
SWISHER: No. Not at all. I mean, can you imagine, this is Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, CEO of Google, Elon Musk, he's a real visionary leader. These are serious businesses. Sheryl Sandberg. The children shouldn't be there. That, to me, said played, this is a photo op.
SWISHER: Really, can you imagine if Chelsea Clinton had shown up?
SWISHER: I mean, it's just -- it's just -- I think it's -- it didn't take these people seriously to have the kids there.
LEMON: I thought that...
SWISHER: They're not kids. They're adults. They're adult children.
LEMON: I thought that what your article in Recode was very biting and it was entitled as, and you said as "Trump thin-skinned lets down his hair and protects, shame on Silicon Valley for climbing the tower in silence."
LEMON: And you write, "They opted to punt with most of them saying nothing publicly about even attending the summit, nor making it clear beforehand that there are some key issues that are just not negotiable. That's why the leaders of tech should be ashamed of themselves for lining up like sheeple after all the numb skull attacks Trump has made on what is pretty much the United States' most important, innovative and future-forward business sector."
I mean, why don't you say how you -- how you really feel there?
SWISHER: Well, Don, we only go around this world once. You got to say what you think. I tell it like it is. I take -- I take my advice from Donald Trump. And, you know, this is a really exciting industry and they always talk about how bold and disruptive they are except when it comes to things that might disrupt them.
If they're going to be bold and disruptive, if they are going to change the world and listen, I have to listen to it all day long about how amazing some photo op is, they should -- they should understand the leadership.
And it's about leadership here and it's not whether you're for or against Trump, because that doesn't matter at this point now, does it? I think the point is that there are lots of issues that are critical to why Silicon Valley is so great and there's a lot of ways that Silicon Valley can help this country and create jobs and do all kinds of things and how technology can help us all.
And I think by being acquiescent and not speaking up, that's a problem. And we'll see if they do that if there's more meetings like this going forward. There's supposed to be one quarterly. We'll see if they speak out on if there's issues around immigration, for example, or, you know, or encryption, boy, that's going to be some fight if that continues to go forward.
SWISHER: And so, there's a lot of things that Silicon Valley really should be doing to stand up as leaders of one of most critical industries that we have in this country and globally and that's just...
SWISHER: ... and so that's what I -- I think I'm reflecting a lot of people on Silicon Valley.
LEMON: And the point is speaking truth to power and holding our leaders and our business leaders and our government leaders accountable.
LEMON: So, I thank you for coming on, I thank you for that article. Keep it up.
SWISHER: Thanks a lot.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you very much.
When we come right back, President Barack Obama vowing today to work for the rest of his life on his mentorship program for young men of color. But what will his -- what will his legacy be on race in Donald Trump's America? We'll discuss.
[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Barack Obama's preparing to leave the White House in about five weeks. And today, he announced his lifetime commitment to My Brother's Keeper, it's a mentorship program that he created to help young men of color.
Here to discuss, CNN political commentator Charles Blow, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times, and GOP political commentator, Paris Dennard who is the director of Black Outreach for President George W. Bush.
Good evening, gentlemen. Thank you for coming on. Here is part of what President Barack Obama said in his final speech at his final My Brother's Keeper summit today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My Brother's Keeper
was not about me, it was not about my presidency, it's not even just about Malachi and all these amazing young men behind me, it's about all of us working together.
Because ensuring that our young people can go as far as their dreams and hard work will take them is the single most important task that we have as a nation. It is the single most important thing we can do for our country's future. This is something I will be invested in for the rest of my life. And I look forward to continuing to join with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Paris, what's your reaction?
PARIS DENNARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE BLACK OUTREACH DIRECTOR: Well, you know, Don, thanks for having me on tonight. I think it's important that President Obama commits the rest of his time as the former president to causes greater than his own self-interest and to commit himself to things that are going to help the black community.
You saw many former presidents decide to do things as extensions of what they tried to do or what they did do during their time in the administration or the time at the White House. President George W. Bush with his commitment to Africa.
You saw President William Jefferson Clinton with commitment to international efforts with his global initiative. And President Carter with the things that he's did with voting and election monitoring.
And so, I think for President Obama, it's important for him as the first African-American president to have his legacy try to be something about uplifting the black community for the rest of his life, especially in Chicago where library will be. It's going to be important that his work in the man's hole that he's been given is not -- does not go away and that he continues to do whatever he can do to uplift our community.
LEMON: Charles, what does this tell us about Obama's involvement in public life under a Trump presidency, because he thought that he'd be handing, you know, it off to Hillary Clinton who would continue his policies. Now he is, you know, clearly has to keep the flame alive. He needs to do it on his own.
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, but for the very first time I ever heard him talk about this in private, I knew immediately that he was going to continue to do it after his presidency and in fact, the way it was set up, it was drawing a lot from the private sector, and not as much from government so that you could carry it over outside of government.
It was very clear to me that he really was invested in it personally and he wanted to continue to do it. So when he said that to me, it wasn't like a shock... (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: It wasn't surprise you, I was there for the announcement. You were as well. I was there for the announcement. I said, this is going to be...
BLOW: That's him. Right. So, that's him. And in addition to that, you know, I fundamentally believe that his time in office has fundamentally changed him, you know, the things that have bubbled up while he was in office, the number of -- the kind of police/community issues, Black Lives Matter, all of this, Trayvon Martin I guess, was one of the first things that kind of kicked him and kind of -- not that he needed to completely change, but it did alter him fundamentally and make him look at these -- at this group of people.
[22:35:10] And he saw how much of an impact that he was personally having on the black community in terms of image and, like, people being able to look at the White House and say, there's somebody there who looks like me and those little boys would try to rub his hair and make sure that it felt like theirs.
He -- he was changed by that. And he understands that he has a particular power and potency in the black community and he wants to use that to good and that is a remarkable thing.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, Paris, it's not perfect. There's a lot of work to do in all communities and then the black community as well. But since the president took office, the number of unemployed black teens, because the initiative is about young black men, has dropped by more than half. What did you hope race relations would look like at the end of eight years, his eight years in office?
DENNARD: You know, I think a lot of people came into President Obama's term in office thinking that a lot of things would change for the black community on the positive note. His legacy is going to be a mixed one, to be quite frank with you, and a lot of people will have mixed emotions about whether he did enough, whether he was quote,unquote, "black enough," and whether he used his political capital enough for the community.
But what I will say is any time the president used the bully pulpit to address issues and directly impact the black community is a positive thing. That's why I was also proud when President-elect Trump talks about specific issues with the black community.
Some may go back and forth on whether or not he used the right tone or the right messaging, but I think it's always important that people in these leadership positions are always talking and trying to find solutions to do something -- to do something about unemployment, to have mentoring programs and to actually uplift our community because we have to be focused on the least of these in our society.
LEMON: But is it -- and Charles, when it's going to damn if you do damn, if you don't as president, because when he did things specifically, you know, targeting the black community, well, he's the president of all people, he's not just the president of black people.
That's what some conservatives and some people would say and then, of course, African-Americans would say, well, he's not doing enough for the black community. He was kind of like, he was walking a tightrope.
BLOW: Well, I think that the biggest change, the biggest impact that this presidency will have is that it elevated the idea, the notion, the very real impact of structural racism in America. That conversations really took root during this presidency and it's not just what he was saying.
It was Eric Holder was saying, it was what Loretta Lynch was saying, it was what the secretary of transportation was saying. It was what -- it felt like the entire government apparatus woke up and said, we have to make a statement, even Comey discussed this in terms of the relationship between the police and communities of color.
Everybody seemed over that eight-year period at some point went out of their way to address the idea that this was not simply about interpersonal relationships and how people felt. It was literally about construct...
LEMON: A structure.
BLOW: A structure that had been -- that was designed on purpose.
BLOW: To benefit some people and disadvantage others.
LEMON: All right. I want you both to stick with me. Because up next, is Donald Trump sending a not so subtle message with his picks for a cabinet that looks to be the least diverse in years?
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Donald Trump's cabinet so far is overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male. What does that say about the next four years?
Back now with me, Charles Blow and Paris Dennard. OK, Paris, so let's take a look at Trump's cabinet, this is so far, we should say.
LEMON: By selecting Rex Tillerson to serve as secretary of state Trump guarantees his four most influential departments will be led entirely by white males. It's the first time since George H.W. Bush's cabinet was approved in 1989.
Obama's first round of appointees included Eric Holder as attorney general, Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. And if you look at George W. Bush cabinet, he chose Colin Powell as Secretary of State. So what's your reaction? DENNARD: I mean, I think that when I look at president-elect Trump's
cabinet selection so far, I see something that Americans should be proud about. He has four women that are qualified to be up there on that list. He has an African-American, he has an Asian-American, he has an Indian-America in Governor Hailey.
I think he's doing what he's always said he was going to do is pick the most qualified people to serve in the cabinet. It's respect -- it's reflective of the type of people he had running his campaign. He had African-Americans at Trump tower, he had women, his campaign manager was a woman and is reflective of the country.
And so, I think it's a good thing we should celebrate. Could he have selected more African-Americans? Sure. Could he have selected more women? Sure.
But I think we should celebrate the fact that we have Dr. Ben Carson there, we should celebrate the fact that there are four qualified women that Donald Trump, the President-elect, has selected. So I don't necessarily see it as a bad thing. I see it as a positive step forward.
LEMON: He went through two white males first before choosing Kellyanne Conway, that was -- that was his last of campaign managers.
DENNARD: Sure, but the person who got him across the finish line who was successful of electing the president was a woman.
LEMON: Right. Charles, looking at his cabinet picks, why do you think Trump and his team have chosen primarily white CEO's and military men as advisers?
BLOW: I mean, let's start with this, and that is that at that level of government, there's no shortage of people who are qualified to do those particular jobs. It boils down to make, each president making a personal decision about who they feel most comfortable with, who they feel they can work with, who would advance their policies.
If the vast majority of the people you feel comfortable with are people who look like you, who have the same cultural, economic experience as you, there's a lot of millionaires and billionaires in there, that says something about you. And you have to then do some work, some self-reflective work about what is this saying about me if I feel most comfortable with people who are the most like me?
Because that is the exact opposite of what it means to value diversity. You know, if you've ever been a manager of any sort of -- what level, you know, in economics or government, you understand that you can actually -- even if you're in homogenous area you can find diversity if you look for it and if you value it.
[22:45:06] And this is a -- this is a question about values. If you value it, you would have more people. That's just the way it is. Because these are just personal choices and more than enough people who are qualified to do these jobs.
DENNARD: There are four women -- there are four women there, there's an African-American, there is an Asian-American, there is an Indian- American. I don't -- that's diversity. It may not be the diversity that you like, but it's diversity. It is a diverse cabinet. And we should celebrate it. The idea that it's not is laughable. It is a diverse cabinet and it's a good thing.
LEMON: The premise of the question, though...
BLOW: Let me laugh.
LEMON: Go ahead.
BLOW: I'm going to laugh. It's laughable.
LEMON: All right. I have to go. On that note, I do have to go. Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.
When we come right back, are the Trumps the new Kennedys? I'll ask Robert F. Kennedy Jr. about that.
LEMON: So, mixed signals on the environment from the incoming Trump administration. Environmentalists are not exactly cheering some of the president-elect's cabinet picks, but Ivanka Trump has said she wants to make climate change one of her top issues.
Let's discuss now with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., president of Water Keeper Alliance, of the Water Keeper Alliance.
[22:50:01] I want to ask you about a suit that you have against Exxon but first, let me start with this.
Donald Trump's picks for the state -- for state, the EPA, energy, the Department of interior, let's say who they are. This is Rex Tillerson, he runs Exxon Mobil, Scott Pruitt who sue the EPA will now lead it, Rick Perry who promised to eliminate the Energy Department the boss there and his choice for interior secretary, Ryan Zinke has a 3 percent environmental voting record from the league of conservation voters.
When you look at all these choices, Mr. Kennedy?
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR., WATERKEEPER ALLIANCE PRESIDENT: Environmentalists are not happy with those choices. You know, it feels like we kind of cut out the middleman and are handing the country right over to the oil industry.
When President Bush came in, I think 16 of his top 21 officials were from the oil industry and they helped get us into the Iraq war and helped sponsor a very bellicose pugnacious foreign policy that was really intended to advance the mercantile interest of American corporations rather than advancing the traditional ideals and the highest ideals of our country.
And this -- these appointments are people who have throughout their careers have served the oil industry and not particularly served America very well.
LEMON: And in your -- on that note, your organization, Waterkeeper, pushing the government to end all its contracts with Exxon Mobil. But under Rex Tillerson Exxon acknowledges climate change is real, he supports the Paris Agreement. Do you think that he could actually be an ally in the Trump administration because he's not a climate change denier?
KENNEDY, JR.: I don't -- you know, Rex Tillerson is better than Lee Raymond who is his predecessor, Rex Tillerson came in in 2006, and ended a lot of the connections, the support that Exxon was giving to these climate denier groups.
But they're continuing to pave climate denier groups even today and they've had a 50-year propaganda campaign. Exxon Mobil has known, we now know since the late 1970s that global warming was going to raise the temperature six degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
And the last time it was that high, Don, there were crocodiles at the North Pole. This is the end of the planet and they knew it, they had 16,000 scientists and they knew more about the fate of the carbon atom than any company or any government institution in the world.
It was very clear to them and for the first few years they were honest about it. In 1988, they began working with the American Petroleum Institute, they've decided to implement a propaganda campaign, they put hundreds of millions of dollars into persuading the Americans -- doing the same thing the tobacco industry did.
Thy got paid. They tore the pages right out of big tobacco's book. Tobacco industries knew since 1953 that cancer was killing ou of every five of big tobacco's customers, they used its product as directed. And they succeeded in evading regulation for half a century by confusing people about the science.
They said -- in their internal documents they said we don't have to win the scientific debate, we just have to cloud it. We have to confuse people. And that's what -- That's been Exxon's strategy; Rex Tillerson is part of that strategy.
It's purposefully -- you know, after the B.P. oil spill we debarred B.P. from having contracts with the U.S. government for two years. That same law applies to Exxon. What Exxon has done to this country, to this planet, is far worse than anything that B.P. did by its oil spill, it's purposeful, it's deliberate, it's a deliberate campaign of deception to -- that's leading us literally to an apocalypse.
LEMON: I want you to listen. This is how Donald Trump described his position on climate change earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I'm still open-minded. Nobody really knows. I've -- look. I'm somebody that gets it and nobody really knows. It's not something that's so hard and fast. I do know this -- other countries are eating our lunch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So how do you unpack that. Is he open minded or is he a climate change skeptic?
KENNEDY JR.: Well, you know I think the last statement he made is just -- is a -- it's a -- it's kind of a canard because the best thing that we can do -- all of the things that we need to do, Don, to avert catastrophic climate change are the same things that we need to do to safeguard our economy, to build prosperity, to create jobs, to democratize our economy, to democratize our energy system.
[22:55:03] There's now more people employed in the solar industry in this country than there are employed as coal miners. There's more people in the wind industry than in the coal industry.
So, and these industries are exploding. It costs -- to build a coal plant costs $3 billion, to build a gas plant -- $3 billion a gig watt to build a gas plant, it cost $3 billion a gig watt to build a solar plant is $2.1 billion a gig watt.
The inflection point has been passed, we are beating them in the marketplace. They cannot compete against us except by maintaining these huge obscene subsidies that are going to the carbon industry and by maintaining their political domination.
If we want to lead the world morally, economically, and in every other way, we need to start by decarbonizing our society. That's the way the world is going to go one way or another. To preserve these corporations and this industry will take a massive economic intervention and I don't think anybody thinks that's good for our country.
LEMON: I have to ask you this because I think it's very important and it's very interesting. We've discussed this on this show during the primary season but Bill Gates has said today that Trump could be a new JFK. Some people look at how close the Trump family is and how connected the children are to the family business and say that they could be like the Kennedy's. I have to ask you, how do you feel about that?
KENNEDY JR.: Well, I think Donald Trump can be, you know, any kind of president he wants. He's actually -- he has this extraordinary opportunity because he's coming into office less burdened by obligation than probably any president in our history with the possible exception of Andrew Jackson.
And you know, both of them, Jackson and Trump, came in, they were -- people were sickened, they were outraged when Jackson came in and they thought it was the end of the world and he became a -- unless you were an American-Indian, he became a very good president in defending the country against corporate power and really democratizing America in many ways.
Well, I think Trump, you know, because he doesn't have obligations, he doesn't owe anything to anybody, if he's -- I think if he cares about history and he understands that history is his principal audience, that he could be really an extraordinary president.
President Kennedy had an advantage on Donald Trump, which is that he was interested in politics and in history from when he was a little boy. He was curious about it, he wrote a bestselling book about history when he was in college. He was a war hero, he came home from war and he wanted -- he had a clear vision about establishing a path for peace, about standing up to his generals, standing up to power at the steel industry, the powers of Wall Street, the power centers of our society and really representing the highest ideals of the American people.
And you know, America at that time was beloved. I remember going to Europe with my father right after President Kennedy's death to Poland, to Germany, and France and England and everywhere we went we were met by hundreds of thousands of people who came out on the street waving tiny American flags and just wanting to touch, you know, a Kennedy -- because not because of our family but because they loved America and they loved what America represented.
They were hungry for our leadership.
KENNEDY JR.: They understood the difference between leadership and bullying and they wanted our moral authority. And they looked to us for that. And you know, there are people all over Latin America and Africa today whose name is Kennedy, who named their kids after John Kennedy because they loved our country.
And that is the kind of leadership I think that Americans want for America today to get rid of this bullying and this bellicose pugnacious foreign policy.
LEMON: Do you think Trump can do that?
KENNEDY JR.: I think he can do that. You know, I think he can do anything he wants because he is not -- he is not bound by ideology. He is less bound by ideology than any president probably that we've had this century.
LEMON: So, the new Kennedy's?
KENNEDY JR.: You know, he said -- he said to Leonardo DiCaprio the other day that he wanted to be the next Teddy Roosevelt and he can easily do that.
KENNEDY JR.: He could -- but I think you know, it's important to start by surrounding yourself with advisers who share that idealism and not people who are just working for the oil industry. LEMON: I just haves about 10 seconds here, but do you think the new
Kennedys, do you think that's a fair comparison.
KENNEDY JR.: Like I said I think he can be any kind of president he wants. I think he could be the greatest president in history if he wanted to.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, Robert Kennedy. And give that my best to your wife.
KENNEDY JR.: Thank you.
LEMON: Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
[23:00:00] It's the top of the hour, thank you for joining us. Donald Trump is filling his cabinet, but will the most powerful people in the White House be his children?
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.