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Trump Victory Tour; Trump Talks to Tech Titans; Aleppo in Ruins. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired December 14, 2016 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:10] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The Donald Trump "thank you" tour making a stop in Wisconsin, praising former adversary Paul Ryan, and preparing for battle in defense of his pick for secretary of state.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Several titans of technology sitting down with the president-elect today. Among them, a CEO who publicly feuded with Donald Trump in the past.

ROMANS: A grim, grim scene in eastern Aleppo. Civilians reportedly being slaughtered in their homes by Syrian forces. Can plans for a cease-fire and mass evacuations take hold?

This is really a dangerous situation in Eastern Aleppo.

HOWELL: Heartbreaking.

ROMANS: Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. It's Wednesday, December 14th, 4:00 a.m. on the East.

And overnight, Donald Trump in Wisconsin. His "thank you" tour in the battleground state that helped him to win this election. The president-elect on stage with one-time adversary, the speaker of the house, Paul Ryan. The rally in Wisconsin turning into kind of a love fest with Trump praising Ryan, and Ryan complimenting Trump right back.

The president-elect set the stage though to defend his pick for secretary of state, the ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson who may face an uphill battle for the Senate confirmation.

CNN's Jim Acosta has the very latest from Wisconsin.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: George and Christine, Donald Trump has taken yet another victory lap here at the rally here in Wisconsin. He defended his choice for secretary of state, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson. Trump praised Tillerson's contacts around the world, but he did not mention Tillerson's past ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump also looked back at the election victory and thanked his biggest supporters here in the state of Wisconsin, including House Speaker Paul Ryan who he praised in an unusual way.

Here's more of what he had to say.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Speaker Paul Ryan, I've really come to -- oh, no, I've come to appreciate him. Speaker Paul Ryan. Where is the speaker? Where is he? He has been -- I'll tell you, he has been terrific. You know honestly, he's like a fine wine. Every day goes by, I get to appreciate his genius more and more.

Now, the other goes against me, I'm not going to say that, OK? He's a great guy.

And we have some amazing things in store. And we're going to work on taxes. We're going to work on Obamacare. We're going to work on things. And he's going to lead the way. So, thank you.

ACOSTA: Even though it's been more than a month since elected president, Trump could not resist taking one last shot at Hillary Clinton, asking the crowd here in Wisconsin whether anybody remembers her name -- George and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Jim Acosta for us this morning -- thank you, Jim.

Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke of Montana is Donald Trump's pick for interior secretary. He is a 55-year-old ex-Navy SEAL who received two Bronze Stars for combat missions in Iraq. He's faced criticism from environmental and conservation groups since he joined the House in 2015. If he is confirmed, Zinke would directly oversee the EPA, an agency he has criticized for imposing too many restrictions on industry.

HOWELL: Rick Perry is Donald Trump's nominee to head the Energy Department. That's an agency that the former Texas governor once vowed to abolish. Perry has long been an ally of big oil and has questioned the science leaking greenhouse gas emissions to climate change.

While still a candidate during the primaries, Perry referred to Trump as a cancer on conservatism and a barking carnival act but now an ally.

ROMANS: High profile Trump supporter Katrina Pierson is seeking a job in the new administration. She is a fierce for the president-elect in the cable news networks. And sources tell CNN she met with Trump on Tuesday, possibly to discuss becoming a White House press secretary. Pierson once famously told the CNN audience President Obama was the blame for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, even though he did not take office for seven years later.

HOWELL: Later today, the president-elect will meet with top tech executives at Trump Tower here in New York. Among them are Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Larry Page, the head of the Google holding company Alphabet.

Mr. Trump will also be sitting down with Amazon's chief executive Jeff Bezos. His combative relationships with Donald Trump could cast a shadow on today's meeting.

Let's take a look ahead of this tech summit with Donald Trump. Our Samuel Burke is live in London this morning.

Samuel, there could be very some awkward moments during these meetings.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: George, good morning. It felt like at times all of Silicon Valley, or nearly all of Silicon Valley was against Donald Trump with one of the exceptions being Peter Thiel, the famous tech investor who organized this meeting in part.

And to that relationship with Bezos, just remember at one point, Bezos said about Trump's rhetoric that it was eroding democracy around the edges for the United States. And eventually, Donald Trump fired off this tweet, just about a year ago taking aim at both Bezos and "The Washington Post", which he is the owner of, saying, quote, in this tweet, "The Washington Post loses money, a deduction and gives owner @JeffBezos power to screw public on low taxation of Amazon. Big tax shelter."

Though, eventually, Bezos fired off another after Donald Trump won, that one a bit more conciliatory. So, it will be interesting to see, it will be like the relationship with Rick Perry like you were describing, they seemed like they've been able to mend fences. So, maybe the tech community and Donald Trump as well later today.

HOWELL: Hopefully, no more Twitter wars between Mr. Trump and the tech giants.

So, look, at the top of the agenda here, what will they be talking about? What type of policy issues will be discussed?

BURKE: Without a doubt, jobs and the economy. Interestingly, though, sources are saying that it looks like Donald Trump is looking for ways for the tech community to help make government more efficient. Of course, oftentimes when a tech company makes a workforce more efficient, it means eliminating jobs.

And to that part, when they discuss jobs, lots of these tech companies, if you spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley the way I have, all you have to do is look around and hear the options to know that these companies depend heavily on foreign labor, immigrants coming to the United States and filling engineering jobs. So, that's a point. Certainly not something that Donald Trump campaigned on. So, that could be a contentious point as well.

One thing that's not set to come up and what I've heard from tech players that they don't want to come up, that question of inscription. Remember, Apple wouldn't hand over the iPhone information to the FBI after the San Bernardino attack. Donald Trump said, who do they think they are not handing over the codes to get in?

So, they hope this doesn't come up for now. But eventually, it has to come up again.

HOWELL: That is a touchy issue. I do remember the back and forth there.

Samuel Burke live for us in London -- Samuel, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Donald Trump is now getting the intelligence daily briefing three times a week. That's according to Trump's spokesman, Sean Spicer. We're also told the president-elect is getting daily briefings by his pick for national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Flynn is attending the daily briefings daily. Trump has taken some criticism for previously only attending one daily briefing a week.

HOWELL: The president-elect also be meeting with two senators from both sides of the aisle today, bringing an invitation to Donald Trump that dates back over decades. Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Senator John Bozeman of Arkansas will formally ask Donald Trump to attend the Annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on February 2nd.

The tradition dates back all the way to President Eisenhower. Senator Coons tells CNN that he hopes Trump will continue that tradition and attend.

ROMANS: NFL legend Jim Brown rushing ion and out of the Trump Tower for a visit with the president-elect. Brown says he voted for Hillary Clinton but, quote, "fell in love with Trump" after the two men talked about issues facing the African-American community. He tells Brooke Baldwin he came away from the meeting with a heartwarming sense of positivity and admires the president-elect for his resiliency.

HOWELL: And then there was this moment: Kanye West also getting an audience with the president-elect. We're told that the meeting was requested by the rap artist who just recently was hospitalized for exhaustion. Afterwards, Kanye West let Donald Trump do most of the talking.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Just friends. Just friends. It's a good man. Doing well. Long time, we've been friends for a long time. Life, we discussed --


REPORTER: Hi, no comment why you're meeting the president-elect? Anything you want to say?

KANYE WEST, RAP ARTIST: I just want to take a picture right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: So, he did have nothing to say there. In case you're wondering, Kanye will not be performing at the inauguration. And that has been confirmed by the head of the president-elect's inaugural committee.

ROMANS: You know, two cabinet level appointments yesterday. Donald Trump pushing into next year in the press conference, then he sits in front of the cameras with Kanye West.

HOWELL: Came as a surprise.

ROMANS: What a day for Donald Trump. A lot going on there.

All right. Big news in money. Get ready for higher interest rates on the big ticket items you buy. The Federal Reserve wraps up a two-day policy meeting this afternoon and we expect the Fed will end 2016 with a rate hike the same way it ended 2015.

Why not? Because the economy is ready for it. The employment rate, 4.6 percent, lower again in November, 180,000 jobs being added each month on average this year. GDP grew 3.2 percent in the third quarter. That's the strongest economy in two years. Prices are rising. But still below the Fed's 2 percent inflation target. We're going to get a fresh consumer price index reading on Thursday.

Higher rates from the Fed.

[04:10:01] What does it mean for you? It means borrowing costs are going up. This affects immediately and directly millions of Americans. If you take out a new mortgage or home equity line of credit or an adjustable rate mortgage, will you pay more for your homes. Car loans will get more expensive. If you run a balance on your credit card, you could see higher interest rates as well.

If you're a saver, if you are a saver, this is good for you. For years, the money in the bank, the money in the certificates of deposit has been getting almost nothing in return. So, for savers, and this is good for seniors who have money they want to put money in a fixed income, they will see their interest rates rise. So, that is the silver lining.

HOWELL: Silver lining, yes. That's --

ROMANS: And bank profits, too. Love higher interests too.

So, if you're cheering for banks to make more money, it's good for them.


Well, a story that is difficult that we've been covering, these families who are caught up in carnage and chaos in eastern Aleppo. Russia says that Syria has retaken control of the region. Can plans for a cease-fire and evacuations take hold?

We have a live report ahead as EARLY START continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Fourteen minutes past the hour.

Eastern Aleppo may be back in the hands of government forces. The fresh setbacks are unfolding for civilians this morning. Now, Russia -- Russia is boasting about newly hammered out cease-fire evacuation plan. That agreement has yet to bear fruit.

Buses stationed and ready to take injured civilians to much needed medical care, they've yet to take a single passenger. And now comes a claim from multiple activists in eastern Aleppo of new attacks in rebel-held neighborhoods.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is live in neighboring Amman, Jordan. She's following all of the developments.

And where do we stand now? The Russians are saying in fact that eastern Aleppo is now back in the hands of the Syrian regime. And now, the next step is to get some relief or evacuation for folks.

Where do we stand?

[04:15:00] JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we do know, Christine, over the past hour or so, we've been receiving reports from activists and residents in eastern Aleppo who are on the ground. They're telling us that the artillery shelling by regime forces has resumed. They say a couple of neighborhoods have been hit by this barrage of artillery fire. They're reporting a number of civilian casualty, injuries as a result of this artillery fire.

Now, these are the first, of course, of violence that we're getting from eastern Aleppo since that cease-fire announcement was made late on Tuesday. And we also heard a few hours ago, Christine, that with these evacuations that were scheduled to take place, about 4 1/2 hours ago, where we're going to see the first group of people being evacuated. That's 150, including 17 injured people and their family members.

Now, the buses were ready. People ready to move out but there was a delay. No one really knows what the reason for that delay is. And now, of course, we're hearing these reports of renewed artillery shelling.

It's worth mentioning that this deal was brokered largely by Turkey. It was a deal between Russia and the opposition fighters. And we've really not heard anything from the Syrian regime yet, since this announcement has been made. But it's also worth noting we have seen agreements, these sort of surrender agreements in the past where rebels and civilians leave areas, especially in the Damascus suburbs and there have been delays in the past, implementing such agreements.

It's a very complex situation on the ground with so many different groups involved, Christine.

ROMANS: So concerned about, you know, the children and the families who are still there. But I guess practically speaking, is this the end of the resistance to the Assad regime?

KARADSHEH: Not if you speak to the people, Christine, there. They do see this as a major turning point. Just to give you an idea, a few months ago, I asked a resident in eastern Aleppo, an activist, an idealist who really believed in the Syrian revolution. I said, what would you do if Aleppo falls? And at that point, they really could not see that happening, he said, no one would let Aleppo fall because if it does, that means that the Syrian revolution has failed.

A lot of people that you speak would say that they will continue resistance, that this is not the end of their fight for freedom as some still describe it. Of course, the concern here is, you're going to be seeing possibly while the rebels are losing their major urban stronghold -- Aleppo being the last of these major urban strongholds -- that we could see a shift here where the rebels would revert to insurgency style tactics. The hit and run tactics.

This certainly is not going to be the end of the Syrian war. We've even heard that from the Syrian President Bashar al Assad a few days ago who said this is a great victory. And it would be a turning point. But to be realistic, this is not the end of the war, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much, Jomana Karadsheh in Amman -- thank you.

HOWELL: The daughter of an unarmed 73-year-old man who was shot by police in Bakersfield, California, is calling it murder. Officials say seven officers responded early Monday after just midnight to a report of a man with a gun acting strangely. Police say that an officer fatally shot Francisco Serna (ph) after he ignored an order to stop approaching and remove his hands from his pockets. He died at the scene.

People did not find a gun on Serna, only a dark colored crucifix. Family members say Serna suffered from early onset dementia.

ROMANS: Actor Alan Thicke has died. The former "Growing Pain" star suffered a fatal heart attack while playing hockey with his 19-year- old son Carter in Los Angeles. Thicke's more famous son, singer Robin Thicke, remembering his dad as the greatest man I've ever met. Alan Thicke was just 69 years old. Our condolences to his family.

HOWELL: Absolutely. The former presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich has signed a bill that outlaws abortion in his state after 20 weeks. He also vetoed a proposed heart beat bill that would have prohibited abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks in pregnancy. Kasich says he didn't support that measure because he feared a lengthy and costly legal battle. Planned Parenthood calls the governor's signing of the 20-week ban shameful.

ROMANS: All right. Nineteen minutes past the hour. More fallout from Donald Trump's pick of secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. There's some scrutiny over his relationship with Russia. Can this ExxonMobil CEO get confirmed despite what his critics call a conflict of interest?

EARLY START back in a moment.


[04:23:28] HOWELL: Welcome back.

New concern being voiced this morning over Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state. Many are asking about the relationship between ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson and the Russian President Vladimir Putin. How close is that relationship? Is it a personal friendship? Or was it just built around business needs of mega corporation that Tillerson served for his entire career?

Our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is live in Moscow this hour, following the story.

Matthew in Russia, Mr. Tillerson is viewed as a friend of the nation?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is. He's actually such a friend of the nation. He's been awarded a medal by Vladimir Putin himself -- the Order of Friendship, which is the highest civilian honor that Russia can bestow on a foreigner.

And so, yes, he's extremely well-connected with those at top of power in this country. He is very close to Vladimir Putin in the sense they've known each other for at least a decade or longer, in his capacity as top executive and CEO for the past decade of ExxonMobil.

He's also very close to those people around Vladimir Putin, particularly the head of Rosneft, Igor Sechin. And they are believed to be close personal friends. In fact, it's said they planned a motorcycle trip together around the United States before Mr. Sechin was sanctioned after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.

And so, yes, he does have a personal relationship and a close relationship with those at the top of power in Russia.

[04:25:06] But that could actually play to his advantage, because if anyone can do a deal with people like that, then it's Rex Tillerson, because he knows how to work with them. He knows how to talk to them. And he's got a proven track record in order to deliver results admittedly for ExxonMobil.

But, hopefully, and this is what Trump's gamble is, is that he's able to deliver results for the American people as well as a top diplomat.

HOWELL: Indeed, he has a great deal of experience dealing with different nations through ExxonMobil.

Matthew Chance live for us in Moscow -- Matthew, thank you for the reporting.

ROMANS: And, of course, his supporters say that is exactly why he should be tapped to lead the State Department, because he's somebody who has leadership, who knows all of the players, who's actually been part of foreign policy for years. But detractors are very concerned about the relationship between the Russian president --

HOWELL: Described his role at Exxon, geopolitics with a capital "G." I mean, he has been deeply involved.

ROMANS: Right.

All right. President Obama signing a bill into law to combat drug addiction and cancer. The 21st Century Cures Act boost founding by $4 billion for cancer research, drug addiction recovery and mental health services. Obama, the president, highlighted the work of Vice President Joe Biden who led a push for a moon shot effort to cure cancer following the death of his son Beau last year.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those of you who are docs know that, how many times does the patient come to you to say, doc, I don't expect you to make me whole again. Just give me another month to walk her down the aisle. Just give me -- just give me another six weeks because it's my first grandchild. People are asking for the impossible.


ROMANS: Biden says the bill will inject new urgency into fighting cancer. It will give millions of Americans battling cancer renewed hope.

HOWELL: The president-elect on Paul Ryan's home turf with something to say about the House speaker. We'll have that story for you, as EARLY START continues.