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Trump "Thank You" Tour Goes to Wisconsin; Trump Talks to Tech Titans; Aleppo in Ruins. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired December 14, 2016 - 04:30   ET




[04:30:48] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We are going to make America great again.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The president-elect Donald Trump taking the stage in Wisconsin, praising Paul Ryan and defending his pick for secretary of state.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Silicon Valley comes to Trump Tower. The top names, biggest names in tech meet with the president-elect.

HOWELL: And we're following a dire situation on the ground in Aleppo, Syria -- an evacuation plan on hold as activists on the ground report new shelling.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm George Howell.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. Nice to see you this morning again, George.

It is 30 minutes past the hour.

Let's begin with President-elect Donald Trump with the next stop on his thank you tour, the battleground state that helped him win this election. He turned a rally in Wisconsin into a kind of lovefest, praising one-time adversary, Paul Ryan, there you go, speaker of the House complimenting Trump right back.

But it wasn't all kumbaya. The president-elect also waited into the fight for his new secretary of state nominee, ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson, who faces a battle for Senate confirmation.

CNN's Jim Acosta has the 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.


HOWELL: Jim Acosta, thank you.

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

ROMANS: Rick Perry is Donald Trump's nominee to head the Energy Department, an agency that the former Texas governor once vowed to abolish. Perry has long been an ally of big oil. He 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.

HOWELL: And high profile Trump supporter Katrina Pierson is seeking a job in the new administration. Pierson, who has been a fierce for the president-elect on the cable news, sources tell CNN that she met with Trump on Tuesday, possibly to discuss becoming a White House press secretary.

ROMANS: All right. Later today, the president-elect meets with top- ten executives at Trump Tower. Among the Silicon Valley leaders sitting down with Mr. Trump, are

Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Larry Page, the head of the Google holding company Alphabet.

And also there, Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos. These guys are actually not warm and fuzzy friends. In fact, that could cast a bit of a shadow on today's meeting.

A look ahead of the tech summit with Donald Trump, our Samuel Burke joins us from London.

[04:35:01] And, you know, I have to say the feelings from Silicon Valley in general towards Trump as a candidate were very cool. That would actually be a polite way of putting it. Except for Peter Thiel, the billionaire who spoke at the RNC convention, really, Silicon Valley did not lined up behind him.

What are you expecting today?

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, they did not. Speaking of Peter Thiel, it looks like he was the middle man in all of this, arranging for this meeting at Trump Tower, interesting optic, given the fact that all these techies are coming from California to New York.

Of course, we want to hear what happened with Jeff Bezos. Of course, he doesn't just own Amazon, he also owns "The Washington Post." So, it will be interesting to see if this is a repeat of that meeting that Donald Trump had with some media executives where he lambasted some of them.

Though interesting to note who is not going to be there, Jack Dorsey, the CEO and the co-founder of Twitter. Here, Donald Trump is revolutionizing the process of taking office, taking to Twitter, instead of doing press conferences. And the guy who invented the platform isn't even going to be there, Christine.

ROMANS: Wow. Now, I imagine they're going to talk with Trump about taxes. This has been an issue for many of the Silicon Valley companies and some of them have really been criticized for their very elaborate international tax strategies to keep their tax rates low. What kind of policy issues do you think will be first and foremost here?

BURKE: It's interesting because taxes is actually one place that maybe these companies could agree on with Donald Trump. He has said publicly he'd like for companies like Apple to bring their money back from Europe, where they have lots of money here, bring it back to the United States, and they may do it at a lower tax rate. And, obviously, that is something that Apple and other companies would like to do if that tax rate is low enough.

Again something that stands out to me, what's not on the agenda we've heard so far is hacking. This is so important to all of these companies. They face so much in terms of hacks coming from the United States as well as other countries. And here we are in the midst of an interesting transition where hacking has become to the top of the agenda in terms of the analysis of how this all played out, and accusations coming from the intelligence community.

And so far, all we see is jobs in the economy. So, it will be interesting to know if somebody steps up to the plate first and mentions hacking at that meeting, Christine.

ROMANS: And immigration. They will not see eye to eye on immigration. And Donald Trump said he wants Apple to be making iPhones in the United States, which is hard to do when, you know, oh my gosh, the labor potential is just unbelievable, and profits of not making things here is so high. So, that will be fascinating.

I know you're going to follow it for us. Thank you, Samuel.

HOWELL: Donald Trump is now getting the president's daily intelligence briefings three times a week. This is according to a Trump spokesman Sean Spicer. We are also told the president-elect is getting daily briefings by his pick for national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn is attending these daily briefings daily. Trump has taken some heat for previously attending only one of those daily briefings a week.

ROMANS: Democratic Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Senator John Boozman of Arkansas will visit Donald Trump later today and they're bringing an invitation. They will be formally asking the president-elect to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in February 2nd. This is a tradition dating back to President Eisenhower. Senator Coons tells CNN he hopes Trump will continue that tradition and attend.

HOWELL: NFL legend Jim Brown paid the president-elect a visit. The two men talked about issues facing the African-American community. And afterward, Brown who says that he voted for Hillary Clinton talked to CNN's Brooke Baldwin about it.


JIM BROWN, HALL OF FAME NFL RUNNING BACK: I fell in love with him because he really talks about helping African-American black people. And that's why I'm here. When he goes through what he went through to become the president, he got my admiration, because no one gave him a chance.


ROMANS: Fell in love with the president-elect.

HOWELL: Even though during the campaign, Donald Trump and the campaign took some heat from the African-American community and other minority groups. But brown also says that he came away from that meeting with a heartwarming sense of positivity.

Kanye West also got an audience with the president-elect. We're told that the meeting was requested by the rap artist who was recently hospitalized for exhaustion. After the meeting, 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 with the president-elect? It's the president-elect of the United States. Nothing to say?

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


HOWELL: And you see, he avoided that question right there. In case you're wondering, Kanye West will not be performing at the inauguration. That has been confirmed by the head of the president- elect's inaugural committee.

ROMANS: Two major appointments yesterday, pushing off a press conference, you know, just a customary press conference after someone wins into next year.

[04:40:07] Still questions about business conflict and Kanye in the lobby. That is the day in the life, I guess, of what is a very busy transition.

HOWELL: Yes, a lot of people in and out of the building.

ROMANS: All right. It is Fed decision day. All signs point to a rate hike. The Federal Reserve wrapping up its final meeting of this year.

The economy is ready. The Feds should be ready to act. That means borrowing costs are going up for both consumers and businesses.

But check out this chart. It shows the Fed funds rate. That's that target interest rate going all the way back to the 1990s. Rates are still near historic lows. We may never see them this low again. So, yes, a rate hike is going to make things like mortgages more expensive, but this will be a gradual rise, back to levels not seen for decades.

There's also some irony in today's decision. Donald Trump said on the campaign trail that the Fed Chief Janet Yellen was keeping rates low to preserve President Obama's economic legacy. Meantime, the Fed has been begging Congress and the White House to do something to boost economic growth, don't leave it all in the Fed's shoulders. They finally get what they want from the Trump administration and Republican Congress.

And, finally, if you get some spending and you get some maybe tax reform in Washington, the Fed doesn't have to be the only game in town.

HOWELL: Yes. We'll see.

So, ahead, plans to get civilians out of war-torn Aleppo. They have hit a snag at the worst possible time. We'll have a live report ahead here.


HOWELL: The crisis in Syria. Eastern Aleppo may be back in the hands of government forces. But a new setback is unfolding for the many, many people displaced this morning. Russia is boasting of a newly hammered out cease-fire and evacuation plan. But that agreement has yet to take in effect on the ground. Several buses like the bus you see here, have been stationed and ready to take injured civilians to get much needed medical care. But they have yet to take a single passenger, and now comes a claim from multiple activists in eastern Aleppo of new attacks on rebel-held neighborhoods.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is following this story live in Amman, Jordan.

Jomana, is it fair to say that the hostilities of this war has ended in Syria?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's a question that many people are asking. It clearly has not. This is one battle of this larger war in Syria.

We've even heard this from the Syrian president himself a few days ago saying that while they might claim victory in Aleppo, this does not mean that the war in Syria is over. And now, George, if we look at the current situation on the ground in eastern Aleppo, as you mention earlier, according to activists on the ground. They say over the past 90 minutes or so, that there has been a resumption of artillery shelling of these besieged neighborhoods where the rebels and the civilians are, waiting for that evacuation to begin.

We are being told that a barrage of artillery fire has hit at least two neighborhoods, and that there are civilian injuries as a result of this shelling. Now, a few hours ago, these evacuations were scheduled to take place. It was a group of about 150 people. This was going to be the first batch of people to be evacuated includes injured, about 70 injured. and their family members.

That did not happen. People did not know what was going on. And what the reason for the delay is.

And in the last few minutes, we are hearing from the Turkish foreign minister. Of course, Turkey has largely been the mediator of this cease-fire agreement between the Russian and rebels. According to the foreign minister, he says that the Syrian regime and some forces are trying to break this cease-fire agreement.

It is a very complex situation on the ground. So many different forces there involved. It's not just the Syrian regime, it's not just the Russians. You have also Iranian and Iranian-backed militias who were fighting alongside the regime.

So, this is a very complicated situation. Of course, the civilians are anxiously awaiting, we've been speaking to them, to just get out of eastern Aleppo, George.

HOWELL: Jomana Karadsheh, I know you're continuing to be in touch with your sources there. We'll stay in touch with you as we follow the story. 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.

Police did not find a gun on Serna. They only found 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.

HOWELL: Ohio Governor John Kasich has signed a bill into law 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 said that he did not 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. It's Fed decision day. Do you think this doesn't matter to you? Oh, you are wrong. You can expect a rate hike, and this means millions of you will feel it. You will pay a little bit more for big purchases. Do you have money sitting on a credit card, a revolving balance? Oh, that's going to go up. And if you are getting ready to sign a deal for a mortgage, that's going to get more expensive. But some others are going to be saving money. I'm going to show you the winners and losers of higher interest rates, next.


ROMANS: All right. New concern this morning over Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. There are questions about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

How close is it? Is it a personal friendship? Or is this a business relationship built around the needs of a mega corporation Tillerson has worked for his entire career.

I want to bring in senior international correspondent Matthew Chance in Washington.

Matthew, you know, less than 24 hours ago, you know, Jason Miller who speaks for the president-elect, said, you know, this Order of Friendship, this award bestowed on Rex Tillerson from Vladimir Putin, that's been given to a lot of people. Don't read too much into that. And this is a working business relationship and this is a man who knows how to say no to the Russian president.

What do we know about their real relationship?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know it's fundamentally based on Rex Tillerson's dealings as an executive of ExxonMobil as a CEO of that massive oil conglomerate. It's not a friendship that stretches into any kind of personal realm as far as we're aware. He's much closer, I understand, to the Igor Sechin, the right-hand side man of Vladimir Putin in many ways, and he's the head of Rosneft, which is Russia's biggest oil company. They are much closer in terms of the personal relationship.

But, you know, Putin is a KGB man formerly. It's not clear that he actually has friend in that personal sense that you and I would talk about them.

Look, I mean, Rex Tillerson has a proven track record of having to deal with upper echelon in the Kremlin. He's been very successful of that. In 2011, he brokered that deal worth an estimated $500 billion. That was good news for the shareholders of ExxonMobil and it was good news for Russia as well, of course, because they got that expertise from Exxon.

[04:55:05] And the hope that Trump has is that he can bring back that deal-making ability to bear on other issues like Syria, like the situation in Ukraine, and like other bilateral issues where U.S. and Russia have been so divided over the course of the past couple of years in particular.

Now, the Kremlin though has been playing down at that expectation that things are going to get dramatically different. We spoke to them a few minutes ago, the spokesman for Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov is his name, is saying that, look, we're not under any illusions that the situation between Russia and United States specifically on Syria is going to get any different just because Rex Tillerson becomes the secretary of state.

But they are looking to a more, what they called constructive dialogue, and the ability to coordinate and cooperate on Syria and a whole range of other issues. And perhaps, Rex Tillerson can deliver that kind of protest.

ROMANS: It will be interesting to see. You know, Rex Tillerson be essentially the gatekeeper for Donald Trump, President Donald Trump's world view here. You know, will they keep the Ukraine sanctions? You know, there are so many places where, you know, Rex Tillerson has said those sanctions were too onerous for Russia. Hasn't he?

CHANCE: Yes. You know, I think he went on record and said that he believes sanctions are ineffective when they are used as a tool of foreign policy. And he said that, of course, back in 2014 when the sanctions for the United States were imposed on Russia after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine there. And he said it, of course, after Exxon said that it lost up to $1 billion when it did deals with Russia and because of the sanctions, it wasn't able to follow through, and the company lost $1 billion in profits because of the sanctions.

And so, you know, it was perhaps driven by this frustration about that that he spoke out against sanctions. But, yes, it is quite interesting, worrying for some people, that he goes into the office potentially, somebody who has spoken out against sanctions being used by the United States against Russia. We could see an easing under him.

ROMANS: That someone with at least some sort of business relationship with Vladimir Putin and may be a reset of America's relationship with Russia, that's what supporters would say.

Thank you so much, Matthew Chance. We will continue to follow this as the nomination continues.

HOWELL: Prosecutors will be wrapping up their case in the federal hate crimes trial of admitted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof today. This video evidence was introduced to the jury Tuesday, showing Roof taking target practice at balloons filled with liquids and objects placed on cinder blocks. Last year, Roof opened fire and killed nine parishioners at a bible study in an African-American church in Charleston. He could face the death penalty.

ROMANS: It's disturbing to watch.

All right. Let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this morning.

Stock futures are basically not moving because there's something big happening today. The Federal Reserve's big decision on interest rates. Investors want to know what the Fed says about the next rate hike. The Dow, NASDAQ, S&P 500 all closing at record highs.

Yesterday, stock markets in Europe are lower. Shares in Asia, mixed. Oil is down after a report showing a surprise jump in oil stockpiles here in the U.S.

It could be an historic day for the stock market. The Dow is fewer than 100 points away from 20,000. It's a stunning rise than just earlier this year when the Dow was below 16,000. After the election, it hit 19,000 for the first time. And now just 14 trading days later, the Dow is nearing 20,000.

You know, this is a psychological number but many market experts, they did not predict the market would get here this fast.

All right. More on the Federal Reserve now. It will almost certainly raise interest rates this afternoon. Who will benefit from that rise? And who will pay more?

The big winners are savers, people who have money sitting in the bank, sitting in certificates of deposit. Senior citizens who need the interest on their savings. Plus those nearing retirement who have move a lot of money to cash. Also banks, they can charge businesses more for taking out loans, you know, that pumps up their margins.

The biggest losers are perhaps home buyers. Right now, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage in the U.S. is 4.2 percent. So, look at this for a $250,000 loan, the monthly principal and interest payment is $1,023. If rates go up a quarter point to 4.5 percent, that means the payment goes up to $1,267. Over the life of the loan, borrowers are paying $16,000 more.

So, the question here, rates are likely going to rise. I want to hear what the Fed says about future rate hikes and how quickly they will come, because the feeling is, the U.S. company, with president-elect Donald Trump the U.S. economy.

Check out the new CNN Money Stream app. It's business news personalized, the stories, videos, tweets and topics you all want, all in one feed. Download it now on the App Store or Google Play.

HOWELL: If you don't have it, you definitely want to get that app.

EARLY START continues right now.