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Trump Makes Pitch for Besieged Secretary of State Pick; Energy Officials Refuse to Give Names of Climate Scientists. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 14, 2016 - 07:00   ET


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, the president-elect is now responding by using these campaign-style rallies to push publicly for his nominee, bracing for the battle ahead.


[07:00:15] TRUMP: A great diplomat, a strong man, a tough man.

SERFATY (voice-over): In Wisconsin, Donald Trump defending his choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

TRUMP: Rex will be a fierce advocate for America's interests around the world.

SERFATY: Trump talking up the Exxon CEO after facing backlash from both sides of the aisle over Tillerson's ties to Russia, especially now in the wake of the CIA's finding that Moscow meddled in the election.

TRUMP: Rex is friendly with many of the leaders in the world that we don't get along with. And some people don't like that. They don't want him to be friendly.

SERFATY: The president-elect now filling most major positions for his administration.

TRUMP: I believe we're in the process of putting together one of the great cabinets. Certainly a cabinet with the highest I.Q..

SERFATY: Trump tapping freshman Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke as interior secretary and one-time rival former Texas governor Rick Perry for energy secretary. Perry now set to run the Energy Department after trying to suggest eliminating it altogether but forgetting to name the department during this 2011 presidential debate.

RICK PERRY (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF TEXAS: The third agency of government -- I would do away with the Education -- the Commerce -- and let's see. I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops.

SERFATY: If confirmed, the top four picks of Trump's administration will be led by white males, a first for any administration since 1989.

As sources say some Trump loyalists are expressing frustration over being shut out after supporting Trump's campaign from its early days. But the president-elect giving conditional praise to his one-time antagonist House Speaker Paul Ryan during their first joint appearance.

TRUMP: He's like a fine wine. Every day goes by, I get to appreciate his genius more and more. Now, if he ever goes against me, I'm not going to say that, OK?

SERFATY: The relationship warming up since Trump's victory.

RYAN: I want to thank Donald Trump. I want to thank Mike Pence for helping Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, the Midwest finally see the light of day and put a Republican back in the White House.

SERFATY: Trump, though, continuing to attack the media.

TRUMP: You know, they're very dishonest people.

SERFATY: But happy to pose for cameras when meeting briefly with rapper Kanye West at Trump Tower in New York City.

KANYE WEST, HIP-HOP STAR: I just want to take a picture right now.


SERFATY: And today another interesting round of meetings at Trump Tower. The president-elect is convening a big meeting with executives from the tech industry like Tim Cook, Cheryl Sandburg, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who notably was very outspoken against Trump during the campaign -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: It will be a very interesting day. Thanks so much for watching all that, Sunlen.

President-elect Trump clashing with the current Department of Energy over a request from Mr. Trump's team to hand over names of staffers who have worked on climate change. That's an issue Trump had in the past dismissed as a hoax.

CNN's Athena Jones is live at the White House with more. What have you learned, Athena?


This is interesting. Folks here at the White House, from the president on down, have largely avoided criticizing President-elect Trump's personnel decisions, but press secretary Josh Earnest made it clear the administration does have a problem with the Trump team's move to question Energy Department staff.


JONES (voice-over): Donald Trump's transition facing new resistance from the Obama administration as the handoff of power nears. The Department of Energy refusing to comply with the Trump team's request to name employees who worked on climate change issues. The White House arguing this memo, requesting information about the department's work on climate, was out of line.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There were reports about what certainly could have been in an attempt to target civil servants, career federal government employees. Their work transcends the term of any one president.

JONES: An Energy Department spokesman telling CNN, "The Trump memo left many in our workforce unsettled."

The Obama administration response creating new tension with the incoming president, who once called climate change a hoax and who has promised to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

On Tuesday, Rick Perry's name emerged as Trump's pick to run the Energy Department. The former Texas governor famously forgot he wanted to scrap the agency when running for president in 2012.

PERRY: I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops.

JONES: Perry joins Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier tapped as Trump's EPA administrator. The pick alarmed Democrats.

[07:05:05] JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If he's going not to enforce Clean Air and Clean Water Act in the name of jobs, then that's not a guy you vote for.

JONES: Trump says he's open-minded on climate change, meeting with former Vice President Al Gore and tasking his daughter Ivanka to focus on the issue. President Obama encouraging his successor to take the problem seriously.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Climate change is still climate change. That's still happening. That's still going to have to be dealt with one way or another.


JONES: President Obama sees climate change as one of the greatest or perhaps the greatest threat facing future generations. And clean power generation, clean energy has been a big focus of his Energy Department.

This questionnaire is just the latest sign we're likely to see a big shift away from climate change concerns under the next president. So far no reaction yet from the Trump team to the White House's refusal to provide those names -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get one right now. Thank you very much, Athena. Let's bring in Anthony Scaramucci from the executive committee of the president-elect transition team. It's good to see you.


CUOMO: So, why do you want the names of those who worked at global warming at the Department of Energy? Is this a purge?

SCARAMUCCI: No, I don't think so at all. I think this is an intellectual curiosity expedition. We're really trying to come up with the best solutions to the American people and the best solutions for the world.

When you think about the Department of Energy or the EPA, I think what we're thinking about is energy independence for the United States, clean air and clean water, which the president-elect has repeatedly said throughout the campaign and during the transition.

And the most important thing that I want the American people to focus on is that we can generate a tremendous amount of energy revenues as result of new taxes coming off of the energy that's underneath the ground here in the United States.

And so, when you look at our forward liabilities, Chris, somebody like Governor Rick Perry in that position is going to be magnificent for the growth of the U.S. economic engine.

CUOMO: Right.

SCARAMUCCI: So, it's a combination of different things, frankly.

CUOMO: Well, you've got different conversations. You have do you accept the science of man's impact on the warming of the planet? And then you have, what policy considerations do you make in light of that science? That's one discussion.

My first question, though, I'm not completely satisfied on yet, which is, I don't get that intellectual exercise to find out who worked on global warming. Why do you need to know who worked on global warming?

SCARAMUCCI: Look, I know that the current president believes that the human beings are affecting the climate. There are scientists that believe that that's not happening.

CUOMO: The overwhelming consensus in the scientific community is that man's actions have an impact on science.

SCARAMUCCI: Chris -- Chris...

CUOMO: You have to correct that whenever it comes out. Go ahead.

SCARAMUCCI: Chris, there was an overwhelming science that the earth was flat, and there was an overwhelming science...

CUOMO: Called ignorance. You learn over time.

SCARAMUCCI: We were the center of the world. A hundred percent. You know, we did a lot of things wrong in the scientific community. You and I both know that.

I'm not suggesting that we're not affecting the change. I honestly don't know; I'm not a scientist. If you're asking me for my opinion, it's probably a blend of people... CUOMO: I'm not.

SCARAMUCCI: ... and what's going on in the -- You're not asking me for my opinion?

CUOMO: I'm not asking. And I'm not offering my own. I'm telling you that there's a consensus within the scientific community. When you say you don't know, that means you're ignoring the consensus in the scientific community.

SCARAMUCCI: That's not -- you just -- you're not letting me finish.

CUOMO: Go ahead, please.

SCARAMUCCI: I just told you that we are -- we met with Leo Di Caprio last week. We met with Vice President Al Gore. As you just mentioned, Ivanka is working on this issue. The president-elect is a very common-sense-oriented guy and basically, what he said is if we reduce carbon emissions, the air is going to get cleaner. That is a positive thing. Whether you believe in climate change or not, we want clean air. We want clean water for the American people.

What we also want is energy independence, Chris, because we know through the process of energy independence, our whole geopolitical footprint changes in terms of our national security and how we operate the American military. In addition to that we've got all these forward liabilities on these entitlement programs that, with the right tax and the energy policy, we can pay down and offset some of those liabilities.

So, the president-elect is sitting here in a very common-sense- oriented way. By the way, I was in the meeting yesterday with Jim and Darryl. The meeting was fantastic. He wants to help the inner cities and the urban communities. Those guys felt it. I felt it.

You've got a very common-sense-oriented president at the top of the chain now, and we're going to come up with great, common-sense solutions. Non-ideological. You know, some of the stuff that you're reading and some of the stuff I'm reading is very ideologically based about the climate. We don't want it to be that way.

If you're asking me do we want clean air and clean water? Yes. Do we want a safer climate for future generations of the world? Of course we want that. We're working super hard here in Trump Tower to make sure that happens, Chris.

[07:10:14] CUOMO: Anthony, all I'm saying is that there is a scientific consensus when it comes to the issues of whether or not man's actions have a negative impact on this warming phenomenon that's going on, and that's just the fact. Whether you accept it or not is up to you.

The policy considerations that you make are secondary. They don't have to be tied to your position on the first issue. You can accept the science and say, "But, we have to put business first. We have to keep jobs here. We want clean air and water." I said to another supporter of Trump's, just for context. I want you to understand the context. I said to Marcia Blackburn, "Can you be for clean air and clean water if you don't accept the science?" And aa lot of Trump supporters came after me for it.

I'll say it, again. Because it's about the genuineness of the commitment to clean air and clean water. If you don't accept the science on warming, is it a genuine commitment? That's my question.

SCARAMUCCI: Of course. Of course, it's a genuine commitment to clean air and clean water.

Chris, whether you accept the science or not, let's accept the science for a second here in this conversation. We're going to move in that direction. If you don't accept the science, we want to move in that direction. It's better for the United States and better for the world to have the U.S. Be energy independent. Have us have clean air and clean water and protect the environment for future generations of Americans. All of that makes sense.

But, again, you know, I don't want to litigate that. What I want to do is I want to have a problem-solving-oriented common-sense solution- based administration, because that's what the president-elect has given us a directive to do here at Trump Tower. So, we're doing that.

So, you and I may disagree on a couple of things, but I think we're both generally going in the same direction. You want clean air for your children, clean water, so does President-elect Trump and so do I, Chris.

CUOMO: I want you to understand it's not ideological for me. I'm just stating to you what the proposition is in the scientific community.

SCARAMUCCI: But it isn't -- but it isn't for me either.

CUOMO: But you don't accept the science. Let me -- let me just move on to something else, though, which is...

SCARAMUCCI: I didn't say that. I said I'm not -- I'm not...

CUOMO: You said you don't know. I'm saying the scientific community does.

SCARAMUCCI: But you're saying that you do and you're saying the scientific community knows. And I'm saying people have gotten things wrong throughout the 5,500-year history of our planet.

CUOMO: OK. I think you have to distinguish between predictions and a fundamental proposition.

But let me ask you something else while I have you, which is it seems that the -- the main driving factor for the frump team so far in putting the cabinet together has been wealth and executive experience before diversity. Do you agree with that proposition? SCARAMUCCI: Completely disagree. We -- there's three or four women

that have already been announced. There will be diversity in the cabinet. There will be diversity in the under-cabinet.

I'm sitting in on a lot of these interviews. The president -- ask Jim Brown and Pastor Darryl. We want diversity in the cabinet. We want diversity reflected throughout the government. I think the notion of the wealth thing is sort of ridiculous to me personally. I'm sort of tired of that, Chris.

I grew up in the middle class. My parents never went to college. My dad started as an hourly worker. Because I'd been successful in the United States because I listened to my folks and went to school and started two businesses, and now that I'm wealthy I don't want to be tarred and feathered like that. I'm tired of the eggs and tomatoes being thrown at wealthy individuals.

Who would you like the president-elect to put into the cabinet? He's trying to put in experienced people who are very good on what they do who he knows can negotiate on behalf of the American people and, by the way, who deeply love the country. For myself, personally -- and I do remember your parents, Chris -- I want the same thing that your parents wanted for you and my parents wanted for me for my children and grandchildren and the children and grandchildren of America. Which is an aspirational opportunity, again. And the cabinet that the president-elect is constructing is going to allow us to implement that plan.

So, -- so yes, some of them are wealthy. I don't understand why we've got to throw eggs and tomatoes at that. I don't really like it. I didn't start out wealthy. I haven't changed because now I am wealth and I think it's unfair, Chris.

CUOMO: I'll take you at your word. Anthony Scaramucci, thank you for joining us on NEW DAY, as always.

So if his cabinet picks do hold, and there's a big political reality that they will -- you're going to have white men holding the top spots in President-elect Trump's cabinet. Is that a problem? Does that mean that diversity is no long a priority? That's the conversation we're having. So we're going to talk about why Trump is tapping people who've gone after the agencies that they're supposed to lead. They're not just very wealthy; they're also against the mandate of their own agency. Next.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [07:18:52] TRUMP: And I believe we're in the of putting together one of the great cabinets, certainly a cabinet with the highest I.Q. that anybody has ever -- I mean, these, these are seriously great people.


CAMEROTA: That was Donald Trump touting his cabinet picks at a rally in Wisconsin last night, but critics say his picks are setting back diversity. For the first time since 1989, the nominees for the four most influential departments are all white men.

Let's bring in our CNN political commentators to debate this. We have the host of "The Ben Ferguson Show," Ben Ferguson, and CNN political commentator, BET News host and professor at Morehouse College Marc Lamont Hill. Guys, great to see you.


CAMEROTA: Let me start with you, Ben. Is diversity a concept whose time has passed?

FERGUSON: NO, I think that what you're saying here is he's picking the best people for the job, and there's plenty of cabinet picks and other positions that have not been filled. I mean, you're talking about four people that are overly qualified for these positions, people that have been well-respected in the community. He thinks that we need to get things back on the right track. There have been issues at many of these agencies. He wants to change things. And he picked the people that he thought would be the best for the job.


FERGUSON: So I don't think it's anything to be worried about yet, because it's four picks, top four picks. Good people in these positions.

[07:20:07] CAMEROTA: Marc, they picked the best person regardless of whether or not that person happens to be a white man. Your response?

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, that's always the argument for not picking black people for things. That's always the argument for not picking women for things. It's that "We just picked the most qualified person."

Typically, when you have cabinet picks or any job opening, there are multiple people who are in the mix. Some people are not qualified. Some people are incredibly qualified, and within that mix there are often a diverse range of people. Part of what you want to put forward in an administration, or in a corporation, is a diverse front, so that you see the value of having diversity. Diversity is not a hookup for black people. Diversity is its own benefit. Institutions are better when they're diverse. Problems get solved differently, according to scientific studies. I know some folks don't believe in science. But studies also demonstrate that problems get solved more creatively, more dynamically when things are diverse.

And so, unfortunately, finally, this is part of Donald Trump's whole thing. We're going to make America great again. We're going back to an old time when things were different. Now he's going back to an old time when administrations were all white.

FERGUSON: It's not true. It's not true. I mean, what you're basically saying is that Donald Trump is a racist and anyone that he picks that's not African-American, there must be...

HILL: No. FERGUSON: ... by default, some sort of "Let's go back to an old time when African-Americans didn't..."

CAMEROTA: I don't hear that, Ben. Ben, I don't hear Marc saying that.

HILL: I don't think I said that at all.

FERGUSON: Back to an old time.

CAMEROTA: He said make America great again. That is actually Donald Trump's motto.

HILL: 1989. Not 1789.

FERGUSON: Look, here's my thing. He's president-elect. He gets to pick who he wants to pick. He's picking qualified individuals, and his cabinet is not full yet.

We know that Donald Trump has talked a lot about diversity. We know that he's talked a lot about women being high up in his company. We know that there are going to be people around him that are going to be qualified in different positions. I just don't see it as an issue of somehow he's sliding anymore.

CAMEROTA: OK, OK, then let me ask you about Rick Perry.


CAMEROTA: How is Governor Rick Perry the most qualified person for the Department of Energy? The very department that he either has contempt for or forgets about.

FERGUSON: And I think it's very simple. You have a guy that says the overreach of this department has gotten too much. The government overreach in many of these departments has gotten to be too much. Why not have someone that obviously, one, understands that and realizes there's a problem; and, two, have them go in there and reform it, because it has become to a point where governments become so bloated in these areas.

And governor Perry understands that. He's dealt with a lot of these issues in Texas as governor. He's well-respected on those issues by the people that he worked with in Texas.

CAMEROTA: He's the best, you're saying, if you want to shrink the department.

FERGUSON: If you want to make these government agencies -- right. I think Donald Trump, this is where people misunderstand what he's doing with some of these picks. You look at Rick Perry. He understands this department well. He's overqualified, you could say, for this department because of what he did when he was the governor. And what you're having is a guy saying...

CAMEROTA: Meaning he shrank it. FERGUSON: ... "Hey, I'm going to shrink this down and make this not as big as it is right now."

CAMEROTA: OK. Let me read to you both what the senator who was in charge of the budget for Energy Department says he thinks about Rick Perry. He says, "The Rick Perry choice is so perplexing. I think very few people understand that the Energy Department, to a very substantial degree, is dealing with nuclear weapons. And Rick Perry suggested the agency should be abolished. That suggests he thinks it doesn't have value." That was former Senator Byron Dorgan.

What do you think about that, Marc?

HILL: I think that Rick -- like the senator, I think that Rick Perry didn't understand the full scope of the department. And I think the best argument for Rick Perry is the one Ben just made, which is an ideological one. That he believes in shrinking the Energy Department; he believes in shrinking government.

And so, again, to take it back to the diversity point for a moment, if the best argument for Rick Perry, which is an interesting one, a compelling one, is that he has the right ideology, and he has experience implementing that ideology, I would be willing to wager, and I think that anyone would agree that there are lots of people who have that same ideology and who have some level of experience doing that. And they may be Cambodian. They may be women. They may be LGBT. There are a range of...

FERGUSON: Let me say one thing about Rick Perry. I know him pretty well, and one of the things about him is he understood how the state was having to fight against this department when he was the governor and they were fighting all the time in a place where you have a lot of interaction in Texas with this department.

So forget diversity for a second. What's more important?

HILL: No. No, no.

FERGUSON: Actual understanding -- my point is you shouldn't just say, "I'm going to check a box, because the Department of Energy is an easy box to check by putting in someone based on the color of their skin or their race, et cetera." Why would the American people -- but the American people want someone who's not checking a box except for do they understand this department has overreach?

CAMEROTA: Hold on.

HILL: Let me respond to that. Let me respond to that, please. Very clear, Ben, again, you keep misrepresenting my argument. You're doing it masterfully. I never said check a box, and I never said pick someone who isn't qualified. I said if you choose among the people who are qualified -- Ben, do you think...

FERGUSON: Who would have rather have been picked, then?

HILL: Ben, let me finish. Ben -- Ben, let me finish. I'm asking you a question. Is there any black person in America who is as qualified as Rick Perry for that job?

FERGUSON: I think Rick Perry is a governor in a state that actually had to deal with the department which he said he wanted to abolish, and he understands how it's overreaching.

HILL: Right.

FERGUSON: I don't think there's another person out there that has actually had to fight and deal with a department that's become overreaching this way.

[07:25:09] I'll ask you the question. Give me an African-American, give me a minority, give me someone who's Hispanic who you are saying has dealt with this department the way that this governor has dealt with it and had to fight them with that same ideology, and I'm more than happy to listen to your argument, but I don't think you have anybody.

HILL: Well, if you're suggesting that...

FERGUSON: Name one name.

HILL: ... it hinges on my ability -- Bill Richardson. Bill Richardson.

FERGUSON: For this department? Based on what? He's a liberal. You're not going to have that guy, for goodness sakes.

CAMEROTA: But I think even you, Ben, would admit -- hold on. He's not a nuclear scientist. So he doesn't know...

FERGUSON: But you don't have to be a nuclear scientist to be a part of this department.

CAMEROTA: You don't have to be, but you're going to be dealing with nuclear weapons. So you're saying that you're going to overlook that expertise in terms of an ideal to shrink it.

FERGUSON: I'm saying a majority of what this department does Not dealing with nuclear weapons. It is a segment of it, yes. But there are other issues that you're going to deal with, that states have to deal with. And Rick Perry understands that, and most people would say he's very well-qualified for this position.

CAMEROTA: Got you. Ben, Marc, thank you.

HILL: Well, Donald Trump says -- Donald Trump says no. Donald Trump says that "We had a host of qualified people for all these positions." Yet Ben is saying only one person is uniquely qualified.

FERGUSON: No, I'm saying the most qualified.

HILL: Donald Trump said a whole lot of them are qualified.

CAMEROTA: All right, guys. On that note we'll leave it right there. Thank you for the debate. Let's get to Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So the Fed is widely expected to raise its benchmark interest rate. Why? Does that mean there's a problem with the economy? Why is the stock market so high, and they're going to raise the rate? Do those two go together? There are a lot of questions to make sense of this. We have two great experts that will make it clear, next.