Return to Transcripts main page


Ceasefire & Evacuation of Aleppo; Tillerson's Pick Good or Bad; Turning Points Story of Danelle Umstead; Trump Defends Tillerson; Perry Selected for Energy Secretary. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired December 14, 2016 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: About why the U.S. may want to stay out of the situation. What do you want people to think about?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, Syria's a moral, strategic and humanitarian disaster for the United States, without question. The largest single refugee flow since the end of the second world war. By conservative estimates, anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000 people killed. A nation traumatized and likely never -- never again will be put to -- back together in the way it was once constituted.

The reality, though, for the Obama administration, and most likely for the next administration, is that I suspect there is very little readiness in Congress, among the public, for a risk ready policy. That is to say in the wake of Iraq and Afghanistan to deploy thousands of American ground forces to pay the cost of reconstruction. Literally to put American arms around this moral, humanitarian, strategic disaster and try to make it better. And I suspect that policy is likely to continue in the next administration, too.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, Aaron, help us understand how pivotal this week is in Aleppo and Syria as a whole. If Assad's forces do win back Aleppo, what does that mean for Syria?

MILLER: I mean, I think there are two major consequences. Number one, essential Syria, which is what the Russians and Iranians are trying to help Mr. Assad put back together, the coast, the largely populated areas, Aleppo, Homs, Damascus, will, in fact, remain under Syrian control.

Second, I think the fall of Aleppo symbolically and practically will represent a huge psychological and material loss for the opposition. They simply now have no realistic path to challenge the Assad regime. ISIS, of course, will retreat into the desert. They'll continue to launch their insurgencies. And they still control a third of the country. So the fall of Aleppo will not end the war, but it is likely to change the war in a pretty dramatic and decisive fashion.

CUOMO: Quick, one more beat on this. For Americans who say, look, I care about ISIS. I can't -- the United States can't be the world's policeman. We can't fix Syria. There are 100 guys like Assad out there. I only care about ISIS. What do you say to them? MILLER: I mean, if we really do care about ISIS, and there's the

contradiction, Syria and Iraq are like giant petri dishes in which bad governance, empty spaces, sectarian rivalry create perfect circumstances for the emergence and growth of this kind of insurgency. And the reality is, and this is the conundrum, Chris, without addressing the Assad problem, how then in essence do you deal with the broader challenge of the Islamic State? They're on their heels. I suspect in both Raqqa and Mosul eventually they will be denied the caliphate, but they will continue to project their terror and violence both in the region and beyond.

Just one additional point. This is not just an Obama problem. We have to understand this. In the face of mass killing and mass slaughter for 70 years, the United States, under Republican and Democratic administrations, whether it was the Nazi Holocaust, or Cambodia, or Congo or Darfur, or Rwanda, with the exception of perhaps a Bosnia and Kosovo, America's track record on humanitarian interventions is pretty poor. So it's not a defense of the Obama policy, it's just a sobering piece of perspective on how hard this is and how unwilling the U.S. has been to intercede.

CAMEROTA: And, of course, this is about more than just Assad. There's about Russia's influence. That leads us to Rex Tillerson, the president-elect's pick for secretary of state. Where are you on Rex Tillerson?

MILLER: You know, I worked for half a dozen R's and D's. I've voted for R's and D's. This isn't a political comet. But how consequential and effective the secretary of state is depends on three things and I think in large part the analysts have missed this in the current debate. One is the relationship with the president. If you don't have a relationship with the president, he doesn't have your back in Washington, and when you're negotiating abroad, you might as well hang a closed for the season sign on your tenure as secretary of state. Second is the world itself. Are there crises that can be defused? Are there agreements that can be reached? These are the two factors that will determine Tillerson's success or failure. The third factor, his persona. Whether he has the right temperament, the right experience and the right background is important, but I would argue in the end it's not decisive.

Exxon is not a company. It's a country. It's got intelligence organization. They report. This guy's been around for a long time. He knows a lot of the world leaders. The question for Mr. Tillerson, again, is, can he create the kind of relationship with the president to influence the president's policy, and essentially to carry out what the Trump administration policy is going to be in the Middle East and elsewhere. And there's a lot of unanswered questions on all of that.

[08:35:13] CUOMO: Hmm. Aaron David Miller, appreciate it.

MILLER: Thank you, Chris.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

MILLER: And Alisyn. CAMEROTA: Thank you.

Well, team Trump is asking a tall order of Rick Perry. Is the former governor of Texas the right fit to lead a department he wanted to abolish, when he can remember it? We discuss all of that in "The Bottom Line."


CAMEROTA: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

Number one, Donald Trump defending Exxon chief Rex Tillerson, predicting his secretary of state pick will be a, quote, "great diplomat." Today, the president-elect meets with the CEOs of the top Silicon Valley tech giants.

CUOMO: The deadly air assaults are back on in Syria, violating this post-cease-fire in place for Aleppo. Efforts to transport the wounded to medical care from eastern Aleppo appear to have stalled. The U.N. estimate there are 50,000 civilians are still trapped in rebel-held neighborhoods.

CAMEROTA: Ohio Governor John Kasich vetoing the so-called heartbeat abortion bill which would have banned any abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. He did, however, sign a bill restricting abortion after 20 weeks.

CUOMO: Bill Cosby expected back in court today after fireworks erupt during a critical hearing in his sex crimes case. Cosby himself yelling out a couple of times, as did lawyers for both sides. A judge is making a key decision, can 13 other accusers testify against Cosby at this trial next year.

[08:40:12] CAMEROTA: Alan Thicke, best known as America's dad from his role in the hit '80s sitcom "Growing Pains" has died. His resume spans five decades. It includes credits as a singer, composer and producer. Thicke reportedly died of a heart attack. He was just 69 years old.

CUOMO: For more on the "Five Things to Know," go to for the latest.

CAMEROTA: Well, a young woman thought her life was over when she started to lose her eyesight. But a ski trip with her dad changed everything. Here's this week's "Turning Points."


DANELLE UMSTEAD, U.S. PARALYMPIC SKIER: Ski racing is an individual sport. But, for me, I ski down the mountain with a guide in front of me, calling the commands.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, up, roll and up.

D. UMSTEAD: My name is Danelle Umstead. I'm a visual impaired U.S. Paralympic Alpine ski racer.

I was diagnosed at the age of 13 with a disease called retinitis pigmentosa and that's a retinal degenerative disease. As I got older, my sight was getting worse and it seemed like my life was just crumbling day by day. And my father calls me up on the phone and he says, we're going to go skiing. And we went down the mountain, and my life changed from that moment forward.

ROB UMSTEAD, DANELLE'S HUSBAND: I'm Rob Umstead. I'm Danelle's husband and guide when we ski. My job is to be her eyes. I'm basically thinking out loud and telling her everything that's happening.

D. UMSTEAD: Coming out of the 2010 Paralympic games, Rob and I were super excited winning two bronze medals. In October of 2010, found out I had multiple sclerosis. I had to learn how to walk again. I was super determined to get back on snow. And the 2014 winter Paralympic games, we won a bronze medal. I didn't start living my life until I started sport. And sport has given me the life that I love and enjoy.


CUOMO: Do you ski?


CUOMO: Do you -- amazing. Amazing what she has overcome.

CAMEROTA: It's -- her perseverance, with her various physical challenges. I mean, it's scary to ski down a mountain. Imagine being visually impaired.

CUOMO: And then having to deal with MS and having to retrain her body on how to move. The power of the human spirit beats everything.

CAMEROTA: What a great story.

CUOMO: It really does.

All right, so we're talking politics this morning. We're talking about Democrats having objections over Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state. What about the GOP side? There's also a little bit of dissension there when it comes to Rex Tillerson. We're going to discuss that next in "The Bottom Line."


[08:47:02] CAMEROTA: Donald Trump trying to drive up support for his State Department pick, but objections to Rex Tillerson are not just coming from Democrats. So for today's "Bottom Line," let's bring in CNN political director David Chalian.

Hi, David.


CAMEROTA: So are there enough objections or reservations in the Senate to Rex Tillerson that it could block his nomination?

CHALIAN: There's certainly enough to make it a bumpy confirmation process. There's no doubt about that. We already have heard from four Republican senators that have questions and concerns, mostly based on Tillerson's relationship with Putin. And, remember, before it even gets to the floor, where it needs 51 votes, before it gets there, in committee, because of how closely the Senate is divided, 52-48 Republican advantage the new Senate, there's not an overwhelming number of Republicans versus Democrats in committee. Probably just one more Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee than Democrats. So if they lose one in committee, it could get trouble for Tillerson getting to the floor.

That being said, guys, it would be an enormous blow to the president if his own party somehow blocked his choice for secretary of state just coming out of the gate. It may be bumpy, but I don't think we -- we don't know yet because, you know, we heard Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, fully get on board. So there's a split inside the party itself.

CUOMO: Bottom line, how much of the drama surrounding Tillerson is actually being fed by Trump's resistance to the reality that Russia motivated hacks during the election?

CHALIAN: Probably some, Chris. I mean I think that if, indeed, right now Trump is on an island on that issue, right? I -- you can't find anyone else. The intelligence community -- forget the conclusion about whether or not --

CUOMO: His people come on all the time, David, and they either tap dance like Sammy Davis Jr., or they ignore it all together.

CHALIAN: But nobody else is saying what he's saying about, well, it could just as easily be a kid in his basement. I mean nobody who's looked at this in an intelligence agency or members of Congress necessarily believe that. So I do -- I do think that -- that could help if he were to say that.

But, listen, Donald Trump, last night in Wisconsin, guys, he said this himself, that the reason he, as he called it, making the deal with Rex, because everything's a deal to Donald Trump, but the reason he is tapping Tillerson here, one of the reasons is, because he gets along with the leaders that America doesn't get along with, namely Putin. So it is actually part of the stated reason from the president-elect as to why he's tapping Tillerson.

CAMEROTA: We also know that the president-elect has, I think, an incredible power to persuade, even his previous political enemies, and so we've seen that with Paul Ryan. Not that they were enemies, but certainly Paul Ryan was not on team Trump. And then last night Donald Trump compared Paul Ryan to a fine wine that has basically, you know, aged gracefully and grown on him. So what's -- what are we to make of this budding bromance with Donald Trump and Paul Ryan? And could it fray if Donald Trump, say, wanted too much money for infrastructure?

[08:50:07] CHALIAN: It could certainly fray. It is tenuous. You are -- there's no doubt about that. Just listen to Donald Trump's crowd last night when he brought up Paul Ryan's name. It was full of boos, in Paul Ryan's home state of Wisconsin. So clearly there is some dissonance between the core of Trump support and an establishment guy like Ryan. But Donald Trump is obviously no dummy at all and he knows he's going to need Paul Ryan to get his agenda through. So you hear him starting to warm to him. But, he also made clear right after that wine statement, Alisyn, that the moment Paul Ryan goes against him, he's not going to say nice things about him like that.

CUOMO: Yes, I know, and that's an aside, but that's probably one of the truest things we heard in that.

Also, there's a disconnect between political life and personal life. And personal life, amity precedes unity. You like somebody and then you're with them in unified purpose. In politics it's the opposite. You get on the team side, the GOP side, and then you figure out whether you like somebody or not. Unity comes first. That's what we're seeing there.

But maybe we need a bottom line on the divisions that are being sunk in. We had one of the Trump transition officials on this morning, and he seemed insistent on saying about the Department of Energy, one, we just want the names of people who worked on global warming because we're intellectually curious, and, two, we can't say that we accept the science on man's impact on global warming because it's open to debate. Why are they driving this line? Who does this gain approval from?

CHALIAN: Well, it, as you heard from lots of Republican candidates throughout the primary process, they were sort of all over the map on this and it does appeal to a segment of the Republican base to not sort of settle of the science on it. But, listen, with Rick Perry in there, I do think that this -- their energy policy is likely -- if you look at his Texas record -- going to be a lot more sort of economically focused than I think an overall battle of the science.

CAMEROTA: Well, also, a construction, right? I mean he doesn't like the Energy Department. When he could remember the name of the Energy Department, he didn't like the Energy Department. And so doesn't that mean he will try to shrink the Energy Department?

CHALIAN: It very well may. And the Club for Growth, a real conservative interest group here in Washington, their first sort of message out of the gate when Perry was name was, we really hope Rick Perry is the right energy secretary to close the Energy Department. So there's no doubt that the Energy Department has a big target on its back as one of the bureaucratic institutions that many on the Trump side would like to see eliminated or, as you said, just shrunken.

CUOMO: One of the underplayed stories of the day is the Trump administration asking for the names of people who researched global warming at the Energy Department and the Department of Energy saying no they won't give it to them.

CAMEROTA: Well, then, shame on us, we need to do that more tomorrow and figure out what that is all about. David, thank you.

CHALIAN: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: What's your take on all of this? You can tweet us @newday or post your comments on

CUOMO: I want it right now.

CAMEROTA: I want to hear your comments.

CUOMO: "The Good Stuff," next.


[08:57:02] CUOMO: All right, "The Good Stuff." Larry Peters owns several McDonald's restaurants in Michigan, all right. So he wanted to do something special for some very important people in his community.


LARRY PETERS, OWNER, MCDONALD'S RESTAURANT: We have a lot of respect for what they do in the communities. You know, they put their lives on the line every day that they go to work.


CUOMO: Who's that? Any police officer, that's who. So anyone that visits one of his locations is offered a free meal of their choice. Larry says it's his way of thanking them for protecting the community.


PETERS: But in the last year or so, with everything going on, we thought it was real important to show our support for our local officers.


CUOMO: And not just for the holiday season. Larry says he's going to be offering this to police officer, period.

CAMEROTA: That's awesome.

CUOMO: Right?

CAMEROTA: That is a great call.

CUOMO: Regular guy. He's got a small business. He's making a stand. Ordinary guy doing something extraordinary.

CAMEROTA: That's a great story.

All right, late night comics taking on Mr. Trump's cabinet picks and, of course, his meeting with Kanye West. Here are your late night laughs. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O'BRIEN, "CONAN": Donald Trump's pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. Rex Tillerson. Yes, there's a name that lights up a room, Rex Tillerson. Did you know this? Rex Tillerson was once the president of the Boy Scouts of America. Yes. Of course, Donald Trump calls that government experience.

SETH MEYERS, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": Former Vice President Dick Cheney, today, praised Donald Trump's secretary of state pick Rex Tillerson, calling him an inspired choice. So Tillerson has the support of Dick Cheney, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. That only leaves one person.


MEYERS: It's unanimous.

STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Tillerson is an interesting pick. For one thing, he's an oil man who believes in climate change. Well, of course, he believes in it, he's from Exxon. He invented it.

JIMMY FALLON, "THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON": Kanye West actually showed up to meet with Donald Trump at Trump Tower. People were shocked. They didn't expect these two to meet until the first presidential debate in 2020. So, there you go, this is --

MEYERS: That's right, Kanye West met with Donald Trump at Trump Tower today. No word on what they interrupted each other about.

JIMMY KIMMEL, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": They do have a lot in common, if you think about it. They're both fashion designers. They both go on Twitter rants. They both use all caps. They both have very high self- esteem. They're both married to models. They both do reality shows with their families. They both like to interrupt people. And they're both people of color. In Donald's case, orange.


CAMEROTA: He makes a good point. I didn't realize how much Kanye West and Donald Trump had in common.

CUOMO: I hope that that's a very, very short list for all of our sakes going forward.

You like scouting?

CAMEROTA: You mean like Girl Scouts?

CUOMO: Yes. Do you guys do scouting?


CUOMO: I want my kids to do scouting. I loved it. CAMEROTA: I wanted -- I desperately wanted my daughter to do it and then I had to become a scout leader, like I had to be a mom who was volunteering to do it, and that was the deal breaker for me because I don't have time.

CUOMO: Tillerson wasn't just the head of scouting. He was part of a force to open up scouting to gay scout leaders and scouts as well.

[09:00:02] CAMEROTA: Is that right?

CUOMO: Unknown fact.

CAMEROTA: Good to know.

All right, time for "Newsroom" with Carol Costello, where you will learn more tidbits.

CUOMO: She was a scout.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm just laughing because --

CUOMO: Kicked out for setting fires.