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Trump's Children Spark Conflict Concerns; Evacuations Finally Underway in Aleppo; White House: Trump 'Obviously Aware' of Russia Meddling. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired December 15, 2016 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEAN SPICER, CHIEF STRATEGIST & COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: He's made it very clear how much the values input of his family.
[05:58:22] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have no formal chain of command around here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jared Kushner will have a place in the West Wing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President-elect Trump should divest himself of any and all conflicts of interest.
TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: As of January 20, he doesn't represent Trump Inc. He represents the United States of America.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't forgive him for this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prosecutors say Roof hoped to start a race war that day in Charleston.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was asking that he wouldn't kill all of us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An unmitigated humanitarian disaster.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are here exposed to a genocide in the city of Aleppo.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A cease-fire has failed to produce any results.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't want anything else but freedom.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, December 15, 6 a.m. in the east. And we begin with Donald Trump sitting down with technology CEOs to talk about jobs and China. What were the concerns and the promises?
At that tech talk, three of Trump's adult children and his son-in-law, once again, blurring the lines between business and family. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And that is again raising concerns about
conflicts of interest with the family business. Some congressional Democrats are especially worried about Trump's new Washington, D.C., hotel. This as the judge orders Mr. Trump to face a deposition next month in his lawsuit against celebrity chef Jose Andres.
Thirty-six days until Donald Trump is inaugurated, and we've got the transition covered, starting here in New York with CNN's Sara Murray.
Good morning, Sara.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
Well, look, a spokeswoman for the transition says Ivanka's role has not been decided, and it's true that there's been no decision about the formal titles for her or her husband, Jared Kushner. But what is clear is Donald Trump's family is going to play an outsized role in the White House.
TRUMP: You'll call my people, you'll call me. It doesn't make any difference. We have no formal chain of command around here.
MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump's unconventional White House quickly shaping up to be a family affair. Trump's three eldest children -- Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka -- and son-in-law Jared Kushner all sitting in on a meeting with the nation's top tech executives Wednesday, some who openly supported Hillary Clinton.
TRUMP: We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation. There's nobody like you in the world. In the world. There's nobody like the people in this room. And anything we can do to help this go along, and we're going to be there for you.
MURRAY: Kushner helped organized the meeting, which the group says will happen quarterly. Sources saying he will likely get an office in the West Wing and an advisory role similar to the one he held throughout Trump's campaign.
Ivanka is also expected to take on an active role, including some duties normally assumed by the first lady. And she'll do so from the East Wing, with aides planning to overhaul the traditional office of the first lady, turning it into the office of the first family.
TRUMP: She's so strong and, you know, to the women's issue and child care and so many things she'd be so good. Nobody could do better than her.
MURRAY: As both Donald Jr. and Eric take hands-on roles in their father's transition, CNN has learned Donald Jr. was heavily involved in vetting candidates for the interior secretary position, while Eric was included in at least one meeting with Mitt Romney about the secretary of state job.
The brothers also set to lead Trump's businesses, raising red flags over potential conflicts of interest. But Trump's camp argues it's all about transparency.
SPICER: Conflicts of interest arise when you're not, when you're sneaky about it, when you're shady about it, when you're not transparent about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just exists.
SPICER: No, no. If you tell everyone, "Here's what's going on. Here's the process. Here are the people that are playing a role," that's not -- that's being transparent.
MURRAY: All of this as House Democrats call into question Trump's lease agreement with the U.S. government for his new hotel just blocks from the White House.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: All you've got to do is read the lease. It says, basically, if you are an elected official, you can't be a part of the lease, period.
MURRAY: Citing Trump's lease, which says no member of the government can share in any part of the agreement.
MURRAY: Now, the GSA says it's still premature to determine whether Trump will, in fact, run afoul of his lease in Washington, but we do know that Trump's lawyers and his transition aides are trying to untangle this mess. And we were hoping to get some answers about that today when Donald Trump was slated to hold a press conference explaining how he would remove his business interests from his interests in the Oval Office, but now that has been kicked to January.
CUOMO: All right, Sara, stay with us.
Let's bring in the rest of our political panel: CNN political analyst and author of "How's Your Faith," David Gregory; and CNN political commentator and political anchor of Spectrum News, Errol Louis.
Errol Louis, people who voted for Trump knew how important his kids were. How big an issue is this?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think whether or not people think it's a problem is very different from whether or not it is a legal problem or it does, indeed, provoke a constitutional crisis. I think if you ask most people, I don't think most people have ever given it more than two seconds' worth of thought. But the reality, however, is that there is a huge problem. As we just saw with the Trump hotel and that, believe me, is the tip of the iceberg.
The notion that you would have family members, members of the business empire that Donald Trump has built, who are going to be leading it, according to his own statements, meeting with heads of state, meeting with cabinet picks, meeting in conversations where they are setting policy that's going to affect the business empire, that's the very definition of a conflict of interest, and there's no getting around it. Now, let's look at the law, David Gregory, in terms of nepotism.
Because there are laws on the book, but basically, what they say is a public official may not appoint a relative unless that individual appointed employed, promoted or advanced. If they are in violation, basically, they're not entitled to pay, and not be paid -- money may not be paid from the treasury. So is that how they're getting around nepotism laws?
GREGORY: Well, it might be. I don't know how the lawyers will come to some agreement. But I agree with Errol.
There's a couple points here. One is the president-elect has got to be thinking about the presidency. He has got to have respect for and reverence for the institution. He's got to protect the presidency from the specter of self-dealing and corruption or compromises with foreign nations and foreign powers who may try to use some kind of business leverage to affect policy decisions. No president should be engaged in that.
I think it's important that Mr. Trump have his son-in-law and his daughter, both of whom seem to be very close advisors to him whose guidance he relies on. He ought to be able to have that, if that's something that's valuable to him.
[06:05:06] But he's got to do it in a way that gets beyond the specter of self-dealing. That's what he criticized Hillary Clinton for in the campaign, and it's bad for his role as president, where he represents the people of the country.
CUOMO: Right, 31-10 is a sticky wicket when it comes to the law. Right? Anti-nepotism laws, borne of the Kennedy brothers being involved at the same time. A little bit of it was political backlash. Being free, being a volunteer, not running an agency, legally, is going to get him most of the way where he wants to be.
But this is about the ethical considerations and what Errol is talking about, the eventualities. Can you really make a judgment now? Until you have an actual situation that comes up, like I guess, the lease with the hotel. Because until then, isn't it all just talk?
MURRAY: Right. It is all just talk. And look, a lot of these things will appear bad. You know, it doesn't feel great to a lot of people to see Eric Trump sitting in a meeting for secretary of state or Don Jr. interviewing interior secretary. That feels a little weird.
But until you can draw a direct line between one of these meetings to some beneficial financial interest for the kids and for the Trump Organization, then, yes, I think it will be a lot of chatter. But I do think that, as others have pointed out, if you are the president, you have a peak opportunity, especially Donald Trump when he has a Republican House and a Republican Senate, to get things done in the first two years.
And so, the question is, do you want to do those -- use those two years to advance your legislative priorities, or do you want to be having hearing after hearing where people are exploring your business interests?
I do think that Donald Trump wants to be an effective president, and I think what his aides are trying explain to him is, if you really want to get a lot of stuff done, this is a really easy way to throw a wrench into your plan.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Can I just add, I think it's -- it's a mistake that they are not coming out and having a press conference and really dealing with this in a very transparent way. I guess they're looking at it; they'll do so in January. But I don't think they ought to be allowing this to fester.
I talked to a top Republican lawyer who met with either the president- elect and/or parts of his team; and he says, "Look, the critical thing is to sell the business. Sell it to the children. You may not escape all the criticism, but at least you could have a real severance from -- between the president-elect and the actual business.
CAMEROTA: You know, when Ivanka Trump, Errol, was on "60 Minutes" she said that she was not going to have any sort of role. Let's remind everyone of that moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESLEY STAHL, "60 MINUTES": People think that you're going to be part of the administration, Ivanka.
IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: No. I'm going to be a daughter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: Things change. Things change. Also, she happens to be married to somebody who wants to be part of the administration. And you've got a distinction without a difference. If they're living in the East Wing and working in the West Wing, in what sense are you simply a daughter? Right? I mean.
MURRAY: It almost doesn't matter what their titles are.
LOUIS: Well, exactly, and that, in some ways, is sort of their path out of this. Stay in New York, be an adviser, get on the phone two hours a day and you can get most of what Donald Trump says he wants to get from his kids, their advice and their counsel. When you take it this further step -- and I don't think we have to wait, and certainly we in the media are not going to wait -- to see a smoking gun evidence of a loan from the Chinese or from a German bank that's...
LOUIS: ... under federal investigation.
CAMEROTA: That was certainly not the standard that the Republicans used with Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. They say -- even when there could be no direct line of, like, payola or pay-for- play. They said, "But look at it. It was all this access." CUOMO: All things that happened while she was in office.
CAMEROTA: That's true.
CUOMO: You don't have that body of facts here yet.
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, already, Ivanka is in meetings with foreign leaders and things like that. Yes, he's not in office yet, but if you're looking at just the appearance of impropriety.
LOUIS: The appearance is awful.
CUOMO: But that's the standard, right? I mean, people think conflict of interest means law. It sounds legal. It isn't. It's an ethical standard that just simply means that you have multiple interests and a semblance of impropriety, which is legal speak to mean the smell test.
MURRAY: The other thing that I think is interesting here, and I was talking to somebody who's close to Donald Trump, who explained that part of his concern about all of this is protecting his children. He feels like he can take the scrutiny, and he understands where he, you know, has freedom legally under these conflict of interest laws, but he doesn't want his kids to be dragged through the mud for the next four years.
And it's sort of hard to see how you do that under this current situation. I think that's one of the other things that they're grappling with.
MURRAY: He doesn't necessarily want Jared Kushner or Ivanka Trump facing lawsuits constantly about every decision they might have been involved with.
CUOMO: Now, that is a very important point that you just made. We're going to talk about that more. I actually have seen that play out in real time. So we can have a good conversation about it.
Also, we're going to bring in Sean Spicer later in the show. He's the head of RNC communications, rumored to be perhaps the next press secretary. Will he be transparent about that when he comes on? We'll hear from him in the 7 a.m. hour.
CAMEROTA: We also are following some breaking news right now from Syria. Evacuations are finally under way from eastern Aleppo. What is supposed to be a new cease-fire for Aleppo is barely holding, as activists say regime forces fired upon ambulance convoys trying to evacuate trapped civilians.
CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is tracking the breaking developments for us, live from Beirut. What's the latest, Fred?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, monitoring that very closely, and what we're seeing is that there are buses lining up at checkpoint crossings between eastern and western Aleppo to get some of those people out and bring them to safety.
The first batch of 200 people that are going to be evacuated are the ones who are the most vulnerable. People who are wounded, people who are severely ill, people who need immediate medical attention. And, you're right. All of this comes after a cease-fire collapsed yesterday that now appears to be back on.
All of that, of course, made very many people very afraid as bombs kept raining down on their heads. There were some harrowing pictures of an orphanage in eastern Aleppo with a lot of children inside who, of course, were subjected to that violence, as well. And some people so afraid, Alisyn, that they actually posted good-bye messages. Let's listen to some of those.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To everyone who can hear me. We are here exposed to a genocide in the city of Aleppo. This may be my last video.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am going to be killed. That's what is going to happen. I'm going to be killed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't want anything else but freedom. I hope you can remember us. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: So, now, Alisyn, we're waiting to see whether or not that evacuation will actually be followed through; whether the cessation of hostilities will hold. And, of course, at the end of this process, what you're going to see is all the civilians, all the rebel fighters leave that enclave to other rebel-held areas in Syria and then the Syrian government will, once again, have full control over Aleppo -- Chris.
CUOMO: And Fred, as you know and as you've been covering for us, it's so confusing on the ground that, when shots are fired at these ambulances and buses taking people out, you don't even know who they're coming from right now. So we know you're going to stay on it for us. Thank you very much.
Let's take a quick break. Donald Trump's inauguration not the only date he has to set aside in January. A judge says he's going to have to sit through seven hours of legal questioning in connection with this civil suit with a celebrity chef. May sound like it doesn't have anything to do with government, but seven hours under oath. What can that mean?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[06:16:24] CUMMINGS: President-elect Trump says he will do what the law requires. But that should not be the minimum standard for president of the United States of America. Of course, we should follow the letter of the law, but he should promote his spirit, as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: House Democrats, they're concerned about President-elect Trump's potential conflicts of interest. They say they're particularly concerned about Trump's businesses, of course, and the role his children will play in his administration. Let's bring back our panel. We have David Gregory and Errol Louis, and we want to bring up executive editor of "Bloomberg View," Tim O'Brien.
Tim, when we talk about this, it's hard to get your mind around. There's just so -- it's so vast. There's so many entanglements. We keep using the word "potential" conflicts of interest, because nobody has connected the dots yet of some sort of pay-to-play scheme. But I mean, where do you even start?
TIM O'BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Well, let's start with the tech summit yesterday. He had his three children sitting at the end of the table. Jared Kushner was at the table, as well. Jared Kushner's brother runs a tech start-up that services the federal government for health care. Jared Kushner is sitting in a meeting with tech executives. Trump is saying, "We'll have you back quarterly to talk about policy." All of this stuff collides in a very unseemly mess. And they've gotten to the point now, I think, with the Trump family where they're being fairly flagrant about it.
He was going to have a press conference today to disclose the plan about where they're going to find the bright line that divided the Trumps' financial interests from quality policymaking. That hasn't happened. Ivanka is now moving into the White House, apparently, where she said probably only a month ago that she was going to play no role in the administration.
I think Trump has signaled that he's not going to do anything concrete to settle these issues, and they're going to haunt his administration.
CUOMO: Now, by concrete, let's unpack what that means. There's no question Donald Trump has conflicts of interest. That doesn't mean he's doing anything illegal. It's just a simple definition that means he's got multiple interests at play while he's going to have a duty to the public.
GREGORY: He does, by definition. So do his kids if they're involved with anything to do with the government. They will have conflicts of interest. How you resolve that is where transparency comes in. Sean Spicer came on yesterday. He's going to be on this morning. He says the most transparent transition ever gets a lot of mocking from the media, because today they were supposed to have a conference. These conflicts have to be exposed in light of what are the business realities? And we just don't know.
O'BRIEN: And they haven't been really transparent. He still hasn't released his tax returns. The Trump Organization operates through LLCs that are very opaque little entities where Trump houses debt. He houses income. We don't know the full extent of those. He's about to set off on a $1 trillion infrastructure spending program, he says, over the next decade.
It would be very easy for the Trump children to set up little shell companies that benefits from these federal contracts, going to people who get steered work for roads and bridges, and deprive the workers who voted for Trump for change and jobs. Those jobs, because the Trump family is lining their pockets in the process.
CAMEROTA: David, let's talk about this deposition that is scheduled for early January. There's a lawsuit between Donald Trump and Jose Andres, who's a celebrity chef who pulled out of a Trump hotel after Trump made his disparaging comments about Mexicans. Jose Andres is Spanish.
So Jose Andres tweeted this yesterday: "Mr. Trump, can we end our lawsuit and donate money to a veterans' group to celebrate? Why keep litigating? Let's both of us win."
[06:20:09] Isn't that the answer? Isn't that what's going to happen? Is Donald Trump ever going to sit for an up to seven-hour deposition to reveal this stuff? Or is this all going to be settled momentarily?
GREGORY: Well, we saw that he settled the Trump lawsuit case, which was smart legal advice, a smart thing to do. This is certainly a lawsuit that would get a lot of attention, because Jose is certainly a big name here in Washington and around the world.
And, right, the specter of the president of the United States sitting in a deposition. We saw that before, with Bill Clinton becomes big news. Particularly when you're, you know, you're facing examination by lawyers in a deposition, which may or may not be videotaped and may or may not be released.
So I would think they'd want to clear the decks of this kind of thing. I don't think they want to have all of these problems. I'm not sure that they fully appreciate how much, as Tim was just saying. How much of an issue this will become politically. It doesn't matter what the public thinks of this. Members of Congress and the media, I mean, everybody has an obligation to hold him accountable for potential conflicts of interest, actual conflicts of interest, and potential self-dealing and corruption. These are things that have to be monitored.
You have the conflicts and then you have to see if they're self- dealing, if there is any fraud. There are some numbers out there. In terms of whether or not people care about his business relationships, it's just something that's been well chewed over. You say concerned, not concerned. Not unusual numbers for when it comes to things that could be offensive about Donald Trump, about split.
A second number may mean more, Errol, which is where he is popularity- wise right now. Put that number up. I think that popularity is going to be an exceptionally driving force for Donald Trump. He wants people to like him in this role. Split, not unusual given Trump. But look at that compared to everybody else at this time. His desire to please. We see it in who he's meeting with. Could that
be the pressure that gets him to do things that may not even be in his own interests?
LOUIS: Well, let's keep in mind, it's not just personal. We know enough about his personality to know that he does like the applause. He does like the spotlight. But no, popularity is also the coin of the realm. You now, if you want to go and try and get some kind of a deal done on Capitol Hill with governors in your party or not in your party with other heads of state. They know how to read polls, too.
If you're -- if you're not popular, you come in with a weakened hand. And folks know that, and they're going to use that against him, as well. I mean, just to loop back to something that Tim said and that you sort of pointed out. To the extent that Trump doesn't disclose his taxes, doesn't disclose what his interests are, and never mind conflict of interest. We are all -- it's like a full employment program for investigative reporters to go out and to find all of the different things, all of the different problems that could or actually are already in motion.
CUOMO: And he sets his kids up to take the hit, because people will come after them to try to get at him. He's got to think about whether he wants to protect them or not.
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much.
CAMEROTA: What's your take? Tweet us @NewDay. Or post your comment on Facebook.com/NewDay.
CUOMO: Another stunning data breach. This time at Yahoo! It's the second one reported in three months for the Internet giant. What does it mean for the 1 billion users who are impacted? Are you ever safe online? We have some insight ahead.
[06:27:25] CAMEROTA: So, Yahoo! is revealing another huge security breach. More than 1 billion user accounts may have been compromised in 2013. Phone numbers, birth dates and security questions among the stolen data. The company notifying those affected and requiring users to change their passwords. Now, less than three months ago, Yahoo! disclosed that data was stolen from at least 500 million accounts in a separate breach.
CUOMO: The White House is now weighing in on Russia's interference in the U.S. presidential election. This as the intel community brushes off today's scheduled House briefing on those cyberattacks.
CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez live from Washington. What's going on there?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, overnight the Kremlin, again, dismissed claims that Vladimir Putin ordered Russian intelligence to target Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. A Russian spokesman says that the accusations come from accusations simply making up horror stories. The Obama administration now says that Donald Trump knew he was benefiting from the Russian cyber hacks. Here's White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Republican nominee himself calling on Russia to hack his opponent. It might be an indication that he was obviously aware and concluded, based on whatever facts or sources he was -- he had available to him that Russia was involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: U.S. intelligence officials in October publicly blamed the Russian government for hacks that were targeting mostly Democratic Party organizations. The U.S. says, quote, "Only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities."
Now officials tell us that this is a reference to Vladimir Putin himself. Intelligence officials declined Republican requests for a briefing today on the Russian hacks. They say they're working to complete a report on the issue before President Obama leaves office.
In the meantime, Senator Lindsey Graham says that he also was hacked by the Russians. Of course, Graham, as you know, Alisyn, was a strong critic of Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.
CAMEROTA: Absolutely. Evan, thanks so much for all that reporting.
Well, China trying to mark its territory in the disputed islands of the South China Sea. There's new satellite imagery that shows weapons systems have been installed on all seven of the islands built in those contested waters, apparently to guard against incoming cruise missiles. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs will not acknowledge the specifics but says the disputed islands are in China's territory and any construction is, quote, "normal."
CUOMO: The Obama administration says three quarters of all ISIS fighters have now been killed in battle by coalition forces. So, what does that say about the president's anti-terror strategy? Is this the right time for Donald Trump to step in and change that course? We'll take a closer look at what we know, what is a guess and what is working when NEW DAY returns.