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Trump's Children Spark Conflict Concerns; Interview with Sean Spicer; Evacuations Finally Underway in Aleppo; Yahoo: Data Stolen from One Billion Accounts. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired December 15, 2016 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: -- the president-elect's daughter, Ivanka, may have an office in the East Wing with her husband, Jared, possibly occupying space in the West Wing. There's still 36 days until Donald Trump is inaugurated, but everything is already well in play.
[07:00:15] Let's begin in New York with CNN's Sara Murray -- Sara.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.
A spokeswoman for the transition effort says no final decisions have been made about the role of Ivanka Trump in the White House. And it is true that it has not been decided what the official titles will be for Ivanka Trump or for her husband, Jared Kushner. But what is clear is they appear poised to play a big role in the White House.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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: As soon as he's sworn in on January 20, he will have violated the law.
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 premature to determine whether Donald Trump will actually run afoul of this lease. He is not in the White House yet. And we know his lawyers and transition aides are working to untangle all these conflicts. He had hoped to learn today how Trump was going to separate his business interests from his interests in the Oval Office, but now that press conference that was originally slated for today has been kicked to January -- Chris.
CUOMO: All right, Sara, thank you very much.
Let's bring in the chief strategist and communications director for the RNC Sean Spicer. Good to see you.
SPICER: Good morning, Chris.
CUOMO: All right. So let's keep on your theme of transparency. Do you believe that you will be the press secretary for the administration?
SPICER: Here's what I believe, that every single decision is made by Donald Trump, and until he makes it and announces it, it's not final. So, there's nothing to announce on that front.
CUOMO: Do you have reason to believe that you could be the next press secretary of the administration?
SPICER: Like I said, I'll refer to my first comment, but thank you.
CUOMO: What's the point? The point is I wish you well, but also that transparency is very subjective. Right? And that gets us into the discussion of the conflicts.
You had a very interesting interview with Kate Bolduan yesterday. At one moment you said here's how conflicts of interest arise when you're sneaky, when you're not -- that's not true. A conflict of interest exists all on its own. Donald Trump has conflicts of interest, because he's got business concerns and now public duty. His kids, same analysis. The question is what will you do about the conflicts of interest? They're not potential. They're real. The answer isn't transparency. Do you believe we've had enough transparency?
SPICER: Thank you. So, No. 1, let's take these in order. No. 1, the president by law can't have a conflict of interest.
No. 2 is that the reason that you know about the children being involved are two things. One, they're on the website, and they were publicly named as being part of the transition and, two, we brought the press in to show who was at the meeting. So it's not like there's anything nefarious going on or sneaky or transparent. We've been very clear about the role of his family, the importance that they play and the advice that they give him.
[07:05:02] So I think that there's a difference if you're being sneaky and not telling people what's going on. But we literally brought the press in to show everybody who was there.
They're close. Their father appreciates their counsel and their advice.
SPICER: And as we work through these remaining 36 days to the inauguration, Mr. Trump and his lawyers and accountants will go through a process to make sure that there is a clear delineation between his business and his desire and commitment to serve the American people.
CUOMO: A conflict of interest, as you know, is as much an ethical standard as it is a legal one. The idea that there isn't a specific law governing this idea does not end the responsibility. This is ethical.
CUOMO: We know that they're involved. But, Sean, here's the question. The kids are going to be running the business. They're also sitting in on government meetings and selection processes. That is a conflict of interest. What would help understand the impact of that conflict is knowing more about the businesses. Knowing what's in the tax returns. Knowing what is being done here. We don't know any of that. Is that fair? SPICER: Well, look, I think Donald Trump filed 170-some-odd pages of
a financial disclosure firm as required by law that lays out all of his holdings, who he owes debts to, what he has in terms of assets. That's what's required by law. He's gone a lot beyond that.
I get what the press wants. But the American people have understood exactly what they're getting, and they voted overwhelmingly about him. He has been very clear about what he owns and his family since he announced that he was running for president. And they overwhelmingly elected him with all of that on the table.
So I understand a desire by some on the left, and frankly, some of the media want to comb through certain documents that he has. But the American people are clearly satisfied with what they got, not only on election day; but since he's been elected his approval rating has gone up, like, 20-some-odd points. So not only have they elected him, they've become more and more pleased with the job that he's done, and he hasn't even assumed the office yet.
CUOMO: I thought you guys didn't like polls. But if we want to play with them, we know that more people are concerned about his business dealings than those who are not. We know that his approval rating is low compared to where other president-elects have been at this point. But let's dismiss the polls. You said they overwhelmingly voted for him. There is no definition of overwhelming that would meet...
SPICER: Three hundred and six electoral votes? Sure it is.
CUOMO: It's one of the lowest -- it's one of the lowest electoral margins we've had. I think it's 46th out of 50-something. It's one of the lowest in the last few cycles we've had.
He won. He's the president-elect. He will be the next president of the United States. But I'm saying, if you want to be straight about it and transparent...
SPICER: I do.
CUOMO: ... it wasn't overwhelming. And...
SPICER: No, no, if you look at -- hold on, hold on. Chris, there is nobody on your network, and the rest of the media that gave him a chance going into election day. None. The headlines...
CUOMO: How is that relevant? How does that make his win overwhelming?
SPICER: To say -- because to say that he was going to get crushed. Hillary Clinton was planning fireworks on the Hudson for everything that was going to happen. He wins with 306 electoral votes, 9 of 13 battleground states, 2,300 counties; and you're saying you doubt whether that's overwhelming?
CUOMO: Yes, because it's about 100,000 -- it's about 100,000 votes. It's one of the smallest electoral margins we've had, and he lost the popular vote by millions. But he won. I'm not disputing that, and I know you like that as a distraction. I'm not giving it to you today. What I'm saying is...
SPICER: It's not a distraction. It's a fact.
CUOMO: Of course it is. Because you are assuming there is a premise involved that is absent from this discussion. There is no suggestion of delegitimizing the victory. What I'm saying is transparency which you were touting yesterday is woefully lacking where it matters most. We do not know what the business dealings are for the kids or for Trump, and you were supposed to tell us today and you delayed it.
SPICER: First of all, we have been unbelievably transparent. We literally brought the press into meetings. We've listed the kids and Jared on websites. We've been very clear since day one who's on the transition, who's on the landing team.
CUOMO: You're letting us know what you want us to know, and we appreciate it. What about what you're hiding. That's what news is. What you don't want us to see.
SPICER: No, no, because it's all about what you want. We've been unbelievably transparent. The American people are unbelievably supportive. So I get what you and some of the media want. But at the end of the day everything that is happening is happening -- you can see every single person go up and down Trump Tower. There's a camera, for goodness sake, that shows who's coming up and going down.
CUOMO: That's great. Are any of those people in business with Donald Trump right now?
SPICER: But hold on.
CUOMO: I don't know the answer to it. I don't know if you know the answer to it. But that's the question.
SPICER: Mr. Trump has some of the most iconic properties throughout the world. He has put his entire focus on building a cabinet, which you've seen, which you would note he's almost entirely finished with. He's by far ahead of where every modern American president has been.
CUOMO: Very active.
SPICER: Not just by naming people. But not just active but these are world class people. Every single one of them, you name them. Boom, boom, boom from the EPA to the Department of State to the Department of Interior. These are the best and brightest.
[07:10:07] He put his focus there and said, "I will have a press conference," but he realized with talking to lawyers and accountants that it was going to take a little bit more time, because he put his focus on the American people and having a government upright. But he will get it done. It will happen in January. We'll all be good. I promise you on that.
CUOMO: Look, I appreciate your promise, Sean. I always take you at your word. But what I'm saying is the conflicts are real. The only way you know what happens. There are two main ways. One is you know what you have going into it, which we do not. The federal disclosure is what he wants to put out. It is not an exacting review of his business dealings. And you know that, because it's not put through any filter except his own.
The second way is to wait for something terrible to happen, and the concern politically is you're setting yourself up for that. You're creating an agenda for those who oppose him in government and for journalists to have to dig, because you're not giving them the answers. And are you worried that this will become a distraction to motivating your own agenda?
SPICER: No. I'm not. Frankly, as I said, in January he will lay out in detail how he is going to separate himself from his company, and who is going to run it and how he can make sure that his entire focus is on making the country better again, making sure that he's fighting every day for the American people.
But he will lay that all out and he will take questions. And it will all be answered. But it takes a lot more than a few weeks, because he chose to put his focus on building a cabinet and filling key positions and making sure that his agenda was ready to go on day one.
CUOMO: Sean Spicer, always appreciate the robust dialogue. Good luck to you going forward.
SPICER: Thank you, Chris.
CUOMO: All right -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Well, we're following the fast-moving developments in Syria now. Evacuations are finally getting under way in eastern Aleppo, but under very challenging conditions. A new cease-fire barely holding as activists say that regime forces fired upon ambulance convoys that were trying to evacuate civilians.
CNN's senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen has the latest in Beirut for us. Tell us the situation there, Fred.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, we're watching this very closely. It seems as though, when those pro- government forces fired on that first convoy trying to get out of rebel territory, that at least one person was killed and several others were wounded. And that, of course, stopped this process for a while. But as you say, it is now on, once again.
Now at the end of this process, what's going to happen is that all the civilians and all the rebels that are in that little enclave are set to be evacuated. They're going to go through government territory and back into another part of Syria that is held by the rebels.
The first people that are getting out are the ones that need the most attention: the wounded and the ones who need immediate medical attention. That's why the first convoy that we're seeing is ambulances and not, for instance, buses or people carriers.
Now, of course, all of this happened after some of the worst fighting that we've seen in Aleppo at all. And it was heartbreaking to see some of the scenes with an orphanage in eastern Aleppo that was subject to some of these bombings that were taking place. A lot of children there, of course, very afraid. As were many of the residents, some of whom 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 besieged 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. I don't know. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Take the shot for us.
CUOMO: All right. Fred is frozen there. Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much for the reporting. He has been taking us through this desperate attempt to get these stranded civilians out of Aleppo.
Also developing this morning, Yahoo! says hackers stole information from more than 1 billion user accounts. That's with a "B." Alison Kosik is here with the latest. Alison, so this isn't the first time.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No.
CUOMO: It seems as though you cannot protect yourself from hacking. It's just about when and what happens. What is the office (ph) saying?
KOSIK: There are -- there are things you can do. But I mean, you know, for many people it is bound to happen. But you know, for Yahoo! things can't get any worse. This hack seems to really take the cake, because it's separate from the one that Yahoo! revealed in September where 500 million or more accounts were hacked into. No, no. This one eclipses it, because it involves more than 1 billion accounts.
And here's the rub. It happened back in 2013, and Yahoo! is only learning about it now. So you can only imagine what the crooks have been doing with that information for more than three years.
Up on the screen there you see what they got. They got names, e- mails, phone numbers, passwords and dates of birth. It did not include credit card data or bank account information. You almost wish it could, because your date of birth, and you probably aren't going to change your name, but you can change your credit card information.
[07:15:09] What can you do? There are steps that you can do to protect yourself. Obviously, changing your password. One thing I would definitely recommend is that two-factor
authentication that even Yahoo! does offer. Because that way, when you put in your password, you can also get a text to put in that text code to make sure you're the only one trying to get into your account.
CAMEROTA: Good tip.
KOSIK: You got it.
CUOMO: Easy to say. It seems to be increasingly tough to do.
KOSIK: No, I just did it.
CUOMO: Right. But will it work?
KOSIK: I sure hope so.
CUOMO: Me, too.
CAMEROTA: Get back to us on that. Thanks so much.
Well, Democratic Senator Chris Coons inviting Mr. Trump to the National Prayer Breakfast. What did Mr. Trump say about that and other things? Senator Coons joins us live next.
CAMEROTA: Democrats in Congress are gearing up to work with President-elect Trump. One Democratic senator meeting with Mr. Trump yesterday in Trump Tower. Let's bring him in. That is Senator Coons. He is also a leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which will hold the confirmation hearings for secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson.
Good morning, Senator.
SEN. CHRIS COONS, Good morning, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: SO You went over to Trump Tower to visit with Mr. Trump to talk to him about the National Prayer Breakfast and officially invite him. How did your meeting and conversation go?
[07:20:20] COONS: It was a relatively brief and very positive meeting. Senator John Bozeman, Republican of Arkansas, and I went as the bipartisan co-chairs of the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast. And our goal was to explain to him the long history of this big national event where we have representatives from more than 70 countries around the world.
More than 3,000 people come and attend this breakfast. It is a nonpartisan, nonsectarian, inclusive breakfast where, frankly, we pray for our country and its leaders, and we reflect on the year ahead.
We typically have an aspiring keynote speaker and an address from the president. Mr. Trump was very gracious and welcoming, and it was generally a positive conversation. CAMEROTA: I assume he said yes, that he will go to the National
Prayer Breakfast. Yes?
COONS: He expressed very strong interest. He'll get back to us on a specific commitment, but it seemed nearly certain that he would come and that he would continue this long-standing bipartisan tradition.
So, Senator, what were your impressions of the president-elect? And the reason that I ask is because you were quite vocal during the campaign. I'll just remind people of what you said about him then. You famously called him, quote, "a thin-skinned, reality TV star and a Cheeto-faced, short-fingered vulgarian."
COONS: Yes, I regret the sharpness of some of those comments. He didn't bring that up. I didn't bring it up. We frankly had a conversation about the National Prayer Breakfast. There's a lot of other things I would have brought up if this were a partisan meeting. I would have demanded that he release his taxes and urged him to hold the press conference that was scheduled for today to talk about how he's going to address his conflict of interest.
But the point of the prayer breakfast every Wednesday morning in the Senate is that we don't talk partisan politics. We get to know each other as people and reflect on our common interests. It's frankly pretty tough, Alisyn, to throw a punch at somebody on the floor of the Senate if you held hands with them in prayer in the morning. And some of my best relationships in the Senate come from the prayer breakfast. And I regret some of the sharpness of the comments you just repeated that I made in the height of the campaign.
But that doesn't mean that I'll step back from raising legitimate questions about his nominees. Whether it's the complicating relationship with Vladimir Putin and Rex Tillerson or my real concerns about Scott Pruitt, who's been nominated to head the EPA.
CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about the Rex Tillerson issue, because you are on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that will be holding the hearings. So, do you -- what are your questions about Rex Tillerson? What are your reservations? And do you think it's possible that he will not be confirmed?
COONS: Well, my questions about Rex Tillerson's close and long relationship with Vladimir Putin and with Russia really derive from the fact that we don't know enough about President-elect Trump's relationships with Russia.
He's the only president-elect in the modern era who hasn't released his taxes. So we don't know whether Russian oligarchs have invested in his development properties around the world to the tune of tens of hundreds of millions of dollars. We don't know to whom he owes anything, and that's an important piece of transparency before the Electoral College meets.
For Rex Tillerson, I'm simply going to ask whether he's clear about the difference between being the big CEO of a big oil company, where your goal is return for shareholders, and being secretary of state, where you have to fight for human rights, for a free press and for democracy.
Vladimir Putin's record makes it clear. He's murdered journalists. He's made his political opponents disappear. He's invaded neighboring countries. And there is real bipartisan concern about this, particularly when John Bolton, an unreconstructed neocon who still thinks the Iraq War was a great idea, is supposedly going to be nominated to be his deputy secretary.
CAMEROTA: There is a little bit of bipartisan concern. In fact, we've heard some of your Republican, Senate colleagues, talk about their concerns about ties to Russia. So, do you think that it's possible that Rex Tillerson will not be confirmed?
COONS: Yes, I think it's quite possible. When you've got senators like Marco Rubio and John McCain raising real questions about Russia's actions to try and hack our election. I'm calling for bipartisan hearings into the question of Russian influence on our elections and then challenging Trump's view that Putin is someone with whom we can do business.
If you nominate someone who's done business with Vladimir Putin for years and, in fact, has received the Medal of Friendship from Putin, I think we have legitimate questions about whether we should be cozying up to a strongman of a country that is our adversary, not our business partner.
CAMEROTA: Senator, I want to end on a very troubling note, and that is what's going on in Aleppo, Syria, this morning. It is catastrophic. It has been for months, but it seems to be at a real tipping point. Civilians are caught in Aleppo. They're trying to be evacuated. They're trying to escape. They're sending good-bye messages via social media.
[07:25:14] I know that you have been a vocal critic of President Obama's policy or lack thereof, as I think you would say, on Syria. What can the U.S. do today?
COONS: Well, we are the largest humanitarian contributor to provide relief for refugees and support for their humanitarian needs. But, frankly, the ongoing suffering in Syria is tragic. And while I understand that President Obama and Secretary Kerry confronted a very complex situation, and there was a real risk of our getting pulled in further, I think we need to be more actively engaged.
We are actively engaged in fighting ISIS now. There is an ongoing assault against Mosul and soon Raqqah; and the American military is now much more actively engaged in the fight against ISIS.
But I think we need to hold firm against Assad. He's committed crimes against humanity, and the Russians and the Iranians have actively participated now for years in the torture, in the murder of thousands of civilians in just unspeakable crimes against people on the ground, innocent Syrians. And I think we can and should do more for Syrian refugees to make sure that we're part of the solution to this tragic situation in Syria.
CAMEROTA: Senator Chris Coons, thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.
COONS: Thank you.
CUOMO: All right. Big meeting yesterday. President-elect Donald Trump meeting with tech titans, bringing executives from Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Tesla all there. Now, a lot of them were coming after Trump during the campaign. So, what was the agenda? Was there progress? We have news, next.