Return to Transcripts main page


Donald Trump's Possible Conflicts of Interests Examined; Interview with Representative Marsha Blackburn; Ceasefire Called to Evacuate Aleppo of Civilians; Interview with U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 15, 2016 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT-ELECT: We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation. There's nobody like you in the world. There's nobody like the people in this room. And anything we can do to help this along, and we're going to be there for you.

MURRAY: Kushner helped organize 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's 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, as you know, into 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.

SEAN SPICER, CHIEF STRATEGIST AND COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: The reason that you know about the children being involved are two things. One, they're on the website and they're 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.

MURRAY: All of this is how Democrats call into question Trump's lease agreement with the U.S. government for a new hotel just blocks from the White House. REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) MARYLAND: As soon as he's sworn in on

January the 20th, 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 Donald Trump is not in the White House yet, and the GSA says it's premature to determine whether Donald Trump will, in fact, want to follow up that lease. We know Trump's lawyers and transition aides are working to untangle these conflicts. We were hoping to get more clarity on that today. This is when Donald Trump was supposed to hold a press conference about how he was going to back away from some of his business interests. But now they're saying that will be ticked over to January. Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Sara.

Joining us now to talk about it is Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. She's also vice chair of Mr. Trump's transition team. Good morning, congresswoman.


CAMEROTA: Are you curved that the very people who will be running Mr. Trump's business empire will be connected and maybe even in the future White House?

BLACKBURN: Alisyn, everyone is concerned and wants to make certain that all the rules and laws are abided by. And I can tell you I'm certain that Mr. Trump and the team around him are making certain that they do comply with all of these laws. They're going to figure out what is appropriate and then they're going to set about making certain that they meet with all of those standards of conduct and that they move forward in the appropriate ethical manner. And I'm confident of that.

CAMEROTA: Already there have been things that have raised eyebrows in terms of conflicts. Let me just put some up on the screen for people. The Trump family met with some leaders of India and Indian partners of some of their business enterprises. Ivanka was part of a meeting with the Japanese prime minister. Mr. Trump's children of course are on his transition team. Ivanka Trump was on a call with the Argentinean president. Foreign diplomats, as you just heard from Sara, have been courted for Mr. Trump's hotel. Foreign donations have been made to the Trump Foundation. Bahrain held their anniversary party at Mr. Trump's D.C. hotel, and then of course yesterday Mr. Trump's children and his son-in-law were at this meeting with all of these Silicon Valley tech leaders.

I mean, congresswoman, if Chelsea Clinton had done all of these things and were in all these meetings and she were leading the Clinton Foundation, would you be upset?

BLACKBURN: As the Clinton Foundation is a separate matter and that is something that transpired over a decade, and there was lack of transparency there, Alisyn, you know, they didn't file their 990s for an entire decade.

CAMEROTA: Right, but Mr. Trump had to file --

BLACKBURN: People had to figure out what was going on.

CAMEROTA: And he hasn't revealed his taxes so people don't know all the entanglements.

BLACKBURN: Oh, Alisyn, you know as well as I do has done his filing. But here's --

CAMEROTA: No, no, no, he hasn't released them, congresswoman, so we really don't know the level.

[08:05:00] BLACKBURN: Alisyn -- Alisyn, he filed everything that a candidate is required to file.

CAMEROTA: But not what --

BLACKBURN: -- to the Federal Election Commission. And what you're going to see is more transparency with the Trump administration and as Sean Spicer said the reason you know that the children were in involved in the meeting is because the press was invited in. And you saw them sitting there.

Now, as I said earlier, you're going to see from the Trump transition and from the Trump presidency, every -- they know that they're going to have to be more transparent. They're going to have to do more to comply. They're going to have to be above reproach. They know this.


BLACKBURN: And so they're working diligently to make certain that they are.

CAMEROTA: So -- just so I'm clear, you don't see any hypocrisy in the demands the Republicans made that if Hillary Clinton were elected, Chelsea and Bill Clinton would immediately have to remove themselves, and the idea that this is all still sort of fuzzy between the Trump family and the Trump Organization and the White House?

BLACKBURN: The Clinton Foundation was set up at a not for profit entity. And even though they had moved beyond the scope of their IRS filing and that had never been appropriately amended, what they were doing was accepting contributions from different countries and then were executing through that foundation some projects, but a very minimal amount. I think the most they ever gave was 13 percent.

CAMEROTA: Well, hold on, because the Trump Foundation has similar -- a similar setup --

BLACKBURN: No, that is incorrect.

CAMEROTA: It accepted a $150,000 gift from a powerful Ukrainian steel magnate.

BLACKBURN: -- contracts that are appropriate for the business dealings. They're all legal contracts. And so I think that those are completely -- you're trying to compare apples and oranges there. Again, what you have is willingness and transparency that is coming from the Trump organization.

CAMEROTA: I hear you, congresswoman. I understand. It's just hard to say that they've been completely transparent when Mr. Trump did not release his tax returns. So we haven't seen a lot of transparency.

BLACKBURN: Well, you haven't seen tax returns, but as I said, candidates are required to do their FEC filings, and that is the requirement of the law, and all of that has been met.

CAMEROTA: You know, he was supposed to have a press conference today.


CAMEROTA: Why did he cancel it?

BLACKBURN: I don't know why they chose to not have the press conference today. My assumption would be that they're still working through the details and are continuing with arrangements, and they probably received advice from attorneys that they were not fully finished with what they were trying to deliver, the product they're trying to deliver, and therefore they felt it was going to be better to wait until they were more fully complete and ready to make an announcement.

CAMEROTA: But you believe that there will be a way for the Trumps to remain involved and heading the Trump Organization and to be in the White House?

BLACKBURN: I trust those who were advising Mr. Trump and saying that Donald Jr. and Eric are going to be in charge of the business and there is a way to build a wall and to make certain that it complies with the laws and the standards and the ethics, and I would say also, Alisyn, the expectations of the American people, that they're going to be able to do it.

And you know, I think one of the things we have to remember is this. We are to be a nation that has a citizen legislature and people who come from many different walks of life and then step forward to participate in the governance of this nation, and then return to those private walks of life. That is what our founders wanted. That's what we had gotten away from. And all of a sudden you had to have this career in politics that would span decades, and that was the treasured experience. And to the American people, to many of my constituents, it is incredibly refreshing to see new faces and new ideas and new approaches being brought to bear on how we go about governing ourselves, as a people, we the people.

CAMEROTA: And all of this will require a new rule book, as we've been discussing. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, thank you very much.

BLACKBURN: Absolutely. Good to see you. Thank you.


[08:10:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: From politics to reality. We have breaking developments in Syria. Evacuations finally getting under way in eastern Aleppo. A fragile new ceasefire to get civilians out is getting off to a rocky start. Activists say regime forces fired on those ambulance convoys. CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen has the latest live from Beirut. Fred, you've been describing to us, it's hard to know who is doing what on the ground in terms of violence because there's so many different factions fighting one another.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Chris. And I think it's a very key point. And it seems as though the information that we're getting is that it was possibly an Afghan Shiite militia fighting on the side of the Syrian government that fired on those convoys as they were coming out because they hadn't gotten the message that the ceasefire and evacuation is actually on.

And that just goes to show how many different factions are out there on the ground. They don't necessarily all speak the same language. They don't necessarily know exactly what is going on. They're not looped into the important communication.

And we have to also keep in mind, Chris, a lot of them have been fighting for a long time. They're very trigger happy. They're very angry at each other, and at least on the opposition side they're also very afraid to now make this journey through government-held territory and hopefully to safety.

The conditions in that rebel enclave were absolutely horrifying by the accounts that we're getting. There was some video of an orphanage of orphans in there who were all alone as a lot of these air strikes were going on yesterday, of course absolutely terrified. And then there were citizens who were quite frankly afraid to die, and some of them even posted goodbye messages and shared them on social media. Let's have a look at some of them.


LINA SHAMY, ACTIVIST: 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.

MOHAMMED EDEL, RESIDENT AND ENGLISH TEACHER IN ALEPPO: I am going to be killed. That is going to happen. I am going to be killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't want anything else but freedom. I hope you can remember us. Thank you very much.


PLEITGEN: Now it seems, Chris, that those convoys are rolling and the people who are being evacuated are the most vulnerable, people who are severely ill, people who are wounded, people who need immediate medical attention. That's why some of the convoys that we're seeing are actually ambulances and then followed by some buses. But again, all of this happening within a very fragile environment in a very volatile situation. So certainly the powers that brokered this ceasefire are going to have to be keeping their eye on it very closely to make sure nothing goes wrong, guys.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Fred, those good-bye messages are so heartbreaking. Thank you very much for all of the reporting from there, and we'll check back with you.

Developing this morning, Yahoo! suffers another huge data breach, and taking out a loan just got more expensive for millions of Americans. CNN's business correspondent Alisyn Kosik is here with all the latest.

ALISON KOSIK: Hi, Alisyn. So Yahoo! is just now discovering what could be the biggest hack in internet history. The company is saying hackers took information from 1 billion user accounts in August of 2013. Now this is a separate situation from the 500 million accounts that were compromised back in 2014. And experts say if you have a Yahoo! account make sure you have different passwords for different sites. Beware of e-mails asking you for information, and freeze your credit report.

Now this is terrible timing for Yahoo! because Verizon agreed to buy the company for $4.8 billion in July. Yahoo! stock is up 23 percent this year in anticipation of that deal, but after this first hack reports claim that Verizon wanted $1 billion discount on the deal. We're going to see if that purchase goes through.

Speaking of big purchases, if you plan on buying a home get ready to pay more for a mortgage. The Federal Reserve is hiking interest rates for just the second time in almost a decade. And the national average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is already climbing. It's now at 4.27 percent. Just a month ago it was down at four percent. Earlier this year it was below 3.5 percent. Fed chair Janet Yellen says the Fed is confident that the U.S. economy can handle the increase, and the group plans to actually raise rates three times next year. Despite harsh criticism from Donald Trump during the campaign Yellen says she will go ahead and finish out her term which ends in February, 2018. And Alisyn, she also says the Fed has been in touch with the Trump transition team. Actually, Chris, back to you.

CUOMO: I look like Alisyn to you?

KOSIK: Not at all. You're much taller.


CAMEROTA: That's the only difference. You're right.


CUOMO: President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet has made some eyebrow raising picks. All right, so, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin was considered for the cabinet. Why did he go? Why didn't he take a post? And Manchin knows the nominee for secretary of state well. His insights ahead on NEW DAY.


[08:18:33] CUOMO: All right. The president-elect has spoken with several Democrats about cabinet roles. West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, a senator, he was one. Will he align with Trump on key issues now that he has decided to remain in the Senate?

And the senator knows Rex Tillerson well. Does he have any concerns?

Let's ask the senator himself, Joe Manchin from West Virginia.

Senator, pleasure to see you.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Hey, Chris. Good to be with you.

CUOMO: So, let's talk about the decision to go in and meet with Trump. The heat that you got from Harry Reid, who said that you were auditioning. Why did you do it? And what did you think of the meeting?

MANCHIN: Well, it's not the first time Harry and I have disagreed.


MANCHIN: I thought it was an honor to be able to go in there and talk about my state of West Virginia, Chris, and, also, about the country. You know, no matter who you voted for, and the outcome is very clear, Donald Trump is our president-elect. He's going to be our president.

I want him to do well. I want any president and every president to do well. My job is to work with him, not against him. But also be an honest broker, if I respectfully disagree. Then be respectful. Try to work through this.

Whether I'm a Democrat and someone's a Republican or vice versa, no matter how, I hope we're all Americans first and we've had divisiveness for far too long. People want this country to come together and they want Congress to start working. And that's what my job is.

So, I went up and had a very good interview. I was very pleased to meet with President-elect Trump.

[08:20:04] I met with his staff. I met with Steve Bannon. Reince Priebus was there. I met with Jared, his son-in-law, very nice. I met his beautiful young daughter Ivanka.

And we had a great spirited conversation. I think back and forth. And that's what it's all about. And I enjoyed it very much.

CUOMO: Did you think it was real? Do you think they had you up there as a prop because you're a Democrat?

MANCHIN: No. No, I really don't. I think they're looking for a pathway forward. I really felt it was a sincere, honest dialogue for about an hour. And we talked about things that we agreed on. We talked about pathways forward.

And, you know, Chuck Schumer -- I'm excited about Chuck coming in as our new leader I really am, as far as Democrat caucus. I'm going to be working with the Republicans trying to find a pathway to weaken Democrats. Find a moderate band and find the middle, if you will, that's not been done aggressively enough before. It was always divisiveness and you're supposed to be on one side if you're a "D," on the other side if you're an "R."

And, Chris, you know with your family and how you all have done and your dad and how they made things happen, it's not. You just have to work together and it's all about our country, really, and that's -- my state of West Virginia wants us to be successful, and Donald Trump basically won West Virginia extremely, extremely large.

And I want him to know that I'll do everything I can to bring light to what we need done in an energy market and how we have energy for our country, an all-in energy policy. Also in consideration of a balance of our environment and the jobs that come with it. All this is extremely important to all of us. And I'm going to do my best to make it work.

CUOMO: Let's talk about some of these concerns going forward.


CUOMO: You mention meeting with Trump's daughter and his son-in-law, and you know, as you suggested, I know what it's like to grow up in a political family. I know how important family is, as advisers.


CUOMO: But there are obvious conflict issues that are here. What are your concerns about what is a very difficult match here of having any type of division between working in the business, and working for the people?

MANCHIN: Right now, everyone's basically is trying to say that they're going to be part of the administration, while still being part of this empire. I don't know that to be. I haven't seen that yet.

Right now, his family has been extremely involved in this process, extremely involved in him being elected. And I know my -- I'm so proud of my children, as he is of his children, as you are of yours and your dad was of you. You know, in that experience they're part of this experience right now. Everyone's estimating that, oh, now, it's going to transfer in, they're going to be setting up cabinet meetings and this and that.

I don't think that to be true whatsoever and we'll just have to see how it unfolds and I think they'll be able to separate it. You have to have faith to give them an opportunity to do what they believe would be the proper thing to do. And there's a separation of that. That's the government process. And I think they'll do that and do it fine.

So, I'll wait and see what happens and then you know what? We'll speak about it later. But right now, just everyone is throwing stones at everybody.

His children were part of this administration. It was part of him being elected, and not part of the administration, but part of him being elected. It's a tremendous opportunity and experience to see this evolve.

CUOMO: The question is which opportunity to help their father in government or advance the business. As you said we'll have to see. You know Rex Tillerson well --

MANCHIN: We're going to have to separate that, Chris.

CUOMO: Understood. You know Rex --

MANCHIN: Yes, I do know Rex Tillerson. I know Rex Tillerson.

CUOMO: What do you think about him as a secretary of state, and what do you think about these questions of his potential conflict given his role as the CEO of Exxon, and his assumed relationship with Putin?

MANCHIN: Well, let me go here first. I do know Rex well. And I've known Rex basically through the whole involvement in West Virginia of the new Bechtel Scout Camp that we have. It's a tremendous, tremendous home for the Boy Scouts of America. And Rex is so involved.

And Rex is involved in basically building leadership and character in young men and women, so I've seen that part of Rex. He's just a tremendous business person.

The bigger question should be asked about Rex, is he able to divest himself? And really they say follow the money. Is he so intertwined, being so long an ExxonMobil person, can he divest himself to where the performance of the company, after he leaves, as our secretary of state, can he divest himself from those interests, in making sure that his interests is going to be all about the security of America, how do we keep America safe, and what's in the best interests of Americans? And that's what the vetting process is going to be about.

But people speculating that, hey, he's too close to Putin and he knows Putin -- you know, there's nothing wrong with that. My goodness, at least he can sit down and talk to him.

I did a conference with the Aspen Institute last year for about a week in Germany, meeting with Russians, trying to find a pathway forward.

[08:25:10] And after about two or three days, Chris, one of the Russians we were talking, and he says, Joe, he said, "You know the Cold War is colder today than it was when it was declared." That means we have very little dialogue going on. Something's wrong. And we've got to start that because they do have tremendous amount of weapons that could do harm to America. This is -- we've got to face that and try to find a pathway forward. And Rex would be able to do that, I believe. But, I want to make sure he can separate and he doesn't have his financial interests where it could be a conflict with the interests of our country.

CUOMO: Well, you're asking the right questions. We'll see how the hearings play out. Senator Joe Manchin, thank you very much for coming on NEW DAY as always.

MANCHIN: Hey, as always Chris, you have a great Christmas you and your family.

CUOMO: You, too. Blessed Christmas to you and the family.


CAMEROTA: So, as we've been talking about, there are these new questions about just how many Trumps will be in the White House. The role of Mr. Trump's adult children coming under the microscope this morning. So, we have a look at any potential land mines, next.