Return to Transcripts main page


Ford Announces Plan To Create 700 U.S. Jobs; Trump Splits With GOP On Day One Of New Congress; Trump To Get Intel Briefing Today On Russia Hack. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 3, 2017 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:03] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan. We are start with breaking news right now. A major announcement coming from Ford Motors plans to create hundreds of jobs in the United States that the company says would have otherwise moved to Mexico. Ford saying, though, that this was not a deal that they struck with President-elect Donald Trump.

BERMAN: But today's announcement comes just hours after the president-elect threatened Ford's competitor General Motors on Twitter. The president-elect said General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers tax free across the border. Make in USA or pay big border tax.

CNN's Poppy Harlow sat down with Ford CEO Mark Fields just moments ago. This was his first interview since Ford made this announcement. Poppy, what can you tell us?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, guys. Good morning. The employees behind me are just about to learn the news as we're bringing it to you. They didn't know about this announcement. This is a huge $1.6 billion plant that was set to be built in Mexico.

It's something that as you know, the president-elect has attacked Ford on repeatedly for this. At one point even saying not factually that Ford was firing all of their U.S. workers. So Ford today is announcing they are canceling that plant completely.

Instead here at the Flat Rock plant in Michigan, they're going to create 700 jobs, invest $700 million. But this comes in an unprecedented move with an American president seeming to dictate to companies what they should and shouldn't do. Is that the case?

And how does he address concerns about crony capitalism in the midst of all of it? We sat down with Mark Fields and asked him point blank.


MARK FIELDS, CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: We're going to confirm seven of the 13 electrified vehicles that we committed to back a year or two ago in terms of investing $4.5 billion into developing those type of products. The reason we're doing this here is because our view is electrification is going to grow.

We want to be a leader there. We're investing in the products and at the same time, we're investing here in the U.S. to build some of our most advanced products. Both our fully electrified SUV that we're talking about today and our fully autonomous vehicle.

HARLOW: President-elect Trump has attacked Ford many, many times in his rallies and on Twitter. He even once said that you were firing all of your employees in the United States, which is not true. Are you canceling the plans to build this huge plant in Mexico because of the president-elect?

FIELDS: Well, when we make decisions like this as a company, we looked at -- first we do what's right for our business. This makes sense for our business. We look at all factors, including what we view as a more positive U.S. manufacturing business environment under President-elect Trump.

And it's literally a vote of confidence around some of the pro-growth policies that he has been outlining and that's why we're making this decision to invest here in the U.S. and our plant here in Michigan.

HARLOW: What's policies specifically? Because I know you've spoken with the president-elect about this decision today. Did he make promises to Ford, things that he will do that will make it beneficial to your business to stay here and cancel that Mexico plant?

FIELDS: Well, this business decision was done independently, but we did speak to the president and the president-elect and the vice president-elect this morning and this is really around making sure that as we make these decisions that it is first right for our business.

HARLOW: What did the president-elect say to you this morning? You called him along with Bill Ford?

FIELDS: Well, I talked to the vice president-elect this morning. He was very happy about the news and that we were making the investments here in America. Not only good for Ford but good for the U.S. and the American workers. Did not get a chance to talk to President-elect Trump. Bill Ford did that. He reiterated the same things.

HARLOW: Did he say he's going to stop with the tweets and the attacks against Ford?

FIELDS: I don't think we got to that level. He was very appreciative for the announcements that we're making, not only just here in the U.S. but the announcement that we are making to reinvest in our business around these seven electrified products to show that we're a leader in this area.

HARLOW: This is a trend we've seen. The president-elect calls out Carrier and gets jobs to stay here. He calls out Boeing and gets a cheaper Air Force One. He calls out Lockheed Martin and they say we're going to work with you. There is a concern among some, Mark, that this is in essence a former crony capitalism that dangerous to American democracy. That the president can cut deals with companies and then they expect favors from the administration in return.

FIELDS: Well, first off, we didn't cut a deal with the president- elect. We did what's right for our business, first and foremost. That's what drives us in every business decision that we make. But we look at a lot of factors, Poppy.

[11:05:05]And one of the factors that we see is again this more positive U.S. environment for manufacturing and investment here. And we take that into account in our investment decisions, very clearly. And this is the same for any other country around the world.

HARLOW: Last year, Bill Ford, the chairman of this company, called Trump's rhetoric on Ford infuriating saying, "Ford is everything that is right with this country." Noted that you didn't get a bailout. On the number of levels and that you created these 28,000 jobs over five years.

At this point in time, and you also said to me, Mark, it's really unfortunate when politics get in the way of facts. When the president-elect says you were firing everyone in the United States that was not based in fact.

When he said that you were keeping a plant in Kentucky and not moving it to Mexico because of him, that was not based in fact. You have now spoken, the two of you, with the president-elect. Are you confident that what he says about Ford going forward will be based in fact?

FIELDS: Well, I'm confident that we are presenting the facts to the president-elect. It's up to the president-elect to determine how he wants to talk about that. It's our responsibility as a company to lay those facts out very clearly and also to understand the rationale behind these business decisions.

And also to make the point again that we are global multinational company but our home is here in the United States. And it's really important we're strong here in the U.S. and we stressed that.

HARLOW: You still have a pair of $2.5 billion plants in Mexico that have been built and are currently being finished. Those aren't going away.

FIELDS: Well, we've been in Mexico for over 90 years and overall, what we're announcing today is taking the investment that we were going to make in that new plant, which was $1.6 billion investment we were going to make, and we're moving some of that investment here to Michigan and overall, we're saving capital expenditures as a company base on what we see as the market going forward.


HARLOW: OK. So a number of questions, guys. Is this the first of many to come? Will we see this as a trend? Will Ford open many more U.S. plants? I don't know and he doesn't know either. This is one move. We'll see what it actually means.

Another big question that everyone has I think this morning is, is there a connection between this Trump tweet about General Motors, condemning them for building these cars in Mexico and Ford calling the president-elect and saying this morning, we are canceling the Mexico plant and bringing some of those jobs up to the United States.

I am told from the CEO of Ford there is no connection. He said Trump tweeted that about General Motors before he called the president-elect and the vice president-elect -- John and Kate.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating how this is all playing out right now in realtime. Poppy, great interview. Thank you so much for bringing that to us.

A lot to discuss now with this big announcement and hearing from the CEO of Ford right there in his words. Rana Foroohar is with us right now, CNN global economic analyst and author of "Makers and Takers." You are sitting with us, Rana, as we were listening to this that Poppy was bringing us this interview --


BOLDUAN: Absolutely. What -- big focus of this is obviously Donald Trump and his role, if any, in this decision and announcement by Ford. Ford's CEO said a couple of times this was not a deal they struck with the president-elect. Does the president-elect deserve credit, though?

FOROOHAR: You know what? I think you have to back up and say that there are two things happening here. There is this sort of rather suspicious timing and that the pressure that we've seen the president- elect putting on companies of all kinds around keeping jobs in the U.S.

But there is also a legitimate case to be made for moving jobs back to the United States. That is something that manufacturing firms of all stripes have been thinking about in the last few years.

Basically with oil prices being as volatile as they are, rising and falling with political tensions in certain supply chains like the South China Seas, which by the way has been exacerbated by the president-elect and some of the conflict we've seen in Asia already, at least conflict around words.

Companies have been thinking about moving jobs back to the U.S. I hear that from a lot of supply chain CEOs. You know, there is a case to be made for American workers becoming more productive, particularly relative to Mexico. They've lowered cost.

But I think Poppy is asking the right questions and making some very important points about crony capitalism. We need to have transparency and to know really that there is no link between the president-elect putting pressure on individual companies and the decisions that they may be making.

BERMAN: Well, the Ford CEO said there was no pressure and there's no deal cut, but he specifically said that the decision was based on a more positive manufacturing environment under the prospects of a President Trump. Also said that we should see this as a vote of confidence in President-elect Trump. That was what the Ford CEO just said. He said this is all in part to the existence of the incoming president.

FOROOHAR: Right. And what I'm interested in is, what does it mean to have a pro-manufacturing environment?

[11:10:01]What I think business leaders are thinking about when they think of pro-growth Trump policies are tax cuts for corporations and the ability potentially for corporations, big multi-national corporations to repatriate cash that they have in overseas tax havens at lower rates.

I think companies are very excited about that. They do think that that will bolster the stock market in the next year or two. The question is, are we really going to see a shift? Are we going to see an infrastructure program that's going to actually create the kind of real growth that would actually sustain a manufacturing recovery in the U.S.? The jury is still out on that.

BOLDUAN: Specifically when this -- Mark Fields was asked, did you make this decision because of President-elect Donald Trump? He said we look at all factors.

BERMAN: That's not a no.

BOLDUAN: That was not a no. I have no idea. You would have much better insight. Do CEOs of major corporations, do they call the vice president and the president-elect ahead of making announcements like this often?

FOROOHAR: Ahead of making announcements, not so much. Do they have a dialogue with the vice president and the president? Absolutely, they do. That's something that's quite common. You know, I think what's interesting is Ford can make an argument again for green cars. They can make an argument for localization.

But one thing that struck me when the CEO says the U.S. is our home. This is our home. That's very different actually than what you would have heard a CEO five, ten years ago saying. Back then they were saying, the world was our home. That was a different posture.

BERMAN: Different than what we would have heard two months ago. One last thing, Rana. Poppy said her reporting from Ford is that Donald Trump's tweets about GM, putting pressure on GM, not connected. I'm not sure how Ford would know for sure that it wasn't connected because we've seen Donald Trump do this with Lockheed and Boeing. He plays both ends of this. It's all one big negotiation. So he seems to be -- is he leveraging Ford against GM here?

FOROOHAR: Honestly, I think that that's possible. I mean, that fits a pattern of behavior that we certainly see. But again, I would step back and say, OK, what is the real world implication of this going to be? Can this president, company by company, bring back jobs to the U.S.? I would argue no.

Seven hundred jobs here, 800 jobs there actually doesn't make a sustained jobs recovery in the U.S. What would make that recovery is real consumer confidence. I think an infrastructure program that addresses what needs to be fixed and definitely not a trade war. Let's keep all that in mind.

BERMAN: Rana Foroohar, thanks for being here with us.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Poppy, again for bringing us that interview.

Also ahead this hour, soon a gavel will strike, will fall maybe is what a gavel does in Capitol Hill kicking off the new Republican- controlled Congress. That is determined to dismantle President Obama's signature piece of legislation, potentially on day one or two, Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. Are we already seeing rifts, a divide in the Republican Party itself? Details on that ahead.

BERMAN: Plus new exclusive details linking Russia and recent hacks into the U.S. political season. The big question, will President- elect Trump reveal what he says he knows about all of this. The inside information that he promised to share today or tomorrow.



BOLDUAN: A New Year, a new Congress, and already setting up for a new showdown. The 115th Congress set to begin within the next hour. Already today, though, the president-elect splitting from his own party on their first big and controversial move of the new session.

BERMAN: Last night, House Republicans voted to gut the independent ethics congressional watchdog panel and really remove its independence. Democrats, some Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have slammed the move. A lot of rank and file Republicans applauded it.

And now today, just moments ago, the president-elect weighed in. He said to Congress essentially, don't you have more important things to do? Let's go to CNN's Phil Mattingly live on Capitol Hill. Very interesting dynamics going on here, Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it took all of, minus three hours before the 115th Congress is even sworn in for Republicans to apparently break with the president-elect. It's important to look back at the context of how this all came into play.

In 2008 House democrats decided to create this independent ethics committee. Now what it was doing essentially was it split from the actual Capitol Hill ethics committee, congressional ethics committee ran by lawmakers.

The reason for doing this was to give it its own independence. An opportunity to do investigations on its own and created in the wake of some very serious congressional investigations leading up to its creation. Now some problems came with it. The investigations weren't made public. The investigations came often through anonymous tips. This riled up lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Some concerns about whether this was being done as political payback or digging dirt off before elections.

This has existed -- this consternation about this committees has existed for a while. This is the first time we've seen a major move not just to cut back or reform it but go the nuclear option of this and take away its independence entirely.

You noted Speaker Paul Ryan putting out a statement defending the decision to do this. He said that the head of the House Ethics Committee will oversee this entity now. He's instructed them not to have any contact in terms of trying to stop investigations or halt investigations.

But the reality is this, this committee will now be overseen by the very lawmakers that it is supposed to be investigating. That is problematic and probably more importantly, when you talk to Republicans that are frustrated by this that gives Democrats immediate opportunity to attack on the very first day of Congress.

This is a Congress, guys, as you know very well, Republicans have big, bold plans. They've made big, bold promises and an agenda that runs about a mile long. Starting on that agenda, the Affordable Care Act. They want to move forward to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The U.S. Senate is expected to start as soon as this week on the process of doing that. That will be as easy as it sounds. The repeal part perhaps, the replace part, not so much. Still disagreement over the timelines and formulation of how it's going to work.

There are a lot of issues here on Capitol Hill, but guys, I think the most interesting is we were expecting pomp and circumstance today, a lot of optimism from Republicans on both chambers from both sides. That devolves a little and we've got our first tiff between the president-elect and the Republican Congress, at least the Republican House -- guys.

BERMAN: Phil Mattingly, let me read what Donald Trump wrote about this. He wrote, "With all the Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the independent ethics watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, health care and so many other things of far greater importance, #dts," which (inaudible).

BOLDUAN: A lot more to discuss on this. Phil is on top of it there. Thank you so much. So great to see you.

[11:20:05]OK, so Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who will be the president of the Senate, the bonus role that you get if you get the VP job. He told CNN a short time ago, what the new Congress will be focused on. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOVERNOR MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: We'll focus on repealing and replacing Obamacare. We'll look forward to legislation that will give us the tools to roll back the avalanche of red tape and regulation that's been stifling American jobs and growth. But president-elect has a very clear message to Capitol Hill and that is, it's time to get to work. And it's time to keep our word to the American people to make this country great again, make it prosperous again. We look forward to being on Capitol Hill tomorrow.


BOLDUAN: All right, so let's go from Trump Tower back to Capitol Hill right now. Democratic senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar is joining us. Senator, thanks so much for the time. We appreciate it always.

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Thank you. It's great to be on again.

BOLDUAN: Of course. It's a busy day. A lot to focus on. The focus of what the next Congress will be focused on and also what's happened with this ethics watchdog.

We want to ask you about the news that just came out of Ford's CEO Mark Fields announcing that they're canceling plans for a plant in Mexico to create, add 700 jobs in an existing plant in Michigan and saying that he spoke with vice president-elect.

They've talked to the president-elect about it saying this is a vote of confidence for the incoming administration. Does Donald Trump deserve credit?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, we're always happy when jobs are going to move to America and we know the auto industry in the last few years with President Obama as president has been getting stronger and stronger every year. I think that's a good sign of it.

And I know that President-elect Trump has also been focused on this issue of bringing more jobs to America. But I would like to say, just from a perspective today, this major earthquake that when we've been questioning a lot of these nominees and their ethics and what's been happening and trying to get their ethics forum.

We have the start of the Congress with the House destroying this ethics committee and ethics work that's been done. It came about actually when I first ran for office. We, the new senators were running on ethics reform. A congressman actually was found with $90,000 of cash in a freezer.

And that is because we believe you want to have a Congress and elected officials and also cabinet members that are able to do their jobs without respect to conflicts and things that serve them personally.

BERMAN: We promise we will get to ethics because that is one part of the big news today because one more question on Ford and this announcement. The Ford CEO, Mark Fields, literally said the decision was based on, in part, a more positive manufacturing environment in this country because of President-elect Trump and that he is going to be the president in 17 days. I mean, do you feel, again, that the environment for manufacturing has changed already here?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, as someone that has a state that has a lot of manufacturing, especially high tech, like medical device, we've been working really hard across the aisle with Republicans, with President Obama and now with the incoming president on manufacturing issues.

And so, of course, I'm happy that more jobs are coming to America. But I also need to focus on the things that are going to be before us that are proposed by this administration. And I'm concerned about a number of them, but always happy when jobs come back to America.

BOLDUAN: So Senator, on the ethics watchdog, we know what the announcement was coming from House Republicans. And then this morning, as John read just a short time ago, the president-elect weighing in on this move to gut the ethics watchdog, saying, do they really, speaking about Congress, do they really have to make the weakening of the independent ethics watch dog as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority? So do you have Donald Trump on your side on this one, do you think? What's your reaction to that?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, there you go. And I think it was the correct reaction is that we are at a time when Americans want to have some faith in their government again. A lot of this election was about looking out for the people of this country.

And by basically turning their backs on something that was directly put in place to eliminate special interest influence in Washington, it really concerns me. And my hope is that they will reconsider and put this back in place.

BERMAN: So you're with Donald Trump at least a little on manufacturing, with him a little bit at least on the independent House ethics panel. I'm going to ask you a question on an area you're probably not with the president-elect.

That has to do with Russia and the alleged hacking into the U.S. political season. You just got back I should say from the Baltics and other nations, you know, which I'm sure was an interesting trip to see what Russia had done in some of those countries.

Sean Spicer who will be the press secretary for President Trump when he takes office, he said the idea that we're jumping to conclusions about the Russian hacking before the final report is in is frankly irresponsible. Do you think it's irresponsible?

[11:25:09]KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, I was with Senator John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both having run for president as prominent Republicans, and both of them have made clear they don't see this as a political issue. This is an issue for America's security.

And one of the things we heard on that trip was that not only did 17 intelligence agencies in the United States of America find that the cyber-attacks and cyber-hacking had happened, but we see it all over Europe all the time.

Estonia wanted to move a statue and the Russians didn't like it so they hacked in and shut down their access. Lithuania invites members of exile from the parliament from Crimea that Russia has illegally annexed. What do they do?

They try to hack into their computer system. This is a modus operandi of interfering with democracies across the world. I don't know why Sean Spicer would say that when in fact we have our own intelligence agencies that, by the way, I trust more than Vladimir Putin.

We have our own intelligence agencies saying that this happened and this is not just about one election or one political party or even one country. This is an assault on democracy across the world.

BOLDUAN: If that's kind of where the split is between where leading Republicans are on Capitol Hill and where the incoming White House is, you have, as you mentioned, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, they'll start holding hearings this week on just this issue. What is going to come of these hearings, do you think?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, we would like to see more information declassified. I think that would be really helpful for the American public to see more. The White House has issued a 13-page report as FBI and Homeland Security, and they've done that.

But we would like to see even more information. I know that the president-elect and the vice president-elect are getting briefed today by our intelligence agencies. I hope that will shed some light on this for them.

But the more we can get out there, not only helps our public to understand what's going on in the threat to our democracy, but also helps other countries as we see the upcoming German and French elections.

All of this again, Russia has tried to exert influence before and it's something we wouldn't even think about it happening in our country you but it has.

BERMAN: Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota, good luck. Thanks for being with us. New Congress kicks off --

BOLDUAN: All right, coming up for us, in just a little over 30 minutes, the future is now as we're just talking about. A brand-new Congress gavels in effectively we're going to see it. The start of the Trump administration. We're live with all the big moments, ahead.

BERMAN: Plus, digital finger prints from Russia, the new exclusive details linking Russia and recent election hacks. The big question, will President-elect Trump reveal what he says he knows that others do not?