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Interview with Tom Barrack Jr.; Trump's HHS Pick Raises New Ethics Concerns; Will the Glass Ceiling Ever Break; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 17, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Really speak to unity, does it?

TOM BARRACK JR., CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: Well, look, first of all -- most of those facts are wrong. Right? The good thing is I'm not an agent, I'm a party planner.

COSTELLO: No, they're not.

BARRACK: Yes, they are. Bruce Springsteen was never offered a position.

COSTELLO: The B-Street Band. I didn't say Bruce Springsteen. The cover band.

BARRACK: Yes, you did. But, look, I'm not here to argue over celebrities. We have the best three celebrities. You have President Obama, you have Donald Trump and you have Washington. The rest of this is just the beauty of the system.

You know, God bless America that we can have an inauguration of the president. We're not talking about a candidate. We're talking about the president of the United States. We can have grown representatives of their constituencies who are elected in order to abide by the laws of the United States say I'm not going to participate. It's the beauty of the country. Nowhere else could this happen and could those nonparticipating politicians stay in office.

So I think it's great. I think the protests are great. I think people coming here is great. I think the debate is interesting. The man now is president of the United States. The debate is over. Everybody needs to grow up. We can only be attacked by the inside, not by the outside, and it's time for America to join together. And that will happen over the first 100 days of this president-elect's who will then be president's regime. He's made the best transition picks. These men and women are first class. Washington is terrified --

COSTELLO: But before we get into that, I just want to talk a little bit about -- more about unity because I do think it's important to unify the country. It is. And it doesn't seem as if Donald Trump has reached out in any way to unify. He is still counterpunching, right? He's still fighting back, he's still not letting things go. So how does that kind of thing promote unity in the country? BARRACK: Well, look, it's iterated. And it's in little pieces and I

agree. It's difficult taking things out of context. But let me give you an example. The Diplomatic Corps in Washington has felt unattended for eight years. And it's not President Obama's fault. It's just the way that it happened. So this president-elect said the first thing I want to do is I want to give a touch of my cultural sixth sense to this Diplomatic Corps and a tribute to them.

So tonight the first dinner of the week is really for them, for the Diplomatic Corps, taking place at the Mellon Building, which was the site at which NATO was signed, by the way, in 1949 by Harry Truman. So that sensitivity of uniting starts with unwrapping chapter one, which is -- would you like to see my cultural adaptation and concern for foreign policy? Here's where we start by attributing those of you who are in this art of diplomacy. And the week unrolls that way.

All I'm saying is he's not yet the president. This has been the most unbelievable president-elect cycle known to mankind.

COSTELLO: So are you saying that his rhetoric and his Twitter habits will change after he's inaugurated on Friday?

BARRACK: No, I don't think they need to change. His rhetoric and his Twitter habits, by the way, is what got him elected. So what we're not seeing in the news feed is the rest of America who are sitting cheering for this man saying whatever it was, we need some change. Not that President Obama was bad. Not that the 535 congressmen and senators are bad, but what we've had needs to move off center. He's moving it. And if he moves it with Twitter, so be it. It's been effective for him to date.

COSTELLO: OK. So I know that you have tried to invite different voices into the tent. You've tried to unify the country through Donald Trump. We've seen Leonardo DiCaprio come visit Donald Trump, we've seen Kanye West come, we've seen Martin Luther King III come and visit Mr. Trump. Democrats, though, suspect this is kind of all for show. Can you tell us anything concrete that has come out of these meetings?

BARRACK: Yes, it's a great question, Carol. And, honestly, my heartfelt belief is that if people understood how much this man listens, the trepidation would dissolve. And Leonardo DiCaprio happens to be a great friend. He also happens to be the ambassador for global warming at the United Nations. And, you know, he was very skeptical with what was going to happen in the administration. And quite honestly, I was sitting with him and sad, why don't you tell the president-elect yourself? He said really? I said yes.

I got him on the phone. He and the president-elect had a discussion. The president-elect said look, I'm open to listening to all points of view, including -- you know, this was really about the Paris treaty and what's going to happen. And so a dialogue started. Leonardo representing a point of view that's very important for him to adapt to. A regime which may have been resistant to it. But what we need is the dialogue. And he's a pragmatist. He is a deal doer but he's very smart and he's very attentive to people. [10:35:04] So I'm just hopeful that over time we unwrap his ability to

listen and adapt to the constituency that hasn't supported him. And I promise you, he's intent on doing that. He's going to do the things the constituency that supported him asked him to do. It's the constituency --

COSTELLO: I've got to tell you, though, Tom, and it's nice to see him speaking and listening to people with different points of view. But I got to tell you, a lot of people in the country right now are scared. They're anxiety ridden. They want to hear something from him that says to them that, you know what? It's going to be OK. The country is going to be fine. I'm going to get a grip on foreign policy. I'm going to deal with Russia in an effective way. People want to hear these things from him. Instead, we're just hearing from the combative Donald Trump. The "I'm always right" Donald Trump.

BARRACK: Look, here's what I would suggest, and I understand it, and honestly, I'm trying to be a voice of just saying let's just take a time-out. Rex Tillerson, General Mattis, Mike Flynn, KT McFarland, his entire team are first class professionals that have very soft and steady hands on all the issues that people are concerned with.

Let's just allow him to get his team in place. Give him an opportunity to define a plan that the American public and the foreign policy public can then digest and let's see what happens. But let's just unite for America for a moment. This continued political banter, and I understand that the feeling is that the president-elect himself is fueling this because he continues to be adversarial on issues that he's concerned with. But at the same time --

COSTELLO: He's entrenching Americans in their camp. That's what he's doing. Don't you think?

BARRACK: Look, I don't think he's entrenching Americans. I think with 144 characters, it's a very difficult for Americans to get a feel of what's the emotion around these comments. And that is the issue. Right? Switching from candidate to president, 144 characters may not be enough. So what I'm hopeful for is once he actually becomes president, at 11:23 on Friday, that a different -- not a different Donald Trump, but a different interpretation of all of the policies that he has through his great Cabinet and team will then start calming and settling nerves as well as defining bright lines.

I really -- I tell all my friends and I'd like to tell you, everybody, just show up. Whether you like him or don't like him. This transition of power, this moment where President Obama leaves the White House at 11:00 and President Trump shows up at 3:00 doesn't happen anywhere else in the world. We should pay tribute to the place, to the democracy and the ability that we have to criticize it all.

COSTELLO: All right. I have to leave it there. Tom Barrack, thanks so much. I'll be right back.

BARRACK: Thanks, Carol. COSTELLO: Oh, wait, Tom, before you go. Can I ask you about the

weather? My executive producer really wants to know because it's supposed to be very rainy on inauguration day.

BARRACK: I have great news for you. CNN has the best meteorological program in the world. I was just consulting with all of your people and they promise me that CNN is going to dictate no rain, 55 degrees, bring beach chairs, suntan lotion. It's going to happen. Please just show up.


COSTELLO: We will show up. But do you have a contingency plan? Like -- that you have planned?

BARRACK: Yes, we do. We do. You know, we have a contingency plan, not for rain, because rain, if it's not cold, is actually OK. And if you remember, President Reagan had to move into the rotunda. And we have a contingency plan like that for him. But Leonardo is trying to intervene on global warming to make sure it's sunny for him so he can have a better dialogue.


COSTELLO: You're funny. Thanks so much. And I do wish the CNN weather people could control the weather, especially today here in New York.

Thank you so much, Tom, for being with me.

BARRACK: Thanks, Carol. Thank you.

COSTELLO: I'll be right back.


[10:43:31] COSTELLO: New confirmation hearings this week bringing new controversy. Eight cabinet level nominees will be in the hot seat. Up today, Interior secretary pick Ryan Zinke, Education secretary pick, Betsy Devos, but it's the man Donald Trump tapped to get rid of Obamacare that's raising serious concerns.

CNN's Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill with more. Hi, Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Carol. Before Wednesday's hearing for Mr. Price, already getting lots of controversy for shares that he, Tom Price, actually purchased in health care companies while serving as a congressman from Georgia. Those health care shares coming at the same time he's pushing legislation on health care issues.

Now the most recent controversy for him, purchasing up to $15,000 of stock in a medical device manufacturer at the same time as pushing legislation that would delay key Medicare rule that would actually have hurt the medical device manufacturer Zimmer Biomet had that Medicare rule been taken effect. Now after the publication of our report, Trump's campaign pushing back

saying that this controversy was much ado about nothing. It's only a small amount of stock and they said that actually a number of the shares were actually purchased through a broker. Now one element of this, though, is that Mr. Price actually held on to shares in that medical device company even after that bill was introduced last year. But now that he's poised to become Health and Human Services secretary, if he's confirmed by the Senate, he is now promising to divest from that company, a sign that he recognizes the conflicts of interest that it could present if you continue to hold on to that stock.

[10:45:13] Now Donald Trump has tapped Tom Price to be the top man on the Hill to replace Obamacare but a number of Hill Republicans are telling me they're not clear yet on what Donald Trump is proposing. Trump himself telling "The Post" this week -- the "Washington Post" this week that his plan would ensure that everybody gets health insurance. Well, a number of Republicans say they don't know what he means by that plan. And they're saying that they want to actually focus on reducing cost, not necessarily expanding coverage.

So a lot of confusion on Capitol Hill and what Donald Trump wants to do and what the Hill Republicans want to do and one note, Carol, Mike Pence, the vice president-elect up on Capitol Hill today to meet with members of Congress. Perhaps they can start to unify behind their plans for Obamacare, repeal and replace, but right now, they're not quite clear on what the next step is -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Manu Raju reporting live for us, thank you.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: When you hear the word feminist --

AYLA BROWN, COUNTRY MUSIC SINGER: That kind of makes me cringe.

IBTIHAJ MUHAMMAD, U.S. OLYMPIC BRONZE MEDALIST: I don't -- personally don't think of myself as a feminist.


COSTELLO: That final glass ceiling for women remains intact. I sat down with a diverse group of accomplished women to talk about feminism today and whether a woman will ever sit in the Oval Office. That's next.


[10:50:24] COSTELLO: This Saturday, hundreds of thousands of women will converge on the National Mall. They hope to send a message to President-elect Donald Trump. We're here, we're watching you, and we're ready to fight back. Truth is, the state of sisterhood in the time of Trump is confusing. Some women are crushed. They say Trump's win is a step backwards for equal rights. Others, not so much. I spoke with women from across the political spectrum about the

ultimate glass ceiling left unshattered.


COSTELLO: When you hear the word feminist --

BROWN: That kind of makes me cringe.

GRETCHEN CARLSON, AUTHOR AND COMMENTATOR: That word just has such an incredible bad rap. And you know, I've even seen women get sort of caught up when they're asked, are you a feminist?

MUHAMMAD: I don't -- personally I don't think of myself as a feminist. Feminism can mean so many different things depending on who you're asking.

BROWN: I consider myself someone who works incredibly hard. Does not matter about my gender.

COSTELLO: Feminists would say that's the definition.

BROWN: Well, I just don't like that word, I guess.

COSTELLO: Do you think that it's time to dispense with the word feminist?

ROXANE GAY, AUTHOR, "BAD FEMINIST": Hell no. No. I think that people need to get over the misperceptions that they have about what the word feminist means.

NANCY BRINKER, FOUNDER SUSAN G. KOMEN: I think that the word feminism became defined in ways that a lot of women don't want to be defined They don't want identity politics.

COSTELLO: How would you describe the state of women in America today?

RESHMA SAUJANI, FOUNDER, GIRLS WHO CODE: I think it's hopeful. Slowly recovering. And actually I was crushed. I woke up in the morning saying to my husband Mike, I'm never going to have a female president in my lifetime.

GAY: I think we're waiting to see what's going to happen next to see how quickly "Roe v. Wade" is going to be overturned.

COSTELLO: Someone said that we in this country have a high tolerance of sexism.

GAY: Oh, we do. I mean, we are one of the only developed nations that has never had a woman president.

CARLSON: There were a lot of other factors that played into Hillary Clinton not winning the election. You know, there were a lot of big stories that she had to grapple with. So I don't know if we can exactly look at the results and say America can't elect a woman.

COSTELLO: Do you think that we'll see a woman president in our lifetime?

MUHAMMAD: I don't know. I mean, never say never. I mean, I hope so.

BROWN: There's hope for it in that it will come around. It really will. We had our first black president. He served for eight years. I don't think she was the best person despite the fact that she was a woman.

COSTELLO: Were you surprised that Hillary Clinton didn't have more female support?

GAY: Yes and no. I think white women were more invested in protecting their whiteness than their womanhood. And they weighed their options and they decided to go with power.

COSTELLO: Some women say, though, since the majority of white women voted for Donald Trump that all those terrible things he said about women were OK with them.

CARLSON: I think a lot of people voted with the issues in mind and maybe turned a blind eye to some of those other comments.

BROWN: There are things that Donald Trump has said that I didn't agree with.

COSTELLO: So in your mind you could ignore those things?

BROWN: I could, and I did ignore it. And that's why I voted for him.

COSTELLO: It's just kind of depressing to me that it's still a man's world.

BRINKER: The power in the world does rest in the hands largely of men. We still don't have, do we, very many women global women CEOs. We still don't have on corporate boards 50 percent participation by women.

GAY: More women need to enter Congress and the Senate. More women need to be governors.

SAUJANI: I think that what you're going to see over the next four to eight years is more women say enough. I'm not going to do, you know, work and not get equally played. I'm not going to fight about reproductive rights over and over and over again.

COSTELLO: What action do you think Mr. Trump will take to assuage these women's fears?

BRINKER: Well, I think that he already has taken some great action. I think some of the people that he's appointed are absolutely sensational.


BRINKER: I think Linda McMahon, KT McFarland, Elaine Chao, Betsy Devos, Kellyanne Conway. MUHAMMAD: We need President-elect Trump to step forward and to, you

know, almost like shoot down the things that he's said in the past and say actually those aren't things that I stand behind. I don't stand behind the bigoted remarks that I've made.

COSTELLO: Do you want to hear that in his inaugural address?

MUHAMMAD: I mean, I'm, like, here's hoping. I think that we all want to hear that.


COSTELLO: We do. While we don't yet know what the Trump administration will achieve, we do know that one of his closest confidantes has been and will be his daughter Ivanka who says she's passionate about fighting for wage equality and childcare. I know one thing, women from all different spectrums will be watching and listening.

[10:55:07] All right. Finally today, spotted in Washington, a moving van outside of the new home of the Obamas. It's in the Kalorama neighborhood where they plan to stay until their younger daughter Sasha finishes high school. But the Obamas will not be heading there right after Friday's inauguration. Sources telling CNN the president will travel to Palm Springs. He says he and his wife Michelle have, quote, "some catching up to do." He also says he's looking forward to not setting an alarm.


COSTELLO: I can relate to that. That's for sure.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello. "AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND BOLDUAN" after a break.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman. Kate is off today. So much for a honeymoon. The transition is normally a time when the government, the country, the world warms up to the incoming president. He has that glow of victory, that sense of expectation, that new car smell. But this morning after a two and half month whiff of the Donald Trump transition, folks are --