Return to Transcripts main page
Donald Trump Inauguration Tomorrow; Ethical Questions Grow About Trump Cabinet Nominees. Aired 4:30-5a ET
Aired January 19, 2017 - 04:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[04:31:43] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: One day away from the presidency of Donald J. Trump. Final preparations under way as the president- elect gets ready to move here to Washington.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Ethics questions for some of Trump's Cabinet nominees. Now Democrats are threatening to slow the confirmation process. We'll tell you how.
BERMAN: And President Obama holds his final session with reporters who he seemed to like all of a sudden. His parting words for the press and the incoming president.
Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Live from Washington. I'm John Berman.
ROMANS: We are here. I'm Christine Romans. It is 32 minutes past the hour. Welcome, everyone, to the nation's capital. It is T-minus one day and counting to the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, soon to be the 45th president of the United States. Right there behind us, on the steps of the capitol, President-elect Trump will be transformed into President Trump and with hours to go, the rush of last-minute preparations are under way across the city.
Have you seen the bunting? There is bunting all over the city.
BERMAN: This is a cornucopia of bunting.
ROMANS: A cornucopia of bunting.
BERMAN: There's never been more bunting in one place.
ROMANS: And today, Mr. Trump flies to Washington here and for the first time, he will arrive on an Air Force jet. This afternoon, he'll attend a wreath laying at Arlington and attend two welcoming concerts.
Joining us now to set the stage for us, the low down on the president- in-waiting's schedule for today, let's bring CNN's Athena Jones. She is in our Washington bureau.
So nice to see you this morning, Athena.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. So as he prepares to become the president, the president-elect has one last busy day. He's -- as you mentioned, he'll arrive by military aircraft. He is expected to arrive midday and then he'll head to Arlington National Cemetery for that wreath laying. And then he'll attend what they're calling Voices of the People pre-concert in the mid-afternoon down by the monuments. And then in the late afternoon, early evening, he's going to what's being dubbed a Make America Great Again concert. That event will be at the Lincoln Memorial. There'll be acts like Toby Keith, Three Doors Down among others.
Now the president-elect was also in D.C. last night before flying back to New York. Here he attended two dinners. one to honor Cabinet secretaries and the other one to honor his incoming Vice President Mike Pence. And it was at that dinner for Mike Pence that he met with some Wounded Warriors, later tweeting out a picture, we put up there on your screen. Thanking the Wounded Warriors for their service.
And now as he wraps up his last full day as the president in waiting, he's also finalizing his Cabinet. He's going to be tapping former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue to serve as Agriculture secretary. Now with that final pick, that wraps up all of his Cabinet picks. And it shows that his Cabinet will be one without any Latino representation for the first time in about 30 years. Latinos have had a place serving in Cabinets since every president -- every presidential administration, I should say, since 1988.
Back to you, guys.
ROMANS: All right. Athena, thank you so much for that. We'll talk to you again very, very soon.
BERMAN: The incoming administration wants as many nominees confirmed as possible by the close of business tomorrow. But slowing the process growing ethical questions about some of the nominees. The president-elect's pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Congress Mick Mulvaney, admitted failing to pay employment taxes for a babysitter, $15,000 worth. Mulvaney says he mistakenly believe what he called babysitters were not taxable employees and he says he paid the taxes as soon as he learned otherwise.
[04:35:06] Commerce nominee, Wilbur Ross, a billionaire, had a housekeeper he says he just learned was undocumented. He said he did his best to verify the employee's documents at the time of hiring, but, quote, "it turned out that was incorrect."
And there are questions about an investment by the Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price. We'll have more on that in a moment.
ROMANS: Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer is calling it the swamp Cabinet, and slamming the rushed schedule of hearings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: These past two weeks, we have seen repeated efforts from the Trump transition aided and abetted by Senate Republicans to jam through nominees in a way that hides their views from the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Schumer says Democrats may choose to slow down the confirmation process, something they can easily do using Senate procedures. More confirmation hearings set for this morning. Lucky you, former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin, for Treasury secretary, former Texas governor Rick Perry for Energy. This follows a bruising of hearings for Trump's nominees Wednesday.
Manu Raju has more this morning for us from Capitol Hill.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Good morning, John and Christine.
Four of Donald Trump's nominees getting pretty intense questioning yesterday, mostly from Senate Democrats who were concerned about their ideological views and none more than Tom Price, Georgia congressman selected by Donald Trump to be the new head of Health and Human Services, not just on his ideological views about Medicare and Social Security, what he would do to repeal and replace Obamacare. But also a number of questionable stock trades that he made while investing in healthcare companies, at the same time as pursuing health care legislation.
Take a listen to how some Senate Democrats approached him yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Did you buy the stock and then did you introduce a bill that would be helpful to the companies you just bought stock in?
REP. TOM PRICE, HHS NOMINEE: The stock was bought by -- directed by a broker who was making those decisions. I wasn't making those decisions.
WARREN: When you found out that your broker had made this trade without your knowledge, did you reprimand her?
PRICE: What I did was comply --
WARREN: Well, you found that she made it.
PRICE: What I did was comply --
WARREN: Did you fire her? Did you sell the stock?
PRICE: What I did was comply with the rules of the House in an ethical and legal and aboveboard manner and in a transparent way.
WARREN: I didn't ask whether or not the rules of the House -- because you decide not to tell them, wink, wink, nod, nod, and we're all just supposed to believe that?
PRICE: It's what members of this committee. It's the manner of which members of this committee.
WARREN: No, I'm not one of those. So --
PRICE: I understand that.
WARREN: What I'm asking about is --
PRICE: But it's important to appreciate that that's the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now also the same time yesterday, other nominees being questioned, including Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Democrats questioning his views on climate change. He acknowledged that he does think that global warming is a hoax, but also question some of the science behind it in terms of how much man is actually contributing to climate change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA NOMINEE: Science tells us that the climate is changing and then human activity in some manner impacts that change. The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue, and well it should be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: We're looking to see which of these will get confirmed, how quickly they'll get confirmed, because Democrats right now are signaling they may drag out the process on some of these nominees because they do not believe they have been questioned long enough -- John and Christine.
ROMANS: All right. Manu Raju, thanks for that.
All right. So a billionaire businessperson not a politician comes to Washington to run the Commerce Department. An outsider with deep pockets who wants to juice the American economy. Yes, that was billionaire investor Wilbur Ross yesterday in confirmation hearings. That would be his job if he's confirmed. But guess what, another billionaire has already had that job. Penny Pritzker. I spoke with her last night in an exclusive, exclusive interview. I asked her about Donald Trump and whether he should get credit for these companies that are announcing they're bringing American jobs back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENNY PRITZKER, COMMERCE SECRETARY: As a CEO you do not wake up in the morning and say, you know what, I'm going to create 1,000 jobs. These are opportunities that are created over time. So I think what's important is not one announcement that's timed related to a tweet. What I think is more important is systematic change. And systemically creating greater opportunity for American businesses to create jobs and opportunity here in the United States which is something we've worked really hard on in this administration and obviously it's going to be a priority for the next administration. We may have different ways of going about it, though.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: And she told me she has talked to Wilbur Ross. She has met with him and talked about, you know, the best way to run the Commerce Department and how he is an outsider like she is. Right? With business ties but that you need to have veteran Washington people around you to actually get stuff done. So it was interesting to sit down with her.
And I'll say, guys, bringing everybody in here. The mood is so interesting in Washington right now. This transition of power is so unique. There are literally pictures going off the walls. You know? Like her personal art that was in the hallway. There are people with, you know, boxes of their stuff and thinking about the next job they're going to have. It's a remarkable time to be in Washington.
[04:40:02] BERMAN: You know, Salena, if people haven't been here before, Washington feels different in the few days around an inauguration.
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I mean, I can remember interviewing Karen Hughes right before the Bush administration. Right before she left. And you're right, there's like boxes everywhere, and there's people moving things around. It's really -- it's exciting, you know, it's sad when you -- for the people that are leaving, but it's also really exciting for the people who are looking forward to the next administration.
ZITO: I talked to a lot of people in Ohio and in Pennsylvania. I live out in Pittsburgh. And you know, they are like getting ready to take the bus down. Some of them are taking the train down. You know, there -- you know, this peaceful transfer of power is really a wonderful time.
ZITO: It's a wonderful thing that we do in this country. No matter how you feel politically.
ROMANS: And there are thousands and thousands of people in these departments who will keep their jobs.
ROMANS: Who run the business of --
BERMAN: Some will literally be acting Cabinet secretaries if there is a delay in the confirmation process.
ROMANS: Right. Literally run the business.
BERMAN: Yes. ROMANS: You know the economists and the folks who are crunching the
numbers. I mean, there's going to be a big census coming up in 2020. If Wilbur Ross is confirmed, as many people think he will, he will be doing that business of the American people.
What do we think about the confirmation? We're going to hear from Steve Mnuchin today for Treasury. Does it look as though all of these are going to go through, you think?
TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, I do. You know, there may be one. Right? There may be one that gets derailed. It would give Democrats a win. If there are any nominees that Republicans feel squeamish about also safe to vote against. There may be one nominee that's sort of picked as a sacrificial lamb so to speak. But keep in mind what has to happen for a nominee to not go through.
Three Republicans have to decide that they're going to vote against their party. And to do that they have to feel like they have a lot of political cover. It's highly unlikely. John McCain and Marco Rubio are still sort of jury's out on Rex Tillerson for secretary of State. But there's no indication that they're really doing more than arm twisting a little bit to get what they want. They haven't said I will not vote for this person.
Remember that nominees tend to withdraw. They tend not to get failing up or down vote. They tend to sort of read the waters and decide, I'm going to take my name out of consideration. Democrats can't really force that. And Donald Trump has set a precedent of just pushing through controversy.
BERMAN: You said three Republicans. You also need to have every single Democrat vote against you.
CUOMO: Don't forget Joe Manchin.
BERMAN: Who has said he likely will vote for Rex Tillerson.
KOPAN: some of them. Yes.
BERMAN: Some of them. Not all necessarily but you have Democrats who may split off in any single vote. In this whole getting to know you process of a new administration. It is really interesting to see the president-elect and how he behaves in his sort of forays into Washington. He's been the last few nights and last night he was at a dinner honoring Mike Pence. And he had some interesting remarks to the crowd which was all there for the vice president. And he talked about Republicans. This was quoted by Maggie Haberman, we got recordings of it. He said, "They all liked Mike. They were a little bit -- you know, a little concerned with me."
So first of all, I think that's 100 percent true. Right? First of all, you talk to Republicans.
ROMANS: House of the fact-check.
BERMAN: I think the answer to that is yes. And, you know, so what does that mean going forward? What does that mean for the man who will be President Trump and his relationship with Republicans in this town?
EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Those of us who have been covering this election for a while has seen that concern with Trump is one of those bipartisan issues that people have agreement on. I think what Donald Trump is going to have to do is convince his lawmakers that they should be less concerned that he has a desire to continue what they have done, that he thought was effective during the Obama time and make it actually land and improve the quality of life for the American people.
I don't think he has done that yet to the level that many of them would hope, but I mean, there's still time. Obviously he's not even in the White House yet. This is a new beginning.
BERMAN: He's got a big speech right behind us tomorrow where he begins doing that. And I think begin easing some of the concerns with people in both parties, not to mention the voters themselves.
ROMANS: All right, guys, stick with us. A lot to get to this morning.
BERMAN: All right. President Obama, he held his final news conference before leaving office. We'll talk about his reflections, his hopes, his disappointments, and, you know, what he's going to do Saturday morning.
[04:47:48] BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not just a matter of no drama Obama. This is -- this is what I really believe. It is true that behind closed doors I curse more than I do.
OBAMA: And sometimes I get mad and frustrated like everybody else does. But at my core, I think we're going to be OK. We just have to fight for it, we have to work for it, and not take it for granted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: That was President Obama's final message during his final news conference as he gets ready to leave the White House to Donald J. Trump and his legacy to the history books.
Joining us once again, Tal Kopan, Eugene Scott, and Salena Zito. Nice to see you all this morning. You know, I watched that yesterday, the final, final, final press conference. I also felt like I heard the president-elect who said, I'm going to sleep, I'm going to maybe play some golf, I'm going to take some time off, but I'm not going away. And he was pretty pointed about in which situations he would raise his voice as a former president. Let's listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I want to be quiet a little bit and not hear myself talk so darn much. In a democracy, sometimes you're going to win on those issues and sometimes you're going to lose. But there's a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Tal, and he talked about what those core values are.
ROMANS: What did he say?
KOPAN: Yes. He talked about sort of three specifics, he noted any form of institutionalizing discrimination. He talked about, you know, limiting voters' access to the polls and enfranchisement. And he talked about those Dreamers, those young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as kids usually by their parents who have grown up here, who have gone to college.
This was one of his biggest executive actions was to protect those individuals from deportation and give them a sense of sort of place here. That status is completely up in the air as we move forward. And he said in no uncertain term if I see those individuals being rounded up, if I see some sort of deportation system moving in, I will speak up. And so he sort of laid down the marker on those three issues in particular as we heard him say against the core values of our country in his mind and why he would speak up.
[04:50:05] BERMAN: You know, Salena, it's interesting. You mentioned during the break that you think actually that a President Trump would welcome having a former President Obama around as a foil.
ZITO: Well, I mean, part of why the Republicans have become successful since 2009 down ballot is because they have been able to use his policies as a way to win seats. They did not win the presidency in 2012. But they were, you know, able to say Obama, Obamacare, you know, bailout. You know, he was like there's the bad guy.
ZITO: And we're going to do better. So if -- and I doubt that -- that President Obama is going to be, you know, sort of strident against Mr. Trump. You know, he respects the presidency. But, you know, if he does, you know, make an issue, Trump is going to say that's the guy you voted against. And if you look at states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and even though he lost Minnesota, was only by 45,000 people, those voters are the same voters that voted for Obama and switched.
ROMANS: Yes. ZITO: So, you know, he can then capture them back if he feels like he
is losing them, you know, on an issue.
ROMANS: Iowa. Another one of those states. What I think is sort of interesting is, you know, this week we saw the moving vans go from the White House to the president's new home that they'll be renting. His daughter is going to be finishing out school here in New York. He's not leaving. He's not going to a ranch in Crawford, Texas, and leaving town. There is still the aura of Obamas here. That's kind of interesting.
SCOTT: Yes. It is very interesting. And I think people have to remember that that's what a lot of people wanted. So the overwhelming majority of people who voted, voted for the candidate that would continue the Obama legacy. And so they want to see him speak out on these issues that they think need attention. So having him around hopefully focused on some of the issues that he's going to champion once he goes on to his post-presidency, philanthropic charitable work, I think will make some people feel like the things that they matter -- that matter to them, that they cared about will not be completely Trumped.
BERMAN: Well, you know, he's not going to be engaged in, you know, the nitty-gritty of the fight.
ROMANS: No. No.
BERMAN: It's going to be the DNC.
BERMAN: And the DNC, there's jockeying right now to figure out who will lead the Democrat National Committee going forward. And there's something of a debate last night. It wasn't really a debate because they didn't go after each other. They just sort of made a lot of statements among people who are running for it and Tom Perez, who's the outgoing Labor secretary, last night he said this -- he is running for the DNC chair. He says, "We can hit him between the eyes," him being Donald Trump. "With a 2-by-4 and treat him like Mitch McConnell treated Barack Obama." Those words from Tom Perez.
KOPAN: Yes, keep in mind, you know, what Salena was talking about with the foil, it's also part of the fun of being the opposition. So in many ways, in Washington, it's a cardinal rule. Everyone here knows, you reap what you sow, right? The Democrats changed the nuclear option. You know, they changed the rules so now all the Cabinet nominees don't need 60 votes. And now they're living with that.
It's going to be the same with Mitch McConnell's strategy of opposing Obama and really throwing wrenches in the gears as much as he could. And now we'll have to see if the DNC chairman really wants to adopt those tactics. Keep in mind, there are some in the Democratic Party who are uncomfortable with that. And, you know, Chuck Schumer is not Harry Reid. And we're seeing that already. He has sort of a different style. So we're going to have to see how Democrats kind of settle this debate.
Do we want to be labeled obstructionists, but sort of stop as much as we can or do we want to find some sort of middle ground here?
ROMANS: All right, Tal, Eugene, Salena, stick with us. A lot to get to today. Also going to talk about Donald Trump's pro-growth policies. They've given a nice boost to the stock market since election day. But where does this so-called Trump bump stack up against some of the biggest presidential rallies of all time? It's huge.
We're going to check in CNN Money for you next.
[04:56:59] BERMAN: Breaking overnight. Dozens of people are feared dead after an avalanche slammed into a hotel in Italy. This is a look at the scene right now. Officials say the roof partially collapsed. So far two people have been rescued. At least 22 people were staying at that hotel. Several staff members also on duty. Authorities say a series of earthquakes in central Italy triggered this avalanche.
ROMANS: The teenager who was discovered 18 years after she was abducted as a newborn from her mother's bedside in Florida speaking out for the first time. Alexis Manigo says she was -- she has accepted the fact that she was actually born as Kamiyah Mobley and that the woman she called mom all those years took her from her true birth parents. But she said it's hard to view her apparent abductor in a negative way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXIS MANIGO, TEENAGER KIDNAPPED AT BIRTH: There is nothing different. There's nothing different. I'm processing it. Like I say. But I'm a big girl. There's just life at my front door right now. But I'm a big girl. I can process it all. But like I said, my feelings toward my mother will never change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: A DNA test revealed last week that Alexis was that newborn baby stolen from a hospital in 1998 by a woman who was posing as a nurse. The woman who raised her, Gloria Williams, you see her there, she's in jail awaiting trial.
BERMAN: The FBI is investigating a new wave of bomb threats at a Jewish community centers. It is the second time in two weeks that these centers across the country have been targeted. Officials say on Wednesday 27 Jewish centers in 17 states received threatening phone calls. Some of the facilities were evacuated as a precaution. No devices were found. Federal authorities investigating possible civil rights violations.
ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this morning. Dow futures slightly lower on the docket confirmation hearing of the Treasury secretary pick, Steve Mnuchin. We're seeing a mixed picture on global markets right now. Stocks in Europe slipping. Shares in Asia closing mixed overnight.
All right. Upbeat comments from the Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen yesterday, failed to excite investors. You know, she said the U.S. job market is near full employment. Consumer prices are near the Fed's target. But Yellen called the economic recovery a long, slow slog.
Watch Netflix today.
BERMAN: I already have.
ROMANS: I mean, shares of Netflix.
ROMANS: The stock is up nearly 8 percent in pre-market trading. Another huge quarter of subscriber growth. It added seven million customers in the final quarter of 2016. The stock has surged 51 percent over the past six months. Over all of last year Netflix added 19 million members. That's up from 17 million last year. Get this, Netflix now has a total of 93.8 million subscribers worldwide. It should pass another milestone this year, having more customers overseas than it does in the U.S.
OK. Pop quiz, John Berman. What president saw the biggest stock market rally from election day to their inauguration?
BERMAN: I don't know.
ROMANS: Wait, could someone get that tape? I don't know. John Berman just told me I don't --
ROMANS: No. It's not Donald Trump. He is among the big gainers in history going back to 1900. The 6.5 percent gain on the S&P 500 since Trump was elected is better than -- excuse me, Presidents Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Dwight Eisenhower saw after they won. Although there's two trading days left in this span for Trump.