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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Report Warns: Dire Health Economic Impacts from Climate Change; Trump Eyes Replacing Kelly With Young, Rich Loyalist; Trump Admin Says It Believes Hostage Austin Tice Is Alive; Online Sales - Trump's Trade Wars Threaten Black Friday's Future; Obama's Chief Photographer Trolls Trump In New Book. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired November 23, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:30:47] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: We're back now with our national lead. It could cost lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.
Late this afternoon, a brand new U.S. government report delivering a dire warning about climate change, detailing the devastating impacts on human health, quality of life, even the U.S. economy. The federally mandated study released today, just as President Trump this week confused climate and weather, tweeting, brutal and extended cold blast could shatter all records. Whatever happened to global warming?
CNN's Rene Marsh has been following the story.
So, Rene, this is a report prepared by agencies run by appointees of this president and yet, even they could not deny the hard and worrisome scientific data.
RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, Jim, if you weren't paying attention to this climate change issue, once you read this report, it could really change that. It is frightening to read what scientists are saying in this report if action isn't taken here. They say wildfire season, for example, which is already a long one, would burn six times more forest area by the year 2050.
More people would be exposed to ticks that carry Lyme disease and mosquitoes that transmit viruses like Zika, West Nile virus and dengue. Higher temperatures would kill more people. The report specifically talks about the Midwest, where it's predicted to have the largest increase in extreme temperature. They would see an additional 2,000 more premature deaths year by year by the year 2090.
And then the economy, it would take a major hit. This report is predicting that 10 percent of the U.S. economy would simply disappear. We're talking about a decline in crops, our public infrastructure would be destroyed, as well as investments in real estate. So there's no good news in this report.
SCIUTTO: And, you know, the president not even expecting the science -- still propagating this climate change denial point of view in many -- and the Republican Party doing the same. Does the report say there's any plan in place to respond to these
issues and these dangers?
MARSH: So this report, it doesn't lay out any recommendations, but it is meant to inform policymakers who are determining our regulations, who are going to put policies in place. What we have seen is that this report clearly is on the other end of the spectrum compared to where this president as well as this administration stands on this issue of climate change. We've seen the administration rolling back regulations that would curb these harmful gases.
SCIUTTO: Act now. That's the time.
Rene Marsh, thanks very much.
The president is now interviewing people this weekend to bring into his administration. Multiple sources tell CNN that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen could be the next to go, as well as her biggest advocate, the White House chief of staff, John Kelly. One contender to take over for Kelly is Nick Ayers, the vice president's current chief of staff, described as young, rich, as it happens, and loyal.
CNN's Jeremy Diamond joins us now.
So, Jeremy, past colleagues of Ayers say that he has an oversized ego and ambition, even for Washington. And this has led to a lot of internal opposition, has it not, within this administration from some very powerful figures. Kellyanne Conway included.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's certainly right, Jim. I think it's important to first look at how Nick Ayers built this relationship with the president. And it all happened in the president's private dining room, just off of the Oval Office, with is where the president has been gathering since the beginning of his administration with Vice President Mike Pence for weekly lunches. But when Nick Ayers and John Kelly came in as chiefs of staff to both men, they also began attending the lunch, giving Nick Ayers this key face time every week with the president.
And it's during that time that our sources have told us that the president came to know and like Nick Ayers and come to the point now where he's considering him to replace his chief of staff. As you pointed out, Nick Ayers certainly has earned his fair share of enemies in his meteoric rise as a 36-year-old political operative to now being considered chief of staff.
And indeed, Kellyanne Conway is one of those antagonists. She has urged the president against appointing Nick Ayers as chief of staff, according to our sources. Kellyanne Conway denied this, telling us she has zero beef with Nick Ayers and the vice president's press secretary also pushed back on this.
[16:35:07] But many of the president's allies, including his daughter, Ivanka Trump, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have been loyal allies of Nick Ayers and are encouraging him to name Nick Ayers as the president's chief of staff. The political acumen, the political strategery that Nick Ayers has, they say could make him a key chief of staff heading into the 2020 re-election -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Jeremy Diamond, thanks very much.
Let's go back to our panel now.
So, Andre Bauer, you heard Jeremy described some of these internal opposition, some of it from some very powerful people. I've heard the same thing. But the president seems to have taken a liking to him.
Who wins out here? Does the president go with Nick Ayers?
ANDRE BAUER (R), FORMER LT. GOVERNOR, SOUTH CAROLINA: The president -- I don't know if, in fact, we have the right information that the president wants Nick Ayers for sure. But whoever the president wants is who the president is going to pick. I think we have seen his style of governing time and time again.
You know, the big question is, whose loyalty does Nick Ayers really have? There are so many that supported the president early on in a 16-way primary that truly wanted to see the swamp cleaned out. And there are so many in his administration that are part of the swamp, that actually have come in there. And that's why he's had the leaks and that's why he's had letters sent out opposing him and saying negative things about him.
And so, I hope that he picks someone that is loyal to him and his cause, and not obstructionists and people that really just care about keeping a job in Washington and continue to just keep the wheels turning. And he does have some of those folks within his administration that are very close. They were never Trumpers and they philosophically, if they change, that's great. But there are a lot of them that never changed and so I want to see him get folks that have the same agenda he does.
SCIUTTO: Alice, this would be -- you look at John Kelly. John Kelly, after all, he was a four-star marine general. He served in Iraq. He commanded Southern Command. He was a DHS secretary.
It would be quite an exchange at that chief of staff level, would it not?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It sure would. And I think it's important to keep in mind, this has come up before. Every two months, this story about nick ayers comes, and it's important to keep it all into perspective.
Look, he is someone -- he is very talented. He's very successful. He's experienced, despite his young age, and he happens to be born in my great home state of Georgia. So, he's got in his favor.
But keep in mind, he is very talented politically. And given the life span of chief of staff, about a year, if we game this out, he is most helpful around re-election time. So if it was, you know -- if you're looking at this from a political standpoint, I would say six, eight months, would be a good time for him to jump in if he were going to do that.
But from my understanding, talking to folks, John Kelly is there, as long as he wants to be there. And the president, as Andre said, it's up to the president to decide. But anyone who is out there pushing Nick's name to try and help him, as we all know, you never want to fly too close to the sun when it comes to this president. If you are overshadowing him, nick would be a tremendous asset in that role. I don't think right now is the best time.
SCIUTTO: So, Nina, the president, we're told, is jealous of how smoothly the vice president's office is running. And that's one reason he's looking to Nick Ayers for his leadership.
Would you say that that's the secret there? Is the chief of staff role the source of the trouble in this administration?
NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm smiling, Jim, because the president is the common denominator here. It doesn't matter how smooth Nick Ayers may be. President Trump is the common denominator.
Listen, General Kelly brought a level of professionalism there as much as one can do when dealing with President Trump, as unpredictable as he is. And the president's own words, he has said that General Kelly works hard, that he's excellent. And so, you don't reward excellence and hard work by, you know, floating out there that he may or may not be there.
Now, again, ultimately, it is up to the president. So I do agree with my esteemed colleagues here that it is ultimately up to the president who is his chief of staff. But General Kelly has done a tremendous job under the circumstances.
SCIUTTO: So, Jackie, the word, of course, is that General Kelly does the firing for this president because he doesn't like firing. So who fires General Kelly then?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a really good question. I don't know if he's going to have to deliver that message to him. But, yes, I mean, the next person who stops -- who steps into this role ends up being the president's executioner.
And the chief of staff role, it's not just being the president's confidante, by any stretch of the imagination. He has to run the West Wing.
So it's an extremely big job. I'm not saying that Nick Ayers isn't up to it. But you're not going to get any more popular in that role.
And you should say about Mike Pence -- one of the reasons Mike Pence's office runs smoothly, Mike Pence is one of the most predictable politicians you will ever meet. He's impossible to knock off message. I covered him when he was in the House.
He's someone -- and his staff is extremely loyal to him. A lot of people who have been around him have been around him for a very long time. So it might have more to do with, you know, the person in the --
SCIUTTO: He doesn't tweet surprises that his chief of staff has to run around.
Listen, Jackie, Alice, Andre, Nina, we're going to send you back to your families for the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend, what remains of it. Thanks very much.
KUCINICH: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: He was kidnapped in Syria six years ago. And there's been no evidence since then if he's okay. Why is the White House now publicly saying there may be some good news here? That freelance journalist Austin Tice is still alive. It would be a great relief. We're going to cover that next.
SCIUTTO: Welcome back.
And some potentially good news these holidays. Likely still alive, that is now the position of the Trump administration regarding the disappearance and kidnapping of the American Austin Tice, a marine turned reporter who vanished in Syria more than six years ago now.
CNN's Barbara Starr reports on the latest from the Pentagon.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Six years after Austin Tice, a freelance journalist and former Marine was kidnapped in Syria, the Trump administration publicly says tights is alive.
ROBERT O'BRIEN, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR HOSTAGE AFFAIRS, UNITED STATES: I want to make it very clear that the United States government believes that Austin Tice is alive. We're deeply concerned about his well-being after six years of captivity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Allahu akbar!
STARR: It's an extraordinary high-profile move by the White House to openly talk about a hostage who hasn't been seen since this video with his captors emerged five weeks after his disappearance in 2012.
AUSTIN TICE, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: Oh Jesus, oh Jesus.
STARR: Tice had gone to Syria to photograph and report what was happening to ordinary Syrians as the conflict heated up. Journalists were in increasing danger.
TICE: You're just talking street fighting, you know, Molotov cocktails, any weapon you can basically imagine in an urban street fighting environment. It was pretty exciting but I was able to get some pretty good shots that way and tell a pretty good story afterwards that I think otherwise you know, never would have gotten told.
STARR: He was coming home for a final year of law school. In August 2012, he was south of Damascus planning to drive to Lebanon when he'd vanished before reaching the border.
O'BRIEN: We believe that he's being held captive in Syria. I don't want to get into anything further on that front either. I'm sorry.
STARR: But it's raising a crucial question, is there real progress in bringing him home.
ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: An American official doesn't come out and say that a hostage is alive unless they have really good intelligence. They know he's alive otherwise, they wouldn't go public.
STARR: CNN has previously reported Tice is believed to be in the custody of the Syrian regime even though it has denied it. His parents Debra and Marc say after several trips they will try to travel yet again to Syria.
MARC TICE, FATHER OF AUSTIN TICE: Each time we go we apply for a visa to enter Syria to get as close to Austin as we possibly can and to try to reach out to those holding him captive. We continue our relentless effort to find the key that will open the door for Austin's freedom.
STARR: Now, administration officials say they have briefed that Tice's several times in recent months about progress on the case. And Jim, as you know Syria became a killing ground for so many journalists it became so dangerous especially for freelance journalists like Austin Tice who were working on their own to try and bring the story out to the world. But the administration does believe that this young man is still alive after all these years.
SCIUTTO: Lord, let's hope for him and first family that's true. Barbara Starr, thanks very much. Turning now to our "MONEY LEAD." From long lines to online, Black Friday looking more and more different than it did just earlier this decade with more shoppers tapping their phones instead of tackling people for deals. But as CNN's Alison Kosik reports, the president's trade work could soon make those deep discounts a little less enticing.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Black Friday a holiday unto itself. Shopping scenes like this seem as baked into Thanksgiving tradition as turkey. Cherish this footage it may soon be replaced with more screen scenes. More than 50 percent of Black Friday shopping traffic this year is expected to be from smartphones where typical retail holiday hours don't exist. In fact, $3.7 billion worth of online purchases already happened on Thanksgiving Day. More than double that $7.7 is expected to be spent on Cyber Monday.
But fear not, doorbuster deals got their name for a reason and in- store promotions are drawing shoppers too.
MATTHEW SHAY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION: You see the bricks and mortar retailers are doing a buy online pick up in store or buy in-store and deliver at home so they're using digital strategies to serve customers they want to be served.
KOSIK: So what should you stock up on? If you want to save money now, analysts say anything made in China.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we're in a little dispute with China. We put $250 billion worth of tariffs on China at 25 percent.
KOSIK: Since China's retaliatory tariffs went into effect in September, some 5,700 items from the nation have been subject to a ten percent price increase including handbags, perfumes, wallets, and coats. Experts expect American consumers won't feel the consequences until next year but tariffs may increase in the meantime. President Trump is set to discuss trade with China's president next week at the G20 Summit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we see more tariffs in January, that's where the rubber hits the road because then I think you are going to start to see prices going up.
[16:50:06] KOSIK: Bottom line, pick up your phone or make your way to the mall. Now, maybe the best Black Friday for a while.
SHAY: The economy is very strong, customers have a great deal of confidence about the season, the weather patterns are good, I don't know what's the positive of a perfect storm, this is it.
KOSIK: While it's been busy at this storage in, we're going to get a better picture of how Black Friday sales played out nationally when credit card companies begin releasing their numbers in the coming hours. Jim?
SCIUTTO: Our thanks there to Alison Kosik. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words especially if you're trolling the President, Former White House photographer who has become the master now of throwing shade.
[16:55:00] SCIUTTO: Every misstep President Trump takes, there is someone there to troll him. He is President Obama's former chief photographer, whose Instagram is now full of pics showing glaring contrasts in how the two presidents handled certain situations, like visiting troops over the holidays, for instance. Lots more documented in his new book called Shade, our Jake Tapper spoke to Souza all about it.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JAKE TAPPER, CNN: And Pete Souza joins me now. Thanks so much for being here, Pete. So you tackled some pretty serious subjects in here. I mean, it's fun, but there's some seriousness in here. You posted this photo of President Obama meeting with young refugees in Malaysia. That was right around the time of Trump's ban on immigration from several majority Muslim countries. And this is a response to a Trump tweet claiming President Obama did nothing after being told about Russian election interference. This photo you shared of President Obama seeming to be confronting Putin in 2016.
And after President Trump bragged that the mission was accomplished after a strike in Syria, you posted this photo, perhaps your most iconic photo of the President and his team in the situation room during the raid that ultimately led to Osama bin Laden's death. And you wrote, "back when a mission was actually accomplished." What do you -- what do you -- because it's not just fun with shade. I mean, there is some serious things you're saying about the last president and the current one. What do you want people to take away from the book?
PETER SOUZA, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHER OF PRESIDENT OBAMA: I don't want -- I don't want people to forget the first 500 days of the Trump administration, which is what this represents and all the craziness that happened. I'm also trying to correct some of his lies and falsehoods with photographic proof, whether it be the inauguration day crowd, whether it be him saying that Obama did nothing about Russia meddling and here's the meeting where Obama confronted Putin.
TAPPER: Yes, you also touch on President Trump's use of Twitter, perhaps you would say misuse of Twitter. After President Trump threatened Russia on Twitter for the support of Syria's Assad, you posted this photo of President Obama and you wrote, President Obama in 2013 as he waited for a phone call with one of our allies to discuss the situation in Syria. He certainly never sent out an impulsive tweet about a serious national security crisis. When you were photographing serious moments like this, did you ever think you would be using them as an example of here's how a president should actually behave?
SOUZA: Not at all. I never would have expected I would be doing this. If John McCain or Mitt Romney had been president, I wouldn't be doing this because they respected the Office of the Presidency and that's what we don't see from this president.
TAPPER: It's interesting you say that, because I always thought of you -- because I would see you a lot back when you were not the White House photographer, when you were just a regular photographer, news media. And then when you were at the White House photographer, I always thought of you as fairly apolitical, frankly. And I know that you were also the former photographer for President Reagan. And you've really, until the Trump Administration, never criticized anyone or said anything political in any way. So what is it about this moment and this president that has -- that has changed you?
SOUZA: I mean, I think what's changed me is what I said. I think he disrespects the Office of the Presidency and he disrespects other people. He bullies people, he lies, he doesn't -- he calls you guys the enemy of the people. He doesn't believe our own intelligence agencies, he trashes his own attorney general and what he calls his Justice Department. So it's just -- there's just too many things that is not normal for a president to be doing.
TAPPER: You also included some light-hearted posts. As I said, this is a book mixed with seriousness and some fun and it is called Shade. This Halloween themed one, this is President Obama greeting Halloween trick or treaters. This is hours after President Trump tweeted witch hunt in response to Robert Mueller's investigation. You wrote, a different kind of witch hunt. So you're having some fun.
SOUZA: I'm having some fun. And I think -- especially on Instagram, I'm trying to inject some humor and trying to be somewhat respectful, too, in the way that I criticize. Certainly, I think I am being more respectful than he is on Twitter.
TAPPER: Pete Souza, great to see you again. Thanks so much. The book is Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents.
SCIUTTO: Thanks so much for watching this special edition of THE LEAD, I'm Jim Sciutto. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.