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Trump: "America First"; Mattis Tapped for Pentagon; Angst Over Petraeus; Kerry to Address Carnage in Aleppo. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired December 2, 2016 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:05] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: From now on, it's going to be America first. OK? America first.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump launching his "thank you" tour, vowing to lift up the working class and put this country first.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN ANCHOR: The president-elect announcing his pick for secretary of defense. But the retired general he selected will need special clearance from Congress before assuming the post.

ROMANS: High anxiety on the GOP over the prospect of David Petraeus being picked for secretary of state. Why top party operatives would rather take a pass on the former CIA director.

Good morning, everybody. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

RIPLEY: And I'm Will Ripley. TGIF. I'm in for John Berman.

ROMANS: Nice to see you.

RIPLEY: Good to be with you again.

It is 4:00 a.m. on the East.

And, first up this morning, Donald Trump in vintage form on the first leg of his thank you tour. The president-elect delivering an America first message to thousands of supporters in Cincinnati last night. He called on the country to come together and seemed to be reveling in the moment after hunkering down for three weeks of meetings.


TRUMP: This is the moment. This is our chance. This is our window for action. This is the hour when the great deeds can be done and our highest hopes can come true. We're going to do it, folks. We're going to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RIPLEY: That almost felt like a time warp as you watch this last night because the Cincinnati rally had the look and feel of so many Donald Trump campaign events that propelled the president-elect to victory. And he clearly was in his element.

We get more now from senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Will, true to form, Donald Trump pulled no punches at this rally here in Cincinnati, doing the equivalent of an election touchdown dance. Trump railed against the news media and he vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare and build a wall on the U.S./Mexico border.

But the big news of the night came when Trump announced he's going to pick retired General James Mattis as his next defense secretary. Here's what he had to say at this rally in Cincinnati.

TRUMP: We are going to appoint Mad Dog Mattis as our secretary of defense.


They say he's the closest thing to General George Patton that we have, and it's about time. It's about time.

ACOSTA: Trump made that announcement despite the fact that his own transition spokesman Jason Miller announced that no decision had been made on defense secretary.

Trump has more stops on this so-called "thank you" tour planned for next week -- Will and Christine.


ROMANS: Now that retired General James Mattis is the nominee for defense secretary, he's going to need special clearance from Congress to assume the post. A decades-old statute requires a civilian leader of the military to be retired at least seven years to qualify for the appointment. General Mattis retired from active duty three years ago.

A Trump transition official tells CNN the president-elect does not expect a problem getting Congress to waive the requirement. The requirement is really critical for the balance of power. This is ingrained in sort of American democratic traditions which set the United States apart from so many countries where, you know, the military has a lot of power and can stage a coup. This is about civilian control of the mi1itary and balance of power. The president is the commander in chief.

So. very interesting how the tradition of that would have to be -- you know, it would take more than just a Senate confirmation for him to get --

RIPLEY: And this congressional waiver only happened once before, in 1950, I believe.

ROMANS: Right.

RIPLEY: Trump did make lots of promises at that Ohio rally, vowed to improve the lives of working class Americans and he really made this a priority, dismantling the NAFTA trade agreement. The president-elect assuring his supporters, we're all going to be happy.


TRUMP: Now is the time to embrace the one thing that truly unites us. You know what that is? America, America. It's America.


Because when America's unified, nothing is beyond our reach, I mean that. You're going to see. You're going to see.

We're going to have a country that was never so great. You watch, in so many different ways.

You hear a lot of talk about how globalized world. But the relationships people value in this country are local -- family, city, state, country. They're local.

We'll compete in the world. We want to compete in the world. But we're going to compete in the world where it's a two-way road, not a one-way road. The advantages are going to come back to our country. And they haven't for many, many years.

There is no global anthem, no global currency, no certificate of global citizenship.

[04:05:02] We pledge allegiance to one flag, and that flag is the American flag.


ROMANS: Now, the Trump "thank you" tour might be more accurately described as a victory lap. The president-elect making a stop at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis where he just saved many hundreds of jobs.

As CNN's Martin Savidge tells us, Trump's visit left a lot of hard-to- please Hoosiers impressed.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Will. Good morning, Christine.

There are still a lot of people in Indianapolis that are in a state of shock, a good shock, because they never really truly believed that Carrier could be prevented from taking hundreds of jobs down to Mexico as it said it was going to do back in February. Yesterday, President-elect Donald Trump, Vice President-elect Mike

Pence, also the governor of Indiana, showed up and they were given almost a heroes welcome at the Carrier plant. It's a hand-select group of employees that took them on a tour of the facility, but it was all smiles. It was all handshakes.

And it was then during a speech that Trump made a revelation that really surprised a lot of people, implying that he never really thought he could save Carrier either. Here's his words.

TRUMP: I'll never forget about a week ago, I was watching the nightly news. They had a gentleman, worker, great guy, handsome guy. He said something to the effect, "No, we're not leaving, because Donald Trump promised us that we're not leaving." And I never thought I made that promise. And then they played my statement, and I said, "Carrier will never leave," but that was a euphemism. I was talking about Carrier like all other companies from here on in, because they made the decision a year and a half ago.

But he believed that that was, that I could understand it. I actually said, I didn't make it, I said I did make it, but I didn't mean it quite that way.

SAVIDGE: All told, it looks as though around 800 jobs have been saved at Carrier. Carrier also, according to Donald Trump, is going to invest about $16 million in facilities in the U.S. Indiana is giving Carrier about $7 million over ten years.

But, again, many people never thought they would see this day -- Will and Christie.


ROMANS: Really revealing those comments from the president-elect there.

While at the Carrier plant, Donald Trump fired a warning at other companies looking to ship jobs overseas.


TRUMP: Companies are not going to leave the United States anymore without consequences. Not going to happen. It's not going to happen.

If they say it's not presidential to call up these massive leaders of business, I think it's very presidential. And if it's not presidential, that's OK. That's OK, because actually like doing it.


ROMANS: It's almost something we've never seen before, right? It has been sort of accepted for years that these companies were going to leave. And now, you've got a president-elect picking up the phone, calling CEOs.

Trump also had leverage while negotiating this deal. Carrier's parent company is a company called United Technologies. It earns $5.6 billion in revenue from government contracts last year. That's 10 percent of its total sales come directly from the federal government, and, of course, the federal government, that's you, right? That's taxpayers, that's us.

The government also pays for $1.5 billion of their research and development costs, that's right, the taxpayer pays for the research and development costs of United Technologies. Now, it's unclear if he mentioned these contracts in negotiations. But even if he didn't, the United Technologies CEO, no question must have been thinking about them.

RIPLEY: And the tax incentives that Carrier receives, $11 million or so, I mean, it's p in the bucket compared to the impact if the president-elect were to bring these multibillion defense contracts into question.

ROMANS: There's also the issue here of the president promising that he's going to have a more business friendly environment, with fewer regulations and lower corporate taxes.

If you are an American CEO right now, one of these big multinational firms, you want to be working with him. You want to be a voice at the table, right? You want to be in the negotiations of what those tax laws going to look like.

RIPLEY: So, the question, though, will other companies who were planning to leave hope for some of these incentives?

ROMANS: That's right, that's right.

RIPLEY: And that's what some people are asking this morning.

Democrats more than a little nervous this morning about a meeting today between President-elect Trump and Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. There are reports that the red state Democrat who, and this is important, she is known for voting across party lines, and she is being considered for several key cabinet posts. Democratic leaders are panicking, because if she joins the Trump administration, her seat in the U.S. Senate would likely be filled by a Republican.

Listen to our Manu Raju trying to pin Senator Heitkamp down.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Are you open to taking a position in the Trump administration?

SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Well, I think it's absolutely critical to have a conversation. I think it's good for my state, it's good for the work I do here to understand and share some priorities for the country and for the state of North Dakota and I look forward to that discussion.

[04:10:04] RAJU: There's some speculation it could be Ag or Interior. Have you had -- are you thinking about that?

HEITKAMP: I have no idea. Honestly, you know as much as I know.


RIPLEY: That certainly sounds like she's open to the idea. Democratic Party leaders have already met privately with Heitkamp. They're urging her not to accept a position in the Trump administration.

ROMANS: Republican leaders are growing increasingly edgy about the prospect of David Petraeus being nominated for secretary of state. One GOP senator telling CNN, there is a, quote, "high level of angst" about the former CIA director because of his conviction for mishandling classified information. Top party operatives believe a Petraeus pick would spark a major confirmation fight in the first weeks of the Trump administration.

RIPLEY: With a lot of people saying, hey, how come Hillary was criticized so much, and now, Republicans are supporting Petraeus, despite the fact that he's high qualified and viewed probably as one of the candidates with the most global experience.

ROMANS: His expertise is still sought, you know? That's what's so interesting about this. You know, it is the classified material information and, you know, you'd have to talk to his probation officer if he took this job. Interesting.

RIPLEY: More political news. Donald Trump filing a legal motion to block a recount in Michigan. It's a 36-page document calling the attempt a farce. Trump's lawyers arguing the effort being launched by Green Party candidate Jill Stein sows doubts regarding the legitimacy of the presidential election and also they say creates constitutional chaos, threatening to knock the Electoral College, quote, "off its hinges".

ROMANS: All right. Eleven minutes past the hour.

A grim discovery in Tennessee, raging wildfires claiming three more lives. The weekend forecast not looking good.


[04:15:44] ROMANS: Sadly, we have some grim news to tell you about out of Tennessee. Eleven people now confirmed dead. These wildfires, they're still burning in the eastern part of the state. Crews are combing through debris in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, they're looking for any signs of life. Firefighters facing dry conditions right through Sunday morning this weekend. So, the weather is not going to help here. They fear -- firefighters fear that could restart fires that haven't been completely doused.

RIPLEY: No break for people in Tennessee.

And another sad story. The plan that crashed in the mountains of Medellin, Colombia, earlier this week, we are learning this morning, it was out of fuel, completely, when it went down. Nearly all the members of a Brazilian soccer club that chartered that flight were killed.

Investigators are confirming they found no traces of fuel at the crash site, which does match up with the radio calls from the pilot saying that he was having massive electrical problems and was out of fuel. He declared an emergency just before crashing. He was only miles from the airport.

Seventy-one people were killed. Incredibly, six people survived and are still in hospital recovering from their injuries. Investigators are trying to figure out how did this plane take off without enough fuel, how did it run out of fuel?

ROMANS: And I think the charter operation that run that flight has been grounded in Bolivia at the moment while they investigate this.

French President Francois Hollande announcing he will not seek a second term in office. Hollande's popular rating has been sinking for months. His presidency overshadowed by a series of terror attacks. Hollande is the first incumbent president in France to not seek reelection in 58 years. His socialist party must now find a replacement in time for elections in the spring.

RIPLEY: Four percent approval ratings --

ROMANS: That's something.

RIPLEY: It's how low it sank.

So, there's a political scandal really consuming a key U.S. ally in Asia. South Korea's opposition parties have agreed to introduce a motion in parliament to impeach President Park Geun-hye. Now, they admit that they will need some members of Park's own party to join them in order to pass this measure. But there have been massive protests in Seoul that continue -- have been ongoing for weeks. There is a vote scheduled for next week.

President Park, she is really consumed right now in this devastating corruption scandal. She continues to deny any wrongdoing and she's already apologized to the people of South Korea, and it's now even indicating that she might be willing to resign before his term is up.

ROMANS: All right. Disgraced former New York lawmaker Anthony Weiner hit with a $65,000 fine. The penalty comes after an audit by the campaign finance board found Weiner improperly used his 2013 mayoral campaign funds. Auditors found the cash was used to pay for things like a personal cell phone and dry-cleaning. No comment from the former congressman.

RIPLEY: The crisis in Aleppo growing more dire by the hour. Secretary of State Kerry is preparing to meet today with his Russian counterpart. Can he stop the daily slaughter of civilians, including innocent children?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:22:56] RIPLEY: Friends and neighbors will gather later today to mark a somber anniversary in San Bernardino, California. One year ago today, 14 people died, 22 others were hurt at a holiday party. A couple claiming they were carrying out orders from ISIS opened fire. Police later killed the husband and wife in a shootout. Now, police are still not clear what motivated their deadly rampage.

ROMANS: The latest now in a humanitarian crisis still unfolding in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry set to meet with Russia's foreign minister, as the fighting and bloodshed in Eastern Aleppo intensifies. The U.N. calling the bombardment of civilians a, quote, "descent into hell", as thousands tried to flee before the next round of air assaults.

CNN's Muhammad Lila in neighboring Istanbul with the very latest.

And the issue here for so many civilians is, they have nowhere to go in some cases, and they don't trust these corridors, these safe corridors. You know, it must be terrifying.

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, the biggest question is, if you want to escape, really the only safe way that you can escape is to go into the arms of those people that have been bombing your neighborhood. So, it's a very difficult proposition that a lot of people face there.

The latest U.N. numbers suggest 31,000 people have had to flee their homes. The situation is so bad that the U.N. sent in a team to a neighborhood that had been retaken by government forces from the rebels. When a team arrived in that neighborhood, they found it deserted. There were basically no civilians left.

Now, we do know there's been some diplomatic talks about opening up a possible humanitarian corridor. But just today, a coalition of 37 NGOs from around the world, one of them including the Syrian American Medical Association put forth a proposal for relief supplies to be airdropped into the besieged part of the city.

This is part of a statement that they put out. And it shows just how dire the situation is. They say, "All the hospitals in eastern Aleppo have been bombed. The injured now have nowhere to turn. Our people are on the brink of annihilation, yet the world has failed to take any meaningful action to stop Eastern Aleppo's suffering or provide basic resources to those in need."

[04:25:02] Now, I mentioned, a lot of diplomatic talks going under way about the possibility of opening up a humanitarian corridor. Those talks involve Syria, Russia, the United States and the rebel groups on the ground. We are expecting some possible developments in the next couple hours, and we're going to stay on top of all of them as we monitor the situation -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Muhammad Lila, thank you so much for that, from Istanbul this morning.

RIPLEY: Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin evacuated from the South Pole. Doctors say he was dangerously ill and was sent to a hospital in New Zealand. Aldrin apparently has fluid in his lungs. Doctors say he is responding well to antibiotics.

The 86-year-old was in the South Pole as part of a tour group. Interestingly, people fly from Chile often to go to the South Pole.

ROMANS: Is that so?

RIPLEY: You have to acclimatize. It's pretty physically grueling and then, you know, they sell as in, in a few steps, you can walk around the whole world. So, that's what he's doing here.

ROMANS: Interesting. Yes, 86 years old and he is still incredibly active. They just named the junior high school in his home town after him. He was there, you know, to adoring fans of all ages.

RIPLEY: Good for him. Hopefully, he's going to pull through. It sounds like he'll be okay.

ROMANS: All right. Best of luck to you, Buzz Aldrin.

All right. Donald Trump embarking on his victory/thank you tour, calling on Americans to come together, promising in short order, we're all going to be happy. On the road with the president-elect, next.