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Trump Speaks with Intel Chief James Clapper; Senate Confirmation Hearings; Trump's Complex Business Ties in Asia; Trump to Transfer, But Not Sell Business to Sons; Michelle Obama's Last Appearance on "Tonight Show". Aired 12-1a ET
Aired January 12, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:12] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.
Ahead this hour:
Donald Trump takes aim at CNN over intel reporting calling it fake news.
And the President-Elect finally admits that Russia hacked the U.S. Election but still (AUDIO GAP) for Vladimir Putin.
Also ahead, building a wall between the Trump business and the White House -- why some experts say this new plan doesn't go far enough.
Hello everybody. Great to have you with us. I'd like to welcome our viewers all around the world. I'm John Vause. The first hour of NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.
The top U.S. intelligence chief is trying to clear the air about recent leaks concerning Donald Trump. James Clapper says he spoke with the President-Elect by phone Wednesday night. Clapper appeared to address a document which includes allegations about Trump's ties to Russia.
Clapper says, "I emphasize that this document is not a U.S. intelligence community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC," -- the intelligence community. He went on to say, "However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security."
The President-Elect did offer a major reversal on Russia during his news conference on Wednesday.
CNN's Jim Sciutto reports.
DONALD TRUMP (R), U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: As far as hacking I think it was Russia. JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Tonight for the
first time, President-Elect Donald Trump accepting the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia is to blame for the unprecedented attack on the 2016 election process and then immediately watering down that admission in the very same sentence.
TRUMP: But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.
SCIUTTO: Still the remarks are the most definitive that he has made after months of openly doubting the intelligence community's assessment which includes that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the operation.
TRUMP: He shouldn't have done it. I don't believe he'll be doing it more now.
SCIUTTO: The President-Elect's reversal comes after the nation's intelligence chiefs briefed Trumps on their classified findings last week.
CNN first reported that at the same briefing, President-Elect Trump was presented with documents alleging that Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about him.
TRUMP: It's phony stuff.
SCIUTTO: Today Trump angrily denied the contents of those claims accusing the intelligence chiefs of leaking the allegations.
TRUMP: I think it was disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out.
SCIUTTO: He went on to say that he is simply too cautious when he is traveling for the Russians to have anything damning on him.
TRUMP: I am extremely careful. I'm surrounded by bodyguards. I'm surrounded by people. And I always tell them -- anywhere -- but I always tell them if I'm leaving this country, be very careful because in your hotel rooms and no matter where you go you're going to probably have cameras. I'm not referring just to Russia, but I would certainly put them in that category.
SCIUTTO: The allegations reigniting questions about Donald Trump's ties to Russia which he has often touted in the past.
TRUMP: I was in Moscow a couple of months ago. I own the Miss Universe Pageant and they treated me so great. Putin even sent me a present.
SCIUTTO: In 2013, Trump brought his Miss Universe pageant to Moscow. Today Trump maintains that he has no connections to Russia and CNN has not been able to find any current business operations there.
TRUMP: I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we've stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia.
SCIUTTO: Asked if Russia's hacking was intended to help him get elected Trump suggested that in his view that would be a plus.
TRUMP: If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks -- that's called an asset, not a liability. Now, I don't know that I'm going to get along with Vladimir Putin. I hope I do. But there's a good chance I won't. And if I don't, do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me? Does anybody in this room really believe that? Give me a break.
SCIUTTO: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has now released a statement. He says that he spoke directly with President- Elect Donald Trump about the intelligence brief on Friday and immediately after referencing those memos that document that CNN was the first to report he said the following. "Part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provide with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security."
[00:05:03] In effect confirming that that document was included in the briefing as CNN was first to report though President-Elect Trump and his advisers denied today. The Director of National Intelligence contradicting that in his statement.
Jim Sciutto, CNN -- Washington.
VAUSE: Joining me here in Los Angeles talk radio host Mo Kelly, CNN political commentator John Phillips and in Moscow CNN contributor Jill Dougherty. Thank you all for coming in.
Ok. Mo, first to you, at least now the President-Elect is admitting that, you know, there was Russian involvement in hacking, you know, the U.S. Election but it seems that you know, he is still handling Russia, the bear with kid gloves here.
MO KELLY, TALK RADIO HOST: Yes. It's a step in the right direction but it does not solidify his relationship that he's going to have with the intelligence community. Is he going to take the intelligence community at its word or is he going to fight it every step of the way if they offer something which is not in lock step with what he believes because he was adamant a week ago and now he is walking that back.
I mean that's progress in a certain degree but I'm not so sure that that is going to work long term.
VAUSE: And John, you know, Donald Trump did have some very harsh words, in fact, probably the harshest words in that news conference. He had -- for the intelligence community he made this Nazi reference. He also put it up in a tweet as well.
This is an unprecedented relationship for a new president with the intelligence community and it does seem that it could create a lot of problems in a very short time span. JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Somebody leaked that
document. Somebody leaked that document specifically to harm President-Elect Trump and I think what you saw today at the press conference was that frustration.
I'm happy to see that he is now stating that Russia was behind the hacking because I believe that Russia was behind the hacking. I believe as Mitt Romney said in 2012 they are our largest strategic enemy globally going right now.
That being said, the attitude that he has about charming Russia is not uncommon among U.S. Presidents. Go back to again 2012 when you had Barack Obama mocking Mitt Romney for what he said and saying that he wanted a reset with Russia. You can go all the way back to FDR who tried to strike a relationship with Uncle Joe Stalin.
This is what presidents do. They go in, they think that they are deal makers, they think that they're charmers. And then after they deal with the Russians for a period of time they say maybe these guys are not as nice as I thought they were.
VAUSE: Jill Dougherty, you're in Moscow, you know, we heard from the President-Elect saying that it would be a good thing if Putin likes him. That would be considered to be an asset. Does Vladimir Putin actually like anybody?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we won't know, I guess. But I think Vladimir Putin is a very canny person probably because of his KGB background. And also just the way he is. He assesses people. He sizes them up.
And I think the nice things that he said about Donald Trump, he knows, are things that Donald Trump would love to hear; the personal references, et cetera.
I mean Vladimir Putin is out for Russia's interests. He's not going to be swayed by, I think, any so-called friendship with any other leader. It's what is in it for Russia.
So it's nice to hear this but I think in the end it means nothing. And I'm not quite sure that it means anything to Donald Trump either in the long run. He does believe that he can sway people and, you know, use that kind of relationship. But, certainly President Putin isn't going to really buy that in the long run.
VAUSE: We also heard from Donald Trump saying that you know, being essentially very dismissive of our reporting about Russian intelligence agencies gathering information on Donald Trump that he was monitored to some degree when he was visiting Moscow a couple of years ago.
Is Donald Trump, you know, of four years ago back in 2013 the kind of person who the Russians would closely monitor, that they would gather information on or all of this, of course, despite those denials which we heard from the Kremlin? DOUGHERTY: Oh, I think, yes. As you said, they say they do not
collect, as it is called, "kompromat" (ph) which compromising material. But of course, Donald Trump -- I have no knowledge of Donald Trump and whether information was collected.
But in general, yes, of course, the Russian intelligence services are interested in anyone they think might be useful. It could be a business person. It could be a journalist. It could be a politician. It could just be some, you know, some person who comes to Moscow that they think would be useful.
In essence it's a gigantic vacuum cleaner that collects information, stores it and then maybe sometimes uses it immediately or puts it away to be used in the future. So I -- based on my experience I do not believe the Kremlin when it says it does not collect "kompromat".
[00:09:59] VAUSE: OK, everybody. We'll take a short break and we'll be back in just a moment.
You're watching CNN.
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody.
We're talking to Jill Dougherty in Moscow; also here in Los Angeles with me is L.A. radio host Mo Kelly and John Philips CNN political commentator. We're talking about Donald Trump's long awaited press conference.
And Mo -- during that the President-Elect did admit, you know, that the Russians were behind the hacking but he also went to say well, you know, maybe hacking is not such a bad thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think it's bad and it shouldn't be done. But look at the things that were hacked. Look at what was learned from that hacking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Ok. I mean -- so there doesn't seem to be the outrage that there was this foreign government interfering with, you know, what is a sacred process in the United States.
KELLY: Yes, context is key. Our relationship with Russia in 2016, I would say is very different than 2012. If you want to say we want to be friends, or I'd like to be friends with Vladimir Putin, it's better if you say that before something that arguably could be construed as an act of war.
So our relationship going forward with Russia cannot be minimized, cannot be mitigated as far as what did happen. And if he admits that we were hacked on some level then I think the President-Elect should act accordingly.
VAUSE: Yes. Even Robert Gates is saying that there should be some push back on this to rebuild this relationship, John, with Russia.
PHILLIPS: Yes, I mean he was right. Russia was responsible for this or at least we believe Russia was responsible for this. But what did -- what was revealed from these hacks became a big issue in the campaign going all the way back to the DNC convention when Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign her position.
So I mean I think everything that he said checked out factually.
VAUSE: Ok. Well, Trump's nominee for secretary of State Rex Tillerson, his confirmation hearing before the Senate he was asked about Russia, obviously and he had a much tougher line when it came to Russia and the relationship with the U.S. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE DESIGNEE: I found the Russians to be very strategic in their thinking, very tactical and they generally have a very clear plan that they've laid before them.
So in terms of when I make the statement they're not unpredictable, if one is able to step back and understand what their long term motivation is, and you see that they're going to chart a course, then it's an understanding of how are they likely to carry that plan out? And where are all of the elements of that plan that are on the table? And in my view, the leadership of Russia has a plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So, Jill, some tough words there from Rex Tillerson when it came to Moscow; mixed messages if you like coming from this incoming Trump administration.
[00:14:59] DOUGHERTY: Yes, I think it's really notable. Let's look at what he said versus what President-Elect Trump has said. I mean, Mr. Tillerson said it's a fair assumption that Putin is behind the hacking.
Donald Trump didn't go that far. He mentioned Russia but he didn't talk about Putin.
He also said that Russia is a danger to the U.S. in essence. He said that on Ukraine, which was very interesting, he would have gone further than the Obama administration back when Russia was having its incursion into eastern Ukraine. Tillerson said he would have armed the government, the Ukraine government and he would have had some type of surveillance, aerial surveillance along the border to the east with Russia. So those are harder statements.
And then the other thing I think that we really have to note is that Mr. Tillerson admitting that he and Donald Trump have not had any type of substantive conversation about Russia. That's very surprising because Russia is going to be one of the key elements in the foreign policy of Donald Trump.
VAUSE: And John to you -- the point of a confirmation hearing is to get confirmed. Is there a suspicion that Tillerson is sort of, you know, bending his testimony if you like to what lawmakers actually want to hear?
PHILLIPS: I don't think so. I think what you are seeing play out now, we are used to seeing the partisan power plays in Washington, D.C. but there is also a separation of power partisan play that goes on -- power play that goes in Washington.
That's what's going on right now. Everyone thought that Jeff Sessions was going to be the one nominee that the Democrats do everything that they had to block. Well the Democrats are largely irrelevant because the Republicans have the 52 votes.
What you're seeing with Tillerson is you're seeing Republicans who are hawks on Russia forcing his feet to the fire and showing them that he shares their belief that Russia is an enemy state.
VAUSE: OK. John -- thank you very much for being with us, Mo Kelly, as well, and Jill Dougherty in Moscow -- thanks to you all.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.
Also during the President-Elect's news conference, well, this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Can you give us a chance?
TRUMP: Your organization is terrible.
ACOSTA: You are attacking our news organization. Can you give us a chance to ask the questions, sir?
TRUMP: Go ahead.
ACOSTA: Sir, can you say --
TRUMP: Quiet. Quiet.
ACOSTA: Mr. President-Elect, can you say categorically --
TRUMP: Go ahead. She's asking a question. Don't be rude.
ACOSTA: Mr. President-Elect can you give us a --
TRUMP: Don't be rude.
ACOSTA: -- for attacking us. Can you give us a question?
TRUMP: Don't be -- I'm not going to give you a question.
ACOSTA: Can you give us a question?
TRUMP: I'm not going to give you a question. ACOSTA: Can you state categorically --
TRUMP: You are fake news.
ACOSTA: Sir, can you state categorically that nobody -- no, Mr. President-Elect, that's not appropriate.
TRUMP: Go ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta was the one trying to ask that question. He joins us now from New York. Jim -- we'll get to the back and forth in a moment but in that clip we just played, you could hear applause. Who were the people clapping?
ACOSTA: John -- those were employees of Donald Trump who were in the room. They filled the area around us during that news conference and there are moments where they liked what the boss had to say and, of course, they applauded as employees tend to do sometimes.
But to just give our viewers some context as to what was going on there -- I just want to make sure we state it for that record -- was that Donald Trump repeatedly prior to that moment questioned the integrity of this news organization, CNN, and did so in a very harsh fashion referring to us as fake news and so on.
And I thought, you know given that, it was only fair and appropriate for us to have a chance to question him. To ask him a question about what was going on. He obviously did not agree with that. And I tried to persist as much as I could but he just obviously was not going to have it.
VAUSE: So just explain to us exactly what Donald Trump was complaining about and why he was refusing to take questions from you and from CNN?
ACOSTA: Well John -- you know, as we have been reporting over the last 24 to 48 hours, CNN has been reporting that the U.S. intelligence community last Friday went to Donald Trump with this two-page annex to an intelligence report essentially letting Donald Trump know that it was possible, not proven but possible that the Russians were collecting damaging information about him. CNN reported that.
Now, there are other news organizations that sort of glommed on to the story and took it much further. Donald Trump during this news conference tried to lump CNN and some of these other news organizations together. But, John -- keep in mind, what we reported is something we stand by and it's also something that other news organizations were reporting as well, it wasn't just CNN.
He singled out CNN for this sort of harsh attack and I thought, you know, this is the first time he's held a news conference in nearly six months, the first he's holding a news conference as President-Elect that we deserved the opportunity to follow up with a question. He did not allow that to occur and there was one moment during that press conference when I persisted several times where the press secretary, the incoming press secretary Sean Spicer threatened to throw me out of the news conference. He came up to me after the news conference was over and said what I had done was inappropriate and over the line.
[00:20:00] But John -- I just want to say, you know, I have covered four presidential campaigns, I've covered the White House under President Obama, I've never had a press secretary threaten to throw me out of a news conference. We were just trying to do our job.
VAUSE: Yes, that's how news conferences usually work. Reporters ask questions and the person being asked usually answers them in some fashion.
At the start of the news conference, what was interesting -- Donald Trump started by praising some news organizations. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I must say that I want to thank a lot of the news organizations here today because they looked at that nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies, who knows, but maybe the intelligence agencies, which would be a tremendous blot on their record if they in fact did that, a tremendous blot, because a thing like that should have never been written. It should never have been had and it should certainly never have been released.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Is this the media strategy going forward now for Donald Trump, a kind of divide and conquer of reporters?
ACOSTA: Well, to some extent that's how he waged his campaign -- John. It was a divisive campaign and Donald Trump rode that sort of angry hostile energy all the way to the White House.
I don't think it's going to work. I think that news organizations agencies by and large stand together and stand up for First Amendment rights here in the United States. And we're going to continue to do that.
Having said that, we are entering a period that is rather unprecedented in which, you know, the President of the United States -- in ten days he will be the President of the United States -- feels it necessary to really go after the news media in ways that we have never seen before. It's going to be a challenge not only to the press but to the First Amendment writ large I think for years to come. And, you know, it's something that we're just going to have to stand up for and make sure that our rights are protected.
VAUSE: You are in for a very interesting four years. I wish you well. Jim -- thanks so much for being with us.
ACOSTA: Thanks -- John. VAUSE: And Donald Trump's choice for secretary of State was asked
about the disputed South China Sea and Beijing's construction of artificial islands at his senate confirmation hearing. Rex Tillerson was blunt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TILLERSON: The island-building in the South China Sea, the declaration of control of air space and waters over the Sekaku Islands with Japan, both of those are illegal actions. They are taking territory or control or declaring control of territories that are not rightfully China's.
The island-building in the South China Sea itself in many respects, in my view, building islands and then putting military assets on those islands is akin to Russia's taking of Crimea.
It's taking of territory that others lay claim to. The U.S. has never taken a side in the issues, but what we have advocated for is look, that's a disputed area, there are international processes who are dealing with that and China should respect those international processes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: CNN's Asia Pacific editor, Andrew Stevens joins me now live from Hong Kong. So Andrew -- Tillerson went on to say that China should actually be denied access to those man-made islands. All of this seems to be throwing, you know, gasoline on to an already burning relationship.
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: Extraordinarily blunt comments from Rex Tillerson at that hearing -- John. You're right. He said that the U.S. has to send a signal that China has to stop building these islands, building on these islands and they have to not be allowed to have access to those islands. He didn't say how that would happen.
But on top of that comment about equating this to what Russia did to Crimea, annexing Crimea, they were very, very strong words indeed.
And it's likely that we should get a response from China fairly soon. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have that maybe in a couple of hours from now, so it will be interesting to see what they say. But I suspect they will be enraged by these sorts of comments.
Remember, John -- this relationship is spiraling at the moment. There are questions over the whole One-China policy that China holds completely sacrosanct and Donald Trump has questioned. And also there is that ongoing dispute about -- or the threats about trade as well, slapping a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports into the U.S.
VAUSE: And when it comes to Taiwan, it seems China is already sending a fairly clear military message to Donald Trump and Taiwan itself is actually responding in kind. STEVENS: Well look, China was actually trying to play down this.
You're referring to the fact that its one and only aircraft carrier steamed up through the Strait of Taiwan that separates Taiwan from Mainland China.
Now this aircraft carrier was not in Taiwan's territorial waters but it was in a Taiwanese air identification zone. So the Taiwanese scrambled jet fighters. They sent naval vessels out to basically shadow this flotilla of the Chinese.
[00:24:58] China said look, it's a passage that we use. We need to get our ships back to home base. But a lot of experts are saying this is -- that China is sending this message of intimidation because we've just had a visit by the new president of Taiwan to the U.S. China tried to shut that down. That didn't happen.
And also the new president also phoned Donald Trump to congratulate him on his presidency. That was breaking protocol as well. China is very, very sensitive about this One-China policy where Taiwan is a part of China, not an independent country.
VAUSE: Yes. It is a raw nerve to say the least.
We also heard Donald Trump on Wednesday talking about this multibillion-dollar deal which he turned down. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Over the weekend I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai with a very, very, very amazing man -- a great, great developer from the Middle East. Hussein, DAMAk, a friend of mine, great guy; and was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai, a number of deals. And I turned it down.
I didn't have to turn it down because as you know I have a no-conflict situation because I'm president which is I didn't know about that until about three months ago but it's a nice thing to have. But I don't want to take advantage of something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So no deal in Dubai but there seems to be plenty of business opportunities which are playing themselves out across Asia.
STEVENS: Well, Donald Trump's got 144 companies internationally across 25 countries and some of those countries are in Asia. And, you're right, John -- there is business going on in Asia.
Perhaps not so much in China as you would imagine given the vast potential in China. But certainly on the ground there are significant developments in the Philippines, in Indonesia -- take a look.
STEVENS: Happy families in the Philippines, this promotional video for the soon to be opened Trump Tower in Manila also underlines a close family relationship between Trump Philippines real estate magnate Jose Antonio.
TRUMP: It's really great working with Century Properties and the Antonio family.
STEVENS: Antonio's Century Properties is building Trump Tower in the Makati business district of Manila. Trump doesn't own it but licensing deals are lucrative for him.
According to SEC forms he claims he made more than $9 million for the use of his name globally in 2015.
JOSE ANTONIO, REAL ESTATE MAGNATE: We are bringing Trump to the Philippines because --
STEVENS: But Trump and Antonio could soon be talking politics officially. In October, Antonio was appointed the Philippines special envoy to the U.S. focusing on trade.
TRUMP: Do they like me in Indonesia?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Thank you very much.
STEVENS: Trump's business interests also stretched to Indonesia. This site on the tourist side of the Bali will be Asia's first Trump resort. Building is scheduled to start this year.
The man behind this project is media tycoon Hary Tanoe, a man with political ambitions of his own. He ran unsuccessfully for vice president of Indonesia in 2014. He and Trump are also partners in a hotel in west Java.
Hotels are also on the radar for Trump in China. Trump Hotel CEO Eric Danziger told the "Nanfang Daily", a newspaper based in southern China that the company plans to open hotels in 20 to 30 cities across the country, both under the Trump brand and another one of its brands called (inaudible).
CNN has reviewed Trump's most recent financial disclosures and found that he has a total 144 business interests across 25 countries. With growing concerns about potential conflicts of interests that is a lot to untangle as he prepares to assume to the presidency of the United States.
STEVENS: And John nine of those 144 companies are China-oriented companies. They have been listed in Delaware, in Akin, Delaware -- one in the U.S. They seem to be related to international licensing agreements. But certainly Donald Trump does have some corporate structures at least to deal with China even though at this stage at least it looks like he's not on the ground in a big way in China.
VAUSE: Ok. Andrew -- thank you. Andrew Stevens there, wrapping it all together. Appreciate it Andrew. Thanks.
We'll take a short break here. When we come back Donald Trump's plan for handling both his business and the presidency -- does it all go far enough? Details in a moment.
[00:33:00] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.
For the first time, Donald Trump has said he believes Russia was behind the cyber attack during the U.S. presidential election. But he says other countries and other people are involved in hacking as well. Trump also said he would turn over his businesses to his sons to avoid conflict of interests.
Taiwan has reportedly deployed fighter jets and (INAUDIBLE) after China's aircraft carrier sailed through the Taiwan's strait on Wednesday. This comes amid high tensions in the region over the One China policy and territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
The Afghan Taliban has released video, which appears to show two teachers begging Donald Trump to make a deal for their release. The men, one from Australia, the other from United States were abducted five months ago in Kabul. CNN has not independently verified the video.
VAUSE: Mexico's president is saying, once again, his country will not pay for Donald Trump's border wall. In televised address, Enrique Pena Nieto said both countries have a responsibility to deal with undocumented immigrants. Trump says U.S. tax dollars would get the wall started and then Mexico will reimburse the costs.
President-elect Donald Trump says he announced a plan to step back from his company to run the country. He says he will transfer business owning to a trust run by his sons. He won't sell his stake in the company and he insists there will be no conflict of interests.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I'm going to be doing is my two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric are going to be running the company. They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They're not going to discuss it with me. Again, I don't have to do this. They're not going to discuss it with me. And with that I'm going to bring up Sheri Dillon and she's going to go -- these papers are just some of the documents that I've signed turning over complete and total control to my sons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Attorney Sara Azari joins me here now for more on this.
[00:35:00] OK, so it's all still a bit hazy and muddily exactly, how this all will work. But from what we know, from the news conference on Wednesday, does this all go far enough, maybe not in a legal sense, but you know, to protect the president from allegations of corruption or even the appearance of corruption?
SARA AZARI, TRIAL ATTORNEY: I don't think so. I think it's very murky, John. It's murky, and actually to me, it goes even beyond that. It smells, walks and talks conflict of interests and a constitutional violation. And the reason is because he is not giving up his ownership in the Trump organization and the assets. He's putting them in a trust that's not a blind trust. It's a trust run by his two sons and he says that that he's doing it in a very professional manner because they're not going to talk about it.
But how do the American people know that when the Trump family is sitting around the dinner table, that they are absolutely -- they're going to talk about the weather and everything else, but not about the business dealings of the organization.
So the break and the distance that he's creating, the buffer that he is trying to say that he's created is simply not clean enough. You know, much like the Mexican wall, it needs to be a wall, literally - metaphorically, I should say.
VAUSE: With that in mind, because the accusation here is a lot of smoke and mirrors going on with this arrangement. So what should the arrangement look like?
AZARI: The arrangement should be a blind trust. Either he needs to divest these business interests which he doesn't want to do, he doesn't want to, you know, short sail of his assets or he needs to create a blind trust where he has no relationship with the trustees and the beneficiaries where they're not his associates, they're not his family members and then he can say that he has absolutely nothing do with the business dealings, the organization.
VAUSE: The lawyers they say, they can't sell it because it would be a fire sale.
VAUSE: They take a huge hit. So, I mean, he can sell it, right?
AZARI: He can.
VAUSE: He's just going to lose a lot of money.
AZARI: He's just -- it's going to cost him a lot of money, because once the Trump name is removed from these assets, it's not worth as much.
VAUSE: OK. Well, Donald Trump said he could. If he wanted, he could remain Trump CEO and he could also be President Trump.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I could actually run my business and run government at the same time. I don't like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to. I would be the only one that would be able do that. You can't do that in any other capacity. But as a president, I could run the Trump organization, great, great company, and I could run the company -- the country. I'd do a very good job, but I don't want to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: It's a great, great company. I mean, legally, he is right, though, isn't he?
AZARI: I mean, maybe technically I disagree. I think that it is a violation of the constitution. It is clearly a conflict of interest. The president of the United States or any country for that matter has to put the interests of the country first.
And he's dealing with a -- a business that is a sprawling globally, with all kinds of moneys coming in and there's just no way that he could do both of those things.
The reason he says that, you know, I just don't like the way it looks because it is a conflict. It is a conflict.
AZARI: And -- anyway.
VAUSE: One of the issues is this emoluments clause, which is in the constitution.
VAUSE: This is the, you know, the part of the constitution which deals with the president not receiving foreign titles or salary.
AZARI: As anti-bribery.
VAUSE: Exactly from a foreign government. His lawyers came up with a work around in particular with relation to the Trump hotels and any money they may receive from public foreign governments.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHRI DILLON, TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: We are announcing today that he is going to voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotels to the United States Treasury. This way, it is the American people who will profit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Does that work?
AZARI: No. I can appreciate her attempt to make that work, but it doesn't, because the minute those revenues are generated and remitted by the foreign state, there goes the violation of the constitutional clause.
VAUSE: Well, technically, because he has received them before...
AZARI: Correct. Correct.
VAUSE: ...giving them to the department.
AZARI: Correct, before it's turn over to the U.S. Treasury. So that little step that they're going to -- actually, you know, it's going to be to the benefit of the American people doesn't really absolve the illegality under the constitution.
VAUSE: Is there a difference, you know, between the theory and the practicality. I mean, you know, this is -- this guy is already worth billions of dollars. He's not being president to make any more money so, you know, in reality someone staying at his hotel is not going to sway him.
AZARI: Yes, but he also doesn't want to lose money and lose this enterprise that he's built because he is going to be president for a term of four years and -- let's just say four years.
VAUSE: Maybe eight.
AZARI: Maybe, but let's start with four. You know, he doesn't want to lose what he's -- he's got to go back to this. I mean, this is what he's built for his family and for his, you know, for his legacy.
So, yes, I do understand that but I also think that's why he is not selling these assets because he doesn't fiscally want to suffer the dent in the empire, right?
VAUSE: OK. Sara, always good to speak with you. Thanks for coming in.
VAUSE: Appreciate it.
VAUSE: We'll take a short break.
When we come back, some bittersweet moments for Michelle Obama as she pays tribute to the president on late night television.
VAUSE: Michelle Obama is spending some of her final days as First Lady enjoying a few laughs on late night television. She joked with Jimmy Fallon about the relationship with her husband.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Barack, for proving you're not a lame duck, but my very own silver fox.
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON: Yes.
OBAMA: I'm angling for a good gift.
FALLON: Yes, he owes you one for that one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. "World Sport" is up next and then I will be back with another hour of news from all around the world. You're watching CNN.