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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Recount Petition Picking Up Steam; Panel Discusses Trump Picks. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 25, 2016 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PHILLIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: ...for ISIS leaders in a place like Syria or Iraq. I think the story gets more interesting when you move after inauguration in January because guaranteed, sometime in the first months of his administration, there will be some kind of problem.

For example, a firefight in Syria, we just lost a military officer, a tragedy in Syria this week, a hunt for somebody in Iraq, a missile development in North Korea. So I think whether or not you want to be part of the intelligence briefing process in Washington, facts will require him to pay attention at some point.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: And so his team, you know, Republicans are saying, we're all making way too much of this.

MUDD: Yes.

BERMAN: Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says, "National security is Donald Trump's number one priority. And I think he's taking it very seriously.

Look how many leaders he's met with, how many phone calls he's done, positions he's filled. People who are being critical need to get a life."

You know, is it that simple? People just need to get a life?

MUDD: At the moment. I mean, we're just a couple of weeks after the election. We know Vice President Pence -- Vice-President-elect Pence is receiving briefings regularly.

Again, there are some presidents who receive -- who have received intelligence second-hand. For example, Nixon didn't like the CIA.

He got his intelligence from his secretary of state and national security adviser Kissinger. George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush, were avid consumers.

So it depends on the personality of the president. Some presidents like to read more. They don't like oral briefings.

So we'll see what he thinks.

BERMAN: Mike Pence is, you're told, getting the daily briefing...

MUDD: Yes.

BERMAN: ...the vice president-elect. What does that mean? You know, is it often that you have sort of a surrogate who gets all the information and you depend on that person to pass it on to the president?

MUDD: At that point, I wouldn't see that as uncommon. Obviously, Mr. Trump has a lot of things on his plate right now.

I guarantee you that if there's something significant in the president's daily brief, that Pence will be passing it on to his boss, I think as the weeks go on and as we get into January and the inauguration, we should have a better sense of the rhythm. That is, when the vice -- when the president-elect doesn't have to worry about things like who's going to be secretary of state, will he be sitting in the oval office at 7:30 or 8:00 every morning for 20 minutes to hear about what's going on around the world?

I think there's a good chance of that. And I don't think what's happening now is necessarily a precedent for what will happen when he becomes president.

BERMAN: And it's interesting, you say that the big concerns right now are probably within the intelligence community itself because it feels like it may not have the ear the next four years that it has right now.

MUDD: Oh, heck, yes. I've been there. I remember one great story when -- when Bush 43, that is George W. Bush, was getting his briefings in Texas, one day, he turned to his briefer who was a friend of mine and said, pretty soon, I get to get the real stuff.

Now, the secret in that story, John, is at that point, he was getting the real stuff. So the intel guys were coming back to Langley.

I remember saying, oh, my word, when he becomes president, we better have something good to say because he doesn't think he's getting the real deal yet. It was a great story.

BERMAN: Right. Phil Mudd, thanks so much giving us your perspective.

MUDD: Thank you.

BERMAN: Really appreciate it. Happy Thanksgiving.

MUDD: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, the effort to recount vote in -- votes in three states, well, some people think it's picking up steam. Former presidential candidate Jill Stein, she's raised a whole lot of money to pay for this.

But will it really change anything? That's coming up. Plus, this is a somber first for the United States right now in its battles in the Middle East.

An American service member has died in Syria, details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right, we just got word that the President-elect Trump transition team will announce two staff-level jobs at some point today, people who will work inside the White House. We'll bring you that news when we get it.

While that's going on, there's still intrigue and speculation over who may get some of the big positions like secretary of state and battles over whether Mitt Romney should be the person to get that job. Joining us now to discuss, Basil Smikle, executive director for the New York State Democratic Party, Carl Higbie, a Donald Trump supporter, former Navy SEAL, was (ph) working on the transition, Alice Stewart, a CNN political commentator, former Ted Cruz communications director and CNN political commentator, Symone Sanders, former national press secretary for Bernie Sanders in 2016.

Carl Higbie, I want to start with you. You're the man on the inside of the Trump transition (ph)...

CARL HIGBIE, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, I wouldn't go that far (ph).

BERMAN: ...near the inside -- a heck of a lot near than any of us.

HIGBIE: I would say the media probably knows more about it than I do.

BERMAN: Well, what the heck is going on with this Kellyanne Conway stuff? What's going on with the very public feud over whether or not Mitt Romney should be secretary of state?

HIGBIE: Well, the biggest concern is that Mitt Romney didn't want to be secretary of state. He wanted to be president.

So is Mitt Romney going to reflect a Donald Trump presidency or when he goes overseas, is he going to do the Mitt Romney scene?

BERMAN: What's your advice, since a lot of people who are working for Trump right now seem to be giving their advice very publicly?

HIGBIE: My advice would be to let Trump decide this on his own. I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: No, that's not advice. That's not advice. Do you think -- do you think Mitt Romney would be a good pick or not?

HIGBIE: I don't know how -- you know, there's a lot people I'd pick over him, maybe Ambassador John Bolton, the former ambassador to the U.N., someone like that with extensive foreign policy. Look, I know Rudy Giuliani has been tossed around.

I don't know if he wants the job. But he's got significant foreign policy with his companies consulting overseas. I just don't know if Mitt Romney can cut the mustard. BERMAN: So a lot of people I would pick before him. That's the type

of language we heard from former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich.

Mike Huckabee also weighed in. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH: I will support whoever President-elect Trump picks because he has the right, I think, as the new president to build the team he wants to build. But I would suggest there are a lot of other people who are more qualified than Romney in foreign policy and who are also -- have not been as actively hostile as he's been.

MIKE HUCKABEE: It's not about that I don't care for Mitt personally. But I'm still very unhappy that Mitt did everything he could to derail Donald Trump.

He didn't just go after him from a standpoint of saying, I disagree with his policy on immigration or disagree with his policy on taxes. He attacked him on a personal level about his character, integrity, his honor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So Alice Stewart, the sort of public airing of grievances as it were over Mitt Romney, do you think it's constructive?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think it's a -- a surprise, clearly because Governor Huckabee and Newt Gingrich were loyal supporters to Donald Trump from the very beginning since they had the opportunity. And they're expressing their feelings and their concerns.

Look, any -- any person that's put up for these top jobs is going to -- are going to have supporters and they're going to have their critic. Mitt Romney clearly has been vocal in the past about his criticisms of Donald Trump.

Huckabee and Gingrich questioned whether or not he will be loyal. But I agree with what Ari Fleischer (ph) said earlier.

The -- the main questions you need to ask of these people are do they want the job and will they be loyal to the president if they receive the job. And I think with -- with the background of Mitt Romney, I think he would do a great job.

And the question is, whether or not he would be loyal. And it's up to Donald Trump.

There is also Giuliani is up there for consideration. There are questions and

concerns about his business ties with foreign -- foreign countries.

And that will come up in the confirmation process. So everyone that comes up, they will have the (ph) supporters and critics. But at the end of the day, clearly, it's Donald's -- Donald Trump's

decision. The good news is that the GOP has a deep bench for these top positions.

BERMAN: So that's looking forward to the next administration. Let's look back a little bit to (ph) this election because Jill Stein -- Dr. Jill Stein, who was the green party candidate, now wants a recount in three states, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, this after a bunch of computer scientists got together and said, hey, you know, we've looked at this.

We're concerned maybe there was some hacking. They don't have any proof there was hacking.

But they looked at some of the voting patterns. And they were concerned. I talked to Jill Stein this morning.

And this is what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JILL STEIN, FORMER PRESIDENT CANDIDATE: No, and the computer experts are very frank about this. We do not have a smoking gun.

On the other hand, we had a system which invites hacking, tampering and malfeasance. You shouldn't have to wait for the airplane to crash in order to have quality assurance on your airplane, in order to have safeguards to be sure it's not going to crash.

So it's very important that we look at the votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Basil, you want a recount right now?

BASIL SMIKLE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW YORK DEMOCRATIC PARTY: You know, as heartbreaking as this race was, as heartbreaking as the decision was, I think people are trying to find a way to move on. Listen, I'm an electorate from New York State actually.

So when I talk to people about what other electors in other states should do, I don't see (ph) -- I don't get the sense that everybody wants to say, OK, let's change our decision at the last minute and -- and -- and then vote Hillary Clinton in office. It's a -- there are fines, by the way, for some electors that do that in some states.

So you know, for -- while I'm not -- you know, while I think it's important to get to the right result, I do think that there are a lot of folks, including perhaps Secretary Clinton herself, that want to be able to move on and say, OK, how do we at least, you know, do the work that we need to do on the ground with -- with the Democratic Party going forward to -- to look at 2018.

BERMAN: Symone, it's interesting, it sounds like Basil's struggling to say, I don't think there should be a recount. I don't think they should bother with it. But I don't like the way it turned out. Well, what do you make of

what Dr. Stein is doing?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think frankly, the Democratic Party hasn't come out one way or another. And I think that's really important.

I've been on a couple of different calls with a couple of different people. And the answer is we don't know if the election was hacked in any way, shape or form.

There's no definitive evidence for it right now and no definitive evidence against it. So I mean, if -- if there is a thought out there and a doubt and Jill Stein wants to go out there and do the leg work, more power to her.

But I do think there are questions being raised around how Jill Stein is going about this process. There was one goal total that was put out there.

They quickly reached it about 3:00 a.m. the same day. And then they upped the goal.

And then there's this caveat and language on the website saying that there is no guarantees that we could -- we will actually achieve a recount. We'll try. So I guess, I think for myself, there are questions around where -- where is this money actually going.

Is it all going to this recount effort? Or is this padding the pockets of Jill Stein?

BERMAN: That's an interesting view.

Basil, you want to weigh in there?

SMIKLE: No, I mean, I think that's absolutely right. I think we, again, there are a lot of people that have a vested interest in -- in some kind of recount, if you will. But if you're -- if you, as an individual, if -- if Stein, as an individual raising money to do this, what is it really for, if there is really no smoking gun?

I mean, that's -- that I think is the key here. Without that smoking gun, I -- I wonder what actually is going to be the result, who's -- who's going to be hired to sort of help do this recount.

This is a massive effort. And I don't want it to be a willy-nilly process. I want it to be a real process.

And I -- I haven't seen that yet.

BERMAN: And Alice, it is notable that the Clinton team, you know, the people who were involved in the Clinton campaign, they're not part of this. And they haven't come out publicly and said that they're supporting this.

The DNC has very publicly kept its distance from it so far. And that in and of itself kind of sends a message.

STEWART: Oh, certainly. And look, I think more than anything, if there were -- was any voter irregularity or voter fraud, it absolutely positively should be investigated. Having served as former secretary of state in Arkansas, I can assure you that secretary of states in each of these three states that are in question and the election officials in these states, they would be the first ones to call for something to be looked at even further if there was a question.

They don't want to go down the history books as having an asterisk by their election results. They would want it to be free and fair and everything to be above board.

So I think the fact that the -- the Clinton campaign and others more interest -- with more of a vested interest in the election results other than Jill Stein have not come forward. I think that everyone can rest assured that the numbers stand.

And we should -- we should move on and support the President-elect Trump.

BERMAN: Is it, Carl -- Carl, is this just the kind of voter fraud you guys were concerned about before election day, the Trump team?

HIGBIE: Yes, but here is the -- here is the thing is...

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: It was a joke (ph). You can smile.

HIGBIE: Right, sure. But I mean, it has been a long Thanksgiving. The thing is here is this is -- I think this is an effort for Jill Stein to propel herself in the media to try to get some self- recognition for something whatever she plans to do next.

Additionally, they would have to flip all three states. Statistically, they're not going to do that.

BERMAN: Well, she says -- she says, by the way, she's not doing this to un-elect Donald Trump. She says it's not about flipping states.

It's just about counting.

HIGBIE: Yes.

BERMAN: But that -- that's her point.

Carl, Basil, Symone, Alice, thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate it, guys.

All right, we have an exclusive new look at the -- the fight to retake a key city from ISIS. CNN goes inside Mosul where families are begging for help. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: The U.S. has lost its first service member in the conflict in

Syria, killed by an IED blast. Officials expressed condolences to the family and friends and said, on this Thanksgiving, please be thankful that there are service members willing to take up the fight to protect our homeland from ISIL's hateful and brutal ideology.

In Iraq, the battle for Mosul is claiming hundreds of innocent lives. ISIS fighters are said to be killing civilians as Iraqi-led forces surround the city.

The Iraqi government has advised people in Mosul to stay in their homes since a large-scale exodus could be dangerous. CNN's Phil Black went inside the liberated part of Mosul in a firsthand look at this tragedy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These people have just lived through the horror of urban warfare. They cowered in their homes for days, prayers and white flags their only protection as Iraqi forces fought their way through the neighborhoods of Eastern Mosul against fierce ISIS resistance.

Now, there is little food, water or medicine, no electricity. But there's much relief.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ISIS is like a dark -- a dark thing on your chest.

BLACK: ISIS is like a dark thing on your chest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, dark thing.

BLACK: And it's gone now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dark -- the dark is gone.

BLACK: You can hear the fighting in the near distance. It's still dangerously close. ISIS has gone from these streets.

But its ability to harm these people hasn't passed. Just 24 hours ago, we're told a family was sitting here outside their home when a mortar struck just a short distance away, and an 18-month-old girl was killed.

Her name was Emira Ali (ph). Her father Omar (ph) is overwhelmed by grief. He cries, "What did she do wrong?

She was just playing. She's gone from me and she's my only one." Everyday, this makeshift clinic inside Mosul sees the terrible consequences of mortars fired into civilian areas.

It's a bloody production line. The wounded are delivered patched up quickly and loaded into ambulances to transport to hospital. At times, it seems endless.

As one ambulance pulls away, another military vehicle speeds in, carrying more wounded civilians. They're unloaded with great care as the medics work to help the victims of yet another ISIS mortar attack.

But they can't save everyone. This man's 21-year-old son was killed. He says a mortar just fell in front of the door.

We came, and he was just a piece of meat. Four or five of my neighbors were standing with him. And they're all dead.

Here, another parent falls to the dusty ground before the body of her son. These people endured two years of living under ISIS only to be killed by the group's desperate military tactics, and its total indifference to the lives of the innocent.

Phil Black, CNN, Mosul, Northern Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: All right, the breaking news this morning -- announcements from the Trump transition team coming today. So who will be heading to the West Wing?

We have it all covered, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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