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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
President Obama Delivers Address on National Security; Interview With Vice President-Elect Mike Pence. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired December 6, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I guess the first question is, where does the $4 billion figure come from? Because that's confusing a lot of people.
MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Well, I think the General Accounting Office certified it north of $3 billion. And it's a contract that can grow.
The president-elect is demonstrating today what the American people hired as our next president, a businessman that knows how to sharpen his pencils.
And no sooner did he hear about a $4 billion contract for a couple new installments of Air Force One that he said, we should cancel the contract, put a hold on it.
And, as you know, Donald Trump is a man who has bought a few airplanes. He's still got a few airplanes. And he is going to be a real champion for taxpayers and for fiscal responsibility. And this is just the first installment.
TAPPER: Would you call that the bully pulpit, even though he isn't the president yet, I mean, using the bully pulpit to send a signal to a company?
PENCE: I think you could call it the bully pulpit on behalf of fiscal responsibility, not a message to a particular company.
It's -- look, what you have -- and I saw it last week in Cincinnati for the thank you rally -- he will be in North Carolina tonight. I will be traveling with him later this week -- is someone who is going to go straight to the American people with his priorities. And he is going to go straight to the American people with our agenda.
And I was on Capitol Hill today meeting with members of the Senate, and I told them that, remember, as we lay out this aggressive agenda for that first 100 days on Capitol Hill, they're going to have, in an inaugurated President Donald Trump, someone who is not just going to go to Capitol Hill to drive his agenda.
He's going to go to the American people and he's going to marshal the support of the American people to drive forward an agenda to make America great again. TAPPER: I want to ask you about an incident on the transition today.
Michael G. Flynn, the son of the future national security adviser, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, has been pushing a bunch of conspiracy theories, including one that ended up impacted your -- where you're staying right now, your local pizza place, Comet Pizza, an insane lie spread online.
It led a North Carolina man to barge into the restaurant with two weapons. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Now, Flynn Jr. was on the transition team, but a source familiar with the situation tells me that he was asked to leave and that the direct order came from president-elect Trump.
Tell me what happened.
PENCE: Well, what I can say is that we are so grateful and honored to have General Flynn as our nominee for national security adviser. He brings an extraordinary wealth of experience.
He is also a dedicated family man. And I said this morning that his son had no involvement in the transition, but I have talked to General Flynn. And his son was helping him a bit with scheduling and administrative items.
But that's no longer the case. Look, all of our families want to be helpful. And four weeks to the day from Election Day, there has been an awful lot of work to do.
But Mike Flynn Jr. is no longer associated with General Flynn's efforts or with the transition team. And we're focused eyes forward.
TAPPER: You're downplaying his role. But you must be aware that the transition team put in for security clearance for Michael G. Flynn, the son of Lieutenant General Flynn.
PENCE: Well, I am aware, in talking to General Flynn, that his son was helping with scheduling, Jake.
TAPPER: No, but you put in for a security clearance for him.
PENCE: He was helping his dad arrange for meetings and provide meetings. But that's no longer the case.
TAPPER: But do you need security clearance to do scheduling?
PENCE: I think that's the appropriate decision, for us to move forward, avoid any further distraction.
And I'm very confident as we continue to build this team. And, as tonight, you will see the president-elect formally announce General Mattis as the new secretary of the Department of Defense, that the American people are going to be impressed with the way that the president-elect is bringing together men and women that are make -- will make America safe again. TAPPER: I want to move on to other issues, but I am afraid I just
didn't get an answer, which is, were you aware that the transition had put in for a security clearance for Michael Flynn Jr.?
PENCE: I have worked very closely with General Flynn. We have met on many occasions. I have never -- I have never seen his son present for any of those meetings.
TAPPER: But you're head of the transition team, so you know who you put in for security clearances for.
PENCE: Well, General Flynn did inform me that his son was helping on administrative matters.
But, Jake, this is all the kind of distraction that, frankly, I know, with all due respect, the national media likes to go chasing after.
I think what the American people are impressed by -- and it's a reason why, frankly, you see public opinion on the rise about the president- elect in the last four weeks -- is because they're seeing the kind of decisive leadership that Donald Trump is bringing to this transition.
It's the kind of energetic leadership that is going to focus on the priorities of the American people, building a team, building a legislative agenda, driving our nation forward to a stronger, more prosperous America.
TAPPER: The last question on this, sir. And I'm sorry. It's just you're not answering the question, which is, were you aware that the transition team had put in for a security clearance?
This is a young man who had a social media profile that had all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories, that had all sorts of links and retweets with white supremacists.
Were you aware that the transition put in for a security clearance for him?
PENCE: Well, what I can tell you is that, in talking with General Flynn today, he made me aware that his son was assisting him in scheduling meetings.
TAPPER: And that you put in for a security clearance?
PENCE: Well, whatever the appropriate paperwork was to assist him in that regard, Jake, I'm sure was taking place.
But that's no longer the case. And your viewers and the American people can be confident that we're going to continue to drive forward. Look, there is a very challenging time for America's place in the world. It was a week ago yesterday that we saw a terrorist-inspired attack on
the Ohio State campus. We are bringing together, with General Mike Flynn, with K.T. McFarland, with a team that is going to surround them and advise this president, people that are going to set into motion, I'm confident, the policies that will make America safe again at home and abroad.
TAPPER: And it was just two days ago that we saw somebody with a gun go to Comet Pizza because of this crazy conspiracy theory that Michael G. Flynn had been putting out there, defended afterwards, and you guys put in for a security clearance.
But I will move on, because I want to talk about Obamacare.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said today that Obamacare, they'd start the process of trying to repeal it on day one. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said it would probably take about three years to come up with a replacement.
Is that good enough for you? President-elect Trump says repeal and replace. Is repeal now, replace three years later, is that OK? Or do you want to see a change in the timeline?
PENCE: Well, let me say, the first thing we're going to do -- and the president-elect has indicated this to the leaders of House and Senate -- is, we're going to keep our promise to the American people, and we're going to repeal Obamacare lock, stock and barrel.
But what we're also going to do is work with members of the House and Senate to ensure an orderly transition. And the length of time that that will take will be a subject of legislative debate. And we will fill in the substance of that.
We're also prepared, as I told members of the Senate today, Jake, the president-elect is prepared on day one to put into effect the kind of administrative action that will ensure that that transition happens on an orderly basis.
But we have got to take action. The truth is, Obamacare right now is scheduled to increase premiums by an average of 25 percent all across this country, putting an enormous weight on American families and American businesses.
In Arizona alone, premiums are scheduled to go up an average of 116 percent. We're going to use the vehicle of a budget resolution right out of the box. And we're going to repeal Obamacare. And we're going to set into motion the kind of orderly process that will address the health care needs of this country, harnessing the power of the free market, giving consumers more choices in health insurance, a lot of the kind of ideas that the president-elect talked about as a candidate.
We are going to keep those promises once he takes seat in the Oval Office.
TAPPER: For those who can't afford health insurance, and who only have it because of the Medicaid expansion, which you know well because of being the governor of Indiana, and also because of the stipends, what should they expect during the transition period? Will their Medicaid expansion stay there?
PENCE: Well, I would anticipate that a part of what we will do is what the president-elect has called for through the course of the campaign.
And that is, while we -- while we take the mandate off every American that exists under Obamacare, the threat of higher taxes against individuals and businesses, we're going to develop a plan to block- grant Medicaid back to the states, so that states can do exactly what Indiana was able to do, in part by reforming Medicaid.
The state of Indiana, which the president-elect and I have talked an awful lot about, actually, Medicaid recipients can have health savings accounts to be able to have first-dollar benefits. They make monthly contributions to those health savings accounts. And they're given credit for preventive medicine and wellness.
These are all the kind of market principles that states can innovate in Medicaid. And it is going to be part and parcel of our plan to replace Obamacare.
TAPPER: Last question for you, sir, because I know you have a lot of meetings to do.
Your son is a Marine.
PENCE: He is.
TAPPER: You and your boss, more your boss, but with your advice and consent and help, will now be in charge of the lives of our men and women in uniform.
I am wondering. This will be the first time that you play a role like this, sending troops or helping a president to send troops into battle or not send troops into battle. And you will be doing so as a dad who has a son in the Marines.
And I am just wondering how that might impact you. Sometimes, generals, they say, the biggest doves in Washington are the ones with stars on their shoulders because they understand the sacrifice. And you in a different way will be able to understand it. How will it affect you, do you think?
PENCE: Well, Jake, I think it will affect me the way it affects every American, when -- when we think about those decisions.
And I think what people can take great comfort in, and when they see General Mattis take to the stage tonight as the nominee to be our -- the new leader at the Department of Defense, and they think about his extraordinary background, they can be confident that they are going to have a president in Donald Trump who is going to rebuild our military and believes firmly that we will have peace through strength.
A stronger America is a safer America. A stronger America is a safer and more stable world. But I can tell you that we will also have a commander in chief that will look at the lives of the men and women who serve in uniform as though they were his very own kids and will approach those decisions -- I know he will -- with prayer and with reflection.
But the objective is to have an America strong enough, with a rebuilt military, with our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard able to have the resources and training to do their job, so that we don't ever have to ask them to fight.
TAPPER: Vice president-elect Mike Pence from the great state of Indiana, thank you so much. Best of luck to you. Best of luck to you, sir.
PENCE: Thank you. Great to see you.
TAPPER: Appreciate it.
Let's now join President Obama live at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. He's delivering the final planned national security plan of his presidency.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Years of targeted strikes have degraded al Qaeda in the peninsula.
And these offensive efforts have buttressed a global effort to make it harder for terrorist networks to breach our defenses and spread their violent ideologies.
Working with European allies, who have suffered terrible attacks, we have strengthened intelligence sharing and cut in half the flow of foreign fighters to ISIL.
We have worked with our tech sector to support efforts to push back on terrorist messages on social media that motivate people to kill. A recent study shows that ISIL's propaganda has been cut in half.
We have launched a Global Engagement Center to empower voices that are countering ISIL's perversion of Islam. And we're working closely with Muslim-majority partners from the Gulf to Southeast Asia.
This is your work. We should take great pride in the progress that we have made over the last eight years. That's the bottom line. No foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: And it's not because they didn't try.
Plots have been disrupted. Terrorists have been taken off the battlefield. And we have done this even as we drew down nearly 180,000 troops in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, there are just 15,000.
New partnerships have been built. We have respected the rule of law. We have enlisted our values in this fight. And all of this progress is due to the service of millions of Americans like you, in intelligence and in law enforcement, in homeland security and diplomacy, the armed services of the United States of America. It's thanks to you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: Thanks to you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: Now, to say that we have made progress is not to say that the job is done.
We know that a deadly threat persists. We know that, in some form, this violent extremism will be with us for years to come. In too many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, there has been a breakdown of order that's been building for decades.
And it's unleashed forces that are going to take a generation to resolve. Long-term corruption has rotted too many nation-states from within. Governance is collapsing. Sectarian conflicts rage. A changing climate is increasing competition for food and water.
OBAMA: And false prophets are peddling a vision of Islam that is irreconcilable with tolerance and modernity and basic science.
And, in fact, every one of these trends is at play inside of Syria today.
And what complicates the challenge even more is the fact that, for all of our necessary focus on fighting terrorists overseas, the most deadly attacks on the homeland over the last eight years have not been carried out by operatives with sophisticated networks or equipment directed from abroad. They have been carried out by homegrown and largely isolated individuals
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And what complicates the challenge even more is the fact that, for all of our necessary focus on fighting terrorists overseas, the most deadly attacks on the homeland over the last eight years have not been carried out by operatives with sophisticated networks or equipment directed from abroad.
[16:15:10] They've been carried out by home-grown and largely isolated individuals who were radicalized online. These deranged killers can't inflict the sort of mass casualties that we saw on 9/11, but the pain of those who lost loved ones in Boston, in San Bernardino, in Fort Hood and in Orlando, that pain continues to this day. And, in some cases, it has stirred fear in our populations and threatens to change how we think about ourselves and our lives.
So, while we've made it much more difficult, you have made it much more difficult, to carry out an attack approaching the scale of 9/11, the threat will endure. We will not achieve the kind of clearly defined victory comparable to those that we won in previous wars against nations. We won't have a scene of the emperor of Japan and Douglas MacArthur in a surrender. And the reason we won't have that is because technology makes it impossible to completely shield impressionable minds from violent ideologies.
And somebody who is trying to kill and willing to be killed is dangerous particularly when we live in a country where it's very easy for that person to buy a very powerful weapon. So, rather than offer false promises that we can eliminate terrorism by dropping more bombs or deploying more and more troops or fencing ourselves off from the rest of the world, we have to take a long view of the terrorist threat. And we have to pursue a smart strategy that can be sustained.
In the time remaining, let me just suggest what I think should guide this approach.
First of all, a sustainable counter-terrorism strategy depends on keeping the threat in perspective. The terrorist threat is real, and it is dangerous, but these terrorists want to cast themselves as the vanguard of a new world order. They are not. They are thugs and they are murderers and they should be treated that way.
Now, fascism threatened to overrun the entire world. And we had to wage total war in response. Communism threatened not over -- not only to overturn a world order but threatened nuclear holocaust. So, we had to build armaments and alliances to contain it.
Today's terrorists can kill innocent people, but they don't pose an existential threat to our nation, and we must not make the mistake of elevating them as if they do. That -- that does their job for them. It makes them more important and helps them with recruitment.
A second and related point is that we cannot follow the path of previous great powers who sometimes defeated themselves through overreach. By protecting our homeland while drawing down the number of troops serving in harm's way overseas, we helped save resources but, more importantly, we saved lives.
I can tell you, during the course of my eight years, that I have never shied away from sending men and women into danger where necessary. It's always the hardest decision I make, but it's one that I have made where the security of the American people is at stake. And I have seen the cost. I have held the hands of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed. I have met the caskets of the fallen at Dover.
And that's why I make no apologies for only sending our troops into harm's way when there is a clear mission that is achievable and when it is absolutely necessary. Number three: We need the wisdom to see that upholding our values and
adhering to the rule of law is not a weakness in the long term, it is our greatest strength.
[16:20:05] The whole objective of these terrorists is to scare us into changing the nature of who we are and our democracy. And the fact is, people and nations do not make good decisions when they are driven by fear. These terrorists can never directly destroy our way of life. But we can do it for them if we lose track of who we are and the values that this nation was founded upon.
And I always remind myself that, as commander in chief, I must protect our people, but I also swore an oath to defend our Constitution. And over these last eight years, we've demonstrated that staying true to our traditions as a nation of laws advances our security as well as our values. We prohibited torture, everywhere, at all times. And that includes tactics like water-boarding. At no time has anybody who has worked with me has told me that doing so has cost us good intelligence.
When we do capture terrorists, despite all the political rhetoric about the need to strip terrorists of their rights, our interrogation teams have obtained valuable information from terrorists without resorting to torture, without operating outside the law. Our Article 3 courts have delivered justice faster than military trials, and our prisons have proven more than capable of holding the most dangerous terrorists.
Consider the terrorists who have been captured, lawfully interrogated and prosecuted in civilian courts. Faisal Shahzad who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston marathon bomber. Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called underwear bomber.
American juries and judges determined that none of these people will know freedom again. But we did it lawfully. And the wheels of justice right now are turning for others. Terrorists like Ahmed Warsame, an al Shabaab commander, and Abu Khattala, the accused leader of the Benghazi attacks.
We can get these terrorists and stay true to who we are. In fact, our success in dealing with terrorists through our justice system reinforces why it is past time to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo.
This is not just my opinion. It's the opinion of many military leaders. During my administration, we have responsibly transferred over 175 detainees to foreign governments with safeguards to reduce the risk of them returning to the battlefield and we've cut the population in Gitmo from 242 to 59.
The politics of fear has led Congress to prevent any detainees from being transferred to prisons in the United States, even though, as we speak, we imprison dangerous terrorists in our prisons and we have even more dangerous criminals in all of our prisons across the country. Even though our allies oftentimes will not turn over a terrorist if they think that terrorist could end up in Gitmo. Even though groups like ISIL use Gitmo in their propaganda.
So, we're wasting hundreds of millions of dollars to keep fewer than 60 people in a detention facility in Cuba. That's not strength.
Until Congress changes course, it will be judged harshly by history, and I will continue to do all that I can to remove this blot on our national honor.
Number four: We have to fight terrorists in a way that does not create more terrorists. For example, in a dangerous world, terrorists seek out places where it's often impossible to capture them or to count on local governments to do so. And that means the best option for us to get those terrorists becomes a targeted strike. So, we have taken action under my command, including with drones, to remove terrorists from the battlefield, which protects our troops and has prevented real threats to the American people.
[16:25:15] Now, under rules that I put in place and that I made public, before any strike is taken outside of a war zone, there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured. And while nothing is certain in any strike, and we have acknowledged that there are tragic instances where innocents have been killed by our strikes, this is the highest standard that we can set.
Nevertheless, we still have critics who suggest that these strikes are wrong. And I say to them, you have to weigh the alternatives. Drone strikes allow us to deny terrorists a safe haven without air strikes, which are less precise, or invasions that are much more likely to kill innocent civilians as well as American service members.
So the actions that we've taken have saved lives, at home and abroad. But the point is that we do have to be careful to make sure that, when we take actions, we're not alienating local populations because that will serve as recruitment for new terrorists.
Number five: Transparency and accountability serve our national security not just I times of peace but, more importantly, in times of conflict. That's why we have made public information about which terrorist organizations we are fighting and why we are fighting them. We have released assessments of non-combatants killed in our operations, taken responsibility when mistakes are made. We've declassified information about interrogation methods that were wrong, so we learn from past mistakes. And yesterday, I directed our government, for the first time, to
release a full description of the legal and policy frameworks that guide our military operations around the world. This public information allows for a more informed public debate, and it provides a potential check on unfettered executive power. The power of the presidency is awesome, but it is supposed to be bound by you, our citizens.
But here is the thing. That information doesn't mean anything. It doesn't work if the people's representatives in Congress don't do their jobs, if they're not paying attention.
Right now we are waging war under authorities provided by Congress over 15 years ago -- 15 years ago. I had no gray hair 15 years ago.
Two years ago, I asked Congress, let's update the authorization. Provide us a new authorization for the war against ISIL, reflecting the changing nature of the threats, reflecting the lessons that we've learned from the last decade. So far, Congress has refused to take a vote. Democracies should not operate in a state of permanently authorized war. That's not good for our military. It's not good for our democracy.
And, by the way, part of the reason that's dangerous is because today, with our outstanding, all-volunteer force, only 1 percent of the population is actually fighting.
Which means that you are carrying the burden. Which means that it is important for us to know what it is that we're doing and have to explain what we are doing to the public, because it becomes too easy to just send 1 percent of the population out to do things, even if they're not well-thought through.
If a threat is serious enough to require the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, then members of Congress should at least have the courage to make clear where they stand, not on the sidelines.
Not on cable TV shows. But by fulfilling their constitutional duty and authorizing the use of force against the threats that we face today. That's how democracies are supposed to work.
Number six: Alongside our outstanding military work, we have to draw upon the strength of our diplomacy. Terrorists would love to see us walk away from the type of work that builds international coalitions and ends conflicts and stops the spread of deadly weapons.