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President-elect Donald Trump selects senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama to be the new attorney general—this as Trump begins to gather his personal team, making Stephen Bannon his chief strategist and Reince Priebus chief of staff. Hillary Clinton makes her first public address since conceding the White House last week, urging supporters to stay motivated. Senate Democrats pick Senator Chuck Schumer of New York as their next leader. The Affordable Care Act sees a sharp uptick in enrollment, amid fears the law could be repealed under Trump. And veteran broadcast journalist Gwen Ifill passes away at the age of 61. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Abby Phillip National political reporter, The Washington Post
- Major Garrett Chief White House correspondent, CBS News.
- Olivier Knox Chief Washington correspondent, Yahoo! News
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. President-elect Donald Trump begins making selections for his cabinet and staff. He's offered Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions the attorney general post and asked Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo to be his CIA director. Hillary Clinton makes her first public speech since conceding the election and concerns over the future of the Affordable Care Act trigger a surge in enrollment.
MS. DIANE REHMHere for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, Major Garrett of CBS News, Abby Phillip of The Washington Post, and Olivier Knox of Yahoo News. You are always welcome to join us. You can watch the program because we are video streaming this hour. You can join us by phone at 800-433-8850. You can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook. And it's good to see you all.
MR. MAJOR GARRETTGood morning.
MS. ABBY PHILLIPGood to be here.
MR. OLIVIER KNOXMorning.
REHMAnd as we look at the news today, Major Garrett, looks as though we have a brand-new CIA director who has accepted the position?
GARRETTYes. Mike Pompeo, congressman from Kansas, member of the House intelligence committee, co-author of a report very critical of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of the Benghazi matter, a report that got the attention of the Trump campaign early on, has been offered and accepted the position of CIA director. Has to be confirmed so this is a process that has to play out.
GARRETTFirst in his class at West Point, Mike Pompeo was. Harvard law grad, editor of the Harvard Review so he has something in common with our sitting president, an experienced business person and very much a conservative in the line of what Trump has defined as what he would like in national security. Tough on counter terrorism, skeptical of all the decisions made or not made in regard to Benghazi, willing to throw political punches in that conversation and unhesitatingly so.
GARRETTHe got the call this morning and accepted and he's -- I was not anticipating this pick this morning. I was thinking the CIA would come some time next week, but they had a very good meeting, that it to say, Pompeo and Trump and Trump decided to move a little bit more rapidly than even those around him expected him to.
REHMAnd Abby Phillip, we have Jeff Sessions as attorney general.
PHILLIPThat's by far, a more controversial pick. Jeff Sessions, a conservative, very hard-liner on immigration, which will be the key thing here. Donald Trump has been taking a lot of advice from him on a number of issues, but immigration being the foremost among them. As a conservative, Jeff Sessions has been sort of on the outskirts of the Republican -- the sort of Republican mainstream for quite some time.
PHILLIPHe's had some controversies in the past. He was not chosen to be a federal judge after, in his confirmation hearing, several former colleagues accused him of outright racism. So I think we can expect some of those old stories to reemerge as he's going forward in his confirmation hearings. But the ideological simpatico between these two men really has firmed up over the last several months and Sessions, regardless of the position that he would be in the Trump administration is likely to remain a close ally and advisor of Trump's.
REHMAnd Olivier Knox, a retired three-star general, Mike Flynn, to be the Trump national security advisor. Tell us about him.
KNOXFormer head of the defense intelligence agency, his work dismantling militant networks in Afghanistan during the years that he ran military intelligence there, generally wins a lot of praise. But it's his time managing the DIA and the time in the aftermath that have drawn a lot of criticisms. He has been described as a poor manager of people. He has made extremely disparaging comments about Islam on Twitter.
KNOXHe attended a dinner honoring Vladimir Putin recently and it appears now, my colleague Mike (word?) reporting that he attended highly classified briefings while working -- it's not clear whether he was actually lobbying or working for some foreign governments. So all these folks, I mean, the phase to -- you've seen a lot of the Democratic statements -- thorough vetting. And that's going to mean very different things for very different people, but you can expect all these people to get grilled.
GARRETTBut importantly, Mike Flynn doesn't need to be confirmed by the Senate.
KNOXThat is important.
GARRETTHe's going to be the national security advisor no matter what.
REHMYou also had early this week, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus appointed to top positions. One as a very close advisor, the other is a very close advisor. What are gonna be the two differences between them.
KNOXWell, it's gonna depend on the president, largely, where he turns first for advice and for input. Traditionally, and I say this very carefully because this has not been a traditional orthodox campaign and it's not going to be a traditional orthodox White House, traditionally, the White House chief of staff manages the most valuable resource in the president -- that the president has, which is time. Decides who gets to call the president, who gets to walk into the Oval Office, lays out -- can run cabinet meetings and things like that.
KNOXWhat we don't know yet and we won't know until there is an internal conflict or, I think, an argument with congressional Republicans whether the president-elect, then the future president will turn first to Steve Bannon or first to Reince Priebus.
REHMTell us about Steve Bannon, Abby.
PHILLIPWell, Steve Bannon, until fairly recently, ran Breitbart News, which -- a conservative, a really combative conservative news site that became increasingly combative under Steve Bannon's tenure. But more broadly, he's had a lot of careers in different areas in media and elsewhere and he has controversially ties to the alt-right. And this is sort of like a loose ideological network of folks, some of whom are associated with white supremacy, white nationalism, some of whom are associated with more simply American nationalism.
PHILLIPAnd so Bannon has, since coming into Trump's inner circle, has really risen as the kind of force for Trump to have an ideological frame for a lot of his agenda, that that populous frame that we've seen take precedence in the last few months and also this idea that the country needs to be focused on itself and less focused on international entanglements and immigration as well.
GARRETTSo Republicans looking at this see Steve Bannon's history and realize that there are these diverse elements of his career, entertainment, business, Goldman Sachs, he was a Naval officer and say, well, you know, that's all pretty conventional. But then, they also are reminded by the much more recent baggage, which is not just American nationalism and grand conspiracy theories about globalism eating away at the heart of prosperity and denying middle class white Americans their birthright to prosperity, but also that he is someone who will always tug Trump in that direction.
GARRETTAnd so when I had a conversation with Newt Gingrich earlier this week, he said, well, Reince Priebus will the yin to Steve Bannon's yang and it will all balance out and don't worry. Many Republicans remain worried.
REHMAnd let's hear from Reince Priebus himself talking about Steve Bannon.
MR. REINCE PRIEBUSThe Steve Bannon I know is a guy that is really on the same page with a lot of the things -- almost everything that I agree with as far as advising President-elect Trump. I mean, he was a force for good on the campaign. He's very wise and smart. He's a London School of Economics, Harvard Business School. People don't know that he was a ten-year Naval officer at very high levels advising admirals in the Navy.
GARRETTSo all of that of true. What we don't know is the point that Olivier made, which is how does the institutional intensity of the White House separate these jobs. Historically, the chief of staff has, as Olivier perfectly said, controlled the most important component of any presidency, time and access. And over time, chiefs of staff thought to be weaker have asserted themselves. Andy Card, when brought in by George W. Bush was thought to be comparatively weaker than Karl Rove, Karen Hughes, Ken Mehlman.
GARRETTOver time, Andy Card asserted himself and became a very directly powerful chief of staff. The institutional norms of the White House day to day to day often invest a chief of staff with that centralized power. And the wise ones and the sharp-knived ones know how to you use it.
GARRETTWe'll see if Reince Priebus is of that kind of character.
PHILLIPAnd there's also an element of this about the keeper of the sort of institution at the White House, may not actually be the one who spends the most time in Donald Trump's ear and if there's one thing we've learned about Donald Trump it's whoever is speaking to him in his ear at that moment has the potential to be the most powerful person. And Steve Bannon, by not, you know, making sure any trains run on time, he's not responsible for the trains in the White House, by not having that responsibility, he doesn't have to get bogged down in it and could potentially mean that his position in this White House is more powerful than previous chiefs of staff.
KNOXYeah, I think that's a real interesting point. I also think, I mean, we're seeing what kind of staff will adjudicate disputes among other kinds of staff. That’s a very important part of this week's announcements. You know, Priebus and Bannon seem to be -- they very much billed equally in the announcement of their positions. Flynn's job is going to enormous. It's going to manage state versus defense versus CIA versus DNI and all these other equities. It's going to be interesting to watch.
REHMOlivier Knox, he's chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo News. Short break here. We will be taking your calls, comments and don't forget, we are live streaming video this morning. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here in the studio for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, Abby Phillip, national political reporter for The Washington Post, Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo! News, and Major Garrett, chief White House correspondent for CBS. I want to ask you all about Mitt Romney. What's happening there, Abby? Lots of stories about him meeting with Trump.
PHILLIPRight. These former rivals will come together over the weekend for a meeting at...
REHMHe said some pretty strong things about Donald Trump.
PHILLIPHe said, right. I mean, I think very few Republicans came out so forcefully against Trump throughout the primary and the general election as Mitt Romney. And he did not relent notably, unlike some others, like Ted Cruz who came back and endorsed Trump. And Donald Trump reciprocated some of that vitriol over the last several months. So they're meeting, which I think is a positive sign for sort of humanity, that they can let bygones be bygones and at least sit down in a room.
PHILLIPThere's been some speculation about what will come of that meeting, whether this will be just an opportunity to show a degree of like, you know, rising above the fray. Or will it be an opportunity for Trump to evaluate Romney for a position and for -- in the cabinet, or for Romney to evaluate Donald Trump for a position in the cabinet. And so it's unclear. I think there -- I think that there are some -- there's a lot of speculation out there. It's unclear whether he would -- Romney would be offered one or if Romney would accept.
KNOXYeah, it's -- I don't cover the Trump -- the transition here, so it's a little bit hard for me to talk about reporting on this. But my sense is that, as he did with Cruz, he's reaching out to prominent former rivals and critics on the Republican side. And we'll see what Mitt Romney says coming out of that meeting is going to be really important. What Ted Cruz said coming out of that meeting was basically, you know, bygones be -- we'll let bygones be bygones. But Mitt Romney, man, he took a -- there was this really weird little rumor that he might be considered for state. I don't think that's right. Major will know better than I. I don't think that's right. The pattern so far has been loyalists and hardliners, and Mitt Romney is neither.
GARRETTI do cover the Trump transition and I can tell you this meeting is largely for symbolic reasons, to create the impression of a mending of fences. And frequently -- and this is one of the difficult things about covering any transition, especially difficult about covering this transition -- things are said to make impressions. And that they were said is true. And that there was a desire to create impressions is true. Those impressions, in some instances, have no relationship to facts behind decisions at all.
REHMSo why is...
GARRETTMitt Romney will not be considered for a cabinet position in a Trump presidency.
REHMSo why did...
REHM...the press jump on that, Major?
GARRETTThat's not my inference. That's what people who are very close to this process have told me. But that doesn't mean it's a useless endeavor. That doesn't mean it's a pointless exercise. Mending of fences and bringing people in for conversations and settling scores and starting anew, with a power structure now firmly established -- I'm the president, you're the critical rival, you are coming to me and we're going to have a conversation on my turf on my terms -- there are uses for that in politics.
GARRETTAnd big boys and big girls can play that game. Guess what, Mitt Romney? Get ready to be the big boy, because you're sitting down with the new president and he remembers everything you ever said.
REHMAll right. On that very point, turf, I want to ask what in the world is New York doing with this kind of huge traffic jam that has been created by Donald Trump working out of Trump Tower. I have heard nothing but disaster stories.
GARRETTWell, I have not been up to New York since the election day...
REHMGood for you.
GARRETT...election day, afterwards. After 16 months on the road, I informed my esteemed colleagues and most importantly my management, I'm not traveling for a while. So I'll watch and report what's happening in Trump Tower from a distance. But I can just tell you what I've gathered from my colleagues, it is something that is evolving and very difficult to create a perimeter around a major skyscraper. The Secret Service would typically like a perimeter of a block in every direction, if it had its way. A block in every direction on Fifth Avenue at the very southern end of Central Park is like the nightmare of all nightmares...
GARRETT...logistically and from a security perspective, and from something that creates what the Secret Service wants to establish with the president elect, which is a degree of comfort and a degree of communication, which is essential to everything that moves forward in their relationship. Because this is a two-way street. How presidents deal with the Secret Service and communicate with them, and that back and forth is essential to the safety of the president and the way the Secret Service negotiates all these things going forward...
REHMAnd, of course...
GARRETT...to try to sort it out.
REHM...Donald Trump slipped off to have a dinner the other night, telling Secret Service that the lid was on.
PHILLIPThis is the culmination of -- and I know Olivier is looking at me -- the is the culmination of several months of a real battle between the press corps and both the Clinton and Trump campaigns. But especially the Trump campaign, which has refused to make steps in the direction of establishing a protective pool so that journalists can cover the president-elect when he moves, when he goes to a dinner. Which is, by the way, not about the dinner. We don't really care what he ate that night. What we care about is what would have happened -- what might have happened if he had been in a restaurant and something happened? We would not have known. The press would not have known and therefore the American public would not have known.
PHILLIPAnd so that is a problem. And I think it's one that's being negotiated right now. But the signs right now are not great.
PHILLIPThey are not moving in this direction.
REHMWe've got tons to cover here. What's the role of Jared Kushner, Olivier?
KNOXTBD. He's obviously a very close adviser to Donald Trump.
KNOXThat's right, his son-in-law, Ivanka's husband. He is a very close adviser, close enough that there are reports -- again, I'll defer to Major on this -- reports that Donald Trump would like to see him either formally hired, which would require challenging a long-standing rule against nepotism and also given a top-secret security clearance in order to be able to sit in on the briefings. One of their -- this poses a lot of questions and challenges for conflict of interest. Because Donald Trump has said that his kids will be running the family businesses while he is president.
KNOXBut he's a young man -- he's 32 I think, 35, something like that -- and clearly Donald Trump is relying on him enormously. One of the questions I've had about the Trump transition is he came in with such a small team. It must be difficult, I think, to -- and a small team that is fiercely loyal to the principal here.
KNOXAnd I wonder to what degree that's complicated his ability to reach beyond that circle and talk to people -- not necessarily the people who were vocal critics like Mitt Romney, but people who stayed on the sidelines entirely. Whether it's people like Retired General Jim Mattis, who I've been told has been in loose conversation with the transition team, or people like Steve Hadley, the former Bush national security adviser, sort of the career, the establishment people in the party.
REHMAnd yet, it would seem that the State Department -- neither the State Department nor Department of Defense had had access or given the Trump team any advice or newspapers -- papers of importance.
PHILLIPRight, these briefing books. It's just unclear the degree to which the Trump transition is engaging with the national security apparatus on some of these meetings. One thing I wanted to mention that's related to Jared Kushner and also this subject, in his meeting yesterday with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, sitting in that meeting was Ivanka Trump. And that was quite alarming to a lot of people. In addition to the fact that she is Donald Trump's daughter, she is supposed to be the keeper of his businesses once he becomes president. And already they're establishing a pattern of bringing family members into the process of running the government.
REHMI -- this is a tangential point, but I must say I was more than a little distraught when Ivanka Trump appeared, and then immediately after her statement, her appearance, her bracelet was priced at $10,000-plus and could be purchased. I mean, I don't understand.
GARRETTA notice was sent to fashion reporters that this bracelet was the one she wore on "60 Minutes," during the interview with Leslie Stahl, my colleague. And that was a fashion item, a business item. You can now get this bracelet that was on "60 Minutes," a rapid-fire commercialization and exploitation of an appearance on a television interview, commingling the president-elect's first public appearance for a journalist and business enterprises of the Trump organization.
REHMWas anybody else disturbed by that?
GARRETTWell, we duly noted it on my network. And it's part of the conversation. Quickly, the transition teams today for the Trump transition are meeting at State, Justice and Defense today, only because all the relevant paperwork was only filled out yesterday. It had to be refilled out and resigned...
GARRETT...by the new transition director, Vice President-elect Mike Pence. To Olivier's point about General Mattis, he'll be visiting Trump this weekend in Bedminster.
KNOXBut the signing of the paperwork is really, really important. This is the whole -- we always talk about the top-line positions, the cabinet positions and the rest of it. But there is actually a legal process that unfolds here to fill these 4,000 jobs. And it does start with a memorandum of understanding, the naming of these transition teams, paperwork for these transition teams to clear them to go get those briefings and those briefing books and the rest of it. So they couldn't actually legally get access to, say, the CIA or the Department of Defense until yesterday afternoon when the White House received that information.
REHMThen why did the transition team take so long to get those papers?
KNOXBecause they didn't think they were going to win. And because New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was in charge of the transition, didn't think they were going to win. And they did. One -- there was this -- again, I don't cover the Trump campaign, but one Trump source told me, we forgot the running part in hit the ground running.
REHMInteresting. What about Chris Christie, Abby? Where is he now?
PHILLIPWell, we've seen the rapid exodus of Chris Christie and all people associated with him from the Trump transition. In part, because, as Olivier noted, in his running of the transition process, when everybody woke up on November 9 and they realized Donald Trump was going to be the next president, they checked in on the transition and things were not going that well. And beyond that, there is some personal water under the bridge between Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law, and Chris Christie, who was the prosecutor who put Jared Kushner's father in prison.
PHILLIPSo this is -- comes as no surprise to people who know that that relationship has always been tenuous. They've said a lot of great public things about each other, but it is a tenuous relationship.
REHMAnd Chris Christie was the first big Republican to come out and endorse Donald Trump.
GARRETTThe most prominent of those who ran against him, certainly. Jeff Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump. That's why he got the job as attorney general. His loyalty was tested and affirmed over and over and over again. And Christie and everyone associated with this transition are now persona non grata. They are not just out. They are not even relevant. They are completely in exile.
GARRETTAnd one reason the transition was insufficient is because Trump invested no time, effort or energy. One of the things that's -- you're obligated to do as a nominee of a major party, before your transition, before you become president-elect, is you have to raise money to hire the staff for it. The federal government, under legislation, provides space and some materials. But you have to raise the money to hire the people to run your transition. Trump raised almost no money for it, did not care about it, thought there was something that might jinx him psychologically if he invested too much in the transition.
REHMHow do you know that?
GARRETTI've talked to people who were involved in the transition.
REHMSo he, now, has to raise that money.
GARRETTNo, not now. Once you become president-elect, there is legislation that provides all the requisite finances, space, everything. Once you become president-elect, the taxpayers carry out your transition. But you still need the bodies and they're way short of bodies.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And Hillary Clinton made her first public post-election speech on Wednesday. Let's hear a little about what she had to say.
SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTONI know that over the past week, a lot of people have asked themselves whether America is the country we thought it was. The divisions laid bare by this election run deep. But please listen to me when I say this, America is worth it. Our children are worth it. Believe in our country, fight for our values, and never, ever give up.
REHMPretty strong statement.
KNOXPretty strong statement. And, you know, everyone's wondering what Hillary Clinton is doing next and whether she will have a role in the Democratic Party's soul-searching reassessment of priorities and the rest of it. Bernie Sanders, speaking to a breakfast of reporters yesterday, said, of course she will, she will be an absolutely vital voice, but alluding to the depth of work ahead for the Democratic Party to recover from this election. So she's making some strong statements, trying to keep despondent Democrats in the mix, still involved. But exactly what she's going to be doing going forward is a little bit of a mystery.
REHMAnd meanwhile, congressional Democrats are looking at their own leadership. You've got Tim Ryan about to challenge Nancy Pelosi, Abby.
PHILLIPWell, Tim Ryan, a congressman from Ohio, is the leading-edge of a growing concern among Democrats about whether their leadership looks like their party, whether their leadership represents the parts of their party that need to grow in order for them to win again. And as a representative of a state from the -- in Rust Belt, industrial Mid-West, where Donald Trump overperformed and Hillary underperformed, it's a message that says, we need to spend more time listening to the middle of the country and less time listening to the coasts.
PHILLIPWe've -- Democrats have had leadership from California and New York. And I think many of the Democrats who are interested in seeing a change of guard value Nancy Pelosi's leadership, they recognize her contributions. But they're looking over at the Republican conference and they're seeing a young Paul Ryan leading the Republican Party. And they wonder, where's our young, next-generation of leadership? And so we're seeing that generational and also a little bit of an ideological divide really emerging in the Democratic Party. I think it's still likely that Nancy Pelosi come -- it's very likely that she comes out of this on top. But the fact that there is a challenge sends a strong signal that this is an issue Democrats will have to deal with.
REHMAnd, quickly, how will Democrats deal with a Trump-led White House and Congress?
GARRETTMy sense of it is -- and I must confess, because I've been spending so much time on the Trump transition, I've not had lengthy conversations with lots of different Democrats, so these are more inferences than actual hard-edged reporting -- but my sense is, they're going to by their very institutional weakness give the Trump administration time to sort things out, understanding that they have a threshold belief that it's not going to go well. They don't want to be early contributors, overtly, to predicting failure. But when it comes, they want to be prepared to pounce.
REHMMajor Garrett of CBS News. And when we come back, we'll open the phones and take your calls. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. A number of you are asking about Trump headquarters during this transition period. From Claire in Maryland, are the tax payers paying rent to Trump since he's using his home/office as transition headquarters? Olivier?
KNOXWell, they certainly would be paying for expenses like Secret Service protection, not just salaries, but if the Secret Service is overnighting in Trump Tower, then you'd expect there to be a financial arrangement there. The Secret Service, for example, paid for seats on the Trump, on the Trump plane. This is a normal -- that is a normal arrangement. So yeah, I don't about, I don't know about paying rent because of the transition office. But certainly, there are a lot of taxpayer funded expenses as part of the transition. So, it wouldn't totally surprise me.
GARRETTIt's an excellent question. It might be that it's a reimbursement for that office space as measured by the General Services Administration. There is a facility here in Washington, a transition office, that the taxpayers are funding 100 percent. It's an interesting question. I'm glad she raised it. I'll look into it.
KNOXIt raises one interesting thing. During the Bush years, when the -- when George W. Bush would go to his ranch.
KNOXYou know, the Secret Service made all these add-ons to the ranch, a heli-pad, for example. And I don't remember the exact amount, but they added enormous amount of value to the property. Again, still proper and legitimate, but it does raise some interesting questions.
REHMOlivier, talk about Chuck Schumer.
KNOXSo, Chuck Schumer looks to be the -- he is the top Democrat now in the Senate now, with Harry Reid's departure. He will deciding a lot of, about how Democrats, Senate Democrats interact with the Trump administration. But there's some early signs already of potential cooperation on some issues. Remember, Trump ran with a lot of populist ideas. One of the most notable features of his campaign speeches was a promise, a rock ribbed, iron clad promise that he was not going to -- you were going to get your Social Security, you were going to get your Medicare and you were going to get your Medicaid.
KNOXThat ran counter, deeply counter to, for example, Paul Ryan's plans. He wants to overhaul entitlements, reduce spending. Democrats hope that they can peel off, that they can sort of get Trump to lead with his populist ideas. You know, raising the federal minimum wage, protecting entitlements and things like that. So they're walking this tight rope, because on the one hand, they don't want to support his crackdown on immigration and things like that.
KNOXBut they do -- they profess to think, they say they believe that they can peel off -- they might be able to peel off enough support to advance the populist stuff that's been part of the Democratic agenda for years.
GARRETTThat covers infrastructure as well, and Chuck Schumer, along with Lindsay Graham, wrote legislation for years about currency manipulation in China and that was also something that Trump identified. And if they go down that road...
KNOXSheryl Brown, very liberal Democrat from Ohio, also on board.
GARRETT...and Sheryl Brown will be right there.
REHMAnd what about Obamacare?
PHILLIPWell, it looks like the, the, the Republicans in Congress really do intend to get on this as soon as possible. Repealing the Affordable Care Act Law, but Trump himself has sort of walked back some of his statements. I think he recognizes that certain parts of the ACA are very popular, including keeping your kids on your insurance until they're 26. Covering pre-existing conditions. I wouldn't be surprised if the -- if the mandate to cover birth control remained in a Trump presidency.
PHILLIPSo there are a lot of parts of the law that Trump wants to keep, so that leaves the question, what is there left to repeal and how can you do that without undermining the very structure of the healthcare system in this country.
REHMAll right. We've had a number of tweets about the Electoral College and the fact that Hillary Clinton had more than a million more popular votes. I want to let you all know we are going to be doing a full hour on Monday in the first hour on the Electoral College. Its history, what it means state by state, what it means for individual voters and whether, in fact, your vote really counts. So, tune in Monday for that. Let's open the phones now. First to Logansville, Pennsylvania. You're on the air.
DUKEYes, hi, Diane.
DUKEI listen to your show all the time.
DUKEThank you. Wanted to ask what the panel thinks about why nothing has gone any further about the news that came out on the day that Trump met with Obama at the White House. The news was in the Washington Post, the AP, about the Russian foreign diplomats coming out and admitting that they had been in communication with the Trump campaign throughout the campaign. And this is, you know, this is a major, major offense if indeed it's proven that the Trump campaign colluded with a foreign power to commit cyber espionage.
REHMAll right, let's hear what you have to say, Olivier.
KNOXYeah, that's a great question, and that was a really amazing story. And one of the questions that I have right now is are there enough Russian hawks among the Republican majorities in Congress that they will ally with Democrats and investigate these allegations, as well as the allegations of Russian hacking of John Podesta's emails, DNC emails and the rest of it. Because remember, Democrats don't have a majority in either House. They can't, by themselves, trigger any investigations.
KNOXSo, you know, John McCain came out with a very forceful statement the other day, saying to Donald Trump, no you will not normalize relations with Russia. But let's see if there's enough Republican support for looking into those allegations to generate, to generate at least some light in addition to the heat.
GARRETTI raised this question with Josh Earnest, the White House Press Secretary the day the story broke, which was also the day that President-elect Trump and the President met in the Oval Office. I said, have you seen these reports? Do you find anything untoward about them? Are you concerned that this was something in kind different than what often occurs with a nominee from both parties. Embassies will reach out and want to have normal conversations just to build bridges.
GARRETTTo prepare in case this person becomes the next President of the United States. Josh said from the podium, he found initially nothing overtly alarming about this, but as Olivier alluded to, with this subject, there is a considerable amount of smoke. And there will have to be, if it ever goes beyond that, a much more concentrated investigation. And it will be telling just how -- if any Republicans beyond John McCain or even John McCain want to go down and create that fire.
PHILLIPThere's also an element of -- over the course of the campaign, we heard about reports that the FBI had been looking into questions of whether there was any coordination or communication between Trump advisors and Russia. And I think that's an underlying drama that has not resolved yet. There are a lot of career folks in the FBI who we know either overtly support Trump or are sympathetic toward him. James Comey has been torn about coming forward publicly and making statements about just the basic statement that Russia was engaged in hacking throughout the election.
PHILLIPWhether they wanted to help Donald Trump or hurt Hillary Clinton or neither. So James Comey has been torn about whether he wants to engage with that. He remains the FBI Director in a Trump Administration and I think it's an open question how that agency moves forward from this point on this particular subject.
REHMAll right, let's go to Bobby in Tulsa, Oklahoma. You're on the air.
BOBBYFirst, I want to say Diane, thank you for, you know, your time on the show.
BOBBYAnd you're going to be missed.
BOBBYAnd my question, you know, this week, there was a discussion about fake news stories on Facebook. And you know, I, from a perspective of somebody who's reported on so many of these things, do you think that more of a wedge has been driven this election than with others because of some of that fake news? And some of those things that were designed specifically to do that, or do you think that the people that form their opinions to vote and elect President are more informed than just believing, you know, fake news story on Facebook?
PHILLIPThere's been an enormous amount of damage done to trust in media in this cycle. And giving a very specific example, one of my colleagues interviewed a person who made fake news and made an enormous amount of money making fake news, and one of his fake news stories was tweeted out by Donald Trump's son as fact. And it was completely fiction. And that was one of many occurrences in which fake news, things that are completely untrue were distributed very widely from people who are trusted by some large segment of the American voting population.
PHILLIPEither by Donald Trump or his advisors or his children. And I think that's an enormous problem. You cannot put that genie back into the bottle. Once that phenomenon has become mainstreamed, I think it undermines information. It undermines truth. It undermines people's trust in what they see online and in newspapers. And there are no easy answers for it, but it's very real and I -- there's a lot of concern about it.
KNOXThe President-elect's choice to be National Security Advisor, Mike Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, tweeted out fake news during this campaign. It's an enormous problem, and we should distinguish between fake news, news that is designed to mislead, and news outlets just getting stuff wrong. Because Lord knows we get stuff wrong.
REHMCan you tell us what he tweeted out?
KNOXI believe it was a story -- I need to go back and look at it, but I believe it was a story about the Clintons having a ring of child prostitutes. It was something like that. Again, I'd have to go back and look at it, but yeah, it's, it's -- you see it everywhere. I mean, it's like having your cranky drunk uncle at the Thanksgiving table, except it's all over your Facebook feed and all over Twitter. And again, we got a lot of things wrong in this election, so I think we should probably be humble about that part, but it's different.
KNOXThere's a difference between getting something wrong and setting out deliberately to mislead the public. And that is what this hoax news, fake news stuff does.
GARRETTAnd Diane, you had a show about this very topic earlier this week. I'll just offer one observation as I dealt with this all the time on the campaign trail meeting Trump supporters. Any fact checking I did for them, or for many of them, was prima facie evidence that I was biased. And that I was wrong. So fact checking Trump was proof, not that he was wrong, but that he was right, and that anyone who would raise a question about the underlying relationship between what he said in the facts was biased.
GARRETTAnd therefore, legitimately disregarded from the beginning. So it wasn't as if there was a conversation about this. It wasn't as if facts were litigated back and forth. The very raising of a question about the factual basis of a Trump assertion was proof you were wrong and biased. And that is the atmosphere that I found myself existing in as a reporter. And to call it challenging would be an understatement.
REHMAll right, I need to correct you, Olivier. It was Michael Flynn's son, Michael G. Flynn who shared stories alleging top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. Pushed a conspiracy theory that Senator Marco Rubio was closeted homosexual and abused campaign. And repeatedly used expletives to attack Trump's political opponents. So, not Flynn himself, but his son. All right, let's go now to Key West, Florida. Mike, you're on the air.
MIKEYes, I'd like to know what happens when he gets to -- when the President gives his top secret briefings, and the briefers figure out that he's passing along this information to his family members with which to make business decisions. And my second question is, does this election finally drive a stake through the heart of the Bush and Clinton political machines? And I'll take my answers off the air. Thank you very much.
REHMAll right, thanks. Do you want to start, Abby?
PHILLIPWell, you know, we know that he's already begun getting his Presidential daily briefings. These are the same briefings that the President of the United States is currently getting. The question of whether his family members are either a part of those briefings or receive information from it, well, let's just put it this way. Disseminating intelligence information to people who are not cleared to receive that information is a crime. If they are, in fact, cleared, then we would be talking about the questions of the nepotism laws and whether Trump will violate those.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And what about the second part of our caller's question?
GARRETTDoes this drive a stake through the dynastic relationship our country had for a good long while with families Bush and Clinton? I think for a time it does. Chelsea Clinton may have her designs on a political life. George P. Bush may have designs on a political life. He already has a political life. But at the Presidential level, I think we can safely say, for a decade at least, if not longer, there will not be a Bush or a Clinton around the conversation as they have, it is worth pointing out, for more than 30 years.
KNOXQuick, quick correction of the correction. Michael Flynn actually did tweet fake news. He tweeted out a story from an outlet called truepundit.com that claimed the FBI had found so much information on Anthony Weiner's laptop that Hillary and some of her senior advisors would go to prison.
REHMSo, he himself.
KNOXHe himself did share things fake...
REHMAnd of his son.
KNOX...that is correct.
REHMAll right, I'm glad we've got these corrections and corrections. Abby, we have lost an extremely beloved pioneering journalist this week. Gwen Ifill died. She was just 61 years old. She had uterine cancer, which just breaks my heart to see her go that way. Did you know her?
PHILLIPI did have an opportunity, about a year ago, just before I came, you know, just before I started going out on the campaign trail. And I was at a dinner where she was being honored for her amazing reporting and her amazing career. And that was the first time I had the opportunity to meet her and the very first thing she did was give me a huge hug and she said, she said I'm a huge fan of yours. And she said that -- she started giving me all this advice about what clothes to wear and really encouraging me to strap in for a year on the campaign trail because she had done that many, many years ago.
PHILLIPMultiple times, and, you know, as a young African American reporter in D.C., I have always looked up to Gwen. And she has always been both a role model to me personally, and also someone who is of unimpeachable character, has an incredible smile and optimism about her. And she was always known to be the person who would ask straightforward questions and would get right down to the facts.
PHILLIPAnd that's what we need more of right now.
GARRETTSo, Hillary Clinton often says, there's a special place in hell for women who knock down other women. I believe there's a special place in heaven for respected journalists who reached down to young journalists who are just trying to find their way and give them encouragement and give them support. Gwen Ifill did that for me when I first arrived in Washington covering the Senate Press Gallery, wet behind the ears, scared to death. She was with the New York Times. She had no business looking at me, paying any attention to me.
GARRETTIn fact, she did. I was on Washington Week as a guest of hers many, many times. Everything that Ashley said is 100 percent true. We're all at a loss. The industry is at a loss. The profession is at a loss. And humanity is at a loss.
KNOXI didn't know Gwen Ifill at all. I never had any -- I think I had one social interaction with her, but it's been very telling to me that a lot of the reporters that I respect, including Abby and Major have these kinds of personal tributes to her. I think that tells me an enormous amount about what kind of a journalist, colleague, and human being she was.
REHMIndeed. And I offer my sympathies to her family and to her partner on the PBS News Hour, Judy Woodruff. Together, the first female co-anchors of a national news program. Thank you all for being here. Major Garrett, Abby Phillip, Olivier Knox. And thanks to all of you for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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