tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN January 18, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PST
happening now, breaking news. closing arguments. president obama takes reporters' questions in the white house for the last time. talking about russia, voter fraud, and his controversial decision to commute chelsea manning's send nls. what did he say about the man poised to replace him, donald trump? nominee showdown. confrontations at the confirmation hearings for would-be members of the trump cabinet. democrats lop hard ball questions and accuse republicans of trying to jam through the nominees. why are trump's picks to lead the health department and the e.p.a. under especially intense
scrutiny? >> hospitalized, former president george h.w. bush is in intensive care and now his wife barbara bush is hospitalized as well. it's the latest in a series of health scares for the former first couple. what's their condition tonight? and designated survivor. not just a popular tv series but a real life concern. rebuilding the government if the unthinkable were to happen during the inauguration. who would be in charge in a worst case scenario? we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." we're following multiple breaking stories this hour, including president obama's final white house news conference. he strongly defended his decision to commute private chelsea manning's sentence for leaking military documents and he called allegations of voter
fraud fake news. mr. obama leaves office with a near record 60% approval rating according to our brand-new cnn/orc poll. also breaking, heated confirmation hearings for top donald trump nominees including his picks to lead the health and human services department and the environmental protection agency. under tough questioning from democrats, some nominees are distancing themselves from some of donald trump's more controversial positions. we're also following the health scare surrounding former president george h.w. bush and his wife barbara bush. they're both hospitalized tonight in houston, with mrs. bush sedated. he's in intensive care. we're al learning new details tonight in the disaster plan in place for the inauguration. an obama cabinet secretary will not attend, and would assume the oval office in a worst case scenario since no trump nominees have been confirmed yet. we're covering that. much more this hour with our guests, including senator joe
manchin, a member of the intelligence committee and our expert analysts and correspondents are also standing by. let's begin with president obama's wide ranging and final news cop s conference at the wh house as commander in chief. michelle kaczynski is on the scene for us. the president had some advice for the president-elect. >> yeah, it was clear, he wanted to send some final messages to the incoming administration. starting with right off the bat, standing there in front of the white house press corps and lauding us, as absolutely essential to democracy itself. saying, you know, you're not supposed to be a bunch of sycophants. you're supposed to be skeptics. you're supposed to hold the people in power accountable and that's what you have done. in the same way, he seemed to be warning donald trump about who you surround yourself with as president. listen. >> i think a lot of his views are going to be shaped by his advisers. the people around him, which is why it's important to pay attention to these confirmation
hearings. i can tell you that, and this is something i have told him, that this is a job of such magnitude that you can't do it by yourself. you are enormously reliant on a team. your cabinet, your senior white house staff, all the way to fairly junior folks in their 20s and 30s, but who are executing on significant responsibilities. and so how you put a team together to make sure that they're getting you the best information and they are teeing up the options from which you will ultimately make decisions. >> the president also had one of these warnings for americans, that you have to participate in democracy. can't take it for granted. you have to fight for what you believe in. he indicated that if certain things happened, he himself,
even as a former president, wouldn't be silent. listen. >> but there's a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where i think our core values may be at stake. i put in that category, if i saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion. i put in that category explicit or function al obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise. i would put in that category institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press.
and for me, at least, i would put in that category efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are american kids, and send them someplace else. >> the president ended with a message that he thinks we in america are going to be okay. that's an attempt at an upbeat, optimistic message, even though it in itself is not hugely optimistic. also, he wouldn't weigh in directly on what he thinks about all of these democrats in congress who are now boycotting the inauguration. his administration said they don't think they're contributing to division or they're harming a smooth transition, but the president just wouldn't comment on that at all. wolf. >> michelle kaczynski at the white house, thank you for that report. right behind us, some of donald trump's nominees for top
positions are being hammered in their confirmation hearings by senate democrats. our senior political reporter is joining us from capitol hill. he has the latest. there were some pretty contentious exchanges today. >> reporter: indeed, wolf. and in tonight, senate drmeemocs are warning republicans they may drag out the proceedings on the floor of the senate because they do not believe there's been enough time to question a number of donald trump's nominees. senate democratic leader warning chuck schumer warning of extensive debate on the floor. republicans firing back, saying that is not a standard that they followed in 2009 when they allowed seven of president obama's nominees to get confirmed on inauguration day. >> president-elect donald trump's cabinet picks. on the democratic firing line, in contentious hearings today. starting with his choice to lead the health and human services department. at issue, congressman tom price's stock trades. while pushing legislation that could benefit those companies,
including the medical device firm ximer biomed. >> did you buy the stock and then did you introduce a bill that would be helpful to the companies you bought the stock in? >> the stock was bought by a broker making those decisions. i wasn't making those decisions. >> because you decide not to tell them? wink wink, [ inaudible ], and we're all supposed to believe that. did you take additional actions after that date to advance your blan to help the company that you now own stock in? >> i'm offended by the inseniation, senator. >> price traded roughly $300,000 worth of shares in health care companies over the last four years, and democrats targeted a stock tip he allegedly received from new york congressman chris collins. price defended the investment. >> by definition, i believe that's the nature of a private placement offering. what i said to you and what i said to others is that i paid exactly the same price as everybody else. >> it really begs credulity,
sir, when you say you did not know that you got a discount on this. these sound like sweetheart deals. >> but republicans came to his defense. calling the democrats hypocrites. >> this appears to be nothing more than a hypocritical attack on your good character. and i personally resent it because you have always disclosed -- let me just say this, can you confirm that you have always followed the law relating to trading and stocks while serving as a member of congress? >> thank you, sir. everything that we have done has been above board, transparent, ethical, and legal. >> the battle overshadowed price's main job, if he's confirmed to the post. to repeal and replace obamacare. price said that replacing the law would take time. >> we don't believe in replacing a failed washington, d.c. health care plan with our own failed plan. we want to work on it step by step, large piece by piece. is that -- how do you respond to
that? >> i think that's fair. i think that for individuals to -- the american people need to appreciate that the last thing we want to do is go from a democrat health care system to a republican health care system. our goal would be to go from what we see as a democratic health care system to an american health care system that recognizes the needs of all. >> three other trump nominees also faced tough questions from senators. including billionaire businessman wilbur ross to lead the commerce department. and oklahoma attorney general scott pruitt to head the epa. >> senator, as i have indicated, the climate is changing. and -- >> but you haven't told me why you think the climate is changing. >> senator, the job of the administrator is to carry out the statutes as passed by -- >> i'm asking you a personal opinion. >> my personal opinion is immaterial. >> really? >> to the job of -- >> you are going to be the head of the agency to protect the
environment. and your personal feelings about whether climate change is caused by human activity and carbon emissions is immaterial? >> but pruitt broke with the president-elect when calling global warming a hoax. >> donald trump is wrong? >> i do not believe climate change is a hoax. >> and south carolina governor nikki haley's meeting. she took a tougher line than trump onnish isnish issues lin. >> russia is trying to show their muscle. it is what they do. we always have to be cautious. i don't think we can trust them. >> and tonight, wolf, one other of donald trump's nominees in hot water. that is mulvaney, the nominee to head the white house office of management and budget. he acknowledging in a questionnaire to the senate earlier today that he did not pay taxes on one of his household employees for four years in the early 2000s.
now, he, a transition source telling our colleague that he actually had hired a babysitter at the time to look after his newborn triplets, and he wasn't aware that he had to pay taxes on that. stepped down, similar to the way tom daschle did under president obama had to withdraw when he had a tax issue, but the trump team standing behind mulvaney, suggesting he's not going anywhere. >> manu on capitol hill with the latest. thanks very much. let's get more on all of this, democratic senator joe manchin of west virginia is joining us. thanks for joining us. what do you think of these nominees so far? is there anyone that has raised alarm bells in your mind so far that you might vote not to confirm? >> i have two that are concerning that we have talked about tonight and have gone through this hearing process. betsy devos is basically education. west virginia is a rural state. and west virginia basically
public education is everything we have. to go down the path where i think she comes from, the privatization, which would be the vouchers and charter schools, west virginia, as far as palmulation, how we're spread out, doesn't work. >> she said she supports public schools. she also supports options giving parents a choice if possible. >> when you don't have a population and you have such limited resources, you know who pays the price? your rural public education. and i don't think we can -- i just don't think that works in west virginia. >> you might vote against her. >> i'm very troubled by that. i have to look at that and west virginia and our values and what it could do to harm our children. so i'm concerned about that one. i'm concerned about congressman price. >> who has been nominated to be the secretary -- >> my concerns there is i know his long-standing on medicare. that's concerning to west virginians. we have an older population. these are people who paid, paid for medicare, and now his
long-standing position has been privatization. and then he wouldn't commit to opiate funding for treatment centers. he would not commit to the funding we need, and our state has been devastated more than any other state. it's an epidemic. these people need treatment. and we don't have treatment centers now. we're trying to build up to that, and him not committing funding there, his long, long stance on medicare, privatizing medicare, are things that bother me. >> the president-elect during the campaign repeatedly said he's not going to touch social security, medicare or medicaid. bernie sanders was questioning price about that today, and he said, are you with the president-elect on that? because the president-elect donald trump he repeatedly said i'm the only republican pramsing not to touch any of that as far as reduced -- >> i appreciate that from president-elect trump and i thank him for that, but basically, the values we have, the people who have the services they're receiving are in
jeopardy from a person basically on the line and is putting a budget together when he was budget director, that shows where his intent is. >> trump also makes a big issue of dealing with the big problem you have, opiates. the disease that is caused by that in west virginia, among other states. >> that troubled me more about mr. price. >> don't you think the president would dictate? >> i hope so, but we have to go thru the process, and that's what the nomination process is about. >> but the other nominees you're on line with, but these two you haven't made a final decision. >> you have to do three things. have your fbi background check, your financial disclosures and ethics. those three things come back clean, then basically, does that person fit in to represent the people i represent? can he identify or she identify. and could it be harmful if they had to make decisions? i have to look at it from that standpoint. >> more to discuss. i want you to stay with me. we're going to oin our conversation with senator manchin as we get more information coming in to the
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tylenol® the breaking news tonight, contentious confirmation hearings for some of donald trump's cabinet picks. we're back with democratic senator joe manchin, a key member of the intelligence committee. what do you make of this feud that has developed, this really ugly, the outgoing cia chief john brennan and the president-elect of the knroouns. i have covered the intelligence community for a long time. i don't remember something like this developing before, but maybe you do. >> let me just say, this morning i'm on intel, my first year on intel. this morning, i went out to the
cia for my first briefing. all the top level people who came to brief me, and brennan walked in. >> the cia headquarters. langley, virginia. >> yes, langley. and secretary brennan came in. i thank him for his service because he truly has done a remarkable job in the most difficult times. i was briefed by some of the most outstanding professionals that basically are career. they're committed to the welfare and well being of every citizen of this great country, and to keep us safe. we have to look at it from this standpoint. make sure we get them all the resources they need to do the job because it's becoming much more complicated. i would like to say that i believe in this intelligence community. i trust them. there's going to be mistaked made, i'm sure of that, but we can always get better. but we have to work with them and support them. they're doing one heck of a job under the most difficult of situations. so secretary brennan, i thanks him for that on behalf of the senate. we're very appreciative. from democrats and republican
whose trust the information we receive, to make the decisions we need to know to keep the security of this nation and the safety of every individual. >> so when you hear donald trump, the president-elect of the united states, make a comparison between the cia, the career professionals, acting like they are in nazi germany, that's a pretty horrendous comparison, especially to you, someone who goes out to cia headquarters and gets these briefings. >> i'm very hopeful that's going to change. i'm very, very hopeful that's going to change. that's all i can say, is that, you know, president-elect trump is our president. he's going to be my president. i'm going to do everything i can to support him and make them had best i can. if he does well, our country does well. my great state of west virginia will do well, and i think when he gets into the bowels of this thing, it will be different. >> the new cia director assuming he will be confirmed, pompeo, he's highly respected. i know you know him well. one final question. today was president obama's last
news conference. he's wrapping up eight years as the white house, what do you see, very quickly, as his lasting legacy? >> he really brought a lot of dignity to the office. when you look at basically his family life and how he raised his two wonderful daughters and his wife with so much grace and charm. when you look at all of that, you know, he and i had our differences on policy because my state is in a different position than where he was going. with that, we had our challenges there, but basically, when you look over all, representing the united states of america, and the dignity he brought to that office, and the way he came in and the way he's going out, without any mars to it, without any blemishes, without any scandals, i think that's something to be proud of, and i'm sure he is proud of that. we are in better shape now. the thing that bothers me most is we have a $20 trillion debt. if we can get that under control, i think the economy will take off like a rocket. >> easier said than done.
>> i know. >> senator manchin, thank you. interesting what you said about his legacy. similar to what we heard in the last hour from senator tom cotton of arkansas. >> really? >> about the dignity this president brought. >> he's a fine man. >> thanks very much. there's more breaking news coming into "the situation room." former president george h.w. bush and his wife barbara, they are both being treated in a houston hospital tonight. our special correspondent jamie is here with the latest. jamie, the former president was hospitalized. there's deep concern. what's the latest? >> so he came in suffering from a cough, shortness of breath over the weekend. they put him on i.v. antibiotics and he was doing very well for a couple days. they even thought this morning he would be going home. then his situation changed. and he was clearly having a lot of trouble breathing, and we are now reporting that he's been put in intensive care. he was sedated. he was intubated, meaning that a
tube was put down his throat to help him breathe. we're told that he is at last report in stable condition. and resting comfortably. but this is much more serious than when he went in this morning. and unfortunately, former first lady barbara bush was also admitted to the hospital today. she is not in intensive care. she's there as a precaution. suffering from fatigue, just not feeling well. so we wish them both our best. i saw them both several times this summer, and they were in great shape. he even said to me, jamie, i'm going to live to 104. but he's had problems with these kinds of bronchial infengzs before. when you're 92, wolf, you know, it's serious. >> we wish him and barbara bush only the best. i covered him when he was president. and we hope he does a complete recovery. >> absolutely. >> thank you very much to jamie
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president obama's final white house news conference. our political experts are here to discuss that and more. gloria, let me start with you. how much of the president's commentary in that one-hour news conference at the white house do you think was directed at the american public as opposed to the president-elect of the united states? >> i think an awful lot of it was directed to donald trump. and i think it was very clear that the president was trying to figure out what line he's going to walk as a former president. we know that we all admire george w. bush because he didn't get in the way, didn't get in his grill on policy. what the president was saying today waw, look, there's a difference between normal politics and moments where our values, our core values are at stake. i think what he was saying to the president-elect is i'm not going to get involved in the debate on tax reform or even obamacare. but he did outline issues that he will get involved with, which
he called systemic discrimination, as in perhaps a muslim ban or voting rights or freedom of the press. you know, or dreamers was another point. and i also think he was giving the president-elect some advice here when he was saying as a president, if you find yourself isolated, don't just listen to the people who agree with you. listen to a broader range. so he put down a warning, and he was also giving him advice, which i think he's probably given to him privately as well. >> jeff zelleny, i'll play the clip because the president made it clear that even though he's leaving office, certain issues like voting rights, voter i.d., he's going to speak out. listen to this. >> this whole notion of election or voting fraud, this is something that is constantly been disproved. this is fake news. the notion that there are whole bunch of people out there who are going out there and are not
eligible to vote and want to vote. we have the opposite problem. we have a whole bunch of people who are eligible to vote who don't vote. >> so how forceful do you think he'll be after he leaves office? >> in some respects, he doesn't know yet. this is going to be a work in progress because we don't know what's coming after noon on friday. i was struck after he said i want to have some quiet. i want to do some writing and not hear myself talk so darn much. that is a sign, listen, barack obama as we all know is someone who likes to be left alone. he likes to be left to his writing and his thoughts. that said, i think knlogloria i right. long term things, a longer view, redistricting, things thereat have really shaped the politics in the country going forward. he was limited doing a lot of things as president. his hands were tied in some respects. they will not be in this case. look what he does on social justice and race. in terms of bigger things and he mentioned fake news, also a passion of his. he wants to work with silicon valley, other things, to kind of
change that. he's a writer at heart. he will not be as quiet as george wumpt bush. >> writing his memoirs and i'm sure he'll get a huge advance for that as well. david, take a look at these numbers. we'll put them up. this is our final job approval rating number for the president as he leaves office. 60% approval. and take a look at the comparison to some other presidents at the end of their terms, if you take a look, ronald reagan was at 64%. president obama, 60%. bill clinton was at 66%. he's up there. he's near the top. >> right. yeah, president obama has this style, right? sort of part swagger, part professor, part the dad from leave it to beaver, and i think overtime people have come to appreciate this, especially sort of in contrast to trump, who is more like the people's champion or the people's tribune style, and that has resulted, i think partly, in that contrast, and we see it in the poll numbers so he's going to have that as political capital, as a way of
speaking when issues are near and dear to him, he's going to be able to weigh in because people have come to rely on that. >> 60% is a pretty good number to leave office. ryan, later tonight, cnn will air a special documentary, 9:00 p.m. eastern, on these final days inside the obama white house. and there's a lot of tension, obviously, after the election, but also some funny moments, including some moments where speechwriters had an opportunity to talk about thanksgiving and the turkey. listen to this. >> did you get some sleep? >> yeah. we landed at about 2:30. >> brutal. >> last flight, man. >> yeah, it was pretty -- a lot of cheers, a lot of toasts. it was pretty sentimental. >> how was it? >> it was awesome. he was in his element. it was a good trip. i mean, obviously, every question at every press conference was about events back
home. >> good morning. >> hey, hey. >> who's out wednesday? >> okay. which is fine. i think everybody should watch the last turkey pardon. and then take off. >> all right. one of the weirdest weeks of the year. thanksgiving week. should we start with turkey jokes? the eighth and final year of turkey jokes. >> the eighth and final one. a cornucopia of corny jokes. including maybe that one. you're crying fowl on that one. i get it. he also talks every year about generosity, and making sure everyone can eat on thanksgiving. except for the turkeys because they're already stuffed. >> i like it. >> and then we also want to give a shout-out to all the brave turkeys who met their fate with courage. they're not chicken. >> followed up with their delicious. they're not chicken, they're delicious.
>> the last time i will ever have to pardon a turkey, which means the next time i cross paths with a turkey, it better run. >> i like that there's this underlined promise that the president just wants to kill turkeys. the next time i see one, look u. >> i have an idea for a joke, but not an actual joke yet. like something with the peaceful transition of power, you know, i'm committed to a peaceful transition for turkeys across america. >> that's how democracy works. >> yeah. right. >> something like how he's more than happy to hand it off to donald trump. briefed the president-elect on everything this job entails, the nuclear codes, pardoning two turkeys every thanksgiving, you know, the important stuff. next year, donald trump gets to do this. >> it's okay.
>> obama white house speechwriters, joking about trump's victory. what was the reaction? >> you know, i think some of those jokes actually did make it, if anyone watched the actual turkey pardoning. some of those jokes made it to the final version. i don't know what the rest of the documentary looks like. >> it's really good. >> sounds like it's really good. it looks like maybe there wasn't as much to do after the election, if that's sitting around making turkey jokes. but it looks like great access they got. >> they really did. and i just want to alert our viewers, stay with us, cnn tonight, for the cnn film special presentation "the end, inside the last days of the obama white house." that will air tonight, 9:00 p.m. eastern and pacific, only here on cnn. there's more coming up. i want everyone to stay with us right now. one of the most heated confirmation hearings so far, so why do democrats believe donald trump's nominee for education secretary is unfit?
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donald trump's pick for education secretary has had one of the more arduous confirmation hearings so far. our senior white house washington correspondent, i should say, jeff zeleny is joining us. soon to be our white house correspondent. give us some details on how it all went down. >> wolf, democrats make the case over and over again about how
she didn't attend or appreciate public schools and she has limited experience leading such a big agency. even some republicans believe she had a rocky hearing. that doesn't mean she won't be confirmed. a bruising confirmation hearing for donald trump's pick for secreta secretary of education. betsy devos is a michigan billionaire. for decades, she's been a vocal advocate of charter schools, investing time and money trying to overhaul america's classrooms. believing that tax dollar theed be diverted from public schools in favor of school choice. >> time to shift the debate from what the system thinks is best for kids to what moms and dads want, expect, and deserve. >> republicans argue she's committed to reform. but she was on the defensive from democrats who called her unfit for the job. senator elizabeth warren questioned her qualifications to oversee the student loan program. >> mrs. devos, have you ever taken out a student loan from the federal government to help pay for college?
>> i have not. >> have any of your children had to borrow many in order to pay for college. >> they have been fortunate not to. >> she at times stuck to her script. >> will you insist on that equal accountable in any program? >> i support accountable. >> equal accountability for all schools? >> i support accountability. >> on protecting the civil rights of students with disabilities, she said she favors local control before being told it was a federal law to provide all children access to a public education. >> i may have confused it. >> trump aides believe she will ultimately be confirmed, but two top republicans on capitol hill told cnn devos had a rough day and were surprised at how she was thrown off at basic questions. one comment about grizzly bears and guns went viral. >> do you think guns have a place in our schools? >> chris murphy, a leader on gun policy, pressed her about guns in public schools. >> you can't say definitively
today that guns shouldn't be in schools? >> i will refer back to senatoresenator enzi and the school he was talking about in wyoming. i think probably there, i would imagine that there's probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies. >> devos was trump's first nominee to sit for a confirmation hearing without completing a full review of potential conflicts of interest. hers is still pending. in part, because her amway fortune, estimated at $5 billion, is a complicated port foal yeah. senator bernie sanders zeroed in on her family's wealth and political contributions. >> would you by so kind to tell us how much your family has contributed to the republican party over the year snz. >> i wish i could give you the number. i don't know. >> i heard the number was $200 million. does that sound in the ballpark? >> collectively between my entire family? that's possible. >> okay.
>> the biggest concerns of democrats are rooted in ideology. they simply disagree with her support of vouchers and school choice. the democrats are still raising questions about her financial disclosure and ethics review, which is still not submitted tonight. >> pretty complicated when you have that much money, i assume. don't go too far away. it's the tom price nominee to become the secretary of health and human services, he also faced a pretty serious grilling from democrats over ethics issues. >> yeah, absolutely. i don't see his confirmation as being in jeopardy yet, but he still has another committee to go through, the senate finance committee. what i see as the problem for congressman price, for the sort of shaky performance of devos and rex tillerson, is it's giving the democratic senators their footing in terms of how they're going to sort of attack and push back on the trump nominees and the trump program. it's not a good roll-out overall, that's the bigger issue. >> one theme that seems to be coming through the confirmation hearings, lot of the cabinet
nominees haven't had substantive serious discussions with the president-elect on some of the most important issues that they will face. >> and i don't know whether they have done that to keep their distance, give themselves some credibility and the president deniability, perhaps, as these issues progress. i mean, you had nikki haley saying that, you know, that she hasn't discussed russia or china, and that in fact, she wouldn't cut back u.n. funding. we know that donald trump has talked about that. we have had price saying he hadn't had a recent discussion with the president-elect about social security, medicare, medica medicaid, what would happen to those programs. tillerson, of course, famously saying he hadn't discussed china with the president-elect. so i have a question, which is how do you not have that conversation, and if you don't have it, why? >> yeah. >> what do you think? >> look, with nikki haley, she's going to be the u.n. ambassador. widely supported in congress.
she's going to be confirmed. she was asked if she believed that russia committed war crimes in syria. and she answered affirmatively, right? now you have the incoming u.n. ambassador from the united states branding vladimir putin a war criminal at the same time that you have the president-elect saying, putting putin on the same level as angela merkel, one of our closest allies in europe. there is major dissonance here between the u.s. ambassador and the president-elect and at the same time in mattis' hearing last week, he also was a strenuous defender of nato and the traditional western alliance and very, very critical of putin. some people might argue, maybe this is just -- this is a strategy. i dope think it is. they're going up and speaking their mind which trump has tweeted and said he wants them to just say what they believe. >> he says even if you disagree
with me, speak out, it's a good idea. general mat tis was confirmed by the senate armed services committee today 26-1. only senator keirsten jill brand of new york voting against him presumably because he's only been out of the military three years instead of the required seven. is that right? >> we. she was one of the few that decided she did not want a general in a traditionally civilian position. from the perspective of most democrats up there, mattes is a sigh of relief, someone ideologically they think will be a good person to have arnold trump, much more in line with his vous, unlike flynn. >> the question is what are the allies thinking about all this? confused about the u.s. policy starting at noon on friday. >> get used to it. just ahead, how an obama cabinet member could wind up in the oval office if disaster were to strike at the inauguration.
it's a worst-case scenario. the united states has never faced it before. but prepares for nonetheless. what if an incoming president and his immediate successors were wiped out on day one? cnn's brian todd has details now of the doomsday plan in place. brian, it contains some surprises. >> reporter: surprises, quirks, and a lot of intrigue, wolf. since the cold war and the soviet threat of nuclear attack, america's leaders have had plans in place to have a president and to stand up a government if catastrophe struck. what they haven't done is streamline the process or made it very clear to understand.
just about every measure of america's security apparatus including 28,000 law enforcement personnel will be on the ground in washington when president obama hands off his office to donald trump on friday. a near army in place to protect the leaders of all branches of government gathered in one place outside. and while officials stress there's no specific credible threat to this inauguration, tonight, due to a quirk in america's rules for succession, questions remain about just who would be in charge if an attack hit the incoming president, vice president, and congressional leaders just as the transfer of power is under way. >> here you have a very confusing line of succession. >> reporter: according to the constitution, if the president and vice president are killed or incapacitat incapacitated, next in line is the house speaker, then the president protemporary of the senate. what if something happened to them at the inauguration to? it goes down the list of cabinet secretaries starting with secretary of state. on the day of the inauguration as a precaution, a cabinet
secretary called the designated presidential successor will not attend the inauguration, ready to step in if something happens. but it won't be a trump cabinet secretary since none of them have been confirmed yet. it will be an obama appointee. no word from the white house on who that will be on friday. does the line of succession switch to the new president's lum at noon? >> in the inauguration you have two lines of succession, one for the obama administration, which is still in place, and one which really won't be in place until donald trump is inaugurated, comes into office actually formally nominates and the senate confirms his people. you might end up with the president from the prior administration because of the tragedy. >> reporter: and by noon friday all of president obama's secretaries are expected to resign. john kerry would be the first cabinet secretary in the line of succession, but he's out of office by noon. donald trump's pick for secretary of state, rex tillerson, may not be confirmed for another week or two. so who would be secretary of state on friday afternoon?
%-po the highest ranking nonpolitical official in the department, the undersecretary for political affairs, tom shannon. >> one of the most obscure possibilities is that someone who is an acting secretary of state, someone lower down the line in the secretary of state department today assumes the acting secretary of state position, is in the line and the worst happens and that person becomes president at least for a while. >> reporter: the uncertainty creates the potential for chaos, high theater, or a hit tv drama. >> sir, you are now the president of the united states. >> reporter: in abc's "designated survivor," kiefer sutherland plays a cabinet secretary unexpectedly thrust into the presidency after an attack at the capitol during a state of the union address. former agriculture secretary dan glickman played that role in real life. in 1997 during an address by president clinton to congress, he was the designated survivor. he left washington and went to his daughter's apartment in manhattan.
but he wasn't alone. the role is a serious one and he says he was accompanied by a doctor, a military officer with access to the nuclear codes and the secret service. but once the president's speech was over, glickman declined a ride from his security detail. the security personnel left. glickman had to hail a cab in bad weather. >> i couldn't escape the irony that three hours before i had the potential of being the most powerful person on the face of the earth and now i was in a situation where i couldn't even get a cab. >> reporter: now, of course, how all of this plays out changes from administration to administration and the white house isn't saying exactly how this is going to be handled on friday and the inauguration. now, if the unthinkable were to happen during the inauguration and the designated survivor had to take over, experts say that person could be sworn in pretty much right away unless there was some uncertainty. they would first need confirmation that the president, vice president, or anyone else in the line of succession were really incapacitated. wolf? >> very quickly, brian, these
days after 9/11 can a designated survivor go anywhere they want during a big event like dan glickman did? >> when he went to manhattan, we're told by people who know about this they really can't do that these days. they're very likely placed in secure, undisclosed locations, bunkers in some places, all of them within a reasonable distance from washington. >> brian todd reporting. thanks very much. that's it for me. thanks for watching. "erin burnett out front" starts right now. thank you, wolf. the breaking news, president-elect donald trump about to arrive in washington as the current president says his final public good-bye. plus our interview with mike pence, the vice president-elect talking inauguration, russia, and the man he's turning to for advice. and president george h.w. bush and barbara bush both in a texas hospital tonight. the very latest on their condition this evening. let's go out front