Conflicts of interest? Reporters press Trump transition team

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," November 21, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT MIKE PENCE: I'm not very confident that the president-elect and his extraordinary talented family are going to work with the best legal minds in this country and create the proper separation from their business enterprise during his duties as president of the United States. What I can assure you and all of your viewers is that all of the laws pertaining to his business dealings and his service as president of the United States will be strictly adhered to.


DOUG MCKELWAY, GUEST ANCHOR: That comment from vice president-elect Mike Pence coming in the aftermath of a report in the Argentinean paper among many other sources that said that during a phone call with the president of Argentina Trump apparently brought up this issue of a high-rise that he is building, asking the president to expedite some of the process of bringing that construction to a finish. Now, after that report apparently the newspaper as well as the president of Argentina and the Trump transition team denied that the conversation ever took place. But it produced a heated exchange between a "New York Times" reporter and Kellyanne Conway today at Trump Tower. Let's listen in to that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's reports that Mr. Trump continues to transact business while he conducts -- is that appropriate? Are you confident that he's not breaking the law?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I'm very confident he is not breaking any laws. He has many lawyers, accountants, and advisors who tell him what he must do and what he can do. And he is a businessman. He is also working a transition. He is the president-elect. We're in unprecedented times. We have someone who is very successful.


CONWAY: It's not like he's -- you ask people how long they're going to play golf and do the transition?


MCKELWAY: Let's bring in our panel, Daniel Halper of The New York Post, also Susan Page, Washington bureau chief at USA Today, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Daniel, let's start with you. When does he cease becoming a businessman, if he still is, and becoming a president?

DANIEL HALPER, THE NEW YORK POST: It probably should have happened yesterday, or when he got elected. What was the knock against Hillary Clinton, is that she was crooked, is that she benefitted off of the state, off of her service in government and her family. And that was crooked Hillary. That's what Donald Trump called her throughout the campaign, and he obviously was very successful in doing so.

He needs to be careful now going forward that any appearance of conflict of interest will be held against him, will be questioned. And reporters will ask, what is going on if this is not dealt with properly in the next -- during the transition period. This is a very pivotal time for him and his business because it will really shape -- there's a few blocks from here and from the White House there's a Trump hotel. There was a report over the weekend that diplomats are staying -- or have been -- feel pressure to stay at that hotel. Those sorts of things could dog him throughout his presidency if he's not able to deal with it at this moment.

MCKELWAY: This is all complicated by the fact that his children are the Trump business partners as well. So it's virtually impossible for them to not know who he is negotiating with as president. How does he extricate himself from this relationship?

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: I think it's so complicated, it's so unprecedented. We have never had a president this wealthy or one with this kind of empire, an empire that bears his name and his children are going to run it. So the possibility of the kind of blind trust that past presidents have done is simply not an option here.

I think it's going to be a continuing issue that he will need to address day by day, week by week. It's not as though he is going to stop being Trump. And the Trump industry, the Trump network, the empire is not going to go away. They're going to have to figure out ways to proceed with the family business that his kids are going to run in a way that reassures Americans that he is not mixing that with the public.

MCKELWAY: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I don't think it can be done. I don't think is a complicated problem. I think this is an insoluble problem. First of all, we have never had a president with holdings so widespread around the world. Second, as he himself has said in many of the depositions he has done over the years, the value of his company fluctuates according to perception. And the main element of the values of a lot of his properties have to do with his name. Many of them are not his. They're just -- they slap his name on and the value increases and he gets a payment.

So the idea -- what would you would normally do is you sell everything because you can't have a blind trust for a business that's so visible. You have to sell everything. But that of course would impact the value. It would be a fire sale. He would never do that. He spent his life constructing this extremely closely held empire. It all revolves around him and reflects him. It would require him to basically look back on the 30 years of his life he built this and to say, that's over forever. I'm now going to liquidate my holding and from now on I'm president and president only. Unless he does that, there is no answer to this. And every time he makes a phone call to a head of state where he has business interests, there will be questions.

MCKELWAY: And the chances of that actually happening?

KRAUTHAMMER: Close to zero. But then again, I said that about his chances of winning the presidency.



KRAUTHAMMER: So take that with a grain of salt.

MCKELWAY: OK. Another development just within the half hour, Donald Trump released his executive action plan for day one. Let's take a look at some of the bullet points here. On the issue of trade, he plans to issue a notification of intent to withdraw from the TPP and instead negotiate fair bilateral trade deals. On the subject of energy, cancel job killing restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale energy. On the subject of regulation, for every one new regulation two old regulations must be eliminated. National security, ask the Department of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a comprehensive plan to protect America's vital infrastructure from cyber- attacks. On immigration, direct the department of labor to investigate all abused of visa programs that undercut the American worker. And last, on ethics reform, impose, and this gets to our first discussion of the day, impose a five year ban on executive officials becoming lobbyists after they leave the administration and a lifetime ban on executive officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign policy government. Reaction, Daniel, start with you.

HALPER: I think it must be a heartening sign if you are a Trump supporter because it shows he is organized and he has thought about his administration at this point, and he is looking -- we see this very public process of him bringing people up to Trump Tower. He is interviewing people for cabinet positions.

Donald Trump, as Dan Quayle said with Maria Bartiromo over the weekend, Dan Quayle said something to the affect that he has basically 100 or 200 days, basically until about July, in order to enact what he wants to get done. And if he comes in organized he and doesn't fight and he doesn't lead unnecessary fights over his cabinet then he will be able to get a lot of things done that he promised on immigration, on TPP, on trade, on all of these things. And if he comes -- if he comes disorganized and if he fights unnecessarily so over various appointments of people he might name, then he won't be able to get those things done. So it has got to be a heartening sign if you are a Trump fan.

PAGE: Not really surprised at these proposals, mostly things he enumerated at that speech he gave at Gettysburg before the election. The idea he is backing out of TPP on day one, that's new. And there's some supporters of the trade deal that held out hopes that they could convince him it was a good idea. That clearly is not going to happen.

I think also the lobbying ban is an interesting thing because one of the most powerful things for President Obama when he came in was to try to address some of the culture of Washington stuff that alarms a lot of voters. And it's interesting if Trump really tackles that in a serious way. Not letting people who serve in his administration ever lobby for a foreign government and banning them for lobbying for five years after they leave government employment, that is a serious restriction.

MCKELWAY: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think it's a good list. It shows, I agree, how serious he is about some of the things he campaigned on. I think the TPP is a little bit regrettable. It's sort of like Obama's Guantanamo. It's a fixed idea. It's not going to change. There's no way he would be in favor of the TPP. But I think we're going to see the cost of that rise as those Pacific allies of ours, including even Australia, are now going to seek their own deals with China as a result. We may live to regret that.

MCKELWAY: So it empowers China?

KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely. The Chinese are the ones who are the biggest beneficiaries of the death of a TPP.

But lastly, what's not on the list? What's interesting is I would have expected the executive order Obama had signed to legalize the 5 million illegal aliens that are being held up in court, so there's no real urgency. But if you wanted to show decisiveness, you would cancel that on day one. I think he will eventually. But I'm just surprised it wasn't on list. It would be -- it would send a real statement had he did it -- were he to do it in the very first hour.

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