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Chinese Paper: Beijing Will "Take Off The Gloves" With Trump; Evicting The Press?; Trump Escalates Feud With Civil Rights Hero. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 16, 2017 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:35] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Strong words this morning from a Chinese newspaper over President-elect Trump's position that the One-China Policy is negotiable. A state-run tabloid, "China Daily" writes, "If Trump is determined to use this gambit in taking office, a period of fierce, damaging interactions will be unavoidable, as Beijing will have no choice but to take off the gloves."

Joining us now is Robin Wright, a contributing writer for "The New Yorker" and a joint fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace at the Woodrow Wilson Center. And, David Drucker, senior congressional correspondent with the "Washington Examiner" and host of the podcast, "EXAMINING POLITICS" join us once again.

So we saw that in the "China Global Times" which is sort of a tabloid but, you know, government sanction in China, and they wrote much more and let me just read you the end of what they wrote also. They said of Donald Trump, "Maybe American voters promoted him too quickly. His amateur remarks and overconfident manner are equally shocking." You know, Robin, it does seem as if Donald Trump is getting under the skin of Chinese officials.

ROBIN WRIGHT, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER", JOINT-FELLOW, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE AT WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Very much so, and I think there's a -- it reflects the kind of nervousness across the globe today. A lot of governments are not sure just how seriously he means some things that often come across as insults. Challenges not just to pass policies but to the sense of relationships. The basic core of agreements that the two countries have come up.

There's -- it seems like there is so much more at stake and that the agreements -- the terms of engagement are being thrown out the window. And I think that's -- it's not just China that is worried and more -- perhaps, other countries, more quietly, are relaying messages. We need to know what the nature of the relationships are going to be.

The president-elect has now challenged whether it's the future of Europe. He said over the weekend to -- in an interview with the "Times" that Brexit was not only a great thing but that others are likely to leave Europe as well because of their -- because of mistakes made over the issue of immigration. I mean, the United States, for 70 years, has worked very hard to make sure that there are no more wars in Europe, that there is a stronger relationship. That the European Union is a body that is at peace with itself and that has common values and common laws. And now, the president-elect has questioned one of the basic fabric -- the basic threads that have pulled together since World War II in creating a more stable world. And I think that's worrying people from across six continents.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So David Drucker, to Robin's point, he also said in that interview with "Bild" and "The Times" of London -- he also said NATO is obsolete. He put Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin on equal sort of footing when it comes to who he would trust most. He seems to be, to put it lightly, in favor of clearly a new world order of sorts. Even Justin Trudeau spoke out against him. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: There are things that we hold dear that the Americans haven't prioritized. And I'm never going to shy away from standing up for what I believe in, whether it's proclaiming loudly to the world that I am a feminist. Whether it's understanding that immigration is a source of strength for us and Muslim-Canadians are an essential part of the success of our country today and into the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: This as Mexico, over the weekend, said if you do what you want with the 35 percent tariff you're going to send this world into a global recession. What is this new world order then, David?

DAVID DRUCKER, SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Well, I think we're trying to figure it out. I mean, look, I think that the difference between President-elect Trump and his predecessors, Republican or Democrat, is that he's presenting himself more like a nationalist and less like a liberal Democratic -- small "l", small "d". And on the one -- so we have that, on the one hand.

On the other hand, we've seen him appoint a national security cabinet that is largely traditional Republican and conservative in the mold of what we have seen in the post-World War II order from the United States. And so I think the question is, number, one, are we going to get Trump the nationalist, that we saw on the campaign trail or are we going to get Trump, the guy who's appointed Gen. James Mattis to be his Secretary of Defense, Mike Pompeo, his CIA director, and things of that nature?

[07:35:00] And then I think we have to look at his behavior. And I think what's so unsettling for many, but he leaves a lot of us guessing, is Donald Trump, when it comes to matters of foreign policy and national security, isn't necessarily rooted in particular principles that we can depend on, whether we would like them or not. And so he keeps a lot of people guessing in terms of his end game.

And if we're looking at China and we're looking at the Pacific, the fact that he's ruffling some feathers there and putting a lot of priorities for China on the table for negotiation could work out well. China has been building these islands in the South China Sea. They've been trying to exert and expand their influence at the expense of the United States and I think this is where Barack Obama, the president, has fallen short. So if the president-elect understands what his end game is and wants to reassert U.S. dominance in the Pacific, this could work out quite well.

In Europe, it's rather unsettling because he is, in a sense, siding with Moscow's priorities over that of our most important allies. And when you're delegitimizing or reducing the importance of NATO at the expense of elevating Moscow it can be a very troubling matter --

BERMAN: Robin?

DRUCKER: -- and it could be damaging for U.S. national security.

BERMAN: You know, Robin, what David is talking about there, unpredictability isn't necessarilya bad thing in foreign relations but, so far, President-elect Trump hasn't been unpredictable when it comes to Russia. There's no carrot and stick policy toward Russia from Donald Trump. There's a carrot-carrot policy right now from the president-elect.

WRIGHT: And there's a -- and the president-elect is not holding Russia accountable for what the Intelligence Community believes is a serious hacking of our electoral system -- of our -- and beyond that. This is the problem -- that there is -- doesn't seem to be the kind of balance. And I think one of things that concerns Americans as well as our overseas allies is that foreign policy, so far, has been defined largely in 140-character tweets.

And there is a sense among the diplomats in Washington -- foreign ministries all over the world that there isn't yet an outline of what happens on January 21st, and there's a lot at stake. We have 68 allies who are part of the coalition against the Islamic State -- the ISIS threat that is -- that most Americans believe is the greatest security danger to the United States. And a lot of those allies are ones who are either -- either have been insulted or have been, you know -- have been questioned about their role.

They are members of NATO as well. If NATO is obsolete what does that mean? What happens on January 21st when it comes to the fight -- the war of ISIS? Are these allies supposed to continuing bombing, partnering with us, and advising and training the Iraqi Army? There's a -- there's a sense that there needs to be more clarity, more definition.

HARLOW: Yes.

WRIGHT: Many diplomats in Washington have told me they knew what Hillary Clinton's plan was, what her policies were, and they felt comfortable. Now they're being besieged by their own foreign ministries asking for what is the administration likely to do on X, Y or Z, and they have to send back cables that say we don't know.

BERMAN: We will see, perhaps, starting on Saturday, guys. Thanks so much. HARLOW: All right. Coming up next, evicting the press? Is Donald Trump and his administration considering moving the media out of the West Wing, that press briefing room? The reasons the Trump administration says they are considering the move, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:41:45] HARLOW: A new report in "Esquire" magazine suggests that the Trump White House may move the Press Corps from the White House Briefing Room into the -- in the West Wing -- across the street to the old executive office building. Now, Trump's team says if they make a move it would be to allow more reporters to attend the briefing. There are 49 seats in the current room. But members of the press are very concerned about this move and what it would all mean and that it would, frankly, be a first step in eliminating media access.

Let's discuss it all with Reuters' correspondent and president of the White House Correspondents' Association, Jeff Mason. And director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, Frank Sesno. Gentlemen, thank you for being with us.

Let me begin with you, Jeff, because you spent a long time over the weekend speaking with Sean Spicer about this. What did he say?

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS, PRESIDENT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION: Yes, I did, indeed. You know, my meeting with him was meant really just to get some more information from him about what their plans are and he did repeat what he said in a written statement that was shared with others in the media that they're looking at having a bigger space for press briefings than the current James S. Brady Room.

AndI emphasized to him the importance of that press room and it's very important for members of the White House Press Corps to have that space. It is -- it has 49 seats but it has been a very important space symbolically for the Press Corps, not only because of the briefings that take place there but because of the proximity to the West Wing and our ability to have access to the press secretary, specifically, but other senior administration officials as well.

So we talked about that and they're still making their decision, but I made it clear that the White House Correspondents' Association, of course, supports having access and having as many reporters possible in a briefing, but we'd like to focus on that -- on that briefing room and on the West Wing area.

BERMAN: And the West Wing areas includes work space for members of the Free Press, something it has for, you know, for decades and decades, Frank. And if your interest is in managing how you get your message to the American people I can understand moving the press out of that West Wing space. If your goal is for truth and for instant quick access to information on behalf of the American people, then you want those reporters, you know, 10 feet away from the White House staff, Frank.

FRANK SESNO, DIRECTOR, SCHOOL OF MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, FORMER CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, exactly. I mean, I think that it's very important to understand that there are two things going on here. One is practical and one is symbolic on the practical level. Just what you said is absolutely the case.

I was a White House correspondent, both for this network and for the Associated Press and being in that press room as confining as it is, and it's very confining, nonetheless gives you access to people in the press office. It's puts you on the premises. It puts you in their orbit and vice versa. But the other thing that it does is it demonstrates both to the administration, and to the American public, and to the world that the White House is accessible, it is accountable. That the president is accessible and accountable.

Now, as far as the large numbers -- because as Jeff points out, you know, Sean Spicer rightly observes that the place is bursting at the seams and it is -- the White House has accommodated that in the past with formal presidential news conferences when they put them in the East Room or someplace else on the White House grounds where they can accommodate more people.

[07:45:02] But the daily sort of day in, day out briefings -- gaggles, as they call it -- where there's quick access with the press secretary to kind of look at what's ahead, happens right there with that core, much smaller group of White House reporters who cover every word, every move that the president makes, and it's very important to inform the American people in the way, I think.

HARLOW: Look, I should note the Obama administration has not been, you know, perfect or close to perfect when it comes to press access. But I think context, gentlemen, is so important here because this comes in the context of an administration that during the campaign revoked press credentials of members of the media that they didn't like the questions they were asking and let some of them back in after that. But also said -- Donald Trump said on the campaign trail I want to open up libel laws. I want to make it easier for me to sue the press essentially, Jeff.

MASON: Yes. I mean, you're right about that. You can't forget the context in which the president-elect is coming into office. I think we, right now, are focused on trying to start a new relationship with this incoming administration and that would not get off to a great start if we're -- if they were trying to move us out of the White House.

I'm certain that we will continue to have conversations about any changes that they want to make and it's certainly in the interest of the White House Correspondents' Association and the broader Press Corps to maintain access so that we can aggressively report on a new administration like we would, regardless of who had won the election -- any administration.

BERMAN: That's right. You know, Frank, let me read you -- hold on, Frank. Let me just read you something that Jeff said overnight because he had this meeting with Sean and he talked about various subjects. This is what Jeff said about Sean. "Sean expressed concerned that journalists adhere to a high level of decorum at press briefings and press conferences," Jeff Mason says. "I made clear that the White House Correspondents' Association would object, always, to a reporter being thrown out of a briefing or press conference."

So, Sean Spicer talking about the decorum of reporters. You know, there is the flipside of that, right? I mean, Sean threatened to throw out Jim Acosta from this press conference last week. Donald Trump was calling various news organizations "fake news" --

HARLOW: Garbage.

BERMAN: -- garbage -- from the podium. Isn't decorum a two-way street?

SESNO: It certainly is and this isn't new. There's been tension between the Press Corps and the presidents since Thomas Jefferson agonized under the scrutiny of the coverage that he got at the time. I remember vividly when I was covering the White House and with every president before and since that they have not liked the -- you know, the constant attacks that they get through the media and all the rest, but that goes with the territory. It just does.

Look, there are two things, you know, to be keeping here in mind and somewhat separate. One is the actual logistical concerns that there may be. The decorum of the Press Corps. You know, reporters yell and scream at press -- at press availabilities, at photo ops, and all that kind of thing, and sometimes it's really, you know, not very appealing. But also, the decorum of the -- how the White House treats back, which is, you know, they need to be respected adversaries, and the word "respect" is key.

BERMAN: All right, guys, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it. Jeff, good luck.

MASON: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Donald Trump's feud with civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis, raising new questions. How will the president-elect reach out to the African-American community? We're going to discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:52:25] BERMAN: Legendary civil rights hero Congressman John Lewis plans to boycott President-elect Trump's inauguration. Here is his reason why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It's going to be hard. It's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president.I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: The president-elect is responding to this by slamming Congressman Lewis on Twitter, tweeting that the civil rights icon is all talk and no action. This back and forth just the latest in a string of tensions between President-elect Trump and the African- American community. We want to discuss with Democratic strategist Symone Sanders, and former vice chair of Diversity Outreach for Donald Trump, Brunell Donald-Kyei. Thanks so much for being with us. I really appreciate it.

First, to you, Symone. You know, Congressman John Lewis says he does not think that the President-elect of the United States will be a legitimate president. Is that appropriate?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN COMMENTATOR, FORMER NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, BERNIE 2016, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He did. Well, you know what, John, I'm not here to say, you know, if it is or it's not appropriate for John Lewis, a civil rights icon and a committed and very active member of the Congress, is right or wrong. But I do think that, you know, John Lewis is an important part of the resistance.

We have seen now a number of Democratic lawmakers join he and Rep. Barbara Lee in not attending the inauguration coming this Friday. And now we're having a robust conversation about Mr. Trump's treatment of the African-American community. So Idefinitely think John Lewis -- he's always talked about good trouble and I think this is some good trouble for him to be in.

BERMAN: Well, we are having this discussion, that's true, but we're also talking about the peaceful transfer of power and we're talking about someone who was elected president where no one has presented any proof that that wasn't a legal, fair election.

SANDERS: So I want to note that yes, the election happened. Donald Trump, you know, he got the necessary number of 270 --

BERMAN: He won.

SANDERS: -- and Hillary --

BERMAN: Just say he won.

SANDERS: He did. He got the number of 270.

BERMAN: He won.

SANDERS: He won, but John --

BERMAN: That means he's the legitimate president.

SANDERS: -- there is a real question here of how the Russian involvement really played out in the election and I think there are facts here for John Lewis to base his comments on. This is different than the baseless birther conspiracy movement that Donald Trump led.

BERMAN: So, Brunell, the flipside of this is for the life of me I don't understand questioning someone like John Lewis and saying that they're all talk, talk, talk, no action. He is the definition -- the walking, living, breathing definition of action, isn't he?

[07:55:13] BRUNELL DONALD-KYEI, FORMER MEMBER, NATIONAL DIVERSITY COALITION FOR TRUMP, ATTORNEY: What I would say is this. You know, he is a civil rights icon but that does not make him infallible. It doesn't make him perfect and he -- even he can be wrong in his judgment here.

And what I'll say is this. Constitutionally, we are -- we've been here in this nation the way we have, strong and tall, because the presidents and elected officials all, you know, upheld the Constitution, and the Constitution requires a smooth transition of power. And what I will say also is this. These people have been elected and the nation is watching. Donald Trump has said that he's going to put billions of dollars into the inner cities.

BERMAN: Brunell --

DONALD-KYEI: And so what I would say to them is to, you know, support the president-elect. Begin to have that friendly conversation. Let's make this peaceful.

BERMAN: The nation is watching, Brunell.

DONALD-KYEI: Yes.

BERMAN: I couldn't agree more with you on that. So the nation watches and listens --

DONALD-KYEI: Yes.

BERMAN: -- when the president-elect engages, and that's a euphemism, with people constantly on Twitter. Whether it be Meryl Street, whether it be the Intelligence Community, whether it be Congressman John Lewis, the world is watching.

DONALD-KYEI: Yes.

BERMAN: People are watching, African-Americans are watching, so --

DONALD-KYEI: Yes, I'm one of them.

BERMAN: Yes. So when you go after someone like John Lewis and say all talk, no action, how does that help to heal? How is President- elect Donald Trump helping to move forward right now?

DONALD-KYEI: What I'll tell you is this. You know, Donald Trump was on that plane crisscrossing this nation like the Terminator. We watched him. We saw the RNC have boots on the ground for four years building up to that electoral landslide on November 8th.

And what I'll say is Donald J. Trump is a person. He is not perfect. And, you know, honestly, with the way the media treated him -- slammed him during the election and the disrespect continues, of course you're going to see a human response. He's hurt. I mean, who wouldn't be hurt when people who are elected who are supposed to be supporting a smooth transition of power are out there telling people that the presidency isn't legitimate when the American people spoke very loud and clear.

But you are correct. It is time to heal. It is time for this divide to heal because the nation, the world is watching. When we are strong, the world is strong. When we are weak, the nation -- the world is unstable. And so I think that we, as Americans, as elected officials, as people who love this great nation, as patriots, we have got to stop talking about race. Let's talk about how we're going to love each other and make this nation better. And the first way we can do that -- John Lewis can do that. Those 23 Democrats and others who want to boycott can do that.

SANDERS: No, John --

DONALD-KYEI: They can attend that inaugural and then go across that table with the president-elect and let's help these inner cities. Our children are dying.

SANDERS: But, John --

DONALD-KYEI: They're dying.

SANDERS: John, that was beautiful, but the fact of the matter is --

DONALD-KYEI: It's the truth.

SANDERS: -- that the president-elect is the one that is really stoking this -- that's really stoking this divide in the nation. The president-elect --

DONALD-KYEI: Miss Symone, our children our dying. Do you understand that?

BERMAN: Let Symone -- let Symone talk. Brunell, let Symone talk.

DONALD-KYEI: They're dying.

SANDERS: So, John, it's the president-elect that has yet to meaningfully come to the table where women are concerned, where people of color are concerned, Latinos, Native Americans, African-Americans, where the disabled community is concerned. He's disparaged all of these communities. So one could even argue that appointing Ben Carson, you know -- nominating him as the secretary of HUD is, in fact, demonstrating that he is not serious about his engagement of African-American communities.

I am, frankly, just tired and disturbed by Donald Trump's repeated stereotypical characterization of black and brown communities, of inner cities, saying they're infested with crime, they're drug- infested, that they're not the best communities. That is what Donald Trump automatically reverted to when he decided to attack John Lewis, and that is the behavior that needs a course correction.

DONALD-KYEI: If I may respond to that, sir, what I will say is this. John Lewis attacked the president-elect first. Just because he's a civil rights icon --

SANDERS: How old are we? (ph)

DONALD-KYEI: -- that does not give him the right to disrespect our leaders in authority, especially our 45th president. And what I'll say is this. Many of these communities in the African-American -- not all of them, but many of them are crime-infested and that's the truth. The truth is bitter but we have to swallow it. If we don't start telling the truth how do we fix these communities? How do we answer the cry of our children who are filling up the prisons and the morgues? So what I will say is this.

BERMAN: Brunell --

SANDERS: Well, that has to do with --

DONALD-KYEI: So listen, Miss Symone, you've got to be honest.

SANDERS: That has to do with systemic racism and the fact that we need real course corrections in our criminal justice system --

DONALD-KYEI: Absolutely.

SANDERS: -- and Donald Trump has yet to give a plan for meaningful engagement for those things in our community. So I'm all -- the rhetoric is not enough. Rhetoric is not going to keep --

DONALD-KYEI: Absolutely.

SANDERS: -- is not going to keep our kids out of the criminal justice system.

DONALD-KYEI: Absolutely.

SANDERS: Rhetoric is not going to bring back jobs. We need action and Donald Trump is all talk, no action.