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President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly discussing over the phone on trying to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. President Trump and his administration even after being sworn-in still holds a grudge with the media. Aired 2:00-2:30p ET
Aired January 22, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
January 22, 2017
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. And thank you so much for joining me, I'm Fredricka Whitfield here in Washington, D.C., this inauguration weekend. We begin this hour with a first 100 days alert.
The White House announcing today it is in the beginning stages of discussions to move the U.S. embassy in Israel. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer telling CNN, "We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject," moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was one of president Trump's pledges during the campaign.
That alert coming on the heels of a phone call between President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We've got team coverage on this breaking story. Now, we begin with senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny at the White House with more on this.
Jeff, so, right after the phone call, President Trump heading to the east wing of the White House for a swearing-in of his senior staff. We're looking at live pictures right now that could happen at any moment. But first, let's talk about Israel and what potentially is the issue here.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Fredricka. By now President Trump should have had that conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu. It was scheduled for about 30 minutes ago. They were going to talk about a variety of things, of course, including the embassy, as you mentioned earlier, but also Syria, also Iran.
This is really the beginning of the relationship in its official sense between President Trump and the prime minister here. Of course, the U.S. is essentially resetting its relationship, indeed a very troubled relationship that President Obama and the Obama administration had with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
We do not have a readout yet of that telephone call, Fredricka, but we are likely to hear from President Trump this afternoon in the east room of the White House as you said as he swears in many of his senior advisers here who will work in his administration, help set up his administration in the coming days.
Now, these are all assistants to the president, people who serve in a variety of capacities from foreign policy to national security to communications to other positions here. So the pictures that we will see coming up here shortly are these aides and some of their family members who are gathered in the east room here of the White House and President Trump is likely to speak as well.
But as soon as we get more information on that phone call, Fredricka, will be sure and bring it to you.
WHITFIELD: So we're still awaiting more information on that phone call. Meantime, this swearing in, what's our expectation about President Trump answering any questions, responding to a host of issues that have arisen within the last 24 hour? I realized that mostly family members and other staff members who are in that audience but what's your expectation?
ZELENY: Well, Fredricka, I would be surprised if President Trump would answer any questions at this setting this afternoon but who knows? This is his White House now. This is his chance to set the conversation, to talk about anything he would like to.
Now, of course, we spent the last essentially 24 hours or so talking about crowd sizes, talking about how he was frankly upset by the comparisons of his crowd and sizes to a previous inaugurations and certainly the marches yesterday.
So the White House, I am told from senior advisers, want to, in one respect, change the conversation and move on to what he would like to talk about. So he will be doing this today in the east room.
But Fredricka, as we saw yesterday when he visited the CIA, anything that's possible when he speaks so we will have to wait and see what he says. But he also later today is going to be greeting some first responders and military officials, thanking them for their help in this inauguration as well. So we are expected to see the president twice today on Sunday his second full day in office, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right, Jeff Zeleny, we will check back with you outside the White House as we continue to watch the activity there in the east room, thank you so much.
All right. Let's turn now to Oren Liebermann live in Jerusalem. So, Oren, has there been any reaction on the Israeli side to that phone call today?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just like Jeff said we haven't gotten any readout of that phone call yet, we do expect it surely coming from the prime minister's office.
This is something he announced early this morning given the indication of just how seriously he views this phone call, it was at this Sunday cabinet meeting, a weekly cabinet meeting, where he said exactly what he wanted to talk about. And he made it clear what his number one priority is. Here's a part of what he said. The supreme goal of the state of Israel continues to be stopping the
Iranian threat and stopping the threat from the bad nuclear deal signed with Iran.
Netanyahu was probably the most outspoken critic of the Iran deal internationally. And although he went quiet in the final months of the Obama administration, he is renewing his efforts to either change or repeal the deal now that he has President Trump at office. And he's made it clear that that is one of his priorities.
He's also said he will talk about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. I suspect he will talk about settlements and settlement construction, where is it okay, (00:05:00) where will Trump allow him to build in the settlements whether it's East Jerusalem or in the West Bank.
And then Syria that's obviously one of Netanyahu's major concerns with the Russian presence there and a renewed or empowered Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. So that will also be one of Netanyahu's concerns. And perhaps he will go even a step further and ask Trump to recognize Israeli annexation of the occupied Golan Heights.
That is something no American administration has ever done. But as Netanyahu said, this is a new era for everyone.
WHITFIELD: Meantime, Oren, we're also hearing that this move could be held up by Jordan's king, Abdullah II. What would be the role potentially of Jordan on weighing in on the location of the American embassy?
LIEBERMANN: I would say held up is probably too strong a term there. There's no doubt that there are Jordanians along with the Palestinians and perhaps many other countries in the Middle East would oppose such a move but do they have the power to stop President Trump from making the move? That is doubtful.
The Palestinians have made it clear though, they will work with every other country they can, in fact, every other international organization they can to do whatever they can to convince Trump not to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would effectively recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The Palestinians have said, for them, that would be a violation of international law that they would pursue. Additionally, they've also said they would consider revoking recognition of the state of Israel. That would be a game changer in terms of relations between the Israelis and Palestinians and between the Palestinians and the U.S. that would have far reaching consequences.
But that's just an indication of the lengths the Palestinians and the Jordanians will go to, to see if they can head off this move of the embassy. But as we just heard from Jeff just a couple of minutes ago, the White House making it clear the discussions, even if they are in their early stages, have begun.
WHITFIELD: All right. Oren Liebermann, thank you so much. We will check back with you, appreciate it. All right. Let's discuss this more, this phone call with Netanyahu and Donald Trump. Let's talk about it with our panel and take a closer look at Trump's busy week ahead as well. News that Trump will not release his tax returns even after the audit is complete. A lot on the table here.
Joining me now is CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott. David Swerdlick is a CNN political commentator, also the assistant editor for "The Washington Post". Julian Zelizer is a historian and professor at Princeton University. And Lynn Sweet is the Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times".
All right, Elise, let me begin with you. This call to Netanyahu, is it an indicator that Trump is on to serious business now after spending the first few hours in office really talking about crowd size and the relationship with the media and now this first order of business?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Fred, he can chew gum and walk at the same time. I mean, yes, there's been all this kind of distraction about the crowd size but that doesn't mean that the president hasn't been kind of signing executive orders, he's getting ready to swear in some of his cabinet and some of his advisers.
So I think that we're focused on not distraction about crowd size but clearly the White House already announced that the Mexican government would be coming, the Mexican foreign minister. British Prime Minister Theresa May will be coming later this week. And so clearly, especially on the foreign policy front, I think that this White House is getting down to business.
This call with Prime Minister Netanyahu is so important. There's a lot of focus on the embassy and we're expecting some kind of announcement this week, not necessarily that the U.S. is moving it but that President Trump will reaffirm his pledge during the campaign to move the embassy.
You know, it doesn't happen on day one. There's a lot of preparation and a lot of consultation that needs to happen. I think at first you might see the ambassador, David Freeman, once he's confirmed, living and working in Jerusalem.
But as Oren and Jeff said, there are a lot of issues on the agenda. And when I talk to Israeli officials, they say the embassy is not their first priority. Their priority is stopping Iran's nuclear program. Their priority is dealing with Syria and Hezbollah. And also, they want to improve their relationship with Gulf allies.
So we're focused on some of these kind of really hot button issue but there's a lot of issues in the relationship with Israel that I think they're going to be discussed. And we could see an early visit from the prime minister next month if you will.
WHITFIELD: And why is this potentially such a tenuous issue on moving the U.S. embassy? LABOTT: Well, obviously the U.S. right now does not recognize
Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It feels that this is one issue that needs to be discussed in a context of a comprehensive peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
But President Trump throughout the campaign has said I'm ready to move the embassy and to recognize Israel as the capital. Now, will that be in the context of talks with the Palestinians? Will this be a unilateral move? What is the timeline? How specific is he going to get?
I think these are questions that we're looking for. I'm not sure the administration has the answers right now, it's very early. The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hasn't even been sworn in (00:10:00). President Trump hasn't been able to talk to his cabinet about what the long-term implications are.
I think you're going to see baby steps on this. I think you're going to see some kind of gestures towards making those plans permanent. Right now, there's a waiver in place that successive presidents have signed against moving it. That waiver will end in June. So I think you're going to see these baby steps.
And I then I do agree that this president is intense on moving the embassy. And I said everyone is looking to see whether that will be in the context of some kind of larger Mid-East peace plan.
WHITFIELD: And then Julian, on the world stage, why is this so important to President Trump?
JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORIAN AND PROFESSOR,PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well look, first, this is one of the most volatile regions and volatile issues that American presidents' face. And we've seen successive presidents try to bring a resolution. It's the ultimate goal in many ways on foreign policy. The only one who's had some real success was President Carter back in the late 1970s brokering a deal between Israel and the Egyptians.
The second, it's political. There's been a lot of controversy through the campaign about President Trump and his relations with the Jewish community and he's had kind of a two-track system, a lot of criticism the rhetoric his campaign used, some of the groups that supported him.
And on the other hand, he's aligned himself with some pretty hard-line figures including Ambassador Friedman, assuming that move through. And so people are watching politically where he will be on this.
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Well, may I add, when you talk about the politics of it, these are domestic politics more than international politics. Because the least, as you said, Israel has got a lot more substantive issues than where the embassy is.
ZELIZER: Right. SWEET: And here's one of the things to think about, that the politics
of it have as much to do with the Republican base consisting of Christian Zionists as the American-Jewish community. The Trump politics has as much to do with very conservative mega Jewish donors as the American-Jewish community, writ large, which is overwhelmingly Democratic within the American-Jewish community, write large, there are divisions within the community as to the right approach, the left to left, the center, kind of said in shorthand, J Street, a PAC, this is a Trump move more than an international solution, obviously.
ZELIZER: It's also about the Iran deal which is one President Obama's major legacies and --
ZELIZER: -- President Trump has been very consistently critical of this. Many people surrounding him have. And I would assume that this is a first step at testing just how durable this deal would take (ph).
WHITFIELD: (Inaudible) first step of domestic policy as the first step of --
LABOTT: It's not in a vacuum though, right? This is going to have reverberations with the Arab world.
Listen, to be frank, a lot of Arab countries are very sick of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It is a thorn in their side. They want to get move past it and they want to have better relationship with Israel on security, on intelligence, on diplomatic issues, on Syria, on economy and trade. And they're just waiting to put this past them.
But I think something like this without thoughtfully preparing the ground will see a lot of protests in the region and these are headaches that the Arab states don't necessarily want.
WHITFIELD: If this is a follow-through of campaign promises, another campaign promise was the release of taxes after being elected. And now we understand that there is a stunning emission (ph) being made today about Trump's tax returns. Kellyanne Conway saying that Trump will not release his taxes even after an audit is completed. So David, how much of a possible problem is this?
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST"/CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Fred, first of all, when we now look back on the last year and a half, it seems unlikely that President Trump was ever going to release his tax returns. One thing that worked for Trump and his team over time was the idea that unless something wasn't working, they continued doing it. It never was a problem for them that they didn't release tax returns and so they didn't and they will not.
WHITFIELD: All right. This was Kellyanne Conway on this issue. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR, PRESIDENT TRUMP: The White House
response is that he's not going to release his tax returns. We litigated this all through the election, people didn't care, they voted for him.
And then he make this very clear, most Americans are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like. And you know full well that President Trump and his family are complying with all the ethical rules, everything they need to do to step away from his businesses and be a full-time president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. We've said this ad nauseam, the first major party nominee since '72 who hasn't released his taxes. But Julian, (00:15:00) Donald Trump has said he's doing it his way. He made that promise on the campaign trail but at the same time, those who have been great support of Donald Trump really trust him. Is this now a trust issue or the beginning of an erosion potentially of trust?
ZELIZER: It's not a political problem for him and that it's true, his supporters didn't care. But it is a democratic problem. The reason we have these laws is so that presidents can't do everything their own way. And that there are certain rules and measures of accountability and that the public can count on to make sure we know if there's conflict of interest taking place and we don't know.
This is an unusual presidency. He has not divested himself of his business. It's just a door away with his sons and he don't even know the holding (ph).
WHITFIELD: And he said he's not breaking any laws by doing so. He said because he's president that he really doesn't have to. But there are many, particularly in the legal community, who are arguing that because there is a clause in that lease with the federal government for that old post office building that says that someone in elected office would not be able to profit from the consequence of a lease.
ZELIZER: And other issues will emerge in terms of security, in terms of deal with other governments and we don't even know the extent of his holdings. So I think that's the issue.
SWEET: Specifically on this, quickly, whitehouse.gov was taken over by the Trump people, they left a lot of the features of the Obama White House on it including the 'We The People' petition. Petition number one, I think I looked before the show, it has about 100,000 signatures on it for President Trump to release his tax returns. So we will see if the people weigh in more.
WHITFIELD: Stay tune. All right. Thank you so much everybody: Elise Labott, Lynn Sweet, David Swerdlick and Julian Zelizer, appreciate it.
All right. Coming up, the president versus the press on his first full day in office, Trump blasting the media, calling the press dishonest in our inauguration coverage. And it's not just the president directly, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, a direct messenger of the president reiterating that claim, that's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is committed to unifying our country and that was the focus of his inaugural address. This kind of dishonesty in the media, the challenging to bring about our nation together is making it more difficult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: (00:20:00) All right, welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Washington D.C. Happening right now, we are awaiting President Trump who is expected to attend the swearing in of senior staff members right there in the White House east room, assistants to the president are taking their oaths in the east wing of the White House, they will be momentarily. We will be bringing you this live as it happens.
Meantime, Donald Trump spending his first few days in office, the same way he spent much of his campaign, at war with the press. Early this morning, one of his top aides railed against the media and the coverage of the inaugural ceremonies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TOOD, JOURNALIST: Why the president asked the White House Press Secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood. Why did he do that? It undermines the credibility of the entire White House press office on day one.
CONWAY: No (inaudible). Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. You're saying it's a falsehood and they're giving -- Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. CNN's Brian Stelter is following this story, he's joining me now. So I wonder, does this set the stage of more to come? That was combative. Got a fair enough word?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think some reporters who expected a contentious relationship are surprised. It's so severe, so bad, so quickly. Here we are, the second full day of the Trump presidency. Looking at what Kellyanne Conway there had said, talking about alternative facts.
WHITFIELD: What does that mean?
STELTER: This is a phrase already being mocked all over social media, being criticized even by the Merriam Webster dictionary people who are saying, actually, facts are facts. Alternative facts are falsehoods. That's Chuck Todd said in that interview.
But this is a message we're seeing from the Trump administration from top to bottom, from Trump himself on Saturday, from his Press Secretary Sean Spicer and now, today, from Kellyanne Conway and Reince Priebus.
I think it's interesting what Priebus, the Chief of Staff, said on television this morning. He said that the media is obsessed with trying to take down Trump. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I'm saying there's an obsession by the media to delegitimize this president and we are not going to sit around and let it happen. We're going to fight back tooth and nail every day and twice on Sunday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Twice on Sunday -- had a longtime Trump aide say almost the exact same thing to me this morning saying, you in the media, you all are obsessed. First with, trying to focus on the popular vote, then on Russian interference. And now, on this issue about crowd size.
In other words, the view from the White House today is that it's the media trying to delegitimize this president. I would flip that around though and say this administration has been trying for a long time on the campaign trail and now in the White House to delegitimize the media. When Trump says he's a running war with the media, we're seeing that now play out first hand.
WHITFIELD: It doesn't help you use the language war and fight. I mean, Sean Spicer who says the media has an obsession of trying to delegitimize but I mean --
STELTER: This is a president who now is in charge of real wars, real combat and he's talking about having a war with the media.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And it's interesting because even in this morning's tweet from Donald Trump, he was talking about a fixture, a hallmark of democracy, the right to protest. This was a response to what we saw yesterday in the nation's capital. But the hallmark of democracy is also the freedom of the press.
And usually does take some time between a president developing a relationship with a White House press corps. But when there is talk about potentially moving the White House press corps to a new physician location on White House property, that certainly sets and sends a very strong message --
STELTER: That's right.
WHITFIELD: -- that will be contentious potentially.
STELTER: It still is an issue whether they're going to move the briefings to another place. Tomorrow they will be in the normal briefing room, we will see how it goes. Maybe Spicer will seek a do- over and try to be more truthful and have a better relationship with the press on Monday. That briefing will be fascinating to see. Most (inaudible) by these images we're about to see of Donald Trump
(inaudible) with this event with the senior staff. Maybe they're trying to create new, more positive images for the new president. Because yesterday, it was a strange day. And I think a lot of reporters have a lot of a questions after that. Maybe today, back on a better foot.
WHITFIELD: Yes. It was a statement yesterday, not a Q&A.
WHITFIELD: The expectation will tomorrow, the first briefing, there will be a Q&A. It will be interesting to see the dynamic there. Brian, you're going to be back, thank you so much, I appreciate it. We will talk more next hour.
All right. Meantime, being here through the weekend including Friday's inauguration right here in the nation's capital has meant being able to talk to so many who witnessed the swearing in right behind me here. I talked to them about expectations in the first 100 days, take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the president-elect of the United States, Donald John Trump.
WHITFIELD: (00:25:00) How does this compare to other inaugural occasion?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has been unbelievable. I've been to every inauguration since Ronald Reagan and just the crowds or the people it just -- you have to have a sense of feeling, you get goosebumps every time you come to one of these things so.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I Donald John Trump --
WHITFIELD: What do you expect in this first 100 days?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you're going to see a lot of activity. That's what he sort of promised through his campaign. That's what he's promised since the election that he's going to get to work. He's a businessman. He knows you've got to take action, you got to do what you said you're going to do. So like him or not, I think you're going to see a lot of activity, you're going to see a lot of things happen.
TRUMP: This moment is your moment, it belongs to you.
WHITFIELD: He said this moment belongs to you. What was your interpretation of that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I just think, like he said throughout the campaign that sort of the government left the people behind and it's sort of like, hey, he's giving the government back to the people where it belongs. And you could just hear through the crowd when he said that, it's just like a murmur through the crowd. I think that's what people want, they want to take our government back and that what he's giving it back to us.
WHITFIELD: And what are you hoping to see in the first 100 days?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just the first 100 days, what he's promised as far as bringing work back here to the United States and all of us working together.
TRUMP: Good Bless America.
WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Just talking to people there who have been here all weekend long. Now, we're going to take you straight to the east room of the White House and listen to Vice President Pence alongside President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- to the president is being commissioned this afternoon as officers of the president of the United States. President Trump has commissioned only 30 assistants to the president for his administration. And it will be my high honor and distinct privilege to swear each of you in to these extraordinary responsibilities that you will accept today.
With that, ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States of America.
TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. very nice. I just went to the oval office and found this beautiful letter from President Obama. It was really very nice of him to do that. And we will cherish that and we will keep that. And we will not even tell the press what's in that letter.
I want to start off by telling you I just spoke with Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia, great state, great people. Florida affected, Alabama affected by the tornadoes and just expressed our sincere condolences for the lives taken. tornadoes were vicious and powerful and strong and they suffered greatly. So we will be helping out the state of Georgia.
We will be speaking with Governor Scott right after this. Alabama is a special place. Florida, special place. But they got hit hard -- they all got hit hard. But looks like Georgia has lost at least 11 people as of this moment, a lot of people. So on behalf of all of us, Governor Deal, condolences.
We are going to tell you that this has been a very interesting few days. We have set up meetings with the prime minister of the United Kingdom and Prime Minister May will be coming over to the United States shortly.
We're also meeting with the prime minister of Canada. And we will be meeting with the president of Mexico, who I know. And we're going to start some negotiations having to do with NAFTA. Anybody ever hear of NAFTA? I ran a campaign somewhat based on NAFTA. But we're going to start
renegotiating on NAFTA, on immigration and on security at the border. And Mexico has been terrific, actually, terrific. And the president has been really very amazing. And I think we're going to have a very good result from Mexico for the United States, for everybody involved, it's very important -- so very, very important thing.
And speaking of important, you are very important. Because with you and all of the people in this room, (00:30:00) we are going to do some great things over the next eight years. OK? Thank you. Right? Right? Great group. This is a great group of people. And if they're not, I will let you know about it.
This is the bad news about being the -- I will let you know if they're not doing the job, OK. I'll praise them if they're doing it, and I'll let you know if they're not. I know they'll do a fantastic job. I'm so proud of them. I know them so well.
Each and every one of you should be extremely proud. Give yourselves a round of applause. Come on. Give yourselves a round of applause. To your family and friends who are gathered here today, I want them all to know how important you are to the functioning of the White House and ultimately to the functioning of the United States of America.
I also want to thank the families here today for all you have done to support your loved ones as they've devoted their time and energy to causes of public service including many long nights. They'll be away long, long nights and that will go on for a long, long time.
But we're going to come out way ahead. We're going to come out way, way ahead as a nation, as a country, we'll come out way ahead because I know what we have. I know how talented these people are. We're also a team. It's a team. It's a great team. It's a team that gets along.
And as I said during my inaugural address, this is not about party. This is not about ideology. This is about country, our country and it's about serving the American people. We're not here to help ourselves. We're here to devote ourselves to the national good. Public service is a high and great calling.
It's our solemn duty together to protect the country, our country, this great, great country, to defend its workers and promote the well- being of all Americans. So many people are depending on us and on you as families, you as people that are going to get it done. So many people.
The veterans, the unemployed, men and women serving in harm's way overseas, victims of crime and young Americans looking to fulfill their dreams. So many of those young Americans, and they're going to be fulfilling their dreams. We're going to make it much easier for them.
We will face many challenges, but with the faith in each other and the faith in God, we will get the job done. We will prove worthy of this moment in history, and I think it may very well be a great moment in history. So be proud. Be very proud.
Now, I began with this gentleman right here. I said, Mike, how about it? And he said not even a question and it was a great decision for me. So Mike Pence, our fabulous vice president of the United States, will administer the Oath of Office. And congratulations to everybody. Congratulations.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And now the oath of office. With all those who are performing the oath and accepting responsibilities as assistants to the president of the United States, please rise. I, state your full name.
Please raise your right hand. I, state your full name, do solemnly swear.
ALL: Do solemnly swear.
PENCE: That I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
ALL: That I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
[14:35:06]PENCE: Against all enemies foreign and domestic.
ALL: Against all enemies foreign and domestic.
PENCE: That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.
ALL: That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.
PENCE: That I take this obligation freely.
ALL: That I take this obligation freely.
PENCE: Without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.
ALL: Without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.
PENCE: And I will well and faithfully discharge.
ALL: And I will well and faithfully discharge.
PENCE: The duties of the office on which I am about to enter.
ALL: The duties of the office on which I am about to enter.
PENCE: So help me God.
ALL: So help me God.
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Thank you, Mr. President, for entrusting us with the most solemn and important responsibility we will ever undertake to serve at your pleasure. It is particularly special today to have taken this oath while surrounded by our family and close friends. To those who took this oath, this is a moment that we'll never forget. It's also an opportunity to reflect on the immense responsibility we have to our president and our nation.
When I walked into my office this morning, there was a verse on a desk. It was from Isaiah 40:31, those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.
It is our duty to serve with character and integrity and to support President Trump as he places the interests of the American people first and everything that he does.
Finally, I want to thank not just the president one more time, but the vice president, our families and our loved ones and all the kids that are here and finally -- and finally, I want to thank God and ask for his protection over us as we serve President Trump, Vice President Pence and our beloved country. Thank you.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. You just saw in the east room there of the White House, the swearing in of a number of senior staff members. Just look at the familiar faces there, Kellyanne Conway, Omarosa, President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner and you saw Mike Flynn as well, Steve Bannon as well as Reince Priebus there now rounding it out with a few comments there expressing a graciousness for the importance of this position there.
And, of course, you heard President Trump opening it up, expressing his condolences to the state of Georgia, which is experiencing a very tragic storm overnight, 11 people have died.
And then very touching moment at the very beginning with President Trump saying he found a beautiful letter, I'm quoting him now, he found a beautiful letter from President Obama and he said, quote/unquote, "He was nice to do that."
Also, quoting him now, "I won't tell the press what's in that letter." And got a little bit of a chuckle there from the audience there. Mostly made up of family members of those senior staff, members who have been sworn in as well as many staff members who were eyewitness to this event.
So CNN's senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny is there at the White House, outside. So Jeff, a number of messages there coming from President Trump there in this first swearing in there in the east room.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Fredricka. This is the first time that we have seen and actually heard from President Trump inside the White House, inside the east room of the White House, which is, of course, a familiar room. It is where so many press conferences in history have gone.
It's where presidents host foreign leaders and other things, but this was President Trump with his own team and with a markedly different tone from the last time we heard President Trump just yesterday when he appeared at the CIA.
A few things that struck me, Fredricka, when he said we will prove worthy of this moment in history. Certainly a different tone than when he was talking about yesterday when he was at the CIA talking about the crowds, other things.
[14:40:09]He was not litigating any grievances or any fights today. This is an example of something that he is changing his tone at least for this moment. But Fredricka he also said this is not about our party. This is not about our ideology, this is about conducting work and doing work for the American people here.
And indeed the staff right around him there are the very people who will be tasked to do this and this really is a who's who of people who he be occupying those all-important offices inside the west wing of the White House.
You see the most important advisers had those front row seats there. Steve Bannon, we seldom see him in public. He is going to be the chief strategist, Reince Priebus, of course, the chief of staff. Kellyanne Conway as well and Jared Kushner, the son-in-law to this president who will be a senior adviser, and he is going to play a very key role as well.
This is something that happens once in the administration. He swears them in and now in the words of one adviser, Fredricka, he said it's time to get to work. And indeed they will be starting their work or continuing their work, I should say, this afternoon.
WHITFIELD: Right. And then tomorrow with the first press briefing, any expectations that you can share with us, Jeff?
ZELENY: Well, certainly, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary is expected to brief reporters tomorrow at the first press briefing. We are still awaiting executive orders. President Trump has promised to do a lot of things early in his 100 days.
Some executive orders that maybe issued tomorrow, could be on immigration, I'm told they still do not have the exact order of executive orders as they hope to play out here. But President Trump there also talked about the visit later this week from British Prime Minister Theresa May.
She will be coming here to the U.S. on Thursday. That's his first visit by a foreign leader. So he certainly wants to point that out as well. He points out so many similarities to his election to Brexit in the United Kingdom.
But the thing I'm most struck by, Fredricka, is we see this second day in office as they sort of get their sea legs. Holding up that letter from President Obama. Most presidents do not show that. Most read it privately and he didn't read it, of course, today, but we all sure wonder what is in that letter that President Obama left --
WHITFIELD: Yes, we do.
ZELENY: -- for President Trump -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Yes, absolutely do. But he made it very clear, he said, I will not be sharing that with the press. Doesn't necessarily mean that he won't be sharing it with other family members or friends who are there in that office.
So Jeff, let me bring in some members of our panel here and we'll continue our conversation about expectations, what we heard, et cetera. David Swerdlick is a CNN political commentator and assistant editor for the "Washington Post" and Lynn Sweet is the Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times."
A marked contrast in the demeanor of President Trump today especially after hearing him speak to the CIA there in Langley, hearing Sean Spicer yesterday, too, David, what do you suppose happened within the last 24 hours?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, things went relatively smoothly on inauguration day. Then yesterday there was that very awkward, you know, event at the CIA headquarters, and then today a more subdued tone. I'm not guessing that we'll see subdued President Trump that often in these next days and weeks but perhaps that he and his team thought it was best to have a more low key set of remarks today. After yesterday, they got a lot of criticism.
WHITFIELD: Helping to set that tone. By President Trump coming out and immediately talking about the letter received by President Obama and then, of course, offering condolences to the victims in Georgia after those storms and then making it very clear with his statement, I'm quoting now, this is not about party, ideology, country and it's about serving the American people -- Lynn.
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": The main difference I think between yesterday and today is that today his audience was his own people. He didn't have to affirm himself in the way when he said yesterday at the CIA, hey, did you all vote for me? He was with his family literally and the family of his appointees.
So I think that had to do with the difference of tone. Also he was able to talk about the very short-term future, the leaders that are coming to the White House, mentioning the news event of the tornado. So the letter from Obama. So it just was kind of an easier lift where he didn't have to get into any kind of policy detail at the CIA.
He might have wanted to talk about something more tailored for the CIA. I think he thought he did and he had, therefore, since he was in his now White House, I think that is really accounts for all the change in tone. I think it's temporal. Isn't everything?
So I think we'll end a lot of these discussions as we'll see more tomorrow. I think there is this kind of explanation for today.
WHITFIELD: All right, we'll talk more about that. This is the second full day in office. We saw that swearing in taking place in the east room with the president and vice president side by side. All right, Jeff Zeleny, Lynn Sweet, and David Swerdlick, thank you so much. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. The Trump administration has had a busy weekend and it will be a busy week ahead filled with cabinet confirmation hearings and conversations with foreign leaders.
The president's first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader is with Theresa May, the British prime minister. That meeting will be taking place at the White House. May said she wants to talk to Trump about building on the strong alliance between the U.S. and the U.K.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Yes. At the end of the week, I should be meeting him on Friday and talking to him on Friday. There will be many issues for us to talk about because obviously the special relationship between the U.K. and the U.S. has been strong for many years. We'll have an opportunity to talk about our possible future trading relationship, but also some of the world's challenges that we all face, issues like defeating terrorism, the conflict in Syria.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. I want to bring in CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, who was in London today. So Nic, this is a post-Brexit world for Theresa May. How important for her is it to forge a strong relationship with President Trump and vice versa?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Hugely important for her. I mean, she wasn't for Brexit originally, but now she's said we're going to have essentially what people call a hard Brexit. She had a major speech last week. And she basically said to the European Union, you know, no deal is better than a bad deal.
And if you guys can't light up and let Britain out of European Union on good terms, then I'm prepared to kind of cut it short, lower taxes in Britain and become some kind of tax haven. OK, that's great. Big strong talk.
But what she hopes to get from President Trump is guarantees of trade deals in the future. So she can offset any losses of getting out of the European Union. But more importantly, so she's got something to back up all that strong rhetoric when in a couple of months she begins that really tough negotiation, two years of talks about 27 countries to get the best deal for Britain.
But now she can get the best deal knowing she can count on the United States. That's why it's important to her and for Donald Trump, I mean, here you have a leader coming, a very important global leader, that special relationship between the two countries.
[14:50:12]The country going through Brexit, something he strongly identifies with. I mean, it's a match made for both of them right now -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right, Nic Robertson, thank you so much in London.
All right, President Trump quickly trying to mend fences with the intelligence community meeting with hundreds of members of the CIA on Saturday. Trump giving a speech in front of the CIA Memorial Wall and much of the time he focused on the size of the inauguration crowd and he also spent time insulting the media.
The agency's outgoing director, John Brennan, blasted that visit saying Trump should be, quote, "ashamed of himself for his, quote, "despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of that memorial wall."
CIA director nominee, Mike Pompeo, was at that speech but White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says Pompeo should have been there in an official capacity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'd also note that it's a shame that the CIA didn't have a CIA director to be with him today when he visited because the Democrats have chosen -- Senate Democrats are stalling the nomination of Mike Pompeo and playing politics with national security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. I want to bring in our national security panel, Elise Labott is CNN global affairs correspondent, Colonel Cedric Leighton is a CNN military analyst and a former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Juliette Kayyem, a CNN national security analyst and a former assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Welcome to all of you.
All right, so Elise, you first. Fill us in on this fight to get Mike Pompeo confirmed. What is happening behind the scenes?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: OK, well, I think, you know, Democrats have had a lot of problems with Mike Pompeo. He's widely respected, though, in the House and the Senate, and he was expected to get through last week. Now, on Friday, he submitted some -- after his confirmation hearing, which went pretty well.
I mean, if you remember, a lot of his answers were what both Democrats and Republicans were looking to hear about Russia, about a lot of other issues and he didn't always, you know, side with President Trump on a lot of these issues. I think it was a very encouraging sign --
WHITFIELD: Which we're starting to see rather consistently --
LABOTT: Absolutely. Whether it was Rex Tillerson or James Mattis of defense, but anyway I think that confirmation hearing went really well. Later in the week, he submitted some written answers for the record for the Senate to review and there were some problems with his answers on he might be willing to talk about bringing back enhanced interrogation techniques.
There was some talk about whether he would be willing to increase data collection on Americans for, you know, combating terrorism purposes. And specifically Democratic senators particularly Democratic Senator Widen of Oregon had some serious problems with those answers and the Democrats said they want some more time to discuss his qualifications.
There was a bitter fight between the administration and Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, and now what will happen is Monday the Senate will discuss for about six hours debate this and then he will have a vote Monday afternoon and he's expected to get through.
I mean, you know, it is -- Republicans are saying, look, this is a delay tactic. It's a fait accompli he's getting through and the Democrats are saying, listen, OK, he's going to get through. Let's at least talk about it first.
WHITFIELD: So Colonel, we're talking about 17 intelligence agencies that largely took offense to a lot of the verbiage coming from President Trump, his visit to the CIA yesterday. Some say it only, you know, puts salt in the wounds. How do you see the relationship between the president moving forward and the intelligence community, whether his nominees get through or not?
COLONEL CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Right. Well, Fredricka, I think a lot depends on whether those nominees get through. If they all do get through and right now the indications are that they will, then it will be a lot smoother than it otherwise would be, but in the situation where they don't get through, it's going to be really tough.
And I think it's tough already just because of the pronouncements that were made during the campaign, all the things that have come out and as Elise mentioned, the mention of waterboarding.
The CIA and the military intelligence agencies follow the Army Field Manual when it comes to waterboarding, which means there is no waterboarding and it is considered to be torture. Therefore, it won't happen.
And you know, those are the kinds of things that become really important when it comes not only to intelligence gathering but also to foreign relations in the U.S. image abroad.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And Juliette, for a moment it seemed like the waterboarding issue had been put to bed. Now it's back in the forefront again. How do you see this influencing confirmation?
[14:55:04]JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, look, the waterboarding issue should be resolved because, as the panel has been stating, the United States has been pretty consistent, at least the operators, that waterboarding is not part of the U.S.' arsenal of tools for interrogation.
So I think what you saw in those written answers is hard to explain. I think it is reflective of a transition in which you have sort of a White House and then the cabinet secretaries or the nominees sort of not in line.
I think it's very appropriate for the Senate to say why is there a discrepancy between what you said and what you wrote even though he may get through just to put a place card down there to say, look, if you actually advance on this, we're going to have criticisms.
What Pompeo is going to realize and I think what the Trump administration will soon realize is that while they've politicized the intelligence community, at a place like the CIA, for example, about 28,000 employees including covert operatives, only about a couple dozen political appointees.
At DHS, 300,000 employees, about 100 political appointees, look, the trains have to run on time, the intelligence has to be gathered, safety and security has to move forward.
And so I think all this politicization they'll soon realize that they actually have a government to run and that these agencies have only one interest at heart and that's the safety and security of the United States going forward.
WHITFIELD: All right. Juliette, thank you so much. Juliette Kayyem, Elise Labott, Colonel Cedric Leighton, thank you so much. We'll talk after the next hour. All right, thank you so much. CNN NEWSROOM continues right after this.
WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me in a rainy Washington, D.C. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. This inauguration weekend we've got a lot on tap here. Beginning with the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer telling CNN, quote, "We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject."
We're talking about moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That was one of President Trump's pledges during the campaign. We also know that there was a phone call between President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. CNN senior --