Return to Transcripts main page
President Donald Trump Welcoming And Honoring First Responders; Only Two Of President's Picks Have Been Confirmed So Far. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired January 22, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And, again, as you know, the inauguration was such a success, and such a safety success and we want to thank you all because it was really a very, very special experience.
And general, congratulations. I just happened to see you and your very beautiful wife and just sworn in, General Kelly was just sworn in by the vice president. And it's going to be a great thing that happens along our borders.
I campaigned very much on security and border safety and General Kelly is going to do an incredible job.
So again, I want thank you. I wanted to come down personally. There's the man, right? Come on, get over here. What a job. From day one I have felt safe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir. It was a great weekend. Sir. So let's -- he's become more famous than me.
TRUMP: Let's take some pictures.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right some interesting moments there as you see President Donald Trump welcoming and honoring first responders there, this coming after the swearing in earlier today of senior staff. And you also saw that moment there of a friendly hand shake with FBI's James Comey.
Our CNN's White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is there outside of the White House.
This has been an incredible day of contrast today at the White House. Tell us more about that moment with the first responders and that moment with James Comey.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, you saw and played out there, right. So that's in the blue room of the White House. And the president and the vice president were thanking the first responders, the law enforcement agencies that help lead the security and protection of the inauguration. But certainly that moment there of James Comey, the FBI director, who had become front and center both before the election and then after the election in the wake of the controversy over the email investigation, of course, of one-time rival Hillary Clinton. Well, there was -- I wouldn't quite call it a hug, but it was definitely a hand shake and sort of leaned in.
James Comey is a very tall man. He is one of the tallest officials in Washington. We are talking basketball player height, so he went in and leaned in to the president there. So it may have looked like a hug.
But look. He said you are becoming more famous than I am. That's what the president said to the FBI director. He looked a little bit uncomfortable in that moment, certainly. But look. This is the second time we have seen the president today making the rounds of these official type photo opportunities in the blue room of the White House. Of course, this followed after he watched the swearing in of his team of senior advisors a little earlier this afternoon in the east room of the White House, where he did strike that very different tone from yesterday.
WHITFIELD: And let's talk about what took place just maybe about an hour and a half ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. So Jeff, earlier today, with that, yes, swearing in taking place, of senior officials. President Trump also saying this is not about party ideology. This is about country and about serving the American people.
ZELENY: He did indeed. And he said we, you know, will serve this moment in history here. And he was sort of giving an admonition in talking to his senior advisors there, most of whom we don't often see in front of the camera. They are usually behind the scenes people. So that's why today those pictures were so interesting of Steve Bannon, the chief strategist, Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, who is of course more visible. But Jared Kushner, the president's son-in- law who will be as senior advisor here.
So seeing all those assistance to the president, is the top layer of staff people there were receiving the oath. And the president, again, striking a different tone from yesterday, not talking about his election win, not talking about crowd sizes, talking about this moment for them in history. And he urged them to go forth and seize it.
WHITFIELD: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
So Donald Trump taking the stage as an international leader and one of the first acts of reshaping the United States relationship with Israel. We know that earlier today, aside from the swearing in there, aside from the moment with the first responders, President Trump having a phone call with Israel's Netanyahu. And so we understand that this is a potential move to try and get the American embassy to relocate from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Press secretary Sean Spicer replied that the White House was in the quote "very beginning stages." That move was one of Trump's key campaign promises. The president and his Israeli counterpart speaking on the phone earlier this afternoon in what Trump described to reporters as quote "a very nice call."
Let's discuss this now with my panel. A lot to talk about, from the demeanor of President Trump today, quite the contrast. Julian Zelizer who is a historian and professor at Princeton University, Ryan Lizza, a CNN political commentator and a Washington correspondent for "the New Yorker," Brian Morgenstern, a Republican strategist and Ellis Henican, a political analyst.
Good to see you all of you.
All right. So first, let's talk about the demeanor. This is the contrast today, the demeanor of President Trump at the business of the White House staffing, paying respects to the first responders, and sending a message that among his top agendas is dealing with the U.S. embassy in Israel.
So Julian, what is this day all about? It seems as though it's a press the reset button.
[16:06:13] JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm not sure it's press the reset. I think we are going to see a lot of back and forth with President Trump. Yesterday, it was destruction. It was to create something of a frenzy over crowd sizes. Today, I think he is sending a signal that on certain issues, he will move to the right as promised with Israel. He sent his signal already by appointing David Friedman. And he hasn't been subtle about this.
We should remember, though, it's not a total reset. The Obama administration has been very supportive of Israel, financially and military. So this is a particular part of that. And it's also about the Iran deal, which Trump opposed and is testing the waters if it can be undone.
WHITFIELD: Syria, Iran, also on the front burners as it pertains to this potential move, Ryan.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look. I think it's very, very important what Netanyahu told President Trump in that call. There's a lot of talk in Israeli politics of does Netanyahu and do the Israelis really want the embassy, the American embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem right now, right. Other presidents have promised that move and then have promised there would be a long process and never got around to doing it.
We know that our close allies in Jordan have warned Trump not to do this, saying it would lead to an earthquake in the Middle East. And so, the fact that Spicer says it's in the very beginning stages, suggest that maybe they're not going precipitously move it. That they are going to announce some sort of process, you never know. Maybe they are going to move it tomorrow. But I think it is very important what the Israelis actually, whether they want this to happen right away, or whether they want to slow track it.
ZELIZER: It could be like releasing his tax returns. It is going to happen eventually.
WHITFIELD: Not anymore according to Kellyanne who was on "Meet the Press" early today who said it's not going to happen. And that the American public have demonstrated that it really shouldn't matter.
So Brian, as it pertains to Donald Trump, a different tone today. We even saw him referring to notes during that swearing in whereas he talked about, you know, offering condolences to Georgia, 12 people now killed in the storms. He also talked about the letter that he received from President Obama. He doesn't want to share it with the press, but he said it was very nice. So in the terms of a reset, is it a reset in the demeanor of President Trump today?
BRIAN MORGENSTERN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, he is being the most presidential you have ever seen, right? He is appreciating the gravity of the moment. And you have to sort of understand that. When you are in the east room and maybe you were working in Trump tower for the last few years and then you are standing in front of a portrait of George Washington taking an oath to uphold the constitution, if that doesn't move you and make you appreciate the gravity of what you are doing, serving the country, I don't know what will.
So I think that was the president and his senior staff really, you know, getting into that sort of frame of mind that it is not about rallies anymore. This is about governing the United States of America.
WHITFIELD: Let's listen to Kellyanne Conway on "Meet the Press" this morning as it pertains to the taxes and the returns that you will now never see.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR/GOP POLLSTER: The White House's response is that he is 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: So Ellis, what's going on here?
ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: Well, politically, I think she is probably right, until such a time as all those promises that turn out not to be true, add up and cause some kind of political upheaval.
I got to tell you, though, Fred. I'm more stuck on that Comey-Trump whispering back and forth. God, I would have love to have been in that bubble.
[16:10:12] HENICAN: I mean, did he say thank you, where did it go, you know? Because mark my words on one thing, though. The thing might surprise you that with Comey, is it while he was obviously hugely affected with the Trump campaign right before the election. Having covered him as United States attorney in the southern district in New York, do not assume that he is always on that side forever. He could easily, easily bounce back and forth.
WHITFIELD: Well, I wonder, can we re-rack that, actually while we are talking, that moment where President Trump is talking to first responders there, this happened just moments ago. James Comey is in the room, FBI. Let's see to, if we can hear, a little bit more precisely what Donald Trump said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We are going to have a great eight years together as you say. And again, the inauguration was such a success and a safety success. And we want to thank you all because it was really, really a special experience. And general, congratulations. I just happened to see you and your very beautiful wife and just sworn in. General Kelly just sworn in by the vice president and it going to be a great thing that happens along our borders. I campaigned very much on security and border safety and General Kelly is going to do a great job.
So again, I wanted to thank you. I wanted to come down personally. There's the man. Come on, get over here. What a job. From day one, I have felt safe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President. So let's -- and there's Jeff. He's become more famous than me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: OK, was that a better shot of being able to hear what was said? It looked amicable. How about that?
HENICAN: I will say, beyond. I mean, friendly. But don't forget, though, the FBI director does not serve at the pleasure of the president. He has a set term. He can stay around as long as he likes. Frankly, no matter what he does.
ZELIZER: Well, it's a 10-year term. The president of the United States could theoretically fire him. It would uproar if he actually did that. The norm is that he do not do that. But constitutionally, I think Donald Trump would actually be on solid ground if he wanted to get rid of him. But rancor if he did that.
HENICAN: But different from other. LIZZA: He's supposed to be isolated from politics.
ZELIZER: It's a difficult moment for most people to see, I would say, after the inauguration. I think there's many who believe that that Comey letter on October 28th really caused her the election. And the subsequent stories about the other investigation that was going on that didn't come out are still very hot in the press. And so, there's a humor, but I also think that doesn't sit very well after the inauguration. Imagine in what that relationship is or why that happen.
LIZZA: When you think about this relationship here, Comey is the person who reportedly brought Trump aside and briefed him on that famous dossier of controversial, unverified material that was circulating among journalists in the intelligence committee. That was Comey who briefed him on that. It was that briefing that was then leaked to the press that caused that information to be published.
So very fraud relationship. I think in Trump's mind, he is suspicious of Comey, because of that interaction led to the public reporting of that dossier. On the Democratic side, great distrust of Comey, because Democrats believe he interfered in the election by reporting on the investigation of email at the last minute. But a lot of Democrats, I will tell you, they would rather have Comey stay in that job now than whoever Trump --
HENICAN: Some loyalist?
MORGENSTERN: And Trump also doesn't want the credit for his election going to the FBI. He doesn't want it going to the Russians. He doesn't want it going to anyone, you know, other than his movement, as he describes it, his people. And so, you know, pushing back as he has been with regard to Comey's influence, as well as, you know, crowd size and hacking and everything else, is part of a strategy where, you know, presidents are effective when they are popular. And when they demonstrate - shows of popular support. Congressman are more likely to cozy up and they are more likely to adopt their agenda and things like that. And so, this administration is pushing back on these notions that we are describing is strategically common sense.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And he knows it's favorable to look like things are amicable, even if, you know, public perceptions of the relationship may have gone awry or that is, you know, the other.
ZELIZER: He also wants to, I think, make the relations with the intelligence community, somewhat better, not totally better. I don't think he's going to drop the message. But I do think you are going to have more communication, because now that he is president, he needs them.
[16:15:11] WHITFIELD: There has to be this mending phase.
ZELIZER: But it's going to take a while. He did it yesterday.
LIZZA: I think it is important to point out two things about that. One, almost every poll shows that over a majority, as many as two- thirds of American want Trump release his tax returns. And number two, when she says it was litigated in the campaign, well, Trump said he would release his tax returns --
WHITFIELD: Once elected.
LIZZA: Well, he said after the audit was completed. So if you are an American voter who is trusting Donald Trump and was saying, OK, I want those tax returns, but it can be after the election. To me that counts as --.
WHITFIELD: And now it is very specific even after the audit it will not be.
LIZZA: This is their first major campaign promise broken.
WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, guys. OK. We got to stop it there but we have much more time in which to have more conversations on this.
Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Also coming up President Trump starting his first full week in office with just two of his cabinet picks in place, but with prominent senators slowly coming onboard, will some of Trump's controversial nominees be confirmed? More, next.
[16:18:51] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back, I'm Fredricka Whitfield in the nation's capital.
So Donald Trump kicking off his first full week in office without a full cabinet behind him. So far, only two of President's pick have been confirmed, a relatively low number. We are looking at some of his predecessors.
CNN correspondent Phil Mattingly joining me now with more on this.
So what are we looking for this week in comparison, Obama, what, seven cabinet member at the very first few hours of his presidency. There's a lot of work to be done this week.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No question about it. Look. Negotiations are in a good place between Republicans and Democrats right now. There is a pretty good reason for this. Democrats don't have a lot of leverage. Republicans only need 51 votes to confirm any of the nominees, so if the Republicans in all decided to vote for the nominees, they should go through.
So you have seen Democrats kind of try and pull the lever, slow things around a bit. Mike Pompeo was an individual, the nominee for the CIA director who supposed to be confirmed on Friday. There is an issue broke down. He will be confirmed tomorrow, pretty much everybody says this after some debates. So he will get - Donald Trump will get his third national security team player if you will. But the question is what happens next. There are other controversial
nominations that could start tomorrow. But the big question is the controversial ones. And there are plenty. If you talk to Democrats, they identify eight or nine very controversial nominees that they want to create (INAUDIBLE). So it kind just run down how the week is going to go,
Monday, Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state nominee will get a committee vote, not a full Senate vote, but a committee vote. Why is that matter? Marco Rubio still has not decided how he wants to vote on Rex Tillerson. That's a problem for Rex Tillerson. But John McCain, Lindsey Graham, this morning, all said they support Tillerson. That should move things forwards a little bit. But I think the question here is, what's the timeline that we are working on here? There is a lot of frustration on the Republican Party.
[16:20:31] WHITFIELD: How does it potentially stall business at hand for President Trump?
MATTINGLY: Look. There's no secret about the fact that the Trump transition team has not installed even the lower level employees at these agencies at the kind of clip that we have seen in the past. So you need the head to kind of set the tone but you also need the head to kind of decide who is going to fill in underneath.
And I think it is interesting thing here. You talk about the political dynamic back and forth. Take a listen to Mitch McConnell. As I noted, there are some questionable candidates that are currently nominees. He was asked as do you think everyone will be confirmed? Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm confident, we will, yes. What's been unfortunate is that all I ask of my colleague senator Schumer was to treat President Trump the same way we treated President Obama. I mean, obviously we were not happy with any of his nominees either. But he got seven of them on the first day, we got two. They even delayed the CIA, delayed the CIA until Monday for some inexplicable reason.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: So you can hear some of the angst there in the Senate majority leader. But it was the first thing he said that was most important, ask, will we get all the nominees through? The short answer was yes. The big question now, how long is it going to take?
WHITFIELD: Right. And what's different to, if these are going to draw those comparison is their potential conflicts of interest that have made the confirmation of these nominees complicated.
Now, we know that his wife, Elaine Chao, is most like to get through. She has been down this road before.
MATTINGLY: Absolutely. But I think you make a great point. Democrats aren't just doing this
to stall. Certainly, there is politics at play here, obviously. There is gambling. But the realty is there's a lot of these individuals that in fact very wealthy. A lot of these ties. A lot of conflicts, and they have been late almost to a person on filing the disclosure forms that are necessary to repeal their nominations. That's in large part why these delays are happening. That's why the Democrats, even though they don't have a lot of leverage, feel like they do on procedure grounds right now.
WHITFIELD: Them arguing that some of the candidates, the nominees themselves are the reason why. There are these delays.
All right, Phil Mattingly. Thank you so much. Appreciate that.
All right, we will have much more from the NEWSROOM right after this.
[16:25:16] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
Thousands of people made the journey here to Washington D.C. to watch Donald Trump gets sworn in as president. And many of them are longtime supporters drawn to Trump's populist message. But they acknowledge that the time for talk is over.
I spoke to many of them before, during and after the swearing in about what they want to see from our new commander in-chief.
WHITFIELD: So what are you hoping this day forward from this administration?
KEVIN YOUNG, FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA: I think we heard Mr. President, President Trump say an awful lot of things about the way in which he wants to change the county.
TRUMP: From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
YOUNG: We got some business savvy in the position. But as you said, talk is cheap. It's time to put some words to action. So I'm anxious to see what he can actually do to actually improve what he has promised. And the economy, our structure overall, infrastructure as well.
WHITFIELD: How do you describe the mood, the emotions we have been feeling this inaugural weekend?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't know what to expect. It is my first inaugural. And I am just so impressed with the - our country and our nation and just walking around and everybody is seems peaceful. It has been friendly and I have just been amazed at the whole experience. It's been awesome.
WHITFIELD: And what are your hopes this day forward in this new administration?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I hope we can come together as a country and quit looking our party reference necessarily but try to work together and move forward. And I think Donald Trump and his business sense and his negotiation skills, I think he has proved a lot in his own life and business and his family and I respect that. And I think our country needs to be run like a business so I'm looking forward to positive things in the future.
WHITFIELD: What inspires you most about this administration? What's the message you heard this inaugural weekend that excites you about the days looking forward?
SCOTT WILLIAMS, BALTIMORE: Well, I think President Trump summed it up in his speech. Everything about the speech was fantastic and it just expresses how everyone in America is feeling right now. And he hit every point that I expected of him. And what I really hope is that he just follows through with it. I think he will. I think he's that kind of guy and he does what he says and he says what he does.
WHITFIELD: One of his messages, he says, forgotten people will be forgotten no more.
TRUMP: The forgotten people of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now.
WHITFIELD: Do you expect that something that could happen within the first 100 days?
WILLIAMS: Absolutely. I don't think that - I think President Trump is serious when he says it. I take him out of his words. And it's reflected in his business life that from what I have seen.
TRUMP: Finally we must think big and dream even bigger, in America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving.
WHITFIELD: What are your impressions this inaugural weekend?
NORA MCMICKLE, CHEVY CHASE, MARYLAND: It's so fancy and there's so many people. It's really huge.
WHITFIELD: How have you been inspired this weekend?
MCMICKLE: It really makes me think that I can do big things. It need to be really cool that we are one of the only countries that has such a peaceful transition of power.
WHITFIELD: What are your impressions on this inaugural weekend?
LISA WILKINS, LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS: It is exciting to be here. It's just invigorating. It's a privilege to live in a democracy.
WHITFIELD: Is there something in particular that you heard from President Trump during his inauguration speech that really resonated with you?
WILKINS: I think turning back to the people the rights back to the people was inspiring to me.
TRUMP: This is your day, this is your celebration, and this, the United States of America is your country. What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.
MAMEY THOMPSON GALLAGHER, SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA: Mr. Trump's message is absolutely from day one, one of inclusion. That's what surprises me above the protest. I think from the beginning, his message has been inclusive. That he is wanting to make our society better, no matter which strata you are living in right now, that you know, stop and think. Every five - every four years, go back five and six election cycles, people come and ask for your vote. And whose policies have furthered your community. I just find that he has been consistent. So from the day he started campaigning, until this morning, his message is the same.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you and God bless America.
GALAGHER: Is he really going to fulfill these promises? Give the man a chance and take a breath and see. Give him a chance. He is the president. And I'm very-- more optimistic than I've been in my whole entire adult life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN NEWSROOM SHOW HOST: I was talking to folks who came from all over the country to be witness to the inauguration of Donald Trump this weekend. Still to come, an invitation to Washington, President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could sit down for a meeting next month. Details on that next.
WHITFIELD: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in the nation's capital this inaugural weekend. So President Donald Trump and his Israeli counterpart may soon meet face to face. After their phone call this afternoon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Mr. Trump invited him to visit Washington, a visit that could come next month. CNN's Oren Lieberman is live for us down in Jerusalem with more on the story. Oren, what do you know?
OREN LIBERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, we're learning a bit more about this conversation. President Donald Trump characterized it as a very nice call and it was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said it was a very warm conversation. Here's what they've talked about, this coming from the Prime Minister's office.
It says the two leaders discussed the nuclear deal with Iran, the peace process with the Palestinians and other issues. As you said, President Trump invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to come to Washington to meet him in February. A final days for the visit will be set in the days ahead. So we know these two leaders will meet according to the Prime Minister's office here.
[16:35:00] We knew what it was that Netanyahu wanted to talk about. He made that clear in his weekly cabinet meeting this morning. He said top on his mind is the Iran deal. He was the most vocal critic even travelling to Washington to lobby against the deal before Congress. So now we know although he was quiet in the final months of the Obama administration, he sees Trump as a new opportunity to roll back in some way the deal.
He's also said he wants to talk about the U.N. Security Council resolution and other ways these two countries can work together. We know Netanyahu is excited. That's become evident over the last weeks, even the last months I might say to work with a new president, somebody who's not President Obama. A fresh start and it seems that start is off to a very quick start here with his phone conversation and we'll find out just how soon that meeting is happening for Netanyahu to travel to Washington to meet Trump.
WHITFIELD: All right, Oren Lieberman, thank you so much from Jerusalem. Appreciate that.
All right. Also coming up, the president versus the press. On his first full day in office, Trump blasted the media, calling the press dishonest in inauguration coverage, and it's not just the president directly. The message is also coming from Trump's team, that's next.
WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Washington, D.C. Team Trump has entered a fresh new war of words with the media since taking office. On the campaign trail, Trump loved to complain about what he called then dishonest media. Well now that he has taken the presidency, he has upped the ante, calling it a "running war" and members of his administration appear to be in battle mode.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: As you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings out there.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
[16:40:00] TRUMP: Right? And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you're number stop is exactly the opposite.
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, the brining about our nation together is making it more difficult. There's been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility to hold Donald Trump accountable and I'm here to tell you that it goes two ways. We're going to hold the press accountable as well.
REINCE PREIBUS, CHIEF OF STAFF, WHITE HOUSE: I'm saying there's an obsession by the media to delegitimize this president. And we're 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)
WHITFIELD: So let's discuss this tense relationship and what the media's role is in covering a Trump presidency. Joining me now is Frank Sesno who is director of the school of media and political affairs at George Mason University and George Condon who is a White House correspondent for the National Journal and he's formerly been the president of the White House Correspondents Association, and Brian Stelter who is CNN's senior media correspondent and host of ""Reliable Sources."
All right, good to see all of you gentlemen. OK, so you spent Brian a good portion of your show this morning on "Reliable Sources" talking about what the road ahead is going to look like for those who are covering this White House. And everyone is in agreement that it is going to be a tough road ahead and it means working even harder to be diligent and to be dogged as a journalist.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Treacherous road but also we're covering the world's best story right now and we that even in the second full day of this administration. Tomorrow, Sean Spicer will meet the press. He's expected to actually take questions from the press. We'll learn a lot tomorrow about his tone, about his approach and about his accuracy.
WHITFIELD: And so Frank, you know you say that President Trump, Sean Spicer his press secretary, they are wasting precious time and credibility for both the president and for the press secretary is really on the line especially when they come out throwing, you know, punches the way we saw on display yesterday. But today was a decidedly different tone from the president.
FRANK SESNO, DIRECTOR, SCHOOL OF MEDIA AND POLITICAL AFFAIRS, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: It's remarkable from the coverage I have done of White Houses from all different angles and elsewhere. They want the message of the day, they talk about that. They talk about the story, the news they're trying to make. Does the administration really want us talking about this and the controversy on the second day? Well maybe they do.
They say they want to push back. Fair enough. They should push back. They should hold the media accountable just as everybody else should. But what the conversation is about today is their war with the media and whether they're making up facts or not about the size of the inaugural crowd.
WHITFIELD: Is it a potential distraction --
SESNO: Really? Really?
WHITFIELD: -- that only two cabinet members have been, you know, confirmed. Might this be a distraction from getting business done?
STELTER: -- some of these aides wanted this.
SESNO: Some of the do.
STELTER: Even want the crowd size fight (ph) because they don't want the protest coveted.
SESNO: But they can also be talking about where their nominees are, who their nominees are, the executive orders that Donald Trump has signed. He's already taking the lead on certain things. There's a tone to his administration, they're talking about taking apart Obamacare.
They're delivering on their promises. Why wouldn't you want the focus on the delivering on your promises and starting to govern the way you campaigned rather than a food fight with a bunch of spitballs in Washington.
WHITFIELD: And as a former, yes, as a former White House correspondent you know about that battle that will always be endured when covering any administration and George, you've been doing it for a very long time too.
You have seen now 20 press secretaries as a White House correspondent. And so are you taking note of a different demeanor? Is the stage -- is the ground work being a little different? The battleground, are you seeing it unfolding quite differently from previous administrations?
GEORGE, CONDON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Well, I mean, it's important to keep it in perspective and not go crazy based on one day. I mean it was a very rocky start for this press secretary. And they didn't do much better on TV.
WHITFIELD: Meaning what we saw unfold yesterday, the statement?
CONDON: Yes. You don't want to do that to your credibility on the first day. But let's not act like this is the first time we've run into this. The first day of the Clinton administration, they locked us out of upper press and it was an absolute war and George Stephanopoulus's first briefing was an unmitigated disaster, trying to defend Zoe Baird and he didn't have any facts and he said things that he shouldn't have said.
FDR ordered reporters to stand in the corner wearing a dunce cap. He presented one reporter with an iron cross, suggesting he was a traitor. No president loves us, no administration loves us.
WHITFIELD: But over time, there was a sense of respect that was built and a standard set between the White House Press Corps and The White House, press secretaries, the staff. Are you seeing an erosion of that?
[16:45:08] CONDON: There was definitely more professionalism in the past. But, again, I'm going to be a little cautious and wait because they clearly were not ready to get this government up. They clearly aren't sure what they're doing. They clearly haven't thought about a lot of these things. They didn't even appoint their deputy press secretaries until the day before the inauguration. They're going to make a lot of mistakes, and we can't overreact to every single one. We have to still just do our job. SESNO: There's an important word that you said, Fred (ph), which is
respect. And the relationship that should be between these two sides is respect but adversarial. It's both of those.
WHITFIELD: Right. We're not supposed to be friends here.
SESNO: We're not friends. We shouldn't be hanging out.
WHITFIELD: We're inquiring.
SESNO: -- going to barbecues together and they can push back and should and do because they want to get their message out.
WHITFIELD: And that's expected of both sides.
SESNO: That's right. And if the press gets it wrong, they should pound the heck out of everybody who gets it wrong. But the job is to get it right. And the job is to report what the president said or did and when there've been flips and flops or whatever. And that goes with the territory.
I think they'll get it, you know. No one has repealed the laws of human nature or politics here and Donald Trump is going to need allies and coalitions and he's going to need to build, you know, alliances as everybody else did and he's going to need the mainstream media to do it because it's going to be part of how he gets his message out.
STELTER: You're pretty optimistic. I'm really pessimistic.
SESNON: I'm realistic. I'm realistic. He can tweet and they can do all and they --
STELTER: He can also use the power of the government --
WHITFIELD: So in other words, he can start that --
STELTER: -- against the press. I mean he can audit journalist. He can investigate leaks.
SESNO: Well, I expect he will do that and that will make it -- so did the Obama administration. The Obama administration want to throw people in jail, but they still needed the mainstream media. The mainstream media still reported to work every day and filed.
WHITFIELD: All right, go ahead George.
CONDON: There's one other thing that always happens after you win a campaign. First off, you don't want to listen to anybody else's advice because you won it despite their advice in the campaign. And secondly, they really are slow learners that there's a difference between campaigning and governance.
STELTER: Is there though?
CONDON: Well, there is.
WHITFIELD: There should be, right?
STELTER: Who's campaigning?
CONDON: We want to know -- if you outline a program, we want to know how many Americans does it affect. What's it going to cause? How are you going to pass it? And new administrations often are flustered by that. They're treating how do we spin it, and this group clearly hasn't made this --
SESNO: And the American people watch and they judge based on what you do. All right, that's the difference. When you're campaigning, you say what you're going to do. When you're the president of the United States or governor or mayor, you're judged on what you do do. And people will watch and read and listen. They'll judge from their own perspective and experience and then they will judge (INAUDIBLE.)
WHITFIELD: And then Brian, so unclear, you and I both spoke with White House Press Association president Jeff Mason, who said there's been continuous conversations about whether the White House Press Corps will remain in the White House, as is.
It's really a day by day thing. He didn't reveal all of the conversations taking place with the Trump administration. But it's still is not completely clear is it yet, that the White House Press Corps might have, may be forced to move.
STELTER: That's why -- certainly Spicer interested in looking at a new location, a new space. There was a report from "Esquire" a week ago quoting an anonymous Trump source saying the media is the opposition party, I want them out of the building.
Now we don't know who that was quoted as saying that. Clearly some Trump source saying it. Clearly, Donald Trump does not want journalist living in his West Wing. We will see a year or two, three or four years from now if he adapts to that or not, but what Jeff Mason can't say is that a lot of White House correspondents are very anxious right now. No idea what's to come in the weeks to come.
WHITFIELD: And you're formerly president of the White House Correspondents Association so you know what those conversations --
CONDON: Well, actually I've been through that very fight because the Clinton administration very much wanted to throw us out of the West Wing. They were looking at spots to move us to. And we had to deal with that and we did it quietly. And there have been other battles -- three weeks ago, we were fighting whether or not the pool system would survive, where you know, a small group of reporters -- there is a pool system, we will be on Air Force One. He will not leave the campus without us (ph).
WHITFIELD: Hopefully the plane won't leave without Frank.
STELTER: -- on accountability.
CONDON: So, one battle at a time.
WHITFIELD: Yes. All right, Brian Stelter, George Condon and Frank Sesno, thank you gentlemen. I appreciate it.
All right, coming up, next the governor of Georgia has issued a state of emergency in seven counties after 12 people were killed in strong storms. A look at the major damage left behind, next.
[16:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHBANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chelsea Chandler and Charlize Theron led the Women's March here at the Sundance Film Festival and despite the snow and treacherous roads, men, women and children packed on to Main Street for the march that culminated in a rally. John Legend was one of those people who participated in the march. He said he feels compelled to speak out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN LEGEND, SINGER: And I think sometimes you get complacent and you don't think you can lose an election, you don't think progress can be rolled back. But now it's become abundantly clear to people that progress really can be rolled back. And that's the rights of people fought for for years, voting rights, woman's rights, reproductive rights for women.
All these things that we thought were settled issues, they're back in play again and everybody realizes it now and they realize they can't sit on the sidelines and let it happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Many in Hollywood have not shied away from talking about President Trump. That trend continues here at the Sundance Film Festival. Stephanie Elam, CNN, Park City, Utah.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: More than 40 million people are at risk for severe weather today as a deadly storm sweeps across the southeast. The Georgia governor has declared a state of emergency for seven counties. The same storm system battered that area overnight leveling homes and killing 12 people. President Donald Trump says he has spoken to state officials about the destruction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I just spoke with Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia -- great state, great people. Florida affected, Alabama affected by the tornado (INAUDIBLE) expressed our sincere condolences for the lives taken. Tornadoes were vicious and powerful and strong and they suffered greatly so, we'll be helping out the state of Georgia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN correspondent Paulo Sandoval is live for us at one of the hardest hit areas. Paulo, what are you seeing there? PAULO SANDOVAL, CORRESPONDENT: You know, Fred, we were trying to get
a lot closer to what is the center of the devastation here, which is about three miles outside of this small city of Adel. However, at one point, emergency officials telling us to seek shelter so as a result, we had to drive into town as a large cell made its way through the area, but I can tell you that a bulk of the devastation is in a mobile home park just outside of this region.
[16:55:09] At least about seven people confirmed dead and unfortunately that number is likely to rise, according to one emergency official that I spoke to. In fact, they are still in the middle of a recovery. But what's interesting here Fred is we begin to hear some of those stories of survival here from some of the people who actually made it through that storm including one individual who we met at a shelter here. Dee Williams, you were in this park yesterday, this mobile home park yesterday, in the middle of the night when everything as you described just -- the weather just started getting worse. What was that like?
DEE WILLIAMS, STORM VICTIM: It was like, I mean, a nightmare on Elm Street. I mean it's like you're waking up from a dream that really came true.
SANDOVAL: Now that we understand that about seven people in that mobile home park that you were in unfortunately died overnight, does that bring it home for you? How close you were to the devastation?
WILLIAMS: It was scary, I mean it was like, I mean I wish I could help everybody, but I mean you can only help yourself because I mean, it happened within seconds.
SANDOVAL: And finally, what did you see when you looked out the window, when the storm was going through your home?
WILLIAMS: Pitch black and no trailer park. It was just demolished.
SANDOVAL: Where will you spend tonight?
WILLIAMS: I will spend tonight at the shelter at the First Baptist Church.
SANDOVAL: Dee Williams, again, just one of several survivors that we've spoken to. We're at this Baptist church that is now home for about a dozen people, and again, people here are still very weary of the weather situation outside. It's amazing, Fred, only about 20 minutes ago the skies were dark. There were high winds and now the skies are blue. It's clearing, but there is a state of uncertainty as the death toll possibly rises here in Southern Georgia, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right folks, definitely have to heed those warnings. We wish the best to everyone there. Thank you so much Paulo Sandoval. Appreciate it. Thanks so much for being with me today here from the nation's capital. The next hour of the "CNN Newsroom" continues right after this.
[17:00:00] (COMMERCAIL BREAK)