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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Pres. Trump Meets With Hill Leaders at W.H.; Trump Signs Exec Actions On Trade, Abortion, Hiring Freeze; Spicer: Press Coverage "Demoralizing"; Calls Between Flynn And Russian Ambassador Under Investigation; Spicer: Trump Open TO Joint Strikes With Russia In Syria; Spicer Claims Trump Rift With Intel Community Is A "Myth"; Aired: 7-8p ET
Aired January 23, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront next. Breaking news. The senate about to vote on Donald Trump's pick to head the CIA. This is the president meets with congressional leaders at the White House. Tonight, a top democrat in that meeting is my guest this evening. Plus, a revealing moment in the White House briefing room. Press Secretary Sean Spicer telling reporters the media has been too tough on Trump. And live from the U.S./Mexico border, rare access and exclusive footage OutFront of where the president would build the wall. Our special series beginning tonight. Let's go OutFront.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. The breaking news. The senate about to vote on one of President Trump's top cabinet positions. You're looking at live pictures of the senate floor, where the vote to confirm Former Congressman Mike Pompeo as CIA director is about to begin. We're going to see that this hour. He would be only the third Trump cabinet nominee to be confirmed. So we are watching that for you. Also tonight, President Trump's pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, clearing a major hurdle.
Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil confirmed moments ago by the senate foreign relations committee. That vote, 11-10. Incredibly close. Senator Marco Rubio, who has expressed serious doubts over Tillerson because of his Russian ties, ended up voting yes, the crucial vote. Tillerson's nomination now goes to the senate floor. Manu Raju is OutFront on Capitol Hill. Manu, obviously at this moment, we are awaiting the vote on the CIA director, Mike Pompeo. Do you expect the vote this hour?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. I do. And I expect him to be confirmed. Probably by a significant margin. This coming after Donald Trump and republicans were pushing hard for Pompeo to get confirmed on Trump's first day in office, but democrats resisted, namely Ron Widen, the Oregon Democratic Senator, who had concerns about Mr. Pompeo's views about surveillance matters and also concerns about issues that have been raised over the last couple of days whether or not he would bring back the -- bring back waterboarding, and tough interrogation tactics.
This after Mr. Pompeo himself saying in his confirmation hearings that absolutely he would not bring back waterboarding and absolutely he did not agree that waterboarding is allowed under the law, but he still is expected to get confirmed. Erin, this comes as Trump is moving very close to getting his full national security team in place. You mentioned Rex Tillerson, getting approved by a narrow margin by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Next week, expect that nomination to be confirmed on the senate floor. And also Jeff Sessions, to be the attorney general, that vote has been delayed in the Senate Judiciary Committee until next week, but expect that the floor votes too and after Donald Trump expected to get most, if not, all in this current nominees is confirmed. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Manu. And as we await that vote for the CIA director, the nominee, Mike Pompeo, the White House today trying to get back on track, after a weekend that, of course, was largely overshadowed by their own focus on the crowd size at the inauguration. President Trump and his team appeared to switch gears today, cooling the rhetoric, getting down to business. And there was a lot of it. Jim Acosta is OutFront. And Jim, we know among the many meetings today, Speaker Ryan just left the White House where you are.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. House Speaker Paul Ryan just walked out of here, just a few moments ago, after this reception with the president and congressional leaders here at the White House. It was one of a number of meetings today for the new president who had a very busy day trying to get back to business after a messy weekend.
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Great thing for the American worker, what we just did.
RAJU: Sitting in the Oval Office, President Trump set his ambitious agenda into motion, signing executive orders on some of his key campaign promises, withdrawing the U.S. from former President Obama's Transpacific Trade Deal, banning taxpayer money from international abortions overseas and a freezing hiring of federal workers with one caveat.
TRUMP: Except for the military.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Except for the military.
TRUMP: Except for the military.
RAJU: Meeting with U.S. business leaders, the president warned American companies will pay a new price if they ship jobs overseas.
TRUMP: They're going have a tax to pay, a border tax. Substantial border tax. Somebody will say, oh, Trump is going to tax, I'm not going to tax. There is no tax. None whatsoever. And I just want to tell you, all you have to do is stay. Don't leave. Don't fire your people in the United States.
RAJU: In return, Mr. Trump offered a carrot.
TRUMP: We think we can cut regulations by 75percent. Maybe more. RAJU: For the White House, this was a day to get back on the rails.
TRUMP: They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.
RAJU: After President Trump attacked the media on reports of the size of the crowds of his inauguration. An assault on the price that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to back up with a number of falsehoods.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.
RAJU: An attempt at spin that backfired badly.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Sean Spicer, our Press Secretary gave alternative facts to that.
RAJU: At today's White House briefing, Spicer insisted he and the president were merely trying to correct an unfair media narrative.
ACOSTA: Isn't that just part of the conversation that happens in Washington and the scrutiny --
SPICER: No, it's not. I think --
ACOSTA: - that comes with being President of the United States and working at the White House
SPICER: No. I -- look, I've been doing this a long time. You've been doing this, too. I've never seen it like this. It's a little demoralizing. Because when you are sitting there and looking out and you're in awe of just how awesome that view is and how many people are there, and you go back and you turn on the television, and you see shots of comparing this and that, and it's frustrating for not just him, but I think so many of us that are trying to work to get this message out.
RAJU: Spicer did tackle matters of substance, indicating the White House will not get in the way into any investigation in Russian hacking in the election. And he appeared to tamp down expectations that the U.S. would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. And there's one other notable shift that came out of that press briefing today with the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer who said that for the moment that there will not be a focus on deporting young undocumented people in this country, the so-called dreamers.
The focus for this administration according to Sean Spicer will be on those criminals that are in the country, who happen to be undocumented. And Erin, getting back to that reception that we saw with Paul Ryan and other congressional leaders and the president, that was photo opportunity number six of the day when cameras were around the presidency, so, so much for that war on the press.
BURNETT: That's right. Right. Lots of -- lots of cameras and you got to make sure you give them credit for that, that's letting the president do a lot of things. Thank you very much, Jim Acosta. OutFront tonight. A member of the democratic house leadership who's just was at that meeting with President Trump, Congressman Steny Hoyer. And Congressman, you were there. You just were with the president. What happened inside that meeting? You were obviously there with just a few others in leadership.
REP. STENY HOYER, (D) MINORITY WHIP: Well, I think this is largely, Erin a -- an opportunity for him to get to know members of the leadership that he did not already know. And it was an opportunity to just have a --frankly, a conversation, although well serious issues were brought up, but discussion in depth did not occur. We brought up the Affordable Care Act. He brought up a letter the president had sent to him, saying that, "If, in fact, President Trump had a bill which would expand healthcare coverage to all, would make sure that costs were affordable for all and access was assured, then he could support such a bill."
But the trick is getting to such a bill. We reiterated that in those circumstances, of course, we would work with him on that effort. To date, we have not heard anything suggested by the republicans, however, to accomplish that objective. We also talked about infrastructure, we talked about a couple of other issues, but not substantively, not definitively.
BURNETT: Interesting, by the way though you mentioned the letter. This is the letter of course that President Obama left for President Trump. That he did write about Obamacare specifically. And that, I find that interesting that he brought that up and what you just said there, I think, is very new and very interesting. When you saw the president tonight, what was his demeanor? You know, I don't know if you just heard the report beforehand, but obviously touched about all the things he did today. All of which was business as usual, but coming off of course a rough weekend where he was more focused on crowd side -- crowd size. What was his demeanor?
HOYER: Well, first of all, he didn't change his point of view on the crowd size. It was -- it was --
BURNETT: He brought it up?
HOYER: From his perspective, a very, very large crowd and we didn't -- we didn't push it beyond that, but it was clear that this was still on his mind. But essentially, there was a lot of very good discussion between the Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the president and the president said he knew Chuck very well for a long period of time, and Chuck said, well, I don't know about very well, but I've known you a long time.
But it was a friendly banter. But the fact of the matter is, both sides said they were willing to talk to one another. We'll see if that's the case. Clearly, the republicans have proceeded very early on in a partisan way, but we're prepared to have discussions with the president. We agree with President Obama, if in fact we can reach a better alternative, that does, in fact, as I said, assure access to affordable quality healthcare, then certainly, we'll be prepared to work on such a bill, but we haven't seen that yet. BURNETT: So, interesting that he was still focused on the crowd size
and brought that up. I guess that's humorous on some level, not on another. But I do want to follow up with you on this point. So he's saying that in the letter that President Obama left for him, Congressman, Hoyer, I just want to make sure I understand. He said that if President Trump could come up with a bill that would expand healthcare, right? You went through a few things that it needed to do, but the bottom line was that President Obama could support a bill brought by President Trump on healthcare. That seemed to be the bottom line of what you were saying.
HOYER: No. Yes. But you got to take the bottom line in context. What the president was saying is, if you can do it better than we've done, if you can provide greater access, greater healthcare assurance to people, greater quality and bring costs down, then, yes, we'll support that. We haven't seen anything, however, either from President Trump or from the congress, or any of the republicans, that we think does that. So, yes, President Obama said that and we agree with that and we told President Trump that we agreed with. But the fact to the matter is we haven't seen anything that does that.
BURNETT: I mean, I guess Congressman what I'm saying is, does it make it easier for you, now that you know that President Obama in that private letter to Donald Trump said, if you can do this, I will support it, does that make you more willing to listen to President Trump? To try to work with him on this issue, since President Obama, obviously, on a personal private level showed that he could.
HOYER: Let me -- Leader Pelosi and I both agreed with President Obama, that we could work with President Trump if we had a bill that did, in fact, what President Obama postulated it would do, improve upon what we think we've done a decent job on, but we know is not a perfect job.
So that, yes, I mean, we'll be foolish not to say that if we can make it better, we'll support it. The problem is, most of the things we've seen will make it worse, less assurance for people, less access to affordable quality healthcare, more opportunity to have serious illnesses devastate them economically.
BURNETT: And can I just ask you, because I'm curious now you're talking about this meeting with Donald Trump, how did he bring up the whole issue of crowd size? Was he sort of laughing as a joke or could you tell he's serious?
HOYER: Well, I think -- yes, it was -- as Trump brings it up in public, you know, that it was a -- it was huge crowd, magnificent crowd. I haven't seen such a crowd as big as this. So -- but we didn't -- we didn't dwell on that, Erin. I don't want to misinform you or the viewers. We didn't spend a lot of time on that, but it was clear that it was still on his mind.
BURNETT: Do you like him more? This is one of the first times you've had a chance to be with him one-on-one? I understand there were few other people in the room. But do you like him more? Did you warm up to him at all? HOYER: Look, everybody has said that Trump in public is different
than Trump in private.
HOYER: Certainly, he was gracious, sense of humor, but the fact to the matter, it's not about personalities, it's about policy. It's about how proposals will adversely affect people or positively affect people, so, that's going to be the issue. As for hopefully for President Trump and for us, as well.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Congressman, I appreciate you taking the time. Thank you again, Congressman Hoyer.
HOYER: You bet. Thanks a lot.
BURNETT: All right. OutFront next, U.S. officials investigating phone calls between Trump's national security adviser and a top Russian diplomat there are new details and we have them for you next. Plus, the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says the president's feud with the intelligence community is a myth. So, why did Trump compare American intelligence officers to Nazis?
And our special series, the border wall. Trump's first promise of course, his very first promise was to build a wall on a 2,000-mile border. Is it possible?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the landscape in the big bend area of Texas, and that is the challenge. How in the world do you build a wall in this kind of terrain?
BURNETT: Breaking news. Intel officials tonight telling CNN the U.S. is now investigating calls between President Trump's National Security Adviser and the Russian Ambassador to the United States. Retired Army Lieutenant Michael Flynn spoke to Russia's ambassador on December 29th. We know that as a fact it happens to be the same day that the Obama administration put sanctions on Russia because of hacking during the presidential election. Jim Sciutto is OutFront. And Jim, we know about the calls, but now, you're learning more about the investigation and to what exactly was said on them?
JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. I mean, I think two key points today, Erin, that is, one, that investigators are still scrutinizing these calls between Flynn and Russia's ambassador to the U.S., so, that's key, and this we're told by multiple law enforcement intelligence officials. The other point here, though is it's not just that the calls took place, the calls themselves, but it's what was said on those calls, the content of the calls drawing some concern for investigators looking into them.
I should note that these calls were captured by what is routine U.S. eavesdropping targeting Russian diplomats. In other words, Michael Flynn was not the target of this eavesdropping. And I should also note that, to this point, so far, investigators have not established any wrongdoing by General Flynn.
BURNETT: And what is the response then from General Flynn, from the Trump administration tonight?
SCIUTTO: Well, Sean Spicer was asked about this today, in fact, more than once, in his first press conference, and he says that, in fact, just as recently as yesterday, he spoke to General Flynn about these calls. Here's what Spicer had to say.
SPICER: There have been a total of two calls with the ambassador and General Flynn, and the second call came, I think it's now three days ago, that was to say, once he gets into office, can we set up that call? It hasn't to my knowledge has not occurred yet. During the transition, I asked General Flynn that whether or not there were any other conversations beyond the ambassador, and he said no.
SCIUTTO: I should be clear that Spicer said as far as the subject of those calls, General Flynn told him that they just spoke about a handful of things. One call that he referenced there, between Trump and Putin, which hasn't been arranged yet, but also holiday pleasantries. Trump team says they did not discuss the sanctions, and keep in mind, that's key, because December 29th, when we know one of the calls took place, that was the very same day the Obama administration imposed sanctions.
Regardless of what Spicer and Flynn are saying, there's clearly enough here that U.S. investigators consider this an important question to look into, not just the calls themselves, but again, the content of the calls.
BURNETT: All right. Jim, thank you very much. And now, our national security commentator, former chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence Mike rogers, and the former coordinator for Counterterror at the state department, Daniel Benjamin, also the director of John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth. He has an op-ed in today's New York Times' Russia is a terrible ally against terrorism.
So, Daniel, let me start with you on the breaking news. Task force now is looking into these phone calls, right? What exactly General Flynn said to the Russian ambassador. They say there is information in the calls that merits more examination, right? He said it was just holiday pleasantries and you heard Jim say a handful of things. How concerned are you, if they say, there's more that merits investigation?
DANIEL BENJAMIN, FORMER STATE DEPT. COUNTERTERRORISM COORDINATOR UNDER OBAMA: Well, you have to be concerned if the investigators are saying that (INAUDIBLE) their knowledge of what was in those calls it's very hard to make any judgment but again I think that this underscores just how little we know of the relationship between the Trump campaign, the Trump White House, and Russia. And that this requires a lot more investigation.
BURNETT: I mean, Mike, let me just ask you. U.S. Intelligence tracks phone calls to Russian diplomats, right? I mean, you would assume any phone in that embassy is tapped, this appears to have been on cell phones. I guess the question is General Flynn was a former director of National Intelligence. Would he have been this careless? Wouldn't he have just assumed that anything between a Russian landline or cell phone it was completely tapped?
MIKE ROGERS, (R) FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, you would believe that somebody with his level of experience in the intelligence business would assume that those phone calls could likely be intercepted. There's lots of bad activities that happen sometimes through those Russian embassies around the world, including here in the United States. I will say that that's the one thing, as somebody who would -- as a former FBI agent and chairman of the Intelligence Committee would say, listen, this guy is an experienced guy, it's not likely he's going to call up and conduct some conversation that would be out of bounds.
And so, I'd have to see the content of those e-mails to really verify and I think it's probably not great for people to speculate what they think was in those phone calls. We should absolutely know -- again, it would be a pretty big leap for him to have a conversation that, in any way, violated something that would get an investigator interesting. I mean, that's a pretty big leap to make.
BURNETT: Right. And of course, all we know now is they say there's information that merits more examination. We don't know what that is specifically. Daniel, you know, you wrote today that if the United States joined forces with Russia to fight terror which is, of course, what has been suggested, that would not be a good thing. You said you'd have more anti-American sentiment, you could have more radicalization of Muslims around the world. Sean Spicer the White House Press Secretary drafted this though, he said, just today, Donald Trump is working to open -- wants to work with Russia. Here he is.
SPICER: If there's a way that we can combat ISIS with any country whether it's Russia or anyone else and we have a shared national interest in that, sure, we'll take it.
BURNETT: Is he wrong? Sure, we'll take it.
ROBENJAMIN: So, there are some levels of cooperation that are appropriate, we already have those with Russia. The real issue with concern is, the Russians practice counterterrorism with a chain saw and we do it with a scalpel. And if we are going to involve ourselves in their efforts, which result in lots of civilian casualties, we're going to see a lot of radicalization. And we've been very, very careful, for a long time, to minimize the number of casualties, to take the dangerous folks off the field and to ensure there weren't other reasons to hate America. So, I think that this would be a fateful step, and really a mistaken one.
BURNETT: What do you say, Congressman?
ROGERS: You know, there's ways we can work with Russia in Syria and candidly, we've been kind of, I think the administration was handed, not a lot of great options in Syria. One of them is to work with the Russians on a diplomatic solution. I do believe you have to work with them there. I'm a little bit skeptical about working with them in the military and intelligence arenas, only because we've been burned before.
We have shared intelligence with the Russians that ended up, the intelligence community decided they needed to pull back from that, for a whole host of reasons. And as the military portion of this, they have been doing massive bombings, including targeting civilians, and civilian targets along the way. And if they weren't exactly targeting them, they certainly were sloppy enough to hit them in huge ways. That will be a problem, if you want to team up with them on the battlefield. I'd be very skeptical to walk down that close relationship there. Use diplomacy where we can with the Russians and I would try to give us -- ourselves some distance on the military and intelligence --
BURNETT: And of course as you point out, Daniel, the -- U.S. And Russian Intelligence do not view each other as partners or friends in any way. So, asking them to do that is going against absolutely everything they have been trained to do and that they're willing to do. Today though Sean Spicer was asked specifically about Donald Trump and whether he has created a rift with the U.S. Intelligence Community, one which of course would jeopardize their ability to gather intelligence around the world, to have sources trust them. Here's how he answered the question.
SPICER: I think that's why he wanted to do it, is to make sure they heard first-hand how much he respects them, how much he wanted to dispel the myth that there was a "rift".
BURNETT: Of course, it's not a myth that Donald Trump said what he said. He said the intelligence community is a disgrace for allowing leaks about him to come out. That's the word he used. He used the disgrace words many times and he likened them to Nazi Germany. You have had a chance to speak to members of the intelligence community, people who are out there right now with their lives on the line. What do they say?
BENJAMIN: So, the sense that I get is, first of all, that they're demoralized. That they feel that his charges of politicization of intelligence and fabrication has really undermined their morale, and also that, you know, if they're putting their life on the line to go out and collect intelligence in sensitive areas, like Russia, like Eastern Europe, and suddenly it's a whole new orientation towards Russia. I think they are deeply confused.
I think there are a lot of people in the states, the analysts who are kind of wondering, you know, what next? Is this really going to be a team I want to be on? I don't want to be anyone's punching bag. And I think a lot of people were also just insulted over the weekend, to hear President Trump say there was though rift, when he used all these words.
BURNETT: All right, thank you both very much. I appreciate it. Talk about demoralized, well, that's a word that Sean Spicer used to describe how he and President Trump feel right now. There's a revealing moment at the White House today. Sean Spicer calling that media coverage demoralizing. So, what's up with this word? And our special series on President Trump's promised border wall. It begins today. We're really excited about it because we have rare footage, exclusive access. We went to the U.S./Mexico border. All these 2,000 miles, for a reality check, to show you this. Can it really be done?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you to tell Donald Trump that we already have a wall. Thank you very much. And I don't think he can build a bigger one.
[19:30:23] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, his first official briefing was today, after slamming the media over the weekend for accurately reporting the crowd size of President Trump's inauguration. Today, Spicer told a packed briefing room that he intends to always speak the truth, but he complained that coverage of the president is demoralizing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's a little demoralizing to turn on the TV, day after day, and hear, can't do this, this guy's not going to get confirmed, no way they're going to go through.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Isn't that just part of the conversation that happens in Washington --
SPICER: No, it's not.
ACOSTA: -- the scrutiny that comes with being president of the United States.
SPICER: No, I've been doing this a long time. You've been doing it, too. I've never seen it like this. It's a little demoralizing, because when you are sitting there, you're in awe of just how awesome that view is, how many people are there, and you go back and you turn on the television, and you see shots of comparing this and that --
ACOSTA: Is it fair criticism that you got bigger fish to fry? Like why worry about a couple of tweets about crowd size?
SPICER: Because it's not -- because that's what I'm saying. You're minimizing the point here, Jim. It's not about one tweet. The narrative and the default narrative is always negative. And it's demoralizing. And I think that when you sit here and you realize the sacrifices the guy made, leaving a very, very successful business because he really cares about this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Scott McClellan, the former press secretary to George W. Bush, Jamie Gangel, our special correspondent, John Avlon, editor in chief of "The Daily Beast", and Salena Zito, reporter at "The Washington Examiner".
Scott, let me start with you. You know this job better than anyone else. You saw Spicer give the factually incorrect statement without taking questions over the weekend. Today, an aggressive back and forth, conversation with the press. How did he do?
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT BUSH: Ah, he did a lot better. I mean, they managed to pivot back to what' most important today, which is really the agenda, and the policies. And that's where press secretary needs to be most focused. And that is helping the president advance his agenda and get results on things like growing the economy, on things like making America safer. That's where it should be.
Saturday was a big misstep, and that was both on the part of the president and the press secretary. And they need to move beyond that. I think they tried to move beyond that yesterday in some of the talk shows, but unfortunately, they made it worse with one of the phrases that was brought into there by using "alternative facts". I think that's probably a phrase that is going to belong to the trash bin of history, if you will.
BURNETT: Well, I'm going to ask you about that because I want to play that in a moment. But, first, Scott, before I get everyone's reaction, I just have to ask you, if Donald Trump had said to you on Saturday, you go out there, and he's livid, right? And he's angry about the crowds, and you go out there and you say this, and that's it, do you say "yes, sir" and do it, or do you say no?
MCCLELLAN: I think -- well, again, it was a misstep, over pretty inconsequential matter in the scheme of things. I mean, it's not a big issue. You need to be focused on the big issues and I think it's incumbent upon the press secretary to help the president understand that this is not going to serve as well if we put our focus here.
And I think it's incumbent upon the chief of staff, upon the inner circle of the White House to help make sure the press secretary is not put in a bad spot. He was put in a bad spot Saturday. And he had information that was factually wrong, and that makes it even worse, you just cannot do that.
Your credibility is at stake when you're at that podium, and particularly, when you are just starting off as a new White House -- you really need to be focused on getting things done.
BURNETT: So, John, what do you make of Spicer today, saying that the press is making him and the president feel demoralized? You just heard the back and forth there with Jim Acosta. He said it several times.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, it's a little early to say, you need a hug. He did use the words "demoralized" twice. And Donald Trump is not a man you associate with the word "demoralized". This is a guy who likes to give as good as he gets. But look, I think -- Sean Spicer recognized the initial rollout had been a disaster. And this was a very vastly improved performance. He spent an enormous amount of time talking to the press, take as many questions he can, kill them with kindness, always a good idea.
AVLON: But project a different tone, admit a mistake, as much as he could.
AVLON: But that initial 24 hours, that Saturday was a train wreck.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, today, Sean Spicer is the comeback kid. I mean, he think he really did well. He was confident. He tried to be funny. He tried to change a tone.
It is not easy to do that briefing. I think he did an admirable job for the first day.
That said, it is a little early to be demoralized. Ask past White Houses about being demoralized. This is day number three. They won.
But you know, this is also Donald Trump. He can be the master of the media message. Make America great --
[19:35:00] BURNETT: Yes.
GANGEL: And then, he can go Krakatau over something so small and waste a lot of time.
BURNETT: Thank you for the Krakatau reference.
AVLON: Wow, like that.
BURNETT: Let me -- so, Salena, let me ask you, because what was concerning about the crowd size was his focus on crowd size, right? I mean, just plain and simple. And I don't know if you just heard Congressman Steny Hoyer, the president had a little meeting at the White House, he brought it up again. Now, the congressman said he did it with humor, but he was talking about his magnificent crowds. He is still not letting it go even now.
Will he learn to let the little things go? It is a crucial question to whether he'll be successful.
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. I mean, I think eventually he will, but I don't think it's going to happen overnight. You know, it's not going to pivot. We've been saying since he won, he's going to pivot, since he became president, he's going to pivot.
He's going to get there at his own time. And I suspect, when he gets there, is after he realizes that this could have a negative impact on him. I mean, I think Spicer had a great -- as John said, I think he landed on his feet today. He had a great press conference.
He answered every --
ZITO: And, two things really stood out to me that I thought was really great. The Skype ability for reporters outside of Washington to ask questions, I thought that was amazing. I also noticed that his entire communications team, or, at least from what I could see, was all women, which I also thought was remarkable.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you, Scott, about something that you brought up, because I think it's very important. The new word, I'm sorry, the new two words, "alternative facts". It did get the dictionary today to, Merriam Webster to tweet out, that there is no such thing. A fact is a fact.
But here is what happened over the weekend, as the administration tried to recover from this issue with being wrong on the crowds. Here's how it happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: You're saying it's falsehood. And they're giving -- Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.
SPICER: I believe that we have to be honest with the American people. I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What do you think about the word, Scott, alternative facts? I mean, okay, we can sit here and say, there's no such thing, but is this something that plays to Donald Trump's base in a way that actually is empowering?
MCCLELLAN: Well, it may, I mean, but it is a phrase that I think she regretted about as soon as she said it.
MCCLELLAN: And it was an unfortunate choice of words at best. And I don't think she made it, you know, intended it the way it came across. But there are not alternative facts -- I mean, we're working off the same set of facts.
Now, there may be other facts that may need to come into the conversation. We're not getting in there. And part of the jobs of the press secretary is to make sure that information is getting in there. But to make sure that information can be substantiated, it is based on facts and that you can't debunk those facts, you know, the facts that were put forward on Saturday which were demonstrably false, and that's when you run into a lot of problems, because of the credibility of the press secretary and the credibility of the president is at stake when you start taking that step. And I think that this is a president that needs to continue to be reminded, stop obsessing about the media. Let's stay focused on the big issues. Let's stay focused on what we're trying to accomplish. That's what the president is going to be measured by in the end.
BURNETT: And, Jamie, you have reporting here on what's happening within the White House here, on the struggles, the power struggles.
GANGEL: Right. Well, they are calling it the Gang of Five, right? There are these different power groups. There's Jared, there's Bannon, there's Flynn, there's Pence and there's Donald Trump.
But, you know, Donald Trump will listen to all of these competing voices, but in the end, someone close to him said to me, in the end, Donald Trump listens to Donald Trump. And I think -- and you can't tell him too much. He has to learn it for himself. And I think we saw that in the change from Saturday to Sunday and Monday.
He's always going to be -- Trump is going to be Trump, but there was a difference. He got that what happened at the CIA on Saturday was not the way to do it. And I think you saw -- not saying he's not going to go back there --
BURNETT: Quickly before we go, Steny Hoyer gave him credit for a sense of humor when it came to crowd size tonight. That's a big shift from a guy who was clearly apoplectic on Saturday night.
AVLON: Donald Trump clearly can be a personable guy. Trump's going to trump. But we've all learned that you can't govern by gut in this country. He's going to have a process for making decisions.
This is not reality TV. This is governing. This is real as it gets. And so, they're going to have to refine that process, and fast.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much.
And OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos on how the phrase alternative facts went viral, with even Merriam Webster weighing in.
And we're kicking off our special series, incredibly excited about this -- look at this.
[19:40:00] This is rare access. This is the U.S. border because, well, Donald Trump is president, and he promised there would be a wall.
So, what terrain? Will it work?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That wall is not going to stop them. If it's 20 feet high, they're going to get a 21-foot ladder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: New tonight, Mexico's president slamming President Trump's promise to build a wall along the U.S./Mexico border. Enrique Pena Nieto saying, in a foreign policy speech today, "Mexico does not believe in walls, Mexico believes in bridges."
Now, the wall was Trump's first big campaign promise. He has double, triple, quadrupled down on it since the election.
Ed Lavandera has spent months investigating along the U.S./Mexico border, all 2,000 miles, getting the view from high, from low, from those who live and work there, and he begins tonight with our special series.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This journey across the U.S./Mexico border begins in South Texas, where the Rio Grande empties into the Gulf of Mexico, and in a rugged ride in an all-terrain vehicle with Robert Cameron. He runs an ATV border tour business in the small town of Progresso.
(on camera): Do you think people have that impression of the border, that it's a scary, dangerous place?
ROBERT CAMERON, TEXAS BORDER TOURS: Scary, dangerous place, absolutely. It's not as bad as people make it seem to be.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Cameron was born in Mexico, is now a U.S. citizen. Was a long-time Democrat until Donald Trump came along and made him a Republican. Living and working on the border reveals a blurry reality.
Cameron fully supports the idea of Trump's border wall, but every day, he sees the holes in that plan.
(on camera): It's part of the border wall that already exists, right?
CAMERON: Exactly. Exactly. This was put back in 2006 by George Bush. It's been around for awhile.
LAVANDERA: A few months ago, while riding along the Rio Grande, he recorded this video of what appeared to be smugglers with packs. It's the kind of story countless people along the border can share. But this is an area where a border fence is already in place, yet drugs and human smuggling keep coming.
CAMERON: It hasn't stopped them. No, absolutely not. So, you got this wall all the way around to eye can see, all the way over there.
LAVANDERA (on camera): Keeps going.
CAMERON: Keeps going, but then, it's like, did they start here? I don't know. I'm sure there's a reason, don't you think?
CAMERON: They ran out of money?
LAVANDERA: This is the landscape in the Big Bend area of Texas. And that is the challenge. How in the world do you build a wall in this kind of terrain?
(voice-over): Marcos Paredes lives in Terlingua, a far-flung outpost in the Big Bend region of west Texas. He's a former Big Bend Park Ranger and now takes visitors on aerial tours of some of the most beautiful landscapes you'll ever see.
MARCOS PAREDES, RIO AVIATION SCENIC FLIGHTS: So, I want to know where, in all of that, do you put a wall?
LAVANDERA (on camera): You think if Donald Trump flew with you, he'll want to build that wall?
PAREDES: I want you to tell Donald Trump we already have a wall. Thank you very much. And I don't think he can build a bigger one.
LAVANDERA: This is some of the most rugged terrain you'll find along the southern border. Hard to imagine that anyone would ever try to cross illegally through here, just simply too treacherous.
(voice-over): The Big Bend region stretches roughly 250 miles along the Rio Grande, a place far past the middle of nowhere.
On a canoe trip down the Rio Grande, it's so quiet out here, you can hear the wind flutter past coasting birds.
Every night, 88-year-old Pamela Taylor, out of compassion, leaves bottled water outside her home for migrants moving north and the border patrol agents chasing them. She's lived in this house in Brownsville, Texas, a stone's throw from the border, since 1946. When the border fence was built nearly ten years ago, north of the river, she found herself on the south side, between the wall and Mexico.
(on camera): You're a little bit of no man's land, right?
PAMELA TAYLOR, BROWNSVILLE RESIDENT: My son in law says, we live in a gated community. I mean, you have to laugh about it.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Taylor voted for Trump, and wants to see illegal immigration controlled. She once found and undocumented migrant hiding from border patrol agents in her living room. But she warns the rest of the country that a wall won't work.
TAYLOR: That wall is not going to stop them. If it's 20 feet high, they're going to get a 21-foot ladder, right?
LAVANDERA (on camera): Donald Trump wants to build this bigger, more powerful wall.
TAYLOR: I would like for Mr. Trump -- I will even feed him if he will come down here and talk to the people.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Until then, life on the border will keep passing by Pamela Taylor's front porch, and it might even stop for a quick drink.
BURNETT: Ed is live in El Paso.
And, Ed, it's an incredible report. I think everyone has the image of that helicopter looking down, and that wall ending. What I found also amazing was, you talk to people who supported Trump, and that was what made it even more powerful. The border agent you were talking about, the woman right there, they still say a wall is not practical.
What do you they want to see Trump do?
LAVANDERA: Well, you know, if you have never been to the border region and traveled this part of the country, you can see from our area drone shot here, you're looking out into Juarez, Mexico, we're here just a few feet inside of El Paso, Texas, these border communities are incredibly intertwined. Not just physically but also culturally and families and friends across the border routinely.
So, there's a much more nuanced view. That's why you find Trump supporters like the ones in this piece who very much support Donald Trump but have a much more practical view of what life is like here on the border.
BURNETT: So, Ed, you have spent months traveling so much of the 2,000-mile border, something so crucial to do, the reporting that must be done before anything happens with this wall.
[19:50:04] Where are you taking us next?
LAVANDERA: Well, it's been fascinating. You know, we've done ATV tours, aerial tours, canoed, and we're going and hiking hike through Arizona next. We're going to make our way through the brief New Mexico border into Arizona later on this week.
But we've gone from -- we will have gone from Brownsville to San Diego, where we'll watch the border wall empty out into the Pacific Ocean. It's quite a journey. I hope eye opening for many people across the country who have very passionate opinions about what is going on here at the border but perhaps have never seen the borderlands up close themselves. We're hoping these snap shots and these voices will help them understand a little bit about what's going on down here.
BURNETT: I think there's no question they will do that, and thank you so much, Ed Lavandera. We're going to see, Ed, as he continues his series all week right here OUTFRONT.
And now the breaking news, the first 100 days alert. The Senate on track to confirm Mike Pompeo as CIA director. The vote is this hour.
Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill.
Manu, I wanted to get back to you just to see what's going on here. This would be the third and the crucial nomination to pass for Donald Trump.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. He's going to get confirmed tonight. Right now, the vote is still being held open because some senators are late to getting to the vote. But right now, the vote is 66-31. And remember, only 51 senators are required in order to confirm a nomination.
Fifteen Democrats have so far voted for Mr. Pompeo, but some Republicans have voted against him, including Rand Paul of Kentucky because of his concerns over the issue of expansive surveillance. So, that issue among civil libertarians still exist, but Mike Pompeo today looks like he's going to get the job as CIA director, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. That crucial vote, as we said, it's going to happen any minute. You heard Manu say it will happen, he will pass tonight.
And OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos on how the Internet exploded over Kellyanne Conway's not a close, but alternative facts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONWAY: Our press secretary gave alternative facts.
BURNETT: It's a new catch phrase taking the world and even Merriam Webster by storm.
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Remember the days when Sergeant Joe Friday used to say, "All we want are the facts, ma'am." Well, now if you drag the net, you'll see mockery about a new kind of facts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I need an alternative facts, like I would go to a Ouija board.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brace for it, parents of America, alternative facts when you catch your kids doing whatever.
[19:55:03] NORMAN EISEN, CHAIRMAN, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: That's what we now call alternative facts or Spicer facts, facts that are not actually grounded in reality.
MOOS: Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway coined the phrase.
CONWAY: Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point --
CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: Wait a minute, alternative facts?
MOOS: Twitter didn't wait. #alternativefacts started flying. For instance, "Officer, I am not drunk I'm alternative sober." Bette Midler tweeted, "#georgeorwell lives." Then there's the little
golden book of alternative facts where dogs are cats and chairs are tables.
Even the Dallas stars JumboTron got on the joke about exaggerating inaugural crowds with its own inflated tonight's attendance 1.5 million.
And though President Trump's press secretary played nice with reporters on Monday --
SPICER: Yes, I believe we have to be honest with the American people.
MOOS: -- Merriam Webster's dictionary seemed to cast shade by tweeting out the definition of a fact.
And if alternative facts weren't enough, couldn't Kellyanne Conway have picked an alternative outfit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is with that outfit on Kellyanne Conway? Look, is she holding the door for people at FAO Schwarz?
MOOS: Dressed as the era Trump wants to take America back to. It's easier to choose between fashion alternatives than alternative facts.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: I like that little golden book. As a matter of fact, I like everything about that piece.
All right. We'll be right back.
BURNETT: And thanks for joining us. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere on CNN Go.
"AC360" with Anderson starts right now.