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Trump Focuses on Agenda after Combative Start; Senate to Vote on Secretary of State & CIA Nominees Today. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 23, 2017 - 06:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a running war with the media.

[05:58:37] SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's certainly not the case. This was not the biggest attendance at an inauguration in U.S. presidential history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be a full week. I'm optimistic we'll get every member together.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Be aware of the teddy bear, Mr. Trump. Putin will change his tone.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: You've never had a CIA director confirmed on the first day.

TRUMP: You will be getting a total star. A total gem.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISOR: There are plenty of people -- you saw the march yesterday -- trying to delegitimize this president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Constitution does not begin with "I, the president." It begins with "We, the people."


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, January 23, 6 a.m. here in New York.

Up first, today, President Trump plans to focus on his ambitious agenda as he begins his first week in office. This after the president's top advisers had contentious exchanges with the press over the size of inauguration crowds and trying to pass off false claims as, quote, "alternative facts."

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's start simply: Here is a fact. The president is going to get his first legal challenge, an ethics lawsuit claiming he's violating the Constitution over his business conflicts. Remember, a big part of this quest for information is because the president refuses to release his taxes, and now there's a question about whether that promise to release them eventually is just a sham.

We have it all covered. Let's start with Athena Jones, live in Washington with the latest -- Athena.


Well, President Trump has a jam-packed first Monday in office, starting with a breakfast and listening session with business leaders and later meeting with union leaders and workers in the afternoon. And tonight he hosts congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle at the White House.

This after a busy and, at times, rocky first weekend.


JONES (voice-over): President Donald Trump has a lot on his plate this week: from getting his cabinet nominees confirmed to signing a series of new executive orders.

The president also prepping for his first meeting with a world leader at the White House, British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, after setting up meetings with Mexico's president, Canada's prime minister and Israel's prime minister.

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I've never seen anyone work harder and have more energy than -- than this president.

JONES: But the president and his senior staff distracting from his ambitious agenda by fixating on the size of his inauguration crowd. Side by side comparisons to former President Obama's inauguration in 2009 upsetting the new administration. In his signature campaign style, the president blasting the media.

TRUMP: As you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.

JONES: Former CIA director John Brennan and congressional Democrats criticizing the president over his visit to the spy agency's headquarters Saturday. At issue, his political comments made while standing in front of the CIA's memorial wall honoring those killed in the line of service.

TRUMP: I made a speech. The field was -- it looked like a million, a million and a half people. They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there.

JONES: Continuing the fight, Trump's press secretary, Sean Spicer, grossly exaggerating the inauguration crowds in a combative statement to the press.

SPICER: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period. JONES: His claim, totally false.

CHUCK TODD, NBC'S "MEET THE PRESS: Answer the question of why the president asked the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood.

JONES: The president's counselor, Kellyanne Conway, defending Spicer's fabrication.

CONWAY: Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. What -- you're saying it's a falsehood, and they're giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. It's a point...

TODD: Wait. Alternative facts.

JONES: Conway also saying Trump will never release his tax returns.

CONWAY: He's not going to release his tax returns. We litigated this all through the election. People didn't care.

JONES: Late Sunday walking back her comment, asserting the president is still under audit and has been advised not to release his taxes, but she still did not clarify whether they will ever be released.

This as a prominent liberal ethics group says they're going to sue the president. The conflict of interest lawsuit alleges Mr. Trump is violating the Constitution by receiving illegal payments from foreign governments.


JONES: Now Trump also addressed the massive protests across the country on Saturday, but he sent mixed messages, first tweeting "Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election. Why didn't these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly."

Then an hour later, saying, "Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy, even if I don't always agree. I recognize the rights of people to express their views."

We'll be watching to see what he tweets today -- Alisyn, Chris.

CAMEROTA: Athena, thank you for all of that.

We have a lot to discuss. Let's bring in our panel. We have senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner," David Drucker; national political reporter for Bloomberg politics, Jennifer Jacobs; CNN political analyst and author of "How's Your Faith?" David Gregory.

David Gregory, I want to start with you. Let's -- if -- if this weekend's press conference at the White House, the first one that Sean Spicer held in any guise, what are we to imagine for the next four years about the relationship between the press corps and the White House? DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's going to be rocky,

because the press is going to be tough; and the press is going to call out credibility problems.

So Sean Spicer wants to spend his first day undermining his credibility as White House press secretary, he's going to have a hard time, because credibility counts. Credibility counts. Credibility counts for the president, as well. President Trump needs to think about leading the country, solving the problems that he outlined.

A focus on crowd size is small-ball. These are small, insignificant issues, and it's, like, a shiny object that he's allowing himself to be distracted by instead of focusing what he's got to do. I think a lot of people found his speech, CIA, were getting talked about an ongoing war with the press as misguided, if not offensive, and again, these are the kind of things that are going to undermine his effectiveness, because they betray a complete lack of focus as president.

And I'll say something else. The press got a job to do. The media should be held accountable by the government -- accountable by the government and by the people. And that happens every single day, because people make decisions about what they're going to watch, what they're going to read, what they're going to listen to.

But I wonder what President Trump means when he said publicly that the media is going to pay a tremendous price. Was that a threat? And again it's going to underline how vigilant the media is going to be covering this Trump administration.

CUOMO: And also, David, you get into the issue about what the president needs from the people around him. Yes, he's the most powerful man in the world. Yes, he is the boss. But we all know that great men and great women have people around them who help them be great.

Sean Spicer on January 4 did an interview with David Axelrod; and the issue of "What would you do if you were told to lie as press secretary to the president?" came up. Here's what he said.


SPICER: The one thing that, whether you're Republican, Democrat, I mean, you have your integrity. I may tell a reporter I can't comment on something or, you know, I'm not able to discuss it. But I've never lied, and I don't think -- I don't intend -- I would argue that anybody who's an aspiring communicator adhere to that, because you -- if you lose the respect and trust of the press core, you got nothing.


CUOMO: Now, our reporting at CNN is that that's exactly what happens. Is that the president said, "Go out there and talk about crowd size. I don't like what this perception is." Spicer went out there and basically made stuff up. What's your take? DAVID DRUCKER, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON

EXAMINER": Well, the rule I have with press secretaries and people who work with politicians is I expect you to spin me, and I expect you to make the most favorable case you can for your boss. Just don't lie to me, because then I'm going to look like an idiot to the people that read me and listen to me.

And when we're dealing with a press secretary to a president. You're not talking about somebody who gets to be a free agent, get there -- go out there every day and decide what their agenda's going to be. They're speaking on behalf of the president. And the way the West Wing works is they've been talking with senior staff about "What are we going to do?"

So I think, in some ways, a lot of this is falling on Sean Spicer; and it's not fair, in the sense that he didn't decide to do this on his own. This came directly from the top, because that's how the White House works. And I think what the White House has to decide is how much -- what worked on the campaign trail. And that is keeping everybody guessing about the press and using our lack of credibility with Trump's face, so that they're never weak, they're never wrong. Because if there aren't any real facts then there are no facts, and they can decide what's right. That worked to their advantage in the campaign, and it may not work the same way now that he's the president. But I think they feel like they will.

And I don't think this is really about crowd size. I think this is about the idea that, if the press is never credible, then when we're dealing with more important things, we're going to be more on the defensive and we're going to be more on offense. And we'll be less on the defensive when we're being questioned over much bigger things.

CAMEROTA: So Jennifer, there are facts, and there are apparently alternative facts. That is the phrase that took hold this weekend. Let me play for you and our viewers what the genesis of that is, what Kellyanne Conway said this week.


TODD: ... have a question of why the president asked the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood. Why did he do that? It undermines the credibility of the entire White House press office.

CONWAY: No. NO. Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. What it -- you're saying it's a falsehood, and they're giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary gave alternative facts to that.

TODD: Wait a minute. Alternative facts?


CAMEROTA: Maybe those are what you use in alternative universe. Jennifer, how do you see what that exchange says?

JENNIFER JACOBS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: Well, listen, Donald Trump has been sensitive about his crowd sizes for years. He has attacked the media, me included, for what he says is underestimating his crowd sizes. So, you know, it could have made this very simple by just saying, you know, making that point.

Listen, the D.C. area is very Democratic. It's always going to attract more, you know, Democrats, more liberals to inauguration ceremonies than for any Republican.

You know, and also, Sean Spicer did his best to make his boss happy. He was trying to make the point that, around the globe, there were more people who were witnessing this inauguration. It's hard to dispute that. How do we know how many people around the globe are witnessing this? So he did his very best to -- to pacify Trump that Trump is very, very sensitive about.

GREGORY: Let me just say, though, Sean Spicer made a decision, perhaps got dictated by the president, that he was going to come out there and make a series of statements that were not true and then not take questions, OK?

[06:10:04] OK. His job as press secretary is to be responsive to the press. It is to answer questions to the press. They are working in the people's house. That is the purpose of his job.

So not a great way to get started and not a great way for the president to set up his press secretary.

But here's a larger point. There is not a war on the media. The media is going to do its job, and if the president is going to be guided by and, you know, thrown off by the idea that he wants to be at war with the press. He won't be the first. Plenty of presidents have come out and argued about the way the press reported certain things, but he is not getting a particularly rough ride.

He's getting plenty of pushback on things that he said and things that he does. His folks say, "Watch what he does." And that's what the press is going to do is watch what he does and watch what he says. And Kellyanne Conway, who I do think wants good relationship with the press. And I think that's a positive note, and you have these fights between the press and the administration. Any administration.

She had no defense in the interview I heard for Sean Spicer going out there. So I think they probably want to move on. The press should move on, too, and also not get back to a back and forth on stuff that doesn't matter. Crowd size doesn't matter. Much bigger issues to make America great about.

CUOMO: And we talk about what works with his base. Chuck was really exercised about it. He felt, you know, he had her over a barrel. It was a "gotcha" moment. And sometimes a reporter gets super excited in a moment like that. And that's where she was talking about when she said don't overly dramatize it. And that's part of what works with their base also.

Now something that I don't think will work with the base is coming clean. This lawsuit, people will dismiss it and say it's just politics in play. But David Drucker, let's remember why these lawsuits are really possible. Whether or not this is about his foreign business and hotel payments, this is about lack of transparency. And we did hear Kellyanne. She eventually came back to say, Kellyanne Conway, "Our position hasn't changed on this."

But even the initial position, "We're under audit." No proof of audit. "We can't put out the taxes, because we're under audit." Not what lawyers -- lawyers will always say, "I don't want you to talk to anybody." But there is no legal responsibility to keep it quiet.

This is about his veil of mystery around his affairs. And now it seems that these taxes aren't going to come out, and is that a big deal or not?

DRUCKER: I think the price of admission has been built in for Trump in that people see him as somebody who isn't necessarily transparent who has a lot of business dealings and didn't do things that most politicians do when they ran for office. And so while they don't like it, while most Americans prefer that he release his tax returns, I think that, at the end of the day, it's going to come down to whether or not he produces for them. Whether they feel like he's made their life better.

If he does, they'll say to themselves, "Yes, I wish he was more transparent. I wish he wouldn't, you know, maybe say one thing about his tax returns and then do another, but my life is better."

If not, then he'll end up paying a price, because people will look at his business ties, how his family is still involved in his business, how his hotel is making money off of his presidency. And they'll decide that it's a problem. And then he's going to have to figure out what to do.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you. Stick around. We have more questions.

CUOMO: All right. President Trump is hoping to get two more senior members of his administration today. He hopes they get voted in by the Senate. We do know that the Senate is set to vote later today on the confirmation of secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson and CIA nominee Mike Pompeo. Those Italian names, they always get you.

With only two cabinet members confirmed so far, this becomes about timing. When will the president get his full team?

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty live on Capitol Hill with more. He just got a big boost from McCain and Graham saying that they will vote for Tillerson.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris, the key senators, and the Senate, point blank, is making some progress on the key nominations, but they certainly have a lot more work to do.

First, Trump CIA director nominee, Mike Pompeo, will get a full vote in the Senate tonight. Six hours of debate, which was important to Democrats. And then he's expected to pass tonight. But the big question, certainly, still is Rex Tillerson on Trump's nominee for secretary of state. Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on that, and the big question is how Senator Marco Rubio will vote. He has not indicated one side or the other, whether he will vote for or against him.

But regardless of if he does, leaders have already indicated that, regardless of how Rubio votes, regardless of how the committee votes. They will bring Tillerson before a full Senate vote later on. And as you said, Senator McCain and Senator Graham indicating over the weekend that they will support Rex Tillerson. So that likely paved the way for this -- him to be approved by a full Senate going forward -- Chris, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much, Sunlen.

Meanwhile, President Trump's foreign policy agenda already stirring controversy in the Middle East. Our panel will discuss Mr. Trump's plan in Israel, next.


[06:18:52] CUOMO: President Donald Trump is going to host his first foreign leader at the White House this week. It will be British Prime Minister Theresa May. She's going to head to Washington to meet with the president on Friday. This comes as the president is setting up a series of meetings to start work on his foreign policy agenda. Up at the top of the list, renegotiating NAFTA.

Let's bring back our panel: David Drucker, Jen Jacobs and David Gregory.

Jen Jacobs, Theresa May. Common ground. The U.K., a huge U.S. ally, traditionally at the top of the list of meetings with presidents right off the bat. How big a deal?

JACOBS: That's a really big deal. And the Trump administration has been taking that really seriously. The transition team was starting to meet weeks ago, months ago with -- with Theresa May's top staff defense ministers, foreign ministers. So they think that they can begin this week to really lay the ground work for a trade agreement between the U.S. and the U.K. after the U.K. leaves the European Union. And they are really, really focused on that, and they can get a lot of work done on that this week.

CAMEROTA: OK, so David Gregory, he'll also be meeting with the Canadian prime minister, as well as Mexico's president, to begin the process of renegotiate NAFTA, President Trump says. What are those meetings going to look like?

[06:20:00] GREGORY: Well, I think they're going to be a bit tough. I mean, I think this is where the new administration is going to lay down some markers about what they think a new renegotiated treaty looks like between Canada and Mexico. Those being particularly important. And he'll gauge what that reaction is, and I think there will be a lot of people, even, who are free traders who think, well, the president may be on to something. Why not renegotiate NAFTA on more favorable terms?

It certainly has got to have the capitals of both countries, our very close trading partners, nervous. And, you know, the thing about meeting with Theresa May, the prime minister, is that it's going to take a while for Britain to leave the European Union and to figure out what that deal looks like before the United States can look out when a trade deal would ultimately emerge between the two countries. This is a long-term enterprise; going to require a lot of political capital on the part of the president.

CUOMO: David Drucker. You know, Gregory's analysis applies to just about everything. That's part of the problem. Right? You want quick wins out of the box. How long did it take George H.W. Bush to negotiate NAFTA in the first place? I mean, he didn't even have enough time to get it through Congress. That's why Clinton winds up getting credit for passing NAFTA. So what do you think the state of play is within his own party about how quickly and how extremely he can renegotiate?

DRUCKER: Right. So it's very interesting, obviously, is that Donald Trump has different ideas on trade and our relationship with the rest of the world than do most members of his own party on Capitol Hill. And what they are trying to do is come up with policies that can give Trump what he wants,, in a sense without giving them what they want. That's what this whole fight over border adjustability is going to be in the public tax reform plan.

It's a way to say to Trump how you can renegotiate our relationship with other countries as it relates to trade and create a more favorable environment for American manufacturers, without actually going forward with tariffs and getting involved in those fights. And I think that's what Republicans are intent on doing. Finding a way to give Trump what he wants without really giving him what he wants.

Because there's a huge concern on the right, outside of Trump's circles, that you get involved in a trade war with other countries, prices of goods in America go up. Exports don't actually increase, and the economy ends up taking a big hit. And so that's what I'm really watching for here, is how does his relationship with Congress as it relates to these negotiations around the world on foreign policy and trade, how do they translate on the Hill?

CAMEROTA: Jennifer, let's talk about Israel. President Trump has announced that he'll be meeting with prime minister of Israel Netanyahu next month and that they are interested in moving the embassy to Jerusalem. How is all this going to work?

JACOBSON: Right. There's just so much speculation about that. It does seem like, you know, Trump is interested in moving that embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That's very controversial. We've been asking, you know, how soon is that going to happen? Trump wouldn't answer our questions about that yesterday. As you know, Sean Spicer says that we're just in the very beginning stages of talking about moving that. There's a lot of speculation about that right now that's creating some tension. CUOMO: And it also goes hand in hand, David Gregory, with Israel's

announcement is putting more settlements in East Jerusalem. Obviously, people understand this issue have to do some homework. You have to understand why Jerusalem doesn't just matter to Muslims, Jews and Christians but that -- different varieties of Christians.

But the politics here have evolved over time and that this is more than just putting a building in a different place.

GREGORY: Right and as a matter of foreign policy, the incoming Trump administration is going to do a lot to strengthen Prime Minister Netanyahu's hand and the conservative elements of the Israeli government that could be talking about the very end of the peace process, as we have known it, which has been moribund for a long time.

But in strengthening his hand, a couple of things are going to happen. The idea of the two-state solution may completely fade away, and there will be ramifications of that in the region.

Also, the president is going to deal with the fact that the -- I can tell you firsthand, the Jewish community in America is very polarized. It's polarized over religious issues but certainly over Israel. And that's going to become more entrenched, and that's something that the president will have to become involved with. Because a lot of the voices in his ear will reflect that polarization.

CUOMO: You know, Steve King's going to be on the show today, the congressman in Iowa. He's got a bill he's putting forward that negates the possibility of the U.S.'s interest in a two-state solution.

There hasn't been any talk about a peace plan that doesn't involve the two-state solution for well over a decade.


CAMEROTA: I mean, we know that the new ambassador also has some controversial thoughts on that.

Let's talk about this 600-pound gorilla in the room.

CUOMO: What are you talking about?

CAMEROTA: I knew you were going to work in a Vanilla Gorilla reference. David Drucker, Vladimir Putin. There are plans for President Trump and Vladimir Putin to meet.

DRUCKER: I think we're all waiting to see what kind of a line President Trump takes towards Russia and Putin. You've seen the last two presidents that came before him, trying to create a friendly relationship with Vladimir Putin, somehow believing that they can create a sort of east-west axis on national security and economic issues. And Vladimir Putin hasn't been interested in any of that. It's come back to bite both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

And throughout the campaign, we saw that from Trump, that he was, in a sense, believing that he could do with Vladimir what his predecessors could not accomplish. And so let's see what he does.

Does he try another Russian reset, or does he take a harder line than his predecessors and try and put Putin in the box and reassert he has influence in the Middle East and other areas where Russia has been gaining.

CUOMO: Would people be thrown if Putin comes to America and doesn't have no shirt and looks just like the "Saturday Night Live" guy? Because we're going to be bombarded with that image.

CAMEROTA: We will see.

CUOMO; We have to be watching that all the time.

CAMEROTA: We'll see if he likes it or doesn't like it. Panel, thank you very much.

We need to get to other news right now, because there are deadly tornadoes carving a path of death and destruction in the southern part of the U.S. The threat of twisters continues today, so we have a live report for you in your forecast, next.