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President Challenged on Size of Crowd Attending Inauguration; Lawsuit Filed Against President Trump; Trump Focuses On Agenda After Combative Start; White House Press Secretary Blasts Media For "False Reporting". Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 23, 2017 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's begin with Athena Jones live at the White House with the latest. What do you know?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Well, the president has a jam-packed first Monday in office, kicking off with a breakfast and listening session with key business leaders. He's also going to sign some more executive orders. He's later on going to meet with union leaders and American workers, as the White House puts it. And then this afternoon, or this evening, I should say, he's hosting congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle for a meeting here at the White House, all of this after a very busy and sometimes rocky first weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: 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 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.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT-ELECT: 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. I looked out. 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 combative statement to the press.

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

JONES: His claim totally false.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. You're saying it's a falsehood, and they're giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute, "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.

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: And we have a first 100 days alert for you. We're learning what will be the first executive order we expect the president to sign today. It will be to withdraw the U.S. from the Transpacific Partnership. That's the 12-nation trade deal that was so important to the Obama administration but President Trump ran on a promise of withdrawing from. So a clear promise of trade on this first Monday in office.

CUOMO: Athena, thank you very much. As an expression, will what got you here get you there? The president's lack of transparency helped him during the campaign, but now it may be a problem. A liberal ethics watch dog group planning to file a federal lawsuit against President Trump. This will be the first suit against the president. It claims the president is violating the constitution by accepting illegal payments from foreign governments through his vast business ties. The president's lawyer denies the allegation, saying Trump has taken the necessary measures to avoid conflicts of interest. Let's bring in Richard W. Painter. He's part of the legal team filing

the suit and is a former White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush. Mr. Painter, always a pleasure.

RICHARD W. PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Good morning.

CUOMO: So counsel, the pushback from the White House is basically twofold right now. One is, we did all the things that the law demands in terms of the president separating himself from business interests. And two, there are no emoluments at play here as the constitution lays out because this is bartered for exchange, the hotel room in exchange for the room. It's not a gift. It's not in exchange for his role president. What are your points?

PAINTER: Well, first of all, I want to make it clear, there's nothing liberal about this.

[08:05:00] There are millions of American like myself who are sick and tired of big government and the concentration of wealth among a very few people who want to control government and take away jobs from ordinary Americans. We're not for big government and government spending and the rest of it. Millions of conservatives are sick and tired of corruption, and there's nothing liberal or conservative about this.

What this is about is the president, who has an enormous amount of wealth overseas, who promised to release his tax returns, clearly promised that over and over again, is refusing to. His spokespeople now saying he's not going to release the tax returns. And furthermore, he is in violation of the constitution if he's receiving payments from overseas from foreign governments or from corporations controlled by foreign governments.

And this goes right back to the intent of the founders. What was the point of having a Tea Party and throwing King George's tea into Boston harbor who is buying and selling tea from King George, whether or not it's of fair market value, whatever that is, according to the Trump organization. That's not the rule. The rule is no benefits from foreign governments and companies controlled by foreign governments, no profits therefrom. And we have been talking about this for months. And we've asked the president over and over again to solve the issue. He has refused to. We're tired of diddling around with this. And this is going to have to be resolved in court.

CUOMO: He says he did resolve it. That was the big stack of papers he put there in front of us all at his press conference. And second, they say this isn't a lawsuit, this is a political argument. You don't have any standing. You haven't been victimized, you have no damage. This is a political argument, not a lawsuit. Your response?

PAINTER: First of all, whatever is in that stack of papers, he wouldn't let anyone take a look at it, just leak the tax returns. We have no idea what's in the envelopes. All we know is he has not divested himself of his business interests all over the globe. We have no idea where the financing is coming from with these business enterprises. We know he didn't pay back a lot of the American banks in the 1990s, so he borrowed a lot of money overseas, we have no idea where from.

And the American people are entitled to know their president is complying with the constitution. And the prohibition is very clear. We cannot have any foreign government money coming to anyone holding a position of trust with the United States government.

The consequences are dire. He is talking over and over again about buy American, America first. He's going to renegotiate all these trade deals. Who do we negotiate with? Foreign governments. There's money coming under the table from foreign governments to the president of the United States in violation of the constitution. We are fed up. And once again, this is not about liberals. I'm conservative. I'm sick of big government.

CUOMO: I get you on that. That was our description of the group as it identified itself online. But I take your criticism and push back on that.

PAINTER: I would never have anything to do with a group identifying itself as liberal. If that's on that webpage, that's going to go off pretty fast.

CUOMO: I got you. And I take you at your word on that. Why do you not take the White House at its word on its promise to turn over the taxes after the audit is over?

PAINTER: Well, Kellyanne Conway, as soon as she takes off her $3,600 Gucci jacket at the inauguration, she starts talking about how he's not going to hand over tax returns.

CUOMO: She says that the position hasn't changed, that after the audit, we'll turn it over. She was saying we're not turning them over now because of the audit.

PAINTER: Well, that's not what was said the first time. What's going on with this audit? Why can't he turn them over? How about the prior years? Is every year under audit going back for how many years? I mean, this is something that he promised to turn the tax returns over. It is time. And it's also time to guarantee to the American people there is no money coming into this organization from foreign governments or corporations owned by foreign governments.

CUOMO: Will the lawsuit stand, and why would it?

PAINTER: Well, that's for the court to decide. I'm not going to tall through the points that are going to be made to the judge. My point here is this is a critically important issue for the American people, liberals, conservatives, moderates. Our president was elected to comply with the constitution. He's in violation of the constitution if he's receiving payments from foreign governments or corporations controlled by foreign governments. It's going to stop.

CUOMO: All right, I've got one quick question for you. We only have a little time left. You're an ethics expert. I've read a lot of what you've put out. Let me ask you something. What is your definition of when it is correct to call something a lie? [08:10:13] PAINTER: When it's not true, when somebody says something

that's not true. We have heard untruths over and over again in this campaign.

CUOMO: If I say two plus two is five, that's not true. But maybe I did the math wrong. That doesn't show an intent to deceive. That's not a lie. When do you call something a lie versus just being wrong?

PAINTER: If you're intentionally lying to people or recklessly make up facts which has been going on over and over again. And I used to fight with the left wingers in the academic world about this where they talk about there being no objective truth and all sorts of other crazy nonsense. And it's amazing we're getting this out of the White House. They're talking about "alternative facts." What does that mean? That means lies, alternative facts, lies. And the American people are not going to put up with it.

And least of all are those of us who want small government, limited government going to put up with an enormous federal government that is lying to us, and the first week in the White House they're talking about alternative facts. That is going to stop.

CUOMO: Richard Painter, thank you for making the case on NEW DAY, appreciate it, as always.

PAINTER: Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Chris, President Trump begins his first week in office with only two cabinet secretaries in place. That will likely change today when the Senate votes on Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson and CIA Director nominee Mike Pompeo. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is live on Capitol Hill with more. What are we expecting, Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. Likely by the end of the day today, President Donald Trump will likely get his third cabinet nominee confirmed here in the Senate and potentially in place by the end of the day after a lot of delay and back and forth up here on Capitol Hill.

The Senate will vote tonight on CIA director nominee Mike Pompeo. He's expected to pass right on through. And the Senate making movements on another one of Donald Trump's most controversial nominees, Rex Tillerson for secretary of state. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a vote today on his nomination. The big question is, the last holdout, Republican Senator Marco Rubio, he has not yet indicated how he will vote for Tillerson, whether he'll be a yes or no on his nomination.

But regardless of what happens in the committee, Senate leaders have already said that they will move to bring Tillerson before a full vote in the Senate, and certainly Tillerson getting a big boost this weekend with the announcement of Senator Lindsay Graham and Senator John McCain who both had been skeptical of his nomination. They now say they will indeed vote for him when his vote gets before the full Senate. That likely paves the way for him to eventually be confirmed. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Sunlen, thank you very much.

President Trump is beginning his first full week in office. He had a tough 48 first hours there, including a new front in his war with the media, as he calls it. Is this going to take the president's attention off his agenda? The answer has to be yes. So let's discuss our future next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:16:10] CUOMO: Donald John Trump's presidency is off to a combative start. The president and his top advisers blasting the media over reporting of the inauguration's crowds. While the president's administration is defending their false claims about those crowds as alternative facts. Can President Trump focus on his agenda?

Here to discuss, Republican Congressman Steve King from Iowa. Congressman, always good to have you. I'm going to throw you a curveball. We'll get to the politics of the situation, but let's talk about the basis of the fight on immigration.

Because we know that's important to you and it's going to be coming to you now, often marginalized to just being about a wall, but let's talk about the condition. Because the president has set a basis for what the problem is that defies the numbers.

He has said millions of people get thrown out of here every year. There is nothing like that number anywhere in the homeland security's report year over year over year, and he has said that they're coming through the wall.

They're coming through this porous border. Ninety five percent of people they catch they catch at ports of entry. Can we agree on the facts? How do you see the problem?

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: If you're going to say millions of people, you have to leave off the part every year, but the cumulative effect over say, a ten-year period of time are millions. And I know that --

CAMEROTA: But he didn't say that.

KING: I understand that. But the peak of our illegal immigration, we were up to 4 million attempts a year by the border patrol. That's part of the testimony before the congressional hearing under oath. So it's appropriate I think to cite that in a way, but it's more objective to roll this thing down and understand this has slowed down over the last ten years, for economic reasons, lower birth rate in Mexico reasons.

But I think also it's been accelerated with regard to the illegal drugs that are coming into America. It's true that 80 percent to 90 percent of the illegal drugs consumed in America come from or through Mexico and that is a crisis.

CUOMO: But you know very well and we learned here in our documentary about El Chapo that most of the drugs that come across the border go underneath it, not right across. It's the tunnel system that they have. So a wall would be a little bit of a misapplication of a prophylactic against that actual problem.

But for the president to say millions every year and they don't get rid of any of the criminals, you know 90 percent of the people they throw out are for crimes. So we have to agree on the facts. Can we do that?

KING: Well, I think -- a couple of them I don't agree with. I don't agree that high a percentage comes through the tunnel. I've been down there to interdict especially the marijuana smuggling coming across the border in the open desert. I have been there to help arrest people that are smuggling drugs into America, backpacking marijuana into the United States with backpacks --

CUOMO: I'm not saying none come. I'm not saying none. This is about the facts. You know, to say that's our problem, you build a wall and we'll be fine, that is not really agreed with by many people in the border security business as I'm sure you know. They're not saying they don't need a wall. They're saying the wall is not the answer.

[08:20:05]KING: I'd say this, the wall is the central infrastructural component that we need to build, and then the rest of it are things we need to add on as vibration sensors, sensors in the urban areas where they are tunneling.

But out in the open desert, they're not going to be tunneling like they do in the urban areas. They have to have some place to get rid of the dirt. We would see that happen. So I think we need cameras, night vision equipment, sensors.

But if we don't build a wall, they will just continue coming across the desert and that's the way they bring in people that are criminals and are terrorists. And then, of course, you have those coming here that want a job in America. That's part of it, too.

But if we don't build a wall, we're going to end up with the mess we have today. Barack Obama would not to secure this border. He refused to secure this border because he called it prosecutorial discretion. Walls don't have prosecutorial discretion.

CUOMO: But here's what I don't get. President Obama bad when it comes to immigration that is your main case. He made it worse, but the numbers have gotten better year over year. To the extent more deportations are a good thing, he's done more deportations.

It seems like there's a flawed premise here about the nature of the problem. I'm not saying there is not a problem. But it's not millions every year. It's hundreds of thousands. It's really off by about 50 percent his number.

The number has been going down during Obama's tenure and they've been throwing out more criminals. I just don't understand what the premise is here. KING: Chris, I would say that Obama's focus on criminals and the most violent of criminals, that's a good and right thing. By the way, that's Donald Trump's focus as well. But Obama changed the character -- characterization of deportation. We have a category called voluntary return. If they're picked up at the border and agree to go back to Mexico, then we haul them back there, open the side door on the van and walk back to Mexico.

CUOMO: Yes, but look, that's an interesting metaphor, but it doesn't meet up --

KING: That was not the deportation under Bush, but Obama called it a deportation.

CUOMO: The Homeland Security, DHS releases at the end of 2016. Here is how they categorize it. You can, like the president, say this is all politicized and everybody is lying. But here's what they put in their report, an increasing percentage of those deported from the interior were convicted of serious crimes over 90 percent in 2016. Guess what the number was in 2009, the period you just reminded us of?

KING: I don't know.

CUOMO: It's 51 percent. So it went from 51 to 90, Congressman. I get you want to build a wall and see it as a good thing, but the problem doesn't stand up to what has been introduced as the reality.

KING: Let me suggest another component of this that's not been brought up, and that is that the border patrol and Custom Border Protection count those they interdict, might count those they see, and if they're not having a full effort out there to interdict people crossing the border, these numbers of illegal immigration that are coming into the country will go down because they didn't observe as many and didn't interdict as many.

That's an equation we've watched for a long time here and we've watched -- I go down to the border and watch what's going on there, I ride with border patrol sometimes at night and get a chance to really listen to what's going on. They don't ever think they can shut this off across the border.

To them it's about going to work for eight hours, do what they can do and punch out. We can't get prosecutions. When you have a border patrol agents that has a straight truck of marijuana with 2500 pounds on it, open and shut case, he can't get a prosecution, we need more judges and prosecutors.

We need a full-court press on the border. That will be the deterrent that can control this border. We've got to build a wall. If we don't, the next president will let them go through that border the way this president has.

CUOMO: Except the numbers are going in the right direction. I'm just saying you have to have the facts as well as what you want to see in the future. Congressman -- KING: Let me add another piece here if I could. We're spending $6.7

million a mile to protect that southern border, that's $13.4 billion, 13.4. We're building expensive interstate through Iowa corn fields for $4 million a mile. We can build a wall and a fence for around $2 million a mile. That's one-third of one annual budget for controlling the border.

You know the security of that border will go up dramatically if we put the infrastructure in place and I just think we need to think about this in dollars and cents as well as the numbers you're delivering me, which I'll go back and check, and we'll have another conversation I hope.

CUOMO: Check the numbers, we'll keep talking about it. Congressman, thank you as always -- Alisyn.

KING: Thank you, Chris.

CAMEROTA: All right, up next, the man who might have had Sean Spicer's job as White House press secretary if Hillary Clinton had won. What does he, Brian Fallon, think of Sean Spicer's first press conference and alternative facts? He's here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:28:46]

CAMEROTA: President Trump's new press secretary held his first and peacefully planned press briefing on Saturday. Sean Spicer did not take questions but instead admonished the press for what he said was deliberately false reporting over inauguration crowds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No one had numbers because the National Park Service which controls the National Mall does not put any out. This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration period, both in person and around the globe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Joining us now is Brian Fallon, the former press secretary for the Clinton campaign, also a spokesman for the Obama Justice Department and chief spokesman for Senator Chuck Schumer. Hi, Brian.

BRIAN FALLON, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Hi. Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I know you spent 18 months as a political foe of Mr. Trump's and his team, but today we're hoping to separate you from that and talk to you in your role as a press secretary, if that's possible for you to do. What did you think of that first press briefing?

FALLON: I'd be the first person to tell you that I think Sean Spicer has an extremely challenging job, and I'd also just mention I know he's a New England patriots fan so we share that and they had a big win last night. But what he said at the podium on Saturday was just not true and to me there's no defense for that.

I've heard only a couple points made in the last 48 hours to try to sort of excuse what he did.