Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With California Congressman Adam Schiff; Killer Storms; Trump White House Holds First Briefing; Panetta: Trump "Forgot He Was President" at CIA; Deadly Tornadoes Rip Across Southern U.S.. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 23, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Listening in? CNN learns U.S. investigators are scrutinizing calls last month between the new national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and the Russian ambassador to the U.S., part of a broader counterintelligence investigation. Why are the calls being reviewed, and what is the White House saying tonight?
I will talk to the former Director of the CIA Leon Panetta.
Killer storms. Dozens of tornadoes bring death and destruction to the Southern U.S., while wind, rain and snow pummel the West and Northeast. We're tracking dangerous sweater across the country.
And day one promises. Candidate Trump promised action on hot-button issues like the border wall and Obamacare in his first day in office. Which pledges is he keeping and which ones are shifting?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news, President Trump meeting with congressional leaders at the White House just a little while ago. He also met with business and union leaders today, and he signed three executive actions, including one pulling the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and another reinstating a rule banning federal funding for international non-governmental groups that provide abortions.
We're also following developments up on Capitol Hill, where the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has just voted to confirm former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as the secretary of state. Tonight, the full Senate is expected to confirm Trump's pick for CIA director, Congressman Mike Pompeo.
And new tonight, deadly weather, including a series of tornadoes that slammed the Southern U.S. and powerful storms bringing wind, rain and snow to both coasts. The severe weather is blamed for at least 22 deaths. Tonight, we're covering that, much more this hour with our guests, including the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff and former CIA and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
And our correspondents and expert analysts, they are also standing by.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He begins our breaking news coverage.
Jim, President Trump signed several executive actions today. What were his day one priorities?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
President Trump went right to work today, chipping away at former president's Obama's action. He signed executive actions withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific trade deal, a key Obama policy. He also banned federal funding for promoting abortions overseas, as well as ordering a freeze on hiring any new federal workers, though he did add the caveat, Wolf, in the Oval Office earlier today, Wolf, that that freeze does not apply to military personnel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A company that wants to fire all of its people in the United States and build some factory some place else and then thinks that that product is going to just flow across the border into the United States, that's not going to happen. They're going to have a tax to pay, a border tax. Substantial border tax.
Somebody says, 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Wolf, that bit of sound we heard earlier this morning when he was meeting with U.S. business leaders, that was the president basically repeating a campaign promise that we heard time and again during the campaign.
He warned U.S. business leaders that they will be facing what he's calling a border tax on their products, that is if they ship their operations overseas, and then use those operations to build the very same products and import them back into the U.S. He said, he's going to crack down on that with that tax and he made that clear today.
BLITZER: Also today, as you know, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, made another appearance in the Briefing Room. This time, he took lots of questions from reporters. How did he defend the idea of what is now being dubbed as -- quote -- "alternative facts"?
ACOSTA: He tried to steer clear of using that term, obviously, Wolf, but the new White House press secretary, he was indeed doing some damage control, after he and the president railed against the news media over the weekend over their coverage of the size of the crowd at Mr. Trump's inauguration. On Saturday, as we saw, Spicer got some of his facts wrong in asserting the president's inauguration had the biggest attendance ever, which was not the case. Today, Sean Spicer said it is not his intent to lie to the press. I thought that was notable.
And he said also that he sometimes gets his facts wrong, just like anybody else. But he also, Wolf, I think this was striking, he did reveal some of the deep frustrations that exist inside this White House, inside the new Trump team as well as with the president himself over media coverage of President Trump and his campaign, and they are calling that, Sean Spicer called it demoralizing.
It isn't often when you hear a press secretary sort of go in depth on those kind of feelings, but we indeed heard that at what was a very substance-filled briefing earlier today, Wolf. A lot of issues were tackled.
BLITZER: Yes, he spent an hour and 15 minutes in the Briefing Room, answering a lot of reporters' questions, including yours as well. Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
And now to Capitol Hill, where the Senate is taking action on some Trump nominees.
Let's go to our senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju. He's on the scene for us.
Manu, the Foreign Relations Committee just voted to approve the former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, by the narrowest of margins, too, Wolf, by an 11-10 vote in a committee that is only divided with one Republican seat as a majority.
The reason why they were able to approve this nomination on a party- line vote is because of Senator Marco Rubio, announcing today he would support this nomination.
But, Wolf, he made very clear he still has concerns.
RAJU (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump is moving closer to getting his full national security team in place, the Senate poised to confirm Congressman Mike Pompeo to head the CIA. And now Rex Tillerson's confirmation to be secretary of state is virtually assured after Republican holdout Marco Rubio announced his support today. Rubio expressed reservations over Tillerson.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I'm concerned that perhaps he will not be as forceful an advocate for human rights and democracy in our foreign policy as I would wish to see. I weighed those with a number of other issues. It was a close call. But I believe the choice I made was the right one. RAJU: This after Rubio's contentious exchange with Tillerson about
Russia at his confirmation hearings earlier this month.
RUBIO: Based on all this information, what's publicly in the record about what's happened in Aleppo and the Russian military, you are still not prepared to say that Vladimir Putin, his military, have violated the rules of war and have conducted war crimes in Aleppo?
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: Those are very, very serious charges to make, and I would want to have much more information before reaching that conclusion.
RUBIO: It should not be hard to say that Vladimir Putin's military has conducted war crimes in Aleppo. And I find it discouraging your inability to cite that.
RAJU: Behind the scenes, Trump officials launched a full-court press on Rubio, including what a source tells CNN was a -- quote -- "blunt" 90-minute meeting last week with Tillerson, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Vice President Mike Pence.
Tillerson has also won over Russia hard-liners, after private talks with GOP Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain. But Democrats are unmoved, questioning Tillerson's commitment to crack down on human rights abuses around the globe.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: I will not be supporting his confirmation for secretary of state.
RAJU: On tap tomorrow, more fireworks, as two controversial nominees face tough confirmation hearings, including a second round of questions for Congressman Tom Price, picked to lead Health and Human Services. Democrats say Price's record is rife with problems.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: We certainly feel that we have to bring to the American people how different this Cabinet is, how hard right, how many conflicts of interest, billionaires.
RAJU: On Tuesday, Trump's nominee to serve as his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, also will face sharp questions, including over his admission of failing to pay taxes on a baby-sitter for his triplets. Even some Republicans are raising concerns.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: it could create problems, but I have had problems with former Cabinet people, both Republicans and Democrats, where that's either been straightened out or, if it wasn't justification for it, then opposed it.
RAJU: And Betsy DeVos, the billionaire GOP donor picked to run Trump's Education Department, facing an additional week of scrutiny after Republicans delayed a committee vote to give senators more time to review her paperwork from the Office of Government Ethics.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the delay was appropriate.
(END VIDEOTAPE) RAJU: And, Wolf, Republicans had wanted to vote tomorrow in the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve Jeff Sessions, his nomination, to be attorney general, but Democrats, under the rules, are allowed to delay that vote for a week and they plan to do that.
So, Wolf, Republicans and Donald Trump are going have to wait a fairly long time to get the rest of his nominations confirmed, and that could even be further upended when that Supreme Court pick comes, Sean Spicer saying today, within the next couple of weeks, a Supreme Court pick could come, and that could take all of the oxygen out of the room -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure there will be a big fight over that as well.
Thanks very much, Manu, for that report.
Let's get some more on all of this.
Congressman Adam Schiff of California is joining us. He's the senior Democrat, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: You bet. Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We heard from the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, today that President Trump won't put a stop to any investigation into his national security adviser Michael Flynn's possible ties to Russia. Are you encouraged by that?
SCHIFF: Well, I don't know, as much as you can be encouraged, I guess, by anything he says, because he will say something in the morning and then contradict it later that day.
But we intend to hold him to it and we intend to hold the intelligence agencies and law enforcement to it. We will be conducting our own investigation in the House Intelligence Committee, just as the Senate will, and we're determined to follow the facts wherever they lead.
BLITZER: Are there any facts you have come up with so far that indicate any wrongdoing on the part of the national security adviser, General Flynn?
SCHIFF: I can't go into the progress of the investigation yet. We have been essentially trying to begin the first step, which is gathering documents to look at what was underpinning the public assessment and the classified assessment of Russia's active measures campaign.
But that is of course just one part of the investigation. That doesn't go into potential contacts with the Trump campaign or Trump officials, but I think all of that will be part of the investigation. BLITZER: Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, indicated
today, Congressman, that the Trump administration would work more with Russia, as much as possible, to fight ISIS. He didn't even rule out finding common ground, potentially, with the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, in order to fight ISIS.
Do you believe if Rex Tillerson is confirmed for secretary of state, and it looks like he will be, that he would consider those options?
SCHIFF: Well, I have deep concerns about this candidate for secretary of state, his, I think, pro-Russian views, and of course this is somebody who received the Order of Friendship from Putin himself, caused me great consternation.
I also have severe questions about whether he can put the business interests aside of the company that he long ran. He did not, I think, give very convincing answers as to whether he would be tough on sanctions on Russia, so, there are a lot of profound questions.
You know, I think he will do his best to implement President Trump's policies, but the Russian interests are not aligned with ours, and the president, when he was a candidate, talked about how the Russians were attacking ISIS in Syria. In fact, the Russians have been attacking the moderate opposition, been doing very little about ISIS, as, in fact, the president's own nominee for CIA director has said.
So, a lot of profound questions about what the Trump policy will really be here and I would put no trust in Russia whatsoever.
BLITZER: So, you would say it's not wise for the U.S. to allow Russia to have this increased influence in the Middle East?
SCHIFF: Certainly not.
Their interest really is propping up the Assad regime, maintaining Russian influence in the region. And that is not our interest, at all. There may be small concentric areas of overlapping interest. Certainly, there are some areas in the fight against terror where we share interests with Russia, but, by and large, the Russians have a very different game plan than us.
And I think they will use us. And, in fact, we already saw the Russians claiming that we're doing joint bombing runs or joint air operations, which is a complete fiction and propaganda on their part, and just shows how little trust we can put in them.
BLITZER: Are you OK with the administration, the Trump administration, now walking back some of the statements made by the then-candidate and now the president that he would quickly move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? Now they seem to be walking that back, Sean Spicer saying that they have got to make a decision, they have got to study it. Is a delay OK with you?
I think that they ought to really understand the full consequences of this. I imagine what is causing them to delay is, they're getting feedback from all over the region in terms of what this would do, and the pressure it would put on some of our allies in the region, as well as how it could inflame things and move the parties potentially further away from the peace process.
So, I imagine they're getting a full measure of feedback on this. It's probably the reason why past presidents have made the same campaign commitment, but found it very difficult to deliver.
BLITZER: So, just want to be precise. So, you do not think the United States should move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, is that right?
SCHIFF: I think it ought to be part of the negotiated solution by the Israelis and Palestinians, part of the negotiated outcome. I don't think that we should jump ahead of the parties in this, and I would hate to see it have the impact of inflaming things in the region.
So, I really think this ought to be the subject of negotiation between the parties.
BLITZER: At the White House press briefing today, Sean Spicer also said his intention, in his words, is never to lie, but that, sometimes, he said, we can disagree with the facts.
Do you think President Trump and his administration are committed to telling the truth, based on what you have seen so far?
SCHIFF: Based on what I have seen so far, regrettably, no.
I think we have seen some very flagrant examples of the president simply making up his own facts to suit himself. The flagrant example -- there have been a couple -- were when he invented millions of illegal immigrants voting. That was his way of explaining why he lost the popular vote. That's a complete fabrication, a fiction, and an incendiary one at that.
If he's willing to say things like that, if he's willing to make claims about the intelligence agencies, compare them to Nazi Germany when they confront him with facts he doesn't like, if he's willing to misrepresent what's in the Intelligence Committee's reports on Russian active measures, all of these things bode very ill for how he will be as commander in chief.
We need to be able to believe our president, but some of the things he has said and done since he won the election, and been sworn in, call that very much into question.
BLITZER: Stand by, Congressman.
I'm going to bring in the former CIA director, the former defense secretary, Leon Panetta. There's a lot to talk with him about. We will take a quick break. We will resume this right after this break.
BLITZER: Tonight, CNN is learning details of an investigation into phone calls between a top adviser to President Trump and the Russian ambassador to the United States.
Want to talk about that and a lot more with the former CIA Director and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. There you see him. He's standing by live.
But, first, let's get some background.
Our chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, has the details.
Jim, what are you hearing from your sources?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, two key points here, one, that this probe into these phone calls is continuing. It is still under way, second, that it relates not just to the fact that these phone calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador took place, but also the content of those phone calls, what was said on the phone. Again, that investigation continuing.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, U.S. counterintelligence investigators are scrutinizing phone calls between President Trump's national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, and the Russian ambassador to the U.S., law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN.
Some of the calls in question were made on December 29, the very same day the Obama administration announced retaliation for Russia's unprecedented cyber-attack of the 2016 presidential election, retaliation which included further sanctions on Russia and the expulsion of some 35 Russian diplomats.
The content of those calls captured through routine eavesdropping on Russian diplomats raised concern amid a broader investigation aimed at Russian activities here in the U.S., this according to law enforcement and intelligence officials.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Flynn.
SCIUTTO: "The Wall Street Journal" was first to report the scrutiny. Officials spoke to CNN stressed that, so far, no determination of wrongdoing on Flynn's part has been made.
FBI and intelligence officials briefed members of the Obama White House on those calls before President Obama left office last week. In a statement Sunday night, a spokesman for President Trump said that his administration has -- quote -- "absolutely no knowledge of any investigation or even a basis for such an investigation."
SPICER: I talked to General Flynn about this again last night. SCIUTTO: Asked about Flynn's phone calls today, White House spokesman
Sean Spicer says that General Flynn told him the conversations were focused on topics other than the new sanctions on Russia.
SPICER: During the transition, I asked General Flynn whether or not there were any other conversations beyond the ambassador and he said no.
SCIUTTO: General Flynn had other connections to Russia prior to joining the Trump campaign.
LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN (RET.), NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The next president of the United States.
SCIUTTO: And now the Trump administration. He had a paid speaking engagement with Kremlin-backed television network Russia Today. In 2015, he was seated right next to President Putin at a media gala for the network.
SCIUTTO: Now, Sean Spicer also said today that, on those calls, General Flynn only discussed these topics, one, Christmas greetings, condolences for a Russian plane crash, a crash that involved its military, but also arranging a phone call between President Putin and President Trump. That call has not been arranged.
And this is key as well, Wolf, because Sean Spicer said there were just two calls, one on December 29, the day the sanctions were imposed, and again another just three or four days ago. But it's our information that there is more than one phone call, that there are others and other communication that continue to be investigated.
BLITZER: All right, Jim Sciutto reporting for us. Jim, thanks very much.
Let's some get more on this and other key issues. The former CIA director, the former defense secretary, Leon Panetta, is joining us.
Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for joining us.
LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Thanks, Wolf. Nice to be with you.
BLITZER: So, what is your initial reaction to this report we just heard from Jim Sciutto?
PANETTA: Well, I think it's in line with the FBI investigation into the contacts between the various people in the Trump campaign and the Russians.
This is part of, obviously, trying to determine what it was that got the Russians to play such a large role in the election and try to influence our election here in this country.
So, I think it's appropriate for the FBI to be able to look at all possible evidence to determine exactly what happened here.
BLITZER: You believe it's appropriate, that General Flynn could effectively do his job as the president's national security adviser, even if he's under this kind of investigation?
PANETTA: Well, I think we ought to, obviously, give him the opportunity to do his job while this investigation is going on.
Nothing definitive has been determined here. I'm sure the FBI is also talking to other members within the Trump operation, so, that's part of the investigation. That's what they have got to look into.
I do think the one thing that concerns me is the -- I think it's suspect that he made a call to the Russian ambassador on the same day as the president was implementing sanctions against Russia. That in and of itself I think is something that does need to be looked into.
BLITZER: Why is that suspect?
PANETTA: It's suspect because it occurs on the very same day when the president announces not only taking action against diplomats that Russia has here that were perhaps involved in the intelligence operations here in this country, but also imposing additional sanctions.
And, so, you would wonder whether or not any of those issues became part of the conversation. Obviously, we will find out what the FBI is able to determine here.
BLITZER: Because that was the day that not only new sanctions were imposed by the Obama administration against Russia, but 35 Russian diplomats were told they had a few hours to get out of Washington and elsewhere.
The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, today said that the president, in his words, has not made any indication he would stop this kind of an investigation. Do you take them at their word?
PANETTA: I would have to take them at their word.
This is a new presidency. They have just come into office. The president himself has said through his spokesman that they will not interfere in this investigation. And I think that we have to operate on the basis that that is the case, until we find out something different.
BLITZER: The president, as you know, on Saturday, he spoke at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. He spoke in front of that wall memorializing fallen officers of the CIA, those who have been killed, some of their names still secret. I want you to listen to some of what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I can only say that I am with you 1000 percent, and the reason you're my first stop is that, as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth.
I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks and they show an empty field. I said, wait a minute. 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Spoke for about 15 minutes. That's obviously just a little piece of that. What did you think of his remarks?
PANETTA: I was concerned about the remarks that he made at the CIA in front of that wall.
That wall contains the stars of CIA officers who have given their life for this country. That's about as close as you can get to hallowed ground at the CIA. It's the equivalent of speaking at Arlington Cemetery.
And I think that, you know, initially, his comments about supporting the CIA were appropriate and should have been said, but I think to go off and start talking about the press, talking about how many people were at the inauguration, I just think that, frankly, that was not appropriate.
And I just think that the president needs to understand that he is president of the United States now. He's not just a candidate. He doesn't have to spend time embellishing himself or what he did. He's president of the United States.
And when you go to the CIA, you have to go there with some degree of respect for where you're standing and the people that you're talking to.
BLITZER: John Brennan, like you, now a former CIA director, through a spokesman, said: "Former CIA Director Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump's despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of the CIA's Memorial Wall of Agency Heroes. Brennan says that Trump should be ashamed of himself."
Would you go that far?
PANETTA: Well, I certainly would express some of the same concerns about what he did at that particular place at the CIA.
You know, Wolf, as a former chief of staff
PANETTA: ... about what he did at that particular place at the CIA.
[18:30:07] You know -- you know, Wolf, as former chief of staff to presidents, I've seen them walk into that office, the Oval Office, and suddenly be aware of the awesome responsibility that you have as president of the United States. And, you know, sometimes it's tough for any individual to get out of the campaign mode and suddenly realize that it's over. You're now -- you're now the 45th president of the United States.
And I just got the impression when he was speaking there that somehow, he forgot that he was president of the United States and was speaking to the intelligence officers that spend their lives trying to serve this country.
That was not the appropriate place to start whining about what was happening in terms of numbers at the inauguration and what have you. I hope -- I hope that he has learned from that experience, that when you go and visit these agencies and departments, do it with a great deal of respect for the people that serve this country.
BLITZER: Because the 117 names memorialized on that wall -- and I've been there at CIA headquarters to see that -- for you, this is very personal, because you knew some of those individuals. And we can't even mention their names, because their operations were so secretive. For you, it's personal right now when you say this is hallowed ground.
PANETTA: Absolutely. You can't be director of the CIA and be involved with people who, every day, put their lives on the line. When I was CIA director, I lost seven intelligence officers because of a suicide bombing at HOST (ph). Their stars are now on that wall.
I just think that everyone needs to recognize, that is hallowed ground, and that, whether you're president or whether you're anybody else, it demands that we respect that location and the service of those whose stars appear on that wall.
BLITZER: I remember when those CIA officers were killed in Afghanistan. It was an awful, awful event.
Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.
PANETTA: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, deadly tornadoes in the south, and tonight, storms are pummeling -- pummeling both U.S. coasts. We're tracking severe weather.
[17:35] BLITZER: President Trump has signed a series of executive actions on trade, abortion and a federal hiring freeze, but what about some of his other key campaign promises?
Brian Todd is working the story for us.
Brian, candidate Trump made a lot of pledges. What are we hearing?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, on the campaign trail, Donald Trump made so many pledges of what he would do on his first day in office that it's really hard to keep track of them all. Tonight, as he nears the end of his first full working day, we're
looking at some of his most famous day-one promises and how he's keeping up with them.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We start day one.
TODD (voice-over): It's what helped Donald Trump get elected. Bold, brash projections that he'd shake Washington to its core.
TRUMP: It's going be a very busy first day.
TODD: Today, Donald Trump delivered on at least one of those campaign promises.
TRUMP: I'm going to issue our notification of intent to withdraw from the Transpacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country.
TODD: Promising more new jobs, the president today signed an executive action to withdraw from the sweeping Asia trade deal.
TRUMP: Great thing for the American worker, what we just did.
TODD: He seems hyper focused on trade deals.
TRUMP: Day one, we are going to announce our plans to totally renegotiate NAFTA.
TODD: Within his first 72 hours, the president has announced meetings scheduled with leaders in Mexico and Canada to begin renegotiating NAFTA.
But he also promised throughout his campaign he'd move on day one to undo Obamacare.
TRUMP: My first day in office, I'm going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk, getting rid of this disastrous law.
TODD: So far, he's issued an executive order aimed at loosening the government's implementation of athe Affordable Care Act while it remains on the books, but Donald Trump's own bill to repeal isn't ready yet.
KAREN TUMULTY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": The really big ones, things like replacing the Affordable Aare Act, that is going to be a prolonged and possibly painful process.
TODD: What about perhaps the president's most famous promise?
TRUMP: On day one, we will begin working on an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall.
TODD: The White House today said the process is under way.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He's already started to work with Congress on the appropriations avenue of that.
TODD: But on another key first-day promise on immigration...
TRUMP: On day one, I'm going to begin swiftly removing criminal illegal immigrants from this country.
[18:40:03] TODD: The White House says President Trump places a priority on that, but so far tonight, no indication that his administration's accelerating the process of removing undocumented immigrants with criminal records, a process that had been going on for years.
Another day-one promise on trade, so far, hasn't been kept.
TRUMP: On the first day of my term of office, I will direct my secretary of the treasury to label China a currency manipulator.
TODD: Could day-one promises not kept hurt the president politically?
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATED EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REALCLEAR POLITICS: If Donald Trump's voters see him heading in the right direction with energy, on all of these issues, on attacking the healthcare law, trying to replace it, on pro-growth policies, canceling or renegotiating trade agreements, I think they're going to be satisfied with what they see.
TODD: But his backers will not be happy, analysts say, if the president and his team get distracted and go off on tangents like they did on Saturday, fighting with the media and discussing things like inauguration crowd size -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, today, the press secretary, Sean Spicer, did specifically address the day-one promises not being kept, right?
TODD: He did, Wolf. Spicer said they want to address these promises as quickly as they can, but they don't want it to come out like a firehose. He said, if the president actually did address all of those promises on the first full day, they would get lost in the ether.
I think they're getting a sense of how difficult some of this is to do in one day.
BLITZER: Very difficult indeed. Brian, thanks very much.
We want to talk about all of this and a lot more with our political experts. In fact, all of you stand by. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[18:46:33] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're standing by for a vote, the CIA director nominee, Congressman Mike Pompeo. His vote is coming up. We expect he will be confirmed. We'll get to that momentarily.
But in the meantime, I want to discuss what we just heard from a former CIA director, Leon Panetta.
Gloria, Leon Panetta, former defense secretary, former CIA director, he said that when Donald Trump was over at the CIA headquarters on Saturday, he may have forgotten that he was president of the United States.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and he seemed pretty emotional in talking about it, Wolf. Look, he's a former CIA director who lost seven people, as he pointed out to you in coast. He understands the meaning of that wall. He compared it to Arlington national cemetery. And he said, you know, you can't forget where you are. And that he forgot he was president.
And I think that -- one thing we have to remember about Leon Panetta is that not only was he CIA director and secretary of defense, but he served as a White House chief of staff. And he talked to you about the transformation that occurs when somebody walks into that Oval Office and stops campaigning and actually becomes president.
And I think his clear message to Donald Trump, through you, was that the campaign is over, you won, you're president, you need to act like a president and don't forget that you are.
BLITZER: Yes, act -- deal with the big issues. You got aides who can deal with the little, the politics.
BORGER: And understand where you are. Yes.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Remember, coming from the private sector, not the public sector, in making that transformation, which is even an added burden to Donald Trump's, you know, to the foreign nature of what's around him right now.
BORGER: But it's a burden to his staff, because it's up to the staff to say to him, you're in front of this wall. Let me tell you a little bit about this wall.
BLITZER: You make a good point, because the vice president, Mike Pence, he spoke at that wall on Saturday, introducing the president, and he did not deviate from what he was supposed to say, he was strictly speaking about the enormity of those 117 stars on that memorial.
BLITZER: What does it say to you, David, about what he did today, signing these executive actions, on abortion, on trade, on other issues? What does that signaling?
CHALIAN: So, I think the trade one is really significant, because I think it is exactly what brought him here. I think it is that issue that animated the electorate. And remember, not just his electorate. Bernie Sanders, even Hillary Clinton had to move on this issue. This was a cross current running through the 2016 campaign.
And what we see in terms of the American people looking forward of what they expect from the Trump presidency, it is this kind of economic delivery. So, that is -- that is putting down a marker, saying, I know what brought me here, and I'm going to deliver.
The Mexico City rule on abortion is a bit more of a quick gift to the base, conservative base of the Republican Party, more than some huge philosophical component of Donald Trump's presidency.
BLITZER: David Swerdlick, Sean Spicer got off to a very rocky start on Saturday, when he went in the briefing room, delivered an angry statement, refused to answer reporters' questions. Today, he spent an hour and 15 minutes answering reporters' questions, and he was a lot more confident and a lot more at ease.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, a lot more at ease. Answered the questions, took questions from some of the lesser known outlets first, but then got around to the bigger outlets, did answer questions sort of in a full throated manner.
[18:50:02] Several times was asked about the potential move of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and several times made it clear that that was not a done deal yet, at least from his point of view.
Yes, it was more of the type of comfortable press conference that we are used to seeing, a sharp contrast from the Saturday, which, by all accounts, was -- did not go well for him or for the administration.
BLITZER: Elise -- Elise Labott is with us -- you've done a lot of reporting on this potential move of the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. You heard Sean Spicer say today, no decision has been made. We're just beginning the process of studying it, followed a conversation that the president had today with President al-Sisi of Egypt, who's a close U.S. ally right now, good friend, very supportive working with Israelis, but clearly, not in favor of moving that embassy.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And if you look back, Wolf, about several weeks ago, about a month ago, when President-elect Trump called President al Sisi about that vote at the United Nations and said, I need you to put that vote on hold.
And so, now that president of Egypt is calling and saying, look, you need to look at this and be more carefully considered about what you're going to do, you know, President Trump had said all along the campaign, you know, day one, I'm going to move the embassy. But the more, our understanding is, the more they talk to diplomats, the more they talk to allies, and even Israel, this is really -- they would like to see this happen eventually, not their first priority right now.
Everyone is telling the administration, listen, if you want to look at this, let's talk about it, let's lay the groundwork as part of a grander strategy for Mideast peace, but you can't just do that and let the chips fall where they may, because it could cause a very dangerous situation. And I think the administration is starting to recognize the enormity
of what they would do, so, I think at first their going to take some baby steps. You might see Ambassador David Friedman, once he is confirmed, living and working in Jerusalem, a nod to fulfilling the president's pledge, while being a little bit more measured about the timeline and the process, Wolf.
BLITZER: Abby, this other issue, the so-called DREAMers, the DACA, it's now very clear that the new Trump administration, this is not a priority, having these kids who grew up here in the United States, who are now working, their parents are undocumented immigrants -- they are not a priority in deportation, as far as the more administration is concerned.
ABBY PHILLIP, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's yet another case of something that is a little harder to do, in reality, than it is in theory. And even for Republicans, who from an ideological perspective, really oppose this action, because they don't believe that the executive branch should be doing immigration action, they believe that that should come from the legislature, but rolling it back, bringing those people out of the shadows and then exposing them, these are students, many -- most of them were brought -- all of them were brought here as children, many of them as young children.
They have no, you know, connections to where their parents were from, where they were born. Trump has been very clear that he doesn't actually think that this is something that he's willing to do, and Trump is one of those people who is very concerned about how things look. It would look very bad to drag these people out and as he said, who have done nothing of their own accord, and make them a political pawn in this.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody stick around. Stay with us.
There's more breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The Senate holding critical votes on some of President Trump's key nominees. We're going to go live to Capitol Hill.
[18:57:57] BLITZER: The death toll from a series of violent storms across the United States is climbing tonight.
Our meteorologist Jennifer Gray is tracking the weather for us. What's the latest on the tornadoes, first of all, that tore through the South?
JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right, Wolf.
You know, we had more tornado deaths this month than we had the entire year of 2016. Forty-one tornadoes reported over the weekend. We should have only 36 nationwide in January. We had 94 since January 1st.
BLITZER: The storms also right now making their way up the East Coast. How is that impacting the Northeast and Midwest? GRAY: Well, this is going to morph into a nor'easter, Wolf, and we
are going to feel the brunt of it between now and midnight for some of our major cities across the Northeast.
Philadelphia, New York, already getting pounded with rain. If we zoom in, you can get a closer look. Also, seeing freeze precipitation across northern portions of that area, Upstate New York, northern portions of Pennsylvania.
The wind is going to be a huge concern with this. We could see hurricane-force winds just offshore, places like Long Island, and we're talking about any time between now and say the wee hours of the morning, 40 and 45-mile-per-hour winds with gusts up to 60, 70 miles per hour. And once you get into New York, with that funneling effect, we could feel winds even stronger.
So, this one is going to be a big one. The good news is, it's mainly going to be rain along the coast, so, the big cities will just have to deal with the rain, but it's going to be snow in those northern sections. So, there's that area of hurricane force winds possible. And then, our wind threat, the warnings, watches and advisories all in place.
There's a look at your rain totals, anywhere from two to four inches across places like New York, Boston, and then all of this snow, especially in those higher elevations, to the north -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Jennifer, we'll watch it together with you. Jennifer Gray, our meteorologist, reporting.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.