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Trump Repeats False Claim about Voter Fraud; U.S. Investigating Flynn Calls with Russian Diplomat; CIA Director Sworn In, Secretary of State Awaits Vote. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 24, 2017 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our intention is never to lie to you.

[05:58:40] JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The new president said he would have won the popular vote had it not been for these millions of illegal votes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is something that is just not true.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: It's just remarkable what got done in the first day.

TRUMP: Plenty. But TPP wasn't the right way.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: If Mr. Trump is serious about moving in that direction, I would be delighted to work with him.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: U.S. investigators are reviewing calls between Mike Flynn and Russia's ambassador to the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I asked General Flynn whether or not there were other any other conversations beyond the ambassador. And he said no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Confirmation of Mike Pompeo to the CIA is confirmed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, January 24, 6 a.m. here in New York.

And up first, the president of the United States once again falsely claims that widespread voter fraud cost him the popular vote during a meeting with top congressional leaders. He offers no proof. There is no proof of that scale. And the president once again detracts from his own actions advancing his policy agenda.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump delivering on a key campaign promise, signing an executive order to withdraw the U.S. from the transpacific trade deal. This as the president's CIA director gets confirmed and several cabinet nominees face more questions today.

We're entering day five of the Trump administration. We have it all covered for you.

Let's begin with Athena Jones. She's live at the White House. What's the latest, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

This is pretty remarkable. In the midst of a very busy day, during which he was making good on several campaign promises, the president still took the time to complain to members of Congress about losing the popular vote.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONES (voice-over): President Trump again falsely claiming he lost the popular vote because of voter fraud. Sources tell CNN during a bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders at the White House, the president reiterated the unsubstantiated claim that 3 to 5 million illegal ballots cost him the popular vote. It's a claim Mr. Trump has made before on Twitter, and it's been repeatedly debunked. The president also using the meeting to dwell on the size of his inauguration crowds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was, from his perspective, a very, very large crowd, and we didn't -- we didn't push it beyond that, but it was clear that this was still in his mind.

JONES: In his first official briefing as White House press secretary, Sean Spicer defending the president.

SPICER: It's about sitting here every time and being told, "No, the crowds aren't that big. He's not that successful." The narrative and the default narrative is always negative, and it's demoralizing.

JONES: Spicer on the defensive after falsely claiming the 2017 inauguration had the largest audience of any swearing in.

SPICER: I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts. Our intention is never to lie to you.

JONES: But beyond his continued obsession with votes and crowd size, Trump spent most of his first Monday in office on repealing Obama's policies.

TRUMP: Great thing for the American worker, what we just did.

JONES: The president signing an executive action to withdraw the U.S. from the Transpacific Partnership.

TRUMP: We're going to have trade, but we're going to have one-on-one.

JONES: Casting the free trade agreement between 12 nations as bad for American business.

TRUMP: Companies that left are going to come back to our country. They're going to hire a lot of people.

JONES: The president also signing two other executive actions, imposing a hiring freeze on most federal workers, and reinstating a ban on funding for international groups who provide or counsel women on abortion. His policy moves coming on the same day he met with corporate and

union leaders, warning U.S. companies against manufacturing overseas.

TRUMP: A company that wants to fire all of its people in the United States and build some factory someplace else, and then thinks that that product is just going to 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. A substantial border tax.

JONES: And offering an incentive to stay in the U.S.

TRUMP: We think we can cut regulations by 75 percent. Maybe more.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: Another busy day ahead for the president. He has another breakfast and listening session, this time with auto industry leaders. He'll be signing some more executive orders, and then later meeting with Senate leaders -- Alisyn, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Lots to discuss. Let's bring in our panel: CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" reporter Abby Phillip; CNN political analyst and author of How's Your Faith, David Gregory; and senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner," David Drucker.

Abby, you are ahead on this story. It's not any question about the reporting about the president saying in this meeting, "The illegal immigrants voting, that's what cost me my election"?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, both Republican and Democratic sources confirm that the president seemed preoccupied. In fact, he spent about ten minutes at the top of the meeting going over the details of the election, which he's known to do at his rallies and at other public settings, and then he talked about the popular vote. And he talked about how he believed that he had actually won it, had it not been for millions of illegal voters.

He also talked a little bit jokingly with Nancy Pelosi about the Electoral College, which as you know, some Democrats wanted to abolish after this election.

But it was very clear to the people in the room and you heard, including some on-the-record comments from lawmakers, that they were kind of surprised and, in some cases, didn't really know how to take the fact that, even after all these months, even after he had just been inaugurated, he still is very preoccupied with this issue. It really cuts to the core of what he's focused on right at this moment. CUOMO: The only reason I ask is because, when Abby's story first came

out, the first wave of pushback I got from the president's people was "This isn't true. It didn't happen."

CAMEROTA: What part didn't happen?

CUOMO: That he didn't talk about it at the meeting. And then all of the sourcing came out, so it's just important to nail down, yes, it happened. Yes, he said it, and there's no proof.

CAMEROTA: OK. But where does that leave us, David Gregory? I mean, the idea that the commander in chief believes or continues to pedestrian -- peddle that there's been a shocking subversion of democracy to the tune of illegal voters when every single secretary of state in every single state says no, there wasn't. What are we to make of this?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That there's no evidence of it, and it's a falsehood. And, you know, it's interesting. Sean Spicer, the press secretary, said it was demoralizing that they have to face all this negative coverage.

I would say to him it's exhausting, actually, to be covering this group. Maybe, they, he and Kellyanne Conway can spare us all the lectures of how we're in default negative mode in covering this president and that we're acting more like columnists instead of journalists, when the truth of the matter is, in the day five of his presidency, he's paranoid about things that don't matter: his legitimacy as president, crowd sizes at his inauguration. And he is using his press secretary, in the first instance, to go out there and say things that were demonstrably untrue, that he had to backtrack, sort of.

He went to the CIA and said that it was an invented feud between him and the CIA by the media, when he'd gone out on his favorite platform, Twitter, to compare the heads of our intelligence agencies to Nazi Germany. Yes, that actually happened.

So he's spending his first few days indulging in a paranoia about his legitimacy, when we're all eager to get down to business and cover the substantive aspects of his presidency, of which there's been a fair amount so far.

CUOMO: Well, let's get after that. And to be clear, they ain't victims in this situation. That's for sure.

David Drucker, pulling out of the TPP membership. Sounds good, delivers on a campaign promise. Saying, "I'll cut regulation by 75 percent." Sounds good, delivers on a campaign promise. Both are going to come with heavy scrutiny because of what they will mean for the economy and the reality, being able to get it done. Your take?

DAVID DRUCKER, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Right. So now Trump is going to be judged on his actions and not just his promises or his, you know, occasional questioning of legitimate reporting. And if Trump is right, then he'll reap the rewards. You know, there are challenges into pulling out of the TPP, even though it's very unpopular in the United States, on both sides of the aisle. It cedes the Asia Pacific to China. You now have a bunch of nations that have really been in the sphere of the United States that are looking to China and looking to join the regional trade group run by China.

And I think Trump is going to have to deal with how removing our influence in this way from the Asia Pacific actually improves the U.S. position, both economically and from a national security perspective. So that's a challenge. Regulations-wise, this is more of a sort of a right-left argument. And I think what will happen is that, on the one hand, it can help job growth and job creation, because businesses look at this simply as a bottom line issue. And if it costs less to produce in the United States, because they're not being taxed and regulated as much, they're more inclined to invest, to grow jobs. And that can be very good for the economy and so that can play to Trump's benefit, even though Democrats will obviously, because they have a different point of view point all the problems with the regulatory cuts.

One thing, Chris, on Trump's approach here, he ought to take a page out of George W. Bush 16 years ago. Lost the popular vote. Was believed by many to have been installed by the Supreme Court. And people wondered, would he, as a president, because of his unusual ascension. And he simply acted like a normal president and was able to get a lot done because of that.

CAMEROTA: OK. Go ahead, David.

GREGORY: I just wanted to add the larger point about China here is on trade. It's interesting how the Trump administration is positioning itself to, on the one hand, maybe get better deals for America or maybe ceding ground to China or Russia in a different sphere that actually makes their day, makes -- gives them a kind of competitive advantage, whether it's aggrandizement through territory or, in this case, through economic gains and even more influence in the south Pacific which is something I think the Trump presidency is worried about here when you're talking about China.

CAMEROTA: Right. They can swoop in and fill that vacuum. Let's talk about the other executive orders that he signed. So he abandoned TPP, as we know. He froze hiring for some federal employees. He said not the military. And then reinstating the Mexico City policy on abortion funding. He did these quickly, and these are all -- these were sort of, you know, Republican wish list.

PHILLIPS: Right. I think these are pretty much the hobby horses of most Republicans since Reagan, and particularly the hiring freeze. It strikes me as something that is often used as a tactic to show an effort to cut government, but it does very little to do that, in part because it almost always exempts the military. And in this case we know it exempts uniformed military, and it may also affect the civilian workforce, which is the largest portion of the federal government. So, you know, Trump potentially had an opportunity here to talk about

refining the government and, you know, cutting excess bloat, but that's not exactly what this -- what this executive order does. It really just slashes off the top.

On abortion funding, you know, Trump is following what every Republican since Ronald Reagan has done. This has gone back and forth. It's obviously, you know, in the year 2017, abortion is much more widely used than it was in 1984 when this rule went into place, so it will be interesting to see what the repercussions of it are in this year, versus you know, 20 or 25 years ago.

CUOMO: You've also seen that, historically, when you cut funding, you don't really reduce the number of abortions; you reduce the safety of those that are....

CAMEROTA: It also happens to cut funding for contraception, which is a paradox.

Panel, thank you very much.

So U.S. investigators are scrutinizing phone calls between President Trump's national security advisor, Mike Flynn, and a Russian ambassador. These calls raising concerns with counterintelligence investigators. CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez is live in Washington with more -- Evan.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

Well, the calls between Mike Flynn, the president's national security adviser, and Russia's ambassador to the United States are being scrutinized as part of a broader counterintelligence investigation of Russian activities here in the United States.

Law enforcement and intelligence officials say the calls were captured by routine U.S. eavesdropping targeting Russian diplomats. But the officials say that some of the content of the conversations drew enough potential concerns that investigators are still looking into the discussions.

The officials all stressed that, so far there have been no determination of wrongdoing. We know that the FBI and intelligence officials briefed the Obama White House about the phone discussions before President Obama left office. And at least one of the calls came on the same day that the Obama administration announced sanctions on Russia and expelled 35 diplomats.

The White House says it has, quote, "absolutely no knowledge of any investigation or even a basis of an investigation."

Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, told reporters that there were two calls, that the two men discussed four subjects, including setting up a conference on ISIS and a phone call between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Evan. Let us know where that story goes. So far, only a handful of President Trump's picks have been confirmed.

Now, there are good and bad reasons for that. Senate Democrats say they got a lot more questions to ask some of the president's nominees. So when will the rest be approved, and what is this balance between being comprehensive and just delaying?

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CUOMO: Here's Vice President Mike Pence swearing in Mike Pompeo as the new CIA director last night, after being confirmed by the Senate. The president's pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, he's going to advance to a full vote next week. And we have a full slate of hearings today.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Sunlen Serfaty, live on Capitol Hill. What do we expect?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Chris.

Well, the Senate is inching along here, but they certainly have a lot more progress to make. Trump officially getting his third cabinet official in place with Mike Pompeo, who as you noted, was sworn in very swiftly overnight by Vice President Pence. Things are lining up for Rex Tillerson, Trump's controversial nominee for secretary of state, to be in place, potentially, very soon.

Yesterday, he was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with some last minute support from Senator Marco Rubio. He now heads to the full Senate for a vote and is all but guaranteed to get passed through. But don't look for that vote to happen immediately. Democrats have already indicated that they very likely will filibuster this vote. That pushes Tillerson's vote in the full Senate, potentially, into next week.

But today, there is a whole slew of potentially controversial and contentious hearings on the docket, including a second round of questioning for Tom Price, Mick Mulvaney, and a scheduled committee vote for Senator Sessions and the Judiciary Committee. Democrats, as is their right on this committee, have also indicated that they want to delay this vote. That will push Sessions' vote into next week.

And Sessions, Chris and Alisyn, that means he's likely not facing a final Senate vote until potentially early February -- guys.

CAMEROTA: OK, Sunlen. Thanks for laying all of that out for us.

Will President Trump get of his cabinet nominees confirmed? Let's discuss with David Gregory, David Drucker and Abby Phillip. It might be helpful just to put up again what we're expecting today so that people can visually see it as we discuss it. Elaine Chao, Wilbur Ross, Tom Price, Jeff Sessions, Mick Mulvaney, Linda McMahon.

David Gregory, is Tom Price the most problematic?

GREGORY: Well, on that list, probably so, because you know, this becomes a proxy fight over affordable care and Obamacare. So -- but even there, it's hard to see where he might be losing ground among Republicans.

You see some, like with the labor secretary potentially, where there's some talk among Democrats that they have made enough noise and brought up enough issues in shadow hearings that they might force the administration even to withdraw the nomination. That is their hope. In this case, I don't see -- I see a tough fight but I don't necessarily see the votes there on the Democratic side.

CUOMO: All right. Abby, it's really not about "if." It's about when. Right? They just don't have the votes unless you have defections. What we saw with Senator Rubio, him backing off his Tillerson, you know, feelings, he was really the most out there to begin with. So what is the play down in D.C. about how long they can delay without the Democrats just coming off as if they're delaying as a power move?

PHILLIP: Well, I think, you know, Democrats, the strategy here is delay, and they've actually been pretty successful at that. I mean, I think some of these nominees, Republicans would have liked them to have dealt with a long time ago. And they're not, partly because -- you know, partly because the vetting process wasn't as smooth as it should have been to avoid some of these problems.

[06:20:06] I think Democrats have a little bit more leeway yet to continue with the strategy, because you know, arguably, if the American people aren't paying attention to this fight. They would probably know that, over the last eight years, you know, fights over nominations has been essentially the standard operating procedure here in Washington.

And by contrast, Democrats are asking, in some cases, for a couple of days on some of these nominees. Not weeks or months. And not holding them up indefinitely.

I agree with David that, by and large, I think most of these nominees are going to go through partly because Republicans are holding the line. They are not defecting even on some of the folks who are the most politically problematic. Rex Tillerson being the most of them.

CAMEROTA: David Drucker, let's talk about Sean Spicer's first official press conference. Because they got off to such a rocky start over the weekend.

There were, I think, several good signs for what the possible relationship could be with the press moving forward. It lasted 79 minutes. That's the longest press briefing -- press briefing of the past two administrations. He called on something like 43 reporters, including CNN, so it seemed like there was a good back and forth.

There were some curious things, many, that happened, as well. One are the things that he omitted. He refused -- he declined to say what the unemployment rate is. Now, does that mean that this administration is not going to go with what the Bureau of Labor Statistics believes the unemployment rate is?

DRUCKER: Well, the administration is running the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so I found that curious, because the unemployment rate is low; and President Trump is in a position to take credit for that by talking about how all of his policies are making it easier for businesses to grow jobs and that you're going to see this rate fall even more and you're going to see labor participation tick up and all of that.

Look, I think that what you saw from Sean Spicer yesterday is what I expected, as opposed to Saturday. I've dealt with him for a long time. He's always been professional. He's never lied to me. We fought plenty of times over stories. I get texts all the time from him, saying he was disappointed in some story that I wrote that he didn't like. That is standard. It's our job to ask tough questions, and you saw somebody who was well-versed on a number of issues. He didn't answer every question.

And he did his job, which was to act as a forceful advocate for his boss. He is accountable to his boss. His boss is accountable to the voter. And so there were some things in there that are a part of who Trump is, and maybe we shouldn't be surprised. Part of that has been questioning the unemployment rate.

But I think on things like that, we're going to have an unemployment report coming up shortly. If the Trump administration wants to change how BLS calculates unemployment, because they think they've got a more accurate way to do it. They should just say so, present it to everybody and we know what we're dealing with.

But I think this is probably what you're going to see from Spicer overall. Look, I'd say the biggest news, I thought, that came out of that briefing -- and there were a number of interesting things that Sean Spicer said -- was the sort of backing away from moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. That seems to be slow walked. And there was so much focus on all the other stuff that we missed a lot of good substantive stuff in there that Sean talked about.

CUOMO: David, what would you think that the headlines were?

GREGORY: Well, I would add to that, I think the Jerusalem embassy issue and Spicer saying that they're in a decision-making process, which means they haven't made a decision, even though they were declarative about it during the campaign, as other Republicans coming into the presidency have been before, only to walk back.

The other big walk back is the idea of deporting the children of illegal immigrants in the United States, the DACA rule. They have continued to say it is not a priority for them; and that's a big deal, because there are so many people who are concerned about that around the country, sanctuary cities, sanctuary campuses, college campuses. This is a really big deal. And again, it appears that that's not something that they want to make a centerpiece of what they do on immigration.

I think he did try something of a reboot with the press yesterday. That was positive. There was some accountability for what he got wrong on Saturday. Not total accountability. And there still, as I said before, they're still in kind of lecturing mode and kind of working the press, suggesting that it's all negative all the time, without taking accountability for the distraction that the president has created for them and for the country out of his own obsession with ratings and crowd size and his legitimacy, that quite clearly gets in the way of his leading the country and solving the kinds of problems that he wants to solve.

CAMEROTA: And Abby, let's end on that note. Because I think that this is an important one for moving forward. They talked -- Sean Spicer talked about how demoralizing it was for the media to point out that Mr. Trump's crowd sizes were less than Mr. Obama's.

You know, look, Chris and I were on the air for something like 8-1/2 hours. The vast majority of it was talking about how excited the crowds were, the mood, the electricity. I think that once in this space of those 8-1/2 hours over 24 days -- I mean, sorry, 24 hours, we talked about the crowd size.

[06:25:13] So are they saying that we can never talk about anything that they perceive as negative without, you know, them chastising the media?

PHILLIP: It's really hard to know, I mean, but Sean was really reflecting his boss in that moment. He was speaking for his boss and reflecting his views of the coverage over the weekend.

And, you know, some of my colleagues wrote a really fascinating report describing the series of events on Saturday that kind of led to this path, including some tweets from the national -- retweets from the National Park Service. He was annoyed and angered by the coverage of the march the following day, and you know, it isn't just that it's negativity.

They also want an acknowledgment of Trump's accomplishments, which is something that I'm sure every politician is, but the reality is, you know, this is hard. And it's not all going to be positive.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much for all of those insights.

CUOMO: All right. Up next, a scary moment as the governor of Minnesota is giving the state of the state address. And all of a sudden -- we'll show you what happened, and we'll talk about what it means.

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