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Trump: Ethics Lawsuit "Totally Without Merit"; Trump Withdraws U.S. From TPP Trade Agreement; Tracking Trump's Top Campaign Promises. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 24, 2017 - 07:30   ET



[07:31:10] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Mr. President, reaction to the lawsuit today?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Without merit. Totally without merit.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump responding to an ethics lawsuit that claims foreign payments to Trump businesses violates the U.S. Constitution. The president's lawyer denies it, saying the president has taken measures to avoid conflicts of interest.

Joining us now, Ambassador Norman Eisen, part of the suit. Also served as White House ethics attorney under President Obama. Counselor, good to have you on the show, as always.

AMB. NORMAN EISEN, FMR. SPECIAL COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT OBAMA,: Chris, it's always a pleasure to be with you.

CUOMO: All right. So first, a couple of big points and then what could be a big gotcha for your lawsuit, but the big points first. Trump's lawyer says two things. One, he has divested from these financial interests, will give money back to the Treasury for the hotels, so there's that. And that this emoluments clause was never meant to contemplate -- bargain for exchanges of fair value, which to the regular people means they're not giving them him a gift, they're paying for a service. This is business in its ordinary course. You have no ground.

EISEN: Well, Chris, the emoluments clause is written very broadly, not limited to gifts. The founders of our country were so worried about the distorting effect it could have on a president's judgment that they forbade "gifts or things of value, cash --

CUOMO: Favors.

EISEN: -- or other benefits of any kind whatever." That's a quote from the clause. And so, it's just not true that it's limited to presidents. Look, the president's lawyer has said well, we're going to take profits from the hotels from foreign governments and turn those over. But if they admit that the emoluments clause applies to the president, well, if they're going to take profits from the hotels, what about profits from the apartments that he sells, the condos, his other properties around the world? What about his bank loans and the other benefits he gets from foreign government?

And what's more, even the profits from the hotels doesn't make sense because the government has long held -- DOJ -- you have to segregate all revenues, not just profits, if you can even define what that means.


EISEN: So, we don't think it's enough. He needed to make a clean ownership break. He hasn't done that.

CUOMO: All right, and one fair point to be made. All those papers we saw up on the stage, nobody got to look at them. A lot of these different businesses in different states require filing of different paperwork for divesting and changing of corporate status and ownership status. To our knowledge, those changes have not been filed with the states. We're waiting on word.

Now, here's the gotcha. Norman Eisen, you've got a nice head of hair and you are a respectable man. Mr. Painter, same thing, formidable counsels, but neither of you have been aggrieved. You have no standing and you cannot bring a federal lawsuit if you can't show that you have been victimized by the wrong that you are arguing.

EISEN: Chris, it's a great question but the United States Supreme Court disagrees with you. In the Havens Realty case the court found -- because somebody has to be able to bring it up when you have a blatant constitutional violation like this -- the court found when you have an organization and that organization has to divert resources from its normal mission -- in that case it was a community organization that had to divert resources to deal with unconstitutional discrimination --

[07:35:00] When you have a situation, Havens Realty found, you have standing as an organization. So, CREW, the nonpartisan group that I chair, Mr. Painter co-chairs -- of course, I worked for President Obama, he worked for President Bush. Our organization has had to divert resources in order to deal with this unconstitutional conduct. That confers standing. And, Chris, your backyard, the southern district of New York, the second circuit, is one of the strongest jurisdictions in the country in applying Havens Realty. That's where this action is brought.

CUOMO: But wasn't Havens Realty -- wasn't there some particulars in that case about how they were in the business of what was being deemed unconstitutional, so there was a grievance there, whereas you are an advocacy group. It would be one thing if you were a competing hotel or something like that, but that's not what you are.

EISEN: Well, first of all, the case is on -- we believe the case falls squarely within Havens. Two organizations -- both of our organizations have had to divert both to respond to unconstitutional conduct. And then, as for the --

CUOMO: But that was preexisting in Havens and you were created to deal with this. But go ahead, make your bigger point.

EISEN: No. No, we preexisted it. CREW has existed for almost 20 years. But my larger point is, of course, there are other bases of standing as well and, Chris, we've been so heartened -- myself and the bipartisan legal team that we've put together -- by the outpouring. We've heard from people like competitors. Also from ordinary people who are being injured. Competitors as well as ordinary folks. Really, an outpouring of calls and emails, so we're now sorting through those.

I anticipate that you're going to see others step forward as well. Of course, there are always concerns about retaliation when you're taking on the most powerful man in the world. There are mechanisms to deal with that, like filing John Doe plaintiffs, trying to protect identity. So you're going to see further developments. Other plaintiffs, I believe, are going to step forward.

CUOMO: Any court date coming up? Any kind of date for us to look for?

EISEN: The judge in the case has set an initial schedule. We're going to confer with our friends at the United States Department of Justice, defending this case, and we're going to lay out a reasonable schedule for the case. So we're going to try to move briskly. We want to get to discovery because we want to see Mr. Trump's tax returns in order to substantiate the details of the constitutional violation.

CUOMO: Well, there'll be some sufficiency findings before then. We look forward to it. Counselor, thank you for making the case, as always.

EISEN: Thank you, Chris, for having me.

CUOMO: All right. What do you think? You think the lawsuit's going to stand? What's your take? Look up the Havens case. Google it, read it, and make your own assessment. Tweet us @NewDay. You can get me at my name @ChrisCuomo. You can also get us on Facebook.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Are you giving me extra homework? All right.

CUOMO: No, no. If you don't care.

CAMEROTA: I'll do it. No, I'll do it. President Trump quitting the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the swipe of his pen. We'll get reaction from around the world with our team of international correspondents, next.


[07:41:30] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We just officially terminated TPP (Applause) and we're going to have trade but we're going to have one-on-one. And if somebody misbehaves we're going to send them a letter of termination, 30 days, and they'll either straighten it out or we're gone.


CAMEROTA: All right. Campaign pledge fulfilled by executive order. President Trump withdrawing the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Mr. Trump also pledging to renegotiate NAFTA. So how do these impact countries like Mexico, and Canada, and China?

Joining us now we have our CNN correspondent Leyla Santiago, CNN international correspondent Matt Rivers, and CNN international correspondent Paula Newton. Great to get all of you to give us this international perspective.

Matt, I will start with you. you are in Beijing for us. So with the United States pulling out of TPP does China sense an opportunity to fill that void?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think absolutely, in more ways than one. I think in the near term what you're seeing with the final nail in the coffin, if you will, for TPP would be China pushing its own free trade agreement in the Pacific region. It's called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. It entails 16 countries, many of which were part of the original TPP, and that's something that is being led by China.

And so, China sees absolutely an opportunity there to start leading the way and, furthermore, exerting its already substantial influence on some of these countries. Economic influence -- maybe leads down the road to a more strategic influence in, let's say, the military realm or the social realm. But it also kind of plays into what you're seeing China do on an international level.

You know, President Xi just went to Davos. He gave this big speech about being a leader in global free trade -- the globalization of the economies around the world -- and so this is something that you're seeing China do as the United States begins to pull back. If you do see that continueI think what you will see is a more assertive China on the world stage saying hey, we are ready to lead when it comes to free trade and the globalization of different economies around the world.

CUOMO: Paula Newton, we are seeing, in fact, an exercise of leverage. It can't be a coincidence that right after the United States pulls out of TPP we see one of the strongest statements yet about the South China Sea from China, saying that the U.S. isn't even a party to that. Interesting words. Sounds more like a trade term than a military or good partner term.

So, they have leverage. When we look at someone like Mexico and what may come with NAFTA -- the president has already said he's going to exercise his rights under the existing agreement to renegotiate -- where is the leverage there and how might it play out? PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in terms of leverage, the leverage that Mexico and Canada thought that they had was because we're all at the table together. Trade is a blood sport, everyone knows that. And when you get to the table they thought that there would be some backing -- some backing from the United States. It's not there.

You know, in Canada, it was very funny. The foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, a friend of CNN. She's been on the air here before. She is the Trump-friendly now foreign minister. And, you know, she laughed -- are you throwing Mexico under the bus? Well, no, we have a good relationship with Mexico but yes, Canadians understand it's our main concern for our economics is that U.S. trading relationship.

Here's the upshot, though. If you're the United States, yes, he's saying one-on-one, right? Trump's saying this is going to work. OK, fine, it can work in the short term. Perhaps it'll even work in the long term. The risk there is that nations will begin to go it alone without the United States.

[07:45:00] Now, if you're in Canada -- they've had a charm offensive, a very effective one so far with the United States and with the Trump administration. They're also having a charm offensive with China and saying if we can't count on the United States multilaterally we have to do our own deal, fine. We're going to do our own deal with China as well. Canada just signed another agreement with Europe.

And Mexico, as I'm sure you're about to find out -- you know, I call it the Trump administration has been an existential threat to economies like the Canadian one and the Mexican one.

CAMEROTA: So, Leyla, that brings us to you. You were at the presidential palace yesterday when the president of Mexico talked about trade and the effects of NAFTA, et cetera. What was the feeling there?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, all along, this has been sort of a measured response, right? They said hey, we have a contingency plan. Hey, we will respond immediately. But then yesterday for the first time we heard President Enrique Pena Nieto say hey, we have a plan and here it is. It's a 10-point plan. And, of course, you're going to see some of the things that have made -- that have made headlines, right? The border, specifically the wall, immigration.

But then again, there came trade. And I've got tell you, every single government official I have talked to, be it the senators here, counsel generals that are over the U.S., even the president as well as the new foreign minister -- every single time they talk the first thing that comes up is NAFTA, so it's clearly a priority.

What was in the 10-point plan when it comes to free trade? Well, they talked about their willingness to renegotiate and, specifically, to go back to the table on energy. And then also e-commerce because remember, NAFTA was negotiated -- or, excuse me -- NAFTA was signed before the internet even existed. So all along it's been sort of this measured response but also a willingness to go back to the table to discuss NAFTA yet again with this new administration.

CUOMO: Leyla, is there any talk about putting the wall on the table as a negotiating point from the Mexican authorities' side?

SANTIAGO: Again, there's a 10-point plan coming in from Pena Nieto. They will be meeting -- he will be meeting directly with President Trump January 31st, and on that plan is the border. He said, specifically, we do not believe in borders, we believe in bridges. And he said he wants this border to unite and not to divide. So I would not be surprised at all if this is something that comes up in the negotiations. But they have said along, repeatedly, they are not willing to pay for that wall.

CAMEROTA: Leyla, Paula, Matt, thank you all very much for the international perspective on these issues.

CUOMO: All right. President Trump made lots of promises on the campaign trail -- all politicians do. What's the hard part? Can he keep them? Our friends at PolitiFact are here to put Trump to the truth test, next.


[07:51:45] CAMEROTA: President Trump was elected with the promise of putting America first, a message he stressed in his nationalistic inauguration speech which was dominated by words like America, nation, and protect. The question now, can he deliver on the promises he made on the campaign trail?

Well, PolitiFact has undertaken a new project aimed at answering that question, and PolitiFact staff writer Jon Greenberg joins us now. Good morning, Jon.


CAMEROTA: I know it's now new in that you did the same project for President Obama, but you did just start this a couple of days ago to track President Trump's campaign promises. So let's take a look at some of the biggest promises that were made on the campaign and how you rate them thus far.

Number one, the repeal Obamacare. On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump said, "Real change begins with immediately repealing and replacing the disaster known as Obamacare." Do you already have a rating on this one?

GREENBERG: Well, we do. We call it "in the works" because he went ahead and he signed that executive order telling the federal agencies if there is some regulation or rule that imposes a cost basically on anybody or any organization, then you don't really have to enforce it. You can pull it back. The reality, though, is that if you talk to all of the experts they'll tell you that particular executive order is more symbolism than substance because it doesn't give agencies any more authority than they already have. So that's a step that shows that the Trump administration is very serious, but there's no real action yet.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's look at the next one because he's only been in office a couple of days and it's already a "promise kept." This is the getting out of TPP -- stopping TPP. He had said, "I'm going to issue our notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership." Yesterday he did that, so you rate that how?

GREENBERG: Well, we rate it as "promise kept" because this is something that was entirely in Trump's control. He said I'm going to pull us out. The president has enormous authority to do that -- to yank American participation out of a treaty that has not been approved. So the Trans-Pacific Partnership was not looking good in this Congress. It was basically dead on arrival. Trump said he would kill it and let's just say he put the nail in the coffin.

CAMEROTA: OK. So the next three that I know you're keeping an eye on but, again, it's early days, are build the wall, make Mexico pay for it. You can't rate that yet. You don't know what's going to happen. Bring back manufacturing. You can't rate that yet. You don't know how long that's going to take. Make no cuts to Medicare. You can't rate that yet. So tell me your process. I'm interested in this. If it's something that, say, Congress does do you give Mr. Trump credit for it?

GREENBERG: Well, if Congress actually delivers on the promise then we rate it as "promise kept." For us, the issue is what are the results? That's the only standard. So if a presidential candidate makes a promise and they have no ability to deliver on it, they've still made the promise and that's all that we can judge. If the president pushes for it and fails, then it is a promise that is broken. If the president doesn't push for it and Congress actually makes it happen, then it's "promise kept." We're only judging results.

[07:55:30] CAMEROTA: OK. So then what about if something ends up being a compromise, say, on the wall with Mexico? Let's say it's not an actual physical wall, let's say it's better digital technology. Then where do you rate it?

GREENBERG: Then we've got the category "compromise" so if at the end of the day some elements have moved forward then we say OK, that's fair game. A fair number of Obama's promises ended up in the "compromise" category and that's sort of the give and take of politics and dealing with the real world.

CAMEROTA: So if President Trump builds a wall separating us from Mexico but Mexico doesn't pay for it, is that a promise kept or broken?

GREENBERG: No, that would be -- this is a two-part promise. We would have to end up at "compromise" I do believe. But you know, the interesting thing is and you're getting into this, is that it gets pretty complicated. Things are easy on the campaign trail, they're tough in real life and so we understand we're going to be making different judgment calls. We don't make them entirely on our own. We do a lot of research, we talk to a lot of people, and we try to arrive at what we think is a pretty fair assessment at the end of the day. CAMEROTA: Well, just out of curiosity, how many promises did President Obama keep?

GREENBERG: Oh, I believe that the rough percentage is I think in the neighborhood of about 50 percent and then about 25 percent were "compromise" and the rest were "promise broken."

CAMEROTA: I didn't mean that to be a trick question. I actually have the graphic right here. It was 48.4 percent that he kept, but this is complicated stuff.

GREENBERG: So I did OK, right?

CAMEROTA: You did very well, actually, yes. So, basically, you've narrowed it down to -- how many promises are you tracking for President Trump?

GREENBERG: So we're looking at 102 and, you know, the difference is with President Obama it was our first time out of the box. We're all about accountability. We think that things that presidential candidates say they're going to do they should be held accountable to actually deliver on them. With President Obama, many of his promises were very, very at the micro level and we said OK, well this is a promise. With Trump, I think we've taken a different approach to make it a lot more manageable for the public and, quite frankly, for us to do the research.

CAMEROTA: All right. We will be checking back in with you throughout these weeks and months to come. Jon Greenberg, thanks so much for sharing this with us.

GREENBERG: Well, thanks for the opportunity.

CAMEROTA: We're following a lot of news this morning so let's get to it.


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

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR 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: We're going to have plenty of trade 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. investigators are scrutinizing calls between Mike Flynn and Russia's ambassador to the United States.

SPICER: I asked Gen. Flynn whether or not there were any other conversations beyond the ambassador and he said no.

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


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

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, January 24th, now 8:00 in the East.

And up first, President Trump falsely claiming, once again, that voter fraud cost him the popular vote. He offered no proof and there is no proof of the same. It came up in a meeting with top congressional leaders that weren't there to talk about the election but the agenda going forward. There was still talk about the crowds at the inauguration as well.

CAMEROTA: The president also making good on a campaign promise by signing an executive order to pull the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. All this as several of President Trump's nominees face more questions in Senate hearings this morning.

CNN has every angle covered. Let's begin with Athena Jones. She's live at the White House. Hi, Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alisyn. This is noteworthy. In the midst of a very busy day, a series of meetings, the president making good on campaign promises, he still found the time to complain about the November election.

Sources at that meeting last night with congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle say he reiterated the debunked claim that three to five million people voted illegally, costing him the popular vote. As you mentioned, he also continued to talk about the size of his inauguration crowd, a sign that these are still issues that very much continue to bother him.

But it wasn't all about the past. The president also took several executive actions yesterday.