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Trump Seeks "Major Investigation" of Debunked Vote Fraud Claims; Trump Signs Executive Actions on Border Wall Immigration; Ex- Mexico President Blasts Trump's Wall Plan. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 25, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:09] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good evening. Thanks for joining us. Hope you had a good day.

We are coming to you tonight from Studio 51 where people are arriving for a special Van Jones CNN "MESSY TRUTH" town hall featuring Whoopi Goldberg. It gets under way at the top of the next hour.

As for this hour, there's certainly no shortage of news. It's been that way nearly every day since President Trump took office. As you know, he's been busy signing orders and largely making good on some of his key campaign issues.

But he's also been dealing with controversy after making two demonstrably false claims since taking office. Now, some of Mr. Trump's supporters on this program and elsewhere have said that these false claims are not a story, that the American people don't care about these things. They say our focus should be on those executive actions instead.

The fact is we think we can and will do both as we've done since Mr. Trump took office. It's a big deal if the president of the United States says things that aren't true. We think words and facts matter. It's also a big deal when a new president signs a dozen executive actions in six days.

So, as we have each night, tonight, we'll cover all of those stories and the hour ahead.

We begin with Mr. Trump's call for a federal investigation into the widely debunked allegations of voter fraud. New comments by the president to David Muir on ABC's "World News Tonight." Take a look.


DAVID MUIR, ABC'S "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" ANCHOR: But what I'm asking, what I'm asking --


MUIR: When you say "in your opinion" and "millions of illegal votes" -- that is something that is extremely fundamental to our functioning democracy, a fair and free election. TRUMP: Sure, sure.

MUIR: You say you're going to launch an investigation in this.

TRUMP: Sure. Done.

MUIR: What you have presented so far has been debunked. It's been called false. I called --

TRUMP: Take a look at the Pew reports --

MUIR: I called the author of the Pew report last night and he told me that they found no evidence of voter fraud.

TRUMP: Really? Then why did he write the report?

MUIR: He said, "No evidence of voter fraud."

TRUMP: Excuse me. Then why did he write the report? Then he's groveling again.

You know, I always talk about the reporters that grovel when they want to write something that you want to hear but not necessarily millions of people want to hear, or have to hear.

MUIR: So, you've launched an investigation.

TRUMP: We're going to launch an investigation to find out and then the next time -- and I will say this: of those votes cast, none of them come to me. None of them come to me. They would all be for the other side. None of them come to me.

But when you look at the people that are registered, dead, illegal, and two states and in some cases maybe three states, we have a lot to look into.


COOPER: Well, just before air time, House Speaker Paul Ryan weighed in, telling MSNBC's Greta Van Susteren that he has not seen evidence of widespread fraud. However, he supports an investigation.

GOP Congressman Jason Chaffetz who chairs the House Oversight Committee says the president can do what he wants with the Justice Department but his committee is not planning to investigate.

Joining us now, right now, is David Becker, the one responsible for that Pew report that President Trump mentioned and the one he says is now groveling.

David, appreciate you being with us. You were with us last night. You didn't seem to be groveling to me last night. You don't appear to be groveling tonight. We'll see how the interview goes.

You heard President Trump in that clip saying to, quote, "take a look at the Pew reports." So, let's do that. The report, which I want to point out, you authored, did it find there was any widespread voter fraud?

DAVID BECKER, EXEC. DIR., CENTER FOR ELECTION INNOVATION & RESEARCH: So I contributed to that report when I was at Pew, and it was released in February of 2012. That report made no findings with regard to fraud whatsoever.

The report does not hide the ball at all. It's not a very long report. I encourage everyone to go to the Pew website. It's still up there and read it. It's a very interesting study of what the voter rolls looked like five years ago, trying to determine what exactly were the challenges election officials faced in keeping voter lists up to date as people moved.

But as the report itself says and as I stated at the time in 2012 and I stated subsequently even before the election when this came up, it just makes no findings with regard to fraud.

COOPER: So, we should point out voter fraud -- you know, people being registered in two states, somebody dead still on the rolls, that is not voter fraud. Voter fraud is somebody voting illegally, somebody who should not be voting, correct?

BECKER: Yes. That's a very important point. Literally, millions of people are moving in any given year and when they move, they might go to their new state, they might get a new drive's license, register to vote in their new state but they don't think to cancel their voter registration in their previous state. In fact, it's very difficult to do even if they thought to try to do that.

And that's why we see things like the news today that the treasury secretary nominee and adviser Steve Bannon both have active registrations in multiple states.

COOPER: Right. So does Tiffany Trump, the president's daughter.

BECKER: Yes, exactly. And they're not committing fraud. I think in all likelihood, what happened is they moved and election officials had difficult time getting enough data to confirm they had indeed moved so they can remove them from their old state. This is something that millions of Americans experience but is getting much better since 2012.

[20:05:00] In 2016 and 2017, voter lists are more accurate probably than they've ever been before, thanks to the efforts of a bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats who have worked to improve the quality of the voter lists and ensure only those eligible can vote.

COOPER: So, when President Trump says -- well, if there wasn't voter fraud, why were you doing the study? Your study was actually looking at the multiple registrations, people have died and just the difficulties the voting system has. Is that right?

BECKER: That's right. We've been working with election officials for years. We've been facing these problems of keeping up with the mobility of Americans. So, in working with them, we wanted to try to quantify the nature of that problem and do some quality, nonpartisan data driven research to do that.

And so, there was a good reason for doing that. In fact, that report led to a lot of positive reforms that happened since then with online voter registration spreading to 33 states plus D.C., to more states sharing data between them to keep voter records up to date and get more voters register on to the list. That report had the impact that we hoped.

COOPER: And, David Becker, finally, I mean, when the president of the United States says that you are groveling, I just have to give you a chance to respond to that or I don't even know what it means exactly. But are you groveling?

BECKER: Yes, I don't really know what to say. I don't know what to say about that. I certainly didn't ask to have the report cited by any political candidate.

My only interest here is that the research that I and many others have done over time is cited accurately. Then we get an accurate picture of what's really going on in our election system and that accurate picture is our election system is remarkably secure and the Republican and Democratic election officials who run it all over the country work very hard to make sure that only those eligible can vote but those who are eligible have an easy time voting.

And that's why study after study, from the Bush DOJ, to the Federal Election Assistance Commission, to professors at academic institutions, to Republican and Democratic secretaries of state who investigate this, they've all found there's just a slight amount of voter fraud in the United States.

COOPER: All right. David Becker, appreciate your time. Thank you.

Let's dig deeper into the investigation itself. How it might work, who would it involve?

Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown has more on all that and joins us now.

So, who exactly would be in charge of an investigation into Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we've learned from a senior administration official that he is eyeing an executive order on voter fraud or a presidential memorandum. And the expectation would be the Department of Justice would lead the charge.

But I've spoken to several officials there who are perplexed and hoping the administration will provide more clarity, because typically for the DOJ and the FBI to open an investigation, there is predication, a specific credible allegation, someone calling in and saying they've heard or specific evidence and as we know, this allegation that there was widespread voter fraud, millions voted illegally, is completely baseless. So, frankly, it would be unprecedented for Department of Justice to lead the charge in an investigation like this. The president has other options. He could appoint a special

prosecutor. He could ask a congressional committee to investigate. But as you pointed out earlier, politicians on Capitol Hill are signaling they have no interest in investigating this, Anderson.

COOPER: And recently, Trump's own legal team suggested there was no fraud in documents filed with the court. The president, though, is only talking about, focusing on states where he himself didn't really compete, where he didn't visit, California and others, right?

BROWN: Right. California, New York. We heard Sean Spicer cite those states today. Those are states that voted overwhelmingly against Donald Trump when you look at the popular vote. And you're right, Don McGahn, Trump's White House counsel, filed a brief back in December saying that there's no evidence the election was tainted by voter fraud. That was in response to Jill Stein's vote recount effort in Michigan.

And so, today, Sean Spicer said, we're going broader. We're not looking at those states where it was a close count. We're looking at states like California and New York where, you know, there was a different margin and clearly Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. So, it's yet to be seen how this is all going to play out, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Pam Brown, appreciate it.

With us tonight, CNN political analyst, Kirsten Powers, Trump supporter and contributor to "The Hill", Kayleigh McEnany, Republican consultant, Margaret Hoover, and Democratic strategist Jonathan Tasini.

Kirsten, it's interesting here, the president -- I mean, I would have no problem with an investigation to, you know, fix problems in the voting system, if there's a lot of dead people on the rolls. If there's people registered in multiple states. That though is not voter fraud, which is the president is alleging is massive 3 million to 5 million people illegally voting. It's a controversy. It would be the biggest voter fraud I think probably in the United States.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think we have to think about what it would take to get people to show up and pretend to be those dead people. I mean, that's what it would have to take.

And I think it's confusing to a lot of people who are watching. They do hear dead people on the voter rolls and they think something smells. It doesn't sound right. But you have to understand, but someone then has to get a person to go and pretend to be that person and then it has to happen millions of times, right?

[20:10:06] And so, I think that, you know, this is -- this is pretty crazy stuff. It really is. And the fact that they're singling out states like California and New York as if it's suspicious that people would vote for a Democrat in those states. I mean, those are Democratic states.

COOPER: And President Trump did not really compete in California. He wasn't spending hundreds of millions of dollars, tens of millions of dollars to compete in California which Hillary Clinton clearly was competing in California.

POWERS: Yes, exactly. No, I mean, to single it out and for him to say, "I can guarantee it would not be voters for me," I mean, how can he guarantee that? It's crazy.

COOPER: Kayleigh?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I agree with you that it was not millions of people. I have seen the evidence, Donald Trump claims to have it, I'd like to see that.

What I disagree with is those who are calling Donald Trump a liar, how dare he lie about this, when, in fact, it's nearly impossible to prove that he's lying particularly, when we have a peer reviewed study that says 6 percent of the illegal immigrant population said to Congress, a congressional study, "yes, we voted," that would be hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants.

I don't think it's beyond the realm of comprehension there are many illegal immigrants who are voting. Scale is what I question. I don't mind him calling the study, but I think he would advantage himself to be prospective, looking forward, how could we clean up the voting rolls, like you mentioned, rather than retrospective calling into question his election and the popular vote.

COOPER: Jonathan?

JONATHAN TASINI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: There is no voter fraud. This is complete fantasy.

What there is plenty of in the United States is voter suppression and what happens is in many states, particularly Republican governors pass laws to try to prevent people from voting. And, Kirsten, I talked about this before the show, the voting system in this country is deficient. It's messed up. It has nothing to do with fraud. It has to do with people's ability to actually vote, to get access, to have enough voting machines, people's voting rights suppressed in many states.

In this state, you may remember during the primary that happened between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, 120,000 votes just disappeared in Brooklyn. That didn't necessarily disadvantage one over the other, but it just showed we have a broken system.

In the same way Donald Trump began a conversation about sexual harassment when it came out that he probably sexually assaulted women in multiple instances, I think this is a missed opportunity, because we actually have to have a debate about an election system that is broken.

COOPER: Margaret?

MARGARET HOOVER, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: You know, yes, voter suppression happens. Yes, voter fraud happens around the edges, if we're honest about it. But the idea of scale, right, 3 million to 5 million people actually didn't -- unauthorized people here. I mean, that -- to use Kirsten's words, that's crazy.

If we're honest about ourselves, right, what this really is, it's been pretty well-documented Donald Trump has a bee in his bonnet about not having won the popular vote, and he can't let it go, and that's sort of what's shaking around in his mind. And we know that he has a history of really informing himself based on anecdotal experiences rather than really reading books or reading studies or reading papers, because otherwise, he would see there is no evidence for this.

COOPER: I feel -- I mean, I don't know if I should say this, but I feel bad for somebody -- I mean, he won an extraordinary victory. What he did was incredible. It was incredible -- the amount of money Hillary Clinton spent, the relatively small amount of money Donald Trump spent. He won an incredible victory.

The fact that he doesn't feel that and take joy in that is amazing to me.

POWERS: I agree with that, but I'm going to maybe disagree a little of what Margaret said, because on the right, there is this drum beat all the time about voter fraud and they're always claiming, doing these stories, if you listen to right wing media, they're always telling people elections are being stolen and why -- what do we need to do about it. We need to have voter ID and voter ID keeps who from voting? Usually people who vote for Democrats.

So, I don't think it's has scattered shot as it seems. And I think that maybe part of it is an ego and is probably agenda-driven.

TASINI: And if I can grovel -- go ahead.


MCENANY: I do think, look, it's a worthy cause. We have, according to the Pew study, 1 in 8 people on the voting rolls are dead or duplicate --

POWERS: But they have the vote, Kayleigh.

MCENANY: And when you couple that with a system where you don't have to show ID when you vote and the fact that we've had nearly 700 convictions of voting fraud. You can find on Heritage's website. This is a problem, but it wasn't part of Donald Trump's platform and I think to make it your rallying cry when we can build all the wall and do the things that I think are really important --


TASINI: But having dead people on the rolls, having dead people on the rolls is different than voter fraud.


COOPER: Hold on. Steve Bannon, Mnuchin, Tiffany Trump have multiple registrations.

TASINI: And, Kirsten, if I could do the groveling not to Anderson but to Kirsten -- she made an excellent point. This is a long-standing Republican strategy which is to question voting, say there's all this voter fraud in order to suppress the vote on the part of Democratic leaning voters. This goes back way before Donald Trump.

[20:15:01] MCENANY: It's not an effort to suppress the vote.

TASINI: It is.

MCENANY: When you have a presidential election determined by 100 something votes in Florida, having accuracy and fairness and no fraud whatsoever --


TASINI: The kind of voting laws passed and the notion that, for example, there aren't enough voting machines in Cleveland, places that are predominantly African-American, these are Republican strategies to reduce the number of Democratic voters.

MCENANY: It's not true.

TASINI: That's true.

POWERS: Kayleigh, I just want to ask you because you're smart and you have goodwill, I really believe that. And you just said the thing about the hundreds of dead people on the rolls. Now, where is the breakdown? Because those hundred people have to go and vote. There has to be a conspiracy to get some people to go in and impersonate dead people and vote. So, where is it you see that happening?

MCENANY: We've seen Democratic operatives caught on camera conspiring --

POWERS: We're talking about -- to the point you could swing an election.

MCENANY: Of course you could swing an election --


POWERS: Kayleigh, I don't think any of us would argue that there are people out there that do bad things.


POWERS: But what we're talking about here is, especially what Trump is saying is millions of people. That's a conspiracy of having the names on the rolls, finding out who the dead people are and then going and finding millions of individual Americans to go -- walk into places, pretend to be dead people, and vote. Where is that evidence?

MCENANY: We have a Project Veritas video that has caught Democratic operatives on camera trying to do just that. And we have a Florida -- a few hundred votes in Florida determined a presidential election. So, yes, things can happen.

POWERS: But that's two or three people at best. I mean, we're not --


HOOVER: -- that had been convicted, it is like .0004 percent of the total electorate. When you have 700 people that Heritage has identified and you have 120 million --

MCENANY: But do not dispute the fact that in 2000, the election came down to a few hundred votes --

HOOVER: But, Kayleigh, that is national. And when you have to go state by state by state, certainly --

COOPER: We've got to --

HOOVER: The fraction, it is absolutely around the margins.

COOPER: We have to --


HOOVER: We haven't seen it.

TASINI: We have to fix --

HOOVER: We haven't seen voter fraud change an election. That is a fact.

MCENANY: We have seen an election come down to a few hundred votes.


TASINI: I love the Republicans fight about this.


COOPER: All right. I don't think we'll solve it tonight.

Coming up next, President Trump's order today launching the process of building a wall on the southern border. Mexico's former President Vicente Fox weighs in tonight on this program. On his claim and Donald Trump's claim that his country will reimburse American taxpayers for it. We talked to him a short time ago. He was very candid. We'll play that for you.

Also coming up, top of the hour, Van Jones' new town hall with special guest Whoopi Goldberg on the first week of the Trump administration, "THE MESSY TRUTH". It's about 45 minutes from now.


[20:20:57] COOPER: Mexico's president is under pressure tonight to cancel an upcoming trip to Washington. It follows a pair of executive actions the president signed, including one on the wall that he promised during the campaign to make a top priority, which he has.

CNN's Jim Acosta joins us now from the White House with late details.

So, did the president talk about who's going to be paying for the wall in this?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, he insists Mexico will pay for the wall eventually, but first, they're going to use existing money in the Department of Homeland Security budget to get the project started, and then seek more funds from Congress.

The president is saying that Mexico will pay the U.S. back but there are no specifics on how that is going to happen. And, Anderson, he simply can't authorize the billions needed to build the wall on his own. So, he's going to need some help from Congress.

COOPER: Did he say how he would implement everything that was announced today?

ACOSTA: Some details. The president said he's directing DHS to step up identification of undocumented criminals in this country so they can be removed and deported and the administration is going to start warning these so-called sanctuary cities that they have to stop harboring undocumented immigrants or they're going to lose some federal money.

But the cities may not comply with this, Anderson. Keep in mind, Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel said today his city will continue to act as a sanctuary city. So, this is very much a work in progress.

COOPER: The president of Mexico is supposed to visit President Trump next week. What's the latest and the status of that visit?

ACOSTA: Well, as you said, at the start of this, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto is under tremendous pressure down in Mexico City to cancel this trip now that President Trump has announced his plan for the wall. But as of this hour, I'm told by the White House that this visit between these two leaders is still on.

You'll recall, Anderson, they met in Mexico City over the summer and at that time, President Pena Nieto told Mr. Trump his country is not paying for that wall. So, things could get dicey with Mexico, which has been a critical ally and trading partner for decades.

And all you have to do is turn to the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox. He tweeted once again Mexico is not playing for that wall. There is an expletive in the middle of that sentence I can't repeat on this program.

COOPER: Yes. Well, you're going to hear from him in just a second actually. Jim Acosta, thanks.

Shortly after signing the executive action on the wall, President Trump doubled down on his claim that Mexico will reimburse U.S. taxpayers for the cost of it. He spoke with ABC's "World News Tonight's" David Muir.


TRUMP: We will in a form be reimbursed by Mexico which I believe --

MUIR: So, they'll pay us back?

TRUMP: Yes, absolutely, 100 percent.

MUIR: So, the American taxpayer will pay for the wall at first.

TRUMP: All it is, is we'll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico.


ANDERSON: During the campaign, Trump said Mexico would flat out pay for the wall, never talked about reimbursing. Either way, Mexico has made it clear they won't pay a penny.

Just before air, I talked to Mexico's former president, Vicente Fox, who's been a vocal critic of the Trump plan.


COOPER: President Fox, we're learning tonight that President Pena Nieto is under pressure to cancel his trip to the U.S. Should he? Would that be the right decision, in your opinion?

VICENTE FOX, FORMER MEXICAN PRESIDENT: It's a very extended, deep pressure and I'm sure he is considering it because the behavior on his counterpart is horrible. It's not worth sitting with a guy that is so fixed on his ideas that he's so authoritarian and that it's only looking after gaming the momentum, recuperating what he lost last weekend. So, he is considering it and my thinking is that he should consider it, that at any point in time when he's sitting with the president, he's again aggressive with Mexico.

He's again offending Mexico. He is mentioning that he will impose 35 percent taxation on cars made in Mexico, President Pena should stand up, should get out of there, and should tell him, we don't need your NAFTA, we can live without it.

You cannot -- you cannot because of just the food, the grain that you export to Mexico, the meat.

[20:25:06] Just the $40 billion that you export, (INAUDIBLE) automobiles, luxury trucks, agricultural machinery, motor parts, auto parts, over $40 billion. Which means again millions of jobs for USA. The neighbor strategy will apply. You tax Mexican imports, we will tax U.S. imports in Mexico.

COOPER: You know, he now is saying he's going to take concrete steps to build the wall, going to get that going by executive action. Obviously, as you said, initially, he's saying he's probably going to have to get money from Congress. He does continue to say that, ultimately, Mexico will pay for it, whether it's directly, whether it's through renegotiating trade agreements, whether it's, you know, taxing remittances that are sent from people in the United States to Mexico.

Do you think the wall will get build?

FOX: I have said and I have told Donald that Mexico will never pay for that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wall and now I have to repeat it to this guy Sean Spicer, which is exactly the same line he repeated this morning that Mexico's going to pay. They better understand that we are not paying for that wall.

That U.S. taxpayers will pay for that wall and it is a wall that is a waste. It serves no purpose on the objectives that are set for that.

COOPER: So, when Americans, though who support Donald Trump, who want that wall built, what do you say to them? Why is it something -- what they're saying is, well, look, every country should be able to control its border, there's a problem on the southern border, why isn't a wall part of the solution?

FOX: I just saw a poll that mentioned that 80 percent of Trump followers, which at the every end is 25 percent of U.S. population, that's all he has, 80 percent are in favor. But when you talk about all American people, it's scarcely 40 percent. So, the big majority is not in favor of building a wall.

COOPER: To those who are, what do you say? Why isn't a wall acceptable?

FOX: It's just stupid. It doesn't work. There is already a wall. It's at least covering 70 percent of the borderline, a wall, big wall. The remaining 30 percent is desert, places that there's no people there. Why is he going to waste taxpayers' money in this stupid wall? It's just waste of money.

COOPER: What do you see as the relationship moving forward between Mexico and the United States? What do you think it will look like under President Trump?

FOX: With United States, it's excellent. It should be kept excellent. We both have constructed a great NAFTA North America successful, competitive, great worldwide, Canada, United States, and Mexico. There is no reason to change that. That's U.S. That's America.

But Trump is a different thing. He doesn't seem to be an American. He's a false prophet that is taking that nation into the desert.

COOPER: One of the things, though, that Donald Trump believes and many of his supporters believe as well is that Mexico needs to do more to stop people from crossing the border illegally, to stop people from coming up from Central America, through Mexico, into the United States.

FOX: Yes. We are doing that, Anderson. Today, the amount of Mexicans crossing the border undocumented is less than half what it used to be. What is changing is the Central Americans. Today, 80 percent of people crossing that border to obtain work comes from Central America. Trump doesn't even know that.

How is he going to find out those supposedly 11 million Mexicans that are in United States undocumented? He doesn't know where they are. And furthermore, this people returning to Mexico is because Mexico now has full employment. In my region, which is 60 percent of Mexican population, there's full employment and salaries are going up.

So, we finally are doing it. Why the stubbornness of Trump to try to provoke a Mexico in poverty? That's not to the advantage of United States. Imagine having in your backyard, people with hunger, people unemployed, people that it gets violent because of the hate and because of the offenses they have received. Why is the win for the United States on this stupid proposal of Trump? I really get to mean that.

COOPER: President Fox, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

FOX: Thank you, Anderson. Good luck.


[20:30:02] VICENTE FOX, FORMER PRESIDENT OF MEXICO: -- for United States on this stupid proposal of Trump? I really did to mean that.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANHOR: President Fox, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

FOX: Thank you, Anderson. Good luck.

COOPER: Well, just ahead, more reaction from President Trump's orders not just to build a wall, but also to ramp up immigration enforcement. I'll talk to Univision anchor, Jorge Ramos, one of Trump's most vocal critics on immigration.


COOPER: Our breaking, President Trump to sign executive actions to ramp up immigration enforcement including building a border wall. He also directed the new Homeland Security Secretary General John Kelly to look for ways to limit funding for so call sanctuary cities, cities that don't report undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.

President Trump talked a lot about things where he say this obviously in the campaign trail. Early I talked about all of this with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos.


COOPER: Jorge, whether one agrees or disagrees with Donald Trump as president, one can't say they can be really that surprise by a lot of his executive actions, essentially they're fulfilling campaign promises that he's made. What's your reaction, what are you hearing from your viewers? JORGE RAMOS, UNIVISION NEWS ANCHOR: Well, what's happening within the Hispanic community is we understand that it's a major undertaking to build a wall between Mexico and the United States. We're talking about a 1,900 mile border between both countries. There are already fences and walls in between 600, 700 miles.

So if you want to build 1,200 miles of wall between Mexico and the United States, it's going to cost you billions of dollars. And it is completely useless. It doesn't work. Walls don't work. They give you a false sense of security. But with this as in the past about 40 percent of board immigrants, undocumented immigrants come here to the United States, they came by plane or they overstayed their visas. So it doesn't matter how much money Donald Trump is going to spend and doesn't matter he fulfills his campaign promise. This is ain't going to work.

[20:35:04] COOPER: It seems with the wall, I mean since like there are a lot of details that haven't certainly been filled in by this administration. Do you actually think it's going to happen because, you know, they're obviously parts of the border which there's water, there's mountains, you can't build a wall on?

RAMOS: Exactly, and that's precisely the problem. There are many different estimates but I've seen from $10 billion to $40 billion. I think what if Donald Trump wants to spend $40 billion doing that, he can do whatever he wants with the money. But the fact is that he can use that for immigration reform, he can use that for many other projects.

And also, if he's interested this stopping drugs coming into the United States, well, I know that El Chapo, was man the most important drug trafficker, is already in a New York in a New York jail. But there are many other little Chapos were working on this side of the border, you know, in -- on Mexico's side, too, and they're building tunnels. So there's really nothing you can do if there are millions of Americans who use drugs in this country and as long as you have millions of Americans using drugs you have drug traffickers in Mexico and Central America bringing the drugs.

So when it comes to illegal immigration they're going keep them on coming and when it comes to drugs they're going to keep on coming with a wall or without a wall. So I think -- there are many other ways to spend $40 billion, better ways to do that.

COOPER: The president has called for a 5,000-person increase in customs and border protection personnel. Do you think that doesn't make a difference?

RAMOS: Might make a difference. They are not calling that a deportation force. But he'll go from 21,000 to 26,000. And this is creating a lot of fear within the Hispanic community and within the immigrant community. So what is that going to mean to many families? Basically we're talking about the destruction of many families. One area that concerns me a lot is that the policy of catch and release in which if you were an undocumented immigrant coming let say from Guatemala with a child and you say that you're being persecuted or if you in a violence or a gang threatened you, you are allowed to be here in the United States.

Well, that catch and release policy is going to end. And if that happens, then here's my question to Donald Trump, are you going to start deporting children, Mr. Trump? Is that what you're going to be doing? Because that's precisely what he announced today. Without catch and release, that means thousands and thousands of children whose only option to live is to come to the United States is going to end.

COOPER: When it comes to stripping federal funding for several sanctuary cities there's obvious big resistance from leaders in those cities. Many say they'll not comply with the federal government. Short of the feds though sending in people to round up undocumented immigrants, how does it affect them if the cities themselves say they will protect them?

RAMOS: I think what we're going to be seeing right now, Anderson, is a real fight, a real political fight between the mayors of some of the most important cities in the country namely Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York against Donald Trump, because no one really is defending undocumented immigrants in this country. Mexico unfortunately has remained silent in all this debate and who's defending immigrants in this country?

This is a country founded by immigrants. And I'm very concerned about these anti-immigrant measures taken by President Trump. He's portraying immigrants in a false way. He's portraying immigrants as if they are criminals and terrorists and rapists and that's not true. All the stories that I've seen absolutely -- all those studies that I've seen conclude that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes. Immigrants are less likely to be behind bars.

Let me refer you to American Immigration Consulate, the report is fantastic in that sense. So, it seems to me that Donald Trump want to criminalize immigrants, he's trying to create an enemy and immigrants are not the enemy of the United States.

COOPER: One thing the President Trump has not acted on yet is DACA, short of lift and dock in place, which the Trump administration is not saying they'll do. Is there some sort of a compromise between those who are against DACA and those who support it?

RAMOS: I hope there's something new about DACA. I know that dreamers, there's 750,000 dreamers in the United States who are protected against deportation. They have work permits, they have driver licenses and it seems that's the only area that I can see right now. With a little hope in which may be, I don't know, but maybe Donald Trump will realize there's no reason whatsoever to deport these children who are truly Americans. The only difference is they don't have a paper to show it. And legalize them through the so-called bridge act that would protect them for three years and eventually hopefully legalize them permanently.

[20:39:59] COOPER: Jorge Ramos, always appreciate you've been on. Thank you.

RAMOS: Thank you Anderson.


COOPER: Well just ahead tonight, waterboarding and his post-election interview, President Trump says he's open to bringing back, the reaction to that. And just minutes from now Van Jones host another "Messy Truth" town hall, Whoopi Goldberg will be part of the conversation. That starts at the top of the hour. We'll be right back.


COOPER: As we said a very busy day for President Trump. In addition to executive actions on immigration, his call for a federal investigations to widely the late debunk voter fraud, he also said waterboarding absolutely works and suggested that he'd like to bring it back. Here's what he told David Muir of ABC News.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: As far as I'm concerned, we have to fight fire with fire. Now with that being said, I'm going with General Mattis. I'm going with my secretary because I think Pompeo is going to be phenomenal. I'm going go with what they say. But I have spoken as recently as 24 hours ago with people at the highest level of intelligence. And I asked them the question. Does it work? Does torture work? And the answer was yes, absolutely.


COOPER: The President Trump also said he would defer to the officials who will be in charge of carrying out his terrorism policies as he just mentioned, Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Just to be clear, it is illegal under a 2015 law to use waterboarding in interrogations. Pompeo told Congress in writing, he will consider bringing back so-called enhanced interrogation measures under certain circumstances.

[20:45:04] General Mattis said he oppose using the army field man, it won't be single standard, in other words, no waterboarding. Republican lawmakers heard about Trump's remarks while attending a retreat in Philadelphia.

CNN's Manu Raju joins us from there with the latest. He even talk with GOP lawmakers, say -- what do they have to say about the comments from the president?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, they're not supportive, Anderson. In fact last Congress overwhelmingly Congress voted to so-called limit interrogation techniques, the so-called army field manual. That was actually voted by 78 to 21 margin. That army field manual actually excludes so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, where a lot of people call torture, including waterboarding. And I had a chance to ask the number three Senate Republican John Thune, exactly if whether he supports this idea of bringing back waterboarding and going back to the route before that the limitation went into law. He wasn't so supportive. Take a listen.


SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R) SOUTH DAKOTA: Those issues are set of law. I mean Congress has spoken. And when it comes to enhanced interrogation techniques that sort of thing, my understanding is I haven't seen the new executive action or what's being proposed but my understanding is they're going to look at, examine some of those issues. But with respect to torture, that's banned. The army field manual makes that very clear. And the law now is tied to the army field manual.


RAJU: Now Anderson, this is an issue divides the Republicans here at this retreat where they're actually trying to get on the same page behind Donald Trump's rather ambitious agenda. I also had the chance to talk to vice president -- former vice president Dick Cheney's daughter, Liz Cheney, who's a congressman from Wyoming. Now, she believes those enhanced interrogation techniques worked but she is not supportive necessarily of changing the law, she would not go that far. So it shows this idea if Donald Trump goes this far and wants Congress to change the law, he might have a fight with his own party. Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Manu Raju, thanks very much. Joining me now is CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA and FBI senior official Phil Mudd. You worked at the CIA, I understand you briefed folks who were involved in these techniques.


COOPER: Yeah. Does torture work? Is Donald Trump --

MUDD: Well first of all, let's be clear, torture violates federal statutes. I think the appropriate question is if you put someone under duress, forget about waterboarding, how about sleep deprivation, which is something we commonly use far more often than waterboardng. Do people give you information over time days and weeks when they're under tremendous duress, the answer is yes. They lie as well just as they would lie if you didn't subject them to deprivation. So, yeah we found information, I thought was not only valuable but critical in the fight.

COOPER: I want to correct myself, I don't think the president himself said torture or he said he asked people at the highest levels if torture works and they said yes.

MUDD: Yeah.

COOPER: Just for accuracy's sake, like to be always be accurate. So in terms of waterboarding, is that something -- I mean it's outlawed now.

MUDD: Yeah.

COOPER: What would bringing it back mean? What would be even possible?

MUDD: I don't think it would be. A couple things. First, you would as understand, I don't think the president understand is there are multiple layers you got to consult. We talked about Congress, including members of his own party saying no. If you're at the CIA, you want a pile a paper six feet high before you even consider this, number one, what does the Department of Justice say? Does this comply with U.S. law?

Then you got to go to the new CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, and say not only are you willing to do this, but are you willing to subject your people to what happen to them in four or eight years when another Congress says, you know, what not only do we not agree with what President Trump said, but now we're going to hunt you down and suggest that you violated law and potentially (ph) prosecute you? I think there are a lot of steps and I'll think president considered them.

COOPER: The idea of opening up black sites, are reopening black sites. What do you make of that?

MUDD: I don't think it's going to happen. I think if you're the CIA director, you come back and ask a simple question. We sat around the table in 2002, and let me give you that picture the adversary, we didn't understand al-Qaeda, we didn't understand their hierarchy, we thought they had access and they did to anthrax. They were talking to Pakistani nuclear scientists. We're wondering about nuclear capability. Would the next 9/11 be WMD? Fast forward to 2017, I don't care what public opinion is. Let me tell you something, we understand ISIS much better and the threat we face is much lower from what we faced in 2000. My question would be not only whether it's appropriate or whether it works, why would you do it today.

COOPER: Well, because the president is saying, look we're seeing techniques being used by groups like ISIS that we've never seen since the middle ages. People, you know, being burned alive in cages, people being drowned alive, children executing, beheading people. And you got to fight fire with fire.

MUDD: Excuse me, the litmus test for whether we use these operations, these activities is not what an adversary that's a terrorist organization does. That is our litmus test. In our litmus test it's not whether we punish someone. The question is whether this country feels under intense pressure as it did in 2002 to conduct things that people now think violate American values because we think 3,000 people are going to die tomorrow. It's not ISIS thinks is OK.

[20:50:03] COOPER: The reason the army field manual and the military doesn't condone this is because if one side starts doing, and if the U.S. starts doing it. It's hard to make the argument that, you know, when the enemy captures American troops, they don't use the same techniques on them.

MUDD: I think that's a fair point, and it's a point we heard after 2002 when we captured our first prisoner Abu Sabaya. Let me take you inside that room though in 2002 and hope that we never face that moment again. Because here's what you will face. And all of us made the same decision, there was not decent. Abu Sabaya looked at us when we thought there might be anthrax, there might be nuclear, there might 3,000 more people, there might be more jumpers from the World Trade Center and said, why don't you go home and have babies, because I'll never talk again. And we thought he held part of the secret to stopping the next event. If you're under that kind of pressure, you might take a step regardless of understanding that ISIS might look and say we'll do the same thing.

COOPER: Phil Mudd, good talk to.

MUDD: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up, we're going to hear from a Syrian family who arrived in Vermont just one week ago. The President Trump expected to take new measures to get refugees out. Later, from them are they afraid? We'll be right back.


COOPER: Tonight breaking news, a senior White House official now says that President Trump's announcement on refugees will not come tomorrow, but instead he'll be talking -- taking executive action on trade. The new immigration policy will be coming soon though and when it does, it's expected that it will suspend the refugee program for up to four months. Particularly at risk are Syrians playing war in a humanitarian catastrophe.

[20:55:04] The order being drafted within the program for admitting Syrian refugees indefinitely. Now since the election, we've been trying to getting into the field as much as possible and tell the stories of people who are living the impact of this new administration. Sometimes it's positive, sometimes it's not. We're calling it America uncovered. Here's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One week, that's how long this Syrian family has been in the United States. They arrived just two days before Donald Trump was inaugurated. Hazar Mansour was a french teacher, her husband Hassam Alhallak an accountant. They fled from Damascus to Turkey with their children to escape the violence. After two years of background checks, they finally made it to Vermont.

HAZAR ZUHEIR MANSOUR (Through Translator): We were worried about ourselves. Worried about our children. We came here, we want to live in peace. It's better than living in the war situation we were in.

KAYE: They are the first of about 25 Syrian and Iraqi families expected to arrive in Rutland, Vermont, by September. About 100 refugees in all. Rutland's mayor invited them to settle in his city around the same time then candidate Donald Trump vowed, if elected, he'd stop the flow of refugees into the U.S. and deport the ones already here.

CHRISTOPHER LOURAS, RUTLAND MAYOR: This is just plain the right thing to do from a compassionate and humanitarian perspective. KAYE: But that's not the only reason the mayor is welcoming the refugees to his city. He's hoping they'll help revitalize it.

The city of Rutland has suffered a major population loss. Making it hard for big companies here to fill jobs. The mayor is hoping that Syrian refugees will not only add to the population, but also to the work force. The unemployment rate here is about 3 percent. Dangerously low says the mayor.

LOURAS: We've got dozens, scores of employers in this community saying they've got hundreds of job openings they just can't fill.

KAYE: But now his whole plan to revive could be in jeopardy. Pending an executive order from President Donald Trump.

LOURAS: I think all of us have some fears about that. I think its concerns are misplaced. The security measures are in place for refugees, especially coming from Syria, will not put this community at risk. That's a fact.

KAYE: This couple is hosting the Syrian family until their apartment is ready.

Do you wish that President Trump could meet the couple and the family that you have in your home?

MAUREEN SCHILINGER, HOSTING SYRIAN FAMILY: I wish that anyone who thinks that it is a bad idea for them to come could just even take a little snapshot. They're wonderful people. They're not coming here to harm us, they're coming here to escape harm.

KAYE: Tim Cook a doctor in town says he doesn't want refugees settling in his city. Not because he thinks they're dangerous, but because he thinks they'll end up costing tax payers money.

So are you saying the mayor and whoever decided that the refugee should come here got it wrong?


KAYE: He says he fully supports President Trump's opposition to taking in refugees.

COOK: I think we've done enough as a country. I'm tapped out. And this nation is tapped out. We need to fix our own problems first. And then we can, you know, reconfigure and see if we can rescue the rest of the world.

KAYE: This family says they're not worried about President Trump's plan, they feel safe and secure in Vermont already.

HASSAM ALHALLAK, SYRIAN REFUGEE: I like the people of Vermont. We want Vermont.

KAYE: The people.


KAYE: They're very nice.

ALHALLAK: Very nice.

MANSOUR: Very nice.

ALHALLAK: Yes, yes.

KAYE: You might have to learn to ski.

ALHALLAK: I like skiing.

KAYE: Can you (inaudible), right exactly.

One week, they hope it's only the beginning of their new life in the United States.


COOPER: And Randi joins us now. If the policy does shift and more are not allowed in, does that affect in any way the families already here or like the family you met?

KAYE: The family we met and the group who helped them get here, they're not very worried about that, because they are already here, they think they're safe. But you have to remember, Donald Trump did say that not only does he want to halt refugees from coming to the U.S., but he wants to expel, that was his word back in 2015, those who are already here. So we can't forget that. So they might still be in jeopardy.

But also the group that helped them Anderson is waiting for another 250 refugees that are supposed to arrive in the U.S. by next Friday. Those people have spent two years in refugee camps. They've gotten their background checks, their clearance, their security clearance, they may now not be able to enter and then we have start the process all over again. They have to wait in those camps possibly for another two years to start the process over and get the clearance again.

So the group is working with the White House, calling them, e-mailing them trying to get some traction on social media. But all they can do now is wait and hope.

COOPER: All right, Randi Kaye. Randi, thanks very much. That does it for us, thanks for watching. The "Messy Truth" with Van Jones, starts now.

[21:00:11] VAN JONES, THE MESSY TRUTH HOST: I'm Van Jones, welcome to the "Messy Truth". Here we are -- we are still inside the very --