Return to Transcripts main page


Trump to Issue Orders on Border Wall & Immigration; Democrats Grill President Trump's Nominees; White House Defends President's Unsubstantiated Claim of Voter Fraud. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 25, 2017 - 06:00   ET



SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We need to direct agencies to focus on those who are in this country illegally.

[05:58:42] JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump will sign a series of executive actions aimed at border security.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The president of the United States has claimed that 3.5 million people voted illegally.

SPICER: He continues to maintain that belief.

GRAHAM: I would urge the president to knock this off.

TRUMP: We will build our own pipeline. We will build our own pipes, like we used to in the old days.




SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I have never seen this level of partisan rancor.

Unidentified male: You can guarantee that no one will lose coverage under the executive order?


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, January 25, 6 a.m. in New York.

First, President Trump taking action on the issue that propelled his campaign. A few hours from now, the president will announce an executive action ordering the construction of the wall along the Mexican border.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump also plans to make sweeping changes to immigration policy. Limiting the number of refugees coming into the U.S., imposing a ban on travel for what he calls terror-prone countries, and punishing so-called sanctuary cities.

We're now on day six of the Trump administration. Every day is action-packed. We have it all covered. Let's begin with Athena Jones, live at the White House.

Athena, what do we expect today?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Well, the way the White House sees it, it's another day another promise, capped with these executive actions coming. President Trump hinted at his big plans late last night, telling his 22 million Twitter followers, "We will build the wall."


TRUMP: We are going to build a great border wall.

JONES (voice-over): President Trump set to take his first steps in executing his signature campaign promise. In just hours, the president will sign an executive order to begin the construction of a wall along the Mexico border.

TRUMP: We are going to build a wall, OK? Don't even think about it.

JONES: The order would direct federal funds toward building the wall. But we still don't know how he intends to get Mexico to pay for it.

The president also expected to announce a second executive order on Thursday, seeking to eliminate so-called sanctuary cities and restrict visas from, quote, "terror-prone countries" and the flow of refugees entering the U.S.

TRUMP: Twenty-eight thousand jobs. Great construction jobs.

JONES: The orders follow a blitz of executive actions in the president's first week.

TRUMP: I am, from a logical (ph) standpoint, an environmentalist.

JONES: Tuesday, Mr. Trump signed orders to revive construction of two controversial pipeline projects, but President Trump's policies continue to be overshadowed by his conspiracy theories. The White House defending his unfounded claim that millions of illegal ballots cost him the popular vote.

SPICER: He continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him.

JONES: Numerous independent studies refute his claims. The media continues to demand proof of the president's assertions.

SPICER: He believes what he believes based on the information he's provided. Yes, ma'am?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What does that mean about democracy, though? If he does believe that, what does that mean for democracy?

SPICER: I've answered your question.

ZELENY: Have you?

JONES: Republicans and Democrats unified in opposing the president's baseless claims.

GRAHAM: I would urge the president to knock this off. This is the greatest democracy on earth. You're the leader of the free world, and people are going to start doubting you as a person.


JONES: Now the president heads to the Department of Homeland Security today to sign the first immigration action. Meanwhile, Mexico's foreign minister is here in the U.S. to begin preparations for the meeting next Tuesday between President Trump and Mexico's president, Enrique Pena Nieto -- Alisyn, Chris.

CAMEROTA: Athena, thank you very much.

We have a lot to discuss. Let's bring in our panel. We have CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief of "The Daily Beast," Jackie Kucinich; CNN political analyst and "New York Times," Alex Burns; and congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner" David Drucker. Thanks to all for being here, David.


CAMEROTA: So this is happening for people who thought that this was an empty campaign promise, or who thought that maybe this was going to be a virtual wall with more sort of surveillance. No, this sounds like it's going to be a real wall.

DAVID DRUCKER, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Yes, well, this is what he campaigned on. And you tend to get, in office, what you've done on the campaign trail. And in Trump's case, he is not a typical politician with the typical political concerns.

But I also point this out. There's actually a lot of support in the country for beefing up our immigration security on the southern border. There's not necessarily a lot of support for the rhetoric that Trump uses, and the way in which he has, at times, appeared to demonize Hispanics and illegal immigrants.

But one of the reasons he was able to jump so far ahead in the Republican primary so early on is because a lot of Americans believed that, even though a lot of the illegal immigrants may be good people and be well-meaning, there's been special treatment for a segment of the country that broke the wall and a lot of people have been following the rules, and they've been paying for it. And I think one of the reasons we found -- we find ourselves in the position we're in is because both parties refused to do anything about this or failed to do anything about this for so many year. And so Trump comes in. A law was passed some years back to build border fencing, beef up security. They were never able to do it. And so I think that's why he's got some political capital to do this. Now we'll see if it actually breaks down or if it breaks down into lawsuits and political recriminations...

CUOMO: Right. I mean, look, you've got to separate the rhetoric from the plans. You know, there was also an appetite out there to demonize others. You know, whether they're illegal immigrants, as he likes to call them, undocumented workers, whether they're Muslims. There's an appetite for that in this country, and he fed it. What he does about it is something that you're going to have to look at, whether or not he can do it. That the wall may be working off operative legislation in 2006 from President Bush for fencing. Because he can only do an executive order if there's an underlying statute that empowers it. He can't make law.

Let's put up some of the specifics of what he says he's going to get done with these executive orders. We've got a graphic made for it.

So all right, so build a wall which again, fence, wall, whatever. People want more protection. If the statute says fencing, that's what it is. We'll see what it looks like.

[06:05:06] End the catch and release system. Five thousand additional Border Patrol officers. Reveal aid given to Mexico.

CAMEROTA: That's an interesting one, because he's saying he wants transparency so Americans know how much money is going to Mexico. And that will be part of the negotiation for making them pay for some of this.

CUOMO: Interesting. He wants transparency on that, Alex, but yesterday we saw that different government agencies were told to no longer share information with the American people. What do you make of these?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think when you look at these specific orders, it's not unusual for a new president to come in and try to at least appear to put points on the board fast. As you said, as David said, execution is going to be everything here.

I think, in some respects the wall is particularly attractive to someone like Trump, because he's in a job where he's dealing with a lot of issues that he doesn't really know much about and that he's not spent his life interacting with construction is where he comes from, right? So the idea of "I'm going to try to figure out how to finance and put together a big, essentially, real-estate project."

CUOMO: It's literally a concrete move. You know, no -- pun intended.

People will always see it. They'll always know I did it. BURNS: And like actual concrete instruction projects, this could very well take a lot longer and be a lot more legally complicated than, I think, the new president is -- is projecting right now.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Not how expensive it's going to be. He's going to have to get Congress on board. You can only take money from one place and put it for the wall. We don't even know where that's going to come from. There's only so much money in the fencing project.

CAMEROTA: Jackie, here's -- just to stop you for a second, here's what they think. According to the Government Accountability Office, they said it might cost 6.5 million dollars per mile.

This was just for single-layer fence, OK? So not a wall. Additional 4.2 million per mile for roads and additional fencing around that wall or fence. It does not include maintenance, so a total of $14 billion.

KUCINICH: That's a lot of money for a Congress that has staked itself out on fiscal responsibility. Now, there are usually -- voters are more lenient when it comes -- if they say they're doing it for national security reasons. That said, that is a very -- that's a Price tag that Democrats, in particular, and some Republicans are going to really scream about.

CUOMO: Well, look, you got the -- one benefit of this is the OPM. Other people's money. You know, voters, if they don't see it coming out of their tax -- you know, that they have to pay for it directly, sometimes they're OK with it. The part of Mexico paying for it nowhere in this executive order.

DRUCKER: Can we dispel this notion that Mexico is going to pay for the wall? Mexico is never going to pay for the wall. Most of the American people probably won't care.

I think Jackie brings up a great point, in that this is going to cost a lot of money, and it's going to be fun and interesting to watch Republicans eagerly spend it.

What I'm really watching for Chris is what the president does in terms of deportations and some of the executive orders signed by Obama that I have been watching over the past few days. Immigration hawks getting very anxious about the fact that Trump has done nothing about that yet. And we're talking, in particular, about DACA. And forgive me for forgetting what the acronym stands for in full.

But that's where you have the children who were brought here by their parents, through no fault of their own are undocumented immigrants, illegal immigrants, and they have now been legalized. Will Trump undo that or not? Will he end up pushing ICE to, in fact, act like a deportation force? Those are the unanswered questions. There's a lot of support for that on the right in the Republican primary. What is Trump going to do there?

CAMEROTA: We have a little bit more information because, over the course of the next couple of days, this is what he says he's going to roll out. This is his second other executive actions on immigration.

Ban travel from terror-prone countries as he defines them. End the Syrian refugee program. End sanctuary cities. That's an interesting one. Because what does that mean? He's just going to deny federal funds to various major metropolitan areas. Triple the ICE enforcement agents.

BURN: Yes, that sanctuary cities point is probably the most controversial -- immediately controversial element of what Trump is rolling out here. Because as you say, you're talking about, you know, the places that this would affect the most, are cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, that rely on federal funds for a descent chunk of their budget. Not an overwhelming chunk but a really meaningful one.

And there is a lot of support even from some red-state Democrats for this idea that, look, you've got to enforce the law, and if you don't, you're going to pay for it.

CUOMO: It's not that simple.

BURNS: No it's not.

CUOMO: Sanctuary cities, that label creates a gross misunderstanding. If he triples the ICE enforcement personnel, under a hiring freeze, how does that work? Is he going to shuffle it around.

You see this terror prone, does that mean France? Can you no longer come here from France?

DRUCKER: Well, this is what we're going to find out today. I think Alex is right, though, about the sanctuary cities issue. I think this rubs a lot of people the wrong way. And there are a lot of things Trump talks about with immigration that are problematic that actually hurts him in his desire to gain support and do a lot of these things that the -- cutting off funds for sanctuary cities. Cities that are defying federal law. I don't think -- the practicalities of it may be problematic. But politically, I don't think that's what causes the problem.

CAMEROTA: You say defines federal law. One of the things that the mayors say is we're not going to do your job for you. We're not going to have our police officers do ICE's job.

You know, do the federal agent's job.

BURNS: I mean, I agree that the sort of Trump side of the argument plays well in many constituencies. You're going to have these big- city mayors saying you're cutting off funding for cops. You're cutting off funding for hospitals, right, and that's painful in a different direction.

CAMEROTA: Yes, Jackie, very quickly. Do you have a point?

KUCINICH: yes, I was just going to say then you asked what countries. Some of the ones they're talking about are Iran, Iraq, Sudan. These are majority Muslim countries. It's kind of a back-door Muslim ban, frankly, and the idea that they're reducing the number of refugees. This is targeting some of the most vulnerable people in the world. And we should remember that.

CUOMO: It will also be clear what it really is when he defines it. And that's why things can sound good, but you need people to pick at the details. The devil is always found there.

CAMEROTA: OK, panel. Stick around.

CUOMO: Senate Democrats spent hours grilling the president's health secretary nominee, Tom Price, and budget nominee Mick Mulvaney about ethics concerns and where they stand on the president's policies. The Senate has now confirmed four of Trump's nominees while several await votes after getting committee approval.

So what's the state of play? CNN's Sunlen Serfaty, live on Capitol Hill with more -- Sunlen.

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

Nikki Haley was easily confirmed up here on Capitol Hill yesterday to be the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., meaning that President Trump now has four members of his cabinet firmly in place, but up here on Capitol Hill. You have many of these nominees still waiting in the wings as Democrats continue to battle over the pace of these nominations.


SERFATY (voice-over): Tough questions on Capitol Hill for President Trump's pick for health secretary. Congressman Tom Price refusing to promise that no American will be worse off or lose healthcare if Obamacare provisions get rolled back.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), RANKING MEMBER, FINANCE COMMITTEE: Yes or no, under the executive order will you commit that no one will be worse off?

REP. TOM PRICE (R-GA), HHS NOMINEE: What I commit to, Senator, is working with you and every single member of Congress to make certain that we have the highest quality health care and that every single American has access to affordable coverage.

SERFATY: Price deflecting when asked when the president will replace it.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: President Trump said he is working with you on a replacement plan for the ACA, which is nearly finished and will be revealed after your confirmation. Is that true?

PRICE: It's true that he said that, yes.

SERFATY: And defending himself again against ethics concerns, about his investments in healthcare companies that could have benefitted from legislation he proposed during his time in the House. PRICE: Everything that I did was ethical, above board, legal and


SERFATY: Republicans coming to Price's defense.

SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R), GEORGIA: I feel like I've been asked to be a character witness in a felony trial in the sentencing phase of a conviction. Tom is a good man. He's a family man. He's a physician. He's an honorable man.

SERFATY: Congressman Mick Mulvaney, President Trump's choice for budget director, also in the hot seat, admitting he failed to pay taxes on a babysitter for his triplets.

REP. MICK MULVANEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's a mistake. It's been made. I now know about it. How do we fix it?

SERFATY: And getting grilled by Senator John McCain for supporting cuts and defense spending and backing a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARKANSAS: The answer to that is withdraw all troops from Afghanistan? That is crazy. Don't you know where 9/11 came from?


SERFATY: And some other nominees up here on Capitol Hill did take some small steps towards confirmation. Wilbur Ross, Elaine Chao and Ben Carson all passing through their respective committees. And now they will face a full Senate vote, but there will be no more action on this on Capitol Hill this week. Democrats and Republicans are all headed out of town for their annual party retreats. Alisyn, the work will restart on this front on Monday.

CAMEROTA: OK, Sunlen. Thanks for all of that.

Here's a big question: Why is President Trump continuing to peddle false claims about voter fraud? Where does he get his information? Our political panel discusses that, next.


[06:19:17] CUOMO: All right. The White House now defending President Trump's unsubstantiated and false claims that millions of people voted illegally. The problem is they have no proof to support that suggestion.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny was in the room full of reporters challenging the White House for proof. Take a listen.


ZELENY: Do you believe there is widespread voter fraud?

SPICER: He's very comfortable with this one. He's very comfortable with this win. It's an electoral-based system. He got 306 electoral votes. Thirty-three of 50 states voted for him. I think, look, Jeff, I've asked and answered this question twice. he believes what he believes, based on the information he's provided. Yes, ma'am.

ZELENY: What does that mean for democracy?

SPICER: It means that I've answered your question.


CUOMO: All right. Let's bring back our panel. Jackie Kucinich, Alex Burns, and David Drucker.

David, it's a lousy answer. It's an important question. This does go to the roots of the foundations of your democracy. If the president of the United States believes that millions of people voted illegally. If you really believe that, you would have to investigate. It would have to be a major agenda issue. Not something you just dismiss out of hand. He believes it from the information he's been given.

What information has he been given that is legitimate that could prove this allegation?

DRUCKER: None exists that we know of and none -- and he's been given none that we are aware of.

I feel like the president is forcing Sean Spicer into a daily "Baghdad Bob" moment where he has to defend these things that make no sense. And by the way, the only person in America that I can tell, and there's political opposition to Donald Trump.

And the only person really calling into question of any prominence is victory is him. And it's unnecessary. He's doing a number of things as president that you would expect a Republican to do, some that you are seeing from him that are unusual, because he's a populist and nationalist.

[06:20:11] But honestly, Chris, your point is the important one here. People need to have faith in our institutions. We saw after 2001, after the 2000 election, with the Supreme Court and Bush losing the popular vote, how we actually remade some of our federal voting laws. It was the Help America Vote Act. Not all of it was ever implemented.

The point is, in the past we've taken this stuff very seriously, and nobody called into question the legitimacy or -- of Bush's election in that way or ever suggested that there were millions of votes that weren't real.

CAMEROTA: Also, Jackie, just follow his line of logic. If millions of people voted illegally, I mean, then the entire outcome is illegitimate. And I guess we need a whole new election.

KUCINICH: And why wouldn't you want an investigation? Again, we have someone who is questioning an election that he won. And Sean Spicer, talk about alternative facts, is trying to turn that briefing room into an alternative reality. It's just -- it's not possible that millions of people could have

voted illegally. And there's a professor -- I'm sorry, his name is escaping me but was on "SITUATION ROOM" last night who authored the study that -- yes, that Sean Spicer was citing. And he was saying that that study probably wasn't accurate.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we have it.

Professor Schaffner. You've done a great job of paraphrasing it.

CUOMO: Old Dominion University. And they base their study on data that wasn't there. So the guys who ran the data came out and said, "You got it wrong." But here's him.


BRIAN SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY: Well, it's very frustrating, as I'm sure you can imagine. The data certainly did not show that. We published a study basically showing that the study that the data that uses our data to say that is wrong. That study has been widely cited by news outlets to basically say that what the administration's saying is false.

And the notion that millions of people could vote illegally, and no one would have any data to be able to show that this is the case is just absurd. It's absurd that millions of people, millions of noncitizens would have voted in 2016. It's just -- it's just not even plausible.

CAMEROTA: So Alex, isn't it the job of Kellyanne Spicer, a top advisor or Sean -- I'm sorry.

CUOMO: Kellyanne Spicer.

CAMEROTA: They got married.

CUOMO: Brangelina.

CAMEROTA: Kellyanne Conway or Sean Spicer, his advisors, to tell him, "You got it wrong, Mr. President. Here are the real facts."

BURNS: It is. And it's also the responsibility of the White House to be honest with the American people. And I think that there can be lost in this sort of attention to the briefing room drama and the back and forth between reporters and the press secretary, the fact that we're not talking about the White House just addressing a couple of reporters. We're talking about the White House addressing the entire country.

And this is now the second time in four days that the president's mouthpiece has gone out and literally said something, asked people not to believe information that is manifestly accurate in front of their own eyes, right? And when you talk to people in Washington and outside of Washington, especially people who have served in government, the really distressing, you know, prospect that this raises is what happens when it's a recession, and they're saying, "Actually, it's not a recession"?

Or whether there's a national security incident and they're saying, "Actually, that didn't happen." Right? That that hasn't happened yet. It may never happen. But if they're willing to do this, right, where is the line?

CUOMO: There is a lust to conspiracies. You know, they are there's things that really tempt the appetites of people on different levels. And Mr. Trump as a private citizen was a big fan. He's being, you know, not controlled because he's his own man. But he's being influenced by a man Bannon, with Breitbart, that feeds on conspiracy B.S.

So you see where it's coming from, but it's only hurting him, David, and also it's hurting us. Because we've got to spend time on this that is patently untrue. And it distracts from dealing with the fact of how's he going to keep people from France to this country?

DRUCKER: I also think it could, over time, hurt our stature around the world. The U.S. isn't a perfect country. One of the things we've been able to do is talk to other countries about democratic principles and the rule of law. And now you're going to have leaders like Vladimir Putin and others who are going to be able to say America's not even a perfect democracy. Even their own president says millions of voters vote illegally? So why are you criticizing us for how we run our own elections?

CUOMO: He already said it. During this election, Putin offered to send election monitors to the United States to help oversee the voting and make sure it's OK. Vladimir Putin already said it.

DRUCKER: Maybe he'll be invited again in 28 days.

CAMEROTA: Jackie -- Jackie, what is Sean Spicer to do when his boss sees something so differently than maybe he does or than the press or than the facts?

KUCINICH: There's not -- aside from walk away, there's really not a lot he can do. I mean, he is there to serve the president. And right now -- I mean, we saw that the other night when he was very angry and read that statement that was very clear to have come from the top.

Sean Spicer is being put in a very tough position right now, and it's for all to see, to Alex's point. This isn't just addressing a couple of reporters in a room at the White House. This is addressing the American people. And frankly, in some cases lying to the American people. And that's really unfortunate.

[06:25:21] Panel thank you very much for discussing all of this.

We do have some breaking news that we want to get to right now. This is out of Somalia's capital. Truck bombs exploding outside of a hotel in Mogadishu. Armed gunmen storming the building. We have the latest on this attack and who's behind it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMEROTA: We have some breaking news out of Mogadishu. And you can see it in this video we're about to show you. A pair of truck bombs exploding outside of a hotel in Mogadishu. This is a hotel that is popular with government officials. At least 10 people are dead, dozens more hurt.

CNN's Muhammad Lila is live in Abu Dhabi with all of the breaking details. What's the latest?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Alisyn. Incredibly chilling footage that we've seen there. Of course, incredibly rare for cameras to capture that exact moment of impact. And there's a takeaway from this. This would be called a complex attack in military terms, meaning it was planned well in advance, highly coordinated. And the takeaway from that, of course, here's the latest.