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Trump Ordering "Major Investigation Into Voter Fraud"; Trump Planning Major Changes At EPA; Trump To Issue Orders On Border Wall And Immigration. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 25, 2017 - 07:30   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Donald John Trump making news this morning peddling a conspiracy theory of widespread voter fraud. The president tweeting moments ago, quote, "I will be asking for a major investigation into voter fraud including those registered to vote in two states. Those who are illegal and even those that register to vote that are dead and many for a long time. Depending on results, we will strengthen voting procedures."

So why does the president of the United States, by the way, those were all legitimate questions. Many have found answers in very exhaustive report, but his basic notion is a lie which is that he lost the popular vote because of widespread fraud between 3 million and 5 million people. That's what he says. There is no proof.

Let's discuss with CNN senior political commentator and former U.S. senator, Rick Santorum, and CNN political commentator and Republican consultant, Margaret Hoover. Lady, Gentleman, thank you for being with us this morning.

Rick, we got to button down the system no question about it. It's weird because it's a patch work of different states and their laws and localities, we all know it but we also all know there is zero proof of the scale of fraud that the president is peddling. Why does he continue to go down this road?

[07:35:05]RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, I think what we're looking at is what the president identified and he talked about during -- is the potential for fraud and it is vast.

CUOMO: It's not what he said, though, Rick. He doesn't say potential.

SANTORUM: I understand that.

CUOMO: He says between 3 million and 5 million voted illegally. That's why I lost the popular vote. Do you agree with that assessment?

SANTORUM: I don't agree with that assessment, but I do agree that it's possible that there was large scale voting fraud. As you know, Chris, in the city of New York four years ago during the election for mayor, the Department of Investigation New York actually did a scam operation.

Sixty three people went to vote at the election and 61 of them illegally using names of dead people and 61 of the 63 were allowed to vote. The two that weren't allowed to vote only got caught because they were using the name of someone at the polling place that they knew that wasn't there.

The idea that this doesn't happen or couldn't happen and that was really the important part that this couldn't happen on a large scale is ridiculous. It can happen because we have laws in place in states, which allow people that are dead and move, who are illegal or whatever to remain on the voter rolls. And that potential for fraud is real.

CUOMO: Right. But nobody is arguing that. Margaret, this is a very different question. Rick is arguing the possible. Fair point, take a look at it. (Inaudible) New York, look, when they did the News 21 follow up study, you had about 2,000 all over the country that fell into that category.


CUOMO: Exhaustive studies done again and again. Is there fraud? Yes. Do we need to do better? Yes. That's not what the president is saying. He is saying I lost because 3 million to 5 million people just like those people celebrating after 9/11, that's what took it away from me.

It's a lie, Margaret. It's a dangerous lie because if people try to validate an untruth like this, where does it lead us when the truth matters to the American people over time.

Whether someone attacked us? What the numbers of dead are abroad? What the realities of our economic situation? If you'll lie about something this small, what does it mean later?

HOOVER: Look, we know that this president has a propensity to peddle in conspiracy theories. Have you ever heard of a conspiracy called birtherism? Have you ever heard of this little thing about Ted Cruz's dad being involved in the assassination of JFK? That was a big thing during the primaries.

Look, what President Trump is going to learn very quickly and you could just chock this up to you are learning on the job and you're new at being president and every president has a learning curve.

But we've all said during the campaign words matter. All right, words matter now more than ever. You're actually the leader of the free world. You're undermining faith in our democracy by suggesting that there is not a fair and free process for electing the leader of the free world.

So he's going to have to learn that especially when you're doing good thinks frankly. I mean, I didn't --

CUOMO: He is clouding his own progress right now. HOOVER: He is testing on his ability to be able to be productive in the office and he's going to have to learn to bite his tongue in moments like that especially when he is meeting with congressional Democrats who are going to go leak.

CUOMO: Right, or just don't make something up. Rick, and I got to tell you to a certain extent, you are encouraging the problem here because you're redefining the issue to make it more acceptable to people out there. There is voter fraud. Well, we do have to look at. It's not what he's talking about and you know that.

SANTORUM: Well, Chris, I was very clear that I don't agree with the president so I'm not encouraging that, but if you look at what his tweet says and look at what he say he is going to investigate there are legitimate things to investigate. We do need to clean up our voting process.

You want to talk about something lying, you have the president of the United States in his press conference said, you know that these voter ID laws are out of Jim Crow. Jim Crow had nothing to do with voter ID. It was a poll tax.

I mean, this is ridiculous. The bottom line is we do need voter ID in this country. We do need to have a responsible system and accountable system of voting and as someone that lost the Iowa caucus vote by eight votes I can tell you that every single vote matters on Election Day.

CUOMO: Right. But you can say that all of the votes that came in against you are why you lost, right, because you didn't have any proof to say that, right? You just lost --

SANTORUM: Let me very clear. I'm not defending his statement that he lost the election.

CUOMO: Look, you know, I have a lot of respect for you and that's why we have these good discussions, but you did excuse it right off the bat. I came back at you to make you talk about this specific issue and then you said it, but your inclination was to defend it by deflecting it into something more simple.

SANTORUM: My inclination was very clear. I wasn't going to defend he lost the election by voter fraud, but I said the potential exists for him to do so and I cited the study in New York where 97 percent of the people --

CUOMO: There's no study that's ever been done that suggests you could have 3 million to 5 million people vote illegally in this country. They've proven exactly the opposite.

SANTORUM: Well, that's not true. The potential exist, millions and millions and millions. Over 5 million people on the rolls in this country who shouldn't be on the roll. That's just -- 1 in 8.

[07:40:04]CUOMO: And people having multiple registrations have been found, but there's been never a follow through of any commitment to -- HOOVER: That doesn't equate.

SANTORUM: Because it's very hard to do by the way, very hard to do.

HOOVER: To your point, here's what they should do, Rick. I think absolutely look into how you clean up the voter rolls, but don't spend public funds on investigating whether 3 million to 5 million illegals are voted or made the difference in this election. That is a waste of public funds.

What he should do is clean up the voter rolls in every state and do voter reform. I mean, that will be productive, but (inaudible) the tail wags the dog and his ego saying about how maybe he lost the popular vote which he did, drive this entire agenda and waste public funds.

SANTORUM: I agree that the focus of the narrative is not the narrative -- the focus of the narrative that I would put forward, but I think that the narrative that the fraud potential exists and that there is lots of evidence and I point to that, again to the New York study, there's lots of evidence that if, in fact, it were follow through it could happen and could happen very easily is enough of a threat for us to actually clean things up.

CUOMO: But look, again, a little bit of it is apples and oranges. There's no question that there's potential fraud. In fact, there's probably no question that there is actual fraud and nobody is claiming differently unless they want to defend an imperfect system.

However, that New York study, the follow-through studies, the national studies and forensic studies none gives any basis to a recognition of the possibility of the scale of fraud that the president is suggesting and for you to say that Rick is gratuitous and is enhancing a deceptive position.

SANTORUM: I said the potential exists. I won't agree with you.

CUOMO: For fraud. Not fraud of the scale of millions of people voting illegally.

SANTORUM: Well, of course, look, if you have millions of people who are out there and on list that shouldn't be on the list, the potential exists. Do we have any proof that that scale has ever occurred? No, we do not. But we do have proof that there has been fraud and it needs to be cleaned up.

CUOMO: Final word, Margaret.

HOOVER: You're right. As long as you are willing to agree that there's 24 million people who are registered, it doesn't mean that 24 million people voted illegally. I mean, there's a vast difference and we all have the data that proves that. We shouldn't spend public funds investigating what we already know. Spend the public funds fixing the voter rolls.

CUOMO: And decisions have to be made about what we decide to defend and what we decide to criticize in our political dynamic right now. That's why we're having this conversation. Rick Santorum, always appreciate your input. You're always welcome on this show. Margaret Hoover, you too.

What is your take? Tweet us @newday or post your comment on -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, President Trump calling himself an environmentalist. He took action yesterday that sounded alarm bells through the EPA. That's next.



CAMEROTA: President Trump making dramatic moves in the way the EPA does business ordering a freeze on some of the agency's grants and contracts. CNN correspondent, Rene Marsh has more.


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Days into his presidency, Donald Trump is sending chills down the spines of environmentalist and some EPA employees. He's put a freeze on regulations and CNN has learned Trump also ordered a freeze on some EPA grants and contracts to states.

WENONAH HAUTER, FOOD AND WATER WATCH: This is exactly what we were concerned about in the beginning. It's a war on the EPA.

MARSH: But a transition source tells CNN the freeze will not impact all EPA grants. We're told the $4.1 billion the agency gives to states to implemented clean water and clean air regulations will not be touched but other discretionary grants will be frozen for review.

HAUTER: The states, their budget has been cut so much that I don't think that many of the safety programs will continue without federal funding.

MARSH: But Marlo Lewis with the libertarian think tank, Competitive Enterprise Institute, welcomes the approach.

MARLO LEWIS, COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: It's a good idea for a new administration that is thinking about a new direction for the EPA to want to take a pause, a time-out and just look at all of these things first before spending the taxpayer's money.

MARSH: Word about the agency freezing grants comes as details of an EPA action plan was leaked to the media. The plan considered a wish list calls for more than $800 million in cuts to state grants, climate and environmental programs. The action plan targets regulations that limit carbon emissions from power plants and greenhouse gases from automobiles just as scientists declare the warmest year on record.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're reducing unnecessary regulations. We want regulations, but we want real regulations that means something. I am to a large extent an environmentalist, I believe in it, but it's out of control.

MARSH: The Trump transition source tells CNN the guidance has since been revised, but it is possible elements of the original plan will still be implemented. But nothing will be decided until the Senate confirms who will lead the EPA.


MARSH: The Senate is considering Scott Pruett to lead the EPA, an agency he sued at least a dozen times as Oklahoma's attorney general at the state where oil and natural gas is big business and Democrats are resistant to this particular nominee. They say he is not qualified to lead the agency he once tried to dismantle. Alisyn and Chris, back to you.

CUOMO: All right, thank you very much. President Trump's every move is being watched by the world. So how will a call to investigate voter fraud motivated by this fallacy of what determined the popular vote matter abroad. We'll talk to a former undersecretary of state, next.



CAMEROTA: President Donald Trump this morning calling for a major investigation into voter fraud after falsely claiming that millions of people voted illegally. Let's talk about the global ramifications.

Joining us now is Ambassador Wendy Sherman, a former U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs. Ambassador Sherman, thanks so much for being here.


CAMEROTA: So the idea that the U.S. president is basically questioning the underpinning of our democracy of free and fair elections, how does the world see this?

SHERMAN: What's so sad about this is the world looks to the United States as the strongest democracy in the world. We go all over the world urging people to create a system that allows their people to have a voice. When the women's march happened last Saturday, there were similar marches all over the world because there's a sense of solidarity and purpose.

So when the president of the United States questions his own legitimacy, not others, but questions his own legitimacy by saying there was voter fraud, then we're giving license to authoritarian leaders all over the rest of the world to say that the United States isn't such a great country, isn't a strong democracy, that their authoritarianism isn't the right way to go.

So it really undermines ourselves. I don't quite understand why he's heading down this road, but there are a lot of things these days I think a lot of the world is having a hard time --

CUOMO: And it's not speculative. During the election, Vladimir Putin said we are willing to send election monitors to the United States. He was picking up on what Trump was saying then. The irony is, this situation could be a positive for the president of the United States.

He could say, look, I came through an election, our system isn't perfect, and that's what we're about as a complete democracy. We're going to investigate and try to make ourselves even better and we are going to look at the real fraud in our voting system, which is voting suppression, which happens all over the world.

[07:55:09]And we have a real problem with it right here, but that's not what he's doing. We've already saw with Putin that they're taking advantage. People will hear this and say, I don't buy it. I don't buy what Sherman is saying, the rest of the world doesn't care. What's proof to the opposite?

SHERMAN: What's so interesting is to watch Putin, who everyone thought would immediately embrace Donald Trump, not yet having a phone call with Donald Trump. His spokesperson and the official news agency saying, well, it may be months before there is a summit.

I think Putin is very smart. He's going to wait and see what Donald Trump does, not just what he did in the campaign, and he wants to be asymmetric, wants to keep Donald Trump on the hot seat a little bit because Putin is trying to really regain a dynasty, regain the greatness of the soviet empire from the past.

Donald Trump helped him to take progress in that regard. It is very dangerous for Europe. Theresa May is coming here tomorrow, the prime minister of Great Britain, to talk about how important NATO is, how important it is to push back against Russia. She's not a shy person, to say the least. It will be very interesting to see how that relationship evolves.

CAMEROTA: President Trump has also announced a flurry of executive actions during these next 48 hours on immigration policy. I'll read some of them to you and our viewers. He's going to build the wall along the Mexico borders, taking actions to begin that, end catch and release, 5,000 additional border patrol officers.

Reveal the aid that is given from the U.S. (inaudible). Here's what is interesting, ban travelers from terror-prone country, end the Syrian refugee program, end sanctuary cities, triple ICE enforcement agents. What does ban travelers from terror-prone countries mean?

SHERMAN: Well, I think what he's saying and what has come out in the news is countries like Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Iran will not be able to come into this country.

CAMEROTA: But how do you define it? Those would be the easy ones, right, on some level although you got plenty of good people there trying to travel for legitimate reasons. How do you not put France on that list? I haven't been running off to Yemen very recently to deal with terror, but I have been to France a bunch. SHERMAN: Right. And the truth is there are people in Yemen whose very lives are at risk because of what's going on there. We're here in New York City. This is a country of give me your tired, your poor. I understand the American people want security. I want security.

Trying to have some kind of broad ban, you're taking small steps towards something that is incredibly undemocratic, to go back to the beginning of this conversation. Quite frankly, it's not clear what the rules are.

This executive order is just the first step in what we think will be a series of steps to really say our doors are closed to everybody else and there isn't a single person in this country except native Americans, Indians, who are native to this country. We are all immigrants.

CAMEROTA: And so what do you think the ripple effect of that is on our reputation? I mean, what he said in his inaugural address is basically make the U.S. an aspirational country, make people see it as a beacon so they want to emulate it. But by closing the doors, not everybody, obviously, will get a taste of that. So how do you think other countries --

SHERMAN: Well, I think other countries are going to say, as we heard Theresa May say this morning, if there's going to be a U.S.-U.K. trade deal, it's going to be Britain first. I think everyone is going to start to trout what Donald Trump has said, and say we're going to take care of ourselves and not anybody else.

And the generosity of the American people, what we stand for, that kind of openness and inclusivity is out the door and other countries will close the door to us, to our trade, to our exports and ensuring that American workers have what they really need in a world that's pretty complicated.

CUOMO: Now despite the president's best efforts to cloud over the progress that he's making in his early days by forwarding these silly notions about voter fraud in terms of what proof is available, Rex Tillerson said in his hearing the other day, what Russia is doing in Ukraine is wrong and that I would be for tougher moves there.

As we all know, President Obama would not give heavy equipment to the Ukrainians to defend themselves against Russians controversial. Does that give you optimism for Rex Tillerson as secretary of state?

SHERMAN: Well, I certainly prefer that he said that than repeat what the president said about the greatness of President Putin, but we'll have to see. The proof will be in the actions that Rex Tillerson takes, whether he will talk truth to power when he understands --

CUOMO: Should he be confirmed?

SHERMAN: I would have voted as the Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did with great skepticism. They didn't vote him to proceed forward. He will get confirmed. I have no doubt about that. Senator Rubio, Senator Graham, Senator McCain -- CUOMO: Are now on board.

SHERMAN: -- have all said they're going to vote for him and look, he ran a great company. He did a good job as CEO, but being --