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President Trump Continues Claim of Widespread Voter Fraud in Presidential Election; Interview with Congressman Pete Sessions; Senator Wyden: Trump Executive Orders Not Helping American Workers; Senator Wyden Spars With Tom Price In Contentious Hearing; Trump Ordering "Major Investigation Into Voter Fraud". Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 25, 2017 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] AMB. WENDY SHERMAN, SR. COUNSELOR, ALBRIGHT STONEBRIDGE GROUP: He will get confirmed. I have no doubt about that. Senator Rubio, Senator Graham, Senator McCain, they have said they are going to vote for him.

And look, he ran a great company, he did a good job as CEO. But being the secretary of state is a much more complex job, quite different. For 41 years he's only cared about the bottom line of Exxon Mobil. Now he has to care about the bottom line for American security. And that is a complex undertaking in this world. We'll see.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Ambassador Wendy Sherman, thanks so much for joining us today.

SHERMAN: Thank you.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: Good morning everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We do being with breaking news for you. President Trump tweeting this morning that he is calling for a major investigation into voter fraud. The president has peddled a lie for months claiming that millions of people voted illegally in the election without providing any evidence.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The irony is this news of this investigation is overshadowing the president's expected executive orders today on the border wall and immigration and different deliveries on his promises during the campaign just six days into the Trump administration. We have it all covered. Let's begin with Athena Jones live at the White House. Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. We talk about doubling down, tripling down, now they're quadrupling down on these debunked claims that three to five million people voted illegally in the November election. The president tweeting just in the last 45 minutes or so, "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 registered to vote who are dead, and many for a long time. Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures." Now as we've been stating over and over again, there is evidence,

absolutely no evidence of widespread voter fraud. But this is something that has been getting a lot of attention because the president keeps bringing it up. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was pressed repeatedly about these false claims during the briefing yesterday, including by my colleague Jeff Zeleny. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do you believe there was idea spread voter fraud?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: My job is not --

ZELENY: How can he be comfortable with his win if he believes --

SPICER: He's very comfortable with his win. No, he's very comfortable with his win. It's an electoral-based system. He got 306 electoral votes, 33 of 50 states voted for him. Look, Jeff, I've been asked to answer 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, though, Sean?

SPICER: Thanks, Jeff.

ZELENY: If he does believe that, what does that mean for democracy?

SPICER: It means I've answered your question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: Now, President Trump has been making these claims for months ever since he was president-elect Trump tweeting about this right after the election in November. And we know this came up again Monday night in that meeting with congressional leaders in the White House. We're told the discussion lasted for several minutes on this topic. Republicans and Democrats have been urging the president to stop say these demonstrably untrue things.

So here you have a situation where the president's policy moves are moves that are in line with his campaign promises. But now he's stepping all over that positive message, positive at least in terms of people who sent him here to the White House, by bringing up this distraction. A lot of these tweets seem to be a direct response to news reports. But it's not the kind of communication strategy you expect to see from a White House. It's highly unusual and not effective if the goal is to direct the conversation in a way that's beneficial. Chris?

CUOMO: It comes down to something pretty simple. Either you tell the truth or you don't. Athena, thank you very much.

And it should be noted in this meeting with congressional leaders where the president reiterated this bogus notion about illegals voting, a lot of the congressional leaders didn't say anything. And maybe silence in situations like that leads to further action down the wrong road that we're seeing right now.

Joining us is Republican Congressman Pete Sessions. Congressman, before we get into the news of day, I want the audience to know, the commitment is firm, when your ideas for the replacement for the ACA are ready and want to bring them through, please do. You're always welcome to come on the show and talk about that. It matters to millions and millions of Americans.

REP. PETE SESSIONS (R), TEXAS: Chris, thank you. As you know we're headed this morning to the city of brotherly love, the city of Philadelphia where Republicans, house members, Senate Republicans, Senate Republicans, House Republicans, the president and vice president will be joining us, where we are going to talk about not just our agenda but the options and alternatives.

As you suggest, I do have the world's greatest health care plan that I believe is equal to or better than health care that is available in the United States today for all Americans, and I intend to talk about that when we're in Philadelphia.

CUOMO: All right. And you know, when you're ready, we're here. It's an important discussion.

You know what else is, and hopefully in the city of brotherly love gets attention, this claim that three to five million illegals swayed the popular vote and that's why our president didn't win the popular vote is a bogus notion that has no underlying support that is known in the real world right now. Do you understand that situation?

[08:05:06] SESSIONS: As a matter of fact, I do. You know I used to be chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. And I have my finger on a lot of thoughts and ideas. Regardless of whether it is three to five million people and regardless of how they voted, Chris, I think what the president is speaking about is an evaluation where we make sure the integrity at the ballot box is handled. I'm not sure I would use the same talking points that he does. But I will tell you is if he can get this right out of the box in the first month, then we'll get on to great policy discussions. And that is why he got elected.

CUOMO: Hold on, Pete, you're known as a straight shooter. And nobody is saying that our system is perfect. It's a patchwork of different laws and tolerance levels and all kinds of shenanigans, there's no question about it. This is something different. I know that the language in that tweet, 140 characters at a time, is to look at the widespread issues. He's saying three to five million illegals, and I guess he's meaning undocumented people, voted and that's why he lost the popular vote. That is a bogus notion. It is based on a lie. Do you understand that? Do you accept it as such?

SESSIONS: I will say this. I see exactly why you are saying what you're saying. All I'm saying, Chris, is I haven't looked at it. It does not seem like a stand or a position I would take.

CUOMO: This is one of those times where you've got to figure out who is going to speak truth to power and who isn't. I get he's the president of the United States and I get that there's fraud in the system, but that's not what he said. And if you endorse it and you make it OK, isn't that the same thing as embracing the position yourself?

SESSIONS: I'm not making it OK. What I've said to you is I would not have sent the tweet out. I need to listen to what he's going to say. And I'll be glad next time I'm on to render that evaluation. This just happened overnight. And, look, I'll tell you, it does not seem plausible to me either.

CUOMO: From your time working in the Republican congressional committee, you're always looking at the efficacy and the problems with voting fraud. Have you ever heard of anything to support fraud of this kind of scale?

SESSIONS: No. There are places, for instance, in and around Pennsylvania where 110 percent of the voters turn out. I do question that. But that is not people who are here illegally. That is people who perhaps were voting that actually did not show up to vote. So I have different thoughts about what our problems are. It is not about illegals.

CUOMO: And just to keep this clear, I'll put up stats for the people at home so they understand. This is not an unstudied areas -- 146 million total registered voters. By the way, that's way too low. We should have a lot more in this country. People have to get involved in the process. Different conversation. And 2,068 alleged fraud cases, 10 cases of voter impersonation. Does it happen? Yes. That was over 10 years of evaluation, by the way, 38 cases of voter fraud prosecuted, 13 cases of double voting prosecuted. News media reported 200 allegations since 2012. Does it happen? Yes. But of this scale, it's just a bogus notion. Let's move on to something else --

SESSIONS: And that is exactly correct of the scale you're talking about, perhaps in the hundreds, not in the millions. And I agree with that.

CUOMO: OK, so the idea of what we're going to see on these executive actions, I get it. A lot of them are undoing things that President Obama did, so they're not about the executive usurping authority from you guys necessarily, but in terms of what he wants to do, you have got two big things to talk about. The first is the wall, which now seems to be negotiable. Maybe it will be an extension of the fence and not a redoing of all that infrastructure that's already in place. But as someone who represents Texas, do you feel that this is going to be worth the money, especially if it does mean redoing all that area of fence with now a wall?

SESSIONS: No, I do not believe that we need a wall in the middle of nowhere. What I do believe is that what the president is addressing, and I believe he's correct, is many of the executive orders that President Obama signed into law, catch and release among other things, and an insistence that we would encourage people from Central and South America, including children, to come to this country for the purpose of citizenship, is a bad idea. But what we need is operational control of the border. I believe that

you will find that our brand new head of homeland security is going to very carefully address this issue. I had lunch with him last Friday, immediately after the inauguration.

[08:10:01] He knows what he needs to do. The way we say this, however, is that we're going to follow the law. We're going to stop the illegal incursions across the border and we're going to protect people. The last part is, and you know this, criminal aliens need to be deported from this country.

CUOMO: Nobody disagrees on that last point, that's for sure. Let me ask you something, one other thing. We're going to stop immigration from terror-prone countries. Not only is that an odd definition that's never been borne out in any type of reality, but what message would that send to the world, and whom would it include? Would it include France? I know they're mentioning the easy ones, like Yemen, Iraq, countries like that. But as complicated as that is, I've been to France a lot more recently than I've been to Yemen and Iraq because of all the terrorism there. Whom would you include and what message would this send?

SESSIONS: Well, the message I would send is we need to make sure we can vet or get background information on the people who would be allowed to come to this country for potential to live in this country and potential to be citizens. And a background check is required for anyone that would be doing that under legal means.

I would not have specified necessarily in specificity the types of countries or the countries. I would have said where we cannot get the proper vetting background, then they should not come into the country. Let's go high on this and say let's follow the law as it is.

CUOMO: Pete Sessions, let me tell you, thank you for coming on the show. I understand the environment right now, it is not easy to criticize things going on, taking separate positions, every party is entrenched. We appreciate your candor and saying what you think is right and we're looking forward to more conversations with you about how to forward the agenda of the American people.

SESSIONS: Chris, thank you.

CUOMO: Be well, sir. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: So what are Democrats saying about President Trump's expected immigration actions? We will speak with a senator very skeptical about them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: In just hours, President Trump is expected to announce a series of executive actions on his border wall and immigration plans. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden telling us earlier, this morning, that the president is all over the map on how to make that wall a reality.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SENATOR RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: I can tell you this is an awful lot of symbolism. We'll have to see the details, but if you look, for example, at yesterday, in effect the symbolic withdrawal from the Transpacific Partnership, that doesn't do anything for American workers who are getting hammered by Chinese dumping of steel and aluminum.

CAMEROTA: Senator, actually a border wall is the opposite of symbolism. It is concrete, literally and figuratively. He is planning to build a wall, an actual wall, not a virtual wall, along the Mexican border. The estimates are it could cost $14 billion. He says Mexico will pay for it. What are Democrats going to do?

WYDEN: Well, certainly when you hear about the pay for, we've seen the president all over the map on that. Initially he said that the Mexicans were going to pay for it then they weren't. Then he said we'll start it. The bottom line here is this is another divisive policy, another polarizing policy.

Contrast that with what Senate Democrats did yesterday. We proposed major roads, bridges, infrastructure program. That would put Americans to work. We were talking about clean energy, getting rid of subsidies and promoting more good paying jobs in clean and renewable energy.

I think the American people are going to be able to see through this. The finance committee, for example, we were told constantly that there would be a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. We haven't seen that either.

CAMEROTA: We had that moment from yesterday when you aggressively pressed the HHS nominee, Tom Price. Let's play that for everyone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WYDEN: Yes or no? Under the executive order will you commit that no one will be worse off?

TOM PRICE, NOMINEE, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: What I commit to, Senator, is working with you and every member of Congress to make certain that we have the highest quality health care and every single American has access to affordable coverage.

WYDEN: That is not what I asked. I asked will you commit that no one will be worse off under the executive order, you ducked the question. Will you guarantee that no one will lose coverage under the executive order?

PRICE: I guarantee you that the individuals that lost coverage under the Affordable Care Act, we will commit to making certain that they don't lose coverage under whatever replacement plan comes forward. That's the commitment that I provided.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Senator, did you get your questions answered?

WYDEN: Of course not. Let's examine one of the classic health care weasel words. The congressman said that people would have access to health care. That's not coverage. You can have access to lots of things in America, but if you don't have the money, you don't have anything real that will really help your family. He ducked. He bobbed. He weaved.

He wouldn't answer about his plans to shred the Medicaid safety net. That's responsible for ensuring that our older people get nursing home coverage. There are a lot of Americans that would get health care. We see women lose health care choices.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but you heard what he said. He turned it to say it was actually under Obamacare that people were worse off and they did lose their doctor and, of course, it was promised they never would and their premiums went up and it was promised that that would never happened. He said that what they're doing is going to correct those things.

WYDEN: He's going to have trouble explaining that to a lot of trump voters. A lot of Trump voters heard the president say, look, I can make it better. We'll have great care for everybody. What we learned is those voters who heard that in the campaign, they heard yesterday from the person who wants to be the captain of the Trump health care team that he wouldn't make a commitment to making sure that people didn't get worse coverage.

CAMEROTA: But since you also know that people were energized by their displeasure, dissatisfaction with the Affordable Care Act, what is your answer?

WYDEN: My answer is we ought to see -- if you're going to repeal this, we ought to see a real replacement. That's what the American people were told again and again in the campaign, that the two of them would be intertwined.

[08:20:12]The president said there would be no gap at all. Congressman Price is the architect of the repeal and run strategy. He proposed repealing it and basically said something like over a year later we could come back and talk about how to replace it. That's going to hurt a lot of the working class families. The Trump voters weren't told that.

CAMEROTA: So Senator, will you vote for Tom Price?

WYDEN: I don't announce how I'm going to vote on early morning show like this, but I'll tell you there are an awful lot of unanswered questions, particularly with respect to his ethics. He got private placement deals. He underreported the value of his stocks. He didn't correct it until the last minute.

He did all of this trading while he was a member of the Health Care Committee. And I can just tell you George W. Bush's ethics lawyer, not exactly a far-out liberal said with respect to Congressman Price that he had never seen anything like this in his 30 years. CAMEROTA: I'm no psychic but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it sounds like you're not going to vote for him.

WYDEN: Well, a lot of unanswered questions. I certainly wouldn't commit to voting for him this morning.

CAMEROTA: Senator, I want to ask you about the claims that President Trump has been making about voter fraud. He says that millions of people voted illegally in this last election. What is your response to that?

WYDEN: Well, first of all, it's a false claim, number one. But because we always want to suggest that there is a constructive path forward. If the president is serious about strengthening the system of voting in this country, he ought to support my proposal which would take Oregon vote by mail national. We have a system that has worked now for well over a decade. We haven't seen fraud. It ensures that there is a paper trail. So I hope the Trump administration will be supportive of my proposal.

CAMEROTA: Do you think there was illegal voting this time around?

WYDEN: I think what he said was completely false.

CAMEROTA: Senator Ron Wyden, thank you for taking all the time for NEW DAY.

WYDEN: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: There you have, tough questions, no answers, need for more. The president calling for a major investigation into voter fraud. Should his advisers be telling him to continue to advance false claims and lies? We get the bottom line from David Axelrod next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:26:30]

CAMEROTA: All right. President Trump calling for a major investigation into voter fraud claiming that millions of illegals voted in his election and that made the difference. It's not true. Why is the president disregarding the truth?

Let's get the bottom line with CNN senior political commentator and former Obama adviser, David Axelrod. You don't see it as a one-off. You see a pattern. It bothers you. What is it?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I see two patterns actually, Chris. One is that they are running plays very efficiently like a well-drilled football team, and he's doing it with a panache of a reality show producer one by one by one announcing actions that reverse policies of the Obama administration, on ACA, on trade, on regulation and so on. That is one-half of what we see. The other half of what we see is the Donald Trump who can't help but react to any perceived slight or inconvenient truth. So the weekend was hijacked by his antics around the size of the crowd.

Now we're into another episode over revisiting the fact that he lost by 3 million votes and his unwillingness to accept that. He is getting in his own way, hijacking his own story, and he is also undermining some fundamental institutions along the way. These are the two patterns of the early Trump days as president.

CAMEROTA: It's curious, David, because were it not for this new tweet about how he's calling for this investigation into widespread voter fraud, we would be focused on his plans over the next 48 hours, big plans, his executive actions on immigration, most of which are dismantling President Obama's actions on immigration.

AXELROD: And moving on his wall and so forth. Yes, it is like they have a script that they're following, and he's doing his executive orders, holding up his can executive orders like a kindergarten teacher reading to the class and showing each camera the executive orders and they are following their script.

On the other hand, he keeps hijacking it with his reactivity and it is really curious that they can't seem to get him to color within the lines here. If they did, they would be sending a very strong message to their supporters that, yes, he's going to follow through on all his pledges.

People may agree or disagree with those pledges, but that is the clear message that he is trying to send, but it becomes more difficult when you get absorbed in these sidebar battles over ridiculous things where you're trying to over -- where you get into your alternative fact world and try and override what is the obvious truth.

This voter fraud thing is particularly concerning, however, because you're under -- trying to undermine another fundamental institution of American democracy. There's no evidence of voter fraud of the scale he's talking about.

And there's been exhaustive studies on voting fraud and charges of voter fraud in this country that have dispelled this notion. He just cannot accept that he lost the popular vote by 3 million votes, just as he can't accept that his crowds weren't as large as Barack Obama's crowds. Get over it.

You're the president of the United States, man. You've got bigger things to do.

CAMEROTA: I mean, furthermore, you know, just to put a final button on that. All the Republicans, secretaries of state in each state, every battleground state --