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Trump Orders Wall Along Mexican Border, Supports Waterboarding; Trump Calls for 'Major Investigation' into Voter Fraud; Orwell's "1984" is a Bestseller Again Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 25, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Wall paper. President Trump signs orders for the construction of a border wall, insisting Mexico will reimburse U.S. taxpayers. He's also boosting the size of Border Patrol forces and stepping up deportations of undocumented immigrants.
[17:00:25] "Major investigation." The president is standing by his false claim that millions voted illegally, costing him the popular vote, and he's calling for a major investigation. Some key Democrats say, "Bring it on."
Tortured answer. In his first interview since his inauguration, President Trump says he supports water boarding, but Senator John McCain warns him, quote, "We're not bringing back torture."
And newspeak. As the Trump administration uses phrases like "alternative facts," George Orwell's famous novel, "1984," in which Big Brother controls a totalitarian future, is now once again a best seller.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
Breaking news. President Trump signs orders to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and to strip federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities, which the White House says harbor illegal immigrants. The White House says federal agencies will unapologetically enforce the law.
In his first interview since taking office, the president says the border wall construction will begin within months and reveals that Mexico won't be funding the wall in the way he promised. Instead he tells ABC News that U.S. taxpayers will foot the bill and that Mexico will somehow, at some time, reimburse the U.S.
Meantime, the president is not backing down from his false claim that he lost the popular vote, because millions cast ballots illegally. Instead he's doubling down, demanding what he calls a major investigation into voter fraud. Key Democrats say Trump's, quote, "bizarre obsession" is undermining U.S. democracy, and they're happily answering his call to investigate, asking states to report actual incidents of voter fraud, which have been very few and far between. I'll speak with Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings. And our
correspondents, analysts and guests, they're standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.
Let's begin with our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, President Trump has issued some sweeping new orders.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Calling the situation on the border a crisis, President Trump is now delivering on his campaign promises to build that wall on the border and crack down on illegal immigration. And the president has more drastic changes in store, the White House says, that are aimed at keeping Americans safe.
ACOSTA (voice-over): It's a campaign promise no more. Now it's reality, as President Trump signed an executive order instructing the federal government to start construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The secretary of homeland security, working with myself and my staff, will begin immediate construction of a border wall.
ACOSTA: The president unveiled the executive actions during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security. In addition to the wall, the orders direct DHS to step up the identification and deportation of undocumented criminals, as well as strip away federal funding from so- called sanctuary cities that harbor undocumented immigrants.
But the moves are seen as an insult in Mexico, where former president Vicente Fox has adamantly said his country will not, as President Trump says it, pay for the wall.
VICENTE FOX, FORMER MEXICAN PRESIDENT: I'm not going to pay for that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wall.
ACOSTA: Yes, they will, the president told ABC News, but only as a reimbursement after U.S. taxpayers initially foot the bill.
TRUMP: I'm just telling you there will be a payment. It will be in the form, perhaps a complicated form. And you have to understand what I'm doing is good for the United States. It's also going to be good for Mexico. We want to have a very stable, very solid Mexico.
ACOSTA: The president isn't stopping there. Next he's expected to sign an executive order temporarily suspending the nation's refugee program and restrict visas to people entering the U.S. from what the administration calls terror-prone countries.
But the White House is pushing back on reports of another executive order that would preserve the terror detention facility at Guantanamo, reconsider harsh interrogation techniques and secret CIA interrogation sites used during the Bush administration.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is not a White House document.
ACOSTA: Even though his new defense secretary, James Mattis, has said such harsh methods don't work, the president told ABC he supports tactics like waterboarding.
TRUMP: 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."
ACOSTA: Republican senator and former POW John McCain is saying, no way, warning in a tweet, "POTUS can sign whatever executive orders he likes, but the law is the law. We're not bringing back torture."
[17:05:08] Mr. Trump is also standing his ground when it comes to his false claims of widespread voter fraud in the U.S., tweeting he's asking for a major investigation into voting irregularities he claims cost him the popular vote, a probe the White House suggests could target the nation's biggest states.
SPICER: There are a lot of states we didn't compete in where that's not necessarily the case. You look at California and New York.
ACOSTA: Democratic leaders are alarmed.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I frankly feel very sad about the president making this claim. I felt sorry for him. I even prayed for him. But then I prayed for the United States of America.
ACOSTA: And the White House insists the president is determined to intervene in high-crime cities like Chicago, where he tweeted he will send in the feds if street violence there continues.
SPICER: I think what the president is upset about is turning on the television and seeing Americans get killed by shootings, seeing people walking down the street and getting shot down.
ACOSTA: And how's this for Trump diplomacy? The president is announcing his plans for the wall just days before he was planning to welcome the president of Mexico here at the White House. President Pena Nieto has also stated Mexico will never pay for a wall on the border.
As for tomorrow, the White House says the president will turn to those executive orders that deal with the extreme vetting, as they call it here at the White House, of non-U.S. citizens entering mainly from countries in the Middle East with Muslim populations -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta reporting for us from the White House. Thank you.
Critics are calling him delusional, but President Trump is sticking to his false claim that he lost the popular vote, because millions voted illegally. He's now ordering what he calls a major investigation.
Let's bring in our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. Pamela, who would be in charge of this major investigation?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this point, Wolf, it's anyone's guess. I've spoken to officials at the Department of Justice, which would typically handle federal voter fraud allegation investigations. And they say there's no predication, such as a specific allegation of voter fraud to launch an investigation such as what Donald Trump is calling for and to do so would be unprecedented.
But since the president is ordering this, he can define the process by which the investigation is managed. Officials say, so theoretically he could appoint a special prosecutor or ask Congress to use its special investigatory powers to do so. But, of course, the congressional committee would have to agree to it, Wolf.
BLITZER: Recently, Donald Trump's own legal team suggested there was no fraud.
BROWN: That's right. In fact, back in December, Don McGann, Trump's White House counsel, filed a brief. And this is what he said in this brief: "All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake."
Now, that was in response to Jill Stein's recount vote effort in Michigan. Today during the White House briefing, as you'll recall. Sean Spicer was asked about this. And he said, basically, that the probe isn't going to focus on states where the vote was close. It's going to focus on other states. And he named two, California and New York, states that we know voted overwhelmingly against Donald Trump.
BLITZER: For Hillary Clinton. He also tweeted this today, Donald Trump, the president. He said he will be asking for a major investigation into voter fraud, including those registered to vote in two states. Today we learned that -- that two of his closest aides...
BLITZER: ... in fact, are registered to vote in two states.
BROWN: That's right. Donald Trump's nominee to head the Treasury Department, Steve Mnuchin, is registered to vote in two states. We learned this through CNN K-file review of paperwork obtained through open records requested in both New York and California.
And Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist and senior counselor, was registered to vote in both New York City, as well as Sarasota County, Florida. It is not illegal to be registered in two states, Wolf. It doesn't indicate sinister intent. A Pew research study from 2012 points out that more than 2 million people are registered to vote in more than one place.
BLITZER: Normally, the state that you move to has to notify the original state that you're now registered, let's say, in California...
BLITZER: ... as opposed to New York or whatever. BROWN: Yes. Exactly.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much for that. Pamela Brown reporting.
Joining us now, the senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland.
Congressman, thanks for joining you. I know you had a chance to speak with President Trump on the phone this morning.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I did.
BLITZER: Tell us a little bit about that conversation.
CUMMINGS: Well, the other day at the inaugural luncheon, he and I met for the first time. And he suggested that we get together with regard to the issue of the high price of prescription drugs. That's been a big issue for him, and it's been a very big issue for me over the last five or six years. And Bernie Sanders and I have done a lot in that area.
So he basically said that he wanted to meet with me on that. He invited me to the White House. And he said that the pharmaceutical companies are, quote, "getting away with murder," end of quote. And he went on to talk about how nobody seems to be really talking about this issue, which is affecting so many American families.
And so, certainly, I welcomed the opportunity to try to address something that we have maybe common interest in so that we can get something done in that area.
By the way, Wolf, that is the No. 1 issue, the cost of prescription drugs is the No. 1 issue among Democrats, Republicans, and independents with regard to health issues. So, that's a major, major step in the right direction.
[17:10:18] BLITZER: So, how did you end the conversation, Congressman? Are you going to the White House? Are you going to follow up on this area? Because it sounds like, at least in this one area, in a very important area, you're encouraged.
CUMMINGS: Yes, I'm encouraged with this one area. And, so, yes, I'm going to try to get a few of -- other members of Congress to go with me so we can sit down and try to work something out.
But I expect that we will have the full support of the president with regard to our proposals.
But let me tell you, Wolf, one of the things that bothered me today was this so-called gag order, where the president's folks were telling people at EPA and other places, agencies, that they couldn't talk to elected officials, could not talk to members of Congress. And I wanted to as you know, the Government Reform Committee deals with government wide. In other words, we're over all of government. And -- and a lot of our investigations come from people who bring -- who are whistle-blowers.
And so I wanted to make it clear today to everybody out there, our federal employees, I want you to come to me if you have concerns. If you want to whistle blow, call my office. I'm ready to hear you, and we'll look into it.
BLITZER: The White House is denying that they've issued that kind of gag order. But you're basing your information on what?
CUMMINGS: On documents that I've seen, Wolf. But we'll get those to you.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much.
Let's talk a little bit about this other development. As you know, the president has claimed that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in the presidential election. You and two of your Democratic colleagues on the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to election official in all 50 states, requesting proof of voter fraud.
So far, have any officials responded to your request?
CUMMINGS: Not yet. We just sent those letters out early this morning. This was -- this is something that I've been dealing with for a long time. It just so happened to culminate today. We've got all 50 -- we actually sent out 102 letters to the -- the attorney generals of each state and the person who is in charge of elections for each state and the District of Columbia.
And basically, what we're asking them is tell us about any voter fraud that they know of. I expect, Wolf, that we are not -- we're going to get information that there is zero, or almost zero voter fraud.
Now, but I'm kind of upset with the media, because I've been listening all day. And we've been spending a lot of time, Wolf, with this issue with regard to voter fraud.
Let's do the flip of that. What we ought to be concerned about is all the people who are being denied the right to vote. I mean, those are the -- that's where the investigation should go.
When I meet with the president, I'm going to urge him, if he's going to do an investigation, he needs to do an investigation as to why it is that African-Americans, elderly, Hispanics and others are being denied the right to vote, as in states like North Carolina.
And I'm going to urge him to talk to Speaker Ryan to get him to put on the floor of the House something, the legislation sponsored by Jim Clyburn that will restore the Voting Rights Act. As you know it was gutted.
And, so, this whole talk about -- I refuse to talk about voter fraud, because it does not exist. And we are spending all this time where we've got people who cannot vote.
BLITZER: You've heard, Congressman, the criticism, the charges being leveled at the president and his aides, that they're -- by going forward with these claims, which are false, but by going forward with the claims and now making a request for a major investigation, they're actually looking for ways to enhance voter suppression by calling for greater I.D. -- I.D. laws, if you will, in order to vote, and issues like that which would make it more difficult for people to vote.
You've heard that suggestion. Do you believe that?
CUMMINGS: Yes, of course I believe that. Because basically, what is happening, there has been a tremendous effort, Wolf, to deny people the right to vote. And I've got to tell you, Wolf, it pains me.
I see people who -- I look at people like my mother, who is 90 years old, but she remembers the day in South Carolina when you could be hurt very seriously or harmed when you tried to register to vote.
And now we've got elderly people having to go through 50 million changes to be able to vote when many of them have voted all along, for years.
One of the other things that bothers me is that we are approaching a new sense of normal in our country. And normal is becoming -- it's OK to suppress the vote. Normal is becoming it's OK to have people stand in line five hours after the voting booth closes. It's become normal to say to a president, you cannot appoint a Supreme Court justice. It's become normal to undercut the CIA, the FBI, the Office of Government Ethics.
[17:15:12] What is happening, Wolf, is that we have got to be careful. This is bigger than Donald Trump. This is about saving our democracy. And I'm afraid that we are attacking the legitimate organizations that underpin that democracy. And I'm saying to all of America, if you don't like the way things are going, if you don't like torture, if you don't like the things that you're seeing, then you do not have the right to remain silent.
BLITZER: Congressman, we have much more to discuss, including the announcement today about the start of the construction of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The move against so-called sanctuary cities here in the United States. Much more coming up right after a quick break.
[17:20:17] BLITZER: We're talking with Congressman Elijah Cummings. We'll get back to him in a moment. First our top story.
President Trump has ordered the construction of a wall along the Mexican border and a sweeping crackdown on undocumented immigration.
Our senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski is tracking all of this for us. Michelle, is Mexico going to pay for the wall?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: You know, Mexico has said multiple times in no uncertain terms they will not. Today President Trump said eventually, one way or another, they will. Listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to direct U.S. funds to pay for this wall? Will American taxpayers pay for the wall?
TRUMP: Ultimately, it will come out of what's happening with Mexico. We're going to be starting those negotiations relatively soon. And we will be, in a form, reimbursed by Mexico which...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they'll pay us back?
TRUMP: Absolutely, 100 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico's president said in recent days that Mexico absolutely will not pay, adding that it goes against our dignity as a country and our dignity as Mexicans. He says simply they're not paying.
TRUMP: I think he has to say that. He has to say that. But I'm just telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form. And you have to understand, what I'm doing is good for the United States. It's also going to be good for Mexico. We want to have a good stable, very solid Mexico.
KOSINSKI: So, where the money come from in the meantime is unclear. It's interesting, though, part of the executive order says that the federal government should publicly detail all of the aide Mexico gets each year from the United States. So, could it possibly come from that aide? In essence, that would make Mexico pay for it.
But if we're talking about a new stream of funding to start building this wall in the meantime, Congress will have to weigh in on this, Wolf.
BLITZER: Michelle, the president is also taking steps to increase deportations of undocumented immigrants. Tell us about that.
KOSINSKI: Yes, I mean, the second executive order is talking about aggressive enforcement. Tripling resources for Customs and Border Control.
Also withholding funding from the so-called sanctuary cities. These are municipalities that refuse to turn over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities. And that's something that the New York attorney general tonight is saying he doesn't think President Trump has the constitutional authority to enact. But another interesting part of this is, when you look at the
enforcement priorities for deportation. Under the Obama administration, it was mainly focused on people who have been convicted of felonies, who are gang members, who have committed a string of crimes. But the new priorities for deportation include people who have not even been charged with crimes in some instances. So, things are changing, including in priorities, and they're supposed to change immediately, Wolf.
BLITZER: Michelle Kosinski is our state -- senior State Department correspondent. Michelle, thank you very much.
We're back with Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Congressman, what do you think of the president's order today to begin building a border wall within months, despite the fact that apparently no new money has been appropriated by Congress to pay for it?
CUMMINGS: I find it amazing. But I also understand it, because if you'll recall, Wolf, in almost every single rally, they talked about -- he talked about building a wall, and then asked who was going to pay for it. And everybody would say Mexico.
I -- I really would be interested to see how this Republican Congress reacts to this. They are talking about cutting Social Security and Medicaid, but yet and still, they want to build a wall that's going to cost millions upon billions of dollars. So I don't -- I don't know where this money is going to come from.
And so, again -- but there's another point here, Wolf. I want people to understand that probably 95 percent of what President Trump wants to do, he has to have the consent in some way of Congress. And, so, we just saw a march last Saturday where millions of women all across the country and the world came out.
And what I'm saying to them and others is that now we cannot have motion, commotion and emotion and no results. They need to go to the town hall meetings in their local areas. They need to call their congress people. Again, people are so busy concentrating on President Trump that they're forgetting that he is tied at the hip to the Republican Congress; and they do have more control over them, that is the people that were marching. They have more control over their local officials than they have over President Trump.
[17:25:10] BLITZER: I will point out there are a lot of Republicans who want to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, but President Trump has repeatedly said he does not want to cut any of that and he wants...
CUMMINGS: Well, I hope he -- Wolf...
BLITZER: ... Medicare funding, Social Security funding and Medicaid funding to remain as is.
CUMMINGS: Wolf, I've heard -- yes, Wolf, I've heard two sides of that. I'm going to -- I am going to along with my colleagues on the Democratic side, we're going to hold him to his promise, because there are a lot of people, Wolf, in districts all over the country who the only thing they have is a Medicare card and a Social Security card. Other than that, they have nothing.
And, so, again, I'm looking forward to working with President Trump where we can, but when our values clash, then it's a whole 'nother story.
BLITZER: Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland. As usual, thanks so much for joining us.
CUMMINGS: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, a classic novel suddenly hits the top of the bestseller list. Has "1984's" depiction of Big Brother and newspeak finally arrived in 2017?
BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories including President Trump's announcing he intends to ask for a major investigation into voter fraud.
[17:30:46] Let's bring in our experts. And I want to start with David Becker, executive director, co-founder of the Center for Election Innovation and Research.
David, the Trump team has cited your report on voter fraud in the United States to support the president's baseless claims that millions of people illegally voted in the presidential election last year. You say the president is misinterpreting the data that you had. Tell us why.
DAVID BECKER, CENTER FOR ELECTION INNOVATION AND RESEARCH: Right, I oversaw that report when I was working at Pew as the director of the elections program there, and that report was just about the quality of the voter list. Election official had challenges keeping up with people as they moved mostly, and sometimes if they died, to get their records up to date. And we were trying to quantify that to help them move forward, to adopt reforms that could help them keep those lists up to date. At no point did we reach any findings with regard to voter fraud or anything else like that.
BLITZER: You've also said, David, that voting integrity is better than it's ever been. That said, do you believe any additional steps are necessary to protect the electoral process?
BECKER: Well, I think additional steps are always good, and I expect that the 2020 and 2018 elections will be better than 2016 election. But that's largely because of the work that's already being done in the states and in the counties by the professionals: the election officials, the secretaries of state of both parties who have been really innovative and working to find ways to make these elections more secure so that every eligible voter can vote, but only eligible voters can vote. BLITZER: David Axelrod, what's the strategy behind President Trump's
voter fraud claims? Is there an end game, or is this simply a personal obsession to explain why he didn't win the popular vote?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, let's be clear. This isn't a strategy. This is a hissy fit in search of a scandal.
This president clearly is disturbed by the notion that he lost the popular vote by 3 million. We all know Donald Trump by now. He's all about ratings; he's all about numbers. He lost the popular vote by 3 million, and he is searching for a rationale for that to try and erase that deficit.
And, so, he's lit on this; and now his aides have tried to clean up after him by suggesting this is about the integrity of the entire system, not about the 2016 election. But the integrity of the system is undermined when the president of the United States, without evidence, suggests massive fraud. And there is real danger to our democracy when he takes that kind of posture.
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting. The president is also talking now, Dana, about those who are registered to vote in two states. That's apparently voter fraud, according to his definition. He wants that to be fully investigated.
But two of his top advisors: Steve Bannon, he's registered in both New York and Florida. His nominee for treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, is still registered in both New York and California. Nothing illegal about that. When you move to another state, that state is supposed to notify the original state...
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.
BLITZER: ... that you're now registered in the second state. But it's an awkward moment for the president, who's citing this as potential fraud.
BASH: No question. Oops. I definitely think that that's an "oops" moment.
But you're absolutely right. It's not up to the individual to call the state that they move from and say, "Oh, never mind, I'm not there anymore." It's up to the new state to contact the old.
But even if that weren't the case, the idea of voter registration is quite different from people actually going to the polls. So, it would be one thing if Steve Mnuchin was registered in two states and voted in two states. That would be completely illegal, and that would be the kind of fraud that the president is alleging may have happened. There -- there's no evidence or no even allegations that that happens.
And I think it seems to be that the president and some people at the White House are trying to figure out how to explain his obsession and questions about voter fraud, are conflating voter registration with actually people who voted. Very, very different things. BLITZER: You know, we just heard Congressman Elijah Cummings also
make the assertion -- we've heard it from a lot of others -- that what's behind this as far as voter fraud allegations is voter suppression, if you will, trying to deny people, eligible U.S. citizens the right to vote.
[17:35:11] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. In some ways, Democrats obviously call it voter suppression, Republicans talk about voter I.D. laws. There has been a sense among Republicans that something has been wrong with the voting process, right? So, they did want to pass and effectively passed voter I.D. laws in several states.
And I think in some ways this is the Democrats and progressives' worst nightmare. This idea of voter fraud, which was always really a myth and President Obama, I think, rightfully called it fake news. Now it has a bully and now it has the bully pulpit, with Donald Trump peddling this conspiracy theory about his own election.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm still here, but I lost audio. HENDERSON: So, I hear Democrats, this is going to -- this is certainly, I think, going to reenergize Democrats around this issue, something that they've been focused on for many year.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. We're getting more of President Trump's first interview since the election. That's coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll have that, a lot more of the news when we come back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're back with our political experts as we follow all of today's breaking news.
[18:40:50] President Trump calling for a major, a major investigation into what he calls voter fraud. Now, just a little while ago we received another clip from ABC News. The president sat down with David Muir of ABC News earlier today for an extended interview, his first interview since the election, and they had a chance to speak about the president's allegations of voter fraud, massive voter fraud. Listen to this.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... who are dead, who are illegals, who are in two states. You have people registered in two states. They're registered in New York and in New Jersey. They vote twice. There are millions of votes, in my opinion. Now, I'm going to do an investigation...
DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: You're now president of the United States. When you say...
TRUMP: Of course, and I want the voting process to be legitimate.
MUIR: But what I'm asking -- what I'm asking, when you say, in your opinion, millions of illegal votes, that is something that is extremely fundamental to our functioning democracy of fair and free election.
TRUMP: Sure, sure, sure.
MUIR: You say you're going to launch an investigation into 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 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, the Pew 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 some cases maybe three states -- we have a lot to look into.
BLITZER: All right. Let's get some immediate reaction. David Becker is still with us. He's the executive director and co-founder of the Center for Election Innovation and Research.
David, you were part of that Pew research study that the president was referring to, right?
BECKER: Yes, I was. I directed that study when I was at Pew.
BLITZER: So, is the president right?
BECKER: And the reason -- well, no, I mean, he's right about some of it. The reasons we wrote the report is because we were studying the degree to which records were out of date, mainly because people move. And he's quite right about the fact that there are millions of records that reflect people who have since moved to a new address, and there are -- we estimated back in one point, back in 2012, almost five years ago, maybe as many as 1.8 million records of people who had died since they last voted.
But there's a big leap between an out-of-date record, an administrative inefficiency on a list and the active voter fraud. The -- it just doesn't happen. This is not something that hasn't been looked at. The Bush administration DOJ looked at this. The Federal Election Assistance Commission looked at this. Secretaries of state, both Republicans and Democrats, look at this regularly throughout the election cycle. The secretary of state of Ohio, Republican John Houston, does it every two years. The Republican secretary of state of Louisiana, Tom Schedler, does a good job of looking at this, as well.
And they've all come to the same conclusion, which is that the administrative inefficiencies that might exist on the voter rolls do not result in fraudulent ballots being cast. And in fact, in the five years since that report was issued, the voter lists have gotten much, much better, thanks to the fine work of election officials all across the country to use data and technology to make sure that they can keep up with people's mobility.
BLITZER: So, when the president just told David Muir that you and your colleagues from the Pew team who put together this report are now groveling, what's your response?
BECKER: Well, I honestly -- I can't really respond to that. I can only say what's in the report. And it's the same thing I've been saying about what's in the report since 2012 when it was issued, when this first came up in August, when it came up in October, when it came up in November, when it's come up again now. The report is what it is. I encourage everyone to go to the Pew website. I don't work there anymore, but the report is still up there.
The report clearly states what it's about. It's about identifying the problem with keeping voter lists up to date through time. And that was a very important thing to study, and it resulted in some really positive reforms in both red states and blue states.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So does your report -- I know it concluded earlier, but do you believe the President's claim that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in this most recent presidential election, and almost all of them voted against him, and that's why he lost the popular vote?
BECKER: I agree completely with the secretaries of state across the country, both Republicans and Democrats, and their national association of secretaries of state which is bipartisan, which has said there is absolutely no evidence of voter fraud even approaching that scale.
Does voter fraud exist? Yes, it does, in very small numbers. And the election officials around the country are working to investigate and prosecute those dozens of cases that might occur nationwide in an election like this. But 3 to 5 million illegal votes, that would have been discovered, not just on Election Day but well before. Fraudulent registrations, not matching the driver's license numbers
and Social Security numbers, flagged for I.D. under federal law, extra provisional ballots being cast, all of these things, we would have seen. And there was zero evidence of that.
BLITZER: David Becker, thanks very much for joining us.
BECKER: Thank you.
BLITZER: A book first published nearly 70 years ago, all of a sudden, is a best seller once again, and people are giving credit to President Donald Trump. Up next, why there is now so much interest in George Orwell's "1984."
[17:51:05] BLITZER: With a surge in orders since Election Day, George Orwell's famous novel "1984" in which Big Brother controls a totalitarian future is now a bestseller once again. Brian Todd has been looking into the development for us.
What are you learning, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, the publisher of "1984" seemingly can't print new copies of the novel fast enough to keep up with demand. Analysts say this could be a result of the public angst over the political climate overall, and it could also be a reflection of the new administration's very controversial first days.
SUZANNA HAMILTON, ACTRESS: No. None of it's real.
TODD (voice-over): A terrifying future world where society is controlled by a totalitarian government, where facts are censored and truth is rewritten, a story where two plus two equals five.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The standard of living has risen by no less than 20 percent over the last year.
TODD (voice-over): This is one of the movies based on the book "1984," written 68 years ago by George Orwell, a book that, tonight, is enormously popular again. Number one on Amazon's bestseller list, in such demand that the publisher, Penguin, is furiously printing more copies of the book.
ELISABETH ANKER, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF AMERICAN STUDIES AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: I think people are buying it as a warning, as a sense of trying to understand what happens when a government is actually kind of blatantly dissimulating facts and asking people to believe them as truth and not backing down when there's evidence to the contrary.
TODD (voice-over): "1984" follows the path of the character, Winston Smith, a regular guy who lives under a government that controls everything, distorts reality, and wipes out evidence of what really happened in the past. The so-called Ministry of Truth tells lies. Its propaganda is called "Newspeak."
RICHARD BURTON, ACTOR: Have you seen the 10th edition of the Newspeak dictionary?
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, some analysts suggest the increase in "1984" book sales could be a response to the new White House. The Trump administration has been targeted by fact checkers for alleging massive voter fraud but offering no proof and battling with the press over the exaggerated claims from the White House about inaugural crowd size.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall.
TODD (voice-over): Presidential aide Kellyanne Conway went on NBC's "Meet the Press" and defended the White House Press Secretary.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And Sean Spicer, our Press Secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains that there is --
CHUCK TODD, NBC HOST: Wait a minute. Alternative facts?
TODD (voice-over): CNN political commentator Carl Bernstein has called Conway the minister of propaganda.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Kellyanne Conway and the President of the United States, in their counter truthful narratives as well as specifics, are following an Orwellian road, and it's dangerous. It is disturbing. And it is intense. But in terms of the exact parallels with "1984," I'd be a little careful.
TODD (voice-over): University of Virginia Professor Larry Sabato says some early moves of the administration may be driving the comparisons, but he also says it's early.
DR. LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Any conclusions that you reach when an administration is only days old can easily be wrong and certainly, they're premature. So you can criticize the fact that people are already reaching these conclusions.
I think, reasonably, we ought to give it more time. But the early signs are concerning, and I think that's why a lot of people are re- reading or reading for the first time "1984." Orwell may have been on to something.
TODD: Analysts point out that one of the central themes in the book, "1984," the concept of Big Brother, that the government's eyes and ears are everywhere surveilling its citizens, is not any more of a concern during the Trump administration than it was during Barack Obama's term or George W. Bush's. In fact, the book "1984" also saw a spike in sales in 2013 when Edward
Snowden leaked information about NSA surveillance. Wolf.
[17:55:10] BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much. Very, very interesting.
Coming up, our breaking news. In his first interview since his inauguration, President Trump says he supports waterboarding. But Senator John McCain is now warning him, quote, "We're not bringing back torture."
[18:00:01] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. No sanctuary. President Trump signs executive actions ordering the first steps toward keeping his campaign promises to build a wall and crack down on illegal immigration. Will he get reaction from the --