Return to Transcripts main page


Paul Ryan: GOP "On Same Page As The White House"; McConnell: Border Wall Will Cost $12 Billion To $15 Billion; Trump To Mexico: Pay For Wall Or Cancel Meeting; Mattis, Pompeo "Blindsided" By Trump's Torture Review; Trump Leaves For GOP Summit In Philadelphia. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired January 26, 2017 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman. We have breaking news all over the place. President Trump is due to leave for Philadelphia any minute for the annual retreat of House and Senate Republicans. You are looking at live pictures from Joint Base Andrews.

This will be his first official trip aboard Air Force One, which is why we are showing you that picture. The president is set to speak to Republican lawmakers who are keenly interested in everything he is doing and saying right now and he has been saying an awful lot. We'll bring you that speech live.

BOLDUAN: When it does begin. But first, he's got to get there. Before heading out, President Trump threw down the gauntlet to the president of the Mexico, sending out this statement, in part.

"If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting." This comes after reports the president of Mexico was considering cancelling his scheduled trip to Washington next week as he is vowing his nation will not pay for that wall.

As John said, a whole lot of moving parts this morning. Let's first get to CNN congressional reporter, Manu Raju. He is in Philadelphia along with CNN correspondent, Maria Santana. They're both in Philadelphia covering the annual retreat right now.

Manu, first to you. Republicans are meeting to talk about their agenda. They're meeting to talk about the future for them. But they're also having to talk about and answer a lot of questions about the statements that the president is putting out.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, that's absolutely right, Kate. Remember, right after the election, Republicans laid out a pretty detailed, meticulous agenda, knowing there's going to be a lot that want to get done, whether it's repealing and replacing Obamacare, reforming the tax code, getting rid of an a number of regulations, confirming Donald Trump's cabinet, and confirming the Supreme Court nominee that Donald Trump is going to nominate next week.

One of the things they didn't really talk about or plan for, is exactly how to deal with this issue that Donald Trump campaigned on, building a wall on the border with Mexico. Now we have learned that Donald Trump plans to send a package, a funding package for Congress to approve to spend money to build that wall and Trump says he's going to later get Mexico to reimburse it.

Now Republicans are trying to figure out how to deal with that. In addition, Donald Trump's tweets and comments racheting up the tension between Mexico and the United States over paying for that wall.

I had a chance to ask the Republican leadership just moments ago whether the president of the United States should tone it down with Mexico. Take a listen.


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I don't have any advice to give to the president about that issue. We are moving ahead. As the speaker pointed out to our group yesterday, with roughly -- $12 billion to $15 billion. So we intend to address the wall issue ourselves and the president can deal with his relations with other countries on that issue and other issues.


RAJU: Now, that price tag is significant. The first time we've heard congressional leaders say how much it will cost taxpayers to pay for that wall up front. If Mexico doesn't pay it back, that's the bill that the United States could be left with, $12 billion to $15 billion.

And one thing that they did not say was whether or not that funding would be offset by spending cuts. Remember, Republicans have campaigned for years to control deficit spending, saying that new spending needs to be cut in other areas of the budget.

They did not say whether or not this new $12 billion to $15 billion would be offset by corresponding cuts in the budget. So this fight over how to actually pay for this wall with Mexico only just beginning. And Republicans trying to figure out how to deal with it. Expect some resistance from Democrats, particularly in the Senate, guys.

BERMAN: Very interesting what is being said --

BOLDUAN: That's a big deal, if they're not saying how it's going to be offset, Manu.

RAJU: Yes, absolutely. I mean, this is one of the things that they had campaigned on. They've governed with this philosophy, what they call pay as you go. That is something that they didn't really have an answer for.

Speaker Ryan was asked multiple times in the press conference, and didn't address it head-on and finally said, well, we're going to wait to see what the administration eventually proposes, I don't want to get ahead of the administration.

So they haven't quite figured out exactly how to deal with it, as all these other major agenda items are coming forward, their plans on Obamacare. They haven't thought about how to get this border wall through. As you know, this is Donald Trump's central campaign promise and something he is going to be pushing rather aggressively.

BOLDUAN: It also does pose a bit of a conundrum. Manu, thank you so much.

[11:05:02]Because Donald Trump's point is it's going to be paid for by Mexico so Republicans are facing how the taxpayers pay for it doesn't need to be paid for by cuts elsewhere if Mexico is going to foot the bill eventually, that's a conundrum.

BERMAN: Yes, it is. You know, $18 billion will be hard to come up with even it is only temporary.

All right, now, what is this all mean for Mexico right now? President Pena Nieto is facing intense pressure from both the Mexican public and some Mexican lawmakers to cancel his upcoming trip to Washington because President Trump continues to say Mexico will pay for the wall.

The question is, what will the Mexican leader do? CNN's Maria Santana joins us now live from Philadelphia. We're all waiting to see if the Mexican leader will cancel this trip.

MARIA SANTANA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, definitely we need to monitor Enrique Pena Nieto's -- the Mexican president's Twitter account, which is unprecedented, that the foreign leaders are responding to each other via social media.

You know, he put out a statement last night, and as we have seen, Donald Trump many times reacts to news reports. And there were reports last night that Pena Nieto was mulling over cancelling this trip to the United States.

But that he was going to wait until a Mexican delegation that is here meeting with senior administration at the White House, he's going to wait for this report before deciding what to do. But he has been under pressure to cancel this meeting.

And, you know, he has said time and time again that Mexico will not pay, indirectly or directly, for this wall. This is what he said last night in a message to Mexican citizens via his Twitter account. Let's listen.


ENRIQUE PENA NIETTO, MEXICAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The decision by the United States to extend the wall which for years has divided us instead of uniting us. Mexico does not believe in walls. I've said time and again, Mexico will not pay for any wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANTANA: And as we have said, he has been under intense pressure from his own citizens, from other lawmakers in Mexico, to cancel this trip. We have heard even the ex-president of Mexico Vicente Fox, you know, basically using expletives on live TV and Twitter to express to Donald Trump that Mexico will absolutely not pay for this wall.

And Pena Nieto has even ordered consulates in the United States to help immigrants and Mexican citizens living here in the United States with all these executive orders that Donald Trump has signed.

And here in Philadelphia, protesters are gathering, despite the steady rain, to protest some of these measures -- Kate and John.

BOLDUAN: All right, Maria, great to see you. Thank you so much. We're going to keep an eye on what's going on in Philadelphia. We're waiting for the president to take off on Air Force One for the very first time leaving to go to Philadelphia to address Republicans.

But let's continue this conversation right now. Democratic congressman from Connecticut, Jim Himes, he is here. Congressman, great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

So as Manu and Maria were both talking about, let's focus on the Twitter feeds. We've got Pena Nieto saying what he said to his citizens. Donald Trump this morning, saying, if you're not going to pay for the wall, you might as well cancel this meeting. You're reaction.

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Let's step back and think about the monumental absurdity of the conversation we're having about offsets and a conversation that affects our relationship with arguably our most important economic and political neighbor.

A wall is a monumentally stupid idea. By the way, don't take it from this Democrat, take it from a guy I served on the Intelligence Committee with a former CIA agent, Republican Congressman Will Hurt, who said this is the least effective and most expensive way to do border control.

This is a fever dream of a president who when he said it, knew nothing about border security and yet, we're talking about offsets. That's one layer of absurdity.

Second layer of absurdity, guys that I don't agree with but who I respect as states men, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, standing up there, and by the way, Paul Ryan voted against $9 billion of Sandy aid, which really made a difference to people in New York and the northeast, and now he's saying we're going to find $14 billion to build a wall which won't work.

I mean, you sort of step back and say, what are we talking about? Our relationship with Mexico is important. Now, Pena Nieto is unpopular in his own country. Trump has said don't come here if you're not going to pay for the wall.

What sort of political position does that put the president of Mexico in? What does it say that the first thing our president did in dealing with an important neighbor is sticking his finger in his eye?

BERMAN: You tell us. What does it say to you? You called it monumentally stupid that we're even having this discussion. So what does it say to you that he's doing it on Twitter?

HIMES: And by the way, nobody is disputing that we shouldn't work harder on border safety. I sit on the Intelligence Committee. I understand how important it is that we keep out people who shouldn't be here. But nobody says that the wall is a good idea.

Now we're taking this very bad idea and we are creating a huge political problem for a neighbor, you know, and Mexico has its challenges, right? Mexico has immense violence. We need to work with them and we do work with them on things like drug interdiction, ongoing after the immense amount of cocaine that is produced and shipped from there.

[11:10:02]And yet it is a Trumpian fever dream, a crazy idea that is going to drive U.S./Mexican relations for the next couple of months.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, do you -- he signed the executive order. Do you think the wall is going to be built?

HIMES: So what really happens here? You know, how Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell ten years from now are going to look back on their behavior now, where they didn't have the courage to stand up and say, hey, guys, this is a bad idea, can we please move on to jobs for the American people?

BOLDUAN: But even without your support, do you think more wall is going to be erected on the U.S./Mexico border?

HIMES: Donald Trump, I've criticized him for a lot of ways, but marketing is something he's got down. So you know, what happens in the end here, there will be ten miles of wall built, that's going to be the wall, and it will be beautiful. Not only Mexico will ever pay for it, but that will allow Donald Trump to say here's my wall and move on to the next thing, whatever that might be.

BERMAN: This week has been filled with executive actions, Donald Trump signing things, a lot of it, you know, fulfilling at least with the pens some of his campaign promises. Do you think there will be real effects to what he is signing this week or do you think there's more smoke than fire here?

HIMES: Well, there will be effects and it's good news/bad news. The bad news is of course that when there's a draft circulating saying, hey, we're going to start thinking about torture again, black sites, this has a profound effect on our relationships with Europe, for example.

You know, a number of European countries were wrapped up in the whole black site thing, it was a huge political issue for them. Just the mere contemplation out of the oval office about waterboarding and black sites is going to, today, damage the willingness of our European allies to share intelligence with us. BERMAN: Even if it never happens.

HIMES: Even if it never happens. That is such a charged issue. That is a violation of U.S. law and international law. Today, intelligence agencies around Europe are saying, boy, can we continue to work with the Americans if this is the direction they're going.

BOLDUAN: So that's in a draft memo. But also, on television last night, Donald Trump was asked about waterboarding. He was asked about his position on torture. When you hear Donald Trump say that he's going to listen to his cabinet, but he absolutely thinks that waterboarding and torture works, what's your reaction to that? You sit on the intel committee.

HIMES: It's another fantasy. This won't be true six months from now, but I've spent a lot more time as a member of the intelligence committee with our intelligence community chiefs than Donald Trump has, and not one of them will say or has said that torture works.

By the way, there's a lot of very smart soldiers with stars on their shoulders who are saying, you know what, if we start saying waterboarding is OK with terrorists, when we get troops captured somewhere, they're going to waterboard our Marine.

Donald Trump said he spoke with intel leaders in the last 24 to 48 hours who said that it works.

HIMES: Yes, well, he also said there was 3 million to 5 million fraudulent votes cast. He says whatever he needs to say to justify his own position, but rarely are those statements rooted in reality.

BERMAN: Last question because we have to let you go. You seemed alarmed as you're sitting with us here today about a lot of different things that the president is doing. What are you going to do about it?

HIMES: Well, you know, the American people saw fit to put the Democrats pretty deep in the minority in the House where we don't have a lot of tools in the minority. But we are going to keep sounding the alarm around the effects, and I described some of them with respect to our ability to work with our allies on counterterrorism issues.

Those are less strong efforts, because of what the president has said, than they were yesterday. We're going to talk about what it means for 30 million Americans to be thrown off their health insurance if they in fact repeal the Affordable Care Act.

We're going to talk to people, our constituents, not just our constituents, but people in Texas about what it means if Planned Parenthood clinics all over this country go away.

So we're going to keep telling that story and we'll see the same energy that we saw at that demonstration in Washington on the Saturday after the inauguration just grow in its intensity and strength.

BERMAN: You marched with your family there. Congressman Jim Hines, thanks for being with us. I appreciate it.

HIMES: Thank you. Great to be here.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Congressman.

All right, coming up for us, President Trump continues to insist that millions of illegal votes were cast during the election even though he has offered no proof. So where did he get this and what does it have to do with the game of golf? That's next.

BERMAN: And president Trump cracks down on so-called sanctuary cities, but some mayors are vowing to fight back. One has offered city hall, even his office, for shelter to protect the undocumented.



BOLDUAN: You're looking live right now at pictures of Joint Base Andrews where President Trump is landing for the first time on Marine One. You're seeing it right there. He'll be departing Marine One and boarding Air Force One for the very first time, heading off on his first trip outside of D.C. going to Philadelphia, to address and speak to his party, House Republicans, Senate Republicans, gathering together for their annual retreat there.

BERMAN: Of course, as we said, he'll get on Air Force One and fly to that. Let's keep this picture up, because this is history, this is the president's first time aboard Marine One, the presidential helicopter, will be his first time flying officially on Air Force One, the presidential plane.

So we'll keep this picture up. We do want to bring in the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, right now. There's a lot to discuss with some of the actions that the president has been taking. Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate your time, sir.

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D), LOS ANGELES: Good morning, John and Kate, how are you?

BERMAN: So before leaving on Marine One, President Trump has been, it seems, baiting the Mexican leader, Enrique Pena Nieto, about this issue of the border wall and who will pay for it. The president wrote, "If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting." You're reaction to that?

GARCETTI: Well, I think, you know, Mexico is our most important trading partner. Here in Los Angeles, we have a shared history. International relations are going to be a critical part of our economic expansion and jobs creation in this country. So I think it's very important to stay engaged.

And here in Los Angeles, you know, we're looking at what we can do to continue to protect our economy, make our streets safe, and to make sure that our families are united. And I think that is very important, given the context of the executive orders yesterday.

BOLDUAN: And Mayor, do you think the statement that John just read right there, do you see this as an effective way to negotiate, to work with Mexico? Do you see kind of a power play here?

GARCETTI: I'm not going to second-guess the president's strategies. I'll just say we engage a lot with Mexico. We get a lot of investment from Mexico. Our companies in Los Angeles sell a lot of things to Mexico. Everybody knows Panda Express, for instance, I went down and helped them open up 150 new stores in Mexico. That food is manufactured here by American workers in Los Angeles.

[11:20:12]That creates jobs, when you engage. So I never second-guess people's strategic approaches, but I think staying engaged is critically important to our safety, whether it's border security or jobs here in America.

BERMAN: And again, we're watching the president about to get out of the presidential helicopter, Marine One, and walk over to Air Force One for his first official flight aboard that plane.

Mr. Mayor, the president signed executive actions this week threatening to basically to pull funding from cities like yours that serve as so-called sanctuary cities, which means that local law enforcement doesn't necessarily work with the federal government on enforcing some immigration laws. He's threatened to pull DHS funding on that. Is this something that you intend to fight him on?

GARCETTI: Well, I don't think that, you know, taking away city funding, our tax dollars, that we should be able to determine how we want to spend locally, is the right approach, any more than I think as a father that separating families is the right approach.

I think we need to make sure we fix a broken immigration system. But absolutely in the Obama administration and in the Trump administration, cities have banded together to stand up for our local economies, for safety on our streets.

And police chief after police chief here in Los Angeles and throughout the country who I think know policing best say that the trust of the people they police is most important. We want federal law enforcement officials to do their job with federal laws.

But we don't enforce tax laws, we don't enforce mail fraud, and I don't want to take my cops off of that important work because of an ideological wish of anybody in the White House.

BOLDUAN: Let's pause for one second, this is a big moment, President Trump boards Air Force One for the very first time to take his trip on his new plane.

BERMAN: He didn't stop and wave. A lot of presidents will turn around and wave, perhaps we'll see that in future trips.

BOLDUAN: We shall see, you never can predict, as you say, Mr. Mayor. But continuing the conversation where we were, you were talking about sanctuary cities like L.A., how do you intend to fight back, though? If this moves forward, what does L.A. do about it?

GARCETTI: We have something called the United States Constitution, which says very clearly, also to the Obama administration, in a court decision last year, that the federal government can't put a financial gun to the head of local governments.

That's what this country was founded on, local sovereignty, the idea that we can make decisions about what's best for our economies, best for our streets, you know, and so-called sanctuary counties, the crime rate is lower. We have higher economic prosperity, less unemployment.

We know after four decades of many different police chiefs telling us what works best that we need to protect that best approach to policing. So absolutely we're prepared to do that in court.

But we hope that we can come together with this administration and fix a broken system that doesn't work for anybody. I don't want to see families split up. I don't want to see our economy weakened. I don't want to see my streets less safe.

BERMAN: And I understand you are willing to help provide lawyers for people to avoid deportation if the federal government tries to remove them?

GARCETTI: Absolutely. Remember, these dreamers, for instance, I'm the grandson of one of them, my grandfather came over the border from Mexico, volunteered in World War II, got his citizenship. These are patriots and these are people who get due process.

We want to make sure that there's due process for folks. Military families, for instance, 50,000 parents whose children served our country wearing their uniform, as I did.

And anybody who served in our military knows how many immigrants are in our military. They might not even have their parents there when they come back from war.

So we think it's important to protect that due process and to make sure that we get to the main issue, which is a comprehensive immigration reform package that allows people who are patriots to become citizens and contribute.

BOLDUAN: Mayor Garcetti, we'll have a lot more to talk about as a lot of these executive orders get put into action. Thanks for your time.

GARCETTI: Absolutely. Look forward to it. Thank you.

BERMAN: arty, as we await the president's departure from Joint Base Andrews, this fight fire with fire, President Trump says he's open to bringing back torture. So up next, why the two people will be in charge of carrying out those practices were allegedly blindsided.




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When ISIS is doing things that nobody has ever heard of since medieval times, would I feel strongly about waterboarding? As far as I'm concerned, we have to fight fire with fire.

Now, with that being said, I'm going with General Mattis, I'm going with my secretary, because I think Pompeo is going to be phenomenal. I'm going to go with what they say.

But I have spoken, as recently as 24 hours ago, with people at the highest level of intelligence, and I asked them the question, does it work, does torture work, and the answer was yes, absolutely.


BOLDUAN: That is President Donald Trump saying he will defer to his national security team on the very important issue of torture. But as you heard right there, he absolutely believes it works. This on top of a report that the administration is considering reopening CIA black sites. Other reports also say that Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, that they were blindsided by this memo.

BERMAN: All right, let's bring in CNN senior political commentator, Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator and Republican presidential candidate. Also with us, Bob Baer, former CIA operative.

Bob, first to you, you just heard the president there speaking about torture. You also hear about this memo circulating where the president may be directing -- if he signs it, maybe directing agencies to look into reopening black sites, look into the possibility of reinstituting enhanced interrogation techniques. Your reaction, Bob?

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: John, it's not going to go --