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Trump: Mexico should Pay for Wall or Cancel Meeting; Democrats Seek Proof of Voter Fraud Claims; Trump, UK Prime Minister Set to Meet. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 26, 2017 - 10:00   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: It is the latest volley shot across the border in the ongoing fight over building a wall and who exactly is going to pay for that wall. Just minutes ago, we heard Republican leaders at a Congressional retreat in Philadelphia. They're gathered to discuss their agenda. And at least some of the focus shifted to the wall. Mr. Trump is due to speak to lawmakers in just a couple of hours.

Our Sara Murray, live at the White House. CNN's Manu Raju, live in Philadelphia. He's at that GOP retreat. Leyla Santiago is in Mexico City. But Sara, I would like to start off with you. Good morning.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Well, we are seeing tensions between the U.S. and Mexico simmering in recent days. Of course, we saw Donald Trump move with this Executive Action to finish this border wall that he touted throughout the presidential campaign. And we saw a fierce reaction to that yesterday from Mexican President Pena Nieto who addressed his country and essentially said, we are not in favor of walls and we're certainly not going to pay for it.

Well, Donald Trump woke up this morning and he shot back on Twitter. This is what he wrote. "The U.S. has a 60 billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico. It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of NAFTA with massive numbers of jobs and companies lost. If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting."

The two were slated to meet next week. And the Mexican president, of course, is catching plenty of heat in his own country for agreeing to this meeting. We will see if it still comes to fruition. As for Donald Trump, today we are expecting him to take some Executive Actions on trade. He's also going to be heading to Philly for that GOP retreat. Carol?

COSTELLO: All right. Sara Murray thanks so much. Now, I want to bring in our CNN senior political reporter Manu Raju. He's in Philadelphia. What was the reaction from your standpoint, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Republicans were actually -- broke some news here. The Republican leadership saying how much it will cost to build that wall, saying it will cost between $12 and $15 billion. That is the first time we have heard a price tag from the Republican leadership. But also, Republicans, now wanting to get into it, with Donald Trump not raising concerns about this increasingly tense relationship between the new President of the United States and the President of Mexico. I had a chance to ask the Republican leadership about that. Here is the exchange.


RAJU: As you know, the president has demanded that Mexico pay for the wall. The Mexican president said that they will not pay for the wall. And Donald Trump just said that the Mexican president should cancel the upcoming meeting if Mexico does not agree to pay for the wall. Do you think the president should tone it down to salvage this relationship with Mexico?

SEN. 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 -- what is it, roughly --


MCCONNELL: Yes, $12 to $15 billion. So, we intend to address the wall issues ourselves and the president can deal with his relations with other countries on that issue and other issues.

RAJU: Are you concerned about the relationship with Mexico?

RYAN: I think we'll be fine.


RAJU: So, not wanting to pick a fight with the new president, not raising concerns, even as this relationship between the two countries gets increasingly strained. But also later in the press conference, Carol, the Republican leadership, not saying whether that the $12 to $15 billion will be offset by spending cuts or whether it would add to the deficit. They said that this is something that they're going to deal with later. The administration is going to actually put together a proposal to send to Congress to vote on this.

So, as we know, Donald Trump has insisted that Mexico will pay for it. But a lot of concerns here, Carol, that if Mexico doesn't pay for it, will taxpayers get stuck with a rather expensive bill. That's a big question still going forward. Carol?

COSTELLO: All right, Manu Raju, reporting live from Philadelphia. Now, I want to take you to Mexico City. Because you heard what Donald Trump tweeted out this morning that maybe Mexico's president shouldn't meet with the President of the United States if Mexico wasn't going to agree to pay for that wall. Has that that tweet Leyla Santiago, made its way to the President's Office in Mexico?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has absolutely made its way to the President's Office. I checked with them, just minutes after that tweet went out and they were very much aware of that. So, now, it's just a wait and see -- let's see how he responds. But let's go over the sequence of events, what led up to this.

You see, just a few days ago, the senators, the Mexican senators called on the President Enrique Pena Nieto, to cancel that trip. And that has not happened yet. Instead, last night, Pena Nieto put out newly about -- a three-minute video in which he responded. Saying, look, we don't believe in walls, we're not paying for that wall, but we do believe in friendship and we want to be friends. And all along Pena Nieto has said that, because his message has been, we need each other, right? We've got NAFTA, that's huge trade. We're talking about $1.5 billion in goods that cross that border every single day between the two countries. And the Mexican government is also very quick to point out how much U.S. jobs depend on Mexican trade. 6 million U.S. jobs depend on Mexican trade.

[10:05:15] So, those are some of the big talking points that have come -- that they've been putting out to sort of create that awareness of how much the countries depend on each other. -- Those were the talking about points that were sent with the delegation that is in D.C. right now. The economic minister, as well as the foreign minister, scheduled for a series of meetings today, yesterday as well.

So, now, Pena Nieto will be waiting to hear what they report back. But the Office of the President, of the Mexican president has yet to say we will or will not cancel this meeting today. Carol?

COSTELLO: All right, Leyla Santiago, reporting live from Mexico City. So let's talk about this. Ryan Lizza is with me. He's a CNN political commentator and Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker." Matt Viser joins me. He's a national political reporter for "The Boston Globe." And Hipolito Acosta is a former senior executive at the Department of Homeland Security. Manu Raju also joins us. Thanks to all of you. OK. So, Ryan, if you were a betting man, is that meeting going to take place between the Mexican president and President Trump next week?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND WASHINGTON CORRESPODENT "THE NEW YORKER": You know I've stopped making predictions like that a long time ago in the current political environment. You know, just diplomatically, this is certainly a new way to engage in international diplomacy, by publicly tweeting threats to one of the United States' closest allies. So, I don't know if it's going to happen or not.

One point I will make, as Manu has already pointed out, this number, the House and Senate leadership has thrown out, $12 to $14 billion for the border wall, is a pretty big deal, I think. I mean, -- this shows that Donald Trump is controlling the agenda on Capitol Hill right now. He has turned the Republican Party on this issue of immigration into his image. Remember, Paul Ryan was someone who always supported the Comprehensive Immigration Reform that was a sort of bipartisan compromise, was not someone who was big on building a wall.

And just for viewers to put that in perspective, $12 to $14 billion, you know, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, their annual budget is like $6 to $7 billion. So, that is an enormous amount of money to build that wall.

COSTELLO: So, Manu, is President Trump controlling the agenda? Are lawmakers, for lack of a better term, slaves to him at the moment?

RAJU: He is really driving the agenda. Ryan is absolutely right. Remember, in a separate issue, on Obamacare, initially Republicans wanted to repeal the law and then deal with the replacement later, maybe two years, maybe three years. But Donald Trump tweeting and saying publicly that the replacement needs to happen at the same time. And that also shifted the agenda rather quickly. Now, the Republicans are trying to figure out how to time it together. So, repeal will happen at the same time as a replacement.

Similarly with the wall, funding the wall, this was something that was not at the top of the agenda going forward. They were looking at dealing with Obamacare, dealing with tax reform, killing regulations. But the fact that the President of the United States campaigned on this issue, now wants to make it a major issue going forward, and is going to send his own proposal to Congress to fund upwards of $15 billion to pay for the wall, it is going to be a huge debate on Capitol Hill.

So, it just shows that -- their best-laid plans can be upset rather quickly when Donald Trump decides he wants to push, assert himself on this issue, and the Republican leadership is still trying to figure out how to manage that relationship, Carol.

COSTELLO: Matt, remember back in the day not so long ago when people were saying, you know, Donald Trump just says stuff but he doesn't really mean it. Can you say that anymore?

MATT VISER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER "THE BOSTON GLOBE": Well, in some ways, he's still a little bit unpredictable. You know take the Executive Order that he's looking at in respect to waterboarding, for example. During the campaign he talked about waterboarding. It was certainly one of the things he brought up with crowds. He sort of backed off of that with "The New York Times" and with General Mattis and his comments, sort of saying that waterboarding was not effective. Now we're getting word there may be an Executive Order on waterboarding.

So, I still think that he is unpredictable in his policies. But what's different now is that as president, he's filing legislation, he's going to name a Supreme Court nominee. You have actual actions that he's doing, which is different from the campaign where he was sort of talking, and backing off of things and stressing things and sort of different given each week. So, now I think, you know, you're starting to really see, and we'll see over the next couple of weeks sort of what develops, what is his core, what ideology does he try and push, what things does he care about. So, I think that's still a work in progress. But we're starting to see some early signs of it.

[10:10:13] COSTELLO: OK. So, Hipolito, lots of questions for you, you're Homeland Security, right? So, let's talk about the wall first off. $12 billion, taxpayer money will probably be used to pay for that wall at least in the short term unless Mexico really does agree to pay for the wall. But from your perspective, from a safety perspective, from keeping people out of this country that shouldn't be in this country, is that the best use of our taxpayer dollars?

HIPOLITO ACOSTA, FORMER SENIOR EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, I think, Carol, one of the important things about President Trump is that he's sending out a strong message. He is serious about immigration enforcement. And realistically, I think the wall is just one of the components that he's bringing forward because there are sort of things that are going to be coming down. Number one, that wall is not going to be entirely across the border. I think he's going to take advisers that are very keen on what border security is. And they're going to determine -- where the wall is actually needed.

But I think the components are coming down the line are the catch and release policies, the sanctuary city issues. I think he spoke as this is going to be on criminal aliens. And one of the important things that --that might be one of the components but he's talking about enforcing the laws that we have on the books already, which haven't been done for decades. And that's the important thing. Increasing, tripling I.C.E. agents throughout the country is an important measure for interior enforcement.

So, when you combine all the measures that President Trump has brought forward, it's going to be effective. The cost is a different matter. But is it important for the security of the country? I think the securing of the border is a big priority for the president. And that includes interior enforcement, eliminating the catch and release policy that goes back to the days of our President Reagan. --


COSTELLO: I want to ask you -- about the relationship with Mexico too. I understand your point, very good point. I just want to ask you too about the relationship that the United States has with Mexico, because I'm sure you've worked with Mexican authorities on Homeland Security issues. So, how important is it to have a good relationship with Mexico?

ACOSTA: Well, you're entirely right. I worked in Mexico for eight years with our diplomatic core. It's very important. We worked day in and day out. It's important. We ran operations together with Mexican authorities. I expect that that relationship is going to -- continue at the field level. It's been going on for years. And I think it will continue and certainly --

COSTELLO: So, maybe at the field level, about what about at the top with the President of the United States? What do you make of this -- what appears to be a growing rift between the two countries?

ACOSTA: Well, you know, -- President Trump is very clear about what he wants to do for the country, securing the borders, making America first. But also, remember one thing about the relationship between President Nieto and President Trump. -- The Mexican president still has to be concerned about the 8, 9, 10 million people of Mexican citizenship there are in the United States. So, you know, it is a sensitive matter. So, I think the relationship is going to continue, those topics -- are going to be covered. And so, the President of Mexico is not going to forget he has a large number of people in the country, in the United States, who originally came from Mexico, whether they're here undocumented or not, they still have a responsibility to certainly represent them in the best way they can.

COSTELLO: All right. I have to leave it there. Ryan Lizza, Matt Viser, Hipolito Acosta, Manu Raju, thanks to all of you.

Coming up in the NEWSROOM, President Trump still repeating those debunked claims of widespread voter fraud. Now Democrats are taking matters into their own hands.


[10:17:55] COSTELLO: All right. You're looking at a live picture of Air Force One, that plane awaiting the arrival of President Donald Trump. He will depart the White House on his first official trip on Air Force One. And he's going to fly to Philadelphia to address the House and Senate Republican lawmakers. They're having that retreat in Philadelphia. He's expected to speak around noon Eastern Time. Perhaps Mr. Trump will answer a few questions as he boards Air Force One. We just don't know. But we will of course be eager to hear what he says to Republican lawmakers in Philadelphia. We'll keep you posted.

President Trump has also been steadfast in his false claims that millions voted illegally. But he has not garnered much support within Washington, even from within his own party. And the response from Democrats, prove it. I'm joined now by Congressman Robert Brady. He is one of three House Democrats who sent a letter to election officials and attorneys general in all 50 states asking for evidence of voter fraud. Congressman, thanks for being here.

REP. ROBERT BRADY, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you for having me.

COSTELLO: So, what specifically do you want from these attorneys general?

BRADY: We want to find out whether it was voter fraud, whether people voted illegally. We sent a letter. It comes under my committee on the House administration. And we sent the letter to all our attorney generals and elected officials in every state and we want them to report back to us just what they know. We want to make sure that the integrity of our election process is still intact and instill the confidence with the American people.

That hey, you know, it's not a rigged system. There aren't people that voted illegally. And they come back and report to us. We do think that they will probably say the same thing. Probably why the Republicans aren't supporting it or don't want to do anything about it because they know and have said that they don't think there's anything wrong. But our president, President Trump has made an accusation and it's incumbent upon us to follow through and just see where the chips lie.

COSTELLO: Well, he says he's going to put together this task force to look into voter fraud. I'm talking about President Trump. So -- [10:20:00] BRADY: Well that comes under -- our supervision on House administration. And we've done this before, many, many times. We've investigated voter fraud throughout the country. And we're going to do it again, you know, myself and Elijah Cummings, Ranking Member of the Oversight Committee, and our assistant to the Minority Leader, Mr. Clyburn, we're going to do that for him. We'll do our job.

COSTELLO: But what is the underlying reason that you're so amenable to this?

BRADY: He's the President of the United States. He made an accusation. If anyone, a member of Congress or a member of the news media, come to us and say we think there's voter fraud somewhere, its incumbent upon us to do our job and investigate it. And that's what we're doing. I don't think there's anything there. But we'll find out. Again, it's the integrity of the voting process. We can't investigate Russia that we feel that there was some tampering there. But we can investigate the United States and ask our attorneys general to help us along to do that. -- They're the major elected officials in the state.

COSTELLO: Well, there is a move in the Senate. Several Senate committees are going to investigate the Russian hacking. So, those are already underway.

BRADY: That's fine. We want that to happen too. But I can't do that. I can't send a letter to Russia. But I can send a letter to our attorney generals in the United States of America to work along, cooperate with us and find out whether or not there was any voter fraud. You know, the part of the issue is that -- let's talk about 3 million popular votes that -- President Trump did not receive.

I served under George Bush who also didn't receive the popular vote. But he moved on. He moved on. He didn't bring it up. He just moved on and did what he thinks he had to do, how he got to do it as being the president. They worried about that. I don't think he worried about the amount of people that came in his inaugural, who had more people, who was watching and streaming it.

I mean, there are more important things. We've got infrastructure. We've got to try to hopefully do some things that tweak, not get rid of, the Affordable Care Act. Now they want to build a wall for $12 or $15 billion, it will probably turn into $20 billion. I would like to see how our conservative colleagues are going to do or react to that.

COSTELLO: Let me ask you about that. How do you think eventually the wall will be paid for?

BRADY: I hope not by the American people's taxes. -- I really do.


COSTELLO: In the short term it appears like the American taxpayers will.

BRADY: We haven't passed that yet. Well, we've got to pass that. You know, there won't be any Democratic votes for it. They have to go to their freedom caucus, their ultraconservatives that don't want to spend any money on anything, and let's just see what they do.

COSTELLO: And I also want to pick your brain about the meeting between President Trump and the Mexican president. That's up in the air now. The Mexican president says he's thinking about not going. Since Donald Trump is insisting that the President of Mexico pay for the wall. Do you think that meeting will happen?

BRADY: I don't know. I mean, I don't know. I know that the President of Mexico has been saying through the campaign that he wasn't going to pay for the wall. And he's saying now he's not going to pay for the wall. I don't know what could happen or what they could do to make him pay for the wall. I don't know. I just know that -- I just feel that the American people, that money can be much better spent on infrastructure, some other things that we need to do.

People in my district and districts throughout the country need jobs. We need to create some jobs. They're worried, naturally, about their health care. And they're worried about what they're going to feed and how they're going to pay their bills. To spend $12 to $15 billion, and if they do approve it, they'll probably come back and have to spend more than that. I think that it would be best served doing other things with that money than what they want to do to build a wall. -- I doubt whether or not Mexico is going to pay for it, unless there's a new president coming somewhere, I don't know. Of Mexico, that is. --

COSTELLO: We'll have to wait and see what happens. Congressman Robert Brady, thank you for joining me this morning.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Donald Trump prepares for a big meeting -- with one of the United States' top allies, a preview of British Prime Minister Theresa May's visit, ahead.


[10:28:43] COSTELLO: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me. The United States' special relationship with the U.K. will be on full display this week as Donald Trump hosts British Prime Minister Theresa May tomorrow. May, who is also attending the Republican retreat today in Philadelphia, will become the first foreign leader to meet with Mr. Trump since his inauguration. And May's visit comes at a time when Mr. Trump's rhetoric and proposals are raising eyebrows with some of his counterparts around the world. CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins me now from Washington with more. Hi, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Hi, Carol. Good morning. Well, Theresa May is bringing with her a message and hope. A hope for a good trade deal with the United States in the future because of course, she needs that Britain's leave in the European Union. But what she's going to talk about is strengthening that special relationship. She's going to talk about how Britain and the United States together have helped win wars.

But more than that, -- she's expected to say that Britain and the United States helped build the world, really dip and dig into history here to create that common narrative, that common thread. -- This is an opportunity for her to show Britain's closeness with the United States at this time. But it doesn't come without its challenges. Back home in the U.K., she's facing questions about what else she's going to talk to Donald Trump about -- you know, not just trade, but is she going to raise the issue of terrorism -- of torture rather. And this is something that she said that she is very firm on, very clear, Britain is opposed to torture.