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Trump Orders "Extreme Vetting" of Refugees; Man Claims Proof of 3 Million Illegal Votes, Won't Share Data; Trump Cites Unverified Data in Election Fraud. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 27, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:11] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. John Berman here, in for Anderson.

We do have breaking news. Details of President Trump's executive action on refugees including this one, a ban on all refugees that will last four months. So, not only have the developments been coming almost hour by hour all week long as the Trump administration gets rolling, they've been coming in every size, shape, and color.

There's what we see, whether it's the executive orders and conversations with world leaders. There's what we hear, is going on behind closed doors, conversations and concerns among Republican lawmakers about just how to fix Obamacare or build a wall with Mexico. And there's also what we have to guess, is the basis for some of his assertions as he continues to push substantiated claims of voter fraud with no evidence to support it.

Tonight, we have stories in all of those categories from all points in a compass, starting with CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto at the Pentagon where President Trump welcomed his defense secretary to the job and signed that executive action on refugees that is getting a lot of attention tonight, Jim.

Let's talk about that executive action and what the president says institutes extreme vetting of immigrants. What exactly does that mean?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, key measure of this extreme vetting, hard to call it anything else but a religious test. The seven country singled out, they're Muslim majority countries. The exceptions, one of the exceptions in this executive order talks about minority religions in those majority Muslim countries, which, of course, by definition means not Muslim. There's that.

But there's also the question as to what data justifies this. When you look at these countries, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, certainly countries that have terror problems but no clear definition of the data that shows that people from those countries, whether they're students or family members, et cetera, have a higher incidence of being terrorists, right, which is what the president describes this as, as a measure to prevent terrorists from entering the U.S. And I'll just note this finally, John, he mentioned the executive

order repeatedly 9/11, but be clear -- the four countries that the 9/11 hijackers were from, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Lebanon, none of those four countries are on this list. So, certainly causing great upset from the people affected by it, but the ACLU, Democrats, some Republicans as well.

BERMAN: The president also signed an executive order calling for a more aggressive, you know, military action against ISIS. What exactly does that mean?

SCIUTTO: That's right. Well, I spoke to a defense official tonight who described the meeting between the president, the defense secretary, the joint chief of staffs. He would not specify specific actions but we did have on background earlier in the day some of the things on the table are things like arming rebels inside Syria.

That's a step the Obama administration considered but did not take. They were worried about those weapons getting into the wrong hands. But also more aggressive steps, more American boots on the ground in Syria, the deployment of attack helicopters, U.S. artillery, all things that would certainly increase firepower against ISIS but also put U.S. troops at greater risk.

BERMAN: All right. Jim Sciutto who is obviously not at the Pentagon tonight. Thanks so much, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Of course.

BERMAN: Great to see you, no matter where you are.

More now on refugees. And to expand on what Jim mentioned, the executive action prioritizes claims made by people on the basis of religious-based persecution, as long as the person applying for refugee status is a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality. President Trump hinted at this during a conversation with the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody.


DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: Persecuted Christians. We've talked about this overseas. The refugee program that -- or the refugee changes you're looking to make, as it relates to persecuted Christians, do you see them as a priority here?


BRODY: You do?

TRUMP: They've been horribly treated. Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria, it was impossible, very, very -- at least very, very tough to get into the United States. If you were a Muslim, you could come in. But if you're a Christian, it was almost impossible.

And the reason that that was so unfair is everybody was persecuted in all fairness, but they were chopping off the heads of everybody -- but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So, we are going to help them.


BERMAN: Trump focusing his attention on persecution Christians face especially in places where ISIS holds sway. However, that claim that they are as a group facing discrimination for entry here, that's questionable. New figures from Pew Research show that 44 percent of the refugees entering the country this year are Christian, 46 percent Muslim. So, it's a pretty even split, even though the top countries for refugees entering the country are heavily or virtually, entirely Muslim.

Let's bring in the panel right now. CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein, Kirsten Powers, Trump supporter and contributor to "The Hill", Kayleigh McEnany, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, and "The Daily Beast's" Matt Lewis.

[20:05:04] You know, Kayleigh, it is interesting. Today is also International Holocaust Remembrance Day. And the White House itself put out a memo and the last line of the memo was, "Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world."

So, some people have noted the irony when you're talking about love and tolerance throughout the world the same day you're issuing bans on certain people entering the country. Is that consistent?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is consistent, because what Donald Trump sees as he looks around the world and sees that there have been problems with the refugee program, we've seen it in Germany. We've seen this mass flood of immigration and we've seen terrorist attacks waged on German soil and elsewhere, some of which were conducted by refugees. It's a small minority, yes, but nevertheless one that has to be looked at and considered.

And I have to say, you know, this talk about Christians being prioritized, I'm not certain why this is at all controversial because first of all, when you look at the definition of what it means to be a refugee, it means you're persecuted on the basis of religion. We know, Congress, the House passed a resolution 393-0, recognizing the genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and religious minorities across the Middle East.

So, the fact we would prioritize the most marginalized discriminated against group within the Middle East in a refugee program is not a subject of controversy.

BERMAN: Those who are religiously persecuted, yes, they are often the most prioritized refugees. I think the reason it's being discussed tonight is because the president mentioned Christians. He did not in that instance, in that interview mention Yazidis, in this interview with David Brody.

Kirsten Powers, you know, you right a lot about this, about religious persecution throughout the world and you've said you talked to people inside the administration. Does this protection and prioritization that the president is talking about extend to Yazidis, does it extend to Sunnis, does it extend to Sunnis in Syria or Shiites in Sunni countries?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I've been taking to human rights lawyers about it. I haven't talked to anyone in the organization, but the human rights lawyers I've talked to said basically what the draft executive order says would apply to the Yazidis. I don't know what other groups. There are small Muslim sects that are horribly discriminated against.

But, certainly, Christians are one of the primary groups that have been persecuted in the Middle East by ISIS and that is why, as Kayleigh said, it was the Obama administration designated it as a genocide. So, it would make perfect sense that they would be put at the top of the list.

And I think -- actually to defend Donald Trump in this case, he was asked a specific question about Christian persecution. So, he was just answering the question. I don't think -- I think if you look -- if the text is the same as with the draft is, it's quite clear it doesn't just apply to Christians.

BERMAN: But, Hilary Rosen, while Christians are being persecuted, there's no question, inside Syria, a lot of the victims of the Assad regime, a lot of the victims of ISIS there are Muslim.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. I don't have a problem with the point that Kirsten just said but I have a problem with Donald Trump somehow suggesting -- he didn't suggest it, he actually said it, that Christians haven't been allowed into our country and Muslims have. When we saw the facts that, you know, at the opening that said that actually there's been a pretty equal amount of Christians coming in and Muslims coming in.

And so, it's just factually not true and it's unnecessarily inflammatory for him to say that there's no -- you know, hat Christians have had trouble coming in and that the United States somehow the implication is that the Obama administration, that's his implication, the Obama administration --

MCENANY: Syrian refugees -- he was talking about the Syrian refugee program as of 2016, a study was done, 11,000 Syrian refugees were let in, 56 were Christian of the 11,000. So, the fact presented wasn't really relevant at all to Donald Trump's point.

ROSEN: He didn't actually say that. What he said was Christians are having trouble getting into the country.

POWERS: I think what he was talking about --


POWERS: I think he probably heard it. He probably -- I don't even if he would know this for sure what some of the human rights people say, the Christians are having trouble on the U.N. side, the U.N. camps basically that are processing them. But, you know --

(CROSSTALK) POWERS: No, no, I agree. I should say I don't agree with this ban of not letting the refugees come in. I just think on this issue, I think we should be clear, that he's talking about once the program is restarted, when presumably other Muslims will be let in as well, that there would be a priority of religious prosecution --

BERMAN: Carl, again, critics -- what critics often say is this gets to the character of America, what is America. Is this country a place that is open and welcoming to refugees or for the next 120 days, clearly, it is not.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's the real question. I'm not sure in this atmosphere if my grandparents came here that they would be admitted to this country the way that they were. I think we need to look at the bigger picture here, and that is that we are seeing Donald Trump addressed his base politically, fuel for the fire, instead of doing a carefully planned, carefully considered factual- based program.

[20:10:09] Has he sat down with the homeland security people? Has he talked to the experts? Has there been real planning for this?

I know of no evidence of this. This is more symbolism and rhetoric than it is rooted in fact from what we can see so far. Also, we have been protected by the measures we have had to a remarkable degree since 9/11.

Our system has worked much better than Europe has. We have not had the attacks that Europe has. Now, if there is a real existing problem that can be identified and there's some way to more carefully vet people without a lot of rhetoric and playing to the base, that's another thing. But I don't see it here.

BERMAN: Matt Lewis, in the exact executive order I do not believe there is the language listing which countries people would be -- that was floated in the draft. I'm not sure the final version listed those countries, but when they were being discussed, none of them were the countries that included the 9/11 hijackers. Pakistan wasn't in there, Afghanistan wasn't in there either.

So, are you preventing -- Belgium wasn't in there. France wasn't in there. We know terrorists are active right now. So, are you preventing what you're saying you're trying to?

MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, right, I mean, I don't know if it makes sense what the countries that he picked. Maybe Saudi Arabia should be on there. I don't know. But I think it does prove that this is not a religious test because he is clearly not -- there are some countries that are predominantly Muslim that are allowed to come here. This is high risk countries. It is for 120 days.

BERMAN: We don't know -- they say they're going to pick the countries.

LEWIS: Right. BERMAN: We don't know which countries they're going to pick just yet. So --


LEWIS: I guess my point here is that I think that this is a big deal, but I don't want to overblow it. It's for 120 days.

And, look, I think the bottom line is Americans want to be welcoming and generous. But we live in an incredibly dangerous world, and when we see things that are happening in other countries, thankfully not -- hasn't happened as badly here in America.

This is what Donald Trump got elected to do. In fact, you could argue that this is a moderate position compared to what the American public elected him to do.

BERMAN: This is less than the Muslim ban he first introduced, you know --

LEWIS: It is, and he won an election I think, you know, at least partly because of that position.

BERMAN: All right, guys. Stick around.

There's a lot more to discuss tonight, including my conversation with the man President Trump is citing to back up his claim that millions of Americans cast ballots illegally, depriving him of a victory in popular votes. This is your chance to hear what he has to say and decide for yourself whether any of it amounts to evidence.

And later, Republican lawmakers who campaigned on replacing Obamacare now more than a little worried about having to keep that promise.


BERMAN: No shortage of breaking news. We are learning that Vice President Pence seems on board with the president's stated belief that millions voted illegally. According to "The Washington Post," here's what the vice president said behind closed doors at this week's Republican strategy retreat in Philadelphia.

He said, what I can tell you is what I would anticipate that the administration is going to negotiate a full evaluation of voting rolls in the country, the overall integrity of our voting system in the wake of this past election.

And this morning, the president tweeted, "Look forward to seeing final results of VoteStand. Greg Phillips and crew say at least 3 million votes were illegal. We must do better."

Now, he's referring to the individual who claimed to have evidence of massive voter fraud who tweeted just days after the election that he'd be publishing it within days. He did not. However, President Trump is giving national credence now.

Now, we spoke to Gregg Phillips shortly before air time.


BERMAN: Thanks, Gregg, so much for coming in.

You know, it's been about 12 hours since you were on CNN this morning, you said you would not release your evidence that at least 3 million people voted illegally. Will you give us that evidence now?

GREGG PHILLIPS, CLAIMS 3 MILLION VOTED ILLEGALLY IN 2016 ELECTION: I said I wouldn't release it now and it's still now. So, now, we're not prepared to release it. We've had a lot of verification and validation of our own methods and research, and we'll get it out as quick as we can.

BERMAN: So, what does this evidence look like? Are we talking about a list of at least 3 million names?

PHILLIPS: Yes. I mean, we -- we started with a list of 180-some-odd million registered voters in the country. That list has been built over a number of years. We have augmented that list. We've enhanced the list. We've built the list up.

And we have spent a great deal of time building analytics around the list so that we could understand patterns, we could understand what's happening, we could understand who's voting where and when. And it's a very sophisticated operation and we're very proud of it.

BERMAN: Help us understand what types of names are on this list. Will this list include names like Steve Bannon or Jared Kushner or the treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin who are registered in two states? Will those names are going to be on it?

PHILLIPS: No, that's ridiculous. Those are a symptom of a broken process where the United States can't quite understand that we need to have a national or American voter ID that travels with the person much like your Social Security number.

BERMAN: So your list is 3 million people you say are noncitizens.

PHILLIPS: Correct.

BERMAN: So, we were checking the U.S. Census earlier today and the U.S. Census for 2010 said there are about 22 million people in the United States who are noncitizens, 22 million noncitizens. That includes people by the way who are younger than 18, so not eligible to vote. And of that 22 million, you say a minimum of 3 million voted? That's a huge percentage. That's about 15 percent.

You think 15 percent of the people who are not citizens in this country voted in this last election?

PHILLIPS: Well, I would dispute the 22 million. I think both the census numbers and others discount the number of illegal aliens --

[20:20:01] BERMAN: So, say there are 11 million undocumented, then there are 33 million. It's still a huge percentage.

PHILLIPS: We don't think so. We think that the way the system is set up, it's institutionalized the fraud and has not only allowed it to occur but has facilitated and fostered the means through which it occurred.

BERMAN: We don't think so. Do you know so? You know that upwards of 15 percent, maybe 20 percent, because you say the number may be more than 3 million. You know that that many people who are in the United States and aren't citizens voted in this last election?

PHILLIPS: Well, we believe we do, and that's what we're going back and double-checking and confirming and validating, and when we're complete -- we're complete and we're satisfied that we've teased out all of the false positives and challenges that we might face in the execution of it, then we'll expose the list to the public.

BERMAN: We spoke to Justin Levitt, who's a law professor at Loyola, who's been studying voter fraud issues for years and he said he hasn't come across one person who's gone in and intentionally checked the wrong box. You say you're not here to prove intent. What are you here to prove?

PHILLIPS: Our hope is to create an environment where we can develop a data set. Look, if I'm wrong, I'm wrong and I'm going to man up and say I'm wrong.

BERMAN: Look, the ship has sailed on that. Greg, the ship has sailed on, if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. You came out six days after the election saying 3 million people voted illegally and now, the president of the United States is citing your comments and your efforts to say that there's been mass voter fraud in this country. I think that moment has passed for you.

PHILLPS: Obviously, you just want to fight and not listen. So here's the deal. When we complete this analysis, we're going the lay it out to the public. We're going to lay out our methodologies. We're going to lay out our hypothesis. We're going to lay out our outputs. We're going to lay out the raw data for everyone to see.

BERMAN: Have you contacted any of the 3 million voters that you say you have names of to see if they're U.S. citizens or not?


BERMAN: So you haven't checked one name? You haven't called --


BERMAN: You could ask them. You could ask them, hey, did you vote? Are you a U.S. citizen? One name out of 3 million?

PHILLIPS: You do understand I'm a private citizen, right? No one's going to take my call or answer that question.

I'm not a government. I'm not a company. I'm not anything. We're just a bunch of people who believe in the sanctity of the vote and the import of free and fair elections and election integrity.

BERMAN: Well, private citizens can do scholarship. I mean, if you're doing a study, you can cross-check wit the actual people on this list. Not one of them?

PHILLIPS: And we are cross-checking with every available data set that we have.

BERMAN: Except any of the people on the list.

PHILLIPS: It's not my problem.

BERMAN: Your data set isn't your problem, but you're the one producing it.

PHILLIPS: It's not my problem to contact the individual voters. It's inappropriate. I'm -- if we do this and we release those names, we're accusing them of two federal felonies and that's above my pay grade, man. That's something Attorney General Sessions will have to deal with.

BERMAN: But you said you are g their names so you are committed to releasing the names of these people you say are committing felonies.

PHILLIPS: We're committed to ensuring that if in fact the federal government decides to get in and Attorney General Sessions decides to engage in this, along with the rest of the administration, then there won't be much for any of us to do and we'll be able to turn it over the them, let them do the technology match and data match, and let them prosecute the cases. It's not for us to do.

BERMAN: But you are going to release the names, just to be clear.

PHILLIPS: We're -- we're -- I mean, there's a debate amongst us. I mean, there's -- again, there's no leader of us. There's no number of people that are in charge of the rest of us.

BERMAN: But we are talking to you, Gregg, because you are the one who has been speaking publicly and tweeting publicly, and you are the one being cited by the president of the United States now. At the top of this interview and this morning, you said the evidence you'll release is the list of names. But now, you're saying you might not release a list of names?

PHILLIPS: I never said that. Said we don't know yet.

BERMAN: All right. Well, Gregg Phillips, you know, again, we are keenly interested in seeing this evidence and I know the president of the United States says he's keenly interested in seeing it also, so we look forward to the results.

PHILLIPS: Thank you. Appreciate you having me.

BERMAN: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BERMAN: All right. For more on this conversation, with Gregg Phillips, go to We're going to post the interview in its entirety on the site.

There's obviously a lot to talk about there. Back now with the panel.

And, Kirsten, I guess I want to start with you. Just your general impressions of what Gregg Phillips is saying. And remember the reason we are talking to him is he is being cited by the United States.

POWERS: It's concerning that this would be the person that the president of the United States would be pointing us to. I mean, by his own account, he said to -- he answered your questions basically saying he's not capable of even doing the kind of study that you would need to do.

[20:25:01] LEWIS: It's above my pay grade, man.

POWERS: Because he's a regular citizen and not calling people. Then why are we supposed to believe anything he says? I'm at a loss.

BERMAN: Matt Lewis, you know, you talk to Republicans around the country and we all do. There are plenty of elected Republicans around the country who think there are issues with voting rules and voter fraud. I don't know whether some of these Republicans who have their concerns would look at this and say, that's what we're talking about. Look at this right here.

LEWIS: No, look, there's no doubt that voter fraud happens. I'm from Maryland. Back in the '90s, Ellen Sauerbrey arguably had a gubernatorial election stolen from her, Dino Rossi up in the Pacific Northwest, arguably had -- but that's different than 3 million votes being stolen and a presidential race which I think is -- strains credulity to imagine.

And I don't -- I didn't get a lot of comfort in watching him in terms of the way he responded to your questions, but I do think this feeds into unfortunately the fake news phenomenon. And there will be people out there who --


BERMAN: We're not trying to pile on poor Greg Phillips here, but, Kayleigh, the president of the United States is name checking him, you know, on Twitter. And as far as we can tell, there's nothing that Greg Phillips is producing to back up his claims that the president of the United States, you know, is hanging his assertions on.

MCENANY: Yes, look, Greg Phillips obviously needs to produce his evidence. You can't just say something and not produce the evidence to corroborate what you say. Donald Trump, President Donald Trump has said he's seen evidence that's led him to believe this, maybe there's something we don't know that we haven't seen yet.

While I disagree with the fact that millions have voted until I see the evidence, what I do agree with and what I do think President Trump is right about, is there was the peer reviewed study by Mr. Reichmann (ph) that said 100,000 illegal immigrants have voted based on congressional numbers and percentages he took based on congressional data also in line with Harvard.

So, there is a study that suggests we might have thousands or hundreds of thousands, and that should be looked into. But I don't know if it's millions.

BERMAN: The things we know that President Trump has talked about where he's basing some of these claims, things we know that he named by name, the Pew study, which there are questions about if he understands exactly what the Pew study said, there's a story from Bernhard Langer, the professional golfer, and then there's Greg Phillips, who's got this out.

Hilary, I cut you off. Sorry.

ROSEN: No, I think we have to go to this bigger picture, which is we can find anybody to say anything. I've got a study. I've got proof. I've got whatever. There's quacks everywhere, and, by the way, he sounded like bit of a quack in the interview with you.

But the more important thing is why does the president pursue this? And it's -- I don't believe it's just about his ego. You know, he's too smart for that. This is a deliberate attempt to destabilize faith in the democratic system, in the system that denied him the popular vote, that is up again in two years, that every time the Republicans go to the voting issue, they're trying harder and harder to suppress the vote in key states, key battleground states and I just think that this is actually a deliberate attempt on the part of the president to undermine faith in the voting system.


BERNSTEIN: It's worse than that. The president of the United States --

ROSEN: What could be worse than that?

BERNSTEIN: -- has embraced a piece of worse than fake news. This is the birther experience all over again. This is Donald Trump at his a absolute worst in which he invokes falsehood, proven falsehood, known falsehood, latches on to somebody with a bunch of wild claims, puts it out there so his base once again will run with it, so that we'll talk about it on the air. It will become a part of the national discussion and it has no basis in fact.

It's part of an ideological argument about voter fraud versus voter suppression. Why can't we have a fact-based argument about voting in this country? If the president of the United States really wants to have a fact-based argument and a commission on voting suppression and voting fraud, let's have it. Let's have a congressional investigation. Find out what the hell the facts are.

But we have a president of the United States who in seven days has managed to controvert real established fact and truth over and over and over again. Republicans are talking about it in Washington. They are worried about it. And it's --

BERMAN: Kayleigh, hang on.

BERNSTEIN: -- really an extraordinary --

BERMAN: We'll give you a chance to respond on this and other things just after a quick break. We're going to continue this conversation and we're going to get your take on some other breaking news. Donald Trump says he agrees with Steve Bannon that the media is the opposition party.

So, stay with us.


BERMAN: All right more breaking news. As we have reported, President Trump says, he is launching an investigation to the widely debunked claim massive voter fraud which he says is the reason he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million and it is again targeting the press, in this interview with the Christians Broadcasting Network, David Brody asked the president if he agrees with his chief strategist Steve Bannon that the media is the opposition party. Watch.


TRUMP: I think the media is the opposition party in many ways and I think that -- and I'm not talking about all media. I know people -- like yourself. But I know people in the media that I have tremendous respect for, respect them as much as anybody. So I'm not talking about anybody. But a big portion of the media, the dishonesty, the total deceit and deception makes them certainly partially the opposition party.


BERMAN: Now, you may have also heard that Steve Bannon said the media should keep its mouth shut so what we're going to do is have a long discussion about that. But before we talk about the media, Kayleigh, I want you to finish the discussion we are talking about voter fraud. You wanted to jump in.

[20:35:07] MCENANY: Yeah, I think it actually fits with this story. I just take issue when people call what Donald Trump says that millions voted a lie or a falsehood when in fact we cannot prove that in this country, we don't have voter ID laws and Greg Phillips did make an important point when he said we have a system that's basically institutionalized voting fraud. Even the Supreme Court in 2008, when they upheld Indiana's voter ID laws, they said flagrant examples of voter fraud happened and they've been reported by respected journalist, and then can make a difference in the post-election. That's not me, that's the Supreme Court. So we don't know -- because we don't have a system or we can track this whether it happened or not.

BERMAN: Well, you have problem with lies and false, it ends up being tautological. How about he's making statements for which there is no evidence and are unsubstantiated, because, you know, you can say there's life on Mars, you know, but I can't prove it.

MCENANY: For which he needs to put forth evidence. I entirely -- I completely agree with you there. He needs to put forth evidence of this. But we cannot call it a lie until we know in fact that he doesn't have the evidence. If we know he intentionally deceived us, great, then you can call it that. but no one knows that. We haven't seen the evidence and we should give him time to produce it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really the more that Donald Trump talks about voter fraud, the more Democrats and others think that he was fraudulently elected.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He actually won, so the idea that he keeps trying to undermine the system that elected him seems crazy to me.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I like the part about life on Mars.

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Kayleigh makes a legitimate point that actually is very pertinent to the topic of the media and I would say media bias, and that is did we call what Bill Clinton did a lie? We probably said that he said untruths. We use euphemisms. We didn't say lie. But we're very comfortable now --

MCENANY: Are you kidding? You've been calling Bill Clinton a liar for years.

LEWIS: I don't think Tom Brokaw went on NBC News and said the president lied today.


BERMAN: Bill Clinton didn't get off easy.


LEWIS: I'm not saying that. I'm saying the word "lie" is being invoked against Donald Trump in a way that it wasn't in the past. Now, we used euphemisms before, untruths or not 100 percent truthful. Now, we could say that it's because of the partisan or liberal bias or maybe it's just that we've changed, the that the media and our culture has become more blunt and less polite, but it is a difference.



BERMAN: So there's been a lot of discussion about the lie thing and that's a great discussion for "reliable sources." Tonight we happen say unsubstantiated with no evidence which is pretty damning for some people to, you know, when the president of the United States is saying unsubstantiated --

LEWIS: But I think Steve Bannon's point that the media is an adversary, I'll use a softer term, is partly because we do things like say that he lied. I think --


POWERS: We should be -- we are the adversary. That is correct. That's what we're supposed to do. We're not their best friends. You know, and that's true whoever's in office. I think we're not supposed to go out of our way to try to harm them, but the point is we're not a party but we are in opposition by nature. Our job is to be holding powerful people accountable. And so this idea that we're supposed to just sit and listen to them, A, as if we're not listening. I'm listening. I think you're listening, I think we're all listening, you know. But so that's what he said to basically, you know, keep your mouth shut and listen and that's not our job.


BERNSTEIN: First of all, on the question of lie, Hillary Clinton, many of us said she lied about things having to d with the server. But let's really talk about this whole question. The opposition party in this first week in this presidency is the truth, that's the opposition party to this president so far.

BERMAN: All right, guys. Interesting discussion. Thanks so much for being with us.

Coming up for us, details leak out of a closed door meeting between Republican lawmakers who seem to be concerned about how to replace Obamacare without any specifics from the Trump administration. We'll tell you what we know, next.


[20:43:03] BERMAN: The president held his first White House press conference today in the east room in a very brief briefing and standing beside the British prime minister, it was a different foreign relationship in the spotlight. Jim Acosta reports.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The focus on President Trump's news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May was less about the special relationship between the U.S. and Britain and more about the frayed relations between his administration and Mexico.

TRUMP: We had a very good call. I have been very strong on Mexico. I have great respect for Mexico. I love the Mexican people.

ACOSTA: The president revealed only a few details about his morning phone call with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, one day after the Mexican leader abruptly canceled his trip to the White House next week and response to Mr. Trump's plan to build a wall on the border during a remarkably brief 18-minute news conference the president still with no details on who's paying for the wall.

TRUMP: We are going to be working on a fair relationship and a new relationship, but the United States cannot continue to lose vast amounts of business, vast amounts of companies, and millions and millions of people losing their jobs. That won't happen with me. We're no longer going to be the country that doesn't know what it's doing.

ACOSTA: The readout of the call from the Mexican government stated that both leaders will now negotiate over the wall in private saying, the two men agree at this point not to speak publicly about this controversial issue. But it's worth noting that line does not appear in White House statement on the call.

TRUMP: This was your choice of a question? There goes that relationship.

ACOSTA: The president and the prime minister may over a question from a a British reporter over Mr. Trump's support of the use of torture. President Trump said he would defer to defense Secretary James Mattis who said torture doesn't work.

TRUMP: I don't necessarily agree, but I would tell you that he will override because I'm giving him that power.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There will be times when we disagree and issues on which we disagree.

[20:45:03] TRUMP: This is the original in many ways.

ACOSTA: Even though both the president and the prime minister were talking up relations between the U.S. and Britain there was some distance evident over the sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

TRUMP: We'll see what happens as the sanctions. Very early to be talking about that.

MAY: We believe the sanctions should continue.

ACOSTA: But the president and prime minister do have one thing in common, both riding into office after populist movements in their countries, though President Trump tried to push back on perceptions of his hard-charging persona.

TRUMP: So, I'm not as brash as you might think. And I can tell you that i think we're going to get along very well. You know, it's interesting because I am a people person. I think you are also, Theresa. And I can often tell how I get along with somebody very early and I believe we're going to have a fantastic relationship.


BERMAN: All right, Jim Acosta joins us right now. One of the questions people are asking is how is he going to get along with Vladimir Putin when they --

ACOSTA: Right. BERMAN: -- speak by phone tomorrow? And of course people are wondering if there's any coincidence he's also speaking with the leaders from France and Germany on the same day.

ACOSTA: I don't think there's any coincidence at all, John. And I think you're right, we're going to be looking at those readouts coming from the Kremlin and the White House very careful to see exactly what President Trump and Vladimir Putin talk about tomorrow. But in addition to that phone call he's talking to the French President Francois Hollande as well as the German chancellor Angela Merkel.

It is no accident I think that those leaders will be on the phone with the president tomorrow. After all Theresa May, the British prime minister was really leaning on the president today to keep those sanctions in place on Russia at one point saying she believes that those sanctions should stay in place, she doesn't agree with lifting them.

And even reminded President Trump of what she said he told her behind the scenes, which is that he is a strong supporter of NATO even though in the past he's called that alliance obsolete. So it sounds like a lot of phone conversations going back and forth here at the White House tomorrow, John.

BERMAN: All right, Jim Acosta at the White House for us. Great work. Thanks so much Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, thanks.

BERMAN: One of President Trump's rallying cries beside building the wall was repealing and replacing Obamacare and there is word tonight of some behind closed doors anxiety among the Republicans about the replacing part. Phil Mattingly joins me with the latest on that. And Phil this Republican concerns about the quick push to repeal Obamacare, what are you learning?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it really comes and stems from the private Republican retreat in Philadelphia that ended today. And just a couple hours ago I got off a phone with a phone call with one of the members who was in that retreat and he really made clear the concerns right now are deep, they are real, and there somewhat diffuse.

The "Washington Post" actually got leaked audio from inside one of the private meetings and it really kind of late it out. I want to kind of bring a couple members' points to the table. The first -- and I think the one you hear the most is repeal is clearly happening, replace maybe not so fast. And that's problematic.

Take a listen to what Tom McClintock had to say in this closed door meeting saying basically, that's going to be called Trump care, Republicans will own that lock, stock, and barrel and we'll be judged in the election less than two years away.

They recognize the political damage if there's a repeal and not a quick replace. And again, there's no coalescing yet around a final replace plan. That's were talked about kind of numerous concerns here and one of them politically is Planned Parenthood. Now, is no secret the Republican Congress and the White House have talked kind of a number of times, about pulling back the funding for Planned Parenthood.

Take a listen to what John Faso had to say in this closed door briefing saying, health insurance is going be tough enough for us to deal with without having millions of people on social media come to Planned Parenthood's defense and sending hundreds of thousands of new donors to the Democratic Senate and Democratic congressional campaign committees. I would urge us to rethink this.

Look, John the train is moving on this, there's no question about it, but the reality remains Republicans, even those who were very supportive of repeal, very supportive of some kind of replace haven't quite figured out all the answers yet.

BERMAN: You know, Phil it is interesting, it does seem like when you get a big party, when the party gets bigger you get a bigger variety of concerns so you're hearing a strange or a wide spectrum from Planned Parenthood on one side to other issues as well.

Phil Mattingly, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

Vice President Mike Pence, he broke new ground today, he became the highest ranking official to speak at the Annual March for Life, the anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C.


[20:53:06] BERMAN: Anti-abortion activists gathered on the national mall today for the March For Life, a rally they hold every year around the anniversary of Row versus Wade, the 1970 Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal. A couple of striking differences this year. This march it took place in the wake of the women's march on Washington which drew huge crowds and the new vice president was the big draw in the speaker lineup. Brianna Keilar reports.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Vice President Mike Pence addressing the annual march for life gathering. The highest ranking White House official ever to address the group in person in its 44 years.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Life is winning again in America.

KEILAR: A signal from the Trump White House that anti-abortion policies are a priority. While in Congress Pence led efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and he came with a promise from President Trump.

PENCE: I like to say over there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we're in the promise keeping business. That's why this administration will work with the Congress to end taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers. And we will devote those resources to health care services for women across America.

KEILAR: Also at the march top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway pledging action.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: Allow me to make it very clear. We hear you. We see you. We respect you. And we look forward to working with you.

KEILAR: Anti-abortion activists are newly optimistic about rolling back Roe versus Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feel like our prayers have been answered.

KEILAR: As they look forward to President Trump's announcement next week of his pick to fill the vacancy on the court left by Antonin Scalia's death last year.

[20:55:02] DEANNA WALLACE, AMERICANS UNITED FOR LIFE: We have four years with a president who has promised to consider this issue when choosing his Supreme Court justices and the pro-life movement is sending a message here today, that we are paying attention, we are here and we are expecting President Trump to keep that promise.

KEILAR: In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, President Trump insisted they won't be disappointed.

TRUMP: I think people are going to love it. I think Evangelicals, Christians will love my pick. And will be represented very fairly.

KEILAR: Trump tweeted about the event saying, the march for life is so important. To all of you marching, you have my full support.


BERMAN: So Brianna, you were out there today during the march. What was the overall mood?

KEILAR: A lot of energy, I'll tell you that, John. And you talk to organizers. They feel like the movement is more energized than it has been in decades. They really think, followers of this movement, that having Donald Trump in the White House and controlling both the Senate and the House of Representatives, so this is their best shot yet for partially rolling back or completely rolling back Roe versus Wade. And you heard Kellyanne Conway, you heard the vice president making big promises. And the folks we heard from are certainly hoping to hold them to that.

BERMAN: Brianna Keilar in Washington, thanks so much. A special edition of "Smerconish" begins at the top of the hour. We'll be right back.


[21:00:05] BERMAN: That does it for us. Thanks for watching. A special edition of "Smerconish" starts right now. END