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White House Floats New Tax to Pay for Border Wall; Trump Meets with British Prime Minister. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 27, 2017 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me on this Friday.

Let's get going on this string of major headlines emerging today from President Donald Trump's very first joint news conference here with British Prime Minister Theresa May, the first foreign leader he has met face to face since taking office one big week ago.

And the first question out of gate was about President Trump's scheduled call tomorrow with the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and whether the U.S. would consider lifting sanctions against Russia.

Here's the president.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will see what happens as far as the sanction. Very early to be talking about that.

But we look to have a great relationship with all countries ideally. That won't necessarily happen, unfortunately. It probably won't happen with many countries. But if we can have a great relationship with Russia and with China and with all countries, I'm all for that. That would be a tremendous asset.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: As far as the U.K. is concerned on sanctions for Russia in relation to their activities in the Ukraine, we have been very clear that we want to see the Minsk agreement fully implemented. We believe the sanctions should continue unless we see that Minsk agreement fully implemented. And we've been continuing to argue that inside the European Union.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you said before that torture works. You have praised Russia. You have said you want to ban some Muslims from coming to America. You have suggested there should be punishments for abortion.

For many people in Britain, those sound like alarming beliefs. What do you say to our viewers at home who are worried about some of your views and worried about you becoming the leader of the free world?

TRUMP: This was your choice of a question?


TRUMP: There goes that relationship.

MAY: On the issue that you raise with me, can I confirm that the president -- I have been listening to the president and the president has been listening to me. That's the point of having a conversation.

TRUMP: We have a great general who has just been appointed secretary of defense, General James Mattis.

And he has stated publicly that he does not necessarily believe in torture. I don't necessarily agree, but I would tell you that he will override, because I'm giving him that power.

As far as, again, Putin and Russia, I don't say good, bad or indifferent. I don't know the gentleman. I hope we have a fantastic relationship. That's possible, and it's also possible that we won't.

QUESTION: It's my understanding, Mr. President, that you had an hour- long phone call this morning with President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico.

Could we get an update where the relationship is?

And, Madam Prime Minister, if I may ask you as well, are you concerned about the state of relations between the United States and Mexico?


TRUMP: Well, I think the prime minister, first of all, has other things that she's much more worried about than Mexico and the United States' relationship.

But I will say that we had a very good call. I have been very strong on Mexico. I have great respect for Mexico. I love the Mexican people. I work with the Mexican people all the time, great relationships.

But, as you know, Mexico, with the United States, has out-negotiated us and beat us to a pulp.


BALDWIN: Let's talk about all of that.

I have Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow for women in foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. And also with us, CNN political director Mr. David Chalian.

David Chalian, let me just kick this off you with, everything from lighthearted laughter to questions on torture to questions that would not have flown maybe in Trump Tower some weeks ago, as you pointed out. But the first -- it's Friday -- forgive me -- newsworthy points was the prime minister's comment on NATO when she looked over at the president. Tell us about that exchange. DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: She sort of spoke on behalf of

the president, saying, I believe, Mr. President, you said you were 100 percent committed to NATO. He didn't speak up on that point on his own.

He did call her remarks well-stated when she was done with them. But I assume we're going to hear from President Trump at some point on his thoughts about NATO now having assumed the office of the presidency.


But he certainly didn't push back on what Theresa May was describing as what they discussed behind closed doors.

I do think about what you played about the sanctions and Russia and Putin in advance of that call tomorrow, Brooke, was really important. I think it shows the gulf between where these two countries are right now.

Theresa May fully committed to those sanctions must remain in place. Donald Trump, it's too early to talk about sanctions. I hope I can have good relationships. It's just striking an entirely different note on the Russia relationship and on what U.S. goals are with Russia in terms of how they want to deal with the Ukraine issue than what we were hearing from the prime minister.

BALDWIN: He saying sometimes I get along with people who I don't think I'm going to get along with and sometimes vice versa and that could be the situation with the president of Russia. He allowed for that distance.

Gayle, let me ask you about Mexico, right. We have been covering this dust-up with the wall, who pays, does -- how the heck do they get Mexico to reimburse? We know there was this phone call -- and the president was asked about this phone call today with the president of Mexico.

And according to the readout from the Mexican government, the two had apparently agreed they will no longer publicly discuss the wall. That piece is missing in the White House readout.

What's your interpretation of that?

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I think you see a relationship that was campaign fodder now hitting the reality of the White House.

And you see a lot of people waiting to see what does this mean exactly for the U.S.-Mexican relationship, and a lot of people in Texas watching this incredibly closely to what will this mean if trade starts to get hit or if the tariffs started to invoked? So I think you campaign rhetoric hitting White House reality in full force now.

BALDWIN: David, just overall, how do you think the president did?

CHALIAN: I was really surprised at his tone. It was really much more subdued.

He was not the brash, to use the word that one of the reporters asked him about, personality that we've seen at different times throughout this week, when he was sort of going toe to toe with the media about crowd size or his interviews. We haven't seen much of that in this press conference, and in this press conference, he stuck to real broad themes, not that there wasn't news in it. There was, and important news.

But I do think he was really trying to dial down the temperature. I don't know if that was just because there was a world leader physically on the stage with him or if after this first sort of frenetic week, he wanted to change the tone and play a different tune.

I will say, Brooke, though, I don't think we can emphasize how fascinating it was to hear him say on that issue of torture you raised that James Mattis, the defense secretary, he said, can override, the commander in chief, the president of the United States. Even though they have a disagreement on this issue, he's going to allow Mattis to override him.

BALDWIN: Yes. We will talk to Jim Sciutto about that in a second. We know the president will be at the Pentagon momentarily.

But, Gayle, back over to you, what about also -- there was a huge, huge, huge pressure for the prime minister, right? He championed Brexit, she did not. He met with Nigel Farage, the leader of the UKIP party was sort of Mr. Brexit.

Also, not to mention people back home in England, I think some people were none too thrilled that she rushed is the first one to be meeting the president of the United States. How do you think she did?

LEMMON: I think she walked a very fine line and did it successfully, because, look, she was very clear about Russia sanctions remaining in place.

She was very clear about the importance of NATO. And I think, if you look at it, also at the same time, what you see is the French prime minister and Angela Merkel of Germany really expressing their concern about having a European point of view on foreign policy.

And I think to some extent she allayed some of their fears that she was going to be a rogue actor only caring about the United Kingdom. I think she really did express a number of European points of view. But she is also walking a fine line between dealing with domestic issues and domestic tensions and the global stage.

BALDWIN: I thought she did a great job too when the English reporter asked that excellent question about we will talk about where you differ what, Mr. President, is your message back home because of X, Y and Z and controversial statements you have made?

I thought that delicate diplomatic dance, she did brilliantly.

David and Gayle, thank you both so much. I mentioned Jim Sciutto. Let's go over to the Pentagon, where the president is about to sign three of his most controversial executive actions thus far, one limiting the flow of refugees to the United States and enacting what Mr. Trump described as "extreme vetting of immigrants.

Our chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is there at the Pentagon, ahead of the president's visit.

Jim, what does this mean?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This is an extremely controversial measure.

It targets six countries in particular, Muslim majority countries, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Libya, to name a few of them, and it sets these kind of time markers, for 30 days, no entry from any of these countries, 120 days no refugees really from anywhere, and with the proviso that during that time period, the president has ordered there be developed a new vetting system that it suggests will include questions about religious beliefs, et cetera.

And so this is following through one of Donald Trump's most controversial campaign promises for a Muslim ban. This is not a ban of all Muslims, but it's a ban based on the Muslim faith, it seemed. These are Muslim majority countries. There's a suggestion of having questions about religious beliefs.

And I don't have to lay it out for you or anyone else. To have that assort of a sort of qualifier question is one that upsets, understandably, many people, whether Muslim or not. Remains to be seen exactly how that is ironed out, exactly what the details are.

But it starts with a very dramatic step in this direction. And it's interesting that that measure will be signed here at the Pentagon next to General James Mattis, the defense secretary, who has expressed his own public misgivings about steps like this.

BALDWIN: On General Mattis, just to add on to what David Chalian was saying, so significant, and hearing from the president at that joint news conference, asked about torture, we heard him just last night in that interview on that other network essentially doubling down on torture, saying I have talked to people and they say it works.

But then today he conceded to his new secretary-general because he has said, give me some cigarettes.


Well, listen, General James Mattis has a view that is very common from senior military commanders. I have heard it covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for some time. You will often hear from them, one, do you get good information out of torture?

I have many military commanders say to me you don't get good information. Just to set that aside for a moment, beyond the fact there's a U.S. law against this, there are international conventions, and then beyond that how it damages U.S. standing in that part of the world.

I was in Iraq when the Abu Ghraib photos came out, right, and just the tremendous damage that did to the standing of the U.S. military there, what is partly is a hearts and minds battle, of course.

So someone like a Mattis is going to know all that range of effects. Donald Trump continues to insist that some people tell him it works. He hasn't specified why he personally believes that to be true.

But it is a step there for him say that regardless of what I think, I'm going to let General James Mattis decide. And, as you have said, he has made his views against torture very public and very clear.

BALDWIN: Jim, stand by. We're waiting to hear from the president there at the Pentagon. Thank you, sir.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Next, let's talk about the fight over the border wall. The White House has floated this idea, this 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico to the U.S., a move that would hurt you, the American consumer. How? We will get into that.

Also ahead, it has only been one week since Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States. It's been a busy week. We have none other than Michael Smerconish with reaction to the first seven days. That's ahead.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

Despite the back and forth over who will pay for this U.S.-Mexico border wall, President Trump said his phone call today with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was "very friendly." The White House and the Mexican government released nearly identical statements about the call.

There was one little exception. The White House didn't acknowledge, as Mexico did, that the two sides have now agreed to no longer publicly speak about the wall.

But the White House is floating an idea on how exactly to pay for it. Slap a 20 percent tax on goods, on imports coming in from Mexico into the U.S. We have heard from the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, saying essentially this solution could be part of a "buffet of options."

So, let's talk about all of this with business analyst Alexis Glick.

Great to see you again. ALEXIS GLICK, BUSINESS ANALYST: Great to see you too.

BALDWIN: So, in reading about this, we have this great CNN Money write on this. It sounds like OK, Mexico essentially gets the tax, the burden, but not so fast. It's really on the American companies who work with Mexico to bring the goods over and then thus us.

GLICK: Oh, yes.

At the end of the day, the question is, who really feels the most pain? And right now what this would do is essentially pick winners and losers. So what they're doing is saying, export-rich companies, you're fine. So, the Boeings of the world, great. But what about the parts that into anything that they make?

BALDWIN: Wal-Mart, Best Buy?

GLICK: Yes, what about the retailers?

So, what about the manufacturers of consumer goods that are made in Mexico? So at the end of the day, what does this really mean for the consumer? It means that you could be paying more not only for your consumer goods, whether that's clothing or whether that is sneakers, but you're going to pay more for cars, you're going to pay more for gasoline.

And I understand he's trying to address a deficit, i.e., what this really means is, are we actually importing more than we are exporting out of the country?

BALDWIN: I was reading about this, this morning. And one example that was given was back in 2009, when President Obama slapped a tax on tires coming in from China.

And what ended up happening was, people here said, OK, got to buy American tires, but it became a heck of a lot more expensive and people lost jobs.

GLICK: Jobs is the critical things.


BALDWIN: People will lose jobs.

GLICK: Exactly. The risk is to jobs.

If you look just at our trade partnership with Mexico, which is our third largest trade partner, six million jobs are dependent on that partnership. And, in fact, if you look at trade at a whole, it actually influences 40 million jobs in the United States.

BALDWIN: Forty million jobs?

GLICK: Forty million jobs.

So, we could say sit here and say, we have lost 1.5 million, depending on the reports, to 2 million jobs that have been sent in this case over to Mexico for cheaper wages.


But you have to look at the net effect. And we have ask ourselves, if we're now going to shut down and put tariffs, OK, therefore influencing what does come into the country, we also have to look at, do we have the labor force to make up for that?

And what are the actual consequences ultimately to the U.S. dollar, to competition and to inciting trade wars around the globe?

BALDWIN: But also what about Mexico? I think the number that I saw, 80 percent of exports from Mexico go north of the border. So, it wouldn't just be U.S. companies and ultimately we the consumer suffering, but Mexico would as well.

GLICK: Oh, Mexico would absolutely as well.

And you would have to ask yourself when you look at the North American Free Trade Agreement dating back to 1994, it has had an enormous impact. And people want to say it's actually the root cause of what has happened to the Rust Belt and the decline in manufacturing.

And I would argue there are so many factors to consider. And, yes, is trade one of those considerations, the fact that we can and that many companies are manufacturing goods overseas? Sure.

But let me ask you this question. Do we want to be in an environment in which we export products? Those are tax-exempt, so anyone else is buying our products tax-exempt. But you want to buy an iPhone from Apple and it's made in China. It's a U.S. company. You're going to pay the import tax on that?

So you the American are going to pay more money for a U.S.-made product that was not made in the U.S.? So I get the dialogue around made in the USA.

BALDWIN: Then we have less money, we have less money to spend, jobs, cycle.

GLICK: Yes. It's just -- it's the domino affect, Brooke, of understanding the consequences not only to the jobs equation, but to the risk of retaliation.

And we are so co-dependent on these other countries. And, oh, by the way, whether it's the value of the dollar, whether it's interests or even our treasuries, these governments around the globe now own the majority of our treasuries. If you think about it, we're so interconnected. We have to be really careful that we're putting out trial balloons, we really understand the consequences of our actions and we've done our homework before we do it.

BALDWIN: Alexis, thank you. Thank you.

GLICK: Thank you, my dear. BALDWIN: Moments ago, Trump will be at the Pentagon. The president

will be at the Pentagon, General Secretary General Mattis there waiting for his arrival.

Quick break. We're back after this.


BALDWIN: We know his newly minted defense secretary, General James Mattis, is there waiting for him, as is our men and women there in uniform waiting to get a glimpse of the president.

He's there. He's signing these executive actions. One piece of that is the controversial executive action banning a number of people from very specific countries from coming into the United States for a period of time, for four months.

But I have got Michael Smerconish here with me, host of "SMERCONISH," who has got this great special sort of on how the president did this first week.

As we sit on these pictures...

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's exciting to watch, right?

BALDWIN: It is. It always is.

SMERCONISH: I'm totally into the whole peaceful transference of power.


SMERCONISH: I was on the radio yesterday watching CNN muted, because I was conducting my own program.

And I found myself saying things like, wow, is that the first time he's been on Marine One?


BALDWIN: I caught that as well.

SMERCONISH: Yes, and the salute. How was the salute? Pretty decent.

So, I must say I'm caught up in the substance of it. I was interested to hear what he said today at the presser with Prime Minister Theresa May about torture and water-boarding. So it's a substantive issue, but I'm also interested just to see the way he exits the beast and walks into the Pentagon for the first time.

BALDWIN: As we sit on this picture here, talk to me about -- let's stay on the point you made.

So, we watched -- we have seen so much of the president in the first week. I think that in and of itself is stunning. He's done a couple of interviews at the White House. As we know, he's on Twitter. He's doing these appearances.

They have allowed the press in the office on Air Force One this week. And now we're going to get this glimpse perhaps -- there he is in that red tie inside the beast.


When he spoke with the British prime minister, who is the first foreign diplomat to come over to the White House, to your point, on the question on torture, in the interview on the other channel last night, this is something he talked about recently, saying fight fire with fire. He doubled down last night.

But it was interesting, Michael Smerconish, because -- and I say this because here is the man who he conceded to, his secretary of defense, who has said not necessary.

SMERCONISH: May I both answer you and plug tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern?

BALDWIN: Please.

SMERCONISH: OK, because Dr. James Mitchell, who is one of the two psychologists who not only devised the torture program, I will use the president's word -- and here he comes -- but conducted water-boarding, will tonight be my guest.

BALDWIN: Actually, let's listen for a second.

BALDWIN: Jim Sciutto, walk us through what we are looking at.

SCIUTTO: Walking up the steps there on the river entrance of the Pentagon.

Just one thing to note, there's General James Mattis in a suit. Of course, remember the Congress had to pass a waiver because he's only been out of his uniform which he wore for many years for three years. The law had said seven years dating back to the '50s, so they had to have a waiver for him to take this position.

It's a big moment, the president's first visit to the Pentagon, and keep in mind at a time, Brooke, just a reminder, when the nation is at war, two of the longest wars in its history. This is going a big topic of the conversation between Mattis and Trump today, that strategy against ISIS.

We know that the president has asked for changes and we know that General Mattis is going to come to him with some proposed changes to the strategy, new measures to take things like deploying U.S. attack helicopters inside Syria. Not clear whether the president will accept those, but he wants to take a different approach. And he's ordered options to do just that.

BALDWIN: Thank you for helping us catch this. This is the replay moments ago. There's the vice president as well walking up those steps. Michael, back to you and talking about your special that's airing, Dr. Mitchell, water-boarding.

SMERCONISH: He not only devised the program, but he carried it out.

I think the number is three individuals whose water-boarding he actually participated in, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He wrote a book on the subject. He's timely again because of what just transpired.

I'm thrilled that we will have him this evening. But I can tell you, Brooke, he's unabashed in his belief they did the right thing and that in those ticking time bomb cases, when you have got a terrorist that you believe has actionable intelligence and you have tried the warm blanket and a piece of quiche, but that hasn't worked...

BALDWIN: To the cigarettes.

SMERCONISH: ... or to General Mattis' description, the cigarettes and the six-pack, then you got to do it.

Now, you heard the president say he still believes in it today, but he's decided to yield to General Mattis, which I found very interesting in that press conference with Theresa May.

BALDWIN: Agree. Agree.

You and I had talked so many times after all those presidential debates. Your whole thing was your notepad and grading the debate. Can you give the president a grade for his first week?

SMERCONISH: OK. I have got a notepad. I did know that you would be saying that, but I bring a notepad because you know I'm so fond of the legal pads.

BALDWIN: I know you are.

SMERCONISH: And what I have drawn on one side of the page are those things that his worst detractors about what a hot mess this has been for a week.

BALDWIN: What is on the list?

SMERCONISH: And it includes fighting about the crowd size, petty tweets, a very political speech at the CIA, lies about voter fraud, endorsing torture again, offending the Mexican president. We're going to pay for the wall?

But that 46 percent who supported him -- and I know because I'm a butter knife away from many of them -- say, this is everything we hoped for. It's exactly why we did vote for him.

He's ending the Affordable Care Act. He's banning abortion. He's ending the TPP. NAFTA is on life support, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So the silos continue. The bubbles continue, although it's a two-way street. It's not just the elite media who are in a bubble. There are red state folks who are in a bubble and don't understand why math matters to the critics. So, that's where we are a week in. In some respects, it's a sad situation.

BALDWIN: Where have you been, with all of that, where you have been most pleasantly surprised of everything that's happened this past week?

SMERCONISH: I guess it was a week ago today, when I was privileged to participate in the CNN coverage, as you were, of the inauguration.

And putting aside all of the partisan differences, to just sit there and watch the peaceful transference of power, to see that Secretary Clinton was there, with a game face on, as best she could. She had lost that election. And there he is being sworn in. And President Obama is mouthing to him, "Good job." Who knows if he believed it?

But that everyone could sort of buck up, and that's the way we respect the outcome of elections.